Scarabs Flag Scarabs Flag

Scarabs: The First Decade

by Melville H. Hatch

[This article originally appeared in Scarabogram, June 1947, old series No. 3, pp. 6-8.]

Scarabs was organized at the home of Melville Hatch (5547 - 25th Ave. NE, Seattle), on June 6, 1937. Eight of us participated in the first meeting, among whom Gertrude Minsk, Dan Bonnell, and Cliff Burner were, perhaps, the leading spirits. Ours was to be a social group where it would not be out of order to talk about beetles! Hatch was elected chairman (later known as High Scarab), and Burner secretary. No constitution was formulated and new officers came to be elected only on the resignation of the old.* In ten years 108 meetings have been held; 62 at Hatch's, 42 at other members' homes, 2 each on campus and at Mt. Rainier. In addition to the eight charter members, fifteen other persons interested in beetles have been elected to membership. Attendance at meetings has ranged from 3 (8 meetings) to 8 (4 meetings). Five members have attended more than 50 meetings; three, from 25 to 50 meetings; five, from 10 to 20 meetings.

At first, most of the members had small beetle collections, and meetings were occupied with the examination, the discussion, and the naming of specimens in various families. Inevitably, however, the active interests of many of the members in the beetles (but not, we hope, in the Scarabs) has declined, and later meetings were characterized by the exhibition of recent literature and specimens by the High Scarab or talks on various groups of beetles or related topics by different members. In accordance with the social character of the organization, friends, wives, husbands, and guests were welcomed almost from the first. At the beginning, however, the formal meeting was frequently held in the back study at High Scarab Hatch's, the "auxiliary" being joined for refreshments later. Latterly, however, no such division has occurred, though the High Scarab sometimes has difficulty in quieting the "parascarabs"* sufficiently to begin the meeting! Moreover, the High Scarab has discussed everything from the "Origin of the Universe" (35th meeting, Oct. 1940), to the "Nature of Human Knowledge" (66th meeting, Sept. 1943) and "Religion in a Post-Kantian World" (73rd meeting, May 1944)!

Especially memorable were the two trips to Paradise Park (3rd meeting, July 17, 1937; 99th meeting, July 28, 1946), the 29th meeting (Jan. 1940) at which Harriet Frizzell told about collecting in the Peruvian desert, and the two turkey dinners put on at Gertrude Minsk's (68th meeting, Nov. 20, 1943; 80th meeting, Dec. 16, 1944). Beginning with the 47th meeting (Dec. 21, 1941), each December meeting has taken the form of a Christmas party. It was at this first Christmas party that two year old Donny Bruhns amazed us by pointing out over two dozen localities on a globe of the world. We suspect his daddy deserved more credit than he for the performance! Memorable, likewise, was the 46th meeting (Nov. 1941) at which the High Scarab reviewed the entomological control of the cactus in Australia at such length that Scarab Minsk's report on Amara had to be put over to the 48th meeting!

In 1938 and 1939, Gertrude Minsk, while teaching at Lester, Wash., mimeographed a 41 page Preliminary list of the Coleoptera of Washington, prepared by Hatch: 2071 described and 135 undescribed species.

With the coming of World War II, five of our members entered the armed forces: Bonnell, Dailey and Patterson in the Army; Burner and Rogers in the Navy. Patterson saw service in Italy and Dailey was wounded in the Battle of the Falaise Pocket in France in August 1944.* The meetings at which Dailey (82nd meeting, Feb. 1945) and Patterson (93rd meeting, Jan. 1946) told of their war experiences will never be forgotten. The nearest approach to real brass achieved by Scarabs was in the person of Elizabeth Kinney's husband, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas C. Kinney.

At the 64th meeting (July 1943), Helen Houk proposed a service flag which Frances Bjorkman thereupon prepared and exhibited at the next meeting. It consisted of four (later five) blue scarabs on a white background with a red border, and has become the Scarab flag, exhibited at every meeting. From Nov. 1943 to Dec. 1944, Frances Bjorkman and, later, Helen Houk and Parascarab Margaret Dailey prepared a circular news letter which circulated among the men in the service and others and became the prototype of the present series of Scarabograms.

And so we close a decade's history. If it hasn't witnessed the completion of a monograph of Northwestern beetles, it has at least seen many hours of delightful friendship -- a great war -- the establishing and/or maturing of our families* -- and there really is quite a beetle collection in Johnson Hall -- and in Fender's hands in McMinnville!

