Former AHC member Mick Meilicke has provided a history of the club that you sure don’t want to miss reading! Follow Mick online at his blog (http://mickann.
A Brief History of the Alabama Hunt Club 1978-1998 Through the Eyes of Mick Meilicke
Many years have passed since we moved from Buffalo. That is like eleven years ago. How time flies. But I was going through some old photos and came across a bunch I took when I was active in the Hunt Club. So I looked up the Hunt Club in the net and found the web site and Hans’ email address. After a few emails passed back and forth between Hans and myself, we agreed that I would send the pictures to him and also a brief history of what happened at the Hunt Club from the time I joined until I was no longer active. Now the majority of this stuff happened during from 1978 to early 1990. But I think it is important for all members of an organization to leave behind some type of written history so the future members can have an appreciation of what happened in the past. However, you have to keep mind that this just one man’s opinion of what happened, and at my age I very well may have missed a whole bunch or didn’t get it right. Anyway as they say “this is my story and I sticking to it.” Anyway here we go.
June 1977, my family and I moved to Buffalo, NY from Denver. Since I had been shooting black powder since 1970, I needed a place to shoot in Western New York. I followed up on an ad in the Muzzle Blast placed by the Alabama Hunt Club. So I packed up the family and attended one of Hunt Club’s shoots. At that time the club only had three shoots a year, spring, summer and fall. And these shoots were open to the public. It turned out there were more non members shooting than members. Well I decided to join the club. The only people who showed for the next meeting was myself and one member. I think this was Les Wolf, but don’t hold me to that. The President didn’t even make it. Now not being entirely stupid, I decided not to join when no one attends meetings and I as a non member can shoot in all of the events.
Well after about a year passed I was attending a shoot when I was listing to a conversation between a couple of members including Gene Wojcik, I think I am spelling that correctly. They were wondering why the club was having membership difficulties. So I gave them my two cents worth and they took the position if you so smart, why don’t you join the club and do something about it. So I did. At the first meeting Gene ending up being the President and me the Secretary. Later the members who attended meetings, maybe all ten of them, voted to have the Secretary publish a monthly news letter, have shoots for members only the first Sunday of the month, and dump the summer public shoot as it was too bloody hot. We also decided to have metals for the top three shooters at the monthly shoots. And that is how all that stuff got started.
Well, the first Sunday shoot was rather sparsely attended. Maybe eight to ten folks. But we did shoot. The ranges were six bull at 25 offhand, fifty cross sticks, and 100 bench. And we did hand out the metals. Well, this went on for a couple of years and the number of shooters picked up. Pretty soon we were hitting around 20 shooters, or there about, a month. After a few more years of shooting, winning a metal was no big deal. So what the membership decided to do was to take the fee charged for the monthly shoot, save it up, and keep track of each shooters score for the shooting year. At the end of the shooting year prizes were purchased with the money from the fees for every shooter who had shot in at least six of the last monthly shoots. Now let me tell ya, did the numbers of shooters pick up. And if you were in the running for a prize, you didn’t dare miss a shoot. Now shooting at Alabama NY in January wasn’t exactly a fun thing to do. But you did it so you would not miss a shoot. Pretty soon we had so many shooters we were filling up every spot to shoot.
With all of these prizes to get rid of, we had to have a special time to do that. So we decided to have an annual party day in July. We would show up early that day to make sure we got some shooting in before lunch and shoot we did. If I remember correctly it was pretty much fun shooting like shooting at gongs, strings and stuff like that. It was a blast. The club paid for the meat to grill for lunch and I think the members brought salads, deserts, and other goodies. What a time we had. Now by this time all of the prizes were laid out on the a table for all to look at. After lunch we had a short meeting, and then the winners were announced and the top shot got the first pick and on down the line. When it was all over, everyone who had shot six matches got a prize. And great prizes they were. I remember one year I was top gun and picked a 1851 Navy Colt replica. I was hoping for the real thing but that didn’t happen.
By this time it was in the mid 80’s. The club was healthy with around, if my memory is correct, over 100 members. I personally believe it was the monthly shoots that saved the club. Now we had a problem. There was not enough members taking an active roll in the club activities. So we changed the by laws is such a manner that we were able to kick out none participating members, restricted the number of full members, creating probationary members, and stuff like that. It worked. Now we had a membership that was active and the work got done. Those were the good times, but we were not without a little bickering.
