Monday, May 6, 2019

Great Wrestling Venues—Alabama 1931-1935

  After much procrastination and silence, book 1 is in the bag!  I am please to present my first published work, The Great Pro Wrestling Venues, Volume 3 - Alabama: 1931-1935.  On sale now at CrowbarPress.com!


   First to dispel any confusion, the "Volume 3" is the result of a re-branding of a series of results-oriented books Crowbar Press is doing. The initial intent was to do a series of similar books called "Wrestling's Greatest Cities", but the first book was only for Madison Square Garden (Vol 1), the second book was for Nashville (Vol 2) and the third book (this one) was going to be for the whole state of Alabama. When I pointed out that the "cities" series was comprised of 1 city, 1 venue and 1 state, the concept was re-thought and the venues title was born.  So if the MSG and Nashville books see a second printing, they may be re-titled to fit the series.

    Anyway, to quote the listing at CrowbarPress.com:
This comprehensive work covers the matches in the ring and the events that took place behind the scenes in Alabama from 1931 through 1935.  Travel down Alabama highways and enjoy the memories of more than 2,000 wrestling shows, 4,000 matches, and more than 550 illustrations and images — program covers, newspaper headlines and articles, advertisements, and memorabilia — all of which accompany the stories and information to enhance the sensation of traveling back in time.  This is yet another incredible work from Crowbar Press that you will refer to time and time again. 
     The book actually starts as far back as 1905, as I included a brief account of the state of wrestling in Alabama prior to 1931, as a preface to what was to come later.  But the main focus was in the 1931-1935 period.  Now on to 1936-1940!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Building a Book on Alabama Pro Wrestling History (Part 7)

wrestlingdata.com


    Formatting is in the final stages, and everything is still on track to have book in-hand by the end of January 2019.   If all goes to plan, it should be released along with a few other, similar books.

    In the meantime, I have been spending a lot of my research hours on trying to fill out other territories where most of Chris Jordan's roster worked between 1930-1935 on WrestlingData.com.  For the most part, that means filling in the Michigan towns run by Adam Weissmuller and Farmer Nick (Detroit, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Jackson, Flint), Mike Meroney's territory that covered the northeastern corner of Arkansas (Blytheville, Jonesboro), southeastern corner of Missouri (Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, Cape Girardeau, Caruthersville), southwestern corner of Kentucky (Hopkinsville, Paducah, Bowling Green, Owensboro) and most of western Tennessee (Dyersburg, Clarksville), a bit of Sam Avey's territory (Tulsa, Joplin, Oklahoma City), Gust Karras early efforts in St. Joseph, Missouri, as well as an assortment of other towns including Evansville, Louisville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Atlanta.  It might take awhile to find the results for Poplar Bluff and Bowling Green, as neither are currently covered in any of the online newspaper archives, but both represent significant towns in their respective territories.

Box ad from the 26 Aug 1934 Battle Creek Enquirer and Evening News
     This effort will greatly fill out the records of Joe Dillman, Freddie Knichel, Jack Purdin, Cecil "Blacksmith" Pedigo, Jack Reynolds, Dale Haddock, Stanley Buresh, Billy Love, Lon Chaney, Jimmy "Kid" Lott and Roy Welch.  After having heard so much about Roy Welch in recent years from reading books published by Mark James, as well as all of the wonderful memories from Ron Fuller's Studcast, I was surprised that so little of Welch's early career had been documented in any detail.  I wish WrestlingData had a way of showing a graph of matches being added by wrestler over time. 

    So once the book comes out, you will be better able to track the various paths taken by these, and many other, wrestlers from 1930-1935.  I will attempt to do the same for 1936-1940 when the second book is ready to go.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Building a Book on Alabama Pro Wrestling History (Part 6)

In the lengthy break since the last posting here, much progress has been made.

     To follow up on the previous post, for the most part, newspaper clippings from 1931-1940 are complete.  Apparently Cullman was never run as a regular town, despite it's prime location along Highway 31, about halfway between Decatur and Birmingham.  Along the way, I found wrestling had been run in Selma, Opelika and Marion, at least briefly.  I also learned that Chris Jordan actively pursued either running shows or providing talent to towns in the surrounding states, as well as all the way to the East Coast in the Carolinas.

