Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The OAC, Jack Corcoran, and the bribery scandal of 1934: Gary Will's TWH

Pro wrestling in Toronto was front-page news in the fall of 1934 when it became the focal point of scandal and controversy at the Ontario Athletic Commission. Before it was over, the chairman of the OAC had resigned and his predecessor was disgraced. In an attempt to avenge his embarrassment, the previous chairman testified under oath that pro wrestling matches were fixed.
There were two separate issues that played out simultaneously. We'll just look at the one involving the previous commissioner here and save the story of his successor for another time.

The Liberals under 38-year-old Mitchell Hepburn had won the provincial election in July, defeating the reigning Conservatives. With the new government came new political appointments and -- some things never change -- accusations of financial mismanagement under the previous government. New appointments to the OAC were made in September while an audit was ordered of the commission's financial operations under previous chairman Thomas Murphy, a Conservative MPP representing the Beaches area in Toronto.

The auditor's report released in October was scathing in its findings. The commission was said to have a deficit of $11,000 (about $150,000 in today's dollars) while chairman Murphy was found to have made expense claims averaging what would today be $50-80 every day for years. The commission was spending about 40% of the revenue it collected on travel expenses, almost double what it was spending on amateur sport in the province. "It was never contemplated that members of the Commission should constitute themselves a body of tourists," wrote The Globe in an editorial.

The audit triggered a full investigation into the OAC in November, and wrestling promoter Jack Corcoran was subpoenaed to appear. He was a no-show at two scheduled hearings and his lawyer, P. Beverly Matthews, made a formal objection to the subpoena, but Corcoran finally did appear before the inquiry on November 15.

Corcoran dropped a bombshell on the proceedings when he testified that he had made two cash payments of $500 to Murphy in 1932 (in today's dollars that's over $14,000 in total). The payments, Corcoran said, had been demanded by Murphy. Corcoran said that Murphy had become a partner in the promotion of wrestling shows in Ottawa and he hoped the payment would make the commission go a bit easier on the fines it levied against his club and his wrestlers.

Corcoran had also organized 21 free shows within Murphy's riding and paid for them out of his own pocket. He said that he once refused to put on a free show in the Beaches area and was fined by the OAC later the same day.

The testimony from Corcoran provided an insight into the operations of his Toronto wrestling office. In 1932, the OAC had granted wrestling licenses to three groups: Corcoran's Queensbury Athletic Club, the Shamrock Athletic Club, operated by Walter Beauchamp, and a third group run by Fred Hambly called the Crescent Athletic Club.

Not long after Hambly received the license -- and before he ran any shows -- he offered to sell it to Corcoran. Corcoran talked to Beauchamp and they agreed that there wasn't room for three promotions operating in Toronto. They offered to pay Hambly $1,000 for his license, but -- according to Corcoran -- that was rejected as being too low a price after Hambly consulted with Murphy.

Corcoran testified that he discussed the matter with his partners -- Paul Bowser and Toots Mondt -- and then he and Beauchamp agreed to pay Hambly $40 a week for a year plus an additional $75 for a total of $2,155. Whether any of that money ended up in Murphy's pocket was never determined.

Hambly and his son, W.A. Hambly, testified that they had been planning to book wrestlers from Bowser for their shows, but Bowser was working with Mondt, who owned a piece of Corcoran's office, and so they agreed to sell their license back to Mondt-Bowser-Corcoran.

Murphy was recalled before the inquiry the day after Corcoran's appearance and flatly denied taking any money. "I never received any money from Mr. Corcoran in my life," he testified.

Murphy went on to say that wrestling was just like vaudeville -- "just a show" -- with the wrestlers travelling together from town to town. He said Corcoran was able to tell him the results of all the matches before the shows had taken place but Murphy said he didn't know how much the referees were told. (Star sports editor Lou Marsh pointed out that the first show after Murphy "blew his squealing bazoo" attracted more than four times as many spectators as the previous card. "What's the use of raving?," asked Marsh. "Ten thousand people had a hysterical and thrilling evening.")
Corcoran denied that the wrestling matches weren't legitimate contests and offered to pay $1,000 to charity if anyone could prove a single instance where the best man didn't win.

Referee Jack Forbes told the inquiry that, as far as he knew, "the best wrestlers were on top through merit. I absolutely believe that. Of course, I've heard street gossip to the contrary."

Timekeeper Willie Marr -- a commission appointee -- testified that he would give time signals to the referee and wrestlers so that they could "have a rousing finish to the bout." He said he sometimes knew in advance when there was to be a fall. "I considered it was only an act and I was part of the act." Marr later admitted that he was related to Murphy's wife (Marr is the "official" referred to in the headline at the top of this page).

Even Lou Marsh was called to give his opinion on pro wrestling. "I think modern wrestling is just as it is advertised -- an exhibition," he told the inquiry. (The inquiry is "not telling us anything new" about wrestling, wrote Marsh in his column.)

John Thomas, who had promoted some shows in St. Catharines with Corcoran before the two had a falling out, testified that Corcoran presented himself as "the Mussolini of the wrestling racket and that his word was law." He called Corcoran's assistant, G.W. Harris "most repulsive ... always chiselling."

Thomas said that Corcoran had ripped him off by over-reporting the expenses of the shows, thereby understating the profits the two were to split. He tried to sue Corcoran, but the matter was dismissed because Thomas couldn't submit the records of the OAC. He claimed they showed a discrepancy between the expenses Corcoran reported to the commission and what he told Thomas. Thomas said he got some of his money back from Corcoran after taking his case to the OAC. Corcoran would later testify that Murphy told him that if he didn't settle with Thomas he would lose his St Catharines license.

Whatever reluctance Corcoran had initially shown in his testimony vanished after Murphy's denial that he had ever taken money. He voluntarily came forward with the charge that Murphy had asked him to pay $225 for musical entertainers, liquor, and gifts for a meeting of Ontario and Quebec athletic bodies. "I paid the bill and he had the nerve to call me a chiseller," said Corcoran of Murphy. He also said that wrestler Jack Kogut was a witness to one of the payments made to Murphy. Kogut confirmed that Corcoran had handed something to Murphy, but he couldn't say what it was.

The findings of the inquiry were reported in January 1935. Commissioner Chester Walters accepted Corcoran's evidence that he had paid $500 to Murphy, provided free shows in Murphy's riding, and had paid entertainment expenses for an OAC meeting. The commissioner said evidence of a second payment of $500 was not conclusive and he made no ruling on Corcoran's accusation that Murphy had been a partner in the wrestling promotion in Ottawa.

Walters provided a list of recommendations, which included making OAC officials personally liable for spending outside of the organization's mandate, not allowing the commission to run a deficit, and limiting the terms of commission members to three years at a time.

-by Gary Will

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Red Garner: The Pride Of Langstaff

In the world of Professional Wrestling in Canada, Edwin 'Red' Garner 'The Pride Of Langstaff' certainly deserves his place in history for his tenure as an Amateur, Pro, and Promoter for over 30 years in Southern Ontario.
Red circa early 1940's

Red's story goes back to about 1932 when he started showing up on Toronto's busy local amateur boxing and wrestling scene. At 17 years old and 126 lbs Red would learn the ropes out of the Premier Athletic Club, one of the many athletic clubs in Toronto.

Maple Leaf Gardens had been open for about a year and Jack Corcoran was running the pro cards there while Ivan Mickailoff was still holding shows at the Mutual St Arena.

Around 1933 Red began wrestling on shows for the West Toronto Wrestling Club out of Mavety Hall (later West End Theater) at Mavety and Dundas St. Up to 150 lbs Red would start moving up the ladder to the main event bouts leading into appearances on the cards at Mutual St.

Amateur star Ted McKinley became one of Red's early allies. McKinley was a regular on the scene in the early 1930's (and a bit pro later) earning a Silver medal in the 1934 Commonwealth Games in the Bantamweight division. McKinley was usually billed as Canadian Champion.

In 1937 Red suffered a serious injury with dislocating a neck vertebrae and there was a benefit card held for him at the Mutual St Arena. The main event McKinley vs another regular Ernie Hughson. Others appeared included Sam Gotter who later worked with the office and reffed at MLG.

Red would join the Canadian Army in 1940 and train soldiers with athletics. He would still appear locally on weekly shows for the Crawford A.C. held at Foresters Hall at College and Yonge. Others appearing included Bert Maxwell 'The Little Flower Of Uxbridge' who had worked at MLG since the beginning and would serve as a referee at MLG for many years.

In 1946 Red traveled to Mexico. He would spend nearly a year there and shows up in a Welterweight Tournament held at La Arena Coliseo, site of many Lucha Libre events over the years. The following year he appeared on several shows in Oshawa, ON for Promoter Pat Farrell who pre-dated Pat Milosh as head of the Oshawa scene. Others on those shows including McKinley, Hughson, and Milosh, were Jim Allen and Harvey Stanfield.

The promoting side for Garner looks to have become a regular thing in 1948. Red would start with shows near his home at the Richmond Hill Arena. As was the case with the amateur/pro cards some shows would be sponsored. One cites the East Vaughan Ratepayers Association, and shows would be held every Tuesday evening.
Oshawa 1947

As the early 1950's began Red was running cards at Weston Arena, Lakeshore Arena, and Newmarket Arena. Shows at Richmond Hill were billed as "Professional Light-Heavyweight Wrestling - coolest spot in town - Wrestling On Ice". Other wrestlers now appearing on these cards included The Black Knight, Juan Lopez, and Roy Hassan/Hassan Bey (Georgio Stefanides - later a referee at MLG).

