Containing equal parts office politics, bathroom humor, arcane telephony jargon, and slow-pitch softball gags, the on-the-job cartoons of Toots Zettwoch are gritty and soulful examinations of what it must've been like to work as a communications craftsman (before they were called technicians) for the phone company in the late 1970's and early 80's. Toots drew these cartoons over a ten year span while working on the sixth floor at the main phone building in downtown Louisville, Kentucky (521 West Chestnut, pictured at right), back before the American Telephone and Telegraph company was broken apart.

To that effect, a discerning viewer will notice several "SCB" references - that's South Central Bell - appearing throughout the drawings. It's not just the way this and other obscure acronyms are thrown around that make it clear that these drawings weren't created for lay-viewers to see, but also through the development of a rotating cast of characters/ caricatures and the inside jokes/jabs associated with each. All done in pencil on long since yellowed sheets of loose notebook paper or the back of cryptic electrical forms, these drawings weren't meant for me and you to look at on the internet, but were meant to be passed around the mainframe room, pinned up behind the Ping-Pong table, or to be hidden from snooping management (or made plainly visible to management, depending on the political motives involved!).

So why are we supposed to care about these crude and seemingly meaningless doodles? Because camouflaged behind the scatological motifs and superconductor and circuitry jokes, there is a core of warmth, sincerity, and blue-collar camaraderie that is unseen in most workplace humor. For a modern-day working stiff like me, it's this brotherhood/secret society aspect of Toots and his coworkers that's most interesting. We're peering into a specific time and place - perhaps one that's not important to most people - but one that meant a lot to those guys up on the sixth floor during those ten years.

Perhaps the unearthing and examination of these cartoons violates Don Zettwoch's silkscreen-on-manilla-envelope mantra made clearly above : "Please Do Not Get In My Shit." To that, replies, "Too late, and tough shit, Toots!"

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Note: Captions have been added to many of the cartoons, either to ensure that text is legible or to offer some bits of context. In other instances, the cartoons remain puzzling even to me (maybe even to Toots). I've left all spelling and grammar faithful to the originals, in hopes of best capturing their "local colour".

---Dan Zettwoch (who also colored this Don Zettwoch drawing), March 2002

"Ford" Silk-screened print. Don Zettwoch 1976. Printed on the back of Form No. M390A-I - "Not for Use or disclosure outside the bell system except under written agreement."
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