by John M. Hotchner
In a previous column I mentioned that my history in the hobby stretches back over 60 years, and it got me thinking. In many respects I’ve had two jobs – my means of putting food on the table for my family, and a nearly equal amount of time week-by-week devoted to the hobby. The financial returns have been modest, but the enjoyment has been a gift; whether time spent working on my own collections, or writing and editing time, or working with others helping to build the hobby’s infrastructure.
What came to me as I thought about the 60 years is the wide range of friendships I have had, but would not have, had I not gotten involved in organized philately, in exhibiting and judging, and recruiting for the hobby. One of the wonderful things about our hobby is that everyone, both the well-known names and the beginning collector are equal in our enjoyment of the collecting experience. When I began at the “beginning collector” end of that spectrum, I asked a lot of questions of anyone I thought might be able to answer. And it was rare that I did not get a cheerful, helpful answer.
All these years later, remembering back to those days, it is clear that I have gone through a role reversal. I now get to field a lot of the questions collectors have, but that is terrific, because I have always treasured the opportunity to hear about what others at all levels of the hobby think about what is happening in the philately, what they collect and why, and the odd things they find and enjoy. Perhaps that is one of the motivations of my becoming a philatelic writer. But the bottom line is that I feel privileged that my pursuits have allowed me to meet and get to know a great many wonderful people.
I want to take the rest of this column to name some of them; some names you will recognize, others not. My object is to acknowledge and say thanks; but also to make clear that we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before. I’d also like to entice you further into the hobby as I know that you will enjoy the experience AND will find that involvement is a one way ticket to friendships and associations that will enrich your life as they have enriched mine.
I must start with my father, Howard Hotchner, a Brooklyn boy who began collecting stamps before age ten and never quit. Of his three children I was the only one to catch the disease from him, but I was well and truly hooked early, and benefited for 40 years from his knowledge, encouragement and guidance. In the early years, my enthusiasm for the hobby was matched by that of high school (and beyond) buddy Bob Olds, who through his own enthusiasm stoked my philatelic fires, and remains a dedicated collector to this day.
Several of Dad’s friends were also mentors and friends to me: Jacques Minkus, Ernie Kehr, Elizabeth Denny Vann, Bill Hermann, Herman Neugass, Jan van der Vate, Bill Waldrop, Wes Capar, Bill Littlewood, Bud Petersen, and others now gone, pushed or pulled me along the path. Minkus and his Washington, D.C. staffers Morris and Hilda Flint even gave me a part-time job at the Minkus operation in the Woodward & Lothrop Department Store, just a few blocks from the White House, that lasted several years.
In the local Dolley Madison Stamp Club, those I got to know well over many years included Ray Hall, Margaret Babb, Ralph Walker, Mary Onufrak, Hank Simpson, Charlie Baker, Eric Emsing, Ann Brown, Tom Bristol, Miles Manchester, Gil Corwin, Carl Troy, Marilyn Mattke, Jim Cross, Bill Olcheski, and Harry Wohl, a few of whom are still above the sod, and remain good friends.
When the time came to get deeply into interest areas beyond my father’s, I got to know by mail such people as George Brett, Vernon Bressler, Jack Molesworth, Dick Graham, and Joe Bush. They could have ignored the twerp who asked a lot of what must have seemed to be elementary questions, but they were unfailingly gracious, and the dealers among them spent far more time on my queries than I spent money with them!
Eventually I got knowledgeable enough to trade information and material with others sharing my philatelic persuasions. Among them I would recognize with special fondness Larry Weiss, Frank Pogue, Pete Martin, Dan Pagter, Phil Nazak, Hugh Wynn, Jerry Wagshal, Charles Rudd (from New Zealand), Pip Wilcox, Doug Lehmann, Jim Cotter, Ernie Mosher, Don Evans, John Briggs, Ella Sauer, Lyle Hall, Tom Current, Ray Garrison, Jack Beachboard, Steve Datz, Bruce Mosher, Howard Gates, Bill Hatton, Ray Fehr, Bob Collins, Lou Caprario, Alex Hall, Brian Saxe, Arne Rasmussen (of Denmark), Ernest Malinow (of the UK), and Lou Repeta.
My first expedition into organized philately beyond my local club was in our Virginia State Federation, and there were many who befriended the new kid: Joe Harowitz, Alma Snowa, Jo Bleakley, Rudy Roy, Mike Falls, Darrell Ertzberger, Ed and Fran Rykbos, Leroy and Cora Collins, and last but not least, Don Jones and his wife Mary Ellen, who have become lifelong friends and in doing so went a long way toward convincing my wife Nanette that philately can be a positive despite its stealing time from a marriage.
Speaking of marriage reminds me of children, and my four Rick, Jay, Posey and James each took a turn at the hobby, and dropped it in favor of other activities. But unlike when they begged me to stop smoking, all have been and continue to be supportive of the old man’s obsession with little bits of colored paper.
