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Snapped: 1938

Snapped: 1938

May 1938. "Wrestling match sponsored by American Legion. Sikeston, Missouri." View full size. 35mm nitrate negative by Russell Lee for the FSA.


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Faux Palooka

One of my great-uncles was a traveling wrestler in the 1930s. He said it was fake even in those days.


At first glance, to me, this photo was all about man vs. man, sweat and strength, a darkened arena, a haze of tobacco smoke and a bloodthirsty audience.

But then, my eyes wandered to the referee and there's something about the look on his face that evokes Norman Rockwell. I don't know if it's the arch of his eyebrows, or the hint of a smile on his lips, or the contrast of his white "uniform" on the dark background, but he turned the whole mood around for me. This could just as well have been a Rockwell painting.

On another note, does anyone know who the wrestlers are, and if they were "famous" or just local guys? My father fondly remembers going to wrestling matches when he was a boy in the mid-1940's, and some of those guys got pretty popular, it seems.


..... the early years.

Wrestling Matches

My father attended wrestling matches in my hometown in the 1930s. They were held in an amphitheater with stone seats. You could rent cushions at the gate for ten cents. When the crowd was displeased with a match, they would stand and throw their cushions into the ring. A "cushion wrangler" would dutifully gather up the tossed cushions so the match could continue. Sounds like fun!

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