I Guess You Had to Be There:

The Frumpy 50s

When I think of the 1950s, I think of old-fashioned buildings, and boxy cars, and women wearing winged glasses. When I think of Canada in the 1950s, I tend to think of Lester Pearson, and John Diefenbaker, and the censorship board in Ontario. I thi nk of a country whose thought control centre might as well have been a country church outside Thornhill, or maybe that RCMP college somewhere near Regina. Some Canadians still think we live in this era, or ought to.

The Canadian SF Association Period

A gentleman by the name of Jack Bowie-Reed was a publicist for the Tories (the Canadian Conservative Party), and travelled across Canada in their support in the late 1940s. Dale Speirs writes in Opuntia, "If he knew he would be in town a few days, he would place a newspaper ad inviting SF fans to come out and form a club." He then encouraged the formation of branches of the Canadian SF Association.

A number of SF groups in Ottawa in the late 1940s were affiliated with the Canadian SF Association. The first Ottawa SF Society was formed in 1948. In 1949, the Canadian SF Association established contacts with several Western SF groups, including one in Winnipeg. But shortly afterward, several Eastern SF groups in CSFA dissolved.
(Opuntia #26, p. 15)

About this time came a revival of the CSFA -- the Canadian Science Fiction [Association]. This had been organized originally in 1948, but had never amounted to much. A Hamilton group, headed by Paul Revey, were designated the first executive club, and a m eeting was held at the Torcon. A lot of hot air was blown around, electing Jack Bowie-Reed as National Organizer, appointing Lloyd Eshbach as Honorary President, franchises extended to Les Croutch in the form of a Northern Fantasy Federation and to Alasta ir Cameron as the Fantastellar Association. In the end, all that came of it were ephemeral clubs in Deseronto, Halifax, Ottawa, London, and lastly in Windsor. All were gone by 1950, and only one newsletter had been published.
(Taral Wayne, "Same As I t Ever Was: Toronto Fandom 1940-1980" [unpublished, 1981])
In 1950, the Canadian SF Association itself dissolved. Its constituent clubs also folded. But among other groups, Jack Bowie-Reed promoted the Winnipeg SF Society, which assumed official existence on February 18, 1951.

The CSFA was short-lived. Perhaps a longer-lived CSFA would only have assumed the same role as the National Fantasy Fan Federation in the U.S.; it could have been a sustaining influence, an introduction to fandom for many fans, and might have shaped their initial impressions of fandom, without ever quite organizing all fandom into one big club.

Chester Cuthbert writes:

The first few meetings were held at the homes of members and friends, but growing attendance required larger quarters, provided by courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press in a board room, and of Radio Station CKRC in a studio. Minutes of meetings were kept by the Secretary, and formal talks were scheduled; but it was soon clear that formality was unpopular. Attendance dropped quickly ...
The Winnipeg SF Society took on the formidable task of reviving the CSFA, and managed to carry through several CSFA projects. Chester Cuthbert, as President, sorted out the CSFA with other WSFS executives. A survey was made of which members remained and w hat the organization bad come to; the CSFA newsletter was revived; a short history and a fantasy classification system were put into gear.
By 1951, the CSFA existed in name only, and was in the hands of Chester Cuthbert's little Winnipeg group. Through dint of effort, he affiliated another clutch of short-lived clubs in Windsor, Picton, Edmonton and Vancouver, and eventually nominally includ ed the Derelicts and a revived McGill group. This time, the CSFA managed a second newsletter, a massive list of over 500 purportive [sic] fans, and a history of itself, written by Bowie-Reed. It's worth noting that the CSFA history was reprinted by an Ame rican fan, from an American zine. This ineffectual act was in 1953, and to my knowledge, the CSFA never rose to print again; though Cuthbert and his Winnipeg club kept the pretence of CSFA alive for years to come.
(Taral Wayne, "Same As It Ever Was: T oronto Fandom 1940-1980" [unpublished, 1981])
Only Alastair Cameron's 52-page Fantasy Classification System was still in progress in the spring of 1951, and that was nearly complete. Such systems for categorizing the contents of fantasy stories were not unusual in the 1950s, but Cameron's was more extensive and less subjective than usual, until Darko Suvin's work in the 1970s. After the first print run, Dale Speirs tells me, Cameron "refused to allow it to be reprinted since he wanted to revise it (Real Soon Now.)"

(John Robert Colombo wri tes in Years of Light that Dr. Cameron since became professor of astronomy at Harvard.)

Jack Bowie-Reed's History of the Canadian SF Association says a great deal of reorganization in the CSFA was accomplished in 1951. Among other projects, WSFS restarted the circulating library project, collecting several thousand books in 1951 and 1 952. (This is part of the reason why Chester Cuthbert's house is now engulfed by Canada's largest SF collection.) In fall of 1952 a Canadian fan directory, listing some 500 - 1000 fans, was almost published.

... It was discovered, when we sent copies to key cities that changes of address or disappearance of people listed in the Directory (meant) that it would be a disservice to fans to distribute such an obsolete list; our funds were exhausted by publication of the Cameron work, and a projected newsletter ... was never published either; so the CSFA collapsed ...
And with it, in an official sense, the WSFS. For the next 20 years, small meetings with fans were held in Chester Cuthbert's home. (One of them, Michael Hall, was publishing Whiz Funnies in 1972.)

Taral Wayne of Toronto has written that there was some fanpublishing, but not a lot of fanactivity in Canada, from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. He does detail some fanzine titles produced by Norm and Gina (Ellis) Clarke, such as Honque and < I>Queebshots while they were living in Quebec.

Michael McKenny of Ottawa tells me that Norm Clarke was one of the founding members of LILAPA, which was published at times as often as every 2 weeks, and which is still appearing.
(Michael McKenny, personal communication, June 1994)

"Duchess of Canadian Fandom"

From 1956 to the early 60's, Georgina "Dutch" Ellis of Calgary edited fanzines, and traded writings and drawings with Harry Calnek, of Granville Ferry, N.S. Harry Calnek published Canadian Capers in 1953 and 1954, Fie in 1954 and 1955.

In the early 1960s, Gina Ellis moved to Ottawa and became Mrs. Norm Clarke (a.k.a. "Duchess of Canadian Fandom"); the Clarkes edited zines together, not quite ever after. (I hope someday somebody will explain to me where "Duchess of Canadian Fandom" came from, apart from her nickname and maiden name, "Dutch" Ellis.)

Gina Clarke resumed her maiden name, Gina Ellis, after Norm Clarke died. She is reputed still to be a member of A Women's Apa.

The fanzine renaissance was not limited to the Derelicts, though Toronto remained the focus of all fan activity in the 1950s. ... an outsider named Fred Woroch very nearly printed fandom's first Outworlds. The offset, multi-coloured fannish zine ha d material by Ellison and Willis, and was nearly finished when Woroch disappeared. To my knowledge, the one incomplete copy I obtained from Bill Grant's collection is the only specimen of what would have been a very impressive zine. All of this was part o f the general expansion known as Seventh Fandom (Canada somehow missed out on the classic Sixth Fandom dominated by Lee Hoffman's Quandry), and was no doubt due to the growth of the magazine industry in the early 1950s. ...

The future [of Toronto fandom] lay with some newer members who had been added to the group in the years after Torcon. Gerald Steward supplanted Ned McKeown as editor of Canadian Fandom in 1953, bringing with him into the zine his friends P. Howard Lyons and Ken Hall. Bill Grant, one of the last additions to the old pre-Torcon fandom, continued to be active, as did Les Croutch. Other newcomers included Boyd Raeburn and Ron Kidder. In the year the Old Derelicts were attending their last Midwestcon, t hese newer Derelicts were proliferating fanzines. A year after Steward took over Canadian Fandom, Lyons had begun Ibid, Raeburn began A Bas, and Steward was doing Gasp on the side. These people didn't think of the Derelicts as a holdover from the Torcon committee. To them, it was a social club, like the Fanoclasts in New York. It was a fannish club, too, without meetings, and talk about science fiction was liable to send Raeburn to the toilet with rising gorge. Their main preoc cupations seemed to be jazz music and sports cars. Lyons, in one issue of Canadian Fandom, displays an interest in hash cookies. The fanzines reflected their outlook. Material was coming in from Bloch, Grennell, Ellison, Warner, Willis, and Tucker. Needless to say, it was faanish. Articles on Merritt and Lovecraft continued to appear, but were largely consigned to Canadian Fandom, which was nevertheless showing a more fannish spirit than it had in its earlier incarnations.

The renewed vigour of Toronto fandom was tested in late 1954 when Norm Browne left Edmonton for Toronto and joined the Derelicts. At first, he was given the cold shoulder, causing him to gafiate. A copy of the new Derelict organ, A Bas, brought him back to his fannish senses and this time he was accepted. Gerald Steward speculates that Brown had overdeveloped his ego while publishing Vanations, and decided he was a BNF. Boyd Raeburn's appointment to the editorship of A Bas ... (incomplete sentence) . Whether this is the reason or not, when he agreed to type Boyd's stencils, he added on his own initiative a number of sarcastic interlinos, and signed a spurious letter with Boyd's name. This caused an immediate row, with Brown on one sid e and Raeburn, Steward, and Kidder on the other. Lyons, Grant, and the others strode the middle ground, moving Raeburn, Steward and Kidder to proclaim themselves Derelict Insurgents. Brown pretty much gafiated at that point, once and for all, and Steward relinquished Canadian Fandom at the same time. Bill Grant became the new editor.

It is difficult to decide whether to assign any importance to this tiff. Aside from fafiating Brown, it may have had no effect. On the other hand, the impetus of Toronto fandom lasted only another year or so. Gasp, Ibid, and Canadian Fand om all faded out about 1957 (Canadian Fandom's 15th annish). A Bas lasted another year, but its last three issues were annuals.

Toronto fandom was beginning to drift apart socially, too, I believe, and had stopped going to Midwestcon and the Worldcons. As the decade closed, Raeburn and Lyons remained in FAPA, but otherwise the curtain had fallen on the Derelicts' last act. ..

The whereabouts of Beak Taylor is unknown. Gerald Steward, Fred Hurter, John Mason, Norm H. Calne and most other early fans have also long since disappeared. Ned McKeown has become the head of education in Metro Toronto, while John Millard is an audiologi st. Les Croutch and Bill Grant are dead. P. Howard Lyons, who dropped from FAPA again only [in 1980?], is more interested in stage magic than fandom. ... But long before any of them came to these ends, Canadian fandom's first exertion had reached its clim ax and ended by 1957, essentially, by 1946 with certainty.
(Taral Wayne, "Same As It Ever Was: Toronto Fandom 1940-1980" [unpublished, 1981])

The above is really a lot to quote from one source, I admit; but I want to show that Taral Wayne has done the most work in documenting Canadian fandom, particularly Toronto fandom, up to the 1960s and 1970s. As you can see, he has a fanhistory manuscript waiting to see publication, as well as numerous published articles under his "Same As It Ever Was" column title.