Part 1: 1948-1968 - Early Days

Prolog: This is a history of the HGMS annual show. However because the show is a function of the Society, it is not always possible to separate one from the other in an historical accounting. This is particularly true in the early days when the show was a small affair held by a much smaller society. As the Society grew, functions were separated into committees who were responsible for them. But even then, some Society decisions were so far-reaching that they affected the show in one way or another. In these cases, the events or decisions will be discussed only inasmuch as is necessary to lay the groundwork for a full understanding of the situation surrounding the show.

Because the annual show has been occurring for over a half century, its history could become very unwieldy if not broken up into digestible chunks. Thus, I will split this accounting into several articles whose covered periods are dictated by logical breaks in the historical progression of the show. These breaks and article titles are as follows:

PART 1: 1948-1968 – Early Days
PART 2: 1969-1977 – Rise to Prominence
PART 3: 1978-1989 – On Top of the World
PART 4: 1990-2000 – Fall From Grace
PART 5: 2001-Present – The Phoenix

(Addendum: I will shortly be writing Parts 2 and 3. I have talked to a number of you out there who were around during those days, but it’s growing increasingly difficult to find anyone who was here prior to 1980. If you were around prior to 1990 or 1980, I would like to talk with you. Please let me know via e-mail [] or phone [713-664-9033], and I’ll make arrangements to discuss your recollections with you. Thanks in advance!)

Part 1: 1948-1968 - Early Days

Formation of a Society: In October of 1942, Mr. W. V. Vietti transferred back to Houston after an assignment in Columbia as a production engineer for The Texas Company (which changed its name in 1959 to Texaco, Inc.). He started collecting gemstones and rough as best he could, which was not easy during the war. It apparently was even more difficult to find lapidary equipment, and his first was a homemade arbor and wheels that a friend sold him. He was advised to wait until the end of the war before trying to organize any sort of group of like-minded hobbyists. He became friends with Jerrie Swain and her husband, St. Elmo Swain, after his release from the armed forces. St. Elmo was a silversmith and a machinist with Humble Oil.

Together they plotted to form a rockhound club. Jerrie, who also worked in the Humble Oil offices, arranged for notices and photos to be printed in the Houston Post. In early November of 1948, an organizational meeting was held in the Swain home. About 10 people showed up, and that was enough to set up an organization. The second organizational meeting was held on December 3, 1948, again at the Swain “studio.” About 26 people attended. They agreed on a plan whereby Mr. Vietti would submit a formal notice of organization to the State Mineral Society of Texas (later changed to the Texas State Federation of Mineralogical Societies), a necessary step since its organization predated Houston’s by several years.

HGMS Formation letter
HGMS Formation letter
Notice sent to members present at the first planning meeting to be present for the second planning meeting of the new lapidary club (upper text). This notice was spliced onto a newspaper clipping (lower image), probably from 1949, showing the founders of the Society along with their wives.
A quaint newspaper clipping from January, 1949, showing the wives of the Society founders working in the Vietti workshop.

The HGMS Letter of Formation was sent to the regional society on December 7, 1948, by Mr. W.V. Vietti, founder of the Society. Recognition by the regional organization was a necessary step in our formation.

That same day the first official meeting of the Houston Rock and Lapidary Club was held at the Vietti residence. (The original name was Houston Lapidary Club, but “Rock” was added in order to attract collectors). This meeting was attended by 28 people who became charter members in the new Society after paying initial dues of $7.00. Mr. Vietti then drew up a set of bylaws and mailed it to the charter members. (This was the origin of the same bylaws we use today). The bylaws were approved at the second official meeting of the HR&LC on January 7, 1949, and a Society was born. Meetings were held at the Houston Public Library at McKinney Ave. starting with this second official meeting and continuing until 1955.

Meetings were well attended in 1949. There were few formal programs, but members were content to share knowledge and experience about their hobby (which was one of the early primary functions of the new Society). Usually there were swaps and informal sales of personal material at meetings.

The First Exhibits: Attendance dropped off in 1950, and it became apparent the new Society would have to find some activities in which to engage. One was a Christmas dinner which ended up being a traditional annual activity of the club. Also, since meetings were held at the library, it was a natural fit for members to have exhibitions there. The first exhibit was held in 1950 (dates were not specified). The second was held for the month of May, 1951. Interestingly, by this time four members had “studios” (i.e. lapidary workrooms), including Mr. Vietti and Mr. Swain. Members were invited to socialize at these shops, and the response was good.

The library exhibit was held for the month of April in 1952. Mr. Vietti announced in June that the State Mineralogy Show (held jointly with the Rocky Mountain Federation of Mineralogical Societies Show) would be held in Houston in early May, 1953 (at the Sam Houston Coliseum), and a motion was passed that the club would act as host. (Mr. Vietti was president of the State Society in 1953, and thus he was able to secure Houston as the site of the annual show that year). The library exhibit was moved to the month of April so the club exhibits could be used for the show. Mr. Ken Fry (president, 1951, and owner of one of the 4 “studios,” also a vice president in the State Society) was the show chairman. A sapphire was donated for the door prize and was mounted.

Unfortunately, no club records exist of the show but several references allow us to piece together some of the details. The list of show committee personnel posted in the State Society’s publication (The Mineral Hobbyist) consisted mostly of charter members of the Houston club. Mrs. Massingill (secretary, 1951-1955, and the club historian until 1970) noted that it was the first show if its kind in Houston and that attendance was good (she handled registrations at the show). It was a dealer show, and it had competitive exhibits. The show’s sponsors (the State Society and the Rocky Mountain Society) gave our club $200 in November, 1953 as a gift for our participation. It seems clear that while we organized the show and supplied personnel to run it, we were doing this as members of the State Society, not as members of the Houston club. Our financial records indicate we did not incur any financial liability in the event nor did we take in proceeds, except for the $200 gift.

In 1954, the club authorized payment to the Odessa club to construct four cases for us so we could exhibit at the state show in Odessa that year. The library exhibit was already booked for May, and we could not change it so that the library material could be used in the Odessa show (also in May). In September, Mr. Fry led a discussion regarding organizing a hobby show for the city. The idea met with the approval of the members at the meeting. It was agreed that it would be for exhibitors; no dealers would be allowed. However, no vote was taken so no action was initiated.

The Houston Gem and Mineral Society: 1955 was a busy year for the budding club. In January the club was invited to participate in the International Flower and Garden Show to be held in the Coliseum in early March and to assist in the planning of this event. The club agreed to do so. Mrs. Eleanor Smith was appointed chairperson of the committee to head that effort. In February, she organized another committee to decide on the design specs of cases to be built to hold club exhibits. Six were constructed in February for $99.30, making a total of 10 cases owned by the club. The Garden Show went off well, with the club helping to sell tickets and earning $40 from ticket sales. Our exhibit generated a lot of interest. But it was apparent the club would need to rethink its financial strategy as there was $124.50 in expenses on the $40 return.

In April, Mr. Vietti proposed several changes to the bylaws, among them a name change to The Houston Gem and Mineral Society. These were approved. Subsequently at the state show in Corpus Christi, the regional society changed its name to The Texas Federation of Mineralogical Societies. Our club helped rewrite the constitution of that society.

In October, the club was invited to participate in the Men’s Garden Club Show in the Garden Center at Herman Park in November. This was approved and we did so, using our new cases. There was no financial income or outlay for this show.

In January of 1956, permanent standing committees were approved and formed for the first time. Among these was a Display Committee that was in charge of exhibits the club placed in various shows, with Mrs. Myra Byrd being the first chairperson. Among the first responsibilities of this new committee were the organization of our exhibits for the library and the Flower and Garden Show, both to be held in April. A separate committee was formed to head up a “sales” booth at this show. Members were requested to donate material (jewelry, slabs, etc.) for the booth.

It was a big success. The booth generated $207 net profit on expenses of $74. Following the show, discussions were held regarding the need to generate our own publicity for the event and to appoint a display committee well in advance of the show. This was done, and planning began in the summer for the 1957 Flower Show with a Mr. Fischer presiding.

In addition to these two events in 1956, the club continued its usual practice of sending at least one delegate and case (usually more) to the State Federation show. In November, the club participated for the second time in the Men’s Garden Club Show in the Garden Center.

Houston, we have a show: 1957 marked an historic watershed event for the club: Its first show was held on April 6 and 7 at the Garden Center. This followed their annual participation in the Flower and Garden Show in March (organized by Mr. Fischer). There is no indication of any financial outlay or income from the Flower and Garden Show.

The chairman of our first-ever show was not specified, most likely due to the lack of good minutes from 1957. Nonetheless, the sales booth was headed by Eleanor Smith, Bill Vietti, and Ken Fry, all of whom were experienced hands by this time (each helped run the Federation Show in 1953). They requested donations from members of such items as slabs, cabochons, and baroques. There were no dealers at the show, and the exhibit committee reminded people that they were permitted to show any material within their personal collections, regardless of whether it was “new work” or not. The show earned $535 in income, which is pretty remarkable from only a sales table. Their net profit for the show was $145. This net profit was offset by the construction in March of another 10 club cases for $206.

The other watershed event in 1957 was our incorporation as a nonprofit society (probably as a 501(c)(6), meaning donations were not tax-deductible. Incorporation as a 501(c)(3) would take another couple of decades).

In February, 1958, there were ongoing discussions regarding the two upcoming shows in the spring—a “Hobby Show” being held at the Shamrock Hotel at the end of March (Mrs. Brydon chairman) in which the club was invited to participate, and the “local” show (meaning the club’s show) to be held April 12–13 (Mr. Fischer chairman, Mrs. Eleanor Smith sales, Mrs. Mulvey publicity). These shows were successfully carried out by the busy young club. In April it was announced that the club had won 1st place at the Hobby Show for the most professional exhibit. There were apparently no financial transactions at that show.

At our “local” show (Garden Center), there was a faceting machine and a trim saw operated as demos in addition to a substantial number of cases which were being lined by Mr. Vietti. The minutes are rather skimpy, so no details are known about the show. The sales booth generated $295 in sales, a significant drop from the previous year, and this income was offset by $290 in expenses.
1959 began with serious discussion about a show. The date was chosen to be April 10–12 at the Garden Center after Mr. Fischer was able to secure this date. Mr. Dick Potter was show chairman, Mrs. Carey was sales chairman. Mrs. Carey and committee came up with the idea of putting labeled mineral specimens in boxes and selling them. Club volunteers were elicited to help with this project (although it should be noted that a substantial number of specimens were purchased specifically for this purpose). From brief references in the minutes, it appeared to be a struggle to get everything properly prepared for the show. From today’s perspective, we can surely understand considering they started planning in January for an April show.

At the April general meeting (following the show), it was reported that the show was an outstanding success. And indeed it was: An income of $741 was realized against $490 in expenses.

To cap off the year, the club exhibited at Weldon’s Cafeteria in late October or early November.

The Early 60s: By 1960, the show and a regular, standing show committee were considered standard business necessities. All the committees that we are familiar with were present such as sales, publicity, property (including floor plans), hospitality, demonstration, florescent light, and mineral identification. There were also some we are not familiar with: Floormen Committee and Rock Garden Committee. Apparently a “floorman” is a person who circulates on the floor of the show performing any such task as necessary, such as answering questions from visitors, keeping order, and being ready to explain the use of equipment on display. However, often spare floormen ended up being stolen by the sales booth, since this was really the lifeblood of the club at this time.
The shows from 1960–1962 continued to contain no retail dealers. Exhibits and demonstrations were the main focus, with an increasing number of demonstrations being slotted. The club earned a profit from the sales booth which consisted of club member-donated items such as mineral specimens, slabs, cutting rough, and tumbled stones. Grab bags were also a big item as they sold cheaply and were good repositories for low-grade material. Hundreds of these were made for each show.

