Editor’s Note: This blog article by Tom Basinski first appeared in the Chula Vista Star-News, December 6, 2015 as “Life in the ring trained him for life patrolling the streets.” Reprinted with permission of Editor Carlos Davalos.
GUEST BLOG—By Tom Basinski—“In 1921 Flint, Michigan, a short, stocky barber plied his trade at the downtown Capitol barbershop. Chief of Police James P. Cole would often stop by for a shave on his way to headquarters.
His favorite barber was Victor Casmir Basinski a 30-year old Polish immigrant who began barbering in 1910, but added a second sideline as a professional wrestler in 1915.
During his 17 years as a Chula Vista cop and 17 more years as an investigator for the San Diego County District Attorney, Basinski wrote more than 125 true crime stories for the pulp magazines. Eventually, when TV killed the pulp segment of publishing industry, he focused his writing talents on non-fiction books. He is the author of “No Good Deed,” (Berkley True Crime) and “The Cross Country Rapist” (Berkley True Crime). Both are available at Amazon.com.
Chief Cole knew of Basinski’s prowess in the ring, and heard of his good character. Cole tried several times to recruit Basinski for the police force, believing Basinski was what Flint needed in a police officer. He was honest, friendly, and could take care of himself, as demonstrated by his many ring victories.
Basinski had a wife and four young ones at home and had trouble deciding if he should give up his three-dollar-a-week job in the barber shop. Finally, Cole convinced him to take the big step and put on the Flint Police uniform.
Formal training was non-existent. “Whitey,” as he was known because of his shock of white-blond hair, walked a beat for a week with a senior officer, and then was on his own. He had all the available police equipment, but his most valuable asset was his common sense. At only five-feet, eight, some of the other officers towered over him. But, when the situation called for it, Whitey put his wrestling knowledge to work.
If some guy gave him trouble or was aggressive, Whitey was fast and strong. While the bad guy was still mouthing off, he found himself wrapped up in a wrist lock or hammer lock before he knew what happened. Whitey didn’t even have to throw a punch. With his customary smile, Whitey would give the bad guy the choice of complying with his commands or having to deal with a broken wrist or separated shoulder.
My cousin, Chrissy (Krygrowski) Cooper sent me a scrapbook of Grandpa’s exploits as written up in the Flint Journal. Chris’s mother, Helen, the family historian, had saved his press clippings. Reading them today, one has to laugh at the political incorrectness of the press. For example, one story began with, “Patrolman Vic Basinski found a dead Negro in the 2600 block of Michigan Avenue.”
Another headline read, “Negress Shot on Street, Man Arrested as Suspect.” The story continued that, “Ollie Branch of 800 Parkland Street, was arrested by Patrolmen Vic Basinski and Walter Wegoner.” That was the way it was in the 20s and 30s in the newspaper biz.
as a Chula Vista
During the historic General Motors sitdown strike of 1937, my grandpa was on the front lines wearing a WWI helmet. The guys inside the factory used car inner tubes as huge slingshots to launch large nuts and bolts at the cops outside. One hit Whitey in the head, denting the helmet. When my grandmother, Florence, told that story she was laughing so hard she could barely finish. Whitey just looked at me and shook his head.
In the ring, Whitey was never a champion, but he was well-respected within the business and, even if he lost, his opponent knew he had been in a scrap.
Reporter Leon Goldman from the Journal wrote a tribute to Whitey ten years after Whitey retired. His research revealed Grandpa had over 1400 matches, retiring from the ring when he was 50 years old.
|Crime writers award honorees authors Joe Wambaugh (left) and Tom Basinski|