Abbotts 17th Get Together 1952
by The Colon Express
Magic week in Colon came to an end in the wee sma' hours of last Sunday morning. From every quarter it was deemed the best and most successful of all the Magic Get-Togethers Percy Abbott has staged here.
Such distinguished visitors as Edgar Bergen, famed ventriloquist of radio and the screen; Eddie Joseph and his family from India; five magical entertainers headed by Goodliffe from England; Senor Maldo from Mexico; to say nothing of notable magical personages from the United States and Canada, tended to give the festivities an international flavor.
More than 604 magicians - that is the official registration figure - enjoyed the activities of the week, and all went home hoping that there might be still another.
For the general public as well as the visiting magicians, the shows in the big tent theatre in Railroad Park provided the best in magical entertainment that has ever been seen here. These shows included the "Night before party" on Wednesday night, the evening shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then the midnight show Saturday night.
By Sunday afternoon all of the visitors except Bergen, Joseph, and the Englishmen, had departed for their various homes.
Among the attendants at this year's affair were many prominent in the field of magic, among them Adrian Smith, Russ Walsh, John Braun, Gene Bernstein, and Dick DuBois, all past presidents of national magical societies; Howard and Teddy Strickler, Carl Jones, publisher of magical books; Dr. Harlan Tarbell, Sid Lorraine, Gerrie Larson, editor of Genii; John Mulholland, editor of The Sphinx; Leslie Guest, president of the Society of American Magicians; Marian Nicola, Dr. Zine Bennett, Al Saal, Harry Cecil, Arthur and Helene Buckley, John Brown Cook, George Ludington, Stan Noxon, Tommy and Jeanne Windsor, Bill Pitts, Gene Gordon, Carlo, Harry Louine, "King of Koins", and many others.
All were enthusiastic over all the events of the program which included not only the shows, lectures by Eddie Joseph and Augustus Rapp, octogenarian magician, now with Abbott's, who spent 50 years of his life as a professional magician; session of close-up effects by Joseph, and the demonstrations in the showrooms afternoons and after every night show, including the one at midnight Saturday night.
As early as Sunday morning, the visiting magicians began arriving and from that time on they streamed in almost hourly. Indeed the crowd had swelled to fill a large part of the Abbott showroom by Monday evening, so a trick session was arranged in connection with the first demonstration of late Abbott effects, in the hands of Percy Abbott, and three of the managers of the Abbott branch stores- Ken Allen (New York), Cedric of London (Detroit), and George Coon (Chicago). These demonstrations continued throughout Tuesday until close to midnight.
By Wednesday, there were several hundred magicians on hand to take part in the opening event on the scheduled program-the night before party and this was a real night of magic and fun. Percy appeared as master of ceremonies and brought on Jim Reneaux of Jackson who performed with silks; Weeton of Canada with cards; and Dickie Dean and Marjorie, Canada's youngest magicians, silk productions and a rabbit vanish. Karrell Fox, former manager of the Abbott Detroit store, who has provided plenty of fun for those who attended Get-Together shows of other years, and who had arrived from Fort Leonard Wood as the show was starting, was then introduced. Percy asked him to do a trick but he didn't even have a deck of cards in his uniform pocket. Percy supplied that, however, and started the trick, a matter of passing three cards to Karrell's pocket, but it seems the trick was not ended there for Karrell kept producing cards from his pocket at intervals throughout the show. Cedric of London was then brought on and started his act, but just at that moment Percy decided to sell candy and there was a mad scramble for the prize packages. A few minutes later, Cedric appeared again and went through his act which was featured by his razor blade trick.
Then for his first appearance before an American audience came Eddie Joseph of Bombay, India, and he proceeded to give an exhibition of billiard ball manipulation and some startling effects while his wrists were tied. It was just a sample of what was to follow on succeeding nights, however, as this was an impromptu showing for the assembled visitors, and all gave him enthusiastic applause.
The show broke into motion pictures at this point and movies of native magicians in India working their effects were shown, followed by several movies in color of Percy Abbott presenting several of his illusions and effects.
Two of the English magicians then came on for a trick each, Graham Adams with the ring on a stick, and Tom Harris, a very funny comedy magician, mystifying two young boys, to say nothing of the audience at large, by removing a block through a stick by which is was held in a small cabinet.
Jack Rench and his mystery maids followed with a variety of magic and illusions, featuring the Arabian Tent from which one of the girls was vanished only to appear later running down the aisle to the stage.
Then came some juggling in the able hands of Earl Davis of Elkhart, who did some weird things with his juggling skill all the while chattering in an amusing fashion a la Herb Shriner, and Johnny Piatt who performed the famous cups and balls trick and then went into a bottle trick in which he produced bottle alter bottle in what appeared to be a futile search for an elusive glass.
The first part of the first big public show was given over to Ormond McGill and Company who broke into a tour of Canada to be here.
Percy Abbott was again the master of ceremonies and conducted the candy sale and then chatted with the audience until a lighting disturbance could be righted and allow the show to go on.
McGill opened by bringing on Shalimar, the girl who for the previous hour or so had been lying hypnotized on a bed of nails in front of the theatre, and waking her in front of the audience. He then went into a fast series of effects, a baffling rope trick, rising cards, a cremation trick, a floating ball illusion, a manipulative bit with lighted candles, then a blindfold act in which he demonstrated what he calls his X-Ray eyes. A card trick followed and then he presented the Phantasy of Bubbles, a beautiful act with bubbles and silks, closing by transforming large white plumes into colored ones and vice versa.
After the intermission, the Roydens of South Bend came on with their vanishing television set and this made everyone's eyes "bug out", for Roydon tore up the cardboard container which only a moment before had contained the television cabinet showing a tuneful and moving scene.
