June 20, 2015

Finest Hour 100, Autumn 1998

Page 22

In the Spring of 1984 FH 43 introduced our first color cover, Edwina Sandys’s “Chartwell”) and established two long-running departments, “Churchill on Stamps” and “Woods Corner.” Number 44, with its dramatic red maple leaf cover, was the first issue dedicated to a country: the “Canada Number.” In 1985 the Second Churchill Tour added “Lullenden,” the family’s pre-Chartwell country home, to our previous destinations. FH 47 presented our second color cover, Bernard Hailstone’s “Last Portrait from Life,” 1955. Inside that issue, David Druckman traveled to South Africa, tracing Churchill’s escape from the Boers almost 85 years to the day and processing special covers at post offices along the escape route; and the indefatigable John Plumpton introduced “Reviewing Churchill,” original reviews beginning with the Malakand Field Force.

The most important feature of FH 48 was a proposal to launch the “Churchill Literary Foundation,” a predecessor to the Churchill Center: “…of thirty-seven individual books of Sir Winston Churchill, twenty-nine are out of print and four are on the verge.” We proposed raising $1,000,000 to turn this situation around.

How much has changed! In Finest Hour 99 thirteen years later, we announced that The Churchill Center Endowment had topped $1,053,000. By then, over a score of Churchill’s books had been restored to print, many with our active support. That hadn’t required $1,000,000—but by FH 99 the much more ambitious Churchill Center sought $7,000,000, a target which takes up so much of our effort today.

In the winter of 1985-86 Finest Hour celebrated its fiftieth issue with a record 32 pages and a gold cover bearing Churchill’s coat of arms. Contributors included Ronald Reagan, Allen Drury, Kay Halle, William Manchester, Anthony Montague Browne, Christian Pol-Roger, Lord and Lady Soames and Caspar Weinberger (left). The Secretary of Defense had addressed the Second Churchill Conference in Boston: “I can still remember the inspiration of [his speeches] over the small, crackly radios of the time….I was certainly moved more completely, I guess, than I have been by any speech since.”

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Over the next three years ICS waxed successful, with three increasingly ambitious conferences: Vancouver 1986, with William Manchester; Dallas 1987, with Wendy Reves and Grace Hamblin; Bretton Woods 1988, with Alistair Cooke. Finest Hour celebrated them all, and others. In 1987 we published Churchill’s plaintive short story, The Dream. A third Churchill tour brought us again to England, where we struck up a friendship with Churchill’s greatest stage and screen representation, Robert Hardy, our fast friend ever since.

We took a thrashing from Andrew Sullivan in The New Republic, who accused us of boosterism rampant, and gave back as good as we got (FH 58). The same issue saw Barbara Langworth’s first “Churchilltrivia” column; FH 59 was our Australia Number, and in FH 60 we celebrated our twentieth anniversary, recreating (with improvements!) the cover of issue number one.

These five years provided tremendous momentum. Our rolls were now over 1200 worldwide, double what they had been in 1983. We had begun to attract truly distinguished speakers, to sponsor major conferences attended by hundreds of people—and already, by 1988, five old Churchill titles were back in print. The fourth quarter issue 61 for 1988 contained a notable assortment of writers. William Manchester: “The Fiihrer was right. He had never met Churchill, but he understood him, as Winston understood Hi tier….both were ruled not by reason but by intuition.” Professor Frank Mayer: “Churchill did make a fundamental difference…which allowed the postwar Conservative Party to emerge from the defeat of 1945 as a dynamic political entity.” Former secretary Elizabeth Nel: “He was grumbling about de Gaulle. ‘All right, all right,’ he said grudgingly. ‘I’ll be good. I’ll be sweet. I’ll kiss him on both cheeks—or all four if you’d prefer it!'” Alistair Cooke: “Churchill was not, as generations have depicted him, a lonely, heroic figure with whom, had we been there, we would have sided. Churchill was isolated, rejected, and not quite trusted, and had we been there I’m afraid we would have sided with Chamberlain.”

The Bretton Woods Conference of 1988 introduced “the first ICS Symposium,” moderated by Dean Hal Elliott Wert of Kansas City Art Institute. Papers presented by Professors Max Schoenfeld, University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and Ted Wilson, University of Kansas, were summarized by Professor Raymond Callahan, University of Delaware. It was our first foray into “Churchill Studies.” Many more lay ahead.

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