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THE WHY OF
FATTY LEWIS

From the Kansas City Star, September 1, 1912.

     Arthur F. Killick, the creator of Fatty Lewis and Hurrah Smith and Freck the Messenger Boy and the In-Bad Club, has become a magnate.  He is now part owner of two of the biggest pool halls in Kansas City -- one, the Empire, at 1209 Walnut Street, and the other, the Grand, at 1120 Grand Avenue.  He has cashed in his golden smile, and, as he says, himself, his shape.  For Fatty Lewis is Fatty Lewis in real life.  He weighs 230 pounds, and his so-called height is the same lying down as standing up.    

     "I have always figured that my shape was my greatest asset," said Killick the other day.  "I look like the back of a hack; nobody ever forgets me."  Killick also greatly resembles a safe.

     For years the readers of The Star have been delighted with the inexorable humor of Fatty Lewis, and since he abandoned the series there has been a steady stream of letters inquiring as to his whereabouts.

     Killick is now located at 1120 Grand Avenue, where he is drawing dividend on his golden smile, his beautiful disposition, and, as he says, his unique shape.  For no caricaturist ever did Killick an injustice.  It couldn't be done.  He looks just that way, if not more so.

     Killick has painted the best picture of himself in his Fatty Lewis stories.  As he is in fiction, so he is in fact.  When a customer comes up to the cash register to pay him for a game of pool or billiards, Killick thanks him in pool hall English, accompanied by his ineradicable smile, and his indefatigable personality.

     This it is a pleasure to pay him money, and the customer scrutinizes the check carefully, hoping there has been a mistake, so that he can pay him more money.  Customers frequently have been known to weep bitterly upon finding that the check was correct.

     Before Killick went into business for himself many persons were aware that he was a mint in disguise.  Hence as far back as he can remember he has been busy engaged running away from persons who tried to give him saloons in which they would be silent partners.

     Many of these persons risked their lives running in front of motor cars and fire engines trying to hand Killick a saloon license.  They figured that to be in the saloon business with Killick would be the same as owning the majority stock in a mint.

     For years Killick never left the house at night without his false whiskers, so that he would be able to elude persons who were waiting in dark alleys and behind billboards to hand him the inevitable saloon license.  They tried to give him laundries and cigar stores and moving picture theaters, and one man tried to lure him into the real estate business.  All for his golden smile.

     Killick told his own story the other day:

     "It was nineteen years ago last April Fool's Day that I started trying to finance A. F. Killick," he declared.  I began as a messenger boy for the Western Union and if ever there was a 24-carat simp it was me.  Three tragedies in my life -- once when I carried water for the elephants all Sunday afternoon under the promise that I was to see the show for nothing, only to be told by the man who employed me, the following day, that 'He'd never seen me in his life.'  The following year when I had saved money to buy a ticket to the same circus, an older boy asked me to see the ticket.  When I handed it to him he ran away with it and lost himself in the crowd.  The third time I was close to the head of the line to get papers at the old Star office when it was in the basemen on Sixth Street.  A newsboy knocked the money out of my hand, including thirteen cents which belonged to another boy, and the other kids scrambled and got the money -- hadn't wised up a bit.  I collected forty cents on a message I delivered and asked one of the messengers what I was supposed to do with the money.

     " 'Spend it,' was the prompt reply.  'I carried out the instructions and probably would have killed the whole force with indigestion eating fruits and candies if a customer hadn't marked a collection 'charge.' This inquiry at the office revealed the fact that I was responsible for the money I collected and that it had to be accounted for each following day.

     "I used to hustle, too. I never hesitated to break up golf games or anything else to get messages delivered.  Golf was new to me.  I remember one bunch yelled 'Fore' at me on e day.  'My number's 89,' I replied, innocently.

     "The Fatty Lewis series was created through a crawdad supper," Killick  said.  I was spending my vacation at Fairmount Park with Mrs. Killick and our 6-months-old son.  It was during July, the baby was cutting teeth which, coupled with the hot weather, made him cross and irritable.  Every time Mrs. Killick attempted to lay him down there was a holler that could be heard for a block.  She was tired and worn out caring for the kid.  Frank Smith, a friend, was to be the host at a crawdad party the following night.  My part of the ceremonies was to help provide the crawdads.

     "I got a special dispensation from Mrs. Killick to go down to the lake for an hour or two.  Armed with a plentiful supply of liver and the customary short poles and lines, I began my efforts to entice some perfectly happy crawpappies from the cool lake to be placed in a gunnysack, later to be served with some cold steins.  I didn't realize just how long I'd been down there until someone came down and notified me that Mrs. Killick was waiting for me to go to dinner with her.

     " 'Tell her I'll be right up,' was the word I sent back.  It was getting later and another courier arrived bringing word that Mrs. K. was still waiting.  About that time Frank Smith arrived home from work and joined me in the boat.  It seemed the crawdads bit better after that and we fished until the lights in the park went out.  It was then 11 o'clock and when I got back to where Mrs. Killick was she was pacing up and down the room like a zoo lion.  She hadn't had a bite to eat all day and it was too late to get anything at the hotel.  The cook had gone to bed.  If ever a guy had a panning coming to him it was me.  I was willing to throw myself on the mercy of the court and serve the sentence.

