Gup the Stuttering Pup

Kids went wild about him-but he nearly drove the sergeant major mad

LEN PETERSON March 1 1942

Gup the Stuttering Pup

Kids went wild about him-but he nearly drove the sergeant major mad

LEN PETERSON March 1 1942

Gup the Stuttering Pup

Kids went wild about him-but he nearly drove the sergeant major mad

LEN PETERSON

SERGEANT MAJOR Nick Warren threw the official-looking sheet back on Major Frey’s desk. "I'm supposed to plead my case with that legal whooee!” he shouted. “What does it mean? I never did go for that stuff: to wit, herein, herewith, hereon, first party, second party! For all I know I’ll be hanging myself!”

Thin-faced Major Frey took his stubby pipe from his mouth and said, “It’s justa matter of form. The civil police want it to clear up some things. They asked for it. Something to do with insurance. Just a matter of form. You’ll plead your case in military court later. Here’s a pen.”

“I won’t have anything to do with that statement!” Nick maintained firmly.

“You said you’d sign it,” Major Frey said sternly. “Not that mess of gabble !” Nick replied standing his ground. “Let me write it out my own way for the civies and the military police. I know I can show it was all a mistake and that it wasn’t my fault, if you let me give you all the details from way back. But I haven’t a Chinaman’s chance with that form. Give me a typewriter. 1 can use one. That one over on the desk.”

Major Frey turned his pipe upside down and tapped it on a large marble ash tray. A few ashes came out. “You won’t sign it, eh?” he said calmly, looking up at Nick.

“No. Let me write it out my own way. Why, that form even says I’m guilty of sabotage ! That’s crazy! I might be guilty of some of those other things. They didn’t leave anything out did they? Indecency in speech, disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, assault, resisting the M.P.s, everything but murder! Even sabotage to means of communication ! Holy Nellie !”

“It’s only suggested. In time of war nothing can be overlooked, A full investigation has to be made,” Major Frey explained.

“And do you believe I’m guilty of sabotage?” “I won’t be the judge at your trial,” Major Frey said. “You’ve had a mighty fine record in the Army so far. Until this trouble. Warren, you’ve practically convicted yourself since it happened with your wild shouting and wild threats. And you haven’t given any reason at all—any sane reason why you did it.”

“Oh, I lost my head. Who wouldn’t have? That glory seeker!” Nick mumbled.

“I’ve heard that from you twenty times and it means nothing to me. Well, are you going to sign that statement or not?”

“But that’s what I’m driving at,” Nick shouted. “I can’t explain in ten words. That statement won’t say anything on my behalf. Oh, I’ve plenty of reason for what I did, plenty ! But it goes back four, five years ago, and concerns things that’ve happened since then. I knew it was silly trying to give all the details when questions were fired at me a mile a minute. And when I did try to get to the root of the whole thing I was told to stick to the point, answer yes or no, or something like that. Let me use that typewriter. Let me write out a statement my own way.”

“Oh, go ahead,” Major Frey said wearily. “You’ll find paper in the top drawer, left-hand side. I don’t

know why I’m letting you do this. It better be good.”

Nick tried to keep from grinning as he walked over to the typewriter. “Thank you, sir,” he said.

“That’s the first time you’ve said ‘sir’ since you came in here!” Major Frey snapped, then turned the bowl of his pipe toward the light and inspected it—needed scraping. He went to work on it with a brass paper knife.

Nick pulled out a generous supply of white paper, and inserted a sheet into the typewriter. Then winding his heavily muscular legs around the legs of his chair he began a fast and steady tat-tat-tat with his two index fingers.

TO WHOM it may concern: What I say in the beginning of this explanation, and even in the middle may seem irrelevant, but you will see later that it is not. It will all help to show you the reasons for my “unmilitary” actions.

To begin with, I used to be a professional wrestler. I was called The Masked Mauler. No doubt you’ve heard that name before. I was the original masked wrestler. My manager thought up the gag. Not once was I ever pinned and unmasked. I wrestled all the topnotchers: Londos, Browning, Lewis, Dean, Savoldi—all of them. I field one of the World’s Heavyweight Wrestling Championships of the World. That was in the days when there were only eleven of them.

