Special Discovery – From Out of Sherwood Forest
What many people unfamiliar with Orange County history would find surprising is the very radical branch of left-leaning counterculture that blossomed in the area during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is no better evidenced than by the underground tabloid newspaper, From Out of Sherwood Forest.
First published at The Bird in the Cage bookstore in Newport Beach in November 1969, and issued bi-weekly until sometime in the early 1970s, From Out of Sherwood Forest is a special discovery for someone working in Special Collections and Archives. It connects Orange County, and UCI specifically, to a larger movement of the so-called “underground press,” a term used to describe illegal or unauthorized publications in repressive political regimes. However, it is used more commonly referring to the independently published and distributed, highly visual counterculture newspapers of the United States, Canada and United Kingdom. These newspapers gave the young and politically radical a voice to express their dissent and angst with dominant culture as well to organize and exchange ideas. Often hastily put together by volunteers and produced on little to no budget, the longevity of these papers were limited and their historical value often overlooked given their ephemeral nature.
From Out of Sherwood Forest is no different. Very little is written about it and less is known about the person who is largely responsible for its publication. Credited to its main editor and publisher Don Elder, a UCI student and son of Newport Beach City Council member who also went by the nom de plume, ‘Robbin Hood,’ the newspaper was issued out of the previously mentioned, The Bird in the Cage revolutionary bookstore on Balboa Boulevard in Newport Beach. References to it as a product of a “vaguely Marxist collective” are probably exaggerations as the paper was firmly a product of the bookstore and its content drawn from volunteer submissions by UCI students and counterculture minded teenagers who also accounted for its readership. It did have a rather anti-authoritarian stance that mirrored the revolutionary language many underground papers used at the time, calling for open defiance of the government and the rule of law.
What is known about the paper largely comes from the court case that stems out of the Don Elder’s arrest for printing an article in the paper, “Outlaw Blues” that advocated for large-scale shoplifting and theft of corporate businesses; it argued that small businesses were spared because they suffered from the same trap of capitalism as its readers. Known to police, the article drew significant ire from the Newport Beach business community but they were powerless to do anything until it was brought to the attention of the authorities that the paper, and its offending article, were caught in the hands of minors. Don Elder was brought up on charges of ‘conspiracy to solicit burglary and contributing to the delinquency of a minor’ though he was ultimately cleared of these charges. Very shortly after, The Bird in the Cage bookstore relocated to Santa Ana and adopted the new name, Bird in Search of a Cage. From there even less is known about the fate of the bookstore and the publication much less its impact or influence on youth culture and activism in the county.
As a special collections librarian, it is always a delight to see how UCI history connects to larger movements in history and cultural especially when unexpected. This paper that has extraordinary value as a primary source given its unmediated look at fringe and radical youth culture of the time as well as the businesses, activities, and events that were sporadically advertised and announced in its pages. The ‘discovery’ of From Out of Sherwood Forest was the result of preparing for a graduate class in Visuals Studies on Counterculture. UCI Special Collections and Libraries has significant holdings of underground press that parallels, if not goes beyond, the Alternative Press Collection at UC Santa Barbara.
This collection is truly one of the gems of UCI Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives, especially for those interested in Orange County regional history, UCI history and the counterculture of the late 1960s. For those interested, From out of Sherwood Forest can be viewed at the UCI Special Collections and Archives on the 5th floor of Langson Library 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday without appointment.
For more information, please contact Derek Quezada, Outreach and Public Services Librarian, email@example.com.