Legends of Diving Articles

 

HDS Speech, 2002
by Chuck Blakeslee
" 2002 Chuck Blakeslee All Rights Reserved
Transcribed December 2009.


HDS Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Divers:

Fm honored to be with you today to share some personal memories of the early history of recreational diving as recorded in SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE. Many articles and books have now been written about this history, particularly SCUBA AMERICA by Al Tillman and Zale Parry, and the very thorough magazine coverage in the January 20O1 Anniversary issue of SKIN DIVER, so what I have to say today is just "a drop in the bucket" of the many people and events of the times. I hope I will be forgiven for leaving out so many people, including the many advertisers, manufacturers, and dive shops who made it all possible financially for SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE to succeed. I only wish that my friend, diving partner, and co-founder and editor of SKIN DIVER, Jim Auxier, could also be here to help me and correct my recollection of that time in our lives. Jim died on May 26th this year and is now a "cosmic mariner, destination unknown."

Let me take you back over half a century to the 1940's. America had just gone through a decade of deep depression, followed by World War DL During the war years, until 1946, Americans had been willing to sacrifice for the war effort. Most everyday items had been rationed, including shoes, some foodstuffs, gasoline and tires. Everyone had a ration book with stamps to assure that items were purchased only in the specified name and number approved by the government. No new cars were produced. No new homes were being built. All production was directed to the war effort. As the war ended, and life began to return to normal, people were hungry to find new recreational outlets. Travel was still difficult; propeller-driven airplanes were slow, with very few destinations for people seeking recreational outlets. Only persons living near bodies of water were able to participate in the enjoyment of the new sport of "goggle fishing". Since cars were still all pre-war, travel to any place of great distance was unusual. Thus, diving became a territorial sport for most of us. Sporting goods stores carried only a few hunting and fishing items. There was nothing for the neophyte diver. Equipment could be found only in limited amounts in war surplus stores.

In fact, I found my first pair of fins, black, Owen Churchill, made from a synthetic rubber, from butadiene, in a war surplus store m Long Beach in 1946. I had been given a Sea Dive faceplate in 1945 from a fellow worker, a chemist at Texaco Lab in Long Beach. I was soasssow to tty my taad at the new sport From the first time I entered the water at Laguna Beach, I was "hooked". It wasn't long until I found many others who, too, were enamored with the sport. Most people were working long hours, with very little leisure time. Incomes were limited, with the average household income of less than $6,000 per year. Life was very simple compared to today. Material things were not readily available. All these factors led to individual and family beach activities which were free. Soon divers began to come together in groups to enjoy their new-found interests in common. Clubs were formed, and competition between the clubs became a regular occurrence. Most recreational divers used the oceans as a source of supplemental food items. Abalone, lobster, and fish became part of the diet of nearly every diver. Even those who weren't seafood lovers sold their catches to supplement their incomes. Why was Southern California such an early stew pot for development of the new sport" The endless beaches, nearby islands, clear and generally calm water, appealed to the appetites of those seekers entering into a fascinating new world. In addition, the existing industry that had been making war machinery was heavily situated on the West Coast, the so-called "window to the Pacific". So much of the industry that had been building ships, airplanes, and munitions was now easily converted to the development of sought- after consumer goods. The knowledge of precise machinists, who had been working in stainless steel and other metals, workers in the rubber and plastics industries with scientific backgrounds, experiences and skills, and the petroleum industry which had developed cameras able to film compasses in sealed containers at great depths and pressure, the process known as directional drilling, as well as many other technical advances, led to a smooth transition in development and manufacture of the goods being clamored for.

Actually, there had been diving activity going on in Southern California since around 1929, when the Bottom Scratchers of San Diego, the first organized diving club in the U.S, was formed. It became the model and impetus for many of the future clubs to come into being.

That is not to say that recreational diving was limited to the West Coast of the United States. There was much going on the East Coast of the US and in Europe, which we now know was a forerunner in the development of spearfishing and diving gear. ft is just that we, here in California, did not have knowledge of those developments. Only after our many contacts in the US and abroad, later when SKIN DIVER became the first fannel for the exchange of information, were we able to envision what had been going on in tandem worldwide, because of the limited information we had at the time. Most early recreational divers, naturally, became the inventors and builders of their own equipment, trading or selling pieces of hand-made equipment, or sharing ideas with others.

I, too, became a sort of inventor then; first making a snorkel from a clear, plastic tube filled with silica gel, heated in a lab oven to the proper shape and using a military mouthpiece purchased from a war surplus store. I then tried making a breathing unit using a Bendix high altitude regulator, coating the diaphram with latex rubber and attaching the regulator to a 38 en. ft. surplus tank which could be filled to 2,000 pounds or more. I used military webbing belts for the harness. Using the rig numerable times" with no knowledge of the dangers involved, I guess I was one of the fortunate ones to still be here today.

I also developed a C02 cartridge gun in 1950, which I named the Barracuda, receiving patent, number 2,660, 993, in December of 1953, but the guns were being marketed as eady as 1950 and 1951. Some 500 were manufactured and sold to such individuals as Lord Louis Mountbatten, tested by the UDT as armament for underwater warriors, and marketed through Abercrombie and Fitch and others. My patent did not infringe on earlier inventions of Mueller in 1932, Klein in 1937, Greene in 1941, Mills in 1945, and Hddemess in l950, inventors who had developed apparatus or harpoons to spear, using C02 cylinders. Mine was powered with a Sparklets bulb or cartridge with a volume ofl0.2cc's, an internal pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, expelling a spear shaft with exceptional speed and force. The reason 1 mention this is that this invention became a stepping stone toward the development of SKIN DIVER. The promotion and sale of (he Barracuda later became a commercial contact for me with prospective advertisers for the magazine. One example is the "Shoot Out" story with Rene Bussoz. ( As you may know, Bussoz brought the first Aqua-Lung to America . His company became US Divers. I would go to see Rene every so often as the Barracuda was being developed and finally manufactured. He was a very circumspect French lawyer, selling clothing and French dive gear in Westwood, California. I remember him always sipping milk through a straw (ulcers or nerves, I guess).

Rene thought only items French were quality! Such items included the Cavalero Arbalete, the Squale mask (It was good, at only $5.95 in those days!), and, of course, the Aqua-Lung (at $99.95 in 1951). Rene challenged me to a "shoot out" in his pool Though his store was in Westwood in a up-scale section, his home was in BelAir in s very exclusive area. Anyway, we went from the store to his home. Around the pool were several beautiful women in bikinis (the first I had ever seen!) This was in 1950-51. Rene's pool was about 40 feet long, a standard size for some real swimming. As Uses watched from the topside, along with his lovely friends, I disconnected the lines to the two guns, cocked the rubbers on the Arbalete, placed the handle butt of the rubber gun against the wall, and fired. It seat the 4' X5/l6al diameter shaft down the pool about 2/3rds of the way, which was just "o.k". I then inserted the Sparklets C02 cartridge with 1,000 # pressure into the breech load of the Barracuda, screwed it tight, placed its butt end against the wall and fired. The bubbles belched, the 4'3/8111" shaft sped to the very end of the 40 foot pool, and we found later that it had chipped the tile. Reae was crashed and ashen-faced. It may have dampened our friendship a little, for later, after the magazine was doing well, and we had published ads for the Rose-Pro, a single-hose regulator, which Bussoz felt was dangerous, he "pulled" his ads and forced Voit to follow, the reason being that US Divers manufactured Voit's two-hose regulators on contract. Jim and I were forced to test the Rose Pro, along with then- reps, to 135' off Redondo Beach's Deep. We felt the regulator was safe, and it required no clearing. (This was before "non- return" valves came along, such as the Hope-Page, used on two- hose regulators later. Interestingly, in a very short time, single-hose regulators "ruled the day").

We were hurt by lack of these two important advertisers for a time, but soon both Bussoz and Voit came back stronger than ever! We had made it a policy not to kowtow to anyone, and not make deals. Everyone paid the same price for ads and got the same attention to ad accuracy and standards.
The two basic pieces of equipment which every new recreational diver in the 40's needed were a mask and a pair of fins. As I have said, some innovators were making diving equipment. Face plates were made by Chuck Sturgill, using suction hose 4"-5" in diameter and a glass window shaped to fit an individual's face. The Bottom Scratchers, Wally Potts and Jack Prodanovich, had also redesigned the Japanese Ama mask of the 1930s, using a metal rim, softer rubber and a custom-contoured fit, after experimenting with various goggle designs.

