Zippy’s Eve

Today’s Zippy has Griffy and Zippy together for New Year’s Eve, apparently in Coney Island in 1951, though their minds seem to be in the present day (Griffy’s looking forward to 2016, and Zippy’s annoyed with Justin Bieber, as he often is):


In the last panel, their minds roam back to 1892. Time is fluid in Zippyland.

What puts them in Coney Island (and therefore in Brooklyn — note the title, which also alludes to Kansas, via the line “We’re not in Kansas anymore”, which Dorothy Gale says to her little dog Toto in the movie The Wizard of Oz), in (roughly) 1951? Two things: the Shore Hotel (panel 1) and the Kansas (Fried) Chicken (panels 2 and 3).

The Shore Hotel. This part of the story was hard to assemble, because it seems that there were two Shore buildings on Surf Ave. in Coney Island: the Shore Hotel, at 1230 Surf. Ave., which was demolished in December 2010; and the Shore Theater, at 1301 Surf Ave., which was closed around March 1973 but still stands, with a remarkably well-preserved exterior (and landmark status); the current owner refuses to sell it, though there are a number of potential buyers.

What makes this so complex is that, to judge from the photographic evidence available on the net, the two buildings had virtually identical exteriors. Here’s the theater in a recent photograph:


In any case, the hotel was in use in 1951.

Kansas Chicken. More detective work. For the Shore buildings, I’m indebted to postings on the site of the Municipal Art Society of New York. For Kansas Chicken, there’s a “Chicken Shacks” posting on the Forgotten New York site by Mike Epstein in 2004, where we learn about fried chicken places with names that take off from Kentucky Fried Chicken, including Kansas (Fried) Chicken:

Kansas Fried Chicken used to be a decent-sized chain until it largely went out of business. One outlet remains in Downtown Newark, along with this seemingly-always-closed storefront in Coney Island (with Nathan’s neon sign reflected in its windows).


The Coney Island outlet was doing business in 1951.

Why 1951? Knowing something about Zippy’s tastes and interests, I suspected that a noirish film governed the choice of 1951. If so, it was almost surely the celebrated Strangers on a Train. From Wikipedia:

Strangers on a Train is an American psychological crime thriller film with film noir elements, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and based on the 1950 novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith. It was shot in the autumn of 1950 and released by Warner Bros. on June 30, 1951. The film stars Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, and Robert Walker, and features Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock, and Laura Elliott.

… The story concerns two strangers who meet on a train, a young tennis player [played by Farley Granger] and a charming psychopath [played by Robert Walker]. The psychopath suggests that because they each want to “get rid” of someone, they should “exchange” murders, and that way neither will be caught. The psychopath commits the first murder; and then tries to force the tennis player to complete the bargain.

Granger and Walker on that train:


There’s at least one other possible fil from 1951. Here’s a list of the top grossing films of the year, from #1 on down:

Quo Vadis, Alice in Wonderland (Disney), Show Boat, A Streetcar Named Desire, David and Bathsheba, An American in Paris, A Place in the Sun (a reworking of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy), Strangers on a Train, Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

Zippy’s probably fond of A Place in the Sun.

Pudge Heffelfinger. I’m not sure where 1892 came from, and at first I thought Pudge Heffelfinger was just an absurd name concocted by Bill Griffith, but no (I should have known better). From Wikipedia, with the brief version:

William Walter “Pudge” Heffelfinger (December 20, 1867 – April 2, 1954) was an American football player and coach. He is considered the first athlete to play football professionally, having been paid to play in 1892.

Here he is as an undergraduate at Yale:


More details, from the Pro Football Hall of Fame site:

1892: In an era in which football was a major attraction of local athletic clubs, an intense competition between two Pittsburgh-area clubs, the Allegheny Athletic Association (AAA) and the Pittsburgh Athletic Club (PAC), led to the making of the first professional football player. Former Yale All-America guard William (Pudge) Heffelfinger was paid $500 by the AAA to play in a game against the PAC, becoming the first person to be paid to play football, November 12. The AAA won the game 4-0 when Heffelfinger picked up a PAC fumble and ran 35 yards for a touchdown

(In 1896, the AAA fielded the first completely professional team.)

2 Responses to “Zippy’s Eve”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Isn’t this set on New Year’s Eve 1957 (i.e., 12/31/1956), not 1951?

    The building seems clearly to be the Shore Theater and not the Shore Hotel,

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