Wrestling gained popularity in mid-50s

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back in 1954 and 1955 there was a lot of interest in wrestling. I suppose its popularity was due to TV.

But it was also a popular attraction at the Atmore National Guard Armory where crowds gathered on Friday and Saturday nights to watch these matches. Some of these wrestlers identified themselves as “villains” and some were portrayed as “heroes.”

A few local and area men were so inspired they joined the wrestling circuit.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

John Bachelor was one of those men.

After some rugged training he developed favorable skills. So much, in fact, he received some bookings not only here in Atmore, but in surrounding small towns as well. One night, portraying himself as a hero, he was pitted against one of the area “villains” and he gave a “championship” type performance eventually flooring the villain for the necessary counts to win the match.

There was another wrestler, very well-known in fact, on that same program. His name was Tom Drake who was recognized as the most popular hero wrestler in the state. This north Alabamian’s wrestling career didn’t last too long as he entered into politics and the legal field where he had an outstanding career.

I became acquainted with some of those wrestlers back then because I was one of the ring announcers. I got that job because of Hugh Rozzelle who was also a ring announcer. He and I became friends in those days when he would bring his son Eddie to the radio station and watch us at work. Eddie was intrigued by all the aspects of WATM broadcasting.

The wrestling era lasted for several more years until interest finally abated.

There was a sad note in 1955 when the plane carrying two members of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet crashed in Clanton. Those two members were Bill Lyles and R.W. Blackwood. Ironically this singing group came by the radio station two weeks earlier. They performed in Byrne field that night along with several other well known quartets.

There was some other news of interest in the year 1954.

The state unveiled small radar boxes used by officers to clock speeding drivers. Several county and local officers were trained to use these boxes.

Escambia Florida and Escambia Alabama came under quite a scare when several rabid foxes attacked dogs causing them to die. One thousand dogs in these two counties were vaccinated during this outbreak.

Several members of Boy Scout Troop 26 were almost trapped in an overnight snowfall as they camped on the banks of Big Escambia Creek. They included Johnny Johnson, Bobby Kearley, Bobby Mays, Bobby Middleton, Jimmy Mays, Jim Staff, Alfred Davis, Keith Mixon, John Mims and John Gilbert Barnette. Jean Wilson and Cliff Mims, scoutmasters, were with them during the ordeal. Having learned how to cope with campout dangers their skills carried them through the cold night.

In some current news, have you noticed the Big Joe Polka Show hasn’t been seen on RFDTV lately? Not sure why, but the station still carries a “Polkaroma Show” during this 9 p.m. broadcast.

That network also bought “Trigger, the smartest horse in the movies.” Famous for carrying Roy Rogers over fields and plains, the mounted stallion has been on nationwide tour and has found a permanent home at RFDTV in Branson, Mo.

For many years Auburn football great Dr. Ed Dyas treated patients at his Mobile office. Sadly the renowned gridironer and physician recently passed away. I remember carrying my mother to his office for treatment. I am sure some of you were treated by him.

Another doctor I see once a year is Dr. Mike Davis. He specializes in thyroid medicine. A kicker for the Crimson Tide, he was the third member of the Tide’s great kickers. His father, “Pig” Davis was first in line followed by his older brother Tim. I remember seeing Tim kicked four field goals in that 12-7 1964 Sugar Bowl win over Ole Miss. That was the year it snowed heavily in New Orleans. The game was played in Tulane Stadium prior to the building of the Super Dome.

Speaking of Domes, how many of you remember when the Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile was completed? It was in 1940. My dad often mentioned the miles saved via the tunnel to his job at Brookley Field.

That tunnel was recently temporality closed for repairs.

Next week we will have more news from 1954.

Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at exam@frontiernet.net