There is a small cadre of people, myself included, who take credit – unrelated and unbeknownst to the actual founders – for setting the stage for the creation of the San Jose Fencing Center. It’s an odd tale that culminated in the 1982 Pacific Coast Championships being held at Cabrillo Community College in Aptos, CA. It was Central California’s turn to host, and the division was being run by a group of young fencers from Santa Cruz. We (I can say ‘we’ as I was the Division Secretary) had taken over the division from a group that had run it for many years and we felt that our region needed some new energy.
Now, none of us were interested in running the division for a long time, but Len Carnighan, coach at Cabrillo and the mastermind behind the coup, felt that if we ran things “our way” for a year, the larger community of fencers, particularly those around the San Jose State program, would get frustrated with so many tournaments being held in Santa Cruz that they’d band together, get organized, and do a great job with the division for years to come.
It took two years, but it worked. The Santa Cruz contingent took over in 1980. To be fair, we did our best, but we were young and easily distracted. However, when it came time to put on the PCC’s in ’82, we did our best with what we had. The Cabrillo gym was a bit small, so the first thing we had to do was inform people that we couldn’t hold team events. If you run across a PCC’s team trophy today (and they are spread far and wide now, as the event is no longer held) you’ll see our efforts reflected for the year 1982, where the tiny plaque will read “Event Not Held”.
We put up a raised platform for a ‘finals’ strip, laid out the gym nicely and hired in two excellent directors to help with the officiating: George Kolombatovich and Heizaburo Okawa. This was back when early rounds of tournaments were self-directed, so we only were required to have some paid officials for the finals. George and Heizaburo performed in stellar fashion for us.
One of my brothers, Garrett, is a photographer. Mostly still life and portraits. Not a lot of sports. But we shared an apartment at the time of this tournament, so he made an exception for fencing pretty regularly. He brought his cameras and a ton of film on the day of the PCC’s Men’s Foil and shot a ton of photos. Here are some of the best.
L: Unknown R: Dean Hinton
L: Unknown R: Matt Harris
L: Don Blaney R: Noel Hankla
L: Heik Hambarzumian R: Pierre Des Georges (George Kolombatovich directing)
L: Joe Shamash R: Greg Massialas (Heizaburo Okawa directing)
L: Greg Massialas R: Unknowns
Bird’s Eye View
L: Doug Nichols (Me!) R: Unknown
L: Heik Hambarzumian R: Greg Massialas
L: Joe Shamash R: Unknown
Standing L-R: Eleanor Turney, Heizaburo Okawa
Seated: George Kolombatovich’s head, Greg Massialas, Dean Hinton’s back
Heizaburo Okawa checks Pierre Des Georges’ foil
L: Joe Shamash R: Pierre Des Georges
L: Peter Moy (I think) R: Me, again. Heik Hambarzumian directs. I’m about to get hit. Again.
As you will note, there are several people that I don’t remember. If anyone out there can help with identification of any of the Unknowns, I’d love to hear some ideas.
I have to say, I love the picture of Eleanor Turney. She gave me my first lame and was an unfailingly positive influence on fencing in the Bay Area for so many, many years.
To wrap up the introductory story of the Santa Cruz skullduggery that “helped” with The Fencing Center creation, here’s what happened. Len thought the San Jose contingent would get organized to overthrow the Santa Cruz contingent in a year. It took two. By 1982, the foundation of what became The Fencing Center was gaining momentum. Greg Massialas, Peter Schifrin, Peter Burchard and Scott Knies were getting going with Asgard Fencers, which soon morphed into The Fencing Center. Scott Knies ran things from an operational standpoint and also stood for Division Chair at the beginning of the 1982/1983 season and the Santa Cruzans happily ceded control of the Central Cal division. It goes without saying that Scott and his group ran a tighter ship and did an excellent job for as long as they had the reins.