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An impressive new comic strip, “Out Our Way” with the Willets, once occurred in the Johnson City Press-Chronicle

Bob Cox • Dec 15, 2019 at 12:00 PM

The Willets’ comic strip was very popular.

Willis ... every inch a real boy, the life of the family, sometimes too much so!

Lillian ... typical big sister, strong for her kid brother, but often not strong enough to handle him when needed.

Mom ... the last word as a real mother, and she always has the last word when Willis and Lil are not home.

Dad ... first assistance head of the house, takes things as they come, and they really come when the kids are around.

Follow them every week in “Out Our Way” with The Willets starting Sunday, January 16, in your Johnson City Press-Chronicle Color Comic Section. The popular strip lasted from 1921 until 1977. This writer was a huge fan of the Willets.

James Robert Williams was one of the shrewdest and most versatile cartoonists of the first half of this century, and his “way” was the multifaceted American way of life.

In daily panels produced for NEA Service from November 22, 1921, until his death in 1957, Williams created a warm and perceptive panorama of many aspects of everyday existence.

The recurring tag line under which “Out Our Way” appeared included “Curly and the Cowboys,” featuring vignettes of western ranch life; “The Bull of the Woods,” a much-loved feature set in a machine shop; “Heroes Are Made, Not Born,” a sympathetic series on the vicissitudes of growing up; “Born Thirty Years Too Soon,” an often poignant evocation of home life in the early 1900s.

“The Worry Wart,” featuring the mishaps of an irresistible slovenly youngest child; and ”Why Mothers Get Gray,” the definite picture of a warm nuclear family and the harassed mother who carefully holds it all together.

Together, these engaging little sagas were among the most popular newspaper features in America. In 1940, “Out Our Way” was carried in 725 daily and 230 Sunday papers, reportedly more than any other comic in the world.

“Out Our Way” with the Willets’ outlived by some 20 years, earned Williams his reputation, but those features have contributed an enduring gallery of homespun characters to our literature. His “Mark 'Twainist' ” humor earned him the title of “The Will Rodgers of the Comic Strip.” “Out Our Way” was one of a kind.

Reach Bob Cox at [email protected] or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.

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