Target audience for this post:
- People who endured the painful egg-puns in my last blog and no longer believe in the virtues of the egg — the egg-no-sticks.
- Patient people who waited for the Kilroy post I have threatened to write. Thanks Shantanu!
Once upon a time I mentioned about my mom, the teacher. Today we shall finish that thought. It should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog, that I love to get on a soapbox and preach. Give me a captive audience and I’ll sit and give fundaes on irrelevant things in life, till the cows come home. (Once they’re home, I expect them to listen as well.) And with a teacher-mom at home, I like to believe that this lecturing habit is in my genes, as opposed to other parts of my wardrobe.
So what’s the lecture topic for today? Kilroy. Why? Because my sidebar has a doodleboard with the title Kilroy Was Here that has mystified many a reader and resulted in interestingly varied queries:
- Who is Kilroy and why was he above your doodleboard?
- Why only Kilroy? Why can’t I have my name instead?
- Why was Quickgun Murugan not here?
- Who is Roy and why have you killed him?
Yes, the blog world has been terribly excited with the buzz surrounding this phrase, it seems. And like any good mystery, this too should be solved. So here’s the scoop. Of course, you search-engine savvy folks could have found out for yourself. You probably already did. But if I can turn a simple Google search into an elaborate whoop-de-doo, you think I’ll pass the chance? So here it is. Information paraphrased from various websites. Why reinvent the wheel?
During the World War II, the phrase ‘Kilroy was here’ began to appear wherever US troops were. It was often accompanied with the image of a face with a long nose and two big round eyes or small dot eyeballs peeking over a wall or a line representing a wall. Everything else, except sometimes his fingers gripping the top of the wall, was hidden behind the wall itself.
James J Kilroy was a ship inspector at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA. (Ooh! Local boy!) It was his responsibility to check on how many holes a riveter had filled in a shift on any given day. In order to prevent double counting by dishonest riveters and to prove to his supervisors that he’d been doing his work, he began marking ‘Kilroy was here’ inside the hulls of the ships being built. He used yellow crayon so it would be easily visible; this way the off-shift inspectors wouldn’t count the rivets more than once and pay the riveter for work he hadn’t done.
Once the ship became operative, carrying military troops that were headed overseas and bound for the war, the phrase was a complete mystery. Why it was there and being found in such out of the way places made it all the more mysterious. All they could be certain of was that Kilroy, whoever he was, had ‘been there first’. As a joke, troops began placing the graffiti wherever the US forces landed and claimed it had already been there when they’d arrived.
Whoever originated it, Kilroy quickly became the United States super GI who had always already been wherever men were sent by the military. The game quickly became a challenge to put the picture and slogan in the most unlikely places imaginable first. It is said to be atop Mount Everest, on the torch of the Statue of Liberty, on the underside of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, on the Marco Polo Bridge in China, on huts in Polynesia, on a girder on the George Washington Bridge in New York and scrawled in the dust on the moon. There were contests in the Air Force to beat Kilroy to isolated and uninhabited places around the globe.
The cartoon part of the graffiti has a different origin. According to some, it is originally British, named Mr Chad, and apparently predates Kilroy by a few years. It commonly appeared with the phrase “Wot, no ____?” underneath, with the blank filled in by whatever was in short supply in Britain at the time — cigarettes, spam, etc. Sometime during the war, Chad and Kilroy met and merged, the American phrase appearing under the British drawing.
The combined logo plus doodle gained popularity, initially appearing wherever the military went, but soon spreading in use amongst civilians as well. And thus was born, the most ubiquitous of all graffiti.
And now, it has appeared on my blog. Much joy!