The Practical Joke

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If Robert E. Howard was ever an actual member of the Lone Scouts of America (LSA) , it was probably during his Cross Plains High School days. In the summer of 1919, C. S. Boyles, Jr., a classmate and future publisher of Howard’s (in Brownwood High School’s Tattler), contributed to that organization’s official organ: Lone Scout. The magazine was the glue that held the membership—isolated almost by definition—together and kept them in contact with each other. Besides Boyles, there was at least one other confirmed Lone Scout in Cross Plains: Renerick Clark. All three of these boys were part of a group that installed “an up to date radio plant” in the Cozy Drug Store in August 1922.

After moving to Brownwood for his final year of high school, Howard met two more former Lone Scouts: Truett Vinson and Clyde Smith. According to Smith, by the time he met Howard in the spring of 1923, he had put “childish things” aside and was no longer an active member of the LSA. Despite that, he produced a handful of issues of what could easily be described as a LSA “tribe paper,” which were mini versions of Lone Scout. One of Smith’s contributors was Herbert Klatt, who may also have been a correspondent of Vinson’s at this time. Smith, Klatt, and Vinson had all sent in their addresses to the “Lone Scout Messenger Department,” which served as a meeting place for would-be correspondents. Later, through Klatt, Vinson “met” Harold Preece, and through Preece, everyone met Booth Mooney.

Over in Bosque County, one of Klatt’s regular Lone Scout contacts was Menloe Jermstad. The two had attended the 1925 Central Texas Encampment on the Leon River and together were responsible for the 1926 Bosque County Lone Scout Rally. Their friendship ended with Klatt’s death in 1928, but it appears that Jermstad had also been introduced to at least some of the Howard circle.

Menloe Andrew Jermstad was born January 24, 1907, and was raised on a farm in Bosque County, Texas. Following his marriage to Clomer Allen on October 6, 1928, he decided to increase his Lone Scout activity for 1929. He started by conducting a Lone Scout department in the Clifton Record and then decided to run for Council Chief of Region 9. And therein lies a tale that involves Robert E. Howard—at least tangentially.

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Following the merger of the Lone Scouts with the Boy Scouts in 1924, disgruntled Lone Scouts redoubled their efforts with tribe papers. One of these, Lone Scout Weekly News out of Stigler, Oklahoma, became one of the meeting-places for our cast of characters in 1928-29. The publication featured contributions from several of Robert E. Howard’s acquaintances from The Junto, including Roy McDonald, Roy DeMent, Alex Doktor, Hildon Collins, as well as Preece and Mooney. Early in 1929, Menloe Jermstad announced his candidacy for 1930 council chief. At some point he talked to Harold Preece about his decision and Preece told him the following, which Jermstad contributed to the March 9, 1929 issue of Weekly News:

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Since October 1928, Harold Preece had been running a series of articles in Weekly News called “Outstanding Personalities of Region Nine.” He took a break from this for the March 16, 1929 issue and instead ran “Texas Scouts Now in Professional Ranks”:

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The March 23 issue revealed the “Joke on Jermstad”:

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It seems that the “Texas Scouts” piece was designed, in part, to present Bob Howard’s credentials and thus wind up Jermstad a bit. There is no evidence in Preece’s letters to Clyde Smith or Howard’s letters to Preece that anyone else was even aware of the prank.

A side note: Menloe died on April 24, 1936. I found this little story about his death at ancestry.com:

Clomer Allen Jermstad was tried and convicted for the murder of her husband, Minlow [sic.] Jermstad. The charge was “Murder with Malice” and she was tried in the Meridian, Bosque Co., Texas court house. On October 19, 1936 she was found guilty and sentenced to 45 years in prison. After serving 11 of the 45 years, Clomer received a full pardon dated January 26, 1948 and signed by the Texas State Governor.

In the trial Clomer’s defense had been that she had been forced to poison her husband by her boyfriend, George Pace. Clomer contended that George had threatened to kill her daughter if she did not kill her husband, Minlow. She said that she had given Minlow strychnine mixed with coffee while George watched through the window. Minlow died very soon after consuming the poison and was buried on the same day. George Pace was also tried and convicted of murder and sentenced to prison.

