In fact, two related events happened during my college years which shaped my ERB collecting interests permanently. First, I was offered an autographed first edition of THE OAKDALE AFFAIR AND THE RIDER. It was $75, which was an awful lot for me while a college student, but the dealer let me pay in monthly installments, and in three months it was mine. (Bless all the dealers who permit installment purchases, including our good buddy, Bill Ross!) Really I had just been after a copy of OAR for reading, but here I had an autographed first edition. Wow! However, in retrospect, I think that subconsciously I wanted to establish a little personal museum dedicated to ERB, so that his works and the associated items would be preserved. Why? Because at that time the general opinion of ERB from teachers and literary critics was so unfavorable.
Secondly, I obtained at about the same time a copy of Henry Heins' THE GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ERB (1964). This, the second edition, was already out of print, but I got my copy from another terrific ERB dealer and fan, Rodney Reston. (Many of the most unique ERB items I have came from Rodney Reston. Apparently I became a customer at a time when he began to break up and sell his own ERB collection.) And so I discovered the many variant editions of ERB's works, as well as the pulps and so forth. And so I set out to collect every printing, every variant edition, that I could. And that has been the aim of my ERB collecting ever since. At the time, I didn't realize just what a life long challenge that would become, and I'm not even sure I knew why I wanted to have the different variants, except for the obvious interest in the differing art associated with dust jackets and paperback covers.
I see this now in a number of book collections I have made. I'm perfectly happy to have Stephen King's works in paperback because any and everyone has access to his works. But I've made hardback collections of ERB, H. Rider Haggard, Richard Matheson, Nevil Shute, John Christopher, and a few other special favorites, because I thought they were not properly appreciated. And when you think of it, even now there is only the one (magnificent) Louisville collection of ERB, assembled by George McWhorter in the last decade, which preserves ERB's works for posterity. But I was too shy to do much other than sit and listen to the speeches, and ask for my autographs, so I didn't make as much of the trip as I should have. Still I treasure the memory.
In 1967 I made a trip to New Jersey to see my favorite uncle, who was dying of heart disease. While there I made a day bus trip to New York to attend the Dum Dum at the World Con being held there. It was my first chance to see the people that went with some famous names in the fanzines: Vern Coriell, Frank Frazetta, Hal Foster (got autographs from these two, of course), and Robert Hodes, then president of ERB, Inc.
In those days, ERB, Inc., was being run by John Coleman and Hulbert Burroughs. From time to time I wrote a letter to ERB, Inc., asking a question, perhaps inquiring if they knew the person to whom one of my autographed books had been inscribed by ERB. Those two fine gentlemen, and Robert Hodes for the short time he was with the company, were invariably kind and helpful. I even located their various pulp magazine stories, got them to inscribe them to me, and added them to my collection. (For you younger collectors, the pulps containing the Burroughs sons' stories can still be had very inexpensively. The issues are cited in the Heins' BIBLIOGRAPHY.)
Another interesting story from my college days. I was planning to attend Dental School after graduation, so I made arrangements to get summer jobs at the Dental School back home in Birmingham each summer. Just by luck I was given a job with a dentist-researcher who was doing the statistics on Colgate MFP toothpaste. He simply paid me to learn computer programming (Fortran) as well as running errands to and from the computer center for him. He felt that the best way to learn programming was to have some personal pet project to program that would keep the student's interest. So I set about putting my ERB collection into a computer inventory. At that time I had a program and deck of data cards that allowed me to print out a list of the books, with indicators for cost, condition, presence of dust jacket and autograph, dealer source, and so forth. What fun that was. I still have the output. I lost access to the computer after the summer of 1968, so the lists are way out of date. But now that I am teaching in college and have unlimited access to the college computer I may finally set about inventorying my ERB collection once more. It will be quite a challenge, but well worth it once it's done.
College was also my own brief literary period, and I composed both a poem and a short story about Tarzan. The short story, "Gambula's Hunt," won a state wide student writing prize. Vern Coriell published the poem, "In Memorium: Lord Greystoke," in Burroughs Bulletin 17 along with an illustration by budding new illustrator, Jeff Jones. I still have that illustration, it being one of the very few pieces of original art in my collection. The poem also appeared in my first contribution to the ERB-APA. Vern Coriell took the short story at about the same time, promising to publish it as well. After almost two decades of waiting, I finally saw it in print in Tarzine 27. Thanks, Bill.
I did enter Dental School, though I dropped out after three years. I met Linda that summer of 1971, and also entered Medical Technology School. We married in 1972, and when I finished MT School at the end of the year, I took a job managing a local commercial blood bank. That lasted until the end of 1977. During the decade 1968-1977 my ERB collection grew along at an irregular pace. I added almost all the new items, being especially careful to seek out the Ballantine and Ace gift boxes each holiday season, as they came out. I read all the fanzines as they came along. I soon had a run-in with Caz, who became angry because my poem was published by Vern, when Caz thought he had rights to it, though he said nothing positive until after it had appeared in the Burroughs Bulletin. In fact, Caz cancelled my membership over the poem, and so I (luckily) missed out on all his later underhanded dealings. But good buddy Bill Campbell simply double subscribed after that, and I never missed an issue. Whatever flaws Caz had as a person, you have to admire his ERB-dom!
I slowly added to my out of print ERB collection too. It's hard to believe that in those days I passed by a number of autographed first editions from dealers like Claude Held because the condition of the book was listed as "poor" or only "good." But I did assemble a collection of most of the first editions, many of the reprints, and a small set of pulps. I only bought pulps when I could get a serial complete (in however many issues) at one time, so I have only about a dozen ERB tales in pulps. It's also hard to believe that I paid so little for ERB books in those years, but the prices had not started to skyrocket when I began to collect. I pity the young collectors starting out now who have the same ambitions for an ERB collection that I did.
My most interesting autographed books are three: a first of TARZAN AND THE JEWELS OF OPAR, autographed to Oscar Lawler, and a G & D first of A PRINCESS OF MARS, autographed to Mrs. Lawler (which the Burroughs family at ERB, Inc., identified for me as ERB's attorney and his wife during ERB's first years at the Tarzana Ranch); and an autographed first of THE DEPUTY SHERIFF OF COMANCHE COUNTY, with a long inscription to a Lt. Comm. Peterson in Hawaii, but whom I've not been able to identify. This latter was an unusual acquisition. I saw the book on a dealer's list for $125, but the dealer was not interested in the installment plan. Also I had found a first of DEPUTY SHERIFF in a Memphis book store for $15, which was a real bargain. It would easily have commanded $60 even in those bygone days. So I kept telling him it was overpriced, and watched it reappear on list after list of his for over a year. Finally he contacted me to tell me he had put it out to auction and the high bid was $69, and that because of my long interest in the item, he would let me have it for $70! So I scraped up the money and sent him a check right away. At that time ERB, Inc., was selling their spare dust jackets for $1.50, so I ordered one of each from them at the time, and two for DEPUTY SHERIFF. So I have $16.50 invested in my first DS in d.j. and $71.50 in my autographed first in d.j. Those were the days!
But in all those years I had only the one friend, Bill Campbell, to share my interest in ERB with. (Linda read a few of the Tarzan books and all the Mars series, and enjoyed them, but has never been the avid fan that I am about them.) So we got together several times a year, examined each others' new items, swapped a bit, and that was it. I wrote an occasional letter to a fanzine editor about some specific question or made a purchase, but I had never had ERB pen pals.
Then in 1977, we decided to change careers. I resigned from the blood bank and entered graduate school in zoology in the winter of 1978. We moved to Knoxville and spent the next five years there. Suddenly I didn't have any ERB friends in town. Luckily and coincidentally I started developing ERB pen pals just after I moved to Knoxville. The first was Tom Martin of NY. He introduced me to John Carson of Canada and they introduced me to Frank Shonfeld. Now I write to Martin Smiddy and Frank Westwood, as well as Frank Shonfeld in England, Joe Lukes, Fred Lukas, and John Carson in Canada, and Barry Stubbersfield in Australia. And I have more than a dozen ERB pen pals around the States. Just as my collecting was slowing down, in part due to the financial crunch of becoming a graduate student instead of a wage earner, and in part because my collection was becoming more complete, and so my remaining wants becoming more difficult to locate, and just as I had lost easy contact with Bill Campbell, back in Birmingham, I made the fortuitous discovery of the ERB Circle of Friendship, the network of ERB correspondents centered around Frank Shonfeld.
There was one exception. In 1974 I answered an ad for a pen pal that I saw in the Jasoomian. I was intrigued to see a Russian interested in ERB. So I began a correspondence with Yuri Vasilievich Romanov of Leningrad, U.S.S.R. Yuri is an English scholar himself, so I never had to break the language barrier. He had become a fan of ERB originally by seeing Tarzan films. I think these were mostly Johnny Weissmuller films confiscated from the Germans at the close of World War II. Over the years I have sent him a complete set of ERB's works, plus various other authors he has been interested in, such as Philip Jose' Farmer, Ray Bradbury, etc. I've even sent him a couple of reading copy quality first editions. And he has always been careful to reciprocate, sending me stamps for my stamp collection, various books in both English and Russian, and other items. It's been a wonderful friendship!
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