THE MINNEAPOLIS FANTASY SOCIETY
Redd Boggs (1962):
Dear Mr. Campbell:
It was on 8 October, 1940 that John Chapman sent out the first invitations to fans in the Twin Cities area to attend the initial meeting of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society. This act signalled the end of the three-year period of informal fellowship among the "Unholy Five" that had continued since the failure of the Minneapolis SFL and the beginning of the most active and productive era in the history of Minnesota fandom.
The first meetings of the club took place on Friday, 29 November, 1940 at the home of Clifford D. Simak. The total attendance was nine ("Ten if you want to count the Simak pooch, Squanchfoot"), with several other interested fans being unable to attend that evening. Simak was elected temporary director, and Chapman temporary secretary-treasurer. They were elected to full terms with the third meeting; Saari became assistant director. Carl Jacobi, Samuel D. Russell, and Chapman were given the task of drawing up a constitution for the club, and this constitution--largely written by Jacobi-- was adopted at the second meeting, 20 December, 1940. Although the MFS was intended primarily as a social organization, "simply to let us enjoy one another's company," the MFS constitution also set down two definite aims: to stimulate interest in fantasy in the Twin Cities; and to make the name of Society notable throughout fandom. The first aim was probably never realized but, as Sam Russell foretold in an early article (THE FANTASITE #2, February, 1941), the MFS did make its mark during the next few years.
The names of some of the attendees at the historic first meeting are unknown to your historian, but Bronson was probably present, and Arden Benson surely was, for he is said to have inaugurated, with this very first meeting, the famous MFS custom of winding up the evening with a visit to the New Elgin Cafe in downtown Minneapolis for a bullfest over coffee and sandwiches. "Regardless of the time," reports John Chapman in "MFS Notes," THE FANTASITE #4, "it's accepted that the better half of the crowd will drift for the New Elgin after each meeting. Unless the management brings a complaint. You see, we're still wondering how Bronson accidentally (?) didn't pay his check a couple of months ago." (Thereupon Bronson promised to pay the management "their nickel the very next time I'm in town.") The New Elgin Cafe disappeared years ago, but it probably occupied the space occupied today [ie. in 1961] by the Cafe DiNapoli, across the street from the State Theatre at 816 Hennepin Avenue.
A group photograph was taken of thse present at the third meeting, 10 January, 1941, and was published on the front cover of the February, 1941 issue of THE FANTASITE. In the picture Arden Benson (holding Squanchfoot, Simak's scottie, adopted as the club mascot), Charles Albertson, Oliver Saari, Ken Peterson, Sam Russell, John Chapman, Clifford Jacobi, Cyril Eggum, Douglas Blakely, and Phil Bronson. Not present, and so not in the picture, were Fred Magner, Sherman Schultz, and Bill Campbell.
Cyril Eggum went south with the National Guard soon afterward and was stationed at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. To my knowledge, he played no further part in fan affairs. Bill Campbell, a one-time Astounding letterhack mentioned in a previous chapter, soon dropped out of the MFS, but all the others continued to play active roles in it for years to come. Carl Jacobi was the well known fantasy and Weird Tales writer who had also been present at the 1937 SFL meeting reported in the last chapter. One of the few Minneapolis-born members of the MFS, Jacobi had been a successful author of weird, fantasy, adventure, and detective fiction since his student days at the University of Minnesota, where he had known Don Wandrei, another well known fantasy writer. One of Jacobi's earliest stories was "Hive," written for a contest but eventually printed in Weird Tales. He later became a WT regular, contributing such stories as "The Phantom Pistol," "The Satanic Piano," and "Revelations in Black," the latter being the title story of his Arkham House collection. Besides freelance writing, Jacobi edited various publications, including Mideast Media, a local trade journal. He still lives in Minneapolis.
On 23 May 1941, an MFS meetings was held at Carl Jacobi's cabin on Red Cedar Point, Lake Minnetonka, which he had built as "a place to work in quiet and solitary retreat, a place where great masterpieces would be written." (He admitted that, though he went there to write, he preferred to fish or putter around, and "not one yarn has come from the cabin on Red Cedar Point.") A photo of the attendees at that meeting was taken by Morris Dollens by the light of kerosene lamps. In the photo are Simak, Russell, Dale Rostomily, Dollens himself, Jacobi, Albertson, Saari, Chapman, and Peterson.
