BARE AND FREE
|Volume 23||Number 4, September 2011|
In this Issue
Calendar of Coming Events
We Celebrate 25 Years
On Sunday, September 25, Tallahassee Naturally celebrates a quarter-century of natural freedom. During those years, an estimated four thousand people from north Florida and south Georgia have visited our club. Now we are inviting everybody back for a picnic, awards, and reminiscing. Bring food to share. We eat at 1:00, and recognize our volunteers and longtime members at 2:00. The day is free.
Members from wayback have been invited. If they can't come, we encourage them to send us a note about what they've been doing. Come and chat with the old-timers. Our bulletin board, scrapbook, and early newsletters will be there to jog the memory. If you come only once a year, this is the time to do it.
A Few Words from Our President by Grant
Congratulations, Tallahassee Naturally, on your twenty-fifth anniversary!
At first that may seem like the sort of phrasing that one might expect to come from the Chamber of Commerce, politicians, or a raft of local businesses..... I suppose we could have asked the mayor, the county commission, the governor, the president, for a proclamation celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Tallahassee Naturally..... Leaving aside how any or all of them might have responded--I celebrate YOU! the members of Tallahassee Naturally. For the purposes of this message I define "member" as any member of Tallahassee Naturally, past or present, living or dead.
Tallahassee Naturally is not the president, it is not the board of directors, it is not the piece of paper from the Secretary of State's office, it is not even the beautiful lake that we have rented for so many years. Tallahassee Naturally is its members.
Twenty-five years ago three folks of grossly like mind--or at the least with a point of commonality--met, got together, and asked Robert Kennedy's question: "...Why not?" The organization's history is presented elsewhere and I will not duplicate it here, except to note that the visionary founders did not always see eye-to-eye. They, and the subsequent formal organization, and the many boards that I have served on have not always agreed--but it seldom fails to amaze me in that most of the time the group DOES agree. We have used consensus governance throughout our history for one very good reason: It works.
When a sufficient number of people come together with a common purpose they can be unstoppable. I am not talking about a board of directors here, I am speaking of a membership--the YOU! When we have had issues, YOU! came forward. When we needed to clean up after the fire, YOU! came forward. In fact, whenever we have needed volunteers to go above and beyond paying dues and ground's fees and dedicate a portion of your time, your talents, your often hard physical work: YOU! have come forward. Whenever we need volunteers, YOU! step forward. Frankly: This is the only way that any organization such as ours can survive. And now we have survived for twenty-five years.
I perceive that most of the time most of our members just wish to enjoy the lake and be left alone. And that is fine. Because we know that when we need help--YOU! will be there. Most of the time all the board wants to do is cover our expenses and advance our cause. We--you and I--are not here to tell anyone that they should go naturally, we are here to provide an option that other folks maybe have not thought about, and to provide a venue for when they do reach an enlightenment.
So, therefore, on the occasion of Tallahassee Naturally celebrating twenty five years, I say: Congratulations, to YOU! Job well done! We are already working on the next twenty-five years.
Important Dates In the History of Tallahassee Naturally
1986 First club outing (October 5). Affiliated with TNS. 1989 First elected officers and Annual Business Meeting. Joined AANR. Full-Moon Skinny-Dips began. "Free University" course on Greek Athletics. 1990 Began renting the lake near Monticello.1991 Participated in the first Mid-Winter Naturist Gathering, and the founding of AANR-Florida. Best small club newsletter award. 1992 A rival club died after six months. Bylaws established. 1993 Local nude bar controversy in Tallahassee.1994 First experience lobbying the Florida legislature. First club in the nation to evaluate political candidates. 1996 First annual College Greek Athletic Meet, also a youth camp.1997 Published Naturists: Upholders of Strong Family Values. Began name change. 1998 Peak year of membership and attendance. New web page won an award. 1999 Full-Moon Skinny-Dips moved from the sinkholes to the lake. 2001 Internal dissension. Helped write model nudity ordinance for Jefferson County (where the lake is). 2002 Completed name change to Tallahassee Naturally. 2004 New club logo. Club nomination of Lee Baxandall into the AANR Hall of Fame succeeded. 2007 The old building burned. New pavilion and storage shed put up. 2009 56 people in the lake for the Guinness World Record. Naturally FSU started. 2011 25th anniversary.
This is the short version. For the long version, read on:
Twenty-Five Years of Memories by Paul LeValley
January 15, 1974 was a slow news day at the Florida Flambeau. So the editor persuaded four male Florida State University students to streak naked across Woodward Avenue and the tennis courts, on into a waiting getaway car. Locals claim this was the beginning of college streaking, for within weeks, the fad spread across campuses nationwide. Actually, FSU was number 2; they had gotten the idea from the University of Maryland. That spring, FSU students staged mass nude evening rallies in front of the library. Several of today's leading citizens participated. But the fad quickly passed, and most people forgot its origins in Tallahassee.
Then sometime in the early 1980s, large numbers of skinny-dippers began congregating at Lofton Pond, better known as Sam Allen Lake, south of Tallahassee. Police raided the place in early 1983, and arrested seven people. One demanded a jury trial and won. Sam Allen Lake has remained nude to this day. But the arrests scared off the innocent skinny-dippers, and very aggressive gay men took over the whole area.
Some of the regulars organized as the Tallahassee Association of Naturists (TAN). Without joining the national organizations, they simply moved the skinny-dipping to another lake. But police harassment followed them, and the group fell apart after about a year.
The rest is not history, but memories. If they sound personal, that's the way memories are. For posting on the Internet, last names have been deleted.
First Year (1986-87)
In the fall of 1986, Steve H. from the old Sam Allen crowd contacted The Naturist Society about forming a new group. TNS asked me to check him out, and we agreed to meet for an outing the next Sunday. He mentioned that he had already chosen the club's name. Sure enough, on Sunday, he and Randy from the old TAN met me at the parking lot in T-shirts proclaiming in big letters, "Tallahassee Bare-Devils." (I've often kidded Steve about his penchant for naming things. I think he dreamed up a name for every puddle we came across, and if we didn't go back, he reused the name somewhere else.)
On that first outing of October 5, 1986, we stopped at Sam Allen Lake to see if there were any old-time skinny-dippers looking for a better place to go. There weren't. Then we toured some of the better-known sinkholes: Gator, Emerald, Woods, Fern, Promise, Go-Between, and one other. I swam in seven bodies of water that day; Steve and Randy showed a bit more restraint.
All fall and winter, Randy spotted remote lakes and sinkholes from his airplane, Steve looked them up in the library's topographical maps, and on Sunday we went crashing through the underbrush searching for an undiscovered wonderful place. Of the few dozen we found, only Sunspot offered unobstructed swimming, a sunning area, and total security. The strategy was to become familiar with so many places that we could choose our destination at the last minute, and never have to fear a police stakeout. It worked.
That spring, the first woman came with us, but did not return. We also started going to the ocean at Mashes Sands Island, where Jim was already a regular--reverting to the sinkholes when the weather got hot.
Second Year (1988)
Growth remained painfully slow. Rick, Joe, and Steve G. started coming regularly, but that was about all.
In the spring, we decided to burst onto the college scene by having me give a scholarly lecture on nudity in religion down through the ages. The professors stayed away in droves, but we filled the little room with students--male and female--black, white, and oriental--from both universities in town. After lots of enthusiastic promises, the number of newcomers who showed up the next Sunday was zero. (It was not a total loss, though; Ana and Elena, who each joined us on much later outings, had sat in that audience.)
In the fall of 1988, we began advertising in the Center for Participant Education catalog as part of the "free university" in Tallahassee. For many years, it proved to be our greatest source of inquiries. Yet immediate growth seemed farther off than ever. Everyone but Steve H. was ready to use the Bare-Devils as an information source, telling people where to go on their own for private excursions. But Steve held out stubbornly for a social club. Without his tenacity at that point, Tallahassee Naturally of today would not exist.
