John Ross
on the Petaluma Games

Hi Jim, Finally got to the library in Petaluma to finish this brief coverage of the athletics at the Petaluma Games of the Caledonian Club. I have enclosed some microfilm pictures from the Argus Courier. Not too clear eh? All the photos show the tossers real "late" on their pulls.  Another shows, probably a band member, with one hand on the bottom and the other higher up.

I think once Al Jongewaard arrived in 1959 (according to the 1962 S.R. Press Democrat) his technique and power were better than those during the 1950s. We were team mates at SJS in 1958. Al was a very good Hammer Thrower. There are lots of general write ups and pictures of bands, dancers etc. One of the articles mentioned The Games were at San Rafael in 1949.

(Note:  John also sent me the printout from the microfiche of the newspapers.  I tried scanning them but you know the story of the Xerox of a scan of a fax; hardly legible.)

By John Ross
Petaluma 1950-1962 Santa Rosa 1962-1993
Pleasanton 1994

The Caledonian Club of San Francisco has been holding their games since 1865.  My participation started in 1964 when a friend invited me to compete.  Like so many others the "primitive" athletics, the spectacle of kilts and bag pipes and the large numbers of spectators caught my interest.

Before Santa Rosa the games were part of the Labor Day weekend in my hometown of Petaluma 15 miles to the south.  During those 11 years the games constantly changed from Petaluma High School to Kenilworth Park at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds and back again. In 1959 I finally became aware of the local Scottish Games and the Caber event. That year I stood outside the fence and listened to the Bag Pipes and thought about paying for a ticket to check things out. My Scottish frugality must have been working that day because I decided not to pay the admission and go in.

According to the Petaluma Argus-Courier the only heavy event was the Caber Toss during the 1950s. Usually a full slate of running and jumping contests were held, although in 1953, Olympian Bud Held gave a Javelin throwing exhibition coming within 20 feet of his world record of 263' 10". They must have roped off a landing area in the nearby hay field for the high flying spear.

Can you imagine throwing the Javelin at Pleasanton?  The following are the games coverage from the local Petaluma paper.  No names of Caber toss winners were ever given, only that large crowds were in attendance and sometimes athletes had trouble handling the Caber which was reported to weigh from 110 to 170 lbs.  Caber weights seemed to change each year.

1950 - 5,000 Attend Scotch Gathering and Games Here On Labor Day

One of the most colorful events ever held in Petaluma, attracting more than 5,000 persons was the 85'h gathering and games of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco held Monday at Durst Field.  The Caber was too long for anybody to throw it so one of the Scots took a fire axe and chopped some of it off. (Caption under picture.)

1951 - The Caledonian Games

For the second time Petaluma will play host to some 2,500 Scotsmen who will compete on Labor Day in the 86' annual Scottish gathering and games of the Caledonian Club of San Francisco. To the skirl of bagpipes, the roll of drums and the flash of tartans and kilts, the thrilling all-day event will get underway at Durst Field, Petaluma High School at 10 o-clock Monday morning. The largest get-together of Scots in recent years is expected, and many Petalumans and visitors from out of town will be spectators at the events. Petaluma is honored in being selected a second time as host city for the games.

1952 Caber Stymies Scot Athletes At Durst Field

Although the tossing of the Caber proved to mighty a feat for mere mortals of athletes participating in the annual gathering at Durst Field Monday, other familiar events provided the throng of 6,000 fans with some eye-opening performances. (Note: 1952 as any time the games were held at the high school had a full schedule of track and jumping events.) The Caber event wherein someone is expected to toss a 16 foot long, 125 pound redwood log end over end was an abortive one from the start to finish. None of the half dozen huskies came within a prayer of upending the weighty timber. Most were unable to hook the gigantic bat under their belt buckle to get off a toss. And those who did couldn’t throw it beyond spitting distance. So the event was scratched. No winners. No prizes. (Note: Harsh criticism from a reporter who probably couldn’t pick up the light end of a Caber.)

1953 Record Crowd Turns Out To Colorful Caledonian Gathering

The biggest disappointment of the afternoon events was the much heralded tossing of the Caber event. The heavy (125 pound) (14 foot) pole proved to be too much for a half dozen burly Scots who could no more than lift the baby telephone pole. The herculean event calls for the athlete to hoist the pole to his waist with his hands laced together under it, and then running forward tossing it as far as possible. Robert S. MacCollister Gold Medal for Caber Tossing- None.

1954 Games At Durst Field

There will be no tossing of the Caber, that event requiring the utmost in strength and dexterity of the contestant in tossing a 125 pound log. The reason is that the games will be held at Durst Field where the turf is somewhat more valuable than some of the areas of Kenilworth Park (Fairgrounds) scene of the festivities last year.

1955        (No coverage before or after the games this year.)

1956 4,000 See Caledonian Games Fun

A crowd estimated at 4,000 attended the 91"annual Scottish Gathering and Games held at the fairgrounds Sunday. The event which has been held here several times in the past was the usual colorful display of Scottish costumes, dancing, and athletic events. Of the later, probably the most unusual is the Caber throw in which the participant attempts to pitch it into the air so it fills on the top end as it turns under, flopping over a distance of some feet. Either the Scots are not as strong as they used to be or the Cabers are larger these days. The one Sunday resembled something left over from the early days of Pacific Gas and Electric Co, a pole about 15 feet long and estimated to weigh from 125 to 175 pounds. -Several attempts were made to toss the Caber, but most ended with the timber falling in an unintended direction scattering bystanders like quail.

1957 Hoot Mon! The Scots Are Comin'

The Caledonian Scots are holding their annual games at the Kenilworth Park Fairgrounds Sunday and we want to welcome them again to Petaluma. More than 1,000 participants and spectators are expected. Activities include track and field events and if they can find a Scot to toss it the Caber toss will be one of the highlights. The Caber in Gaelic spelled "Cabar" is a pole or beam usually from 16 to 20 feet long. It was a gigantic 60 year old Scot who tossed the Caber here a few years ago. The crowds attending will be eagerly awaiting a repeat performance of this fast disappearing skill.

1958 A Wee Bit Of Sunday Relaxation

(Note: For the years 1958, 1959, 1960 and 1961 just captions under the microfilm pictures are the coverage.)

Fred Reisinger throws the Caber 33 feet 6 inches for second place in this noble event at Sunday's event at the Caledonian Games at the fairgrounds. The prodigious heave was 18 inches less than the winning toss of 35 feet. Before having a crack at it, be warned: the Caber is 14 feet long and weighs between 110 and 125 pounds.

1959 Heave Ho

This picture is run as a public service in case any young Petaluma bucks get the feeling on Sunday that they must throw the Caber. Best advice: don't. The pole weighs 125-135 pounds and must be thrown end over end. Throwing the Caber is just part of the caper that many Scottish clans will put on at the Fairgrounds Sunday in the 90 renewal of the Caledonian Club Gathering and games.

1960 Tossed The Caber-Ouch!

This scene has a grim note, full of ambulance attendants and policemen, but it wasn't as bad as it looked. Charles Knowles, 31, a Scotsman up from Glendale to take part in the 95h Scottish Gathering and Games sponsored by the San Francisco Caledonian Club tossed the Caber (in brief a log) and somehow fell and broke his right ankle. He was taken to Hillcrest Hospital and was still there this monring. The accident occurred Sunday afternoon. Knowles waved to friends as he was placed in the city ambulance.

1961 A Scot Tosses The Caber

The Caledonian Club of San Francisco sponsored another edition of the Scottish Gathering and Games at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds Sunday, the 96' such event in the series. One event in the sports contest was Tossing the Caber, which is nothing but a log about 16 feet long and weighing about 125 pounds. This man was one of the unsuccessful tossers. The idea is the big (top) end has to hit the ground and then the bottom end has to be flipped over so the pole makes a complete turn. The Scot's gathering from as far as Mexico and Canada, turned out more than 3,000 strong for the colorful event. George L. Mass on is the chief of the Caledonians this year.
William H. Kirkpatrick was Games secretary.


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Copyright John Ross and Jim Jardine, 2002-15
Last updated on Dec-14
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