Frank Scarpa

Accession Number

PRATT.5.1937

Series

PRATT, Subgroup Coppers

Remarks

Chief William H. Pratt’s interest in professional wrestling is fairly well documented. In the spring of 1937, he attempted to establish a wrestling arena in Marshfield, MA for the purpose of generating much-needed revenue for the cash-strapped Marshfield Police Department.* The endeavor failed** but later that summer Pratt leveraged the experience into a position planning the main event for the Marshfield Fair, where his force would be in charge of security. With its midway, horse races, rides, exhibits, frivolous food selections and myriad of other amusements,*** the annual Marshfield Fair, one of the oldest in the country, was certainly not to be missed. In August of 1937, a record 11,000 visitors descended on the 71st exposition of the Marshfield Agricultural and Horticultural Society--policing the event would have been no small matter. In addition to his duties supervising the men in blue as they patrolled the event for suspicious activity, Pratt was tasked with organizing a series of wrestling matches for grandstand stage. It should be noted that this was Pratt’s first season, he was running his force on a shoestring budget and it was common knowledge that the fair could attract riffraff and rascals. One couldn’t be too careful. But Pratt was undaunted. The headlining wrestling bout matched Manuel Cortez of Spain, one of the many monikers of Frank Scarpa, against Johnny Iovano of Italy. As far as we know, the outcome was not recorded. But it is likely that the night belonged to the rising wrestling star Frank Scarpa (aka Manuel Cortez aka Gino Martinelli [see PRA.SMILING FANCLUB] aka Manuel Garza aka Ricardo Cortez aka Vincent Martinelli). In 1937, at 6 ft, 250 lbs, Scarpa was starting to make a name for himself in the wrestling world. He would go on to be a fan favorite before dying of a heart attack in the ring in 1969 at the age of 53. At the height of his career he sold out the Olympic Stadium in L.A. for 18 consecutive weeks, caused riots at the Boston Arena, and walloped opponents with his signature move: The Knockout Punch. Chief of Police William H. Pratt knew talent when he saw it.
* “If you want something real hard, the way to get it is to go after it yourself.” So said Chief William H. Pratt when he first hatched the idea to organize a series of spectacular wrestling shows and use the proceeds to pay for the new uniforms and up-to-date equipment that his force so desperately needed. This wasn’t the first time Pratt had an idea. Several months earlier, when he first took over as chief, it was his ingenuity and initiative that motivated officers to renovate an unused old school house to be used as the police station. Cost of that project to tax payers: less than $200. Unfortunately, the wrestling arena never got off the ground, despite Pratt’s enthusiastic vision. (He had big plans -- the opening attraction was to be between Dick Stahl, “The German Oak”, and George Dazler Clark “of Scotland.”) According to locals, the 200-seat venue rarely attracted more than 25 spectators. Proceeds were slim.
** Considering the transitional state of professional wrestling at the time, Pratt’s failed wrestling arena gives us unique, albeit inconclusive, insight into his character. In the 1930s, professional wrestling was moving from a legitimate sport for respected athletes to the theatrical spectacle that it is today. At the time that he embarked on his business venture, Pratt could have naively believed that the matches were genuine physical competitions of combative clinch fighting, grappling, and take-downs. After all, he did appreciate physical fitness as indicated by a directive issued to his force in 1938. He insisted that his officers get in shape for summer season by spending 15 minutes a day “in close contact” with a lawn roller that weighted 400 pounds (when filled with water). (Some dispute the idea that Pratt was concerned with fitness based on the fact that he issued this order on April Fool’s Day.) It is more likely, however, that Pratt recognized that the manipulation of pageantry and violence inherent in the sport held tremendous entertainment value. If this was, indeed, Pratt’s position, he was ahead of his time. Today, professional wrestling is a multi-million dollar industry.)
*** Of course the Marshfield Fair was good, clean, family fun, but there can be a seamy underbelly to the world of carnivals, fairs and pleasure shows. A notable feature at the 1937 Marshfield Fair was a cellophane wedding wherein the bride, groom and entire wedding party were attired in cellophane. The event, thought to be a promotional gimmick by the Jockey undergarment company, was never publicly categorized as either “family fun” or “seamy underbelly”.” It should be noted, however, that the couple, Miss Hazel Krueger and Frederick Norman, were married for over 70 years and, presumably kept all their leftovers in plastic wrap.

Files

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Citation

“Frank Scarpa,” Institute for Clew Studies, accessed November 13, 2018, http://instituteforclewstudies.com/items/show/5.