Reviewing Aberree, part 1/7

Since I had to switch away from cancellable Blogspot, I’m taking the opportunity to review and condense several long-running topics. Condensing is important. Most topics continued in scattered form for many months, with gradual learning and adjusting as I wrote and studied and animated. “Correction” footnotes often turned into correct understanding. The final result wasn’t clear from reading the sequence of disconnected items.

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This review of Aberree was triggered by Walter Kirn’s praise for the Beat Generation writers. The Beats were superficial compared with more obscure literary and cultural movements of the ’50s. Kerouac and Ginsberg weren’t producing anything new or trying to figure out how life works; they were just consuming entertainment and drugs and alcohol.

In 2017 I happened to encounter one of those obscure movements, unexpectedly centered in my old stomping grounds of Enid. I spent several months exploring it, even doing some real science on my own. The first encounter was purely accidental:

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Looking through another volume of the NW Ayer newspaper almanacs. This one is 1962. Checked Enid and found an unexpected aberree/ation!

Aberree? Metaphysical? 1100 circulation? Huh? Enid and Metaphysical don’t go together.

Turns out to be even more interesting. There’s a tribute site for Aberree, carefully displaying all the pages of all the issues.

Alphia and Agnes Hart put out ten issues a year, from 1954 until Alphia died in ’65. The Aberree started out as an irreverent vector for Hubbard’s original version of Scientology, countering Hubbard’s later cultish and litigious version. Hart expanded to cover a wide variety of unorthodox topics.

The Aberree shows that convention and uniformity weren’t the whole story of the 50s, by a long shot.

Looks like the Harts suffered real harm from the slings and arrows of Hubbard’s lawsuits. In ’62 they worked from a little storefront at 207 N. Wash on the respectable side of downtown, but they lived out by the cemetery on N. Monroe, a couple blocks from a house I rented briefly in ’72 when I was dead broke. Later they gave up the storefront and operated from their garage.

The Aberree wasn’t a mimeographed newsletter. It was professionally done, Vari-Typed and offset, with excellent art on the cover. The Harts did their own printing, plus some side jobs. They specialized in running bulk mailings for local businesses and for their own national ‘offbeat’ clientele.

A sample of Hart’s writing from 1954:

Three Arkansas men have formed a corporation — called the Planet Mars Development Corp. — to subdivide and sell land if and when that planet is reached. In the ABERREE last month, our Martian correspondent said: “kyst b yg k lm zx’t, exerp. tg. mnyt plxmvhy stkr plzth.”

It took 20 U.S. military officers 20 days to burn 35 million dollars in obsolete military money in an incinerator recently. But they’ll learn: two officers in the Pentagon can “burn up” 10 times that in real money in 20 seconds.

Alphia grew up in Lahoma just west of Enid. As far as I can tell his given name was Alphia Omega Hart, which implies that his parents were also a bit unorthodox. Lahoma was the winter quarters for a major circus, which may be correlated. Alphia started work early as a printer’s devil at the Lahoma weekly newspaper, and ended up as a photographer for the Daily Oklahoman from 1936 to 1940. His work is archived at Okla Hist Soc. In WW2 he continued with journalistic work for the Air Force, and was one of the few who personally covered and photographed the Bikini atomic tests. After WW2 he connected with Hubbard in Wichita, and quickly moved into Hubbard’s inner circle. Hubbard moved to Phoenix, changed his doctrines, and tightened up the cult tyranny. Alphia got out and returned home to Enid.

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It makes me itchy to think that I lived in Enid for 10 years, ran around in unorthodox circles, worked in printing for a while, yet never heard of the Harts. I was a CITIZEN in Enid, knowing a wide range of people from mayors to mobsters to ministers, and my circle should have overlapped the Hart circle. But it didn’t.

Enid has always given a home to unique worldviews. l’ve never felt like a CITIZEN anywhere else.

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Later question: HOW did I get to be a citizen in Enid? Why did I feel like a quasi-insider? I’m sure Enid’s culture is the main reason, but I got a head start by working as a delivery boy at Cromwells just after release from prison in 1970. Delivering furniture and printed forms to various businesses gave me a ‘back-room’ look at those businesses. Later when I advanced to typesetter, I saw the economic aspects. When I laid out a brochure or invoice or stockholder report, I got to know the names of the officers, the products and prices, and the profits and losses.

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Sidenote: Alphia’s life fits the pattern that Batya has been discussing. He didn’t start life with a bachelor’s degree in Critical Journalism Theory. He started setting type at age 14, later became the editor/reporter of the small weekly, then moved to OKC and became a reporter on a big paper.

Journalism was a PHYSICAL TRADE just like plumbing or carpentry. You started out by lifting and melting buckets of lead, and gradually worked up to a position where you could lay out the patterns made by the lead when it struck the paper.

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