Monday 25th MayROBINSON:
Somewhere about six in the morning dawn was breaking and people were lying about all over, Bert Campbell drifted briskly in asking "Netball anybody?" - "right, get your ankle socks on!"
However, no one was strong enough to laugh.
LONCON '53 (a convention one-shot):
10 am. James White is here at the moment suffering from Convention Head. He tells us that Bea is making what amounts to the Grand Tour of Yurrup. Starting for some peculiar reason in Belfast, she plans, after visiting the Coroncon, via Liverpool naturally, to continue to Coblentz and on to Switzerland, Italy, France, (then) back to the US by air from Britain.
This is being written in room 326, and just along the corridor, in 320, lies fandom's sleeping beauty. Bea did promise us yesterday to sum up her impressions of the con this a.m., but as James tells us she only left the Rattigan party at 8am, we guess we'll have to wait for the Willis conreport.
Eventually everyone drifted off with farewells till next year. Vince, Walt, Madeline, James, Chuck, Bill, Fred and myself went off together, tottering along to the station. I can't think why, but every time I looked at James he shuddered and hid behind Chuck. Eventually he told me not to look at him as my eyes frightened him. However, eventually we arrived back in the city, said our goodbyes, and headed for home. Home - ah, it seemed like a dream after this mad weekend and when I got to bed Monday night I'd been up for 60 hours - and I used to grumble at 24 hour guard duties in the army - Ghod!
However, in retrospect this was. a real Con. the Con we have been dreaming about for years. We all grumbled a bit at the time but I doubt if anyone could have put on a better show. Whoever runs the next Con is going to have a job to better it - or even equal it - but you can be sure of one thing - We'll be there!
FAN OF THE CON ------ Bert Campbell.Not everyone shared Robinson's assessment of the convention. Northern fans in particular seem to have taken against it, as witness below the opening paragraphs of the ASTRONEER and SPACE DIVERSIONS reports. Their disenchantment began at the pre-con gathering at the White Horse when, seeing Bea Mahaffey talking with a group of Northern fans, Bert Campbell had bellowed across the room:
"For God's sake, get her away from those bloody provincials!"
This was probably meant good-homouredly but it doesn't appear to have been taken that way. Indeed, among the many scathing comments on the convention in the next issue of SPACE TIMES was a piece by Brian Varley titled 'A Bloody Provincial at the Coroncon'. Then there were the complaints about the lack of support by Londoners for the recent MANCON and the complaints over the future of the national convention that were aired by Dave Cohen. There was a fair bit of bad feeling, as would become clear over the following year.
IN THE YEAR of the coronation, many fans looked forward with eager expectation to the Convention, to be held in London as is usual. Not the coronation itself was so very important to the average conventioneer, but with foreign visitors in London....one could be excused for expecting Great Things (no, not you, Hubbard., siddown). Anticipation is often more enjoyable that the event -- and this certainly applied to this year's con. Months before, the Liverpool fen who were definitely going, had already decided to do the thing in style and hire a car, as a more independent means of transport than British Railways. Had we known better at the time, the money would not have burned through our pockets so quickly for such a poor return. Never was so much so badly managed by so few in so short a time and space.
We enjoyed the car ride.
"The coronation decorations were fine... about the only thing that was fine about the Whitsun weekend, apart from the weather. There was some convention or other being held, but one could hardly call it a Convention as those sort of things are usually very well organised, This was very well disorganised. Scheduled to commence at 11 am on Saturday 23rd May this so-called Con started at 3 pm and stuck rigidly to the unpublished programme. Oh yes, they do send you a programme... but that is only intended to convey adverts for O.F, Nebula and the London circle. They could have left two clear pages for one to make out the programme as it happened; my copy now looks like the three - draws column of a football coupon, or the last page of a love letter. The film Destination Moon must have arrived at its destination okay: we never saw it at the con!"
So ended British fandom's first gallant attempt at an American style convention. I felt a little guilty about it all since this movement seemed to have started after my glowing accounts of Chicago, but it still seemed to me that everything would have been fine if the hotel had had bigger and more soundproof rooms and a more tolerant staff. The fans seemed to take naturally to it. The Liverpool Group, for example, fought a gallant rearguard action from room to room, succeeded in getting the porter drunk, and made a historic last stand on the roof. There they invented an entirely new convention pastime, that of dropping empty bottles down chimneys. Admittedly the only reason this idea has never occurred to American fans is that their hotels don't have chimneys, but no one can deny that the Liverpool group have made a valuable contriribution to Conventionship, and one that is in the true Ben Singer tradition. (Singer was the perpetrator of the infamous Bob Tucker death hoax.)
Unlike previous Conventions in London, most conventioneers stayed over at the Bonnington Hotel, and for the first time the whole atmosphere took on the semblance of an American Convention. Both Mahaffey and Rita Krohne were always surrounded by a wall of admiring fans, but managed to survive the incessant rounds of parties thrown in their honor. Champion crying jag was had by all when Mahaffey left London on Thursday for Paris - after a farewell party at London's WHITE HORSE TAVERN she was escorted by car with motor cycle outriders through garlanded and flag bedecked city streets to the railway depot (Liverpool Street, for a train to Harwich, where Bea would be boarding a ferry for the Continent), where fans packed the platform to bid her bon voyage. It was touch and go whether Mahaffey turned back - and stayed for good.