A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY
“That was terrific! Could you do that one again?” A question often asked, but this time, it was the master who asked his student.
The master, in this case, was musician Roy Hollingshead and the student was Ross Bertram. Ross had been given a saxophone at the age of ten by his father and was taking lessons from Roy who played with the local orchestra of the day. The compliment, however, was directed to Ross’ magic. Ross knew that his teacher was aware of his interest in magic, and each Saturday, Ross tried to have a new trick or two up his sleeve to perform for his mentor.
Ross Bertram was born John Ross Bertram in midtown Toronto on July 28, 1912. His father, John Andrew Bertram, was born in Erin, Ontario of Scottish decent and his mother, Morna Alberta, who was of Welsh decent, was born in the town of Orillia, Ontario—the home of the great Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock (who wrote two other wonderful short stories involving magicians, “The Conjuror’s Revenge” and “A Model Dialogue.”) Ross had three older sisters—Isobel, Hilda and Hazel. Hilda and Hazel were twins. A natural blessing for a magician!
Ross’ father was a chocolatier by profession and although he may have given Ross a saxophone as an early present, he did not stay long with the family. He abandoned them and left the responsibility of caring for the children emotionally and economically to his wife.
Mrs. Bertram was a costume designer who introduced Ross to theatre at an early age. In fact, the entire Bertram household had a theatrical flair. The family was also musical; the sisters all sang and played different instruments and even went out to play shows. Ross studied music diligently and became so proficient with his instrument that his teacher sent him to various concerts around town. Soon Ross would earn money filling in one or two nights where there might be a vacancy in a band. At the age of fourteen, having just completed Grade 7, Ross left school to help support the family. He became known as the “Boy Saxophonist.”