By Bill Sherman
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Safari Club International, formerly called Safari Club of Los Angeles, a look at the beginning of the world’s largest non-profit organization of its kind is presented here by two founding members who were involved in its creation.
Here, we document the humorous, factual account of the club’s true origin from its initial launch and struggles to attract positive media coverage with never before published documents. These range from legal matters to the club’s minutes and first convention promotional invitations – which have been in storage for four decades.
This should be an inspiration for all of those who came later. The mission has been accomplished, thanks to many who never received credit through their perseverance and belief in the cause.
While reviewing the original list of Charter Members and guests to our early functions, many familiar names from the past emerged.
Roy Weatherby, creator of the rifles that carry his name, was always willing to donate to our fundraisers to build a treasury to help offset some of the costs in establishing a national convention – the first one having taken place at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. It was this strategy that allowed us to establish chapters – the first after Los Angeles was Chicago, and others followed quickly. Other notables included:
• Elgin Gates, who came from an outboard motor family inheritance, was considered to be America’s pioneer global trophy hunter.
• General Jimmy Doolittle of World War II fame (his squadron of B25s catapulted off the USS Hornet’s deck and bombed Tokyo in 1942).
• General Chuck Yeager, a WWII and Korean War pilot who later was first to break the sound barrier in a Bell X-1 aircraft.
• Basil Bradbury, legendary photojournalist, whose extensive world hunting exploits would be unrivaled even by today’s trophy hunters with faster travel.
Some years later, Craig Boddington joined our chapter and became president of it.
Jim Brezina, good friend and hunting partner, was an outdoor writer and newspaperman who was hired by William Randolph Hearst personally. He took great delight in recalling his WWII experiences while assigned to General Douglas McArthur’s “staged” return to the Philippines and of the many photos of the general walking ashore from his landing craft, the corn cob pipe jutting from his mouth, the aviator sunglasses along with his gold braided officer’s hat placed squarely upon his head.
Jimmy could have you laughing aloud as he repeated the story, and the more he drank, the funnier the story became. He also would recall his days as a police reporter covering Hollywood celebrities in court, e.g. Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Marilyn Monroe. He was really a very funny character, always with a straight face and mainly with a drink in his hand.
These are just some of the memorable individuals from our past with our “little club.” Our early history includes former California Governor Ronald Reagan and Senator Barry Goldwater – both of whom were guest speakers at our convention.
I had the good fortune to hunt ducks and geese with California Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown. It was a wonderful time to be at the right place, sharing an occasion or two with them.
ABC-TV’s AMERICAN SPORTSMAN series brought out a lot of motion picture, TV and sports personalities in those days.
And, the membership has grown to 55,000 in 106 countries. The rest is history. Good hunting.