The tale of a former Hiawatha resident recently made clear the popularity of long-time TV quiz show “Jeopardy” when Alex Trebek read a question that concerned that resident, and a comic character from the fictional (or was it?) town of Riverdale.

The question noted that the subject matter was tied to the town of Hiawatha, Kan. And the phones began to ring at the Hiawatha World. What was that Jeopardy question all about? It was about the late John L. Goldwater, an orphan who liked hitchhiking and girls and became rich from his teenage contacts and memories. Goldwater and Archie and Hiawatha are an inseparable trio of history. Joined by Betty, Veronica, Jughead. Reggie add the actions and angst of teenage years. The story, a somewhat sad one, begins on Valentine’s Day, 1916, with the birth in New York City of John L. Goldwater to Daniel Goldwater and Edna Bogart Goldwater. But his arrival, according to records, was not joyous. His mother didn’t survive childbirth, and his father was so overwhelmed by her death that he abandoned the child and also died soon after. Goldwater told sources he grew up in foster care, and attended New York High School of Commerce to develop secretarial skills and some ability as a writer. He claimed to have been only 17 when he left New York to hitchhike across the U.S., stopping first at Hiawatha. Kan., where he was hired as a reporter for what was then the Hiawatha Daily World. Years later, after becoming famous as the inventor of a popular comic book character, “Archie,” Goldwater said he was fired from the Hiawatha paper after getting into “a scrap”over a girl with the son of the World’s biggest advertiser. (Owner-publisher of the World at that time was the late Ewing Herbert Sr.) Goldwater also told friends that girl trouble was prominent in his young working life. Everywhere he went, Goldwater claimed, his life was as complicated as that of his comic hero, Archie Andrews — and always because of girls. After leaving Hiawatha, Goldwater moved to Kansas City, Mo., then went west to began work as secretary to the administrator of Grand Canyon National Park. But he was fired from that job, too, he said, when he violated a rule barring males from the female employee housing facility. He then went to San Francisco to work for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, but got fired because of his interest in his boss’s secretary. According to Goldwater, his boss was also interested in the secretary. For about a year after that, he worked at a variety of jobs in San Francisco, and history says he squired two girls around town, a blonde and a brunette. Then he returned to New York via the Panama Canal, and during the voyage had shipboard romances with two girls, which he said ended along with the trip. Back in New York, he became an entrepreneur, buying unsold periodicals, mainly pulp magazines, from publisher Louis H. Silberkleit and exporting them for sale abroad. Observing the success of the Superman character in the infant comic book industry in 1939, he joined with Silberkleit and Maurice Coyne to launch a comic book publishing firm with himself as editor (while continuing as president of Periodicals for Export, Inc.), Silberkleit as publisher, and Coyne as bookkeeper. Goldwate’s online biography states that MLJ Comics (first-name initials of the partners) produced Ribbon Comics, with a cover date of November 1939. Top-Notch Comics followed in December, then Pep Comics in January 1940, and Zip Comics in February. These titles featured a cast of heroic characters -The Shield (first patriotic comic book superhero), The Black Hood, Steel Sterling, Mr. Justice, The Comet, The Rocket, Captain Valor, Kardak the Mystic Magician, Swift of the Secret Service, etc. None of these costumed crime fighters achieved the success enjoyed by Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, and Captain America. Then in 1941, MLJ published the first story about the character who would make the company’s fortune. Archie Andrews, irrepressible freckle-faced carrot-topped teenager, debuted in the back pages of Pep Comics and Jackpot Comics in December 1941. Drawn by Bob Montana, a teenager himself, Archie quickly was MLJ’s most popular character and within a year, Archie was starring in his own comic book. On May 31, 1943, “The Adventures of Archie Andrews” began airing on radio, and continued on various networks until September 1953. A newspaper comic strip version started Feb. 4, 1946, running through the rest of the 20th Ccentury and into the 21st. Also in 1946, MLJ became Archie Comics Publications. Archie appeared in a TV animated cartoon series (1969-77) and two live-action television movies. In the 1970s, the character lent his name to a short-lived restaurant chain. Reports of the early 1950s, as the nation experienced an increase in juvenile crime, an assortment of critics, psychiatric, literary and political, charged that comic book stories bred young delinquents. Alarmed because the critics appeared to enlist greater and greater public support, comic book publishers formed an association to censor their product, cleansing it of objectionable content. The Comics Magazine Association of America was incorporated in September 1954 with Goldwater as president. “I was its prime founder,” Goldwater said. “Its purpose was to adopt a code of ethics to eliminate editorial and advertising material which was inimical to the best interests of the comic book industry as well as its readers. I … succeeded in cooperation with industry leaders to quell the uproar and eliminate legislation which it is said could have put the comics industry in dire straits if not out of business altogether.” (quoted in Mary Smith’s The Best of Betty and Veronica Summer Fun). The CMAA’s chief function was to review in advance of publication every page of every comic book produced by its member publishers to assure that all comic books obeyed the Comics Code. Goldwater was one of the principal authors of the 41 bans concerning the portrayal of crime, violence, religion, sex, horror, nudity, and the like in both editorial and advertising pages. Writing in his book, Americana in Four Colors (1964), Goldwater said: “Taken together, these provisions constitute the most severe set of principles for any communications media in use today, restricting the use of many types of material permitted by the motion picture code and the codes for the television and radio industries.” Goldwater served as CMAA president for 25 five years, and when he resigned, the board of directors created the position of chairman of the board for him. Goldwater married twice, the second time to Gloria Freidrun, with whom he had two children. (His son from his first marriage, Richard, became, for a time, an executive in Archie Comics; a son from his second, Jon, is at present co-CEO of the company and largely responsible for the rejuvenation of the line.) In addition to his involvement in the comic book industry, Goldwater was national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, president of the New York Society for the Deaf, and was a Past Master of the Masonic Fraternity. In 1971, Archie Comics went public, but Goldwater’s son Jon, bought the company back in 1983 and installed his father as honorary chairman, a role he filled until he died of a heart attack at his home in Manhattan, Feb.26, 1999. In keeping with changing teenage fads, in recent years, Archie strayed into the realm of vampires and walking dead. According to The New York Times in 2012, “the cartoonist Bob Montana inked the original likenesses of Archie and his pals and plopped them in an idyllic Midwestern community named Riverdale because Mr. John Goldwater, a New Yorker, had fond memories of time spent in Hiawatha, Kan.” And thus, revisited by Alex Trebek, goes the story of John Goldwater, a bevy of girls, a tale of five teens and the city of Hiawatha.

