1943 - 1947
Martha Retsch, president of the first Sons of the Pioneers fan club in Pittsburgh, was initially a subscriber to the Pioneers' popular fanzine, Tumbleweed Topics produced by their manager, Sam Allen. Some of Martha's poetry was featured in these issues. However, because of war-related activities, the Pioneers and Sam Allen became exceptionally busy. Tumbleweed Topics was put on the back burner and gradually faded away. Martha decided it was time to get a Sons of the Pioneers club going so she started her own in 1943, complete with a newsletter called Prairie Prattler.
Note: Martha revived the
original Prairie Prattler, the fanzine
which had preceded The Tumbleweed Topics. On the second page of the
June 1940 copy of the Tumbleweed Topics, Hugh Farr writes: "For the newcomers to
these parts the Prairie Prattler was the parent of this publication. It was a
one-page mimeographed masterpiece pecked out on a 1904 Oliver typewriter by our
mythical man-of-all-work, Snowball."
Sam Allen put Martha in touch with Charles Reed Jones who was with Republic's New York office and Jones sent her photos for her covers. The first volume of 4 issues was hand-typed, mimeographed and stapled by hand. By Volume 2 No. 1 1944 (the first anniversary issue), the Prairie Prattler had become a professionally printed 4-page newspaper.
Martha remarked, "After three years of having the club, and after all the mail we received, I think the question that was asked the most, over and over, was - 'Is Bob Nolan married?'" (p. 4, Prairie Prattler, Vol. 4 No. 1, 1946)
The fan club grew quickly and by 1947 it rated a column in the December Modern Screen on its "Fan Club Association" page. Only one paper, the November-January 1945 issue, was missed before Martha and her co-editor, Virginia Gallick, passed on the presidency to Julia Tiedemann of New York City. Julia published at least one further issue before she, too, gave it up and the Prairie Prattler followed the Tumbleweed Topics into history leaving unhappy subscribers behind.
Both magazines, Tumbleweed Topics and the Prairie Prattler, contain information useful to Sons of the Pioneers historians such as eyewitness accounts of some of their national tour performances. Special note has been made throughout the pages of some of the fans: Terry Sevigny, John Turgeon and Roy DeWitt.
We are grateful to John Fullerton for the images of these issues from Martha Retsch and to Josh Heston for scanning them. (Most of the pages have been scanned on a black and white setting.)
Left: Vol. 1 No. 1
Centre: Vol. 1 No. 2
Right: Vol. 1 No. 3
Centre: Vol. 2 No. 1 May - July 1944
Centre: Vol. 4 No. 1 Spring 1946
Right: Vol. 4 No. 1B Summer 1946
Centre: Vol. 4 No. 3 March - May 1947
Newsletter envelope courtesy of John Fullerton
Fan Club Stationery courtesy of Jan Scott