Harry and Me
It was a warm July evening in 1973 and I was lying on the bed in our apartment doing some writing for Funky Winkerbean while my wife Cathy watched TV in the other room.
As is my custom, I was grousing to myself about having to write when I could’ve been goofing off, with little inkling of what the Muse had in store for me that night. Now lying on a bed is pretty conducive to letting your mind drift off, and since Funky and the gang were about to head back to school in the strip, my mind was drifting back to all the things you associate with the start of school… football games, homecoming preparations, the usual stuff. However, when I was in school, I hadn’t been on the football team or on the homecoming committee. What I did do was play trombone in the band.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You probably figure I’m going to say I jumped up off the bed at that point and ran around the room shouting ‘eureka’! Well not exactly. What I did was began to jot down memories of long cold bus rides with wet feet and itchy wool uniforms… of singing ‘A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ until the bus driver turned his hearing-aid down… of selling band candy to all my relatives. I also jotted down the idea for a new character… a band director named Harry L. Dinkle. Harry L. Dinkle the world’s greatest band director. Even then the ‘eureka’ didn’t come.
The fact of the matter is, it really came later in a whole string of retroactive ‘eurekas’. First, as the mail began to come in… followed by the invitations to speak at band awards banquets… and then the honorary inductions of Harry (sometimes myself) into various state band organizations… the penning of the Harry L. Dinkle March… and the many rewarding relationships I’ve developed with band directors around the country.
And it’s all led eventually to the book you hold in your hands. It’s a Funky Winkerbean book, but it’s devoted completely to Harry and the band… and somehow that seems fitting.
I’m grateful to all the band people who requested it… to Andy Clark who said ‘Let’s do it!’… and most especially to the fact that I didn’t bag it and go watch TV on that long ago summer evening. Without that night, the following one hundred and twenty-four pages might never have been necessary.
To learn more about the author of Funky Winkerbean, Tom Batiuk, please visit his website.