Third Year (1989)
Early that winter, Terri began coming regularly--the first woman to do so. Things suddenly picked up in the spring of our third year. Couples began to appear: Vance and Linda, Pat and Toni. A Greek Athletics course in June brought Elena and Kathy in as regular weekly beachgoers. The first family with children came, but did not return. A feature article in the Tallahassee Democrat brought several couples from the larger community, though none of them lasted beyond the summer.
With numbers suddenly rising, we decided it was time to get organized. At our first annual business meeting, we formalized the leadership we had long recognized, with a five-member board of directors, including Steve H. as President-Secretary-Treasurer until such time as the workload required the separation of those offices. Charter members of the organized Bare-Devils were Steve, me, Terri, Randy, Vance and Linda, Harry, Kathy, Rick, Joe, Baxter, and three others who sent money, but never came with us.
Because the club had been founded by three single men using public lands at a time when the American Sunbathing Association felt hostile both to single men and the free beach movement, we affiliated from the beginning with The Naturist Society. But the ASA changed its ways, and we decided at our first annual meeting to apply for membership in that organization as well. The hefty application fee was raised largely through the generosity of Randy, who had already moved away.
Probably the funniest incident in our history occurred that summer, when three people went on a private weekday excursion to Fern Sink. Up on the bank, Kurt spotted a forest ranger sneaking from bush to bush, so he tossed swimsuits down to Steve and a woman named Lynn. By the time the ranger got there, Lynn had gotten her one-piece suit on--backwards--and Steve's was hopelessly tangled in his flippers. The ranger could do little but shake his head in disbelief.
That same summer, we began a series of full-moon skinny-dips, which we have continued during the warm months ever since. For eleven years, we did them at the sinkholes, and mostly college students attended.
For a couple of years we tried showing videos of nudist resorts at FSU, but they usually attracted only voyeuristic men who left as soon as they saw there was no sex. Yet the program worked in the fall of 1989, when both Karen and Lisa became steady members.
By this time, we had a racial balance that would be the envy of naturist groups across the country. I remember one day at Sunspot when we actually had more black members than white.
That fall, Steve led a few canoe trips and hikes. For several years, he led regular naturist trips into wilderness areas.
During Christmas break, the Florida Department of Natural Resources held a hearing on its proposed regulation outlawing even fashionable swimwear in state parks. Steve alerted our members by putting together the first newsletter. Nudists and naturists from around the state converged on Tallahassee to voice their objections. It was Harry's speech that wire services sent across the country. For the first time, Florida's feuding free beach groups, travel clubs, and landed clubs banded together. The coalition lasted 4-1/2 years, and we were the hosts when it happened. That night, ASA executive director Arne Eriksen announced that we had been provisionally accepted into the national organization, with two years to get our membership up.
Fourth Year (1990)
In the spring, Steve H., Michael D., Terri and I sat with ASA leaders and their lobbyist as we watched state officials present a minor recommendation on beekeeping (which assuredly never came up) as their understanding of what had happened at the state parks hearing. Dozens of people had testified, every one of them against the anti-nudity provisions--and officials ignored it completely. We watched as Governor and Cabinet listened during ASA objections to this miscarriage of justice, and then passed the regulation without comment.
Then a nasty little surprise struck the club. We had failed to notice that most of our younger women were scheduled to graduate that spring. At the same time others moved away or changed their lifestyles. Once again, the group held by a single thread, as Terri made certain she attended every event, so that no incoming woman would ever be alone. A couple of people panicked, and wanted to abandon our original principles by setting a quota on single men. But new students joined, and when women outnumbered the men at our first moonlight swim that fall, the quota scare evaporated. Those students included Doreen, Christine, Carlos, and later Ande; they would keep the full-moon swims lively for the next two years.
Meanwhile, our newest member, Rob, had located a private lake near Monticello that could be rented. We entered a new phase as a semi-landed club in July 1990.
Security was apparently what people had been waiting for. Membership leaped from about 15 to over 60. Many of those land pioneers stuck with us for years: Mike and Francine, Doug and Kathy, Jeanne, Doug S. The never-failing attendance of the four Smith children encouraged other families with children to come. Camille brought a burst of fresh energy to the club, organizing volleyball games, cookouts, and our biggest social event to date: the 1990 Christmas party. Camping had boomed all fall, and ended with a midnight dip in the lake on New Year's Eve.
Fifth Year (1991)
For the first time, internal dissension raised its ugly head. Jay, Rob, and I spent long hours trying to resolve the disagreement between Steve H. and the Smiths. At the same time, we separated the growing duties of our all-purpose officer, with Jay elected as the club's second president. We had chosen a true diplomat, for Jay would later go on to become the lobbyist for the Florida Association for Nude Recreation. Under his leadership, our board began meeting on a regular schedule. Steve continued as corresponding secretary. And Doug became treasurer, a position he filled for most of the next fourteen years.
In 1991, The Naturist Society sponsored their first Mid-Winter Gathering in Florida. The Tallahassee Bare-Devils brought the largest contingent from any club, and we have attended almost every gathering since--usually presenting part of the program. That summer, Jay, John and I helped to set up the new Florida Association for Nude Recreation. Our club suggested the name (which has since been adopted nationally), and created the voting formula that worked for two years--until the big clubs disregarded it and took over. Our club nominated me for the state board, where I served two years as youth chairman and education chairman, as well as a year as national youth chairman.
Under the talented editorship of John W., we had developed the best small-club newsletter in the country, and were recognized for it at the ASA convention. At the same time, we moved from temporary to full-fledged members of ASA.
Fearing that we were becoming too sedentary and losing touch with our naturist origins, Steve H. tried to start a rival group called the North Florida Sun Babies. It fizzled after six weeks, and Steve rejoined the Bare-Devils in time to celebrate our fifth anniversary with a big campout in September.
But being landed really had brought a decline in physical activity, so we spent the cool months hacking out a well labeled nature trail through a variety of habitats. For years, no other club in the country had anything like it.
The routine had now become predictable enough that we were able to publish our first annual calendar in the December newsletter--a practice several other clubs have since copied.
Jay suddenly left town at the end of the year, and Aileen took over as president.
Sixth Year (1992)
At the time of our first shake-up a year earlier, I suggested that the time had come to write our gradually evolving policies into a set of bylaws. We dawdled too long, and a second shake-up resulted. We had thrust energetic people into leadership positions too soon, before they had time to learn our democratic traditions, and with no written guidelines. Aileen brought new efficiency to the board, with written minutes kept for the first time, and a long-range strategy of raising fees to eventually purchase land. But a top-down style of leadership emerged. The board soon began censoring the newsletter and passed a resolution to boot Steve H. out of the club.
In May 1992, we had one knock-down drag-out meeting to decide whether this was to be a member-run club or a board-run club. Long-time members whom we had hardly seen for years came out of the woodwork for this one, and the members won. We have remained a member-run club ever since.
Actually, we got hit with a double-whammy. At this vulnerable moment, a roving band of swingers visited the club twice before they figured out they were not wanted.
By July, we had put our bylaws in place, and elected Rob as our fourth president. Officers that year would serve shortened terms, because we had already decided to move our Annual Business Meeting to the spring, and free up National Nude Weekend for an Open House.
It seemed that harmony and peace had been restored. Then after the meeting, we learned that Jack and Aileen had invited a few of their friends and the swingers to meet that same day to join in forming a rival group called Tri-State Area Nudists (a second TAN). The ASA already had too many clubs called Tri-State, so the upstart group kept their acronym by switching their name to Tanned and Nude. The unlikely coalition soon fell apart, and TAN closed down for the winter, never to reopen. About half-a-dozen of our members had switched over to the rival group, but the tension hanging in the air drove far more people to just stay home that fall.
