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How a Shoe Store became a Jewlery Store

8 Sep

Growing up in the New York City metro area, one thing I will say, we had connections.  The majority of my extended family lived in New York and New Jersey.  Family get togethers were important.  Besides that, our summers in the Catskills with my cousins made us extremely close.

So of course engagements, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and the arrival of babies were always celebrated.   This continues today as well into the next generations.  But when I was a teen and young adult growing up, everyone lived within a short distance of each other.

When we needed new shoes, we did not go to just any shoe store.  No, we drove from North Bergen or West New York, New Jersey, to Yonkers, New York, to get our shoes.  Why?  There were lots of shoe stores near by.  But my Uncle Jack was the manager of a shoe store in Yonkers.  So, of course, that is where we went for our new school shoes each year.   If ever we had a shoe problem, or issue, we knew to stand up and see where our toes ended in relationship to the edge of the shoe.  I have written about my Dad’s fixation on healthy feet. And wearing good shoes was part of this. (See blog below.)

My Uncle Jack had other connections.  One of his best friends, also named Jack, was a jeweler.  I asked my cousin if he was related to them.  But No, Uncle Jack and Jack A. met at the Sephardic synagogue they went to in NYC.   Uncle Jack lived in Israel as a child and teen.  ( I wrote about his mother, my grandma Rose, and her experiences during the siege of Jerusalem in 1948, see the blog below.)  

So why a shoe store and a jeweler and family gatherings all in one story?  Because in 1979 I got engaged to a nice Midwest boy who wanted to buy me a diamond engagement ring. I was shocked.  He wanted to go to a store and buy it retail?  Who heard of such a thing?  Not when my family was involved.

To be honest, I do not remember exactly what happened.  All I know is that we were in town for my brother’s wedding.  It was nine months after we got engaged, but I still did not have my engagement ring.  We were waiting until we went to see my family.  Finally, a meeting was set up.  My husband, then fiancé, thought we were going to go to a wholesale jewelry store in Manhattan.  But that is not what happened.  He was a bit shocked.

My parents drove my husband and I to the shoe store in Yonkers. My then 24-year-old fiancé asked, “We are getting your ring in a shoe store?” I just nodded my head yes. My father said something like, “Don’t worry, it’s fine.”

When we got to the store, my Uncle was waiting for us, and led us to the back of the store.  Mom stayed in front to shop!  Next thing I know is that Dad, my fiancé and I are in the shoe storage racks in the back of the store.  Jay was a bit shy about entering the back stacks, but as we were all going, he went along. It was here that we met with Jack, the jeweler!

When we were situated where no one was coming, way in the back, Jack, the jeweler, opens the shoe box he was carrying.  Inside were five or six diamond rings, all about one karat, all different shape diamonds.  I tried several on and finally decided on the ring I wanted.  A check was written.  We were given an appraisal, but Jack was firm about us getting an appraisal from another jeweler as well.     If there was any problem, we were to let him know.

We left the stacks.  I was now wearing my engagement ring.    Jack the jeweler stayed behind.  My Uncle went in to say goodbye to his friend, who left through the back entrance.  Quite the covert mission.  You did not want anyone to know you were carrying a shoe box filled with diamonds!

I wore my engagement ring for years.  But about five years ago, I had a ring I inherited from my grandmother that I used to make a new ring.   I put my engagement ring away with the idea that one day my son would use it.  That time is now.  He and his girlfriend got engaged.

https://zicharonot.com/2020/01/20/beautiful-feet-a-shoe-store-and-my-dads-sage-advice/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/07/24/movie-night-in-the-catskills-was-a-wonderful-magical-night/

The Catskills House Delivers A Father’s Day Surprise

21 Jun

I really thought we had found all the treasures there were to be found in our grandparent’s home.  But I guess not.  Our home in the Catskills keeps pushing out surprises.  This time it was my Dad’s high school diploma and his sixth-grade graduation photo. My brother found it on Saturday, June 18. What a great surprise for Father’s Day!

My brother, sister and I share this house which has been in our family since 1962. First belonging to our grandparents, then our parents and now the three of us.  Every once in a while, my brother, who is lead ‘administrator,’ decides we have to clean out some more of the decades of stuff squirreled away in the house.  Several years ago, we all went up and worked on the attic and the garage for several days.  We filled a dumpster and were physically and emotionally exhausted.  (See blogs below.)

Due to the pandemic, my nephew, my brother’s son, has been living in our house.  I guess my brother decided to take advantage of his son’s presence.  It was time, in his mind, to finally tackle the basement.  I was glad I did not have to be part of that cleaning as it is a dusty, damp mess down there. He ordered a ten-cubic-foot dumpster to be delivered to the house.  This past week, the two of them focused on filling it up. And they did!

