“I can be a great coach.” At least that was the mind set I had in 1956, when Eric Beardsley, asked me to help him coach wrestling at Moses Lake High School. When it came to wrestling, I had no doubt that my wrestling background was unique and special. After all I did journeyman training with the likes of Rough Rufus Jones, Killer Kelly, and Pretty Boy Kirkham. These wrestling “greats” were my Aunt Dossie’s regular boyfriends and they showed my brother Bob and me what it took to be “real wrestlers”. In our minds we both thought we had learned “wrestlin’” from great men. Indeed, who could ask for a better background? We were exposed to “secrets” only shared with the “pros”. Here’s how it happened. . .
In the late forties my family lived in Klamath Falls, Oregon. My Aunt Dossie, who was my mother’s younger sister, lived with our family as a sort of “permanent” baby sitter. My brother Bob and I adored her. . . she was tough, and mean enough to handle both Bob and me. But even more important, she was a “stunner”. She was vivacious, good looking, and could dance up a storm. She turned heads where ever she went. Her penchant for dancing lead to her introduction to pro-wrestlers. Since both dances and pro wrestling matches were held in the Klamath Falls community center, one event lead to the other . The wrestling matches were held on Friday nights and the dances were on Saturday nights. And by design, the pro wrestlers hung around town for the Saturday Night Dance action. Dossie could not resist dance invitations from these young, robust, pro wrestlers. Naturally, dancing lead to dating and dating lead to socializing. These guys would come to see Aunt Dossie, at our house. To spend time with Dossie, they also, like it or not, had to put up with me and Bob. With no dad around, Bob and I “coat tailed” these guys unmercifully.. Looking back , the wrestlers were more than patient, they were great. . .to show them how tough we were and how much we liked wrestling Bob and I would do battle on the living room rug. . . I was Prince Valliant, and Bob was Prince Chicken. Dossie’s boyfriends showed us all kinds of moves. . . we could do “flying mares”, “Step over toe holds”, “Boston Crabs”, “Surfboards”, “Key Locks”, “Air Plane Spins” and “Body Slams”. And we could do these moves without really hurting one another. We got a few rug burns but no broken bones. We not only learned technique from the pros, we learned how to “act”.
Our exposure to Dossie’s wrestling boyfriends left indelible marks on Bob and me. We both thought we were unbeatable in a fight. We were kings of the bus stop fights before school, and the recess fights during school. Indeed, we were both expelled for fighting in Conger Grade School. Mrs. Parker, the school principal, did not appreciate us body slamming and surfboarding our school challengers. Mom and Dad ultimately withdrew us from the public schools and enrolled us at Saint Catharine’s Catholic School. Needless to say, the nuns at St. Catherine’s put a stop to our fighting. We still, however, maintained our wrestling spirits.
So when Eric, asked me if I wanted to help coach wrestling, I interpreted his request as, “Can you help me teach boys to fight?” I IMMEDIATELY THOUGHT: I COULD AND I WOULD.
Gary Frey, CEO Suplay, Wrestlers world, inc