John Piatt in Egyptian robes appeared with his fine act with silks, and closed with, a sensational vanish of a dove. This was a beautiful act and led up to the second appearance of Eddie Joseph.
Joseph opened with a silk production. He then caused a rabbit to disappear, removed lighted bulbs from a standard, placed them in his mouth with a bit of wire and then brought them out of his mouth strung on the wire and still lighted. He closed by bringing several men on stage to manacle his hands with an Indian style handcuff and did some amazing stunts with his wrists so bound.
Russell Brown of Vassar, Mich., and three assistants closed the show with an act that was a laugh throughout even through one or two illusions, both of a serious nature. He did various bits of magic, then proceeded to saw a woman in two, to the accomplishment of laughs, but his last illusion, a levitation, brought forth genuine and solid applause from the audience, particularly from the magicians, for they realized that here was a young lad of possibilities.
In the midst of the demonstration at the plant that night, Bergen, accompanied by Jim Sherman, former Chicago magic dealer, and Scotty and Bert, two camera men, were brought into the showroom and Bergen greeted the gang and introduced his companions. He explained that he was to make a series of "hobby" pictures for his television show and decided Colon was the place to shoot the scenes for the one on magic. He invited the crowd to join in the pictures and the next day and part of Saturday were spent in taking scenes in front of the Abbott plant, in the showroom and in and out of the tent, with Charlie McCarthy very much in evidence at all times.
Friday afternoon, Eddie Joseph presented his lecture in which he stressed the importance of concealing the methods of trickery in presenting magical effects and then illustrated his points by actual demonstration. Also on the lecture program was Augustus Rapp, who told of some of the worst features and disappointments of his 50-year career in professional magic, and Francis Haxton of England on card technique.
Friday night was British night in the big tent, and after the candy sale, Percy introduced Goodliffe of Birmingham, England, editor of the magic weekly, "Abracadabra", as the master of ceremonies. In a suave manner, Goodliffe acknowledged the introduction and made a short but witty opening speech, then opened the show with Tom Harris, seen first on the Wednesday night show, who with the assistance of two young lads, proceeded to convulse the audience with his antics and his talk, particularly his talk, which was intelligible only part of the time, but hilarious all the time.
Before the next act could be introduced, Percy interrupted and brought on Edgar Bergen who greeted the crowd and promised to come back again the next night with his pals.
Goodliffe then introduced the second act, Francis Haxton, who demonstrated his skill with cards, producing a multitude of the pasteboards, one by one. He was followed by Sid Lorraine of Toronto, no stranger to Colon audiences, and he entertained with his humorous chatter all the while performing his effects, the rising cards, a bill that disappeared in a flash and a vanishing silk.
Eddie Joseph closed the first half with a startling production of two long silk streamers on ftagstaffs and did various effects with drinks, flowers and bills.
Opening the second half, Karr Dello had some fun with a committee, shocking them with a hand clasp or otherwise and then went into a continuous card production. Donald Crombie followed with diminishing cards, a slate trick, silks on tape, all done with a bright line of patter which brought him applause.
Next was the sensational act of Neil Foster, a young man who performed one of the prettiest manipulative acts seen here, and then the closing act, that of Graham Adams, with a series of card effects.
On Saturday night, Jim Sherman was master of ceremonies and with a brief introduction brought on the opening act, Resor, who effected a release after being bound to a board with chains. Clyde Cairy followed with a few effective card tricks, then Cedric of London came on with his olub act, in which his toppers were finding a previously vanished dollar bill in a tea bag and an amusing difficulty with two mutilated handkerchieves. Jim Re-neaux again worked with silks presenting many colorful effects.
Edgar Bergen was then introduced and after greeting the audience brought on Charlie McCarthy and then Mortimer Snerd - 'nuf sed - the audience howled and applauded the sallies and quips of these two characters.
Eddie Joseph opened the second half with a mind-reading act with his wife Sarah, he working in the audience and she, blindfolded on the stage, making very quick identification of various articles offered by members of the audience. He was followed by Maldo, who in colorful Mexican costume, performed two tricks, tearing and restoring tissue papers and then a card trick. Ormond McGill closed the show with his hypnotic act and with the help of a stage full of members of the audience, produced some hypnotic phenomena which was amusing and entertaining.
But that was not all the entertainment. After the tent had been cleared, the seats were set again for a midnight performance-the Madhouse of Mystery show of Bill Neff, which was attended by more than 500 magicians and townspeople. Bergen introduced Neff and from then on it was a fast succession of mystifying illusions interlarded with just enough spook antics to make the hour more eerie.
The fine musical accompaniment for all the shows was provided by Wilma Rench of Athens at the organ. Bud West, with Sydney Abbott and Ronnie Ward, made up the backstage crew.
Percy had too much show lined up on Saturday night and was forced to eliminate several acts - Adrian Smith, Emerald, Roydon, Gus Rapp, and Ken Allen - all of whom graciously agreed to step aside to keep the show to a two-and-a-half-hour length, and Clyde Cairy limited his act to three minutes. Percy said, "I sure appreciate their co-operation."
As the week of festivity drew to a close, Percy was besieged by magicians urging him to rescind his decision that this would be the last get-together in Colon. Ail visitors liked the small town atmosphere and the compactness of the activity area and the friendliness engendered here.
That the week was a success is due to the untiring efforts of Percy and his staff and the fine cooperation of the townspeople.
This week Percy is ready to admit being tired and so he and Gladys are whisking Eddie Joseph and his wife and daughter off to a little hideout in northern Michigan for a bit of rest-and some fishing -and while there will also do a couple of shows.
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