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Topic: Vick Lawston & Pumpernickel
Message: Posted by: Steven Steele (Jun 4, 2003 06:32PM)
I have to give kudo's to Vick Lawston, the guy advertising in the back of my "Legion of Super Heroes" comic book back in 1962, to giving me the magic bug. While I couldn't afford much (on 25 cents a week for all of my spending needs), I used to drool and dream over his catalog for days.

Last year I started searching Vick out to thank him, but learned that he had passed away. I got a chance to chat with his son and he was very pleased to hear what his dad had done for so many of us. Vick was the mail order guy who got you interested without selling the "real secrets". In those days, you had to work your way up to get "secrets". Vick and his cartoon monkey, Pumpernickel where so much fun.

In those days Louis Tannen and Abbotts were not well known to us beginners not close to any magicians or magic shops.

We started with Vick or Top Hat (I had their catalog too).

I wonder how many magicians got a similar start in this wonderful art?

By the way, a couple of years ago, I was able to successfully bid on Vick's catalog (in great condition) on e-bay from those days long gone. It's sitting in a hallowed place next to my first Svengali deck...that started it all.

Message: Posted by: GeorgeG (Jun 5, 2003 12:57AM)
Ahh..Vick Lawson, those were the days. For an impressionable kid, browsing his catalog was like opening a door to a whole new world of fantasy and mystery. Not surprising, since he generally advertised the catalog in the Marvel magazines. It was as good or better than the yearly holiday toy catalog from Sears.

I remember working with my dad on a few weekends(he was a door to door salesman) and earning the then handsome sum of $20. Then it was fun, deciding what I would order from the catalog. I also got a copy of the Lawson catalog through ebay a while back and it was sure nostalgic going through it again.
Message: Posted by: Terry Holley (Jun 7, 2003 10:09PM)

I can certainly relate to what you wrote.

Just last night before I found this thread, I was going through my Vick Lawston "Giant Surprise Catalog." I've owned it for 35-40 years and every once in a while I take it off the shelf to "re-live" those wonder filled days.

I remember the excitement waiting to receive my order of "The Vanishing Head" (found on the back cover of my catalogue, and only $1.00!).

My first big order was to Top Hat Magic Co. It was about $30 and included The Human Hen, EZ Hat Loader, 4 silks (pure silk!), Vanishing Milk Pitcher, and a few other items that I can't remember.

No doubt those two companies provided quite a bit of joy to kids all around the country during a simpler time and place!

Message: Posted by: Rennie (Jun 27, 2003 03:43PM)
I too remember as well as have a Vick Lawston catalog in my collection. Another catalog that I feel got me as well as many others started on the road to magic was Johnson / Smith & Co., another catalog that I have in my collection. Forgot to mention Douglas Magicland in Dallas Texas, also in my collection. All great memories
Message: Posted by: landmark (Jul 15, 2003 10:19PM)
You're taking me back now! Yes, Vick Lawson! I will always remember the picture of a magi with sparks shooting out of his eyelids. The catalog said I could do that too for 50 cents. I finally got the trick in the mail and there it was--a half page explanation of how to put tin foil on your eyelids. But then I got together $6.50 (by stealing money from my mother's pocketbook!) and bought the brass bill in tube. What a great gimmick. It was my first real magic. Mom, I'm sorry.

Thanks for a little flashback there,
Message: Posted by: Bilwonder (Jul 26, 2003 04:09AM)
Vick Lawson- Yes your post does bring back memories...oddly I have met very few magicians who remember him this way..

Somehow...at the age of 3 my dad sent away to get this catalog for me..and we waited and waited for it to arrive..When it came I spent hours looking at the pictures and saw the "5 in one wand" so my dad sent for it...my first trick...I figured once I had the wand I could do most of the other magic in the book (That was also my first magical disappointment...that you often get tricked learning tricks!)...but he got me addicted to magic...

I still have the old yellowed catalog as well as MANY of the instruction sheets (stamped "TOP SECRET!"). They are still a joy to read.

I wrote to thank him years later and got a lovely note from his wife saying he had passed on.

