Minstrel Show Change 1940



From the Colon Express newspaper, October 31, 1940: “The date of the Lions Club Minstrel Show has been changed from Friday night, November 8, to Tuesday night, November 5th.  This change was made necessary because Monk Watson, one of the leading actors in the show, has a week’s engagement at the Colonial Theatre in Detroit as master of ceremonies, opening with the well-known Milt Britton Band next week, and Monk will be compelled to leave for Detroit on Wednesday, or immediately after the Minstrel Show Tuesday night.

The big show will be staged at Hill’s Opera House, and everyone will be glad of the opportunity to return to the favorite play house for this grand show of the season.

The Lions have sold tickets for the show in advance, and while they have been very successful, there are many good tickets available. The reserved seat board is at Niendorf’s Pharmacy where you can secure your seats any time, however, better get busy as they are going quite rapidly. It really appears like a “packed house.” All tickets purchased from the Lions must be exchanged for reserve seats at Niendorf’s not later than 7:00 o’clock the night of the show, as all remaining tickets in the reserved seat board will be sold at the opera house ticket office after that hour Tuesday night.

In case you purchased tickets in advance for the show and the change of date makes it impossible for you to attend, you have the privilege of returning the tickets to Niendorf’s and your money will be refunded.

And now something about the show. Really, folks, it’s going to be an outstanding entertainment, and how could it be otherwise with Colon’s own outstanding show people – Skippy, Jean and Monk – among the leads? Jupie Stevens, who is well known here and who was with Skippy’s Comedians for several years, will swing the minstrel music.

Just an outline of the show. In the first part, Jean LaMore will be the interlocutor. The premier and end men, Skippy LaMore and Monk Watson will be assisted by Bob VanDeventer and “Ray” Ward; and in the grand black-face circle, Virg Farrand, Chax. Williams, Mel Flowers, Don, Bubb, Carleton West, Lawrence West, Edwin Loudenslager, Earl Brown, Ralph McMurray, Geo. Conklin. And what a lot of comedy that group has in store for your amusement.

The songs they will sing– Opening Chorus “Strutters Ball” by entire cast.

Introduction of premier end men, Skippy and Monk.

“Smiling Thru” – George Conklin.

“Cecelia” – Monk Watson.

“Gold Mine in the Skies” – Chas. Williams.

“Liza Jones” – Skippy LaMore.

“Bells of the Sea” – Melvin Flowers.

“Why Do You Sit On Your Patio?” – Skippy and Monk.

“God Bless America” – Circle, and for the second chorus the audience is invited to join. Following an “intermission of ten minutes, sure” as the program states will come the grand second part.

The opening will be a special musical treat, a marimba solo and drum solo by Mary Joan Ward, of Brunson, who was out in front with the first prize as a marimba artist in the state contest, and won second place in the international contest.

The second act, “Back Stage,” courtesy Elsie Janis, with the following cast – Monk, the stage manager; Skippy, wants to be a singer; Jean LaMore, temperamental star; George Conklin, props. Song number, “Too Young for Love” (by Elsie Janis).

The scene “Back Stage” was produced by Elsie Janis and played for one year in London, featuring Lapino Lane, international comic; also played in the United States for one year, featuring Monk Watson. This scene is now being sought by the largest film producers.

The third act – “Arkansaw Travelers” by Carleton and Lawrence West, who are well known to Colon as musicians and entertainers. Their song numbers will be “Hiccough Rag”, “Wabash Blues”, and “Alabama Jubilee.”

And the final act, “The Crazy House”, featuring Skippy, will be a side-splitter from start to finish. As the program states, anything can happen here. Hang onto your hats and stuff.

As a fitting line to describe this show we go back to the old Kempton Komedy Kompany headline, “You Laugh, You Scream, You Roar.”

That’s just what you are bound to do, if you see the Lions for the show, and the band will give a short concert before the curtain.

We advise you to get your reserved seats at Niendorf’s now.”

