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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/

Childhood Events Definitely Impact My Adult Choices

5 Dec

When I was a child, I remember going to my grandparents’ cousin’s candy store on Bergen Boulevard near Journal Square in Jersey City.  My brother and I have discussed their names, as it is a memory from long ago, over 50 years.  He remembers the wife as Anna, and I remember the husband, as Morris.  We will go with these two names.

Like my grandparents, they were from Europe.  I believe that Morris was my grandfather’s second cousin.  That is a connection I have yet to finalize.  But I am pretty sure he was not a first cousin.  However, in the area they came from in Galicia, Mielec, my grandfather’s family was large and very intermingled.

The best part of going to the candy store, of course, was the candy.  We could eat whatever we wanted, within the reasonable constraints of my mother. The other part was seeing Morris and Anna, who were always excited to see us.  They never had children of their own, but they loved us.

Sometimes, my Mom would drive my grandmother, my brother and I to visit them in the candy store.  I have good memories of being there. My grandmother and Anna always had a good time visiting.  So even though it was my grandfather’s cousin, my grandmother often went to visit without him.  And since she never learned to drive, my Mom had that job and we got to tag along.

Morris always sat behind the counter and ran the cash register. He sat there because he no longer had legs, he lost them to diabetes.   Anna ran the store.  She was tiny and very energetic.  That is why what happened is so sad.

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Morris’ rocking chair. Now owned by my brother.

Anna died first.  I don’t think she was that old.  But when she died, Morris could no longer stay alone. The store was closed; their belongings were sold or given away, and Morris went into a nursing home.  I remember my parents speaking about it, because we were gifted his rocking chair.  It did not go to the nursing home with him.  My brother still has the rocking chair in his home.  The tangible evidence that Morris and Ann were part of our world.

The nursing home Morris lived in for the rest of his life was in Bayonne, New Jersey, close to where our family dentist had his office.  Usually we all went to get our teeth done at one time.

But on this day, it was just my Mom and me.  As we drove away from the dentist office, she turned to me and said, “I want to go visit Morris.  I know he lives near here.”I don’t remember how old I was, somewhere between 10 and 12.  To be honest, I thought we were going to the candy store.  But I was in for an unpleasant and emotional surprise.

When we arrived at a large one-story building, my mother and I entered and went to the desk, where Mom announced that she wanted to see Morris.  The woman stopped what she was doing and called to someone, a nurse/supervisor/care giver came out.   Both were so surprised that we were there to see him.  The supervisor said, ‘Oh my, who are you? You are the first people who have ever come to visit him.”

My Mom was stunned.  “Are you kidding me.  He has nieces and nephews.”  But she was not joking.  No one had visited Morris in the year or so he had been living there.

The nurse walked us to his room.  In fact, by the time we got there, I think three or four nurses or caregivers were following us.  Mom walked in first and knelt down beside Morris.  “Morris, It’s me Frances, Nat and Thelma’s daughter.” She said in Yiddish as she reached out to him.

Morris started cry.  He put his hands on either side of Mom’s face and sobbed, “Frances Frances.” Her name was like a chant.   While Mom hugged him with one arm, she put out her other arm, I knew that meant I needed to come over.

“Here is Ellen,” she said.  My face was now embraced by his hands as he cried into my hair and stroked my face.  I was crying by then as well, as were Mom and the nurses/caretakers.  We stayed and talked to him for about an hour.  It felt longer.  He spent most of the time crying and hugging us. And asking about all the family. I have never forgotten.

As we went to leave, the supervisor asked Mom for her address and phone number in case they needed to reach someone.  They had no contacts for him.

We went and sat in the car.  My Mom cried for an additional half hour or so.  Just sobbing, with her arms crossed on the steering wheel and her face down in her arms.  I cried with her.  It was one of my saddest moments as a child.  When we got home, my Mom called her parents.

