• Overview • Home • Yecht Family Genealogy •
Dearest Rachel by Joseph Chandler (July 29, 1920—July 2, 2011)
(c) 2016 Marjorie Chandler
New! In Progress! Dearest Rachel Illustrated. Best to view in WiFi environment.
Many thanks to the Chandler family for sharing this extraordinary account. Looking forward to adding the photos.
The word "cousin" appears 65 times in this narrative.
All Chandler Album photos (thus far scanned & restored) (whether or not thay appear in Dearest Rachel)
Large Family Overview (scroll down to Yecht family)
Yecht/Echt Bare Bones Tree printable-3 page version
Sept. 18, 1970 Extract of a letter written to Irving Robinson by Joseph Chandler
Family Recipes New!
October 1, 2010, Portland, Maine. Marjorie and Joe Chandler. Barbara Stack photo.
2/3/1931: Name changed: Max/Mottel/Mordechai Tabakhendler/Siegal
4/23/1946: Name change Sigal to Chandler
Rachel Chandler, daughter of Barry Chandler and Barbara Chase, is Joe’s granddaughter
The date this was written is so far unknown. The most recent date mentioned is 1997.
Though the story I wish to tell begins in another place in this scheme of things, I start here because it is at the beginning of where the family tree chart begins and may make it easier to follow as a whole. The story must encompass at least two separate families, though it may seem to be that of many more. At this beginning of the tree (chart), and before additions and extensions, the Radler (et alii) family and they are part of the whole since my Grandfather’s, Mordech¬ai Tabachandler’s, father Labell’s sister (Mordechai’s aunt) was Pauline Tabachandler. She married a Shimson Radler who was a member of the court of the King of Austro-Hungary.(The chart shows this on Tree#A @ ~12a and Tree#ab @ ~ 4ab.)
As for the Radler extended family, I did not know many of them nor did I meet them except in a very few instances. I knew they were part of the “family” since I remember that when I was quite young, my folks went to New York almost every year for reunions. Even many years later, when some of the Radlers visited my folks at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, I was not there nor was I aware that they had visited.
This brings us to an important insight as to Family, family relationships, and how we become “relatives” (cousins). There was no such thing as a differentiation between first cousins and second or third cousins and the once or twice removed aspects. Neither is a differentiation made between “Relatives” acquired through marriage.... what we now call “in-laws” or “machetoonim”. As an example, and though I merely mention their relationship on the chart, are the Tabachniks. Arnold Rochwaser , an uncle to the Tabachniks, married Entze (Lapides), a sister to my mother’s mother, Chia. She thus became the conduit for considering all the Tabachniks as “cousins”, a process which also included all of the sisters of the Tabachniks and their husbands, such as the Zolovs et al. In the same way Chia’s sister’s husbands and their families became “cousins”. Thus Chia’s sister, Dintze, was the vehicle for relationship to the Greenbergs; Kayle, another of Chia’s sisters, was the Lapides-Slotsky connection. We must remember there is a relationship since these sisters of Chia were also my mother’s Aunts. Similarly, another of the Lapides sisters, Eeta, married David (Dovid) Robinson and there became the dual connection from my mother’s aunts and through my mother’ and father’s grandparent (Zadeh Yosseh, who was a brother to Dovid.
July 7, 1959, at Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Samuel and Nathan and Lena Radler
Each time I did meet or come in contact with one of the Radlers was a unique occurrence. The first time was about the year 1984 or ‘5. When we were wintering in North Miami Beach (FL), my father’s brother, Uncle Irving, told me I had some relatives nearby: two brothers who we re accountants. Their names were Sol and Sumner Radler (tree#a:~2A), grandchildren of Pauline. Being curious, I telephoned Sol and told him of my newfound relationship and asked to see him to obtain more information. He agreed and I went to his home, taking with me an extra family tree to give to him.
We spent a pleasant afternoon, during which he provided me with many additions to the tree of which I had been unaware and was pleased with the duplicate tree I gave him. Interestingly, I have not heard from him since, at least not directly. He did, however, provide me with a number of names of his aunts and uncles, mentioning that one of them might be able to help me further. This was his uncle, Jerry, who lived in Brooklyn, NY. I telephoned Jerry and we had a most pleasant talk, after which I wrote him and sent him a copy of the tree, asking him for any information he could add. He did a masterful job and filled in most of the missing pieces during the course of almost two years of correspondence which stopped when his wife passed away and he was less interested. He died in 1996 at age 97 and my only contact with him was either by telephone or mail.
In approximately 1994 I received a letter from Marietta, Georgia, from a Markham Hersh. (Tree#A~8A). It seems he had been in touch with his cousin, Sol Radler (this after a period of about 10 years) and Sol had shown him “the tree”. Markham was a computer analyst and immediately wanted to expand his knowledge of the family. I wrote back to him and we corresponded sparingly. However, the next winter, I received a call in Florida from him. He was visiting his mother in a nearby town and wanted to see me. He came to Boca (Raton) and we had a pleasant time, filling in for each other various elements of the tree. I’ve heard from him only once since, but his mother, Pearl Hersh, called me about the family relationships. I wrote her with the information she wanted and she sent me a couple of Radler-Hersh family pictures which I include here. One interesting aspect of that series of discussions was the fact that I found out another relationship.
One of the Radler sisters, Mary, married a Max Osher. I called Eddie Osher, the husband of my wife’s aunt Mary (Marion Yaraus) and found out that the Max Osher was his uncle. It’s truly a small world. Another question came up, but I haven’t been able to follow up on it yet. The name Hersh was changed from Hershcovitz. As I recall, my mother’s nephew, Jack Filler, married an Eva Hershcovitz!
It’s truly amazing what turns up if one looks enough.
Your call about "immigrants" reminded me that I was only a few years older than you when I became interested in my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents in what we now call a "family tree". From that start I have been putting together a chart showing that rather extended family. What really started me was that when I asked my grandfather (his name was Mordecai [5AB] ( your uncle Michael [5 6BC] is named after him) about his side of the family he mentioned that "word of mouth" from generation to generation (dor V’dor) was that he was named after one of the commentators to the Jewish Talmud, an ancestor who died in 1584. His name was Mordechai ben Judah and was also known as Nossen (Nussen, Nathan) from Pritsk
Father of Nathan
"Hoodis" Filler, wife of Mordechai Tabachandler. She was one of the daughters of Joseph Filler (the Zaydeh Yosse) by his second wife. His first wife was a sister to his second wife and was the mother of Rose Filler's father, Zvi Hirsch.
His Talmudic name was Mordechai Mordesh and the portion he is noted for commenting upon was entitled "Bir B'Shait". He was descended from an eminent line of Rabbis and there was a continuing line of rabbis until Grandpa Nathan's generation. His daughter married another Talmudic scholar who is noted as a Commentator, Hirsch ben Enoch Sundeles (circa late 1500's and to early mid 1600's. Also, he told me that his great grandfather was of the Weizman family, one of whose descendants is said to have been Chaim Weizman, a president of the State of Israel. I have been able to trace a good part of the 1584 ancestry, but have not had the opportunity to trace the Weizman information.
Though that is getting away from the "immigrant" information you wanted, I will now get to that.
He came to the United States, arriving from Kisielin, Poland, on the liner, Pittsburgh, sailing from Cherbourg, Manche, France, and landing December 10, 1923. I have his ship's passage papers someplace, but can't seem to find them now. Actually, his son, Nathan [2BC], my father and for whom your brother [1C] is named, came to the United States aboard the N. G. L. Lines ship S.S. Main, sailing from Bremen, Germany, and landing at Ellis Island on January 4, 1907. He was sixteen years old at the time. His name was listed as Linder, because the immigration people undoubtedly couldn't fully understand him and mixed up the relationships of where he was going- to the Linders- with his name. He went to Pittsburgh to live with the Linder family, listed on the "Certificate of Admission of Alien" as a cousin to Nathan. The “certificate of admission” letter was dated September 16, 1912 (64573-S).
Since writing the above I have come across new information which indicates that he arrived on the same ship as a “Linder” family. Undoubtedly that was the same family as those in Pittsburgh and they were cousins of Nathan. They were Schloma Linder, age 31; Chana Linder, age 31; and Sara Linder, age 4. They were also all from the same town Kisielin (marked Kiselice on the ship’s manifest).
I have a postcard addressed to him as "Mr. N. Tabackhendler, 5 Bebee St. Pittsburgh, Pa. c/o B.
Linder". They were in the feed mill business there. Their letterhead was:
Cook & Linder
Wholesale and Retail Dealers In
Baled Hay, Oats, Corn, Bran, Chops, Mill Feed, Etc.
2610 Wylie Avenue
They were family as well as "landsmen", that is, people from the same town in Europe and it was customary for new arrivals to the States to live with people they knew from the "old country" until they got settled or established.
Nathan Chandler's "Certificate of Admission" to the United States
The Postcard to Nathan in Pittsburgh, PA.
The town Nathan came from in Europe was one of those small country villages which was then passing back and forth between Russia and Poland, a town named Kis(s)(i)elin, in Southeastern Poland, but listed on the "Admission" document as Russia. They had previously lived in Pritsk (Presk, Russia) and there were other Tabakhandler families there, though I do not know the relationships.
There is evidence in the ship manifests of that time that a “Riwhe Tabakhandler” came from Presk, Russia on the ship Lapland, from Antwerp, Belgium on July 20, 1913, at age 17. The name is close enough to that of Nathan’s sister, Rywka, to indicate a close first cousin type of relationship.
Nathan was born on September 30, 1890. Nathan had gone to school there, attending the Yeshiva, which is a religious school, and received an education which eventually was similar to some of our college level education. He was able to speak Polish, Russian, Hebrew, Jewish, English, and some broken French, the latter two learned when he came to the States.
Nathan's father, Mordecai, owned a lumber yard and a leather findings store in the town of Kisselin. The town had four "shuls" (synagogues) and one hundred twenty nine Jewish families. Mordecai received a special permission from the authorities to be one of the few Jews who was permitted to buy and own property. You must remember that this was a particularly difficult time, since owning land and living in that area was not generally permitted. In May, 1882, Tsar Alexander III enacted the May laws which proclaimed that no Russian Jew could "settle" in the countryside.
Mordechai was born circa 1866 and died in Portland, Maine, in 1949. His father, Labell, for whom Uncle Lou(is) is named) lived in Pritsk and managed a brewery in a town called Cognach. Labell married one of the Weizman daughters named Bas Sheva. One of Labell's sisters, Pauline, who died at age 96 in 1959, was married to a Shimson Radler, who was an official in the court of the King of Austro Hungary. Labell's family name was Tabachandler, from which we got our Americanized name of Chandler. Incidentally, there is a family group which settled in the New York area under the name of Tabak (Taba, Tabac, Taback), a breakdown of the Tabachandler name.
Nathan didn't stay in Pittsburgh long because there was a rather large extended family in Portland, Maine. That family included many cousins and aunts and uncles. I will expand on the relationships later, but first will fill in some details of his life in Portland. He, as many other family members did, engaged in selling (what was then known as "peddling"). Many of his cousins, as well as a brother in law to be, were selling to the ships which made Portland a regular port of call. They branched out to Montreal, Canada; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and St. John, New Brunswick. He concentrated in Portland and was married on July 21, 1910. Within a few years he was able to open a retail clothing establishment in the area (the Pine Tree Clothing Supply) near the ship and immigrant sections of the city. Some Robinson family members (they were part of the Filler family) branched out into other commercial areas. David, one of the three Filler brothers, was in the oil business in Portland.
Jacob and Ben Robinson had a store on either Middle or Fore Street: “Robinson Bros. Clothing”.Irving Robinson, Jake’s son, told me that in the window of the store was an old Edison phonograph and that Jake also ran a dance hall upstairs over the store.
Robinson Bros. Clothing Store
Jacob was one of the sons who later moved his family to Montreal.
Jacob and two other brothers established the Canada Broom Supply Co. with world wide affiliations for raw material purchases; two other sons became attorneys, one becoming a member of the Supreme Judicial Court of Quebec, Canada. One day I shall tell you the love story \of the triangle between Grandpa Nathan, Grandma Rose, and one of the Robinson sons, Hyman, while Grandma Rose was making up her mind on whom to marry.
