Some History of Assembly #17...
Our original charter was for the Valley Conjurer's Assembly No.17, and was granted in August of 1922. Harry Houdini was National President at the time and signed that charter! We've had a wonderful history over the years, and good old Assembly 17 has boasted some famous members through the years, including such fine performers as Charlie Cambra, Jay Marshall (a Chicopee, MA resident), Bill Severn the Berkshire author, and Joe Karson creator of "Zombie." One of the best years in the assembly's history was in 1976 when we won the Thurston Bowl for membership growth. We had over 50 members then, and six of them were women, (we were ahead of the times!)
Perhaps Joe Karson was the most famous magician of all those who lived in Springfield for a lengthy time, and that is because of his wonderful invention, the Zombie effect. Joe Karson performed a lot more magic than just the Zombie, and had a full evening show. One of his featured tricks was the Guillotine. While Harry Blackstone was playing at the Court Square Theater, back in 1947, Joe set up his Guillotine on the Court Square Theater stage and invited Harry to stick his head through the hole. Harry refused! The photo shown here, (below), is of Harry Blackstone checking out the sharp blade, set to fall. "Not me," said Harry! The photo is a little blurry, but still fun to see.
Jay Marshall and Lefty
Our Assembly is now named after Dr. I.R. Calkins, who was not only a Springfield physician, but also an Olympic medal winner in the pistol and rifle marksmanship competition. He was not only president of the Assembly, he was also National President in 1936 - 1937.
Dr I.R. Calkins