Happy 30th to Bird Watcher's Digest!
This month is the 30th anniversary of the first issue of Bird Watcher's Digest. My parents started the magazine in our living room after a family meeting at which all five of us Thompsons agreed we'd sink every cent of our money into this magazine idea. I was heading into 10th grade which meant that all my college savings was going to be spent on this new venture. I was already enough of a bird watcher to know that this was a really cool thing my parents were trying.
Things evolved quickly thereafter.
My dad quit his job as director of development at Marietta College. We turned the front parlor of our house on Warren Street in Marietta into the magazine's office. We subscribed to a newspaper clipping service to help us find out who was writing about birds. Every time we'd find a regular newspaper column about birds and nature, we'd put a pin in the wall map in the office to indicate it. Within three months we'd found 500 regular bird and nature columnists and we knew there was enough interest and enough content out there that this magazine just might fly.
Roger Tory Peterson in Old Lyme, Connecticut offering compliments about the magazine's content and advice about its direction. Also enclosed was his check for $7 for a year's subscription.
You can't imagine how this bit of good fortune buoyed our spirits.
Soon the office expanded like The Blob into the adjoining rooms and the kitchen, where my mom kept the subscription records, hand-written on 3x5 cards, next to the counter where she cooked. Early BWD subscribers were kind enough not to complain when their renewal notices arrived with a smear of butter or ketchup on them.
We've come a LONG way since then. Dad (BT2) is retired now but still stops by to rattle our cages every week. Mom (Elsa) still answers the phones and handles subscriber issues. Brother Andy is the publisher and handles much of the business end of things. My sister Laura is BWD's circulation director. And I am the edytur, a job which I've managed to keep for more than two decades now (ain't nepotism a wonderful thing?).
I'll post a bit more about BWD's history in the coming weeks. Right now I've got to go—the Marietta Chamber of Commerce is having a reception here at our offices tonight and I've got to return the rental backhoe I used to clean my office.
Tomorrow night we're hosting an open house for all BWD subscribers living within 100 miles or so. If you'd like to stop by for a chin wag and a glass of sangria, please do. Or if you can't make it, but you're nostalgic for the old days of the magazine, just say the word and I'll have Mom smear some mayo on your next renewal notice.