♫ You can’t get there, the road is under construction ♬

Mad Magazine™ was wonderful back in the ’50s and ’60s. I seem to recall that as I grew older, either my sense of humor changed – I started appreciating Harvard Lampoon’s work in the late ’60s – or the quality of the writing diminished.

At any rate, some of the early stuff was priceless, and still relevant to today’s challenges. One example that keeps surfacing in my mind every time I hit a detour is this gem, written by Tom Koch and illustrated by Bob Clarke.

Peeved at Obstructions
(Sung to the tune of “Eve of Destruction” Barry McGuire)

You save up all year long to take a nice vacation.
You make a lot of plans to drive across the nation.
You dream of all you’ll see with great anticipation.
You’ve only got a week to reach your destination,
But that seems like enough, you feel no consternation.
Then they tell you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get through; the road is under construction.

You’ve never been to Maine or Utah’s scenic section.
You call the auto club to help make your selection.
You pay to get your car a thorough trip inspection.
So you can drive afar and feel you’ve got protection.
Then, when you’re almost there, you seek a cop’s direction.
And he tells you over and over and over again, my friend,
That you must turn back; the road is under construction.

Vacation here at home, our president keeps sayin’.
Don’t spend your dough abroad, he fervently is praying.
So you head for New York do do your summer playing;
Or maybe to the west a travel plan you’re laying,
To see those snowy peaks and geysers wildly sprayin’.
But the signs warn over and over and over again, my friend,
That you can’t get there; the road is under construction.

The challenge is real. In preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, UDOT undertook the I-15 corridor reconstruction project.

“The project involved the reconstruction of 16.2 miles of interstate mainline and the addition of new general purpose and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes through the Salt Lake City metropolitan area. The project also included the construction or reconstruction of more than 130 bridges, the reconstruction of seven urban interchanges, and the reconstruction of three major junctions with other interstate routes, including I-80 and I-215.”

While the project was sorely needed and the end result was beneficial, for four years, the commute from outlying areas to Salt Lake City was a major pain in the patoot, with commuters searching out and jealously guarding favorable and secret bypass routes.

But wait, there’s more!

In 2009, UDOT undertook the I-15 Core reconstruction project, rebuilding 24 miles of I-15 from Point of the Mountain to Payson in just 35 months. The design-build strategy meant that the entire stretch was torn up at once, instead of doing a few miles at a time. The inconvenience was so significant that I was moved to memorialize the experience in video:

In retrospect, I really shoudn’t complain at all; nowadays our nation’s crumbling infrastructure could use a bit of help, and I think subsequent generations would appreciate our putting up with some inconvenience if it means that their bridges won’t collapse underneath them. But when you’re behind the wheel and trying to get to work (or to a vacation destination), the aggravation can certainly raise one’s blood pressure.

Bonus Section

Since I happened to be on the subject of MAD Magazine, another extract from the same article is precisely the reason our family threw out all our TVs over 20 years ago (the kids were absolutely devastated, but somehow they survived):

The TV Victim’s Lament
(Sung to the Tune of “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan)

How many times must a guy spray with Ban
Before he doesn’t offend?
And how many times must he gargle each day
Before he can talk to a friend?
How many tubes of shampoo must he buy
Before his dandruff will end?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a man use Gillette
Before shaving won’t make him bleed?
And how many cartons of Kents must he smoke
Before the girls all pay him heed?
How many products must one person buy
Before he has all that he’ll need?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

How many times must a gal clean her sink
Before Ajax scours that stain,
And how many times must she rub in Ben-Gay
Before she can rub out the pain?
How many ads on TV must we watch
Before we are driven insane?
The sponsors, my friend, will sell you all they can.
The sponsors will sell you all they can.

Full disclosure: My mother single-handedly raised me on the income from commercial advertising, so I feel a bit sheepish about this, but the onslaught of advertising, much of which has now moved from the airwaves to the internet, still rubs me the wrong way.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

MAD™ Memories Department – Commercial Roulette

From Mad™ Magazine issue 59, December 1960, comes one of my favorite features. While the illustrations are intended to be humorous, the text is lifted from real commercials that aired during the era.

Commercial breaks were rigorously timed back in those days, so it was difficult to spin the dial during a break and find a program instead of another ad.

Click the images for larger versions; Artist, Bob Clarke. Writer, Gary Belkin.


The Old Wolf has spoken.


Found: The Swan Song of a Modern Hiawatha


For decades, I’ve had a snippet of a poem running around in my head:

“Simple math and shrubbery pruning, checkers, lunch and water polo.”

This comes to mind often when I consider the un-challenging slate of classes for which I see many college freshmen sign up.

Today someone posted something on Facebook – which, thanks to the lack of a search function I can no longer find – that made me think of it again, and despite earlier searches on Google coming up poor, this time I got a hit.

The link took me to a page in the Gainesville Sun from August 10, 1985, in a column by Bill Henderson. He credited the source thusly:

“To honor the coming season I would have you read an ode to the football player himself. An ode I stole some years back from some fellow hack that I would acknowledge if I could remember his name.”

Having seen the full text of the poem again, I was pretty sure the original appearance of the poem was in Mad Magazine, of which I was a faithful and voracious reader through the 60s and 70s. A bit more Googling, and I had located the source: Mad #100, January 1966: “The Swan Song of a Modern Hiawatha” – with apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha.”

So here, for your gratuitous enjoyment, is the full text of the poem as it appeared in Mad. Be warned – this is politically incorrect for our day and age, and needs to be framed in the mindset of the 60s.

Edit: With thanks to commenter Dave Meek who pointed out that a line was missing in the first stanza. A search for verification led to a discovery of the entire issue of Mad #100 online in PDF format, enabling me to add the image above, as well as an entire stanza that was also missing.

The Swan Song of a Modern Hiawatha
Text: Tom Koch / Art: Don Martin.

By a pond in Minnesota
Near the stagnant Green-Scum-Water
Stood the campus of Nokomis,
Rotten football school, Nokomis;
Sent forth players weak and gentle:
(Mostly horticulture majors.)

Then one autumn thru the pine trees
Through the black and gloomy forest,
Strode the freshman, Hiawatha;
Strong with limbs like reindeer sinew,
Signed to play for Memphis Normal,
He was lost and asked directions.

“Shut my mouth,” drawled Coach Kowalksi,
‘Ya’ll are here; the South awaits thee,”
Hiawatha gazed in wonder
At the snow up to his armpits.
“This is Dixie?” thus he mumbled,
“Stupid Redskin,” joshed Kowalski.

So it was that Hiawatha,
Son of Ishkoodah, the comet,
Donned his new Nokomis beanie;
Huddled in the bunk assigned him.
“Geez, it’s cold!” wailed Hiawatha.
“Hush, my fullback,” cooed Kowalski.

Soon the young brave, Hiawatha,
Found himself matriculated;
Signed for classes that befit him;
Simple math and Shrubbery Pruning,
Checkers, Lunch and Water Polo,
(Perfect course; wrong institution.)

In their quest for football players,
All the frats sought Hiawatha
‘Til they studied close his features,
Then, as one wheel aptly put it,
“I dunno, Could be an Injun’
Yet to me, he still looks Jewish.”

One by one did Hiawatha
Learn to know the campus creatures;
Erickson, the hot rod owner,
Nippersink, the brooding Commie;
Best of all, he soon discovered
Emmie Sue, the Chi Omega.

“Ee-wa-voom!” yowled Hiawatha,
(Football practice now forgotten),
I was taught by wrinkled Grandma
How to woo the elk and otter,
Speak of marriage to the pine cone.
THIS the old crone failed to mention.”

Days of torment quickly followed
For the harried Coach Kowalski,
Left with three men in his backfield
While the fourth played hanky-panky
Out behind the pipestone quarry;
Fiendish plans engulfed the mentor.

On that frigid autumn evening,
Emmie Sue, the Chi Omega,
Listened with a wide-eyed horror
As the coach, most confidential
Warned her darkly of “the nut who
Thinks he’s living now in Memphis.”

Came the dawn and grieving Emmie
Sought the help of Doctor Swinehorst,
Dean of studies Psychiatric
At the Med School of Nokomis.
“All’s not lost,” the Doc assured her,
“If you think you can afford me.”

Soon the young brave, Hiawatha,
Lay upon the couch of Swinehorst,
Lay there fearless as the birch tree,
“Tell me of your childhood trauma,”
Said that Doc with notebook handy;
“What of Mom and Dad and siblings?”

Hiawatha answered calmly,
“Daddy was a white-fire comet;
Mom a songbird in the willows,
I had many forest brothers:
Brown bear, moose and timid rabbit.”
“Ach du Lieber!” cried out Swinehorst.

Emmie Sue, the Chi Omega,
Heard the tragic diagnosis.
“Crazy as a loon,” said Swinehorst,
“Even thinks the loon’s his sister,
I’d suggest you drop this savage;
Date instead my son, the dentist.”

Hiawatha, brokenhearted,
Now without his love beside him
Turned his thoughts at last to football;
Learn what meant the mumbled signals
Of the quarterback, Wochowicz;
Scrimmaged ’til his bridgework rattled.

Happy then was Coach Kowalski,
Dreamed he in untroubled slumber
Neath the full moon, Nu-see-wah-goo,
Of Nokomis, undefeated;
Dreamed of glory soon to come on
New Year’s Day in Pasadena.

Only Gitchee-Goomee Teachers
Hated rival of Nokomis,
Barred the path the coach envisioned,
Waiting tensely for the kickoff,
Hiawatha eyed the bleachers;
There sat Emmie with the dentist.

“Aush-wea-ecch,” moaned Hiawatha
As the pigskin bounced before him,
Caromed off his furrowed forehead
Toward the goal where Gitchee-Goomee’s
Tackle grabbed it unmolested,
Scored the first of 14 touchdowns.

With the Dean on Monday morning,
Hiawatha got the message:
“F” in Math and Shrubbery Pruning.
“Memphis pledged I’d pass,” he bleated.
Roared the Dean in tones like thunder,
“Memphis! Buster, you’re in Flunksville.”

Quiet reigns now in Nokomis.
Gone is Emmie; gone the dentist;
Gone the mob lynched Kowalski.
All that’s left; a voice heard faintly;
Hiawatha, college dropout,
Back home chatting with the chipmunk.

I can now present you with the original in all its glory, accompanied by Don Martin’s hilarious illustrations (click each image to enlarge):

Hia1  Hia2  Hia3  Hia4

You’re welcome.

The Old Wolf has spoken.