Thursday, April 23, 2015

Boxing Smoker

One of the best things about writing this blog for the Harbor History Museum is learning about new history that happened in our community.  And it is made even better when when it is shared like the following information which was shared with me.  

Perhaps some of you reading this right now will also have memories or stories to tell about “Boxing Smoker” events.  If so, please share in the comment section below.  

This is so fitting with the current special exhibit being all about sports and recreation on the Gig Harbor Peninsula.  

I saw online yesterday that the museum is having a special exhibit on sports and recreation in the Gig Harbor area.  That reminded me of the copy of a poster from 1938 someone gave me a couple years ago, which I have attached to this email.  If you haven't seen it before, it's really interesting.  It's advertising a boxing smoker for Friday night, March 25, 1938, featuring local teenaged boys.  

Many names on it are familiar, and some have tremendously interesting personal histories.  As young men, three of the first four boys in the left column would experience the worst of World War 2 and live to return to Gig Harbor.  Jack Jacobson spent time in a German prisoner of war camp.  Kenny Marvin spent all but the first three weeks of the war as a POW of the Japanese.   After the war he owned and operated several service stations in Gig Harbor.  Edgar Bunch, who ultimately retired from Spadoni Brothers as a bulldozer operator, was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in the last year of the war would go ashore on Iwo Jima on the third day of that battle.

Buddy Conan, the referee, started Conan Fuel Service, now owned by Dan Root.  The last fighter on the card, Buddy Dewalt, a long-time area home builder, passed away at the age of 90 just last week. (April 9, 2015) He was 13 years old when the program was held.

I don't know which community hall the poster refers to.  It's easy to assume Gig Harbor, but I suppose it could've been in another hall in a nearby community.

In the old days "smoker" was another name for a fundraising event.  The top part of the poster seems to be missing, and that's what would've explained what organization was putting on the boxing smoker.

I did a little additional research on this event and discovered the following information:

  • The event was sponsored by the Crescent Valley Scouts
  • On March 11, 1938, their first advertisement stated there would be “10 Good Bouts”
  • In the news from Crescent Valley it stated “The Boy Scouts are planning to give a boxing smoker at the Community hall, Friday evening, March 25th.  The bouts will feature boys from the harbor.
  • The Peninsula Gateway on March 25, 1938 wrote the following:
    • Boxing News
    • All the boxers are awaiting the gong that will send them into the ring tonight at the Community hall.  Ten action laden bouts will headline the fistic card.
    • Billy Slonecker and Dickie Johnson will open hostilities in the flea weight division.  Kenny Marvin and Albert Modun will square off in another match which has all the earmarks of a slugfest.  Melvin Johnson and Charley Edwards will tangle in another bout which looks like a sizzler.  Jack Jackobson, the hardworking football player, will try his best to defeat Butch Hahn in the 180-pound class, Doug Stremme, a clever and game lightweight will meet Edgar Bunch in a bout which promises to be very fast.
    • Ben Alvastad, a boring-in aggressive fighter will meet a very good opponent when he tangles with Fairfield Pardman, the Purdy oysterman.
    • Allen McKenzie and Cell Mickelson will meet at 110 pounds.
    • These bouts will be backed up by five other very good bouts.
    • Bud Conan, the popular basketball player will referee all the bouts.
    • Bill Slonecker will announce and Bill Baldwin, Ralph Healy, and Charles Summers will judge the bouts.
    • Paul Alvestad and F. E. Johnson will be at the gate.
  • And the final article in the Crescent Valley news in the Peninsula Gateway remarked “The Scout Smoker held last Friday evening was a success financially, as well as giving everyone fine entertainment.  Our success was due in a large degree to the help and cooperation given to us by the harbor business men and the residents of our community.”
  • According to Cigar Aficionado in their article entitled “Tales of the Canvas by Kenneth Shouler, boxing historian Bert Sugar boxing smokers were “gatherings for old-timers mix(ing) fine food, nostalgic tales and cigar smoke as well as live fights.”  Sugar stated “I fought at the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) in Virginia.  I was known as the ‘Great White Hopeless’.  Other than that, I did not find where or when the term Boxing Smoker became known as a fundraiser.  We will have to take the original contributor of this blog’s word for it.  
© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.