And the write-ups I used to get! This would be typical :

“The Masked Mauler treated the fans to forty-five minutes of the dirtiest, bloodiest wrestling this town has enjoyed this season. The Masked Mauler used his specialty, the Ontario Ooze, to finish oil' Petrovitch Skivinski. It’s a combination bear hug, grapevine and body scissors. The Mauler guarantees it to make ooze of any opponent. It did last night. Poor Petrovitch Skivinski!”

All my press reports were like that. And they weren’t all written by my press agent either. I was a box-office wow. Anybody who used to go to the pro matches a few years ago knows that. Yes, I was sitting on the top of the world in those days.

But here’s where the trouble started. I have a son, Hughie. He’s eight years old now, but he was only four at the time. I used to read children’s stories to him occasionally. One particular night when my wife was out to some women’s affair he was pretty restless and wouldn’t listen to any of the old stories. He wanted a new one, a brand new one. But there weren’t any around the house I hadn’t read to him so I said I’d make one up. Mistake number one.

Hughie said, Make one up about Beanie!— Beanie being our little fox terrier.

But I objected to that because I knew as soon as I started to tell anything about Beanie, that boy of mine would start correcting me. He knew more about Beanie than I did.

I'll tell you a story about Gup the Pup, I said. That was the first name that came into my head.

Well, that was all right with Hughie, and off I went.

Now Gup the Pup had something wrong with him, I said, letting my imagination go. Let’s see now; he—uh—he stuttered.

How?

Well—just stuttered. I don’t know how, I said.

Then how do you know he stuttered?

Well, just—just—Instead of saying, Grrrrr! like Beanie, Gup—Gup, the Stuttering Pup, said, G-g-g-g-grrrr ! and B-b-b-b-bow-wow !

Why?

I was ready for that one. Nobody knows, I said.

Never?

Never. Because Gup stuttered he—he had an inferiority complex. He didn’t think he was as good as the other dogs. And so he chummed around with cats instead ! He chummed around with these cats, and the other dogs called him a sissy.

Did Beanie call him a sissy?

I guess so. One of the cats, a big white Persian called Minnie got her eyes on Gup. I think it was love at first sight. Yes, that’s what it was. The guy she was going around with—the cat she was going around with—didn’t like it . . .

Well, my story went on and on. I didn’t know how to make up a kid’s story, so it kept getting sillier and more fantastic all the time. I think I ended it up by having Gup, the Stuttering Pup, running a correspondence school for speech correction.

The next night Hughie asked for the Gup story again, and I gave it to him. It was quite different from the night before but the same in many ways. I tried to make it more reasonable. I cut out the bit about the correspondence school. It seemed to jar.

Night after night I had to tell that story; and then one evening Barbara, my wife, happened to be in the room when I was telling it. Mistake number two.

I remember ending off something like.this:

And so Gup, the Stuttering Pup, became the toughest dog in town and lived happily ever after, including bath nights.

My wife laughed and asked me where I got the story. I told her I didn’t know, but Hughie corrected me.

You made it up, Daddy, he said.

My wife didn’t say anything more then but took Hughie up to bed and tucked him in. However when she came down again she asked me if I really did make up that story about Gup.

I admitted it. Mistake number three.

Why don’t you write it out and send it in to a children’s magazine? she said. I’ll bet you could sell it.

Me write kids’ stories? I said, scoffing. The Masked Mauler?

Just for a joke, she coaxed.

Yeah, and would I get ribbed plenty if it got printed.

You could sign another name to it, she suggested.

I haven’t the time to write stuff, I said. That was the first excuse I thought of, but I know now I should have worked harder on one. I could have nipped in the bud all the trouble that has followed.

Try it, she went on. Even if you don’t do any-

tiling with it. Just see how it comes out. Are you

scared?

No, I’m not scared ! I snapped back.

