Monday, October 25, 2010

Fencing at Governor Dummer Academy, 1932-1935

In 1935, The Milestone reported on the arrival of the academy’ first season of Fencing, with its 20-member squad (plus manager) picking up their masks and epees under young teacher Joseph Dana Allen, Jr., a 1931 Harvard graduate and past member of the Harvard Fencing Team.

“At the beginning of the winter term, a new sport, fencing, was inaugurated under the guidance of Mr. Allen, one of this year’s new masters, who was a former member of the Harvard Fencing Team and, in the Intercollegiate Matches of 1930, finished third. Just prior to the beginning of the season, Mr. Allen arranged an exhibition for the students in which several of the outstanding fencers in New England participated. Among them were Rene Peroy, fencing coach at Harvard; Edward and Everett Lane, national champions in 1929 and now members of the Boston Athletic Club; Mr. James Parker, also of the B.A.A.; Captain Robert Lawson, Gilbert Kerlin, Thomas Moran, and John Hurd, all of the Harvard Fencing Team. During an intermission Mr. Everett Lane gave a brief account of fencing, explaining the types of instruments used and something concerning the rules. The result of this exhibition was a great increase in the interest in fencing; two days later the squad was the second largest at the academy.

Despite the fact that it is said to take three years to make a fencer, the boys developed rapidly and, with daily practice, made very satisfactory progress. Although they were almost all mere beginners, toward the end of the term they showed such an advance that Mr. Allen was confident enough to take a team of five to compete in an informal contest with the more experienced Andover team. The team was defeated, but it made a creditable showing, taking five of the fourteen bouts, the final score being 9-5 in Andover’s favor.

There was such an interest in the sport that Mr. Allen took a group of the best fencers into Boston to witness the finals in the Olympic Fencing Competition at the Boston Arena. The high-light [sic] of the evening, in the minds of most of the boys, was the exhibition saber bout in which the contestants pursued each other all over the floor, seeking to cut the plume from the top of their opponent’s helmet.

At the end of the season, a tournament was arranged to decide who were the best fencers. At first a ladder tournament was organized, with the men arranged according to their ability as Mr. Allen rated them. Any contestant was able to challenge any two entries above him, and in this manner many were able to rise higher. After four days of this, four strips were drawn up, each having four men. These fought a round robin with the others in their strip, and, in the end, the four strip-winners fought a final series of bouts. The four strip-winners were Dix Robbins, Hugo Poisson, Harmon Hall, and John Healy. Of these, Hall and Poisson received first and second places, respectively, in the finals.

On Monday evening, March 14th, during the Athletic rally, the awards were distributed by Mr. Allen. These prizes, which were supplied through the kindness of the American Fencers League, were a pair of foils for the winner, and a single foil for the runner-up. –C.F.S [likely Colin Francis Soule of Passaic, New Jersey, and a member of the 1932 Fencing Squad]”

The Fencing Squad participated in tournaments in each of its four seasons, after which it appears to have been disbanded. Below are pictures of the first Fencing Squad in 1932, the last Fencing Squad (in 1935), and an action shot from the fencers of 1934-1935.