The Mazda Mystic Ring is a club of men dedicated to the art of magic, who have sworn to protect its secrets and to always uphold the dignity of magic as an art. As of this writing, there are 60 adult members. Meetings are held the second Tuesday of every month at Magic, Incorporated, 5082 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60625. Magicians are always welcome at these meetings.
The Mazda Mystic Ring was founded in April, 1947 by Colonel B. Russell Shaw, so the ring is 27 years old this year. Col. Shaw was the owner and proprietor of the Mazda Magic Studio which was located at 1135 Westgate, Oak Park, Illinois. (See the brief biographical sketch of Col. Shaw which follows.)
A Senior Club was for those over 18 years of age, and dues were then set at $5.00 per year. A Junior Club was for children from 12 to 18, with dues at $1.00 annually.
A report written by Russ in September, 1948 stated: "The Senior Club has 17 members with The Great Waldo, of Oak Park, as President. Mr. Frank White is Secretary and Mr. Fred Ellenberg, Treasurer .... There are now 61 members in the Junior Club. They come from Oak Park, Chicago, Cicero, River Forest, Forest Park, La Grange, Maywood, Riverside, Elmwood Park and Glen Ellyn.
"The Senior Club plans upon putting on a full evening show once or twice a year for the benefit of the public. The first of these performances was given at the Lowell School Little Theater in Oak Part on the evening of May 14th, 1948. This was a great success.
"The Senior Club members took up the first half of the evening and the Junior Club the second half. About $300.00 was cleared and these funds went into the club treasury. This money is being spent to improve the club rooms and to provide entertainment at certain club meetings."
Here is the lineup for that show: Part One opened with Andrew K. Sonnicksen as "Andmar". Next was "A Study Period in Magic" conducted by Mr. Shaw with the following Juniors: Billy Seymour, Jack Munns, Dennis Alwood, James Jones, Melvin Robbins, Tommy Eck, David Anderson, Calvin Borchart, Nilliam Gregg, Leslie Silverman, Douglas Yearly, Ray Waggoner, Orin Gorr, Jack Northrop, and Chuck Wolf. A ten-minute intermission followed.
Part Two was MC'd by "Andmar". The performers were Harry Kuhn, Franklin (Frank White), "Doodle" Duncan, La Von, Ed Jochens, and closed with "The Great Waldo" assisted by Elsie Waldo and Joan Stedry as "Princess Joan". "The Great Waldo" was the stage name of Waldo Schreivogel, known for his Magic Bar, a production of various drinks from plain water. Stage Manager was William Stedry.
Throughout the years the club has produced the Junior half of the show with various themes, such as "School Daze", "Magical Sideshow", "Television Mites", "Street Scene", "The 14th Book of Oz", "A Day on the Mississippi Show Boat", "Toyland", "Sagebrush Sorcery", and "It's a Magical World". Every year the rear of the magic shop resounded with the din of hammers, saws, drills, etc., as we constructed the props for the coming show.
In 1960, Russ decided to retire and to move to Gulfport, Florida, and he sold the shop to John Morrissy (former Junior, Past President, and Life Member). John took over the shop the first of January, 1961. Three years later, in June, 1964, John Morrissy closed the Mazda Magic Shop due to adverse business conditions, and so the club had to look for another meeting place.
After a few months of meeting at such places as the Oak Park YMCA, John Sinclair's home, and others, the club received an offer from Frances and Jay Marshall to let us meet at their club room, and we happily accepted the offer.
Now let us backtrack a little, to January 1954, when Chuck Bowman, who in those days was a very active member, mailed to the membership the first copy of the Mazda Mystic Club News, known after the first issue as the Mazda Gram. Historian Gerry Loe has the entire first volume and part of volume two, plus some copies of the New Mazda Gram which was started in January of 1957. This collection of Mazda Grams constitutes a good history of the Club and contains a number of tricks which were contributed by various members.
Currently, the Club publishes The Light of Mazda which is edited by Arnie Winter, with William Hamilton as reporter and Bob Carr as artist.
During 1952 and 1953 we were conducting a contest for the design of an emblem for the Club. Several of the members had come up with ideas, however, Hugh Sasseman, who used to make the posters for the annual show before Gerry Loe learned to do silk screening, made up several design posters for display on the stage back drop for the Fourth Annual Show in May, 1953.
The club liked the design so well that we awarded the prize to Hugh unanimously. It was the now familiar Ace of Diamonds with the double "M" surrounded by a ring. The Club recently voted, at the suggestion of Arnie Winter, to change the card depicted to the Ace of Clubs, since Mazda is truly THE "Ace of Clubs".
The President of Mazda is officially known as "Sir Gimmick", and should be addressed as such. The vice president is, naturally, "Vice-Sir Gimmick", the treasurer is the "Keeper of the Miser's Dream", and the secretary is "Keeper of the Slates". It was formerly a rule that one would be fined ten cents every time a member addressed another member as "Mister" rather than by his first name.
Other early "rules" were: A member was fined one dollar if we discovered that he had his picture published in a newspaper. A standard warning was issued: "Always be prepared to do a trick if asked at a meeting or it will cost one dollar." Very few dollars were ever collected by this rule as members were usually able to come up with something resembling a trick.
Much work was done by the members on the original club rooms at 1135 Westgate, such as putting in a ceiling, painting the place, putting in the lighting controls, and so on. Lots of helping hands shared the work.
A model airplane club, the Balsa Bugs, also met at the magic shop. They often furnished ushers and usherettes for our annual shows. One of the spectacular sights at many shows was the LARGE company of assistants that Howard Mueller used to come up with. We really closed the show with a big act in those days!
Some of you probably wonder why we are celebrating the 25th Annual Show this year when the club is 27 years old. There was no show the first year. Then, one year we planned on having the show script written by a well-known magical author ... but somewhere along the line delays came up, and we had no show that year. That plan was abandoned and we went back to planning our own show the following year.
One of the most important distinguishing features of Mazda Mystic Ring, we feel, is the emphasis on everyone participating in the club activities, each according to his particular abilities and interests. Mazda also participates in supporting visiting lecturers by picking up the tab for members who attend -- a bonus often worth much more than the annual dues!
How do we do it? We simply put the money we raise through our annual show, publications such as this book, and so on, into use for the members. You have helped by buying this book or by coming to an annual show, and we thank you!
Since its inception, the Mazda Mystic Ring has always had a "junior" section in the club. The juniors are young men and women, ages ranging from eight to seventeen.
Many of them, of course, think in terms of becoming professional magicians "when they grow up". For most, this tapers off to a pleasant avocation. A few, however, have seen that childhood dream turn into reality and have gone on to make their living in show business.
Members of the Mazda Seniors have over the years devoted endless hours of time to teaching the Juniors to become not just magicians, but performers. Few other young magicians in the country have had the benefits of having completely outfitted club rooms, complete with stage, lighting and scenery. And, as members of the Mazda organization, they have qualified to attend many of the lectures by touring professionals that have been sponsored by the Mazda Seniors.
At first the benefits of having been a junior magician may not be obvious, however to some of us "old timers" who have watched their development over the years, it has not only been obvious but a source of extreme pride. The club, and magic, helps develop many attributes, among them perserverance, self-confidence, the ability to appear in front of groups, the ability to think on one's feet, and so on. The club's purpose is not really to develop character, but it just seems to happen anyway.
Among the benefits of youth are not only enthusiasm, but unbounded energy and unlimited imagination -- handy attributes for any magician. Lest we give the old folks too much credit, let it be pointed out that the Juniors have taught the Seniors a trick or two over the years and in a few cases have totally baffled the Seniors with some of their innovations and inventiveness.
Mazda Juniors have many accomplishments of which they may be proud. As far as we know, they are the only magic club ever to rent an ice rink and give a full evening show on ice. They have been instrumental in creating the Club's annual shows around a theme or story. Some of the Juniors were chosen as Junior Performers on the Don Alan TV show, "Magic Ranch". And, the members both as a group and individually have used their talents to entertain at various orphanages, VA hospitals, etc.
A history of Mazda Mystic Ring would be incomplete without telling you about the founder of the club, Col. Russ Shaw.
Mr. Shaw was a pioneer in aviation. He designed, built, and flew his own plane as early as 1908, without ever having seen another plane. The dimensions were obtained from newspaper and magazine photographs.
Orville and Wilber Wright encouraged Russ to continue on with his designing and flying experiments. He flew exhibition flights at state fairs throughout the midwest and such flights were used to finance his flying ventures.
When World War I broke out Russ worked for the U. S. Government at McCook Field as an assistant final design engineer. He tested all types of airplanes, including German planes which had been shot down or captured.
In 1922, he went with the Aero Club of America, organized and held the National Air Races in Detroit, at which time the National Aeronautic Association was formed, representing the Federatione Aeronautique Internationale.
For a while he designed and built airports. Then he became vice president in charge of engineering at Washington Institute of Technology in Washington, D. C. In 1942, he accepted a commission as Major in the U.S. Army. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel and made Chief of Airplane Development Division, Technical Services, Ordnance Department.
Upon resigning from the services in April, 1945, Mr. Shaw began to put into effect plans he had been considering for some time -- to go into business as a magic dealer. He started by selling magic by mail from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Then, on September 15, 1946, the Mazda Magic Studio was opened in Oak Park, Illinois.
In 1960, Russ decided to retire and move to Gulfport, Florida, where he intended to continue manufacturing some magical equipment. He sold the shop to John Morrissy, as noted earlier, and John took over the shop the first of January, 1961.
Two weeks after Russ and Mrs. Shaw moved to Gulfport, we received the news that Russ had passed away following an emergency operation, on March 13th. We were all shocked by this news, as he had been in good health when he had left us just a short time before.
It should be clear, even from this very brief outline of his life, that the founder of The Mazda Mystic Ring was a most unusual and outstanding man.