HAVERHILL — Do you know which pond in Haverhill was mentioned in an “Archie’’ comic book that featured the main character on ice skates?

Can you recall a well-known costume company in Haverhill that was included in an “Archie’’ comic strip under a slightly different name?

How about identifying a prominent statue that still stands outside a city building and also repeatedly showed up in “Archie’’ comics?

“Archie’’ experts will discuss these and other secrets and nuances about the world of Archie Andrews when they present two showings of the documentary “Archie’s Betty” on Thursday in the Hartleb Technology Center on the Haverhill campus of Northern Essex Community College, 100 Elliott St.

This is also a chance to see original “Archie’’ artwork and talk to the people who created the documentary that explores the comic strip’s Haverhill connections.

Both events are free and open to the public. 

In the film, “Archie’s Betty,” Gerald Peary explores the origins of the comic strip, including interviews with “Archie’’ creator Bob Montana’s Haverhill High School classmates from the 1930s. Montana based the comic strip on several of those classmates and patterned the fictitious community of Riverdale after Haverhill.

DVDs of the movie will be sold at the event.

Event tied to city’s375th anniversary

The documentary will be shown Thursday at 3 and 6:30 p.m. It is presented in partnership with the Buttonwoods Museum as part of Haverhill’s 375th anniversary celebration.

The film was produced by Peary and Shaun Clancy, and written and directed by Peary. Both men will be there to share stories about their research and the making of the film. Clancy grew up in South Lawrence and his parents grew up in Bradford. Also speaking will be Nancy Silberkleit, the co-CEO of Archie Comics. 

Two of Bob Montana’s four children, Lynn Montana and Ray Montana, are expected to attend.

Montana spent his high school years in Haverhill, and it’s widely recognized that many of his characters, settings and story lines are based on his observations and experiences while he was a student at Haverhill High School during the late 1930s.

Throughout October, the Linda Hummel-Shea ArtSpace Gallery in the library on NECC’s Haverhill campus will feature original “Archie’’ comic strip artwork drawn by Montana. 

The public is invited to attend a reception on Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the ArtSpace gallery. At the reception, Clancy, a comics art collector, will display 29 original “Archie’’ drawings he obtained from the Montana family. He will also share stories about the many familiar Haverhill scenes depicted in the strip over the years, such as Plug Pond, the Armory building, the Strand movie theater, the Thinker statue in front of the high school, the high school’s Brown & Gold newspaper, and Hooker-Howe Costume Rental — a popular business that was in the old Webster Building on the southern end of the Basiliere Bridge in Bradford. The business was well known before it closed in the mid-1990s.

“High school staff members such as Coach White and Coach Mansfield were mentioned by name,” Clancy said of the comic strip. 

From California to Haverhill

Montana, who lived from 1920 to 1975, was born in Stockton, Cal., the son of ex-Ziegfeld girl Roberta Pandolfini Montana and Ray Montana, a banjo player on the vaudeville circuit. The younger Montana spent his childhood traveling and received his schooling backstage in theater dressing rooms. After his father died, his mother remarried and the family moved to Haverhill, where Montana’s stepfather managed the Hooker-Howe theatrical costume shop.

While attending Haverhill High School from the fall of 1936 to the spring of 1939, Montana entertained classmates with his cartoon drawings and also served on the staff of the school newspaper during his junior year. He moved to Manchester, N.H., during his senior year, graduating from Central High School in 1940.

After high school, he enrolled in the Phoenix Art Institute in New York City and began doing freelance work for several comic book publishers. John Goldwater, publisher of MLJ Comics, asked him to create a high school comic feature. That is how “Archie” started. 

The first “Archie” comic book appeared in the fall of 1941, and, except for a four-year stint in the U.S. Army, Montana drew the daily comic strip from 1946 until January of 1975, when he died of a heart attack while cross country skiing near his home in Meredith, N.H.

He was 54. 

For more information on the film’s showing, contact Ernie Greenslade, NECC’s director of public relations, at 978 556-3862 or egreenslade@necc.mass.edu.

For more information about the ArtSpace gallery, contact Professor Marc Mannheimer at mmannheimer@necc.mass.edu. Gallery hours throughout October are Monday through Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m. and Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m.

 

‘Archie’ Haverhill trivia (by Gerald Peary)

Questions

1: What item which was moved from the old Haverhill High to the new Haverhill High appears prominently in “Archie’’ comics?

2: What still-living person went to the Haverhill High prom with “Archie’’ creator Bob Montana before he began drawing the comic strip?

3: What recently deceased member of the Haverhill High Class of 1939 said he protected young Bob Montana from those who picked on him?

4: What body of water in Haverhill appeared in an “Archie’’ comic book drawn by Bob Montana?

5: Two after-school hangouts for Haverhill High students in the late 1930s appeared later in “Archie’’ comics. Can you name them?

6: Bob Montana is said to have based the famous Archie character of Jughead on a Haverhill High classmate who was funny like Jughead and who, said a friend, “ate and ate and never put on weight.” Who was he?

 

Answers

1: Locally referred to as “The Thinker,” the title of a sculpture by Auguste Rodin, it’s actually a replica of Michelangelo’s “Tomb of Lorenzo de Medici” sculpture, nicknamed “The Thoughtful One.”

2: Jane Murphy

3: Charlie Hayden

4: Plug Pond

5: The Crown Confectionary and the Chocolate Shop

6: Richard “Skinny” Linehan

 

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