Some crude fins were made of tennis shoes, plywood, and hinges and so forth. Keith Kummerfeld says that he can still sometimes hear the click-clack of those fins underwater to this day.

As you can see, these two pieces of essential equipment were uncomfortable, and difficult to design and build, so the commercial introduction of these manufactured products were welcomed by the new recreational diving world. Beginning business under the name of Sea Net Manufacturing Company, whose first office and factory was located on Terminal Island before the start of World War H, Lawrence Romano led the pioneers of marketing underwater gear, first with the Sea Dive mask in 1946, and later with such items as a self contained breathing unit with a half hour air supply, spears, floating knives, look boxes, swim mitts, surfboards, yes, surfboards! Romano and Sea Net became the first manufacturer of swim and dive masks in die United States. The Romanes also developed a mailing list, from which the individuals became members of Frankie the Frogman Club. The list, compiled from ads placed in Popular Mechanics and other magazines of the time, was intended to solicit business.

Fins had a somewhat earlier appearance, according to Nick Icorn, the authority one must turn to for information of these earliest basic needs for divers, "m 1938, Owen Churchill, an Olympic yachtsman from Los Angeles established Churchill Swim Fins. He had obtained the patent rights, dating from 1927 from Louis De Coriieu of France, then designed his fins in the shape of a fish tafl. By 1954 he had produced some 200,000 pairs." From Owen Churchill Fins to Bud Brown's Duckfeet and Wide View Mask, (the large purge valve mounted on the front), and on to Swinunaster, Voit Rubber Company and later to Seubapro, Mares, Force Fins, and Apollo, the development of the two basic pieces of recreational diving equipment has continued. For most early skin divers, a mask, fins, and a spear of some sort satisfied their needs to become underwater hunters. Until about 1945 a pole spear with three to five prong-tines was used to spear average sized fish. Later Jack Prodonovich designed a power head to be attached to the pole, allowing the diver to kill and land a much larger prey. And even later, spear guns with powerful rubbers became the preference for most diver- hunters. For abalone and lobster hunters, there was a need for an abalone iron and/or a pair of gloves.

For warmth, divers first used military surplus wool sweaters and/or longjohns, next came latex rubber dry suits of various designs, until the foam rubber wetsuits came along with all their advantages for comfort, ease, and durability. With basic equipment now available and the increasing widespread interest in the sport, more and more individuals joined clubs, m Southern California so many clubs were being formed that Bffl Barada and others saw the political need to become organized, to become a group useful in promoting beach access up and down tile California coastline, to promote fairness in fish and Game rules for recreational divers, thus creating a better camaraderie among divers and pole fishermen and a general unity among fellow divers. Barada was an LA County fireman and champion spearfisherman, who became a contributor for more than 30 years to SKIN DIVER magazine. He proved to be a strong leader and a good organizer. Later he manufactured dry suits, with the company name Bel-Aqua. He also authored several books, including Let's Go Diving and Mask and flippers by Lloyd Bridges as told to Bill Barada. Ralph Davis, also an LA County fireman, became the official record keeper of speared fish for the International Underwater Spearfishing Association for all those individuals who wished to have their catch entered in the record book. The rules were established in 1947-48, headed by Ralph Davis and the LA Fire Department Neptunes, working with Jack Prodonovich and Wally Potts of the San Diego Bottom Seratehers. The record keeping is still being carded on under the direction of Skip Hellen. Ralph Davis also was instrumental in organizing and directing the first "National Spearfishing" competition in Laguna Beach in 1950. He negotiated for the Helms trophies and medals to be awarded. Owen Churchill donated the first Owen Churchill Perpetual Trophy which he presented in person. Other dignitaries, such as movie personalities and the son and daughter of then Governor Earl Warren, Earl Warren Jr. and Honeybear Warren, also attended the competitions and presented awards. The purpose of competition in those early days was to judge which individuals and clubs (the team members made up of three divers chosen by prior elimination contests within each club), were the "best", based on the size and number offish speared in a four hour time period. Derbies were also held, with prizes given for largest and second largest lobsters, abalone, and fish. Most of the divers at the time wore no dive suits- only their skin and a pair of swim trunks. As you can see, die emphasis on recreational diving, at that time, was very different from that of today.

