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Topic: History of MYI
Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jan 11, 2008 10:13PM)
I have a question about the history of MYI (Magical Youths International), and when it merged with IBM.

The MYI has been around for years. They were their own independent club for many years. When I joined in the late 1970s, and into the 1980s, we ran our own magazine, and everything was done by correspondence. The club dated back into the 1960s.

MYI was it's own club, mostly for teens, not associated with either SAM or IBM. In fact, I even had various positions in the executive during the time I was a member. I also wrote articles, shared routines, and drew a series of comic strips, that were published in the club magazine.

We did most everything by mail. Members wrote each other, executives corresponded, the magazine was compiled by an editor. Mostly U.S. members, but also some international members.

They published the magazine called the Top Hat, compiled by members, and mailed 6 times per year. I think for a while, we even had a casual mailing that went out called The Flash Paper.

In MYI's past, there were members like Dale Salwak and Doug Henning, back when they were teens. This was before my time, but a part of its history. In fact, I sought out some of the older issues of the Top Hat, and I also have in my collection yearbooks that MYI published during 3 various years back in the late 60s and early 70s (before I was a member).

It was a small group, and we ran ourselves (I remember struggles to find content for the magazine from the membership because we were so small, etc). From what I remember of it's history, at times it thrived and at times it almost died. No conventions, although some members spoke at times of running into one another at other conventions.

One of the wise adults that coached us along was Steve Kelley, who I've lost touch with over the years. I've also ran into a couple of other MYI members over the years, who I remember from "back in the day".

In the 1980s, there was talk of maybe merging MYI with a group like SAM (if I recall correctly, SAM approached MYI about the merge). That never really came about, and SAM eventually formed SYM for it's youth members.

I've been out of touch with MYI for about 20 years now, and am curious if anyone knows the specific history of how it came to be merged with the IBM? And if anyone can help fill in some of the blanks over the past 20 years, I'd love to learn more.


- Donald
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jan 11, 2008 10:46PM)
M.Y.I. is the highly respected junior branch of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (I.B.M.). The global membership of the I.B.M. created and nurtures this dynamic youth-centered program to promote, educate and enhance the activities of talented young magicians around in the world.

Magic Youth International (M.Y.I.) was originally founded in 1955 by two Chicago teenagers, Robert J. Watson and Keith Halbasch. These best friends and novice magicians were too young to join the national magic organizations at the time. They decided to form their own correspondence club with the hopes of drawing in other young magicians from around the world.

As a correspondence club, the teen members would share ideas and experiences through personal letters. In 1956, Robert and Keith created PIPS; a simple newsletter to keep their fellow magi informed and to share the names and addresses of new members. PIPS published thirteen issues in 1956 and was recognized as one of “The best teenage publications of its time.”

With college looming Robert and Keith released full control of the club to their adult advisor and magical peer Jess James in 1959. Under Mr. James’ wise management M.Y.I. chapters formed in several cities across the Midwest and PIPS prospered.

In 1963, Dale Salwak organized a competing Indiana-based teen magic club he called the Magic Club of America (MCA). Dale’s club journal, The Magic Carpet, inspired fellow Hoosiers fifteen-year-old Steve Kelly and Greg Heeter to form their own teen magic club called The International Club of Magic (ICM). Their club journal, Top Hat Topics, premiered in 1963 and MCA founder Dale Salwak was one of its first contributors.

The Top Hat Topics magazine broke new ground in teen magic magazines because of its size and content. To help the organization grow Steve sent complimentary copies of Top Hat to all M.Y.I. and MCA members. This tactic was so successful and the Top Hat was so popular that M.Y.I. and MCA soon began losing members to Steve’s IMC.

Three years later and with college looming Steve knew that he would not be able to continue managing his successful ICM program. He decided to preserve the club and protect the interests of his members by merging the ICM with Jess James’ M.Y.I.. The two clubs merged under the name Magic Youth International with the Top Hat becoming the M.Y.I. official club journal. Dale Salwak merged his pet MCA program under the Magic Youth International banner. In 1966, this made M.Y.I. the third largest magic organization in the United States.

In 1994, the Society of American Magicians (SAM) formed The Society of Young Magicians (SYM). While the I.B.M. created the Junior Member category in 1994 it wasn’t until 1998 that International President John R. Browne III and Youth Committee Chairman Steve Burton led the adoption of Magic Youth International as the official I.B.M. youth branch.

The spirit of the program can be found in Napoleon Hill's poem, A Bridge:

An old man traveling a lonely highway
came at the evening cold and gray
to a chasm, deep and wide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim
for the sullen stream had no fears for him.
But he turned when he reached the other side
and built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man, “cried a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength by building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day
and you’ll never again pass this way.
You’ve crossed the chasm deep and wide.
Why build you a bridge at eventide?”

And the builder raised his old gray head,
“Good friend, on the path I’ve come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
a youth whose feet must pass this way.
This stream which has been naught to me
To that fair-haired boy may a pitfall be.
He too must cross in the twilight dim.
Good friend, I build this bridge for him.”

It has taken imagination, devotion and dedication to the advancement of the magical arts for M.Y.I. to prosper over the last 50 years. The program's history is still being written. Where the world’s oldest and largest magic youth organization ventures in the years to come is entirely up to the youth who join. With your help and spirit, Magic Youth International will continue to serve as a source of inspiration for young magicians around the world.
Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jan 11, 2008 10:53PM)
Thank you. Is that from the IBM site, or from a membership application, Skip?

Some of the history does seem a little familiar.

It's helpful, and of course I still have questions. Like, what happened between 1988 (about when I last had contact with them) and 1998 (when it was adopted)? Was it dormant when it was adopted, or who in MYI was involved in the decision to pass the baton?

For many years (when I was a member), there was a lot of resistance to merging it with one of the big clubs.

BTW, I notice you keep calling it "Magic Youth International". When I was a member, I'm pretty sure it was "Magical Youths International". I'll have to dig out some of my old Top Hats to check. I might even have an old membership application form in my collection.

- Donald
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jan 11, 2008 11:02PM)
Donald, that's from the new handbook submitted to the Exec Board by Pres. Willmarth. The program is undergoing a major 21st Century overhaul - but, we're trying desperately to keep as much of the original color and glory as possible.

Everything I've seen lists the program as "Magic Youth International" but anything is possible. We'd be very interested in any materials you might like to share. Maybe you'd be interested in scanning some of the older magazines and MYI materials that you have on hand.

A new edition of the Top Hat Topics is in the works along with a new MYI youth Internet portal. We're working to include an MYI section at future conferences. There are a lot of great things in the works for the new program that I can't discuss just yet...but it is going to be great and we're looking for good people willing to lead the way...if you're interested. :) You'll be impressed with the list of magical Names and companies who have agreed to support and participate in the program. I'm very honored to have been invited to play a small part in it all.

Keep watching 'cause M.Y.I. is going to be great once again!
Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jan 11, 2008 11:05PM)
Thanks. BTW, during the late 70s / early 80s, the magazine was just called "Top Hat" or "The Top Hat". There was no "Topics" as part of the name.


I'll try to track down my box of MYI materials later this weekend.

- Donald
Message: Posted by: MagicalArtist (Jan 12, 2008 10:35PM)
I was a member at the same time as Donald and I remember his contributions (I still have my stash of back issues of Top Hat). I was a contributing member and I remember what a terrible time the officers had getting articles from the members for the newsletter. It was supposed to be a monthly newsletter but at times there were several months between issues. Waiting for each issue was really hard for a young person to take. In this age of the Internet, it's difficult to believe how hard it was to get participation in the newsletter.

At one time I recall Steve Kelly the club owner was considering innovative ways to keep the publication going, like the members photocopying their own articles and circulating the publication around, sort of like a chain letter. There were negotiations with the S.A.M. to take over the leadership, but that fell through because the S.A.M. wanted the club to be run by adults, while Kelly wanted youth control. Finally he came to an agreement with the I.B.M. and the rest, I guess, is history.
Message: Posted by: Terry Owens (Jan 13, 2008 04:34AM)
By the way Skip, thanks for all the hard work you're putting into it.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jan 13, 2008 12:10PM)
My pleasure, Terry. I had my doubts when I started, but it's turned into quite an adventure! Timothy, you'll be pleased to know that one of the unwaverable principles behind the newer M.Y.I. remains that it is first and foremost a club for magic teens run by magic teens. Adults are observers, advisors and mentors.
Message: Posted by: Father Photius (Jan 13, 2008 05:40PM)
Great info, Skip. Thanks for chasing it down and putting it up for us.
Message: Posted by: Steve Burton (Jan 14, 2008 11:20AM)
It just seemed like a good fit.

I was given the task of creating a viable youth program for the IBM when Jack Browne was president and researched existing magic youth programs. Of course, MYI was one of the most prominent. What I found was it was mostly inactive and contacted Steve Kelley to find out about his plans for the organization. He indicated to me that he was open to merging MYI with the IBM's program and had considered doing the same thing with the SAM. I presented the idea to IBM's Board and they agreed to pursue it. Steve Kelley and Jack Browne then signed an agreement allowing the IBM to use the organization's name and resources and it was done.

I shortened the name to Magic Youth International to give it a new designation and designed a logo using that name. One of the unsung heroes in all of this is Roger Dreyer of Fantasma. He supported the new program with lots of incentives for young magicians including cash prizes and opportunities to work at their stores for youth contest winners.
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jan 14, 2008 12:08PM)
Steve, thank you for all you've done and for blazing the trail for us. Mr. Dreyer is still very active with the I.B.M. youth...an unsung and deserving hero indeed.
Message: Posted by: Donald Dunphy (Jan 16, 2008 09:50AM)
Thank you, Steve Burton, for filling in some of the blanks for me. I appreciate that.

Good luck to Skip and the other hard workers.

- Donald
Message: Posted by: Steve Hart (Jan 21, 2008 01:47AM)
I am so excited for the MYI and it's re-birth.

I too was a member back in the late 60's. I remember it well. I was lucky enough to win first place in the stage contest in 1969 during the MYI's Louisville, KY convention. If you look in the year books you will find a couple of cartoons I submitted under my real name....Steve "Heifner" from Indiana.

As Skip and Donald stated it was a club for magic teens run by magic teens. That is what made it special.

I memory of Jess James and his constant spirit of giving to the youth, I thank Steve Kelly, Dale Salwak, Steve Burton, John R. Browne III, Roger Dreyer and today Skip Way and our International President Phil Willmarth for perserving this organization for the youth in magic.

Steve Hart
Message: Posted by: Skip Way (Jan 21, 2008 07:21AM)
Dr. Aubrey Fine has done a remarkable job of chairing this project. Our Raleigh chapter is steadily growing with fourteen teens attending one of our first classes. We've divided the chapter into three levels: Apprentice (Beginner), Journeyman (Intermediate) and Youth Magician (Advanced). The Advanced and Intermediate teens have been great working with the newer members.

I've tried to pattern my portion of the program after the BSA Exploring program. I grew up in Exploring and organized Law Enforcement Explorer programs across the U.S. and Europe over 18 years of my career. It's a great model for a teen-managed career program. I'm really looking forward to watching the magic youth program blossom and prosper again.

Please get involved. We need your support!
Message: Posted by: Michael Taggert (Jan 22, 2008 10:22PM)
At our last meeting we accepted the volunteer chairmanship of our subcomitte to head up our effort to get this program running here in DC. Our Committe shair is Reggie Rice and he will supported by the Famous Bekki Wells. :) They are first tasked with putting the plan on paperand making it work for our organization. There are several small groups started by individuals in our area and this could be a way of bringing those groups together under one umberlla.
we will see what happens.
we also want to thnk skip for your input the information you have put together is great material.
Mike taggert
Message: Posted by: Carl Jarboe (Jul 15, 2014 11:26AM)
The one piece of history of MYI that was left out is the club's library. Jess James was the club's librarian. The club had a list of magic books that you could borrow by sending a letter to Jess. I do not know of any other magic organization that had this service.
Message: Posted by: FrankFindley (Apr 18, 2019 04:31PM)
I was one of the last youth officers of MYI (if not the last). I grew up in South Bend and worked with Steve on its operation.

I believe I still have in storage hard copies of Top Hat going back years. To those currently involved in IBM youth, would there be interest in having them digitized and added to Ask Alexander, etc like the other IBM materials?
Message: Posted by: Julie (Apr 18, 2019 08:58PM)
[quote]On Jan 11, 2008, Skip Way wrote:

...In 1994, the Society of American Magicians (SAM) formed The Society of Young Magicians (SYM). While the I.B.M. created the Junior Member category in 1994 it wasn’t until 1998 that International President John R. Browne III and Youth Committee Chairman Steve Burton led the adoption of Magic Youth International as the official I.B.M. youth branch


For the record: the Society of Young Magicians was formed nationally sometime prior to 1994. I recall Margaret Daley and her group spearheading the movement at least as far back as 1993...