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The View from the East End (13)

By Inspector Hopkins

May 22, 2005
 

Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City

Referring to themselves as a "singular set of people" in the e-mailed invitations sent out for each of their meetings, this group is based in Columbia, Maryland.

They meet in the Bertucci’s Restaurant located on Snowden River Parkway in Colombia Maryland, "precisely at 7pm" on the last Monday evening of each month. Approximately twenty five members gather in the restaurant’s private dining room for an evening of great Sherlockian fun and camaraderie.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one or two of their functions, and really enjoyed my time with this great group of "singular" people! This scion is a bit more formal than my Epilogues of Sherlock Holmes home group, with officers known as their "Gasogene" and their "Tantalus" (their president and secretary, currently John C. Sherwood and David Hatch).

The group was founded some 17 years ago by Paul Churchill and the late Steve Clarkson, and has had a formal Gasogene and Tantalus each year since then. John Sherwood sends out the e-mail invitations to the members and a post to the Hounds of the Internet each month. He announces the Canonical story of the month as well as any other pertinent information. Reliable directions to the restaurant are also given at the end of each invitation.

We gather around a large table for a cocktail and some socializing before dinner begins.

There are some traditional Sherlockian toasts given, and, going around the table, we each have a chance to toast a particular Villain from the Canon. Each of us chooses an item from the menu, and the meal is served during the course of the meeting. There is a good selection to choose from, and I really enjoyed my salmon dinner! (Up here in New Jersey we also have a Bertucci’s and I can vouch for the quality of the cuisine). At the end of the evening, the cost is divided up and usually runs $16-18 per person, definitely a reasonable deal.

At the dinner that I attended, the Toasts were started off by the previous Gasogene, Brent Morris, and an informal presentation was made by another former Gasogene, Beth Austin. The group also discussed some business matters and informally started to make plans for a future event later this fall. Our current Gasogene, John C. Sherwood, already has a bit of a reputation preceding him, as he is a Sherlock Holmes impersonator, and has made several appearances in the past. I will be reporting back to you in my next column regarding my meeting with "Mr. Holmes"! Stay tuned to this website for further details.

After the dinner, instead of discussing the story of the month, Tantalus David Hatch presents a challenging quiz related to it. The person with the highest score wins a nice prize such as a Sherlockian book. And, as always, former Gasogene and Tantalus Paul Churchill brings the appropriate Evidence Box related to the stories. Items from the Box are passed around the entire table and we each get to closely examine the objects.

A recently completed project of the Watson’s Tin Box (WTB) scion was an Essay Contest for seventh grade students. This project was in conjunction with local schools and Barnes and Noble bookstores, and is part of an ongoing effort to attract young people to our wonderful hobby of enjoying Sherlock Holmes! Several of the WTB members also belong to the BSI, and have published in The Baker Street Journal as well. They also put out an annual publication of Sherlockian writings called "Irene’s Cabinet", edited by Beth Austin.

Suffice it to say that they are indeed a "singular set of people", and I still cannot believe that they can cram so much activity and discussion into only two hours!

I found the drive back home from Maryland to be extremely pleasant, smooth, and trouble-free! The only downside was the rather pricy tolls that were charged on I-95. Be prepared for some delays on the way down to their meeting if you’re coming from the North and crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It is well worth that cost and aggravation, however, and I shall definitely be going back for more meetings with these great folks!To learn more about them, visit their new website:

http://www.watsonstinbox.org/

Until next time, when we will delve into the steamy depths of the "Bar of Gold", located somewhere along the foggy banks of a great river, I am,

Yours faithfully,

STANLEY HOPKINS