I must say, my brother is not sentimental and is quite decisive in his cleaning and tossing of what he considers useless items.  I know because the two of us cleaned out our parent’s apartment over eight years ago.  While I had a hard time letting things go, my brother would say, “Do you really need that.  Just put it in the to go pile.”  We had piles for each of us, for trash and for donating.  I will admit that perhaps sometimes when he left the room, I moved things from trash to donate, and perhaps from donate to one of the to keep piles.

So I was really happy that when my brother and nephew did clean the basement, they did a little searching before just throwing.  As it was in a box of old broken picture frames that they found these two treasures.  The high school diploma is not that much of a surprise, as we knew when Dad graduated from DeWitt Clinton high. (See blog below.). But the class photo was the treasure!

The class photo is from PS 70 in the Bronx, June 1940, just over 81 years ago!  Behind the students is an American flag with only 48 stars. Hawaii and Alaska did not become states until 1959. The photo is not in great shape.  It looks like it has moisture damage.  But the part with my Dad is a bit better.

The boys are wearing white shirts and ties. The girls are in dresses with many of them wearing scarf like a tie.  The teacher is a man in a full suit.  Our Dad is the boy in the second row, standing behind a sitting girl at the far right of the photo.  His abundant hair is obvious.

This photo makes me happy.  I love seeing my Dad with his classmates.  I sent it to my Dad’s best friend to see if he was also in the picture. But he was not.  However, it gave me a chance to be updated on what was happening in his life.  My Dad’s friend said: “I think of him almost every day. He was my best friend.”  To be honest I cannot imagine one of the them without the other. They met when they were 12 years old. And were best buddies till my Dad died in 2011.

Since the basement is not yet totally cleaned out, I have hope that a few more treasures might come to light.  In a way I will be sad when all the alcoves and crannies are clean because I know I will not have any more happy surprises. But in the meantime, I am happy for this Father’s Day surprise.

Pippi Longstocking and It’s A Small World Always Have A Place in My Heart

17 Jan

Over time my sister and I have been amazed that her daughter’s personality is more like mine, while my daughter is more like my sister. I am known to call them by each other’s names because they do something that is so much like the other.

But recently, on a family Zoom, I realized that my reaction to my daughter is often the same as my mother’s reaction to my sister.

In the early 1960s my family went to the World’s Fair in New York City. (See blog below.). We had a great time.  Our favorite ride was the Disney, “It’s a Small World,” which premier at the World’s Fair.  My sister, who was just 4 or 5 at the time, fell in love with the song. 

She was in love with the song and used the $5.00 gifted to her from our grandmother to buy a special booklet about the ride that included the 45 record. My mother asked her to be sure that is what she wanted, as she used her entire $5 for it.  (I used my money to buy a Cinderella watch.)

The song became the bane of our existence.  My sister played that record endlessly.  “I did play it multiple times a day on the small record player that we were allowed to use unsupervised,” she said.  To be honest it drove us all crazy.

One day she came home from school to the horrible news from my mother that the record was broken.  My mom was cleaning and accidentally broke it.  My sister was devasted, but what could she do. It was gone. My Mom was such an honest, good person.  We all believed her.  And I think we all, except my sister, were relieved.

Fast forward about 10 years.  Our house was robbed.  The thieves came in through the back door. The police believe my brother surprised when he got home from school as he came in the front door.  (I have written about this before in the blog below.). It was traumatic for all of us!!!

But in the aftermath, on the floor of my parent’s bedroom, where the thieves had dropped all the stuff they did not want, was the 45 record of “It’s A Small World”.  It was not broken.  It was intact.   My sister was shocked.

“Mom,” she said.  “It’s not broken.”  She says it was the biggest betrayal in her life!  My parents were both speechless and laughing.  My Mom admitted the truth, she just could not stand to hear that record again.  So they hid it. 

My sister says, “Mom did not have the heart to actually break and throw it out.” She thinks it is because she purchased with the money from grandma.   Now, 55 years later, my sister still has the record.  She admits she was obsessed by it and had to keep listening.  (Unfortunately,  while my sister found her record, my watch was stolen during the robbery.)

The doll and towel I purchased in Sweden.

Fast forward to the late 1980/early 1990s and my daughter’s favorite book, “Pippi Longstocking!”  She had to hear that one book every single day.  My husband or I read it to her.  It was my husband who broke first.  He finally had enough of her obsession.  He told me that he refused to read it again.  He took the book and put it at the very top of the floor to ceiling bookcase in our bedroom, knowing she would never find it.  I have to admit, I was right there with him.  I could have taken it down, but I never did.

We were so relieved.  We just never wanted to hear that book again.   Little did we realize that the book was in her soul.  When she wrote her college applications, she wrote about how she identified with Pippi Longstocking in her essays.

