Montreal, Magic and the Changing Scene

Can YOU name all three?

Can YOU name all three?

It was Alex Chervin’s funeral today. Many of you may not know his name or who he was, but if you read our facebook column today, he had a great influence on Phil Matlin, owner of the Perfect Magic shop, and his interest in magic. This is what Phil had to say about him.

“The first magic store I visited, somewhere around 1948, was Cramer’s Magic Shop located on Bleury Street in downtown Montreal. Besides the late Sam Cramer, his brother-in-law was working the shop. I used to stop by a couple of times a week and purchased some items that were being demonstrated, when I was told that I could no longer buy any more magic tricks unless I bought a book and took it home to read. Then, when I returned to the shop I was asked some questions . If I showed that I learned something from the book, he would let me buy a trick. Not necessarily the trick I wanted, but the trick he thought I should have. By the way, the book was Volume 1 of the Tarbell Course, and through a very generous payment plan I acquired all 6 volumes, which was all there were in those days. Many years later, the brother-in-law took over the shop and at one point was forced to move. The shop moved to Guy Street. I was still a frequent visitor and learning a lot about magic. When I told him I was to open a magic shop in Montreal, he encouraged and helped any way he could. I learned a lot of the business side from him and when the building he was in was sold, it was time to close Cramer’s Magic Shop. I was asked to come down and see if I could use any of the display items, like shelves, display cases, etc. They were mine for the taking. He wouldn’t hear of payment. That gentleman’s name – Alexander Chervin. Alex passed this past Sunday away this past Sunday at the age of 101. He died peacefully in his own home. The last time I spoke to him was close to 2 years ago. At the time he told me he was still walking his dog every day. Montreal, the Magic Community and I have lost a true gentleman and friend. RIP Alex.

Phil Matlin.”

But life goes on. And if it were not for his nurturing and teaching, there probably would not be a Perfect Magic today. We have new people, young and older, coming into the shop all the time. Some of our best friends are magicians and had we not decided to open a shop we probably would not have developed the strong bond we did with George and Nina Schindler, Romaine and Joan, Wym Vermeys and Maryse, Al Cohen, Guy Camirand,  Hans Zahn, to name but a few. Strong ties hold the magic community together. It is always fun to be with other magicians and most are willing to share and help each other. I’m sure it will be a joyous gathering this Sunday Evening at the Comedy Nest at the Montreal Forum where Romaine will be performing his world acclaimed act. I’m sure many of us have see him before but will go anyway just to all get together.  Also  performing are, Marc Trudel, Ted Outerbridge and Ivan Pecel. Maybe more. We will have Alex on our minds, knowing he would have enjoyed the show.


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5 responses to “Montreal, Magic and the Changing Scene

  1. Thanks for that, Evy.

    It’s been well over thirty years since I last visited Cramer’s on Guy, just below Ste-Catherine St. If I found myself downtown, I would sometimes stop in or, after hours, would peer into the big window of the otherwise very snug shop and wonder at all the paraphernalia up on the shelves.

    I would never have guessed the last proprietor, Alex Chervin, was still with us until very recently. Even back in the day, he struck me as rather elderly; that’s the kind of trick 101 years can play on you. Amazing.

    I probably picked up a few things at Cramer’s over the years, although the only item that comes to mind is Tenyo’s Milk Tumbler, still stored in its funky green, yellow, and red cardboard box. I would eventually upgrade to a proper glass Milk PItcher, courtesy, of course, of you and Phil. I can see it in a glass display case on the other side of my den.

    My sincere thanks to Mr. Chervin for whatever small role he might have played in nurturing the magician in me and, as well, condolences to his family.


    Liked by 2 people

  2. These are the kinds of stories that make me wish I had been born one or two generations earlier. For the sake of quick discussion, let’s just use the year my Mom was born: 1925. Yes, there were terrible challenges: The Great Depression, WWII, The Korean and Vietnam Wars…no picnic to be sure. But with the advent of reliable cars, then jet planes, and now computers…face to face interaction with good, compassionate, caring people seems to grow less and less. Now I can instant message an “online/virtual” magic shop and ask a question and indeed get an answer…from a person I will never meet. I will never even hear their voice. I don’t believe people were built for that. I think we were meant to live as families…perhaps with multiple generations living in the same house as my Mom did…certainly at least in “neighborhoods” where we actually visited our neighbors on a semi-regular basis. I am grateful that I discovered Perfect Magic in the mid 1990s. I wish I had learned of them in the 1970s when they first started the business. I hear “old” stories of magic shops where magicians would (in addition to buying magic) “hang out” for a time over a cup of coffee and help one another. Being a magician meant being able to spend quality time with a special group of good people. I’m sad that I missed most of those days because my love for magic arrived too late. At the same time I’m very grateful that I wasn’t born any later. I feel fortunate to have access to the “brick and mortar” shops that carry on. Yes…I am absolutely talking about you Evy and Phil! 🙂

    God Speed Mr. Chervin. I wish I had had the privilege of knowing you in person.


  3. stan tesher

    What a nice post about a real mensch.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Evy for your posts. As I get older I’m more aware of the passing of the wand from generation to generation. Stories like yours make me realize how fortunate we are to be a part of this unique and great community.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks James, Stan, Paul and Chris for your comments. It is greatly appreciated and its what keeps me writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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