Paul Boesch: The Father of Houston Wrestling!

Paul Boesch His name was Paul Boesch. By the time the 35-year old Brooklyn native reached Houston in 1947, he had already lived the fullest life of a great adventurer and real life hero. Born on October  2, 1912, this son of a New York street car conductor was one of seven children. When his father died before Paul reached age 5, the business of survival fell upon his mother and older siblings. His mother worked as a domestic servant to well-to-do families and the struggling Boesch household survived. Graduating from high school in 1929, according to one report, young Paul Boesch soon found excellence in his pursuit of achievements that required a combination of mental and physical skills. In 1932, he placed third in the highly regarded North Atlantic Coast Lifeguard Competition. Paul soon followed that success by choosing to join professional wrestling as his career. It was a choice that eventually led him to a 2005 posthumous induction into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Paul Boesch 008 Some reports say that Paul didn’t even finish high school, but whatever the case, his education on physical and emotional survival in a difficult world was far superior to that of  most kids who grew up back then with the full protection of two stable parents. He began working as a lifeguard on the Alantic Coast by age 14. Over the course of his mostly adolescent career in that field, he was credited with saving about five hundred lives.

Paul’s wrestling career carried him to the Pacific Rim countries in the 1930s. He barely escaped from the Philippines in time to avoid capture by the invading Japanese, but he quickly joined the U.S. Army and went on to valiant service in the European theatre. By the time of his end-of-the-war discharge, Paul Boesch had left the service having earned a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and Cluster, a Bronze Heart and Cluster, and the French Croix de Guerre with Star. He also earned a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, a Distinguished Unit Citation, and a Distinguished Citizen’s Award from the 121st Infantry Association.

Paul Boesch Paul Boesch returned to wrestling after World War II, but that all ended with a near fatal car crash in 1947 that combined with old back injuries from wrestling to effectively end his active career. He would still appear infrequently in grudge matches over the years, but the damage from the wreck removed him from  full-time wrestling.

About this same  time in 1947, Paul made contact with promoter Morris Sigel in Houston about coming here to do wrestling radio broadcasts and local promotions. Paul accepted the job, opening the gate on his date with destiny as a future Houston icon of early television and local wrestling. By 1949, KLEE-TV went on the air as Houston’s first television station. For many of us, myself included, Paul Boesch was either the first person we ever saw on television – or the first face and voice we remembered as a recurring character on the local small screen – and he was wonderful.

Even though most of us knew down deep that wrestling was more fixed showmanship than it was open and fair competition, we all wanted to buy into the stories that Paul Boesch was telling us about the intensity of these rivalries and the characters of these athletes.

Were Duke Keomuka and and Dirty Don Evans really as mean as they seemed to be? On Friday nights, all of us could watch Dirty Don Evans rubbing soap in the eyes of his opponents. Then, on Sundays, some of us got to watch the same “Dirty Don” help taking up the weekly collection at church. – What was wrong with this picture? To us kids, it was a serious mystery. Which  of these men was the “real” Mr. Evans? I often wanted to ask him, “Mr. Evans, how is it you’re able to be so mean on Friday nights and then still want to show up for Mass on Sundays?” I was afraid to ask. I didn’t want soap in my eyes!

Paul Boesch Paul Boesch took to TV like honey sticks to peanut butter. After Morris Sigel died, Paul Boesch took his place as the local promoter of wrestling at the City Auditorium while continuing as the creative director of all the “good guy / bad guy” melodrama matches through his television broadcasts and wrestler interviews. When they tore the auditorium down in the mid-1960s and replaced it with Jones Hall, wrestling moved to the Sam Houston Coliseum and Boesch went with it. Paul Boesch and Houston Wrestling were continuously on the air from 1949 through 1989, mostly on Channel 39, although Boesch had to retire from broadcasting in 1987 due to a heart condition. On March 7, 1989, the gentle man with cauliflower ears passed away, leaving Houston and all the children’s charities he supported the poorer for it.

Paul Boesch was also a literary man. His three books are illustrative of his broad interests and talent. In 1962, he wrote Road to Hurtgen, a non-fiction account of his experiences as a soldier at war. In 1966, he published a book of his poetry in a work entitled, Much of Me in Each of These. In 1981, he wrote his primary autobiography, The Career of Paul Boesch – One Man, One Sport, One Lifetime – 50 Years on the Mat. Then, as a posthumous tribute to Paul, his friends and family publsihed his secondary autobiography. This one was called Hey Boy – Where’d You Get Them Ears?

Paul Boesch Paul Boesch was an anomaly. He was a genuine man of character – building a life on a stage that was totally sports fiction. Only the injuries and the knuckle-peppered cauliflower ears were firmly real in wrestling, but Paul Boesch was the “real deal” as a great and giving human being to the very core of his soul. The stuff he did for the neglected kids of Houston was legendary. And Houston lost a class act when this man passed from our midst.

God rest your soul, Paul Boesch. A lot of us still remember and miss what you brought to the heart of our town. It was your town too back then- and it always will be. You live on through all the good effects you had upon Houston’s young people.

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3 Responses to “Paul Boesch: The Father of Houston Wrestling!”

  1. Bob Hulsey Says:

    My, does that ever take me back. Growing up in Houston, Boesch (pronounced “Bosh” as in “wash” for you newbies) *was* professional wrestling, back before there was a WWF or any Super Slams. I remember colorful “Wahoo” McDaniel, a former AFL lineman who was part-Indian, thus the name. And there was a black wrestler whose name escapes me but part of the name was “Thunderbolt” who played the villain and then later played the good guy in his career.

    Man, did Paul ever have the face for wrestling! Just that face told you it was not a sport for pansies. Like Loel Passe or Cadet Don, Boesch was one of those guys you just grew up with in Houston and never really appreciated until they were gone.

    Thanks for the look back.

    • Sally Reaper Says:

      Noted your comment on Boesch. Did you ever hear of Bob Farrington, the Danish Fox who was an early wrestler in SW and lived in TX at one time in early 1900’s. Thanks!
      Looking for photos especially. He is a relative.

  2. nikolaykotev Says:

    New Blog for military history with URL: http://nikkotev.wordpess.co/ and name “War “Photoblog – II”
    Nikolay Kotev

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