HISTORY OF THE HANSOM WHEELS


The Hansom Wheels Society was created by the late Rev. E. Wayne Wall, BSI, aka “Holy Peters,” in the early 1970s. Initially there were no regular members other than the good Reverend himself, but in early 1977 he joined with Dr. G. B. Lane of the USC music department to form a more structured organization. Using the pseudonym Dr. John H. Watson, Reverend Wall took on the scionic office of The Hub. G. B. became Col. Sebastian Moran, with the office of Commissionaire. Together they organized a first meeting, which was held in the Music Building of the University of South Carolina on the afternoon of Sunday, April 14, 1977. An announcement in The State newspaper resulted in an attendance of some twenty or so Sherlockians from the area.

 

The initial program consisted of (1) the call to order, “The game is afoot!”, (2) the responsive reading of The Musgrave Ritual, (3) the playing of an audiotape of the Rathbone­-Bruce A Scandal in Bohemia, and (4) the presentation of an original scholarly paper, “Moriarty Was a Woman,” by Hub Wall.

 

Subsequent convocations have consisted of dinner meetings following this same general format. At the first such, which was held May 19, 1977, at the now-defunct Mary’s Celebrity Club (many of the venues at which the society has met over the years have closed down), Don Mankowski was appointed Official Quizmaster and the late Bob Robinson BSI Program Chairman. The organization then met each month for the next six years. After that, it met six times a year, generally on the third Thursday of each even-numbered month, and now meets on the third Thursdays of February, April, July or August, and October. A special Christmas meeting/party is held early in December. Meetings are now held at The Palmetto Club on Sumter Street in Columbia, which we hope will avoid the Hansom Wheels curse and remain in business.

 

The organization’s newsletter, The Pink ‘Un, named for the racing form mentioned in “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” initially was written and distributed by The Hub. After a few years, Phil Dematteis took over this job, which he performs yet today. The late Bill Brown, who had become Quizmaster when Prof. Mankowski moved to Florida, retired some years ago and was replaced by the sister-and-sister team of Marcia Rowen and Kathy Trice. Kathy had attended the initial meeting at USC and for many years had handled the finances of the organization. Charlie Cook held the position for a while, and it has finally fallen on the already overburdened shoulders of the aforementioned Dematteis, aka The Tantalus, who is also Program Cochairman along with Diane Bodie.

 

Many of the original scholarly papers that were presented before The Hansom Wheels subsequently appeared in such prestigious Sherlockian publications as The Baker Street Journal, The Baker Street Miscellany, The Serpentine Muse, The Sherlock Holmes Journal, and The Holmes and Watson Report. For many years, the December meeting has featured the production of one of Dr. Watson’s accounts as adapted for the stage by Bob Robinson. In addition, it became a tradition at summer meetings to feature an original Sherlockian parody written for the radio by Bill Brown.

 

Today the The Pink ’Un, published in advance of each meeting, enjoys a circulation of eighty. The meetings are attended by anywhere from fifteen to forty-five harmless eccentrics. We believe The Hansom Wheels to be one of the most successful and active Sherlock Holmes societies in all the world. But then we would say that, wouldn’t we?

 

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