In 1967, the Texas dog show circuit began in Austin. Exhibitors traveled from Austin to San Antonio, to Galveston the following weekend, then to Houston; to mid-week shows in Shreveport and Longview, and finally on to Dallas and Ft. Worth. There was only one show in each location, almost no motor homes, and only one professional terrier handler in the entire state of Texas. It was a time before desktop computers, before the internet, before e-mail, before Facebook and Twitter, before on-line entries, before smartphones, and before texting. The US Postal Service and AT&T land-line phone were the only means of communication. Copies of flyers were made by “cutting stencils” or using spirit duplicators. It was “B.C.”, not in the calendar sense, but “before computers.” Houston’s population was less than one million.
Sylvia, our then 3-year old daughter Laura, and I had moved to Houston in 1965. We knew no one, but that changed when we began showing our two Westies: a daughter of Westminster Best in Show winner “Ch. Elfinbrook Simon”, and her son. The Westie community welcomed us and soon became our extended family. I don’t remember everyone of the dozen or so families at the shows, but a few stand out in my mind: Tom and Barbara Barrie and their daughters; Dick and Gwili Furnival and their daughter; Barbara Nisbett; Dorothy Roselle; Jim and Karen Potochick; Sue and Mason Hines; The Brysons; Donna Gleason: Martha Baker; and Emily Clarke and her husband.
In 1967 we created a short newsletter we called, “News of Westies in Texas.” It was distributed to exhibitors and to people who wrote Westie columns for magazines. When we saw the legendary Jack Marvin judging at a show, we asked him for counsel on forming a regional club. I remember distinctly his advice to include the state in the Club’s name, and that is how we became “The West Highland White Terrier Club of Southeast Texas”. In the summer of 1968, Tom Barrie, Dick Furnival, and I met to develop the Club’s first bylaws; and on October 13, 1968, 17 Westie lovers met after the Houston show to establish the Club and elect officers: Sylvia Meisels, was elected Secretary-Treasurer, Dick Furnival, earned the title Vice President, and I, Gerry Meisels became the first President of the West Highland White Terrier Club of Southeast Texas.
This energetic young group wasted no time working toward American Kennel Club (AKC) approval. Among the Club’s early priorities was to secure adequate finances to support future club activities, such as matches, and eventually a specialty. Our principal fund-raisers at the time included booths at flea markets where we sold items donated by club members.
The first WHWTCSET B match was held October 11, 1969, at the Strawberry Park Pavilion in Pasadena. WHWTCA President “Tex” Fawcett judged the match in which 23 Westies competed. Tom and Barbara Barrie’s “Pirate o’ Peter Pan” won Best Puppy, and Dorothy Roselle’s “Wigtown Eloise” was awarded Best in Match (BIM). The other qualifying matches were held on March 1, 1970 at Sharpstown Mall, where Emily Clarke’s “Low Road’s Bayou o’ Peter Pan” won BIM; on October 10, 1970, when Donna Gleason’s “Sheila’s Alka-Seltzer” won BIM; then on March 7, 1971 at the Memorial City Shopping Center; where our “White Oaks Loverboy”, shown by our then 8-year old Laura, earned BIM.
On June 8, 1972 The AKC notified us that conditions had been met to allow us to hold a specialty. The Club held another previously scheduled B match in October 1972, and then held its first Specialty in March 1973, judged by Barbara Keenan. The Specialty was held in the garage of the Holiday Inn on Memorial Drive near downtown Houston. It was the first stand-alone Westie specialty, i.e. not as the classes in an all-breed or group show.
Today, the Greater Houston area has a population of over 6.5 million and is the fourth largest city in the country. It is great how the WHWTCSET has flourished during this period of a six-fold increase in the city’s population. I join our current members’ pride in the Club’s half century of existence and am thankful I was able to play a role in its early history. Congratulations to all the current members for the WHWTCSET’s continued success!