holars of the 3-Pipe Problem
was born a mere 21 years ago (now 36) on Feb. 19, 1979 and took off quickly due to the enthusiam of our founder, John Shanks. On Jan. 4, an article with Sherlockian art work by Bob Turner appeared in the Nashville Tennessean that noted that things were happening all across the nation that week starting with New York to celebrate the 125th birthday of Sherlock Holmes on January the sixth.**
At the first meeting on Feb. 19, twenty-six Sherlockians gathered among the pewter and leather of the Cumberland Club and its Old London atmosphere. They'd been drawn by a three-inch announcement in the same newspaper. We put our preferred noms (canonical names) and addresses on the register, paid our dues, and recieved the first newsletter in March.
The second meeting was May 28 at the Showboat Restaurant and Lounge. By that time contacts and recognition had been received from the Baker Street Irregulars (Julian Wolff**), the Giant Rats of Sumatra (Judge Robert Lanier and lawyer Walter Armstrong, BSI), and the Red Circle of Washington, DC (presumably Peter Blau). A resolution was passed by Tennessee House of Representatives to commemorate the 125th birthday of Holmes.
Before the August 27 meeting, we received a larger than life publication with superior cover art work by Bob Turner. One article noted that Sherlock Holmes had visited Nashville in 1956. He came on Oct. 15, said it was "Ghastly!" that the theater he was opening in Paris (Tennessee) on Monday was 100 miles away. Watson was not with him. It is not known what Basil Rathbone and his lady friend did on their free Sunday in Nashville.
Other articles included "I Keep a Bull Pup" and "You Have Been to University, I Perceive." The latter was long, well referenced, and confident (Holmes went to Oxford in 1872, said John Shanks). Dr. Nunnally discussed the possiblity of smoking three pipe fulls in three minutes.
Thanks to the paperwork and other records that Shanks' kept and thanks to the fine newsletters produced by Co-editors Kay Blocker and Vicki Overstreet, we have a fairly good picture of those early years. The existence today of the Nashville Scholars is due mainly to the early efforts of these two ladies who worked tirelessly to keep the newsletter alive which was the lifeblood of the group in those early years.
Good thing because two weeks after the first meeting, I and my wife Susan left for Europe and was gone for 26 months. In absentia, we received the newsletters and kept up our interest in the Higher Criticism. When we returned, I eventually got in contact with the editors and learned that the meetings of the Scholars had gotten rarer and finally went into remission, especially after Shanks moved away to pursue university studies.
Along with charter member Herschell Watson and early joiner William Baker we began holding meetings at the Donelson Library again, and one by one, hand full by hand full, we grew. By the time the 1887 centennial of the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes book Study in Scarlet, Jim Hawkins had arrived in town from Oklahoma and got a full-page spread with art work and four well-written articles by journalists put into the Nashville Banner (the afternoon newspaper). Shortly afterwards, two carloads went to the University of William and Mary for John Bennett Shaw's** Centennial Seminar, a rousing success at which we met and talked at length with the likes of Michael Harrison, BSI officers Tom Stix, J.B. Shaw, and Bob Thomalen, Peter Blau, Ray Betzner (who hosted the gathering), and so many more.
I began making the rounds of nearby conferences, going immediately to the Sherlock Holmes Review Symposium at Bloomington (main campus of the Univeristy of Indiana) hosted by Steven Doyle and his compadres. There I met and talked with Jack Tracy, Eli Liebow, and Alvin Rodin, spent hours in the Lilly Library with Sherlockiana (was so thrilled when a major light like Rodin asked me while we looked at the manuscript of "The Red Circle": Where is that story in the canon? He whispered and I whispered back, in awe that I could tell him something. (At William and Mary, Michael Harrison asked me to help him remember the name of one of his books: "How many steps were there from Baker Street up to their 221 rooms, anyway?")
We were charged!
(Submitted by Gael Stahl / 2000) | And now a milestone for the Nashville Scholars: BSI Members
1. Julian Wolff -article published in Friends of the S Holmes Collection, U of MN
Holmes' birthday was celebrated in San Marino, Italy: Stamp issue
3. John Bennett Shaw, part of our Three Pipe Problem Friends section