The LASFS picnic trip to the Arboretum was quite a success. A dozen people in all showed up, and most of us spent about six hours eating, wandering around the grounds, and loafing on the grass. For those of you who couldn't make it, a return trip is planned for sometime next Spring, when the flowers and peacocks will be in full bloom.
I hadn't been to the Arboretum in over ten years, and the map I published last week turned out to be inaccurate, as far as I was concerned -- the Baldwin Ave. offramp on the San Bernadino Fwy. is available only to those driving from Los Angeles toward San Bernardino. As I was coming from the opposite direction, I had to leave the Fwy. at an unexpected spot and do a little hunting around the streets of El Monte before I found my pre-plotted route again. The result was that I arrived at the Arboretum a good half-hour after the 10:00 a.m. starting time, and I expected to find that everybody had gone ahead. However, a familiar group was still sitting around outside the main gate -- Don Fitch, our guide, Ruth Berman, Ed Baker, Don Simpson, and Lyn Stier. The first peafowl of the day were already looking for handouts: a cock and two hens. I tore the crust off one of the sandwiches I'd brought and fed it to them; a dangerous action, because the peacock was all too aware of where the crust'd come from, and Don warned me that the bird was likely to try to peck through my lunchsack to get the rest of my food, if he had a chance. We left the birds to fend for themselves, and went on our way.
I won't go into a detailed list of all we saw. Some of the items, though, included a beehive, a spice garden, an exhibit of carnivorous plants, a pressure-sensitive plant whose leaves curled up when we flicked them, numerous hothouses full of orchids, etc., and a jungle that's been untouched since they shot Tarzan movies there back in the 1920's. There were several streams and ponds stocked with small fish, and a big lake with many waterfowl. We strolled around and through the old coach house and summer cottage -- the Arboretum was "Lucky" Baldwin's estate in the last century, and the old Victorian gingerbread buildings have been kept up. We were joined soon after we began by Neal Clark Reynolds and his son, Jeff, then by Chuck & Sally Crayne; and, toward the end of the day, by Dave & Barbara Pollard. We had a fine picnic lunch a bit after noon, then continued strolling around and relaxing on the lawns. We didn't see everything; we were feeling too leisurely to hurry around, and, since we'd already decided to hold another picnic there when the peacocks are in full mating display, we felt we'd have plenty of opportunity to see whatever we were missing, then. We got an interesting picture of what don Fitch does at work every day, especially when he had to take a few minutes out from showing us around to pot some new plants that had just arrived by mail from the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
It seems, according to Don, that there's a state of undeclared warfare between the peafowl and the attendants at the Arboretum. The peafowl are omnivorous, and will eat some of the best plants there, any chance they can get. One section of the Arboretum, containing the peafowl's favorite plants, is wired off so that they can't get into it. It's also policy to smash most of the birds' eggs each Spring, so the Arboretum won't be overrun by peacocks and peahens. (The population is kept at about 300.) There may be a chance that the LASFS could get some good, hatchable peafowl eggs, if we want any. Would the Hill like a few mascots?
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Cover -- This is one of the best we've had in a long time. Thank you very much, Don. In a way, the covers we use are a sort of barometer to the interest that exists in Apa L. In the old days, even though a lot of our covers were reprints, it was also easier to get good, new covers. There were more artists around, and there were usually willing to turn out a good cover for Apa L on a few days' notice, if asked for one. Recently, though, too many of our covers have been scribbled off at the last minute, just for the sake of having a cover, rather than to show off an attractive piece of art. This one is good, and I hope we can get more good covers from the other local artists, by asking each to do a cover for a specific dist'n, with notice of a week or more in advance.
Ruth Berman -- I think one of the things that killed chivalry was its inability to accept new ideas. As you say, it involved an elaborate pattern of good manners, and there was more emphasis on whose social position would allow them to do what. We've still got the picture today of impoverished noblemen who'd rather starve than enter the commercial classes. Knights weren't the only ones to wear armor just because they were the only ones who could afford it. A villein or commoner wasn't allowed to possess such things, any more than a private in the Army would be allowed to wear an officer's uniform, whether or not he could afford to buy it. It's on record that the first duel in the New England colonies was fought between two indentured servants, who were imprisoned for it on a charge of impersonating noblemen, because only people of quality fought duels -- servants just brawled in the back alleys. Contrariwise, when gunpowder was introduced to warfare, it wasn't considered dignified for an aristocrat to use it at first, and by the time it became clear that gunpowder was going to be the deciding factor in battles of the future, its use had become too associated with the lower classes of the soldier for the aristocrats to try to relegate its use to themselves. More or less the same thing happened when the commercial interests began growing; the lower classes got into them first, and the aristocrats wouldn't deign to pollute their honor by joining them, after that. So I think that chivalry died as much because of an abdication of power on the aristocrat's part, as because of a seizure of power by the lower classes.
Bill Glass -- A very good piece.
Tom Digby -- Your comment here illustrates the problem I had in mind. When I suggested that we plan a program of reviews & discussion of the new books by fans-turned-pro (Lupoff, Van Arnam, etc.), I didn't mean that everyone should sit quietly around while different people each gave a review of one book. What I meant was that everyone should come prepared to discuss them, so that if someone says, "Ted Johnstone's first novel proves he'll become a better writer than Heinlein", or "Van Arnam doesn't know the first thing about how to write a story", we can get a good conversation going.