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The Third Year

Gripe Session
March 30, 1969

Record of the Gripe Session, House of Hodghead, 30 March A.D. 1969
(Retyped by Hirsch von Henford for the Annotated History of the West Project)

LORD RANDALL OF HIGHTOWER: We are individualists and egotists. Most of us will want to talk for hours. So I shall shut people up when they have said their say, or when they wander off point. These are notes from the Hodghead ladies:

1. Pilfering of food, especially at tournies. Especially kids, who may think anything in sight is for grabs. And the general handling of other people’s things, instruments, weapons, etc. This was discussed at the Queen’s Court.

LADY DIANA DECLES: At the Queen’s Court it was suggested that parents keep an eye on their kids.

LADY ELLEN HODGHEAD: Keep your possessions in your own pavilion, where they don’t look available.

LADY MARYNEL OF DARKHAVEN: Keep people away from attractive nuisances. And it’s the responsibility of ladies to take care of food and so forth so that the fighters don’t have to bother.

SIMON OF TEMPLAR: Keep food in ice chests.

SIR JAIMIE OF OAKENSHIELD and OTHERS: Nuts! They raid ice chests.

ALL: One doesn’t mind giving people food, so long as they ask.

HIS MAJESTY, CARADOC AP CADOR: What about the Queen’s Progress, which was going to prevent this by asking people if they had brought food and assigning them to households?

LADY ELLEN: That did happen, and was a great improvement.

HIS MAJESTY: The problem is outsiders, such as last time. Society members have been better about this lately.

LORD RANDALL: Preventing pilferage by our members can be done by setting up a guard – at least one person on guard per pavilion.

HIS MAJESTY: One thing to be considered is the site of the tourney. We would do better to be in Tilden next time, or somewhere else where we can’t be invaded by hostile natives.

LADY ELLEN: When people are taking down pavilions at the end of the day, they’re tired and it’s dark; they can’be sure whether anything’s missing.

LORD RANDALL: Number 2. The desirability of pavilions – a way of protecting your stuff.

LADY DIANA: And your skin.

HIS MAJESTY: There is a thing called an army surplus tent liner, made of perhaps canvas, white, 12 feet in diameter, eight feet tall, easy to set up. It can be rigged with a canopy. It costs about $12.00 at an army surplus place such as that on 11th and Jackson Streets in Oakland.

THOMAS O’CONNAIR: We had three pavilions at the last tourney, and there are maybe two more. If we get many more, where will we put them? You’ll have half the field blocked off from anyone’s view.

LORD RANDALL: A pavilioneer is needed to decide where pavilions go, without favoritism, first come, first served. This person was the Lady Marynel at the last tourney.

HIS MAJESTY: A thought: the pavilions should be arranged in a U, with the royal pavilion in the center, and they should be set somewhat back from the field.

ALL: Good idea.

LORD RANDALL: Could we construct a second row of barriers to mark off this dead space?

LADY DIANA: The pavilioneer should work closely with the Autocrat, and who knows the ground and (theoretically) the deal with the ousiders.

LADY ELLEN: We definitely must have a pavilioner working on the layout of the field.

LADY DIANA: Let the Autocrat do it.

LADY ELLEN: He’s too busy.

SIMON: Since I’ll be arriving early most times, let whoever is Autocrat contact me and I’ll help.

There was then some discussion of the royal pavilion having the best view of the field; everyone’s opinion was that this is necessary and right.

HIS MAJESTY: One of the King’s duties is to judge the fighting. In the medieval court, the pavilioneer was an important and valued post. I think it should be a permanent or semi-permanent post, and the Autocrat should not be obliged to be his own pavilioneer.

LADY MARYNEL: His Highness the Crown Prince does want a pavilioner for the next tourney.

LORD RANDALL: We have agreed that there should be a pavilioner. Who and where can be thrashed out later.

DUKE RICHARD OF MONTREAL: Should not the royal pavilion be set up beside the Dukes’ pavlions?

LORD RANDALL: Number 3. The use of weapons by newcomers. We’re talking about Society weapons, which – where do they come from?

LADY DIANA: Donated, usually.

LORD RANDALL: Newcomers may arrive in the middle of the day, and they can’t fight because they haven’t qualified. If they get in early enough to qualify, however, they’re going to fight; and what with? Society weapons? If so, they should pay rent on them.

HIS MAJESTY: How about having a person who comes to practice sessions regularly also put in regular time on making a sword?

SIR JAIMIE: Here is my radical proposal: weapons should be made either to a standard or in pairs. Aside from that, no one is to fight with any weapon that he didn’t bring.

LADY ALISON OF HIGHTOWER: The attrition on swords is terrible. I think everyone who comes without weapons should pay a deposit equal to the cost of a broadsword. Then he can use Society weapons. If he breaks one, he forfeits his deposit.

DUKE RICHARD: It would be good to have people fighting only with their own weapons. But it isn’t materials that cost, it’s tools. It might be a good thing for the Society to set up a Guild of Armorers (such as Robert of Dunharrow suggested), and let it be known that these people are willing to help people make weapons.

SIR JAIMIE: His Highness the Crown Prince has a shed which will be available as soon as it’s cleaned out. We can all provide various pieces of equipment. Then there will be place to go and tools to work with, and no one will have an excuse for not making weapons. And if someone is too broke to pay for materials, let him contact me and we’ll work something out.

LADY DIANA: What about people who are there for the first time?

SIR JAIMIE: Let them watch. If they’re interested, they can learn, make weapons, come to practice sessions.

LADY MARYNEL: People whose shields or helms are very damaging to swords ought also to help pay for swords, as His Highness offered to do.

LORD RANDALL: Number 4. Tourney starting, the arrival of nobles on time, delays during the day, the delay of the crown tourney into the night, which makes fighting and taking down pavilions difficult. There are times when the King doesn’t show up, or the crowns don’t show up, or the thrones don’t show up, or the Queen is out shopping .... Challenge fights are now limited to five challenges per person.

LADY ALISON: We could eliminate the qualifying fights first thing in the morning.

DUKE RICHARD: Have pages notify the fighters when they are to arm.

LORD RANDALL: Have a bull pen for the fighters to arm in.

DUKE RICHARD: Stand? In the sun? NO.

SIMON: Once I had an idea, namely, why not have two fights going on at once? Also, why can’t each person have all his fights together, instead of spread out over the day?

LORD RANDAL: Could the Lady Alison and Sir Jaimie figure out a mathematical pattern for making equal matches?

SIR JAIMIE: Sure. Give me the challenge cards on Friday and I’ll have a list for you on Sunday.

LADY ALISON: Fighters who are also officials, like Lord Randall and Harold of Breakstone, do get all their fights arranged at once, because they have to get back to their other duties.

LADY DIANA: Could this list be posted?

SIR JAIMIE: You’d need two weeks to get it duplicated and mailed.

LADY MARYNEL: We had a blackboard once. It didn’t work and looked dreadful.

LORD RANDALL: Five challenges times thirty fighters is 75 fights. We could number the bouts and put up Roman numerals.

SIR JAIMIE: If you accept my first radical proposal, there will be fewer fighters and fewer fights; and all will have their own weapons, so there will be less time in arming.

LORD RANDALL: I’d like not to have to tell the fighters to salute the King and each other.

LADY DIANA: What about people whose armor and so on wears out and they have to borrow?

SIR JAIMIE and LORD RANDALL: But some things don’t break, and people know how to build them. They shouldn’t be going out there waving oversized tomato cans.

LADY DIANA: What about new fighters? They don’t know many people; maybe they live out on the marches and can’t get to practice sessions.

SIMON: They can always call the Society and Paul can tell them what to do.

HOURI THE SAVAGE: They can take kendo lessons; they can read the articles in TI and make weapons.

HIS MAJESTY: Paul and I will go anywhere within reason to give lessons, if someone will pay the transportation.

LADY DIANA: Then proclamations should be made and/or published to that effect. Also, the information about the qualifying matches on Saturday should be on the tourney poster.

LADY MARYNEL: This business of putting down an earlier time than you actually intend to start doesn’t work. We should mean what we say. If you’re going to start at 12, say 12. We could have some things before the coronation, such as a melee, if the field is set up and the fighters are there. The promise of a melee might get them there in time for the coronation.

