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Early Days of the Delaware Valley Bullmastiff Club
My husband Russell and I acquired our first Bullmastiff, Scyldocga Caroline Mathilde, in the summer of 1966 from Mary Prescott for the huge sum (then) of $150.00.
We lived near the Art Museum in Philadelphia and would take the puppy for a walk along the river. One day a young woman approached and identified the breed. That was surprising as in those days Bullmastiffs could be considered rare with registration numbers in the low hundreds. The young lady identified herself as Marcy Cohen, daughter of Al and Lillian Cohen who owned two Bullmastiffs.
In short order we met Al and Lillian and found out that they had a sister of Caroline, Scyldocga Shere Ni and a male, Scyldocga Shere Khan. I think we went to the Kennel Club of Philadelphia show and there met another Philadelphia owner of the breed, Vic Michelotti, as well as exhibitors from Maryland, Virginia and New York. We got together with Al and Lillian and the idea was hatched to form a Bullmastiff support group where we could exchange information and talk dogs – that was the beginning of the DVBC.
We organized a puppy match at Vic Michelotti’s boarding kennel in Sewell, NJ and the match became an annual affair. I am not sure when Ed and Joanna Schwartz joined the group. The club grew slowly as we identified new owners in the region. It was all very social – we met a few times a year at each other’s homes with a potluck dinner. Sometimes we had a speaker. We supported the Philly show with trophies. As we then lived in West Philly, we hosted a party after the show. In 1972 we brought in Leonard Smith (Bulmast, Pat O’Brien’s father) from California to judge. I don’t remember whether we had to pay for his airfare but I do remember Len’s surprise to be invited to a “stag” party the evening before the show. Philadelphia KC was an all-male club and run by Billy Kendrick. The stag party was a tradition, if there were female judges, they had to entertain themselves, I guess.
Eventually our match moved to Peddlers Village and grew in size. As judges we had breeders from other areas. It was a nice social event. Fred Hawkins silk-screened the ribbons – and we had a picnic after judging. People brought their kids and it was a nice day in the country with optional shopping thrown in.
I want to stress that in the late 60s and 70s dog shows for Bullmastiff exhibitors were quite social, there was a hoagie party at the benches in Philadelphia (we had moved from West Philly to Bucks County); after the Baltimore show at the race track we all went to the Morrisses for a party. They had a lovely old house on a hill and there was always a giant ham. At the show in the winter in the Baltimore Armory Mitch Kalloch brought Oysterstew and Harry Bryant brought Bourbon. One had to watch one’s cup! Many of the indoor shows were benched. At some of the out door shows everyone brought picnic food and we got together after judging. It was very different from the shows today.
We did not go for AKC recognition as we wanted to be an informal club with an emphasis on the social side. We had a little newsletter, I don’t remember the name. In 1984 when the AKC had its Centennial show at the Civic Center, there was also a day of specialty and supported shows. The DVBC requested an ABA supported entry, however, due to personality conflicts, the ABA board denied that request! We still supported the entry with trophies, our breed just couldn’t be listed as one of the supported ones in the front of the catalogue. My husband worked very had that weekend as he was part of the official show committee. The specialty/supported entry had over 4000 dogs and the Centennial show had over 8000 and this was a two day affair with groups and Best in Show in the old Philadelphia Convention Center. It was quite something! Chuck O’Neill, Mary-Beth O’Neill’s father, was the show chair of this AKC event.
Ed Schwartz, who loved the city of Philadelphia and the breed just as much, wanted to give the city a statue of the breed. He commissioned Victoria Davila to create it. One of our members had a very nice male and it sat for the sculptor. I think there were different poses and it was a battle to get the city’s Art Commission approval. One very influential member referred to the model as that of a pitbull. But Ed persisted and today we have a statue at a very prominent place in a pocket park between the Art Museum and its Perelman Building on Fairmount Avenue.
With that, I will end my early history of the DVBC.
Helma Weeks, September 2020
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