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Friday, March 26, 1948 was a landmark day for Burroughs fans everywhere. That was the day that Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. chose to publish Llana of Gathol, the tenth novel of the immortal Mars series, and last first edition published in ERB's lifetime. That same day ERB, Inc. issued twenty-two reprints of the Tarzan, Mars and Venus series, making it the busiest day of their twenty-five year publishing history. Likely, Ed Burroughs selected this date to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his having incorporated himself on March 26, 1923. By lucky happenstance, March 26, 1948 was also the day I was born. A good omen, I've always thought.
Llana of Gathol
I can no longer remember precisely when I first encountered Tarzan, although it was definitely during the mid-1950s; perhaps 1956. That's when I acquired by trade from two neighbor boys my very first Dell Tarzan comic books. What instant treasures these were to an eight year old lad! I vividly recall the beautiful artistic renderings of a wild jungle man, an ape-man named Tarzan, on the covers of my new acquisitions. The comics in question were Dell Tarzan No. 65 from February 1955 featuring "Tarzan and the War of the Dyals," and Dell Tarzan No. 77 from February 1956 containing the unforgettable "Tarzan and the City in the Sands." The latter featured Tarzan borne aloft upon the back of giant eagle named Argus, spying from on high the ruins of an ancient city revealed by the wind's shifting of the hot desert sands, then landing and exploring those mysterious stone ruins! What wide-eyed lad could fail to be mesmerized by this impossible dream scenario? I believe this may be the first Tarzan story I ever read. The book's enthralling front cover showing Tarzan, facing off against a black-coated Sheeta with green glaring eyes is emblazoned upon my memory. Doubtless, it induced me to pick up and read this book first. At any rate that's how I remember it.
Dell Tarzan #77 Feb 1956 :: Dell Tarzan #65 Feb 1955
No. 77contained "Tarzan and the City in the Sands"
Possibly the first Tarzan story I ever read and my favorite Dell Tarzan cover.
In summer of 1956 I was still in full Davy Crockett mode, as I had been since the previous year's release of Walt Disney's televised re-telling of the Crockett saga. It was coonskip caps, fringed "buckskin" jackets and shirts, plastic powder horns and flintlock pistols for countless American boys, myself included. But the fad was short-lived. After all, Davy went down swinging 'Old Betsy' at the Alamo. (I can still visualize Fess Parker as Davy in the Alamo finale singing, "Farewell to the mountains whose mazes to me, are more beautiful, by far, than Eden could be.") But as the real David Crockett allegedly said: "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." This I did with my brand new subscription to Dell's Tarzan comic book. How eagerly I anticipated each monthly issue of my new hero Tarzan, neatly folded down the center and wrapped in a brown paper band stamped with my name and address. How I thrilled to each new Gordon Scott photo cover! How greedily I devoured those wonderful Gaylord DuBois-written, Jesse Marsh-illustrated, stories of weird adventures in exotic lands inhabited by strange beasts and strange men speaking strange languages. They are still my favorites to this day!
The remaining months and years of the idyllic 1950s, and into the 1960s, became the time of Tarzan transcendent in my life. Accompanied by my mother and sister, Vicki, I discovered in a downtown Milwaukee dime store the Whitman Publishing Company abridged editions of Tarzan and the City of Gold and Tarzan and the Forbidden City, which introduced me to the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I loved those books, loved the interior illustrations and beautiful wraparound cover images; mostly I loved Ed's storytelling and his wondrous, awe-inspiring, heroic character --- Tarzan. Soon after came Whitman's Tarzan and the Lost Safari with its exciting Gordon Scott photo cover. I thrilled to this tale too (though not ERB's authorship). The color film of the same name starring the perfectly cast Gordon Scott was the very first Tarzan movie I saw upon the big screen. This cinematic experience intensified even more my growing love of all things Tarzan. Sometime in the late '50s/early '60s a local Milwaukee television station began showing re-runs of the many great black and white Tarzan films of decades past. Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker, Buster Crabbe, Herman Brix. I can't remember at what age I first saw the original 1932 "Tarzan the Ape-Man" but I was quite young and the film enthralled me. I was hypnotized by those incredible vine-swinging sequences and Johnny's Tarzan yell. The Sunday Milwaukee Journal published a weekly TV Screen booklet which I eagerly scanned to locate the title of any upcoming Tarzan movie. My pulse leaped each time my eyes spotted the name "Tarzan." The films were broadcast every Saturday afternoon, I recall, and I rarely if ever missed a screening. I'm sure I watched each of these black and white classics many times over, often with friends. What fun! It was Tarzan, after all. We loved it!
