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Fencers I Have Known - page 1

Last updated January 25, 2014


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Derwood (Frenchy) Bible

Frenchy was one of the most daring and fearless people that I have known, and what character!. I met him in early 1955 when I walked into the Phoenix, Arizona YMCA gym to first learn fencing. He was carrying a hooded hawk and wore a neck brace. He put the hawk down on a wooden bench, and it didn't move all the time that we were there. However, I did notice that a pile kept building underneath him on the bench. When I asked Frenchy about the neck brace, he said that he got into an argument with a dozen teenagers at a drive-in, and they broke his neck. The fact that he would tackle such a large group surprised me, since he was somewhat small in stature. However, that never seemed to bother him. When Frenchy put on his fencing shoes, he raised his pant leg, which bared his heavily scarred leg. He said that he was a flame thrower in WWII, and was injured during battle.

Actually, Frenchy didn't get his nickname until he and I went to the North Mexico International Invitational in Chihuahua, Chihuahua in Mexico. That was a very memorable trip. We decided to grow Van Dyke beards, and Frenchy truly looked like a French count. He was called Frenchy from that day on. (See our pictures on the right)

The trip to Chihuahua and the tournament was more than interesting. We went in his car, which was a big mistake. He had purchased a car from a used car dealer who wouldn't give him his money back after he found out about all of the problems with it. So he painted a large lemon on the side of the door and parked it across the street from the car dealer. This got attention from the media, including a picture of him with car in the local newspaper. The car was in terrible shape, obviously having been in a wreck. The passenger door wouldn't lock, so he tied it to the post with a rope. The windows didn't fully shut, and it was winter time, so it got rather cold going through the mountains. Frenchy was a fast driver, zooming down the mountains at high speed. Our first stop was for gas at a place on a mountain, and he asked me to park the car. When I put on the brake to stop, I was shocked to find that the pedal almost reached the floor before the brakes took hold. That made me sweat for the rest of the trip.

We had dinner that evening in a small restaurant that had a large square hole in the ceiling, apparently designed that way. Unusual and interesting but rather cool. A small boy brought in a basket of cheese that was formed into round patties that looked nice and fresh. We were going to buy some, but one of the customers handed back a piece of cheese, and pointed to a spot on the cheese, whereupon the boy picked out a large bug out and tossed it away. Unabashed, he put the piece of cheese back in the basket. We passed on buying the cheese.

After dinner, we went to our motel room, and we could smell gas. It was evident that there was a leak in the pipe going to the heater, so we tried to find it by smelling along the pipes. However, the smell was strong everywhere, so we didn't have much luck. Frenchy said: "I'll find it!". He grabbed a piece of paper, rolled it up and then lit a match to it. I said: "Frenchy, I wouldn't do that", but he ignored me and proceeded to move the flame along the pipe. He found the leak all right. It came with a loud whoosh, after which a large flame was seen coming out of the pipe. It was near a curtain, which was about to catch on fire. I felt my face, and it was warm from the blast but did not hurt. The flames were going up the wall, and I said, "We are going to burn down the place!". We whipped down the curtain and poured glasses of water on the flame and eventually put it out. The wall, however, had a big black burnt area around where the leak was and up toward the ceiling, and the floor was quite wet, soaking into the fallen curtain. I had visions of spending a large amount of time in a Mexican jail, but we were lucky and escaped without being arrested. I thought to myself: "I am really going to have to watch this guy".

Continued on next page


Dr. Vlasak- after returning from Chihuahua, Mexico


Two members of the Phoenix YMCA fencing club. Frenchy is the distinguished looking gentleman on the left (not with full beard). Notice the excellent position of his body, feet and legs.


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