History of the Goldfish Society

GFSA Pre-History

The Goldfish Society of America actually grew out of some earlier, more regional attempts to get a US society going. Joe Lightcap, Al Thomma and Neal Teitler founded the American Goldfish Society (AGS) in the mid-1960s. Primarily based in the New York area, it held meetings and published a newsletter called "The Goldfishologist". Al served as the president, Joe the secretary, and  Neal was the editor of the newsletter. The famous William T. Innes was an honorary chairman. Dr. Innes, even at his advanced age, was able to dictate material for the AGS publication.

When Neal Teitler graduated from college about a year after the founding of the AGS, he entered the Army and was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco. He contacted Dick and Sue Law, and together with a few others they began a Western AGS (WAGS) activity.

There was early interest in combining the AGS and the WAGS. However, both were clubs that had regular face-to-face meetings. Transforming to a true national society would have also meant becoming a corresponding society, where the members would primarily meet through the publication. This was a big change, which was initially resisted. But ultimately, the interest in creating a true national organization was too compelling to ignore.

The Goldfish Society of America

In 1972 the Goldfish Society of America was formed. The first newsletter came out on July 15th, recording 64 charter memberships. Dick and Sue Law were the editors of the newsletter and Randolph Kovalcson was the first chairman. Every chairman since has echoed Randolph's words in the 4th newsletter:

"The Goldfish Society of America is a membership participation club that is run by the members for the benefit of propagating the fine species of goldfish. Only you, the members, will make this society what you hoped it would be upon joining"

The decision was also made that year to officially use the acronym "GFSA". The more obvious "GSA" was generally associated with the Girl Scouts of America, so this move was intended to avoid any confusion. In 1973 the first set of society bylaws were drafted and then in 1974 what would become the society's seal was created. The circular logo with a calico Oranda in the center appeared on the cover of the publication until 1987. 1974 was also the year that Harold "Mac" McClelland became chairman.

Mac was one of the early giants in the society. From the society's founding until his death in 1979, Mac was a tremendous contributor and benefactor to the society. In 1978, Mac was made the first honorary member of the society. Sue Law can similarly be credited, having laid the critical foundation for a corresponding society by editing and publishing the Goldfish Report from the society's founding until 1981. The difficulty of the editor's job, particularly in the early days when it also included publishing and mailing, cannot be overstated.

A third giant in the early history of the GFSA was Bill Parsonson. Bill was a continual contributor of articles and personal efforts to the GFSA from its inception. In 1979 he started the first of many terms as chairman of the society. When Sue Law resigned as editor after nine and a half years of service to the society, Bill took on the responsibilities of editor until John Och took over the job. John did several stints as editor, as did a number of others during the 1980's. Amy Laughlin gets the credit for the initial evolution of the publication to a more professional magazine style in 1988.

Sandy Rick, with assistance from her daughter Julie, took over the editing job in 1991 under chairman Al Foster. Sandy put out a quality publication through thick and thin, ultimately equaling Sue Laws' record of nine and half years when she finally had to say enough was enough in 2000. The continuity provided by members who have been willing to take on the hard jobs and perform them year after year has been the key to the society's long-term success and health. Sadly, the society's key proponent and worker, Bill Parsonson, passed away in 1992. The loss of Bill's guiding hand was keenly felt by the GFSA and it was several years before the society was able to fill the many holes left by Bill's passing.

A key milestone in 1994 was the first GFSA National Convention in Akron, Ohio. Organized by Gary Hater and Steve Frowine, this was a rousing success with a show, fish sales, and numerous speakers. The event set the expectation that the society could have a national event and additional conventions have been held since, as funds and manpower have allowed. The GFSA also began sanctioning shows by other organizations, in an effort to promote the competitive exhibition of goldfish. To support this activity and improve the quality of goldfish judging in the US, Peter Ponzio led an effort culminating in the publication in 1996 of the "Goldfish Breed Guidelines", the first step towards the development of a set of US judging standards.

The society, its publications, and the officers and contributors continue to change over time. Successful ideas are built upon and less successful ones are laid aside. As you will see from this Web site, the society continues a tradition of active, member-driven activities and initiatives.