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Thursday 30 October 2014

From Punching Royal Typewriter Keys to Pounding Punchbags: Battlin' Barbara Buttrick, the Boxing Typist

Not the Million Dollar Baby ... tickets to her world title fight in San Antonio in 1957 sold for $1.50!
Barbara Buttrick was known as "The Mighty Atom of the Ring". She stands 4ft 11in tall and usually fought at around 98 pounds. Apart from her astonishing and pioneering boxing career, Barbara was also a Mighty Atom when it came to punching the keys on a Royal standard typewriter.
Barbara was born in Cottingham in Yorkshire in March 1930. She made her ring debut in Tommy Wood's booth at the fairground at Epsom on June 5, 1949. Later that year she travelled in the West Country with Sam McKeowen's show, issuing challenges to any girl in the crowd and giving three-round exhibitions.
In 1950 Barbara toured with Professor Boscoe's Boxing and Wresting Show in Yorkshire. She moved to London, worked by day as a typist and trained in a Mayfair gymnasium each evening.
These dainty hands broke many noses, including that of Barbara's trainer-husband Len Smith.
She married her trainer Len Smith at Holderness, Yorkshire, in 1952 and later that year the pair went to the US. In 1954, Barbara started fighting competitive bouts and on September 9 that year was one of the first two female boxers to appear in a fight broadcast on national radio. It was an eight-round bout against JoAnn Verhaegen, of Indianapolis, in Calgary, Alberta, and resulted in Barbara's only loss in 31 professional bouts (12 wins by knock-out). (She also had 50 professional wrestling bouts.). 
Boxing's "Beauty Queen" Phyliss Kruger
Barbara also fought a draw with Phyliss Kugler. In 1957 she moved to Dallas, Texas, where she and Kugler gained the state’s first boxing licenses for women. On October 8 that year a six-round world bantamweight title bout was held at the Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio. Barbara won a unanimous decision, making her the first women’s world boxing champion.
In 1988 she was the first woman president of a men’s veteran boxers' association and in 1990 she was elected to the International Boxing and Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 1993 Barbara founded and became the president of the Women's International Boxing Federation. She now lives in Miami Beach, Florida, where, after raising two daughters, she worked for many years as a bookkeeper for an engraving company. On April 14 this year, aged 84, she was elected to the initial class of the International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame in Portland, Oregon. She was inducted on July 10 at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
 Below, Barbara has a cast made of her right first
There were once hopes of bringing Barbara to Australia to fight:
The above excerpt from:

Wednesday 29 October 2014


Shouts of "Hooray" did echo through the once hallowed and now empty halls of the Australian Typewriter Museum. That aside, I felt, in equal measure, thrilled, honoured and humbled to receive word from the US on the weekend that I was one of two people to have QWERTY Awards bestowed upon us at the typewriter collectors' gathering at Herman Price's Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum in Fairmont, West Virginia. The other 2014 winner is long-standing Typewriter Exchange editor and publisher Michael A.Brown, of Philadelphia. My heartiest congratulations to Mike.
Mike Brown
Unfortunately, neither Mike nor myself were able to be in West Virginia for the gathering  this year. The awards were presented by Peter Weil and Martin Rice, with Herman Price receiving them on our behalf. Previous winners have been Richard Polt in 2012 and Peter Weil last year:
Richard Polt receives the 2012 QWERTY Award from Peter Weil
Peter Weil with the 2013 QWERTY Award
My half of the now traditional QWERTY Award cake was "Devil's food", but happily Herman put a wallaby on it, not a Tasmanian Devil. Still, he dressed up as my long-time mate "Beelzebub", to receive the award on my behalf from Peter Weil. Devil take the hindmost? As Peter remarked, "Go to Hell, Bub!"
It would have taken a devil of a job for me to get back to West Virginia, to receive the award in person. If I had made it there, I would doubtless have stayed on in the US for another once-in-a-lifetime experience, to watch the All Blacks play in Chicago next weekend, thus missing my son's wedding here in Canberra on Saturday. So perhaps it's just as well I didn't go!
Nonetheless, my friends and family in Canberra took great pity on me as I pined for Chestnut Ridge, and went to extraordinary lengths to soften the blow of not being able to receive the award in person. So much so, they set about recreating as best possible the atmosphere of a Herman gathering, right here in Australia. The event was hosted by Peter and Deborah Crossing. Peter declared "We can't let this go by without a celebration" and made the "Herman-style" speech, as John Denver's Country Roads and Joni Mitchell's Morning Morgantown played in the background. Those who attended included fellow Canberra typewriter collectors Ray Nickson and Jasper Lindell, plus other close friends John and Marita Stephens, Bruce and Barbara Coe, Elizabeth Wetherell, Anne Messenger and John O'Dea, Danny Messenger and Mark Uhlmann. They lavished some wonderful gifts upon me, which extended to a "traditional" QWERTY Award cake:
 This well-crafted medal and framed Blick photo were given to me by John Stephens and his wife Marita. John is no keychopper - he'd found some spare parts Nakajimas lying around to make the medal. They were put to use in, for once, a good cause!
To help bring back memories of West Virginia 2013, I wore my Cincinnati "pimp" jacket.
 This came later - a "masters" ETC jacket. My friends know I like to wear my love of typewriters on my sleeve!
The awards even made it to the "In Brief" column in Monday's The Canberra Times:
Ah well, these things do happen only once in a lifetime, so I figured I might as well enjoy it to the hilt, where and while I could.

