Saturday, July 15, 2006

60th Anniversary

Greetings Amateur Mendicants.

It is the 60th year since the formation of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit. We’ve enjoyed two splendid meetings already this year, and the Summer and Fall meetings have been planned. Some of you may know that I am the custodian of files and memorabilia from one of the founding members, the late Raymond Donovan. Raymond served as secretary of the scion (a position later re-named to Tantalus). Raymond was both an enthusiast of Holmes, and also a prolific collector. His files contain newspaper clippings, magazine articles, pamphlets, cartoons and caricatures, meeting announcements, minutes, quizzes, and his handwritten notes. I also have several books from his library.

Some of the material will appear, from time to time, in The Beggar’s Cap, as I’ve shared one, large file with Richard and Chris Jeryan. But, a review of the material offers a glimpse of a social club somewhat different from the Amateur Mendicant Society of today. In Raymond’s day, sixty years ago, the membership was all men. They were, to a person, all professional people (e.g., lawyers, newspaper writers, teachers, a doctor or two, business executives and managers). The meetings were conducted on an irregular basis and all of them were held in restaurants in Detroit. There is one reference to a meeting at a furniture warehouse, the John F. Ivory warehouse at Woodward and Tuxedo. Scholarship of the Holmes’ stories was valued, and quizzes (and discussion points) were administered at each meeting. On occasion, a meal was part of the proceedings, but it was apparent that drinking and smoking were regular and accepted practices at the meetings.

Our club today, has a broader and more diverse membership. At some dinner meetings the women outnumber the men. We always offer a meal at our meetings, and usually, a cash bar is available. We have a recurring schedule of four meeting a year that follow the seasonal cycle. While we value scholarship, as evidenced by the number of learned papers that have been presented, only recently have we re-introduced quizzes into the meeting format. We use a variety of restaurants and clubs in the Detroit metro area. We enjoy the camaraderie and the social interaction, as did the membership in Raymond’s time. So, while some things have changed, for the better I think, the Amateur Mendicant Society continues to flourish. It is you, our active and engaged membership, that makes the difference. And, of course, we continue to meet because of the compelling attraction and timeless beauty of the Holmes’ stories. Happy Anniversary to all of us.

John Kramb, Gasogene.