Oak Park, Illinois
by Ken Manson
Oak Leaves ~ December 22, 2004
The war cry of a bull ape, better known as a Tarzan yell, will be heard in Oak Park in August as fans of author Edgar Rice Burroughs gather for their annual convention.
The Burroughs Bibliophiles’ 2005 Dum-Dum will be hosted from Aug. 10 to 14 at The Write Inn by Jerry Spannraft, a former Oak Park resident and member of the Oak Park Library Board.
Dum-Dum, according to a dictionary by Burroughs, is a "gathering of apes," said Spannraft, a former Elmwood Park resident who graduated from Oak Park-River Forest High School.
Started in 1960, the Dum-Dum is an annual gathering to celebrate the life and works of Burroughs; in the early years, it was held in conjunction with the World Science Fiction Convention, according to the www.ERBzine.com Web site.
The 2005 event will be the first time, according to Spannraft, the convention has been held in Oak Park, where the author lived from April 1910 to January 1919. While living in four different locations in Oak Park, Burroughs wrote numerous works including, The Son of Tarzan, The Jewels of Opar and The Land That Time Forgot, according to the ERBzine site. Burroughs, best known for his Tarzan character also featured in movies and television shows, died in 1950.
Spannraft went to a Dum-Dum held in California and thought he should bring the convention to Oak Park, said Frank Lipo, executive director of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, which devotes a second-floor room in Pleasant Home to a Burroughs exhibit. That exhibit, "Tarzan, Mars and the Fertile Mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs," opened in July 1999 in the national historic landmark building at Pleasant Street and Home Avenue.
Matthew Whisler, director of sales for the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he took Spannraft around for the past couple months to different areas of Oak Park, including the 19th Century Club, looking for a location for the convention.
Spannraft decided on The Write Inn, 211 N. Oak Park Ave., which also is a designated historic landmark, according to its owners. The hotel originally opened in 1926 as the Oak Park Manor, they said.
Jason Bushouse, director of operations for The Write Inn, acknowledged Oak Park does not have many hotels, but said organizers wanted to hold the convention in the village and felt the Write Inn rooms "really fit in with the clientele that would be coming to the event."
The inspiration for the hotel fits in with the 1920s time period and the theme of writers, such as Burroughs and native son Ernest Hemingway, according to Bushouse.
The hotel has 65 rooms, with 30 guaranteed so far to the Dum-Dum, but no convention facilities, Bushouse said. "They’re expecting more than a hundred people coming from out of town."
Spannraft is planning to use nearby restaurants and facilities for activities but is not currently intending to use other hotels.
He said the Burroughs Bibliophiles society has its headquarters in Louisville, Ky., and has 700 members worldwide.
The society is a worldwide organization of aficionados who share a love for the works and characters of Burroughs, according to the www.jeddak.com Web site.
"We get 50 to 120 people (to the annual Dum-Dum)," Spannraft said. "I’m hoping to break that record (of 120)."
Spannraft said he is hoping Burroughs’ grandson, Danton, can attend the convention. Danton never has been to any of the Oak Park locations where his grandfather, or father, illustrator John Coleman Burroughs, had lived, he added.
Also invited were authors Max Allen Collins, who wrote The Pearl Harbor Murders that has Burroughs as a character (the Tarzan author was in Honolulu during the Dec. 7, 1941, attacks), and George Taliaferro, who penned a Burroughs biography (Tarzan Forever, 1999) several years ago.
Spannraft also is hoping for a "mystery guest."
The only activity scheduled tentatively for the arrival day of the convention, Aug. 10, is a barbecue at Spannraft’s home in Palos Park.
He has rented school buses for two trips on the 11th - first going to the Museum of Science and Industry where the ColleenMooredollhouse has a miniature book, Tarzan Jr., in its library that was specially written by Burroughs. Moore also had sent letters at the time to many authors, including Hemingway, William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, Spannraft said, adding he has been working with Lipo to arrange the visit.
Convention organizers are asking museum officials to pull out the Tarzan Jr. and put it under glass for easier viewing. The Dum-Dum also arranged with Burroughs’ company, ERB Inc., to reproduce that book, which will be put into convention members’ packets.
Buses will return to the Write Inn to pick up those who declined the museum trip and will go the Brookfield Zoo for a private tour. They will visit the ape house and African habitat and eat at the zoo.
That Friday, the convention will open its swap room, or dealers’ room, in the gymnasium of the First Baptist Church south of the Write Inn until noon. Members will get back on the bus that afternoon to see sites related to Burroughs: his birthplace in Chicago that now is an empty lot near the United Center, his school, his father’s (Major George Tyler Burroughs) workplace and the studio where well-known Burroughs illustrator J. Allen St. John worked.
Back in Oak Park, they will visit the home he rented at 821 S. Scoville Ave., his houses at 414 W. Augusta Blvd. and 700 N. Linden Ave. and home at 325 N. Oak Park Ave. Spannraft said he is hoping to arrange tours inside some of the homes.
Burroughs also had an office at 1020 W. North Blvd. and a plaque will be dedicated there that day.
The night will finish with a reception at Pleasant Home where convention members will be able to look at the Burroughs exhibit. That exhibit shows pulp magazines; information on each of his homes; first editions in hardcover of all his works; comics; movie posters and lobby cards; photos of all the Tarzans and Janes, with some of them signed; a note signed by Burroughs; Tarzan figures; movie props; newspaper clippings; and movie tie-ins.
For those who want to see the exhibit without attending the convention, tours of the entire home are given at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays, with a 2:30 p.m. tour being added March 1, Lipo said. The cost is $5; free on Fridays.
Saturday activities will include the swap room being open another three hours, a luncheon featuring Taliaferro and the evening dinner with Collins as the guest speaker.
The tradition of the Tarzan yell will be performed at that dinner, probably by George McWhorter, editor of the Burroughs Bulletin magazine and curator of the Burroughs collection at the University of Louisville, Spannraft said. He added Danton Burroughs "does a good yell."
Sunday will feature a farewell breakfast.
Spannraft said he will not know the convention registration fee until he finds out the cost of the museum and zoo trips, but estimates it will be less than $100, and possibly close to the $75 charged last year.
Registration will be available through the Rare Book Room, University of Louisville, Louisville KY 40292, but also will be taken at the door at no increased fee, he said.
If members are looking for something to do outside the convention, related to architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Hemingway or just shopping, the visitors bureau is "there to provide assistance on whatever they need," Whisler said.
About Burroughs fans coming to the village, he said, "It’s not often you see someone of historical value to Oak Park honored."
Bushouse said he is excited by the convention and "the class of people who will be here." About the excitement in the air when such an event focuses on one person, he said, "I always love it."
Lipo added, "I’m happy to be part of this. It’s an important part of what we do. I’m proud Oak Park can host it."
Sons of Oak Park: Edgar Rice Burroughs ~ Ernest Hemingway ~ Carl Sandburg ~ Frank Lloyd Wright
On her Web site:
New York real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran rates Oak Park as number one in her list of "America's Sexiest Suburbs."
Corcoran says the Chicago suburb's vibe is "total and utter confidence." The average age is 33, and 40 percent of the 52,000 residents
are single. The average income is $62,295 and average home price is $275,000. She recommends the following eateries:
"Peterson's Ice Cream Parlor: When things get steamy, it's a good idea to cool things down... with ice cream at the famous Peterson's Ice Cream Parlor. Since 1931, locals share hot fudge turtle sundaes in a chocolate shell and eat their chocolate dipped strawberries.
"Philander's Jazz Lounge: nestled in the upscale hotel Carleton of Oak Park, it's become a haven for hipsters and fashionistas alike who appreciate the finer things in life: including food, music and great, live entertainment.
"Cucina Paradiso: one of the best new restaurants to open up in Chicago. With an ever changing menu, adventurous foodies like to come here to experiment and on occasion sport some celebrities. Famous Paradiso fans include: Charlie Trotter and John Mahoney. Best Dish: Rigatoni Spinaci."
Philander Walker Barclay 1878-1940 Oak Park’s self-styled village historian.
Point of Interest?: From Tarzan of the Apes: Samuel T. Philander was Professor A.Q. Porter's secretary and assistant.
Philander Barclay was a bicycle repairman by trade, but a photographer and historian by inclination. He collected photos of Oak Park and River Forest dating from the 1880s, and in 1902 he began his own photo chronicle of buildings, railroads, and, sometimes, people. He was the quintessential observer, not a “joiner.” But he did help organize old-timers who informally were sharing tales at the local harness shop. At Barclay’s death on July 7, 1940, his photo collection numbered about 1,000. Much of it resides in the photo collection of The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest.
Historical Society's Displays of Oak Park's Celebrated Citizens: Edgar Rice Burroughs
See our extensive photo collection of 15 of the 17 'movie Tarzans.' The creator of the Tarzan character, Edgar Rice Burroughs, wrote many of the novels while living in Oak Park."
