Charlie graduated from Richmond High School with dreams of becoming a cartoon artist. The cold hard fact that drawing mice for Walt Disney was not what he truly wanted to do, but in that discovery, he made many friends in the industry. Here are a few examples of his work in 1924, and when he studied at the Chicago Arts Institute, he traded a photograph portrait sitting for this cartoon with famous photographer, Fernand de Gueldre. Ironicly, if you go to the link that I have provided, it tells a totally different story, so this will have to be Dad's word, and J.P. McEvoy's story, I will continue to research it more, but sure enjoy the search for the truth.
"I worked very hard before I entered the Chicago Art Institute loading freight into railroad cars all summer. My first day on this job was spent stacking empty caskets into boxcars. I could have sworn each casket had a two hundred pound corpse in it before the day ended.
My mother accompanied me to Chicago to enroll in the Art Institute as I was not seventeen yet so she had to give her personal consent. Mother stayed in Chicago to see that I got started correctly. I also had to show samples of my work before they would admit me. I paid the tuition out of my savings and started my first life drawing class the very next morning.
After the instructor saw that we had the proper tools and places to draw, he introduced a nude woman for the first subject to sketch. The girl had a classic figure and fell into the usual hackneyed pose adopted by professional models.
After ten minutes the model fainted and started to fall from the stand. I was drawing just below her and she fell gently into my arms. She was not heavy, at least to me, as I had been hauling boxes around all summer. I volunteered to carry her to the model’s room down the hall.
I had not learned my way around the schools corridors, and I walked in the wrong direction toward the entrance of the public museum. The Polish guard at the door was new in this country and spoke little English. He seemed puzzled about what to do with a student who was carrying a nude woman in his arms. There was a group of wide-eyed tourists outside the open door and I spotted my mother in the crowd. Mother went home that night. I guess she felt there was nothing more she could do about her son in Chicago."
I attended the Chicago Art Institute about three years before I was expelled. My instructors gave me excellent grades, but the records in the office showed I was not attending the classes to which I had been assigned. The records also could not account for my attendance in the school for days on end. I had not missed a single hour of school, but I was choosing on my own the models I wanted to draw and the classes I preferred. This was, of course, unorthodox and contrary to the system of running an organized art school. It was ordered that I was to be expelled to set a good example for the other students. On hearing this, my regularly assigned instructors went to the office in a body and protested the action by putting down my grades as straight A’s for their courses. This made me an honor student and eligible for various awards. The revised record didn’t sway the powers in charge. I was out!
Charlie's own words from his autobiography written in 1957.
"Logansport was a farming and railroad center of about twenty thousand people. A large section of the town between the Wabash River and the railroad tracks was a whorehouse district. The buildings were all two story structures with a coating of years of train smoke that concealed the paint. It was a busy part of town.
In good times fifteen or twenty houses would be operating, with six or eight girls in each. The protective officials insisted upon a regular checkup for each girl every Saturday morning. The validated health stamp had to be displayed over their bed.
Once I was restoring a painting in the doctor’s office when the girls came in for a checkup. While they waited to see the doc, I struck up some interesting conversations on art with them and was surprised to find how well informed they were. Several of the girls admitted liking my paintings and wanted to own one if I would be willing to take it out in trade.
Once when I was pretty plastered, I got the inebriated idea I would like to paint one of the girls down on the “line”. It was in the early afternoon when I banged my foot on the door of a house. My arms were loaded with paints, canvas, and a large easel.
The house madame opened the door and shouted at me, “Surendorf, what in the hell do you want this time of the day?”
I said, “I want to paint a whore!”
“Don’t call them whores, call them sporting girls!”
I said, “I am not interested in sporting girls; I want to paint a whore!”
She pushed me off the porch with the ease of a pile-driver. After I finished picking up my paint tubes from the snow and getting my gear assembled to carry, my desire to paint was chilled and all inspiration spent."
Words from Charlie's Biography written in 1957. This was a excerpt from his age of 20 years old before he went off to New York to continue his education.
"A few days later, Roosevelt closed all the banks in the nation. It mattered little to Joe or me as we never used them. The day they closed we were taking a long walk in a warm rain storm to kill the time as we waited for the ride to the colony site. Our walk took us by Constitution Hall where the posters announced Toscanini was to conduct a symphony of Wagner’s music that afternoon.
A long line of limousines were pulling up to the somber marquee and well dressed woman and men were filing into the hall. One would have never guessed the sullen state of the nation’s financial purse by the appearance of the people in this particular spot.
My interest in classical music is rather ordinary. When I am alone and in certain moods I can listen to good recordings for hours and enjoy every minute of it. This day I entertained no desire to attend the concert. I did imagine it would be a pleasant place to go to get out of the rain.
We stood under the marquee and watched the people go in. Joe said he would be the happiest guy in the world if he could afford a ticket to hear the concert. I knew Joe really liked music, so, with all the bravo of youth, I told him to wait by the door and I would see about getting some tickets.
Joe was aware that I did not have more than a dime in my pocket at that time as we had run out of cigarettes on the walk. I told him they would have to wait until I got a letter from home. He looked at me as if I were nuts as I left the join the line at the ticket office. A few minutes later he started at me as if I were God putting in a public appearance when I held two tickets for the best seats in the hall before his face!
I kept Joe guessing for several weeks how I obtained the tickets, but it was really simple. I merely told the clerk in the box office with my best reserved and cultured voice, that I had been caught with insufficient cash when the banks closed. He asked me for identification and I showed him my name and address on a telegram addressed to the Arts Club. The club was an elite address and its members were not artists, but mostly art patrons who were in the dough.
I did not lie or tell the clerk that the club was my permanent address, but the girl back in Indiana thought it was, and she sent her little messages of amour there. I told the clerk he might just as well send my bill there too.
Joe was so eager to get to his seat that he ran down the long marble hall to the door that lead to our box seats. While we waited for the usher, we both realized at the same time that all we had on under our wet raincoats was our underwear as neither of us wore a shirt or coat!
The usher looked disgusted as we sat down in the soft plush seats with our slickers buttoned up to our chins. I smoothed back my rain soaked hair with my palm and looked down on the sea of faces below us and was startled to find everyone on the main floor looking up at us! I did not think we looked that much out of place, and I was sure we had done nothing to attract that much attention. I turned around to see if there was a policeman standing behind us, but there was no one but the puzzled usher.
It was then that Joe nudged me and pointed discreetly at the lady with whom we shared a box. It was Eleanor Roosevelt and she had just taken her seat a moment before we arrived. Her first appearance at a concert in Washington as a President’s wife could not have put Joe and me in a more conspicuous spotlight with our outlandish attire than if we had hired the stage.
During the symphony, Mrs. Roosevelt would steal short glances over her shoulder at us. Now she will know, if she reads this story, why two young fellows never once unbuttoned their raincoats during an entire symphony in a hot auditorium back in 1933.
She was wearing one of her famous hats for the occasion and during the intermission I made a sketch of her and the hat on the program about Arturo Toscanini’s concert."
I saved the program. It was a good drawing.
Words from Charlie's autobiography written in 1957 about his time in Washington DC