Long acknowledged as a crucial, even an essential figure in the field of Popular Studies, Putney Tyson Ridge has also been described as its “maverick” (Jason E. Dent, Ph.D., in Central Plains Popular Studies Journal), its “wild-eyed gonzo cowboy” (F.S.W. Honeyhouse, Ph.D., in Mid-South Journal of Popular Studies), its “official yahoo” (Milton R. Packer, Ph.D., in Permanent Ephemera: Studies of Recent Developments in Popular Culture), its “Delegate from Outer Space” (Hermione Uffnee-Lazarus, in South-West Nebraska Community College Popular Culture Review), and much, much more. Professor Ridge can take whatever they throw at him, these lesser figures. His contributions to his chosen field, which in fact he helped not only to establish as an accepted academic discipline but to bring into being through his own tireless and oft-challenged efforts, have been acknowledged by many awards.
A four-time recipient of The International Popular Culture Society’s highest honor, the Elmer J. Atwood Award or “Atwood,” Professor Ridge is a Past President of the Society and a popular keynote speaker at its International Congresses. As the first and Permanent Chairman of the Department of Popular Culture at Popham College, where he was made for years to combat the intransigence of certain short-sighted, blaggardy Deans and academics not at all above stooping to personal attacks of the vilest sort, he has been invited as Guest Lecturer to such notable institutions as Willetsville College of Applied Arts, Southern Ohio University’s Extension Division, Cape Cod Business College, LaGrange Louisiana Female Academy for Higher Learning, and many others. He has been awarded more than a dozen Plaques and Citations for his unceasing efforts on behalf of Popular Culture studies, most recently by the North Florida Popular Culture Association, whose Citation reads in part: To one who has never failed to illuminate our Discipline by his controversial, some have said reckless willingness to examine it through the lens of his own personal experience.
This renowned scholar was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1943, where by coincidence his family lived next to the Straub family, who inhabited a rather smaller and less distinguished residence none the less possessing a degree of cozy charm. Family legends report that the infant Professor was introduced to the infant novelist, Peter Straub, when baby Peter’s mother lowered him into baby Putney’s cradle, whereupon the infant Professor smiled a toothless smile and patted or perhaps thumped the infant novelist on the head. This may be said to have defined the relationship between the two – set, as it were, its tone – for ever after. Side by side, the two friends passed through the era of the sandbox, the age of the tricycle and swingset, the epochs of elementary school, high school at Milwaukee Country Day and college at the University of Wisconsin, and at every stage the budding eminence of Popular Culture freely bestowed upon his creative but excitable, unfocussed, illogical, oft-confused, too-fanciful-by-half, sadly literal-minded, mopery-prone, unrealistic, unworldly, uninformed and sometimes utterly clueless friend the benefits of his cooler, more developed, altogether more authoritative mind. After college, Straub wriggled his way into Columbia University’s Graduate School while Ridge declined the insult of placement on its “waiting list” and wisely ensconced himself in the sober, level-headed comforts of Bloomington, Indiana, a locale more suited by far to the study of literature than hectic, faddish Manhattan. Yet despite this separation and his own punishingly demanding schedule, Ridge continued to provide his needy friend with ongoing support, advice and counsel.
That to this day Straub fails publicly to acknowledge his selfless friend’s lifelong assistance, much less to pay him the simple tribute of a dedication to one of his many books, is of no consequence to Professor Ridge. Professor Ridge does not require the embarrassment of further accolades. Also, Professor Ridge has long been educated in the harmless, helpless selfishness of authors and their ilk. Mr. Straub has expressed gratitude for his pal’s steady presence by requesting Professor Ridge to supply the “jacket copy” for several of his “limited editions,” sign enough of his respect for the truth, painful though it may be.
Professor Ridge wishes it known that he offers the following “Observations” on his life-long chum’s work and career as a public service only, though he cannot but help that one day the wayward author might hear of these remarks and, should he have so far overcome his tyrannical ineptitude in the face of any technology more advanced than the electric pencil-sharpener, might learn to employ the devices of point-and-click well enough to summon them to his screen and while yet again absorbing the hard realities his childhood companion is duty-bound to present, find it possible to relish with him the pleasures of revisiting these moments from their shared, their continuing history.
Putney Tyson Ridge