The tale of a former Hiawatha resident recently made clear the popularity of long-time TV quiz show “Jeopardy” when Alex Trebek read a question that concerned that resident, and a comic character from the fictional (or was it?) town of Riverdale. The question noted that the subject matter was tied to the town of Hiawatha, Kan. And the phones began to ring at the Hiawatha World. What was that Jeopardy question all about?

It was about the late John L. Goldwater, an orphan who liked hitchhiking and girls and became rich from his teenage contacts and memories. Goldwater and Archie and Hiawatha are an inseparable trio of history. Joined by Betty, Veronica, Jughead. Reggie add the actions and angst of teenage years.

The story, a somewhat sad one, begins on Valentine’s Day, 1916, with the birth in New York City of John L. Goldwater to Daniel Goldwater and Edna Bogart Goldwater. But his arrival, according to records, was not joyous. His mother didn’t survive childbirth, and his father was so overwhelmed by her death that he abandoned the child and also died soon after.

Goldwater told sources he grew up in foster care, and attended New York High School of Commerce to develop secretarial skills and some ability as a writer. He claimed to have been only 17 when he left New York to hitchhike across the U.S., stopping first at Hiawatha. Kan., where he was hired as a reporter for what was then the Hiawatha Daily World.

Years later, after becoming famous as the inventor of a popular comic book character, “Archie,” Goldwater said he was fired from the Hiawatha paper after getting into “a scrap”over a girl with the son of the World’s biggest advertiser. (Owner-publisher of the World at that time was the late Ewing Herbert Sr.) Goldwater also told friends that girl trouble was prominent in his young working life. Everywhere he went, Goldwater claimed, his life was as complicated as that of his comic hero, Archie Andrews — and always because of girls.

After leaving Hiawatha, Goldwater moved to Kansas City, Mo., then went west to began work as secretary to the administrator of Grand Canyon National Park. But he was fired from that job, too, he said, when he violated a rule barring males from the female employee housing facility. He then went to San Francisco to work for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, but got fired because of his interest in his boss’s secretary. According to Goldwater, his boss was also interested in the secretary. For about a year after that, he worked at a variety of jobs in San Francisco, and history says he squired two girls around town, a blonde and a brunette. Then he returned to New York via the Panama Canal, and during the voyage had shipboard romances with two girls, which he said ended along with the trip.

