13 June 1902 - 20 July 1976
Five Mile Afghan hounds USA,
(By Steve Tillotson and Lyall Payne Jan 2016)
Marion Florsheim with Rana Of Chaman
BIO/INTRODUCTION (With thanks to Lyall Payne for the research and findings)
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 Heckman first married Cecil Carlyle Warner on 11 March 1926 in Chickasaw, Iowa. She second married Harry Amson Florsheim on 15 October 1934. Harry was previousl married to Fredda Keller on 14 October 1920. Neither Marion nor Harry had children from each of their marriages. Marjory has descendants to this day. The Darien Connecticut address (it was the postal address) for the Fillow St, Norwalk residence was the home of both Fredda 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 fortune. Lyall Payne 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 Terriers - 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 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 travelled 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 Foster Florsheim put her heart and soul into promoting the Afghan hound. Her passion for the breed and her resources to support that passion during the Second World War saw her unashamedly strive to highlight the breed at every opportunity. Marion was glamorous. Joan McDonald Brearley, author and personal friend, described her as one of the avant-garde of the breed in America. Not only did Marion recognise a photo-opportunity and how to maximise a publicity stunt to promote the breed, she was also a highly skilled breeder of the Afghan hound and one of its most famous owners.
Marion had a second passion, her love of flying. In September 1942 the spirited pilot Nancy Harkness Love was appointed commander of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS). A test pilot with a desk job in the US Army Air Forces (later the United States Air Force) Love set the record of being the first woman in aviation to make a flight around the world. She battled for more than two years to establish an organisation where experienced women civilian pilots would ferry planes from factory to air field and move planes to where they were needed at any given time. Even the support of Eleanor Roosevelt was insufficient to sway Army officials of the day, until concerns about the pressure on American male pilots, needed for active duty overseas, was too evident to ignore any longer.To enter the WAFS women had to be between twenty-one and thirty-five years old, have logged at least 500 flying hours, hold a commercial pilot’s license, have qualified to fly a 200-horsepower engine rating, and have had recent cross-country flying experience. Reported numbers vary between 25 and 29 women who met these rigorous standards and answered the call to serve their country during wartime. The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) commenced in September 1942 at New Castle Army Air Field, Wilmington, Delaware. Rigorous training and examinations were then undertaken before the task of ferrying planes began. Army officials remained sceptical and the unit was awarded civilian status only. This meant that the rights and privileges normally awarded to military personnel were denied to the WAFS. At this point it is useful to note that Marion’s father had an already established relationship with the US Army postal carrier service. It is almost certain that Marion was one of Nancy Love’s intrepid ‘first day’ ladies, as an advertisement appeared in the 18 December 1942 issue of the English weekly dog paper ‘Our Dogs’ which reads “From the US Army’s Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron comes a Season’s Greeting from Marion Foster Florsheim, Aviatrix and Designer”. In August 1943 the WAFS merged with another program, the Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) to become the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs). Marion’s passion for flying never waned and following her discharge she continued to fly herself and her dogs across the United States in her own Fairchild Cabin plane. She would have been disappointed when attempts in 1943 and 1944 for recognition of militarisation for the WASPs failed (the latter attempt a narrow defeat of the House Bill on the matter). The House Committee reacted by stating the unit was no longer necessary and from 20 December 1944 the WASPs were no more. Sadly, Marion did not live long enough to learn that the WASPs campaign, with the support of Senator Barry Goldwater, was signed into legislation by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 finally providing the recognition that her dedicated war service was indeed military service. In 1984 they were all awarded the World War II Victory Medal and in 2009 President Barack Obama awarded the Congressional Gold medal. It had been a long battle by the surviving ladies for recognition of their heroic war work. However, it is heartening to see that the recognition endures to this day. But her illustrious service and flying her dogs to shows and promotions all over the United States as we know it, almost never happened. (the above by Lyall Payne)
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.
MARIONS FOUNDATION HOUNDS
The foundation of Marions kennel was the import Rana Of Chaman of Royal Irish. Bred by Molly Sharpe (Scotland) and imported into the USA by Al Baron in 1939(?). It appears that Rana was transferred to Marion in 1941 (?) which serves as her entry into the breed. Marions other foundation was Rudiki Of Prides Hill. Rudiki was originally owned by his breeder Q A Shaw McKen (Prides Hill) who intiallly exhibited him, including a very successful campaign in California in the late 30's. Rudiki was then transferred to Mrs Hoyt (Blakeen) who was already famous as a Poodle breeder. Rudiki's success under Mrs Hoyt equalled or exceeded that of the suceess she had with her famous poodles. By 1941 Mrs Hoyt had decided to disband her Afghan hound kennel and Rudiki and one of his daughters Rudika of Blakeen were transferred to Marion. So by 1941 the foundation of Marion Florsheims five mile kennel included Rana Of Chaman, Rudiki and Rudika of Prides Hill. Of the foundations below, Marion did not own the bitch Lasca Klana, but we included this hound in Marions foundations as Marion used Lasca Klana early in her breeding program.
|Rana Of Chaman||Rudiki Of Prides Hill|
|Lasca Klana||Rudika Of Blakeen|
The first litter bred at Five Mile whelped 9/2/1942 and was a breeding of Rana Of Chaman x Rudika Of Blakeen. Pedigree below
FIVE MILE LITTER 9/2/1942
|Am Ch Rana of Chaman of Royal Irish
||Ch Westmill Bayezid Ansari
||Uk Am Int Ch Badshah of Ainsdart
||Ch Sirdar of Ghazni
|Ku-Mari of Kaf
|Elsa of Ghazni
||Khan of Ghazni
|Zarifa of Ghazni
||Ch Ashna of Ghazni
||Ch Sirdar of Ghazni
|Shireen of Ghazni
|Am Ch Rudika of Blakeen
||Am Ch Rudiki of Prides Hill
||Uk Am Int Ch Badshah of Ainsdart
||Ch Sirdar of Ghazni
|Ku-Mari of Kaf
|Am Ch Shireen of Prides Hill
||Am Ch Kundah of Prides Hill
|Laksmi of Prides Hill
||Am Ch Doreborns Dadir
|Hariti of Pride Hill
||Tazi of Beg Tute
|Saki of Paghman
Zumurrud Of Five Mile with Mrs Bamberger (Koya Afghan Hounds, Utah)
This first litter turned out to be signifigant and successful. The litter of 7 included Asri-Havid Of Five Mile (dog), Yenghiz-Khan Of Five Mile (dog) and Zumurrud Of Five Mile (bitch). Asri-Havid went to the Canadian kennels of Eva Gudgeon (Birchwood). Asri-Havid sired litters for several other leading Canadian kenels including Skyridge - (Mr & Mrs E Lynch), and Ku - (Viola Felden). Asri-Havid is also in the foundations of the (USA) Ben Ghazi kennels of Ruth and Robert Tongren. Yenghiz-Khan is in the foundation of Reigh & Dewey Abram's Dureigh kennnels and behind Mrs Carl & Robert Hoyt's Al Kahira kennels and also behind Eunice & Evelyn Clark's Hughcliff kennels. The bitch Zumurrud Of Five Mile went to Mr, Mrs Bambergers Utah kennel (Koya) and was later bred to Rana of Chaman, this combination producing two litters for the Bambergers.
(Left) Asri-Havid of Five Mile, (Right) Yenghiz Khan of Five Mile
LIFE magazine, November 26, 1945
Maion Florsheim, Rudiki and the Five Mile Afghan hounds
Rama of Chaman (in Molly Sharpe Section)
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