Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fans of the Huckleberry, Unite!

Maybe it’s just dewy-eyed nostalgia talking, but there was something more fun about being part of an organised group of fans of something 50 years ago. Today, you click on “like” on a Facebook group. A comparative ho-hum. Way back when, you got to send away for cool membership stuff and anxiously wait for it to arrive. And a membership card looks an awful lot more official than a “like.”

Those of you who grew up—or maybe even your parents grew up—with The Smurfs, Scooby Doo, the Flintstones and Yogi Bear may not realise what a phenomenon Huckleberry Hound was when he first appeared on television in 1958. After all, he’s such an unassuming chap, a product of the kindler, gentler 1950s when the biggest problem at schools was running in the hallway. Yet Huck’s show drew universal and instant praise when it first aired. And some smart folks at either Screen Gems, Hanna-Barbera Enterprises, ad agency Leo Burnett or somewhere put together an official Fan Club.

I don’t know who blog reader Billie Towzer is, but Billie keeps sending me pictures of the greatest early Hanna-Barbera stuff. Check out these photos of what you could get from the Huckleberry Hound Fan Club. Click to enlarge. Dig the drawings on the membership letter!




Thanks, again, Billie.

One of the nice things about cartoon forums and Facebook groups and pages is fans can go on line and post stuff and type to each other. But back, back, back into the dusty reaches of time, fan clubs let you meet others face-to-face. What a concept! The Wellsville Daily Reporter actually reported on a Huck gathering in New York State in its July 17, 1959 edition.


Huckleberry Hound Club Holds Outing
The f'rst annual Huckleberry Hound Fan Club Outing was held on Sunday at Letchworth State Park. Thirty - eight members left Wellsville in a cavalcade of cars and proceeded to the park.
Following dinner election of officers was held. Robert Hass was elected to the post of president with George Smith, Mike Finn, Jim Hopkins, Mac Wormley and Judy Schwalb holding positions as vice president, secretary, treasurer, social chairman and publicity chairman, respectively.
Social activities include soft ball, swimming, hiking and bird - dogging.
Out - of - town members attended from North Tonawanda, Kenmore, Buffalo, Detroit, Syracuse, Fredonia and Olean.
A dinner party and dance held at the Birdsall Hotel ended the day’s festivity.
Due to tremendous enthusiasm exhibited by the members, officers said, another outing is planned in August.

Enthusiasm begets a spurt of hyper-activity when it comes to fads and Huck was the subject (or victim, perhaps) of one. A syndicated newspaper story of August 23, 1959 reveals just how big Huck-mania was.

Huckleberry Hound Really Bowwows ‘em
Recently, the student body of a western university suggested an honorary degree be given to a dog. To make matters worse, the canine they wanted to honor is not even the real thing, but a southern drawling cartoon character named “Huckleberry Hound.”
Huck, the brainchild of animators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the same men who originally conceived “Tom and Jerry,” was originally conceived to amuse the small fry. But his philosophic point of view caught on with adults and the result has been a screwball barrage of awards, honors, fan mail and “Huckleberry Hound Days” across the country.
The nation’s collegians, constantly aware of trends and fads, really took the loveable and blundering cartoon character to heart.
The University of Washington held a “Huck Hound Day” on campus and 11,000 students joined his fan club.
At UCLA, he was initiated into the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity and his portrait was placed over the fireplace.
This October, there will be days dedicated to the drawling pooch at the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas and the Texas Christian University campus in Ft. Worth.
October will be a most busy month for Huck. On the 17th he will be the theme of Ohio State’s annual homecoming game against the Purdue pigskin team.
During the “Huck Hound Day” at the University of Washington this past May, an attempt was made to explain the immense popularity of the talking canine. The consensus was that Huck’s willingness to take on almost any task despite fantastic odds, and to carry it through with good humor, was the reason.
“Huck is put upon, embarrassed, taken advantage of and thrust into horrendous situations,” explained one professor. “But he never seems to mind.
“Perhaps Huck represents something that appeals to the basic needs of most people. He’s like a good tonic in a time when one is sorely needed.”
Huckleberry Hound’s infectious popularity isn’t confined to the ivy-leaguers.
A poker parlor in Gardenia, Calif., broke up a pot-limit game so the employees could watch Huck on TV.
A bar and grill in Seattle was named after him.
The employees of an aircraft plant adopted him as company mascot.
And a Racine, Wis., factory has been plagued by people using the plant public address system to page Huck Hound.
Huck’s visage decks the nose of a SAC jet bomber and someone even introduced a bill in a western state legislature to rename a 50-acre woodland tract into “Huckleberry Hound State park.”
Huck will bring a new series of adventures and shenanigans to more than 180 TV stations this fall. Screen Gems is the producer.

