MY HEROES FROM THE PAST..........
THE LATE GREAT JIM CALIA
The entire time I knew Jim, and that was from being very young as a boy up to
when he passed away; Jim was always the same, meaning that his demeanor
was always level, not up and down like many of us. I found this trait to be very
rare in pigeon people or in just humans period. He would look you in the eye
and shake your hand, no matter what your status was in the pigeon game. He
treated everyone with respect and was never condescending. I got a kick out
of his energy and all the work he did for the Martinez club. This was apparent
when we would ship those 5 bird specials there and ship from that club. If you
never had the chance to meet Jim, he wasnt a tall man. But his presence was
huge......he had alot of charismatic attributes about him. Yes you can tell that I
truly respected and enjoyed this guy and, along with hundreds of others, miss
his presence dearly. I often mention how much "character" the old timers in
our sport had. Many that have passed on had that special thing about them that
helps us to remember them. The old San Francisco Club had many many flyers
that later on moved to other areas but they carried with them the unique gift
of personality wherever they flew. That club had so many many characters, its
unbelievable to think about it now. As a very young boy, Jim who lived two
blocks away up the hill in San Francisco, would come by. He would say, "Billy,
have you gotten any youngbird strays in?" My flock of commons/tumblers etec.
were out constantly. This was a source of irration on race day for both Jim and
Joe Johnson, but as a kid, I knew no difference and was not yet aware of the
courtesy known to most race fanciers. I would say " I dont know, but lets go out
back and look".. Jim would look into the loft with a dirt floor, not daring to enter
but would just view from the door searching for any of his banded racers....to no
avail..... Finally Joe Johnson came over one day and asked me kindly to keep the
pigeons "inside" on Saturdays, raceday. Joe lived closer, about 12 houses
down the street so I could understand his point. It was'nt much longer after
this that I had lumber for a new loft and some new pigeons..............racing
pigeons. In those days, I would just ride to the San Francisco Racing club
house on shipping night with Joe or Jim and just watch the soap opera. I was
truly fascinated with everything that went on........sitting quietly in the corner and
just observing and listening.........taking it all in like a freshly opened pack of sea
sponges.......The Honey brothers, Dwayne and Darrel were my age but were at
that time veterans of the sport. Their father was a serious pigeon man and the
boys grew up with their dad and pigeons all their life.........
Later in my life......Jim Calia would have then moved to Concord and my pigeon
friendship with him grew closer with many visits and constant phone calls on
race day. Jim was truly one of my favorites in the pigeon sport.
REST IN PEACE JIM
Jim Calia was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania on August 15, 1929 in the heart of
the who had homing pigeons when he was 9 years old. He fell in love with them
and built a coop in his backyard. He flew competively in San Francisco for many
years as a child and then went into the military service in 1948. He was
stationed in Korea and returned back to the United States in 1952. He continued
with the pigeons and met his future wife (Arline Klein) and they married in 1954.
He became a San Francisco Fireman in 1954. He was a Fireman for 27 years and
retired in 1981.
Jim and Arline had three children (Sue in 1956, Cathy in 1959 and Jimmy in 1962).
In 1966, they moved to the city of Concord where Jim joined a very competitive
club, the Martinez Homing Pigeon Club.
Jim became a very successful flyer and started a family of Janssens that are still
winning today. He started this tight knit family of Janssens in 1969. Jim won
many awards and won 1st All American in 1976 and 1977 (3 All American Awards
in total). Jim is truly a legend in the sport of racing pigeons. He was a fantastic
flyer with the will to win. He had a competitive nature that was tremendous and
had a heart of gold. He was also well liked by everyone.
Jim’s son, Jimmy, was raised with the pigeons and flew in the club as soon as
he could join at the age of 10. Jim passed away on July 28, 1992 at the young
age of 62. Jim always wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and carry on the
Since his father’s death in 1992, Jimmy has continued to breed and fly the Calia
The strain has flourished and helped Jimmy win (2) separate 2nd place All-
American Awards. Jimmy was 2nd All American Loft in the High Middle Category
of 1999 Young Bird series. In 2001 Youngbirds, he had an even better season
than his All-American year of 1999. He won 1st combine average speed in both
the “A” series (68 lofts) and the “B” series (54 lofts) and 2nd All American once
again in the High Middle Category.
The Calia Janssens are a tight knit family of Janssens that have continued to
win for the past 39 years for the Calia’s and other fanciers across the United
States and Taiwan.
Many people think that Jimmy is a junior, but that is not correct. His father’s
birth name was Vincent Calia.
HISTORY OF THE CALIA JANSSENS
by Jimmy Calia
Jim Calia was the consummate competitor. He did not like to lose. Jim flew birds
in San Francisco until moving to Concord in 1962. He was always a good flyer,
but everything changed in 1969 when he obtained the Janssen strain. In early
1969 he rose to the top and stayed there. He acquired his first Janssens that
year. Hank Vernazza was kind enough to give Jim two pigeons. He gave him a
mealy hen 69MTZ 7944 that Jim later named “Meadowlane”. She was named
after Vernazza’s street. He also gave him a cock 68MTZ 244 (later named Hank
Jr.). . He told Jim that if he didn’t like the cock after the first year, he would
replace him. Jim wasn’t real impressed with the offspring that 244 bred, so he
brought him back to Hank. True to his word, Hank replaced him with his father,
66MTZ 5478. His father was already an established breeder for Hank and a direct
son of the “Red Hen”. Jim named this cock “Hank”. As it turned out, “Hank Jr.”
turned out to be a fantastic breeder. Jim had bred a blue check hen 69MTZ 7790
off of “Hank Jr.” before he gave him back to Hank. 69MTZ 7790 was just an
average flyer, but turned out to be a fantastic breeder. She was named the
“Queen” hen. Her mother was another Janssen that was acquired from George
Brown and was aptly called the “Brown” hen.
A lot of people think that the Vernazza Janssens and the Calia Janssens are one
in the same. This is not true. The Calia Janssens are a mixture of Janssens that
Jim acquired over the years that met the qualities and performance that he
expects in performance racing pigeons. Another one of the key pigeons was a
bird that Jim acquired from Dr. Wendell Ogden of San Bernadino, California. He
met Dr. Ogden at a convention and became friends with him. Dr. Ogden also
imported birds through Piet DeWeerd about the same time as Hank Vernazza.
Dr. Ogden’s birds had similar bloodlines as Hank’s birds. In 1970, Jim and Dr.
Ogden traded futurity birds. One of the birds that Dr. Ogden sent was a
beautiful blue check cock 70MTZ 528. This cock was the 2nd best flyer in the
entire MTZ club in 1970 youngbirds. Jim put him in the stock loft and called him
“Og” after Dr. Ogden.
“Og” was mated to “Meadowlane” and their offspring later proved to be
outstanding flyers and breeders. They were the parents to such greats as
Puregold, Tuffy and Workhorse. Jim also brought another Janssen hen in from
Ed Jankoski that he named “Juliana”, 74WAC 4004. This hen also impacted the
Calia loft when she was mated to the Workhorse cock.
These birds were all great birds and blended a tight family that are known as
the Calia Janssens. Jim’s flying record took off in the early 70’s and culminated
with 3 All-American Awards, 1975 Youngbirds- 2nd All- American, 1975 Old Birds-
1st All- American and 1976 Old Birds- 2nd All- American.
Jim also started to sell pigeons in the early 70’s and sold birds throughout the
United States and Taiwan. People from all over the United States have won with
his birds and the Calia Janssens are well known throughout the United States
and Taiwan as top birds. Jim sold many birds to Charlie Murray of Texas. Charlie
had an outstanding record with the Calia Janssen birds and you can’t go to
many lofts in Texas that don’t have Calia Janssens. Jim bred 73MTZ 888 and
sold him to Charlie Murray. “888” became Murray’s foundation breeder and is
considered a legend in Texas. He was a son of “Meadowlane”. There are so
many people that have had success with the Calia Janssens; I can’t do justice
by just naming a few.