Getting back to borrowing, interested people ought to be able to borrow helms and shields, if not swords – they take a long time. And one should be able to borrow swords in case of dire emergency. You can’t tell about swords – sometimes you’ll break none, and sometimes seven in one tourney.

Fighters arming should wait in the shade of the first-aid pavilion – this will protect them from the sun, you’ll know where they are, and they can protect the people in the pavilion from people who want to help but don’t know what they’re doing.

THOMAS: Yes, collect the fighters somewhere before they fight.

I don’t think fights should be arranged in advance. It isn’t that easy to get challenges before the tourney. What if people don’t show up?

LADY JANET OF BREAKSTONE: That mathematical list would eliminate my job! When I’m putting fights in order, the only system I use is to try to keep a fighter from having two fights in a row, unless they want it. Also, I try not to put the newcomers and the good fighters at separate ends of the fighting. I think there should be a maximum of four fights. Then I could arrange forty fights and we’d be done before dark. And we can squeeze in a few extra fights, as is usually necessary. Besides, fighters shouldn’t be so tired or mauled from challenge fights that they can’t fight for the crown. They don’t like that.

HIS MAJESTY: I don’t like making it impossible for new people to do anything.

HAROLD OF BREAKSTONE: I don’t like arranging tourneys ahead of time; we should be able to make challenges on the field. For instance, Jean de la Grande Danse knew nobody [except Arnulf. – dj] and got his first challenge from me because I saw him standing there.

Also, what do you do if your opponents don’t show up?

Also, I don’t like an absolute ban on loaning weapons. They do break.

LORD RANDALL: La Demoiselle de la Rana once said that if we have an armory borrowing can be arranged.

LADY MARYNEL: Could the Armorer’s Guild have swords for sale?

HIS MAJESTY: I don’t like scheduling challenges ahead of time. You don’t know, for instance, when Rick Schrors is going to show up, but when he does, I want to fight him! And you don’t know when somebody is suddenly going to have to tend a computer. I like Sir Jaimie’s proposal up to a point; I don’t like making it difficult for new people to fight. And I for one couldn’t bring seven swords to a tourney; my whole household is broke!

SIR JAIMIE: Yes, the Armorer’s Guild could sell weapons to people, and then they will be fighting with their own weapons and that’s all right. The newcomer who doesn’t know people can fight with me; I’ll take four challenges and post my name as being available for a fifth. We can fill in the open or missing challenges with new people or each other.

Also, can we discuss my proposal? It would ensure professional conduct, and encourage sincere new people.

LORD RANDALL: Those who don’t care for discipline, and who just want to swat at each other with someone else’s rattan: them we don’t need.

LADY MARYNEL: There are those that thought they were correctly armed till they got to the tourney. If we state that you must bring your own equipment, people don’t call up the experts; they try on their own, and they make mistakes. So we might increase the problems of incorrect arms.

We have been accused of being an in group. That’s where the Queen’s Progress will help. But fighters who think they’re ready to fight, and are told they’re not, feel the same way.

LA DEMOISELLE DE LA RANA: The Armorer’s Guild would be a good idea. Three or four people would be known, and could help new people with their arms.

LADY ALISON: The Queen’s Progress is supposed to get people into households, and could do more of it. Many people don’t know how we’re arranged into households. We could do this with the fighters, too. A new fighter could sit and watch if someone could take care of and assist him. He could be put in touch with a knight or master, and with the Armorer’s Guild, so he can be ready for the next tourney.

LORD RANDALL: Why not let this be a thing an established fighter does – be ready to receive new people and take care of them.

HAROLD: Also a list of people to contact for this and that: people to contact in every area.

LORD RANDALL: It could be given out during the Queen’s Progress.

SIR JAIMIE: How about more of the Handbook of the Current Middle Ages.

HAROLD: It needs a supplement.

SIR JAIMIE: Put one on, and the phone number list too. Also: at every coronation and every Grand March we march with our banners and shields and so forth, and our names are called. If the herald could announce, “You will see these banners around the field. Introduce yourself to a household.” Noblesse oblige, which is the opposite of the clique phenomenon.

SIMON: Someone in Pinole or something, who can’t get advice, can phone the Society and be directed.

THOMAS: Back to borrowing. If people don’t want to loan, they don’t loan. But if a person wants to loan something, he ought to be able to.

LADY ALISON: But we mean we aren’t under obligation to loan Society weapons. We’re not talking about private gear.

SYLVANUS: We do need a list.

LADY ALISON: That’s the Lady Ardis’ job as Queen’s Chatelaine.

SIMON: Could we get a new or used bar roller?

HAROLD: We don’t have the money!

HIS MAJESTY: What a bar roller can do we can do by hand and a Beverly shear.

LORD RANDALL: Number 5. A charge of unnecessary officiousness.

HAROLD: Sometimes you have to tell people to cut it out.

LORD RANDALL: That’s necessary officiousness. There are people who just come and don’t do much – they add color, and that’s fine, but then they want to get their two cents in and wonder Who are these people to tell me what to do? Well, tough!

LADY MARYNEL: It is not necessary to be quite as abrupt as we sometimes are. Some people, on the other hand, bruise very easily – sometimes because they simply don’t know that one has the authority to tell them something.

Also, part of the necessity of officiousness can be reduced by setting things up properly. Now that we have the barriers, we seldom have to tell people to get off the field. (“Field? What field?”) And pavilions keep people away from your stuff the same way.

LADY ALISON: David Hodghead should be commended for helping with that. Also, pavilions help in another way – people sitting in the hot sun have shorter tempers.

SIMON: On the subject of marking off the dead space – what about a lawn marker?

LADY MARYNEL: It takes too long, and children will creep over the lines.

LADY ELLEN: And many parks, schools, and so forth don’t like it.

SIMON: What about flour?

LORD RANDALL: Ha! Next morning the dew falls; then the sun rises, and presto! crackers.

HAROLD: Most people are very reasonable if you talk nicely to them, and step back if you explain about staying out of fighting range and camera range. We ought to put something about that in TI.

SIMON: I’ll put it in my column.

LADY JANET: Be it noted: we will soon be incorporated and then contributions will be tax-deductable.

HAROLD: The flier should be both handed out and mailed out.

SIMON: There is a problem with people losing their waivers on the way to the tourney, and being unable to write up new ones because they are minors. Could there be a permanent waiver that could be on file, “My minor son is authorized to sign his own waiver” kind of thing?

HAROLD: We’ll have to ask the lawyers.

LORD RANDALL: Number 6. Boorish drunkenness. That’s a problem at any kind of meeting. But this is on the field, not at revels where it’s another thing. But a man should not be unable to control himself on the field. Boorish sobriety is just as bad. This is the High Constable’s job.

LADY ALISON: Whether a guy is stoned on booze or pot or his own ego isn’t the point; he’s causing dangers.

SIR JAIMIE: Here’s my other radical proposal. Anyone who behaves disgracefully in any way is to be banned from the lists for that day, and warned. On the second offense, he is to be banned permanently.

LORD RANDALL: A Court of Chivalry, to be presided over by the Earl Marshal. One of the members of the Court should be the Lord Advocate. A man could be ruled off the field immediately, and later (or then if necessary) a court could be convened and a trial held.

HIS MAJESTY: Among the members should be the Earl Marshal, the King (not as King, but as Premier Peer of the Realm), the Herald, and Laurel King-at-Arms, and others. In the rules of the lists it states, “All contestants shall behave as knights and gentlemen, whether they are or not. If any does not live up to this, it is everybody’s duty to bring charges against him.”

LADY ALISON: It isn’t convenient to convene a Court of Chivalry on the field.

LORD RANDALL: Of course not. The first time he is banned from the field for one day, by Order of the King. For a second offense there would be a court.

LADY ALISON: What if someone wants to appeal a summary dismissal?

LORD RANDALL: Then he can bring his case before the Court.

HAROLD: Who are we to judge other people? We’re the people who went through the same thing, that’s who.

LORD RANDALL: Number 7. Self-centeredness. That’s been discussed.

DUKE RICHARD: It’s here to stay.

LORD RANDALL: Number 8. Cattiness among the ladies. That’s been handled by the Queen’s Court.

LADY ALISON: Any trouble among the ladies should not spread out to the men. There’s no reason the men should fight over it or even know about it. Personal arguments should be kept from hurting the Society.

LORD RANDALL: Number 9. Rude comments during the fighting – people not on the field yelling “Lie down, you’re dead!” and the like. The best judge of whether a man is dead is (1) himself, (2) his opponent, (3) the judges. Spectators – even other fighters – are not qualified to judge.

LADY ALISON: It insults a fighter to tell him he’s dead: either he’s cheating or he’s stupid, you’re saying.

SIR JAIMIE: My Part 4 of the radical proposal is for spectators to shut up; they’re not paying admission to be entertained.

LADY ALISON: Cheering is all right, but not running down the opponent.

HAROLD: Well, there’s a difference between saying “Get the bastard” and yelling “Down Breakstone!” The latter is all right; it’s medieval; it’s a battle cry.

LADY ALISON and HAROLD: You should be for someone, not against someone. Or if you’re against someone, be polite about it.

DUKE RICHARD: But polite comments, not directed to the fighters, are all right.

HAROLD: The only people who can judge a fighter are other fighters.

SIR JAIMIE: Part 5 of the radical proposal is that all fighters should be told that anyone may decline a challenge with no slur on his honor.

LADY JANET: If people refuse to fight against someone in the crown competition, they’re out right there!

SIR JAIMIE: If I’m paired with someone dishonorable, I won’t fight him, crown tourney or no crown tourney.

HAROLD: If he’s that dishonorable, he should have been taken before a Court of Chivalry.

LADY MARYNEL: There are two fighters who are always being razzed by the spectators, I think undeservedly; they can’t be expected to be at their best under those conditions. Lochinvar (né Barry of Juda) will fight well until someone razzes him; then he fights dreadfully. And Jerry Pournelle has deserved some of the comments made about him, and thoroughly not deserved others.

HAROLD: If someone bugs my opponent, I’ll tell him to stop.

LORD RANDALL: Number 10. Protecting the first-aiders. We’ve discussed that – the two ready knights will be in the pavilion, which we’ll call the leech’s pavilion.

LADY MARYNEL: We have an M.D. in the Society, who says that when she has her license renewed she’ll spend some time in the leech’s pavilion.

LORD RANDALL: Number 11. A lot of people don’t know the duties/purposes of the Queen’s Progress, the pavilioner, the clearing house, the Queen’s Court, the Lord High Constable, etc. Definition of these jobs to the populace. We’d better get these people together and I’ll write a smallische booklet on these duties.

Number 12. The need for thrones. Poul and I discussed this with Master Beverly – we can contribute sums toward this, and build collapsible thrones.

LADY MARYNEL: I object to Sunday tournaments.

HAROLD: The Supreme Autocrat picks out the day that is most convenient to him. Also, tourneys are for fighters, and some fighters can’t come on Saturdays because they work. On the other hand, they may be too tired to work on Mondays. Let’s take a poll.

LADY DIANA: It has been suggested that the May tourney not be a crown tourney, and that another tourney be held in August, so that each King will preside over one crown tourney and one other event. It has been suggested that the May Tourney be a series of competitions with various weapons. We should collect opinions on this.

LORD RANDALL: This will give the King a chance to fight.

LADY ALISON: It can have some of the advantages of the Small War.

LADY DIANA: How could we actually get this decided? And who’s going to help me arrange things?

THOMAS: If you don’t have a winner at a tourney, you’re introducing anarchy. It isn’t a tourney without a winner.

LORD RANDALL: Historically, that is not true.

SIR JAIMIE: I agree with having three crown tourneys, evenly spaced, but I also want more than three tourneys per year. Winning a tournament and becoming a King are not equivalent. Let’s dissociate the concepts of tourney winner and King.

HAROLD: This would give us a chance to do things we never can do at crown tourneys, such as melees all day.

The three spaced crown tourneys will give the King a chance to rule. Let’s have coronations at non-crown events.

LADY ALISON: 1. Fighters should decide what they want for a non-crown tourney.

2. Because there will be fewer newcomers at Modesto, we’ll be able to improve our standards of combat and try out some new forms of combat. At crown tourneys there isn’t time.

LADY DIANA: A poll will be taken. Then a planning committee will be set up for the fighting and non-fighting events of the May tourney.

by the hand of Lady Dorothea of Paravel.

