Well, it truly was a grand affair and a good time was had by all. That would be the 1955 edition of the Abbott Magic Get-Together which filled the week of August 22-27 at the new Sturges-Young Civic Auditorium in Sturgis, Mich. And Percy Abbott, impresario of the affair, proclaimed it the most successful in its 20-year history — good attendance, good shows, good lectures, good accommodations for all activities, good business in the showroom, good weather and good reception by the people of Sturgis. This year it was sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce.
And the more than 500 wand wielders who were there agreed it was the best ever. They saw a lot of Magic in the shows and lectures in addition to the many close-up sessions they arranged for themselves in the comfortable atmosphere of the spacious lounge adjoining the ballroom — ballroom transformed into the show room.
The visiting Magicians were unanimous in saying that the Sturgis auditorium was a perfect sitting for the Get-Together as every activity was carried on in this one building, and except for regular meals, shopping and sightseeing trips and slumber, there was no necessity to go outside.
The ballroom with its stage was an ideal place for the showroom and being air conditioned was “the hangout” when no other activity was scheduled. There they saw much Magic from Abbott’s demonstrated as well as some brought in by Gene Gordon and Lloyd Chambers, who along with George Coon, Howard Strickler, Jackie Gould, and Recil Bordner served as Percy’s staff in handling the sales after the frequent demonstrations.
When time came for the lectures the Magicians moved directly downstairs to a similar room where the educational programs were conducted by three outstanding experts. The first on Thursday was “Hen” Fetsch, making his appearance as a lecturer before a convention group, and this lecture many said was worth the registration fee; then on Friday, Rev. Don Bodley gave his lecture on Magic in connection with scriptural lessons which was instructive not only to Magi-ministers but held the same sort of interest for the entire assemblage for they all remained to the end and really learned some things; and Saturday morning, Clarke Crandall lectured on “Comedy Magic”, which entertained and at the same time gave his audience much information on the subject — “The Senator” is a past master in this line.
The week’s scheduled program opened with the traditional “night before” party and this was more or less impromptu even though most of tine performers had been “tapped” previously for their appearance. Howard Strickler, Tom Rainey, George Coon, Gene Gordon, Russ Brown and Dr. Zola, all familiar to Get- Together audiences, appeared briefly to do favorite bits, Earl Davis gave an entertaining sample of his juggling and comedy; Percy Abbott went through a rapid-change act with chapeaugraphy; Vallie Parker presented his juggling stunts; Hen Fetsch gave a sample of his silk Magic and John Straub and his family presented manipulations and other Magic. Following an intermission, Professor W. C. Weber appeared entertaining with several interesting experiments in hypnotism.
Thursday Night Show
Thursday night brought the Magicians the first opportunity to see the beautiful auditorium where the first public show opened with the Abbott family, on for only 45 seconds to produce a profusion of silks and flowers. Then Bob Lewis came on as M. C. to introduce Tom Rainey with his comedy Magic, getting a lot out of Abbott’s Good Shot and Hippity-Hop Rabbits; Valentine’s Birds, eight wonderfully trained Australian cockatoos, that were put through a series of amusing and entertaining stunts by Nevin and Helen Hoefert; and Smokini, a debonair young man in “tails”, who chewed up matches and lighted cigarettes3 then proceeded to do magical tricks with ropes, silks and balls, all the while puffing smoke from his mouth. Next came Dr. Jaks who performed his mental act which included a demonstration of his amazing ability to reproduce signatures of members of the audience — and quickly -— one of them written in Greek script. Closing the first half was Ruth Ann Magee, petite manipulative artiste, who entertained with cigarettes and cards and a birdcage production. Bob Lewis returned after a brief intermission to do some comedy Magic — he got his Linking Rings all balled up — and his trick banjo playing. He then introduced the Four Olympians a quartet of teen-age girls who went through a fast routine of acrobatics and balancing. Next came Clarke “The Senator” Crandall with his hilarious pitchman act and he “wowed” ’em. Closing the show was Percy Abbott and his four assistants, Gladys, Marilyn, Linda, Sydney and John, and this was a mélange of Magic, presented in rapid fashion, with silks and ducks and liquids and illusions. In the latter were the Twin Boxes and Temple of Benares.
Chami Kkan Appears
The show over, the lights were dimmed. It was time for the appearance of Chami Kkan, flown from Venezuela for this performance, to present for the first time in the United States his dramatic portrayal of a crucifixion.
In a hushed auditorium — the audience had been requested not to applaud — and after brief explanations by Percy Abbott and Rev. Don Bodley of Detroit, the curtains were pulled back and Chami Kkan was brought on and introduced to the audience. The introduction over, he divested himself of his robe and walked to the heavy timbered cross, the head of which was elevated at a considerable angle. He mounted the cross and got himself into position for the crucifixion ordeal. A doctor, who with three nurses, was in attendance, picked up the spikes and affixed the feet to the cross and then, one by one, the hands.
It was a thrilling experience to see this man Chami Kkan submit himself to such a certainly painful ordeal. It was noticeable that while he steeled himself each time for the introduction of the spike, there was only a slight flinch as the spike was driven completely through the foot or hand and into the wooden cross.
At the finish, as requested, there was no applause, but as the audience passed out of the auditorium, there were many whispered comments, indicating the awesome effect this spectacle had on the spectators.
The Friday Night Show
On Friday night, a lot of Magic was displayed. Ace Gorham was M. C. and “Hen” Fetsch came on to open the show with a fast and entertaining routine with silks, cards, ropes and flower growths. The applause he received as he concluded each trick indicated the audience appeal of similar items he had described in his lecture the day before. He was followed by Al Kurzman, young accordionist, who presented three lively numbers; then Smokini, repeating his act to the great delight of his magical audience; and Gus Rapp, the lovable octogenarian Magician and entertainer, reviving an old-time act new to most of the audience, the musical tumblers, producing familiar melodies by simply stroking the rims of the tumblers. Bob and Ginny Lewis then did their club comedy act, in which Bob did some tricks with ropes and silk and closed with his fine trick banjo playing.
The second half was given over to Lee Grabel and his full company who presented his famous “Floating Piano” (curtailed a bit by some difficulty backstage) and “The Girl Shot from a Cannon”, among other illusions and various bits of Magic. His program included dove productions from the air, a cage production from silks, wrist tie, and other small Magic and the Twin Boxes and Divided Lady illusions.
Special Saturday Matinee
On the Saturday matinee, Gray Sidwell of the Abbott staff was M. C. and for the audience of more than 800 children, townspeople and many Magicians, introduced the following performers: Bob Hurt, who appeared in full clown regalia and special backgrounds and, with the assistance of Mrs. Hurt, also dressed grotesquely, did some amusing Magic that made a hit with the kids; Jim Shannon, youthful Magician from Kalamazoo, who handled his presentation of manipulations and small Magic in an entertaining manner; Mel Melson with his chalk act that offered may surprises, closing with a picture of Davy Crockett that was quickly recognized by the youngsters; Kim Kee (Alexander) doing Magic especially slanted for children, but entertainment for all; Jim Bailey and Margo from WKZO-TV presenting some novel Magic in a clean-cut manner; “Senator” Crandall doing two tricks with the assistance of a couple of kids from the audience and they all had fun; then with an introduction by Percy Abbott, Sydney and Marilyn in the Abbott illusion, “Flight of Life” (Canvas Covered Box) which was mystifying and brought a great response from the onlookers.
The Saturday Night Show
Saturday night, the Abbott family again appeared with their 45-second flash act, then Percy introduced “Senator” Crandall to do the M. C. chore. Smokini, making his third appearance, opened, blowing more smoke as he proceeded with his Magic and clicked big with both the magical and lay audience. The next act was that of Professor W. C. Weber, appearing as “Dr. Maji” in a Magic act which featured the needle threading trick, rising cards, silk in egg and a couple of tricks with which he and a couple of youngsters from the audience had some fun. Crandall came on to do his version of the Six-Card Repeat. The Great Alexander was next with his “timely5 * act, in which he produced a stage full of watches and clocks of all sizes, ending with a giant alarm clock. All the superlatives have been used to describe the first-half closing act, that of Neil Foster, who again clicked with his fine manipulations of the Zombie, silk to cane, and cards.
After the intermission, Percy Abbott appeared and expressed his thanks to the Magicians and to the public for their attendance with a particular bow to those who had helped in the conduct of the affair, then presented a bouquet to Edna Harloff, organist, who played the musical accompaniment for all the shows; and gifts to Frank Killian, secretary of the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce, and to Rufus Shepherd, manager of the auditorium, for their part in making the week successful. He then introduced Chami Kkan, recovered and smiling after his Thursday night ordeal, and Chami greeted the audience and thanked them for their reception — all this in Spanish and interpreted through the mike by Roberto Cruz of Colon, who had been his English spokesman for the week.
The second half was opened by John Straub and his family with billiard ball manipulations and silk and flower productions, followed by Crandall with a bit of manipulation, and then Hugh Frisbie doing a fast routine of juggling with balls, kitchen utensils, clubs and plates, and finally atop a “teeter” board tossing balls and tennis rackets about in the air. “The Senator” then came on for a fine line of comedy patter and had some fun with an assistant who was almost an exact double, Dr. Carlo, as the assistant attempted to please with various tables. This hilarious bit brought on Russ Brown, who did a production of a parakeet from silks, a rabbit production and then his rabbit vanish. He dosed with two illusions, a Sawing a Woman in Two (and then some) and his version of the Levitation, which while elaborately staged, did not operate as smoothly.