Ronald Henry Muszalski was born on August 6th, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, to a blue-collar Polish Catholic family. He was the eldest of five children. The 1950s in Chicago heralded a renewed interest in golf and as a teenager Ron enjoyed caddying on many of the city’s best courses. His fondest memory was of caddying at the prestigious Medinah Country Club. He attributed his lifelong interest in the sport to these happy times walking the greens as a young man.
Ron enlisted in the Air Force as the Korean War began and was assigned to Japan where he worked as an electrical engineer. His appreciation for the Japanese culture was another formative factor for him. Upon his honorable discharge, he settled in New York and worked at Orientalia, a signature bookstore south of Union Square. It was here that Ron began to develop and hone his understanding of book collecting. He soon became a knowledgeable and informative clerk. His extroverted personality brought him into a circle of New York artists: John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jesse Collin Young. Some of Ron’s favorite stories were from this time, describing many late nights spent in animated conversation about art, music, and performance.
Ron moved across the states in the early sixties and found a home in San Francisco and employment at City Lights Books in North Beach. Ron became an integral part of the store and became friends with owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Closely associated with the Beat movement, City Lights had faced obscenity charges in 1957 after publishing Alan Ginsberg’s Howl.
While working at City Lights, Ron found himself at the center of another attack on the freedom of the press. This time the target was poet Lenore Kandel’s The Love Book, a “brilliant work that weaves together themes of sex, zen, and the political and cultural climate of the sixties” which local Catholics had decried as pornographic.
Ron and his fellow clerks had been warned that San Francisco Police would be attempting to purchase Kandel’s book. Since selling it meant certain arrest, employees were given the option to decline if they wished. Ron, long an outspoken believer in free speech, had no such hesitations. So when, on November 15th, 1966, a plainclothes policeman sheepishly requested a copy of The Love Book, Ron cheerfully replied “would you like enough copies for the whole department?” He was promptly arrested for possession of pornography with intent to sell.
Ron always delighted in telling this story, especially how easily he spotted the “undercover” policeman, dressed in a square’s notion of hipster attire and visibly discomfited to enter such a dangerous hotbed of counterculturalism as a bookshop.
The case went to trial in April 1967. After ten hours of deliberation the jury found Ron and the other defendants guilty, concluding that The Love Book was indeed obscene and had “no redeeming social value.” In 1971, however, the verdict was overturned.
San Francisco was also where Ron met his wife Mary and had his son Aaron (b. 1970). The seventies were busy years as Ron shifted his career to from books to cameras. He worked as a salesman at high-end camera stores in the Bay Area and consistently won awards for being best salesman of the year. He earned an associate’s degree in photography at Laney College in Oakland and declined the school’s offer to become a staff teacher. But he enjoyed photography and was always willing to share his knowledge.
After an amicable divorce, Ron chose to return to the world of golf, becoming store manager at Cambridge Golf Antiquities in Pebble Beach, California. It was during these years that he built his remarkable collection of golf books and ephemera, totaling nearly 4,000 titles published over two centuries. He also became expert at book restoration and hand crafting leather book bindings, and would frequently offer these services to other golf collectors around the world.
In addition to his passion for golf books, Ron also loved the comics of his youth. In particular, George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat & Ignatz”, whose poignant, lovelorn, and doggedly anti-authoritarian adventures in the dream-like Coconino County (visually reminiscent of Utah’s Monument Valley by way of de Chirico) resonated with him on many levels.
For the last two decades of his life Ron lived in the small coastal community of Pacific Grove, California. His apartment overlooked the third green of the Pacific Grove Golf Links, a public golf course nestled among the dunes around his home where he would frequently play. In the mornings Ron could often see wild deer grazing on the greens, and the Pacific Ocean was less than a half mile’s walk away.
During this time Ron marvelled at how, despite having managed to so thoroughly avoid financial success in his life, he was nonetheless so fortunate as to have wound up in such a beautiful place, and one so well-suited to him. Sharing the same views as the multimillion-dollar beach homes that surrounded him, able to golf on a classic links course (one which he believed to be in many ways superior to the more famous and far-more exclusive Pebble Beach) and surrounded by his beloved (and ever-growing) collection of golf books, Ron’s truly cherished his time in his beloved “PG”.
Ron will be forever remembered by his two sisters, Fran Muszalski-Baumgardner and Barbara Best (Jack Barb Best); his ex-wife, Mary Martin Blair; and his son, Aaron Muszalski.
In addition to being MuMufied in the People’s Pyramid, a portion of Ron’s ashes were hung, along with two of his golf balls, between the legs of the eponymous wooden effigy of the Burning Man festival. The remainder are rumoured to be getting spontaneously taken by the wind at some the world’s most legendary golf courses. If you live in the vicinity of a famous golf course—and frequently find yourself dropping things—please email firstname.lastname@example.org.