"From the Atlantic to the Pacific
they say his magic was TERRIFIC!"
Message: Posted by: Steve Hart (Nov 9, 2003 09:38AM)
Hey Gang,

I did get to meet Vic several years ago. Jay Marshall introduced him to me. I did thank him for those early years of suppling me my beginner magic.

I don't have any of those old catalogs only the memories. I would like to buy an old Lawston's and a Top Hat catalog. Do you know where I can find one?

Steve Hart
Cape Canaveral, FL USA
Message: Posted by: Steven Steele (Dec 2, 2003 10:40PM)
I bought mine a few years ago on ebay. Just keep your eyes peeled and one might magically appear! Good luck.

Message: Posted by: Steve Hart (Dec 6, 2003 11:02PM)
Hey Gang,

Did you see the photo of the Vick Lawston Magic catalog in Magic Magazine, Dec. Issue 2003 page 81.....?

I would still like to purchase a copy if anybody has one. I lost my long time ago.

Steve Hart
Cape Canaveral, FL USA
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Dec 21, 2003 04:00PM)
I got mine through George Daily. Bill Wellington who was mentioned giving the Vick Lawston talk is going
to do a profile on him in an upcoming Magic. I talked
to Paul Diamond about VL. He had only met him once but
didn't think he was the nicest of guys. What was your impression Steve?
Message: Posted by: Frank Tougas (Jan 3, 2004 10:32PM)
Ah yes, the House of 1000 Mysteries. I still have my Pin Cushion Balloon trick in the original plastic box I ordered from Vick. That, and a few "secret" manuscripts which I also still have. Unfortunately my catalog no longer exists. :(

Just a note, I was sent a free trick along with my order called The Trickster Card Trick. I still do that trick to this very day and it gets a great reaction.

Sounds like the guys on this forum came up through the same ranks as myself. Hour after hour spent paging through those wonder books of magic. So secret even our parents didn't understand the attraction.

Now there is so much new stuff being released month after month and kids have so much more expendable income than we did, I wonder just what their fond memories will consist of?
Message: Posted by: TrickyRicky (Nov 8, 2005 07:45AM)
On 2003-06-07 23:09, Terry Holley wrote:

I can certainly relate to what you wrote.

Just last night before I found this thread, I was going through my Vick Lawston "Giant Surprise Catalog." I've owned it for 35-40 years and every once in a while I take it off the shelf to "re-live" those wonder filled days.

I remember the excitement waiting to receive my order of "The Vanishing Head" (found on the back cover of my catalogue, and only $1.00!).

My first big order was to Top Hat Magic Co. It was about $30 and included The Human Hen, EZ Hat Loader, 4 silks (pure silk!), Vanishing Milk Pitcher, and a few other items that I can't remember.

No doubt those two companies provided quite a bit of joy to kids all around the country during a simpler time and place!

Great memories--I bought that same (Vanishing Head) from Vick's catalogue.
Remember the monkey (Pumpernickle)? He was all over the pages.
I bought every thing he had, even the small magic kits he advertised in the middle pages.
Those small wooden billard ball with the metal shell keeps slipping from my fingers.
Richard Lyn
Message: Posted by: Acecardician (Mar 28, 2006 08:33PM)
Vick Lawson! I remember being ripped off by him as a kid. I sent a lot of my hard earned money for tricks that were nothing but sheets of paper explaining things a 10 year old could never build. Then the couple of solid tricks I did order, he was out of stock and sent substitutions, which consisted of more sheets of useless information. I sent these back for a refund and he said he never got them back "lost in the mail", yea right. So I was out my hard earned money and had nothing to show for it. A very hard first lesson to learn as a kid.
I almost quit magic. But then I found Francis Marshall, and she was Great! Had conversations with her Saturday mornings by phone. She even talked to my mom. Needless to say, I owe her a lot for helping me out. And I got to meet her! She was the best!
I think I still have 2 of the Lawson catalogs. I wanted to burn them. Maybe I can sell them on ebay and recoup some of the money he ripped off from me.
Message: Posted by: tbsmith918 (May 1, 2006 09:40PM)
I remember buying some magic from Vick Lawson back about 1970 or so... I also recall it being junk for the most part... back then ordering via mail was a long slow process (esp. for a kid)... hard earned money... long wait... and being very disappointed... that's what I remember. After seeing the junk Vick sent me my mom took me downtown to a real magic shop (run by a great old magician) where I joined a ring for "juniors"... discovered Genii magazine... and bought some real nice stuff with my hard earned money... simplier times for sure. I still have one of the two catalogs from ol' Vick... it's almost funny to look through it now.
Message: Posted by: TrickyRicky (May 8, 2006 06:17PM)
Hey tbsmith.
I started buying props from Vick sometime in 1958. I guess that's the time he started his mail order business.
I was born in Kingston Jamaica, so you can pretty well figure out how long a time it takes for my package to arrive. I'd say about 6 months.
I usually get everything I ordered from Vick,except for the odd back order items.
By the time the 60's came around, I started to deal with Tannen, Hornmans,Harry Stanley,Douglas MagicLand.
I spent a fortune on props just like everyone else.
Message: Posted by: tbsmith918 (May 9, 2006 05:24PM)
Back then the 3-4 week delivery times felt like an eternity... six months for you... you must have learned the virtue of being patient very early on. It is amazing how times have changed... in this age of online ordering, UPS, FedEx, etc., if we donít have our "stuff" within a few days we are wondering if something is wrong... but of course we have on-line tracking to answer all our questions. I must admit I am spoiled by it all. As to Vick... I hope you had better luck with him in '58... maybe his "merchandise" was of higher quality back then (in '58 I was more interested in learning to walk... but not too many years away from being introduced to magic via Mark Wilsonís Saturday morning TV Magic program... sponsored by Kellogg if my memory serves me correctly). The first dealers I ever dealt with (other than the shop downtown) were Tannen and Abbott's both in the mid 70's.
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Jul 30, 2006 02:58PM)
Wow, brings back memories. Supposedly in one of the major magazines there was supposed to be an article about Vic. When Paul Harris was visiting he mentioned that Vic was his first catalog, too. He said Daryl even knew the whole Pumpernickle poem. A number of years ago I tried to find out a little more info and got in touch with Paul Diamond. He had only met him once. Said he was a small man and gave him some advice. Something to the effect of when you open the envelope look for the paper--(money, checks).
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Nov 25, 2006 03:21AM)
I still have my cataloges from Vic Lawston's House of 1000 Mysteries, and from Top Hat Magic in Evanston, Illinois.
Message: Posted by: KenW (Dec 8, 2006 11:07AM)
Vic Lawston MMMMM...

Thank you Mr. Lawston...it has been great!
Message: Posted by: Tom G (Dec 9, 2006 05:21PM)
You're lucky Michael, I have Vic's catalog, and Top Hat was another favorite, about all I can remember of that is the very rigid looking guy on the first page.
Wished I had a Top Hat and Elbee catalog....

Message: Posted by: House of 1000 Mysteries (Jan 26, 2007 01:56PM)
What years do you still have? I just missed a chance to buy a 1937 when my father called it "Vicks Trick"
Jeff Lawston
Message: Posted by: larrymoore (May 27, 2008 06:33AM)

what happened to all the stuff that was in the catalogs? I am hoping to get the chance to talk to you if you are willing. thanks so much.

larry moore
Message: Posted by: getmagicrick (Jun 9, 2008 10:20PM)
Sorry that Acecardician felt the way he did a couple of years ago. This is a slow moving thread! Wow, so much time has passed. From 2003 to 2008, and I just signed on! But there were always those, and will always be those, who said that they got "ripped off." That's not what Vick Lawston was about. I ordered from him many times, and never got "ripped off." It was likely that Jeff Lawston, at one time or another, packed one of my mailings! I just hope everyone can get beyond the occasional rift (that may have even been the Post Office's fault, not Vick's), and just realize what an artist, a master marketer and a genius he was. Those House of a Thousand Mysteries catalogs are among my most cherished childhood artifacts. I poured over them for hours, and they kept the love of magic alive for me. At least until the next episode of the Magic Land of Allakazam!
Message: Posted by: getmagicrick (Jun 9, 2008 10:39PM)
And a special tip of the magic hat to Jeff Lawston who has kept the flame for an amazing dad all these years. His nice online tribute has touched a lot of us out here, and stimulated many a memory. In that spirit, I offer the following tribute poem that I had the pleasure of sharing with Jeff and his family:

(In the style of Vick's own poem inside the catalog....)

