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February 4, 2009 > History: Shoot! Local sportsmen clubs died out

History: Shoot! Local sportsmen clubs died out

Many pioneer settlers were excellent riflemen and participated in local shooting matches and turkey shoots. Members of towns or areas sometimes competed as a group, but they did not usually have special sportsmen organizations.

Early Swiss immigrants wanted to continue one of their favorite traditions and pastimes, shooting contests. Held as early as the 17th century, these competitions traditionally have been both a national sport and a way of encouraging marksmanship in Switzerland, a country where every male serves in the militia army. Firearms symbolize a wholesome community activity, and a typical weekend shooting festival brings out the entire family. Scores or even hundreds of people would eat, drink and socialize in a tent by the range. With colorful banners of the Cantons (states) and rifle clubs fluttering in the wind, the melody of rifle fire blends with Alpine music and cowbells. It is said that Switzerland has never had any kings other than shooting and wrestling kings.

As a way of keeping this heritage alive, Louis Marchy, Sr. helped found a Swiss club called Feldschuetzen Verein, Newark in 1930. The club held its first Schuetzenfest (shooting match) at the Marchy ranch in Newark and continued from 1930 - 1964 until it moved to Ripon in 1965. Louis held the office of president for 41 years. After each shooting match, competitors would gather at Swiss Park for a dinner and award medals and/or trophies to the day's winners. The club still exists but, due to the reduction in numbers, the last shooting competition was held at the Ripon range in 1985.

The Tangle and Twist Club was organized in 1935 with 30 members. Bert Wallace and Harley Justus were the first officers. They received their charter from the National Rifle Association in 1940 and formed a rifle club in 1942. Members served as rifle instructors as part of the home defense program. Their club room was at the Newark PG&E substation.

In 1938, Jack MacGregor and Joe Machado organized the Newark Sportsmen's Club, which provided a fraternity for hunters and fisherman. Louis Caldeira developed school programs in gun handling and safety, and the club promoted the growing awareness of bay lands as recreation for nearby communities. A writer noted in 1940, "they must be given a lot of credit for the way they have beautified their gun field," located one mile west of Newark.

The club sponsored shooting tournaments with speakers, programs and gold medals for the top marksmen. They awarded 25 turkeys at their Club Turkey Trap Shoot held in November 1940. The club tied for first place in a contest held December 6, 1941, and survived through World War II by adapting their programs.

The Niles Sportsmen Club, Inc. was incorporated August 6, 1947. Karl Kaiser was elected chairman and Joseph Pine was the secretary. The club house was established on Castro Lane and designated as the member meeting place. Board members were Reginald Calhoun, Joe Dooley, Tom Pryor, William G. Pine, Kenneth Ferry, Charles Riles and Joe Hudson. All were listed as residents of Niles. The main purposes of the club were to foster sportsmanship, assist conservation efforts, promote field sports, promote good fellowship and support game laws.

The Washington Township Sportsmen's Club was organized in 1933 and was first called the Washington Township Striped Bass Club. It resulted from a wager between Ray Bettencourt, J.R. "Pete" Nunes, Will Bettencourt and Bob Francis as to who could catch the largest striped bass.

The club was incorporated in 1934 and by 1938 membership had grown to over 300. The local paper noted in January 1940 that the first regular meeting of the year was held at Hansen's Hall with Manuel Soito presiding. Club activity was dormant for a period during World War II and was revived in 1948. Club trap shooting took place in Hayward until 1951 when the club purchased 25 acres at Mission Boulevard and Durham Road.

Club members invested in the property and in 1953 erected a clubhouse with a bar and lunch counter open to the public on weekends. There was a rifle range and area for trap shooting. Meetings were held monthly and officers elected yearly. Membership was limited by charter to 100. Officers elected in 1954 were Mel Seal, Chris Mickelson, John Calcagno, Jim Miranda, Joe Dutra and Ray Bettencourt.

The club held a bass derby, Christmas parties and "the largest whist party in the area, seating over 200 tables." An annual trap shoot was a popular and special event. The club was interested in promoting gun safety and respect. Two members of the American Trap Association taught trap shooting skills to children.

Development spelled doom. Club members tore down the clubhouse and hired a company to clear lead from the hillside. The treasury was divided up among investors and the club disbanded. This marked the end of all sportsmen activity in the area.

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