The History of the Santa Clara Valley Pigeon Club
by John DeCarlo Sr.,
Extracted from the January 1983 American Pigeon Journal
In 1962, a group of approximately 7 to 10 active pigeon breeders met with the ambitious intention of forming a successful all breeds pigeons club that would cater to the needs of all pigeon fanciers in Northern California. Today, 20 years later there exists a strong, successful pigeon club known as the Santa Clara Valley Pigeon Club that has evolved from the framework established by this initial group. From the charter members, only Manual Saramento, Igor Gagarian, Larry Webb and Harold Santos remain active pigeon breeders and Igor Gagarian and Manuel Saramento remain active in the SCVPC.
This writer joined the SCVPC in 1964 at the age 11 years old and has remained active in the club ever since. Due to the fact that I was not present during the first two years of the club's existence, I have prevailed upon Igor Gagarian, on of our fine club officers for help with factual information regarding the youthful times of the SCVPC.
For the first couple of years the SCVPC grew slowly in membership and began to establish itself in the Northern California area. The first Great Western Pigeon Show was held in 1963 at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in the old poultry building. For the first couple of years the Great Western was 800-900 birds but was run very efficiently and the hospitality abounded. Quickly the word spread among California fanciers that the SCVPC was growing and was staging some enjoyable pigeon shows. Shortly after formation in a small school auditorium in San Jose, Calif., the SCVPC moved its meeting site tot he home of Manuel Saremento in Mt. View, Calif., where it would continue to meet until 1976 when Manuel retired and moved out of the greater San Jose area. I am not able to describe to what this fine man and his ever-supportive wife have meant to the SCVPC over the years. Besides, literally housing the club, Manuel's strong sense of leadership and common sense served as a guiding light to the club until he moved in 1976-1977 but even today, at the Great Western held in October 1982, Manuel could be seen helping with the strenuous task of tearing down the show. Over the years his wife Evelyn strongly supported the club and hosted potluck lunches at two of the three shows every year.
In the early years in addition to Maneul Sarmento, the active officers included the club treasurer, Tony Rodriguez, Joe Rebeiro Jr. who was tragically killed at age 19 in 1964. Ed Buus, Al Silva, Norm and Owen Kalland and many more too numerous to recount here. From 1966 through 1969, Bert Banks played an active roll in the growth of the SCVPC, holding the office of President for one year and publishing the club bulletin for close to five years. Bert was an excellent promoter and publicity man for the club and played a strong role in the club's growth. By 1968, the SCVPC was holding two Lawn Shows per year and an annual Great Western in October that numbered 1400-1500 birds.
In the late sixties, as some of the founders and active officers of the early years lost interest, another group of active, ambitious members joined the SCVPC. Among them Phil Gonzales, Doug Gillespie, Jim Looper Sr., Jim Looper Jr., Art and Jannelle Voelkel, all of whom would play an important roll in the continued growth of the SCVPC. Among them Phil Gonzales not only was President for a term, but also put out the club bulletin for three years. Art Voelkel serves as club Treasurer for approximately five years into the mid-seventies. The Great Western was now reaching totals of 1800 birds and many pigeon fanciers from Southern California were now making the annual trek to Northern California for the Great Western each October and it was now being billed as the "kick off the show season".
In 1972, Jim Looper Jr. was elected President of the SCVPC and this writer became the Secretary and bulletin editor, other active officers in these years were Doug Gillespie, Manuel Sarmento, Gil Lamica, Art Voelkel and Jim Looper Sr. The Great Western in 1972 topped the 2,000 bird total for the first time in its new confines, the Fiesta Hall a the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Other members that were now becoming active in the SCVPC, included Terry Carlson, Craig Stewart, John Heppner, Russ Cunningham and many others. The club continued to prosper and many of the old timers such as Manuel Sarmento, Igor Gagarin, Fred Wolger remained active in the leadership of the club.
From 1974 through 1979 the SCVPC continued to grow and with the collapse of the California Pigeon Club, its cross-bay rival, there was an influx of new members that strengthened the club even further. Most notable among these was Conrad Meis who would later become President of the SCVPC and Secretary and bulleting editor in 1975, a position he has held and will finally retire from in December of 1982. The size of the Great Western has wavered in these years from 1800 to a high of 2400 birds.
In 1980, the SCVPC reached national prominent for the first time as it completed the dream of many of its long time members and supporters by hosting the NPA Grand National Pigeon Show at the San Jose Convention Center. The show was run by an active group of officers headed up by Jim Looper Jr., the show Supt. Terry Carlson, Show Sec. and many others including Igor Gagarian, Al Hardwich, Conrad Meis and Louis Foy. During 1980 the SCVPC also staged a 2100 bird Great Western just three months prior to the Grand National! It also marked the first term of the writer as club President.
In 1982, the SCVPC again completed a very successful year with a very efficient group of officers including newcomer Ray Rea, Darrel Ferguson, Phil McKinley, a hard worker who had been on the staff of officers for the last 3-4 years and long distance officer John Heppner, who hosted one of the nicest board meetings the club has held to date. It was an active year with the SCVPC hosting a 500 plus bird Lawn Show in connection with the American Pet Shows in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, where the pigeon hobby was ably promoted to the general public with framework of a normal pigeon show. The years also marked the tragic death of the club's staunchest supporters, Al Hardwick.
A big thank you goes out to Owen Kallend for providing the copy of the 1983 American Pigeon Journal. Thanks Owen!