We stepped out of the rented assault vehicle. A quick scan of the compound, through the glare of the morning sun, showed us that there was only one guard on duty. He barked a few epithets, his breath a fine mist in the crisp, cold air. We took him out. The path was clear. The 1st Ohio Volunteer Brigade* stormed the aluminum-clad fortress.
We were the self appointed specialists. Brian "Plastic Pellets" Alden, and me, Jamie "Books" McQuinn. Our mission was clear. A lightening assault and we had liberated an icon of Diplomacy history; the Hoosier Archives. We made a run for the border. After evasive maneuvers, we shook off all pursuit. By the end of the day, we had all eight cabinets stowed in a secret chamber, safely hidden beneath an unassuming suburban colonial facade. Little did anyone in the neighborhood know the secrets buried so near.....
In the Beginning
Walt Buchanan entered the hobby in 1970 and began publishing his first zine, The Hoosier Archives, in 1971. One of his purposes was to begin an archive of hobby publications. Walt was also the first publisher of Diplomacy World.
Prior to discovering PBM Diplomacy, Walt had experienced the postal chess hobby and he hoped to bring some of the same organization to Dipdom. He imagined the archives standing as the foundation of a national, and perhaps international Diplomacy association. Well, history has since shown that most attempts at hobby organization" have failed, but he had a dream.
Inspired by the early archival efforts of Rod Walker, Walt attempted to pick up where he had left off. By publishing and trading, he was able to collect virtually every North American zine being available at that time. With the help of Walker and others, Walt was able to add many pre-1970 zines. By the time personal and scholastic pressures led Walt to gaffiate, the archives contained nearly everything, complete to May of 1978. The cabinets remained in the basement of his home near Indianapolis, gathering cobwebs. Eventually, his academic pursuits (now a college professor) led him away from Indiana and ultimately to Middle Tennessee State University. He had reliable tenants in his old Indiana home, and the archives were safe, but Walt wanted to sell the house and he was not interested in dragging nearly a dozen cabinets and cases to Tennessee. It became clear that it was time to find a new home for the archives.
An Idea is Born
Longtime Dipsters, Buz Eddy and Conrad von Metzke, were aware of the problem. They contacted Pete Gaughan, thinking he would be a reliable person with whom to entrust the files. Pete, a hobbyist since 1979 and publisher of Perelandra since 1982 until its recent fold in 1996 at Issue number 134, was also publisher of Zine Register at the time and therefore a defacto archivist. On hearing of the dilemma, Pete volunteered to house the files at his home in California -- as soon as he could afford to buy one. It was estimated that shipping them all the way to the West Coast would cost over one thousand dollars so Pete began soliciting donations for a fund to subsidize the move. Response was mixed but many people thought that saving the archives was a great idea. Some even sent money. Soon Pete had collected over two hundred dollars, but it was clearly not enough. Perhaps those who questioned whether saving the archives was worth the Hobby's time and money were right. That's when the 1st Ohio Volunteer Brigade* got involved.
Buckeyes for Hoosiers
Brian Alden read of Pete's plea in Diplomacy World. He offered his Midwest home as temporary shelter for the archives in case they needed to be moved quickly. Brian, a resident of Mason, a suburb of Cincinnati which is not far from Indianapolis, had been in the hobby on and off since he first played the game in 1969. In the Seventies he played postal Diplomacy in Steve Heinowski's Ter-ran. Most recently he has resurfaced as one of the primary coordinators of Diplomacy in the America Online computer network service. Over Labor Day Weekend, 1995, Walt was at his Indiana house and invited Brian to scout" the archives. Walt had never systematically collected United Kingdom zines, but several had come into his possession. Brian's first task was to separate out those zines and ship them to Stephen Agar for including in the U.K. archives as they would be better utilized in their home country.
It was about this time that I became aware of these efforts. I was living in Michigan, but my wife (who has this tendency to drag me to different parts of the Midwest every two to four years) and I were making plans to move to Dayton, Ohio. When I saw Pete s plea in Diplomacy World I thought, "Why send all these cabinets to the west coast when I could take care of them right here, less than two hours away from Indianapolis?" I made a tentative offer to Pete to house the archives. Tentative, because we hadn't purchased a house in Dayton yet so I couldn't know if I would have the space (or my wife's blessing).
In the summer of 1995, we started our new jobs. Halina at Grandview Hospital, training Family Practice Residents, and me at the University of Dayton as a reference librarian. Later, after four months of temporary lodgings, and eighteen months of trying to sell our house in Michigan, we bought a home in Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton. This spacious colonial style home had a nice big, dry basement; room for all our junk, and some extra file cabinets. I got the OK from Halina, and I was able to send a green light to Pete, Walt, Brian and the others involved in the discussion. Pete agreed that Dayton would be a better location, and all were pleased to see that a professional librarian was taking an interest in the project.
In a bright yellow, Ryder, rental truck, Brian and I set out to bring the files to their new home. We reckoned we'd be done by two in the afternoon, but the whole project took longer than expected. The drive was easy, but we had underestimated how heavy eight filing cabinets full of mimeographed paper can be. Lots of sweat, back strain, and hours later, the last cabinet was safely stowed in my basement. Fortunately, there are no disaster stories about cabinets falling out of the truck and blowing fifteen years of hobby history across Interstate Highway 70. Despite all the work (and none of the glory), Brian and I enjoyed our rescue mission.
Since the move I've only had brief opportunities to explore, but what treasures I have found:
. Issue number one of such classic, and long running zines, as John Boardman's Graustark, and Conrad von Metzke's Costaguana.
. More than a drawer-full devoted to publications and proposals by Larry Peery.
. Not only the back issues, but camera-ready copy for issues of Diplomacy World.
. Back issues of Avalon Hill's war game magazine, The General.
. Files containing Walt's correspondence relating to games he played in, games he GM'd, and to the hobby controversies of his day. There was a letter from Bruce Linsey soliciting articles for his publishers handbook.
. One file full of conference maps outlining stalemate lines.
. Cartoon artwork by Mark Verheiden for use as Hoosier Archive covers.
. Pontevedria #1 from Rod Walker.
. An entire drawer devoted to Dungeons and Dragons zines.
. And, after a lengthy search, the game reports for my first PBM game in Burt LaBelle s Pellucidar - 1974. (I am embarrassed to be reminded that I NMR'd out of that game).
I have rejected the suggestion that they be renamed the Buckeye Archives." After all, I went to the University of Michigan. So, Hoosier Archives" they remain. Beyond that, I have no solid plans for the future of the files, other than keeping them dry and safe. I have made small inquiries into the possibility that some University archive might be interested in housing this collection, but that idea is still in its infancy. In the meantime I imagine that many people would be interested in reading re-printed articles both here in Diplomacy World and in my own zine Crossing the Rubicon. Certainly a complete catalog" of its contents is in order. Fortunately, that job has been made easier by the publication of Jim Meinel's Encyclopedia of Postal Diplomacy Zines (1992). If anyone has any ideas or suggestions feel free to send them my way. If anyone is.looking for photocopies of old issues of a specific zine I will try to accommodate them. Meanwhile, those who share an interest in preserving a piece of hobby history can rest assured that the Hoosier Archives will be preserved.