Clyde A. Warden and Western Trails pulp magazine

Quite possibly the coolest purchase I will make for all of 2023 (and we are only finishing up the 3rd month) is this batch of Western Trails magazines from the 1930s. Acquired back in early January 2023, I’ve been having fun slowly sorting through them.

The seller wasn’t altogether upfront, perhaps, about their overall condition. Or given they aren’t a pulp dealer, to be fair, I suspect the seller didn’t realize the various flaws. Some lack front covers. Some lack rear covers. The spines on the earliest ones aren’t great. Some that have the covers attached are by virtue of being glued to the first internal page or glued onto a sheet of paper as a means of reinforcement. Unfortunately, this seems to have occurred with the earlier issues. The latter half of the run are in better shape. Whoever originally owned all of these went to great lengths to assemble them (along with a short, broken 1930s run of Western Aces, which I also acquired).

But hell! The literature is present, which is a good thing, if you enjoy reading.

The first thing I noticed was the overwhelming quantity of Delos Palmer illustrations. If you are gazing at my attached pic of covers, that would account for most of the white background covers (the upper five rows). He vanished from being Western Trails regular cover contributor and focused almost exclusively illustrating several Spicy covers until 1939. By 1940, he had wholly abandoned the pulps.

The second thing I noted was that one Clyde A. Warden often copped the covers. Who the hell is that? I knew nothing about Clyde A. Warden before obtaining these. I love a good research project, so took a quick look at American census records and discovered that Clyde A. Warden was indeed a real person. Let’s begin with 1930 since that was when Clyde really began launching into the pulps, after his first known sale in 1929.

1930 Census:
Address: South Fourteenth Street
Salem, Marion County, Oregon
Birthplace: Oregon
Age: 22
Occupation: Author
Residing with his widowed mother, Ella (age 51) and younger brother Clifford (age 18)

This census is already interesting in that he is an Author, did not attend College, but did graduate high school. His earliest (known) pulp sale under his own name was via The Golden West Magazine, a two-part novelette in the April and May 1929 issues. After that he dedicated nearly all his time to Western Trails, beginning with the January 1930 issue. That issue also launched his recurring character: Bert Little.

This made me wonder if Clyde supplied fiction to any local newspaper supplements. Or to rural magazines, which are largely not indexed. I mean, what are the odds he graduated high school and began selling fiction at age 21? What did he do between high school and 1929? We have a two-to-three years unaccounted for.

He may have been employed by the Salem World per the Oregon Exchanges records as a “compositor”. This publication was based in Salem, Oregon, an evening edition only (sans Sunday) and founded in 1927. Clyde would have been 18 or 19 at this time. If this paper was digitized and available online, I’d kill to have access to it and see if we can locate anything inside credited to Clyde. The University of Oregon Library appears to be the only one with any holdings, covering 1927 October 20 through 1928 July 30. If my library still had a microfilm machine, I’d be placing an Interlibrary loan request. If anyone resides in Oregon and can access that film, I’d love to know!

Curious to learn about the widow and her husband’s name and occupation, I dialed it back a decade to track him down.

1920 Census:
Address: Bandon and Prosper Road
Age: 11
Prosper, Coos County, Oregon

The husband’s name was Joseph (age 59) and the wife’s name was given this time as Ellen (age 41). Two additional children, a son and a daughter, each older than Clyde, are listed. Carroll (age 18) and Verna (age 14). Joseph’s occupation was given as a miner in a gold mine.

1940 Census:
Address: Fifth Street
Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon
Age: 33
Occupation: writer

This entry is a little misleading. Clyde and his wife Helen (age 30) were lodging with his brother Clifford and his wife Elizabeth. The census notes that in 1935 Clyde and his Connecticut born wife resided in Los Angeles, California. Why? Was he pursuing a possible Hollywood script-writing career? Given the number of Bert Little tales, translating them to the silver screen seems logical. But more importantly, Clyde was still listing his occupation as an author, yet, his last known regular pulp appearance was in 1938. He wouldn’t have any further known sales until the April 1942 issue of Fifteen Western Tales magazine. Thirteen months later, same magazine, the March 1943 issue ran a novella. These would be his last two sales under his name. Were these original tales or ancient rejects? And why had Clyde abandoned Western Trails, especially after contributing about 85 (combo of Bert Little tales and non-series) from January 1930 until July 1938? That’s 103 months. Most of the issues Clyde failed to land were in this first year and final year.

A decade later, we learn that Clyde is no longer an author.

1950 Census:
Address: M Street
Sweet Home, Linn County, Oregon
Age: 42
Occupation: Tavern proprietor

Still married to Helen, the pair had niece Marilyn Estep (age 2) residing with them. Were they babysitting her when the census taker arrived? Helen’s occupation is given as bartender at the tavern. They pair apparently never had any children of their own. A tremendous shame as this eliminates the potential to contact direct descendants, aside from nieces and nephews, etc.

The Find-a-Grave website shows that Clyde Arthur Warden’s precise date of birth was 18 March 1908. He died at the young age of 56, on 20 August 1964 in Linn County. He is buried at Hilltop Cemetery, in Independence, Polk County, Oregon. This entry also provides additional family members lined to Clyde, as follows:

Father: Joseph Benjamin Warden (Born 1860, Died 1921)
Mother: Ella May, nee Aplington (Born 20 May 1878, Died 12 December 1960)
Brother: Carroll Vernon Warden (Born 13 March 1901, Died 1 October 1969)
Brother: Clifford Warden (Born 9 February 1912, Died 12 November 2000)

I’ve yet to verify what became of sister Verna. Did she marry before the 1930 census or die?

I don’t see any evidence that Clyde served or enlisted during the second World War, which I felt would have partially explained his 1940s disappearance from supplying fiction to the pulps. It was a lucrative market for him. What happened?

In any case, this all shaped up towards researching an obscure author. Only thing is, Ed Hulse of Murania Press announced that Will Murray had already prepared an article for this year’s special edition of Blood N Thunder magazine.

And so, my dreams of working up a project concerning Clyde Arthur Warden, author of the long-running Bert Little series, comes to an abrupt end.

As comedian Nigel Ng’s character Uncle Roger would say, Haiyaa!

After publishing this blog, fellow research Steven Rowe obtained a copy of Clyde’s obituary. From that, we now learn the following details:

Clyde was born in Gold Hill, Oregon, on 15 March 1908.
His family then moved to Salem, Oregon, where he attended school.
He moved to Sweet Home, Oregon, in 1948, where he would reside until death.
Clyde’s bar was the Circus Room Lounge and Restaurant.
He married Ordell Devlin on 26 May 1956.
Both his brothers and sister outlived him, as did his second wife.
We learn that his sister Verna did in fact marry, becoming Verna Bordier.

So, he remarried! What became of Helen? Death or divorce?

As for Ordell, she filed for divorce from Clyde in May 1964, a handful of months before he ultimately would die in August, on grounds of “cruelty”. The proximity from divorce to death leads me to now wonder just how he died. Age, health, liquor, etc.?

From the United States Social Security death index, I learned that Verna died in 1970. Sadly, this information is not found on the Find-a-Grave site.

Clyde A. Warden and Western Trails pulp magazine

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