Sunday, February 5, 2012

Volney G. Mathison (1897-1965)-Part 5

Volney Mathison on the Fringes

Between the wars, Volney Mathison made his living as a builder and operator of radio equipment, also as a seaman, an author, and a labor leader. The Wikipedia entry on Mathison generously describes him as a chiropractor and psychoanalyst as well. I have yet to find any evidence that he was trained in either field, but then anyone--then or now--can call himself a psychoanalyst. Chiropractic on the other hand requires extensive training, although I don't know that chiropractors of the 1930s and '40s had to undergo the same kind of training as their counterparts do today. In any case, it might be a little informative to consider some coincidences and connections:

Chiropractic was founded in 1894 in Davenport, Iowa, by a man whose surname--Palmer--is one of the finest double entendres (1) you're likely to encounter anytime soon. Coincidentally or not, the Fairhope Industrial Association was founded that same year in Des Moines for purposes of establishing a colony where Henry George's theory of the single tax could be enacted. Three years later--in the same year Volney Mathison was born--D.D. Palmer opened the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, the first of its kind. Finally, D.D. Palmer was treated by Andrew Taylor Still, the father of osteopathy, prior to Palmer's founding of chiropractic; the Henry George Foundation of Australia was founded by Edgar Culley, one of the first osteopaths in Australia.

Why informative? I think these and other facts in the life of Volney Mathison present a picture of a man who operated along the fringes in almost every way: in economics (Georgism), literature (pulp fiction), the law (his association with Tony the Hat), psychology ("psychoanalysis"), medicine (chiropractic), science (his invention of the E-meter), religion (Dianetics and Scientology), and even--in his wanderings up and down western coastal waters--this broad continent. It seems clear to me that Volney Mathison just wasn't made for a conventional or conformist way of life.

L. Ron Hubbard

I don't know when or under what circumstances Volney Mathison and L. Ron Hubbard met, but in relative terms, they must have had some pretty close brushes at various times from the 1920s through the 1940s. Born in Tilden, Nebraska, in 1911, Hubbard was the son of a navy man who was stationed on the West Coast beginning in 1921. Hubbard attended high school in Bremerton and Seattle, Washington, at about the time Mathison--fourteen years his senior--was plying the waters off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Apparently unlike Mathison, Hubbard attended college, at least for a time. He also began writing. During the early 1930s--at about the same time Mathison's writing career was winding down--Hubbard's was just getting started. He would go on to write scores of stories, making his name known in the field of science fiction. (2)

L. Ron Hubbard and his followers have built a cult of personality around the founder of Scientology. Their claims remind me of the claims made by Jong Kim-il, Muammar Gaddafi, or some other boastful dictator on his own great accomplishments. Although Hubbard sailed to Alaska in 1940, there was no "Alaskan Radio-Experimental Expedition." (Volney Mathison was more likely to have accomplished something like that.) And although he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, Hubbard did not see combat--there were no engagements with enemy submarines, no combat injuries, and no twenty-one medals. Hubbard was in fact relieved of his command for shelling Mexican territory in 1943. In 1946, he was transferred to inactive duty, and in 1950, Hubbard resigned his commission. The upshot of all this is that Hubbard spent a good deal of time on the West Coast as a navy man. He may very well have met Volney Mathison then. I think it's more likely the two men met when Hubbard began moving in southern California circles of the occult and the paranormal following the war.

To be continued . . . 

(1) You could also call it a triple entendre depending on your opinion of chiropractic.
(2) The credits I have for Volney Mathison's fiction lists just three published stories after 1932, all in 1942-1943 for North-West Romances. According to Wikipedia, Hubbard made his first sales (non-fiction) in 1932-1933. His first published short story was in Thrilling Adventure in February 1934.

Text and captions copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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