     I've been working with Scott Teal, at Crowbar Press, and after much discussion, the decision was made to break the book into two volumes.  Book one has been compiled, submitted, marked-up, re-edited, re-submitted, appended and is generally done.  Unfortunately, in my attempt to format my working draft along the lines that Scott recommended, I did not take the differences between the inner and outer margins into account.  While I submitted a draft that I thought would be sufficient once ads and photos were added, as it turned out, those margins resulted in a lot more fitting on a page than I had anticipated, and I came up a bit short in my initial effort regarding the expected page count.  On one had this was very frustrating, but on the other, it forced me to go back and find a lot more content to add to the book.  It also means I will be much better prepared for volume two.

    Volume 1 will cover 1931-1935, but will also have an opening section giving a quick overview of the state of wrestling in Alabama from 1908-1930.  Newspapers.com released a few new runs of Alabama papers while I was "finishing up" my draft which exposed me to a much broader look at the subject.  I had made some assumptions, due to earlier limited search results, that there really wasn't all that much wrestling in Alabama prior to 1931.  There was more than I thought, though it was not all that organized, and was very sporadic.  With all that Scott and I added, the book will still end up a bit short of 200 pages once printed; probably in the vicinity of 175-185 pages. 

     Unfortunately, due to the poor quality of a lot of the microfilm scans from the earlier days of microfilm technology, many of the wrestler photos I had hoped to include were found unsuitable for re-printing.  Thankfully others were found as replacements, but I will make a stronger effort to find the newspaper hardcopies for Volume 2, if I run across any questionable quality photos.  Thankfully, the various county archives, as well as the Alabama state archives still have a lot of the hardcopies of their newspapers in large, bound volumes.

    
    Since the January post, I was also able to make contact with the families of three of the wrestlers who appeared in Alabama in the 1930s.  I met with Chris Jordan's grandson and daughter-in-law, and they shared some wonderful memories, photos and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from around 1931-1932.  I met with the family of Freddie Knichel's son, and they also shared some great memories.  Unfortunately, in their case, Freddie's house burned sometime in the 1970s, along with almost all of the memorabilia from his wrestling career, but they graciously shared what surviving photos they had.  I also had a phone conversation with the son of Stanley Buresh, and he also shared several memories and photos from his father's career.  Most of what Chris Jordan's family shared will be in Volume 2, as most of the photos and items were from after 1935.

    I expect to have Volume 1 in my hands before the end of January 2019, and will try my best to see that Volume 2 is ready by the end of 2019.  I am hoping enough people buy Volume 1 that I can get some good feedback on ways to make Volume 2 better.  The general format for both books will be like Scott's earlier books on Nashville and Madison Square Garden, including details of every card I could find across the entire state of Alabama, interspersed with a variety of advertisements, articles, as well as introductions for each year summarizing the events of the year, including some historical context.  Also included will be some statistics on appearances by the regularly used talent and brief overviews of various venues to hold wrestling.

    As this is a relatively undocumented piece of wrestling history, I really hope someone learns something and enjoys it (or hates it) enough to provide some feedback.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Building a Book on Alabama Pro Wrestling History (Part 5)

     In what may be the final trip to the Alabama State Archives in Montgomery, I managed to finish off scanning what I needed from the Birmingham News for 1939-40.  I also managed to fill in a few gaps or oversights in my Montgomery coverage as well as picking up the 3-4 months that Chris Jordan ran wrestling in Selma in 1932 from the Selma Times-Journal, which had some good photos.  As far as I know, that is the last town that ran wrestling in the 1930s.  Or at the very least, that is the last town for which I found a reference where I could find any actual evidence.  The two towns that are still mysteries are Courtland (a small town along US 72 between Muscle Shoals and Decatur) and Cullman (the largest town on I-65 between Decatur and Birmingham). 

     All I've found for Courtland was a mention in either the Decatur Daily or the Florence Times about a show being scheduled there at their new arena.  But when I checked the actual local weekly paper, the Moulton Advertiser, I could find nothing about it in the issues before or after the event was supposed to have taken place.  As far as I could tell, Courtland didn't have its own paper, and Moulton was the next nearest town that did.

