It’s no mystery why “Mystery Man” gave up professional wrestling in 1957. He was forced to choose between continuing his villainous ways or serving the local police force. The Chatham, Ontario, constabulary got their man.
Settle in for the story of Allan “Turk” Stewart, who wrestled from 1951 to 1957.
He was born November 6, 1931 in Windsor, Ontario, but his parents, Charles and Alexandra Stewart, relocated to Chatham — about an hour east. They ran Stewart Bakery, on St. Clair Street, where the two Stewart boys, Allan and Jimmy, worked a little, and their friends from McKeough School and Chatham Vocational School would come by for treats. It wasn’t the cream puffs that helped “Turk” grow into a 6-foot-4, 250-pound giant, though, just genetics.
That was very big for the time. An early job was at International Harvester, which made agricultural and construction equipment. Then after his retirement from the police force, he served as the company’s head of security until he retired. But a story that happened in between those times demonstrates his intimidating size. There had been a wildcat strike at International Harvester, and Stewart wasn’t on board. With the picketers everywhere, and Stewart wanting to go into the plant with his brothers-in-law — also big men — Turk was faced with a decision. His relatives peeled off and didn’t cross the line, not wanting confrontation, but Stewart was different.
“He kept walking toward them intent on going through, and as he approached the line, it started parting … I was told that it parted ‘like the Red Sea!'” recalled his daughter, Pamela (Stewart) Lee. “Dad walked through, and not one guy said a word! The line just opened and he kept walking.”
In a 1958 interview, Stewart addressed his size: “I hate violence of any kind and I hope the day never comes when I am called to use the bulk.”
The Holek brothers, Laddie and Stan, were fellow Chathamites and entered pro wrestling as well. Laddie only wrestled a couple of years, but Stan gained fame as Stan Lisowski — alongside the future Crusher Reggie Lisowski — and then as Stan Neilson.
Stan, two years younger than Stewart, became one of his best friends.
That was her father’s entry to pro wrestling, said Lee. “I remember Stan hanging out at our house, and I spoke to him on the phone for a few years around Christmas, just prior to his passing. He was a very nice man, and he thought the world of my father, and I know my father thought the world of him,” she told SlamWrestling.net.
Jamie Greer has been working on the history of the Windsor, Ontario, wrestling scene. “The promoter he worked for in Windsor would have been Blake Robertson’s Market Building Wrestling. Harry Light was his matchmaker. Bert Ruby and Lou Klein were his head trainers,” explained Greer. “So if the Holeks got him into it, it was probably those two that trained him (unless he trained with someone in the Chatham area).”
The Holeks and Stewart all started around 1951. There are cards where the Holeks face Mystery Man (Stewart) and The Terror (the future Brute Bernard).
Stewart used a few names, including the inversed Stu Allen, but also under Allen Stewart. He appears on plenty of cards in the Midwest, including working on DuMont Network wrestling against Hans Hermann in Chicago in 1954.
“Irish Samson” Barney Deighan was another.
“I remember when I was a teenager, around 15 or 16 years old, a car pulled up in our driveway with a man and his family, and the guy got out, and he was a pretty big guy,” began Lee. “And I said, ‘Can I help you?’ And he said, ‘Is your dad home?'”
Lee said that her father was home, and Sampson — described in 1954 as “a broth of a lad from the auld sod, carries 255 pounds of solid muscle on a six-foot frame. His huge chest measures 55 inches in circumference, but he is the envy of every female fan, for his waist tapers off to a stylish 38 inches” — broke out into “a devilish grin” and asked her to tell him that “Irish Samson is here to see him.”
“All I could do was smile and turned around to go in and tell my dad,” said Lee. “Well, dad was beaming, and he went right out to see him. A fun reunion.”
Stewart and his wife, Florence, married in 1955, and had three children: Lynn, Pamela and Craig. Florence had been dating one of Turk’s friends, and they were all in a car, driving up to Kenwick On the Lake in Sarnia, for the matches. “Florence didn’t know that he was a wrestler, and she said she was shocked when this guy, Allan, pulled out a mask and put it on!” recalled Lee. “Mom said that she thought he was gonna rob the place!”
It was a pretty normal childhood, said Lee, aside from the constant headlocks. There wasn’t a time they didn’t know about Dad’s wrestling days, even if they weren’t old enough to have experienced them. Turk liked watching motorsports, NASCAR and Indy Car, heading to live racing nearby in South Buxton Raceway and further away Cayuga, and owned a motorcycle for a time. He loved horse racing in Dresden, and the greyhound races in Florida too. “He was the best father! He was always very supportive of all of us kids,” she said. “We always felt safe, and secure with him.”
Stewart liked to tell the story of facing Seymour Koenig (who also wrestled as Sid Freeman). Koenig was an avowed atheist, but when things went wrong during their bout and Turk broke Seymour’s leg, he screamed, “Oh my God!” “You really had to hear him tell it,” said Lee. “I’m sure he really didn’t mean to break his leg, though. Wrong move, wrong time I would think.”
But we are more concerned with masks here.
Turk’s mother was a wrestling fan and made him a green velvet cape and a mask made out of a girdle.
In those early days, he was the Mysterious Mr. X.
But that later became Mystery Man and Masked Marvel.
We’re going to stick with Mystery Man for the sake of the story.
The odd thing is that Mystery Man worked both with a mask — until he was unmasked in town after town by Klein — and then without it, but still as Mystery Man.
Greer shared a tidbit on Stewart from 1955: “His story is funny because he was unmasked here in January and it wasn’t until his match versus Rocca in October that his name was finally revealed in the local paper. He just went by The Unmasked Mystery Man or Ex-Mystery Man in the ads from February to September,” said Greer. “The reports said he kept refusing to give his real name.
There were plenty of local matches for Stewart in Chatham, so he was hardly a mystery. Except to the police chief, it seems.
Stewart joined the police force in September 1956 and immediately became its tallest officer. His younger brother, James, had already joined the force. With a family at home, Turk knew it was time to settle.
He kept wrestling with the mask, Mystery Man at work, and when news of Klein unmasking him reached town? Well. “Dad was given the ultimatum to either give up pro wrestling or give up police force,” said Lee. “After the unmasking, he was forced to make a decision, pro wrestling or police officer. Having a wife and child, and one on the way, my Dad was forced to keep policing. The money was nowhere near what it is today.”
In a newspaper interview, Stewart summed up the decision, calling pro wrestling “an educational and profitable sport, but not one for a married man.”
For a decade, Stewart worked the beat, and then, in June 1964, he was offered the position of the Governor of the Kent County Jail, one of nine applicants for the job.
Constable Stewart, and then Governor Stewart, shows up in numerous news items through the years, whether it was helping people whose car was stuck on a rail track or prison-related.
In a Windsor Star article on September 3, 1958, he was grilled on the legitimacy of his previous profession.
Stewart pointed out his numerous injuries. “Believe me, I wasn’t faking,” he said, continuing, “I’ll agree there is a lot of color and showmanship in pro wrestling, if there wasn’t the crowds wouldn’t pay a cent to see a show, but as far as faking is concerned the wrestler would not last if he faked, the crowd at ringside would soon catch on.”
Well-known and respected in the community, Lee said that they’d always run into people who knew her father. Even in her own work as a realtor, Lee was talking to a secretary, Shirley, who witnesses this Turk tale with her husband Jack from the safety of their car:
My mom and dad were walking in front of the old A & P grocery store on St. Clair in Chatham, and three guys walked up and were starting some trouble with Dad. They didn’t know who he was. My dad told me that he said to the guy standing in front of him, whose hands were full of rings, and Dad said to him, “I see you brought those,” as he touched the guy’s rings. Well it was on! Dad jumped in the air, while letting out this bloodcurdling war cry. One of the guys was scared straight and he took off running, and my mother, the redheaded spitfire that she was, jumped on the other guy, and was hitting him on the head with her shoe. These guys all looked at each other and took off running.
Stewart’s story doesn’t have a happy ending, though. In April 2000, he went in for what was believed to be a routine hip surgery. The operation went okay, and he was released. Three weeks after the surgery, Turk turned on the coffee machine, started doing his exercises, and dropped dead on May 6, 2000.
A decade after his death, his family paid tribute: “In loving memory of a dear husband, who passed away May 6, 2000. It has been 10 years since you’ve been gone, Although we smile and make no fuss, Just the thought of you makes me cry, We never even got to say goodbye, The years may wipe out many things, But this they’ll wipe out never, The memory of those happy days, When we were together, It only takes a little space, To write how much we miss you, But it will take the rest of our lives To forget the way we lost you. Remembered and loved always by wife Flo, children, Craig, Pam, Jim, Lynn, Gerald, & grandchildren, and great grandson.”
TOP PHOTO: Mystery Man masked and unmasked.