My Friend, Blackstone by Monk Watson

My Friend Blackstone

HODGE PODGE

Joe Ganger

 

From “Tops” Magazine, January 1966; By “Monk” Watson: “The end of an era came with the passing of my good friend, Harry Blackstone. I don’t believe that I’ll live to see the day when the big Magic Shows will tour the country and play the large theatres again. Not because the public would not welcome such shows, but because the demands from the Theatre Unions would be so great that it would made such shows too expensive to operate. Then, too, it takes much more than just a lot of good tricks and illusions and money to put on a big shoe. It takes a man who, when he steps out on the stage he is really a Magician, looking like, acting like and living like a Magician twenty-four hours out of the day. That was the kind of Magician Harry Blackstone was, for as many years as I can remember.

I attended the graveside service yesterday, Nov 20th, at the Lakeside Cemetery. Harry wanted to come back to Colon for his last resting place. The service was done by the Colon Masonic Lodge, which was Harry’s Lodge. If such a service can be called beautiful, this one was.

 

 

 

Monk Watson and Harry Blackstone Sr. at Harry’s home in Colon

Our friendship dated back to Nineteen Hundred and Thirteen when I first met Harry at the YMCA Carnival in Jackson, Michigan. I was playing clarinet in the YMCA band at the time and we played for each attraction on the midway. It was not a regular Carnival, but was set up like one with the acts booked in from some agent. The only part of the Carnival that was a Carnival was the rides. On one stage was a Magician, and I was interested in every move he made. I had been doing a small act in Magic for several years and any time I could watch a real Profession Magician that was my great a thrill. Such a thrill came when the Magician took the small stage and started catching doves out of the thin air, in a net. This fooled me, as well as everyone on the fair grounds. At the finish of his act I put down the clarinet and went back into the tent and watched the inside show. Then I remained after the show and introduced myself to the Magician. He was not Blackstone at that time, that is, in name, and I’m not sure just what name he did go under. He saw how interested I was in Magic so he took me back into his dressing room and visited for hours. The band was doing fine without the clarinet player, so I stayed on and on and on for many shows, in those days he would direct his attention and tricks to the kid in the front row. He told me how the Fire-eater did his act (in the next tent) and I couldn’t wait ‘til I got home to try it out, and darn near killed myself.

Years later, whenever I saw Blackstone, we’d talk about that first meeting. When I returned from France and World War One, we met at the Washington Hotel in Chicago, in the barbershop. I was broke and asked Harry for a job. There was a friend of his in the next chair and Harry introduced me. The man was Ala Axiom, the Crystal Gazer. Harry slipped me a ten spot and said, “Go with this man and you will have a good job.”

We opened in Toledo, and the first week with a salary of Fifty Dollars a week and Ten Cents for each book I sold. I came up with over Two Hundred Dollars. The books sold like crazy that week. I wrote to Harry at the Washington and thanked him for getting me the good start and I returned the Ten Spot. We ran into Harry several times on the tour and each time he and I would visit about my new job. When the Great Crystal Gazer got to believing in himself it was time for me to quit.

The Detroit Free Press was having a Christmas Party and had asked me to MC the show. I was thrilled when I found out the Harry was going to perform. We did several gags together and after the show went out for dinner.

Then it was Colon, where he made his home … the visits were more often and each time the friendship deeper. When his MC was drafted on the USO show, Harry asked me to jump on, from my Air Force duties. I did and it was a ball. Harry was a big-hearted man, and I’m not sure that anyone, down on his luck, who asked Harry for a little help didn’t get it.

This was the Blackstone I knew, the Greatest in my time, in my book.

How thrilled I was when I was the godfather of his son Harry Junior. Last night Harry Junior visited us, after the Service, and if there is a person who could follow the Great Blackstone, it would be Harry Junior. He has the greatness in his voice, his stage presence is as SURE as his father. I hope the day will come when I can see Harry Junior become the Great Blackstone, for the younger generation can watch and get the thrills I have had, remembering Blackstone.”