I never went back to the nursing home.  I think because every time I thought of him, I started to cry.   But I know my Mom and my grandparents went.  To be honest he did not live long after our visit.   My sister, who is four years younger than me, does not remember Morris or Anna. But what she does remember is my grandparents and my mom talking about him.  And my mother always talking about what happens to someone when they are all alone in the world.

For the past ten months I have been a Spiritual Care Volunteer at an elder care facility.   Over and over again people have asked me:  How can you do that?  Doesn’t it bother you? Isn’t too difficult when someone dies?

The answer to all these questions is an emphatic NO.  Each week when I go, I am greeted by smiles and joy.  I speak to each one of them.  Some days I give them hugs.  Sometimes someone cries, especially if they have recently lost a loved one.  Most of them have family members who often come to see them.  Most important to me is that I know that I am going every week.  I am giving them the attention that Morris so deserved and did not receive.

This childhood event definitely impacted my adult choices. Each time I go, I feel a little lift to my heart, knowing that I have helped to brighten someone’s day.  It is the best feeling, because each time I go, a little of the sadness that has followed me for over 50 years, whenever I think about Morris, dissipates.

Survival of Shalom (Szulim) Hollander

25 Nov

Over my years of researching my family, especially my family who remained behind in Europe, I have found relatives who perished in both Belzec and Auschwitz Death Camps.  Those who died in the Lodz Ghetto.  Those who were probably burned to death in their community synagogue or mikveh. Those who were murdered after the war ended. They died in so many places, that I no longer am shocked, even though after each discovery, I feel a pain in my soul.  A pain that makes me stop searching for a month or so as I recover from the finality of my search.

I have a great grandmother who survived the war years hidden by a righteous Christian friend, but who could not save her from the final indignity:  murdered when she returned to her family property by the people who had squatted on their land.  I am named for her.  I keep her photo near my computer so she is watching my search.

There is at times a happier outcome.  I have also found those who survived.  My grandmother’s first cousin who survived the Shoah and the Kielce Pogram, and even wrote a testimony about her experience.   I have two distant cousins, the children of another of my grandmother’s first cousin, who survived the war after being put on the KinderTransport. Their parents did not survive. I have relatives who made their way to France, the United States, Australia, England and Israel.  Where once my families were in a small area of Poland, Austria and Russia before the war, now they are on four continents.

Now I add another story of survival through an extraordinary circumstance.  A relative, perhaps two, who survived the Shoah thanks to being one of almost 1100 names who were on Schindler’s List.

To be honest, I am a bit stunned.   I wrote about Shalom Hollander several times, in most detail in a blog that I published in June 2018.  This week Shalom’s story changed.

I was contacted by a distant cousin who read my blog.   She just recently has been researching her family and by goggling family names found my blog, “The Sorrow of Shalom Hollanders” (see below.). She sent me a message: “I must be an extended family member of yours. I am related to Tova Hollander, Mordechai/Marcus Amsterdam, Szulim (Shalom) Hollander, and all the people on this story. I found this while googling names and have been looking into ancestry.com. I would love to connect if you are willing.”

Of course, I was willing to connect.  I emailed her immediately.  I was delighted to find out that her great grandfather was Shalom’s brother.  He had come to the United States before the war, and so survived much like my grandparents.

The words that caught at my heart were these: My great grandpa’s brother was Shalom Hollander who you wrote about in your blog (not sure if you are aware but he is listed on Schindler’s List under the name Szulim Hollander). 

I had to look, and there he was:

Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database:   Schindler’s Lists: Electronic data regarding Oscar Schindler’s inmates, complied from two separate lists.

Szulim Hollander : Date of birth: 8 Feb 1906                                                             Persecution Category: Ju. [Jew] ;   Occupation:  ang. Tischler  (carpenter)         Nationality:  Po. [Polish] ; Prisoner Number:  69073

He survived because he was on Schindler’s List, but was it a good survival?  This knowledge hurt my heart.  While he was surviving, he lost his wife, his children, his parents, his sister.  So many relatives murdered.  I wish when I met him in 1976, I would have listened and learned more. But then, no one knew about Schindler or his list.  I am not even sure he spoke to my grandmother about how he survived.  Wait, I take that back.  Everyone we met with that trip told my grandmother their Holocaust story.   (see blog below.)

In the same email, she mentioned her Aunt Susan also told her about me.  I remember Susan, I connected with her through Tracing the Tribe.  We met about five years ago and exchanged information.  We knew that her husband must be related to my family.  But I did not know of the connection with Shalom.

Now that I know Shalom had a brother in New Jersey, where my grandparents had a kosher bakery, many little pieces came into place. I had an ‘aha’ moment.  My grandparents definitely knew this family.   We knew many Amsterdam families in New Jersey.  I never connected them because Shalom’s brother in New Jersey used the last name Amsterdam, which is their father’s last name, while Shalom used Hollander, which was their mother’s last name.

My grandparents and parents could not have known Shalom and not his brother in New Jersey. They were probably some of the many relatives I met as a child, who just blurred together in my grandparent’s European connections.

One other bit of good news about Shalom.  He did remarry after the war and started another family.  What strength!  He truly was a survivor.  My grandmother and I only met with him that day in Israel.  I rejoice in knowing this news.  I wish I could meet his family.

I must add that there is another Hollander on Schindler’s List: Rachela Hollander was born on March 23, 1917.  She was just a young woman when the war began. She is listed as a metal worker.  I will assume that some way she is related to us as well.

KinderTransport, Schindler’s List, Kielce, Belzec, Auschwitz, Lodz Ghetto: My family went through the worst of the Shoah.  But it comforting to know that some connected with people who had a bit of goodness left in their souls and somehow they survived.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2018/08/12/discovering-karolas-kielce-pogrom-testimony/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/11/05/how-the-kindertransport-touched-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/07/the-sorrow-of-shalom-hollander/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/05/murdered-in-belzec/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/09/06/one-more-family-destroyed/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/09/13/my-familys-holocaust-history-impacts-my-observance-of-rosh-hashannah/

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

 

Winning A Law Day Essay Contest In 1972; The First of Many Times I State My Views

9 Oct

On May 1, 1972, I read an essay at the Crystal Room at Schuetzen Park, North Bergen, which I wrote for my English class taught by Mrs. Whitehouse at North Bergen High School.  In fact, three of us read our essays that evening.  We had swept the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s 1972 Law Day USA Law Day Essay Contest.  I presented my first-place essay; then came two boys in my class: Phil Templeton’s essay was second, Donald Kienz came in third.

I have to be honest, Mrs. Whitehouse gave me an A- for my paper, while the boys each got an A, I believe.  All I know is that after I won, I brought my paper back to Mrs. Whitehouse and she gave me an A+, which I believed was deserved.

I recently rediscovered my essay, the newspaper articles and the letters from the mayor and the superintendent of the board of education in with papers I took after my parents died and we cleaned out the house.  My parents were quite proud of my award, and they saved everything.  The program, the letters, the speech and the newspaper articles were all together in a bundle.

The event itself was a big deal in our family!  My mother took me to Corduroy Village to get a new dress.  Usually my sister and I went to Little Marcy’s for our clothes.  Corduroy Village was for only special occasions.  My Mom and Mrs. Shore had me try on multiple dresses.  We ended up with a light pink suit.  My Mom loved pink and with my black hair, it looked good. But to be honest I hated the color pink. But I could not fight both Mom and Mrs. Shore.   I wore the pink suit!

Although I could not stand up to the combined efforts of my Mom and Mrs. Shore, I did learn something important from that event.  I learned to stick up for what I believe in and say what I mean.

What amazes me is that I feel the same way now about politics, as I felt then, when Richard Nixon was president.  I also have to say I lived in North Bergen, New Jersey, and there was quite a bit of avarice and issues with local politicians.  Hence my strong comments about stealing public money!  I also have to say, that if my memory serves me right, my essay was extremely different than all the others.  I was on a roll against bad government, while the other essays had more mellow topics. My parents were actually in fear for me to read this out loud. But it started me on my lifelong commitment to speaking out when I believe it is important.

Below I present a portion of my high school junior point of view which won the Soroptimist Club of North Hudson’s May 1, 1972, Law Day USA Essay Contest.

“In this age of discontent, pollution and governmental corruption, something must be done to recapture the American spirit.  If it is not, soon our country will decay.  Holders of public office should be screened before they are allowed even to be a candidate. Their background should be carefully checked…  One who holds a responsible office should be well-educated, intelligent and of good character. Once elected, if a person begins to cheat the public during his term in office, he should be impeached immediately and be forbidden to run for office again. There is too much crime in government; too many office holders have been known to steal public funds.  Too much of the funds intended for hospitals, old age homes, education and institutions for the mentally ill finds its way into the pockets of unscrupulous politicians.

In order that our government once again rise in the esteem of the population, a give-and-take relationship must be developed.  Actually, a country that is well-run can be compared to a well-adjusted marriage, with the population and the government representing the partners. To maintain a lasting relationship, they must demand mutual respect and understanding that comes from an appreciation of the others’ principles and ideals.”

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/19/my-days-in-the-english-department-office-at-nbhs/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/10/shopping-on-the-avenue-i-dont-mean-fifth-i-mean-bergenline/

My Obsession With Grandma’s Album Leads to the Shoah

17 Jun

My Tante Esther played an important role in my life.  My grandmother’s younger sister, Tante Esther came to the USA in 1936 along with my great grandfather.  My grandmother was able to bring them here and away from Poland.

Tante Esther and her husband, Uncle Leo, lived close to us in North Bergen, New Jersey.  Uncle Leo also came from Europe, from Germany, and worked for my grandparents at their bakery in West New York, New Jersey.  He was not family then, just someone who needed a job.  When my Tante came over, she married my Uncle.  Grandma had already told Uncle Leo not to get serious about any one, as she had a sister for him.

Uncle Leo worked with my grandfather as long as the bakery was in existence.  It was Uncle Leo who dropped off a box of bakery goods every Sunday morning on his way home from baking all night.  It was Uncle Leo who once brought my brother home from the bakery after my brother had mixed the sugar with the salt.  I still remember, my brother being handed off to my Dad with Uncle Leo’s terse words, “Here Take Him,” before he left to return to the bakery.  My Mom had to call my grandmother to find out what had happened.

We often saw Uncle Leo at our synagogue, Temple Beth El.  He always had candy in his pocket, so we always made sure to give him a hug and say hello.  We loved him for other reasons, but the candy was always special.

My grandmother came to the USA when she was 16 years old.  I have written about Grandma and her family many times.    As I have written about her photo album filled with unidentified photos.

Here are two more photos.   Luckily my cousin is still alive and can help identify her mother.  She is positive that her mother is the woman on the left in the photo of the two women and two boys.

But the other photo, my cousin says is not her mother.    I thought it was.  But after having the back translated by several different people on the groups Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Ancestry in Poland, I think my cousin is right.  This is not her mother!

Inscribed on the back is a note to Talci, or Talei, or Palci,  as a remembrance from Estera.  My grandmother used the name Tala in Europe.  I assume, Talei could be a nickname. But I would think that if the photo was her sister, the message would have mentioned that!!!  Thus, I am thinking this is a cousin about the same age and named for the same person as my Tante Esther!  Definitely not my Tante.  I put the picture here so you can see how difficult this becomes in identifying people.

As for the photo with the two women and the boys, I am stymied as to who the other woman and the boys could be.  I know my grandmother had many first cousins. I am assuming they are members of the family. Someone important to my grandmother for a photo to be sent from Poland.

My obsession with these photos  makes me know who I hope it is.  I hope and wish it is her cousin Tova Malcha and perhaps these are her  sons.  Tova and her family were murdered in the Shoah.  I have no idea how many children she had or her married name. There are 135 people with her maiden name murdered from the town she lived in Viroshov/Wieruszow Poland.  I know she died and her family died.  What I do know, I heard as a young woman when my grandmother met with Tova Malcha’s brother in 1976 in Israel.  (Read blog below.)

