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As one of the Three from Thuria, I have decided to give you a rather rambling account of my life among the books. This seems to be a common theme among the other contributors to this journal. Over the next unknown chapters of this journey, not always will the account be in true chronological sequence since my memory retrieval system will jog other memory cells into action, and this will result in a long narrative of disjointed parts. It's been a long journey, with still a way yet to travel. It hasn't been at all easy. I've managed to pursue and acquire a very respectable collection, in spite of some who have disapproved strongly of my way of life.
This journey started in Warren, Ohio, a small city located in the northeast part of that state. My first remembered exposure to Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famous character creation was in 1933. During the summer I received (most likely from my parents) the now rare coloring book Tarzan to Color, with panels reproduced from Hal Foster's illustrated adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes. I still have that book, now autographed by Foster, in my collection, with all of the panels in color. I didn't do all the crayon coloring in 1933, but several years later I found that I still had the book and finished the remaining pages.
Sometime in August or September of 1933, my father returned home from a trip to Chicago, where he had visited the World's Fair. He brought back with him a souvenir for each of the family members. Mine happened to be a tan-colored sweatshirt, with a reproduction of a Foster Tarzan drawing on the front. Opening that package is still vivid in my memory today. I was thrilled at the sight of it, and yet I wasn't a Tarzan fan at that time. I so liked that sweatshirt that I wore it every chance I could. In a few years I outgrew it, and it was ripped and torn, with both elbows gone. But years later, when the collecting madness had finally set in, I found it somewhere, and had it washed. I cut the picture from the front and still have it in a picture frame. Collectors will sometimes go to strange lengths.
I have no idea why my father picked that particular gift for me. He never expressed any feelings about Tarzan and never read any of the Burroughs books. He did see both the daily and Sunday Tarzan comic strips that were being printed in the Cleveland newspapers. We got a copy of the Cleveland newspaper for Sunday at home, and I began reading the Tarzan Sunday page sometime in the middle '30s. My father had the daily Cleveland paper, which published Tarzan, delivered to his downtown office, but not at home. I would seek out back issues and read the Tarzan strip whenever I happened to go down there. The strip wasn't on the comic page, but printed by itself on some other page in that paper. But I didn't save either the Sunday or daily strips at that time.
Two other things happened to me in 1933. I saw the film King of the Jungle, starring Buster Crabbe. I remember seeing the picture but for years I had the mistaken idea that it was a Tarzan movie. It was a long time afterwards that I finally got it sorted out in my mind that it didn't fit into the saga of Tarzan in films.
The other happening of 1933 was that I bought the Big-Little-Book of Tarzan of the Apes and saved it. So, at that time, with the Big-Little-Book and the Hal Foster coloring book, I knew of the early life of Tarzan of the Apes.
I had only a few encounters with Tarzan in the early 1930s. One of my early recollections is that of reading one installment of Tarzan and the Lion Man in Liberty Magazine. I saw that issue in the waiting-room of my dentist, probably early in 1934. Seeing a Tarzan story in a magazine was a puzzlement to me, at that time. For many years after I checked out issues of Liberty Magazine, hoping to find other new Tarzan stories, but of course I never did find any.
For me, the earliest signs of the collecting hobby were with Big-Little-Books. By 1936 I had a small collection of perhaps 20 BLBs, and probably seven of them were Tarzan, plus the Big-Big-Book of The Tarzan Twins, and The New Adventures of Tarzan pop-up book. I had been able to see perhaps three episodes of the movie serial New Adventures of Tarzan, which probably was the first Tarzan film I had seen. I believe that was good one to see first. Herman Brix left a good memory of Tarzan in my mind. I hadn't seen the first two films with Johnny Weissmuller, nor the Buster Crabbe serial.
My parents took me to Cleveland to see the Great Lakes Exposition (similar to the World's Fair) during the summer of 1936, and I made it a point to get to the Billy Rose swimming show that featured Johnny Weissmuller.
I read the Hal Foster Sunday Tarzan page occasionally and some of the Rex Maxon daily strips off and on. In 1936, Tip Top Comics started publishing the reprints of the Sunday Tarzan pages, and I bought a few issues and saved them. By 1936, I was "playing Tarzan" in a wooded area near home. I have a photograph of me (taken in 1936) dressed in some kind of loin cloth I had made, with a knife and bow and arrow, with woods in the background.
But none of this had caused me to become a COLLECTOR! That big event happened in early 1937. One of my friends had received the Grosset and Dunlap edition of Tarzan the Untamed as a Christmas present (in 1936). He lent the book to me to read soon after that. Until then I hadn't seen or heard of the hardcover Tarzan novels. When I read that book, I was convinced that this was the greatest writing I had ever read, and I wanted to read more of the tales of Tarzan. I made a definite decision that I was gong to save the Sunday Tarzan pages. Hal Foster was still doing the pages at that time, but soon after that Burne Hogarth took over.
I saw Tarzan Escapes, probably early in 1937. I remember wishing that there were more of the films available. I checked both the school library and the city library, but no Burroughs' books were stocked in either one.
