It’s fun to come across something that looks straightforward but winds up proving to be mysterious. At least in this case, I think it’s mysterious. I just hope it’s not mysterious for very long.
I came across a series of four photographs that were dated November 1917, showing a ladies fencing class. That’s not the mysterious part. Here are the first couple of images.
The On Guard position. I don’t know what the ‘C’ stands for. That is also not the mysterious part. Maybe for Cal? I’ve seen reference to ‘wearers of the C’ in respect to Cal students and grads.
The lunge position. Shouldn’t the ladies in the background be watching the action?
French foils with a figure 8 guard. Sweet! Ah, but now we get to the part that I’m curious about. It starts with the next photo.
The guy half visible on the far left. He’s the mystery.
This photo establishes the location as UC Berkeley. The first of the schools in the UC system, the tower above the heads of the fencers in this photo is easily recognizable as the Sather Tower, which was completed in 1915. That’s probably why the photographer made sure to get it in the shot here. It was new!
Now then, why is the guy on the left a mystery? It’s because I only think I know who it is. I’ve got some digging to do. I’ll probably need to get over to the library at Cal and go through some old yearbooks. I’d buy them on ebay, but they tend to run up in price. What I have found is that Cal did have a fencing class taught by one “Coach Randall”, but I haven’t found any other reference to him. (There are some great old UC Berkeley fencing photos online at: http://pe.berkeley.edu/history/ind.php that show some pretty serious looking folks from 1902 and some potentially crazy ones from 1908.)
Here’s a somewhat better look at the mystery man.
A line drill with the instructor out front.
The reason for my thoughts on the instructor here is that he looks strikingly like Henri J. Uyttenhove. Here is a close up from a photo that I know is Uyttenhove:
Henri J. Uyttenhove teaching at UCLA in 1930.
So, getting my Sherlock on, my powers of observation notice the same white jacket/black pants combo. Seems about the same relative height, although that’s harder to judge. Same haircut. Left handed. See? It could be him.
I’ll have a great deal more to write about Uyttenhove as time goes on. He was the first sword fight choreographer working in Hollywood, helping Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. master the blade for “The Three Musketeers” and “The Mark of Zorro”. Trained as a fencing master in Belgium, he began teaching in Southern California in 1908 at the LAAC, his own club in Pasadena and, starting in 1922, UCLA.
Maybe Cal hired him to come up for a demonstration class or exhibition. The group in the Cal photos certainly has more students than appear in the 1917 UC Berkeley yearbook photo of “La Rapiere Club”.
Ah, well. Another mystery to solve? Maybe it’s actually the elusive “Coach Randall” and I’m just letting my imagination run away with me. Like that ever happens…