Notes: I’m David Jacobowitz, Ethel’s nephew. I transcribed the typed and hand-written memoirs from a copy I got from Natalie Epstein, Ethel’s daughter and my cousin. The original images are available upon request. I have added links to Geni profiles or to other informative resources and my comments are included in [brackets]. There are way too many commas, but I left them in. David Jacobowitz, April, 2012, updated January 14, 2014
The typed document is not dated, but my copy had a yellow sticky note that says:
“Frances Cohn, Warsaw, Poland, March 16, 1903 -- November 16, 1989, East Cleveland, OH.”
Memoirs of Ethel D. Zuckerman - Warsaw to the U.S.A
When the occasion arises and I am asked, “What are you doing these days to keep busy?”, my immediate response is “I am truly busy writing my memoirs of my life in Warsaw, which is where I was born.” The question that invariably follows is, “How old were you when you came here (the United States of America)?”
So, with that very mundane beginning, or so I thought, an entirely new aspect of that privilege to have known life in Warsaw, Poland, and the things I took for granted, have taken on so much more meaning for me. It has obsessed my entire mind to the point where I am determined that everything I put into my memoirs must be true and authenticated.
The intensity pof my efforts began with my memories of the sinking of the Titanic on April 12, 1912. I was positive that I knew about that event before we ever left Warsaw because we had seen a movie about that event because we had seen a movie about the sinking of the Titanic while still in Warsaw. [It was probably “Saved From the Titanic.” DWJ] The incident that flashed through my mind was the fact that before Dad left Warsaw for America, he took Mom, Frances, and me to see a silent moving picture. This unforgettable disaster had never left my mind, and for years, the vision of people groping in icy waters would arise to haunt me, again and again. I tried to accommodate the fact that I really saw that movie, albeit in the year 1912, before we made our way to America.
My research went far beyond my expectations, but more about that later. Having gotten the verification in motion, I was ready to begin writing my memories of Warsaw.
As I wrote, I became aware that the human mind is really like a computer. Each memory became a trigger for another. It was like opening a series of files, one leading to the next. My memory bank was loaded and just needed the right signals to spill out the information.
To begin my story, I can say that I was born on December 12, 1905, in Warsaw, Poland. We lived on the main street -- Volska Ulisa 14231 (tresky yedem). It was the most beautiful, cosmopolitan city that, as a child and even to this day, I believe cannot be equaled by any other city I have seen. There was a very broad expanse or midway between two rows of stores, which were always neatly and meticulously kept clean, with each owner sweeping the front of his premises each morning. There was never any debris found floating around. Tracks for the trolley ran down the middle of the expanse.
After my parents, Ella Weitzman and Abraham Danziger, were married in Radom, Poland, they wanted a life in a more modern atmosphere. Since my paternal grandfather, Meyer Danziger, manufactured chemicals in Radom, my folks thought it would be a good idea to establish a small, retail outlet for all types of chemicals The store they had rented was very small, but fronted on the impressive Volska Ulisa [Ulica].
Our housing accommodations were attached directly to the rear of the store connected by a door. Behind these quarters, there was a massive, cobblestoned courtyard which was reached through a huge iron gateway. During the day this gate was open to allow access for delivery vehicles to the shops, but the gate was closed at 8 P.M. sharp, as there was always a curfew. In addition to the unloading area where huge trucks made deliveries, the courtyard had the outhouses for the several buildings, and, of course, was used as a playground for all the children of the tenants.
Our living quarters consisted of one large living room plus a good sized kitchen which had a built in stove and oven made of stone and brick. Since no cooking was permitted on Shabbos, it was the usual custom to prepare all foods on Friday. We all particularly remember the chulent that was placed in the brick oven Friday evening after dinner and left in overnight for Saturday’s consumption The slow heating resulted in an unforgettable aroma that permeated the house all day on Shabbos. When the word chulent is mentioned, I think all Jews of my generation carry this savory memory. There is no food to this day that can compare with that aromatic, gut-wrenching sensation. I do believe it has become a lost art because of all the fast food innovations.
A cot for “living in” help was a permanent fixture in the kitchen. Usually a young girl, no doubt from some poor relatives, was given the opportunity to earn some money and also to be a help to Mom with the chores. A table and chairs completed the kitchen area.
By the time I was six years old (1909), we were already a family of five children -- 8, 6, 3 ½, 2, and 8 months. With Mom and, God bless them, we were seven all told, but we were able to live in this one, very large living room. Mom and Dad had beautiful, back-to-back, mahogany beds on one side of the room. The beds were covered by exquisite maroon colored velvet, tufted, down-filled comforters.
Across the room, my sister, Frances, and I shared one bed, and Moey and Howard shared another, along the side of the same wall. Baby Helen was in a crib that was placed on the other side of the room, closer to Mom and Dad’s beds. The wall with our beds led toward the kitchen, and was so long, that there was also room for a tall, impressive mahogany china cabinet. In the center of the living room was a sturdy, matching mahogany dining room table and chairs.
This was the total area that my family occupied. The other storekeepers from the neighboring shops had identical quarters, all along that row. As mentioned before, each home had a door for direct access to the shop in front, as well as a back door leading to the cobblestoned yard.
Above the stores, on the second floor of this structure were suites for renters. The third floor was one tremendous, dismal, undivided attic.
To this day, the month of May evokes memories, never, never to be forgotten. I remember vividly, the walks Frances and I had with my father, on sunny, Saturday afternoons. Lilacs bloomed behind the fences of the residences owned by the more affluent in the community, and the air was permeated with their aroma. It is impossible to put into words the intoxicating feeling I experience each time my memory brings me back to that moment in time.
Dad was a handsome Adonis and he took pride in taking his two lovely young daughters for a shpatsere (stroll). I guess we were particularly noticed because of Frances’ exceptionally satiny black hair, dark eyes, and peaches-and-cream complexion. I, on the other hand, was born a cornsilk blond (like a shikse - gentile) and blue eyes. (There must have been some Nordic blood someplace, early on. Our name, Danziger, denotes that we were at some time, from the city of Danzig which, at one time, belonged to Germany, and then to Russia, etc.) To further enhance the picture, my mother always dressed us in the height of fashion. It was obvious that my dad enjoyed the compliments from the passers-by.
To continue with our walk -- it must have been a full hour -- time was not important. We walked in a leisurely fashion to allow us to enjoy the beautiful trees all along the way to the Square, which was now enhanced by the delightful, green foliage, as well. The clank of the streetcars and the clip clops of the horses shoes on the cobblestoned midway completed with the announcement of, “Sackarash, Sackarash!!” (Ice Cream, Ice Cream). I carry this picturesque memory with me, undimmed by the passage of the years.
As in the tradition of all observant Jews, when we returned from our walk, my parents took their usual Shabbos rest. The store, naturally, was closed. Frances and I, were expected to quietly amuse ourselves at the kitchen table with the games and educational toys my mother always provided for us -- and also so that we would not disturb our parents in their sleep. I remember having to muffle our laughter so that we would not be scolded later. It was a lovely, and most beautiful time, in retrospect.
How difficult it must have been for Frances to sit so quietly, for she was a typical Tom Boy if ever there was one so young, No matter what Pops told us to do or where not to go, that’s where Frances was headed for, and I, the little schnook, would have to follow. Needless to say, I was punished in the same way that Frances was. We were made to sit on the floor, one on each side of that beautiful china cabinet. We knew we were punished out of kindness and didn’t resent our parents’ or Dad’s actions at any time. I realize it must have hurt my Pop more than it hurt me because I was normally such an obedient child. My problem was that Frances insisted that I come with her, for if I rebelled, she would pinch me. I suffered this treatment for many years, as each pinch was soon forgotten.
