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Beautiful Feet, A Shoe Store and My Dad’s Sage Advice

20 Jan

My Dad left this world almost eight years, but in my mind, I hear his voice and I think about him daily when I get dressed and put on my socks and shoes.

Dad had a thing about keeping your feet healthy!  It dated from his time served in the infantry during the Korean War.   He would tell me and my siblings about the men he knew who did not take care of their feet and ended up with gangrene and amputation.  Many men in the military end up what is called trench foot.  And my Dad, having seen victims of this, was always emphasizing good foot care.

I cannot tell you how many times he told me that “when your feet hurt everything hurts.” This was always emphasized when we got new shoes. My Uncle Jack was the manager of a shoe store in Yonkers, New York.  Whenever we needed shoes, we would make that journey from New Jersey.

Uncle Jack was insistent that our feet fit correctly in the shoes.  He would measure and remeasure and check our toes.  When my Dad’s embroidery business failed, Dad worked in the shoe store for a while.  He became as crazy about shoes fitting as Uncle Jack.  As a teen and young adult, when I went to buy shoes, Dad always cautioned that the shoe’s toe bed should be big enough for my toes; never cramped; and never ever wear shoes that were too small.

The shoe store was important for other reasons, besides providing jobs and teaching a skill.  In fact, my oldest cousin and my brother eventually worked in a shoe store in Monticello during the summers. (See blog below.).

The stacks of the store’s storage room have additional importance for me.  When my husband and I became engaged, my Dad and Uncle told my husband to be not to buy a ring, they would help.  Uncle Jack had a great friend, or perhaps distant relative also named Jack, who was a diamond dealer.   He met us in the stacks of the shoe store carrying a shoe box filled with diamond rings. No one knew there were diamonds there.  When he left it looked like he purchased a pair of shoes. For me the shoe store in Yonkers provided shoes and diamonds,  and provides a great story on how I got my engagement ring.

I digress, so back to feet!

Another rule was: “Never wear wet socks.  When your feet get wet, dry them and change your socks as soon as possible.”  This one was often said when we ran around outside in the Catskills, especially after a rain or when the dew was thick in the mornings. Dad would rather we ran around barefoot in the rain, then wear sneakers and wet socks.  It was wet socks on soldiers that led to the trench foot conditions that impacted their lives.   To this day, I would rather wear sandals in the summer and waterproof boots in the winter to keep me away from wet socks!

When my Dad was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, he started visiting a podiatrist once a month to keep his feet in good shape.  On my Mom’s side, we had an elderly relative who lost his legs due to diabetes.  That was not going to happen to my Dad.  (see blog below.)

This emphasis on feet came to mind because of a chat I had with three friends.  We were at one friend’s house watching an important football game, when the topic of bunions came up, as one had bunion surgery and another was contemplating the same surgery.  My three friends were talking about their feet and the aches and pains and shoes that they were concerned about.

I said nothing at first. But I was thinking about a recent experience.  I had been on a cruise that entailed much difficult walking. As a reward to myself, I had a foot massage and reflexology on the ship.  The young man who provided my service, kept commenting on my beautiful feet.  He told me was expecting really ugly bunion ridden feet because of my age.  My feet astonished him. (See blog about walking below.)

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My beautiful feet enjoying Florida.

So finally, I joined the conversation, “I don’t have bunions.  My feet are in good shape.  In fact, they have been called beautiful.” They insisted I take off my shoes and show off my feet.    Which I did.  The friend who just had her foot surgery said, “You do have beautiful feet.  Your feet look like the photo the doctor showed of how feet should look.”

I told them that I owe my beautiful feet to both genetics and my Dad’s constant reminders about foot care.   Each morning, I dry my feet and put a healing lotion on them.  Once a month I get a pedicure and a massage.  I never wear wet shoes or wet socks.  I make sure my shoes fit correctly.  I do not wear high heels or pointed toes.

