Posts tagged ‘Blanche Williamson’

Eugenie Clark

   Eugenie Clark

It’s hard to list the Ipsy’s guests in any sensible order, perhaps because they were not an orderly bunch. It does make sense for me to divide the guests into two classes. To begin with, there was the New York science-fiction crowd, all of whom I had known for some time.

In that group were most of the science-fiction people I have already written more or less extensively about in these pages. Among the ones most frequently present were Lester and Evelyn del Rey, Bob and Essie Bolster, George and Dona Smith, Cyril Kornbluth (first as a house guest of mine, then as a nearby resident on his own). Assorted other house guests of mine included Fritz Leiber from Chicago and Jack and Blanche Williamson from New Mexico.

Ted Sturgeon was definitely a regular in an unusual sense. For a couple of months one summer he never went home at all, since at the time, his finances being anemic, he didn’t have a home to go to.

The Pratts had no objection to Ted’s staying in the house when everyone else was gone. However, they didn’t offer to feed him. That was not a problem for Ted, who enjoyed a good dish of eel. He enjoyed it so much, in fact, that by the time he finally moved out of the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute, he had fished out the entire family of eels who lived by the boat dock. They never returned.

Any number of other New York-area sf people visited the Ipsy. Isaac Asimov, for instance, was there I think only once, but it was a significant visit, since Fletcher and Inga had plans for Isaac. They spent a lot of that weekend telling him what a wonderful place the Bread Loaf Writers’ Colony was for anyone with the desire, and the ability, to be a serious writer … and, I’m pretty sure, spent an equivalent period of time with the Breadloaf people telling them what a wonderful prospect Isaac was. The effort paid off. Isaac did give Bread Loaf a try; he loved the place, the Breadloaf people loved him and he became a Bread Loaf stalwart.

The other fraction of frequent guests at the Ipsy basically comprised the non-sf friends of the Pratts, many of them with ties to The Saturday Review of Literature. Some of those were actual celebrities of one kind or another, as for example Eugenie Clark, known worldwide as the “Lady with a Spear,” after her bestselling book with that name. Eugenie, as a child, had been fascinated by the works of William BeebeHalf Mile Down, the story of his adventures hanging at the end of almost 3,000 feet of steel cable in his “bathysphere,” a steel sphere about the size of a pup tent, or Beneath Tropic Seas, about his less spine-chilling but even more beautiful experiences walking through warm-water corals with only a mask for breathing.

I could understand her fascination. I had been turned on by the same books at about the same age. The difference between Eugenie Clark and me, though, was that she then grew up to become an actual ichthyologist, and I only to become a writer.

Continue reading ‘Fletcher Pratt, Part 4: The Friends of Fletcher’ »

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. . . .

Related posts: