From The Fossil no. 381, October 2019
In 1986 John Horn approached The Fossils with an idea to create an award for those who have made significant contributions to amateur journalism. It was named after its first recipient, Russell L. Paxton, a longtime amateur publisher, leader, and printer of official organs (American Amateur Journalist, National Amateur, and The Fossil). The 26th recipient, Fossil Peter Schaub, was an obvious choice to join the list of those who have provided extraordinary service to amateur journalism. At a time when the American Amateur Press Association seemed on the brink of dissolving, he stepped in as president and spent countless hours pumping life back into the organization. He also played the key role in establishing an endowment fund to preserve the Library of Amateur Journalism.
Peter first joined amateur journalism as a teenager, in 1965. One of his teachers who knew of his hobby letterpress printing shop put him in touch with past National APA president Tom Whitbread. Within the year Peter had also joined AAPA. He was active for several years, publishing The Novelty Pressman and attending NAPA conventions and local meetings. By the early 1970s, other activities such as marriage to his wife, Connie, two years in the Navy, and starting a career, did not leave time for amateur journalism and he dropped out. Peter has a degree in mechanical engineering and worked for the electric utility company in Washington, D.C., for over four decades. For many years Peter and Connie lived in Alexandria, Virginia, but moved to Williamsburg in 2012. They have two daughters, both married. Their first grandchild, Kelsey, was born on April 4 of this year.
When his older daughter asked him to print her wedding invitations, he needed to get his longdormant print shop, which includes a Pearl press, back in working order. While searching online for letterpress services he came across the AAPA website. He rejoined in 2008 and began publishing The Pearl, which won Laureate awards for letterpress printed journal in 2010 and 2014. He joined The Fossils in 2014. He attended AAPA conventions in 2010, 2011, and 2012, as well as a number of regional gatherings and Amateur Journalism Conference 2016. When he travels, he contacts local amateurs to see if they would like to get together.
The July 2013 American Amateur Journalist encapsulates challenges AAPA experienced during that difficult period. The cover announced the death of “Mr. AAPA,” Leland M. Hawes, Jr., who had contributed his writing and publishing talents, and his enthusiasm, to the organization since 1942. President Susan Petrone’s column in that issue reported the passing of several other longtime active members, the lack of recruits, and the difficulty of getting anyone to file for office in that summer’s election. She noted several members had suggested an option to “make a plan to close down the AAPA in a graceful, dignified manner.” Editor Clarence Wolfshohl started his editorial with, “These are dark times for AAPA.” His bundle review noted, “The May bundle is symbolic of the crisis facing the AAPA. Besides the AAJ, only four journals appeared.”
President Petrone’s message in the September issue was much more upbeat. After a recap of AAPA’s recent woes, she wrote:
And then the cavalry rode in. I am very happy to say that not only do we have a full slate of AAPA officers, we have a damn good, enthusiastic slate of officers who have some exciting ideas on rejuvenating AAPA and the skill set to implement those ideas. I leave the leadership of AAPA in the capable hands of incoming President Peter Schaub.
Peter worked to have an effective official board by introducing monthly phone conferences where they could brainstorm ideas and get to know one another. Among the proposals: a total refresh of AAPA’s website, with the addition of more realtime content including “news,” “events,” and “stories” sections. (VP Brian Nelson led that initiative.) Recognizing how hard it was to hold a national convention, Peter pushed for more regional get-togethers. To encourage publishing, members could apply for a grant of up to $150 “to help an amateur journalist to get their journal into print.” There were also “themed bundles” to encourage publishers to write on a topic.
In addition to his official duties, Peter was active individually. He wrote a personal postal letter to each member. He also continued to publish his letterpress-printed paper The Pearl and a new title, the computer-designed Too Cold to Print.
In the aftermath of Lee Hawes’ death, several amateur journalists suggested honoring his memory with donations toward the ongoing work at the Library of Amateur Journalism, housed at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, a project Lee contributed to during his lifetime. After consulting with the UW Foundation, in 2014 Peter suggested establishing a permanent endowment fund under the Foundation. The annual interest would provide a perpetual source of funding for the LAJ, and would legally bind the University to continue its support. Under Foundation rules, a total of $10,000 in donations was required to establish the endowment. In 2016 the amount collected passed the threshold, and the Leland M. Hawes, Jr. Fund for the Library of Amateur Journalism was officially established.
Approaching the end of his first two-year term in 2015, Peter had seen success in many areas of AAPA activity such as a redesigned website, regional meetings, and larger bundles. He saw room for improvement in recruiting (membership dropped from 188 to 147). His biggest disappointment was not having candidates for office step forward. Luckily, all of the current officers were willing to take a second term.
The second Schaub term ran as smoothly as the first. Bundles were mailed on time and laureate reports were delivered. Amateur Journalism Conference 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by AAPA, NAPA, and The Fossils, included a tour of the Library of Amateur Journalism. The AAPA members in attendance enjoyed the presentations and also the camaraderie. This time Peter took a more direct approach in recruiting candidates, and in October 2017 he was able to hand off a healthy AAPA to a new administration.
Editor Clarence Wolfshohl wrote the September 2017 AAJ’s lead article, “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” which recounted the progress made.
Four years ago at that low time in the organization’s history, we resuscitated ourselves. Instead of annual conventions, we decided regional or local gatherings were as important. We honored those fallen eminent members by creating the Leland Hawes Amateur Journalism Scholarship and being instrumental in bringing more life to the Library of Amateur Journalism and the Leland Hawes Fund at the University of Wisconsin. Members, both old and relatively new, are poised to become our new officers. And the Bundles are healthy again—not as much as we’d like, but healthy. In addition, our online presence has become a good promotion and recruitment tool as well as another venue for publishing our unique brand of amateur journalism.
He called out President Schaub for being “energetic in promoting a camaraderie in the whole organization and in finding ways to keep it not only alive but progressing.”
Once The Fossils decided to honor Peter with the Paxton award, and John Horn had the plaque prepared (at his own expense), officers had to decide how to deliver the award to him. Presentations have often been made at conventions or other ajay gatherings, but none were scheduled. However, Peter and Connie were planning a trip to Oregon in early September and hoped to visit local amateurs. Ivan Snyder, the 2010 Paxton Award recipient and secretary-treasurer during Peter’s administration, agreed to make the presentation.
On September 4, AAPA Mailer Heather Lane hosted a picnic for Peter and Connie. In addition to Ivan, AAPA members L. W. “Jiyani” Lawson and Laurie and John Kitzke were in attendance. Peter later wrote, “I was very surprised, never expected an award. Receiving it from Ivan in person was indeed special, with Heather, Laurie and Jiyani there too! That picnic capped off a very good trip.”