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Volume 1555
Presents
Since the last days of the twentieth century, nothing has been heard from...

        ...beyond 30ºW

...until now
Dum-Dum 2005
Oak Park, Illinois
by
Laurence Dunn
The ERB Traveller
Reprinted from ERBapa 87

Links to all the 
ERB Traveller Features:
ERBzine 0458
 

 
My journey started disastrously.  The airline had placed me in first class!  All that pampering, free champagne, ear phones that are actually comfortable to wear, food that is edible and one could stretch out almost horizontally without being a hindrance to the person in front or behind, all of which could seriously damage my wallet on future trips.  But the main difference between coach and first class is that in coach you are looking at your watch after just two hours.  In first class you look at your watch and think, "Oh no, only another two more hours!"

The switch in my seats had come about because I had made a mistake when booking my seat and forgot to ask for an aisle or window seat and ended up somewhere in the middle.  The desk clerk took pity and moved me into the only aisle seat available - in first class.

I arrived in Detroit early, beating Brian Bohnett by an hour on his way to pick me up.  Over the next few days my time would be divided spending it with Brian or with his ex-wife Judy, both of whom I have known for around 20 years and I would hope to retain an equal friendship despite the situation.

One of the things I did during this time was to visit a five-ring circus with Judy and her two young children.  It was interesting because I would later see David Fury (currently writing a biography of Maureen O'Sullivan but had earlier written a book on the life of Burt Lancaster).  One of Lancaster's performances was alongside Tony Curtis in the 1956 film, Trapeze where the aim of the young Curtis was to do a triple somersault on the trapeze.  I thought trapeze artists no longer attempted such dangerous stunts with so many safety regulations in place these days.  But attempt it they did, as they swung up so high to build up the momentum that their heads would push into the canvas and in one dazzling moment, the artiste spun in mid-air and was safely caught by his companion.

Although the convention was not scheduled to begin until Thursday, many people would arrive a day early and take in visits to the homes of Ray LeBeau and later a cook out with Jerry Spannraft.  Brian had to work that Wednesday and as I had already been to Jerry's home earlier in the year and planned to visit Ray early next, disappointment was easily set aside.  The drive to Chicago began in the early hours so that we would be in time for the first scheduled planned event.  Along for the ride was Brian's new fiancée Karen who wanted to find out first hand what all this Burroughs madness was about.

We arrived at the Write Inn, that has maintained its period look since it opened in 1926, in good time and found plenty of old friends to greet us.  The hotel let us check in despite our early arrival that saved us from having to leave our luggage in the car while we were away.

Jerry had hired the use of a school bus to transport us to the Museum of Science and Industry that has on display the magnificent Fairy Castle that once belonged to the silver screen actress, Colleen Moore.  Several years ago it was discovered that there were a series of unique books within the doll house - all of which are about one inch high and contain writings by some very eminent people including one book titled Tarzan Jr. by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I had visited the museum a few years back and these books were in a glass case on display and some of the books were open, others not.  Tarzan Jr. was open.  Now it seems the books are too rare to be displayed and are kept in a carefully controlled environment.  Our group of about 60 strong was led into one of the archival sections where the books are now kept and handled only by staff wearing gloves.  It was amazing to see not just for John Coleman's original drawings, but that the story was hand-written by Burroughs himself.  How often do you get the chance to see an original manuscript?

After lunch and a quick tour of the museum, we headed back to the bus for the return journey.  However, we discovered the rain had also arrived and only a few had thought to bring along umbrellas.  The group may not have welcomed the rain, but Illinois certainly did, having gone through a very dry spell.

Around 5:00 pm, people began to congregate in the small hotel lobby ready for a visit to the nearby Oak Park Conservatory for our evening meal and a talk and slide show by Doug Deuchler giving a history of the early development of Oak Park between 1910 and 1919.  Dave Fury had offered Brian, Karen and myself a ride to the Conservatory along with French fan Philippe Badre.  The Entente Cordiale that has existed between France and England for over a century almost fell apart when Dave Fury asked me how things were in England.  After the recent suicide attacks on London's underground rail system, I replied, "Oh, dodging bombs and winning the Olympics!" (a reference to the fact that London beat Paris in a bid to host the 2012 games).  Philippe took it with the good humour it was intended and everyone laughed.

Caterers had been brought in to serve the food that went down wonderfully, in particular the ice cream and toppings.  Doug Douchler's slide show was also very enlightening as it gave a taste of how Oak Park would have looked during the years that Burroughs spent living in the district.

On our return to the hotel, we discovered that Mary Fabian had missed the entire event having come down to the lobby close to 6:00 pm and found that everyone had already left.  Without knowledge or transport of where to go, she sat the evening out.  Fortunately Jerry was very understanding and refunded the cost of the meal.  It did highlight a problem that has on occasion occurred in the past when someone gets left behind and misses out on the fun.  To be frank, I'm not sure what the answer is other than people should arrive in plenty of time before an event, particularly if they are rooming alone.

The hotel also had a free internet connection for use by its patrons albeit very slow.  This allowed many of us to retrieve our email or any other searches that we required.  I was desperate to know how a cricket match was panning out back home between England and Australia.  Things were looking up as England was winning.

The huckster room was set up shortly after breakfast in the gymnasium of the church next door to the hotel.  Convention attendees were then let in just after 9:00 am where there was something to be found for everyone.  I was fortunate to get to John Rose's table before Philippe to find a couple of issues of the Barsoomian (a 1960s ERB fanzine) that I needed along with a copy of a Barsoomian Newsletter that I knew nothing of.  Philippe could not decide which issues he wanted, so he bought the lot - including whole runs of Erbania, Burroughs Newsbeat, ERB-dom, Barsoomian and many others.  For those with deeper pockets, there were even two original St John paintings for sale.  These were not Burroughs scenes, but delightful anyway.

Pat Kampert from the Chicago Tribune was there to write a feature of the convention that would appear in the following Sunday edition.

After lunch at a nearby hot dog restaurant, it was time to reconvene back at the hotel to catch the school bus once more.  This time with Greg Phillips acting as our guide, the journey took us on a tour of downtown Chicago where Burroughs spent much of his early life.  The tour did not go exactly as intended with time and traffic proving to be the biggest headache such that we ran out of time before seeing any of the houses that Ed lived in.  However, it did give us an opportunity to see much of Chicago and to get to know some of our fellow ERB fans a little better.

The bus finally stopped on North Boulevard (Oak Park) where Burroughs once had an office.  There a dedication plaque was placed commemorating his time working there.

After briefly returning to the hotel, we headed over to the Edgar Rice Burroughs Museum situated at the Pleasant HomeCheese and wine were laid on as small parties at a time were allowed to go in and see the exhibits, much of which had been donated by Jerry Spannraft.

On Saturday morning the huckster room was once again opened with many new treasures to be found.  Rain had begun to fall yet again but not enough to dampen anyone's spirit.  However, it was causing our hosts a slight headache, as the evening banquet was to take place on the open roof of a restaurant a short walk away.  An alternative strategy of having the caterers bring the food to the gymnasium was abandoned when it was discovered that another event was scheduled to take place there.

Meanwhile a walking / riding tour of Oak Park was arranged, particularly for the spouses that had no interest in the Burroughs convention.

An auction then followed in the chapel where many items went for a lot less than was originally hoped.  I picked up an original Rex Maxon strip #2391 for just $35 - which was a steal considering its asking price was $150.

The rain had eased off by the time we headed for the Avenue Ale House and clear skies greeted us.  The staff had obviously borrowed every umbrella in town just in case the rain arrived, but things were looking hopeful.

After a wonderful meal, George McWhorter introduced Max Allen Collins, author of The Pearl Harbor Murders to say a few words.  As I listened to him tell how the book came about, my mind was cast back to my book room in England where copies of his book still sat on the shelf having been left behind and not added to my luggage.  Hopefully the opportunity will rise another time to get them signed.

George then took centre stage again to give out the annual awards to which I was sure Jerry Spannraft would be the recipient.  However, George started off by saying that this year, two people would receive an award.  George had only to mention that the first award would go to someone who has attended many conventions to know that he was talking about me.  It was a wonderful feeling to finally be awarded one of these plaques after so many years.  The biggest problem I discovered is what does one say on such short notice?  Fortunately I fell back onto what is now an old story of how I reached a crossroads in my life of whether I really wanted to see the world, or spend my summers with ERB friends.  The plaque reads: "For outstanding achievement and devotion to the memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs" and has my name underneath with the year 2005.

The second award did indeed go to Jerry Spannraft but unfortunately George had not checked on the plaques before presenting them.  Otherwise he would have spotted that the engravers had substituted the two 'r's in Jerry's name with two 'n's making Jenny!  George was mortified when he discovered the error but Jerry saw the funny side of it.

It was too dark to take group photos so everyone headed back to the hotel.  The Board meeting of the Burroughs Bibliophiles then took place where one of the first things to take place was voting on nominations to join the Board, then a drawing of names to determine the staggered term length of Board members and finally we had to vote for a chairman after John Tyner made it known he was stepping down.  After the first count, the vote was split equally but Brad Vinson (newly elected to the Board) stepped aside and allowed me the chair.  It was turning out to be quite a night with winning an award and now being elected as chairman of the Burroughs Bibliophiles.  Without an agenda, a discussion followed concerning the number of conventions there were to be next year and whether we should demote the name Dum-Dum back to the Saturday night dinner as our founder Vern Coriell had intended.

It was late by the time the meeting ended and everyone headed for his or her respective beds.  Some 25 people made it to the farewell breakfast the following morning much to the surprise of the restaurant that was not expecting us until the afternoon.

Later Brian, Karen and myself followed Jerry Spannraft back to his home for a cook out on his rear porch.  Before long it was time to head home and the end of yet another wonderful convention put on by sheer hard work of our hosts Jerry Spannraft, Joan Bledig, Mike Conran, Greg Phillips and Frank Lipo of the Oak Park Historical Society.

Postscript: England went on to not only win the cricket match, but the series as well the first time they had achieved that in 16 years. : ) 
 


Mock-up buttons given only to hosts

Web Refs
See the Dum-Dum 2005 Photo Galleries at: ERBzine 1430
See the Guide to Past Dum-Dums: ERBzine 0839
Visit the Dum-Dum /ECOF Dossier: www.ERBzine.com/dumdum
Laurence Dunn: The ERB Traveller: ERBzine 0458


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