July 13, 2008

Soapy Wake at the Magic Castle


This year’s Soapy Smith Wake was a complete success. It was larger than the previous year and shows no signs of tapering off in size. There were several comments made to me that the downstairs area where we held the function for the last four years was no longer large enough and that an expansion was in order.

I arrived with three friends at 3:30 in the afternoon to help Phil Gessert set up the gambling room he graciously donated to operate utilizing his wonderful collection of antique tables and equipment.

Guests started arriving at 6:00, which included Smith descendants, Jeanette Smith and Elizabeth Moriarty.

Everyone paid a $5 entrance fee and received a Soapy brochure of events for the evening and a short history of Soapy Smith. They also received $100 in “Soapy money” specially made for the 110th. Specially made playing cards manufactured by Shay Maxwell packaged with a Soapy Smith 110th theme. Reproductions of the July 15, 1898 Skaguay News with the headlines of the Soapy Smith/Frank Reid confrontation. anniversary, in which to gamble at the games with. Upon entering the downstairs main hub of Soapy activity they were greeted with “Welcome to Jeff Smith’s Parlor, Skagway.” A table sold a nice variety of Soapy related souvenirs including t-shirts and tote bags with a design commemorating the 110 anniversary of the “Gunfight on Juneau Wharf.” There were garters with a small Soapy picture button. Soapy soaps with specially manufactured wrappers for the 110

In the center room I placed the encased 2nd grave marker that rested over Soapy’s grave from 1901 to 1919. “German Pete” of the Whitehorse Movie Ranch brought the replica marker made from photographs of the very first grave marker that rested over Soapy’s grave from 1898 to 1901.

Tables of short cons like the shell game and fast and loose were placed strategically around the 3 floors of the Magic Castle for the attendees to play using their Soapy Money. It was fun watching people fall for the confidence swindles and lose their Soapy money.

Attendees gambled in Jeff Smith’s Parlor gaming hall as Dave Bourne and his band played period songs on their instruments. It felt like I had been transported back in time. In the gambling room Phil Gessert brought period games full size roulette table 21, faro, craps, wheel of fortune, chuck-a-luck and horse racing game wheel. Guests were invited to play gamble and at the end of the night prizes were given out to the winner players and dealers who had collected the most money. The room was packed full and went on playing well after the contest had ended.

I will post some pictures and links about the Wake as they come in. My camera did not do so well.

Chef Anton once again graced us with his trick pool show. At 9:00 pm I went up and gave a short talk and gave a narrated walk-through on the details of the gunfight using four volunteers. At 9:15 I gave the toast,

“He left his mark on this world
and from his deeds we learn not to be one.

…Here’s to Soapy’s Ghost.”

After the toast there was a costume contest and an auction which included a shadow box that contained an actual sliver of wood from the original Soapy Smith grave marker, books, framed newspapers, posters from past events, along with magic items, silver shell sets, private tutoring lessons from Magician Whit Haydn and pool lessons from Chef Anton, autographed posters from famed magician Mark Wilson, etc.

Last year Phil Gessert was able to load his equipment back into his truck right within minutes of the ending of the event. This year, however, had shown such an increase in attendance that we all had to wait for about 1-1/2 hours to get the truck loaded because the amount of cars leaving. I did not get home until about 3:30 am and I was beat…but found myself planning in my head what to improve on for next year’s event.

Jeff Smith

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