1. The Widders Ball 1998

    The Widders Ball 1998

    The name E Clampus Vitus means absolutely nothing.

Like many others I thought the name had to stand for something but in researching the organization I found that it’s just a name its originator made up.

  1. The Clamper’s are a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of Western history.

Many people believe that they are just a drinking club that requires members to take part in wild initiation ceremonies, which is entirely true; however they have played an important part in preserving our history. They are responsible for building the historical monuments you see all over the Western United States.

  1. Mark Twains, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was inspired by Clampers.

Clamper meetings were held in the back rooms of saloons and it’s said that Mark Twain wrote the book based on a story he heard at one of those meetings.

  1. Ulysses S. Grant was a Clamper.

There is some evidence to support that Grant was a member. While stationed at the Benicia Arsenal he spent 30 days in the Arsenal Guardhouse for being drunk on duty and firing cannons at the Martinez shoreline. (Sure sounds like a Clamper to me)

  1. Despite the humor and rowdiness, members do take the brotherhood very seriously.

Members frequently trekked through the vastness of the Sierra Nevada to reach lonely miners who would otherwise have no Christmas celebration. The society was also quick to help the widows and orphans of fallen members. When a member became sick or injured the brotherhood collected food and money to assist them. The same holds true today, which brings me to why I wrote this blog.


This past Sunday a bunch of great Clampers (and Widders, the mighty force behind many a Clamper) got together to help out their brother David Warner. Dave sustained some serious injuries at a Clamper doin’s at Hollister Hills in September and as well as not being able to work for three months, he has amassed $40,000.00 in medical bills. My son, Allen, who was brought in to the Clampers by his step daddy Tommy in 1999, put the gala event together. Everyone pitched in from the bands that played, to the kitchen help, and many donated cash to cover the costs of food or just kick in towards the cause. I was home working on a deadline for my new book and missed out on the party. I did, however, make the chili Saturday night, and was glad to be able to help out.

Allen instructing my grandson Joseph on where he could help out. It was truly a family affair.

Allen instructing my grandson Joseph on where he could help out. It was truly a family affair.


As Facebook will attest, everyone had a great time and Dave and his family were more than blessed. Despite not making a sizable dent in the family’s financial needs, the money raised will help a lot and the impact it made on the hearts of all involved will forever be felt. There’s nothing quite like helping others to make a person feel good, and when you do it for family it’s even better. And that’s what the Clampers are, family. I’d like to share en except from my book Miracles and Grace in an Unlikely Place – Memoir of a Christian Biker Bar Owner with you that tells the story of Johnny’s and our connection to the Clampers. I hope you enjoy i,t and if you’d like to read it autographed copies are available at Johnny’s, I couldn’t help shameless the plug.


Johnny A. jamming for the dancers.

George Bonvie jamming for the dancers.


The point of this story is that Clampers are an integral part of the Johnny’s family. I’d like to personally thank all of you who helped out. Whether you bought a plate or served one, played the music, or danced to it, you were all a part of a really good thing. God bless and keep you, Cat



One of our first Clamper gatherings at Johnny's

One of our first Clamper gatherings at Johnny’s











What Say the Brethren? Satisfactory! Life was good as prominent business owners in a small town. Tommy and I were over the moon that the city’s elite wanted to hang out at our bar and grill. John O’Brien shared many stories about Johnny’s being the hub for business owners, farmers, city politicians, and more in the old days. It hadn’t been that way for years. I couldn’t have been prouder to be the one to bring Johnny’s back to its days of grandeur.


One happy hour while visiting with our mayor, Seth Irish—who later became Tommy’s best friend—Tommy discovered that Seth was a Clamper. Tommy decided it was only appropriate that we become an official Clamper bar. Tommy was initiated into the ECV in 1985, and had neglected his lifelong membership for quite some time. If our mayor was a Clamper, it was Tommy’s duty to dust off the old red and black and honor the tradition.

