The 4th Annual 'Winkie' OzCon was held last Saturday, and I'm afraid that it was the least successful in the series so far. Strangely enough, because the OzCons have been getting bigger every year, this was the smallest yet.
The first three annual conventions were all held in private homes. Attendance started off at around 30 the first year, and grew to around 80 or more by last year, with the prospect that this year's would be even larger. It was decided that the group had become too large to fit into private homes any longer, so a committee was formed by the mysterious powers-that-be (the group has no formal structure or elected officers) to locate a larger outside meeting place for this year's Con. The spot that was finally selected was a rather unattractive playground building in a city park in Sherman Oaks. Possibly because of the unattractive location, or the fact that it was announced that children's games would be emphasized and bibliographic displays minimized, or the prospect of Summer heat in the San Fernando Valley, or (as one of the organizers bet), the $3.00 membership fee (to cover the lunch), the larger-than-ever attendance certainly failed to materialize. There were possibly 25 adults in all, and about half that number of children under 10.
The OzCon was supposed to start around 10:00 a.m., but by the time I picked up Len Bailes in Westwood and we hunted down the park, it was after 10:30 and things were just getting set up. The playground, in the Sherman Oaks War Memorial Park, was like most city playground buildings; like the Silverlake Playground, except that it had a stage at the front. There was a handful of folding chairs set up in a cool corner by the stage, and some card tables with some display items on them: Oz chinaware, an amateur Oz novel (Raggedys in Oz) written by an Oz fan (for the purpose of writing a character he didn't like out of the canon), some mementos of other OzCons, and a large number of Oz dolls and such made by the children. Games were being set up throughout the rest of the room: a couple of identification quizzes, pin-the-heart-on-the-Tin-Woodman, an Oz bean-bag toss and the like. The best thing there was a table with a pitcher of free Coolade and a bowl of cookies, and they were kept filled throughout the day. On the whole, though, there was nothing to do all morning long except renew old acquaintances. Fred Meyer, the Forry Ackerman of Oz fandom, was there; this was the fourth OzCon he was attending this year, the others being the 7th national at Bass Lake, Ind., the 1st 'Munchkin' in Philadelphia, and the 1st 'Quadling' in Baton Rouge. Blake Maxam showed up soon, and Elmer Perdue came in later in the afternoon, wearing a pair of tiger slippers. Len, not knowing anybody, sat down in a corner and read a John D. MacDonald paperback he'd bought that morning.
A little after noon, the lunch was set out. This was a serve-yourself buffet, of the usual salads, cold cuts & luncheon meats, topped off by the traditional birthday cake dessert (the 'Winkie' Con is always held on Ozma's birthday, or the Saturday closest to it). By the time we'd finished eating, a cool breeze was rising, and everybody was feeling a bit better. There was no auction or sale table this year, but a few of the attendees had brought some books, and there was a small amount of private bargaining being made.
The adult program began after lunch. This invariably consists of papers being read, and one of the local Oz scholars, Barbara Hughes, started off with one titled, "How Deadly Is the Deadly Desert?", pointing out that though the sands that isolate Oz are supposed to annihilate anyone who sets foot on them, this has never seemed to keep anyone who wants to from crossing over, under, or on them.
Next came an unexpected donnybrook, which I'm afraid I set off. The member who had arranged the day's event (call her the chairwoman) spoke of the difficulty of getting a good meeting place for the OzCons, and suggested that the members discuss the problem by correspondence over the rest of the year, with an eye toward looking outside of the Los Angeles are itself, since it seemed to be dried up for our purposes. At this point, I got up and suggested that next year's OzCon be held in conjunction with the Pan-PacifiCon. I'd talked this over with the rest of the Pan-PacifiCon Committee earlier, and we agreed that this would be no more difficult than the annual Burroughs Bibliophile Dum-Dum that's always held at the WorldCon. This would solve next year's OzCon meeting problem, putting it in one of the best hotels in Los Angeles. Well, this touched off a debate. Arguments against the idea were that the Labor Day weekend was too close to the beginning of school for the parents and teachers, that it would make it the most expensive OzCon yet (since all attendees would have to have Pan-PacifiCon memberships, and pay extra if they wanted a special Oz luncheon), and that the Oz gathering would be "swamped out" by the s-f fans. One strange argument was that since the Statler-Hilton is one of the finest hotels in town, everyone would have to wear their best clothes and be uncomfortable all day long. Arguments for the idea were that it did give the Oz fans an impeccable meeting place, the Oz fans could attend any part of the s-f convention they wanted to, it would be an opportunity for recruiting new members of Oz fandom, and that it was a revolutionary new idea that was worth trying, especially as this would be a one-shot occasion. Dr. Warren Hollister surprised us all by offering his new home in Santa Barbara for a traditional meeting instead, if we preferred, but he made it plain that someone else would have to organize and run the affair; he would only host it. Nobody else stepped forward. The debate got rather bitter due to the fact that the chairwoman was dead set against the idea of merging with the Pan-PacifiCon, and she kept trying to scuttle it by placing unreasonable restrictions on the Pan-PacifiCon, combining the proposal with a different unpopular idea and demanding one flat Yes or No vote on both, and so on. It finally got to the point where I asked for a flat yes or No vote; either the Oz fans left the arranging of next year's OzCon entirely in my hands, or they could make their own other arrangements. As they rather obviously had not other arrangements to make, but nobody wanted the tradition of the yearly Oz gathering to die out, the merger was passed by a vote of 13 to 8, with several abstentions. I agreed to be personally responsible for seeing that next year's OzCon is held, finally; which means that if the Pan-PacifiCon gets its bid at New York, the Oz fans will have a Burroughs-fandom-type gathering at it, and if the Pan-PacifiCon bid should be turned down, I'll arrange a typical OzCon elsewhere (doubtlessly accepting Dr. Hollister's offer).
By the time this was all settled, we were just about exhausted. Judy Pike then read the second paper of the day, which was a plot-summary of Raggedys in Oz. This was followed by a written Oz trivia quiz, which is traditionally the last event at OzCons; so, since I had a Petard meeting later that evening to prepare for, I left before the formal end of the meeting.