It was a great thrill to climb the steps to St. Louis's grand Central Library and find some excellent Sherlockians at the top waiting for the big bronze gates to open. Saying "hello" to old friends not seen in a while is always great, and the shade there was almost equally welcome, as the St. Louis sun does get hot. Getting inside, climbing the grand stair to the third floor (sadly, twenty steps per flight instead of the hoped-for seventeen), and finding a beautiful meeting room up there . . . all good. But for someone very used to an aging Sherlockian populace at the more traditional events, the greatest joy was to be found in the fact the registration and organization was being dealt with by mostly under-forty-year-olds.
Rob Nunn, one of said under-forty-year-olds, gave the opening remarks and thanked all those involved in putting it all together. Dr. Mary Schroeder came up next to talk about the reason that sparked this first event, the founding of the St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection at this very library. A lot of people and work was involved in putting something like that together, and they can all be very proud of the result. Mary had some great handouts including a colorful booklet with a 1939 portrait of Holmes reprinted on the cover. (Always love the handouts -- they're like the autographs of events.)
Bill Cochran steps up next, starting his talk with the fact that this library building was dedicated in 1895. He ties that to Vincent Starrett via the classic poem and uses Starrett's words to describe Sherlockiana itself. Bill's love of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockiana is always apparent when he's at the podium, and I've enjoyed hearing him for almost three decades now. (Damn, age sneaks up on you!) Bill covers a lot of Sherlockian life and lore, but eventually he pulls out a book.
It's a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, one of those old hardback editions that publishers both legit and pirate turned out en masse way back when. He got it used for two bucks, and it was teh very start of his collection. His very first Holmes book, well worn, spine pretty well shot, the way most of our first Holmes books wind up. Not collectible to anyone but ourselves, but one we cherish above so many others.
And from there, well, I'm doing more listening than typing here. Bill is strolling through the stories that you live through that show you what Sherlockians are, and I don't know if it's just the wonderful nostalgia they're bringing back for me or their just wonderful stories in themselves -- I definitely can't be a fair judge. When he gets to his first John Bennett Shaw conference, where I first met Bill, I am definitely not an unbiased observer.
But he ties it all back to the one book that got him started. That one most important book in a collection.
Onward with Holmes in the Heartland!