Pictures of the Robinson family
Since I mentioned his marriage, I will provide some of those details . You are named after his wife, Rose [Rochel Rozze, [2C], my mother. Her maiden name was Filler. I didn't mention it before, because I didn't want to get you mixed up, but the Filler connection is a wide ranging one and is important from the standpoint of understanding the various relationships in the family.
The Filler family, going back to the parents of my great grandfather, and for whom I was named, had, among other children, three sons. At that particular time in history in the last half of the nineteenth century, the Czar of Russia, under which the Filler family lived in a town in Poland/Russia called Kowel, would induct to the army all sons in a family except the oldest. For that reason, two of the three sons were "farmed out" to families without sons and those two took the family names of the families with whom they lived. That is how we have one Filler strain named Robinson and another named Yecht, but the three were true brothers.
I have heard of an alternate "story" about the names which cannot now be verified, but which bears consideration in the scheme of things. That "story" is that the original name was Echt (Yecht) and the name Robinson did not appear until David came to the United States. This does not seem a probable tale since it would then have two of the three sons with the same name, subjecting one to the Czar's draft, a circumstance which did not occur. The name Robinson is alleged to have come about when David came to the United States and wanted his name changed legally. He was before a judge and when asked by the judge what name he wanted, David asked the judge for the judge's name. On finding out it was Robinson he is purported to have said that "If it is good enough for you, it's good enough for me!"
David was quite strong-willed and expected his children to act in a proper and Jewish manner. One story that Irving Robinson related to me was of David’s view of the keeping of the Sabbath. It seems that David’s son, Sam, had taken a job which required him to work on Saturday. David told Sam he could not live in the house and would have to leave if he would work on Saturday. Another aid in understanding the relationships was the custom under Jewish “law” for men whose wives had died to marry unmarried sisters of the deceased wife. This happened in the instance of my great grandfather, Joseph [2c, Zadeh Yosse]. His first wife died in childbirth of her son Hirsch, who, grew up to become my mother's, Rose's, father. Joseph remarried his first wife's sister, whose daughter from the second marriage, Hoodis, married Mordechai. One of their sons was Nathan, my father. So, as you can see, my mother and my father had the same grandfather, but different grandmothers. Rose, my mother, was born in Kowel on August 16, 1887.
Rose Filler Chandler
Her father was a fairly well to do dairy merchant, shipping dairy goods over a large part of Europe that was within railroad access to Kowel. Her family were what would be considered "well to do" then with a large household and "maids".
The date of Rose's birth was frequently questioned. She originally has said that she was born on August 12, 1888. There is a registration for voting in Portland, Maine dated October 19, 1936, which has that date on it.
She later corrected that on receiving a postcard from Europe which indicated that the year of her birth was 1887, not 1888. The record for Nathan has changes in it, also. The Voter Registration for November 25, 1915 shows his date of birth as September 1, 1890, while a subsequent driver's license indicates the date to be September 30, 1890. He has always maintained to me that the September 30th date is the correct one.
Voter Registration Card
Hirsch Zvi Filler Chai Filler
Parents to Rose Filler
She used to tell me stories of the "progroms" in Europe when the Cossacks would ride into town and commit all sorts of abominations and make life difficult, especially for the Jewish people.
She left Poland for Portland, Maine, in 1907, when she was a young girl of only twenty years of age, and came to the United States with her younger brother, Hyman. She told me of the time she was taking a train with Hyman. He was of small stature and was traveling with a child's ticket. It was early morning and he was saying his morning prayers while wearing his phylacteries (Tefillin) on his head and arm. She hid him from the conductor because she thought the conductor would know that Hyman was over thirteen since he was praying while wearing the Tefillin.
Rose Filler and brother, Hyman
She lived with the married daughter of one of the Filler brothers, the brother named David Robinson. That is, she lived with what we call a first cousin named Rose Abrahamson, one of whose children, Albert, was a professor at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine, and was on President Roosevelt's "brain trust" in the 1930s.
Bowdoin College figured greatly in the family history. Albert Abrahamson, whom I mentioned above, went there with his first cousin, Harry Robinson. Harry's sons were Bowdoin graduates: Alan, Bowdoin 1958 and Norman, Bowdoin 1963. Norman is now at Stanford University. Their first cousins, the Loebs, also had Bowdoin graduates among them: Daniel, Bowdoin 1958, and Andrew, Bowdoin 1966. Stanley's (another brother) has a son Eric who graduated in May, 1991. My brother, Harold, graduated in 1934. I graduated in 1942. Robert, Uncle Lou's son, graduated in 1968 and Barry, your father graduated in 1969. Your brother, Nathan, graduated in 1997.The reason I mention Bowdoin so prominently is that Grandpa Nathan, my father, and Grandma Rose, my mother, because of the opportunities Bowdoin gave to the family, made a bequest of an endowment named "the Nathan and Rose Chandler Educational Fund" to Bowdoin College, a fund which will be used for educational and student scholarship loan monies. Grandpa Nathan and Grandma Rose were firm believers in obtaining and providing for the best education possible. They never told us what education we should obtain nor what our careers should be, but stood behind us in that whatever we wished and they would see we would get whatever education we desired. This was true not only for us, as their children, but for others, as we see from their dedication to the advancement of Hebrew education in the City of Portland and the interest both took in following our educational progress throughout all the schools and school years.
This was even evident in my Grandfather, Mordechai (Mottel). I can never remember a time when I came upon him that he wasn't reading or studying, whether it was a newspaper when he was sitting in his store or the Talmud or G'morrah when I would walk in on him as he sat in the sanctuary of the "Home" (Jewish Home for the Aged).
Rose lived for a time with the Abrahamsons (Rose Robinson married Lazar) and they lived on Emerson Street in Portland, Maine. Their house is pictured below.
Grandma Rose, your father's grandmother, and who your brother, Nathan, still remembers worked in a clothing factory in Portland. She met her future husband here, although they did know each other in Europe, having been related and living only a few miles away from each other. They were married on July 21, 1910. Louis, their oldest, was born April 25, 1911; Harold was born April 27, 1913; and I was born July 29, 1920. My parents were firm believers in education and we all went to college. Lou became an attorney; Harold became a doctor; and you know I started out in business, then became a professor at the University, and am now an arbitrator. It was thirteen years later after his marriage, 1923, before Grandpa Nathan was able to save enough money to bring his parents, Mordechai and Hoodis, two sisters, Celia and Rita, and two of his brothers, Irving and Israel, to the United States.
I'll only go one step farther in the tree that stems, in part, through and from the "immigrants" Nathan and Rose Chandler. That is to bring you into the picture through your father, Barry, Nathan's and Rose's grandson, and your mother, Barbara.
This should give you enough of a start to mull about and absorb and I`ll tell you more later. Suffice to say, the foregoing can give you a pretty good idea of how "immigrants" of good stock, came to the United States in the early 1900's, educated themselves in the "American way", prospered, passed the thirst for learning through to their children and grandchildren, and sought in some measure to return to and for the future what they had gained.
Rose and Nathan shortly after marriage
The K’Tubah (Marriage License)
Nathan Chandler And Rose Filler
Grandma and Grandpa were married at Redman’s Hall, Congress Street, Portland, Maine, on July 21, 1910.
Wedding Picture of Nathan and Rose
Picture of Nathan taken after his wedding
Most of what I write is based on either word of mouth from various relatives and what I observed and heard over the years. Grandma Rose, though her family was “wealthy” by the European standards in Poland, was a young immigrant girl with no or little knowledge of the U.S. customs and language and from a rather poor country and was quite naive. She was also very pretty and her cousin, Rose Abrahamson, wanted her to marry Grandma Rose's first cousin Chaim (Hyman, Rose Robinson's brother) who was an up and coming entrepeneur, who traveled all over the world in furtherance of the Robinson business interests. I have a postcard from Cuba and other areas addressed to Grandma Rose from another brother, Sam.
Postcard from Sam Robinson to Rose Filler
from Cuba , February 24, 1910
For those times, Hyman was quite wealthy and Grandpa Nathan was "struggling", as the word was during those particular years, but was also making his way, though much more slowly. Grandpa Nathan kept his deeper emotions to himself, except when it came to family, and especially as they applied to Grandma Rose. Grandma would walk in downtown Portland with another cousin, Becky Schleger (her married name was Thorner), after work and look at all the pretty things in the store windows.
Jake Robinson Minnie Cook Max Cook
Sarah Schwartz Rose Robinson Becky Thorner Etta Chase
Becky was one of the five Schleger sisters, four of whom are above.
Rose spent most of her earnings for clothes and other pretty items, noticing that Grandpa Nathan would follow her while she was walking downtown. He also sent her poetry he wrote in Jewish or in Hebrew, some of which I still have. It was this romantic streak she was able to perceive that made her finally choose Grandpa over Hyman. Since that time she has said many times she made the right choice because even though Hyman may have been more wealthy materially, she had more riches than he could provide, those being her children and grandchildren, while Hyman never had any children.
I have an example of that “romantic streak” in a poem my father wrote to my mother on their forty-fifth wedding anniversary:
FOR YEARS WE‘VE JOGGED ALONG
SOME TIME WITH TEARS-
MORE OFTEN SONG.
FOR YEARS WE‘VE TRAVELED
TOGETHER- THROUGH MANY
STORMS AND SUNSHINY WEATHER.
MANY MILES OF THE ROAD
WERE ROUGH AND STEEP,
AND THORNS OFTEN PIERCED
OUR TIRED FEET.
THEN THE PATH WOULD BE
AS WE HAPPILY MET
SOME DEAR FRIEND.
THE FLOWERS WOULD
BLOOM BRIGHT AND SWEET
AND LIFE’S TRIALS WE COULD
BRAVELY MEET WITH
FRIENDS AND CHILDREN -
LOYAL AND TRUE.
TODAY DEAR FATHER
WE GIVE THANKS TO YOU.
I remember one incident Grandma told be about of when she was on one of her walks with Becky Thorner in downtown Portland. One of her cousins, who had been in the States much longer than she or Becky, thought he would play a joke on the two "Greenas" (Greenhorn newcomers). He gave them oranges and bananas, fruits which were unavailable in the small towns in Poland and Russia from which the two young women came. He wanted to see if they would peel the fruit before eating. They fooled him by not attempting to eat the fruit until later, when someone else took the fruit and by example, showed them what to do. It makes one wonder how many things we take for granted as acts of ordinary life which can be so different under another culture or circumstance.
Grandma and Grandpa first (to my knowledge) lived on 85 Federal Street in Portland.
That house is now gone towards the "redevelopment" of the area and is now a parking lot.
Uncle Lou and Uncle Harold were born there and moved from there to 205 Congress Street.
205 Congress Street
then to 56 Congress Street.
I made the determination of where they were born from the "Certificate of Naturalization" for Nathan. That showed that he became a citizen on April 5, 1915. (Note another age discrepancy for him since that document indicates he was 23 years of age, which would have given him a year of birth of 1891! It also shows that Rose was 25 years of age, which would have made her date of birth 1889!) It also states that Louis was 3 years old and Harold was 1 year of age and that they lived at 85 Federal Street in Portland, Maine.
56 Congress Street
One incident was related to me by my parents concerning an event at the 205 Congress Street address. It seems my brother, Lou, was visiting a neighbor in the house, a Minerva Bernstein, and crawled under one of the beds and lit a fire there. I was born at 56 Congress Street.
There was also a sister, Frayda Shaindel, who was born about 1915 16. She died at an early age and Grandma and Grandpa never talked about her. Not even Uncle Lou and Uncle Harold could shed much light on her short life, but indications are that she died in the disastrous flu epidemic of 1917 or 1918.
Grandma Rose was very protective of her children and her entire family. One incident which points this out occurred when Uncle Lou was about four and Uncle Harold about two years of age.