George Pace’s sister, Nancy Anna Bell Pace, was married to Alvin Allen, Clomer’s brother. Alvin AlIen’s son, Charles Birt Allen, insisted that the truth about the murder of Minlow Jermstad was that Clomer had bought the strychnine (rat poison) herself and tried to get George to poison her husband for her. When George refused to do the dirty deed, Clomer poured the poison into Minlow’s coffee.

[Originally published in Onion Tops #53, REHupa mailing #242, August 2013.]

Footnotes #1

Beginning a series of footnotes for Robert E. Howard’s letters. Most are far too obscure for publication.

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Preece’s Nose

Toward the end of 1928, Harold Preece, one of Robert E. Howard’s correspondents, was complaining about a nose problem. In his ca. October or early November 1930 letter, Howard responded:

Well, Harold, I’m sorry to hear your nose is troubling you again. I hope it will get alright. My own nose is nothing to brag about, having been broken several times. Man is a frail and very imperfect piece of nature.

Howard brings it up again in the ca. Dec 1928: “Hate to hear about your nose. What is that—sinus trouble, or septum or what? It must be Hell. Be careful about it.” Little details like this stick in my brain for some reason so, when I stumbled on the following passage from “The Spirit of Old” by Harold Preece, I immediately made the connection:

Within a month [of meeting Hildon V. Collins, a member of The Junto, in Waco] necessity forced me to undergo an operation upon my nose. Hildon went with me to the doctor’s office on the day of the operation. He conducted me back to the hotel and sat up all night with me. In a few days I was able to go to my home in Austin and recuperate. Hildon assisted me in getting my baggage to the station, seeing also that I was comfortably seated on the train. All this kindness to a youth he had known a short time [. . .]”

So the timeline for Preece’s nose trouble goes like this:

On July 13, 1928, Robert E. Howard and Harold Preece attended a prize fight together in Fort Worth, Texas (see “Dula Due to Be Champion” in Collected Letters vol. 1). That August, Howard wrote to Preece in Waco: “Glad you enjoyed our reunion at Fort Worth. I sure as Hell did. Yes, I’d have liked to have been with Truett, Hildon and yourself at Waco.”

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“The Spirit of Old” appears in the December 1928 issue of The Lone Indian, a “tribe paper” put out by a member of the Lone Scouts of America, an organization to which both Preece and Collins belonged (Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, and possibly Robert Howard as well). In the article, Preece explains when he first met Collins:

Two months previous to the time of this writing, I came to Waco, Texas, to fill an assignment made by the concern by which I am employed [the city directory crew]. Shortly after arriving, I became acquainted with Hildon V. Collins, LSB, who joined the LSA in 1926. We became quite intimate friends.

If tribe papers came out the month before the date on their covers, we can assume that the “time of this writing” is sometime in October or November, which places the time that Preece first met Collins around August. But in a letter from Waco, Texas, dated Thursday, July 26, 1928, Preece told Tevis Clyde Smith: “I wish you could have been with Truett, Hildon, and myself, the early part of the week. We had a prolonged and interesting session, and nothing was too sacred for the gamut of conversation.” That would place the meeting early in the week of July 23, 1928.

So, putting it all together, Preece tells Howard about his nose trouble sometime in July or August, possibly at the boxing match. A week and a half later, Preece meets Hildon V. Collins for the first time, somewhere around July 23. “Within a month,” Preece has an operation on his nose with Collins taking him to the doctor’s office and then seeing him to the train station to recuperate in Austin, this would be in late August or September. And we can do a bit better than that.

As luck would have it, Preece was a stickler for starting his letters with dates and places. His September 15 letter to Tevis Clyde Smith is from Waco. The September 30 letter is from Capital Station in Austin and begins, “Back home again. It is my intention to attend the State University for the spring term. I think that I can stand Austin for the next nine months, provided I am going to school.” So I’m betting that the operation happened between September 15 and 30.

All of which would end up like this in a footnote:

Well, Harold, I’m sorry to hear your nose is troubling you again 1

1 Preece had an operation on his nose at Waco in September.

And people say I’m obsessed.

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Dating The Right Hook

[by Rob Roehm. Originally published February 9, 2010, at rehtwogunraconteur.com; this version lightly edited.]

The Robert E. Howard Foundation’s recent publication of Sentiment: An Olio of Rarer Works contains the first real publication of The Right Hook numbers 2 and 3; number 1 appeared in a small press publication, Power of the Writing Mind, back in 2003. Consisting of several typewritten sheets, The Right Hook appears to be Robert E. Howard’s version of a “tribe paper” (his second, in fact; the first was The Golden Caliph in the summer of 1923). These were amateur publications produced by boys in the Lone Scouts of America. All three issues appeared in REHupa mailing #117 for September 1992, but only 30 people have that, and I’m not one of them. So we’ve got these three issues of Howard’s amateur paper, and none of them are dated. The best I’ve ever heard is “circa spring 1925.” Let’s see if we can do better than that.

In the first issue, there are a few references that can help date the publication. In “The Great Munney Ring,” Howard discusses Ed “Strangler” Lewis’  loss of the wrestling title to Wayne Munn, a former football star. That event occurred on January 8, 1925.

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Ed “Strangler” Lewis’

(Photo from Wrestling Museum)

On “The Sporting Page” Howard states that “Louis Kaplan has been given the title vacated by Johnny Dundee who retired some months ago, on the strength of his defeat of Danny Kramer.” Kaplan was awarded the title on January 2, 1925. There is also reference to the Sammy Mandell-Sid Terris boxing match which occurred on February 6, 1925. Other fights mentioned are from February 1925 or earlier.

The only item that argues against a late-February 1925 release is Howard’s mention of Upton Sinclaire’s Mammonart. This book began life as a serial published in late 1924 and into 1925. I’ve been unable to pin down the exact date of the complete book’s release, but a little “internet archaeology” did reveal a couple of mentions in the Harvard Crimson: one on March 21, and the other—a short review—on March 23. Another article in the April 1, 1925, Appleton, Wisconsin, Post-Crescent states that Mammonart was “just published.” All of these items suggest a March 1925 release date for the book. Of course, there’s no way of knowing exactly when Howard picked up the title, or if he even had when he wrote the comments in his paper, all of which could have been culled from newspapers. Perhaps a look at the other Right Hooks will help narrow down the date of the first; after all, it stands to reason that the first issue was published some time before the second. [UPDATE: I scored a first edition of Mammonart. The publication date is listed as “February, 1925.”]

The second issue of The Right Hook begins with the announcement that Munn, mentioned in number 1, has already lost the wrestling title to “Stanilaus Zybissco” (the correct spelling is Stanislaus Zbyszko). That match occurred on April 15, 1925. Another dateable reference in the second issue comes in the form of Howard’s prognostication of the upcoming McTigue-Berlenbach light-heavyweight title match. This contest was decided on May 30, 1925. Howard’s predictions were not accurate.

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(Photo from Online World of Wrestling)

The two items above give us a nice window for The Right Hook #2: it must have come out after April 15 and before May 30, 1925. And, since the first issue had to come out before the second, we can now date that issue as well: The Right Hook #1 appeared sometime between the publication of Mammonart in late March and the Munn-Zbyszko match in mid-April 1925.

(A little side note: Narrowing down the date of the second issue helps us place a comment therein about Tevis Clyde Smith’s trip to the Old South. This helps us date Howard’s mention of that same trip described in his autobiographical novel, Post Oaks and Sand Roughs.)

The third issue of The Right Hook is largely taken up with fiction; therefore, there is little help in dating it. The only factual report in the number is Howard’s attempt to classify boxing champions by skill, hitting ability, toughness, and several other factors. Given the lack of specific fights to track down, the best we can do with this one is say it came after #2. Howard does say, however, that he has “been neglecting this magazine,” which suggests that the time between #2 and #3 was longer than the time between #1 and #2. So let’s say probably in June or July 1925.

To recap, given the evidence presented in each issue, The Right Hook probably had the following publication dates:

The Right Hook Volume 1, Number 1 — March/April 1925
The Right Hook Volume 1, Number 2 — April/May 1925
The Right Hook Volume 1, Number 3 — June/July 1925

These dates square with a period of renewed interest in the Lone Scouts of America by Howard and his friends. Tevis Clyde Smith had produced a tribe paper in 1923 (The All-Around Magazine) with the help of Howard and Truett Vinson. In 1925, Vinson produced The Toreador with the help of Howard, Smith, and Herbert Klatt.