If you’ve been checking in here regularly, you’ll know I frequently haunt the corridors of that virtual thrift store known as Ebay. Sometimes I find things of fencing interest, sometimes I don’t. It’s a mix of disappointment and fascination. It’s not uncommon for the sellers of fencing memorabilia, regardless of the kind of item being sold, to be woefully uninformed on what they’re selling. The mis-labeling of epees as foils, foils as sabres and sabres as epees is all too common. The recent trend of seeing beekeeper outfits showing up as ‘fencing gear’ is a little strange. And why a great photo of Ralph Faulkner training for the 1932 Olympic Games needed the tag “gay interest” added to it is really quite beyond me.
No date to this photo taken at an outdoor tournament with sabre on the near strip and foil on the far. That’s quite a run of patches on the arm of the sabre fencer. The top one could be AFLA, AFLA Jr. Olympics or AFLA Olympic Team. Then there’s NYAC’s flying feet and at the bottom, Salle Auriol.
But this batch of photos that I recently picked up was, and remains, a mystery of another sort altogether. They were sold under the description of “Vintage Photograph Lot, 30+ Photos US Fencing”. Clicking on the item brought up a number of images of the photos spread out to show what was in the lot. Large groups of fencing pictures seldom come along and the first thing I wanted to do was try to ascertain, if possible, a region for where they may have been from. If I could be certain they were from East of the Continental Divide, I would have dropped an email to Andy Shaw to see if it was something he was interested in. If West, I’d go after it myself.
One of the few photos with anything like a useful hint – in this case, a date. The girl in the middle has been awarded the World’s Smallest Trophy and it happened in November of 1968.
Lucky me, I actually spotted a couple of people I could put names to. Not many. Of the 30+ photos, I can name exactly 3.5 people in two photos. (The half point is for my own uncertainty on one individual.) I always hope there will be names on the back of photos to aid me in my work but this group has an almost uniform lack of that particular detail. Almost.
This is the photo that prompted me to buy the lot. Robert Marx gets a bottle and a ribbon. And the other person kinda looks like Yves Auriol…. and kinda doesn’t. I’m assuming it’s him. He’s my half-certain guess.
While scanning a few of the better and/or more interesting photos to include in this post, I spotted a stamp on the back of one of the images. I hadn’t noticed it at all in my first look-through. But there’s the big hint. On the back with address & phone number, is the name “Rocky Beach”.
Hello, Pacific Northwest.
These three may be easy for someone to recognize. Not me, unfortunately. Maybe you?
Rocky Beach taught fencing in the Portland area for decades. He was one of the founders of Salle Auriol in Portland which, if you don’t know, is a hugely important and influential West Coast club, founded in 1972, that now goes by the name Northwest Fencing Center. I never met Rocky but knew him by reputation. My first coach, Len Carnighan, who also ran a club in Portland, the Studio of American Fencing, knew Rocky pretty well. Len could be quite sparing in his liking of those he recognized as the competition. Rocky, according to Len, was one of the good guys.
A group of youngsters figuring it out. That’s an 80’s Uhlmann box up on the wall, so I’m guessing 80’s. OES? Anyone?
Both Len and Rocky are no longer with us. Rocky passed last year but his legacy lives on through the clubs he founded and the students he taught.
The one other dated photo. October, 1968. Love the windows. Anyone recognize the venue?
I don’t know how this batch of photos found their way to Ebay. Ebay is one of those monolithic internet entities that was an early adopter of user names instead of actual names. I go back and forth about the privacy implications of shielding ones identity through screen names which can allow the untrustworthy or imbecilic to hide in plain sight while posting unsavory blather or outright abuse. But the Ebay version of this means I don’t really know how, or from who or where, the sale originated. Mostly they’re just a bunch of stray photos with no names on the back. Add a fencing mask to many of the principles in the images and – presto! Very few identifying characteristics to decide who you’re looking at.
I originally mistook this for another photo of Robert Marx but this time it’s Michael. Different sweats and Michael’s distinctive mid-80’s beard. That is Yves, isn’t it? And it’s definitely Alex Beguinet in the background.
Interestingly, the photos have a pretty broad range in dates from the little information I can be confident in. A couple have date codes from the printing process. That gives me 1968 as a starting year. Then there’s the above photo of Michael Marx with Alex Beguinet in the background. Alex left the Portland area for the head coach job at Duke in 1985, so I’m pretty confident in a date range of 1968 to at least 1985.
With fencing posters on the wall, I’d say this is fencing club, and likely a modern one. That’s a newer type of grounded strip, isn’t it?
Here’s another one where someone may recognize the venue. Old school sabre! Someone’s about to cross their feet.
Last one. Youngsters again, looking a bit like a pro-am competition. I’m not sure the kid on the left was ready for what his opponent was bringing.
As far as the who’s who in most of these, it’s another entry in the mystery file. If anyone has any ideas about who? or where’s’zat?, I’d be thrilled to add knowledge to my brain.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep copying files to my new storage devices. I finally outgrew my 5 terabyte drive and I’m replacing it with two 8 terabyte drives, one for movies and one for pictures. The movies all successfully migrated yesterday, taking up almost 3 terabytes. That leaves right around 2 terabytes worth of image files on the second drive, which gives me plenty of room to copy images with multiple parties into each person’s individual folder. It’s a lot of redundancy but now I can afford it. And it helps me find things quicker, especially when my head formulates queries like: “Where’s that picture of <person_x> with <person_y> at <venue> during the <event> in <date>?” The more places to find something, the less likely I’ll get this: