If Ever, Oh EVER, a Club There WOZ! -- Part Three


 Wamego # 19



Oct 17, 2014    If Ever, Oh EVER, a Club There WOZ!  -- Part Three



 [Note:  Last month’s OZTOBERFEST in Wamego, Kansas, once again underscored the fact that Oz fans are – and have -- ever more fun when gathered and banded together.  With that in mind, the two most recent blogs in this series launched a memoir that attempts to commemorate and revere the long-time, extraordinary, and very best meeting place for “all-those-Oz.”  Or, to put it less obliquely, we’re currently in the midst of a pure-and-simple written celebration of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc., discussing both its history and my own as a member since I was eleven years old. For those who believe “it’s always best to start at the beginning,” please see the preliminary installments for October 10th and 17th. For those for whom chronology doesn’t count, just jump right into the finale below! Meanwhile, anyone anywhere who finds a happy haven on the Yellow Brick Road is encouraged to become an Oz Club colleague, and I refer you to the conclusion of this account for additional information.]




 Before I began these entries about The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. and our thus-far fifty-two year association, I outlined a number of points about the organization and my “memories of membership” that I hoped to address. If you’ve read parts one and two of this journalese, you’ll realize it’s already taken something like three thousand words to detail only the first six years of the Club’s existence (1957-1963) – and the first eleven months of my involvement.

To cover all the remaining points would involve weeks of surplus rambling, as well as a bit more personal focus than I think should be endured by readers (especially after the past two segments). I also have another topic and anniversary to commemorate in next Friday’s “chapter.” So I’m now going to merely summarize -- as simply as possible -- a raft of additional, emotionally-resonant Club occasions. Perhaps they and others can be expanded upon later in the lifetime of this blog.


For now, however….


  • Last week, I detailed my first Oz Club Convention, attended with my mom in 1963 when I was twelve. My dad continued that outstanding level of support by driving me to (and participating with me in) the 1964 assemblage, which was highlighted by An Unexpected and Unforgettable Moment. During Friday evening’s welcoming dinner, the hot, humid, June-in-Indiana weather turned violent. As L. Frank Baum put it in THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, there was a sudden “low wail of the wind.” Forty conventioneers looked across Bass Lake – the shore of which was merely yards away -- to see a rising, twisting wall of water advancing on Ozcot Lodge: a genuine, approaching tornado. Heedless of a very present danger, thirty-eight people pressed themselves to the huge, pane-glass dining room windows (!) to get a better view of this coming-right-at-us “treat.” (It was apparently considered by one and all the fulfillment of a lifetime desire for a potential and patented passport-to-Oz….)  The only two participants who weren’t so-engaged were Wally Fricke, desperately pulling son John AWAY from the glass and imploring hostess Brenda Baum for the most direct route to the cellar. There was none. At the very last moment, the towering wall of wind and water suddenly veered to our right and demolished a lake-side house several hundred yards away before dissipating.


  • Thanks to the generosity of both ladies, I had by this time entered into sporadic correspondence with two real, live “Royal Historians”: Ruth Plumly Thompson (author of nineteen books in the series) and Eloise Jarvis McGraw (who’d co-written, with her daughter, the final title of the “official” forty, MERRY GO ROUND IN OZ). To receive letters from these women who had figuratively “been” to Oz -- and taken me along, thus enhancing my life on countless reading occasions – was almost beyond comprehension. Those much-handled pieces of paper now are heavily creased and sometimes somewhat tattered from their constant handling…but what an enduring boon.


  • Aware of my journalistic bent (if not immediately recognizable potential), Club Secretary Fred Meyer had me regularly writing for THE BAUM BUGLE Club magazine by the time I was fourteen. As early as 1965, he suggested I look ahead to 1969 -- and the thirtieth anniversary of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film of THE WIZARD OF OZ -- and begin to prepare a feature article on the making of the movie, as well as a checklist of the original major articles and reviews that accompanied its release. Over the next four years, I explored and assembled what I could, and in July 1969, I submitted a long (long, long, long; imagine that?) treatise. Although the film’s subsequent legend and iconic status now may make this difficult to comprehend, there had never before been such an examination of the picture’s production. This was (although we didn’t really comprehend it at the time) ground-breaking in its own way – so much so that when I went to the Los Angeles Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1988 to research my first book (for the fiftieth anniversary of OZ), I was nonplussed to discover in THEIR files some copies of my original research from twenty years prior -- including a letter written on my personal “Oz” stationery (a parental Christmas gift, circa 1963 or so).


  • The article and checklist were published, as pre-scheduled, in the Autumn 1969 issue of THE BAUM BUGLE, which had to be expanded by four pages to accommodate all the deathless Fricke prose. An unexpected reward for this genuine labor-of-love came during the next annual convention in June 1970, when I became the twelfth recipient of the Club’s supreme accolade: The L. Frank Baum Memorial Award for “Outstanding Contributions to the Saga of Oz.” This was every kind of surprise; I then was (and still remain) the youngest person ever to receive that honor. To be sure, I think my selection was predicated as much -- if not more -- on what-we-expect-you-to-accomplish-in-the-future as anything else! But as I gratefully confessed when asked to rise and accept the corresponding plaque, the tribute was an actual, active reflection of the Club and Club members in their eight years of Fricke support, encouragement, and friendship. If I correctly recall, I said, in effect, “If you see anything in me that you like, I got it from you. Anything you see that you DON’T like, I picked up somewhere else!”


This seems as good a place (and as ongoing an admission) as any to curtail these remembrances – even in summation as opposed to detail. For the record, though, there has followed a pretty much limitless range of other Oz Club-related highlights in my subsequent forty-five year history with the organization: stints as a member of the Board of Directors, as Vice-President, as President, and as editor-in-chief of THE BAUM BUGLE; participation in countless auxiliary conventions on the East and West Coasts, as well as in the ongoing Midwestern conclaves (at which I’ve spoken, sung concerts, prepared and/or participated in radio show and stage musical recreations, etc.); and the establishment of many individual friendships and the memories thereof.


The supreme, ongoing, and ceaseless delight remains in the by-mail receipt – three times annually! – of THE BAUM BUGLE.


Across these decades, The Club itself has hit new peaks of its own, topping out -- at best -- at nearly three thousand renewal members. They have sponsored publications of new sequels to the Oz series; original Russian Oz stories in translation; bibliographic histories; Oz maps; and reprints of rare Baumiana in book form. Club honchos and scribes have enjoyed commercial distribution of such wonderful volumes (among many others) as THE OZ SCRAPBOOK, THE ANNOTATED “WIZARD OF OZ,” THE BOOK COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO L. FRANK BAUM AND OZ, QUEER VISITORS FROM THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, and I, TOTO. Finally, the Club’s communal highlight came with THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ “Centennial Convention” in Indiana in 2000, attracting over four hundred partakers and warranting a front-page NEW YORK TIMES feature article.


As indicated above, a number of those momentous events -- and the attendant ardent recollections thereof! -- might get a further hearing in later writings. J  But for now, may I just say a heartfelt acknowledgement to ALL of the Ozzy “fellow travelers,” past and present, who have informed and enlivened and enriched my life; who helped bring me up; and who taught and propelled and “privileged” me to know and associate and socialize with them.


Finally: For incomparable Ozian bonding and reading and partying and exchanging, I urge one and all who share any of these passions to head DIRECTLY to ozclub.org -- and join in the fun. (If you start right now, you’ll have at LEAST this much of your own personal hoztory to relate in the year 2066….)


Thank you for sharing these reminiscences!


Article by John Fricke


OZ Museum
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Wamego, Kansas 66547

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