Jack and Blanche Williamson at Seacon, 1979 (Photo by Frank Olynyk.)

Jack and Blanche Williamson at Seacon, 1979 (Photo by Frank Olynyk.)

Jack Williamson, of course, had become a civilian again along with all the rest of us. His plan was to go back to the college education he had been forced to abandon long before because he didn’t have the money to continue it. Now there was this wonderful new law, called the GI Bill of Rights, which would give any veteran who wanted to go to school money to pay the tuition and all the other expenses and a few bucks extra each month as a stipend. With that to make it possible, Jack signed up at Eastern New Mexico University, right there in Portales, New Mexico, quite close to the small community called Pep, where the Williamson family ranch was located.

In his writing career, he hit the ground running, turning out kinds of stories that were, if anything, better and more mature than before. He had everything he needed. He could stay in the large house that dominated the family ranch, where there was always a room for him.

And, yes, he had a studio of his own to write in, because he had built one for himself out of surplus planks nailed together long before.. No one disturbed him there, though if you stopped typing long enough to listen you might hear the rustling of the tribe of rattlesnakes that lived under the floorboards. (That studio survives to today. So do the rattlesnakes.)

His future seemed quite predictable. What changed it was Blanche Slaton Harb.

Young Blanche Slaton had been young Jack Williamson’s schooldays sweetheart when both were pre-teens. Jack never got over it. When they had grown to wedding size, he would have liked nothing better than to ask Blanche to marry him. What stopped him was poverty.

He didn’t have a job and he didn’t have much hope of a future. What he did have was a rigorous, if old-fashioned, conviction that you didn’t go around asking women to marry you when you couldn’t support them. So he let her get away, and somebody else did marry her, and for the next several decades Jack moved about the world and sometimes came across quite nice and available women, but never one that came up to the memory of pretty, sweet, dearly beloved — and lost — Blanche Slaton.

Until, that is, the time when Jack got out of the Air Force and returned to the Portales area, and there was Blanche. Her husband had died unexpectedly, long before his time. Blanche was a widow, supporting herself on a little women’s clothing store she had started in Portales’ town square … and again marriageable.

Jack did not make the same mistake twice. He courted her at once, married her as soon as she said yes, and in 1947 began one of the happiest marriages I know of. It lasted almost forty years, until Blanche died in a tragic traffic accident in 1985.

To be continued when I get to it. . . .

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  1. Robert Nowall says:

    In a way, it’s sad that this fine reminiscence runs commentless while politics gathers up thirty-eight (so far) comments.

    But…(1) We live in interesting times, (2) I only know of Jack Williamson, and that only through constant and obsessive reading, and (3) I’ve got nothing I can add other than this.

  2. Dwight Decker says:

    Mr. Nowall would like to see more comments about the reminsicences… Well, let’s see. Wildside Press recently reprinted SCIENCE STORIES #1 from 1953 (with an absolutely crazed editorial by I presume Ray Palmer that has to be read to be disbelieved), which has a Williamson story, and Mr. Williamson himself contributed some autobiographical remarks that are of interest:

    “After the war, I came back to the county-seat town of Portales, New Mexico, served a short hitch as a wire editor, and married Blanche — whom I’ve known since we were in the sixth grade together. She hadn’t waited for me the first time: consequently we now have a son who is a Navy frogman, a married daughter, and two grandchildren who are usually very charming.”

    I liked that “usually” qualification…