Meanwhile, we had invited the FANR board here for their fall meeting. It was the first time they had traveled so far, visited a small club, met outdoors, or fully disrobed for a meeting. And the very thought of camping sent them scurrying for the plushest motel they could find. Somehow, they lived through it. Francine co-ordinated an abundant picnic lunch that left them raving. But the part they still talk about was the Friday afternoon reception for government officials on the top floor of the Capitol building. Nothing like that has ever been done again.
That winter, Steve took on the additional duty of newsletter editor, and held onto the job for seven years.
Seventh Year (1993)
After guiding the club through a tough time, Rob unexpectedly announced that he would not run for president again, and I found myself drafted into the job, even though I had not quite finished with my FANR and ASA duties yet. I suppose that the most visible things I brought to the job were printed agendas and annual reports. And for seven years, I kept the peace.
With only about a dozen people actively participating, we began the slow process of rebuilding the membership back up past 100. New members such as Sam, Jim and Donna, and Murray and Emma brought new life to the club. Our first Open House boosted late-summer attendance. And Trish did several public relations interviews over the next couple of years.
Meanwhile, an unauthorized logo had appeared in our newsletter, and we tried to be diplomatic about it by calling for submissions to a logo contest. To our dismay, there was only one entry: the very one we were trying to get rid of. It took a year-and-a-half of adroit delays to wear everyone down to the point that no one cared any more before we could settle the minor matter.
The ASA was growing more and more dictatorial. At the convention that summer, we found ourselves casting the lone vote against several autocratic measures--including a plan to do away with 30 affiliate clubs like ours that did not require 100% ASA membership. That fall, after another club had picked up this issue and dropped it, our members decided that our club needed to take the lead if no one else did. Little did we realize we were in for two years of stonewalling by unresponsive ASA leaders.
But all plans got shoved aside in October when a semi-nude bar suddenly opened in Tallahassee. Politicians went into a panic. In their stampede, they grabbed onto the wrong law--one regulating swimsuit styles at the beach, the gym, and back yards, rather than an adult entertainment ordinance. We had the votes lined up to stop it; all we needed was a public document newly discovered by Jay (who now worked for FANR). But this was FANR's first political step outside the big clubs. They were so obsessed with establishing complete control that they deliberately sabotaged our effort by refusing to share the needed documentation. Local governments caved in like dominoes: Leon County, the City of Tallahassee, Wakulla County, Gadsden County. We didn't wait for FANR in Jefferson County where our lake is; we intervened early, and talk of an anti-nudity ordinance there withered away. The silly laws have never been enforced anywhere.
Eighth Year (1994)
If we had not just been through a political baptism by fire, we soon got one when a state-wide anti-nudity ban (even in landed clubs on private property) appeared in the Florida legislature. We didn't know what we were doing, FANR didn't know what they were doing, and the Naturist Action Committee of The Naturist Society had only a slightly better idea of what they were doing. All have gotten much better since, and so has co-operation. But that year, it deteriorated into a three-way battle between FANR, NAC, and the anti-nudity American Family Association. We tried to steer a steady but thankless course of working with both nudist/naturist groups.
The turning point came about by accident. Representatives of several clubs had divided up the topics to testify before the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee. When we walked into the room, the chairman announced that the entire bill had been substituted, ushers were passing out copies of the new proposal, and Paul LeValley would be the first person to speak on it. I had only a second or two to glance at the new bill, and saw that my appointed topics were gone. I needed to stall while others got their bearings. So I ad-libbed on a topic of concern to our club only: skinny-dipping in remote areas. When the testimony ended, an old Republican picked up on that issue. He said, "I remember when I was in college. When we drove back home it was hot. And when we came to a sinkhole, we stopped and we skinny-dipped." He moved his finger around the table, pointing to individual committee members. "And I know you did. And you did. And you did." We had accidentally split the Republicans down the middle, and stopped the bill.
Steve H. again raised the issue of restricting single men, and the proposal failed a second time. When women out numbered the men on a memorable Sunday soon after, Donna teased the men that they ought to be complaining about the imbalance.
Running the club was growing more complex, so we set up committees to handle matters such as land search, grounds maintenance, and social activities. Recent experience had taught us that we also needed to establish a legal fund and a political committee. The Naturist Society and FANR had talked for years about the need to evaluate political candidates and inform our members. In the fall of 1994, the Tallahassee Bare-Devils became the first club to actually do it, and we received commendations from both organizations.
Attendance boomed in 1994, from very early spring through fall. Our records show 900 visits to the lake, plus numerous off-grounds excursions. We stayed near that attendance level for the next three years.
Ninth Year (1995)
We started the year by helping to easily kill off another anti-nudity bill in the Florida legislature. It took far more effort to finally prevail in our two-year struggle with ASA (now AANR) officials on the issue of affiliate clubs. (Since then, all contracts have become affiliate, with 100% membership voluntary. Once again, the Bare-Devils led the way.)
When our landlord briefly talked about selling us (at twice its value) the land that we rent, our board began considering what we would do with the place if we did eventually buy it. To my surprise, the board was unanimous in saying "As little as possible--keep it natural." At about this time, the board gathered all of our minor policies and routines into a procedure manual.
We got lots of publicity all summer, with major feature articles in Break magazine, the Tallahassee Democrat, FSView, Tallahassee Magazine, television channels 27 and 6. In fact, the young black woman from the Democrat showed up during the nude portion of our Open House. I told her she could either strip or come back after 4:00. She telephoned her boss for instructions, stripped down, and got her story.
Best of all, Watasawah's family and the Adams family brought us enough children to begin planning our own youth program.
Tenth Year (1996)
In a welcome relief from politics, our tenth year was one of innovative programming. With the Olympics in Atlanta, we offered our first authentic Greek athletic meet for college students. It has continued to draw a small crowd every year since, as the only nude re-enactment of the ancient pentathlon in the world.
That summer, we opened Camp Tallasun for our young people aged 11 through 17. Besides cooking and swimming and canoeing, kids worked on rigorous merit-badge-type proficiencies such as camping, survival, nature, and birds. But the camp happened only once. By the next year, most of those kids had moved away or gotten paying jobs. We tried advertising nationally, but could not attract enough outsiders to keep the camp going.
A rain cloud parked over Tallahassee (but not the lake) caused low attendance at our tenth anniversary celebration. Nevertheless, we honored all of the many volunteers over the years.
We could not wholly escape politics in an election year. NAC used our evaluation of primary election candidates as the model other clubs nationwide should follow for the November elections.
Eleventh Year (1997)
For the second year in a row, Jon put on a wintertime gourmet feast and hot tub party. And for the third time in four years, we successfully lobbied the Florida legislature to stop an anti-nudity law. Part of our strategy was the new booklet, Naturists: Upholders of Strong Family Values, underwritten by the Naturist Education Foundation, and published by our club. Five hundred copies of the first edition were distributed to state and local lawmakers nationwide. But a few months later, we had to rally support again when Florida representative Weldon lied on the floor of the U.S. house to prohibit the posting of signs on federal seashores that could inform the public where the nude beach areas begin and end. We lost that one.
The brief availability of other land near our lake prompted us to survey our members on what we should be looking for. They said keep the same direction, but move closer to Tallahassee. Besides a lake with sunny and shaded areas, top priorities include owning land free of insects and traffic noise that can be open seven days a week, as well as electricity, flush toilets, and a clubhouse. Club members voiced their opposition to a dance floor, bar, television, or swimming pool. We also chose a new name, and began the very gradual transition to Tallahassee Naturally.
It seemed like it rained nearly every Sunday for the first half of the year, but we got a big boost from our Open House, and attendance soared. The fall flowers had never been so beautiful. They served as a fine backdrop when FSU and Florida A & M University sent reporters to cover our student activities. Two college girls also wrote research papers on our club. One had been assigned to pick a group and blend in for a few weeks while gathering her information. She did.
