Classified Information

From the mailbag:

Dear NYRB,

My wife and I thought you might be interested in this “how we met.” Fifty years ago, the NYRB printed this non-personals classified in the issue of May 21, 1970:

Why did we choose to put a classified in the NYRB? Because we wanted a publication with a select readership. We thought it would be the best way to find another writer, perhaps a journalist like me (I was a reporter for Stars & Stripes in Vietnam) or a creative type (my then traveling partner John was a photographer and speechwriter for Nelson Rockefeller). We only got three responses to our ad. One was from someone 3,000 miles away who had been idly leafing through that issue at a friend’s house in Berkeley: Kerstin Fraser wrote immediately.

John and I had perhaps unreasonably expected adventurous guys like us to answer the ad, so we replied to Kerstin with hesitation. That reply fell behind a table in Berkeley. Kerstin wrote a second time, somewhat angrily. John and I were apologetic but quickly recognized both her qualifications and determination. We arranged to make a joint camping trip to Prince Edward Island (from NYC) in fall 1970 and—

Well, to cut to the chase, we made a threesome but John eventually left our expedition. Kerstin and I continued organizing, getting sponsorships from Levi Strauss, Eureka Tent, Cutter Labs, and others. We also signed a photography contract with GAF, which gave us 400 rolls of film (half color) and processing, and with Harper & Row, to write a travel guide to East Africa. The next day, Saturday, April 8, 1972, we married at the old St. Peter’s Lutheran on East 54th Street, and on Sunday flew off to Nairobi via London. We drove our Toyota Land Cruiser 20,000 miles in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi, and Kerstin made a flying trip to Ethiopia. Here’s what we looked like 48 years ago:

The result of this long honeymoon was a 714-page guide that Harper published in 1975:

The rest of the story: we returned to California (I was born in San Francisco, Kerstin in Oakland), wrote two regional guides to California, embarked on careers, bought a house, had two wonderful daughters…

All that from a classified ad!

Al & Kerstin Magary
San Francisco

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