The Opera House That Colon Forgot

 

The Opera House That Colon Forgot

 

 

From The Colon Express newspaper, July 13, 1950: “Surely this is a building of which all citizens of Colon may well be proud.”

These words were penned 52 years ago by a forgotten writer in preparing the souvenir program for the grand opening of Hill’s Opera House. The Opera House in Colon, center of social life in southern Michigan; where the Shuberts played their big New York shows as a bread between Detroit and Chicago. Memories. The Drews, the Barrymores, Fanny Brice; a host of others who were riding fame when the century was young.

“Once through the grand entrance, the auditorium impresses you with its great beauty. The front of the balcony, as well as the four private boxes, are treated in white and gold, draped in tapestries which harmonize with the beautifully frescoed walls and ceiling. These, laced by six hundred mahogany opera chairs, upholstered in pale green plush, join in producing a harmonious whole.

“Great care has been taken in heating and ventilating. The lighting is from a private gas plant on the premises, two hundred jets being used to illuminate the theatre. The wants of the players have been carefully looked after, with commodious dressing rooms, wardrobes and lavatories being located under the stage.”

It’s a ghost Opera House now, in 1950. The white and gold paint and the draperies are gone. The two hundred gas jets were later replaced with electric socket from which the bulbs are now missing. One finds on inspection that the writer of the souvenir program was overly enthusiastic about the upholstered chairs. There are actually 525 of them. The pale green plush seats are found in only the first eight rows; the telltale marks on the floor show that the eighth row was backed with a brass rail, inclosing a parquet for seating the most refined customers. The remaining seats are bare, unless you include the dust of three decades.

The stage, as roomy and deep as those in many of today’s city theaters, is but an apparition and but few pieces of the one elaborate scenery remain. The original front curtain, which was operated on a roller, now gathers dust in a corner. It is replete with advertising signs of the late nineties. Says one, “Eat Harman’s Bread – Don’t be Misled.” C. H. McKinster, drugs and groceries, told Opera House audiences about his buckthorn bark remedy: “Less Bowel Trouble In Colon!” Overhead in a corner of the fly loft are stored old rain and wind-making machines; and the remains of the old gas chandelier with its reflectors and a multitude of jets which originally hung proudly from the auditorium ceiling.

The play “On The Swaunee” opened the Opera House on February 18, 1898. The review in the weekly Colon Express went extensively into who was present and what each wore. It was a social event of top significance for it described the clothing worn by five-year-olds as well as that of their parents. Once each week or two there followed productions ordinarily seen only in large cities. Some of them are still remembered like Tess of the Storm Country; The Sqaw Man, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; To Have and To Hold. Colon audiences were thrilled with The Drunkard, The Light Eternal, Quo Vadis; and a large musical production. The Merry Widow (“every little movement has a meaning all its own”).

“The Story Of a Woman’s Bitter Victory”, advertises a 1950 motion picture, “Paid In Full”, starring Robert Cummings and Lizabeth Scott. Beautiful Miss Scott, did you know that the same play trod the boards at Hill’s Opera House on August 5, 1912? Read the 1912 advertising: “It is said to be virile, appealing and distinctly original, and to be unfolded by a set of characters that are types of real life, familiar to everyone and full of human interest.”

Marian Hill Michaelson, now teaching in a Detroit public school, recalls that she had her first date at the Opera House. “I was all of the tender age of two, Arthur Kane, who was four or five, used to come over to our house and play. He saved his pennies and one day strode up to the house and asked my pop if he could take me to a play at the Opera House.

With the same profound dignity, my father told him he would ask me, but was sure I would be happy to accept. On the appointed night, Arthur showed up in his new suit and walked down town with Mother while Dad pushed me in the baby cutter. Half of the town was out en masse to see Art and I toddle (at least I did) down the Opera House aisle.”

Some of the earliest recollections of present day Colon citizens are bound up in the Opera House. Mrs. Michaelson remembers “the excitement when we knew a famed Chicago or New York show was coming to town, and the inevitable naps we must take on those afternoons so we would stay awake to see the entire performance. Then the baths and clean underwear and the best clothes laid out on the bed. Hair curling, and spit-shine on our shoes when Mama didn’t see us. Then Dad hurrying Mother; ‘Come on, Mother, fifteen minutes to curtain time’, with frequent checking of the big gold watch. The hast dash to the Opera House, the marquee lighted with gas lamps, our outer wraps hung in the ticket office, a look in the powder room to see who was there.

“We always had the same seats so we took them, without benefit of usher. But not for long. As soon as we were allowed, we children hurried up front and around to the Boxes. And how well named! On each side of the gas footlights were cubicle that looked onto the stage, where one could get a fair idea of the play as long as the actors remained on the other half. It was a usual thing, in case the show got a little slow or the actors were bored, for them to come over and tickle our legs or pull our toes through the railing. It was usually good for a laugh from the audience.

“Between the acts we hurried backstage to stand and stare in awe at the strangers who were such fascinating characters. The villain with the handlebar mustache wasn’t half as frightening in the wings.  I remember the ladies of the show holding us on their laps and talking to us as our mothers did. And then the curtain call and we would hustle back to the Box and once more Lena Rivers or The Girl of The Golden West wasn’t the lady who held us, but a glamorous figure from the story book.”

Mystery shadows the past of the upper right box. All four boxes were designed for six occupants. Each had six chairs – excepting the upper right, which contained but one. Shortly before curtain time would listen expectantly; then the thump, thump sound, up the stairs to the balcony, and slowly forward to the lone chair in upper-right. A man, sorely crippled, supporting his body with two canes that he had himself fashioned from broom handles. Tall, black stovepipe  hat which he seldom removed. Shaggy brows over piercing black eyes; dignified beard and waxed mustache. His name was Ambrose Crane. He had a lifetime ticked to the box in upper right.

This much was known about Ambrose Crane. He lived in a tiny one-room place scarcely a block from the rear of the Opera House. In the basement of his home he raised rhubarb and experimented with a method of dehydrating the plant so that it could be preserved. He extended his rhubarb operations to one of the dark basements of the Opera House. Nothing came of this. He had a marvelous vocabulary. He was an expert penman and penned his own calling cards, which he never used. He owned a horse and cart, with which he drove to the World’s Fair in Chicago, a distance of 150 miles. Constantly around his neck was a heavy string, from the ends of which dangled two tin cans at his sides, containing food, which he ate when and where he pleased. And, he had a lifetime, exclusive lease on the Opera House Box, of upper right. How, and why? Who was Ambrose Crane?
Colon is widely known as the Magic Capital of the World. Is this the end result of interest in magic aroused on February 11, 1907, when the Opera House presented Joseffy, “the necromancer”? Joseffy’s “talking skull” is well remembered in Colon; also his “fatal hand, as astonishing experiment which exploits the theosophic theory of the fourth dimension”, as quoted from the handbills of the time. “A conception so startling in effect and so nearly approaching the supernatural as to seem miraculous. Affinity with an unseen power is such a degree that scientific minds marvel at the production.” One of the minds that marveled belonged to Monk Watson, a Colon youngster who grew up to become a leading magician and entertainer.

“Colon was quite a town in those days,” recollects Ross Lewis, who was chief usher at the Opera House. “The population was then about the same as it is now, around a thousand, but the Opera House made out town famous for a hundred miles around. We had good train service then – five or six trains a day – which made it easy for the shows to come and go. We had a good hotel, too; $1 a day or $5 a week paid for room and board at the old St. Joe House.”

Lewis remembers that the opera house maintained 6 full sets of scenery, which was in addition to the special scenery, sometimes a carload, carried by most of the big shows. Advertising was different then, with more competition for the local newspaper. Phil Wait, a Colon young man, made perilous ascension in a hot-air balloon from the muddy main street in front of the Opera House before each show. Wait made the balloon himself from muslin and local merchants contributed to the cost of maintaining this feature attraction. It drew a crowd.

Lewis recalls the old gaslights with amusement. “The acetylene plant was buried in the ground back of the Opera House. One night while a show was in progress the caretaker made his usual inspection of the plant, and he brought his kerosene lantern a little too close. There was a “boom” that could be heard for miles around as the plant exploded. And, of course, the lights immediately went out. The performance was finally completed with the aid of candles.

“The bare gas jets were of course the latest thing when the Opera House opened, but they were annoying. The house smelled of carbide gas part of the time. The jets were lighted individually – 200 of them – with tapers. After they had been burning for a time, the tips would carbon up and shoot off streams of black smoke, which eventually settled on the audience as soot.”

As a special service to the customers, the management employed Cliff Frohriep as water boy. Coca Cola was then unknown and it was Cliff’s duty to pass up and down the aisles with his tray of paper cups and water. “When I first started”, Cliff remembers, “The audience was suspicious and would have none of it. Then when they learned the water was a free service and would not cost them a cent, they really kept me busy.” It was from this suspicious beginning that Cliff graduated to his present position as leading gasoline distributor in Colon.

“Hill’s Opera House was responsible for much of the present theatrical population of Colon. Skippy and Jean Lamore, the vaudeville team, liked the town and made it their home instead of New York. Lew Dockstader of minstrel fame did likewise; also George and Mattie Kempton, of the Kempton Komedy Kompany. Harry Blackstone, the famous magician, liked

Colon so well that he purchased an entire island adjoining the town. Percy Abbott, the Australian magician, settled in Colon and started the famous magic factory.
The Opera House ticket office and cloakroom are now rooms of an apartment occupied by Ken and Marie Miller. Ken and Marie have the largest television set in Colon. From this the empty Opera House auditorium echoes often with the clatter of hoof beats and bark of the six-gun as Hopalong Cassidy performs for his 1950 audience. The old and the new. Sing no sad songs however – the Opera House really had its day!”

 

Abbott’s 50th in 1987

Abbotts 50th Get Together 1987

by Frances Marshall & Karrell Fox

When the news of an opening of a magic shop in Colon, Michigan reached Chicago in 1934, our people were surprised! Who could they sell to? Who could they get to work there in such a tiny town? It will never last! It provided opinionated gossip for weeks, but soon the Abbott Magic Company was “paying the postage”, coming out with new tricks and showing the magic world they meant business. We, as magic dealers and direct competition, were a little uneasy at the rapid growth of this country cousin. A few years passed, everything settled down and we were doing business with one another – no problems.
Then the Get-togethers began. Small to begin with, aided and abetted by the beautiful countryside, the low cost of bed and board, the dynamic prowess of Percy (Abbott), and the general love of magicians for being “together”. Looking back over the years, certain memories stand out like ornaments on a Christmas tree. There were the years Monk Watson led the orchestra on stage – a comic interlude no one ever tired of. The antics of Duke Stern, calling out (after vanishing a bouquet), “Come flower! Come flower!” at which point somebody overhead emptied a sack of flour on his head. Another time he placed a shallow basket of eggs on a kitchen chair (the kind with holes punched through the wooden seat). Minutes later, forgetting ( ?) where he had put the eggs he sat down on the chair. Long strands of yellow yolk and egg white streamed down through the holes while the audience wept with laughter! There was only one Dukie!

One year Edgar Bergen, then famous nationwide, arrived with other Californians and Jim Sherman as interlocutor. Chic Schoke and friends had rented a house where they entertained all these celebrities. Percy had discovered early on that one of the attractions of the Colon convention was the chance to rub shoulders with the big shots, so he wasn’t about to have his “bait” locked away behind closed doors. He made a public announcement about it, inviting Mr. Schoke to go away and stay away and leave his guests alone. Chic Schoke’ had sold insurance for decades – he had a skin like a walrus – no way could you insult him. The conventioneers were delighted with the fracas and the weekend ended with a draw.
A little later in time, there was the year of the British visitors (the flying sorcerors) – a year that was duplicated a number of times, with different overseas visitors each time. The conventioneers could get them aside and actually visit with these magicians from far away, then watch them work at night – with their different accents and different kinds of magic. The fun was on both sides and, as the years went by, Americans began to go to England to try out their conventions, and the magic went round and round.

One misguided year, the feature was a crucifixion. On a much better note, one year brought a wedding – right in the heart of the Get-together. Cardini’s brother and his bride. Another lovely moment on the big stage, in another year, was the appearance of the Abbott family, all who were left, to take a bow and say goodbye. Tears and smiles mingled again. One year, Dell O’Dell brought her big trailer home to Colon, to show how show business moves about in New York. She invited friends in for little suppers she cooked herself and won even more Dell O’Dell fans. What a woman! Another year, the famous John Mulholland was on the bill and was our houseguest. We had a different house every year and this one leaked. In fact, it must have leaked for years because all the walls were clammy and tomb-like. It was very tiny, so we put John upstairs in the bigger of the two bedrooms. He had to come downstairs for the bathroom and scared us to death by dropping a book as he descended the stairs, as we thought he had fallen. I believe John performed his act in Chinese robes on that occasion.
One year, the Chicago magicians urged Ed Marlo to come with them. He was very hesitant as Ed was a Chicago boy and country life was something he had never tried. Farmers in those days rented space in their houses for a dollar or two a night and Ed won the priority spot on a mattress laid on a wide landing on the stairs. Like all true farmhouse it had outdoor plumbing. One day before the Get-together officially ended, Ed Marlo returned to his Chicago home by bus, green around the gills and very anxious to eat “regular” again. I don’t think Ed has been back to Colon since. (Editor’s note: Since that time, however, Colon has made the quantum leap forward and most houses have electricity, running water and interior plumbing! ).
Doc Mahendra and Anne brought their motor home one year and Doc made crepe suzettes for guests. I adored them but I never learned how to make them. Old timers will remember the year. Stewart James told the tale of Mrs. Astor’s horse – the year Jack Gwynne did a levitation act in the middle of the street – Gus Rapp delighting everyone with his talk and fun. One year, bags of candy, with prizes or numbers were sold, but the candy was a vitriolic shade of blue and hard as a rock. We still had the bag when we got out on the street so we tried to give a piece to a local dog. He took one smell and vanished. Another year, much more recently , there was much consternation when a water torture cell was wheeled out on stage. Everyone was convinced it was going t o crash right through t o t h e cellar. The same kind of audience fear showed up when Franz Harary (and before him Joe Eddie & Betty) waltzed about with a monster boa constrictor. Again, just another moment of excitement at Colon. In some of the other early years, Jesse Thornton (or his labors) showed up in the shows. His specialty was a clock act, very well received. His last days were spent in this magic atmosphere, with a drive through the town for a last look at the magic factory and a handshake with his friends before going to the hospital for an operation. He never returned.

This might be the moment to mention the local cemetery. Over the years it has become the resting place for a number of “name” magicians, with such luminaries as Karrell Fox measuring off desirable space for future use. One midnight a large assembly of the aging and semi-aging went out in a group. It was a night for Houdini, if he was paying attention to publicity at the moment. He was a no-show.
There was the year Jerry Spurlock drove up in a huge trailer, creating great expectations – which didn’t get fulfilled. Always, even until today, the old joke gets repeated. Somebody gets hired for a Get-together show, doesn’t quite create a success, and gets hung with the label that they must have been a good customer. The acts are NOT hired by how much a man spends, but the joke lives on.
The Foxy Follies lived for a number of years, with a troupe of clowns in crazy outfits. The script is by Karrell Fox and Duke Stern (until his death), Abb Dickson and any other member of the troupe who had an idea. Essentially it was a burlesque of what had happened all week. Sometimes it was great, usually quite funny, sometimes a little repetitive, and always a lot of work by the participants (who would have killed if you tried to remove them from the fray) . The Follies, as of 1987, became history.

