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The First Ten Humbugs of Chapter Ten
Submitted By: XNGH Jason Thorn Date: April 09, 2010, 09:11:17 PM Views: 6173

Originally published in the Hewgag Monitor by Tom Barry in September, 1990




This edition of the short history of ECV will consist only of a list of the first ten Noble Grand Humbugs of the consolidated William Bull Meek - William Morris Stewart, Chapter Ten, in chronological order, and a short sketch about them. This information is from memory, and I apologize in advance for any misinformation or lack of depth. Please feel free to write to the address on this newsletter with any corrections and/or additions. They will be included in future articles. Note: the mark * after a name indicated deceased. [Some updated material will appear in Italics]

1962 Hillis Hubbard*

I did not know Hillis, and only met the man on two occasions. I recall that he seemed to me (23 years old at the time) to be quite old. He was actually 64 at the time. Among other things, he raised mules in Grass Valley, and one of his mules came in 22nd in a 100 mile “Pony Express” endurance horse race from Lake Tahoe to Auburn. He did not actively participate in any chapter activities after his year as Humbug.

1963 Herb Gerrish*

Herb was a retired United States Border Patrolman and had served as the Recorder in the beginning days of the Chapter. He was an inveterate letter writer, a poor typist, and enjoyed the “spiritual” side of the Clampers. He was responsible for the unincorporation of the Marysville Clamper Corporation, which allowed the Grand Council to become incorporated as E Clampus Vitus, Inc. Herb’s pet peeve was the problem of keeping the ECVs separated from the PBCs during initiation ceremonies. He always said he “had the rope” to tie around the trees to keep them apart.

1964 Charlie Kitts*

Charlie was the Nevada County Tax Assessor, very active in community affairs, who could be found on almost any weekend cooking for some non-profit fund raising breakfast or dinner in Nevada County. He was the Clamp Chef, and the Chapter 10 Cook Crew still uses his secret formula to prepare our beans. This formula was obtained after Charlie’s death by Bill Byars, and is to be handed down to Clamp Chefs of this Chapter in perpetuity in Charlies’s memory. Charlie told me one time that he got the recipe from the cook at the Hotel Coronado in San Diego, and that the hardest part of the recipe was the counting of the beans.

1965 William N. Byars*

A very interesting man, Bill was a self-employed carpenter in Nevada County who had lived in Southern California for many years, and had done many different things to earn a living. Almost never seen without a moldy cigar stuck in his mouth, Bill built his own home and was highly sought in the area for his good work at reasonable prices. Bill made many friends in the historical community of California and was once named California’s Historian of the Year. He later became the Sublime Noble Grand Humbug of E Clampus Vitus. Bill also served as Chapter 10 Recorder for 5 years and carried on voluminous correspondence. Being the Recorder in those days was really tough. Bill, for example, hand wrote all the addresses for Chapter 10 mailings. At that time, I seem to recall him mentioning that there were over 1200 names on the list. Today, the labels are printed on the computer printer and take about 15 minutes. In fact, it takes more time to attach the labels to the mailings than it takes to print them.

1966 Barney Forsythe*

Barney was the Fire Chief at the Pittsburg Steel Plant, and responsible for the distribution of the Columbia Steel Company Guard badges that some of us older members have. (Mine is badge #77) Barney also owned what he claimed was the oldest stone building in Nevada, located in Dayton. He moved there upon his retirement and opened a museum consisting mostly of his vast collection of Jim Beam bottles, almost all of which he had personally drained. Barney’s last name lent itself to one of the most interesting nicknames any Clamper ever had. It will be left to your imagination to figure what it must have been. If you get stuck, slip the Recorder a buck and he’ll tell you!

1967 Avin Hill

Avin, in on the Chapter 10 organization from nearly the beginning, is self-employed (but now retired) in the construction business, and was once the Sutter County Superintendent of Highways. Part of the Yuba-Sutter contingent of Chapter 10, Avin’s name is constantly being mispronounced as “Alvin.” Whatever you do, don’t call him Alvin! Responsible for many, many PBCs over the years, Avin has the gift of gab, and has many stories to tell of the early days of E Clampus. An old car buff, Avin has shown up at Clamper meetings in some of the oldest cars ever seen at these functions. My favorite Avin Hill story is of the time we were in his Model T roadster which was equipped with an extra coil, attached to a wire which touched the ground. (The purpose of the wire was to give a little jolt to anyone leaning on the car.) Anyway, this one time, we pulled into a service station where a smart-aleck young man yelled “Hey mister, you got a wire (pronounced waahr) hangin’ down from your car!” Avin asked him what color it was and the hapless young man went under the car. When Avin heard him tell the color, he touched the button to operate the coil. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone get out from under a car faster than that guy!