They came down with scarlet fever. At that time, those with that sickness were required to be placed in an isolation ward at a hospital. Grandma Rose made such a fuss at their being taken to the hospital that the daily papers at that time were full of stories about this “protective mother” and her problems with city and hospital officials.
It was shortly after this that Grandpa opened up his first store, a clothing store carrying men's and women's clothing, at 111 Middle Street in Portland.
Present views of 111 Middle Street
As I recall being told, Mr. Blumenthal, the butcher and father of Ockie and Ma(y)shie, loaned Pa (Grandpa Nathan) monies to get started and continue. You must remember that Portland Jewry, whether related or not, were a close knit group that looked one after the other. To this day there is a Hebrew Free Loan Society to help immigrants get started by advancing them interest free loans and that fund is now helping many new Russian immigrants. Myer Lerman, May's husband, was in the furniture business with two of his brothers. He also would make loans to Grandpa, as would a friend, Joe Hirshon, on whose property we built our first two beach cottages. Loans from Mr. Hirshon came at a much later time, however.
May Lerman May's sister, Malka (Molly) Goldman
May Lerman's grandmother was Yetta (Ethel) Baer (maiden name). Yetta was the second wife of Zaydeh Yosse(l). One daughter of that marriage was Hoodis, Nathan's mother, and another daughter was Rosse, who married Isaac Wozer (Waze), who was an artist and a craftsman in Kisselin. Rosse and Isaac were May's parents, so she was a first cousin to Nathan.
Grandma Rose, in addition to her caring for the children and the house, also used to help Grandpa Nathan in the running of the store. She was quite talented. Besides her taking care of the house and being the lady of the house (a "balabusta"), she was an equal partner in running the business. One of our friends, Rita Sacknoff Willis called her the first "liberated" woman. I remember going with Grandma Rose to "Americanization" classes at the Portland High School. She also made trips to Boston and New York to shop at the wholesale places for the clothing they would sell. My father would also go there and I remember how he was so well regarded because he also knew merchandise. He was able to feel material and tell of what it was made. He could also look and touch furs and know what animals they came from and had a good idea as to their value.
One of the wholesalers, a Mr. Appel of Appel Coats, used to send us a box of apples every year. Another, Sol Goldstein, would visit us frequently in Portland and if he was in town over Shabboth (Saturday), would stay with us. I remember one Pesach, he "verbranged" (celebrated) with us. I even remember when my brother Harold was in medical school and when he passed through New York, went to Sol Goldstein's location to get some suits for school.
In my very young years, I was in rather "poor" health, which was eventually attributed, by a tall and gaunt looking Dr. Allen, to an adenoid and tonsil problem. I was operated upon in early 1923 at the Maine Eye and Ear Hospital which was at the corner of Congress Street and Arsenal. The adenoids were removed, but the tonsils were considered "too small" and I had lost too much blood to have them removed. It probably would have been better to take them out since I have suffered from frequent spring and fall colds which always seemed to locate in that area.
There was a fortunate outcome to that, however. The doctor (pediatrician, Dr. Webster) told my folks to "build me up" and a decision was made to spend summers at the beach, in this instance, Old Orchard Beach. One of my father's very good friends, Joe Hirshon, had a cottage and property there and permitted my father to build a cottage on his land at Old Orchard at 67 1/2 East Grand Avenue. That cottage still stands.
Harold Rose Nathan Lou
The family in front of 67 1/2 East Grand Avenue, Old Orchard Beach, Maine
That was 1923. We lived there among many good neighbors for a number of years. Below are some other pictures taken at that cottage.
Rose Nathan Joe
Joe Rose Rose
Ann Robinson Rose Mickey
Grandpa built another cottage next door around 1926-7.
Grandpa Nathan, in 1926 or 1927, built a second cottage next to the first.
NATHAN outside second cottage ROSE
In 1947, Nathan built the cottage at Brisson Street because one of Mr. Hirshon's sons wanted the cottages on East Grand Avenue for himself and a friend of his. The new cottage was on land that was owned by the Bolduc family. They lived in the rear, two story cottage on Brisson Street and rented out a cottage in the front of that. I remember a family by the name of Hoffman used to rent it back in the nineteen twenties and thirties, and I think the Larkins also rented there at that time. I spent day after day on the beach and Grandma made sure I was "built up.” In fact, by the time I went to college and even after I was a roly poly. The beach, at that time, was a take off point for trips by new long distance flying attempts. We saw many such attempts, some of which made it and some of which did not. In fact one of the flights from the beach included a local friend of my brothers, an Arthur Schreiber, who was a stowaway on one such trip. He stowed away on the plane named the "Yellowbird.” Other planes that I recall were the "Pathfinder" and "Old Glory.” On one of the earlier days at the beach I had my picture taken standing next to the "Spirit of St. Louis,” the airplane Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean only a short time before I had the picture taken. I came up to the top of one of the wheels!
May 25, 1927
at "Spirit of St. Louis"
Joe at "Old Glory"
Play at the beach (Old Orchard) was different. The wide expanses permitted soft handball- baseball type games, touch football, and then there were always exercises being offered on the beach by the hotels. The hotels were always full of people from various parts of the continent, mostly Canadian, and we met many people there with friendships have lasted to this day. The hotels were congregating places for the young and many marriages developed from those relationships.
I used to take long five and six mile walks on the beach looking for shells. I also would spend much time on the "pier" where there was an amusement arcade that had penny movies, games of chance, skee ball, and other games. I became so adept at skee ball that one of the people (a Mr. Cote’) who managed the arcade would provide me with tokens ("slugs") to play the game in an attempt to entice the tourists to try to "beat the kid.”
Below are various Old Orchard scenes arranged in a chronological sequence from the mid nineteen twenties to the mid nineteen thirties.
Joe (where I look like Seth)
Blow up of above
Note resemblance Joe:Seth
Joe Harold Lou Rose Nathan
Joe Rose Harold
Rose Joe Rose
Among the immediate neighbors at the beach were the Scannels, the Hirshons, the Troubhs, the Goodkowskys, and others. One of the Scannels, the wife of the doctor from New York, taught me to swim. Eleanor Goodkowsky (she was a little bit older than I) made a cellophane belt for me in about 1926 which I remember having when my folks were living on 14 Grasmere Road in the 1970s. She also gave me a “dreidl” with her name on it.
My folks had moved to Grasmere Road from Congress Street in 1947, when that cellophane link was lost. I do not have a picture of the house on Grasmere Road. It seems that through the years, and when one doesn't stop to think about it, the city changes and "progresses" and with that streets are moved or lost and houses disappear in the name of the selfsame progress. Where the Grasmere Road house was is now part of the Preble Street Extension and the best I can do is to show where it was.
The Grasmere Road house was just about at the bend in the road.
This loss is true of a number of locations which I will try to show.
The street in Old Orchard, Brisson Street, where our present cottage is located, was strictly a residential street at that time and the Scannels had a large lot with three houses, one for the Lowell, Mass. group, one for the New York group, and one for two maiden aunts. There was also a tennis court on their property.
We made many friends over the summers, some of whom I still count among my very close friends almost seventy years later, and many of whom I counted as friends then and with whom I have lost touch since, I feel I could meet at any time and pick up where we left off. In fact this actually happened the summer of 1995.
In the late nineteen thirties and early forties, I counted among those friends the Dietchers (from Montreal) and a cousin of theirs, Myer Mendelson. Myer and I used to correspond a great deal over a period of years. In the fall of 1993 I came across a bunch of letters that Myer had sent me which I had saved. I learned that Myer had become a psychiatrist and lived and practiced in New York City. Through the telephone company and many New York directories I was able to locate his address in New York and mailed the packet of letters to him. He called to thank me and I proceeded to forget about the situation. In the summer of 1994 I received a telephone call from northern Maine from Myer telling me that he and his wife were on their way home to New York and asked if we would be able to see them. We met in Portland for a few hours where we went out to eat and then spent some time at the house catching up on fifty to fifty five years of the past! It was as though there were not any of those intervening years! You can imagine how I felt when his wife wrote me in 1997 that he had passed away.
I don't remember details of many of those earlier years, except for what I recall here. Those recollections are all my own and I'm sure other people may even have different remembrances of the same people and incidents. The only house in Portland that I lived in with my folks was at 56 Congress Street. There was a Congregational church (a relic of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s state oriented church and built at the time Maine was part of Massachusetts) a few doors up Congress Street from the house and I used to roller skate down the hill at the Church.
Views of the
My brothers, being much older, had little to do with me. In fact, Uncle Lou tells of the time he had to take care of me when I was still being wheeled in a carriage. He didn't really want to take care of me and he faced me into the sun so I would have to close my eyes and eventually fall asleep. I guess this explains his learned techniques for negotiating and maneuvering that stood him in such good stead as a management labor attorney. I do recall that at one period he would tell me bedtime stories.
I do remember many of his friends from High School and College. When he returned for his 50th high school reunion I stood beside him to whisper who the people in his class were, since he graduated High School in 1928 and came back rarely after that except for family get-togethers. This was so he could place all his classmates, their looks having changed as the years went by.
Lou was of small physical stature, but made up for it in intensity, education, and activities. He was the manager of the championship basketball team of Portland High School, the "Little Boy Blues,” of 1928.
I remember Harold's classmates more vividly, since he was around two years longer than Lou. They used to come over to the house to study, especially on Sunday night and we would all, including his friends, have frankfurts as a treat. He played the saxophone in the school band.
Lou went to Boston University under the three- and two- plan, wherein he went three years to the College of Business Administration and in the last two years finished up at its law school and received the dual diplomas in 1934. He passed the Maine and Massachusetts bars and settled in Boston to practice. Uncle Harold went to the University of Maine (in 1930) with the idea of becoming a chemical engineer. He transferred to Bowdoin College after changing to the pre medical program. It was about this time, around 1933-1934, that we celebrated the 50th (?) Wedding anniversary of Zaydeh Mottel (Mordechai) and Hoodis. It was then that we took the picture of most of the family as seen below. Harold then went to Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia from where he graduated in 1938.
Nathan, Rose, and Harold
At Medical School Graduation
It wasn’t until the Thanksgiving of 1989 before we were again to come together as a group for a picture of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Mottel and Hoodis. This took place in Palm Beach Florida. We then got another picture at a subsequent Thanksgiving in 1996 in Tampa, Florida.
Thanksgiving of 1989
Thanksgiving of 1996
Much that comes to mind of the 1920's and early 1930's seem more like discrete vignettes and I will have to describe them as they came to me, though they may be displaced in time, one to the other. There were the family visits in town (Portland) to each other's houses. We had a big extended family: The Robinsons (Eeta and family members), the Cooks, the Lermans, the Greenbergs, the Abrahamsons, the Cohens, the Tabachnicks, the Chases, the Katzes (Kates), and others who lived in nearby towns. Most of these cousins (there was then no distinction between first and second cousins or whether they were once or twice removed. All were "cousins" and we were a close knit group).
The Robinsons included a son Max (Mendel) who lived around the corner from us on Beckett Street about two blocks away. He owned a Garage on Beckett Street, a garage that extended over a whole city block.
His mother, the Meema Eeta (Aunt Etta) lived with him. She lived to the age of 91, dying in 1946. She was David Robinson's wife. Remember that David Robinson was one of the three brothers about whom I've already told you. The Meema Eeta's sisters were Kayla, Entze, Dintze and a brother Y'chiel. Another sister, Chia, was Grandma Rose's mother.
I wrote to my cousin, Irving Robinson, in April of 1995, asking him if he remembered any anecdotes of his childhood or about his parents or relatives. He could think of none except the
Irving did, however, send me some pictures, copies of which I include here following:
"Gee, Joe, I hate to disappoint you. For the life of me, I can't recall any anecdotes about my folks. Your uncle, Irving Chandler, told me that my father had a reputation as a wit but I don't remember having seen him show it. I remember Bubbie Eta being a great romantic as I heard that she read romantic stories when she was in her 90's. I remember her being a very independent person who refused to move into the Portland Old People's Home because she said that the people there were too old for her. She was a very a generous person and I once heard her say that the only legacy she was leaving her children was a trunk full of receipts from the various organizations she supported. The Lubovitch rebbe in Montreal told me that she phoned him when she wanted a halachic question answered."
