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Vince Staten: Mysterious Little Green Dude figurine identified as carnival prize

VINCE STATEN • Jul 25, 2013 at 10:07 PM

We had to go all the way to Maine but I think we have finally figured out who or what the Little Green Dude is. Or was.

Let me recap. A couple of weeks ago I went to the “Antiques Roadshow” carrying a couple of items for my friend Chris because each attendee was only allowed two items and he had four he wanted appraised.

One of my items was the Little Green Dude, a ceramic planter in the shape of some sort of cartoon character.

The Little Green Dude fooled all the appraisers. None knew who or what he was.

So I sent out a call to readers, knowing my readers wouldn’t let me down. Readers forwarded the column about the Little Green Dude all over the country, literally from Seattle, Wash., to Maine.

That’s why I say “we” have figured out who the Little Green Dude is. It was a group effort.

In short, the Little Green Dude was a prize at the carnival!

The final solution came from Jim in Maine. Jim is a friend of Mike, who is a friend of Dan, who was my college roommate.

Got that?

And Jim says he thinks the Little Green Dude — and his sibling, the Little Blue Dude — are what is known in the Collectibles field as Carnival Chalkware Figurines.

Jim says, “This is what you would win if you hit a certain score throwing softballs or at the coin toss at the Carnival. The one you have here is particularly nice with a good paint job and a nice glaze. Some of these items have almost no glaze and soil easily. Often they look as though they were painted by very disturbed people. Quickly airbrushed in a hostile and even vindictive and absurd manner. The folks who produced these beauties often presented barely recognizable knockoffs of popular cartoon characters of the day. I’m sure that in this way they hoped to stay out of court. Whoever painted my former possession, a Shirley Temple in a Sailor Suit knockoff, must surely have hated life and the Good Ship Lollipop in particular.”

I went online and found a host of Carnival Chalkware Figurines. And Jim is right, they are barely recognizable copies. I found a twisted Popeye, an angry Donald Duck and an evil-eyed Lone Ranger.

Carnival Chalkware Figurines were popular carnival prizes from the 1910s on into the 1950s when they were replaced by stuffed animals.

Jim thinks the Little Green Dude could “possibly be a very broad and cartoonish homage to the great Green Hornet. Maybe.”

If so he would date from the ’60s. Jim says, “The Green Hornet’s mask was worn to cover the bottom half of his face in the early part of his career … 1940’s. Later, especially with the Gold Key comics in the 1960s, he moves to a more conventional Lone Ranger style disguise which shields the eyes and upper face. So the little guy could be a Green Hornet wannabe or just a generic burglar. Anyhow, the Carnies were very evenhanded. They celebrated all the trades ... even burglary!!”


Lynn Cole was a brilliant pianist and a brilliant mind. He finished third academically in my class at D-B (1965) and graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in music. During vacations he would ride back to Kingsport with me.

He moved back here a decade or so ago to take care of his mother. After her death he stayed on.

He was a familiar sight walking his German shepherd Duke at Warriors Path Park.

Lynn died over the weekend at his home.

One of Lynn’s neighbors tells me Duke has found a new home with one of Lynn’s old friends.

Contact Vince Staten at vincestaten@timesnews.net or via mail in care of this newspaper. Voicemail may be left at 723-1483. His blog can be found at vincestaten.blogspot.com.

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