Jerry Conklin Obituary

Jerry M. Conklin

HODGE PODGE

Joe Ganger

 

Jerry M. Conklin, age 82, of Colon, took his final bow after a courageous battle with cancer and went to be with the Lord on March 29, 2010, while residing at his Colon home, with his family by his side.

Jerry was born February 18, 1928, in Battle Creek, a son to the late Gaylord and Lois (Horton Conklin. Jerry’s early life was spent in Battle Creek, where he graduated from Battle Creek Central High School in 1945. Following graduation, Jerry served in the U.S. Army with the Special Services Entertainment Division.

On June 24, 1951, he married Shirley A. Robertson in Battle Creek. She preceded him in death on March 31, 1987.

While living in Battle Creek, Jerry worked as a milkman for Ashely Dairy. In 1961 Jerry moved his family to Colon and began working at Abbott’s Magic Company. Soon afterwards, he became a professional magician, and the “family of magic” know as The Amazing Conklins traveled throughout the United States, Nova Scotia, New Foundland, Quebec and New Brunswick. In the 1960s they performed at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colo. They also performed on Chicago’s Bozo Circus Show and were also invited to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. Jerry and Shirley also traveled together with the Hetzer Brothers Circus. After Shirley’s passing in 1987, Jerry slowed down a little, but he said the show must go on, so he downsized his act and continued on with his love of magic and performed at school assemblies all across the United States. For something a bit different, he traveled one summer with a fair circuit, announcing pig races, which he enjoyed, too. The Amazing Conklins performed at the Abbott’s Magic Get-together  in Colon 12 times and in 1999 they received the Jack Gwynne Award for Excellence in Magic.

Jerry had a love of working and he never slowed down. When he made the decision to stop traveling with his magic, he purchased two concession trailers and operated those at many events throughout the state of Michigan. Jerry was also employed as stage manager for the Sturges-Young Auditorium for 19 years and he was also the lighting/sound technician for the Abbott’s Magic Get Togethers. His most recent employer was Colon Public Schools, where his title included lunch and playground supervisor and an aide on the bus for special needs children.

He liked to be involved in the many community events that took place in Colon, such as the annual Fourth of July and Halloween festivities.

Jerry was a member of the Colon New Life Assembly of God Church.

He is survived by one daughter, Cindy Conklin, of Colon; one son, Mike (Penny) Conklin of Constantine; four grandchildren, Shawnee (Tanya) Big Mountain of West Richmond, Wash., Stacy (Mark) Kittle of Colon, Kylie (Adam) Bowen of Centreville and Christina Conklin of Constantine; five great-grandchildren; one brother, Jarney (Yvonne) Conklin of British Columbia, one sister, Gayla (Jim) Nelson of Battle Creek and several nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his longtime companion, Lady, his faithful Saint Bernard.”

 

On The Road With The Conklins

On the Road with the Amazing Conklins

From The NEW TOPS magazine, by Jerry Conklin, date unknown: “During the last part of July and the first part of August, we will be touring with our magical illusions show thru Ontario, Canada. It will be billed as “The Wonderful World of fantasy.” We will be looking forward to seeing our many Canadian friends. As yet, we do not have a rout but will be playing some of the same towns played last year with the “OZ Show.”

If we were to tell you that all of our shows were booked into auditoriums with all the necessary lights, curtains, stage area, etc., we would be kidding you. If our over two hundred shows a year, we play over two hundred different auditoriums or stages. We have played small stages and have had to put equipment in halls and other rooms. We have played stages so large we could park our truck back stage. We have played gym auditoriums, gym floors, all-purpose rooms and even out-door show on two flat-bed trucks.

One auditorium in Virginia had a front curtain that worked from one side only, the other side was off the track. We asked the custodian if it could be repaired before show time. He stared at the curtain for several minutes and then answered, “I’ve been here for twenty-seven years and that curtain hasn’t worked for twenty-seven years and it ain’t going to work tonight either.” That was the end of the discussion. When building a show of this type you must take this into consideration. You must be able to play on or in anything. Scenery must be designed to be very adaptable. You may need to leave a section or two out to fit the stage area. You will need curtains to block off views on gym floors. A good P.A. system is a necessary item – most schools have had their P.A.’s mis-used by the students and their sound is bad. Some lighting should be included in your equipment. A spotlight is very useful but needs an experienced man to operate it. Some fresnels or a few ellipsoidal or even some PAR lights at front of stage area will help. And of course, you will need several hundred feet of heavy-duty electric cords. Along with this you will need a good knowledge of electricity. You will also need to learn the various light boards used in auditoriums. Some are very complicated with sophisticated patch systems and others are just simple switches. There is nothing worse than a show that you can’t hear or see and just because the show did not take the time, money or energy to do it right.”

 

Conklin; a Magical Life

Reflecting on a magical life

From the Kalamazoo Gazette Newspaper, July 25, 1998, by Lynette Kalsnes: “ Mystery has been a part of Jerry Conklin’s life since he was 14.

COLON – If someone didn’t know what Jerry Conklin did for a living, his living room would be a dead giveaway.

Two giant black dice serve as end tables, holding up lamps with red and black shades that match the shag carpeting. Old posters featuring magicians under words like “thrill after thrill,” “all the sparkle and dazzle of Arabian Nights” and “company of 30 mostly gorgeous girls!” color his walls. Magic kits cover a table.

And above his fireplace, a wall is plastered with the black-and-white photographs of his magician friends, many of whom has stayed with him.

The 70-year-old magician has turned hi living room into a museum – only with comfortable easy chairs and a couch – filled with the remnants of a life dedicated to magic.

Conklin started performing 56 years ago and toured the United States and Canada with his wife, children and grandchildren as “The Amazing Conklins.”

Although semi-retired now, he still performs three to four times a month and hosts several magicians in his Colon home during the annual Abbott Magic Get-Together. The convention and nightly magic shows will draw about 1,00 magicians here August 6 – 8.

“He’s had Doug Henning sleep on his couch,” said Abbott’s Magic Co. owner Greg Bordner.

“That’s kind of cool.”

Quite simply, magic has been Conklin’s career and his life since he got hooked at a backyard circus at 14.

Conklin hosted the circus with his friends, using a show curtain made of old bedspreads. Conklin supplied marionettes, one of his friends in magic – he revealed the secret as he did each trick.

Young Conklin told his friend that was no way to do magic. The mystery, he still says today, is the point.

“When you take the mystery away, the fascination for magic goes away, too. If all the tricks were exposed to the public, magic would be dead. Why go to a magic show when you’re not going to be fooled?”

Conklin went out and bought a magic kit of his own, and he was hooked. He performed all through high school, earning 50 cents for his first official show.

Although he loved magic, he planned on following in his mother’s footsteps in the more practical career choice of teaching.

The U.S. Army got in the way of those plans. Conklin enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 and was assigned to Special Services because of his unique gift. His job? To travel all over Europe with Army Special Services entertaining the troops as a magician.

When he returned home, he did a show at his old Battle Creek High School. A teen girl in the high school decided he was the man she would marry.

He avoided the teen he still saw as a kid, but she persisted long enough to grow into a young woman and they married in 1952.

“She chased me until I caught her,” he said. “Most wonderful thing that ever happened to me.”

Each time Conklin got discouraged and was ready to quit magic, his wife, Shirley, was the one who kept him going.

“She was my biggest supporter all the way through life.” He said. She died of cancer in 1967.

Conklin’s son, Mike, and daughter Cindy, joined the family act at the tender age of 7 and 5. Like Conklin’s wife, they served as his assistants.

He still remembers the day he performed a new illusion, unsure of why the audience was giggling. He finally looked up and saw two small faces peeking out through holes in the curtain, watching the show.

At its peak, the show had 18 illusions and required five trucks to carry all the lights, scenery and sound gear. The Amazing Conklins traveled up to 40 weeks a year with a cast and crew of 11 people, plus six doves, four rabbits, three ducks, a goose and a St. Bernard.

When his wife died, Conklin scaled back the show, then cut it back again when he had a heart attack a few years later.

Conklin usually does a one-man show now, but his granddaughter Stacy occasionally performs with him.

Having people like Conklin and fellow longtime magicians Dick Oslund settle here adds to the self proclaimed “Magic Capitol of the World’s” rich history, Bordner said.

Conklin moved to Colon in 1961 when he got a job as an Abbott’s sales clerk and magic demonstrator after opening a show here for Blackstone and vaudeville illusionist Jack Gwynne, who would become his mentor.

Conklin steeped himself in magic history and patterned himself after Gwynne, who was known for his flourish and style, Bordner said.

Although Conklin has scaled back his performances, he doubts he’ll ever fully retire.

“I think if I do, it will kill me.” he said.

Magic keeps his mind alive and keeps him young.

“I like to see the reactions,” he said. “For a short period of time I take their minds off of their problems they have. You can’t think about your problems and enjoy magic at the same time. It’s the same with performing … It’s good therapy.”

Jerry Conklin Obituary

     Obituary for Jerry Conklin

 

 

From The Sturgis Journal, Sturgis, Michigan:

” Jerry M. Conklin, a regular at Abbott’s Get Togethers and lead of the long-touring Amazing Conklins lost his battle with cancer on Monday, March 29, 2010.   He was 82.Mr. Conklin was born in Battle Creek and served in the U.S. Army’s Special Services Entertainment Division after high school.  He married his partner in life and magic, Shirley Robertson on June 24, 1951.  Shirley passed away in 1987.

“In 1961, Jerry moved his family to Colon and began working at Abbott’s Magic Company.  Soon afterwards, he became a professional magician, and the ”family of magic” known as The Amazing Conklins traveled throughout the United States, Nova Scotia, New Foundland, Quebec and New Brunswick.  In the 1960s they performed at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Jerry Conklin
“They also performed on Chicago’s Bozo Circus Show and were also invited to perform on” The Ed Sullivan Show.” Jerry and Shirley also traveled together with the Hetzer Brothers Circus.  After Shirley’s passing in 1987, Jerry slowed down a little, but he said the show must go on, so he downsized his act and continued on with his love of magic and performed at school assemblies all across the United States.  For something a bit different, he traveled one summer with a fair circuit, announcing pig races, which he enjoyed, too.

“The Amazing Conklins performed at the Abbott’s Magic Get Together in Colon 12 times and in 1999 they received the Jack Gwynne Award for Excellence In Magic.

“Jerry had a love of working and he never slowed down.  When he made the decision to stop traveling with his magic, he purchased two concession trailers and operated those at many events throughout the state of Michigan. Jerry was also employed as stage manager for the Sturges-Young Auditorium for 19 years and he was also the lighting/sound technician for the Abbott’s Magic Get Togethers.  His most recent employer was Colon Public Schools, where his title included lunch and playground supervisor and an aide on the bus for special needs children.

“He liked to be involved in the many community events that took place in Colon, such as the annual Fourth of July and Halloween festivities.

“Jerry was a member of the Colon New Life Assembly of God Church.”

Visitation with the family is scheduled for tomorrow, April 2, 2010 from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the Schipper Funeral Home  in Colon, Michigan.  Funeral services celebrating the life of Jerry M. Conklin will be at 11.m. Saturday at the New Life Assembly of God Church, with the Rev. Daniel Prus officiating.

The family asks that any memorials be given to the New Life Assembly of God Church in Colon or the American Cancer Society.”

 

Amazing Conklins!

     The Amazing Conklins!

 

From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, March 1966; Cover Portrait:

”Closeup magic is not for The Amazing Conklins. Suitcase acts they leave to others. Their forte is the “big show” – and the world of illusions, stage effects, action, color, and flash.

To see them perform – with a stage full of busy assistants, the magic popping right and left, the costumes, paraphernalia, and miracles blending in rich, musical profusion – is a heartwarming experience for anyone who loves the theatrical in magic.

The core of the troupe is, naturally enough, the Conklins themselves: Jerry (father), Shirley (mother), Cynthia (age 11), and Michael (age 13). Other regulars are Connie and Gary Phelps. On occasion the entourage has numbered nine, including organist Wilma Rench.

Where did it all begin? As a glint in young Jerry’s eyes when he watched the Great Blackstone unfold his dazzling wares in the hometown theatre. The town happened to be Battle Creek, Michigan, conveniently close to the world’s largest magic manufacturing plant. Soon teen-magician Conklin was playing every school party, Elk’s Club dance, and Father-and-Son banquet in the county.

Age 18 – the U.S. Army. Put to work peeling potatoes, he quickly inquired how to get into Special Service, the entertainment branch of the corps. “Just tell them you’re and experienced performer,” was the advice. He told them. They believed him. For the next two years he proceeded to become one. His route book reads like a magician’s dream: Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin … a show every night … real theatres … real stages … and the army footing the bill. He ended his tour of duty in full ownership of a P & L table, mutilated parasol, substitution trunk, and miscellaneous other conjurabillia that soon formed the basis for his civilian show. In 1951 he decided that Shirley was the girl he’d most like to have press his silks, and so acquired a full-time assistant and wife.

They played Spook Shows. They played the National Cherry Festival; the Boy Scout Jamboree (audience 70,000!). In due time they produced two additional assistants who were put on the show as soon as they could walk.

In 1963 Jerry joined the Abbott staff as Manager of Shipping and Receiving. He continues to take out the show for nearby dates in the U.S. and Canada. It includes, in its full length, 12 illusions – among them the Hindu Basket (a kind of Conklin trademark) and a beautiful Asrah Levitation.

The standing ovation which The Amazing Conklins received at the most recent Abbott Get-Together was a fitting tribute to a modest, never happier than when they are packing a ton of equipment, or spending hours setting up their show; unless, of course, it is during the performance itself, when their obvious delight in doing magic shine across the footlights and gives their act a kind of glow. It should be added incentive for magic buffs to attend the two conventions where they are already booked this year: the IBM, Indianapolis, in July; and Abbott’s Get-Together, Colon, in August.”

 

The Amazing Conklins performed at Abbott’s Get-Together in 1964, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1986, 1999, and 2003