Alma Mills and Newfoundland’s First Women’s Wrestling Match (1955)

The first women’s wrestling match in Newfoundland took place in the summer of 1955 at the Memorial Stadium. The advertised photos of Alberta’s Alma Mills peaked curiosity across the island prior to her arrival, but audiences were shocked when they finally got to see her in the ring. The spectators weren’t expecting Mills to play the role of a dastardly heel who would rile up the crowd, bully the referee and break every rule in the book to get a victory. During her second match in St. John’s, Mills illegally “twined her feet in the ring ropes” behind the referees back to get extra leverage and score the third and final fall to win the match. The Daily News reported that the St. John’s crowd were so angry at her tactics that they started screaming “robbery”. One enraged fan “jumped at Alma”, tried to “grab the referee” and was arrested at ringside.

Manipulating the emotions of an audience has always been the goal in professional wrestling, and there is no doubt Alma Mills was a master of the craft. Mills was born Alma Osbak and was working as a truck driver in Alberta when her regionally famous wrestling uncles The Mills Brothers took her under their wings. It was under her uncles’ tutelage that Osbak learned the wrestling ropes and took on the family ring name as Alma Mills. Mills spent most of her time in the 1950s making a name for herself wrestling in Boston for the famous Santos Family. She would make the occasional trip up north to work for promoters, such as her 1955 summer stint in Newfoundland.

Alma Mills (on the left, grimacing in pain) vs Beverly Shade, 1970

Alma Mills’ wrestling career continued into the 1960s and she would eventually open up her own barbershop, becoming known as “the barber by day, wrestler by night”. She relocated from Boston to Hamilton, Ontario and her two-decade career wound down in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, there is little information about Mills’ first opponent in St. John’s. Hilda Burke was the fan favourite that night in 1955, but in the murky wrestling world of fake names and personas it is likely the supposed Californian took on a new moniker soon after. Or perhaps her loss to the mighty Alma Mills sent her back on a long flight to Hollywood, and into a retirement from the ring…

 

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