In Full Swing
(continued from “The Rag Once Again“)
The OB Rag Staff Roll – Circa Mid-1972
By the middle of 1972, the Rag was definitely in full swing. Take a look at, say, the staff box of the mid-year issue of 1972 – the June 29- July 14, Vol. 2, No. 13 edition. It included Nora Nugent, a pony-tailed feminist who was the first openly lesbian member of the staff. At one point, Nora lived in a small, old-hundred-year wood garage, then typical of OB, right off the alley, with newspapers as its only insulation. This minimalist lifestyle allowed her to be active in feminist politics and work on the Rag. Nugent continued to live in San Diego over the years and decades later ended up working for the City of San Diego.
Liz Brody, another Rag staffer, lived with Nugent in her garage during that time. Liz had been recruited to the Rag after she had moved to OB following Frank Gormlie’s arrest in Colorado for his involvement in the Collier Park Riot. (She had been living with Gormlie near Aspen when he was arrested by the FBI in late December 1971.) Originally from western Massachusetts, Brody had attended an all-women’s college outside New York City, when she met Gormlie while he was a West Point cadet. Having attended one of the first anti-war marches in Washington, D.C., in 1965, Brody brought a long-term commitment of opposition to the Vietnam War to the Rag, although she had less counter-culture roots than they others; plus she probably contributed to Gormlie’s transition from West Point cadet to anti-war activist. Years later, she ended up following him to the Rockies where he was working construction. At any rate, she brought a fresh intellectual, feminist, and East Coast political bent to the Rag staff. Never active in anything like the Rag before, Brody took on some of the more loftier issues and writings for the paper. After the Rag’s demise, Brody lived with Bo Blakey – one of the Rag originators – and became a ESL teacher, moving to Mexico City to teach.
Rod Richardson was also in the staff box, definitely a member with longevity. Older than most of the other staffers, a loaner of sorts, he came to the paper with strong working-class roots, and voiced a consistent anarchist perspective even though, he too, had the least counter-cultural background. His thin, tall frame was a common site in OB as he could be seen peddling the papers in front of supermarkets and on street corners. After the Rag folded, Richardson worked as a cab driver for years, and continued to live off and on in OB, then moved permanently out of town in the late nineties.
Rounding out the feminist wing of the OB Rag staff was Kathleen Doyle. She and hubby Dennis had rescued the Rag on their own when the paper nearly faltered during its transition from an anti-war-centered booklet to something else in late 1970. Their toddler son, Erin, was the Rag’s kid, as he was at more staff meetings than anyone else. Kathleen, who later changed her name to “Lucha” (“struggle” in Spanish) evolved into the matriarch of the publication. Everything centered or flowed around her, as her strong nurturing ways allowed the individuals on the staff to feel like a family. It was often at her initiative or direction that the Rag was able to get through its difficulties, with her hearty laugh and ubiquitous electric coffee pot close at hand. And for awhile, the Rag reflected the personal changes that Kathleen/ Lucha went through, from young mother, to ardent feminist, to open lesbian. Probably the only staffer with any journalistic background, Kathleen came from an upper-middle class Palos Verdes family seeped in publishing. When Kathleen finally departed from the Rag sometime in 1975, the paper was never able to replace her energy and commitment. She and Dennis got divorced and went their separate ways, with Kathleen transitioning and marrying again after moving back to Los Angeles.
Another source of solid commitment came from Kathleen’s other half – Dennis Doyle, who brought his own power, energy, vision and strong emotional connectedness to this fledgling alternative to the establishment press. Dennis became a mainstay of the paper, as well as being heartily involved with OB’s new free school. Dennis jumped into just about every task that was needed to get each issue printed, get it written, typed, “put to bed” and out the door – to the publisher. Then, of course, there was distribution. One could have the best paper but if no one read it, why bother? So, it was Dennis who ensured that the Rag made it to the streets and residents of Ocean Beach. With his long, blond curly locks flowing, Dennis made the paths of OB his own. He often would work late into the night, “selling” OB Rags in front of Mayfair – one of the community’s supermarkets. During one selling-sprint – with the Rag hot off the press, Dennis made over eighty dollars – this was in 1972 – which could have been enough to pay the rent back then. (“Selling” the Rag meant asking passerbys for a donation of usually a quarter.) After he left the Rag in ’75, after the dissolution of his relationship with Kathleen, Dennis continued to teach at the Free School and then as a regular teacher. Years and new lives later, he obtained his PhD, became an elementary school principal, and then moved into school district administration, and by 2007 was the chancellor of the National City School District.
The last member of the “regular staff” during this time was David Diehl, a local environmental activist and lawyer, veteran of various battles with the authorities. Diehl had been active with the OB Ecology Action, the jetty fight, and the campaign to save Collier Park. He also had been an initiator of the OB Community “Free” School, and had been instrumental in setting the alternative learning facility up in an older single-story house on Voltaire Street. Years later, Diehl began another publication attached to a group he founded, the OB Preservation League. The League spearheaded successful efforts to block the construction of a boardwalk across the beach in south OB. Diehl later would travel back and forth from his home in Costa Rica and his beach house in OB.
That was the regular staff, an exalted position, as that meant you could take part in the consensus decision making about what issues to take on, what articles to write, who to write them, etc. But there were contributors also, who wrote pieces, or drew graphics, took photographs, or were involved in distributing the paper, or helped out in the hundreds of small tasks necessary for the publication that spit out 5 to 10,000 issues every two weeks. For this mid-1972 issue, the “contributors” were Deborah Menkhart – who was instrumental in getting the Food Co-op off the ground, young Mari Gray who wrote a regular column on vegetarian and organic cooking, Charlie Marshall, an older activist who brought decades of experience to the Rag circle and community movement in general, and Elmer (unknown to this writer); others would soon join this staff, including Davis Hayden, Myriah, Terry and Sean.
