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Frederick Winsor

Fred was a delightful, benign presence. A small baldish man with a large reddish mustache, he played the host to the celebration of Space Child’s successes. He gave a series of parties in honor of the stages in the Space Child’s progress: the Atlantic Monthly excerpts in 1956 and 1957, the call from Bob Gottlieb about Simon & Schuster’s interest, the contract, the completion of the manuscript, the publication date and then the reviews. These parties required formal dress. My husband bought a tuxedo for $5 from Keezer’s, the second-hand store where Harvard students bought and sold their fancy ware; I managed with Filene’s basement. Fred’s cronies and their wives all came, conservative in dress and manner, and obviously extremely fond of him.

Fred was an improbable man, perhaps a cousin of the White Knight in Alice in Wonderland. Someone said he was “Edwardian”; he combined a poetic soul from a distant past with his daring visions of the future. He would recite with wonderful panache long stretches of Swinburne and John Greenleaf Whittier. He knew a lot about the forms of French Renaissance Poetry. Fred liked to protest that everything he knew about science came from science fiction. It was clear to experts, nonetheless, that he was not ignorant of some very complex scientific theory.

When it came to publicity Fred felt the imagination of publishers was too limited. He went to New York to discuss larger ideas with “Skid” of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the giant architectural firm, and came back with an expanded roster of plans. Of the lot, landing on Boston Common in an aerial balloon loaded with Space Child brochures was the one that seemed to me much the most practical.

Free of bitterness or malice, Fred’s whimsical mind was full of surprises. Everyone who knew him felt completely deprived when he suddenly vanished in the midst of all the fun.

Marian Parry
February, 2001