Walt Willis returns now, with another installment of the best from his correspondence files, this time about some of the events from his visits to North America in 1952 and 1962, including tales of bottomless ashtrays, man-eating elevators, and more. It was during that second trip that Walt made a memorable stopover in Wisconsin where he visited another notable fan from that era, Dean Grennell, who, as we'll see, was an accomplished photographer as well as fan writer.
'I Remember Me' by Walt Willis, 
  title illo by Charlie Williams
 I have a confession to make. I have come to the end of my correspondence files for the 1950s. All I have left are the gutted remains of 1954. I don't have the slightest idea of where the rest of the 1950s have gotten to, but I suspect they are in the garage in a bookcase behind the old wardrobe which was too big for the auctioneer to sell. I don't feel like shifting it myself so I'll just have to wait until the next visit by my son, Bryan. Meanwhile, I can only offer you some vestiges of 1952/3/4 from an envelope marked 'Interesting Pages From Pre-1954', which my hand had refused to destroy.

 The first is a carbon of a letter to Shelby Vick, written a week after I had gotten back from my 1952 trip to America. It's dated, retrospectively, September 1952, but it must surely have been written in October of that year.

 I got back just over a week ago and I've hardly had time to look around. I've started on the report, but I just don't seem to be able to write. I guess it'll come eventually though. After this, however, I'm going to cut down on that form of crifanac...I don't like the way people were beginning to talk about WAW in every zine. I've got a sort of mental bloc (not to be confused with Tucker's father) about writing about the U.S. trip till I've got the report done, so I won't talk about that. It was wonderful, though. I would like to say something about this suggestion that Lee [Hoffman] 'monopolized' me. Must say I didn't notice it. I don't suppose Lee and I were alone together for more than a few minutes from the beginning of the con until the end except for an hour one night -- we went out on the observation tower for some fresh air and a rest, and talked quietly for an hour about Life and similar subjects. The rest of the time I was either roaming around talking to people or sitting quietly watching the convention. Admittedly, Lee was at the same table, but since when have fans been frightened by girls? Anyone could have come along and talked, and plenty did...

 From what little I've heard of reactions to me at the con, it seems I was quiet. Well, of course I was, but not as quiet as all that. Since it's in all our interests to make out that I not only enjoyed myself at the con (which of course I did), but that I occasionally said something above the 'duhhh' level, I have screened my memory banks for remarks that you might like to quote as fillers or something:

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 In the coffee room, Tucker: "Well, how about some mush?"

 WAW: "What's that? Eskimo hotdogs?"
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 In the penthouse, Bea [Mahaffey]: "He was a good writer until he began to think his stories ought to have significance."

 WAW: "He sold his birthright for a pot of message?"

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 In [Robert] Bloch's room, BeaM: "You want an ashtray?"

 WAW (tossing his ash out the window over Chicago): "No thanks, this one isn't full yet."

Ten years later, Terry Carr bet me $1,500 that that last remark was to be found in The Harp Stateside.

 Now here, completely out of place, is what looks like a carbon of part of a letter from Dean Grennell and me to Chuck Harris, written in 1962 in the Grennell house...

 [Willis] S'funny, the last time I wrote a letter in the States it was on an Underwood, the one [at Lee Hoffman's home] in Savannah, Georgia, and it was probably to you. It's not one of the cream of contemporary typers (like the electric portable in [Dick] Lupoff's flat, which is terrifying -- imagine it, power-operated typos) but a solid satisfying affair. Madeleine and I have been having a wonderful time since our plane landed, but I think here is the nicest of all. Isn't it wonderful you can come a quarter of the way round the world and meet people for the first time, and feel among old friends?

 Well, briefly, what has happened so far is that we landed in New York on Monday evening and were, in accordance with a fine old tradition, met by two rival groups of welcomers. The immediate problem we solved by splitting ourselves into two cars, the marriage-disruptive influences of NY fandom thus operating immediately, and found ourselves eventually in the Wollheim flat on Clyde Street (you remember, "When Wolls Clyde"?) with Terry Carr and Ted White. They told us they had met Ethel [Lindsay] too and taken her home immediately and given her a bath, but miraculously they didn't insist on this with us. Next day we roamed around NY and to a dinner party in Greenwich Village. Next day a party in the Lupoff's luxury flat, and on Thursday by bus to Chicago. Then the Convention, a vast sprawling affair where Madeleine had a wonderful time and I enjoyed myself nearly as much. Then in Dean's vast luxurious Oldsmobile at speeds up to 100 miles per hour to Fond du Lac and the fabulous basement, where we are now. This is a fabulous place, a bit like the Oblique House attic and three workshops rolled into one. Only thing wrong with it is that you could hardly play ghoodminton in it, with all the stuff that's down here. Dean is still developing photos, about 200 of them since 7:30 this morning, but I think he's ready to take over now...

 [Grennell] Well, yessss...for a bit anyhow. Some of the film we developed early this morning is dry and ready for printing. A couple of fannish things happened at the con and you might as well be filled in on them at this point: Bjo Trimble (My Favorite Chipmunk) saw some poor chap, far gone toward blotto, whimpering and cringing in an elevator car gone berserk. This thing would close its door, give a couple of ruminative jiggles, slip its door open again, and jolt a couple of times. The poor cove would make a despairing lunge for the door and the robot brain of the mad thing would emit a couple of sardonic clicks as the door slid shut once more. So Bjo went down to the lobby and amid a crowd of faans and mundanes, leveled a petite forefinger pistol-wise at the desk clerk and proclaimed in her voice (a thing of astounding stridency which has made her the absolute dictator of LA Fandom):

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"Your Elevator EEEATS People !!!"
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 Dean has just heard the tocsin from his timer and gone off to do whatever he does. Bjo is a dear, a little freckled ball of fire, and I'm glad we'll be meeting her again in LA. The other thing we were going to tell you... well, you remember how last time in `52 we were persecuted by Catholic girls, the ones who were doing Nameless Things in the Convention Hall? Well, they were there again this year, no doubt looking for Harlan Ellison, and including some ladies dressed in long black frocks who would have been a sensation at the Masquerade Ball. The sf convention must have puzzled them a bit. The last morning, one of our lot collapsed in the main lobby, either from a mild epileptic fit or from just having looked at his hotel bill, and a little crowd of these MABLA people (Midwest Association of the Society of the Lay Apostolate) gathered round. Passing by, Dean heard one of them make this sinister and unsettling remark:

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"He's One of Those World People."
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 Well, we've been off trying to do a mock-up of a Flying Saucer photo. We just got the film out of the developer and stole a peek at it, and I'm happy to be able to say that it looks as though it will make a fairly deceitful print. We are going to terminate things for now and dash off for a bite to eat. You have not heard the last of this, Chuq 'arris, nor you, Sue 'arris, but we wanted you to know that whenever trufen get together, the name of Harris is on everyone's tongue, amid the fur and such.

All illustrations by Charlie Williams

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