Here is Duane Crowther’s letter from 4-12-1955 to “The Wonderful Balsers”. Matt Crowther’s coming birth is eagerly looked forward to by Duane and Susanne as Duane marvels over how active the baby is, kicking the mother! This was the prevailing attitude toward children in the 1950s, millions of people died during World War 2, so let’s re-populate the world! Duane is eager to move to California, and he sizes up the TV commercials scene in New York and Los Angeles very incisively: “The West Coast TV studios (Patin, Storyboard and the like) are doing much better, sharper and more creative stuff; but for whom? That’s why outfits like Transfilm, Academy (Pictures) and Culhane (Shamus Culhane Productions) will always make more money turning out more crap than anywhere else.” I can hear Duane’s voice in my head as I read those lines, he could be quite caustic in summing up the animation field, but he usually did it with a disarming smile. It’s interesting to note the pay differences between the two coasts in the early days of TV commercials, and the lack of “prestige” among West Coast clients.
The final letter that the Balsers saved from Duane, is an undated one on Lars Calonius Productions stationery. It’s obviously a couple of years post-1955, as Duane relates a tale of an injury that young Matt Crowther experienced. By this time, Duane has changed jobs from Transfilm to Lars Calonius. I remember him talking a little about Lars, he liked the guy and had good memories of working for him. By this time Duane was directing as well as animating commercials and industrials. Duane was equally adept at both character and what they used to call “technical” animation, gears, pistons, bricks slapping down to create a building, charts, graphs and the like. I watched Duane turning out animation of a striped chart moving around in a cycle while he was working at Fred Calvert’s studio. He was animating with one hand and playing a game of chess with the other!
These last two letters are Christmas notes from Susanne Crowther both before and after Matt’s birth. I like her description of teaching Matt to talk and what some of his first words were. Her description of New York weather, “It’s been horrible here..!”, certainly forecasts the Crowther’s eventual move to Malibu, California. I’m not sure where Duane was born in Cal., but maybe he was a beach kid. And with that, we close the archive of Duane’s letters to the Balsers for now. Many thanks again to Bob and Cima Balser for allowing me to print these here for the first time, and the kind permission of Duane’s widow, Cathy Karol-Crowther, to share them with you. If I’ve made any mistakes in my notes, please let me know and I’ll fix up the errors.
From Duane’s LEAST favorite studio, and in response to Yowp, here is the Flintstones Sunday page from 2-3-1963. It’s the third-page version. To see the half-page version and the rest of the Flintstones Sundays from February, 1963, just click on the link to Yowp’s blog over on your right. This could be another Dick Bickenbach effort. About this time, Wilma became pregnant with Pebbles, and the strip changed. I must have lost interest about this time, because I stopped cutting out the strip until July of 1963. Maybe Pebbles was just too cute for me. My flesh crawled when she plugged the sponsor’s product on the TV show (Welch’s grape juice) by calling it “Woo-Woo Gwape Joo”! Yeesh!