Though one of the earliest MFS members, and one who remained a member for many years, Dale Rostomily is one of those fans who is severely local. He wrote little or nothing for any of the club publications, and his reputation as a "character" was thus limited to those who met him face to face. Morris Dollens had reappeared in fandom at one of the early meetings of the MFS and, as Chapman remarked, he seemed to have spent the four years since turning the SCIENCE FICTION COLLECTOR over to John V. Baltadonis in making "a thorough study of cinema arts, photo arts, and just plain art." He worked in a St Paul photo studio, was an excellent cameraman and cinematographer, and an accomplished engineer and sound man as well.
Dollens showed up at MFS meetings lugging many suitcases full of photographic and sound equipment, and fascinated MFS members soon found themselves scripting and acting in brief science fiction movies and recording science fiction plays. While many hundreds of feet of documentary material concerning MFS activities were shot over the next three years, few of the more ambitious film projects that were planned seem to have gotten under way. One of these, a movie to be titled "A Day in the Life of an SF Fan," snagged on the difficulty of persuading Ollie Saari to play the lead. Some of the record plays put on shellac by Dollens' disc recorder were more successful, and several of these plays were sent around fandom during the 1941-1943 era. The first attempt at recording a play took place at the 14 June 1941 meeting at which a short script by Sam Russell, "The Soaksack" was recorded, the principal roles being played by Russeli himself and Doug Blakely, Later sessions produced "Stroke," a science fiction play by John Chapman (printed as a story in Science Fiction Quarterly, Summer 1942) and "The After-Life," a fantasy by Oliver E. Saari. Many impromptu ad lib recordings, "too numerous and undignified to mention," were cut as well, though Dollens' disc recorder was far less useful for this purpose than the tape recorder, developed years later.
Not all recordings were dramatic or casual in nature. Many recordings were made of MFS activities, including a speech given at the 21 September 1941 meeting by Donald Wandrei. The author of numerous fantasy and science fiction tales such as "Colossus,", "Blinding Shadows," "The Red Brain," and co-founder, with August Derleth, of Arkham House, Wandrei had been a member of the Lovecraft circle, and his talk was a fascinating account of various fantasy notables he had met. These included HPL himself, Clark Ashton Smith, Farnsworth Wright, Harry Bates, August Derleth, and many others. One of the highlights of this speech was Wandrei's description of "an ice cream orgy" indulged in by HPL and Wandrei at a Rhode Island establishment that stocked 28 flavours of ice cream. Lovecraft insisted on sampling all 28 varieties before he quit. (This incident and others relating to HPL are told in Wandrei's "The Dweller in Darkness: Lovecraft, 1927" in Marginalia, Arkham House, 1940.
Another recording, made almost impromptu at the 3 July 1941 meeting, on the eve of the Denvention, consisted of greetings from the MFS to the fans gathered at Denver. The idea was brought forth, probably by Director Simak, halfway through the meeting, and the record was promptly cut, hurriedly wrapped and sent airmail, arriving at the con hotel about 16 hours after the idea was conceived. Shortly after its founding, the MFS began to meet biweekly rather than monthly, and this custom continued with only a few interruptions for as long as the "old" MFS survived. Meetings continued to be well-attended through the summer of 1941 despite the absence of some members on vacation. Phil Bronson spent the summer on the west coast, and attended the Denvention over the Independence Day weekend, becoming--so far as your historian knows--the first Minnesota fan to attend a science fiction convention. Bronson stayed at the home of Lew Martin in Denver, and later spent a week in Oakland as the guest of the well known Bay Area fan Tom Wright. During this excursion, Bronson made many fan contacts that helped bring the MFS and his fanzine, THE FANTASITE, to national prominence.
Bronson had arrived in fandom late in 1939, appearing as a letterhack with letters in the January and February, 1940 issues of Thrilling Wonder Stories. (The latter letter showed his address to be New York City, but this was presumably a printer's error.) Bronson was an artist of considerable talent. His first attempt at publishing a fanzine was SCIENTI-COMICS, an imitation comic-book first issued in May 1940. This fanzine folded after two issues, and Bronson's second attempt, THE FANTASITE, was launched about the same time that the MFS, with Bronson as a charter member, was organised. Bronson never wrote fiction for the prozines, but in later years he became a newspaperman, partly as a result of his experience in writing and editing THE FANTASITE.
