A Mighty Force
by Harold Segal
BACK in the thirties, before television was invented, we had a radio broadcast during a convention. Burton Crane was the moderator of a panel talk show, during which he said, “There is always room for argument when you get a lot of personalities together. That’s one thing about amateur journalism. Give a fellow a press and facilities for getting out an amateur paper and he develops a personality. It may be a goofy one, but it’s a personality just the same.”
I have been associated with this organization and “goofy personalities” since 1930, and I have attended 26 conventions and 24 banquets. In sports parlance I am 26 and 15 (ﬁfteen conventions I did not attend), which is a good average, but not as good as Willametta Keffer, who is 27 and 7; or F. Earl Bonnell, who is 28 and 13; or Bob Dunlap, who is 27 and 11; or even Hazel, who is 20 and 6.
Now the prime object is to determine why we “goofy personalities” keep coming – or trying to come – to these conventions year after year, in my case for forty years. The NAPA has no deﬁnite program for its members’ advancement. Our aims and ideals are purely in the heart and mind of each individual member, who prints or writes according to his own individual fancy. We have no ties to each other except a common hobby, so there must be more to the National Amateur Press Association than what meets the eye.
Basically, we are amateur journalists. I used to think the term was passe (amateur journalism) and for years I refused to use it in the pages of my papers. Perhaps when we get older, words and analyses take on new directions and the things we once seemed to abhor now seem to be quite ﬁtting. I think we can all agree on the meaning of the word amateur. Robert Louis Stevenson said the word has the meaning of passion: “A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without hope of fame or money but even practices it without hope of doing it well. Such a man must love the thrill of the work more than any other man can love the rewards of it.” I think in our hobby we try to do the work well, and live in the hope that our next paper, or next essay, or next story or poem will be better than the previous one. I think this desire and delight in improvement is the satisfaction we seek, but speaking from experience, we are never quite satisfied, and so we go on and on.
I have come to live with the journalism portion of amateur journalism. In this country and at this time I believe journalism in the professional sense is more of a comprehensive thing. In its true meaning there never was such a thing as amateur journalism. It had to be professional. In this era of specialization, journalism has become an all-inclusive word. There are newspapers, radio and television, magazines that constitute the mass media; journalism vaguely covers what they do. But, actually there are publishers, editors, reporters, rewrite men, columnists, newscasters, specialists in various ﬁelds, but no journalists. The National Amateur Press Association never had any relation to journalism in this sense. Our connection is merely what we do: write and print amateur journals – a simple conclusion.
This, then, is what brings us here. It is what happens here that brings us out another year, and what happens there that brings us out still another, and an accumulation of a number of conventions is a force to be reckoned with. Off in a den or basement, quietly pursuing a hobby which many outsiders cannot understand, the coming to a gathering where others “speak the same language,” regardless of race, geography, nationality or age, is to be transformed into a different world if only for three short days.
A famed scholar, an astute critic and an articulate writer once wrote, “I never had genuine companionship until I joined this association.” The companionships were conceived in his joining the National Amateur Press Association, but the flowering of these companionships were developed at conventions attended by Ernest A. Edkins.
The first convention I attended was in New York City in 1933, which was the first convention to draw more than one hundred members and guests. This was the year of the boy printer, freshly recruited in a campaign with the help of the Kelsey Press Company. To measure the success of this recruiting effort, it might be mentioned here that five years previously only four members appeared at the Niagara Falls convention. Of those who were present in New York that year, Ralph Babcock, George Trainer, Bernice McCarthy Spink and Felicitas Haggerty are still with us, but only Ralph and George still active in the ranks. At this convention we created the APC News along with life-long friendships.
In 1936, I went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where most of the “young blood” were house guests of Mr. and Mrs. George Macauley. Here I met Victor Moitoret, Hyman Bradofsky, L. V. Heljeson, Sesta Matheison and Robert Dunlap (to mention some more familiar names). Parenthetically, it was here that Verle Heljeson made his first quip of record when he said, “I am a member of the UAPA Noel longer.” That’s a dated gag, but I just wanted to remind Verle that it was not forgotten – or forgiven.
Some of the things that happen at conventions are not easily forgotten. I recall in Boston in 1937, George Trainer came to the convention with three different versions of The Empire, listing George Macauley, an obvious choice, for president, but each version had a different candidate elected as official editor. Immediately following the election George distributed the proper version around the meeting room and scored an instantaneous “scoop.”
