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Dogpatch in New England

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I’m writing the biographical/historical essays for The Library of American Comics reprinting of Li’l Abner. Spurred by recent publicity in the town of Amesbury, MA — one of several New England communities Abner creator Al Capp called home — I paid a visit to Amesbury. Here’s what I found . . .

From the highway one follows Route 150 through a few miles of nondescript residences before reaching the outskirts of the downtown area, where Route 150 gives way to Main Street.

To two of them, actually.

As I waited at the intersection for the light to change, I did a double-take. No, my eyes were not deceiving me – the two perpendicular streets were both named Main Street! The road sign marked the corner of Main and Main. I shook my head: only in New England . . .

On the town’s major thoroughfares, another New England staple — a street fair — was in full swing. Pastel-topped tents dotted both sides of the street. Some offered for sale a variety of crafts — hand-made clothes, jewelry, puzzle boxes, woodwork, and more — while others served up a variety of snacks and drinks designed to help beat the summer heat. Buskers inhabited every second or third street corner, playing a guitar or a banjo, softly singing their tunes. Wandering from display to display were new parents pushing prams — teenagers in t-shirts and jeans, clutching skateboards beneath their arms — young lovers strolling arm in arm — senior citizens, out to enjoy the splendor of an early-summer day.

Making a turn off Market Street, passing under an extended brick archway, I found the item that had sparked this trip, something originally reported in the Boston Globe — anchored to the wall of the archway was the four-panel painting that serves as Amesbury’s new tribute to Al Capp. Created by local artist Jon Mooers, the work was inspired by the autobiographical feature from the June 24, 1946 issue of Life Magazine. You can see the Life piece on pages 21 – 24 of our Li’l Abner Volume 1; you can see the Mooers version right here:

After some further exploration of the town, it was time to say goodbye to Amesbury — I had an appointment to gather in Maine with several old friends, and many miles of driving lay ahead. During our get-together, I summarized my visit to Amesbury, and one of my friends shook his head. “You have about the greatest job on earth,” he said.

And you know — I’d be hard-pressed to disagree!

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Written by cnwl1

August 6, 2010 at 1:41 am

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