While she was in college, she came home for a break and was helping me sort through books.  I had totally forgotten that Pippi Longstocking was still up there in the bookcase, on its side where it could not be seen.  She was up on a step stool, when she yelled in excitement.  “Mom, I found Pippi Longstocking.  It’s not lost!”

I was startled and started laughing until tears came.  She says, it never occurred to her that we hid it.  She felt no sense of betrayal, only excitement because she found her favorite book. Both my Mom and I could not get rid of the evidence of our ‘lie’ which in the end was our undoing. 

Like my Mom, I explained to my daughter how tired we were of hearing and reading the book. So we hid it.  I think we still have the book.  But in August 2019, my husband and I went to the Baltics.  I made amends. The only thing I purchased for my daughter was in Sweden: a small Pippi Longstocking doll and tea towel that was adorned with Pippi’s picture.

I must also say, that “It’s A Small World” is also my daughter’s favorite Disney ride.  I have ridden on that ride multiple times with her. One time, on a rainy day, when no one else was there, she and I did it over and over again.  She is so much like my sister!!!

When thinking about it, I realize that both my sister and daughter were interested in entertainment that explored the world and had a positive view of life. It’s a Small World shows the people of the world singing in harmony and joy.  Pippi is a free and independent girl who is kind and helpful and works against bullies! Pippi Longstocking and It’s a Small World will always have a place in my heart.

These two blogs talk in more detail about the robbery and It’s a Small World Ride.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/14/it-was-a-small-world-at-the-new-york-citys-worlds-fair-196465/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/03/02/locking-up-candy-saves-the-day/

Blue M&Ms Welcome A Healthy New Year

1 Jan

I cannot think of one person I know who does not like M&Ms.  My personal favorites are peanut butter or peanut.   I remember as a child my mother doling out regular, plain chocolate M&Ms to my siblings and me.  It was a process.  We each had to have the same number of each color: Tan, Red, Brown, Green and Orange.  If there was a variation, there was trouble. Which is strange because they did not taste any different, but we all had favorite colors so having an equal amount was important, especially at Hanukkah when we used M&Ms to play the dreidel game! 

My Blue M&M swag.

However, notice the colors!  There were no Blue ones when I was a child.  They did not join the mix until 1995.  I remember the election that Mars held that year.  We could vote on blue, pink or purple.  I had two young children, ages 9 and 4, with whom I had discussions on the vote as my daughter loved purple.  At the time, I was busy: teaching in a high school, taking care of my children, free-lancing for a local newspaper where I wrote a commentary column.  But the vote on M&Ms was so important for me, I took time out to vote: BLUE! Blue won hand downs with over 50 percent of the vote. (Perhaps a precognition for November 2020?)

My loving blue M&Ms from the time they were available, became a reason for family laughter  since from that point on, I only wanted to eat the blue ones.  I remember going to family life cycle events, and just picking out the blue M&Ms from the bowls.  One year, at my niece’s bat mitzvah, one of my cousins brought me over a little of tub of all colors, since he knew I loved M&Ms.  But I remarked, “Now I only eat the blue ones.”  He came back a bit later with a bowl of blue ones that he had collected from all the bowls. He is an excellent cousin!

When I play mah Joong with my friends, or go to a party,  I still only eat the blue M&Ms.  It has become so well accepted, that as others reach into the bowl, they often pass the blue ones on to me. They don’t even think about.  I get the blue ones. 

 It is a bit difficult when the holiday ones come out.  Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, NO BLUES.  But Easter is fine as there are light blue ones!

I have three reasons for my obsession with blue ones.  First of all, blues and teals are my favorite colors.  Why not eat what I like?  I also love blueberries!  But I have another more important reason.  I am actually allergic to dairy.  I get really ill if I eat too much.  So limiting my intake of M&Ms by only eating blue ones, contains my addiction. The final reason is weight control, by only eating the blue ones, I am able to reject other colors and not overeat.

When my children were younger, I fabricated a bit.  I might have told them I ate the blue ones because they were better for me, healthier.  It was, at the time, wishful thinking.  Eventually my children figured out my ruse, and they would laugh whenever I gave that explanation.  But then in 2009 I found out that all these years, I was actually correct! 

My daughter was in graduate school, when I sent her an email telling her to laugh no more!  Scientists had found out that the blue dye used in blue M&Ms and blue Gatorade, known as Brilliant Blue G (BBG), was good for you.  They found that it stopped the inflammation that increased damage when someone had a spinal cord injury.  (See link below.)  I was being proactive, eating only blue ones!