In my mind, I see my Dad smiling at me as I continue to follow his sage advice and remember Uncle Jack’s shoe store.  And feel blessed that I do not need foot surgery!

 

 

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/18/the-great-shoe-catastrophe/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/05/childhood-events-definitely-impact-my-adult-choices/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/07/10/walking-my-way-through-the-perils-of-stone-pathways-in-europe/

 

Bright Smiles

16 Jan

I absolutely love this photo.

It is 1951. My parents are engaged. Dad is in the army and will be deployed to Japan and then Korea. They will marry in June 1951, when he is on a two-week leave before his deployment.

In this photo, my Mom, far left, is with her future family. My father’s sister, mother and grandmother. (My Aunt Leona, or Yoey, Grandma Esther, and my Great Grandma Rae.) I believe it is at the shower held at my Grandma’s apartment in the Bronx, when Mom met all the women in the family. We actually have a movie of this event.

I love their smiles and faces of joy. My Grandma is looking at my Mom with so much love.

I smile whenever I see this.

Reading My Parents’ Eighth Grade Autograph Books

4 Jan

It used to be when you graduated eighth grade, you had your friends and teachers sign your autograph book.  The idea was that you would keep this book forever to carry the memories of these friends, who you thought would always be your friends, with you wherever you went.

I remember my autograph book.  Most people wrote silly poems.  Some wrote true hearted messages.  The teachers would mainly sign their names.  And of course, our parents, siblings and grandparents would sign our books as well.

So imagine our wonder, when we cleaned out our parent’s apartment, to find both of our parents eighth-grade autograph books!  I recently spent an hour going through these books from the 1940s and thinking about the people who signed them.  Most have passed away.  Some I did not know.  But others bring a face and a memory and love to my mind.

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Dad’s autograph book.

My Dad’s book is green and torn.  It looks like it has been battered. My Dad graduated eighth grade in June 1943.  He was 14 years old, would turn 15 in a few months.  He attended Joseph Wade Junior High School in the Bronx.  I know that his next stop was DeWitt Clinton High School.

The messages that mean the most to me are from his Mom: “Hope you climb the ladder of success, Mother.”  I have seen her handwriting many times.  I wonder why she did not sign it with love.   From his Dad: “Good Luck and Happiness, From Father Harry.”

The most exciting note for me was from his grandmother, I have no knowledge of her handwriting.  She was born in Russia. The note itself was written by someone else: “To my grandson.  Congratulations on your graduation from Junior High. Best luck in your High Schooling.”  But the signature is my Great Grandma’s:  Ray Goldman!

There are notes from his brother and sister, a first cousin and his Aunt Minnie.    His brother’s note is a typical brother note: “Well, you finally graduated – Congratulations.”  His sister’s note was a silly poem, but then she was just 11 or 12 years old. “I never thought you would make it, “wrote his cousin David,” “but I am very glad I have to eat my words.”

The final note that has meaning to me, is a silly poem from Willard.  Willard, Willie, was Dad’s best friend.  They were bar mitzvah a few weeks apart and studied for their bar mitzvahs together.  They had many stories of how they misbehaved for the Rabbi or anywhere else. Willie and his wife were part of my parent’s lives, and so our lives, forever.  There was not a family event or special occasion without them with us.  My Dad’s 60th birthday party was at Willie’s house.  My ketubah, Jewish marriage license was signed by Willie as one of two witnesses.  This is a friend who stayed a friend forever.

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Mom’s autograph book.

My Mom’s book is different in style and condition than the book my Dad used.  Mom’s book is still in its box.  Its’ blue leather cover is immaculate, sort of like my Mom.  Even though she was six months younger than Dad, she graduated earlier.   Mom graduated from No. 4 school in West New York, New Jersey, in January 1943.  The school building she attended no longer exists as it was replaced with a new school.   She went on to attend Memorial High School in West New York.

