Monday, October 20, 2008

Sir John the Goali

The Charleston Gazette Sunday Magazine of March 20, 1955 set the tone: “Austrian hockey fans are nuts about the wild, colorful West Virginian they’ve dubbed "Sir John the Goali.” It isn’t often that an Orlando boy gets a headline in the “State Newspaper,” but this headline was truly unique because it proclaimed the hockey skills of a lad who grew up in Orlando on the banks of Oil Creek. The headline continued, “Allman’s jolting play and jesting antics make this Lewis County native a big hit.” “Impossible,” you say?

Thanks to Charles McNemar for the article to right. Its text is transcribed at the bottom of this entry.

John Allman
John Allman was born in 1933 with the assistance of Doctor Peck in Orlando, the son of Everette and Nina (Wooddell) Allman. He is the grandson of Gaver H. and Mishie (Mills) Allman and John V. and Daisie (Bennett) Wooddell.
October 27, 2007

See the entry on Gaver Hamilton Allman

Asthma and Theophylline
John’s father Everette, an employee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and Nina (Wooddell) Allman who were married in 1932 enjoyed only four years of wedded bliss before Everett succumbed to his life-long battle with asthma and the toxic effects of theophylline, a drug used to treat the disease.

Extracting chemicals from tea leaves, German scientists developed the drug theophylline as a treatment for chronic pulmonary diseases. Everette Allman was afflicted with asthma as a child and every treatment and change of climate was tried to arrest the progression of the dreadful disease. In the course of treatment, he was put on a regimen of the new drug theophylline. Unfortunately, every dose of the experimental and untested drug given to him to relieve his asthmatic symptoms, was, in effect, a poison and hastened his death at the age of twenty nine.

Left: John Allman with his dad Everett at Seneca Rocks

Life with His Grandparents
Upon the passing of his father, John lived in Orlando with his grandparents, Gaver and Misha (Mills) Allman until he was nine years of age. Gaver Allman was the long-time telegrapher and railroad depot agent at Orlando Junction. The Allmans lived on the hill behind the Dolan Hotel in Orlando. John loved his doting grandfather with whom he fished and hunted. He attended Orlando Grade School through the fourth grade. During his Orlando school years, John counted John Michael Moran and “Buddy” Hurst as his closest friends, and the “apple of his eye” was Jane Conley, daughter of Pat and Emma Conley.

Orlando School 1939 Known Identities of Group Photo
Front row: Franklin Strader, Jane Conley, Patsy Morrison, Mildred Morrison, Anna Skinner, Ivy Strader, Pat Blake.
Second Row: unknown, unknown, a Parker boy, Maynard McCauley, a Mick boy, unknown
Third Row: Clifford Strader, Lee Paul Moran, unknown, unknown, unknown, John Allman, John Michael Moran
Fourth Row: All identities unknown.
Teacher at Rear: Freeda Mick (White) of Burnsville who ended her teaching career at Parkersburg.

A Move to Pittsburgh

In 1942, John’s widowed mother Nina (Wooddell) Allman married Pennsylvanian James Walther, a Pittsburgh resident and our yet-to-be skating wizard left the home of his Orlando grandparents and moved to Pittsburgh to live with his mother and step-father.

John Learns to Skate
As old-time Orlando residents know, ice skating was never a common recreational activity on wintry frozen Oil Creek. Accordingly, John didn’t know the difference between a hockey stick and Charley Knight’s crutch when he lived in Orlando. However, after his move to Pittsburgh, that deficit was soon to change. John and his family lived in an apartment building in Duquesne Gardens where Tom Stevenson, a professional hockey player and goalie and an erstwhile professional baseball player, was a neighbor. At the time, Stevenson had been injured in a hockey game and was rehabilitating his injured knee. To remain ice worthy while at home, he would flood the alley behind the apartment building with water which, in winter, quickly turned to ice and into an impromptu skating rink. Stevenson loaned his curious young friend, John Allman, his extra pair of ice skates and John took to ice like a duck takes to water. Bitten by the ice skating craze, John couldn’t get enough of the winter sport. At an early age, he began skating for hockey teams in amateur Pittsburgh leagues. (As an interesting sidebar, among the other amateur skaters on Pittsburgh rinks at this time was a future professional football player by the name of John Unitas.) The ice skating native of Orlando continued to skate during his high school days at Schenley High School in Pittsburgh where he graduated in 1952.

