The Generation Gap

By Jeremy Meltingtallow

The decade between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s must have been a challenging time to be a parent.  I should know. I was a teenager from 1965 to 1972.  My father claims I was more difficult to raise than my younger brothers and sisters.  He remembers the “Sixties” as a time when us kids grew our hair long, listened to loud rock music and dressed like slobs.

I eventually settled down, got married and had children of my own.  In 1986, I was doing research for the retrospective anthology, “The Best of Hi and Lois.”  I read through the entire run of the strip and was surprised and amused when I came across episodes that were published when I was a teenager.  I realized that after arguments about haircuts, rock concerts and dress codes, my father was turning these confrontations into Hi and Lois gags.

Chip, the teenager in the Flagston family, was the lightning rod for most of the generational battles.  Here is a strip that probably sums up how my parents felt about my rebellious attitude.

Hi and Lois daily strip, June 21, 1971 Hi and Lois daily strip, June 21, 1971

I can remember many heated debates around the dinner table. In my mind, the older generation had messed up the world and it was up to our generation to fix it.  My father may not have won all these arguments but at least he got the last laugh in Hi and Lois.  The name on the newspaper in this strip was the name of a school I attended.

HI and Lois daily strip, June 19, 1968 HI and Lois daily strip, June 19, 1968

The Browne boys, Bob (aka Chance) and Chris, were also teenagers during this period. Dik probably didn’t have to look far to find the model for Chip’s hippie friend in this classic strip.

Hi and Lois daily strip Hi and Lois daily strip, February 25, 1970

From my point of view, it was an exciting time to be a teenager.  The world was changing and we had the freedom to explore new music, clothes and lifestyles.  I’m sure there were times our parents were a little jealous of all the fun we were having, as Hi does wistfully in the strip below.

Hi and Lois daily strip, October 27, 1967 Hi and Lois daily strip, October 27, 1967

Part of the challenge of writing a family comic strip is finding humor in experiences that can be uncomfortable, perplexing or even painful in real life.  Readers can identify with these observations because they are going through the same struggles with their own families.

When I rediscovered these Hi and Lois episodes many years later, it revealed to me how my father had used his children as a source for gag material.  I did the same thing with my kids when I started writing for Hi and Lois in the 1980s.  The best inspiration can be found close to home.

– Brian Walker