Bronson lived in Hastings, Minnesota, during this early period, commuting to meetings and between-meetings events. He was largely instrumental in introducing several new members from Hastings, most notably Rod Allen, who planned a fanzine to be called FANOTES which seems never to have appeared, and Frances Blomstrand, a 17 year old girl who became associate editor of THE FANTASITE for several issues and, incidentally, one of the few female members in the entire history of the MFS.
Your historian attended his first MFS meeting sometime in the late summer or early autumn of 1941 and, while memories have grown vague after 20 years, a few facts remain in mind. John Chapman drove me to the meeting, which was held in North Minneapolis, probably at the home of either Arden Benson or Sam Russell. I remember confronting Simak, Bronson, Saari, Russell, Benson, Dollens, Peterson, and probably others at this meeting. Peterson, I remember, was lugging an original painting he had just finished, which depicted a scene from "At the Mountains of Madness"; perhaps he intended to auction it off. I cannot recall the details of the programme for that evening, but I do remember listening to a record ("The only fanzine with round edges"), a disc produced by Walter J. Daughtery, Forrest J Ackerman, and the LASFS. I also heard some of the recent MFS recordings, including Chapman's "Stroke." This play contained the famous bit of dialogue that fascinated MFSers for months and - years to come: "What is *that*?" "It's a machine."
After the meeting, many of the members descended on the New Elgin Cafe where a bull session continued for an hour or two, and later, as an impromptu piece of skylarking, we organized a touch football game which was carried on with great zest and hilarity in the wan moonlight of the athletic field of some public park. This game and further high jinks continued far into the small hours of the morning.
Great Days of the MFS
Although Cyril Eggum of the National Guard was lost to the MFS early in 1941 and Bob Madsen had become a midshipman at Annapolis shortly before, the only leading MFS member who was drafted into service before Pearl Harbor was Doug Blakely, who became Private Blakely of Camp Callan, California, in September or October, 1941. (Later he was stationed at Fort Baker, California, and visited various Bay Area fans while on pass.) Before leaving for California, Blakely was treated to a final night on the town by Saari and Benson and was poured aboard a Fort Snelling streetcar after the last bar closed up. His departure from the Fort was delayed and he turned up at Saari's next day firmly insisting that he had wakened in a taxicab the previous night, with the driver loudly demanding his fare. The mystery of how he had ended up in a cab after being hoisted aboard a trolley was never cleared up.
Blakely was widely regarded as the sparkplug of the MFS; nevertheless, his departure did not noticeably reduce the rampant enthusiasm exhibited by the club as it passed its first anniversary. Samuel D. Russell took over as MFS director for 1942, and interest continued so high that in the intervening week between regular meetings an informal gathering usually took place. The Hastings contingent often travelled up to North St Paul on Sunday afternoon to make use of Dollens' endlessly fascinating cameras and recorder or merely to listen to his "millions of records and albums." Other weekends Dollens transported his photographic and sound equipment down to Hastings for a session at Bronson's. Other groups in the MFS often met informally as well, but despite such tendencies the club never subdivided into warring cliques as so often happens with such organizations.
Sam Russell, the new director, was known as the scholar of the MFS and became famous among members as an author, playwright, critic, and actor. He had graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1940, and afterward attended business school, meantime working also as a script writer for the University radio station, WLB (now KUOM). He had begun to read science fiction in 1934 and since then had amassed an impressive, almost encyclopedic knowledge of the literature by reading every book and magazine he could buy or borrow. It was proverbial among MFS members that the bookcard for every fantasy book at the U or the city library was inscribed with Sam's name. "He's our briefcase boy," reported Squanchfoot in a profile of SDR, "always ready with the facts or perhaps a brief history of fantasy or an anthology of H. G. Wells or a new recording script or almost anything of unusual interest.... And his vocabulary is as inexhaustible as his dignity, the latter being one of his better contributions to the society." One time he wrote a letter of comment on THE FANTASITE - which in the magazine ran two full single-spaced elite-typed pages - on a single postal card, writing in a "microscopic hand" that could not be read without the use of a powerful magnifying glass. Russell, sometimes known to MFSers as E. Throttletwitch Gankbottom, became famous to fandom at large as a literary. critic, partly because of his painstaking book reviews in THE FANTASITE and partly from his contributions a few years later to Laney's Acolyte, which he served as associate editor during mast of its California period. His long and penetrating article on M. R. James in THE ACOLYTE, was particularly important.
