ABOUT B. D. MCKAY
The McKay Family Tree
As an adjunct to this project, I also compiled a graphical McKay Family Tree.
About This Project
Scott McMahan, B. D. McKay's grandson, began the digitization of the documents which make up B. D.'s life and work around 1998, and completed the task in 2003, with a break in the middle to write eight of his own books, not to mention a computer book. Unless otherwise noted, on these pages, the first person ("I") is Scott.
I always wanted to do this project of scanning and organizing "The B. D. McKay Papers", but had to wait until technology and time aligned to allow me to complete it. The unique, creative voice of B. D. deserves preservation by itself. He was also a signal influence on my own creative development. I undertook the preservation and editing of these papers because of what they meant to me.
What I call "The B. D. McKay Papers" are a huge set of original documents which I either possessed or inherited after his death. Predominantly, the papers were created for myself or my mother during the 1978-1984 period. Added to this are numerous photos, artifacts, and other research about B. D.'s life.
A few of the original documents were scanned on a UMAX scanner I had access to at work. I got my own scanner after that, but it wasn't a very good one and I could not use any of the scans I did on it. (They were redone.) Most of the scans in this project were done on an HP ScanJet 4200C. (Various computers were used over the five-year period.) Most processing of images has been done using (various versions of) Paint Shop Pro on (various versions of) Windows, with a few other tools used here and there. (Adobe Photoshop's batch automation tool was extremely useful for processing huge numbers of documents noninteractively.)
Only three documents in the papers would not fit on a normal scanner bed. These were the two medal certificates and the cartoon "A Brief Study Of Labels And Instructions". All three were larger than the largest scanner bed available. These were scanned piecemeal and reassembled digitally. The breaks in the pieces are not noticeable.
The cassette tape of B. D.'s voice were recorded using Data Becker's Music CD Recorder software. (B. D. would have liked this part of the project: I patched the output of the best Sony tape player I had into the line in of my computer with a gold-tipped patch cord for highest fidelity. Then I had to set the playback and recording level, and digitize the sound.) The original WAV files were converted to 96kbps MP3 files using MAGIX mp3maker platinum, using the highest conversion quality setting. The bitrate is low, because the voice recording is of low quality to begin with and a higher bitrate would not have had a noticeable impact.
The guiding philosophy behind the scanning has been to preserve the content. In most cases, extraneous whitespace is removed to focus on the content, particularly in the case of typescripts with wide margins. The purpose of this cropping is to display the content at the highest resolution possible, without sacrificing screen space for unnecessary whitespace. Necessary whitespace has been preserved. (I made the decision very early in the project to concentrate on preserving content rather than complete document images and have stuck to it. I do not see the benefit in creating digital images of whitespace in margins, holes for three-ring binders, etc. since the entire pages do not have to be reproduced in the web page format.)
Three processes affect how the works of a creative mind survive: self-selection, the vicissitudes of preservation, and the selective process of the editor.
In the first case, I simply am unaware of B. D. ever making drafts, rough copies, sketches, etc. of anything. What you see is almost entirely what he did ab initio when his pens or pencil touched the paper. This especially comes through in his typescripts, where errors are corrected by correcting ink, eraser, typeovers, and by hand on the pages themselves. As far as I know, B. D. did not create nor destroy any drafts of this material. (And, only as far as I know: the sphere of my knowledge is not wide enough to say that this material did not exist.)
In the second case, I have no memory of anyone ever discarding or losing a single scrap of paper that B. D. ever created. Everyone in the family treated his papers with a deserved reverence, especially after his death. As far as I know, this is the sum and total of his output as a cartoonist, essayist, etc. Of the papers he gave me in Hendersonville, I know that I did not ever destroy a single one, to the best of my ability to recall. I do not know of any "lost" work which is not preserved. (Given my own penchant for discarding important things during my childhood years, the survival of the papers is even more remarkable than expected.)
In the last case, in selecting what material appears here and what does not, I have elected to preserve almost everything except the most highly personal love letters to his wife before and during the war. These are extant, in part, but are simply too personal to be meaningful in a general sense. (And represent only a few isolated papers.) His diary, on the other hand, is too short and too typical of a high school student to be all that personal.
When I was much younger, I would try to classify B. D.'s work in various ways (although it defied the tidy classes I wanted to make!), and wrote various numbers and classifications on (especially) the cartoons. (The numbers, sequentially, mean little; I added them long after the original order in which these papers were created was long since jumbled and shuffled.) I thought about retouching the digital reproductions to remove these blemishes. But are they blemishes? They're the marks of a true interaction with these documents which were so lovingly kept over the years. I decided to leave them.
Image processing of the original scans has been done in some cases where the original is not particularly readable. These include, but are not limited to: Carbon copies, where the documents have either been enhanced to be readable, or had to be photocopied before being scanned. Faint pencil, where the pencil has been darkened to be visible.
Note that many typescripts are extant only as carbon copies. What B. D. did with the originals is unknown. Carbon paper has now joined the buggy-whip and the LP record in the dustbin of forgotten history, but both it and the mimeograph produced copies in a strange purple-ish color which is almost precisely the part of the color spectrum that is most difficult to digitize with a scanner. (Indeed, B. D. had several markup pencils that wrote in this color; they were used exactly because the color did not reproduce well.)
Almost all documents are reproductions of the originals which are in my possession (or in the case of Gene McKay's cartoons, loaned to me for scanning). In the few cases where photocopies were used, the fact is noted.
I have augmented the presentation of B. D.'s material by researching many of the lesser-known and fading information, especially information that the reader is assumed to know in order to understand the cartoons. The Internet has been helpful; no matter how bizarre or obscure the term, I have been able to find some background information. I have tried to check the facts and weed the good information from the mass. Books, where used, are mentioned by title in situ and there is no full bibliography (with the exception of the World War II material) because most of these books are readily available.
There is no way to adequately acknowledge the input of B. D.'s son Gene (a.k.a. Lt. Col. Eugene McKay, US Army, Ret.), and his daughter Brenda (my mom, who heroically preserved the decaying WNC Flight Plan before this project was ever conceived), to this project.
Additional Essays By Scott McMahan