Are you sure? she asked again.

Yes, I am sure!—Oh, give me the pen! Where is it?

Mistake number four.

My wife suggested that we use a woman’s name. We finally decided on Myrtle Teasdale. And then I siarted in on the story:

“Once upon a time there was a dog. And his name was Gup—” And so on.

Oh, if I had known what I was letting myself in for ! I sent the story off, and a couple of weeks later Igot a letter back. Enclosed was a cheque, a pretty fair-sized one. A month later I got another letter fiom the magazine saying they’d been swamped by requests for more “Gup, the Stuttering Pup,” stories.

I tore up the letter. I wasn’t going to have anything more to do with kids’ stories.

BUT a week later a short skinny man with the face of a Pekinese dog came to the door.

How do you do, he said timidly. Could I see Miss Myrtle Teasdale, please?

I didn’t catch on right away. Who? I asked. Doesn’t—Miss Myrtle Teasdale live here? He seemed scared of his own voice.

I saw the light and blurted out: Oh, you mean Myrtle l

He drew his head into his collar and whispered, Y-yes, Miss Myrtle Teasdale.

1 was on my guard and asked him roughly what he wanted her for.

I’d like—I’d like to speak to her, he replied.

Why? I grunted.

Are you her father? he asked.

I didn’t answer. Instead I asked him who he was.

He said apologetically, I’m Herbert Harrington Pills, editor of a children’s magazine. I’d like to ask Miss Teasdale to write another story.

I don’t—she doesn’t want to.

Mr. Herbert Harrington Pills clasped his hands together. Oh, she must. She has a great future, he said and blinked his eyes.

Has she? I said brusquely.

Oh, yes! She might like to know we’re prepared to pay her extremely well for another “Gup” story.

H’m. 1 promptly invited him to step inside.

What happened to Gup after that is common knowledge. Soon several children’s magazines were running “Gup, the Stuttering Pup” stories. A teacher I knew helped me brush up on my English so I didn’t make too many mistakes.

Then I got an offer to do a daily comic strip for the newspapers—syndicated. A cartoonist made the drawings and I filled in the blurbs.

I was getting awfully busy. I had to cancel a couple of wrestling bouts. Then I got a nice fat offer to do a “Gup” radio serial. That really put me on the spot. It was either wrestling or writing. I dropped around to see Buzz, my manager, the night I got the radio offer.

1 laid my cards on the table. I’m giving up wrestling, Buzz, I said.

He thought I was joking. You ain’t giving me the hi-de-ho? he said. One more fight and our contract’s up, but I thought we didn’t need to nail things months ahead. 1 took it for granted you and me—Got another manager who’ll give you a bigger cut?

You think I’d pull a trick like that on you? I said. I haven’t got time for wrestling. I got another line now.

What? Buzz was as cold as liquid air.

I know you won’t believe this, 1 said, but my new line’s writing.

Writing what? he asked sceptically.

Stories—and things.

He burst out laughing and pointed his finger at me. You! You! he chuckled.

I asked him what was so funny.

He said, still laughing, 1 can see you letting your hair grow and writing poems about Gladiolus. You’re about as arty as a Clydesdale!

Continued on page 27

Gup, the Stuttering Pup

Continued from page 13—Starts on page 12

I’m not writing poetry.

Love stories? Sports stories?

No.

Well, whatever it is. Then he stopped laughing and grabbed me by the hair playfully and said, Mauler, this is just a gag, ain’t it?

I didn’t answer directly: Writing’s got more future in it, Buzz. Wresiling —where do I go from here?

He let go of me. You’re serious, he sighed. Mauler, think of the excitement, the crowds, the wins—phony or not; you’re in the headlines all the time. Think of the—the—Bust me, what’s wrong with the dough?

I’m pulling in quite a bit now from writing, I said.

Buzz couldn’t understand me. He shouted, Right at your peak you want to—He stopped suddenly and then asked quietly, How long you been thinking about this?

Half a year, I answered.

And you’re set on it?

