Archive for November 20th, 2009

This week, after having made deliveries of new work to the galleries that represent me over the last week,  I’ve been catching up on some maintenance around the studio, getting things ready for the upcoming winter.   It’s a break from thinking about painting and a chance to recharge the batteries.  Sometimes much needed recharging.

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I’ve also been spending a little time looking at old newspapers as I do a little research into a few ancestors.  It’s also really interesting to see an article concerning a relative next to an ad of that time, such as the one shown here, with Annie Oakley endorsing a dandruff shampoo.  It makes you realize what a transitionary period those early years of the 1900’s were, with so many aspects of rapid progress taking place in a world that had changed much slower for centuries before.

For instance, in the article that was near this ad, there was an account of a wrestling match here in Elmira.  Wrestling was a big deal around here back then with matches held several times a week in various locations such as men’s clubs, hotels and the gyms of local athletic clubs.  The story here told of the night opening with a vaudeville-type tumbling exhibition from a touring wrestling family complete with selections sung in rich baritones.  There was a short boxing match followed by someone performing ragtime, which was new to that time.  The headline event, usually a match between heated local rivals or a local favorite facing a touring pro, finished up the night.

I had heard stories that my grandfather, Frank “Shank” Myers, had lived and participated in this rough and tumble world but had never seen any evidence until I started reading these old papers.  But there he was, a 17 year old kid described as an Eastside mat ruffler, rolling around in smoky halls with strangleholds and body throws.  In one little notice, he was advertised as the preliminary match for a match headlined by Americus, shown here, who was touring pro who would come into town and take on the  best of the locals.  It was to be held at a hall in a local hotel that had been remodeled for the event.

I was able to find several articles with his exploits but only in a short period of time due to the lack of continuity in the newspaper availability from that time.  I did find a few pieces from a few years later, in a match from Binghamton, a slightly larger city about 60 miles away, between a Binghamton man and a well-known champ from NYC, where he was mentioned.  He was introduced to the crowd as the lightweight champ from Elmira and he issued a challenge to the Binghamton grappler, for a match to be held there, in Binghamton , or Elmira.

I may never know if this match ever took place but it ‘s great to finally fill in little details of a world that only existed in a cloud of familial myth. An interesting time…



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