Home > Oral Histories of Some Lankville Pugilists > Oral Histories of Some Former Lankville Pugilists

Oral Histories of Some Former Lankville Pugilists

By Lerd "Candyman" Wassler (1945-1959, 82W, 75L, 29KO)

By Lerd “Candyman” Wassler (1945-1959, 82W, 75L, 29KO)


I was born in a log cabin. My Dad was some kind of a laborer– he was the guy that would stand in a hole and they would pile dirt on him. I never did find out what kind of profession that was– never did hear about it being an actual profession again, never knew anybody else who had that profession and believe me, I asked around. Mom stayed at home with the kids and made candy for a shop the next town over. That’s how come I got the nickname “The Candyman” even though I didn’t actually like candy, was sick to death of the stuff and later on, after I made some money, I specifically sought out a town to live in that was bereft of candy shops which, let me tell you,  isn’t easy to do.

So, one time Dad came home just covered in dirt as usual and told me that there was going to be a boxing match between two hillbillies. “Bare-fisted too,” he said, through the dirt. He took me and some of my brothers down to see it and there was these two shirtless guys in overalls and one of them had a two-by-four and the other had a snake and he had some bells around his neck– I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to be about.  And they had this loudmouth prancing around outside the ring with one of those telemegaphones that he had taken off some old phonograph player. Well, turns out it was wrestling. And, I’ll tell you what, Dad never did know the difference between the two sports. He always proudly told people that his son was a big-time wrestler after I made it big. One time I brought him a boxing magazine with my picture on the cover and the title of the magazine was “BOXING” in big bright orange letters and he teared up (he was covered in dirt even then) and said he couldn’t believe that his son was on the cover of a wrestling magazine. I never did try after that.

Anyways, turns out the syndicate behind that hillbilly wrestling match also organized boxing and I went and tried out for it. They put me in the ring against a guy who was wearing a paper hat– I never did understand it– but I knocked him out anyway and then they brought in this ex-con from the next town over and I knocked him out too and so then that was the beginning of my career after that.

My first match was at the old Lankville Round Garden against Floyd Dean, who ended up getting his head chopped off a few years later, you may remember.  Anyways, Floyd was a guy who’d throw a hell of a lot of punches, not land any of ’em and then he’d tend to fall over backwards.  And that’s exactly how we played it out and sure enough, Dean fell over backwards in the 4th.  His manager was hot– kept saying that he’d chop Dean’s head off himself and all this other stuff about chopping heads off and so I guess it ain’t no surprise what happened to poor Floyd in the end.

Wassler vs. Porps, 1945.

Wassler vs. Porps, 1945.

After that, I won a lot of $500 (Lankville) fights where you’d get paid $250 to show and $500 to win.  I ran up a pretty good record along that circuit which was mostly out in the prairies or in the desert.  Then, I went back to the Garden and fought for the Tawny Gloves Competition and I beat Ray “The Scotch” Woolson and then they gave me a big trophy and at the very top of the trophy was these two boxers squaring off and they was in gold and you couldn’t miss it.  So I went back up to see Mom and Dad and I went into the living room and there was Dad, covered in dirt and with all these rolled-up posters on the couch next to him.  Must’ve been a hundred of ’em.  I never did find out what that was supposed to be about and, believe me, I asked around.  Anyways, I go up to Dad and I say to him, “Dad, look at this boxing trophy I won”.  And he took it in his dirty hands and he looked at the bright, shimmering cloth along the sides and he cried and said that I was a good wrestler and so that was the last time I even worried with trying to explain that whole business.

The matches everybody remembers me for best are my fights with Glenn L. Porps in 1948. And I think that’s because Glenn L. and I just pounded one another for 12 rounds and finally they said, “OK, that’s enough. We’ll settle this later” and everybody just walked away. Glenn L.  and I couldn’t figure on any of it– they just emptied the arena real fast and left us there. It was the damndest thing and I never did get no adequate explanation for it. And then they said, “You boys come back and we’ll try this again”. So they had a rematch and Glenn L.  and I both said at the weigh-in, “Now there’s gonna’ be a winner tonight, right?” and they said they wouldn’t guarantee nothing and a couple promoters got real hot at us and I saw one guy put our checks in a safe.

This time, we both took it easy. There was a round, the 4th I think, where we didn’t throw a single punch, neither one of us. The crowd started booing, started throwing things like popcorn boxes and chairs and wet towels.  But we kept on about it.  But anyways, they did announce a winner for this one and it turned out to me but it just as easily could have been Glenn, nobody had no idea. I don’t think Glenn ever did recover from any of it. Last time I saw him, he was sitting in the woods eating fried chicken by himself. He wasn’t even using no napkin– his face and his chin was just glistening from chicken grease. It was a sad sight.

After that I lost as many as I won and I just called it quits in ’59 after I found myself boxing at the opening of a grocery store. I thought, “this is sad here, Lerd, you’re better than this” and then I did end up buying some groceries but still I didn’t have no passion for it no more.

Spent twenty years in the highway business. I’d go stand on the highway, wait for somethin’ to happen. It was alright. I’m retired now and I keep a good house. Never did marry. I always did say that why would you buy the cow when…”

(Wassler suddenly became very confused and was unable to finish his aphorism).

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