I like statistics. Not the kind you learn about in school really. More the kind that come about when you ask yourself questions like, “When will I get THAT done?” and “How many Aldo Nadi stories did I write last year?” (Correct answer for the second question is “7”.) Sometimes they turn out to be mere possibilities, like my schedule, other times the information is a bit clearer. Case in point; I sat down a couple of weeks ago to figure out how many stories have been published on this website in its first year of online life.
With Webmaster Greg’s valiant assistance, we put up 67 stories in calendar year 2015.
The breakdown of topics skews pretty heavily towards fencers and fencing masters of years past that I never in life met. Twenty-one of the stories fall into that category. Besides the aforementioned Aldo Nadi, there is also Hans Halberstadt, George Piller, Louis Tronchet, Helene Mayer, Joseph Vince and Torao Mori. Other stories have tended to skew towards people and events that I’ve been fortunate enough to have met or experienced personally. My long-time coach Michael D’Asaro (Senior) shows up frequently. Charlie Selberg, whose efforts in collecting material throughout his life gave us the starting point for the Archive, also figures prominently. Tournament videos I’ve kept, photographs from my brother and former roommate when I was in college and fencing daily, papers I wouldn’t throw out, memorabilia I’ve held onto or collected over the years, gifts and donations from up and down the state, the valuable contributions from several fencing clubs, all of these have figured into the stories at some point.
It’s been an interesting challenge to keep up the weekly pace. It was even more challenging when I was imagining I could research and write two stories a week. That didn’t last, but it did give me a chance to stockpile a backlog of stories for anyone that discovered the site along the way – which is essentially everyone, since we didn’t go live with hundreds of eager audience members. We are, after all, talking about fencing history. The audience is let’s be nice and say “limited”. However, the lessons that I learned from my previous career always come to the fore as I recall the mantra from making animated films: story, story, story! And really, the stories and personalities that permeate the history of this sport allows some of the entries on the site to be very easy to write. Finally, some of the entries are videos that require a fair bit less writing on my part.
For this year going forward, I’m looking to expand into some stories and histories that I haven’t yet touched on. There are quite a few people that are lining up in the story queue who I am very much looking forward to tackling. California boys Carl Borack (who I have been in contact with) and Bradley Thomas (who I have not been in contact with, but he’s on Facebook!), long-time LA based coach and club founder Duris de Jong, two weapon National Champion Skip Shurtz, and both the brothers Auriol and the brothers Marx are all in the mix. Of course, showing my hand might raise unreasonable expectations for the coming stories – or maybe not. I’ll just have to keep moving forward and carving out stories the best I can fashion as the weeks go on.
In addition to the stories continuing, there are additional things afoot with the Archive. One of the main issues has become – what else – space! With the influx of several collections over the course of the year my storage situation, while not yet untenable, is creating concern within my family unit that I may soon be the subject of an episode of Hoarders. Hey, at least I’d be on TV, right?
Aww, I guess I can live without being a subject on that show. At any rate, it’s a problem to solve in the coming weeks. That or sleep on the couch – an outcome I do not in the least wish to see come to pass.
Looking on the bright side of my hoarding collecting, it means there is more material to sift through to find new and interesting bits and pieces of historical data. In addition, through all of this, new connections have been coming through a variety of means. Several people have contacted me through the website with information, stories and material that has enlightened some dark corners and knowing that the website has been a conduit for that kind of input has been a highlight of this whole process. Others have called or Skyped. I’ve even received regular old mail!
A tangible forthcoming project will be collecting all of the first year of stories in book form. Yet another will be mounting a gallery show of some of the best and/or most obscure images that we have in the collection. I’ve already begun the selection process and have printed a few images. I’ll need to find a good framer, but I have some leads. More information on the date for the gallery show will be posted soon.
In the meantime, thanks to all those of you who have been following along via the website and Facebook. It’s been great to have the immediate feedback of knowing that the posted story attracts (or fails to attract) people’s interest. And, since I can’t help myself, a picture!
A recent ebay find, Helene Mayer in 1928 after her Olympic Gold win. Perhaps the black satin fencing outfit was another part of her victory package, along with the silk stockings! Or maybe it was just what all the fencers were wearing that year.