I recall the day she was headed for the railroad tracks where we could find some nuts and bolts (or whatever they were called), with which we used to play jacks. Fran must have gleaned that information from the boys on the block. Of course, we were punished again. Some of our other antics included staying later than we were supposed to when we were sent on a Saturday morning to visit an aunt and uncle who lived near us. [Malka and Miriam were Abraham’s sisters] We were only to stay an hour, but they prevailed upon us to stay longer, and, of course, due to Frances’ finagling we did. Same punishment!! When it was all over, everything was forgiven.
If you hadn’t guessed, my relationship with Frances was very special. We led a carefree existence in Warsaw The two of us were like an entity unto ourselves. I have a poor recollection of things that happened to my brothers and sister because Fran and I, being so close in age, moved in our own world. We were too young to have any responsibilities in the care of our siblings, and too old to be treated as babies.
It was in the courtyard that we could play without any supervision from Mom and Pop. Frances and I learned the technique of playing the game of Diablo there. To play, you use a strong twine attached to two sticks and a Diablo, which is like a round hourglass shape made out of firm rubber. First it is necessary to be able to master rolling this toy back and forth on the string, from one end to the other. After mastery of this step, we progressed to learning to twist the sticks around and back, still keeping the Diablo balanced on the string and to toss the Diablo into the air and catch it on the string, As our technique improved, we tried more intricate and daring moves, going so far as to toss the Diablo high into the air and retrieving it on the string in a continual action.
This was the epitome of accomplishment in the game. It did take a lot of practice at first, but the achieved height of the toss eventually was the crowning glory, to be shown off as we performed at parties and other gatherings. The game is akin to what the Smothers Brothers do with their yo-yos currently.
One day, while we were outside, just enjoying ourselves playing hopscotch, a commotion arose from across the street. We were finally able to identify the source of the action as being at the Krackouer [Krakower] residence. They had different living quarters than ours, and the activity was coming from above their bedroom windows, Someone was throwing rocks or stones into the street. It was certainly something unusual for a child to witness, Later we learned that the eighteen-year-old son of the Krakowers had been going with a gentile girl, and the parents objected to the idea. Actually, he had a mental disability. Many years later, I met a family by the same name and, yes, their family had relatives in Warsaw. By that time, of course, it was much too late for any contact.
The sidewalks in front of the stores were were very much like those here in the states, so, much of our playing time was spent on them. Besides hopscotch, we girls also played jacks, that was too tame for my Tom-Boy sister, however, and one day, she insisted on doing exactly was the boys our age were doing -- taking a stick and pushing it along the sidewalk, not with their hands, but with their bodies, leave it to Frances to follow the same stunt.
Unfortunately, the stick shifted out of position and into her privates. Needless to say, it was most frightening, especially when Mom realized that Frances was bleeding, which indicated that something had been ruptured. She was rushed to a hospital and the doctors had had to do some repairs. Frances improved quickly and was able to get along with her usual programs.
A special occurrence that stands out was my discovery of a new food. One lovely, summer day, I was standing on our side of the street in front of our stores, and looking across the street at the store which sold gourmet meats and delicacies. I had always admired that store from a distance because of the way it was kept so attractively and immaculately clean. I noticed that their window was empty except for a single, red, round shaped article. I was so intrigued and curious, that I crossed over to the other side of the tracks for a closer look. I remember just standing there wondering what that object, displayed on a pedestal covered with lace, could be. Finally, someone informed me that it was a tomato -- the very first one we had ever seen.
On Friday evenings, after Mom had put the younger ones to bed, she would sit and play games with the two of us, or spend time reading to us. This was a special treat for Mom to sit and talk, enjoying her two older daughters in the moment of peace and relaxation. She was “modern” in her thinking about raising her family. After this entertainment, Mom fixed tea for us (naturally with the usual lump of sugar) for our dessert. Mom’s devotion to us has lingered as a special and pleasant memory.
One Friday night, as Mother started to pour the tea, my cup was accidentally tilted and my wrist was burned with the scalding liquid. Needless to say, it was very painful. Mom very calmly went to the place where she kept things cool, and came back with an egg, She proceeded to remove the egg white, beat it slightly, and quietly and gently put it on my wrist, applying soothing layer, after layer. The immediate relief was like magic, and I was able to fall asleep that night and slept all night without any further discomfort.
A booba meisa (old wives’ tale), you say!? Many, many years later, I had occasion to use the egg white theory to relieve the pain from severe sunburns on many sufferers at Cedar Point and on a trip to Cape Cod, Just last year, boiling hot coffee was spilled on my wrist. I immediately applied the same layered, cold egg white remedy. By the time I arrived at the doctor’s, there was no pain and he could scarcely see the signs of the red hot flesh. Though it did need further attention, the pain was gone, and the treatment was tolerable. When I described some of the unusual things my mother had to resort to, I said to my doctor that I guessed he didn’t believe in all these old wives’ tales. He countered that medical science, definitely does go back to some of the old methods and herbal medicines, and recognizes their effectiveness.
Another one of our old quick remedies was what was called bainkies. A small cylindrical glass cup was inverted and dipped into alcohol. A match lit the alcohol inside the cup, and, as soon as the alcohol burned off, the cup was immediately placed on the hurting part of the body. The suction created in the cup drew out the pain immediately, again, like magic. This process was used many a time on me, particularly, as I was prone to catch colds easily. Frances always alerted Mom when we got into bed and I complained of the pain in my side.
Years later, my mother told me how a felcher (a barber) saved my life when I was about two years old. My crib was positioned between the door leading to the store and the window directly on the opposite wall, I probably was caught in a draft, and became very ill. Despite the fact that Mom was the most wonderful nurse to all of us, fear entered her heart, as she witnessed my color turning blue. She lost no time, and hurried to the felcher, a couple of blocks away, and brought him to our house.
He took one look at me, and as I was turning even darker, and he said to Mom, in a very offensive way, “I can do nothing for her.”
My mother asked, “Why not?”
He responded in no uncertain terms, “Because she might die if I do what you ask me to do.”
My mother’s brave, emotional answer, also in no uncertain terms, was, “She will die anyway if you don’t go ahead immediately and do what I insist that you must do. Please go ahead and do it.”
Either pneumonia or pleurisy had set in and I was on the way out. The method was to use gehakte bainkies. In order to make the bainkies more more effective, it was necessary for him to make four one-inch incisions through my skin and flesh on my right side above my shoulder blades. The moment the alcohol-dipped bainkies were applied, with their vacuum-like suction, the dark blood that came pouring out was the most miraculous thing that Mom had ever witnessed in her lifetime. It was that cleansing and purifying the blood that was the miracle of my immediate recovery. Even forty years later, I could still see the signs of the scars, and would show them to my mother, but by eighty+ years of age, they had disappeared. To this day, drafts, either outdoors or in the apartment if a window and door are opened simultaneously, still bother me. I am always careful to keep my shoulders and chest protected by proper apparel.
People poo-pooed the thought of a felcher prescribing medicine, or even performing minor surgery. What must be kept in mind is that from the moment Jewish boys were born they were being taught the Bible. From the beautiful Torah writings and the Scribes, those who sought the additional knowledge and education, were very well-informed on the functions and illnesses of the human body. They learned to cope with crises such as mine. Actually, the felchers were regarded as part doctor. One wonders where the Scribes got their knowledge of the health habits and human body, but regardless, I am personally glad it was handed down from generation to generation until I was helped by that special knowledge, especially for my mom’s sake.
Frances and I both attended a Polish private school, run by two lovely Polish teachers. When I was entered at five years of age, Frances ha already had two years, adn moved on to the gymnazia during my second year there. The teachers were most pleasant and very kind to us. My young mind was like a sponge, and my appetite for more knowledge was constantly being whetted. Reading, writing and arithmetic were my forte. I couldn’t absorb enough and thirsted for more, which resulted in reading becoming my favorite hobby, even to this day.
My sister was the one born with a flair for dramatics, reading and poetry, and she lost no time and started to work on me, teaching me poems to recite in school. My first performance had to do with a pussy cat, sing-songed in Polish, and I still hum the tune when it pops into my head. For this entertainment, I received a beautiful gold watch, which I am sure Mom made good use of.
