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Meet Art and Mary Schroeder

 

Art and Mary Schroeder are active in the Sherlockian Community in, and around, the St. Louis area. Our paths have crossed on several occasions, but we came to know them best at an unusual event called "The Sherlock Holmes Moonlight Madness Day" held on December 14, 1996. For this affair, the small town of Lebanon, IL was decked out in Victorian regalia; Sherlockian characters (including Holmes, Watson, Irene Adler, and Wiggins) roamed the streets and the many delightful little shops. One could collect autographs of the celebrities and clues to various mysteries which the hosts of the event had planned. The most auspicious event of the day was an actual broadcast of Art Schroeder's original Sherlockian radio play "The Double Good Fortune of Henry Baker and His Lucky Goose" over radio station WINU (with an all-star cast of eminent Sherlockians!). Being radio fans, too, we chatted at some length with Mary and Art about the script and the performers and then went to lunch at the Mermaid Inn (with the claim to fame that Charles Dickens once stayed there). Art and Mary then most generously invited us to stay overnight in their lovely St. Louis home. We spent a fine evening chatting and having beverages, a peaceful night on our own private floor of the home, and a splendid breakfast featuring a great dish which we have never been able to duplicate. Art told us the name of this gustatory delight; he called it "egg stuff."

We have been wanting to introduce Mary and Art to the "non-St. Louis" area Sherlockian community for some time, but an excellent opportunity to solicit their assistance in this enterprise arose when we visited "The Game's Afloat" conference in St. Louis last Halloween. Again, while visiting Mary and Art we asked them for photographs and to write for us (really, for you) little autobiographical sketches. The Schroeders kindly complied with our requests and we present the "documents" they provided for your information and enjoyment.

Art Schroeder Pic

Arthur C. Schroeder, Jr., called many things by many people, responds most cordially to "Art." Born May 31 in St. Louis ten years after The Crash,and three before the Day of Infamy. He enjoyed an uneventful childhood--newspaper accounts, police reports and vile gossip notwithstanding. After slogging through local public schools, Art managed to graduate from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, renown as the site of Winston Churchill's famous Iron Curtain Speech--locally known as the site of the infamous Tap Room and Spot Cafe. Deciding against a career as a history professor on his alma mater's faculty, and oblivious to that venerable institution's sigh of relief, he opted to attend Washington University's School of Law and returned to St. Louis, leaving no unsettled suits or open warrants behind him. After two years of tweed, six-foot mufflers, jaunty caps, frothy beers, hallowed halls, and ivy, Art simultaneously ran out of both enthusiasm and funds and found himself compelled to earn a living. He accepted a job with an insurance company, now defunct though through no fault of his, laboring as an underwriter and marketing representative. Forced by circumstances into commerce, he began a duel existence: insurance man by day, Beatnik by night. Each afternoon he returned to his trendy West End digs, shed his three-piece suit and tie, and emerged, clad in a beret and shades to haunt the dimly-lit cafes of Gaslight Square, mumbling poetry and bumming drinks. In one of his more lucid decisions, he moved into the precincts of matrimony and paternity.

Art considers the two greatest accomplishments of his insurance career to be discovering his wife Mary, his best friend and loving companion for over twenty-seven years, and fathering their daughter Carrie, a wonderful chipette off the old block. Art considers the greatest accomplishment of his Beatnik career to be avoiding arrest for indecent exposure, since he spent it wearing only a beret and shades.

During their early lean years together, Mary and Art spent their weekend leisure time playing bridge with invisible partners, Ignates the Iguana and Harvey the Pukkah. The flamboyant foursome feasted on cheap beer and homemade pizza, and watching Flash Gordon serials on late-night television between hands. Carrie, then in her rug-rat phase, quite properly ignored her parents but became very attached to their bridge partners.

Art's Sherlockian interest began innocently enough when Mary gave him a copy of the complete Canon. A casual reading set the hook! In the succeeding twenty-five some-odd years he has spent copious amounts of time, energy, and money on playing the game with Dr. Watson and his Bohemian friend.

Failing health leading to early disability caused Art to seek a new lifestyle in which he frequently visits 1895, formulating his own unique views of Sherlockiana. On a world probably still unprepared, comprised of Sherlockians and/or other suckers, Art began to inflict his humorous impressions. Two of his "old-time radio shows" "The Double Good Fortune of Mr. Henry Baker" and "The Forgotten Victim" are being marketed on cassette by Classic Specialties; more scripts are ready for recording. Also planned is the publication of several volumes of Sherlockian cartoons drawn over the years in the style of Abe Slaney's stick figures. These productions offer solid evidence that a mind is a terrible thing to waste!


(Eds Note)

". . . For Art's Sake . . . (REDC)

St. Louis Sherlockian, Barbara Roscoe’s e-mail message brought us the very sad tidings that our good friend, Art Schroeder died on August 26, 1999. We grieve deeply and sincerely over his passing. Even though Art had been ill for some time, his death still came as something of a shock. We were planning to visit with him during the St. Louis "Weekend at Baskerville Hall" conference in early September.

We say that Art had been ill for some time, in fact, he had been very ill. He had been confined to a wheelchair for many months due to crippling arthritis. Art was having extensive surgery on his knees because he wanted to walk his daughter, Carrie, down the aisle when she married in October of 1998. In the course of surgery, it was discovered that Art had cancer - it was diagnosed as a very aggressive form of the disease. Carrie's wedding was moved to an earlier date because of the fear that Art might not live until October. Art did “escort” his daughter down the aisle; continuing to be wheelchair bound didn't stop him. Art lived almost a year longer than his doctors originally thought.

We visited Art in the summer of 1998, and found him to be in high spirits even though still confined to his wheelchair. We chatted and made plans to work on some new Sherlockian radio plays together when time and health permitted. Art had written many very clever parodies in the form of radio plays. The first one we heard was performed by a troupe of intrepid St. Louis Sherlockian thespians in Lebanon, IL in December of 1996 and was actually broadcast live over radio station WINU. It was entitled, "The Double Good Fortune of Mr. Henry Baker and His Lucky Goose." Mary Schroeder, Art’s wife, did a sterling performance as Mrs. Henry Baker.

Outstanding among his other achievements was a play called, "The Forgotten Victim" in which Art told the story of "The Speckled Band" from the viewpoint of the Indian Swamp Adder! The fact that Art could conceive of the possibility that the snake had a viewpoint bespeaks to the marvelous creativity of his mind and his sparkling and charming wit.

When we visited him, again, after the St. Louis "The Game's Afloat III," in October 1998, he was physically frail but his wit was a sharp as ever. Several surgeries and the progress of his disease had made it necessary for him to take all nourishment in liquid form via a stomach tube. In spite of his difficult physical condition, Art quipped to us that he had to be careful at social gatherings because he could pour beer in his tube faster than the others could drink theirs! He also wisecracked that he would pour martinis into his fistula but he was afraid that the olive might stop up the tube. He was like that – joking even in those difficult circumstances.

The knowledge that Art is no longer there brings great sadness to our hearts, for we numbered him among our dearest friends. It was a privilege to have known him. We miss Art, but we will never forget him. The Sherlockian community has lost an unusually great and creative mind and this world is a considerably lesser place for Art Schroeder's absence from it. It brings us pleasure to imagine that he is now on the terrace telling Sir Arthur about “The Forgotten Victim.” We can “see” the two of them having a jolly good laugh.

Memorial services held September 4, 1999 were at the Schroeder home in St. Louis. Our sincere condolences go out to Art's wife, Mary, and their daughter, Carrie.

Return to read more about The Game's Afloat!

 


Mary Schroeder Pic Mary Towell Schroeder arrived in this world 18 November 1944, in time to qualify for a ration book and avoid classification as a baby boomer. She grew up in an ethnically rich St. Louis neighborhood where she developed a fascination for cultural differences and a multinational palate.

After a stint in the parochial school system, Mary simultaneously acquired college credit and earned a living as an insurance agent. In the offices of a now defunct (though through no fault of her own) insurance company, she met her future husband, Art. That fortuitous happening produced 27-and-still-counting priceless years of marital adventure and one rambunctious daughter who cleans up well for company. Their union proves the efficacy of a mutual affinity for beer, books, and chili in producing a successful marriage.

Mary''s life-long interest in mystery and detective fiction took a specific direction in the mid 70s when an associate introduced her to the scion society, The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis. She has been a practicing Sherlockian ever since.

During the 80s, Mary abandoned the world of commerce to work as a homemaker and community volunteer. In 1986, she returned to school full-time, persisting until recently completing her PhD in modern British literature. She works at local colleges and universities as an adjunct English professor, spreading the Master's word, and introducing quantities of mystery and detective fiction into the curriculum.

At home, Mary cultivates a decor enhancing her self-image as a heroine out of a cozy novel. She rattles around a Victorian manse keeping the hounds slathering, the cat hissing, the books dusty and artistically askew, an aged-P in a remote upstairs' room, and a semi-old man in a corner.

Ed's note: As you can see, Mary shares Art's sense of humor (please note the photograph, above, which Mary elected to provide for us!). Her flair for writing is not only reflected in the little "autobiographical sketch" which she provided for us here, but, also by the fact that she recently finished writing her Ph. D. dissertation in English Literature. Everyone is admonished to be properly respectful and to refer to Mary as "Doctor Schroeder". In addition to completing her dissertation, attending to her teaching duties, her loving care of her ailing husband, Mary (excuse me "Dr.Schroeder") has found time to be actively involved in many Sherlockian activities. She, along with Art, founded "The Practical Preservers of Sherlockiana" society under the auspices of which she created the Sherlock Holmes room in the central library at idyllic little McKendree College in Lebanon IL. This library room is the repository of many volumes of "The Baker Street Journal," numerous books, and a 70­year-old original portrait of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Donations of Sherlockian literary materials will be welcomed.

Mary as MC Pic By the way, here is Mary (in more appropriately Sherlockian headgear) acting as the "Mistress of Ceremony" at the marvelous "The Game's Afloat" Sherlockian convention held on Halloween Day, 1998, and sponsored by St. Charles' "Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn" and other St. Louis scions. Mary receives e-mail at proflit@aol.com and she will be happy to convey messages to Art until such time as he can, again, get upstairs to the computer more often than he has been able to do recently. Best wishes to Art and Mary - great Sherlockians and wonderful folks!