Jim Auxier and I were members of the Dolphin Diving Club of Compton. We had both moved to California from the southern Midwest and found a common interest in the ocean world and diving and Spearfishing. We agreed that there should be some organization to coordinate diving councils and to connect divers across the state and nation, as well as the rest of the world. One night, in 1951, after a Dolphin meeting, Jim and I decided that the two of us would launch a monthly magazine that would be distributed nationally. B would be called The Skin Diver. Neither of us had a formal journalism background, out J^i ^^s a linotype operator and thoroughly trained printer, working for Chambers Printing in Soufhgate, California. I had made the rounds to most of the existing diving industry in Southern California, trying to "peddle" my Barracuda speargun, so most were familiar to me as prospective advertisers to get the magazine going. Each of us had a specific talent to contribute, as well as an. optimistic attitude about the future of diving. We made a good team, although we did not always agree on all issues involved. We pooled a few dollars, printed up some business and rate cards, set up a small office in Jim's garage, and prepared a 16 page "dummy." We managed to get six advertisers for the December 1951, first issue. Two thousand copies of that issue were printed, at a cover price of 25 cents per copy. By December of 1952, a fall year later, we had only fifteen advertisers. Still we persisted, struggling financially, but full of hope for the future. The magazine was well received, but growth was slow, and we both had to continue to hold down fall-time jobs in addition to our passion to succeed with our dream. From the beginning. Skin Diver became a stimuli for club interest and growth and for the formation of the Council of Diving Clubs in 1952. By then the magazine had a new address, a P.O. Box 128, in Lynwood, California, Our actual business office was moved from Jim's garage to State Street, and then we were finally able to buy even larger quarters on Long Beach Boulevard in Lynwood.

We did not pay for articles or photos for most of the first tea years. A by-line or a photo credit seemed to satisfy most of the contributors.(The editorial in the May 1952 issue put it plainly: " Skin Diving and Spearfishing are sports, enjoyed by every participant. Every diver has something to say, whether it be fact or fantasy. If he or she feels that it is interesting, educational and beneficial to other divers, this is the place to express it. Should we have to pay for the stories on these pages, there would never have been a magazine. The advertising here just does pay for the printing, sometimes not that much. AH other expenses are taken from your subscription money. We don?t want to lower the quality or standards already set, so there is no financial return for anything submitted for publication. Commercial writers have many other publications that are interested in the sport that do make returns, but this is a specialized magazine for underwater enthusiasts- written by them- that other divers may be enlightened by their experience, travels and methods.")

Despite no monetary gain for their contributions, in addition to club news, writers began to submit more and more articles and photos to The Skin Diver. During the first year of publication, from the first issue on, more than just Spearfishing and club news, articles of interest to almost everyone became regular features of the magazine. I think this is one of the major reasons for the continued growth and longevity of SKIN DIVER. The first year pretty well set the stage for the direction the magazine would take. Many well faiown names were found in those first twelve issues:

Conrad Limbaugh of Scripps was a regular writer of scientific articles, as "California Sheepshead" and the "California Sea Lion". Robert C. WBson wrote about the California Spiny Lobster, as did Bill Barada, who, along with numerous contributors, wrote articles about sharks and other marine animals.

Andreas Rechnitzer wrote numerous articles in the first issues, including his early history of skin diving, man and his relation to the sea, and the physiological effects of diving. He also stressed ecological and life history facts of the marine fishes of the West Coast and the basic data desired in any reporting of these fish. Many articles dealing with diving physiology were published early on.

