The first time I saw a TV was at my grandparents’ house.
TV was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. As far as I remember it played three picture shows: Liberace, The Hit Parade and… WRASTLIN!!!!!!
Mom and Daddy took me down the hill to see Liberace and The Hit Parade but I ran down the hill as fast as I could to see Wrastlin!!!!!
Mama wanted me to watch the man play the piano and a man and a woman sing together while giving them goosebumps, but I didn’t like it. Wrastlin’ was the best thing on TV, my grandmother said.
So we saw wrestlin with the men
My grandmother was a really sweet lady, but she could decapitate a chicken and gut a pig, so wrestling was more her thing than playing the piano and singing.
My grandmother’s favorite wrestler was Gorgeous George. He wore a gold cloak and had long blond hair like a lady, but he wasn’t a lady. He could body slam the biggest and meanest wrestlers. He could put her in sleeper holds and half nelsons and knock her out of the ring, then go into the stands and hit her over the head with a chair.
My grandmother was upset when one of the wrestlers got injured and had to be taken to an ambulance. Daddy said it was all an act. That the ambulance took the feigned injured wrestler to Oscar’s cafe to have dinner with the other wrestlers. But my grandmother was still worried.
When I was growing up, we played what we saw on the Saturday picture show – cowboys and Indians, Tarzan and Jane. We cracked whips like Lash LaRue, rode saplins called Trigger, got back in the saddle and swam the creek like Johnny Weissmuller. But when televisions appeared, the game time changed.
My grandfather had cows and when he was done taking them to market he rounded them up and put them in the muzzle. But Kid-Vision turned the catching pin into our wrastlin ring with wide planks for fans to sit on. When the cowbell rang, the game began.
Back then the girls played the same as the boys, so we fought and called as many times as we were called. We would body slam and hit each other in Half Nelsons. My best grip was the choker grip and one I came up with was the neck crane. But guys cheated. Just when a girl had a boy for the 10-count, he would start pulling his hair and toe-banging. The referee was always a boy and he wouldn’t give a penalty for that.
Then one day my grandfather came to the wrestling match uninvited. I had never seen a wrestler come into the ring with a walking stick. But that’s how the crazy grandfather got into the ring that day.
The Catch Pen Arena closed that same day, never to reopen. We played from the rolls of film again and swam in the creek. My fascination with wrestling has waned, but every once in a while I like to revisit my childhood. So, god willing, if the creek doesn’t rise, I’ll head over to Goshen and enjoy a night with WRASTLIN’!!