Writing the next chapter: Preparing for OWAA's 100th anniversary

Writing the next chapter: Preparing for OWAA’s 100th anniversary

Bill Monroe pulled his glasses out of his pocket, splayed a few papers on the hood of his pickup and signed his name to my Outdoor Writers Association of America membership application, muttering “It’s about time you’re one of us.”
It was in December 1992, and Monroe was down from Portland, Oregon, to Medford, Oregon, to pick up a new boat and to get me into the organization at just the right time. At 28 years old and nearly four years of full-time newspaper outdoor writing behind me, it was time to spread my wings and ’93 would be perfect because the annual conference that year was in Portland.
It was a memorable meeting of so many new colleagues at the opening night party and bumping into guys wearing camouflage sport coats and then   saying, “Sorry. Didn’t see you.”
What I’ve described above could be OWAA’s only documented first-hand account of what happened in Portland in 1993. OWAA hasn’t published a book on its history during my entire career in the association. We’re due for an update.
I envision presenting an updated book documenting OWAA’s history to our members and anyone else interested in outdoor communication, well in time for the organization’s 100th anniversary in 2027.
But I’m not talking about knocking out a few new chapters on the ensuing decades since the last go-around in 1992. I see us combining various media to tell OWAA’s on-going story. Video clips, slide shows, radio broadcasts and, yes, even some written accounts of what has transpired in our organization are need to tell our story because it’s not only our history — it’s our present and our future.
As president, I have created an open ad-hoc committee soliciting ideas, stories, videos, photographs and written accounts of what happened in the past 23 years, as well a list of the members who want to take part in archiving our history in this new way.
Consider this an initial solicitation for your data, your memories and even your time to help figure out what should be in our updated history and what formats it should take.
Send what you have and know to info@owaa.org so we can begin the stockpiling of these pieces of our past. Since a small group of outdoor writers in the Izaak Walton League spawned our organization 88 years ago, OWAA has pubished only two histories.
The first, entitled “Fifty Years of OWAA”was written in 1977 by member Don Cullimore. The was followed up 15 years later by “Sixty-Five Years of OWAA” edited by Cullimore and long-time member and former OWAA Executive Director Ed Hanson. It took the 50-year anniversary book, added some missing pieces and filled out the most recent years.
Since then, OWAA essentially has lived an undocumented existence.
The subject of documenting our past has come up off and on during my eight years as a board member and officer. Each time the idea came up as the organization approached what was considered a landmark age — oh, how we in the media adore anniversaries that end in 0 or 5. And each time we decided to put it off until the next anniversary with a 0 or a 5.
Kinda hard to ignore 100, however.
The issue most recently arose during a board meeting in McAllen, Texas, when member Pat Wray requested that the board reinstate the position of historian, eliminated as a cost-cutting measure a few years ago. While the board did not name a historian, it decided to create this ad-hoc committee to start collecting information for the history rewrite now, because as board member Brent Frazee said, 12 years can come awfully quickly.
This will also give OWAA’s current and future boards an idea of who wants to work on this project and how it will look. The discussion also pointed  toward having a future board and president appoint an official historian who would serve as chair of the committee and shepherd the project to fruition.
I just hope it will include one photograph of one of us wearing a camouflage sport coat at the Portland conference. ♦
— OWAA President Mark Freeman, mfreeman@mailtribune.com

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