And bickering we did have. Sometimes it got right down serious. The first real battle was over the gun show. When I first joined the gun show was held in the clubhouse. It was a small show, 14 tables I believe. Needless to say, we did not make a lot of money on that, and more revenue was needed to run the club. Now here is were I think the most crucial decision ever made in the club’s history was made. Gene Wojcik knew that the 14 table show would lead the club down the drain. His vision was to have a 100 table show at the Batavia Ice Rink. At that time I was the President of the club. And Gene and I had many hours of conversation in his garage drinking martinis discussing how all of this would work.
What a time. Anyway we presented this to the Board of Directors and after much going back and forth, we decided to present this to the membership to see what they wanted to do. Now did the poop hit the fan. Half the membership said no way, we can’t afford the initial start up cost of that big of a show, and simply did not believe all of the road blocks we would face could be overcome. Keep in mind this was a huge financial obligations the club would have to take. The other half said we have to take the risk to survive financially and if we did not have the show in Batavia, we would eventually have serious financial difficulty. I personally was scared to death that if we took the risk, and did not have a profitable show, we would be in huge trouble financially. However, Gene preserved. The ace in the hole was that Gene knew many gun dealers who had quality merchandise that would support the show. So the membership by a majority voted for the Batavia show. But yet there were many who were quite concerned that the risk was to great. However, the show was successful, we sold out the 100 tables, and made more money than we ever did. I personally credit Gene Wojick with having the vision necessary to see what we had to do in order to survive. I think these shows continue today.
Not all of the bickering was over matters as serious as the gun show. The most laughable issue I remember and I am sure there were many more, was over the invisible line in the camping area where the modern camping ended and primitive camping began at the Spring and Fall Shoots. Tom Slaughts, spelling probably is wrong, bless his heart, was adamant about this. Man did the hooting and hollering fill the room at that meeting. But anyway everything worked out. Ah, the Spring and Fall Shoots. Were they fun. We were running out of room camping on our property next to the road so someone came up with a great idea. I think it was Sammy DeSalvo. Why don’t we buy the land east of us, clear it out and make room for primitive camping? Well the owner wouldn’t sell, but he said go ahead and use the land as you would like. So off we went, cleared out a bunch of room, and had a grand time. Boy I still can remember Sandy Storenlli, sorry Sandy for butchering your name, Ken Lavery and many others camping out there. We also had a lot of other folks from Western New York like the gang from the Little Beards. As a matter of fact, it was then Sammy and all of those boys attended their first shoot at the Alabama Club. What a time that was. I think of all the times I miss, it is these shoots I miss the most. Like the time Ken and I got into the spirits and tried to make onion soup out of the wild onions growing there. Ann, my wife, was not impressed. Actually, the next day Ken and I were not impressed either. Especially after the heads cleared up. But it sure was fun.
Well, I guess the next big issue we faced was how to deal with the size of the membership. I don’t know exactly was the size of the membership was at that time, well over a hundred considering full and probationary members. But we were out of space. I believe Sam DeSalvo was President at the time. This was when discussion took place having to do with building an extension on the tail end of the club house. Again, the membership was really concerned, and rightfully so, over the financial issue. We sure did not want to mortgage the club so we had to pay cash. But we were in pretty good shape financially thanks to the profits of the gun show. So after many meetings were we discussed cost proposals, drawings, and stuff like that, the membership said OK go for it. And did we ever. Walls came tumbling down, cinder block was thrown up, roofs put on, and presto we had an extension on the club house. But one small difficulty. We ran out of money and money was owed. Well let me tell ya, the membership wasn’t too happy about that. All kinds of solutions were discussed but it was decided that the best way out was to sell lifetime memberships. I can’t remember what the cost was, but I guess it was good deal as a lot of the membership wanted in on the deal. To make it fair, everyone who wanted in threw their name in a hat and names were drawn, and money paid. That is how we paid off the construction project.
And so folks, that pretty much covers the major stuff that the club dealt with. Maybe there more but I can’t remember them. There were a lot of other things we did, like planting trees along the edges of the property, adding on a bunch additional shooting stations to expand the number of positions, building storage sheds, buying grills, redoing the kitchen. But as I sit here finishing up this, what you ever what to call this piece of literature, I just cannot help but think back as to what a great membership we really did have. We came from all walks of life, and yes we did have our squabbles, but that was exactly what there were. And that is healthy. However, I no recollection of anyone personally attacking another. We really all did get along well for we all have the common desire and that was to make the club a better place for all of us to have great time and enjoy each other. I hope you all have enjoyed reading this thing and have a better understanding of the heritage of the Alabama Hunt Club.
So I wish you well, Alabama Hunt Club. As they say, keep poking and stroking.