Lamore’s and Watson in Lions Minstrel 1940



From the Colon Express newspaper, October 24, 1940: “The script is written, the rehearsals are under way, and the Lions Club Minstrel, to be presented at Hill’s Opera House on Friday evening, Nov. 8, promises to be the leading attraction in the line of entertainment of the season.

The fact that Skippy wrote the lines is sufficient evidence that the show will be a mirth-provoking affair from start to finish.

Another reason why the Minstrel will be a real attraction – Jean and Skippy and Monk Watson are all doing their bit. Jean LaMore will be the interlocutor, Skippy, Monk, Bob VanDeventer and George Conklin the end-men – and what a snappy show combination that will be. And along with these professional actors is a minstreal group of ten local people who can all do their bit for entertainment.

The tickets will be sold by Lion members or you can get them reserved at Niendorf’s Pharmacy, where the ticket board will be on display. The admission will be 15¢ for children, 28¢ for adults.

It’s all being done to secure funds for the Lions Club, to be used at Christmas time. Just what the Lions will do this year is a question as yet. There is some thought of changing from a Christmas party for children to a planned distribution of Christmas baskets to the needy and shutins. Regardless of which plan they follow, funds will be needed.”

4th Of July in Colon, 1906; Monk Watson

The 4th of July in Colon, About 1906-‘07


From the July 6, 1977 Colon Express; signed Monk Watson, HDQ Co. 125th Inf., 32nd Red Arrow Div., World War I:  “The day would start with some of the Old Soldiers, meeting on the corner of State and Swan Streets, talking about the war that they had served in. I was an interested kid who loved to hear their stories about Bull Run and San Juan Hill (I think that’s the way you spell it). I was waiting for the LKG (Lamb Knit Goods) band to form for the parade, and I could carry the music or perhaps the drum. The Ross brothers were the leaders of the band at that time. One worked in the factory and the other made cigars. This LKG band was a very good one, and was in demand all over the State of Michigan for parades. Wherever they went Jeff Hill was at the head of the band, with his gold-headed cane waving in the air, calling for “In the Good Old Summer Time”. That was his favorite for as long as I can remember.

After the parade they had races of all kinds, greased pig to catch and keep, the greased pole to climb to take the money that was in the cigar box on top of the pole, and bicycle races from the Hub (now Dawn & Phil’s) to the four corners and then across the road into town, now Old-78.

Now comes the big night … with Hartman’s ice cream, Clement’s grocery store open for candy, and the balloon race. Mr. Clement’s note for $5.00 would be pinned to the top of the paper balloon, to be brought in and cashed at the store. The paper balloon was about 10 feet high and Mr. Clement had to stand on the top of a ladder to hold it. When it was inflated (a small bit of soaked straw on the wire across the bottom of the balloon), he would let it go and away we kids went running and bicycling, trying to catch up with it for the prize. I was very lucky one night to reach the balloon near Sherwood. I took the note and returned to Colon. I also took the balloon which was not harmed in landing. However, it was never used again because I tried a rag full of fuel and it worked too well.









There was also the High Dive from a ladder standing at the east end of the dam. The water hole was very deep at that spot, and the platform was about 50 feet above the water. The diver, Mr. Emmell (I believe that was his name) reached the platform and looked down, and then gave up. It seems that Phil

Waite, the balloonist, had landed on the steeple of the Reform church, now the Church of God, and that upset Mr. Emmell so much that he called off the High Dive. It wasn’t too long before I was at the top of the ladder and yelling. “Everybody look at me!” I then dove off and was followed by at least a dozen of my friends.


I walked over to the spot where the ladder once stood, a long time later, and there in the ground was an iron eye that was used to anchor the cable that held the ladder.

The fireworks were made up of Roman candles and pinwheels, and now and then a skyrocket. How it suffered by comparison last night when Colon put on one of the nicest displays of fireworks. We stand-alone from other small towns with our Fourth of July.

Again I rode in the parade, with my Red Arrow cap, and thoughts of where I was July 4th, 1918. We were facing fireworks that were for real, and many of my friends are still in France from those bombings. No wonder I have a lump in my throat when our children march in our parades, and the Flags stand out so great head of the marchers. I saw a very few uncover their heads, of half-hearted salute as the flags went past. They seem to be afraid someone will see them salute. Times change!!!”


Monk Remembers Colon

Monk Watson’s Memories of Colon

“I guess if I tried to recall a lot of the rather interesting things that have happened to me right here in Colon over the years, and I mean over the years. I’ve been around a long time and it seems that a good part of the time was here in Colon. Every now and then a person mentions something that brings back a memory, so this is about the first hypnotist I ever met. I went to Curlie’s for a cup of coffee and a fellow said, Monk, I’ll bet you don’t remember me.” With that I told him that I didn’t. So he then said, “Do you remember the bowling alley that we had here in Colon?” I told him that I did and it was located in the street (Swan) right next to what was later the “Midlakes”. He then told me the story of the man who came here and put up a small tent and built a bowling alley, really a duck pin alley, and that the fellow was a hypnotist. I told him that I not only remembered him, but that I was his first, and I believe his only, foil to be hypnotized. When I first met this man he asked me if I would be willing to put on an act for him. I guess because I was always a ham at heart, I said that I’d be glad to go along with him. He then asked me what I could do differently than anyone in Colon, and I told him I could ride a bicycle backwards on the handlebars. That made a hit with him and he told me what we could do to cause some excitement in town. So we went into that act. In a few minutes word got around that someone was going to be hypnotized. A large crowd, perhaps ten people, which was a crowd in Colon in those early days, gathered around to see the action. Now this man had told me just what would happen to me. First he’d put me into this hypnotic spell and then he’d place me on the bike backwards and give me a push. I was to ride it as far as I could down the street, and then he’d stand me up and slap me in the face and bring me out of the spell. This sounded like fun and I was all for it. After the crowd gathered he made a talk on how he was going to put me under his spell and that I would do things he ordered me to do, and I would not know what I had done. Then I was made ready by looking him straight in the eye and with his wave of the hand I fell into his arms. With some help he lifted me onto the bicycle and gave me a push down what is now State Street. As I neared the railroad tracks I saw and heard a train coming from the east, but I knew I had time to cross the tracks ahead of it. Now the crowd also knew that a train was coming and they started to yell “Stop him, Stop him!” I crossed the tracks just as the engine passed, but in time for me to fall off the bicycle and lay in the street, with the bicycle running down to the lake. I looked under the cars as they passed and saw the crowd still waving and yelling. After the train had passed they ran across the tracks to find me sprawled on the ground. It seems that the first man across was Charles Niendorf, who ran the drugstore on the corner where the hardware store is now located. Mr. Niendorf was so upset that he told the hypnotist that if anything happened to me he’d have him thrown out of Colon. They stood me up and the hypnotist slapped me in the face and I said, “Where am I and what happened?”  That seemed to be good news to the crowd. I never told a person, until right now, that I was faking all the time. Since those days I have seen many acts such as this hypnotist working on stages, and people are still fooled into thinking that all is on the up and up. Well, “tain’t”, and I know, believe me. However, those were better days to look back on. Colon had high divers, balloonists, snake eaters come to town, and it did bring excitement to a sleepy little town. I guess you call them”the good old days”, maybe not really good, but people seemed to be more honest. We had several grocery stores and a couple of meat markets and people were really friendly … every Saturday night the whole town would turn out to listen to the Lamb Knit Goods band, and pay their bills at the stores, to receive a pat on the back and a bag of candy, just to show the appreciation of a good store owner. Maybe those were the good old days, or at least friendly days.” Donald Watson, (Monk), (1894-1981) was from Colon and became a humorist, magician, and band-leader.  He once was teamed with a man named Benjamin Kubelsky (later called himself Jack Benny) in vaudeville. Monk was very active with the USO in World War II and was a World War I veteran. The “Midlakes” was a restaurant that stood near the present police station.

