Monday, January 14, 2019

Dick’s Dispatch #84
A History of A Little Dog
By Richard E. Venus
Economic laws can be very interesting when used to compare one era with another, or comparative prices in volume purchasing. The fact that coffee may cost $2 per pound does not mean that two pounds will cost $4 or less. Sometimes the two-pound can will cost more per pound.
Something like that applies to the barber trade. In the 20’s, when the population of Ridgefield was about 2,700, our tonsorial needs were administered by seven or eight barbers, working out of four or five barber shops. Since our population today is in the neighborhood of 22,000 to 23,000, it may be assumed that it would require more than 30 barber shops and some 60 barbers to keep us well trimmed. The last time I looked, there were less now than there were in the 20’s. Perhaps visits to the barber shop have become less frequent.
In the mid 20’s, a Mexican, whose name was Mike, opened a shop where the Candlelight Shoppe is now. He had two barbers working for him and one of them had a marked resemblance to the reigning cowboy movie star and was promptly dubbed “Hoot Gibson.”
At the time “Baldy” had his barbershop in the large three-story building where the Ridgefield Savings Bank in now. The venerable Conrad Rockelein had his shop across the street, over S. D. Keeler’s Store. 
Con moved his shop around quite a bit. He was a very good barber but it always seemed like you had to go looking for him. He was still cutting hair in his 80’s, at his home on the corner of Mountain View Avenue, and Danbury Road.
Mike Massamino had his shop at 3½ Catoonah Street where J. R. Interiors is now. Mike had a Charlie Chaplin-type mustache. He even looked very much like the “Little Tramp,” but no one ever called him Charlie.
Mike was a nice little guy and a good barber. However, he was the victim of hard times and experienced great difficulty in keeping his bills paid. I had a rather extensive newspaper and magazine route at the time and he was one of my customers. One time his bill got to be what was considered a rather large amount by the standards of the time. Mike offered to give me a dog in payment of the bill. Further negotiations looked hopeless and I reluctantly agreed to the settlement.
I had never seen the dog and did not know what to expect. The next time I went to the shop, Mike had a little white poodle waiting for me.
Daisy was a rather forlorn little bundle of white curls that were heavily infiltrated with burrs and nettles of all kinds. She was the albino type and her little pink eyes always seemed to be running. Mike had her tied with a rope that could have moored the Queen Elizabeth II.
In those days, a toy poodle was not considered the proper dog for a boy and I was thinking that I would be the butt of considerable kidding. All of this, plus her bedraggled appearance made me want to reconsider our agreement and I felt like backing out of the deal. However, it looked like my only opportunity to settle the bill so I finally left the shop with Daisy in tow.
When Daisy and I finished the route and arrived home, there was a lot of explaining to do. The first order of business was to make Daisy a little more presentable. My father was experienced in removing burrs from horses’ tails by using kerosene to make them slip along the hair. He helped me and we finally got the last one off the little dog, though the tight curls made it difficult.
After a bath that Daisy seemed to fully appreciate, we started the business of becoming friends. She followed me around each time, on my route and got to be a well-known fixture.
A year or so later, my brother Gus got married and I had nothing else to give him and Stella for a wedding present, so I presented them with Daisy. They lived on Market Street in a garage apartment at the rear of the Main Street home of Dr. William H. Allee (now the office of the D.N.A.) The building has since been moved further down Market Street and converted into a large home.
A year or so later, Daisy had four, very cute, little brown and white pups. Gus gave one of them to George G. Scott, who was then both town clerk and judge of probate. “Tippy” probably became one of the best known dogs in Ridgefield. She used to accompany Judge Scott each day to the town hall. They fixed a little window box for Tippy and she sat in the front window of the town clerk’s office for years and never missed a day. She yelped each time that someone came to the door and then would jump down to meet the visitor. She was a very friendly little thing and I guess you could say she was the official greeter.
In the meantime, Ridgefield’s dog population increased much more rapidly that did that of the humans, as Daisy continued to have puppies and her puppies began to have puppies. By now they began to increase in size and came in various colors.
In the 30’s Eddie Schmidt had one of the pups and in the 40’s Peter Edel had another of the offspring. Peter lived with his mother in the Ashland Cottage, at 321 Main Street, where the Hess family now makes their home.
By now the dogs, through the generations, had increased in size to that of a large springer spaniel. When Peter’s dog, Queenie, decided to join the production line, she had a litter under the kitchen floor. The year was 1948 and there was no basement under the kitchen at that time.
Queenie would crawl out to eat, but never brought the pups with her. They must have been about two weeks old when I brought them out to face the world. They were a nice shiny black and you could see they were going to be big dogs.
A couple of months later, the Knights of Columbus was having a carnival and a crisis developed when they ran out of prizes. I remembered the puppies and mentioned them to John Bacchiochi. Johnny took off for the Edel’s home and bought the litter. When he returned with the puppies, there was a great joy among young and old alike, and the games went on with renewed interest.
When our family moved to its Olmstead Lane home in 1951, we found that the John Moore family next door had one of these puppies. It was now as big as a small black pony. Peter Carboni had one and so did Joe Sheehy. They must have all been males so the lineage that started with a little white poodle, some 30 years before, had come to an end, as far as we know.
Mike Massamino sold that barber shop to Andrew Geria. Andy’s wife was a beautician and was herself, a beauty. They were great dancers and it was a great pleasure to see them glide over the floor at the many dances we used to have. After a few years they moved to Croton Falls, N.Y., and in 1937,  invented a therapeutic device for use in beauty shops and by chiropractors. Andy and Mary had the gadget patented and I guess it is still in use today.
The Gerias sold their business to Paul Laszig, who did his barbering there for many years. Paul made a sizable fortune in the stock market, by listening to advice from his customers; one of which was Philip D. Wagoner [head of the Underwood typewriter company].
Mrs. Laszig, who died only a few years ago, was kind enough to leave a portion of that fortune, in trust, for worthwhile organizations like Meals on Wheels.

(NOTE: Dick Venus, who became Ridgefield’s first town historian, wrote 365 “Dick’s Dispatch” columns for the Ridgefield Press, telling about life in Ridgefield during the first half of the 20th Century. This column appeared Jan. 5, 1984. We plan to publish many of them on Old Ridgefield in the coming months — and, probably, years.)

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