The beginnings of a great organization.
The flow of Swiss immigration to the United States began increasing after the Civil War (1861-1865). Our country’s Westward Movement brought many of these early immigrants to the West Coast. By the late 1800’s sufficient numbers of Swiss had arrived that Swiss Vereins (Clubs) were established to provide camaraderie and sharing of customs and traditions of the Heimat (Homeland). The William Tell Verein of Oakland and the Sacramento Helvetia Verein founded in the 1890’s were examples of clubs formed during this period.
Many Swiss immigrated to Imperial Valley in the early 1900’s. Our patron historian, Albert Ming (1911-2002), remembered the first Schwingfest in the “Valley” at McKim Bridge on the Von Moos and Ruchti Ranch won by Karl Von Moos in 1921. During the 1920’s Swiss immigration surged as did the number of schwingfests from Imperial Valley and Los Angeles in the Southwest, to Modesto, Newark, and San Francisco in the Central West Coast, to Portland and Tacoma in the Northwest.
One of these Swiss immigrants was Joseph L. Inderbitzin who arrived in the late 1920’s and joined the San Francisco Swiss Gymnastics Club as a turner (gymnast) and schwinger. “Joe” competed as a schwinger in various schwingfests through the 1930’s. An incident at a Newark Schwingfest in 1939 stuck vividly in his mind. Schwinger, Melch Amstalden, incurred a fatal neck injury. This event and injuries of schwingers Joe witnessed during the 1940’s and early 1950’s prompted him to conceive forming an organization like the Eidgenossischer Schwingerverband in Switzerland which does for schwinging there , what the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball Association does for our sports of football, basketball, and baseball here in the U.S.A.
Joe’s primary concerns were to provide assistance to injured wrestlers and standardize the schwinging rules and regulations which varied somewhat among the sponsoring clubs. Instead of having several “Championship Schwingfests” in a given year the member clubs of the organization could designate one club’s annual schwingfest as “The Championship Schwingfest”.
So in 1955 Joe began his crusade. He contacted all the West Coast Swiss Clubs that sponsored schwingfests to initiate a discussion of ideas on how to achieve his vision of an organization to monitor Swiss wrestling on the West Coast. After numerous letters, phone calls, personal conversations with key persons at Swiss events he attracted a contingent of strong supporters. Notable among these were Hans Durrer and Kamill Omlin (Imperial Valley), Joe Zumstein and Alois Stockalper (San Diego), Hans Sulzer, Fred Burri, and Paul Aeschlimann (Los Angeles), Paul Bleisch, Joe Reichmuth, and Louie Marchy (Newark), Konrad Grass and Joe Kannel (San Francisco), Louie and Adolf Beeler (Ripon), John Irrbarren, Otto Scheiber, Fred Kaelin, Martin Steiner Sr. (Sacramento), and Arnold Inderbitzin and Karl Kuttel (Truckee).
Among all these males was one female who Joe would agree confirms the axiom, “Behind each great man, stands a woman.” Evelyn Blattler Amman of San Diego was such a woman. She did the vital secretarial chores for fourteen years which enabled the fledging organization to get on its feet.
After two years of diligent effort, many communiquésés, and meetings with club delegates Joe’s dream came to fruition with the official incorporation of the West Coast Swiss Wrestling Association on January 12, 1957. The first officers were:
President Josef L. Inderbitzin
Secretary Evelyn Blattler
Treasurer Louie L. Beeler
Directors Alois Stockalper, Paul A. Kiser,
Konrad Grass and Kamil Omlin
In 1960, Joe made a serious effort to include the Portland and Tacoma clubs in the W.C.S.W.A. But like the Swiss in Switzerland when it was in the process of becoming a confederation, they were leery of giving up some provincial control. So Joe’s vision of all West Coast clubs being included in the Association fell short. But to Joe’s credit, he showed sincere respect for their point of view.
Now, fifty years later, the W.C.S.W.A. continues to serve as a forum for Swiss Wrestling, providing aid to injured schwingers, arranging for our schwingers to compete at schwingfests in Switzerland, and advertising our schwingfests to the Swiss in Switzerland, enabling some of their schwingers to compete at our events.
Plus the San Joaquin Valley Swiss Club is now the proud sponsor of the W.C.S.W.A.’s 50th Championship Schwingfest. The first one was awarded to the San Francisco Gymnastics Club and held in 1958 at Woodside, south of the city. My training partner and buddy, Alois Peter, and I challenged each other for that championship.
Josef L. Inderbitzin, THANK YOU. Your relentless effort and dedication to loyalty, sacrifice, determination, and graciousness are greatly appreciated. Your kindness and sensitivity is forever etched in my mind in recalling your visit to my terminally ill dad, Wendel Kiser, on that early April Saturday in 1992. A special thank you for that deed and many others your loving spirit gave to us.