(On this page, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" is played by the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler.)
(1911 - 1991)
Left to Right: Tucson High School, University of Arizona, US Marine Corps, Civil Engineer.
Bob Nolan's family:
My father was a most unique and incredible man. He was a hero in every sense of the word. He was also a quiet, modest man and the best father and grandfather a person could want. We miss him every minute.
As Bob Allison said in a January 1, 1957 article in the Phoenix Gazette, "Around Tucson they tell takes of Earl Nolan like the Minnesotans do about Paul Bunyan; the difference being that most of the Nolan stories are true."
Michael Earl Nolan was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on January 1, 1911 of predominantly Irish and English descent. Shortly after birth, he moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was raised by his paternal grandparents on a farm in the snowy New Brunswick country five miles from the nearest school. Nolan later went to live with aunts in Boston. After service in World War I, his father, a tailor, moved to Tucson, Arizona. Nolan and his older brother, Clarence Robert "Bob" Nolan, joined their father and moved to Tucson in time to attend Safford Elementary School. His brother, Bob, a songwriter and lyricist, went on to co-found the "Sons of the Pioneers" and write such western classics as "Cool Water," "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," and "Way Out There." Michael Earl Nolan made his home in Tucson where he left us all a rich legacy.
Earl Nolan attended Safford and Roskruge Junior High School, graduating from Roskruge in 1927. In 1928, he entered Tucson High School, graduating in July of 1932. Nolan was nicknamed "Tarzan" at THS, where he lettered in both football and track. He was a member of the Tucson High "T" Club for four years. (Jean Nolan Krygelski)
Earl's birth certificate has not been found so the date and place of his birth is as yet unconfirmed. He lived in New Brunswick on his grandparents' farm from 1916 to the summer of 1919.
Jean Nolan's husband, John Krygelski is a published author.
"King Kong" Nolan, 6' 2" 220-pound right and left tackle for the NFL Cardinals, heavyweight Golden Gloves Champion, and "Big Mike", the decorated Marine Captain on Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Iwo Jima, were all one man - Bob Nolan's younger brother. The spelling of his name in school records is both "Earle" or "Earl", used interchangeably. All articles about him praise his magnificent physique and his impressive athletic record.
Michael Earle Nobles was born in either Winnipeg, Manitoba, or Vancouver, BC, three years after his older brother, Clarence. Both boys eventually became famous in their chosen fields, one as Earl "King Kong" Nolan and the other as Bob Nolan of The Sons of the Pioneers. One a championship athlete, the other a world renowned composer, both men achieved the heights through talent, dedication and sheer hard work.
After his parents separated, Earle Nobles and brother Clarence lived with their grandparents in New Brunswick for three years. Earle told Gerry Taylor for a Saint John, New Brunswick, newspaper article of March 9, 1984, that he remembered his childhood in NB as "good years" but that, because they were needed to plant, till and harvest, he and Bob would only average about three months of school in a year. In spite of the hardships, Earle recalled his life with his grandparents on the Belleisle near Hatfield Point with great fondness.
Earl's surname was changed from Nobles to Nolan when he crossed the Canadian border and he became an American in 1919 at the age of 8. His father, Harry, had resettled in Tucson, Arizona, after the First World War because he had a chest condition and the high desert had a reputation for curing such ailments.
Harry B. Nolan was a tailor by trade and, with his weakened chest, had to abandon his search for adventure and take up needle and thread once more to make a living. He remarried and had two more children, this time another son, Michael, and a daughter, Mary. (Yes, another Michael.) He told his four children of his wartime experiences which included crewing on a ship searching for the Northwest Passage, boxing under the name of "Kid" Nolan, and chasing Pancho Villa back into Mexico after his murderous raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916. His second son was to live out adventures that put Harry's in shadow.
Most of the information for the following biographical sketch is taken from "Michael Earl Nolan - A Biography" by his daughter, Jean Nolan Krygelski. Most of the photos are from Mrs. Krygelski. Thanks, also, to Jon Alquist (University of Arizona Alumni Association) and the late Roy Drachman for their assistance in the reconstruction of Earl Nolan's life.
Earl began his sports career inauspiciously. When his family moved to Tucson from Canada, he was barely into his teens and though even then over six feet tall, weighed scarcely 120 pounds. At the start of his freshman year at Tucson High School, he was cut from the freshman football squad. By the next year, he had gained 50 pounds, most of it muscles built lifting weights in an era when weightlifters were, ironically, thought of as sissies. Earl was no sissy. In high school as in college, he played football without pads and usually without a helmet. He was an incredible physical specimen for his day. His high school teammates called him "Tarzan". Off the field, friends knew him as quiet and modest but between the goal posts he was a holy terror. Earl wasn't merely strong, tough and durable, he was exceptionally agile. As a member of his Tucson High School track team, he often scored more individual points than the entire opposing team. (Jon Alquist, University of Arizona Alumni Association)
He may have been a quiet, gentle giant off the playing field but on the field or in the ring, Earl was fiercely competitive. Even his high school athletic record is astounding. He attended Safford and Roskruge Junior High School, graduating from Roskruge in 1927. In that year, his daughter said, he searched for and found his mother, Flora. He kept in touch with her until her death in 1938. She was his greatest fan.
Earl Nolan and his mother, Flora Nobles Hayes
In 1928, the year his brother Bob married, he entered Tucson High School, graduating in 1932. At Tucson High School where he lettered in both football and track, he was nicknamed "Tarzan" and he was a member of the Tucson High "T" Club for four years. He also joined the Arizona National Guard that year.
Earl distinguished himself in Tucson High School football and was elected to the Third Team of the All-Arizona High School Football Team in 1930. In 1931, he was elected to the First Team of the All-Arizona High School Football Team as a guard. He had received an equal number of votes for both the tackle and the guard positions. An article from the Arizona Daily Star said, "Nolan is big, aggressive and a fast charger, and has more blocked punts to his credit than any other player in the state." (Krygelski)
Coincidentally, he distinguished himself in track. He competed in the shot put, discus and javelin for THS and set many records and often scored more points himself than another competing team.
At the Southern Arizona High School Track and Field Meet, Class A, in St. David in 1929, he took a third in the discus and a third in the javelin. At the Second Annual Mesa Relays on April 12, 1930, he earned a second in the team javelin competition. At the Southern Arizona Conference Track and Field Meet, Class A, on April 26, 1930, he took a first in discus, second in shot put and second in the javelin. (Krygelski)
The list goes on and on.
At the First Annual Southwestern Track and Field Meet in Phoenix on May 10, 1930, Nolan earned a first in the javelin, second in the shot put and third in the discus. In his sophomore year he set a new record at the Greenaway Track and Field Day with a first place in the javelin of 65 feet 10 3/4 inches.
After a State Conference Meet in Benson is which he broke the state javelin record and also distinguished himself as high point man, Nathaniel McKelvey of the Arizona Daily Star wrote the following: "With Earl Nolan, star weight man, heaving the javelin 184 feet 2 inches bettering the accepted state mark of 174 feet 10 inches, Tucson High School tracksters grabbed a total of 65 points to cop the Southern Arizona cinder track championship for Class A institutions at Benson today. Nolan also distinguished himself by being high point man of the meet gathering 15 tallies from a first in the javelin, shot and discus."
McKelvey also wrote on May 2, 1931, after a state Class A University Week track event, "Nolan Breaks Own Mark in Shot Put with a first place toss of 47 and 2/10 feet, setting a new state record in the shot put."
On May 10, 1931, he wrote: "Earl Nolan, giant Tucson, Arizona, high school weight man, established new Southwestern prep school records in the shot and discus. The Badger star tossed the brass ball 46 feet, 6 1/2 inches to better the old record of 46 feet 1/2 inch made at Phoenix last year. He also hurled the discus 120 feet 3 inches to exceed the old record of 111 feet 6 inches." He also took second place in the javelin.
During a 1931 U of Arizona Interscholastic Meet, Nolan took first in the shot put with 51 feet and a first in the discus with 128 feet. In the 1931 Greenway Track and Field Day in Tucson, he took a first in the shot put with a toss of 45 feet 2 1/2 inches, a second in the discus with 116 feet 2 inches and a second in the javelin with 166 feet 4 inches.
In his senior year at Tucson High School, Earl took sixth place in the Western Finals of the Olympic trials for the javelin. His track coach, J D "Doc" Van Horne, referred to Nolan as "the strongest man I ever had in track and field". He wrote in Nolan's yearbook: "I congratulate you on scoring more points in Track in one season than any other THS athlete. I also congratulate you on your records." On April 27, 1996, Earl Nolan was elected to the Tucson High School Athletic Hall of Fame. (Krygelski)
The following are pages from the 1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian -
Earl Nolan, top right hand corner.
1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian, page 48
Earl Nolan, second from the top on the right hand side.
1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian, page 59
1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian, page 67
1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian, page 68
1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian, page 69
Earl Nolan, 3rd from the bottom
1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian, page 70
Earl Nolan, back row, 8th from the right.
1931 Tucson High School yearbook, The Tucsonian, page 4107
University of Arizona Football - "King Kong" Nolan
Earl "King Kong" Nolan made varsity football his first year at the University of Arizona and lettered in football in 1933, 1934, and 1936. All three teams had winning seasons and the 1936 team became Border Conference champions. (Krygelski)
Santa Fe New Mexican p 5, December 19, 1936
Well-known developer, Roy Drachman, says this of Earl:
"During Earl's years at Tucson High and as a Wildcat, I became one of his best friends. When he was a freshman at UA, he and his classmates were not allowed to compete on the varsity team. The freshmen had an outstanding team. They scrimmaged vs. the varsity once or twice a week and often outscored them. After Earl's junior year during which he made All-Border Conference, we Towncats got him a job with the State Highway Department in the Phoenix Engineer's office.
"When school started in the Fall, Earl didn't want to quit his job and return to school and the football team. He said that the previous year, while living in the football dorm and eating with the team, he was always hungry. He said he'd return to the UA "...if Roy Drachman would guarantee that I'd have enough to eat, especially after practice." The Grand Cafe was right next to the Fox Theater which I managed at the time. I, with the rest of the Towncats, worked out an arrangement with the Grand Cafe whereby I'd bring Earl Nolan over to the restaurant every evening. He would order two T-bone steaks and anything else he liked and I'd see that they were paid for, much to Earl's delight." (Roy Drachman)
He was named All Border Conference First Team Tackle in 1934 and 1936. Nolan received a gold medal in 1936 for attendance, improvement and ability during spring drill. He also placed third in a place kicking contest and was a successful conversion kicker. Coach Tex Oliver was quoted as saying about Earl, "He was mean, tough, aggressive and smart. He was by far the best downfield blocker I have ever seen". An example of Earl's toughness occurred in the 1936 game with Texas Tech in which Nolan's nose was broken. A newspaper report by Hank Squire stated that Nolan "stood against Texas Tech for three quarters with his nose smashed all over his face and challenged 'em to come on."
In 1936, Earl Nolan was named All American Honorable Mention, the first time in history that a University of Arizona player received such an honor. T quote an article from the December 4 1936 Tucson Citizen, "Elated over Nolan's selection, a number of Towncats, a businessmen's organization interested in Arizona athletics, expressed the opinion that it is another step forward for the Wildcats and that future years should bring further recognition to Arizona players. Earl Nolan was rewarded today for three seasons of brilliant performances with the Arizona Wildcats."
Lubbock Morning Avalanche, Friday, December 4, 1936 p 10
Las Vegas Daily Optic p 4, September 22, 1937
In 1949, he was named tackle on the All-Time Arizona Honor Grid Team, selected by a cross-section of Tucson sports fans. Earl Nolan was referred to in an article in the Arizona Daily Star by Abe Chanin as "an almost mythical athlete....Nolan, a 210-pounder who stood off offensive blockers with great shows of power, starred on the 1936 team." Chanin referred to Nolan as "the tackle with the 50-inch chest."
