Stanley Gooch first entered the heady world of publishing as an office boy for a (relatively) new company called The Amalgamated Press at the tender age of 14 in 1908, to work on the womens magazine Home Chat. During the 1930's Gooch, with fellow AP Managing Editors Frederick George Cordwell (My Favourite, Merry & Bright, Film Fun, Kinema Comic etc), Langdon Towney (Chicks Own, Tiny Tots, Sunbeam) and Richard Newton Chance (Illustrated Chips, Golden, Jolly and Joker) were responsible for the Golden Age of British Comics. At the time of his death in 1958, Gooch was the Editor of only two titles, Radio Fun and T.V. Fun.
Young Stan J. Gooch got caught by Kitchener's pointing finger and served in the 5th Wiltshire Regiment during the 1914 to 1918 Great War, seeing action in the Galipolli campaign. With the outbreak of peace he returned to The Amalgamated Press where he progressed quickly through the ranks becoming Editor of the comics Funny Wonder and Larks (in 1927) and Crackers (in 1929). Over the coming years Stan's comic stable would expand to include Wonder, Jester, Radio Fun, Tip Top, Jingles and T.V Fun.
On 13th May 1922 and in front of witnesses James Lee, George Gooch and S. Shirt, Stan married Kitty Lee, a former Tiller Girl in London's West End. Kitty and Stan were often to be seen attending West End theatre productions, and they both kept very close ties with London's theatre set. Kitty still has photos of George Formby, George Sanders and Jane Turner all signed with affection. Stan amassed various signed photos including Joy Nichols and the Beverley sisters with Norman Wisdom.
Back at Fleetway House, Stan soon got a reputation as a very tough Editor, and artists that presented him with bad roughs, were dealt with disparagingly. Don't forget, this was the era when artists were required to produce roughs based on their original ideas: if approved by the Editor these would then be drawn up into sets or finished artwork. However, unlike some Editors, Stan would always take the time to discuss the ideas presented or type a letter to the artist explaining the reason for rejection.
Artist George Chatterton remembers him as "Quite a nice fellow, a spot-on editor but a shade on the strict side", a view shared by staff member Alf Wallace. Ken Berger remembers Stan as an uncle who encouraged him to "reach for the stars and do things well."
Alf Wallace writes: "I was a member of Stan Gooch’s staff from February 1939 until 1955 and I knew every member of the editorial staff at that time. The full staff was as follows: A Pottinger, R.A Lewis, Richard Wise, Dennis Castle, Sidney Rossiter, Stan Curtis, John (Sinjun) Cooper, J. (Jack) Pamby, Gordon Sowman, Toney Hazeldene, Jack Pierce and Frank Brooks plus myself. I was a member of Gooch’s editorial team from 1939 to 1955 less wartime service with the RN from 1942-1946. I left in 1955 to join Monty Haydon’s team" .
Stan is often credited for discovering artists Donald Newhouse and Roy Wilson who had been successfully working together for some time out of Norwich. Wilson was at this time Newhouse's assistant although that was about to change when Stan encouraged Wilson to contribute strips in his own right. The result was Pitch and Toss, the two jolly sailors that appeared in Funny Wonder, and Wilson's short lived magnus opus, Happy Days.
By 1938, Stan was Managing Editor responsible for several comic titles, each having their own editor. He had also accumulated some of the finest artistic talent of the day around him, the brothers Reggie and George Parlett, Freddie Crompton, Roy Wilson, George Wakefield, Arthur Martin, Albert T. (Charlie) Pease and many more.
The typical British comic fare of the 1930's were funny papers featuring a number of popular film or radio personalities, jolly jinx strips featuring comical characters, various strips that would not be considered politically correct today, funny animals etc.: if you were looking for adventure strips you would not be reading any of the comic titles mentioned on this page. And yet, there was an air of innocence about these strips, the exagerated humour, and if you look at them closely none of the things that you are seeing look "real": tables groaned with the largest Christmas Puddings the artist could conceive, ships looked almost human, even something as simple as a chair does not really resemble a chair.
Stanley Gooch was especially fond of "happy family" strips in the comics for which he was responsible: The Tiddleywink Family in Jester (1937), The Harty Family in TV Fun (1957), etc. These strips featuring dad, mum and kids, take on an additional poignancy given that Stan and Kitty were childless, so writing for children and showing a happy family life must have had a special meaning for him. Tragic circumstances left his sister Edie’s children, Ken and Marjorie, without parents so Kitty and Stan acted as surrogate parents for their young adult lives.
However, reality was about to intrude, and the Second World War had several effects on the comic book industry and AP in particular. Firstly many AP staff were drafted, thus cutting away some of the major talents, whilst Stan, who was too old to be drafted, served in the Home Guard; he was involved with supervising the use of London underground tunnels which he 'knew like the back of his hand". In letters to his nephew Ken Berger, Stan mentioned that he hoped to cut down his duties as a Police Officer because night duty in winter was becoming too much for his health.
When paper rationing was introduced the immediate effect was to reduce the number of pages for each comic, however this was quickly followed by the axing of several titles. Larks was merged with old timer Comic Cuts in 1940, and Crackers was merged with Jingles in 1941.
Post war, and a not only was paper rationing continuing under Attlee's government, but there were less comics for the returning artists to work on. FLASHBACK to 1939: AP first published the Knock-Out comic (soon losing the hyphen) as yet another funny paper, however under the editorship of Edward Holmes it soon became an adventure paper with some funny content. The next blow to Stan and a lot of his generation, was, in retrospect a boon for the comic industry as a whole: the Eagle comic was published in 1950, and changed forever the look of British comics. The Adventure comic had arrived, text stories and funnies, whilst not dead were fast becoming interesting pieces of comic history and a stalwart of nostalgic comic collections of the 1960's.
Into the 1950's, and the rise in popularity of adventure comics, the advent of television, and falling sales figures, all signalled the end: Comic Cuts, which had originally started in 1890 and still holds the record for the longest running British comic (3006 issues) merged with the brash newcomer Knockout in 1953, Tip Top and Jingles both merged with a new venture called T.V. Fun in 1954. Stan Gooch was left with only two titles under his control, Radio Fun and T.V. Fun. By the 1950's Radio Fun was becoming rather old fashioned in both look and content, whilst T.V. Fun never lived up to the promise and rarely featured anything that the new TV generation were familiar with.
Stan Gooch retired in 1958, and talked about making a Continental holiday in his new Jaguar car, sadly he died unexpectedly before achieving this. A memorial service was held on the 31st of July 1958 at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street. The service was conducted by Rev. Cyril Armitage and the address was delivered by Horace Sanders, a one- time President of the London Press Club.
T.V. Fun survived Stan by a year and Radio Fun staggered on until 1961.
Stan once conveyed to Alf Wallace that he would like to be remembered as "the man who made children laugh".
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