Legends of Diving Articles
Skin Diver Magazine
by Dr. Sam Miller
" 2006 Dr. Sam Miller
All Rights Reserved.
The year was 1951, the month was
December and Skin Diver Magazine subtitled "A magazine for skin divers and
spear fishermen" was born. It was a thin magazine, only 15 pages measuring 8-1/2
x 11 inches, and cost only twenty five cents per issue. However, it was "our
magazine" and the world's first and only magazine devoted to the infant sport of
It had been a dream of two ex-GIs Chuck Blakeslee, a laboratory technician, and
Jim Auxier, a printer. They had assembled the magazine on Chuck's kitchen table
in Compton California. Both Chuck and Jim were active divers and members of
"Dolphins" spear fishing club of Compton, California. This was the same club
that won the world's first spear fishing meet in 1950 at divers cove in Laguna
The front cover of this first edition featured Doctor Nelson Mathison holding a
large white sea bass that he had just speared at Diver's cove in Laguna beach
California. "Doc" Mathison was a popular diver of that era and a member of the
famous Long Beach Neptunes Spearfishing club , the second oldest dive club in
the US. The back cover displayed a full page ad for Voit Rubber Company. This
pioneering advertisement displayed two pairs of fins, two masks and a pair of
ear plugs which the ad proclaimed they were "used by skin divers everywhere."
The first issue
featured popular diver
Doctor Nelson Mathison
Within the covers of the magazine were six advertisements; a 1/8 page
advertisement for Mort Toggwieller's 42 foot sport fishing dive boat the "Maray,"
the world's first skin diving charter boat; a 1/3 page advertisement for two
California sports shop, as dive shops were refereed to prior adapting the
specific title of "dive shop" "Fisher Sporting Goods" owned by the late Mel
Fisher who sold it a decade later and moved to Florida to become the world
famous treasure hunter; a full page advertisement for "Rene Sports" on Broxton
Avenue in Westwood, California which was Owned by Rene Bussoz. In March, 1952
Rene Sports became U.S. Divers aka Aqua Lung; 1/2 page advertisement for the
first US recreational diving company "Sea Net Manufacturing Company," owned by
Lawrence "Pops" Romano who sponsored the famous "Frankie the Frogman" club
established by Frank Roedecker, who was famous as "America's first frogman"
(Frogmen of Burma, Wright Clarke, Irwin & Company.) ; 1/3 page advertisement for
?Spearfisherman" of Huntington Beach, California, owned by Arthur "Brownie"
Brown which was to be acquired within ten years by Voit the giant US sporting
goods manufacture, and of course, the full page back cover by Voit.
There were only three stories within the magazine. The first article on page 3
was titled "The California Sheepshead" by the late great Connie Limbaugh, who
along with the late Andy Rechnitzer were the co-instructors of the first
recreational dive instructor training in the US, the Los Angeles County
Underwater Instructor program. The largest and primary article was
?Spearfishermen enjoy November trip to La Paz." by Ron Drummond This four page
article chronicled the adventures of eight pioneer divers and one female,
Charlice, who was celebrating her honeymoon with her new husband Jack Waite. Dan
Clarke a member of the first diving club in the world, the famous San Diego
Bottom Scratchers, reported on the "Pearl Divers of Hikueru," which was a short
article on his three month diving adventure with the pearl divers on the island
of Hikueru in the Taumotus Archipelago.
Scattered throughout the magazine were nine articles of club activities,
including a full page report complete with pictures of the "Southern California
Skin Divers club (SCSD)" 1951 annual lobster tournament which was written by
Harry Vetter who also just happened to win the tournament. Harry was a pioneer
underwater instructor in the LA county program and later taught the first NAUI
course, becoming NAUI instructor #4. Jack Waite was a member of SCSD picture was
all over that page and he was also featured throughout the magazine!
Less than 2,000 of the first issues were printed. Since it was Blakeslee and
Auxier's first venture into magazine publishing they had no previous experience
and very little knowledge of the magazine production, they didn?t even have a
distribution system established. Most first issues were given away to
individuals or clubs with the hope that subscriptions would follow. It was slow
going for a while but, once the word was out subscriptions did indeed follow.
Soon Skin Diver Magazine was not only the world's first diving magazine it was
the world's finest and largest diving magazine.
It is reported that throughout the world today there are less than 20 complete
sets of Skin Diver Magazine in existence, a number are in private collections
and a few are tucked away in research institutions.
One couple who are world-class Skin Diver Magazine collectors own two complete
sets and they are located in Ohio! My fellow collectors and good friends of many
years, Dale and Karen Woods of Diver's Paradise in Toledo, Ohio own the two
complete sets. Don?t even think about thumbing through their collection, but if
you are on their good side they just might let you see, but not touch their
collection. These magazines are just too old, too rare and too valuable to be
The first issue, the December 1951 issue, is probably the most sought after
literary trophies of the recreational diving world. It is unknown how many
individual issues remain but magophile experts place the estimate "very low"
perhaps as low as ten or less. One single copy of the first issue sold at
auction several years ago for almost twelve hundred dollars!
With all things there is a beginning, a middle and an end.
Auxier and Blakeslee, the founders and original owners, sold Skin Diver Magazine
to the giant specialty magazine publishing company Peterson Publications in
October 1963. It was sold two more times before Skin Diver Magazine finally
ceased publication in November of 2002.
Skin Diver Magazine had been a voice of the divers of the world for over fifty
years from December 1951 to its end. A fitting tribute to its founders Chuck
Blakeslee and Jim Auxier.
Chuck Blakeslee retired to a
California mountain community and is enjoying the twilight of his life with
Jere, his diving partner and wife of 50 plus years.
Jim Auxier retired to
Georgia where he passed away about ten years ago.
People in the article
Doc Nelson Mathinson passed
away 25 years ago.
Willard Voit passed away
about 25 years ago and his company, Voit was sold to AMF.
Mort Toggwieller is retired
and is enjoying life.
Mel Fisher moved to Florida,
discovered treasure, and passed away about 10 years ago.
Rene Bussoz sold US Divers,
returned to France, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Lawerence Romano's company
was closed upon his death in December 1954, but his equipment has gained new
popularity as a desirable diving collectible.
Frank Roedecker retired,
moved to the mountains of California where he passed away 15 years ago.
Arthur Brown, who developed
the Wide View mask and the Duck Feet fins, left diving manufacturing.
Harry Vetter has retired and
is enjoying collecting, restoring and selling antiques. We remain in contact
as much as possible.
Charlice and Jack Waite
divorced a few years after the LaPaz trip.
Jack Waite lost his full and
exciting life in a motor cycle accident 25 years ago, his daughter Beverley
and I visit frequently.
Connie Limbaugh lost his
life in a French cave diving accident in 1959.
Andy Rechnitzer lived a full
and productive life, passing away in August 2005 at age eighty (see
Ron Drummond's fate is
Dan Clarke left his life of
travel and adventure and returned to San Diego where he spent the remainder
of his life.
Dr. Samuel Miller
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