According to Kevin Abram, Robbinsdale Sportsmen’s Club member 1968-1978, "this was about the time the land was purchased, which was an old sheep pasture. The photo looks like it is about 1970 or 1971 just after we built the first trap range with the mechanical thrower. It was activated by a lever pulled back and forth in a tube underground. About 20 yards further back from where the photographer would have stood was a farm dump complete with appliance and all. It was bulldozed over to make the flat area for the trap range The large evergreen trees on the property were planted as seedlings from the DNR and planted by myself and younger brother. The spring on the property created the small stream and swamp in the middle of the property. When the property was first purchased there were no trees at the front of the property down to the pond. Cows used to wander over from time to time. I think they came over sometimes when we were picnicking just to see what we were doing. The cement squares were from the sidewalks of North Minneapolis that were redone back in 1970. They were picked up as scrap from the city."
HISTORY, RECOLLECTIONS AND MILESTONES OF THE ROBBINSDALE SPORTSMANS CLUB
AND THE MINNESOTA SPORTSMAN CLUB
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By Kirk A. Schnitker
Member of the Minnesota Sportsman Club
There is history in the long ago established clubs that are associated with hunting, fishing and the out of doors. There is the St. Anthony Gun Club, the Fur, Fins and Feathers Club, the Nicollet Conservation Club and many others including both the Robbinsdale Sportsman Club (RSC) and the Minnesota Sportsman Club (MSC). These clubs all have much in common and that is a common interest in hunting, fishing and the out of doors. Many are primarily social clubs and many are primarily shooting clubs. Some have deep roots in conservation work and have contributed greatly to restoration of soil and water in our state. The reality is most have come and gone or withered to an almost non-existence nature as compared to time when it was a vibrant club comprised of hundreds and known near and far.
Withering away is not something the Robbinsdale Sportsman Club, now known as the Minnesota Sportsman Club, has done. It has had its low years as to membership and activity but today it is a vibrant club. In many ways this club has flourished in its facilities and organizational structure. It has also achieved a statewide status in its role in conservation and gun club protection work. The Minnesota Sportsman Club is not a large club in membership as it limits membership; on the other hand, it stands out in its facilities and local and statewide contributions. It has been active with its youth and other benevolent organizations and police and fire and it has been active with statewide conservation organizations and played a role at the State Capital. Only one other hunting, fishing outdoor club is known to have survived as long as the Minnesota Sportsman Club and that is the Fur, Fins and Feathers Club. The history of the Minnesota Sportsman Club is significant and this writing will be a record of recordable milestones, recollections and more that make up the history of this club.
This writing would not be possible without the assistance of John Banholzer who encouraged the writing of this history. John's father and uncles were some of the earliest members of the Robbinsdale Sportsman Club and John worked many hours gathering historical information for this writing. Additionally, Minnesota Sportsman Club members Steve Albro and John Ondrachek encouraged the writing of this history and provided sources of information. Finally, thank you to all other members of the Minnesota Sportsman Club who helped and gave assistance and encouragement.
Not all what you will read will be consistent for a couple of reasons. Memories fade and different folks have different perspectives and experiences. This is a reality but it does not diminish the need for a recording of history. We have recorded here summaries of interviews with MSC members. These interviews cover some sixty plus years of club's history based on direct knowledge. We also have provided certain records, photos, newsletters articles and more that help tell the history of this club.
Kirk Schnitker, 2011
II. RECOLLECTIONS OF MINNESOTA SPORTSMAN CLUB MEMBERS
The following are narrative summaries of interviews conducted with Minnesota Sportsman Club members. An effort was mad to obtain as early and relevant information as possible. Memories fad and recollections differ, however we know we know all of those interviewed had the desire to share the club history to the best of their recollection. They all made it clear in one-way or another they had great recollection of a club they had developed great fondness and loyalty.
A. Interview With Mark Kleckner
Mark Kleckner was interviewed briefly over the phone on December 4, 2008. At the time of this history, Mark is one of the currently active members with the largest history with the club.
Per Mark and per club records his membership goes back to 1980 or 1981. According to Mark those years were not one where membership was at a high point as he recalls, "when I joined the club only had about 9 members." When asked what he knew about the move from the city to Zimmerman, Mark states the club had gotten "punked out of Robbinsdale" as more and more members were no longer from that city.
The club "was dying in vein" when Mark became a member, as he puts it, so some changes were needed. In spring of 1982 the club got more active in promoting the faltered trap league and bought new, better traps. They advertised to get more trap shooters and before long, according to Mark, we "started growing so fast we decided to put a cap of 50 members." Mark says the growth was due to the trap league. In the mid 80's he said they opened the club property up to hunting.
In those early 80's days Eddie Long, Virgil Marshik and Art Brodeen were a couple of active members. Eddie Long, for example, was a Robbinsdale guy, but he and the rest worked and "we built it up" according to Mark.
B. Recollections Of Virgil Marshik
Virgil Marshik joined the Robbinsdale Sportsman Club in about 1968. He recalls that the name change to Minnesota Sportsman Club was because there were few Robbinsdale members.
In the early years 1968 on, he recalls that there were few members. As he states, "If we had 25 … that was maximum." He became the club treasurer as he "inherited" it as no one else wanted the job. Virgil held that post for about five years and said it was not a great job, as the club really had no money at the time. During his early years the club was primarily a conservation club, which had carried over from its earlier years, but that and we "then switched over to trap and shooting" solved the club's money shortage.
In his early years with the club, before and after it became the Minnesota Sportsman Club, he said there were many activities. He recalls being active with firearms safety with the schools. They were involved with the Minnesota Conservation Federation and the club was active in conservation activities. For number of years the club members shot trap at the St. Michael Gun Club and later they decided to build their own trap and shooting range. He did not recall the year the club constructed it's trap ranges.
Virgil recalled the early years on the Zimmerman site and the work he and other members did to improve the property. He recalled the years when the clubhouse was down by the spring and how they worked at the projects with volunteer help and donated equipment to make the clubhouse, road, trap and range improvements. Virgil Marshik was interviewed on January 7, 2009.
C. Interview With Fritz Simcoe
Fritz a long time member of the Minnesota Sportsmen Club was interviewed on March 9, 2009. It was apparent from information he gave that he was an active member and volunteer at a time when many things were happening at the club.
Fritz started with the MSC in 1981. He recalls some of the building work that was going on at the time. This included work where they needed concrete blocks and they "basically" got them donated by Anchor Block. He said they were "supposed to be chipped" ones but they were all good block and worked just fine. Fritz recalls Ed Lande and Mick Turk who were good volunteers and Ed had an excavating business and charged almost nothing for his equipment and gasoline expenses. Ken Nolte also knew how to run a cat and at times they rented one and Ken would run it and that "saved a ton of money" according to Fritz. Also member Bob Essig did a lot of grade work and did a nice job. He also noted Big John Ondracek as a good volunteer.
When he first joined the club Fritz said they were meeting at the Tally Ho Restaurant in Robbinsdale as they still had members down that way. He said, however, members from the Robbinsdale area dropped out, some moved north and eventually it made sense to move it north to where the members were. When they bought the Zimmerman property he felt it was a "heaven sent gift" as it was close to home and family. He noted in those days many members, including himself, had young families and that has changed over the years.
In the early years there was "some division between the conservation group" in the club and other members. He said there was some connection with the MN Waterfowl Association but he did not recall or know how the connection started. As the grounds developed the shooting leagues gave the club the funds it truly needed to stay afloat. In the spring of 1982 he recalls they started with five teams and they have been going ever since.
Fritz recalls over the years being active in working for the club to keep income flowing. It is apparent from talking to Fritz he was proud of his contributions and how he helped to make the club what it is.
D. Interview With John Banholzer
John Banholzer has a unique perspective with both the Robbinsdale Sportsman Club and the Minnesota Sportsman Club. John grew up in Robbinsdale and was born in1939. His dad, Jester "Mike" Banholzer, was one of the original members of the RSC in the late 30's and is listed as the Vice President when the constitution and by-laws of the Robbinsdale Sportsman Club, Inc. were officially adopted on the 28th day of August 1941. John was quite young back then but he has many solid memories from the 50's and 60's of the club, it's members and activities. Per John they organized the RSC in 1939 but did not incorporate it until 1941. Also John said his dad was the first President of the RSC but not when it was incorporated. Rudolph Beck was the first President when it was incorporated and officially established with by-laws and such.
According to John just after WWII activity in sportsman type clubs peaked. The RSC was no different. John recalls that in 1946 he believes there were as many as 1,400 members of the RSC. He recalls this based on what his dad told him, "There was a slug of them" after the war. As John put it, "I seen this whole thing grow". During those early years the "Minneapolis guys kind of took it over" according to John when he was asked if members had to be from Robbinsdale. John said, "dad always told Robbinsdale guys started the club" but "the north Minneapolis guys took that club over in the early 50's" and "guys from Robbinsdale dropped out". He said his dad told him this happened because the Robbinsdale guys felt they no longer had a say on how the club was run.
In the early days the trap shooting was a big deal according to John. He does not believe they ever owned their own club place as they always used other folk's ranges. This included using the St. Anthony Gun Club that was located in Fridley before it moved to Ramsey. Dan McInnis ran the St. Anthony Gun Club John recalls and he was also a member of the RSC. John says his dad had a lot of respect for McInnis. John recalls Jimmy Robinson would shoot at some of "the gun club shoots". In the very early years John recalls the RSC had a shooting range on Highway 81 by Twin Lake in Robbinsdale. They also had a place where they did trap shooting in the mid 40's or after the war on the east side of Eagle Lake in Plymouth Township, the area that is now Plymouth. This place on Eagle Lake had a picnic area, dance area and of course the trap shooting range. John said he was just a boy at the time.
John recalls the conservation work done by the club. He recalls one dollar of every membership fee would go to Ducks Unlimited. Volunteers Louis Thomas and George Nelson would go to the legislature and lobby for causes "the club cared about". John said, "George Nelson was something else in all the work he spent on conservation issues". The RSC also managed fish rearing ponds and "a lot of those guys did what the DNR does now days".
John also recalls those early days where the RSC would have booths at the Sports Show and he provided a photo that is included in this club history. They would have the booth to promote conservation and the clubs activities.
E. Interview With Art Brodeen
Without a doubt Art Brodeen has some knowledge of some early years of the Minnesota Sportsmen Club. He became a member in 1948 of the Robbinsdale Sportmans Club. He was interviewed for this information in 2006 and he shared some good information about his experience with the club. Additionally, when interviewed Art provided a three-page history of the club that he put together in January of 1995.
When Art joined the RSC in 1948 Clint Burson was president. He said it is a misconception that the club had lots of members in those days and he recalled it never had hundreds of members like some say. His recollection is that there were not more than about 60 members in those days. "Conservation projects" were the club's focus in those days according to Art. This included work at the legislature and "Lenny Hockert was a great one at that" along with Bill Engler. They also worked with Ducks Unlimited on "WMA projects" and on "laws to help the wardens" and the firearm safety program. Regarding conservation he said "yes they have" gotten away from that and over "the last 25 years I'd say its been nothing but a shooting club". Art stated, "Definitely they should be involved in conservation" as the organization was "originally a conservation club".
According to Art the transition from the RSC away from the Robbinsdale area to the north was gradual and not an easy one. Robbinsdale area members were decreasing and more members coming on board from the Elk River, Anoka and Zimmerman areas. A name change was in order and this happened in approximately 1959 or 1960 he recalls. Art said his dates are not perfect to the year but very close! The decision was made to MSC and the club moved north. The MSC operated out of the St. Anthony Gun Club and they were raising dues each year and "the guys were getting tired of it". Art said "we wanted a place of our own" and they searched around and they struggled to find something suitable but a member of the club was a realtor and he found the current property near Zimmerman. It was the first piece of real estate owned by the club according to Art. He said they originally bought about 70 acres and later added more.
