The thirty-seventh annual 2704 banquet of Peoria's Hansoms of John Clayton took place tonight.
That sentence seems a bit arcane these days, in an era of Sherlock Holmes fans who don't always follow the old Sherlockian society model. Peoria's home Holmes club was named in tribute to the hansom cab driven by John Clayton, which Sherlock tracked down by its number, 2704, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, and one has to be pretty well-up on the Holmes Canon to recognize the name of Clayton and something of a trivia expert to know number 2704.
But the Hansoms continue, and the old traditions are still observed.
This year, we dined at Jonah's Seafood House, where the Hansoms last held the September banquet on September 25, 1999 . . . in the last century no less. Our last dinner there had sixteen in attendance spread across a couple of tables and a lot more disorganization (the ancient Clayton Ritual was performed at only one of the two tables), but this 2014 edition, with seven members in attendance was much more focused.
Table favors of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman greeting us with a "Hello Hansom!" adorned every place setting and a classic club info brochure was brought out of retirement to give us a copy of the aforementioned Clayton Ritual for its responsive reading, led in good voice by Marla Serrine. A lively discussion of "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" that began in the Oyster Bar sometime before dinner continued through the courses, some discussion of the yesterday's vote against Scottish independence took place, and intermingled in was the usual host of other topics.
Eventually, after the largest servings of bread pudding anyone had ever seen, Starrett's 221B was recited from memory by the good Carter, and we began to disperse, finding our varying ways home along the river, across it, and beyond.
It was generally agreed that our next meeting should be planned with more than a week's notice, but given that short lead-up, as well as the noticed absence of two of our members, whom we all wished better health to in days ahead, it was a pretty darn good time.