The History Of The Priory Scholars
Founded in 1954 – The Priory Scholars of Fordham was founded by Chris Steinbrunner (for more about him see page 4). The group was also known as the Priory Scholars of Elmhurst (Queens, NY) after Chris left Fordham. Eventually the scion became known as THE PRIORY SCHOLARS OF NEW YORK. This scion is not to be confused with the Priory School (founded by Andy Page; part of the history of The Three Garridebs) or other scions named Priory Scholars located in other cities.
In 1958 Chris enlisted Peter Blau, Jim Saunders and Russell Merritt into the group and they performed and produced radio plays based on the characters and stories in the Canon.
October 1969 – Chris Steinbrunner and Peter Blau announced that George Fletcher was Headmaster and Evelyn Herzog was Headmistress.
Between 1970 and 1983 the scion was dormant.
In 1984 Chris and Robert Thomalen reactivated the scion, aided and abetted by Richard Wein and Andrew Joffe. They were again performing radio plays at meetings. Chris would bring the scripts and records with the sound effects to the meetings, (those sound effects never quite synced with the performances). The group was meeting a restaurant named Bogie’s in Manhattan.
In 1985 Jeremy Brett (who was on a tour promoting the Granada TV series) was a guest at a Priory meeting and was invested in the scion by Bob Thomalen. According to Bob, Brett was the only person to be invested in the scion. Brett signed copies of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes provided by Dell Publishing and posed for pictures.
As of February 1989 Priory was being run by Henry Enberg. Henry passed away in February 1998.
As of February 1994 the scion was run by Bill Nadel, Joe Moran and Delia Vargas. Bill signed the meeting notices as Freckles Saltire.
In 2004/2005 Bill and Delia stepped down. Judith Freeman joined Joe in the running of the scion.
Between 2007 – 2011– the Scion was once again dormant.
2012 – The Priory Scholars of New York has been reactivated, with Judith as Headmistress and a new faculty of Matt Laffey, Nick Martorelli and Adam Lee.
2014 – Matt Laffey moved out of NYC and Christopher Zordan joined Nick Martorelli and Judith Freeman as a member of the faculty.
Many thanks to the following who assisted in gathering the above information – Peter Blau, Mickey Fromkin, Evelyn Herzog, Bob Thomalen, Ben Vizoskie
From Peter Blau:
Chris enlisted me at the BSI annual dinner in January 1958, and the entry in Rabe’s book lists the officers as including me, Russell Merritt, James Saunders, and David Foley.
We were The Priory Scholars of Fordham, but I find that society is listed by Rabe as The Priory Scholars of Elmhurst, presumably because Chris had by then graduated. We continued our connection with Fordham through the radio broadcasts, and we always called ourselves The Priory Scholars of Fordham, although eventually, after Chris died, the society became The Priory Scholars.
We did Sherlockian radio dramatizations over WFUV-FM from 1959 (I was Sir Henry Baskerville) through 1965, and in 1969 and 1970 (only the 1970 show is listed in “The Universal Sherlock Holmes”), and I have notes on them all, and scripts and recordings. As well as notes on early film screenings, back in the days when Chris lugged his projector to Diana Coffey’s restaurant.
Chris Steinbrunner adapted, produced, and directed all of the radio shows: “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (1956 series), “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1959), “The Sign of the Four” (1960), “A Study in Scarlet” (1961), “The Valley of Fear” (1962), “Holmes at Reichenbach” (1963), “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” (1964), “The Sinister London of Sherlock Holmes” (1965), “The Adventure of the Priory School” (1969), and “From Baker Street with Love: Spies and Sherlock Holmes” (1970). I acted in some of them.
From Jim Saunders
At my first ever Sherlockian meeting – at Diana’s Coffey Shop in Manhattan, February 14, 1958, – I was greeted by Chris Steinbrunner. He asked if I was a member of any scion society. When I told him no he said, “You’re now a member of the Priory Scholars of Fordham.”
I don’t remember any formal meetings, just the radio broadcasts (two a year) at WFUV. I played a number of parts because Chris liked the way I could (and still can) do a formal British, cockney or Irish accent, and sound like a different person each time (an attribute of my English-Irish parents.) David Foley (I think) played Watson. I eventually ended up playing Lestrade. I can’t remember the name of the guy who played Holmes, but he was very good and had excellent diction.
I do remember guest attendees, including Rex Stout, Basil Davenport and Zacherley! At the recording we had to remove our shoes and walk about in stockinged feet. In those days before pre-sanitized socks, the sessions were often aromatically-challenged.
From the 1962 Sherlockian Who’s Who & What’s What, edited by W.T. Rabe:
PRIORY SCHOLARS OF ELMHURST, N.Y., USA (1955 – ) “While in college – with no more knowledge of the Baker Street Irregulars than it existed somewhere in the mists – we put on a series of weekly, half-hour scripts over our college radio station, WFUV-FM. The scripts were originals, not applications (we thought we could circumvent copyright difficulties that way) for 26 weeks, and I wrote them. BSI member John V. L. Hogan happened to hear them and wrote us, directing our attention to E.W.S. Mr. S. asked us for scripts for BSI files, we sent them, and we were on our way.”
Founding Officer: Christian Steinbrunner
Headmaster: Robert E. Mathews, Jr., Associate.
Officers: Peter Blau, Russell Merritt, James Saunders, David Foley.
PUB: “An Incomplete Listing of S.H. Cinematic Career,” “S.H. in the Films of the Thirties,” “Hound of the Baskervilles” (hour radio script), “The Sign of the Four” (hour radio script,) “A Study in Scarlet” (hour radio script.)
SINGULARITY: The radio-drama scion. Hosts have included Basil Davenport and Rex Stout; guest stars Jean Shepherd and Zacherley.
MILESTONES: Two open film meetings; the three hour broadcasts.
HABITAT: Diana Coffey’s restaurant, mid-town Manhattan; the Caricature Coffee House, Greenwich Village.
Peter Christian Steinbrunner (1934 – 7 July 1993) was an Edgar Award-winning American author, broadcaster and historian specializing in detective film and fiction. Steinbrunner grew up in Queens, New York, and attended Fordham University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters degree in sociology. While at Fordham, and for some years afterward, he was the host of a weekly radio program broadcast from the university station WFUV-FM, on which he presented interviews as well as occasional dramatizations of Sherlock Holmes stories. Following his college years, he was employed at the local New York City television station WOR-TV (later WWOR), becoming its film programming director. He remained at the station until the mid-1980s, during which time he produced entertainment specials about James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. Steinbrunner was well-known among Holmes aficionados.