The Maniac Collector's Inbox (22)
Back to SherlockPeoria front page October 27 , 2002 Back to The Maniac Collector's Archives
Kindness is a simple act. It can come in all shapes and sizes.
Walter Mitchell is a kind person. He once packed the entire contents of his father-in-law's house, drove it halfway across the country and then unpacked them at their new home. That was in the mid-1970's. He did not get paid for his efforts nor did he intend to get paid for them. This one act of kindness turned out to have a positive effect on thousands of Sherlockians. Most Sherlockians have never heard of Walter Mitchell.
My brother called one day and asked me if I knew Walt Mitchell. Like most Sherlockians, I said I did not know who he was. The story that my brother presented was really interesting. My brother is an architect and Walter Mitchell is a contractor for one of the suburbs around Dallas-Ft. Worth. They know each other through their business dealings for many years.
One day Walter asked my brother, " Are you a Sherlocker?" My brother who is named Ron and that sounds like Don responded that he thought the actual term was "Sherlockian" not "Sherlocker" and it was his brother who was a Sherlockian.
Walter told Ron that he had a trunk load of Sherlock Holmes books for me that belonged to his mother-in-law. As the story goes, I had been kind to his mother-in-law and she had spoken kindly of me. Walter thought I would enjoy having her Sherlock Holmes books.
After several failed attempts, Walter and I finally made contact.
Walter's mother-in-law was the late, gracious Dorothy Rowe Shaw. When John Bennett Shaw died, Dorothy moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a time to be near one of her daughters. She then bought a condo in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area just north of Ft. Worth because her other daughter lived nearby. Since I had know her for several years, my wife and I began having regular outings with Dorothy.
We would go to Mexican restaurants and drink Margaritas and she would entertain us with stories of her life with John. She would tell marvelous tales of Sherlockians and Sherlockain adventures. Dorothy once told me that we were her only Sherlockian contacts now and how much she looked forward to them. This was a kind thing to tell me.
Dorothy went back to Milwaukee for vacation. As luck would have it, I was working in Milwaukee. Dorothy, her daughter and son-in-law and their children were driving to upstate New York to visit where Dorothy grew up. We arranged to have dinner the night before they left. I introduced her to Cosmopolitan Martini's that night at a place called Mimi's. We had a wonderful time and as I drove her back to her hotel, she said we would do it again when she returned.
Dorothy never returned. She died while on holiday. This is the reason why I have all of Dorothy Rowe Shaw's Sherlock Holmes books.
Before anyone gets the idea of comparing this collection to her husband's, let me say it wasn't even close. A complete inventory consists of less than 100 books, pamphlets, videos, and journals. The majority of items were already in my collection but numbers do not matter. The important thing to remember is where they came from and the kindness behind them.
Many of the books were signed to Dorothy from the author.
Some of the gems are as follows:
A Study In Surmise (Gaslight Publications - 1984) by Michael Harrison who signed "For dear Dorothy Rowe Shaw, with every affectionate good wish from your devoted Sherlockian friend."
Dr. Joe Bell: Model For Sherlock Holmes (Bowling Green University Popular Press - 1982) by Ely M. Liebow and it is signed "July, 1983 To Dorothy (Mightiest of the Mini-Tongo and a rare thing - a caring, kind soul). Hope you too come to like the good doctor, his star pupil, and The method. Canonical cheers, Ely."
The Science Fictional Sherlock Holmes (The Council of Four -1960) Edited by Robert C. Peterson. who signed the book along withcontributirs Norm Metcalf and Chuck Hausen. As an extra bonus the books also has Dorothy Rowe Shaw's bookplate.
The Baker Street Reader (Greenwood Press -1984) edited by Philip A. Shrefler. This one is signed "To Dorothy Rowe Shaw, ASH - Thanks "Aunt" Dorothy for years of friendship and shared Sherlockian pleasure - very best, Philip A. Shreffler 8/19/84 Dubuque, Iowa."
These books have a separate area in my library and they are some of the most special editions in my entire library. Kindness does pay off.
When I asked Walter Mitchell about the time he packed up "The Library" and moved it from Tulsa to Santa Fe, he said he did it out of kindness. "How could I refuse anything John asked?" was his final answer.