The First and Only Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Master of Imaginative Fantasy Adventure
Creator of Tarzan and
"Grandfather of American Science Fiction"
Yesterday evening (July 9, 1999), the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest officially opened their Edgar Rice Burroughs Museum.
The opening of the Burroughs Museum was hot! The Historical Society is housed in the Pleasant Home, a many-roomed mansion built just before the turn of the century--and like those times, air conditioning was not included. Fortunately, it was cool enough to be bearable outside, but NOT inside for any great length of time.
Ed was much wiser than the rest of us. He spent most of his time outside on one of the side porches talking with all who came out to escape the oppressive heat. He did, however, go upstairs after all the excitement was over and the crowds had left and looked at the displays. I was surprised that he did, given that he is not a fan of ERB. Today Ed and I talked about the museum. He felt the the material was nicely presented, interesting, and that the displays were very well done. High praise, indeed, from this non-fan.
Among fans in attendance were Jerry and Linda Spannraft (this museum was Jerry's brainchild you know); Mike Conran and Brian Bohnett. Mike and Brian are the Mad Kings from Michigan who will be our hosts for Dum-Dum next year in Grand Rapids, MI.
Greg Phillips, an Oak Park resident and ERB collector for many years, also was there. Greg lives just a few short blocks south of the Pleasant Home and originally hails from Michigan. He and I worked together back in the middle 1970s and have kept in touch since then. Tony 'the Terrible' Menegazzo also was able to make the opening. Tony and I attended the other Oak Park commemoration of ERB that happened back in 1975. That celebration honored the 100th anniversary of ERB's birth. At that event, a plaque honoring ERB was dedicated and placed in the front garden of the former Burroughs residence at 700 N. Linden (Linden and Augusta). This was the last home of the Burroughs family in Oak Park.
Mike Conran called the opening ceremonies to order with his resounding "Tarmangani" yell. Frank Lipo, executive director of the historical society, spoke briefly on the creation of the ERB museum and introduced various people who helped make it a possibility. We then went upstairs for the "ribbon-cutting ceremony." One other attendee, Teeka, make several appearances early on. But her ape suit was just too warm, and she shed it in favor of much cooler shorts and t-shirt. Thanks Teeka!
The Burroughs Museum is to be a permanent part of the historical society. It is housed in one room on the second floor of this immense old home. Much of the material on display came from the private collection of Jerry Spannraft. Jerry grew up in Oak Park and lived there for much of his adult life. He currently resides in Palos Hills but he and his wife, who I think also is a former Oak Parker, have strong ties to the town. 10 years ago Jerry gave a lecture on Burroughs and Oak Park at the Historical Society and I believe the germ of the idea that became this ERB museum may date back to that lecture!
Jerry used a replica of Weismuller's knife to cut the ribbon officially opening the museum to the public! The knife was then put into one of the display cases for all to see. Quite a few Oak Parkers and supporters of the historical society attended the gala function. Many seemed also to have gone to see the Disney Tarzan movie. Several folks were overheard talking about how they had enjoyed the picture. An artist who created the original design for the exhibits and his family came down from somewhere in Wisconsin. Another gentleman was introduced who had been instrumental in getting about $30,000 worth of display cases and fixtures donated for the museum's use.
The museum's theme is aimed at the Oak Park years--roughly 1911 through 1918, when Ed and his family were residents of Oak Park. There is a mix of old and new throughout. There are several panels of movie stills, lobby cards, etc. of the various movie Tarzans, as well as some information on The Lad and the Lion film. I understand that Bill Ross and Mitch Harrison also contributed in bringing the museum to life.
Pictures of the Burroughs Oak Park residences, with text describing them and their relevance to ERB can be found as well. And a huge stuffed animal Disney Tantor and Disney Kala benevolently look down from atop a couple of display cases on all who pass through. There is another case of mostly Tarzan toys, lunch boxes, puzzles, premiums, shoes, etc. spanning this century--including a really cute young Disney Tarzan.
An old radio sits atop an antique steamer trunk and periodically bursts forth with the Tarzan radio show cry. Another case displays models of our Barsoomian friends, and another has the Madison Square Tarzan tales in dust jackets displayed for all to see. A complete set of ERB titles, all rebound in matching color coordinated bindings graces the shelves of another case along with a number of the early Ballantine printings of some of the Martian tales.
I think the high point is the old sled--given by a young John Coleman Burroughs to a neighbor boy when the Burroughs family finally left Oak Park for sunny California. John Coleman said that they wouldn't need a sled where they were moving to and he wanted his friend to have it.
Jerry asked me to bring my video camera and tape the affair and so I did. Supposedly the exhibit will be changed from time to time so I will have to keep in touch with Frank Lipo at the historical society and will go and tape changes in the future.
The Pleasant Home is located on the south-west corner of the intersection of Pleasant Ave. and Home in Oak Park, Illinois. It is open to the public on Thursdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guided tours start on the half-hour at 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30. I believe that admission is free, donations are very welcome. If you are in the Chicagoland area, put this on your list of things to visit. It's worth the trip.
Joan Bledig (J the V)
Joan's photos of this event shall appear in a future edition of ERBzin-e.
Meanwhile here are some views of Pleasant Home -- the remarkable building in which the ERB Museum resides
Take the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) to Harlem Avenue (Illinois 430), exit north and continue five blocks to Randolf Street. Turn east and continue three blocks to Home Street. Proceed north one block to 217 S. Home Avenue. Parking is available on the street directly in front of and to the side of the Pleasant Home.
Blue Print - Front Elevation
George W. Maher ~ Architect
HOW TO GET THERE...
for the promotional material