The main detraction at the time was not show related: They were having problems with the IRS in 1960 for their failure to properly file returns. A rewrite of the constitution and bylaws followed in order to be in compliance with nonprofit statutes. In 1961, the Texas Federation followed suit due to the same difficulties. 1961 president Richard Offeman dealt with the State of Texas regarding our tax-exempt status, as there were difficulties there also.

Also, in 1962 the club started meeting in the Garden Center. This was a positive move because the club had been floating from one meeting place to another since they left the Downtown Library in 1955. The Garden Center finally represented a home for the young club, and one they kept for the remainder of the decade and well into the 1970s.

Following the 1960 show, the club voted to move the show to the fall. The 1961 show, in addition, was moved to the Downtown Recreation Center because the Garden Center was undergoing renovations and they couldn’t book it far enough in advance to give the show committee a proper lead time for preparations. It was held September 15–17. Show Chairman Irene Offeman did her customary wonderful job preparing and organizing the show and thoroughly documenting these preparations as well as the results. Her show chairman handover document detailing what, when, and (at that time) with whom things were to happen was exquisitely detailed. It constitutes the first surviving version (that I’ve found) of the master show preparation and planning document that has been passed down through the decades.

Business card flier announcing the 1960 show in the Garden Center. Notice the lack of a year on the card. Also notice the closing time of the show. At the Shamrock, they went to a full 3-day show with 10-hour Friday and Saturday hours!
1961 business card flier announcing the 1961 show in the Downtown Recreation Center. Notice the lack of a year on the card.

The 1960 and 1961 shows both netted between $330–350, resulting in profit margins of 50–60%. Not bad for a sales booth.
The club started its library in 1962 and also voted to start judged competition for juniors at the fall show, including having monetary awards, ribbons, and trophies. When they started discussing preparations for the next show, they first had to select a show location from among three possible choices: The Downtown Recreation Center where they just had a show, the renovated and enlarged (but still rather small) Garden Center, or the Shamrock Hilton Hotel exhibition hall. The Recreation Center had lots of space (far more than the Garden Center) but it had restrictions placed on it because it was a city-owned facility (the club had to get a special dispensation from the city in 1961 to be able to sell material from a sales booth). The Garden Center received the most votes. Mrs. Byrd was the Show Chairperson.

The 1961 annual show had a net loss of $12. This was due to the combined effects of a drop in sales booth income of about $200 and an increase in expenses of about $200 over the previous year. Although there is no mention in the minutes of this having adverse repercussions, I think it would be a fair assumption that this was the case, considering the club had experienced three straight years of good net profits from the show. My guess is that it was starting to get more difficult to impose the “request” or expectation on the club’s members that they donate, every year, enough material to make the show’s sales booth successful.
In August 1962, the month before the show, a motion was brought before the general meeting to move the show to Bellaire so that the club could hold a dealer show. This motion was tabled and referred to the Board of Directors, who that very year, were given authority to decide major issues independently of the general meeting. In January 1963, the Board approved a dealer show and brought the issue before the general meeting, where it was approved. In March, they selected the Shamrock Hilton Hotel over the National Guard Armory for a three-day show and specified that a minimum of 12 and maximum of 16 “diversified” dealers be contracted for the show.

Unfortunately, minutes of many of the meetings in 1963 are missing, including all the minutes for the first four months of the year. This was a critical juncture for the club because of the decision to change the show to a dealer show. Also simmering in the background was removal of the requirement to discuss all business at the general meeting (a decision that was voted on at the general meeting, by the way). My guess is the sparks were flying because not everyone in the club wanted to move to a dealer show. As in any major change, there are always significant portions of the membership that want to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Consequently, sometime during 1963 but presumably in the early spring when the Board’s decision was brought before the general meeting for a vote, at least a dozen members were so infuriated by the decision to move to a dealer show where tickets were sold for entrance into the show, that they officially resigned their membership in the HGMS. These ex-members started a club called the Houston Lapidary Society. This club also held annual shows for quite some time. The shows were free and carried on the tradition and style of the early HGMS shows. They sometimes held “mall” shows to exhibit their material. Some HGMS members had dual membership in both societies, and invitations to Lapidary Society shows were frequently read at HGMS meetings. However, in the end the new club did not attract sufficient new blood (in contrast to the HGMS which had significant growth in the next two decades), and it eventually dissolved as its members grew old.

