Home town kept tabs on famed animator-to-be: River City Memoirs

5:20 PM, Sep. 13, 2013  |  Comments

Loading Photo Galleries ...

  • Filed Under

Well before Betty Boop was conceived in 1930, Wisconsin Rapids native Myron Henry "Grim" Natwick was regularly mentioned in the Daily Tribune.

A 1910 Lincoln High School grad, Myron, who was born in 1890 and died in 1990, had by June 1909 become the only state champion on record from "Grand Rapids," winning the 120-yard hurdles and placing high in the 220-yard hurdles and discus throw. He had also performed in the class play, "Higbee of Harvard" and in community theater's "Grand Old Flag."

After graduation, Myron left for Chicago and then in 1913 for Baltimore, home of his uncle, Joseph Natwick, to "again take up" the study of art, according to the paper. Joseph Natwick's daughter, Mildred, then 8, would become a well-known actress.

During Christmas season 1914, Myron gave "a very interesting illustrated lecture" to the Mozart club here.

In 1915, still considered "of this city," he won first prize of $5 in the Chicago Record Herald spring poem contest and enjoyed a two-week float on the Chippewa river in Sawyer county with brother Frank.

On April 2, Natwick and M.H. Jackson were scheduled to host at the Congregational church but didn't seem to be making any preparations. Members present began to think it was an April Fools' joke and were about to leave when it was announced that the committee had arranged to entertain at the Hotel Witter and the hungry multitude rejoiced.

July 21, 1917, Natwick was married in Chicago to Ida Lucille Wittenberg of Wisconsin Rapids. The couple visited home before returning to Chicago for "a short time" prior to a planned move to "their future home" in New York City.

In July 1918, he left for military service at Camp Grant, Rockford, Ill., only to be honorably discharged in October as the war wound down.

In March 1923, the Ideal Theater, now Rogers Cinema, advertised that the movie, "Strongheart the Wonder Dog" would be accompanied by "a surprise."

"For months we have been trying to locate some of the cartoon work of Myron 'Grim' Natwick and all unexpectedly as the last half of a Goldwyn Graphic we have one. Better come and see what a local boy does for the screen," the ad read.

Throughout 1925, ads in the Daily Tribune appeared for Normington's laundry, drawn by Natwick.

Though his permanent address remained Rapids, Natwick and his wife resided in New York City for the first part of their marriage and the later two and a half years in Europe, where he studied art, mostly in Vienna.

When Ida fell victim to a serious illness in 1925, they returned to New York, hoping for a cure. She died March 18 at her sister's residence in Marietta, Ohio.

Having "attained success as an artist and cartoonist since leaving Wisconsin Rapids six years ago," Natwick continued to be mentioned throughout 1925: in April, for entertaining the Elks Lunch club with chalk drawings; and in June, "you will all want to see the home boy who went out into the world and made so fine a name for himself by his drawings."

At the Ideal Theater, between showings of movies, he conducted his "famous CHALK TALKS including ... some caricatured reminiscences of the old home town ... particularly interesting to those who knew Grim as a boy."

In 1926, the cover designs of the artist by then best known as "Grim" began to grace Consolidated News, a "community" monthly for Rapids-area residents and company employees. The illustrations are part of the permanent Natwick exhibit at the South Wood County Historical Museum on Third Street.

In 1928, Natwick reportedly began a collaboration not generally known by current animation devotees when, according to the Daily Tribune, he entered the newspaper comic field with a feature entitled "Kids" in the Chicago Tribune.

"Kids" would carry the byline of Bert Green, "well known humorist, who writes the conversation of the cartoon characters. The drawings, however, are by Mr. Natwick, who has an agreement with Mr. Green for the syndication of the feature," the newspaper wrote.

As the artist approached 40 years old, he still had not given a thought to the animated little flapper we would make such a fuss over so many years later.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
579 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
862 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
1025 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
1278 votes

Catch up on the latest in our pregame show every game day.

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports


Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports