END OF AN ERA
Ross continued to perform at trade shows, private parties and concert parties.
In 1967, Canada was celebrating its centennial year. The Government of Ontario, representing a province of Canada, hired Ross, along with some other entertainers, to ride the rails and perform in the northern part of the province—the same territory where Ross started performing as a youth at resorts. The troupe used a mail car on the railroad for their shows. The mail car door would slide open, and the show would begin.
By 1968, performing magic for over forty years took its toll. Ross was performing in Ottawa, Canada—the birthplace of Dai Vernon— then started the arduous drive in the dead of night back to Toronto. The road conditions were bad and the drive was long. Ross froze at the wheel as self-doubt about his career and life took hold. He had a nervous breakdown. Ross decided he could no longer perform. He was admitted to the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto. This dark period in his life was blackened further upon his release: His sisters had dispersed his collection of books and props to magicians who came to call.
Doctors at the Clarke Institute, however, noted his ability at sleight-of-hand and also discovered that Ross was a skilled mechanic and woodworker. Ross had owned a shop full of equipment including drill presses and lathes and had taken pride in manufacturing many of his own props.9 The doctors also discovered that Ross had taken part-time studies in psychology at Ryerson College, now known as Ryerson University.
Part of Ross’ own therapy was helping others in the vocational training division of the government. His job was to observe people’s motor skills and assess how they could best make use of their skill. He worked with a variety of disadvantaged people and others who experienced psychological difficulties or were mentally challenged. Ross found the work quite rewarding. He finished his working years as a contract consultant enticing large companies to outsource some of their work to the organization that Ross represented.
9—Unbeknownst to many in Toronto, Ross Bertram manufactured many of the wonderful wood products such as die boxes that were associated with Harry Smith, the proprietor of the Arcade Magic and Novelty store after the retirement of Joe Whitlam.