THE ONE AND ONLY GALAXY LOFT
Northroad concourse headed by Leo Enright that I started Widowhood.
One year of flying natural with decent results were ok, but I had heard
about Mr. Boccone and widowhood so it peaked my curiosity.
It seemed his name was synonymous with 500 mile racing in the Bay
Cities combine which at his peak had 300 lofts. I knew Al was a fireman
working in San Francisco and flying in Marin County with his
partner Bob Brockmann. Bob flew the young hens in ybs. hard. Al
flew Obs. mostly, not enjoying ybs. as much as his birds matured slower
and thus just wanted to take time for doing other things. He was
an avid fisherman as well.
It wasnt until 1972 that I met Al Boccone when we formed a new club and
decided to fly east with the Bay Cities Combine. I was a young newly
married man with a small family and a day job, commuting all the way to
San Francisco daily. One day I got off early and decided to pay
Al a visit..........without calling........ On arrival, he was
on a ladder putting up exterior lights on his new house he had built at
GreenPoint, Novato on a hillside with an open view of the east which
was perfect for race day. He was busy and not thrilled that I just
showed up. Sensing that, I introduced myself and told him that I would
be willing to take photos for him of his birds.... I had to think quick to
sooth him that day........well, he promptly took my offer and told me to
come back saturday which I did. We went into his breeding aviaries
where i set up my equipment and began photos. About a week later
(no digital back in those days) I brought the photos by on the way home
for him to view. He went through the photos which were 4x6
preliminaries and quickly dismissed them. I was puzzled. He disliked
the shots I took which are by todays standards, shots everyone takes
from the side with the bird in a sort of show stance. He really disliked
He felt his birds were racers, not show birds. He wanted photos of his
birds looking normal, 3/4 front facing forward. He felt that people who
bought his birds would be disappointed in receiving them if photos were
too "showy" and he wanted his birds to be accepted for their prowess
not their phonetic disposition. So much for my photo skills eh? haha.
From that moment on, I knew he was a special person. He was a serious
person, intense and had little time for small talk, preferring to
discuss pigeons in depth mostly. I recall that he was very analytical
about almost everything. He named his birds and there was a special
meaning for each of those names.........He had nicknames for people he
knew that he used for himself which described that persons demeanor.
I was a young man then and he coined me the "actor". I
never knew what he meant by that...but now I do. I was always guarded
and cautious, being self conscious around him due to his being famous.
So I was always kind of 'not myself' but rather on the quiet side always
thinking of my words before opening my mouth ...(guarded?)
The late Jim Lewis sat with me one day over lunch and conveyed to me
the following about his long experiences with Al Boccone..........
For years, Al flew in the San Francisco Club and failed at the distance.
He was frustrated and resented the fact that he was amongst giants in
the sport in his own club and could not keep up. Back then the huge
emphasis was the distance in old birds...........Al admired Joe Johnson
who he claimed was the best pigeon man he ever knew.
Al tried everything. Finally he decided to go widowhood and he still
failed miserably.... Things didnt gel until buying some Devriendts from
Paul Veegaete in Michigan. Up to the end before he died in 1975, Al
gave big credit to Mr. Veegaete for those original Devriendts that brought
Galaxy Loft to the top.
In 1972 my first year with flying East and with 20 Widow cocks, the birds
arrived around 6pm or so. I called Mr. Boccone in my excitement that I
had gotten 3 on the drop from 500 miles...... But at the same time, I
was disappointed that they were 45 minutes behind the leading birds in
the combine. As I recall, Al said to me " Three birds on the drop?"
" thats fantastic.......real good from 500 miles". He continued by saying
" from 500 miles, minus 45 minutes could mean they made one simple
mistake going around the wrong mountain pass and losing ground which
is easy to do on our course in the sierras". I thought about it and felt
better after his words of wisdom. Al was like most of us on race day,
filled with energy and excitement and it transcended over the phone
painting a somewhat different picture of the Al who seemed to be so
serious. On race day I can best describe him as being "a young boy".
Soon thereafter Al was diagnosed with lung cancer. He stopped flying
and had decided to sell off the birds. I was still commuting and would
stop by periodically to see him and chat. He had lost his hair and
gained water weight from the Chemo he was taking.
One day in particular he was laying down on a daybed with a tape
recorder and microphone near his side. He was putting on tape his
widowhood methods and ideologies for publication for the record before
his demise which I feel he felt was impending.
In those tapes he makes surprising discoveries about his sytem and his
thoughts and opinions about racing. Al did finish the tapes before he
died in 1975. The tapes ended up with the late Jim Lewis.
I could go on about all his successes and prowess racing at the distance
and how respected he was for his achievements and Galaxy Devriendts.
One thing for sure though, is that Al never got the accolades for his
breeding achievements..............33 years later in 2008 and his birds and
bloodlines still exist and dominate the 500 mile scene in many combines
in the U.S.A.
There are many talked about flyers from the past. I felt fortunate that I
was able to have been a small part of his past. He was a giant in the
sport and getting to learn from him and admire his achievements, just
spending those 'chat' times with him as he lay dying and struggling to
talk are in itself gifts from the past that I to this day cherish.
May you rest in peace my friend............
The late Al Boccone, along with my other heroes, Joe McEvoy,
and his brother Stan Mc Evoy , knew Al from the time they raced
together in the old San Francisco club. This photo was
taken in 1974 at Joe's new youngbird loft. Joe won the Big
All American award for yb's that year. Al was on Chemo and
had lost all his hair but his spirits were high. Joe and Stan were from the
Bronx, N.Y. It was this east coast commonality that had made Stan
one of Als best pigeon buddies.
This writing won't go into the awards and accolades achieved by
Al and Bob Brockmann. Those achievements are far too numerous
and lofty for me to review.
In 1974 Al, knowing his days were short began the task of liquidating
his birds. Along comes Mr. Baracco who at the time was an avid
fan of Al. Mr. Baracco purchased some key pigeons, amongst them
" Minnesota Fats".......one of Als favorite racers who had a fabulous
record from the distance in specialty races like the Martinez open
where the limit was 5 birds from everyones best long distance team.
This is how good Minnesota was......... having won the previous year
with Minnesota, Al decided to go to San Diego to fish, right in the
middle of Old Bird season. This was especially unique since it was
the week of the 500 martinez open when thursday nite was shipping
Al left a couple of days before shipping, and his daughter Vallee took
charge of the birds with his instructions.
Can you imagine leaving to fish during the most important 500 event
of the year, when YOU are the man to beat????? unbelievable!!
Valee did the usual routine for Minnesota as per Al, preparing him
prior to shipping. This included giving 'Minnesota" a wet egg in his bowl.
His first 500 win, Minnesota took to the egg and from then on Al used this
as added incentive.. Al returned from his fishing trip on Saturday and
was confident as Minnesota was his "ace". On that late saturday
afternoon..........Minnesota once again won the martinez 500 open 5
bird special...........pooled across the board......
Later on, noted pigeon flyer Al Baracco purchased many
of Galaxy birds from Al including " 2880" ....and other supers..
This is the magic that I remember clearly, how a breeder and pigeon
enthusiast was confident enough in his work to let the student take
charge of the athelete ................... and win!!
After Als death and incredible funeral that had so many fliers present
there was a ' hollow ' unspoken period in the sport in our area. An
inner sadness, unspoken gripped us all. Al was a young man by our
standards today and had many years ahead of him. One of Als best
friends was fellow firemen "Bob Gerhow" who was really a character
in his own right and staunch supporter of the Galaxy Devriendts.
Next to Al, he had the finest collection of the original blood that even
existed. From his days in San Francisco before moving to my area
in Petaluma, Bob worked with Al and was a close friend. Somehow
I felt that Bob Gerhow was now an extension of Al and his shadow
lived on with Bobs birds...........and character.
The Tapes / The man
Als final tapes he was working on during my visits to his house when
he was very sick were never made public. The late great Jim Lewis
ended up with the tapes. I often wondered about them and would
on occasion ask Jim about their content. What Als inner thoughts
and his view on the sport were always things I for myself wanted to
hear. Jim Lewis knew my respect for Al and a few years later on
a bright sunny day, I had gone to Jims to help him clean his loft and
repaint the interior. It seems I was always spraying someones loft
interior/exterior at one time or another, simply because I had an
airless sprayer back then.... After spraying and having lunch with
Jim, he presented me with the tapes.........!!!!! To this day, I have the
tapes in my archives.
news flash / June 2010
In the past, I was unable to locate Als widow Jessie and the location of
his daughters, Louise and Valee. Recently someone who knows them
well viewed this site and put them in touch with me. Jessie and Louise
now have the audio tapes that Al made back in 1975. Now 35 years
later, Al's widow and daughters can once again hear his voice......
Revelation on Widowhood
Al struggled for years with the system trying to make it work at the
distance. Streamlining the system because of his vocation as a
fireman, having to be gone for 24hrs. at a time or the day on, day off
schedule its called, caused havoc in management schemes. One of
the key ingredients in the tape about his system I outline below.
The key thought here was that the importance of the 'nestbox' was
everything to the cocks......not having the hen. Yearlings were mated ,
raised babies when introduced to the section from their perches so
they would 'take a box and own it'. In the second year of their
presence if they were kept on the team (and Al had great patience
because he felt his birds really excelled from 2yrs. onwards from
the distance), THEY WERE NEVER PAIRED UP AGAIN until after the
season ended........ The 2yr. olds
were now in the program Al settled on after years of testing. They
had their box.........period. He fed in the box, always, but used the
community water fountain. The cocks were trained and raced and
all the widow hens were blue bars..........
Now, since they were not paired up, the cocks took to any hen but
being all blues, it made life easier..........Not being paired up and going
through a nest cycle, also delayed the drop of the first primary. He
felt that this delay in super form would always peak at the distance
The Theory and Success
Widowhood practiced by many remember the old Mark Gordon book.
While others used this method, Al preferred his method feeling that
there were flaws in this sytem at the distance..........the key word is
' distance '. Al also did not use the 'curve' system of feeding his
cocks..........but kept the same mix in front of them 7 days a week.
The usual system being used by others was the ' reward ' method of
the hen being there when the cock arrived..........key word..." reward "
Als method was practiced by others who knew him and were given
his key to the methods. Among those were Zig Zag Loft (Gary Wall
ace) knew due to his close tie with Bob Brockmann. Garys team was
16 cocks, a small team, and he flew excellent. There were others
but I talk about Zig Zag (Gary Wallace) because I stopped by his house
one day after work on the way home. This was before I was given the
inside scoop by Mr. Boccone and before we became acquaintances.
I was present when Zig Zag would release his cocks....... about 5pm.
and I got to look inside the loft making the comment how warm it
was inside (actually hot). He said " the hotter the better, makes em
The cocks did their usual flying in the sky, separated, up and down
disappearing and coming back.... I noticed now what Gary was to
feed and when the cocks came..................(gary fed ont he floor) he
thew down the feed....... feed I had never seen before......what heck is
In a Nutshell
Mr. Boccone created his own feed mixture that he felt was best
suited for his birds and their task at hand. Remember, he was an
analytical person........he was studious and had time to read and
process things.... His widow cocks were never given Peas....
They were never given Whole Corn...... and they got all the Barley
they wanted...........24/7. (this was a huge successful part of their
secretive feed program). He would take a gallon plastic jug milk
carton, cut a hole in it and fill it with the best barley he could find.
He would put it in the corner of the loft, on the floor (which had cedar
chips on it) and keep it filled every day.......because the cocks would
empty it always. Whole corn was difficult on the birds system to
breakdown and utilize.............so cracked corn it had to be.......Peas
were loaded with Nitrogen and with other proteins, who needed
Peas? The cocks would leave them anyway........ He told me one
day , "the cocks are smarter than you are" " its why they leave the
peas"!! My take on this pattern is that the cocks were never up and
down with regards to caloric intake, but kept in a constant state of
evenness. He always conceded the shorter races to Roy Hunter but
knew that he would beat Roy at the distance simply because of how
Roy fed, which the the typical european "curve"....light/heavy.
To sum it all up here....the cocks were kept on a level keel with his
feed formula.......base: chicken scratch which he added, safflower
oat groats, Peanut hearts. A high fat diet. The open Barley trough
was used 24/7 as fiber.........with the high fat content of Peanuts, he
used Barley as a 'scraper' for the birds intestines.......and he was
very adamant about it. At that time, he used Purina pellets sparingly
for their mineral content and amino acids.
The cocks were never released on thurday, shipping day for 2 days
in the basket for the distance races of 400 and up. They stayed in
the loft. They were given at noon........50% Peanut hearts and 50%
cracked corn.......all they wanted.
At 2 P.M., the hens were brought in and placed behind the divider.
The cocks had the hens in view for 3 to 4 hours........The bowls were
on the cocks side of the partition..........
The cocks were very calm after this long exposure to the hens and
were in the "calling" mode when basketed. The Testes were now
swollen to the maximum........the liver exuding loads of endocrine
into the bloodsteam. Endocrine that can only be utilized through
On arrival, the cocks were NOT GREETED WITH HENS....... but had
the solace and comfort of the box and feed in the cup. The hens
were only used to expand the testes and liver..........period. Often
the cocks would not even have dropped a primary until after the
first 500 or shortly before. This meant they would be fresh all the
way to the end of the season, peaking towards the distance and
most important races.
In 1974 I moved from a subdivision where I felt stymied and went
to the countryside of Petaluma on an acre. New house built, I then
started on the lofts and got my birds moved. Now, armed with the
new knowledge of Als high fat diet and the barley secret ; I began
my personal quest to give his system a try. I had to practically start
over with a new team and felt this was the best approach. It would
not be until 1976 that I would have 2 yr. olds to put to the test. It was
just as well, so I bred birds and finished the work around the new
property, fencing and landscaping which coupled with work and
raising a young family took nearly all my time anyway.
In 1975 I could hardly wait for old birds to begin. To make a long
story short here, I simply must tell you that I did everything that
Al had put in his tapes. He even gave me before his death, his
own feeding spoon he made from a ground coffee can measuring
spoon, fashioned to a carved wooden handle. In a tough 40 member
SOC club flying the Bay cities combine, I had won all the long races
and took the first 4 places at the 500. This of course won me long
and overall average speed and at the awards dinner, Al showed up
and it was a real pleasure to receive my trophies. Al died in the fall
and I was to continue my winning in 1976. The record I set for the
then 40 member active club was 10 straight 1st place wins from 400
to 600 miles and the record still stands today.
I can only attest to the fact that everything Mr. Boccone told me
absolutely worked and worked well. His system along with some
decent pigeons made a novice like me look like a pro in old birds.
AL, may you rest in peace
Here are some words from Al Barraco regarding his experiences with the
Galaxy birds and Al Boccone. Credit Al with realizing how these Galaxy
birds were huge 'impact' pigeons and making personal sacrifices to get
the very best he could from Galaxy lofts.
After failing to find Mrs. Boccone or Al's two daughters whereabouts in
California..........I was recently contacted. Seems word of the website
article on Al got around and his eldest daughter Louise recently got hold
of me. Louise lives with Jessica her mom and Al's widow in San Rafael
California. Val the younger daughter is married to a fireman and lives
in New England. Louise will be sending me some archive photos that
I will copy and put on the website to ad to the current collection. Other
Icons of the sport will be in those pictures like ' Jack DeWolf' and Bob
Brockmann. I am making arrangements now to mail off the Audio tapes
that Al made during his battle with cancer, to Louise and Jessie so they
can hear his voice once again. Remember, in the 70's there were not
as many electronic devices as their are now such as camcorders and
Now here we are some 35 years later. The fact that I am able to bring
some joy to the Boccone family with Al's words makes it all worth while.
