Thursday, January 24, 2013

How My First Fan Letter Yielded Childhood Treasures from "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"

It was inevitable that Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea would become my favorite TV series in 1964. It had two big things going for it: a futuristic submarine and a never-ending variety of monsters. I knew this was a fact because I'd seen the 1961 theatrical film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and it featured the submarine Seaview, a giant octopus, spies, and--for good measure--a "burning sky." (Cost-conscious producer Irwin Allen recycled all these plot elements into the TV series and even included stock footage of dinosaurs from his 1960 film The Lost World.)

I'm not sure where I heard about people writing fan letters to get autographed photographs, but the idea greatly appealed to me. Having not yet learned how wonderful reference librarians are, I sought guidance from my most reliable source of information outside of our Compton's Encyclopedias (which were of no help in this endeavor). I asked my Dad where I should send my letter.

My father worked for a large Western Electric plant, which had a small library and an enterprising librarian who probably used one of the business indexes to track down the address to 20th Century-Fox. I typed my letter on the family's old Underwood typewriter...and waited for what seemed like years.

Then one day, I discovered a large envelope in the mail containing a small black-and-white photograph of the Seaview and a rough blueprint of its interior. I was ecstatic! Those two items would be displayed in my bedroom for the next three decades (long after my departure); they would become an integral part of show-and-tell at school for the next four years. Today, I still keep them in my box of childhood treasures.

The actual size of my photo is 3" x 2-1/2".

In the TV series, it was the SSNR Seaview, the "SSNR"
standing for Submarine Seaview Nelson Research.

Having always responded well to positive reinforcement, I followed up with another fan letter. This time,  I requested an autographed photo from star Richard Basehart, who sent the picture below (note it was signed with a felt-tip pen vs. a "stamped" signature):


My "friends" at 20th Century-Fox subsequently enrolled me in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Fan Club. I received a membership card (shown at the start of this post) that made me an Honorary Admiral (like thousands of other kids) and the color postcard below:

Left to right: Basehart, David Hedison, Allan Hunt,
Terry Becker, and Bob Dowdell.
As the years passed, my letter-writing interests went in other directions (e.g., trying to convince a local TV  station to keep airing Dark Shadows instead of a local kids show). I did write 20th Century-Fox a few more times and have some nice Batman photos to show for my efforts. 

However, nothing can compare to the joy of my first fan letter and my beloved photo of the Seaview. 

8 comments:

  1. Great story, Rick - thanks for sharing! I can imagine your excitement upon receiving these treasures from your "friends" at Fox. You don:t mention how old you actually were at this time, but I'm guessing somewhere between 8 and 12 (the perfect age for a show like VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a charming story! And, yes, there is indeed nothing like positive reinforcement. I was particularly fond of hearing that your father was your most reliable source of information and that he was able to refer your inquiry to the librarian at his company. How cool was that! I loved seeing all the photos of your treasures, too. What a lovely post, Rick! Thank you so much for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Toto. I always getting stuff in the mail!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Fun post, Rick! Great photos, too. This rekindled fond memories of watching reruns of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as a kid in the 70s (the show was a little before my time, the first go-round).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Even though I'm a girl, I also loved to watch the TV show.. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, with my brother.. Then we played a round of "You sunk My Battleship"..

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful treasures with us.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved reading about these memories. This is a wonderful post.

    ReplyDelete