Thandarís Dum-Dum Memories
My name is Ken Fuchs and I am a retired high school English teacher in Temple, Texas. Iíve been a Burroughs fan since discovering my first Tarzan novel in 1955. Iíve been following the activities and events of the various Dum-Dums since the two online ERB bulletin boards began years ago. Each year I have read all of the descriptions and viewed the many pictures that were posted, especially in the many issues of ERB-zine, but actually having the experience of attending one seemed out of reach since they are usually held after the beginning of the school year in Texas and also they are usually held far from Texas. In 1999, 2000, and 2001 I did attend Bruce "Tangor" Bozarthís ERB-Wakes at his home in Houston and finally got to meet face to face some other fellow Texans who are ERB fans.
The year 2002 was a landmark for Texans who love ERB because Brad Vinson hosted the Dum-Dum at College Station, just seventy-five miles from my home. I had retired in 2000, but this was the first feasible opportunity for me to attend a Dum-Dum. When I arrived at the hotel and was walking across the parking lot, a familiar voice called my name. It was Waldo, Bob Hibbard, whom I had met the year before in Houston. Since he is Waldo and I am Thandar (before and after), we had hit it off from that first meeting. Inside the Hilton, we gathered in the lounge and I started spotting "familiar faces" I had seen on the websites. There was Tarak, and Pete Ogden, and Mike Conran.
Over the next two days I felt like part of a large family and enjoyed every moment of the Dum-Dum. For me the visit to Brad Vinsonís home was as memorable as a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for the walls in every room of his home are covered with familiar paintings and drawings by Schoonover and St. John and other artists and illustrators of ERBís works which I had seen on book covers, in books, and online. To see all those originals was absolutely breathtaking. When I left College Station after saying good-bye to so many new friends, I knew I had just experienced one of the most memorable weekends of my life.
Earlier this year I went on three extended trips and a trip to Louisville, KY just did not seem possible. But when I received an e-mail from Bob Hibbard inviting me to drive up to Louisville with him, needless to say, I accepted immediately. Bob lives in Winnsboro, a lovely town surrounded by woods and lakes in northeast Texas, about 225 from Temple. As soon as I arrived at his house Wednesday afternoon, Bob proudly showed me part of his ERB collection. He has many signed photographs and books and collectibles displayed in a corner of his living room. He then showed me his Dum-Dum projects. Last year he had made hand-tooled leather name badges for all the attendees, and this year he made personalized bricks for everyone who had responded to his e-mail inquiry. There were bricks for the "Dum-Dum Ladies," too. I felt special because he had made two bricks for me, one inscribed "Thandar" and the other inscribed with my last name. There were also about 65 smaller bricks with the ERB Do-Dad logo inscribed on them. We carefully loaded all of these treasures in the trunk of his car.
We left Winnsboro at six A.M. on Thursday and had a very pleasant drive to Mayfield, KY, where we spent the night at a Super 8 Motel. Early Friday morning we left Mayfield and were in Louisville by 11. After parking in the basement garage at the Galt House, we checked in at the main desk and then rushed upstairs to the conference room on the second floor. There was our guru George McWhorter at the door. He welcomed us and gave us our T-shirts and tote-bags. As we walked inside the large room, much larger than the one in College Station, I immediately began recognizing familiar faces. Steve "Ghak" Wadding was just inside the door. I said hello and looked behind him. There was Denny Miller.
I went over and introduced myself. I had read that he is very outgoing and a "good guy," and he was as down to earth and approachable as anyone Iíve ever met. I had actually seen Dennyís Tarzan film several times when it was first released and had also seen all of his appearances on "Wagon Train." He enjoyed talking about his "Wagon Train" days and the other people on the show. He mentioned Ward Bondís replacement John McIntire and was surprised when I immediately identified John McIntireís wife Jeanette Nolan (Dirty Sally on "Gunsmoke") and linked her to Tarzan. She was Magra on the radio serial "Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher" in the 1930s.
I was particularly delighted to meet Dr. Bob Zeuschner and his wife. We had exchanged a couple of e-mails in the past, but I donít think he knew who I was until then. I had bought Dr. Bobís book when it first came out (the first edition, I later learned), and now I finally got the dust jacket for it.
The visit to the Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville was another dream come true. For any ERB fan, this is like a trip to the Library of Congress. Before seeing Georgeís collection, I walked into the theater where the Burroughs Family home movies were being shown. The first images I saw were scenes of a wrestling match, and there was no question who that bald referee was. What a thrill it was! And since one of my real loves is silent films, it was fun and delightful to see ERB and his sons enacting a "mellerdrama" with Hully portraying the damsel in distress. The color footage of the battle scenes shot by Hully were as exciting as anything shown on The History Channel, and seeing the footage of Bob Hope in color entertaining the troops was quite moving since we have all recently lost this beloved national treasure.
The large display room in the library is beautifully laid out with different thematic collections in various glass cases. Again, there were some familiar illustrations to be admired, most notably one of my favorites from The Beasts of Tarzan. At the back of the room were Boris Vallejo and his wife Julie Bell, cheerfully signing autographs and posing for pictures with their fans. Only later did I discover that she was from my hometown of Beaumont, TX, but to my regret I never talked to her. The main part of Georgeís collection is in stacks in a fairly small room, but due to the large numbers of visitors, only eight people were allowed in there at a time. I stood in awe as I saw row after row of boxed collections and books and videos. One highlight of that collection for us is a large, very beautiful leather book cover bearing the original dust jacket illustration of Tarzan of the Apes which Bob Hibbard had made and donated to the Library. He described it and one of the women workers got it out and handed it to Bob. He was showing it to some of the visitors when George walked into the room. "That was made by a fan from Texas," he announced. Bob beamed and said that he was that fan.
A few minutes later we heard the unmistakable sound of the ape call. George was calling the session to order and introduced some of the library staff who had made the reception possible. Meanwhile, Bob got us an invitation to join the Burroughs family members and others for dinner at a popular local restaurant near the University. We arrived at the restaurant ahead of the main group and were seated at a table with Wayne and Kat James, whom we had met last year. We were joined by a charming couple from Austria, Walter and Veronika Taucer. Walter is Italian, and he has loved Tarzan and Burroughs since he was a child. At the banquet Saturday evening they sat at the head table and were recognized for having traveled the farthest to attend the Dum-Dum. Bob is also a professional actor and has appeared in a number of movies. He kept us all entertained with his multi-lingual chatting with Walter.
Soon the rest of the party entered the restaurant, which was a noisy sports bar/bistro with live music. Bill and Sue-On Hillman, Jim and Linda Thompson, Dick and Ginny Spargur, and Rob Greer all sat at a separate table with Danton Burroughs, Mary Burroughs and her daughter Stacy. I was a bit disappointed at first, but the conversation at our table was delightful and we all had a good time. I soon got up and began taking pictures, and a few minutes later Sue-On got up and we engaged in dueling cameras. I had not met her yet, and when our food arrived first, she came over and checked out what each of us had ordered. Unfortunately, there was some mix up in the kitchen, and she didnít get her dinner until about ninety minutes later. In the meantime, when the jazz musicians took a break, we all moved over to a table closer to the larger group, and Sue-On came over and entertained us all. What a great personality! She is one of those people who never meets a stranger and she had us all in stitches. I asked her when Bill found time to make all of those ERB-zine pages, and she said he does them when she goes to bed. Now I just canít imagine how he ever finds the time!
Before the group departed, Bob and I went out to his car and got the bricks to distribute to the folks in the restaurant. Danton was especially impressed, and Bob discovered that Danton collects bricks. As a result, he invited us to visit him Saturday morning. Bob and I went up to his room promptly at 9 the next morning. Danton greeted us and promptly showed us some of his newest acquisitions. He was supposed to have talked to the group at the library when the home movies were being shown, but there was a delay and Bill Hillman winged it with narration for the films. Danton explained to us that he had been to a large flea market. He had purchased some lovely books and about a dozen beautiful old pocket watches, which he also collects. After showing them to us, he then showed us a large stack of photographs, drawings, cartoons, letters, and other works by or about his grandfather. Bob and I truly felt special that we got this private showing since these are materials that have not been seen by the public before. Danton is also very down to earth and charming. He made me feel as though we were old friends. And we also have something else in common: we share his grandfatherís hairstyle!
The auction was exciting and amazing. I have never bid on anything other than a couple of purchases on E-bay and had no intention of doing so. However, one item was offered that caught my eye. I saw it Friday at the Library on a table with some books in the room where Boris and Julie were greeting fans. It was an audio cassette tape of the motion picture sound track music of "Greystoke." I had never seen this music available anywhere, and I donít think it was ever available on CD. On impulse I bid on it and got it for $7. After returning home, I have converted it to MP3 files and created an audio CD. The music is absolutely stunning.
The evening banquet was equally memorable. The gathering was enormous, and Dr. Bobís address recounted his first exposure to Tarzan as a boy as he read The Son of Tarzan while perched in a tree. It was funny and heart-warming and struck a familiar chord in each of us as we recalled our own first exposures to ERB. Again, I was busy with my camera but I was too far away to capture the most memorable moment of the evening when Rob Greer got a surprise lap dance from the irrepressible Jim Thompson.
The morning breakfast was another opportunity to get some more pictures. I was trying to photograph Ghak as he was serving himself at the buffet when he mumbled something about "shirt" and turned toward me. To my surprise and delight he was wearing the T-shirt with the design for the 2001 Wake which I had created two years ago. At that time Jim Thompson had declared that it should be the official T-shirt for the Wake. Last year I did not attend the Wake in Houston since I had already made plans for the Dum-Dum in College Station. However, I did make up a number of T-shirts with the design and handed them out to several of the guys at the Dum-Dum. Ghak, you really made my day when I realized you were wearing the T-shirt. The design was somewhat faded, and Steve said he had already worn and washed it half a dozen times. All the better!
We said our farewells and prepared to leave Louisville soon after breakfast. Bob and I had already made plans to drive down to Clarksville to get a tour of Jim Thompsonís collection, but we first waited for Henry Franke to load up all of his ERB / Dum-Dum goodies in his car since he was driving down to Clarksville, too. It took an hour to carefully get all of his treasures loaded, and it was nearly 11:30 when we finally departed. I rode with Jim for half of the trip and we had a very enjoyable conversation on all sorts of topics and got caught up on our activities since we had shared a room during the Wake in 2001. Then we switched off at the half-way point and I drove and Linda Thompson rode with me. That was even more enjoyable since it gave me an opportunity to get acquainted with her Ė and to hear her side of some of the stories that Jim had told me. It was all very memorable, and the trip was worth it, for Jimís ERB and related collections as well as Lindaís cat collection are all spectacular to me. I took lots more pictures, but that is another story.
I guess Iím hooked and can hardly wait for next yearís ERB Family Reunion . . . Dum-Dum, that is.
Copyright for all photos is held by
Kenneth W. Fuchs
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