John Chapman gave posterity an excellent picture of the "old" MFS at its zenith in the instalment of "WFS Notes" he wrote for THE FANTASITE annish. At the meeting he reported, that of 23 January, 1942, no fewer than 19 fans showed up at Sam Russell's house, arriving from St Paul, North St Paul, and Hastings, as well as Minneapolis. Members began to arrive about 7 p.m., and lounged around, watching Dollens assemble his "maze" of recording equipment, or inspected Russell's fantasy collection (adjudged second only to Saari's in the Minneapolis area; Russell's was superior on Weird Tales, which Saari disdained), or discussed the latest Astounding. Director Russell called the meeting to order about 8:45 p.m. There followed a discussion on the question of whether the 1942 Pacificon should be held, and the club put itself on record as favouring the cancellation, of all "world" cons for the duration of the war.
Uncertainty about the future, due to America's recant involvement in World War II, was perhaps the keynote of the meeting. Bronson was struck by a brainstorm, suggesting that everybody present record a message to the *next* MFS--"the organization that exists after the duration." This was done, although it is unlikely that this disc has survived or at least was ever played for the benefit of the postwar MFS. A science fiction quiz followed, and Donald Wandrei was stumped frequently on questions that concerned his own stories. "Did I write that?" he asked more than once. Bronson proved to be the quiz kid of the group.
The meeting broke up about 12:30, and everybody who could cram into Saari's '35 Nash headed downtown for the New Elgin Cafe. Some time afterward, concludes Chapman, "we managed to thwart Rostomily's urge to lead us into a shooting gallery, boarded the Saari auto once more, and limped home."
During the meeting, four new members had been voted into the Society, although for some of them it was their first meeting and the MFS constitution decreed that a new fan had to attend two consecutive meetings before becoming eligible for membership. This difficulty was removed when Director Russell adjourned the meeting and immediately called another meeting to order. The four new members were Don Wandrei, Paul Koppes, Manson Brackney, and Gordon Dickson. Wandrei was drafted into the service shortly afterward, and Koppes, a Hastings friend of Bronson's, soon disappeared from the fan scene, but Brackney and Dickson became important MFS members. Both were University students whom Saari had recruited on campus.
Manson Brackney is another MFS member whose local fame overshadowed that of several other members better known to fandom at large. Although he wrote for MFS publications, was on the stiff of THE FANTASITE, and even published two issues of his own fanzine, BER-R-R-ECK!, 'Manse" or "Brack" as he was celled was even more fabulous in person: "Squanchfoot" characterized him as "a friendly chap, with an overabundance of energy" and was of the opinion that he would make a good travelling salesman, mentioning his "unequalled fondness for blondes, brunettes, redheads, blondes, redheads, brunettes, and women." One of his main interests in life was "'corn' of any size, shape, colour, or variety," particularly honky-tonk piano. Sometimes forgotten in later years, when his interest had declined, is the fact that Brackney began reading the prozines as early as 1935 and had a wide knowledge of early science fiction. Incidentally, he had intended to reply to the old Minneapolis SFL announcement in the June, 1937 Thrilling Wonder Stories, but neglected ever to mail the letter he wrote.
One of the old MFS members who made good in later years us a professional writer, Gordon Rupert Dickson was a friendly, cheerful eighteen-year-old in 1942. He had begun to read science fiction in 1938, and the first fan he ever met was Manson Brackney, a fellow student at the U. During those years it was said that the easiest way to contact him, or Brackney, was to go up to the balcony of the Union, where he spent most of his time. Dickson soon became a prolific contributor to THE FANTASITE and other MFS publications, his "Fan Scratchings" column becoming particularly popular. His first appearance in fanzines outside those published locally was in the September 1942 SPACEWAYS which ran the MFS chapter of the round-robin serial, "If I Werewolf," largely the product of Gordy's pen. Dickson contributed one of the most famous of 'Famous Sayings by Club Members' on Halloween night 1942 when the MFS threw a combination meeting and surprise party in honour of his birthday. Everybody presented him with a pack of his favourite cigarettes, Philip Morris - except one person who somehow brought an alien brand. Ignoring the imposing heap of Philip Morris packs, Gordy's first comment was, "Who brought the Old Golds?"
