Keeper of the Flame

Margaret "Maggie" Glass, who worked at Calumet Farm from April 29, 1940, to Sept. 30, 1982, performed her duties the "Wright way" in honor of owner Warren Wright Sr. But ask any one person who dealt with Calumet during those decades and chances are they were fully aware that it was the "Glass way" that got things done in upright fashion all across the board. Glass served as business and office manager, accountant, bookings manager, pedigree consultant, historian, and goodwill ambassador, and, in her early days, filled out many of her co-workers' income tax returns. Her devotion to the Calumet memory serves as a gentle reminder of the farm's glory days. She also played a key role in helping run the farm after 1950 for Wright's widow, Lucille, who later married novelist Adm. Gene Markey. Glass was Kentucky Trustee of Lucille Markey's Revocable Trust for her last 2 1/2 years of employment.

She and her husband, Frank, have lived in the same Lexington home since he returned from Navy service in 1945. Following are some of her recollections:

-- People would say, "How can you get along with Mr. Wright? I hear he has a terrible temper." And I said he's a man who gives 103% to 105% to everything he does. I was very much impressed with his attitude. He wants you to do the same, and, if you do, you won't have any problem. In 1942, he wanted me to keep the job title "secretary" rather than be called "business manager" because he felt it was more ladylike.

-- All kinds of people showed up for Whirlaway Day on Aug. 8, 1943. They were thrilled to see him. We had to call the county patrol to handle the crowd. I've always said he put us on the map by winning the Derby. That was the beginning of our long streak of winning the prestigious races.

-- John Veitch, the last of our trainers, is a wonderful fellow. We all got along so well, and he was so nice to Mrs. Markey. He should have been an ambassador to Russia, because the Admiral would call him up and tell him what to do and not do when it came to running a horse. But the two were always close. John had a way with him that was second to none.

-- The Admiral was good for Mrs. Markey, and they loved to travel. Once when they were in England, he called me up and said, "Mawgrit" (he always called me that, Southern gentleman talk), "we're in London, England, and want to play Scrabble, and they don't have that game. Would you send us one?" I did, that same afternoon. No matter what they wanted, they would call me.

-- I started out having a party for the department heads at the farm in the 1960s. I fixed fried chicken and Frank's homegrown Kentucky wonder green beans. I couldn't stand leaving the other farm workers off the list, so after that, we invited all of the "Calumet family" of workers. Some people from outside the farm also attended, men like Ted Bassett (of Keeneland). Ted, who was a great friend of Calumet and the Markeys, loved those green beans and still does. I still give them to him.

-- The 1978 Blue Grass at Keeneland was the last time the Admiral and Mrs. Markey went to the track. Our colt Alydar, on the way to the post, stopped in front of them, standing at the rail, by the clubhouse. Alydar put his right foot out and his left front back, then bowed his head to her. It was so sweet. Ewell Rice, our yearling manager, wrote the poem "Bow to the Lady." Alydar, in my opinion, kept her alive for several extra years with his charisma.

-- What probably best sums up what we tried to accomplish at Calumet is shown in two letters we received about six months apart. The first one, from the West Coast, mentioned our "considerate ways, sense of humor, and impeccable reputation." The other, from the South, made note of our "honesty, dedication, and the fact that we were the ultimate in class."

-- When Mr. Wright died, I was helping Mrs. Wright with the thank-you notes. She said to me, "Margaret, I want you to continue to run this farm exactly the way Mr. Wright taught you to do!" I told her, "We will, Mrs. Wright. Don't worry about it." And we did.

David Schmitz, a senior staff writer for The Blood-Horse,
recently spoke with Maggie Glass.