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Promoter: Gust Karras
Corporation Name: Gust Karras Sports Promotions (124 South Eighth Street) – Midland
Empire Sports Headquarters, Heart of America Booking Office, St. Joseph
Secretary: Marjarie “Margie” Eckelbery
Gust Karras was an old school promoter in Northwestern Missouri, running the St.
Joseph “territory” and possessed an astonishing amount of power throughout the
Central States. Karras meant so many things to so many different people, and in
researching wrestling history, you get numerous different viewpoints of the man. He was
cunning, a talented promoter, and cutthroat at times. Being a former wrestler, he knew
both sides of the fence, and understood how to take care of the talent. At the same
time, he was unforgiving in the way he dealt with fellow promoters. His workers were
very loyal, and the alliances he built remained for decades.
Karras, whose real name was Gust Karavites, was born on April 5, 1902 in Kalamata,
Greece. Upon settling in the U.S., he wrestled in the Missouri area, and married Goldie
Fanning on February 16, 1924. When the 1930 U.S. Federal Census was recorded,
Karras and his wife were living with her parents in Chillicothe, Livingston County,
Missouri. Karras was a tough grappler, and had many brutally violent matches during
Karras mentioned many wrestlers including Sonny Myers and Harley Race
At different times, he promoted the Globetrotters, Golden Gloves Boxing, an annual
horse show, amusement rides, and baseball tournaments.
In June 1942, longtime St. Joseph wrestler Steve Brody was training at the Marine Corps
Recruit Camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. His real name was Steven H. Opalenik.
In November 1961, the “Central States Booking Office” had three directors: Karras,
Orville Brown, and George Simpson
In September 1962, Karras claimed in a letter to Jack Pfefer that Chicago promoter Fred
Kohler had taken his “television away from me,” and that if his situation works out, “I will
hit them so hard, Kohler will never forget.”
Karras and his secretary Margie Eckelbery had a longtime friendship with roving
promoter Jack Pfefer. If you read through the correspondence at the Pfefer Collection
at the University of Notre Dame, you see a lot of mentions from Margie to Pfefer,
thanking him for the gifts he’d sent. There are comments about perfume, a purse,
bracelets, and a necklace. Margie, in July 1963, told Pfefer that it was a “privilege to
On June 17, 1971, the Chillicothe (Missouri) Constitution Tribune reported that Joseph
Franklin Howe passed away on June 15 in Idaho Falls, Idaho at the age of 60. The
newspaper stated that Howe was “employed as a wrestler for 20 years by Gust Karras of
St. Joseph.” Howe grew up in Livingston County, Missouri and attended Woodland
School, which was northwest of Chillicothe.
Research by Tim Hornbaker