Nancy had large dark eyes and was a woman full grown when the 1949 World SF Convention opened in Cincinnati, Ohio. If not the most beautiful woman there, she was certainly in the running, and attracted the attention of George O. Smith immediately. George O. managed to crowd into the circle surrounding Nancy and, at some point, suggested that she join him for dinner at one of the fine restaurants over in Kentucky.
Nancy was delighted. She was always happy when she was the center of attention, and here was the famous Astounding writer taking her to dinner. They caught a cab to Kentucky, entered one of the best restaurants there, and ordered dinner. The waiter suggested cocktails and as they were ordering drinks, almost as an afterthought, the waiter asked Nancy how old she was.
"Fifteen," Nancy replied proudly.
George O. choked and gasped, then declared, "And I just took you across a state line! Waiter, cancel her order. The young lady is going home in a cab -- right now -- ALONE!" It seemed probable that George O. ordered several extra drinks to celebrate his narrow escape.
# # # #
A year later the Worldcon was in Portland, Oregon. Nancy's father had worked for a railroad before his death, and the family had a lifetime pass. Nancy had ridden the trains for three days and was disheveled and exhausted when she arrived at the Hotel Multnomah, only to learn that her room wouldn't be ready for a few hours. George Young from Detroit ran into her in the lobby and, learning of the situation, offered her the use of his room to take a nap. He explained that he was sharing a room with another Detroit fan, Ed Kuss, but Ed had gone downtown and wasn't expected back for several hours.
Ed returned early, however, and when he unlocked the door to his room and stepped inside, he found a young woman, fully dressed, lying on one of the beds. She raised up and screamed, "No! No! I'm only sixteen!"
Ed almost broke the door down getting out of what he assumed was the wrong room.
Nancy later confessed that she had done it to see his reaction. In later years, lots of Detroit fans would pay attention to Nancy, but Ed Kuss always maintained his distance.
# # # #
The first Midwestcon was held in May in that same year of 1950, perhaps as a partial compensation for the midwest fans who couldn't attend the Worldcon in Portland, and has been a yearly event ever since. In 1952, Detroit's very own Benjamin Donald Singer, founder of the Misfits fan club, arranged for a ride with Martin Alger to attend that year's Midwestcon. Martin had a huge Packard, which could be stuffed with up to eight fans for trips like that.
Nancy was a regular attendee of the early Midwestcons, and the meeting of Nancy and Ben at beginning of the 1952 convention had the intensity of the sun going nova. They were together almost constantly the next two days. Perhaps there were kisses and adolescent fumbling, but the Misfits certainly implied that more was happening. Both Nancy and Ben, so happy to be real 'grown-ups', encouraged this. A few months later Nancy moved to Detroit, sharing an apartment with a local fan, Agnes Harook, and found a job. Nancy and Ben became a couple.
With my encouragement and help, Martin Alger prepared a memorial plaque for the 1953 Midwestcon. On apparent bronze it bore raised letters, showing two hearts bearing Nancy's and Ben's initials and the legend 'Under This Bush a Great Love Was Born -- May 1952'. Both the 1952 and 1953 conventions were held at Beatley's on the Lake (later immortalized by Randall Garrett as "Beastley's on the Bayou"), a large resort hotel with extensive grounds. On Sunday morning we gathered a crowd of 100 people, including Ben and Nancy, and searched the grounds -- hunting for the proper bush so that we might dedicate that hallowed ground. Ben and Nancy were delighted to be the center of attention.
Sometime during the next year after that, Ben and Nancy had a fight and she returned home to Cincinnati, but they didn't forget each other. Ben didn't attend the 1954 Midwestcon but Nancy did, and at the last moment she asked Martin Alger if she could ride back to Detroit with him so she could see Ben again. There was no problem about luggage, since all Nancy had was the clothes she was wearing and her purse.
Halfway back, Nancy asked Marty if he would stop at a restroom somewhere. Moments later we came to a roadside restaurant situated midway between two towns. Nancy left her purse in the car and went inside. Then, at someone's suggestion, Marty pulled around behind the restaurant and parked. We sat there for about ten minutes, then, when Nancy had still not appeared, Marty started the car and pulled back in front of the restaurant.
Nancy was standing there, gazing down the road, perhaps hoping that we would change our minds and come back for her. She didn't even have a nickel to make a phone call, and would presumably have had to hitchhike the 100 miles back to Cincinnati.
# # # #
There were many other incidents over the years, but most of them have faded in my memory. Life was never dull when Nancy was around. Later, Nancy and Ben would break up again, and Ben would marry a girl named Eleanor who barely tolerated fandom. Within a week or two after that, Nancy married Hal Shapiro, one of Ben's friends. This might have been a way of evening things out, but I suspect it was more a case of Hal, seeing that the competition was eliminated, simply overwhelming Nancy. Marriage was one of the things she hadn't tried yet.
That marriage lasted a couple of years, then Nancy divorced Hal and went into the Army; it probably seemed a welcome relief after being married to Shapiro. After the Army stint, she returned to Cincinnati and (at some point) married Dave Raney and spent the next thirty years with him.
Dave was a non-fan and Nancy seemed happy with that. She would show up at a Midwestcon every five years or so to see old friends, and she may have attended a few Cincinnati Fantasy Group meetings or parties. Her last public appearance was at Roger Sims' New Years Eve party in 1991. She explained that she came only because she knew what fine parties Roger had always thrown.
Like I said earlier, I'm going to miss Nancy. There were never many like her. Now there's one less.
- - - - - - - - - -Roger Waddington wrote of Howard's article that "Not having known her, not even knowing she existed, Nancy Moore Shapiro Raney still came alive for me. I could see the person she was; if anything could be truly described as true to life, Howard's article must surely be in the running."
Mimosa 15, which appeared in April 1994, had a 'food' theme, but unlike any previous themed issues, we had made that known in advance and actually invited articles and essays dealing with the topic of food. In response, we got enough material to make M15 our largest issue in page count to that time -- fans and food, after all, are two things that are pretty much inseparable.
One of the more entertaining articles in Mimosa 15 was from Andy Hooper, who presented us a cautionary tale for all prospective authors. Here it is again:
Title illustration by Peggy Ranson