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December 19, 2003

They keep changing things that used to have so much meaning to me and my friends. The latest is the sweeping change of formats at the Oklahoma City daily and Sunday newspapers. Now, maybe this only bothers me, but it deals with standards that were established years ago, and that makes them harder to accept. For starters, 'they' have changed the page size, the nameplate on each section, and I'll be darned if they haven't also reduced the size of the type. I'm pretty sure of this although it may just be my failing eyesight. I can still make out the bigger, bolder headlines, but trying to read the stories in the morning paper at the breakfast table is a lost cause. I will admit, these later sunrise hours limit the amount of light available for that ritual, but the smaller type size is my biggest problem.

Another thing. I'm talking about the Sunday funnies now. This goes back over a period of several decades but it is becoming more apparent almost daily while some of my faculties decline. I remember when, as a kid, I used to listen while my Dad did a great job of reading and acting out plot lines from the Katzenjammer Kids, Maggie and Jiggs, Mutt and Jeff, Toonerville Trolley, Ella Cinders, Etta Kett, Harold Teen, and some other perishable favorites of my generation. Where are they now? They have been replaced by one-dimensional but contemporary cartoon figures. I wonder if my old friends are in some snug retirement home, just resting after giving many wide-eyed boys and girls of another age a few thrills and laughs. You won't find them in the Sunday comic section any more.

Some others from about the same period were Tarzan, King of the Jungle; Freckles and his Friends; Buck Rogers in the 25th Century; Flash Gordon; Little Orphan Annie; Dick Tracy; Smilin' Jack; Popeye, Wimpy and Olive Oyl; and many more. I mention Tarzan particularly because he was a special favorite of my friends, who also followed his adventures in the Johnny Weismuller and Buster Crabbe movies based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' fictional hero. Tarzan once occupied the top half of the front page of most metropolitan Sunday newspapers, indicating the publishers' understanding of the Ape Man's great popularity. Today you can only find puny versions of Tarzan, and most of those come from occasional laughable TV attempts to resurrect our old hero.

Now you find Blondie sharing the top half of the Sunday comic section with LuAnn or some other come-lately funny page persons. Some of them are actually funny, but that is a rare commodity today. Most of the newer idols in the comic section deal with plots of grim seriousness, discussing their personal problems as if the rest of us really cared.

That's enough of a diatribe for today. Let's just hope that the funny pages will return to funny business and that changes in our lifelong favorites will come slowly, if at all. Meantime, we hope the Mickey Mouse/Rube Goldberg tamperings will come to a halt. Then we can resume the morning chuckles over Blondie and Dagwood and all those other wonderful, wacky characters from the funnies.