Our two years at school were very enjoyable and by the second year, we had already studied Polish literature, grammar and arithmetic. We were about to start learning the Russian language when I was six-and-a-half, but that unfortunately (or fortunately one might add) never came to pass.
I did get get to perform a second time the following year, for which they presented me with a Hans Christian Anderson story book, which was bound with bronzy-green leather and had gilt-edged pages. It contained all the beautiful tales that I loved to read. The book was my special treasure. Such memories are evoked when I think of that book that I feel a spasm in my heart,
The classroom setting was nestled on very pleasant wooded grounds. The principal’s office was on the same grounds, but closer to the main street. I recall being escorted to her office, in sponse to her request. The trek from the schoolhouse to the main office gave me time to be puzzled and confused as to the purpose of this summons. When I arrived a mother was there to enroll her pretty young daughter into the school. The child had beautiful long hair, and as the Principal greeted me, she spoke to the mother. I gathered that the mother was adamant about not wanting to cut her daughter’s beautiful hair.
The Principal pointed to me and said, “If this child’s mother agreed to have her beautiful hair cut, you should have no reasons to object to do so, either.” Cutting the hair was a prerequisite on entering the school. I know my mother must have also tried to object, but she, too must have given in.
I bring up this point to illustrate how far more advanced this beautiful cosmopolitan city was in early health standard innovations. Where I came to America, no school here ever had the same requirement.
I enjoyed whatever classes I took. Math and arithmetic were my forte. In fact, at age six, when I was permitted to stay in our store while Mom and Dad were having their dinner, I waited on a customer and completed the sale, such as it was, and made change, as well. I had to stand on a stool to reach the cash drawer! Both Mom and Dad had complete confidence in my ability.
On the other hand, Frances couldn’t care less about arithmetic and all through school it was never her favorite subject. How ironic that, through all her life, she earned a living working with figures.
Dad was a very artistic individual, which brings to mind how he learned to play the violin by ear. Grandpa Danziger believed in a good education, and besides the traditional education for Jewish boys, Dad graduated from the Polish gymnasia, and he was conversant in Polish, German, and Russian. He never was formally trained in music because Grandpa Danziger did not approve of spending money on such “frivolities” as music lessons or musical instruments. Therefore, as a teen-ager, Dad saved money secretly until he was able to purchase a violin on his own, and then taught himself to play.
While we were still in Warsaw, Dad took Frances and me to hear the delightful opera, “The Merry Widow,” which I recall to this day. As soon as we arrived back home, he began to play one of the arias by ear. I can still sing the Polish words to that favorite aria to day.
While I am on the subject of my Handsome DAD -- I remember so well how he stood every morning, facing the window, wearing his tallis (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries), davening (saying) has morning prayers. Dad also taught me all the morning prayers, the prayers to recite before eating, and for the Friday night ritual of lighting the candles and blessing the wine and others for Shabbos, as well as the prayers to say before going to bed. Sweet, sweet memories.
Each evening, he would sit at the dining room table, writing in his own black-covered notebook with great diligence. The book took on a private meaning to me, and I regret that it was left behind when we packed for our journey to America.
Being the more practical of the couple, my mother ran the family store in addition to caring for the children, It was my father who did any traveling to social or family events. When Frances was about 7, I remember Dad taking her to Faria to attend one of his sister’s wedding (our aunt [maybe Miriam]). Frances looked very pretty as usual, in her new dress.
The following year, Dad took me on the same trip. I was so little I couldn’t walk from the the train myself, and Dad had to carry me all the way to their house. Mom had also had a new dress made for me. She had a special seamstress that created the most unusual designer clothes (if you please!) How vividly I remember trying on that lovely aqua dress before we left and looking in the mirror.
The image in the mirror came back to me years later  as I was making a dress for my two-year-old daughter, Natalie, to wear on the stage at a movie house in a Baby Contest. It was aqua organdy, trimmed with lace around the yoke, the very same soft shade as the dress I had worn so long ago in that world that had vanished.
I was reminded of my special dress years after that. I was assigned the role of “Gayety” in a play entitled “The Spirit of the Council,” sponsored by the Council of Jewish Women. The other characters’ parts called for drab robes. Their roles characterized the different duties of the board members. To my surprise, my costume was a ballet tutu made of sheer tulle, the very same shade as the dress from Warsaw.
How to speak of Mom. As I said previously, Mother’s maiden name was Weitzman (Weiczman). Her family lived in a small town in Poland, and my Grandpa Weitzman had a very important job as an expediter for a railroad that was owned by some wealthy Jewish people. Grandpa was often invited to their home and he learned a great deal about their lifestyle and the standards by which they lived so magnificently. During his visits, he gained an appreciation of fine, imported fabrics and how their elegance was evident in the finished results, Grandpa must have had a natural appreciation for fine things that was brought out by his exposure to them in their home.
When Mom was ready to marry my dad, Grandpa must have obtained the name of a seamstress and sources for all the fabrics from that wealthy family. The seamstress was engaged to make Mom’s trousseau. Only exquisite, imported fabrics and designs were used to fashion the delicate lingerie and beautiful, stylish outfits. Even though they lived in a small town, couture magazines and patterns were available to them, One I remember in particular, and which Mom even brought to the United States with her, was a jacket to a suit, a rich shade of dark green velvet, with leg o’ mutton sleeves, and embroidered with silver and gold threads. It was definitely an advanced style from a provincial creator.
After my mother graduated from the gymnazia, Grandpa wanted her to go on to college, but she preferred to stay home to take care of her six younger sisters and her mother, who was not too well (small wonder). Grandpa always admired Mom’s dexterity and ability to run their household, for she was not only a caregiver nurse all her life, but she was a superb cook. Both talents continued to be used throughout her life. She had the knack of making the simplest food taste so good, no gourmet could have done any better.
She was always giving of herself from the time she was born, or so it seems. Her education encompassed all the necessary requirements of math, grammar, languages (including Russian and German) and science. I recall when, later, after Pop died at the age of 78, my mother came to Cleveland to live with Frances and share her apartment. I took her to the Mayfield JCC to sit in on an English course. When I called for her, I asked if she had learned anything, Her answer was, “I learned all that in Europe. Grammar -- He is... She is... He was,,, etc, “ and it made me chuckle,
Mom was an avid reader, and therefore kept abreast of the healthy aspects of foods. I recall very vividly, that Mother never had a jar of schmaltz (chicken fat) on hand as so many Jewish families were wont to do, All the schmaltz she ever used was from the one chicken at the time that it was bought and cooked. She continued that practice all her life. Her food was never sopped in grease. Mom’s cooking was pure and simple even before the dangers of cholesterol were known Mom chose uncooked oatmeal, and always combined it with bran or wheat germ, I get a kick reading about these “new” discoveries in recent years, Mom was really very much ahead of the times.
Life at home was so delightful, and one of the fondest memories I have is the waiting period each year before Pesach. It seemed an eternity from one year to the next, primarily because that was when Mother, with all her talent and good taste in clothes, had the seamstress make new outfits for Frances and me. What a glorious feeling it was to go out strutting wearing our new clothes!!
Pesach, however, meant much more to me. It was the reading of the Bible and the study and constant repetition of the Ten Commandments and my admiration for Moses who brought us the Ten Commandment, and also the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. Many, many years later, one of our rabbis, was in the process of writing a book in which he started to belittle the role of Moses and to give credit to Aaron, his brother.
At this point in time, our grandchildren were already grown and had had the usual schooling at the temple, so I was up in my years, too, and had no reservations about speaking my mind. This was an evening meeting with the hall filled by our congregation.
I started soft-peddling first and I said, with a slight quiver in my voice, “I may get my head chopped off at what I am about to say, but ....”
