Aelpler Gruppe Swiss Club History

 The Early Years 1925-1944

The Aelpler Gruppe Swiss Club, Inc was founded in 1925. Swiss people had participated as a group dressed in Aelpler costumes at the Diamond Jubilee Parade in San Francisco. After the parade they gathered at the Roesch (German) Hall and decided to meet as a group and to form a Swiss Club. The name Aelpler-Gruppe is derived from the Aelpler costumes they wore. Dances, Chilbis and Schwingfests were planned with the first dance an “Aelpler Chilbi” that was held on January 23, 1926. A board was selected and the first president, Jacob Iten, led the meetings that were held at the Roesch (German) Hall in San Francisco.

In 1928 the meetings were moved to Alameda, where there lived a community of Swiss. Besides August Walliman (the president) and hisf amily, other families included the Bauhofers, Ambiels, Alberts, Durrers and Fries’. In 1929 Frank Durrer became president and the meetings were held at the Kruze Ranch in San Lorenzo where Joe Widmer Sr. and his family lived and worked.

The first Schwingfest sponsored by the Aelpler Gruppe was held on May 6, 1928 at the Newark Pavilion. Plans were made to have the Schwingfest a yearly event. The Al Fassler Orchestra played for the club dance in Oakland in 1930 and Aelpler Gruppe was accepted into the United Swiss Societies on April 12, 1932. The first masked ball was in 1932

As the bay area urbanized many Swiss settled further South into Washington Township (the Tri-City area) where there was more farm land. In 1934, when Louie Marchy Sr. became president, the meetings moved to Newark.

At this time there were many new immigrant Swiss in the bay area. The dances and celebrations became very popular and the dream of having a hall of their own became possible. After some investigation, Frank Fries Sr., on behalf of the Aelpler Gruppe, purchased a piece of land consisting of approximately five acres.

A Park Committee was formed and it was decided in order to obtain the necessary amount of money to start building a hall they would take up a collection from members and friends who were willing to contribute. This is how the Life membership of the Aelpler Gruppe was formed. With a contribution of $50 one received a Life Membership which entitled them to free admission to all club dances and schwingfests. Thus a fund was started that enabled the construction of the present Swiss Park Hall. Three members loaned the Swiss Club $800.00 each, Frank Durrer, Jacob Sutter, and Frank Marty. The Wilhelm Tell Verein of Oakland also loaned the Swiss Club funds. The Aelpler Gruppe is forever grateful for the sacrifices the members and friends made in contributions as well as the officers and committee members serving at that time. With the help of the members and the Wilhelm Tell Swiss Lodge, it wasn’t necessary to mortgage the hall. In 1947 the final payment was made and the members really felt their dream had come true.

The first meeting in the new Swiss Park Hall was held on February 3, 1935. The official “Grand Opening” was held April 7, 1935. Two of the young ladies at that time were the first representatives of the Aelpler Gruppe as queens at the Grand Masquerade Ball in San Francisco, Bertha (Inderbitzen) Berryessa in 1933 and Anne (Wallimann) Spichtig in 1935.

The first caretaker (manager) for the bar was Martin Gratzer who was also the president. The finances for the bar were kept separate from those of the club celebrations. In 1937 a separate Swiss Park committee was formed with Bertha Berryessa as secretary.

The first secretaries for Aelpler Gruppe were Mathius Bucher (1925-1933) and Ernest Heuer (1933-1942) and the minutes were taken in German until 1941. During WWII the board gave permission to rent the property as needed for defense purposes and the board meetings and club activities were suspended.

Years of Growth and Change 1944-1970

Board meetings resumed in Oct, 1944 with Martin Gratzer as President and Katie Reichmuth as secretary. Katie was secretary from 1944-1957 and from 1959-1997. Helen Marchy was secretary in 1957-1958 when her father, Paul Bleisch, was President.

After WWII the dairy industry and the economy thrived and the Swiss had many occasions for celebrations. Swiss Park was a social meeting place seven days a week so the managers were very important. Just after the war Joe Schelbert and Joe Studer (1944-1947) were managers and then Carl and Olga Reichmuth and their son David (1947-1950). David remembers playing with his tri-cycle in the dance hall. There were an additional 7-8 beds above the hall that different people used when they were looking for work or spending a few days off from work. The Swiss Park was much like the Wirtschafts of Switzerland where mostly men played cards, listened to the juke box or live Swiss music on Sundays.

The club incorporated in 1946. There was a parade and flag dedication in 1958.

Membership in the club grew and all the events were very crowded. The club had at least 12 celebrations a year and the Wilhelm Tell Verein hosted another four dances a year at the Swiss hall. The Masquerade Balls were crowded with those in costume and those watching. Young families participated in parades, dances and schwingfests dressed in their Aelpler trachten (costumes).

The various Swiss clubs participated in celebrations up and down the Pacific coast. Many attended the Schwingfests and Musicfests from Tacoma to Imperial Valley. The Swiss Journal published information about the various clubs and Rosemary Ramsell, a board member, reported the “Chit Chat” of family and friends of Aelpler Gruppe members and about Swiss Park events. The Club also started it’s own newsletter.

The Music Fests were first organized by Joe & Katie Reichmuth in 1956. In Switzerland they have a Musicfest in the form of a contest every two to three years. Joe Reichmuth liked the idea and so the Pacific Coast Musicfests were founded. The event is not held as a contest but rather to bring the musicians together for the enjoyment of the people. The Pacific Coast Musicfests are held every three years by Swiss Clubs in Washington, Oregon and California.


Improvements to the property have been made during the years. When the widening of Mowry Avenue required the land of the old Schwingerplatz, a new one was built and a fence was added around the park area. Barbecue pits were added and a “Beer Hall” was built with an outdoor dance floor. Master carpenters Joe Allgauer and Alois Kaslin built the present outdoor stage in 1994. Joe Allgauer constructed the new barbecue building in 1995. The parking lot was repaved in 2001 and the handicap ramp was installed in 2002. Other improvements include: a new roof ( 2010), re-wiring (2000), new lighting.

The Swiss Club was well known as having held some of the biggest Schwingfests on the West Coast, as well as many dances and picnics.

Timeline for Aelper Gruppe and Swiss Park

The Early Years-1925-1942

1925-There were 18 official members at the first meeting. The events the group organized became very successful.

1928-1st Schwingfewst at Newark Pavilion

1929- Meetings moved to Alameda and then to Widmer Dairy in San Leandro

1932- Joined United Swiss Society

1933- First masked ball

1934- Meetings moved to Newark, Louis Marchy dairy.-Park committee formed .

1934? Damen schwingers- at Schwingfest-

1935- Swiss Park hall and bar opened. First Schwingfest at the park. After the hall was built there was a separation between the bar                     and the club functions. The liquor sales and club finances were kept separate. 

1937- Minutes for park committee separately recorded –Bertha Berryessa was secretary

1941- Minutes recorded in English (previously in German)

1942- Last meeting until 1944. The group agreed to rent the Swiss Park grounds for defense purposes. Meetings were suspended                       until after the war.


1944- Agreed to give Carl Reichmuth $50 for his help in the past two years and also gave a gift to Joe Bauhofer for his help in the same period.

1946 Club incorporated as a non- profit organization.

1946- New Years Eve dance with Wilhelm Tell Verein

1946–Family Evening (Familia Abend) —first started in January later moved to December

1946–Swiss Rifle Club organized- dance (joe and Louis Schmidig)—Schutzen Vereign

1946- Pacific Coast Schwingfest

1947- Final payment for Swiss hall construction

1947- San Joaquin Singing Society performed at Swiss park (?)

1958-  Flag dedication-parade-schwingfest-

1961- Musicfest

1964- Aelpler Gruppe Charter flight to Switzerland

This is when the social membership was added. (those who wanted to join the chartered airline travel to Switzerland had to be Aelpler Gruppe members.

1966- Swiss park and Aelpler boards were completely separated.

1967- Aelpler Gruppe float in the Newark parade

1967- 2nd Aelpler Gruppe Charter Flight to Switzerland


The Swiss Holiday Club, The William Tell Verein dissolved. Many dairies closed and many families moved to the Central Valley.

1968—German Language and Culture Club rented the Hall for the German dance, fundraiser for the school.

1973- German Language and Culture Club began having dances at the Swiss Park for fundraising

1986- The German Language and Cultural Club shared the New Year’s Eve dances with Aelpler Gruppe and the declining attendance increased.

1989-Championship Schwingfest at Swiss Park

1990-Social members were allowed again- must be a social member for two years to become a life member

2017-Newsletter reorganized.

2018-Jass and Fondue event started

Special Swiss Celebrations at Swiss Park

 Anniversary celebrations for Aelpler Gruppe- 65th (1990), 75th (2000), 85th (2010)

Championship Schwingfests (West Coast Swiss Wresting Association-WCSWA)—1965, 1971, 1977, 1983, 1989, 1995, 2000

 Musicfests- 1958, 1961 (3rd), 1971, 2003,

                        Folklore Events 1995 – Present Honoree Listing

 2019    BBQ Crew – Leo Ott, Pete Zuger, Carl & Taylor Ramsell

2018    Kurt Clausen

2017    The event honored Life Members Born in the 1920s & retired Swiss Musicians

2016    The Marchy Families

2015    (No Folklore event held)

2014    Heidi Ambiel

2013    Leo & Charlene Ott

2012    The event honored Members 80 & Over,  

                Program: Musical program by the Scheiber’s Grandchildren and Gage Wille

                Music: Ron Scheiber’s Orchestra

2011    The event honored Frank & Rosemary Aufdermaur

                Program: The Golden Gate Boys Choir.   Dance: Bob Ulrich’s Alpiners Swiss Band, Corvallis, Oregon

2010    The event honored Bette & Louie Sessa

                Program: The children of the Tom Ott Family of Modesto, Along with Emily Ott, Marty Ulrich & Lenard Marchy.   Dance: Bob Ulrich’s Alpiners

                Swiss Band

2009    The event honored Frank Schmidig

                Program: Emily Ott.     Dance: Ron Scheiber’s Orchestra

2008    The event honored Otto Ambiel on his 80th and for his dedicated service to the Swiss Club

                Program: The Golden Gate Boys Choir, Emily Ott & Lillie Vogt.     Dance: Ron Scheiber’s orchestra

2007    The event honored Sennenmutter Rosemary Ramsell on her 85th Birthday.

                Dance: Ron Scheiber’s Orchestra

2006    Grand March on the Dedication of the new Club Flag

                Program: The Golden Gate Boys Choir & Anthony & Annalise Ravella, Clarinet & Piano- Steve & Sue Fox –Alphorn Duet.       Dance: Ron Scheiber’s      

                Orchestra with Reto Lammler

2005   Program: Haslital Kapelle directed by Steven Meyer

               Hannah Imhof accompanied by Mike Imhof & Andy Gwerder

               Dance: Kapelle Saelta Nuechter with Frank Beeler

2004    Program: Haslital Kapelle; Hannah Imhof with Mike Imhof; Andy Gwerder & Barti Muller; Daniel & Susanna Cameron; Pasqual Gyger & Heidi 

                Goetschi.     Dance: Kapelle Saelta Nuechter 

2003    Honoring Al Fassler of the famous Al Fassler Orchestra

2002    Honoring the Swiss Club Members 75 years of age and older.

                Honoring the SJV Swiss Echoes Singers host of the 24th Pacific Coast Swiss Signing & Yodeling Festival,

2001    Honoring the Veteran Schwingers and all other Schwingers who wrestled in Newark

               Dance: Fred Rast Orchestra

2000    Swiss Night –honoring the Swiss Club’s founders on their 75th Anniversary

                Singing by Swiss Singing Society of San Francisco.   Jacqueline Cameron – Piano presentation

                Dance: Ed Inderbitzin Orchestra

1999    Swiss Music Night

               Program: Ron Scheiber’s Orchestra; Kapelle Saelta Nuechter; Ed Inderbitzin Orchestra; Charlie Bagnasco & Otto Egli Orchetra and Peter Dobler

1998    Program: Honoring Katie Reichmuth for 50+ years of service

1997    The event honored Tom & Rosemary Imholz

              Dance: Ron Scheiber’s Orchestra & Kapelle Saelta Nuechter

1996    Surprise Party for Rosemary Ramsell honoring her for her many years of service

               Dancing to Joe Reichmuth Orchetra; Ron Scheiber’s Orchestra, & Kapelle Saelta Nuechter

1995    Joe & Katie Reichmuth were given a surprise party

               Musicians Night with Ron Scheiber’s Orchestra; Kapella Saelta Nuechter; Leo Fassler Orchestra; Charlie Bagnasco & Otto Egli

              Orchestra; Fred Rast 

              Orchestra; Streich Orchestra