Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The plot thickens

More about the items found in the walls during the remodel of our 1910 Portland house...Remember where we left off about the boxer Solly Burke and the mysterious envelope from a life insurance agency? There were more than just newspaper clippings. There were contracts, too. Real contracts, perfectly preserved from the 1920s. Some carbon copies, some mimeographs. Some originals. Take for example, this contract from a San Francisco fight...
Contract to fight in San Francisco
Note here that it's made out to both Henry Dengel and Solly Burke. I've been trying to understand the relationship between the two names. Was Henry Solly's manager? Was "Solly Burke" Henry's stage name? Nothing comes up in google for Henry Dengel. But both Solly and Sailor Burke come up as boxers. Oh, and in case you were wondering, let's answer this question right now...
Solly Burke wore purple tights
He wore purple tights. But also answered there is that he was his own manager. So I'm thinking Henry is the real name of Solly.
So here is a contract now for "Sailor Burke" to fight in Pennsylvania...
Boxing contract, Pennyslvania 1924
He was contracted to fight Danny Gordon. Hmm. I don't recognize that name. But I do recognize the name in this contract...
Did Burke fight Jack Dempsey?
So did Burke fight Happy Jack Dempsey?! This contract is from Galveston, Texas, for a fight in 1928. Can you smell the mimeo? I'd rather not, but it's awfully cool to look at.

So I ventured to the Oregon Historical Society Research Library last week when I had a spare hour. First of all, an hour is in no way going to do justice to the work I need to do there. It was like revisiting the library of my childhood: reference books and catalog card references to point you to microfiche. Yowza. It's been awhile. But of the late 20's and early 30's books listing all of Portland's residents, I found no listing for Solly Burke nor for Henry Dengel. Beginning in 1930, they published a reverse listing, meaning I could look up the address and see the names and occupations of those that lived in the house. In the late 1920s, a tile contractor lived in the house, but beginning in the early 1930s, the name of Erwin appeared, listing several names, all employed as milwrights at "PCorp". I recognized the name Erwin because that name appears on a postcard that also appeared from the walls of this incredibly fascinating house....
of course this is to be continued.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very cool. You should send this article to the History Detectives at PBS.

I'm running the article you suggested on Thursday.

Anonymous said...

Aha, "If Walls Could Talk"
Hugs, Mom

patti_cake said...

I am living vicariously through you Lelo.. this is fascinating!

Oh and tell your Mom if walls could talk we might all be in some deep sh*t hehe....

Anonymous said...

I am totally enjoying this mystery and I love the History Detectives idea. There is a reason this is all happening to you now...

purpletwinkie said...

Interesting. There is nothing in my walls (unless I put it there and forgot about it). :(

LeLo in NoPo said...

Hey, thanks for the idea about History Detectives! I filled out their form and sent the story along. I doubt anything will come of it but what the hell.

Kami said...

So. Very. Cool!

Anonymous said...

It would be really cool if you found one of his descendants. What a great surprise it would be for them to see all these documents.

Then again…purple shorts…hmmm. Nevermind.

Anonymous said...

Wow!

I'm on the edge of my seat! I'm so glad you're trying to get to the bottom of this mystery.

I like the way the contract includes that Color of Tight to Be Worn section. Just the way it's worded, I get the feeling that he'd have had to pay some kind of penalty if he'd showed up in orange polka dot tights.

So by tights do they mean shorts? I mean, I can see why they might call them tights instead of shorts. (Heh, heh.)

blog Portland said...

SOmething tells me that you're holding out on all the cool b/w burlesque shots you found back there. C'mon... make with the goods!

SassyFemme said...

I'm totally loving this. Thanks so much for bringing us along on the ride!

witchtrivets said...

This story is so good, it is almost too good to be true. I mean, all this in you walls? The purple tights, the anatomically revealing photo -- great stuff. I can't wait to read more.

Anonymous said...

So cool! More, more, keep it coming, please.

I'm so jealous. All I find at my house are raccoons in the crawl space and squirrels in the attic. ;-P