Memories of Colon!
In an interesting note I found in the Abbott Magic TOPS magazine; Karrell Fox made this comment in August of 1963: “When lunch time came Neil (Foster) and Recil (Bordner) took me to Colon’s newest establishment, the MAGIC CARPET BAR. Visitors to next year’s Get-Together will be happy to learn that this new place is a scant half-mile from Colon and is very nice. It’s large, well-decorated (including a little Hindu boy riding on a magic carpet, which was devised and made by Recil, and the food is excellent. Colon regulars will be happy to hear that the entire magicians picture collection which used to cover the walls of the restaurant in downtown Colon, has been moved to the new Magic Carpet Bar, and will be on display for the ’64 Get-Together.”
The 1964 Abbott’s Get Together
From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, October 1964; by Monk Watson: ”The big show is over, or was it the big shows … really I’m not back to normal yet, but I hope to be before I finish this October Column. Neil Foster has his whip out, even though he is too weak to use it. I’m just a chicken so he says, “Monk, how about the October column?” That’s all it takes to make me give up golf and fishing and stuff like that and get busy. Here goes!
During the Get-Together so many came up to me and said, “What is this guy, ‘The Senator,’ trying to do to you Monk?” I just laughed, really not knowing too many Senators, until I gave it another thought and came up with the idea that they must be talking about a real nice guy, whom I used to know pretty well, by the name of Clarke, or was it Crandall, or perhaps Clarke Crandall. Then it dawned on me that in the past I had read some column, “It’s a Mystery to Me,” and in this column he had mentioned my name a couple of hundred times. Now I do recall some of his writings. I also picked up the September TOPS and there it was again … “OBESITY” .. (see previous reference to Watson, Monk), I can recall where in the dear dead past I referred to my former friend as, “Fat something”. He never forgets.
For the other side of this great guy, one would be so very happily surprised to learn that he is without a doubt one of the cleverest writers and speakers in the field of Magic or most any other subject you can think of. My good friend (of the Elsie Janis days) was pretty upset too, thinking how deeply I had been hurt by this brute of a Senator. I let Dorny continue to think so even during the shows (where Dorny had both hands full of hard work putting up with some of the greater STARS of the show business). I didn’t tell him that I had spent most of the day with Crandall, Bob Lewis, Mark Leddy and Milky, having more laughs than most men can handle. I’ve not had so many laughs in many, many years. Krandall, or is it Crandall, was in fine form during the whole four days and nights. He was “ON” all of the time while others were sleeping, fishing, buying tricks, or just visiting; this man was in a very easy chair having fun. As I said before, and I mean it, here is a real great guy with more talent (wish he had it) than any five men I know. One of these days he’ll bring out a Children’s Book and it will sell like hot cakes, or maybe like books. Some of the lines will have to be changed a bit, but I want the first one.
Back to the shows and some of the people I saw and visited with. First of all Russ Walsh and I closed the meeting, as we have for many years, on Sunday morning. After everyone has left we get together and talk about the other days and other conventions across the country, and when we finally finish we figure that the Get-together in Colon is the BEST of all Magical Conventions. The acts were all so good that one would use up a lot of time trying to review them, and I know that it will be covered in other columns, so all I want to say is, “This was a dilly of a convention, get-together, meeting, or just shows …” I’ve been to all of them across the country and with no meetings to attend it was a great success. Over 680 registered, another thousand found seats in the gym at the school, so what could be better.
The Night Before part that used to be just for the visiting Magicians, turned out to be a real Magic Show, with everyone on their toes outdoing themselves to please a packed house. Duke Stern was not too busy to help me along with Karrell Fox to bring back an act I did in the After Piece in Vaudeville with Bert Wheeler … (not the Bert Wheeler of Magic). The blow off of the act was that it had gone off well. Strange as it may seem the very acts that some of the Magicians thought a bit too long were the acts that the laymen are still talking about. We all know the answers to most of the tricks, but when you figure that you have another thousand people who are still fooled, one has to stop and think about his own act and the tricks that perhaps bore him … they’re new to your audience, so pull them out of the bag and do them over and over again.
The Tadlocks were here again, coming in on the same plane with Mark Leddy (who books most of the acts for the Ed Sullivan Shows). I had called them the night before they took the plane and told them that Mark would be on the same flight and for them to talk to him. They landed in Battle Creek and by that time they were good friends. Milky and I had just done a television show and with my Mary we picked up the trio. The trip to Colon was interesting, because I had arranged a room for Mark Leddy in a home on the Palmer Lake in Colon. Mark is a lover of nature and proved it by walking around in the yard of this home after the shows were over. He got a big kick out of the shows, and I believe he’ll come back again next year.
One didn’t have to go to the shows to see real Magic. There was more Magic to be seen at the Abbott showroom than a person could dream about. With Foster and several others showing the newest in Magic, one could spend hours just watching. Foster did the Zombie every hour, and each time it was the great masterpiece in his hands. Doves could have been on every show, because they’ll talk about them as long as Magic is shown. Sherm put a girl into a cabinet and that alone was a bit of magic. He put girl filled every inch and yet he put more swords and knives through that darn cabinet than I could count. A Six Footer cut into sixths was simply out of this world. The girl at the Hammond, Wilma Rench, never missed a cue and believe me that is Magic in itself.
I’ve gotta say a few kind words about my godson, Harry Blackstone Jr. He is a tall, fine looking man of thirty with every move of a seasoned actor. Hi voice (he can throw away Magic) was fine, and he could very nicely take over a lead in a Broadway show. However, I’m sure he’ll never throw away the thing he loves; Magic. One could close his eyes and see and hear his great father in every move. The cage at the tips of his fingers, the dancing handkerchief, the floating light bulb, were done with the same Professional Touch as his father had used for so many years. I’m mighty proud of the boy.
So Neil, here it is, and I hope you’ll forgive me if I’ve talked too much. I wanted to say more about my run with Bob Lewis and the midnight gang, but they know how much I enjoyed them. Mark, I’ll be calling when I get to New York, and we’ll hash over the ACTS again. I wish more of the boys from New York could have been here. Felix Greenfield was here and was thrilled over our shows, I’m sure. Now I’m going fishing, and I wish you all could come along.”
Jack Gwynne’s Magic Carpet!
From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, October 1963: (Editor’s note: This story took place in Calcutta, India during World War II. Jack Gwynne, a prominent member of the U.S.O., was flying around the world on his “Magic Carpet”. Jack and Eddie Joseph had been friends for over twenty years but had never met; it took a war to bring them together. Eddie Joseph who was then living in Calcutta wrote this story at that time.)
* * *
“On a Saturday afternoon while I was admiring a picture of Jack, Ann and Bud Gwynne in a magic magazine, a mysterious American suddenly appeared on my threshold … how could he appear … to use a conjuring term … at the “psychological moment”? It seemed as if he had stepped right out of the magazine. This, indeed, was magic of the highest caliber. Jack Gwinne was at my threshold. Everything comes to him who waits. To me the waiting brought its reward. While the two of us were engaged in giving vent to our long nourished desires, minutes fleeted like seconds and hours like minutes.
It soon got time for Jack’s first performance in Calcutta. As his special guest I enjoyed every second of this 90-minute fast-moving show. Jack proved that a magician doesn’t have to carry a wagonload of stuff to create a furor. He not only lived up to his status of a front-line performer but dominated the entire production besides.
His captivating smile, his elegant stage debonairness and his graceful manipulative abilities stamped each of his offering with a 24-caret Jack Gwynne “Hall-mark”.
But … Jack landed his “Magic Carpet” on Indian soil not only to bring enjoyment to audiences. He had another important mission to fulfill. He came her to investigate the mysticism of this wonderland.
Before bringing his “Magic Carpet” to rest in this large city, Jack visited many remote points in the country to contact Specialists. At Allahabad, for instance, he encountered an aged “Jadoowala” and the last keeper of the genuine Indian Levitation secret. Jack is a far-sighted performer. He bought the secret outright. I was given privilege of witnessing it in partial operation. Jack is taking it to the States and when he chooses to put it on there, you … too … will agree you have not witnessed its parallel.
Then … from Benares, the holy city of India, Jack acquired the only true secret of the famous Hindu Rice Bowl suspension. So confident Jack is of this late acquirement, that he offers an unconditional reward of 1,000 dollars to any person who could prove that he has recourse to any hidden connection, mechanical or otherwise. He works it right under one’s nose.
JACK ORGANIZES INDIAN MAGIC CONVENTION
During his stay in India, Jack broke magical traditions. He actually organized a “Jadoowala” convention for the first time in Indian Magical History. In accomplishing this, he had done what no other visiting magician had attempted. The rounding up of over a hundred “Jadoowalas” (magicians) was unheard of. When it was suggested to me, I ridiculed the idea. Jack wanted a real Indian Magic Convention … and like all Americans he wanted it “Juldi” (quick). Engaging messengers and drumbeaters, he sent them in different directions. On the fourth day, at the quite village some miles outside the city, what appeared at first a preposterous undertaking, took its shape.
Before the convention opened, Jack said through interpreters how glad he was to be with them. For years, he continued, he had been reading and hearing of them and always nurtured the burning desire to meet them. He then explained, he was introducing an American Magic custom into India. He said for the first time he was bringing to the East the custom of the West. At a given signal from Jack the trumpeter blew his horn. The convention was under way.
The Magicians and Snake Charmers assembled on the ground in different groups, each with his bag of tricks laid out in front of him. It was a sight worth seeing and something not easily dismissed from the mind. Over a hundred “Jadoowalas” entertaining each other.
Jack visited each group in turn. Squatting on the ground in real Indian fashion he sprung a surprise for each group. The first group he approached was busy looking at Karim Bux, a 70-year-old performer of repute, doing the famous Indian Rupee trick. Specks of dust were being gathered from the ground and converted into real hard rupees. Jack borrowed some of the dust and rubbed it between his hands. When he opened his digits slowly, instead of the expected rupee, all were surprised to see a glittering “Gold-Mohur”. “That’s for you.” Said Jack, tossing out the precious yellow metal.
When Jack approached another group the celebrated Indian dove basket trick was in progress. After it was concluded Jack remarked “This must be a wonderful basket.” Repeating the exact moves of the “Jadoowala” Jack later lifted the cover and who should pop out but Elmer … his pet Rooster. Jack brought Elmer all the way from the States. A real Cosmopolitan blend. An American Rooster from an Indian Basket. “Where did you hide that Rooster?” one of the Jadoowala enquired, and Jack retorted, “In my match pocket.”
Thus Jack resumed his round from group to group. In each group he did something not only to the astonishment of those watching but to the delight of all present. It was a rare sight indeed to watch this stalwart figure doing the familiar tricks in an unfamiliar manner.
At another group the magicians drooped a number of rupees inside a bamboo container and asked Jack to uncover it. All expected to see the usual live reptile shoot out of it. Instead … a harmless little bird came chirping out.
After completing his round Jack took his position right in the center of the field and asked for some rice and a Lota. These were easily procured and Jack proceeded to suspend that Lota of rice and walked with it right in front of him around the field. It was then announced that anyone was at liberty to grab that Lota at any stage in the demonstration and should anyone discover any hidden connection, Jack was willing to forfeit 1,000 dollars.
Borrowing a “pugree” (turban) from the oldest Jadoowala, from behind it, Jack produced a real live chicken. That … Jack added with a smile … is “Elmer, the Great.”
GWYNNE OFFERS 15.000 RUPEES
Before the convention finally closed, Jack repeated in person his press offer of Rs. 15,000 to anyone who could perform the Indian Rope trick. This was the first occasion anyone made the offer in the presence of over a hundred Jadoowalas. Those who wished to accept the challenge were asked to record their names. The time limit fixed by Jack is limitless and who knows, we may yet see the Indian Rope Trick in the near future. A few told Jack that this trick was definitely performed and many came forward to testify this statement. Jack persisted in his offer. He said, “If I’m going to lose this money it’s worth it. I will gladly pay 25,000 rupees to see the Indian Rope Trick.”
THE WHITE SNAKE CHARMER HOLDS UP TRAFFIC
During Jack’s stay in this city of Palaces, he stirred a great deal of curiosity. It was not an unfamiliar sight to see him in crowded places with a deadly looking cobra entwined around him. On one occasion at a busy crossing he encountered half a dozen snake charmers. Getting them to stop, Jack called for the largest Cobra. Holding the reptile container in his left hand he aroused it from slumber. The cobra did not take long to shoot straight on to Jack’s shoulder. The owner of the reptile stood aghast. He knew that he was the only one to exercise any power over it. He contemplated certain disaster. Slowly but surely the cobra started to wind itself around Jack’s torso … With this formidable dressing he paraded the busy thoroughfare with hundreds following him. Hundreds from housetops were gazing on this unusual spectacle. A White Snake Charmer leading a procession.
JACK GWYNNE TURNS DOWN RECORD OFFER
It is needless to mention that the outcome of Jacks multifarious activities resulted in several offers of engagement. One of these surpassed anything yet paid to any visiting magician. Jack turned them all down. He said, “I am here to entertain the boys, and when I am not entertaining I am busy investigating the mysticism of this wonderland.”
Jack promised to return, when this conflict is over, with a bigger and greater magic show.
And when that happens … at least Jack and Ann can be sure of one thing … a rousing welcome.”
Jack Gwynne (1895–1969) appeared at Abbott’s Get Together in 1961, 1962, 1965, and 1969.
Cover Portrait Of Jack Gwynne
From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, August 1961; by Robert Parrish:
”The best general magic act in the last decades of American vaudeville was that of Jack Gwynne and Company. Other top magic acts of the period who consistently played the big theatres were primarily manipulation artists who or built their acts around a particular theme. Gwynne served up livestock, fish bowls, and illusions in a rapid style that was uniquely his own.
Technically, one of the outstanding characteristics of Gwynne’s act was the perfect coordination between the performer and his assistants. This was what made the rabbit box, the rooster vanish, and the stack of bowls production such masterpieces of deception. This is also one of the things that imitators of the act couldn’t reproduce – and Gwynne has probably had more imitators than Cardini. The misdirection on the stack of bowls was so perfect that the observer had no idea of where the load could even have come from, to say nothing of when the steal was made. I have had laymen tell me that the materialization of these bowls of water in the middle of a night club floor was the most impossible feat of magic he had ever witnessed or expected to.
The transition of the Gwynne act of “big magic” to nightclub conditions was historical. Until the recent advent of Richiardi, no one else has been able to achieve much of a commercial success in this country with a large-scale magic show in the confines of a nightclub floor.
Gwynne played virtually around the world on U.S.O. in World War II, and thereafter set out with his own full-evening show. One day the Gwynne troupe pulled into a south-western suburb of Chicago, saw a house they liked, bought it, ran their truck up behind the nearest Sears store, loaded it with furniture, and that night, for the first time since the middle 20’s (when Jack had decided to leave Pittsburgh and take a chance on vaudeville), the Gwynne family slept in their own home.
Much of Gwynne’s success, of course, has been due to his Royal Family of Magic; Anne and the Gwynne children, Buddy and Peggy, along with the latters’ spouses, Helen Gwynne and Frank Cole, and flocks of grandchildren. Peggy has commented that as soon as a Gwynne child was able to walk, he or she went into the act. You quickly learned that if you failed in your responsibility, father was going to be standing there in a fix in front of perhaps thousands of people, and you didn’t make that mistake again.
This brief sketch on Gwynne and Company has been written in the past tense, but of course there is nothing past about their activities or accomplishments. No sooner had the Royal Family “settled down” than the development of commercial TV presented a new challenge to magical showmanship. Gwynne pioneered in presenting illusions week after week on the long-run SuperCircus show. Jack also became virtually the trademark for Zenith Radio and a frequent performer in TV commercials.
It remained until last year, however, for him to realize the ultimate dream for very magician or aspiring magician. As a feature attraction of one of the big Shrine circus shows, he was presented as a magician really should be, entering astride an elephant and being received on a red carpet by a harem of dancing girls, one of whom he thereupon caused to vanish from the top of the arena.
Jack Gwynne is not only a successful magician, but also a kind and generous man. I learned this when I first met him, over 25 years ago, as a lad in high school, visiting in Detroit, where Gwynne and Co. were playing at a top night spot. When the maitre de barred my entrance to the establishment, I asked for Mr. Gwynne, who promptly appeared. He took me down into the basement amid the mysterious array of illusion boxes and sat me down. I told him about myself and he said, “I’m sorry you are leaving tomorrow. I like to talk magic and I’d like you to meet my son, Buddy. If this weren’t Saturday night, I could find a place for you where you could see the show. However, it happens that I am playing a midnight benefit at the Fox Theatre, and I shall call them up and see if we can get a ticket for you. Just go over and ask at the box office.” I did, and the ticket was there.”
Jack Gwynne (1895-1969) was one of the superstars of American magic, Jack (born Joseph McCloud Gwynne*) was the illusionist who created the Temple of Benares illusion as a variation of Culpitt‘s Doll House illusion. Jack often had to make his own props because the nearest magic dealer was 300 miles from where he lived. He also made props for other magicians, including Houdini and Thurston. He also invented the Flipover Box, Atomic Dove Vanish, Box-Tray and Screen. He appeared at Abbott’s Get Together in 1961, 1962, 1965, and 1969. He is buried at Colon’s Lakeside Cemetery.
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.
From TOPS Magazine, January 1961, by Recil Bordner: “I am assuming that everyone knows how Lester Lake came to give Colon the title of THE MAGIC CAPITOL OF THE WORLD, and how I came to buy half interest in this business from Percy Abbott back in 1934.
What has not been told about this Magic Co. is the identity and story of the many people who have and still work here.
Among those who have worked for us were: Jesse Thornton, who was in vaudeville and built magical apparatus in Chicago. “Bill” Brema from Philadelphia – the master machinist – with all the Precision Brass Tricks of the old Brema Line; Lyman Hug who had been on the Harry Thurston Show with Percy as electrician and technician. Also Ted Banks, Frank Luckner and Neil Sweet were from the Blackstone Show. Gen. Grant, Winston Freer and Nardini of “Nardini and Nadine” each spent a couple of years with us. And Eddie Joseph, who came over from India to perform at one of our Get Togethers, stayed several months, writing and developing tricks before going on to London. All the above and many more helped us here, right down to the latest celebrities, Neal and Jeanne Foster, who are now members of the ‘Magic Family’ here in Colon.
The first day I come to Colon to stay, Percy introduced me to all the places in town where he had been doing any business: The first place he took me was to the home of Charles Elliot a man interested in magic in an amateur way. “Chuck” always produced all the minstrel shows and any other dramatic productions that were attempted locally. So it was only natural that he was the “contact” man with the local people on all our magical Get Togethers until his death in 1942. Chuck’s wife Irene was doing some sewing for the Magic Co; Spring Sausages, Carrots etc. She is the same lady who is working today in our sewing department making the same things plus, of course, many more products. She continued to do the sewing in her home until her three children were grown before she came to the shop to work.
During that first year after we had moved into our own building, another man came to see us from the Blackstone Show. This time it was from the advance personnel in the person of a juggler named Fred Merrill or just “Freddie” as everyone called him. He came to help in our paint department, and started on what was to be a part time basis, but today he is still our painter and has finished and painted, I would say, more Magical Apparatus than any other man in the world today.
Before the First World War, Fred was with the Merrill Brothers, a juggling team, and “Morris Cronnin and his Merry Men”, a comedy European Juggler Act. He is the immediate Past President of the International Jugglers Association and those of you who read the OLD TOPS, will remember that he had a series of articles, on the art of juggling, published several years ago. He has promised to write some articles for the NEW TOPS as the months roll along, so if any of you juggling fans have any news, questions or suggestions that you would like to see in print, send them along to Fred Merrill, Colon, Michigan.
In August 1943 Fred’s wife, Caroline, came to help us in the sewing department for a few hours each day. It was not long before she was working full time. When we took over the feather flower making from the DeWitt sisters, she mastered the art of converting the grimy white imported swan and goose feathers to the soft brilliant petals seen on the finished white flowers. Later she become skillful at dyeing them to the bright, even iridescent colors that makes our feather flowers so outstanding. She is especially proud of her fresh carnations, and rightfully so for they are the most realistic in appearance.
If I wrote about all the things concerning all the people who have worked here, this column would be as long as a novel, so I will have to continue it in another issue.”
Abbott’s Magic in 1936
From The “TOPS” Magazine, December 1936, by Sid Lorraine: “ The first thing I must rave about, this month, is the Abbott Canadian Branch. This is the first time in many, many years the Canadian magicians have been given a break. To the many who have written asking for information about Percy’s Branch store, here’s the dope: Yes, you can order anything advertised by the Abbot Magic Novelty Company and will receive it without any Customs trouble. Thanks to this enterprising Abbott fellow, Canadians can now buy the most up-to-date, finest quality magic in the world and the Abbott Branch will take care of Customs clearance. Send your orders to the head office in Colon, Michigan, or to Mr. Stewart James, the Abbott Magic Novelty Company, Courtright, Ontario, Canada. Establishing a branch of this nature requires a lot of extra work on the part of the head office and the Canadian manager so it is up to all Canadian magicians to show Percy that you are behind him 100% by sending him your orders.”
From a 1976 thesis by Patrick West: “The 1936 Get-Together was held Sept. 12th at the Abbott factory and was referred to as the Third Annual Get-together. The partners counted the open house of 1934 as having been the first. The Saturday night show had been increased to 14 acts and the theater was enlarged. Some of the more famous magicians of the day were present in 1936, including the “Great Nichola Marvelo”, Lester Lake, who had the “biggest show in America” that year. Lake, a good friend of Abbott, directed an impromptu performance outside the magic shop on Saturday afternoon, which the public was allowed to view. The following acts appeared: Geo. Paxton, Ed Little, Bob Gysel, Al Saal, John Skinta, Percy Abbott, F. W., Thomas, Dr. Zola, Jimmy Trimble, L. L. Ireland, Joe Bert, C. L. Breindenstien, Mahendra, and Dave Coleman. In that year another aspect of the Get-Together developed when there was an extemporaneous performance for early arrivals on Friday evening. This became a standard feature of the Get-Together and is now called the Night Before Party. Two hundred and fifty magicians registered for the 1936 convention. The Saturday night show, the largest yet, included the following acts: Sid Loraine, emcee; Bob Wedertz, Recil Bordner and Percy Abbott, creations; Harry Cecil, George Paxton, illusions: Ralph W. Hull, cards; Lyman, originalities; Kathryn Elliott and Marvelo of “Burned Alive” fame; Doc Coleman in Hokum; Jimmy Trumble, artist magician; The Great Nicola.”
