The Bekaert Strain:
They call them "Waterhouse Bekaerts", but this is not exactly so. Actually, the family is a blend of birds from many and varied origins. Undoubtedly the Bekaert identity has taken precedence because the most famous of the foundation birds,
AU50 OCC 1045, was straight Bekaert from the loft of Hector van Neste.
Well, here's how it all came about. For several years after my return from the service in 1946, we witnessed, with amazement, the splendid successes and performance of two great Orange County fanciers, the late Gus Callens and Jack Conaway. During the late 40s and early 50s those of us who flew racing pigeons in Orange County found these two gentlemen exceedingly difficult to beat. When they were on top they generally swept the upper positions on the race sheet. In other words, it was not just one bird in the diplomas but a number.
In 1949 Conaway acquired most of Hector van Neste's Bekaerts which he originally brought with him from Detroit, Michigan. During the course of the next few years, Conaway exchanged some of these birds with Gus Callens who had imported some of the finest Haveniths, Wegges, Stassarts, and Looseveldts from Eastern U.S. and European lofts. The offspring of these exchange matings produced some outstanding birds for both Conaway and Callens. This, in essence, was the beginning of this very successful family.
In the spring of 1953 Jack Conaway unfortunately found it necessary to abruptly leave the sport and dispose of his birds. It was our good fortune to immediately learn of his decision and acquire four of the best pairs in his loft. These included such foundation birds as AU49 OCC 1166, BChSplH; AU 47 A960, BBH; AU48 OCC 538, BBC, etc. About this same time, George Derby joined El Rancho Meo as loft manager, bringing with him 1045, which he had acquired as a youngster from van Neste. He also brought AU49 OCC 358, a brother to 1166 and AU48 OCC 38, RChH Haveniths, both of which he had acquired from the late Gus Callens.
Later in 1953 we introduced Ameel blood into the family. We obtained a Morris Ameel hen from the late Tenny Wright AU52FVC 2905 Grizzle and a hen direct from Ameel through Augie Blum of Chicago, Ill., BELGE 44 138029, Grizzle. Other that the Togneri hen, AU60 FOC 1918, there has virtually been no new blood added in the breeding loft in the last 15 years.
The 1918 was a fine Bekaert hen bred by the late Vince Togneri and flown by El Rancho Meo in the 1960 Orange County Futurity. After a rather successful flying record she was retired to the stock loft in 1962. Perpetuation of the family has been accomplished by careful line breeding and inbreeding for many generations.
The 1045 is perhaps the most renowned of the founding birds and proved his abilities as a flyer as well as being an outstanding breeder. Before being retired to the stock loft, this bird was flown by George Derby and recorded the following successes:
In 1950 he was trained to 150 miles; in 1951 he was second 164; third l84; tenth association, east section. He was first club, fifth east section at 290 and in 1952 he was fifth club at 184, following which he was retained for stock.
Among some of his famous offspring are: AU51 OBF 2163, AU55 OCC 538, AU57 CYP 750, AU60 WIC 21, AU62 LA 848, AU59 WIC 901,AU59WIC 902, AU59 WIC 947, AU54 OCC 452, AU60 LA 1208, AU59 WIC 578.
Undoubtedly he can be credited as one of the greatest producers of both flyers and breeders that California has ever produced. Another of the key foundation birds was AU49 OCC 1166, a lovely BChSplH with rich pearl eyes. She was bred and flown by Gus Callens and later given to Jack Conaway. She was one of the offspring of the exchange matings in which the Bekaert was crossed with Stassart-Wegge. Before being retired to the stock loft, she established a rather consistent record as a yearling.
As a YB she was third club, third east section and 25th overall from the 131 mile station. The following year she was first club, seventh east section at 235; third club, eighth east section at 287; second club, eighth east section, 22nd overall from 349. At 427 she was fifth club, eighth east section. The 1166 was truly a wonderful hen with lots of character.
Prior to moving from Orange County to Rolling Hill s in 1961, El Rancho Meo auctioned off many of their finest birds at the Orange County Clubhouse in the winter of 1960. The distribution of birds by this sale did much to popularize the family and provided a number of fanciers an opportunity to obtain the Waterhouse Bekaerts at very reasonable prices. Subsequent success were numerous and this, of course, further stimulated interest in the family.
El Rancho Meo climaxed its flying record in Orange County in 1959 by winning six club races and first and third Orange Belt East Section average speed. Following the move to Rolling Hills, George Derby continued to compete in Orange County with this family of birds flying to his own home. In 1960 he won Orange Belt East Section YB average speed and repeated this performance again in 1963 and 1964.
Other Southern California fanciers who have enjoyed success with the Waterhouse Bekaerts are Ernie Rydingsword, Jack De Wolf, the late Dr. Norman Blatherwick, Dan Hinds, Nick Robertis, and Jack Wenzel.
Rydingsword has enjoyed innumerable successes at all distances with Waterhouse birds. However, the record of AU59 SCF 2004, BBC, is undoubtedly one that deserves honorable mention. This fine bird was the great grandson of 1045 and 1166 on both sides. For five consecutive years 2004 consistently homed to the Rydingsword loft, winning diplomas and prize money in almost every event entered.
In 1962 during an extremely difficult race from Redding, in which there were no day birds, 2004 failed to return. However, during the course of the subsequent week, he was found near Castaic, Calif., walking towards Los Angeles by the side of the highway. Completely exhausted, he was returned to the Rydingsword loft for rehabilitation and rest.
This indomitable bird climaxed his career the following year as a day bird from Red Bluff, winning first club; first L.A. Combine south section; and first overall L.A. Combine. Following this triumph, 2004 enjoyed the sanctity of the Rydingsword stock loft until his death last year. During this time be produced numerous outstanding flyers and he could be considered one of the key foundation birds of the Rydingsword loft.
That Valley Ace, Jack De Wolf, has commented, "These are as fine a pigeon as has ever been flown in California.” He also contends that AU55 OCC 538 BBC, a Waterhouse Bekaert obtained by De Wolf when 10 years of age, is one of the best and if the true story were known, his breeding record would perhaps equal that of 1045. According to Jack, 538 has bred birds for him that won an overall Southern California 600 mile race. Another placed second from Red Bluff in the Greater Valley Combine. He also produced a 400 winner, a second place bird from Stockton and Fresno in the Greater Valley Combine. De Wolf presently has four or five good stock birds out of 538 which continue to produce winners. 1208, another Waterhouse Bekaert owned by De Wolf, has produced at least eight or nine winners. This is one of the few remaining offspring from 1045 that are presently alive today.
Jack Wenzel, another successful Southern California fancier, has won two Walt Disney awards and gives much credit to the Waterhouse birds. He won the 1969 Yearling 400 mile Bond race with the great grandson of 1045 by 21 minutes. At present his number one stock hen is AU61 SCF 2931 DkCh, which was bred by El Rancho Meo. According to Wenzel, this bird has bred eight winners on three different cocks and is also the grandmother to many prize winners.
Dan Hinds credits his success in YB races since 1960 to the Waterhouse Bekaerts. According to him, the results have been astonishing. He has won three Hall of fames; two Orange Belts; and one CSRPO as well as many average speeds. Dan's AU70 SE 278 BBH, State winner, won almost $3000 in the 1970 YB series. Her sire was AU64 SE 2452, bred from AU59 WIC 908 and 967, both of which were bred by El Rancho Meo lofts. According to Dan, 2452 has bred six winners. Four of these were overall awards on four different hens. He is now using this cock as a foundation bird in his loft. AU59 WIC 967 bred by El Rancho Meo was one of Dan's top producers. She is the dam, grand dam and great grand dam of three Hall of Fame winners and is another foundation bird in the Hinds loft.
Nick Robertis, a top flyer in the Mountain Concourse, credits the Waterhouse birds for winning him the Orange Belt Hall of Fame in 1966. He has also won many average speeds and special awards with these birds. In 1970 he won first Middle All American Award and in the 1971 Young Birds, he won his only overall victory from Woodland, CA, 410 miles with a speed of 1237. This bird was out of AU59 WIC 947 and a direct daughter. 947 is a son of 1045 x 724 bred by El Rancho Meo lofts in 1959. According to Nick, 947 is responsible for a great amount of the success enjoyed by the Robertis loft.
This fine family perhaps does its best flying in hot weather and is particularly suited to the climatic conditions of Southern California. Although these birds are noted for their ability in the short distance events. Rydingsword, Wenzel, De Wolf and Robertis all claim numerous successes at the long distances. They are a fast conditioning and easily kept bird. Most of the Waterhouse family tend to have protruding eyes; good length of wing and heads that are slightly pinched. They are also generally long cast, especially the cocks, whereas the hens tend to be shorter and round bodied. They generally have rich eyes and are predominantly pearls. This family is a splendid example of continuing success through skillful and planned breeding and the limited introduction of new blood. In conclusion, the maintenance of good records and the assistance provided by other enthusiastic and knowledgeable fanciers such as George Derby, the late Dr. Blatherwick, Ernie Rydingsword and Greg McKnight, have also helped immensely to perpetuate the Waterhouse family.