The History of AHSOW

By Bud Hillier (through 1993); by Toban Dvoretzky (from 1994). Lou Chacos and Fred Hinesley also contributed to elements of these reports.

The 1970s

Sometime during the mid-’70s, a group of concerned Barbershoppers began discussing problems of SPEBSQSA. They talked about choruses taking over the chapter meetings and not allowing time for quartetting or woodshedding. They discussed the small amount of woodshedding being done in the Society, and the dwindling number of men with the ability to do it. Members new to the Society learned only to sing songs that were arranged. Today, most cannot, or will not, try to sing anything without notes to look at, and their ear for harmony is losing out because of this.

On Tuesday or Wednesday of the 1977 SPEBSQSA International Convention, in the coffee shop of the headquarters hotel in Philadelphia, Charlie Nichols, Harold Taylor, Tom Helzer, and Avery Hall were discussing the feasibility of starting a group to keep woodshedding alive. Herb Ives was asked to join in. Among them, they laid out the plans, and then started recruiting what they thought were influential names. Among the first were Buzz Haeger and Hal Purdy, in addition to some names from the early history of the Society, like Dean Snyder and Phil Embury. Other very early names were Stan Conway, George Bunt, Jay Ward, George Sanders, Frank Buffington, and Bud Hillier. No actual officers were elected that first year, but Charlie Nichols, our founder and the person to whom this brainchild is attributed, was installed as Permanent President, and Avery Hall was installed as Administrator. The Board of Directors consisted of George Bunt, Stan Conway, Buzz Haeger, Tom Helzer, Herb Ives, and Harold Taylor. Board member Tom Helzer took over the duties of designing our first AHSOW badge and many other sundry items. The logo with the Chinaman, still a favorite with many of our members, was his creation.

Yes, the wonderful world of AHSOW had its origin at the 1977 International Convention in Philadelphia, where the first men were certified to become members. After their indoctrination, $1 apiece was collected to cover the cost of correspondence and the original AHSOW badge. We nearly went broke when costs exceeded the dues. Avery Hall had to plead with the new members to send an additional $2 to keep us solvent. The growing pains that AHSOW had in its infancy were much the same as those had by our parent organization, SPEBSQSA. Our original records were also sketchy at best. Of the first 291 members tested in 1977 and 1978, only 150 renewed; because of inadequate records, all were considered charter members.

By 1978, in Cincinnati, our financial woes seemed to be resolved, and we got a suite at the headquarters hotel to use as the AHSOW room. We had lost Harold Taylor by this time, and Charlie Nichols’ health was fading, but we still got some semblance of an organization going.

At Minneapolis, in 1979, Charlie Nichols, because of health problems, announced that he could no longer carry out the duties of Permanent President. His wishes were that he would be known as the Founder. He asked Bud Hillier to take over the duties of Administrator so that Avery Hall could assume the job as titular head of AHSOW. This was accomplished at the general meeting held in Minneapolis. Due to the action by Hugh Ingraham and Leo Fobart at the Society board meeting, AHSOW became accepted as a subsidiary.

One of the first things done by our new President was to install 16 District Directors. They were appointed to test people in their districts for membership in AHSOW. The paucity of activity in most districts could be attributed to the lack of materials needed by directors for auditioning or to the lack of push by District Directors. However, the greatest problem was that of uniformity in testing from district to district. The originally proposed bylaws of AHSOW were approved by SPEBSQSA’s Laws & Regulations Committee (April 27, 1979), then ratified by the general AHSOW membership. The first roster of the current AHSOW members was sent out to the membership in October 1979.

The 1980s

By 1980, there was some difference of opinion in the upper echelons as to the goals of AHSOW, the route it should take, and even the size it should be. This brought about the resignation of Avery Hall as Permanent President. AHSOW was without a president until the Detroit convention in 1981, where a slate of officers was presented and voted on at the general meeting. The new elected officers on the Board were Jay Ward (President), George Bunt (Vice-President & Chief Certifier), Al Holloway (Corresponding Secretary), and At-Large Board Members Ben Arellanes, Frank Buffington, Stan Conway, Bud Ingalls, Herb Ives, and Roger Steffens. Bud Hillier was elected to a third year, with title change from Administrator to Administrative Secretary/Treasurer. The three officers and two of the Board members were from the Far Western District. This was done on purpose, to facilitate informational meetings to be held at places other than International Conventions. In Salt Lake City, Terry Clarke became the first man to win a gold medal and gain induction into AHSOW during the same year.

Regarding the disagreements in the direction of the organization, it seemed as though Avery Hall wanted to stick to the wishes of AHSOW’s founder, Charlie Nichols, to increase our numbers under our rules for joining. Tom Helzer, conversely, wanted to set a limit of 200 members and use the Society-provided AHSOW room for fun time, contests, etc. for members only.

There was not time at International Conventions to provide for both ideas in the physical space provided. Since both men were strong-willed people, Avery Hall for whatever reason did not attend the 1980 meetings in Salt Lake City, and Charlie Nichols had to ask him for his resignation. At this same time, Tom Helzer was experiencing a bout with cancer and was unable to take over.

When Bud Hillier received the letter from Charlie Nichols on 15 October 1980, there was very little that he could do until the 1981 convention in Detroit. Bud arrived there on Sunday and got together with as many members as he could gather in order to talk about our problem. Among those with whom Bud spoke were Herb Ives, Stan Conway, and the guys with whom Bud had been woodshedding since Philadelphia and before — Jay Ward and George Bunt, both of California. It was decided at the ensuing Board Meeting that this slate of officers be recommended for approval at the General Meeting: Jay Ward, President; George Bunt, VP/Chief Certifier; and Al Holloway, Secretary. As Administrator, Bud Hillier was fully loaded as to work schedule and was still working full-time to earn a living. (He did not retire until 1984.) Therefore, Bud could not take over as President, but he agreed to stay on as Administrator.

Jay Ward and the “West Coast Mafia” were picked because they wanted to do the job, and nobody else came forward who wanted to do it. Certain changes had to be made with the new administration, and this shows up in the subsequent history of AHSOW.

At the general meeting in Detroit (1981), it was decided to abolish all District Director positions, and that International Conventions would be the only place to recruit new members. This was done in an effort to standardize auditioning procedures. AHSOW membership was 318, because the nonrenewals far exceeded the 27 new members. Bud Hillier asked for permission to induct new members at Harmony College. This request for permission was denied, due to the possibility of nonuniform testing.

The AHSOW room in Pittsburgh (1982) was very accessible, and 48 new members were inducted, which brought our membership to 365. The Board was in the second year of its two-year term. A motion was made to reimburse the Administrative Secretary/Treasurer up to $300 per year for out-of-pocket expenses. This motion passed. Three new Board members were elected: Charlie Bauder, Bob Meaney, and Gay Weidenhaft. A request for permission to certify members at Harmony College was denied again. A new pin-on badge superseded the rectangular badge with song titles and cord to hang the badge around the neck. This was done because few members would wear the old-style badge. Charlie Bauder brought a badge-maker with him, on loan from his company, to give new members their badges right away. Bud Hillier was re-elected as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer.

At Seattle, in 1983, 116 new members were inducted. Counting nonrenewals, deaths, and late-renewal reinstatements, membership totaled 453. This was more than double the number of new members from the previous year, partly due to the proximity of California and the fact that AHSOW was becoming better known. Also, our numbers were increasing due to our higher retention. Three new Board members were elected: Jim Manuel, John Miller, and Jim Stone. A motion was made that all present officers of AHSOW be re-elected for a period of two more years. The motion carried unanimously. A request for permission to certify members at Harmony College was again denied.

At a meeting of the west-coast Board of AHSOW, it was decided to donate $1000 in two installments for a museum at Harmony Hall. There would be a plaque put up, with appropriate wording and a picture of our founder, Charlie Nichols. Jiggs Ward, Baritone of The Pittsburghers, was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership in AHSOW. It was decided that printing of song lyrics for use by the membership must be limited to those in “public domain,” in order to avoid copyright problems.

At St. Louis, in 1984, 75 men were inducted; with nonrenewals, deaths, and reinstatements, our total was 488. The three new Board members elected for two-year terms were Paul Aland, Bob Bothe, and Ed Hartley. Revision of our bylaws, to have them agree with the way we were then conducting business, was given to Hugh Ingraham to pass on to the Laws & Regulations Committee for approval. They were to be ready for our ratification in Minneapolis in 1985. Bud Hillier was given permission to talk to Joe Liles about AHSOW auditions at Harmony College in 1985. Bud Hillier was re-elected Administrative Secretary/Treasurer.

In 1985, 123 new members were inducted, 56 at Minneapolis and 67 at Harmony College. Our total membership was 564. A whole new slate of officers was elected: Jim Stone (President), John Miller (Vice-President & Chief Certifier), and Bob Bothe (Secretary). The three new Board members were Pete Bement, Lou Chacos, and Roger Welliver. Our approved bylaws were ratified by the membership. A motion was passed to allow Bud Hillier to conduct auditions at Harmony College. Discussion to remove from our bylaws the induction of Lead-only singers was tabled. Bud Hillier was re-elected to another year as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer.

In 1986, 108 members were inducted, 63 at Salt Lake City and 45 at Harmony College. Our membership grew to 620. Because of the passing of Board member Pete Bement, Hugh Clingan was asked to complete his term. Three new Board members were needed, and Don Eckles, John Miller, and Jim Stone were elected to the Board. President Jim Stone announced the formation of a standing nominating committee, to consist of all past presidents of AHSOW. He also announced that a news bulletin for AHSOW members would be produced in the near future. Max Minor volunteered to act as editor. President Stone had some new AHSOW flags made with our Chinaman logo, to be used at District conventions, etc. He also had some T-shirts with our AHSOW logo in assorted colors for sale to members for $12.50. John Schillo asked when AHSOW was going to get down to the chapter level. It was decided that when we got enough qualified certifiers in each District to tackle this problem, we would proceed. Certifying at Harmony College was to be continued until further notice. Bud Hillier was re-elected to his ninth term as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer.

In 1987, 152 members were signed on, with 80 at Hartford, 60 at Harmony College, and 12 at the Sarasota Mid-Winter convention. Six members were reinstated and 117 didn’t renew, so total membership was 661. Certification at other than international conventions and Harmony College came up again. President Stone asked that we move cautiously in extending our qualification program. We needed quality in our qualifiers as well as in those people who want to become members. Three Board members were added to replace those leaving. Elected were Toban Dvoretzky, Al Holloway, and Brian O’Leary. Our financial position was such that a dues increase might be necessary because of the cost of our news bulletin. This problem was tabled until the San Antonio meeting in 1988. Following the General Meeting, three new officers were elected for the 1987-1989 years: John Miller (President), Lou Chacos (Vice-President & Chief Certifier), and Roger Welliver (Recording Secretary). Bud Hillier was elected to his tenth term as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer.

In 1988, we inducted 152 members — one at Washington Mid-Winter, 10 at a woodshedders’ weekend held by Lou Chacos, 55 at San Antonio, and 86 at Harmony College. Counting reinstatements, deaths, and 56 nonrenewals, our total membership was 782. Brian O’Leary asked to be removed from the Board; he was replaced by Dino Houpis for the term ending in 1990. Lou Chacos’ term was extended three years, and Bruce Clark was elected to fill the only vacancy. A committee was formed, consisting of John Miller, Jim Stone, and Al Holloway, to contact the Ed Waesche study group to find out the extent of AHSOW in this endeavor. The first change in dues structure in 12 years was to become effective January 1, 1989. The biennial dues were to remain at $5; however, a $5 initiation fee was to be assessed each new member. Bud Hillier was elected to his eleventh term.

In 1989, we inducted 146 members — 15 at Honolulu Mid-Winter, 45 at Kansas City, and 86 at Harmony College. Counting reinstatements, deaths, and 47 nonrenewals, our total membership rose to 886. We were told by the editor of “The Harmonizer” that we would be given space in every other issue, if newsworthy copy were provided. A booth was given for our use in San Francisco. The Immediate Past President would spearhead this project and see that it is manned. Our name was changed from AHSOW to Ancient Harmonious Society of Woodshedders, and the Chinaman was removed from the logo. Three officers were elected for the 1989-1991 term: Lou Chacos (President), Toban Dvoretzky (Vice-President & Chief Certifier), and Ed Hartley (Secretary). Three Board members were elected: Ray Heller (International liaison), Peter Hughes, and Jim Stone. Bud Hillier was elected to his twelfth term as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer. He did comment that, due to his bypass surgery, he knows he is not immortal, and, in order to keep the records, he has to be able to pass on the system to the next Administrative Secretary/Treasurer. A proposal for auditioning candidates at district conventions, using cassette tapes with a harmony part missing, was presented by its originator, Lou Chacos. A motion was made and seconded to accept and implement this proposal, with approval of the Chief Certifier.

The 1990s

In 1990, we added 97 new members (28 at Tucson, 40 at San Francisco, 29 at Harmony College); 65 failed to renew. Total membership was 926. This was the first year that our new rules of two harmony parts were needed for qualification, and Lead-only singers were no longer inducted. The continuing search for District Chief Certifiers (DCCs), which originated with Lou Chacos’ report that was approved at the 1989 Board meeting, was proceeding slowly. A seminar, led by Lou Chacos, was held at Harmony College to indoctrinate potential DCCs; another was scheduled for the November Caribbean cruise, to be led by Toban Dvoretzky. We were looking forward to the Society’s new “Pocket Woodshed folio,” which will be distributed to all members. Three Board members — Toban Dvoretzky, Ed Hartley, and John Plazek — were elected to the Board, and Bud Hillier was renewed for his thirteenth term as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer. New badges that removed the familiar but controversial Chinaman were printed and distributed. Our district certification was starting to work in some districts. The first AHSOW cruise to the Caribbean was set up by Jim Stone for November.

In 1991, we added 125 new members (25 at Tampa, 53 at Louisville, 32 at Harmony College, 16 from the Districts). Counting 92 renewals and other adjustments, we had 945 members on the rolls. Our district certification program was starting to bear fruit. Revisions to our bylaws were made to change the number of Board members to 11, and changes in membership qualifications were sent to the Laws & Regulations Committee for approval. A new class, “Woodshed Workshop,” headed by Bud Hillier, was offered at Harmony College to improve the woodshedding abilities of the students. Board members elected were George Bunt, Bill Ford, and Al Holloway. New officers elected were Al Holloway (President), John Plazek (Vice-President & Chief Certifier), and Ed Hartley (Secretary). Bud Hillier was elected to his fourteenth consecutive term as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer. A second AHSOW cruise was set up, to leave New Orleans in December. It started to look as though the cruise would be an annual affair.

In 1992, we added 13 members at Long Beach, 25 at New Orleans, 28 at Harmony College, and 15 from the Districts, for a total of 81 new members. Fifty members did not renew, so our total was 975. Revisions to our bylaws, sent to the Laws & Regulations Committee last year, were approved on June 12 and were ratified at our general meeting. Three Board members were elected: Bob Bothe, Ray Heller, and Jim Stone. Bud Hillier was returned to the Administrative Secretary/Treasurer position for a fifteenth term. A third cruise was set up to leave from New Orleans on November 7. It was not dubbed an AHSOW cruise, because the cruise line wanted entertainment, and a chorus under the direction of Joe Liles was planned. He said that lots of woodshedding would be happening.

In 1993, 118 members were added: eight at Corpus Christi, 46 at Calgary, 26 at Harmony College, and 38 from the Districts. There were 58 nonrenewals, and our total membership was 1,033. A report of the nominating committee presented this slate: John Plazek (President), Ken Wheeler (Vice-President & Chief Certifier), Bob Bothe (Secretary), Toban Dvoretzky (Board member), and Ed Hartley (Administrative Secretary/Treasurer). Bud Hillier was named Administrative Secretary/Treasurer Emeritus, at least temporarily. The entire slate was voted in at the general meeting. The fourth annual AHSOW cruise would feature The Aliens quartet, celebrating their 25th anniversary; Jim Bagby would be the cruise director. The report from the committee on Lead-only singers in AHSOW was “no resolution,” due to the complexity and explosiveness of this issue. Also, since eligibility criteria are included in the bylaws, we must have any change approved by the Laws & Regulations Committee of SPEBSQSA. Authorization to disburse AHSOW funds was extended to Ed Hartley, along with Bud Hillier and the current President.

In 1994, 97 new members were added — eight at Sarasota, 32 at Pittsburgh, 18 at Harmony College, and 39 from the Districts. This was the first year that more members joined in the Districts than at any convention or at Harmony College. Our District Certification program was coming of age. Since 62 did not renew, total AHSOW membership was 1,068. Two Board vacancies were filled by Bill Ford and Peter Hughes. The records and finances were slowly changing hands from Bud Hillier to Ed Hartley, in Ed’s second year as Administrative Secretary/Treasurer. Bud stated that he greatly appreciated the time and expertise that Ed brought to this position, and that he will be forever grateful to him. In August, Toban Dvoretzky began producing the “Rag,” AHSOW’s internal Board newsletter, a much-needed monthly periodical that allows the Board to work on new and existing business.

In 1995, 128 new members joined — 19 at Tucson, 31 at Miami Beach, 25 at Harmony College, and 53 from the Districts. There were 74 nonrenewals, and membership was 1,112. The Nominating Committee presented this slate of officers: President, Toban Dvoretzky; VP, Ken Wheeler; and Secretary, Bob Bothe. All were duly voted in at the General Membership meeting. Three vacancies on the Board were filled by Bob Bothe, Randy Conner, and Tom Millot. Dan Naumann replaced Mel Knight as International Liaison. AHSOW became a nonprofit Texas corporation in September, with Toban Dvoretzky as Registered Agent, and the bylaws had to be revised to accommodate this. They were sent to the Society Laws & Regulations Committee, which suggested helpful revisions. Ratification by the AHSOW membership will occur in 1996. Perusal of an IRS publication revealed that AHSOW’s official relationship to SPEBSQSA is “affiliated subordinate” rather than “subsidiary”; shirts, badges, and handouts will be revised accordingly as stocks are replenished. The controversial Lead-only membership category was discussed. A motion was passed to leave qualifications for AHSOW membership as currently established in our bylaws: “The applicant must demonstrate his ability to sing any two harmony parts to songs for which he does not know an arrangement.” A wooden woodshed, donated by Al Holloway, was set up in Tucson and shipped to Florida for reinstallation in Miami Beach. It was abandoned because of costs to ship it and problems with handling it. Ed Hartley was elected to a third year in his position, with a titular change to Manager/Treasurer.

In 1996, 143 members joined — 21 at Jacksonville, 26 at Salt Lake City, 21 at Harmony College, and 75 from the Districts. Since only 37 did not renew, membership stood at 1,218. Two three-year Board terms were filled by Bud Hillier and by Terry Aramian, Past International President. Ed Hartley gained a fourth term as Manager/Treasurer.

AHSOW, Inc. has made great strides since Toban Dvoretzky assumed the presidency; his “positive promotion” campaign on the Harmonet, the Barbershop e-mail discussion group, has been well-received. President Dvoretzky sent a comprehensive “State of AHSOW” annual report to every Society Board member and District President; by request, the DPs unanimously approved a resolution of unqualified support for AHSOW at the Jacksonville Mid-Winter. Among other things, this will smooth the process of District Chief Certifiers being able to gain a room and publicity for AHSOW at District conventions.

After 16 years, the Board found it necessary to increase AHSOW dues. New members will pay $15 for initiation and their first two years; biennial renewals will be $10. Jim Stone asked to be relieved of the AHSOW Shirt project that he began during his presidency, and which was successful almost entirely through his efforts. John Plazek volunteered to take over the shirts. Jim Stone arranged another annual cruise. His cruises have paid the costs of AHSOW news bulletins every year since 1990.

Secretary Bob Bothe died in office, the first AHSOW officer to be lost in such fashion. Fred Hinesley was appointed to fill Bob’s unexpired terms as Secretary and Board member. Terry Aramian resigned for business reasons, and Bob Bokman agreed to fill his unexpired Board term. Ron Weaver of Tennessee was elected to a three-year Board term.

In 1997, AHSOW inducted 139 new members (Sacramento, 11; Indianapolis, 30; Harmony College, 26; Districts, 72). Nonrenewals stood at 59, so total membership stood at 1,298. President Toban Dvoretzky sent letters of inquiry and appeal to all nonrenewed members as of 12/31/96, and a number of men renewed retroactively. Ken Wheeler retired as Vice-President due to family commitments; he and Russ Seely were elected to fill two Board vacancies. Seely is the first sitting member of the Society Board to simultaneously serve on AHSOW’s Board. Greg Lyne has taken over the temporarily vacant International Liaison position. Jim McDougall, another recent Society Board member, was elected as Vice-President. Toban Dvoretzky was approved to succeed himself for a second term as President.

The unrelenting publicity campaign has caused judges, medalists, and other prominent Barbershoppers to audition for AHSOW. Bud Hillier suggested considering AHSOW’s original premise of a Permanent President. Superstar District Chief Certifier Bob Bokman (JAD) was inducted into the AHSOW Hall of Fame, with life-member status. In Indianapolis, Toban Dvoretzky set an AHSOW record (36 minutes) for shortest comprehensive General Membership meeting. Phil Richards created AHSOW’s web site, at At Harmony College, Bud Hillier and Bob Bokman labored long and hard to choose melodies for a new “pocket woodshed” folio to be produced by AHSOW. The medalist quartet “Bank Street” became the highest-ranked quartet to qualify all its members into AHSOW, and this was publicized in The Harmonizer.

The year 1998 began as another banner year for AHSOW, Inc. Fifteen joined in Tampa, including current Society President Ed Waesche and gold-medalist Tom Palamone; 38 joined in Atlanta, including double-gold-medalist Glenn Van Tassell; 32 joined at Harmony College, including Bill Myers, current gold-medal winner (the second man ever to win a quartet gold and to join AHSOW in the same year); and 81 joined from the Districts, including double-gold-medalist Mo Rector. When the last tardy renewals were followed up at year-end, membership totaled 1,390. Auditions at the three large Society functions resulted in more members than ever who qualified on all four voice-parts. President Toban Dvoretzky sent another “State of AHSOW” report to the Society leaders in January, and the positive response indicated that AHSOW has achieved virtually mainstream acceptance. Harmonet publicity continued, and e-mail addresses of AHSOW members are being collected to save time and cost during communication. The Tulsa Tradition became another highly ranked quartet to qualify all of its members into AHSOW.

The idea of a Permanent President was abandoned due to a need to revise the bylaws again and because of the desire for fresh approaches as various men take office. In Atlanta, Ed Hartley assumed a fifth term as Manager/Treasurer; Fred Hinesley was elected to a full term as Secretary in his own right; Tom Millot succeeded himself as a Board member. With overwhelming accolades for his ingenuity and tireless service, Bob Bokman retired from the Board due to health concerns. Tom Pearce of Virginia was elected to this Board vacancy. President Dvoretzky set another record for shortest comprehensive General Membership meeting (32 minutes) in Atlanta. The Board elected Toban Dvoretzky and Joe Liles of SPEBSQSA headquarters to the AHSOW Hall of Fame.

The new “Discovery Singing” folio of melodies, containing 41 public-domain lines and several original ones graciously donated by Joe Liles, was produced after much difficulty. A large order will be maintained by Ed Hartley. This folio will be given to new inductees in place of the Society’s blue folio, and extras will be marketed for sale to AHSOW members for $3 and to others for $5.

In 1999, new members inducted included 5 in Biloxi, 24 in Anaheim, 23 at Harmony College, and 45 from the Districts. Total membership stood at 1,394 before delinquent renewals were followed up. The quartet “Marquis” all became members, the highest-ranked foursome ever. Vice-President Jim McDougall and Board member Ron Weaver retired from the Board, and Tom Pearce resigned. Bud Hillier was elected to succeed himself; Bob Walker of Frank Thorne & BABS was elected to a directorship, becoming the first BABS member to hold such a position; and Ed Hartley was reappointed Manager/Treasurer to great accolades. Bruce Foreman of Washington agreed to assume the balance of Tom Pearce’s unexpired term. Toban Dvoretzky was re-elected President for another two-year term, and Steve Shannon was elected Vice-President.

In Anaheim, Ed Hartley noted that AHSOW’s financial situation was bright, with income from the new melody-folios an unexpected boon. Brian McDougall, who had served as editor of the quarterly DCC newsletter, wished to retire from this role; he was succeeded by Bob Folk. Most DCC positions were filled. “Woodshedding — How It All Began,” a six-minute mini-show conceived by Toban Dvoretzky and Steve Shannon, was introduced, rehearsed, and performed several times in Anaheim on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to the delight of AHSOW members and the general public. After a mix-up in Atlanta last year, every issue of the Anaheim daily convention bulletin contained an article about AHSOW. Positive response continued to come in from articles posted to the Harmonet and the various District e-mail discussion groups. Russ Seely related that working through chapter presidents to promote woodshedding would be a good public-relations move; he unveiled a model letter that could be used in each District. A spirited discussion occurred on changing the shape and image of the round AHSOW badge; action was tabled. President Dvoretzky set a third record, perhaps unsurpassable, for shortest comprehensive General Membership meeting (24 minutes) in Anaheim. The semiannual DCC meeting was opened to all “woodshedding enthusiasts,” and many excellent ideas resulted.

The “Aughts”

The “Aughts” began propitiously, with 9 of the 16 Society Board Members and 9 of the 16 District Presidents being AHSOW members. Ten men qualified for AHSOW at the 2000 Tucson Mid-Winter, including gold medalist Ken Hatton. The mini-show was performed during AHSOW’s presentation before the District Presidents, and it was taped by Tom Millot. President Toban Dvoretzky was the MC, with the demo quartet of Bob Walker (T), Jack Jemison (L), Bud Hillier (Br),and Ken Wheeler (Bs). The presentation was well-received and of high utility, and the tape was deemed serviceable. In its discussion of income-enhancement, the Board decided to produce the tape and sell it; Tom Millot will arrange with Dan Henry Bowser and Kansas City personnel to record the tape in private and “live” settings. Another profit center will be cassettes of public-domain melodies, to be sold to members and the public. Both of these moves will promote the benefit and value of woodshedding. Further income will be derived by investing AHSOW’s idle funds in money-market accounts with better interest rates; Ed Hartley was voted authority to invest these funds at his discretion. Although total AHSOW membership crossed the 1,400 mark during 1999, deaths and nonrenewals caused the figure to drop slightly below that at year-end. By Tucson Mid-Winter, aggressive pursuit of tardy 1999 renewals had vaulted AHSOW’s total membership over the 1,400 mark to stay.

Due to heavy Barbershop commitments, Bruce Foreman resigned from the Board, with regrets; Terry Clarke agreed to serve part of this unexpired term as an at-large Director through 2000. He is the first gold medalist to serve on the AHSOW Board since Buzz Haeger in 1977. The announcement of Terry’s appointment caused a ripple through the Society, and publicity by “The Harmonizer” is planned.

AHSOW Past President Jay Ward passed away on 18 February 2000 in California. His leadership during AHSOW’s growing pains in the early 1980s were integral to the success and survival of our organization. His Lead voice was “the sweetest this side of heaven,” and the woodshedding of one of his favorite melodies, “I’m All Alone,” occurred during our official July meetings in Kansas City.

In Kansas City, Ed Hartley reported that AHSOW’s receipts continued to significantly exceed disbursements. Some idle funds had already been invested in a money-market account. Discussion occurred regarding what to do with other monies. Some on the Board spoke of donations to worthy causes, while President Dvoretzky and Vice-President Steve Shannon favored the funding of AHSOW/woodshedding educational projects. E-mailed renewal notices were being sent for the first time; response was more immediate but less sustained than with the traditional hard-copy letters.

A full-distribution physical newsletter, the first in years, was approved, with Bob Folk as editor; this was distributed in Fall 2000. AHSOW member Bruce Dibble (also Ontario District Treasurer) volunteered to help establish a bank account in Canada so that Canadian members could renew in Canadian funds. The AHSOW Board approved this plan, and the account was established in Fall 2000.

Tom Millot reported severe logistical difficulties in producing the “How It All Began” mini-show videotape with a staged team; this idea was shelved. Millot brought self-edited copies of the tape for each member of the District Chief Certifier program who would be in Kansas City, with the balance to be mailed. President Dvoretzky unveiled an overhauled Operations Manual for the DCCs, who had been renamed “District Educators & Certifiers” (DECs) after consultation with Dr. Lou Chacos and others. Among other improvements, the manual now featured reproducible signs, handouts, etc. intact in one section.

To overcome the challenge of visitors feeling unwelcome, Dvoretzky outlined the “Greeter” program, which comprised volunteers scheduled in advance to do nothing but greet visitors for 45-minute periods. Discussion occurred about the potential cassettes of “a cappella” woodsheddable melodies so heartily endorsed by the DCCs. Dvoretzky’s earlier e-mailed membership survey had revealed that 58% of AHSOW members would consider renewing on-line if a secure service were found; he introduced the PayPal service to the Board. After discussion, the Board decided to leave association with PayPal to the approval of Ed Hartley.

It was discovered in Kansas City that the previously assigned (and publicized) AHSOW room was changed to a different room. It became clear that AHSOW’s communication with Kenosha must remain thorough and leave nothing to assumption. Hartley and Dvoretzky will ensure that this will happen. The “Greeter” program worked well as an initial effort; participants supplied their feedback, and Bruce Dibble volunteered to analyze the program in time for Mid-Winter 2001 in Jacksonville.

The Canadian bank account was established in September 2000, and the physical newsletter was mailed in October. With Ed Hartley’s blessing, President Dvoretzky signed AHSOW to a PayPal business account; this was announced to the entire membership in the year-end membership roster. Immediate Past President John Plazek learned that he was elected to the Land O’Lakes District Hall of Fame.

Twenty-one men joined in Kansas City, with 14 at Harmony College and 54 from the Districts, including gold medalist Steve Legters. Despite these inductions, year-end membership fell slightly under 1,400 because of tardy renewals, deaths, and members quitting the Society. Aggressive pursuit of delinquent renewals was expected to bring the total above 1,400 again to stay.

At the 2001 Jacksonville Mid-Winter, 10 new members qualified, bringing total membership back to 1,400. Total receipts for 2000 were approximately $4,000 more than disbursements. Ken Wheeler was elected to the AHSOW Hall of Fame. Supplies of AHSOW shirts were critically low; a new supplier was found by February. As all officer terms expired in odd-numbered years, a special one-time one-year term was authorized for the Secretary, with reversion to the normal two-year term effective 2002. Board member Russ Seely produced a job description for a new Marketing & Public Relations Vice-President, who would relieve AHSOW District Educators & Certifiers (DECs) from non-music-related publicity tasks. Ready access to e-mail is now a prerequisite for eligibility for elective positions. Board members were polled to determine their willingness to continue to serve under the various elevated expectations. Secretary Fred Hinesley agreed to serve until July 2002; Manager/Treasurer Ed Hartley will keep an eye out for a successor; member Tom Millot is open to continuing or retiring after July; member Bud Hillier will surrender his slot if a replacement is found. President Dvoretzky will similarly poll absent members.

Dvoretzky presented a proposal for the marketing of a professionally recorded “Earrangement Tape” of woodsheddable melodies, previously endorsed by the DECs and wildly popular in a public “trial balloon.” After intense discussion, auditioning a “beta” version, and a continued Board meeting, a motion to fund production was defeated, 2-4-1.

Dvoretzky stated concern about the DEC program. The Board refused to entertain a proposal to provide external support for DECs deemed in need, but authorized $500 for each of two DECs who could not perform basic duties without support.

On 13 April 2001, Don Dobson agreed to fill the vacated at-large term of Terry Clarke, and Past Society President Gil Lefholz agreed to replace Bud Hillier. Thus, Bud Hillier’s illustrious formal service to AHSOW came to an end. Secretary Fred Hinesley was named Dixie District BOTY. Official Advisor Jack Baird was honored by the Illinois District for having competed in 100 quartet contests.

At the 2001 Nashville International, membership was steady at 1457; the bank account held $19,392. Bud Hillier, who had served on the AHSOW Board continuously since 1977, had stepped off the Board in April and was replaced by Gil Lefholz; Hillier was honored with a large plaque and a standing ovation for his dedication and service. President Toban Dvoretzky and Vice-President Steve Shannon were re-elected for two-year terms; Secretary Fred Hinesley agreed to a one-year term, and Manager/Treasurer Ed Hartley agreed to a one-year extension. At-large member Don Dobson was elected to a three-year term; at-large member Tom Millot retired and was replaced by Bob Folk of Florida. The language in the AHSOW Bylaws was cleaned up. Phil Richards of Connecticut was elected to the AHSOW Hall of Fame for establishing the AHSOW web site and his other high-tech and musical contributions. Russ Seely was named chief of staff to the incoming Society President. After an hour of painful debate and three calls for a motion, the Board finally voted 6-1 to allocate funds for the production of the “Ear-rangement” recording/folio package. Distribution began later in July 2001. A proposed AHSOW Mission Statement was discussed. In Nashville, 22 new members were inducted.

In November 2001, Dobson resigned his at-large position and was succeeded by Casey Parker of California. Ed Hartley announced his intention to retire as of the 2002 Portland International. Given the need to bifurcate the Manager/Treasurer position, President Dvoretzky seized the opportunity to completely restructure the Board; all positions would now specifically have staff functions attached and be interactive, all ceremonial and at-large positions would be abolished. The Board received a comprehensive proposal, including appropriate revisions to the Bylaws, in time for response by the Riverside Mid-Winter; no comments were received by deadline.

At the 2002 Riverside Mid-Winter, no Board quorum was attained, so the Board could not vote on the Bylaws revisions. The restructuring plan was received well by all members in attendance. Plans to integrate AHSOW’s membership records with those of SPEBSQSA were undertaken. Courtesy of Ear-rangement sales, the AHSOW treasury now held $24,609; the project had long since paid for itself. Citing this as one example, Dvoretzky notified the assemblage that it was an inefficient use of time for a Board to undertake “committee decision-making” on every item of detail.

In March 2002, Gil Lefholz resigned his at-large position and was succeeded by Glenn Schilberg of Pennsylvania, who was targeted to assume the Membership function of Ed Hartley’s duties once Ed retired. Thanks to the elimination of the two-year SPEBSQSA-membership prerequisite, the first AHSOW inductee with less than two years of SPEBSQSA membership was taken in, in SWD, on all four parts. By electronic ballot, and again without comment or constructive criticism submitted by deadline, the Board adopted the AHSOW Board restructure and the concomitant changes to the Bylaws, 6-3; the new positions are: President, Education Vice-President, Corporate Secretary, Information Specialist, Treasurer, Manager of Publicity & Promotion, Director of Commerce, Manager of Member Service, Bulletin Editor, and two Logistics Vice-Presidents. Also by e-ballot, the Board adopted this mission statement for AHSOW:

* “The mission of the Ancient Harmonious Society of Woodshedders is to preserve, promote, and perpetuate by every means possible the pleasure and growth arising from the act of creating harmonies by ear in quartets to Barbershop-compatible melodies without reference to written or familiar musical arrangements.”

In April 2002, Bob Folk resigned his at-large position and was succeeded by Rodney Sparks of Texas, who was targeted to assume the Treasurer function of Hartley’s duties. In June 2002, an AHSOW bank account was established in Texas.

In July, 2002, seventeen members were inducted in Portland, AHSOW’s 25th-anniversary convention. Neither the election of new Directors nor the matter of amending the Bylaws occurred during convention week, so the existing Directors maintained their status. Secretary Fred Hinesley was inducted into the AHSOW Hall of Fame; he, Ed Hartley, and John Plazek received honorary plaques. To accomplish the necessary business, a special meeting of the AHSOW membership was called for September 21 via notice, with absentee ballots sent to the full membership by e-mail and postal mail. A quorum met at the physical meeting in Houston to validate the absentee vote.

Earle Holt, Dick Richards, Glenn Schilberg, and Tom Wiener were elected to the Board of Directors; the amendment of the Bylaws was approved. A record 27% of all AHSOW members participated in the voting. Margins of approval were nearly 97% on both issues; excluding abstentions, approval margins were 99%. One new member was inducted after the special membership meeting, and several Ear-rangement packages were sold. Retiring BOD member Bob Walker of BABS was the third gold-medalist quartetter to have served on the AHSOW Board, behind Buzz Haeger in the earliest years and Terry Clarke in the ’90s.

Fred Hinesley and Ed Hartley ended their stellar formal service on the AHSOW Board after having set standards of performance and diligence beyond compare. Both men achieved well-deserved Hall of Fame status during their tenures.

