Introduction- My Filters
Edgar Rice Burroughs never visited Africa or Mars for that matter. My path to write a book, called, “Djakarta Iron”, having never been there, is based on my personal history and mental filters. It started in western Pennsylvania. My father was born in 1923 near the Heinz plant in Pittsburgh. He never finished school, but rather started working at HK Porter as a drill press operator. The bombing at Pearl Harbor happened and he enlisted in the United States Marine Corp. He served in the South Pacific Theater and participated in the Battle of Tarawa. If that piece of history is not familiar to you, check Wikipedia. It’s frightening to say the least. My father returned to the US during VJ day and soon after married my mother. She was from Ehrenfeld, PA. Her father, a Lithuanian immigrant married his wife when she was only 14 years of age. They eventually had 15 children. Most all of them worked in the coal mines around the Johnstown area.
Among my male family members, almost 100% of that generation were war veterans, boxers and had ample street fighting experience. Even my mother at an early age, fought off three rapists and escaped unscathed. Hard times, hard people, hard mindset.
Western Pennsylvania is kind of an odd place. Lots of hard working people, but the make up of martial arts in my youth was totally bizarre. In my little neck of the woods, the primary martial art was Pukulan Cimande from the Dutch Indo derived, Wetzel family. Although there was Okinawan stylist, Glenn Premru in Pittsburgh and a smattering of Korean stylists, almost everyone who practiced martial arts trained in Poekoelon. [they used the spelling of Poekoelon Tjimindie]. If you went west, just over the border into Ohio, the art was Burmese Bando from Maung Gyi. Bando was very popular in this region. It was one of the first arts I heard of in fact. Then if you traveled north, there was William Reeders a practitioner of Serak Silat and many, many, other arts, primarily Kuntao, a Chinese/Indonesian art.
Of course Southeast Asian martial arts weren’t the only influence. Pittsburgh was a town that was the home of boxer Billy Conn, the Pittsburgh Steelers and of course Bruno Sammartino, one of the greatest wrestlers and toughest men alive. He was raised in a cave in Italy in WW2 by his mother and survived rheumatic fever by her putting leeches on his body. When he came to this country he weighed 89 pounds. He built his body through wrestling with University of Pittsburgh team, lifting weights and construction work. From 89 pounds to 270 pounds and with lifts like 565 bench, 625 squat, and 675 deadlift. His Olympic lifts were a 365 press, 275 snatch, and 380 clean and jerk, Bruno survived a construction accident of falling two stories and having his fall broken by a 4×8 sheet of plywood. He had bruising, but no injuries. He even fought an orangutan at a carnival for 25 dollars.
Being surrounded by these legends and inspirations formed much of the framework of how I viewed life. I just didn’t see things like financiers, real estate salesman, yacht brokers and psychologists. It was a distillation process where my imprinting easily filtered out the cologne in favor of sweat, not that either is correct or that avoiding middle ground is a good thing. I was just dealing with the evidence and anecdote at hand.