Saturday March 28thJORDAN:
Saturday morning I was up early, ate a cautious breakfast, and collected Alan for a wander round the town to look at some of the shops. Back to the hotel, where Ella lured us away from the impending OMPA meeting by mentioning food. On our way to the restaurant we spotted Archie Mercer, standing in the middle of a rush-hour crowd crying: "Please, can't anyone tell me how to get to the OMPA meeting?" We hustled him away from the approaching policeman, and directed him to the hotel. Before reaching the restaurant - which was the same one Ron and a crowd of us had used the evening before, Alan and I, under the disbelieving eyes of Ella, bought ourselves some carrots, she was even more disbelieving when discovering we were too early for a cooked meal, we sat and ate with evident relish rolls and butter with raw carrots.
Back at the hotel AGAIN, we found that Archie had reached OMPA safely.
This was pretty well the same as last year's OMPA meeting. Everyone else just sprawled around in armchairs listening to Ron talk. That isn't meant as a crack at Ron either, its meant as one at everybody else. Near the end of the meeting Ina looked in to break the glad news that Burgess had just arrived. This was enough to drive Jhim and I straight out of the hotel and into a jazz record shop that Jhim had located. We browsed around here, and I was surprised to see such a good selection of records, even one or two American L.P's, Birmingham was surprisingly well stocked with books and record shops. After we left there Jhim and I wandered vaguely Impwards, looking for something to eat. We met Barry Hall, but we weren't that hungry.
At the hotel the first session of the con was being held in the Connaught Room, Terry Jeeves as Chairman welcomed us, then introduced Ken Slater as Guest of Honour. Ken spoke for a few moments on the BSFA, then the programme started. Like most fen at conventions I had promised myself that I wouldn't attend anything on the official programme, but somebody had obviously tipped them off, and they forestalled me by arranging a practically all-fannish programme. Damned good it was too.
I wanted to talk to John Roles about the loan of his hat for a play which some of us from the London Circle were doing. Unfortunately, he was involved in the tea-drinking contest, and when he withdraw it was hurriedly, he dashed off somewhere. Brian, Jhim, Alan and I went out to eat.
The first programme item was held on the Saturday afternoon, although there had been an 11am OMPA meeting. Strict interpretations of OMPA deadlines had been thrashed out. After general introductions by Chairman Terry Jeeves, the programme moved to Science Fiction Twenty Questions, which balanced Terry's polished performance as Chairman by being extremely ragged. Apart from newcomer Ken Cheslin's inclination to 'have a go at all costs' the panel seemed unwilling to put forward any guesses, whether wild or logical and the most interesting parts of the session came from some unruly comments and heckling from the audience. Questions included Van Vogt's Games Machine and Ploy No 1.
Quizmaster Terry Jeeves was aiming to confound each new panel as it appeared. His system of Panel selection was extremely reminiscent of Service days...."You", "you" and "you" .... consequently Keith and Eric found themselves included in the last panel of the session. After finding the answer relating to 'an abstract' - which on the 17th question turned out to be "The other side of the Moon", the team ware rewarded with pocket- books from Ken Slater's display. Ina Shorrock was kept busy during this session, conveying the answers to the audience alone by means of cards.
At 3,30 p.m. , Norman Shorrock started off an informal tape recording session. The main purpose of this was to send greetings from individual fans, or collective groups, to DETROIT, where the WORLD S-F CONVENTION will be held in September.
Later in the afternoon there was a tea-drinking test which I entered, having been given a little practice at the Solacon. Here, however, there was a difference in the rules, for the preliminary ten cups had to be drunk in half an hour. I'd drunk five in twenty minutes when I found out that anyone failing to qualify with ten had to pay for the cups already consumed. Seeing myself doomed to failure I opted out. Peter Davies, a newcomer from Stourbridge, won the contest by being the only one to qualify with ten cups. It was a meagre affair, all told. Why, nobody was even sick.
Among the contestants were Norman Shorrock, Bob Richardson, Les Childs and the winner Peter Davies. Exactly how many cups of tea Peter consumed escapes us, but the Judges presented him with a silver chalice, duly inscribed "Champion Tea Drinker, Birmingham 1959".
Strangely enough, there was then an adjournment for TEA - until 7.30.p.m.: This gave us an opportunity to view the displays around the hall. Ken Slater (Fantast Medway,Ltd.) had secured a corner for his book and magazine stand, whilst at the side of the stand was his cover competition. For this competition one had to state the magazine title, year and month or number of issue - all these of course had either been cut out or otherwise de-faced.
Next to Ken's stand, on the wall, was the yearly Convention Cartoon by Ken McIntyre. This covered a space some five feet long by three feet high and was auctioned on Sunday and bought by Norman Shorrock for the Liverpool S-F Society's clubroom, Moving down the hall another few feet we came to the "S-F Art Exhibition". There were many entries by Eddie Jones, Terry Jeeves, Ken McIntyre, Jack Wilson and Bob Richardson in poster paint, oils, and line drawings. On the other wall of the Convention Hall, there were many original cover paintings which were later to be raffled in aid of the Trans- Atlantic Fan Fund. Last, but not least was an advertisement by the Cheltenham S-F Circle for their film "The Test", with still photo's of film sequences. This film was to be shown on the Sunday evening.
When we got back Ron was just getting ready to give his talk on the TAFF trip he had enjoyed so much. I saw John in the hall and we went up to his room to get the hat. As he said, it wasn't really the sort of hat a reporter would wear but still, you can't have everything. We got back just as Ron was starting his talk. This and the slides with it made things very interesting. The slides were projected in a most unfannish manner, i.e. right way up, and in the right order. Apart from this they were a wow, especially when Ron showed one of the White House, just to prove it was against the law to stop and photograph the White House.
After this came our play, no doubt this would have been enjoyed much more both by me and the audience, if I hadn't been in it, but still.... I still want to see a photo of what I looked like in Pete Taylor's coat and John's hat. It was a play in two scenes. We cut most of the first one out, and didn't do most of the second, but what was left seemed to go down okay. Ella, George and I weren't taking any chances though, we stayed behind the screen and disclaimed all responsibility. Not even Terry Jeeves could bully or coax us out.
The play was hopeless, but it was redeemed in part by the wonderful sight of Brian Burgess as Monster, wearing tin-foil boots, and green make-up on his face. Afterwards he made a tour of the public bar, much to the consternation of the customers.
Brian liked his disguise (green face and pipe-cleaner antennae) so much that he wallked around in it for the remainder of the evening, and a barmaid was heard to say "I think he's collecting for charity".
Nine o'clock and the auction started. Chief Auctioneer - Bob Richardson. Magazines, old and new, went for a song, and certainly helped the B.S.F.A. funds, as far as the Convention was concerned. Doc Hammett of Stafford put in a brief appearance at this point, purchased a telescope and magazines and then proceeded to Aldermaston for the route march to London .... At the close of the Auction a panel of judges for the art work was set up. Two paintings, one by Terry jeeves, the, other by Eddie Jones, and one line drawing by Bob Richardson, were awarded 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes respectively (the line drawing was actually composed of thousands of dots ) They were titled °"Power Failure"; "Lunar Encounter" and "Enchantment".
Bob Richardson auctioned a pile of books and magazines during which Eric Bentcliffe arrived and the convention moved on to the fancy dress party. This promised to be quite a fine affair, but was marred during the early hours by a religious maniac who crept into the proceedings and upset a couple of femme-fans with his rather thoughtless insults. Sandra Hall, with sparkling green finger nails, won the fancy dress prize.
The promised Russian Beer Drinking Contest didn't come to pass. Instead a group of us played Pontoon on the Committee table smoking Russian cigarettes - the type you have to twist in order to stick the foul taste. Around three we adjourned to the nearby railway station whose tea room boasted an all night service. Afterwards there was a room party thrown by Bob Richardson.
The clearest memory I have of that evening is wandering round the corridors with Jhim and Alan, drinking the milk we had invested in, mindful of the night before.... chasing Bobbie Wild and Sandra Hail into a bathroom...drying up when confronted with a mike. Most of the evening was jumbled. We, Alan and I found Bobbie on the verge of collapse from malnutrition, she claimed. We saved her life by feeding her some of the milk we had bought earlier. Unfortunately, she went into a trauce, and wandered off muttering. "Omighod. MILK at a con!" We followed her and Sandra to a party in Bob Richardson's room, where she collapsed again. This time I revived her with a packet of biscuits I found in my pockets. After a while, everyone went down into the conhall. People there, were spread too thinly for much to be going on, so, Jhim, Alan, Ivor, Archie and I went up to the top floor, and down the fire-escape onto the roof. We wandered round drinking brandy and gin, but couldn't find any skylights to drop the bottles through. We found an open door which led to the second floor. Back inside, we stood in an empty room for about an hour discussing religion and like that, mostly like that. The night ended for Alan and me, sitting in Ken Slater's room, sleepily sipping whiskey and listening to Ken and the Shorrocks discussing cyclic changes in dance music .... and so to bed.