Jack Nottingham was an enigmatic man. After participating in World War Two as a member of the 101st Airborne division that parachuted into Normandy, Jack took up fencing in Los Angeles under Aldo Nadi. He had tremendous potential, but throughout his life, whether due to terrible luck or judgement, he self-destructed. At his first and only National competition, as a complete unknown, he made the finals in foil, which were held the day following all the preliminary rounds.
Between a girl and a bottle of something, Jack slept through the finals. After six months of training with Nadi, Jack decided to open his own fencing studio in Portland, OR. He also taught at Reed College.READ MORE...
For a few years, he built up a large following and was having terrific success.
But at a certain point and for reasons obscured by time his students rebelled, quit fencing en masse and the division went from one of the fasted growing in the nation to under 20 members almost overnight. Jack eventually settled in San Francisco, teaching for John McDougall at the San Francisco School of Fencing. While there, he met and gave lessons to a young Charles Selberg. “Brilliant”, Charlie called Jack. But their coach and student relationship, like Jack himself, was volatile. Jack continued to teach here and there in San Francisco, and late in life had a long run at his club Foil Circus which had a handful of dedicated students.
Some time back, I wrote a story about Boffers. Designed by fencer/coach Jack Nottingham, they were the Rolls-Royce of polyethylene toy swords.
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.
You don’t forget your first team, or your first teammates. The fortuitous circumstances surrounding my introduction to fencing couldn’t be more memorable; a time filled with remarkable personalities.
Some months ago, I paid a visit to UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library to look at a collection of scrapbooks donated to the library upon the passing of long-time Cal fencing master Julius Palffy-Alpar. Harold Hayes of the Pacific Fencing Club had told me of their existence and agreed to meet me there to get a look at the books.
If you can say anything about the fencers at UCSC during the reign of Charlie Selberg, (and you could say a great deal) they knew how to have a good time.
There was one group of photos, classes, individual fencer, etc., that I couldn’t place or identify after collecting them as part of the Selberg estate, so I sent some to John for help.
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