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A reflection on one of Texas A&M's own: Cadet Slouch.

By Dunae Crenwelge '15

During the 1960 football season, a midweek cartoon in The Battalion drew more than a few chuckles from the Aggie student body. The by-then-familiar Cadet Slouch looked on at a poncho-draped cadet carrying a placard that read:

Tie the Hell out of Baylor

Cadet Slouch reacted to the sign, stating, “I can’t tell whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic.” Slouch was just providing his usual humorous commentary on campus life, as he did most every day, but this particular cartoon struck a chord—and stuck.

It became one of the most memorable of the more than 5,000 “Cadet Slouch” cartoons drawn by James “Jim” Earle ’54, even earning a reproduction in the now obsolete Houston Post’s sports section.

Just before it was published, the Aggies had tied Texas Christian University (14-14) and Texas Tech University (14-14) in what turned out to be a subpar football season (the Aggies went 1-6-3). Slouch’s timing was perfect, as it was with every noteworthy campus event from 1953 to 1985. During the 32 years he graced The Battalion’s pages, Slouch witnessed the university going coed, changing its name and making the Corps non-mandatory, among other developments. He aired his thoughts on all of these changes in a style that reflected student sentiment, earning his rightful nickname, “The Aggie’s Aggie.”

Slouch’s tenure in the campus newspaper began when Earle approached editors Jerry Bennett ’54 and Ed Holder ’54 about including an occasional cartoon drawn by him. It was not his first experimentation with cartooning—he’d drawn as a child and produced a cartoon for an Air Force base newspaper during his service—but it was his first real commitment.

Spurred by positive feedback from his early efforts, his occasional drawings became daily. By Thanksgiving 1953, Earle had developed his identifiable lead character, Slouch: the Aggie who always tried to make things work out, but never could. He also developed Slouch’s roommate sidekick Simp (short for Simple), who knew life didn’t work out and didn’t care.

Earle was paid a small fee for each cartoon, which took him on average 30 minutes to complete.

“I was always thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’” he remembered, “and I was never ahead on my submissions. I was always racing to finish the doggone cartoon so I could do schoolwork.”

The Struggles of Slouch

Modeled after Earle, Slouch is a cadet whose main aspiration is to survive. “He’s the pie-in-the-face man, taking all of the hard shots,” Earle explained. “He’s well-meaning and mostly innocent, but he just can’t win. He’s a regular griper, but that was all of us back then. There were no girls and no fun, so we found things to bellyache about. Slouch bellyached with us.”

Among Slouch’s favorite topics in the early days were comparisons of Texas A&M with coeducational institutions, in which Texas A&M was mostly found lacking; the perils of dorm laundry (“No telling what you’d get back in your sack in those days,” Earle said); the general incompetency of freshmen; the inevitability of bad grades; and Texas A&M’s poor football team. While many of his cartoons reflect a bygone era of Texas A&M, others feature topics that are still relevant.

He's the pie-in-the-face-man, taking all of the hard shots.

Jim Earle '54

Slouch evolved as campus changed over the next three decades, but he remained a constant, just as Earle did. After completing his architectural design degree, Earle began a 38-year career as a professor (and later department head) in the Department of Engineering Design, now Civil Engineering, during which time he simultaneously pursued a master’s in industrial education (1960) and a Ph.D. in education (1962).

Until 1985, when The Battalion stopped publishing “Cadet Slouch,” Earle submitted new cartoons five days per week. He also designed covers of Texas A&M football programs featuring Slouch and later published five books of Slouch cartoons, along with the national bestseller “Engineering Design Graphics,” a textbook still used in high school and college classrooms.

Today, Earle and his wife Theresa live just a few blocks from campus with their dachshund, Shorty. Their home is a maze of memorabilia reflecting a lifetime of shared hobbies that span Old West history, cartooning and boxing, to name a few. Sprinkled here and there are remnants of Slouch—a book on a shelf, a hallway of framed cartoons—that serve as reminders of one of Texas A&M’s most lovable characters.

Photos courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives.

Contact:

Dunae Crenwelge '15

Marketing Communications Manager/Spirit Editor