Note Irving’s reference to “Bubbie Eeta. She was his grandmother. Therefore the “Bubbie”. She was my mother’s aunt. Therefore our use of “Meema” = aunt.
To help in understanding the various people and their relationships. One, taken at his wedding to Esther Katz in 1940, did not have the people designated, but I have filled in those I recognized.
? Irving Joe Sam
Ann ? Esther
Jacob and Rose Robinson
Rose Robinson and Minnie Cook (Max Cook’s first wife)
Chia’s grandaughter Chia’s daughter or daughter-in-law Chia, Roses' mother on left
Eva Galli Annie Greenberg (Dintze’s daughters)
and various grandchildren
Goldie Eva Brown Rose
Marcus Galli Chandler
Fanny Greenberg Rose Greenberg
Two of Annie's children
The Meema Eeta arranged the wedding match (made the "shidach") for Grandma Rose's mother, Chia, her sister. The Meema Eeta was the matriarch of the family here in Portland and we used to visit her almost every week. Max also made a Succoh, the outdoor "booth" for the Feast of the Tabernacles, and we used to go to his house to celebrate the holiday. That house is one of the few "landmarks" of my memory that is still standing. I remember that during the winter my father would keep his car in Max's (Mendel's) garage on Beckett Street to protect it from the cold.
Annie (Brown) Greenberg One of Annie's sisters
Ida (Brown) Wallace
The almost weekly visits to the Meema were real family get-togethers since many other members of the family would visit at the same time and we would pass the time in reminiscing, detailing the past week's activities, and catching up on the lives of the relatives. This was one of the ways I was able to get many of the family stories and histories. We would also travel to nearby towns to visit other family members: the Cooks in Sanford, Maine and Dover, New Hampshire and the Thorners in Biddeford, Maine, among others. We would also visit each other during the summer when we were at Old Orchard Beach. Rosie Robinson and Eeta Chase, sisters of Becky Thorner and Sarah Schwartz, would summer at the beach, as did Avram Hirsch Cook. Thus they and their families would be at the beach at various times during the summer and invariably they would be at our cottage since we were the only ones who had a large enough cottage, rather than a room or two as some of them did, and my folks could entertain the relatives. I remember Max Cook and his family, as well as his brothers and their wives from Sanford, Maine, and Dover, N.H. coming for visits.
Rose Robinson would come to the beach with two of her three children, Joe and Ann. Ann later married Leo Leman, who worked for Maine Hardware Company, the same company at which Dick (Richard) and Albert Chase worked. They first stayed at the Trough cottage on East Grand Avenue, later going to the Murray House on Brisson Street, the cottage next to ours, then to Dopkins and then next door to the Finkelman's on East Grand Avenue. The Cooks at one time rented a small cottage at the Dopkin location. Joe was close to my age and we played on the beach a lot. We even had some rabbits which we won on the pier and kept them for a while. I would visit other family members during my growing and formative years. Some Saturday evenings, while my folks, Grandpa Nathan and Grandma Rose, were busy at the store, I would visit with the Lermans (May and Meyer), who lived at 87 St. Lawrence Street, about three or four blocks from our house on Congress Street. May Lerman was a daughter of Hoodis's sister, Rosse (who had married Isaac Woze (Waze) and was another first cousin to Grandpa Nathan). Meyer was her husband. I would spend the late afternoon there playing with her children, eat supper and then go home where I prepared a real Jewish light meal for my folks in order to have it ready when they came home from their store around ten p. m. It would usually be boiled potatoes, herring, onions, black bread and sour cream and coffee.
The Greenbergs (Annie and Abe) (59 Atlantic Street) was another family my folks and I visited quite often. Annie, whose husband was Abe, was a daughter to Dintze, who was a sister to Grandma Rose's mother, Chia, so she was also a first cousin of Ma's, my first cousin once removed, and her children were second cousins to me. Of her children, Sammy, the youngest, was three months younger than I and we were together quite a bit. He married twice and was divorced twice, was in several businesses and now lives in California in the La Jolla Los Angeles area. I remember resenting him, since when I visited them I had to sit with the "Meema" Dintze, talk Yiddish with her, and drink tea with her while Sammy went out and played. We used to drink the tea with a piece of sugar between our teeth to make it more palatable. Of Annie's other children, Carl worked as a salesman for Boston Shoe Store. He never married. Rose was a secretary for the Chamber of Commerce and I remember she played golf in the twenties and thirties when even Jewish men rarely played golf, let alone any women. Sally went to New York and worked for a furrier there, then returned to Maine where she opened a ladies dress and clothing shop in Ogunquit, Maine, which was open, a couple of doors southerly of Exchange Street which remained there until a few years ago when it was torn down to make room for a park. Neither she nor Rose married. Leo (Gigi) and Reuben worked for their father for many years, selling on the docks from his clothing store on Middle Street. Reuben was tall and broad and, at that time, had the reputation of being able to take care of himself on the waterfront. Later, Leo married and divorced. He owned a dress shop in Portland. Reuben also had a discount store in South Portland and then a dress shop in Falmouth.
His story is interesting in that he married, but did not tell his mother nor live openly with his wife until his mother died, even though his wife converted to Judaism. The story was that even though married, he brought his laundry home so his mother wouldn’t find out that he was married. Virginia, his wife, was a wonderful woman, completely religious in the Jewish faith. She was "family" oriented in the broadest sense, committed to the extended family of Greenbergs and the cousins and making every effort to insure the continuance of good relationships within the immediate family. She celebrated all the Jewish holidays and made sure the entire Greenberg family could and did attend at her home. Even though she has been gone since 1985 I can still picture her in my mind's eye walking down the street in front of our house (they lived up the street from us) with her husband, Reuben, as they went to shul (synagogue) every Saturday and holiday.
There was another daughter of Annie's, Fanny, who died quite young (in the early 1930"s ) and I know little of her. Annie’s (Greenberg) husband died, in the early to mid 30's, while a fairly young man. All I can remember was there was some talk of his having succumbed to a case of erysipelas. He had been the President of the Shaarey T'philoh Synagogue. My encounters with "death" as an actuality were minimized by my parents, for whatever reasons I do not know. When one occurred, I was barred from discussions, except to the extent I was able to overhear the conversations. I was not permitted to go to the cemeteries for burials, nor visit them for remembrances "yahrzeits" or the like. I remember getting into a rather disconcerting argument with my wife's (Grandma Marge's) family when I refused to go to the burial of one of her grandparents in Providence. I guess that is why I appreciated even more your mother's (Barbara's) and yours and Nathan's attendance in Providence at Poppy's (Grandpa Leo's, Grandma Marge's father's) funeral in 1986, my views on the subject having changed so much since my early years. As for other memories, I do recall singular incidents or groups of them relating to play and school during those early days in the 1920's. In the winter, I used to ski down the Eastern Promenade slopes from the Cleaves Tucker Memorial to the railroad tracks.
The Cleaves and Tucker Memorial on Eastern Promenade
The slope to ski on Eastern Promenade
That section of town was also a good playground in the summer and other non winter seasons.
There was a playground to the west of that monument, with swings and seesaws and other playground equipment and an area where we played ball.
At the Playground area At Fort Allen Park there was an overlook of cliffs going almost straight down to the Grand Trunk Railroad tracks about thirty to forty feet.
The Gazebo Band stand at Fort Allen Park
We used to play at mountain climbing there, since it was fairly steep and in looking at that rock formation now, I wonder how I was so daring as to attempt the climbs. I remember Billy Cohen, one of my friends, falling from one climb there and breaking his arm. The Chandler (no relation) Band used to play concerts at the Gazebo at Fort Allen Park, where there is a vintage cannon pointing out to sea, and relics of the Battleship "Maine" which was sunk in Havana Harbor, Cuba, during the Spanish American War in 1898.
The vintage cannons and a Battleship Maine Relic
We also played in the streets or in the school yards. I recollect the games of Ring a levio, Red Rover, and a game called "caddie.” That was a game where we whittled the end of a clothsepin almost to a point; made a paddle of any wide piece of wood and striking the whittled end of the clothespin while it was on a step; hitting it as it went into the air, and trying to get it past the other players standing at different locations in the street. We played that a lot on Morning Street near an apartment building that was being built. We didn't like the owners of the building and one night Jackie Clayman and I filled the rumble seat of their car with decaying vegetables from the farm on Turner Street which was at the West end of Morning Street.
The apartment house (Albert's) and others on Morning Street
Steps of Emerson School, Morning Street side, where we played caddie.
RACHEL part 3
The first school I went to was the Monument Street School, between Atlantic Street and St. Lawrence Street. It no longer is there, having been replaced with a "condominium" type housing. I even remember my teachers: Mrs. Morse, in Kindergarten and sub-primary, Mrs. Sawyer in the first grade, Ms. Saunders in the second grade, and Ms. Staples in the third grade.
All I remember of Mrs. Morse was that she was a kindly older woman. Mrs. Sawyer was a short, elderly woman with white hair. I enjoyed her classes and remember getting my liking for arithmetic from her and the times we spent in "music appreciation" classes. She also taught us to "knit" using wooden spools from thread with nails driven in around the top of one side. Ms. Staples was a disciplinarian and used a black rubber ruler if you were "out of line", like whispering in class or chewing gum. I don't remember anything taught or learned in her class. Ms. Saunders was the first teacher I remember really "liking". She lived on Merrill Street and I recall that she got married while I was in her class and became a Mrs. Ross. I appeared in a school play as
Me as “Jack-in-the-Box 1928
"Jack-in-the-box" while in her class.
The Lermans (May and Myer) lived next door to Monument School and I spent much time there, playing with their older children or spending the time while my folks were at their own clothing store. He had one of the first radios that I remember, an Atwater Kent floor model, and we used to listen to it frequently.
From Monument School, the next classes were at the Shailer School on North Street. This, also, is now a condominium. It was still a primary school for the fourth (Ms. Lappin, her father was the janitor at the school), and fifth grades (Mrs Farr). I remember, when in the fourth grade, winning a Portland Press Herald medal for getting into the city-wide spelling bee finals I spelled "out" for forgetting to capitalize "Lilliputian". I used to wear that round medal, a little larger than 1/2" round, until someone filched it from my sweater as it hung in the coatroom of the fourth grade. I got along pretty well with Mrs. Farr, though she was not as well-liked by most of the kids. I think it was because I took well to what I think was her favorite subject: Math.
Me (Joe) taken when in the fourth grade
From there, it was on to grammar school (now called "middle school") on Emerson Street for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. That school was across from the house on Congress Street. The picture below of the school is taken from that house.
Emerson Street School
We also spent many a spring day down on the lower levels of the Eastern Promenade, near where there is now a water Department Sanitary District (Sewage Disposal) Plant. That area had loads of pussy-willows for the picking and a swampy area where we would collect polliwogs. I remember helping my brother, Harold, collect the polliwogs and frogs for one of his science classes.
I was also pretty adept at shooting "glassies", marbles. At one time I even sold subscriptions to Saturday Evening Post and Liberty magazines. That sales ability came in handy when I was eleven years old. I was a member of Troop Six Boy Scouts. Bill Cohen, an accountant for Portland Mutual Loan Society, and "Knobby" Modes, who owned an Army and Navy store, were the Scoutmasters, and Sid Lerman was the Troop leader. Sid became a piano teacher, among his other careers, and gave Barry, Michael, and Karen piano lessons.
I remember the scouts particularly for two reasons. The first was the "sales" ability I mentioned. The troop sponsored a raffle, the purpose for which I do not remember, but which provided the seller of the largest number of raffles with a free week at the Boy Scout camp at Camp Hinds. I sold the most, knocking on doors and calling on businesses from the hill, (Munjoy, where we lived) to Longfellow Square on State Street, a distance of two to three miles and running right through the major business center of Portland. I sold more raffle tickets than all the others in the troop sold combined. Before I forget, the second reason was that I won a knot-tying contest, tying the most knots in the shortest time.
