The Full Story
On June 5, 1973, a letter was sent to forty-seven people who resided in and around Westchester and Fairfield counties, and were known as people interested in bonsai. The purpose of the letter, sent by Jerome Meyer, was to invite them to a meeting at his home on the 16th of June to discuss interest in the establishment of a Bonsai Society for the residents of the area. As explained by Jerry in his letter, "As former president of the Bonsai Society of Greater New York, I have long felt that a group closer to home would fill a need - a Society organized for the purpose of "Learning Bonsai" and "Sharing Bonsai."
In addition to Jerry and his wife Charlotte, seven people attended the meeting that Saturday afternoon. Agreement to the founding of a local bonsai group was unanimous, to the extent that even the establishment of membership dues of $5.00 was set. The choice of Jerry as the first President was also quickly decided. Thus, the Yama Ki Bonsai Society was born. The name was selected in August of that year, and is based on the Japanese words for mountain - Yama, and tree - Ki.
It is interesting to note that at the close of 1986, that of those original nine people all but one were still members of Yama Ki, and that one is due to a move out of the region.
That first year could be characterized as one of a lot of self help and a great deal of ambition. Most of the meetings were conducted by members, with a lot of discussion and information exchange; no paid speaker crossed our threshold in this period, although there were two workshops for which those participating paid individual fees.
Three months after the formation of the group, in September, 1973, the Society participated in two garden shows, the first of what was to become a tradition of being requested to and participating in all appropriate area shows of note. The first exhibit of Yama Ki was at the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital Flower and Garden Show in White Plains, New York. This was also the first of several annual shows by Burke. 31 member bonsai trees were shown at this event. Later in the month 18 trees were displayed at the Westchester Mens' Garden Club Show held at the Allstate Insurance Headquarters in White Plains.
By this time the slogan "Learning From Each Other - Sharing With the Community" appeared on Yama Ki's printed material, a slogan the Society has honored and lived up to throughout its existence.
Yama Ki would exhibit at two more events during its first year. In April of 1974 members displayed bonsai at the Westchester County Flower and Garden Show at the County Center, and in June, 1974 an exhibit was held at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Westchester.
The first Yama Ki meeting was held at the Bartlett Arboretum, in Stamford, Connecticut. By October of 1973 membership had doubled from the original 9 to 18, and by the end of the first year, in June, 1974, membership stood at 52.
While the growth of an organization can be meticulously plotted and traced, day by day or month by month, a sense of change, maturity, sophistication and growth can often be dramatized by making comparisons over broader points of time. Let us leap ahead a decade to the 10th anniversary of the Yama Ki Bonsai Society. Specifically, we shall turn to October 15, 1983, because that was the date selected for the celebration of the event. The reason this date was selected instead of the obvious month of June, was because it was tied to another event of significance sponsored by Yama Ki.
Throughout the history of the Society, Yama Ki has had a deep and lasting relationship with Mr. Yuji Yoshimura. Several of the members have been long term students of Mr. "Y", and he has often appeared on the programs conducting lectures, demonstrations and workshops. In recognition of this service, and working with Mr. Yoshimura, the Society organized an event titled "A Day of Classical Bonsai with Yuji Yoshimura." This event was staged at the Westchester Marriott Hotel, Tarrytown, New York. Notification of the event was sent to all regional bonsai groups.
A packed house witnessed Mr. Yoshimura in an all day one-man-show consisting of four separate programs, or sections. The first morning session was the creation of a multiple trunk bonsai. This was followed by a novel program, since repeated on other occasions, of a demonstration called "Adopt-a-Tree." Several species of plant material were displayed that could be purchased for an established price by members of the audience. Mr. Yoshimura then proceeded to work on each of the trees. With the purchaser standing at his side, the Master turn each of the offerings into a bonsai the proud new owner took home.
The opening of the afternoon session began with a lecture on the bonsai that were on display in the hall. Mr. Yoshimura covered the past, present and future of each of the trees, presenting the history of each and his suggestions for future development and refinement.
The finale was a three part group planting demonstration. Three separate tree, rock and accessory plantings were created, each a finished product capable of standing on its own merits, but all three being able to be combined into one magnificent six foot landscape. Truly a memorable day of bonsai for those attending.
At the same location later that evening, the Yama Ki Bonsai Society officially celebrated its tenth anniversary with a dinner party. A packed room of diners were treated to a feast, speeches and mementoes in honor of the event. It was a day of total saturation and involvement - one that will remain forever in the hearts and minds of those who were there.
The Yama Ki Bonsai Society was born, grew and "had arrived."
THE SECOND DECADE...
Yama Ki continued its growth and maturity through its second decade. The membership expanded both in size and sophistication, reaching a membership of 127 in 1987. As the taste of the members widened, so also widened the sphere from which guest speakers were drawn.
While Yuji Yoshimura continued to be the main attraction for quality programs, supplemented by talks by several of Yama Ki's own more knowledgeable members, others were brought in from ever widening climes. Guests were drawn from Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Florida and California. Even distant shores were searched in quest of broadening our knowledge of bonsai. Horst Krekler from Germany and Harry Tomlinson of England graced our programs with their respective outlooks on the art of bonsai.
Shows continued to be a major event in the society. Notable among these was the series of spring flower and garden shows staged by Westchester County that were a major area draw. Champion Paper twice sponsored bonsai exhibits by Yama Ki at their Stamford, Connecticut headquarters. 1986 saw the beginning of what has become an annual event; the Yama Ki bonsai exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. This event has become a major public draw for the area.
This decade also saw the formation of the MidAtlantic Bonsai Group - a banding of Northeast Societies for the purpose of staging an annual convention. From its initial beginnings, MidAtlantic has grown to include 13 sponsoring clubs in the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania region.
The measure of the importance Yama Ki has played in the community over the years may be assumed from the press coverage received, particularly that covering the major shows and exhibits staged by Yama Ki. It is an excellent indicator that Yama Ki lives up to its motto of Sharing With the Community.
YAMA KI BONSAI SOCIETY - CHARTER MEMBERS
The first meeting of individuals convened to form a Westchester and Fairfield County Bonsai Society met on June 16, 1973, at the residence of Jerome Meyer of Rye Brook, New York. Nine people responded to the call, all of whom became members of Yama Ki:
Alex Domerich, Jr., Old Greenwich, CT
Marion Gyllenswan, Nanuet, NY
Janet Lanman, Stamford, CT
Charlotte Meyer Rye Brook, NY
Jerome Meyer Rye Brook, NY
Bobbie Poinier Wilton, CT
Raymond Schieber, White Plains, NY
Doris Stoll Chappaqua, NY
Herbert Yanowitz, Trumbull, CT