The Shamrock Hilton Hotel: At this point, the show evolved further into an entity very similar to what we have now. Tickets were sold, and thus the sales chairman morphed into the ticket chairman. Twelve dealers was the standard throughout the remainder of the 1960s because it was felt this was the maximum number we could fit into the Shamrock. This number wasn’t increased until 1973 (the reasons for this will be discussed in Part 2). However, eventually the dealer chairman (a new position in 1963) started assuming a lot of power since he was the person with the authority to allow a dealer into the show. This didn’t change until the late 70s (which will also be discussed in Part 2).

The first show at the Shamrock went off well. Attendance jumped about a thousand from previous shows and more or less held that number for the remainder of the 60s. Profit margins at the 1963 show and subsequent shows were still in the 40–60% range, but all the financial numbers increased by a factor of three in 1963 and kept climbing as the years passed.

Perhaps I’m biased, but in my opinion, the fact that Irene Offeman accepted the position of publicity chairman for the 1963 show was in large part responsible for the increase in attendance. Her meticulous plans and notes were superbly documented. I was impressed with the fact that she got a dispensation from the city to hang a banner over Main St. at Lamar. Not a small feat!
Also responsible for the success of the 1963 show were the dual show chairmen, Bill Frank and Bill Lathrop. Today we would say that Bill Lathrop was the Assistant Show Chairman, but that position apparently wasn’t defined yet. Mr. Frank was an experienced club member who had been around a number of years and had held Board positions as well as helped with numerous shows*. Bill Lathrop joined the club in 1962 and was already Assistant Show Chairman in 1963. His contribution to our show and club from 1963–1972 cannot be emphasized enough. Appendix 1 describes his legacy.

*footnote: Bill Frank passed away in late 1966, whereupon his wife, Anne, became very involved with the club. She had held positions before, but in 1968 she became treasurer and held that position until well into the 70s. She also was the financial consultant for the show committee in the 70s. She will be further mentioned in Part 2.

The other major change in the show that was coincident with the move to the Shamrock was the initiation of competitive exhibits and judging. As one might expect, Irene Offeman was one of the leading proponents. Records indicate that 41 exhibits were competitive in 1963, although this number dropped off in 1964 and later. For the remainder of the decade, show chairpersons were continually reminding people to get their competitive exhibits put together for the show, and another annual task of the show committee was to find qualified judges. Dr. Al Kidwell and Dr. Dick Zingula started giving presentations on mineral and fossil identification, respectively, and they assisted people in labeling and showing specimens.

This development led to another interesting idea in the inquisitive mind of Irene Offeman: Identification of specimens. Why, she thought, couldn’t we provide this service to the general public? It’s a service that we, as rockhounds, continually need, so it follows that the general public should also be in need of this service. With that as the formative idea, another component of the show was born: The Identification Service. The first year for this was 1968 when Irene documented 500 identifications performed by mineral, fossil, and gemologist experts. They had their own special area of the show, and Irene had made up signs listing the experts and the schedules for those experts. She also performed her own advertising to get the word out to the public, thus adding to the publicity effort for the show.

Due to the tireless efforts of Irene, The Identification Service rapidly expanded into a major force within the show in subsequent years, and thus was one of the reasons for the soon-to-come explosion of the HGMS show into the Houston mainstream. The Identification Service will be one of the major topics in Part 2 of this history.