That route down Congress Street was quite familiar to me from about the time I was seven or eight years old. While going to school days I was also required to go to Hebrew School. This was a seven days per week duty. To get there I had to walk from our house down to Pearl Street, where the school was located, a walk of about a mile down Congress Street. That school has since been torn down to make way for a parking lot for the local newspaper. Sometimes I would take a detour on the way down there and go to Sklar’s Bakery on Franklin Street to get a doughnut. Two of my cousins worked there and they would be quite generous with the fillings.
Here are two views of where it used to be:
the first view, above, is looking across the original lot past Congress
Street to the court house beyond Franklin Park;
the second is the actual lot. I'll have more to say about Hebrew School later.
I can still remember the stores along the Congress Street route to Hebrew School. There was Meltzer's grocery store at the corner of Merrill St. and Congress; Pete's Barber Shop a few doors beyond, with Libby's Drug Store at the next corner (Lafayette Street).That later became Feldman's Drug store until they moved across Lafayette Street to where the old First National Store was once located. The next block to North Street held a Chinese laundry, followed by a grocery store which was owned by the mother (Mrs. Ansell) of one of my friends, Sonny (Julian) Ansell. He became a urologist in Seattle and taught at the University of Washington. I remember taking his sister on a date to see a movie and Marge not appreciating that. Next came the Feldman house, followed by the residence and offices of Dr. Bickmore. I had an experience with Dr. Bickmore. His daughter, Gladys, was in my classes.
That name calls back the memory that he treated me for a dog bite. I was quite small, probably No more than six or seven years of age, and I was patting the bulldog owned by our neighbors, the Foleys. Bill Foley owned a used car lot in South Portland. The dog bit me on the nose and I required medical attention to stem the blood.
Before we get to the corner of North Street and Hilton's Drug Store, I must tell you of some things that the Foley name brought to mind, besides that of the bull-dog. One time I had come in from the beach (Old Orchard) and was at the Congress Street house in time for lunch. Mrs. Foley invited me to eat there and I recall calling my father at his store to find out if I could eat at the Foley’s and whether eggs would be OK. You must remember that we had a "Kosher" house and I was careful as to which foods I was permitted to eat.
The second event occurred about 1937 or 1938. It goes almost without saying that the winters in Maine are cold. My father had bought a large Chrysler (Imperial?) from Bill Foley and, for whatever reason, my father felt it was necessary to drain the radiator so it wouldn't freeze overnight. I volunteered to do it and in reaching in for the petcock rested my hand on the warm motor and burned the palm severely.
To get back to "the route", Hilton's Drug Store was next at the corner of North Street, and opposite there and across Congress Street, from Atlantic (halfway between Merrill and Lafayette Streets) and the two grocery stores, and going towards St. Lawrence Street (not quite opposite North) lived the Kroots and then came the fire station, across from which was another church before that land was taken away to make room for a new fire station. Next to that is one of the landmarks of Portland, "The Observatory".
Mickey (Myron) Waks lived a few doors South of North Street. I used to get bunches of lilacs from his yard to take to Marge (Marjorie) while we were dating. Many of the buildings on both sides of Congress from North to Washington Avenue are now gone, including the tailor shop belonging to the Freedman's (Herbie Freedman was another childhood friend) and Resnick's Oil across the street at the corner of Sheridan Street. On that side, near Washington Avenue was Melvin Epstein's (Mel Stone) father's shoe repair shop and opposite him was the Levine's "Two Little Tailors".
In those days we didn't have to worry about our safety and most of the time after regular school I would walk back and forth to Hebrew School. We were able to buy trolley transfer tickets for $.05 (6 for a quarter) and I would sometimes take the trolley. Other times I would walk the long way by way of one of the bakeries on Franklin Street, Sklar's, where one of my cousins, a Baer girl, worked and she would overfill a jelly donut for me. (It was at the Baer barn that my grandfather stabled his horse and wagon.) The doughnuts were only two cents then.
The corner of Newbury and Franklin Streets
where Sklar's and Chude's grocery stores and the bakeries were
At other times I would stop a Gabarino's Grocery store between Montgomery Street and Washington Avenue. Gabarino's was just south of Washington Avenue on the route to Hebrew School and opposite the Cemetery. Gabarino's had a hard, chewy, sweet molasses type candy called "Reuben’s Glue" that was delicious and stuck one's teeth together when you chewed it, just like glue.
The cemetery opposite Gabarino's store was prominent in the history of Portland. That is where are buried the commanders killed in the battle of the "battleships" (Frigates?) which were sunk in the War of 1812 in Portland harbor.
One view of the Cemetery with North School in background
A long enumeration of the different stores would probably be uninteresting except to those who may wish to remember it. Suffice to say, that on the rest of the way down Congress Street I passed the North School on the left before getting to India Street. Various doctor's offices and army and navy stores were along that path, coming up to Franklin Park on the left between Franklin and Pearl Streets, and on the right side were the Diamon's Meat Market, another army and navy store, a drug store, the church (at the corner of Wilmot Street, Turetsky's Clothing store and then Pearl Street, on which was the Hebrew School.
My family of relatives was large on either side of Congress Street on the way to the Hebrew School. If I wished to stop, to mention a few possibilities, a couple of blocks on Munjoy Street were the Katzes; on Beckett Street were the Robinsons: Mendel (Max) and Meema Eeta; on Emerson Street were the Abrahamsons; on Morning Street were two Cohen families: Birsch--Dvora and Birsch's brother, Herman; diagonally across from Herman were the Tabachniks and down from them were the Abraham Robinsons; two blocks down Atlantic Street were the Greenbergs; the Lermans were a block off Congress on St. Lawrence Street; the Yoneh (Jonah - Sarah (one of the sisters of Becky, Rose, Eeta, and Esther ) Schwartz was on Wilmot Street; and the Baers were on Larch Street. Minnie and Max Cook were around the corner on Vesper Street.
These are but a few and were within only one or two blocks of Congress Street.
I still frequently travel around the "hill" area reminiscing. Though much has changed or been torn down, much still remains, enough to evoke those nostalgic remembrances. The place across the street from our house used to have an A & P store and Brickman's Grocery store. Both are now gone and have been replaced with a parking lot. I used to "shoot" marbles against the Emerson Street wall of the A & P store. What I once thought was a beautiful Congregational Church is still there, but has fallen into a level of disrepair, with many of the lower level stained glass windows broken. The kids used to roller skate there because there was such a nice inclined sidewalk. There is also something sad in noting the changes that have come with what many call years of progress.
There is so much that is gone forever, though remaining in memory.
These include the Brickman store opposite the house; the newly created parking lots where many of the old buildings used to stand, such as the Hebrew School; the Anshe Sephard Synagogue; and the old Community Center on Wilmot Street. There is a whole block gone from the Beckett-Wilson-Munjoy Street area which was converted to the Marada F. Adams School. That was where Mendel Robinson had his garage. I remember Marada F. Adams. She was the principal of the Emerson School and stands out as one of the teachers influencing me so greatly, having cultivated my liking for the arts. She was proud of having been featured in Robert Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" column, and once asked me to take note of the fact that her name was spelled with the only vowel being an "a" and that occurred at every other letter except for the last two! Marada F. Adams was not only the principal, but an aristocratic looking woman out of the Victorian age in her dress and demeanor who always took time for any student, acting almost like a mother away from home. I can still see her with her hair in a mass of very small, tight curls. She helped in directing me to seek satisfaction and knowledge in the arts, especially the painting genre, since she also taught art at Emerson School, coming into the classes at various times to teach the subject. That started early at that school, since I remember receiving picture awards for poetry and art beginning in the sixth grade, where Mrs. Cox was the teacher. I still have some of those awards, one in particular, a Rosa Bonheur black and white copy of horses, which is hanging in the bedroom at the beach cottage. The Emerson School still stands on Emerson Street, a little to the diagonal across from where we lived on Congress Street. It, too, however, has had time take its toll and was converted to condominium housing.
The schools I attended before that and the teachers there made a strong impression on me. The first school I attended was the Monument School which, would you believe, was on Monument Street, three and one-half blocks from home. My Kindergarten and sub-primary teacher was Ms. Morse of whom I retain only a mental picture of a kindly, tall, and frail looking person. In the first grade, Mrs. Sawyer, who wore pince nez glasses, gave me my first liking for spelling and mathematics, even though on a limited basis. She was white-haired, wore her hair in a bun, and taught us to knit on spools that had held thread and into which one pounded nails to use to form the end product. Ms. Thompson used to come into class about once every week or two to teach Music Appreciation, another subject that became so important over the years, contributing to my liking for music. That doesn't mean I really enjoyed the Piano lessons I took and for which I had to practice every day!
My second grade teacher was Ms. Saunders. I must have been seven/eight years old and I think she was the first "crush" I had. I remember once giving her some flowers I had picked in the fields and brought to her home at 55 Merrill Street. Odd, but I don't remember the class itself! I do remember, however, playing jack-in-the-box in one of the school plays and for which the newspaper printed a picture which is in our photo album. The next class, third grade, was with Ms. Staples. She was a female martinet and disciplinarian who, in my looking back, taught me little, but kept the class in order.
Though those classes must have begun the foundation for the future, I recall that the fourth grade at Shailer School on North Street under Ms. Lappin first introduced me to the real rigors of English vocabulary and grammar. It was during that class year that I had entered the Cumberland County spelling bee, competing against all comers through the eighth grade. I wound up near the top, within a few of actually winning the bee, but failing when I forgot to capitalize "Lilliputian".
I was awarded a little silver pin-on medallion which someone stole from my sweater when I hung it in the cloak room in school. The fifth grade Mrs. Farr was a tyrant, but I liked her and she helped me continue on the grammar and math track.
The mention of schools would be incomplete, as I already noted, if I were not to include the fact that I also had Hebrew lessons and went to Hebrew School. My first Hebrew teacher, Mr. Emmanuel, came to the house a few times a week to give me a grounding in Hebrew alphabet, grammar, and reading. I remember his hands being stained from cigarettes. By the time I was eight years old I went to the Portland Hebrew School on Pearl Street, which was about a mile from home and near the City Hall. Though I remember all the Hebrew teachers, the one who stood out for being the best was a kindly gentleman named Joseph Modes. He prepared me for my Bar Mitzvah. I can still see him smoking a cigarette so long that he eventually had to use a toothpick to hold the remains of the cigarette, since he smoked it down to the very end.
Regular school was over at four o'clock, after which I would eat something and then go to Hebrew School from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. We also attended for two hours on Sunday morning. In addition to that we had to attend services every Friday night and Saturday morning. The 5:00 to 7:00 schedule was called the "Low class" and lasted for four years, after which we went to the "High class", which met the same days, except the evening sessions were from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Not everyone went the full course of years, since many stopped after becoming Bar Mitzvah. There were no Bat Mitzvahs then and some fellows didn't even have Bar Mitzvahs as we now look at them or even as I had. My brothers had what was known as an "upp-riefing", that is where the Bar Mitzvah was called up to the Torah on a Monday or a Thursday morning, after which the older men making up the "Minyan", the ten man complement necessary to hold services, might each partake of a drop of "schnapps".
This series of years of Hebrew School education continued even after I finished the curriculum at the formal Hebrew School. I was tutored during public High School by a private Hebrew teacher, a Mr. Gerber, who lived at the other end of the City of Portland from our house and required a walk of over two miles each way.
My grandfather, Mordechai, who was called "Vetter Mottel", that is Father or Uncle Mordechai, by my mother, continued that education, for I remember spending some Sundays with him when I came home from Bowdoin College and he would make me do some work from the Talmud. He was a very learned man and I remember the Jewish community feting him for completing the reading by himself of the complete Talmud and G'Morra, not once, but twice during his lifetime.
His attempts at educating us and continuing the learning and culture of Judaism took many shapes. There was one Passover Seder during the reading of the Haggadah when he asked for a translation from the Hebrew text. He stopped any of us from translating until he checked the Haggadahs to make sure there were no Hebrew - English translations therein, but only the Hebrew text and then asked for the translation. And that translation had to be in Yiddish, not English!
