Today marked the end of a forty-five year era in Illinois Sherlockiana, the time of the Occupants of the Empty House.
Most Sherlockian societies don't know that their last meeting is their last meeting as it occurs. There's just a next meeting that never quite happens, and that last meeting was their actual very last meeting.
And nobody wants a good thing to end, but as Bill Cochran explained today it's sometimes better to call it quits while it is still good, and not drawing matters out until things just don't work. Societies are made up of people, and people are limited in their span, as much as we should hope for more.
Saying good-bye to the "queen" of Illinois scion societies in the same week as Queen Elizabeth II seems to match up somehow. We'll let some Chicago scion claim Kingship, and maybe it's my downstate loyalties, but I shall always think of the Occupants of the Empty House as the best of our state's Sherlockian societies.
I was first introduced to the Occupants in meeting and getting to know Newt Williams at a John Bennett Shaw workshop up in the Chicago suburbs in 1983, about five years into the group's existence. He invited the good Carter and myself to come visit their group at some point, which we did soon after. Getting to know Bill Cochran and Gordon Speck, the group's traveling goodwill ambassadors, eventually followed, along with getting to the required two-consecutive-meetings to become a member. The Occupants' meetings were a five hour drive during the era of 55 MPH speed limits, and usually required an overnight stay, but they were always worth it.
Today's final dinner meeting began at 3 PM, and with a four hour drive there (stopping to pick up Rob Nunn a couple of hours in) and a four hour drive home, it made for a day of mostly driving just to attend one dinner meeting, but for the very last meeting of a group whose contributions to my Sherlockian life were pretty darn huge -- not a problem.
There were about fifteen of us in attendance for the last meeting of the Occupants of the Empty House. Members who had been there from the club's early days, St. Louis friends of the club, and all the rest enjoyed some stories of days past, an excellent Alongi's dinner, and a chance to applaud all that came before. And then, as ever, a long drive back . . . but always worth it.
The Empty House of Southern Illinois will now go un-Occupied. But, hey, it was a really good run, and I'm glad they got to see their finish line and recognize it, rather than looking back in regret once it was long past.
Thanks for everything, Occupants.