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Club History of the SBTC/USA

By Steve Stone

To: All Stafford enthusiasts.

Recently it was posted on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Forum email list, that some fanciers are considering forming the East Coast Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club. It's an idea that has much merit but with certain inherent dangers lurking unseen. Those interested in that project might profit from learning about my experience in founding the organized Stafford movement in the USA. This was the founding of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of the U.S.A. (SBTC/USA), the original Stafford club that I founded, organized, and made to prosper -- not the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club Incorporated (SBTCI circa 1981) which most people today regard as the "Club."

Dog leash gif.

Club History Part I

Bandits Belle-lettres

Bandits Belle-lettres, the only picture ever to do her even partial justice -- detail from Polaroid snapshot, 1968.

After founding the Breed in Finland, 1964-1966 , I decided to make Staffordshire Bull Terriers "respectable" in the States by striving to gain AKC recognition for them once I had returned home. To this end, announced in a 1966 issue of The Stafford magazine, John Gordon, Nap Cairns, Rachael Swindells, and other English fanciers gave me the names and addresses of known Stafford owners then residing in the USA -- six in all.

After arriving in Pasadena, California, in August, 1966, I contacted all six and was delighted to discover that each one welcomed the founding the SBTC/USA, and they all asked on the spot to become members.

With these assurances and after many phone calls, I arbitrarily chose January 14, 1967, as the founding date of the SBTC/USA, the official Stafford Club and Registry at 1125 N. Mar Vista, Pasadena, California, with the assent and cooperation of the Charter Members.

On May 15. 1967, I mailed SBTC/USA Bulletin No. 1 to members Joe Orday of New York, TJ Gundry of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Atch Hott of California, Don Smith of California, Pete Sparks of Florida, J. Fife Symington Jr. of Maryland, Mrs. Mintern Chace of Maryland, and Mrs. Charles Jenkins of Maryland. Overseas Members were John Gordon, Colin Smith, and Nancy Cannell of England as well as Marion Forester of New Zealand. Joe Orday served as Acting Chairman while I became Acting Secretary/Registrar and general functionary.

Three months later, SBTC/USA Bulletin No. 2 listed seven new American and three overseas members as well as 18 new Canadian members on its membership roster.

By [December 15, 1967,] the SBTC/USA boasted a total of 23 American members, the number growing almost daily as puppies I was importing per members' orders began arriving in quantity from England and New Zealand to supplement the occasional domestic litter. Gradually Staffords began attracting a little local publicity, and the sensation of making progress seemed heady indeed.

When Bulletin No. 3 came out on March 1, 1968, its roster showed 26 American members, each of whom paid $5.00 annual dues (roughly equivalent to $18.00 today), but the rapidly expanding club lacked formal structure, which was beginning to weigh on me. I delighted in club duties such as maintaining Registry records and pedigrees, importing puppies from England and New Zealand for impatient newcomers, running monthly SBTC/USA classified ads in Dog World magazine (out of my own pocket), scrounging publicity, writing articles for The Stafford magazine and other publications, ordering and distributing traditional Stafford collars for members, referring prospective buyers to breeders, and performing a dozen other minor functions that befall a benevolent tyrant. However, as old-fashioned American who takes the democratic process seriously. I despise bullies and tyrants, even benevolent ones, so as the club grew apace I become increasingly uncomfortable with being the head of a large group in which members enjoyed no actual representation.

The largest number of Staffords ever to gather at one US site met on [February 4, 1968], when 12 Stafford fanciers from southern California brought nine Staffords to the first-ever Stafford Rally at the Lanterman Terrace (Los Angeles) home of Larry and Lillian Rant who had recently purchased their beloved foundation bitch Charlie Girl (Bearcats Belleamour by Bandits Firestreak Red Rover ex Bandits Belle-lettres) from my first American-bred litter.

On April 2, 1968, [a letter] went out to all members: "At the behest of SBTC/USA Acting Chairman Joseph Orday, who urged that the Los Angeles area members hold an organizing meeting because of their numbers and proximity, an informal gathering met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Laurence Rant in Los Angeles on March 15, 1968. An Organizing Committee was set up, consisting of Jack Crowther, Steve Stone, Jean Harrison, and Larry Rant. They met at the home of Steve Stone on March 21, 1968, and drafted a Proposed Provisional Constitution and By-Laws (enclosed)..." Members were strongly urged to suggest changes and to nominate themselves and others for club offices. A provisional board was set up to serve out the rest of the year until a formal election for 1969 could be held.

Bulletin No. 6 of August 31, 1968, informed members that I had contacted John Brownell, Assistant to the President of the American Kennel Club and had received a letter from him indicating that the AKC had set up a file on the SBTC/USA and that the AKC Board expected to find "several hundred dogs of a breed in the USA" before the breed could receive consideration for admittance to the Miscellaneous Class.

