Mabel Normand and Her Whippet
Looking for Mabel
September 13, 2009
Mabel Normand owned a whippet named Raggedy Rose, it wasn’t a house pet but rather a champion racing hound.
In June 1926, the Whippets Association of California raced in the inaugural season at Culver City Speed-way; there were 3-heats, 12 dogs. One of the dogs, Raggedy Rose was trained by Jim Young, of the Arroyo Kennels for Mabel Normand. Raggedy Rose was entered in the second heat.
The newspapers in October 1927 across the country carried the story along with a photo, of Raggedy Rose in action. Mabel’s Raggedy Rose won the International Whippet meet at San Mateo, California by covering 300 yards in just 13 seconds at the Bay Meadows Racetrack.
The Culver City Speed-way track was originally built for greyhound (whippet) races (coursing) at 13455 Washington Blvd. at the west end of Culver City on 18-acres. It was speculated that the city had hoped to gain revenue from its pari-mutuel betting however all it did was contribute to Culver City's reputation of gambling, as a popular diversion. Pari-mutuel betting was illegal, so race patrons would buy "stock" in a dog and cash in on their stock afterward. The greyhound stadium thrived for a couple of years, only to be closed by a statewide ban on dog racing.
There was a short-lived horse racing track, which was later converted to the famous Speedway. It was billed as the fasted board racing track, and the legendary Barney Oldfield raced there. It was not until 1932 that the Culver City Kennel Club was finally issued a permit (ordinance #368) for “canine racing.” The race track finally closed in 1935
Benjamin ("Bugsy") Siegel in 1933, came to set up the Murder, Inc. branch in Hollywood. He moved into the gambling in the beach communities took a cut of the profits of Mabel’s friend, Baron Long’s Agua Caliente race track, muscled in on the numbers racket, cut himself a slice of the offshore gambling fleet and the Culver City dog track.
The track was torn down in 1954; it became the site of the Hughes Helicopter Company, later McDonnell Douglas helicopter plant, and still later the headquarters for the 1984 Olympics. By 2006, it was the site of a Costco and Albertson Market.
Back when Mabel's Raggedy Rose was racing, Culver City had an open secret; there were speakeasies in the back rooms of the many cabarets along Washington Blvd, just east of Venice Beach, over 25 of them stretched along the road during “Prohibition,” which didn't end until December 5, 1933.
The whippet has a royal history, the ancient Egyptians bred the ancestors using them for hunting and as household pets. The hounds decorated the walls of Egyptian tombs. During the Middle Ages, greyhounds were bred for nobility. They were imported to the United States, not as course racers but to hunt the jackrabbits of the farmlands but it was soon discovered that they were a source of sport. One of the first national coursing meets was held in Kansas in 1886. The US cavalry used greyhounds (whippets) as scouts, since the greyhounds were fast enough to keep up with the horses. General George Custer reportedly owned 14 coursing greyhounds, which he coursed the night before the battle of Little Big Horn. In the October 1927 exhitbition Raggedy Rose won a race against a horse.
Florida became the U.S. capital of the sport in 1922; greyhound racing became one of the most popular spectator sports in America. Perhaps Mabel was only nominally involved with the whippet but knowing that Raggedy Rose was a winner might have made her happy, in the period of 1926/1927.