Archive | August, 2014

Remember The Corner Candy Store; It Was Not Just for Candy

30 Aug

Children of today are missing out on so much fun due to parental fears and lack of neighborhood stores. But one of the most important things they are missing is the corner candy store!

From the time I was 3 until fourth grade, I lived in a three-family home on Third Avenue in North Bergen. It was great living there, but most important the owners of the house also owned the candy store on 85th Street that I passed every day one the way to and from school.

I lived on the second floor.  The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

I lived on the second floor. The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

Every afternoon I stopped into the store with my treat money. You could get many different penny candies: candy buttons on a paper strip, licorice, sugar water in waxed bottles, candy necklaces and so much more.

These candies bring back so many good and gooey memories. The candy necklaces would get wet and slimy around your neck as you ate off pieces of candy. The button candy on the paper was difficult to eat without eating some of the paper. One of my childhood friends remembers being yelled at by her mom for eating too much paper.   Pixie Stix were a favorite. They were straws filled with flavored sugar. I delighted in eating those!! The little mini bottles of wax with the sugar water came in many colors. I liked to mush the wax into balls after drinking the water. My sister remembers eating the wax and getting into trouble for that action. She also squashed the used bottles into shapes. We had hours of fun with penny candy!

An extra special part of going to that candy store was that the owners knew us so well that often they would give us some extra candy to eat on the way home. Some times they had candy behind the counter for us: items that came in with a broken wrapper or some little flaw. My sister would stand on the step stool, an old wooden milk carton, sometimes to look over the counter to see if anything was there! We would chose our candy and the store owner would put the prices on a brown paper bag and add them up to tell us what we owed.  Then we would put the candy in little brown bags and snack on the rest of the walk home. We usually had enough to eat that we had some left even when we got home.

When I was in third grade, I started going to religious school in the afternoons after finishing Horace Mann. Before going to the synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham, for religious school, we found the candy store a very popular spot. I always would first go to the candy store for a snack and would meet many of my friends in there also getting something to eat. We always needed a snack between school and religious school!

Besides the candy, the most important part of the candy store for me was the comic books. I think every candy store had a comic book section. Each week new comic books would come out, the cost five or ten cents each. And sometimes there was a special one that cost a quarter. I loved getting the comic books. I loved browsing through them. Some of the boys loved to buy the baseball cards as well.

When we moved away from Third Avenue to 78th Street, I was desolate, partly because of the lost of the candy store. But I found out I really had no worries. Even though I did not know the owner at first, I did find another corner candy store to walk pass on my way home from school. It was on either on 77 or 76 and Broadway, if I remember correctly. It also had all the penny candy and the comic books. The only thing missing was the free candy I used to get.

But I did not totally miss out on free candy. My grandparents owned a bakery on Palisades Avenue in West New York. A few doors down from them was a corner candy store. Sometimes when I spent the weekend, my grandma would give me a dime and send me to the candy store….not for food. We had lots of candy and bakery goods at the bakery. But I could go buy a comic book. Yay Grandma! She knew I loved to read them.

There was no candy store within easy walking to our summer home in the Catskills. Oh, wait, I take that back, when I was really little there was a small store that sold candy and ice cream across from the lake on the way to town on the corner of West Shore Road and 55. It closed when I was very young. Now there is a private home where the store used to be.

But we had substitutes. We could walk into the town of Kauneonga Lake, to a small grocery store, Vassmer’s; or to the pharmacy, Newman’s. In one of those stores we could either get candy and comics, or go to the fountain at Newman’s and get ice cream or a soda. It was fun! I remember when I was a teen, I walked into Newman’s one day and there was my brother with his girlfriend having a milk shake…if I remember correctly there was one shake and two straws.

Next to the Ritz Movie Theater in White Lake was a candy store as well. Before we would go into the movie, we would go to the candy store to pick out our treats. How wonderful was that? Very wonderful!

Children today do not have the joy of going into a little corner store by themselves and choosing any little candy or comic. Now you have to drive to the supermarket or a convenience store. The neighborhood candy store seems to be gone forever. And I miss it! Going to a corner candy store every day was a part of the daily routine. And forget penny candy! I do not believe it exists anymore!

I thnk going to the corner candy store also taught us about money. There was only so much you could spend. Would it be a comic book or candy? How much did you need to save from your allowance to get exactly what you wanted? You could plan. The candy store owners knew you! They would hold back your favorite comic, knowing what you wanted to read each week. And if you did not have enough money, they would wait till you came back.

The corner candy store was a gathering place for children and adults. It was a community space, a place for neighbors to visit.  Penny candy and comics gave us so much joy.  I think that is why the corner candy store was so important in my life.

There actually is still a store there:,+NJ/@40.806574,-74.007579,3a,75y,199.76h,96.03t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s0C9V1gOMRYvBYne8nYQNwg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c25804d4293b57:0x5efe2629bb9f9381

Small Maple Table Reminds Me of When My Sister Was Born

28 Aug
The table in my basement family room in fall 2013.

The table in my basement family room in fall 2013.

