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.