The most pivotal event of my young life, however, occurred when I was somewhere between the ages of 9 and 11. My mother, who was Director of Nurses at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Center, came home from work one day and presented me with a half-dozen old hard bound Tarzan books. The books, all library discards from her place of employment, Included the first five Tarzan titles plus Tarzan and the Ant Men, mostly red cloth Grosset & Dunlaps and a couple of gray/green cloth A.L. Burts. I immediately fell in love with these beautiful books, the first full-length Tarzan novels I'd ever seen. The G&D Tarzan of the Apes offered my first ever view of the iconic Fred J. Arting Tarzan-in-silhouette frontispiece. The Burt editions of Beasts and Son of Tarzan forever enhanced my visions of Tarzan's Africa through the skillful artistry of J. Allen St. John. St. John's Ant Men frontispiece, "Tarzan goes to battle with the Ant Men," in particular, seemed to possess a kind of magical, dream-like quality that fascinated me. Though well worn and jacketless, these pre-War Tarzans immediately occupied a place of honor in my bed's headboard bookcase. There by lamplight I admired the covers with their beautifully designed lettering, pored over stunning illustrations, thrilled to chapter titles, scanned passages here and there, became enamored of the scent and feel of old paper. Then I read them and was hooked for life.
Photo of my mother with my sister Vicki holding our dog "Joey," and me about age 9
when I was starting to read some of the ERB books Mom had given me.
Dad took this photo at Rib Mountain State Park, Wausau, Wisconsin, one of our favorite destinations.
My mother became chief provider. She gradually obtained a full set of the Grosset & Dunlap Tarzan titles in the 1950s Books for Boys and Girls series with the gorgeous C. E. Monroe dust jackets. I can remember hearing her ordering these books by telephone from the book departments of large department stores, Gimbel's and Shuster's. I usually received these as birthday and Christmas presents. Mother also sought out other titles which she found at a downtown Milwaukee bookstore called Des Forges Books. From this source came some of the 1948 ERB, Inc. Tarzan reprints such as Tarzan the Invincible, Tarzan Triumphant, and Tarzan and the City of Gold, as well as a first edition of Tarzan and the Foreign Legion. Also from Des Forges came some of the early Canaveral editions of ERB's Pellucidar series. My introduction to Pellucidar was through Canaveral Press. I remember loving the books but finding the Mahlon Blaine illustrations a bit off-putting. Today I find they possess a certain nostalgic charm.
Me on on my 9th birthday, March 26, 1957, with brand new Fort Apache playset by Louis B. Marx Toy Company.
At this time I was already a big Tarzan fan having read the Whitman abridged editions of "City of Gold" and "Forbidden City"
as well as my monthly issues of Dell Tarzan comics which I loved.
Kids in the 1950s and 1960s, especially boys, were lucky to be children during the heyday of the wonderful playsets produced by the Louis B. Marx Toy Company and others. I was fortunate to have several Marx playsets including Robin Hood Castle, Roy Rogers Ranch, Davy Crockett at the Alamo, Zorro, Fort Apache, Rifleman Ranch, etc. These boys' playsets provided countless hours of imaginative fun and stimulation. I always thought it a pity that the Marx Toy Company and ERB, Inc. never struck up a deal to produce a Tarzan Playset. Can you imagine what a splendid toy such a playset would have been? I would have been certain to own one or two! As a youth I often played Tarzan outdoors, climbing and swinging around in the willow trees my father had planted amongst other trees and shrubs in our pleasant front yard at 4466 No. Lovers Lane Rd. Indoors, I had frequent fights with a particularly tough pillow I'd named "Buto." (I always won.) My father, Frank L. Puncer, was a real-life Tarzan role model. A Milwaukee County deputy sheriff, Dad was a champion weight-lifter, body builder, swimmer, runner, handball player and all around athlete. He radiated confidence and fearlessness. Our family was always safe with Dad around. Thanks for being 'Tarzan,' Dad!
1. Dad was a weight lifter, runner, swimmer, handball player and all around athlete.
A Tarzan role model for me.
2. Frank L. and Evelyn Puncer, my folks, circa 1940s.
3. Dad was career lawman with Milwaukee County Police Dept.
Photo circa 1940s.
In the early 1960s an article appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Green Sheet concerning a "surprise in the safe" at Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. of Tarzana, California. It featured a photograph of Hulbert Burroughs holding some unpublished papers and manuscripts left by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the company treasure vaults. Tarzan, Mars and other tales that had never seen print. This was very exciting news to all Burroughs fans! I seem to recall this article (or some other Tarzan related article of this time period) included the name of ERB fan Vernell Coriell and his location in Kansas City. This was the first I had heard of organized fandom and I eagerly sent off a letter to Vern requesting to join The Burroughs Bibliophiles and receive The Burroughs Bulletin. Unfortunately, my letter was returned by the Postal Service stamped "Insufficient Address." Seems I'd neglected to provide a street address. I swallowed my disappointment and determined to try again in the future.
