The Cartoonist & The Comedian

Stephen Lovewell’s relatives remember him as a humorous public speaker who entertained audiences with a dry homespun wit that reminded some listeners of Will Rogers.  In the summer of 1922, shortly before retiring from his job as railroad section foreman, he made onlookers laugh with a spectacular physical stunt that might rank with the best of Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd, if only it had been performed on purpose and in front of a camera.

He’s Sure Some Comedian

Steve Lovewell was cutting up some stunts for a Movey Comedy Monday.  While working on the road his team hooked to a slip became excited and ran away.  About that time Alva Jennings came along with a Ford roadster.  Steve hopped on and they soon passed the runaway up.


Steve, who was unable to wait for the car to slow up, took a hop, skip, jump and high dive.

When he came up for air he was gasping and digging mud out of his eyes.  Either lucky or unlucky for him he hit a soft place to land in a mud hole.  They stopped the team without any damage done.

All the boys who saw Steve perform say he missed his calling when he became road boss.  They claim he can make Charley Chaplain, Fatty Arbuckle or any of the noted comedians look like bums.

Since Stephen officially stepped down from his railroad job in October, we have to wonder whether his retirement was already in the works that summer, or if his impromptu pratfall played a role in the decision.  Like the older partner in an 80’s buddy-cop movie, after his running tumble and swan dive, did Stephen Lovewell pick himself up out of that providentially-placed mud puddle and say, I’m getting too old for this sh@#?

Stephen’s younger partner and eventual successor, Francis McDonald, was also known to elicit a chuckle or two, but as a gifted cartoonist.  Winning numerous student awards in sketching and drafting throughout his student days, in 1908 he took both first and second-place ribbons in the caricature division at the Republic County Fair in Belleville.  After graduating from a Salina business college, Francis joined the sales staff at Bulkley Dry Goods in Salina, where he somehow continued to make a name for himself with his cartoons.  In 1912 he and a buddy traveled to California where they roamed and worked on-and-off for six months, until Francis was called home to Republic County, Kansas, by news of his father’s death.  

Killed by his own hand, even if accidentally, Will McDonald was denied a funeral Mass and burial in the consecrated earth which his own mother had donated to St. Isidore Parish at Cuba.  Following the funeral service, overseen by the pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Lovewell, Francis installed his mother and his four younger sisters and brothers on the farm south of Lovewell which Will McDonald had purchased and readied for their arrival before his unexpected demise.  The next eldest child was eight-year-old Margaret.  The youngest, Donald, was still a baby.  Whether or not Francis had settled on a career-path in the west, his future had been decided for him.  He was suddenly a farmer and the man of the house.

Francis probably was not in the best of moods when he gave an interview to the Salina Journal about  conditions he found in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, but he must have reflected the views shared freely over their morning coffee by many of the white Californians he had met.

The Japanese have already practically taken over all of the truck business in California, and they are starting to branch out in other lines as well.  They can live where an American would starve and as a result are making money and expanding in business and crowding out the white residents.  It will be but a question of years under present conditions until they will control all lines of agriculture there…

But the Japanese do not present the only foreign problem to the Californian.  There are hundreds of Mexicans, Bulgarians, Greeks, and dozens of other nationalities represented in the state and this will be trebled with the opening of the Panama Canal.  These people are a drain on the country, but in a different way from the Japanese.  There are many professional beggars and they may be seen on the street corners asking alms.  This is becoming not only a nuisance, but a menace.

In some places the Mexicans and Greeks, and Bulgarians do practically all of the manual labor and a white American has little chance.  If he gets a job the foreigner makes life miserable for him and he is forced to give over and make room for one of their class.

At the very least, Francis McDonald may be called an equal-opportunity alarmist.  If Stephen Lovewell was accurately compared with Will Rogers, who claimed that despite handing out barbs to prominent men, he had never met one he didn’t like, then civil conversations aboard that railroad handcar where Stephen was training the younger man who would replace him, may have been limited to discussions of crop prices and the weather.  Or perhaps Stephen borrowed the tactic Will Rogers used when turning his attention to a controversial topic such as immigration. 

I read the new census. Talk about putting a quota on immigration. Why, the Yankees are swarming into the South like locusts.

© Dale Switzer 2023