Juggler's World: Vol. 39, No. 2

Getting the Word Out

The History of Juggling Magazines

The Juggler's Bulletin

It seems fundamental that without "Juggler's World," there would be no IJA. There would be no way to get the word out on conventions, there would be no convention without membership support, and there would be little membership without the quarterly reminder that the excitement of juggling is shared by thousands of others. An "organ-ization" cannot survive without its organ, its voice of and to its members. So it was that the road to the IJA, and to "Juggler's World," was begun in 1944 by Roger Montandon.

As early as 1937, the 19-year-old Montandon had tried to promote a column for jugglers in "Genii," one of the larger magic magazines. Nothing came of it until, discouraged by the continuing lack of juggling information coming through the magician's magazines, and having at his disposal a network of magicians who also juggled, he decided to publish his own "sheet" for and about juggling.

After discussing the idea through correspondence with professional jugglers Doug Couden and Bert Hansen, Montandon's first step was to call for letters from anyone interested in juggling by mentioning the need for juggling information in his Montandon Magic catalogs and in ads placed in "Billboard," "Popular Mechanics," and "The Linking Ring," official organ of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. His first letter to all the names he was able to collect constitutes, on September 15, 1944, the first newsletter of the juggling community. Even then, at the very beginning, he was calling for a formal organization:

Greetings Mr. So and so!

In looking over the list of you who have sent in for our lists of Juggling props and books the amazing thing is the national scope. Practically every State is represented with at least one person interested in Juggling. I mentioned this fact to my good friends (I hope they are still my good friends) Doug Couden and Bert Hansen. We've been corresponding back and forth and in general discussing Juggling and Doug mentions the fact that a Society or Association or something of Jugglers might be in order. That same thing has been in my mind for many years...

Since we try to keep in touch with you once a month anyway (to sell you some seventy-five cent hand balls) we'd be glad to include any news of jugglers - that's you or anyone you've seen...

Let me have your suggestions, ideas, criticisms - or better yet send in some news or pictures and we'll get started. Who knows - An amalgamated Society of Associated Jugglers or something worse might develop from this humble start.

Yours for better seventy-five cent balls,
Roger Montandon

Something did develop from this "humble start." One month later, in October 1944, the waning days of World War II, Roger Montandon published the first issue of "The Juggler's Bulletin," mailed free to 150 subscribers. After six issues, he began to charge two dollars a year. Circulation dropped immediately:

Next issue - if we make it - will wind up the first year of publication. The organization has grown slowly - slower than we had originally hoped for - and now stands at 75 paid subscribers. We have every confidence that it will continue to grow and still have hopes of reaching a membership of 500...

(JB 8/45)

It's important to note that Roger considered the Bulletin to be an "organization" with "members" rather than simply a magazine with subscribers.

He was offering it as a shared experience rather than as his pet project. By dint of positive thinking, he had seeded life to an embryonic IJA. Membership subscriptions rose somewhat in the following months, surviving the increase to three dollars (waived for servicemen), until the founding of the IJA in June of 1947. As official organ of the new organization, the "Bulletin" reached 140 subscribers by September 1947, and 150 in 1948.

With a little journalism experience from junior high school, Montandon gathered the news of juggling throughout the country and, through Joe Marsh and others, in Europe. He added his own thoughts and historical pieces. The Bulletin had a professional look to it with good type and nice graphic design.

He typed it on an early IBM proportional typewriter which required, in order to achieve a justified (vertically straight) right margin, that he type the whole Bulletin once, count the spaces left at the end of each line, and then retype the whole thing. The final copy was then printed on offset. He offered a pride of workmanship from the start.

Montandon says he began the "Bulletin" simply to "learn more about juggling." But this "selfish" motive is belied by his belief and devotion to the "fraternity" of juggling he mentions. He shared whatever he learned. He offered in-depth articles on juggling, a departure from the skimpy pieces that sporadically appeared in wider interest magazines. There were columns by himself, Doug Couden, Betty Gorham, Jack Greene, H.M. Lorette ("The Original Comedy Dancing Juggler"), Larry Weeks, Vin Carey and Stanley Collins, with contributions by George Barvin, Ben Beri, Bob Blau, Tommy Breen, Violet Carlson, Art Jennings, Spud Roberts, Howard Nichols. Joe Marsh contributed wonderful how-to illustrations.

Overnight, a wealth of information was made available to the juggling world.

Nevertheless, there was opposition, even from some who warily contributed. George DeMott, one of the most prominent contributors, wrote, "I hope the 'Bulletin' turns out to be a first class professional trade magazine and does not degenerate into a gillipin' [galloping] sheet for amateurs."

The professionals, while beginning to feel more comfortable about sharing ideas among themselves, were still obviously reluctant to open the fledgling organization to amateurs.

Doug Couden, a professional himself and strong supporter of Roger's efforts, sought to air this issue by inviting opinions for a column entitled "What's Wrong With Juggling?" He countered the anti-amateur sentiment with his own prophetic argument:

Remember that from the present day amateurs, vets, and students, will emerge our future greats. They will be more juggling-wise, thanks to Roger and his Bulletin, than the old timers who had to learn the hard and impractical way - by actual experience.

(JB 5/46)

Montandon had hoped the ideas on juggling would "pour in." They didn't. Despite, or because of, the support among non-professionals, the professionals, the ones in the know with so much to share, shared little. While historical and current news pieces made up the bulk of the well written "Bulletin," it suffered, in Montandon's eyes, from a dearth of practical, how-to information.

Montandon countered the fear that routines would be "swiped" with the argument that, by publishing their trick or routine, they would establish who it belonged to, and would provide a fascinating history of who and how routines originated.

The founding of the IJA in 1947 did not save the "Bulletin." Instead, and paradoxically, a complexity of competing interests contributed to its demise. Montandon kept his labor of love independent from the IJA. He had achieved a degree of quality in the publication that could well suffer under publication-by-committee.

Moreover, there was already the thought in his mind that the "Bulletin" would not be long-lived, given its sporadic acceptance from the beginning, and he justifiably didn't want to tie the IJA to a publication he thought might be dead in a few years.

There were also problems of finance. Because the "Bulletin" was kept autonomous, IJA dues did not support it, and it was not yet self-supporting. (In fact, it never was. Only by selling copies of back issues for the last forty-odd years has Montandon recouped his losses. It may well be the best buy on the market.)

To bring the "Bulletin" into the black, Montandon needed a subscription base of 300, something the IJA couldn't offer until many years later. He requested that the IJA charge five dollars for the "Bulletin" in addition to the one dollar annual dues. Others in the IJA thought this was too stiff a price to ask of the membership. Therefore, the "Bulletin" continued to be an option with members, and not all subscribed.

But, finally, it was the lack of support from knowledgeable professionals that killed "The Juggler's Bulletin."

In September 1948, well after the increase in contributions that one might think the newly formed IJA would create, Montandon warned his subscribers that, without an increase in subscriptions and contributions, those helping him with the quality publication were "wasting their time." Years later, Montandon remembered that, "I guess no editor can understand why everyone shouldn't be interested in his pride and joy. Doug Couden said (facetiously) it was because most jugglers couldn't read anything more than the funnies."

The September 1949 issue was the last "Bulletin." Special memorial issues were published in the 1950's and circulated to friends. Three "Annuals" were also published in 1950 to 1952 that contained what would have been the best of the "Bulletin" had it survived those years.

The "IJA Newsletter," begun in 1949 and published during the last months of the "Bulletin," continued to keep the membership going. Roger remembers: "If it hadn't been for Doug Couden, Joe Marsh and a few others, the 'Jugglers Bulletin' probably would not have lasted as long as it did. But, I figured if after four years one couldn't show at least a gradual increase I should move on. If IJA Newsletter had not started up I might have felt worse about stopping, but I felt that the Newsletter could carry on if jugglers really wanted an organization..."

The fact that Roger Montandon's "Juggler's Bulletin" never received wide support is an indication of the spirit within the juggling community of that day. Rather than compromise its quality or focus, Montandon determined to print it well or not at all. While it lasted, the "Bulletin" provided everything we take for granted in "Juggler's World" today.

The aims and resources of the "Newsletter" were far different and the "Bulletin" remained unmatched in quality - literally - for decades. Its passing left the juggling world as poor as did the passing of vaudeville.

The Juggler's Bulletin / Index, Vol. 39, No. 2 / jis@juggling.org
© 1996 Juggling Information Service. All Rights Reserved.