The Ace and Ballantine paperback explosion changed everything. Being somewhat older and more independent by this time, I was capable of finding and purchasing my own copies of ERB books; titles I'd read and many more that I hadn't, with wildly attractive new covers to boot! When I was 14 and 15 my idea of a fine time was to walk a mile to catch a city bus that took me to downtown Milwaukee's Wisconsin Avenue, home of two great used and rare bookstores: Renaissance Books and Schroeder's Used Books. I haunted both of these establishments regularly for several years, sometimes even on school nights. There I found first editions of "Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar" for $5 and "Swords of Mars" for a hefty $7.50. I also added to my collection of early ERB hardcover reprints, including a Burroughs western, "The War Chief." During this period I read and collected some Zane Grey, Charles Alden Seltzer, and others. But Edgar Rice Burroughs was always number one. I truly loved downtown Milwaukee back then. There were movie theaters galore, a Buddy Squirrel nut shop, White Castle hamburgers, a military surplus store. Near to my favorite used bookstores, there was an old fashioned A-frame sidewalk newstand owned by a pair of cigar-smoking midgets hawking a huge selection of print material of all genres. This newstand seemed to be a holdover from the 1930s and '40s; I found many early monster magazines and comic books there.
High school came and went. An unsatisfactory year in college. I was young, adventurous, I wanted to see the world. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1967; and circumnavigated the globe in 1968 aboard the aircraft carrier USS America (CVA-66), with several lengthy stopovers in the Gulf of Tonkin. Ports of call included Rio de Janeiro, Subic Bay, Philippines; Hong Kong, BCC; Yokosuka, Japan; Sydney, Australia; and Wellington, New Zealand, (with side trips to Manila and Tokyo). In January of 1970 I was a sailor aboard the amphibious cargo ship USS Yancey (LKA-93) when the ship dragged anchor during a blinding winter storm and smashed through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Norfolk, VA, knocking 400 feet of the bridge to the bottom of Chesapeake Bay. We nearly capsized. Miraculously there were no casualties on either ship or bridge. The Yancey went on to make it's final cruise to the Mediterranean in summer 1970 with stops in Spain, France, Italy and Greece. This rounded out my travels nicely.
Separated from the navy in 1971, I was dead set on two goals: completing college and becoming an active ERB fan. In August of 1971 I subscribed to both The Burroughs Bulletin and ERB-dom fanzines. I loved them both but Vern's Bulletin was quite irregularly issued. Caz's ERB-dom, on the other hand, was a johnny-on-the-spot monthly publication and it quickly became my favorite. My first ERB-dom was the digest-size issue #48 with a beautiful Tarzan cover by Neal MacDonald, Jr. It contained an article on Tarzan as featured in Tip-Top Comics which I had never heard of. It also had a central ad section with all kinds of fascinating ads and fan information. This issue with it's great Tarzan art by MacDonald captivated me. It's still my favorite single issue of ERB-dom to this day. Regular monthly ERB-dom issues became my most eagerly awaited mail throughout my college days. (English literature and Western philosophy should be leavened with frequent doses of Edgar Rice Burroughs; I highly recommend it!)
The digest-sized ERB-dom #48 with the great Neal MacDonald, Jr. Tarzan cover
was the first issue I received after leaving the navy in August 1971.
It is still my favorite issue of ERB-dom because it was my first and because
I absolutely love that gorgeous Tarzan illo by MacDonald.
It was via a classified ad in ERB-dom that I first came into contact with Canadian collector Joe Lukes in autumn of 1971. Sharing similar traits of admiring and avidly collecting ERB books we soon struck up a lively and pleasant correspondence, and receiving Joe's letters became a thrill equal to receiving my monthly ERB-dom fanzine. These were great days of reading ERB material I had somehow missed in the past, plus re-reading old favorites, as well as new tales published for the first time by Canaveral Press. A major goal of both Joe and I was to put together a complete set of ERB first editions -- with as many in original dustjackets as possible, naturally! When Caz advertised that he had a complete set of ERB first editions "many in their original jackets" for sale in spring of 1972, Joe and I agreed to come up with the hefty sum of $2,000 dollars to make it happen. We would split the cost, and the books, right down the middle. Somehow, I came up with my half of this small fortune and in June 1972 took off on a road trip that would take me cross-country to the dream destination of the offices of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc, in Tarzana CA, and later on the return journey, to Caz's home on the top of a beautiful tree covered hill in Evergreen CO.
1. Here are some of the first editions I purchased from Caz in June 1972.
Part of a complete set of ERB first editions which Joe Lukes and I went halves on.
Total price for the collection was $2,000. Joe and I were quite happy with our purchase!
2. My early collection is shaping up with books from the complete set of first editions
which Joe Lukes and I purchased from Caz in 1972.
Upon arriving in Tarzana I phoned the offices of ERB, Inc. and asked to speak with Mr. Hulbert Burroughs. I asked if it would be possible to stop by for a visit and was excited to hear that, yes, my friend and I would be welcome to stop by that very same day! Within an hour I found myself inside of Hulbert's office where he graciously allowed us to view original paintings and peruse the many shelves of legendary books. Our visit was brief, a half-hour perhaps, but I'll never forget the kind and gracious manner of Hulbert and how he generously showed me, a stranger, his personal first editon copy of Tarzan of the Apes in dustjacket and posed for a photo with me holding his priceless treasure. Thank you again, Hully, very much!
PART III: Photos and Links
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