The Overly Generous Mr. Krebs

In January of 1930, Freb Krebs, owner of the The Krebs, was far away from winter in Skaneateles, strolling along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France. Among the passersby, he was surprised to see two Australians he’d met earlier on his trip, in London. As the three talked, another man dropped his keys at Krebs’ feet; Krebs quickly restored the keys to their owner, and that man, who claimed to hail from Ireland, joined the conversation. Someone in the rapidly growing group suggested they adjourn to a nearby café.

The Australians turned the conversation to an orphanage back home that they were supporting, and the man who dropped his keys, seemingly touched by their tale, took out his checkbook and wrote the Aussies a check for $3,000. Fred Krebs, a generous man, was moved to do the same, and then, apparently, he took a nap. When he awoke, the three men were gone, with his check, and his $1,000 diamond ring.

Newspaper accounts said that the French police offered to search for the men, but Mr. Krebs said he preferred to forget the whole thing.

 

The Red God’s Call

Two images from a postcard folder published by the O.K. News Corporation of Geneva, N.Y. The folder includes an essay by Gilbert T. Brewer (1898-1967), a writer for the Canandaigua Daily Messenger and an amateur historian, entitled “The Lure of the Finger Lakes.” Brewer writes:

“Skaneateles Lake, marking the eastern extremity of the chain, nestles like a gem in a calm and pastoral setting. Here are combined all of the out-of-door features so attractive to the tourist, made doubly interesting through the wealth of Indian lore which abounds about its shores. Nowhere, if one seeks for a while to follow the ‘Red God’s call’ away from the marts of man, can be found more ideal environs than those in the vicinity of Skaneateles Lake.”

Brewer is best known as an author of war stories for pulp magazines such as Sky Riders, Zeppelin Stories and Dare-Devil Aces in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom

In August of 1959, Skaneateles hosted Maxie Rosenbloom, a legend in two professions. Rosenbloom was in town in pursuit of his second profession, that of actor, appearing in a touring company production of Guys & Dolls at the Lyric Circus tent. He stayed at the Sherwood Inn, dined at the Krebs and provided good copy for the Skaneateles Press.

In his first profession, that of prizefighter, he was light heavyweight champion from 1930 to 1934. Although he fought 299 times, he had just 19 knockouts to his credit; he later said, “I always hated to hit hard.” His open-gloved style, slapping and cuffing, frustrated other fighters and inspired a disgusted Damon Runyan to tag him “Slapsie Maxie.”

In his four-year reign as champ, Rosenbloom fought 106 times — a fight every 15 days — including 8 title defenses. It seemed he would fight anybody, anywhere. He fought in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field and Boston’s Fenway Park. One night in Indiana, he fought for a percentage of the gate and made $87, less than the loser.

His most significant bout took place on March 10, 1933. In 15 rounds at Madison Square Garden, Rosenbloom defeated Adolf Heuser, the German light heavyweight champion. Rosenbloom’s victory over the “Bulldog of the Rhine” took place less than two months after Adolf Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany; stung by the Aryan fighter’s loss, Hitler issued a decree against German athletes competing against Jews (especially Jews who might win).

Rosenbloom’s punch-drunk persona, which he came by honestly, was the making of his second career. Starting in 1937, he appeared as a lovable lug in movies such as Mr. Moto’s Gamble (1938), Submarine Patrol (1938), Each Dawn I Die (1939), Passport to Alcatraz (1940), To the Shores of Tripoli (1942) and a great many comedy vehicles, of which Wine, Women and Bong (1951) has the most intriguing title.

Marie Wilson, Rosenbloom and Arline Judge in Harvard, Here I Come (1941)

On television, he was praised for his dramatic performance as a washed-up fighter in Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956), and appeared in more customary comic roles on The Donna Reed Show, The Munsters, The Man from UNCLE and I Dream of Jeannie. And Rosenbloom’s friend Jackie Gleason paid homage to him in a Honeymooners episode, in which Ralph Kramden read aloud a TV listing, “Fights Of The World: Maxie Rosenbloom vs. Kingfish Levinsky.”

Between 1951 and 1961, Rosenbloom toured often as Big Jule in the musical Guys & Dolls, including a stint at The Dunes in Las Vegas, with Dan Dailey and Betty Grable in the lead roles. And in 1959, one of those touring companies brought him to Skaneateles.

A gracious guest, Rosenbloom told the Skaneateles Press reporter, “You sure got a pretty little town here. I couldn’t help thinking that as I looked out on the beautiful Skaneateles lake across the way from my room at the Inn.”

But he saved his best material for The Krebs:

“When I arrived last night I’d heard so much about Krebs’ food I decided to go there. A horrible place to go if you’re on a diet — which reminds me of the days my mother used to cook for me. I kept eating and eating and eating and when I got sick I stopped. So — after leaving Krebs 10 pounds wiser — I met my friend who asked me to do this column. If you enjoy this column call me at the Sherwood Inn and invite me to your home for dinner.”

There is no record of whether anyone took him up on the offer.

* * *

Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom’s column was “translated into English by Arlene Gaston” and appeared in The Skaneateles Press, August 21, 1959. And in the Guys & Dolls program, this ad promised something special for theater-goers at the Sherwood Inn: