When I was in elementary school our local drug store was not for filling prescriptions. Nor was it for picking up shaving cream, razor blades, or heating pads.
No sir, the corner drug store was there for one purpose: reading comic books.
Ah, yes, those delightful magazines that were filled with funny stories, fast-paced adventures, exciting serials with thrilling cliffhangers, and tremendous art work. Comic books back then also included some very strange ads!
A very common comic book ad back in the '50s displayed a line drawing of a woman's head in profile. Sometimes, instead of a woman, it was the head of a pirate; sometimes of a donkey. Beneath the drawing a headline invited the reader to: “Draw Me.”
No doubt the company that placed this ad offered a perfectly legitimate art course -- in fact I still occasionally see variations of this ad even today. I used to wonder why the ad was in comic books that were ready by ten-year-old kids. We had no money and I was pretty sure we weren't old enough to get into art school.
The ad asked you to draw the profile free hand and then mail it in to them. Your drawing would then be critiqued by a panel of professional artists in order to evaluate your artistic talent.
I knew they wouldn't accept submissions from a ten-year old kid, so I told them I was 19 and sent my drawing in. To be honest, I sent in many drawings at different intervals.
Guess what? Each of my drawings received glowing reviews and the artists all felt I had obvious artistic talent. I began to fancy myself a young Norman Rockwell!
Many of my friends, encouraged by my results, chose to send in drawings, too.
Believe it or not, each one of them received praise for their artistic talent! It seems we were all budding artists just awaiting discovery! All we needed was a little training and the world was our oyster.
Even though we were only ten years old, it seemed improbable to us that we were each promising artists. We began to wonder if that panel of artists ever told anyone they had no talent.
That's when I came up with my brilliant plan. I would send in one last drawing.
I took a sheet of paper and, instead of drawing the profile, I violently scribbled all over the page. I then addressed an envelope and stuck my drawing in it. Once I pilfered a stamp from my dad's desk, we were off to the corner mail box.
We were about to find out.
Just as I was standing on my tiptoes to drop the envelope in the mail box, however, Billy Klemp, one of my best friends, uttered an ominous warning.
Billy said he thought it was against the law to use the United States postal service to deliver a fraudulent drawing. He said I would probably be visited by FBI agents who would come to my house and arrest me. My parents would be ashamed of me and I would be thrown into a federal prison until I was 18.
The other guys said Billy was crazy and spurred me on to mail the envelope.
Oh, sure. It was easy for them. They weren't the ones who would be visited by FBI agents. They didn't have to worry about being arrested and breaking their parent's hearts.
I must admit that, in my heart, I was certain Billy's interpretation of the law was wrong. I just couldn't believe the FBI would handcuff a ten-year old kid in his home, in front of his grieving parents, and cart him off to prison.
In the final analysis, however, the risk was simply too great. It was not worth going to jail and shaming my parents just to prove a point about a comic book ad.
My friends derided me for my decision as we all walked back to my house. We were never to prove our hypothesis right or wrong.
Actually, in retrospect, it was a pretty good plan and I think it would have worked. To this day I am still proud that I thought of it.