Joseph Garfunkel is a name Bahamians should never forget. In particular, The Roman Catholic Diocese and the national sports fraternity should ensure that the name lives on through documentaries and otherwise.
For instance there is one edifice that still is associated historically with Garfunkel. It’s the neglected and dilapidated Garfunkel Auditorium, owned by the Catholic Diocese that is headed by Most Reverend Patrick Christopher Pinder, Archbishop of Nassau. It would be wonderful if the archbishop sees to it that Garfunkel Auditorium comes alive again.
The name Garfunkel became prominent in my mind, once again, recently when Joseph Strachan (of Kemp Road, New Providence) sent me a letter that referred to a very important sporting element in Bahamian history, Garfunkel Field during the 1953-1956 years.
“Garfunkel Field was a ”built to US/International Softball specifications” ball park. It was located on the south side of Madeira Street at what is now Palmdale Shopping Center. Home plate was at roughly the western entrance to the plaza and the north side of the now closed John S. George Store would have been deep left field.
The Royal Bank of Cana-da/Lowes Pharmacy would have been deep centerfield. The outfield was ringed with bushes bordering Culmerville.
“The facility was developed by Mr. Joseph Garfunkel, an American Jew, who was at the time, the owner/proprietor of Home Furniture Company Limited, then located on the south side of Bay Street, (in the vicinity of East Street). Incidentally, Mrs. Garfunkel was a devoted Roman Catholic. I believe that her first name was Cecelia and the family may have donated land for the establishment of the St. Cecelia Roman Catholic Parish.
“The field was spectacularly beautiful. The infield was meticulously maintained and the outfield was always immaculately manicured. One of my uncles (George Cooper) was employed full time as a groundskeeper at the site. In addition to softball, Garfunkel Field was also the venue for the first (high profile) professional boxing matches in The Bahamas for Yama Bahama and Gomeo Brennan. I do not now recall how the field was configured to accommodate this event, but Mr. Garfunkel was the promoter. You might want to confirm this with Gomeo who is still alive. He may also be able to provide you with the names of his and Yama’s respective opponents. I would be delighted to have my memory refreshed.
Well here goes Joe!
I have been very fortunate to overlap much of the Golden Era of Sports as a young enthusiast (beginning in the 1950s) and later as a journalist (starting in June of 1967). What I didn’t personally observe, I got in historic information by being blessed to forge, meaningful relationships with the likes of Charlie Major Sr., Wilfred Coakley, Jeff Williams, Francis Cancino, Leroy “Uncle Lee” Archer, Lou Adderley, Allan Jackson, George Capron, Vince Ferguson, Asa Ferguson, Chris Malakius, Gordon Carey, Barrie Farrington, Sir Orville Turnquest, Harcourt Rolle and others.
What I was too young to experience, and definitely what happened before I came into this world, the aforementioned and a few other luminaries passed on to me.
So, long ago, Joe, I verified the Garfunkel Field link to Gomeo and Yama. Interestingly enough, I chat often with Gomeo and he is still very sharp mentally. He remembers the names of all the opponents he had on Bahamian soil, although not always the time frames.
Garfunkel Field unveiled both Yama and Gomeo at a time when the former was already a noted pugilist and his younger cousin was just at the beginning of a similar legendary career. Yama had turned pro in 1953. He was a seasoned boxer, climbing in Ring Magazine and National Boxing Association ratings and already established as one of the top 20 best welterweight/middleweight in the world when he and Gomeo fought at Garfunkel Field on March 16, 1956. Gomeo had become a pro earlier that year.
Yama defeated Jimmy Ford and Gomeo got a decision over Battling Douglas. Just a bit over a year later, on March 29, 1957, the two Bimini-born boxers fought at Garfunkel Field again. Yama got the win over Willie Kid Johnson and Gomeo won against Henry Ferguson.
In this space, this week, the down memory lane stroll with James Strachan and the Joseph Garfunkel legacy, with emphasis on the connection to the Catholic and sporting families in The Bahamas, will continue.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp 72706363).
Published Monday, March, 20, 2017