My Career Started at the Library
By Danny Orleans - Sunday, May 19, 2019
Enjoy the read. Phil Ackerly, professional family magician from California, wrote a heart-warming article that appeared last month in the Silicon Valley Voice. Proof that libraries really are Magic!
Back in the mid 60’s, my mom would drop me off after school at the College Terrace Branch Library in Palo Alto. The library, located off the El Camino near Stanford University, was built in 1936 and is still in operation today. My Aunt Louise was the branch’s first librarian. As I walked in, I’d say hello to my Aunt Louise who was busy helping patrons at the front desk.
I’d plop myself down at the large wooden table (check out that photo!) finishing my homework and then go on a hunt for books to read. I found books on electricity that explained the workings of radios, televisions, magnetism, and electric circuits. I loved to hang out in section 793.8 – where you’d find books on magic. There were tricks utilizing cards, coins, matches, and handkerchiefs, or just about anything one could find around the house. I discovered new tricks to amaze my family and friends with and was excited to find out the secrets that no one else was supposed to know.
I was enthralled with the “machine” at the check out desk. Library cards were made of paper and housed a small metal plate embossed with your library ID. I would hand the clerk my card, she’d place it on a glass plate, pull the slip of paper from my book and place it on top of the card. The clerk then stepped on a foot switch, a steel arm pivoted down onto the card and a yellow light from below would glow brightly creating an aura around the card and paper slip. A loud buzz reverberated from underneath the desk as the machine took a photocopy. This all happened in a split-second and looked like a scene right out of a sci-fi movie. Of course, I had to know how the machine worked. Was there a book about this contraption? "What made it tick?," I wondered.
When the library closed, Aunt Louise and I would stroll home to her house just a few short blocks away. I'd sit down at the kitchen table with cookies and a glass of milk, and passionately read my books. My mom would come to pick me up after her work. I’d grab my books, jump into the car, and on the ride home I would tell her about my visit and the books I checked out.
As the years went by I pursued a career in the high tech industry as an electronic technician, then as a Product Marketing Engineer at Fujitsu until 1992 when I was laid off. I then took my skills in marketing and turned my love of magic into a full time career becoming one the busiest performers in the Bay Area.
I now perform over 300 shows each year and often bring my magic to libraries throughout Northern California. When I step into a library today I hark back to my days as a youth exploring books on science, electricity and magic. I instantly recall the excitement of opening a book and discovering the secrets inside
I have my Aunt Louise to thank for giving me the gift of reading and visiting the library. Her love of books instilled in me the excitement and desire to explore the secrets found between the covers of books.
That was way back in the 1960s, and little did I know that I would eventually turn my avocation into a vocation. Lucky me! I get to perform at libraries sharing my excitement of reading and my love of magic to today’s youth.
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