Abbotts 11th Get Together 1944
by Demon Rembrandt
What started out to be a three-day magical conclave ended up by taking the entire week including Labor Day — speaking about the 11th annual Abbott Magic Get-Together in Colon.
As promised, it was the biggest and best Percy has ever staged. Ask any of the 590 — official count — who were here. That's a big crowd of Magicians, and a big crowd to foist upon a little place of less than 1000 population, but they all were taken care of in the matter of lodging and eats, and they all had a good time.
And it seemed that there were more "names" in the field of Magic in attendance this year, many of them here for the first time. Large groups from New York, Baltimore, New Jersey and Canada, as well as the usual groups from Cincinnati and Ohio points, St. Louis, Chicago, Indiana, and Wisconsin, came in early to enjoy the affair. All voted it the best of the gatherings Percy Abbott has staged.
Virtually of the regulars were here — Al Saal, Howard Strickler, Bert Allerton, Russ Walsh, Bill Schreiber, Al Minder, John Braun, Stewart Judah, Harry Cecil, Walter Domzal-ski, Dr. Harad, Al Munroe, Earl Adcock, Frank Carter, Dr. Zola, Dave Coleman, Jimmy Trimble, Eddie Mario, Joe Berg, Dr. Bennett, the Nicolas, 2-10 Daniel, Tom Libonati, Adolph Boldt, Ray Newton and others — several returning after a couple of years absence — Sid Lorraine, Monk Watson, Vin Carey, Loring Campbell, Al-pi-gi-ni, Dr. Daley — and in addition many attending their first Get-Together at Colon — John Booth, T. J. Crawford, Dai Vernon, Bob Nelson, Wallace Lee, Leslie Guest, Sgt. Jack Makepeace, Tom Bowyer, Bert Douglas, Ross Bertram.
Every element combined to make this year's Get-Together enjoyable. Good weather prevailed for all the sessions, the rain coming on Wednesday when only the "early birds" were on hand, the gods smiling on the visitors the balance of the week.
Of course, most of the Magicians' activities were centered at the Abbott plant, where from Monday on, there were almost constant demonstrations of the magical effects produced there and elsewhere, together with impromptu shows and exhibitions of the various skills of the visiting Magicians.
At the plant on Monday night, the floor of the showroom was taken over by Strickler, Allerton, Saal, Watson, Campbell, Minder, Virgil Anjos and Bill Neff and much clever close-up card work was seen. Strickler, at the end, entertained with most of his regular show, all from his nite-club table. Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Bert Allerton and his clever close-up Magic was the feature on the floor.
By Thursday, most of the crowd was in and so many of the Magicians were in town that by the time the "night before" party started on Thursday night, many were unable to-crowd into the showroom theatre where the program was staged.
The "night before" party, styled "Fakirs' Fun Festival" was opened by Percy Abbott, who greeted the crowd, then brought on the M. C, Monk Watson, just returned to Colon after his morale building stint for embryo Army pilots at Coleman, Texas. Monk did a good job, handling the show with the able assistance of Al Minder, who by now is one o£ the regulars, and between them, they produced a lot of fun. It was a good show, opening with the act presented by Copie of the Abbott staff, a junior who did the rice bowls and silks to bouquet in good style. Then came Cal Emmett, who did a good job of cigarette manipulation, and Kelvin Gilbert, also of Abbott's who did the repeat cigar, Liquid Appear in connection with silks, a card effect and a Triple Sponge Surprise variation — an act that went over well. Virgil Anjos came on next as a comedy juggler and made a hit with his hair balancing, then topping the hair with a billiard ball. Dave Coleman followed with his Doc Hokum routine, always good for for laughs, then Percy Abbott with the Abbott Bathing Beauty, a honey of an effect, and Al Saal with his incomparable manipulation of thimbles, cigarettes and cards. After Monk and Al did a hilarious mind-reading bit, Bud Saal, Al's boy, presented his puppets and stopped the show; then Percy again, this time with the Magic sensation of the year, the talking skull. Vin Carey then appeared with his A-l version of the Chinese sticks and the linking rings, and Dr. Bennett did some stunts with giant cards. Percy then made a pitch for his latest book — a limited edition — which was eagerly bought and by this time is a collector's item. This done, Howard Strickler and Monk staged a crazy auction, and with money realized from the sale of Percy's book, paid exorbitant prices for common articles, the top price being $16 for a brassiere.
The shows in the Magic Tent Theatre, which were open to the public as well as the Magicians, were well attended and all seats in the tent — 1200 of them — were taken by the time the entertainment provided by Percy Abbott began, with many standing. For better than three hours each night, the Magic and other entertainment went on, and mighty fine entertainment it was, too.
To provide the proper atmosphere for the tent performances, the show both nights was started with a prize candy sale, and this caused a lot of fun as the boxes were opened to disclose the prizes. Some of the prizes were valuable silks and other paraphernalia useful to Magicians.
On Friday night, after the candy sale, Percy Abbott greeted the crowd and then Monk Watson, Colon's own Magi-comedian, rambled on the stage and in his inimitable manner proceeded to entertain and announce the various performers. Between acts, Monk did some hilarious bits, among them the lady driving the car, the cadet taking his first solo flight, and others. One of them, his imitation of an orchestra conductor, stopped the show.
The first act was put on by Carl Haist of Buffalo who appeared as the slightly tipsy Magician and did a variety of deft manipulations, rope ties, paper tear, haunted hank, and cane to silk; then Harry Otto, juggler, remembered from last year, who repeated his human billiard table and devil sticks stunts; Tim Kee and Tinka in a series of beautiful Chinese effects — silk and flower productions, rice bowls, water fountain; then John Giordmaine of Toronto, Canada, who stopped the show with his clever comedy presentation — cane to silk, flags and flowers productions, repeat knot on rope, wand vanish, and sun and moon effect in connection with cut and restored necktie. The audience could have taken more of this act. Vantine and Cazan came next with a "shooting a woman" bullet-through-plate-glass illusion, closing the first half.
After intermission, Dr. Harlan Tarbell did a masterly act with a four-Kings card effect, his version of the rice bowls, rabbit in hat and silks vanish. Then came Sid Lorraine, back on an Abbott show after an absence of several years because of wartime restrictions, and he made a hit with his clever chatter along with a repeat silk trick and a grand presentation of Troublewit.
Closing the show was the feature act presented by Bill Neff and Co., in which he worked several illusions, among them the Broom Suspension, Cremation, Substitution Trunk, and a "spook" cabinet which utilized several local boys who apparently were harassed no little by the spooky gentry, much to the amusement of the crowd. Bill opened with a flash appearance from a mummy case, and also did some small Magic — gloves to dove, dove vanish, mutilated parasol, passe passe bottles, turban, and an effect which made the Magicians' eyes bug out, his handling of the linking rings.
On the Saturday night show, Sid Lorraine appeared as M. C. and in his usual dry manner, quipped through the introduction of the various performers and between acts did bits of Magic, among them an amusing and knotty session with a rope sash, and an impersonation of Maurice (so-called French Maurice) that was "tops" — moustachio, accent, exaggerated pronunciation and everything.
Opening the show was Dick Ryan, a young lad from Indianapolis, with a snappy personality and a snappy act of various magical effects (just what all he did I cannot enumerate now for I was too busy directing traffic at the entrance to take notes); then Dave and Pauline Coleman, doing tricks with thimbles, paper hats, Arabian bead mystery, and the parasol in their usual finished manner; Al Minder, the inebriated prestidigitator, who was even better than last year, doing the serpent silk, cane to silk, rabbit production, rabbit wringer and vanish, billiard balls and cigarettes as he staggered around the stage — a fine act. Lucille Saxon appeared next and with her patter in rhyme (and she reads it well) did the egg bag and cut and restored ribbon which went over well. Loring Campbell assisted by Kathryne, closed the first half with part of his regular school show, doing pudding with a rabbit, egg production, and got a merry session with his wrist chopper and two boys, one of them Jules Abbott, Percy's eldest, who decided he didn't care to play and ran off the stage for a good laugh.
G. R. Rinehart of Louisville opened the second half with cane to silk and an egg trick which ended with a tiny chick in his hand. After diminishing cards (starting from giants) he introduced his trained love bird, Superman, to do a card trick and then went into a smooth cigarette routine. Joe Berg came next, first as an Oriental doing Magic in reverse with paper, rope and the paper hat, then roller-skating off stage to reappear in his own person with a torn card effect with a card frame and a gag with giant cards. Then came Vantine and Cazan with flower productions which filled the stage, including two giant Botanias and the blooming rose bush made specially for them at Abbott's. John Mulholland, editor of The Sphinx was next with an amazing card trick and a milk effect. Then Monk Watson appeared doing a comedy milk trick and a repeat of his hit of the night before, the orchestra director imitation, which because of an improved sound system (thanks to Earl Schnoor and Lyman) went over even better than the first time. The show closed with the act of Fu Yu and Co., a comedy Chinese act presented by the Don Sweets, regulars at Abbott's affairs. Don with the assistance of the whole family, did flower productions, laundry ticket, a grand 20th Century, dove catch, pincushion illusion in good style, turban, and productions of silks, rabbit and flowers. Added up, it was a very funny act and a good closer.
Ralph Greer of Des Moines, at the piano, played both public shows.
At the close of the last show, Sid Lorraine called upon the man who made the Get-Together and the shows possible, Percy Abbott. In a short speech, Percy expressed his gratitude for the co-operation given, not only by his staff, but by the townspeople of Colon who so generally opened their homes for the accomodation of the hundreds of visitors, and the several Colon women who served dinner for the Magicians throughout the week to augment the services given by the City Cafe and the Magicians' Sandwich Shoppe (run by Abbott's for the Get-Together crowd only) next door.
On Saturday afternoon, outside the plant, a Magicians Only show was staged by Eddie O'Brien, who also officiated as M. C. What acts were on this impromptu program, no one told the ol' Demon, and I was busy supplying books to a clamoring horde in the studio all afternoon, and did not see the show.
Not only was Colon the site of a Magicians' gathering, but there was a session staged by Fred Merrill of the Abbott staff, a former vaudeville juggler, in which several visiting jugglers participated. The one session of this gathering was an impromptu rehearsal in Depot Park on Saturday afternoon. The jugglers beside Merrill were: Harry Otto, George DeMott, Reggie Lawrence and Dick Williams.
As in the past two years, Dr. Harlan Tarbell conducted a Saturday morning class in Magic at the tent. This was well attended and all who took the No. 3 course enjoyed the session and returned to the plant to buy Tarbell books to get more of his instructions, also his autograph.
One of the special services arranged for visitors this year was the mass for the Catholic Magicians attending the Get-Together. This mass was offered by Father Paul Lloyd of St. Louis, himself a practitioner of the magical art, who came over with the St. Louis group.
With the last visitor out of town by Sunday afternoon, plans for next year's Get-Together started to germinate, and already there is a fine start, for seats for the shows and rooms already have been reserved and Percy tells me he has several fine acts booked for next year's programs.
Closing Notes: Otto Curl had a lot of fun with his "ring on spring" puzzle .. . Bill Neff offered to give his linking ring routine to TOPS — yes, he did! . . . Joe Berg so interested in food and Magic, he left his overcoat in the restaurant and didn't miss it until he was back in Chicago . . . Wallace and his double talk got around, and caused a lot of hilarity .. . Dai Vernon delivered a complete and crushing verbal trouncing to an annoying heckler at one of the card sessions in the Magic Sandwich Shoppe. And did the crowd cheer! . . . Father Lloyd's "think of a card" with his always correct prediction of one's favorite card — and in Chinese!
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