The New American Patriots
For a glimmer at the eclectic left-wing politics of the staff, see the June-July 1972 issue of the OB Rag; this was the “Independence Day” edition, with a red-ink front cover of a flag-waving hippie in front of gun-totting National Guardsmen ala Kent State. Below the drawing was a declaration of “The New American Patriots” – an updated version of the Declaration of Independence, asserting in the first paragraph “our right as the people governed to alter or abolish (government); it is our right to institute a new government ….” This updated version included a litany of traditional liberal social goals. And then it continued:
The New American Patriots recognize that if our equality is not secured, that if our needs are not fulfilled, that if our political rights as stated in the Bill of Rights are not upheld, that if the government continues to make decisions for us in spite of us and fails to uphold the Right of Self-Determination for other and all peoples, then it is our duty and obligation as true American citizens to institute new government that ensures these rights and needs.
We believe that the American Revolution that began around 1776 is an on-going process always in defense of individual rights over those of property; always in defense of freedom in the face of tyranny and continually in struggle to secure equality and liberty for all….
Ironically, just on the second page of the issue sat “OB Flashes” – where at the very top was an account of arrests of members of a right-wing terrorist outfit, the Secret Army Organization. It read:
After 7 months of investigation, 4 members of the Secret Army Organization , the right wing para-military group believed to be responsible for the shooting of Paula Tharp in OB on Jan. 6 , have been arrested. Being held on $50,000 bail for the sniping incident and the bombing of a Hillcrest theater are: William F. Yakopec, 30, an unemployed carpenter from El Cajon; George M. Hoover, 36, a handyman from Santee ….
Yakopec was later, of course, convicted on the criminal acts. Hoover turned out to be an FBI informant, who had turned in the gun used in the sniping incident to his FBI supervisor weeks after it.
THE RAG & OTHER O.B. ALTERNATIVES — ALL IN FULL SWING
By Fall of 1972, it was the OB Rag’s second birthday – the beginning of its third year, and the community-wide effort to develop alternative institutions was in full swing. The OB Community School was a year old. A childcare center had arisen among needy parents who were assisted by activists. The OB People’s Food Store had opened in a storefront. And finally a new grassroots urban planning organization was in the process of forming, which eventually paved the way for a community frontal attack on the developer-driven Precise Plan. Again, the Rag was on the front lines promoting all of these alternatives, as many of the paper’s staff were involved in these efforts.By now, the paper had taken on more a “professional” look; it was printed on newsprint with 16 pages – for a while it even had justified columns – but usually the text was simply typed out on typewriters. It had more photos and local news, along with poetry and artwork by local residents.
For example, the “birthday issue” contained a half page of local news, two-thirds page of national & international news, a half page of “the people answer” – a periodic poll by Rag staffers with photos and direct quotes of those polled; a page of local poetry, called “the Poet’s Circle”; a back page devoted to a detailed daily calendar – called “Goodvibes” and a “community bulletin board” of classifieds.
Articles included one by Kathy Doyle on her recent ‘natural child-birth’, a “open letter to the male residents of OB” about rampant male chauvinistic behavior in the community; several pages devoted to a Rag staffer’s personal account of the 1972 Republican Convention protests in Miami; an interview with a local progressive concert producer; and finally a fictional piece about the disappearance of the OB Pier. Significantly, this issue also contained two pages worth of advertisements – a clear indication that the paper was being sustained by the businesses that catered to the hip and young. The paper was also sustained by donations — cans were set up adjacent to stacks of issues in 18 stores within the beach area.
The Rag was publishing 5000 to 10,000 copies twice monthly (or at least that was the goal) and was being distributed throughout OB, in markets and stores — at one point, it was in 18 local businesses – and informally on a couple of college campuses, and in a few stores in Mission and Pacific Beach. Importantly, the Rag had established itself as a regular periodical, and its pages contained many ads from local businesses – as mentioned – but this was very significant as it meant that the “hip-eoise”, the hip small to medium businesses, supported the paper and perceived the paper as reaching its potential clientele.
As part of the Rag’s philosophy, issues were mailed to inmates free of charge. In addition, the paper was tied into a couple of news services, including LNS -Liberation News Service – an information distribution system outside mainstream media that regularly sent the Rag news, photos, and graphics pertaining to national and international issues as viewed from a progressive perspective.
(click on the image to see a larger version)
Decision-making on the Rag’s staff was usually by consensus, as the core folks worked together as a collective. At staff meetings, still held at someone’s house, while they consumed gallons of coffee, the collective discussed future articles and other material, tasks divided-up, and then usually everyone would hand address copies going out to the growing subscriber list.
After the articles and graphics were completed, it would usually all come together in one long all-nighter, with the entire production staff joining in to do the final editing, typing, and cutting and pasting. As the Rag evolved, it went from the use of student newspaper lay-out facilities at UCSD to owning its own light tables and having its own office – major evolutionary stages. These were the days of old school lay-out production, pre-computer and desktop publishing, where sharp x-acto knifes and messy glue were the tools by which publications were crafted.
Once finally laid-out, “put to bed” as it was called, the production staff would collapse from exhaustion, and the designated drivers – the ones who drove the copy to the printer – would take over. At one point, newsprint became so expensive, staffers were forced to drive up to Riverside to have the publication printed – what with the paper’s shoe-string budget.
As soon as the paper was published, staff members and a few trusted friends would grab stacks and stand at busy Newport Avenue corners and in front of OB’s then two major markets, Safeway and Mayfair, selling copies. The Rag was becoming popular and was being supported by the community with donations, subscriptions, and written contributions.
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