On March 10, 1892 in San Francisco, Dan McLeod beat Joe Acton in two-straight falls (15:00, 23:00)
Acton was said to be the champion in the catch-as-catch-can style. McLeod weighed eight more
pounds than his opponent, 170-162.
The Washington Post on Thursday, January 12, 1905 reported that Tom Jenkins "won the
catch-as-catch-can wrestling championship last night" when he beat Jack Carkeek in two-straight falls.
Through the first 11 months in 1932, wrestling and boxing in California drew an attendance of
Living in San Francisco when the 1930 U.S. Federal Census was recorded was Louis Miller Elchinoff,
better known in professional wrestling circles as, simply, Louis Miller. Miller lived with his wife Mary
and sons NIck and Leo Elchinoff. He reportedly came to the U.S. from his native Bulgaria in 1921.
Miller was a talented wrestler and a longtime promoter. He ran shows in Reno during the early 1930s
and also staged shows in Visalia and North Hollywood, California. Miller was born on September 15,
1903 and died on August 8, 1987 in Alameda County, California.
Jack Ganson bought the San Francisco wrestling franchise, including the booking "agency," from Dan
Koloff around 1933. Ganson also took over the wrestling permit from Ernest Fedderson and Ad
Santel on the recommendation of Paul Bowser.
On November 21, 1935, the San Francisco Call-Bulletin newspaper revealed the inner-workings of
the local wrestling scene, and informed the public of the change over from the Jack Ganson regime to
the new Joe Malcewicz operation. Reportedly, Ganson was "ordered" by Bowser and Joe "Toots"
Mondt to sell out to Malcewicz for a said $15,000, and that the latter, a former wrestler, was going to
begin staging shows soon at the Dreamland Auditorium. Malcewicz, on November 20, signed a lease
at the Auditorium through attorney Phil Ehrlich of the Auditorium. During the various exchanges was
an actual physical one between Lou Daro of Los Angeles and "former" Dreamland Auditorium
wrestling promoter Ed Lynch, and Lynch claimed Daro "punched my nose." Daro was reportedly a
member of the Bowser-Mondt tribe, and for the transition.
According to the newspaper account, Ganson was initially against the deal, but had few other options.
One of his choices was to run as an independent without any name wrestlers, but Ganson reportedly
walked away quietly and remained in the good graces of the powers-that-be. Mondt was said to be
Bowser's west coast representative, but both Bowser and Mondt were in San Francisco to see the
deal finalized. Earlier rumblings in 1934 from Jack Curley indicated that he wanted a change from
Ganson to someone else, but Bowser liked Ganson, and kept him in place until this final move was
made. Ganson, interestingly, went to work for the Bowser group in Montreal.
Ernest Fedderson of Oakland and P.H. Visser of Sacramento were two individuals who decried the
booking monopoly held by Malcewicz-Bowser-Mondt, and Federson, on November 27, 1935, offered a
statement to that effect to California Governor Merriam. Merriam recommended that Federson and
Visser form their "own monopoly" to battle their rivals, and turned over the matter to the California
Athletic Commission. In a summary of the meeting, the Associated Press said that the claims against
the reported monopoly "fell flat."
Hanging by a thread, Fedderson remained afloat for a little while longer, and then in mid-January
1936, announced that he was breaking free from any connections to the Bowser-Malcewicz group.
The San Francisco Chronicle on January 15, 1936 reported that Fedderson and Ad Santel of
Oakland, and Bobby Burns of Eureka were quitting the trust and would rely on independent wrestlers
in the future. Santel was even going as far as saying that he'd come out of retirement and deposit
$2,000 as a guarantee that he could beat the Bowser-Lou Daro darling Vincent Lopez. Fedderson
claimed that he was losing business because of the poor quality of wrestling talent being fed to him by
the booking office of the "Trust," and "couldn't stand it any longer. In the future, we will get our own
wrestlers and work as independents."
This actually turned the tides in San Francisco because Malcewicz immediately worked a deal with
Oakland promoter Louis Parente, who'd previously used non-heavyweight workers. In this case,
Parente would get heavyweight talent, leaving the non-heavyweights to work for the non-Trust
affiliated group run by Fedderson and Santel. The light heavyweights were supplied by Jack
Reynolds and Hugh Nichols.
Before the end of January 1936, the war offered even more of a spectacle. Fedderson unexpectedly
entered the Dreamland Auditorium ring and issued a challenge to any of Malcewicz's wrestlers.
Fedderson's charge was a 240-pound Masked Marvel. Malcewicz agreed to a duel with a $1,000 side
bet, and he would pick one of his workers to tend to the challenge at a later date.
Bill "Jumbo" Kennedy was considered a big prospect by Joe Malcewicz in 1937. A photo of him
appeared in the Friday, April 9, 1937 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Bill Leiser of the
Chronicle wrote more about Kennedy in his March 26, 1937 column, noting that Kennedy was 6'3"
and 465 pounds. Kennedy was said to be very powerful, maybe even more than Man Mountain dean.
Leiser noted that Kennedy, unlike many other of the freaks in the wrestling business, didn't have
whiskers. Kennedy was from the San Francisco area.
The Daro-Mondt troupe in Los Angeles was a sinking ship by the summer of 1940, having barely
survived the recent controversies. Nothing was going right for the promoters, and it looked like they
all were going to bail out for safer ground and opportunities elsewhere. However, for Bowser, that
meant that he was going to have to act quickly if he was going to get the money he felt he was owed
since the beginning of their pact, which was signed in December 1935. According to the Associated
Press report in the Los Angeles Times (7/25/40), Bowser believed "in excess of $65,000" was
appropriated by Mondt and the Daros. Bowser filed suit in Federal Court in San Francisco to get an
accounting of all profits during the time of their deal, and both Dick Sackoff (accountant for the Union
Bank and Trust Company in Los Angeles) and Malcewicz. Malcewicz told the press that he was only a
"technical defendant," and the case was really brought upon by the feud between Bowser and the
Leon Delano Meyer was a feature writer for the San Francisco arena wrestling program, "Western
Wrestling in the 1940s.
In 1948 and into '49, Joe Malcewicz maintained a steady booking pattern, usually featuring eight
wrestlers per show at the Coliseum Bowl or Civic Auditorium, and regularly spotlighted tag team
matches. Heel tandems composed of Frederich Von Schacht and The Red Phantom and Fred Atkins
and Ray Eckert were often driving fans up the wall with their antics, giving fan favorites Jim Casey,
Sandor Szabo, Bill Hanson, and Dean Detton a run for their money. The Pacific Coast Heavyweight
championship was the central title for Malcewicz, and many well known grapplers had runs with the
During the summer of 1948, "Gorgeous" George Wagner, who was wrestling's newest sensation and
making huge waves in the southern part of the state, entered San Francisco. On June 1, 1948, he
beat Flash Gordon in the main event of a Civic Auditorium program, drawing an $8,500 gate.
Wrestling coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle received a slight improvement with George's
arrival, and actual featured writer (Joe Wilmot) provided commentary on the show - highlighting the
colorfulness of George and his valet Jefferies. A week later, at the same venue, George lost to
Szabo, but the gate was $9,681.
These were large figures for wrestling in San Francisco, and demonstrated Gorgeous George's value
as a performer. It wasn't until Primo Carnera, the former fight champion, came to the Bay Area in
February 1949 that the gates improved again to that level. On February 15, 1949, Carnera beat the
hated Frederich Von Schacht at the Coliseum Bowl, and the gate was $10,682.70, topping George's
local numbers. The Chronicle misreported when it stated that Carnera's showing was "approximately
$2,000 more than the Gorgeous George gate." It was closer to $1,000 greater.
Either way, Malcewicz was benefitting from the appearances of two of the top attractions in the
business. The fans were as well. Ironically, the San Francisco Chronicle was one of the papers that
included a tidbit in their sports section about the return of professional wrestling to Madison Square
Garden in New York, telling local readers that Gorgeous George had laid an "egg" when only 4,157
fans paid $13,957 to see him wrestle Ernie Dusek. The United Press report was undoubtably read by
many local wrestling fans.
Roy Shire steam-rolled into the San Francisco territory and had a key television set-up out of KTVU
TV Studios in Oakland and presented on channel 2. He made his Cow Palace debut on March 4,
1961 and a reported 16,000 fans turned out. Needless to say, it was a humongous hit and the
established promotion of Malcewicz was in jeopardy.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|San Francisco Wrestling Territory