Robert “Red” Hale on the left.
Both my grandfathers fought in the South Pacific during WWII. While I know more of my Grandpa Downie’s tales from the time, my mom’s dad, Red, had a story that I love to share.
He was in the pacific on liberty. Sometimes during the liberty the sailors would start a pick-up ballgame or set up a boxing ring. My grandfather had just entered a make-shift boxing ring. He had the gloves on when a monster of a man stepped in at six-feet, 200-pounds. My grandfather and his twenty-nine inch waist turned to the ref, eyes wide and hollered, “Take the gloves off! Take the gloves off!”
But the larger man said, “Don’t worry, kid. I’ll go easy on you.” Tenaciously my grandfather entered into round one. And the man didn’t seem to have much. My slender grandfather started to wonder if perhaps he just looked big, but wasn’t really much of a boxer. This thought convinced my grandfather it was okay to start swinging hard.
At the end of round one, the man said, “Hey, Kid, I thought we were taking it easy.” My grandfather ignored him and boxed hard in round two. After which the man said, “Fine, if you’re going all out, so am I.” Immediately, Red turned to the ref and declared, “Take the gloves off! Take the gloves off!” He never boxed round three.
Years later at a bar in NYC, the bartender asked, “Hey, do you guys like Heavy Weight Champion Ezzard Charles? He’s in the back signing autographs.” Grandpa was a fan. He went back with his friends and a memory returned. He asked Charles, “Where you on Mug Mug Island in 1943?” (Island name and year are probably inaccurate, but that’s how I remember the story.)
Ezzard Charles stood up. “Were you that punk kid?” He picked up my grandfather and hugged him. Grandpa forgot to get his autograph, but he said it was okay because all his friends saw that he had boxed Heavy Weight Champion Ezzard Charles.
To all Veteran’s today. Thank you for sharing your stories.