THIS IS MY PERSONAL, biased view of what took place at the convention. If you disagree with any or all of the opinions expressed herein, please do not write to me about it – publish your version for the enlightenment of all members of the National Amateur Press Association. – The Editor.
What characterized the East Lansing Convention? Every convention seems to have a different tone or ambiance, and the outstanding one of this convention was the quality of the presentations and activities. As business meetings get increasingly more perfunctory the convention success often hinges on these. They need to have significance to our hobby and they need to be done by people who know what they are talking about. These conditions were certainly met at this convention. More later about these.
Jack Visser, Secretary-Treasurer, was the ranking officer present, and he convened the convention 2 July 1998 only slightly later than the appointed time. After a roll call he appointed Harold Segal as President pro tem. Harold then appointed Gale Sheldon as Vice President pro tem and Fred Gage as Executive Judge pro tem. Louise Lincoln was appointed Recorder pro tem, as usual. Louise must have kept the minutes of more conventions than all the elected Recorders combined.
The Secretary’s annual report, presented to the attenders in writing, showed that our membership has decreased in the past year from 250 to 210. The report notes that the membership has decreased by 25% in the past two years.
The Treasurer’s annual report, also in writing, showed that our income exceeded expenses by about $1750. For several years we have budgeted an annual deficit, and we never seem to have one. Perhaps we could sell our secret to the federal government. This year The National Amateur expenses were less than half the budgeted amount and no part of the $500 budgeted for recruiting was spent. The Audit Committee, chaired by Gussie Segal, subsequently stated that the report figures were in order and commended the record keeping of the Treasurer.
The Executive Judges’ report given by Louise Lincoln reported two actions during the year. The first was the approval of the budget for The National Amateur as required by the constitution. The second was on a matter advanced by David Warner who claimed that he was overcharged for family member dues. At the 1996 convention the annual dues of regular and family members were increased, in fact, by simply accepting the Budget Committee report. No change was made in the by-laws where the dues are determined. Thus the regular membership dues were set at $20. The family member dues were set at $12.50 in spite of the provision in the constitution that family member dues should be one-half the regular dues. It is all very confusing and is simply the result of very sloppy actions by that convention.
At the 1997 convention the by-laws were properly amended to make the dues $20. The family member’s dues then became $10 in accordance with the constitution. By a 2-1 vote the Executive Judges determined that the family member’s dues were illegal and anyone requesting a refund was entitled to it but expressed the hope that member would consider the illegal overcharge a contribution to the association. [Note the new $2 family rate, page 4.]
The usual discussion of the plight of AJ was held in the first session of the convention with the usual lack of new ideas. The problem for AJ has been stated many times. Amateur journalism is a hobby in which a very small percentage of people have any interest therefore one is faced with the problem that most prospects are not interested and it becomes very difficult to find the few that are. No one doubts that out of the millions of people there are plenty of people who would enjoy the hobby, but no one knows how to reach them.
It seems quite likely that amateur journalism is in for a rough time and that the difficulties are not confined to NAPA. The interest in letterpress printing seems to be increasing, but the new-found enthusiasm seems largely confined to artistic goals – either typographical or print making. Instant communication may eclipse all other forms. The Postal Service has expressed concern that the number of personal letters may drastically decline. Are you aware that newspapers are worried about declining readership and loss of advertising support, and even TV networks are struggling to maintain the number of their viewers?
Monday-night football is moving to an earlier time, for example. In a travel story in yesterday’s Washington Post, the owner of a bed-and-breakfast in a small town in West Virginia said that 20% of his customers had come as a result of his Internet web page, and he said that no other medium for advertising that he had tried produced anything like this response. Some pundit on TV said that the real change will come when the present generation which is averse to reading on the screen gives way to the children of today who prefer reading on the screen to reading printing on paper. (You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.)
Predicting the future is obviously fraught with error. Always remember the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. Five years ago one attempting to predict would have ignored the Internet which is now recognized as a prime mover of change.
In a later floor discussion, Fred Gage asked why we worry about getting new members. Why aren’t we satisfied with the number we have? Fred was not present last year when Bob Mills made the same argument. The necessity of obtaining new members is simply that we have an almost constant turnover. We lose about 40 members per year and have done so for many years. Until the last three years we also obtained almost that many new members each year. In the last three years, for unknown reasons, our new member rate has dropped to ten or twelve per year. If we could stay at our present size, I don’t think anyone would be concerned. The history is that we have to run hard to stand still.
George Hamilton, feeling that the AJ problem will affect all associations, moved that the convention request that the President re-institute the committee on cooperation between AJ groups. The convention adopted a resolution to that effect.
A motion to change the order of the elections to vote on the amendments before the candidates carried. The purpose of this motion was that if Amendment #1 to make three year terms for Executive Judges should be adopted, it would become effective immediately. That is exactly what happened. All three proposed amendments passed. With 20 valid absentee ballots the first two passed 38-0 and the third 37-1. These kinds of numbers must seem incredible to older members – a few years ago it was almost impossible to pass any amendment.
The election proceeded smoothly. Only the Executive Judges positions required a second ballot.
