Adventures With Amtrak
Archimedes Q. Porter, Ph. D.
As most of the world knows, the Brooklyn Banth is a railroad nut. I made reservations, therefore, to travel to Toronto by train for ECOF 2005 with him. But at the last minute a medical emergency forced him to withdraw, leaving me to make the trip alone.
For many years I have been convinced that the people who made up stories of dragons, elves, and trolls in the old days now earn their livings by writing railroad schedules. As if in an attempt to confirm this belief, the train from Washington, D. C. to New York on Wednesday 22 June was 45 minutes late arriving at Penn Station. But Hadron, bless his heart, was there waiting for me, and we took the B Train to his home in Brooklyn, where I was able to view his collection -- not extensive, but nothing to be ashamed of. We ate supper at a nearby kosher deli and I got to meet his mother, who lives in an apartment in the same building. We retired early; I slept on his sofa and we were up at 5 a.m. to catch a bite of breakfast at another nearby eatery and take the subway back to Penn Station.
Thursday 23 June
The train to Toronto, the Maple leaf, runs only once a day, departing Penn Station at 7:30 -- at least in theory. In fact, on Thursday it was 15 minutes late leaving. The Brooklyn Banth decided to accompany me as far as Albany, where he caught a southbound train back home.
Map of the route of the "Maple Leaf"
With stops for inspection on both sides of the border, the train was an hour late arriving in Toronto. Using Doug Denby's detailed instructions, I found the suburban "GO" bus and arrived at the Unionville station at 9:40. The day's ECOF events were long over, of course, but Jean Denby fed me a supper of Bratwurst and beer, and after a look at Doug's collection (hardback books inherited from his uncle, the famous Burroughs scholar John F. Roy, along with paperbacks, Disney items, and other doodads which he had added himself) I checked in at the Markham Hilton Suites (the nearest hotel, about a mile and a quarter away) at midnight.
Friday 24 June
Although Brad and Pat Vinson were staying at the same hotel, I missed them at breakfast and Pat kindly drove back to the hotel to fetch me to the Denby's home. From there we convoyed to Joe Lukes' home in Peterborough, about a 45 minute drive. Joe is the author of the bibliography of prewar Grosset & Dunlap editions originally published some 20+ years ago in Tarzine and expanded into a book which was distributed at last year's ECOF in Sacramento. I rode over with Laurence Dunn, D. J. Howell, and Elaine Casella.
Joe's collection is one of the most extensive I have seen, certainly comparable to those of Jim Thompson and Mike Conran. It encompasses not only G&Ds (pre-war, wartime, and postwar) but also first editions (U. S. and Canadian) and paperbacks, and is particularly strong in German-language editions. Joe also has a collection of materials on World War II, in both English and German, so I divided my attention between these two collections. At lunchtime he ordered pizzas with a sufficient variety of toppings to satisfy all palates, and about mid afternoon we departed for the second item on the day's schedule, the visit to Fred and Wanda Lukas in Willowdale, back toward Toronto. This time I rode with Dick Spargur, Jim Thompson, and Bruce Wood. We stopped for supper at a Greek restaurant midway between the two collections.
Fred and Wanda welcomed us to their apartment, and Fred allowed us to view his collection. Although he specializes in Burroughs-related artwork, his book collection is worth seeing as well, as is the model of Tarzan's tree house that he built. Wanda served us cake (we had fortunately passed up dessert at the Greek restaurant) and offered a choice of bottled beer or water.
Unfortunately, I left my camera in the hotel room, and therefore got no pictures that day. But Jim Thompson and several others took plenty of photos.
