From Iowa to Moo: Alley Oop rides a dinosaur to stardom

By Mike Chapman

He’s a prehistoric caveman who travels through time, meeting famous people from the past, getting himself in big trouble but always pounding his way out, and entertaining millions of fans around the globe.

He’s been doing it now for well over seventy-five years – in nearly every form of comic art entertainment imaginable – from newspapers to comic books, from a documentary on public television to puzzles and statues, and even a popular record that reached No. 1 on the Billboard list in 1960. He currently appears in over 650 newspapers world wide, and shows no signs up letting up.

His name is Alley Oop, and he was born in the state of Iowa!

Or at least, his creator was born in Iowa. And the man who keeps Alley alive and hopping right now is a native Iowan, as well.

The fact of the matter is – though he lives in an imaginary prehistoric kingdom, Alley Oop is an Iowan, through and through! His life began in the city of Perry, located in west central Iowa, about 30 miles west of Des Moines. He was conceived in the fertile mind of a young man named Vincent T. Hamlin, and his legacy continues through the efforts of Jack Bender, a native of Waterloo.

Hamlin was born in Perry, the son of a local dentist, Fred Hamlin, and his wife, Emma. He discovered his artistic talent at a young age and began visiting the local newspaper office to draw on leftover sheets of copy paper.

V.T., as he became known, served in World War I, seeing action in France while still a teenager, and after the war returned to Perry to graduate from high school. He moved to Des Moines, enrolled in an art class at Drake and began working as a reporter for the Des Moines News.

Hamlin then hit the road, journeying south. He attended college at the University of Missouri, and moved to Texas, where he found work in oil fields, as a movie projectionist and, finally, as a newspaper reporter. All the time, he was nurturing his idea of a comic strip revolving around the antics of a wild, fun-loving caveman.