Star Trek Con (1969 convention)

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Name: Star Trek Con
Dates: March 1, 1969, 1-5 p.m.
Frequency: once
Location: Newark, New Jersey Public Library
Focus: Star Trek: TOS
Founder: Sherna Comerford Burley and Devra Langsam
Founding Date:
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The cover of the con program, this one with: "To Devra, Thanks! -- Sherna"

From the cover of the program: "Special Edition, Published For and Dedicated To, The Friends Who Pitched In To Help Put On The Star Trek Conference. Pax Vulcanis --Sherna."

Though it's commonly thought that the first all-Star Trek convention was held in 1972 at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, New York, another convention predated it by three years. It was simply called "The Star Trek Con" and took place in the afternoon on March 1, 1969 at the Newark Public Library. The free event, organized by librarian Sherna Comerford Burley (at the time, Sherna Comerford) and Devra Langsam (co-editors of Spockanalia), was low-key and celebrity-free and attracted roughly 300 attendees. [1]

Prior to this, Star Trek had only appeared in programming of general science fiction conventions such as FunCon in 1968.

"Nimoy-In" and Other Small Gatherings

While Sherna C. Burley and Devra Langsam's con in March 1969 was the first all-Star Trek regionally-publisized con, there had been smaller, lesser-known fan gatherings that are mostly now lost in the mists of time. One such was Nimoy-In, a August 1968 gathering in a church basement hall in Englewood, Ohio. This fan gathering, sponsored by the fan club Capsule 7, was from 12 noon to 7:00 pm, featured door prizes (Leonard Nimoy LPs and Star Trek books), "some movies taken from Star Trek episodes and movies taken from the President and Vice-President's trip to California last summer." There was plenty of food and soft drinks. Cost was .75 per member and each member could pay 1.00 and bring one guest. See Nimoy-In and The Crewman's Log for more.

From a January 1969 Flyer

A flyer for the con was printed as the last page of the program book.

From that flyer:

We are planning an adult, interesting event on the subject of a most controversial part of today's science fiction scene. Program items now in the planning stage include a slide show (perhaps a tour of the stage sets), using cutting room film clips. Also in planning are a display, pro guest speakersand a satyrical stage presentation.


We need suggestions and offers of program and display material. Because we are paying no room rent, we may not collect any money, for any purpose, while on the premises. Therefore, we are also looking for financial aid. There will be an honor roll of contributors in the display area.


1:00 -- Elyse Pines and Lee Smoire gave a slide show called "Enterprising Beings" -- "A slide tour of the Enterprise, as a stage set, and a survey of some of the more unusual aliens the program has created."

1:40 -- "The Spock Phenomenon" by Chuck Rein. "Why has Mr. Spock attracted such a following? An interview with an expert on the subject: the audience."

2:00 -- Chuck Rein, Ron Bounds, and Nara Sangster led a round of filk singing -- "Songs of, and from, Star Trek, including a recreation from "Charlie X."

2:40 -- a fan panel on "The Star Trek Phenomenon" -- "Mr. Spock is not the only reason why Star Trek has inspired such things as fanzines, letter campaigns, and a conference like this. A panel of fans examines the subject." With Allan Asherman, Lee Burwasser, Debbie Langsam, and Sue Lewis. The Moderator was Brian Burley.

3:00 -- Rest Break

3:15 -- "SF in the Visual Media": "Trends in SF movies, and their reflection in Star Trek." Presented by Allan Asherman.

3:45 -- Hal Clement gave a talk called "Star Trek and Science": "Pertinent [sic] commentary from One Who Knows."

4:15 -- the convention ended with a short skit by Sherna called "Spock Shock, which had been printed two years earlier in the zine Spockanalia #1. "A satyre satire by Sherna Burley, from Spockanalia #1, as produced by Chuck Rein. With Ron Bounds, Chuck Rein, Nara Sangster, Brian Burley, and various unfortunates drafted at the last minute of the speaking chorus."

Its Organizers' Memories

From Fan Writing Panel or Don't Make Him Say That!, a panel/interview in 1973:

DEBBIE: I don't know how many of you are aware of it, but this is not the first STAR TREK convention. This is the second STAR TREK convention. What year was your convention, Sherna?
SHERNA: '68.
DEBBIE: 1968 there was a very small STAR TREK convention in New ark, New Jersey. Hal Clement -
JOYCE: The audience was small.
SHERNA: Yeah, about 68 or 69, and it was only one afternoon....
JOYCE: In Spock's linen closet, that's where they had it.
DEBBIE: Hal Clement spoke - he'll be speaking here tomorrow, at 11 am - about STAR TREK and science. And he pointed out "that there was absolutely no validity in the way that STAR TREK had made their speeds. He had no quarrel with the idea of above-light speeds, but he showed by measurements that planets were too" far away for the Enterprise to be zipping back and forth at the speeds that they said they were going at. If they wanted to zip back and forth, either they should have said, "Well, we're going at warp 20," and just let the audience, assume that the space ship could go that fast, or they should have limited themselves to a single sector. Now this was a science fault in STAR TREK, and these are the same kinds of science faults that aren't particularly good in a STAR TREK story. If a man's temperature is 98.6, then it's 98.6. You can't say, "He's normal; his temperature is 96.5." You have to be accurate with the scientific facts that we have, unless you have a good explanation for the change.

