It was 60 years ago on Valentine's Day when Walt Wallet went to his front door and found an infant wrapped in blankets. That's how Skeezix came into the comic strip Gasoline Alley.
Up to 30 million readers have followed the daily comic strip from cradle to maturity, and the characters themselves have aged as creator Frank King refused to play tricks with the calendar.
King began the strip in 1918, a time when the car was a new toy and men spent Sundays tinkering with engines -- thus the name Gasoline Alley.
Walt Wallet was a happy bachelor, heavy-set with a lock of blond hair crossing his forehead. He hung in the alley behind his house with his cronies, gossiping and tinkering with the engines of their flivvers.
Walt's pals -- Bill, Doc and Avery-- were copies of real friends of cartoonist King. His brother-in-law became Walt and an old friend named William D. Gannon of Chicago was Bill.
Skeezix came into the strip when the late publisher Joseph M. Patterson, of the N.Y. Daily News, decided the strip needed new life to help it move away from the gang that just tinkered with cars on a Sunday morning.
King resisted at first, wanting to keep Walt a happy-go-lucky bachelor, but Patterson was persistent and decided that a baby be left on Walt's doorstep.
A mother was needed for the newborn baby so Walt, a confirmed bachelor, relented and married Auntie Phyllis Blossom.
Over the years, readers watched Skeezix move from diapers into kickers, saw him in his first long pants, sweated along with him when he almost flunked Latin in high school and breathed a sigh of relief when he finally graduated in a scholastic cloud.
Everyone was happy when Skeezix landed his first job; they fell in love with Nina the same day Skeezix did, worried along with Nina, Walt and Auntie Blossom when Skeezix volunteered for the Army and went overseas, and cheered when he came back a Pfc.
Nina and Skeezix married, the couple had Chipper and then Clovia, and Skeezix went into business with his pre-war adversary, Wilmer Bobble.
Color comics came alive in the '20s and early '30s and were very popular. Some papers featured 16 pages with Hearst outdoing them all by coming out with a 32-page tabloid section in 1935.
King changed drawing style from time to time by parodying German expressionism, then trying to achieve the look of woodcuts. Every so often for the extended Sunday color strip he would do a full-page background -- he would then divide one large scene into panels, as opposed to the far more common separate sequences.
In a gallery while Walt and Skeezix view an abstract painting, Walt says, "Modernism is a bit beyond me. I'd hate to live in the place that picture was painted." Skeezix answers, "Yes, but I'd like to go there. Let's, Uncle Walt." And the whole sequence is drawn in German expressionism as the two walk around complaining of the world they are living in.
Sometimes, Walt and Skeezix took long nature walks, and King would draw in the style of woodcuts. One strip began with Skeezix asking, "Uncle Walt, why do the leaves on the trees fall off this time of year?" And every child who read the strip that Sunday learned a lesson along with Skeezix.
Frank King, who died at the age of 86 on June 24, 1969, was born in Tomah, Wis., and found his talent at age 3 when he drew on the wallpaper of his home in crayon.
He worked as a newspaper artist before attending the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago.
Skeezix had a foster brother and sister, Corky and Judy. Corky was the "real" son of Walt and Auntie Blossom while Judy was found after being abandoned on the running board of the family car in 1935.
King decided that one cartoonist was not enough so he had Corky started his own strip within the strip, which had some success.
Dick Moores, 70, of Fairview, N.C., a former assistant to King, now does the strip.
"Uncle Walt should now be crowding 80," Moores said on the phone.
"We were suddenly getting too many characters. I like to keep it less crowded and keep it centered around a few. I move Skeezix in and out. I have been using Gretchen, Skeezix's granddaughter. She will be 3 years old in a few months. She is Clova's daughter."
Writer Nat Hentoff has called Gasoline Alley "like reading a novel -- a novel by an American Charles Dickens."
Moores works a 10-hour day seven days a week turning out six dailies and a Sunday page and has a part-time assistant to help ink in the strip.
He started out working with Chester Gould on Dick Tracy before trying his own strip, gave it up and went to work for Walt Disney for 15 years before going with King in 1956.
Gasoline Alley still appears in more than 200 daily papers. Moores doesn't plan on anything special to celebrate Skeezix's 60th anniversary. It wouldn't be in the Gasoline Alley tradition.