Discon 1 Guide: Two More Facets

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[This is the Appendix to George Scithers' Con-Committee Chairman's Guide, the story of Discon I, the 1963 Worldcon. Retyped in 2001 by Tim Illingworth, from a copy of the original 1965 publication.]


Howard DeVore: Coping with Crises[edit]

I never got to tell Eney some of the things that happened to me; I might as well recount them here.

First, the next time you hold a con try to arrange to have the tables in the room before the con opens. Such an agreement will prevent my being nabbed by the hotel while busy stealing tables from back in the storage area. As usual, this was solved by the old Dollar Bill Method.

There was also a little problem in getting unloaded. Roger Sims, Gregg Trend and I started out in one car, following Broderick and Prophet in another car. We'd had breakfast with Marion Mallinger and Dirce Archer in Pittsburgh; I'd finished up the trip with them.

About 4:30 I'm in front of the hotel. Fred & Jim had dumped their load of my stock in Roger's car. I was watching Marion's car and driving Roger's car. I tried to locate a bell boy or the freight elevator. Finally I gave up, left the car parked in the loading area of the hotel, and walked around the hotel till I found the freight elevator ... including the big sign, "CLOSED AFTER 3 PM".

A conference with the bell captain brought the information that the elevator was closed and all the bell boys were busy, but if I'd wait in front of the hotel he would send one out soon to unload my boxes and carry them up to the second floor.

I had visions of the bell boy carrying sixty or seventy boxes upstairs at two bits a head. I walked back outside, got in the car, and parked it across the sidewalk in front of the freight elevator, then went back inside the hotel. In a few moments a bell boy passed me carrying a suitcase. I held a dollar bill in my hand and said: "Can you meet me back here in a few minutes?"

He made the round trip in less than five minutes. I held the bill out again and said, "I've got a carload of stuff outside and I'm in a hurry. If you can unlock that freight elevator, this is yours." He unlocked the door and I started stacking boxes. Twenty minutes later I had everything up in the display room!

You mentioned the rescue operation, so I'll fill in the details on that too. [7.02] It started out rather slowly. I was visiting the N3F room, somewhere after midnight, and the room phone rang. A voice said that some great big guy, with a convention badge, was passed out on the fourteenth floor and we should come get him. Janie Lamb had answered the phone; it sounded like a gag so she asked where the phoning fan was located. He was on the twelfth floor. Janie promised that we'd send someone up to check ... and if it was a gag we'd also check out the room where the phone call originated, and bring a house dick with us.

The voice had reported that the man was too big to move. Janie told me that it sounded like Fred Prophet; remembering the way Fred had been putting it away an hour earlier convinced me that if anyone was passed out it probably was Fred. I recruited a half dozen fans and away we went. There was no body on the floor in the fourteenth floor corridor; obviously, it was a gag.

I decided that such practices should be discouraged and on the way back down I stepped off the elevator at the twelfth floor. I was going to read the riot act to someone, until I stumbled over a body ... oh, so that's where you were! The fan phoning had simply quoted the wrong floor. I took one look at him -- it was a man mountain of a Canadian -- and decided I'd never move this one by myself! I shook him enough for him to mumble some words. Seems he didn't have a room: "I sip inna N-three-F room".

Apparently drink had mellowed me; instead of doing the obvious I went back to the N3F room and recruited Ken Krueger and another fan. The three of us managed to get him to the room and hung his head over the side of the bed. later, someone went through his pockets, found the room key, and transferred him to his own room.

These Kreugers are handy people to have around!

Bob Pavlat: Casual Reflections on Con Committees[edit]

Some unlucky night in the future someone inn the audience may catch me commenting on how easy it is to put on a convention. Ignore me. I don't know what I'm talking about. I don't to this day know what goes into putting on a convention. For me, it required less work than, say, an issue of Fanzine Index. I think EES (Evans, Eney and Scithers) correctly gauged the amount of work they thought they might be able to get out of me, and gave me that much and no more. It wasn't work.

