This Archive has produced a feature length documentary on the amazing life of this great man and I hope you will make an effort to watch our film. In short, George Piller was an unmatched fencer and coach. Winner of multiple World Championships and the 1932 Olympics, Aldo Nadi, usually reticent to praise others, called Piller one of the two best sabre fencers of the first half of the 20th Century. A military man, Piller was appointed to the Hungarian Royal Guard for his Olympic victory and also began a long career as Hungarian Team Captain and coach for the fencing teams fielded by Hungary at international competitions.READ MORE...
Near the end of World War Two, he was captured with his unit by Soviet troops and was fortunate to be recognized and pulled from a train that would have taken him to exile in Siberia. Unpopular with the Hungarian communist government due to his connection to the Royal Guard, Piller left the military and began a full time coaching career, leading international teams to victory after victory.
Offered an opportunity to defect to the US during the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Piller and half of his Gold Medal winning sabre team took the offer. Piller settled in San Francisco and, with the aid of the local Hungarian community, opened the Pannonia Athletic Club. The club produced numerous National Champions from the start, but sadly Piller was only to enjoy life in California a few short years, succumbing to throat cancer in 1960.
Some interesting pieces of memorabilia got floated in front of me and I had to scramble to collect all the loose change under the floor mats in my car and count out pennies from the change jar, but I couldn’t resist making a deal for them.
The above picture has been assumed to be Hans Halberstadt for a very long time. I thought so myself, even after scanning it (thanks Kathy Krusen!) at high resolution and having every opportunity to review it with a critical eye.
Ebay can be tricky to navigate. Not in a general sense. However, sometimes real gems can be found that are hidden between the lines when sellers don’t have a clue about what they’re selling.
A recent gift to the Archive has me dumbfounded. It’s existence was something I had speculated about in a vague way, but never dreamed of finding proof for. Much less, having the proof come directly to me as a donation to the Archive.
At some point I will outgrown my available storage. It’s not in any way imminent, but down the road it will be something to deal with. Storage space wasn’t a consideration when I began to purchase relatively low cost university annuals on Ebay.
Driving around Southern California may not seem like much of a Holiday, especially when traveling alone, but a recent weekend outmatched all my expectations. The plan was to make four different stops in hopes of collecting fencing history.
There is nothing in the world quite like Jerry Biagini’s greeting to me when I visited him about two weeks ago. Me: “Mr. Biagini, how are you?” Jerry: “I’m 90 years old and cranky!”
It’s so much fun to have your expectations and assumptions blown to bits. That happened to me this week when I had the great fortune to meet the daughter of long-time Letterman fencer Colonel Laurance Brownlee.
In the woods of Southern Oregon off a dirt road and across a valley from the winding I-5 was a fencing salle d’armes built by Charlie Selberg in an old barn. It was stuffed to the rafters with fencing memorabilia dating back decades.
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.
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