The meeting of 8 February 1942, at John Gergen's, saw a less astonishing turnout than the one for 23 January, and the program was far more informal. The only item of importance was the beginning of a comprehensive review of Weinbaum's science fiction given by Sam Russell--although possibly this talk was not begun till the meeting of 22 February. The records in this case are ambiguous. At any rate, Russell's "Weinbaum talk" became part of the MFS legend, not alone for its excellence and general interest, but largely for the reason that Russell so frequently managed to postpone continuing it at later meetings. After some success, luck ran against him at the 17 April meeting, and he was, he reported later, "forced to discourse interminably on SW's hackier work, while members wandered idly in and out of the room." This still did not complete the talk, and on 19 July he managed to evade the necessity of continuing it only by delivering another talk he had prepared, this one on the science fiction of Frank K. Kelly. He finally concluded the Weinbaum talk at the meeting of 13 November, 1944 - nine months after beginning it.
One of the main events in the history of science fiction during this era--at least for MFS members--was the publication of the short short story "The Door" in the November 1941 Astounding. John Chapman admitted, "There's nothing unusual about it--it's just like any other short short story you'll come across. You may not like it at all." But the story had an unusual history: it was, essentially, an MFS silly story, and it had been born in the feverish minds of two Minneapolis fans in the winter of 1938. Other fans were introduced to the joke, or the story, and the yarn was gradually developed by being tossed around at every fan gathering for the next two years, till nearly every fan in the area had a hand in it. The very first meeting of the Minneapolis Fantasy Society, in November 1940, saw the discussion revived yet again after having been dropped for a time. At the second meeting Oliver Saari decided in desperation to write the story and thus dispose of it once and for all. He not only wrote it, but submitted it to Campbell. He nearly keeled over when a check arrived by return mail. "The Door" was published under Saari's byline, but since the MFS as a whole had helped write it, Saari turned part of the check over to the MFS treasury.
By the autumn of 1942 the great days of the "old" MFS were drawing to a close. Now that America had entered the war members were being drafted at an accelerating pace, and other MFSers were talking about migrating to the west coast. There was time, however, for one more happy event, this being the trek of a quartet of MFS members to the Michiconference, held at the Otsego Hotel of Jackson, Michigan, on 26 September 1942. Phil Bronson, Sam Russell, Manson Brackney, and 0llie Saari drove down in Saari's '35 Nash that had once belonged to Doug Blakely, stopping en route on both the outward and the return trip to visit Illinois fans Walt Liebscher, Frank Robinson, Niel DeJack, Bob Tucker, and others).
This epic journey, described at length by Brackney in US Bulletin Vol. 1, No. 6, and at even greater length by Bronson in an article titled "Via Stfnash" in THE FANTASITE #10, took four days and was, according to Bronson, even more enjoyable than the Denvention. During the trip Bronson won the nickname of "The Shamrock Kid" due to his sudden predilection for a green beverage of that name. Possibly under the pleasant influence of this concoction the Shamrock Kid almost hurtled to his doom at the Otsego Hotel by dashing blindly through a door that turned out to lead to the fire escape. When the MFS cavalcade passed through Jackson en route to the Torcon in 1948, Brackney pointed out to your historian where the X marking the grease spot would have been drawn had not Brackney grabbed Bronson just in time to prevent him from soaring off into space.
Last Days of the MFS
For nearly a year after Pearl Harbor, it looked as though the Minneapolis Fantasy Society (MFS) might survive World War II without too much difficulty. New members like Gordon Dickson, Manson Brackney, Art Osterlund, and Sheldon Araas were being recruited faster than the armed forces were grabbing the old ones. Oliver Saari and Arden "Buns" Benson, as seniors in the Institute of Technology at the University (1942-3), were exempt from the draft; John L. Gergen was too young to register; and many MFS members were rejected - so many, in fact, that at the end of 1942, Manson Brackney remarked wryly, "If things in the MFS keep going as they have been...we shall have to be known henceforth as the M(4F)S."
