2012-05-24 / Columnists

Pets Pets Pets

In June of 1942, a Babylon Pet Show took place at the high school athletic field to raise money for an animal air raid shelter. Besides entering your prize pet, you could shake hands with a trained horse’s hoof for a nickel or win a purebred puppy for 50 cents. A framed photo of this event surfaced during restaurant renovations several years ago. The picture was almost tossed out.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, many citizens feared the US mainland would be attacked. Daily life centered on sacrificing for the troops while staying prepared at home. Blackouts; blood drives; wool and solid fat collections; war bonds; sugar rations; first aid classes. Worry and patriotism permeated each home town. In the Babylon Leader 4/23/42, Babylon Leader Fire Chief Gilbert C. Hanse (later Village mayor) offered each household buckets of clean sand as “an effective means of fighting incendiary bombs in the event of an air raid.”

Center portion of the Babylon Pet Show, June 27, 1942 Center portion of the Babylon Pet Show, June 27, 1942 When Mario’s Hi-Hook Restaurant changed hands a few years ago, a photo of this pet show was discovered among belongings. After realizing the framed but undated photo may have some significance, the new owners donated the curiosity to the Babylon Village Historical Museum.

I went to look at the mysterious photo in case the picture had anything to do with Westminster Kennel Club’s presence near Southards Pond from 1880 to 1904. It didn’t. You can see the competition was just for fun with adults and kids dressed in mid-20th century style outfits posing with their dogs on the bleachers. There’s a glimpse of St. Joseph’s Church in an upper corner. At one end, the trained hoof-shaking pony stood beside the carriage horse; at the other side was a lady with her Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound).

This piece of Babylon pet memorabilia will turn 70 years old next month. When the museum reframed the 12-inch by 42-inch group photo, the date of the show was on written on the back. Three articles appear in the 1942 Babylon Leader describing the festivities. The June 11 and June 25 editions announce the show; while the July 2 edition lists results. I must complain- the reporting is spotty.

“Pets of all denominations, creeds and colors will promenade for the honor of being outstanding in their respective classes.” All entrants would be judged as pets and not show dogs. Judges included Justice of the Peace J. C. Robbins, Mayor J. Vincent O’Shea and Mrs. Charles E. McCrodden. Admission to the show was 30 cents and raffle tickets for a Cocker Spaniel or Labrador Retriever puppy, each with pedigree papers, were 50 cents each. Can you imagine such a door prize?

The goal of the pet show was to gain funds to purchase and equip an air raid shelter for pets that would be at the rear of the Livingston, property on Main Street. This might be right behind the museum because that building was donated by Henry Livingston, owner of the prior newspaper, the South Side Signal. Funds also came from a bridge luncheon at the home of Mrs. Simmers the same day plus a generous contribution from Dr. Baruch of Half Hollows. Tickets for the show could be purchased from seven local ladies. One name jumped off the page; more about her later. (Not sure if the pet air raid shelter was ever constructed.)

On Sat., June 27, 1942 at two o’clock, 75 pets, mostly dogs, competed in five Groups but these Groups are not explained. Miss A. H. Murphy of the Crescent won best in show. The report never says what her pet was, although second went to Joan Muncey for her anonymous Bulldog and third to Donald Rettaliata for “Kilty” his Scotty. A rabbit, a cat and a chicken won ribbons too.

In the puppy drawing, Miss Reba Kendall won the Lab puppy and Mrs. E. E. Guggenheim, also a ticket saleslady, won the Cocker puppy. Does the name “Guggenheim” mean anything to you? It should. The large and prominent Guggenheim family made their fortune in copper mining. Certain descendants, but not our local connection, were known for philanthropy, supporting many areas including modern art and aviation. Harry Frank Guggenheim founded Newsday with his wife Alicia Patterson.

Mrs. E. E. Guggenheim (Elizabeth Eaton Guggenheim) was the third, yet not last, wife of Col. M. Robert Guggenheim (Harry Frank’s brother) who owned an estate of more than 600 acres in N. Babylon near Deer Park Avenue. He was a dog, horse and rabbit fancier. A veteran of WWI, the colonel hosted many field trials with “liberated quail” for Pointers and Setters on his property. He was a frequent dog show judge besides being US ambassador to Portugal in 1953-54. There is no evidence that the colonel attended the Babylon Pet Show of 1942, but one of his ex-wives was there.

Mrs. E. E. Guggenheim went to Reno in 1937 with her horse trainer to file for divorce from the colonel. (His first two wives had each received one million dollar settlements.) Several newspapers including the NY Times carried an account of a ruckus that allegedly ensued upon their return after a night of revelry at a Queens tavern. The former Mrs. G. claimed that thugs beat them up and robbed them. Mrs. G. suffered a cut to the chin. A few days later after interviewing all witnesses including Mrs. Bessie Upjohn of Babylon, the police called the escapade “baloney.” The case was closed.

Five years later, a “Mrs. E. P. Upjohn” chaired the Babylon Pet Show. Her friend, Mrs. E. E. Guggenheim, sold tickets and won the Cocker Spaniel puppy, at 50 cents a chance. How many chances did she buy with her divorce settlement? Did a little sniffing around discover another scandal?

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Minnie’ #12-296 is a six-month old Shepherd/Husky puppy. She belonged to people who kept her outdoors because they didn’t have time for her. “Cody” #2-57 is a purrsonable orange Morris-type cat in the lobby. He has been at the shelter several months.

Dogs: “Blondie;” “Dan;” “Shorty;” Cocker Spaniel; Rottweiler.

Cats: “Snowbelle” Siamese mix; “Tabitha” longhaired tabby; “Tom” tux found with his leg stuck in his collar.

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