A Brief Club History

The Year 1965

The Oregon Shell Club was founded on June 2, 1965 through the encouragement of Steve McClusky, his family, and Evelyn Boniff. Steve had just moved to Portland from Hawaii where he had collected shells since he was ten years old, and had enjoyed the opportunities offered to both amateur and professional conchologists in Honolulu. Portland, at the time, offered only a single case of shells from the Malone Collection at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The shells were old, chipped and often mislabeled.

Steve's mother wrote a letter to OMSI, offering to present an exhibit of shells to popularize shell collecting in Oregon. At a meeting that followed, Evelyn Boniff volunteered to help with creating the exhibit. As a result, in March of 1965, 18 large, eight-foot cases were filled with possibly the most extensive collection of worldwide shells ever shown at OMSI.

People interested in the exhibit signed a guest book at this first "shell show", and were later invited to attend an organizational meeting to establish a shell club in Portland. This first official meeting was held on June 2, 1965. Mrs. Smiley, from the Northwest Shell Club, was there to provide pointers on how to run a shell club. The 29 charter members attending voted to call themselves "The Oregon Shell Club". Evelyn Boniff was elected the first President.

Membership dues at that time were one dollar. Meetings were held the first Wednesday of every month at 8:00 p.m.. The first year, postcards were sent to members notifying them of meetings.

The Year 1966

In 1966, the first issue of the "Oregon Shell News" was published. It was a three page mimeographed newsletter on pink, legal-sized paper. Jean McCluskey, with Evelyn Boniff as her assistant, edited the newsletter.

As the years passed, the Oregon Shell Club membership and activities continued to grow. Meetings were held on a monthly basis. The Shell Show at the OMSI became an annual event. The club changed it's official name to The Oregon Society of Conchologists.

The 1970's

In 1976, The Oregon Shell Club hosted the Conchologists of America National Convention in Portland. The club membership grew to 44. Sadly, this year marked the passing of founding member Jean McClusky. Since her death, "The Jean McCluskey Trophy" has been given in her name at the annual shell show for the best educational exhibit.

The 1980's

Nineteen eighty-nine was an important year for Oregon Society of Conchologists. Through its efforts, the 65th Oregon Legislative Assembly adopted House Concurrent Resolution 9, naming the Oregon Triton, Fusitriton oregonensis (Redfield, 1848) the Oregon State Shell.

The same year Dr. R. Tucker Abbott was the special guest speaker at the September club meeting.

Photo was taken of Tom and Maxine Hale in 1995, the 35th Anniversary of the Shell Club Celebration

The Year 2000

After being a driving force of the Shell Club for 30 years, Thomas Hale, one of the few remaining founding members of the club, passed away in 2000, at age 76. From 1972 to 1997, Tom had served as the club president twelve separate times. He and his wife, Maxine, had amassed a world-class collection and were the subjects of numerous newspaper articles. In honor of Tom, another shell show award was named. The "Tom Hale Award" is given to the best display of Pacific Northwest shells. Shortly before Tom's death, a new chiton species, Ischnochiton tomhalei was named in honor of Tom by Roger Clark of Klamath Falls.

The Year 2005

In 2005, The Oregon Society of Conchologists celebrated its 40th anniversary. A special honor was given to Maxine Hale, in recognition for her many years of service. Besides serving as club president in 1976, Maxine has been the Shell Show Chairman for many years. Her artwork decorated newsletter covers for approximately 27-years. Few people realize that she hand-colored 70-copies of the newsletter cover since 1987. At one time she was the newsletter editor. Maxine is the only remaining founding member of the club.

The Year 2007

The January meeting of the Shell Club had been scheduled to meet at the home of Maxine Hale, however she injured her shoulder and wasn't able to host it. Instead, the Club met in the conference room at the Woodburn LaQuinta Inn, about half way between Salem and Portland. Meeting there was convenient and quite inexpensive. The Club decided to keep it as our permanent meeting place.

The Oregon Shell Club hosted the annual convention of the Conchologists of America (COA) on July 30 through August 5, 2007 at the Monarch Hotel in Clackamas, Oregon. The title of the convention was ‘Chardonnay & Shells’. Oregon Shell Club member, Joyce Matthys, chaired the event. Two hundred and forty-two persons from around the world registered for the convention. One hundred and sixty-three persons participated in one or more of the five field trips offered to sites in Oregon and Washington on July 30 and July 31. Twenty speakers made presentations during the indoor portion of the convention on August 1 through August 5. Speakers came from Brazil, Germany, Philippines and the United States.

Persons registering for the convention were given an opportunity to take part in the following field trips: 1) shell fossil collecting at the Oregon coast; 2) live shell specimen collecting at Seal Rock State Park area near Newport, Oregon; 3) a tour of three wineries in the Willamette Valley, Oregon; 4) a trip to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood and Crown Point in the Columbia Gorge; and 5) a visit to the Mt. St. Helens volcano Visitors Center, Washington.

Oral and silent auctions were held during the convention to raise funds for the COA scholarship program. In addition, shell dealers from around the world participated in the ‘Bourse’, during which they had an opportunity to sell their shells.

The Year 2011

The main purpose of the Oregon Shell Club (Oregon Society of Conchologists) is the study and advancement of the sciences of conchology and malacology, to render assistance and information to others interested in the same subjects, and to promote and encourage the understanding of ecology and conservation. Although several club members voluntarily give shell presentations at schools and libraries, the membership felt there was a need to develop a closer connection with the colleges and universities in Oregon who have active mollusk research programs. Therefore, in September 2011 the Oregon Shell Club developed a college scholarship program for undergraduate students, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers doing studies on mollusks. Interested students could apply for scholarships of up to $500, with the first scholarships to be awarded in the spring of 2012. An announcement of the program was sent to professors with marine research programs at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon.

(Please refer to the Scholarship Program section of this website to follow the progression of the program in future years.)

The Year 2014

The Oregon Shell Club has held an annual shell show every year since the club was founded in 1965. Prior to 2014 the shows were generally held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industries in Portland. However, in 2014 the shell show was moved to the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, and was held in conjunction with the Oregon State Fair. It is anticipated that the show will continue to be held at this location, during the Oregon State Fair, in the years to come.

The Year 2015

The Oregon Shell Club (Oregon Society of Conchologists) was founded on June 2, 1965. The club celebrated its 50th anniversary during its monthly meeting on June 2, 2015!

The Year 2016

Oregon Shell Club members will remember 2016 as the year the club lost two of its most esteemed members, Ken Matthys (May 12, 2016) and Maxine Hale (July 20, 2016).

In Memory of Ken Matthys

Oregon Shell Club Member for 24 Years

Long-time Oregon Shell Club member, Ken Matthys, died on May 12, 2016, six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Ken and his wife, Joyce, have been members of the Oregon Shell Club since 1992. They joined the club shortly after they learned about seashells while vacationing on Sanibel Island, Florida. When they retired in 1993, they decided that Sanibel Island was the place to be. They were RV’ers and pulled their 5th wheel 3,987 miles (one way) from Salem, Oregon to southwest Florida. Over a period of 18 years, that’s a total of 143,532 miles, or to put it into perspective, they circumnavigated the earth more than 5½ times. They spent the winter months in Florida, and returned to their home in Oregon for the summer and early fall months for many years. When Ken’s vision started to fail, from macular degeneration three years ago, they purchased a park model just across the causeway from Sanibel Island, on the mainland, in Fort Meyers, and started flying back and forth between their homes in Oregon and Florida.

On Sanibel Island Ken volunteered at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum when it was opened. During the Sanibel Island annual Shell Festivals Ken could be found in the ‘shell tent’ pricing and selling shells for the Sanibel Community Association. He also worked at and exhibited displays at the Sanibel Shell Show, where he won numerous special awards every year.

Ken has exhibited and worked at the Oregon Shell Club’s annual Shell Show every year. He especially enjoyed talking to the children who came by to look at the shells. He usually had some free shells to give to them. Ken also enjoyed talking to adults about shells. He and Joyce have been doing programs about the hobby of shell collecting for the adult education tour group, Road Scholars (AKA Elderhostel), every Wednesday, January through March, in Florida.

Prior to his passing, Ken and Joyce chose to continue their support of the Oregon Shell Club by requesting that person wishing to honor Ken, after death, do so by donating money, in lieu of flowers, to the Oregon Shell Club scholarship program. At least 34 people made donations, which made it possible for the club to offer several $500 college scholarships to students doing research on mollusks (the class to which snails and bivalves belong). In June 2016 the Oregon Shell Club voted unanimously to name its scholarship program the ‘Ken Matthys Memorial Scholarship Fund’.

In Memory Maxine Hale

Oregon Shell Club Member for 51 Years

The ‘Oregon Shell Club’ was formed officially on June 2, 1965. Maxine Hale was part of the original group involved in forming the club. In 1965 the Oregon Shell Club began holding an annual shell show. Maxine was always very actively involved in putting it together and managing it. In fact, she served as Chairman of the shell show for many, many year…up until 2005.

In 1966 Maxine, and several other shell club members, lead the charge to have the official name of the Oregon Shell Club be ‘The Oregon Society of Conchologists’. Also, in 1966 the shell club begin publishing a monthly club newsletter. Initially, Maxine wasn’t much involved in putting out the newsletter, but ultimately she served as the writer, the typist, the printer and the mailer of the newsletter. At that time the newsletter was copied on a mimeograph machine. The cover of each newsletter had a large drawing of a snail, which Maxine drew on a mimeograph carbon page. Each month, for 27 years, Maxine hand-colored the snail on the front cover of each of up to 70 copies of the newsletter, using various colors of felt pens.

In 1989 Maxine and several other club members went to the 65th Oregon Legislative Assembly to propose the Oregon Hairy Triton marine snail, Fusitriton oregonensis (Redfield, 1848) as the ‘Oregon State Shell’. They were successful in that endeavor.

Over the years the extraordinary shell collection of Maxine and her late husband, Tom, was the subject of many newspaper articles. For quite a few years the club’s monthly meetings were held in the family’s shell room, where the members could fantasize about having such a shell collection someday.

In 2005 the Oregon Shell Club honored Maxine for her extraordinary contribution to the club, and gave her a ‘life-time membership’ in the club. In 2012 the shell club developed a ‘Maxine Hale Creative Arts Award’ for the top creative shell craft entry in the club’s annual shell show.

Maxine has been an active member of the Oregon Shell Club, or officially known as the Oregon Society of Conchologists, for all of the club’s 51 years. Over those years she has taught many of us who have joined the club more recently a great deal about shells and has been an invaluable source of information on how to proceed with the club.

The Year 2017

The Shell Club held its meetings in the conference rooms of the LaQuinta Inn or the Super 8 Motel in Woodburn for 10 years. When scheduling conflicts became a problem, John Mellott started looking for an alternative meeting place in Woodburn. He discovered that the Woodburn Public Library allowed clubs to use their conference room free of charge so the Club began meeting there in September 2017.

The Years 2020 and 2021

The year 2020 found the Oregon Shell Club active with 56 members from 36 households. The meetings held at the Woodburn Public Library were well attended. Members enjoyed the silent auctions that were held before each meeting, as well as the opportunity to buy shells from members’ collections or sell shells before and after the meetings. A drawing featuring a special shell was held at each meeting with the proceeds going to the Club’s general fund. The scholarship fund continues to give out grants of $500.00 each year to the chosen applicants.

Rarely does the Shell Club cancel a meeting, but when it does, it is usually related to inclement weather. That all changed in March 2020 when COVID-19 began to spread across the nation. On March 20th, 27 new cases were reported in Oregon and the Club cancelled its April meeting. Little did they know that this would become a pandemic and they would not have another meeting for 16 months. By December 3, 2020, Oregon was averaging 1,327 new cases per day. On January 8th, the nation reported 300,777 new cases for that day alone.

Eventually, with the help of vaccinations and people wearing masks, the COVID numbers began to drop. Restrictions for public gatherings were relaxed. The Club held its first meeting on June 6th. It was held at the Hann residence because the Woodburn Public Library was still not open on Sundays. Everyone celebrated things getting back to normal. The July meeting was held at the Mellott residence in Salem.

As this is written on August 9th, the COVID numbers are rising again because of a new mutated strain that is more contagious than the original strain. The highest numbers are being seen in the southern states where many people have not chosen to wear masks or get vaccinated. The numbers in Florida in recent days have exceeded their highest numbers from last winter. It is surmised that there are probably many more people who are sick but have not been tested. To date, over 35.8 million people have tested positive in the United States and there have been over 617,000 COVID related deaths.

There are now 59 Oregon Shell Club members from 41 households.

In Memory of Ray Wilson

Oregon Shell Club Member Who Passed Away on April 26, 2020

On April 26, 2020 the Oregon Shell Club lost one of its most knowledgeable shell club members in Ray Wilson. Ray was very astute in his ability to identify shells, and fossil shells, as to their scientific names, as well as being very knowledgeable about the life history of individual species. Some shell club members referred to him as a ‘human encyclopedia of shells and shell fossils’.

Ray spent many years collecting shells and fossils in California before he and his family moved to Sublimity, Oregon. In 2007 he served as the president of the Oregon Shell Club, and was a guest speaker on Oregon’s Shell Fossils at the Conchologists of America (COA) convention in Portland, Oregon, hosted by the Oregon Shell Club. Ray was an exceptional artist. His artistic talent was exemplified at the 2007 COA convention where Ray painted a lighthouse scene on the interior surface of 200+ individual scallop shells, which were given to all participants at the convention’s final night dinner.

Ray had a very extensive shell and shell fossils collection and often donated special shells to the shell club’s silent auction. He spent considerable time at the Oregon coast and in the Willamette Valley of Oregon searching for shell fossils in places most of us wouldn’t think to look. In his final years Ray suffered with several health issues that eventually took his life.

In Memory of Duane Hann

Oregon Shell Club Member for 29 Years

Born in Portland, Duane Hann lived his whole life in Oregon. He and his wife Shannon joined the Shell Club in 1992. On June 13th, 2021 he died in his dream home on the Molalla River, the home where the Club has held its annual picnics and Christmas potlucks for many years.

Duane and Shannon own a home in Fiji for 26 years where they normally spend at least 3 months in most years. They traveled extensively in Europe and throughout the South Pacific and collected shells wherever they could find them. Duane was an avid hunter and fisherman, traveling to Alaska for many years to fish and sightsee. During his active retirement, Duane raised bees and produced honey and wax that won him many awards at the Oregon State Fair.

Duane and Shannon spent many hours setting up and volunteering at the annual shell shows at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and at the Oregon State Fair. Duane especially enjoyed interacting with the children who stopped by to buy shells during the OMSI show.

The Hann family chose to support the Oregon Shell Club by requesting that any persons wishing to honor Duane, after his death, do so by donating money, in lieu of flowers, to the Oregon Shell Club scholarship program.