By Eric Andersen
Published: Dec 22, 2013
The first Squamish fitness centre was in the P.G.E. Hall on 2nd Avenue (later Hudson House; demolished 2007). Evening gym classes for youth and adults began in 1938.
Instructor George Potter, a local machinist, was also a wrestling enthusiast and competitive boxer. A 1939 article described his boxing training program in a nearby Cleveland Ave. shop building:
“A good deal of wonder has been shown by interested and astounded passers by who have noticed the lights shining in the room above Axel Johnsen’s shop these nights, and heard the whams!, the scuffling, and cheers issuing from the open windows.”
Canadian Featherweight Champion and future Hall of Famer Webb Frizelle had come to Squamish from Alberta to train for Lightweight class titles under Potter’s direction.
“The floor above Axel’s shop has been turned into training quarters for the young champ… Young boys and others not so young have been piling in, sitting on window ledges, boxes, and anything else available, to watch the boxing ace at work and to get a few pointers themselves.
A regular boxing ring has been put in with padded floor and ropes and a punching bag in the corner, with the odd pair of gloves hanging around the place to give it the air of a real champ’s working quarters.” (Howe Sound News)
Boxing was very popular in northern Howe Sound communities in this period. The busiest fight card impresarios were at Townsite (above Britannia Beach), where in 1930 Vancouver’s Jimmy ‘Babyface’ McLarnin, soon to be World Welterweight Champion, took on Young Jack Thompson from Chicago.
Pat Brennan of Woodfibre, future Squamish mayor, was among the younger boxers in the fight cards at Townsite. He would later recall how a barge was loaded up with people at Woodfibre and towed across to Britannia for the big event of Jimmy McLarnin’s visit.