Back in New York, he became an entrepreneur, buying unsold periodicals, mainly pulp magazines, from publisher Louis H. Silberkleit and exporting them for sale abroad. Observing the success of the Superman character in the infant comic book industry in 1939, he joined with Silberkleit and Maurice Coyne to launch a comic book publishing firm with himself as editor (while continuing as president of Periodicals for Export, Inc.), Silberkleit as publisher, and Coyne as bookkeeper.

Goldwate’s online biography states that MLJ Comics (first-name initials of the partners) produced Ribbon Comics, with a cover date of November 1939. Top-Notch Comics followed in December, then Pep Comics in January 1940, and Zip Comics in February. These titles featured a cast of heroic characters -The Shield (first patriotic comic book superhero), The Black Hood, Steel Sterling, Mr. Justice, The Comet, The Rocket, Captain Valor, Kardak the Mystic Magician, Swift of the Secret Service, etc. None of these costumed crime fighters achieved the success enjoyed by Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, and Captain America. Then in 1941, MLJ published the first story about the character who would make the company’s fortune. Archie Andrews, irrepressible freckle-faced carrot-topped teenager, debuted in the back pages of Pep Comics and Jackpot Comics in December 1941.

Drawn by Bob Montana, a teenager himself, Archie quickly was MLJ’s most popular character and within a year, Archie was starring in his own comic book. On May 31, 1943, “The Adventures of Archie Andrews” began airing on radio, and continued on various networks until September 1953. A newspaper comic strip version started Feb. 4, 1946, running through the rest of the 20th Ccentury and into the 21st. Also in 1946, MLJ became Archie Comics Publications. Archie appeared in a TV animated cartoon series (1969-77) and two live-action television movies. In the 1970s, the character lent his name to a short-lived restaurant chain.

Reports of the early 1950s, as the nation experienced an increase in juvenile crime, an assortment of critics, psychiatric, literary and political, charged that comic book stories bred young delinquents. Alarmed because the critics appeared to enlist greater and greater public support, comic book publishers formed an association to censor their product, cleansing it of objectionable content. The Comics Magazine Association of America was incorporated in September 1954 with Goldwater as president.

“I was its prime founder,” Goldwater said. “Its purpose was to adopt a code of ethics to eliminate editorial and advertising material which was inimical to the best interests of the comic book industry as well as its readers. I … succeeded in cooperation with industry leaders to quell the uproar and eliminate legislation which it is said could have put the comics industry in dire straits if not out of business altogether.” (quoted in Mary Smith’s The Best of Betty and Veronica Summer Fun).

The CMAA’s chief function was to review in advance of publication every page of every comic book produced by its member publishers to assure that all comic books obeyed the Comics Code. Goldwater was one of the principal authors of the 41 bans concerning the portrayal of crime, violence, religion, sex, horror, nudity, and the like in both editorial and advertising pages. Writing in his book, Americana in Four Colors (1964), Goldwater said: “Taken together, these provisions constitute the most severe set of principles for any communications media in use today, restricting the use of many types of material permitted by the motion picture code and the codes for the television and radio industries.”

Goldwater served as CMAA president for 25 five years, and when he resigned, the board of directors created the position of chairman of the board for him.

Goldwater married twice, the second time to Gloria Freidrun, with whom he had two children. (His son from his first marriage, Richard, became, for a time, an executive in Archie Comics; a son from his second, Jon, is at present co-CEO of the company and largely responsible for the rejuvenation of the line.) In addition to his involvement in the comic book industry, Goldwater was national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, president of the New York Society for the Deaf, and was a Past Master of the Masonic Fraternity. In 1971, Archie Comics went public, but Goldwater’s son Jon, bought the company back in 1983 and installed his father as honorary chairman, a role he filled until he died of a heart attack at his home in Manhattan, Feb.26, 1999. In keeping with changing teenage fads, in recent years, Archie strayed into the realm of vampires and walking dead.

According to The New York Times in 2012, “the cartoonist Bob Montana inked the original likenesses of Archie and his pals and plopped them in an idyllic Midwestern community named Riverdale because Mr. John Goldwater, a New Yorker, had fond memories of time spent in Hiawatha, Kan.”

And thus, revisited by Alex Trebek, goes the story of John Goldwater, a bevy of girls, a tale of five teens and the city of Hiawatha.

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