In October of 1969, in honor of the 70th year of football at the University of Arizona, Abe Chanin and the Arizona Daily Star named Earl Nolan tackle on the Modern All-Stars U of A Football Team (1936-68). Chanin called Nolan "a star of the 1930s who was feared for his great strength."
In June of 1969, Earl Nolan was chosen Honorable Mention on the All-Time Rocky Mountain Southwest Football Team, chosen by area sports editors to commemorate college football's 100th year.
On November 9, 1985, in honor of the University of Arizona's 100th homecoming, Greg Hansen, sports writer for the Arizona Daily Star, presented the All-Time University of Arizona 11 best football players, selected by the Star's Centennial Panel of UA Football. Earl Nolan was selected as tackle. To quote the article:
"Earl was fabulous," said Clarence 'Stub' Ashcraft, a UA letterman in 1938 and '41. "Man, was he tough! Tough as anybody I ever saw. One of the best linemen ever."
"It was unusual to think about going out and playing a gentlemanly game of football," Nolan recalls. "There had to be a fight in there somewhere. I never remember saying, 'How do you do?' before a game."
"No one had more courage than Earl," said G A 'Tex' Oliver, coach of the UA from 1933-37. "He was his own man, did things his own way, but when it came to football, he was a terrific charge."
Nolan would later be featured both in Abe Chanin's book, "They Fought Like Wildcats", and on his television series, "Eyewitness to History". Chanin quotes sports editor Vic Thornton as saying that Nolan was a legend in his own time, who in one game charged across the line, grabbed the blocker and threw him right into the punter. Chanin himself referred to Earl as "the tackle with the 50-inch chest who was feared for his great strength".
On September 13, 1996, Earl Nolan was elected to the University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. (Krygelski)
Earl Nolan was also the first University of Arizona football player to play professional football. In 1937, Nolan was offered positions with the Cleveland Rams in March, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cardinals in April. He accepted the offer from the Cardinals, playing with the team during the 1937 and 1938 seasons. He played right tackle on offense and left tackle on defense. After his first season, Nolan was named All Pro Honorable Mention. He made an astounding, for that day, $135 per day. The Pirates made him another offer in October of 1938 and June of 1939. (Krygelski)
San Antonio Light p. 7, September 12, 1939
"I don't think they thought that a player for a profession team could come from Arizona," Nolan said. For 10 continuous hours one hot August day in Chicago, says Nolan, he scrimmaged. The coach (Milan Creighton) used all his main players against me and then he put on a football uniform himself and went against me," said Earl. "I made the team." But the sour feelings of that day never ebbed, he said. "The Cardinals coach and I didn't get along at all." More hard knocks lay ahead.
In an interview for the Tucson Daily Citizen we read:
Husky, towering Earl Nolan, Arizona's contribution to professional football, lost no time returning to Tucson after his team, the Chicago Cardinals, completed its 11-game league schedule last Sunday against the powerful Chicago Bears. Nolan, who was in the line-up 57 minutes in the final tilt, hopped a train the next day for the Old Pueblo.
He's still the modest, unassuming Earl Arizona grid fans took to their hearts during the three years he was a pillar of strength in the Wildcat forward wall. Tucson still is, and always will be, his home.
"It's great to be back," was his first comment. "I never knew how much I would miss the climate and the people here." He seemed more willing to talk about his return than he was to discuss football. "I think I played better than I did in college, " he responded to a question, "because I had to stay on the team. There isn't much difference between college and pro ball except the players up there (the National league) are selected from a great many teams. Most of them were stars in college, and the competition is tougher, of course."
Nolan said he was the lightest man in the line with the exception of Gaynell Tinsley, All-America end from Louisiana State. "I weighed an even 200 during the entire season and so did Tinsley. The other end was about 205. The tackles weighed from 232 to 256. The guards also were big."
Nolan recalled the first day he reported for practice. "Tex Oliver had arrived a day or two before and as I knew he would be there to watch us, I made up my mind to really impress him. I guess I looked pretty good because they kept me scrimmaging for about an hour. Finally they sent in a new team but left me on the field. It was then that I saw Oliver arrive. By that time I was so tired I could hardly stand and I don't think I showed up so well while he was there. I was awfully disappointed."
Although Nolan did not like the Chicago climate, he said he "got along fine with the players and the other friends I made. I even played a lot of golf with a gentleman I met at the athletic club where I stayed," he added. "Yes, the people were swell to me and I enjoyed myself a lot. But there isn't any place like Tucson."
He witnessed only one college game - Northwestern and Michigan. "I had heard a lot about the high class football played back there but neither of those teams looked good to me. They don't hit hard at all. It was so dull I left after the first quarter. I can tell you this much - Arizona has a lot better team."
Arizona fans undoubtedly will be glad to learn Earl's first season in the professional ranks was marked with success because there never was a more popular player at the university. He deserves all the good fortune that may come his way. Incidentally, his job with the Cardinals will be waiting for him next fall.
On November 30 1937 the Chicago Daily News described him as "the young tackle from Arizona who has proved one of the best first-year men on the roster of the Cardinals."
Even though the Cardinals sent contracts to him through May of 1940, Earl did not sign up again, preferring to pursue other interests. He boxed, worked two summers on a farm in Sonoma for Jack London's widow, worked in Max Baer's training camp and worked on the docks in San Francisco. He ended his football career with a volunteer appearance in the Goulash Bowl on January 1, 1957 at the age of 46 as a favor to his brother-in-law and coach, George Ahee. (Krygelski)
University of Arizona Track and Field - "Whataman" Nolan
Earl Nolan lettered in track at the University of Arizona in 1934. He competed in the discus, shot put, javelin and high jump. Nolan also participated in Border Conference, Greenway, Long Beach, and the San Diego / U of A meets, again setting records and attaining high point honors.
On April 28, 1934, after the AAI Greenway Track and Field Day, a newspaper article stated: "Earl "Whataman" Nolan covered himself with glory at Greenway. Firsts in the discus and javelin plus a second in the shot and third in the high jump were Whataman's contributions." A second article read, "Earl Nolan, gigantic Wildcat weight man, was proclaimed the outstanding athlete of the meet and high-point man, winning two firsts, a second, and a third." Nolan threw the javelin 188 feet 8 inches, the discus 134 feet and recorded a high jump of 6 feet 2 9/16 inches.
On March 3 1934 at the Long Beach Relays, he placed third in the shot put and fourth in the javelin. In 1934 he set a meet record in the javelin at the dual meet with San Diego State that was not broken until 1967.
An excerpt entitled The Legendary Earl (King Kong) Nolan from a question and answer column by Abe Chanin called "The Spectator - From the Mailbag" from the May 11 1967 Arizona Daily Star sums up this achievement. A letter from Ernest Lacy, Arizona '36, asked, "Is it true that M E Nolan's javelin record lasted 32 years, or was this a misprint? What makes this even more unbelievable is that Nolan's coach, Tex Oliver, was able to talk him into participating in track only one year. I knew Nolan as well as anyone did. He was a very quiet man. It was years later when we were both with the Marine Raiders during WW2 that I became a real Nolan fan."
Chanin replied, "Michael Earl Nolan was one of the legendary figures in all of Arizona athletics. He was unmovable as a tackle in football, and he did letter in track, too (1934). Because he was such a phenomenal athlete, he did in one season of competition throw the javelin 191 feet 7 inches. The distance set in a meet with San Diego State stood as a dual meet record until this year when Jim Garner threw 206-8 in a dual meet with the Aztecs. Nolan also was a decorated hero during World War II for his bravery in action in the Pacific."
After the 3rd Annual Border Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Track and Field Meet held in Tucson on May 12, 1934, a newspaper article written by Pat O'Brian stated, "Earl Nolan of Arizona copped high scoring honors in the meet with first places in the javelin and discus and a second to Clarence 'Swede' Carlson in the shot put. Earl Nolan was the all around star of the meet." He threw the javelin 200 feet 9 inches and the discus 136 feet 1 1/2 inches. He also placed third in the high jump. (Krygelski)
Albuquerque Journal, p. 6, June 22, 1934
At the April 25 1936 Eleventh Annual Greenway Track and Field Day in Phoenix, Nolan again placed first in the javelin with a throw of 200 feet, second in the shot put and fourth in the discus. At the April 24 1937 12th Annual Greenway Track and Field Day, he captured the individual scoring trophy with 11 points, winning the javelin and the shot put and placing in the discus.
On July 14, 1957, at the age of 46, Nolan competed in the Peru / Chile track meet while he was working as an engineer for an open pit copper mine in Peru. He was awarded first place in the shot put and second place in the discus by the Liga Provincial de Atletismo of Peru. (Krygelski)
University of Arizona Boxing - "Twice-A-Man" Nolan
Another sport Earl loved was boxing and he took several heavyweight titles. Time not taken up by track or football was often spend down at the local boxing rings. "I used to box at the old Labor Temple," he recalled. "Louie Gherna - he was the impresario of boxing in Tucson - got me excused from class at Tucson High to work out with his heavyweight who was registered as the state champ. He beat the devil out of me."
In 1935-36, he fought as a heavyweight in University of Arizona intramural boxing. When the U of A Co-Op Book Store team captured the 4th Annual U of A Intramural Boxing Tournament, Nolan won the heavyweight title when no one would take him on. A newspaper article stated, "Nolan, well known local heavyweight, is the undisputed champion of his division."
Nolan led the U of A boxing squad to Border Conference titles. He was called a "brilliant and sensational amateur heavyweight" by the local newspaper. Called "Twice-A-Man" Nolan by reporter Ade Abbott, Earl Nolan of the U of A knocked out Norman Johnson of the Phoenix Indians in 1:55 of the first round heavyweight bout in the Southwest Amateur YMCA tournament. He won the Southwestern Heavyweight Amateur Championship three times in 1934, 1935 and 1936, and the AAU title in 1937. He won the Arizona Golden Gloves tournament heavyweight finals by defeating Jim McIntyre.
In a June 11 1937 newspaper column, Larry Grill quotes Freddy Cohen as saying, "Earl is a pretty fair fighter as he holds the conference heavyweight title and in the recent Golden Cloves Championships held here, he scored one of the most sensational knockouts ever seen in Tucson to win that title."
Of Earl Nolan's 15 amateur fights, none went over one round! (Krygelski)
Calin Coburn Collections photo
Montana Butte Standard p 23, March 27, 1938
San Antonio Light p 12 April 4, 1939
In 1938, Earl Nolan turned professional in his boxing career, dubbed "Michael Earl Nolan - Arizona's Heavyweight Sensation" under the personal direction of Frank Paccassi of Phoenix, Arizona. He carried with him his number "47" from University of Arizona Football. (Krygelski)
Krygelski clipping, undated.
The above newspaper article by George Moore in the column "Moore About Sports" stated:
There's hope flaring in the minds of two fellows, one who's heard the shouts of fans poured down onto a brightly lit roped arena and the other who's listened to exclamations, ohs, ahs and cheers float across gridiron greenswards that from the cactus state will come a 199-pounder who'll start no less than a Mexican revolution among the promoters and heavyweights in the pugilistic business. The one is Frank Paccassi; the other Michael Earl Nolan - to followers of Wildcat football just plain Earl Nolan, former All-Border Conference tackle who received All-American mention in 1936.
Paccassi, who once directed the fortunes of three world heavyweight champions, returned from Tucson late yesterday afternoon, his face wreathed in smiles. Shortly after his arrival, he airmailed to the New York State Athletic Commission for registration of a managerial contract which he had signed along with Nolan earlier in the day. Paccassi said he obtained Nolan's signature to a contract after having the former Wildcat football star condition himself for the past three months following his return early in December from playing pro football with the Chicago Cardinals.
Nolan won't be a stranger in the leathertossing business for three times he has held the Southwestern Amateur Athletic Union heavyweight championship...and he also did his share for the Wildcats boxing squad, grabbing off Border Conference titles to become probably one of the best ring prospects ever developed in the circuit.
