(April 25, 1915 — January 2nd, 1969)
Leslie A. Croutch was a Canadian fan in the 1940s. He was a no-nonsense, plain-speaking kind of guy with a punning sense of humor. His brother Victor said: "He had no private life. He met the public day in and day out as a repairman…. Les was neither bashful nor retiring. He kept to himself a lot." Bob Tucker wrote that Croutch "was solidly rooted in the mundane world of radio and television. To me he was someone for whom sf was a hobby." He had many close friends in Parry Sound, yet none of them knew of his sf fanac which seems to have been strictly relegated to contact with outsiders. His other interests included a life-long love of movies, going to see an average of two a week, and reading a great number of history and electronics publications.
In his life he produced at least 175 fanzines under the titles Let's Swap, Croutch News, Croutch Magazine Mart News, Light, The Voice & Electron. In 1944 and again in 1946 he was elected to the board of the N3F, being considered its Canadian representative, and also served as corresponding secretary for the Northern Fantasy Fan Federation for its short-lived four year existence (1948 to 1951). He was a member of FAPA from 1943 to 1963.
He was a prolific writer of articles for other zines as well as his own, as well as being a major letterhack. Of his fanac he wrote (in 1942): "For myself, I think I am doing my share in upholding Canadian fandom. In the past I have appeared (articles, news, fiction) in the following U.S. fanzines: MSA Bulletin, Spaceways, Voice of the ImagiNation, Le Zombie (cartoon). In England in Tin Ticks and Futurian War Digest. I have material coming up in America's Spaceways, Voice of the ImagiNation, Tellus, Fan-Atic, and plenty of material out going the rounds…"
He also wrote a large amount of fiction, at least 100 stories, most of which appeared in his or other's fanzines, but some of it was professionally published. For a while Forrest J Ackerman served as his agent. Amazing Stories published his 'The Day The Bomb Fell' in its Nov 1950 issue, and his most famous, a post-holocaust story titled 'Eeman Grows up', appeared in the June 1948 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Other stories were published in Uncanny Tales, Eerie Tales, and Future Fiction.
But it is his perzine/genzine Light for which he is best remembered. As Harry Warner Jr. wrote in New Canadian Fandom #6 (Jan 1983): "Les was one of my favorite fans of all time…. I'm quite aware that Les wasn't the kind of writer who took enough time to make his fanzine contributions as entertaining today as they were when first published, but there's a vitality to everything he wrote, an enthusiasm and joie de vivre that makes them better than the more polished output of the famous fans of the period who wrote dearly dull stuff."
He became a legend in his own time, being described in the Fall 1948 issue of Censored as "…one of Canada's oldest and most prominent (in more ways than one) fan, and the pioneers of aj-jay Canfanac." The "in more ways than one" reference is a dig at his size, 5 foot 11 inches and somewhat overweight in a rumpled, bear-like manner. Or as Fred Hurter observed: "General impression of Croutch — there's a lot of him."
Croutch was held in affection by Canfandom through out most of his fanpub career. But alas, he always remained true to his chatty, informal, punning style, and gradually began to seem dated to new generations of fans. This led to a falling off of his fanac, till he gafiated in 1963. But there's no doubt that at his height he beat the drum for Canadian zinedom & Canfanac, inspiring many to contribute and even pub their ish, and was much beloved by Canfandom for his efforts. He deserves to be remembered.
Note: in 1982 Hounslow Press of Toronto published a book on the life of Croutch by John Robert Columbo, titled Years of Light: A Celebration of Leslie A. Croutch: A Compilation and a Commentary. Now out of print, it's well worth getting a hold of if you can. It not only puts together a compelling story of Croutch's life, interests and achievements, it's a great survey of Canadian Fandom in the 1940s.