The rabbi had a smile on his face and in a very friendly fashion said, “I may not agree with you, but I wouldn’t chop off such a pretty head.”
The stage was set for an easy atmosphere and I proceeded, rather in an avenging way that the Christians have their Jesus, their crosses, etc. and every source of worship. All I can remember, was the noblest person that I could think of was Moses on Mt. Sinai. That is what I learned and what the children have been taught from the cheder (school) days. Why, now, should we take away the emotional, solid feeling and admiration that was embedded within us toward this mortal hero? What are we going to have left? If Moses was chosen by God, who are we to question?
Yes, Pesach was truly the one ritual holiday which left me in awe of the beautiful writings in the Bible.
Rosh Hashanah was a beautiful mixture of happiness and merry celebrations. On Yom Kippur my father left for shul immediately after dinner. Mom would follow more slowly. I remember my sister and me standing at the door to see Mom off and seeing tears in her eyes as she said to us, “Beit zich ois a guten yor” (pray for the blessings of a good year) with a sob in her voice. These were the only times I ever saw my mother cry. I realized later that she really prayed from the heart, not just with words. Her prayers were not just lip service. Through them she was inspired and moved.
As I write this, I realize how these memories had affected me deeply. Sometimes it wasn’t until years later that I realized the significance of events in my life and their powerful impact on my emotions.
I remember the closeness of my relationship with my mother and our special moments together. Mom taught me how to sew, darn, and crochet when I was just five years old. She must have learned herself at an early age, for I still have perfectly executed needlepoint she made, dated 1888. She would have been just ten [five] at the time. I must have inherited her creativity and ability to do handwork, for I have used those talents through my whole life.
Also stored in my memory bank are the times when I was six and I would sit in front of the mirror while my mother was busy nearby doing chores, and enjoying as she watched me fix my hair in different styles. Our quiet companionship was a treasure I held dearly.
When we left Warsaw, we had never heard the word “ghetto” in relation to our city. The area in which we lived was not a ghetto. When the horrendous stories started coming out of Europe about the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust, I, for one, was very naive and disbelieving about much of what I heard, especially about the Poles. In retrospect, however, I do remember two incidents that were brought on by the soldiers, who were under Russian administration at the time.
We were always friendly with our neighbors and the local police. Through the good and friendly auspices of the Gendarme on our beat, when I was five, my parents were notified of an impending raid/uprising that was about to take place. He told us to lock and chain our premises. Needless to say, it was very frightening for my mom and dad, who feared for their children. I remember vividly that Frances and I were dressed and overdressed with dark clothes and taken all the way up to the third floor attic.
There we had to stay in the farthest corner, If the raiders should, heaven forbid, find their way up there, this was the least conspicuous place to hide. we were admonished to keep absolutely quiet and then Mom kissed and hugged us and hurried back downstairs. We remained there, completely mute, throughout the night. In the morning Mom and Dad finally came to retrieve us when the area was clear of the soldiers.
After that, my dad, who feared for the lives of his precious children, revealed that he had a gun and that he would not hesitate to shoot to kill if it became apparent that our lives were in danger. Fortunately, we were all spared that gruesome experience, The soldiers did break down all the barriers and ransacked the store, but did not break into our home, nor entered the second floor or attic. The store was left totally devastated, with very little to be salvaged Every keg and pain was turned upside down, a horrible sight, and so much loss.
The ordeal was especially gruesome for my mom and dad. Years later, Mother recounted about the time when pogroms were rampant all over Europe. At the time these two incidents happened to our family (years 1910 - 1911), the Russians were aware of the fact that the soldiers were getting restless and had given the okay for them to act as they had. Because of the kindness of the beautiful Polish people we knew, who had heart and soul, we were spared any loss of life.
A year later, we were again forewarned by the same Gendarme. This second occurrence must have been the turning point for my father, for that is when he decided to leave for the United States, though I was unaware of Dad’s decision to leave Warsaw.
The year 1912 has always stood out in my mind and I was determined to find about all that I could about the events of that time. Since I began writing these memoirs, the research I have done has been a most edifying experience for me.
Before Dad left, I remember getting dressed up and Dad taking mother, Frances, and me to the theater to see a movie. Because of the curfew, my father must have gotten permission to take us out past eight o’clock. The film was about the tragic sinking of the proclaimed “indestructible” ocean liner, the Titanic, on its maiden voyage.
As my thoughts progressed, I became more obsessed with all that I could remember, first the bells and sirens, the sudden jerking of the ship that signaled trouble, and then the massive confusion as people rushed in all directions to find their loved ones. Some of the passengers, not believing there could really be a crisis, just continued with their card games in the ship’s lounge. There followed the scene with the icebergs and people struggling in the cold, cold water, hoping to be saved; the view of the women and children that were lowered into the boats below; and the portrayal of a lovely-looking woman who refused to leave without her husband, despite his urging her to go without him, and how she prevailed and did not permit herself to be lowered to the lifeboats.
Years later, while reading about this catastrophic accident, I learned that the portrayal was about the Jacob Astors of the fur establishment in the United States, and that neither of them had survived. Even now, I still get chills when those same relentless waves appear in my mind during my sojourns into reflection. [John Jacob Astor IV perished on the TItanic.]
When I confided these memories to my closest friends, they scoffed and tried to convince me that I had heard about it and dreamt or imagined how it must have been, or that I had seen the footage on a Pathé Newsreel. I knew in my heart that I had seen a full-length movie. The memory was so real to me that I couldn’t let it go. If I hadn’t been so persistent, my story might never have been written.
I embarked on research at the branch library, where the librarian was most helpful, but had insufficient information. A call to the main library, generated the information that there is a Titanic Historical Society. This was the first I knew of such an organization’s existence, and I was delighted. Having learned who to contact, I wrote immediately:
Titanic Historical Society
Dear Sirs or Madams.
I am writing my memoirs and am very interested in confirming the fact that my father, mother, my sister and I saw a movie on the Sinking of the Titanic in Warsaw, Poland, sometime very shortly after the Disaster.
It had to be some time in 1912, as we left for the States, according to the records on our Citizenship Papers, on the last boat leaving from Bremen in 1912.
At the time, I was 7 years old and had had 2 years of schooling, so my memory serves me well. (I am reaching my 85th on December 12, 1990 and am still full of “pep”).
My problem is that noone seems to have a record of the movie having been made at that time. Could it have been pulled due to the ensuing lawsuits? The earliest one that was made in the U.S.A. was around 1942.
I would deeply appreciate any confirmation on the subject that you might offer, as it was not a Pathe News, but a full length picture.
Thank you kindly,
The society was slow in responding. In the meantime, I was walking on air knowing that such a thing as the Titanic Historical Society existed and there was a place to verify my memories. I had almost given up hope of any reply when, about a month later, I almost threw out their answer in a flurry of discarding “junk” mail. When I opened their letter, it was like the heavens really had opened for me:
September 25, 1990
Mrs. Leo Zuckerman
22655 Chagrin Boulevard, #304
Beachwood, Ohio 44122
Dear Mrs. Zuckerman,
Your recent letter addressed to the Titanic Historical Society of Indian Orchard, Massachusetts has been forwarded to me for replay, as I am this organization’s official Historian.
To the best of my knowledge, the earliest movie about the sinking of the Titanic was “Saved from the Titanic” by the Eclair Film Company of New York. The star was Dorothy Gibson, who was then under contract to them, and who was a survivor of the actual sinking. The movie was a depiction of her own experiences in the disaster. This film was released on May 14, 1912, and since it was, of course, a silent film, it may very well have been shown in Warsaw.
Thank you for contacting the Titanic Historical Society. Best of luck in the writing of your memoirs, and my congratulations on your continued good health.
I was so excited that I ran a red light and got a ticket, the first I had ever gotten in my life!! Fortunately I was not hurt and my mind was perfectly clear, which is what I put in the police report, though both cars were damaged, but not beyond repair. Despite my mishap, I was elated, for I was vindicated. I truly had a remembered what some said must have been a dream.
