Over There a Little Late
Based on My Dad Walt Disney
by Diane Disney Miller
"We were at a staging area in Sound Beach Connecticut when the Armistice was singed." Dad told me. We'd missed the war, and were disgusted. We weren't soldiers, but we had discipline and a guard house, and I was in it half the time for clowning."
In France, Dad drove everything up to five-ton trucks. One day he got into trouble. Three miles short of his destination, a connecting rod broke in the engine. His orders were "Never leave your truck," so he decided to camp in a nearby watchman's shanty, while his buddy went for help. Dad sat in that shanty for two days and nights, waiting for help to come. After three days he walked into town and found a bed.
When he got back, the truck and its cargo of beans and sugar were gone. He hopped a freight train and a coach for Paris. When he arrived he learned that his buddy had gotten drunk and wasted two days before reporting to headquarters. The men sent to help had found the truck, but not Dad, so they towed it. Dad was brought up before a board of inquiry, but was finally let off. "It would have been a disgrace to get kicked out of the Red Cross," Dad said. "If you couldn't make it in that easygoing outfit, you were considered hopeless."
At this time, Dad was drawing cartoons and sending them off to magazines, but not getting any sales, so he launched another money-making scheme - painting copies of the Croix de Guerre on leather jackets at $10 a piece. He also started painting German helmets for a soldier who was selling them to unsuspecting new troops just arriving with the occupation forces.
In the mean time, he was sending half of his Red Cross pay home to Grandma to put in the bank for him. One night he won over $300 gambling. All together Dad had over $500 when he came home. That money would help him get started on his next project - he wanted to become an artist. Grandfather argued that was too risky, but Dad wasn't impressed. He packed his suitcase and took off for Kansas City, where he promptly applied - and was turned down - for work as a cartoonist on the Kansas City Star.
Finally, Dad heard that an apprentice was wanted by a couple of men named Peskman and Rubin who handled art for the Gray Advertising Company. Dad got the job by showing samples of the cartoons he'd drawn in France. "We don't know what we can pay," Peskman said. "We'll have to see." They gave Dad a drawing board and he went to work. He loved it so much he hated to take time out to go to the restroom. At the end of the week Peskman said, "I don't know. How about fifty a month?" Dad managed to say "That will be p-p-p-perfectly O.K." He though it wonderful to be paid anything for drawing pictures. At first he did pencil layouts, which he turned over to other men for final inking-in and clean-up. He was learning the tricks of the commercial art trade.