  1. As for when "smoker" became a word associated with fundraisers, I don't know, but it turns out that it's still commonly used. A Google search for:
    "boxing smoker" fundraiser
    returns 2,480 results, such as, "2nd Annual CMU Rodeo Team Boxing Smoker & Fundraiser," "Jan 28, 2015 - Coach Steve Birnie adds, 'we have a budget from the school, but the boxing smoker is the biggest fundraiser of the year,'" "1 day ago - The Hagerman Annual Boxing Smoker is a fundraiser for the high school athletics," "Oct 30, 2009 - HHS wrestling plans boxing smoker fundraiser," "Apr 15, 2015 - The crosstown boxing smoker is back for its sixth year, with a fight card that has ... The smoker is a fundraiser for the high school ...," "Hermiston wrestling will hold its 2rd Annual Boxing Smoker at 5 pm ..."

    Not all fundraising smokers are boxing events. Here are a few notices of poker smokers: "Save the Date! NYC Poker Smoker/Casino Night Fundraiser, September 13, 2010," "We are in need of auction/raffle items for the Poker Smoker II Fundraiser on Friday, Oct. 18 ...," "May 19, 2011 - 'Men's Night Out' fundraiser. Poker/Smoker/Music stage @ MKP Center Chicago 5/27 ...," "Poker Smoker II on Oct 18, 2013 in Woodland Hills, CA(Los Angeles metro area) at Warner Center Marriott. Come join us ... Categories: Fundraising & Charity."

    Sometimes basketball is the event: "Jun 9, 2010 - ... Association NCAA Championship Game 'Basketball Smoker'. .... their major fundraiser, to support library programs and events for children ..."

    "Baseball smoker" returns 90 results, among them, "May 31, 2012 - The annual Rockin' for the Troops fundraiser will be held Saturday, ...... has scheduled a baseball smoker fundraiser for Friday, June 1 ..."

    Apparently there doesn't have to be any sports or competition associated with a smoker event, as this one is simply a dinner:
    "Sturgis High School Rodeo Booster Club SMOKER
    Annual Fundraiser for the Southwest Regional High School Rodeo held in Sturgis
    February 20, 2015 at the Loud American Roadhouse in Sturgis, SD
    Loud American Legendary Steak Tip Dinner for two: $26.00. Tickets sold at the door or by calling 605-347-1068"

    Smokers aside, I've noticed that your blog pages all have a copyright date of 2012. Might it help future historians if you would use the year in which you wrote the blog?

  2. I wasn't aware Kenny Marvin lived in Gig Harbor prior to WWII. You know he's mentioned in the book "Unbroken." Many of his daughters and grandchildren live in the area. As for Albert Modun, he was my uncle. I knew him little and didn't know he knew how to box. My father was an amateur boxer, Marco Malich. The Alvestads were friends of my family for years and I grew up with Bud Conan watching me fish off of Union Dock. I never heard anybody ever talk about boxing except for my Dad who described fighting with many Port Orchard dudes at the Horseshoe Lake Dance Hall. It was common in the 30s.

  3. I was reading your blog this morning and realized I could help you with info on the community hall.

    It was located at the corner of Vernhardshon and No. Harborview. Now the site is occupied by a private security business. The owner has the prettiest flowers in the small garden on the corner.

    The hall was built in 1926. It was 2 story, 20x36 ft, with the Masonic Lodge on the second floor. The Community Hall president was WH Packer, Secretary was John Vernhardshon, and the treasurer was Axel Uddenberg.

    There was a stage that was used for local productions, including “Tulip Time.” The production packed the house in 1936. The music was done by The Peninsula Singers, which was organized by Fritz Berntsen (Ed’s Dad) in 1931 at the Cromwell Lutheran Church. It disbanded in 1939.

    Unfortunately, there are no outside photos of the building from the front. Only shot we have is a background in a Frank Shaw photo taken from the westside that I enlarged enough to see the outline. It had the usual storefront look.

    Later, the building was moved back on the lot to the location it is now. It was rebuilt as The Boat Barn that John Holmaas had part ownership.

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  6. Ben Alvestad also served in WWII. He was in Europe in the First Special Service Force, also referred to as "The Devil's Brigade".