Long before the current boom in naturist home pages and before there was any good way for the nudists of the world to communicate, there was The Network. In 1979 Leanna and I were gung-ho about nudism (we still are) and we were very actively engaged in promoting this lifestyle and educating others about the Wonderful World of Naturism. During this time I hatched the idea of a worldwide communication network of nudists. Of course, this was before the days of widespread electronic mail or even P/C's in the average home. Thus, The Network (and its companion publication, The Network Bed and Breakfast Directory) was born. During the seven years we published The Network Directory and the B&B Directory we reached out to nudists in over 33 countries and became a close knit group of people sharing a common interest but separated by thousands of miles. I am happy to say that The Network continues even today. Below is an introductory letter by the organization's current Coordinators, Don and Pauline Cleavin. They have done a fabulous job of continuing in The Network's original mission of joining the world's naturists together to communicate ie: Naturists Talking to Naturists.
In late 1979, after Pauline and I had been naturists and members of South Hant's Sun Club for a year or so, we began wondering what naturism was like in other countries. To start finding out, I wrote a letter to the American Sunbathing Association (now known as the American Association for Nude Recreation or AANR), at Kissimmee, Florida, asking them if they would be kind enough to put us in contact with some of their members.
My letter was passed to the editor of the ASA Bulletin which is like a tabloid naturist newspaper, to be published in the next edition, and copies of the letter were sent to several prominent American naturists who were known to enjoy putting pen to paper.
Within a month of sending our letter, we had the first of what was to be thousands of responses dropping onto the door mat. This was followed by a small flood of letters when the ASA Bulletin hit the streets. At this time, we had absolutely no idea that this was just the beginning of something that was going to completely dominate our lives for the foreseeable future.
Amongst our first regular correspondents were Veal and Leanna Johnson who told us about nudism in Texas where warm days are never a problem. There naturists tend to 'cover up' as protection from the sun rather than to keep warm. Veal was then President of the Southwestern Sunbathing Association and editor of "The Bare Texan" - house magazine of the Live Oak Ranch Nudist Club and as he would have us believe, one of the top nude volleyball players in the States. Certainly he and Leanna were and still are very keen naturists who follow their lifestyle at home as well as at The Forest Club that they subsequently founded.
Within that first month, so many other lovely letters arrived that we were almost totally overwhelmed, and amongst them was one from Ruthie and Harry Ketchum of New York State, who were to become some of our greatest friends and supporters of the system. Over the years, Ruthie and Harry visited us twice here in the UK as well as many other members all over the world. Unfortunately though, Harry has since passed on to the land of perpetual summer, but just before his departure, we received the one hundredth letter from him and Ruthie.
As time went by, we found ourselves in contact with more and more enthusiastic naturists, from such places as Queensland - Australia, Merrispruit - South Africa, Hawaii, Brazil and even a few (dozen) from around the UK. All with different lifestyles and enjoying their naturism in so many different ways. A good few couples are actually normally nude in their everyday lives. Working and doing everything without even a thought of dressing other than when they need to visit the local town. One pair don't bother dressing even when local people call in to see them, and everyone got used to them being natural.
We are still in regular contact with a few of the other original correspondents, but in general those exchanges petered out after one or two years, they having found other, maybe less busy people to write to. One couple that we got to know in the early days were George and Beckie in America who were at that time only recently married. Subsequent letters reported that Beckie was pregnant, now they have four children and are still writing interesting letters to us and they are like members of our family, though we still have never met them.
As our circle of exciting and interesting correspondents built up during those first months we started telling our friends about the others and then they began writing to each other. Within only a couple of months things had developed beyond recognition and Veal Johnson, being an accomplished 'computerist' too, had started a list of the names and addresses of the correspondents. He wrote to us and said that he was going to formalise everything and call it "THE NETWORK" and wanted us to be the International Coordinators for our side of the world.
With a Global logo and the caption "Naturists talking to Naturists", very soon he was writing to every naturist organisation that he could find around the U.S. and other parts of the world, telling them about "THE NETWORK" and inviting people to join us.
The first copy of the "Directory of members" was issued in late 1979 and contained about a hundred names and addresses and at that time it came free to members. Then, as now, to get a copy of the Directory, one has to be listed in it, which is only fair really. At that time, everyone either knew all of the other members, or someone who did and it was all so easy to administer.
I must say, that Veal and Leanna did a valiant job recruiting members in some of the most unlikely places, and progressively over the following years until the middle 80's the system grew to just about the size that it is now.
While we were acting as the International Coordinators for the U.K. and Europe, Don and Nancy were covering Canada, Jim and Mary covered Australia, New Zealand and the world East of India and to the West of Hawaii. Veal and Leanna were the Central Coordinators and took care of theUSA and all other parts of the world. Our function was to do what we could to bring the organisation to the attention of bona fide naturists and to encourage them to take up the offer of membership, which had to be of benefit to them and the cause of Naturism in general.
In around 1985, Veal and Leanna were involved in a clothing optional condominium scheme in Houston which was a great concept that everyone hoped would spread to other parts of the world, and there was talk of developing one in London. This project took up too much of their time and for a while it looked as though "THE NETWORK" may fall apart, and Pauline and I made preparations to take over running the whole system. Too much work had been put in by too many people to let it die, and as so many people appreciated what was being done, we were determined to keep it going - at whatever cost.
In 1986 Pauline and I took over as "Central Coordinators", and though it was a fully effective system, we made a few changes to the way it was operated to make it easier for the members to use it and for us to run it. We felt that it was important that as new people joined, the copy of the Directory that they received should carry their details, to ensure that it was bang up to date.
The aim of the system has always been to provide a platform for Worldwide Naturist communications. It enables Naturists to get to know about the lifestyles of others from many different Countries, and helps them to get more out of Naturism as well as establishing many really great friendships.
When we started out so long ago, we had no idea that the system would develop as well as it has. Even during the earlier years some of the members were visiting their friends both local and some quite distant ones and now we are constantly hearing stories about members jetting off to some pretty exotic places around the world to spend a nude holiday with other members.
A few years back, Pauline and I went to meet a couple of new members in Malta where we met some of their friends and were shown their nude beaches. A while later we went along to visit a member in Southern Italy who owns his own naturist club, here we met lots of really nice people from many parts of Europe. This year we enjoyed a visit to the Holy Land, when nudists walked the streets of Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jaffa - clothed of course, but not on the lovely nude beaches though.
Later we visited several member couples in the South of France, both ones who had taken up residence there and others who have bought holiday places, and it was interesting to see them making good use of their membership - It can be quite lonely in the OFF season, which can dull the pleasure of owning your own naturist place in the sun, in winter 'when the gay holiday makers' are all at home busily working and saving for next years trip to the sun.
At our home, we have entertained some of the worlds most dedicated nudists and in the last couple of years have seen people from New Zealand, Brazil, Singapore, the U.S.A, France and Belgium,as well as lots of members from other parts of the U.K.
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