Frisco Beat: Tad Dorgan at Poly

Cartoonist Tad Dorgan’s name continues gumshoeing Up and Down These Mean Streets. San Francisco native. Pal of black heavyweight champ Jack Johnson. Credited with coining the term “hot-dog”  in 1906— though I see that claim has been debunked (if I learn next that Tad didn’t coin “Yes, We Have No Bananas” I’m going to be bummed, I’m telling you now).

I got a note from Kathy Compagno of the HailPoly website, devoted to the old Polytechnic High School, which says, “I greatly enjoyed reading your posting about Tad Dorgan, written by Brian Leno. There appears to have been a Golden Age of cartooning with Poly Graduates during the early 1900s, many of whom cite Maria Van Vleck as their art teacher at Poly: Herbert Igoe, Paul Terry (of Loony Tunes), and now TAD Dorgan are the most visible. I wonder if your readers know of any other Poly High connections?”

Poly flourished from 1884-1972, and I seem to recall when it finally was being torn down circa 1983 — in the last days of The Suicide Club, before that daring urban adventurer group transitioned over to the less-adventuresome Cacophony Society, various explorations were made into the abandoned buildings. Nothing earth-shaking, no great events with a cast of hundreds, just the usual.

Kathy writes that her alumi group is “grateful that the gymnasiums have survived the wrecking ball and continue with athletic uses across the street from the site of the old Kezar Stadium, now Bob St. Clair field.” St. Clair was another Poly alumnus, a 49er who made it into the Football Hall of Fame. You can find the gyms on the south side of the street in the 700 block of Frederick, and the revamped sunken playing field today looks more like it did in the glory years of Poly. Me, I kind of miss the demolished Kezar Stadium, which everyone knows as the place where Clint Eastwood runs down the psycho (played by the great Andy Robinson, one of the best movie psychos of all time) and tortures info out of him in the first Dirty Harry film.

The Poly guys are also interested in tracking down “the 1950s sports cartoon called Swineskin Gulch, penned by Jimmy Hatlo, which included many strips featuring the local high school sports teams and their mascots. One recent offering online prices original panels at $300! We would love to find other examples of this series, which
encapsulates the history of our high school rivalries long ago.” Hatlo, in his successful years a resident of Carmel, got his big early career boost by taking over the position occupied by Tad before his death in 1929. Small world.

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