Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Newsies in Oz!

Back in the very early 1980s three teenage boys went to Oz. . . . Well, they each started Oz newsletters, anyway.

Eric Gjovaag - David Maxine - Scott Cummings (circa early 1980s)

In those days the Oz Club's journal, The Baum Bugle, was being published very sporadically, yet the Oz Club was heading into its biggest decade. Oz fans were simply itching for contact with each other, to learn of local Oz news and activities.

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The Seattle area was especially rich with Oz interest and club members, and the local group had begun holding a regular mini-Oz convention called The Oogaboo Rendezvous.

The group was becoming so active that Eric Gjovaag was the first to address the need for a regional Oz newsletter. In January 1980 he produced the first issue of The Oogaboo Review. The newsletter was published quarterly.

In addition to local news, Eric filled the issue with book reviews, mini-essays, short fiction, profiles of local Oz folk, and of course announcements and reports on the Oogaboo Rendezvous.

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In 1981 my family had just recently moved to Minneapolis and there was a large Oz community waiting to be organized. I started hosting local Oz parties, showing my collection at local libraries, and Fred Meyer mentioned The Oogaboo Review to me. I was immediately smitten with the idea of starting my own newsletter and in the Spring of 1981 I produced the first issue of The Pumperdink Press.

Like Eric's Seattle newsletter, The Pumperdink Press included a good deal more than local Oz news. I shared new treasures from my collection,  reviewed books and movies, and was pleased to include some really neat things, including Oz fiction by Philip José Farmer and previously unpublished artwork by W. W. Denslow, Dick Martin, and Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Each issue also contained an advice and gossip column written by Kabumpo, the Elegant Elephant.

The Pumperdink Press was published for three years. I  tried to make each issue more elaborate than the last, absorbing new layout techniques, printing on colored paper, exploring dry-transfer lettering and decorative layout tape, and having photographs screened. By the third issue I had switched from photocopying to off-set printing. All these regional newsletters were typed on typewriters. Affordable home computers and laser printers were still several years away.

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At exactly the same time, Scott Cummings of upstate New York began The Munchkin Monthly. Yes, a monthly! Though in actuality it was only supposed to be published ten times per year, the daunting schedule forced the closure of the paper after only six issues. It was soon reborn as a quarterly called The Munchkin Times.

Scott was the youngest of the three of us - his youthful enthusiasm was evident in his taking the time to hand decorate many of the issues (note the Ozmite wings under the masthead), and Scott would send personal notes and valentines. I even have a Munchkin Times pendant Scott made with Shrinky Dinks!

I don't know if Scott did this for everyone, but some of my envelopes came very elaborately decorated.

If memory serves me right, all three newsletters ceased publication sometime in 1985. I completed three volumes (twelve issues) of The Pumperdink Press. The final four issues were spread over almost two years. My first full-time theatre job was sapping all my creative energy. Eric Gjovaag eventually turned the reins of The Oogaboo Review over to his Assistant Editor, Glenn Ingersoll, after volume five, and Glenn produced another couple issues. The last partial issue I have of The Munchkin Times dates from August 1985 and I think that was the final one.

What I find most interesting is that we Oz boys were about the same age, each of us built our little Oz journals at about the same time, and each journal ended as our lives became too "grown up" for us to manage the headaches of editorship. Yet we each also went on to fairly high-profile lives in the Oz community. Eric Gjovaag developed the earliest (and best) major website devoted to L. Frank Baum and Oz; I went on to found Hungry Tiger Press and edit Oz-story Magazine (not to mention this time-sap of a blog); and Scott Cummings is currently the editor of The Baum Bugle - one of the best Bugle editors that journal has had.

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I can't finish this blog without mentioning one other Ozzy newsletter, The Quadling Quarterly. It was founded by a young kid named John Plummer from Tennessee. He prepared three or four issues and disappeared. Maybe he'll read this blog and say hello! [Note: Just reconnected with John Plummer on Facebook!]

The 1970s and early 1980s produced a very large and very engaged group of young Oz fans. I wish I saw more of that happening today. Kids, teenagers, and families seem to be disappearing from organized Oz life. I know kids still love Oz, but although I've seen a special few, I haven't seen a whole new generation of Ozzies chomping at the bit since the early 1990s - certainly not in the Oz Club anyway - but here's hoping!

Eric Gjovaag - David Maxine - Scott Cummings  -  (these days)


Colin Ayres British Fan Of Oz said...

Would of love to grown up with these it's So isolating being a British Oz than so few to share the Love with over here as the books we're never very popular in the Uk.

Jay said...

Someday I'll write something a lot like this...

Jason said...

So, any theories on why that period was such a heyday for teenaged boys to get into Oz? Was it the paperback Del Rey Fantasy editions of the original 14? Those were my intro during those years...I think I'm just a year or two younger than all of you...

This is really interesting. I wonder what theories are out there.

PS: A bit off-topic but speaking of those mid-80s years. The Fairbanks, Alaska public library had a copy of the rare "Hidden Valley of Oz" which I promptly checked out to read at age 14 (13?) I just checked their website and it's still available and on the shelf!

David Maxine said...

@Jason - I have a number of thoughts on why that era was so vital and why there were so many young males into Oz. I'm saving them for a forthcoming blog post.

Also interesting to hear your tale of reading HIDDEN VALLEY at the library. I'm pondering a blog series on Oz and libraries, too.

Anonymous said...

I was also about that age in 1979-81, when I purchased THE OZ SCRAPBOOK, the Del Rey editions, the OZ Club maps and Pattrick's UNEXPLORED TERRITORY. I didn't have a lot of cash and had no access to the post-Baum books (I don't believe there was any interlibrary loan where I was back then). So I held off joing the Oz Club until 1988 when I bought the Del Rey Thompsons.

Jason said...

That's great I'll be sure to keep an eye out for it!