by Les Boyer
The Tampa convention, held at the Admiral Benbow Inn the weekend of August 15, 16 and 17, was a gala celebration of AAPA's 50th anniversary year.
Seventy-nine members and friends attended, making it the second largest AAPA convention ever. It was exceeded only by 81 at Kingston, Rhode Island in 1984.
The Florida SAPS were the hosts of this very well planned and executed affair, led by convention co-chairmen Lee Hawes and Fred Liddle.
Nostalgia abounded, with several of the formal discussion sessions and many informal ones focusing on the past. The future was not forgotten, though, and one of the spirited discussion sessions focused on computers and the next 50 years of the American.
Particularly notable was the turnout of members from the 1940's and earlier. Marge Adams Petrone, joining in the late 1940's and a leader of the "Youngstown Girls" back in the fifties, was at the registration desk, still looking just like her pictures from those days of 30 years ago.
Joe Gudonis, the Lost Chord man, was a surprise delegate. Ed Wall, an enthusiastic president and publisher back in the early 1940's, still reflected the same energy and interest in the hobby. John Vaglienti was one of the most active members in the 1940's, including stints as Official Editor and Secretary, and obviously enjoyed reliving old memories. Bill Jackson, who with brother Paul made his presence felt back in those years, was much in evidence at the convention. Lee Hawes and Les Boyer also have been members since the 1940's.
Pam Wesson flew in from Paris, France, thereby gaining recognition as attending from the greatest distance, while Ivan Synder, from Portland, Oregon, was not far behind.
Discussion sessions were held Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. They were even-handedly monitored by Lee Hawes, and all were engrossing.
The leadoff session Friday afternoon was a panel on local clubs, with Bill Groveman, Marge Adams Petrone, Mike O'Connor and Lee Hawes.
Bill Groveman started off by mentioning Johnnie Vaglienti and vaguely recalling that they were once involved in some disagreements, but "now I don't remember what the fights were about."
Bill first heard of the AAPA through the Open Road for Boys magazine. After receiving Frank Miller's letter telling of the new association for writers and printers, "I knew this was for me."
Bill recalled an early meeting of the Metchaps (the first?) which was hosted by Helen Vivarttas (now Wesson) in Weehawken; he took one of the last open trolley cars to attend. Byron Mack, Tom Farnsworth, Frank Miller, and Bernice McCarthy were among those attending. The youthful enthusiasm of the then 14- to-16 year olds was so great they decided to host an AAPA convention (the 1939 convention, at a branch of the NYC Public Library).
Other sparkplugs of the group were the Smith brothers, Bill and Bob and Norman Levine. Some of them met almost daily, touting the convention, starting papers, and recruiting high school English classes.
Marge Adams P. told of seeing an ad from Charlet First telling about the AAPA; she joined, and "couldn't wait to do a journal." The first was printed by Irwin Brandt. It wasn't long before she met Milt Grady at a convention and Milt saw to it that she got his Sigwalt hand press. The "Ink Casino," in the basement of their Youngstown home, was a center of AAPA activity for several years.
Younger sister Ginny and kid brother Eddie (now a TV station manager in Utica, New York) learned how to print, too. Ruth and Ann Kapusta were other active members of the Youngstown group. They hosted the 1952 convention and there were "little conventions in between," with visitors like Dick Branch, Milt Grady, Fred Eichin, Jim Lemon and Ed Kenney. Also remembered was a "meller-drama" at the Hotel Graemere convention in Chicago, which had Milt Grady as the villain -- "1,001 Nights in the Cellar."
Mike O' Connor went through the ups and downs of the Minneapolis-St. Paul group. They hosted a very good convention in 1965; one in 1969, however, with an attendance of eight, was the second smallest ever. Mike felt the personal contact opportunities of local clubs is important. "We had great times... I made friendships I still have."
Lee Hawes felt that Jack Bond's move to St. Petersburg in the early 1960's was a key factor in getting the SAPS group off the ground. They first met at Lee's house in late 1963, and have had sessions once or twice a year since then. The arrival of Fred Liddle in 1972 and the Wessons about the same time were also important factors for the group.
The writing discussion was capably led by Wilbur Doctor and Nils R. Bull Young. Wilbur said writing is basically just "one word after another and the first word is caution." He indicated he didn't see many "babes in arms" at the convention -- that we were all "veterans of life." In turn, he advocated writing about our experiences as veterans, "just write as you would in a letter to a friend, or telling stories at your favorite watering hole."
Nils Young also emphasized that one should write about his own experiences. Responding to Wilbur's advice about caution, though, he indicated he didn't know how many people he insults with his writing, and "if you speak sailor French, as I do, you may have to put on a filter."
Sheldon Wesson suggested that we need to keep our audience in mind -- the other AAPA members. "Comments on the hobby and about ourselves are always of interest...those are the two areas of interest to all of us."
The first Saturday morning session was a panel on "The Next 50 Years -- Will Letterpress Give Way to Laser Printers?" This was led by Dave Tribby and young Joey Diachenko, both of whom started with letterpress, but have become familiar with computer-based printing.
Dave started out with a Swiftset rubber type press, and wondered whether letterpress printers would follow the fate of the Swiftsetters. On balance though, he felt there continues to be a place for handset type in the commercial world (at least for the next 10 years, "which is all my crystal ball covers"). He added that "maybe hobbyists can pick up the crumbs off the table" -- say, as commercial letterpressers go out of business. He also felt we should be careful to keep an eye on what the kids are doing with their Apples and Ataris and that this could be a source of new life in the hobby.
Joey Diachenko passed out copies of the Big Bodkin, printed on a laser printer. He felt that laser printers will replace offset, but not letterpress. He extolled the virtues of the MacIntosh, indicating that "if you can point and click, you can use the MacIntosh."
Wilbur Doctor said he was "very angry" with the Big Bodkin, since it undercut his prejudices against computer generated papers' legibility.
New member Sol Malkoff said that ink on paper is being challenged by electronics. He felt that letterpressed type had a "beautiful, sharp edge" on the printed page, not yet approached by the computer, but that computer legibility is improving.
George Stallings added some thoughts from the floor concerning his Commodore.
A recurring concern in this discussion centered around the younger people -- where have they gone, and will computer based journals be more or less likely to appeal to them? Will the price be out of sight for the youngster? On the other hand, what if computer-based journalism becomes so popular that we have a couple of thousand members all of a sudden, instead of our traditional 200 to 350?
Earl L'Abbe, Roy Lindberg and Lowell Adams also spoke of their experiences with computer printing.
The general sentiment seemed to be that the computer will gradually replace letterpress in our hobby, but that letterpress will hang in there longer than one might think.
The "old timers" had their chance to reminisce again at the second morning panel: "The War Years -- How AAPA Fought the Battles, Home Front and Overseas."
Helen Wesson recalled a meeting of the Amateur Printers Club on December 7, 1941, when Burton Crane announced Japan had attacked the U. S., saying: "The poor bastards -- they don't know what they've done."
Helen recounted her efforts as AAPA president in 1943-44 to keep the AAPA ship afloat, although up to 50% of the members were in the armed forces (including her official editor husband). An Ajay Hostess campaign, with Vivian Chatfield, was important in keeping in touch with the overseas members.
Bundles were sent First Class, with "Please Forward." She recalled that Vivian Chatfield and Hiram Swindall (designer of the AAPA official emblem) decided to get married through letters, sight unseen.
Sheldon Wesson interjected the story of the Swindall wedding. Vivian was in the Waves in Oklahoma, Hiram in some camp in Washington. They decided to get married in Seattle. Vivian walked from the bus in the rain, and was soaking wet when she got to the hotel where they were to meet. PFC Swindall showed up shortly thereafter, first glimpsing her curled up on a sofa, apparently drying out. They were married that same day. A few months later, Vivian obtained a Navy discharge -- pregnancy.
Ed Wall indicated that when he mentioned to his son that he was giving a talk on the war years that his son asked: "Which war?"
Ed was president in 1944-45. One of his projects was to see why the Post Office was not delivering bundles to overseas members. He made a formal complaint to the U.S. War Department, through Senator Claude Pepper. Apparently one of the problems was that the censors couldn't believe the little papers didn't have some secret messages.
Joe Curran had a particularly entertaining recollection concerning his early days in the Marine Corps.
Les Boyer gave a bit of the perspective of a teenage member in rural Missouri during those war years, including a recollection ("just like it was yesterday") of what he went through to earn a dollar to cover the 75 cent AAPA membership fee: He cleaned out the family outhouse!
A brief Fossil meeting was held after a quick lunch Saturday, with Dick Fleming presiding. Results of the recent Fossils election was announced: Our own J. Ed Newman was not only elected Fossils president, but also their Official Editor. Ruby Quillman was elected Vice President.
Charlie Bush used his auctioneer skills to good effect in raffling off a large table full of goodies -- type, a 6 x 10 press (donated by Fred Liddle), some Merrymount Press books, type sticks, several copies of "Your Thoughts" and on and on. Over $750 was collected, with about $650 left for the AAPA Treasury, after convention expenses. This must have been the biggest AAPA auction ever, thanks to the donors and some spirited bidding.
Genial Jack Bond represented the host SAPS group as Master of Ceremonies at a very fine banquet.
President Dave Tribby gave a brief state of the association address and announced the laureates (listed in detail elsewhere). Several of the winners were present to receive their laureate recognition: James Dean, Helen and Sheldon Wesson, Joseph A. Diachenko and John Horn.
Tribby also handed out some good looking certificates concerning some special Presidential Citations. (Dave says the multi-color certificates were done by computer, each taking 8 to 10 minutes to plot.) The recipients:
Interestingly, all except Bruce Smith were present to receive their certificate in person.
Lee Hawes handed out some unusually attractive paper weights to Dave Tribby and the ex-presidents a dandy three-dimensional mounting of the AAPA emblem on a marble base, with name and presidential years of the individual inscribed. Many of the ex-presidents were present to receive their recognition in person: Mike O'Connor, Helen Wesson, Ed Wall, Les Boyer, Joe Curran, Pamela Wesson, Fred Liddle, Charlie Bush and Lee Hawes.
The deaths of a number of AAPAns during the last year were recognized with a moment of silence: Charles Pasternack, Kenneth Vroom, Harold C. Williams, James W. Tucker, Eric S. Kelly, Wayne C. Dye, Harold Flint, Vince Rogers and Ed Tevis. Mention was also made of the 1982 death of former member Walter Crews.
Helen Wesson cut the three-tiered birthday cake for AAPA in her capacity as honorary president for the anniversary year.
Fred Liddle, representing the special 50th anniversary committee, announced a special surprise award: Ajay of the Half Century. Showing Solomon-like judgment, the award was granted to two longtime members, Lee Hawes and Les Boyer. Each received a very handsome wall plaque.
Sheldon Wesson was the principle banquet speaker, and gave a stirring address as only he can: "AAPA in Youthful Maturity." He started out by referring to a gauntlet thrown down by NAPA member Burton Crane in the early days of the American, when Burton smilingly proposed to listen for the soft "plop" with which the American would fall into oblivion. Wes felt the AAPA is now clearly here to stay and that Burton Crane would happily admit it if he were still alive.
Wes continued by observing that one can look around the banquet room and notice a big change from the fledgling AAPA of the 1930's and '40's -- the AAPA heralded itself as the association of youth in these early years, but is now clearly mature, in age and otherwise. On the other hand, Wes recognized that AAPA has not swayed from its tradition of doing certain things differently. It continues to conduct its affairs in a relaxed manner, without getting caught up in procedural issues. He felt AAPA strength and stability is also due to the efforts of many hard working members who "put their time and their talents to the service of others." He concluded by leading the assemblage in a toast: "To the stalwarts of 1936, the stalwarts of 1986, and the many stalwarts to come."
The Sunday picnic was at the home of J. Ed and June Newman on the Atlantic side of Florida (a late change of location due to the tragic accidental death of the son of Fred and Betty Liddle the prior week). J. Ed and June were enthusiastic hosts, and seemed to really welcome the invasion of ajayers in their home and print shop. And what a print shop! J. Ed patiently gave anyone who was interested a demonstration of his own special method of color printing.
The weekend was a memorable one for all who were fortunate enough to attend. Lee Hawes was every place at once, seeing to it that things ran smoothly. The Friday evening buffet was good eating and provided plenty of conversational opportunities. Charlie Bush had free AAPA pins for everyone, and also had some special AAPA sun visors for sale. An attractive plastic bag with a large AAPA seal imprinted on it was passed out to all attendees. There was a nice reprint of the very first issue of AAJ, thanks to Karl Williams, Linda Donaldson, Scott Norris and Pamela Williams Clark. The convention program was beautifully printed by J. Ed Newman, with hand painted covers, and apparently some advice and "supervision" from Lee Hawes. The hotel rooms and other facilities were more than adequate and reasonably priced. There was quite a stack of printed mementos brought or sent by members. And the Wessons brought a box of their bound volumes of old AAPA papers for spare time browsing.
All in all it was a delightful affair. If you missed it, you should make plans now to attend the 1987 convention, and find out for yourself just how great it is to spend a weekend with good friends, old and new.
Arizona: Bob Clausen.
Arkansas: John and Robyn Horn.
California: David M. Tribby, Robert F. Holtz.
Connecticut: Bob, Jan, Brian and Mike Dargel; Earl L'Abbe.
Florida: Jack and Louise Bond, Jim Deane, Lee Hawes, Fred Liddle, J. Ed and June Newman, Bill and Carolyn Jackson, Lowell and Lucille Adams, Clarence and Millicent Prowell, George Miller, Sol Malkoff, Don Rogers, Liza Rodriguez, John D. Sessler, Todd Spear, Ralph J. Tompkins, Rose Tucker, Ed Wall.
Georgia: Richard and Rusty George.
Maryland: Joe A. and Joe D. Diachenko.
Massachusetts: Frank and Rosanna Seamans.
Michigan: Ruby Quillman.
Minnesota: Michael J. O'Connor.
Missouri: Charles Bush.
Nevada: Ted Conover.
New Mexico: George W. Stallings, Dick Fleming.
New Jersey: William and Gerry Groveman.
New York: John and Maxine Hancock, Harry and Marjorie Spence, Roy Lindberg, John Larsen.
Ohio: Joe Curran, Linda Donaldson, Jack and Alice Massey, Marge Adams Petrone, Jack Scott, Nils, Cindy and Ian Young.
Oregon: Ivan Snyder.
Pennsylvania: Stephen and Elizabeth Bayuzik, Joe Gudonis, Regis and Regina Racke.
Rhode Island: Wilbur and Rae Doctor.
Texas: Les and Elaine Boyer, Tommie Randolph, John and Anna Beth Vaglienti.
Virginia: John and Carol Carroll, Sheldon and Helen Wesson.
France: Pamela Wesson.
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