CREATOR OF "SMITTY”
From Chuck Thorndike’s Business of Cartooning (1939)
At the age of fourteen Walter Berndt was an office boy for the New York Journal. .During his lunch hour he used to sit on the curb and answer "Advice to the Love Lorn" letters for the paper, thus learning all the facts of LIFE without benefit of birds and flowers..Berndt isn't the type to let any ivy grow up his legs, so before long he was helping T.A.Dorgan ("TAD" to some of you) with "INDOOR SPORTS" and other of his immortal cartoons..At the softy age of sixteen Walter was doing sport cartoons, eight columns wide, mind you, for the same paper.
He also assisted Mil t Gross with his "THEN THE FUN BEGAN" strip (the idea came from an article by Battling Nelson. telling about one of his fights, in which he had been double-crossed.) He worked with Hearst fi ve years and then started a strip called "THAT'S DIFFERENT" for the Metropolitan Newspaper Syndicate..Walter says "It was different, alright!"
In other words after a year he didn't like the color of the money paid him and also the selling effort so -he tore up
his contract. When he left his boss told him. "Some day I won't be able to get you back for $'600 a week." He
can’t. Walter was broke then -so he got married with typical cartoonist's savoir fairel He then went round and
round till the thought in his brain came dancing. --;Why not a strip about an office-boy? There are no office- boy
strips and after all. I was once an office-boyl" So he worked up a strip which he called quaintly enough "Billy the
Office Boy." The world series was on then (1922) and he couldn't get near the editors as they were all "roped" off from the public who were looking for passes, scores, etc..
Finally when he only had one pot left to cook in, he went to his pal Segar, creator of "POPEYE THE SAILOR. " The conversation went thus: "Why don' t you send your strip to the Chicago Tribune?" Berndt: "Who are they?" Anyway he mailed his strip to the Chicago Tribune, after finding out who they were, and then went to bed..Two days later he received a letter from Chicago but threw it under the bed unopened. .Several hours later Berndt opened the letter and found Captain Patterson (head man of the syndicate) had requested some changes and also that the strip be brought to him in New York the following day ..Berndt got out of bed, worked all day, and night and most of the next day..Then he saw Captain Patterson who started him out at Berndt's price, which was plenty for a young upstart of an office boy..When ne left that office he felt like an adagio dancer with a full stomachl Then he was called to Chicago, expenses paid, and found himself face to face again with the Captain. .The boss reached for the phone book and put his finger down on an open page -it pointed to the name "SMITH" quaintly enough. .We'll call your strip: "SMITTY" and that was that. .In twenty minutes from then, little "Herby" was born, although he didn't know it..As a matter of fact, he was in the strip for two years before Berndt even saw him -but all the girl fans did and how!
Today finds Smitty, Herby and the Boss doing alright for Walter Berndt... He owns a 24 room English manor house at Port Jefferson, among other things. .. It seems that be was "to tbe manor born."