The View from the East End (15)
By Inspector HopkinsJune 19, 2005
The Sons of the Copper Beeches
Fighting my way through hectic rush hour traffic, I found the "Sons of the Copper Beeches" to be absolutely thriving in center-city Philadelphia!
This particular scion is perhaps the oldest, the most historic, and the most traditional of ANY Sherlockian scion society out here in the East End. They refer to their president as their "Head Mastiff", and their secretary as their "Recorder of Pedigrees". Founded in 1948, and after having had several Head Mastiffs, this scion is currently headed up by Dr. Gideon Hill, a recently investitured BSI member. Frank Ferry is their current Recorder of Pedigrees, and he does an absolutely outstanding job of recording the minutes of each of their meetings.
Like the "Denizens of the Bar of Gold", they meet twice each year, every Spring and Fall, but this particular group is a male-only scion. They have a very strict dress code, requiring members to wear a business suit, or at the very least, a blazer and tie. They meet in a very prestigious center-city location, "The Racquet Club" in South 16th Street, which is itself steeped in tradition! It is polished, formal, and respectable in every way.
And, as you might expect, it is not cheap to attend one of their meetings, either. Between the cost of the meal, the price of parking on Chancellor Street, and a drink or two, any male Sherlockian should be forewarned to bring a "Franklin" with him, at least.
But, oh . . . Indeed, it is worth every cent to attend one of their meetings!
Reminiscent of the kind of gentlemens clubs that Dr. Watson or Mycroft Holmes might have been members of, the "Racquet Club" lives up to these expectations in the fullest sense. There is a billiards room with the most exquisite 5 x 9 table, equipped with leather bags to catch the billiard balls, as well as benches for spectators to watch matches. This is indeed such a place where Watson may well have played against Thurston! There are backgammon boards set up on various tables, with a special backgammon room for very serious play. Of course, there is a dartboard. The walls are resplendent with historic oil paintings, some of which are in the ten-foot long variety. The floors are of marble, as are the rest room walls. Furniture, carpeting, and artwork abound. The entire building is rich, opulent, and entirely conducive to serious Sherlockian activity. Everywhere I walked, peering into various rooms, I kept thinking of how a Club such as this could have easily been part of the lives of our Canonical heroes!
The "Sons" meet in a lower level room with dark hexagonal floor tiles from the famous Mercer Tile factory in Doylestown, PA. The room was designed by the Horace Trumbauer architecture firm, and has heavy wooden ceiling beams and stained glass windows. There were some 57 members in attendance, and I was asked to give the "Toast to the Woman" beforehand. Since this was my very first Sherlockian Toast, I was particularly honoured to do so! My toast was quite well received, and I am also happy to report that I met some Sherlockians who were attending their very first scion meeting. As the good "Sophomore" that I am, it made me feel very good to be able to help make them feel welcome to our wonderful and absorbing hobby!
After these traditional toasts, we had our dinner, following a very nice invocation by Rev. Steeves. We were served a particularly delicious Black Bean soup as an appetizer. I chose the Prime Rib as my menu selection, and it was an absolute delight! Together with the best asparagus I have ever tasted, baked potato, plenty of freshly baked assorted rolls and butter, and cinnamon apple pie with whipped cream, let me assure you that I was quite well satisfied. We were next served our choice of wine or cognac. I enjoyed a glass or two of their "Cockburns" fine ruby port during the post-dinner activities, of which there were several. They began with reports on recent activities of East End scions such as The Six Napoleons, The Three Garridebs, The Red Circle, Watsons Tin Box, and my home scion of The Epilogues of Sherlock Holmes.
Following that, several "Apprentice" members were elevated to the status of "Journeymen" and used the recitation of the Musgrave Ritual to do this. As I learned, one is considered an Apprentice for the first four meetings he attends. Then he can become a Journeyman. And when a Journeyman delivers a paper to the group, he is elevated to the rank of "Master Copper Beechsmith".
One member who was moving to Arizona was next given the "Cheesemans, Sussex Award" which commemorated his services to the Sons of the Copper Beeches in bringing Stilton cheese to their meetings for many years. Afterwards, two brief papers were presented to the group by Frank Ferry and Paul Singleton concerning the story of the evening, "The Dying Detective".
In conclusion of their four hour long meeting, we enjoyed their ending tradition of cigars, during the contemplation of the quiz for this story, given by Dana Andrews. I do not believe that I will ever experience any Sherlockian society which better gives the feel of how Dr. Watson and Mycroft Holmes might have lived, dined, and socialized, as the "Sons of the Copper Beeches" do! Believe me, I will be saving up my pennies to attend their Fall meeting. (Sorry, ladies . . . no offense taken, I hope).
To learn more about this fine group of gentlemen, visit their website at:
Until next time, when we will head sharply south and west for the next Scion, I remain,