Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter Meeting Report

To kick off its 65th year and to celebrate the 157th birthday of Sherlock Holmes, the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit gathered on Saturday, January 29, 2011 at the British Commonwealth Club in suburban Warren, Michigan.

The winter dinner meeting was called to order at 6:59 p.m. by John Kramb, the society’s Gasogene, who welcomed the 61 members and guests and introduced the AMS board members and the notables in the audience. Among them was member Jim Zych, who recently won first place in a contest sponsored by the national Sherlockian group, the Baker Street Irregulars, for his essay on an alternative fate of Professor Moriarty.

With society business dispensed with, the assemblage took part in a tasty buffet dinner of roast beef, chicken cordon bleu, potatoes and vegetables while chatting with friends old and new.

The usual toasts were offered by Fritzi Roth (to Mrs. Hudson), Glenn Harbaugh (Mycroft Holmes), Phil Jones (Watson’s Second Wife) and Sam Stinson (to The Woman).

Additional salutations were offered by Bev Sobolewski (to Irene Adler), by Jerry Alvin (to Watson’s First Wife with a nod to Ezekiah Hopkins, the late millionaire from Lebanon, Pennsylvania who founded The Red-Headed League) and by your Tantalus, who served up an Isaac Asimov limerick to Holmes on his birthday and succinctly explained why a January date was selected as the Great Detective’s natal day.

Along with dessert, Anne Musial arranged another post-prandial treat, a Norwegian almond ring cake (baked by the daughter of the Norwegian consul) to commemorate the coincidental 157th birthday of that remarkable Norwegian explorer, Sigerson, who had more than a passing acquaintance with Holmes.

With the meal concluded, the Gasogene presented the annual engraved Beggar’s Cup award for the best Sherlockian presentation in 2010 to Dr. David Mohan, whose paper at the spring meeting definitively revealed that “The Mazarin Stone” in the tale of the same name was, in reality, the famous Sancy diamond.

Following that, the Tantalus rose to offer discussion points on the evening’s story, “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist.” Owing to a special guest, he graciously yielded his time and recapped the adventure with a quick limerick about the tale, again by Asimov.

Gasogene Emeritus Roy Pilot then introduced the guest, Michael Whelan, the “Wiggins” (or leader) of the Baker Street Irregulars since 1998. Whelan briefly stressed both the fellowship and the scholarship of the 300 Sherlockian societies in the U.S. and how “the game” is played, in which Holmes’ devotees maintain that he was an actual person.

To back up that assertion, several hardcover BSI books showcasing the Canon’s tales and explanations of the discrepancies in them were offered for sale all evening. To facilitate the use of these tomes, the Gasogene passed out special sets of Holmesian bookmarks, featuring The Master, the Good Doctor and the Evil Professor.

Commissionaire Chris Music then recapped a brief history of the beginnings of the AMS in the 1940s, with short illustrated profiles of the society’s founders and early members, including Russell McLauchlin, Robert Harris, the mysterious Ray Donovan and Edgar W. Smith.

Dovetailing with the Commissionaire’s presentation for every guest was a replica of the program from the Society’s 1948 Canonical dinner and a reprint of the AMS entrance examination for membership from 1946, its first year.

In keeping with the historical theme, Ed Stein, the society’s Tidewaiter, a former Gasogene and a member since 1976, revealed that he had found Harbaugh’s unopened letter of application to the society in his files and offered a delayed apology on behalf of the group, which Harbaugh goodnaturedly accepted.

Next, an assortment of Sherlockian door prizes were won by Bev Ellis, Jim O’Keefe, Tom Biblewski, Peggy Whalen, Jim Conway, Dean Weber and the Gasogene himself, marking a first in his 35-year history with the group.

As the evening drew to its close, Dr. Mohan, Anne Musial and Gayle Conway led the group in the singing of “God Save the Queen.” Richard Jeryan, the society’s Lascar, concluded the festivities with a dramatic rendition of the poem “221B” by Vincent Starrett.

The spring meeting of the AMS will be Sunday afternoon, May 1, at the Bastone Brewery in Royal Oak. Details to follow before the beginning of spring.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Musial
AMS Tantalus