Howard Melson, Gone But Never Forgotten
From TOPS Magazine, January 1961, by Gene Gordon: “Magicians are always intimating that the spirits do return to the scenes of their past triumphs. If such a thing is possible, then our new Editor, Neil Foster, can be sure that he will have spiritual aid in publishing this magazine from its former Editor, Howard Melson or as he was know to all of us, Mel. He loved his work as editor and he should be very happy to know that it will be carried on by a young man that he admired very much. Mel passed away on December 12th, 1958, in the Veteran’s Hospital at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mel’s association with the Abbott Company begin in 1940 when he left the excitement of New York to go out to Colon on a six week’s assignment to do art work for the next catalog. The six weeks stretched out to eighteen years. He was a sophisticate and remained one to his death … but he was charmed by the small town life of Colon and was never happier than being there with real friends. Witty and often cynical, his plans to improve on life were not so materialistic as idealistic. He knew that he could only sleep on one bed and only eat three meals a day so money could buy no more,
His thoughts always followed a clear and personal logic. They were no mere fantasies but were founded on reason. He would argue against his own beliefs to hear what others had to say and then draw conclusions to make his own decisions. His great sense of humor drew him to Humorous people. He respected anyone who had independence of thought and he had little use for conformists. With restrained enthusiasm, he liked to speak of his projective thinking.
When you arrived at an Abbott Get-Together, Mel was one of the first to greet you and his welcome was as warm for a first time visitor as for a big name performer. When I would get worn out just watching Percy travel from dawn to dusk at break-neck speed, I would recuperate by spending a few minutes in the quiet serenity of Mel’s company. It was hard for me to look over the book display at the last gathering and not see Mel behind the counter.
He was born in Steubenville, Ohio, on January 6th, 1890, but moved at an early age to Buffalo where he attended grade and high school as well as the Chown School of business. And early bent for cartooning won him a first prize in a contest conducted by a breakfast food company. This led to his enrollment in the Buffalo Art Institute and later Cleveland’s Landon School of Cartooning. He was not a boy magician … his real interest started not long before he went to Colon.
Mel spent many years in the reportorial and editorial end of newspaper work. He was Art Director for the Magazine of Wall Street and his creations appeared in many other magazines. His work brought him into close friendship with many prominent figures in the theatrical world such as Bob Hope, Olson & Johnson, Edgar Bergen, Al Jolson, Rosa Ponsell and many others. Since he passed away just before Christmas, it was my sad duty to help his family here in Buffalo sort the magic greetings from his personal cards and I was amazed at the wide scope of friends that he had made over the years.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army March 8th, 1918, where he served at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. He later toured with the Kelly Field Players over the Pantages and Gus Sun Circuits as Mel, the Chalk Cartoonist. He also did a sand painting act and also appeared at many magical conclaves around the country. I always looked forward to his annual visit to Buffalo where he came to be with his family — three brothers named Jim, Bill and Dr. Oliver and a sister Mrs. Marie Jones. I know Jim’s Son Doug and I know that in his estimation, his uncle was TOPS.
A sad part of his passing was that within a few days he would have been married to Sally Banks, formerly of the Blackstone show and well-known to many Colon visitors at the Get-Togethers.
Mel was buried in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn, Cemetery on December 14, 1958 and Ring 12 Members attended the services. His body is there but the real Mel will always be in Colon, enshrined in the hearts and memories of his friends.