Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Stanley Buresh Scavenger Hunt

     While I was working on my first book on the history of wrestling in Alabama, I was fortunate enough to track down family of some of the wrestlers that appeared in the state in the 1930s.  One of those family members was David Buresh, the youngest son of the Kangaroo Kicker, the Australian Bushman, Stanley Buresh.   As with most things in the wrestling business, the truth was somewhat different than the gimmick.  The moniker seems to have been given to him by a promoter in Texas, attempting to add some pizzazz to the young light heavyweight, due to his ability to throw a dropkick, hit his opponent and land on his feet.  Kind of like kangaroo do.

     Stanley Buresh was not, in fact, an Australian, he was born on the 13th of March 1903 (or 1901 according to family records) in Bohemia, which would shortly become part of Czechoslovakia, and what is now the western half of the Czech Republic.  When he was still a young boy, his family emigrated to the United States, in 1909, and settled in the area of Dodge, Nebraska.  As many Bohemia immigrants had done, Stanley's father Josef brought his family to eastern Nebraska and set about farming.

     If someone wanted to learn wrestling, there is quite possibly no better place they could have landed in the 1910-1920 time period than Dodge, as that just happened to be the home town of one Joe Stecher, wrestling's heavyweight champion of the world, and his brother Anton, or Tony.  The Stecher brothers trained a great many boys to be wrestlers at the Y.M.C.A. in Dodge, among them the Buresh brothers, Stanley and his older brother, Frank.  Both would go on to wrestle professionally for many years, Frank wrestling for some 20 years before giving up the mat to focus on farming, and Stanley for some 30 years before finally retiring from the business in the early 1950s.  In the course of that 30 year odyssey, Stanley would make it as far as New Zealand in 1931, but he never actually made it to Australia.

     After chatting with David, he sent me several photos, some newspaper clippings and this listing that detailed the first 64 matches of Stanley Buresh's career.  As the list is undated, I decided to attempt to track down the details of each of these matches to see what I could chronicle of the young wrestler's just entering the professional game.

   The record states that Stanley "started professional wrestling in the month of March, at Omaha, Nebraska, state tournament, at the age of 19 years.  That tournament took place on March 26, 1921.  The Omaha World-Herald listed Earl Caddock, Wayne Munn and Farmer Burns as referees, though the results only mention Munn (heavyweights) and Burns (middleweights) working the event, along with Walker Barnaby (lightweights).  Among the participants, aside from both Buresh brothers were one Andrew Lutzi of Lincoln, who would go on to a long wrestling and promoting career as Paul Jones, and Rudy Hason, who would also have a long wrestling and promoting career as Rudy Dusek.  Both future heavyweights won their divisions, Hason already a heavyweight, and Lutzi the light heavy bracket.

    Of the 64 matches listed, thus far, I have found newspaper records for 27 of them, while also finding another 8 matches that were not listed.  There are also a few that may not have actually happened, or at the very least garnered absolutely no mention in the local papers.  I did find that Buresh briefly wrestled under the name Ernest Misek, possibly due to a shortage of viable opponents once he had built a reputation in Kansas and Nebraska in 1923.

    During his homesteading in Wolf Point, Montana, in 1925, Stanley participated in a three day wrestling tournament as part of the Wolf Point Stampede.  From Thursday, July 9 to Saturday, July 11, he defeated Elwood House, Jake Armand and Dick Daviscourt.  While the list ends with his 24 March 1926 victory over Bill Pappas, Buresh would continue to appear in Wolf Point through November of that year.  In December 1926, he moved on to the Pacific Northwest and connected with Ted Thye, and it was through Thye that Buresh would join a tour of New Zealand in 1931.

     You can view the wrestling record of Stanley Buresh at WrestlingData.com.  While not complete, it is ever-growing as I, and other researchers, fill in more wrestling cards each day.

Stanley Buresh @ WrestlingData.com






 I am compiling the information as I find it to a Google Docs spreadsheet.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Resources for Wrestling Research

[This post will be a work-in-progress, and will change as I become aware of new resources.]
 
    A good place to start when researching a wrestler, promotion, or other related subject are newspaper archives.  Every day hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of old newspapers are being digitized, made searchable through OCR (optical character recognition) technology and released to the web.  Some such resources are free to the public, some are provided as commercial products.  Some of those commercial options are available through agreements with local public library systems, and so are effectively free for patrons.  For most of the following, I will just be using the term 'wrestler' to include anyone associated with the business be they actual wrestlers, referees, managers or promoters, just to save time.

Aside from just articles, ads and results for wrestling shows, newspapers also bring us news of accidents, deaths and obituaries, weddings, and often retrospective articles when a retired wrestler becomes something of a local icon.

