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Pre - Balticon Memories
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Page 7 of 'A Short History of Baltimore Fandom'
Jack Chalker
WSFA) often came. This quickly made it impossible to hold election meetings in members' homes, and so, in 1964, we wound up renting a function room for the night at the Holiday Inn downtown. The attendance for that all-night election party was so large and had so many out-of-towners, we decided to have a relaxacon-like convention the next year that wouldn't be limited to a mere room with its various restrictions.

images/1x1.gif Balticon 1, as it is now known, was held over President's Day weekend in 1965, at the Emerson Hotel in downtown Baltimore. The Emerson was across the street from the theater district, and so it was the hotel where visiting performers usually stayed. The entire top floor was an elaborate and ornate penthouse suite with a central master bar and tons of room. The modest BSFS treasury covered its rental, but not its stock nor other amenities, and at that time I was in my last semester of undergraduate college and had very little money to contribute. Roger Zelazny put up a fair amount of it, but pretty much got it all back at the end of the convention. That first Balticon was an enormous hit. There was no guest of honor, but it was a grand time with just the right folks there. I remember Randall Garrett leading his inimitable filk sings, and Lin Carter pontificating in another area of the suite, and half the convention going out for breakfast at dawn. One other thing that happened was that the Emerson security man got himself fired -- he liked us so much he, er, oversampled our bar.
illo by Joe Mayhew images/1x1.gif The next year, we moved a block away to the Lord Baltimore Hotel. It wasn't our choice -- new owners had bought the Emerson during the previous year, and had it demolished to make way for a new downtown parking garage. It was a great loss...
images/1x1.gif The Lord Baltimore wasn't nearly as well laid out for us, but it was good enough. We used only the lower floor halls and meeting rooms. The hotel management tended to look the other way on corkage but did insist on a minimum twenty-five rooms per night for Friday and Saturday. This time we had a token program and a Guest of Honor. It had occurred to me that our kind of convention was the right size to invite a single GoH and have him or her not only do whatever they wanted as program but also to interact one-on-one with the con attendees. As chairman, I also wanted somebody new who wasn't already a 'regular', and for this I picked Samuel R. Delaney, whose first couple of books had impressed me. This was also his first real con experience, and he and we all seemed to fit rather well.

images/1x1.gif The budget for the convention was not at all high, so we cut costs as much as we could (to give one example of economy, I remember Paul Schaubel coming back from Allied Chemical with twenty gallons of pure grain alcohol, which we then diluted 50-50 with tap water and poured into Smirnoff bottles -- nobody complained, and we had all that 'vodka' for about ten bucks). I also rushed down and rented three rooms, which I gave away, when I discovered we only had 47 room nights. It was expensive, but cheaper than paying the facilities bill for not making our room night commitment.

images/1x1.gif I wasn't around for the next Balticon. Back then, with the Vietnam War near its peak, there was very limited protection from the draft, and I'd received a draft physical. Bill Osten, a local SF fan and BSFS member who'd wound up marrying my old girlfriend Enid, had gotten into the 135th Air Command Group, an Air National Guard unit where my cousin, WWII vet Laurence Volrath (from whom I get my middle name) was a colonel, and tipped me off that there were openings. I went down there, tested, and on the same day as a postcard arrived stating that I would be drafted within the next thirty days, I joined the 135th and went off to basic training on February 3, 1967 -- two weeks before Balticon 3. Ted Pauls, with some help from Dave Ettlin and Ron Bounds (both 4Fs), ran it with L. Sprague de Camp as GoH; it reportedly went okay. I didn't get back into town until late August and remained on active duty for a while after that. I had gone through special forces training at Howard Air Force
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