85 years of OWAA

OWAA members were asked to contribute memories of the past and hopes for the future of OWAA. A four-page spread in the March issue of Outdoors Unlimited, a commemorative edition of OU celebrating OWAA’s 85th anniversary, featured photos and memories. But since we couldn’t fit all the contributions into those four pages, we are posting more online.
From Boyd Pfeiffer:
One of my favorite memories was of the Port St. Lucie conference. The conference programs were great, the weather good and the fishing after each conference day exciting. We would fish every night from the ten-cent bridge and the twenty-five cent bridge. Both were named for the then or previous tolls charged. Fishing from these bridges, we would catch snook, ladyfish, redfish, and similar species, often fishing until the wee hours of the morning. Another week of conference would have killed us all.
We would grab fishing gear immediately after the evening dinner and head to the bridges. Included were Dick Jennings of Cortland, Bob Parlaman of Pennsylvania, Jim and Sylvia Bashline, and my wife, Jackie. There was an OWAA fishing contest then which Bob Parlaman won, perhaps by fishing while missing some of the daily conference workshops. Bob had fished so much to win the contest that he also missed sleep. During the final dinner with the announcement of the winning prize — the use of a Jeep Waggoneer for a year -– Bob was sound asleep at the dinner table. He was sitting next to me and I had to nudge him awake. Even then, he did not know why he was being nudged or what he had won.
All are gone now, and I cherish these and other great memories of this and so many other conference.”

From Jim Low:

Photo by Jim Low

I have accumulated a trove of OWAA stories in the course of 17 conferences and 20 board meetings. Most involve other members. Here are a few:

  • Eileen King and Pat Wray grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and jerking me out of the path of a speeding bus in Las Vegas.
  • The late Doc Kowalski, Patron Saint of Conference Attendees, diagnosing blackfly bites as the source of my daughter’s confused, feverish haze at breakout day in Orono, Maine. She recovered with his help.
  • Past President Cliff Shelby subtly encouraging me to re-examine my laser focus on conference freebies by sketching a caricature of me lugging a duffle bag overflowing with give-aways.
  • If I ever develop a hernia, I am sending the medical bills directly to Marty Malin, whose unmatched verbal humor is sure to be the source of my suffering.
  • Having a ring-side seat as my Dene Indian guide attempted to take an adult moose, using only our 16-foot, V-hull alumiunum boat and a frayed plastic ski rope. Watching him cast a hastily tied noose at the 1,500-pound animal’s antlers as he maneuvered the tiny craft with a tiller-controlled 25-hp motor was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

From Bill Monroe:
Favorite memories:
“So many to choose from…

  • Breakout day at Kalispell.
  • My own conference in Greensboro (challenging heat, humidity, good program).
  • Orono. Maine, both because of the after-hours beer-bottle dogfight with Pat Wray on the golf carts (I was knocked off by a limb and when campus security caught us we had to share our beer with him) and because we had both Bruce Babbit and Mollie Beattie there.
  • Charleston (I chaired … also got lost taking Chuck Yeager to the airport … the one named after him).
  • Fishing for cobia under an oil platform in Louisiana (St. Charles).
  • The truly remarkable and great people who helped me in my board years.”

Most memorable conference/event, and why?

  •  “I wasn’t on the tour, but during Kalispell, a biologist showing off a bear trap was mauled by the bear inside. The memorable part was the first question out of everyone back at the hotel … not about the welfare of the poor biologist (he didn’t die), but rather, ‘Did you get the photo?’ It was a moment of great pride in journalism.
  • Oh, and when I ran the board meeting in Charleston, a board member was making his solo objection to a particular issue (he was the only no vote) when my new cell phone rang unexpectedly next to the gavel. I had it programmed for the theme from “The Lone Ranger.”
  • Oh, and sitting down with John Husar, Bob Marshall, Tom Wharton and other newspaper guys in Salt Lake and creating the newspaper section’s genesis.
  • Oh, and watching things unravel in Spokane when the board censured the NRA over a comment at a sponsored lunch.”

Why did you join OWAA?
“I was invited by Ed Park and was curious at first (Phoenix…met Terry Bradshaw), then became committed to furthering the principles of ethical journalism.”
What are your hopes for the future of OWAA?
“That the association successfully complete its transition to the electronic/Internet era objectively and creatively without becoming irrelevant … That it reach out and embrace tomorrow’s communicators without seeing the profession sell its collective soul to the devil.”

From Tom Huggler:
Encouraged by sponsor Dave Richey, a successful freelancer who lived near me in southern Michigan, I joined OWAA in 1974. My first conference, that summer in Quebec City, was the most memorable. Here’s why:

  • I got to meet heroes like Erwin Bauer, Homer Circle, Wally Taber, and Jim Bashline.
  • I made lifelong friends with folks like Richard P. Smith, Bill Hilts Sr. and Joel Vance.
  • I learned how to take better photos from Pete Czura and Lefty Kreh and how to hone my craft from masters like Al Spiers and Norm Strung.
  • I caught brook trout, including a 3-pounder still on my office wall, from a wilderness lake, thanks to a preconference trip sponsored by Quebec Tourism.

My wife and I had the time of our lives meeting new people and widening our circle of friends. The brand-new hotel, a Marriott as I recall, subsidized our rooms to the degree that our five-day parking tab ($54) was higher than our comfortable stay ($52). Quebec City was celebrating its annual “Fete des Homards” (Lobster Festival). One evening at a local restaurant with our wives, Dave Richey ordered two lobster dinner, twenty minutes apart, for $5 each. Given my tight-fisted Swiss origins, you never forget a deal like that.
Quebec City was a heady experience for a young, wide-eyed outdoor writer. I owe my career to OWAA, its wonderful staff and helpful members — both active and supporting — and it all began in 1974.”

From Joel Vance:
There’s no way I could pick a favorite conference from the nearly 40 our family has attended. Each seems to have a defining moment that lingers in memory—the first in Lake Charles when I met legends in the outdoor communication field for the first time. The post conference trip to Wales or the one where we rafted the Colorado and rode mules out of the Grand Canyon.
Picking guitar with Lisa Snuggs late one night or the many songfests with Norm and Sil Strung. Lefty Kreh’s dynamite photo sessions or sharing the podium with my hero, friend and mentor John Madson. All these are indelible memories of OWAA.
I hope that all members retain their membership and that efforts to increase membership succeed. The Goldenrod Writing Workshop will be a success with the promotional help of all members. Recruit prospective students just as you would recruit new members.
OWAA has been a vital part of our family’s life for nearly a half-century and it continues to be so. Our widely-scattered member friends are as dear to us as are the ones we see every day. Even though times are tough, OWAA has been though them before and thrived.
With everyone’s support and love (not too strong a word) it will do so again.”

From H. Ted Upgren Jr.:
I joined OWAA in 1985 after a sales pitch by Bill Horine. I was chief of I&E with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Bill sponsored my membership and Kaye and I attended the 1985 conference in Phoenix, Ariz. I joined OWAA to promote dialogue about the plight of waterfowl within the Prairie Pothole Region.
At Bill’s encouragement, The NDGFD and the Bismarck-Mandan CVB, headed by Terry Harzinski, doggedly bid conference three consecutive years until it was finally awarded us in 1992. We had a great time, with high membership approval — despite a rainy Breakout Day. Highlights included meeting wonderful people. North Dakota hosted conference again in 2008.
I was elected president in 2003. At Spokane 2004, president Marty Malin and I (chairman) were directed by the board to prepare, sign and send the “infamous letter” to the NRA. Its negative effect abruptly changed OWAA associations. Its positive consequence validated freedom of speech, particularly among sponsor guests. This turmoil is my worst memory of my OWAA years. My best memory is efforts to convince the board to name Kevin Rhoades executive director.
My hope is that OWAA remains a magnet for budding outdoor communicators. To network with OWAA’s finest, most charitable and accomplished craftsmen is a ticket punched toward success.

 Stay tuned for another post with even more memories!  –Ashley Schroeder, OU Editor

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