Foo Was Here! Maureen Maxwell

Foo was the King of Graffiti during the 1970’s.  He was everywhere. He peered over fences or looked up from footpaths, appeared on walls and windows and drawn all over school books.  He was hidden amongst advertising placards on trams, trains and buses. Foo was omnipresent. A sticker of Foo was even on the front door of our refrigerator (alongside GT Stripes!).

It seems that the name Foo probably arose before or during World War I. The image appeared in various places where service men were stationed in most camps where the 1st AIF served. His name therefore may have derived from the British and Australian military acronyms FOO for Forward Observation Officer, or possibly from a commonly used acronym FUBAR – F**** Up Beyond All Repair. The original Foo graphic is thought to have been inspired by this electrical circuitry diagram.

American cartoonist Bill Holman used the word in his pre-WWII cartoons. Holman apparently first encountered Foo in San Franciso’s Chinatown where it was written on a little jade doll; it meant “good luck” and because it sounded funny, he promptly lettered it on the radiator grill of a comic car he’d drawn and subsequently on walls, furniture and just about anything else that seemed in need of some sort of signage. “A man’s foo is his castle”. A seafood dish is labelled “lobster a la fooburg.” Familiar phrases are revamped: “Rings on my fingers, foos on my toes”; “an icicle built for foo”; on the front of a car “T-foo-2” and on the back, “2-foo-T.”

This character graphic also appeared as Sapo in Chile and Chad in UK. The United States however adopted the name ‘Kilroy’ for its very own little bald-headed graffiti man, possibly named after a Massachusetts Shipyard Inspector J.J. Kilroy. According to one story the phrase on captured American equipment during WWII led to the belief that Kilroy could be the name or codename of a high-level spy.










Foo was here !



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