The funniest thing I ever saw on one of the Get-together shows took place when Percy was doing some illusions of his own make. It was one of those rod through boxes type things. The box turned on rollers. A girl was inside. An assistant, who was behind the upright cabinet, was to insert a short length of rod at the right point, as Percy was shoving rods through from the front. The box was spun about to show all rods through the holes. On another spin, the assistant, now out of sight, was supposed to remove the short rod, He must have gotten talking to someone and, as the box came past him in it’s whirl, he just barely remembered his job. He did a ballet move in the air, grabbed the short length of rod and then realized that both he and the length of rod were by now in full view of the audience. Percy was glaring at him – people were screaming with laughter – and the poor guy reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his brow! You had to see
Those readers who were present at a Get-together of a few years ago will add this other great moment of magical history – “the kid and Mike Calawell saga!” It seems that Mike, a veteran comedy act, asked for the use of a kid, A little boy came on stage and – took over! He topped (or Mike let him top) everything that was said. He dashed madly in and out of the curtains. He threatened to bodily assault Mike (who was at least ten times his size). Mike kept coming up with lines that slayed the audience. If ever a bit belonged on film, this one did. It is moments like this that cause people to travel hundreds of miles to get to Colon each summer – “Let’s see what goes on THIS year!”
Fifty years ago, Blackstone (Senior) owned island property in Colon and used the place to build tricks, rehab the show, rest and whatever, assisted by his brother Pete and others. He decided to use his widely-known name to found a magician’s supply company and he hired a newcomer from Australia, Percy Abbott, to act as general manager. Percy had all the requirements. He knew magic, was a forceful and dynamic operator and was interested in settling into something with permanence in the United States.
Rumor has it that Blackstone came back from the road, demanded accountings and an altercation broke out, followed by a fist fight. Somebody called the cops. Blackstone, ever the actor, stepped into the next room when he heard the approach of the “fuzz”. As they came into the house, he rushed forward with an outstretched hand to Abbott and said, -“Percy! When did you get back in town”?
Thus the Abbott Magic Company was born in pain and anguish, high hope and resolve, headed by Percy Abbott – sole owner. That he did a hell of a job is attested to by this recent celebration of over fifty years in business and fifty annual conventions.
The Bordner family came into the scene because Recil Bordner had become, early on, the partner of Percy. The passage of time brought everything down to the person of Greg Bordner, President of the Abbott Magic Company and the genial host of the annual Get-togethers. The decision to have a pictorial history via photographic slides of a few of the people figuring in the last fifty years was a perfect way to start off the 50th Anniversary event. The audience was fascinated and alive with whispers as they recalled the names, the times and the magic delivered by all those folks. No way could it have been a comprehensive survey – no one knows how many people must have figured in those fifty conventions. But David Linsell , the photographer, outdid himself with the presentation. Congratulations on a great job.
Gordon Miller was the M.C. for the Wednesday night opening show that followed the showing of the pictorial history. Acts included Bob Little, being his own crazy self with his own brand of magic – a real audience pleaser; Franz Harary presenting many illusions, including the Disembodied Princess, Light Bulb Cabinet, Mike Stand Suspension, Assistant’s Revenge, Guillotine, etc, It was Franz who performed a trick that caught everybody. A girl is put into a box which is divided by blades into eight pieces. Franz then took hold of one end and an assistant took hold of the other end. The box is divided or slid apart, like an accordion at every point where a blade had been placed. There were wide-open spaces between the sections of the box where once there was a living girl! The sections are slid back together, the cabinet opened and there she was! Nobody topped that one! Chris Jakway followed, working in the attractive Chavez style. Chris is a co-partner to Neil Foster in the midwest branch of that famous magic school. Airjazz followed – that beautiful choreographed juggling material done by two boys and a girl with rhythm, style and applause creating the fun. They are unique among jugglers. Also on this evening’s show were special presentations to Little Johnny Jones and Greg Bordner – both awards presented by the outgoing and. current Presidents of The International Brotherhood of Magicians, Karrell Fox and June Horowitz.
Harry Blackstone closed this first show as only Harry, a lifetime professional, could. Regulars at the Get-together expect to see Harry Blackstone at least once during the weekend, even if it is only a cameo appearance.

That very first Get-together show, decades ago, had an M.C. worthy of any show, any place – Sid Lorraine. He has made other appearances through the years and he was again the emcee for the Thursday night show. Ward Thomas, cruise ship performer, got rounds of applause with his colorful flash act of umbrellas, silks and other objects. A fine example of “magic to look at”. A dandy opening act for any spot in any show.
John Salisse is one of those British imports we mentioned earlier and he was very welcome with his droll, take-apart ventriloquist figure. Airjazz returned – to surpass themselves and again delight the audience. Howard Flint managed to get more people in costume on stage at one time than anyone had in the history of the Get-togethers. When they all began to perform “Snowstorm in China” in unison, it took over the stage – the orchestra pit – the front rows, etc. It also laid the groundwork for a little vignette I will tell you about later. Howard did other things on stage that night but he will be remembered for the “snow”.
The next-to-closing act was Jay Marshall, who dug deeper for “something different”. This time it was of World War II vintage, the mop routine, fleshed out with other numbers from his repertoire. If General MacArthur liked the mop routine as much as this audience did, Jay could have come out of the service with three stars! Jay still had another surprise up his sleeve. His signature closing is almost always “Lefty” and so it was this night – coupled with “Righty”! Comment the rest of the week centered about the fact that everybody had heard of these legendary numbers, but almost nobody had ever seen them. (Since YOU didn’t, I will tell you that Righty looks just like Lefty but he has a different voice and the song is “We Three” )
Closing this show were The Barans, international trophy winners and veterans of thousands of miles afloat with Norwegian American cruise ships. No wonder they’re good .. . they have so much time to rehearse while their ship is spinning off the miles. Jennifer Baran dazzled the audience with seventeen costume changes – one lovely evening gown after another – all adorning one lovely body. These young marrieds, from suburban Chicago, have had phenomenal success doing what they like doing best – performing. They’ve seen the world at somebody else’s expense and have groomed and honed their act until it shines. And, they are still young, handsome adults with delightful manners, pleasant dispositions and no bad .. habits. They have the world in front of them and I wish them the greatest. The audience showed that it agreed. When the show was over, the children in the front rows began to grab up handfulls of paper (from Flint’s act) and toss them about, just horsing around in general.

Then, tears and chagrin. One child said she had had a gift five-dollar bill folded in her hand and during the grabbing and tossing of the paper it had vanished. It was just about hopeless to try and look for it, but the kids all tried. Harry Blackstone was observing, standing nearby with friends, and he very kindly dropped a bill onto the floor, pushed it into a pile of paper with his foot and did a “There it is!” to the group of kids. It brought a lot of joy and, after all, that’s Harry’s main business, isn’t it? Keep spreading the joy, Harry. You’re a nice and classy guy.
On Friday night another overseas personality came to the fore as M.C. – Terry Seabrooke. That is, he started out as an overseas visitor but now he is in the U.S. of A. more than in Britain. Like Jay, he dug deep into his cache of tricks in deference t o the many folks who have seen him often. The Seabrooke delivery pattern always wins out, no matter what the tricks are. He introduced Mark Zwartz who presents a new idea as a robotic magician. Abel and Marina Pabon, visitors from Puerto Rico, showed pretty material with silks and doves, etc. Tom Ogden , busy California pro, strives for comedy situations and succeeds, as evidenced here with his kid in the Hindu Basket illusion. (As it turned out, Franz Harary’s boa was also in the basket!) Tom also presented the Sword Thru Neck and other Ogden jollies. David Seebach, Wisconsin illusionist, who has a good reputation for presenting big shows sponsored by automobile manufacturers, did a few numbers from those shows – Bow Sawing, a new Stretcher illusion, Mismade Girl, Crystal Box and Broom Suspension and others. He’s a pro and it shows. Speaking of pros, so is Lucy Smalley who, some years ago may have done one of her first full stage acts on the Colon stage. She has now reached a peak in her work. Every inch a class act. A good looking girl who knows what she is doing. Someone said she was a feminine version of a Chavez act and so she is, with innovations strictly her own and every move a picture. She did a costume change with a Full Light Seance routine that would take a first in any contest. Just beautiful. Lucy also has auto show experience under her belt, plus many other good jobs. I do want to see her on T.V. one day.
If anybody reading this hasn’t seen Kohl and Company – they should be ashamed – and should be sure to catch them the next time they get the chance. The act is indescribable, hilarious, ridiculous, funny and clever and belongs on convention shows nationwide. Nobody has tried to copy them. There is no way you could because this acting troupe have built in comedy material that simply could not be done by anybody else. Something very special.
By Saturday night everyone at the Get-together is pretty beat, what with late nights, early programs and contests, too much laughter, too much emotion, etc. But every seat was filled and ready for the show emceed by Mike Caldwell, who is funny, fat and stage-wise. As a special treat he introduced Cindy Conklin’s daughter, Stacy, who presented a brief and charming magic act just perfect for her age, size and appearance. Stage Manager Cindy must have been bursting with pride.

Mike then brought on James Dimmere and Lisa (she is the daughter of Shimada). This young engaged couple, with marriage in the offing, have been working nice spots and building a reputation. Dimmere is an excellent magician (in the Lance Burton tradition). He has developed a number of personal effects uniquely his own that make him unlike anyone else. Lisa is an important part of the act because they planned it that way. They work with birds and cages and silks and the same things other acts use but it is all based on a network of precision and timing and surprise, unlike others, He leaves you gasping when he shrinks a cage full of birds down to a small size cage and then vanishes it. Great things should be in this couple’s future.
John Salisse came back again with his wonderful, coy duck figure who enchants everyone. When the duck loses his eye and John finds it and slaps it back on again sideways and the poor little duck twists his head all around trying to see, it is a picture of tragedy and comedy all mixed up. We almost hate ourselves for laughing. This polished English gentleman was quickly supplanted by a riotous carnival atmosphere featuring Senor Rai and Company. (He sent me a bouquet at the beginning of the show for which I thank him. I was one of a dozen or so women so favored, so it was nothing personal.) Senor Rai also donated a wild looking fur coat to Marshall’s American Museum of Magic for an exhibit. He advised Bob Lund to fluff it up a little now and then.
Senor Rai has an extensive battery of pyrotechnical pieces which explode and flare out and keep you on the edge of your seat. Among his effects he presented a number of illusions, including Palanquin, a fishbowl effect with a girl in a mermaid outfit, the Stack of Bowls, etc. He works with a slap dash fervor, surrounds himself with pretty women and, in general, maintains the kind of act nobody can copy – nobody has the adrenalin for it.
Fukai and Kimika, from Japan, followed with a pretty act built around parasols and umbrellas. Very, very Japanese. The evening ended with the last edition of The Foxy Follies, headed by Karrell Fox and backed up by many of the former Follies’ “girls”.
And that was only the evening activities! Daytime lectures were given by Abel Pabon, Terry Seabrooke, Karrell Fox and Sid Lorraine. The Magic Talent Contests were held a t t h e high school on several mornings and the winners are: Junior Contest – Third Prize: Dave Sutherland, First Prize: (Tie) : Joe Spiller, Stacey & Steven (Smolinski) . Senior Contest – Third Prize: David Gower, Second Prize: Richard Aimes and First Prize: David Peck. David Peck’s performance also earned him a spot on Saturday’s evening show – a thrill for him and a treat for that night’s audience.
Howard Olson supplies the following report on .the ventriloquist’s activities. “The Vent-o-Rama was held in conjunction with Abbott’s 50th Magic Get-together this year, as usual. Winners of the Olson trophies were Eddie Adams of Metairie, LA. in first place. Second place went to ‘Great’ Scott Dietrich of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The Originality Trophy was earned by Mike Y avorsky of Toledo, OH.

“Mike McDade and Gerard Dietrich added to the entertainment in the mornings. Host Howie Olson gave demonstrations, routines and lectures on the art of ventriloquism. Many in the audience said they were inspired and were going t o put together an act for next year’s Vent-o-Rama. “Ventriloquism has been enjoying a renewed popularity recently. It is a form of magic that many magicians have added to their presentations. A ventriloquist’s figure is one- of the best ways of using misdirection. Hope to see all of you at the 1988 Vent-o-Rama at Abbottls Magic Get -together!”

The ladies were treated to a Bingo Party on Thursday and on Friday the Senior Citizen’s Party took place at The Magic Carpet lounge. This popular party was well attended by young and old alike. A brunch was included with music by Howard Bamman and Connie Pelham. I (Frances Marshall) served as M.C. and we had a goodly number of short acts making their appearance. Organization was done (by mail) by June Horowitz and the results were well worth it. Other daytime events included visits to the cemetery, the Colon Museum, the Colon Historical Society’s Treasure Chest Sale, performances by street magicians Artie Kidwell, Howard Flint and Todd Karr, the, Magic Ministers Session and, I understand, Franz Harary’s boa constrictor created a little show of his own whenever he was allowed outside to soak up a little sunshine.
The Matinee (held this year on Saturday) sees the benefits from ticket sales going toward the work done by the Colon Lion’s Club to aid the blind and visually impaired. Performer’s on this year’s show were: M.C. Gil Scott, juggler Bruce Block, Barbara Crandall (a ventriloquist and a former Miss Michigan) and Ronald McDonald. Friday’s Close-Up Magic show was entrusted to the capable hands of Tim Wright, Abel Pabon, Cil Scott and Mitch Williams. Events at the Showroom followed all the big evening shows. At the local American Legion Clubhouse, holding forth every night, were such sterling close-up workers as Tommy Edwards, Karl Norman and dozens of others, famous and not-so-famous. Some great magic happens here.
Through the creative talents and good graces of Karrell Fox, we are happy to reprint the special poem he delivered on Wednesday night’s show. It is called : “Colon Memories”. “One night recently … as I sat alone at home . . . I leaned back in my easy chair . . . and let my memories roam to yesterday’s Colon Get-togethers … boy, were they fun . . . and as conventions go . . . Colon was always number one.
“My first was at the Colon Opera House, so many years ago . . . and yet . . . as I close my eyes . . . I can still recall that show. The emcee was Dorny, and he was really funny . . . Lester Lake did his guillotine … and chopped off the head of a ‘honey’ .
“Monk Watson did the orchestra leader . .. at which he had no peer, then Jesse Thornton with his clock act … from vaudeville’s yesteryear. Intermission came next . . . and even it was a dandy, as Percy Abbott himself did a pitch and then . . . he sold the candy.
“Bill Williston did his comedy .. . then Mel with lightning art .. . and a kid named Fox .. . contributing his part. The band had only two members .. . Gladys Abbott at the piano, and later I was to learn … that the fiddler who worked with her .. . had the last name of . . . Stern.
“The memories I have are many … of the Get-togethers past … where hundreds of friendships have been made .. . and all of them will last. The suppers at the churches where the food was always great . . . the local merchant’s sidewalk sales . . . in which we all participate.
“The names of all the Super Stars who appeared in Abbott’s tent . . . Blackstone – Gwynne – Crandall … and Recil Bordner .. . he was quite a gent. For places to visit in Colon . . . the American Legion is number one .. . and there’s never a night there, that isn’t filled with fun.
“To the wonderful people of Colon .. . who have always been so great .. . and who welcome us in their homes … even when we sneak in late. To all the crew at Abbotts . . . and Greg Bordner, who runs the store . . . we Thank You for all the memories, and we’ll be back . . . for Fifty More! ”
In an effort not to leave anything out I must add that one night, under the stars, and on the shore of the lake a real Colon Luau was held. It featured burning firebrands throwing flames up high, a roasted pig, plates of fruit and other good edibles, Hawaiian style decorations and a background of a very nice house with a balcony deck on which the musicians and others sat. This was a private party (staged by magicians) to which we were invited. I do thank them for their hospitality. It was certainly a first for Colon. I understand the roast pig came all the way from Chicago,

Finally, it was all over and once again we began the long trek home via the Indiana Turnpike. Another fifty years have begun for the Abbott Magic Get-togethers and we here at Magic Inc., wish them the greatest. One last thought to the folks at Abbott’s – just don’t move to Chicago!

Abbott Employees Stage Show 1940

ABBOTT EMPLOYEES STAGE GREAT SHOW

 

From the Colon Express newspaper, November 14, 1940: “When more than two hundred men, women and children gathered at the Abbott Magic Theatre last Saturday night, they came to enjoy the first of a series of shows given my the Abbott Employees’ Club, and enjoy it they did.

For the most part, the two-hour program was made up of acts in which the mysteries of legerdemain predominated, but there were novelties interspersed with the magic acts, and good humor throughout, so all of the folks in the chairs were glad they had come.

Besides the acts presented by the various members of the club, three out-of-town performers, Jack Ricketts of Battle
Creek, Neil Sweet of Kalamazoo, and Keystone the Magician, now playing through Michigan.

Percy Abbott officiated as master of ceremonies and did bits of magic before his announcements of the various acts, as well as a turn in which he did the linking rings and a thumb tie trick just before the closing act. He introduced the acts in the following order:

Jack Riketts opened the show with clever presentation of a milk vanish and a later production of mild from a seemingly empty handkerchief. Jesse Thornton, with his usual easy manner, followed with a cut and restored taps tricks, caught money from the air much to the amazement of a young lad who assisted him, and closed with the chopper illusions in which the lad was his victim. Mel Melson appeared with some new sketches in chalk and Cliff Bennett manipulated cigarettes in a clever manner. The fist half was closed by Lyman and Company, one of the high spots. Lyman did a variety act in which he quickly removed a wood block from a tape, sawed a rabbit in half and produced a canary from a light bulb.

Gen. Grant opened the second half with some fast effects – baking a cake in a man’s hat, vanishing a half dollar and producing it in a lemon, causing a dozen cards to go one at a time from his outstretched hand to his pocket, and closing with the shooting through a woman illusion, assisted by Gladys Abbott. Neil Sweet then came on to do his shadowgraph act and this proved one of the most amusing and entertaining acts on the bill. Keystone closed the show with a clever dove production, some humorous hocus-pocus with a youngster from the audience and a dice box, production of a bowl of water, and various silk tricks.”

 

Edgar Bergen Visits Colon

Mortimer Snerd Visits Colon

Colon Express, September 16, 1948: “Abbott’s fifteenth annual Magic Get-Together closed on Saturday night, September 11th. Percy Abbott pulled a surprise the last night that will be long remembered by all the visiting magicians and the local people of Colon. Unknown to anyone, Edgar Bergen, famous ventriloquist and radio and movie star, arrive quietly in the town at the Abbott residence. Percy had one of the Bradley cottages reserved for this event and Mr. Bergen and his party were taken immediately there. They arrived backstage just as the show started. Pat Patrick, who is known on the radio as Ersil Twing, appeared out of character and was not recognized. He introduced Jim Sherman of Chicago as amateur magician from Lamb Knit Goods Company. In fact, the master of ceremonies, Dorney, announced that three amateur performers would appear from the Lamb Knit Goods Company. Sherman attempted to do a trick, and was hustled off stage, then the other performer appeared giving an impersonation of Edgar Bergen. It only took the audience a matter of seconds to recognize Edgar Bergen and he was given a tremendous ovation. He performed his act introducing Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. The Bergen party joined crowd at the buffet lunch at Abbott’s and were up practically all night visiting with the magicians, doing stunts, gags, etc. Mr. and Mrs. Abbott took the Bergen party to the Schuler Hotel at Marshall on Sunday for dinner after which they started on the road to Chicago. Mr. Bergen leaves for New York today and is flying out to Hollywood for the September 16 for the grand opening of the new Abbott Magic Novelty Company branch. From all accounts this was the best magic get-together that has ever been held in Colon, with more than 700 magicians registered. Mr. and Mrs. Percy Abbott left yesterday for the west coast. The new Hollywood store is on Sunset Blvd. in the heart of Hollywood and will be the most elaborate of any of the Abbott branches. It is fitted with a modern stage on which to demonstrate magic and illusions and will carry the complete Abbott line of magical merchandise. For the opening, Edgar Bergen, Jimmy Stewart, Peter Godfrey, the producer and other film notables will be present. George L. Boston is the local manager. He is an experienced magician, having had stage experience with the Harry Blackstone, Howard Thurston and will Rock shows, and with his own mental act. Mr. Abbott has commitments with film, radio, and television productions while on this trip in addition to the new opening. Other Abbott branches are in Chicago, New York, Indianapolis, and Detroit”

Monk Watson, Mortimer Snerd, Edgar Bergen, and Charlie MaCarthy on Sturgeon Lake in Colon.

The Hill Opera House is Built 1896

Ever heard of an elegant storeroom?

HODGE PODGE

Joe Ganger

 

In April of 1896 ground was broken to begin construction of the opera house located on State Street in Colon. In case you never heard of it, before the fire in 2006, if you looked up, at the top two floors above Citizen’s Bank, you coud see it! The entrance was destroyed years ago to allow for a larger bank area. It was built by the Hill family, Elisha and sons Thomas Jefferson and Edwin Ruthven Hill. The souvenir program for opening night describes the E. Hill and Sons company as “a firm engaged in general merchandising in Colon, as early as 1851.” The E. Hill and sons bank which was on the ground floor of the building remained in the control of the family from its establishment in 1870 until after 1945.

 

 

I found a description of the opera house which reads: “A building of pressed brick which is trimmed with Marquette red sandstone. An inserted balcony in the second story brakes the facade which features heavy columns, headed with ornate carvings. Large plate glass windows enhance the entrance to the opera house . Upon entering the building an oak staircase leads to the grand entrance with the box office at the left and on the right a reception, cloak and toilet rooms. Double stairs in both directions lead the way to the large comfortable balcony.

 

 

The general beauty of the auditorium is quite impressive. Gold and white colors decorate the front of the balcony and the four private boxes. Harmonious tapestries drape these areas to match the beautifully frescoed walls and ceiling. Six hundred mahogany opera chairs are upholstered in a pale green that adds the final touch to this exquisite theater. Under the stage area are comfortable dressing rooms with wardrobes and lavatories. The third floor holds additional wardrobes, dressing rooms, toilets and lavatories. Nothing was overlooked for the comfort and convenience of the patrons and artists. The ground floor of the building is divided with the western portion arranged for an elegant storeroom and the eastern area reserved for the Exchange Bank. The rear portion of this level is for private apartments ‘with all the modern sanitary appliances’.”

 

Well, that is the nice sounding side. Some two hundred gas jets illuminated the theater and were fed by a private gas plant in the basement of the building.

 

Ross Lewis, chief usher at the Opera House recalls the gas lights with amusement: “One night while a show was in progress, the caretaker made his usual inspection of the plant and he brought the kerosene a little too close, and there was an explosion that could be heard for miles around as the plant blew up. Of course, the lights went out., and the play continued with candlelight. The bare jets were the latest thing when the opera house opened but they were annoying. The house smelled of carbide gas part of the time. The jets were lighted individually – 200 of them – with tapers. After they had burned for a time the tips would carbon up and shoot off streams of black smoke which settled on the audience as soot.”

 

Well, Hill’s Opera House opened with a flourish on November 1, 1897 with an operetta called “The Merry Milkmaids”.  Sharon Beth Wyrembelski wrote a master’s thesis on the Hill Opera House. Her paper contains a few quotes from newspapers of the time: “On the night of the opening play, Mrs. Hill, then in her eighty-eighth year, was able to attend. As she leaned upon the arm of her son, Thomas Jefferson, who assisted her to enter their box, she was greeted with cheers by the audience, many of whom had known and honored her for over a half century, and by whom she is still spoken of as being the life of every social gathering which she attended.”

 

The review of the February 1898 play “On The Swanee” described those present and even their apparel. “It was a social event of top significance for it described the clothing worn by the 5 year olds as well as that of their parents”.  From Sharon’s thesis: “Mr. Robert Tenney, during a personal interview on May 5, 1986, recalls that the Opera House was always well attended in his day and that his mother (Amelia Hill) remarked to him often about the wonderful productions and gratifying audiences.”  Robert Tenny was the grandson of Susan (Susie) and Edwin Hill. They lived in the large house that was located where the Sturgis Bank and Trust now stands. Pictures of the house are displayed in the lobby. Ross Lewis, chief usher at the Opera House recalls, “We had a good train service then – five or six trains a day which made it easy for shows to come and go”. Of course Colon also had an additional feature for stopovers in the hotel, the St. Joe House, which offered room and board for $5.00 per week. When this hotel burned, the Colon Township Library was built on the location.

 

After World War II ended in 1945 the Opera House fell into disuse, except for an occasional high school graduation ceremony and a trickle of magic shows given by Harry Blackstone, Percy Abbott, and Monk Watson. Finally, in 1964, when the first-floor bank was remodeled the oak staircase leading to the second floor was removed and the Opera House was sealed off. The seating capacity is frequently quoted as 600, but it is really 500. 100 chairs could be set up in the lecture room, or ballroom. Did they count those? A 1903 production included a live horse onstage. Now, how did they get the horse to go up/down the stairs? The Colon Historical Society has saved a few items from the glory days of the Opera House, including the original gas chandelier.

There was a sad ending in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colon Township Liabrary Built

I May Not Make Much Money

 

 

Oliver B. Culver was a very prosperous farmer who lived 2 ½ miles east of Colon. In addition to general farming, he concentrated on melons and berries. He had acres of strawberries where you could “pick them yourself”. Oliver also operated a stand in the front of the Post Office building, selling Edison Phonographs and records. He also sold candy as well as his fruits and vegetables. That caused a bit of a problem at one time. Mr. & Mrs. Culver had no children of their own, but “O.B.” had a soft spot in his heart for children. He sold his candy at ridiculously low prices to the displeasure of his competition. A committee called on him protesting his under pricing and requested that he maintain a regular mark-up. His answer, “I may not make much money, but I have a lot of fun.” The Culvers gave the village the town clock, which was installed, on the schoolhouse in 1912 by Ora Tomlinson and a crew of carpenters. Mr. Tomlinson received $3.50 per day and his helpers got $1.00 a day. The clock was removed from the school (now the elementary school) during remodeling and one face and the works are in possession of the Historical Society. They also have the plaque, which reads, “The town clock, donated by Oliver B. Culver and his wife Mary E. Culver, to be erected on the High School building, 1912”.

 

 

Colon Township Library under construction

 

Oliver and Mary also gave the money to erect the Colon Township Library, built in 1914. The building is on the site where once stood the Lakeview Hotel, also known as the Pond Lily House and Davis Hotel. The hotel burned in the summer of 1912. In the files of the township is a contract between O. B. Culver and the township, issued on September 12, 1912. By a decree of the circuit court of St. Joseph County, “O. B. Culver wills $15,000 to the township board and/or its successors, to be paid to said township board, at his death, to erect a FREE township library on lots designated in the agreement, provided the board and/or its successors buy the said site, clear it and prepare a suitable site for the construction of said library. If the township board fails to provide the suitable site, the contract becomes null and void and the bequest reverts to his estate.” To guarantee payment Mr. Culver gave the board three promissory notes of $5,000 each. On September 15, 1912, sixty local people petitioned the board to bond the township for $3,000 to purchase and clear the hotel property. Architect was C. A. Fairchild of Kalamazoo who used the library in Auburn, Indiana as a model. General contractor was Byers Brothers of Kalamazoo. Costs: General contractor: $10,700. Electrical (S. G. Hill of Colon): $295.50. Plumbing and heating: $1,543.00. Window shades: $98.00. The remaining money was spent on books.

 

 

Work underway!

Abbott’s Get-Together 1964, Watson

    The 1964 Abbott’s Get Together

 

 

From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, October 1964; by Monk Watson: ”The big show is over, or was it the big shows … really I’m not back to normal yet, but I hope to be before I finish this October Column. Neil Foster has his whip out, even though he is too weak to use it. I’m just a chicken so he says, “Monk, how about the October column?”  That’s all it takes to make me give up golf and fishing and stuff like that and get busy. Here goes!

During the Get-Together so many came up to me and said, “What is this guy, ‘The Senator,’ trying to do to you Monk?” I just laughed, really not knowing too many Senators, until I gave it another thought and came up with the idea that they must be talking about a real nice guy, whom I used to know pretty well, by the name of Clarke, or was it Crandall, or perhaps Clarke Crandall. Then it dawned on me that in the past I had read some column, “It’s a Mystery to Me,” and in this column he had mentioned my name a couple of hundred times. Now I do recall some of his writings. I also picked up the September TOPS      and there it was again … “OBESITY” .. (see previous reference to Watson, Monk), I can recall where in the dear dead past I referred to my former friend as, “Fat something”. He never forgets.

For the other side of this great guy, one would be so very happily surprised to learn that he is without a doubt one of the cleverest writers and speakers in the field of Magic or most any other subject you can think of. My good friend (of the Elsie Janis days) was pretty upset too, thinking how deeply I had been hurt by this brute of a Senator. I let Dorny continue to think so even during the shows (where Dorny had both hands full of hard work putting up with some of the greater STARS of the show business). I didn’t tell him that I had spent most of the day with Crandall, Bob Lewis, Mark Leddy and Milky, having more laughs than most men can handle. I’ve not had so many laughs in many, many years. Krandall, or is it Crandall, was in fine form during the whole four days and nights. He was “ON” all of the time while others were sleeping, fishing, buying tricks, or just visiting; this man was in a very easy chair having fun. As I said before, and I mean it, here is a real great guy with more talent (wish he had it) than any five men I know. One of these days he’ll bring out a Children’s Book and it will sell like hot cakes, or maybe like books. Some of the lines will have to be changed a bit, but I want the first one.

Back to the shows and some of the people I saw and visited with. First of all Russ Walsh and I closed the meeting, as we have for many years, on Sunday morning. After everyone has left we get together and talk about the other days and other conventions across the country, and when we finally finish we figure that the Get-together in Colon is the BEST of all Magical Conventions. The acts were all so good that one would use up a lot of time trying to review them, and I know that it will be covered in other columns, so all I want to say is, “This was a dilly of a convention, get-together, meeting, or just shows …” I’ve been to all of them across the country and with no meetings to attend it was a great success. Over 680 registered, another thousand found seats in the gym at the school, so what could be better.

The Night Before part that used to be just for the visiting Magicians, turned out to be a real Magic Show, with everyone on their toes outdoing themselves to please a packed house. Duke Stern was not too busy to help me along with Karrell Fox to bring back an act I did in the After Piece in Vaudeville with Bert Wheeler … (not the Bert Wheeler of Magic). The blow off of the act was that it had gone off well. Strange as it may seem the very acts that some of the Magicians thought a bit too long were the acts that the laymen are still talking about. We all know the answers to most of the tricks, but when you figure that you have another thousand people who are still fooled, one has to stop and think about his own act and the tricks that perhaps bore him … they’re new to your audience, so pull them out of the bag and do them over and over again.

The Tadlocks were here again, coming in on the same plane with Mark Leddy (who books most of the acts for the Ed Sullivan Shows). I had called them the night before they took the plane and told them that Mark would be on the same flight and for them to talk to him. They landed in Battle Creek and by that time they were good friends. Milky and I had just done a television show and with my Mary we picked up the trio. The trip to Colon was interesting, because I had arranged a room for Mark Leddy in a home on the Palmer Lake in Colon. Mark is a lover of nature and proved it by walking around in the yard of this home after the shows were over. He got a big kick out of the shows, and I believe he’ll come back again next year.

One didn’t have to go to the shows to see real Magic. There was more Magic to be seen at the Abbott showroom than a person could dream about. With Foster and several others showing the newest in Magic, one could spend hours just watching. Foster did the Zombie every hour, and each time it was the great masterpiece in his hands. Doves could have been on every show, because they’ll talk about them as long as Magic is shown. Sherm put a girl into a cabinet and that alone was a bit of magic. He put girl filled every inch and yet he put more swords and knives through that darn cabinet than I could count. A Six Footer cut into sixths was simply out of this world. The girl at the Hammond, Wilma Rench, never missed a cue and believe me that is Magic in itself.

I’ve gotta say a few kind words about my godson, Harry Blackstone Jr. He is a tall, fine looking man of thirty with every move of a seasoned actor. Hi voice (he can throw away Magic) was fine, and he could very nicely take over a lead in a Broadway show. However, I’m sure he’ll never throw away the thing he loves; Magic. One could close his eyes and see and hear his great father in every move. The cage at the tips of his fingers, the dancing handkerchief, the floating light bulb, were done with the same Professional Touch as his father had used for so many years. I’m mighty proud of the boy.

