Old Timer’s Picture Talent?

By Norris Chambers

    Jimmie Boyd was Clifton’s first cousin and was about the same age we were. I never thought of Jimmie as an artist nor did I ever hear him say he wanted to be one, yet I remember that at a very early age he was trying to draw cartoon characters such as Mutt and Jeff, Andy Gump, the Katzenjammer Kids and other popular “funny paper” favorites. The drawings evidently didn’t look like they should have because Clifton believed one of the pictures looked like him and he didn’t like it. Jimmie thought it made him look better than he really looked, but to keep him from complaining he changed his hair arrangement and made his ears a little bigger. He finally convinced Clifton that he was prettier than the picture. I agreed with him and he was satisfied when Jimmie continued the comic strip drawings.
    Going to school didn’t interfere with picture drawing. Jimmie was even guilty of altering some of the pictures in the history and geography books. It was a lot of fun to add a few lines and curves to famous characters in history. They might have been proud of the changes. Of course marking in a school book was a serious offense and any picture improvements had to be done by an unknown artist! Another masterpiece of art work had to be kept secret.
    Annie Ruth was a member of our class and I think she felt as if she were the most beautiful person in the entire school. She usually kept a large photograph on her desk. Apparently she had several made at a photography studio because they were nicer than any old Brownie box camera would have produced. Clifton, Jimmie and I were alone in the school room during a lunch period. Jimmie couldn’t resist the temptation to improve the nice looking picture. A quick pair of ugly glasses, a downward curve of the mouth and the blacking of two nice, white teeth did the job. Jimmie was proud of his work. Clifton and I laughed about it and wondered what Annie Ruth would say. We assured him that we wouldn’t tell who did it.
    When the classroom began to fill Annie Ruth walked to her desk and saw her altered masterpiece. Her complexion suddenly turned white and she screamed, pointed at the picture and muttered, “Oh, my beautiful picture. Somebody ruined it!” I was glad she didn’t point at Jimmie. Several students knew of his bad habit and I’m sure they knew instantly who had done the picture improvement.  I think she either knew or found out because she used one of her meanest looks every time she looked at poor Jimmie.
    This wasn’t a bad thing at all when compared to what he did next. The superintendent, who was also a teacher and sponsor of the senior class, had made some beautiful class pictures. The photos were arranged in a semicircle with his picture in the center. One of the pictures had been on his desk for several days and had been seen and admired by all of the study hall students. Jimmie felt that it was his duty to improve the nice sharp picture in the center. He was evidently able to spend plenty of time because what he produced was, no doubt, one of his masterpieces.

One of the glasses lens had a realistic looking crack about the center from top to bottom. The nose had been widened by at least a quarter of an inch and the ends of the mouth turned down to produce an angry looking character. A few additional lines and blobs resulted in another masterpiece!
    Of course someone showed it to the superintendent. He just grinned and shrugged his shoulders. He apparently accepted the joke and intended to forget it. A day or two later he had Jimmie come to his office. The office was a small area behind the auditorium stage dressing room. Clifton and I were afraid he was in serious trouble. Jimmie later told us that the superintendent had been looking at him and, though he wasn’t a senior, he wanted to consider him for a part in the senior play. Jimmie thought that was good and eagerly submitted when he told him he needed to do just a little touchup with stage grease paint to be sure. After a few minutes he led him to the door leading to the auditorium and to Jimmie’s surprise the whole school was seated and eagerly watching as he was led to the center of the stage.
    His face had been painted and adorned with ugly glasses, a wide nose and a turned down mouth. He couldn’t have done a better job himself. The laughter from the audience was so loud it almost hurt our ears.
    Clifton and I thought it was funny. Jimmie didn’t agree.