The Calia Janssens have also won 1st place Walt Disney award, 1st San Diego
Classic, 1st A.U. Hall of Fame, 1st San Diego Triple Crown Race, 1st Ventura
Triple Crown Race, 1st California State Race, 1st MTZ Auction Race (numerous),
1st MTZ Futurity race (numerous), 1st numerous Hall of Fames, 1st Snow Bird
Race (1983), and many other top races across the country and Taiwan. A Calia
Janssen flown by Frank Viola won 1st place in the prestigious Frank Viola race
with a bird that he purchased from the Calia Loft loft in 1990. A son of the Shy
In 1984, Hank Vernazza donated some birds to be auctioned off at the MTZ club
for their truck fund. Jim purchased the “Shy” cock and “Diamond” cock at this
auction. They were both direct sons of the “180” hen of Vernazza. Jim later
acquired other children of the “180” hen and had 8 children at one time. The
“Shy” and “Diamond” cock were the top breeders of this group. These birds
were very special because they were Janssens that performed well at longer
Jim wished that Jimmy would carry on the Calia name in the pigeon sport and
continue what he started. He wanted his name and birds to live on well past his
death. After his death in 1992, Jimmy obtained all of his breeders and got them
down to a number that he could handle. This is about 20 pairs of breeders.
Jimmy continued to fly in 1992 and 1993 and flew good, but not as good as he
would have liked. In 1994 youngbirds, his race team got sick and the youngbird
season was ruined. It was after this season that he re-evaluated what his long-
term plans were going to be.
In 1995, he decided that with his job (Police Officer) and his growing family, he
needed to only fly one of the seasons. He chose to only fly youngbirds. He is
very competitive and wanted to give all he could to one season. He also
decided to make his concentration around the “Diamond” cock. He wanted to
keep as many of the Diamond’s children as he could and race as many of his
grand children as possible. He mated him to his daughters and kept most of the
offspring for breeding purposes. He had a very good year in 1995 YB’s and was
10th overall average speed in the “A’ races of the Bay Cities combine ( 117
lofts). That same year he was 1st overall average speed in the “B” races of the
Bay Cities Combine (32 lofts). That year, he won 1st place A.U. Hall of Fame (11-
20 lofts) with 95 Calia 0122 a granddaughter to the “Diamond” cock.
1996 youngbirds was just an average year. In 1997, his breeding strategy finally
started to take effect. He became more focused and his desire for winning
became more prevalent. 1997 youngbirds was a good flying year and he
finished 7th combine average speed against 112 lofts in the “A” series and 2nd
combine average speed in the “B” series against 32 lofts.
1998 youngbirds was an excellent season and he finished 5th Bay Cities
average speed against 101 lofts. 1999 youngbirds was his break out season.
This was the season that he took it to another level. It made him very satisfied
and his father would have been proud. He was leading the overall Bay Cities
Combine average speed going into the last race by 28 seconds. After having an
outstanding 7 previous races, He fell down the last race and finished 3rd
overall average speed against 110 lofts. His record was so good that he won
2nd place All-American and fulfilled one of his goals. He had some outstanding
birds that year and an absolute standout in 99JCL 56 “War Admiral”. He is a
grandson to the “Diamond” cock and won diplomas in 6 out of 7 races. He won
1st place California State Hall of Fame (100 + loft category) and was 2nd place A.
U. Hall of Fame in the 61-100 loft category.
2000 youngbirds was another excellent season and he was 4th Bay Cities
Combine average speed against 90 lofts. He was also the Champion Loft in the
Golden Gate Combine. It was an excellent season overall. Like previous years,
80% of his race team were grand children to the “Diamond” cock.
2001 youngbirds was an outstanding season and even better than his 1999 All-
American year. He had a fantastic season and did great in every race. He won
1st Bay Cities Combine average speed in the “A’ series against 68 lofts. He also
won 1st Bay Cities Combine average speed in the “B’ series against 54 lofts. His
team consisted of 58 birds. 38 of the 58 birds won diplomas. He had 7 different
birds that won diplomas in 4 different races. He took 2nd place All-American
once again in the High Middle Category.
Jim Calia’s favorite birds were Meadowlane, Og, Workhorse, Queen, Bright
Eyes, Tuffy, Puregold, King of the Road, Diamond, Shy, Juliana, and Pink Lady.
He respected the great old flyers like Hank Vernazza, George Haas, Al Boccone,
Joe MeEvoy, Al Cambra, Brad Laverne and Cookie Siino.
Jim Calia was the most proud of his achievement of winning 7 races in a row in
1976 in the MTZ club. This feat was a great accomplishment and has never been
duplicated. That record is still strong today and has not even come close to
being broken. He was very proud of his seasons in 1976 and 1977 which won
him his All American Awards.
"Hey Jim, Your the man"