Below is a map traced from the one by Frank Parker that appeared on the
front of his LAMPPOST #3 (April 1944) giving directions. Where the original
had text typed directly over the map, I've replaced this by numbers and provided
a key beneath it.
LAMPPOST'S CONVENTION GUYED!All You Need to Know about Teddington when You go Conventioneering!
Wanna know your way about? Let LAMPPOST shed light on your problems with this handy map! If you can't find Shirley's, ask any American soldier and you'll get the phone number of lots of alternative gals.
Also, along Broad Street was text reading "Filthy Commercialistic Private Enterprise All The Way Down", while next to the bridge was "Railway Bridge (Differs from Contract, the only legal call being "One's paid!" - Sorry!)", and elsewhere "Traffic Lights (Don't wink back: Teddington gals are like that!)".
3. DAY TWO: TEDDINGTONSunday April 9th, and at 10 a.m the day in Teddington started much as it still does for anyone running a convention, as Aiken records:
"Prodigious fetching and carrying by one and all. Shirley's (Teddington cafe housing Sunday's sessions) disappears beneath a wave of auction items and electrical apparatus. This latter turns out to be useless, doing nothing but emit loud indelicate noises, and keeping a mobile fuse-mending squad constantly in action."While all this preparation was going on, fans were already converging on them. As Millard relates, with what may be the most exact timings ever to appear in a con report:
"I was up by 8.00 a.m., had breakfast by 8.45 a.m. and was at Waterloo station by 9.35 a.m. for a train that was due to leave at 10.22 a.m. About 9.55 a.m. A.F.Hillman arrived, at about 10.21 a.m. Wally Gillings showed up, so we climbed aboard the train and landed at Teddington, which is south west of London, about 10.50. We made our way to Shirley's Cafe, just about a block from the Railroad Station, in the door and up the stairs where most of the gang was ahead of us. We gab for a while on this and that..."Aiken again:
"Gascoigne, Gatland, Gomberg and Sandfield (wearing a tie of a totally new primary colour) are newcomers. Swing discussions rage. Hawkins appears with duplicated dinner-signatures. Ellis reads CAPTAIN FUTURE, undisturbed."From which it would appear this was Lawrence Sandfield's first convention. As well as all this conversation, those present also admired the display area designated the 'Fantasy Museum'. Original artwork by Harry Turner and by Morey; the manuscript of THE SMILE OF THE SPHINX ("It's the cat's whiskers," says Hawkins) and other Tales of Wonder contributions; first issues; old books and the complete files of BEYOND and COSMIC CUTS were on view.
At noon the programme proper begins with an item described by Millard thus:
"First on the program was a 'Brains Trust' (sort of an 'Information Please'). Those taking part were Dr J.K.Aiken, Wally Gillings and Peter Hawkins - as the brains, and E.Frank Parker as the Chief Custodian of questions."What those questions were has gone unrecorded, but of the item Aiken writes:
"the questioners maintain high a intellectual level except for typographical trouble leading to moonstuck fans, & ribaldry about Millard's socks."I have no idea what this might mean and an editorial aside in the report in FWD ("A peculiarity of American servicemen is their rolled-down gents natty half-hose - can someone tell us the reason?") has left me none the wiser. Incidentally, when reading these old accounts it seems odd at first that Millard is consistently referred to as being American when he was in fact Canadian and serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force at the time. Here's Taral Wayne's later profile of him in TORONTO THE GHOOD:
"November 1917 brought with it an advance Christmas present for the Millards of Toronto, in the form of one John L Millard, now a six foot, blue-eyed "old time" fan. The family moved to Michigan in 1919, so that when young John turned to science fiction in the late thirties he naturally gravitated to the circle of acolytes about Doc Smith. Becoming active at the Chicon in 1940, he helped organise the Galactic Roamers in January of the following year. The GR's later became famous as the group that helped Doc Smith with his "Lensman" series. After attending the Denvention in '42 John joined the RCAF, serving with distinction in both Canada and England."As Tony Keen has pointed out:
"Actually, it's not that unreasonable to describe as American someone who had lived 22 of their 26 years in the United States. And it is entirely accurate for someone writing in 1944 to describe Millard as part of US fandom, as at that point all of Millard's fanac appears to have been in the US, and it seems that he made no contact with Canadian fandom before 1947."As the final question was put to the Brains Trust so the sound of cutlery was heard from downstairs. This led to it being answered by the panellists in what Aiken refers to as "monosyllabic unison" and everyone then immediately trooping downstairs for lunch. "Proper Food" asks someone anxiously. It is. At this point in the war, when food was rationed, this was a reasonable concern, but it appears the CSC had somehow managed to arrange a real meal.