The interesting part about Mom is that she actually taught in No. 4 school for many years before being transferred to No 2 school in West New York.  Mom taught in the West New York elementary schools for 30 years, from 1964 until 1994.

Mom’s book is different in another way.  My grandparents came from Europe.  She had only her Mom and Dad, and my grandfather never really wrote in English.  Her grandparents and many aunts and uncles were still in Europe, many of them did not survive the Shoah.  One of her grandfathers and one aunt had made it to the USA in 1936 through the efforts of my grandparents, but I believe by 1943 my great grandfather had already passed away.

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My grandmother wrote in the book:  Dear Frances, Luck and Success. Your Loving Mother.”  That was the only family member who wrote it in.  Her brother started to write something, but did not finish it.

But there are several names in the book that I know well.  The first is Doris Chesis. She wrote: “Work for the Character and after a while the Character will work for you.”    She and her family lived in the same building as my mother. They rented an apartment from my grandparents.  Her brother, Murray, also wrote in the book. He graduated with my Mom, and they actually dated in high school.

Although I never met Murray, I have seen photos of him.  As for Doris, I remember her from throughout my childhood.  Her oldest daughter and my brother were the same age.  Her son and I went through high school together. And her youngest daughter and my sister were about the same age.  I am still friends with Doris’ children on Facebook.  Shocking how long that friendship has lasted.

The final name is as important for my Mom as Willard was for my Dad.  Wini Anoff and my Mom were friends from kindergarten (see blogs below).  I do not know life without Wini!  Her daughter and I have been best friends forever.  And I mean that as we were born two months apart and do not know life without each other.  Our grandparents were friends. We spent every summer together in the Catskills.

So Wini, this is what you wrote in my Mom’s autograph book:  In the four corners of the page : For Get Me Not.  “Dear Frances,  Needles and Pins, Needles and Pins, When you get married your troubles begin. Your sister grad-u-8, Wini Anoff.”

I so wish she had written something more personal.  But Mom and Wini were both just 13.  They would be turning 14 in a few months.  Since Wini is still alive, I should ask her what she would write now, knowing all that has happened in the 77 years since she wrote this note.

For me, seeing someone’s handwriting brings them back to life.  The autograph books perhaps did not contain many signatures and notes from people who continued to be a part of my parents’ lives.  However, I get joy seeing names and signatures of the people I did know.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/08/11/mr-anoff-and-the-sardine-sandwich/

Taking A New Name In America

29 Dec

We always hear of people saying the family’s name was changed at Ellis Island.  Well my family came before there was an Ellis Island.  They came through Castle Garden in New York City.  And they themselves changed their names.  This is the story of the Litvak/Goldman side of my family.

Here are the descendants of my great great grandparents Rasha (Goldberg) and Yaacov Litvak who were bakers in Bialystok, Russia.

As they came to the United States each of my great grandfather’s brothers changed their last name from Litvak to Goldman.  I guess it makes some sense as their mother’s maiden name was Goldberg.  My great grandfather was the last of the brothers to venture to the USA, but once here he changed his name as well.  Baruch Lev Litvak officially became Louis Goldman.

In a previous blog I recounted my maternal grandmother’s mother’s family (see blog below.  The information in this blog also comes from conversations I had with my grandmother in the 1970s as well as a document my aunt wrote with my grandmother.  We are lucky to have all of this information.

Yaacov and Rasha Litvak, also known as Jack and Ray, had seven children.  All of them immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s.  Avram/Abe, Duddie/David, Barnett, Leah, Tzipora/Tzippy, Chia/Chaya, Louis/Baruch Lev.

Avram/Abe had two daughters, named Martha and Florence, and one son

Duddie, or David, had three children. They also have both English and Yiddish names.  Chappie/Louis was married to Bessie.  They had two sons, Bennie and Miltie.  Itzacast/Harry and Lobel/Sophie were Duddie’s other children. (My grandmother remembered much more about those cousins she saw more often.)

Barnett married Sarah and had six children. Hymie, Ray, Bessie, Phil, Dora and Jack. She remembered a lot about this family. Hymie married Mary and had three daughters.  Phil married Selma and had two daughters.  Bessie married Harry Brinsley.  They had one son, Bert, who died young.  Ray Berber married two times, but never had children.

Then there is the somewhat sad story of Dora who supposedly died by suicide when she as just 18 years old.  The family legend is that she was pregnant by her boss.  This would have been in the early 1900s.

However, I decided to look into this story.  Is it true?  Did she die?  I am not so sure.   I did find her in both the 1900 US census living with her parents, Barnett and Sarah Goldman with siblings as mentioned and a few more: Abe, Hyman (Hymie), Rachel (Ray), Harry, Bessie/Betsy, Solomon, Philip, Jacob/Jack and Dora who was just two.  I know there are extra children here.  Some of these could be cousins who were living with their uncle.  Perhaps my grandmother’s memory was not quite correct.   Or perhaps some of them did not live to adulthood. And so my grandma and aunt did not know of them.

I did find two women name Dora Goldman who died around the time she would have been 18. But I also found a Dora Goldman on someone else’s family tree who has her linked to my Barnett and Sarah. This Dora Goldman married and had a daughter in 1922.  She had a second child in 1923.  But her first husband must have died young, because, Dora remarried in 1934.  She lived in New Jersey.  Is this the right Dora?  I do not know. The tree that linke them did not have a marriage license or a death certificate where I could check Dora’s parents’ names.

I guess I hope that she did marry and did not die by suicide.  I have to continue to research her and see if I can find the marriage license.

The next child of Jacob and Rasha was Leah Kramer and her husband who had six children: Ray, Issac, Louis, Bernie/Dverie, Jack and Rasay/Rashie. Rashie married but died quite young.  ( Rashie’s daughter Rachel/Ray had several children including one son who perished from injuries sustain in World War 2.  She also had several daughters.)

I think it was Louis/Label Kramer who had two sons, Irwin and Donald. A one son had or daughter (not sure if the name was Bernie or Dverie) had four daughters, Shaunie, Peralie, Shushkie and Rosie and one son, Hymie.

Tzippy/Tziporah was married twice, as her first husband died. She had Fannie/Chifeque, Harry and Jack.  Fannie had three daughters, including Ruthie Abrams.  It is funny because Grandma said we were close to her.  And I actually vaguely remember this name. Tzippy’s other daughters were Lillian and Shaynie.

Back to Ruth Abrams. She had a daughter named Berenice, who was married, last name Inhober (?). Who lived in NY and wintered in Florida.   Ruthie also had a son who was a cab driver.  Now this is a story I heard hundreds of time.  One day he picked up a fare and was shot to death!   There were family  debates about this incident.  Some say he was perfectly innocent and just a crazy guy killed him.   But then there are those who said he might have been a ‘wise guy’ who got into trouble with the Jewish mob.

I wish I had answers to this question.  But I don’t. Having his first name would help, I am sure.

Chia/Chaya never had children and died quite young.

Louis Goldman, my great grandfather, who married Ray/Rachel Wolf and had five children. This family has been identified in other blogs.

Of course, the questions are always there. What happened to these families?  After the third generation they lost touch.  My father and aunt and uncle knew them.  But we, the next generation, only have vague memories about a scattered few of these cousins.  But I know that the next generations are spread out in the world and show up in my DNA feeds as third, fourth and distant cousins.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/19/the-descendants-of-esther-lew-and-victor-avigdor-wolff-wolf/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

 

Sentimental Musings: My Parents And “Animal Farm”

25 Dec

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I have to start this blog with a confession to my siblings, “I have Mom’s copy of Animal Farm.”

To be honest, this is a big deal.  When our parents died nine months apart, and we cleaned out their homes, we searched for certain important, sentimental items.  The 1946 edition of Animal Farm fell into this category.

In my family,  Animal Farm is not just an allegory about communism using farm animals.  Instead it is the basis for our parent’s relationship.  Dad lived in the Bronx.  Mom lived in New Jersey.  My Dad’s aunt lived near my Mom and shopped in the family bakery.   She decided that my Mom and Dad had to meet.

In order to appease his aunt, my Dad took the train, the subway, the ferry, who knows how many types of transit to travel to meet my Mom. (The timeline it took to get to meet her and the numerous transits increased over the years.)

It went well.  Mom loaned Dad her copy of Animal Farm to read.  Of course, after he read it, he had to make the return trip back to New Jersey to deliver the book back to her and discuss it.  This was the start of a great love story that lasted the 59 years they were married.

Obviously Animal Farm holds a place in all of our hearts.  And it was missing.  But maybe not so much.   I sort of remembered that Mom gave me the book when I was in college.  As an English major I had to read many books, so I often went home to see if we had any in our family library.  Animal Farm came back to college with me and has stayed with me for the next 40 something years.  However, I did not know exactly where it was in my house.  Actually, I just hoped it did not get lost in one of my moves before settling in my current home of 34 years.

So why am I writing about it now?  Two reasons. I have been thinking of this book a lot lately.  I have been focusing on how it starts off with the saying that all animals being equal, but ends with /the new dictate that some animals are better (or more equal) than other animals.  I have also been thinking about pigs running the government, not that I have any intention of making a political statement here.  I decided I wanted to reread it and wondered if I did still have it.

Reason two, I have been on a cleaning binge, which includes sorting through and giving away some of our thousands of books with the idea that we will downsize our home.  Since I am on winter vacation from work, I decided to continue my house cleansing and search specifically for this book.  Well I found it. There on a shelf, tucked between two larger books, was the green cover of slim book: Animal Farm. 

It is the Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946 edition.  Not sure if it is a first printing, because it does not note that on the page.  However, it was in 1946 that it was published in the USA.

Finding it also confirmed my belief that I used it in school, because tucked inside was a mimeographed sheet explaining who all the characters represented. It is a great cheat sheet that was presented to us by our teacher.

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My true confession is over.  I hope my siblings will be happy to know that the book is safe.  Its pages intact and its importance to our family will live with this retelling.

Personally, I will now reread Animal Farm and compare the fate of the world now with the way the world was moving in the years after World War Two.

 

The Descendants of Esther (Lew) and Victor (Avigdor) Wolff/Wolf

19 Dec
GG Grandparents

Esther Lew and Victor Wolff

In the late 1880s and 1890s many of my great grandma Ray’s siblings came to settle in the United States, specifically in the New York City area.  In fact, of the nine children of Victor and Esther (Lew) Wolf/Wolff, eight eventually left their small town, Ciechanowiec, in the Bialystoker region of Russia to move to the United States.

As a young child, I remember going into New York for the Cousins’ Club.  These crowded and noisy events were filled with all the descendants of these siblings and their descendants.  Eventually we stopped meeting.  I believe it was when the last siblings passed away.

Since I was always an inquisitive person, I was the grandchild who sat down in the early 1970s with all of my grandparents and asked for their stories.  It paid off, because I now am writing their histories.

From my Grandma Esther, I got the names of all of her mother’s siblings and all of the children.  Later in life, when my cousins saw my determination to chronicle our family, I was sent an additional document written by my aunt, my father’s sister, that gives a bit more detail for some, but not as much for others as Grandma’s reminiscing.

So for all those who are interested, here are the nine children and the many grandchildren of Victor and Esther.  I am not sure of the list in age order, as Grandma and my aunt had it a bit differently.  I will go with Grandma’s list.

Sarah:  She never had children of her own.  But she raised the daughter of her sister.  And actually Grandma said she had two children: Esther (Meshugganah Esther to the family) and Abraham, who might also be the child of Anna/Champka. (See blog link below.)

Rosie (Lichtenfeld): had four children: Benny, Jack, Jules and Esther. (My aunt was friendly with Benny’s two daughters Rhoda and Janet.)

Anna/Champka:  She came as a young widow from Europe with three children and pregnant.  It was her youngest Estelle/Esther who was raised by Sarah.  Her other children were Ray, Fanny and Abe (who also might have been raised by Sarah).   (See blogs below.)

Israel(Ezriel Aharon): He was the one who remained orthodox.  His children were Esther, Ray, Jack, Fannie and Charles. His children were all born in Europe. So they came later. Fannie never had children because she had tuberculosis.

Cheika/Chia Vrona/Wrona: This is the sister who never came to the USA. But two of her children came: Louis Verona who lived in Atlanta. Julia/Yudia who had three children Esther , Irene and Louis.  Ichie never came to the USA.

Ray/Rasha: My great grandmother who married Louis and had five children. Minnie, Esther, Jake (who died young) Philip and Sam.

Simcha/Sam: He had three sons Hymie, Victor and Charlie.

Harry: married Minnie and had four children: Esther, Julius/Yudel, and Goldie survived.  His daughter Rosie died when she was in her 20s.

Jacob: He was the youngest. That I know for sure. He had a daughter, Gertie who married Dave Stern. And two sons Hymie and Victor.

I remember there were many children named  Hymie, Victor and Esther.  (I wrote about the Esthers as well, see the blog below.) But my Uncle kept in touch with one Hymie who came to several family events.

I do know the names of some of the next generation. And occupations of some of the original siblings and first cousins. But I think this should be a good start in knowing the family.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/08/updated-esthers/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/01/27/serendipity-wins-in-finding-a-family-connection/

I Know These Names

17 Dec

As the snow continues to fall outside and I have a snow day from my job, I decided to continue searching in my Grandma’s Photo Album.  Since my last photo once again lead me to the Yad V’Shem data base and to another story of death during the Shoah, I searched for perhaps some happier photos.   I was successful.

I found three photos from the 1940s.  The first two were taken on November 25, 1945. Perhaps the photo with the three people is a wedding photo for Felix and Martha, along with Martha’s sister, Rosa.  They are celebrating something, as Felix and Martha are wearing flowers. The two women look so much alike. They have the same exact smile.   I know that they must be sisters.

The third photo, from July 14, 1947, is inscribed: “To you, dear cousin, from Rosel.”  I am sure the ‘dear cousin’ is my grandmother.  It surprised me because this photo was taken a few days before my grandmother’s 41 birthday.

These two girls are much younger than my grandma.  Closer in age to my mother, who would have been 18 in 1947.   So perhaps they are the surviving children of one of my Grandma’s first cousins.  There were so many of them.  Her mother had seven siblings and her father three or four.  Although my grandmother’s siblings survived, many of her cousins perished in the Shoah.

Martha, the girl who I think married, looks so much like my mother.  Not her smile, but the shape of her face.  I can see that they are somehow related.

Now I am on a search to see where they settled after the war.  I have emailed cousins and my siblings in this search.  Mainly because I remember these names.  I have heard together.  I have heard my grandmother say them.  One of my mother’s first cousins has no memory of these people.  But since I spent so much time in Israel and traveled there with my grandmother, I am hoping these are among the people that I met so many years ago. (See blog below.)

I know my grandparents sent money to relatives after the war.  Were these people among those who they helped?  I do not know. My grandfather once said that he was always helping grandma’s family.  But I know he did not mind.  It was something that had to be done.

I wish these photos included a last name as that would make my search so much easier.  But in the long run, perhaps it does not matter.  At least I know they survived and that alone gives me joy.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/09/26/another-photo-another-trip-to-the-yad-vshem-database/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/06/17/my-obsession-with-grandmas-album-leads-to-the-shoah/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/20/viroshov-wieruszow-a-jewish-community-destroyed/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/