A few years later, imagine my delight when I found the M&M World store in Las Vegas.  I had never been in such a store before, and the sights within filled me with glee.  There were bins with many colors of M&Ms you don’t usually see.  And several of different colored blue and teal pure chocolate ones. Although not my favorites, I still had to fill a bag. There was all sorts of M&M items to admire.  I had to purchase some blue M&M swag that now lives in my kitchen.

Blue, teal, dark teal, light teal and some green M&Ms

But why is my first blog of 2021 about Blue M&Ms? 

Last night, since we could not go out for the holiday, we participated in two Zoom events. On our family New Year’s Eve Zoom with my sister, brother and sister-in-law, and nieces and nephews, my daughter and us, the topic of M&Ms came up.  My lust for blue M&Ms was once again publicly announced and I must admit some ridiculed!

My sister-in-law admitted to a peanut M&M addiction.  I said I had it as well, but only the blue ones.  They all laughed, except my daughter, who knew what was coming! Yes, I told them all about the medical properties of blue ones. They did not seem to believe me, so I sent them the link listed below.

That led several of us on the Zoom, to leave the room,  return with our M&M bags and locate a blue M&M to eat. As we displayed the blue M&M, as we expressed wishes for a healthy year and vaccines for all as we enter 2021.

Wishing you all a very happy 2021 and the joy of finding something you enjoy as much as I enjoy blue peanut and peanut butter M&Ms.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%26M%27s#:~:text=In%20early%201995%2C%20Mars%20ran,replaced%20tan%20in%20late%201995.

https://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-07/good-news-animal-lovers-and-folks-spinal-injuries/

A Pay Phone, Then a Party Line: Using the Phone in The Catskills

17 Dec

Recently I wrote a blog about doing the laundry in the Catskills. (See blog below.) Several of my friends who spent their summers with me in Kauneonga Lake, and my brother, felt I left out one important aspect of the laundry shed: the pay telephone.

In our small colony, owned by my maternal grandparents, the pay phone was also located in the laundry shed. The only way of communication for almost all the residents of the colony to the outside world.  If they needed to call their husbands, doctors, restaurants, anything, this was the only place to make a call or to get a call. Our colony was small, so when someone did get a call, the person standing closest to the phone would answer it and send a child to go get the call recipient!  Of course all the children loved to answer the phone. At larger colonies there was an loudspeaker system to call people to the phones. (See blog below.)

I think, but since I was a child, I am not sure, that the Moms had set times and days when they spoke to their husbands during the week. 

The phone my friend has from the bungalow colony.

The telephone has long disappeared.  However, when reading my blog, one of my friends told me that she had the phone, and sent a picture.  I do not know how she got the wall phone she had.  But though I thought the number was correct, the phone was wrong.  There was no place for the money.  And our pay phone definitely was a commercial one with coin slots.

Now I did say that the pay phone was the only way to communicate. But that is not totally true. My grandparents had their own separate line because they owned the colony and would need to call local people like the plumber or electrician. So if my Dad wanted to call my Mom, they had this private line to speak. Also if there was a true emergency, my grandparents would call for help.  You did not need to use the pay phone.  Hmmmmm. I wonder if the phone my friend has is the one from my grandparent’s bungalow?  Could be.

In 1963 our phone life and summer life changed. My grandparents purchased a winter/all year house about 1/3 mile up Lake Shore Road from the bungalows.  Behind the house was a bungalow that became our summer home.  This was both fun and sad.  We had a bigger bungalow, we had our grandparents, and my parents had some peace and quiet, but we were no longer at the colony at night for fun activities or on rainy days with the other children.  However, there was an apartment at the house, where one of my friends stayed.  (See blog below.). But we were no longer part of the rhythm of the colony on a daily basis. 

Communications changed as well.  People started getting phone lines. They were not completely private. People would get Party Lines.  That is what we had at the bungalow up the hill. My grandparents and my parents shared a party line.  We were so excited to have our own phone.  But it had its now side as well.

The phone lines had slightly different rings, so you knew when you were being called. And we had a special way to call down to my grandparents so they knew we wanted to speak to them.  If you picked up the line when the other people were using it, you would hear them speaking.  In fact, if you were quiet then you could listen to the entire conversation.

That was a bit crazy, cause my grandmother sometimes would listen in!!! My MOM would get furious.  And they would have a big argument!

Here is my brother’s memory:

“Yes. She (Grandma)never said anything just listened. She was really good at it,
and I think many times we did not even know she was listening. Mom
would know when Grandma knew things that she had not been told! It was
one of the things that I remember Mom arguing with Grandma about!”

Since my grandparents lived in the Catskills throughout the year after 1969 when my Grandfather retired, their phone line would be on all year long, while our phone line would be turned off after Labor Day.

But eventually, everyone got their own private phone lines.  It was amazing.  I could call my aunt at the bungalows and find out what was going on with my cousins.  Were they going to the movies? What were the plans for the rainy day or the evening? That was what we were missing when we first moved to the bungalow by the house.  

When we were teenagers, those phones were even more important for when we made plans with our friends and cousins.

The days of the payphone and party lines ended in our colony, but the memory of the times when two people needed to make a call.  Or watching when a teenager was on the phone trying to find a private spot….there was an extremely long cord. Or wondering if my Grandma was listening on the line….I have to admit, every once in a while I listened in on my Grandma’s call. Mainly because I needed to make a call and she was already on the line.

https://zicharonot.com/2020/12/12/the-summer-the-laundry-never-dried/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/09/17/sometimes-rainy-days-were-the-best-days-in-the-catskills/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/12/30/loudspeakers-often-interrupted-life-and-the-quiet-of-the-catskills/

The Summer the Laundry Never Dried

12 Dec

The rain started slowly this time.  Giving my Mom enough time to call for us.  But she really did not have to, all the children in our little colony were running to the same place: the clothes lines.  It had rained for weeks.  Finally, there had been a break in the weather. For days, everyone lined up at the two washing machines to get their clothes and linens done. People were running out of clothes to wear.  Everything was a muddy mess.  No one could afford for the newly cleaned clothes to get wet.

We all hustled and ran for the clothes.  Each group of children around their Moms pulling the clothes off.  The littlest ones were grabbing the clothespins and putting them into the cloth bags.  We were successful.  None of our clothes got really wet.  While Mom went back to our bungalow to hang our clothes up on the porch, I remember helping my Grandma take off some of her clothes off the lines.

At least we did not have to go to a laundromat to clean our clothes! This was important as most of the moms up for the summer did not have car with them in the 1960s.  Having to go to the laundromat was a major ordeal especially with all the little children. I guess sometimes someone did go. There was always one husband/father up there for the week who could run this errand as needed.

For us there was a little shed that held two washing machines.  Our moms would put their laundry basket in a line so everyone knew who went next.  They left their laundry soap and change in the basket as well. The person before them would empty out their laundry from the machine and put the next wash in.  I think it cost 50 cents to do a laundry.  Then they would tell the next person that their wash was up, so they knew when to go get it and start the next load.  How they knew, I don’t know.  Perhaps everyone had different colored baskets or different laundry soap, but they knew.  It is a mystery to me.

Laundry days were usually Wednesday and Thursday. Everyone wanted the laundry done before the weekend when the Dads would be up. But during this time of endless rain, occasionally the Dads would have to take the laundry to the laundry mat. I got to go with my Dad once. It was quite the adventure. Long lines, as everyone needed clean and dry clothes. I remember where the laundromat was, just outside of Kauneonga Lake on the road to White Lake and to ice cream, Candy Cone. Of course, I remember, because once our washes were in the machines, Dad and I went for ice cream while we waiting to go put them into the dryer. Then we stayed close to the laundromat, to get our clothes as soon as they were done.

So many laundry memories came rushing back to me due to a painting. A distant cousin of mine, {her grandmother and my maternal grandmother were first cousins. (See blog below.)} did a series of paintings that she then gave to people who made a donation to her chosen charity, an animal shelter. One painting touched my heart. I made my donation.

In my mind this painting was like a calm and practical Chagall painting, but instead of animals or couples flying above a town, it was a zaftig woman walking across the laundry lines with a laundry basket on her head. The colors, the story of the painting, the atmosphere just yelled Catskills in my mind. Laundry Day! Joy! I had to have it.

When it arrived, the memories started crowding into my mind of the year when the laundry never dried.  How when the sun finally came out and stayed out, all the Moms and grandmas were so filled with joy that they could get their clothes clean. How they rushed to do laundry.  I think they agreed that everyone could do one laundry and then go through again.  Everyone had to get at least some laundry done before it rained again.

 I think they felt like the woman in the painting, just tripping above the clotheslines in happiness.  Finally, finally we all had clean and dry clothes!

Of course, I had to hang the painting in my laundry room. Every time I look at it, I remember how lucky I am to have a washer and dryer of my own. That I do not need to hang my clothes outside to dry depending on the weather. That the joy of laundry should be with me all the time!

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/10/07/oh-how-i-dream-about-ice-cream-in-the-catskills-in-the-summer/

T

An Elegant Evening At An Embroidery Convention

15 Nov

Dressed for an elegant evening out, my parents are 28 years old in this photo.  My Dad was the co-owner of an embroidery shop in New Jersey. (See blog below.). In this photo they are at an embroidery convention.  When I look at them, I am amazed at how young they are here!

My mother’s lovely handwriting on the back says, May 1957, Laurel’s Embroidery Convention.  The dress my Mom is wearing is totally embroidered.  It is a fabric made in my Dad’s shop.  I have vivid memories of this dress, as it hung in the basement closet forever.  It was either a pale beige or rose color in my memory. The skirt was perfect for twirling.  How do I know?  Because my sister and I loved to play dress-up with this dress!

My Mom is also wearing my Grandmothers mink jacket!  In May!  But wearing a mink jacket is the height of elegance in those days.  However, I have to laugh because above her head is a basketball hoop.  So although the party was elegant, they had to walk through a sports area to get to the dinner event.

I remember hearing of the Laurel’s. It must have been a convention center/meeting place in New Jersey, probably in Secaucus, New Jersey, near Laurel Hill, also known as Snake Hill.(See info below.)  Over the years, the hill has been decimated as the highways were built and some of the rock was taken out when quarries were allowed there. But a little bit of the hill still remains!  It can be seen at Laurel Hill County Park and from the New Jersey Turnpike.

My Dad is dressed up as well in a really nice suit.  Dad was an elegant dresser.  He purchased shoes in Europe when he traveled.   He always worked in the fashion industry and looked the part.  He had so many suits and shirts and ties.  When he passed away, many of his grandchidren and I took a few of his ties to keep as a memory.  He had ties of every hue and color. His closet was a rainbow of shirts and ties. Everything organized and ready for the next fashion statement.

The one element of this photo that does offend me is the cigarette in my Dad’s hand.   My siblings and I hated his smoking.  We often had major battles over this.  Like the time I flushed his cigarettes down the toilet.  Or when my brother hid all his extravagant cigars behind the books on the top shelf of the bookcases. Dad never found them!  But cigarettes were a part of life in the 1950s.

My sister was not alive when my parents went to this convention. I was 2 and my brother was 3. Which means, I am sure, my grandparents were babysitting for us, as we were still living in an apartment above their bakery in West New York, New Jersey. (See blog below.)

I have to add an update! Thanks to a reader, I now know that the Laurels was a big hotel in the Catskills. A competitor to Grossingers, it was one of the largest hotels. So I am sure my grandparents were taking care of us, but we might all have been in the Catskills staying at our home in Kauneonga Lake while my parents went to this convention. The Laurels were located near Monticello in Sullivan County!

Photos really bring back memories. It brings back memories of my father’s embroidery shop in West New York, NJ.  Embroidery was a big business in the USA in the early and mid 1900s.  Now there is nothing left of these many shops!  Though I do not remember this event per se, I do remember my parents dressing up for other events.  I do remember the dress and the mink jacket.  Those memories bring me happiness in this time of staying home during the pandemic.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/26/a-hudson-county-embroidery-shop-started-my-dads-career/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/01/bakery-aromas-bring-back-delicious-memories/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_Hill

Ginger Rogers and My Dad

4 Nov

I recently noticed that in April, the Ginger Rogers Museum in Independence, Missouri, closed.  Based in the home where Ginger was born in 1911, the museum only opened in 2018.  But due to the pandemic and lack of interest of the public, the owners decided to close and put the house on the market. That news saddened me.  I really wanted to see her home and memorabilia.

Why?  Because I met Ginger Rogers once in New York City at my father’s office. 

She was involved in the fashion industry in NYC, doing some designing for J.C. Penney. My Dad knew her and worked with her on a project.  He owned a company that sold prints to designers. These prints were then turned into fabric and sold to make bathing suits and lingerie.   That was my Dad’s niche.  (See blog below.). I worked for my Dad one summer.  And that is when I met Ginger Rogers.

I had grown up watching Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies. I loved them.  I loved the dancing and the songs and the fashion!  I always remembered the saying that Ginger danced better than Fred because she did everything backwards and in high heels!  And it is true.

When I met Ginger Rogers, I had that young and lithe image in my mind.  However, when I met her in the 1970s, she was in her 60s and I was in my early 20s.  And though still an attractive person, she was not the same person I had seen in the movies.  But even though she did not look like the Ginger Rogers in the movies, she did have basically the same voice.  I appreciated that she took time to visit with me before meeting with my Dad. 

After she left, Dad told me that Ginger Rogers was a smart business woman, and that he really enjoyed working with her.

Three of my scarves from Dad.

As part of his job, my dad traveled to Europe several times a year to search for designs and inspiration for new patterns that his artist then modified into patterns for prints that could easily be made into clothing.  As samples, my father would buy silk scarves and bring them back to the USA. 

He also purchased other scarves as gifts! My sister, mother and I had scarves from all over Europe, but Mom had the best collection.  We wore our scarves over our coats and to enhance a sweater. People ask me all the time how I learned so many ways to wear a scarf.  I had years of practice! I still have several scarves my Dad purchased, even though my Dad’s business has been gone for over 30 years.