“What the heck is a Clamper?” you may be asking, The E Clampus Vitus organization dates back to the early1800s and is rumored to have members of stature like Ulysses S. Grant, J. Pierpont Morgan, and even Ronald Reagan. Whether you choose to believe that is entirely up to you, but in their heyday they did a lot to help the widows and orphans of dead coal miners. The brotherhood was formed by men who thought organizations like the Odd Fellows and Masons were way too stuffy, and the requirements to join too arduous. As far as the ECV is concerned, all members are officers and as such are “all of equal indignity.” New members, referred to as “Poor Blind Candidates,” could present a “poke of dust,” valued at the discretion of the brotherhood to join, and it wasn’t uncommon for the fee to be waived if the man could not afford it.

The ECV are still responsible for building the historic-site plaques you see all over the Western United States, and I’m proud to say that one was erected on Johnny’s patio to honor our own Wino Willie Folkner.


wino's daughter Terrie Dawn with Snowman in front of the newly unveiled monument.

Wino’s daughter Terrie Dawn with Snowman in front of the newly unveiled monument.



At Clamper doin’s, as they are called, seasoned Clampers initiate new members and generally drink themselves into a stupor while playing crazy hazing games. For very good reasons, the initiations of new members are usually held in some remote place. They are weekend-long endeavors. The first time the men informed us that they would be out of town for the weekend, some of the women were bothered that their husbands wanted to leave them for two days. Party girl that I was, I saw it as a great opportunity for us “Widders,” as we were referred to, to get together for a grand fiesta ourselves. The first weekend is etched in my memory and will be forever.


Allen was nineteen at the time and came to Hollister from San Jose, where he was living, for weekend visits. I informed him weeks in advance that he was going to be the designated driver for all of the Widders. Allen, always feeling it his duty to look out for ladies, possibly because he grew up with a single mom, had no problem with my plan.

The men headed out of town at three in the afternoon on Friday, and our party started before their vehicles left the parking lot. For two days we had more fun than the law should allow, and did everything from playing darts to holding a butt contest for the band members who played for us on Saturday night. When Tommy came home on Sunday morning he found me on the couch more hungover than he was, and our house was a disaster. We ran out of tomato juice for Bloody Marys, so I blended up Italian-style stewed tomatoes and tomato soup to make them. There was red stuff all over the kitchen and even in the hot tub. I don’t remember ever having such a painful hangover in my life, and I had to drive Allen back to San Jose. I thought the ride might kill me, and on the drive my son said, “Mama, you girls told Allen things Allen didn’t need to know.” I forbade him to tell me what they were, and promised never to ask him to be designated driver for the Widders again.

The Widders’ Ball

When we embraced the ECV we added an entire new dimension to life at Johnny’s. For a group of professional drinkers to call our bar home was a blessing in itself; the fun and camaraderie that came with it was an extra bonus. Most ECV chapters hold what they call a “Widders’ Ball” once a year. It is the only party that we ladies are invited to attend. Clampers and Widders are encouraged to dress in period clothing for this extravaganza, and we turned finding our costumes into another party. We had so much fun picking out our outfits that we knew the ball was going to be a blast.


The night of the ball was, of course, another all-day party. Out of the hundred or so attendees at the event, about half dressed in period clothing, and our lively group from Hollister stood out in the crowd. We ate, laughed, danced, and drank until we were thrown out at midnight. The party moved to the hotel, and luckily the Clampers occupied the entire floor; we were a wild and crazy bunch. After room hopping for about an hour, we finally called it a night. The fart machine with a remote my husband sneaked into Seth and Jeannie’s adjoining room made for another hour of entertainment. The next day we all went to brunch together, and any one of the attendees will surely tell you that it was one of the most fun weekends of his or her life.

26 Responses to Five Things You May Not Know About Clampers

  1. Derek "Warpath" Walker says:

    Most satisfactory, great story.

  2. tj ecv wilson says:


  3. well Enjoyed…Awsome….Keep up the Good Work!!!!!!!

  4. Christina grant says:

    My cousin was a clamper. When he passed away in august 2013 unexpectedly the clamper helped his wife and kids. I appreciated that so much.

  5. Rich says:

    Do You think the Clampers #1846 Montery Viejo would want a spot in the Aromas Day parade ? It will be on Sunday, August 30th, at 2pm.
    People remember the Clamper’s Drill Team from years ago and wanted us to ask.
    They were a HOOT !
    Parade information is at aromasday.com
    Or you could call Terry at 831-206-1174.
    We would Love to have you folks in our parade !

    Please let us know.

  6. Karen Moret says:

    Are there any Clamper events coming up in the Reno/Tahoe/Carson City/Virginia City areas?

    • Charisse says:

      I wouldn’t know about those areas. My son Allen Tyson is on Facebook and may be able to lead you in the right direction. I hope he can help. God bless, Cat

  7. Jarred Daniel says:

    Don’t forget that Mark Twain was a Clamped also!

    • Charisse says:

      I had read that too. Some of our Presidents were rumored to be Clampers starting with George Washington. However, Clampers have been known to stretch a story. LOL

  8. Joe ecv dulisse says:

    Satisfactory brethren …

  9. Pops says:

    I want to noin

    • Charisse says:

      I assume you meant join. If you aren’t from Hollister you can look up a local chapter online. If you are in or close to Hollister stop by Johnny’s and talk to my son Allen on a Wed., Thur., Fri. or Saturday night. He can hook you up. God bless, Cat

      • Don McCasland says:

        You will need a sponsor. It ain’t easy, and if you drop out, your sponsor has to go through for you. So, make sure you’re ready. I went through chapter 1827. Happy I did. We’re a great brotherhood, and my widder, and I will be attending this year’s ball……SATISFACTORY!!! Don ECV McCasland

  10. Whskyfan says:


  11. Regina Dunbar says:

    Well guess know about as much about the Clampers as I ever did. Seemed to have buckets of fun when I was young, and, hope they still are!

    Regina (Reggie)

    • Charisse says:

      We had buckets of fun too. They were some crazy times and i wouldn’t trade them for anything. We are still good friends with lots of folks from the group. We have just mellowed a lot. Thanks for the comment. God bless, Cat

  12. Johnny Utah says:

    this article is “satisfactory”

  13. Ron Loya says:

    Okay, for anyone interested in an educated guess at why the name E Clampus Vitus came to be, here is my 2 cents:

    Clampers (or what was to be named the Clampers), were no doubt hard drinkers. In fact, as the legend goes, not much was known about their origins because they always got drunk at their meetings and the next day, nobody could remember exactly what transpired.

    So, their pre-1930’s name was E Clampsus Vitus. Take the words apart and you get this: Eclampsus, if you look at old medical dictionaries, was the way they spelled eclampsia which is milk fever. Animals and humans can get it. It is basically a lack of calcium which causes the body to shake or tremor. Vitus was used to describe Parkinsons disease, which they called Saint Vitus Dance. So, they both describe uncontrolled shaking, as in the DT’s, as in the morning after tying one on with cheap booze. What do ya think?

  14. tonya says:

    I have a question. My clamper husband abused me so I divorced him am I still allowed to call myself a widder or no?

  15. "The Conductor" (V&TR/R) Julia C Lodge 1864 says:

    Ain’t a bit of anthracite or bitumen up on The Comstock, but thousands of Clampers, widders, & no-accounts have passed through these environs…
    [even that Cornfed deserter Sam Clemens was accepted, herein…] Take back thet “coal miner’ crap… Hardrockers, Bindlestiffs, Bookies, Brakemen, and Wobblies have drunk at the fount of high-proof knowledge on the Virginia City highway
    [Check under the wirespool table on the porch… I lost my kidney belt down there in the Hill Climb in ’47… Indians Fo-evvah!!]

  16. Anthony Discenzo says:

    I have been a long time time friend to many Clampers. I am a future” puke” as we speak. This weekend will be my initiation. I just want to speak out and let everyone out there know, I have long awaited to find my place in this world and to be considered as a possibility, is by far the best feeling I’ve had in a really long time. I have felt like a ” helping hand” all my life. Im looking forward to sharing and helping in anyway possible for my fellow brotherhood. Thank you all for your camaraderie.

  17. Michael Rodriguez says:

    Hi Clampers, I’m a member of ECV #3, Sacramento California, want to touch bases with y’all, AF VETERAN HONERABLE DISCHARGE, MISS THE COMRADES! SEND FEEDBACK?!

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Johnny’s Bar & Grill
526 San Benito Street
Hollister, CA 95023

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