Dr. William O’Brien
Dr. William O’Brien was employed for decades by the Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco’s Presidio and founded the Letterman Fencing Club.
He taught there for four decades with tremendous success in creating era-defining teams on the Pacific Coast.
He grew up in San Francisco, where his parents ran an antique store and began fencing with Erich Funke d’Egnuff as a young man.READ MORE...
He had a moderately successful competitive career, medaling at the Pacific Coast Championships a number of times and traveling to international competitions in Mexico City with Hans Halberstadt several years in a row in the early 1960s. He started the Letterman club in the mid-1950s in one of the gymnasiums on the Presidio Army base and remained in that space until he retired.
The Latin meaning of that, according to Google Translate, is “Wine of the Spirit”. As a philistine in the ways of Latin, I’ll have to accept it. No clue. Truly.
Serendipitous. Is that a word? Spellcheck isn’t trying to correct it, so I guess I’m on firm ground. Serendipitosity happens a lot around here. I find one piece of information, an image, a packet of photos. Time passes. I find another piece that fits into that puzzle. Then, quite unexpectedly, something comes across my desk…
The founder and long-time fencing master at The Letterman Fencers Club was Dr. William O’Brien. The club’s home was a gymnasium in San Francisco’s Presidio, a windy patch of green near the southern foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.
These snapshots were taken at the 1963 US National Championships held at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The event ran flawlessly, “…a fact that we have come to expect from Southern California and its Chairman, Fred Linkmeyer.”
My treasure hunting has been refined to a sharper focus that has proven no less fortunate to me than those who find spectacular Saxon hoards in Middlesex with a $60 metal detector.
Here below, I’ve culled the best of the black & white negatives that were shot by Charles Selberg. And, fortune of fortunes, the negative pack was taped into a scrapbook that had many of these prints mounted inside.
Have something to share or add? Our goal is to capture the stories we know are out there. Plus photos, videos, home movies, posters—you name it. All this material helps preserve the stories of West Coast fencing.
Want to know when we publish a story? Or release a new documentary? Sign up for our email list and we’ll keep you posted.