So Neil, here it is, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve talked too much. I wanted to say more about my run with Bob Lewis and the midnight gang, but they know how much I enjoyed them. Mark, I’ll be calling when I get to New York, and we’ll hash over the ACTS again. I wish more of the boys from New York could have been here. Felix Greenfield was here and was thrilled over our shows, I’m sure. Now I’m going fishing, and I wish you all could come along.”

 

Abbott’s 1965 Get-Together, Crandall

Abbott’s Get-Together of 1965

 

 

From TOPS Magazine, October 1965, By Clarke Crandall (who continues his comeback aimed at TOPS Columnist Gene Gordon who had written that Crandall was a “frustrated” magician and TV Personality.): “The Abbott Get-Together shows will no doubt be reviewed elsewhere. Naturally I have a few random comments and personal opinions. Due to an indulgent editor I am able to make them. Having a fourth public show instead of the usual nite-before party was a good idea. I always enjoy the Get-Together. Just to visit with seldom-seen friends, relax and exchange stories is reward enough for me. When you are also able to see such fine performers as Bob Lewis, Dorny, Jay Marshall, Karrall Fox, John Mulholland, Neil Foster and Zaney Blaney, it’s well worth the trip.

I especially enjoyed Monk Watson’s very commercial magic act. I am not speaking of the pantomine rope walking, orchestra leading, train passing pre-taped routine. He does a solid entertianment-packed magic act with standard props that, in my opinion, is one of the best. His apple, rice and checker routine is a classic and the audience, which included me, enjoyed it. Next month I may blast him for no particular reason, just to keep my image. Such inconsistency is to be expected from we who are filled with frustration.

John Mulholland, a good friend of many years, was a delight to watch. His lecture was well attended and presented. John’s magic is that of a glorious and past era done with a modern flair and professional ease. His props are magically endowed museum pieces and this classic style of presenting the art is seldom seen because few can do it. John is a living legend but I fear he is a frustrated comedian: otherwise why would he stick his head, adorened with a red ribbon bow, thru the backdrop during one of my afternoon programs? The resultant laughs he received may go to his head and he’ll take up comedy magic. Let’s hope not.

Jack Gwynne’s lecture was filled with timely, informative, usable material. Amateur magicians as well as the professionals in the audience were fortunate to have an opportunity to learn from Jack, who knows his business; magic. This month, October, Jack and his chosen mate, Anee, will celebrate fifty years in magic and marriage. Drop them a congratulary message if you have time, I know they’ll appreciate it. People don’t come any better than Anne and Jack. Jack doesn’t know it but I’ve been in love with Anne for nearly twenty-five years. I hope he doesn’t find out before we get too old to elope.

Karrell Fox and Duke Stern break me up, which isn’t easy. Duke is the world’s greatest straight man in a world where everyone is a comic. Karrell is too funny and gets too many laughs to suit me. Besides, he is also frustrated. Jay Marshall is also very funny but he belches a lot during his act. He eats radishes and drinks Coke just before he goes on. The belches help punctuate his vent routine and acts as misdirection for his pulsative Adam’s apple which vibrates like the heads on a Ubangi exotic. He is also frustrated.

Zaney Blaney, the tall Texas ambassador of good will, has a commercially entertaining act and the best “suspension”  I’ve ever seen. If anything in magic will fool you, this will. I am not sure but I think the two small stepladders have something to do with it. Either that or he starches the drape the girl lies on. Some day I’ll ask him but he’ll probably be too frustrated to tell me the secret.

The large family, illusion, stage-type magic was well taken care of by the Frantic Franzens, the Amazing Conklins and Ken Diamond and Louise. They work a lot and their presentations show it. They look good from out front and that counts. Josef and George Smiley work fast, well, and are truly professional. Like their ads say, “Blink, and you’ll miss a trick.”

Tom Palmer and Bunny continue to improve and the audience, mostly magicians, were amused and entertained. Tom is really frustrated but Bunny is not. None of Tom’s tricks work right and it’s a shame because he tries so hard. It’s a hilarious act but I fear some of the subtle satire goes over the heads of laymen present. This is not a serious handicap as Tom is a talented performer and can easily adjust the act to suit any audince.

Bill and Sally Tadlock are young, pleasant and also talented, which is reason enough for me to dislike them. They claim to live in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I am not sure there is such a place. Monk Watson says he never played there and he’s played everywhere. This well-adjusted  couple do magic no harm. Sally smiles a lot and she’s very pretty. Bill is pretty too and he dresses well and laughs at my jokes, so, in time, I may learn to put up with them.

Bob Lewis, Ginny, Clare Cummings and Peggy rented an abandoned farm house near Colon. It was stocked with chickens, guinea hens, cows, pigs, horses and hound dogs. It was far enough from town so that Bob could practice his banjo plunking without having some irate light-sleeper in the next room hammer on the walls. I later learned that after they left, egg and milk production fell off considerably. All four of these people are frustrated. Chic Schoke, the insurance tycoon, visited them at their rustic retreat and took a guided tour of the stables to bring back boyhood memories. Besides making him feel at home, he said it cleared up his blocked sinuses.
My young Chinese friend, De Yip Louie, did his colorful club act. Louie got his start in magic years ago as an assistant to the Great George (Playboy Club) Johnstone. George’s beautiful wife, Betty, who is ninety percent of the act, was playing a local maternity ward. George, who is so frustrated he doesn’t dare face an audience alone, put a Chinese mask on Louie and broke him in as an assistant. I think he called him Murphy. At the end of the act he’d ask Louie to remove the mask. Louie looked more Chinese than the mask. Bitten by the magic bug, Louie later did close-up work at a Chicago Booze spa. He used a line I gave him: “You realize I don’t have a Chinaman’s chance of doing this trick.” On stage he has two large, authentic Chinese curtains as backdrops. At Abbott’s he asked me if I knew of any way he could improve the act. I suggested he try working behind the curtains. He promised to consider it. Louie is a good boy; a little frustrated but I like him, which is a handicap he can soon outgrow.

I rode to Colon with Leonard Carrion who, besides being chief engineer at Field Museum here, is my manager, audio engineer and comedy consultant. His plump wife. Eunice, came along as combination cook and chaperon. She doesn’t fry bacon too well but washes dishes nice. Leonard recently won a new air-conditioned Ford in a raffle. He likes barber shop quartets and does card tricks, which give you an idea of what manner of man he is … They are both very patient and I can put up with them easily. Both are frustrated.

Someone with a moustache named Senator Crandall did an hourly daily program of nothing. The audinece didn’t walk out until it was over, which speaks well of them. He was hampered by Frannie Marshall and her collection of female cohorts. He was constantly interrupted by four frustrated, malcontented friends named Jay, Duke, Monk and Karrell, which is a hint of what occurred.

Recil, Neil, the Abbott staff and all connected with organizing the Get-Together deserve congratulations for a job well done. The townspeople continue to be tolerant with a few inebriated weirdo aggravators who, in the early morning hours, cluster outside the Legion Bar, make disparaging remarks to the natives, scoff at the local customs and generally make nuisances of themselves. Luckily they are a disturbing minority, but they leave their mark when the affair is over. Recil and Neil live and work there. They must hear the brunt of the citizens’ complaints and they don’t deserve it. It’s enough to make them frustrated!”

 

“Senator” Clarke Crandall (1906-1975) was an American comedy magician and magic dealer. He developed funny routines for such effects as the Card Duck and the Cups and Balls. He wrote a column for The New Tops called “It’s A Mystery To Me.” Abbott’s Get-Together presents the “Senator Crandall Award” for Comedy excellence each year. He appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in He appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abbott’s 1965 Get-Together

Abbott’s Get-Together of 1965

 

 

From TOPS Magazine, October 1965, By Clarke Crandall (who continues his comeback aimed at TOPS Columnist Gene Gordon who had written that Crandall was a “frustrated” magician and TV Personality.): “The Abbott Get-Together shows will no doubt be reviewed elsewhere. Naturally I have a few random comments and personal opinions. Due to an indulgent editor I am able to make them. Having a fourth public show instead of the usual nite-before party was a good idea. I always enjoy the Get-Together. Just to visit with seldom-seen friends, relax and exchange stories is reward enough for me. When you are also able to see such fine performers as Bob Lewis, Dorny, Jay Marshall, Karrall Fox, John Mulholland, Neil Foster and Zaney Blaney, it’s well worth the trip.

