The founding of the IJA at the 1947 IBM convention was the culmination of a lot of dreams and hard work on the part of many people, but it was only the first step. To be truly independent, the new organization had to declare itself separate from the magic community by holding its own conventions.
As Roger Montandon said, a separate IJA convention "would appeal to a great many jugs who have little interest in going to big cities and being pushed around by terrific crowds of magicians."
Thus, the next major move, after a furious six months membership drive, was to hold the first IJA convention in Jamestown, N.Y., home of Harry Lind and Doc Crosby. With organizational help from George Barvin and mammoth publicity by George DeMott, the convention was a success covered by "Life" magazine and Fox Movietone News.
The three day event, held in the Jamestown Hotel and costing $5, was attended by 38 of the 115 members, along with wives, husbands and guests. Home movies of the event make it clear that, but for the clothes, the attitude of the conventioneers was the same as today: get loose!
Having succeeded in preventing the IJA from becoming a branch of the IBM, the IJA now had to deal with its own internal give and take. At the business meeting, the constitution and by-laws proposed in Pittsburgh were adopted. This muffled the "grousing," as it had been called, of some who wanted to know by what authority the officers held their positions.
The scope of the organization was discussed, with few believing it could grow beyond 300 members, maximum. A question of whether an art like rope spinning ought to be included within the domain of the IJA led to the policy of not defining juggling. It was decided to let the membership define itself.
Once again, the idea of holding the convention in conjunction with magic conventions was vetoed. A great deal of discussion centered on whether to affiliate the "Bulletin" with the IJA, and, if so, whether to up the dues to pay the freight. It was decided that the "Bulletin" should remain independent. Dues were set at $1 per year, with a $1 initiation fee, and membership only available upon the recommendation of another member.
With business out of the way, the fun resumed:
Frankly, reporting the doings of the First Convention of the IJA is one of the toughest assignments we've ever undertaken. We've been to several conventions and read reports of many more, but never have we enjoyed one as much as this one. In fact we were so busy enjoying it that we failed to make a single note and it was only in a post-convention meeting at Lind's that we jotted down some material. But notes or no notes, the highlights of the convention can never be forgotten by those attending...
The minute we stepped into the Hotel Jamestown and registered we knew the convention would be a success because Art Jennings, George DeMott, George Barvin and Dr. Crosby were already there and had things in full swing. These men did a lot of preconvention work and kept it up the entire convention. It wasn't until the next day that we met Mrs. Crosby and we found out that the billing should be Dr. and Mrs. Crosby, Convention Co-Chairmen.
When George DeMott said that Fox Movietone and Look Magazine would cover the convention he meant it. Mr. Blair of Fox Movietone took pictures of the 25 or more jugglers gathered together at Allen Park doing every conceivable type of juggling until he was blue in the face, or we should say red, for exposing some 1,800 feet of film in three hours didn't leave much time for rest. Phil Harrington, Look's representative, was a hard-working young man who left no stone unturned to get the pictures he wanted. Equipped with the latest and best in camera and strobe light apparatus, he took some 1,000 pictures of every possible situation.
Some of the publicity shots that took place all over Jamestown were designed to create local and national interest in the doings of jugglers. There was the hotel kitchen juggling by Talent and Jennings, cigar store scene with DeMott, the balance of a full sheet of newspaper in the Post-Journal offices by Wm. Schillinger, Dottie Dell's juggle on top of the Jamestown Hotel, DeMott, Lou Meyer, and Barvin at the photo club with a model. And as a finale, that traffic stopping, club passing foursome, Al Barnard, Jack Greene, Harry Lind and Buster Barnard.
The convention opened officially by convention chairman Crosby and president Jennings on Sunday evening. Father Bryzana and Rabbi Minsker each skillfully blended their thoughts to form one of the most interesting and inspiring invocations ever heard. From then on things started flying and kept on flying until the end of the convention.
After returning from Allen Park the following morning, Vin Carey displayed an elaborate table full of props all made by himself. His explanation of how each item was conceived and manufactured was interesting and educational. After this "serious" lecture Vin broke down and during the rest of the convention lived up to his billing of "convention kibitzer."
