Midwestcon 4

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Midwestcon 4, aka the 4th Annual Midwest Conference, was a relaxacon held May 16–17, 1953, at Beatley's on Indian Lake, Russells Point, Ohio, organized by C. L. Barrett, Roy Lavender, Louis Tabakow, Stan Skirvin and Don Ford.

Attendance, about 130, included Ray Beam, Jerry Bixby, Bob Bloch, Norman G. Browne, Arthur C. Clarke, Howard DeVore, Sybil DeVore, Ted Dikty, Judy Dikty, Harlan Ellison, Carol Emshwiller, Ed Emshwiller, Bette Farmer, Philip José Farmer, Harriet Fellas, Margaret Ford, Beverly Garrett, Randall Garrett, Horace Gold, Bill Grant, Marty Greenberg, Dean Grennell, Jack Harness, Andy Harris, Lee Hoffman, David Ish, Ken Krueger, Dave Kyle, Deedee Lavender, Ian T. Macauley, Ned McKeown, Shirley McKeown, Karl Olsen, Earl Perry, Frank Robinson, Hal Shapiro, Larry Shaw and Bob Tucker.

It was an eventful weekend. This was the last Midwestcon held at Beastley's on the Bayou for a number of reasons:

  1. The hotel turned away Bev Clark, an Indiana fan, due to their Jim Crow policy (this was 10 years before the Civil Rights Act); Buck Coulson and Gene DeWeese left with her. Harlan Ellison expressed outrage, but remained.
  2. Ellison and a group of young cronies spent the weekend parading around with a bright red birdbath, proclaiming the rise of 7th Fandom and other rowdiness.
  3. An unrelated incident also no doubt contributed to Midwestcon’s move. In Mimosa 16 (December 1994), Roy Lavender and Bob Tucker tell the story:
Lavender: ...Beatley's was used to incidents -- they had the American Legion in there at times. But those incidents did cause a certain amount of uproar. One involved Randall Garrett and a lady from Cincinnati -- he was climbing on the dresser and leaping into bed, yelling 'Geronimo!' And then the bed gave out and collapsed. Mrs. Beatley's son, who was on night duty, came up to see what had happened, and in the ensuing discussion, the whole thing moved out into the hallway. The lady came out, wrapped in a blanket. Somebody stepped on the blanket, and when she ran down the hall, the blanket stayed behind. And in the ensuing discussion, Mrs. Beatley's son cold-cocked Randall, but he hurt his hand in doing so. So the next day, at the banquet, we presented him with a blackjack.

Tucker: I remember Randall Garrett and his lady well, because my room was right across the hall; I was in bed, but not asleep, if you follow me. So when I heard the noise, I got up, opened my door, walked out and watched the whole damn thing.

Philip José Farmer was more explicit in “The Man Who Came for Christmas” (The Best of Randall Garrett, 1982, Robert Silverberg, ed.). The Farmers were sharing a room with Garrett and his then wife, who were supposedly trying to reconcile after a separation. It evidently didn’t go well, since the 5-foot, 90-pound Beverly Garrett knocked down her 6-foot, 190-pound husband after finding somebody else’s lace panties in his jacket pocket. Garrett got up and went off, and after a while, Farmer went looking for him.

Wandering down Beastley’s corridors, I heard a terrible commotion just around the corner. 

I turned it just as a young woman, naked, all her clothes under one arm, and screaming, ran past me. Then Randall, all his clothes clutched to his chest, sped by me.  Behind him came the manager’s son and the hotel dick, their faces scarlet with rage....

He finally confessed that he’d met an old flame in the bar, and, after many drinks, they’d gone to her room — they thought. But it was the room next to hers, which was unlocked, and Randall had bolted the door. Some time later, the legal occupant had tried to get in but was told by Randall to beat it. 

The hoteliers were called and Garrett told them off, too. They broke down the door, and Mrs. Beatley’s son slugged Garrett in the eye, but the couple got away.

Beatley's, 1952.

Tucker wrote about the con in a one-shot, Indian Lake....There I Went. He gave further details of the hotel move in his Midwestcon 5 conrep; see Beatley's.

He published this account, as well, in Science Fiction Newsletter 29 (Summer 1953):

THE INDIAN LAKE CONFERENCE: came off on schedule again this year (May 16-17) at Beatley’s Hotel, Russells Point, Ohio. 117 persons registered at the lake resort hostlery, with perhaps a dozen more staying nearby; they came from the larger and smaller cities of the midwest, from England, Canada, Georgia and New York City. The rainy week-end stillness was often punctured by firecrackers, sinister cries in the night, and several young gentlemen calling themselves "Seventh Fandom," who marched-and-chowdered on the front sidewalks. As usual, Doc Barrett played host, assisted by Don Ford, Roy Lavender, and the central Ohio fan groups.

Principal speaker was Arthur C. Clarke, paying his second visit to the States. Clarke revealed he has ten books coming off the presses In the next two years (including a collection of short stories from Ballantine), and promises to stop writing for a while. He exhibited color slides taken on last year’s journey across the country, and also offered a tape recording for those who wished to listen in his room -- noise in the hall made it al­most impossible to hear there. Other brief speakers were Frank Robinson, Phillip Jose Farmer, Ned McKeown, Ted and Judy Dikty, and Harland Ellison, who presented a gold plaque to Arthur Clark for the meritous work done in the science fiction field.

Unscheduled entertainment was provided by Randy Garrett; and also by Ray Beam, who managed a next-to-imposslble feat with a Beatley table knife. Dr. Barrett repaired the damage with three stitches, the second time over the week-end that such needlework was necessary. Many slides were shown in addition to Clarke’s, including a hundred or more taken on an European trip by Shirley McKeown. "Old Woodchuck" Grant exhibited movies of previous Lake conferences and past national conventions. Serious constructive fans playing poker in the "sun rooms" at the end of each corridor were constantly annoyed by the sounds of weeping women, people discussing "very old ancient archaic languages," and the house dick merrily tossing bounders out of young ladies’ rooms.

In his conreport, “Concerning That Midwestcon Fiasco” in SF (December 1953, p. 26), a shocked Harlan Ellison called the weekend “nothing more than a GLORIFIED SEX ORGY!”

Bob Bloch, however, was moved to poesy in the pages of Peri 3 (April 1954, p. 9), a British fanzine:

Ode Upon the Midwescon

At Indian Lake, near Bellefontaine
Despite the bitter cold and raine
Within the halls of Hotel Beatley
Were packed eight-score of fans quite neatley.
The Midwestcon was the occasion.
For a turnout quite amazion.
For gossip, fangabs and plain talk 
They came from Cleveland and New Yalk,
From Chicago and Detroit
They rode by day and rode by noight
To hear the reknowned Arthur Clarke
(Whose bite is far worse than his barke).
Sponsored by Don Ford and Doc Barrett
This annual meeting has much merett
Although this year Bea Mahaffey
Was not there to display her chassey. 
The Southern fans, with their White Mule
Caused some to retch and some to drule;
The northern bunch mostly played poker
(The favourite sport of Wilson Toker) 
While hucksters Greenburg, Gold and Kyle   
Looked on with condescending smyle
And fans like Shapiro and Ellison
Sought for food to stuff their bellies on.
But the two days passed much too quickly
'Ere Monday's sun rose pale and suickly
To speed departures at the break
Of dawn over Indian Leak.
Next year, though, we meet again
And invite all you English fain
To journey over fjord and bayou
And join us down there in Ohayou.
                     --Robert Bloch

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