PULL UP A CHAIR, JEFF! I feel some silly poetry coming on!
Yes, I know it's awful, but go on -- read it anyway! IT'S ALL IN FUN!

My own name is Rick, and that rhymes with Vick
and the last name of Lawston's still famous
When his catalogs came in the mail for us kids
It took both of our parents to tame us!

Vick Lawston brought magic to folks the world over
With laughter, a smile and a wink
With cute Pumpernickel atop of his hand
Your tricks all arrived in a blink

Family, friends, and a schoolmate or two
would watch an amazing illusion
supplied by your dad, and boy am I glad
They all scratched their heads in confusion

On slow summer days, by the pond or a tree
With the wind gently swaying the flowers
The House of A Thousand Mysteries came
in the mail, and I'd read it for hours

Even now, when the world makes me weary and weak,
I can go get a copy and read it
And the years melt away, I'm a kid once again
I know just where it is when I need it

With each page that turned, there's a memory burned
in my mind of a time filled with magic
To have missed even one of Vick's fun catalogs
would have been something just short of tragic

I treasure each one of my catalogs now
and I handle each one with great caution
But all through the years, through the smiles and the tears
I will always remember Vick Lawston

--Copyright 2007 by Ricky David Tripp
Message: Posted by: larrymoore (Jun 11, 2008 07:25AM)
I truly agree. I have two of these catalogs and I handle them both with care.
The poem was incredible. thanks for sharing.

Message: Posted by: getmagicrick (Jan 13, 2009 01:04PM)
Thank you, Larry. I haven't logged on in a while, so I missed your message. In that you liked the poem, you may be interested in knowing that Jeff Lawston took the poem to his mother (Vick's widow) and read it to her, to her delight! What a treat to know that Vick's wife and other family members got to enjoy it. I told Jeff that it was my honor, and I sent him a set of special slipcovers I designed for each collectible catalog he had that look EXACTLY like the catalog! That way, full graphics are displayed without risking the copies themselves. Jeff was very pleased with the gift, and now displays the catalogs that were once stored away for safekeeping. He's a terrific guy! This made my year in 2007!
Message: Posted by: Dennis (Aug 31, 2009 02:35PM)
Just HAD to add to this thread...

When I was nine (1969), I found in the attic a box of my fathers
old magazines mostly old Hot Rod magazines from the fifties, but very
near the bottom, I discovered it - what would become one of my most
valued childhood treasures - a Vick Lawston catalog!

Talk about a life changer - After that (and right up to today) -
Magic was all I could think about!

I have no idea whatever happened to that Catalog, But I finally found
one for sale on ebay. What memories it brought back - WOW!

I never ordered from him (because of the years of everything else in that
box), I figured that he was no longer in business (my bad).

So, since I never got to thank him...

Thank You Vick for inspiring a child's dreams, adding to a man's fondest
memories, and giving MAGIC to my life - God Bless!
Message: Posted by: sthielman (Oct 7, 2009 02:30PM)
I'm afraid I have to chime in on the side of those who were ripped off by Vick in the 1960s. Lots of money, long waits, substitutions. The dreaming followed by the disappointment. The only way it helped was by suggesting that there was magic to be learned and amazement to be had, even if he offered only the cheap imitations of the quality stuff. Amazing that Boy's Life didn't check their advertisers better.
Message: Posted by: espresto (Feb 8, 2010 07:35PM)
I just came across this thread because I was going through some old boxes and discovered " 48 Great Magic Tricks" by Vick Lawston. It has TOP SECRET stamped on the cover together with "For Private and Confidential Use Only" - "Astounding Secrets From The Private Files Of Famous Magicians"

I loved the Comedy Patter of the Chinese Sticks - such fond memories!