This being my first contribution to ERB-APA, I understand that the usual practice is to write a fan autobiography. Talking or writing about yourself is supposed to be tough since we're all naturally modest people and I am as modest as most people. However, when it comes to writing about my love for Edgar Rice Burroughs and his works, it's not only tough to be modest about doing it, it's going to be hard to stop!
The Earliest Days
I was born in 1949, now too many years ago; sixty beckons, alas. Except for a few periods elsewhere, I have lived most of my life in Dayton, Ohio. My parents met in Panama during WWII. Dad, from Hillsboro, Ohio, was a young artillery captain and my mother, from Atlanta, Georgia, was a young girl experiencing an adventure, working in the Canal Zone and holding a job formerly occupied by someone who had been shipped out into the Pacific theatre. They married as the war ended and afterwards Dad finished college (with degrees from Wilmington College and Ohio State) and became a school teacher; and my Mom then had me and my brother, Tom, soon after.
My parents then lived in an apartment in a Dayton suburb near a wonderful sort of early convenience store. Early on, I was taken over there with them to pick up some necessary item and each time I entered the store, I was pulled past this rack of incredibly wonderful looking things, magazines with bright shiny covers featuring pictures of walking and talking mice, ducks, rabbits, pigs and people, people in red and blue or black and grey or other multi-colored suits; they were comic books. I was entranced by them but the clincher became when we got our first TV and on came this program featuring a flying man, a man faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive; yes, it was Superman, strange being from another planet. I was immediately hooked on that TV show and when I found that he was also a character in one of those comic books, I knew had to have them. After I got over the shock of realizing that I couldn't read them myself, I wanted desperately to learn to do that too. From this intense desire to learn to read those things was born my passion for reading, something I have to this day.
After the first grade, as I became a fledgling reader, I slowly became able to read comics for myself and by the middle of the second grade was begging for comic books and other children's fare. I loved a lot of the "funny animal" stuff (Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, Uncle Scrooge, etc.) but always, from the earliest days, my first love was Superman. I soon discovered the rest of the Superman publications: Action, Adventure, Jimmy Olsen, Superboy, Lois Lane and World's Finest, which led to Batman. I became known around the neighborhood as "the boy with all the comics", my fame often preceded me when I met friends' mothers.
One of my new friends, made after we'd moved to a new house in a development in Dayton's suburb of Kettering, was Charly Kagay. In fact, he and I became friends the very day he moved into his new house, and we're still friends to this day, more than fifty years later. We discovered that we both loved to read and began the practice of sharing and competing with one another to acquire, first, the biggest comic book releases of the day. As we grew old enough, this included riding our bikes to a distant shopping center where more comics could be found.
1960 and I Discover ERB
Charly and I had by 1960 become science fiction fans too, reading juvenile titles by Heinlein, Del Rey and others, as well as Jules Verne and the many books in my local library, which I used often. But also in 1960, a new twitch entered into our reading habits at almost the same time, while I was still in the fifth grade. It was Tarzan, introduced to me by my father. I obviously enjoyed reading and my dad, who himself had had a taste for adventure stories in his youth, mused one day that, "Maybe you're about ready to read some of my Tarzan books?" Who's Tarzan? I asked. He then gave me a short description of Tarzan and his origin and said he had some of these books in his old room at his mother's (i.e., my grandmother's) house. He said he'd bring some home when he next visited her (later that week). OK, I said, not realizing either what I was to encounter or what it would do to me!
He brought home an early G&D edition of Tarzan of the Apes; a wartime Tarzan the Untamed, still with its dust jacket; and one other early title (I forget which one, maybe The Return of Tarzan)—three in all. The St. John art alone on that jacket of Tarzan the Untamed was riveting to me and to this day, St. John is still my idea of an ERB artist; Frazetta and Krenkel are OK, at times, but St. John defined the whole thing for me forever after.
I quickly started in on Tarzan of the Apes. I was only eleven and Burroughs' early style was a little hard for me at first (I still recall being initially baffled by his frequent use of "former" and "latter" and by ERB's occasional archaic words (e.g., dived instead of dove, and the like) but knew somehow that it was just the way of an earlier time.
I was also a little wearied by the first couple of chapters of Tarzan of the Apes and wondered to myself: Where was the jungle? Where was Tarzan? Then, suddenly, Kerchak and Kala and the rest made their appearances, the early establishing sequence of ocean voyage and mutiny was over and Tarzan was born. I read the thing through to the end and was thoroughly hooked. I even took Tarzan the Untamed to school to show it off to friends, all of whom ooh'ed and ah'ed at the jacket art. As much as my friends were impressed, for some reason, when I suggested a Tarzan book for reading in class, however, my teacher was less sanguine about the apeman than we were. "Oh, no, I don't want to get into one of those,” she said with no little venom, something I was to encounter from teachers for years afterwards (and some dubious friends to this day)…
So, I went to Dad and asked him to bring the rest of his Tarzan collection home for me. He did, and the thirteen titles he had collected years earlier (Tarzan of the Apes through Tarzan and the Lost Empire in series, along with Tarzan’s Quest, out of series) became the nucleus of my own collection to come. All but Tarzan's Quest were in red G&D editions; although two were wartime G&D editions. Quest was in a blue bound edition that had this curious title page with Burroughs' name on it twice, once as the author and again as something called ERB, Inc. in a place called Tarzana, California. It was three years or more before I learned what all of that meant and that I had become heir to a first edition.
Naturally, I introduced Charly to Tarzan too, and we slowly made our way through those thirteen books, one after the other. It was a task that took me through to late 1961 when I read the last one I had, Tarzan's Quest, with a mixture of the usual eagerness I had for starting each of those books and the sad knowledge that I owned no more. Our usually reliable library had no Tarzan books whatever and in 1961, I could find no more of them anywhere, although I knew that others existed, some were listed in Tarzan’s Quest with such enticing titles as Tarzan At the Earth's Core, Tarzan the Invincible, Tarzan Triumphant, etc., etc. God, how I wanted to read them… But that would have to wait; in 1961 they were as unobtainable to me as were moon rocks.
1961 and a Relevant Detour
In 1961 two new things happened. There was a new addition to our small circle when Gary Schauer moved into the neighborhood, right behind Charly. He too, we found, was a comic book reader and we three enjoyed now mocking the comics almost as much as we enjoyed reading them.
The other event was the start of the "Shock Theater", a weekly broadcast of one of the Universal Pictures horror movies of the thirties, "Frankenstein", "The Wolfman", "The Mummy", "Dracula", etc. At the same time we also discovered Famous Monsters of the Filmland, the magazine edited by Forrest J. Ackerman (whom at the time I did not know was a big ERB fan). A truly great weekend consisted of the three of us gathering at one of our homes, watching one of these old movies ("Bride of Frankenstein" was probably the highlight of the year), discussing and arguing about what we’d seen and eating a frozen pizza washed down with Coca Cola. We called our three-some The League of Horrors and Evils (LOHAE for short, remember that name). Those were memorable times.
And bear with me on this as it does eventually relate to ERB…
1962 and Baa-Boom!
We all know what happen in 1962; the Burroughs boom began. It caught me totally by surprise in September. Burroughs and Tarzan, whom I'd begun to forget, were suddenly there in my drug store on the paperback rack, At the Earth's Core and The Moon Maid with Krenkel covers… I was on my way to school after lunch and stopped in there to look around with no particular idea of what I was looking for, it was just something to do on the way to school. And there they were, titles I had seen in the ads in my Dad's old G&D Tarzan books but of which I was frankly otherwise completely ignorant. I was immediately taken with the cover of At the Earth's Core: cave men waving to cave men riding on dinosaurs. The Moon Maid and that centaur character (since shown to be inaccurate, of course) grabbed me too. I knew I had to have these things, as soon as possible.
They were forty cents each, as any school boy of the era knows, and that was more money than I had in my pocket that afternoon. So, I had to wait and calculate. That Saturday I made an excuse to go with my parents when they went to the shopping center for the weekly grocery run, something I usually avoided. Then I begged for money, "Puh-leeeeeeeeeeeeeease…" and off I went to that drug store, fearing the books had been sold by this time. Fortunately they were still there and I bought them.
That was a bright sunny Saturday morning in September. I should have been playing outside but instead after lunch I retreated to my room to look at my purchases and just read a little bit of At the Earth's Core, whose title and art intrigued me more than The Moon Maid. Several hours later I finished and closed the book, having read it all in one sitting. The next day, after church, I did the same with The Moon Maid; I read it in one sitting. I had loved Tarzan and wished to read more of his stories but here was something from the same author and I was just as swept away by these books as I had ever been by Tarzan. This was a great discovery and it's still true to this day.
Naturally, I got Charly and Gary going on them. Charly was easier to get turned onto the new editions, Gary was harder since at that time he'd not read any of the Tarzan books. But by dint of my personality and Charly’s and my persuasion, he too became an ardent Burroughs fan. We began to make monthly trips to downtown Dayton (more book stores, more fun things to get into) to scout for the latest Ace editions. Aces were distinctive and so in early January, after we'd read two Mars books, several Pellucidar books and the Moon books, you can imagine my surprise when I noticed something right beside the latest Ace books (including a Tarzan book I'd never read! Tarzan at the Earth's Core). A taller book, it was an edition of A Princess of Mars from a different publisher! We just about flipped out! I knew of the title by that time and had read of Carthoris and Thuvia, Tara and Gahan, but was still ignorant of this John Carter guy. Now I would know, and was I ever staggered by the experience! I just had to have more and did, as they appeared over the next year.
