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2017 Convention Report

Written by Bill Gowen, Newsboy Editor

The Horatio Alger Society’s 53rd annual convention, “Strong and Steady in Sacramento,” was a big success duiring the weekend of May 4-7, 2017, with several members arriving a day early because of the long travel distance from the East and Midwest, affording an early opportunity to “meet and greet” at the Ramada Sacramento before heading out to dinner.

The official opening day of the convention on Thursday was met with temperatures in the low 70s. The hospitality/meeting room was open and stocked with refreshments by host Barry Schoenborn in advance of the official 1:30 starting time, giving Executive Director Bob Sipes an opportunity to sort through the consignment and donation auction materials.

Throughout the afternoon and early evening, attendees continued to arrive, with those arriving early taking the opportunity to visit historic locations in Sacramento, including Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum, State Capitol and Sutter’s Fort. In mid-morning,”

The traditional major Thursday event is the annual Board of Directors meeting, which H.A.S. President Dick Hoffman called to order right on schedule at 4:30 p.m. The agenda was filled with important items such as reports from the Executive Director, Treasurer, Nominating Committee, Newsboy Editor and Webmasters. Other important business included the location of future conventions and an update on the NIU Repository. President Hoffman adjourned the meeting at 6:30 p.m.

The evening hours on Thursday were spent visiting restaurants of our choice.

Friday, May 5

Following breakfast in a room just off the hotel lobby, host Barry Schoenborn greeted members and guests as Friday’s official events got underway at about 8:45 a.m. President Hoffman followed with his welcoming remarks, leading directly to the formal presentations. First off was Newsboy editor Bill Gowen’s presentation (with slides) titled “Harry Lincoln Sayler: The Airship Boys and Much More,” a close look at the Midwestern author of four interesting series of books for young people.

Bob Eastlack followed with a discussion of new findings in his ongoing research into Horatio Alger first editions. The third talk was Bob Petitto’s second presentation (the first came at the 2015 convention) on important new discoveries in the world of “Oliver Optic” (William T. Adans), including rare finds he has recently acquired.

James Keeline wrapped up the session with his comprehensive talk titled “Building a Series Book,” which used Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate as models for how a typical book grew from an original concept and plot outline through authorship, editing, manufacturing (printing and binding) and finally, marketing and distribution. The talk included PowerPoint video and still images of each step in the process.

Following a short break, President Hoffman called the annual Business Meeting to order. First on the agenda was his announcement that James King (PF-1126) had offered to host the 2018 convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and that the Board of Directors had voted to bring his proposal, to the membership at this meeting. King addressed the group, talking about the Fort Lauderdale-Miami area in general and outlining his preliminary research into several hotels that meet our needs within short access to Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Vice President Cary Sternick moved that we accept Fort Lauderdale as our 2018 host city, the motion was seconded by Bob Eastlack and carried overwhelmingly by a hand vote.

Barry Schoenborn reported on the nominating committee’s presentation of three current board members — Marlena Bremseth, James King and Joseph Strang — to accept new terms to remain on the board through 2020, as the Society transitions to a permanent board membership of six from the current nine. Brad Chase moved that we accept the nominations, the motion was seconded by Carol Nackenoff and carried by a vote of hands.

The revised and updated Constitution and By-Laws, published in the November-December 2016 Newsboy was brought to the floor for ratification. Bob Eastlack, a member of the Constitution and By-laws Committee, moved that we amend By-Law 7-3 to update the research authority for membership in the “Super 100 Club” (a member with 100 or more Alger first editions), to be the official H.A.S. website instead of the Gardner and Bennett bibliographies, because the website is constantly being updated while printed sources remain tied to their time of publication, and thus subject to being outdated.

A discussion ensued, and President Hoffman moved that we vote to have the committee draft this revision, that action approved by a hand vote. Then, the vote to ratify the Constitution and By-Laws as a whole was voted on and passed by a hand vote.

Vice President Cary Sternick moved to adjourn the business meeting; the motion was seconded by James King and the meeting was adjourned shortly before 11:30 a.m.

All members and their guests traveled by carpools to the nearly Denny’s Restaurant where they enjoyed lunch and camaraderie in a separate room away from the bustle of the main dining room.

Upon the return to the Ramada Sacramento, the annual consignment and donation auction got underway at about 1 p.m. Because the majority of attendees took air travel to the West coast, the number of auction lots was smaller than usual, with auctioneer Bob Huber moving the 114 lots through the bidding in less than two and a half hours. The total bids came to $1,379, with $393 in donations (all proceeds to the Society) and consignments totaling $986, with a commission percentage to the Society of $197.20.

