Come See Me Festival

Vernon Grant book sheds new light on famed illustrator

Vernon Grant in 1981.
Vernon Grant in 1981.

To most folks who have lived in Rock Hill for a while, Vernon Grant is no stranger.

The illustrator who created Rice Krispies’ famous gnomes, “Snap! Crackle! and Pop!” and inspired the annual Come-See-Me festival, set to begin Thursday, wasn’t so famous in his former California hometowns.

Linda Williams, author of “Beyond Snap! Crackle! Pop! The story of American Illustrator Vernon Grant,” changed that with a recent visit to the Golden State. She spoke to high school art students in Wasco and an English class in Porterville, where Grant graduated from high school in 1921.

“None of the students had ever heard of Vernon Grant, but are delighted to now know about their famous alumnus,” said Williams, 73, who pulled out an old yearbook with Grant’s photo to show the students.

Williams has been researching the life and works of Grant, a longtime Rock Hill resident, since she led Come-See-Me as festival chairwoman in 1986. Her book, with 2,000 copies published in November, was intended to honor Grant and enhance his legacy.

“One has to understand the experiences of Vernon’s early life on the homestead in South Dakota to grasp the artistry of his gnomes,” she said. “They are dressed in the clothes that he had to wear while living on that prairie.”

In addition to the 10-day Come-See-Me festival, Grant’s work has inspired the city’s annual ChristmasVille festival in December, as well as the theme of the Main Street Children’s Museum in downtown Rock Hill. The Vernon Grant collection is displayed at the Museum of York County.

Williams is not profiting from the book sales; all proceeds go to York County’s Culture & Heritage Museums for the preservation and promotion of Grant’s collection.

A retired teacher, Williams wants to share the fun of learning about Grant with others. She hopes the following list of Vernon Grant facts will encourage residents to read her book.

“These are the things that people don’t know, that when I tell them, they say, ‘I had no idea!’” she said.

According to Williams, Vernon Grant:

▪ Spent his childhood on a homestead in South Dakota where he learned much about mankind and experienced numerous events that shaped his life forever.

▪ Had an older brother named Glen who co-wrote the University of Southern California’s fight song.

▪ Helped launch the biggest advertising campaign in America at the time by creating the “Snap! Crackle! and Pop!” characters for the Kellogg Co.

▪ Was considered the country’s best artist for children in the 1930s and 1940s.

▪ Rendered drawings for magazine illustrations and more than 240 magazine covers from 1929 through 1978.

▪ Moved to Rock Hill in 1947 to farm the land where Pinetuck Golf Club is today.

▪ Supported Icky Albright in efforts to establish a spring festival by preparing promotional materials, naming it Come-See-Me and creating the mascot called “Glen the Frog.”

▪ Visualized and drew plans to revitalize downtown Rock Hill that did not include tearing down the train depot or rerouting the streets.

Want the book?

“Beyond Snap! Crackle! Pop! The story of American Illustrator Vernon Grant” is available in the gift shop at the Museum of York County, the Main Street Children’s Museum, Winthrop Bookstore and BooKnack. The cost is $30.

Thursday at Come-See-Me

Champions Adventure Camp – 10 a.m.-noon, Champion Gymnastics, 1061 Camden Ave.

Tea and Topics – Milkweed and Monarch seminar with Butterfly Release, 2 p.m., Woman’s Club of Rock Hill, 607 Aiken Ave.

Parade – Remember When? 6:30 p.m., starting in the 100 block of South Oakland Avenue, to East White Street, ending at Fountain Park.

Think you know Vernon Grant?

You probably know Vernon Grant, who lived in Rock Hill during the later years of his life, as the creator of the Snap! Crackle! and Pop! mascots for Rice Krispies cereal, but did you know he:

▪ Never saw one of his own renderings of Snap! Crackle! and Pop! on the front of a box of Rice Krispies?

▪ Refused a job offer from Walt Disney in the late 1920s, but taught Disney artists how to draw gnomes?

▪ Earned money for college by traveling with a vaudeville circuit doing a “chalk talk” act?

▪ Served six months with the USO during World War II, drawing pictures for more than 4,000 soldiers?

▪ Created ads for hundreds of companies, including Hershey, Gillette, Eveready, General Electric and Wrigley’s gum?

Source: “Beyond Snap! Crackle! Pop! The story of American Illustrator Vernon Grant”

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