D. J. Howell and Jim Thompson at the Jetan board
Ray LeBeau, Mike Conran, Bob Hyde, Bruce Wood & Laurence Dunn behind
Saturday 25 June
Unionville Railroad Station
The dealers' room was set up in the local railroad station, across the street from the Denby home, and when I arrived at about 10 a.m. several people had already set out their wares. Bill Ross, who had not only Panthan materials but also a number of Jerry Spannraft's items with him, had been stopped at the border and forced to store all his stock in a rental locker on the U. S. side. But Mike Conran, Laurence Dunn, and Bruce Wood all had materials for sale, and Dick Spargur had a sample copy of his reproduction of Tarzan Jr. (one inch square, like the original in Colleen Moore's Doll House in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry). He has only produced three copies so far, but was willing to take orders for additional copies when they become available. Bruce Wood had a replica of the volume of first-edition dust jackets that he had originally prepared for Bill Ross (which was eventually bought by Brad Vinson), as well as several books with the dust jacket illustrations printed directly on the covers; Laurence had large poster-size copies of the Panthan Journal covers from the last three LaurenceCons and several books, and Mike Conran had a wide selection of hardbacks, paperbacks, and comic books. I was able to fill in a few gaps in my collection, and set out the few copies of my Edgar Rice Burroughs Collector's Pocket Checklist that I had brought with me, and sold one to a first-time attendee, Jim Armour.
Ray LeBeau & Laurence Dunn ~ Tarzan Jr. miniature ERB book
The whole group gathered at noon to search out lunch, and found a restaurant only a block away -- the Unionville Arms Pub on Main Street. Their "small" Caesar salad was an immense bowl of assorted rabbit food, and the beer was excellent. Doug Denby gave us an outline of Canadian history, and we enjoyed a brief tour of the town.
Joe Lukes, the younger generation Lukases, and Fred & Wanda in the Unionville Arms
Doug & Jean Denby and Bob Hyde in the Unionville Arms
Returning to the railway station, we found at least two wedding parties in progress with photos being taken on the station platform and on the tracks; there had been one during the morning and I believe there was another later in the afternoon, for a total of four in one day. Several stretch limousines were parked outside the station.
On the way back to the station, I took advantage of the opportunity to check some of the variant editions in Doug's collection, and to take photos of a couple of the major bookcases. After the dealers' room closed, Fred Lukas showed some of his home movies in the Denby basement, and the caterers set up their serving line in the back yard. For the first time since I have been attending these affairs, there was no auction.
Fred Lukas's daughter, Joe Lukes, ?, Jim Armour, Candy Spaight (in doorway)
Elaine Casella, and Laurence Dunn. Fred is hidden behind the projector.
The outdoor banquet featured a selection of steak or chicken. By this time I had run out of film, but several others had cameras snapping for the standard APA and other group photos.
Saturday's activities ended with an unofficial meeting of the Burroughs Bibliophiles Board of Directors, called by President Bob Hyde. Although enough Board members were present to make a quorum, the membership had not had the necessary 30 days' prior notification. After the meeting, I returned to the hotel and left a wake-up call for 6:30.
Sunday 26 June
Just as I arrived too late to take part in the Thursday festivities, I had to leave too early to participate in the Farewell breakfast. Since the suburban bus begins its run too late on Sunday morning for me to make the train, Doug kindly drove me to Union Station in Toronto, handed me Bruce Salen's membership packet (including Jeff Doten's BarsoomianIllustrations, Doug's study of Burroughs-related pins and buttons, and the ECOF commemorative cookies), and returned to his guests.
Although the train left Toronto on time, we were an hour and a half late getting in to New York. In between, I got a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast and a cheeseburger for lunch. By supper time there were only two sandwiches left in the "food service" car -- and one of these was a veggie burger. In addition, the one of the rest rooms was filthy and the other was "out of service". It is apparent that Amtrak is making an active effort to discourage people from riding the trains.
Except for the trains, ECOF 2005 was a resounding success. I would like to thank Doug and Jean Denby, Joe and Judy Lukes, and Fred and Wanda Lukas for their kindness and hospitality. Our "friends to the North" are true friends, indeed!
Host and hostess Doug & Jean Denby
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