In 1954 when this photograph was taken, Floyd the turtle had been making annual springtime visits to the Toddy Inn at 7913 Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge for over twenty years, since 1933. The turtle migrated annually from his hibernation spot in a nearby back yard to the floor under a particular booth in the tavern, where he stayed for a week, taking naps and short walks around the bar. Then out he went, not to be seen again until the next year.
According to tavern legend, it all began when a customer brought Floyd into the bar in 1933 along with two other pet turtles. At loggerheads with his owner, Floyd disappeared and didn't show up again until the following year around the end of May. After that, he returned around the same time every spring.
'ALL RIGHT NOW, BRING ON THOSE HARES'-- Floyd the Tippling Turtle gets set to take a sip of brew at the Toddy Inn, 7913 5th Ave., as his traveling companion Gertrude shows off for the camera in the grasp of Mrs Walter Nielsen. Floyd, an amateur racer, recently set a record by running a "four-minute foot." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 14, 1954
Said Ralph Waites, owner of the tavern in 1953, "I don't know why he comes back. We don't do him any good or anything. We don't feed him. He sleeps under the same booth, looks the place over and goes away. Usually I see him walking into the joint from the back yard. This year, though, he was out on Fifth Ave., trying to climb in over the stoop. He was a little early."
Things took an interesting turn in 1954 when not one, but two turtles walked through the doors of the Toddy Inn. Floyd had acquired a girlfriend, named Gertrude by pub customers. Ownership of the bar had changed in the interim, and new owner Anthony Baranella was not averse to offering the traveling turtles a bite or two of lettuce. It was the least he could do for what must have been quite an attraction. Indeed it was said that Gertrude divided her time between "grubbing around in the back yard and entertaining at the bar." They didn't have Photoshop back in 1954, and it looks to me as if Floyd was about to knock that glass of beer all over Mrs Nielsen--in which case, someone might have ended up as soup.
The current occupants of 7913 Fifth Avenue, Fillmore Real Estate, are probably unaware of their building's rich reptilian history. If they ever do choose to sell the property Floyd selected as his springtime residence for so many years, the story of Floyd and Gertrude at the Toddy Inn will surely bring the buyers out of their shells.