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Barney & Martha Rogoff
From Interview by Bernice Leroy in 2006

 

In an attempt to collect more information on the foundations of the Chow Chow in South Africa, Bernice & Franck Leroy tracked down a few “old-timers” and went to listen to their stories ...

Success in tracking the Rogoff story seemed improbable, as these folks were active almost sixty years ago, in the early 1940s through to the 1960s. Thanks to a gentleman by the name of Alan Levin, for publishing his family's genealogy on the internet! With the assistance of a telephone directory, it made short work of a seemingly daunting task.

   
   
 

Thus we met the intriguing family of Bardine & Dan Levin and by extension Alan Levin. Thereafter, we had the opportunity to also spend some time with Bardine's gracious sister, Ruth Milne. We will be visiting them again!

After some telephone conversations, we met at mutually agreeable times. We found the Levin family in a lovely large comfortable, non-pretentious home decorated by the most amazing collection of mostly modern art. Some special works were done by their own daughter.

Dan Levin is a successful business owner, and also a notable cook. Bardine is a graceful, kind lady who has been well known in more recent history for her beautiful Bards' Turkish Van cats. We met the last of her boys, now a pet - and what a gorgeous, charming guy named Mr Balloo.

Listening to her description of the temperament of these Turkish Van cats we came to understand her love for these alongside her love for the equally 'feral' Chow. More photos of her cats appear in the "Levin story".

Due to her very busy schedule, we limited our initial enquiries of Ruth to telephone conversations, but this petite, graceful lady kindly made available some time & some very tasty eats when opening her magnificent home to us. Decor is stylish, befitting an old home with a warm feeling. Like Ruth, we just fell in love with those huge doors!

Love of beautiful artwork runs notably in the family, but those shelves & shelves & shelves full of books just made our day! Somewhere hiding in those shelves are books we will be returning to find...

Barney & Martha Rogoff made the Chow Chow famous in South Africa; Bardine & Ruth kindly shared with us all the mementos they still had.

 
   
   
 

Barney Rogoff was an active man, a Springbok Walker, he qualified for the 1936 Olympics alongside Mr McMaster. There was only sponsorship for one contestant & Barney graciously allowed the less privileged McMaster to represent South Africa in the Games. He was also an avid Rugby fan, following the South African team overseas as a supporter to cheer them on. All these travels had the downside that he could not spend as much time with his family as they'd have liked.

He was often in trouble with the owners of the apartment building they lived in for feeding the wild birds. He was insistent on including different types of grain for different birds.

Barney also won the Rhodesian Sweeps! Some of the money was shared with his siblings, some of the money spent on a bit of 'living it up' & clothes, but the last amount was used as an investment in a business deal.

This is where the partnership with Fred Grant started. Fred had knowledge of the workings of the business – but recognized Barney's exceptional people skills, and these were to form the other half of the successful partnership of "Grant & Rogoff".

 
   
   
 

It was Fred Grant's wife, Doreen, who was the strength behind the then well-known Grant's Chow Chows.

Quote from previous "Heads & Tails" publications: "Chows shot into prominence with the acquisition, in rather a strange manner, by Mr Barney Rogoff (the first chairman of the Chow Chow Club of Johannesburg - now long extinct) of a dog, Golden Boy. This dog was won by Mr Rogoff with a shilling raffle ticket during the Golden City Cavalcade in 1942.” (See the "Schoeman story" for more about that!)

Ruth also told of how, at the time of winning Golden Boy, he had eczema, mange and fleas. They shaved him down, covered him with sulphur ointment and no-one wanted to come near the poor dog for days, excepting the very kindly Martha Rogoff, to whom it was left to treat the dog. As they lived in an apartment building, the neighbors even signed a petition that the dog be euthanased!

However, his skin cleared, his coat grew and he proved to be a beautiful show dog, gaining his championship in 1944, making chow history by being awarded Best in Show! Ruth remembers the day's immense excitement with pride!!

On 12 May 1945, at the East Rand & Goldfields Kennel Club, with but a very limited show attendance behind him, Ch Grant's Golden Boy once again achieved Best in Show. However, it proved to be a 'fatal' show, for shortly thereafter, this 11 CC's winning Chow of not even 3 years of age was to die of Biliary (Tick fever) contracted at the show.

Mid 1944, "Goldie" as he was fondly called by the family, was studded out for the first & only time. Unfortunately the Rogoffs were not informed that they were entitled to a stud fee or stud fee puppy. This litter, born on 17 September 1944 was to have a profound effect on their lives.

The Rogoffs were devastated by the loss of Golden Boy. They had seen the litter he sired as pups and Mr Rogoff pointed Bogum Chang out as pick of the litter at that point. Now, with the loss of Golden Boy, they wished to buy a pup, but the pups were long sold.

As Ruth relates - after some time and coercing, the owner of Grant's Bogum Chang of Ningpo, Christopher Ballantine, agreed to part with him for the princely sum of £100, September 1945.

 
   
   
 

Bogum had an illustrious show career, and as in all competitive events, the inevitable "politics" did the rounds - amongst other 'gossip' Mr Rogoff was said to have been applying Gentian Violet to the dog's tongue to increase color! But Bogum continued his success.

Ruth & Bardine, who accompanied their parents often to the shows, mention that Barney & Martha did not concern themselves with Match shows (non-championship) with Bogum. When he finally joined the Rogoff family, he was a young adult & therefore was shown at Championship shows only.

"Heads & Tails" & Newspaper quotes his wins as "almost awe-inspiring amount of awards: Over 600 First awards, 65 Champion Certificates (CC's), 101 Challenge Classes (Group 1st), 10 Best in Show awards.”

 
 

At that time Mr Rogoff ascertained from local and overseas dog breeders and authorities, that this was a world record. A display cabinet in Mr Rogoff's home contained over 100 cups and trophies won by this famous dog.

So impressive was this dog, at the Bloemfontein Kennel Club Show, the then Minister of Railways, on seeing him, offered Bogum free transit anywhere in the Republic by the SA Railways. He travelled by rail to all the shows The Rogoff's booked a coupe for him and themselves and needless to say, he caused a sensation at all the railway stations!

Meet Johannes "Rogoff". Johannes was the caretaker of the grounds at the apartment building where the Rogoffs resided. Every day, Bogum would indicate his need to leave the apartment at a certain time. He was allowed out. He would cross the busy Oxford Road, looking neither left, nor right. He ignored cars' hooting, and in 12 years, had trained the traffic to allow a snobbish chow to cross the road!

 
 

On his return to the apartment building, he would spend some time with Johannes, who would groom him daily. Johannes was also the 'violins & roses' during mating time, as he knew how to assist with difficult matings! Johannes regularly accompanied the Rogoffs to shows, being Bogum's personal caretaker. Eventually, Johannes joined the Rogoff family on a more permanent basis, fulfilling various roles during his lifetime of service within the family.

Bogum never fought with other dogs on his excursions, excepting with one Bull Terrier on limited occasions - always coming off the victor thanks to a big, protective coat. The last time would be different. Ch Grant's Bogum Chang of Ningpo died at about 12 years of age from injuries sustained in a fight with this Bull Terrier.

The Rogoff's involvement with the dog show world then slowed down, but in time, they imported another chow from Lady Barbara R Royle, a chow which unfortunately did not survive the trip. Lady Royle replaced this pup with a beautiful youngster originally named Hung Kwong of Kutsang (UK) and would cost Mr Rogoff £200. It was sired by Ch (UK) Emperor of Junggwaw, which won BOB & RBIS at Crufts that year.

So certain was Mr Barney Rogoff of Goldie Fingers' quality, that he pledged to put £25 to the Rand Daily Mail Christmas fund if it failed to reach championship by the end of the year. Mr Rogoff applied to have the name prefixed and his KUSA registered name became Golden Jubilee of Kutsang (so named to mark the Union Festival - 1960).


 
 

"Goldie Fingers" was to be the last Chow Chow the Rogoffs imported and showed. Judging from the photos and mementos still available, Goldie Fingers caused quite a sensation at shows. He went to Match Shows as a puppy and at his second show managed a Best in Show over 168 entries. Martha Rogoff also was showing a Miniature Pinscher named Bambi at this time.

 
   
   
 

Unfortunately Goldie Fingers was run over by a car - the memory of that day still haunts Ruth to tears in her eyes. This devastated the family once again, resulting in the Rogoffs then ending their involvement with the dog show world, having made the largest contribution in SA show history to 'making the chow chow noticed'.

During their years of involvement, Barney Rogoff served many years in various capacities for various clubs, amongst which being president of East Rand & Goldfields KC from 1948 - 1960, as well as being a founder member & chairperson of the Chow Chow Club of Johannesburg, now long extinct.

 
   
   
 

Recorded history has Ch Grant's Bogum Chang of Ningpo as the all time top winning Chow Chow in Southern African Show History. Ruth (in whose name both Golden Boy & Bogum Chang were registered with KUSA) & Bardine (supported by Dan & Alan) are immensely proud of Barney & Martha's achievements with these beautiful Chow Chows, but even more importantly, they all still have a deep love for the Chow Chow as a breed.

It is always great to meet with kindred spirits who deeply love the regal & unique Chow Chow. We, "modern" SA chowists are very grateful to them for sharing their story & showing us "our foundations"!

 
           
 

Written by Bernice Leroy.

Made possible by kind contributions of the Rogoff daughters, Bardine and Ruth, also Dan and Alan Levin, and Vanessa Munro.

More stories will be added over time as more memorabilia comes out of attics!

 
           
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