I have no identified photo of her.  But I am hoping that when this photo was sent to my grandmother, sometime after she moved to the USA, that the two women she loved the most, her sister and her first cousin, her best friend, were in this photo.  (See blog below.)

But I know it could be someone else.  Another cousin perhaps?  I have written about others.  All I know is that when I search through this album, many times I am caught up in the Shoah.  I end up at the Yad VeShem database searching for names that match these photos.   Then I cannot look at the album again for months.

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

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

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/11/the-yad-vashem-shoah-database-each-name-becomes-a-memory/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/26/amazing-what-information-two-photos-can-provide/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/11/03/who-are-you-these-photos-call-out-to-me/

 

The Keeper of the Records

6 May

In my family, I have become the keeper of the records.  I believe it is because I actually do something with them.  I scan them in to the computer; I research these records; I write about them; and then I share the information with my family through my blogs.  I hope that my doing this will keep these memories alive for future generations.

So recently, when I was in New Jersey, I asked my sister where she had put our parents’ wedding album, as my sister wanted it when we cleaned out our parents’ home.  It was easily accessible, so I looked through it, searching for a particular photo.  I had seen it the album many times, so knew it was included.

The biggest problem with this album is that the photos are encased in plastic. That must have been the style as I have seen other albums from this era also with plastic.  So those photos are difficult to photograph or scan, as you see here.

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My parents listening to the reading of their ketubah.

I found what I was looking for: a photo with my parents’ ketubah, Jewish marriage license.  It was important for me because I have both their marriage license and the engagement agreement that was signed at the same time.

The engagement contract is in disrepair.  I hate even taking it out of its’ envelop, but I did for a photo.  It is signed by both of my grandfathers. It was kept in an envelop addressed to my Dad at my grandparents’ bakery.

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The ketubah is in much better shape.  Written in both English and Hebrew, it is pretty simple.  Not an artist drawing, but rather a form Ketubah filled in by the Rabbi.  The most important part for me is that it lists my mother’s Hebrew/Yiddish name.  We sometimes had a debate on that as my grandparents, and sometimes my dad, would call her ‘Fegilah,” little bird.  But we were pretty sure her name in Yiddish was Freida, which is confirmed with the ketubah.

The photo with the ketubah almost makes me laugh.  Their wedding was arranged quickly.  Dad was in the army and going to Korea.  Yet there he is in tails and a top hat!  My Mom is standing by the huppah in a veil that almost hides her face. It is much denser than the veil my sister, sister-in-law, and I wore, and our daughters.

They both look so serious.  It is difficult to believe that they were just 22 years old. My uncle, my Mother’s brother, is there as well.  Thanks to him we actually have a movie of my parents’ wedding!  No voices, but all the action is shown.

To me having this photo together with the ketubah is important.  It is a link that ties the document to the people in it.  Now forever together in this blog.

I think that is why I am the designated keeper of the records.

Visiting the Van Vleck House and Gardens

3 May

Another delightful site to visit in Montclair is the Van Vleck House and Gardens.  Once a private estate, the house and its gardens were donated to The Montclair Foundation in 1993 by the heirs of Howard Van Vleck, who owned this Italianate villa.  The house was built in 1916.  While other homes once were on the estate as well, this is the only house that still remains.

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The original main entrance to the house on Van Vleck Street.

The gardens are open to the public for free every day!  No holiday closures!  The lovely house is used as a center for nonprofit groups for meetings, events, and fundraisers.  I actually saw people having a yoga class in one of the rooms! What a spectacular yoga studio!  The windows overlook the gardens!

The house and gardens were a short walk from the Montclair Art Museum, just along Upper Mountain Avenue.  Our visit came after several days of rain, so all the grass was lush.  But the blooming season, except for the daffodils was not yet in progress.  I think by the end of May these gardens will be stunning.  When we saw them, everything was greening up, but not much was flowering.

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The formal garden in the back of the house.

There are several walkways and levels of gardens.  The formal gardens behind the main house are lovely. Staff members were setting up for an event when we were there, so we tried to stay out of the way. Although not much was blooming yet, it was a great place to get a good walk in a lovely setting.

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One of my favorite spots.

The Upper Lawn had several stations to check out.  You can download the Van Vleck house’ app and learn about the different areas using codes on the signs.  I liked an area on the upper lawn that had many daffodils and a bird house.  When you walk across the upper lawn, you come to the Mother’s Garden and then to a percola that was renovated.

At first, I was not sure if you were allowed to walk on the lawn, as there were no paths. But seeing the information signs across the way gave me some confidence that this was acceptable.  Also the Garden Etiquette flyer we picked up at the Visitor Center, says, “Walk only on the pathways and grassy areas.”  So we did!

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The Visitor Center with an Ap sign.

The children’s butterfly garden should be lovely as well. It is located behind the Visitor Center. (Where there are good restrooms.  Always important when walking.)  I also liked the colorful signs with details about insects and disease impacting trees and what to look for that lined the path from the butterfly garden to the front of the Visitor Center.  I was glad to see on the website that there are many children and family activities planned throughout the spring and summer.

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The pavilion by the Tennis Garden.

We did not go on the Rhododendron Walk.  It was somewhat muddy and damp, and I was not in the right shoes for that.  However, I did enjoy the Tennis Court Garden, planted where the estate’s tennis court once stood.  To the side is little pavilion.  I could, in my mind, see people resting there between sets of tennis, or watching those playing while enjoying the shade.

I hope to go back to Montclair and visit the Van Vleck gardens when everything is in bloom!

 

To learn more about the gardens and home, go to: www.vanvleck.org

 

A Little Gem, the Montclair Art Museum

1 May

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I just spent five days in Montclair, New Jersey, visiting my sister who recently moved there.  When we drove to her apartment, we passed the Montclair Art Museum.  Outside many of its trees were covered with crochet and fiber art works, my attention was immediately captivated.

She knew what I was thinking.

“Yes, we are going.  I knew you would want to go.” And I did.  I crochet; I knit; I sew; I have embroidered; I do candlewick embroidery; I needlepoint.  In simple terms, I love fiber arts.  And this display was calling my name.  I wanted to take photos of the trees from her moving car.  But she told me to calm down.  We could actually easily walk over to the museum

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On exhibit at the museum is the 2019 new Jersey Arts Annual – Crafts, “New Directions In Fiber Arts.”  It will be at the museum until June 16, 2019.

There was felt art, and crochet art, and quilt art.  Each of the 32 artists have their own specialty.  Each is special.  But I must admit, I have my favorites.

One artist, Jeanne Brasile, does water color and embroidery over braille newspapers.  I loved the geometric shapes and the colors of her work. They are delightful. Another, Robert Forman, makes yarn paintings.  I liked how the yarn formed another painting over the existing work.  You sort of see two different works of art at one time.  Geri Hahn sees art in musical sounds.  Her work on fabric looked like butterflies dancing to me. So Yoon Lym’s lovely felt painting looked like a water color.  I also enjoyed the story quilt by Faith Ringgold.

But every artist’s work had something to intrigue.  I enjoyed that each one wrote a statement about their work.  I, of course, read every one.  But I also purchased the booklet that went along with the exhibit to help me remember.  Actually, I should be honest, my sister purchased it for me, as she is a member.  Thanks!

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I also liked that scattered among the art works were little signs called Family Threads for family activities and questions.  This made the the exhibit much more interactive and family/child friendly.

The fiber exhibit was not the only gallery that I enjoyed.  Currently, the “Undaunted Spirit: Art of Native North America” is also on display until mid-July.  Part of the display, the baskets, I believe, are always on display.  The gallery that housed this exhibit, The Rand Gallery, is named for Annie Valentine Rand, and some of the many Indian art baskets and art works that were collected by her and her daughter, Florence Rand Lang, are on display there.