At another convention, Bureau of Critics Chairman Ernest A. Edkins reported, “Even a person of subnormal intelligence can perceive at once that amateurs are certainly not cultivating journalism. A large majority are only interested in playing editor as an occasional relief from the ardors of hop scotch and ping pong. Having mastered fifth grade English composition, they see no need for further effort in that direction.” (And some members think today’s critics are rough!)
At the 1936 Grand Rapids convention, the year Verle first turned up, the members of the daily convention paper were denied the results of the proxy (absentee) ballot voting by the committee. Some name-calling ensued and the Honorable Society of Type Lice was born. It created comic skits that continued for the next few conventions, reached its peak when Vincent B. Haggerty was tried for illiteracy because he considered poetry was valuable only as a good form of filler.
The early release of the absentee ballot results has always been a ticklish subject. In some years it gave politicians a chance to regroup their forces during the night to try to change the balance of power. At a Cincinnati convention a few years later, a hotel room door was bent considerably out of shape in a near fracas when the same 1936 name-callers tried to uphold the sanctity of the mail voting.
I remember a speech Vondy (Edna Hyde McDonald) made in Philadelphia. Vondy stood up, looked over the banquet room and said, “There are three things you must do, I am told, to make a good speech. They are: be clear, be brief and be seated,” And – she sat! Then I recall Edward H. Cole and how interesting but long-winded his speeches were, how uncomfortable the chairs had suddenly become, and how he rambled on – one time for over one hour without a single written note – one long monologue.
Do you remember Alma (Rusty) Weixelbaum, that grand lady from Yellow Springs, Ohio, who left us a share of her trust, which today generously allows us funds to pay for our monthly bundle mailings? Rusty loved NAPA conventions. She belonged to many organizations, business and social, and she traveled many miles to their meetings, but none as religiously as the NAPA.
She missed only one National convention from 1941 to the year before her passing in 1963. Twenty conventions out of 21 active years! The business sessions here may bore some people, but they are the framework on which friendships are made. We may have stormy debates, make important decisions, get annoyed, get angered, but these and the after-hours relaxed events live in our memories, because it is here that friendships are cemented.
There are many little incidents that I remember well, but as Rusty said, “You can never get the full flavor of a convention by reading about it. It is like trying to get the full flavor of food delicacies by reading someone’s description. To savor a delicacy you must roll it about your taste buds. Only by attending conventions can you savor its full flavor.” Now what more could I say?
THE FOREGOING was a talk delivered at the banquet of the National Amateur Press Association’s 96th annual convention at Marietta, Ohio, July 5, 1971. Material was from files of CAMPANE and The New Times.
It’s a Small Word
by Louise Lincoln
WHEN I had read what Bob Holman wrote [“Timber!” CAMPANE 66], full of words that went from here to there, I thought I would write a piece in words of one syllable. Of course, I got off the track at once with that word syllable, but I shall still try.
There are those who love to set forth their thoughts in long, long words which may not be known to those who hear or read them. To do this is, at times, a part of their job, Their work has its base in words brought in from the Greek. The Greeks, like the Rhine folk, felt joy when they put a string of short words side by side to make one long word. With one breath (or two or three, for these were in truth quite long words) they could then say what they had said with ten breaths, more or less. It is still said, “The Greeks had a word for it.” What the Greeks did have were the pieces from which to make words. And what men do now, is to take these same bits, and to things the Greeks did not see or use, for they had not yet come to be, give names the Greeks did not hear but would still know.
Now, it is true, if one takes such a word and breaks it back down to its small words, he can, like the Greek, grasp it. Yet while he does this, the speech or text goes on. By the time he grasps one word, a spate of words has run by, and he is lost in the ﬂood. Or he must go back on his page and start once more if he is not to lose the sense of it. It is true, too, he must know Greek as the long dead Greeks did. There are few now who do.
Yet I would not say all things can or should be put forth in short words. I doubt if it could be made clear to me in such a style as this, how to set type and run a press. But I do say if one is to teach, he must give those who learn the chance to start with the roots. Then they can go on to trunk and branch and leaf. To start with the leaf is to try to hang down from the sky that which should grow up from the earth.
Let him who would play with words write verse. I would not seek to hold him to the small words with which he might find it hard to clothe great thoughts. Nor would I ask him to write all things as this has been done. The mind needs to grow, to reach up to new heights. But to make dim what might be clear, with no more aim than to prove one is wise and knows much, is, in fact, to prove one is a snob.
Or is it to prove one may have fun in more ways than one?
This was fun, but I think I shall not try it twice. It is easier to speak naturally in the firm conviction that not all four letter words are the best to use even though they are short.