Born in Mexico, D. F., January 1, 1915, Paccassi reads from a piece of paper on which he says he jotted down his hope's life history. Nolan has lived in Tucson 15 years, attending Old Pueblo grade and high schools before going to the university. The son of parents born in Ireland, Nolan, according to Paccassi, has the face and spirit of a fighter and he looks like Jack Dempsey, the old Manassa Mauler who Paccassi piloted after Jack Kearns and the former world heavy ruler parted.
Paccassi has managed Dempsey, Primo Carnera and Max Baer, and in comparing Nolan with the latter at the same stage of their experience, Nolan has 'em both topped, he claims. Standing six feet 1 3/4 inches, Paccassi's hope has another year of collegiate scholastic work but he intends to forget about it in favor of throwing leather. Other measurements which Paccassi brought home with him were: reach, 77 1/2 inches, waist 34, neck 18 and chest, 46 normal and two more inches expanded.
Nolan has had some 15 amateur fights, all of which Paccassi says failed to go more than a round. The Southwestern AAU titles were grabbed off in 1934, '35 and '35. While playing football for the Wildcats, he became one of the best tackles ever turned out by the school, for which he competed in '33, '34, staying out in '35 and returning the following season.
Since starting condition work in December, Paccassi says Nolan has developed his hands for toughness, all the while doing several miles on the road daily. A pair of shoulders that have helped both on the gridiron and in the amateur ring have given him a punch, while he has plenty of speed afoot as evidenced by his ability to do the 100 in a fraction under 11 seconds.
So, in a month or so, if you see a fellow crawl through the ropes of a local ring wearing a green bathrobe bearing the number 47, it'll be Michael Earl Nolan wearing the numerals assigned him as a football player and starting up the fistic ladder. Here's luck to him. And if he comes up to the expectations that a lot of people have for him, don't say you weren't warned. (Krygelski)
Earl boxed in Tonopah, Nevada, in 1937 and fought for the Southern Nevada Heavyweight Title against Bobby Burns. In Phoenix he knocked out Battling Blackjack in the first round. Nolan boxed professionally during the pro football off season. He was also a sparring partner for Max Baer.
An article from the Arizona Republic by Les Hegele on April 30, 1939, talked about Nolan, "He came back here and really displayed a booming right. When he hit 'em, they stayed down. And when a boxer can bop them like that, he should go places in the fight game."
Nolan later boxed in the United States Marine Corps and chalked up 20 victories in 20 fights. In the 1970s, Nolan judged professional boxing matches at the Tucson Community Center. (Krygelski)
Nevada State Journal p. 14, June 23, 1940
In the 1935-36 season, Earl Nolan was U of A intramural heavyweight champion, wrestling for the U of A Co-Op Team and defeating C. Watkins of Sigma Alpha Epsilon for the title. (Krygelski)
Nolan pitched for Alpha Tau Omega in U of A intramural baseball. To quote a newspaper article entitled Earl Nolan Hurls Team to Victory, "Earl Nolan, the young University of Arizona athletic giant who can toss the javelin around the 200 foot mark, turned his talents to other channels yesterday afternoon as he chucked the horsehide down the alley for Alpha Tau Omega in an intramural baseball game. Needless to say, the ATO nine shellacked the Phi Gamma Delta delegation, 8 to 2. (Krygelski)
According to Johnny Gibson, Tucson weight lifter and trainer, Earl Nolan was a "powerhouse weight lifter and did repetitious overhead presses with 200 lbs. as a warm-up. I witnessed this in the later 40s at the Congress Street YMCA." Earl was remembered for having poured his own concrete weights in the 1930s.
Gibson related an incident in the 190s when Nolan was head judge at one of the weight lifting meets at the YMCA and "a lifter lost control of a heavy overhead lift and ran forward toward Earl and the crowd. Earl leaped from his chair, grabbed the weight and replaced it to the platform. The gym floor was saved and possibly the front row crowd." (Krygelski)
Tucson Daily Citizen p 12, January 22, 1949
United States Marine Corps - "Big Mike"
Arizona Independent Republic p 54, January 25, 1941
Tucson Daily Citizen November 2, 1942, p. 11
Tucson Daily Citizen, 1942 12 21 p. 14
In his January 13 1948 "Tucson Portfolio", Gee Tee Maxwell stated of Nolan that many fabulous tales are told of his bravery in the last war. Nolan fought from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, often in hand to hand combat. It was in the US Marine Corp that he was called by his first name, Mike; often "Big Mike" or "Iron Mike". He was promoted from Private to Captain and retired a Major after the war.
Michael Earl Nolan enlisted in the USMC on January 16, 1941, and became a Private First Class on May 14 1941. He was headed for the South Pacific assigned to the 2nd Defense Battalion in January of 1942, less than three weeks after the attack at Pearl Harbor. At boot camp his drill sergeant took one look at him and entered him in the camp boxing tournament. Earl fought five bouts that day and won the heavyweight title. He went on to win 20 straight bouts. "But boot camp was another story. I flunked the bayonet course," he recalled. "They had one of those dummies with a hinge at the hand that was supposed to give way but instead of me poking the dummy, the dummy poked me. By the final drill, I was so mad that I ran over it. They disqualified me."
He was soon transferred to the First Marine Division for the Solomon Islands invasion. As a Corporal, he served as a rifle squad leader. In September of 1942, he was commissioned on the battlefield at Guadalcanal for valor in action. As a Lieutenant, he served as a rifle platoon leader with the hand picked and specially trained fighting force, the Marine Raiders. An article in the Arizona Daily Star by Vic Thornton read, "Lt. Earl (King Kong) Nolan, a giant of a man whose football feats at the University are legendary, is with the Leathernecks on some South Pacific island battlefront. Nolan won his commission under fire."
Nolan was promoted to Captain on January 31, 1944. As a member of the Marine Raiders Third Battalion, he had fought on Bougainville, Russell Island, Emiru and Massua Island. He was a rifle company commander and took part in six actions before being returned to the States in May of 1944, on his first leave after 28 months overseas. Upon returning overseas in July of 1944, he attached to the Fifth Marine Division and commanded the 5th Marine Amphibian Truck Company (battalion size) in the assault on the island of Iwo Jima. (Krygelski)
Tucson Daily Citizen p. 2, April 22, 1944
Hank Squire quoted Charlie Fowler as saying "that wherever he went in the Pacific he heard stories of the bravery of Earl Nolan, known to the Marines as "Big Mike". Nolan really is a legendary figure." An article from the Arizona Daily Star on August 13, 1945 by Tech Sgt. Allen Sommers, Marine Corps Combat Correspondent wrote:
Date: SOMEWHERE IN THE PACIFIC, Aug. 12, 1945
Marine Captain Michael E. (Big Mike) Nolan, 34, former professional football player, boxer, mining engineer, iron foundry foreman, traveler and veteran of Iwo Jima and other Pacific campaigns, modestly denies any major role in this war. "The mean do the job," the 240-pound ex-Raider from Tucson, Arizona, declares. "All I'm doing is satisfying my urge for adventure."
Big Mike became almost a legend to Marine fighting men in the Pacific after his action with the First Marine Division on Guadalcanal and with the former Third Raider Battalion on Bougainville. After listening to enlisted men serving under Big Mike, it's not hard to understand why the deep-voiced captain gets the almost-impossible out of the men he commands."
On Iwo Jima
One marine recalled the landing on Iwo. Nolan was leading an amphibian tank company of the Fifth Marine Division and it was his job was to get field artillery on the island. "He stood up on the beach directing the "Ducks" (amphibian trucks)," the marine said. "Every time the Japs sent us a welcome card in the form of mortar shells, the Captain's voice boomed orders to dive into foxholes. He saw to it that we found shelter. We dived for the first one we saw, sure. But Big Mike didn't care. When the barrage was over, there h was standing upright as if nothing had happened."
Devotion to Big Mike by his men is typified by the following incident which he tells on himself: "The second night on Iwo was hell and I decided to take all my Ducks off the beach. We collected wounded, plowed through rough surf to the nearest ship and then began circling for the night. I was on a vehicle with two of my men. We planned night-long watches, alternating hourly. I left orders to be awakened for the second watch. When I awoke it was daylight. My man had allowed me to sleep the night through. That isn't easy to forget."
A native of Canada, the captain is a former student of the University of Arizona where he studied mining engineering. He also played varsity football and after that joined the professional Chicago Cardinals....
To quote Hank Squire from a December 10 1945 "Press Box" column in the Tucson Daily Citizen:
Tucson Daily Citizen Monday, Dec. 10 1945
This is a bit of a story about a Marine who won the Silver Star and who wouldn't wear the ribbon. It is a story of a guy who was commissioned on the battle field at Guadalcanal and who won't tell you what he did to earn his bars. It is a few lines about a friend who figured in seven invasions in the pacific - including Iwo Jima - and who wasn't afraid.
This is a story about Earl Nolan who played a lot of tackle for the University of Arizona a few years ago - big Earl Nolan who stood against Texas Tech for three quarters with his nose smashed all over his face and challenged 'em to come on. The big fellow made football history at the university and made more as a private and then as a captain in the Marine Corps.
He came out of the Marines the other day the modest fellow you knew when he went away to do his stuff for Uncle Sam. He's the same Earl Nolan you used to know; the same six-foot 210-pounder who just about held down half the line for the Wildcats back in the middle 1930s. Only now he weighs about 240 and has a tough time getting through an average door.
Nolan enlisted in the Marines going on five years ago. He went overseas as a private, won a field commission on Guadalcanal. Eventually, he became a captain and a company commander. Don't ask what he did. He won't tell you. On Bougainville, he was awarded the Silver Star. Again he refuses to say for what act of heroism this high honor came his way. He never wore the ribbon; nor did he wear the Asiatic-Pacific ribbon with seven battle stars, nor the Presidential citation, nor anything else denoting service across the seas.
"Medals are a lot of bunk," he said, by way of explanation. "I'll tell you why. I've seen fellows who did enough, in my opinion, to win the Medal of Honor and who wound up with the Bronze Star. I've seen men who should have won the Bronze Star and who received nothing at all. You see, in war so many men do so much that it is difficult to single out a few individuals for high honors. I got the Silver Star but I won't wear it because I don't believe in such things. After all, a bunch of other men who did as much or more never received it. I couldn't conscientiously show it off."
Nolan went through the hell that was Iwo Jima. He saw an awful lot of men die; he saw thousands wounded. Miraculously, he escaped. He doesn't know how. Maybe he figures, he was just lucky. So he came home without the ribbons denoting his bravery. He couldn't forget that other fellows perhaps deserved the same honors but, for some reason or other, didn't receive them. He couldn't forget, either, the poor guys who aren't coming home any more.
Earl Nolan went into the Marines with the idea he owed America a debt; a bill for the privilege of living in this country. He set out to square the account. He did his job. He did all, and more, than he was asked to do. If war comes again, though he would go back into the Marines. "You can't beat them," he insists. "They're a great outfit. I don't like war, but if need be, I'd volunteer again."
As for fear in combat - well, Nolan says it isn't so. "I've seen a lot of men who actually weren't afraid. I've seen little mild, meek sort of fellows go into some awful tough spots and who had no fear at all. No kidding, these guys were ready for any kind of mission."
Nolan went up from the ranks but he never for a moment forgot the men in the ranks. He realized that the success of all operations depended upon the spirit of the enlisted men. 'They were,' he said, 'my best friends.'"
Who is Earl Nolan? Well, as Westbrook Pegler says, "He is George Spelvin, Americano."
His daughter, Jean Krygelski, continues, "Since he never spoke of his heroism or decorations, the tales of his bravery in action have come through the press and from phone calls, visits, and letters from the men who served with him. Nolan did not believe in risking the lives of his men and is remembered for bravely taking dangerous patrols himself behind enemy lines and mining his front line for hundreds of feet in front to protect his men as they slept in foxholes. Bob Allison in the Phoenix Gazette of January 1 1957 reported, "Then came the war and next thing you know there was a press dispatch out of Guadalcanal about a Marine lieutenant named Michael Earl Nolan who spent his spare time volunteering for patrols or single-handed forays into the jungles."
