Blackstones, Father And Son, Warmly Remembered in Colon
Sturgis Journal, 1979:
“Magician recalls childhood, early times
By Jacque Malesh
COLON – Blackstone. The name alone conjures up magic, with visions of impossible illusions. The name is and always will be the epitome of magic, especially for the people of Colon, for they consider the two Harry Blackstones, father and son, as Colon citizens. .
Harry Blackstone, Jr., is home. Home means his late father’s residence on Blackstone Island in Colon.
Forced to move to California in 1949 because of his health, Blackstone, Sr. sold the property shortly after, but always said he would rather live in Colon than anywhere else.
It’s easy to understand why. At the time Blackstone Sr., owned the property, only one other house stood on the island. Deep woods surrounded the house, and orchards grew where cottages crowd the shore of Sturgeon Lake today.
The present owner of the property rented it to Blackstone Jr., for Magic Week.
As he sat on the lawn in a concrete chair, crafted by his father to look surprisingly like wood, Blackstone. Jr. watched two of his four children struggle to launch a rowboat. Other than the girl’s laughter, the only sounds to be heard were those made by an occasional fish jumping in the lake, and the wind blowing through the towering oak trees.
“Isn’t this beautiful” he remarked.
“This was called a summer home,” stated Blackstone, “but this was the only permanent home we had. We were on the road from Labor Day until Memorial Day every year.”
“I was born June 30, 1934, and started touring the very next season. My father kept a scrapbook and by the time I was six years old, he had a picture of me standing on the state capital steps of all 48 states.”
The house and grounds have been changed greatly since Blackstone, Sr., lived here. Although it is still impressive, the house no longer is surrounded by the stately formal gardens which Blackstone loved almost as much as magic.
Blackstone, Jr., walked about the lawn and described how everything used to look. He pointed to trees his father had planted, one of them a willow at least 30 feet high.
He walked towards Sturgeon Lake, at the edge of the property line. “Here on the lake, dad had a botanical garden,” he stated. “He grew dozens of varieties of water lilies in all colors, pink, white, gold. He had cut a path through them to get the canoe out onto the lake.”
A few feet away an ornate gazebo used to stand. “My parents were married in that gazebo,” Blackstone said.
Clearly this place means as much to him as it did to his father.
When his stay in Colon is over, Blackstone will go back on tour. His father’s genius still influences Blackstone, Jr.’s act.
“Probably 30 – 40 percent of my act consists of illusions created and performed by my father,” he stated. “Very few magicians do them, largely out of respect for my father. Sometimes, too, they think that it takes something away from their own performance to admit that they are recreating my father’s illusion.”
“I have the strongest moral and legal right to do his illusions. I always acknowledge they were created by him, or I give something of the history of the illusion.”
Blackstone, Jr., has created startlingly original illusions himself.
“Two weeks before Easter, I open on Broadway. I have a new illusion utilizing a laser beam. In it, I burn a hole through my assistant with the laser. Then I pass a light bulb through her. You can actually see it come out the other side of her. Then the laser shines on me, and comes out the other side as a fabulous light show.”
He isn’t reluctant to change his act whenever it seems necessary. “It isn’t for me to decide what’s good and what isn’t,” he declared. “My purpose is to entertain. If something is entertaining and enjoyable to the audience, it stays in the act. If it ceases to entertain or to be enjoyed, it is dropped.”
On the topic of Colon, Harry Blackstone, Jr., has definite opinions. “Colon is the magic capital of the world. Magic conventions are held all over the world, but the locations and dates are always different. The only place I know of that approaches the intensity of Abbott’s Get-Together is the Magic Castle, a private club in Los Angeles that is devoted to magic performances.”
“There is nothing in the world that compares to Magic Week in Colon. Magicians everywhere know that the second week of August in Colon is the biggest magic event of the year.”