I especially enjoyed Monk Watson’s very commercial magic act. I am not speaking of the pantomine rope walking, orchestra leading, train passing pre-taped routine. He does a solid entertianment-packed magic act with standard props that, in my opinion, is one of the best. His apple, rice and checker routine is a classic and the audience, which included me, enjoyed it. Next month I may blast him for no particular reason, just to keep my image. Such inconsistency is to be expected from we who are filled with frustration.

John Mulholland, a good friend of many years, was a delight to watch. His lecture was well attended and presented. John’s magic is that of a glorious and past era done with a modern flair and professional ease. His props are magically endowed museum pieces and this classic style of presenting the art is seldom seen because few can do it. John is a living legend but I fear he is a frustrated comedian: otherwise why would he stick his head, adorened with a red ribbon bow, thru the backdrop during one of my afternoon programs? The resultant laughs he received may go to his head and he’ll take up comedy magic. Let’s hope not.

Jack Gwynne’s lecture was filled with timely, informative, usable material. Amateur magicians as well as the professionals in the audience were fortunate to have an opportunity to learn from Jack, who knows his business; magic. This month, October, Jack and his chosen mate, Anee, will celebrate fifty years in magic and marriage. Drop them a congratulary message if you have time, I know they’ll appreciate it. People don’t come any better than Anne and Jack. Jack doesn’t know it but I’ve been in love with Anne for nearly twenty-five years. I hope he doesn’t find out before we get too old to elope.

Karrell Fox and Duke Stern break me up, which isn’t easy. Duke is the world’s greatest straight man in a world where everyone is a comic. Karrell is too funny and gets too many laughs to suit me. Besides, he is also frustrated. Jay Marshall is also very funny but he belches a lot during his act. He eats radishes and drinks Coke just before he goes on. The belches help punctuate his vent routine and acts as misdirection for his pulsative Adam’s apple which vibrates like the heads on a Ubangi exotic. He is also frustrated.

Zaney Blaney, the tall Texas ambassador of good will, has a commercially entertaining act and the best “suspension”  I’ve ever seen. If anything in magic will fool you, this will. I am not sure but I think the two small stepladders have something to do with it. Either that or he starches the drape the girl lies on. Some day I’ll ask him but he’ll probably be too frustrated to tell me the secret.

The large family, illusion, stage-type magic was well taken care of by the Frantic Franzens, the Amazing Conklins and Ken Diamond and Louise. They work a lot and their presentations show it. They look good from out front and that counts. Josef and George Smiley work fast, well, and are truly professional. Like their ads say, “Blink, and you’ll miss a trick.”

Tom Palmer and Bunny continue to improve and the audience, mostly magicians, were amused and entertained. Tom is really frustrated but Bunny is not. None of Tom’s tricks work right and it’s a shame because he tries so hard. It’s a hilarious act but I fear some of the subtle satire goes over the heads of laymen present. This is not a serious handicap as Tom is a talented performer and can easily adjust the act to suit any audince.

Bill and Sally Tadlock are young, pleasant and also talented, which is reason enough for me to dislike them. They claim to live in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I am not sure there is such a place. Monk Watson says he never played there and he’s played everywhere. This well-adjusted  couple do magic no harm. Sally smiles a lot and she’s very pretty. Bill is pretty too and he dresses well and laughs at my jokes, so, in time, I may learn to put up with them.

Bob Lewis, Ginny, Clare Cummings and Peggy rented an abandoned farm house near Colon. It was stocked with chickens, guinea hens, cows, pigs, horses and hound dogs. It was far enough from town so that Bob could practice his banjo plunking without having some irate light-sleeper in the next room hammer on the walls. I later learned that after they left, egg and milk production fell off considerably. All four of these people are frustrated. Chic Schoke, the insurance tycoon, visited them at their rustic retreat and took a guided tour of the stables to bring back boyhood memories. Besides making him feel at home, he said it cleared up his blocked sinuses.
My young Chinese friend, De Yip Louie, did his colorful club act. Louie got his start in magic years ago as an assistant to the Great George (Playboy Club) Johnstone. George’s beautiful wife, Betty, who is ninety percent of the act, was playing a local maternity ward. George, who is so frustrated he doesn’t dare face an audience alone, put a Chinese mask on Louie and broke him in as an assistant. I think he called him Murphy. At the end of the act he’d ask Louie to remove the mask. Louie looked more Chinese than the mask. Bitten by the magic bug, Louie later did close-up work at a Chicago Booze spa. He used a line I gave him: “You realize I don’t have a Chinaman’s chance of doing this trick.” On stage he has two large, authentic Chinese curtains as backdrops. At Abbott’s he asked me if I knew of any way he could improve the act. I suggested he try working behind the curtains. He promised to consider it. Louie is a good boy; a little frustrated but I like him, which is a handicap he can soon outgrow.

I rode to Colon with Leonard Carrion who, besides being chief engineer at Field Museum here, is my manager, audio engineer and comedy consultant. His plump wife. Eunice, came along as combination cook and chaperon. She doesn’t fry bacon too well but washes dishes nice. Leonard recently won a new air-conditioned Ford in a raffle. He likes barber shop quartets and does card tricks, which give you an idea of what manner of man he is … They are both very patient and I can put up with them easily. Both are frustrated.

Someone with a moustache named Senator Crandall did an hourly daily program of nothing. The audinece didn’t walk out until it was over, which speaks well of them. He was hampered by Frannie Marshall and her collection of female cohorts. He was constantly interrupted by four frustrated, malcontented friends named Jay, Duke, Monk and Karrell, which is a hint of what occurred.

Recil, Neil, the Abbott staff and all connected with organizing the Get-Together deserve congratulations for a job well done. The townspeople continue to be tolerant with a few inebriated weirdo aggravators who, in the early morning hours, cluster outside the Legion Bar, make disparaging remarks to the natives, scoff at the local customs and generally make nuisances of themselves. Luckily they are a disturbing minority, but they leave their mark when the affair is over. Recil and Neil live and work there. They must hear the brunt of the citizens’ complaints and they don’t deserve it. It’s enough to make them frustrated!”

 

“Senator” Clarke Crandall (1906-1975) was an American comedy magician and magic dealer. He developed funny routines for such effects as the Card Duck and the Cups and Balls. He wrote a column for The New Tops called “It’s A Mystery To Me.” Abbott’s Get-Together presents the “Senator Crandall Award” for Comedy excellence each year. He appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in He appeared in Abbott’s Get-Together in 1955, 1956, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oliver B. Culver’s Will

From the Union City Newspaper

OLIVER B. CULVER’S WILL

 

The Last Testament of This Wealthy Matteson Farmer is Read

Mary and Oliver B. Culver

Oliver B. Culver, the wealthy Matteson township farmer who died several weeks ago, was the uncle of Mrs. Glenn G. Worden, of this city, and Mr. and Mrs. Worden went to the Culver home in Matteson, Monday to hear the will read. Mr. Culver’s chief benefactors were to Colon Village, and to Miss Mattie Myers, who lived with him for some time. To Colon he gave funds for a fine public library, and to Miss Myers he gave about $22,000. The whole estate was valued at $38,000. Below may be found a summary of the Culver benefactions, and from them it will be noted that Mrs. Worden will receive $400.

Village of Colon $15,000 for a library building and $1,000 for library books.

Village of Colon, Village property valued at $300.

John Green, $1,000.

Chas. Culver, $500.

Mrs. Glenn G. Worden, of Union City, $400.

Bertha Clinefeldt, $100.

Mr. Maynard, $100.

Mrs. Maynard, $100

Mr. Thrams, $100.

Harding Brothers, $100.

Mr. Babcock, $100.

Methodist, Baptist, St. Paul’s and Grace Churches of Colon, $500 each.

Matteson Township, for keeping cemetery lot, $500.

Mattie Myers, $1,000 and the residue of estate, estimated at $22,000.

 

 

 

According to the inflation calculator, $38,000 in 1910 would be equivalent to $922,384.00 in 2012 dollars.

 

For those who got $100, that is equivalent to $2,427.32 in 2012 dollars.