Garner would also travel a bit up the road to both Ottawa and Montreal and other towns in Quebec before coming up with a new angle to help himself get over.

Friends had told him he looked Asian so he took up Sumo and studied the style and costumes of Japanese Wrestlers in order to turn into Mr. Moto, dreaded Japanese heel. In his new persona Red would speak in broken English and made up a phony story about his Japanese ancestry. The first appearance of Mr Moto was in Ottawa in 1952. As Mr Moto he would face a young Buddy Rogers in Montreal that same year.

Around this time Red would set up a gym in his garage in Richmond Hill and start to train wrestlers to use on his cards. Joe Greenfield, Norm Alexander, Bill Clubine, Harold Van Dyke, Stoney Brooks were all trainess that worked on the local scene. Al Korman, later a ref at MLG and Mike Scicluna aka Baron Von Scicluna were said to both train under Red. Notably both young Wally Seiber and Dave McKigney were two of his early disciples and the two newcomers would each make their own impact on the Ontario Wrestling scene.

With his look Wally would be billed on those early cards as Baron Von Seiber. That persona would get over well as Seiber progressed, first into Waldo Von Seiber, then later teamed up with Fritz Von Erich as Waldo Von Erich. McKigney too would create his own legacy by using a Wrestling Bear as early as 1957 and then morphing through numerous names to become The Canadian Wildman. At this time McKigney was billed as Jean Dubois the Flying Frenchman.

Along with McKigney and Seiber, others on the cards along with the trainees included soon to be Garner regulars, Ed 'Gori' Mangotich, Ron 'Wildcat' Osborne, Tom Sullivan, Al Wallace, Ivan Klimenko, Jack Flicker 'The Aurora Madman', Billy Foster (Georgetown Lacrosse Star), and Les Lyman.
Tied in the ropes circa 1952

Lyman also promoted some spot shows around Toronto including one at Scarborough Arena a day after one of Garner's Lakeshore Arena show and looks to have shared talent and resources, if not an actual partnership. One of Red's trainees 'Jumping' Joe Greenfield would also emerge on the scene and become family when he married Ed's daughter Phyllis in 1953

In the late summer of 1953 Red along with Ed Mangotich and described as 'the biggest Toronto villains' were invited to Quebec to wrestle on shows for Promoter Sylvio Samson. Samson, similar to Garner, was promoting shows in competition with the big players in Quebec, Eddie Quinn and others. Garner would see action alongside Dr Jerry Graham, the Lortie's Bob, Donald, and Ray, as well as the Quebec version of the Wrestling Bear, Gorgeous Gus (handled by Billy Fox).

Waldo Von Seiber would also make some of the shows with partner Kurt Von Seiber as would Joe Maich. Maich promoted for many years in Brantford and area, and Red would show up on his shows from time to time in Simcoe, Delhi, and the other spots Maich would set up cards. Garner would return for some shows in Granby in the summer of 1954.

Back in Ontario and using the name Canadian Wrestling Alliance, Red would expand out into the smaller towns across the Southern part of the province. Stoufville, Georgetown, Port Perry , Cobourg, Peterborough, and Lindsay were all popular stops. Former wrestler Toar Morgan is listed as the Arena Manager in Lindsay at that time and he would also promote some shows in that area. Locally the troupe would fill Lakeshore Arena for weekly shows in the mid 1950's and other spots like East York Arena, and Scarborough Arena would see shows. More weekly shows would start in 1955 on Monday evenings at the Aurora Arena.

It truly was a family affair for Red. Along with son-in-law Joe wrestling and refereeing, Joe's brother Pal and Ed's son Ed Jr would truck the ring and bear trailer around to the different venues. Ed Jr billed as 'Red Jr' would also wrestle a bit on his Dad's shows. Red's daughter Phyllis (Joe's wife) would help man the box office. One night Red got into it with a fan and Phyllis hit the guy over the head with the moneybag and it split open sending cash all over the Arena floor. Another daughter Betty was married to wrestler Stoney Brooks. Brooks, a regular on the circuit for many years passed away in 1983

Joe's son (and Red's grandson) Edwin remembers when he was a kid that the ring was set up in Garner's backyard for the wrestlers to work out and train for the upcoming shows.

In the summer of 1955 Red promoted a series of cards at the Port Perry Arena. Baron Von Sieber would headline most of them with other names such as 'Langstaff Jumping Jack' Tommy White, Irish Jack Phelan, Sylvain Richard, Calvin Cosburn, along with regular Joe Greenfield, billed here as 'Langstaff Scissors King'.

