Buck Davidson, Mighty Grappler

Klamath Falls OR Herald and News – July 16, 1989
By Joe Caraher

Put the name of Harold (Buck) Davidson down as one of our legendary sports characters.

List him with Sammy Gordon and Bulldog Jackson, frequent performers in the ring here in Klamath Falls.

Davidson lived in the era of prime-time wrestling at the National Guard Armory. He was a hero of the days when Pete Belcastro was another of the premier grapplers booked at the Armory about once a week.

As a matter of fact, says Buck’s niece by marriage, Pat Hull, Buck and Pete would meet on the same card. Not just Pat, who remembers Buck extremely well, but other fans who followed wrestling of those pleasant years in the ‘50s, recall Davidson being “strong as a horse.”

“He was short in height,” says Pat. “About five feet ten. But he weighed about 180. He finally left the ring to sell a couple lines of automobile jacks – Handy Man and Mountain Jack.”

Pat, Klamath Falls resident of many years, has a vivid picture of Buck selling those jacks. “He was good at it. He liked people, and he was enthusiastic about the products he sold.

“Once, when he was trying to demonstrate how effective the jacks were, he couldn’t get one of them under the car properly. So he picked up the back end of the old Chevy and lifted the axle right on the jack. People standing by were amazed.”

Pat goes on:

“Harold came from Indiana, south of Terre Haute. He liked it out here and while he was in the U.S. Marine Corps in Nicaragua, he learned to wrestle. That’s all he wanted to do. Traveled up and down the coast.

“One time here in Klamath Falls, I’d say in the early ‘50s, he got into the ring with the great Primo Carnera. This was an exhibition.” Pat says they pummeled each other around to the glee and delight of a big house at the Armory.

Primo, heavyweight pride of Italy, won the world’s boxing crown in 1933 at Long Island City Bowl when he knocked out Jack Sharkey in the 6th. Primo got only 10 per cent of the take, $16,377, which was no bonanza even for those days. In 1934, he lost to Max Baer, but he got a more generous share, $122,782. Primo was knocked down 12 times during the 11-round bout. Max was a heavy hitter.

It would be hard to find out how much Buck and Primo split in their exhibition, but no doubt did pretty well. Primo probably got enough afterwards to pay for a big platter of pasta at Molatore’s, across the Winema Hotel.

Those were the times when Mack Lillard was Oregon’s Mr. Wrestling Promoter, probably working with Ted Thye up in Portland. They had the Pacific Northwest blanketed like dew covers Dixie. Mack arranged the Carnera-Davidson frolic (nobody was hurt) and Wally Moss, perennial arbiter, was the third man in the ring.

In that era of the pachyderms, as the sporting gentry described athletes of the mat, the railbirds would talk it over at Louie Polin’s place of business at the corner of Seventh and Main. The insiders would get the word on who was to win in the feature bouts. Louie made plenty money in his place, where he sold all kinds of sporting equipment, oldtimers tell us. His main advertising slogan was “Louie Has Worms.” Sounded more like a bulletin from Merle West Hospital.

Irv Burke took over the corner later, had a variety of items and perhaps Main Street’s last soda fountain. Hobo Junction holds forth at the same location today. It’s a popular little eatery, not a haven for visitors arriving by freight as the name implies.

Pat says Buck did right well selling jacks. He and his wife, Chloe, traveled around the country but made Klamath Falls their home. She died in February, 1986. The niece said they lived at 325 S. Fifth St. “Harold wrestled until he was about 50. He was a great friend of Pete Belcastro, who lives in Weed, but is a frequent visitor to Klamath Falls. He’s an older brother of the late Elmer Belcastro.”

In recent years, Buck fell victim of Alzheimer’s and died at age 81 in Mountain Home, Idaho, May 12.

Survivors include a brother, James, Mountain Home, and nephews Charles and James, Boise.

He was some guy, Harold was. Pat mused a couple days ago: “I’ll never forget that exhibition when Harold and Primo Carnera got in the ring together.”

Nor will anyone else lucky enough to have had a ticket to the event some 36 years ago.

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