Our Dec. 13, 2012, column described the boxing matches the American Legion Post 12 held in an indoor arena, with bleachers for about 2,000 built in the late 1920s on the north side of Clematis Street, near the Florida East Coast Railway crossing.
What we didn’t show you was a photograph of the place. We had to settle for one of boxing at a club on Palm Beach. In fact, we’ve searched high and low for an image from the West Palm Beach venue, without luck.
The picture seen here came to us by way of Leonard (“Buddy”) and Rosanne Bush, of West Palm Beach, who themselves can’t remember how it came into their hands. It says on the back, “photo by Herb Davies.”
Buddy, now 84, isn’t one of the guys in the ring, but he recalls boxing there in 1939 at the ripe old age of 11.
“My first fight ,” he recalled, “was with a redheaded boy from Lake Worth who a few years back retired as a judge, name Tom Johnson. And I lost.”
He means “Red” Johnson, born in 1927, who was a Palm Beach County Circuit Judge from 1976 to 1992 as well as a state senator, a Palm Beach County State Attorney, and a municipal judge. Buddy recalled he won the first round and Johnson the next two. “Red” died at 77 in 2004.
“He used to go down to Clematis Street and fight,” son Bill Johnson, a West Palm Beach lawyer, recalled. “When he was older, he had a crooked nose.”
The photo itself has buried treasures. The Al-far Creamery was a major dairy downtown. And the Howard Johnson’s at “So. Dixie & Belvedere” was across the street from where the Palm Beach Post now stands.
The American Legion sponsored the Friday fights “to get the kids off the streets,” especially older teens, Buddy Bush recalled.
Buddy’s in the “Bush Brothers” family, which has been in the meat business in Palm Beach County for nearly nine decades.
He said he boxed four or five times each summer. The gloves were heavy for maximum protection, but that “you got tired, as a kid, just slapping at the other one.”
He said two pals fought along with him: Harold Clarence Cook, also a “Buddy,” and George Shahin. Cook was killed in Vietnam. Shahin went to the Marines and lives in the Miami area.
Buddy said the place was huge and hot and the crowds were big, but at that young age, “you didn’t have any fear. Just foolishness.”
He said he doesn’t remember anyone getting hurt and that the fights were “a family affair. My dad would take all of us down. It was a great program. I’ve been in the Legion for many years and they’ve always done good work.”
Undated photograph, probably from late 1930s or early 1940s, of boxing matches the American Legion Post 12 held in an indoor arena, with bleachers for about 2,000 built in the late 1920s on the north side of Clematis Street, near the Florida East Coast Railway crossing. (Photo courtesy of Leonard “Buddy” and Roseanne Bush)