Garner would also feature the Fabulous Midget wrestlers who were very popular in those days. A two card series in Stoufville in 1957 featuring the midget stars would draw 3,000 people over the two cards. Red would also run weekly shows in the winters at the Thornhill Farmers Market between 1955-1958.

In the mid 1950's Red would also be visible in his local area as Manager of the Langstaff Bantam minor hockey team. His son-in law Joe would serve as coach. Red (and Joe) would continue that involvement through the 1960's and when mentioned in the hockey news section was usually preceded with 'Well known Wrestler Red Garner...'.

In 1956 Red would make it to Maple Leaf Gardens using his Mr Moto persona. He would team up with a Mr Hito (Mamoru Noguchi), both using a sleeper hold as a finisher, and would prove very successful in taking on the teams of the day. Bouts against the Lewin Brothers Mark and Donn, Pat Flanagan and Billy Stack, and the Brunetti Brothers Guy and Joe would ensue.

On Oct 4 1956 Moto and Hito would interfere in then NWA champion Whipper Watson's bout vs Mighty Ursus to earn the wrath of the new champ. Hito was up first the following week only to lose via dq, then both Moto and Hito were to take on Watson in a handicap bout. Both would end up disqualified but they had earned their success at the top. Moto would get his shot at Watson alone also only to lose by dq after both Hito and Whipper's pal Tim Geohagen interfered in the bout.
As Moto (right) 1956

On the Oct 25 card they would beat the Brunetti's by dq and appear to take the Canadian Open Tag Team Titles. The brothers would argue that they can't lose the belts via dq (many belts were lost by dq in those days) leaving both teams claiming the titles. They would meet in a re-match a few weeks later which ended in a draw. It appears the earlier dq win was discarded as the Brunetti's kept the titles until losing to the Miller Brothers (Dan & Bill) in Feb 1957.

On Thursday Nov 8 1956 Red as Moto would again face Watson with Wee Wille Davis appointed as special referee. Watson would win the bout clean and Red would earn another spot in history as being Whippers last opponent as NWA champ. The next day Watson would lose his belt to Lou Thesz in St Louis ending his reign.

The success at MLG that year and into 1957 would lead Moto and Hito to travel. In Winnipeg they would face other heel teams, Fritz Von Erich and Karl Von Schoberg and the Kalmikoff's. One bout in Montreal pitted the two against the star pairing of Edouard Carpentier and Verne Gagne while another put them up against Dick The Bruiser and Killer Kowalski. Red would make his last appearance as Moto at MLG in Jan 1957 but continue to show up elsewhere through 1958, solo and with Hito. The Moto character, sometimes as the Great Moto would continue into the late 1950's on Red's shows around the area.

I asked Writer and Photographer Roger Baker if he had ever attended any of Red's shows.

"I did see one of his shows in Toronto back around 1957-1958, he had it staged in an old Toronto movie theater called 'The Runnymede' this was down on Runnymede Street near the intersection of Runnymede and College. It was the first time that I got a to see how a small 'Indy' promotion was staged. Garner wore many hats that evening, including being the announcer, as well as the referee, and wrestling with the mask on as well. He was very adept in all his roles that evening. 

Can remember only the name of one wrestler who worked on that show, his name was 'Killer Joe Conroy'. Several years prior I was invited to second some wrestlers who appeared on a show in Scarborough, one of those wrestlers was 'Killer' Joe Conroy, and I can recall him telling me that he was going to live up to his moniker that night. being a young guy at the time and not having been clued in, this big brawler had me on edge."

The intimidating Killer Conroy would return on Red's shows under several aliases including Mr X, The Masked Marvel, and bearded 'Russian' Ivan Volkoff. Conroy who retired around 1970 later was the doorman at Kelly's bar at Shuter and Dundas.
Kudo on the mat 1960

Another promoter coming on the scene by the name of Gus Marmon would put on shows under the name Olympic Wrestling Club. Marmon appears to have had a partnership of sorts with Garner, hitting many of the same towns with many of the same wrestlers as was appearing on Red's shows as well as Red himself. Red at this time had taken a job with the Toronto Library and started to wrestle under a mask to avoid being recognized. This may have had something to do with him teaming with Marmon.

A 1960 Cobourg ad mentions 'Channel 11 in Kingston for a new ‘Live Wrestling Show starting June 11 Featuring International TV Stars, Ali Pasha, Cowboy Carlson, Danny Shayne, The Blonde Bomber, Kudo'. I am unsure if that ever got off the ground but the promotion would continue.

Along with the smaller towns in Ontario Marmon would hold some shows at the Lansdowne Theater in Toronto in 1961. Along with 'Killer' Conroy, others on these cards included The Jennings Brothers, Tony Manousos, and Garner regulars Orlando and Osborne. Headlining these shows was The Great Kudo.