    Cullman, which was also only covered by two weekly papers, the Cullman Democrat and the Cullman TribuneThe Cullman Democrat (which is partially covered at Newspapers.com) was very spotty with its coverage of wrestling.  There are a handful of references to wrestling shows, a couple of which give the impression either that wrestling is about to start, or that wrestling has already been a weekly thing.  But no more than a couple of references can be found in the entire year.  I suppose for the sake of completion, I should check out the Tribune.

    I also picked up everything from 1931-1938 from the Jasper Advertiser, which seemed to be the "major" paper covering Jasper, Alabama in the 1930s.  For a out of the way place like Walker County, Alabama, I was surprised to find they were covered by three different newspapers; the Mountain Eagle, the Jasper Advertiser and the Carbon Hill News.  What I was happy to find was that the Jasper Advertiser, at least early on, included some great photos of several of the wrestlers (and the brand new Jasper City Auditorium), and as I was photographing from the hard-copies (instead of b&w or gray-scale microfilm), they should hopefully turn out good when printed.

    So If I don't find anything major in the Cullman Tribune, I think I'm done here, and can spend the next month hammering out the connective tissue for this beast and working all of the results into a shape more closely resembling what Scott Teal used in his Madison Square Garden and Nashville books.  Oh, and it looks like this will probably be a two-parter.  It was getting fairly hefty with nothing but cards and results and a few bits of writing (nearly 250 pages), so I've been convinced it would be best to break that in two to allow a lot more room to breathe.  That gives me a good 100 pages per volume to work in photos, ads, articles and history.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Wrestling Promoters of the 1930s

For the moment, this will just be a list of promoters I have found named in newspapers, including when and where they were promoting from 1930-1940.  Most of these will be local promoters.

 Sam Avey
Joplin, Missouri
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1933)
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dwight Barker
Lansing, Michigan (1934)

Bud Cole
Benton Harbor, Michigan (1933-)

Romeo Cunningham
Sante Fe, New Mexico (1936)

Jack Curley
New York, New York

Lou Cutler
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1933-)

Fred DeMerritte
Huntsville, Alabama

Jimmy DeSalvo/Disalvo
Corinth, Mississippi (1934-1935)

Floyd Dixon
Mobile, Alabama (1935)

John Donnelly
Kingsport, Tennessee (1933)

Tom Ferguson
Bessemer, Alabama (1931)

Al Fine
Fairfield, Alabama (7 Dec 1931 - 26 Dec 1931)
Jasper, Alabama (7 Dec 1931 - 26 Dec 1931 )

John Flaska
Albuquerque, New Mexico (1936)

J.O. Gideon
Sedalia, Missouri (1933)

Jim Graham
Nashville, Tennessee

Al Haft
Columbus, Ohio

Butler P.A. Hine
Decatur, Alabama (23 May 1932 - 14 July 1932)

Chris Jordan
Anniston, Alabama
Bessemer, labama
Birmingham, labama
Decatur, Alabama (15 July 1932 - 1940)
Dothan, Alabama
Fairfield, Alabama (27 Dec 1931 - 1940)
Gadsden, Alabama
Homewood, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama (23 Aug 1932 - )
Jasper, Alabama (27 Dec 1931 - 1940)
Marion, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Opelika, Alabama
Panama City, Flabama
Pell City, Alabama
Pensacola, Florida (1933)
Selma, Alabama
Sheffield, Alabama
Tarrant City,Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Gust Karras
St. Joseph, Missouri (1933- )

Nicholas Kiricon (Farmer Nick)
Battle Creek, Michigan 1932
Kalamazoo, Michigan 1933

Freddie Knichel
Columbia, Tennessee 193x
Henry Kolln
Huntsville, Alabama

Charles Kuykendall
Columbus, Mississippi (1933)

Ted Lewis
Owensboro, Kentucky (1935)

James "Kid" Lott
Tarrant City, Alabama (1931 )

John McIntosh
El Paso, Texas (1936)

Jimmy McLemore
Vincennes, Indiana (1931)

Mike Meroney / Charles Sinkey
Blytheville, Arkansas
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Carruthersville, Missouri
Jonesboro, Arkansas
Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Sikeston, Missouri

