Best Bill Beem moment ever? Cheering as he accepted the Oz Club’s 2019 L. Frank Baum Memorial Award last weekend in Louisiana. Since meeting Bill at a Club convention in Castle Park, Michigan, in 1981 he has never ceased to amaze me. Often because when the Club really needs help⏤any kind of help⏤he’s the one who steps up.
In 1999 the Club’s centennial convention was looming. There was a 30-foot wide display case in a hallway that would be a perfect Oz display. Not only did Bill agree to fill it, he visited the facility in advance, found a SECOND 30-foot case on another floor and filled both of them!
His public library displays in Michigan, Club convention displays, and loan of material to a multi-collector display at the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures here in Kansas City just continue to demonstrate the generosity that distinguishes him as a collector. Pieces from his collection were included in the Wizard of Oz Collector’s Treasury, too. And he’s provided checklists to the Bugle for things like Oz glasses.
Then, set aside his collecting for a minute. He’s still stepping up! Like when Fred Meyer’s death left two apartments crammed full of Club publications, mailings and materials that needed to be sorted, inventoried, packed and shipped. There was Bill, diving in to make order of the chaos.
Currently he receives all our incoming mail, inputs the details of every single member into the spreadsheets that serve as our membership database, participates in both monthly conference calls and the annual board meeting. His written reports come complete with charts so we who read them can get info at a glance. Bill’s the person who sends you renewal notices (and who lets you know when you’ve inadvertently renewed so many times you’re good through 2023…) He mails Bugles to those who join later in the year, and handles all the questions mailed to our post office box.
In recent years Bill has begun attending public Oz events to represent the Club and to recruit members. He’s at Oz-Stravaganza, the Michigan and Ohio Oz festivals, Autumn in Oz, and more. Lynn Beltz who works many of those events with him swears he is personally responsible for all the members we sign up. For a little perspective, our 2018 membership increased by more than 40% over 2017 once Bill’s grin became the face of the Oz Club at these public events.
I can think of other moments where we’d have been stumped without his help, but I suspect this run down helps you understand why he rose to the surface of the current nominee slate. The L. Frank Baum Memorial Award sometimes honors someone like Gregory Maguire who brought a whole new audience to Oz, or Willard Carroll whose productions and collections-based books have given more traditional Oz fans so much to enjoy. But some years the winner is honored for the unselfish, generous support that keeps our Club strong. Bill has been that faithful supporter, and I’m thrilled he’s been recognized for all he’s done.
PS. Even as I wrote this draft he offered to input information on 500 members into a new online program supporting our shop.ozclub.org store. There’s no end to our appreciation for him!