Hello from James Talmage Stevens,
also known as “Doctor Prepper:”
I grew up in the post-WW II ex-urban lifestyle that included living by self-reliance principles. Our family lived the preparedness lifestyle long before it was considered an attribute! On the farm of my maternal grandfather, we lived pretty much off the land. We played on haystacks and inside the barns. We raised chickens, pigs, cows, horses, and raised crops we could preserve and store. We also raised family-size crops of corn, sugar cane, peas, beans, carrots, squash, onions, cucumbers, and hot peppers––don’t forget the okra and eggplant!
Everything went into a bottle––I actually thought food grew in bottles in the dark of the basement till I was 7-8 years old! It was in the late summer after my 8th birthday that I found out how all those fruits and veggies got into those bottles in the basement storeroom. That was the summer my mother and grandmother determined I was old enough to learn how to tend the garden, pick the vegetables, and participate in the canning, bottling, and pickling––and hauling the jars to the basement!
After several years, our family moved to a larger house on less land farther out of the city. A yard garden, in-home food production and food preservation continued to be part of life until my college days.
In January 1974 I developed Making the Best of Basics—Family Preparedness Handbook as a post-college project. The 1st Edition of “Basics” was a self-published enterprise, approximately 200 pages, hand-typed on a portable typewriter, printed on one side from paper masters, hand-collated, and assembled around an eight-sided table in our dining room. The pages were held together by a split brass pin in one corner! The first 1,100 printed copies of Basics sold for $2, and entirely sold out in just a few hours on a Saturday afternoon!
With such early success and additional requests for copies, we boldly decided to print more! The 2nd printing of 5,000 copies––printed on both sides of the paper and glued onto the cover––sold out in 8 days! For the next few months, several printings and revisions magically sold and the printer was kept working overtime.
After I completed graduate school, I turned corporate, gaining ground on being an 8-5 executive, and tired of publishing the book. I turned the book over to my business partner to develop. It wasn’t too long before he lost interest, market demand lessened, and I got out of the book business altogether. We moved around the country with our 6 children, eventually arriving in San Antonio TX in 1982. Years later, in 1994, some people contacted me to acquire the rights to the book, and having recently had some marital, job-related, and financial difficulties all at once, I decided to check out the book’s potential to determine its market value before committing to a selling price.
It was the beginning of the Y2K problem era. I visited some survivalist and gun shows in the Texas area, then printed some of the chapters and began selling them for $2-$3 each. As I made the rounds of these weekend shows I began collecting vendor data which I compiled into a small booklet, and sold that information to other vendors and attendees. It dawned on me that no one had assembled such information about preparedness––the rest is history with the return of “Basics!” I became seriously engaged in getting back on the street with a revised 10th edition.
When the then-new, greatly revised, and updated 10th edition of Making the Best of Basics was introduced, I returned to the in-home production and food storage industry––now the Preparedness Industry–– full-time from 1995 to 2000. My wife and I were frequent participants in preparedness trade shows and industry events throughout the US and Canada. We presented seminars and workshops on preparedness issues. I became a keynote speaker at preparedness shows and a guest on more than a hundred TV programs and thousands of radio talk shows throughout the US. A nationwide Christian TV channel ran my preparedness video nightly for most of 1999!
The 10th Edition of “Basics” was written for the previous generation. Now it appears the need for self-reliance may be even more important tomorrow than today––as we face the newest problems of natural disasters such as weather-related conditions, people-caused disasters such as the dipping economy, increasing political polarity problems, unprecedented stock market and investment corruption, entire industry losses, and business failures, and personal disasters such as job loss, divorce, death in the family, accidents, and the effects from the previously-mentioned natural and people-caused disasters.
After retiring in 1999 I was often asked by many of my friends, several publishers former distributors, and preparedness retailers to return “Basics” to the marketplace. It is not what I had planned for my future. But then, none of us saw the 911 event or the economic conditions this country has faced since that event.
Now that the 11th Edition of Making the Best of Basics has been published for this generation, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what causes the need––If you are prepared, you need not fear!
–James Talmage Stevens
(a.k.a. Doctor Prepper)