Magic
Home of the U.S.J.F. George C. Balch Education Scholarship

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To George, it was never about the magic.  Doing "tricks" for people was just a means to an end.  The real magic was the way he could bring a smile of wonder or surprise to a child's' face; any child.  He had a gift for showmanship, and he used it wisely.  He would entertain groups of any size, for any occasion, always with the same result . . . they loved him!

He began his 60 year journey as a magician by the complex task of rolling a silver dollar on his knuckles from finger to finger, increasing his ambidextrousness as he went.  George would work tirelessly at his craft.  He would spend hours, days and weeks perfecting a complex illusion just to make it second nature.  This was never more evident than later in life.  He would be asked to perform for some eager group or club, and even though he had not practiced in years, he would pick it up again like he had been polishing his act for months.  

Physical dexterity work soon led to practice with juggling pins, and that led to the use of a unicycle, card tricks, illusions and even sawing a woman in half!  

His warm handsome presence and home-spun patter worked a "magic" of their own every time.  It would inevitably produce the reaction that he wanted; simple unadulterated - Joy.  For the smiles on the faces, for the laughter and awe, that was why he practiced and labored in the wee  hours of a weeknight evening for a crowd of Kiwanis members or ladies book club. 


At the pinnacle of his time as a magician, he attempted an illusion that even his hero Harry Blackstone found difficult and dangerous.  He was to be handcuffed, put in a straight-jacket and locked in a steamer trunk. 
Then the trunk was to be chained and lowered into a lake!  George practiced this illusion for weeks but always on dry land.  He was an excellent swimmer, and in top shape as an athlete. However, he had no way to practice the addition of water to this perilous feat.

When the time came to attempt it, several large fellows aided him in the event.  They lifted the trunk carrying it's precious cargo high in the air and tossed it far out into the lake.  Inside the trunk, George had already eluded the constraints of the handcuffs and straight-jacket, but something was wrong!  He had not counted on being upside down when he landed at the bottom of the dark lake.  He struggled for several minutes in the murky water, only to finally emerge again topside to the delight and astonishment of the hysterical crowd.  To this day, he never would  divulge the secret of how he overcame that near-tragedy that afternoon.  


Ying-Sing-Foo-Bananas! 
he would chant, all the while misdirecting the crowd from seeing what he was really doing.  But in the end, we did see clearly what he intended all along . . .   the illusion was that he made people happy for just a while.  I'm sure he knew the real magic he possessed would keep us smiling for many, many years to come.

 

 

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