Letter Home by James Dalby, 1919



Letter home dated January 21, 1919; France; from James W. Dalby: “My Darling Mother – Just a few lines to let you know I am O. K. Today is Friday and a very nice day. Everything is going fine and we boys are waiting patiently to come home where we can do what we want to. I suppose the boys that have reached home are enjoying themselves. Well mother, they have nothing on us fellows. We are all bothered with cooties and sleeping in barns. It is an awful life but we are glad we are volunteers and have done our bit for the U. S.

Dear old Lewistown ought to be proud of Company M. the old Eighty Regiment, because the men who died died like heroes. Sherman was right when he said “War is Hell.” But you folks back home don’t know or never will know what us poor fellows have gone through. When we died we are all ought to go to heaven, because we have all done our duty in hell.

We are getting our wounded men back now. The men who were wounded and gassed at Château-Thierry, Val Flimes, Fisment, St. Michael and the worst battle of all, the Argonne Forest. That’s where four of Lewistown’s boys were killed and a bunch wounded.  We lost three officers also, they were all good men everyone liked them in the company.

Well now the war is over and we are trying to forget those awful sights and hardships we went through. Now I will tell you what I can about the French people (we call them frogs). They are a funny set of people. They dress odd and wear wooded shoes. All they do is farm and tend to cattle, drink red wine. We get their goats when they talk to us as we can’t understand them. When they cook fish they don’t clean them or even take their heads off – everything goes. Gee, I am glad I am an American and live in God’s country. They sure know how to soak us for anything to eat. The French are misers, they get all they can. Now the girls are different. They are sociable and try hard to please us and are good girls. They are always busy knitting and cleaning their homes.


Mother, here is a little song of ours.. it is a true one, but we had to go back to finish the Germans.



I want to go home, I want to go home,

The machine guns they rattle,

The cannons they roar;

I don’t want to go to the trenches no more.

Take me over the seas

Where the Boche he can’t get at me,

Oh my, I don’t want to die,

I want to go home.


We have some more songs but will wait until I come home then I can sing them. Well, mother, I will close for this time, hoping this finds you all well as it leaves us here all well. Love to all, your loving son,

Corporal James W. Dalby
Co. M. 112th U. S. Infantry


Ray Farrand Letter Home 1919

    Following is a letter from Ray Farrand who was on the battleship South Dakota on July 4, 1919: ”Dear Mother and All; Well my ambitions have been partially realized as I have been to Paris and the battle front at Rheima and Château-Thierry. Now when I see a little of the States I will be perfectly happy.

We left Brest at 7:30 p.m. June 29 and get to Paris at 7:30 a.m. Monday. That afternoon we used in getting our bearings and took in the Eiffel tower. It is the highest structure in the world, 980 feet, and was probably as near Heaven as I will ever be, of course the view from there was wonderful. We couldn’t go to the extreme top because there is a large radio station there but we got within about 50 feet of it.

That evening we took in the French cabarets and will say that the folks in the States don’t know what a cabaret is, and maybe it is well that they don’t. I don’t see how they stand it with some of their customs. Of course they don’t know any better or maybe they wouldn’t do as they do.

The next morning we got up early and went with a Y. M. C. A. party to Rheims and Château-Thierry. I never expected to get so far into France but you can never tell. Rheims is about a three hour ride from Paris on the train and we went right from there to the front where the Germans were located while trying to take the town. It won’t do to go into detail so will only say that we saw trenches, forts, dugouts, tanks, and German prisoners filling in the trenches and removing the barbed wire entanglements. We saw the famous Reims Cathedral that took 250 years to build and which the church officials have official record of 350 high caliber shells hitting it besides probably many more. The town is completely ruined and it must make the natives sick when they see it. We came back from there to Château-Thierry and went out to Beileau Wood. It is about five miles from the city to the first trenches that we saw and the road was strewn with shells being carried to the front when the Armistice was signed and was also very rough where it had been shelled. The patch of woods is comparatively small for so much fighting to take place in being only about three miles long and in the shape of a triangle. There are single dugouts about every step and in some there are still bones with flesh on. The “Yanks” certainly did well there for the only approach to the woods is across open ground on all sides. There is a cemetery there with 2,057 American graves and on top of the woods on a knoll is a spot with six or seven German graves who tried to hold an old windmill. There is a German prison camp there and the Germans are being worked to fill in the trenches and the shell holes in the fields. Every time they find a shell that didn’t explode they fire it with rifles. We saw them fire several. Saw a lot of English tanks that were used to try to take the woods and believe me they looked about like a sieve. I wouldn’t want any for mine but it must have been exciting while it lasted.