"After the meal had been successfully done away with and several cups of tea had been drunk by everyone we sat and listened to a speech by Wally Gillings. In the Programme it was listed as a Presidential Address, but as to what he was President of I don't know."According to Aiken:
"Gillings performs the prodigious feat of keeping large numbers of fans silent and attentive for half an hour while he discusses the possible future and functions of fandom and fan writings, emphasising the need for an attitude at once more serious and more broadminded. He outlines the kind of professional magazine he hopes will appear in Britain after the war, and suggests the BEYONDs as training-grounds for its authors. It is up to fans, he says, to show that stf is worth while and can really foster achievement. (The high-spot of the con.)"After Gillings' speech had concluded, people sat around talking for another hour or so. At 3.30 p.m. everyone trooped back upstairs for the first session of the auction. Frank Parker was the auctioneer and things initially got off to a slow start, though bidding picked up as the session progressed. What was on offer consisted mostly of American prozines, a few BRE Astoundings, and some original illustrations by Harry Turner. The magazines all fetched good prices, particularly copies of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, but Aiken reports a "surprising lack of enthusiasm for original drawings and manuscripts as against magazines". This is a pattern that would hold true for future cons and it would be some years before British fans started to show a proper interest in original artwork.
There was a half-hour tea-break from 5 p.m. - mainly, it appears, to allow Parker's throat to recover - and then the auction resumed. Of this session Aiken writes:
"More auction - top price (10/-) paid for complete file of SCOOPS; the FFM of 10/6 fame does well again (8/6) . Only a half-dozen items turned in. Ellis gets his CAPTAIN FUTURES. Curiously no British Reprint Editions are left. A spare BEYOND does well."The film programme started at 6.30 p.m. with an item much loved by the Teddington fans:
"The Cosmos Club film, now patched and scratched almost beyond belief, plays all its tricks: it breaks, the reel falls off, the sprockets go haywire and finally the projector lamp blows. But Millard is a match for it, there is a spare lamp and after he has whirled it through in well under bogey the remaining films are almost hitch-free. The shorts (PIONEER MICKEY, the puppet film, and the Popeye) are tops, MONSTER OF THE LOCH being a little cryptic and dated."This was the final formal part of the convention. As most of the attendees prepared to move to nearby pub The King's Arms (now called The Clock House) they were joined by Gordon Holbrow who had finally managed to make it to the con after having had two bicycles fall apart beneath him during the day. Those that needed to get home headed for the train station, Mike Lord and Dennis Tucker leading the way. The 'informal events' and 'farewell party' that were originally announced for Monday do not appear to have happened, the convention ending on Sunday. John Millard sums up:
"So everything wound up at 8.30 p.m., but a social gathering was to continue at The Kings Arms and was to include some elbow bending. But as a few of us had to catch a train we didn't go (shame!) and returned to London or our various abodes.In FUTURIAN WAR DIGEST #35, Aiken said:
"In conclusion, the Committee would like to thank the participants (and in particular the President, for his generous sacrifice of a placid weekend) and the donors of auction items, for all they did to make the Con. a success. They announce that they propose to issue a souvenir booklet of higher quality than the illegible Programme: as to the proceeds (not so large as they would have been if that lamp hadn't blown!), a proportion will go to a Future Convention Fund. One further announcement: the Debate ("Man is not a free-agent") postponed for lack of time, will have been held at Shirley's on May 13."In November the CSC issued that souvenir booklet, EASTERCON 1944, a 14 page commemoration of the convention edited by Bruce Gaffron that was the primary source for this article. Its publication was "badly delayed by the interference of doodle-bugs", this being the popular name for the V-1 flying bomb, the world's first cruise missile. On 13th June, seven days after the D-Day landings, the first V-1 struck London. During the first 14 days of the assault 2000 rained down on the capital and surrounding areas and houses were being damaged at the rate of 20,000 a day. Small wonder Gaffron had other things on his mind.
After the war, John Millard became a significant figure in Canadian fandom, going on to chair the 1973 Worldcon, TORCON 2. Almost thirty years after the event, he reminisced about the 1944 Eastercon in CHECKPOINT #45.
Looking back on the convention from 2010, the thing that most impresses about it is that it happened at all. The other wartime cons were small affairs, but the 1944 Eastercon was as full and complete a convention as any that had been seen in Britain to that point. Organising and running it under wartime conditions was a magnificent achievement. Both it and those responsible for it, the Cosmos Club, deserve to be better remembered and more celebrated than they have been.
...Rob Hansen, January 2010.
(John Aiken's account of the rise and eventual demise of the Cosmos Club can be found here.)