JOHN GIORDMAINE (1898-1974)
A Tribute by Sid Lorraine
(From THE LEVITATOR - Feb. 1974)
Two weeks after suffering a severe heart attack, John Giordmaine passed away, on January 19th, 1974.
But to thousands of people, old and young, he will always be that jolly little fellow who checked his lunchtime with a giant pocket watch containing a sandwich... wearing a necktie that ended near his toes... suddenly startled when a flower flitted from one lapel to the other. A very happy fellow who chuckled at his own antics and was as surprised as the youngest member of his audience when strange things happened.
Magicians throughout the world knew him as the perfect childrens' entertainer. In a field where competition and comparisons often breed enemies, one never heard a word of criticism or complaint when the Giordmaine name was mentioned.
Those of us who knew and worked closely with him throughout the past forty years will always remember him as a kindly, considerate human being who enjoyed every moment of his very active life.
John was born in Rabat, Malta, on September 26th, 1898. He attended schools in Malta and England. Emigrating to Canada in 1919, he studied electrical engineering, later becoming an Associate Member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. For the next ten years he was employed as an electrician with Canada Packers Limited in Toronto.
It was early in 1927 that I heard of a young musician... a pianist and flautist with an amateur group, who amused the audience with pocket tricks during the intermission. Always eager to meet anyone who did tricks, I arranged a meeting with the musician... He was John Giordmaine. His magical repertoire was small but he obviously enjoyed the few tricks he did. I suggested that if he joined the International Brotherhood of Magicians he would learn a great deal from their monthly magazine and also meet other magicians.
John signed on the dotted line and always insisted that this was his real start in magic. Shortly after, he subscribed to the Tarbell Course and eventually became one of Doc Tarbell's prize pupils and a walking advertisement for the series of lessons.
In 1930 he quit his job at the packing plant and worked as a salesman and window demonstrator in the Arcade Magic Shop.
He was such a good salesman that he sold the T. Eaton Company [national department store chain, main downtown Toronto outlet] the idea of having a magic counter in their toy department. They agreed to try it out for a couple months. It must have been a success for John remained at that counter for the next thirty years. Many of today's Canadian trixters owe their interest and progress to the regular visits and warm encouragement received at the Eaton's magic counter.
When he retired from the store, in 1960, John became more active than ever. In addition to his many shows for children, he was doing more and more work on television.
Incidentally, John was the first Canadian magician to appear on TV. This occurred in 1933 when the T. Eaton Company staged a one week demonstration of the "miracle of visual transmission". In later years, he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, the Paul Winchell programme and many, many times on the famous childrens' show, Captain Kangaroo.
He not only appeared on dozens of Canadian TV programmnes with his magic, but also in many commercials in various guises that ranged from a French speaking character to a maestro with a violin. We recall, with real pleasure, the excellent "Telescope" programme that portrayed his magical and home life. It was televised nationwide by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
For many years, the name Giordmaine on a programme at a magic convention was a regular and popular one. He was as well known at English meets as he was at American and Canadian gatherings.
Two Governor-Generals of Canada and two similar dignitaries in Malta enjoyed his special performances, as did many others in high places.
John was a charter member of the Hat & Rabbit Club (IBM Ring 17) and organizer of the Past Presidents' Club, (he was president 1964-1965) and did a great deal each year to promote the annual gathering. As a charter member of the Society of Canadian Magicians and an ardent worker on its behalf, he did a great deal to build up its membership and provide regular entertainment at the monthly meetings. He was also a member of The Inner Magic Circle, London, the SAM [Society of American Magicians] and AGVA [American Guild of Variety Artistes].
Within the past year , we both shared a tribute when the Oshawa magicians formed IBM Ring 220 and named it the "John Giordmaine-Sid Lorraine Ring".
On Saturday, December 29th, 1973, together with Mrs. Giordmaine, the Bornsteins, the Wrycrafts, the Parsons and Doug MacCallum, John attended a performance of Doug Henning's show "Spellbound" at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. He was in fine spirits and, as usual, was loaded with tricks, gadgets and gimmickry to amuse and amaze anyone he chanced to meet. It was a very pleasant evening among friends. Early the next morning he suffered the attack which sent him to the hospital.
