Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rivals of Weird Tales-Golden Fleece-Part 2

Golden Fleece Historical Adventure ran from October 1938 to June 1939. The editors were Arthur J. Gontier, Jr., (1900-1988) and C.G. Williams. Arthur J. Gontier, Sr., (1864-1942), who had founded Sun Publications in about 1912, was the publisher and head of the Gontier family. He had previously published 10-Story Book magazine. On May 7, 1938, Chicago police raided Gontier's offices, located at 529 South Clark Street. (According to author Harry Stephen Keeler, those offices occupied a former Chinese opium den.) The police arrested Gontier and his son Robert and hauled away three truckloads of magazines and printing equipment. The charge: possession of obscene literature. The August 1938 issue of 10-Story Book is available online. The warning is that this issue contains nudity. There was a time I suppose when nudity equated with obscenity. The August 1938 issue may or may not have been the last for 10-Story Book. But if Gontier was trying to keep his nose clean, publishing a magazine of historical fiction was one way to do it. The first issue of Golden Fleece came out that October.

As I have written, the editors of Golden Fleece were Arthur J. Gontier, Jr., and C.G. Williams, a person whose identity has been a minor mystery until now. She was in fact Constance Gontier Williams, the older sister of Arthur, Jr. Born in about 1895, Constance Gontier attended the University of Wisconsin, where she worked as a reporter on The Daily Cardinal, the student newspaper. She married Leroy Frederick Williams on September 8, 1920, in Chicago. Ten years later, when the enumerator for the census came around, husband and wife were living in Chicago. Leroy was in advertising, presumably for Sun Publications. Constance was a bookkeeper.

In between those two dates, a little scandal erupted in the Williams family. The Chicago Tribune published an account on November 4, 1928. According to the Tribune, Leroy F. Williams, apparently under an alias, eloped to Crown Point, Indiana, with a twenty-five-year-old Chicagoan. The two were married in July. In September, the new wife, young Cecile Collett Williamson (sic), discovered that her husband was already married. She found the other wife living at the Berkshire Hotel. Not long after, Cecile reported her husband's crime and "assured the police that they couldn't miss him." At six feet, eight inches tall, Williams--who was called Roy--stood out. The police nabbed him on November 3. "[W]ith his lanky frame doubled up in a cell at police headquarters," Williams said he was sorry but had no comment on the charge of bigamy.

Whatever happened, by 1930 Leroy F. and Constance Gontier Williams were together. The fate of the second bride is unknown. By 1940 the Williams were divorced and Constance was living in Chicago. According to her nephew, Constance Williams maintained a professional relationship with her ex-husband after their divorce. She never remarried, nor did she have any children. Constance Frechette Gontier Williams died in California in the 1950s.

At the time of the scandal, Roy Williams was working as the manager of 10-Story Book. Arthur J. Gontier remembers:
Roy was a personal friend of my father's [Arthur J. Gontier, Jr.] . . . I remember him as being impossibly tall, always wearing brown flannel trousers, and when he would squat down to pet one of the publishing company's cats (Big Bongo and Little Bongo) with me, [he was] very friendly and not scary at all. (1)
I don't know what happened to Leroy F. Williams, but the company he worked for came to an end sometime between 1940 and 1942. Golden Fleece folded in June 1939. In March 1940, Sun Publications put out the one and only issue of Colossus Comics. Arthur J. Gontier died two years later, on June 11, 1942. According to Harry Stephen Keeler, "Gontier . . . who naively made all arrangements to be buried in a garbage can, got cremated by his uncooperative children and his ashes scattered over the Rocky Mountains." According to Cook County records he was laid to rest at Acacia Park in Chicago.

For part 1 of this article, dated September 3, 2013, click here.

(1) Personal correspondence from Arthur J. Gontier, 2013.

Colossus Comics, Sun Publication's attempt to get in on a booming business. This was the first and last issue. The date was March 1940.
This is an update of a previous posting that was grossly in error. I am greatly indebted to Arthur J. Gontier for further information and for leading me to make corrections.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

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