Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Searching for Silver: Memories of Angelo Martinelli in the late 1960s

Greenville SC Memories
by Don Holbrook

Mid-Atlantic Gateway Contributor

Back in the late 1960’s and very early 1970’s Angelo Martinelli was still wrestling now and then. It seemed like he was on the Greenville, SC, cards quite often either wrestling - - usually the second match or so - - but mostly refereeing.

He had been a big star back in the 1950s and early 1960s, wrestling everybody from Gorgeous George to Blassie, Rocca and others. I understand he worked main events in New York, California, Boston and quite a lot in Atlanta plus other places. Ole Anderson said in a shoot interview that he and Gene used to come out from the dressing room to watch his matches when he was still wrestling. They would stand in the back of the arena and they said he was really good.

In those days I would always get to the building on Monday nights around 4:00 PM. My mother was working in the Greenville Memorial Auditorium office at the time. I always knew if Angelo was refereeing for the night because he would always be the very first guy to show up, sometimes before promoter Paul Winkhaus.

He would do the same thing every single time. Enter the stage door, sign in on the ledger book they kept for all shows, carry his bags downstairs to the dressing rooms and then come back upstairs and head straight to the lobby where the concession employees would be setting up and getting ready before the doors open. He would always have a handful and a big pocketful of change. He would go to each concession stand and vendor and ask the attendants if they had any silver coins, especially quarters. This was back in the day when full silver coins were still in general circulation and fairly plentiful, but being phased out.

Referee Angelo Martinelli tries to maintain order in a wild Indian Strap Match
between Wahoo McDaniel and Johnny Valentine in 1975.

He’d buy every one he could get his hands on, even-money value swap of course. He even had some of the auditorium employees saving them for him. Then he would go to the auditorium office where there was a teller-type window in a rear hallway that was attached to the ticket office where they could provide change during events for the concessions and auditorium parking lots, etc. It was all cash back then; no credit cards. He would ask them for silver coins, too. Most weeks he would really rack up.

In later years after he died I thought about that and figured someone in his family probably inherited quite a coin collection and/or a sizable sum of money. The other interesting thing I noticed was Angelo always traveled alone and I heard once that the guys generally didn’t care for him. But Mr, Crockett (Sr.) really liked him and took care of him.

Good memories from my many nights at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium.