We first met Jack, in correspondence, in February 1946. The Elgins had just visited the Bulletin offices and Tom Breen had given us his address. We mailed Jack a Bulletin and almost by return mail came his subscription and a letter which read in part: "Tom Breen was right when he I told you was interested in teaching, youngsters interested in Juggling a few tricks and showing them short cuts in the art. It has been my contention that the more jugglers there are, the more popular the art. There are several young fellows from this town that have been under my wing. They have not quite been bitten by the juggling bug but have dabbled in it and go to all the shows that have a juggler. Their interest is profound proof that they had no experience in juggling, the art would have gone by unnoticed."
From that correspondence on, Jack's ideas and writings were often a part of the Bulletins and later the Annuals. In the Jugglers Bulletin # 20, May 1946, we started running Jack's "Out of My Scrapbook" series in which he recalled some of the outstanding Juggling acts of the early 1900's. This first article covered the hoop act of the Kratons. The Barrets, originators of straw hat juggling, was the theme of his article issue #22. Object Jugglers were recalled in issue # 34 and # 35, and Hoop jugglers in # 36.
"Juggle Talk" appearing in Bulletin issues # 43 and # 44 was perhaps Jack's most important writing. It was really a brief history of the development of club juggling together with hints and advice to the beginner. Jack noted on his manuscript: "After typing the article my two index fingers are sore!"
Whenever we needed any information a line to him would invariably bring a quick reply. On November 10, 1946 we had learned of the death of George Dewey and sent out several letters to Jugglers that might have some material for a little write-up in the Bulletin. Jack's answer came right back on November 14th - a page of information and Jack's conclusion: "Sorry to hear of his death. George was a real swell guy!"
During the early months of 1947 we corresponded concerning the two of us getting together either in Geneseo or Tulsa and having sketches or photos made of club juggling and from them write an article on club juggling for the Bulletin. In one letter we mentioned having found a 35 mm. camera (a French Sept) which we believed had unusual possibilities for making the illustrations for a club juggling article. Jack replied, "Am looking forward to either me going down to your town or you coming up here. If you can rough it and would care to come this way you are more than welcome to stay with me. I say rough it because I do the cooking on many occasions and while no one here in my family has had hospital care due to my culinary art, I just want to warn you what to expect providing you should accept my invitation." At this writing Jack wasn't sure he could make the Juggling session to be held at the I.B.M. Magic convention in Pittsburgh, June 17, 1947.
As it turned out, Jack did make that session and that was our first personal meeting. It was during this convention that the eight Jugglers pictured got together and founded the International Jugglers Association.
Pictured above are the Jugglers that founded the I.J.A. as they appeared immediately after the business meeting and luncheon in Pittsburgh, PA, June 17th, 1947. Standing L. to R. are Bernard Joyce, Jack Greene, Harry Lind, Art Jennings, George Barvinchaik. in front- Bill Dunham, Roger Montandon, Eddie Johnson.
A year later we again met, and Jack, Bill Talent, and I made the trip from Chicago to Jamestown for the first memorable I.J.A. convention. At this convention Jack was elected a director. The next and following years Jack held an Honorary Director title in the growing organization.
In 1949 the monthly Jugglers Bulletin suspended publication, the IJA Newsletter replacing it for news and doings of the organization. For the Newsletter, Jack wrote some very interesting "thumb-nail sketches". Some of the Jugglers covered in these sketches included Joe Cook, Duke Johnson, Cal Kenyon, Sandy Lyle, and H.M. Lorette.
In 1951 we published the first of three annuals (the 1950 Annual) and Jack Greene wrote the foreword, "Are You Satisfied?" Here for the first time we introduced Jack as the man we considered Dean of American Jugglers. Upon receiving his copy Jack wrote, "Thanks a million for the Annual. It was sure a surprise to me, I was looking for something not quite so good. And even though you had me opening the show - a juggler's usual spot - I was doubly surprised that you gave it any thought at all, because when I wrote it I just jotted down what came to me at the moment. And that 'Dean of American jugglers' topped it off for sure. No doubt there will be plenty of comments on that, but thanks for your kind thoughts."
There weren't any comments, though, and Jack remained the Dean in fact as well as title.
The 1951 Annual contained Jack's "Out of the Past" article designed to recall some of the forgotten tricks of vaude's great jugglers. The 1952 and last of the annuals contained his "Juggling Errors" article in which he pointed out some common errors made by young jugglers, and made suggestions for their correction.
Jack's modesty made it almost impossible to piece together anything about his personal juggling triumphs from reading the Bulletins and Annuals. In fact, the only concrete item of this nature appeared in Bulletin # 20, May, 1946 in the article "Juggling Firsts" in which Tom Breen credits Jack Greene and Joe Piche with being the first to pass eight clubs. We hope that someone who knew him during his performing years will write up this phase of his life so that it can be recorded either in a future Bulletin or in the IJA Newsletter.
We have two letters in our files which have never been published that give just a teasing glance at some of the interesting juggling events of Jack's life. One letter was written in response to a request by Charlton Chute for write-ups by jugglers on "How They Started Juggling". Jack wrote:
"When about 14 I saw a fellow friend of mine juggle - cascade 3 balls. I gaped at him in wide-eyed amazement. At that time I had never seen a juggler. I got three balls and started to work. Friends who had seen various jugglers told me of different tricks and even though their descriptions were often greatly exaggerated I found I could work out some of them."
"As time went on I got to be some 'pumpkins' in my old home town of Troy, N.Y. One of my pals joined me and we formed a team, juggling different objects, balls, plates, hoops, etc. Then we went in for clubs and put in all of our time on club juggling. About that time two club jugglers played our town doing tricks that made your hair stand on end. They proved to us how mediocre our juggling was. So we went to work as many hours a day as we could spare. Up at daybreak, we practiced till we went to work, practiced at noon hour, went to gym after supper and practiced till they turned the lights out and sent us home. This happened night after night every night in the week. We got permission to use the gym on Sundays - if we didn't use any lights - and spent at least six hours there each Sunday. We kept this up until we could do all the tricks we had seen the two jugglers do plus a few more. We thought that in order to get a job as club jugglers we would have to be at least as good as they were. We didn't know at that time that we had seen the greatest team of club jugglers in vaudeville (about 1906-07). They called themselves the Juggling McBans. From then on we caught every juggler we could including the Mowatts, Darmody, the Jordans, Boyle Bros., The Barmons, The Millers, Altus Bros., and others."
"While we could do the tricks we lacked the showmanship that develops with experience before audiences, and kindly advice from fellow performers and managers. To gain this experience we played every amateur night and church social that we could. We felt pretty proud when the manager of an amusement park asked us to do our act for him for a full week, taking the place of some act that had been canceled - salary double fifteen. We would have taken it even if we had had to pay him the fifteen dollars. From there we progressed in the juggling profession with the usual ups and downs of most jugglers- but 'That's how we started juggling!"
The other letter came in answer to ours in which we asked him about using the following photo as part of Bert Hanley's "Notes on Formation Club Juggling" which appeared in the 1951 Annual. We asked if this picture illustrated the 'Box' formation described by Bert.
"The Box Trick used to be called the 'Criss-Cross' by us - Joe Piche, Bill Dooley, Bill Greene, and Jack Greene - because that is exactly what happened. Two members passed six clubs to each other. The other two passed six clubs to each other also. To accomplish this trick it was advisable to have each team skip one club throw. That is, each team of two threw every other club. The reason is simple. If each team threw a shower, as it were, the clubs would be in the middle, and there would be a big splash of clubs. You see Roger, when jugglers start passing clubs to each other they always start and count from the right hand, and for that reason each team of two had to skip a count to accomplish the trick. In the picture Harry Lind, myself and the Barnards are using this skip-every-other-club method.
JACK GREENE, HARRY LIND , AND THE AL BARNARDS PERFORMING THE BOX FORMATION USING THE EVERY-OTHER METHOD. PERFORMANCE TOOK PLACE IN THE CENTER OF THE MAIN STREET OF JAMESTOWN DURING THE 1948 INTERNATIONAL JUGGLERS ASSOCIATION CONVENTION.
However, The Greene Boys originated the idea of throwing every club, each team of two showering the counts! Impossible? No, but for a number of years no one caught on to how we did it, in fact, to my knowledge, no one did the trick without first having it explained to them. The Elgins - Jim Baggett, Tom Breen, Cal Kenyon, and Rose Baggett did the trick as I am explaining it because Joe Piche explained it to them. Now it is open property and anyone can do it with a little practice. The secret is this: Two members start to juggle with a right hand start and the other two start with a left hand start. That leaves one of the teams juggling a half count after the other team. This eliminated the necessity of skipping a count. When each team skips a count only two clubs appear to be in the center of the formation while with showering, four clubs appear in the center making the trick much more flashy and sensational."