The second was the only day we went around the city much and we took in about all of the most interesting places. We left Paris that evening at 8:00 on a troop train so were pretty crowded but no one cared as we had seen Paris and were content to put up with most anything. We got here yesterday morning about 9:30 and came directly to the ship.

The president left Brest Sunday afternoon and the George Washington was anchored just a shot distance from us. With glasses he could be seen clearly. All ships in the harbor were in full dress and each fired a twenty-one gun salute. All along the way every one wanted to give us something for souvenirs or a drink of wine because peace had been signed the day before. When I saw the ruins of Rheims and Château-Thierry I wondered how the natives had the heart to do anything at all.

When I have many clothes to scrub after the big trip so will close for this time. Love to all, Ray


An early post card of the South Dakota in her original Spar and White paint and also with her original fore mast.

South Dakota was renamed Huron on 7 June 1920 and was designated CA-9 on 17 July 1920. She served in the Asiatic Fleet for the next seven years, operating in Philippine waters during the winter and out of Shanghai and Chefoo, China during the summer.


In 1930 the Powell River Company Limited took possession of some decommissioned ships to be used as floating breakwaters for the log pond at their pulp and paper mill at Powell River, British Columbia Canada. Using decommissioned ships hulls as breakwaters was not a new idea and had been used many times. However, in most cases ship breakwaters were created by sinking the vessels in shallow water to create the breakwater. At Powell River the water is too deep to allow this and so the floating breakwater designed was used. The ships at the Powell River mills Breakwater Fleet form what many believe is the largest floating breakwater in the world. These ships are know to the people of Powell River, British Columbia as “The Hulks”.

The first two ships that were brought to the log pond at the Powell River mill were the decommissioned US Cruisers USS Charleston and the USS South Dakota/Huron. On October 25, 1930 the hulk of the Charleston stripped to her waterline was towed to the log pond and was the first ship to take her place standing guard at the log pond. The Charleston remained in the breakwater fleet at Powell River until 1961 when she was removed because she was in danger of sinking. She was removed and used again a short distance away at Kelsey Bay on Vancouver Island where she was grounded at the booming ground at Kelsey Bay. She can be seen there today as her hulk is partially out of the water along with several grounded ships. It was at the end of August 1931 that the hull, stripped to her waterline, of the South Dakota/Huron arrived to take her place at the log pond at Powell River along side of the Charleston. These ships were ballasted and anchored in place and routinely pumped out to keep them afloat. For the next 30 years the South Dakota/Huron remained rusting peacefully protecting the log pond along with the other hulks that formed the Breakwater Fleet. On February 18, 1961 with a storm raging and the South Dakota/Huron riding low in the water, the once proud ship lost her battle with her enemy of 30 years and slipped quietly beneath the waves. She settled to the bottom of the log pond in about 80 feet of water and rests there to this day.


New Bridge at Colon 1932

New Bridge at Colon to Be Dedicated Friday and Saturday


From Michigan Roads and Airports, September 29, 1932: “Dedication ceremonies for the new Main Street bridge in Colon, St. Joseph County, are scheduled for Friday and Saturday of this week.

Among the features of the program will be an address by Paul W. Vourheis, Attorney General, at 2 p.m. Friday.

H. S. Clark, project engineer for the State Highway Department, has written the following description of the interesting features of the construction work:

“The little town of Colon, in St. Joseph County, has a new bridge on Main Street, crossing Swan Creek in the midst of the village itself at the site of three former  bridges. In saying that Colon boasts its new bridge no idle figure of speech is used. The boast of Colon in its new landmark is shared by each of the 1,000 population.

Life at Colon is not fast – it is good. It is something to be rolled under the tongue and definitely enjoyed. Colon is a hundred years old and with fullness of years has come a mellow neighborliness embracing the entire community. Everyone knows everyone else. An event known to one Colonite is a potential source of enjoyment to all. Not a resident of the town but has visited the source of activity, and most have been frequently, if not regular visitors. Universal interaction attended the entire job, and now, as the progress approaches completion, a monster celebration with bands, speeches, and general enthusiasm is being planned as a sort of culmination of the long display of public interest.

A hundred years ago the town of Colon was first platted; a wilderness hamlet, accessible only by wood trails, and by canoe up the St. Joseph River and across Sturgeon lake. Four years later, in 1836, the first road was laid out. It connected Centreville, Colon, and Coldwater, and crossed Swan Creek at Colon on a rough structure of logs just downstream from the newly built dam and sawmill. The fist log bridge was short lived. A few years after its construction the failure of the dam resulted in a flood which swept it clean away. A second timber bridge replaced the first one and, in spite of a partial failure of the dam in 1871, it did duty until 1873, when it was in turn supplanted by a slender steel span.

This steel bridge, 100 feet in length, was of the ten recently developed bowstring truss type, very economical in design and intended for loads of a few tons at the most. It was  carried upon masonry abutments of such generous dimensions and sturdy construction that when, after 59 years of service, the old bowstring truss was retired, the old abutments were judged to be capable of bearing the loads imposed by modern truck traffic on the new steel deck girder bridge. Thirty-five years after its construction the bowstring bridge was strengthened by the addition of steel framing under the floor, transforming it virtually into five steel bent spans, and thus reinforced the structure carried traffic until it was replaced by the present new bridge.

In January, 1932, was begun the construction, now nearly completed, of a new steel deck girder bridge, with 30-foot width of roadway, two five-foot sidewalks, three spans of 33 feet each.

A unique feature of the construction was the use of the old bridge for carrying traffic until the new bridge, built on the abutments of the old one, was ready for service. On first thought this plan sounds like the one evolved by the thrifty householder who thought to build a new house out of the bricks of the old one yet planned to live in the old house until the new one was ready for occupancy. It is not recorded in the case of the Colon bridge the seemingly impossible feat was accomplished by raising the old superstructure high enough on temporary supports so that the new construction could go on beneath, traffic meanwhile reaching the higher level by means of ramps at either end. The new floor slab was placed in three sections or strips, the outer strips, which lay outside the old narrow superstructure, being placed first, while traffic still used the old roadway. As soon as one side of the outer portion of the new bridge was completed traffic was turned on to it. The old bridge was then removed and the center strip of the new superstructure was placed. This entire program was carried out with no delay to traffic longer than 90 minutes, and with a total delay of less than four hours from start to finish of the work.

The design was C. A. Melick, Bridge Engineer of the State Highway Department. The bridge was constructed by the Kalamazoo Construction Company, C. R. Featherstone, Superintendent, under the supervision of W. J. Kingscott, Division Engineer. R. S. Clark was project engineer.”





From Michigan Roads and Airports; October 13, 1932: “a two-day celebration of the centennial anniversary of the first bridge ever built in the village and the completion of the fourth bridge on the same site recently was held in Colon, St. Joseph County.

The dedication ceremony, proper, on Friday was short but quite impressive. A dozen of the oldest residents of Colon, persons who had used the former bridge from day to day and from year to year throughout their long lives in the community, first marched across the new structure, to the strain of music by the Colon Brass Band.

Attorney General Paul W. Voorheis delivered the principal address. He brought his hearers a larger concept of bridges and routes. He pointed pat the location of any certain trunk line to the bold outlines of a countrywide highway system. He showed, beyond the building of any certain bridge structure, the operation of a careful and pain-staking highway department.

Thus inaugurated, Colon’s dedication festival proceeded for two days. Bands played, tumblers stunted, merry-go-round and Ferris-wheel did their parts, while airplane rides and a parachute jumper added to the total of thrills.

All this in immediate celebration of the newly built trunk line bridge of M-78 crossing the Swan Creek in the village. Three short steel deck girder spans make up the normal length of 99 feet. The 30-foot roadway is flanked on either side by a five-foot sidewalk.”{





George Engle, Obituary

     George Engle, Pioneer and Well Known Citizen, Died Sunday



From The Colon Express newspaper, August 1921: “George Engle died at his home two miles west of Colon on Sunday evening, August 7th, at eight o’clock, after a long illness which, however, confined him to his bed for only a week. He was 82 years, 7 months and 2 days old.
George Engle was one of the notable men of St. Joseph County. He never knew defeat and was always the master of his own fortune. Not always did things eventuate as he desired, but he was of that tenacious nature that never gives up but compels victory from seeing defeat.

He was a son of George and,  Christipa (Klopfer) Engle, both of whom were natives of Alsace Lorraine, then a French Province. The family came to the United States and took up land from the government and it has never been transferred from the family. There were three sons and two daughters of whom but one survives. Mrs. Chauncey Cleveland who continues to reside on the original acres. The home was a log cabin which gave place to a frame structure and during the life of Mr. Cleveland, that was replaced by a fine brick home.

Mr. Engle was born on the Colon homestead January 5, 1839. His early life was that of the pioneer farmer’s son. After he attained his young manhood he was associated with his brother-in-law for eight years in the ownership of a few acres of land. Then a division was made which at the prevailing values amounted to about $1,000, each assuming a portion of certain indebtedness they had assumed. On March 29, 1864, he was married to Miss Caroline Loettgert. To them three daughters were born. Mrs. Clara Mathewson of Kalamazoo, Mrs. Emma Clyde of Mendon and Miss Carrie who died July 6, 1909. Mrs. Engle died November 12, 1878.

On Decemberr 4, 1879, he was married to miss Roxie Eburston, who with their one son, Orla, survives. There are three grandchildren.

Mr. Engle was one of the most successful farmers, alert and aggressive, and added to his acres until he became the owner of something over a thousand fertile acres. The fine stone residence and adjoining farm has been his home for over thirty years.

(Illegible) affairs. He was a stockholder in the Lamb Knit Goods Company. A many sided man whose ripe judgment was frequently sought and always respected.

Mr. Engle was a man of retiring disposition, never sought or cared for public office, his joy was in hard work, thrift and progress and his home. The tie between himself and his family was very close and in the companionship of his relatives he found understanding and companionship.

He became a member of Colon Lodge No. 73 of Free and Accepted Masons May 1st, 1875. In 1919 he was made a life member. He frequently expressed to his wife a desire to that his brothers of that fraternity should officiate at his funeral, using the beautiful funeral ritual at the home and grave.

Few lives leave such lasting impression on any community as this life, just ended leaves on Colon and Colon Township.

The funeral occurred at the home two miles west of Colon on Wednesday and was conducted by his home lodge. The interment was in the Laird cemetry.




Hank Moorehouse Obituary



Henry L. Moorehouse



From The Sturgis Journal newspaper, August 9, 2011: “Henry L. (Hank) Moorehouse, 77, of White Pigeon, died Saturday, July 2, 2011, in Beijing, China, of natural causes.

He was born April 23, 1934, in Oak Park, Ill., a son of Fay and Stella (Meyer) Moorehouse.

On September 3. 1983, he married Jaculan J. Miller in White Pigeon.

He had been a White Pigeon resident since 1983, coming from Ypsilanti and Colon. He was a self-employed magician since 1970, a plant manager in auto manufacturing in Plymouth, Mich. and a member of the First Presbyterian Church of White Pigeon where he was very active as a church elder. He was past president of The Society of American Magicians, a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and magic clubs around the world. Hank was also known for his magic shows at local schools. The Hank Moorehouse Assembly in Ann Arbor is named for him.

Surviving are his wife, Jaculan J. Moorehouse of White Pigeon, daughter Kim Moorehouse of Wiuterhaven, Fla.; sons, David (Nina) Moorehouse of Ellicott City, Md., Buddy (Kathy) Moorehouse of Gregory, Mich., Michael (Cathie) Moorehouse of Grand Junction, Colo., Peter Nicholson of Elkhart, Ind., Timothy Nicholson of White Pigeon and Steven (Christy) Nicholson of Angier, N.C.; 12 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; and two nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, Paul.

There will be no visitation. Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church in White Pigeon with Rev. Steve Kaszar and Rev. Wilbur Brandhi officiating. Private burial will take place in Lakeside Cemetery in Colon, Mich.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the American Heart Association or a charity of choice. Envelopes are available at the Farrand Funeral Home in White Pigeon which is handling the arrangements.

Madame Marantette

Emma Peek, aka “Madame Marantette”

By Linda Wilbur

Due to an extraordinary family intermarriage pattern, I am related in four different ways to Emma Peek (1849 – 1922), born in 1849 to John G. and Matilda (RICHARDS) Peek of Mendon, St. Joseph Co., MI. Emma’s first husband was Patrick Henry Charles MARANTETTE, also of Mendon, MI. Charles, a son of Patrick Godet Marantette, a very Roman Catholic pioneer fur trapper and his wife, Frances MOUTON. When Charles decided to marry the very beautiful, but very Protestant Emma, the family definitely did not approve! From what I have heard, this ongoing family disapproval weighed heavily on the marriage, which lasted less than a year and ended in divorce.
In 1882, Emma was taken in hand by Daniel H. HARRIS and trained as an equestrienne. Apparently, the ability to gracefully manage a horse while riding sidesaddle must have run in the Peek family. Emma’s younger sister, Myrtle Viola “Myrtie” Peek (HOFFMAN) was also a trained equestrienne. She was not nearly as famous as her older sister, but that might have changed if she hadn’t died prematurely at the age of 33 of pneumonia.
In addition to retaining her first husband’s surname as her professional name, Emma also named her famous horse “St. Patrick” after her former husband and his father! While she was actively performing, she carried everything she owned…including her dogs, several horses and an ostrich trained to pull a two-wheeled buggy…in a pullman car with “St. Patrick” and “Madame Marantette” boldly painted on both sides. I know for certain that she appeared for at least one season with Ringling Brothers and also traveled to England to perform. I have also heard, but haven’t been able to confirm, that she knew William Cody and performed in his Wild West Show. Her specialty was training high school horses. Additionally, she and St. Patrick held the high jump record of 7 feet, 10-1/2 inches…which may still stand, as it was accomplished while riding sidesaddle! It is known that Emma was an active performer well into her sixties. My mother told me about having seen her driving her ostrich and cart in a Colon, Michigan circus parade in the summer of 1916. (Emma would have turned 67 that year.) Emma eventually married her trainer, Daniel Harris, but they never had any natural children together. I understand they did adopt a daughter, but have not yet been able to discover who she was or whatever became of her. Emma Peek Marantette Harris aka “Madame Marantette” died in 1922 at Mendon and lies buried in the Mendon Township Cemetery, Mendon,St. Joseph Co., MI.

the world record achievements and self-promotion of one of the most colorful citizens of the village of Mendon, Michigan. A horsewoman of impeccable standards and ability, Madame Marantette set world records in horsemanship while riding side-saddle in a skirt. She later became known as “Queen of the Saddle” and traveled for several years with the Barnum & Bailey Circus.





Elizabeth Charlotte Stice

Coldwater, Mich. — By Dave McDonald

The Branch District Library’s Heritage Room houses many archive folders with many more interesting, true stories of people and times long past, but not forgotten.

While doing some local history research recently, I came across an interesting, unusual story. It was about a lady who lived in Branch County in the late 1800s. Her real name was Elizabeth Charlotte Stice. And she was a circus fat lady.

Elizabeth (Stice) Whitlock, a portrait.

She lived, died and was buried in Batavia Township between Coldwater and Bronson. Little did I know that along with some interesting facts, I would also discover far more questions and mystery than answers.

During her life, Elizabeth also used circus names, Lottie Grant and later, Lizzie Whitlock. She has been reported as being born in 1853, 1854 and May 12, 1849. Some report her place of birth as Iowa, Missouri or British Columbia. One self-claimed great-granddaughter says Monroe County, Mo.

