Monk Watson

Donald (Monk) Watson was born in Jackson Michigan in 1894. When his mother became terminally ill, he was sent to live with his grandmother here in Colon. It was through magic that he got into show business as a boy. “My first show was almost my last,” Monk once said. “The druggist who sold me the ingredients for the “wine to water” trick forgot to tell me not to drink the stuff. I darn near died!”

Donald Watson (March 23, 1894 – March, 1981), was a vaudeville performer, acrobat, magician, radio personality, musician and emcee. Monk Watson fought on each of the five fronts in World War I. It was during his time as a soldier that he first met Elsie Janis while she was touring Europe. He joined her “Elsie Janis and Her Gang” for two years and then spent three years doing a farcical skit with a man named Benjamin Kubelsky (Jack Benny).

In 1926, after Monk assembled his 18-piece stage band, “The Keystone Serenaders,” he hired Bob Hope (“then a poor prize fighter known as Packy East”) to work in front of the band as a dancer. Another he helped along was Ginger Rogers.

After his band disbanded (in 1932) and he left the stage in 1940, Monk Watson spent two years as an Air Force morale and entertainment director during World War II. Later, he had a television show in Cleveland on WNKB-TV, and appeared as a guest star on television shows across the country. Monk took up Magic again, and put it to work by selling. He played every high school and also every good-sized garage in the country with the Casite Corporation

Monk returned to Colon and spent his last years in the small town where he grew up.

Blackstone and Colon

Harry Blackstone’s wife, Inez, drove her car south (by chance) from Kalamazoo through Leonidas and into Colon. At the western edge of the village she noticed an Island on Sturgeon Lake. Upon investigation, she found that the island was for sale, and she placed a down payment on the property. Harry found that the island was ideally suited for his purposes. In those days there were no summer shows (no air conditioning) so that was the time to prepare for a new season.

There was a frame house and a large barn where the stage equipment could be stored and many animals that were used in the show could be kept. The barn would also serve as a workshop. There were several cottages that could be used to house the crew. Blackstone purchased the island that summer and from then until 1949 Blackstone called Colon his home.

There was a railroad station in town. Blackstone utilized a Pullman car for the crew and one or two freight cars for his equipment. The town also had an opera house for rehearsals. Of course, it helped that Harry liked to fish and there was a river and lake in the front of the house.