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My Grandma Was One Determined Lady!

9 Jul
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My elegant grandmother.

This is my favorite photo of my paternal Grandmother.  Every time I look at it, I just have a moment of joy.

Grandma was born in November 1898 in New York City.  I am thinking that this photo was taken in the about 1918 – 1921.  It is definitely before my grandparents married, as I do not see a wedding ring on her finger, and they married on February 26, 1922.

I love this pose!   The message I always got from this photo is that Grandma is ready to go and conquer the world.    She is elegant.  I love all aspects of this outfit from the hat, to the fox stole, to the beaded purse.  I especially love the high heeled shoes. Grandma had a long history with shoes!

Grandma was a force to be reckoned with on any topic.  And this photo makes me think she was that way as a young woman as well.  She is not facing forward like 95 percent of the other photos I have seen.  No! She is posed ready to move… elegantly of course.

She married the tailor who worked with her father.  She had three children.  She worked for years as an executive secretary for a shoe company, which had its offices across the street from Macy’s.  (See blog below.)

Grandma worked until she was 77.  The only reason she quit was because of a subway accident.  She was pushed/shoved on the steps to the subway.  She might have been mugged.  I believe her purse disappeared that day.  She broke her arm in the fall.   After that incident, her three, now adult, children said, “Enough!  She had to quit her job!”  They did not want her taking the subway anymore.

Grandma did not want to quit.  But she did in 1975.  Part of her willingness to quit might have been the timing. The shoe industry was no longer flourishing, in fact it was dying anyway due to the cheap imports coming from overseas.

When I saw the play Kinky Boots, I thought of my Grandma. I had so much empathy for Charlie and his efforts to save the shoe factory! I remembered how difficult it was for my Grandma as the shoe business disappeared.  You would have thought she owned the company!

After she retired Grandma spent much more time knitting sweaters and afghans for her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was a wonderful baker. And always made us great treats.  When I was away at college grandma would send me care packages of baked goods.  She was an inspiration to me. (See blog below.)

To me this photo is the essence of my Grandma. Perhaps others will see something else in this photo, but to me it is a young woman doing something a bit differently.  This photo also reminds me of one of my cousins.  She also likes to do everything her own way.  And in this profile, I see them having the same face.

I try to imagine what Grandma was thinking when this photo was taken.   But more important, I think about who she became and the impact she had on those who loved and cherished her.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/11/22/i-love-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

 

 

 

A 1920’s Car Ride

30 Jun
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My grandparents are the couple sitting together in the back seat.

A few months ago my cousin searched through her mother’s trove of photos and found several that she sent on to me.   One of the most intriguing ones for me was the photo of my grandparents in the back seat of a car, in front is another couple and in the back seat, a third man.

What were they doing?  Where were they going?  Who were the other three people?  I have no idea.  But that photo of my grandparents in the car has to be from when they were engaged or just married in the early 1920s.

My grandmother used to tell be stories about growing up in the New York City of the early 1900s.  She was born in 1898, before the day of cars.  It was not until 1913 with the advent of the Model T that cars were mass produced and easily seen on the streets.

Grandma told me that the first time she ever saw a car it caused a ruckus. All the horses were startled and tried to run.  At the time there were no traffic laws for cars, which added to the chaos.  But change came, and the cars eventually took over from the horses.

Although Grandma told me wonderful stories during our summers in the Catskills, she never told me about her first time in a car.  I do know that Grandma never learned to drive a car.  She had her children and eventually her grandchildren to drive her to and from the Catskills and to the store.  And when she was in the City, she always took buses or the subway.

In this photo, my grandparents look comfortable.  The man in the driver’s seat looks older than the others.  Perhaps he is driving the two couples somewhere for a date night?  I wish I knew because my grandfather is almost smiling, and to be honest he did not smile very much at all.

Whatever was happening, it must have had some significance because they took a photo.  But the best part is that they look happy.     I am so glad my cousin shared this photo with me.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

My Familiar Ancestor, Who We Cannot Identify

19 Dec

My cousin posted photos yesterday in the hope I could help identify them. None of them had any identifying information.  Several we could figure out, they were mainly our great grandparents and one great uncle. Several are children I has never seen before, perhaps they were from her Mother’s side.  And then there was this photo. A young women who looks much as I did as a young woman. She could be me.

Mystery woman, a relative?

Joan Steiner and me graduation

My college graduation.

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A mystery couple; is it the same woman?

