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 - Kurt Brown

Somewhere in the back pages of a recent Wrestling Observer, I read a little blurb about an ancient wrestling arena being demolished. Most readers probably skipped the mention, but for a handful of us Southern Californians, it stood out as a maudlin goodbye of a headline.

When I went to the San Bernardino Arena for the first time in 1979, it looked like something that had traveled from a past era, shot through 1979’s portal, and plopped itself curbside in a growing industrial neighborhood. In actuality, the tiny 1,600 seat arena had stood there since the 1930s, and managed to stand up straight while all its surrounding neighbors fell to bulldozers and wrecking balls. The demolished buildings were replaced with industrial strip malls, scrap yards and 7-11s, and even some of those newbies were flattened while the creaky old San Bernardino Arena held tight. 

I was seventeen. On Sunday nights, my pal Sean Dubee and I would make the trek from our snooty Sunny Hills suburb in Fullerton to the arid but energetic city of San Bernardino. Somehow we managed to boost my Dad’s clunky ‘63 Comet to seventy-miles-per on the freeway, blaring Tom Waits and Rocky Horror tunes, downing McDonalds and swigging Slurpees, and the car dutifully rattled and chugged through numerous half-baked desert communities with billboards touting local bingo halls and bowling alleys. 

Before my first trip to the San Bernardino Arena , the only meaning the building held for me was its recent history. August 13, 1978. Moondog Mayne beat Hector Guerrero in a Mexican Death Match for the Americas Heavyweight Championship. The result itself would likely have faded from my memory. But Mayne left the arena that evening, hit the freeway, and was killed in a car accident. Fans from California to the Pacific Northwest, Lonnie Mayne's strongest territories, mourned his untimely passing.

The first time Sean and I pulled up to San Bernardino Arena, we fell head over heels for the place. Fellow wrestling fans warned me to prepare to see “a barn instead of an arena,” “a roach infested warehouse,” but my histrionic vision of a wrestling hall with sheer Americana ambience stood right before me that evening. It was a square chalky blue building with a dome roof that resembled a tiny aircraft hangar. “Wrestling Every Sunday at 7:00” was painted  on the front wall.  More...

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