Atmore popped for wrestling in mid 1950s

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

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.

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John Bachelor, a local farmer, was one of those men. After some rugged training he developed some 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. For several months and prior to his moving out west, he traveled the wrestling circuit in and around south Alabama and northwest Florida.

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 these wrestlers back then because I was one of the ring announcers. I got that job because of Hugh Rozzelle, who was the ring announcer in charge.

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.

One of the real interesting thing about this sport was sitting in our vehicles along the sidewalks watching wrestling on the TV in front of Watson Hardware’s display window.

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.

The Advance carried a story about some members of Boy Scout Troop 26 who 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 dangers in campouts their skills carried them through the cold night.

For many years Auburn football great Dr. Ed Dyas treated patients at his Mobile office. Sadly the renowned gridironer and physician passed away a few years ago. I remember carrying my mother to his office for treatment. I am sure he treated some of you. This man was also known for designing a “safety” bench for use along the sidelines offering protection for players waiting to get into the game.

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 kick four field goals in that 1964 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 can remember when the Bankhead Tunnel in Mobile was completed? It was in 1940. My dad often mentioned the miles saved to his job to Brookley Field via the tunnel.

Next week we will have more news from years gone by.