Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dennis the Menace

Hank Ketchum’s most popular legacy has continued without him since he died in his Pebble Beach home in June 2001. The cartoonist created“Dennis the Menace,” one of the best-loved kids of all time, in 1950 on a drawing board in his Carmel Woods home. Ketchum was 30 at the time and his real son, Dennis, was 4, when his first wife, Alice, stormed in one day to complain, “Your son is a menace.” Thus a legend was born. It was almost an instant hit and Ketchum opened a studio in Monterey and hired staff to help. He lived in Switzerland during the turbulent 1960s and into the ‘70s, then moved to Pebble Beach in 1977 and worked from a studio next to his home until 1988, when he bought an 1850s house behind Monterey’s Colton Hall to convert to a studio for the cartoon, comics, paperbacks, movie, TV series and even a musical. The cartoon Dennis has remained a mischievous 5-year-old throughout his 59-year career, and his middle-American family has remained locked in the 1950s. “In my world, the birds are always singing,” Ketchum told an interviewer in 1990. The cartoonist left another legacy locally, the ever-popular Dennis the Menace Park in Monterey’s El Estero. Ketchum designed it in 1952 and the Monterey Peninsula Jaycees built it. The real father and son were estranged most of their lives.

(Photo: Dennis the Menace Park courtesy of John3000)

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