I felt rotten. I mumbled, Buzz, I don’t want you to be mad at me.

I ain’t mad at you—I’m just goldarn sore!

He suddenly grinned at me. Aw, Nick, he said, change your mind. We’ll have a real season next year. Nothing but headlines!

I’m sorry, Buzz.

Here I build you up to be the dirtiest, wildest—rare steaks! he shouted. Got you to use the roughest holds in the game! Invented the Ontario Ooze for you ! And you end up being an artist! My next wrestler — I’m going to feed him cream puffs; and make him wear silk drawers. He’ll be a killer!

And that ended my wrestling career. I missed the old ring more than I thought I would.

TWO WEEKS after I broke up with Buzz “Gup, the Stuttering Pup,” went on the air. Still nobody except those on the inside knew but what some old hen in corsets by the name of Myrtle Teasdale was writing the stuff. And everybody on the inside had my personal threat that they’d better keep mum. Just like the stories and the comic strip, the radio version went over big. It was pretty sickening to listen to, but it pulled in plenty of box tops and that’s all that mattered. The sponsor was happy.

Right after school five days a week a dog would suddenly bark with a stutter over the radio and then an announcer with a voice that could sweeten vinegar would say:

“Well, well, boys and girls, here we are once again ! Draw up your little chairs around your radio, because Gup, the Stuttering Pup, just called you. In a minute we’ll find out what exciting, amazing, breathless, wonderful and dangerous adventures are in store for our very own Gup, but first I want to ask you if you all had

your FLAMBLES today? Did you? Shout it right out. I can hear you. Well, that’s swell! Yes, you keep right on eating FLAMBLES, because FLAMBLES contain . . . ”

I can’t think of anything they didn’t contain. Vitamins for every letter in the alphabet, proteins, fats, energy, flavor—FLAMBLES had them all! I used to find those commercials more breathtaking than any of the adventures I threw Gup into.

But still the show used to get me down. I had to make sure I was still all right. So about once a week I’d go around to the toughest part of town and search for some hard-looking egg. I’d pick a fight with him, let him take first crack, and then I’d go to work on him, toss him around for a while, and finish him off with ail airplane spin or a flying mare—something that wouldn’t hurt him too much After that I’d pick him up, dust him off and treat him to a big feed with drinks and maybe later a hockey go or a night baseball game.

I needed those little scraps to bolster me up after a week’s output of “Gup, the Stuttering Pup.”

The business kept getting bigger and bigger. Manufacturers started making “Gup, the Stuttering Pup,” games, sweaters, dolls, gum, pin badges and I don’t know what all. Then Disney bought the movie rights. I won’t go into detail, everyone knows how successful Gup became.

One would think I’d be riding high,

I should have been, but I was afraid it would leak out sometime that I was Myrtle Teasdale. I had some pretty close shaves.

And things began to get a little strained at home, because I was keeping my writing a secret. One day my wife came storming into the house ready to burst. She had been to a tea. My sister had been to it too and she had cut my wife cold. Not only that, she had told some woman there, loud enough so everyone in the place could hear, that I had swindled her out of a lot of money she had coming to her from our mother.

Why don’t you tell her the truth, Nick? Barbara almost screamed at me. Why don’t you tell her you made all your money writing Gup? You know you gave her more than her share of what your mother left when she died. But you’re content to let her say you cheated her, invested the money and made a pile which rightfully belongs to her, at least a lot of it!

Can you imagine what my friends at the Athletic Club would do if they found out I write kid stuff? I asked her. That was my usual defense.

Make her promise to keep it a secret! Barbara shouted.

You know my sister better than that.

Well, you’ve got to do something! People are beginning to raise an eyebrow !

Don’t I know it, I said. Here read this. No, maybe, you’d better not.

She grabbed it out of my hand. It was a scandal sheet, The Whisper. One of the fellows at the radio station had pointed out a paragraph in it about me.

“What does a certain local exwrestler do in order to live in Mammonistic style without working? Or did he manage to make a nifty little killing during four years of pro wrestling? He must have had a contract that called for his being paid one hundred and fifty per cent of all gate receipts. Of course his having been seen with our town’s big grafters wouldn’t have anything to do with his living on easy-street. And we do mean easy!”

When she finished reading it my wife blew up and said that things couldn’t go on any longer. I had to reveal where I was getting my money ! She wasn’t going to have the stories about me grow and grow! I had to tell !

But 1 wouldn’t give in.

Even my son used my secret against me. If he didn’t get everything he wanted, including his own way, he’d begin to shout: I’ll

tell! Daddy writes “Gup, the Stuttering Pup!” Daddy writes “Gup, the Stuttering Pup!” I’d give in.

Straight out-and-out blackmail !

Why didn’t I give him a licking to shut him up? I started to once, but he got such a revengeful look on his face after the first cuff that I didn’t dare to go any further. I knew if I did, he’d blabber my secret all over the neighborhood for sure. Darn kid ! He takes after me. My father never had the nerve to lay a hand on his son either.

WAR BROKE out: World War number two. I joined up the day it did. I felt that it was about time the paper hanger got his fingers slapped. I’d had a little military training so I was made a corporal almost right off. I went around to tell Mr. Herbert Harrington Pills off in my new uniform. I opened the door of his office and bellowed at him: Tomorrow in the story, in the comics and in the radio serial, I kill off Gup, the Stuttering Pup! A big ten-ton-truck comes along at fifty miles an hour—might as well make a good job of it.

Mr. Herbert Harrington Pills jumped out of his swivel chair, and clasped his hands. Oh, Horrors! he cried. Oh, no, you can’t do that! Oh, you mustn’t, Mr. Warren !

I’m through with him, I yelled, feeling lighthearted for the first time in three years. I’m in the Army now !

Think of the children of Canada! Pills went on emotionally. What’ll they do without Gup?

I don’t care, I said.

But the morale of the country ! A war, and the death of Gup; both at the same time ! It’s too much !

I didn’t know whether he was crazy or just putting on an act. I mumbled something about the morale of the country not being my worry.

He came around his desk wiping his forehead. Not your worry? he said. The morale? And you believe

in your country? and in its cause? and a hundred per cent war effort? Think! You’re fighting for your country with a gun, but there’s more to fight for than that !

I felt suspicious of him. I said, I don’t get it.

He stood directly in front of me with his hands stretched out like a preacher or a politician.

We must keep up the morale of the people, he cried. Picture two million homes in Canada where there are. children. And those children pick up tomorrow’s paper and learn that Gup’s dead! Children in two million homes will go weeping to their mothers—and fathers. In two million homes there’ll be weeping children. Think of that !

He went on and on, and I like a fool listened to him. Another mistake. After a while what he was saying seemed to make some sense; I don’t know whether it was because of what he said or how he said it. Anyway I caught myself saying, yeah, yeah to his questions. He ended up by calling me a traitor.

I saw red !

Take that back or I’ll bust your head in ! I said threateningly. Pills scurried behind his desk. I followed him. Take that back! I bellowed. A traitor! Ain’t I fighting for my country?

Yes, yes, he agreed. And then he added in a somewhat different tone: And—and you’re—you’re going to keep up the morale too—aren’t you, Mr. Warren?

I knew he had me.

What’s wrong with me? I said, sitting down on the corner of the desk. When I came in this office a couple of minutes ago Gup was going to be killed and that’s all there was to it! I thought I’d thought up all the answers! And you pull this national morale stuff on me.

Pills became oh-so-nice to me. I’ll hire a ghost writer, he said, putting his finger tips together. You think up the plots—you’re the only one who could think of those—and the ghost’ll fill in. The morale of the people! There’ll always be an England!

I thought: well, this is the darndest way of being patriotic I ever heard of !

And so in the mornings and afternoons I was a soldier; in the evenings and on leaves I kept Gup breathing. The Army was a picnic, a holiday to me, and I really put my men through their paces. Maybe my methods were a bit rough, but they got results— and in time they got me a promotion. I was given another stripe and made an instructor. I heard the O.C. say once that when the Germans got a look at the men trained under me they’d act like Italians. And he sounded as though he meant it.

