13 June 1902 - 20 July 1976
Five Mile Afghan hounds USA,
(Compiled by Steve Tillotson,with Lyall Payne June 2014)
Marion Florsheim with Rana Of Chaman
INTRODUCTION (With thanks to Lyall Payne)
Marion Foster Florsheim was born Marion Geneva Heckman on 13 June 1902 in Burlington, Iowa to Charles Edward Heckman and Lelia Holmes. Marion's paternal grandparents were German and emigrated to Iowa. She had a younger sister Marjory Lelia. Marion Heckmanmarried Harry Amson Florsheim on 15 October 1934. The Darien Connecticut address (it was the postal address) for the Fillow St, Norwalk residence was the home of both Fredda Keller (Hary's first wife) and then Marion. I have not located any reason as to why Marion used the middle name of Foster. It is said that she had a stage and screen career of some sort. It is possible that Marion Foster or Marion Foster Florsheim was her stage name. Incidentally, the 350 Madison Ave NYC address was also a concurrent address (all three appear simultaneously on Harry's WW2 sign up papers) and was his business address.
Previous writers on the breed and the general canine press and canine magazines have written that Marion Florsheim was a member of the Florsheim shoe family and heiress to the family fortunte. Lyall Payne (Bletchley Hall Afghan hounds, NZ) has undertaken extensive research into Marion Florsheim, and his research reveals that Marion Florsheim was not in fact part of the Florsheim shoe family. Herebelow is a summary of Lyall's findings -
Marion was not part of the shoe Florsheim family. She was apparently very fond of shoes however, and had an amazing collection of them (a fellow pilot trainee once commented in a publiished article). To add to the confusion the shoe man (at the time) was Harry Florsheim - same name as Marion's husband. The shoe Harry (the business went through several generations of the family) was also a dog man - Harham Teriiers - and he was an AKC judge just as Marion was. So it was likely to have been assumed by some people that the two were husband and wife but they were not. The do not appear to be related in recorded history either.-
I have followed both families back without establishing a connection, BUT it is believed that all lines of Florsheim eventually trace back to the town of Florsheim, in Germany. Marion was a des Moines, Iowa girl (her body was taken back and buried there yet she left as a very young woman). Her father ran the US postal service at a local airfield (no doubt the source of Marion's aviation interest) and her mother ran a dressmaking retail store. She had one sister. Marion and 'her Harry', who as Rik McDowell(Panache Afghan hounds, USA) said spent his life in the cotton buying/selling industry became involved (after her interest in afghan hounds ended) as fundraisers and followers of an 'eastern mystic' named Meher Baba who established a large community in California. He nicknamed Marion 'Energy' for obvious reasons and she travlelled extensively with him as 'chief organiser of pretty much everything' She also visited India. -
If you check the Meher Baba website you will find errors because there was another Marion Florsheim who was born in California and some of the details relate to her - and not the correct MF (our Marion Foster Florsheim). You will recognise her in the pics however. So she had amazing phases to her life. A family life she valued (as she is buried back in her home town), she had a short failed marriage to a doctor) then married Harry Florsheim - she then trained as a pilot and did amazing work and had her afghans with Harry at Darien Connecticut), put her energies into her Eastern inspired values and lifestyle jointly with Harry. She maintained her afghan hound interest and friends (judging right up to the illness that took her life). On top of all this she was extroadinarily beautiful and her achievements, feats, interests, endeavours and the repeated comments about her by others also suggest she was a 'very nice person' of wonderful values. I never met her but she is possibly my 'favourite' afghan hound person!!."
Marion did have an element of mystery in her life. Her birth, early public records filled out by others, and her death records match perfectly. But in her life - the one she had 'power over' - she always noted her birth 10 years later than it really happened. I have spent some years on this - and eventually concluded why. Marion, I believe, did not manage to pull it off entirely. Marion's passion was flying. She was a leader and frontrunner as an aviatrix. She was there with the first women in the US air force as pilots. She paved the way. She took her own ideas and convinced authorities. She WAS different - we cannot deny that - her co-ladies wrote of her staying in hotels with a huge collection of clothes and shoes! AND with never less than two afghan hounds which she walked morning noon and night - and herself was never less than immaculate - even in the early hours of the morning out walking her dogs. The point being - she did not stay in barracks with her fellows. But they all loved her. They did not see her as 'one above them'. And nor did she treat them as if she was. I have previously written that the venue of her training is now a museum - once a domestic airport terminal in Texas and now a fully restored (just as it was in its Art deco (late 30s/40s) heyday) airport. Then - all of a sudden Marion was gone. She did not complete her training - she was removed - and her classmates decades later expressed they had no knowledge of why. She did go on to move military aircraft across the States and fulfil a remarkable flying career - so clearly 'some deal was done' . But the fact remains that she was removed from her class. I believe someone found out she was older than she was, yes - 'too old' in terms of the rules of the day. Something Marion had herself spent decades trying to hide. It is true that her records in the censuses and others that she filled in herself are entered incorrectly - and I suspect deliberately - that so much confusion exists (but which has bolstered my personal admiration for her, incidentally).
IN THE PUBLIC EYE
Marions Afghan hounds were featured on the cover of fhe Saturday Evening Post, in 1944 and also feartured on the cover of Life Magazine in 1945. Her Afghan hounds also appeared in various canine publications. Shown below is the cover of Dog World 1944 with Rudiki on the right and Rana Of Chaman on the left. We have also below the cover for Coronet Magazine dated August 1944, featuring Rudiki and Rana. So all this publicity in the media about the Five Mile Afghan hounds, and Marions aviator exploits ensured she remained in the public eye in this era.
IN THE AFGHAN HOUND WORLD
Marion blah bah blah
LIFE magazine, November 26, 1945 Maion Florsheim, Rudiki and the Five Mile Afghan hounds
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