The "clubhouse originally was built on telephone poles". The club had no money but later they got some and they had some members that were good at laying blocks so they started to build the building that is there today. Some of the wood was recycled from an old duplex. At one point some of the wood and blocks got stolen so that was a setback. Member Ed Hande, who was a member, had the equipment so they kept building. Art also said Ed "was a good guy!"
As stated above see the attached "The History of Minnesota Sportsmen Club" compiled by Art Brodeen in January 1995.
F. Interview With Bernie Huseth
Bernie Huseth is an MSC member who participated in many club activities. He took most interest in legislative activities and has attended many functions at our state capital filling the ears of legislators who wanted to listen and sometimes those who didn't.
Bernie was interviewed on December 4, 2008 and he recalled that the clubs name was changed in 1969 from Robbinsdale Sportsman Club to the Minnesota Sportsman Club. He said around 1987 there were "very few members" with "less than twenty." He said the reason was that the club had moved to Zimmerman and there were "not a lot of people out this way" but at that time "city people still came up camping, shooting and part taking in festivities." He recalled, "The picnics back then were fun." He said it was not "until 1998 or so when Ably (Steve Albro) was president that more members came in." Bernie recalled that "I brought up that we needed more members and that didn't go over too good, but the work wasn't getting done." Eventually, he said, those who objected "pretty much" realized we needed more members to get the work done. At the time of the interview Bernie said there were 80 or 90 members including life members.
Bernie offered some interesting observations on the MSC creed that is pledged at the beginning of each meeting. We know based on records that this creed goes back to the early years of the RSC. Bernie believes it to be a creed used by many different groups and is a sort of "universal pledge" as opposed to one that was unique to the RSC and MSC. In one early RSC Bulletin it reads, "CONSERVATION PLEDGE - I give my pledge as an American, to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country - it's soil and minerals, it's forests, waters and wildlife.
Given Bernie's work on behalf of the club at the state capital it is clear he was happy about and agreed with the words of the club creed and the original mission, which involved conservation activities local and statewide.
G. Interview With Steve Albro
Steve Albro became a member of the MSC in 1991 and took on a very active role. Steve was either president or on the board for 9 or 10 years and very active in club functions.
According to Steve there were two issues that he wanted addressed while he served as president. These included the need to incorporate the club so as to minimize liability of individual club members. The second was to up grade the insurance coverage that the club carried. According to Steve the club had only minimal insurance coverage and that changed.
A major issue that faced the MSC during part of Steve's tenure was whether to increase membership. There were some club members who approved increasing members above the 40 -50 member cap but Steve said he wanted the cap raised to "60 then to 70" members. "I pushed for that" according to Steve because there was "not enough manpower" to get all the work done. Steve also felt the club membership was aging and there was a major need for new people with new ideas. "We needed new blood" as Steve put it and he believes the club is better for it today.
IV. A BENEVALENT ORGANIZATION
Not enough can be said about the acts of help, kindness and community support the Minnesota Sportsman Club have engaged in. Talking to just one Minnesota Sportsman Club member in 2009 he gloated admirably about the club's current contributions and activities. There included:
Hosting firearm safety course.
Scholarship funding of four scholarships each year.
Donation to Princeton Library.
Zimmerman Public School donation.
ALS event hosting.
Cancer research events.
Donations to State Conservation efforts.
Active in gun range protection legislation.
Legislature activity and networking with other conservation clubs at legislature and DNR.
These are some of the current contributions and activities, however over the many years of the club's history the list is much more extreme and one for which club members should be proud.
V. PAST RSC & MSC PRESIDENTS-
- a complete list has not been located -
Rudolph J. Eck
John Rose 1962
Steve Albro 1991
Lonnie Mack 2010
Dan Jorgenson 2011
VI. ARTICLES, NEWSLETTERS, RECORDS AND MORE
The following pages are copies of different pieces of MSC history. These records and articles and photos and newsletters and such are part of the clubs pedigree and they demonstrate the breadth of the club. Enjoy this club's history and if you are fortunate to be a member always wear your membership proudly, as we know you do!