Lizzie tipped the scales at over 500 pounds at 14 years old, the age at which it is said that she ran away from home. It is also noted that she grew to as much as 722 pounds at some point. But it is known that she weighed over 650 pounds at the time of her death in Batavia.

She was married at least three times during her life, and there is suspicion of a fourth marriage. There were four children born to Lizzie. Her third child was actually named P. T. Barnum Whitlock, reflecting her association with the P. T. Barnum Circus.

Lizzie was recorded on the S. H. Barrett & Company Circus routing report in 1883-84 as a member of their circus. Lizzie married Frank Whitlock, a Carney Caller with the same circus, at Seward, Neb. on Aug. 9, 1883. They reported her as being 27 years old, creating an additional possible birth date of 1855. She was a mere 593 pounds at the time.

Elizabeth (Stice) Whitlock died of heart problems on Aug. 16, 1899, at her home located in Batavia. But, no, the story does not end yet. Lizzie’s story still has more twists before ending.

One story of her funeral tells that the casket company thought undertakers had made a mistake on the casket dimensions and didn’t build the coffin, forcing them to bury her in a piano case.

But research of 1899 newspapers reveals another story. The casket company did build the oversize coffin, but it did not arrive at the railroad station in Coldwater until 8:29 p.m. the evening of the funeral.

Picking up the casket, they drove the wagon straight to Batavia where they placed Lizzie in the coffin. A window facing the front porch provided an opening large enough for exit. They removed her from the house and held a midnight burial at the Batavia Cemetery.

Lizzie was placed in an unmarked grave, but in 1996, the Branch County Historical Society led an effort to place a marker. As they could not locate any record of her grave location at the time, they used a local body-witcher who claimed to have located her burial site. On that basis, the headstone was set in place.

However, the records of former Township Supervisor Nathan Shumway state that Lizzie’s grave was at the end of the row containing Bassett family markers. That would be two rows closer to the road than the headstone’s current location. So where is Lizzie, really!?

Has Lizzie Whitlock been forgotten? No! Several figurines decorate her headstone, left by fascinated visitors. Many people record their initials and the date of their visit on the always present spiral note pad. Thus leaving behind proof that the P. T. Barnum Circus fat lady can still draw fans and the curious.


From an old Coldwater Photo Album bought at auction


Additional notes on Stice:


“Many called her the original fat lady of the circus.”


Whitlock also became skilled as a snake charmer.


“Lizzie was proud of her fat lady title and content with the life she led.”


She mothered four children.


The last two years of her life she suffered from an unknown ailment.

Her shoes were size 24. That is a woman’s size 8 in comparison.

Blackstone by George Florida

The Last “Great” Doesn’t Bother To Say so



From TOPS Magazine, August 1961, by George ‘Alabama’ Florida: “Time was, and it  is still within the memory of most of today’s theatre-goers, when any magician who wasn’t either the Great So-and-So or So-and-So the Great wasn’t patently worth the hat he pulled his rabbit out of.

It was as much the magic that surrounded their names – Herrman the Great, The Great Kellar, Great Houdini, Thurston the Great, The Great Dante, The Great Blackstone – as the magic they put on the stage that made the decades around the turn of the century the golden age of magicians in the theatre.

One of the great Greats, which really meant the magicians who could put together a full two-and-one-half-hour show and tour regular legitimate theatres, all but one have passed into the greatest mystery of all. The youngest, HARRY BLACKSTONE is the last.

Fashions in theatrical billings change even as fashions in theatrical presentations. “The Great”, even in the lexicon of press agentry, has long since been relegated to the unique and unparalleled  personalities who lay claim to being the only person-to-accomplish-this-feat in the world of the circus, the carnival and the tented side-show.

It is no longer the Great Blackstone. It is simply “BLACKSTONE” – THE WORLD’S FOREMOST MAGICIAN.”

Harry Blackstone’s real name is Harry Bouton, and he was born on the south side of Chicago. During his early vaudeville days he and his brother, Pete, did a burlesque magic act under their right name. When they decided to go in for serious magicianship, Harry figured that Bouton would hardly stand against their rivals at the time.

