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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

E. Forry Laucks

      E. Forry Laucks was an eccentric Neo-Nazi multimillionaire who according to Frank Brady wore a swastika on his lapel and had Nazi flags in his home. As a Fischer historian, Brady thinks Laucks, who accompanied and financed many of Fischer’s trips to play in tournaments, may also have influenced Fischer’s anti-Semitic and other beliefs. Of Laucks, Brady said, “He had a good heart but he was a neo-Nazi,” adding that when Fischer was younger Brady never heard him make an anti-Semitic comment and he was very respectful of religion.
      Eccentric? Norman T. Whitaker told how Laucks would never take care of his car. He would never change the oil and when the engine crapped out Laucks would just go to a local used car dealer and buy another car. Laucks was apparently a relative, perhaps the son, of S. Forry Laucks, who was said to be the richest man in York, Pennsylvania and was the owner of the Lauxmont Farms. Old S. Forry died in 1942 and was said to have been even more crazy than E. Forry.
      Laucks was best known for his patronage of the Log Cabin Chess Club of West Orange, New Jersey. Arthur Bisguier wrote that the club was attended by people from every walk of life, including Blacks and Jews, despite the club having Nazi flags all over the place.
      Born in 1898 Laucks was described by National Master Ted Dunst (Dunst Opening) as “darkish, intense, ready at a moment’s notice to laugh at himself and at any of life’s ludicrous situations. Neatly balancing his social and business interests is his gift for art, as evidenced by the paintings which hang upon the walls of his home and which have been exhibited at the Montclair Art Museum, the Trenton Academy of Art, and the Art Center of the Oranges.”
      Laucks grew up in York, Pennsylvania and attended Dummer Academy, Mercersburg Academy and Philips Exeter and began playing chess at nine years old and at eleven visited the Manhattan and Marshall Chess Clubs in New York. During his boyhood, however, the game did not mean much to him and it was not until many years later that chess became his passion. 
      In 1933 Laucks joined the West Orange YMCA Chess Club but being a night person, he disliked the early closing time. Thus, he established the Log Cabin Chess Club. The venue was the spacious basement of his residence at 30 Collamore Terrace in West Orange, New Jersey. Here, in his own words, is what he sought to accomplish: “[The clubhouse was to be] a log cabin that would be neither too palatial, as some wealthy clubmen’s are, nor so poor and roughshod that it would lack comfort or a certain degree of refinement…I realized that everything, even to the wall decorations, furniture and utensils, had to be in keeping with the surroundings, or else just one piece out of place could spoil the effect of the whole…Therefore I made and designed all the furniture just as if I were in the backwoods where there can be no machined, finished pieces.”
      Thanks to Laucks generosity the Log Cabin Chess Club offered substantial cash prizes in their major tournaments which were attended by the likes of Fischer, Lombardy, the Byrne Brothers, Benko, Evans, Bisguier and just about any other big name of the period you can think of. Sometimes Laucks would decide to take a trip and he would call a bunch of masters and say, "Let's go to Europe" and off they’d go.
      As a chess player Laucks was strong enough to have defeated E.S. Jackson, Jr., in a New Jersey championship tournament but described himself as only being about Class B (1500-1600) strength so “people won’t think this fellow Laucks is such hot stuff as a player.” Several people who played him think that Class B was about right.
      Laucks died on July 31, 1965 during the US Open Chess Championship in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. He died after completing the first six rounds while he was leading a group of players on a tour of San Juan. He collapsed and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

11 comments:

  1. E. Forry Laucks was indeed the son of S. Forry. S. Forry was the son of Israel Laucks, the founder of York Safe and Lock Co. (among other venures). S. Forry became GM and finally President of that company. S. Forry married Blanche S. Elliot and their son (apparently thier only child) was named Elliot after his mother. S. forry had a brother, George, who was the General Sales Agent for that company and strangely enough, many safes have Geo. Laucks embossed on them. Elliot Forry married Josephine Frances Lehmannin 1933. I know of two children: June Evelyn Laucks Maynard and Forry Charles Laucks.

