Harry Oliver’s “Desert Rat Scrapbook” (1946–65)

The original “desert rat” Harry Oliver was a twice Oscar-nominated Hollywood director (one of the first ever nominated for an Academy Award), a designer, showman, newspaper columnist, self-publisher, and all-around character. He lived part-time in Borrego Springs, California, in the 1920s and 1930s, then moved to nearby Thousand Palms around 1940.

In 1946, he launched his Desert Rat Scrap Book, “a publication that has sent shivers and laughs down the spine of newspaper editors across the country because of the spelling and punctuation. Harry made his own illustrations from woodblock cuts and designed his own alphabet using cactus to form the letters. But it was the stories and humor that he so lovingly injected into his Scrap Book that won his following.

“Harry said the Scrap Book was the only paper in America you could open in the wind because it was a single sheet of paper folded three times (to create five pages), and his claim held up. Harry produced 44 “quarterly” issues of his Desert Rat Scrap Book (or DRSB newspaper), often at irregular intervals, between 1946 and 1965, until his health and optimism failed.”

Image: Desert Rat Scrapbook cover, Harry Oliver, Fall 1946.