These letters are some of the most interesting Howard wrote during this small stretch of time. In one of the letters, circa March 1931, he told Smith that George Godfrey was in town for a heavyweight prize fight. That particular evening Godfrey was apparently at one of the local music halls publicly taunting carnival and vaudeville performer, Frank "Cannonball" Richards. Godfrey was a mountainous figure for the time, standing six-three and weighing around 250 lbs of pure muscle.
|Jack Dempsey & George Godfrey|
Godfrey had a reputation, due to his enormous size, of being not only a braggart, but sometimes a pompous wind-bag. On several occasions this got Godfrey in hot water. A prime example, the Langford/Godrefy fights. Sam Langford was dwarfed (standing only five-eight) and substantially out-sized by Godfrey, and because of this Godfrey taunted Langford before their first bout. Langford, a legend in the sport of boxing, didn't much care for the attitude and preceded to hammer Godfrey in their first of three bouts, knocking him out. Godfrey would later win the World Colored Heavyweight Championship twice and would eventually fight heavy weight champion Primo Carnera.
Frank "Cannonball" Richards had spent years traveling with carnivals and vaudeville shows demonstrating his enormous abdominal strength, letting people punch, kick and swing sledgehammers at his belly. He also had a special twelve-foot cannon rigged to shoot a 104 lbs cannonball into his stomach. This feat would toss him back about 6 feet into a safety net. He then would stand up, unscathed, causing the onlooking crowds to burst into applause and awe.
|Frank "Cannonball" Richards|
There is surviving film footage of Frank Richards performing his feats in various locales which has circulated widely and been used in various television shows and documentaries, it has become somewhat of a pop sensation. The Simpsons even parodied Richards on one of their episodes. Homer Simpson, on a stage in front of thousands of people, humorously performs the exact cannonball stunt Richards did so many decades ago.
It's not known whether Howard went to the music hall, he never writes a follow-up letter to Smith. It is also not known whether Frank Richards showed up at George Godfrey's fight, as Howard had heard that he might. Even so, Howard's letter gives us a nice peek into the pop culture of his time.