June 20, 2015

Finest Hour 100, Autumn 1998

Page 24

In 1989 the USA, UK and Canada societies became independent, but continued to sponsor such activities as Conferences, which soon grew to three- and four-day affairs: Boston ’85, Vancouver ’86, Dallas ’87, Bretton Woods ’88, London ’89, San Francisco ’90, Effingham Park ’92, Washington ’93. The exception was 1991, where the Fifth Churchill Tour went to Australia and held a two-night conference in Canberra and Melbourne. FH had 44 pages by 1993. The 1991 USA budget was $100,000, up from $180 in 1971.

In 1986 we had begun a critical campaign by raising money to sponsor the Companion Volumes of the Official Biography—a huge challenge, met by Wendy Reves, Churchill’s old friend and hostess in the midFifties. Her visionary financing of these volumes will never be forgotten. Nine years later the project continues, slowly but inexorably. Two volumes are out, packed with unprecedented detail about 1939-1940; a third volume, The Ever Widening War, 1941, has been submitted. FH 63 celebrated Wendy, with her splendid recollection of “The Man Who Was Here,” and tributes by ICS and the Churchill Memorial and Library.

The depth and richness of Finest Hour clearly owes much to Winston S. Churchill, writer of the century. Among his more arresting pieces: “Thoughts While On the Brink” (of both World Wars, FH 64); “Thus Perished Operation Sea Lion” (FH 68); “Old Battlefields of Virginia” (FH 72); “The Charge at Omdurman” (FH 77); and that ringing 1943 Harvard speech, “The Price of Greatness is Responsibility” (FH 80). FH 74 was the first dedicated entirely to one of WSC’s books, Savrola.

Churchill aside, we take pride in the writers we have published, mindful of them as we are from the excerpts herein: A. L. Rowse’s “teetotaller’s burden” during lunch at Chartwell (FH 85); John F. Kennedy’s noble pronouncement of Honorary American Citizenship (FH 80); Jacqueline Kennedy on Randolph, “speaking for his father. Always for his father” (FH 79); Robert Hardy on playing Churchill: “It’s dangerous to be versatile. I’m burying that habit but, oh Lor’, I’m a character actor…” (FH 66); the “Canadian Airman’s Poem” on the cover of FH 68: “Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings…”; Thomas Montalbo’s Churchill rules of oratory (FH 69); Cyril Mazansky’s cigarette cards (FH 70); Emma Soames’s Chartwell childhood (FH 71); Barbara Langworth’s “Churchill and Polo” (FH 72); Martin Gilbert on “Churchill For Today” (FH 73); Patrick Powers on “Savrola and the Nobility of Politics” (FH 74); Jack Kemp’s “Statesmanship and Democracy” (FH 75); Ron Cynewulf Robbins’s journalist’s memories (FH 76). Every issue seemed to draw forth at least one gem.

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The most obvious physical change in these issues was our increasing page count, but other little things were tried. In 1968 we made a conscious decision to replace heavily bordered covers with “full bleed” covers, commencing with Life magazine’s wonderful photo of air trails during the Battle of Britain. Most issues since have been full bleed, full color enterprises. Nine have featured paintings of Churchill, by Frank Salisbury, Douglas Chandor and Charles Egerton Cooper. Issue 80 featured our first full color centerspread, David Low’s spectacular 1954 birthday cartoon dedicated “To Winston, from his old friend and castigator.”

FH 77 in 1992 saw two dramatic changes, but only one has survived. Its ultra-high-gloss cover tended to curl; it would be dropped four years later. Our new title page, still in use, was inspired by Maine’s state magazine Down East. This change allowed us to devote our inside front cover to a directory of people who make FH and its organizations what they are.

We celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in the penultimate issue of 1993, David Freeman writing the valedictory article: “From a small group of philatelists worried about phony stamps, the International Churchill Societies have blossomed into large and influential organizations firmly committed to preserving the record of Churchill’s accomplishments, and the great goals to which he devoted his life: freedom, liberty and democracy.”

There was still one great goal ahead, however, and the next five years of Finest Hour would tell all about it: The Churchill Center.

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