Category: Hamilton Ontario History

A Stand-Up Guy

OK kids, step right up and join me in The Wayback Machine for a moment…!

Easter weekend I received an out-of-the-blue message from Bill Davern. We first met doing stand-up comedy on amateur nights at Yuk Yuk’s way back when. Eventually we both progressed enough that they started paying us to do it. Bill travelling much further along that road than me.

Said he recently received video from a night of stand-up comedy recorded by Cable 14, the local community access channel. This was at the original Hamilton Yuk Yuk’s located downstairs in the Royal Connaught Hotel. Video is 35 years old but, then as now, Cable 14 staff and volunteers know their business so it’s a decent record of the night. Bill was letting me know he posted it on his his YouTube channel.

So here, in all its nerdy glory, is my 2nd time ever doing stand-up. November 4th 1987. Huzzah!

Watching this time capsule reminded me that when I started doing stand-up I also decided to work clean. No foul language. Then as now I do magic shows for children and family audiences. Didn’t want to ever worry about these two worlds accidentally colliding. I’ve never regretted that choice.

So, while you may cringe at my jokes, you won’t cringe at my language. Mister Peabody (and Sherman) would no doubt approve. Enjoy, if you dare!

Magical Blast From The Past

Flipped through an old magic book the other night, The Phoenix, V. 1, a bound collection of newsletters produced by Walter B. Gibson and Bruce Elliott, and found this clipping stuck between pages. Magic legend Harry Blackstone, Sr., and Walter B. Gibson, visiting with the Hamilton Magic Club.

Newspaper clipping about Hamilton magicians club meeting with Harry Blackstone in 1947.
Meet-up was Oct. 1/47, Spectator page date noted as Oct. 8/47 on other side.

Harry Blackstone Sr., roughly speaking the David Copperfield of his time, was in Hamilton for a performance. Blackstone was likely performing at The Capitol Theatre (formerly known as Loews) or possibly The Palace Theatre (formerly known as Pantages) or, less probably, The Century Theatre (previously The Lyric). OK, OK, just showing off a bit, don’t get me started on the smaller rooms!

Gibson was a prolific author, magician and most famously creator of The Shadow, a wildly popular radio crime drama from 1937-1954. Elliott was no slouch himself with several magic books to his credit; all with a place on my magic bookshelf.

I remember getting “The Bird” (as it was affectionately called in the biz) at a magic auction for not too many clams way-back-when. Guessing I’m its third owner over these many years.

Never met Blackstone or Gibson but many many years ago I did meet Inez Blackstone, Harry’s first wife, at a magic convention. Had a sweet chat with her. She would have been in her early 90s at the time.

And speaking of being in their 90s… The young man at left in the above photo, Gordon Precious, is as keen about magic today in his late 90s as he was at the time of this photo 75 years ago. Proof? Here’s a video I shot of him performing at his 90th birthday party hosted by the Toronto Magic Club. His exuberance obvious in every frame!

Proud to have him as magical friend and mentor since I was a kid magician myself.

Alley Ghost

Many older neighbourhoods in Hamilton have alleys. They’re great cycling shortcuts. You can stay off main roads between gaps in marked bike lanes. Recently saw another ‘ghost’ on such an alley ride.

Faded Coca-Cola ad on exterior brick wall below a similarly faded druggists shop name.
Druggists bearing sodas came after Apothecarists bearing leeches, right…?!

Perhaps this building, at 254 Locke Street South, was Duncan Garson’s shop back when soda fountains in drug stores were common. Soda fountains were often the purview of druggists because druggists, or chemists as the Brits still call them, knew how to make carbon dioxide; no small feat ♫ waaaay ♫ back when! While commercial production of CO2 in the late 1800s ended that bit of dangerous in-house chemical wizardry the drug store soda fountain endured for many decades more.

Sadly, I could find no online reviews for a Garson root beer float…!

More fun facts about soda fountains & druggists plus actress Lana Turner not being discovered at the soda fountain in Schwab’s Drug Store.

Ghost-a Cola!

Passed this location a gazillion times without noticing this faded Coca-Cola ‘ghost sign’ before. Traffic flow is one-way west bound. It’s on west side of building at King West and Locke streets. Undoubtedly painted long before King W. became a one-way. Must be heading east to see it which today, while walking, I was. Boo!

Large very faded Coca-Cola ad on exterior brick wall.
Delicious and Refreshing. Sold Everywhere. 5¢

Ghosts of Evolution…

Over time you get to know your ‘home turf’ pretty well. You notice and enjoy the natural beauty that’s all around. You notice things that don’t quite belong too…

Pretty sure Osage Orange trees fall into the ‘don’t quite belong’ category, at least for Southern Ontario.
Osage is a deciduous tree more commonly associated with southern climes. I’ve seen two in Dundas, Ontario. They announce themselves in late fall when the fruit start dropping. Can’t help but notice those odd green balls on the ground.

Osage orange fruits on tree.
Low hanging fruit?

Osage Oranges have been called Ghosts of Evolution since basically nothing eats the fruit. The seeds in these green balls are so small you’d spend more calories extracting them than they’d give you in return. Also, they ooze a very sticky white sap when opened. Ask your neighbourhood squirrel: not worth the effort.

Osage orange cross section showing interior with tiny seeds.
A peek inside. Tiny seeds.

They’re not actually oranges although the fruit does have a light citrus aroma.
Part of the mulberry family. Alas, not the cool part of the mulberry family from whence the English nursery rhyme Pop Goes The Weasel originates. I guess monkeys and weasels stick to mulberry since nothing rhymes with orange…

Large mature Osage Orange tree.
Beautiful mature tree.

Southern Ontario is at the northern end of the Carolinian forest range. Tree cover is quite diverse here thanks in no small part to being near two great lakes, Ontario & Erie. The lakes help maintain slightly milder temperatures in winter. That difference helps these trees survive.

A Port Dover friend tells me there’s some there too. That’s 50 kilometers further south weather wise and again close to a large body of water.

Collection of Osage Oranges stacked in tidy pile.
I may have gone overboard collecting oddballs for this photo…!

This should be more than enough info for you to answer any pub trivia night question. Keep an eye out next time you’re hiking in late fall!