Monday, April 18DON FORD:
Was up at nine and at Breakfast, Archie Mercer asked to see my receipt from the photo shop for the projector. I showed him and suddenly he pays me the rental charges I'd paid. I was a bit hung over right then and by the time I'd collected my wits about me, he wouldn't take the money back.
The newly elected B.S.F.A. Committee had a hurried meeting in the bar-lounge, where among other things we agreed to let the Cheltenham circle organise the 1961 Con in good old Kettering. We also agreed that it would be a good idea for as many fans as possible to meet at Kettering this coming Whitsun in any case, to recover from the London Con. Came mid-day, and the fans dwindled and dwindled and then it was my turn and I dwindled too. Dave Kyle was standing outside the hotel with a cine-camera, catching the fans as they left.
The fans now seemed to be deserting the hotel in droves. It began to get lonesome. Eric Jones left, saying they'd see me in Cheltenham on Tuesday. The Liverpool mob left with a reminder that they'd see me the next week-end. I reached in my coat pocket and found a letter Dave Kyle had given me the night before, saying he'd gotten in at the Sandringham Hotel when he was there. It was from Walt Willis inviting me to come to Belfast. With the scheduling I now had, such a trip was impossible.
The Clarkes had wanted me to see the Aldermaston March on Easter Monday. I really didn't have too much desire to see this event when I came over, but now with fans gone and time on my hands, I decided I might as well go and photograph the crowd anyway. The Clarkes said they'd be on the steps at St. Martin's. I told Bill and Bobbie Gray I'd be in the square somewhere and to look for me in a spot where I'd get a straight on view at the column.
They found me, later, on the wall at the National Gallery. After I was there about an hour, a bobby told me I'd have to get off. I did, feeling no use creating an International incident. The natives protested. I searched about for another vantage point and could find none. By now, there were over 50,000 people in the square. I drifted back to my original area and watched the arguing. An elderly couple, their faces red with rage were protesting loudly. Two more Bobbies came up for reinforcements and they were apologetic but insistent. It finally boiled down to the fact that the curator of the gallery had requested the people get off. This woman said that if he'd come out, personally and tell them to move, she'd get down; otherwise no. The Bobbies shrugged their shoulders and left. I told this woman that I now felt badly...I was the only one who'd moved and now I'd lost my place. In fact there was someone in it now. The crowd made this person give me my place back, while they boosted me back up on the wall.
Next, a man alongside of me asked me who I thought our next President would be. I told him I really couldn't say, but that to me the indications were strong that Kennedy would win the Democratic nomination and Nixon the Republican nomination. In a contest between these two men I felt that Nixon would win, but it could only be a guess on my part. This seemed to anger him and he said that his choice was Adlai Stevenson. I didn't pay much attention to him and kept taking photos of the crowd and of the marchers who were now coming into the square. He then proceeded to tell me what was wrong with the U.S. and what all should be done.
Before the Con started we had suggested to Don that he might find it interesting to take his camera up to Trafalgar square on Easter Monday as the anti-nuclear people would be arriving from Aldermaston. It seems that a number of people suggested it to Don during the Con, too. Anyway Don went to the Square ahead of us and Bill and I said we'd meet him by the statue of George Washington. When we arrived there about fifty thousand people already there waiting to see the marchers arrive and Bill said we would never find Don in that lot. I spotted him half a minute later on the steps of the National Gallery, to Bill's surprise. We went over to him and found he had got himself comfortably ensconced on the railings at the top of the steps where he had a good view of the whole square.
More and more people arrived so that by the time the actual marchers reached Trafalgar Square there were already fifty thousand onlookers, including some who climbed on to the roof of St. Martins-in-the-Field. As there forty five thousand marchers (Whitehall was a mass of people from wall to wall and end to end) it meant that at one point there were one hundred thousand people in the square.. Mind you, a good many thousands of the marchers had not come all the way from Aldermaston - the exhibitionists and the jerks had joined the colum in Whitehall and just beforehand (and looked a damned sight dirtier and scruffier than the genuine people who had done the full march). Although I think the whole thing is pointless, I did feel it a shame that the really sincere people shoul have these slobs tacking themselves on and probably getting judged by the unwashed beatniks in their midst. My views were the same as Don on the march - that it would not do any good, but if people wanted to go ahead and demonstrate why shouldn't they. I have heard that there will not be a march next year as it had served its purpose, but perhaps the organisers took a jaundiced look at what had attached themselves to the march and decided that next year the beatniks and exhibitionists could damn well stage their own show. But I must say here that the march was extremely well organised and although an enormous number of people had turned up to have a look at the marchers there were, as far as I know, no brawls of any kind.
The three of us were making our way out of the Square when there on the steps of St. Martins-in-the-Fields were all the fans from the Convention who had not yet had to think about catching trains or coaches.
On the Monday we organised a mini-con on the steps of St Martin's. This was originally planned to get Don Ford along to see the end of the Aldermaston March - Ron Bennett was bringing him from the hotel and Ron and Daphne were driving us up from Inchmery. Word got passed around, and in the end we had twenty fans there, tho' not all at the same time. Don got a number of photos and was moved on by the police... and after watching the crowds and the marchers for some time (there were 30,000 in Trafalgar Square when we left) a dozen of us - Inchmery, Buckmasters, Bennett, Ford, Forsyth, Jordan, Ethel Lindsay, Frances and Ella Parker - ended up at Inchmery again. It was a quiet evening - we had enough drink in to go round and in an 'after the con' atmosphere I showed a film of the 1957 Worldcon taken by Ted Carnell, and a film of several US cons taken by Les Croutch during which Don identified the faces for us. Conversation was slow, easy and relaxed - tho' there was plenty of it - and when the party broke up Ron. Buckmaster acted as chauffeur for most of the people present.
At Inchmery that night people were passing around cards to be signed which they were going to mail to their friends. Remembering I hadn't written Madle a card as yet, I wrote on mine "Dear Bob: Your address book working out swell. Having wonderful time. Don." Then, I had all the women sign it and they added brief comments like: "Come back Bob, I miss you." "Do you remember? I do" I'm sure Bob appreciated me thinking of him while I was on my trip.
At breakfast this morning I saw Miss Bellamy of the flying saucers and we talked about the Aldermaston March of the previous day. She thought they made quite a collection of oddballs. I gave her my address, asking her to send me a copy of any columns she may have had published about the con or the March. Said she would but I'll wait and see.
I packed up my gear and reluctantly had to abandon the British apple box Liverpool had presented to me at the con, complete with nails and a rubber hammer to assemble it with. The hotel housekeeper was delighted when I told her that she could keep the rubber hammer. What she'll do with it, I don't know. I turned in the projector and screen and got my deposit back and settled up my hotel bill. Got some film and the camera shop owner examined my camera and lenses. German and Japanese imports are restricted except in certain cases. I saw Les Flood to say goodbye to him and then settled down in the lobby to await Roberta Gray.
The 1960 National Convention will take its place in fannish history as a gathering of surprises. Already nicknamed by some as "The Quiet-Con" this convention was a fight against the odds from start to finish, and in so far as the convention was held and an enjoyable time was had by all, it may be safely assumed that fandom won through.
Thanks are due to Peter Weston for loan of the convention literature, and to Jim Linwood for
scans of Archie Mercer's report. Below is a
listing of the original reports used in compiling this composite report, with links to these:
Thanks are due to Peter Weston for loan of the convention literature, and to Jim Linwood for scans of Archie Mercer's report. Below is a listing of the original reports used in compiling this composite report, with links to these: