(Transcribed from photocopy of typed version by David Jacobowitz, her grandson. The photo is from David and Linda's wedding July 14, 1976. PDF is here.)
As I Remember …ByLeah Kreinik Jacobowitz
June 13, 1881 1962
AS I REMEMBER
My life started at the end of an era, the beginning of a new one: electricity, the telephone, gas replacing oil, coal and wood burning stoves, stationary tin bathtubs in tenements (America), water in sinks instead of one pump on each floor for the tenants, and of course toilets instead of the “backhouses” in the yard, one “locker” to each floor.
The first five years of my life were spent in Zglobnia, Galicia-Austria (now Poland). It was a quiet, pastoral sort of village; white-washed cottages with thatched roofs, flowers in little gardens in front, sending forth their fragrance into the air. Fences were really pretty, made of willow withes woven like basket work. Very few houses had wooden floors, just packed down earth, easy to sweep never got muddy.
Beyond the one long main road, were fields of grain, vegetables, orchards and meadows for grazing cows and horses. The peasants were friendly, helped each other harvest time, including the Jewish farmers. There were perhaps fifteen Jewish families, dealing in farm produce, dairy and poultry which were sold in the big city market some distance away. There was a church, Catholic, with here and there on the road sacred images in framed nooks, which the Jewish children passed with averted eyes. The one big industry was a distillery, which gave employment to many peasants, and of course the Inn, or “Kretchma,” which did good business with the peasants and the Jews too. Drunkenness was not too frequent or troublesome.
My grandparents’ home was on the main road, on a corner with a rough road leading down to a brook where wading was very pleasant. In the spring that brook would overflow until the water touched the main road. The entrance of the cottage was a hall about 15’ long, dirt-packed floor, on the right a “kommer” or pantry which was a cooling room for milk, butter, eggs, etc.; on the left the customary stable for the cow, (I’m not sure we had a horse, though we used horses for plowing), and a millstone grinder for the family flour. A door at the head of the hall opened into the combination kitchen-dining room-living room, dirt-packed floor; on the left an arch with a step leading down to the bedroom, with an alcove; the floor of broad white pine boards that gleamed from scrubbing; beautiful tapestry covers on the three or four beds, and one window. In the main room there was a long wooden table with backless benches on either side, a window looking out on the garden in back. Three was a large plaster covered oven near the entrance, set deep into the wall, with an iron grate under which wood was burned, where all the cooking and baking was done. On the right side of the entrance, inside this main room, there was another wood-burning plaster covered oven used for heating. There was a nook at the top where we used to vie with the cat, climbing up for warmth.
There always seemed to be a maid servant, who milked the cow and helped generally. The milk was strained and poured into large metal (sink?) tubs, (maybe wooden ones?) and when the cream became firm, it was skimmed off and put in wooden churns to make butter, delicious buttermilk. The rest of the milk was clabber, “sour milk,” which went deliciously with new potatoes covered with butter (mm). Most of it was poured into cheese cloth bags and hung up to drip-dry, to make cottage cheese. A portion was dried more, made into pats that were cone shaped in the hollow of the hand, and dried hard. With plenty of pepper and salt in them, they were fine tidbits. Even the whey was made into creamed soup. The garden in back yielded vegetables for the table, and flowers, always flowers.
Across the road was a large pond, bordered by willow trees, which served as a skating rink in the winter. With Tante Feige, two years my senior, we played at the edge of the pond, washing our dolls’ clothes (wooden dolls) on little boards, beating them with a small “kienka,” a smooth little board shaped like a bread board, with a handle, using then arrow edge. The same method was used by the peasants. Our folks had a large metal tub in which they boiled the clothes outdoors over a wood fire. Spinning wheels were in general use, and the beautiful sheets that were produced in hand looms were spread out, wet, on the grass to bleach. It was fascinating to watch them spin the flax, wetting their fingers constantly to thin the thread, the wheel turning by foot power on some contraption.
It was a happy childhood, in my memory; playing house, climbing trees for cherries and pears, with Feige. We liked best to accompany the men to the fields harvest time. We sat on the floor planks of a large horse drawn hay wagon, our legs hanging out from between the upright poles. We were given the easy job of digging up new potatoes, while the men cut the grain with a scythe, tying it up in bundles which were piled onto the wagon. On the way home we were hoisted up on top of the heap and held on for dear life. The bundles were taken into the barn across the little road alongside the house, laid on the floor and beaten with a flail; the straw removed and the grain sifted through a large strainer, like those I have seen used by gold miners, in pictures. Tools were primitive and hand powered, except the horse drawn plows.
At the end of the harvest there was a holiday; wild blueberries, such as we know not of in modern times, were picked and Grandma would bake a huge pie in a deep dish, with a cake topping, and all hands shared, family and peasant helpers alike.
Passover was a memorable time. We shared the big oven with a few families who brought their dough. Long tables were set up on “horses,” past of dough were rolled out and placed on a large wooden spatula and eased into the oven, about six at a time. It was a gay, chattering group, both men and women working. I had the delightful job of running the stippler over the finished cakes, criss-crossing to keep them from bulging.Of course we were all orthodox, and holidays were joyous occasions. Every home had a succah. I remember ours was alongside the main room, a board affair with an open roof covered with branches, fruit, flowers. The entrance was from the outside, but there was an opening into the main room window, through which food was passed by the women who stayed indoors to serve. The New Year holy days ended with a gay Simchas Torah, the elders dancing in a ring with the little ones in the middle, singing, chanting, clapping hands, and of course feasting. We had meat only on the Sabbath and holidays. Chanukah was the usual holiday, with lights and special dishes. Purim had a background of giving to the poorer families without offense, the children carrying “shelachmonos” and usually bringing back a return gift.
The village had one “Zhandahr” (as near as I can spell the sound), who was all the law rolled into one person. He wore city clothes, was a kindly gentleman, and a frequent visitor at our house. Grandpa seemed to be the unofficial head of the Jewish community; people were always dropping in to seek advice, complain, gossip. There was very little anti-Semitism, only a vague rumor occasionally of some drunken peasant cursing the “shit” (Jew as the peasant expressed it). The Priest seemed to be liked and respected by all the population.
I particularly remember the peasant weddings, to which we were invariable invited. The prospective bride, as was the custom, would come in with her mother, k eel in front of grandma, putting her arms around her knees and say “prose pane,” which meant please madam, implying an invitation. Grandma always had a bolt of cotton material to give the bride. Once I was allowed to attend a wedding nearby, but was warned not to eat anything except a “shishka,” a round fancy edged sort of cookie without shortening and slightly sweetened, with egg polish on top. Fiddlers made the gayest music, the dancing was fast and furious, the groom chasing the bride up the ladder leading to the loft, his hands, I must admit, reaching up her skirts to tickle her. As of today, I see it as natural, clean sex, regarded as open fun, nothing dirty about it.
I do not remember much of my father in those early years. He was a restless, impatient, independent man, as I grew to learn, giving up the customary year’s “kest” which newlyweds were entitled to (free board) and took himself off to London, as Mother told us. He didn’t find his fortune there, came back to the village, and eventually emigrated to America. Meanwhile, a baby brother was born when I was about two, who did not survive. It must have been two years after that, when Mother was carrying Anna, that Papa went to America. A few months later, when Anna was about a month old, he sent us tickets for our passage by boat, steerage, taking not less than three weeks to cross over.
Our home was a tiny apartment back of Papa’s shop, where he manufactured clothing as a contractor for men'’ stores. Mother worked hard, even I pulled bastings out of garments, the thread often cutting my fingers. A year or so later Irving was born, and Mother’s health broke down. She not only helped in the shop, but always had boarders, “landsleit” who came to America and made our home their first stop until they found a place of their own. Papa decided to send us back home to our grandparents where Mother could get rest and fresh air. Irving was six months old then, and not very strong either. Before long Mother rented a cottage, with Marinka, or Marishka as we affectionately called her, acting as our housekeeper. She had been Mother’s wet nurse, Grandma having been unable to nurse her – no bottles those days; was a sweet, cheerful, motherly person who adored Mother and us. She was like another Grandmother to us.
Mother’s education consisted of Yiddish reading and writing Hebrew enough to enable her to dovven; but her greatest knowledge came from her heart, from the ethics as taught in the Bible and by the folks themselves. She was a beautiful woman, as you may see by photos still in existence. Never will I forget the lessons in behavior she taught us; if a person falls in an awkward position, don’t laugh; they may be hurt, she said. There was a hunchback in the village at whom the “shkotsim,” peasant kids, used to throw stones. When they saw Mother, they’d stop and run, and she taught me the meaning of compassion. Marinka had her own pot and dishes to prepare her special dish, “spirka” (pork). I stood and watched her eat one time, and made a shuddering motion. Mother slapped me, saying “Marinka can eat that, though we cannot, and you must never spoil her pleasure.” I’ve always been grateful for that slap, a rare one for Mother. She scolded us, “hollered” at us, but did not slap or spank.
I remember a fire in my grandfather’s barn, which I think affected the house too; the bucket brigade of fire fighters, working desperately to keep the fire from spreading to the thatched roof houses close by. The pond in front of the house certainly served a good purpose. It was also the scene of a humorous incident when Irving was a about was about a year old. It was a windy day, and we children spread the alarm when we saw his straw hat floating in the water, but no Irving around. Out came Mother, Grandma, the Polish maid, even the cobbler next door who was very fond of the baby, they jumped in, one after the other, grappling in the muddy bottom, screaming in fright. Suddenly a loud voice exclaimed: “You crazy people, here he is.” The baby had been with Grandpa in back all the time.
I liked getting off at times by myself, walking in the fields on the other side of the pond, up a slope. Footpaths divided the fields at intervals, and I’d spread my shawl in one of them and lie down. The ripening grain stalks, full eared and swaying gently in the soft wind, touching each other, making small silvery sounds as though whispering little secrets to each other. Poppies and cornflowers, so very red and blue, were sprinkled all through the stalks, birds were flying across the sky, so blue and clear, the good earth smell making me sleepy. I grew up a little then, I think, for I said to myself, out loud, “What a beautiful world it is.”
I had an insatiable drive for listening to grown folks talk, learning what was going on, shooed off by my mother and resenting it; mischievous, fun loving as all children are, but dreading scenes, then and always in later life, compromising if a principle wasn’t involved. If it was, I fought back without compromise. My earliest “compromise” was when I had to take little Anna along when I went out to play with children my own age. She insisted on coming along, stamped her feet in a tantrum if I refused, until she lost her breath and got blue in the face. Mother had to slap her back until she got her breath again, and little Anna tagged along. I mention this only because herself analyzed it as loss of her babyhood when Irving was born fourteen months after her. But it could not have been so; she was a golden haired, blue eyed, round faced little doll, adored just as much as the dark haired and brown eyed Irving.
There was a natural pool hollowed out in the brook not far from our house, and we would go there to bathe, as is. Once, returning from our private bathing resort, a big Dalmatian, foaming at the mouth, came running towards us. We ran for dear life, but I stumbled and fell prone. The dog ran right over me, and bit the last little girl in the running group – a fatal accident. Whether true or false, I heard in later years that a mad dog will not bite a fallen human being (?).
Another “once” when again angels were watching over me, I always believed, was when I was about three or four years old. Mother and I were visiting a neighbor, and three or four children and I were leaning over the open well in front of the house, making faces, throwing pebbles in, yelling to get an echo. I leaned over too far and fell in, but my dress, made of good strong percale, caught on a nail, and the yelling soon brought rescue. Incidents like that impress themselves indelibly.
School (shkolla) was compulsory – in the 1880’s, if you please, by order of the good Kaiser Franz Jozef, and we were taught in Polish and German, some domestic arts too, all of which was a delight and absorbing activity for me. In the afternoon I attended Cheder to learn Hebrew, and this leads me to another “once.” The Rebbe was a young married man with a wife and three or four “once a year” children, living in a tiny one room house, the room serving as the school. It must have been a nerve-racking job. I don’t remember the cause, whether mischief or backtalk, but I got a caning which left me black and blue, couldn’t sit down for days and slept on my stomach. Mother showed my condition to Grandpa, and he was furious, determined to do something about it. In Shule on the Sabbath, services conducted in a home, Grandpa announced a “Din Torah,” (court of law according to the Bible) and much to my embarrassment, displayed me to the congregation. There was indignation, recrimination, threat of discharge … Ah well, the Rebbe is a poor man, where will he go, how will he make a living? … and so he stayed . But he never punished me again.
Our stay must have lasted about two years, when Papa sent for us. We went back to America, steerage again. My English was about gone, but I soon caught up with the kids on the street, and they didn’t dare call me “greenhorn.” It was near the end of the school term, so I was put in the lowest grade, the 6th (grades were classified down, 6th to 1st) primary, and of course I was left back. After my high marks in Europe, this was the blackest day of my childhood: me, ME, left back, unthinkable: However, the foundation I got in my native village stood me in good stead later.
Papa was doing well at that time; bought a lovely little house in St. Marks Pl. Brooklyn, called East New York, on the edge of Brownsville. There was plenty of ground around it, some fruit trees, and Mama’s green thumb soon made us a vegetable garden. Papa had the vision to make a closed porch outside the house, with glass above the wooden lower part. He built a big barn like structure in the rear, which he used for his manufacturing business, and turned it into a Synagogue on the Sabbath.
My first day in school was a memorable one. It was a few blocks away inside Brownsville, which was then a village with mostly unpaved streets and dirt roads, but pretty small houses in many of the streets. By that time I knew enough English to be put in the 5th grade, still a baby class for a nine year old. The teacher had examined me, and in class she asked me to stand in front and tell a story. Nothing loathe, I gave them “Little Red Riding hood.” Some of the children laughed, but I felt they laughed with, not at me – I knew I still had an accent – and I was in. From that time on I had a piece to recite every Friday in assembly.
My English had caught up with what I had learned in Europe, and at end of term I was put in the 3rd grade, from there to the 1st, and then Grammar School in Brooklyn, not too far off. In three weeks I was skipped from the 8th to the 7th; at the end of the term, into the 5th, and from there into the 3rd, which I almost finished in New York. That was equivalent to 7B as grades are figured today. That was the end of my schooling, except part of a term later on when we moved to Buffalo; some night school classes, but mainly reading, reading, reading. I haunted the Grace Aguilar Free Library in the Jewish Educational Institute on East Broadway. Somewhat of a perfectionist, I took pride in checking my grammar and spelling, using the dictionary for new words I came across.
In the interim Papa sold the house, the most beautiful home we ever had; probably a slump in business. Nettie was born there, a most welcome baby, four years after Irving. She was my charge, “minding” her in the carriage outdoors, getting in what play I could with other children. There was one Friday morning when I was still attending primary school in Brownsville, when Mama was out shopping for Shabbos, and was late coming back. I had my “piece” to recite, it was raining hard, the streets were muddy, and I almost missed getting into school. The Janitor was closing the doors, but he let me in when I told him about my piece. I edged into my group, muddy high rubber boots, white dress bedraggled, suppressing sobs, holding a tired dahlia in my hand. It was something about Spring, with the punch line “And I give this rose to you” – the teacher. Some kids tittered, of course, but I guess my teacher was satisfied.
Our second home was in Brownsville, which Papa bought in the exchange for the other. It was a pretty cottage in a neighborhood of other nice cottages, and there, too, Papa build a shop-Synagogue in the rear. Before too long, probably less than two years, that house was exchanged for another further up in Brownsville, still sparsely settled. It was a three story loft building with a store on the ground floor, which Papa fitted out as a saloon. There were factories near, workmen who bought beer on their way home, but business was never good. Papa had his shop on the second floor, and the third floor was rented for some kind of manufacturing. Mama was the barmaid in the daytime, I helped after school (I was in the grammar grades then), and Papa tended in the evening. Our rooms were in the rear of the store; Mae and her twin, which didn’t survive, were born there, and a year or more later Celia was born. Mama was a pretty worked out woman. Papa had no “sitzfleish,” the grass was always greener somewhere else, in the hope of making good for his family. So like Jack and the Beanstalk, only he didn’t have even a bean in the end.
I recall a noteworthy incident in connection with the tenant in the top floor. The man also owned a grocery store, usually tended by his wife. He became delinquent in payment of rent for the shop, refused to pay, denied he even owed it, and Papa sued him. Our lawyer was a young man by the name of Rieger, and I was a witness at the trial. I was Papa’s bookkeeper, secretary, did all his banking, and knew all the circumstances. I was sworn in, the Judge asked me if I knew the meaning of the oath, and I replied that I knew it was a sin to tell a lie. The defendant denied flatly that he knew me, or that he owed any rent (I always made out the receipts), and indignantly I spoke up without being asked, that it wasn’t true: “Wasn’t I in your store and bought sugar and flour to help you pay your rent?” That did it. We won the case, but whether Papa ever collected or not I do not remember. But Mr. Rieger was my idol for a long time.
Grammar school was my Shangri-La, my Dreamland, where I escaped into a world of wonders. I made two close friends, Josie Vandervere and Daisy [copy obscured] .. we were like the proverbial Three Musketeers, always at the [obscured] the class, skipping together from the 5th to the 3rd grade. We [obscured] teacher named Miss Marion, and once she invited the three of us to her home for tea after school. What a thrilling experience for me! There was a small table, set with dainty little cups and saucers, a dish of sandwiches and cakes. One little Jewish girl, one aristocratic child of Dutch or Danish parentage (I found the name still in the Brooklyn phone book), and one fat, fun-loving little girl, probably of Irish parentage. We used to meet in Daisy’s garden, not far from the St. Marks house, whenever I could get away, for fun and play in their shady grape arbor.
Papa lost the last house, and we moved back to the East Side in New York. I attended school on Broome St., and there met Jennie Jacobowitz, (yes, your aunt) and Fanny Semel. We became a threesome too, sharing our reading matter, exchanging confidences. Besides books and magazines, we shared “The Family Story Paper,” with its lurid serial love stories, especially by Laura Jean Libby (whom we nicknamed Laura Lean Jibby), like the modern True Stories. In one of the stories, there was an illustration of a young man in a tree, and a beauteous girl on the shore, barefoot, saying: “I want to go back and be a child again.” THAT cured me! We three were close friends for many years.
Times were hard; home meant hand to mouth living, with occasional breaks of prosperity, when Papa found nothing too good for us. Mother worked hard, in the shop as well as home, with frequent invasions of landsleit. One steady boarder was Uncle Max, Mother’s youngest brother, working in the shop, learning the trade. Children worked in sweatshops as well as at home, “homework” their mothers brought in. We shelter our children nowadays in a way we couldn’t do when I was a child. Working papers could be obtained at age fourteen; they worked at home without them.
As I have indicated, I was Papa’s secretary and errand girl from the time I could read and write. In the Brooklyn era he sent me to New York with his bank deposits in the Bowery bank, which is impressed on my mind because I was terrified of the Brooklyn Bridge, expecting it to come crashing down any minute. From the Bank was just a short distance to Baxter St., to pick up trimmings for his trade from his customers. It was a notorious street even then; noisy, cheap, the clothing shopper’s mecca. Store after store of men’s clothing, with a man outside “barking” and pulling in customers with guile.
Another one of my business trips for Papa I remember very well, because I had to take a train to Tottenville, S.I., first going to the Battery for the Staten Island Ferry, and buying my ticket for the train. I had to see the town biggie, Mr. Totten himself, who owned our mortgage, bringing a check for interest on the Brownsville house, and persuading him to give Papa an extension of time on the due mortgage. I worshipped my father, thought he was the smartest man in the world, of high integrity, an artist in his line, but too temperamental for sustained success. He was a leader in the community wherever we lived, thought he always refused to hold office in his Shule, preferring to be the guide behind the chair.
While I was in school in New York, (that 3rd grade), things were pretty bad financially, and Papa got the idea I might get a small job in one of the big stores, and so at twelve years of age, I became a cash girl in Bloomingdale’s at $3.00 a week. The job lasted three weeks because Papa wouldn’t let me work on the Sabbath, so I brought home, after carfare and a day’s loss, just $2.00. About this time we moved to Buffalo, where Uncle Aaron had established himself, and since that was the beginning of a new period for me, I’d like to go back to my family background, to sort of round out the story of my beginnings.
It is good to know your ancestry [sic] were people of some education, intelligence and refinement, according to the manner of their times and the laws of their religion. On the paternal side, Zvie Chaim and Rachel Kreinik, lived in a town larger than my village. They were in the garment business (which Father really hated but wasn’t trained for anything else) and once a year the sons, Nathan, Zalmon and Aaron, would take a load of finished garments to Krakow, where there was a Kirmash, a sort of Carnival and open market, to sell their stock. I remember that trip because it was the occasion also of Uncle Aaron’s wedding to Tante Gittel in Krakow. Papa was in America, as I have already written, and Mama, Anna, Irving and I were back in Europe for Mother’s health.
Grandma Kreinik was a tall, slim, lively person, who held herself very straight. She adored us, made much of me because I was so much older than Anna and Irving, and had American tricks to show off, like jumping double rope and other Americanisms, which had the native children goggle eyed. Uncle Nathan, the eldest, was the only one who remained in Europe.
The trip to Krakow, as I have mentioned, was for business and Uncle Aaron’s wedding. Marriages were made by parents, and they rarely turned out wrong; divorces were almost like a legend. The wedding festivities lasted a whole week, as was customary, at the end of which the “Sheva Broches” – seventh day blessings, were pronounced. May I point out that this was a tradition of “Family Cleanliness,” a whole week’s waiting, after the marriage, with ritual bath on the 7th day, to promote healing. There were no sex diseases when this law was obeyed. There was feasting and dancing every evening, the women getting together every day for their own klatches, and altogether it was a happy time. There is an old photo of Mother and the three of us, which pictures me in the costume I wore at the wedding: a beribboned white dress with a red velvet vest trimmed with gold braid, and scalloped edges. In that costume I danced with another cousin, doing a dance called “The Krakowianka,” a sort of Virginia reel, up and down the aisle, everyone applauding us.
Krakow reminds me of another incident which occurred when we were on our way back to America after two years in Europe. The train stopped for an hour, and little Anna, three years old, decided she’d go for a walk and disappeared. When the train was ready to start, no Anna. The alarm went out, all of us went looking for her. The trainmen were extraordinarily kind, agreeing to hold the train for fifteen minutes, but no longer. At last a policemen came along with her, just in the nick of time. But we missed the boat at Rotterdam, Holland. The station was closed, it was late at night, and we had no place to stay. We had plenty of food along, however. Mama, with her usual initiative, started our small group walking and we came to a large estate, a big mansion, with outbuildings. We knocked, the gatekeeper went for “Herr,” who proved to be a kindly gentleman. He heard Mama’s story, and told her he had only one place where we could spend the night: the big stable where all the domestic animals were housed; but it was warm, and there were some empty stalls with clean straw. The one we occupied was next to a calf’s, which kept poking its head over the partition, scaring us kids. Mama reassured us, and finally we slept. In the morning this kindly gentleman brought us coffee and rolls.
We walked back to the station, and eventually boarded a boat to America, steerage again, with its horrible conditions: straw ballets on double tier boards, sanitary comforts strictly primitive, food handed out in tin plates on the upper deck. In my group I was the only one who could go up the first days, seasickness never bothered me on any of the trips, and I collected big boiled-in-jackets potatoes, glassy looking sweetened rice with big raisins in it, coarse black bread, and chickory (sic) coffee in tin cups—luxury! Of course Mama had her hardtack and spicy “gomelkes,” the dried cone-shaped cheese cakes I’ve mentioned, and other food. I climbed up on deck every chance I had, and folks in the second class treated me with fruit and other dainties.
Back to the folks again. My maternal grandparents, Joel and Rachel Krantz. Grandpa was a tall, slim, blue-eyed man with a reddish brown beard, always carrying himself straight and erect. Grandma was short and stout, her stomach filled her lap when she sat—the effect of having borne eleven children with the aid of a midwife. Only four survived; Mother, Uncle Jake, Uncle Max and Tante Feige. Only Max remains, now living in Brighton Beach with my sister Mae—of whom later. Grandma was serenely calm, patient, gentle, generous and hard-working. There was butter to churn, at which I was delighted to be allowed to help, clabber to be made into cheese, as already mentioned, and the weekly bread baking. This was made of natural, honest rye flour, the baked loaves giving forth an aroma that lingers in my taste memory. A thick slice of that black bread, spread generously with fresh butter, sometimes a cut clove of garlic rubbed over the crust, and it was a feast. I was allowed to grind the cord (Bible name for rye or wheat) in the home made mill in the barn. This consisted of two big round stones, with a hole in the middle, a stick attached to a contraptions on top and fitted into the top grindstone through a smaller hold. The stick was grasped and pulled round and round, the stones ground the grain, and the meal dropped into a container underneath.
We went to the big town at intervals by horse and wagon to sell our dairy produce – a big city called Rzeszow, which, in the way of Jewish folk with all names, they pronounced “Reishe.” Once when Mother let me come along, we saw the Kaiser when he was passing through. A crowd waited at the station, and when the train slowed, Franz Josef stood on the platform, bowing and smiling in the most friendly way. Mother put me on her shoulders so I had a perfect view of the last of the “good” kings of Austria.
Grandpa was definitely the boss, grandma never talking back. I got the feeling, from Mother’s attitude, that she wished Grandma would do just that occasionally – talk back. Meekness was never Mother’s way, though she had long-enduring patience with my quick tempered Father, knowing he did his best, but she had her limits. She told us children of her early romance with Father, which became a true love match. It was customary then for a family to farm out their boys to families in different towns where there was no Hebrew School, to teach, receiving board and lodging and perhaps a small stipend. With only two years’ difference in their ages, Father nevertheless became her “Bolfar” (teacher), and used to tease her a lot when not teaching. Once he climbed a cherry tree and kept throwing pits down at her. She had a sore toe and couldn’t climb, but he refused to toss down any cherries, until she became angry and shouted she was going up, score toe or not, and throw him down. She got the cherries. When they grew old enough for marriage, neither would look at the candidates presented to them; and so they were married. It was a marriage full of trials and tribulations, mainly through economic troubles, but always cooperation, sympathetic understanding. She survived him by a scant six months.
The stable attached to the house had one cow, and milking time I’d go in with my little cup and have it filled with fresh, foaming, warm milk. Germs? Who ever heard of them? The milk was strained, however. One memorable incident is worth recording, for it gave me a lesson in the essential goodness of human beings. The cow was about to drop her calf, and the poor animal was in apparent great agony. The women fussed about her, called in a couple of men to help. One of them washed his arm and thrust it slowly into the animal. From the talk I understood the calf was lying across the opening. Gently, slowly, the man worked; the other man stood at the cow’s head and fed her salt, stroking her head with a gentle hand, crooning to her like a mother to her baby, and at last the calf was born. Immediately Mama Cow started to lick her baby clean, and all was well. The gentleness, the sympathy of those people, simple peasants …..
We moved to Buffalo about 1893, where Uncle Aaron had established himself with his family. He was afflicted with wanderlust too, for in later years he moved to the South. The struggle for existence never let up. Father opened a tailoring shop, Mother and I helped as usual. I attended school for half a term, then Papa needed me to run errands, and do some of the sewing. His work was beautiful, being a perfectionist.
Running errands downtown suited me fine, because on the way there was a public library, and I’d stop in and read as long as I dared, often too long, and I’d get punished. I read David Copperfield in installments. A cobbler by the name of Mosely lived next door. They had three boys, and the father bought them a set of Cooper; they had lots of books. I’d drift in there every chance I had and read, until recalled. I did that probably too often, so Papa requested Mr. Mosely not to let me read there and I was forbidden to go in. I was in the middle of a wonderful story about a boy named Philip, who came over to America in the time of Columbus, and never finished it. Anybody know the end? I couldn’t forgive my father for that; a slap would have been easier to take.
After a time I got a job in a printing shop in Buffalo at $3.50 an week, and they tolerated my staying away on Saturday. I operated a press which cut out picture cards, and I enjoyed it. They published books too, and they showed me how to do book binding – and of course I read the books during lunch hour. I left that job to go to a secretarial school.
Papa had a customer who operated this school, and he made a deal with him to make him a $50 suit in exchange for tuition. Don’t get Papa wrong. He was a strict disciplinarian, loved us devotedly, but never showed his affection after each child was about four years old. He did all the kissing and hugging until then, but after that he was afraid it would "spoil” them; and we were afraid of him. Papa had has dreams too, would have like to give us an education. Irving was the apple of his eye, dressed him in clothes no other child had, Little Lord Fauntleroy suits even to a specially ordered high silk hat and a cane. For me, he bragged how “smart”’ I was, predicted I would some day be a great lawyer. Poor Papa. He let out all that suppressed love on his grandchildren, and even the children, after we were grown up and married.
The school was conducted in one large room, a smaller room on the side for typewriters. I was fascinated by the text book, the Eclectic System of shorthand (which nobody has ever heard about), and avidly practiced the symbols at home. The schoolroom was loosely divided into four sections. The first grade didn’t hold me long before I was listening to dictation in the second grade, and taking it down; then the third and final fourth. The teacher couldn’t and didn’t want to hold me back. Typing was taught touch system, but (like Papa?) I had no patience, and wanted to be as fast as the best of them, so typed with two fingers of each hand, rapidly. The course was six months; I mastered shorthand in one month, and stayed another month to polish up my shorthand and typing. I wasn’t so smart, just compulsively eager to learn. I was ready for a job.
Papa sent me by train to New York (where he always hoped to return), to stay with Uncle Jake and Aunt Jennie (Mother’s brother) on the lower East Side. I was fifteen, and what did I know about getting a job? Timidly, half scared, but putting on an assured manner, I went on Broadway going into stores and shops, inquiring whether a stenographer was needed. I finally entered a lingerie factory and asked to see the forelady. There was a twinkle in her eye as she listened to me, told me they had no opening for me, but she had a friend who ran a Public Stenography office, and might employ me. I got a job there at $5.00 a week, and I was in business. Half went to Aunt Jennie for board, supplemented by helping with the laundry and housecleaning on Sundays. I soon got another jobs, each a little better than the last, and landed in a law office. That was a wonderful experience. The head stenographer was capable and efficient, and most of my work was under her at first. The firm was (Judge) Wahle & Stone, who were closely associated with the then famous law firm of Friend, House & Grossman, political biggies. I learned rapidly, took down briefs, was able to fill out forms for minor cases, according to district. Mr. Stone (Jewish) was well named, tough but clever, and he did most of the research work. I worked hard, didn’t mind overtime, and once I even went to jail to take dictation from a client who was in for something I do not recall. He was preparing an article about SHOES, of all things, their history from way back; but it was most interesting, with many illustrations. He had his lunch sent in while I was there, and insisted on my sharing it – turkey and fixings, because it was Thanksgiving time.
It wasn’t long before the family moved back to New York, only about six months after I’d left Buffalo. I had $85 saved up; carfare and lunch money was I needed to spend, and I proudly contributed this sum towards new furniture. We lived in a four room tenement, the “front room” used as a bedroom at night.
The law job became too much for my health, though I was getting the big salary of $10 a week, which was faithfully turned over to the folks. I was allowed 10 cents a day for carfare and a nickel to spend with my dry lunch. I was proud of being able to help.
My next job was with The New Idea Pattern Co., manufacturers of tissue dress patterns. I was private secretary to the boss and his son. The latter’s education was not too good, and I corrected his English, until finally he just made notes on letters and I answered them myself, to his evident satisfaction. I became bored with this after a while, because I wasn’t kept busy, couldn’t read with an open office full of other employees, and when vacation time came (two weeks with pay), which of course I turned over to Papa, I had the urge to have some case of my own, so I spent those two weeks filling a vacation vacancy for some other girl, at $15 a week, with the Michigan Condensed Milk Co., later becoming my future employers. Mother, too, was in need of some extra cash, so we made a pact; she would get one week’s salary and I would keep the other, without Papa’s knowledge. What a wonderful time I had with that money! On Sunday I took the three older children and a friend, Regina, whom I had met at a relative’s wedding and became my friend permanently, to Glen Island, a little water resort in the Bronx, I think, like a bit of Coney Island. We had a picnic lunch on the beach, ice cream, soda, etc., the younger children wading. I felt like a millionaire.
The Educational Alliance on East Broadway in New York had a fine library, classes for immigrants, young people's art classes, etc., and a social service department with vacation facilities for underprivileged or low income young people. They maintained a non-profit vacation home in the mountains and in Bellport, L.I., on the Sound. The following summer I registered for Regina and myself for two weeks (Regina worked at passementerie,-- braided work and applique pieces), and we paid $6 a week. The food was kosher, very good and nourishing, and the bathing was a delight. There was a very charming young lady who shared our room the first week, named Fanny Newman. She was a school teacher, had lovely manners, and unconsciously introduced us to one or two social graces;l but she could talk a blue streak, much to our delight. We watched her make her bed: who ever heard of two sheets on a bed? Regina and I looked at each other and later burst out laughing; at last we knew why we had tow sheets on our beds! In later years I learned Miss Newman was one of the Jacobowitz family, a cousin of also very talkative Newmans. I taught myself to swim that summer, Regina watching me, too scared to do more than dunk, while I tried and went down, again and again, until I made it!
Papa was doing better now, had a good many nice steady customers in his store on Amsterdam Ave. I had a craving for music, always loved it, and the folks agreed to let me buy a second-hand piano, a Minterroth, with a down payment and $5 a month. I engaged an elderly German teacher who had a heavy accent but fingers that made beautiful music, at $1 a lesson per week. I had him for two years, learned to play a great deal of classical and operatic music. I started having parties of my own, inviting friends, cousins, but the most enjoyable evenings were with family, singing in harmony with Anna, Irving, and any of the others who could join, many of the old favorites.
Those teen years were on whole happy ones. One of my most enjoyable diversions, was the Saturday afternoon after business matinee at Hammerstein's Theatre on Broadway and 42nd St., where I saw some wonderful shows for 25 cents. Many future stars performed there,whose names I cannot recall. There was the Great Magician Thurston; Mark Twain with his glorious head of bushy white hair, giving his humorous talk. I read all his books, loved them. There was Will Rogers with his delightful patter and rope tricks. Then, too, I'd wait until evening, meet one of the girls, and we'd get gallery seats at the opera. I had the pleasure of hearing Enrico Caruso, the great Schumann-Meinck, who could sing the heart out of you, and many other great stars of that period.
Anna was my companion and confidante; we were very close in spite of the difference in our ages, took walks together, dreamed our dreams in perfect understanding. But there had to be a change, and I began to pay more attention to friends my own age. There was a fine organization, a men's club similar to the YMHA, on East Broadway, calling itself the Young Men's Benevolent Association. Some fine young men came out of that group: the late Judge Hartman, Myron Ernst, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and one young man who loved to make speeches and participate in lectures: who else? Elias Jacobowitz. Fanny, Jennie and I, as well as Nettie Goodman and a number of other friends, used to attend these lectures on week ends, and of course dances. Henry Goodman (no relation to Nettie) was Elias' shadow as well as his brother-in-law. Eventually the YMBA invited the girls to form a group of their own, which became "The Ladies' Circle of the YMBA." I served as one of its Presidents. Together with the main group as well as on our own, we arranged balls and other social affairs. Elias gave a lecture once, titled "Individual, Whence Thy Individuality?" It was of course meant to deflate the ego in people, make them aware of all they owed to God, parents, and circumstances. The script should be among Pop's papers. He was highly respected, especially as he had the courage to challenge the more educated college fellows, in spite of his still remaining accent. I might mention here that Pop told me he had attended the same primary grade school in Brownsville that I did, but for a much shorter time; his education, like mine, acquired from avid reading.
There was another group formed by YMBA members, called "The Classic Reading Circle." We met at different homes once a week to read the classics, starting with Shakespeare. We were assigned parts and read them as dramatically as we were able. That was right where I lived: I loved dramatics, and did know how to read Shakespeare. There were Dr. Tannenbaum (all the girls had a crush on him, but he was already engaged) Mr. Hartman, later Judge, head of the Hebrew Orphans' Home; the Hartman sisters, Dr. Gettinger, my own friends, and many others. We discussed the plays, and had some stimulating evenings.
You have often heard the story of my meeting with Elias. He was a pessimist who worked for optimism, perhaps a little bit like the prophets of old, who scolded and bewailed, and then gave hope. Henry Goodman was courting Fanny, and the three of them often got together and had discussions, but nobody could get the last word with Elias. Fanny, in frustration, told them she had a friend who could beat him in an argument. She arranged a meeting, and so we met, though neither of us was aware of the scheme. Fanny egged Elias on, and she started to argue that the world was going to the dogs; look at the crimes, robberies, divorces, exploitation of labor, crooked politics, etc., etc. I reacted at once, and in a courtroom manner inquired: "How many criminals do you personally know, how many divorcees, how many robbers, ex-convicts, crooked or other politicians do you know? Evidently you are a newspaper headline thinker. Of course there are crooks and evil people, and they make news, but decent people don't often get into the papers, or make headlines, and they are all around you," I argued. Elias always had a wonderful sense of humor, which is why he could never remain a pessimist; he was as quick at seeing a joke on himself as on others. And so we became friends, often made a foursome with Fanny and Henry at outings, excursions. We met at joint meetings of the YMBA, where I also met a certain redhead to whom I was attracted; a nice but timid young man too shy to date me seriously, though he did invite me to his sister's home where he was living, and again to an aunt's home in Jersey City. I learned he was financially unable to consider marrying. At group affairs we danced together, and while Elias was always in our particular set, he never cared to learn dancing, and so the redhead was usually my partner.
I may not have these incidents in chronological order, nor have much interest in them for you, but at least they are part of my (story), and true. All my impressions came from my keen interest in the life around me. Here I come to what may be considered a turning point in my life. I was employed by the Condensed Milk Co. then , and had a siege of bronchitis that left me with a persistent cough. We were living uptown on Third Ave., in a poorly ventilated apartment in back of Papa's store. I was eighteen, tall and thin, probably anaemic, and on the way to the office on the "El" one morning, I fainted in the middle of the crowd getting off at my station, Chambers St. They put me on a bench on the platform, and when I revived, they called my boss, who came for me, made me go home after I'd rested. In a few days I went back to work again.
My father was scared, as he always was when one of the children became sick enough to need a doctor. My persistent cough worried him, as well as Mother, and he thought of the possibility of TB. Remembering the famous Hospital in Denver, Colo., he told me to ask my doctor whether it wouldn't be advisable for me to go there. And that, dear children, was the break I was subconsciously waiting for; a chance, perhaps, to get away. After examination, the doctor said I was very much improved, and as for going to Denver, a little vacation of two or three weeks in the mountains would be fine, and I'd be all right. (Dick, the doctor prescribed Peptomangin as a tonic.) But it would be good for me, I persisted, to go to Denver? and he replied, oh yes, if I wanted to go away that far. All the years of silent conflict with Papa, his strict ways, his mistrust and ridicule of my friends, and withal my admiration and respect for him, had reduced me to conforming, to dreading scenes which made a nervous wreck of me. And so I compromised with my conscience and told him half the truth, that Denver would be good for me. I was tired of my friends twit me because I was afraid of coming home a minute late, of getting scolded even slapped. I realized in time of course, years later, that he was scared, we lived in a poor neighborhood, and I might have been in danger.
Plans were immediately started for my journey to Denver. One of the bookkeepers in the office, Willie Shropshire, a nice young Southerner, told me he had a sister who was ill with what her doctor suspected might be TB in the stomach. It would be a fine thing if we went out West together, as she did not care to go alone. We met at the office, my boss took us out to lunch, and that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship was never broken. Cassa Irene Shropshire (Hon) was a small, dainty, fun-loving, college educated and most intelligent young woman of twenty-seven. She was employed as a secretary by The Continental Tobacco Co., and after we made our plans, they transferred her to the Denver office.
We had a jolly trip, and several hours' stopover in Chicago, giving us time to sight-see around the Lake, and in Denver found a boarding house without any trouble. After three weeks I applied at the Remington office and immediately found temporary work. The girl in charge gave me the usual test, and while the standard rate was $2 or $2.50 a day, when asked and got $4 for me. I never did take time to learn the touch system, but I was pretty rapid with my two fingers of each hand, could take dictation at 125 to 150 words a minute. Papa wanted me to rest, sent money for my expenses, but I soon stopped that and returned one money order for $50 of my own. He refused to accept any more, however.
It wasn't long before I got a regular job in a RR business office at $80 a month. In an office pigeonhole I found a thick little volume titled "A Stuffed Club", which meant, I found out later, that you had to use a stuffed club on people sometimes to knock any sense into them. It was a collection of a little monthly magazine by Dr. John H. Tilden, and I began to read it in idle moments, became absorbed in it. I liked his common sense theory of auto-toxemia, that we create our own toxic condition of the stomach through wrong eating, bad food combinations, thus causing gas to inflame the mucous membrane and give distress. Even wrong mental attitude, tension, strong emotions, could bring on a toxic condition. I brought the book home to Hon, and it appealed to her immediately, as it had to me. At the office I was told he was a crackpot, a quack, and all the medical profession hated him because he upset their theories of medical practice. We called him, made an appointment and found him to be a stocky, middle aged, good natured but very decided personality. He was delighted with us because of the way we found him, and never sent us a bill. He put Hon on a liquid diet for a week to eliminate the toxic poisons from her digestive system, gradually increasing her diet. Her health improved by leaps and bounds; there never was any TB in her stomach or lungs, nor any in mine. Both of us had to eliminate butter, sugar and starches from our regular diet; there was enough of these elements for the body's needs in fresh fruit and vegetables. We could eat lean meat, lamb, chicken, fish. Half our meals were a combination salad, which we put through a meat grinder, consisting of lettuce, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes and walnuts; occasionally adding fresh fruits in season; no bread (except breakfast toast much later on), no coffee or tea, the one beverage being T-kettle tea (hot water and milk half and half); chicken soup with rice or barley, slowly cooked until the chicken fell apart.
I craved sweets so much that I found it hard to pass a candy store. When I told Dr. Tilden about this, he told me to buy as much as I wanted, eat all I wanted, and then miss the next meal or two if I weren't comfortable. He maintained that adherence to a proper diet should enable one to indulge in rich dessert once a week, such as ice cream, cake. We went without breakfast, only water, for some time, starting the day with a could or tepid bath and rigorous rubdown. We thrived on this regime. Dr. Tilden's "Toxemia Explained" is a little book worth reading, even by today's medical men, in this era of drugs, drugs, for every little ache or discomfort. He wasn't a crack pot or quack. After 15 years as a G.P. and surgeon, his frustrations in trying to cure patients with constantly recurring colds and other ills, caused him to begin a research an experiment with food values, nutrition, combinations, and their effects on human systems, o two being alike. "Vitamins" wasn't a household word then: starches, carbohydrates, minerals, proteins, proteins, or what have you. A simple analysis was: starches blended best with fruit and vegetables; meats needed green salads, non-starchy vegetables, fruit; no water at meals, an hour or two after meals if desired, or before meals, because water taken with meals diluted the food too much and washed down minerals before digestion. Never eat when not hungry or comfortable at meal times, or emotionally upset; s=kip it and wait for the next regular meal. If a patient cheated, he could detect it by his way of smelling a patient's breath -- don't laugh, he could tell! We heard a racket once while waiting our turn, and learned the man was forbidden to smoke, and cheated; out the door he went and was told not to come back. His patients were mostly "last hope" sufferers; even a doctor from back East somewhere who had heard of him through a patient of Dr. Tilden's, came to him in a bitter, nothing-to-lose mood. He was helped to good health, because his disciple, and eventually opened an office in California to practice medicine without medication; he contributed articles to the magazine. Dr. Tilden tried to teach people how to live, eating for good health; he no longer practiced surgery. I have had many occasions to practice this philosophy in past years, having been called on by almost all the members of the family for help throughout the early years of my married life.
Both Han and I having good positions, we were able to go on picnic trips week ends, exploring the beautiful country. We were in Silver Plume one time, and were taken down an elevator shaft to see the mine works. Another time we went to Golden, a rough mining town, and of course Colorado Springs, where for a fee we went into The Garden of The Gods, with its fascinating rock formations simulating figures. We saw real Indians there doing a dance, a troupe of about a dozen stalwart men in native dress. We didn't go up Pike's Peak because Hon was afraid of the altitude: I was willing, but not alone. Another time we went as far as the Grand Canyon; fore a dollar fee we rode down on a burro, our hearts in our mouth for fear the little burro would miss his step on those narrow paths. The gorgeous coloring of the rock sides of the Canyon, the river at the bottom looking like a silver thread. It was as though Nature hated to close up such a beautiful Valley. We attended rodeos several times too.
We came to Denver the last half of 1899, the time of the Spanish-American War, -- "Remember the Maine". At its end, Hon and I stood on the curb on Denver's main street and watched the parade of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders; grinning and bowing, smiling toothily, waving his big hat. He made a speech on the Capitol steps, and I'm glad I remember one sentence: "If a man hasn't got it in him, you can't get it out of him."
I wasn't brave about my health all the time; used to feel "green" in the face every time I met a person who coughed, until I met Dr. Tilden; he took all the fear away from me for the rest of my life. I never went out to Colfax, the Denver suburb where the great Hospital was located. The climate agreed with me from the start, no trouble breathing, no nose bleed. I loved it enough to buy a five-acre lot in a new residential section, dreaming of the folks coming out to join me ....
The RR office closed when a change was made, so I went back to freelancing again. My most interesting job was with a group investigating political chicanery, a scandal about spoiled beef in cans fed to American soldiers in the war just ended. One of the accused was General Alger, who it seemed had an interest in the packing company, one way or another. I don't remember the result, but it's history, and can be checked.
Don't tell anyone: the chairman, my boss, made me a "proposition" to accompany him to the St. Louis Fair, then being prepared; I'd get clothes, diamonds (a girl's "best" friend) nice hotels, etc. That was the second time during my Denver sojourn. I squelched them in the corniest melodramatic way you could think of, which even then gave me a secret laugh: "How would you like it if it were your sister or daughter to whom such a proposition was made?" It worked. I do not have to tell you that I had ideals, self respect; my dreams of a future mate and lover were idealistic; my person was my own, I would have no dowry except my clean life. My mother had her children at home; I was used to the miracle of birth and life, was awed by it, but the only lesson she gave me about the birds and the bees was 'drei shrit fon leib", meaning keep them at arms' length, three steps from the body.
My next job, also by way of the Remington office, was with another investigating committee after a stormy election. I was getting $6 a day, a very high rate for that time. There was vote repeating, ballot stuffing, beatings, etc., and I took depositions from patched up witnesses. Then the Committee had "proceedings supplemental to execution", whatever that meant, and I was doing well.
Then came my last job before leaving Denver, with a mine promotion company, advertising stock at "cheap" installment rates, and the gullible public sent in a constantly flowing stream of cash. They had a genuine mining engineer, an old German has-been, and both of use became suspicious of the "unexpected assessments", petered out mines, bankrupt units, etc.; but we were inexperienced and didn't know what to do about it. The boss had given me a certificate of stock in the company, in order to serve as official secretary, and I felt trapped. However, the folks had been urging me to come home, and I figured it was a good time to quit. I had made up a comprehensive schedule or chart of customers, with the rates and time of payments due and made, and the boss hated to see me leave. I received several urgent letters from Mr. O'Hara asking me to come back at a much higher salary; eventually I sent him an invitation to my wedding.
Hon had met a young ex-clergyman who came to her office selling books and pamphlets, and they were drawn to each other at once. He had given up preaching in the Presbyterian Church because there was too much fire and brimstone in its tenets. With seven college degrees, he nevertheless always remained the scholar who somehow did not fit in secular life, much like the old Hebrew scholars who were learned but couldn't make a living; and like those scholars, he found the loving and devoted wife to whom that didn't matter. They were married in the Episcopalian Church, and I was maid of honor. "Boy" (as Hon always called him) had a friend who acted as best man, and the four of us had a delightful wedding feast in a restaurant. Hon was the go-getter, established a purchasing for customers agency. After settling in NY, with a regular business office which they ran together, Boy doing the bank and paper work. Pop and I exchanged visits with them occasionally, and always enjoyed the company. We invited them at Succoth time once at 89 Oak St., when he proudly displayed his knowledge of Hebrew. We had a permanent succah, made out of a small back porch, put up a cantilever roof, decorated the opening with branches, fruit, flowers. They were delightful people. Pop enjoyed listening to Boy expound his theory of numerology as recorded on the Pyramids, giving proof of the predictions in the Bible that had been fulfilled. He believed Britain was descended from one of the twelve tribes, "Bret" meaning Covenant. Interesting. There was actually a sect in England that believed this. Hon passed away in 1961; John a few year earlier. I corresponded with Hon, getting lively letters from her.
Going back a little, Hon and John shared with me the apartment we had before their marriage, a few months later moving to El Paso, Texas. I moved back with the same people we had previously lived with, with kitchen privileges, cooking my own meals. The Fontaines were a friendly childless couple, and often called me out of my bedroom, where I usually stayed to read and do little chores, to play the piano for them, keep them company. Their house was next door to Dr. Tilden's, where I was occasionally invited for Sunday dinner.
I affiliated myself with the Conservative Temple soon after settling in Denver, volunteered my services as a Sunday School teacher (!), and fund some wonderful friends. One family in particular, with boys and girls my own age and a large coterie of friends, used to get together week ends for diversion; music, lively talk, dancing, and engaging in my own hobby of camera snapshots taken in the park.
I was often invited to dinner Friday night, where I enjoyed the Sabbath atmosphere, with candles on the table. They were wonderful to me, lifted my morale when I needed it most, because I had to get over my shyness and habit of "loneness," always conscious of not "butting in."
I started for home in the Spring of 1902, a little disappointed at having to miss going to Yellowstone Park, which I had planned to see. I stopped off in El Paso to visit the Stephenses for a few days; had a delightful visit, a trip to Juarez, Mexico, right across the border, saw interesting places, and even attended a bull fight, which we walked out on before it was finished -- a cruel sport. I bought some Mexican hand embroidered scarves, which in a spirit of fun Hon advised me to hide in my coat sleeve, just to see if I could get away without paying the border tax, and very properly lost it on the way back.
My next stop was at Uncle Aaron's, who had settled in a small town in Louisiana, operating a dry goods store with the aid of a nephew of Tante Gittel's. It was Passover time, so I stayed two or three weeks, and had a very enjoyable time. There were very few, if any, Jewish families there, and the neighbors, perhaps out of curiosity, then real friendliness, invited us to our parties, dances, which Tante helped me reciprocate with her hospitality. The nephew sort of rushed me, and proposed marriage. He was a nice boy, still rather foreign, and it was nice to be liked. I had vague ideas of helping him get an American education, and wrote home about him. I wasn't really serious, just playing with the idea, and I got some good "advice" from home, Ann writing for the folks, urging me to come home.
My next stop was with relatives in St. Louis, and I had a chance to see the Fair, which was a thrilling experience, though it was not yet finished; and so home. I got my old job back with the Condensed Milk Co. but this time I kept $5 a week out of my salary for myself, which was enough, especially as papa made my outer clothing, always the best. No more tensions, and a better, finer understanding and love. The folks were amenable about my some changes in diet, especially green salads, which they learned to value. The older children were working, Anna contributing the bulk of her earnings, the way I used to, Nettie earning her expenses in High School by tending the school lunch counter. Each of them, as they grew old enough to work, paid board, holding on to their independence.
The years from 1902-1906, when Pop and I were married (1906), were happy ones. My old friends rallied round me, I resumed my membership in 'The Circle' of the YMBA, (Anna was an active member by this time), and we had week-end gatherings at home, with music, games, camera parties; no cards needed. Pop was in the crowd, of course, most of them remaining friends after marriage. Pop began courting me in earnest then. The YMBA ran a dance (Ball, as it was called) at the Armory in midtown, and Elias invited me. He came in a horse-drawn Hansom Cab (a left-over of the old horse and carriage days before autos, then used for lovers' rides in the park). When he escorted me down, he expected me to be overwhelmed (as he told me afterwards), but to his secret disappointment I took it in stride, hiding my surprise, and entered the cab as if to the manner born. Had a wonderful time, but danced with the Redhead most of the evening, while Elias looked on. But he never gave up, thank God, though he was warned against me by members of his own family, that I was a TB, would make a sickly wife. We became formally engaged on my birthday (the 23rd [June 13, 1904]), with a big family party.
Eli startled me soon after with the proposition that we move to Denver; he would get a job there, and if the climate was better for me, there we would live. He was earning $15 a week, the engagement brought hi8m the generous advance of $2.00 a week, and we started putting away what Pop called "bricks" to build our home. He gave me $10 a week to save with what I could put away, Papa saving the bulk of my salary for the wedding. Out of the $7 Elias had left, he paid $5.00 a week board to Aunt Mollie, and with the other $2.00 we splurged by dining once a week (Thursday on his evening off from the job in Jersey City) at Lorber's on Grand Street.
I used to meet him at the Desbrosses St. Ferry after office hours, we walked to the restaurant, where we had a full course dinner for 50¢ and a modest tip. Pop never gave me candy or flowers -- who needed them -- he had more practical use for his hard earned money; tending store from early morning until after midnight six days a week. We would ride home after dinner on the trolley and sit in the front room, planning, dreaming, acting like lovers the world over; the small kids running in and out, having fun with us. Ruthie was about six then, a cute bright kid, and once we took her along to Coney Island on a Sunday, and watched the dancing in the public hall. Eli couldn't, and I wouldn't, so Ruthie said "Come on Eli, let's slide."
After my engagement, or course a new era started for me. But those few years after my return from Denver were very satisfying ones. There were summer vacations, real ones this time, in the mountain House of The Educational Alliance. Anna, Fanny, Nettie G. and Regina were with me, and we met a jolly group of girls with whom we had loads of fun. There were singing fests, improvised dramatics, bedtime horsing around in our bedrooms,m and of course camera takes. The group lined up one afternoon, sitting on the ground feet foremost, and we chalked the soles of the shoes with letters reading "The Merry Bunch." One girl was a student of voice with a beautiful contralto voice, and I learned two or three of the lullabies I used to sing to the grandchildren, from her; I even took a few lessons from her in New York. & kept up friendly contact with these girls for a long time.
Mother worked hard, what with all the cooking, baking, marketing once a week for the Sabbath downtown (we were living at W. 81st St. then), going by street car and bringing back large bundles. We helped with the laundry and weekly cleaning on Sundays. Mother rarely laid a hand on us; she tried her best with scolding, scolding. She was a woman without a "gall," the Jewish word for bitterness; charitable almost beyond the limit of her meager means, loved by the neighbors, Jew or non-Jew. A characteristic incident took place during her last illness in the Brighton Beach Home (Anna's). Mae had come to live there in order to nurse Mother, and she instructed Mae to be sure and deliver all her numerous charity boxes ("pishkas") to the Rabbi, and not to forget the seeds she had promised the Italian garbage collector, or cuttings, from her beautiful flowers in the tiny garden. In the days when we were growing up and she became angry or frustrated over our behavior, she used a most picturesque line of "nisht" (not) curses instead of slapping us: that was Papa's way. Like "a cholera zoll dich nisht treffen," or this or that should "nisht" happen to you -- the first anyone can understand. [Cholera should not meet you. Never should you get cholera.]
[page 34. crossed out.] During my early teen years I had one regular pleasure that made up for many of the things I had to do without. Saturday was a half day, and after lunch (in economical Childs) I went to Farmerstein's Vaudeville Theatre on 42nd & Broadway, and for 25¢ saw an excellent show. Some stage greats made their start there. I remember well Mark Twain, with his head of beautiful bushy white hair, giving a humorous talk. I read all his books, the Huckleberry Finns, my favorite "Pudd'n Head Wilson," and others. There was Will Rogers with his delightful patter and rope tricks. Sometime one or two of my friends would meet me in the evening and we'd get a gallery seat at the Met. I heard most of the fine operas, but the outstanding artists were Enrico Caruso and Madame Schumann-Heink, with the contralto voice the pulled at your heartstrings; many other opera stars of that day.]
Here is an incident I happened to mention to George, and he was interested enough to make me think perhaps the rest of you will be also. There was a newspaper story telling how it was possible to take a trip all the way through New England entirely by trolley. I told Fanny and Nettie G. about it, and their imaginations were fired like mine. We made our arrangements, and we went on a ten day trip. It was vacation time for me. The first lap had to be by train from New York to Stamford, Conn., but from there on we went entirely by trolley from one town to another, sleeping in YWCA hotels, which were very reasonable and meals were in pennies. We stopped in Kennebunkport, Boston, wherever our fancy took us, all the way up to Portland, Me. We visited Lake Sebago and the famous Springs (?) where we had a drink of the mineral water, had a boat ride on the lake, and altogether had a most enjoyable trip. We came back the same way, trolley.
Wedding invitations were issued one to a family in those days, and that meant the whole family, with just a prayer that the small fry would be left at home. Father Wolf Jacobowitz performed the ceremony, just as in due time he performed the ritual ceremony for Bud and Norman. The reception was in Manhattan Lyceum on E. 4th St. Over six hundred people came (four hundred invitations issued), besides many gate crashers, and the tables were set four times, yet Mother had some chickens to take home.
For a wedding present the brothers gave Pop a $3.00 raise, making a total of $20 a week, and one day free for a honeymoon. We went shopping for furniture to Siegel's Department on 6th Ave. & 18th St., famous then for its fountain in the middle of the store -- "Meet me at the Fountain" was their slogan. At the end of the week there was a little party at home, for the "Shevah Broches," and then we began our married life in Jersey City. Pop had rented an apartment on Wayne St ., downtown Jersey City, in a two story house the top floor of which was converted, the bathroom being on the lower floor.
Before the end of our first year, December 24th, (1906) Ruth was born, and then we moved into a five-room railroad flat on Montgomery St. My sister Mae came to live with me there, to help with the new baby after school. She remained with us until we had to make another change -- a most welcome and lovable member of our little family.
The business of the Jacobowitz Brothers expanded, several additional stores were opened, besides going into wholesale. Pop had to take charge of the newest store on Bergen Ave. at Montgomery St., and we moved into a makeshift apartment above the store, three rooms, a lavatory but no bathroom. Pop was always keenly responsible for his family, nothing but the best he was able to get. We needed a bathroom, so he improvised one by installing a gas hot water heater in the kitchen, and had a bath tub put in, making the kitchen just big enough for one. We made the best of it.
Miriam was on the way by then, and we acquired our first boarder. Aunt Jennie had been living with Aunt Mollie for many years, just as Max and Pop used to. Their own family was growing, and there was no longer room for Jennie, so after living with a friend a while, she came to us. She remained with us until her marriage six or seven years later, after we had bought our first home on Virginia Ave. Pop made a success of the store, had saved up enough too make a down payment, and we moved into our new home. Miriam was born just two years after Ruth, and the new house had a roomy garden in the back for them to play in. It was a two-family house, and we had a nice Irish family downstairs.
As financial affairs improved for us, I was able to go away to the country for summer vacations, Pop coming in every other week-end. Not to brag, but to point out Pop's ambition and foresight, we were the first to buy a house, the first to install a telephone, the first to buy a radio, and the first to buy a car. Of course the brothers followed suit, all in the course of time. We had a middle aged Irish woman, Mrs. Mangin, to help with the housework, at $10. a month. Pop had a chore man of sorts, old Ryan, good natured, seldom sober, and he used to come around to Virginia Ave. to do chores for me too. Those two used to enjoy a bottle of beer down in the cellar. I remember Ryan mainly because Pop felt so badly when the poor old man died practically in the gutter.
Miriam was nineteen months old when Bud was born. Both girls were beautiful children (pictures prove it). Miriam an adorable curly red-haired baby in contrast to Ruth's light brown hair. I remember putting Miriam in her high chair, playing with her toys so quietly that I sometimes forgot she was there, while I was busy, until I'd find her asleep with her head on her little table; not a sound, not a whimper! I wonder if that outer patience was to be the mother of the inner patience I know she has today....
All three children were born at my folks' home in New York, where I was a regular regular visitor every Sunday when Pop had to work. I was slow in getting acquainted with Jersey City, had no social life there, and it was more fun going "home" to a loving family. I travelled by ferry and elevated train, and after closing Pop would come over and take us home.
Buddy's birthday was the occasion of a double affair: his Brith and the engagement of Jennie to Adolph Treuhaft. My folks prepared a banquet, the Jacobowitz family were invited, and Father J. performed both ceremonies. Orthodox people still wrote the "Contract" of marriage those days. On the day of Eugene's birth, Ruth and Miriam were in Riverside Park with Cousin "Dan" (Sam, as Ruth called him), and when they came back, Miriam took a look at that big baby (the doctor said he was 13 pounds), tickled him and said "Hi-ya Fatty-Fatty", and both girls called him "Buddy."
We were always such happy parents. I continued to travel with the three children to the folks every other Sunday, where we were made so welcome. I delighted in watching people stare and smile at the sight of us sitting together in the train, the girls dressed up in the beautiful coats Papa made for them. I made all their clothes, up to their teen ages; Anna did her share too.
Norman came along two years after Bud; was born in the Monmouth Hospital, Long Branch, the only one born in a hospital; Norman was a quick, easy delivery, though he was slow in getting started. I stayed in a four-bed semi ward, with three women of very different personalities, but we got along beautifully. One was a Polish woman who spoke very little English, and she kept us in "stitches" -- a different kind, aided and abetted by the interns who tried to fool us by mixing up the babies.
Now the trips to the folks included Norman. He was almost two years old when I knew there would be another addition to the family, and that was the first time I had a rebellion. No, I wasn't going to live in a crowded apartment with five children and two and a half bedrooms! About that time I had been taking care of Father Jacobowitz, who was ill with dropsy; my step mother-in-law was there of course with him, and they stayed a month. I did the best I could, which wasn't more than light diet, rubdown, and cheerful atmosphere. He loved the touch of my hands -- "goldene hent", he said. He was a saintly man, never a go-getter, but he was capable of borrowing five dollars from a friend in order to help another friend. He used the innate psychological approach in bringing up his family, never laid a hand on them. Like the time Pop told me, when he came home at an unholy hour from a card game, and his father was already saying his early morning prayers. He didn't stop "dovening" but when he folded up his tefillen, he said to Eli: "I didn't expect that from a son of mine." That was enough to make Pop give up cards until after we were married. Father J. passed away at his home soon after, and we named Toddy after him, female version, Zelda; her middle name, the first being "Pessel" after a step-grandmother who used to bring little extras under her apron to the orphans. Pop never forgot a kindness, and so Paula Zelda was named.
Pop lost no time going out house hunting, and almost the first "For Sale" sign he saw was at 89 Oak St., and he lost no time buying it. I might add here that I never went out house or apartment hunting; Pop had a fine sense of values, examined every corner, every closet, and knew just whet we would need, and the Oak St. house was wonderfully right: eight rooms, a small front porch, a back stoop with Pop enlarged later, and a nice big yard. Mother used to say if she had so much ground, she'd have a garden with flowers and
vegetables; I told her I was "growing children." The entrance hall led to stars going up, and further down to the kitchen; on the left the good sized living room, with window seats, cupboards on the bottom; next a library, opening with rolling doors, bay windows and window seats there also; then the dining room looking out to the back yard. Upstairs a bathroom on the right, a small room beyond, and another room alongside, both looking South; in the middle another room, and beyond that, the front master bedroom, bay windowed with the usual boxed-in seats, and an alcove large enough for twin beds and a night table. A lovely home.
As usual, Anna came to help us get settled, in time for Passover. Life at 89 Oak St. was happy, often exciting; we lived there about ten years until Ruth was eighteen. Toddy was ten months old when we celebrated our tenth anniversary, doing my own catering with the help of a "girl", and in the middle of things having to run upstairs to nurse the baby. Ruth made up an anniversary song (starting her career as a talented Hadassah programmer):
"Who are we? We are the Jacobowitz Family;
"Who are we? We are the Jacobowitz Family;
And we in it? Well, I guess:
Jacobowitz, Jacobowitz, yes, yes, yes!"
The foursome were the hit of the party.
Our fifteenth anniversary was an equally happy home affair The girls were growing up nicely; Ruth a teenager with lovely curls, brown, Miriam with equally lovely red curls. Artie Pepis, Mae's husband, keeps coming back to mind. He loved our family, especially "Red", helping to serve, untiring in his efforts.
Billy (Wilfred Zeph) was born almost three years after Toddy, completing the family in nice round numbers -- another redhead. The party for the Brith was quite an event, someone asking 'Is this your FIRST child?"
It is difficult to write about him. All of you will remember him well, his high intelligence, the warmth of his love, his eagerness to learn, to participate in all the activities of the family. He was four or five when he wanted a bicycle, a two-wheeler, and Pop thought he was too young, so he offered to prove he could manage one, and demonstrated by riding one of the boys' bicycles, catching successfully the foot pedals as they rose, He got the bicycle. He and Toddy occupied twin beds in the back bedroom, and Bud used to bribe him to come into the double bed where he slept with Norman in the middle room, to come in to be warmed up and get kissed.....
Life wasn't all work and raising a family. We were well integrated socially in Jersey City, and our friends were now married. We kept together throughout the years. Fanny married David Kornfield, Nettie (Goodman, no relation to Henry Goodman) became Mrs. Sol Amster, and Henry married a Jersey City girl, Celia Kluger. Jennie was Mrs. Adolph Treuhaft, occasional members of the group;l there were the Ben Hirschhorns, the Bill Sunshines, and later we added the David Glucks, Mannie Engbers and Edgar Sterns. Seven of the couples remained throughout the years. We gave dinner parties in turn, with pinochle and bridge the rest of the evening. New Year's meant theatre, community dinner at one of the homes at midnight, with horsing around and lots of fun. We eventually tired of these late parties, and settled for dinner at six, expenses shared, cards after dinner, and a midnight snack to celebrate the new year.
The Hirschhorns moved to Mt. Freedom where they operated a summer cottage colony, and for a number of years we were invited to spend the Decoration Day week ends, or as they occurred, at two or three of the still unoccupied cottages,. We brought in cooked food, each taking care of one item (I brought the kosher meats of course), expenses shared. We had a big seven passenger Studebaker by then, and we carried as many as could get in, plus some of the children. Fanny Kornfield drove the only other car.
You have all heard the story, but because it was important in the raising of our family, I'll record it here. Six children, the baby about a year and a half old at this particular time, each an individualist, there were bound to be clashes,, teasing, small fights, etc. I got tired of hearing "Ma- this, or Ma - that" and getting them straightened out, so I had a small brainstorm, and evolved a system of self-government. Each child was to be Judge for a week, settle all disputes and quarrels, decide punishment: such as do dessert, early to bed without Amos & Andy on the radio, no movies, or no allowance (such wee ones!), etc. It worked like a charm; they all obeyed the Judge, to save their own turn; besides, the Judge had the privilege of deciding where Pop would take us on the Sunday outings. For years, until they outgrew this method, our friends used to ask us: "Who's the Judge this week?"
An outstanding event was one week when Bud was the Judge. Miriam had broken off the gate leading to our back yard, using it as a swing once too often, and the Judge found it too much for his ruling, so they decided on having a "trial." Pop and I sat on the side, mere spectators. Norman was the prosecuting attorney, Ruth for the defense. Norman pointed out that Miriam was old enough to know better than to destroy property, that it was a conscious piece of mischief, etc., and must pay for the damage. Ruth, defending, started by acknowledging at once that the prosecutor was absolutely right, that property must not be wantonly destroyed, --BUT, we must remember that Miriam was not an ordinary child; she was a Redhead, and Redheads are often Tomboys, without intention of doing mischief, and -- "The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle dew from Heaven..." she quoted. They were reading "The Merchant of Venice" in High School at that time. Pop and I sat there speechless, almost overwhelmed. Bud decided that payment must be made, however, and consulted us as to the cost of the repairs., We thought $1.50 would cover it, so Miriam was to pay half, we would take care of the balance. Payment was at the rate of 5¢ per week out of her allowance,which we collected for about three weeks -- then nobody seemed to remember any more.
I am reluctant to write down another incident which occurred during this time, but both Ruth and Miriam don't want me to leave it out. Both of us tried to bring the children up right, and emphasized the moral of telling the truth; that they would never be punished for telling the truth, no matter what it was. Miriam hated to admit when she did something wrong, and would evade or deny. A doll was missing (Toddy's I think), and we couldn't find it. At lunch time, while the children were at table, I took some freshly ironed clothes upstairs to put away, and in one of the drawers I found this doll, broken. I brought it down, while the children were still at table, and confronted Miriam, in whose drawer I had found it. She sat crestfallen, not saying a word. I said "Miriam, I've tried to teach you not to lie, that I would never punish you for telling the truth, no matter what. But you haven't learned, even after punishing you; I can only think I am a bad mother, and YOU will have to punish me! I got down on my knees in front of her chair, and demanded that she slap my face. I still tremble over this. She pleaded "No, Mommy, no Mommy!", but I grasped her hands and slapped my face with them ... After that, Miriam leaned backward in truth telling, coming to me with the least mishap. My beloved Redhead! We so rarely laid a hand on the children, only when it was something that just needed a spank.
Pop and I never countermanded each others' orders or decisions. The children knew that, and used us occasionally. If Pop said "no" to a request, they'd say, "but Mother said I could", or the other way round, and it worked for them most of the time. Pop had his own way of disciplining the boys, like the time when Bud and Norman, just beginning High School, complained that they had no time to "doven" in the morning; other boys in H.S. never did, and they had to run to be on time. Some mornings I had to run after them with a glass of orange juice because they had no time for breakfast (do they EVER get up on time?). This is what Pop said to them: "You know a cow, or a horse, or a pig, when it rises in the morning goes immediately for the trough or feeding bag and never says a prayer. Of course if you want to be like an animal, that's up to you. But if you put on the Tefillen for only five minutes or even less, just long enough to say the opening prayer, it will put you above the animals, raise you to spiritual heights." (It worked until they were on their own.)
Our piano was Pop's first wedding present for me, and was a source of great pleasure to the family. Ruth and Miriam took lessons, and I played whenever I got the chance, and together we sang, songs old and new. Every birthday was observed with a party, making up our own skits which we dramatized on an improvised stage: a sheet hung on the rolling doors bar between the living room and library, a candle placed right to make shadows. Friends of the children, neighbors, cousins, were always invited; one of us did the narrating. These performances were staged on other occasions, holidays, anniversaries. Friday nights we often got together for impromptu theatricals. Being Sabbath, we did not play the piano, but that did not stop the family. Toddy would go upstairs, deck herself out in old chiffon dresses, scarves and chains of beads, a veil half over her face, and come floating down the stairs. Norman stood at the foot of the steps, making a spiel, announcing "the famous world-renowned Paulina, Zeldind, Fatima, Farina, Jacobina, etc., who would do an oriental dance. And she did, gyrating gracefully like a ballerina; she brought down the house. Norman usually convulsed with a Charlie Chaplin imitation.
Nobody could tell stories or recount incidents the way Pop did. At the dinner table he kept us in hilarious laughter, making a production out of incidents that occurred during the day, sometimes repeating the same story, but never the same way, so it seemed like a different story, but recognizable. Bud used to laugh himself off the chair; he actually broke one from repeated falls. There were exceptions, of course, when things had gone wrong for Pop in the business, or some mishap at the table, and Pop would lay down the law.
So many incidents impressed themselves on my mind, and while they may be trifling or even boring, they made up the sum of what "I Remember." There was the Black Tom explosion during World War I, which most of you older children must remember. There was a terrifying report, shaking houses, breaking windows, smashing store fronts. Frightened people ran around on the streets. The children were awakened, Bud and Norman came into our bedroom, holding hands, Bud asking: "Is the Kaiser here?" Pop got dressed, saying he'd go see what happened to Fairmount Hall (our jointly owned building) store windows, and Ruth insisted on going along. Our own windows were intact, because we never closed them tight, but the store windows were smashed, and there must have been looting.,
Pop was intensely civic minded, took an active interest in City politics, and was never afraid to challenge the administration when he thought there was injustice or unfairness,. He wrote letters to the newspapers, attended public meetings which were announced as "open", and had his say. The late Frank Hague was the "Boss" of the City for many years, and arbitrarily drove "trouble makers" out of town, especially Socialists. Pop believed strongly in the American Four Freedoms, especially Freedom of Speech. Norman Thomas and Dorothy Thompson, Socialists, made a date t speak in jersey City, and no one would rent them a hall. Hague threatened to have them escorted to the Tube, get them out of town. I don't remember exactly the details, but Pop offered them Fairmount Hall, and there was a crowd which almost got out of hand. A minister was persuaded to attend, and if trouble was started, he was to stand up and start prayer., There were loud arguments but no actual trouble. But Freedom of Speech was maintained. In spite of Pop's fighting them, they respected him and let him alone. Once Buddy, wearing his beloved torn sweater, which he would not let me mend, was actually picked up by a policemen as a vagrant, and at the station when they asked his name, they said: "Elias Jacobowitz?" ... Go on -- get out of here!" Just the same, the police and fire departments were the finest, with prompt and most efficient service -- as we had cause to learn more than once, as you will see.
I like to think back on the way the children "planned" our next home. Pop, who eventually became a Realtor, liked to explore any new home that was built, and one of the children usually accompanied him, often two or three while I sat in the car: I wasn't interested in what I could not buy, didn't want to get envious. Whenever we were out driving, one or another would point out some beautiful home we passed, and exclaim: "That's Mommy's house!" I acquired hundreds of homes that way.
The most fun we had was going to the Beach. Once Pop drove a little too fast, and a policeman stopped him, was about to give him a ticket, when he looked in the car, filled with kids, always including two or three nieces and nephews, or friends, and he said: "Are these all yours? ... go on, but if you want to kill yourself, do it when you're alone."
- page 45 -
We always had a lovely time at the folks'. We used their house as a dressing room, ate our meals there, which I tried to prepare without too many additions for Mother. The ride home was welcome, Pop with the boys in front, I sat in the back with a child in my lap, one at each shoulder, often sleeping, but they always woke up in time to ask: "Buy me an ice cream cone, Pop?" And Pop always did.
The Amsters were with us one Sunday when we drove out into the country and stopped for a picnic lunch near a brook. The children waded, and Billy fell in, had to be completely stripped. We all burst out laughing, found a new shirt in the pocket of the care which Grandma had made for Norman and was forgotten, and put it on Billy. That started us laughing again; the sleeves hung down to the ground, the shirt tail trailed. The Amsters said they'd never seen a family like ours -- laughter instead of a spanking. On the way home we were caught in a tornado-like storm, rain fell in sheets, trees were uprooted, clogging the roads, stalling cars. When we finally got through, Nettie said, "Thank God we were with a religious family."
Oak St. was in the main a friendly, middle class neighborhood; people too busy making a living to bother other people, their religion or way of life, a live-and-let-live neighborhood. The O'Neals (that's the way they spelled it), were wonderful next door neighbors. They admired our Chanukah lights in the window, we admired their beautiful Christmas trees. We gave them matzoths and the meal cakes to sample our Passover, Mrs. O'Neal apologetic because she couldn't reciprocate, we being orthodox. Her bachelor brother "Uncle Joe", was a dour sort of friend of all the kids, giving them rides in his car. He admired Pop so much he wouldn't let any lawyer write his will except Pop, whom he trusted more. (DJ:Was Elias a lawyer?)
Besides the O'Neals as well as the several Jewish families we knew well, there were the Nelsons, McGavins, Pearsons, and many others whose names I do not recall; but there was one family across the way in an apartment to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, and I cannot recall even their name. The children had a good reputation, played with the neighborhood children, Jew or Gentile, and one night this neighbor, who was an engineer on the Manhattan R.R. to New York, resting at his front window after his night shift, noticed a man walking through the alley between our house and the O'Neal';s, a lighted cigaret in his mouth. Knowing our boys didn't smoke, he watched the man disappear around the back. Then the neighbor saw a gleam of a flashlight at the screened dining room window, and immediately called the police. It didn't take five minutes, and the police came and surrounded the house, came in to inquire and search up and down, found no one. I asked where was the burglar supposed to be, and when he answered, "Right here, 89 Oak St.", we were frightened. Of course the whole household was roused, the police found the opened window in the dining room, and then Miriam saw movement in the back hedges, and her yells sent the police around hunting, guns in their hands. There was an exchange of shots, the burglar jumped over the hedges into the back yard of a house facing the next street, but couldn't be found. His coat and shoes were on the ground under our window. The police took over, waiting until dawn, when they saw movement in the alley of the house where the man had disappeared, and called to him to halt. He made a run for it and the police shot him down. It was found he was a notorious "pants pocket" burglar from New York. Miriam had to be a witness, and was proud of the 50¢ fee she received from the Court. We knew God's angels were watching.
More than once the O'Neals proved helpful neighbors. The children were instructed to call Mrs. O'Neal in case there was any trouble while I had to be out for any length of time, and once, when I had forgotten to shut off the boiler in the cellar, the noise and the steam seeping up the stairs frightened Billy, and he called her on the phone. She came in at once, went down and shut off the steam, I think at the risk of her life or getting scalded. There was another time .....
Uncle Adolph had an opportunity to go into business with a relative in Scranton, Pa., and left his family in Jersey City until he could complete arrangements for their apartment. Aunt Jennie and the children, Mimi and Buddie (Evelyn was born a few years later) came to stay with us, because it meant a month's rent saved just for the few days they needed -- three days at most; which, however, turned into three weeks. Aunt Jennie had to do shopping in New York, but somehow the days went by, and she went once in a while, taking it easy, preferring to stay around the house and be entertaining and charming. It was a needed vacation for her most likely, but it didn't help my own work. I might add Aunt Jennie paid her share of table expenses, was most hospitable in her own home, and generous.
I gave them Toddy and Billy's bedroom with the twin beds; where my own two slept I don't remember -- probably Toddy with the girls in the big double bed, Billy with Bud and Norman. Eight children to send off to school, plus three grownups to feed, lunch to prepare, listening to Aunt Jennie's stories, and getting "nervouser and nervouser" ... At the end of three weeks they were ready to go, and I immediately broke down with a violent headache, fever and semi-consciousness. That was another time Mrs. O'Neal was called in by the children, and she ministered to me until Aunt Ruth came in answer to our call for help. Mrs. O'Neal told me later she was sure I was dying; but there must have been steel in my system for in a few days I was well again.
Some time later I had a miscarriage; Dr. Carr, who attended me, called Emergency and I was taken to the hospital. Pop came home to a frightened family, and when he got to the hospital he was told to summon all the male members of the family he could get hold of, for a transfusion. I own my life to the late Dr. Cosgrove, who had at first given me a saline transfusion, had one arm in a coat sleeve when he glanced at me again, and immediately called Pop back. Pop drove like mad, picked up his brothers Morris and Max, nephew Milton and cousin Sydney Janowitz. At the hospital Milton collapsed in a chair at the sight of the needle, but Pop insisted on being first, and the test proved our blood matched exactly, and saved me.
Here is where I want to apologize to Ruth, again, for telling her, as I was carried out on the stretcher, 'If anything happens to me, Ruth, take care of Billy.' What a thing to burden a sixteen-year old child with, even though she was mature in intelligence, a lovely young lady.
Pop provided her with driving lessons. Pop refused to stay and rest in the hospital, as he was advised to do after the transfusion; he was going home to his family, stiff arm or not! After I was strong enough to leave the hospital, I had three weeks' vacation in Atlantic City, accompanied by Aunt Theresa, who stayed two weeks, at the Breakers Hotel. It was under a different management in those days, quiet and gracious.
A year or so later, there was a recurrence of this trouble for me. This time I didn't wait until the last minute before calling the doctor, and again I was hospitalized. Ruth accompanied me in the ambulance, and I was promptly taken care of. That meant another "vacation" for me. Twice since then I was hospitalized for different reasons, once a minor operation, another time for a gall bladder operation, both quick recoveries.
Perhaps at this point I should go back to the beginning of my social life in Jersey City. When Ruth was about six, going to school on Virginia Ave., we began to think about Jewish education. We belonged to a little Synagogue housed in a private house not far from Pop's Bergen Ave. store, too far for small children to go for lessons, and no regular Hebrew school anyway. I had become acquainted with a few of the Jewish people in the neighborhood: the Richmans who ran the Variety Store on Jackson Ave., the Halperins of the drug store, the Sharrs, photographers, a few on Oak St., and others. We started talking about this, and arranged a meeting. We rounded up thirteen women, all of us with small children ready for a Jewish education, and organized. Without a Synagogue to sponsor us, we called ourselves "The Bergen Auxiliary" -- of whatever Shule would be built in the future. Open your mouth at a gathering of this sort and someone is sure to put a "Chair" in your mouth, and you become President, willy-nilly. I occupied that chair for seventeen years, with a two year interval before the last two years, when Hannah Greenside took over. We prospered and grew to be the finest Jewish organization in the Bergen section. At first we rented a hall over a store in the neighborhood, engaged a Hebrew teacher, made a drive for funds, an annual ball with an ad Journal for which we scouted around the city, and ran other little affairs with programs we created ourselves, besides the usual meetings and Board meetings. We grew to about four hundred and fifty members.
The men got busy too, raised funds, in which Pop was very active, and Agudath Sholom Synagogue was built. Classes were held in the Vestry of the Synagogue, and the Auxiliary met there also. We celebrated our third anniversary there, with a skit I wrote, directed and played in, called "The Schatchen" (Matchmaker). That skit, by the way, was plagiarized entirely by the daughter of one of our own members. It was produced on Broadway, in company with other one-act plays, and was given rave notices. I was angry, of course, and called up the "author" and asked her how she liked the success of my own play. Of course she denied copying, said she had had that idea long before, etc. It was an undignified thing to fight over, and I let it go; after all, it wasn't such a brilliant idea that someone else couldn't have the brainchild .....
The Auxiliary found itself crowded in the Vestry room, the leaders of the Synagogue objecting to some to some of our programs, and we began saving seriously for a regular Hebrew School. There was a vacant lot in back of the Synagogue, and after due consultation with the elders, we paid a deposit of $100 on this ground, on which eventually The Bergen Hebrew Institute was built. Pop was the Chairman of both building committees; I was the Secretary for the Institute. The Jacobowitz Brothers were on these committees, and contributed generously. Our names are inscribed on the permanent tablets in the building.
The passing years brought in the Council of Jewish Women, of which I was one of the organizers and served as chairman of Religion for a number of years. Then came Hadassah, also a charter member; the "Y", in which Pop was especially active; the Home for Orphans and Aged (now the Hebrew Home and Hospital); then the building of the Center, the Yeshivah, American Jewish Congress, J.N.F., and Clara de Hirsch. Pop and I attended cultural meetings, whether at the old "Y" and later the new one, the Zionist meeting: and educational semesters.
Hadassah was closest to my heart. Aunt Theresa was the one who really sparked the forming of a Chapter in Jersey City. She had attended a meeting in New York of the original organizers, was very much impressed, and pleaded with me to start the ball rolling. I was tied up with the Auxiliary and raising my family, and felt it was enough. But I worked for the Chapter, attended many functions, with the willing cooperation of the children, and brought back reports that gave the highlights of events and speeches (my shorthand was a great help). At those meetings I met the great women of Hadassah: Henrietta Szold, Zip Szold, Mr.s DeSola Poole, the Halperin sisters ( ), Mrs. Rose Jacobus, Miss Benjamin, Mrs. Schulman, etc., etc. It was a thrilling and privileged experience. I mustn't forget Judith Epstein and her mother, Mrs. Irma Lindheim -- a host of dedicated, brilliant women. Of course I was on the Board of every group, served as secretary for some, helped with programs, writing, directing and acting in them, and editing he Bulletin for many years. Ruth in time became a wonderful program creator, her musical extravaganzas became famous and even used by the National Hadassah. The Jersey City Chapter could boast of some very superior young women among their members, like Rose Goldman, who is National Education Chairman, Gertrude Davidson, etc., etc.
To round out my organization activities, it was in 1949, I think, that I was instrumental in organizing the Golden Age Club at the Center. Anna told me about her work with the Council of Jewish Women's club for elderly people in New York, teaching arts and crafts there once a week. I was fascinated by her story, figured it would be a wonderful project for Jersey City. We had a fine Center building, a large membership of active young women and men, and I proposed the idea to Josie Taube, the Center program director. Cutting details, it took three years to get started, after several meetings with non-Jewish groups because Josie thought it should be a non-sectarian activity. Anna invited the N.J. group's director to explain the movement, and there was an open discussion, but nothing came of it. After more meetings with some of the active young women of the Center, we issued invitations to all Jewish organization heads, as well as a large number of men and women in the middle aged group, Rabbis and leaders. We had a most successful meeting, and thus the Golden Age Group was formed. We had subsidy commitments from the Council, the Temple Sisterhood, and a few of the other organizations; but our standbys were the Council, the Sisterhood of Beth El, and the Center. An Executive Committee was formed of active Center members, most of them young women, and I was the first President, serving five years. It was a growing success right from the start, comparing favorably with other groups starting up in every Jewish community. As of now, 1962, I am still invited for special occasions and help with programs.
My organization activities in Jersey City ended on a heart-warming note in 1958. I was Vice President to Josie's Presidency of the Center for three years. We were moving to Englewood, and I was honored at a Center Board meeting with a Citation, very gracious and flattering, and it included Pop, who himself was an active member of the Center from the time it was a "Y" group meeting in an old private house converted into a meeting place. He helped in fund raising, especially at one bitter period when the Center was to be sold for lack of funds. The framed "Resolution" hanging on the wall, helps to keep the memory green.
Some years before, Pop's partnership with his brothers was dissolved and he went into the real estate business on his own, with the slogan: "I Sell the Earth, What Part Do You Want?". He bought Fairmount Hall, in partnership with his brothers, reconstructed the building's one big store into six units, offices on the second floor and the Hall on the top floor redecorated and improved. It was a successful enterprise, and Pop occupied one of the offices. There was a rear apartment for the Superintendent, complete and comfortable. [Located in Bergen Square, Jersey City, now the site of the Martin Luther King Jr. School.]
Ruth graduated from High School at sixteen, continued to N.Y.U., and there met her future husband, the somewhat defiantly shy boy who never fooled me for a minute. "Tell your mother I will NOT eat spinach!" he told Ruth after he began to be invited for dinner. Ruth had dated other nice boys, but Louis became the "steady." Toddy and Billy swarmed over him the minute he put in an appearance, playing tag around his legs.
It must have been about this time when I staged another "rebellion." The living room furniture was so old and worn out that the springs in the sofa rested on the floor, scattered sawdust which as a nuisance to sweep up. We put bricks under the broken springs, and covered them with Pop's old "stovepipe" hat, which he hated to discard because he wore it at his wedding -- and before that at Max's wedding. Pop was trying to save for our future, so I didn't demand new furniture, knowing he would buy it if he could afford it. S-o-o, I decided we could do without the sofa, make an "informal" living room which was then fashionable, brought down a good rocker from the bedroom, and on clean-up day the boys and I lugged out the sofa, right on the street. When Pop saw this, it was enough; and characteristically, he came in laughing! This was another time when my faith in God's goodness was justified. Pop had invested in a fine building lot on the Bayonne waterfront, a beautiful neighborhood, with some vague idea he might build us a house there some day, or for investment. He advertised it for sale, and he made a good profit on it, selling to a Bayonne furniture dealer (!). From this man we bought a new "set." There is a proverb, "set your sights for the stars, but don't overlook the bushes."
Ruth had taken a Journalism and Secretarial course, and like all our children as they grew up, realized Pop's burden of support for the family, and quit college after only two years. She got a job with The Lipton Tea Co., where she was employed until three years after her marriage, became a valued secretary. Miriam had only one year at NYU, when she, too, got a secretarial job. It hurt both of us that we couldn't afford to give the children a complete college education. But it didn't stop the growth of their intelligence, thank God. Bud attended Cooper Union for a year or so, became impatient, wanting to earn his own living, and went into selling. Norman attended Law School after H.S. graduation, and earned his diploma "cum laude." (Norman also attended Cooper Union before law school. DJ). Toddy left High School just a month or two before graduation, for which I blame myself. She had taken a secretarial course in H.S. and insisted on getting a job. I should have made her finish. Please forgive me, Toddy. She didn't really need the diploma, except for sentimental reasons.
We lived in the Oak St. home about ten years. Pop attended an auction on Harrison Ave., and yes, he bought "150." It was a beautiful, well built house, formerly owned by an architect who had built it for himself, and Pop fell in love with it; at last he found "Mommy's house." The family went over to see it, were immediately charmed by it. To me it seemed like an aristocratic old dowager who had come on hard times, forsaken, neglected. The radiators were all broken, the beautiful hardwood floors almost unrecognizable. But how were we going to keep up a 14-room hours? Ruth at once offered to contribute $50 a month, the children would all help as, if, and when they could, and it was settled. Pop had no trouble getting a loan from the bank, where his name was A1, and he spent well over a thousand dollars on repairs and decorations. There were real fireplaces, one in the large entrance room which was a library, with hardwood built-in book cases, window seat, and the parquet floor, a wide staircase with a landing part way up, showing a large stained glass window almost covering the wall, which the Western sun turned into rainbow colors. On the right was the living room with (a) rolling door entrance; on the left of that the dining room, also with an entrance from the foyer; it, too, had a colored tile fireplace. On the second floor there were six rooms; the first front one intended for a sitting room, with a brick fireplace, which became Ruth and Miriam's bedroom; on the left the large master bedroom, with a marble built in basin; next room a bedroom, also with a marble sink; across this room from the hall, a large tiled bathroom with the biggest bathtub I ever saw., Further down the hall, another bedroom facing the rear, and from an ell turning left, two more bedrooms, with a basin at the end of the hall -- smaller rooms evidently intended for servants. Back stairs led to the kitchen downstairs, which was a 20-foot square sunny room, a big pantry, a little hall which led to the dining room on one side, and into a "Butler's Pantry" on the other, This latter room we changed into a breakfast room; it also had a built-in book case. There was a dumbwaiter in the little hall to the second floor, and a large clothes closet which Pop turned into a "powder room." The top floor was a finished apartment, one large room with floor, walls and ceiling (slanted) finished with paneling; a small store room in front, a larger room in the rear, and a nice bathroom. We put a gas range in the store room, and rented the big room to a couple named Brody; they stayed with us a number of years, both were business people and never bothered us. Later on Irving's son Horace found a job in Brooklyn and came to live with us, occupying the rear bedroom. After his engagement to Anne Wernick, a Holyoke girl, she too came to live with us, having gotten a teacher's job in Brooklyn. We put a bed in the little room for Horace and Ann occupied the bedroom, but it wasn't long before they left to be married.
As always, the children were free to bring in their friends for dinner or week-ends; we sometimes met a guest downstairs Sunday morning whom we had never met before. [Florence Schneider, in lower right, was such a guest. DWJ] The front door was never locked; it had a double turn latch which was hard to open, and would deceive a stranger, but the children kept forgetting their keys, so we just left the door on the latch. A humorous incident occurred when Connie, Max and Theresa's daughter, came to stay overnight from the country, where her folks were vacationing. She had a date with her fiance Al Halperin to go on some outing or other early Sunday morning, and her mother wouldn't let her stay at Al's house, but consented to let her stop at ours. We were all asleep, and the way Connie tells it is hilarious. She couldn't decide whether to sleep on one side of the big bed occupied by Ruth and Miriam, or the other side, so eased herself into the middle; the girls were completely unaware, even when she arose in the morning, got herself ready and went down into the kitchen for a bit of breakfast. In the morning we found a note on the table, "Thanks for bed and breakfast."
Another "open house" incident was one time when everyone was out, Pop and I went for a ride, and when we got back we found the Kornfields and Amsters ensconced in the living room, enjoying the radio. I had completely forgotten a casual appointment we had made, but they knew the trick of the front door, and just went in and made themselves at home. We had a good laugh and a pleasant visit.
Miriam had a friend in college who persuaded her to go on a "blind date", which is how she met Sol. He gave her quite a rush, and soon became a frequent visitor and Friday night dinner guest. Pop and I used to smile remembering Miriam's admonition that we "keep out", that this was her affair. She knew we were sometimes disappointed because of the very nice young men she dated and soon tired of. They became engaged, and soon Fred came Friday night to dinner occasionally, then Jerry, sometimes both at the same time, Miriam forgetting to tell me first. There was an Italian girl in the office who also came to dinner Friday night once in a while. If the walls of that house could have been vocal, they would have resounded with laughter. Ruth sent Billy back from the table one time, to do a better job washing his face. He came back, sat down, his hair wet and slicked back. Ruth lifted his bang, and there was a ring of dirt underneath. We all stopped to look and listen, and there was a burst of laughter in which Billy joined as loud as the rest of us....
Ruth and Louis were married Nov. 10th, 1929. We had met the Brenner family, exchanged courtesy visits, and became good friends, from then on to this day. We belonged to the same organizations, formed a bridge club of our own, and Pop and I were their guests in Belmar the first few years after Ruth and Louis were married.
We were in comfortable financial condition during those depression days of 1929-31 but we had some experiences that are worth recording. Men, young and old, came to our back door asking for work to earn a meal. I never turned them away, though the family felt I was taking chances. I let them clean up the yard, the cellar, or do such small jobs as I could find for them, then of course gave them a meal, some change. One old man, after he finished his meal, asked permission to wrap up the left-overs... I gave him a package. There was a young man, around thirty, who came to the back door, asking for work the same way. He did a good job down the cellar; there was a play room for Billy, where he had his trains, and brought friends in. There was a bathroom down the basement, and this young man asked permission to take a bath. I gave him a change of underwear, and when he came upstairs and had his meal, he told me that he had heard of a chance for a job up state N.Y. somewhere, but when he got there, nothing doing, and he had to work his way back home, somewhere in Pa. Too many ex-soldiers, men old and young, were selling apples on corners, or begging; picking edibles out of garbage cans -- something Horace saw.
Miriam's wedding was set for March 29th, 1930. In between the two marriages [Ruth-Louis and Miriam-Sol], the one tragic event in our lives occurred: we lost our beloved son, Billy, three days short of his twelfth birthday, the darling of our hearts. He had a highly developed intelligence, a sense of humor, an understanding heart. He was born on the very date of our twelfth anniversary, and would have been Bar Mitzvah on our twenty-fifth. He had already issued personal invitations to friends for that event, notably his dentist, Dr. Fleisig, in New York, where he went for appointments unaccompanied, since two or three years before. He took the wrong train once but nothing daunted he got out at the next station and phoned the Doctor, who gave him directions.
We never got over it, especially Eli, who had been in the habit of telling him bedtime stories Friday night, lying alongside of him until he fell asleep. The time came when Pop fell asleep before Billy did, roused to tell him he had no more stories, so perhaps Billy could tell a story for a change; he was young enough to remember the "other side" where he came from. This teasing didn't please Billy one bit; began describing how the soul animated the body, ending his description with a question: "How do you know the souls of your father and mother aren't hovering around you?" "How do you make that out?" Pop asked, and this is what Billy gave us to remember: "I'll prove it to you: go downstairs, everything is quiet, but turn a button on the radio and you hear voices, music, talking and laughter. Some day our ears will be attuned to the voices of the departed, and we will be able to communicate with them."
I don't want this to be a sad part of the record; we all decided not to evade talking about him, to remember the way he lived, the funny incidents,the mischief, the greatness of his character. In time I consoled myself with the thought that Billy lived out the full span of his years in that short twelve years, some purpose he had to fulfill. He loved old people, was a regular member of the "Shalle Sudos" Club, a group of elderly men who met Sabbath afternoons to study Torah, argue, sing liturgical as well as Hebrew songs, and of course the snack of herring, cookies and schnapps. There was one old man who used to deliver our Sukkoth Esrog every holiday, asked directions for delivering another one in the same neighborhood, so Billy accompanied him and didn't come back for over an hour: he had gone with the old man to every other customer.
I have a time-worn but beautiful hand printed tribute on a decorated cardboard, a bird (in color) pasted in the corner, with Hebrew letters which, translated, read:
"Peace: In remembrance of the little lamb who had no healing; he was like a bird whose voice resounded in song, making sweet the taste of the Sabbath Shalle Sudos. His young spirit blended with the old. May there be no more need for the young to be cut off -- from beginning to end."
A humble housepainter inscribed those words.
There was no postponement of Miriam's wedding the following month. Ruth's wedding took place in Brooklyn in one of those "Mansions" so popular at the time, with about 250 guests. The first grandchild to be married, giving my Father and Mother a full cup of happiness as they watched that tall, beautiful bride walk down the aisle to be married, the crown on her veil made of a piece of my own wedding dress -- a crown which Miriam and Toddy also wore -- and some still remains which has been used by some of Pop's and my grandchildren.
Miriam's wedding was smaller, a quiet but dignified affair in a caterer's restaurant in New York. There was a balcony in the rear, with a stairway leading down to the main room, and Miriam was breathtakingly lovely as she came down that stairway let by Pop and me, her own hair a shining bright red crown. The saintly Rabbi Bloch performed the ceremony, an "El Mola Rachem" pronounced by the Cantor for Billy, and Rabbi Bloch speaking to Miriam and Hebrew, which she understood perfectly. All the older children received a good Hebrew education, through High School grades.
Perhaps I should record our 25th anniversary here, a year after Billy left us. We couldn't face the thought of a celebration, but the children arranged a surprise party for us and the family, and persuaded us to take a cruise, their gift to us. We went to Bermuda and had a wonderful trip, ten days which included two week-ends, the last in Bermuda, sightseeing, coming back each night to sleep on the boat. An incident occurred on this trip which brought out Pop's leadership and initiative. The bulletin board on the boat announced services on Sunday for the different denominations, but nothing for Jewish Sabbath services. Pop went at once to the office and protested. He was told that no instructions had been given for Jewish services; Pop took the passenger list, pointed out name after name of Jewish people, with the result that a radio communication brought about the use of a room, with a white covered table, candles, and a well filled room of young people, with prayer books that mysteriously appeared. It was a heart warming experience, and Pop made some permanent friends.
Ruth and Louis had an apartment on Harrison Ave., a block further down from us; Miriam and Sol were living with us for a while, as he was still travelling then for his company (before he went into business for himself); Bud was selling an office item, struggling; Norman was attending Law School with his best friend George Rosenstein; Toddy was still in High School. There were evenings when Ruth, Miriam, Toddy and I would sit in the breakfast room and play a game called "Pounce", a four-way solitaire, each player scrambling to get rid of her cards first on top of those of the other players. It was a silly, hilarious game, and we had a wonderful time.
Miriam and Sol moved to Brooklyn, some time later to the Bronx in New York, and was the first to begin raising her family. Ruth began her family a few months later, and Toddy was dating George steadily. They became engaged after George's graduation, and were married July 14th, 1935, right at home. She was just twenty, a breathtakingly lovely bride as she came down that dramatic stairway, escorted by Pop and me until the foot of the stairs, to be met by George.
At that time we still had the colored man-servant who buttled and washed and ironed, wearing a white coat at dinner time, kept our house in order. With the help of an extra colored waiter, we set up bridge tables, preparations for serving were so efficient that in fifteen to twenty minutes the 76 guests were served. The dinner was cold cuts and all the trimmings, the plates having been prepared in advance, set up on every available shelf in the pantry and dish closets. Louis helped in the kitchen, filling last items on plates from hand to hand like an assembly line; Artie Pepis was on the job, as were the other boys. It was a very happy affair. Anna added much to the beauty of the ceremony with the home-made Chuppa she created out of paper roses which she had all of us shaping, doing the cutting and fastening together, making the living room look like a Temple. That Chuppa, by the way, was preserved and taken to Mass. for Horace's wedding to Ann Wernick.
Bud and Norman were both dating, and Norman became serious with a girl in the neighborhood (Beeba?), but they broke up. Then Laura came into the picture, first as an overnight (?) guest from some sports event in Bear Mt. and advanced into steady dating and engagement; they were married in 1938, our first beloved daughter-in-law.
It must have been about this time (early 1930s) that Pop decided to give up the house. It was hard work for me, with indifferent help, and expensive for Pop to keep up. The girls were married, had homes of their own, and Norman was about to be married (1938); so Pop arranged with the Bank to take over, and we moved into a nice four room apartment on Brinkerhoff St., the dining room becoming our bedroom. That move is memorable because of the time I had getting rid of excess furniture, packing, unpacking, with the help of the girls. I foolishly sold a set of brass andirons from one of the fire places, and the girls took me to task for it. So I went back to the second hand dealer I sold the set to, bought it back for a nice profit -- for him. I think Ruth still has it, or had it in their own big house until they sold it. Pop always said I leaped before I looked.
A better apartment was available after a year or so (1941), through Norman's client Bob Wasserman, and we moved to 275 Harrison Ave. The Tamases and Rosensteins were then living in North Bergen. Toddy was "expecting" and was very ill, so we persuaded her to come stay with us. Bud gave up his bedroom and went to North Bergen every night to sleep in their apartment, he and George both traveling. That soon led to another apartment, also through Bob Wasserman, and we moved into a nice 5-room apartment at 21 Gifford Ave., next door to the senior Brenners. It was a very satisfactory arrangement. Bud had the bedroom off the hall, Toddy and George occupied the main bedroom, with their own furniture, and we used the dining room, just off the kitchen, for our bedroom, the living room in front right next to that. We were all compatible, and followed the family pattern of a happy life.
Bud brought Florence to dinner one day, and thus met our second beloved daughter-in-law. Then Bud was called into service, in 1942, and while stationed in Florida, Florence joined him there, got herself a job, and they were married by Bud's Army chaplain -- the only wedding we could not attend. Bud was trained for Radar, and became a Master Sergeant, or Technician, and was sent to New Guinea. He wrote short, crispy letters, full of humor; Florence of course went back to live with her parents.
Norman got interested in Bud's books on radar, and studied up on it. Expecting to be called up for service, and anxious to get into the same kind of work if possible, he haunted the recruiting office to find out if his number had come up, until they told him to get out and wait till he was called. David had been born (a wonderful birthday gift for me). Norman wasn't too happy in his law practice, so got a job with WQXR as a radio operator, the nearest thing to essential service, an important communications means. They were living upstairs in the same apartment house we were, and with Toddy and George living with us, Florence visiting occasionally, Ruth and Louis a block or two away, the anxiety over Bud was mitigated.
After Beth was born, Toddy and George stayed with us until Beth was a year old. Beth occupied Bud's former bedroom, her window opening on a large court, through which she could see our bedroom window on the opposite wall, and we had fun flirting with her. As soon as she woke up, she would stand in her crib, jump up and down, and call to us. She started walking when a year old, and the minute she was out of her crib she'd come into our bedroom, tweak Pop's nose and say "Wake up, Popop, wake up." Soon after they moved into their own apartment, taking their furniture out of storage. Pop missed that morning greeting.
The apartment seemed so empty, after having had Toddy and George, then Beth, for almost two years, and when an opportunity arose to rent a one-and-a-half room apartment at the Square, in the Mayflower on Tonnele Ave., we moved in. It was a very attractive, sunny large room, with a half room and a small kitchen and bathroom, and we spent five happy years there. With one exception: Pop got a heart attack, after having had warnings years before through occasional blackouts. Dr. Ben Asher ordered him in bed for ten to twelve weeks; no more smoking or tobacco of any kind, no more walking over a mile to Shule, which he was in the habit of doing every Saturday morning. The suggestion of a hospital horrified him, and I was his nurse, caring for him the best way I could. He was a wonderful patient; everything I did for him, every meal I served, gave him pleasure. He could read his papers, and we found much to talk about; the time passed quickly enough. As soon as he could, he attended the Cottage St. Shule services, a short distance away, and there, as usual, he was highly regarded.
Anna was almost a daily guest at the apartment about this time, so I'll have to go back to a connecting earlier period. When the folks passed away, Anna invited Mae and her family to continue living in the house, owned by her. Anna had been teaching, and after Father died Mother became ill and needed someone to care for her. Mae, Artie, and their family continued living there, and Anna found it more convenient to come live with us, at 150 Harrison Ave., which was more accessible to her Staten Island job. The girls were married, and there was plenty of room for her. She lived with us about two years, insisting on paying her way, in the independent and generous manner she always had. While with us there, an old acquaintance looked her up, the widowed brother-in-law of our brother Irving, and the result was a wedding in our house. It was a charming affair, and she went to live in New Haven, as Mrs. I. Opper. They had a lovely home in Morris Cove, a suburb of New Haven, right on the Sound, with their own private beach. Hospitality was extended not only to us, but nieces and nephews. They also owned a lovely home in Hollywood, Fla., and I was a guest for a short vacation there too.
It was one of those things, a marriage of a girl no longer very young to a man much older than herself, and it lasted about seven years. Meanwhile Anna had deeded the house in Brighton Beach to Mae, eventually came to Jersey City (she had been ill and was retired from teaching). She wasn't happy, liven in several boarding rooms, and was a frequent visitor. She was always welcome and we tried to make it as pleasant for her as possible.
Our last move in Jersey City was to 40 Gifford Ave., a very desirable three room apartment, right in the middle of the environment we were used to and were most happy in, and only a short distance from the office where Pop still conducted his real estate business, with friends in the neighborhood coming up to keep him company. No landlord, I think, was ever like more than Pop was; he never neglected anything.
In 1956 we celebrated our Golden Anniversary, a memorable affair, the thought of which brings me happy moments as it did to Pop. The family planned it, engaged a room in the Center, and invitations were inspired by our hearts. In this age of catered affairs, invitations have to be limited, usually to closest relatives and friends, but this time we decided that no nieces and nephews would be left out, as they usually were, only the oldest one in a family, and often not even then, being invited. None was left out. There were several young people I invited personally by phone, because a formal invitation would have slighted others. There were also young friends of the family who were dear to us; about 135 guests. The grandchildren made an aisle for us, and we marched through, at the end of the line Martha handed Pop a buttonhole flower, and J.J. gave me a corsage. [handwritten note "..... had written a song to the tune of "Love and Marriage" ... the rest is not legible.] There were speeches by Bud and Ruth that should have been recorded, as well as others, but I was given a special spot because I wanted to introduce individually all the nieces and nephews, some of whom [I] had never even met, as well as all the guests, table by table. Many of our old "gang" attended, already reduced in number.... It was the happiest affair anyone could have wished for. Thank God for our wonderful family.
My organization activities continued very pleasantly, but they were always secondary to life at home; visiting and dining with the children, grandchildren getting engaged and married, comfort and contentment our portion. Hadassah needed a gimmick to spark an Israel Bond drive, so they promoted a "This Is Your Life" program in the Spring of 1953. A contest was held for a short article on "The Ideal Woman", with a $50 bond as the prize for the best letter, naming their choice. I entered the contest, naming Rose Goldman as my choice, with a "P.S." stating that for obvious reasons I could not choose an equally wonderful personality, Ruth Brenner. From sly questions I was asked, and the "secret" entrusted to me, I was given the understanding that Josie Taube, the Center dedicated social service worker for all good causes, would be our ^ Woman of The Year. I was not only the "Mystery Woman" but also won the prize for the best letter, chosen by the Standard editor, who did not know who the chosen woman was. It was an exciting, thrilling affair; Pop, the family, friends were there, each telling of some little incident connected with me, in the manner of the TV shows. The party was held at the Home, the admission being a Bond, bringing a total of $26,000. I was happy to turn my prize over to the Home. There is an album with my "Life" and clippings, and some wonderful letters. Rose Goldman narrated, getting most of her information from the family and Anna, who had old photos; some of it not quite accurate, but good enough, and a tribute I shall never forget.
- 65 -
This is as good a spot as any, I think, to tell something about the rest of my family, parentwise. I owe all my sisters a debt of gratitude for their willingness, one or another, to come and baby-sit when we went to meet our friends of a Sunday, or I attended one of my Hadassah Conventions. Anna you all know very well; her willingness to come and stay when needed, her generous helpfulness. I'd like to add, perhaps unnecessarily, that she was the main support of the folks in their declining years. When she was making her way towards teaching, she would scrimp and save, and more than once her tuition money was given to help another sister who needed hospitalization. She had a natural urge to be helpful, which did not always stand her in good stead. That urge is the keystone of her character, and is still coloring her life.
My one brother, Irving, less than a year and a half Anna's junior, was probably spoiled in his childhood, being the only boy; but that did not last long in our family. He was a sensitive, warmhearted, carefree young man, and in a houseful of six sisters, Papa strict, there was no time to give him the affection and understanding he needed. When he met Lillie, his future wife he found the gay and lighthearted friendliness he craved. He was not much over twenty, and the taboo on younger children marrying ahead of the older still being somewhat observed, he up and married Lillie without benefit of invitation to the folks. Irving was clerking in one of our cigar stores at the time, and when Horace was born, there was a reconciliation with the folks, who all through the following years kept up the best of relations, Papa as usual doing his best with clothing. Irving moved his family to Mass., going through his share of good and hard times. They raised five fine children, all married now and doing well. They eventually owned their own home, and all of us enjoyed their hospitality. I remember at least two summers where they had a "place" on some shore or lake, we brought our whole gang along on their urgent invitation, and had a nice vacation in their already bursting-at-the-seams cottage. We attended all their Simchas, up to and including their 50th wedding anniversary. Both are gone now; God rest their souls. (pp 65-66)
Nettie is next in age, a very capable school teacher, now retired She is a well balanced, intelligent, warm hearted person, easy to live with. Most schoolteachers are "teachy", but Nettie never insisted her way or her opinion was the best; was and is ready to give and take, and is good cheerful company. She met her husband Morris Blatt in our house at 89 Oak St., with Pop's connivance by way of a dinner invitation. Morris was studying law, working part time with a firm of lawyers, and Pop met him during a fund raising campaign, liked him and the matchmaking bug hit him with Nettie in mind. The meeting was a success, and Morris started dating Nettie; and so they were married.
World War I came along and Morris quit law to sell essential medical supplies, settling in Philadelphia. I was a delegate to a Hadassah Convention there, and I stayed in their apartment. They were warmly hospitable, I enjoyed my stay, saving Hadassah hotel expenses besides. The death of Morris' mother brought them back to Jersey City, to stay with his father in the home they owned. Their first baby, Miriam, was born there, and I was present at the birth, giving me the awesome privilege of seeing the miracle of new life. Nettie could write a story of tragedy, courage and fortitude herself. Morris was still traveling, his father had also died and they came to live temporarily with the folks in New York until they found an apartment. There, the baby was less than two years old when she died. But life goes on, to use a common cliché, and Nettie came to live with us in Jersey to await the birth of her second child. Morris was away much of the time. Nettie became one of the family at once, with friction or change in our pace. After Morton was born, they bought a home in Brooklyn eventually, and Nettie started teaching again when Morty was old enough to attend Yeshivah Day school. He was sixteen and in High School when he became ill with leukemia. It is hard, even after all these years, to write of this. Remembering Billy, this hit me hard, for Nettie had sent me a poem of consolation, the first two lines of which read: "There was a dancing flame once, Before Death had out blown it."
This was an apparently sturdy boy, big, loving and lovable. "Why does this have to happen to me Mother? I never hurt anybody?" That is what Morris and Ned have to live with. They tried hard to save him, Bud contributed blood twice for transfusion.... They sold their home, and after some considerable traveling, with a long stopover in Mexico, reached California and made their home there. After some years they felt the need to be closer to family, bought a home in St. Petersburg, found the climate unsatisfactory and went Miami Beach. They came north in 1961 when Morris needed an operation, and spent a month with me while he recuperated. It was most pleasant for me to have them -- it was after Pop passed away. They are back in California now.
I have already written about Mae's early stay with us when Ruth was a baby, attending school in Jersey City. She is an effervescent, capable and talented woman. After her marriage to Arthur (Artie) Pepis, which took place at home I believe, they had their ups and downs too. They moved to Brighton Beach after some years, in the same neighborhood where Anna and the folks lived. After Father passed away and Mother needed to be taken care of, Anna suggested the Pepis family, three children by then, move in. Anna had to keep her teaching job. After Mother died, the situation became slightly tense, and then it was Anna came to live with us in the Harrison Ave. house. Mae became a widow herself, not too long after. Anna's marriage brought about the eventual deeding of the house she owned, to Mae, who had quite a struggle making a living for herself and her three children. She rents part of her house and Uncle Max, now eighty-five, boards with her. [85 in 1962 implies Max Krantz was born in 1877]. A remarkable person, who deserves at least a few lines. He is the last of my Mother's family, is in constant pain due to a bone disease, spends most of his time in a wheel chair, though he uses his crutches painfully. He is the most cheerful invalid you can imagine; ready for a story or a joke, can still make minor repairs in the house. Mae is very particular about the right kind of food and so he tries to forget his pain. While we were back in Europe, he and I took took a long walk to my other grandparents' home, about two miles away, on a very cold day in the winter. My hands froze, I was crying in distress and he picked me up and carried me on his back all the rest of the way. I was eight, he was twelve.
There are two more sisters, Celia and Ruth. Celia is married, has two children (Jack Rausch and Shirley Richter), both married, each having two children. (Gaye Rausch, Stacey Rausch, Jeff Rausch; Michele Rockoff, Joel Richter). She lives in in a mental institution, brought about by nerve damage during a severe illness. It is not congenital. She is still a beautiful, capable woman, her life twisted through no fault of her own; but unable to control her hysteria.
Sister Ruth we have lost track of for some years now. Independent, undisciplined, with a gift for the piano which she learned "by ear", always ready and willing to help, loved by all our children. She made baby-sitting her occupation, and probably still doing it upstate N.Y.
-p 68 -
As for Father and Mother, you probably have a fairly good picture of them by the things i've already written. Always hospitable, always living in the spirit of "noblesse oblige", they were beloved by all the family, who visited them in Brighton Beach, usually invited to stay for dinner (or supper). When the family was young, Papa used to turn his shop into a banquet hall on Purim, guests came in masquerade, and there was plenty of good food, fun, and even drinks. But nobody ever got really drunk, just a little high. I remember one of Mother's small rebellions, rare in her life. She wore a "Sheitel", traditional wig, and it gave her violent headaches. She wanted to discard it but Papa would not permit it. But the headaches persisted, until finally Papa told her not to wear it any more. Just to be contrary, she refused, until Papa took it one night when Mama was asleep and disposed of it. That's how she got her beautiful snow white hair.
There were three great-grands before they passed away, Father at 77, Mother at 76, within six months of each other. It is worth recording what courage and grit Father showed in his last illness. Long years of taking laxatives brought about an obstruction, and he had to be hospitalized. Reluctant to ask for help to take him to New York, he picked up his little suitcase, climbed the high flight of stairs to the B.M.T., and alone entered the hospital downtown in N.Y. Unfortunately, it was an "open and shut" operation, and lin a week's time he passed away, fully conscious, able to plead that we care for Celia.....
As for Mother, Bud will have a sweet memory of the "naches" he gave her the last Passover of her life, when he went to stay at the house and conduct the "Seder", both nights. He was still a young man, a "boy." We all tried to make their lives as happy as we could; visiting with the children, the grandchildren. One notable event was their 50th wedding anniversary. We inveigled them to come to New York on some trumped up excuse, the family loaded up in Pop's and Morris Blatt's car, and when we arrived in the Hall, they had an overwhelming surprise. Uncle Aaron and Tante Gittel came from Buffalo, Uncle Zalmon and his wife all the nieces and nephews, cousins, and of course our children, including Louis who was then engaged to Ruth. Mother cried, Father was shaken, and all he could think of to say was: "at least you could have told me to change my pants." There was a "ceremony", the oldest grandchildren escorting the bride and groom, after dinner speeches, and a song by Billy which he asked to do: "Shomer Shabbos" in Hebrew..... page 70.
I feel the need to write about each of our children, to round out this rambling story. They deserve so much better than I can put in words, because they gave Pop and me so much more than we could give them.
RUTH AND LOUIS.
Louis wanted a small wedding, but gave in to family pressure, and 250 guests attended, as I have already stated. Here is where Pop has to be mentioned. Ruth had faithfully given him the $50. a month for the upkeep of "150", and even I didn't know that he saved it all, and handed her a check for $500. in lieu of the dowry he wished he could give her. She kept her job for about three years after marriage. Richard Wolff was born in 1933. Belmar was usually the summer place of the Brenner family, where they rented a big house, eventually buying one. We were guests there for two or three summers, week-ends when Louis drove us in, until Louis rented a cottage himself for his family. We continued to be weekend guests, Louis driving us in Friday and taking us back Monday morning. Sometimes I stayed longer.
I have very pleasant memories of Louis' family, especially Mama Emma Brenner. She was an ardent worker for the Home, for Clara de Hirsch as well as other organizations, and knew everyone; staged annual card parties for the Home with the help of her devoted daughters. She was a large woman, usually sat on the same bench on the Boardwalk, passersby greeting her and stopping to talk; like a queen mother.
Judy was born in 1936, Martin in 1938. The memory of our stay with them in their summer cottage is very sweet. Pop and I occupied the guest bedroom, and in the morning the children would come piling on our bed, getting "horsy" rides on Pop's knees, stories and songs. They had strict orders, however, not to disturb us before 9 o'clock in the morning. Eventually we rented an "Efficiency" ourselves, enjoyed the surf bathing.
As the family grew, they moved into larger quarters, a private house, and eventually bought their lovely big home on Kensington Ave. We babysat for them, living right in the house when they went South on a short winter vacation. Ruth gave me a beautiful surprise birthday party my 70th, my friends, my sisters, and some young friends of hers who were also my beloved friends. I have a lovely album of inscriptions by the guests.
Their wedding was shadowed by the untimely passing of our beloved Billy. During his last illness he actually worried about the expense of having a nurse, besides doctors, etc. Pop reassured him that a "big deal" he had on would bring enough money. The young couple lived with us for a few months, Sol still traveling Their first home was in Brooklyn, then they moved to the Bronx, later on to North Bergen, and now Englewood. Leslie was their first born, and she was a year old when they had a summer place in Rye Beach. Of course we were guests there too, as well as later on when they summered in Lake Mohican. Sol had long since gone into business for himself, and was doing well.
Leslie was two years old when Stephen Wolf[f] was born, and Peter Joseph came four or five years later. This reminds me of an amusing incident. The family were guests at "150" as often as we could get them to come, and one Sunday, when Miriam happened to be without a maid, Sol wanted to take the family out for a ride, but she wouldn't go because it was a good chance to clean the house. Sol got angry, and said, "All right, I'm going home to Mother!" and they spent the day in Jersey City. Sol and his two brothers [Fred and Jerry] and sister [Martha] had lost their Mother when he was fourteen [sic. he was nine]. Another time they came for a weekend, and stayed three weeks. Pop and I baby-sat for them in Englewood several times. Meanwhile Gail Ann was born, seven years after Peter, and we had the pleasure of staying with the children while Miriam and Sol went on vacation. It was a joy to look after them. I had three of my gang over for lunch and bridge once, and Gail made a tremendous hit; [they] always asked about her.
Can parents love their children equally? They fasten themselves on the love in our hearts, and instead of crowding each other, the heart expands so that there is a firm and permanent place for each. But they are people, human beings, each different, with his or her own personality. Eugene (Joel), hardly anyone knows him other than Bud, was our first born son, after two daughters. My parents had six daughters, one son, so I was especially thrilled with the birth of a son. He was a big baby, his character manifested "bigness" right from the start, with an outer composure, and inner instinct for kindness, understanding. Not that any of the others lacked these qualities. He was about three when Pop came home with him from Shule on a bitterly cold day in Winter, when he realized the child was crying softly, the tears frozen on his face: he hadn't wanted to worry Pop. He grew fast, his Bar Mitzvah made us proud, reading the entire Portion and the Mussaf as well, followed by Kiddush in Shule and a party at home.
Traffic was never heavy on Oak St., and the boys played ball in the street. Bud grew tall very fast, and became embarrassed and self-conscious playing with "little" boys. He gradually shied away from them and became quite a loner. I saw it and my heart ached, but there was nothing I could do about it; they just have to grow up. There were one or two boys tall enough for him, however. One was the son of the only anti-semitic family we knew of; he got into an argument with Bud, and they fought, Bud getting the best of him without difficulty. The boy's father watched from the porch, and when his son came back crying, he made him go back and fight Bud again. And again Bud won, and that was that. I was proud of Bud's standing up to that boy and defending himself.
Pop and I took a ten-day trip one summer, through New York State to the Great Lakes and the Canadian border, with Bud and Norman, and Anna. It was a delightful trip. We stopped at State Parks which provide open fireplaces, with kindling, facilities for bathing and picnic meals. We bought food on the way which was easy to prepare,m and stopped at Tourist Houses. We drove as far as the Thousand Islands, and stopped three days at a motel. It was a memorable vacation.
Bud was dating Florence, and brought her up to meet us, later on her folks [Sam Epstein and Rachel Epstein] and family. Then Bud was called into service, and while he was in a camp in Florida, Florence followed, got herself a job, and so they were married by the Jewish Chaplain: the only wedding we could not attend. we loved Florence right from the start -- a quiet, charming, intelligent girl, without pretense; a wonderful wife and mother of two lovely children, completely integrated in the family, fun loving and beautiful.
Bud became a Master Technician in Radar, in New Guinea, also a master in understatement letters. He sent home copies of the "Paper" they published of which he was the editor. War over, they started housekeeping in Ruth and Louis' home on Kensington Ave., where they had an apartment on the top floor, until they found an apartment near us on Gifford Ave. Ralph was born in 1947, Martha in 1951, by that time living in North Arlington. I enjoyed going there for occasional baby-sitting, Ralph usually entertaining me instead of the other way round; he was started early with fine records of classical music. They now live in Englewood in their own home. Ralph is a gifted pianist, Martha an intelligent, loving and lovable youngster.
Norman was a most welcome fourth to our family, born in Long Branch, as I have already described. He was born in a hurry, and was a quick study, a mischievous, jolly mimic, adding much to the family fun, plenty of ability. He, too read the entire Portion at his Bar Mitzvah, though his voice gave out at Mussof. He went to law school after High School and graduated cum laude -- nobody knew why when he missed classes so often. His best friend, George Rosenstein, graduated at the same time. [George left before graduating. DWJ]
I've already mentioned Norman's meeting Laura and their engagement. They had a modest wedding at the new home of her oldest brother [Moe Danziger] in Long Island, in 1938, and came to live in Jersey City. Laura kept her job as long as she could before the birth of David, who was a June 13th birthday gift for me. Norman was practicing law then, just about getting by, took up the study of radar, and, as already recorded, worked for WQXR; later, after the war going into the record making business. [DWJ: I remember visiting his studio where I was recorded and also hearing stories about how he knew just where to place the microphones in the concert hall to best capture the balance of the orchestra -- a placement that was later rediscovered with sophisticated sound measuring devices.]
Ira, their second son, was born in 1945, and then Jonathan Joseph (JJ) came along in 1952. Norman bought their first home on Van Nostrand Ave., not far from Sol and Miriam's home. [He later sold the house to Bud when the family moved to Tenafly in 1958. DWJ] There, too, Pop and I did baby-sitting when Norman and Laura went on short vacation trips. Anna lived with them for some time after her Jersey City sojourn. Apartments were difficult to find for a single person, and Anna came to live with the Tamases, until an apartment was found for and he became an Englewood resident. [DWJ: I used to stop to see Tianna in 1957 on my way home from Dwight Morrow High School. Beth and Judy were also living in Englewood, close to the high school.], and as usual, very creatively active in communal affairs.
Towards the end of 1957 we decided on a trip to Florida, Pop had occasional blackouts, some serious, and we went to St. Petersburg, to be near Florence's parents, the Epsteins, who lived in a suburb of St. Pete, a small town on the Gulf called Gulfport. My own health wasn't too good either, having had eye and dental trouble. We settled in an efficiency apartment located in a private home, and the Epsteins were extraordinarily kind and friendly. We participated in their community Temple and social activities, and looked forward to a pleasant winter. I became ill, however, due to many contributing causes, Pop's and mine, and a severe attack of the "Shingles" compelled me to phone an SOS to Ruth, and Norman came down the very next day to take us home. We lost three months' rent and TV rental and flew home our first air plane trip which delighted both of us, On our return we stayed at Ruth's, and Pop's retirement was made definite. The children found us our present apartment in Englewood, most satisfactory.
The following year, both of us in better health, we went to Florida again, this time driving down with Norman and his whole family, taking three days and two nights. It was a memorable trip, Norman with the two older boys in front, Laura with us in the back seat, and JJ ensconced in a blanket nest Laura had contrived for him in back of our seats, on the business end of the station wagon, covered bags of clothing and suit cases alongside of him. All through the trip we sang often, and had fun, enjoying stopovers for lunch and at night in motels. What impressed Pop and me was the way those two boys in front behaved: not a single fuss or argument, just an occasional understanding look while they changed places. I discovered later they had made a pact to change places every 50 miles. [What Dudu didn't know is that Norm let Ira and me control the throttle with our left feet while Norman was nominally in control. Wow, would that whole setup be frowned on today. DWJ]
We stopped in Jacksonville for Norman to visit the manager of a plant they had there, and all went in except me. I had twisted my ankle and stayed in the car. One of the family was a young man suffering from muscular dystrophy, or something. JJ was the first to come out, and spoke to me earnestly: "Dudu, when you say your prayers at night (he knew I mentioned the name of every member of the family), mention Johnny's (?) name FIRST, so you won't forget!)" A six-year old boy; need I say more? I faithfully kept up "mentioning his name first" for over a year, when the since urge to do so gradually faded. Norman told me later that young man did improve, but of course not because of my prayers; perhaps when all sincere prayers are put together, plus therapy, God does help.....
Norman and Laura's home, the beautiful big new one in Tenafly, was the scene of our 55th anniversary, with family, some cousins and friends, giving us another beautiful event to add to our treasury of memories.
God was good to us. Our children were spaced perfectly: two girls, two boys, then Toddy and Billy after her. These last two were always buddies, confidantes, plotting and planning together. Billy teased her when she started dating George when she was about 16. I know Toddy grieved for him deeply. After Beth was a year old and they went house-hunting again, they moved to Elizabeth. Judy was born in 1948 (1944, DWJ), three years after Beth, and they made an adorable, mischievous pair. They staged their own performances whenever they visited. Have I mentioned Judy's love for Louis? The minute she saw him she seized him, made him lie down on a sofa, cover(ed) him up, and call him her "baby" -- somewhat like her mother and Billy used to play over him when Louis was courting Ruth. Baby-sitting for them was great fun in Elizabeth, George would bring me from Jersey City and take me back late the same night, or the next morning. Those two tads kept me busy running up and down the stairs before they fell asleep, for one excuse or another. But what they themselves still remember was the lullabies and songs and stories I entertained them with, acting out some of them, until the final "Sandman" song.
George's occupation necessitated their moving to Pissfield[sic, Pittsfield], Mass., where he had an agency for hearing aids, They had a beautiful rented home there, where we and the family visited them occasionally. Eventually they moved back "home" and are now living in Ft. Lee. Beth was married to Larry Shain of Newton, Mass., on Oct. 28th.
I haven't written about the grandchildren's weddings: all three of Ruth and Louis' children are married, and as of this date, December, 1962, there are six grandchildren, a boy and a new baby girl for Dick and Judy (Resnick); Andrew Mark and Jill Alison; two boys, Peter Charles and Jeffrey Stuart (Hebrew Elijah) for Judy and Jack Mester; Martin and Sarah-Ann have Beth-Ann and Robert Evan (Elijah).
Miriam and Sol have two grandchildren, Steve and Jane Ellen's[sic] Mark Andrew and little Stephanie-Ellen[sic. DWJ: Dudu got confused here and did not list her first grandchild, Leslie Tamases Ellen, who married Max Ellen. They had two children, Caroline and Danny.] Bud and Florence's Ralph and Martha; Norman and Laura's David, Ira and JJ; and Toddy and George's Beth Fredda and Judith Ann. [DWJ Check this paragraph.]
After one's children are all happily married, and their children, the grandchildren marry, bringing us the precious gift of Great-Grandchildren, what more can anyone wish, what greater joy and happiness is there? They filled our cup of happiness to overflowing, Their story belongs to their parents, but as they came to us, they gave us the feeling of continuity all human beings need to make their lives complete, fitting into the pattern God created for us. After our first grandchild was born, our beloved Leslie, I had a surge of feeling renewed youth, and like when I was five, I said to myself: "What a beautiful world it is!"
A devoted husband and loving father, he made life meaningful for all of us. How can I pay adequate tribute to him? I think perhaps I do not need to -- all of you will do that, in what he gave you of himself, his example, his uncompromising integrity. Perhaps his greatest characteristic was his deep sense of responsibility for his family. His mother died at an early age, when he was five, Jennie two. There were Tillie, the oldest, fourteen then; Aaron, Morris and Max.
Father Wolff, left with six children to support, married a widow with several children of her own. Tillie was the first to to go to America, the rest of the family followed. They were brought up in a hard school, necessity pushing them out into the earning world at an early age. Tilly married one Marcus Diamond, raised six children of her own, a fine family. Morris and Max entered the cigar making field, I believe, and Aaron the garment business. Elias also learned the cigar making trade, working for nothing quite some time before he received 25 CENTS a week. Morris got married and opened a cigar store in downtown Jersey City. Max joined him in the business, and later Elias, the three brothers eventually becoming a partnership, Elias getting a reluctant Fourth part, though he contributed an equal part of successful effort I do not mean to be bitter about this -- it's too far back in the past, but it irked Pop and caused him to break with them and go into business for himself.
On the personal side the brothers were close enough, socializing in each other's homes with dinner and cards, the women klotching in a friendly manner. With success came some mild social climbing for Theresa and Max, when the rest of us didn't seem to matter to them, meeting us at weddings and simchas. Aaron wasn't often invited socially, except at these special events, but Pop (Elias) always kept in touch with him and his family, occasionally visiting them, and always, I am so glad to remember, with us in the car. His wife Katie, Henry Goodman's sister, died when the oldest of their five girls was fourteen, and had to take on the load of mother and housekeeper. He married again after a few years, a woman who deserves mention because she tried to help her husband by opening a limited restaurant right in their apartment. The cigar store he opened later gave them a living, and he married off his daughters [Miriam Jacobowitz; Florence Faber; Esther Ackerman; Helen Steinfeld; Rose Klein; Jeanette Neimtzow and Unamed Son Jacobowitz] very nicely. Aaron was quite a Hebrew scholar, was the friendliest, kindest, humble yet an independent person. Bud and Norman both liked and respected him, and must have sensed and sympathized with the frustrations of this gentle soul, for each named a son for him. [DWJ: Wolf's father was also named Aaron.]
It's good to remember the pleasure Pop had in giving the folks a trip up to Irving's on occasion, as well as taking them on some of our picnics here in Jersey; the pride my folks took in his adherence to orthodoxy, the way my Father enjoyed talking to him man to man, with perfect understanding. The way Father used to make his suits and the "arguments" they had over style. Father always had material on hand which he picked up as "bargains", and when he made a suit for Pop and Pop would suggest style, or even select the material, Father would say to him: "Die veist a sach" -- a lot you know! Before the folks passed on, they had the "naches" of attending the weddings of some of the grandchildren, and knew three Great-Grands.
Living here peacefully in Englewood, with most of the family close by, we enjoyed together a beautiful twilight time. I keep thinking of the prophesy: "He shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall make him afraid." Neither of us ever soured on the thin times we had financially in the first years. As soon as he could, he bought nothing but the best and the most. I remember one time when he had made a big deal of some kind, "big" for those days, he brought twenty-five brand new dollars, spread them on the floor in a line, and got me to walk over them! I had been accustomed all my girlhood to earning money, so it came hard for me to swallow my pride and ask for extra money, beyond the limited allowance I had for housekeeping. It was my own fault that I set that weekly "allowance"at the lowest possible minimum, knowing that Pop would do the best he possibly could, as he proved time and time again: like buying the most expensive gas range when we moved into Oak St., the very newest gadget in refrigerators when we moved into "150," nothing less than a seven-passenger Studebaker after his first experiences with a Ford, etc. How can you say "gimme" to a man like that? It was false pride, of course, and got me into troublesome debt more than once. It was Pop who, in our advancing old age, used to scan the newspapers for bargains -- a rocker, a more comfortable chair, and more especially, dresses pictured he wanted me to buy.
I wish I had never been cross with him when he "forgot" so quickly, or refused some of the food I knew was good for him, or tried to limit his eating of chocolate from the big bars he liked. That was his last treat on the Sabbath of April 22, 1961; a quiet, painless last "blackout", a day made happy for him by Bud's reading of the Portion in Temple, and Norman's reading of it at the previous week's Sabbath service.
Oh, my darling children, if you shed tears, let them be in thankfulness to God for the beautiful life you helped to give us. Let those tears be, rather, for a prayer that your own lives, yours and your children's may be equally, even more full and happy. As Pop expressed it in his last Will, we both have hoped that there will always be togetherness in the family. We were always equal partners, even more on either side when occasion required; our marriage was started with the covenant that we would never go to sleep angry; we would talk things over, make peace. There was no domineering, only cooperation.
A word of thanks to all our in-laws: the Brenners, the Epsteins, the Danzigers, the Rosensteins, and my dear friends the Tamases family, which includes Sol's two brothers and sisters and three lovely half-sisters.
My prayer is, Dear God, bless all our children and those who come after them; may they always walk in the ways of truth and righteousness all the days of their lives, Amen. "Be strong and of good courage; Fear not, nor be affrighted at them, For the Lord thy God He it is that doth go with thee." (Deut.31.6.)
Ruth asked me to explain my philosophy of faith. Not being a scholar or erudite the best I can do is look into my heart and try to evaluate honestly just what I believe.
I grew up in an orthodox atmosphere, accepted the tenets, customs, the laws of "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob". In America I first learned anti-semitism; not strange, because, as I have pointed out in my story, our village was small, friendly, no industries that might have caused competition, jealousy. The lower East Side in New York had a fair mixture of Jewish, Irish and Italian people, and so I heard "Jew", "Yid", "Sheeney." Bearded Jews were always in danger walking alone at night.
I attended Synagogue services with my Mother on holidays, "dovvened" like a flowing brook without understanding more than half a dozen words, fasted faithfully (always have) on Yom Kippur, and vowed to myself that when I married I would wear a "sheitel" just like my Mother. I felt devout, loved all the holidays and everything that went with them. Even before I became a teenager, I began to be annoyed with the re-and-re-repeated prayers they offended my honesty in praying, How could I mean those prayers after so many repetitions? It took long years for me to understand,
When I became a "business woman", I entered a predominantly Christian world. I used to buy a 5¢ can of Heinz' baked beans as my lunch treat, and suspected the white little chunks in it, but I ate the beans just the same, pushing those chunks aside. Today's kosher beans and the large variety of kosher foods strike me as not only a concession for commercial reasons, but an acknowledgement of the integrity of the Jewish people who refuse to compromise with their belief. Later on, I wanted to taste the forbidden foods, so I would know why they were taboo, and t his is the conclusion I reached with all of them: Fish? none can compare with our gefilte fish and other "meichlen"; ham, corned beef, -- tasteless and not to be compared with our wonderful spicy preparations, certainly some as good as their very best. On the trip with Fanny and Nettie through New England, we stopped to eat in a restaurant famous for its shore dinners in Kennebunkport. We ordered chowder and lobster. The chowder wasn't bad, but one taste of the fish and I pushed it over to the girls and said, "you eat it -- there's no taste to it and I can live without it." I have never eaten it since, rarely ate forbidden food, only when I had to, often unknowingly. Why do so many Goyim buy our delicatessen meats?
Born a Jew, you cannot escape your heritage; some always cringe, are apologetic, make cowardly changes, denials. Some become reconciled, indifferent, even defiant, of the opinion of the non-Jew. But there are others who know who and what they are, hold up their heads proudly, and slough off the "slings and arrows" of stupid bigotry. But we go on, generation, being JEWS.
THIS I BELIEVE. From the earliest times of history we have been expelled, driven out, captured, scattered among the nations of the world. Why haven't we disappeared? When allowed to stay for any length of time, Jews have become integrated, enriched or contributed to the prosperity of the land of their sojourn -- always a sojourn, still not accepted, still the alien, the Jew, even after hundreds of years. So where do we really belong? What is our country? My simple faith is that the Jew wraps himself in the Torah, takes it with him wherever he goes congenitally unable to discard the faith in ONE GOD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. THAT IS THE COUNTRY OF THE JEW; the Torah is the place where he lives and has his being. Even Israel comes second, for we did not know how to keep the Land of Promise more than a few generations.
I read Ben Hur when the book first came out, and I almost wanted to accept Christianity. Of course that wore off, and my reasoning put me right; I knew I could not and would not want to be anything but Jewish. I compared in my mind the great prophets of the Bible, scanty as my Hebrew education was; the Law Giver Moses, his humility even in death, his grave unknown, so that no foolish people would make a god of him.
Without meaning disrespect to the fine people of other faiths, how can any second-hand or third-hand religion supersede the faith of the Jew? Think, even casually, what Christianity did in the Inquisition, the thousands of innocent people fed to the lions (neo Christians), the Hamans and the Hitlers, the pogroms. People ask, why did God allow these things to happen? Is there a God, Personal or in Spirit? As I see it, in my truly humble way of thinking, God has more faith in us than we have in Him. Whatever the great Spirit that guided him, Moses gave us the Ten Commandments; we were given intelligence, a miraculously constructed body, the earth, the waters, and their fruit to sustain us; the WILL TO CHOOSE. How have we used these gifts of life? The Rabbis tell us we have been punished because we did not keep faith with God, we disobeyed, we scoffed and did not adhere to the laws of Righteousness, did not love our neighbor as ourselves.
As parents, we know the psychological need of children to find out the way of life for themselves, with loving guidance, teaching, education; but when they go wrong, when our care has been disregarded, what can we do but wait, hope and pray, that they will come back to the the right path. What would we ber, what kind of human beings would we become, if everything was made right and easy for us? You know the answer to that one.
My faith has been strengthened throughout the years by not only the various incidents I have written down but by my instinctive love of nature; the orderly System of light and darkness, the seasons, the stars in the Heaven, the very manifestations of Power we see in storms, earthquakes, etc. Sometimes we let our thoughts stray in the direction of where? how? when? did it all begin? We realize that is wasted mental energy, and instead, we know there is Someone, just like an earthly Father who waits for the return of the prodigal, and we find peace and contentment and freedom, even in Israel.
I have never discarded Koshris from my home, it has become my way of life; I have lived it, and learned to love it. I find it fun to play house with those separate pots and pans and two sets of dishes; dish towels with a red stripe for meat and blue stripe for dairy, even red kosher soap and blue kosher soap. Silly? Against normal logic and reason? It is argued, dishes are clean, glazed; pots and pans are of non-absorbing metal, it makes no sense to keep kosher. The Supermarkets have many Jewish customers who buy non-kosher food. I do not blame or criticize, but I will live my own way of life. People live in so many ways of life; all of us have some kind of fence around our House, behind which we feel safe and secure .....
When Pop and I moved to Englewood, we felt it was a bonus from God that the children found an apartment for us close to the Temple, even though it was not orthodox, because Pop could not have walked (he never rode) to the Shule. Pop never criticized, never blamed, though I know it went against the grain to listen to the organ, to see women going up to open the door to the Arc, to the curtailed prayers. When he sadly remarked on that, I said, "Pop, you don't have to skip, you know." I have never known anyone who preyed so sincerely, deeply. Many a time I caught him standing at the window in the morning, phylacteries on head and arm, his two hands raised to Heaven in quiet, fervent prayer, whispering the names of each of the children. When the weather was mild, he loved going outdoors and saying his afternoon and evening prayers. We believed in God's goodness, in His answers to our simple, necessary prayers for humble needs. He said something once that confirmed my belief more securely: "After all, it isn't what we get out of Shule that counts, but what we bring into it."
At the end of the week, I love going to services; I don't repeat all the prayers, but those I do are deep and sincere. The Sabbath gives me rest, time to think of all the things I might have done better, or forgot to do at all. I am not fanatical about rituals; in J.C. I had a faulty gas pilot and had it closed off, so I lit one gas jet, put a [wide] plate over it and used it for warming on the Sabbath. But I didn't hesitate, to turn it up as needed, nor turn on and off electricity. Here the pilot is good, so I use it as needed. Just a quirk? My Sabbath day warms me, makes me realize that I have lived a whole week filled with activities, play with my bridge club here, and the one in Jersey City; telephone calls from the children, meetings, writing as the spirit moved me, and above all, very few mornings when I did not wake up with a song in my heart. I find myself humming before and after breakfast, and keep on humming and singing even after becoming conscious of what I was doing, until I got busy with house chores. Ruth gave me a wonderful book, "A Treasury of Jewish Folklore" which is just that. In it I found a little prayer that my other used to recite every Saturday at twilight, before we could light the lap, waiting to do that until there were at least three stars in the sky, so as not to chase out the Sabbath too soon, and I got into the habit a few years ago of reciting it myself, to the delight of Pop; he always waited for me to say it before he said his own evening prayers: (It has a musical score)
"God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob,
Protect Your holy people Israel from all evil!
As the dear holy Sabbath departs,
And the week and the month and the year ahead approach,
May they bring good fortune and blessings, prosperity and honor,
May they bring good living, good deeds and good
Tidings and all else that is good. Amen!"
I BELIEVE. My faith is conscious as well as instinctive. Tragedy and misfortune sometimes make people rebellious, and they lose faith. Even in the course of events, as time goes on, each generation loses a little of the faith of their Fathers. Like Pop used to say, from Orthodox to Conservative, then to Reform, and finally De-Form. But there is always a turning point, a Return, a Renaissance, in the most unexpected places. When I edited the Hadassah Bulletin, one of the co-editors was a charming, intelligent young woman with a problem: She had a four-year-old who was not eligible for regular kindergarten, and she was put to it to find enough to occupy his mind, or perhaps the time. The Yeshivah Day School was nearby, and she asked my opinion about sending him there. She did, and the little fellow brought in the ritual of the Sabbath Candles, the Sabbath, the Holidays, etc., to her delight and astonishment, She did her best to satisfy him, and loved it And this is what she said to me: "Mrs. J., I'll never forgive my parents for not giving me a Jewish education." They were not even reformed, just unaffiliated, Jews by birth which they did not deny. Eventually she became an active member of a Temple Sisterhood in another town, ad even complained that the Rabbi wasn't religious enough!
I hope this won't be a punishment because you asked me, Ruth, for I have two incidents to relate that made a deep impression on me. I am not superstitious, I ignore or treat in fun many of the taboos that have grown up among everyone: ladders, black cats, knock on wood, never "13", etc. We Jews have 13 principle Mitzvahs; there is the Bar and Bas Mitzvah, the United States started with 13 states -- and I happen to have been born the 13th. Can you understand how you can believe and yet not believe, rationalize and yet in spite of yourself, believe and know it's true .......
After I became engaged to Pop (we lived on W. 81st St. in N.Y. and I had my own room), I dreamed one night that I WOKE UP and sat up in bed; a visitor was coming in, a medium height woman, dressed in dark or black clothes covering her completely; she had red hair, a freckled face with a longish nose, and I KNEW HER! she was Pop's Mother. She slowly walked along to the head of the bed, and disappeared, and then I really woke up. I had never seen a photo of her, and when I described her to Pop, he said that was surely his Mother, as much as he could remember her. She was devoted to her scholarly husband, more suited for study than business; worked hard all her life, helping with dairy produce to sell, and died at an early age (37) after a miscarriage, like the kind I had twice. I remembered her when these things happened to me, wondering if that was why ....
The second incident was when Father Wolff came to live with use in his last illness, in the hope we could help him. After he was gone, I was carrying Toddy, and again I had that kind of dream. I have had dreams like everyone else; sometimes my Mother, my Father, and some very painful ones about Billy which woke me up sobbing. But this was different. Again I dreamed THAT I WOKE UP and sat up in bed, but it was the bed he had used, and it was in the middle of the living room, just as we had it for him, and I wasn't surprised to be in that bed. I began to shiver; someone was coming up the front stairs, and I knew who it was, and I told myself, "What are you afraid of? It's only your father-in-law!" I turned my head and watched him coming into the dining room, then into the living room, and I followed him with my eyes. The piano was against the wall on my right and I could see it right through him. Then he went on to the big Morris chair which stood by the front bay windows, and sat down. He took out his little black prayer book (Psalms and Ethics) and began reading as he always used to. I watched him, awed and completely at ease. Then he put the book away, got up, and as he reached the foot of the bed, I stopped him and said, in Yiddish: "Father, I want to ask you a great favor when my time comes, well you please come for me, and then I will not be afraid." He put his ghostly hand on my head, I cold feel it like the gentle falling of a leaf, and said: "Die vest nisht homen moire, mine kind, is vet alles zein gut" -- you will not be afraid, my child, everything will be good. Was it a figment of my active imagination? I believe both incidents were a Visitation. Didn't Billy say, "how do we know the spirits (or souls) of our parents aren't hovering over us?" Of course I really woke up in my own bed, in my bedroom.
To sum up, in my humble opinion the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week is the most wonderful holiday that has been ordained. In childhood I resented the curtailing of play; as a young woman, before marriage, I enjoyed the opportunity for recreation, theatre, sometimes shopping. As wife and mother, I was glad I didn't have to cook, could read all I wanted to, even a bit of shopping occasionally, hushing my conscience. In Shule, which I attended mainly on holidays and special occasions, I sat upstairs and sincerely followed the service; but when the reading of the Portion started, it started gossip and visiting among the women, so that often the Shamos had to pound po a phone book with a heavy piece of wood to restore quiet; but never for long, and sometimes the Rabbi would appeal to the women for silence, **Of course not all the women, but it takes only a very few to create a disturbance. This was the time I enjoyed reading the Bible, the English translation of the Portion of the week, if I could. I hope Orthodoxy will never disappear; it's like the roots of a Tree, sustaining the stem, the branches, the leaves. When the branches are denuded and the leaves have all fallen off, isn't it nice to think that Spring will bring the back to blooming life, because that Root is there.
I am not fanatically pious, as I have shown you, so I do enjoy the Conservative Temple. The services are dignified, it is quiet in the main, and how I enjoy the reading of the Bible when the Portion is read. Here I have become acquainted again with all the wonderful laws of ethics, of human behavior, where the emphasis is on "Love thy neighbor as thyself .... I come home feeling uplifted, safe, secure in the aura Pop has left for me, and "none shall make me afraid." And I am glad that I am a descendant of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
**I'm happy to add that most of the Orthodox Synagogues do have decorum. The Rabbis have to meet the challenge of the Conservatives.
Deleted from the original, this is added by request.
Throughout the early years in Jersey City, I had many occasions to make use of my knowledge of Dr. Tilden's teaching. Babies were given enemas, advice on diet, and the family called me Dr. Jacobowitz. I was never trying to be smart, just sensible, and if there ever a doubt in my mind, I called the doctor. Once I knew what the trouble was, I felt capable of taking care of the patient, but DID NOT give the medicine. Ruth had scarletina when she was about five, and I recognized at once I had to have advice. The doctor prescribed medicine; I cleaned out her bowels, kept her on liquid diet, and in three days she was well on the road to good health. The doctor was happily astonished at her quick recovery, but of course he never suspected she got no medication -- which I faithfully got from the drugstore, pouring doses down the drain. In a week she was so well that she longed to get outdoors; Pop took her, and it was too soon, so she got cramps in her legs, and I had to do it all over again, taking two extra weeks.
The help I gave that I am really proud of was the time Fanny Feder [should be Faber], Uncle Aaron's oldest daughter, was dying of double pneumonia in childbirth. She was already getting blue when the family called me; the doctor stood there saying he could do nothing more for her, it had to be specialists or hospital, which the family could not afford. As soon as he left I got busy. A pan of boiling hot water, a heavy towel wrung out as dry as I could (my hands were like parboiled when I got through) and spread on top of a dry towel over the chest area, another towel on top of that; warm blankets up to her neck, the window opened to the cold March air, and a folded newspaper in my hand to fan the air over her. Who could get oxygen? This process was repeated several times, and the steaming towels began to show results. Her lips began to turn pink she breathed easier, and then I got help from Aunt Jennie (Jacobowitz Treuhaft), who had already been a Tildenite and between us we got our patient out of danger. Liquid diet, then a light diet, and thank God she recovered. She raised five children, is a healthy grandmother.
Meanwhile I had called in another doctor whom I knew well, to check on her condition. He prescribed medicine of course. A practical nurse had been engaged, who was sympathetic to Jennie's and my objection to drugs (she said she had seen enough bad effects in many cases) and agreed, on our guarantee of responsibility, to pour the doses down the drain. Fanny recovered rapidly, and when the doctor came to visit her, he sat on the end of the bed and gazed in great satisfaction at her normal appearance, and said, "It's wonderful how that medicine works" -- or words to that effect. I looked him straight in the eye and asked: "Doctor, how do you account for such a strong dose being safe for a frail woman in childbed?" He had been kind enough to tell us the main ingredients were morphine, quinine and digitalis, which he as an Army doctor (W.W.I) had given to soldiers. He said the medicine was so balanced that it was potent for all .... Didn't Sister Kenny use the hot pack on her polio patients?
I pulled Toddy through a light form of diphtheria, through the aid of a sympathetic doctor I will not name -- no food except water until the crusts began to fall off her throat. Remember how you enjoyed your first cornflakes and milk? This reminds me of the bitterness that came with Billy's illness. He knew I'd put him to bed on a liquid fast, and it was too late in spite of all the modern drugs and injections I no longer objected to. If I'd only known he had a sore throat sooner -- God forgive me.