Monk Watson Remembers Childhood

Monk Watson remembers his childhood in Colon


Monk Watson had a very long and illustrious career as a bandleader, magician, and all around entertainer. As a matter of fact, he once worked vaudeville as a partner with a man by the name of Benjamin Kubelsky.  Benjamin changed his name later on and became famous as the stingy, violin playing,  perennial 39-year-old comedian. His new name was Jack Benny. Monk was born in 1894 and retired back in Colon. He died in 1981 and is buried in the cemetery west of town. Monk wrote this memory in about 1978. “Early on Sunday morning little Donald (me) was busy hauling wood for the wood upright boiler of the Lioness. This was the big boat that was to carry 50 people at a time for the trips across Palmer Lake. The ride started at the boat dock on Swan Street, which is now the public access. The boiler was fired up early and I think the first trip started around 10:00 in the morning. Mel Lyons had built the big boat in back of what is now Fisher Automotive at the corner of East State Street and Michigan Avenue. It took such a long time to build such a boat, and as it took shape people would yell, “How’s the Ark coming, Mel?”

He’d just laugh and think, “I’ll show them one of these days.”

That is just what he did, because I really don’t remember such a large boat on any lake around Colon. As I look back, I believe it must have been 50 or 60 feet long, and 10 or 12 feet wide. I do know it carried a lot of people. It would follow the channel along the shoreline to a hog pen, and then make a sharp turn east to about Ken Matt’s home, then another sharp turn across the lake to a clearing just east of Bill Tompkins’ home. There were tables and benches where the church people held their summer picnics, and where the Lamb Knit Goods band would hold it concerts. About 20 stumps were marked with boards, and at night a lantern was hung on the board. Then on the last trip home, I would lean out and bring in the lantern, and that ended another beautiful day on Palmer Lake. I believe the cost of the trip was a dime. I went free for working on the boat. I was about 15 at the time (that would have been in 1909). Great days to remember, and I love them to this day.”

The picnic area would have been just east of 58588 Palmer Point Road. Can someone out there tell the Colon Community Historical Society what happened to Mel Lyons’ boat?





Monk Watson at 82


Monk Watson, age 82, still dazzles audiences


Sturgis Journal, August 20, 1976. By Mrs. Robert Johnson: “ COLON – Donald William Watson, better known in the magic world as “Monk Watson,” is a man of numerous talents, which include magician, comedian, entertainer, master of ceremonies, musician, bandleader, and lecturer.

At age 82 he is still very active and has performed with Abbotts Magic Co. 39 years. This year he has been promoting the Abbott Get-Together with television and radio interviews.

Monk and Mary Watson reside in Colon where they have lived since 1940. Monk met Mary Burnette, who is from Canada, in Detroit, and they were married there in 1929.

They have four children. Next door to Monk’s home is what his wife calls, “Monk’s Hide-away.” Entering his studio is like stepping into a history book. Mementos and portraits cover the walls and most of the room.

A native of Jackson, Monk’s parents came to Colon to live. At age eight, Monk recalls when a medicine show, in the 1900s, came to town and the owner lit a light and placed it on the tailgate of his wagon. He did a few tricks for the crown and would then sell them medicine.

The local druggist, Charles Niendorf, learned some of the magic tricks by doing the changing of water to wine and back again to water. His protégé was a young boy named Donald Watson.

Monk alone with a friend, Neil Sweet, put on many magic shows. Monk’s first show was in 1902 in a local church.

Monk spent two years in the Army Air Force in Texas as morale director in World War I and in World War II with the Red Arrow Division.

He performed shows in every veteran’s hospital in the country numerous times.

Elsie Janis, one of the top stars of the vaudeville era, performed shows for the 32nd Division and invited Monk to join her troupe when he was discharged. Monk was with her show for two years and played in top theaters throughout the country.

Following the Janis show, Monk participated in vaudeville.