1963 and I First Become a Publisher
Macabre #1 ~ May-June, 1963
Macabre #3 ~ Sep-Oct, 1963
Remember, I'd mentioned Famous Monsters? You DID read that part, right? Well, it seems that the letters section of Famous Monsters featured many long answers by Forry. He talked of things he sold, he mentioned movies and he made frequent use of an odd term, "fanzine", a word I'd never seen before. He even urged us out there to start our own fanzines; it became something of a commandment at the time. Of course, a “fanzine” is a fan-magazine and once we learned this we became very intrigued. We'd also begun to inhabit the reference section of the library to try to learn more about these old movies than even the monster magazines of the day described. So, we were becoming pretty knowledgeable about them and wanted to share our growing knowledge. There were also lots of kids in the neighborhood who liked the same thing. One thing led to another and we decided we just HAD to make our own fanzine. The key roadblock was just how to print it. Once it dawned upon me that my father, a school teacher, might be willing to run it off on the school's spirit duplicator (Remember those blue quizzes we used to get? Can you still smell that duplicator fluid of a freshly printed quiz?). Well, I asked him, and he said, well, OK… And off we went (shrieking) to write our articles.
We called the new fanzine Macabre. I was the publisher (my dad was only the printer, I guess). Charly was the editor and Gary was the art director. We were all staff writers and we were all production assistants, typists, critics and (especially) opinionated boys. Our articles were mostly about monster and science fiction movies and their stars but, by this time something else (the Burroughs Boom) had swept into our lives, and we did feature articles about Edgar Rice Burroughs, too.
Ultimately we did seven bimonthly issues from May, 1963 through May, 1964. It was 5.5 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall, each page folded once and inserted together. As we went we got better and we got bigger (more pages) and we learned a lot. The first three issues were eight pages; the next two were twelve pages; the last two were sixteen pages. My dad was sick of it in no time. We learned to lay out each issue so that it came together, properly collated, once printed. We typed each word ourselves, laboriously, hunt and peck style. We scouted around and found that there were stencil colors other than blue which we bought and used to make sure we had a "Cover Now in Color". We made up contests and secret codes and sold back issues. And we had fun. We were only about fourteen, so the writing reflects that. The art wasn't much either, Gary wasn't bad but he wasn't trained and it shows. What we got out of this, besides a lot of fun, was experience, experience we'd put to further use later, as you’ll see.
1964 Cincinnati and Chuck and Jerry
Actually, this part of the story began in late 1963. We'd bought every Ace and Ballantine edition as they appeared. By late 1963, that meant I had all of the original ten Mars books, all but four Tarzan books (the last batch didn't come from Ballantine until Spring of 1964), all of the Pellucidar series but for Land of Terror, all of the Venus series but for Escape on Venus and lacked a few of the miscellaneous books. It was becoming a good collection of ERB's works in terms of the content but still had holes, big gaping holes to me at the time. I'd also tapped out all of the book stores in town, used and new, and the library. So, when my mother offered me a chance to go with her to distant Cincinnati (fifty five miles away) one Saturday afternoon in early December, 1963, I jumped at the chance and invited Charly to go with me. We'd go on a "book crawl" as soon as we got there.
Our plan was to find a phone booth, look in the booth's phone book and check the yellow pages for used book stores downtown and then walk to every one of them. I just knew that in a city that was twice the size of my own, there would be book stores on every corner, all stuffed with Burroughs titles I needed. Well, we got there, looked up the book stores and found just three that were downtown within walking distance. They were called Acres of Books, the Ohio Book Store and Neville's Antiques and Books. We found Acres of Books right away but to our chagrin, there wasn't much there, mostly the usual early G&D Tarzan titles, but we did see a few other things: unrecognizable dark green Tarzan books published by some other outfit called A. L. Burt and some grotesquely illustrated (by Mahlon Blaine, of course) newer books from something called Canaveral Press. Not too auspicious a start for what would become one of my favorite used book stores.
The Ohio Book store wasn't too much better and when we decided to try Neville's (which we pronounced NEE-vull's at the time) we didn't have too much hope. Fortunately, we were wrong. We asked for and found the Burroughs titles and saw that they too had the usual Tarzan titles when somehow, we thought to look in back of them. I don't recall why we did but it was a good idea, for behind those Tarzan titles were two other books, The Bandit of Hell's Bend and The Cave Girl, neither of which were to be seen in paperback until much later and neither of which we'd ever seen before. As I recall, we got them both for about $2.00 apiece… I cannot describe the euphoria we felt then; it was palpable and I can still feel it, a little, to this day. It was indeed a memorable experience.