In March, my husband and I  spent a week on the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Arizona, so I was fascinated by the many baskets which reminded me of what I saw in Arizona.  But seeing the art work of the Plains Indians also called out to me as I live in Kansas and enjoy seeing Indian Art locally as well.

My sister and I loved walking through the room filled with George Inness paintings. Many showed scenes from Montclair in the late 1890s.   My favorite was the Niagara Falls and Winter Moonlight.

Outside of the walled museum, there are art sculptures on display.  But for me the fun was walking to each tree and seeing the fiber art that encompassed the trunks and some of the branches of the trees.  I love seeing yarn bombing examples.  I felt a bit badly as it rained several of the days we were there which was dampening to the art and to the spirit.  Luckily, a break in the rain helped our visit to the outside grounds more enjoyable.

The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and open from 12 – 5 pm on the other days. To find out more about the museum and its programs and events go to  www.monthclairartmuseum.org

 

 

Technology Equals No Division

27 Apr

I had the most pleasant dinner with my husband and siblings in a restaurant in Montclair, NJ. The food, fish for all of us and ice cream and sorbet for dessert was delightful. We chatted and ate and visited and finally were ready to leave.

I have to admit that perhaps we asked for too much. We wanted to divide the check so that my husband and I paid half and my siblings each paid a quarter of the bill. The waitress said it was fine. And so we gave her three credit cards and waited. And waited. And waited. I should have known something was not working out.

Our bill for four people was $129.02. She came back with my credit card and a receipt for $86. She then was going to divide the $43.02 between my siblings. I was astounded that she did not even realize that this was not divided in HALF. It was two-thirds and a third, but definitely not half. $86 and $43 are NOT equal!

I went up with my receipts to speak to her while she was running the other cards. I politely said, “Wait. This is not right. $86 Is not half of $129.02.”

She was not convinced. “Are you sure? I have to get my manager,” she told me as she hustled away with a dazed look on her face.

A few minutes later the manager came. “How cam I help? ” He was pleasant.

“This is wrong. $86 is not half of $129.02. ” I told him. I was sure he would understand. But no such luck. “You asked for half on one card and the rest divided between those two!” He told me.

“Yes half. $86 is not half of $129.02. Half of $130 is $65. This is wrong.” I started doing the math, the division on a piece of paper. I showed him the math. But that was not what he needed. I offered to show him on my phone calculator. But no. He had a calculator that he pulled out.

He typed in 1292. No I said. You need a decimal. It is 129.02. He might have been anxious at this point. I noticed my siblings laughing and looking at me. I was getting exasperated. And I now was in teacher mode. I had taught at a high school. There is a definite teacher voice and look that can come over me.

In any case he correctly typed in 129.02 and divided by 2. 64.51 was the number it read. “You are right,” he admitted. “I am sorry. I will fix it. ”

I wanted to make it easy. I wanted him to credit my sister’s account and just put the rest on my card, the other $43.02. We would sort it out later. But that was too much as well. He ended up crediting my account and my sister’s. He ran a new receipt putting all the money on mine. I paid , added tip and we settled up.

My siblings laughed all the way to the car. They knew I was frustrated, they told me that the look of our mother came over me as I tried to explain the math to the manager. Mom taught fourth grade for 30 years.

“I just can’t understand how the waitress and the manager did not see that $86 was not half. $43 and $86 are not equal. Did they not understand half, divide by two,” I was still frustrated.

I was concerned that they did not believe my division that I did on paper. They would only believe a calculator. I felt like I was in a science fiction novel that I had read years ago where a boy who could do math in his head was considered a genius because everyone else HAD to use a calculator!

I am worried Technology is destroying the ability to calculate math in our brains.

Ring Jells Addiction Started in The Catskills

21 Apr

Sometimes I read a note on Facebook that just touches my soul.  It happened now.  Someone posted about meeting a woman shopping for Passover food in a grocery store.  She was crying while holding a box of Joyva Ring Jells in her hands.   It seemed her mother passed away, and this would be the first seder without her.  Her mother loved Ring Jells, and the sight of this box made her cry.

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This box is now empty.  But I enjoyed every one.

That should be my children one day.  I love Ring Jells.  While I cook my seder meals and prepare for the long hours ahead, I eat these throughout the day, to me, they are the most delicious chocolate covered sweets.   I am basically addicted to them. The taste of raspberry and chocolate together delights me. Thank goodness I only find them during the holidays.

My addiction started when I was 16 years old working behind the deli and cheese counter at the Daitch Shopwell in Monticello, Sullivan County New York.   It is here that I served the women and men who spent their summers relaxing, cutting their cheese selections and their deli orders.   I worked at this supermarket for three summers, earning spending money and preparing for the costs of college.

But it is also where I learned to love Joyva Ring Jells.  We sold them in the dairy section of the deli, along with all the cheese.  We had a large display of them. Hundreds of ring jells for sale by the pound.  I loved them.  I have to admit it, I would snack on them.  Not eating tons.  But at least two or three each shift I worked.   Eventually the manager told me to stop.  And buy some.  So I did.  I would weigh out 3-5, pay for them, and keep them behind the counter with me.  Snacking as needed.  When the weekends were busy with crazy customers, I really did need them to get me through the day.

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Marshmallow twists live in my freezer.

I did not realize they were a special Passover treat.  In our house, my Mom was a Joyva Marshmallow twist fancier.  She would buy them at Pesach and keep them in the freezer all year to snack on.  Did you ever eat frozen marshmallow twists?  At first you have to be careful not to hurt your teeth, but after a bit they melt just a little and are delicious.  I admit I still have some in my freezer from last year.   Usually you had to get just plain white ones.  However, sometimes we could find the ones with pink insides!

After I learned about jell rings, I had to have those as well.  My sister and I favored them over the Marshmallow twists, which I think made Mom happy.  She would share them with everyone, but now had more for herself.

The ring jells, on the other hand, were the perfect snack.  I would take two  or three at a time, stick them on my fingers,  and get ready to eat.  We do crazy things when we were younger.

When I left the east coast for the middle of the country, I had an issue.  I could not find them in Kansas. But when my parents were alive and visiting, they would bring boxes of Ring Jells and Marshmallow twists with them. So we never suffered during the Pesach holiday.   They also brought Bartons candies, another treat that was nowhere to be found in Kansas City. Eventually these treats came out west, and  I could get them on my own.

Ring Jells are comfort food for my sister and me.  I am going to visit her the end of the week.  I sent her the following text message on the Thursday before Pesach: “So I purchased one box of raspberry jelly rings to bring to you. And one for my home. Cause I have to have some.  But I had three today and I feel better.”

She wrote back: “I bought two boxes for when you are here! LOL”

My response: “LOL I will leave mine at home.  We do not need three.  Great minds think alike.”

A number of years ago we went through a difficult time. We lost our parents and aunt in less than a year.  Five months later, erev Pesach, my sister’s husband also passed. It was a horrible time.   I did not know how we would survive that holiday.  But I have to say, our friends knew of our need and ring jell addiction.  Friends filled the house.

I don’t know how many of them went shopping. But in days we had boxes upon boxes of ring jells.  In the evenings, when most everyone had left, my sister and I ate ring jells and talked.   It was a Pesach that tried our souls.  And I hate to be trite, but the ring jells gave us a small amount of comfort in our first Pesach without these beloved family members.  (And a mighty thank you to all who purchased them for us.  I don’t know if I ever told you how important they were in this horrible time.)

Special foods bring memories and joy.  For me Joyva jell rings helped me through preparing seders and difficult times. They bind me with my sister.   I could see my children crying over them when I leave this world.  But I don’t think they will buy or eat them.  This addiction will probably end with me.

A zissel Pesach to all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/05/my-jobs-behind-a-deli-counter-daitch-shopwell-and-butenskys/