1927 Blackstone Island (by Patrick West)

Blackstone Island, as it was renamed, formed a fairy-tale setting in those days. There was only one dirt road of access which crossed a small land bridge between the village and the island. There were row boats for fishing Sturgeon Lake and the St. Joseph River which flowed through the north end of the lake. It was like having one big family for the members of the troop.

A typical day on the island began at about 7:30 a.m., with lazy smoke circling out of the chimney from the kitchen cook stove in the main house signaling that it was time for the entire crew, sometimes as many as 22 people, to come for breakfast. Afterwards, each person would go about his assigned duties.

The stock boy’s duties included looking after the livestock which included a camel, a horse, and many smaller animals and fowl such as: ducks, geese, doves, and, of course, rabbits. Those involved with the actual presentations of the show had to rehearse, particularly the new tricks. Set designers and stage hands were busy building and designing stage equipment and painting the backdrops, curtains, and other stage scenery. Everyone put in a full day’s work.

Another large meal would be served at the main house in the evening. On many occasions, the generous Blackstone would add to the numerous table guests by inviting friends from the village to dinner. Frequently, other magicians came to the island to visit the well-known magician and, they too became members of the household for the duration of their visits. Colon’s summers were from this time on transformed by the many unusual and exciting happenings related to magic.

Such was the spring and the summer of 1927, which found Blackstone at home in Colon after closing his road show in South Bend, Indiana for the season. The month of May was a busy one for the crew, taking care of the “carloads” of equipment. It should be mentioned here that the show traveled by rail; Blackstone rented an entire Pullman car for his troupe and a box car for the equipment. Extra space for magical equipment was gained by using the passengers’ luggage space in the baggage car. Each member of the show was allowed to take only carry-on luggage.

Author: Abbotts Magic Company

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