Back in my January podcast on the Newburyport Anti-Inflation Plan, I briefly mentioned that few new homes and apartment buildings were constructed during the Great Depression and World War II. When the soldiers returned home after the war, they were flush with cash, but housing was in very short supply.
Such a dilemma was facing veteran Harry Schefers and his family of Allendale, New Jersey in December of 1946. They had been notified that they were to be evicted from their current home the following month and urgently searched for a new place to live. One complication that limited their search was that they owned a pet goat. Not exactly the kind of thing one can take into an apartment building.
But then they spotted a listing in the local newspaper for a vacancy at 472 North Maple Avenue in nearby Ridgewood. This was an upscale neighborhood, and the home was in great shape, but the landlord, Mrs. Jack Alsop, had two requirements: First, due to the current housing shortage, she would only rent to a veteran. And second, the new tenants were required to bring a goat with them.
Bingo! He was not only a vet, but the Schefers owned a goat. What were the chances?
As to why Mrs. Alsop required a goat, she explained that her son was in college and was contemplating doing experiments that focused on the bacteria contained in the goat milk.
But there was one minor problem with this whole plan: there was a question as to whether village regulations would allow a goat in a residential area.
Harry concluded that there was only one way to find out for sure: he would need to attend a Board of Health meeting and question the legality of doing so.
So, at their evening meeting on Monday, December 16, 1946, Harry stood up and asked if he was allowed to have the goat. At first, the board members thought that it was all a joke, but Harry clearly was serious in his questioning. Caught off guard, they said that they would look into the matter and get back to him.
To their surprise, they learned that Mrs. Alsop really did require the tenants to have a goat. After talking with neighbors, it was concluded that while no one really wanted to have a goat living near their homes, they would reluctantly tolerate the animal because Mr. Schefers was a veteran.
The town issued the necessary permit and the Schefers prepared to move into their new residence.
But then Mrs. Alsop reneged on the offer. In fact, she had never intended on renting the property in the first place. She explained, “I have no intentions of moving and I’ve known he couldn’t have the house since last November. I told him I didn’t think he’d be allowed to have it, but he went and applied to the Zoning Board without my knowledge, and now they said he can have it.”
So, if she had no intention of ever renting the house out, why did she place the ad in the paper in the first place? Very simple: she wanted to get even with the local zoning board. At the time, they were considering an application to build a furniture factory on property next to her residence, so Mrs. Alsop decided that she would set up a second annoying business in the neighborhood. And just what was that second annoying business? It was a goat farm.
Supposedly, Mrs. Alsop came up with the goat farm idea because neighbors had become outraged about five years earlier when she decided to keep a pet goat. It was at that time that she learned that there was no local ordinance forbidding the raising of goats in residential areas, and that served as the impetus for her crazy goat farm scheme. She never intended on ever renting out her house nor did she ever expect anyone to reply to her unusual listing. She just wanted to annoy the Planning Board. When they denied the permit to build the furniture factory, Mrs. Alsop decided to drop the whole thing. But by this time, Harry Schefers had already sought out the permit for the goat.
He told the press, “Now she says she doesn’t want any goats and she claims her whole story has made her the laughing stock in the neighborhood. The funny part is, I don’t want the goat either. All I want is a home.”
(This story was originally written and recorded for Retrocast #19, released on August 15, 2023.)