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Topic: The Elbee Magic Company
Message: Posted by: irossall (Jun 9, 2003 12:12PM)
If there is anyone out there who remembers the Elbee Magic Co. or Louis Berkie, I would love to hear from you. :patty:
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Dec 21, 2003 04:01PM)
Ah Elbee. I spent many a hard earned dollar as a kid
with them.
Message: Posted by: hammerbowl (Jun 2, 2004 05:56AM)
In 1967 when I was 17 years old I lived in Houston Texas and took my first bus ride to San Antonio Texas. I wanted to see a big magic shop and spend a few days there. I also spent time at the hemisfair (small worlds fair) and got to vist with the owner and spent a lot of time browing his shop and seeing how he made wooden nickels. He was a great owner and loved having people visit. I will not forget my experience there as it was a great timein my growing up. here is what I found on the web:
... Elbee Company 510 Broadway San Antonio, Texas 78215 210-233-4561. Custom printed wooden nickels. Also stocks practical jokes and magic supplies. ...
http://www.texas-best.com/shopping.html - 17k - Cached - Similar pages
Message: Posted by: irossall (Jun 3, 2004 05:26AM)
Thank You Hammerbowl for the link. I got very excited until I called and found that the phone number is no longer in service. I do Thank You anyway.
The reason I am anxious to talk to someone who knew Berkie, is that I hope to get a good photo of Berkie for my scrapbook.
I worked for Berkie in 1971 for about 7 months at his "Fosters Fun Shop" in the Mall just outside of downtown San Antonio. Then I went back and worked for Berkie for a litte more than a year in 1973-74 both at "Fosters Fun Shop" and in his downtown shop/warehouse/manufacturing facility called "Elbee Magic Co." Elbee stood for Berkie's first two initials L.B. (Louis Berkie).
Most of the great Magician's that I got to meet were friends of Berkie. Frank Garcia, Jay Marshall, Bill & Irene Larson, the entire Willard family and many many more. It was Berkie who took me to my first two Magic conventions in 1973 and 1974 and paid for my membership into the T.A.O.M.
The closest I have gotten so far to contacting someone who may be of some help to me is a friend of Gene Anderson (who was a good friend of Berkie) but Mr. Anderson did not know how to contact his friend at the time (Mr. Anderson was on the Lecture circuit at the time) but suggested that I e-mail him when he got home. I figured that I should be able to get my information here at the Café' rather that bother Mr. Anderson.
If anyone has any idea's where I may get a photo of Berkie, please let me know. I would also love to get my hands on an Elbee Magic Catalog or any such Elbee item.
Iven :patty:
Message: Posted by: George50 (Sep 15, 2004 08:04PM)
Do you remember that there mascot was "El Bebo" the bee. I grew up in a very small town in So. Calif in the 60's and I loved getting the new Elbee catalog once a year! The first half was magic and the other half was jokes and masks. For a 12 year old was torture to mail in my order and then have to wait the 2 weeks it took to get it back! I'm so glad I found this topic what great memories.
Message: Posted by: The Donster (Sep 16, 2004 01:57PM)
http://www.whitepages.com/search/Find_Person?firstname_begins_with=1&name_begins_with=0&firstname=louis&name=burke&city_zip=&state_id=TX will any of these be a Help
Message: Posted by: kerpa (Oct 16, 2004 02:22PM)
I was in San Antonio last year and went to the local magic shop near the riverwalk (which has since relocated to Summit and 410). Having lived in San Antonio from 1984 - 1992, I have fond memories too of El Bee's. Anyway, the owner of the magic shop, who seemed very well connected into the local magic scene, knew that the store was no longer around, but he had no idea what happened to the stock of magic supplies. Apparently the wooden nickel business was sold off, but is no longer in business.
(sigh) I, too, would love to find a link, but I don't think there are any. I still have a wooden nickel or two from there. (the one's with the wording "round tuit" on them).
a/k/a Michael Miller
Chicago area
Message: Posted by: irossall (Oct 18, 2004 05:36AM)
The upstairs part of Elbee's was chock full of unopened boxes from the 40's and 50's. These boxes contained Magic props, various novelty items and toys. Whoever ended up with these boxes had a real treasure on their hands. There also was a Buzz Saw Illusion that was custom built for Williard the Wizard which Mr. Berkie said I could have but I had no way of taking it with me when I left Texas. I have often wondered whatever happened to all the neat stuff and old books after Berkie passed away.
-Iven :patty:
Message: Posted by: mxray (Dec 2, 2005 09:25AM)
Guys, thanks for a great trip dowm memory lane from my early childhood!
Like most of you have posted, I waited with baited breath each day after placing an order with El Bee to arrive at my home in Sidney Iowa.
I imagined it was a place full of wizards, and people who could all perform miracles at the drop of a hat.
Before coming to this site, I had googled them once, just to see what came up, but didn't find anything.
I would venture to guess that one of their catalogs ( in decent condition ) might be worth a few bucks to a collector.

Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Dec 9, 2005 10:37PM)
On 2004-09-16 14:57, The Donster wrote:
http://www.whitepages.com/search/Find_Person?firstname_begins_with=1&name_begins_with=0&firstname=louis&name=burke&city_zip=&state_id=TX will any of these be a Help

That won't help. Louis is dead. And his last name was Berkie, not Burke. Actually it was Louis Berkowitz.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Jul 4, 2006 09:54PM)
I did some googling and found this link. It is for the wooden nickel business.

I knew Berkie since the late 1950's. I really got to know him during the early 1970's though. I used to go to San Antonio all the time, and I would stop by, root through the old books and props, and pick up anything that caught my fancy. He had lots of photos of his friends all over the shop.

He was a terriffic fellow. Some people thought he had modeled for "Sad Sack." He was in the Signal Corps in WW II.

For the last 5 years of his life, he tried to get shed of the store, but he demanded that the person who bought it serve as an apprentice to him for at least a year, so he could learn how to run the special presses. He told me that he wanted someone who would do things his way, because he had tried everything, and he knew what worked. I didn't doubt him for a minute.

I don't know who got all the old magic props.

He also did special newspaper headlines. Sometimes the guys who worked with him had problems proofreading. When Yutaka Kikuchi was at the TAOM in Austin, Berkie had his pressman make up a newspaper with a headline that said


At least, that's what it was supposed to say. Somehow, the pressman thought Berkie had made a mistake so the last line read


This was a natural mistake if you live in Texas.

I caught this error before Berkie gave it to Kikuchi, so he saved face.

That same year, I had him make up some special headlines for me. I'm sure you know the one that magicians use when they do the head chopper.


Well, I had him make up a half dozen that said something else instead of "GOOFS." Rather than print it here, I'll just say that it was an obscene headline.

He brought them to me the next day. I gave one to a friend of mine who does the head chopper, as a gag. Then I took one over to George Kimery's booth and put it behind the table near his head chopper. It was in a position where you couldn't see it until you sat down at the table. Nobody out front could see it. Then Berkie and I stood over to the side of the room and watched.

Soon George came in. He sat behind the booth and started looking around. Suddenly, he saw the newspaper. I watched him read the headline. He did a triple take. Then he started laughing. Then he got embarrassed, then he quickly grabbed the newspaper, folded it up and put it in his briefcase.

Berkie and I got a big laugh out of that one.
Message: Posted by: WoodenNickelGuy (Aug 26, 2008 04:46PM)
Hi From San Antonio, Texas

My name is Herb, and I'm the guy that bought the "Wooden Nickel" part of the Elbee Company in July of 1995. A few months later I bought a strip center near Ft Sam Houston, and moved the "Old Time Wooden Nickel Company". Lou Berkie died about 1-1/2 years later. The "Fun 'N Magic" shop continued for a few more years, with Eloy Foster as the owner. Eloy had a month-long going-out-of-business sale, so most of the novelties and magic got sold.

About 1990 the Elbee Co. moved from the 6th floor loft at Broadway and 4th Street to a stand alone building at Broadway and 6th. That was some move. The old rickety elevator wasn't rated for the weight of the printing presses, so after each one was pushed into elevator, one person went down stairs and pressed the elevator button to call the car down. Then they were pushed on carts down Broadway for 2 blocks to the new location.

We still use the same kind of Wooden Nickel printing presses today, although they have been completely rebuilt with automatic feeders and controls. You can see the operation on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbZhkAgMgZQ

Once we moved into our own permanent building, we built the "Wooden Nickel Historical Museum" with the "World's Largest Wooden Nickel" standing outside (Listed in "Ripley's Believe It or NOT!")
The museum website is: http://www.wooden-nickel.net
Of course there is a page for magicians: http://www.wooden-nickel.net/magic/

If anyone has any questions about Elbee or Wooden Nickels you can write to me at herb@wooden-nickel.com
Message: Posted by: Rick Fisher (Dec 13, 2008 06:32AM)
Yes, those were the days...I remember looking at the Popular Mechanics magazines in the dime store and going right to the classified section and under Magic Toys and Hobbies always looked for magic catalogs, Douglas,Top hat,Vick Lawton,and of course El Bee! If I remember correctly ..10 cents for their catalog - I remember getting the catalog and was dissapointed in it but I kept it after all these years. It is still fun to go through and reminesce once in awhile!
Message: Posted by: mondostrange (Jan 19, 2009 04:37PM)
I actually have a pristine copy for ElBee Magic Catalog. I had an old one that the cover finally fell off and the catalog was really worn. But a friend of mine who does book searching found one in mint condition. I bought from him for $20.00. Looking at it right now! Brings back memories.
Message: Posted by: TalkinHorse (Jul 8, 2011 01:45AM)
FWIW, there's an Elbee catalog on eBay right now. This listing expires in a couple of days.


I loved those catalogs back in the day of my mis-spent youth.
Message: Posted by: B.W. McCarron (Jul 28, 2012 11:55PM)
Thanks for the memories of the Elbee catalog. My brother and I would make small purchases in the early 70s and wait for the parcels to arrive. No UPS tracking in those days. It was ride our bikes to 7-11 to get a money order, mail it off, and wait. We'd dream about the cool magic items, and laugh at the joke stuff. Sure we ordered from Top Hat and Johnson-Smith, too, but the Elbee catalog had a "homey" feel to it.

who'd have thought that not that many years later I'd have sold my first two books to D. Robbins (House of E-Z Magic) and now they probably bring up memories for a whole new generation of magic lovers!

Message: Posted by: Jim Sparx (Aug 29, 2012 12:21PM)
I have an Elbee catalog, #23, dated 1965. They are like the old Johnson-Smith catalogs on steroids. Lots of stuff on one page with similar pictures like JS. Right now there are two catalogs for sale on the unmentionable auction site. If you collect catalogs, the Elbee is an interesting addition.
PS I remember having a wooden nickel when I was a kid.
Message: Posted by: irossall (Sep 7, 2012 07:59AM)
I finaly got an Elbee catalog. It's #24 and has the original envelope and blank order form. It's in very good condition.
Old catalogs can sure bring back fond memories.
Iven :patty:
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Mar 9, 2013 03:49PM)
I was lucky to buy a small collection of Elbee catalogs, a couple were dupes to what I had.
One was the rare wood grain cover. I may sell the dupes. It's fun looking through the old
Message: Posted by: B.W. McCarron (Jul 5, 2013 11:14PM)
On 2013-03-09 16:49, Tom G wrote:
I was lucky to buy a small collection of Elbee catalogs, a couple were dupes to what I had.
One was the rare wood grain cover. I may sell the dupes. It's fun looking through the old

If you decide to sell an Elbeee catalog from the late 60's or early 70's, keep me in mind. My brother and I used to love reading through them, and more often than not would spend our lawn mowing money on an order. Great stuff!


Message: Posted by: blushingmule (Jun 28, 2016 12:35PM)
Hi all,

I remember Elbee from the early '70s. Great stuff!

Boy was it jam packed full of goodies! Better than the old Johnson Smith catalog.

p.s. hi Bill, glad to see your link to the Cups And Balls Museum - was lost after last computer death...can't sign in though.
Message: Posted by: rmendez (Jan 26, 2017 09:30PM)
I have very fond memories of the Elbee Company Fun 'N Magic shop off Broadway and 6th both while Louis Berkie (Louis Berkowitz) and Eloy Foster were the proprietors. At the time, I was a relative newcomer to the art of magic and a very passionate amateur and hobbyist at best. I worked across the street and visited the shop every day during lunch and on Saturdays dropping anywhere between $100 - $200 a week there. One Saturday, my father joined me and recognized Eloy's mother who worked for Berkie as a teenager in his downtown shop back in the 50s. I will never forget this shop as it was a huge factor in my equation of humble beginnings and long before I became an established, professional magician many years later. Just before they closed their doors forever, they were solicited by the proprietor of JCR Magic but could not come to an amicable agreement. To this day, JCR remains the only full-scale, brick and mortar magic shop remaining in the Alamo city.