Several months ago, I was given a copy of a thin booklet titled Their Faces by George Randall. The 32-page, 8.5-inch by 5.5-inch digest contained a collection of exceptional caricatures of Central Washington College of Education (the former name of CWU) administrators and faculty members.
Drawn in a style very much of the times—very stylized, like Art Deco woodcuts or engravings—Their Faces was sparse on information, offering only the last names of the subjects, but interesting to look at.
Other than a brief Introduction by Professor A. J. Mathews of the Department of Language and Literature, which notes the difficulty of drawing caricatures of individuals and acknowledges Randall’s talent and “dead eye” for caricature, the book is a bit of a mystery.
So, who was George Randall and who published Their Faces?
Fortunately, CWU’s Special Collections and Archives has posted online scans of nearly every CWU student publication ever produced. A search of back issues of the Campus Crier, the student newspaper (precursor to the CWU Observer), revealed additional details about both Randall and the artwork.
From January 27, 1938, to July 21, 1938, Randall produced more than two dozen caricatures of CWCE’s instructors and administrators, which were published in the lower right corner of the front page of nearly every issue of the Campus Crier.
Shortly after they began appearing, the Crierpublished a short article titled Local Boy Makes Good, which briefly introduced Randall to readers.
“The work of George Randall, who is doing the series of caricatures for the Crier is well known in Ellensburg,” it began. “George is a local boy and his talent has been called upon for everything from sign-painting and ads to invitations.”
The February 10, 1938, story noted that in high school, Randall provided illustrations for three years of school yearbooks and that after graduating in 1935, he spent a year at the University of Washington and another at the University of Chicago before transferring to CWCE.
“George refuses to give much information to the reporter about his activities in other schools,” it noted. “We know that he has traveled over parts of these United States quite a bit and when he will open up about these travels, his experiences are most entertaining.”
Special Collections and Archives also provided in its files another clue to Randall’s background. A Xerox copy of the cover of the book from March 1991 included a handwritten note to Bell Hawk, editor of a book of memories and anecdotes, Central Remembered (produced for the university’s centennial in 1992), from longtime CWU professor Reino Randall, who was a faculty member in the art department from 1938 to 1976.
In the note, Randall says: “This little book of caricatures was published in 1938. They were drawn by a very talented student named George Randall (no relation, altho [sic] I’d like to have his talent). The book contains most of the profs for whom buildings were named.”
Back issues of the Campus Crier finally provided the final answer to who published the little booklet.
The June 2, 1938, issue noted, “The Campus Crier is publishing this week a little volume of the caricatures George Randall has been making. It will be on sale in the bookstore next week and will probably sell for 25 cents. George has worked over some of the caricatures already published and is adding a number of unpublished ones to round out the series.”
The article also encouraged students to pick up the booklet, which “will make a valuable addition to campus lore, and when you pull it down some years hence from its place on your library shelf beside this year’s excellent Hyakem [the CWCE yearbook], it will stir lively memories of the characters of your campus days.”
Production apparently took longer than originally anticipated since the book didn’t actually appear for several more weeks. The June 16, 1938, Campus Crier contained a column by “Gustaf Winde,” an obvious pseudonym that parodied Ellensburg’s famous summer breezes, that provided an update on the book’s status.
“With George Randall’s book of caricatures almost off the press, we are reminded of several interesting faces we have seen in the last week,” Winde wrote. “Wonder what he could do with one that looks like a cross between a dog salmon and Dopey?”
A week later, on June 23, the Crier provided another update: “Because of unavoidable printing delays, George Randall’s book of faculty caricatures could not make its appearance on Monday of this week as promised. Instead, it comes out today.”
The item said it was on sale at the campus bookstore, two local businesses, and “is being hawked personally by two or three students.
“Those who have seen page proofs of ‘Their Faces’ are enthusiastic about it,” the paper continued. “Some students have already expressed their interest in the final product. This is a unique venture for the Campus Crier, and we hope that it will be successful.”
On June 30, the Crier printed a small item under the headline, “‘Their Faces’ are Selling Fast,” which stated the “amusing little booklet” was a brisk seller. It quoted one professor, Harold Barto, who suggested students in all of his classes buy a copy and paste his portrait on the front of their notebooks so they wouldn’t have to draw his picture there.
“It would save pencil lead at that, and, at the same time, it would be a little more flattering than some of the portraits I’ve seen,” he told the paper.
And that was the Crier’s last mention of the booklet.
According to his academic records, Randall periodically took classes at CWCE between 1935 and 1939. In 1938, the year he produced his Crierdrawings, he completed a teacher certification program (in penmanship). He never graduated from Central but instead earned a bachelor’s degree in art at the University of California, Berkeley in 1950.
One other clue appeared in the 1940 U.S. Census, which listed George Randall, age 24, living in Ellensburg with his wife, Mary. The census listed his occupation as artist/sign painter.
From various online genealogy sources, I gleaned that he had married Mary Nesalhaus, a fellow CWCE student, in February 1939 in Yakima. Nesalhaus was a columnist and writer for the Campus Crier during the same period that Randall was drawing caricatures for the paper.
In October 1940, Randall registered for the draft. The registration form revealed his full name, George Carson Randall, and noted he was born in Spokane on May 29, 1915, the son of Nathan Henry Randall and Dora Belle Randall. It also provided some physical details: Randall was 5-foot, 8-inches tall, 130 pounds, and had brown hair and blue eyes.
Military records indicate that in September 1945, George enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Lewis, Washington, but was never given an assignment. His term of enlistment lasted six months, during which time he continued to work as a civilian general industry clerk.
From there, however, the trail goes cold. By the 1941 Ellensburg city directory, George and Mary Randall were no longer listed as residents. His parents apparently relocated to Portland, Oregon, around that time. His mother died a short time later, on April 5, 1942, and is buried at the Grandview Cemetery, southeast of Yakima, while his father remained in Portland, where he died in 1956.
As for George, online records don’t provide much insight into his whereabouts during the next several decades but do indicate that he died in March 1966 in Washington, D.C. Mary moved to the Modesto, California, area, where she resided for many years. She died in Seattle in 2004.