Another instance occurred when I went into his grocery store where he was, at the time, reading the Portland Evening Express. When I spoke to him he disregarded me until I spoke in Jewish, even though he was reading the English newspaper and carried on his conversations with his customers in English.
I should tell you about his entrepreneurial progress. He had started out "peddling" from a horse and wagon which he kept stabled on Stone Street or Larch Street with the Baer family, another side of the family from Joseph's (of the three brothers) second wife's siblings and offspring. I had pleasant rides on the horse and wagon in the summer and in the winter, too, when it was outfitted with skids for the snow. I used to like to ride while standing on the rear runners as the sleigh was pulled through the snow. He progressed from that to where he became the proprietor of a grocery store at 435 Fore Street opposite what was Klaman's bottle shop, and on the location where there was first a series of restaurants behind the bank on Middle Street.
What is now on the location of 435 Fore Street
Klaman's bottle shop opposite 435 Fore Street
The Talmudic studies I made with him while l was in college were more in the nature of philosophical discussions, but had to be conducted using Yiddish. He was then in his mid-80s and was still interested in learning. He was constantly studying and attempting to learn, either from reading and rereading all the old Hebraic literature or expressing an interest and asking questions of everything about which he was not acquainted in the new. I remember how difficult it was for me to try to explain the Trigonometry and Calculus I was studying at college. He made me do the same with my Hebrew studies at the Hebrew School when I visited him and my grandmother after Sunday Hebrew School, eating lunch with them, and just passing the time being a grandchild.
My aunts, Celia and Rita, my father's sisters, worked in a fabric and sewing material store of Middle Street at the corner of Chatham Street. That was a street which has now disappeared in favor of an office building at the southeast corner of the Franklin-Middle arterial.
Chatham Street was about where the two buildings have a central entrance. Another street in that area, Deer Street, has also disappeared, but it was there on the waterfront side of Middle between Pearl and Franklin Streets that David Robinson lived and had his oil business. It was there, at 33 Deer Street, that Rose Filler Seigal Chandler first lived on coming to the United States. That whole area of what was known as Lower Middle Street was a mixture of commercial activity conducted by different ethnic groups. Next door toward Franklin Street from my father's store was Myer Bloom’s tailor shop. Mr. Bloom taught me how to use the steam press and let me use it whenever I wished. A couple of doors from him was deJulio's Drug Store and he always had a goody of sorts for me. I especially liked the fruit flavored Italian slush, which was also sold during the warm summer days from a pushcart on Middle Street.
My brother, Lou, was studying Spanish in High School (I must have been seven or eight years old at the time) and he tried to talk Spanish with a Portugese gentleman named Frank?. From Franklin Street, between Congress and Commercial Streets, to India Street was the first stopping place for many Jewish families, but can hardly be considered a ghetto. There was an intermixture of Italians and Greeks, especially from India Street going North to Mountfort Street and west to the Cemetery. The commanders of the Boxer and Enterprise warships of the war between Britain and the United States (1812) are buried there. Portland lost another valuable landmark in that area at the corner of Hancock Street and Fore Street on the eastern section of that area, Longfellow's birthplace. A steel fabrication company took over that site and has itself been replaced by a mini-brewery.
Where Longfellow’s birthplace used to be
Portland failed to see the cultural importance of what it had, a mistake it has made many times, as can be seen from the destruction of its Union Station Railroad Station on St. John Street.
The Old Union Station
There used to be three Jewish butcher shops on Middle Street just north beyond Franklin. One of them was owned by the Mr. Blumenthal who loaned my father the money to get his business started, and the other, across the street, by another Mr. Blumenthal. The third was owned by Jonah (Yoneh) Schwartz and a Mr. Benjamin. That store was on the waterfront side of Middle northerly and beyond the second Mr. Blumenthal. It was next door to the Weiner Grocery store and had a "shochet's" store on its other side. The shochet took care of ritualistic killing of animals for consumption by the Jewish community.
I remember the shop and the process for killing chickens. The store was fairly narrow and one wall had about ten half-conic shaped, lengthwise cut metal containers mounted with the wide side up and the bottom cones cut off so there was a small opening at the bottom for the blood to drain. The "shochet" would take the chicken, or any fowl, bend its head back, clean some feathers off the neck and, with a quick stroke of an extremely sharp razor, slit the throat of the bird and thrust it head down into the cone of metal so the blood would drain out of the bottom into a trough set below the metal half-cones. That is still a vivid recollection after all these years. There were also always at least three Jewish bakeries, Sklar's, Seavey's and Goldberg's, the first two on different corners of Newbury and Franklin Streets, and two or three grocery stores besides Weiners that catered to the Jewish trade, Chude's, F & L, and Seavey's.
Jonah (Yoneh) Schwartz was, as I recall, a florid-faced man with a gold tooth in the middle of his front teeth. He was married to another of our "cousins", Sarah. She was the daughter of Toybe, one of the sisters of the three Filler brothers. We called her Meema Toybe and she was married at age 14 to Michel Schleger. He had been married once before to another sister of the three Filler brothers, Rachel (Rochel), who had burned to death. They lived in the town of L'Katsch. (These names are spelled phonetically and may actually have been spelled differently.) I was told that Rochel and Toybe were half-sisters, but I haven't yet determined where the "half" came in.
Michel Schleger changed his name to "Nelson". Thus we have Max Nelson who was a brother to the five sisters. Sarah had a number of sisters: Rose (1886-1962), who married Jake Robinson, a son of David; Enya, whose family was killed by the Nazis ( as we shall find were many others in the family); Becky (1881-1945) who married Abe Thorner (1887-1941); Eeta (Etta) (1894-1978) who married and later divorced Joseph Chase; and Esther ( -1935), who married Harry Katz. Harry had a grocery store at the corner of Wilson and Munjoy Streets before his family moved to New York. Sarah also had a number of brothers: Max Nelson (1882-1948); Shieh and Yitzchak (Isaac), on neither of these last two do I have information. Meema Toybe also lived in Portland as did, for at least some time, the families of Rose, Eeta, Esther, and Sarah and we visited often with all of them and their children.
As you can see, there was not only a wide variety of acculturization by the immigrant families to the American way of life of which they all took advantage by providing education and other opportunities for their children, but the families stayed together and kept in touch constantly. In the immediate foregoing group of Nelsons/Schlegers and visits to Becky Thorner frequently since they were living only fifteen miles away in Biddeford, Maine. Rose Robinson and Jake moved to Montreal, but there was a large family contingent there. There were the Meema Kayleh and her children, the Lapideses, the Robinsons, and Mindel (Samuel Filler’s wife - he was my mother’s brother) and her children, to name a few. We would go to Montreal by train from the old Grand Trunk Railroad station at the corner of India and Fore Streets to visit and she would come with the family to Old Orchard Beach, which in those days was a summer playground for many Canadian Jewish families.
One of Rose's sons, Joe, and I played a lot together at the Beach. I should point out that he and I had the same name, Joseph, as did at least two other cousins. One was my father's brother Irving's son, Joseph, and another Joseph was my mother's brother's (Shmuel - Samuel) son. We were all named after the Joseph Filler brother (of the three brothers). Joe Robinson was the eldest
Joseph and his naming told the family that Joseph Filler in Poland/Russia (the Zaydeh Yosse) had died, probably in mid-1916, since Joe Robinson was born August 10, 1916, and it is customary in Judaism to name people after family members who have died. This was a means of perpetuating the name of that person and the people for whom he or she was named, of honoring the individual and keeping alive the memory of that individual. When the naming was switched from language to language, as in from Hebrew or Jewish to English, the attempt was always made to translate as closely as possible into the new language from the original. You can see this in your name which became Rachel from Rochel, after Grandma Rose, and in Nathan's being not only the same as Grandpa Nathan's in English, but also close to the Hebrew Nossen. In looking at the names of my father, Nathan, and my grandfather, Mordechai, this is evident in that the same man is immortalized in their naming, since they were named after Nossen (Nathan) from Pri(e)tsk and Mordechai Mordesh (Mordechai ben Yudah), one and the same person. Thus, the naming of my father and my grandfather kept alive the name and memory of one of my forebears and what he did as had been done for generations before them.
It is quite apparent that many of the people I have mentioned were "immigrants". And there were many more in the family. What I have really written is part of the story of a family of immigrants.
You have to know that the families, Filler/Robinson, were large families, especially in the generation starting with the three brothers their immediate offspring, and the "in-law" families with whom they became associated. Besides the three original brothers, they had a sister, Malka Simmah, who married a Mordechai Schiff, and their daughter Bessie married Yossef Hirsch Nelson, the son of Malka's sister, Rochel (Michel Schleger's first wife). His mother was one of the Filler/Robinson sisters and she died in a fire. Rochel's child, Rivka, and her entire family of husband and their two children and their families of five and six people, respectively, were killed by the Nazis. One of Rochel's daughters, Chana (Anna), was married to the Rabbi Moshe Rokeach and they have an extensive family in the New York area. A sister of Chana's was named Pesse and she was the matriarch of our cousins, the Cook family. The last sister of the original Filler and Robinson triumvirate was Fayga (Francis is one translation). She married a Nachman Wolf Ca(h)n and became the matriarch of the Cohen family of cousins.
That, however, is only one side of that family and we haven't yet gone down a generation, nor to the families of their wives, many of whom were sisters, creating great interrelationships such as Eeta, David Robinson's wife; and her sisters Chia, Grandma Rose's mother; Kayla, of the Lapides branch of the family; Entze, who was the Tabachnik family entree; Dintze, of the Greenberg family (and related Browns and Birnbaums; Shmuel, with a large Filler contingent in Montreal, Canada; Chana, with offspring in Israel; and Y'Chiel; and Grandma Rose's mother, Chia after whom your Aunt Karen was named. Their children created a large group of cousins. Below are some pictures of the pictures I have of Grandma Rose's family:
Brother, Isaac Sisters Chana and Toybe
Chana married a Mordechai Lichtenberg and they had a daughter who went to Israel. They did have two children, one named Israel, and the second named Chayim, who was born around 1888. Yitzchak lived in Warsaw and I have no record of whether he married or not. Toybeh, who was born about 1875/6, married Avram Nachman, a brother to Mordechai, Grandpa Nathan's father. Rose, my mother, had a brother Shmuel (Samuel). He married Mindel.
Chana, Rose's sister - Shmuel, a brother, and his wife Mindel
The above of Rose's family were descendants of Zaydeh Yosse from his first wife. There are a couple of pictures I will show here from his second wife's children and offspring. You've seen some others: One a daughter, Hoodis, Grandpa Nathan's mother - my grandmother. Below are one of Hoodis's brothers, Beryl Filler, who was the father of Ving Fuller and Sam Fuller, of whom I have already told you. He is with his nephew, my father, Nathan. Below that is another son of Beryl's, Itzak, who was also called Israel and Thomas. This was taken at his Bar Mitzvah.
Beryl Filler and Nathan
Another picture is of one of Nathan's brothers, Wolf, taken in 1922:
and a picture of two cousins of Grandpa Nathan, grandchildren to Zaydeh Yosse and his second wife. On the left is Rose Filler Ziblatt and the right, her sister, Mabel Wuraftick, daughters of Pinchas, a son of Zaydeh Yosse and his second wife. This picture was taken on July 28, 1917.
Another aspect to be kept in mind is that all these people were considered "cousins". There was no distinction of "first" cousin or "second" cousin or "first cousin, once removed" or the like. We were all cousins and all one big family that lived congenially with each other. At first Portland was a focus with David Robinson and all his children who came as "immigrants"; Grandma Rose and Grandpa Nathan and their immediate families who came later were also "immigrants"; Grandma Rose's aunts and their families who were immigrants such as the Meemas Dintze, Toybe, and Eeta, all of whom lived in Portland, and Kayla, who immigrated to Montreal where a large contingent of the family preceded her and also followed her there, including some from Portland, Maine.
