ABOUT SYD HOFF AND HIS LIFE
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- Born in New York and grew up in the Bronx.
- His father Ben was a salesman and his mother Mary was a housewife.
- He had an older brother Danny, and a younger sister Dorothy.
- Ever since he was a little boy he was a fan of cartoons.
- He copied comic strips from the newspaper his father brought home every day.
- When he got older he would write jokes (two-liners) to go with the cartoons.
- He had a few after school jobs. He worked at a soda fountain and on Saturdays he was a copy boy at The Daily News.
- In high school (Morris High School) he was in a special art class.
- One day, the school had a very special guest-Milt Gross, the creator of many comic strips.
- Syd was selected to draw on stage as part of the entertainment.
- He was very nervous as there were many guests in the audience, including members of the Board of Education, PTA and parents.
- After Milt talked and drew cartoons, it was Syd’s turn.
- His assignment: To illustrate a talk as it was given by a classmate about the history of locomotion.
- Trembling and nervous he drew a man walking, then running, riding in a car, a boat, a plane, all while his classmate talked faster and faster.
- At the end, Milt Gross gave him a hug and said, “kid, some day you’ll be a great cartoonist!”
- Academically, Syd was not a very good student and felt very frustrated. Against the advice of teachers and his family, he left school.
(52 years later, he did return to receive an honorary high school diploma from the Board of Education at his 50th high school reunion).
- However, he wondered what he would do next.
- His older brother encouraged him to study art, something he always loved, and he signed up at the National Academy of Design where he studied for three years.
- He thought about becoming a fine artist, but the comic touch always seemed to come through his paintings, much to the dismay of his teachers.
- At the same time, Syd was working at Lowe’s movie theater to earn extra money.
- As he would watch the same movie over and over, he began to study the faces of the actors and draw caricatures of them while he worked.
- A friend asked, “why don’t you try to sell these to the newspapers?”
- On day he went with friends to the New Yorker. Everyone left some samples of their art and were asked to come back the next day.
- Syd was the only one who came out of the office exclaiming, “I sold a drawing to the New Yorker!”
- That was the beginning of his career.
- He went on to sell over 571 cartoons to the New Yorker over course of his lifetime.
- Other cartoons appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and Esquire Magazines.
- Everyone in the family was thrilled to see Syd’s new career take off.
- One summer, while the family was vacationing in S. Fallsburg, in the Catskill Mountains, Syd met a very talented piano player, a young 14 year old girl named Dora (everyone called her Dutch). He was enthralled with her musical talent and beauty and four years later they were married.
- They had two daughters, Susan and Bonnie and they lived in Rockaway Beach.
- Syd was quite an athlete. He enjoyed jogging (long before it became a national pastime), bike riding, swimming in the ocean and playing handball.
- Back to his work—
William Randolph Hearst, the publisher from California, heard about Syd and wanted him to write a comic strip for his newspaper.
- Tuffy was born in 1939 and lasted ten years. It was about a little girl who did funny things.
- Tuffy was an important comic strip. It actually had been considered “essential” for national morale of the country during the war.
- Although Syd tried to enlist in the military, he was therefore, deferred from military duty by the local draft board.
- He did join the Office of War Information and drew propaganda cartoons that had been dropped from planes behind enemy lines.
- After Tuffy, came Laugh it Off, another daily newspaper cartoon and featured in The New Yorker (King Features Syndicate 1958-77).
- After the war, family members moved to Los Angeles. His parents, brother Danny and his family, and his sister Dorothy who had married banker Dan Ross.
- Syd and his family stayed in New York where he starred in a TV show called Tales of Hoff. It was the first CBS show that ever sold to a sponsor. The show format was simple: Syd would draw and tell a story to children.
- Syd eventually moved his family to Miami Beach, FL
- Besides cartooning, Syd was also beginning to cultivate a desire to write.
- As a father he loved to read stories to his children, especially Susan who spent a lot time in bed while recovering from numerous surgeries due to a traumatic hip injury.
- Sometimes he would even make up his own stories which thrilled the girls.
- One day, he began to draw a picture of a prehistoric animal with a little boy on his back, who was supposed to be his brother.
- Susan exclaimed with delight, “that’s Danny and the Dinosaur!”
- And, as they say, the rest is history.
- To date, Danny and the Dinosaur has sold well over 10 million copies, been translated into foreign languages, and continues to be a favorite of children.
- Syd went on to write over a hundred children’s books as well as illustrating books for other authors.
- Irving and Me was written in 1967 and selected as one of the year’s ten best children’s books by the New York Times.
- Syd was now viewed as a prolific writer and began to travel throughout the USA and abroad entertaining children and adults in school settings, libraries, retirement communities and aboard cruise ships.
- He has gifted the world with his creative genius. Simple drawings became simple stories with simple messages. Sprinkled with humor, his books have touched the hearts of all.
Syd Hoff…. A great legend in his own time!
Visit the website Carol created to honor her uncle Syd Hoff
Click here for his Biography at The University of Southern Mississippi
Click here to view Syd Hoff Images
(courtesy of Chris Wheeler)
Fullerton, CA 92838 USA
(714) 870-5695 ph
(714) 870-5229 fax