Gertrude “Gravel Gertie” was homely woman who lived in a gravel pit outside the city. Despite her appearance, she does have long, silky hair and a beautiful singing voice and can play the mandolin. Her name came from railroad workers, a segment of Dick Tracy fans in the early years. Gravel Girtie is the affectionate nickname of a part of the Clifton Forge line of the C & O Railroad. It stretches from Hinton, West Virginia to Clifton Forge, Virginia and delivered limestone gravel quarried from Fort Spring to the iron furnaces of Virginia as a fluxing agent.
Gertrude was introduced in The Brow story of 1944 where we learn what little back story there is to know. Gertie’s father had died of a dope habit and she had no other family members and was a widow for many years after her first husband sold her farm rights for a gravel pit and then died when his car backed into his own pit. She initially tried to hide the Brow from the police after she found him in wrecked car because she thought he was handsome. In a comic relief the Brow flees in terror when he catches his first glimpse of his guardian angel. In his struggle to escape an old-fashioned lamp is knocked over; her shack burns down and her long hair is burned off. Dick Tracy later arrested both of them when her hair from her clothes brush matched gray hair found near the fire. Gertie was sentenced and sent to a women’s prison.
Gertie was a model citizen in prison but her guitar was used by Measles to smuggle dope with his mother Anna Enog in through prison. When Gravel Gertie discovered the drugs, Anna tried to push her into some pump machinery but fell in herself and died. Gertie’s help in uncovering the racket earned her an early release but also made her a target for a vengeful Measles.
After her release from prison, Gert went to work at the “Say it with Flowers” Greenhouse, which was adjacent to Sunny Dell Acres, future home of Bob Oscar “B.O.” Plenty. Gertie and B.O. soon developed a romance and the couple soon married and welcomed their first daughter, Sparkle, a beautiful young girl featured in the first issue of Glance Magazine.
In the decades after Sparkle’s birth, Gertie and B.O. have been the cause or participant of numerous Dick Tracy stories. When Sparkle grew older, she and Junior Tracy grew close and eventually married in the 1980’s, officially merging the Tracy and Plenty families. Sparkle and Junior have two children (Jewel and Honeymoon) making Gravel and B.O. grandparents.
In the early 1990s, Gertie enrolled in a local college to complete her education. This created some friction between her and B.O. She attended a lecture by the visiting Professor St. Jones, and remarked on his resemblance to the criminal Flattop Jones Sr.. Gertie was later present at the channelling session where Flattop’s “spirit” possessed the Professor, as well as when the Professor attempted to assassinate a politician who was speaking at the campus. She and B.O. resolved their differences.
In 2011, the Plenty’s had their second child, a son named Attitude Plenty. Attitude has proven to be a terror in both looks and, ahem, “attitude”. A year later while home along with Sparkle and Jewel, Measles once again returned seeking revenge against Gertie. He invaded the home but was repelled by Gertie with an axe until Dick Tracy arrived and chased him into a field where he soon died on an overdose of pain medication.