Friday, February 26, 2010

Thelma Keane

Thelma Keane is the wife of Bill Keane. He's the guy who makes the Family Circus cartoons. I read them when I was a kid. Then several months ago, I shared my old books with Jack, and he loved them. Tim decided to do a little research on Bill Keane, and he found out that his wife was Australian. We were all excited about this. I was delighted to know that the inspirations behind little Dolly, Billy, Jeffery, and PJ are all part Australian.

I can't remember them ever mentioning Australia in the cartoons. Maybe they did, and I missed it. The maternal grandmother was portrayed as living out of town, though....from what I remember. I just didn't realize she was from THAT far out of town.

Well, Lord Wiki says Thelma Keane has died. I guess I saw that when I added her to the list. But I had forgotten.

She died in May 2008.

She was born in Gympie Queensland, on 15 March 1926.

I'm looking at Google Maps now. Gympie is about three hours north of Brisbane; and it's about an hour north-west of Noosa Heads. It looks like there's a lot of forests in and around Gympie. I bet it's a beautiful place. I'm looking at Street View now. Gympie reminds me of Florida. When we were in Florida recently, I took walks and said it reminded me of Queensland. I've never been to Queensland, but it reminded me of what I had seen on Street View.

Keane's daddy was a banana farmer, and he also did forest restoration work. Lord Wiki says in Thelma's early childhood, they lived in a canvas tent outside the Amamoor Forest Reserve. That's pretty cool.

I'm reading about the forest now. The Aboriginal people who lived there were the Gubbi Gubbi, Wakka Wakka, Jinibara, and Kabi Kabi. I like learning that stuff.

When it was time for Keane to go to high school, she lived with relatives in Gympie. Then she'd return to her family on weekends.

Now we get to how Keane ended up meeting her American husband. Bill Keane was stationed in Brisbane with the US army for World War II. He wasn't a fighter. He worked for them as a an artist, doing promotional posters. He was a propaganda man, I suppose.

Thelma ended up in the same office as an accountant secretary. Her desk was near his desk. They fell in love.

Thelma and Bill got married in 1948, the same year my mom was born. That makes them seem pretty old to me.

The lovely couple left Australia, and moved to Pennsylvania. I wonder if they ever considered living in Australia instead. I've heard that a lot of Australian women moved to America with their American army husbands. But did it ever end up that the American soldier stayed in Australia?

Lord Wiki says that fifteen thousand Australian women left their country to go live with their new American husbands. That's a lot!

This Southern Cross website says that many Australian women lost their Australian citizenship. But now they can get it back.

From 1948 until 1959, the family lived in Pennsylvania. During that time, they had five children. In the book, there are four children. Which kid got left out? Maybe one of the fictional kids is a composite of two of the real kids? Or perhaps one child didn't survive.

In 1959, the family moved to Phoenix Arizona. In 1960, Bill started doing the comic strip. I wonder what he did for work in-between that time? Well, I guess I could go to his Lord Wiki entry. Actually yeah....I should. There's probably a lot more information there. Let me finish with Thelma first.

She was the model for the mother/wife in the comic. The pretend Thel looked very much like the real Thelma. Lord Wiki says she was recognized in the grocery store. Aren't you the Mommy from Family Circus? I'm guessing fans knew she lived in town. I can't imagine people otherwise approaching strangers thinking they're comic strip characters.

Keane worked full-time for her husband doing the business side of things. She helped him negotiate stuff regarding rights and all that. I guess most comic strip artists lose their rights, or at least some of them. Thelma worked to make sure the rights to The Family Circus were returned to Bill.

Keane died in an assisted living facility. She suffered from Alzheimer's.

Here. Lord Wiki lists all the kids. And it looks like they all survived. There's Gayle, Neal, Glen, Jeff, and Christopher.

Well, there's actually not much more in Lord Wiki's entry on Bill.

Oh well.

I guess I'll search around elsewhere.

Before I do, though. For those of you who don't know. One of their sons, Glen (the inspiration for Billy) works as an animator for Disney. Lord Wiki says he was the character animator for Elliot in Pete's Dragon. I love that movie! He's currently working on something called Tangled. It's a new version of Rapunzel. Cool. I didn't even know that was coming out. I'm usually more up to date with Disney stuff.

I'm seeing obituaries for Keane. They say pretty much the same stuff that Lord Wiki said. I'll link to one of them, though. It has a little bit of extra information. Or maybe I just missed it on Lord Wiki's page. Anyway, Keane ended up with nine grandchildren. I think that's how many my grandmother had. No wait. She had ten. I was thinking nine, because I have nine cousins. Sadly, two have died though.

Some bloggers pay tribute to Keane.

Diana (a homeschooling mom!) from St. Fiacre's Garden complains about the fact that Bill eventually updated Thelma's hairstyle. She says, I hated it when Bill Keane changed her hairstyle. Mommy should always have a flip hairstyle and tiny waist. She should always be cooking in a seventies kitchen and driving a gigantic station wagon and sitting around in 1960's furniture and decor.  Did he change her waist as well? I don't know if I've seen the modern Thelma. Weird that I just mentioned my cousins, because Diana looks like one of them. Eerie.

Here's the official Family Circus website. That should be fun to look at. Maybe I'll find a picture of the modernized Mommy.

Crap. It looks like one of those websites where I can't link to specific pages. I hate that. Well, if there's something spectacular, I'll try to give directions to where to find it. Or, if you're interested, you can just go to the site, and explore. They have samples of his comics. They're very cute. At least, I think so.

It's fun to see how different the 1960's ones are from the ones that I used to read. It's like watching the early The Simpson's segments on the Tracey Ullman show.

Jack and I both love the drug cartoon in from the 1970's. Jack gave a great little belly laugh. He's sitting here with me. This is great....I get to do cuddling and bonding while researching.

There's a stay-at-home message in one of the 1980's cartoons. It plays with the idea of the public perception of mothers not working. It's interesting, though, that Keane DID have a job outside parenting. I guess she could still be stay-at-home. But in the comics, I get the idea that the mother doesn't have hobbies and jobs outside of parenting. I wonder why Mr. Keane put that difference in his comics. Or maybe Lord Wiki was wrong about her working full-time. Maybe it was more of an occasional thing. Or perhaps, it was something she worked on when the kids got older.

I hate not being able to link to individual pages. So I'm going to play around on Google Images. Maybe we'll find some fun stuff.

This blog shows a very recent comic. It mentions blogging! And here's one that alludes to the Wii. Oh, and it also has the modernized Thel hair. It's hard to get used to.

Maybe I'll search through Google Blogs. I'm already bored of Google Images. I think this entry is going to be a short one.

Well, I'm not finding anything that exciting in the blogging world either. People pretty much report that she died, and how they liked the comics when they were young. That's about it.

Wait. Here's something that might be interesting. And good that Jack has gone to do something else. There's a not-so-wholesome parody site for The Family Circus. I don't know if I can emotionally handle this. Will I be amused, or offended? Oh never mind. These are not that funny to me. All it is is regular Family Circus comics. Then people submit their own....what do you call it? Not subtitles.... Well, it's the writing at the bottom of the strip. The dialogue, I suppose.

I think this is it for me. See ya later.


  1. that is funny - about being approached in real life "are you the lady in the comic?" How weird.

    Pete's Dragon is great. We like that one. I don't think our kids appreciate it much, though. (Kids these days !!) =P

  2. HappyOrganist,

    It's such a shame when kids don't absolutely love what we loved as a child.

    I love Pete's Dragon! My sister and I were singing songs from it over Thanksgiving. I totally shocked her by knowing a lot more of the lyrics than she expected.

    Hey, is Mickey Rooney still alive? I always forget. I gotta go google that.

    BTW, I am anxiously awaiting your hat.

  3. I don't know - he sure is cute though. They all were.