Federation Affairs: By today’s standards, the Shamrock shows were small affairs held by a small club (less than 100 members in the 60s). Expenses were small, profits were small, and they were space-constrained to only 12 dealers. But we need to put everything in proper context: They had just left the Garden Center, which was miniscule compared to the Shamrock. The club’s new digs gave them the space to actually have 12 dealers, plus working displays and competitive and noncompetitive exhibits. The shows were healthy, showing around 50% profit margin and essentially funding the young club. And in the 60s, organized shows such as this were still not common.

In actual fact, the show was doing quite well by comparative standards. It was known as one of the best shows in the Texas Federation (which soon changed its name to the South-Central Federation and became affiliated with the American Federation). During this era, the club knew that it had a good thing and had investigated having the Federation show in Houston. In the mid-1960s they were told that in order to be considered for such an event, they had to have delegates attend the annual Federation meetings and participate in the regional Federation shows. This they did, with one or more members regularly receiving awards at these events*.

* Footnote: In the 1964 AFMS show in San Antonio, Mrs. George Gains won 1st place in carving, Irene Offeman 2nd place in fossils, Kirby Gee 3rd place in faceting. In the 1967 AFMS show in Washington DC, Irene Offeman won 1st place in fossils. Mrs. George Gains and Irene Offeman were thus awarded lifetime HGMS memberships for their awards in national competition.
Thus, in 1965 they applied to have the Federation Show in Houston in 1967. Oddly enough, their bid was turned down because “too many of the recent [Federation] shows have been held in this area”! (This was a quote from the general meeting minutes). This is one of the most interesting reasons I’ve heard for being turned down. However, as a consolation prize, the Federation did suggest that the “little club that could” make a bid for the National Show instead. After some discussion, the club felt that it was not ready for such a large step at that point in their development. So, by 1968 they were deliberately saving as much as they could so they would be ready to host either a Federation Show or a National Show, both of which they realized would have significantly higher expenses than their regular show.

Epilog: And thus the stage was set for the sea-change that was getting ready to shake the young club. At the end of the 1960s, they were ready and prepped for the next step which, as history would prove, they would handle admirably. We will discuss these “large leaps for Mankind” (to quote an appropriate expression from that time period) next month with Part 2, starting with the year 1969.

APPENDIX 1: The Legacy of Bill Lathrop.

Bill Lathrop was active in the club for 10 years, from his joining in 1962 until leaving after his term expired in 1972 to retire. He had sold his business, Lathrop’s Lapidary, in 1971 to Jimmy and John Kachinski (who will be discussed in more detail in Part 2). He had started his business officially in 1967 but was a dealer long before that [he probably was one when he joined the club in 1962].
Because he already was a dealer, he was able to fit right in with the show committee when they started hosting a dealer show. The list of his positions is extremely impressive: 1963: Assistant Show Chairman; 1964, 1965: Show Chairman; 1966, 1967 (?): Dealer Chairman; 1968: Show Chairman; 1969-1972: Dealer Chairman. Add to that list: 1964, 1965: Board of Directors; 1968: VP; 1969, 1970: President; 1971: Board of Directors.

From the recollections of people who knew him as well as references to him in the minutes and show records, we can start to piece together what he was like. He was a soft-spoken fellow but was very nice to others and always helpful in any way he could. He was very action-oriented and obviously devoted to the club. He would be the type of person who would often file motions to do something. His name is often mentioned as the person giving a program on one subject or another. He and his wife helped with the Christmas party more than once. (His wife, Amy, by the way, was very active also. She took her turn at Board positions, as Treasurer in 1965 and Secretary in 1966, as well as other volunteer committees including the show. She was quiet, but like her husband, had a nice disposition and was always helping as needed).

His legacy with the show covered the first decade of it being a dealer show. This new phase in our show needed someone who knew showmanship and knew dealers. Being a dealer himself as well as having an activist personality, he fit that bill perfectly. Several times he gave programs on the subject of showmanship; in other words, how an individual could display material so that it would be appealing and interesting to others.

