There’s been a bit of hiatus around here.  Perhaps you’re one who noticed.  I’m sure someone must have.  The overriding catchall reason for the long layoff since our last story is all about how much effort it takes to make a feature documentary.  “What?” I hear you say.  “With all the technology at your fingertips now, and still – movie making takes… effort?”  Go figure, right?  The good news is it doesn’t take a whole lot of people to just run & gun to get your interviews shot, but after you finish shooting there’s all this footage that needs to get turned into some semblance of a coherent story.

At least, that’s the goal.  We’ll see what comes in the end.

Actually, we aren’t really that far away from being done.  Our subject, the most excellent Olympic and World champion and coach, George Piller, has proven to be a pretty deep file and we learned a ton about his life.  Even after about 3 years of research, there were so many moments of discovery that we really had to give up on our initial expectations of what the story would be and just roll with the actual tale as it unfolded for us.  It’s been fun.  When we’re completely finished, we’ll get out word on where & how you might see it.  Watch this space.

In the meantime, although somewhat slowed by the filmmaking process, the collection of new material around here hasn’t stopped.  Nor has the sorting through material that was already to hand.  There have been a couple of boxes worth of material that I’ve only very slowly been going through, mostly from the initial clean out of the old salle at Charlie Selberg’s place.


There were a lot of boxes at Charlie’s.  A lot.

What that means is that it can kinda be Christmas around here any day of the week!  I just start rummaging through a box and find pictures or documents I had no recollection of packing safely away.  “Look at this!” I exclaim to no one at all, feeling like nothing so much as Gandalf, lost in the Mines of Moria.  “I have no memory of this place.”  Only it’s a picture.  Of fencers.

Ok.  I’m starting to stray.  Let’s share!  This is a mix of new acquisitions and things I’ve recently sorted & scanned, all jumbled up because that’s the state I’m in right now.

The old becomes new again:

That’s San Francisco’s Own Hans Halberstadt in the background watching over Connie Dixson and Emile Romaine.  At least, I’m going to assume that’s the names for the ladies since in the caption on the back of this photo, Hans is identified as “Hans Hildebrandt”.  So, perhaps not so much trust.  I’ve come across Emily Romaine’s name once or twice, so I’m willing to concede that one, to a point.  I don’t think her name was “Emile”.   This was taken in 1946.  I mention ‘old becoming new’ above, as I had bought this some time ago (Ebay) and mislaid it.  Found it again this past Wednesday while doing some sorting.  Yay!  New picture!

Moving down the coast from San Francisco, we find this little item:

This idea, from 1939, hasn’t really caught on much.  What’s up, Santa Barbara?  Anyone recognize this pool?  I know UCSB is on the beach – it’s why I didn’t go there, as I knew my class attendance would have been severely impacted by the proximity to the ocean.  One of few clear-headed decisions I made as a teen.  Anyway, is this pool also on campus?   The caption on the back doesn’t name the perpetrators, but does state: “…unbalanced posture and poor foot control would result in a ducking.” I’m guessing both of these two wound up wet above the ankles.

Traveling further down the coast again finds us at the 1940 Pacific Coast Championships in Los Angeles, with these two in attendance:

This time we have names; Cornelia Sanger on the left and Muriel Calkins on the right.  The point of curiosity for this photo is that both women are holding epees, not foils.  I wasn’t aware that women competed in epee or sabre at the PCC’s as early as 1940.  Hmm… I wonder if I have any reference for this.  Hang on a sec…

Ok, sorry that took so long.  Had to download a scanned scrapbook into iphoto.  Anyway, the closest I could come was the schedule for the 1938 PCC’s and no women’s events in either epee or sabre are listed.  So I don’t know if these two are posing with epees because the photographer thought they looked cooler than foils or they were participating in an unsanctioned women’s event.  Or just fooling around.

Another in a line of ebay finds, and zooming back up to the Pacific Northwest, was this:

Taken in 1988, that’s Salle Auriol’s Pat Gerard.  I was just looking at a sheet from 1984 listing the top 12 National finalists and the Olympic team selections and Pat showed up in the National foil finals that year, taking 7th.  I believe he and his brother both fenced as juniors.  All I remember about Pat, whom I didn’t know well, was that I couldn’t freakin’ hit him.

Last, a pair of photos that will give you an idea of the kind of damage that was, sadly, done to many of the photos that adorned the walls at Charlie’s salle in the woods.  These were both stapled to the wall.  Both had once been in one of the many scrapbooks Charlie kept, but had been taken out (ripped out; the glue marks and scrapbook backing paper still adorn the back of both) and STAPLED to the wall.  When Mark and I packed everything up, I started with the framed photos.  Once I had all those down, I noticed there were still a ton of photos up – and that’s when the realization hit me.  At some point in his later years, Charlie decided to forego framing and simply stapled things to the walls.  Many were put up with no simple corner pattern of staples, but a haphazard and liberal application of staple staple staple staple staple…  AAAARG!  It makes me crazy just to think about it.  Mark had been working outside when I first began cursing and damning to hell the staple gun that Charlie had got his hands on.  He had to come in and see what the rumpus was all about.  We agreed that stapling things to the wall wasn’t Charlie’s best idea ever.  But revenge was sweet, indeed!  At some juncture, Mark actually found the culprit staple gun.  GUILTY! I wouldn’t want to say that we took it out back and shot it full of holes with a 30.06…. but that’s exactly what we did.

That’s Michael D’Asaro (senior) directing at a tournament held at UCSC in the early 1970’s.  There’s no date on the photo, but you’ll see in the next example why I date it that way.  If you look at the top right & top left corners, you’ll see the horror of my life – staple holes in the original print of a photo for which I do not have the original negative.  Down at the bottom you’ll see the water damage from having been stapled to the wall of a less-than-elements-proof old barn in the woods.  Worse though, there’s no certainty that it’s simply ‘water’ damage.  Rodents had the run of the place for way too long.  I’ll just leave it at that.  Use your imagination.  Whatever you’re picturing – it was worse.

Now that’s early 1970’s.  Big bellbottoms and platform shoes.  Don’t ask how I know.  (Sing with me!  “Memories….”)

Anyway, that Michael D’Asaro (senior) again, same tournament, same location, struttin’ his stuff y’all.  Some of the same damage as the above, but the fates and the rodents spared this one to survive to the present day in somewhat better shape.  It still has the staples holes, though.

I can’t begin to top disco-era ‘Stro (short for ‘Maestro’, Michael’s forever nickname), so I’ll just end this right here.  Hopefully I’ll get back to a consistent weekly drop of new stories for the WCFA website.  As the movie production winds down, this winds back up.  Wish me luck!

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