The remainder of Friday afternoon was spent relaxing and getting ready for our trip to the Florez Mexican Bar & Grill for our traditional Friday evening meal. By coincidence, in 2017 the day fell on May 5, the Cinco de Mayo celebration of Mexico, and the Florez was truly up to the spirit of that important national observance with strolling musicians and traditionally costumed wait-staff. It was an amazing evening, and the food (our choices ordered off the menu) was outstanding.

Saturday, May 6

Following breakfast, setup began for the annual book sale. Again, long traveling distances held the total of books down, but James and Kim Keeline were able to drive up from San Diego with a large selection (most of them non-Algers), but they found several eager buyers for many of their dust-jacketed editions and other books. Again, the book sale became a nice social occasion aside from the number of books offered for sale.

The remainder of Saturday was spent enjoying lunch on our own and visiting area bookstores and antique centers.

By late afternoon, attendees started to gather in the lobby for our trip to Cherry Island Golf Course, whose clubhouse was the location of the annual H.A.S. awards banquet.

One of the major convention events each year is the presentation of the Strive and Succeed Award to an area student. We found out at almost the last minute that our recipient, Shreya Kumar, 19, a first-year student at the University of California at Davis, had taken ill that week and was restricted to her home.

Shreya’s note of regret was forwarded to convention host Barry Schoenborn by Norma Jean Thornton, the Northern California Publishers and Authors (NCPA) communications director, who was Barry’s “go-to person” in helping our convention overcome several tough obstacles during the winter and spring. Here is Shreya’s note:

“I am writing to inform you that regretfully I will not be able to attend the banquet tonight at Cherry Island Golf Course. I have been sick for the past couple of days, but I kept pushing myself to go to class and to work, which I’m afraid has only left me feeling much, much worse. I have been unfocused and exhausted because of my illness, and my health is just not permitting me to go about my day normally. I am so sorry that I cannot attend tonight. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to both of you for offering me this scholarship, and I was so looking forward to expressing that in my thank you speech tonight. I had prepared it in advance and I am attaching it in this email.

“Your support for my education and college expenses is truly invaluable, and both of your organizations are filled with such wonderful people who represent the incredible world of literature and writing. I was looking forward to seeing the NCPA members whom I have not seen in a full year, and especially meeting you, Barry, and Kiyo. I sincerely hope you can forgive my absence tonight. I am so very sorry.”

The Strive and Succeed Award certificate and check was subsequently sent to Shreya by Barry and Norma Jean Thornton.

Each year, the banquet also features the annual H.A.S. awards, and here are the 2017 recipients:

The Dick Seddon Award, given to the person who best personifies the friendship, loyalty and spirit of the late Richard Seddon, was presented to Keith Thompson (PF-035), by last year’s recipient, Brad Chase.

The Carl Hartmann Luck & Pluck Award, traditionally given to the previous year’s convention host(s), was presented to Bob (PF-1067) and Wendy Sipes (their third such award).

The President’s Award was presented by Dick Hoffman to Norma Jean Thornton who (as mentioned above) was invaluable in assisting host Barry Schoenborn with the 2017 convention

The Newsboy Award was presented to Peter C. Walther (PF-548) for his years of research and articles (several published in Newsboy) regarding ongoing scholarship on Horatio Alger, “Oliver Optic” (William T. Adams) and other “founding fathers” of our hobby.

Host Barry Schoenborn then introduced keynote speaker Kiyo Sato, 93, The William Saroyan Prize-winning author of Dandelion Through the Crack (since republished as Kiyo’s Story), the wide-ranging reminiscence of her internment as a child (along with her family, friends and other American citizens of Japanese ancestry) during the early days of World War II. Kiyo and her family were sent to one of the three Poston incarceration camps in Arizona.

This fascinating presentation of nearly an hour was made without notes and was accompanied by projected and static visuals of her family’s California farm before their uprooting to Arizona at the decree of the U.S. government, along with scenes from the camp. A lengthy question and answer session followed. Incidentally, Ms. Sato turned 94 two days after her presentation.

Kiyo Sato’s personal story, first published as Dandelion Through the Crack by Schoenborn’s Willow Valley Press (that book now out of print), is now available under the new title Kiyo’s Story, published by Soho Press, and is available at amazon.com.

Sunday, May 7

Before many attendees headed to the airport, they gathered in the hotel breakfast room to say goodbye and promise to see each other in Fort Lauderdale in 2018.