Monday, June 13, 2011

Report on Howard Days 2011, Day One

The side of the Cross Plains library
Robert E. Howard Days 2011 was a great success, at least in my opinion.  The weather was hot, but not humid, and the breeze helped keep things cool.  Some people might say we had wind, but since the sky didn't turn brown from dust like it has for the last few months where I live, I'll say we only had a breeze in Cross Plains.

Festivities started on Thursday night, but I wasn't able to arrive until Friday morning.  I'll report on what I participated in.  Al Harron, at The Blog That Time Forgot, has posted daily summaries, starting with this one for Thursday.  Al and I participated in some of the same activities but also a number of different ones, so check out his posts as well.  Others will be posting their reports, and I'll try to provide links throughout the week as I become aware of them.

I'll put in more photos than I usually do, at least for the first day.  My camera battery died on the second day, so all I have are a few photos I took with my phone.  I'll put the best of those in.

I got to the Pavilion shortly before 9:00 a.m.  Several familiar faces were already there.  I grabbed a donut and coffee and began saying hello after swinging by the bin with the issues of The Cimmerian for sale.   I picked up a few and began mingling.  One of the people I had the pleasure of meeting was Miguel Martins.  Rusty Burke was leading a trailer tour again this year.  Until last year, this was known as The Walking Tour, but a trailer with chairs on it has taken its place.  And a good thing, too.  Even though it was still relatively cool at this time in the morning (low 80s Fahrenheit), it would have been hotter than that before the tour was over.

House where Novalyne Price lived
Just before the tour started Al Harron, arrived.  I met Al last year and made it a point of saying hello before we left.  The tour was packed.  All the chairs on the trailer were taken and four people were piled into the bed of the pickup towing us.  We went by the cemetery (the Howards are all buried in Brownwood) and behind downtown, crossed the highway, and went by the house where Novalyne Price lived while she worked as a teacher at Cross Plains High School from 1934-1936.  That's her room on the right with the air conditioner sticking out of the window.  If you haven't read her memoir about her relationship with Bob,  One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard the Final Years, you should.  It formed the basis of the movie The Whole Wide World, starring Vincent D'Onofrio and an at the time nearly unknown actress named Renee Zellweger. 

Rusty Burke leading the Trailer Tour
We also saw the building where the dry-cleaning business Bob worked at was once located, the location of the drug store where he once worked, and the building where he had his stenography business. Trying to take phhotos from a moving trailer turned out to be harder than I thought, so I don't have many.

After we returned to the Pavilion, I wandered through the Howard house.  There were a number of new docents this year.  The gift shop had the usual number of books and zines, as well as copies of The Whole Wide World and various T-shirts and caps.

Hester's room, left side
Hester's room, right side
 I've included three photos from the house.  The first is of the left side of Hester's room, taken from the doorway.  This is the front bedroom that looks out on the porch.  When you enter the house through the front door, you face a long hall with the living room on the right and Hester and Isaac's room on the left.

The second photo is the right hand side of the room.  Off to the right, out of the field of view, is a dresser.  There's a small closet to the left of the bedroom door.  As you can see, the room would be considered small by today's standards.  My memory says that the bed was in front of the window on previous visits rather than to the side, but I'm not sure.  I'll have to see if I can locate some photos from a previous visit.

The window on the right looks out on what was originally a porch.  It became Bob's room.  You can see a trunk through the window if you look carefully.

The third photo is looking into Bob's room.  The brightly lit window looks out onto the side yard.  The windows on the right have a picture of what the backyard would have looked like in the 30s.  A later owner of the house added a room which is now the gift shop.  The typewriter and writing table on the right are the originals.  The original table was sold or given to someone who cut the legs off to make it into a coffee table.  There is a typewriter whose owner claims is Howards, but last year Paul Sammons found a typewriter which may be the original one.  That question has yet to be answered conclusively.  The books on the dresser on the left are copies of ones Bob was known to have owned, although they are not original.  Until you stand in front of it, it's hard to imagine how small Bob's bedroom is by contemporary standards.  If I had to live in such a cramped space I think I would imagine being a wanderer.  It's no wonder he spent so much time in his car driving around the countryside.
Bob's room

Then it was time for the morning's panel, which was held at the library.  Rusty Burke and Bill Cavalier related how the first Howard Days came about.  It was a group of fans who wanted to see where Robert E. Howard had written his tales of Kull, Solomon Kane, and Conan.

