2010-12-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

More Threads in the Baby lon/We stminster Web: Did the Great American Smoke Out originate in Babylon at the former Westminster Kennel Club (WKC)? A 1916 self-help guide to kicking nicotine addiction published by the tenant using Westminster’s old property as a health retreat gives this question credibility. This book with a documented litany of tobacco dangers had the US Surgeon General’s smoking warning beat by almost 50 years.

 

Tobacco Habit Easily Conquered: How to Do It Agreeably and Without Drugs is a 158 page manual written by Max MacLevy when he was living on the former Westminster grounds in Babylon overlooking Southards Pond. The volume contains a plan consisting of 20 simultaneous steps called “Dictums” which when followed religiously the author guarantees will free the smoker of that “Demon Nicotine.”

   Titl e pag e o f MacLevy’ s 191 6 book. Titl e pag e o f MacLevy’ s 191 6 book. Note the year is 1916. The book is geared to financially successful men who smoked. A chapter directed to women is added as an afterthought. Theauthor warns the reader to visualize his goal and stay the course -“You punished yourself by straining your will power alone, and in the end Tobacco punished you more by resuming his sway over you. Thatis the Alpha and Omega of almost every addict who fights the habit with the obsolete shrapnel of willpower alone, instead of the modern explosive shell of sane living, plus the specific Dictums here outlined.”

These Dictums are a regimented blend of mind over matter and health tips such as deep breathing, personal hygiene and enough sleep. The most unusual Dictum is #3 -“Chew every mouthful or bite of solid or dry food 28 times before swallowing.” All the Dictums are described as “Nature’s Way”, and the reader is directed to begin all of them but not cease tobacco (cold turkey) for at least two weeks. Each Dictum explanation reads like an old-fashioned infomercial and ends with the salutation “Selah!”-a Hebrew term used to finish psalms telling the reader to “stop and listen.” (MacLevy whose real name was “Maxmilian Levy” was a founder of Temple Emmanuel in Lynbrook.)

Westminster Kennel Club built the Babylon compound but had no ties to MacLevy. Westminster had a sportsmen club and kennels housing 200 dogs here from 1880 until they sold the 64 acres in 1904. About a decade later the new owner leased the huge WKC clubhouse to vaudevillian, life guard and exercise guru- Max MacLevy- as his latest health farm. According to his 1934 obituary in the NY Times, MacLevy also had a gym at Madison Square Garden where Teddy Roosevelt had been a client. MacLevy and his son Monty patented exercise contraptions including rowing machines, stationary bikes and that belt shaker shown in cartoons. For more about MacLevy’s controversial career, see “Pets” Beacon 6/26/08 online. MacLevy’s bio reads like a combo Jack LaLanne, L. Ron Hubbard with a dash of Madoff.

MacLevy set up a series of health farms in Babylon. Previously, he rented Havemeyer Point and what would years hence become Bulk’s Nursery in West Babylon. This health movement belonged to the physical culturist fad sweeping Babylon and the country. Smoke-enders was only one facet of MacLevy’s therapies. Wealthy patients suffering from physical and mental ailments would pay for the privilege of chopping wood and laboring on his farm. Some of the privileged class resented doing menial chores, only to be “won over” once cured. Others remained disgruntled and sued him. MacLevy’s family was living in the old WKC shooting house and his guests staying in the former WKC clubhouse when the whole complex burned down in October 1918.

Throughout his anti-tobacco book, MacLevy refers to the Westminster property as “The Farm.” Dictum #4 is “to avoid foods and drinks that disagree with you.” MacLevy says: “A visitor at The Farm suffered a serious throat distemper every time he ate nuts, so I stopped him.” Dictum #17 is “to pacify an occasional false craving for tobacco, use a harmless substitute.” He suggests chamomile tea, crystallized ginger, raw oysters with paprika and salt, and gum chewing which proved successful with soldiers during the Great War, but “at The Farm chocolate cigarettes are handed out to those who ask for them- and I frequently have to order a fresh supply.”

The most amazing portion of the book is the footnoted medical statistics in the appendix. Keep in mind that the Surgeon General didn’t vilify smoking until 1964. MacLevy’s beliefs are ahead of his time. He laments that although “Education is the key to progress. Our nation spends three times more on tobacco than on our school system.” When he calls tobacco a poison, he lists specific toxins in nicotine including the deadliest- prussic acid, the historical name for cyanide. With data available at the time, he supports various claims that tobacco

caused cancer, insanity, blindness, deafness, heart failure, hardening of the arteries, epilepsy and loss of memory. Some of these hazards are substantiated with modern findings, including Mac-Levy’s warnings about secondhand smoke. MacLevy quotes a doctor stating: “Many an infant has been killed outright in the cradle by tobacco smoke with which a thoughtless father filled an unventilated room” to which he adds his own remark: “Thus, Demon Nictotine out-herods Herod in the slaughter of the innocents.”

To think those prescient words were penned at the former Westminster Kennel Club right

here in Babylon. I can’t get over the phrase “out-herods Herod” especially weeks before Christmas 2010.

 

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631- 643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Two tiny, frightened dogs are featured this week. “Blanco” #93652 is an older Chihuahua who in typical breed style takes some time to warm up to everyone while “Madison” #93724 is a timid female Jack Russell found in Amityville. She took a fancy to one volunteer but shies away from me, especially when I have that annoying camera. Both are in the Puppy Room.

Male: “Davy Bruno”#93520 personable Pit; “Steve” #93710 Town Hall Shepherd; “JJ’ #93725-Dachshund.

Female: “Lydia” #93376 precious Pit; small Shepherd #93691 found with male in Deer Park; “Charlotte” lobby calico.

• Reminder…Reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Sat. Dec. 11 at 4 pm to benefit Last Hope Animal Rescue at St. John’s Church, Prospect St. Huntington.

• Sad Sign of the Times….Note on doggy clean up bag dispenser at Gardiner Park: “Our funds are low. Please bring your own bags.”

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