six of those each from about 50 people, some of them ichthyologists,
from all around the land.
These ichthyologists included such cichlid luminaries as George
Barlow, Arthur Myrberg, and ichthyologists (then) in-training
like Paul V. Loiselle and Bill Bussing. He also recruited advanced
hobbyists from around the country, a roster that reads now like a
Who’s Who of noted cichlidophiles/aquarists: Al Klee (of course),
Jim Langhammer, and Ross Socolof, to name a few.
In those days, there were hardly any cichlid books in English, only
a couple of small pamphlets put out by T.F.H. Publications. Most of the
major books were in German. So I used the German word for cichlid,
Buntbarsche, in my salutation to the fold, starting the first bulletin as
“Buntbarsche Buddies.” Being a teacher at the time, I ran the bulletins
off on a ditto machine. The pages had to be assembled, stapled, and
stuffed in envelopes. My wife was a good enough sport to help me do
this, after the children were in bed....
Probably less than a year had passed from the time I started the
little group until I was given some administrative duties at my school
as vice principal...this situation made it difficult for me to keep up
with my ACA duties, as I was functioning primarily as an editor of
a growing publication. I’m not sure that there is a more difficult job
in any organization. Fortunately, a very respected hobbyist, Guy D.
Jordan, volunteered to take over the workings of the organization
for me. He was perfect for the job. He was well known, and he had a
vast correspondence. All this was important, for the association was
Growing exponentially is more like it, driven by the sudden
mania over Rift Lake cichlids, principally those from Lake Nyasa
(now Malawi) and later, Lake Tanganyika. There was a need for
good information and for exchange of fish, particularly if you lived
in the hinterlands, which was anywhere besides the New York/New
Jersey import hub.
Though he passed on the duties of editor to another icon of the
American Cichlid Hobby, Guy Jordan, the ACA may not have ever
come to be without Dick’s enthusiasm and initial jump-start. And
that is not to say that Dick abandoned the organization he started
by passing on the role of editor to Guy. It was quite the contrary:
he remained very active in the organization, giving it a voice and
public presence through his many articles and T.F.H. books, and
always proselytized on behalf of his beloved cichlids. The first
of his numerous articles appeared around 1963 in The Aquarium,
and later in Aquarium Illustrated, Aquarium Journal, Aquarium
Fish Magazine, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and of course, Buntbarsche
Bulletin. He has authored more than 11 books over the years, most
of them on cichlids and most of them for T.F.H. He has also, in a
more general sense, been a marvelous cheerleader on behalf of this
great hobby of ours (Dick’s other aquarium-hobby love is marine
fish; being a true Southern Californian, he still dives), which has
clearly shone through in his thoughtful and upbeat answers to
hobbyists in the TFH Q&A department over these many years.
His service to the ACA has also been constant and invaluable.
In 1995, Dick was proclaimed a Fellow of the American Cichlid
Association, the ACA’s highest accolade for its members, in
acknowledgment of his pivotal role in the inception and development
of the organization. In 1990, Dick took on the helm of the ACA’s
Guy D. Jordan Endowment Fund, established in 1984 in memory
Dick and his wife Stephanie circa 2000 in Rosario LaCorte’s fishroom.
Stephanie died earlier this year after bravely fighting a long illness with
Dick by her side.
Courtesy of Dick Stratton
Dick, Stephanie, and their granddaughter Veronica after having just
finished a climbing expedition in Costa Rica in 2000.