Much like Mame Dennis, Frank Joret lived. Unfortunately, that living led him to the dog track before he died, broke, at age 48.
Frank was part of the Joret family of Morgan City. The Jorets were very fond of the name August, so much so that the founding parents of the Joret line in Louisiana – Auguste Charles Joret and Philonise Julienne Boudreaux – counted an Auguste, an August and and an Augustine among their children. It must have been confusing growing up in their house.
Frank was their great grandchild through their son August (not to be confused with Auguste). He was the only child of Clovis Joret and Eliza Barlotte. Naturally, Frank’s full name was Francois Augustin Joret.
In 1903, Frank left Morgan City and moved to New Orleans, where he studied business. He dabbled in running a cigar shop, but that didn’t seem to last long.
Frank’s greatest talent seemed to be making friends. He became a ticket seller at a boxing arena and started playing cards with the manager. Soon, Frank was running the arena.
I have to confess that I’ve never loved boxing. So violent! Frank’s life story plunged me into the boxing world of the 1910s and 1920s – a world inhabited by men who traveled the country accepting money from promoters like Frank to step into the ring and fight. The boxers – now long forgotten – were lightening-quick legends whose stars faded fast. Newspapermen flocked to the fights like schoolchildren gathering around a playground squabble.
Frank was the ringmaster who made the circus happen, and local newspapers seemed to talk to him as often as they talked to the mayor. They quoted him at length on the fights, the weather and the flu. Because his fights were held in an open air arena, he often had to call off scheduled boxing matches due to rain. The flu also was a concern in 1918, forcing Frank to cancel a match that threatened to draw too big a crowd.
It was a thrilling but completely transactional business. If a fight happened, the money rained down. If it rained, Frank’s pockets were empty.
Frank also had to contend with problematic fighters like New York boxer Frank Carbone. Poor Carbone. His name is misspelled on the publicity photo below and he was terrified of 3/4 of a pound.
In 1924, Carbone came to New Orleans for a fight arranged by Frank. Carbone balked, however, at stepping into the ring. This didn’t set well with Frank since he’d paid Carbone’s travel expenses and sold tickets to a 15-round bout.
Frank sent the police to Carbone’s hotel to arrest him for breach of contract. Carbone argued that his opponent was over the weight limit by 3/4 of a pound, which negated the fight.
Another famous boxer who stepped into Frank’s ring was Bob Sage (above) of Detroit, who boxed to pay his way through law school. Sage made it to the eighth round before breaking two fingers and ending the fight. Bob eventually did get that law degree and became a judge. Unfortunately, he lost his temper during a dispute over a business deal decades later shot two men dead in his chambers and drowned himself in a river. If only he’d challenged them to a boxing match instead.
For Frank, the early days as a boxing promoter were probably the highlight of his life.
Eventually, boxing became less profitable, forcing Frank to turn to working at the dog track. A few years later, tuberculosis started troubling him. Still, Frank remained as popular as ever.
Friends from the boxing world rallied around him when the news emerged that he was dying in the tuberculosis ward at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Plans were made for a benefit to raise money. Instead, they ended up accompanying his body on a train to Morgan City, where Frank’s boyhood friends greeted him.
Frank was buried next to his mother and father after his friends decided that’s where he should be laid to rest. He never married. He was too busy living.