I see so many similarities: our hair, our eyebrows, our noses, our resting face, our lips.  My glasses hide my eyes, but believe me they are similar. When I first saw the photo, I was startled.  Under it my cousin had written: You resemble this woman.  And I do.

I am now haunted by her. Who is she? Is she a great aunt? A cousin?  I am relatively sure she is NOT a grandmother of some generation.  But if I was a time traveler, I think I would be her.

I also love her dress.  There is a bit of sparkle on the collar.  All who know me, know that I love sparkle. I could wear a dress like that.  Perhaps not the high collar.  I do not like turtle neck shirts or high collars of any sort.  The dress itself, is something I would wear.  I imagine that it is blue, my favorite color.

I think she is my doppelganger.  I cannot quite get her out of my mind now.  She also looks a bit like some of my cousin’s daughters.  The family genes are strong. I really want to know who she is? Where she ended up?

This photo was taken in the USA at a photo studio on Grand Street, NYC.  So I at least do not have to worry about her dying in the Shoah.  I think she might be one of my grandfather’s five or six sisters.  I only ever met one as a child.  There were four or five we never knew.

We have another photo taken at the same studio.  Is this her as well?  Or a sister?  I am similar to her as well.  I think it might be her a few years older, with her husband.  She has rings on her fingers now.  But she is still wearing a top with a little drama to it, with all that lace!

Then there is the location of Grand Street, in lower Manhattan.  It runs parallel and a bit to the south of Delancey Street.  My grandfather and great grandfather had a tailor shop on Delancey Street. Also the Bialystoker Synagogue is on Grand Street!  Well we are all Bialystokers!  The synagogue started life as a Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1826.  In 1905 it was purchased to be a synagogue.  But more important it was started by the Chevra Anshei Chessed of Bialystok, and our great grandfather was extremely active in all Bialystoke communal organizations. The synagogue is an historic landmark. I think I need to go and see this synagogue!!!

I am sure she is related somehow.  There are so many connections. I just wish I knew how! I do not think I ever will unless another photo turns up with a name!

In my heart, I wish that my ancestors had put names on the back of all the photos.  The ones with names in Yiddish, or Hebrew, or Polish or German are so wonderful because we actually have a name.  But the many photos that remain forever nameless sit in albums and wait for a name that will probably never come. This lack of identification concerns me as we go on to web-based photo collections.  We need to keep some sort of identification for generations to come.

But for now, I will look at this photo of my familiar but unknown relative and truly wish I knew who this woman is, and how she might be related to me.

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

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Bialystoker+Synagogue+on+Grand+Street+image

I Just Love Bakery Cookies

16 Dec

Recently a friend of mine asked me to come to speak to a group of 4-6th grade children and their parents/grandparents who were taking a baking class. The children learn a new recipe and also listened to a short talk about the recipe’s place of origin.

I was asked to speak about living in New York City and, black and white cookies.  This was an easy task for me. I have a thing for black and white cookies.  Also, I grew up basically in a bakery.  My grandparents owned a kosher bakery in New Jersey until I was 14.  Meaning I spent many hours helping and visiting and eating in the bakery.

I easily spent 15 minutes talking about living above a bakery; apartment houses; fire escapes; and other New York differences for these children who live in the suburbs of Kansas. Apartment dwelling in tall buildings is not a common occurrence in Kansas!

The talk was over quickly, but it started me thinking about the cookies.  Perhaps the holiday season helped to think of cookies —  not that this is a difficult topic to think about.  But I did start thinking about my favorite bakery cookies!

I love black and white cookies. These large round cookies are covered by both chocolate and vanilla icing divided down the middle of the cookie.

And I am telling you now, when you cut a black and white cookie in half, you must always give each person half the white and half the black.  The only time I made an exception to this rule was for my son….he never ate the chocolate side.  But for everyone else, the rule remains!

There is only one place in Kansas City that I have found black and white cookies that are decent.  The D’Bronx Deli near my house is where I go for this comfort food.  A typical lunch for me is a bowl of chicken noodle soup with a Matzah ball, iced tea and a black and white cookie. I do share it, as described above.  But if my companion does not want to share, I am always content to take it home to devour later.

I have tried other black and white cookies available in Kansas, but none have matched the cookies at D’Bronx.

My cookie desires follow me.  Whenever I go to New Jersey, my sister knows that a visit to Miller’s Bakery in Tenafly is a must stop for some black and white cookies.  Last time I was home, the bakery was OUT of my favorites.  We had to order some for the next day.  But the day was not a wasted, the bakery did have New York Chinese chocolate chip cookies.  These are also quite excellent.  A large chocolate chip cookie with a giant dab of melted chocolate on the top marks a Chinese Cookie in an East Coast Deli.

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There does not seem to be any real information on where these cookies originated, except they might come from Chinese almond cookies, as they do have an almond taste.  I haven’t seen them anywhere but in New York and New Jersey, but I assume wherever there is a Jewish bakery or deli, there might be these delicious cookies.

In any case, when I could not get my black and white cookies, I went to second choice…Chinese Chocolate Chip Cookies.  It was equally yummy, in a slightly different way!

Honestly, my sister and I find it good exercise to walk the mile to Millers for a cookie and coffee. Sometimes one of our friends meets us there. Then we walk back. No guilt cookie eating!

In an effort to be fair to all bakery cookies, I will admit that there is one more that touches my taste memory as well.  The raspberry linden cookie, also known as a Linzer Torte.  My grandfather always called them linden cookies.  These are two-layer cookies.  The bottom is round with scalloped edges. The top matches the size of the bottom and the scallops, but the center has a hole where the raspberry jelly can ooze through.  These are quite excellent if you are in a gooey, sugary mood.

Actually I have no problem eating any of these three cookies.  Growing up in a bakery, however, impacted my taste buds.  Whatever cookie I eat always is in competition by the taste memories I have from my grandfather’s bakery.  To be honest no cookie ever meets the challenge. But I have fun searching, because I just love bakery cookies.

I Love Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

22 Nov

To me Thanksgiving always means staying in my pajamas and watching the Macy’s Day Parade. Yes the Macy’s Day Parade! That is what I called it as a child and that is what I still call it in my mind.

Growing up in the New York City metropolitan area meant that the Parade was an important part of our life. We lived close to Hoboken. And as ‘everyone’ knows the floats are built in Jersey, the giant balloons are stored in Jersey and the participants practice in Jersey.

As a child I remember my Dad driving us to Hoboken in order to drive up and down the streets of warehouses and peek in. You probably cannot do it anymore, but when I was a child it was possible.

I remember seeing the color guards and bands practicing in the street.

It was part of the annual build up to the great event itself! The parade.

I loved watching the parade on television. But most exciting was actually seeing the parade in person. My Grandma Esther was the executive secretary for shoe company’s whose headquarters were across the street from Macy’s!

The best year of my life was the time we all went into NYC to her office. We watched the parade in the warmth of her office through the giant windows overlooking the Avenue. It was tremendously exciting! I remember the balloons flying right past the windows. Wow. I had such joy. Did I say I love the giant ballooons. Many people make an annual trek just to see the balloons filled with helium!

I will admit getting there was a hassle and getting home was the worst. But seeing the parade in person was worth it. I still get a thrill just remembering.

Watching the parade on television November 23, 2017.

When my children were little, we would lie in bed together and watch the parade. To be honest, they were not excited as me. It did not matter. Thanksgiving morning the television stayed on the Parade channel.

Eventually my children moved out. But it does not matter to me. I need no excuses to watch the parade. When the Rockettes make their annual appearance I smile. When the bands play and the color guard twirl their flags I feel satisfaction. Each broadway show tune makes me want to see a play. And then their are my favorite floats like Sesamee Street!

When Thanksgiving morning arrives I will still stay in my pajamas. Get a mug of coffee. Cuddle with my cats. And spend three hours watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Thursday morning!

House Seats Started My Love of Theater

6 Nov

This weekend my husband and I attended a benefit concert at our synagogue. It was great. A four-piece band led by Neal Berg and five fantastic Broadway singers. They were focusing on the top 100 songs from Hollywood, with much overlap to Broadway musicals.   I knew every song. I was “in heaven.”

Why do I know so many Broadway melodies?   I could say it was because I was raised in New Jersey, giving me the opportunity to see shows. But I have to be more specific I think.   We have the fortunate luck of having an Uncle who was involved with the Broadway theaters. It made it much easier for us to get tickets in the time before on-line purchases.

I am sure my parents got our show tickets from him, as we went as a family to see “Fiddler,” “Man of La Mancha,” The Rothschilds,” “Pippin,” among other shows.  My Dad loved going to shows. And thanks to my Uncle, we often had house seats. In fact, it never occurred to me as a child that you did not sit in house seats. These were seats reserved in the front center. My Uncle could get us the best seats. And if we were not in the center, we were always in the Orchestra section.

I remember the awe of watching the actors and actresses on stage, listening to the live music and hearing the lovely voices. It was magic. I still get that feeling when I see a play.

My Uncle also provided all of his nieces and nephews, as well as his own children, tickets for a Broadway show each Hanukkah. That was truly wonderful. We almost always had the best seats. Except one time, when we were in the top balcony. I remember as we kept walking up and up and up, I turned to my cousin and complained, “What happened?” We found out later that our grandmother did not want us too close to the stage….It was “Hair” and the actors disrobed.   Maybe she thought we would race to the stage.

My original Playbill from Hair as well as the flyer I picked up at the theater.

This memory came back to me on Saturday night when the musicians ended their performance with a rousing rendition of “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine.”   I was moved back in time. It was December 1971. I was 16, a junior in high school,  and I was in the Biltmore Theater seeing “HAIR!” “Aquarius” was my lucky song growing up.   I was born under this astrological sign. So I believed whenever this song played, something good was about to happen. And yes, something I was hoping for did occur the next day.

When I met my husband, he had never been to a Broadway show. Makes sense, he was born and raised in the Midwest. But the first time he came East, when we were engaged, I changed his world.   I called my Uncle and asked if he could get us seats for “They’re Playing Our Song,” with Lucie Arnez and Robert Klein, at the Imperial Theater. It was the hottest show. My Uncle did it. I took Jay. But for the first time, I actually paid for the house seats. Ouch!!! But it was worth every penny! My husband loved it as well.

I am glad he caught the ‘bug.’ I love shows. We have season tickets for three different production companies. I used to have four, but gave up a summer series this year after 32 years, as we travel too much in the summers.   There are many shows I have seen a number of times. But I don’t care.   Most shows I don’t mind seeing several times.   There are just a few I am done with seeing. And only two that I never want to see again. I still try to see a show on Broadway at least once a year!
Seeing a show takes you away from the world for a few hours. Just like a book, it moves you across time and location into someone else’s world. I thank my parents and my Uncle for giving me the gift of musicals and drama.   I was glad that my husband and I passed this gift on to our children. The memory of sitting in House Seats with be with me forever.

 

New York City Excitement With My Grandma

29 Nov

Whenever I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, known in my mind as the Macy’s Day Parade, I always think of my Grandma Esther. The first time I went to Radio City Music Hall was with my siblings and my Grandma to see “That Darn Cat” and the Rockettes for the annual Christmas extravaganza. It did not matter that we were Jewish. What was important was seeing the show.

I remember that the line went around the block, but we had tickets. On the main floor! I still remember the first time I saw the Grand Staircase. I remember the thrill of sitting in those seats. I have never forgotten the movie that starred Hayley Mills, or the moment the Rockettes came on to the stage.

The parade brings back this wonderful memory, as well as others that Grandma arranged. I remember the year she arranged for us to watch the parade from her office. Grandma was the executive secretary for a shoe company that had their office opposite Macy’s! Yes right opposite the main store. One year we had the opportunity to watch the parade and all the shows from the company’s warm office and excellent viewing site. I still get chills thinking about how excited I was to be there. This was so much nicer than standing outside in the cold.

Grandma, worked until she was 77, treated me to special dates in the city . They must have been birthday celebrations. I loved going to Horn and Hardart. The Automat’s vast choices of cakes and foods were amazing. Grandma would let me get her food and my food. It was fun opening the doors and removing exactly what we wanted. Such joy!

My favorite date, to be honest, was to Schraftt’s Ice Cream Palour on Fifth Avenue. I remember wearing my dirndl dress and white gloves…to go eat ice cream!!! I had a chocolate sundae, of course. The gloves came off when it was time to eat. I still see the beauty of the restaurant. And I still can remember leaving with Grandma, and skipping as we left. I was so excited.

I know it was in the spring because after ice cream we went to the Barton’s store to purchase lots of candy and treats for Grandma’s annual Passover seder. I see, in my mind’s eye, the boxes of Barton’s Almond Kisses, chocolate covered matzah and other sweets.   I remember that we each had two shopping bags to carry.

Then it was back to her office. I would sit and wait for my Dad to come and get me after work. Grandma would give me some busy work to do while I waiting. And I did get to speak to the president, Mr. Pearlstein. But I knew I had to be quiet while Grandma was working.

It is not surprising that to this day I love watching the Macy’s Parade each Thanksgiving. Even though I now live in the Midwest, on Thanksgiving morning I get a cup of coffee and sit contently for three hours watching as the parade marches on and my memories linger.