Ken, Mindy, and Min brought new enthusiasm to the club. At our Halloween party, all of the kids (some of them old enough to be grandparents) got into a big shaving cream fight.
Twelfth Year (1998)
For two years, we experimented with a corporate-type leadership. Ken became our sixth president, and I got kicked upstairs as chairman of the board. Min tried a pajama party for our female members, but few women came. Cal and Jennifer invited us to a pool party that became a popular annual event for the next few years.
The hot issue that year was whether to rent a portable toilet. The idea collapsed when we learned we would be liable if any hunters used it for target practice during the week. All of the complainers were put on a committee to fix up the old one, and nothing ever happened.
For three years, we had been hot local news, receiving lots of publicity. Then the local media decided we were no longer news, but an accepted part of the community. Our club had achieved some national attention in February when I delivered the keynote address at the Midwinter Naturist Gathering. In July, we did a nude interview at radio station WXSR. Then in October, I got to meet with the best naturist minds in the country during the National Legal Symposium on nudity issues in Miami. Ken created our web page, and that very first year it won the Virtual Naturists Award.
Club membership reached a new height of 131. And attendance boomed all year. We set new records for seven of the twelve months, ending the year with a total of 1425 visits to the lake. Though membership held steady through another year, attendance dropped after that.
Thirteenth Year (1999)
St. Joe Paper Company went out of the paper business and into the real estate development business. To end the centuries of public access to sinkholes, they leased their land to hunting clubs, who blocked the entrances to even the sinkholes in the National Forest. We had to move our Full-Moon Skinny-Dips to the lake, where it took a decade for them to regain the atmosphere of a students' night out.
Working closely with the ladies at Refuge House, we collected clothing and food for them at our Open House. But they had internal communication problems; their director claimed she had not been informed, and asked us not to do it again. AANR smoothed that one over, but some of our board members got huffy.
John R. and Grant L. brought new efficiency to the club by erecting a sign-in board. Steve H. campaigned for a Halloween dance with a live band. It turned out to be the biggest financial flop in our history. Five members and two guests actually danced, and we lost nearly the entire $300.
We ushered in the year 2000 with a tasteful little gathering at my place. At midnight, people went crazy and jumped in the pool to the accompaniment of Saint-Saens' powerful Organ Symphony No. 3.
Fourteenth Year (2000)
After seven years of peace, internal dissension had begun to regularly disrupt board meetings, so I got out. Ken continued as president, with Steve H. in the new position of vice-president. Grant L. became newsletter editor. But Ken and most of the board faded away, so in December we had to elect a new batch of people, with Steve finishing the term as president.
Thanks to the hard work of Jan and Ron, our Open House was a great success, with three political candidates coming to meet us, and others sending their regrets. (One even came early and helped us put up road signs.) Unfortunately, all three who showed up lost in the first primary, but AANR was so impressed that they published our success story in The Bulletin.
After ten years of inspecting more than a hundred properties, we finally found land that met all of our needs for a permanent home. But the price tag was higher than anything we had previously considered. County officials cleared all of our development plans, and enough people promised $1,000 donations to finance a complete septic system.
Fifteenth Year (2001)
In the continuing land discussion, members decided to wait until we had more than enough money for a down-payment. And to speed up that day, we voted in substantial fee increases.
That summer, we hosted our first nude wedding on the grounds as new members Charles and Susan exchanged vows, with her son as best man. The minister wore only a T-shirt painted like a tuxedo, and he discarded that to join us in the water afterward. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last.
We re-elected most of our new board members to full terms. But complaints began to arise concerning erratic leadership, canceled events, cliquishness, temper tantrums, and personal vindictiveness. Suddenly, it was 1992 all over again, only this time, instead of us all rallying to prevent a nasty clique from kicking Steve H. out, Steve led his own clique in trying to expel me. Again, long-time members came out of the woodwork to vote against any such divisiveness. We had quickly bounced back from the 1992 quarrelsomeness; little did we realize that this one would cripple the club for several years, and sabotage our hope for land.
In disarray, the board did nothing to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary. And low recruitment of new members for a second year in a row resulted in a 30% drop in membership. Our AANR membership had dropped by 74%. But an unusually warm fall kept attendance steady through December.
All through this time, our Political Committee worked closely with Jefferson County officials to create what AANR executive director Erich Schuttauf called the best local nudity ordinance in the nation.
During our weakened condition, early member Kurt died, leaving approximately $15,000 with me to be offered as matching funds toward the purchase of permanent land.
Sixteenth Year (2002)
Two years of neglect and quarrelsomeness had reduced a thriving organization of 131 people down to just 29 who were willing to renew their memberships. Seven years of membership growth had been wiped out. But our accumulation of policies, treasury, and community good will remained pretty much intact. Grant L. began his term as our longest-serving president, and a diverse but friendly board began the slow work of rebuilding the club.
The June full-moon skinny-dip turned out to be the most exciting ever. Students arrived to find five grass fires beginning to climb the trees, and a drunk who thought he was doing a wonderful control burn. Carrying lots of water from the lake, we got the fires under control (though they continued to flare up over the next three days). For the first time ever, we had to call the police to remove the firebug.
Also in June, we completed the five-year process of changing our name to Tallahassee Naturally. We were negotiating the purchase of land, but pulled back when membership and attendance failed to rise as expected.
In December, Jamie sent out our first electronic newsletter. Except for the fires, it had been a year of welcome peacefulness.
Seventeenth Year (2003)
This was a year of Internet problems. Our web site got pirated away, and we had to create a new one. We also discovered an out-of-control discussion group using the old Bare-Devil name.
Gator Sink, where we had kept the trash picked up for 15 years, was sold to the State Park system. Officials absolutely refused to consider any leasing arrangement with the generations of skinny-dippers who had always used the place.
We waited too long, and lost the smaller piece of land we had been looking at. In December, the membership reluctantly decided the club was still too crippled to undertake purchase of the remaining land, so the matching fund offer from Kurt's estate expired.
Eighteenth Year (2004)
We participated in filming the My Town, Monticello documentary, which premiered in March. That same month, our College Greek Athletic Meet attracted enough contestants that we had to split the running event.
We adopted a new logo, as the old one had fallen out of use years ago. Kim did much of the design work.
Rob introduced a drumming circle to a few of our full-moon skinny-dips. On one memorable evening, a dijeridoo raised primordial sounds from before time began. We felt in touch with the earth and all our ancestors.
Our club's many-year effort to get Naturist Society founder Lee Baxandall into the American Association for Nude Recreation Hall of Fame finally succeeded.
Grant M. added a lean-to on the building for equipment storage. In September, the edges of five hurricanes brushed our grounds, knocking down lots of branches and some trees.
Web page problems continued to plague us--hampering our ability to get our newsletter posted. We finally dismissed the web administrator, but when he threatened to try selling our name, we had to temporarily close down the site.
For the past few years, we had been quietly trying to buy a wooded lot with a pond for in-town use. But in December, we learned that the city had discovered the same beautiful land and now planned to turn it into a picnic area.
Doug, our treasurer for 14 years, retired and moved away. We ended the year with a farewell banquet.
Nineteenth Year (2005)
After ten years, our College Greek Athletic Meet had become the longest-running nude college event in the nation. Steve W. of Florida A & M University won the male athlete crown for the fifth time.
After the coldest, wettest spring on record, the first hurricane in June brought our lake to overflowing, and we had hundreds of minnows swimming through our lawn.
Membership suddenly began bouncing back, after six years of losses. A warm fall kept attendance up. But week after week of winter storms forced us to cancel our Christmas Banquet for the first time ever.
Twentieth Year (2006)
An unseasonably cold day did not keep people away from our College Greek Athletic Meet--though we did show some spectators how to drape themselves in sheets in the ancient fashion.
Some "No Trespassing" signs had come down, so we were able to put a sinkhole trip back on our calendar. We were amazed at how the main forest road had completely grown over after just seven years without use.
A sitting state senator, along with other political candidates, attended our annual Open House. A bunch of new members camped out nearly every weekend during the warm months.
For our twentieth anniversary, we invited lots of old timers back--and honored those who have served the club during the past ten years.
Twenty-first Year (2007)
2007 was a year of big changes. Our landlord died, and his family raised our rent twice during the year. At first, they wanted to rent the lake to hunters during the winter months, but that scheme fell through.
We tried to buy the sandy field, but nothing came of it.
At the end of April, the old building burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. A dozen big pine trees were lost. After cleaning up the debris, we spent the next couple of months erecting a new picnic pavilion and a metal storage shed.
Our Memorial Day observance included a full memorial service for Gloria, whose ashes had recently been scattered in Montana.
After three years of high water, the lake sank to the lowest level we or the owners had ever seen. We had to add more sand and carry it farther out.
Twenty-second Year (2008)
On several occasions this year, pictures of our members appeared in national magazines--as well as on a calendar.
Despite higher gas prices and a delayed spring, a new family with lots of kids suddenly sent our attendance numbers soaring--back up where they were when we had twice as many members. The Full-Moon Skinny-Dips also broke several attendance records.
Rain from Hurricane Fay brought the lake level back up to normal--and flooded the roads so we couldn't get in for a week. In the fall, we built a permanent windbreak.
And we had high drama. When a deer came to drink from the pond across from the lake, an alligator grabbed her head and pulled her under. A buck with a large rack of horns then charged the alligator, rearing up on his hind legs and slashing the gator with his front hooves several times before he lost his footing and had to retreat.
Twenty-third Year (2009)
The nation was going through the worst recession since the 1930s. That meant people vacationed closer to home, and we actually broke several monthly attendance records. In July, AANR sponsored the first nationwide skinny-dip for the Guinness Book of World Records. The newspaper and television provided lots of publicity. We had 56 people in the water for the official count. Half were there for the first time, and a third of them were students. There were 99 over the course of the weekend, and 253 for the month. We ended the year with the second-highest attendance ever.
On our annual sinkhole tour, we got a fright when we looked up and saw a deputy sheriff walking toward us. Some busybody with a cell phone had complained because one of our cars had parked with one tire on the road, and he had been sent to investigate. Turned out he had skinny-dipped in those same sinkholes all his life, and we had a pleasant chat on our way back to the road.
When FSU started ripping down our posters, Trevor filed papers to form a campus organization called Naturally FSU. Only four times before--at the University of California at Northridge in the 1970s, then at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Toronto in the 1990s--has a student nudist group achieved official recognition.
Twenty-fourth Year (2010)
The recession finally caught up with us. Membership and attendance slipped a bit.
Against our advice, AANR decided to go for a second Guinness World Record skinny-dip. As expected, newspapers and television stations ignored the event. But we still had 47 people in the lake--plus two carloads who arrived too late to be counted. Unfortunately, a fierce storm cut short the volleyball game afterward.
Twenty-fifth Year (2011)
FSU changed the rules without telling us, requiring campus organizations to go through a cumbersome registration process twice each year. Ron took charge, and kept Naturally FSU official. Full-Moon Skinny-Dip attendance boomed all summer with crowds of 30 to 40 young people each month. Gender balance was good too.
For our twenty-fifth anniversary, we invited lots of old-timers to come back for a picnic, recognition, and remembering.
Over the years, we have done many things right:
Timeless Essays on Naturism
During the past quarter-century, four timeless essays have appeared in our newsletter. They are worth reprinting here. We have also asked some of our current members to contribute their thoughts.
Why I Go Naked: An Essay on the Meaning of Naturism by Steve H.
On a sunny spring day in 1982 I came upon a group of people skinny-dipping at a secluded pond deep in the woods of North Florida. They were having a wonderful time, and somehow I managed to subdue my foolish fears and join the fun. And I discovered a new and beautiful lifestyle that would change my life forever.
Why do I take such pleasure in being naked? The reasons are complex and varied, and I suspect that ten different naturists would give you ten different answers. But for me, the most compelling attraction is freedom. Being bare and free in the great outdoors gives me an exhilarating sense of complete freedom that transcends anything I've ever experienced in the clothed world.
Our Native American forebears knew this freedom well, and the simple pleasure of being nude in the outdoors has been part of our American tradition for countless millennia. This is our birthright, our heritage, a fundamental human freedom that is conferred upon our species by Natural Law. When the arbitrary whims of narrow-minded legislatures deprive people of such a basic freedom, the human spirit suffers. Naturists have rediscovered the ancestral freedom of going nude, and we rejoice in it.
Naturism is free and natural, and enables us to experience the world around us in a more complete and meaningful fashion. Clothing reduces our sensory contact with our environment, and establishes an unnecessary barrier between us and our surroundings. When we are draped in cloth we are separated from Nature, and cannot fully savor the warming touch of the sun's rays, or the cool caress of a spring breeze. Nakedness permits us to attain a rapport with the natural world that clothed people will never be able to experience.
Naturism is supremely comfortable, too. Here in Florida, or anyplace where the weather gets hot and steamy, it is wildly irrational to magnify the discomfort by going around in sopping wet clothes that cling and chafe and irritate. It would be far more sensible, and healthier too, if we could all just go naked when it's warm. Naturists are also free of that gruesome holdover from Victorian prudery, the swimsuit, which spoils a day at the beach with its sodden soggy discomfort.
One of the primary functions of clothing is to protect us from the slings and arrows of an often hostile world, and people tend to hide behind their clothing as though it were a suit of armor. But in a naturist setting, the armor is discarded, and no attempt is made to hide anything. This complete physical openness fosters a corresponding psychological openness, and when naturists discard their clothing they also discard the shams and pretensions of everyday life. There is a delightful feeling of honesty, too, for all badges of wealth and rank and status are eliminated.
The aesthetic element is another wonderful part of the nude lifestyle. The human body is Nature's most glorious work of art, and it is truly a crime against Nature to hide the natural splendor of our bodies. We are all beautiful, each in our own unique way, and that is one of the key messages of our lifestyle. Naturism suffuses our lives with the pure aesthetic joy of seeing our fellow human beings as they really are beneath the artificial mask of clothing. A naturist setting is a symphony of aesthetics, and every one of us is a minor instrument in that symphony.
Nakedness can be exquisitely sensual, too. Nudists acknowledge this natural and beautiful aspect of our humanity, and indeed rejoice in it. We reject without reservation the dreary visions of sin and shame that religious fanatics have used for millennia to stifle and subdue our sensuality.
Finally, naturism enhances our physical attractiveness by allowing us to acquire delightful all-over suntans. Most people look a bit ridiculous after a day at the beach, with their totally unnatural two-tone skin color--part golden tan like a real person, and part pasty white like the belly of a fish. But naturists are always gloriously Clothed With the Sun.
But there is something more to naturism, something that transcends the issues of freedom and naturalness, comfort and honesty, aesthetics and sensuality and delicious suntans. Those of us who have the courage and the self-confidence to embrace the nude lifestyle share a different approach to life from most of our clothed friends. We have discarded the foolish old notions of shame and guilt and embarrassment that plague the lives of most people in our society, and we have come to terms with our physical selves. Our countrymen are clothed, and they are ashamed; we are naked, and unashamed, indeed proud, and our lives are richer for it. By casting off the antiquated Rags of Shame and the morbid guilt complex that they symbolize, we have freed our spirits to soar to heights that others can only dream of.
A Life Sentence by Bruce H.
When a child is born in the current society, that child is destined to cover certain parts of his or her body with clothes. These clothes are mandatory in order to be accepted in this society, and without them the person is in violation of various laws, depending on location. Some locations view simple nudity as a misdemeanor, and some locations have laws that call it a serious felony. The bottom line is that you either wear this mini-prison of cloth, or end up in a larger prison--again, clothed.
The Christian Religion has had a very strong effect on this concept, but where in the Bible is it stated that non-wearing of clothing is a sin? Another very strong push for making laws requiring clothing is the very huge clothing industry. This was evident when the English started ruling most of the continent of Africa. They immediately established laws mandating clothing on everyone and this would "bring prosperity to their clothing industry".
The clothing industry has been very inventive and effective in ensuring that there are clothes for every facet of life including work clothes, dress clothes, swimming clothes, golf clothes, tennis clothes, baseball clothes, even to the point of clothes to wear when simply sitting in your own home, or worse yet, when sleeping. Basically, mandatory wearing of clothing at all times is a silly society taboo.
There are people that feel incomplete without clothing, and there are people who feel burdened by the clothing they are forced to wear. I am one of those people who do not feel clothes are necessary at all times. Don't take me wrong, as I am a welder, and would not think of welding without protective clothing--it could be very painful. And of course, cold weather is another reason to wear clothing. The necessity of clothing is for protection from the environment, nothing more.
In my travels, I have seen many areas of different cities where the residences and businesses have bars on their windows and doors. For those people, the bars give them a sense of security, but I would feel imprisoned or trapped in those same places. I know for myself and many people I have talked with, that shedding the clothing in a social environment felt like liberation from a prison. I know that being a nudist/naturist is not for everyone, as some people feel they have to be dressed to be "complete." I do feel that the clothing compulsive segment of society needs to understand that we nudists should have the right to feel that liberation in designated places such as beaches and public lands of federal and state-owned parks and recreation areas.
How Nudity Brought My Son Back to Me by Watasawah
Unbeknownst to me, the day my son discovered his first long pubic hair marks the day he erected a wall between himself and me. It may not have been a literal wall and the building of it may not have been known to me for some time, yet it cut us off from each other as completely as if it had been 500 feet tall and a thousand miles wide.
Its existence was abruptly imposed on my consciousness the day I almost walked in on him dressing in the bathroom. He shrieked "Don't come in" and slammed the door shut just barely missing imprinting the tip of my nose on it.
Staring at the closed door with my thoughts a complete jumble I finally managed a weak "Why not?" in a odd sort of shaken voice that even I didn't recognize.
"Because I only have my underwear on." For crying out loud, I thought, as my thoughts traced back through all the times I had seen him racing through this same house from bathroom to bedroom with no clothes on at all. My thoughts recoiled at the thought that I had nearly received a broken nose all because he "only has his underwear on." For heaven's sake what has gotten into him? I walked away completely bewildered. It didn't take long to learn there were new rules in the house and that I was to knock before entering any room he might be in.
Late one night I sprawled out on our couch in the living room to have myself a nice long THINK. Things were changed, that was for sure. But for the life of me I could not figure out why or when things started to change. I felt like someone whose neighbor has just come home from the hospital with a new baby and realizes that not once was the neighbor even suspected of being pregnant, let alone ready to give birth.
Sometimes the "how" and the "why" are not as important as the "what am I going to do" is. Well, what was I going to do, and about what? My first break in solving this mystery came when it became apparent to me that all future conversations with my son and his best friend were starting to revolve around girls. All they seemed to get out of their mouths was how "fine" some girl looked and where my son and his best friend could go to watch these "fine" looking girls.
Thankfully I remember my girlfriends and I giggling about some "fine" looking guy and how we could position ourselves "just so" so he might notice us. Yep! My son's hormones were kicking in right on time. I remember how distant my mother and I became about that time. It wasn't to be until years later that I would regret that gulf between us, and till the day she died a part of it was still there. That was not going to happen between my son and myself. No sir! I would not allow it.
Desperate measures call for desperate actions. I was desperate. Just about the same time that my son was beginning to develop sexually and want his privacy I was deciding that maybe I should do something about how uncomfortable I had become with how my own body looked. I thought about an invitation a friend of mine had extended to me to accompany him to a nude beach, and for the first time it began to hold some merit as a possible solution for the dilemma happening in our family. Maybe my son felt as awkward about his developing body as I felt about my overweight body. The two aren't the same but maybe the end result of how a person could feel was the same. I called up my friend and was secretly rewarded by hearing how surprised he was to my asking if the invitation to my going with him to a nude beach still held. He asked, 'This is for real? You aren't just kidding me or something?" I assured him I really wanted to go and asked if I could bring along my two children. "Sure!" he said and asked when. The sooner the better I thought.
Our first visit to Tallahassee Naturally
I have no idea what the boys thought as we arrived at the nude beach. Only the desperation of my situation gave support to my decision to "bare it all." None of us are exhibitionists, and how clearly that fact is a truth slammed home upon each of us as we remained glued to our seats well after the engine had cooled. If not for a man in the parking lot who was also obviously getting ready to approach the nude beach by first taking off all of his garments, we would probably still be sitting in that parking lot. He had obviously seen us sitting in our car when he drove up and noticed we were still sitting in our car well after he had undressed and gotten his beach chair and towel out of his car. He smiled. We all stared at his naked body as he approached us and introduced himself. A blind person could have seen how nervous we were so none of us were surprised when he asked, "Is this your first visit to a nude beach?"
What was his name? None of us have the foggiest idea and we never saw him again after that one chance meeting. His name may have been forgotten—not his discussion of how the body is not something to be ashamed of. He explained how many cultures wear no clothing at all and how sexual crimes among those people are non-existent. He even informed us that among nudists, sexual crimes are almost non-existent, if not completely non-existent. He made me wonder how and why we in this society had gotten so caught up in sex. We are, you know. Just pick up any magazine or look at almost any advertisement. Advertising agencies don't think they can even get a person to buy hardly anything without putting a half-naked provocative woman next to the product they are trying to sell. Suddenly a realization came to me. There is nothing wrong with being naked. What is wrong is how our society has come to view being naked. No doubt, advertising has had a lot to do with shaping this opinion. Having shared my thoughts with my two sons, we started to get undressed. Certainly we were not any more comfortable about getting undressed, we were just more educated about the proper way to think about our naked bodies.
Shyness does not vanish just like that, not even in the face of logic. My littlest son grabbed a huge bath towel and wrapped his naked body up like a mummy. Watching one of the only two towels we had brought to the beach disappear, my older son made fast work of grabbing the remaining one and wrapping himself up. It was a normal sized towel and much "debate" ensued between him and his little brother about how he should have the bigger towel because he was bigger. No amount of logic or reasoning could get his little brother to give up his bigger prize and so my older son had to resign himself to trying to wrap himself in the smaller towel. Even at twelve he is a big tall boy. The only thing left that could reasonably be used to cover oneself with was the inflated raft, and my friend deftly appropriated it for himself before I even realized it could be used for that.
While everyone had been grabbing things to cover their nakedness with, I had been doing some reconnoitering. Most of the people were at the other end of the small lake and the swimming area was quite close to where we had parked. Thoughts of how I could get myself to that beach and into the water occupied my mind until the ridiculousness of the situation struck me. Laughter burst from me in a torrent of much-needed-to-be-expelled nervousness as we maneuvered ourselves down the beach as a much clearer spectacle than if we had all just strutted our stuff and forgot about wearing only our birthday suits.
Hours later, my hands looked like prunes and my lower limbs were numb from being in the cool water so long. You can rest assured that my intentions were to stay in the water until the very last person at that nude beach went home. The water was so cool and I had been in it for so long that surely by now I must have been starting to look like a blue Smurf. All I felt was envy for my kids who were running around in the warm sun on the beach playing tag with some other boy they had met there who was just as naked and unaware of his nakedness as they now appeared to be. Even my friend had ventured out onto the beach to talk with some of the other people who were toasty warm as they luxuriously stretched out on their beach towels under an invitingly warm sun. Several times my friend and my sons came back into the water to coax me to come out and join them. "No" I kept telling them. Then to make it seem more plausible, "You know how much I hate the sun and being hot!" Oh great balls of fire, what I would have given to be getting just a little bit hot, but nothing was going to drag me out of that water until the last person left. With chattering teeth I wondered if maybe I was just a little crazy for having thought this would really make a difference.
A few days later my older son's best friend was visiting and I overheard him talking about going somewhere where they could look at the girls. My son kept saying he didn't want to and finally his friend asked him, "Why?"
"Not interested! My mom took me to a nude beach and believe me I saw it all." Do you know it wasn't until then that I realized that every other sentence out of his mouth was not about girls and how "fine" they looked. We were talking again about any and everything. I had just naturally extended him a little more privacy but somehow I knew that even if I did somehow walk in on him in his underwear that my nose would be safe from being imprinted on the door.
A YEAR LATER: My son has confided in me about some older girl who took off her shirt and bra in front of him the other day. He feels she had every intention of getting him to be intimate with her.
With held breath I asked," What did you do?" He said he just looked her in the eyes for a few seconds before turning his back on her and walking off. They say that curiosity killed the cat. Could curiosity be what's responsible for so many unwanted pregnancies?
Watasawah–that was her full American Indian name. It means "Flying Eagle." Because the government does not know how to deal with single names, she used the pen name Tasha Sommers for publications that paid money subject to income tax. After appearing in the club newsletter, this article was reprinted in Naturally magazine, no. 32 (fall 1999) under the title, "The Wall."
A New Sense of Freedom and Equality by Steve W.
Ever since my very first naturist experience when I visited the Tallahassee Naturally club for their Greek Athletic Meet, even though I was there to compete within this event, I quickly felt the true essence of what naturism was all about. That day I learned naturism was a state of mind that comes from the physical feeling of the surrounding natural elements being felt all over one's bare naked skin (the warm sun, the cool wind, to what have you) a feeling of true bodily freedom. However, this was just one aspect of my initial experience. I soon began to notice a byproduct or the repercussion that was coming from everyone who was willing to shed off their clothing: that they were all accepting one another's bodily imperfections and faults. That's the true power behind social naturism: the mental benefit of body acceptance, a stress reliever from our demanding textile society's influence over their interpretation of how they assume the human anatomy (male or female) is supposed to look.
From that moment on, I started to be more aware that this body I was given will be mine for the duration of my lifetime here. Love it or hate it, accept it or reject it, it is the only one I will ever have. It has been with me from the moment that I had my first breath to the last beat of my heart. Since I cannot get a refund, no exchange policy on this body of mine, it was now essential for me to learn to transform my mental outlook toward my body from a mere vessel into a beloved partner and lifelong ally. The relationship between me and my body was clearer due to naturism. The lifestyle has helped me and other individuals to make peace with our body's appearance, so that it can effectively serve its purpose and share its valuable lessons of acceptance, self esteem, respect, and pleasure. Everyone who is already a naturist has learned these lessons and afterwards is able to journey successfully through life. Therefore I truly look forward to the rest of my journey in life as a proud naturist, with my new sense of freedom and equality.
Why Am I a Naturist? by Jamie
I was pretty much raised in a very strict fundamentalist home. (Yes, you took your shower with your clothes on.) Plain and simple, nakedness had a direct correlation to sex and was therefore "bad" or "tainted." I hadn't given much thought to the idea until I had my first child.
I wanted to be sure that my firstborn would not feel uncomfortable with his body. I didn't want him to have the same teaching that I was taught. However, at that point the idea of naturism had still not entered my mind.
Later, I was blessed with a[n adopted] daughter. Her birth mom drank while she was pregnant with my precious little lady, and my daughter ended up with some alcohol-related brain damage. The area of the brain dealing with judgment is affected by this prenatal disease. I learned from the Internet group consisting of parents with kids who had similar brain damage, that many of these kids grow up and go to jail for inappropriate sexual behavior and behaviors labeled as indecent exposure.
What I saw was that my little lady did not like to wear clothing and enjoyed being natural. She did not seem to know WHEN it was OKAY and WHEN it was NOT OKAY to romp around the house in her birthsuit. On the Internet list group, I would hear stories in which parents were becoming distraught over situations that appeared to me as perfectly innocent.
For example, one family had a summer home in Michigan. There was a lake behind their house. Their 10-year-old daughter, anxious to go swimming, peeled off her clothes and jumped in the lake. Her parents were outranged and concerned, wanting our advice. I asked if there were other people around that were offended. Their response was no, just the family. I secretly wondered if the girl was a boy, would they have been so upset? I feared that these parents would teach their child what I had really learned in my home--to hate my body.
Having known [naturist leader] Paul for a long time, I decided that I needed to introduce my little lady to naturism. She would have a place where she could feel comfortable being free and unashamed. She could learn that we live in a society that had people in it who felt uncomfortable with the naked body, and learn WHEN and WHERE, rather than it is WRONG.
I know I made the correct decision. As time went on and parents had the same issue of their kids not wanting to wear clothes, I periodically brought up naturism as a lifestyle choice for their kids. I learned that the Europeans on the list who did not seem to have this complaint already took their kids to nude beaches. A couple of Americans e mailed me privately and said that they had come to the same conclusion, but were too shy to let others on our list know that they were nudists.
It is so sad that, often in the name of modesty, we can make our kids feel uncomfortable about their bodies. I didn't want to pass on that feeling to my children. So now you know pretty much why I became a naturist.
How I Became a Naturist by Paul LeValley
I have no memory of a traumatic first naturist experience. I didn't become a naturist; according to the doctor, I was born naked. I believe most others were too, but somehow the continuity of their lives got broken. In my case, my mother used to set the big wash tubs in the back yard, to heat in the sun on hot summer days. There was a bare-butt photograph of me and my sister getting into the tubs at about ages 3 and 4.
That same pair of tubs served for mixed bathing in the kitchen on Saturday nights. First my baby brother and sister, then me and the sister near my age, then my parents. The outhouse was a two-seater. My grandparents' wealthier family had a three-seater. So far as I know, that was the way most people lived in the countryside. We got an indoor bathroom before I reached puberty, so I don't know how much longer the old arrangement would have continued.
Two creeks joined on our farm. Unfortunately, the water dried up to a trickle during the warm months, so real swimming was impossible. But there was always enough water to strip down, lie down, and cool off for a few minutes. One year, the corn planter plugged, and left an empty patch in the middle of the half-mile-long field. When the corn grew over my head, I realized I could take off my clothes and go native in my own jungle. That only happened once, because there were few spare moments in busy farm life.
At age nine, I discovered the thrill of sleeping nude. But public nudity was an entirely different thing. Once a week during the summer, the school bus would take us to a lake. I remember the changing room. With my shirt hanging down around me, I would face into a corner and slip into or out of my swimsuit with great speed. Then came pubic hair, and I was ready to show the world. The pants came off first, and went on last. At this same age, some boys decided the floor had become dirty or wet, and insisted on standing on top of the benches to change--at eye level. I never went quite that far, but I had successfully passed the age of shyness.
I read Walden at an early age, and realized the importance of living simply in nature. I increasingly felt a near-religious awe of nature--a respect that developed largely through my experience as a Boy Scout. Camp Tapico, near Kalkaska [Michigan], spread over more than a thousand acres, with campsites that could be reached only by canoe or walking logs laid end-to-end. I remember visiting, at age eleven, the cathedral silence of the dark hemlock grove behind Three Birches campsite. Alone in nature. Five years later, I rose from making a plaster cast of a wolf track in the swamp--and found two surprised great blue herons descending almost into my face. That same summer, I saw my first male rose-breasted grosbeak perched in a shaft of sunlight above the darkened trail. Those were sacred moments. (In recent years, the Boy Scouts have grown so worried about child molestation, that they won't let anybody be alone in nature anymore. They have lost much of their purpose.)