When my siblings and I divided up the furniture and personal items we wanted to each keep from our parents and grandparents, I chose a small maple table from the kitchen in our house in the Catskills. It is not in great shape. But it expands to sit 6 people if you need extra seating. The legs are a little wobbly. The top is a little scratched. But for some reason, I love this table. So it became mine.

It arrived safely last fall. I immediately cleaned it and put furniture cream on it, as it had been really uncared for in the few years since our parents had passed away. We had not spent a lot of time in the Catskills after they passed, and all the furniture up there had been unattended. But now that is changing.

I knew this table once belonged to my grandparents, then it became my parents, all that time it had stayed in the Catskills. But now it is mine and away from the Catskills at my home in Kansas. I had no idea how long it was in the family. However, this table called out to me. It was something comfortable. It seemed to always be around.

A few weeks after the furniture arrived, I was looking at photos that my brother also had shipped out to me. And I found a special photo. Wow! There is part of the table next to my brother and me. We are about 4 and 3 standing in our grandparent’s bungalow before a birthday party in 1958.

With the maple table in the Catskills, summer of 1958.

With the maple table in the Catskills, summer of 1958.

My brother and I are very dressed up for the Catskills. I know it is a party because I have found other photos with my cousins and grandfather. I think it was my oldest cousin’s fifth or sixth birthday. And it could have been a double party because I have two cousins whose birthdays are just a few weeks apart, and they are the same age.

My Mom was very pregnant that summer. (I actually have a photo of her as well!) Soon after this picture was taken, my cousin’s birthday was in July, my parents left for the City. They needed to be near the doctors and hospital. So we, my brother and I stayed with my grandparents.

Finding that photo of my brother and I was wonderful! I have always loved this table, but this photo makes me even more aware of its family history.

I have become a bit obsessive about my parents and grandparents furniture. My sister might say, crazed. My brother would call me loony. And I accept these type comments. How can I not? I am. Part of me wants everything to go back the way it was when our parents and grandparents were alive. I realize I cannot do that. But in a little way, I try.

An example?   I have my grandmother/mother’s baby grand piano.   I have had it for 29 years. I love it. I played the piano as a child and adult. My daughter took piano lesson on this piano. Friends have enjoyed its lovely tone.

My Mom played as well. She studied at Julliard all through high school, but my grandfather would not let her go there for college. She went to what became “Douglass” instead to be a teacher. As a teacher she would always have a job, but not as a musician.

After my parents passed away I wanted two items that my grandparents kept on the piano. We have photos of that as well. And my siblings did not argue, they let me have them. The metronome made sense. It should be by the piano. But my grandmother always kept a vase from Japan on the piano. I believe my Dad brought it back when he returned from his service in the Korean War. Now I have both items on the piano as well.

For some reason, when I see these two items on my piano, mixed in with my items, I have a sense that all is right in the world.   I remember these two items from my childhood and it brings a sense of security. Finding the old photos reinforces memories I had, and brings back memories I had forgotten.

The photo of my brother and I with the little maple table comes from a time of my earliest memories. All my first memories come from that summer, the summer before my sister was born.   I remember my Mom pregnant and leaving to stay in the city till the baby was born. I remember staying with my grandparents in the Catskills and all my cousins. I remember my Dad coming to get us after my sister was born in early September, and my mom was back home.

I remember seeing my sister for the very first time. I remember thinking that she was really small and was not going to be able to play with us.

From that moment forward I have so many memories. So to see my brother and I with the table from that summer is an amazing find. The table brings back so many happy memories. I hope it provides my children with happy memories as well.

The First Day of School is Exciting, Frightening and a Memory Forever

25 Aug
The 74th Street side of Robert Fulton Elementary School.

The 74th Street side of Robert Fulton Elementary School.

Last week, as I sat on my front stoop waiting for my walking partner, I watched as parents and children walked to school. The start of a new school year always has Moms and Dads walking with their children pass my home to the elementary school two blocks away. I love the first day of school. The children and parents are so excited. Perhaps for different reasons, but excited together. Dads stay home from work for an extra hour or so to be part of the first day rituals. Some moms cry, especially when their first or last child starts kindergarten. It is a glorious day. And this year the weather was perfect!

Whenever I see the start of a new year, I flash back to my older brother’s first day of kindergarten. I cannot help it. It was so traumatic for us all. My Mom had given birth to my younger sister on September 2. My brother and I were in the Catskills while this happened, and then we came back to North Bergen. I think my brother missed the first few days of school as we were with my grandparents.

In any case, he was only four; we had spent about a month away from our Mom; there was a new baby in the house; and now he had to go to kindergarten at Horace Mann Elementary. That first day my parents and I went with him. I still remember his screaming, “Please don’t leave me! I promise to be good! Come back!”

He was at the door of the classroom pounding, trying to get to my Mom, who was hysterical crying. All those hormones and my scared brother made for a very unhappy Mom.   My brother thought that they were trading him in because they had a new baby. It took a while for him to realize he would be coming home every day.

In fact for two weeks, Doris, a childhood friend of my Mom’s, came each morning to our home on Third Avenue to pick my brother up and take him to school with her daughter. And I mean pick him up. At first he fought so much she would carry him screaming out of the house. I never wanted to go to school if it was that bad.

Two years later it was my turn to start kindergarten. I was petrified. But a few days before school started my brother came over to me and whispered in my ear, “School is really not that bad,” he said. “You will be okay.”   And so I went to school without any screaming!

By the time my sister started kindergarten, she was more than ready. I had been playing school with her for years. She was the student and I was the teacher. She would read and write better than most first grade students. I thought I was a great sister because I got her prepared. Although she might tell you that I was a very mean teacher. But I disagree.

I spent my entire school career in one school district, North Bergen, New Jersey. I did change elementary schools when we moved across town. Some teachers I never forgot. I was in Mrs. Wall’s third grade class when President Kennedy was assassinated.   I will never forget that November day or the look on Mrs. Wall’s face when another teacher came in to tell her.

I went from Horace Mann to Robert Fulton in fourth grade. We would be moving in October, but my parents had us start the new school year at Robert Fulton. It seemed like a giant change at the time. I missed my friends. (Our schools went from kindergarten to eighth grade; then a separate high school.) But we were not so far away that I could not visit with them. And once I got to high school, we were reunited.

Most people stayed in one place then. But now it is so different. Families move around much more. Children start in new schools more often now. So the first day of school is a bit more stressful. New home, new city, new school, these can all stress a family and a child

My two children had easy starts to kindergarten. Their elementary school was in the same building as their preschool. So it was just a change in the building’s entrance. By the time my son started kindergarten, I was teaching in the same school, which made his transition even easier. We sometimes saw each other during the day.

Because I still work at a school, the beginning of the school year impacts me. I work throughout the summer on a limited basis. But the week or so before school starts everything amps up. This year my office moved, I got a new computer, so I had lots of changes as well. I felt the excitement I always feel when school starts, with a little extra because of my own changes.

My daughter is now done with school, so she is not impacted by this cycle. However, my son is still in college. I recently helped him move into a new apartment with a friend. He is back in classes now after a summer of just working at his fast food job. And his school cycle continues.

Besides helping my son, I also try to help others. For many the expenses of a new school year are daunting. I volunteered to help for our local National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Kansas City Section’s ‘Back to School Store.’ We provided school supplies and back to school clothing for over two hundred elementary school children. The names were provided to us from outside agencies that knew of children in need. It was a wonderful experience buying school supplies, sorting clothing and then helping children pick out the perfect supplies and clothing.

To be honest, when I helped sort the clothes the week before the event, I saw these bright pink jeans that I thought were a bit too bright. But the little nine-year old girl, I took through the ‘store,’ was in heaven when she saw them. And when they fit, Wow.  She told me that the entire event was like “a wonderful dream.”   It made my day!

It is such a magic time: students going to elementary school, high school and college. So many of my friends were taking their older children to away to college. Many were taking either their oldest or youngest to college for the first time. Others were taking their children for their senior year or graduate school. These children are ready to start a new adventure without the constant presence of their parents.

As the new school year starts, I think it is normal to glance backwards to our own time in school, our children’s time, while at the same time looking to the future. Another year of school impacts us all. I hope, in Kansas, and throughout the nation that spending for schools and children improves this year. And that everyone has a wonderful year free from bullying, able to learn with teachers who care.

And I hope that parents remember, the first day of school is exciting, frightening and a memory forever.

I believe Mystically and Magically Great Grandma Chava Watches Over Me

22 Aug

Chava Amsterdam

Even though I was born long after the Holocaust ended, I have a connection that defies logic. I am named for my great grandmother Chava. She was hidden during the war and was murdered when she returned to the farm her family owned by the people who occupied and stole it. I have been told that she was shot in the head.

I learned about her when I was 11 years old. Before that I only knew I was named for Grandpa Nat’s mother. And that was all.

But when I was 11 years old, living in North Bergen, NJ, I had a major fight with my younger sister. I ran after her screaming, “I am going to cream you.”   As she ran away from me, I felt a giant tug on my pony tail. My gentle Mom was dragging me to the sink. “Never use that word in my house. Never. They burned your Grandpa’s family alive in the fires of the crematoria of Austzvitz. You will never use that word in my house.”   And then she put soap in my mouth. I have never, ever forgotten that.

I never even thought of the slang word, “cream” meaning ‘to kill,’ had anything to do with the holocaust. But in my mother’s mind it meant crematoria. And perhaps she was right. I have not found a reference for it. But it does not matter. What it did do was open up a conversation.

My Mom was the gentlest person around. For her to do this, something horrible must have happened. And so I learned about the Shoah. I learned about my grandfather’s family and how they died: some of it, not all of it. Some came later.

But mainly I learned about Grandma Chava.

I thought about her so much, I started speaking to her in my mind. When I was worried about something, I spoke to her. When I was scared, I spoke to her. I knew she had been through so much that perhaps I could gain strength from her. And she would not let that happen to me. One generation was enough. When I was worried, I imagined her near to me.

