Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Loving Memory • Paul J. Roling Jr.

Where did the years go? I met Paul 34 years ago in 1976. I was 11 years old when I took magic lessons from him at Haines House of Cards in Norwood, OH. It was a troubled time in my life that only got worse, before it got better. My parents got divorced that year and we moved back to the States after living 6 years in Europe. My Dad moved to Atlanta to start a new family with his new wife and my mom, my brother and two sisters moved to Cincinnati. It was a tough time in my life.

It didn’t take me long to find the closest Magic Shop. Strangely it was a place that I had done some mail order business with when I lived in Paris. I would ride my bike to Haines House of Cards (then on Ross Avenue) in Norwood. The man behind the counter was Paul Roling. I had been doing magic for about 4 years at that point and took a magic class at ASP (American School of Paris) a couple years earlier. I was very happy to learn that Paul taught a magic class on Saturday mornings before the shop opened. I was a regular student for at least a couple of years. I loved magic then as much as I still do and Paul was one of the influential mentors in my formative years.

Paul was this big balding,teddy bear of a guy (to an 11 year old). He was friendly, snarkey and for whatever reason took me under his wing. He introduced me to close-up magic. My repertoire at the time consisted of tricks like the Temple Screen, the Candy Factory, Color Changing Rope etc. . . I remember him teaching me my first card force, The Riffle Force and introducing me to The Royal Road to Card Magic & Bobo’s Book on Coin Magic. I hung out at the Magic Shop all the time and became friends with everyone there. They became my family. Paul's’ generosity was not limited to the sharing of his knowledge. There were other perks, He took me to two magic shows that would change my life: Blackstone Jr. (full evening show w/ an orchestra), and Doug Henning. As I look back, I think, he didn’t have to take me to those shows. I’m not really sure why he did. Cause he was nice and liked me I guess. I was a lost child struggling to find a place in life. I had a found a home at Haines House of Cards. Paul taught me how to demo tricks behind the counter and I also helped the girls in the back room folding instructions and wrapping the trick decks that they manufactured and sold by the thousands. I would accompany them to the magic conventions at an early age and help set up the booth and pitch decks in exchange for my food, registration and a place on the hotel room floor to crash. Seems like just yesterday. . . . or a million years ago. . . I’m not sure which.

Paul used to hand cut belly strippers for Blackstone Jr., he knew all the guys and all the guys knew him. He introduced me to Ken Klosterman and really started my interest in collecting antique magic. Paul’s collection was humble but he put me on the path to understanding quality of a time gone by. He introduced me to Bob Little where he steered my purchase towards some old Carl Brema & Sons brass items. I still have all of those treasures.

Where did the time go. A few years later Shawn Greer and I would drive out to Max & Erma’s to see Paul work his regular weekend gig there. We would get a table, order a soda and stay there for hours watching him work. I loved the looks on people faces when he revealed the solid ball bering load from his chop cup. He would drop it on the table, from a foot or two up and it would make a wonderfully dramatic sound as it smacked the table.

Paul is gone now, but the many fond memories I have of him, will live in my heart forever. He was kind to me when I really needed it, and I’ll miss him. He taught me so many wonderful things. I remember him hand picking the Jay Terrell silk production for one of my early contest acts. I remember at one point some people would call me little Paul. I never knew how I felt about that, I do now. I’m honored to have known him and to have called him a friend.

Goodnight sweet magical prince of tricks and radio. Your legacy will not be forgot. I will miss you and treasure the time you lavished on me when no one else would.

In loving memory. . . . . .


Michael said...

Tom, Thank you for the kind words for my dad. He was one of the best magicians cincinnati ever knew.
Michael Roling

Wm. Bruce Davis said...


I've been silently following you for a while now, but wanted to take this moment to thank you for your friendship and your deep respect for those who have shaped your life in magic. Please keep this up.

Bruce Davis

Scotty said...


I miss living in the same city as you and think that this was about the best thing you've written.

Magically Delicious,


Jennifer Wilkins said...

I read this around the anniversary of his death every year. You put it all so beautifully in to this memorial to my Dad. Time is supposed to make this easier, sometimes that is true...and then come the days and events I wish he could be here for! Thank you as always! Jeni Roling Wilkins

Indeterminacy said...

What a wonderful poignant post about Paul Roling. In 1976, 14 years old, I lived around the corner from Ross Avenue and Haines House of Cards. I never took lessons, but had some decks, and magic tricks I bought there, and enjoyed performing for friends and family. I felt proud that such an important venue for magic was located at such an inconspicuous place, so close to home.