by Bob Ingraham
5th of July 2009
New Stamporama members may not have noticed, but the Rambler, the club's newsletter, is among the missing. It was last delivered to real and virtual mailboxes in September, 2002. It is unlikely that it will ever again exist in its previous form. Its demise is a longish story, its history worth telling.
The masthead of one the last issues of the Rambler
Early in 1996, Jerry Abern mixed together the internet, e-mail, and a few friends, stirred it a bit, and came up with an organization he called Stamporama, perhaps the world's first on-line stamp club. Soon Jerry began publishing a newsletter called the Rambler. It was distributed only in "hard copy" form, and mailed by snail mail. It was free, although some members sent donations to Jerry to reimburse his costs.
Early issues of the Rambler were down-home friendly, long on bad jokes, and short on stamp stuff. (Jerry always insisted that he knew little about stamps, but he did have a good sense of humor.)
Concurrent with the rapid growth of Stamporama, the Rambler soon evolved into an interesting, useful philatelic publication. Readers could find information about new issues, a philatelic glossary, and columns about postal history. Many members contributed individual articles, as well as popular columns, including "The Soggy Corner" by Brian McGrath, "News from the Northland" by Mark Dyck, and two columns about postal-history: Sylvestre Buoro's "What's in the Mail Today?" and Bob Ingraham's "Cover Comment". Jerry's personal touch remained, however: he always introduced new members, and wrote a column called "My 2¢ Worth".
The Rambler continued to grow in size, and when it eventually became burdensome for Jerry, Marlene McCall, a professional publisher, became volunteer editor. The Rambler soon took on a professional look, with "serious" philatelic content. The costs of producing it, however, soon became insupportable, not to mention the labor involved in mailing it. A significant factor in this was Stamporama's rapid growth: its membership had increased to several hundred members worldwide.
It was at this point that Roy Lingen, the current webmaster and chairman of the Stamporama Volunteer Committee, offered to publish an electronic version of the Rambler on the Stamporama web site. It was a great idea, and several issues in PDF (Adobe's Portable Document Format )were published. They are still available, and are well worth reading. But the PDF Rambler wasn't a great solution: few people bothered reading it, and technical problems plagued it from the start.
Late in 2002, Marlene McCall resigned for personal reasons. No volunteers came forward to take her place. With Jerry Abern's death in February of 2003 came a period of re-evaluation and restructuring. The Rambler was among the casualties: Stamporama does not have the resources to publish any sort of regular newsletter, on-line or off. Still, many members wanted to maintain a Rambler of some sort as a lasting legacy to Jerry Abern. The answer was to incorporate several of Rambler's features in the Stamporama web site:
- The web site features substantive philatelic articles on individual web pages, open to the public, that are collectively called the Rambler. Any Stamporama member may submit articles for publication.
- The list of mentors is exists on the web site, and is more useful than ever because it provides e-mail hotlinks to mentors.
- It is no longer possible to list new members as such, but all Stamporama members are listed on the web site, along with collecting and contact information.
- The Stamporama Message Board is increasingly busy, and handles members' questions, comments and opinions far more efficiently than the old Rambler ever could.
Casualties have inevitably occurred in the transition to an electronic "Rambler": a small number of Stamporama members did not have computers and had to rely on the mails to receive the Rambler. We regret that they are unable to continue to participate in Stamporama. We like to think, however, that Jerry Abern would approve of Stamporama's "new look," although though he (and perhaps all of us) might well regret the loss of the "personal touch" that came within pages and pages of lovingly written "ramblings".