He then assembled a marimba band and toured the well-known theater circuits.

During this time, Monk said, “Magic was more of a hobby.”

His mother had given him piano lessons, and later he learned to play the clarinet. During his army service, in World War I, he learned to play most band instruments.

Monk has appeared with many entertainers during his show business years. Jack Benny and Monk trouped together for three seasons in the 1920s on the same vaudeville circuit. Monk knew “Rochester” Anderson long before Benny did. Rochester and his brother, then known as the Anderson Brothers, performed dance routines with Monk’s band.

Bob Hope, then a young comedian, got a chance to speak his first line on stage due to Monk Watson. Hope also danced with Monk’s band.

When Wings Stadium opened in Detroit, Bob Hope introduced Monk to the audience saying he gave him his first break.

Monk has several pictures of Hope and himself and said he still hears from Hope and they have an open date to play golf.

Monk has appeared with Bing Crosby, Edgar Bergen (before Charlie McCarthy), and Andy Devine.

In Cleveland, Monk had his own television show called “Monk Watson’s Miracle Show” and it ran for 28 weeks.

He has done many television appearances and shows for service clubs and other organizations.

Monk played in the Palace Theatre in New York three times in one year and gave 5,000 performances at the Rivera in Detroit.

Among Monk’s mementos is a dress worn by Elsie Janis when she appeared at the Palace for $16,000 per week. The dress is valued at $2,000.

During the Abbott Magic Get-Together, Monk and Mary will entertain several of their magician friends, but one in particular will be Harry Blackstone, Jr. Monk is his godfather.

Monk Watson and the American Legion

Monk Watson and American Legion


From the Sturgis Journal April 2, 1969:

March 15, 1919, World War I, officers and enlisted men swarmed into Paris, France, to help organize an American servicemen’s club. This organization later became known as the American Legion.

The Paris caucus was “a very disorganized organizational meeting” and only a fraction of those attending the gathering actually registered. One man who was present and became friends with the “founding father” of the Legion was Monk Watson, Colon, who later became a great vaudeville star and now tours the country as a quick-witted magician.

Mr. Watson, who prefers to be called “Monk” well remembers the day when his colonel asked him to take a trip to Paris with several of his comrades to represent the 32nd Division at a special meeting. “We had no idea that it would later be known as the American Legion,” he said.

Monk arrived in Paris on March 14, 1919, and met men from almost every American division in France and Germany. Most of the men who traveled to Paris had seen much fighting during the “Great War,” and Monk himself hsd been on five active fronts.


Rather See Sights


“I had only been in Paris for a few hours Enroute to an active front, so I was anxious to return and see some of the sights.” Monk recalls, “I wasn’t too anxious to find myself tied down at several days of meetings, so I didn’t register at the door, but I did attend the first day of the caucus.”

Records show that the Paris caucus was a “raucous” affair, and Monk’s memory attests to the fact. “I listened to a lot of haranguing my men of all rank. A general didn’t mean any more than a buck private. I’ll never when Sgt. Alexander Woollcott was put down when he started to talk,” he says.

During the first day in Paris, Monk met a great man he has never forgotten. The man was Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr., so of the 26th President of the United States. Col. Roosevelt was the man chiefly responsible for calling the Paris caucus and has since become known as the “Father of the American Legion.”

Monk had held funeral services over the graves of Quentin Roosevelt, Col. Roosevelt’s brother, and he presented the colonel with a picture of the funeral services and another German photo which showed Quentin Roosevelt lying beside the plane in which he had met his death.

“I mentioned to the colonel that I had been on five fronts with my divisions and I wasn’t about to stay in any meeting while there was so much to see on the outside. He just laughed and told me to get out and have fun. I did just that.”: Monk remembers fondly.


Passed Hours With Comedy


Monk wasn’t unlike hundreds of other soldiers who didn’t register at the fist caucus because they didn’t like the disrespectful “no-rank rule” which prevailed. However, the young Colon soldier did have an unusual way to pass the hours during the Paris stay.

