The scion of a wealthy German family with manufacturing interests, Hans Halberstadt took up the sport of fencing as a young man in his home town of Offenbach en Main. He competed for Germany at the 1924 Olympic Games on the epee and sabre teams and in the individual epee.
A raconteur and man on leisure, he claimed to have had a locker in every major club in Europe, so that he might travel freely without the encumbrance of a fencing equipment bag. A decorated war hero from the First World War, Hans was taken by the Nazis in 1937 and informed – he claimed not to have known – that he was of Jewish heritage.READ MORE...
Friends in high places or bribes got him out of an internment camp and eventually onto a boat out of Rotterdam that took him to New York. After a cross country bus ride, he joined his brother and sister who had earlier relocated to San Francisco.
Hans arrived in January of 1940, penniless and with no occupation other than fencing. He opened the Halberstadt Fencers Club in 1941, living in the back of the rented space, and remained there as teacher until his passing in 1966. His club became the center of the San Francisco fencing community and flourished in his lifetime. It continued on after his death and remains today the longest continually operating fencing club on the West Coast.
One of the great features of all the scrapbooks created by Hans Halberstadt is the inclusion of ephemeral media. Hans would post cartoons, news clippings and magazine articles, interspersed with snapshots and portrait photography.
The 1971 US National Championships were held on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, commonly known as Cal. The locals did pretty well, too!
While I continue with my task at hand, scanning the newly donated Hans Halberstadt scrapbooks, I couldn’t help but take a little time to put together a collection of the comics Hans pasted inside the pages of his information-dense collection of ephemera.
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.
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!”
The last article I wrote, which featured Michael D’Asaro’s time in San Antonio and the Army, got me thinking about one of the reasons I decided to attend San Jose State to train with him. That reason was the awesome strength of his Women’s foil program.
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.
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.
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.
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