Note from Ginger Rogers!

Among the people Dad purchased and presented a scarf to was Ginger Rogers.  I know this, because I have her thank you note written on stationary from The Carlyle on Madison Avenue in NYC.  The Carlyle is one of the most exclusive hotels in NYC.

“April 11, 1974

Dear Don –

What a super surprise upon my return from Springfield, Mass. To find your very lovely present of that scarf. Just love it and I adore hand-rolled scarves – and especially one that represents thanks in return for naming a fabric. Hope you kept the name Treadaro? I’ll be interested in its name acceptance!”

(The letter goes on to discuss their business with choosing a print to use in a J.C. Penney’s product. The ending made me happy, because my Dad was a kind soul.)

“Thanks again for this lovely scarf and for your genuine kindness too.

Ginger Rogers”

I love the letter.  When we were cleaning out my parent’s home, I had to keep it.  It is a memory of working for my Dad and meeting Ginger Rogers. 

Even to this day, whenever I watch an older Rogers and Astaire movie, I see her in my mind’s eye.  And during my many years of taking ballroom dancing lessons with my husband, it is Ginger Rogers talent that inspired to keep trying. Whenever we danced a foxtrot, it was Ginger Rogers I was envisioning and trying to emulate. And whenever a song from the that era plays, it is Rogers and Astaire and my parents I see dancing in my mind. (See blog below.)

It is also a memory of the many scarves that arrived in our home.  There were others who received gifts of scarves over the years. But this is the only thank you letter that my Dad saved.

So the closing of the museum touched my soul. I lost my chance to connect one more time with Ginger Rogers.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/01/15/working-for-my-dads-firm-in-nyc-lead-to-my-love-of-lingerie/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/03/ballroom-dancing-relaxation-reflection-and-exercise/

Reupholstery Keeps the Spirit of My Furniture, I Hope

20 Oct

Over 30 years ago a truck arrived at my home delivering my grandparent’s bedroom furniture to my home.  Made in the early 1930s, the cherry mahogany furniture was hand carved. The two chairs were covered in yellow silk and stuffed with horsehair, I knew that because the fabric was beginning to fray and the stuffing was coming out. 

The mirrors and furniture were beautiful to see and to touch.  I had so many memories of my grandparents entwined in the furniture.  From my early childhood in New Jersey, when the furniture was in their apartment above the bakery.  When I spent the night, as a small child, I slept in bed with Grandma.  Grandpa was usually up and baking throughout the night. His bedtime began about 8 am.  In the early morning grandma would leave to go work in the bakery.  I knew that when I woke up. I was to get dressed and go downstairs, where Grandma would make me breakfast.  I was never afraid. I was in a safe place, near the chair where Grandma sang Yiddish songs to put me to sleep and under the feather quilt in the winter.  So cozy.

Later the furniture moved to their home in the Catskills where they lived after they closed the bakery.    They would spend most of the winter in the Catskills, but would return to their home in West New York for a few weeks when it got too cold.   The bedroom furniture, along with their other lovly 1930s furniture, stayed there after Grandma died in 1981 and until Grandpa died in 1989. The only piece that did not make the move, was the baby grand piano. (See blog below.)

The bedroom furniture was promised to me, the oldest granddaughter.  And when my grandfather passed away, about 9 years after my grandmother, my parents packed up the furniture, found a mover, and sent it to me along with a few other pieces.  (See blog below.)

I made some changes.  My grandparents slept in twin beds. I saved the headboards, but I had the foot boards and the side railings made into a lovely television stand that matches the rest of the suite.  We did not need these as we use a king mattress.  The headboards are in my basement.  Too lovely to get rid of, they sit waiting for some future date when they will be used.

I left the yellow silk on the chairs.  All these years.  It was the original upholstery, and I could not change it.  In my mind when I saw the fabric, I could see my grandparents. I could remember sitting in the vanity chair and hearing my grandmother singing to me.   I could see myself sitting at the vanity brushing my hair and trying out her hair adornments.  I could remember Grandma sitting behind me and brushing my hair 100 strokes, to make it shine.  The fabric stayed.

The chairs with the original fabric.

Over the 30 years I have had the furniture, the fabric faced the many challenges of two small children.  It continued to decay, fray and split.  Finally, after 86 years, I decided this fabric was done. I had to reupholster the furniture.

I did it tentatively.  It took me months to find a fabric that I liked. A fabric I thought would go with the furniture, but also recall the fabric that was part of it for almost nine decades.  My Grandmother liked yellow and flowers.  I love teals and blues and geometric shapes.  How could I compromise? 

But then, the perfect fabric appeared. Amazingly it was at Joann’s, the craft and fabric store. And Grandma was watching out for me. It was on sale, 40 percent off!. I also was given the name of a fantastic upholstery, Gearhart Upholstery in Buckner, Missouri.

The mainly blue and teal woven upholstery has a bit of yellowish gold swatches.  And the pattern is both geometric, but there are flowers.  Lovely blue and teal flowers. Even though the colors are different, in my mind I kept the spirit of grandparent’s furniture. 

Purchased by my grandparents in 1936.  Sent to me in 1990.  And finally recovered in 2020.  I hope the furniture is loved by my family for many more decades. I hope the memories I cherish will turn into new memories for another generation

https://zicharonot.com/2020/09/02/vintage-greeting-cards-stir-my-imagination/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

Vintage Greeting Cards Stir My Imagination

2 Sep

When my grandfather died almost 31 years ago, my mother shipped some furniture to me.  My grandparents’ cherry mahogany bedroom set, a lamp, an old radio cabinet and a few more pieces.  My grandfather had not removed my grandmother’s clothing from the dresser nor the items she had left behind in the radio cabinet that served as a closed bookcase.  My mother did not empty them out either.  She sent the furniture filled with my grandparents’ personal items because she just could not deal with them.

I emptied out the dresser drawers when I received it, donating most of the clothing to charity, the $10 bill I found hidden away, I still have for emergencies.  Although I used the radio cabinet, I left my grandparent’s items inside alongside the items I stored in it.  But recently, when I moved, I emptied out the cabinet and repurposed it as a curio cabinet.  I had looked at the items before this move.  In fact, I wrote a previous blog about my grandmother’s ledger books. (See blog below.). But the other piles I just ignored for 31 years.  Procrastination in dealing with sorrow is strong in my family.

But now I had no excuse.  I had to sort through the piles on the shelves.  My findings included letters that my sister, cousin, Mom and I all wrote to my grandparents. I must admit, most of the ones saved were from me. I think that I wrote the most because I moved to the Midwest.  There were also three letters in Yiddish.  I think they are from my Grandmother’s brother and sister in law.  I have to get them translated.

The antique radio cabinet.

Included in the piles were 116 unused vintage greeting cards from the 1940s, 50s and 60s:  sympathy cards; cards for birthdays, weddings, anniversary; get well cards; birthday cards for grandchildren; holiday cards. 

There was one sister birthday card.  My grandmother was able to save her sister from Poland in 1936 and bring her to the United States. They were extremely close. My great uncle was a baker with my grandfather.  But Grandma never sent this card to my Tante.  I thought, “why waste a good card.” I recently sent it to my sister, whose birthday is this month.  I think she will like it!

Card I sent my sister.

Among these vintage cards were two that really touched my heart. Created by American Greetings, these 25 cent cards were birthday cards for twins.  Why would Grandma buy birthday cards for twins? We knew no twins; we had no twin cousins; why?

I think I know.  I my theory with my sister.  We will never know, but it could be.  I honestly wish I could ask her.  But when I was a teenager, I learned her story.

The two twin cards.

We did not have living twins in our family.  But in 1930 my grandmother was pregnant with twins.  She already had two children. My uncle about 3 or 4 and my Mom was about 18 months when my grandmother was pregnant again.  At 24, she was not in good health.  Her childhood in Poland and surviving WWI had left its mark on her health.  Her kidneys were failing.  The doctor said she had to terminate the pregnancy or she and the baby would die (They did not know it was twins till after.).

And so the pregnancy was terminated.  Abortion was illegal in 1930.  However, Grandma was able to have the abortion by a physician.  Could it be that she was so sick, they had to do anything to save her life?  I assume so.  After the abortion they found out that she was carrying twins.

How do I know all of this?  My grandmother and my mother told me.  My sister knows as well. It was not a secret.  My grandmother was always open about how terminating the pregnancy saved her life.  She never got pregnant again.  I assume my grandparents were very careful.  

But after the abortion, my Grandmother was still quite ill. Her kidneys were still failing. She was so ill that she decided she had to go back to Europe and give her children to her in-laws as she was sure she was going to die.  She did not die and she returned to the USA with her children and then worked to get the family out of Europe.   (I wrote a blog about this as well, see below.). It was the abortion, the illness and this trip that led to my grandmother saving her sister’s life! 

When I saw the birthday cards for the twins.  My memory of my Grandmother telling me about this lost pregnancy came into my mind.  Did she ever think about all that happened because she ended the pregnancy? Did she buy these cards for the children who did not live?  Where they often on her mind? Did she celebrate their birthday privately?  

I will never know. 

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/07/my-grandmas-ledger-books-remind-me-of-her-financial-lessons/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/