Monk didn’t have to know a foreign language to communicate with the natives. His means of communication was comedy and it has stuck with him throughout his entire life. “I felt that I should do my bit to help make Paris gay,” he intimates.

The king of clowning learned that by falling into water fountains he could meet friends. “It usually got me into a nice house where I could dry my clothes,” Monk recalls.

It wasn’t long before Monk was known as “La Clown.”

“Sure, I missed most of the big talk at the caucus, but I had a meeting of my own,” he points out.

Monk returned to the Paris Caucus on March 16, but then left on leave for lower France, where he again became involved in show business. He soon became the toast of the Grant Hotel in Aix-Les-Bains, where he performed in the musical, “The Good Ship Splash.”

Monk’s only regret about his stay in Paris is that he didn’t register at the caucus. “I had no idea at the time that those meetings in Paris would mean so much in years to come,” he says with a touch of sadness.


Active In Legion Today


Since that time Monk has been extremely active in a number of American Legion posts in Michigan, and he is very proud of his 50-year membership card. He still has a letter from his colonel,

Frank Schneller, which states: “Indeed I do recall you being sent to Paris to organize the American Legion, then unnamed.”

The Colon American Legion Post 454, where Monk is now a member, held a 50th anniversary meeting last Saturday, and the “Prince of Clowns” served as master of ceremonies for the event. He also performed a magic-comedy act, which was received with a standing ovation. Among those attending the celebration was Wayne E. Squire, Michigan’s American Legion commander.

Only a handful of soldiers who attended the Paris Caucus “registered at the door” and have their names etched in history. For himself and the many others who did not make their attendance official, monk says, “All we have is the memory”


Monk appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in 1942. 1944, 1946, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1979. He wrote a long running column in Tops called “The Professional Touch”.  He died in 1981.

Monk Remembers Show Business

Monk Watson Remembers Show Business


From The “TOPS” Magazine, July 1968. By Monk Watson: “Another month and again I had several people write and ask me to write about the Show Business that I once knew. Gosh, it makes a guy feel good to know that some of my readers like that sort of thing, even if good old George John … something or ruther doesn’t want to hear about it. He just doesn’t know what he has missed. He picks on old men like Monk and Dorny, thinking that he makes them sore. Not me! We’re just a couple of old men whom God blessed by giving the a few short years in good, and I mean GOOD, Show Business. Oh to be able to sign that contract again for 5 weeks in Big Time theatres from Coast to Coast playing TWO A DAY to people not eating popcorn, or with their legs hanging over the seat in front of them. There was a News and a Topics of the Day movies made of jokes not heard on the radio … not too many radio sets around, one could sing a song for a year without hearing it on a juke box … none around.

Jokes were protected by the N. V. A. Club at the start of each year. Music was written special or regular … If an act wanted to do a song and knew another act wanted to do the same song on the bill, it was up to him to put his music on the leader’s stand early so as to get priority. I remember when I played the Majestic in Chicago and I was doing a number that a big star was also doing. I slept in the theatre all night and put the music on the leader’s stand about 4 in the morning. Rehearsal time came and my music came up first. The number, that was so important to me, was rehearsed and as the music started to be heard there was a yell from back in the theatre, “That’s our song and I want it in the show!!” The leader said, “Well, Mr. Watson is going to use it in his spot in the show and if you want to follow him that’s up to you.”  Soon the star came on the scene and her man told her the story and you could hear her yell for a city block and I daren’t even write the words she used … ‘cause Foster wouldn’t print them…. I see her now and then on TV and she is a grand old lady of the stage, but I can’t help remember how she gave everyone hell before the first show … she did the number, but my band, and singer, were hard to follow.