Naturally, there was a commercial tie-in component to all this—Joe Barbera and John Mitchell wouldn’t have it any other way—as you can witness in the ad to your left. Hanna-Barbera used its secondary characters on the Huck show for merchandising until it put the Quick Draw and Yogi shows on the air and finally had a stable of stars. That’s why you could buy Tom Tom stuff, despite the fact he had appeared in only one Yogi cartoon at that point and would end his cartoon one cartoon later in an adventure with Hokey Wolf.

Alas, Huck was soon eclipsed by someone who started out as a featured player. Yogi Bear was a far more aggressive character than Huck, with a Warren Foster-imposed format putting him against a somewhat crafty Ranger Smith. Huck muddled along on different adventures every week. By 1962, he needed Yogi to push his Fan Club. But if he were a real, living breathing actor, I don’t think he’d mind being eclipsed in the spotlight (to mix metaphors) by Yogi. Nothing bothered him. And that’s what made him a star worthy of a Fan Club in the first place.

16 comments:

  1. I ran the comic book ad for this fan club on my site a few years back. http://wonderfulworldofblog.blogspot.com/2007/08/huckleberry-hound-fan-club.html

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  2. I used to LOVE being a part of these type fan clubs. There was something very special about it. Way before the instant, or microwave generation, as I like to call it. We learned patience. As some of your readers may well remember,it would sometimes take six or eight weeks to receive your membership cards. Running to the mailbox everyday to see if it had finally arrived was also exciting. Whether it was a fan club package or even a " Castle Film ", they just about always seemed to arrive on a Friday, rounding up my school week in a great way. Never had the opportunity to join Huck's club. Would have loved to. I get very nostalgic when I reflect on it. Great post.

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  3. I remember these types of fan clubs very well, although not as early as the Huck/Yogi clubs. I remember Kellogg's cereals had the offers and I joined the Banana Splits club, the Vulture Squadron Club (from Dastardly & Muttley In Their Flying Machines), sent away for the Josie and the Pussycats records, etc. etc. ABC even had a Saturday Morning club in 1969. I found myself eating something as bland a Raisin Bran just so I could cut the cardboard records from the back of the boxes and listen to The Archies, etc. Fun, innocent times -- and not one reality show or a brain-dead "Situation" in the bunch.

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  4. It's interesting that the "lovable, laughable" tag from the Broadway Valley ad wound up in the Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har theme song; "The most lovable, laughable (something) by far, Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har!"
    Mark Kausler

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  5. Mark, I'm not sure, but I think the word might be "loonies"

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  6. Either the Randy Horne Singers had poor diction or poor mixing that muddied their harmony. How many of the themes they did had lyrics that aren't clear?

    I listened to the little New York combo version of the theme on a Golden Record and the word is "looneys." Bruce is correct. I've got to post that album some time.

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  7. The Huckleberry Hound Fan Club kit was the first piece of mail I ever received. I'll never forget it.

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  8. I was too young to join those fan clubs because I was born in 1960. However, I did join the Huckleberry Hound Fan Club when it was offered in the Charlton Comics line of H-B magazines. I still have the fan club card and I ordered the pajamas. I still have the pajamas and I kept them in such good shape that my oldest son has been sleeping in them. Good memories. By the way, one time when I wrote Hanna-Barbera they sent me black and white photos of Huck and Yogi. The one with Huck is "Astro-Nut Huck" where he goes up in the rocket. The one with Yogi, though, is from a promotional piece that I have never seen anywhere else. It has Yogi, Boo Boo, Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle in it. If you want, I can scan them and e-mail them to you.

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  9. Greg, yes, if you have time, scan them and I can share them with everyone reading.

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  10. It must have been great to be a kid in the 60's. The 90's were good for me, though. ^_^

    Thanks for sharing this stuff with us, Yowp.

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  11. Never had any 'toon fan club stuff, but I still have my Green Hornet TV show official pin!
    RadioWizard

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  12. I joined the Huck Hound Fan Club in 1959 or 1960. My mom found the app on the back of a Kellogg's Corn Flakes Box. It cost 15 cents to join.

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  13. To day i found same image of Yogi and Boboo in french.

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  14. I was a card carrying member of the Huck Hound Club also. It was so neat getting my official documents in the mail.

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  15. I was also a card carrying member of the Huck Hound Club. I remember how neat it was to get my official club documents in the mail.

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  16. Borned in 1956, so I was 4 years old when Mom sent in for the club membership for me. I still have it all ( in perfect shape I might add ) . Not only do I have all that you have pictured at the top of the page, but I also got one of the rings.While researching about the club I found out that there were two styles of rings made. One was plain and the other was painted,I got lucky because the the one I got is the painted version. How great was it being a kid in the late fiftys and early sixtys, sometimes I wish I could go back. Thanks for sharing this site with everyone that remembers what it was like back then!!!! FAN OF HUCK

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