Whats that old saying? " There is a reason for everything".........!!!!
MORE PHOTOS OF AL AND FRIENDS
My sincere thanks for Steve Lesley of Seattle for sending me the 1970 article featuring Al
Boccone on the front cover of the Racing Pigeon Pictorial from England. I had been trying to
find archived photos of Al without much success until Steve came to the rescue. This article is
probably the best one that Al would like to be remembered by. Also a huge thankyou to Mr. Al
Barraco who had extensive experience with Al Baccone and his pigeons. Mr. Barraco went
through his archives and sent me many articles and information excerpts from the Racing
Readers, keep in mind that at the date this article was put to
print, the methods of Galaxy Lofts were not known to other
flyers and was a closely guarded secret. The article states the
birds returned home to the hens and stayed for 24 hours. This is
common text found in some widow books and certainly was one
huge tactic NOT used at Galaxy. Only during Als road to his
sickness and the making of his tapes, did the real truth emerge
about the handling of the cocks and hens. Even though Zig Zag
(Gary Wallace, now living in the Northwest Pacific area) did open
the door originally about the then secret of peanuts hearts,
feeding the cocks in
my presence......he as well, being Bob Brockmanns protege, knew
the closely held secret of the use of the hens in the system but
never other than to give me 'hints' , released the information to
anyone.. The article mistakenly says Al worked the "docks" of
Sausalito. Al was a fireman in San Francisco .
Another misconception was that Al and Bob never gave Paul
Veegaete credit. This article, taken
in context says direct from "Devriendt"..........Al and Bob
both made it perfectly clear that it was
Mr. Veegaete in Michigan and his lovely wife that gave them
their boost to stardom with the line
of Devriendts Paul Veegaete brought in. About the
"training", yes Al and Bob did train the cocks frequently,
double and single up from the firehouse in San Francisco
every other day when Al went to work......this program of
training the cocks is contrary to most text on the subject of the
reward system of widowhood. The hens were not used for this as
most people think.
| WORDS FROM AL BARRACO
I always had an interest in the long distance races but it was until about 1970 or 1971 that I really
decided to try to find some birds that could compete in the 300 to 500 mile races. I had recently
graduated from college, just gotten married and started a new job; so although I was really anxious to
get back into the sport, we just didn’t have much money to spend on pigeons. However, I continued to
try to find out everything I could about the top strains of that time. I read a couple of articles about the
DeVriendt pigeons and found that they were well known for their successes in the tough middle to long
distance races in Belgium. At the same time, I also noticed the write-ups, awards and ads in the
periodicals featuring the Galaxy DeVriendts. I decided to call Al Boccone and find out more about his
birds. The more I talked with Al and the more I read about his family of birds, the more interested I
became in them. The Galaxy birds seemed to have everything I was looking for and I knew they were
what I wanted. After a lot of persistence (or, more appropriately, begging), I was finally able to talk my
wife into letting me purchase several of the Galaxy birds. As I recall, some of my first Galaxy birds
included a son of “The Hustler”, a son of “Ole Reliance”, a son of “The Loser”, a daughter of “Big
John”, two daughters of “Minnesota Fats”, and I believe a couple more birds. A few years later when Al
found it necessary to sell out, I was able to purchase some key pigeons. They included “2880”, (son of
the “49er” and “The Dalles Hen”), “Minnesota Fats”, “Candy Man”, “651” (daughter of “The Restless
One” and the “Dalles Hen”), “3947” (daughter of “Peter”), “2034” (daughter of “The 49er”), plus
several others that I can’t recall at the moment.
Due to job changes and transfers, I moved several times between 1972 and 1985. On several of those
occasions I wasn’t able to take the birds with me so, at one time or another, the birds were either kept
by my father and/or by a couple of friends who were also fanciers. For helping me out, I usually let them
keep some of the youngsters. So, as a result, a few other fanciers were fortunate enough to be able to
get some of the fantastic Galaxy bloodlines. Because I wasn't in any location for more than a few years, I
never was really able to fly the birds. However, I did receive quite a few reports from friends and other
fanciers letting me know about the successes of the Galaxy birds they gor from me. In fact, I even
received a call last year from a fancier who saw my name in the AU band list and wanted to let me know
about the success he had with the Galaxy birds he got from us some 25 years ago. He also wanted to
know if I still had them or if I knew where he could get some.
It was in 1985 that my father passed away and, at the same time, I was in the process of moving to my
current location in central Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take the pigeons with me, so
this time I reluctantly decided to sell all of my birds and leave the sport. At that time, I maintained two
strains - the Galaxy DeVriendts, and the Janssens. My Janssens included several direct from the top
Calia and Vernazza champions, along with a few imported Janssens from Thei Hartogs of Holland).
When I left the sport, the Galaxy DeVriendts went to a fancier in Wisconsin, the Calia and Vernazza
Janssens to a fancier in New Jersey, and the Hartogs Janssens to a fancier in Ohio.
Of all the strains I’ve had over the years, the Galaxy DeVriendts were my favorites. What a wonderful
family birds – a true family of winning long distance pigeons. I would love to have them now because I
believe that they could still compete successfully on the distance races today.
Here is a list of the original Galaxy birds I was breeding from in 1976:
67-TAM-2880 ("The 49er" x "Dalles Hen") 72-TAM-3947 (dtr. of "Peter" x dtr. "The
49er" & "1248")
69-TAM-1992 "Minnesota Fats" ("2880" x "1248") 70-TAM-651 ("Restless One" x "Dalles
67-TAM-2094 "Candy Man" ("The 49er" x "1248") 74-BVA-419 (63-X-9581 - gr. son
"Zwarteband" x "1248")
73-TAM-2987 ("2880" x dtr. of "Peter") 73-TAM-2876 (64-FVC-3602 x sister to
"2880", "2881", etc.)
70-TAM-724 ("Model Cock" x sister "2880", "2881", etc.) 71-TAM-2034 ("The 49er" x dtr. of
73-TAM-1574 ("Side Car" x dtr. of "Another Freddie") 72-TAM-4052 (son of "Another Freddie x
sister of "Fast Eddie, "Slim")
69-TAM-1424 ("The Hustler" x dtr. "Gold Bank Cock") 70-TAM-681 ("Peter" x dtr. "Another
72-TAM-4219 ("Ole Reliance" x dtr. of "The Restless One") 72-TAM-4230 ("Big John" x dtr. of "The
73-TAM2973 ("The Loser" x dtr. of "Peter" & "Dalles Hen") 73-TAM-2989 ("Minnesota Fats" x sister
of "2880", "The Runner", etc.)
73-TAM-1507 ("The Runner" x dtr. R="The Restless One")
71-TAM-1525 ("Big John" x dtr. of "2880")
in closing, my final words are that I took the name "Galaxy Loft" for one
reason only and that was to carry on the name that Mr. Boccone created and
made known throughout pigeon racing circles. I simply don't want the name
forgotten since he was an intense and special dedicated Racing Pigeon man who
made his mark and passed on much too soon. No telling his impact should he
have lived another 20 years.
Al and the late Bob Brockmann known as Galaxy II.
Al and Bob were very close friends and were almost
neighbors. Bob being in Real Estate had lots of time
for the birds. Bob specialzed in young birds and
flew the wings off the Galaxy hens. From this they
selected stock hens. Al flew old birds and only on
occasion opted to fly some yb races. Preferring to
train out the young cocks and hold them for the old
Bob passed away from cancer several years prior
to Al leaving.
Al and Jessica, aka "Jess". Together they had 2
daughters, Louise and Valee. Jess lives in Marin
county today with Louise. Al had no problems