A Call from Uncle Sam
After graduating from high school, John received a call from Uncle Sam who sent him on an all-expense paid vacation with the United States Army to Austria. The majestic Austrian Alps were very cold in winter and there was plenty of ice everywhere. Winter and ice hockey were synonymous terms in Austria and Austrians were crazy about both. So too was Orlando native and U. S. Army corporal John Allman.

Salzburg, Austria

Sir John, the Goalie
Allman quickly took advantage of the schedules of Austrian hockey teams who played night games. This allowed John to exchange his olive drab fatigues for the colorful uniform and pads of a hockey goalie for the Salzburger Eislau Verein. The Orlando-born hockey wizard soon found success and fame in Salzburg. A skillful and flamboyant goalie, John was admired by the hockey smart Austrian fans which enjoyed his impromptu Indian war dance with his tomahawk-like hockey stick, a display which was purposely designed to fire up the crowd. The fervent Austrian fans soon dubbed the Orlando ice skating wizard as “Sir John the Goali” and made his remaining military service time in Austria very enjoyable.
Return to Civilian Life
After his military service, John returned to Pittsburgh and enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh where he graduated in 1964. However, John never forgot his Orlando roots. Just as he did when he was in elementary and high school in Pittsburgh, John spent his summers in the Oil Creek valley home of his grandparents, Gaver and Mishie Allman. He continued calling Orlando his home during the summer after he enrolled in college and enjoyed fishing on quiet evenings in Oil Creek with his grandfather Gaver, playing baseball at Falls Mill, and hunting during fall and winter vacations with his friend, Popeye (Gerald) Puffenbaker.

John’s grandfather Gaver died in 1961 and his grandmother Mishie in 1970.

Another Generation of Hockey Players
While John was carrying out highly responsible duties throughout the world and the United States as an engineer with Pittsburgh area firms which specialized in modernizing steel plants, “Sir John the Goali” was also raising another generation of hockey players.

The makeshift ice rink behind the Pittsburgh apartment building which brought Orlando’s John Allman into acquaintance with the sport of ice hockey helped to spawn a new set of Allman hockey wizards. Inspired by his love of the game, his sons Brad Hamilton Allman, varsity goaltender and Terry James Allman, varsity defenseman, both played hockey for Baldwin High School, which was the state champion team of Pennsylvania in 1975. His son, John Everette became the varsity goaltender on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania hockey team.

Above left: Brad Hamilton
Right: Terry James Allman
Left: John Everett Allman

John Allman has traveled far and led an interesting life, but he has never forgotten his Orlando roots and life in the quiet Oil Creek valley, of fishing in Oil Creek, hunting on Clover Fork, and baseball at Falls Mill. Recently on a vacation to Tennessee, John and his wife detoured on the way south on Interstate 79 through Orlando country and did the same on their way back north after the vacation. The land of our youth always seems to beckon and to draw another glance from those who left. His grandparents, Gaver and Mishie Allman, who lie buried in the Orlando Cemetery, were extremely proud of their grandson John. They felt a special responsibility to see the son of their son who died young to be a success in life. They succeeded handsomely.

. . . . .

Text of the Newspaper clipping at the top of this entry
The Gazette's Magazine Section, March 20, 1955

Austrian hockey fans are nuts about the wild, colorful West Virginian They've Dubbed Sir John
THIS happens fewer than two times (on an average) in a game when John Allman is defending the goaL The score being made against him here was one of only two in a game with a team that rated an eight-goal edge. Allman's team won. 3-2. Allman's jolting play and jesting antics make this Lewis County native a big hit

SALZBURG, Austria—The hockey team representing Salzburg this season has enjoyed unexpected success, and the primary reason is a 21-year-old American soldier who never had an opportunity to play the game during the twelve years Jie lived in Orlando, W. Va. Cpl. John Allman. grandson of Mr. and Mrs. G. H. Allman and Mr. and Mrs. J. V. Woodell of Orlando, has been so effective and colorful as a goalie for the Salzburger Eislau Verein that Austrian fans and teammates call him "Sir John."

