The View from Sherlock Peoria (20)
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Sherlock Peoria 1977. . .
This week I was working on a little local Sherlockian history, and wound up stumbling down a byroad of my own Sherlockian past. Indulge me for a moment (which anyone who reads any of these columns does just by reading them), and let me tell you about the year that is responsible for this web site . . . and a whole lot of other parts of my life.
The year was 1977. It was a great year to be a Sherlockian in Peoria. Let me tell you just how great.
That grandest of Sherlockian years began on January 17, as a touring production of the William Gillette play Sherlock Holmes starring John Michalski as Holmes and Kurt Kasner (a favorite from the TV show Land of the Giants) as Moriarty opened at Peorias Shrine Mosque.
And I was there, on my first date with the first female attachment I would ever refer to as the woman. (Slightly embarassing personal Sherlockian secret number one for this column, just recently rediscovered in a journal entry.)
Sherlock Holmes pastiches sprouted from bookstore shelves and racks like daisies in a field, as Nicholas Meyers best-selling The Seven Per Cent Solution and its movie adaptation had opened the floodgates only a couple of years before. Books like Rick Boyers The Giant Rat of Sumatra, John Gardners The Return of Moriarty, and Mitchelson, Utechins Hellbirds and The Earthquake Machine, and even The Adventure of th e Peerless Peer by Peorias own Philip José Farmer could even be found in the bookstore at Peorias Illinois Central College.
And I was there. I had even got to meet Phil when he came to speak to my college lit class. For some reason, I forgot to bring up his interest in Sherlock, even though Id already written two term papers on Holmes and read the Canon twice. (Slightly embarassing personal Sherlockian secret number two.)
Then, on November 17th at about eight oclock in the evening, at 4010 Devon Lane, Bob Burr brought together five other Sherlockians under the name The Hansoms of John Clayton. The name had been coined some time before by Bobs neighbor from two houses down, the aforementioned Peoria author Philip José Farmer, who was in attendance, along with Emily Sutton, George Scheetz, and Alex Ciegler. (Phils wife Bette arrived late in the meeting, and is included as a founding member in some accounts.)
But I sure wasnt there. Im not sure where I was . . . possibly wandering around Illinois States campus looking for another the woman. I was doing that a lot that year.
As a twenty-year-old college student going to school a whole hour away (we had to drive 55 in those days, so distances seemed a lot further), I had a lot of things distracting me that fall. (Hey, the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever had just come out!) And while I had read of Sherlock Holmes societies like the Baker Street Irregulars, they seemed like something that only happened in big faraway cities like New York or Chicago. The thought of one existing in Peoria would have been an amazing and glorious thing to me, especially with Phil Farmer playing Christopher Morley to Bob Burrs Edgar Smith. (Phils Riverworld series was one of my favorite trilogies in college, ranking right up there with The Lord of the Rings and Illuminatus!) But life is a tricky thing.
Sometimes events that will determine the later course of our lives come and go without our notice, and in a year like 1977, with idle distractions like Star Wars and the peak of disco distracting many a lad my age, things do slip by. Apple Computers was founded in that year, and somewhere in the center of Peoria, a Sherlock Holmes club was starting up. Twere it not for Apple Computers, my interest in things electronic would have been much later in arriving, including my already-tardy arrival on the web page scene. (I mean, cmon, C prompts? Anybody who read any science fiction as a child knew that a GUI interface was the way to go.) And if it werent for the Hansoms, I would probably have never decided to start inflicting my Sherlockian thoughts on the world willy-nilly, as I do in this bloggish column.
I would have loved to have been at that first Hansom meeting, not to mention get in on Sherlockian guru John Bennett Shaws one-night visit to Peoria in that year. But I cant say as Im displeased with the after-effect benefits Ive reaped from those events over the years.
1977 was a very good year for Sherlock Peoria. Even if a web site was still a long ways off.
Your humble correspondent,