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The View from the East End (17)

By Inspector Hopkins

July 17, 2005
 

Mrs. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers

Anchored on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River almost directly across from New York City, is a 100 year old ferry boat named the Binghamton. This ship was converted to a floating restaurant some forty years ago, and is now the home of a formidable group of Sherlockians known as Mr. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers.

A busy drive on the New Jersey Turnpike awaits the Sherlockian traveler on the way to this meeting. Along the way there is an absolutely breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline, and one worthy of stopping for a few moments to admire. The road twisted along, both uphill and down, through a busy suburban throng until I found myself at the Marketplace Mall, where the ship is docked.

Walking through some 100 feet of enclosed gangplank and entering the ship, I was immediately impressed with a sense of her past glory and dignity. Turning to the right and going aft, I found the Cliffdwellers in the "Half Moon Room" in the stern. All around me were reminders of the ship’s original purpose: the brass handrails, the benches for the passengers, and the gates and driveway for the two dozen automobiles that she once ferried across the river. The floors slope and are slightly uneven and contribute to the nautical feeling. Heavy wooden ceilings and painted wooden walls, ornate mirrors, lace curtains, and many pictures of sailing vessels complete the room.

Founded in 1976, this group has held their meetings aboard the Binghamton for over ten years, and gets together on a Sunday afternoon every summer and every winter. It is headed up by a group of four directors: Al Gregory, Jan Stauber, Ron Fish, and Ted Friedman. And judging by the mount of activity that I saw at the meeting I attended, it was not surprising that they need this many directors, either!

Although they have no formal dress code, the group does have a formal agenda, uses a podium, and follows their agenda with handouts given to all the members as they arrive.

Believe me, folks, this scion has a little bit of everything! Five circular tables had been set up and everyone found a seat. There were over 40 people in attendance with some 25% from the Epilogues scion alone, so I already knew quite a number of them.

The meeting started with some opening announcements, and a humorous Sherlockian song sung to the tune of "My Country, ‘tis of Thee". Following a traditional toast to Mrs. Hudson, and an interesting paper delivered by Bud Livingston, we settled down to a delicious lunch. Fresh honeydew melon, crisp garden salad, and assorted baked breads and rolls paved the way for choices of either chicken or roast beef, both incredibly tasty and tender.

After lunch, the group began their activities in earnest! Since the scion is based upon Mrs. Hudson, there were several rituals devoted to her, including the "Ritual of Mrs. Hudson’s Broom", and "The Ritual of the Rotating Bust". These have to be seen to be fully appreciated! Following several more traditional Sherlockian toasts, the group split into two groups for a quiz-type game led by the Directors. Two newcomers were selected to head up each side, and I got to be the Team Captain on one of them. The story du jour was The Five Orange Pips, and the game was based upon it. Each correct answer resulted in a team getting a point, or in this case a "Pip". The first team to win five Pips won the game. Very well thought out and quite well done, I must say!

Following the motif of this story, and included in the lemon cake for dessert, there were party favours of orange candies and chocolate pipes everywhere! Everyone got to take home some of these little mementos and it was quite pleasant. After dessert, there was a Canonical Limerick contest, which the Cliffdwellers referred to this as their "Homework Assignment". (Once you are on their mailing list, they send out an "assignment" several weeks in advance of the meeting. In this case it was to write Sherlockian limericks which had to contain certain words). Once again, very clever, with much silliness and laughter!

There were four newcomers present, including myself, and during the meeting we each had to fill out a mock "Membership Application" in order to join this scion. After the Homework Assignment, these applications were very humorously "reviewed" in front of the entire group by BSI member Joe Fink. Each newcomer had to stand up and answer any "discrepancies" pertaining to his/her application. Of course, all the applications were eventually "accepted", amid much cheering and laughter, and we each signed our names to a ceremonial wooden plaque, thus making us "official" Mrs. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers.

Following some more announcements, brief remarks, and a poem, the four-hour-long meeting was concluded. For the cost of only $30 (plus drinks), it was the most enjoyable Sunday afternoon "cruise" I have ever been on, and I look forward to being on their next one this December!

To learn more about this great group of people and to get on their mailing list, see the following link:

http://www.mrshudsonscliffdwellers.homestead.com

Until next time, when we will leave the physical realm well behind us, and go far off into cyberspace for a scion meeting, I remain as always,

 

Yours faithfully,

STANLEY HOPKINS