After the panel, I gave a ride back to the Pavilion to some friends, stopping at the Post Office on the way.  Each year the Cross Plains Post Office commemorates Howard Days with a unique postal cancellation.  I had missed the cancellation on previous visits, but this year I managed to get two post cards and an envelope with the cancellation.  They're going to go into frames.

Lunch was chili dogs with all the fixings at the Pavilion.  Then it was back to the library for panels on They Kept the Legacy Alive with Damon Sasser, Dennis McHaney, Lee Breakiron, and Bill Cavalier and Howard's Historicals with Barbara Barret and Amy Kerr.  I was late and missed most of the first panel, but caught all of the ladies' panel.  Each focused on one of Bob's strong women characters.  These ladies know their stuff.

Cross Plains has a top notch library.  It was one of the three finalists last year for Best Small Town Library in the US.  I took a minute to look at some of the pulps  and books the library put on display.  They have quite an extensive collection of Howard's publications.  These usually stay locked up in the bank vault, but the library puts them on display for Howard Days.  Closely watched, of course.  Here are some shots of what they have.  I turn green with envy every time I see them.
Cross Plains Library collection

More of the collection
Original publication of some of Bob's work

They don't make covers like this anymore.  Sigh.

The last item of the afternoon was the trailer for the new Conan movie in the high school auditorium.  Specifically, the "Red Band" trailer, or the R-rated trailer in other words.  Fred Malmberg of Paradox Entertainment led the discussion.  Star Jason Mamoa had wanted to be there but was unable to due to a wedding he needed to attend.  He did send a video clip clip greeting, which was pretty cool.  I've got pictures of some of hte pro0ps they had on hand.  I'll post those later this week or early next week.  We were told we could take pictures but were asked not to post them until late this week.  They hadn't been publicly shown before.

Miguel asked me after it was over what I thought.  I said that it will be visually stunning and would probably be a good movie about a character named Conan.  Whether that character had any resemblance to a character of the same name created by Robert E. Howard remained to be seen.  
I went back to the pavilion and visited with friends for a little while, then proceeded on to the banquet.  Like last year, the food was good, fajitas with rice and beans.  Fred Malmberg sat across and and one seat down from me, so I got to talk with him some.  He seems to be very knowledgeable about Howard's works and wants to have them adapted faithfully to the screen.  I gained some insight into how the whole process of bringing a property to film works from talking to him.  Paul Herman presented the Robert E. Howard Foundation scholarship.  This is a $1000 scholarship presented each year to the winner of an essay contest.  This year's winner read her essay, which was over one of Howard's poems. 
Dennis McHaney

Damon Sasser

Guests Dennis McHaney and Damon Sasser gave gave brief speeches on how they came to be involved in Howard fandom.  The silent auction was didn't seem to have as much stuff as last year, or maybe I had better self control.  I didn't get everything I bid on, but I did okay.  The auction is a fundraiser for Project Pride, the community development organization that hosts Howard Days.  I heard the next day they raised over $1500.  If that's not correct, someone please let me know. 

Al Harron accepting his award
The Robert E. Howard Foundation Awards were announced.  Rob Roehm won more than anyone, but there were a number of other winners as well.  I don't have a complete list, but I will post a link when the Foundation posts them.  Two of the most surprised winners were David Hardy and Al Harron. That's Al accepting his award in the photo. 

Bill Cavalier
Bill Cavalier received the Black Circle Award, which is for lifetime achievement.  It's not easy to win.  You have to be nominated one year and then receive a certain percentage of the vote the next.  That's him holding it up.

Adventures Fantastic would like to congratulate all of the winners.

After the awards, those of us who didn't have a long drive went to the Pavilion for the poetry throwdown.  I was tired and decided not to push my luck and headed on home.

I'll write about the second day in a followup post.

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