     " 'Just you wait till I see that Frank Smith,' Mrs. Killick declared.  'I'll sure give him a piece of my mind.  The idea of him keeping you away till this time of night. I've held that baby all day and haven't had a mouthful to eat.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself.'

    "I was ashamed, too," Killick said, "but Mrs. Killick's contention was too funny.  I had to laugh.  Smith wouldn't weigh 110 pounds with a rock in his pocket and me, tipping the scales at 230, being detained by Smith was too much.

     " 'That's right, honey,' I replied, 'that big bulldozer held a gun on me and wouldn't let me leave.  I'd pan him good when I saw him if I was you.' A smile broke through the tears and the only near-tragedy of our married life was averted.  That was the 'hunch' -- Mrs. Killick, like many other women, believed that her husband would be all right if it wasn't for 'the other fellow.'  So I began the Fatty Lewis and Hurrah Smith stuff.

     "I began writing slang stories because I couldn't write English.  I had no literary yearning when I went to work on a newspaper.  My wife and I had to eat.  I had just gone out during the telegraphers' strike and a friend of mine employed on the paper suggested that I go up to The Star and apply for work.  If he'd sent me to one of the big packing plants I'd probably have gone there.

     "When I went out on strike all my friends pledged themselves to donate so much a week to my support.  They probably all meant what they said, but I never collected a cent.  Every time they saw me coming they ran over women and children getting away from me -- figuring that I wanted to make a touch.  It was just like smallpox coming.  I had a job all right, but my wife and  I were the only ones who knew it.  None of my friends would stand still long enough to permit me to tell them.  The only way I could learn the time of day was to go down to the old postoffice and look at the town clock.  This bit of hard luck afterwards was used in a Fatty Lewis story.

     "Getting a job on The Star wasn't so difficult.  It was holding it that bothered me.  Every day I expected to get the hardware hung on me and one day I wrote my first experience taking a girl to a first class restaurant.  It was the first of the "Freck" messenger boy series.

     "I was 17 years old at the time and had saved up  $5 to take my girl -- now Mrs. Killick -- to a swell feed.  I never had been in a first class fish house before and it was all clear over my head.

     "The waiter brought us the menu cards and there were so many fish on the bill that I had never heard of that I got dizzy trying to select one kind that I knew.  Believe me, it was a crisis in my life.  Five spots weren't any too common and if I made a punk selection and got a fish we didn't like -- it was all off.  Catfish, perch, crappie and bass were too  common.  Weakfish, smelts, blue-fish, pompano and Finnan haddies sounded good, but I wasn't game enough to take a chance.  Finally I spotted whitefish -- that looked like the one best bet and I wrote it down. 

     " 'One order for two?' the waiter inquired.

     "That was too much.  I didn't propose to be hurrahed, even if I didn't have but $5.

     " 'No -- t-w-o orders,' I replied, swelling up, and at the same time wishing there wasn't so many women present so's I could bawl him out.

     "The waiter went away and presently came back with some bread and butter, pickles and chopped cabbage.

     "We started nibbling on the bread and butter.  Then we waded into the cabbage and pickles and drank ice water.

      " 'Wonder if they had to catch those fish?' I remarked. 

     " 'Here they come now,' she replied.  And take it form me here they did come.  That guy brought in two of the biggest fish I ever saw, before or since.  They couldn't have been fish -- they were young porpoises and when he placed them on our table there wasn't room for the pepper and salt holders.

     "We both got red in the face and every one in the place stopped eating to watch us.  We tried to eat some fish, but it was a feeble effort.  We were both so obsessed with the bread and butter, pickles, cold slaw and ice water that there was nothing doing.  We didn't even make a dent in the fish.

     "This at that time appeared to be a tragedy, but afterwards started the series o Freck stories that assisted me in buying food and clothing for the girl who shared the embarrassment with me.

     "I never thought much about going into business until last summer.  I went out to Fairmount Park to live and acquired the fishing concession.  There I discovered  that people bought worms at ten cents a dozen and paid one dollar for minnows.  It was my first experience in making a profit.  One Sunday night the men who went around to the several concessions to collect the day's receipts didn't show up and I took the job.  It was a series of surprises to see how much money was spent for things that I'd never spent a dollar on in my life.  When I reached the popcorn wagon at the front gate the receipts were $35 -- one day -- that was too much.  I figured that the expense couldn't be more than $5 at the most and that there was $30 velvet.

     "Pretty rich," I argued, "here's a boob that couldn't tell a split infinitive from a proper noun grabbing thirty bucks in one day.  I guess I'm not so smart as I think I am.

     "I discussed the situation with W. P. Harvey, the park publicity agent.  He also had been engaged in saving the country for several years.  His brother Barney was the pool and bowling business.  We decided to borrow some money and start in business.  Some friends guaranteed our debts and here we are."

The Adventures of Fatty Lewis ~ A Serial ~ by Arthur F. Killick

FATTY LEWIS
HIS ADVENTURES

 

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