I first became interested in racing pigeons when I was around 16 years old. On my daily walk home from High School, I remember noticing a large flock of pigeons flying around in a tight group and at times landing on a garage roof.
I eventually learned that Mr. Patz was the pigeon fancier on his garage roof in Irvington, New Jersey and that he was loft flying his birds and calling them down to feed. Mr. Patz invited me into his yard and up to his garage roof top one day and that was all it took. I was hooked.
I then started to capture domestic pigeons at the local bus depot and brought them home to breed from after building a makeshift loft from old lumber I could get my hands on. I eventually brought Mr. Patz to my home to show my humble setup and I am thankful that he didn’t laugh at what I had set up. He offered suggestions and then gave me some birds when I changed things around with the loft. I still remember falling in love with a well built blue bar splash hen and a dark check pied hen out of the lot given to me. I also remember Mr. Patz taking me to the Irvington Racing Pigeon Club and sat in a club meeting and when we visited the Elizabeth Club.
My birds would initially eat left over rice from dinner and bags of peas and human feed grain I would buy at the local corner store with my weekly allowance money. I remember when Mr. Patz took me to actually get pigeon feed and paying for my 1st bag for me. His kindness will never leave my memory, even though he passed away decades ago. We should all want to have such a positive affect on others.
My mother thought that I was crazy loving and caring for pigeons but caring for them kept me off the streets and out of trouble with gangs and the police. I had to give up the sport/hobby that fascinated me when I joined the United States Marine Corps, traveling around the world meeting great people and challenging myself physically as mentally. Becoming a Marine was a childhood dream and getting to jump out of perfectly good aircrafts added spice to my life. When I became a Marine and member of ANGLICO, my overall experiences shaped me into the person I am today: someone committed to excellence. When I was away oversees, you would find me looking through street pigeons trying to find any that were banded and being so excited to share with others how they were different than the other pigeons around. I always knew that I would eventually raise, train and race homing pigeons.
Years later I went to College, joined the workforce, started a family and when I bought my first home in Plainfield, NJ, I converted my single car garage into a pigeon loft and joined the Queen City Racing Pigeon Club and got my butt whipped on race days. That didn’t matter as I was once again enjoying what I had experienced as a teenager. I am still very much addicted to the thoroughbreds of the sky.
Mr. Patz was the 1st to make an impact but over the years there were many others, like Nate Vigilante, Joseph Friedrich, Werner Haberman and Walt Adams.
It is true when Joe Rotondo stated that:
"In all the world, there is no hobby that will change one's life like that of breeding, racing and developing superior pigeons. No other hobby or sport will develop skills and demand efforts in so many different fields.
A race horse owner has a trainer, an exercise boy, a stable hand, a groom and usually someone else to breed his horses. In our hobby, we do all this ourselves, plus more."