Since I had no income, it was a very slow process to get books. I had to persuade my parents that the one gift I really wanted for birthdays and Christmas was a Tarzan book. So in June of 1937, I received my first ERB book, Tarzan at the Earth's Core. This was great reading, but somewhat of a puzzle, since I had not heard of Pellucidar before this book.
Another event of 1937 was that I started saving newspaper and magazine clippings about Tarzan and Burroughs. I pasted them in scrapbooks. To this day I am still collecting the Sunday Tarzan pages, and also the clippings. The pile of clippings has overwhelmed me, however. I still have a stack about three feet high that has not been separated into categories and pasted into the different scrapbooks. --- Someday!
I also remember that I rode my bicycle one night to a drive-in movie theater, a couple of miles out of town, to see Jon Hall in The Lion Man, probably in the summer of 1937. I somehow discovered that the movie was adapted from one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' books, but I hadn't read The Lad and the Lion then.
This chapter of my odyssey brings me to 1938. Once again, I remember that because I was too young to drive a car, I rode my bicycle out to a drive-in, a few miles out of town, to see Tarzan and the Green Goddess. Naturally, traffic wasn't nearly as heavy back then. This was the same drive-in where I had gone to see The Lion Man the previous year, and again I wasn't charged to get in. Apparently they didn't get many kids on bicycles going to drive-in movies at night. I guess I expected to see a sequel to the New Adventures serial, but I was pleased to see this part of the serial, since I hadn't been able to see all chapters of New Adventures. The feature version of New Adventures never did play in Warren. Again I was very impressed with Herman Brix in the Tarzan role.
Comics On Parade started publishing in 1938, reproducing the daily Tarzan strips with color added, so these were also added to the collection.
I saw Tarzan's Revenge later that summer, but it played in a downtown theater, so I was able to take a bus to get there. I wasn't very excited with this film, although I was impressed with Glenn Morris throwing a spear with some accuracy. I don't remember anyone before him doing this in the few Tarzan films I had seen.
Very slowly I was building the collection with a few more Tarzan Grosset & Dunlap editions and several Big-Little-Books. I knew of only two stores that carried the Tarzan novels, and I hadn't tried to get them to increase their stock of only a few titles. However, each new one was another exciting adventure to me. I hadn't broadened my interests yet beyond Tarzan into the other worlds of Burroughs.
1939 was a really big year for me. Tarzan Finds A Son showed up at the local downtown theatre in June. I discovered the great world of collecting movie-related material. I was fortunate in finding a very friendly movie theater manager, and received several Press Books, Exploitation Manuals, still pictures, lobby cards, and posters from him. He opened up a whole new field of Tarzan collectibles for me. Ever since then I have collected these types of movie memorabilia as each film was released. In later years I have found dealers in such things, so that I have been able to obtain items from some of the earlier films.
With my family, I would spend much of each summer at a cottage on the shore of Lake Erie. In 1939 I found a large rope that had washed up on the beach, having been lost overboard from one of the large cargo ships that sailed the Great Lakes. It was probably 2 or 2 1/2 inches in diameter, and about 50 feet in length. This was a perfect rope to tie in an upper branch of a tree and create a "vine" swing. I used it in the trees near the cottage and also took it home to use in the "woods" nearby. Several of us boys "played" Tarzan in these woods, and had built a couple of tree huts in the larger trees. So the rope was used for swinging for many years. I guess, until I got too old to "play." Of course, in my case, that came late.
1939 also brought more special items into the collection. You younger readers don't remember, but back in those years, boys would sell magazines from door-to-door every week to earn some money. I had a regular route for The Saturday Evening Post, which at that time was a weekly magazine selling for 5 cents.
The July 19, 1939 issue featured a long article, with several photographs, about Edgar Rice Burroughs titled How to Become a Successful Writer. This was listed on the cover of the magazine. Of course I received my magazines to sell on my route several days before the Wednesday sales date. So, here I had an early look at the article, which had much information about ERB that was new to me. I remember thinking that Burroughs was getting some well-deserved recognition in a major circulation magazine.
Another milestone happened in 1939. I was buying Tip Top Comicseach month to build up the collection of Tarzan Sunday page reprints. In September this comic book published an ad urging Tarzan fans to become members of "The Tarzan Clans of America," and to thus receive a free Tarzan novel. You can believe it didn't take me long to send to Tarzana, California for an application. I returned it with the ten-cent dues, and on October 4th I received all the material for the club. I was member number 100. It was another 25 years before I knew anyone else who was a clan. Apparently the membership didn't get to be very large. The free book I received was Tarzan the Magnificent, inscribed to me by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
This was a great thrill, but it also opened my eyes to "FIRST EDITIONS." This as the first time I had seen a book published by ERB, Inc. I had a lot to learn about the different publishers of Burroughs' books. This was also the first illustration by John Coleman Burroughs I had seen. This was a puzzle to me. I didn't know if different artists were used to illustrate the First Editions and the reprint editions, or if the same illustrators were used in both editions. But I decided I should build up my missing titles with First Editions rather than the reprints from then on, if I could find them.
ODYSSEY OF A TARZAN FANatic
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