Black, Blue & Noiseless in Chicago

A Remington Noiseless Portable typewriter, just like the one New Zealand journalist Terry McLean used for much of his sports writing career.
I'd given my one-time boss Sir Terence Power McLean a few lifts over more than 10 years, and had always got him safely to where he was going, no matter what part of the world we were in. On this day in 1978, however, I left him ashen-faced after a wild ride from Shannon Airport outside Limerick in Ireland to a football ground called Dooradoyle. I was behind the wheel of a works Volvo, set up for rallying, but that's another story. McLean was just got off a flight from London and needed to catch the Munster team training for what would be one of the most famous rugby matches ever played. But that's another story, too. Suffice to say they made a stage play out of it (Alone it Stands).
"Cripes," said McLean when we screeched to a halt at Dooradoyle. "That's the hairiest drive I've had since San Francisco, 1954."
On St Patrick's Day 1954 McLean was with the New Zealand All Blacks rugby union team which flew from Vancouver to San Francisco, was whisked through customs (players smuggling in 10 tins of Canadian salmon each) and given a fast San Francisco Police Department motor-cycle escort the 25 miles to the California Memorial Stadium at Berkeley. There, 8000 people were waiting eagerly to watch the All Blacks play the University of California "ruggers" that very afternoon.
My old friend Doug Wilson playing for the All Blacks at Berkeley in 1954. Another good friend, Max Howell, is the US player behind him.
Below, the University of California team which played the All Blacks
McLean dragged his Remington Noiseless Portable typewriter into the home of the California Golden Bears and covered the match for the New Zealand Press Association. In almost 70 years of writing about rugby across the globe (producing an astonishing 32 books in the process!), McLean saw many astonishing things, of which the match in Limerick in 1978 was one.
The match in Berkeley in 1954 was another ... it produced something exceedingly unusual in the 140-year history of US rugby union.
This coming Saturday the All Blacks will play the United States Eagles in a rugby union Test match at Soldier Field in Chicago. The match is a sellout, guaranteeing a crowd of 61,500, more than three times larger than any crowd that has ever previously watched a rugby Test in the US.
All Blacks in another Windy City. Victor Vito, left, and Jerome Kaino. Kaino is pointing out the Oliver Typewriter Company building.
This will be the 19th time in 108 years that the All Blacks have played US opposition on US soil. They have won all previous 18 matches, and in doing so have scored 784 points against 37 by US teams (average, 44 to 2). The closest they have come to defeat was that day at Berkeley, March 17, 1954, when a late try edged them ahead 14-6. Star of the University of California team was Max Howell, a former Australian Wallaby and noted historian.
Three of the University of California's points came from one of only two touchdowns that have ever been scored against the All Blacks by US opposition.
The try was scored by Matthew Emery Hazeltine (1933-1987), far better known as an American football player than a "rugger". Hazeltine was a linebacker who played 15 seasons in the National Football League with the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
Now here's where the story gets spooky. The only other touchdown scored against the All Blacks by US opposition was also by the University of California at Berkeley, on October 25, 1913 - in a match in which Matt Hazeltine's father played (at five-eighth). And Matt Hazeltine's father, above, also Matthew Hazeltine (1893-1979), was also a champion in both rugby union and American football. In fact, Hazeltine senior was in the US team which won the rugby union gold medal at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games (the US successfully defended the title four years later in Paris).
 Hazeltine senior, seated second from left in middle row, with the US team which won the Olympic Games gold medal for rugby union in Antwerp in 1920. He is far left in the photo below:
The try scored in 1913 came from Charles Jackson "Jack" Abrams (1890-). In 16 matches on that North American tour in 1913, the All Blacks scored 610 points to just six (average 38 to just 0.375).
While Saturday's Test in Chicago is a sellout, efforts to get US media interested in the match have largely been in vain. One US journalist tried to drum up enthusiasm by comparing the All Blacks' history of consistent success to the New York Yankees. The Yankees, 1901 to the present day, have achieved a meagre 56.7 per cent success rate. The All Blacks, in all matches 1884 to the present day, have had a success rate of 85.8 per cent - 78.1 per cent in all Test matches alone!  So who really are the most successful team in world sport?
For the record - New Zealand v US rugby union Test matches:
1913 NZ won 51-3 at Berkeley.
The All Blacks perform their haka at Berkeley in 1913. Play in the Test match below:
1980 NZ won 54-6 in San Diego
 Not many at one end of the field at the Charger's ground in San Diego in 1980. There'll be a few more in Chicago on Saturday. Below, at least one stand in San Diego was full. The All Blacks are seen here playing under American football goalposts.
1981 NZ won 46-6 in World Cup match, Gloucester, England.
Below, the American Universities, All Blacks, New Zealand Maori and Australian teams which took part in a mini-World Cup in Sydney in 1910: