-Barry Lloyd Penhale
I recently had the pleasure to speak with Barry Lloyd Penhale 'Canada's Foremost Authority On Wrestling' in the 1950's and 1960's era. I had inquired about his recollections of Pat Milosh and Oshawa Wrestling and the conversation led in to the other Ontario Promoters and Barry's own history in Canadian Wrestling.
The mention of Pat Milosh instantly brought back fond memories of attending cards in Oshawa and enjoying Milosh' hospitality at his home and the Casino Restaurant.
In talking about the Oshawa scene, Barry remarks on Pat Milosh' smarts in having some top local talent to help draw the fans. Jimmy Szikszay and Billy Stack get high mention on the talent scale. Szikszay a solid wrestler and Bowmanville native Stack having the talent to be a star but wanting to stay local and not travel as much. Penahle mentions Lou Thesz observing Stack in a bout at Maple Leaf Gardens and commenting that he saw a lot of talent in the youngster.
The outlying promoters had much to do with the success of the Toronto operations. In addition to Milosh, Barry names John Katan and Joe Maich as two of the other fine promoters in the Southern end of Ontario covering Hamilton and Brantford and area respectively.
In the late 1940's Penhale got his start in the business not far from the Oshawa scene. Toar Morgan a popular wrestler of the time married a friend of Penhale's Aunt who lived in Lindsay, ON and Toar took a shine to the young wrestling fan.
Barry would travel with Morgan on forays into Rochester and the surrounding areas around Ontario introducing him to the sport and the wrestlers on the circuit. Barry trained for the sport but had some issues as he had contracted polio as a child.
After meeting Bill Hewitt Barry asked if he could try his hand at commentating the MLG shows. At that time Bill Hewitt would sit up in the gondola high above the ring and call the matches for radio week after week.
Hewitt offered the young Penhale an opportunity to call a few minutes of the bouts. Hewitt was duly impressed and told Barry to keep the mic and continue resulting in a regular gig calling the bouts at the weekly cards.
Penahle also relates that he would try his hand in the promotion end with cards around Lindsay in the early years. Barry would also form a close alliance with Larry Kasaboski, the Promoter of Northland Wrestling which covered Northern Ontario and into Quebec. As per Barry Mr Kasaboski was a lot like Pat Milosh in that the wrestlers and the fans came first. Firm promises and honest paydays were the mark of both longtime promoters.
Northland Wrestling would become the first promotion to have TV with Penhale at the table for the pioneering broadcasts. Penahle would also find time to pen the Canadian Column's in the Wayli and Wrestling Life magazines of the 1950's in addition to the Northland Programs, and other publications of the day.
Barry recalls the greats of the day "Lou Thesz - the best , always in great shape", Earl McCready, Pat O'Connor, and Timothy Geohagen all rate highly. Penhale is quick to point out that in the 1940's and '50s the sport was still very close to 'real', with grudges and occasional shoots still a regular occurrence.
Pat Flanagan is the man who booked out the wrestlers to the outlying circuit. Barry says Flanagan knew every wrestler and was highly respected among the wrestlers, while Whipper Watson had much on his plate in terms of his charitable work so didn't have as much to do with the management side. even though he was very close with Frank Tunney.
Another nugget of info is the revelation they had a (the?) ring set up below MLG for training and workouts on the off-days.
I was having so much fun talking with Mr Penhale that I didn't write a lot of it down but a great conversation with one of the legends of the game from a bygone era. Thanks to Barry for taking the time to speak to me and share his vivid and fabulous memories with this fan