The Roller Derby of the 1950's
by: Hy (Bob) Joseph
I remember the Derby of the 50's very well as I had the honor of being a member of one of the greatest teams at that time, the Chicago Westerners. We had such great skaters on the team over these years such as, on the women's team: Captain Annis Jensen (Russ Baker's wife), Bobbie Mateer (Bert Wall's wife), Betty Knox, Loretta (Little Iodine or Matzaball) Behrens, Dolores Doss, Helen Gardner, Gloria (Mifi) Mifsud, Gloria McAuliffe, Gloria Brent, Gloria Clairbeau, Gloria Mack, Mary Ciofani, Virginia Rushing, Betty Boyd, Betty Clements, Peggy Schwartz, Eliza Kruck, Harriet Topel, Mary Dyer. On the men's team: Captain Bert Wall, Coach Sid Harnesk, Coach Elmer "Elbows" Anderson, Russ (Rosie) Baker, Red Erdman, Jack Wilson, Bill Laurino, Roger Schroeder, Sam Marchese, Bob Satterfield, Russ Massro, George (Run Run) Jones, Billy Gardner, and, starting in 1950, yours truly, (big pat on back) Bob Joseph.
I also had the honor of helping to start up the short lived team of the Hollywood Ravens, in 1954, with: Russ Baker, Lou Guzman, Bill Laurino, Jack Wilson, Bob Satterfield, Gene Young, George Vogt, Tommy Atkinson, Sid Harnesk, Mickey Roberts, Betty Boyd, Delores Doss, Marilyn Bullick, Dolly Hansen and Beverly (Spider) Wallace.
Last, but not least, In 1956, I had the honor to help start up the original San Francisco Bay Bombers with: Chuck Rocco, Eddie Ahern, Russ Baker, Bob Brown, Dick McDowell, Lou Guzman, Russ Baker, Johnny (the Mad Russian) Casar, Gloria Mifsud, Carol Jacobs, Annis Jensen, Connie Bernal, Hillarie Bennet and Margo Senniger.
We skated against some really great teams as: the New York Chiefs, the Jersey Jolters, the Brooklyn Red Devils and the Philadelphia Panthers. They had such great skaters as: Gene Gammon, Charlie (Specs) Saunders, Paul and Johnny Milane, Freddy Noa, Elmer (Elbows) Anderson, Buddy and Tommy Atkinson, Bob Venter, Ken Monte, "Wild Bill" Reynolds, Don and Bob Lewis, Paul and J. J. Milane, Hal Janowitz, Hank Greenberg, Val Panzitta, Jerry Rapp, Howie Raines, Buddy and Tommy Atkinson, "Slammin Jammin" Sammy Skobel, Punkie Gardner, Billy Bogash, Bucky Buckholtz, Ralphie Valladares, Joe Foster, Ken Hansen, Don and Bob Lewis, Charlie O'Connell, Red Smartt, Lou Proto, Don Rixman, Bob Sumsky, Lou Sanchez, George Vogt, Ann Cavello, Delores Doss, Mary Lou Palermo, Julie (Ace) Patrick, Helen Liska, Terri Lynch, Mary (Pochahontas) Youpelle, Midge (Toughie) Brashun, Jean Porter, Joyce Beasly, Carol Siefert, Joan Spangle, Joan Weston, Nellie Montegue, Dolly Hansen, and Toni Tagg (if I left anyone out, please forgive me).
I hate to sound redundant, but, those were the days. Ken Nydel was the voice of the Roller Derby and we skated seven nights a week, with matinees on Sunday too. We also trained seven days a week too. We had our own Olympic Kitchen with one of the best cooks in the world, Rosie. That gal could make cold cuts look like a spread at the Ritz and her southern fried steaks and chops were out of this world. At that time, we traveled, worked and stayed together. In hotels and sometimes in the arenas where we skated. Somewhere along the line someone forgot our biggest night at the Miami Baseball Stadium in '52 where it was almost sold out, it was ladies night, and the stands were full with our track set up over home plate. We also were on TV every week for 52 weeks out of the year and it wasn't until mid 1956 when the Derby started its decline at the old Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. That's when you saw the start of "Roller Games."
We skated in practically every major city in the U.S.A., including some in Canada too. We skated in some of the best arenas too like: the Chicago Coliseum, New York's original Madison Square Garden, the Teaneck and Newark New Jersey Armories, Los Angeles's Pan Pacific Auditorium and Coliseum Armory, Oakland's Civic Auditorium, San Francisco's Wintergarden and Cow Palace, Pasadena's Rose Bowl, and Long Beach's Veterans Memorial Stadium, just to name a few.
There's lots more to tell about those years. Let me know if you want more. My best regards to all of you out there. Come on guys and gals, pitch in and write something about your times in the Derby. Too much is being written about the latter Games and outlaws. We need to hear more about "those good old days."
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