In 2018, the California B&B Corps, the world’s first and now oldest uniform club for gay men, celebrated its Golden Anniversary. This history documents the club’s origins in the 1960s and its evolution over the succeeding decades.
The club’s beginnings go back to the early 1960s and several individuals — Mel Saddler, Ron Tonkins, and Gordon Marten — who had strong interests in both motorcycles and uniforms.
During the club’s initial years, members would wear uniforms to the meetings that they had put together on their own. Over time, what we now know as the club uniforms were defined and codified.
The club constitution that was hammered out in contentious meetings during
the course of 1973 and 1974 was formally adopted at the club’s 67th meeting
that occurred on July 13, 1974 at Neil Cowan’s house on Stanley Avenue in Hollywood.
Throughout much of the 1970s, the club remained highly closeted, with its gatherings continuing to take place in members’ homes, and later in the decade at gay-friendly Hollywood area restaurants.
In the 1980s, membership in the club fluctuated between 11 and 16. A regular schedule of monthly meetings was maintained, primarily in members’ homes, but sometimes involving dinner at nearby restaurants.
The first half of the decade of the 90’s represented something of a peak for the B&B. During the period from 1990 through 1994, membership was high, ranging from 17 to 20 active members.
As the new millennium began to unfold, there was an uptick in activity in the club. The LA Division attracted new members, including three men who had been members of the Corps of Rangers who came to the B&B after the Corps of Rangers dissolved.
After taking a slight dip in 2010 the LA Division’s membership has been increasing steadily, and the number of active officers is now up to 17.
This history of the B&B would not be complete without a mention of the important role that Officer Jim Neuman has played over the years in supporting the B&B and in ensuring the continuity of its core values and traditions.
Although the conditions that once made clubs like the B&B necessary — the criminalization of homosexuality and the limited acceptance of uniforms in gay world — have changed, the B&B is continuing to thrive and meet the needs of its members.
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