Tucson Daily Citizen p 10 January 4, 1946
From other sources it was learned that he was awarded two Bronze Stars, the Silver Star for heroism at Bougainville, a Presidential Unit Citation, the Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with bronze battle stars, and a recommendation for the Navy Cross.
After his death, he also was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, the Navy Occupation Service Medal, the American Defense Service Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
Over the years, Earl received many letters from men who had served with him, reminding him of incidents that occurred during the war. One 1988 letter from Marine Ted Wetecha was written to thank Nolan for saving his life, for having the guts and the foresight to throw his body on Wetecha's burning body and extinguish the flames.
Earl was wounded in action several times, including a gunshot wound in the right leg, shrapnel in the left shoulder, hearing problems due to a nearby exploding mortar which also injured his back and left hand. He became deathly ill with malaria and was sent to a hospital in New Zealand in 1943 to recover. Each time he was injured, Nolan returned to combat.
His friend, Roy Drachman recalled, "I saw a poster of him in full Marine regalia as a recruiting promotion during the war. He had an outstanding physique and his picture was used on posters all over the world."
During the occupation of Japan, he commanded amphibian tanks across the Pacific to Kyushu during a fierce tsunami tidal wave, a feat the natives of the area said had not been equaled since the arrival of Genghis Khan during a similar tsunami.
Nolan remained overseas through November of 1945 and was honorably discharged from active duty with the USMC on January 22 1946 with the rank of Captain. He served in the USMC Ready Reserves and attained the rank of Major on June 28, 1952. He became the Executive Officer of the Third Supply company in the Tucson Reserves. Earl joined the Retired Reserves on July 1 1963. On January1971, he retired from the United States Marine Corps but he remained involved as a member of the elite United States Marine Raider Association. (Krygelski)
Michael Earl Nolan had held many varied jobs before and after World War II. From May of 1929 through January 1941, he worked his way from laborer to construction foreman with contractor Carl Larmour, working both on home and commercial construction. Nolan worked as a carpenter, bricklayer, plasterer, cement finisher and plumber before becoming a foreman in 1938. He worked as a Special Patrolman in the Tucson Police Dept. in 1940. From January of 1946 through September of 1951, he worked full and part time with Austad Steel Construction Company as a welder, equipment operator, superintendent and structural designer. On April 9, 1946, he obtained his contractor's license in cast stone, ornamental plaster, cement and concrete.
On August 15 1947, he became a firefighter and driver with the Tucson Fire Dept. where he worked until May 4 1951. Again according to Bob Allison, Nolan's bravery was also very apparent in the Fire Dept., stating in his January 1 1957 column "Along the Way" that Nolan made a "dramatic rescue of a trapped person, seriously endangering his own life and suffering severe burns in the process." (Krygelski)
Krygelski clipping, undated
The above article by Bernie Roth describes Earl on the job:
The next time you see fire trucks rolling through the streets, take a glance at the fellow behind the wheel of the Menlo Park wagon. He's some 60 pounds over the weight he carried when he starred on the football field for the University of Arizona, but you'll remember him for that square jaw and determined look.
Fireman "The Earl" Nolan packs 280 pounds now, but he still looks every bit the athlete that made him one of Tucson's all-time greats. Back in the early 1930s, Earl was a great tackle for Tucson High School and then the University of Arizona. His ferocious line play made him a feared opponent throughout the Border Conference. He was on the All-State high School team for three consecutive years and then three more as All-Border Conference.
"King Kong", as they called him at the University of Arizona, also dabbled in track and boxing. At one time he was being groomed for the Olympics in weight events. He was capable of tossing the javelin 200 feet, the shot put 50 feet and the discus a respectable distance. When he got out of college, there was talk of making a professional heavyweight boxer out of the big guy. But Nolan would rather forget about his pro boxing experiences - Football was and still is his first love.
Sitting around the Menlo Park station with a lot of time waiting for something to happen, Nolan likes to look back on his career. To look at him you would think he still could perform as he did 15 years ago. Well, you're right - he can. "I'm in good shape," said Nolan. "I toss the shot now and then and do a little boxing for conditioning. I only weigh 280 pounds now and that's only 60 pounds over my college days."
"King Kong" (he picked up the name from a local sports writer following a movie of the same name which appeared here) has one story he likes to tell that sums up his type of charging play. "We were playing a hot College of the Pacific team in 1934 in Phoenix. They had the ball on our five-yard line and Oliver put me and Ken Adamson into the game as tackle replacements. COP thought they had an easy touch in the new replacements and they went right to work on us. It was first down and goal to go when we went into the game. Five downs later - I say five downs because both Ken and I were called for unnecessary roughness - the COP team lost the ball on our 20-yard line. We had pushed them back 15 yards in the series."
Nolan was often tagged as a mean, rough player. However, he can easily explain why was so. "In those days I believe the Border Conference was a lot tougher. Two years ago Texas Tech was knocking off everything in the Southwestern Conference but the teams we played against in those days would take on any of today's Border Conference teams. We played football without too much fancy stuff. We charged hard and tackled hard. Today the boys seem to depend upon the team captain calling the next move, it always comes from the coach. Whenever we played teams such as Tech, Loyola and Centenary you could always look for a rough and tough battle. Those were the kind of teams and games we enjoyed playing in those days and if you were going to get anywhere, you had to be rough." And Nolan got places. Nolan's coach tagged him as one of the greatest in Arizona football.
Nolan had a professional football stint with the Chicago Cards. "I finally got to play for the club after I convince them that we played the same kind of football in Arizona." Nolan was the first footballer from the university to enter the pro ranks. "I had another great moment in pro football, " related The Earl/ "I blocked a punt and fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown. The first in my career."
About his professional boxing years - well, Nolan shrugs that off. "We won't talk about that," laughed Nolan. "By the time I got into boxing my shoulders were so broken up from football that I couldn't raise my arms above my head." Nolan, however, did hold the Southwestern heavyweight titles as an amateur.
