The House that Buma Built

I’m not exactly a savvy Facebook user, but the other day someone posted a picture asking if anyone knew who the people were in the photograph. It was a picture of a gentleman and a younger fellow behind the counter of a magic shop. A number of people posted that they had no idea who it was. I knew in an instant precisely who it was as I had known them.

Buma and son Mark behind the counter at the House of Magic.

Buma and son Mark behind the counter at the House of Magic.

It was Buma and his son Mark of the House of Magic in San Francisco!

I knew them, because I’d spent countless hours in that shop over many years. It was an important  and life-changing place for me during my formative years.

I first became aware of the House of Magic through my parents, who found the shop while on an anniversary trip to San Francisco. Little did I know when they told me of the shop that it would become a focal point in my young life.

My parents brought home a House of Magic catalog and I spent hours perusing it with great fascination. I was immediately hooked and knew I had to one day visit this place.

My first mail-order purchase was Grant’s Cow Trick for 2 bucks. My dad didn’t think it was such a great trick, but I loved it.

My first acquisition of a magic trick.

My first acquisition of a magic trick.

Following hours of practice, my dad would sit at the far end of our kitchen and watch me perform my newest trick. About half the time I’d fool him, if not, I knew I needed additional practice.

My First Visit

I was twelve and the year was 1967 when I first visited the House of Magic. I vividly remember purchasing the ABC Blocks and two fine U.F. Grant effects, the Egyptian Water Box and Hippity Hop Rabbits for $15! I was completely enthralled by this shop. THIS was a magic shop!

I was transfixed when I first saw U.F. Grant's Egyptian Water Box.

I was transfixed when I first saw U.F. Grant’s Egyptian Water Box.

In fact, over time, my parents started leaving me at the shop ALL DAY while they went about town. They’d drop me off at 9am and be back by 5pm to pick me up. I loved it. It was perfect, because I could spend all day scanning, perusing and surveying every inch of EVERY shelf in that shop.

U.F. Grant's Hippity Hop Rabbits was one of my first magic tricks purchased from Buma.

U.F. Grant’s Hippity Hop Rabbits was one of my first magic tricks purchased from Buma.

There was so much to see! I was always in total awe.

It was a long narrow shop with floor to ceiling shelves jam-packed with hundreds and hundreds of magic tricks, props, posters, oddities, ventriloquism dummies and untold treasures of every kind, mostly unknown to a novice practitioner of the Art. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

A very young Marvin Burger (Buma) sporting some pretty cool apparatus.

A very young Marvin Burger (Buma) sporting some pretty cool apparatus.

Over the ensuing years Buma became a friend and a trusted mentor putting a checkmark next to every trick in his catalog that was good or worthy of my consideration.  If there was no checkmark, then it wasn’t worth buying. Buma’s real name was Marvin Burger, having combined letters of his first and last name, but I always just called him Buma.

A sign that hung in Buma's shop.

A sign that hung in Buma’s shop.

I had no idea that I had practically found the Mother Lode of magic shops in existence. The House of Magic was a preferred destination of Cruise Ship magicians stopping through the port-of-call city of San Francisco such as Billy McComb and the like. Once when I was there, some English magician named Tommy Cooper had stopped in, but I didn’t know who he was at the time. That was the caliber of customer drawn to the House of Magic — and rightly so!

Buma brought son Mark into the act in the late 1950's.

Buma brought son Mark into the act in the late 1950’s.

Buma’s House of Magic had all the cutting-edge magic, unusual and uncommon apparatus, and one-of-a-kind props from Germany, Europe and other faraway places. Why would anyone shop anywhere else?

Every Thursday

With my paper route and lawn mowing earnings I quickly became a regular buyer from the House of Magic. Mom would telephone in my order to Buma on Thursdays, and by Friday afternoon, thanks to UPS, when I got home from school Friday afternoon, laying on my bed was a box of magic, in so many ways.

Bess Houdini's gift to Buma. He knew everybody!

Bess Houdini’s gift to Buma. He knew everybody!

This was a supremely ideal situation for a young enthusiatic boy severly bitten by the magic bug. There was no waiting for weeks for delivery. Order one day and it was here the next. Needless to say, I never ordered, or needed to order, from any other magic shop.

Blackstone Sr, and Buma in 1960.

Blackstone Sr, and Buma in 1960.

Buma really took care and me. He was honest. If something didn’t fit me or my personality or was garbage, he told me. He’d say, “Paul, it’s not for you.” I knew that was the cue and I drop it and move on to the next trick.

A vintage promotional flyer from Buma's career.

A vintage promotional flyer from Buma’s career.

I will be forever grateful for Buma and his House of Magic for creating and delivering to me a world of magic that not only created indelible memories for me, but forever altered the trajectory of my life and ambitions.  No one  can ever take away the feelings and wonder and amazement his shop gave me.

Years ago, I was lucky enough to acquire the original neon sign that hung in Buma’s shop and I have it prominently displayed in my office.

The original House of Magic neon sign that hangs in my office today.

The original House of Magic neon sign that hangs in my office today.

BUMA’s most proud magical achievement was his lifelong association with Dr. Robert Albo and his Classic Magic series of books.  For it was Marvin BUMA Burger who, in the 1950′s, ushered into his home the teenage Robert Albo and sent him home with an arm full of used magic tricks.

Those effects were destined to be the catalyst for what has been described as the world’s greatest collection of magical secrets ever assembled, destined to be documented by Dr. Albo in his lavishly illustrated Classic Magic series of books.

Buma even helped to inspire Dr. Albo as a youth.

Buma even helped to inspire Dr. Albo as a youth.

Everyone young magician should have a Buma in their life. A mentor, a friend, a guide, a true example.

Not only did I learn a lot about magic from Buma, but he taught me about business, excellence in performing and expert salesmanship.

An older Buma as I remember him.

An older Buma as I remember him.

Thanks for everything Buma!

If you have a fond memory of your first visit to a magic shop or a story of a mentor that affected your life, we’d love to hear from you.

Until next time my friends,

Paul

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