Tarzana Quest (cont): Later,
we eagerly accepted an invitation to tour the "warehouse." This building
on the adjacent lot had been built as a store but was later converted to
a garage, and then to a storehouse for ERB Inc. product and ERB archival
Labelled storage boxes were stacked
floor to ceiling, and since there had been a fire (spontaneous combustion
from old Tarzan nitrate film stock), many of the boxes were charred and
in disarray -- cleanup was still in progress.
Enough of the labels were discernible,
however, to give some idea of the treasures which lay within: A.C. McClurg
& Co., Fan and Personal Letters, Motion Pictures, Real Estate, Tarzana,
-- but the boxes that excited me most
were the ones labeled Tarzan Radio Serials.
One of the radio shows that had triggered
an all consuming passion for programs from the Golden Days of Radio was
Tarzan back in the early ‘50s. I had purchased a reel-to-reel tape recorder
in 1963 and it wasn’t long before my nostalgia packrat instincts had amassed
a collection of old radio shows on tape. Coincidentally, my first purchase
was 77 episodes of the Tarzan serial from 1931.
After reminding Hulbert that the stars
of this series were James and Joan Burroughs Pierce, ERB’s son-in-law and
daughter, I asked if I could look through the Tarzan Radio Serial crates.
He mentioned that they had no way of playing the shows since they were
on 16” electrical transcription discs, and that Mr. and Mrs. Pierce hadn’t
heard the shows since they had recorded them many years before.
At this point I told him that I
had many of the shows on tape in my ERB collection (I even had a 16” Gates
broadcast turntable set up to play ETs) -- and I would send copies of my
tapes to them when I returned home. To my surprise, he seriously suggested
that if I could find a way of staying in Tarzana I would have a job cataloging
the discs and helping with the other inventory. One of my lifetime regrets
was having to decline as both Sue-On and I had to return to Canada to finish
University and to carry on with our performing and teaching careers.
When it came time to leave, we were
invited to return the next morning as James and Joan would be coming to
the office for a meeting and he felt sure they would like to talk with
us about ERB, movies, our collection, and the old Tarzan radio shows. As
we were leaving, Hulbert autographed a Tarzana Chamber of Commerce/Bank
booklet with a Crandall/Williamson cover and a short ERB bio & biblio
Next morning we returned with a carefully
cleaned and polished Pentax, looking forward to meeting another of the
Burroughs family and her “last-of-the-silent-movies Tarzan” husband.
Jim and Joan proved to be just as gracious
as brother Hulbert and we had a wonderful chat about the old days of Hollywood
before we moved on to the work they did on the radio series.
Both were extremely interested in my
taped shows and I promised to send them copies as soon as I could. Our
visit closed with Sue-On offering to take my picture with the Pierces (it
didn't turn out - the gravel had done its work) -- under the large tree
in the front yard, close to the spot where ERB’s ashes had been buried
back in 1950.
We returned to home to Manitoba and
Brandon University -- and I kept my promise. Some weeks later, a large
box arrived from Tarzana, California. Carefully packed in the box were
13 ERB Inc. Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs - many of them first
editions... and a stack of unfolded dustjackets from different editions!
Each contained a sticker which read:
THIS BOOK is one of the few survivors
of a near-disastrous fire that occurred in our store-room on Saturday,
May 3, 1958. The fire started as a result of the spontaneous combustion
of old Tarzan motion pictures printed on nitrate film. Although this
book shows some fire damage, we are told it has considerable value among
collectors. We sincerely hope it will add to the worth of your own personal
---Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.
-- Tarzana, California