Your editor followed with various types of foolishness such as bouncing putty, the rigid rope and the vanishing cane. Jack Greene, a truly great juggler, but you'd never guess it for his modesty, followed with reminiscences of vaudeville and juggling during the "golden era." Climaxing the educational forum was Harry Lind who, after a brief talk, removed his coat and demonstrated the evolution of club juggling from single and double club swinging moves. Bobby Jule was introduced and favored us with his routine of club swinging and tossing done with the precision that is characteristic of all his work.
The evening session covered the motion picture activities of such outstanding jugglers as Lew Folds, Truzzi Francisco, Boy Foy, Bob Dupont, Bobby May and the Barnards, and the films taken at the Pittsburgh get together in 1947.
At the business meeting Tuesday morning the constitution and by-laws were amended and adopted, letters and telegrams from absent members were read, memorial service held for jugglers having passed on and new officers elected.
Art Jennings stated that he would not seek re-election but he would not refuse a nomination. He would like to see someone else nominated, however. He mentioned that Eddie Johnson is a student and that he does not believe he wishes to be re-elected vice president. George Barvin stated that he would be unable to accept the nomination due to the fact that he works and does juggling dates on the side and does not have the time to give to the office. So Jennings was again nominated for president and elected.
Dr. Baldwin was nominated for vice president and refused it, as he was too busy. Vin Carey was nominated and accepted the nomination and was voted into office.
Russell Torello was nominated for secretary-treasurer but declined as he does not have the time. George DeMott was then nominated for secretary-treasurer, but declined as he travels too much. Bill Talent was next nominated for secretary-treasurer, but declined for the same reason. Finally, Violet Carlson was nominated for secretary-treasurer, and accepted under protest and was voted into office.
George DeMott was named chaplain, and Jack Greene and Harry Lind became directors. The afternoon was filled with swapping of pictures, looking at scrapbooks and just plain and fancy juggling.
We'd heard a lot about the toastmastership of Joe Fleckenstein and at the banquet that night some 52 jugglers and their ladies were entertained by his wit and humor. During his more serious moments, Joe introduced chairman Crosby, the new and retiring officers, Mayor Stroth of Jamestown, and Harry Lind. The ovation given Harry and his expression of gratitude will never be forgotten by those attending. It was a fitting climax to the banquet honoring this great juggler and craftsman.
Autographing of the guest book and the giant club as well as the group pictures filled the early evening. And then as if prearranged by the fates, who should stop in but Eddie Tierney. Having driven some 300 miles from Canada and having to be in Baltimore the next day didn't stop this great juggler from giving us a demonstration of four and five club work done with the ease and grace never before witnessed by most of us.
Eddie gave a repeat performance for the photographers and included some of the finest precision club passing with Al and Buster Barnard ever viewed. We interviewed Roy Henderson, who held the cigar in his mouth while Tierney and Barnard flipped the ashes off with flying clubs, and he said, "Sure is hard on a good cigar."
After such a strenuous night things didn't get under full swing till late the next morning with more pictures taken, hospital shows given and preparations made for "The Big Toss Up," the public headliner show. George Barvin certainly did a marvelous job of lining up talent and the small but appreciative audience expressed their approval of each act in the fast-moving, well-balanced show.
Vin Carey M.C.'d and as he had previously promised, there were no stage waits. Everything clicked like a big-time production. There was James Murphy and his gravity-defying slack wire presentation and Vin Carey with a spot of magic climaxed by a superb linking ring routine. Harry Lind and Jack Greene represented the old timers with their club passing. Lloyd Morgan did his fascinating gyrations on the high and low unicycles. Lou Meyer presented a combination of comic situations and juggling. George DeMott, a versatile juggler, checked with all the other artists and still presented something different. George Lerch presented unsupported ladder, stilt walking, rope spinning and juggling all done on a portable slack wire rigging, and finished strong with the hand stand on the slack wire.
As if to bring this show to its apex, Bobby Jule presented his flawless juggling technique in the routine that has made him one of the nation's top jugglers. Such smoothness and timing! Vin Carey called all jugglers in the house to the stage and the air was filled with flying objects as the curtain closed on a great show.
All jugglers were invited to Bill Dunham's cottage on the shores of Lake Chit and after coffee and sandwiches and more juggling the convention came to a reluctant close.