(Please note: This report was unfortunately delayed when it was mistakenly sent by way of The Orient Express and held up for some time by postal authorities in Istanbul. We regret any inconvenience.)
Some 48 members and guests of The Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit gathered on May 30th at a new venue, the 5th Tavern in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. for an evening of bonhomie and Sherlockian scholarship.
The society’s Gasogene, John Kramb, gaveled the session to order at 7:15 p.m., and introduced the planning committee and the board members in attendance. Also welcomed were honored guests including Spencer Jones, Brandon Vosas and Mary Miller; Ms. Miller made the trip representing the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, another venerable Sherlockian scion.
With a fine buffet dinner underway that included chicken Marsala, baby back ribs, mostaccioli and assorted side dishes, the Traditional Toasts were offered. Margaret Wittmer offered a well-researched toast to The Woman that threatened to pre-empt the presentation, followed by John Calderini (to Mycroft Holmes), Dr. Edward Stein (to Watson’s Second Wife) and Christine Del Greco raising a glass to Mrs. Hudson.
Then, in a distinct bit of AMS tradition, Jerry “Red” Alvin also stood to salute Ezekiah Hopkins, noting that since the Canon is red (or rather read), it was incumbent upon us to toast the late millionaire of Lebanon, who so amply provided for the propagation of red heads everywhere.
(It should be noted here that throughout the evening, the Gasogene and most of the other speakers had to battle the tavern’s recalcitrant sound system. Also, the establishment did not seem to be prepared for the presentation that was to come, finally draping a tablecloth on a wall to serve as the screen. Fortunately, AMS technicians in the audience were able to fix things so that the highlights of the evening weren’t reduced to being a display of silent shadow puppets made with a flashlight.)
After the toasts, Commissionaire Chris Music presented a fiendishly difficult 18-question quiz on the meeting’s assigned story (“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”).
Vying for top honors with high scores were Patience Nauta, Chris Jeryan and Regina Stinson, which Stinson won after a tie-breaker. Her prize, direct from the BBC catalog itself, was “The Case Files of Sherlock Holmes,” a boxed hardcover collection containing 18 telegrams, letters, notes, photographs and other ephemera collected by Dr. John Watson during six of Holmes’ most celebrated cases, all carefully retained in official evidence bags. (A retail value of more than $29.94.)
Next was the evening’s PowerPoint presentation, titled “Solved! The Riddles of Reichenbach.” It was proffered by Mendicants Rob and Anne Musial who toured France and Switzerland last fall, making sure to investigate the afore-mentioned falls high above the charming Swiss village of Meiringen.
Far more than a travelogue, the presentation managed to add Maria Von trap, Inspector Clouseau and a mysterious plaque erected by early Mendicant Bill Rabe into a tasty stew of conjecture, hyperbole and factual observation. Chief among them were why the site of Prof. Moriarty’s demise and the falls look different than they did in Watson’s day. And part of that answer lies within the machinations of a Swiss hydro-electric company.
Following that, John and Ann LaFond recapped their own visit to Meiringen and the Falls a few years ago and showed a video reenactment of Holmes fateful visit to said falls. John also related how he got inside the 221B sitting room display at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Meiringen by using his vast engineering skills (and height) to turn on the museum’s dehumidifier.
Gasogene Kramb then informed members and guests that the next meeting of the Mendicants would be Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Commonwealth Club, featuring a presentation by Roy Pilot, the society’s Gasogene Emeritus. So make sure to circle that date in your Funk & Wagnalls.
With the evening’s festivities winding down, Anne Musial held the traditional drawing for door prizes. Roy Pilot took home the Sherlock Holmes billfold donated by Indy’s own Mary Miller and Abigail Hollingsworth won the book of “Ineffable Twaddle” donated by member Phil Jones. The Holmesian jigsaw puzzle donated by Ray and Pat Mandziuk is being held over until the September meeting.
Then Christine Del Greco led the assemblage in the customary singing of “God Save the Queen and Chris Music closed out the evening with the reading of “221B,” written in 1942 by Sherlockian scholar Vincent Starrett.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:35 p.m.