Monday, August 9, 2010

Allen in Minnesota

These series of posts relate to one of our current Sherlock Holmes exhibits, "Through The Eyes of an Enthusiast -- The Allen Mackler Collection," on display through August 29 in the T. R. Anderson Gallery in Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota. The text comes from the accompanying exhibit booklet.


1990 marked a number of transitions in Allen’s life. By this time he had left the East Coast and his work with public radio and moved to Osseo, Minnesota. Here he found Sherlockian company and friendship through the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota. At the beginning of the year, at the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars, Allen was honored with an Irregular Shilling and the Investiture of “Sarasate.” It was at this same time that Allen began co-hosting a Morley walk around Manhattan. A later report from the BSJ gives a sense of the stroll.
Guides Mackler and Shields are masters at finding these sights, and those who join them are the beneficiaries. We were told that Morley was fond of strolling around the top of the Woolworth Building in order to find inspiration for his columns. From this perch, he could see the Brooklyn Bridge, the sun glistening off the Manhattan mountains, St. Paul’s churchyard, and Vesey Street. Therefore, we approached the lobby of the Woolworth Building with great anticipation.
May found him in Chicago celebrating Christopher Morley’s one-hundredth birthday at a Morley symposium with members of The Hounds of the Baskerville (sic) and Hugo’s Companions. Allen spoke on Morley’s devotion to New York. By the end of the year Allen had been elected membership director of the Norwegian Explorers and was editing their newsletter, Explorations. The following February Allen presented an evening program on “Sherlock Holmes and Music” at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.

Allen continued to edit and write for Explorations along with other Sherlockian publications. He deepened his Minnesota roots while still being an active member of the Irregulars and other societies. In 1993 Allen was part of the planning and program for the Norwegian Explorers’ conference “Sherlock Holmes’ Rogues, Rascals, and Ruffians” held in Minneapolis. Two years later he became president of the Explorers, serving for two years. At the end of his term it was reported that “[a]ll members of the Norwegian Explorers would like to thank Allen for his efforts and leadership, and we all look forward to his continued involvement.” A note in The Moriarty Principle indicates another of Allen’s endeavors at this time. “He founded the scion, ‘The Fowl Fanciers,’ in Minnesota in 1990 with the blessing of John Bennett Shaw. He is an expert on the violinist Pablo Sarasate . . . and classical music.” Food, music, Morley, and Holmes--life was good.

On the cusp of the millennium Allen continued to be active with the Irregulars. He was also a member of an exclusive group, the Sherlockians By Invitation Only Society (SBIOS). I’m not sure when he may have been invited, but it is clear from their 1999 report that Allen was in New York for the annual BSI weekend (my first time at this august gathering) and then headed to London “for the Sherlock Holmes January 16th birthday party sponsored by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London held in the distinguished House of Commons Meeting Room, Parliament.” I’m sure Allen traveled to London many times. Roger Johnson, editor of The District Messenger (the newsletter of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London) noted a final visit. “The last time we met him in England Jean and I were able to direct him to a nice gasogene for his collection.” That gasogene now sits in the sitting room adjacent to this exhibit.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, at the first meeting of Holmes and James Mortimer, Holmes remarked “You are an enthusiast in your line of thought, I perceive…” Allen was an enthusiast and a good friend to many. Enjoy a few fruits of that enthusiasm and friendship.

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