Phyllis Hamilburg’s Salgray kennel in Brookline, Mass., dominated the Boxer world throughout the 1960s and ’70s. Her dogs not only broke records, she crafted a prepotent bloodline that contributed enduring quality to the breed.
Professional handler Stan Flowers showed the Salgray dogs for over 25 years, beginning in the early 1960s. “They were very wealthy people. Danny sort of financed it, but Phyllis engineered the breeding program. She was a very intelligent woman and she spent a lot of time planning those breedings. She did some daring combinations that produced so many really beautiful dogs,” Flowers says.
When Phyllis entered the sport Boxer popularity and quality seemed to be at a peak. Descendants of top-quality German imports yielded three Westminster BIS winners in quick succession, in 1947, 1949, and in 1951 when the stunning Ch. Bang Away of Sirrah Crest entered national consciousness as the epitome of Boxer type and style.
Through skillful inbreeding and linebreeding Phyllis reinforced this legacy of quality in her bloodline. Flowers points out that the Hamilburgs “had no background breeding or showing dogs before they got their first Boxer puppy from Jane Forsyth.”
Sally of Grayarlin was purchased as a pet in 1952. She inspired the Hamilburgs’ lifetime dedication to the breed, and their Salgray kennel prefix. They returned to Grayarlin to purchase Sabot and Slipper. These littermates traced back to the Westminster winners Warlord of Mazelaine and the elegant, flashy Bang Away.
From this foundation stock Salgray seemed to produce an endless supply of phenomenal dogs. In reality, Phyllis didn’t breed that much. “They had a very small kennel setup in their home and one small building near the back door,” recalls Flowers.
Salgray puppies were raised at home by Phyllis and her kennel man Jim Taylor. “Phyllis and Jim did all the work, lead breaking and training the puppies. When you were ready to retire the current dog, Phyllis always had another competitive Salgray dog ready to go in the ring,” Flowers says.
Slipper was bred to a Bang Away son, Ch. Barrage of Quality Hill, to produce the first Salgray litter and first BIS winner, Ch. Salgray’s Battle Chief. Boxer Review named him the Outstanding Boxer Show Dog of 1959. He was also the club’s top sire that year, and ultimately produced 23 champions, including the “fabulous F litter” whelped April 8, 1961.
Battle Chief was bred to his half-sister Flamingo, a Barrage daughter, and the second generation of Phyllis’ breeding program produced one of the most important litters in Boxer history. “Fashion Plate, Fanfare, Frolic, Flamecrest, Flaming Ember, and Flying High,” says Flowers, recalling these iconic dogs. “Flamecrest and Frolic were the plainest-marked fawn bitches, and the only two that didn’t go BIS.”
Fashion Plate was BOB at the ABC National in 1965 and 1966, and top Boxer sire from 1966-68. He produced 63 champions including Ch. Milan’s Fashion Hint. Flying High sired 27 champions. Bred to his littermate Flaming Ember, he produced two more milestone dogs, Ambush and Auntie Mame.
“Salgray’s Ambush went breed from the classes at his first show, the 1967 ABC Specialty in New York,” says Flowers. He specialed Salgray’s Auntie Mame to 13 BIS and 43 Groups. “She was beautiful, a real show dog, just electric in the ring. We baited her by rolling a little red ball and she would grow 2 inches.” He adds with a laugh, “Imagine how much criticism you would get for something like that these days.”
Ambush produced 30 champions including the legendary “Double Brothers” Ch. Salgray’s Double Talk and Ch. Salgray’s Double Play. In 1970, Double Talk won the ABC National from the classes, and Play was Reserve, and they went on to become the sixth generation of Salgray BIS winners tracing back to Bang Away.
Flowers also handled Ch. Salgray’s Jitterbug, a Battle Chief daughter, to top Boxer for 1973. “She was a beautiful bitch out of Salgray’s Memory Book, a repeat breeding of the F litter.” In 1974, Jitterbug was bred to Ambush to produce Ch. Salgray’s VIP, also handled by Flowers. In 1975, VIP was BOB at ABC specialty from Open Class his first time out, and became top Boxer for 1975, No. 10 Working dog for 1976 with a total of seven BIS and 21 Groups.
Phyllis developed an instantly recognizable type, noted for overall elegance. “They had great attitude,” notes Flowers. “They were very well balanced, and they had more angulation. Once in a while an old-time Boxer person will comment that the dogs don’t have the turn of stifle like the Salgray dogs,” and he admits “There is nothing like it these days.”
Salgray ranked as the top-producing Boxer kennel for 1955, ’58, ’62 and ’63, and produced 19 BIS winners. “It was a fabulous record,” adds Jane Flowers. “It’s amazing to consider that one kennel accomplished all this with very limited breeding within such a short period of time.” Phyllis Hamilburg died in 1998.