As you will remember from the previous chapters, Doug Blakely had been drafted shortly before Pearl Harbor, while Cyril Eggum went into service with the National Guard and Bob Madsen accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. After 7 December 1941, many MFS members received draft notices, but Donald Wandrei and John Chapman were the first to leave. Wandrei left shortly after formally joining the MFS in January 1942. Chapman had married in February 1942, but this did not prevent him from being inducted a few months later. Incidentally, he and I were members of the same school squadron at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, presumably at almost the same time, but neither of us was aware of the other's presence till too late. Rod Allen was drafted during the summer of 1942.
Though eligible for the draft, Clifford Simak was accepted for a civilian job with army intelligence soon after Pearl Harbor and was sent to Seattle, expecting to remain there for the duration. Carl Jacobi and Morris Dollens expected to be drafted shortly, and Director Samuel D. Russell received his notice at the end of April 1942. Against this background of uncertainty, a hastily convened meeting took place on 8 May 1942, and the attendees decided that the MFS should suspend till after the war. They vested authority to reconvene the MFS after V Day - or whenever appropriate - with Phil Bronson. Unfortunately a quorum was not present at this meeting, and some of the members objected to the sudden action taken; therefore, another and larger meeting was held on 22 May to reconsider the matter. At this meeting, the MFS lost no time in reversing the original decision and reactivating the club. The new-found optimism derived largely from two factors: Director Russell announced that he had been rejected by the army, and Clifford Simak suddenly decided to return to Minneapolis for the duration.
For several months thereafter, the MFS vibrated with almost unprecedented energy and enthusiasm. Meetings and between-meetings activity continued at a steady pace; as in the palmiest days. John Gergen brought out the first issue of his general fanzine, TYCHO, and followed it With the first issue of a newssheet titled the MFS BULLETIN. Phil Bronson published the ninth issue of THE FANTASITE shortly afterward, and the MFS found itself faunching for new projects to tackle. In the autumn of 1942, at the Michiconference held in Jackson, Michigan, the MFS agreed to publish Jack Speer's FANCYCLOPEDIA, then in the planning stage. Unfortunately, the MFS became moribund before this work [which was then] published in 1944 by the LASFS. That same autumn the MFS also divulged plans to complete at last the long-proposed MFS History. This was intended to be a booklet running about thirty pages, with the writeup done by Sam Russell and Gordon Dickson. To the knowledge of your historian, this history was never published, and the present work is the only one that has been written.
In the autumn of 1942, Phil Bronson decided to migrate to the West Coast. This was a momentous decision for the MFS, because the club ultimately wound up losing almost as many members to the LASFS as to the U.S. Army. "Phil is rather pessimistically inclined toward the draft situation," reported the MFS BULLETIN Vol. 2, No. 1, "and wants to be with his family in Santa Monica) when he has to go. After making and scrapping, several tentative plans, Bronson announced that he intended to leave on Thursday noon, 13 December 1942, and that Morris Dollens - who had recently been placed in 4F - had decided to accompany him.
Bronson, who had been living in Minneapolis, moved back to Hastings to prepare for the migration, and during the weekend following the regular MFS meeting of 28.November - held Saturday instead of Friday so that members could attend the Minneapolis Symphony concert at which Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony was performed - Bronson played host to the hordes of Minnesota fans who descended on Hastings to wish him bon voyage. He claimed after that the mob consumed "two hundred sandwiches, eight troughs of potato chips, six jars of pickles, six dozen doughnuts, and 95 cups of coffee," not to mention the numberless bottles of beer, conveniently chilled on the back porch, which they guzzled. The party was so lively and so well attended that a sheet was hastily mimeographed to proclaim the occasion as the First Hastings Stf Con.
