From Magician to Minister
Much against my wishes or control, when I decided to enter the Meadville Theological School in Chicago in 1940, an account of it filled all of Newsweek magazine's religion column; it was front page in the Chicago Daily News, and reported in newspapers from coast to coast.
Why? At the age of 27, I was surrendering the occupation of a prominent, skilled professional magician for the probable relative oblivion and uncertain remuneration of the ministry. This was considered news!
I am the eldest son of two English-born parents, Sydney Scott Booth and Margaret Nicholls Booth. My father was then studying in this same seminary for the Unitarian ministry when I came into this world on August 7, 1912. During his first pastorates in Bar Harbor and Waterville, Maine, to supplement his small salary, he created and wrote complete scenarios for the fledgling motion picture industry, particularly the most respected Thomas A. Edison Studios. His feature films included "The Minister's Temptation" (which broke the taboo against hospital operating room scenes); a thriller, "On the Great Steel Beam" (an accident in a building under construction); "Five Strings to the Beaux," and others from 1912 to 1915.
He left the ministry for business about 1918, after a final year's interim service in the South Natick Eliot Church, outside Boston, where Horatio Alger, Sr., had been pastor. We lived in the same parsonage where he and his famous sonUnitarian minister Horatio Alger, Jr.had resided. These film and book and church associations curiously foreshadowed my own life to come.
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