New members gained since June 2002: 7 FWD, 9 Harmony College, 6 SWD, 3 JAD, and 6 DIX (including gold medalist Drayton Justus). VP Steve Shannon presented Woodshedding seminars at the FWD HEP to extreme enthusiasm, laying groundwork for follow-on progress.

In October 2002, the AHSOW Board assigned the new officer positions amongst its members: Toban Dvoretzky (President, no change); Steve Shannon (VP of Education, titular change); Russ Seely (Corporate Secretary); Rod Sparks (Treasurer); Glenn Schilberg (Information Manager); Casey Parker (Logistics VP/West); Ken Wheeler (Logistics VP/East); Tom Wiener (Manager of Member Service); Dick Richards (Director of Commerce); and Earle Holt (Manager of Publicity & Promotion). Past President John Plazek remained on the Board “ex officio” and nonvoting, with one vacancy (Bulletin Editor) among the voting positions. Joseph Schlesinger of Illinois was subsequently appointed as Bulletin Editor.

At year-end 2002, the AHSOW treasury held $28,577. Membership, counting the purging of nonrenewals and five dozen non-SPEBSQSA members, was 1,276. With well-received member reaction, Schilberg and webmaster Phil Richards posted the AHSOW Membership Roster on the revamped web site, reducing the mailing of printed directories. Renewal dates were posted for the first time. President Dvoretzky sent a final appeal to expirees from 2002, 2001, and 2000, with several men renewing.

Teleconferencing during the 2003 Albuquerque Mid-Winter Board meeting allowed participation by all 11 voting members of the AHSOW Board. A key action of the board focused on increasing member inclusiveness and improving legality of general membership votes by implementing methods so that all AHSOW members in good standing, even those not attending conventions, could vote on each issue submitted to a vote of the membership. The new procedures began with the nominations/elections in mid-2003. By late April 2003, total membership stood at 1,350.

In the first half of 2003, membership and P.R. inroads were achieved in FWD by Casey Parker and Steve Shannon, in DIX and NED by Don Dobson, and at the M-AD convention by President Dvoretzky. AHSOW held a weeks-long period of open nominations for the Board elections that would be confirmed at the Montreal International in July. Seven new ADECs were appointed.

As of Montreal, AHSOW’s treasury held $27,958 (up $3,349 since Portland). Membership stood at 1,355 (up from 1,276 at year-end); 30 more members joined or were reinstated in Montreal. Merchandise sales were robust. For proactive and reactive ingenuity during the year, Glenn Schilberg was conferred the inaugural AHSOW “Idea-Hamster” award.

The elections were held. Absentee ballots totaled 289 in favor of the slate, 2 against; in-person votes were 8 in favor, 4 against. This represented 98% approval, with 22% of the membership having participated. Re-elected were Dvoretzky (President), Shannon (Education VP), and Sparks (Treasurer); new officers were Bob Coant (Corporate Secretary) and Noah Morrison (Logistics VP – East). Coant was concurrently serving on the SPEBSQSA Board, and Morrison was the youngest-ever to be elected (age 21). Russ Seely and Ken Wheeler, retiring after years of dedicated Board service in various offices, received ovations at the General Meeting.

On August 27, Past President “Big Al” Holloway died in California at age 75. He had served as Corresponding Secretary during AHSOW’s tenuous days in the early 1980s, and again on the Board in the later ’80s, and as President from 1991-1993. A great leader, he remained interested and involved until the end, and he will be greatly missed.

In the fall, Dvoretzky conducted a “guest DEC” visit to ONT. Mac Dallman was appointed as an ONT ADEC. Shannon again visited FWD. At year-end 2003, AHSOW had 1,383 members.

In January 2004, Education VP Shannon visited the RMD HEP, with excellent impact on AHSOW operations.

At the Biloxi Mid-Winter, the treasury held $27,855.67. Fifteen members were inducted/reinstated. Most incumbent Directors were willing to run for another term in July. The Nominating Committee was appointed. An idea to move the Annual Membership Meeting to Mid-Winters was shelved for the moment. Schilberg announced that the new SPEBSQSA/AHSOW unified membership-billing system was nearly operational. Shannon stated that the job of perpetuating quartet-singing has effectively defaulted to AHSOW, and that teams of teachers need to go around Districts and chapters to show men how to love tuning every chord. The need to develop an official policy for approval and reimbursement of expenses was discussed. As clarified during the exhaustive Bylaws review in process, Dvoretzky stated that all AHSOW members, not just those attending Annual Meetings, are entitled to vote on any issue submitted to the membership for a vote.

Parker’s motion to increase annual dues to $10, effective with each member’s next renewal, passed unanimously. Per guest Noah Funderburg (Society Laws & Regulations Committee), this action did not need the general membership’s prior approval. The motion from the Montreal Membership Meeting, to limit Board terms, was read, followed by a subsequent letter from one of the motioners (Past President John Plazek) changing the motion to specifically target the President’s office for term limits. Shannon moved the second motion as read; discussion occurred on the wisdom of taking this issue to the membership.

In March, SPEBSQSA activated the unified billing system, effective for second-quarter 2004. With it, all AHSOW renewals will be included in the members’ annual Society renewal billings. With this system, AHSOW membership becomes an “opt-out” vs. an “opt-in” choice, doing away with the need to pursue delinquent AHSOW renewals each year with uncertain success. Schilberg will continue to send reminders by land mail to the 16% of AHSOW members without known e-mail addresses. AHSOW incurred one-time fees for SPEBSQSA implementation expenses that will have a near-term impact on the treasury.

In April, Dvoretzky and Shannon conducted a joint ONT/SLD DEC visit at the ONT convention, with positive impact on-site and on future operations. The three remaining original DECs (Dvoretzky, SWD; Phil McCabe, SLD; Jim McDougall, ONT) interacted here. Although not required to do so, the Board voted to take Plazek’s term-limits motion to the full membership, with 250-word statements pro and con.

In May, with 24% of the membership voting, the motion to term-limit the AHSOW presidency was defeated, 208 to 95. Without issuing reprimands or taking punitive action, the Society Ethics Committee closed a three-pronged ethics complaint by Tom Millot against President Dvoretzky et al. The Society Laws & Regulations Committee approved the final draft of the amended AHSOW Bylaws, which had been exhaustively overhauled by two attorneys, a certified parliamentarian, and several AHSOW officers in order to fix the language and make the document more member-friendly. A full-membership vote on the election of Directors included a floor nominee interested in one of the positions; this was the first time in memory that multiple individuals appeared on a ballot as candidates for one position.

In June, the remaining members of Gotcha! joined AHSOW as part of seven inductions at the SWD HEP school. Bob Hodge of the Most Happy Fellows was reinstated.

At the 2004 Louisville International, 27 inductions and three reinstatements brought total membership to 1,312. The treasury held $23,774. By a 158-79 vote, the Nominating Committee’s slate won. Re-elected into 2006 were Glenn Schilberg (Information Manager), Earle Holt (Manager of Publicity & Promotion), Tom Wiener (Manager of Member Service), and Rod Sparks (Treasurer, re-elected into 2005); newly elected into 2006 were Mark Hotchkiss (Director of Commerce), Jeff Click (Logistics VP/West), and Howdy Davis (Bulletin Editor). The new Bylaws were approved by Board vote, abolishing the position of Past President held by John Plazek. The Education VP position was renamed “Executive VP,” and the Logistics VP positions were renamed “Education Managers.” The Board determined to establish budgets by the end of July. Glenn Schilberg won the second-annual “Idea-Hamster” award. Steve Shannon and Casey Parker will be funded to man Harmony College. The 2001 Seniors Quartet champions “Harmony” became the highest-ranking quartet ever to have all four singers in AHSOW, topped later in the week by Gotcha!. The Pioneer District quartet “Border Crossing” qualified all its members on all four parts. The five men to win a quartet gold medal and qualify for AHSOW in the same year are Terry Clarke, Bill Myers, Jim Kline, Garry Texeira, and Chris Vaughn.

Shannon and Parker inducted 32 members at Harmony College. Year-end 2004 membership stood at 1,372. The treasury held $22,274.

Treasurer Sparks reported: “In 2004 (thanks to the substantial efforts of Glenn Schilberg), we finally connected with SPEBSQSA to include our annual dues billing in their dues-renewal system, which should substantially lower our dropout rate, and we changed our dues from $10 for two years to annual dues of $10. We paid SPEBSQSA $2400 in programming costs for their efforts, and we will begin to reap the benefits in 2005, as AHSOW members are now being billed by SPEBSQSA annually.

“By far our largest expense outlay was the DEC program travel costs, including Parker ($1280), Shannon ($780), and Dvoretzky ($3988), followed by the Programming costs to get us integrated into SPEBSQSA’s billing system ($2400), conference-calling costs for Louisville ($1205), and Harmony College registrations ($950).

“We deliberately dipped into our cash reserves in 2004 to fund the programming and enhanced DEC Program support, with the benefits of both to be recognized in future years. We withdrew $7,000 from our money market to cover these outlays, but we anticipate that 2005 should operate at a break-even. In that vein, we ended the year with $22,274 in cash in our operating and money-market accounts, 66% more than our total outlays for 2004.”

In late December 2004, Dvoretzky announced that the usual Mid-Winter Board meeting would be replaced by a SWOT (successes, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) Analysis. All members were invited to submit input and to participate further if attending Jacksonville. The Board began debating a calendar-year budget for 2005.

In January 2005, eight members joined at the Jacksonville Mid-Winter, including gold medalist Jim Schmitt. The Board and some members organized the SWOT input. The Board appointed AHSOW’s first-ever Nominating Committee not made up of Board members — Rob Campbell, Terry Aramian, Darryl Flinn, and Dick Richards.

In March, AHSOW Hall of Fame member Bob Bokman died at age 83. The Board passed a break-even budget for 2005. Several new members were inducted at spring conventions. Glenn Schilberg reported that the Society/AHSOW billing had significantly cut the number of lapsed AHSOW members.

On May 26, the incomparable Bud Hillier died at age 83. AHSOW’s survival during its precarious early years can be attributed largely to Bud, with his solid presence and his stable administrative hand. Bud’s family approved the establishment of the Bud Hillier Fund, contributions to which will support AHSOW’s presence and efforts in the Districts.

At the Salt Lake City International, 29 members joined and 3 reinstated. The week’s first inductee was Ed Watson, new Society CEO; the final inductee was Kent Martin (Boston Common, 1980).

AHSOW made history in several ways at this International:

— New Release (silver medalist) became the first collegiate quartet to qualify all its members into AHSOW, and each on all four parts.
— Raymond Johnson, of the collegiate champions Men In Black, joined the elite group of men to win a quartet gold and qualify for AHSOW in the same year.
— Patrick McAlexander, age 11, became the youngest individual ever to qualify for AHSOW.

Counting new inductions and mid-year nonrenewals, membership stood at 1401. The treasury held $24,259 — $485 above Louisville. Jeremy Conover of Indiana volunteered to serve as CAR DEC. Members received results of the January SWOT Analysis. With 21% of the pre-convention membership voting, and with 282 of 284 valid votes (99.3%), these Directors received two-year terms: Bob Coant (President), Raleigh Bloch (Executive VP), Noah Morrison (Corporate Secretary), Rod Sparks (Treasurer), and John Schulkins (Education Manager/East).

Toban Dvoretzky retired after ten years as President, having largely achieved his aims from the beginning:
1. Promote the dickens out of “growth through woodshedding.”
2. Promote the dickens out of AHSOW as one’s vehicle to growth through woodshedding.
3. Sensibly and consistently employ every publicity avenue available (national, District, chapter, internal, individual).
4. Beef up and fine-tune the DEC program in every District.
5. Develop cooperative relationships with key Barbershop groups and entities.
6. Build and maintain awareness of desirable standards of musicality and deportment.
7. Involve AHSOW’s Board to maximum efficiency and personal fulfillment.
8. Use AHSOW’s financial resources efficiently and wisely.
9. Personally do one thing, however small, every day in support of AHSOW.

Since mid-July 1995 until just before the 2005 Salt Lake City convention, AHSOW membership increased 26.7% (1090 to 1381), and the treasury increased 279% ($6401 to $24,259). The Board presented Dvoretzky with a Special Recognition plaque. President Coant’s first official action was to appoint Dvoretzky as AHSOW Historian. Dvoretzky will remain SWD DEC at the pleasure of the Board and will be available for consultation as called upon. The new administration has his complete support.