While pondering a change, he chanced to pick up a batch of ready-made posters for defunct magician known as Frederick the Great. It looked like a perfect deal at the time and proved so for several years.

“I had to give up when World War I came along,” Blackstone said, “It would have been like calling yourself “The Great Kaiser Wilhelm’.”

Where did he get the name Blackstone?

That’s Blackstone’s secret until he decides to change it again. The last time he was asked the answer ran like this, “Well, I tell you son, the best explanation I ever heard was that I got it off a cigar band” … but personally, I don’t believe it.”

Hank Moorehouse in England


Hank Moorehouse in England

This is a reprint from Tops in November 1982. We lost Terry earlier this year in January 2011 and Hank 6 months later. As you can see from the picture that Terry did make it to Abbott’s, and when he showed up he was greeted by Abbott President Greg Bordner, Abbott Plant Manager Gordon Miller, and Abbott’s Sales Manager Hank Moorehouse, all in Watford Hornet soccer attire.

I know that Hank Moorehouse will write in the NEW TOPS about the British I.B.M. convention in Hastings, so I felt that you must have the truth from our side of the water!!! Hastings is a very old town, known mostly for the famous Battle of Hastings in the year 1066 (or thereabouts – I wasn’t there), and it opened it’s arms to welcome 7000 magicians for their annual thrash. Various parcels of magic from Abbott’s had been arriving at my house for some weeks, and can you imagine the temptation that Hank and Greg put in my path – fancy a crazy magic nut having about a dozen large parcels of magic in his house and he is not able to open them for some weeks and see what is there!


The day came to welcome Hank to the country at London Airport and he staggered through to the meeting area with yet more parcel s, but most important I straight away saw the duty-free bottle of Scotch!!! I told him that he was not tired after his all night flight and that he was going to his first soccer match that day. I kept him awake, fed him and took him to see my team Watford, and of course we won as usual! The Moorehouse, tired and aching, was dragged around by me for two shows that night, and then another one on Sunday and in between much discussion on our job to come of jointly M.C.ing the Gala Show at Hastings, Then came Monday morning and the incredible task of loading Hank’s personal stuff , my stuff and props for the show and all of Abbotts dealer’s stand into my little Datsun. There was just about room to squeeze The Moorehouse in the passenger front seat between two flagstaffs and a few Zombies and so we trundled off to our first stop, the McComb household. Lunch with Billy and then onto Hastings to unload at the hotel and then a walkabout in the evening to various local pubs to give Hank some local colour, but I think I ended up with the most colour!

Tuesday morning was setting up the trade stand day, and as the dealers trade fair was at the end of the pier this involved a fair amount of carrying parcels up and down!!! This was great Pun as the various parcels were opened and all the splendid goodies saw the air of England for the first time, The decorating of the stand was done with the help of many folks who lent us cloths, ladders, bits of wood, string, scotch tape and so on, and after nearly a full day’s work we were looking good and the name of Abbott’s was being held high. Hank gave me instruction in some of the items I didn’t know and with the aid of my calculator the great task of converting the prices to U.K. pounds was completed, and the finishing task was the sign Hank put up – “Official Translator Terry Seabrooke”! ! !

The next day we were open for business and the magicians came flocking into see what was the latest and to see what the famous Abbott’s organization had to offer. What a thrill when I took in my first money, one pound-fifty pence for a pack of cards! One thing I learned from this convention is that it is no fun standing all day behind a dealer’s stand, and folks like me who are not used to it find the old legs have plenty to say towards the end of the day! Still, as we got organized, each of us (Hank, Billy and myself) ambled off to look around and recharge the batteries at the thoughtfully placed bar! On Thursday morning for the dealers trade show, we were second on at 9:30 A.M., and I think we woke them all up with one of the craziest few minutes you have seen, the three of us doing. I don’t know how many tricks in about six minutes and leaving the audience with no doubt that Abbott’s were here. A busy day behind the stand and many laughs and picture taking going on, and the same pattern for Friday.