His devotion to his wife Anna and his love and admiration for his son Joseph... The great pleasure he brought to thousands... The happiness and joy he spread whenever he appeared: He would have desired no greater memorial. That was John Giordmaine. A little fellow with a big heart. Truly, a great name in magic.
There is much we can learn from his life.We who knew, loved and respected him, offer our deepest sympathy to his wife and son.
AUGUST 2010 UPDATE... Sadly, of course, neither Johnny or Sid are with us any more... Nor are the SCM, Arcade Magic store, Doug Henning, Eaton's department stores, Captain Kangaroo, Ed Sullivan, Paul Winchell... or IBM Ring 220 in Oshawa, Ontario for that matter. Does anyone know whatever happened to it? What a great shame that such a fitting tribute to Johnny and his good friend Sid no longer exists within the Canadian magic community. However, IBM Ring 17 in Toronto is still called "the Sid Lorraine Ring". Without in any way diminishing Sid's memory, I wonder what it would take for it to carry both friends' names proudly linked together again? Something tells me Sid would certainly approve. Keep reading for more developments...
I was pleased to recently discover that the IBM Ring 202, Malta website carries a very nice writeup about Johnny in its history/past members section in recognition of his many achievements. Its author Vanni Pule, now IBM Int'l President, is a popular professional magician in Malta and co-founder of the most recent version of Ring 202. (BTW, many thanks Vanni for your kind words about this site and the link back.) Just click the Ring 202 graphic on the right...
JOHNNY OULD WRITES...
WOW... What a wonderful tribute to our dear, long time friend and mentor, Johnny Giordmaine! I am absolutely thrilled to know and hear that you have put this all together...
Now, about Johnny... he was my mentor and friend from about the late forties through to his dying day. I have a large file of material from him... lots of his paper items, numerous letters and cards, and most of all the fabulous memories of our friendship... Most of his mementos I have kept, but finding them all is something else though. I got my first magic set for Christmas from Santa (Johnny at I believe the Arcade Magic and Novelty Shop on Yonge St. However, my folks did not tell where and it could have been from his counter at Eatons)...
My father had a printing shop in Mimico, Ontario and did some printing for various magicians. I worked with him for awhile, during which I did some work for various magicians including Jimmy Lake... and Johnny Giordmaine... for whom I did some of the original Balancing Butterflies and die-cut them with a special die he had made. I do not know what happened to the die, but I have the printing plate around somewhere along with some plates for work done for Bert Douglas. I ordered for Johnny and myself, several thousand of the BBs along with clip-on moustaches, both of which were printed and die cut, one for the nose and the other to accept the penny weights. We split the order and the costs for same for a couple of orders, then could not get them anymore from my source, who I think either died or retired at the time.
Also, I found a Giordmaine promotion item that had separated from his file, it consisted of a plain bank pay envelope with Johnny's contact info stamped on it and the flap was left open with what appeared to be folded currency sticking out (actually glued in place). Johnny would leave these around appropriate places where ever he went, and people, possible prospects I suppose, would find them, think it cute and keep it... and him in mind for a show.
When I moved from Toronto to Windsor in the mid to late sixties, we kept in touch regularly by phone and the mail, as we did with others like Sid Lorraine, Jimmy Lake, and Bruce Posgate and several others. I left the Hat & Rabbit Club post of Librarian in 1967 and took on the post of President of The Windsor Magic Circle which I reinstated into the IBM. I also became a local territorial representative for the IBM and sponsored many into membership.
In the event you haven't come across it yet, the IBM LINKING RING magazine for August '59 and March '74 have Johnny on the cover. I have quite a magazine library, and remember notating a notice of congratulations to the Giordmaine's on the birth of their son Joseph on April 10, 1933. John was president of Ring 46 at the time... prior to Ring 17 I guess, and the LINKING RING issue was Vol XIII #2, page 83.
Anyway, that is all for now... will be in touch when I find my file! Don't hold your breath though, it doesn't work... I tried it!
Many thanks to Johnny Ould for such an enthusiastic response to this site.
Remember, if you have anything to contribute, a memory or just a comment, please feel free to get in touch. My email address is on page eleven.
Coming up next... Bev Bergeron remembers the fun Johnny and others had at the 1957 Houston IBM Convention...