Cartoonist Mike Lynch discusses suburban Long Island and how it...

Cartoonist Mike Lynch discusses suburban Long Island and how it provided inspiration for some of the most famous 1950s comic strips at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages, in Stony Brook. (Oct. 21, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Ed Betz

In one newspaper cartoon from 1955, a smiling -- personified -- shopping center hops from New York City toward two ducks, labeled "Nassau" and "Suffolk," delivering social commentary on changing times, as Long Island morphed from a sleepy outpost to a booming suburb.

The cartoon and other pictures and artifacts are part of the exhibit, "Long Island, America's 1950s Frontier" at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

"Many of the themes are still relevant," said Lisa Unander, assistant director of education at the museum.

The exhibit, which runs through Dec. 30, coincided Sunday with a lecture on cartooning -- an industry that flourished in the '50s and '60s. About 40 people attended a talk by Mike Lynch, a New Hampshire-based cartoonist, about the golden age of cartooning -- when they reigned in newspapers and magazines -- and how the strips reflected migration from cities to suburbs during the '50s and '60s.

"It was an extraordinary time for cartoons," Lynch said.

Madeline "Bunny" Carpenter's late husband Bill Hoest created the long-running, syndicated cartoon originally called "The Lockhorns of Levittown" in 1968 to represent a local, postwar couple, but dropped the "Levittown" when it was syndicated. Since Hoest's death in 1988 Carpenter has created "The Lockhorns" with Hoest's longtime art assistant John Reiner.

"They're just a suburban couple," said Carpenter of Huntington, who said she just got a new 10-year contract to continue the comic. "We keep it very simple. I keep it very fresh by taking ideas from everybody."

The exhibit also reflects what was a pivotal decade for the nation.

As the McCarthy hearings waged against Communism in Washington and Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Ala., Long Island changed from a land of beaches and potato farms to America's suburb.

The exhibit notes some of the highlights: The first section of the Long Island Expressway opened in 1955. The following year, the Roosevelt Field Shopping Center, then one of the country's largest malls, opened.

Jeff Stern of Port Jefferson Station said the exhibit and talk of comics transported him back. The Long Island native, who said he has a few thousand comic books in his garage, said, "It was good to hear the history."

Newsday LogoDON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access