Historical Society Notes on 1932
Among the contents of the Colon Express building was a list of businesses in 1932. Determining the locations has not been so easy. “Ethan J. Adams, Lakeview Creamery, Phone 212 (located at the corner of Swan and Canal Sts). Adams Brothers, I. G. A. Grocery, Phone 127 (between Post Office and Trayling’s Ins.). A & P Store, Roy B., Bell, Mgr. (SE corner of East State and Swan Sts). Roy J.Bartholomew, clothier (now Dawn & Phil’s Restaurant). Brown’s Dry Goods Store, Mrs. Gertie Brown, Phone 115 (located above the east half of Five Star Pizza). J. Orla Burke, Live Stock, Phone 165 (north end of Swan St.). John Brast, Variety Store (now part of Magic City Hardware bldg.). Colon Elevator, J. E. Olney, Phone 211 (exact location unknown). Colon Service Garage, Ralph R. Roderick, Phone 220 (now Fisher’s Automotive). Colon Flour Mills, Joe Stull, Phone 52 (now east end of old Hemel Chevrolet building). DeBack, James, Grocery, Phone 229 (exact location unknown but on north side of State St. downtown). DeVault, Earl, Plumber, (located behind Dawn & Phil’s). East Side Garage, Ray Vreeland, Prop. (unknown). Frisbie Repair Shop and Blacksmith, Floyd J. Frisbie (located on north side of South St., just west of St Joseph St.). Farrand, Virgil C., Hardware, Phone 23 (unknown). Godfrey, Dr. E. L. M. D., Phone 7 (now Schipper Funeral Home). Godfrey, Dr. Glen E., Dentist, Phone 80 (office was above Citizens Bank in old Opera House building). Goodell & King, Barber Shop (South side of State St., near the hardware). This barber shop was later moved to Barry St., now Steve Tomlinson’s home. Goodell, A. C. Coal, Implements and Seeds, Phone 120 (Now community park on West Colon Rd.). Gorton, Jay, Barber Shop (located just north of Trayling Insurance). Hartman, Dr. P. L. Veterinary, Phone 14 (some disagreement as to whether he was a veterinary. Location unknown. Guess I could just call him on the phone). Hartman, Oscar, Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor, Phone 16 (just east of Barber shop). Hill, Stuart G., Hardware, Phone 72 (now Real Estate Office). When Stuart died (at the hardware), his wife Eva hired John Perry. Upon her death, her son, Deo Leland Stuart sold the hardware to John Perry for $8,000. Hobday, Howard, Garage, Auto Sales and Repairing, Phone 72 (located east of current Hemel Chevrolet). Jailer’s Garage (John), Chevrolet and Buick, Phone 230 (located on east side of South Swan St. just behind empty store on the corner of Swan and State St.).” “Ken’s Café (Ken Miller), Phone 60 (second store east of SE corner of State and Swan St. Lloyds Bakery, Lloyd J. Burkholder, Phone 44, (location unknown). Lamb Knit Goods Co. Mfgrs., Charles G. Correll, Mgr. Phone 42J (now Woodcrafters building). George S. Mitchell, Jeweler. (located in the area of the current police station). Marilyn Farrell remembers that her father bought her mother’s silverware there. John Perry (Marilyn’s father) recalls that Mr. Mitchell drove his car all over town in low gear in order to chcarge the battery! Charles Maurer, Dry Goods, Phone 49 (located west side of current Citizen’s Bank). Mid Lakes Cafe, Dine and Dance Casino, Mannie Emmands Sulton, Phone 40 (located in the parking lot next to the police station). There was apparently some conflict over the use of the restaurant name. Modern Shop, Harness and Shoes Rebuilt, Leo Thrams, (south side of East State Street, exact location unknown). J. Elliot Mosher, General Store, Phone 5 (one side of Five Star Pizza). R. R. Munday Cleaners (location unknown). Wallace F. Markham, Funeral Director, Phone 104-J (now Davis & Davis). Charles Niendorf, Drug Store, Phone 28-1, now Magic City Hardware. Later sold to Bob Gamble (became Gamble’s Drug Store with Ellis Lake as druggist). Later sold to Duane Latham (Latham’s Drugs) and then to Al King who built the new building. Became King Pharmacy until bought out by Village Market. Oliver Osborn, Barber Shop (location unknown). Palmer Hotel, Olive Hall, Proprietor (hotel located at what is now Hemel Chevrolet). J. G. Ryan, Cigar Store (now Curley’s). Donavan Royer, Funeral Director, Phone 29 (location unknown). E. Hill an Sons State Bank, Phone 66 (now Citizen’s Bank). J. C. Cossairt, Shady Nook Hatchery (location unknown). Paul Stewart, blacksmith, East of bridge on State St. (I am told he made a wonderful spear! I was told that the property was sold to Paul Lampe in 1945). The Modern Shop, Leo Thrams, Prop., Harness and Shoes (under what is now Dawn & Phil’s). W. B. Tomlinson & Son, Lumber, Phone 67. Al Ward’s Garage, Phone 176 (located on the alley on Canal Street, across from library). Sol B. Wiles, Furniture Store (it was directly across Blackstone from Trayling’s Insurance).” We solicit your help in identifying locations!
