The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 27, 2014

Saybrook Township woman recalls brief career as a female wrestler in Ashtabula

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Surviving was the name of the game for Maybelle “Tiny” Brockway who was picking up the pieces of her life  in the early 1950s when a unique opportunity became available.

“My husband left me with two kids, three and five, and I had no way of supporting myself,” she said of the road to wrestling in front of large crowds.

Maybelle, who was soon re-married and became Maybelle Golley, worked cleaning houses during the day and was offered the opportunity to “make some easy money” on weekends.

The offer came from a neighbor on West 5th Street in Ashtabula Harbor.

Lawson Welch was a boxing and wrestling trainer who was involved in a variety of physical activities into his later years, according to the Sept. 6, 1941 edition of the Star Beacon.

“We had a (wrestling) mat in my front room and my trainer (Welch) lived downstairs,” she said.

The training area doubled as an excellent play area for her two young children. “My kids would get down on the mat and practice,” she said.

Golley, who will soon turn 90, said she only wrestled professionally in Ashtabula for about two months before the enterprise was purchased by a Cleveland company that moved the wrestlers to the big city.

The orchestrated brand of

wrestling had apparently not yet been invented.

“It was real wrestling,” Golley said of the competition that was advertised in the Star Beacon.

A variety of theaters and halls held male and female wrestling competitions, according to Golley and newspapers from the time period.

Golley said her mother would sit in the front row and watch the competition up close and personal.

During one particularly rough match Golley’s mother didn’t like the way the competition treated her daughter.

“My mother got upset and hit her in the head with her purse,” Golley said.

She said she didn’t have time to run or do much strength training, but did practice the moves Lawson taught on the mat.

“I enjoyed it, but I was awfully sore the next day,” she said.

Golley said the competitions were held at Sovinto Hall in Ashtabula Harbor.

The hall was originally built by the Finnish Temperance Society, but the organization’s activities were winding down by the 1950s, said Chuck Altonen. He said the hall was rented out regularly, during that time period, for boxing, social events, wrestling and other large gatherings.

“They brought a different girl in each week,” Golley said. She said she got paid $20 for a night of wrestling.

“We had quite a crowd, the place was full,” she said.

Golley said she had some real challenges during her short wrestling career.

“I was the smallest one there and the youngest,” Golley said of her competitive disadvantages.

Golley remembers a 5” x 7” photograph of her in the ring, but all her pictures and newspaper clippings were burned during a trailer fire several decades ago, she said.

Golley said she is proud of her wrestling background and is insulted when people don’t believe she was a wrestler. “They won’t believe it and that hurts my feelings,” she said.

“I did pretty good I only lost one or two,” she said.

There was also a side benefit to the wrestling experience.

After she married Earl Golley he would irritate her with playful swats.

That came to an end one day when she used one of her wrestling moves and tossed him across the room. She said Earl would never do that again.

It must have worked out okay because the couple was married for 64 years until his death several years ago.

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