The tenth issue of THE FANTASITE partly mimeod by Bronson and Brackney before the HastingsCon began, was published before Bronson left for California. This was the final Minnesota issue of this famous fanzine, although two more issues (May-June 1943, and February 1944) were published from Los Angeles. Bronson left as scheduled, despite Saari's last-minute attempts to dissuade him, and though there seemed to be some uncertainty about his plans right up to the last minute, Dollens accompanied him (Dickson accused Bronson of Dollensnapping). Four nights later the two migrants attended a LASFS meeting - about twenty fans, in all were present - and the day after that held an MFS rump session in Santa Monica when Private Rod Allen, on a three-day pass from Camp Young, California, called on Dollens and Bronson.
A regular MFS meeting was held in St. Louis Park the same evening, at the home of Clifford D. Simak; only six members were present. The following meeting, at John Gergen's, drew eight attendees, but it was obvious that the era of large gatherings was over for the duration. The emphasis henceforth was on informality. "Instead of attempting to hold regular meetings with the sparse attendances, what with most of our members gone or going into the armed services, we get together and have interesting time talking," reported John Gergen, adding, "and indeed, we had a very fine meeting." During this period, Sam Russell, Manson Brackney, Gordon Dickson, Oliver Saari, Charles Albertson, and Art Osterlund were the most regular attendees aside from John Gergen himself. Arden Benson, Carl Jacobi, and Clifford Simak were still in Minneapolis but were seldom able to attend meetings.
Meetings were often held at Gergen's home in Southeast Minneapolis and were held at frequent intervals. Gordon Dickson wrote in the MFS BULLETIN #18, February 8 1943:
The MFS is at present a little bewildered - and who can blame us? Our compound befuddlement is the result of the frequent meetings Gergen has been calling of late.... Our meetings of late have been on the rapid-fire order. I bumped into Saari on the campus today - and Benson. "Coming to the meeting at Gergen's Sunday?" I asked. "God!" shrieked Ollie, "another? I just left the last one the other day!" He collapsed into a snow drift. Buns threw a handful of snow in his face. "Poor boy," sighed a passing coed sympathetically and dropped a nickel into Ollie's famous hat, which was lying upturned on the icy sidewalk. It's little episodes like this that give the tenor of our feelings in the frozen northwest.
With Dollens gone, the recording of science fiction plays, a familiar activity for nearly two years, perforce came to a stop. MFS members even found it difficult to reply to a recording sent them by Bronson, Walter J. Daugherty, and the LASFS, but finally discovered "a little recording shop" in downtown Minneapolis which on several occasions they patronized for recording discs intended for the LASFS and others. In March 1943, the MFS contemplated cutting "a last greeting to fandom" as a farewell gesture, but the disc seems never to have been made. While Dollens was still in town one of the last recording sessions resulted in a record of chatter which was put on a new "glass" record and sent to Bob Tucker. "Fortunately," Gergen reported, "it broke on the way."
Probably the last movies of the old MFS were taken at the HastingCon of 29 November 1942. Dollens managed to film part of a poker game, showing one member holding a hand of five aces, and a scene of fannish horseplay in which Bronson sprayed various people with a fizz bottle and got his comeuppance from Ollie Saari, who zapped him in the face with a water-pistol charged with beer.
Before the extinction of the prewar MFS, most of the members had grown old enough to enter taverns, and in these latter days Delaney's Bar began to rival the New Elgin Cafe as the after-meeting hangout of MFSers. A proposed letterhead for MFS, shown in B-R-R-R-ACK! #2, featured Delaney's Bar, beer bottles, and a rocketing hip flask, though early meetings were largely stag aside from the incidental presence of mothers or sisters, various MFSers had now discovered the opposite sex, and a number of female guests were present at various meetings, in particular the Halloween 1942 party.
After trying twice to enlist and being rejected for poor vision, Brackney was inducted into the army on 22 February 1943. Before reporting for duty, he made a last trip to Joliet, Illinois, to visit Walt Liebscher whom he had met at the Michiconference of 1942. At the MFS meeting of 11 February, members sat around the table and listened while Manse detailed his trip...exchanged messages, and told the latest news from Illinois. Gordon Dickson soon followed Brackney in donning an army uniform, though he did not make a farewell trip to Illinois. He became, according to Bronson's reckoning, the eighth MFSer in uniform.
