History of the East Texas Herpetological Society
Russ and Kim had had access to copy machines, which allowed the society to keep the cost for the newsletters down. But that access was no longer available and the costs went up. Other costs were increasing too; money was needed for refreshments and for gas and dinner for the speakers, who weren’t paid for their appearances. So, also that October, they raised rates to $15 for regular membership and changed to a calendar membership schedule, with renewals due in January.
One more milestone that October: The Ask Dr. Dave column started with that newsletter. Members could write their questions to David, a veterinarian, and he would answer them in the newsletter. His first topic: internal parasites in reptiles.
In February 1991, the board drafted the society’s constitution, which was approved at the April meeting.
And on Aug. 24, 1991, the society hosted the ETHS Reptile and Amphibian Show at the arboretum in Memorial Park from noon until 5 p.m. Free and open to the public, the convention featured animal exhibitions and presentations by Paul Freed. The society made a weekend out of it: The evening before, a Friday, it had its regular meeting, with Dr. Richard Baldauf giving a presentation on amphibians. On Sunday, there was a reptile and amphibian sale and swap meet in a grooming facility where 12-15 venders from the area were set up.
“It was a rinky-dink thing,” recalls David. At the time, there were very few breeders’ expos and few herp conventions, and they focused on academics, Russ said. ETHS, which has a mix of members – professional sellers, hobbyists, kids with a pet snake – wanted to have a greater mix so it would have something for everyone.
More than 200 people came.
By December 1991, the society had 170 members.
Although one of the society’s stated goals was to be a “potential lobbying force,” the society isn’t political. But in March 1992, members joined protests against rattlesnake roundups in Taylor.
The second conference and breeder expo/sale was Sept. 18, 1992, at the Holiday Inn-Astrodome. Members had decided they wanted it bigger than the previous year’s. Friday they had a reception, slide show and videos. Saturday was the conference with speakers, with about 160 people in attendance. Between 500 and 700 attended the Sunday breeders’ expo and sale, and the club gained 27 members.
The third convention, Sept. 10-12, 1993, also at the Holiday Inn-Astrodome, had about 250 attendees. The expo and exhibit drew more than 850 people.
In 1994, the convention and expo moved to The Greenspoint Marriot as the convention and the club continued to grow.
Following other society goals, members set up exhibits at other conferences, expos and fairs and visited schools and Scout troops. They went anywhere they were invited if they had a volunteer free.
By December 1993, the Houston Parks & Recreation Department had joined the society as cosponsor, lending its credibility to the society. That partnership lasted a few years.
On Jan. 19, 1995, the society became incorporated as a nonprofit. Buzz, a petroleum engineer and the society’s treasure since 1991, was instrumental in obtaining the status, as was Seven Godbe. By then, the club had more than 200 members, and conference revenues were annually about $15,000. At its most successful, the conference generated about $20,000 in revenues – much of which had to go back into paying for the conference or providing refreshments for the meetings and accommodations, if necessary, for presenters.
“That kind of money is enough to attract the attention of the IRS, so I wanted to do it right and create the nonprofit status,” Buzz said.
In January 1997, Kim Swartz resigned as newsletter editor, the first real change in leadership. Charlona Ingram took over.