Tuesday, January 07, 2014

DEAR GERTROOD by Wendell Ehret

Just wandering around the Laconia Antique Mall on Saturday, and I came across this book, DEAR GERTROOD. Lovely cover.

Wendell Ehret is the fellow who wrote and illustrated this oversized hardcover. I flipped open the book to a random page.

It was full of cartoons by Mr. Ehret. More than cartoons; this was Mr. Ehret's way of wooing his own real-life "Gertrood." Most of the book was in black and white, with wash. But there was the above color section.

The cartooning looked very much like an animation style popular at the time.

The book is a collection of cartoony love letters from Sergeant Ehret to Gertrude Rubin, "a topaz-eyed model." They met at the USO at Fifth Avenue and East 65th Street, in NYC, where she was a Junior Hostess.

From her introduction to the book:

"Before I knew it, we were dancing. He said he was Wendell Ehret. He was very tall, and I noticed that he had blond hair and blue eyes. 
"Speaking with a Western drawl, he began to tell me about himself and he said that was a Cartoonist. I suggested that we sit down for a while -- I wanted to hear more. All of a sudden he pulled out of his pocket a drawing of a girl dancing with a soldier. 'Here's some of my work,' he said. 'And look,' he added with boyish enthusiasm, 'you're just the same type of girl in my drawing, and you've got a bow in your hair just like hers!' I was flattered and excited."

They met several more times. Ehret told her he took a cartoon correspondence course and that cartooning was his hobby.

Soon, the army sent him overseas. And he started sending letters.

"The first letter was held up by the Censor, because Wendell is connected with the Animation Unit and his work is a military secret. But afterward the Censor began to look forward to the cartoon-letters and to wonder what Wendell was going to draw next."

She adds that "the cartoon-letter was too good to keep to myself. When I showed it to Look Magazine, they asked at once for permission to print it."

It's a good story. These letters and drawings are pretty slick-looking finished drawings. Hard to believe he could achieve this consistently while serving in Africa and India. But, hey, if he was right there, in the animation unit, with all those pens and brushes and so on … I can see how it was do-able.

Their popularity spawned by the Look Magazine article became the book DEAR GERTROOD.

The Web has very little information on Wendell Ehret -- aside from some sites selling this book. The guy has skills. As of the book's writing, he was still stationed in India.

What happened to him? What happened to Gertrude Rubin? I am hoping someone will see this and know the answers.

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