Allman finds the language barrier no problem. "I use sign language or. just shout -anything
that 'comes into my mind.. But they seem to understand. The only word I've learned is schuse,
which means shoot." After the games, fans always crowd Allman to congratulate him "They pat me on the back and yell. All I can do is say. 'bitte shayn,' which means thank you." In one of these after-the-game sessions, a group of youngsters started calling Allman "Sir John." The name stuck; even the clerk at the hotel where the players congregate uses the [title].

John is especially popular with Austrian fans because of his peculiar (to. them) brand of goaltending and colorful antics. In describing one. play, the largest of Salzburg's newspapers wrote, "All nine players and the whole audience were looking for the puck until 'Goali' Allman
calmly opened his gloved fist to Two U. S. Army soldiers on duty in Austria are responsible for-this article on fellow GI John Allman. Sgt. Edwin J. Salzman, a reporter on the Boston Globe before entering the Army, wrote the story, which is accompanied by the photographs of Baird E. Daniels, formerly a photographer on the Decatur Herald and Reyiew.

Allman intentionally stirs up the crowd. "Whenever we score, I do a wild Indian war dance around the cage—using my stick for a tomahawk. "If I catch the puck, I hide it for a while. The fans groan in disillusionment, thinking the opposition has scored a goal. I then show them the puck. They holler, 'Bravo der Ami'." John has shocked several opposing wingmen by sending them flying 'with hip checks when they enter the area in front of the net.

"They are not used to aggressive goaltending," Allman claims. "The Europeans seem never to have seen a netminder shouting instructions to his defensemen. Some of them are even surprised when I jump on a loose puck in front of the net."

Allman wouldn't be playing for the local team if an Austrian who works for the Army in Salzburg
didn't look like Bill Downey, "a guy I used to play against in Pittsburgh," where Altaian's parents
now live. "I told this Slim Steindl that he resembled Downey. It turned out that Steindl used to play for the Salzburg team. He said they needed a 'goali'. "They wanted me to try out. Much to my surprise I found that a Canadian, Duke MacDonald was coaching the team. He was impressed with the way I used the glove and kept me."

In the club's opening game of the season against a Yugoslavian sextet, Allman — with only three
days of practice — replaced veteran Karl Prenner in the Salzburg nets at the start of the third period," "We were losing by a goal," Allman recalls. "The coach demanded that I go into the cage. As I skated onto the ice, the crowd was cheering."
"The Yugoslavs were pressing for insurance goals, I turned them back. They fell back, and
we took over and won." Allman's style of goaltending amazed the Austrian fans. They rarely see a "goali" catch the puck or leave the cage to cut down the shooting angle. After the game, the spectators crowded around Allman. "They were amazed that I don't wear chest protection. They kept feeling my chest to make sure," John explained. Allmn feels that he deserves a bruise if he is unable to stop the puck with his gloves, leg pads or stick. "If I were playing hockey in the States, you'd better believe I'd wear protection —and plenty of it," he added.

Allman's supreme test was the third game of the season against Villach, Austria, supposedly the
toughest team in the country. The Villachers were presumed eight goals better than Salzburg.
John set them back with only two goals and a 3-2 defeat. Almost 2,000 fans in the
packed outdoor arena saw Allman block 40 shots, many on power plays and breakaways.
Fans are charged eight schillings admission (about 32 cents), but a great many enter under the
fences and don't pay at all. Allman plans to play the entire season if military duties do not interfere. He is especially eager to face the top teams of Germany. Prenner, the old goalie whom John replaced, has a new position as chief rooter. "He even lets us practice with his puck," John jokes. Prenner, a Salzburg favorite for yearsv has the official title of assistant coach, but his lone duty consists of sending replacements onto the ice at MacDonald's signal.

Allman, who is 5* 10%" and weighs 185, started playing hockey at 14 in Pittsburgh. - Tommy Stevenson, who later played with Atlantic City in the Eastern League and is how trainer for the Pittsburgh Hornets, taught John how to play.

Sir John's plans after separation? "I'm going to go to —anyplace they can use a goalie with international experience."

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