("I found my regiment, and at once entered upon my new duties.")
The weather couldn't possibly have been worse! It had been snowing and sleeting all day, and now, at 7:15 PM on the third Friday in February, 1978, the roads were covered with about four inches of a frozen mixture of the two elements, and I was in my car driving to my first meeting of The Three Garridebs. In fact, this was the very first Sherlockian meeting for me- anytime, anywhere, ever. As I drove, I kept thinking, "No one else is going to be crazy enough to come out on an evening such as this. This fellow is going to think that I'm out of my mind." This fellow being, by the way, Bruce Kennedy, BSI, who, at that time, headed up the Garrideb organization, and who lived in Mount Kisco, NY. The meetings were held in his apartment. The weather was so bad that I probably did not exceed ten miles per hour at any time during the twenty-five mile drive from my house in Eastchester to his in Mount Kisco.
After what seemed like hours, I finally arrived at his apartment complex. As I was entering the building, a young man about eighteen years old preceded me through the vestibule door, and he was wearing a deerstalker!
"Aha," I thought, "I'm not the only nut on the streets tonight."
As we waited for the elevator, we introduced ourselves (his name was Peter Deschamps) and discovered that we were both here for the first time, and both felt the same way about attending tonight's session. He feared being thought a madman as much as I. .
Tentatively, we rang the bell. The door was opened and we were welcomed in. Much to our mutual surprise (and relief) and pleasure, all of the other members were there. The Garrideb membership stood at six in those days, and we were delighted that they had shown the same degree of zeal in braving the elements to attend that we did. Peter and I now became members seven and eight. Thus it was that I came to begin such an important segment of my life - my intimate and devoted association with Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson.
What prompted this interest was a series of Sherlock Holmes films being shown every Saturday afternoon on a local television station in 1977. I may have seen some, or even all of these films when I was a boy, but if I did, I didn't remember them. Nevertheless, I made it a point to be at home when they were being aired that year. I remember thinking "My God! These are terrific!" I became a great admirer of the master detective during that run of the films, and was really disappointed when the series ended. It was then that I realized, rather surprisingly, that I, a voracious reader, had never read the Sherlock Holmes stories. The very next day I traveled up to a bookstore in White Plains, where I purchased the Doubleday complete works, which I consumed in several reading sessions over the next week and a half. So enrapt with the stories was I when I had finished it, that I was thrilled that I had been led to this corpus of detective stories; they were even better than the movies! But, at the same time, I was chagrined by the awareness that now, having read the tales, I was consigned to waiting for the next round of films to hit the television screen.
Three weeks later, I was browsing through a bookstore in Scarsdale, when I came upon a rather large volume entitled The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. In it, I was amazed to discover, were over six thousand items pertaining to the Master. And even more astonishing, to me at least, the back of the book contained a list of societies. Societies! I could scarcely believe my eyes! I couldn't wait to join one.
I discovered, as I'm sure everyone else did, that trying to find the Baker Street Irregulars was as difficult as trying to join them. However, the book also listed a group in Mount Kisco, NY called The Three Garridebs, with the name and address of its correspondent, Bruce Kennedy. I telephoned him and expressed my desire to join his group. He gave me the date of its next meeting and invited me to come. I was thrilled to death.
And so it was that on that bleak and stormy evening I found myself plodding through the blizzard to attend my first Sherlockian affair.
The following two pages were inadvertently omitted from the first installment. It was my oversight, and I apologize. -Bob Thomalen
Georgian, Without Doubt
(Being a rather convoluted personal reminiscence of The Three Garridebs of Westchester County, a scion society of The Baker Street Irregulars)
Robert Thomalen, BSI
("The Three Garridebs")
This book is lovingly dedicated to Theresa Thomalen, The Woman of the BSI (1994). To me she is always The Woman, for without her, my life would have been empty and meaningless.
("You have been in Mt. Kisco, I perceive")
My first meeting was a kind of blur. I spent most of the evening admiring the level of Sherlockian scholarship in the room. Kennedy ran the entire show and did most of the talking. Part of the programme involved listening to a record of one of the Holmes stories. Normally, I would find that somewhat boring, especially at a meeting, but this was my first and I didnt care what was being served up. I was just glad to be there. On the programme were toasts, a quiz, a paper on the story assigned for that session, and a brief discussion of the story in particular, and the Canon in general.
Somewhere near ten oclock, coffee and cake were served, and it was then that I got to chat with the other people present. Mike Leighton turned out to be another officer of the scion, while Bob Douty, Ralph Williams, and Len Gilman helped make up the rest of the membership.
It was at this time that I met the man with whom I would have the closest working relationship, and warmest friendship, of all of the Garridebs before or since. Bill Schweickert and I have had a wonderful journey together through the foggy precincts of gaslit Baker Street, one that continued until the day he died. It was one that I had hoped would never end.
Bill had been a member for about four or five months at the point at which I arrived on the scene, and while we didnt have an inkling at the time, the evolution of the Garridebs was about to begin. The architects of change were now in place. It was to be slow, this change, but steady, nonetheless. The final block would fall into place a few meetings later.
But that night was the seed for several beginnings. Peter Deschamps was a student at the Edgemont School in Scarsdale, NY. He knew that the faculty advisor in charge of the Audio-Visual Department there was also an admirer of Sherlock Holmes, and so he invited him to attend the next meeting of the group. Thus it was that Jim Cleary found himself in a Mt. Kisco apartment, on a Friday evening in July of that year, taking his first steps in this grand game of ours. No one realized it then, but with the addition of these three new members, the face of the Garrideb organization would change forever.
("In the year 1978...")
In April of 1978, the first annual Three Garridebs dinner meeting was held at the Fife and Drum Restaurant, in Mt. Kisco, NY. It was memorable on two counts; it was my first Sherlockian dinner meeting, and it was here that I won my first quiz. Funny how vivid it seems now, even after twenty years have elapsed. I remember that my score was 84 out of 100 on a very difficult test of our knowledge of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover that I had done so well, but another surprise was in store. The prize for winning was Holmes and Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. My collection at that time consisted solely of The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes, and The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes, so this was, for me, a treasure indeed. Ive added many items to my shelves over the years, but none gave me as much satisfaction and excitement as that single volume by S.C. Roberts. Subsequent meetings for that year returned to the Kennedy apartment, and the format remained generally the same.
It was later in 1978 that I began to bring my wife Theresa to the meetings. While admittedly she was not a Sherlockian, she didnt relish the idea of sitting home alone on a Friday night while I went traipsing up to Mt. Kisco to indulge my latest hobby. The idea of a distaff attendee was a first for the Garridebs. No objections were raised to her being there, and although Kennedy had declared openly that women were more than welcome, until that moment, none had ever been there. While Theresa was not really interested in becoming a member, she was not averse to sitting with us as we discussed various and sundry aspects of the Master, the good doctor, and the Canon.
Theresas appearance on the scene opened the door for other wives to join us. Eleanor Schweickert and Adele Cleary also became regulars in the eighth floor flat at 200 Diplomat Drive. Though the Garrideb roster now boasts many female members, in 1978 it was just Theresa, Eleanor, and Adele.
For me, personally, 1978 was an exciting year for many reasons. In addition to the incidents mentioned above, I met some people that I would come to love and respect more than you can imagine.
The first took place at the May dinner meeting referred to earlier. With us at table that evening was a tiny little woman who, with no apparent effort, charmed everyone right out of their socks. I cant begin to tell you how much I was taken with her. An artist with an international reputation, she nevertheless was as down to earth and friendly as one could be. Her name was Amy Jones Frisbee, and she was the widow of Owen Frisbee, an early Irregular, and one of the original Five Orange Pips. Amy was a delight to be with, and at all future dinner meetings of The Three Garridebs, she would be my personal guest. She was a joy to be around, but when, because of the problems of age, and because she could no longer manage the big house in Westchester alone, she moved to California to live with her daughter. We were all saddened to see her go, but none more than I. Much to our collective sorrow, she passed beyond the Reichenbach in 19__, but she left behind a treasure trove of fond memories for everyone that she touched. It was a sad loss, indeed!
Later that year, I was to meet one of the most fascinating people Ive ever met. It happened when Kate Karlson invited me to attend a dinner meeting of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. I have always enjoyed going to meetings of different groups and getting to know other Sherlockians, and so, off I went, hoping, as I always did, that I wouldnt embarrass myself in discussions of the great detective.
