How Howard L. Kaplan sees himself: as a guitar-playing frog
The origin of the word
and of the
Frog Sanctuary

When I first left home to go to college in 1964, my father was a grocer and my mother did the cooking at home. She did not put her shopping lists onto the backs of IBM cards, as people would do in the subsequent decade; instead, she put them into a calendar book with a half page for every date. This allowed her to record grocery items well in advance of when she would need them, in anticipation of special family dinners or other events, and every day she would phone my father at work to read him that day's list. Not wanting my mother to forget me when I went away, I took the opportunity to record some advance shopping in the date book, one item every few weeks for the months I expected to be gone. These items were always some kind of thrinberry product: thrinberry jam, thrinberry muffins, raisin-thrinberry bread, cream of thrinberry soup, etc.

At college, one of my pastimes was to play a game called "Empire", in which the participants developed countries on the map of a planet. One semester, I called my country "The International Thrinberry Corporation", and I renewed the use of the name as part of my return address around 1970.


It was also around 1970 that thrinberries stopped being my only obsession. I bought a paperback book titled "write me a poem, baby", and in it I discovered a play in which the first scene consisted of a frog saying "I don't think I'll go to school today". I was a graduate student at the time, and soon afterwards there came a day when I didn't feel like going to school. I said the line, and it seemed very natural and appropriate, so I concluded I must be a frog. Soon afterwards I began collecting all sorts of frog memorabilia: books, pottery, clothing, sculpture, etc. Naturally, it became necessary to expand the return address to recognize my other obsession, so it became The International Thrinberry Corporation and Frog Sanctuary. As the entity is not legally a corporation, I have retained only its initials, ITCFS, as part of the serial number of any cassettes, CDs, or books I may release, and I am instead using as a business identifier and web site domain name.

The frog collection now numbers in the hundreds of items, many of which are simply news clippings, cartoons, or cards. This is not an especially large frog collection -- I have visited an (alas!) now-defunct frog museum in Wiltshire, based on one person's private collection of about 13,000 items. Most of the items I have were or are available commercially, but there are a few one-of-a-kind ceramic frogs, two hand-embroidered "AMPHIB LIB" shirts, and several appliqued tote bags.

In 1978, after hearing a Stringband concert in which one song mentioned the Green Frog Cafe, it occurred to me that what Canada needed (among other things) was a good, adult frog song, so I decided to write one. The following year, I heard a lecture by Dr. Edwin Crossman of the Royal Ontario Museum about his frog research at Nogies Creek, and I soon turned that into my second frog song. It was then apparent to me that I was destined to fill the otherwise-empty ecological niche for frog song writers, and I continued on to write a total of eight, the last being in 2006. In addition, in 1995 I wrote a song in which the Bufo marinus cane toad makes a cameo appearance .

I now also write songs on other subjects, but I have not written any songs about thrinberries.

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