Newspapers (free)
ChroniclingAmerica.log.gov is a newspaper digitization program headed by the United States Library of Congress, and has a goal to digitize all available newspapers that are in the public domain.  That means the content is largely pre-1926.  Through a partnership with Newspapers.com, a lot of the papers on Chronicling America are also available through the paid service, which boosts Newspapers.com's catalog but also allows for a much smoother user interface than what the LOC currently offers.  This program is mostly executed by various state archives and university libraries, where they can receive government grants to digitize their newspaper collections and provide them to the Library of Congress to host on the Chronicling America site.

The Google Newspaper Archive (news.google.com/newspapers) is one of a long line of semi-abandoned Google experiments.  Back when they were binge-scanning every book they could get their hands on, they also began digitizing newspapers, new and old.  They also briefly bought out a website called PaperofRecord.com that happened to have the largest collection of Mexican newspapers on the web.  Sadly, since Google was not able to work out an agreement with the Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de Mexico that had provided the Mexican papers, all of that content was removed from Google's site and, even once PaperofRecord.com was sold to another party, the Mexican papers were never restored and now remain mostly inaccessible outside of Mexico.

Mexican papers aside, the Google Newspaper Archive is still online and while the search facility is mostly useless the papers are still there and can be browsed directly.  While many titles have now been removed, this collection still includes many titles that are available nowhere else, as yet.  So it still a valuable, though tedious, resource for historical newspaper research.

Back to Mexico, there are a few newspapers that are free to search and read on the site for the Hemeroteca Nacional Digital de Mexico (http://www.hndm.unam.mx/), namely El Informador, the main newspaper of Guadalajara.

Elephind.com is a sort of meta search engine that attempts to provide a single search interface for several of the various independent newspaper digitization sites across the world.

Newspapers (subscription)

Newspapers.com is a now subsidiary of Ancestry.com and is available through paid subscription.  They probably have the largest catalog with the best user interface of the available commercial options, and are constantly adding new titles and pages to their offerings.

GenealogyBank.com is a subsidiary of Newsbank.com, and as the title implies, is geared more directly toward genealogical research, but still have an impressive catalog of newspapers in their archive.  For the most part, there is not a lot of overlap with the titles offered at Newspapers.com, so a subscription to both, for those who could afford it, would be very useful.

NewspaperArchive.com has probably the smallest collection of the paid sites, and due to poor management, squandered their early lead in the field.  They also racked up a lot of bad user sentiment with questionable billing practices and poor site performance.  While those days are largely past, the company as it stands now is having to recover a log of lost ground.  They are still adding new content, but they dont' really offer any convenient way to know what that is.  For what they offer, they are also the most expensive of the three sites, but still, the do offer papers not covered by either Newspapers.com or GenealogyBank.com


Genealogy Resources

While genealogy sites might not immediately seem relevant to wrestling research, remember that family history research is largely just searching for information on specific people.  And wrestlers are certainly specific people!  Sites along these lines are perfect for fleshing out personal details about a wrestler's whereabouts at various points in their lives, before, during and after their wrestling careers.  Sometimes tracking them down requires working from a different angle, such as finding a sibling or child and working back toward your main subject.  Often you can reconstruct a part of their family tree and find living family members to talk to, who sometimes are only too happy to talk about their long departed loved ones.

Free sites:
FamilySearch.org is the primary genealogy website maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  The Mormons' enthusiasm for family history is a benefit for everyone due to the sheer volume of information they are constantly making available.  The site contains census records (see where the wrestlers were born, where they lived, family members, etc.), immigration records (mostly ships passenger lists), city directories (sort of the precursor to phone books), vital records (birth, marriage, divorce and death records) and a variety of other records both civilian and military.

FindAGrave.com is another good resource, not just to locate the final resting place of a wrestler, but also possibly connections to family.  Especially in the case of wrestlers long deceased, often it is through family that we might be able to find more about a wrestler.

Fold3.com is primarily an archive of military records, though they do also have some census records, immigration records and city directories.  I have had a lot of success finding wrestlers from the 1910s-1950s in the World War I and World War II draft registrations.  Those draft records typically include a full name, date and place of birth, and current residence.  The WWII records also include employment information, height, weight, hair color, skin color, other distinguishing features (cauliflower ears!) and a copy of the wrestlers' signature.
Facebook.com.  Seriously!  If you have managed to find any surviving relatives through any of the resources listed above (in obituaries or as virtual flowers left on Find A Grave), if you want to get in touch, search for them on Facebook.  I have found more than a few family members and descendants of wrestlers on Facebook.  The most difficult part is then getting them to respond, and hopefully being interested enough to help.

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