My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Belgium in the early 1900s and my grandfather, Ray DeBrouwer, brought his pigeons with him. I would always hang out with my grandfather and his pigeons as a young boy especially when I was five to seven years old. The birds were beautiful to watch as they flew because he had almost all silvers with a few reds. It was a site to see when they would fly around his two-story loft.
My grandfather finally gave me my first birds on my 8th birthday and that's when I got started on my own. My father gave me an old "camper trailer" to make into a pigeon loft. My dad had a towing service/junk yard and that's where he found this old beat-up camper trailer. I gutted the inside and divided it into three small (very small) sections. Then I knocked out the windows and put in dowelling bars in the window openings.
I soon joined the "South East Pigeon Club" as a Junior Member. We had quite the Junior Club membership, with Leonard Lee, Eddie Spetz Sr., Bill Worhman, Chuck Lock, Benny Sanders, Fred Perry's son, John Picket's son, The Partridge Brothers, Mike Montseardine, and many more. We had some great Senior Members like Fred Perry, Joe Kidwell, Dan Hinds, "Mitch", Slim Crotts, Old Man "Leba", John Pickett, and again, many more. We had lots of fun and great competition in this club.
Later on, when my wife "'Charlene" and I got married, I had to give the pigeons back to my grandfather because we had no place for the birds. A few years later, in 1970, my good friend Bill Wohrman found a house for me to buy from a pigeon flyer named Bob Cross in Whittier, California. We bought the house and I started back with pigeons.
Then I joined the "Topper Pigeon Club'' with some of my old friends, Bill Wohrman, Lenard Lee, Benny Sanders, Brian Crossen, Jim Hiatt, Bill Liegh, Speed Papas, Charlie Rodriguez, and some "Crazy'' Italian guy named Bob DiClemente.
Bob DiClemente and I became friends and we became really close as the years went on. In 1987, Bob asked me to help him with a ''Charity Pigeon Event'' at his home, to raise money for the ''City of Hope". This one event changed my life. The two of us, with the help of all the other members of the Yorba Linda Pigeon Club, held a pigeon race and raised $3,800.00 for the City of Hope. What a great feeling of contribution. This started an association with pigeon flyers all over California and the City of Hope. In 1990 we formed the "Fly for Hope" an organization within the City of Hope. I volunteered to be the first chairman of this group. We have raised over one million dollars, so far, for the City of Hope. My friends and I helped start two charity golf tournaments for the City of Hope and have raised over three million dollars more for the City of Hope.
Then, in 1992, Bob DiClemente, Cecil Romero and I formed in a partnership and started flying together as the "WE-BE-THREE" loft. What a wonderful time this was and we had a lot of fun, successful racing, and sharing time with our friends and the birds.
To me, the sport of racing pigeons has been all about "The Legions of my Life", not just the winning and the birds. People like my grandfather Ray DeBrouwer, Lester Garlick, Dave Clark, Hank Van Londerself, Dr. Jeff Horn, Bob DiClemente, Lenard Lee, Steve Miner, Dan Shonkwiler, Dan Hinds, Cecile Romero, Mark Teal, Jim Mitchell, Bill Wohrman, Mike Cassidy and my newest best friend and pigeon partner, Bill Ensign. These people, and others not mentioned, have shown me what the "real benefit" is of racing pigeons, ''CONTRIBUTION AND TRUE FRIENDSHIP".