Through continued research, I found out that the Eclair Film Company had a disastrous fire [March 1914], and no copies ofd the original movie still exist, I further ascertained that there were no other films made about the disaster until thirty years later, 1942, after the statute of limitations on the copyright expired on the first film.
Dad’s plan for moving to America called for his departure first so he could establish a home for us in the new country. I feel certain that we children were not told of the destination for fear that we might inadvertently say something to an outsider. Dad departed in October of 1912. He must have arranged to leave incognito, so as not to be recognized and forced to serve in the army or jailed. When the Polish army had tried to recruit him earlier, he had one of his his big toes amputated so he was unfit for service.
The only thing I remember leading to our departure from Warsaw was helping Mom with the packing. It was at this point that I picked up Pop’s black notebook. The entries were in Polish and my reading skills were so good, that I was able to read what he had written. Because of his habit of of devouring the newspapers, he was very aware of world conditions. The last entry in that book was about the advent of a “World Wide Conflict.” I was so impressed by his use of words that I handed the notebook to Mom to put into the case. Mom, however, was not a dreamer and her practicality led to the book not being included because of the limited space we had for our belongings.
I believe that Grandpa Danziger must have come to Warsaw to help Mother close the store and assist her departure from Warsaw with the five children. Over the years, I have often wondered how my parents were able to deal with the closing of the store while keeping creditors at bay. I guess this is where we Jewish people have had to live by wits, guts, and grit.
I do not remember much of the first stage of our trip, except that we were all dressed in dark clothes and traveled incognito. We must have traveled at night and were probably so all tired that we slept during the train ride. The first stop on our journey was the small town of Miellosna, (Miłosna?) Poland, where we had relatives, an aunt, uncle, and cousins, who were our age. The apartment must have been rented for us by a cousin who had lived there a long time.
The time passed quickly because we were with cousins our own age, who were good company. One favorite thing was reading the stories out of that beautiful green leather book which I had won at school. Mom had permitted me to carry that one treasure on the trip. It was the last time I saw it, however. Either my book got lost during the flight from Miellosna, or my cousins kept it in their home, where I had permitted them to read it.
Even though it was early winter, the weather was exceptionally mild. My cousins, Frances, and I could play games outdoors and this kept us from feeling cooped up and fearful. I recall that I shared my expertise with needlecraft and taught my cousins how to sew and crochet during our sojourn when we were inside.
When I started to write about our departure from Miłosna and the next part of our jounrey, I had to postpone it until I could master my tears and tightness in my throat. . .
I have a vivid picture of our clan -- dressed in dark clothes and trudging on uncultivated land, outside a country town -- to reach the railroad station. Because the roads were so rugged, we walked in constant fear of missing our step and falling. I remember Gramps holding two-year-old Howard in his arms, mom holding baby Helen (8 months) and Frances and I holding onto three-and-a-half year old Moey. We blindly groped our way after Mom and Gramps, who were in constant fear of, God forbid, being followed or discovered before we got to the railroad station and the train that would take us to Bremen. God was truly with us that moonless night, protecting us from discovery, yet guiding our footsteps safely.
Years later, in the States, I saw a movie with a family also dressed in dark clothes and coats and hoods, trudging through snowbound Siberia, in an exile from Russia. It was like a flashback of our own grim and sad flight out of Poland.
We finally reached the train and were guided to our seats, which, unfortunately, did not include sleeping accommodations That really didn’t matter, though, since we were all so tired that we immediately fell asleep in our seats. My sleep was disturbed several times, as we signaled our approach to towns with the eerie “Too-oot Too-oot” of the train whistle. As I recall, I was the only one of my siblings that awakened each time that sonorous whistle sounded. I fell easily back into a sweet, deep sleep each time. To this day, every time I hear a train whistle blow, I am transported into that seat on the train with two siblings huddled around me.
We arrived at Bremen, Holland [probably Bremenhaven, Germany], safely. Certain things then elude me, such as the trip from the station to our hotel. In my eyes it was a beautiful, impressive building, constructed mostly of stone and so very clean looking, with cobblestoned grounds around it. The next morning I saw Mom peeking out the window by slightly opening the curtain. It wasn’t until later that I realized that she was constantly on the alert to see if we had been followed. What agony that must have been. She didn’t take an easy breath until we were safely on the boat from the port of Bremen and steaming toward the United States. Every moment that we, and the other families, had to wait for the time to depart must have been a torture, for if we were caught escaping, we would have been imprisoned. My heart skips a beat when I think of the heroism that she exhibited.
Having said earlier on that my Grandpa Meyer Danziger, from Radom, was to be our escort, I should point out that he was a very shrewd and intelligent businessman, but had a certain miserly quality. When the subject of finances fore the trip were discussed, Mom told Gramps that, added to whatever little they might have in cash, she would give him the diamond earrings which he had given to her as a wedding present. That was fine with Gramps.
When it came time to discuss what class we were to travel, however, I learned later from Mom that Gramps insisted on steerage passage. My mom was not in any way going to travel in steerage with her beautiful, wonderful, darling family. She had not been raised in hardship and was resolute on this matter, insisting that she would go back rather than to subject us all to that unpleasant experience.
She was so adamant about going back that Gramps said to her, “You know what is going to happen in Europe, don’t you?” Mother did not cower. She was as stoic as anybody in a crisis could possibly have been. Our presence in the United States shows that she finally won out and we travelled Second Class on the magnificent ocean liner.
I once again draw a blank as to how we traveled from the hotel in Bremen to the port where our line was waiting. Whether by horse and wagon or some other, newer mode of transport, I will never forget the sight of that ship, or boat, as we were wont to call it. Who knew the word “liner?” It was a huge and beautiful, and was called the Rotterdam [It was the Rhein on December 18, 1913]. When we boarded , we found that the interior was just as impressive.
Since Gramps was traveling with us, we needed three cabins -- one for Frances, Moey and me, one for Howie, Helen and Mom, and one for Gramps. It’s a good thing he had one all by himself, because he had always loved Limberger cheese and had brought some along for snacks. His cabin was quickly permeated with its distinctive odor.
The cabins were lovely. The rows of cabins were separated by an aisle and a very large library, which we were all permitted to use. So, while Frances and I went off exploring the ship, Mom and the small children passed their time in this gorgeous library.
Because Mom was conversant in so many languages -- Polish, Yiddish, German, and Russian -- and a very attractive, young matron, she had no difficulty engaging the handsome mates and officers in conversations about varied topics. The mates and officers were very much taken with Mom and spenty a lot of time with her. If I haven’t mentioned it previously, Mom had a most unusual auburn hair color. Back in Warsaw, Frances and I would spend hours on end combing it over and over while she was resting. All of these attributes made her a desirable companion for the young swains. In retrospect, I have come to the conclusion that Mother cultivated this attention in the hopes that, should there be a crisis, these gentlemen would come to our aid. I never verified this with my mom, but, God bless her memory, it would not have been unlike her to do that. Now that I think about it, she probably was reacting to fear after seeing the movie about the Titanic.
I had never seen anything as elegant as the magnificent Dining Salon. The crystal chandeliers glittered, reflecting off the silver service and crystal glassware, which was beautifully laid on sparkling white linens. All our meals were in this vast and splendid setting. What beauty to behold in the eyes of a child! We were surrounded by so much finery and lovely, friendly people. The meals must have also been good, because I do not recall anyone complaining. During the voyage, a new taste experience for me was my first taste of a banana, a fruit which we had never seen in Poland. This is such a delicious memory, I almost hesitate to leave it and go on with my story.
Frances and I spent our days exploring the ship. We walked every deck -- first, second, and third class -- greeting everyone as we walked. No space was ignored. Finally, Frances insisted that we also go down to steerage, and I accompanied her very reluctantly and with a great deal of trepidation. In later years, people have told me that I have gumption, but I must give the credit to Frances, who taught me so much because she insisted that I accompany her. I do not recall how Frances managed to find a way to get down there, but I am sure she did not hesitate to ask questions and was rewarded by very gracious answers.
As we descended into steerage, we realized that we were below the water level, for there is no sun, no natural light and no sky visible. The windows were just blocked out with opaque green water. When our eyes had adjusted to the dim light, we became aware of the masses of people -- neither standing nor sitting -- but huddled in family bunches on the floor They all seemed to be dressed in dark clothes, making for a very dreary scene. Neither the children nor the adults were permitted to go up to the decks for a breath of air nor to exercise.
It was ironic that this that this was their entire existence for two weeks while others enjoyed such comfort and opulence on that beautiful, elegant liner, It was like two separate worlds within the confines of one vessel. How often we forget to count our blessings and to be thankful. In our case, we were fortunate that Mom had stood up to Gramps and, therefore, we were spared a horrible experience that would have haunted us the rest of our lives.
With all the investigating we had done, we became well known by most of the passengers on board, who spent their days out walking or reclining in their deck chairs. God continued to watch over us all during that December, for the mild weather we had enjoyed in Miellosna continued for our journey to Bremen and even across the Atlantic, until our last day at sea. The mild weather made our voyage that much more enjoyable because we didn’t have to stay cooped up inside. This also meant that all of us suffered less discomfort than most immigrants remember from their crossings.
Because of our explorations and outgoing natures, Frances and I were very well known by all the passengers and crew. Nonetheless, we were surprised and delighted to learn from Mom that Fran and I were invited to a personal Christmas Eve celebration in the ship’s kitchen prior to the gala holiday dinner. The head chef had issued the invitation and, when we arrived, the staff was lined up to greet us, and the chef introduced us to them all. Then he started our tour. The kitchen was huge and equipped with every imaginable kind of pot and pan, all on a larger scale than anything with which we were familiar. As we walked, the chef explained how the food was prepared and dispensed, and we were agog the the variety of gleaming, huge silver trays, bowls, platters and utensils used to serve. We were especially fascinated to watch the creation of ice cream molds in various shapes, including lambs, which we particularly admired. He then gave us each one of the lamb shaped molds to take to our table and share with the family. Another, lovely, delicious memory from our voyage across the ocean. [What did Ella do about keeping Kosher? DWJ]
The day before we were to arrive in the United States, the seas became rough, the ship’s whistles blew fog alerts all day long and the boat was rocking back and forth like a wildly swinging cradle. Mom took ill and spent the entire day in the library with the children. Frances and Gramps also took to their beds.
I, on the other hand, was having great fun running back and forth checking on everyone. All of a sudden, the ship lurched so sharply to one side I was driven all the way down the aisle, past the cabin, to the porthole. I hate to think what could have happened if it had been open. I might have become a casualty overboard. I thought this was great fun and was still laughing when I entered the room. Frances looked up from her bed and moaned. “How can you laugh when I am so sick?”
In all our trip had gone quite smoothly. However, an almost disaster occurred on the day of our arrival at the port of Baltimore.
Prior to leaving Warsaw, Mom knew that she would have to pass a health inspection when we arrived in America. She had a couple of teeth that needed pulling, and because there wasn’t time for any extensive work, she decided to have all her upper teeth pulled and a full plate made. (In my young eyes, I think it made her even more beautiful.)
She removed her dental plate at night, and stored it in a container filled with water. Mom’s habit was to put the container with her teeth on top of the water tank in the cabin. There was a small opening at the top of the tank with no cap to cover it. Probably because of the excitement about arriving at our destination, Mom inadvertently pushed the container with her teeth into the water tank opening on that morning. It is almost impossible to describe our panic at the thought that, if she couldn’t retrieve the teeth, Mom wouldn’t pass the health examination, and we would all be turned back to Europe.
First Mom tried to get her hand through the opening, but it was too large. Then Gramps tried, with the same result. Even Frances’ hand was too big to get through. When Moey had his turn, his hand fit through, but his arm was too short to reach the bottom of the tank. This is beginning to sound like “The Three Bears,” but I came along and my hand was “just right,” fitting through the opening easily, and my arm was long enough to reach the lost plate. We all smiled and heaved a sigh of relief. Mom’s smile was with a complete set of teeth!
Dad met us at the port of Baltimore. It was wonderful to see him, but the port was a disappointment. I remember it as dingy and dirty compared to the port we had left from in Bremen.
The very last hurdle before we were safely in the United States was for all of us to pass the Immigration Authority’s physical examinations. Frances and I were checked first and passed easily. Gramps and Mom checked out, too. When it was Howard’s turn, the authorities found a rash on his face and said he could not enter the country. Mom insisted that he had not had the rash on the ship and that it had just appeared after we had docked. The inspectors persisted, contending that he had had the rash in Europe and could not be admitted.
Even though Mom was exhausted from the long journey, her will was not weakened. She was determined that no one was going to turn her and her family back when she was so close to her goal. She drew herself up, took a deep breath, turned to the inspectors and said, “All you have to do is look at my whole family to see how healthy we are.” The authorities carefully looked at the other four of her bright-eyed, pink-cheeked children and relented and let us through, including Howard, who was a little pinker than the rest of us.
Dad had found a job in Pittsburg, so that was our destination as we boarded a bus. Of course, Frances and I sat together. As children, we didn’t even begin to think of the dramatic change that had just occurred in our lives, nor of what might lie ahead. Instead, we were fascinated watching some of the other passengers chewing on something that never seemed to be consumed. We could not imagine what food needed chewing for such a long time. It was remarkable that my first memory of something new in the United States would be about chewing gum!
When we arrived in Pittsburg, Grandpa Danziger stayed aboard the bus, for he was traveling on to Cleveland where his two married daughters lived. Just like Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, so Mom and Gramps had led us out of Europe, and we, too, had reached our own Promised Land.
From Pittsburg Pa to Russelton Pa’s Mining Town about 45 Miles from Pittsburg, April 1913
Our bus ride was not particularly earth shaking, however when we arrived at our destination we were immediately delighted to find ourselves in the midst of a town filled with orchards of fruit trees galore. The cooperating early spring weather had brought out all the beautiful various colored buds. It was as though we had landed in Fairy Land.
As time went on Frances and I lost no time in exploring this novel picturesque scenic country which we had the pleasure of enjoying, a life style to which we had never been accustomed -- country living -- for 2 ½ years [until October, 1915].
The mines, facilities. housing accommodations, the main dept. store -- all were owned by one family. A Department Store situated in the middle of the town -- also was solely owned by the Elite up in the Hills.
Before we left Pittsburg Dad had availed himself of an employment agency, and was able to land the one job open for him as a carpenter, for the purpose of keeping the mine cars -- or trams as they were called -- in constant repair for the proper transit in and out of the mines.
Dad’s love of fine woods had captured his talent in the field of carpentry. So it was an appealing start.
Dad as a youngster also was an ardent lover of music, and since the strings of a violin reached his inner soul, he had asked his father to buy a violin for him so that he could start taking lessons, But Grandpa Meyer Danziger was not inclined to give in to his son’s foolishness, whereupon Dad as a young lad had decided to save up enough enough money secretly to buy his own cherished instrument. This accomplished, he tirelessly proceeded to manage the knowhow of these intriguing strings till he was able eventually to be a self-taught by-ear violinist.
His determination of a lifetime ambition had been realized. It was not only for his own pleasure but we all (the family) were the recipients of many lovely evenings when we would come home from an opera or a concert he would reach for his treasure and perform the beautiful scores or the most popular areas.
Before Dad had left Warsaw he had taken Frances and me to attend the Merry Widow Opera and Frances and I would sing that beautiful area in Polish long after we were settled in the States. When we arrived home Dad lost no time in reaching for his violin and proceeded to play that famous aria from the Merry Widow which was a double treat that evening and many many more entertaining episodes.
The entire Complex consisted of 4 rows of houses -- train-like -- with 4 lanes separating each row of houses.
Now to get down to basics. Our housing facilities consisted of one good sized kitchen with a wood and coal burning stove, a table and chairs. All our meals were in this combined kitchen-dining surface. Directly off the kitchen was a good sized room which could have been used as a living room -- but Mom chose to make this the main bedroom for Mom and Dad and baby Helen. It was also for the convenience as to the location where Mom eventually gave birth to baby Laura.
Upstairs were three rooms -- one for Frances and me -- one for Morrie and Howard -- the third room was used for storage, which by the fall of that year and new year we had picked enough fruit to cover practically the entire floor of that room mostly with apples but also peaches, plums, loganberries, raspberries and cherries were also collected -- freely.
Mom enjoyed making various jams and jellies, the flavors of which remained with us forever. (see page 5&6)
(7) Shortly after we were settled in our home Mom immediately enrolled us into the little red schoolhouse. The school was situated about a mile ½ from home grounds. We walked/traveled this route for 2 ½ years come rain, shine or wintry blizzards. There were no busses made available.
No sooner were we enrolled when Frances began again teaching Morry and me recitations. She never gave up her love of dramatics The recitations were most welcomed entertainment and it therefore as a result we were most favorably accepted into the fold. We too also adapted readily to the English language and we enjoyed our years at the school. We made friends easily, so it was fun walking home together with children our own ages, while chatting and laughing. This was an experience which we had never known before.
(8) Besides various recitations there were other activities in which we all participated. I recall the rehearsal for a march that was to e a very important part of the school’s entertainment schedule. It took several weeks to reach perfection and because the name of the march came from the “Tales of Hoffman ‘The Barcarole’,” this catchy music lingered with me also and [I] found myself humming along to that nostalgic scene that we all performed for the pleasure and for the audience.
Having mentioned that we made these treks to and from school oblivious to weather conditions. One day however, as we left school, it was so bitter cold that when I had arrived home I had made up my mind that the next day I would not linger with my sister and her friends on the way home from school. (9) I would run home all the way as quickly as I could!!! So next day school is out and Ethel, true to her vow, started off running -- and ran and ran -- till midway to the department store. Ethel can’t breathe easily -- Ethel is gasping for breath and creating awful sounds -- when Frances and her school friend arrived. Noticing my distress, ran out quickly to get my Mother. By the time my dear devoted Mom arrived I was able to breathe normally. Unfortunately the Co. did not have the need or knowledge to supply a Doctor or Nurse on the premises. It bothered me so much later that I never forgot how Mom had to trudge in that cold blast & frozen ground. Oh well, I thought I had a good idea, but it did not work out the way I had planned it to.
There were also various types of gymnastic stunts -- a merry-go-round, swings which we held on to the handles & as one child dropped her handle while we were in motion. The flying handle hit me in my elbow and I was thrown to the ground. Again Mom was sent for, but I got up, felt fine and went on home. The next morning when I ran and awakened again, we started chatting and laughingly I showed Frances my swollen elbow. When Mom came in to give us some nourishment, Frances alerted and told Mom to take a look at my elbow. When Mom saw the swelling she started in with Oh, my goodness. Oh dear me (in Yiddish “O’y Veh is Mir, O’y, Veh is Mir”) and unaccustomed as I was to hear Mom lose her cool, I blacked out. The next I knew I had been carried outside and was sitting on the ground, being resuscitated. This was the only time in my entire life that I fainted. The elbow recovered to normal and no further pain. Fortunately I guess there was no bone broken.
Yes school was delightful, particularly, as I have come to learn later, that Frances and I had no difficulty adopting the English language. Much to the amazement of all the teachers -- both in Pittsburg and here in Russellton. It has become my understanding that people with a Polish background and education find it easier to adapt to the English, as the lettering is so similar. This also is true of the Spanish language speaking people. I had five years of Spanish which was a lark to absorb. We never acquired an accent.
Motivation by parents do a great deal for children in their desire to read and learn in their early years. I recall one summer day incident when the census taker came around to take the names of the children who were coming to school that fall. Fran and I were joined by another school friend who I’m sure was older than Frances and a head taller than we were. After Fran and I had given our names an spelled them to the census taker, she then asked this lovely Polish girl her name and when she was asked to spell her last name -- I can just hear her even now -- when she replied “I don’t know how.” I think i was in a state of shock, but I proceeded to spell it for her. Yes, our Polish education in Warsaw, regardless of the short duration, unfortunately or fortunately, was an asset and served admirably even through all the early years in Cleveland.
Yes there are memories of fun, good health -- growing up in this lovely climate. One summer day Mom asked Fran and me if we would please go to the dairy farm to bring home some nice fresh milk. Again Fran and I strolling leisurely through this delightful countryside, always something to laugh about, smiling and singing, when Frances spotted a beautiful orchard ahead, loaded with ripe fruit. “Oh,” said my sister, Fran,”Let’s go in there. And I said, “No!” I am now two years older and wiser and I don’t have to do whatever Sis asks me to do or insists that I go with her.
As we approached the orchard it was very evident, that the logs were a barrier for a purpose. (You keep people out). But Frances still begs me to come with her. When I adamantly refused she decides to go it alone. It took no time for her to straddle those logs and over she went onto the ground of the orchard. Instantly there were gun shots loud and clear. And it’s at this point in writing that I still chuckle whenever I repeat this episode. When those gun shots rang repeatedly, I see Frances come jumping over that fence of logs with such alacrity and high jump that she would have won the gold medal at the Olympics for her professional know-how. We laughed over this for many years -- whenever and wherever the opportunity to repeat presented itself for me. Be that as it may, this was one time that Frances learned her lesson.
Incidentally, the milk was picked up and we returned home in safety. Mom was so pleased to see us back home.
It’s really strange that, aside from that one incident coming home from school during that freezing day, most of my memories take place in nice weather. So it was on a lovely Saturday afternoon that Frances and I were out for a stroll and as we were walking close to the highway, we saw a bus approaching so we stopped to look at the roadside at the people through the windows. When Fran and I were so shocked to see our father riding the bus on Shabbos. That was shock number one. The second shock came to us later when Dad had his Beard removed This is what is called, I presume, acclimating oneself to the new American environment.
Very early on our arrival in Russellton, Mom had decided that in order to supplement Dad’s income, she would establish a mercantile trade. To take orders from the countryside residents. But first of all Mom had to go to Pittsburg to establish a credit rating to purchase the merchandise on credit.
With that important factor in motion, Mom lost no time in surveying the countryside -- lower levels, higher levels -- and yes, even the “elite up in the hills, the owners of the mines.” Since Mom was very conversant in many languages she had no difficulty in communicating with the Polish, Russian and yes even Germans. I guess Mom apprised them of the fact that she was taking orders for shirts, blouses, dresses, etc. These potential customers were very pleased with the idea and really accepted Mom most graciously.
Before Mom’s first trip, Mom and Dad had made a plan -- to walk Mom to the bus in the morning on her way to Pittsburg and to be waiting for Mom at this bus stop in the early evening when she arrived around 5:30 pm with her merchandise.
Mom also had a very tactical mind and was able to clearly map out the procedure which would enable her to put this plan in operation in working order without disrupting her home or family life.
This program worked out beautifully* as Frances and I alternated staying home from school that day to care for the young ones We performed this duty without any hassles between us. That’s the way it was to be, and that’s it. Also, on days that Mom had to leave to deliver the merchandise our turn to stay home was also complied with -- sans complaints.
[*Ethel inserted an account of the time when Ella was pregnant with Laura and Abe did not meet the bus. See below. DWJ]
Fortunately our grades at school never suffered; no doubt (due) to the advanced learning we had had in Warsaw.
