Publication: 10 July 1976 – 2 October 1976
Artist: José Casanovas
Shirley Lomax is such a snob that she is ashamed of her own father, who has become rich from running a boot factory but refuses to forget his humble origins. Mr Lomax gets so angry at Shirley’s snobbery and rudeness that he throws her out of the house with a box of shoeshine material to make a living from shining shoes for the rest of the summer holiday. Shoe shining was how he himself started and in his view it will be a sure-fire cure for Shirley’s snobbery. To make sure, he has his butler Henderson monitor Shirley, but they soon find Shirley is a harder nut to crack than they thought.
After numerous misadventures, Shirley eventually does try shining shoes – but has no idea how and makes a mess of the shoes of the first client, who will become her friend (and first friend) throughout the story – Alice. Alice’s mother pays rent to the Lomaxes and she takes Shirley in, honoured at the thought of having a lady living in the house, and Shirley is treating them like servants. With Alice’s help Shirley does settle down to shining shoes, but in a very haughty Lady Muck manner that shows she is still snobby and she cannot stand on her own two feet either. Shirley is even using the famous name of Lomax as a gimmick with her shoe shining; her advertising is to have your shoes shined by Lady Shirley Lomax. And when business attracts some American tourists, Alice offers to show them around a stately home – Shirley’s! On another occasion, Shirley wangles her way into staying with another rich family, but Henderson soon puts a stop to that.
Then Shirley falls in with Sheikh Ababa, who takes the shoe shining for an English custom and is intrigued. When Alice insults him, he has her locked up and tells Shirley that she must impress him with her shoe-shining or Alice loses her head. Shirley manages it (though not without more hilarious misadventures at a shoe department). Alice is released, but the sheikh lays out entire rows of shoes for Shirley to clean so as to keep up the ‘custom’! Alice is amused and tells Shirley she is not going to be her servant anymore. Shirley takes consolation in that she has the sheikh’s servants and still enjoys the high life. But when Alice reminds her that she has to shine shoes if she is to return home, Shirley is back on the streets doing it – with the sheikh’s harem servants in tow! This gets them into trouble with a policeman who thinks it is suspicious, and they have to run for it.
Then the sheikh disappears and Shirley is appointed to take his place as “sheikess”. She is soon lapping it up, but Alice is soon putting a damper on it with her trusty peashooter and reminding Shirley that she still has to shine shoes or she won’t be allowed home. Instead, Shirley adds Dad’s name to her guest list, thinking that once he sees how far she has come as sheikess, he will take her back. Dad is impressed, but does not regret sending her out shoe-shining.
Meanwhile Smithers the chauffeur, who is smarting from Shirley’s snobby ways, plays a trick to get Shirley into trouble with her father and stop her coming home. Alice sees him and tries to tell Mr Lomax. He does not listen, but Alice has a plan to make Smithers confess. This involves having a guard threaten to toss Smithers into a crocodile pool and it works; Smithers signs a confession. But then the wind blows it out the window and Alice gets into trouble as well.
Then Alice falls down a panel to the dungeons and finds the sheikh. He had fallen down there too. She helps the sheikh to escape and in return the sheikh persuades Mr Lomax to take Shirley home. Mr Lomax is persuaded and soon Shirley is home and back to indulging in the high life. Alice is sad at losing her best friend. Smithers has been found out and he has departed. Mr Lomax is disappointed that Shirley does not seem to have changed, but Henderson advises him to give it time.
Next day Shirley is surprised at how she is missing Alice as she still looks on Alice as an urchin and not in her class. The day after, Mr Lomax is astonished to find Shirley going back to shoe shining of her own free will and asking Alice to come with her. Alice realises it is because Shirley has missed her, though Shirley will not admit it and still makes a show of her snobby ways. She is still snobby, but her good points have become stronger.
This must rank as one of Jinty’s most bonkers stories. One has to wonder if Jinty went overboard with the moralising aspect and the plotting got too ridiculous, even the story was meant to be a bit over the top. Still, it has the advantage of being drawn by José Casanovas, whose style can illustrate hilarity and slapstick in a mouth-watering manner that has you hankering for more, even if you feel the story is a bit naff. Indeed, Casanovas does seem to have a track record for drawing stories on the silly side and making them enjoyable to read for his artwork alone. Examples in Tammy are “Wars of the Roses” and “Town without Telly”. Casanovas is hard to beat for drawing humour, slapstick and satire.
There have been plenty of stories about snobs and spoiled girls being taken down a peg; “School for Snobs” (Tammy) makes a complete serial out of it, with a special school designed to cure girls of snobbery and giving readers loads of laughs into the bargain. But really – being thrown out of house and home for being a snob is really stretching the limit of credibility. To say nothing of Mr Lomax taking things a bit far! Shirley’s not even allowed to take a suitcase with her – nothing but the clothes on her back and the box of shoeshine equipment. And did Mr Lomax stop to consider whether his daughter knows the first thing about shining shoes in the first place? This must rank as one of the most extreme and bizarre punishments for snobbery in the history of girls’ comics.
Still, once readers saw what a dreadful snob Shirley was in the first episode, they must have lauded the comeuppance of being forced to shine shoes. Mind you, seeing Shirley being kicked out of the house must have been a shock to them. How would you feel if your own parents did that to you?
At any rate, the question is: will it humble her the way Mr Lomax hopes? Although Shirley gets a nasty shock and gets more shocks when she tries to make her own way but does not have the skills, she is still a snob and looks on herself as a high-class lady. It looks like she is a harder nut snob-wise than Mr Lomax realises, and her shoe-shining adventures do not make much headway on her snobbish attitudes.
It is quite a twist when Mr Lomax’s plan to humble Shirley backfires in the way Shirley uses her privileged background to promote her shoe shining. Far from being humbled, it seems to raise the heights of her snobbery. She even has poor Alice waiting on her hand and foot, even to the extent of having Alice holding a parasol over her Victorian-maid style when she goes out shoe shining. This carries on even when Shirley returns to shoe-shining voluntarily.
When the sheikh intervenes and threatens things, we begin to hope that Shirley will finally learn her lesson at last. But though she gets some humble pie, such as when she is forced to shine a mile of shoes, her snobbery and indulgence of the high life resurface once they get the chance. And it stays that way right to the end of the story and isn’t the cliched ending of a snob learning her lesson and becoming more sober and humbled.
Yet Shirley does change for the better in spite of herself. Although she stays snobby, her relationship with Alice begins to bring out the good points in her. Her good point is loyalty; she is loyal to Alice although she regards Alice as common, an urchin and a servant. The most hilarious example of this is where Shirley shoves her shoe shine brush into the face of one of her school mates for calling Alice a “disgusting creature”. We cheer Shirley for the act, though not her motivation: “It’s nothing to do with friendship. All the best people protect their servants.” And when the sheikh holds Alice prisoner, Shirley makes a determined effort to free her.
It is a real surprise to see that in the final episode, Alice is sad at losing the girl she regards as her best friend. Throughout the story it is hard to call Shirley any kind of friend for Alice, much less a best friend. The way Shirley treats Alice constantly gets her naturally outraged, telling Shirley to “take a jump” and stalking off. But Alice always comes back, realising Shirley needs her, and defends her where needed. And when Shirley is going too far or needs reminding of why she has to carry on shoe-shining, Alice is ready to give it in spades.
Readers are further surprised when Shirley surprises herself when she realises how much she misses Alice. The girl who started off with no friends because she was so snobby now has a friend in spite of herself and her snobbishness. This may be one leopard that will not change its spots, but at least it is now a better leopard.