During the year of 1939, San Mateo County officials arranged to have the first Floral Show and Fandango held and the new Bay Meadows Club House in San Mateo. A parade was to be held in conjunction with the show starting in Burlingame. L.C. Smith was asked by San Mateo County to organize a group of horsemen to ride in the parade and to display as many different representative types of horse-drawn vehicles as possible. Mr. Smith, as he later stated, anticipated a rather small showing. However, he underestimated his ability to organize as well as the horse lovers who couldn’t wait to show off their old family carriages, buggies and wagons. Horsemen from the southern end of the county (Pescadero) to the extreme north (Colma) were contacted and an estimated 300 horses were in the line of march on the day of the parade.
This large showing of horses was truly a credit to Mr. Smith and an inspiration to him to try to find a way of keeping these horse lovers together instead of “being scattered to the four winds”. That evening at the Fiesta Dance, L.C. Smith discussed his ideas with Don Facciolle of the Lazy Day Ranch in Portola Valley. It was Mr. Facciolle’s suggestion to start an association of horses similar to the one that had already been organized in Santa Clara County. One might say that the San Mateo County Horsemen’s Association was born that evening. However, it wasn’t until the following year that the association began officially with the election of officers. The first meeting was held in the City Hall of San Mateo with a membership roster of 20 to 25. The first directors were drawn from these first charter members and were: L.C. Smith, John Perata, George Johnson, Don O’Neil Sr., Don O’Neil Jr., Creed Haberlin, Patsy Gray, Rolla Watt, Mrs. J. Grepe, Pete Villa, Hack Hara, Harry Tyrell, Lillian Jones, Grace Jones, Colonel Koester, Judge McNutt, Nick Ayers, Brad Melvin, John F. Nyland, Myron Duncan, Lucille Fardon, Roy Waldron, Harold Himmeleman and El Spillane. Eventually thirty-five directors were elected – some serving one year, two year and three year terms. By-laws were drawn up and officers were later appointed.
The first Executive Board officers were:
President: L.C. Smith
1st Vice President: John Perata
2nd Vice President: J. Himmeleman
Secretary: Rolla Watt
Treasurer: Harry Tyrell
The Board of Directors met monthly and a general meeting was held every three months. Meetings were held at various places throughout the county in order to allow the membership to become better acquainted with the different sections of the county. Generally though, most meetings were held at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in San Mateo where dinner was served and the meeting followed.
L.C. Smith served for two years as president (1940 & 1941). The new tenure of office began at the first meeting in March of each year.
The Association’s first trail ride and barbecue started from the Old Homestead Stables in San Mateo, trailed through Spring Valley Lake properties and back to the Crystal Springs Stables where Sal Casillas and his wife served dinner.
The first uniform shirt of the Association was a rose (or pink) colored western shirt chosen by Lillian Jones and Lenora Facciolle.
A monthly bulletin was printed during the early years which publicized all the events. The bulletin was printed on pink paper and was called The Pink Shirt. It was to become symbolic of the Association.
The first rodeo was held at Kavanaugh’s Ranch located on Dumbarton Road below the Bayshore Highway.
The second trail ride was held on October 20, 1940 and a group of riders rode over to the coast and had lunch at the Miramar. This ride hoped to bring attention to the people on the coast that this new organization was alive.
During the fall of 1940, a competition sixty-five mile ride was held which started at the old Homestead Stables. It was held over a two-day period and the winners were John Dillard and Mrs J. Grepe in their respective weight divisions. Rolla Watt was given the much deserved credit for his efforts in handling this event which was the first of its kind in San Mateo County. Because of the success, Mr. Watt was asked to manage competitive trail rides for other associations.
During the Association’s second year, a few social activities were held such as dances, moonlight barbecues and breakfast rides.
One of the outstanding events in San Mateo County during 1941 was the Peninsula Celebration Association’s first rodeo held in Redwood City on July 4th. Many SMCHA members participated in the rodeo while Harold Himmeleman chaired a very successful horse show.
In March 1942, a new administration of officers was elected with Edward Spillane as president. Some of these officers were replaced as World War II called Harold Himmeleman, Rolla Watt and Mel Hanks to duty.
During the following two years, the Association faced troubled times because of the war which claimed many SMCHA members. Blackouts, gas rationing and longer working hours added burdens to the activities that had been planned. Just before Rolla Watt was called to the service, he managed to plan a successful long distance competitive trail ride. This ride was eighty-five miles and started in Woodside heading over the mountains towards Pescadero and running via La Honda’s Bear Gulch Road.
Hazel McDonald took over editorship of The Pink Shirt and did a splendid job in keeping the interest of the organization going after Rolla Watt vacated the office of Secretary and editor. A barbecue and second rodeo were held at the Lazy Day Ranch during the summer with Doc Whitman taking charge of the event.
E.J. Spillane was re-elected for a second term as president in 1943 and during this time the first trail sign markers were made and established along certain trail routes. A well-attended horse show was held at Green Briar stables in Belmont and a very successful dance was held in San Mateo in conjunction with the newly formed San Mateo Mounted Patrol. It was also about this time that SMCHA became members of the California State Horsemen’s Association.