Those elected were:
President: Don Bauer
Vice President: Tom Duffey
Secretary-Treasurer: Arie Koelewyn
Official Editor: Ron Young
Recorder: Jack Bond
Executive Judges: Blaine Lewis for term of 3 years
Tom Whitbread for term of 2 years
Leah Warner for term of 1 year, Chairman
1999 Convention Seat: Macon, Georgia
2000 Convention Seat: San Diego
According to Amendment #1 just passed, the judge getting the most votes was elected for 3 years, the second most votes for 2 years and the third judge was elected for 1 year. The judge in the last year of his term is chairman. From now on a single judge will be elected each year for a 3-year term.
The passage of Amendment #2 removed all reference to the annual dues of family members from the constitution. Harold Segal moved to amend the by-laws to include in article E a statement that the dues for a family member be $2. Harold argued that family members cost the association almost nothing but benefit the association by involving the family in NAPA activities. The motion carried. Thus the annual dues for regular members remain at $20 and the dues for a family member are now $2.
The passage of Amendment #3 requires that the President appoint a Nominating Committee which shall find candidates for offices next year in time for their selections to appear on the absentee ballots. It should be remembered that this does not prevent any member from soliciting any other member as a candidate, or from proposing himself as a candidate.
The Budget Committee, chaired again by George Hamilton, recommended, and the convention accepted, a budget very similar to this year’s with a deficit of $1790. The National Amateur was allotted $5000 and this amount was subsequently approved by the Executive Judges. We now have a surplus of about $6200 so any concern about our finances can be postponed for a few years. It is not the intention of the association to accumulate funds. The present surplus is mostly the result of keeping the cost of the National Amateur below budget by Official Editors and by our failure to find useful purposes for the money allotted to recruitment.
George Hamilton, expert auctioneer, managed to wrest more than $300 from attenders for what seemed a rather small supply of auction items.
A major change has come over the convention in the last ten years or so. Formerly business meetings took up much of the time and sometimes it was difficult to get all the business accomplished in the time available. Gradually, the business sessions became shorter and shorter until they are now completed easily with only morning sessions. One factor is that officers’ reports, except for a few officers, have ceased to exist, and it is probably just as well. The more complex ones, the Secretary’s and Treasurer’s reports are now normally in writing and thus require very little floor time. Perhaps the largest factor is that contention long since virtually disappeared from the convention floor. Only in the Canton Convention in 1996 have we had any controversy worthy of the name.
For convention hosts this provides the additional responsibility of arranging a program for the afternoons and at least one evening – the auction fills one evening and the banquet another. This year it was these programs that distinguished the conventions. Convention Host, Arie Koelewyn, planned well.
In the first program on Thursday, John Horton discussed and demonstrated the techniques of wood engraving and displayed the tools required. He also brought many samples of wood engravings by himself and many other artists. He showed how to make several of the usual hand cuts and also demonstrated the use of a ruling machine to make fine straight lines.
The second program of the afternoon was by Randy Scott, a librarian at Michigan State University, who discussed the comic book collection of the library. The MSU library concentrates on what he called the “silver age” of comic books – the 1940s and later. The “golden age” comic books, 1930s, are, he said, too expensive to collect in great quantities. The early 1930s are, of course, the very years when I was reading and sometimes buying comic books. At a dime each I thought they were very expensive then.
He also mentioned a genre of comic books that I had forgotten about and had never before heard an adult mention. They are now called Tijuana Bibles. When I was in the upper grades of grammar school and early high school such comic books were secretly circulated among the boys. They were about 4 by 7 inches and a few pages thick and were extremely vulgar versions of ordinary comics. I cannot remember where we got them or how, but they were highly prized. I felt no urge to examine the bound volume of Tijuana Bibles that Mr. Scott brought with him, but I was delighted to have been reminded of them.
Thursday evening we visited the book bindery of Bob Mareck. He restores, repairs, and rebinds books. He showed us many examples of his work and explained each step in the process. This is very challenging work because each job raises new problems and it must take years before one can have the confidence to tackle some of the jobs. It is so labor intensive that it is one of many efforts that the person doing it cannot charge enough to really compensate for his work and the buyer experiences it as very expensive anyway.
Our other excursion was to the Ossowo Graphic Arts Company. The company started in 1952 as a photoengraving shop whose business was largely plate making for local weekly newspapers. They still do photoengraving but most of the output is embossing dies, some of which are very large, perhaps 7 by 4 feet. It was very interesting to see modern photoengraving equipment and the many novel uses it is put to. Also the visit was a lesson in business management because it is clear that the original product has almost disappeared but new marketable products have been constantly found.
On Saturday afternoon, Tom Whitbread, assisted by Louise Lincoln, led a seminar on NAPA poetry. Tom discussed NAPA poetry in general and both he and Louise read from their published and unpublished works. Louise, of course, had written a poem that day for the occasion. I always regret that we have no record of the many interesting seminars and discussions held at conventions and this time is no exception. Tom agreed to write a summary of it for The Boxwooder, but I’m not holding my breath.
At the picnic, I had a special treat. Arie Koelewyn has a three-wheel recumbent bike which he had available for me to try. I had seen them but had never ridden one. It was a very different feeling from the normal bicycle ride but very pleasant. I would like to have one in addition to my regular bicycle.
See you in Macon.
Set in Century Oldstyle (TrueType) on a Pentium computer using Corel Ventura 5.0. Laureate list is Arial (TrueType). Cover type is News Gothic (Real type). Text and inside cover printed on an HP LaserJet III. Cover printed on a 10×15 C&P. Edited and published by Jake Warner at the Boxwood Press, Greenbelt, Maryland 20770.