From the Program Book

From the eight-page program book (two pages were hand-drawn detailed maps showing fans where the con was located):

Convention Reports

A convention report was published in the clubzine Anti-Matter #3 in March 1969:

It began with a slide tour of the Enterprise, as a stage set, guided by Devra Langsam and Lee Smoire, followed by shots of some of the Star Trek aliens, bad guys and creatures which inhabit the show. Next came an audience participation discussion of "The Spock Phenomenon" exploring why Spock has attracted such a following, conducted no less, by Spock himself, alias Chuck Rein in Spock disguise, make-up and ears. Conclusions: 1. Spock is a sex symbol. 2. Spock is an adequate lover (?)! 3. Spock is a super-human figure. 4. Every girl KNOWS she could successfully seduce Spock if given the chance. (Yeah!)

A panel discussion of "The Star Trek Phenomenon" and why the show has caught on was then moderated by Brian Burley, with Allan Asherman, Lee Burwasser, Debbie Langsam and Sue Lewis. During the rest break, we had a chance to view a Star Trek art display containing some of the original artwork submitted to "Spockanalia" for publication. Among the many artists whose works were on display, was legionnaire Kathy Bushman, who designed the cover for this ish [issue] of Anti-Matter. You'll find more of Kathy's Spocktacular illustrations later on in this ish. There were also plenty of Star Trek photo albums to delve into, not to mention a display case containing two adult tribbles, one baby tribble and and half eaten apple. (What?! No quadro tritacale?)

Two of the cutest baby Sehlats were also present, complete with pointed ears, arched eyebrows, fangs and Star Fleet uniforms, imported straight from Vulcan (with a slight detour at Japan), "Trends in Science Fiction Movies "and Their Reflection on Star Trek" were discussed by Allan Asherman (who bares a slight resemblance to Mr. Sulu). He was followed by science fiction writer and astronomer Hal Clement who examined the scientific aspects of Star Trek. Clement concluded that the most incredible Star Trek device is the transporter. Why? Because, according to Clement, in order to safely teleport an object from one place to another, one would need a machine powerful enough to dissassemble and distinguish every single atom of that object. However, he stated that a machine that powerful would probably blast the electrons off the atoms, thus changing their structure completely.

The final event of the afternoon was a comical dramatisation of a satire entitled "Spock Shock" which first appeared in "Spockanalia #1." Once again. Chuck Rein's portrayal of Mr. Spock (or Mr. Swock as he is called in the skit) came off beautifully, from Spock's manner of speech right down to his walk and gestures. But how Chuck ever learned to raise ONE eyebrow still remains a fascinating mystery.

Best part of the entire conference, however, was that it was FREE!!

This is another report, this one from March 1969 in Plak Tow #13:

The ST Con, organized by Sherna Burley, Devra Langsam and fellow Trekkers, was held March 1 at the Newark, N. J., Public Library. The program included a two-part slide show made up of film clips of Enterprise interiors and ST aliens; a discussion on "The Spock Phenomenon" led by Chuck Rein (in costume, makeup and ears, of course); a panel on "The Star Trek Phenomenon"; a talk by Allan Asherman on trends in s-f movies and their reflection in ST; and the "Spock Shock" skit from SPOCKANALIA #1 (with some fascinating special effects — would you believe a hand-held card reading "Lightning" zooming onstage to strike?). ST songs had also been planned but were called off when two-thirds of the three singers weren't able to attend. Featured on the program was s-f writer Hal Clement, who spoke on "Star Trek and Science," As in his article in TRISKELION #2, he applied his Game to ST. In the Game, the writer (or scripter) sets things up, and the reader (or viewer) tries to find holes in them. In this spirit of scientific inquiry, he raised questions as to the speed of the Enterprise (higher warp speeds needed if planets are reached in a matter of hours, in some shows) and the feasibility of the universal translator's use with aliens never contacted before. Various ST items were exhibited, including a display of fanzine art and other ST drawings and paintings. Particularly interesting were two portraits by Chuck (Spock2) Rein, F. D. (Future Doctor)—a McCoy in hot, emotional reds and yellows and a Spock in cool greens and blues.

Further Reading


  1. ^ "The first-ever Star Trek fan event, organized by Sherna Burley, actually took place in March, 1969, at the Newark Public Library, as TOS was ending. It wasn't a convention, just a small (if still kind of formal) gathering, with no actors from the series, just a slide show." -- Star Trek Conventions in the Seventies by BoG dated April 15, 2010; WebCite