Here Come the Judge!
by John Gillick
IN CAMPANE 66 of July 1971, our good and vigilant friend, Elizabeth Butt, unsheathed her trenchant pen and led off with a blast against the inclusion in the bundles of printed matter which does not meet the specific definition of an amateur journal as described in Article IV of the NAPA constitution.
I am totally in accord with Elizabeth when she says that she does not always approve of the ideas of those whom she likes and admires. Liking people and disliking what they may think on a particular subject are two different and separate things. I also agree with her that only amateur papers that fit the specifications laid down in Article IV should be included in the bundle. This is the counsel of perfection, and we should never cease trying to attain it, even though it may not be easy to attain.
One of the reasons that perfection is difficult to attain in the bundle is that imperfections can only be detected post facto. When a new mailer is installed, the president should instruct him carefully on what to include in the bundle. If inadmissible items are included, the president should call them to the attention of the mailer.
However, let us suppose that from time to time the mailer mistakenly includes a few items that should have been omitted. What should the president do? He could, of course, remove the mailer from office. This could cost the association more than it would be worth. Unless a new mailer could be found in the same city, a new post office second-class permit would have to be paid for, and since these are issued on a calendar year basis, we would be paying for two permits instead of one in that year. If he were removed after members received their bundles, he would undoubtedly have on hand some journals to be included in the next bundle. Should the president write and say, “You’re fired, old friend, but could you do me a favor? Send along all the journals on hand, and the Addresserette, etc., to your successor.” There might be a breakdown in mail service for a while.
During my year as president we were blessed with a most efficient mailer. His bundles went out on a regular schedule, and he instituted a service that was most helpful. When a publisher sent his journal to the mailer he could include a self-addressed card showing the date he mailed his package. The mailer would add the date the package arrived and return it, and the publisher would know the time span he needed to take into account if he wanted to get his journal into a certain bundle. When the old Addresserette gave out, he hunted up a good second-hand replacement and got it at a good price.
It seems to me that Elizabeth shot at a couple of targets that are not there. She says, “Few mailers in recent years have submitted financial reports, an omission that saddens me – but one that few convention goers seem to consider of any importance.” Our current mailer, who took over when his predecessor was unable to continue to serve, is doing an 18-month stint in office. His financial reports are always on time, and always excellent.
The penultimate paragraph of Mrs. Butt’s plaint is a dandy. It reads, “Some members might find relief by a complaint to the executive judges. However, since the practice of electing ineligible judges began some years ago, one hardly knows for sure if we have any judges. A complaint to them, I suspect, would fall on deaf or disinterested ears.” This is obviously nonsense. There are three executive judges, none of them ineligible of election, none of them deaf, and all of them interested. It has become quite the fashion to take a wild swing at the executive judges these days. Refer to Verle Heljeson’s “Up the Executive Suite,” blunderbuss in CAMPANE 63: “It is significant also, that since then (1963), the Establishment has permitted only judges of Carswellian mediocrity or assured somnolescence to be elected to the board.” During 1966-67 I served on the board with Milton Grady and Rolfe Castleman. In 1967—68 I served with Harold Segal and Ralph Babcock. If we were mediocre or sleepy, it took a long time to hear about it, since Verle’s article appeared in October 1970.
I am concerned with the contents of the bundle. In CAMPANE 47 (February 1965: “Bundle, Bundle, What’s in the Bundle?”) and CAMPANE 54 (May 1967: “How Free Should a Free Press Be?”), Harold Segal published articles by me on the subject. Any member who wants action by the board has only to ask for it. As Verle pointed out in his article, “The judges have no line authority. Generally their powers are limited to interpretation of the constitution and settling protests filed by members.” In my experience, the board is never asleep or disinterested; it is waiting until a member initiates action.
One of the very pleasant aspects of NAPA principles and practices is that we may disagree without being disagreeable. Therefore, none of the foregoing is an attempt to discourage Elizabeth in her quest for perfection, which is the letter of the law. However, there was a fellow named Paul (not a member of the NAPA, alas!), who was quite a letterwriter in his day. One of the things he wrote was, “The letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.” Finally, I hope Elizabeth’s present wastebasket will be of sufficient capacity to meet her needs indefinitely.
CAMPANE is published in the interest of organized amateur journalism and the National Amateur Press Association by co-editors Hazel and Harold Segal, Margo Gardens, Bristol, Pa. 19007. Hand set in Baskerville types and 475 copies printed on 60-lb. offset stock on an 1890 7×11 Pearl treadle press.
Articles discussing associational problems, critiques or recollections and research in the history of the hobby are constantly sought and welcomed by the editors.