When I casually mention The International Wizard of Oz Club (IWOC) to the average person, I get a range of responses, but most fall into these two categories: giggles and astonishment.
Most folks don’t know about all the dedicated Oz fans out there. Most folks never heard of the scholarly Baum Bugle, the annual Oz conventions, or Oz festivals. Even those who grew up watching MGM’s The Wizard of Oz on TV through the 1960s—and fell in love with Judy Garland or the Scarecrow—have no idea about the cultish following that is alive and well today.
Last time, Jane Albright shared how her initial interest in Oz decades ago spiraled into her current role as the IWOC president—with the force of a Kansas twister.
All pictures are from Jane’s collection. Apologies for the photos’ imperfections. (My fault.)
1. What are your responsibilities as president of the Oz club?
JANE: The role of President is largely administrative. We have a monthly conference call for the executive committee and annual meeting with the full board. As we’ve relaunched the online store or introduced new activities, it often falls to me to find a volunteer willing to handle new responsibilities.
2. How have you been able to use your creative writing skills in IWOC?
JANE: The only genuinely creative writing outlet I have in the Club would be writing fiction. I don’t do that often, although I did enter the Club’s 2018 contest and won first prize! A friend is now illustrating that story for me and I hope it will be in Oziana (an annual magazine) this year or next.
I write for the Bugle primarily when something needs to be written and it’s faster to do it myself than find someone else. A lot of writing goes into our annual calendar. Each year we follow a different theme with images, text, and historic dates. I also give presentations both at Club conventions and public events, blog at OzClub.org, and have a couple membership letters to write.
Previous responsibilities included:
- Editing The Oz Gazette for children
- Desktop publishing for The Oz Observer
- Monitoring the online community
3. What was your role in the All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango, NY?
JANE: Well, I named it, for starters. I first visited the area around 2006, hoping to encourage people who were running it to become more involved in the Club.
We had our convention in Chittenango (Baum’s birthplace) in 2014 to capitalize on the program at their annual event and I partnered with another collector to loan them 1939 material for display during the event. I’ve donated vintage books for display, too, and reference books to their library—in fact I’m filling a box with more right now.
4. What is your role at the Oz Museum in Wamego?
JANE: This museum is in my own back yard, about a 90-minute drive, so it’s easy for me to support. They designated one case for the Oz Club to fill, so twice a year I select and load up material from my collection to install. Right now it features 1939 merchandise. I think one of my favorites was when I filled it with Oz stained glass made by Century Studios of Minneapolis.
5. How are the IWOC conventions different from the Oz Festivals all over the U.S.?
JANE: Of course we want fans to meet and enjoy one another, so like the festivals, we work in plenty of fun. But at conventions, we are more program-driven. We’ll have presenters, displays, and tours of sites associated with Oz or Baum. We’d be more likely to have a rare film, or stage a reading of a play based on something unusual Baum wrote.
There is always a fundraising auction of Oz material. It gets pieces to collectors more affordably than public auctions, and raises funds for the Club. There are generally opportunities to share meals together.
I do love the public festivals! Nothing is more memorable for an Oz fan than the Yellow Brick Road in North Carolina. But in general—with exceptions—they attract local families out for a wonderful weekend. Some have special guests to meet, but fans are looking for a parade, face painting, live entertainment, souvenirs to purchase.
It sounds rather ponderous to call our convention events more “educational,” but that might be the best way to distinguish between the two.
6. What has your role been in conventions?
JANE: I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t done for conventions at this point. I’ve taken on overall responsibility for some. I’ve been a presenter, mounted exhibits, done all the supporting layout work for printed pieces, designed and purchased supplies for craft projects, visited sites in advance to find venues and caterers, made decorations ranging from centerpieces to a mini golf course, judged contests and provided prizes for them.
One year I organized an ambitious fundraiser that brought in $9,000. Pretty much whatever needs to be done, I’ve done. And some years we have chairmen who manage it all without a bit of help from me!
It’s important to me that the Club provide members—and non-member fans— with the chance to get together in person and have these memorable, unique Oz weekends. They’ve had tremendous an impact on my life and led to so many friendships. I would love to see Oz continue to do that for more people.
Considering all this, it’s no surprise that Jane received the L. Frank Baum Memorial Award in 2000 during the centennial celebration. Another time, she was named an “honorary lifetime member” of the Club.
In these two posts, I’ve only included a sampling of Jane’s stuff. She also owns:
- Every single Oz and non-Oz book Baum wrote
- A book of poetry that Baum printed himself–only 99 copies: In the Candelabra’s Glare
- An original boxed set of Snuggle Tales by “Laura Bancroft” (one of Baum’s many pseudonyms)
- Advertisement for the 1908 Fairylogue production
- Scarecrow’s corncob house
- More artwork from various artists/illustrators, including Barry Moser
- A Jack Pumpkinhead painting and Oz character masks
- Dozens of dolls and figures of all kinds, from books and/or movie . . . and more!
The collection was amazing. The day was glorious. But best of all, I made a new friend.
- Read more about Jane here.
- International Wizard of Oz Club website.
- See Jane’s blog here.
- The Baum Bugle
Are you involved in a club that you enjoy?
I’d love to hear from you!