But after half a year of instructing I got jealous of my men. They were going overseas, I was stuck here in Canada. I wanted to see some action too! I asked for a transfer. It was refused, but I kept right on asking. Finally it came through.

Not only that, I was made a sergeant major. Here was my chance, I figured. I’d make a panzer unit that’d break through anything. The men were willing. How we worked! And drilled! And trained! They

were really tough, those men of mine, just plain tough! And they obeyed me like my own hands. It made me feel like I’d been drinking champagne every time I looked at them drawn up before me; really something to be proud of.

THEN I got a warning. Another sergeant major I knew quite well had developed a smart company too. But somehow his men found out that he used to be a hairdresser. After that every time he came into the mess hall and shouted: Any com-

plaints today, boys? they’d answer in an effeminate singsong; No, dear. Everything is fine, dear.

That ruined him. His discipline was shot. I knew then what would happen to me if my company found out I wrote kids’ stories. I swore come Halloween or high water they never would know. But one day we got an invitation to attend a radio quiz show. It was part of an enter; tainment program, civies and troops. We all went. The master of ceremonies was the same fellow who announced on ‘‘Gup, the Stuttering Pup.” But he’d always kept my secret and I didn’t see any danger ahead now.

He took a hand mike down among the boys and asked them typical quiz questions and chatted with them about army life. Halfway through the show he spotted me, and nodded. I nodded back, but I never thought he’d do what he did. Talking into the mike he made his way toward me.

And while I’m over on this side, he said, I’d like to interview a real celebrity. Watch the cord so I can get by here, please. Thank you. We have here a man, now a sergeant major in the Army, who is really famous, though even his best friends don’t know it. There isn’t a person in all Canada who hasn’t been entertained by him.

I shook my head at him to tell him to lay off, and whispered, Don’t! No, no!

But he went right on: This gentleman—or perhaps I should say soldier now—is very secretive about his profession, and goes under a pseudonym, but now that he’ll soon be going overseas I don’t suppose he’d mind revealing his real identity.

I shook my head violently and gave up whispering. No, no! I pleaded. I knew what he was trying to do, get some cheap notoriety. The man who first told the Canadian people that I was Myrtle Teasdale!

No, don’t! No! I shouted it now, pulling on his arm. Don’t tell!

But even that didn’t stop him. Ladies and gentlemen, he announced, I’d like you to meet Sergeant Major Warren, who writes the well-known— I lost my head. I went berserk! The cheap trick he was trying to pull ! The glory seeker! The louse! 1 picked him up over my head. His one hundred and thirty or forty pounds was nothing. I shook him a couple of times—how he yelled!—and then I threw him and his mike halfway across the studio against the wall. That shut him up.

I haven’t the least idea what happened after that except that the police came tearing in and I did a bit

of resisting — and hence all the charges.

Okay, I plead guilty to all of them except the sabotage one. It hasn’t any foundation. I don’t know anything about radio equipment. How was I to know that the sudden loud noises on the mike and the banging it got when it smacked into the wall would cause some delicate and very expensive equipment at the radio station to blow out?

It took several days to replace and as a result the station was off the air for that time. Granted! Granted! But where does intended sabotage work into that? Wasn’t there plenty of reason for my doing what I did? Maybe not legal reason, but plain reason, reason according to human nature! I just lost my bead for a moment, that was all. Nothing intentional or premeditated about it.

In regard to the other charges I’d like to plead for leniency. If I must pay a penalty, don’t reduce my rank. Anything else! I’ll pay for all the damage done out of my own bank account if necessary.

Because I’ve built my company into the toughest in the Canadian Army. The boys are keen and ready and I want to lead them into battle. I want that tough company of mine to be a spearhead. That’s all I ask.

Except one thing. For the sake of army morale, don’t let it out that I’m Myrtle Teasdale !

Respectfully,

Sergeant Major Nick Warren.