Pitiful kitty captured 1940’s pet contest crown

Part of the front page of the Aug. 15, 1940, Villager. The full article on Junior and the pet contest can be read in The Villager’s newly digitized archives at the Jefferson Market Library.

Part of the front page of the Aug. 15, 1940, Villager. The full article on Junior and the pet contest can be read in The Villager’s newly digitized archives at the Jefferson Market Library.

BY YANNIC RACK    |  Many a local pet has graced the pages of The Villager over the years — from Scoopy to crusty pit bulls. But an article that appeared in the newspaper 75 years ago this month is likely still unsurpassed when it comes to reporting on the neighborhood’s animal inhabitants.

The lengthy Aug. 15, 1940, dispatch, headlined “Playground Jammed At Pet Show,” details the winners and proceedings at what was the first-ever citywide pet show, according to the reporter.

It seems the event, held at the Sullivan St. playground, also had spectators more excited than you would expect.

“ ‘Number 40 is the winner of the grand prize…’ announcer Viani’s words were almost lost in the beginnings of what was going to be a roar of approval mixed with protest,” the article began.

Number 40 was a small gray kitten named Junior.

“In the opinion of the judges, ‘Junior’ was ‘the most underprivileged beast, bird or fish’ in the show,” the article stated, noting that he stood out among more than 150 contestants.

His difficult upbringing not only earned him a front-page mention in The Villager, but the prize also came with a two-week vacation at Camp Bowdoin in New Hamburg, N.Y.

“ ‘Junior’ could not be interviewed before The Villager went to press as to his feelings on winning two weeks in the country, and there were some sour looks among the canines who obviously had their own ideas about the Children’s Aid Society which has rules against allowing dogs to go to its camp for vacations,” the Villager dryly reported. “Several of them were fairly vocal.”

Prizes were also given to pets with the saddest face, the most cultured voice and the floppiest ears, to name just a few.

The Best Swimmer title went to “Smitty,” a frog, while “Porky” the guinea pig took home the trophy for Oddest contestant.

The various dogs, cats, turtles, pigeons and finches at the show came from as far away as Harlem. But, throwing impartiality to the wind, the article noted that the most attractive ones “happened to belong to Village youngsters.”

One specimen that had made trip to the competition all the way from 72nd St. was “ ‘Pete, a husky snake who was all too active and all too unhappy in his tall glass jar — the lid screwed firmly on, with two holes punched in the top for air.”

The snake’s owner was quick to add that Pete was not poisonous.

“ ‘Sure, he bites, but it don’t do no harm,’ ” he explained.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *