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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Robert Nelson and Joseph Dunninger Two Meetings Remembered (5 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

deaton
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Here are a couple of stories from a member in his 70s you may enjoy reading. They date from the early 1960s and the 70s before many of you were born. I have told these true tales to a couple of Magic Café members and thought other members might enjoy them.

The name Robert Nelson triggers a lot of memories for me.

In the late 1950s, while attending Belmont high school in Dayton Ohio, I "performed" the Loaf of Bread Prediction to raise money for the school newspaper, and staged a spook show to raise money for the drama club. (The late Phil Chandler assisted with the latter.)

Both events were made reality by Nelson Enterprises. I chuckle a bit thinking back on it, but receiving "The Ghost Book of Dark Secrets" was one of the highlights of my teen years. And, thanks to the bound manuscript, my 1959 spooker was a big success in the packed school auditorium. The show climaxed as prescribed with a total blackout during which we figuratively and literally threw everything in Nelson's book at the audience. The screams and shouts were deafening followed by hearty applause and laughter as the lights returned.

A couple of years later, while attending OSU in Columbus, I visited Mr. Nelson's magic shop on Broad Street. The customer area of the store was smaller than I imagined, but I was thrilled to actually meet the Robert Nelson. I was also a little disappointed. He was wearing a white short sleeved shirt stretched across his by then ample belly and his mouth was clamped down on a fat cigar. Standing behind the far end of the counter he asked the usual, "Can I help you"? His lack of enthusiasm I suspect was reserved for unknown off the street lookers like me. I'm sure I mumbled something in return while sensing he didn't enjoy watching me gawk at him or the bits of inventory I well-remembered from his catalog.

Here was a man who had achieved considerable notoriety and a loyal following in his area of expertise. He had made a very respectable living using and selling his accumulated knowledge and showmanship techniques. But those years were fading as rapidly as the entire entertainment industry was changing. The 1940s and 50s would never return again.

I read here the late Damon Reinbold wrote a book about Mr. Nelson, "Bob Nelson's Sins and Secrets". I also understand it is out of print. Unfortunately, an internet search of the usual book sites didn't locate a copy. I don't know how to reach Mrs. Reinbold to ask if she has a copy she'd be willing to sell.

Years later, I'm guessing in the mid 60's or early 70's, I visited Al Flosso's shop on 34th Street (?) hoping to meet him and see what the shop was all about. As it turned out, the shop was in a state of disorder to put it kindly but who cared because Al Flosso was indeed behind the counter in animated conversation with Joseph Dunninger. Two other mature men were also present but I didn’t recognize them. Dressed in a suit and tie, Dunninger, with a marvelous presence and resonate voice, was holding forth about who in the profession was doing what, who was ill or recently deceased, and showing a new card shuffle he picked-up. The men were having a fine time and didn't seem to mind my being there off to one side.

Earlier that day I was in a used bookstore and bought a paperback about Houdini. As I remember, just inside the cover was a photo of Houdini getting ready to be lowered in the east (?) river in a trunk. In the 1920's/30's looking photo he was surrounded by several men one of whom was a young Dunninger.

Well, during a break in the all things magic conversation Dunninger saw me holding the paperback and pointed to it. "Young man", he said, "I'll bet you would like me to sign that book for you." Well of course I was delighted and even flattered just to be recognized as a person in the room. He did sign the book for me.

Many many years later, I sold the book with the autograph on eBay. The buyer turned out to be a grandson of Dunninger and I shared with him the account of how I got his grandfather's autograph.
Original Old Town Magic Shop owner near Walt Disney World. Former Bozo the Clown in S.W. Ohio TV market. Was the founder and artistic director of Pinocchio's Maroionette Theater in Central Florida. Actor, writer, director, magic and spook show enthusiast.
Yogi2x4
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Thank you for that window into the past. These stories can warm the heart.
j100taylor
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Thanks for sharing that. Very interesting.
Lakewood, Ohio
lin
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Thank you. I enjoyed your stories greatly!
deaton
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Thanks for the kind thoughts. We older guys always have stories we remember for one reason or another. In my case I pretty much keep them to myself figuring people really aren't interested. It's nice to know there are those within a common area of interest who do enjoy a few memories. Dave
Original Old Town Magic Shop owner near Walt Disney World. Former Bozo the Clown in S.W. Ohio TV market. Was the founder and artistic director of Pinocchio's Maroionette Theater in Central Florida. Actor, writer, director, magic and spook show enthusiast.
Taterini
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Thanks for sharing
IMAGINACIAN
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These little peeks into the past can be really heart warming. Thank you for sharing. Please continue to share whenever you feel like so.
There is no better freedom than choice and no better choice than freedom.
Yogi2x4
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Can't agree more IMAGICIAN. I'd enjoy hearing others, should he or anyone care to tell more.
Alan Wheeler
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Great memoire and well told!
The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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