As I said before, this schedule worked out fine -- and business flourished. Everyone was so pleased with the selections of each potential buyer. They were delighted at the way their appearance improved due to Mom’s choice of the more modern style outfits more than they were able to find in the main department store. The Yankees up in the hills were equally as thrilled with Mom’s selections. They were constant customers and also spent a great deal of time engaging Mom in conversation.
Yes, Mom was received with open arms from all sides of the tracks, so to speak, and it became a most interesting development and a rewarding experience for Mom. This went on for about 2 ½ years. Not only was she gratified in her own ability and her entrepreneurship, it was also a nice plus financially.
I deliberately left this portion of my memoirs (to the end), so that I could devote (space to) the full significance of Mom’s tenaciousness, or more simply put, the courage that she manifested when faced with many stumbling blocks in her lifetime.
The dictionary definition of courage describes it so well. This simple word courage, “the state of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with self-possession, confidence and resolution, bravery and valor.”
That was my Mom all the way. That very simple word “Courage” encompasses so very much, and Mom certainly had been put to the test ever so many times.
[All this was told to me years later in Cleveland]
Yes, my dear family, friends and readers in general, there is an interesting climax to my reason for inserting this valued for my Mom’s never failing courage.
Having arrived almost at the end of her eight-month pregnancy, Mom decided since this would probably be her last trip to Pittsburg, she therefore concentrated fully on how much merchandise would be necessary to bring back at this point. By the time Mom was ready to leave for home, the hours had slipped by unnoticed & as a result, Mom missed the last bus out of Pittsburg to Russellton. So here is Mom standing at the bus stop with the 3 bundles of merchandise at the curb of the highway. Fear or anxiety never entered Mom’s mind, as she so hopefully tried to hail some cars who might be traveling in the direction of Russellton.
But the response was not that easily arrived at. and at this point it became somewhat disturbing when she did not meet with any success for some time.
But God is good and ever mindful of one in need. Suddenly a fine gentleman stopped his car and when Mom approached him and asked if he was by chance heading in the direction of Russellton, he said that he was going that way & when Mom told him of her dilemma, this very fine gentleman got out of the car, placed the 3 bundles in the car and then helped Mom into the car very gently, noting full well that she was with child.
There was conversation of interest between them, and as they were gradually reaching their destination, this exceptionally fine gentleman, concerned about Mom, asked her how she was going to get home from the bus stop. (And) Mom in her very confident tone and a smile said, “Oh, my husband always calls for me or picks me up all the time.”
Having been relieved of further responsibility, this wonderful individual again got out of the car, took out the 3 bundles, placed them near the curb of the highway, then proceeded to gently help Mom out of the car and wished her good luck. Mom thanked him profusely at the great favor he had performed for her sake & told him how grateful and appreciative she was. As they said their goodbyes -- In telling me of this heaven-sent individual at a time of crisis, the only word that had come to my mind was -- This was a “Mench” in every sense of the word.
In Yiddish it means not only a man, but a man with a soul -- full of understanding and reaching out to others, Yes God is in his Heaven and all’s well with the world.
Now Mom is standing at the curb with her 3 bundles waiting for Dad to show up. With her positive thinking and attitude she was so very optimistic that Dad would appear very soon, no doubt about it or whatsoever and Mom very much at ease at this. However as the waiting and waiting became a fact to be attended to & since necessity has been known to be the mother of invention, Mom had to put on her thinking cap to provide a reasonable way to handle this situation & quickly too, as signs of fading daylight were evident, & darkness would be setting in. The only option was to carry the bundles home -- no alternatives were available.
Mom picked up one bundle, crossed the highway, set it down at the first row of houses of the housing complex, went back for the second bundle, crossed the highway and set it down next to the first bundle -- went back for the 3rd bundle, crossed the highway & set it down with the other two bundles. After a short rest, Mom proceeded to pick up one bundle, carry it to the second row of houses, went back for the 2nd bundle and carried it to the second row of houses -- same with the 3rd bundle, This process continued till Mom had reached the 3rd row of and then the 4th row where our house was located. Needless to say Mom must have been plenty exhausted by then, But with Mom’s unremitting tireless drive -- never stopped to think of herself -- but anxiously opened the door to our home and when she saw Dad fast asleep in his chair Mom was so relieved to see him safe and sound that she immediately bent over and kissed him.
When Dad awoke Mom asked him why he wasn’t at the bus stop to meet her as usual, and Dad’s innocent reply was, “I was there and I waited & waited, but when you didn’t show up I thought you had gone to the hospital in Pittsburg to have the baby
Mom incidentally gave birth the following month in August -- having settled down. [This was Laura (Lucy Danziger) Jacobowitz, born August 30, 1915.]
The following month in September Mom and Dad decided we were all to go into the next town for the holiday to pray in the shul on Rosh Hashana. Again the weather couldn’t have been nicer as we walked the couple of miles to this small town wherein more Jewish people lived and had been able to have a shul built. As I grew older when this scene would enter my thoughts -- seeing us walking that long distance -- Dad carrying baby Helen, Fran and I alternating carrying the newborn baby [Laura] while Moe and Howard managed to trek along keeping up the pace.
Mom was dressed in one of her trouser outfits, the hunters green velvet suit, the jacket with the leg o’mutton sleeves, which were embroidered with fine gold & silver threads. Mom looked so lovely in it. It was truly the one and only time I had seen her wear it. But what amazed me most in my lingering thoughts was how in heaven’s name could Mom have undertaken this very long walk so short a time after her delivery or confinement.
I guess Mom must have been made of sterner stuff than we of today would ever have considered or ventured to undertake. All things considered the trip was completed without any mishaps, thank God, as we finally arrived back home.
It must have been the following spring at which time Mom was no longer going into Pittsburg and became a house Frau, spending more time with her children. My reason for inserting the following scene -- I must add that it was another one of those that lingered with me ever so long, way after we were in Cleveland.
This delightful cozy setting takes place on our back porch wing, attached to the ceiling with chains. I’m sure you all remember seeing those at some time, At any rate, since the weather was ideally perfect, we -- Fran, Mom and I -- are sitting on this swing, gently & slightly playfully, swinging while we were listening to Mom, or we were singing & smiling all the time. In this picture I see Mom in a lovely pink blouse & skirt sitting between Frances and me -- when I see Mom put her arms aroud Frances and me and planted a kiss on each one of our cheeks. Why then, was this particular show of affection different than any other? Mom was always concerned and we knew she loved us and had kissed us on many occasions. But somehow this had an additional meaning which haunted me for a plausible explanation, as it really never left my conscious mind. Till one day in Cleveland the daily paper came out with an announcement in 1944 -- this was day to memorialize the outbreak of World War I in April 1914 -- 80 years ago.
A bolt of lightning could not have struck more clearly the long awaited answer to my quest. That was the day that Mom & Dad had read the news concerning the outbreak of the War in Europe and how very very grateful Mom must have been to have brought her dear family out to safety.
It really boggles my mind as to how sensitive can a young child of 9 years old be to have had that simple endearing expression -- just a whit off the norm -- be so imbedded in a mind. till the answer was at long last arrived at.
Though things were going nicely and Mom’s business was a success and life at home was most enjoyable because Mom and Dad were always with us, a truly wonderful relaxed atmosphere.
Frances by now just about 12 years old, as beautiful as ever, when Mom discovers that some of the young Poles were making eyes toward Frances. Well, Mom lost no time in making her decision to get out of Russellton as quickly as possible, before any complications regarding intermarriage might arise
So without a moment’s hesitation dear Mom gives up her developed entrepreneurship, and plans to leave for Cleveland were made immediately. This is just another instance where the thought of money to be made could not take precedence over the comfort and fidelity to her Jewishness and the solidity of her beloved family.
Yes the Danziger name could have and might have become a very famous one with possibilities of establishing a store in Russellton to reach many many more clients who were ready for this type of venture, that could have or might have led to branch stores, with a capable family to help eventually.
So On To Cleveland