Another decade -- we, our families, the beetles, blown to bits in an atomic war -- or will fortune continue to smile -- a monograph of Northwestern beetles... Till 1957!

*Footnotes: (1) The following are the principal persons to have held the secretaryship: Burner, June 1937-April 1938; Bonnell, June-December 1938; Houk, June 1939-February 1942, Feb. 1945-date; Bruhns, March 1942-May 1943; Minsk, July 1943-Jan. 1945. (2) This term was adopted on the motion of the High Scarab at the 74th meeting (June 1944). It derives from the Greek "para-" "by the side of." (3) Of the members subsequently elected to membership, Fender, Beresford, Stout, Coulter, and Brereton had been in the armed forces, Stout fighting in Italy and Brereton in the Philippines. (4) Of the 23 Scarabs, 18 are married, of whom 14 have 27 children -- or so the High Scarab reckons!


Scarabs in the Fifties

Copyright © 1988 by  Rod Crawford

[This article originally appeared in Scarabogram, June 1987, new series No. 87, pp. 3-4.]

The original Scarabograms are a series of 10 newsletters issued by the High Scarab from 1946 to 1957. (I have all these, but the preceding wartime newsletters sent to members on war service are not known to exist; anyone with a clue to these, please contact me!). Scarabogram No. 3, published in 1947, contained the article on Scarabs' first decade transcribed above. The following notes on the second decade of Scarabs are culled from Scarabograms No. 4-10 (old series).

The years 1947-1957 saw the 110th through 227th meetings of Scarabs. Some highlights of these meetings: on Sept. 13, 1947, Scarabs entered the atomic age when Dr. Robert Hiatt spoke at a meeting on the biological work at Bikini Atoll (where the hydrogen bomb was tested). The meeting on August 1, 1948 was a picnic at Paradise Park, Mt. Rainier, attended by 16 Scarabs and parascarabs, when 359 beetles were collected. At the 127th meeting (Nov. 20, 1948), a turkey dinner and "a necktie party - not a hanging" marked the 50th birthday of the High Scarab. Another Mt. Rainier meeting, in August 1949, "...was rained out. Hatch, Dailey, Houk, Freeman, Beresford, Brereton, and assorted parascarabs and friends assembled at Yakima Park, but rain made collecting impossible, so we dispersed after eating."

The Feb. 25, 1950 meeting was a wedding shower for the High Scarab's daughter Suzanne. On April 1, 1950, Borys Malkin, Polish immigrant who served in the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II and had collected beetles in the Philippines, New Guinea, Australia, Europe, Africa, and across the United States, spoke on his recent 15-month collecting trip to Africa which garnered 200,000 insects and 50,000 marine invertebrates. Later that month he was initiated as a member.

Scarabs picnic, 1950, with Estelle & Mel Hatch, Roger Hall, Helen & Ted Houk, etc., b&w photo
Scarabs at Stevens Pass, 23 July 1950
See Hatch Biography Page for ID of some members

On July 23, 1950 the Scarabs had "...a delightful picnic at Stevens Pass ... a few beetles were collected ... At the picnic there was shown for the first time the new Scarab flag, designed by Helen Houk and Ruth Beresford: a green and yellow field with a dark red (rust) border and with a brown (for charter members) and a dark red scarab for each member." Yr editor finds this design hard to envision; it sounds much too "busy" anyway. I prefer the original Scarabs flag (1943) which is imitated in the logo at the top of this page.

On July 21, 1951, Dr. John Buck spoke on the flashing of fireflies. This brings us through Scarabogram No. 9. There is a 6-year gap before the tenth (and last) original Scarabogram, marking the 20th anniversary meeting in 1957. Sixty-six meetings were held, "and we continue to discuss everything from beetles to nudism, foldboating, and the nature of human destiny..." as well as politics, Socialized Medicine, Eskimos, evolution, Toynbee, and sex. "We have had about 10 members in the Seattle area this past year [1956-7] with an attendance of from 6 to 9, plus parascarabs even to the second generation, at a meeting."

During the ten years 1947-57, total membership increased from 23 to 35, not counting parascarabs. Membership policies were different in those days of few newsletters, free mimeographing, and 3-cent stamps: dues were not needed, and members, once formally elected to Scarab-hood, were in for life. Many, of course, moved away or lost interest in entomology, and the original Scarabograms were primarily intended to keep these in touch with the active core of the group. Of the eight charter members, Cliff Burner and the High Scarab were the only ones still attending meetings regularly in 1957. Some current members may remember Cliff Burner as the "mossback Scarab" who attended our meeting on Bainbridge Island (at Suzanne Hatch Thunem's home) in June 1981.

Also during these years, the High Scarab became increasingly preoccupied with the writing of Beetles of the Pacific Northwest. After a brief and reluctant stint (1947-8) as chairman of the U.W. Zoology Department, he began the formal writing in June, 1948. He wrote "Five or ten years will be required to complete the undertaking" but it ended up taking 23! The project also involved many collecting trips and visits to other collectors and museums. By mid-1957, Volume 2 was scheduled for publication and Vol. 3 was being written. The enormous effort involved in this project probably accounts for the great reduction in frequency of Scarabograms!

The history of Scarabs in the 1960s is pretty much lost, unless someone who took notes emerges from the woodwork. All six of us still active who attended Scarabs meetings while the High Scarab was around, attended their first in 1972, as I did.


Scarabs up to Now

Copyright © 2005 by  Rod Crawford

After 1974, when the High Scarab left his curatorial post at the Burke Museum, the original series of Scarabs meetings at his home ceased. Was Scarabs fated to go the way of the dinosaurs? No such thing! For in January 1979, Sharon Collman, then of King County Cooperative Extension and a Scarab veteran, sent out a flier to all and sundry titled "Entomology - Bug Group - Organize." At the third (March 1979) meeting the group decided to constitute itself a continuation of the original Scarabs, and Megan Vogel drew a scarab rolling a dung ball for the newsletter logo.

During 1979-80, the group was financially supported by Cooperative Extension. At the end of that time we organized as a society of dues-paying members to support the issuing of a regular newsletter. The original group's practice of avoiding formal constitution and bylaws was continued. The only "official" officer is the treasurer. Art Peterson, the first treasurer, held office from the beginning of 1981 to October 1992 and was succeeded by Marilyn Tilbury, who holds the office still. Meetings are usually chaired by Scarab Collman, though she has never officially assumed the title of High Scarab and is always threatening to absent herself in order to go work on her weevils! She also produced the first two years' newsletters, a role in which she was succeeded by Jon Pelham (1.5 issues), Evelyn Fairchild (13 issues), Merrill and Art Peterson (34 issues), and me (issues 68-298, except for about 10-12 with guest editors, and continuing).

Meetings during 1979-81 were held in many different venues, often in the field. From August 1981 to January 1986 we met in the University branch Seattle Public Library. Difficulties in scheduling the library room led us to switch to Room 324 Hitchcock Hall, a U.W. classroom, under the auspices of Scarab Edwards. Unfortunately the atmosphere of a classroom in a very modern building seemed less friendly, and from 1988-90 meeting attendance averaged less than 14. Although things got a little better, in September 1994 I managed to fix up a semi-permanent slot in the Burke Museum classroom which is both roomier and a little more homelike. We meet there to this day and typically have attendance of over 20.

The tradition of a December Yule party continues, and among our favorite venues have been the homes of the late Anne Watkins, Scarab Collman, and (in recent years) Nel Mascall. We frequently have a picnic in July or August, and usually have 1-3 field meetings during other warm months. The September meeting is often skipped in order to give all-out effort to Bug Day (now a.k.a. Bug Blast at the Burke). This event originated as a 1988 bug fair for kids held at Snohomish County Cooperative Extension; by 1997 (the 10th annual bug day) Scarabs had become a co-sponsor, and in 1999 the venue moved to the Burke Museum where it is held still, last year attracting over 1000 attendees.

But the typical Scarabs meeting is one with a speaker on some insect-related topic. Over the years we have had hundreds of excellent speakers ranging from elementary school to retirement age and from rank beginners to seasoned professionals and well-known nature book authors. It would be invidious to single any of them out; all have contributed immeasurably, and we couldn't have done it (or continue to do it) without them. Or without all those loyal folks who attend meetings and provide an audience! Past, present and future Scarabs members and speakers, I salute you!

Click here for current membership information on The Scarabs. Meetings are always held in the Seattle, Washington area, usually at the Burke Museum, so readers in distant places should be warned that they will have difficulty being active participants.

This page last updated 30 August, 2010