Forrest J Ackerman Chicon I Remembrance

1940Chicon I, Chicago
by Forrest J Ackerman
for the Noreascon Three PB

I nicknamed it the Chicon. We used to say that every Worldcon "killed" one fan. I remember at the opening of this one that co-chairman Mark Reinsberg got up to welcome us, the blood drained from his face, he went white and co-chairman Erle Korshak had to step in and take over. When I was called on to make a speech, I was still terrified by the sound of my own voice and covered my confusion by saying, "My address will be very short: 236-1/2 N. New Hampshire, Hollywood, California."

At the banquet table I can still see "Doc" Smith 49 years later (he was kind of science fiction's answer to Will Rogers) rising and starting his remarks by saying, "An after-dinner speech should be like a woman's dress: short enough to be interesting, long enough to cover the subject." One of Doc's two daughters, the blonde bombshell (the other the redhead), had us all in stitches when she was describing how her dad's famous Lensman, Kimball Kinnison, first had an arm blown off, then a leg, then another arm, then another leg — "finally he had nothing left but his…personality."

Morojo (the leading femfan of the time) and I appeared at the costume affair in our original futuristicostumes and this time did a little skit together, doing dialog from HGWells' film Things to Come.

There were heroic efforts made to get to the Worldcons in those days. Dave Kyle and Dick Wilson traveled with other fans from New York in an automobile that had 30 flat tires en route! But the all-time fabulous hair-raising accomplishment was that of Olon F. Wiggins, editor of Science Fiction Fan, who rode the rails all the way from Denver! And that isn't the half of it. Olon had expected he would be able to lie flat on some supporting beam under the train but found instead he had to cling to some upper, support the entire trip to Chicago! In other words, if he had fallen asleep or relaxed his grip, he would have fallen to the ground and been killed!

Ray Palmer, then editor of Amazing Stories, made the con memorable by his contribution of artwork for the auction. It was a time of incredible bargains with a plethora of black and white illustrations and covers to bid on. It seems to me top dollar paid for a cover was $10. I believe I came away with 2 or 3 Pauls. I may be manufacturing a memory but it seems to me Finlays and Boks and Magarians and Krupas and Fuquas were going for $5 down to two-and-a-half, and the auction was lasting so long and the material to be sold was still so mountainous that finally the auctioneer (Korshak?) gave up in despair and threw a whole armload of illustrations into the air for the fans to grab for free! (Before that I think he sold some of the art for a penny and then offered to pay fans to take it away! Ah, as Single-O said in the scientifilm Just Imagine: "Give me the Good Old Days!")

After the costume "ball" I had a quixotic notion. Here was a group of dramatically visual individuals — Doc Smith as Catherine Moore's flamboyant spaceman Northwest Smith, Dave Kyle as Ming the Merciless, Morojo as Miss Futura, her cousin Pogo (femfan) in a princess-like costume, myself as "Paul" Cabal, and assorted vampires, robots, etc. — and I thought, why waste the opportunity to garner some publicity for the convention and science fiction in general, so I gathered the gang together and we paraded thru the lamplit streets of Chicago to a newspaper office 4 or 5 blocks away. I acted as spokesman and explained to the night editor with tongue-in-cheek that we were time travelers from the future, and since we had noticed in the next day's newspaper there was a photo of us and an interview, we had obligingly got in our time machines and come back to tonight so that our pictures could be taken and we could tell our story. I really ought to stop the anecdote right here because the end was anticlimactic: our picture never appeared, our interview was never published. So much for the lack of imagination of one of them there mundanes…