Meetings continued to be held, in the now-familiar hasty and helter-skelter fashion, into 1943; the last meeting reported in detail in the MFS BULLETIN took place on 17 February of that year. Probably the club would have disintegrated even before that had it not been for the enthusiastic support of John Gergen who had assuredly become the sparkplug of the MFS during these last days. A youngster of only 13 or 14 years of age who had first appeared in fandom early in 1942, Gergen began to play a pivotal role in MFS affairs by founding the biweekly newssheet MFS BULLETIN in June 1942. Although this fanzine was intended only for the edification and entertainment of MFS members, it was exchanged with a few "outside" fanzines from the beginning, and after issue 47 (undated, but published in November 1942) it widened its appeal to become a regular news-magazine:
We had hoped at first to publish a two-to-eight-paged BULLETIN promptly every two weeks, featuring news-items and notes of MFS interest. The idea proved unfeasible. So a new policy is in effect immediately: The BULLETIN is to appear as a regular biweekly newssheet, featuring countrywide news, from the various fan-clubs, fan centres, and fans.
On a modest scale, the MFS BULLETIN, or Mafusby, as Walt Liebscher dubbed it ("Mafusby, Mafusby my blue-eyed Mafusby"), became almost as famous throughout fandom as THE FANTASITE, and Gergen soon garnered a measure of fame far beyond the boundaries of Minnesota. The last wartime issue of the BULLETIN, Vol. 3, No. 11, whole number 23, dated March 15 1943, was a single-pager wholly devoted to news of "country-wide fandom," without a single reference to MFS doings. This issue was the last whisper of fanac in Minneapolis for exactly four years.
While the MFS was riding high, fan activity in outstate areas had not loomed large, but a few fans had appeared. One was Robert Mastell of Hibbing, who was a letterhack in THRILLING WONDER STORIES about 1939 and later became a well known fan. Another Hibbing fan, appearing a few years later, was Art Saha, who began to subscribe to fanzines around the country early in 1943, but soon after he became active he joined the Westward migration and appeared in Shangri-LA. Later he moved to New York City, where he still resides.
Gordon Dickson regarded the war, he said in MFS BULLETIN #20, as a "god-given opportunity" for the MFS to expand its influence world-wide. He pointed out that, early in 1943, in addition to the original MFS, at the time still active, there were branches of the MFS strewn everywhere: John Chapman headed the India branch; Cyril Eggum the Africa one, and there were many branches right in the United States, including Annapolis (Bob Madsen, director), Indio, California (Rod Allen, director), Oakland, California (Doug Blakely, director), Somewhere South (Don Wandrei, director), and Alamogordo, New Mexico (your historian, director). But by far the most important MFS bunch during the war years was the one in Los Angeles.
By June 1943, Sam Russell and Buns Benson had migrated to Shangri-LA to join Bronson and Dollens. While still identifying themselves as MFS members, these four fans joined the LASFS upon arrival and continued to play an active role in fan affairs. Francis T. Laney's AH! SWEET IDIOCY! describes how Bronson and Benson took part in the Knanve feud with the LASFS in 1943-4 and how ftl [Francis Towner Laney] persuaded Russell - whom he calls "a completely wonderful person" to become co-editor of THE ACOLYTE which had become one of the leading fanzines of the day. After publishing one issue of THE FANTASITE in collaboration with Walt Daugherty soon after his arrival and another (a solo job) in February 1944, Bronson succumbed to what Laney described as "lotus-eating." "'Aw, let's just sit back and blow smoke rings', he used to say when we'd suggest doing something," reports Laney. Though Russell remained active in FAPA and Vanguard till about 1946, the other transplanted MFS members drifted out of fandom during 1944.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, the MFS had ceased to exist as an active club sometime early in 1943. However, there were a few faint signs of life afterward. In September 1944, Carl Jacobi, John Gergan, Art Osterlund, and Clifford Simak met in the Marine Room of the Rainbow Cafe, Lake and Hennepin, for an "informal meeting." Jacobi reported the death of A. Merritt, and a discussion of his works followed. Afterward a story by Jacobi was read for comments and criticism. On a later occasion, a small gathering took place at Simak's house when Brackney and Dickson came home on leave. Gergen was again present, but Jacobi was unable to make it that evening and, by that time, Art Osterlund was in the Seabees. Four years were to pass before the MFS was recalled to life.
- NEOLITHIC #20 & 21 (December 1961 & February 1962, ed. Ruth Berman)