Bulletin No. 7 , December 1, 1968, found that some 95 Staffords, owned by 52 American members, were thriving in various parts of the States, compared to 14 when the club was founded. For newer members it reiterated a distinction that first appeared in Bulletin No. 1 some 18 months earlier, explaining that in casual conversation or writing our Breed should be referred to as "Staffords" rather than "Staffs" or "Staffies," terms then used by fanciers of AKC Staffordshire Terriers, and that the AKC breed should be referred to as "AmStaffs." Later when that breed officially changed its name to American Staffordshire Terrier, that became standard usage.

On its second anniversary, [January 14, 1969], after two years of importing, breeding, and promoting, the SBTC/USA had a membership list numbering 57 Americans, 23 Canadians, and six overseas members. Also, it seemed that the AKC stipulation of "several hundred dogs of a breed in the USA" actually meant "two hundred," the number that had sufficed for Ibizan Hounds. Staffords were already half way to that goal. The club was operating in an open, free, and genuinely democratic manner, serving its members and their interests while providing free registration and pedigree services plus free import assistance as well as free information, publicity, breeder referrals, and advertising. (No club funds were expended on club-related expenses other than printing and postage.) The club also processed paid orders for Stafford books, magazines, and traditional collars.

Bulletin No. 9 April 10, 1969, announced that the SBTC/USA had 63 American members and 10 overseas members in addition to Canadian members, plus 107 registrations and 13 puppies on the ground, totaling 120 Staffords. Also announced was the first-ever Stafford Specialty Show (an "evaluation show") to be judged by Miss Rachael Swindells of England on May 11, 1968. Unfortunately, however, an airline strike prevented her from making the trip to America, causing the event to be canceled, a wrenching setback at the time.

By [July 10, 1968,] the club had signed 15 new American members, making a total of 78 who owned 147 Staffords. The estimated target date for reaching the magic number of 200 registrations was early 1970.

Staffords had gone "from zero to sixty" in two seconds flat.

Margot of Rossisle

Margot of Rossisle, the first mature bitch of championship quality imported into the US by Steve Stone and Lillian Rant, 1969. (Polaroid snapshot taken at Rossile Manor, Shrewsbury, England, on February 6, 1966.)

In October, 1969, I accepted a teaching position at Bellevue College in Bellevue, Nebraska, and asked SBTC/USA President Jack Crowther to convene the board so that I could officially hand over club records and the secretaryship to Larry and Lillian Rant to continue the work I had begun. I did so with the promise to assist in whatever way I could. This I was most happy to do, for I had been carrying the burden almost single-handedly for three years and wanted to devote more time to my family and the new job. I asked only that I would continue to be recognized as the Founder, to which the board readily assented.

In late November, 1969, I left California for my native state, secure in the knowledge that I had done what I had set out to do when leaving Finland: The Breed was virtually ready to enter the AKC Miscellaneous Class, and the club rested in what I naively believed to be reliable hands.

Dog leash gif.

Club History Part II

In early December, 1969, I began teaching at Bellevue College and spent the first few weeks free of Stafford concerns as our family purchased a new home and acquainted ourselves with the area. The club mailed its first Stone-free SBTC/USA communication, a handsome magazine, edited by Lillian Rant, that replaced the lapsed Bulletins, and everything seemed in order.

Soon however, reports began filtering in from various club members that their phone calls and letters to SBTC/USA officials were being ignored -- some even reported encountering open hostility. Still other information disclosed that Board members were trying to purge several veteran club members while showing clear favoritism toward certain friends, most of them newcomers living near Lanterman Terrace. My inquiries to determine the substance of such allegations were met with bland reassurances.

The number of complaints increased until they could no longer be dismissed. It became apparent that some Californians felt that, for insance, founding member Joe Orday and other members such as Frank McNolty did not meet the Lanterman Terrace crowd's lofty standards. One board member in particular took it upon herself to telephone them and tell them they were being thrown out of the club, forthwith, without evidence or appeal. Further, those who fell from the good graces of the "inner sanctum" were subjected to behind-the-back smear campaigns that impugned their Staffords and their honesty. Before long, harassment of "the victim of the week" became standard procedure,. No member outside the board's politburo remained entirely immune from it.

Because these inquisitorial methods contravened every principle of participatory democracy I had practiced in the organization I had created from scratch, I attempted by phone and letter to intercede on behalf of the affected rank-and-file members, but in February, 1970, a mere three months after I had left California, the Rants told me summarily that I no longer had any say whatever in club affairs and that they would run the club as they saw fit. The only tangible result of my efforts at reconciliation between the board and the members was that the magazine ceased designating me as the Founder.

Never having been one for going quietly into that good night, I began contacting club members whom I had brought into the club over the years and discovered that the situation was actually much worse than suspected.

The February, 1971, club elections were hotly contested by pro-board and the anti-board factions, but the sitting board ultimately garnered a plurality -- however, it did so only, as was proved, by committing election fraud. I spelled out the pertinent details to all members in the resurrected Bulletin No. 12 .

At the same time, Larry Rant and the board were secretively trying to appropriate the SBTC/USA name (which just happened to be my intellectual property) by registering it as a [California non-profit corporation]. However, a late-night phone call sounded the alarm, so I enlisted the help of my best friend, Bob Green, an Omaha attorney who quickly discovered that their registration with Los Angeles County and the State of California had never been completed, so we simply registered the SBTC/USA with Douglas County, Nebraska, and the State of Nebraska while the California paperwork hovered in limbo.

When the Californians got the news in a registered letter, the ensuing flood of abuse, threats, and lawyers' bombast had to be experienced to be disbelieved, for they were genuinely outraged that I had thwarted their theft. They and their attorneys took some time to realize that California law had no standing in Nebraska.

In re-founding the SBTC/USA, I had sought and received the unqualified support of every single one of the original Charter Members, some of whom volunteered start-up funds for the purpose, for such was dissatisfaction in club ranks. The outflanked and outraged Californians sputtered and fumed, but I had a typewriter, plenty of paper, and a ditto machine plus access to the US Postal Service, so they were forced to watch helplessly as the majority of veteran Stafford folk "voted with their feet" to became members of the reorganized club.

Embarrassed, the Californians were forced to re-register under a name they didn't have to steal, that is, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America (SBTC/A). To say that they reacted badly would be a masterpiece of understatement. Instantly I was promoted from Petty Annoyance to Evil Incarnate as they began a campaign of character assassination, spreading vicious untruths not only about the SBTC/USA and its members but about my family and my Staffords. However, countering their lies was simple: telling the truth was stratagem with which they simply could not cope, for the truth never failed to stump them.

On June 1, 1971, Newsletter from the Founder No. 6 announced the first SBTC/USA elections -- free and open and democratic -- to the 55 members who had wasted no time in rallying around the flag.

Later in 1971, Staffords gained admittance to the AKC Miscellaneous Class, and because I felt that the dogs had alleady suffered too much from conflicting factions, I made several attempts to reach an armistice for the good of the Breed, but to no avail. I even [offered to meet with the SBTC/A President] in southern California during the 1972 Easter vacation when I would be visiting my parents in Altadena because I wanted to demonstrate a willingness to meet them considerably more than halfway. But apparently the SBTC/A had no stomach for a face-to-face encounter.

By February 4, 1972, Bulletin No. 16 sported a membership list that covered two sheets of legal-sized paper (single-spaced) containing the names and addresses of no less than 137 dues-paying members, which figure did not include 23 who chose to remain unlisted so as to avoid becoming the subject of telephone abuse. Thus, in less than a year after the SBTC/USA was reincarnated, it had 160 members. Much to the SBTC/a's dismay, it continued to thrive for the simplest of reasons: it treated all its many far-flung members fairly and equally.

In 1974, I passed the leadership of the SBTC/USA to Irma Rosenfield, a Massachusetts Stafford breeder who with her family had stopped in Omaha while moving to Tucson and decided to stay. I had long since sickened of the lies, the bickering, and the pettiness flowing from California and felt that if I were out of the picture there would be a better chance for a rapprochement between the two clubs. To her great credit, Irma continued to manage the SBTC/USA in strict adherence to democratic processes and in a spirit of fair play all around.

In 1975, the AKC admitted Staffords to separate classes in the Terrier Group. Thus the Californians achieved their one-and-only stated goal, the one to which they had sacrificed Breed harmony and most members' interests but which had been, paradoxically, delayed by several years because of the strife they had engendered in their tunnel-visioned pursuit of a worthwhile objective.

AKC acceptance had been just the first of a series of goals in mind in 1966 when I returned from Finland with the intention of organizing the Staffordshire Bull Terrier movement, and I was delighted to see it come to fruition even though my own dogs were far too old for the show ring. There still remained the tasks of bolstering Breed numbers and of developing a national network of regional and local Stafford clubs. Further, the Breed faced a massive project in educating and training all-breed, terrier, and specialist judges to recognize the Breed and adjudicate it properly.

A sense of anticlimax, however, seemed to grip the California group once Staffords had gained AKC acceptance, for despite its members' eager participation in shows the SBTC/A had not as an organization seen beyond that first step to which they had subordinated all other considerations, particularly fairness and the democratic process. With the wind dumped from its sails and lacking other objectives, the SBTC/A seemed unable to proceed organizationally so that these mentioned goals were hardly advocated, much less met.

As for the family-oriented SBTC/USA, Irma Rosenfield had not challenged the Californians to mortal combat and trounced them at it, so the SBTC/A harbored far less animosity toward her, and after several years serious discussions developed concerning the amalgamation of the SBTC/USA and the SBTC/A. Finally it was agreed that a new amalgamated national club would be called the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, Inc.. It was further agreed that it would operate on the principles of open and participatory democracy, but this was never fully implemented.

I had definite reservations about the SBTCI being operated democratically in pursuit of the unmet goals and for the benefit of the members rather than for the benefit of a clique, but I told Irma, "Now that the States have several thousand Staffords and the Breed is in the AKC, members are just going to have to look after their own interests or suffer accordingly."

The following decades have amply demonstrated that my reservations were not entirely without basis.

Steve Stone
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