Bert Mauldin
Hope, Arkansas (July 1935 - )

Vic Miller
Greenwood, Mississippi (1934- )

Tom Packs
St. Louis, Missouri

Noel W. Ray
Gadsden, labama

Charlie Rentrop
Memphis, Tennessee
Montgomery, Alabama

Bill Romanoff
Jackson, Mississippi (1931-1955)
Biloxi, Mississippi
Gulfport, Mississippi

Sam Sampson
Santa Ana, California

George Sanders
El Dorado, AR (1934-

Curtis Sanford
Birmingham, Alabama (1931)


William Schwabe
Kirkland, Missouri (1933)

Julius Siegel
Shreveport, Louisiana

Sam Siegel
Birmingham, Alabama (1931)
Montgomery, Alabama (1931-1932)
Hartford, Connecticut (1933-)

Morris Sigel
Houston, Texas

Charles "Titanic" Sinkey
Corinth, Mississippi (1936-)

Al Stecher
Santa Cruz (1940)

Jack Spurgin
Maryville, Alabama (1931)

F.L. Thompson
Greenville, South Carolina (1933)

William "Red" Thornton
Santa Cruz, California

E.K. Tyler
Anniston, Alabama (9 Mar 1932 - )

Adam Weissmuller
Detroit, Michigan (193x-)
Lansing, Michigan (1933)

Roy Welch (Mid-South Booking)
Dyersburg, Tennessee
Clarksville, Tennessee


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Building a Book on Alabama Pro Wrestling History (Part 4)

    Back in Montgomery, at the Archives, trying to knock out the last years of Birmingham I need to get rolling on the writing part of this project.  I will be mighty glad to get to that.  Today, I knocked out the rest of what I was missing from 1931, and picked up January through August of 1936, which leaves me a day and a half to try to get as much of the remaining 52 months as I can.  I don't think I'll quite make it, but having wrapped up 1931, at least I can get started writing as I now have the beginning of the wrestling boom in Alabama.

    It would appear that what Chris Jordan ultimately built into a multi-state territory by 1940 began with a man by the name of Curtis Sanford, who began promoting boxing for the American Legion in Birmingham in February of 1931.  This was specifically the Gorgas Post No. 115, that got the ball rolling.  The first wrestling card was held on April 6th, and deadlined by Ernie Dusek vs. John Katan with an undercard of Homer Smiles vs Billy Edwards and three boxing matches.  Smiles would go on to be a very popular football coach (there is a stadium named after him in Leeds), and Billy Edwards would soon be better known as Bad Bill Edwards, one of the more prominent heels to work cards mostly around the Birmingham area.

     The State of Alabama had recently reorganized its athletic and boxing commission, and under the new rules, only American Legion posts were to be issued promoting licenses for boxing and wrestling, so that the Legion could use the proceeds from the events to continue their community and charitable work.   By 1930, Birmingham was large enough that it had two Legion Posts, typically referred to as Post No. 1 and the Gorgas Post (No. 115).  Almost instantly, there was contention between the two posts, that would take a couple of years to shake out.  In the years and decades to follow, Post No. 115 would merge into Post No. 1, and the name of General Gorgas would be retained, and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization would be given equal footing with the American Legion in the state, as far as promoting sporting events.

  By April 16th, Sanford stepped aside when the American Legion (Post No. 1) brought in Sam Siegel, along with his connections to Rudy Dusek, and thus the talent pool of Jack Curley of Jim Londos, Jim McMillen and the Duseks, all the way down to "Rubber Man" Sol Slagel.  Siegel wrote a series of articles for the Birmingham News from mid-April to June, explaining the "new style" of wrestling, introducing many of the wrestlers that would be coming to Alabama, as well as some brief history of the last few years and how he came to be in Birmingham.

  Most of the towns that began running wrestling over the following years seem to have begun as boxing towns.  In the first few years, mixed boxing and wrestling cards were common, and in a couple towns, like Sheffield and Huntsville, boxing was often the more popular, resulting in extended periods with no wrestling.  Battling Bozo was probably the most popular draw in boxing in the state in the early 1930s, both for his comedic boxing stylings, as well as his frequent appearances as a special guest referee.

   The American Legion post in Tarrant City began holding boxing cards in May, and by August, had appointed Kid Lott as their new boxing and wrestling promoter, and held their first wrestling card on August 11th.  The snowball effect kicked in, and shortly thereafter, American Legion posts all over the state wanted in on the action, promoting their own boxing and wrestling events, and thus the Alabama wrestling boom of the 1930s was born.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Building a Book on Alabama Pro Wrestling History (Part 3)


     A few bits of good news came out of the past week.  First and foremost, when my first two reels of the 1934 Birmingham News arrived at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, I was only assessed a fee of $2.  The HMCPL only charges $1 per microfilm reel for processing Inter-Library Loan requests, and apparently they were able to find the microfilm somewhere other than the state archives.  And apparently that other library didn't charge anything for loaning out their films.  YAY!  I also found that the HMCPL allows up to 5 concurrent ILL requests, so I went ahead and requested the next 5 months of 1934.  If all goes well, I hope to be mid way through 1935 by the end of July.

     I made the long trek to Montgomery yesterday to get started on the Montgomery Advertiser.  While I was fortunate to catch them on a weekend they were open (2nd weekend of every month, just like the Archives in Birmingham), they were also holding a genealogy seminar that morning.  On the positive side, it meant for the first 4 hours I was there, things were quiet in the Research Room and there was no waiting for one of the two (TWO! Seriously, just two?  The Tennessee State Archives has about ten!) microfilm scanners, but once the seminar let out, it started to get busy, so I packed it in for the long drive home.
     While there, I managed to knock out 15 months worth of the Advertiser, from November 1931-January 1933.  Another positive discovery was that the Montgomery Advertiser was a much smaller paper than I had anticipated, to the point where they could fit two and sometimes three months on a single reel.  So my original estimate of 120 reels to cover 1931-1940 for Montgomery has been revised down to 55-60 reels.  The combination of fewer reels to borrow, and the dramatically reduced fees greatly reduce my projected expenses for this project, which is a very good thing.


     A couple of quick notes on what I found in the films I got through: Sam Siegel, heavyweight promoter in Birmingham, was announced in November 1931 as the new matchmaker for Montgomery Post No. 2, replacing Roy B. Strickland, who had requested to be relived of the duty due to being too busy with his own business.  Naturally, big things were promised with Siegel coming in, but in the fifteen months I scanned through, he only ran a handful of shows at the end of 1931 into early 1932.  Though I didn't find any big announcement, in June, arrangements had been made for Chris Jordan to begin running weekly shows at the Cramton Bowl, kicking things off in style with a main event between former world heavyweight champ Gus Sonnenberg against Jim Hesslyn (repeatedly misspelled as Kesslyn in the Advertiser) on June 8th.  An estimated 1,000 fans turned out for the show.

     Since I was there, I also asked them to pull their hard copy of the 1938 Huntsville Times to try to fill in more details for a show that was advertised for Wednesday, 20 April 1938.  The microfilm at the HMCPL was missing that issue, and so was GenealogyBank.com.  As it turns out, the Archives were also missing that issue.  Tuesday the 19th jumped straight to Thursday the 21st, with no mention of no paper having been printed for the 20th.  So I have to assume, they just failed to acquire that issue, and that the microfilms were probably taken from the hard copies at the Archives.  As no mention was made of the show in the 21 April issue, and it was the last show announced in 1938, I'm leaning toward it having been cancelled due to poor turnout.  A few days later an announcement was made that wrestling and boxing shows would be suspended "until the present political campaign is finished."  Must have been a long campaign as shows were not resumed until July of 1939.

     As a progress report, last week I had noticed that I'd apparently not abstracted the cards and results from the Tuscaloosa News, even though I had all the clippings collected already, so I knocked that out (thanks to the mid-week holiday), and have updated the grid on the first of these posts.  While 1932 was a very busy year, with a lot of small towns being run, I suspect once Jordan expanded to Dothan, Montgomery and Mobile, that towns like Tarrant City, Bessemer and Homewood were largely abandoned.  There was only so much talent to go around, so it would only have made sense for Jordan to have concentrated his efforts in the larger towns where he could stand to make a lot more money.