I've heard Scithers, Evans and Eney say they didn't work either. I don't believe them. I know that Evans received and processed a tremendous amount of mail, requiring almost daily posting of books, replies to enquiries, mailout of material, and the like. Eney received Art Show materials [and sent them back afterward], mocked up and set up progress reports and the program book and did a lot of the printing. Scithers oversaw everything, set up the program items, made all masquerade ball arrangements including the band and special effects, corresponded with everyone under the sun, took care of Hugo bases and plates, did the printing with Eney's assistance, and too much else to remember. From my lofty diplomatic post I called the hotel and convention bureau a few times, wrote a couple of dozen letters, rendered a little assistance in folding programs and progress reports and stuffing envelopes, but certainly none of it was any strain.

I can't directly comment on the success of the Discon. I saw about 15 minutes of the auction, heard Evans' introduction of Seabury Quinn, and was present during the banquet and the business session. The rest of the time I was at the registration desk, or catching up on eating, or chasing down some member of the hotel staff (not that there was trouble, but there are always minor items like how about some more chairs, where the heck is the registration desk's telephone, and we've sold 300 banquet tickets and is it all right to go on or do you want to establish a cut-off time), or moving stuff to and from the room to the convention area. There is a lot to be done during the convention proper. Most of it seemed to me to go smoothly. We committed a few minor goofs by failing to anticipate certain things, but I think most of them went unnoticed. From these indications, from a few personal comments, and from a few notes in the fan press, the Discon was apparently at least a good convention.

There were three things the con committee wanted to do, which we talked over and agreed upon before the Chicago bid. First priority was to run on a budget, and not spend money until we could pinpoint exactly where the money would come from. This was never a problem -- we were in the black before we returned to DC from Chicago, and remained in the black throughout. The second was to run a fairly relaxed convention. This was achieved reasonably well, although despite George's attempts to keep the program relaxed there were still items vying for time. The third thing was a hope that we could prove that running a convention was not a man-killing job. We knew that some had claimed it was such a job, we knew fans previously involved with committees who wanted no further part of any future ones, and we knew of shattered friendships.

You seldom find workhorses like EES; that's possibly part of the reason nobody felt himself to be under any great con strain. We had almost no disagreement on the committee, and this of course helped. Our internal capability to print the booklets possibly helped some, as did the foresight of getting the Hugo Awards well in advance of the con (these were picked up at the 1962 Midwestcon). There was no financial strain, the hotel was beautifully cooperative, and there were many members of the club (and people outside the Washington area) who were willing to lend a hand.

The heavy work occurred in the last couple of weeks before the con, and resulted primarily from the printing of the Program Book. This is a sizable operation. It's as big a job as it is primarily because of the number of ads carried. I'm not sure if the ads are worth the effort. They probably are, if the money is needed. Scithers showed some sign of strain here (he was the man doing most of the work) but prior to the con this was the only sign of overwork on any one of the committee. The first day-and-a-half of the con were hectic -- would the hotel come through, has so-and-so arrived yet, we need more nickles for change and all the banks are closed, this is the last box of card-holders... Finally, though, it's banquet time, you can forget about the registration desk from here on out, no more banquet sales to fret about, the food is reasonably good for a banquet, and the master of ceremonies takes over.

I've seen a lot of advice given on how to run a convention. The advice that I was given most frequently was, "Don't get involved!" I helped some, and it was fun. From the Discon, I'm convinced that there are some things that are needed to put on a convention. You need a head man with good common sense and a sense of showmanship. You need a couple of reliable workers, as treasurer and editor. And you need from three to ten people, quite possibly teen-agers, who can handle a job without too much supervision. One more qualification for the head man -- he must know how to delegate, and have the knowledge of people required to delegate to the right man. Your three primary people must in general be able to get along together. If any group can meet these qualifications, then there's no good reason that they should be hesitant about putting on a convention. One thing the Washington committee did lack was the feminine point of view. There were no women on the committee, and all four of us are bachelors. Peggy Rae Mcknight helped lend the feminine touch in the last moments of preparation and during the con; advice like hers adds a little here and there.

A couple of people, former con members, have said it would be perfectly feasible and possible to put on a con in Las Vegas even if they lived in, let's say, Atlanta. I think they're right. There is a minimum essential amount of work. It only becomes a backbreaker if you want to do more than enough.

This has been George Scithers' The Con-Committee Chairman's Guide, published for the information and guidance of all concerned. Dick Eney, 6500 Fort Hunt Rd., Alexandria, Va. 22307. Permanently in print. 50ยข the copy. Operation Crifanac CCLXXVIII

Publication 1965
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