Speaking of orchestras, and I mean pit orchestras, they were great. Made up of men who could sight-read music the first time through. The arrangements had to be good and clean so an act would do well to carry an extra set and also another one in another trunk … Some acts carried their own leader, and perhaps one or two key musicians. The Unions got a little tough on this and made you pay for ‘stand-ins’ (those who had been replaced) so it was costly. I had ten men and two girls in the act and all with trunks, plus four for our curtains and props … We had to slip the stage manager a tip, and perhaps the prop man, to get the best service. When you returned the next and next year, the red rug would be out for you. There were a very few very cheap stars who got ‘the works’ from the crew and, for them, life was a little hard during the stay. I look back at the time when a sandbag just happened to drop on the keyboard of the piano … just missing the star by inches.

The big thrill was the opening day at the one and only Palace, in New York. The manager would listen to the way the act went over, so the more truckers one could put in the top balcony, the better for the act. My first trip to the Palace was in 1920 and I didn’t know the ropes, so when it came time for the big applause I just had the first-floor audiences to put me over, a few boos from above, but the band was solid and the manager came back and said, ‘You made it pretty good, young man, and the Big Man liked the act.’ The answer? Got a full year but three New York cut some weeks … Palace, Riverside and the Colonial … the rest was for real money. I darn near killed myself that opening day by falling into the pit and taking bumps all over the stage. As I took my last bow I ran off that stage and 10 feet from the edge I dove, like a ball player sliding into a base … I was told that I didn’t have to do that … We were on in the second spot but were moved to closing the first half … back in the last half to work with some of the stars in just horseplay. These bits, as they were known, are now getting a big play in TV … Crazy, man, Crazy.

Then came the talkies … then went the Two-A-Day … but for a few years we had the Stage Band shows, called the Presentations … band on the stage and acts working in front of the band … a line of girls and some popcorn butchers, who soon became managers, then producers. Next went the Stage Shows, and the line of girls and acts in front of bands, I believe the Music Hall in New York City is the only one left … It was good while it lasted, I KNOW! I was the one who roared in the Roaring Twenties.”


Monk appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in 1942. 1944, 1946, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1979. He wrote a long running column in Tops called “The Professional Touch”.  He died in 1981.

The End of the Palace

The End Of The Palace Theatre


From “The TOPS Magazine, June 1968, by Monk Watson: “I could name at least fifty theatres named The Palace, across the country, and I guess I’ve played most of them in my lifetime. However, the one that I played first was right here in Colon, at the age of ten. It was in this Palace I learned to do the flying rings and trapeze act. The Palace was an old barn with a hay chute and loft and plenty of room for kids to put on a show. This, as manager and actor, I did at the drop of a hat … and as I look back, someone was always dropping a hat just to see our show.

Monk is given some tricks: I had seen a circus and was thrilled at seeing the flying acts over a big net. I had already learned to chin myself and do a few muscle grinds on the hitching posts around the town. I had also learned, from my father, to walk on my hands and do a real good handstand. We used to count to see how long we could stand on our hands, and I know I won every time because I practiced a lot. It did come in handy as long as I was in show business, too. It was easy for me to get the local blacksmith to make me a set of rings and it was also easy to take one of our brooms and make the bar for my trapeze. I talked the local merchant into giving me some red, white, and blue bunting … even with some stars on it. This I made into a border to hang from the rafters, making a nice looking proscenium arch. High in the rafters I tied the ropes that held the rings and trapeze. They hung about six feet from the floor. Now, what has this to do with magic? I’ll tell you – I had also been given some tricks by the local druggist, a man named Charles Niendorf, who had mixed up the Wine to Water and also a couple that he made up to use in his store. He could start his music box from any place in the store by just a wave of his hand. I never did find out how he did it but I know he must have had stings or wires hidden under the counter where he could give them a pull with his free hand.

And takes off his pants: when our local factory (Lamb Knit Goods) would let out, about four in the afternoon, we’d start the street parade. A dog in a crate (lion or tiger) … I played a drum made by the tinsmith and another boy played a tin flute … ‘twas a good parade. Then for the FREE ACT before the big show. We had trained a dog to climb a ladder and jump into a bedspring covered with a blanket. The jump must have been at least ten feet, and the dog loved it. Then we’d announce the show to be held upstairs in the barn. … In the meantime I had gone up and taken off my pants. Because my mother had sewed my long stocking to my underpants and had dyed my undershirt black. I was then dressed in the best tights you have ever seen.

When the crowd was seated we’d start the show with a big magic trick, never seen before or since. I mentioned that we had a hay chute that they’d throw hay down from the loft to the feedbox below. It made a perfect escape for one of the cast. I would stand the boy in front of the chute and hold a blanket up in front of him. He would climb into the chute and drop into the feedbox below and then at the ‘WHERE IS HE?” he’d come up the front steps and yell, “Here I Am!”

I’m not sure but I believe that some of the greatest magicians must have see that trick because I’ve seen it done almost the same way in many shows. The bow I took and the applause I got for doing my tricks were the best I have ever received.


And a reader complains: I received a letter from a reader telling me that he wasn’t thrilled with the Looking Backwards I’ve written about. Well, the way I figure it is that perhaps he didn’t have anything to look back on. My reason for bringing up the shows in this old barn is because they tore it down the other day. I stood there and looked up into the old loft and there hanging from the rafters were the rings I had performed on, and the old bunting was still hanging, but worn thin over the sixty-five years. I took a picture of the barn, and then asked for the rings. My daughter wants them to put into a shadow box to hang in her son’s room. I was going to have them plated. Neil Foster told me I should leave them just as they were. I will be glad to see them hanging again.”


Monk appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in 1942. 1944, 1946, 1957, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, and 1979. He wrote a long running column in Tops called “The Professional Touch”.  He died in 1981.


Duke Stern’s Unusual Trip

Duke Stern Takes An Unusual Trip


From “TOPS” Magazine, May 1968. By Duke Stern: “On Wednesday, March 27th, Recil Bordner, owner of Abbott’s, and your humble scribe, went to New Haven, Conn., to complete the purchase of the Petrie-Lewis Manufacturing Co. Due to other plans, Mr. Bordner had to return to Colon the next day, so this writer was left with the fantastic job of getting all the equipment, machinery, supplies and merchandise ready for loading on a truck. If it wasn’t for the valuable help of a grand guy named Bernie Walsh, along with some members of both the New Haven Magic Society and the New Haven I.B.M Ring, this writer would probably still be there, amid the reels, table base, thumb tips, wand shells, machinery, lathes, dies, patterns and dust.

Meeting Mrs. Lonna Petrie, wife of the late “Tod” Petrie, was the nicest thing that happened to me during my four days of packing. She’s a gracious and lovely lady.

Abbott’s Magic Company now owns the P & L Magic Company completely. This includes all the rights, instructions, plans, and stock, etc. While going through literally tons of stuff your scribe came across many old and odd pieces, including items from the days when P & L made magic and puzzles set for “Gilbert Magic,” as well as items P & L made before they went into the magic business.

It will be quite a while before we can start into the production of the P & L line, but when we do, The Abbott Company will maintain the top quality and attention to detail that made P & L so world famous.

Had the pleasure of attending meetings of both the New Haven I.B.M Ring and the New Haven Magic Society, and spent a fabulous evening with Dr. Grossman, looking over his tremendous collection of early books, catalogues and magic apparatus. Actually had in my hands the original edition of Scott’s “Discovery of Witchcraft,” printed in the 1580’s, as well as the book written by King James in 1616, wherein he admitted he believed in witchcraft!

When finally packed, the P & L equipment and supplies completely filled a 16-ft, truck we hired to haul everything back to Colon.

Again, a sincere thanks to Bernie Walsh, who also drove the truck to our spare warehouse here in Colon. We went from New Haven to Niagara Falls and then on through Canada, and back to the U.S. via Windsor – Detroit. Did you ever try to explain to the customs officials what a “truck load of magic” means? That’s one experience neither of us will ever forget.”