The Oshawa Express - Remembering bathless groggins
Hockey Historical highlights - Remembering bathless groggins
Wednesday, August 13, 2008 Earlier

Following his rousing success with L’il Abner, cartoonist Al Capp ventured the commencement
of a new comic strip. This time, however, he engaged Raeburn van Buren, a gifted illustrator with the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Magazine, in partnership. Capp wrote the script and van Buren did the artwork.

It was entitled “Abbey and Slats” and made its debut on July 12, 1937. The main characters, after whom the strip was named, were Aubrey Eustace “Slats” Scrapple, and his older cousin, Abigail “Abbie” Scrapple, a native of a small town called Crabtree Corners.

Slats, who had been recently orphaned in New York, arrived by train, and was met by this hatchet-faced spinster, who had grave doubts about her street-wise relative. But, she soon took a liking to him, and, with the balanced personality of cousin Sally, the household ran smoothly. Another key personality in the series was local icon, Jasper Hagstone, who almost immediately became Slatt’s enemy.

This conflict came about when the transplanted young New Yorker slammed into Jasper’s limousine to avoid running down a mongrel dog. Ironically, the handsome newcomer became romantically interested in Hagstone’s daughter Judy, creating an interesting scenario.

But Aubrey Eustace later fell for one Becky Groggins, daughter of a reprobate who initially played only a supporting role in the comic—but eventually became the central personality in the popular series. In fact, after a time, the heading read, “Abbie and Slats, featuring Bathless Groggins”. In a word, the old former sea captain was a rascal.

With no continuing visible means of support, he fast-talked himself into free meals, games of pool and cigars. Only occasionally did he resort to temporary employment and that out of dire desperation. The name of his birth certificate was J. Pierpont Groggins, but he was tagged “Bathless” because he resorted to contact with a bathtub but once a year. His favourite expressions were “Keerect”, and “Blarst ye!”

Injected into his conversation at appropriate junctures. On one occasion he decided that what he needed to resolve his financial woes was a rich wife. Somehow he managed to write a “Dear Abby” type column in which he wrote a letter pretending to be a local widow who had an eye for a “retired seafaring gentleman”.

“She” inquired how she could capture his heart before others in Crabtree Corners did. “She” gave him such a build-up, that a wealthy out-of-town socialite tracked him down and immediately proposed. But, when Bathless signed his name on the marriage application she recognized his writing as the “Dixie Dormouse” who had magnified his charms in this lovelorn column. She conked him with her purse, called him a fake, and stormed out!

One of the most popular of his countless adventures featured him masquerading as a crystal ball gazer. None other than Jasper Hagtone turned up, seeking advice on how to rid himself of his obstacle to happiness—namely, Bathless Groggins.

The “Swami” directed him to “kill him with kindness”. The result was lavish treatment—including a mansion, servants, and anything his little heart desired.


But the scheme backfired. J.P. suddenly missed mooching grub at Joe’s Beanery and“paying tomorrow for a game of billiards today”. The climax came when Jasper turned up with a handful of imported cigars. “That does it! You’re robbing me of my greatest pleasure,” he shouted. And he rushed out to retrieve a smoldering butt on the street, announcing: “Life is worth living again!”



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