Bronx Batman: Fred Tarrant

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Fred Tarrant was particularly close to Dad. They were teammates, sparring partners, weight-training partners, friends, and conspirators. I exchange correspondence with Fred, as well as an occasional phone call. Fred and Dad first met when Fred first enrolled at the Institute, when “J.J.” had just turned 15. Tarrant was a couple years younger than Jensen but bigger by a weight class. He placed 2nd in the junior Metropolitan AAU tournament at age 16 and went on to place third in the National AAU title the following March at Baltimore in 1944 [1]. After that, he returned home to place 2nd in the Metropolitan AAU tournament. Tragically, Fred’s brain had taken too much abuse from his lifestyle on the one hand and dehydration from his attempts to drop pounds before his last tournament. He underwent brain surgery; he was hospitalized for the better part of year, and he lost a year of school. Because of this, Fred didn’t graduate until 1946. He tried to get back into wrestling form, but he could never recapture his former fire. His wrestling days were over.

As good as Fred was, he says that he could never beat Dad. He describes Dad as an “explosive force.” Perhaps he’s being gracious.

Tarrant was from Saratoga Springs in upstate New York. His grandfather had started a manufacturing business that Fred’s father worked in. Fred would return to Saratoga Springs after graduation to work in the family business. He started his own manufacturing business in 1969, but he could only manage to break even, so after four years of that he gave landlording a try. That kept Fred, his wife Odilie, and their two kids in the black for twenty years. They then moved to Naples, Florida, where after some time Fred got involved in municipal government. In 2005, Fred and Odilie moved to the mountains of Costa Rica. Like Dad, Fred had a hard time with the heat and humidity of the South, so he is much more comfortable at a kilometer above sea level.

As a city councilman in Naples, Florida, Tarrant once made the news by objecting to the display of artwork that he deemed inappropriate. Tarrant being blind, many people found this ironic, but of course people regularly express opinions based on accounts from trusted sources. When a blind man does so, some people don’t judge him by the same standard.

Fred, sharp as a titanium tack at age 88, has turned to writing in his retirement. He recounts the past with modest confidence, vividness, and color. There is a story of Dad falling off a train platform in New York that I have heard on a number of occasions from the horse’s mouth. It’s a pleasure to hear Fred’s account. He recalls that Dad had a date with a beautiful young lady, and he got dressed up in a white jacket and a pink carnation (yes, Fred could see color; he just couldn’t see well enough to read). The next thing Fred knew, “Johnny” had returned with his nice white outfit covered in blood and grease. Johnny had fallen off the train platform.

© 2015 Kaweah

[1] Fred was thrown my Emil J. Tomick in the semifinal. Tomick went on to win the championship.

One comment on “Bronx Batman: Fred Tarrant

  1. Tom Special says:

    Do you how I can contact Fred? He was friends with my mother and grandmother (Diane Special and Grace Johnsen) in Naples, Fl. Thanks!