at Bluffton
1908 - 1938

Buster Keaton
and the
Muskegon Connection

The Gardners

Jack E. "Happy Jack" Gardner
Born:   Syracuse, NY
April 16, 1929, Muskegon, MI

Edna (Beard) Gardner
Born:  Unknown
Died: Unknown
Happy Jack GardnerEdna Beard Gardner      Little is known about the lives of "Happy Jack" Gardner and his bride Edna Beard. According to various reports, Gardner was a longtime resident of Syracuse, NY. His "advent into the theatrical business occurred in Syracuse during the (Gilbert and
Sullivan H.M.S.) "Pinafore" craze back in the early '80s".
     Gardner toured the United States and Canada, performing on the vaudeville circuit as a singer, songwriter and comic.  Gardner came from a theatrical family that produced an earlier act called
The Three Gardners, a musical comedy skit which listed Jack, Andy and Ada Gardner as performers in 1900.
     Jack appeared as a solo act at the Lake Michigan Park Theater in 1905, and with Edna, they joined the Actors' Colony around 1910. According to reports from the time, he had "been associated with everything from circus to Shakespeare."  Like many vaudeville performers, Gardner specialized in "black-face" routines, including a tour as a member of the Primrose Minstrels.
     A 1911 review noted that his act "A Close Call" met with "unprecedented success during its entire run which included nearly all of the leading vaudeville houses in the country."  His 1918 performances of "In the War Zone" were met with positive reviews. 
    In Muskegon, "Happy Jack" became an active participant in the Actor's Colony, performing in the colony's annual charity shows.  In later years, Gardner served as a booking agent for theatrical acts and sports world celebrities like Barney Oldfield, the famous race care driver, and Jim Jeffries, one-time heavyweight boxing champ.
"He has no cause for happiness in this episode of his wild army career", notes a 1918 illustration by animation pioneer Charlie Thorson.
Image courtesy of Gene Walz
From left to right: Jack Jeffries, Barney Oldfield, "Happy" Jack Gardner and Jim Jeffries.  Gardner was appearing with his company in "A Close Call" in Los Angeles in 1910 when he crossed paths with his old friends.