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Walter Bowart has died. I didn't know the name until I was alerted to his obituary but I was familiar with the newspaper he founded in the sixties. There was a newsstand on the public square near where I went to school.

EVO sat at the bottom of the shelf alongside The Racing Form and month-old issues of New Musical Express. It might as well have fallen there from outer space. The world it depicted hardly touched the conservative, coal-mining region near where I'd grown up. By the early seventies only a few ripples of bell-bottoms, long hair and pot had lapped up against the culm banks and abandoned breakers.

My friends and I frequented the newsstand to make sure we could latch onto one of the two or three copies that were all that seemed to be stocked. We'd pore over each issue, although I can't recall much. Most of it was more or less unreadable thanks to both the prose and layout being psychedelic. What was said wasn't really important. What mattered was that it was something different. Though incoherent and illegible, EVO clearly communicated the message that there existed a big world full of possibilities beyond northeastern Pennsylvania.

One day my friend Mike and I were sitting around freaking out (in a manner of speaking) over the latest issue and we suddenly had the brilliant idea that we too could see our words in print, provided that most of our words were four letters long. From our close examination of the newspaper we figured that profanity laced tirades were what the market called for so we composed a letter railing about authoritarianism in schools, stuffed it to bursting with expletives, and sent it off in the mail, feeling very daring, even if we had signed assumed names.

A couple of weeks later we flipped eagerly though the chaotic pages until we found the letter column and damned if our effort wasn't there! Far out!

Our lives might have been much different if we had taken the editors up on their suggestion that we become their high school correspondents but we were, after all, in college and, just perhaps, the editorial reply had been tinged with sarcasm. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to see ourselves included in a small way in that strange world far beyond the bounds we knew.

That letter also may have marked the first time I saw my words in print. If not, then it must have been the much more sedate missive I wrote to the local weekly railing about authoritarianism in schools.

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