Before we repaired to the upstairs dining room of the Beatrice Inn in Greenwich Village, we stood in the bar area having cocktails. Suddenly, there was a buzz of excitement, and through the door came a short, portly, bespectacled, and extremely gregarious man whom everyone, except me, seemed to know. When I finally came to be introduced to him, I was told that his name was Chris Steinbrunner. Well, of course I knew who he was, and during the brief time he was there (he couldnt stay as he had an engagement elsewhere), I discovered why it was that he was welcomed so effusively upon his arrival. He was one of the friendliest people anywhere, and he quickly put me, the newcomer, completely at my ease. Our relationship would grow rapidly over the years, and we would attend the meetings of many different scions together. (I would always insist upon driving, for anyone who ever knew Chris would never, ever, ride in a car with him behind the wheel.)
Chris Steinbrunners largesse knew no bounds. He was a kind, generous soul who had no qualms about helping novice Sherlockians become acclimated to the cult. I was really a brand, spanking new kid on the block when I met him, and I really didnt get to know him all that well at that time, so you can imagine my complete astonishment when he informed me that he was inviting me to be his guest at the 1979 dinner of The fabled Baker Street Irregulars! To say that I was flabbergasted would be a gross understatement. To say that I was on cloud nine wouldnt cut it, either. Here was I, involved in the world of Sherlock Holmes for not quite a year, and I was being invited to the big dance, the BSI Dinner. "Lord," I thought, "Im on my way to heaven!" More on that momentous event later.
My first year as a practicing Sherlockian had been wonderful. I was learning more about Holmes each day, making new friends, and getting in deeper and deeper. Throughout that, and subsequent years, I always wondered what the Garridebs were like before I got there, and even more to the point, how they came to exist in the first place.
The Three Garridebs Scion Society: Prehistory and Personal Reminiscence
The beginning of the Three Garridebs scion society is rooted in the phenomenon of "junior" Sherlockian groups in the 1960s, and so this discussion really must begin there. It was a time of counter-cultural movements: while some youths moved in the direction of drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll, there were a few others for whom it was (and would always be) 1895. It's interesting to browse through the Baker Street Journal for these years, noting the activities noted in the Scion Societies section. The Baker Street Pageboys were formed by Chris Redmond in 1964; The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes in 1967 by Evelyn Herzog; and The Three Students Plus by Bruce Kennedy and Bruce Dettman in 1966. By August 1969 The Musgrave Ritualists Beta were formed by Bill Walsh and Keith Jenkins. Sue Dahlinger started the Women's Auxiliary to the BSI in December of 1970. In 1971, Andy Peck established the Baker Street Underground at Cornell, Andy Page formed the Priory School of New York, and Susan Rice organized the Trifling Monographs of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
In a surprising letter to the editor of the BSJ in June 1970, Bruce Kennedy noted with dismay the decline in membership and participation among junior Sherlockians. Nevertheless, the next few years saw the birth of yet more junior scions. For many of these groups, business was conducted by mail, quizzes and newsletters were printed by mimeograph, and some (admittedly rather small, but elegant) books were published. Among them were A Case of Bishopsgate Jewels by the Baker Street Pageboys, Four Wheels to Baker Street and Mycroft by the Three Students Plus, and A Curious Collection by the Musgrave Ritualists Beta. Out of these early groups there emerged a group of young Sherlockians whose network crisscrossed North America and extended even to Britain. Everyone, it seemed, was a member of several scion societies. (Bill Walsh was admitted to the Three Students Plus on 2 August 67; Bruce Kennedy was admitted to the Musgrave Ritualists Beta on 2 February 71.) For many of us, it was somehow a mark of the depth of one's dedication to this arcane hobby to be a member of several scions, or even to start a new one. It was a wonderful thing, too, to be in contact by letter with dozens of people who shared an interest and enthusiasm for this great game. The significant multiplication of scion societies in the 70s gave rise to some concern, and some Sherlockians were of the opinion that things were "getting a bit out of hand." In a letter to the editor of the BSJ in March 1972, Andy Peck expressed pleasure at the upsurge in interest, but recommended new enthusiasts to give the "time and effort to writing for the established Scion publications, which are always in need of good scholarly articles."
