Gravel Gertie

GravelGertieGertrude “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.

SoundsOPlentyGertie, Sparkle and Jewel have formed a musical group called “The Sounds of Plenty” and are the main musical act of Montana Joe’s morning radio show.

11 Responses to Gravel Gertie

  1. Joan Church says:

    A friend of mine remembers her brother nicknaming her ‘Gravel Gertie’. When you read Gertie’s autobiography, you can see where it would be something an older brother would enjoy laying on his little sister….affectionately, of course.

  2. m. f. gates says:

    Gravel Gertie’s was the name of a small road-house restaurant located on Illinois Route 14 between Crystal Lake, Illinois and Cary, IL. The author of “Dick Tracy” who lived locally, adopted the name for his character. The road-house was adjacent to a gravel pit.

    This was in the 1930 – 1950 era. Gravel Gertie served a fantastic BBQ sandwich as I recall.

    happy memories!

  3. marilyn genuardi says:

    Luv the bio of Gertie. I’ve been using her name forever when I fell messed or I see someone all untidy. I say she looks like Gravel Gertie. LOL I’m going to put this in my bookmarks, and give it a read now and then for old times sake.

  4. Rose Stock says:

    Love the story and also the back story on how Gertie got her name. My mother would call me and my sister Gravel Gertie when we would play “house” in the 50’s if we dressed up in crazy combinations of my grandmother’s house dresses, costume jewelry, high heels, handbags and even ratty mink stoles! We thought we looked gorgeous. We didn’t read the comics, so we believed it to be a compliment!

  5. Donna Peck says:

    My dear Aunt Marie Allen called me & my sister and my cousin all “Gravel Gertie”; or just “Gert” for short. It is a fond and happy memory for us to have been hugged by her and told “I love you Gert”. I knew the name was from a cartoon or comic strip. Thanks for filling in the details.

  6. Jack says:

    Good story

  7. Cathy Cavey says:

    My Daddy called me Gravel Gertie because he said my hair resembled hers, always messy. Now that I am an old woman and still have my long hair, I often think, “yes, I do look like Gravel Gertie.” Maybe I should cut this old gray hair short. Nah! It would not be me if I did. Maybe one day! Ha ha ha !

  8. NANCY HOPE says:


  9. NANCY HOPE says:

    Stayed at cottage in
    Avalon Shores, Va. in l930’s or l940’s named Sparkle Plenty – it didn’t. At least it didn’t have an outhouse like the cottage in Colonial Beach we often stayed at did.

  10. Sandy Jordan says:

    My high school algebra teacher used to call me Gravel Gertie. I see now that he was being very rude and unkind, thank goodness this reference was too outdated for me to understand at the time. He, by the way, was an old, short, bald man with yellow teeth and armpit stains. No prize there.

  11. Larry Moran says:

    I was watching a Tech radio show today, (yes, the host also provides video of the show in real time), and during his photo segment with a professional photographer. The photographer selected a photo that was presented for a just for fun contest. By an amateur photographer who calls herself Gravel Gertie, of a tractor trailer truck. I assume that she owns and drives the very impressive rig. At any rate the name brought back memories of my childhood, reading the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *