It started as a newsletter in November 1961. It was edited by three women: Betty Harris, Sally Bowles, and ET PCV Margery Michelmore who had famously put the Peace Corps on the front pages of every newspaper in the U.S. with her postcard written from the University College at Ibadan while she was still in training for Nigeria.
The Volunteer newsletter quickly became a monthly that went to all PCVs, and as a magazine it was edited by Kellogg Smith for two years.
Smith had come to the Peace Corps in September, 1962, after serving with the Democratic National Committee. He was for six years a copy editor with the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin, and before that spent seven years on the desk of the Cleveland Press. He also co-authored two textbooks on English grammar, and was a graduate of Williams College. At the Peace Corps, in December of ‘64 he went to India on the Peace Corps staff.
Taking over at the editor of The Volunteer was Deane Wylie, who had been a PCV with his wife with the first group to the Philippines. He had come home and joined the Peace Corps staff when the agency was still in the Maiatico Building. This was September, 1963, and he started as the assistant editor of the magazine.
Before the Peace Corps, Wylie was a reporter for the Longview (Wash) Daily News, having graduated from Berkeley with a degree in journalism.
Taking Wylie’s place as assistant editor was John English from Tulsa. John had been a PCV in Sabah from 1962-64, and before the Peace Corps, he had been a news editor for the weekly Southside Times in Tulsa. His journalism degree was from the University of Tulsa.
The editorial assistant was Sara Gay Beacham from La Jolla, California, who had been a PCV in the Philippines. She had degree in English from the University of Southern California.
With that staff, The Volunteer, for the first time, was being edited entirely by RPCVs.
In the November 1962 Editorial, Deane Wylie would write that he recognized the problem of the publication for many PCVs. That problem was ‘too many success stories’ and tales of ’super-Volunteer.’ He was also aware that the Peace Corps was highly regarded almost everywhere, and he noted it was ranked in public esteem, “somewhere between John Glenn and Santa Claus.”
That view of the magazine would change said Deane.
I am not sure it did. The Volunteer was a journal of information about the Peace Corps for Peace Corps Volunteers, but it was read by parents, college and university students, newspapermen, library visitors, member of Congress, staffs of foreign embassies; overseas by host-country governments, volunteers of other countries, American diplomatic missions. Read by just about everyone who wasn’t a PCV.
I would read The Volunteer in Ethiopia, read the accounts of what other PCVs were doing and think: I’m a failure and pick up Time or Newsweek to cheer myself up.
Since those glory years of that first Peace Corps publication varies other attempts have been generated by Peace Corps HQ to tell the continuing story of the agency. Now, I know, the Peace Corps pays the NPCA to mail their publication around the world. They doesn’t bother to tell PCVs (or anyone else) what is happening with the Peace Corps.
But who needs a publication when PCVs have The New York Times available on-line and Mom back home is just a phone call away.
Well, I do.