What made 'em laugh back then
Don't blame me. Blame my mom. She saved all these copies of our small-town school newspaper, the Hi-Times. You don't have to read them right through. Just take the jokes, please. See how pre-rock-'n'-roll, pre-rap, pre-goth young folks used to cut up. Names are changed to protect the guilty, as the crime shows almost said on that cathedral-shaped radio in our pre-TV living room....
Businessman: Yes, I advertised for a boy about your age. Do you smoke?
Applicant: No, but you can treat me to an ice-cream soda. (1941)
A quarter century later I heard a college speaker come out with something oddly similar:
Employer to job applicant: Do you have any religious views?
Applicant: No, but I have some lovely postcards of Niagara Falls.
Note the pattern. It came up again just recently:
A Paris Review interviewer asks Neil Simon about his 'weakest suit' as a playwright.
Simon: The blue one.
Back six decades to our Hi-Times:
ON Teachers and pupils
Mr. Anderson: How old are you?
Virginia Ekdahl: Seventeen.
Mr. Anderson: And what are you going to be?
Virginia: Eighteen. (1942)
Mr. Fielding: Tommy, what four words do pupils use most?
Tommy: I don't know, sir.
Mr. Fielding: Correct. (1941)
Parents and children
Jim Woods: Aren't you driving rather fast, Dad?
Mr. Woods: You don't want to be late for school, do you?
Jim: No, but I'd rather be late than absent. (1942)
Mrs. Dahlgren: Where have you been?
Richard: Playing ball.
Mrs. Dahlgren: But I told you to beat the rug, didn't I?
Richard: No, ma'am. You told me to hang the rug on the line and beat it. (1942)
Boys and girls
He: Do you like moving pictures?
He: Swell, you can help me move a few out of the attic. (1940)
Jane S.: How do you find yourself these cold mornings?
Melvin J.: Oh, I just throw back the covers, and there I am. (1941)
Mavis J.: I suppose that is another of those horrible futuristic paintings that you call "art."
Winton S.: Excuse me, but that's the mirror! (1939)
X.: What do you think of the Lend-Lease Bill?
Y.: I think it ought to be paid. (1941)
Heard at a National Guard drill:
Jug Norquist: Do you know that ugly sap of an officer standing over there? He's the meanest egg I've ever seen.
Feminine bystander: Do you know who I am? I am that officer's daughter.
Jug: Do you know who I am?
Jug: Thank goodness! (1939)
Mussolini's white handkerchief: The only thing he could stick his nose into without asking Hitler. (1942)
A kindergarten teacher has to know how to make the little things count. (1940)
Women are more forgiving than men. They make-up more. (1939)
Not to mention philosophy
Strange, isn't it?
Why the night falls -
But it doesn't break.
And the day breaks -
But it never falls. (1941)
The times they were so innocent:
Traffic cop: What's your name?
Blushing driver: Mabel. What's yours? (1942)
And don't tell me you haven't heard variations on this evergreen even today:
A man fell and injured his hand.
"When this hand of mine gets well, shall I be able to play the banjo, doc?"
"Thanks, you're a wonder. I never could before." (1941)
Mom marked or clipped something in just about every Hi-Times she kept.
Funny, she never drew attention to the jokes.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society