This past week was another edition of the wonderful That Belongs in a Museum! at Gallery Cabaret. This is the new live literary event by Sarah Crawford, Susan Golland, and Serena Washington. It’s a great event that I look forward to going every time.
The rules of the event are thus: bring an object to present on stage. You have 30seconds to 5 minutes to talk about it. That object can be personal, historic, bizarre, delightfully mundane, or more.
As always, it was a lovely evening. For my object, I brought the first issue of the Chilean socialist comic book La Firme. When Salvador Allende was democratically elected in 1970, there was comprehensive discussion of comic books and other media in Chile. Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart published the incredible How to Read Donald Duck: A Guide to Imperialist Ideology in Disney Cartoons. The book conducted a close reading of Disney cartoons, which were very popular in Latin America, and revealed capitalist tendencies throughout the medium. The book a great read. Some of its insights are extreme but it makes very good arguments about pervasive capitalism in the comics. (Go rewatch Duck Tales and you’ll be amazed how much the free international market comes up!)
During this time, La Firme and other comics were developed to compete with these other comics and reflect socialist values. La Firme in particular was very didactic; it was intended to teach people about socialism. Issue 1 is about agrarian reform. But the comic was the most successful because it was rather well put together. It’s funny and appealed to people. If I recall correctly, it explained monopolies using the example of the human body where blood cells are blocked up. Very clever. And the comics were very 1970s; they are obsessed with hot pants!
Other amazing objects included the photo of my fiancé’s grandfather. My fiancé found this letter from his grandfather’s war buddy in the early 1980s. The letter recounted the people in their unit who passed away. But there was this photo taken during the war of his grandfather sitting naked in what looks to be a broken tub. He appears to be taking bath and is gesturing that he does not want his photo taken. It’s a real treasure.
Bill Savage brought reminders of how social life has improved in Chicago and the rest of the US. He first showed us an ashtray, a token from the election or reelection of Richard Daley in the 1960s. Back then everyone smoked everywhere. He recalled an ashtray in every room of his home, including his own bedroom! Then he took out a spittoon, which littered the bar scene. Once upon a time, it was socially acceptable to spit publicly.
Eric Bartholomew brought out a collection of old monthly CTA cards. They were incredible. Each one was different in order to distinguish the card from other months. They had different designs and colors. Some even had holograms on them. Several had these incredible cut edges.
Another person brought his paper bag logo collection. He explained that it started as a joke. He even made a scrapbook of them for a movie he was filming, filled with gibberish labels. But he noticed how they were many logos, reflecting the man small paper companies. Now, many have gone out of business or been bought up so these labels are scene no more.
The piece de la resistance was the object brought by City Historian Tim Samuelson. He told us the story about W.C. Handy, the “father of the blues.” He composed popular tunes like “Memphis Blues.” Well, he saw that a lot of people were copying from him and he wasn’t seeing any compensation. So he decided to create a new style for Chicago that would put him on the map. He even changed his publishing company’s name. And that debut song was…. “The Chicago Gouge.” Nothing says Chicago like the Gouge! Mr. Samuelson proceeded to play the song and announced the first (and possibly last) Gouge festival in Chicago. Huzzah!
It was a wonderful evening. The next event will be on October 1st. So come one, come all!