In addition, from the beginning, there were stories relating to salvage and rescue operations, hard hat diving, the UDT and, later, the Navy Seals. Articles, along with photos, from the American Museum of Natural History were submitted. Dr. Eugenic dark wrote articles about her spearfishmg observations in the Red Sea. As early as January of 1952, Australian divers were sending photographs^ articles and reprints of national diving news from "down under". Rodney Jonklass and Arthur C. dark wrote articles from Ceylon. In me US, inland divers and East Coast and Florida clubs and individuals sent in news and items of interest to fellow divers.

Jack Prodonovich and many other divers submitted photos and articles on "how to <!o it" or "tow we made it". There also were stories from world travelers, such as Don dark, Ted Warren, Max Jones, John RifTe and Stan Waterman. We published articles written by such well-known personalities as Fred Roberts, Dr. Wheeler North on "Kelp Studies", and Bob Din of the Navy Electronics Lab. The July 1952 issue included an article by Bob Ketcham, then president of the Ocean Fish Protective Association, informing readers that the Council of Diving Clubs had voted to affiliate themselves with OFPA. He stated that the more diving clubs and individuals gave underwater information to this organization, the more influence it would have on the entire scope of Salt Water Conservation. Was this the first article on the importance of ocean ecology" The August issue followed with an article by Ron Drununond on the need to set aside "Fish Reserves" or "Protected Marine Gardens" where marine life could be studied undisturbed and unafraid of man. Realize, these articles were printed in 1952, a half century ago. in SKIN DIVER, with a circulation of a mere 2.0001 His magazine and divers had already begun to help in photographing, studying, documenting and protecting the underwater world bottom up, from the continental shelf to the littoral zone and its tidepools.

At this moment, I should say, by the end of 1952 we "had crossed the Rubicon." There was now no turning back, only to dig in and grow. I guess we had made history, and when one is making history and living through it, it looks messy and sometimes uncomfortable. Looking back, quote my old friend Sophocles, who wrote, "one must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been." Those first years, the two of us were the entire staff of SKIN DIVER. Jim, as the editor, also set all the hot type for the first two years at Chambers before the magazine outgrew the capabilities of Chambers to handle the numbers of such a large printing. Jim was a quiet, reserved, dignified, and serious individual and a very exacting editor, always trying to achieve perfection. He felt that good proofreading was a must. We did have professional proofreading help at times, and some articles were checked and improved by a little old retired schoolteacher. Our first typists didn't last long, nor did our first bookkeeper.

Connie Johnson came along in 1957 and stayed with SKIN DIVER for 30 years, retiring as Managing Editor. Ross Oboey was an early driving force on the editorial staff. Leaving for "greener pastures", he would later write over 100 "How To" books, as well as the very collectible book. Men Against the Sea, (1969), dedicating me book to Jim and me and to Jon Hardy "who taught me (Ross) to dive". My assistant, Qren Beard, as ad coordinator, was very important to me in carrying a very heavy advertising load. He stayed with the magazine for many years after we sold to Peterson Publications in 1963. John Gaffhey was a controversial advertising salesman for the magazine for two and a half years, later going on to form NASDS.

The real "life blood" of the magazine was its continued generous contributors of articles, photographs and cartoons. Many contributors such as Dick Anderson and Bev Morgan wrote humorous stories and true adventures. Bev also wrote technical articles, one on regulators in June of 1962, consisting of 34 pages, encompassing all regulators known at the time. Bob Marx wrote about treasure diving, and Ramsey Parks wrote about diving on the Andrea Doria. dare Boothe Luce wrote fiction, and Peter Stackpole wrote about his design for an underwater towing device, POWER DIVER, There was a strong drift emphasizing SCUBA diving as more and more divers entered the water. Neal Hess was writing a column in SKIN DIVER called the "Instructors Corner", certifying divers to become instructors by reviewing their course outlines and running their names in the column. The new program was called the "National Diving Patrol". Los Angeles County had initiated a Scuba diving certification program in 1954, under the direction of Al Tillman, who, with Bev Morgan, had studied under Conrad Limbaugh of Scripps. Some YMCA's across the country and the Red Cross had also begun to provide programs. These were not as uniform as the LA County program, and it was obvious that there was a need for a national scuba divers instruction program. Finally, in 1960, NATO came into being under the direction of Al Tillman, as President, and Neal Hess, as Executive Secretary.

Although SCUBA diving and its accompanying equipment had been written about and advertised in die magazine since the first issue, the emphasis had continued on breath- holding. One reason for slow acceptance by many divers was the cost of equipment, for many years prohibitive. But for the manufacturers and dealers. SCUBA was where the money was.

A colorful contributor was Gustav DaDa Valle, a well- known diving pioneer, writing from Haiti. Along with Dick Bonin, a former member of the UDT, they were to buy Scubapro from a bankrupt Healthways in 1962 for $1.00, making it into a successful business before selling to Johnson Worldwide Associates, Inc. During the first few years, black and white photography, both top side and underwater dominated the pages of SKIN DIVER, showing spearfishermen, wreck divers, and sometimes a beach temptress. Almost all underwater photos were shot without flash. In France in 1954 Dimitri Rebikoff had developed a torpedo camera device with strobe light lighting where the photographer would be towed as he filmed. He made the first underwater color film in 1950 which won the Cannes Film Festival prize in 1951. Harold E. Edgerton, Professor of Electrical Measurements at M.I.T, was also an early pioneer in Underwater Lamp- Camera combination development, with some controversy as to who came first, he or RebikofT.

There m no way I can mention all the photographers who contributed to the magazine. I know I will have missed many, but a few of the early memorable photographers that come to mind are Lamar Boren, Ron Church, Homer Lockwood, Herb Sampson, Jordan Klein, Chuck Peterson, Jerry Greenberg, Mart Toggweiler, Stan Waterman, Ron Merker, Barton McNedy, Bev Morgan, Victor De Sanctis, and tile Ernie Brooks', both Senior and Junior.

During those formative years, from 1951 through 1963, camera housings were being made in divers garages and by skilled photographers and craftsmen. I built an underwater camera housing in 1953, placing a Leica in a plastic cylinder with outside controls through 0 ring seals. The port was 1/4111 inch optical glass. I used it for years until die Calypso came along. Shooting suffers at water level, and wearing just mask and fins, I got some interesting photos with my camera. I also shot numerous black and white, and some color, underwater photos, many used in the magazine. I believe that the camera housings that changed underwater photography were the 35mm Calypso, later to become the Nikonos, the RoIIeimarin, 2 1/4* X 2 1/4", and the Sampson 16mm movie camera.
E.R.Cross wrote books on underwater photography and TV, with diagrams and photos of gear. Mart Toggwefler published a book. How to Build Your Own Camera Housing in 1962.

In June of 1955 SKIN DIVER published its first four-color cover, an original painting by John Steel. Jack Dudley and other artists produced future covers that are now considered very collectible. Four-color cover and inside color underwater photos were published in the October 1955 Special Underwater Photography issue. A very popular regular feature of the early magazines was "The Autobiography of a Skin Diver" later to become "Personality Spotlight." These columns featured divers from around the world, first in their own words, and later through interviews. The translation of some of the pieces required a bit of travel around the area to find someone who spoke the language to help u& Some of the divers who were featured included such colorful characters as Guido Garabaldi, Dr. Stuart Tovini, Egidio Cressi, Ludovico Mares -all Italian; Rodney Jonklass and Gerd von Dinklage Schulenberg (Ceylon.), Don Linldater (Australia), Abel Gazio (Brazil) and Art Finder, Hugh Bradner, Jack Dudley and Phflip Nash- all United States, as well as many others. In 1956 we reprinted the entire Compleat Goggler, as a serial in the magazine. Then in 1957, we had 2,000 copies of Gilpatrick's Compleat Goggler (1934) reprinted in hardback by Dodd Mead, the original publisher, with a forward for SKIN DIVER by James Dugan. At $5.00 a copy (cost us $2.00 to print), sales were slow. Now if you can find a reprinted copy, it may cost upward of $200. Ea October 1956 the Ale of the magazine was changed to SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE. From the mail and newspaper clipping service Cari Kohler put together a feature called "Driftwood." His cartoons and the column were informative and popular. Some of the items were for real and others were contrived. Other popular features were Ed and Jean Dowd^s Junior Fin Fans and Alan Petrie's cooking columns. After 1955 more and more women were featured as both divers and as bathing beauties- "Miss Driftwood", *Miss Beach Temptress", "Miss International Beach Temptress". Techni-Facts was first published in May of 1961, written by W.Lee Cozad and Robert Given. The column ran off" and on until 1963. Then in May of 1964 the series was revived as Technifacts, written by EJL Cross, who would continue to author it for over 35 years for Peterson Publications.

Over the years, many issues contained various extra goodies. The December 1959 issue contained a free divers flag decal for your tank or car window. It helped to serve as a means to educate boaters and the non-diving public about the new divers flag. m January 1961, "Diving News", a tabloid sized newspaper, published bi-monthly, was sent to att subscribers free and was designated as the official organ of the Underwater Society of America. Ten separate issues were published through October 1961. In December it became a quarterly insert in the magazine. The last issue, still in newspaper form, and having 16 pages, appeared in September 1962- Subsequently, all the "Diving News" columns, features^ etc. became a regular part of SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE. The drowning and diving accident "obits" from the news service were a "downer" to us. We felt obligated to "put our shoulder to the wheel" to help and encourage safety in skin and SCUBA training, printing materials relating to such, and holding ad hoc meetings in our offices by people like Al Tillman and Neal Hess before NAUL We provided a place, printed material, and gave input to Jay Albeanese and Louis Cuccia in the formation of NOGI, as well as to those considering what to use as an official Diver's flag. SKIN DIVER also provided assistance and publicity for the International Film Festivals, organized and developed by Al Tillman and Zale Parry, and presented first in 1957 with a special showing of Dimitri Rebikoffs motion picture footage. We felt that we were an aid to all things related to diving that were wholesome. safe and sportsmanlike.

We were honored by visits from and to such notable figures as Emile Gagnan, Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso, Hans Hass, Hannes Keller, Egidio Cressi, Professor Luigi Ferraro, George and Paul Beuchat, Luis Marden, Lloyd Bridges, Abel Gario and many others in those early years, one of the plus sides of publishing. I do believe that the beginning years held an intimacy that somehow faded with growth overtime.

Did we have any competitors during those early years" I must say "Yes" to that question.


We had 11 competitors during the time that we owned and published SKIN DIVER. Some of these were Waterworld in '55-'57, our strongest competitor, published by Peterson Publications, which was later to buy SKIN DIVER. It leaned toward the sensational, used three-color covers and cheap paper, and did not receive the support of the clubs and loyal diver-readers that we had, so they "folded their tent." Another strong competitor was Underwater, published in Florida in '61-'62 then folded. A few others were Sport Diving, Diver Below, Watersports, and Waterbug. There were also many foreign magazines. A few good ones of the time were Mondo Sommerso and Pescasport (Italy), Sous Marine (France), and Delphin and Neptun (Germany). In our research we discovered an Italian magazine, Mondo Subacqueo, which had been published in 1950. probably the most valuable in my collection, because of its age and the personal autograph of Egidio Cressi. When a new magazine would come along, we might lose some advertisers and contributors for a time. AH our competitors eventually filled, but each did contribute to the continued growth of skin and Scuba diving.

Recreational diving has changed in so many ways in the last 50 years that it is difficult to pinpoint just when certain changes came about. To quote Nick Icorn from the 50th Anniversary Edition of SKIN DIVER, lt Two characteristics of both modem divers and their hearty predecessors are a passion for the water and a legacy of equipment innovation. While most early divers were hunters, today many don't even own a spear. SKIN DIVER has featured a wealth of gear that has evolved to make diving safer and far more enjoyable for the sport's ever-widening demographic. It has been a long, if not sometimes strange, journey."

A magazine is a "storehouse" (of information), according to Webster's Dictionary. In my opinion, SKIN DIVER MAGAZINE of the 1950's and 60's is, for the most part, the only American source for reference material relating to recreational diving, its activities, personalities, the manufacturers and retailers of early diving equipment, advertisers, travel, and the many innovations, trends, and changes over the years. After 611 issues and 51 years of serving divers and the diving industry SKIN DIVER has published its last issue, November 2002.
 

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