Creed Haberlin became the third president of SMCHA in March of 1944 and under his leadership, the organization took on new life. Membership increased, activities were more numerous and a closer union with San Mateo County officials was recognized. New monthly meeting quarters were taken up at Laurel Hall in San Carlos. The Pink Shirt became a source of income carrying paid advertisements. The Statewide Trail Program sponsored by the California State Horsemen’s Association came into being with Creed Haberlin being quite active. Also during this term, the Bill Byrne Annual Futurity was inaugurated. An annual Play Day was started for members as a day of fun and games on horseback and is still being held today.
This was also the year the Huddart Park, 1000 acres of land in Woodside, was given to the county. Although it wasn’t accepted by the county until 1946 as a public recreation area, both Pete Towne and Creed Haberlin were quite active in 1944 getting the county to set aside trail and playground areas.
Alton C. Cryer was the fourth president to be elected and served the year of 1945. He was the first president with a slogan which was “Let’s be alive in ’45!” There were many activities during that year. Sunday rides, overnight rides, dances and parties. The first New Year’s Eve party was held on December 31, 1945 and soon became an annual event. It was held at the Olsen’s Broadway Garage and a horse was raffled off at the end of the evening. Irma Goldsmith writes, “It was a grand success!”
A Horse Show & Rodeo was held on June 3rd at the H and H Ranch operated by Hillis Hubbard and located on Old County Road in San Carlos. Sandford Ware was chairman of the show and succeeded in bringing in top horses from distant points.
Mr. Robert Williams was appointed to the California State Horsemen’s Association as a director and attended various meeting held throughout the state.
On September 30th, the second annual Play Day and the Bill Byrne Futurity was held at L.D. Lockwood’s estate in Atherton. A membership drive booth was established on the grounds and quite a few new members were signed up. It was shortly after this futurity that Mr. William Byrne passed away. In his memory it was decided that this would be an annual event and that a perpetual William Byrne Memorial trophy be awarded to the championship winner.
Richard Delucchi became the chairman of the entertainment committee and many fine activities were organized and sponsored.
Just before his term ended as president, Alton Cryer suggested that the dues for the upcoming year of 1946 be raised to $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for juniors. The membership voted in agreement.
It was during Pete Towne’s term of office that Alton Cryer suggested that an amendment to the by-laws be made whereby the term of the new executive officers begin in January rather than March. This amendment became effective in 1947.
January 1947 was the installation of SMCHA’s sixth president, K.L. McDonald. He had been quite active in all affairs of the Association since he joined with his wife Hazel in 1941 or 1942. He had always promoted a large membership and it seemed fitting for him to adopt the slogan “1000 MEMBERS IN 1947”. He appointed Eddie Castleman as chairman of the Membership Committee and when the drive was over SMCHA had approximately 700 members.
The state Trail Program was progressing and Mr. Triee of Woodside was hired by Governor Warren to obtain permission of “right of ways” from property owners in San Mateo County.
The membership during 1947 was reported to be 715 and a net amount of $4,396.30 was reported by the treasurer, Lincoln Clark. A very successful year drew to a close for president McDonald and the installation of the new officers took place in January of 1948 under the direction of the 7th president, Richard Delucchi.
Nine busy years passed from 1948 through 1957 and the SMCHA grew in numbers, gained in community service and status.
Riding became more and more popular. Trails were developed through Huddart Park, the Emerald Lake area of Redwood City up toward the skyline open spaces over the Stanford lands behind Menlo Park and through Portola Valley. Horsemen spent many happy hours with congenial friends riding the trails, training their horses for the shows, playdays and endurance rides. Those who were lucky could maintain their horses on their home lands building nice barns and corrals, and some could even manage a bit of green pasture. The serenity and peace of mind that so often accompanies living close to nature helped good friendships ripen. The Juniors were very active with their own group within the organization. The horse-oriented activities bringing them shared interests and fostered their natural love of animals, horses and dogs in particular. The living scenes were truly rural with few, if any, sub-divisions, congested traffic and living; the hillsides and valleys were charming in their old-world look of white fences, barns and livestock grazing at breathing intervals, of course, for both man and beast. This was a truly gracious living.
Outstanding men and women led SMCHA contributing his or her special kind of talent plus hard work to build up a fine group of riders dedicated to horsemanship, the care, feeding and training of the horse. Leisure time, minimum prosperity, with enthusiasm and sincere good fellowship accomplished so much to make possible the happy, satisfying contented life of the horseman and horsewoman during these years.
It is due to such dedication of these horsemen and horsewomen that we are able to enjoy the trails and equestrian community that we have today. Thank you to each and every one of them. Today’s SMCHA Board of Directors and membership are striving to protect the foundation of this organization that was established in 1940 so that the next generation of equestrians can enjoy the 100th anniversary of SMCHA in 2040!