By Ryan K. Boman, Editor in Chief
Many people who grew up as fans of professional wrestling have vivid memories of sitting in front of the television watching the show with their father. For several of us, it was our first introduction to the sport, a rite of passage and a chance to bond with the most heroic figure in our lives.
But, Roy McClarty was no ordinary Dad. He was a professional wrestler.
McClarty, who will be posthumously honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club on May 1st in Las Vegas, was a Canadian shooter who gained a reputation not only in the Great White North, but in Japan and the WWWF as well. For his daughter, Kelly, her father’s golden years were spent in retirement, happily watching his wrestling brethren on Saturday Night’s Main Event.
“Dad was a legit, tough guy, but he was always kind of a softie at home,” Kelly McClarty recalled in an interview with TheGorillaPosition.com this week. Still living in the Vancouver area, she has preserved her father’s legacy since his death in 1998, and will be speaking on his behalf at the ceremonies in Vegas. “He was very old school, and had his ways of doing things, but he was never a hard person to be around, or anything like that. If anything, he was funny. He wasn’t shy at all; everyone in town knew my dad.”
McClarty (sometimes misspelled ‘McClarity’ by promoters) was a rugged 235 pounds during the Golden Era of professional wrestling. In the days when the Dumont Network was one of the few television outlets available, pro wrestling was more than just a sport- it was a mainstream part of American culture. Those flickering, black-and-white images helped make Lou Thesz, Pat O’Conner and Buddy Rogers into household names in the burgeoning era of the medium.
Roy McClarty wrestled all those same names and many more, over a career that spanned four decades. Born in Saskatchewan in 1918, he established himself as a reliable performer, an honest businessman, and always willing to help out his fellow grapplers.
McClarty’s first marriage was to fellow wrestler Shirley Strimple. They would travel and train together, even appearing on the American game show, “To Tell The Truth”
ROY MCCLARTY AND SHIRLEY STRIMPLE – TO TELL THE TRUTH – JAN 13, 1959
After Roy McClarty’s marriage to Strimple ended, he would re-marry, and retire from regular competition in the early 70’s. He quickly settled into the role of full-time family man.
While McClarty may have been known for his ability to work submission holds in the ring, the bind between he and his daughter began after he stepped away from the sport. Part of his sense of humor came when it was time to gather around the television.
“We would have our snacks, and I would sit there on the floor, with him in his chair,” she said. “Every now and then, he would have the odd cigar here and there, and he would talk about the guys he thought were good, and the ones that he didn’t think could wrestle. He was never rude about anyone, but he was always straightforward.”
“One thing about Dad… he never hid how he was feeling. He was always honest.”
“He was never much of a drinker at all. Maybe just a handful of times here and there,” Kelly McClarty laughed. “But when he did, he always wanted this Japanese kind of beer called Sapporo. I guess it was something that he tried when he was over there, because drinking was just out of character for him, normally. He would just find things that he liked, and when he did them, that’s just how it was.”
“I was the youngest, so my brothers would sometimes travel with him or go to the shows, but by the time I came along, he was basically done,” she said. “So, I had the chance to really be around him, when he wasn’t on the road anymore.”
And that, she says, is when the REAL character in her father came out.
“Like I said, he knew everyone in town. Everyone at the store, or at my school. They would just look up and say, Oh, There’s Roy.”
“The football coach here in town really liked him, and my Dad would just be there working out with the guys or telling them stories,” she remembered. “The players loved him. And he would be out there, on the football field sometimes, doing push ups.”
“He was around his seventies then. I could look out the window, and see him doing push ups like the young boys out there. There were times I would be at school, and someone would say, hey, isn’t that your Dad out there?“
Her father, who would have been 100 years old this year, will be honored with an award that has been given to names such as Bruiser Brody and Scrap Iron Gadaski at past CAC banquets. For Kelly McClarty, and her Dad, his legacy has come all the way back around, like the ropes on a ring.
“I think it’s great the CAC does what they do to remember the older wrestlers,” Kelly McClarty said. “So many people forget about the history, and the people who came before. A lot of people have reached out, since the announcement, to ask me about him.”
As she gives her speech and thanks the crowd at the Cauliflower Alley Club in May, she will have a chance to share one more, magical moment with her legendary father.
“This is his moment, so for me to be there, around so many of his friends and people who respect him, is going to be pretty special. I know that he would be happy to know that so many people still remember him.”
ROY MCCLARTY VS. VERNE GAGNE – CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 6, 1954