"I don't know how the name 'Box' originated since the formation is really in the shape of a cross or X. When one thinks of a box one thinks of something square with each member passing to the member to right of him while in crisscross one is passing to the man opposite. But it really doesn't matter what it is called as long as everyone understands it."
Harry Lind (left) and Jack Greene (right) passing six clubs at Pittsburgh @ jug session - June 17, 1947.
Joe Fleckenstein and Augustus Rapp in background are juggling to themselves.
ARE YOU SATISFIED? by Jack Greene
If you are satisfied with your act and do not care to improve it, you are in a rut. Many juggling acts are content to do a good act or what they think is a good act - and let it go at that. After they accomplish a few really clever tricks, interspersed with a little comedy perhaps, they are apt to sit back and wonder why they are not working as steadily as they think they should be.
Imitating other acts is not a very good idea even though your agent might say "Do an act like So & So and I'll get you plenty of work." The agent does not give a darn about your future if he says that. He is looking for immediate returns. You must not forget that you are in this business for a good many years to come, and by imitating each other, all acts become too much the same. Results? Too much sameness in juggling acts and therefore less work for the jugglers. Don't Be Satisfied!
JUGGLE TALK by JACK GREENE
In earlier issues of the Bulletin I have noticed squawks from jugglers lamenting the policy of the J.B. in catering to the student juggler- Punks as many old timers called the beginners. It is not my intention to berate the squawkers but to ignore them. They have a perfect right to holler their heads off. On the other hand the same privilege must be accorded the fellow who thinks otherwise. I happen to be a juggler of the old school - with modern ideas of course - who believes the "punk" needs help and I am willing to help him or her to the best of my ability. The more jugglers there are, the more popular juggling will become. Is there any art more popular than music? And doesn't every family have a musician of sorts in it? And are there not more musicians employed today than ever before? There are according to Petrillo! It seems to me that the same applies to juggling. The following article may not be a work of art, but if it will help any struggling juggler to better himself I will feel I've done my daily good deed. And I believe if some jugglers who are well established in the profession would accept some advice they could improve their act as well.
Many problems enter the life of a juggler. These problems, in most cases, can be solved by the juggler himself if he will take the time to analyze his ailment. Most often his trouble is caused by tightening up; his muscles are losing their flexibility. If you cannot diagnose your own case, have another juggler - an agreeable one of course - do it for you. The observer no doubt will be able to spot it quickly. His advice may not always be correct, but it may give you some ideas of your own that may prove helpful. At any rate don't hesitate to talk to other jugglers.
In 1947 I attended a convention of Magicians in Pittsburgh. The International Brotherhood of Magicians sponsored it and worked in a session devoted to jugglers. It turned out that there were nearly fifty jugglers present. Not one of these jugglers showed any inclination of being upstage or self-centered. Everyone there was willing to show his brother jugglers anything asked for by the other Jugglers. There were some amateur jugglers there, and some who juggled professionally only part-time. There were juggler-magicians, straight professional jugglers, and last but not least, jugglers who had retired from the active field of the profession. Altogether it constituted a group of jugglers who were able and willing to show their brother jugglers many tricks and moves new to them. The feeling created by this jugglers' session reflected the efforts of a few fore-sighted jugglers and certainly it had many good points to be said for it. If it did nothing more than create good will amongst the jugglers its purpose was fulfilled. At that session it was also proposed that there should be a separate and distinct Juggler's organization. It didn't take long for the fever to spread and then and there was organized the International Jugglers Association. Such an organization can and will serve the juggling profession in many ways. It will take support by everyone though, and will need the co-operation of just about all the jugglers in the world to make it a complete success. Do your part by showing an active interest in your art.
Jack did a great deal for us through the Bulletins and Annuals. He did a great deal for the I.J.A. during its early formation. Throughout his life, he maintained an interest in juggling and jugglers and was always willing to help a beginner. Our high esteem of Jack Greene might be best expressed by using the simple but complete statement - JACK WAS A REAL SWELL GUY!