Saturday was Hank’s big day, and I really felt for him. The stand had to be opened at 9:30 A.M., then he had to do his lecture at 10:30 A.M., then back to the stand at lunch time and then he had to come to the theatre for rehearsals for the Gala show, then back to the stand for an hour and then to the theatre for two show, one at 5:00 P.M. and one at *:30 P.M. and then he had close-up to do at midnight!!!! Such is the restful Saturday he had, and to top it all he had to cope with me after I found out that Watford had lost that afternoon!!! At this point I must tell you that many, many of the magicians said that the Moorehouse lecture was without doubt one of the highlights of the whole week – I am sorry I didn’t see it, but I was holding the fort for Abbott’s in the dealers room whilst my boss did his stuff!!!

Packing up day on Sunday, and much dealing between dealers of stock remaining and then only two parcels left to take back to Watford, and much more room in the car this time! Monday evening we all went to the Magic Circle, and by the reaction of everyone it was obvious that Hank and Abbott’s had gained new friends and fans. So back home for me and unpacking the goodies that were left – word soon gets around in the magic game and several of the chaps found out that I was looking after the Abbott stuff that was left over, and since Hank’s departure I have had several visitors to the house to have a look and I managed to sell quite a few items already, and believe me, I get quite a kick out of it!

So another convention is over, and the British were thrilled to have a name such as Abbott’s represented so well over here, and if we are lucky Abbott’s will be back soon again, and maybe Greg will come and take a look at us! As for me, I am delighted that it looks like next year I shall be taking reprisal action against Abbott’s for sending Hank over, and I shall be coming to Colon in 1983.

Serves you all right!!!!!

Terry Seabrooke  appeared at Abbott’s Get-Together in 1979, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1995, and 2004.

Hank Moorehouse appeared at Abbott’s Get-Together in 1970, 1974, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2004, and 2008.


A Blackstone Story, George Johnstone

A Blackstone Story



From TOPS Magazine, December 1974, by George Johnstone: “We get letters asking for more “Blackstone Show Adventures.” So Salla reminds me of my first visit there … we had loaded most of the show into the theater. Since it was a hot day we left the animal cages out in the stage door alley. While waiting for another load of illusions to arrive from the baggage car we and the stage crew retired to a small coffee shop up the street. Upon returning, when the truck arrived, we found to our utter dismay that the ducks were missing. Eight ducks had been stolen from the cage crates. Since some of these tough old ducks had been with the show for years, God help the thief when he tried to sink his teeth into them.

Now came the mad scramble to replace them. At a stagehand’s suggestion I was sent by cab out to the local zoo. They refused to sell or loan out zoo property for a career in the show business world … The cab driver suggested that I try a farmer’s market at the edge of the city. Off we went. They had ducks but Blackstone’s efficient assistant had neglected to bring sufficient funds to buy them. With the promise of prompt payment the minute we returned to the theatre, the cab driver loaned me the money. Now another problem that the efficient assistant forgot to anticipate. How do we transport eight writhering, flapping, quacking ducks? Again the cab driver came to the rescue by driving to the nearest grocery store and returning with cardboard cartons.

Back at the theatre the ducks were tossed into the cages as I began the hectic prop set-up in a race with show time. The ducks made their appearance from an illusion about midway during the show. Our old ducks had been loaded and unloaded so many times that they were fairly docile. The new ones … Oh, Boy!! They fanned out, half running, half flying, all over the stage, over the orchestra boys in the pit and out into the audience. Blackstone stood aghast with his mouth hanging open. The animal man had neglected, or didn’t have the time, to clip the wing feathers. Harry also raised hell because the ducks were so filthy. The old ducks were washed periodically and were a snowy white. The ducks that made their appearance might have been born white but now they ran the gamut from a dingy gray to mucky brown … It goes without saying that there was a lot of “chewing-out” after that first show in San Diego.”


George Johnstone (1919 – 2004) was a magician, entertainer, book collector and painter. He started out in magic as a leading assistant in The Blackstone Sr. magic show from 1939 until he got drafted in World War II in 1943. He met and married his wife Betty while they were both assistants on the Blackstone show. After the war, he went on to a career as a comedy magician and later as a stand-up entertainer. He wrote for TOPS magazine for many years.