“The March III Crown Tourney was at a city park in the SE part of San Francisco. There were 3 or 4 pavilions (incl. Toad Hall's) for the first time.” – Robert of Dunharrow

“The sunburn factor at the S.F. tourney and the heat at Oakdale are in my opinion the force behind the geometric expansion in the number of pavilions over the next year or so.” – Kevin Peregrynne
“I think it was the first appearance of the Royal Pavilion that Marynel made (with frame by her father). We were getting ready for the first ever overnight in May (not Modesto, as mentioned, but halfway between Escalon & Oakdale, which is close) and pavilion-building was rampant. The March site was, unlike Tilden, full of neighborhood kids, which caused some obvious problems.” – Robert of Dunharrow
“Theft, pilferage and food scrounging problems were a constant worry ... we've mentioned Hagen's mail, I think Siegfried had a silver coronet stolen at San Anselmo. Mistress Geraldine instituted badges for her household and guests to control access to food and shade and so on.” – Kevin Peregrynne
“I can confirm that both Ardis' and his ducal coronets were stolen there. We had a lot of trouble in areas like that.” – James Greyhelm
“Marynel's production of "Eric the Red" from leftover strips of pavilion fabric (dyed red, instead of yellow like the pavilion) did much to solve the demarcation of field boundaries and I didn't have to lug all those heavy stakes & ropes around any more. Siegfried won the tourney and I think it may have been his idea to cut back from 4 crowns a year to 3, making May a coronation & adding another in August. In those days, crowns were single elimination with maybe 16 fighters, so 4 rounds would do it. Each fighter was entitled to 5 challenge matches before the Crown Lists began. Only one fight at a time.” – Robert of Dunharrow
“Just when was the last Crown with formal challenge matches??? I miss them - they were part of the fun, their passing has diminished us. Double eliminations first appeared years later I think at prize tourneys or local championships (anyone remember more exactly?). The first Crown with Double Elimination was the one I won. Interesting to note that William of Houghton defeated me something around the fifth round, then we re-met in the finals. William on his own initiative decided the finals would be a clean slate - previous defeats would be ignored. He set a precedent and myself up to finally capture the Crown (we went three rounds).” – Kevin Peregrynne
“I found Tom's fear that if we got up to 8 or 10 pavilions we would have no more room to fight the most fascinating comment of all. It kinda puts a perspective on our growth when I compare this to camping for 9 days at 30 Year with 5,000 people in at least a thousand pavilions and still finding room for fighting, tilting at the quintain, holding many classes, and dancing every night. Who would have envisioned that back in III?” – Robert of Dunharrow
“And all of that concern about loaner weapons, breakage and so on!! Strange that the main gripe was cost when the real expense was time. I used to make custom shaped and laminated weapons for folk and only charged for materials otherwise they would have cost almost as much as steel weapons at any rate that reflected the amount and value of my time.” – Kevin Peregrynne

“The Gripe Session is a fascinating socio-historical document, considering that I knew/know all of those people the difference in tone from then to now just blows my mind.
     “One comment that struck me with how strongly the SCA has influenced its members unto the third generation. The fear expressed in the document that children would toddle out onto the field juxtaposed with the reality of every SCA-raised child in decades having a reflex to freeze when they hear "HOLD!" They even use it in their games.” – Kevin Peregrynne

Description of this event, © Copyright 1980 by William R. Keyes (Wilhelm von Schlüssel)
This is from The History of the West Kingdom, Volume 1 (the only volume produced). When reading this text, please keep in mind the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: This history may have errors in it, as much of the detail is “remembered” history, or as one of the cover pages of the original type-written manuscript states “The material within is derived from the information printed in The Crown Prints and in The Page, and from the memories of the participants.” The original document was typed on onion-skin paper, with hand-written notes (often in the margins). All attempts have been made to reconcile the notes with the original document.

Annotations, when they are added, are from The Annotated History of the West, Volume 1, which is the same text as Master Wilhelm's mentioned above, with commentary from members of the SCA who were active at the time of the event, and are added to help clarify questions and expand on what happened and why. This volume is copyright © Ken Mayer (Hirsch von Henford).

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The West Kingdom History Website was created by and is maintained by Hirsch von Henford (mka Ken Mayer).