Friday, March 28, 2008

From the Gasogene

Greetings Amateur Mendicants. As I write this brief message, I have just returned from a live telecast of the 6 Nations Cup rugby matches. The England national team thoroughly beat Ireland, 33 – 10, and finished second overall in the cup standings this year to undefeated Wales.

Now, some of you may be wondering if Holmes and Watson ever conducted a case in Wales. Most of you have read The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter (a player position in rugby). This case, of course, reminds us that Cyril Overton played rugby for England against Wales. But, as for cases in Wales, there is no published account of any conducted there. But I digress.

We are about to enter the 62nd year since the formation of the Amateur Mendicant Society. Last year, we held four dinner meetings at various Detroit area venues. All the meetings were well attended, and I speculate that most everyone enjoyed themselves. You might wonder why we do the things we do. Let me explain.

For all our meetings, we attempt to select a venue (i.e., a club or a restaurant) with some ambiance, decent food, a well-stocked bar, and an affordable price. You may recall that last year, we had meetings at the British Commonwealth Club, at the (late, great) Fox and Hounds Restaurant, and at the Rochester Mills Brewing Company. Our plans for this year include the Commonwealth Club, the Detroit Yacht Club, and another as-yet underdetermined venue.

The agendas for our meetings have a familiar pattern to them. We make introductions and announcements, we have several toasts to famous characters in the Canon, we eat, we discuss a story, and we have a presenter offer a ‘scholarly paper’. On occasion, we impose a ‘quiz’ on the membership. We award prizes and auction items of Sherlockian provenance, we hail The Queen in song, we read a poem, and we adjourn.

The formula seems to work as we have been able to find the proper balance between scholarship and irreverence, between tradition and ad hoc happenings, and between general social interaction and focus on Holmes and Watson. You should expect more of the same, perhaps with a few twists, in 2008, not because we are lazy planners or unwilling to try new ideas. We just have a certain comfort level with the program format, and based on the attendance at meetings, so do you.

I was asked not long ago, why we always make the same four toasts at our meetings. Toasts are part of our tradition, and out or respect for our traditions, we always toast The Women, Mrs. Hudson, Watson’s Second Wife, and Mycroft Holmes.

Why? Because these toasts were offered at the AMS Resurrection Dinner on 15 Dec 1975 at The Sixpence Restaurant in Warren, MI. We have made the same toasts ever since. On occasion, other toasts have made the program as well. Bob Harris always made a toast to “The Queen” and Jerry “Red” Alvin usually offers a toast to Ezekiah Hopkins (said to have made his fortune in America and founded the Red Headed League). We have toasted the Hound, young Stamford, Murray, Holmes’ birthday, and some of our deceased AMS members. Apparently, we are not restricted by our traditions, we merely embrace them.

So, I welcome you to another year with your friends, with Holmes and Watson, to frivolous entertainment, to Sherlockian scholarship, and to camaraderie. Although we have much to look forward to in 2008, when we gather three of four times a year to celebrate the cases of Holmes and Watson, a respectful glance at our traditions might remind us, in the words of Vincent Starrett:

“Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always 1895.”


John Kramb, Gasogene.

2 Comments:

At 3:10 AM, Anonymous Shari said...

Thank you for this post! You've jogged my memory as to where the Sixpence restaurant was.

(Well, narrowed it down a bit, anyway! I was a child the last time I ate there, and I haven't lived in or visited Michigan since 1985. So, everything's pretty fuzzy.)

The reason I was looking in the first place is because I've been putting together Google Earth "tours" of childhood landmarks. The Sixpence gets the distinction of being the location of my first patty melt. (Also, I remember being so fascinated by the decor.)

That's an interesting society you have there - it's always nice to be looking for one thing and learn something else. Cheers, Shari

 
At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work as a cook at Sixpence back in 1986-1987. There was the Warren location and also another one on Van Dyke in Sterling Heights. I drove by there not too long ago and the Van Dyke location has been demolished. Lots of good times and memories there. People loved the onion rings I remember. The decor was great too.

 

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