I didn’t know her story when I found the battered 23-year-old (I was three years younger than her!) calendar in my favorite Denver junk store, The House of a Thousand Wonders. I framed Chessie and she’s been around my house for 52 more years.
Chessie’s claim to fame started as an advertising campaign. She started as a kitten herself, then the next year had two kittens of her own. She represented the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad for 12 years. Then the public had to meet Peake, her mate. During World War II Peake went to war and won a Distinguished Service Medal on the December 1945 calendar.
Of course Chessie lives on in 2010.Here is a little excerpt from a 1935 Chesapeake and Ohio ad. It was their 150th anniversary, their proud heritage proclaiming they were the same railroad founded by George Washington, in 1785.
A year ago we found you, a lonely little kitten looking for a home. You found one, and we found a friend. When we published your picture , a lot of folks said: “Who ever heard of using a gol darned cat to advertise a railroad!”
But you told ’em,Chessie! Kids wouldn’t go to bed unless you were near. Families called on us to settle arguments over whether that was your tail or your paw on the pillow. Overnight you became the Kitten of the Hour.
But more than that, Chessie, you suggested as no other array of high-pressure language could do, the supreme comfort of the Chesapeake and Ohio’s genuinely air-conditioned trains. The sight of you, on the George Washington, drowsily down for the night under the soft, clean , cool linen, made travelers want to come and try it. And they still are coming, and bringing their friends with them. And for all of that, Chessie, we are grateful, and so are the legions who SLEEP LIKE A KITTEN.