(Look Back is an occasional series with content and images from the Atlantic County Historical Society.)
Until recently, if you wanted to watch and gamble on the greyhound races, it meant being in Florida where you had your choice of the horse races, jai-alai, or the magnificent greyhounds. But back in the 1930s and '40s, all you had to do was go to Convention Hall and pay a general admission fee of 40¢ or go big time in the clubhouse for the grand rate of $1.50 and you could enjoy yourself while watching the greyhounds chase a rabbit around the track.
The Atlantic Kennel Club signed a three month lease with Convention Hall for $165,000 rental with $50,000 paid in advance. It was announced that 600 dogs would be arriving from Florida for the local meets whose season began on June 28 and lasted until Sept. 9.
The ads for the races touted the "Peer of amusements in Atlantic City is at the auditorium where you can see the World's Fastest Greyhounds on a regulation course." Some of the weekly specials included Monkey Races, Hurdle Races, and the Margate Cup Races. Ten races were scheduled each evening with an 8:15 p.m. post time.
In addition to the dog races, more than 100 horses were brought here for the American Pony Express endurance races held each year. These horses were the pony type seen at the polo games and were well known on the polo circuit carrying well known prominent riders. The endurance tests lasted from a half hour to two hours. During this time horses were changed every five minutes. In spite of the changes among the horses, the riders were required to finish in the specified allotted time.
Eventually animal rights activists stood up against what they saw as animal cruelty and the dog races, the endurance pony races and most recently, animal performances at the circuses ceased to exist. Steel Pier's High Diving Horse, which was a mainstay of the water show, is regarded as another victim animal rights activists.
Founded in 1913, the Atlantic County Historical Society has been preserving historical materials in its library and museum since. Every week, Wednesday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it opens its doors to share these collections with anyone who is interested. The society building is at 907 Shore Road in Somers Point. More information is available at www.atlanticcountyhistoricalsocietynj.org and on Facebook, or by calling 609-927-5218.