John Case

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Claudette Piper: "The earliest history of the Free Press is mostly legend, one I've been curious about for years because as a political person I've been involved mostly in cooperative enterprises . We knew that there was mimeograph equipment, maybe a ditto machine, in the South End and that a few pamphlets maybe were distributed. I was told that press acquisition coincided with the move to Tremont St., and that it was a Quaker peacenik who made it happen, partly by fundraising and finding equipment."

John Case: "Well, some of the legends are right, and some are wrong, as usual. I’ll tell you what I remember, but if I were publishing it I’d want a second source. Take these recollections for what they’re worth."

The NEFP originated from two separate strands. Mike Yokell wanted to publish a newspaper/newsletter for the movement, as reported in the Crimson. I’m not sure whether that publication ever appeared; if it did, I don’t remember it. At the same time, Chuck Levenstein and I, along with several others, were talking about producing a magazine. Pretty soon we joined forces with Mike. The NEFP would produce and publish the magazine, which we eventually christened the Paper Tiger.  It would also do movement printing and other kinds of publishing.

 

The organization’s first office was a basement apartment at 39 East Springfield St., in Boston’s South End. SDS activist David Smith and his family lived in an upstairs apartment at the same address. He probably found the office for us. My wife, Quaker, and I lived nearby, on Rutland Street. This was long before the South End became the gentrified neighborhood that it is today. It was rundown, very diverse, and cheap. The office became a meeting place for movement people to get together, but it was pretty small. We did have a mimeograph machine, and we ran off a lot of leaflets and pamphlets while planning the Paper Tiger. In January 1968 I learned that my lifelong stutter would keep me from being drafted, so I dropped out of graduate school and went to work (sort of) full time for NEFP. We published several issues of the PT in the course of the 1967-68 academic year.

 

Sometime in early 1968, Mike and Bob Pearlman located a press and a place to set it up, at 245 Roxbury Street, in Boston’s Roxbury section. They had help from Art Rosenblum, who I think is the Quaker activist you refer to. (It was definitely not my wife, who is a people person rather than a machines person—but she was delighted that you thought she was the one!) Art was a man of 40 or 45—he seemed grown up to us at the time, if not actually “old.” He knew printing and traveled around the country helping movement groups set up presses. He stayed with Quaker and me at Rutland Street. We remember him well, partly because he had the unusual habit of eating hard-boiled eggs with the shell on. “Provides extra calcium,” he told us.

 

In late spring of 1968, Quaker and I moved to Roxbury, not far from the NEFP’s new office. Around the same time, Don McKelvey joined the NEFP. He lived with us for a while and began working on publishing pamphlets. Then the organization moved to the old piano factory, at 791 Tremont St., back near the South End, a short drive or a longish walk from our house. Tim Moriarty soon joined NEFP as well, and found an apartment next door to our place in Roxbury.

 

Tim, Mike, and Don were all competent press operators, though I think Tim probably had the most experience. Don was the motive force behind the NEFP as a publisher; he found all kinds of things to publish or reprint, and created a thriving business selling pamphlets. Mike was the entrepreneur, fund raiser, business guy, sometime printer and press repairer, idea person, jack of all trades. I stayed focused on the Paper Tiger. As you note, we published seven issues. Then we folded it into a venture with Carol Brightman and John McDermott to publish a national magazine called Leviathan. It was ambitious, but it didn’t last long. I left NEFP in spring of 1969.