Hill Opera House

 

From The Colon Express newspaper, August 11, 1981: “Hill Opera House is no longer in use, but on center stage are the memories of many performers.

Located on State Street on the second and third floor above Citizens State Bank, the opera house was a popular stopping place for companies traveling between Chicago and Detroit.

Local resident Charles Williams remembers 1912, when he was in his teens and he and friends peddled handbills to local stores. The handbills described actors and told the price.

In turn, they earned their admission. Side balcony seats cost 25 cents; front balcony, 50 cents; and the main floor, 75 cents and $1. The $1 fee guaranteed soft plush seats roped off with a brass railing. Ross Lewis was ticket taker.

“I always sat in the balcony.” Williams said with a chuckle. “I never could afford to sit in the section reserved for the rich people.”

Harry Blackstone Sr. often tried out his acts at the opera house before taking them on the road. Another company performing there included Kempton Comedy Kompany, which contained several local residents.

“I always had a passion for live acting,” Williams related, “I remember the play ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and “Trail of the Lonesome Pine.’

“One thing that always fascinated me was the curtain on the stage that had all the advertisements from local merchants.”

Williams said high school shows and minstrel shows also were performed.

He remembers Memorial Day in particular.

“The street was then a dirt road and the fourth and fifth graders were dressed in their best attire. We walked from the elementary school, which was then the old high school on State Street, to Lakeside Cemetery on Farrand Road (about four miles round trip).

“Upon returning to the village, we went to the Hill Opera House where we sat for 45 minutes listening to the Memorial Day address.

Williams said he remembers another day at the opera house. “My graduation in 1925 was held in the opera house,” he said. Williams was salutatorian and gave the speech.

Exercises were conducted there until the new high school was built and the ceremony was transferred to that location on Dallas Street.”

 

The Hill Opera House was destroyed by fire in 2006.

Today’s News

    Karrell Fox Obituary

 

 

KARRELL FOX, world-famous magician and comedian died Thursday, (March 12, 1998) while at the Desert Seminar Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada (A magician’s convention). He was born on January 30, 1928.

Long a Detroit-area resident until his move to California and semi-retirement about a decade ago.

He appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” at the age of 18. Fox was a pioneer in doing magic for industrial and corporate clients as well as trade shows. He was featured regularly for more than twenty years at Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows. In the early 1960’s he wrote and produced “The Magic World of Ford.” Several units of the show traveled the country performing at regional malls and shopping centers. In the early 1970’s he wrote and produced (occasionally performing himself) a magic show for Michigan Bell Telephone, appearing at malls around the state for three seasons.

Recognized as a tremendous talent in the field of magic, he was also a past president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He very likely appeared at more magicians’ conventions than any other magician, performing, emceeing, and as a lecturer. He wrote columns for magic magazines and was the author of more than a dozen books for magicians. He was truly gifted with the ability to make people laugh and was often as hilariously funny off stage as he was on stage. In addition to his wide repertoire of stage magic, he was outstanding in close-up magic as well.

Although taller, he bore considerable resemblance to W. C. Fields and was recognized for his superb impersonation of Fields. Fox was also noted for his hypnotism and mentalism shows.

When the late Clare Cummings retired from his long-time role as “Milky, the Twin Pines Magic Clown” on local television, Fox took over the role for several years at WWJ-TV during the mid 1960’s.

His career started in his teens when he was employed to demonstrate and sell magic at Carlos’ Magic Shop in Toledo and at Harold Sterling’s Magic Shop in Detroit. Still in his early teens, he began earning his livelihood with his already very professional performances. During his stint in the army, he was assigned to Special Services entertaining the troops.

Based in the Detroit area throughout most of his performing career, he traveled widely performing for industrial clients, at conventions, and in nearly every theatrical venue. He was especially well-known around Detroit.

Internment is to be at the cemetery in Colon, Michigan, “Magic Capitol of the World.” He is survived by his wife, Marilyn, of Palm Desert, California, and sons Karlin and Daren.”

 

Karrell Fox appeared at Abbott’s Get Together in 1939, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1952, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, and 1972. This, of course, is only when he appeared as a scheduled performer. He was Master of Ceremony for many shows.