    Now for the bizarre that could use some research. The York Safe and Lock Co. played an important role in defense and munitions development in both WWI and WWII. S.Forry was a distinguished American and considered a patriot. That his son should be, at the very least, fascinated by the Nazi movement, and more likely a supported of that regime seems very odd. Even Bill Hook wrote: "Also, the fact that among many photos hanging in Laucks' home were several that prominently displayed the Nazi flag makes one wonder even more."

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  2. My father is Franklin Sandford Howard. He played at the Log Cabin Chess Club and was NJ State Chess champion for 3 years. I grew up hearing stories about Laucks. Laucks was very excentric-- he didn't like the color yellow so the butter in his home had to be dyed red. Once he took my dad and some other chess player on a trip to Mexico. They weren't given any time to pack so they only had the clothes on their backs. Also, my dad didn't have any money and he was dependent on Laucks paying for all of his expenses and getting him home. Apparently, Laucks did not want to stop the car to eat and so they lived on bananas they bought from roadside vendors for several days. Luacks also gave my dad and another player guns in case they ran into bandits. He did this because they both were trained to handle guns in WWII, although they fought on opposite sides--the other player had fought for the Germans! Laucks did get everyone safely home, but it was really scary!

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  3. I'm always getting spam emails with the name of Forry Laucks, and got a connection request from the same name on LinkedIn. Suspicious to me.

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  4. Yes, seeing as Forry died half a century ago I doubt he is sending you e-mails!

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    1. I already knew that. My comment reads getting spam with the NAME of Forry Laucks. It did not say that I was actually getting emails from the actual individual.

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  5. MessiahMews...I am not much of an expert on computers but apparently it is possible to track down who is sending spam emails. Try Googling 'trace spam emails.' A bunch of instructions on how to do it comes up. BTW, you have some interesting blogs.

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    1. Thank you, I will try that. I also know that emails are spoofed and spammers hide behind proxies. There is someone using the Forry Laucks name on LinkedIn that sent a connect request too, but I denied it. Glad you enjoyed my blog. Feel free to subscribe, if you like.

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  6. I just came home from watching the movie about Bobby Fisher, Pawn sacrifice, and it brought me back to memories of learning to play chess 3 doors down from my home at "Alex" Laucks' Log Cabin chess club. It is amazing to read that Mr. Laucks was a millionaire as you would never know it by how he lived in a modest home overlooking NYC from the hills of West Orange on Collamore Terrace. He was certainly eccentric and his home and club were very mysterious in the eyes of a young boy. I learned to play chess there from about age 9 to 12 or so and was taught by Mr. Laux and his male companion. I was privileged to be invited to watch one of the tournaments when Bobby Fisher was playing there in about 1962 when I was about 11 years old. I remember clearly watching his game in silence next to my instructor as he missed the opportunity to moves his rook into position for checkmate. I then whispered to my instructor that he did in fact miss it and he sternly looked at me and told me "shsssssh" as he escorted me out of the basement from where I went home thinking "that guy isn't so great after all." I also clearly remember as a young kid the feeling when walking into the club how different the place looked when compared to other homes in the neighborhood-mysterious at the very least and in retrospect very Germanic. There was a large fireplace made of dark stone surrounded by the logs for which the club was named and animal heads on the walls. As a Jewish person it seemed very strange, having read a great deal, even at that age about the Nazis, and finding that it was just not what one would expect in suburban West Orange where our neighborhood was predominantly Jewish yet as mentioned above there were many people of varied backgrounds frequenting Mr. Lauck's club. Final memory is the scar I have from the large German shepherd that lived with Mr. Laucks. It took a chunk out of me as I bent over to pet him but I always loved dogs in spite of being bitten by that old dog.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your memories with us!

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  7. I also lived on Collamore Terrace and learned to play chess in the Log Cabin. Alex was Alex Gudding. who managed the house for Mr. Laucks. He also ran the local Boy Scout Webloe troop. There was a whole group of young boys, and those of us who showed some ability at chess got to play other youth teams, such as the Newark Boys club.
    There was, indeed, a very large German shepherd!
    The house at 30 Collamore was unique, not only because it was full of WWII memorabilia, but it also housed a private observatory that faced east. On a clear night, with all the lights turned off, the search lights from the Empire State Building would illuminate the back wall of the observatory from nearly 20 miles away.
    There were many magnificent chess sets made from stone and metal.

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