In the summer of 1964 we tried to repeat that experience during Summer break and went back to Cincy (as a lot of people in SW Ohio called Cincinnati) a second time. This time we bought Greyhound bus tickets and rode to Cincy on a slow bus that stopped in most of the small towns that lay between there and Dayton; the normally one hour drive took two hours on the bus but we didn't much care, we were going to Cincy where we'd be sure to find more scarce treasures.
This second time I wasn't so quite so lucky. No new, previously unread titles were found but I did find a nice book for my collection, a first edition of Escape on Venus that I found in Acres of Books; I still have it to this day. The whole experience was very pleasing and called for another trip to the Queen City (as Cincinnati is also called). That third trip would become quite memorable too although we'd not find any books for our collection, instead we found lifelong friends. Our meeting has become slightly famous and told over and over again from other people's recollections. What follows is my own recollection.
It was now Christmas break of December, 1964. Charly and I once again had itchy feet and a burning desire to return to Cincinnati for another Burroughs quest. So, once again, we bought Greyhound bus tickets, using our Christmas money (it was only $4.00 to go from Dayton to Cincinnati, round trip). Once again we hit the same stores, which by now were getting to be familiar to us. When we got to Acres of books, we headed upstairs to the second floor where the Burroughs titles could be found. Sadly, we didn't see much there that interested us and we started to look around for books by other writers we liked when in walked two other guys, each about our age (I was fifteen, Charly was fourteen). They glanced at us and then crouched down right in FRONT of the ERB titles! We looked at each other and were a little too shy to say anything so I tried to get something going by loudly saying stuff like, "maybe we can find something by OTIS ADELBERT KLINE since we don't need any of those BURROUGHS titles". And, "let’s look for RALPH MILNE FARLEY and H. G. WELLS". No dice, they didn't take the bait. Then Charly finally said, as one of them was looking over a Burroughs title (forget which), "That looks like a good buy." And, suddenly, there was this explosion of nervous, excited chatter: "We’re Burroughs fans, are you fans too?" "Yeah, yeah, we're fans." "Are you in the Burroughs Bibliophiles?" "Yeah, we're in the Burroughs Bibliophiles!" "Here’s my card!" "Here’s my card!" "Here’s mine!" It was obvious that we weren't alone!
We talked and talked about our interests, our collections and each other and found that we had much in common. Their names were Chuck Pogue and Jerry Toner and they lived just across the Ohio River in Northern Kentucky in the suburb of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, named for an old army post from the 1790's. We four had lunch together and took down each other's addresses. When we got home we almost immediately sat down and wrote them a letter that began a long correspondence that lasted until we all headed off to college several years later.
1965 and We Meet Again
We exchanged letters all winter talking about what we were reading, newly received issues of ERB-dom and news from their ERB pen pal named Paul Allen, then a college student at the University of New York at Geneseo. We made plans for another meeting during our mutual Spring breaks and we had another idea, one based upon Charly's and my previous experience with producing a fanzine; we'd do a Burroughs fanzine to compete alongside those done by the big boys: The Burroughs Bulletin, ERB-dom and Erbania. That Spring meeting was intended to formalize our plans and come up with a name for it.
The plans were easy to make, we knew a lot already about the production end of it although we planned to do it better than the cruddy looking Macabre had been produced. We would have a photo offset cover, mimeographed text and a few dittoed pages of art. The name was harder to come up with, however, and we brainstormed all afternoon trying to come up with a suitable name to no avail. Then, suddenly, Charly said, "How about calling it The Long Sword?" It was so obviously a good name that we just shrieked, "That’s IT!" all practically in unison…
I started corresponding with Paul Allen too and found that he was also planning to produce a fanzine, one he was calling The Barsoomian. He’d actually gotten title for his fanzine from its previous publishers and was reviving it after years of dormancy; although his first, it would be The Barsoomian’s eighth issue. Paul gave us a lot of good advice and critiqued our plans. He help was invaluable. He also introduced me to a third fanzine publisher, Dave Kohr of Philadelphia, who produced the Amtorian and was readying his second issue. I regularly corresponded with them both for several years afterwards.
And so, we all, Dick and Charly, Chuck and Jerry, Dave and Paul, corresponded and set about creating our respective fanzines including The Long Sword.*
* The further adventures of Dick "Joog" Spargur, and what became of his noble fanzine, The Long Sword, will be told in ERBzine 2802.
PART I | PART II
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