HISTORY OF THE DALLAS MAGIC CLUBS (and there is a lot of it)

Dallas Magic Club “s”. That’s right — plural. The organization called Dallas Magic Clubs is really two separate clubs,
(1) the Dallas Magic Circle (S.A.M. Assembly 13), chartered on October 4, 1924 as an Assembly of the Society of American Magicians national magic organization; and (2) Willard the Wizard (I.B.M.Ring 174), chartered on July 10, 1964 as a Ring of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

Both clubs meet simultaneously and share officer/board member responsibilities. Jointly speaking, the charters of both Clubs have an objective of promoting harmony among those interested in magic by associating and organizing individuals interested in the art of magic and its advancement. Each club joins in adopting rules to discourage inappropriate activities such as divulging secrets of magic to public; false or misleading advertisements of effects, literature, merchandise and actions pertaining the magical arts. Further, the charters contain rules supporting the humane treatment and care of live animals employed in magical performances.

The Dallas Magic Clubs possess a couple of “treasures”. The original copy of the S.A.M. Assembly 13 charter, which was signed by Harry Houdini (not a copy). Not to be outdone, Ring 174 boasts other treasures – the original charter, a wand actually used by the Club namesake, mounted on a frame and presented to the club by the Willard family; and the actual coin-pail used by Willard in his shows. Currently, these “treasures” are located in the home of Dal Sanders and are available to be viewed by simply contacting Dal. Photo’s of this “Shrine” are available on our Website.

The following article appeared in the 1968 Issue of M-U-M Magazine, Volume 58, Number 6. This particular issue was a tribute to Assembly 13, the Dallas Magic Circle, and featured none other than our own Paul Siegel on the cover.

The Beginning of Assembly No. 13

Dallas is a city often referred to as “Big D,” a nickname born in the thirties when it hit top as the biggest town in Texas.  Before that, as in 1924, it was just plain Dallas.  And that was the year the Dallas Magic Circle made headlines by having no less than Harry Houdini , the founder and president of the Society of American Magicians, personally install it as Assembly 13.  (This achievement may have started Dallas doing everything else in magically big style!)

Our having the busy Houdini in person was a matter of pure good fortune: the Great Houdini was performing in Dallas as a headliner at the State Fair of Texas.  His act was presented in the open before a huge grandstand, and his main effect, as I now recall it, consisted in shooting a girl from a cannon on the ground, after which she re-appeared in a formerly empty trunk that previously had been hoisted high in the air, way above the heads of the spectators.

On October 4, 1924, right after his night show, Mr. HOUDINI graciously came to us at the Adolphus Hotel and made the now famous installation of Chapter (sic) 13 – NOT at all an unlucky number for us.

All of us numbered about 15, and our Circle may have been two years old at the time.  Ours wasn’t a star-studded club then, (I don’t recall any member being a full-time professional), but it boasted greatly talented and very friendly amateurs from 18 to 60, dedicated to the art of mystifying and entertaining each other and various charitable organizations.  (It was some years later that Mark Wilson and Tom Palmer were our members and then professionals.)

Our installation night with Houdini put all the members in a sweat because the club wanted to show off.  This meant that the members had decided, in reciprocity for Mr. Houdini’s visit, to have each member show off with a trick.  I, for one, sweated through my meal, mentally rehearsing every step of my effect between the bites of food that went into my mouth.  I don’t believe the other members got off any easier than I, for no one finished his meal ahead of me.

A personal note here:  I dressed up an old card trick for my part of the show and the trick nearly went haywire.  I was supposed to find a selected card by weighing (?) the finger-prints pressed onto it by all the members as they passed it around.  But when I went through the deck I discovered TWO apparently selected cards, and I found myself in a helluva spot in front of our distinguished visitor.  By the time I got through weighing those two cards over and over again – and finally coming up with the right one – I had impressed Mr. Houdini as being one of the most dramatic young magicians he had ever seen.  He publicly praised my talent for building suspense!

Before our part of the show, Mr. Houdini offered to perform a little trick of his own.  This he did with an old fashioned hunting-case watch, handed to him with the lid closed after we had set the hands.  He touched it to his forehead and correctly divined the time hidden under its lid.  (This was soon after his expose of the Spaniard Argamasalla, “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes,” who did a similar effect.)

It was a great night, that night 44 years ago.  Not all the members present that evening are alive today.  Yet, that night will always live, and the club, too, as long as man’s love for a fascinating hobby or profession can find its answer in Magic.

Raymond C. Terranella

S.A.M. Charter

I.B.M. Charter

I.B.M. Charter

Willard's Wand

The DMC Shrine

History of Willard the Wizard Ring 174 of the I.B.M.

Willard the Wizard Ring 174 received its charter from the IBM on Saturday, July 18, 1964.  The Ring had 38 charter members.  This was the largest group chartered by the IBM up to that time and the record may still stand. 

The first meeting was held in March, 1964 at the home of Dr. and Mrs. John Gladfelter.  The following officers were elected to guide the Ring through its first year.  President,  Harold Thomas; VP, John Gladfelter; Secretary, Mac Thomas; Treasurer, Judy Little; Histtorian, Rose Gladfelter; Sgt at Arms, Bob Larson.  

The second monthly meeting was also held at the Gladfelters’ home and the question of a name for the Ring was discussed.  Claude Crowe suggested that it be named after Harry Willard (Willard the Wizard) and all members were in favor of this.  We wrote Willard and requested his permission to name the Ring for him.  His answer (AND WE QUOTE THE FIRST SENTENCE), “You boys in Dallas do good magic and I would be honored to have your club carry my name.” 

A suitable place to meet was a problem, then as now.  We met one time at the old White Plaza Hotel and then Mac Thomas found us a permanent home, a large room at the Lone Star Doughnut Co.  They not only gave us the room rent free, but furnished us with an ample supply of doughnuts and coffee at each meeting.  At the May 1964 meeting, our constitution was adopted.  Royal Brin was appointed to the Board of Directors and Ed Watkins was elected Parliamentarian.  Meanwhile, plans for our charter celebration were progressing and expanding.  We had grown from the original ten members at the first meeting to 34 members.  We wanted Willard the Wizard at our charter celebration and he wanted to attend.  We also wanted him to present his full evening show.  He was agreeable to that too.  However, he had only one vehicle left from his once large fleet, and a little old red truck with old, weak tires.  He was sure the truck could make the trip from San Antonio to Dallas and return.  Claude Crowe (who had moved to San Antonio) agreed to drive it and bring Harry and Frances Willard.  We rented the auditorium at the Highland Park City Hall for the performance and it was sold out.  Most of the receipts, after expenses, went to Willard, although he did not ask for anything above his actual expenses. 

On Thursday night, an informal gathering was staged to allow the members to meet Harry and Frances and visit with them.  Various members did magic for Willard including Van Cleve.  After Van Cleve’s presentation of the “Bean Trick” and “Finger Chopper” , Willard remarked , “That boy can do more with less than anyone I know.” 

We wanted to get some publicity for Willard and finally a feature writer for the Dallas Morning News agreed to give us a fifteen minute interview at 9:00 am.. on Friday…. Positive… no more than fifteen minutes!  We carried Willard to the “News”: and the interview began as scheduled.  The interviewer became more than interested in Willard’s story and we had to break in and end the interview at 11:00 a.m..  The article appeared on the front page of the Saturday Dallas Morning News. 

Those who saw the Willard Show will never forget it.  He was assisted by Frances and Claude Crowe and never did better.  He was truly  The Master Magician.  

Saturday noon we had an informal buffet, which was well attended.  A private dining room was furnished and the price was $1.25 per person! 

A magic program was presented in the ballroom on Saturday afternoon, and it was open to all magicians, families, and friends. 

Then came the Charter banquet on Saturday night.  Over 100 members and friends attended and our charter was formally presented by Charles Dodson of Midland, Texas, IBM Territorial Representative. 

Ed Watkins presented his full evening magic performance and was followed with a close-up session.  Both Harry Willard and his family have often remarked that this weekend was perhaps the happiest of his life.  Although he appeared at the TAOM convention in August, this Friday show was the last full two hour show Willard the Wizard ever presented  to a general audience. 

After our charter celebration, things settled down to routine magic and business.  Our meetings were short on business and long on magic.  The Club presented a public show in Wills Point, Texas to enhance the treasury.  With a portion of the proceeds, the little spot light now used occasionally was purchased.  

Royal Brin was elected the second President of the Ring.  John Gladfelter was to serve as President of TAOM in 1965 and felt that he couldn’t adequately serve both organizations.  Johnny Brown became our third President. 

I believe that in our third year, it was decided to combine the monthly Ring meetings with the meeting of the S.A.M. Assembly, and since that time, the history of both organizations has coincided.

Harold Thomas