The Virginia Philatelic Federation led me into exhibiting and then to judging, and it was here that I met and was taken under the wing of the colorful Clyde Jennings who must have despaired at times of my geeky and shy approach to life, but encouraged me to do things I had never dreamed of by telling me repeatedly that I could — and should. Other early mentors and founts of knowledge included Bud Hennig, Bill Bauer, Bud Sellers, Phil Ireland, Gordon Torrey, Charlie Peterson, John Foxworth, Pete Robertson, Bob Odenweller, and George Guzzio.
As I got established in the hobby, I was lucky enough to meet and learn from/work with contemporaries Steven Rod, Randy Neil, Peter McCann, Stan Luft, Jim Lee, Dick Winter, Steve Schumann, Rich Drews, Francis Kiddle (of the UK), Dan and Pat Walker, Steve Luster, Jackie Alton, Jamie Gough, Karol Weyna, Scott Shaulis, Ed Jarvis, Jim Mazepa, Alan Warren, “Connie” Bush, Ted Bahry, Edgar Hicks, Cheryl Ganz, Roland Essig, Steve Suffet, Art Groten, Jack Harwood, Steve Washburne, John Warren, Pat Walters, Joann and Kurt Lenz, Henry Sweets, Eliot Landau, Nick Lombardi, Roger Brody, Phil Stager, Hideo Yokota, Bill Waggoner, Joe Ward, Ann Triggle, Jane Fohn, Nancy Zielinski-Clark, Charles Verge, Phil Rhoade, Abraham Gelber (of Costa Rica), Paolo Comelli (of Brazil), and Jay Jennings (son of Clyde).
And it has been a privilege to get to know some of the rising generation of leaders typified by Tim Bartshe, David McNamee, Liz Hisey, Tony Dewey, Tony Wawrukiewicz, Tom Fortunato, Lloyd de Vries, Larry Fillion, Vesma Grinfelds, Alex Haimann, John Allen, Andy Kupersmit, Mike Lampson, Cemil Betanov, Steve Davis, David McKinney, Dzintars Grinfelds, John Phillips, Rudy de Mordaigle, Don David Price, Tim Hodge, and Dan Piazza.
Randy Neil deserves a special note. The man is a marvel. I was lucky to work with him in founding the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors, U.S. Stamps & Postal History (the predecessor of USSN), in establishing American Stamp Dealer & Collector magazine, and on a dozen initiatives in APS. No one else in the hobby has been more creative in making it an attractive pastime.
When I first ran for a Director position on the APS Board, it was then Director of Administration Frank Sente with whom I had worked as head of the Chapter Activities Committee who told me to go for it. People not already mentioned that I met during the APS years that have been sources of inspiration include Keith Wagner, Mercer Bristow, George Martin, Bob Lamb, Janet Klug, Steve Reinhard, Dana Guyer, Barb Johnson, Ada Prill, Ray Ireson, Norm Holden, Dorothy Blaney, Cheryl Edgcomb, Ken Martin, Wade Saadi, David Straight, Kitty Wunderly, Ernie Bergman, Gordon Morison, Steve Zwillinger, Joe Cleary, Dave Flood, and Bob Zeigler.
My writing career really began with a go-ahead from Ed Neuce, then editor of Linn’s, but so many wonderful people have been talented editors, supporters and collegial colleagues over the years including Mike Laurence, Ken Lawrence, Dick Graham, Les Winick, Ken Wood, Rob Haeseler, Michael Schreiber, Denise McCarty, Donna Houseman, Fred and Elaine Boughner, Barth Healey, Charlie Yeager, Len Piszkiewicz, George Amick, Jim Czyl, Allison Cusick, Fred Baumann, Michael Baadke, Wayne Youngblood , Joe Brockert, John and Elaine Dunn, Dan Barber, Dane Claussen, Dick Sine, Jay Bigalke, and Brian Baur.
Other organizations and other people played a role in my philatelic life, be it as elder mentors and guides, and/or colleagues on projects to push the philatelic boulder up the mountain a few more inches. Among them are Bill Schumann, Jacques C. Schiff, Jr., Jim McDevitt, Mike Bush, Robert Morgan, Michael Dixon, Harry Chamberlain, Elmer Cleary, Ralph Nafziger, Tom Breske, Doug Quine, David Beeby, George Godin, Jerry Kasper, Howard Petschel, Dennis Clark, Gene Zhiss, Stan Kenison, Hal Griffin, Al Kugel, Wilson Hulme, John Cali, Ed Dykstra, Carl Burnett, Jay and Denise Stotts, Steve Turchik, Jim Lee, Jack Williams, Kay Don Kahler, Gary DuBro, and Tony Crumbley.
To think that I might have missed meeting the great majority of these people if I’d remained a “closet collector!” And this is not a complete list. I have undoubtedly left out people who should be mentioned, but faulty memory and lack of space don’t permit a comprehensive list.
Also, among those named, many could be mentioned in several categories. Again, I simply want to convey the breadth of influences on my philatelic life, and by doing so illustrate how by allowing ourselves the freedom to get involved, we can enrich our lives in undreamed of ways.