Showing posts with label Jimmy Wallace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jimmy Wallace. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Herbert (Bert) Beaver - Sydney's Jesting Juggler of the 1920s

 Juggler Bert Beaver began as a vaudeville performer and became one of the most influential radio personalities of the early broadcasting age.

Herbert Edward Beaver was born in Broken Hill in outback New South Wales in 1897 to Ada and Edward. However, his father died when he was young, and his mother remarried when he was 12. Her second husband, Bert’s stepfather, was Gilbert Sinclair, a union man who later became secretary of the State Boilermakers Union. Sinclair, a prominent and vocal member of the labour movement, later became a member of parliament and a founder of a radio station.

How Bert became involved in juggling is a mystery, but his first press notices date to the early 1920s when he was appearing with Dix and Baker in regional Newcastle. He was known as the ‘talking’ or ‘jesting’ juggler who told humorous anecdotes and made smart remarks while juggling sticks, balls, and hats. His act also included balancing two billiard balls on a stick.

Bert- (left) 1926 Wireless Weekly

Bert became quite popular when the Fuller's circuit employed him between 1922-23. In Queensland he caused ‘considerable laughter’ while balancing two balls on a cue and in Adelaide he ‘delighted’ the audience. That year he also toured New Zealand with Fullers.

Meanwhile, he had met juggler George Campbell, an old-time passing juggler who started juggling in Australia in 1906. The pair joined up and formed the Campbell – Beaver - (Fred) White Company and toured regional areas of Australia. This company morphed into the Cockatoo Farm Company which became a legendary touring group in country Australia. One member of the ensemble was singer Vera (Peggy) Cornock.

Cockatoo Farm was an early form of vaudeville revue with a simple humorous story interspersed with specialty turns. The story was stereotypically country Australian with Dad played by George and his son Willie played by Bert. The plot revolved around farm shenanigans and corny Australian jokes- it was tremendously well-received.

The show included a juggling turn from George and Bert which probably involved club passing, and it can probably be assumed that the pair exchanged ideas and juggling techniques with George representing an older generation of jugglers and Bert the new.

In later years Bert claimed that he could juggle three or four lacrosse balls, hats, cigars or clubs and that he invented the trick of passing soap bubbles up and down a stick or string. He was also a keen magician and member of the Australian Society of Magicians and sometimes performed at their annual soirees in Sydney.

After almost two years with George Campbell and the Cockatoo Farm Company, Bert left and formed his own touring group. They were well-regarded but relegated to smaller regional towns. In 1923 he married Vera Cornock , and in 1924 they had their first child, Shirley.

Bert was increasingly interested in management, and fortunately in 1925, just as radio and the movies were beginning to encroach on vaudeville he was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The chance to be on the ground floor with a radio station.

His stepfather Gilbert Sinclair was one of the founders of the new station 2KY, which was owned by the labour movement. Gilbert persuaded the other directors to employ his stepson as the manager, and by 1925, as 2Ky hit the airwaves, Bert was one of the few permanent staff members.

Bert in 1935 Wireless Weekly

He became well known in Sydney as Uncle Bert and had a versatile career that mingled calling boxing matches with children’s stories. Through the depression years, he maintained his role and mentored young talent through community concerts and talent quests. It was through one of these that he encountered young juggler Jimmy Wallace. Jimmy later said that he was lucky that Bert was a juggler because their shared profession ensured encouragement and reinforcement for his later career. Presumably, the pair swapped tricks and ideas, just as George Campbell and Bert had done many years earlier.

Managing the station left Bert with little time to juggle, but he continued to do so at the community concerts and public radio Xmas parties. He is recorded as juggling occasionally until the 1940s.

He also took a risk in the mid-1930s when he travelled to England for radio business and briefly appeared as a juggler in the London music halls. Upon his return to Australia, he said he just wanted to find out if he was still capable. On that trip, he also witnessed an early version of Baird’s television and reported to the Australian press on his experience.

Bert was a pioneer of radio and a mentor for Sydney jugglers. He provided a bridge from the old generation, such as George Campbell, to a new generation, such as Jimmy Wallace, who had to adapt the art of juggling to the demands of new technology.

Bert and his family eventually settled on the Northern Beaches in Sydney and he passed away there in 1958. He still has descendants living in the area.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Professor Wallace- or the continuing adventures of the Bell Family in Sydney. (Jimmy Wallace's dad.....)

 This is a small advertising pamphlet for Professor Wallace who was a travelling entertainer in Sydney up to the 1950s/60s.

Professor Wallace was the father of juggler Jimmy Wallace and the family lived for some time in Marrickville in Sydney's inner west, and just around the corner from where I live. So this pamphlet is very interesting for me.

As you can see, Professor Wallace did not work alone and had a few friends who helped him out. I'd really like to know the identity of Harry the Comedy Juggler.

 Professor Wallace and his Punch and Judy show were a feature of children's parties in Sydney for many years. His daughter Florence, gave an interview to the City of Sydney Council archives which details the family's adventures - you can access that here.

The letters in the phone number date this to the 1950s -  60s in Sydney. 

James or Jimmy Wallace- Professor Wallace's son, was a famous juggler in Sydney and Brisbane. I have written about him here. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

Jimmy Wallace- The Boy Juggler


Jimmy Wallace was born to show business. His father, Jim but known as Professor Wallace, was a children’s entertainer and puppeteer. Unlike many performers, Jim and wife Lil, had a home in Marrickville in Sydney where they raised their three children, George, James and Florence.

The family name was Bell. Jimmy, the middle child was born in 1922 and given the name James Wallace Bell, after his father’s stage name. He had one unusual feature, one grey and one brown eye.

The Bell home in inner city Marrickville in Sydney was not like the other suburban homes. In the early 2000s Florence recalled the family’s trips to the Tivoli Theatre, her father’s late nights and his collection of magic memorabilia. Jimmy senior was a children’s entertainer, a magician, and a well-known character in the small Sydney pre-war theatrical community.

As a young man, Jimmy junior, was sent to somebody, probably Ossie Delroy, to learn to juggle. Ossie lived nearby and was also well known to the local theatrical scene. Young Jimmy liked juggling. He would juggle household items such as apples or cutlery in the family kitchen much to his mother’s dismay.

Jimmy in Pix Magazine 1938

 He began juggling for the public around the age of 12 when he started doing charity shows with his father. He juggled at department stores, including the famous Anthony Hordens, and for a local children’s charity. It seems clear that Jimmy was going to follow in his father’s footsteps, he was sent to the theatrical dentist, and he was given elocution lessons to fix a slight speech impediment. Then when he was 15, he appeared in a two-page photo spread for a local magazine.

 In Pix magazine in 1938, he was described as a young juggler who astonished people when on holidays by juggling knives and forks at the breakfast table. His father was quoted saying that Jimmy was the only boy in the world who could manage 4 balls in the air at the same time and he was pictured juggling axes.

The next year he began juggling professionally and was at the Regent theatre in Adelaide between movie showings. He wore a white satin shirt and navy-blue trousers and juggled balls racquets and hats. The highlight of his turn was juggling three axes, blindfolded.

War was declared in September 1939 and men from Australia enlisted. Jimmy was too young, enlistment age was 21, so he continued with his stage career.

In 1940 he was scaring young women with blind folded axe juggling. He also appeared in another two-page pictorial in Pix Magazine. This time local man Ossie Delroy accompanied him. It is probable that the shoot occurred in the Bell family back yard in Marrickville. The pair juggled hoops, clubs and balls

Jimmy with Ossie Delroy,  Pix Magazine 1940

From 1941-1942 Jimmy toured the country with various revues on the Tivoli Circuit. He appeared in primarily in Melbourne and Sydney, including an appearance in the revue ‘Applesauce’ with Will Mahoney and Evie Hayes. Also, during this period, he performed on radio, earning the nickname, ‘the radio juggler.’

In 1943 Jimmy enlisted. His friend Ossie had already toured the Middle East with an army entertainment troupe. Jimmy had just turned twenty-one and was now eligible for service. He had been touring the north of Australia with the Waratah entertainment troupe which performed in army camps in Australia, and in 1943 the troupe travelled to New Guinea to entertain there. Jimmy remained on the front lines until he was discharged in 1946.

Jimmy in New Guinea

He continued his juggling career when he returned. In 1947 he played at the Tivoli and performed in Sydney Melbourne and Perth. That year, at the Wingham Diggers Dance (Diggers is Australian for soldiers) he entertained a crowd with ‘the usual’ juggling props and caused much laughter with his humorous quips. The audience applauded him loudly and refused to let him leave the stage. Jimmy was travelling through on his way to Brisbane for a stint at the Cremorne Gardens.

Jimmy spent much of the late 1940s in Brisbane where he became the co-director of the Brisbane Royal with George Wallace jnr (not related), and Laurie Smith. In 1949 he married Joan Ashton, a singer in the show,  in Brisbane. It was a typical day for Jimmy with his wedding squeezed in between business. His routine that day was described as. 3pm- married, 5pm- attended business for the Brisbane Royal, 8.30pm- on stage with juggling act.

Jimmy marries Joan- Newspaper photo

In 1949 Ossie Delroy teamed with Jimmy for a duo juggling act which was well received. However, it seems that the management of the Brisbane Royal was not very profitable. By 1951, Wallace jnr, Jimmy and Joan were on the road in the north of Queensland, and in 1952 Jimmy was back in Sydney producing the ‘Wentworth Cabaret’ in Katoomba. One reason for returning to Sydney was the death of his father that year.

Jimmy’s career was slowing down by then, but he was getting involved in television. Television reached Australian homes in 1956 and it seems Jimmy was one of the early stars of the medium. In 1962 he juggled at a shopping mall in Parramatta (suburban Sydney) and was advertised as a TV star.

Jimmy died in Sydney in 1987 after a lengthy career in vaudeville, radio and TV.









Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Ossie Delroy...mmmm was that really his name? with Jimmy Wallace.....mmmmm was that really his name?

This amazing two page spread of Ossie Delroy and Jimmy Wallace comes from Everyone's Magazine in 1940. Ossie was a legend in the juggling world and travelled overseas to entertain the troops in World War 2.

I suspect his real name was not Ossie Delroy, and I also suspect that his mate, Jimmy was actually James Bell who lived in Marrickville with his sister Florence...

I will be confirming this in the future- I hope.

And look at those clubs- how clunky are they?