When my son was little and afraid to sleep alone at night, I once told him that there are angels guarding him. And I mentioned my great grandma. I will admit this backfired. When my son was about 8 we went to see a production of “Footloose.” When they sang the song with the lyrics, “Somebody’s eyes are watching you,” he had to leave the theater. He told me he thought about my great grandma and her watching him. So I changed that image for him.

But for me, thinking of my great grandmother was always helpful. I did not think about how she died or what happened to the family. I thought that she would never let it happen again.

Often my Grandma Thelma, who had spent six months living with Grandma Chava in Europe, would say, “You are so much like Chava. She also was shreier or a machshafer or chachama.” Whatever she wanted to compare me with that day.

But basically Great Grandma Chava was a strong-willed person, as was I growing up. And I think I still am.

Because I was named for Grandma Chava, I was given jewelry that was hers and embroideries that she made. I now have a picture of a bird she embroidered hanging in my dining room. I was given the matzah cover she made for Pesach, which I have since donated to a museum. (See my blog: “Watching Antiques Roadshow Inspired Me to Donate my Great-Grandmother’s Matzah Cover.”)

Recently we found a photo just of her. My Grandpa looked like his mother. My brother looks like her. One of my nieces looks like her. And I held her photo up to my daughter and there is a resemblance as well.

As for me, I look like the determination you can see in her face. She is staring straight at the camera, and in my eyes she is so strong.

My desk with Great Grandma Chava watching.

My desk with Great Grandma Chava watching.

I enlarged the photo and hung it by my desk so I can see her whenever I am working. Because I always have and still feel that she is my guardian angel. We share the same nechama, the same essence.

Almost all of her children and grandchildren died in the Shoah, except my Grandpa and his family because he was in the USA. There were no grandchildren till years after the Shoah. My older boy cousin was named for my great grandfather, who also perished. And I, the oldest girl, was named for Chava.

So I sit at my computer working. And I turn my head slightly to see her. The world of magical thinking makes me believe that she knows we survived. That she knows her great-great granddaughter has moved to Israel. That she is not only looking over me, but also over my daughter.

As rockets fall in Israel, I think, ‘never again.’ Another Chava cannot lose her daughter to the hatred of anti-Semitism. And I believe, mystically and magically, that Great Grandma Chava is watching my daughter as well. And I feel her ruach, her comforting whisper. All will be well.


Schreier: screamer/yeller

Machshafer: witch

Chachama:  Smart one/intelligent

Nechama: soul, essence

Ruach: wind, spirit’s_Eyes


Old Photographs Bring Memories to Life

19 Aug

My siblings and I recently spent a weekend together cleaning the attic, basement and garage of a house in the Catskills that our family has owned for well over 50 years.   And although our parents made an effort to clean out some of our grandparents’ items when they inherited it, it still was quite full.

It has been a process. This was our final weekend of cleaning. My brother with some help from his son and a friend, had already moved out the old metal bungalow furniture and moved in furniture from our parent’s apartment.

We had cleaned out clothing and personal items. We had moved out some items that we wanted in our respective homes. But now it was time to get rid of the stuff that had just collected and decayed over time.

My brother ordered a 20-cubit yard dumpster that he demanded be filled by the end of the weekend. My sister and I thought he was crazy. There was no way we would have that much junk. We were wrong. And it was, amazingly, filled. The house is now in order. Clean, organized and ready for us to use it. We had a feeling of accomplishment by the time we were done.

Two of my nieces were there as well. And the four women, my sister and my nieces and I did the heavy emotional work, we went through thousands upon thousands of photos. We sorted them for each family. We made piles for our cousins. There were some we just discarded and put into the dumpster. And then we put together the ones we all wanted for me to take home and scan into my computer, for I am the family archivist. I will make digital copies and send them out to everyone.

Front Great grandpa USA Visa

The treasures we found included our great grandfather’s passport and 1936 visa to come to the USA from Poland. Our grandparents worked diligently to get the paper work accomplished to bring him and my great aunt to the USA. It saved their lives. My Mom would tell the story of going to Ellis Island with my grandparents to get them when they arrived from Poland.

Years later, when my children were little, we went with my parents to Ellis Island. My Mom asked, “Where are all the cages?” The main room was a large empty space. But on the wall were photos of what the room looked like in the days it was in use. And the metal bars between lines of people could have looked like cages to a child. We think that is what she saw.

In the bags and albums, we found photos of people in Europe from before the Shoah. And wondered how many of them perished? We found photos of our great aunt Tova and our great grandmother Chava. Photos we had never seen before. Our great grandmother is young in this photo. My brother and niece have her mouth. We know they both perished, along with many other family members.

Photos of our parents taken in Hudson County Park, North Bergen, NJ, in the 1960s were also a rare find. They were dressed up, obviously ready to go out somewhere. Mom even had white gloves on… white gloves and a sort of ‘mini’ skirt: an interesting combination; a transition between two generations, two styles of dress. There are no full skirts here.

We found pictures of our aunts and uncles from both sides of our family, grandparents, great aunts and uncles; photos of us and our cousins when we were little. They were wonderful finds. We even found three photos taken during the Woodstock weekend in 1969. We thought all of them had been lost years ago when my Dad tried to mail them to me and the envelope broke while in route.

My nieces loved one photo in particular, of my brother, sister and I when we were in our teens. We hate it. But the girls wanted to keep it as ‘blackmail.’

We found wonderful documents: the list from our parent’s wedding; some of Dad’s school papers, and his army paper, a telegram he sent his parents from the army. One of his school papers said he was in the choir in high school. We all laughed, Dad could not carry a tune!

Grandma Thelma graduation from night school she is second in middle row

A favorite was group photo of our Grandma with the other students, when she graduated from night school, after immigrating to the USA in the 1920s.

The attic held a bonanza of information! We actually thought we had found it all because previous cleanings we had found 8mm movies that my brother had turned into DVDs and other photos that I had used to make a book of family history.

But the most amazing find was a photo album of my grandmother from before her marriage. There was one young woman in many of the photos with Grandma. We were sure it was her best friend and cousin, Katie. But there were no names written on any photo. It was so frustrating. But then we found a more recent photo with my grandparents and another couple. In this one the woman was identified. And yes it was Katie. My sister and I were so excited!! When we compared her face to the young women in the photos we knew that we had discovered and identified our lost relative.

There are many photos in the album that were taken in Europe. On the back many are inscribed to my loving cousin, Tova, in Yiddish and in German. I think they are photos given to her before she left Poland for the United States in 1922.

I have that album with me now. I am going to try to match some of the unnamed people with photos that we have where people are identified. I have already found photos of my grandmother’s siblings.

It is a puzzle, and I am determined to make as many matches as possible because these old photographs bring my grandparents’ and parents’ memories back to life.


I Am And Always Will Be A Jersey Girl

17 Aug

Lately I have seen lots of little ‘funny’ lists on what makes a woman a Jersey Girl. Some are funny, and some I find somewhat insulting. I hated the television show, “Jersey Shore,” because it showed people from NY/Long Island on the Shore. And people assumed that is what Jersey Girls were like. And it is so NOT true.

So here is my Jersey Girl/Woman list. It is not in any priority order because all of these are Number One to a Jersey Girl!

First Jersey Girls stand up for what is right and for other women. An example from my life:

My niece, who is now in her 30s, played baseball when she was in middle and high school. As the only girl with four brothers, including a twin brother, she never played softball. Instead she was one of the catchers on the elite team that her twin and next older brother played on. She was strong and she was fearless. Even though she was from St. Louis, she had some of the markings of a true Jersey Girl.

One year her team played in a regional competition in Kansas near where I live. I took my daughter to see the team play as much as possible that weekend. But the first game that was played stands out and remains a family legend. My niece was one of only two or three girls playing during that tournament. There were hundreds of teenage boys.

The first time my niece went up to bat, she was hit by a ball thrown by the pitcher. Of course she got to walk. But I was mildly annoyed. The pitcher did not hit any of the preceding batters. The innings went on. And eventually my niece was in the line up to bat again. And yes, she was once again hit by a ball. The only batter to be hit… and twice. I was sitting right behind the catcher. I could see the eyes of the pitcher. I knew he did it on purpose. I was furious!

None of the men said anything. Not the coaches, not the umpire, none of the other players. I stood. I walked to fence behind the catcher right at the field. And I yelled to the pitcher and to the coaches. “ If he hits my niece with a ball again. I am coming on the field. It is Enough!” Those might not have been my exact words. But they got the message. No one throws a ball directly at my niece! My Jersey Girl instinct went into full gear. And I was protecting her. Not something that happens in quiet Kansas so often.

She turned back and smiled at me as she walked to first base. Later she told me it happens all the time. Some boys do not like girls playing baseball. My standing up for her became a beloved family legend.

Second, Jersey Girls do not take fools and stupidity quietly. I recently had to help a nephew buy a car. I will not go into full details. Let’s just say the financial guy at the dealership was not very good and made several errors. I will admit he was young, but that was no excuse. Eventually I had the manager of the dealership called. And we had a little talk.   I explained my point of view and all that had gone wrong. I was angry.   I explain that my next step was Facebook, Internet and letters. And that this had to be fixed now. They had wasted my entire day with their stupidity because they had not checked their facts!

They let my nephew drive his car that evening.   We had to go back the next day to finish up the paperwork, since they had messed it up the first day. When we met with the financial guy again, I asked if he had learned anything from the experience. To be honest, I thought he would say that he would check his facts first. But no, his response surprised even me, “I learned never to cross a woman from New Jersey ever again.”

A good lesson, I am sure.

Third, Jersey Girls are very compassionate and will always help the underdog. We might seem tough on the outside. We might give all the air of confidence and competence, which is true to our nature. But when we see someone hurting. When we see a wrong being committed, we help.

I volunteer for an organization that works to help disadvantaged children and families in our community. This year we had a “Back to School” store where we provided school supplies and clothing for about 200 elementary school children. The day of the event, I was one of the volunteers who took the children around to pick out their supplies and clothes. My first little girl got to pick pink jeans, a pink top and a pink coat. She even got new shoes that had pink and purple stitching on them.

As we walked, holding hands, through the room and picking out her school supplies, she looked up to me and said, “This is Like a Wonderful Dream.”

We made the start of her school year wonderful. And I, the soft-hearted Jersey Girl, melted.

Fourth, we will always help a neighbor in need.   I am so tired of hearing that people in New Jersey are uncaring; that they don’t help people in need; that they could just walk past someone hurting. No, not true!

Years ago, when my daughter was a toddler, I was out on my deck when something unusual happened across the street. My neighbor was collapsed in her driveway, her five-year-old son was next to her, and the police and ambulance were coming down the block. I quickly crossed the street. The Mom was rushed to the hospital. The police locked the doors to the house and gave the young boy to me. I brought him home.

I called the school office, as he was in afternoon kindergarten, to tell what was going on. They gave me his Dad’s work number so I could call him. He was understandably distressed: wife in the hospital, son missing. I reminded him who I was, and that I was going to feed the boy lunch and take him to school, as I felt being with his friends and in his routine would be best.   And I told him how wonderful his son was, as he called 911. I told the school as well, when I walked the boy to the school two blocks away.

I have a special place in my heart for this boy. He is in his 30s now. And his Mom and I stay in touch. We Jersey girls never let a child or neighbor in need go unassisted.

Fifth, a Jersey Girl takes action when others are standing around not sure what to do.   My husband and I went on a cruise around the Greek Islands. When we returned to Greece, it took forever for the luggage to get off the ship. Suddenly a man collapsed. Some people went over, including a doctor.   I asked what was happening. “A diabetic who took his insulin but did not eat.” I could handle that. I reached into my bag and pulled out rice cakes covered in cinnamon and sugar. They melt in your mouth. I brought it over and gave the doctor the bag. “This will work,” he said. I knew it. The man recovered. His wife came to thank me. No problem. I had a diabetic Dad.   I would want someone to help him one day. Taking action is what a Jersey Girl does in times of crisis. We do not panic!

Six, a Jersey Girl is there for her family. (Jersey boys as well.) As my parents used to tell us, “Brothers and Sisters stick together.” To my brother, when we were little, that meant “No one but me can hit my sisters.” But as we got older, we work together as a team, which we did when our parents passed away and in dealing with other family events that were tragic. My siblings and I are a team. And my extended family is always there when we need them or they need us!

Finally, Jersey Girls never forget! Do something good for us, we will remember you with love and return the favor over and over. Do something mean and nasty to us or to someone we love or know, and we will never forget. Do not get on the wrong side of a Jersey Girl.

We Jersey Girls have learned to be strong, to stand up for the rights of others, to protect our families and friends. We take no gruff from people.  We teach our daughters and our sons to be strong, independent, proud and good people.  And we defend ourselves.

We might not be perfect, but as the song says: “Cause nothing matters in the whole wide world, when you are in love with a Jersey Girl.”

Taking a Walk Up To Hurd Road to the Woodstock Site

11 Aug

My sister and I decided to take a walk up to Hurd Road this past weekend, as my brother told us that they had carved a giant peace sign into the hillside where everyone had been to watch the Woodstock concerts 45 years ago. We started the two mile walk at 7 o’clock in the morning. It was cool and brisk: a perfect summer morning at 56 degrees. We passed what was once Sheppy’s Bungalows on the left. Going up that hill brought back memories of many walks along West Shore Road. Right passed Sheppy’s is a little road called Lollipop Lane. I don’t remember that street at all. And it really is not a street at all, just a little impression in the grass. I am trying to remember what was once there. I actually think there was once another colony on that side of the road. Lollipop Lane Just past Lollipop Lane, walking in the other direction, came my brother. He had left for his walk much earlier. It was a great walking day. We spoke for a few minutes, and he continued back to our house. As we walked down and then up the bigger hill to Happy Avenue, we remembered when they filled the bottom in to make the hill and road less steep. The hill was once horrible on cars, but great fun for children. We used to go horseback riding once a week at Pine Creek Stables, it no longer exists, except in our memories. But our favorite part of the drive to the stables, which we took sitting on hay bales in the back of a pick up truck, was hitting the bottom of the hill and bouncing in the flatbed of the truck. We would all yell, “Go faster!” Now, of course, that is illegal. But then it was part of the fun of going up to the stables. We would spend about two hours at the stables each week. It was so much fun. We got to go horseback riding and visit with the horses, while our mothers had a couple of hours of peace. I now wonder what they did then? Visited with each other in quiet, or cleaned. I hope it was just relaxing. One of my cousins loved the stables and riding so much, he actually worked there for many summers. Mucking out the stables, riding whenever he wanted. Another friend also spent many hours there. I went whenever I could. Since the owner knew us all so well, as we got older we were allowed to take horses out without a guide. Great fun!

I love their sign. I love their sign.

As we continued our walk up to Happy Avenue, we passed a new riding stable. Rolling Stone Ranch. Its’ sign is definitely a play on the original Woodstock logo, but different. I loved the sign. This stable is not where Pine Creek was located. It is right before you reach Happy Avenue, Pine Creek Stables was a bit after the intersection. When we reached Happy Avenue, our brother drove up behind us. Okay, I admit it, my sister and I did not walk all the way to Hurd Road. We road the second mile with our brother.

These is where Pine Creek Stables once existed. These is where Pine Creek Stables once existed.

We passed the Pine Creek site on the right. Then we passed the farm with the famous “Woodstock” pond on the left. He no longer has the chicken coops there. Now there are fields of corn on both sides of the road. Then up one more hill and there we were at the site of part of Max Yasgur’s farm. The part everyone knows: the natural amphitheater where the Woodstock concerts were held. Woodstock monument We walked to the monument and looked over at the giant peace sign carved into the grass. Over the top of the hill we could see the tents of the Bethel Woods concert site. In fact tents were set up just on the other side of Hurd Road on a piece of land bordering both West Shore Road and Hurd Road. We are sure it is for the events celebrating the anniversary of Woodstock.

Peace Sign carved into the side of the hill. Peace Sign carved into the side of the hill.

The walk is so peaceful now. Nothing like the chaos of 45 years ago. And perhaps calling the area Bethel Woods has more meaning. Yes, it is in the Township of Beth El. But how many realize that Beth El means the House of God? And here we are in this peaceful place of West Shore Road, with so much beauty around us. While we were in Kauneonga Lake this past weekend, my siblings and I were cleaning out the many items stored by our grandparents and parents over the more than 50 years our family has owned our house.   We found some photos from the Woodstock weekend taken from our driveway. Our dad then is almost 20 years younger than my brother and I are now! While walking the path to Woodstock, I could not help remembering all the cars and the people who were there 45 years ago. I think of all those hills along the way. The only way to get anywhere that weekend was by foot or by horse. I remember the mounted police officers riding past our house to get up to the concert.

Looking up the hill from where the stage once stood. You can see the peace sign and the tent and a building belonging to BethEl Woods. Looking up the hill from where the stage once stood. You can see the peace sign and the tent and a building belonging to BethEl Woods.

As a friend reminded me, the concert organizers asked my grandfather for permission to land a helicopter on our lawn to get the musicians to the concert. He, emphatically, said, “No Helicopters!” We were not happy, as we told him then, we would get to meet everyone! But to my now adult mind, he was right. It would have caused mass hysteria from the crowds of people on the road. And even though we had a cleared acre of land, there were many trees nearby. The Woodstock weekend is one I will never forget. But for me, I love the quiet and joy and peace of West Shore Road that we usually relish. I love to walk and see the sights. I wanted you all to know that peace is in the Kauneonga Lake, Bethel Township. The giant peace sign on the grass is for the concert, but for me it was also for the inner peace in my heart whenever I return to Kauneonga Lake.   (My memories of the Woodstock weekend are in my blog,  “Woodstock Memories: A Walk on West Shore Road.”

A Summer Recharging In New Jersey

6 Aug
Double rainbow over the George Washington Bridge, view from my parent's apartment.

Double rainbow over the George Washington Bridge, view from my parent’s apartment.

Another visit to New Jersey begins. A cat is rubbing her head up against my computer and me. She really wants to sit on my lap. My sister’s cat, Tilda, wants some attention. And that is part of what makes my visits to New Jersey now somewhat strange. I am at my sister’s home, not at my parent’s home.

When my parents passed away within nine months of each other, I thought I might not travel to New Jersey each summer as I had for the previous 30 years I was married and lived in Kansas. But that turned out not to happen.   In fact, I continue to visit my family in New Jersey for a week each summer, staying with my sister. Visiting with my brother. Seeing my cousins. Going into the City for a show or to go to a museum. Then spending a wonderful weekend in the Catskills at our family home.

It is almost the same. I have a room to stay in. I have a great place to stay. But it is not the same. My parents are not here. My home away from home is a different place. It is still New Jersey, but I no longer have the magnificent view of Manhattan right out the window. I am not staying in an apartment, but instead a house. And I have cats here that want love and attention, just as my cats do.

I love my time here. For some reason I need a week on the East Coast each year. It is like an energy pack! I return to Kansas with my Jersey accent much stronger and a sense of well being. There is nothing like Jersey for the Jersey girl in me.

When I stroll the malls or take the ferry to New York City, I am in my element. I have visions of my childhood underneath the current events.   In Kansas I do not have that double vision. When I am in Kansas, I see the changes in the last 35 years, but they are adult years. When I am in New Jersey, I see the sights of my childhood changed and reinvented in my adult eyes.

Last summer my brother drove me to the two homes I lived in when we lived in North Bergen. It was remarkable to see how much they had stayed the same, and what had changed.   I plan to ask my sister to drive past my grandparent’s bakery in West New York this time. I wonder what it is now. After they sold the building, it became a restaurant. But I have not driven past it in a long time.

Of course part of the excitement of coming back East, is to travel to our home in Kauneonga Lake, NY. We visit with our cousins. Sit by the lake, go out on the boat, and just enjoy the time together. Pizza on the beach is a tradition! When we sit there, I also see my parents and aunt and uncle. They loved to sit under the tree and watch the grandchildren grow into adults, seeing the changes that came each summer.

Another generation comes to the Lake. My two of my cousin’s are grandparents now. The fourth generation to come to Kauneonga Lake and enjoy the beauty and peace, as well as the fun! We were so blessed to have this oasis from the City.

A trip to New Jersey and New York in the summer is a welcome relief to me. It brings me back to my self. I will eat at a diner; I will see a show on Broadway; I will take the ferry to the City; I will travel up 17 to the Catskills and get off at exit 104 in Monticello. My journey on 17 B and then 55 will lead me to Kauneonga Lake.

I might live in Kansas for over 30 years. But when I close my eyes I am sitting in New Jersey. The house might be different. There might be a cat on my lap.   My parents might not be physically here. But my soul resonates with the love and joy of my childhood and I become rejuvenated.

I love my summer week back East.

Learning Infinity and Beyond Makes Me Insane

2 Aug
A note from Mr. "Mean" Thoens to me in my senior yearbook.   We never did agree on infinite numbers.

A note from Mr. “Mean” Thoens to me in my senior yearbook. We never did agree on infinite numbers.

My disdain for infinity and infinite numbers started when I was a senior in high school. My North Bergen High School calculus teacher, Mr. Ray Thoens, (who I called “Mean” Thoens) was teaching us about infinity and the infinite number of points in a line. Okay, I could get that. But then he told us that two lines of unequal lengths would have the same number of infinite points. What!!

I argued with him.

How can a line this long ___________, have the same number of points as a line this long _________________? The lines have a definite beginning and an end. How can they have the same infinite number of points! For my logical mind, one must have more points than the other.

Mr. Thoens and I argued about this all year. Whenever I was upset about something I would just say, “Yes just like those lines and infinite number of points. It just doesn’t make sense.” And I would sometimes add while shaking my head, “that is just wrong.” Other students in my class perhaps agreed with Mr. Thoens, but that did not change my mind.

Senior year, basically the calculus class.  I had a lot of hair, but not as much as the boy next to me.

Senior year, basically the calculus class. I had a lot of hair, but not as much as the boy next to me.

Over the years, the long years, since I graduated high school, I still felt that the information about infinity and lines and infinite numbers of points was a crazy thing and just could not be right. But I kept my point of view to myself all these years. I never took another math class (except statistics), so I did not have to worry about these numbers. And even though my husband studied math and physics for the first two years of his college career, infinite numbers just did not come up.

Until now, when my nephew, my sister’s son, came to stay with us for a few days.

My nephew just earned his master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Kansas. He taught calculus to college freshman for the past few years, and he is staying with me before he leaves for Florida to study for his PhD in math at a university there.

And we got into a math debate.

I am not a hundred percent sure how it started, but we got on to the topic of calculus. I could not help myself, I had to tell him about my disdain for infinite numbers and points in lines.

He said something like, “I will explain it to you. Many people have this problem.”

I said, “You are not going to change my mind. It is not right! I have held this view for 40 years!”

He told me that Mr. Thoens, my high school math teacher was right! Can you imagine that! He told me that my high school teacher was probably trying not to use more advanced math language when he tried to exlain it all those years ago. But he, my nephew had explained this to many students, and he could explain it to me.

The diagrams in my nephew and my debate over infinite points in lines of two different lengths.

The diagrams in my nephew and my debate over infinite points in lines of two different lengths.

He started talking about ‘cardinality’ and how to match numbers. He showed me two sets of numbers, one with three dots and one with five. We could agree that these did not match. Then he added two more dots to make them equal sets. And we could agree that they were now equal.

He made graphs and wrote equation-like things. Who cares? When you look at two lines of unequal length it is intuitive and logical to realize that they do not have the same number of infinite points. ( I spoke to my daughter about this, and she totally agreed! So I must be right.)

I showed him two equal lines, A to B. We agreed that they had the same number of infinite points. Then I added a segment that doubled the size of one line to C. And I said, “This line has more points. It is a longer line.”

And he said, “NO!”

What! How can you say no?

He then told me that “The same way of matching is not going to work.”

Of course it will not. You cannot match the same way because they are different lengths.

And then he went into a silly math concept that showed matching using x/2 (x over 2). In this way the numbers in the longer line matched numbers in the shorter line like this: .3 went with .15 and so on. So! Yes you can make pairs of numbers, but there are always other numbers. He agreed and said something like, “But you never actually get to zero so your cardinality is okay as long as you can keep matching.”

Yes, Mr. Thoens had tried that same trick on me when I was 17. It did not work then and it will not work now.

I appreciate my nephew’s passion for math. I hope he has great success and continues to teach and learn. But I am not changing my mind. Two lines of unequal length and size cannot have the same number of infinite points even if both have an infinite number of points.

And do not tell me that an infinite number of points is an infinite number of points.   I know that. But it is something that does not make sense in my mind, and probably will never make sense.

I think I will just go another 40 years believing that learning about infinity and beyond just makes me insane!