Meanwhile, those of us in the New York area flocked to the William Gillette Memorial Luncheon. It was pretty much open to anyone who was interested, it was co-ed, there was a pipe club, and one could meet and hobnob with legends. What wonderful fun! The late 60s and early 70s saw the birth of dozens of junior scion societies. Of the hundred or so young enthusiasts, some (a dozen or so) remain in the fold. These youths wrote articles and were published in the Baker Street Journal as well as in the myriad scion publications that continue to grace our hobby. "Senior" Sherlockians, no doubt (I hope) amused by us, consented to serve in a kind of advisory role: they wrote articles for our newsletters, advised, corresponded, acted in general like friendly grownups, and became dear friends.
At the BSI Dinner in 1973, after several convivial glasses of scotch whisky, Bruce proposed the merger of the Musgrave Ritualists Beta with the Three Students Plus. (John Bennett Shaw once noted that all you need for a Sherlockian meeting is two members and a bottle of liquor, and that in a pinch you can dispense with one of the members.) I don't recall if we brought anyone else at out table into the discussion, but I'm sure someone must have noticed that something was up, and that we were pleased. Conversation continued and enthusiasm increased through the evening, and in a follow-up correspondence on 19 February 73, Bruce observed that "Both these groups, while far ahead of others, do leave something to be desired . I think our membership lists greatly overlap, so there would be little problem there. What we could offer each other are individuals willing to work to further the interests of the group." It was a scathingly brilliant idea. We knew that new groups were always forming, to be sure, and there was much overlap in membership. Indeed, we found it interesting that many of the people who joined the Musgrave Ritualists Beta were leaders and organizers of other groups elsewhere. There had been an innovative attempt to reactivate the Baker Street Pageboys by Andy Page and Glenn Holland, and link them with the Priory School in 1971. This idea seems never to have developed fully, perhaps because the Pageboys was very much focussed on correspondence, while the Priory School was more of a local group; and each group was to retain its own identity and autonomy. Until now, though, it seemed that nobody had thought actually to merge groups together as we were planning. What with the recent increase in the number of (possibly superfluous, and potentially short-lived) scion societies, this seemed to us to be just the sort of action that was necessary to counterbalance that movement, establish stability, and encourage some longevity.
Bruce and Bill met together on 11 June 73 at Bruce's home. By then, Andy Page, a student at Columbia, had readily thrown in with us. This was really very good, for the Priory School was a very active local group, with frequent meetings and enormous energy, while the other two groups were more oriented toward correspondence. In the initial planning, Bruce had written a first draft of the new constitution. The Musgrave Ritual and the reading of Vincent Starrett's "221B" were retained as a regular part of meetings in recognition of the new scion's roots in the Musgrave Ritualists Beta, and we thought to keep the William S. Baring-Gould Award as a connection to the Three Students Plus and to recognize scholarship in the membership.
We discussed several alternatives for naming the new group, and settled on the Three Garridebs, because there were three groups that were now uniting. We notified our respective memberships, requesting and receiving their assent to the proposed merger. This happened fairly quickly, and Bruce notified Julian Wolff, who had been very supportive of us and of our work all along. Nathan Bengis, Steve Clarkson, and John Bennett Shaw each wrote to wish us well, and to observe that the idea of merging was a very, very good idea. It was oddly remarkable, at the time, to move out of the ranks of junior Sherlockiana, and to note that we would no longer have need of officially (or unofficially) acknowledged "adult advisors."
By July we (actually Bruce) set up an exhibit at the Mount Kisco Public Library. It opened on 7 August, which would have been Bill Baring-Gould's sixtieth birthday, and ran till the twentieth. Library exhibits were a common (if not altogether successful) outreach mechanism: Bruce and Bill each did a couple in their local libraries (Chappaqua and Suffern) in 1968-70, and also at their college libraries. The first actual official meeting was planned for Sunday 12 August at the Mount Kisco Methodist Church. It was attended by ten people, and featured a demonstration of the use of a dark lantern. On 26 August, Bruce mentioned in a letter that Michael Leighton (who had been at the meeting the previous Sunday) visited. Bruce thought he would "prove to be a quite valuable member." Around this time Bruce mentioned that Chris Steinbrunner had expressed some interest in affiliating his (quiescent, we thought) scion, The Priory Scholars of Fordham; and we thought that the potential for adding more local people could only be very good for the scion.
The first scion society report for the Three Garridebs appeared in the December 1973 issue of the BSJ. The second meeting was held on 5 January 74 in White Plains (the steak-and-kidney pie was very good indeed, as were the films). On 13 April 74, the third meeting chaired by Bruce (Bill was still away at college) returned to the Mount Kisco Methodist Church.