Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Kilroy was here" and The Gork

Something unique about sharing what you believe is a mastery of literary brilliance, is the fact that, once you hit the “Post” button to expose your genius to the Internet, there is always someone smarter and more knowledgeable than you around every corner. And I am big enough to admit my errors in the face of overwhelming evidence.

An observation I made about the legend of “Kilroy was here” in my posting of my visit to the Audie Murphy and American Cotton Museum in Greenville, Texas drew the ire of WWII veteran, Frank Hinkle Sr. Here is his exchange with his son, Frank Jr. who cruelly forwarded it to me just as I was about to seat myself on top of the laurels I had placed upon my easy chair on a hot and humid Texas Sunday afternoon: 

“That was interesting about the term "Kilroy was here"  and that drawing was often found with the phrase.  However that was not Kilroy.  That was a "Gork", actually a lowly Gork and a male.  If he had been of higher rank he would have been a "Sprocket eyed Gork"  and if it had been a high ranking female Gork, it would have had "Sprocket eyes"  and one single hair sticking strait up, with a large bow attached.  She also would be saying "Yoiks".  Please keep your history straight and don't confuse the two different pieces of WWII grafitti.  I've been there.”
I hate not getting it right, so I did some research and discovered the figure has roots all the way back to WWI and may have been an Australian creation of the 1st Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Their graffiti read,” Foo was here”. The “Foo” was considered, by many, as a gremlin, which wreaked havoc among electronic and mechanical devices. In America, he was referred to as Smoe, Clem, Flywheel, Private Snoops, Overby, The Jeep. He’s “Sapo” (nosy) to the Chileans. There’s even a website dedicated to the graffiti at .

The figure was initially known in Britain as "Mr Chad". In the army Chad was known as “Private Snoops”, and in the Navy he was called “The Watcher”. Chad would appear with the slogan "Wot, no sugar", or a similar phrase bemoaning shortages and rationing. HHe often appeared with a single curling hair that resembled a question mark and with crosses in his eyes. Chad might have first been drawn by British cartoonist George Edward Chatterton in 1938. Chatterton was nicknamed "Chat", which may then have become "Chad." He has a very strong resemblance to the popular Popeye character, Alice the Goon, which first appeared in 1933. As I wandered around the Internet, I could see there are so many places the graffiti has been seen at from WWI to the Gulf Wars it would take volumes to document all of them.
When I asked Pat Tillery of, a noted expert in the field, he replied:

“I’ve heard of Smoe and Chad and even Luke the Spook but, sadly no Gork.  I would, though.  Please ask your friend for more details.”

Patrick A. Tillery

To the Senior Hinkle, have pity on me. Like many of his generation, my Dad saw the approaching conflict and volunteered in 1940. He was an Army Pacific War veteran and was, unfortunately, one of those veterans who made it a policy to never talk about his time in the war. He was very proud of that service and very humble about the lives he may have taken in the process. When I see things like Kilroy and other folklore in WWII, it makes me think of my Dad and the stories he did tell of his days in 1940's Hawaii prior to his deployment, some of the islands he "visited" during the war and his glancing involvement in early radio and radar technology. He passed away in 2003.

My Dad was one of those “Greatest Generation” members who passed into history without (despite my best efforts) passing on his contribution to his family. Every time I read about or learn a new piece of military history or about America in the 30’s and 40’s, I still wish I could ask my Dad at our next visit for his recollections but, sadly, I know I can’t do that anymore. I am buoyed by the fact (and a little jealous) that my good friend Frank, and an ever-decreasing number of others, still have this invaluable resource to ask when they can.

No comments:

Post a Comment