1968 Dave Durand

Dave, still active in Clampers after all this time, was one of the earliest Directors of Chapter 10. He has been a Del Monte Cannery employee for around 30 years. One of the Yuba-Sutter boys, he currently resides in Los Banos. Dave is the last NGH of Chapter 10 elected by the old nominating committee, in which a new Humbug worked his way “through the chairs” in a lock-step manner, reaching the Humbugship after serving in each of the offices for a year. Dave is responsible for most of the pictures printed about Chapter 10 in the Clamper newspapers. He sometimes is unable to get to summertime functions because of his responsibilities at the cannery, but is Clamper, through and through, with one of the most complete collections of Clamper memorabilia ever seen. A gun fancier, Dave was responsible for the selection of the “John Wayne” rifle we raffled off a number of years ago, which resulted in a scholarship fund of over $5000. Another great recruiter for the Clampers, Dave’s PBCs include at least 4 who later became Humbugs of Chapter 10.

1969 Tom Barry

Tom is, as of this writing, passing “through the chairs” of the Grand Council and will become Sublime Noble Grand Humbug in May, 2002. He served as Chapter 10 Recorder for about 15 years, and is the only Clamper who has attended every function of the Chapter since the first one on May 5th, 1962. Recruited by the infamous Avin Hill, bounced upon the knees of the equally infamous Herb Gerrish and Bill Byars, he has worked in most every position in the Chapter and has seen the fortunes of the Chapter rise and fall over the years. When elected in late 1968, he found out that the Chapter bank balance was only $15. Being so broke, the Chapter that year only put up one plaque, and that was in October. An old car buff and former Industrial Arts, Driver Training, Algebra and Physical Science teacher in Sacramento, he now enjoys the luxury of retirement to participate in Clamper activities, interspersed with work on his 25 year remodel/addition job on an old ranch house in Wilton. The 3000+ sq. ft. addition is currently nearing the finishing stage, at approximately the same time as his body gives out. (Ed. Note: Tom finished the addition to his house, retired from teaching in 1999, served his term as SNGH in 2002, and sold his house and moved into a new one with a smaller yard in 2003-04)

1970 James Smith*

Another of the Yuba-Sutter boys, Jim was also a cannery employee when recruited into the Clampers. A specialist in controls and gauges, “Smitty” also enjoyed working on old cars, and promised to get his old Mercury running some day. (Alas, that sadly will not be, for Jim was killed in a head-on collision on Highway 70 in April of 2000.) He was a handy man with tools and he, too, had remodeled his home, adding several rooms a number of years ago. His job sometimes interfered with his Clampering, as witness the time a number of years ago, when the Humbugs and X-Humbugs gathered on the site of Hart, an old mining town in the mountains of the Mojave Desert. Smitty was unable to get away from his job in time to ride with some of the other guys from the area and went down by himself, after a full day of work. On a moonless night, “somewhat lost,” with vague directions to the location, Smitty, as he discovered in the morning, made it to within shouting distance of the gathering site before he just had to stop and get some sleep. Spending the nearly freezing night curled up in the back seat of his Volvo was not his favorite memory of Clampers, but it just goes to show his dedication to E Clampus Vitus.

1971 Tom Motter

Another old car buff, Tom was a traveling salesman with territory covering most of Northern California and all of Nevada. Selling Motor Manuals and Motor Magazine subscriptions to auto service facilities took him throughout most of the historical sites Clampers have to do with, and his interest in E Clampus Vitus was natural. Also a gun buff, Tom was once Historian at the Colt Firearms works in Connecticut and previously, a partner in the Old Sacramento Armory, a gun store in Sacramento. Tom’s unfinished auto project is a 1940 Ford Coupe. He doesn’t have that much time to work on it, due to his involvement in old midget car racing. His race car, which he hauls out to drive at the old dirt tracks around Northern California, was once owned by his uncle and raced in the 1940s. When not kickin’ up the clay, it occupies a large portion of his “family” room. An “Offie” engine acts as a stand for a glass table top, and he edits and publishes a journal for the Bay Cities Racing Association. He has also written several books concerning the history of the Bay Cities Racing Association. Tom is always on the lookout for Ford “V-8 60” engine parts.

Rating: ***** by 2 members.
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