All In The Family
By: Audrey Pavia - Reprinted with permission from the American Kennel Gazette
The day outside is warm and breezy, typical of Los Angeles in December. In a modest urban neighborhood called City of Commerce, in a small office located in a business park, dog show superintendent Jack Bradshaw and his daughter Julie are getting ready for the Long Beach kennel Club All-Breed show, being held that upcoming weekend.
Claire Bradshaw and Jack Bradshaw Jr.
It's a modest scene - not what you'd expect from a family that has established a dog show dynasty. But since 1898 four generations of Bradshaws have been doing the same work: three Jacks and a John, plus Claire, Marion, Julie, Barbara and Susan.
Considering how many dogs are entered in shows superintended by the Bradshaws each weekend in Southern California and Arizona, it is a surprise to find the office of Bradshaw Superintendents is such a small, intimate place. However, after a brief tour it quickly becomes apparent that the Bradshaws have everything well under control. They should by now.
The Bradshaw family traditiion of superintending dog shows began with Jack Bradshaws grandfather, known in the family as Jack Bradshaw Sr. He began by breeding dogs in the United Kingdom, where he grew up, and continuted after moving to the US. Bradshaw Sr.'s first home in the United States was in New England, where he bred, showed and imported dogs. He eventually moved to San Francisco and then down to Los Angeles, where he settled.
After superintending dog shows for 29 years, Jack Bradhsaw III has some stories to tell.
Aside from the usual acts of misconduct (fistfights among exhibitors being the most common), the Bradshaws have witnessed a few strange occurrences. The strangest of all, according to Jack, was the time an exhibitor asked to be excused from a benched show because she had been told that her house was on fire. While she was in the process of obtaining permission from the club to leave, her dog went Best of Breed. The exhibitor opted to stay for the Group and leave her house to fate.
Not all of the odd things Jack Bradshaw has witnessed have been at dog shows. A letter came into the Bradshaw offices one day from an exhibitor who lamented that there was a show she desperately wanted to attend but could not, since she wasn't able to find a baby-sitter for her children. After stating her case, she then specifically asked Jack Bradshaw, in her letter, if he would come to her house and baby-sit her children while she attended the show. For Jack, the most incredible part of this story is that he had never met the woman in his life.
Jack Bradshaw Sr. was an all-around dog man, and was involved with a number of breeds including Airedales, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Bull Terriers and Collies. He was particularly well-known on the West Coast.
"My grandfather loved dogs," says Jack III. "He bought them, sold them, imported them, handled them in the show ring and judged them." Since the dog show world was a lot smaller back then, one person could wear many hats. "So, in addition to handling and judging, my grandfather was also a superintendent." Bradshaw Sr.'s first superintendent job was in 1898 at a dog show in Exposition Park in Los Angeles (the name of which has receded from family memory).
He was the last of the Bradshaws to have such a diverse involvement in dogs; his son, Jack Bradshaw Jr., stuck to the business of superintending. Jack Bradhsaw III (who generally does not use the number after his name) says of his father, "While my dad was not really a dog person, he was a businessperson. He became very active with the demands of the business."
After attending the University of California at Berkeley and then working with his father for several years, Jack Jr. took over the business in 1934. He superinteded dog shows on the West Coast for 30 years with the help of his wife, Claire, covering parts of the Pacific Northwest in addition to California and Arizona.
The Jack Bradshaw who runs the business today also considers himself a businessperson. While he did grow up with dogs as pets, both he and his father never got involved with showing because, unlike in the early days, their roles as superintendents did not allow it.
Jack and his dad worked together until 1964, when illness forced Jack Jr. to retire. Jack took over for his father and ran the business with the help of his mother, Claire. Claire Bradshaw, who showed Dachshunds as a young woman before she became part of the business, stayed active as a superintendent until 1974.
Twenty-nine years later, the Bradshaw business is still in the family. Marion Bradshaw, Jack's wife, teaches first grade during the week but on weekends she is at Jack's side staffing the superintendents booth. Their son and daughter, John Bradshaw and Julie Draper Bradshaw, are also a part of the business. John, a newly licensed American Kennel Club superintendent, works the shows on the weekends and has a full-time job during the week. Julie works full time for the family business.
Jack's sister Barbara Bradshaw and his second daughter, Susan Bradshaw Van Dyke, are part of the working family, too. Susan lives on the central coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, where she works as a marriage, family and child counselor. She also occasionally attends specialty shows on the weekend on Jack's behalf. Barbara, a licensed superintendent, also attends specialty shows and sometimes works all-breed events with Jack and the rest of the family.
Jack's third daughter, Eloise, worked as a ring steward when she was in her teens, and is graduating from college this year. She is the only Bradshaw child who is not currently working in the business.
How You've Changed
Ninety-six years is a long time to be in the dog show business. Many things have changed since 1898 when Jack Bradshaw Sr. first started superintending dog shows.
"Dog shows were much, much smaller back then," Jack Bradshaw III explains of his grandfather's time. "The entries have gotten larger, and there are more dog shows now than ever before."
Of course, shows were benched back then and now most are not. But the biggest difference Jack can cite is the accessibility of dog shows today. "In my grandfather's time, dog shows were really just for the elite," he points out. "Now, anyone can be involved in dogs."
While Jack has only been superintending since 1964, he has seen a number of changes as well, primarily in the popularity of certain breeds. In those 30 years, he has seen the numbers of Cocker Spaniels go up and then down, the popularity of Great Danes and German Shepherds wane, and the number of Boxer entries dwindle considerably.
Most recently, he has witnessed a boom in one-time rare breeds such as the Chinese Shar-Pei and the Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. "There seems to be a real interest in rare breeds these days," he notes.
With several generations of experience behind them, it's no wonder the Bradshaws run everything with obvious ease. As superintendents, the Bradshaws are responsible for putting together premium lists, judging programs and show catalogs; processing entries and mailing confirmations to exhibitors; and coordinating every aspect of the actual dog show, in conjunction with the show-giving club. They are also required to be present at the show to make sure things run smoothly and to handle any problems.
The Bradshaws' small office houses six networked computer terminals loaded with a software program designed specifically for them - a luxury the first two generations did not have. Four full-time office employees input do show information that will ultimately result in catalogs and premium lists, which are printed on the premises on the organization's own printing press that Jack Bradshaw purchased in 1987.
Bradshaw Superintendents is also responsible for getting the arm bands and rosettes that will be distributed to exhibitors at each show, and temporary employees are hired as needed to handle the workload during busier times.
Top left, a pressman runs the Bradshaw printing press, where all th forms and show catalogs, such as the ones below him on the office wall, are printed. Top right, the modest Bradshaw office in Los Angeles.
Working closely with clubs, and with show chairpeople in particular, to put together an event is one of Jack's favorite parts of the job. "I really enjoy meeting a lot of different people," he says with a smile. He also has no problem with the fact that show chairs are frequently inexperienced at putting on a show and have to be taught from scratch. "I like showing them how it works," he says. "It's fun working with new people."
Marion Bradshaw also enjoys working with new show chairs. "New chairmen are often nervous about the job they have to do, and we enjoy helping them do it right and stay on track. There are a lot of little details involved in putting on a dog show, and it helps if we can build up the new show chairman's confidence so the person will feel good about making decisions on the day of the show."
In addition to working closely with clubs, the Bradshaws also deal with exhibitors. "Entries are sent directly to us, and we have to look over each one to make sure it's complete," explains Jack. "If there's a problem, we contact the exhibitor directly." Mailing judging programs and entry confirmations to exhibitors is also part of the operation.
The office work, conducted Monday through Friday, is only one aspect of the job. On weekends, Jack and Marion occupy the superintendent's booth at each show, often assisted by Julie and John. While the superintendent's booth is usually considered Command Central at dog shows, the setup work that goes along with the superintendent's job is not as glamorous. "John, who has a full-time job outside the family business, is part of the weekend setup committee," explains Jack, "so he arrives at the show site at 3 a.m." Depending on what the show-giving club has asked for, John sets up either the Bradshaw's equipment at the site or uses the club's own materials.
The fact that Jack heads up the Bradshaw operation does not preclude him from working alongside family members and other employees in laying down carpet and arranging ring equipment. He also shuttles equipment, such as matting, tenting, ring stands and chains, to and from show sites himself, in his trailer.
Jack and Marion attend every all-breed show themselves, with rare exception. Marion explains their routine: "The night before the event, we usually drive to the town where the show is being held and check into a hotel. We relax that night, usually visit the club's hospitality room and then go to bed so we can get up early the next day to be at the show site by 7 a.m. Once we get there, we prepare the show rings for the stewards, get our booth ready and do whatever we need to do for the day to begin."
Along with Julie and employee Johnny Shoemaker, Jack and Marion work in the superintendent's booth. As the day progresses, they spend a lot of time talking to spectators and exhibitors, answering their questions. "People come by the booth and ask us a lot of different things," says Marion. "Exhibitors will come by and ask for rule interpretations or explanations of the point schedule, while members of the general public will ask us to explain how dog shows work." Problems are also dealt with, and can cover anything from lost children to exhibitor disputes. In addition to this, the Bradshaws also do business, as they accept entries to upcoming shows and mark catalogs for the show-giving club. They then stay until the end of the show and tear down the equipment.
All of the togetherness the business requires, combined with the stresses of running five dog shows a month, would put a strain on any family. However, if the Bradshaws are stressed out, it is certainly not apparent. Whether working together in the office or collectively staffing the superintendent's booth at a show, the Bradshaws seem like the perfect family.
"Our philosophy is this: Everyone in the family is welcome to participate in the business, but only if they want to," explains Jack. This, he says, is the cornerstone of the family's working relationship. "This way, the people who are involved are there by choice."
Marion believes so many members of the family choose to be involved with the business because it is a way of life to them. "There is a lot of family pride in this business," she says. "Each generation has been raised with it. They all grew up with it. Dog shows are like a second home." Her own reason for why she participates is simple: "I like the people. It seems to me the people who are attracted to dog shows are both people- and animal-oriented. They are not just there to compete - they are there for the friendships. For many of the people I meet, dog show people are like family to them."
Left to right, Jack Bradshaw at work with the superindendent's booth at the Long Beach Kennel Club. Julie Draper Bradshaw and brother John Bradshaw at the show. Right, Julie and her mother Marion Bradshaw in the superindendent's booth.
"The family business also allows family members to see each other in a different way," according to Marion. "When my children were little, I did not work with Jack since I stayed home to raise the family. But once the kids were grown I began going to shows with him on the weekend, and I discovered a whole other side to him - the business side. It was fascinating!"
Superintending dog shows is not a typical career, and marrying into a dog show family is a bit unusual. "It wasn't a problem for me," says Marion. "Jack and I met on a blind date in college, and from the beginning my family liked his family immensely. They also found the whole superintending business interesting." While some explanation was required for why Sunday family dinners would not fit into the Bradshaw schedule, Marion's family completely accepted her new husband's career. "We all get along great and have a big extended family. Oftentimes, when the kids were young, we'd have our grandmothers taking turns watching them for us when dog who obligations came up."
It may seem odd at first to discover that the Bradshaws themselves do not own any dogs, considering how important dogs are in their lives. But as Marion points out, "As superintendents, we can't participate in shows as exhibitors. As for pets, we used to have a Bulldog named Tuffy, but our daughter Susan has severe allergies and after Tuffy died we did not get another dog." Now that the children are grown, Marion, who grew up with Collies as pets, would like to have a dog. "Our schedule is the only problem now," she says. "I work full time, as does Jack, and then we are gone nearly every single weekend. It wouldn't be right to have a dog under these conditions."
Despite all this, it is obvious that Marion truly loves dogs. "one of the drawbacks of the job of superintendent is that we need to maintain some psychological distance in the dog show situation," she explains. "I don't like that part of it, especially because it means I can't smooch with the dogs at the shows!"
You get a similar answer when you ask the Bradshaws what their favorite show is: As superintendents, they're supposed to be neutral.
After all these years, the Bradshaws are yet to grow tired of dog shows. "Every show feels familiar, yet it's unique," Jack explains. "No two shows are exactly alike." Coming from a man who has superintended more than 1,200 dog show in his lifetime, this is quite a statement about the excitement of dog shows.
Copyright © 1999, Jack Bradshaw Dog Show Superintendents - All Rights Reserved