“The whole thing was Alfred’s fault!” Alfred Carlton Gilbert was a magician and inventor who, back in 1909, provided supplies for magic shows. Bruce says that it was that darn picture on Gilbert’s Mysto Magic Set box that changed his life. The picture showed a rabbit in a hat, a ball and vase, colorful hanks, and a young performer magishing a pot of flowers. “As a five year old, I was enthralled! I wanted to be that boy. I wanted to do those tricks – especially the flower trick!” said Bruce. “Had it not been for that Gilbert Mysto Magic Set, I might not have been bitten by the magic bug. Without magic, I might not have been able to afford college, and I might not have met Kitty and spent the last fifty years with her. And without Kitty, there might not be a Magic Moments act, or a magic collection. Yep! It was all Alfred’s fault!”
Kitty and Bruce Spangler are third generation natives of Denver, Colorado, and have recently celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Throughout their marriage, magic has been an integral part of their lives, and today, their three children, Steve, Holly, and Wayne, are carrying on the tradition. While the Spanglers have traveled extensively performing their stage act, their hearts have always been close to home. Bruce and Kitty have always been consummate supporters and mentors to the Colorado magic community.
Bruce discovered magic on his fifth birthday in 1946 when a neighbor gave him a Gilbert Mysto Magic Exhibition Set #1½. In those days, the magic set was most likely purchased for about a buck and a half from a national department store chain. Although his original magic set is no longer around, a few years ago Bruce bought a replica of the same set on eBay for nearly $300. Bruce says, “It was worth every penny! It was like being reunited with an old friend.” One of Bruce’s defining moments was in the second grade when his teacher announced a talent show in which everyone was to participate. “I couldn’t sing, dance, or play an instrument,” Bruce said. He added, “In desperation, I looked through my toy closet and came upon my Gilbert Mysto Magic Set. I practiced a few tricks and performed them in the talent show. From that point on during my school years, and into college, my classmates would refer to me as the magician.
“When I was around ten years old, my mentor was a local magician by the name of Wayne Minge. He was the resident magician (he ran the magic counter) at Pratt’s Book Store in Denver.” Bruce remembers those classes well. He says that a dozen teen- and preteen-aged boys would enthusiastically attend each Saturday afternoon at Pratt’s. The classes were held in the ancient and dimly lit basement of the store. “To me, it was a scary place; I was quite reluctant to join the group at first, even though my parents reassured me that it was perfectly safe. After several weeks of consternation, I decided to embark upon the adventure. To my delight, I found the other young magicians to be quite supportive and willing to share their experiences with me.”
In the years that followed, and with the help of some veteran adult stagehands, a stage was constructed in that spooky ol’ bookstore basement. It had a professionally installed platform, curtains, and even lighting equipment. It was a safe place to meet, learn, and perform. Each week, one of the members would do a show and the resident magician at the counter upstairs would come down to offer his critique of the show and teach something from the realm of the professional magicians. “I can’t imagine a better environment to foster an interest in magic.”
Each Saturday after magic class, Bruce and many other students would run across the street to Major’s Camera Shop, which also had a magic department and was located only a half-block away from Pratt’s. The magician working the magic counter at Major Magic was Earl Reum – another one of Bruce’s mentors. Eventually, Bruce landed his first job at Pratt’s Book Store. It was his dream job!
Now he had the responsibility of sweeping the floors, removing fingerprints and drool from the glass on the magic showcases, demonstrating tricks, and teaching Saturday magic classes. “Many famous magicians came through the shop, but I was not seasoned enough to recognize them. One day, while working the magic counter, a couple of rough-looking ‘cowboys’ came into the shop and began browsing the magic in the showcases. These two guys did not look like what I thought magicians should look like.“ The character with the cigar and fishing creel hanging at his side pointed to a Walsh cane and said to me, ‘Would you get that out so that I can play with it a bit?’ I politely told him that it was a magic prop that could only be handled by professional magicians. The other cowboy leaned over the counter and whispered into my ear, ‘Don’t you know who that is? That’s Senator Clarke Crandall.’ I remember thinking, ‘Holy cow! I just insulted a real United States Senator!’ “Senator or not, I wasn’t about to hand over the cane. He politely asked if I was allowed to tell him the price. I did. He bought it. Only after several days did word get around town, and somebody let me in on who the senator really was.”
Read the entire article in the May 2014 M.U.M. by Clicking HERE
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