Edgar Rice Burroughs in Oak Park
Portraits of Celebrated Citizens of Oak Park
Frank Lloyd Wright
Sampling of Show Business Personalities (See the complete list)
Lois Nettleton ~ Paul Harvey ~ Jim Ameche ~ Daws Butler ~ Richard D. Bach ~ John Sturges ~ Betty White ~
Dan "Homer Simpson" Castellaneta ~ Kathy Griffin
Inventors and Achievers (See the complete list)
Ray Kroc: Macdonalds ~ James Dewar: The Twinkie ~ Donald Duncan: Parking Meter ~ Doris Humphrey: Modern Dance ~ Jerry Kenilli : Mars Light on Police Cars ~ Dr. Joseph Kerwin: Sky Lab Astronaut ~ George W. Maher: Prairie School Architect ~ Herbert Mills: Slot Machines ~ Thomas Perry: First helicopter flew in his backyard ~ Richard Sears: Sears Roebuck & Co. ~ Anna Strong: Wrote a chapter of Mao Tse-Tung's "Little Red Book" ~ Grace Wilbur Trout: Suffragette ~ Marjorie Judith Vincent: Miss America 1991 ~ Bob Zuppke: Football huddle and screen pass ~ J. Robert Schrieffer: Nobel Prize in Physics 1972
Home to four diverse personalities
By Ken Manson
Forest Park Review ~ Wednesday, Aug. 2, 1978, page 21
This Oak Park home once housed David Innes, Carson Napier, John Carter and Lord Greystoke, or as he was known to his simian friends, Tarzan of the Apes.
Actually, only one man lived at the 700 N. Linden address at that time, the creator of these fantasy characters, Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose one-time residence was opened to the public last week for the Oak Park Festival.
Unlike John Carter, who used mental teleportation to get to his fantasy destination of Mars, or David Innes, who used a mechanical mole to get to the inner earth world of Pellucidar, all you needed was a ticket to the garden party to get a glimpse of the Oak Park world of Burroughs.
The Linden Avenue house was one of four Oak Park residences that Burroughs lived in. While living there from 1917 to 1918, he wrote two Tarzan novels and the beginning of the Mars series.
In fact, he supposedly sat looking out his dining room window, towards what is now Augusta Avenue, while composing his stories, some which is said came from his dreams.
Built in 1909, the home remains largely unchanged with the exception of additions of a family room, an additional bathroom and new landscaping.
Miniature animals, looking much like creatures described in Burroughs’ 24 Tarzan novels, line the wall of the den of current owner George Lindstrom, an architect who worked on the background of some of the preserved animal exhibits at the Field Museum. The miniatures, which served as models for the exhibits, were given to Lindstrom by the museum.
Oriental rugs and decor, expensive glassware and sculptures give a general feeling of luxury that Lord Greystoke may have been used to.
The mood changes from Lord Greystoke to his alter-ego Tarzan as you move outside to his Japanese garden. There you encounter large overhanging trees, flower and tock gardens, sun decks, a fountain and a feeling of being in a large greenhouse.
Perhaps best known for writing the Tarzan novels, Burroughs signed the rights for the first Tarzan movie, a silent film starring Elmo Lincoln in 1918, while living in the home. Some 15 actors portrayed Tarzan in movies and television, including Buster Crabbe, Johnny Weismuller and later Ron Ely.
Surprisingly, very few of the movies came from actual Tarzan books. The novel characters of Korak and Nkima were simplified in the movies to Boy and Cheetah.
Burroughs was adept at taking a modern man and transplanting him into a primitive setting along with several barbarian natives and usually a beautiful girl.
To science fiction readers, Burroughs is identified with John Carter’s adventures on Mars, Carson Napier’s voyages to Venus and David Innes’ subterranean Pellucidar trips.
The general public may have seen such films as "At the Earth’s Core," "The Land that Time Forgot" and "The People That Time Forgot" without realizing that the stories came from Burroughs’ novels.
Success didn’t come easily to Burroughs. Born in Chicago in 1875, he failed in many ventures until he turned to writing at age 35, with no previous experience. His first story, "Under the Moons of Mars," was sold to All-Story magazine for $400 in 1912. His pseudonym Normal Bean was changed due to an artist’s error to Norman Bean.
That 65,000-word serial was later published as his first book, A Princess of Mars, by the Chicago book company of A.C. McClurg. That began a string of books, including his third novel, Tarzan of the Apes, that would last until 1947.
Burroughs died in 1950 at his home in Tarzana, California, named after his most famous character, after writing some 60 books, many translated into almost as many languages. He is still remembered through several fan clubs, biographies and reissues of his works.
Related ERBzine References
Museum of Science & Industry:
The only remaining building from the Chicago Columbian Exposition 1893
ERB Mini Book: Tarzan Jr. by Edgar Rice Burroughs
with illustrations by John Coleman Burroughs
The ERB / Oak Park Connection Press Clippings
ERB Bio Chronology
Oak Park Man Honored
Artist J. Allen St. John
ERB Museum in Oak Park
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