Most of the pulp magazines had loyal followings - readers who stuck with their tried and true heroes week in and week out. They made it known when they did or did not like a particular character that may have taken up space in their favorite pulp.
Many of the letter writers, using some of the colorful vocabulary in the stories, declared a fervid allegiance to their favorite heroes. Here's one:
Dear Range Boss:
Unbuckle your gun belt, sky your paws, and listen to this letter! Sonny Tabor’s stories shore are humdingers. Kid Wolf, the Oklahoma Kid, and Johnny Forty-five are swell hombres.
George Krumm ought to turn in his badge, join up with bock Foster, and start raising sheep. “Yores truly Buck Foster” is a champion sheep-herder. Yes, sir, he shore knows his woollies!
By heifers, Boss, where did you round up all the gun-slingin waddies who make 3W such a humdinger?
It would be plumb bueno with me if Sonny Tabor was put on the screen, with Bob Steele or John Wane in the leading role. I think the other readin’ hombres would like it too.
Keep the gals out of your magazine—they only spoil things. Tell all the waddies that I said “hello” and that I’m wishing them a lot of luck.
Yours till Sonny Tabor is hanged.
Bud the Kid.
Some letters, especially some that were more pointed in their questions and asked tricky questions, sparked passionate and somewhat bizarre answers. This question from a woman appeared in a 1940 issue:
“….You try to have your stories as realistic as possible, and folks are always writing to tell you how to keep them that way. But how in the world do they expect you to keep them that way, if you don’t include girls and women in them? I should think you’d feel kinda proud to have females in your stories, because our pioneer women did a great deal toward making the West what it is today.”
A 3W admirer – June Haven
Poor June got this diatribe in response:
I’ll certainly agree with you that women played a large a noble part in the conquering of the West, Miss Haven. They had courage and fortitude that put many a man to shame. They were real women – and when you compare some of our pampered, soft-living, coddled modern pets with ‘em it makes you wince. Today a large number of girls seem to think they’re too nice even to stain (?) their hands over a kitchen stove or a dishpan or a washtub. I think in these trying times, when there’s a chance that we’ll have to fight for the preservation of the democratic freedom and liberty which our ancestors – including pioneer women fought so hard to gain for us, that some of us could be tougher and harder than we are. Too much softness can put any nation behind the old eight ball.
Keep that in mind, pards, the next time you hear somebody bellyaching about what a difficult life he or she leads. No matter how difficult it is, its still a heap easier than the battles against bitter cold, storms, scalp-hunting Indians, black-souled renegades and outlaws, thirst, starvation, and desert heat that our pioneer ancestors underwent to carve a great nation for us out of a wilderness.”
Many letters arrived discussing the historical accuracy of the stories. 3W, like many Western magazines, prided itself on its knowledge of the West, and tried to translate that into accuracy in its stories. My grandfather writes in the first chapter of Pulp Writer that the writer of pulps never had to worry about his stories being read - they would not only be read but thoroughly criticized too. "the author must continually watch his step, and an error or even the semblance of an error will be immediately spotted by the clientele...and the writer of the Western story who makes a mistake in the caliber, rotation motion, or trajectory of a Winchester rifle will, before the storm is disapproval has subsided, feel like using one of the bullets on himself."
The Pen Pal column was very popular, usually running three or four pages. “Postmaster” Sam Wills prefaces the column by saying, “Some day you’re going out West yourself—instead of just reading about it—to the Western outdoors, where the adventures in the stories have happened. It will be a nice thing to have friends out West, when that time comes—friends who’ll extend a hand o’ welcome and put you onto things.” Postmaster Wills goes on to instruct readers that “Letters are exchanged only between men and men, and between women and women.”
Each person requesting a pen pal were allowed a few lines to describe themselves. Leota Keeney in the February 14, 1931 issue writes:
Is there room for another seventeen-year-old blonde to tie up her horse to the rail? I live on a big ranch and ride horseback every day and am considered a good rider. I am very fond of anything that takes me outdoors. Now, don’t get the idea that I’m big and freckle-faced, ‘cause I’m not. I’m small, weigh only ninety-four pounds, and have no freckles. Please, girls of my age, write to me. I’d especially like to hear from Texas, Arizona, and other Western states. I promise to answer all letters and hope some of them will be from cowgirls.”
Oh, what a simpler time. Kids' priorities were certainly different, that's for sure.
Because publishers were so dependent on the whims of their reading public, of course, they were anxious to know who their reading public was. In this respect, columns were most beneficial. Another way was to tally responses received from the advertisers in mail-in orders. Some historians mentioned that some advertisers had codes printed on the coupons, which told them from what magazine it came. In 1931, Wild West Weekly wasn’t that sophisticated and relied on the graces of their readers by asking at the bottom of each advertisement “Please mention this magazine when answering advertisements.” No one knows how reliable this system of trust was.
Hope you're enjoying this diversion - most people are interested in the stories that were in the pulps, but not a lot has been written about the columns and the people that wrote to the editors.
This image is the cover for the last Wild West Weekly issue, from November 1943. By that time it wasn't even a weekly anymore, having been changed to a monthly magazine and the name changed simply to "Wild West." My grandfather's character Johnny .45 was featured in the issue, along with another story written by him: "Hog Legs for Range Hogs."
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