During the 1960s and '70s, no Boy Scout campout seemed complete without a skinny-dip. I worked several summers at Camp Holaka, where we hustled the kids out Saturday morning, so there would be time for a staff skinny-dip before we also left for the weekend. Any staff member who wore clothes to bed would have been laughed out of camp.
One summer, I worked at Camp Heffernan near Hudson, Illinois. It had a separate staff beach, so we skinny-dipped nearly every evening. On one Saturday night, most of the younger staff members without cars were stuck in camp—along with me, who lived too far away for a trip home. So we dreamed up an adventure bolder than anything the older staff could brag about. We stripped down, canoed across the lake to the Girl Scout camp, and skinny-dipped in their swimming area. At the Baptist camp down the road, parents came each Sunday morning for a worship service. That morning they found a new camp sign: Body Beautiful Nudist Camp. Their cabins had cutsie nursery-rhyme names. The one closest to the road was labeled "The Three Bears." We altered that spelling. Parents enjoyed a good chuckle, but they never could figure out who pulled that prank.
In 1970, I took off traveling around the world. In Belize, the second country on my itinerary, I first experienced skinny-dipping with a group of both sexes. There were several other natural experiences in nature--from Costa Rica, to Greece, to India, to Australia.
Travel also taught me to pare life down to the essentials--to live out of one suitcase for a year. I spent the winters of 1975 and 1978 revising manuscript among the Mayas in the jungles of Belize. Both times, I chose a thatched-roof dirt-floor native house tied together with vines. I had lived without electricity or running water until age six, so this felt like a return to basic roots--as well as an extension of my camping experience. I learned to live more in harmony with the cycles of the sun and the moon. I did a lot of bird watching there, so I stayed closely attuned to every rustling in the foliage. Just downstream from where I got my water, my creek served as the local laundry and bathing place. Maya women go bare-breasted, except around strangers, and they soon got used to me. The kids came skinny-dipping every afternoon after school.
Genealogy is today researched mostly by computer. Back then, it meant filling the car with cheap gas and driving across the country from county courthouse, to township clerk's office, to overgrown cemetery. Sometimes I stayed with new-found relatives; sometimes I camped beside a creek in an abandoned woods. An open-air bath in the morning, and I was on my way to another day of research. If I had missed my morning bath, or if the day turned hot and sweaty (without car air-conditioning), I could pull over by nearly any river and bathe undisturbed under the bridge.
I had skinny-dipped in eight countries and a dozen states before ever setting foot in a nudist resort. That came in 1982, when I began doing dissertation research at the American Nudist Research Library on the grounds of Cypress Cove in Florida. My topic was the ancient Gymnosophists, or naked philosophers of India. I was on my way back from Christmas vacation, and it must have been the coldest day of the year. Everyone was bundled up. I did see one nude elderly couple in the dining room. I resolved that my next visit would be during the summer. On that next visit, the librarian invited me to strip down and jump in the pool. It all seemed so natural.
But I still was not an official card-carrying member of any naturist organization. That came in 1986. I was negotiating with The Naturist Society on the publication of some of my research findings, when they received an inquiry from a man in Tallahassee about starting a local naturist group. They asked me to check out his character. Three of us met for our first outing the next weekend, and that's how I became one of the founding members of Tallahassee Naturally.
The rest has been a history of public service. I got to be another founder when the Florida Association for Nude Recreation formed in 1991. As state Education Chairman and national Youth Chairman, I started the JFANR Camp--the longest-running youth camp in American nudist history, and now spreading nationwide.
Then I was prevailed on to serve as local club president. It took me seven years to shake off that job--during which time membership quadrupled from 32 to 131.
A thoughtful person has many interests. I have been free to pursue most of them; but the freedom to live naturally demanded an increasing portion of my time, because the current frontier of individual liberty had been drawn there. (Many defenders of freedom recognize that nude beachgoers are today the canaries in the coal mine--measuring the health of our democracy.) My writing turned more and more to nudity-related topics. The newly formed Naturist Education Foundation asked me to direct a national task force that produced Naturists: Upholders of Strong Family Values for distribution to state and local lawmakers nationwide. In 1988, I started the "Art Follows Nature" series on nude art that ran in Naturally. Twenty years later, it had grown into the longest-running signed series in the history of the American naturist press, and is being prepared for publication in book form. But why? Envision this: a man, a woman, and a child, walking naked along a beach or across a meadow--participating in a scene as old as humankind. We become a natural part of nature. We walk in the footsteps of thousands of generations before us, uniting past and future in the present awe. Life becomes whole.
No, there was no sudden moment when I became a naturist. It has all been a natural continuity.
This is the expanded version as it appeared in Paul's 2004 book, The Orfalinda Trilogy and Other Early Writings. In the years since then, Paul has served as co-ordinator of the Professors & Researchers Special Interest Group of The Naturist Society. Some of that group's efforts can be found at www.paullevalley.com/sig.
Our small club is unusual in that we now have three writers publishing nudist articles on a national scale. In September, we are everywhere. The Club Spotlight in this month's AANR Bulletin is Paul's full-page article on the 25-year history of our club. Open The Naturist Society's Nude & Natural, and you will find Rick's report on the many sinkholes in the Tallahassee Area. And Wendy's coverage of this year's College Greek Athletic Meet appears in the current issue of Naturally. (She writes under a pen name.)
Rediscovering Nude Photography or How Photography Found Me by Wendy
Maitland Art Center in Maitland, Florida and one very wonderful photography teacher gave me my first introduction to nude photography in 1977. We studied the zone system, a system which requires that every variable in photography, from exposure to darkroom production of the print be calibrated and controlled. We experimented in fields on cloudy days taking pictures of barns, and we wandered around in downtown Mount Dora in order to test our classroom skills. The teacher brought models, young and old, into the Maitland Art Studio so we could experiment with controlled lighting. We moved the models so we could capture interesting light which reflected from human skin. Then we moved the lights in all directions and at all levels of brightness and darkness. Afterwards we went into the darkroom to work more on light and dark and everything in between to produce the archival nude print of the black and white photograph. I have some of those prints today and one still hangs on my wall. One day, on my own I took a friend to Rollins College so she could pose nude under old oaks in front of a beautiful lake. There were no crowds or people so she quickly undressed. She poked out her beautiful pregnant belly. My photography was evolving.
Many years passed. I moved from Orlando to the woods in Georgia. I was the photographer for two home births. I was able to capture not only the beauty of the nude during birth, but I was able to capture emotion in a way I did not know was possible. I developed my own pictures in a makeshift darkroom. The chemicals used in the developing were harsh, and at one time I totally gave up photography. I also did not want to dispose of these harsh chemicals in the septic system. I eventually sold all of my equipment and in the 1990s bought my first digital camera. The cameras then were very rudimentary compared to the high-tech digital cameras of today. Eventually, though, cameras became better and my photography interest was once again realized, especially nude photographs in natural settings. After a trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I published my first nude photography for Naturally. More recently Naturally also published nude photographs which were taken at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon. My third publication will come out this fall and will be of Tallahassee Naturally's nude College Greek Athletic Meet.
This past summer I entered a photography contest (however, when I submitted my photographs, I did not know it was a contest) which Wakulla County sponsored. Five of my wildlife photographs taken in Wakulla County won awards. Although these are not nudes, my love for taking pictures of what is natural seems to gain momentum as I find myself with more time. (I just retired from teaching and am working part-time). Nature and nudes each by themselves, and then nudes in nature seem to have found me. It is not an interest I "decided to take up." It has all just happened. As I write, I am waiting for UPS to deliver a wonderful photo printer I just ordered online. Now it is time to get really serious!