The History and Background
WALNUT CREEK SPORTSMEN’S CLUB
Established May 5, 1939
In 1938 a local business man named Art Evans thought that the small community of Walnut Creek should have a sportsmen’s club. He contacted Chet Arthur who owned a liquor store, Jim Buck who owned a fishing tackle and fly tying store and Olin Eddy who owned an automobile repair shop. Together, these men and others like them formed the WALNUT CREEK SPORTMEN’S CLUB.
On the fifth of May 1939, the original bylaws were completed. On July 27 1940 the articles of incorporation were signed by the Secretary of State.
The first meeting of the club was held at the Bar-B-Q Bungalow at the corner of Main Street and Mount Diablo Boulevard in Walnut Creek. Some time later the club met in the basement of the Walnut Creek Grammar School, the only school in Walnut Creek at the time. The school was located in downtown Walnut Creek.
The club met there for several years until the membership decided to buy property and build a permanent clubhouse. Chet Arthur, Ted Whitmore and Monty Parsons each put up $100.00 of their own money and purchased a parcel of land at Old Tunnel Road at the end of Juanita Drive in Walnut Creek for a total of $300.00.
The members then built a two story building with a fireplace both up and downstairs. They gathered rocks for both fireplaces from Ralph Bollman’s dairy which is now the location of the Contra Costa County Water District’s Ralph Bollman Water Treatment Plant and Mallard Reservoir. Both fireplaces cost less than $200.00 to build.
After some years of meeting at this location, the members began to hear rumors of a freeway that would come through the property. No one knew for sure, so Jeff Giuffre went to San Francisco to the State Highway Department and looked over their plans and discovered that the freeway shoulder would cover the club property. Jeff negotiated with the department and got the unheard of price of $22,000 for our $300.00 piece of property. Jeff also talked them into letting the club keep the building. We wanted to move the building to another location but the city would not approve the move. The building was subsequently sold to Johnny Jordon who was at that time the Chief of Police for Walnut Creek, Chief Jordon took the building apart and used the material to build himself a house at Clear Lake.
The club then held their meetings upstairs in Chet Arthur’s liquor store near the corner of Main Street and Mount Diablo Boulevard in Walnut Creek, and later at the Park mead School.
In 1957 the club finally found a piece of property at 2800 North Main Street in Walnut Creek. This land was located between North Main and the highway 24 freeway near Treat Boulevard. The land was purchased from Mr. Saylor who owned Saylor’s Donut Shop fronting on North Main. Mr. Saylor needed $4,000 to tie into the sewer system as the city was putting pressure on businesses to get rid of their septic tanks. We paid him $4,000 for the property.
Because Jeff Giuffre had done such a great job of selling off the old property to the Highway Department he was, in his words, “bullied” into being the building chairman.
Rudy Marzi, a local architect and a friend of the club, drew up plans for the new building to get things started in the right direction. Most club members lived nearby and met daily after work and put in a few hours until dark and then worked on the weekends until there was a finished clubhouse. The members did all of the work , building a meeting hall, office, kitchen, storage rooms, two rest rooms and a bar and did all of the painting and decorating.
During the period of building the new club house, the membership dropped to a very low number. A big effort was made to bring in some new members. A new shotgun was put up as a prize for the member that signed up the most new members. Olin Eddy won the gun by bringing in some fifty new members.
In those days, there were some very good times at the North Main Street club house. The club held annual clam digs, salmon and trout, abalone trips, and, of course the subsequent dinners that went along with them. The annual trip to the Pit River to catch the large trout that the area was noted for was named the “Cainbow Trip” after a well known fishing tackle manufacturer, horseman and very active member of the club, Clarence Cain. We held an annual trap shoot out in Brentwood as well.
Our members at that time consisted mostly of professional people of the area. The Mayor of Walnut Creek, most of the city officers, doctors and lawyers of the area. Also, the Police Chief, most of the Police Force, the District Attorney, and many of his officers, engineers, architects and business owners. There were motorcycle riders, airplane pilots, horsemen, fishermen, hunters, and scuba divers, big game hunters that hunted Africa and Alaska routinely. Eunice Van Winkle owned the water and electric company that served the town of Clyde. She also owned a lot of property in the back of Clyde. She let the local shooters use the old quarry on her property to sight in their rifles. The members never had formal permission to shoot there and were on our honor to take care of the place when we used it. When Mrs. Van Winkle died her children sold the place and the members lost the shooting spot. This was in the late 1950’s. The Walnut Creek and the Concord Clubs got together to see what they could do about acquiring a place to shoot.
After much discussion it was decided to ask the other sportsmen clubs in the area to join us in this endeavor. The navy had taken over the Bay Point Club area after some ships had blown up at Port Chicago. A member of the Walnut Creek Club had been fined twenty five cents for being noisy while the president was talking. This member got upset by this and decided to start another club. This member was Reino J. Alto. He formed the Diablo Rod and Gun Club. Reino had no members for his new club so most of the Walnut Creek members joined the Diablo Club just to help out our old friend Reino.
The Brentwood Rod and Gun Club was invited to come in with us but did not choose to do so as they had their own club house and property at that time.
The Walnut Creek Club was at first going to go alone with the idea of developing a shooting range, but after some long discussions and in the sense of brotherhood decided to go with the “United” idea. It was decided to try to go with the four club group. The Walnut Creek Club, the Concord Club, the Bay Point Club and the Diablo Club would join forces to create the UNITED SPORTSMEN, INC.
Not all four clubs had the finances to pay their share of the down payment for the property that U.S.I. would subsequently purchase. The Walnut Creek Club issued non-interest bearing bonds and sold them to the members to provide funds to pay their share. At this time we were still paying off the new club house at 2800 North Main Street but so much money was raised that there was some money left over. This extra money was given to Diablo Rod and Gun Club so they could pay their down payment to U.S.I. The Concord Club gave enough money to Bay Point Club so they could also pay their share. This allowed all four clubs to get into this UNITED SPORTSMEN thing we had dreamed of.
Now all four area clubs were members of U.S.I. and what a proud bunch we were. Reading back on page one, it can be seen that this was not the first time that loyal members of the Walnut Creek Sportsman’s Club were willing to put up their own money for the good of the club.
UNITED SPORTSMEN, INC. was formed, the articles of incorporation were signed by the Secretary of State on October 17, 1960 and we were off and running!!!!!!!!
After the purchase of the U.S.I. property from Frank Dutra, natural gas was discovered around the property. Because the gas company was pumping from under our property, they paid U.S.I a royalty. This royalty was enough to pay off the debt owed for the property. Since Dutra was drawing interest from U.S.I. on the loan, he would not let us pay the loan off early. U.S.I. eventually paid off the debt and had a mortgage burning party.
The Walnut Creek Sportsmen’s Club has gone through some good times and some difficult times. There have been attempts to take the club away from its members and turn it into something entirely different than what it was originally planned to be. When the property sold to the state for the freeway construction at the end of Juanita Drive, a motion was made to disband the club and divide the money with the very few members at the time. This motion was defeated. Another time a very wealthy member and a local politician, that also owned a duck hunting club in Suisun March area, made a strong push to move the membership over to his duck club and the members could all pay him $1,500 a year each to hunt ducks on his club. Still another time a large group of people that all worked for the same company joined the Walnut Creek Club and got themselves elected to all the positions on the Board of Directors except one position. They then gave themselves and their company free shoots, dinners, etc. at the exclusion of the other members of the club. At a subsequent election, THEY LOST! Each and every one of them was removed from office that night.
In 1979 Kaiser Sand and Gravel wanted to buy the club house at 2800 North Main. They had bought all of the property that Mr. Saylor previously owned and now owned property on all sides of our club. They gave the club $5,000 option to purchase our property and a $900 monthly payment to us while we used the building until they needed it. Then in 1981 Kaiser gave the club $81,000 as final payment. The club then started holding meetings in members’ homes until a decision was made to utilize the club house at the U.S.I. property.
As late as 1985 none of the clubs allowed females to become members. However, that year the bylaws were amended, voted on and passed to allow females to become full voting members. This was a radical departure from the past.
The members of the Walnut Creek Sportsmen’s Club have worked hard to make the club a great success.
In March of 2010, after much negotiation, amending of the U.S.I. Bylaws, and other legal issues, the Brentwood Rod and Gun Club joined U.S.I.
They had been forced out of their club and property by progress in the area. Today there are five owner clubs of U.S.I.: Bay Point Rod and Gun Club, Brentwood Rod and Gun Club, The Concord Sportsmen’s Club, The Diablo Rod and Gun Club, and the Walnut Creek Sportsmen’s Club.
In September of 2015, U.S.I. temporarily closed the rifle and pistol ranges after a nearby church reported finding spent bullets on their roof and parking lot. This church is about 1000 yards East of our main public shooting range, up the hill on Evora Road. The U.S.I. Board consulted with range design experts who inspected our property and prepared a report listing various recommendations to address our concerns. A company specializing in range design was hired and plans were drawn. Soon, some of the clubs at U.S.I. disagreed with the original design, and decided to go in a different direction, hiring a new designer. The range design was substantially changed. With no plans approved or permit issued by the County, nor estimates from contractors, the Board proceeded with complete demolition of the range shack and all infrastructure, and the range has remained closed since. As part of the “permit process”, authorities from the County also deemed that U.S.I. was in violation of building codes, and subsequently our Five Stand was demolished, a tenant was evicted, and storage containers used by the clubs for many years were also abated. All of these events have been extremely disappointing, and costly. The range design has been revised several times, and there has been a succession of designers who are no longer willing to work with U.S.I.
U.S.I. continues to press on with designing a new range which is both safe and functional for all our members and guests. Unfortunately, there continues to be much animosity and uncertainty with the range development, with many unknowns regarding the final costs of the design. Overall, the process has (at times) been quite contentious, and for various reasons not everyone is in agreement. Sadly, the U.S.I. Board has visions and desires which far exceed the ever changing budget for the project. The reality remains that U.S.I. has lost one of it’s major activities and sources of revenue, which is a very serious concern. At the beginning of 2019, the County approved “final” plans for the range, but there is still no firm date for completion, or final bids from contractors. Our most popular rifle and pistol activities appear to remain closed at least until mid 2019.