The new masked persona for Red - The Great Kudo - although masked he would wrestle barefoot ala the Japanese stars. Kudo would make his debut around 1960 on the circuit shows before showing up at MLG in February 1962.

After a few bouts Kudo would be matched up against the newest Toronto star Bruno Sammartino and the two would get embroiled in a lively feud. At one bout Kudo's manager Sam Sullivan would get involved with Bruno outside the ring and a near riot would ensue.
As Kudo vs Bruno MLG 1962

Roger Baker was at ringside and taking photos on that night.

'As I recall it was a very rough match and both wrestlers got involved with some rowdy ringsiders who tried to beat up Garner's manager for this appearance".

Bruno would go on to win the WWWF title and when he made his first Toronto appearance as champion, his opponent again would be Kudo.

Red would hang up the boots soon thereafter as the ring was taking it's toll on both his body and his family life. In an 1981 article he remarks 'I was too old, too tired, and it was too hard to keep in shape', and how he 'wanted to spend more time with Dorothy and the kids'. He would work up to Chief Librarian before retiring in 1980. In 1981 he would become restless and take on a job driving the kids favorite, the Bookmobile.

Red would pass away in 1994 and while most remembered in the Wrestling community as the trainer of Waldo and Dave among others, he certainly had a major impact on the local scene and likely inspired McKigney to branch out on his own when Dave started promoting in the early 1960's, filling in where Red once filled the arenas.

Thanks to Edwin Greenfield for his help and for allowing the use of his family photos as well as Roger Baker for his help and photos

Pat Milosh: The Casino Kid

Wrestling broadcast pioneer Barry Lloyd Penhale covered the Golden Age of the sport in print for WAYLI magazine in his Canadian Corner column, up in the gondola at Maple Leaf Gardens for weekly radio shows, and later in television for Northland Wrestling. Ask him about the history of Ontario pro wrestling and the names start rolling.

While Frank Tunney, the Toronto promoter for 50 years, kicks off the conversation, Penhale is quick to point out that his associate promoters around the province were an integral part of the entire operation. There was John Katan, the long-time Hamilton promoter, Joe Maich in Brantford and area, Larry Kasaboski, the King of the Northland, and in the East, Pat Milosh, the promoter in Oshawa and surrounding towns for more than 40 years.

Milosh would leave an indelible mark on the Oshawa sports community from the 1940s to the 1990s but his story begins in southeastern Europe in 1926. Born in Grajesnica, Macedonia, on March 17, 1926, Milosh was a surviving twin to parents Magdalena and Peter.

In 1937, the Milosh family would leave their native country, immigrating to Canada and embracing their new life in Oshawa, Ontario, an emerging automotive center east of Toronto. Originally living on Gibbons St., just north of Bond St., the family subsequently moved to 64 Bond St. in downtown Oshawa. The family -- Peter and Magda and three children Pat, George, and Kay -- knew they would have to work hard to make it in Canada, learning the language and immersing themselves in the local culture.

At an early age Pat would be drawn into physical fitness and sports with a keen eye towards boxing and wrestling. Pat's son, Alex Milosh, said that as a youngster his father would strap on a back sack, filled with rocks for weight, and run down Simcoe Street to Lake Ontario and back -- a round trip of approximately seven miles -- on a daily basis. As well, Pat would lift weights on a daily basis and pedal his bicycle for numerous miles to build his strength and endurance. In the days before elaborate fitness equipment Pat would hone an impressive physique and pursue his love of the physical sports in his teenage years.

Peter Milosh relied on his children to run the Casino Restaurant in downtown Oshawa (15 King St. E.), a favourite eating spot for many years. From 1941 on, the kids would wash dishes and wait on tables. Over the years many a star from both the boxing and wrestling world as well as the entertainment industry would stop by the Casino for food and drink.

In 1945 in service to his new country Pat would join the Canadian Military taking the rank of Private and taking up base in Toronto. His military card from May 5 1945 lists his height at 5’6 and weight of 118 lbs. Despite his slight stature Milosh was readily pursuing his love of Boxing and Wrestling as he approached his twenties. In early boxing photos it is obvious Pat had a real sense of charisma and personality in his stance and poses, appearing with personalized trunks and robe.

Upon his discharge from the Military Pat would participate in the local Amateur Boxing & Wrestling scene in the area. On Aug 6 1946 Pat would make his Professional Wrestling debut at the Oshawa Arena. At this time Pro Wrestling was promoted under the auspices of The Oshawa Wrestling Club with local wrestler Jimmy Szikszay at the helm. It appears Milosh was also involved loosely with the Club. In a recap of his debut the next day Pat is described as showing plenty of speed and a good working knowledge of holds. His first bout against Ted Connors from the Central Y in Toronto ends in a draw.

Pat would appear on the final two cards of the 1946 season taking on Max Hurley in both contests. The weights of his opponents are not listed but it would be safe to say young Milosh was heavily outweighed during his time in the squared circle. In an article from 1951 Author and Wrestling commentator Barry Lloyd Penhale described Pat as “weighing at best only 120lbs, facing an array of matmen, most of whom out-weighed him by as much as 70 lbs.” Penhale goes on to write Milosh came to the “annoying truth that he was too small to achieve real success on the mat”.

The emerging grappler billed as ‘The Casino Kid’ (in reference to the family Restaurant) would wrestle on the first four cards of the 1947 season for listed promoters Ted McKinley and Pat Farrell when a riot would break out after the fourth show on June 12 1947. During the main event Harvey Stanfield attacked opponent and future area promoter Red Garner, bringing the fans out of their seats and clashing with the local police at ringside. Milosh who had earlier faced Spider Shackleton in a match described as “some of the best wrestling of the season” would jump in to the foray trying to subdue an enraged Stanfield.

After the dust had settled an angry Ab Hambly, then Manager of Oshawa Arena told the Promoters that there would be no more wrestling shows at the Arena until something was done about the ringside fans and wild disorders. McKinley also faced the wrath of appearing before the Athletic Commission amidst the suggestion of eliminating ringside seats for future shows.

Wrestling would remain absent from Oshawa for the next two months before returning on Aug 11 1947. This time however 21 year old Pat Milosh was listed as the new Promoter. It is unclear if Pat took over by necessity as a stop gap measure to regain wrestling at the Arena or if he used his considerable personality to negotiate a new wrestling presence in the city.

Pat’s emerging promotional skills show up in the preview for the Aug 11 card with Milosh proclaiming “that the wrestlers taking part are all internationally known wrestlers” and telling the reporter to expect a large crowd of wrestling fans in attendance. In an effort to get the word out The Sons of Ulster Flute band was booked to parade in the downtown before the show and then appear at the Arena in the evening. It would prove to be a good start with the card drawing more than 1.000 fans to see a main event of Ben Sharpe vs. John Katan. Previous shows were drawing in the 500-600 range and the newspaper the following day heralded Milosh’ first attempt at promoting “off to a very good start”.

The strong support notwithstanding, it was not going to be an easy road for Milosh as he set out on his new career. Subsequent shows would draw only 400-500 spectators but the now “Youngest Promoter in Canada” would not give up easily. Pat would begin a long term friendship around this time with Toronto Promoter Frank Tunney. Tunney would offer encouragement to the young promoter and the two would remain extremely close up until Tunney's death in 1983.

Often, Milosh attended the cards at Maple Leaf Gardens as the guest of Tunney, working to set up his cards the following week in Oshawa, perhaps hanging out in the Hot Stove Lounge, meeting with the wrestlers, often with son Alex in tow.

With the support of the Toronto office the stars would begin to occupy the Oshawa events in the coming years. Names such as future World champ Lou Thesz, the then reigning National World Association champion Bill Longson, and Toronto star Whipper Watson would all make the rounds during the 1948 season.

Milosh would also cultivate the local wrestlers that would prove to be the added ingredient in the ensuing years. Bowmanville native Billy Stack, and Oshawa citizen Sandor Kovacs are two of the names prominent through the early history of the promotion. Stack would enjoy a lengthy career in addition to refereeing many big bouts at MLG in the 1960’s while Kovacs would promote Vancouver Wrestling for many years.

With the onset of the 1950’s Milosh had survived the difficult early years and was coming into his own as a nationally known promoter. There were several articles in Wrestling Life, Northland Wrestling, and other publications of the day featuring the young promoter with his new family, wife Joyce, and children Alex and Heather.

The last show of 1949 drew 1400 spectators and the dawn of the new decade would see the promotion come into its own in a big way. Frank Tunney had established himself as one of the most successful promoters among the many wrestling territories of the day, and the excitement from Maple Leaf Gardens would spill over into Oshawa.

The first few years of the 1950’s would see strong crowds coming out to the Tuesday weekly shows, generally three bouts a night with bouts going three falls for the main and/or semi. The times were also ripe for violence, with several riots over the years, many involving referee and former boxer Joe Gollub, but unlike the riot of 1947 there didn’t seem to be any issue of ceasing the operations in answer to the Sports Commission.

In 1952 amid huge fanfare former World Boxing champion Jack Dempsey would come into Oshawa to referee a bout between Bobo Brazil & Hans Hermann. There would be a whirlwind of local media coverage and a dinner at the Casino Restaurant to welcome the champ with both Pat and his Dad Peter - also a boxing fan – clowning for the cameras as they squared off against the amiable Dempsey. The night would prove to be a massive success drawing more than 3,000 to the Arena to see Bobo defeat his arch-rival with 2/3 falls in the main event of the evening.

Milosh's success would continue through the 1950s with the emergence of the Canadian Tag Titles, Whipper Watson and his NWA Title, and the continuing popularity of wrestling, soon to be televised nationally across the country. In 1953 a series between Whipper and The Great Togo would draw over 10,000 fans across three nights.

Oshawa Journalist and Broadcaster Jim Shaw remembers the 1950’s scene fondly. He was both a fan as well as the local Sports writer covering the bouts, getting quotes from the wrestlers for the papers and the radio sports updates. Jim also lived next door to Pat’s sister Kay and would often see the wrestlers after the bouts when they would gather for ‘a few pints.”

Mr. Shaw remembers the Whipper vs Togo battles as a highlight of that era, with the fans so worked up that they “would throw chairs into the ring at Togo” and were constantly trying to “get at the bad guys.”

“Wrestling was a big sport in those days, Oshawa being a blue collar town” continues Mr. Shaw, “I would go on the radio (CKDO in Oshawa) after the bouts with a recap and the live radio broadcasts from ringside were very popular in the days before everyone had TV’s. “ Radio station CKLB 1350 would broadcast the weekly shows live from ringside with famed Announcer Terry Mann calling the shots for a time - for fans unable to make it to the shows.

In addition to the big names, Shaw remembers the Midgets as being a big draw in the city. “They were fun, Little Beaver and the rest”. In many of the ads the Midgets received top billing and would draw some of the larger attendances over the years.

On Sept 15 1953 the day of the last scheduled Wrestling card of the season, the Oshawa Arena would burn to the ground leaving Milosh without a facility for the 1954 season. Over the winter Pat would secure the Bowmansville Arena to start off 1954 before returning to Oshawa to present cards at the outdoor Kinsmen Civic memorial Stadium, directly adjacent to the old Arena. For the second card at the Kinsmen Milosh would bring in Boxer Joe Louis as referee for a tag bout between Pat Flanagan & Tex McKenzie and Al Mills with partner The Mighty Ursus drawing over 2000 fans. As with Jack Dempsey, boxing fan Milosh would enjoy a day centered on Louis and the fans would come out in droves.
with Gorgeous George 1959

As the Kinsmen is an outdoor baseball stadium there was ever the threat that the weather would not co-operate. Pat’s son Alex remembers his Dad telling him that there were constant downpours seemingly every card in certain months with the fans clamoring for refunds but still they would continue to pack them in for the weekly shows. Jim Shaw remembers standing through many of these downpours. “It was raining every Tuesday night, we just put up with it, not unlike the Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium in their early years.”

Pat would also branch out to the Arena in Whitby, Cobourg,Port Perry, and various other towns encircling the region if the Oshawa facilities were not available. With the Children’s Arena directly behind Kinsmen, starting in the late 1950’s Milosh would advertise the cards at the Kinsmen as “in event of rain Oshawa Arena”. The Children’s Arena would also be used from 1960-1964 for Wrestling cards.

In the early 1960’s Pat contributed financially to the local group that was looking to build a new Arena in Oshawa for The Oshawa Generals Hockey club, since re-located to Whitby after the Arena fire in 1953. The Oshawa Civic Auditorium would eventually be built and open in 1964 to great fanfare and pride for the city.

Bill Kurelo, a member of the Oshawa Sports Hall Of Fame and the first manager of the Civic Auditorium, said Milosh, who he dealt with at the Civic Auditorium for 25 years, was a "true gentleman" and "fine promoter."

Milosh was an instantly likable person, said Penhale, naturally attracting the stars that respected the young promoter and trusted his business acumen. Penhale remembers Milosh as similar to Larry Kasaboski in that he was always there for his wrestlers and fans, working tirelessly to always bring the best show in to town.

Wrestling Photographer and Journalist Roger Baker said Milosh was a welcoming presence.

"I covered some wrestling shows, that were promoted by Pat Milosh back in the mid, to late sixties. Pat made me feel at home, he was a super guy, and I think back with fond memories, all those years ago, when after a show, he invited me over to his home, for some socializing and even wrote in longhand, an account of that nights show. Pat told me that he was going to submit it to the local paper the next morning. Pats next door neighbor was also his ringside announcer (Bob Gallagher)."

In addition to the nightly recaps Milosh would write and then submit to the local paper and Radio station, Son Alex recalls his Dad would do all of the Posters and Programs himself, meticulously piecing together the issues each season.

The wrestling climate however would change as the years moved on. 1970 would mark the first season Milosh would not present a card and Wrestling would remain absent from Oshawa until 1971 which saw a shortened season of only a few cards. Son Alex relates that “there would be difficulties both in booking the Civic as well as securing the talent” as the decade wore on. Even though the season was short the fans would come out to support the shows with the first show in 1971 drawing 3,000 fans to see the Love Brothers (Hartford Love & Reggie Love) against Whipper & Haystack Calhoun

Competition would also start to emerge in the form of Wildman Dave McKigney. He and his Big Bear Wrestling shows were seeing regular summer tours to the towns across Ontario with forays into Whitby, Pickering, and Ajax, as well as Oshawa in the latter part of the decade. Alex recalls that his Dad was not happy with the competing shows and often drove over to the Arena’s to see what kind of turnout Big Bear would have. However with turnouts in the low hundreds range, McKigney was not deemed a threat to Milosh’s cards at the Civic which held over 4000 standing, and would see crowds close to capacity on several occasions during the 1970’s.

McKigney would actually book the Civic for a final show of the season Aug 8 1977 with a card featuring Edouard Carpentier and the Sheik. An accompanying photo in the paper has Milosh posed with Frank Tunney as it touts the upcoming card. At this time McKigney had a working relationship with Frank Tunney and used several of Tunney’s regulars such as Dewey Robertson and Billy Red Lyons on his cards so there may have been some co-operation. Nonetheless it was McKigney’s first and last times anywhere near the Civic.

In 1977 Frank Tunney would also end his long affiliation with The Sheik further altering the wrestling landscape in the region. After a mostly unsuccessful relationship using Verne Gagne’s AWA stars, Tunney would align with the Mid Atlantic Territory and its up and coming stars Ric Flair & Ricky Steamboat. While this arrangement would prove to be a hit in Toronto it would create problems for Milosh in securing the stars for Oshawa shows. After the Sunday night show at MLG the top stars would head back to the U.S. instead of staying on for the circuit shows.

While Tunney would go back to some area circuit shows in 1979 - notably Kitchener on the Monday - Oshawa would only see three shows between Aug 1977 and May 1981. The rest of the Mid Atlantic affiliation would also see lean seasons with only a handful of shows over the next several years.

By the time the WWF moved in to the area in July 1984 and aligned with Jack Tunney after Frank's passing, Milosh was basically locked out and while still being noted as Promoter for the Oshawa shows, did not have the control he once had. Milosh in a 1985 interview lamented that it was “All part of a big business, Vince McMahon of New York runs the World Wrestling Federation (dealing with Jack Tunney) and when I ask about a show in Oshawa, nothing much is said.”

A chance to change the situation drastically was lost when Milosh was unable to secure the Civic for the very important at the time – TV tapings. As Milosh explained further “Jack (Tunney) asked me six or seven times to get the Civic for wrestling shows which would be televised, and because of various reasons, I couldn’t get it. So they put the televised wrestling shows at the Brantford Civic Centre and they sell out there every time.”

The change in the Wrestling game was not lost on the veteran Milosh who observed “I am absolutely amazed at the ages of the people following wrestling. When I was at MLG (recently) I told my brother to look around. All of the fans were either in their teens or early 20’s. It’s amazing. Used to be a time when people were happy to see three good fights. You had a main, a semi and a preliminary bout. I remember three shows at the old Oshawa Arena where Whipper Watson and The Great Togo brought in 10.000 people and boy was it hot in there, you couldn’t breathe. Nowadays, instead of 6 wrestlers you need 14 guys.”

At this time the NWA and AWA were joining forces as Pro Wrestling USA in order to battle the aggressive actions of the WWF but Milosh did not look to make a change assuring “I’ve been with the Tunney’s since day one and I have no intention of looking elsewhere. I don’t know when but there will be a time when Wrestling returns to Oshawa. Wrestling is on a high right now because of Wrestlemania. Sooner or later it will level off and I suppose we’re in a position where we’ll have to sit and wait it out.”

In the WWF years Oshawa would see cards reduced to one or two a year with the city being passed over in favor of larger spots, and Promoter Milosh would take up as a Senior Salesmaster at Ciff Mills Motors in Oshawa. The limited role did not affect Milosh’s love of the sport however with the Promoter setting up VCR’s at home and amassing a large tape library of the Saturday TV Wrestling to watch with his grandson Dylan after a day working at the Dealership.

Alex Milosh remembers his Dad being frustrated that after so many years of hard work and dedication to the sport and the city that he would be left out of the Wrestling game in the later years, not unlike the many other promoters around the Wrestling World at that time. Pat would continue to book the Civic and run the local ads up to a 1992 WWF event featuring Roddy Piper vs Ric Flair.

Pat Milosh passed away Feb 9 1996 at the age of 69 in Oshawa after a heart attack, leaving behind a long legacy of memories in this city. A lengthy obituary in the Toronto Star reflected on his success as a Promoter and his dedication to family. His brother George reflected at the time that family always came first to Pat, “I saw my brother last Tuesday just before he went to the hospital, he told me he was on his way to see his grandchildren, he saw them every day.”