Married and the father of a daughter, Nolan has not and never did have any coaching ambitions. "I just want tot start a little business of my own some day. Until that time this fire-fighting business is good enough. I can keep in shape and still get plenty of action when we go out on fire calls." (Roth)
He returned to the University of Arizona in 1951. "The only trouble I had was with the Traditions committee," growled Nolan who was still considered a freshman. "They wanted me to wear a beanie!" He resisted. Earl earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering on May 5 1955 while working summers as a superintendent at Austad Steel. Allison referred to Nolan's decision to return to the University as "making a decision that was brave in a more quiet way." After receiving his degree at age 44, Nolan worked as a pit engineer and drilling and blasting foreman at the open pit mining operation in Silverbell, Arizona, for Isbell Construction Company from May 1955 through May 1957.
From April 1 1957 through March 31 1958, Nolan was the engineer in charge of excavation for Utah Construction Company in Incapuquio, Peru, on the Toquepala project open pit copper mine, supervising over 300 men. (Krygelski)
Nolan became the Forest Engineer for the Coronado National Forest in February of 1959, a position from which he retired on January 1 1975.
According to Bob Thomas, "The burly chief engineer for the Coronado National Forest has tackled a lot of big jobs in his Forest Career."
He was in charge of all heavy construction and maintenance for the Coronado which included roads, trails, bridges, dams, watershed improvements, sewage projects, erosion control, wells, picnic and camping areas including all water and septic systems and electric installations in recreation areas, construction of administrative sites varying in size from a few buildings to small communities with all the necessary utilities, ranger stations, permittee constructions including summer homes, the ski lift, Smithsonian installations, University of Arizona installations, television and radio towers, and cooperative construction with Arizona counties and the state.
Nolan was also responsible for all boundary survey and signs within the 1,800,000 acres of the Coronado Forest. He was in charge of engineering personnel, heavy equipment operators, maintenance men, and a large fleet of vehicles. He also dealt with emergency work such as forest fires, landslides and flooding. Nolan even penned an extensive history of the explorer Coronado in the area. Citizen safety and environmental protection were always his foremost concerns. (Krygelski)
Tucson Daily Citizen December 29, 1945
Tucson Daily Citizen June 11, 1946
Tucson Daily Citizen June 15, 1946, p. 5
Nolan married Nellie Ahee on June 12, 1946. He built the first family home himself in the foothills of "A" Mountain. Mrs. Nolan was a grade school teacher for 37 years. They had one daughter, Jean Nolan Krygelski, and three grandchildren - Michael, Sara and Karin Nolan Schuchardt.
Michael Earl Nolan was a devoted husband, father and grandfather who knew the importance of family life. He was sentimental, caring and a steadfast source of strength and comfort.
Nolan was a gentle-hearted man who could never pass by a person in need without offering to lend a hand. He was a constant and loyal friend, generous, kind and patient. An intellectual, he was an avid reader who studied history, geology, anthropology, geography, animal life, the ecology, science and religions.
He was also a sensitive man who loved poetry, literature and music and who sang in an operatic-quality rich baritone voice. He was thoughtful, philosophical and insightful, and he had an amazing sense of humor.
He enjoyed playing chess, cooking and observing human nature. Earl had a deep and abiding reverence for life and the dignity of human beings. He had limitless strength of character and he was the embodiment of the concept of honor.
Over the years, organizations Nolan belonged to included the American Society of Civil Engineers, United States Marine Raider Association, Arizona Alumni Association, Smithsonian Associates, Wildcat club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, National Geographic Society and Knights of Columbus.
After his retirement, he wrote several unpublished historical novels. (Krygelski)
He was the constant companion and care giver to his beloved wife, Nellie, until her death on March 15, 1985. "As Earl reached his 80s," remembers his friend, Roy Drachman, "he began to have health problems. By then, he was retired, a widower and living alone. I went to see him a couple of times and had some good visits with him. His mind wasn't as sharp as it had been, whether as a result of his stint as a heavyweight boxer or just because of his age, I'm not sure." Michael Earl Nolan passed away on April 6 1991. (Krygelski)
Awards and honors followed him throughout his life. He was named to the All-Time Arizona Honor Grid Team in 1949, Modern All-Stars UA Football Team in 1969, All-Time Rocky Mountain Southwest Football Team in 1969, and All-Time UA 11 Best Football Players selected by the Arizona Daily Star in 1985. Earl was inducted into the UA Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, five years after his death at age 80.
1961 11 18 Tucson Daily Citizen p 6
courtesy of Jean Krygelski
(by Jean Nolan Krygelski)
John Krygelski (Earl Nolan's son-in-law)
father-in-law's influence on The Harvest was two-fold.
His first being his very essence or being. As I implied in the dedication, if
God were to become embodied on Earth, I believe that his personality and
character would very closely resemble Mike's. I attempted to capture within
Elohim the ability within one man to be the terrifying heavyweight boxer, Marine
Raider, professional football player, while also very much being the gentle man
who cradled an injured bird in his massive hand or turned around and left the
doctor's office with his little girl, Jeannie, because she asked him if she
could please not get the injection she was scheduled to receive.
SYNOPSIS Doctor Reese Johnson, a professor of psychology and anthropology, who specializes in theology and religion, is brought in to interview a stranger who claims to be God. Expecting a crackpot, Reese is immediately surprised by the profound and insightful answers that the stranger provides him. He also witnesses something that might be a miracle. It is at this time Johnson discovers that the stranger prefers to called Elohim. Being a religious scholar, Reese already knows that this name, in Hebrew, is the word for God. But he also discovers that in some ancient cultures, it was used to described the cadre of angels from whom Lucifer descended. In some, it was used as the term for a group of aliens from another planet who came to colonize the Earth. Reese is now faced with the choice that the stranger is either God, the devil, or an alien from another planet. Other experts are brought in to talk to Elohim and, as a result, word leaks out to the press, who announce prematurely that God is on Earth. People and governments react strongly to the news, and it is during this turmoil that Elohim reveals what he has come to do. It is a plan that will affect all of humanity, and the timetable is only five days. Reese is now in a race against the clock as he attempts to determine whether Elohims plan will be a wonderful event for mankind, or something truly horrifying. Events and characters lead to a surprising and monumental climax that will answer all of your questions and leave you breathless.
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