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Abbotts 75th Get Together 2012

by Greg Bordner

All of my life the Abbott Get-Together has affected me. There were always stories of the tent, the candy pitch, Edger Bergen coming to town in a parade, and Duke and Gladys playing the violin and piano for the shows. There are pictures on the wall here at Abbott’s of my dad selling tickets from a booth, a levitation being performed, crowds in front of the Abbott buildings, and Mel Melson completing a drawing that today would not be considered politically correct.

My earliest memories of the get-together are having my grandmother coming to stay with me because mom and dad had gone to Niles, MI for the week of the convention. Then comes memories of going to Coldwater and Sturgis to see the magic shows.

The sixties memories start with reporters coming to town with cameras with huge glass bulbs to do stories on Harry Blackstone Sr. coming back to Colon to perform. I was playing with plastic army men as a writer interviewed my mom on how magic affected her life in our home.

As I got older, I remember riding my bike down to the high school to see the shows. There was Blackstone floating a light bulb over the audience. Bill Neff looked tired because he was fighting cancer and Jack Gwynne was full of life performing with Ann and doing the Temple of Benares and the basket girl production right there on the stage in Colon.

After the shows, the magicians all came back to the Abbott factory for auctions and lectures. The smoke filled the room as that nasty habit was so common then. And I will always remember the look I got when I picked up Clarke Crandall’s’ (The Senator) banjo without asking first.

The 1970’s brought memories of Neil and Jeanne Foster working on setting up the showroom in the elementary gymnasium and of course Neil’s Zombie. As the 1970’s started, I was pressed in to helping out by driving magicians to and from the train and bus depots, parking cars and helping to set up chairs. My dad would alternate civic groups to sponsor the conventions. One year the band parents did not show up to set up the chairs in the high school. I will never forget that year as two parents, my dad and myself put them all up. Soon after that, the Colon Lions club became the permanent co-sponsors.

After graduating from Michigan State University in 1974, the convention became more important to me. I needed a job and working at Abbott’s, although reluctantly, became a career. The entire year revolved around Magic Week.

Production in the factory aimed at having inventory for that week. The crew all pitched in to move merchandise, work backstage and help with the lighting. This soon changed as magicians filled in to run the show. Dorny (Werner Dornfield) and Bill Smetak had run things back stage, but Bill Smetak worked harder as he took over.

I remember one Sunday watching as Gordon Miller had to pack a zigzag so a Canadian with the worlds’ longest name, Pepedenshanko could get it to the bus stop. Gordon was in charge of inventory, shipping, editor of the Tops magazine, and of course, opening the Wednesday show with the “Welcome Magicians” banner. Dad died just after the 1981 get-together. He had heart problems and passed driving back to work after having lunch at the M & M Grill. So 1982 was my first get-together with myself in charge. As always, Neil Foster, Gordon Miller, Jerry Conklin, Bill Smetak with the Holsteins and many others were there to help keep the show going.

The fiftieth get-together was in 1987. This magic number brought extra attention and boosted attendance. Blackstone Jr., Senor Rai, David Seebach, Sid Lorraine, Franz Harary and so many others helped make this one a success. Comments like, “if this was the fiftieth, should it have been better”, were heard. My answer was, “Wait until the 75th!”

Air Jazz, a juggling group was on that year. I’ll always remember the band director wanting to get them here for a football halftime show. When I told him how much they cost to get here from Colorado, his mouth fell open. Yes, these performers are professional magicians and they have to be paid.

The 1990’s found Hank Moorehouse producing the get-together. Karrell Fox and Abb Dickson kept the tradition that Karrell Fox and Duke Stern had of spoofing the acts on Saturday that had appeared earlier in the week. Over the years, Terry Seabrooke, Pat Page, Billy McComb, Ali Bongo, John Sallise from England performed at various get-togethers. The idea that performers come from across the pond certainly adds to the claim that Colon is indeed, the Magic Capital of the World. Brett Daniels, David Seebach, Dave Cressey, Gene Anderson, Topaz from Germany, Yumi, Fukai, Kikuchi from Japan, Greg Frewin from Canada, = the names just go on and on. I know I have left out so many, yet all are listed on the performance roster and at magicgettogether.com.

In the turn of the century, the Laflins helped in so many ways = as dealers, performers and magic ministers. Vent-o-rama changed from Bob Jepson to George Schindler and Jay Marshall.

Then my health started to turn for the bad side and my strength started to fade. The get-together is such a big job and I will always be thankful that my family and the convention family stepped up their efforts every year to keep the show going, but this was especially true as I became weaker.

Hank Moorehouse stepped up to fill the gap with help from so many others to take over as my strength waned. 2008 is the only Get-Together I have ever missed. I was in Rush Hospital in Chicago and could only phone in with best wishes to Hank’s party on Tuesday. The heart transplant done on September 30th, 2008 allowed me to return to help run the 2009 Get-Together. My strength has returned and it will be wonderful to see the Abbott convention family again this monumental year of the 75th.

And with more than a year of preparation, here we go with “Las Vegas coming to Mayberry”, with the little sleepy town of Colon, MI becoming Las Vegas for a week and more than tripling in size for four magical days of fun, memories, and meeting old friends and making new friends that will last a lifetime. Welcome to the Abbott Magic 75th. Magic Get-Together.

There will be a 76th Get-Together in 2013. Next year’s dates will be Aug 7,8,9,10.









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