Founded in 1961, the East Bay Bonsai Society is one of the most enduring bonsai organizations in the United States. With over 80 members, the Society meets monthly to share information, view members' trees, and hear presentations on bonsai-related topics by local and guest artists from here and abroad.
EBBS has a network of valuable bonsai contacts and resources. The Society produces a monthly newsletter and has an extensive lending library. The Society hosts many events including workshops, a bonsai auction, a mid-year picnic, a winter holiday party, and an annual show. The show is the highlight of the year. The show includes an exhibition of the members' bonsai trees, a featured demonstration by a notable bonsai artist, and a plant sale.
The East Bay Bonsai Society (EBBS) traces its origins to the 1961 California Spring Garden and Home Show when Jack Dutro, seeking people interested in bonsai, placed a guest book at the display. Jack Dutro's interest in bonsai went back to 1939 when he visited the Japanese Pavilion at the San Francisco and Golden Gate International Exhibition at Treasure Island. Over a hundred and twenty-five people signed the book and ultimately met with Jack, Harvey and Grace Suzuki, Nelson and Lillian Dennis at the Lakeside Garden Center in Oakland on Wednesday, October 11, 1961. Jack Dutro showed his interest in bonsai when he visited the Japanese Pavilion at the San Francisco and Golden Gate International Exhibition at Treasure Island. Jack served as the first president of the Society, sharing his knowledge, expertise and love of bonsai with others. Other early pioneers include Harvey Suzuki, who gave the very first bonsai demonstration, Mas Imazumi, John Castle, Jack Weeks, Gene Kremer and William Penn Mott.
EBBS membership grew to over 140 members during the 1960s and 70s when EBBS won numerous awards for design and horticultural excellence at the Garden Show at Oakland's Dunsmuir House. In 1996, when Jack Dutro was eight-seven, the Society lost one of its most cherished members.
The Society sponsored monthly meetings with presentations, demonstrations and workshops lead by experts from the US and abroad, providing education geared beginners as well as more advanced bonsai enthusiasts, and mentoring by more experienced members including Ruben Guzman, Bob Gould, Dennis Vojtilla, Tim Kong, Bill Castellan, Randall Lee, Jim Gremel, Tom Colby, Chuck Gallagher, Alex Clarke, and Inge Woelfel. The personal sharing of knowledge is reinforced by publication of a monthly newsletter, edited for many years by Bob Callaham.
The East Bay Bonsai Society is a founding member of the Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF) which now includes over sixty bonsai clubs. Jack Weeks and Ron Reed represented EBBS at the formative meeting of GSBF in Santa Maria in February 1978, and helped organize the first GSBF convention in November 1978 in Berkeley.
The East Bay Bonsai Society meets at the Lakeside Garden Center in Oakland on the second Wednesday of each month (except August). The nearby Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt is the premier bonsai display garden in northern California and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Many EBBS members helped fund, build and operate the Garden, notably John North and Steve Faulk who were instrumental in the construction phase; Bob and Polly Gould, Ron Reed and Karl Yetter who contributed to the docent program; Marie Rohde and Kay Hardy who coordinated docent scheduling; Janice Dilbeck, Linda Soliven and Rick Trumm who help maintain trees, John Nackley, JD Lin and many others who serve as docents and support the educational program.
EBBS members continued to play prominent roles in planning and organizing annual conventions of the Golden State Bonsai Federation, devoting many volunteer hours, and displaying bonsai trees which have won widespread acclaim. None of this would have been possible without the collective efforts of those who initially formed the Society and who contributed so much over the years.