There is no doubt he wielded vast influence in the show. Thus, it might be said that the shows from 1963 to 1972 were “his” shows, although that label would probably offend other significant contributors of the time (including the other show chairpersons). To cap off his legacy, his years as VP and President on the Board of Directors were marked by significant movement of a smaller club into a larger, more diverse club. Those changes will be discussed in Part 2.

Such absolute control of dealer access to our show, however, eventually started defining our show, at least as far as other dealers were concerned. This was not a problem (that I could tell) in the 1960s because the show was still quite small. However, it became a significant issue in the later years of his legacy (1969–1972). The economic principles of that era are not apparent to us now (in Part 1 of this history), but the show went through a huge change during the end of his “reign.” Since a dealer was essentially required to go through Bill Lathrop to get into the show, it became known as a show that was impossible to get into because he had his favorites and only those favorites got in. This is an issue the club has dealt with throughout its history (club member dealers serving as dealer chairman) and it usually leads to complaints. These issues will be discussed further in Part 2.

APPENDIX 2: The Great “Show Number” Conundrum

In the early years, sometimes the show publicity would not use a show number (see 1960 show card) and sometimes they did (see 1961 show card). However, the ones that did give a number have an puzzling story in mathematics. The 1961 show publicity says that the HGMS was holding its 5th show that year, and in 1963 they say they were holding their 7th show. All is well at this point because that would indicate the first show was in 1957.

However, by 1966, a puzzle had emerged. That show announced that it was the 13th show, 1968 was the 15th show, and onward in succession from there. Now, I’m not a great theoretical mind, but if the 1963 show said it was the 7th show, then how can the 1966 show say it was the 13th show? Was there a time warp I missed? Was Timothy Leary a guest speaker in 1966?

Maybe there was some very “creative” accounting going on in the great minds of the club at that time, or maybe some “show-like” occasions ended up being counted as shows. It appears that we may be forever stuck with a 4-year artificial “enhancement” in the age of our show. I’ll let you know in Installment 2 if I’ve learned the answer to the puzzle.

Acknowledgements: The recounting of the earliest years of the club is made possible only by the efforts of two individuals. Mrs. Alvin Massingill joined the new club in 1949 and became the secretary from 1951 through 1955. She continued being very active, and her name is associated with many events, including the show. In the latter part of the 1960s a new position was created called “Historian.” Mrs. Massingill filled that position until her retirement in 1973. During that time, she wrote and otherwise compiled a history of the club from its formation until 1970. Her summaries of the later years (in the 1960s) are merely abbreviated Board and general meeting minutes, but her early summaries (in the 1950s) contain information that is not preserved in the sometimes scanty or missing general meeting minutes. In addition, she assembled and preserved items such as newspaper clippings, photos, rosters, and treasurer ledgers from the early years.

In 1976, Carleton Reid accepted the position as Historian. He held this position until his retirement in 1984 at age 85. Carleton had the job of assembling Mrs. Massingill’s historical documents into a form that would withstand the rigors of time. Most of the documents are now contained in two binders for which he had cloth covers made (in the club’s burnt orange colors, of course). The documents were all individually placed in plastic sleeves for preservation as some were yellowing and would certainly eventually decompose. It is due to his efforts that the early history is preserved.

A few individuals are still alive and in good health, and they contributed to Part 1 of this history. Irene Offeman was an integral part of the club in the 1960s and continued to be active in the Paleo Section until her retirement in the 1990s. She was very diligent in recording and saving an account of what she did with the club and show. After her retirement, hers and Richard’s records were passed to me, whereupon they will be properly preserved with the history of the club following the conclusion of this series of articles. I also want to thank her for spending time recounting events of 40 years ago.

Various other individuals have commented on items they remember. Dr. Dick Zingula, Bill Cox, and David Harleston (current owner of Lathrop’s Jewelry) have added remembrances of Bill Lathrop, plus general developments in the club in the latter part of the 1960s and 1970s. Bill Cox and Irene Offeman will be two of the major players in Part 2 of this history.