Inez Blackstone Will Pilot Marquis Troupe
From The Colon Express Newspaper, September 11, 1930, courtesy of the Colon Community Historical Society:
“Marquis, the Magician, will commence his new season the second week in September, with the opening spot not yet selected. He is at present busy framing a new line of illusions and magical novelties.
Inez Blackstone will have full charge of the advance department this year, and Samuel Goldman will handle the publicity and exploitation 10 days of the show. Paul Irving Masters will be company manager, and Fye Fayre will be principal illusion assistant. Featured among Marquis’ illusions this year will be “The Phantom Mermaid.” Other illusions include “Funny Paper Fantasy,” “The Enchanted Bathhouse,” “The Morocco,” “Flight of the Ghosts” and 20 other illusions programmed on the two-hour program.
After closing his road show season last May, Marquis spent nine weeks with Rajah Raboid, presenting in conjunction with the well-known mentalist a “ghost show” in RKO houses through the east.” Marquis, the Magician was George Marquis. Touted at one time as the handpicked successor to the famous Harry Blackstone, Marquis toured actively with his magic act from the 1920s through the 1970s.
In 1974, RING 81, Sarasota, Florida, honored Inez Blackstone Kitchen in recognition of her service as Ring President for 25 years.
It all began in the Fall of 1916 when Inez Nourse joined the Harry Blackstone Show to play the banjo. It ended in 1930, 11 years after they had married and 14 years after they had first met. A few years later she married Robert Kitchen, the brother of Maurice Kitchen. Maurice Kitchen trouped under the name of Rajah Raboid. Embracing the crystal gazer’s stance on stage and off, “Raboid” was famous for his mentalism, fortune-telling and second sight successes. Inez never forgot Blackstone or magic and she often said the worst thing she did was divorce Harry and leave the show. She remained close to the people she met in Show Business and in 1949, living in Sarasota, Florida she was the force behind the founding of Ring 81.
At the February meeting, in 1974 with 29 members present, William Preston, I.B.M.’s Ring Coordinator presented Inez a beautiful plaque, engraved as follows:
“This plaque is presented to our own Inez Blackstone Kitchen in appreciation of her services as president for a quarter of a century. Her dedication and devotion has been greatly responsible for the success and growth we have achieved. With this presentation, we are pleased to approve her as president Emeritus of Ring No. 81 as a token of our high esteem for her.” “We hereby declare that henceforth this organization shall be known as “The Inez Black stone Kitchen Ring No. 81″ International Brotherhood of Magicians”.
Inez Blackstone Kitchen died at the age of 94 in 1983. She is interred at Manasota Cemetery, near Sarasota. The tombstone at Lakeside Cemetery, here in Colon, is a memorial stone. Her husband Bob Kitchen, passed away in the 1960’s and for years afterward she lived in a mobile home park in Sarasota and went north during the hot summers to visit with magic friends and to attend the Abbott’s Magic Get-Together in Colon, Michigan.