Did Muhammad Ali Ever Fight In White Plains?

Q: ‘The Greatest’ in Westchester?

I have a friend who claims Muhammad Ali once fought in White Plains. Is this true?

—Raul Sainz, Peekskill

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A: On January 17, 1972, Ali fought an eight-round exhibition bout with pro Alonzo Johnson (whom Ali had officially fought and beaten in 1961) at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. Reports are that Ali did the exhibition as a thank-you to promoter Pete Bennett, who’d helped Ali get $5,000 speaking gigs during Ali’s exile from professional boxing because of his refusal to serve in the US Army.

Reportedly, the Westchester County Center was only half-full that night as an out-of-shape Ali clowned and danced with his sparring partner for the eight rounds. The fans loved it, and Ali made himself accessible to all who wanted a photo or an autograph.

 

Mutant Manor

Q: Settle the debate: Is Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters located in North Salem or Salem Center, and has it changed over the years,
or is it different for different media, e.g., in the movies or (totally awesome) TV cartoon vs. the comic books?

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—Mike Ferlazzo, Mount Vernon

A: Okay, well, first of all, thanks for coming up from your mom’s basement to ask this burning X-Men question.

But let’s be crystal clear: The X-Men don’t actually exist. That didn’t, however, deter your humble correspondent from putting the question to Jon Jordan, the publisher of Crimespree Magazine and a Marvel Comics expert. According to Jordan: “Sometimes the location is listed as merely ‘Westchester, New York,’ like in the 2011 X-Men movie, and other times it’s listed as ‘Salem Center.’”

Since Salem Center is a real-life hamlet within the town of North Salem, and North Salem is in Westchester, technically, all three references would be correct.

Here’s where it gets weird. For a while, you could actually find the school on Google Maps. It was listed at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Westchester County, North Salem, NY 10560—the same address that is frequently used in the comic books. Turns out a prankster used the Google Map Maker tool to hack into the system.

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Google issued the following about the hack:

“While we encourage people to add places to Google Maps using our Map Maker tool, they need to be part of our world, and not Cyclops’ and Storm’s.”

 

Between 1913 and 1955, Toonerville Folks was syndicated in nearly 300 newspapers.

Tooting in Toonerville

Q: Can you tell me about the Toonerville Trolley and what possible connection it has to Westchester? I was told it originated in Westchester, but the only reference I can find about it is on a website for a trolley ride through the wilderness in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. What gives?

—Steve Prudent, Pelham

A: Sounds like you’ve been traveling down the wrong track, son. Let’s blow the whistle and stop the madness.

Fact is, you aren’t completely wrong. There is something called the Toonerville Trolley in that weird Canadian-ish part of Michigan that takes folks on a train ride to see whatever kind of wildlife can survive in the UP. After the folks see enough wolverines, bears, and I-don’t-know-what-else, they get to go on a riverboat and look at fish. (They sure know how to party in the UP.)

If you’re thinking this has nothing to do with Westchester County, you’re right. However, from 1913 to 1955, there was a popular comic strip that appeared in up to 300 newspapers across North America called Toonerville Folks. The strip took a humorous look at life on and around the Toonerville Trolley and at its gossipy conductor. It was created by Fontaine Fox (1884–1964).

In several interviews, Fox said he was inspired to write his comic from traveling the H-line trolley in Pelham in August of 1909. At the end of the 1800s, up to the middle part of the last century, trolley tracks crisscrossed Pelham, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and New Rochelle, and you could catch a ride for eight cents. When the H-line was replaced by a bus in 1937, 8,000 folks turned out for a ceremony that included the last ride of what came to be known as the Toonerville Trolley. 


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