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Happy Birthday Joey Sangor!

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Joey Sangor’s Diary Entry on his birthday during a trip to Europe in 1929

Did you know Milwaukee was home to a well-known Jewish featherweight boxer during the 1920s?  Julius Singer, later known as Joey Sangor, was born on July 4th, 1903 in Russia.  In 1905, Sangor came to Milwaukee with his mother and two brothers (his father served in the Russo-Japanese War and joined the family later).  Why Milwaukee?  His grandparents Abraham and Jessie Shutkin were already living here.

Joey’s father Morris earned a living as a peddler, with the family eventually settling at 9th Street. It was there that Joey got his start in learning rudimentary boxing skills.  His father made a punching bag in the basement, consisting of a burlap sack stuffed with paper.

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Joey Sangor, 1920s

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Joey Sangor (front row – 3rd from left) with classmates at Lloyd Street School, circa 1918

Joey attended North Division High School, but dropped out after his second year after his father died during the summer of 1920.  To support his mother and siblings, he worked in an ice house, carrying three to four tons of ice per day and making $35 per week.  Along with his good friend Sam Haber, he joined the local YMCA and trained there.  (Haber later became executive vice chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.) A few months later, the two youths showed up at the Milwaukee Athletic Club for tryouts for an amateur boxing card.  After a few minutes in the ring, the club’s athletic trainer told them to leave, feeling they were not cut out for the sport.  As Joey later told the newspapermen during his career, “I don’t look like a fighter in street clothes or in the gymnasium.  I took up boxing professionally because I had to make money.  If I hadn’t made good at it pretty quick, I would have quit.”

Although he never won a title, he became known as the “uncrowned champion,” because of his victories over champions in non-title bouts. His most well-known bouts were with Bud Taylor, with whom he fought four times.  He also knocked out future lightweight champion Sam Mandell.

After retiring from boxing in 1930, he became a licensed pharmacist the following year.  He opened a drugstore with his brother Lew at the intersection of Greenfield and National Avenue.  They remained at that location until 1956, when they opened Joey Sangor Drug Store at 3720 North 92nd Street in Milwaukee.

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Joey Sangor in front of his drug store at 3720 North 92nd Street, 1956

Despite his career change from boxer to pharmacist, Joey remained heavily involved in the sport of boxing.  For a time, he promoted bouts in Milwaukee and managed a few local boxers. In 1950, he was appointed to the Wisconsin State Athletic Commission by Governor Kohler.  He also served as a vice president of the World Boxing Association for several years.

In 1967, Joey became the first Jewish person selected for the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame.  The Jewish Community Center Athletic “Wall of Fame” Committee also honored him in 1974. He died in 1982 at the age of 78.

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Joey Sangor with heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, 1928

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Joey Sangor and his wife Anita at the ceremony for his election to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, 1968

 

In Honor of Memorial Day: The Arthur Grossman Collection

By Shandra Morehouse, Jewish Museum Milwaukee Archives Intern

The Archives at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee recently received a collection of letters  written by Arthur (Artie) J Grossman, a Jewish soldier from Milwaukee during World War II; they were donated by Lloyd Levin, Artie’s nephew. This collection of letters provides insight to what life was like for both Artie in the Army and his family in Milwaukee during World War II.

Artie was born March 19, 1918 to Frank and Sarah Grossman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was a graduate of Riverside High School and went on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison for college. He enlisted in the armed services in August 1941 and attended Officer Candidate School in Kansas. He was sent overseas in January 1943 and was stationed in Northern Ireland, England, and later in France where he was a Lieutenant.

“As for me, you know I don’t change much despite the locality” (Artie to Ros, January 1944)

Artie wrote his family often and asked his family to do the same. His letters were full of questions about home, updates on his life, and requests for things to be sent to him – more letters, cigarettes, apple strudel, cookies, and fruitcake because “it stays fresh very well”. To his family, he wrote about the skills he was learning that would be useful in the future and the logistics of getting his car taken care of. To his sister, Ros, he often wrote dating news, or, as he frequently bemoaned, the lack of news.

 “I suppose I should sign off with the “lone wolf” or something!” (Artie to Ros, February 1944)

In October 1943, while stationed overseas, Artie wrote the following letter to his family:

First of all, I suppose it won’t do any good to tell you not to worry about me for that will be anyway. At least know this – your son is also doing his part in this great effort of ours to make things right again….Be proud that you have strong sons to help save homes, families, and the ability to raise kids to love and enjoy freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and the right to worship as we please. These aren’t just words anymore, for some have already died in their defense; and no where could there be a more glorious cause for which to give one’s life…Rejoice that half your son power will soon be in it. Be strong, for your strength live in me and helps me to do the right I must. Love Ever, Artie.

In August, 1944, the family of Lt. Grossman received word that their son was missing in action. They later received word that Lt. Grossman had been killed in action somewhere in France on August 4, 1944. Arthur was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in 1945 for his actions. His grave is located in the St. James Military Cemetery, St. James, France.

This Memorial Day, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee remembers those, like Lt. Grossman, who have served their country and have made the ultimate sacrifice.