I don't want to overburden you with the seeming biblical begots and begats, but another practice is that some of those people married twice. A case in point is Joseph, my great grandfather. He had many children from his second wife, Yetta. Yetta was a Baer and had five brothers and sisters who had a number of offspring, and Yetta had five children and I am sure you will have heard, at some time, of some of them, though you may not realize it. I recall stories about many of them, many of whom were "immigrants" and were helped out by others in the family who preceded them, an act that brings to mind a biblical command that is stated so many times in so many different places in liturgy and other areas and is appropriate here because of the caring each of them had for each other: "Remember you were a stranger in a strange land", the original reference being to the captivity of the Jews in Egypt and the admonition to treat strangers properly, respectfully, and in a friendly manner because you remember how you would have wished to have been treated when in Egypt.
Mention of Egypt reminds me of Passover and the Seders. Grandma Rose, my mother, always made (“prave’d”) the Seders and had the whole family in attendance for both of the Seders. Frequently there were other guests for the Seders or after the Seders. Both nights were festive evenings. The preparations started many weeks earlier. At least two or three months before, Grandpa Nathan, my father, would start buying various items we would need. The many baskets of Concord grapes had to be bought sufficiently in advance to make the passover ("Pesachdikke") wine. A few weeks before Passover the "mead" was prepared. "Mead" is a form of beer, but its fermentation had to conform with the various food limitations. Grandma made it with mashed potatoes and egg whites for the fermentation catalysts and after having been placed in a wooden cask for five or six weeks it was ready to drink. We would have it plain or with seltzer water.
When I was smaller, there was little variation in the foods. There was very little in the way of "milk" (Millicheke") foods and the diet was then heavy in meats and foods made with chicken fat. Milk finally was made so that it could receive a "Hechshe", the rabbinate OK, and become available for Pesach. It came in quart milk bottles and some mornings it was so cold that the tops were popped up through the paper Hechshe. Fried matzoh (now called matzoh brie by many) was a favorite of mine and even now very few people can make it the way I remember and the way it tasted. I am appalled, at times, to see what has become of such an ethnic food, trying to treat it like pancakes, with maple syrup or some such variation. It was also about this time of year that my mother would order a five-gallon (5) container of skimmed milk and make farmer's cheese to try to make dishes for a varied Passover diet.
Getting back to Pesach, about four or five weeks ahead, Grandma would also prepare "Rossel" which is a type of beet juice derivative. She would put the beets in a crock and let it stand until fermentation was well along. The beets would lose all their color and she would make a white beet kugel from those beets for the first night of Pesach. I remember that beet kugel being a favorite of Mr. Hirshon, who would come to the house especially to have some. The Rossel juice was used to make a beet soup in which the most delicious flanken was made ("stringy" meat is what our kids called it).
Also starting a few weeks before, she made goodies of various types, preparing them well in advance of the Seder week. There were crushed almond cookies, "Mayorin" (carrot) candy with ginger, prunes soaked in wine and then stuffed with walnuts and rolled in powdered sugar, dates with walnuts in place of the pits, macaroons, brownies, sponge cakes, fruit cakes, various citrus fruit rinds preserved and sugared, and cookies. I remember that for the cakes, Grandpa had to buy a crate of thirty (30) dozen eggs!
A week or so before the Seders the house had to be made Kosher for Pesach. It was cleaned thoroughly, so thoroughly, in fact, that when it came to looking for the Chometz we would put bread in strategic spots around different rooms so there would be chometz to find the night before the first Seder. Then Grandma would heat up some fairly large stones in the stove. It was a coal stove and she would put rocks on top of the coals under the lids. Next she would boil plenty of water. We would then dig a hole in the ground behind the house, put in the hot rocks and the silver and pots and pans on top of the rocks and pour on the hot water. This would "Kasher" (Kosher) the utensils so we could use them for Pesach. The cleaning of the house included taking the sides of orange crates and lining the sink so that if anything not "Pesachdik" happened to be left in the sink after having been thoroughly cleaned, it would not touch the utensils. Much food was all prepared ahead and enough extra made to give to all her children to take home and have for the entire holiday. She also made all the gefilte fish from scratch. She would make "Tzimmes" and various kugels. The beet borscht and meat were never thought to be enough so there were always two or three other entrees, usually a stuffed veal pocket and a chicken, which would be preceded by chicken soup with "kna(y)dlich" (dumplings), and sometimes Lou and Mickey would bring up a roast from Boston..
Since the Seders lasted all evening and nothing in the Haggadah was ever skipped, Grandma felt we should have something to "nosh" (eat) even before the Seder started. The Seders rarely started on time because we usually had to wait for my brother, Lou, to arrive from Boston with his family.
Not only did we nosh the goodies already mentioned, but Grandma made at least one or two each of potato kugels, apple kugels, and apricot kugels for us to eat while waiting and in front of each place at the table was a small container of nuts and raisins to eat so we wouldn't get hungry during the Seder.
I mentioned the discussions that went on concerning the questioning about the readings. Everyone joined in and we all sang the Pesachdikke songs, such as Ha Gad Yoh and all the others and the highlight of the evening was always when Grandma sang her version of "Min Ha Maytze" and when she would not wait for the second portion of the Matzoh prayer before she would start to put the matzoh in her mouth.
Part of the preparation involved other aspects, at least two of which I mention now. First was the going around the house the night before the Seders to pick up all the "Chometz" (non-passover foods). The second was the preparation of the horseradish, usually a job for my brother Lou. And if you have never "rubbed" horseradish on a "reeb-eisen" you can't begin to understand what it was. Best to do it out of doors at a time when the wind was blowing away from you! The result is what many people call "Jewish Dristan".
I remember making it one time and Diddy (Ed) Sacknoff's cousin, Rita Willis, came over the day before the Seder. She said she loved the smell of the horseradish and before I could tell her how strong it was, she took a sniff and wound up sitting on the floor. Another instance was at a Seder at Lou and Mickey's house and I had brought some freshly ground horseradish there for the Seder.
My nephew, Teddy, not being used to other than "store-bought" horseradish, took a large mouthful and was overcome by the heat of it and had a hard time cooling off his mouth. In fact, that scene is memorialized in one of my pictures.
Sometimes during the meal, but at least always by the time the meal was finished, Diddy (Edward) and Eva Sacknoff would visit. Eva was one of the daughters of Birsch and Dvora Cohen whom I mentioned above. Also, Moe (Morris) Greenberg and his wife Sylvia would drop in. This is a different Greenberg from our family. He was a classmate of my brother Lou's. Those were the regulars, though others also came by. Some times we would have guests for the Seder itself, such as the times Sol Goldstein, one of the clothing suppliers from New York, stayed for the Seders. If he had to be in Portland over the holidays he would also join us for Passover meals during his stay since he “kept Kosher, that is he did not eat non-Kosher food. Another time my niece, Carol, brought an exchange student from Germany to the house. At different times I remember my mother's brother, Hyman, being there for Pesach , and his future wife (my mother's niece, Ann) was there at one time. The Wines (my wife’s, Marge's, parents) were always there whenever they were in town.
It is nice to remember all those Seders and the good times they epitomize. I remember only a few after they were no longer held at Grandma Rose's house. We tried to recapture that feeling and sense of family, by having the Seders at our house, and sometimes it was held at Lou and Mickey's house, during which time we did have all the family come to Portland or Boston, with Grandma in attendance as long as she could. However, the sense and feeling of it is slowly disappearing, especially since we started spending the holidays in Florida.
One Seder, in particular, is memorable for reasons other than the fact of Pesach. I had wanted to make "mead". We had no wooden barrel and our daughter, Karen finally found one in Massachusetts. I proceeded to make the mead as called for in my mother’s recipe. For some reason, on the evening just before the Seder, I tasted the mead and it didn't seem to have the taste or the color I remembered. Grandma Rose was there and . . . one, two, three, she had me melt some sugar and just before it carmelized, put it into the mead. Lo! it was the right color. We didn't quite get the full body and we found out later, the barrel had some micro-organism in it so that whoever drank the mead didn't need any laxatives that night! I haven’t ventured to make it since.
Another night, when we were expecting family from Boston and others, there was such a big snow storm that the only ones who were able to come were the Cinamons (Molly and Jack). Molly is Sarah (Schleger) Schwartz's (Cook) daughter. They made it only because his panel truck was so loaded with snow that it was heavy enough to keep traction to drive through the snow. Once we stayed in Florida over the Seders, we found it less of what was comfortable as to its religious significance and feeling of family in the old sense. We went to Barry's a few times, once with Herb and Elaine Bennett, and a few times with Marge's father, Leo. One time we went to California to have the Seders with Michael and Sheila and the kids. The first night at Michael's was somewhat familiar in that an "old- time" family member, Bessie Robinson Loeb (she is Abraham Robinson’s daughter) was there. The second night was interesting because all participants were knowledgeable and involved emotionally in the Seder and the memories it brought them. I guess, however, "you can't go home again" as Thomas Wolfe once said. The foods aren't there; the communal participation and singing was less; and the feeling of interest is vaguer.
Interestingly enough, this is not true of the communal Seders we have attended. When I was stationed at Boca Raton Army Air Force Base, the air corps changed all its dishes and silverware to insure they were Kosher for Pesach to accommodate the Jewish people stationed there. For that particular Passover, Dave Greenberg's wife, Mary, helped with the preparations. Later, she was seen preparing something for Easter and we found out she was an Italian convert to Judaism, but was a totally practicing Jew, even though she volunteered to help others in their religion. Ginny (Virginia) Greenberg, Reuben's wife, was something like that, but her energies all went into making her life and family more Jewish. She walked to shul with Reuben every Saturday and holiday. She made the meals for the Jewish holidays and the Greenberg family left in town or nearby would all be there. She had them all over for Pesach: Carl and Leo and Sally and anyone else who was in the area and "prahve-d" a true seder. It was so pleasant to see this. Since the street we live on (Pya Road) had many Jewish families on it, the celebration of the holidays was quite obvious. You could see and know the Copes families, Arthur and Mitchell, were keeping tradition alive, as were Norman and Shirley Bogg, the Katzes, and Sam Shatz after them. It was one of the factors among others that indicated a common community of culture, observance, and tradition that made for a greater sense of family than our own, individual little group, making the holiday more meaningful. With Elijah so many others visited us and we knew them and their way of life was ours and we celebrated.
We have gone to communal Seders at our Club at Boca Raton for the past few years. At first I had qualms about going, but have found a great deal of what I found missing from most other Seders except from my generation back, though it is difficult to explain what it is if one hasn't lived it.
The feeling is one in which everyone is a participant, even if not directly involved in the actual "prave-ing" of the Seder and everyone is interested in each aspect of it no matter how short or how long the ritual may be, since all in attendance had the common religious background that makes for the communal participative feeling that is not found under other circumstances of having a Seder. My cousin, Irving Robinson, once wrote when I had told him how Karen had "prav-ed" a seder:
" I'm delighted to read about Karen's traditional seder. Nowadays, today's generation seem to abridge the Haggadah by reciting kiddush and chanting the Chad Gadyah."
At one of the communal seders at the Club I was asked to "ask the "Four Kashes" with the Jewish translation. So many people told me how much they enjoyed hearing it, many for the first time in years, and the nostalgia they felt in a common background made me feel good for having done it. On another occasion I was asked to sing the Kiddush and again there was a similar feeling, a felt sensation, of everyone having participated in that. There was also not the rush to get the reading over with in order to eat and the second portion is either skipped in entirety or so rushed as to lose much meaning. In others, it is usually only one or two people who read the Haggadah while everyone else is busy talking or isn't even at the table! Back to Thomas Wolfe. . unless I “prave” it myself with Marge.
END RACHEL part 3
BEGIN RACHEL PART 4
This brings me to another aspect of my parents lives. Not only were they busy bringing up a family and working the many hours necessary, but both were community oriented and charitable. Grandma participated actively in Hadassah, Council for Jewish Women, Jewish Home for the Aged, and other similar organizations. She contributed time and money and even made her daughters in law "life" members in some of the organizations. Grandpa was concerned with Jewish culture and education and was involved in developing the Hebrew Schools. There was the original one that I remember on Pearl Street (another building which disappeared in the progress to making parking lots) and then there was another on Noyes Street when Shaarey T`Philoh moved from Newbury Street.
The Shaarey T'Philoh Shul on Newbury Street
Grandpa would go around the state seeking contributions to aid in the development of the Hebrew Schools. He did similar work for the shul, not only the one in Portland, but also the one at Old Orchard Beach, lending time and money to both. He was a "behind the scenes" worker and advocate, believing in the Talmudic dicta that charity and charitable acts are done from the heart, without seeking gain or enhancement for one's self. He believed that such "giving" was best done without being “public" about it. This community work continued throughout their lives as long as each was physically capable. Some of that continues to this day and will continue into the future because of bequests Grandpa Nahan and Grandma Rose made in various trusts. There were many small trusts which were made in favor of local charitable groups, both Jewish and non-Jewish. One trust was a sizable "Nathan and Rose Chandler Charitable Trust" which left a bequest to a number of charities in the Southern Maine area and these were made directly to those organizations, the terms of which would enable those groups to use the interest on the bequests for their charitable works. A second bequest was the "Nathan and Rose Chandler Educational Fund". This has grown into a sizable six figure amount which is a bequest to Bowdoin College to finance scholarships and loans and to promote Hebrew and Judaic studies at the college.
The appreciation for that work, though acknowledged while he was living, was demonstrated at his funeral. The Shaarey T'Philoh Synagogue was full to standing room for a beautiful eulogy by Rabbi Bekritzky, after which the funeral entourage did something that had not been seen before in Portland. On the way to the cemetery before his interment, the funeral procession traversed the city, passing by all the shuls in the city, the Hebrew Schools, his former homes and the Jewish Home for the Aged!
If we go to another side of the family, to the brothers and sisters of Joseph Filler's first and second wives and their children we have another extremely large number of cousins. Zaydeh Yosse's first wife was Toybeh Malka, which might roughly translate to Toby Molly or Toby Mildred and you will find there are a number of Toybeh's among the cousins in succeeding generations. The idea was to insure that the name continued and that is why different branches of the family were able to and did use the same name. This was multiple insurance for the name and memory continuance.
Incidentally, romance existed then even though one may think it didn't in the "old" ages of years ago. Toybe was engaged once before to an Isaac Waze. He must have liked the family or they must have liked him because he later married another sister of hers, Rosse. But back to Joseph! After the death of Toybeh in giving birth to Hirsch (Zvi), Grandma Rose's father to be, Joseph married his second wife Yette (Ethel), who was Toybeh's sister. She lived to a ripe old age, too, as did a great many in the family, an uncommon event in those days.
In her line of brothers and sisters was a sister, Brentza, who lived in the town of Berdichev. She had a daughter, Chatzke, and two sons, the older named Yitzchak and the younger named Kos one of whom married Grandpa Nathan's sister in law. Grandpa Nathan had a brother, Kalman, and Kos, another brother, married a sister to Kalman's wife. Am I still with you? There was also a brother to Yette. He was named Yitzchak. Incidentally, all these brothers and sisters were the children of Kos and Malka Baer. It was recalled that Malka died around the year 1820. Their son Yitzchak was married twice, too. As is becoming obvious, the family had many prolific members. His first wife was Fraydel and they had two children and a number of grandchildren and his second wife was named Frayda. Yitzchak changed his name to Bluestein (from Baer) in his second marriage and was a wealthy merchant in Kisselin, Poland.
There are other siblings, but first I will point out here that one must be careful in tracing the lineages since there were so many marriages to close relatives. We must take note that there were only so many families in so few of the very small "shtetls" (towns) in that part of Europe. Another example, beyond those which you may have already noted is that Yitzchak's and Fraydel's daughter, Bas Sheva married a cousin of Max (Mendel) Robinson's first wife, Pesse! In that same group Rosse Waze's son, Pinchas took as his second wife, Frayda, the second wife and widow of his uncle Yitzchak. Something to consider, isn't it!
From what I could gather, Yitzchak and Frayda had a daughter, Helen, who married Moe Perel in 1945 (September 18). There are a couple of interesting stories about her and her family. One story she related to me at a meeting we had in 1984 or 1985. I did not know her before that except as a name on the family tree. My Uncle Irving, Grandpa Nathan's brother, knew many of the family members in Europe and kept in touch with them when they came to the United States and Canada.
Uncle Irving and first wife, Etta
Grandma Marge and I were wintering in Florida near where he lived. He told me that I had a cousin I had never met and arranged for a meeting. She lived barely a quarter of a mile or half mile from us at 2075 NE 164th St. in North Miami Beach and we visited her and her husband, Moe. She was a beautiful woman, with high cheek bones and a classic profile which reminded me of my mother, Grandma Rose. The story she told was of how she was caught in the Warsaw, Poland ghetto in World War II during the German siege of the city before they completely destroyed it and how she was able to escape only the day before that total destruction. She joined the underground when she left Warsaw and stayed on until liberation by the allied armies. Her husband, Moe, has died since I met them and she has since remarried, but I haven’t been able to find her new married name.
Another story associated with her developed over the years. She has two children about whom she told us. One was her son, Israel Pinchas, and the other a daughter, Freda Sarah (note the continuation of either Fraydel or Frayda in the name). Both of them lived in southern California at that time. To bring you up to date, Grandma Marge and I went to Berkeley, California, for the Passover Seders in April, 1992) to celebrate the holidays with Uncle Michael and his family. The first Seder night he had invited a number of relatives which included some in the Loeb family (from the Robinson side) and my nephew Mark's wife and children. Also there was a cousin, Ann, (daughter of my Uncle Irving), and another couple and their child. Would you believe that the wife in the other couple was Freda Sarah, who had since I met her mother, married and had a child and had moved to the Berkeley area. She became known to Michael's wife, Sheila, through their common profession of law and did not know of the relationship! That was quite a coincidence!
As for Yetta's brothers and sisters, of other than those I have mentioned, I have less recollection of them and their children. As I noted, I did know the Baer children of Hillel's second wife, Freda Dora. She also had a sister, Yetta, who was married and lived in the town of Sadef. I was told she had a daughter, Malka, who married someone named Shochet, and that family migrated to Toronto where her husband established an oil business in the earlier part of the twentieth century. When we were in Toronto I tried to locate the "Shochet" family but did not have any luck. There was also a brother, Mendel, of the town, Smiviche. He was married twice and had one son, named Yankel, of that marriage. He was a soldier in the first Russo Japanese War. As to the sequence of events before and after that marriage, little has been passed on to me. One incident that is said to have occurred when he was a young and unmarried man. He had fallen in love with a non Jewish girl and had gone to the town of Chemstoher for the purpose of converting in order to marry the girl.
Relatives from home went after him and brought him back to Smiviche where they confined him at home until he gave up on that idea. The second tale concerns his having remarried to a girl named Frayda, with whom he had three sons and three daughters. He emigrated to the United States, settling in Philadelphia where he engaged in the leather and cosmetics businesses. Two of his sons died at an early age in 1909. The third son was named Kos. Nothing more was known of him, to my knowledge, after 1910 or so. I was more familiar with many of the grandchildren of Yetta and their children and will tell you about them as we go on.
As you can see, I have left the doors open for others to try to expand on my knowledge of the family!
The period of the 1920's was one of growth and sacrifice for Grandpa Nathan and Grandma Rose as we can see from what I have written. In 1928, Uncle Lou graduated high school and he went to Boston University. That added another burden to the finances of Grandpa and Grandma. I remember Grandma's baking every Friday for Shabbos and sending a package of goodies to Uncle Lou almost every week. Grandma was always making and doing. She would bake cakes and cookies and pastries of all kinds. When she went out and found some food she liked, she would come home and add it to her repertoire, always improving on the original. People, to this day, talk about her delicious foods and full tables, from kugels, and "kreppen" (thin poppyseed dough wrapping a filling that was then boiled in honey); all kinds of candies and candied fruits, and preserves and brandies of fruits. She would bake and cook enough to send some to other families or bring with her on visits to them. And one entree at a dinner was rarely enough. There had to be two or three or four and enough for people to take home with them. This was a practice Grandma Rose made throughout her life. Even after Grandma Marge and I were married, Grandma Rose would bake things for everyone.
Grandpa Nathan would take a package of "kichels", a thin sweet yeast dough rolled into a crescent shaped roll and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and "oil pletzels", a flattened yeast bread dough that was made into a pancake size and deep fried, and bring them to us or leave them, on the steps of Grandma Marge's folks. Even when we were at Old Orchard, living in the second cottage right on the avenue, Grandma Rose and Grandpa Nathan would stand on the porch and ask people to come in to eat with them.
Bread dough recipe
for Bread, or Oil Pletzel, or Onion (Tsibbelle) kuchen
Dissolve 1 1/4 Cups hot water with
2 TBS oil or shortening
Also dissolve "1 5 cent " yeast cake (which is now 3 yeast cakes of
approximately .6 oz. each)
in 1/4 cup luke warm water and
1 TBS white vinegar
In large bowl sift 6 Cups King Arthur flour (High gluten)
(Start with 5 and add as needed)
2 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
Make hollow in this mixture and add
When Water/oil and yeast mixtures are cool add to flour
Mix well until stiff and kneadable, adding as much of 6th cup flour as required. Knead until smooth. Brush bowl with oil. Place ball of dough in bowl and brush top of kneaded dough with oil. Cover and let rise until double in size--approximately one to two hours.
For Oil Pletzel:
Take sections of dough and shape into round four to five inch diameter circles about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Drop into medium hot (approx. 325 degrees) oil. Turn frequently until brown on both sides. Serve with salt and butter to taste.
For Bread and TsibbelleKuchen:
Knead dough after first rising.
Cut dough into bread or Kuchen sized uses. For bread, this recipe will make two medium loaves. For Kucken, this will make about eight kuchens.
Shape for proper use; bread into two round loaves, kuchen into as many kuchens as can be formed: pieces about six to seven inches in diameter and 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.
Place on greased (oiled) baking tin and let rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Brush top with beaten egg yolk.
Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Let rise a few minutes, then
Bake in preheated (375 degree) oven for aboiut 50 to 60 minutes
Hollow center slightly.
Brush with shortening and then with
beaten egg yolk
Prick top with fork and
add Poppy seeds and shredded onions
Let rise again (15 minutes)
Bake about forty minutes in overn preheatedto 350 degrees.
Cool either on rack.
Though the next event I relate happened much later, it is appropriate to mention it now since I talked of "oil Pletzels". Uncle Lou was by August-September, 1994, quite sick and we were to be going to Florida for the winter. Marge's brother, Buddy, had recently had an operation and we decided to visit Bud on the week end before we were to leave for Florida and then Lou on the way back from Portland. We had already seen Lou about two weeks before that, when I had brought him "gebacks" (baked goods) of cinnamon crescents (kichels), "putter" kichels, and pecan rolls. This time I brought the makings for oil pletzels, one of his favorites, and hoped he would be able to eat them. To say the least, he devoured them and when I told my other brother, Harold, what I was making he came over from Belmont and we had a wonderful time together. This was the last time I would see Lou.
Back to the narrative! First, some more pictures of the era about which I do not have too many firm recollections, but are more or less chronologically important.
Various of Nathan and Rose, cir. 1910 1912
Rose with Harold and Lou in the late 19 teens
Nathan, Joe, and Rose in back of 56 Congress Street, 1920
Hyman, Rose, Nathan
Harold and Lou, 1920
At my Bar Mitzvah, which took place in Old Orchard at the "shul" (synagogue) there in August of 1933, Grandma made everything and invited the Congregation into the cottage following the services to celebrate. The officiating rabbi was the rabbi from Montreal. Two of us were Bar Mitzvahed on the same day, but I did all the Torah reading.
It was not only in the culinary arts that Grandma Rose excelled, but in other areas. She would knit dresses, crochet bedspreads and tablecloths and doilies. She made needlepoint articles for some of her furniture. Most of her furniture was made by a local artisan, Otto Lange, who had a shop on Union Street. He made copies of Chippendale for Grandma and did the hand carvings that make them outstanding works of art. Grandma would see an item in a magazine and have him make her a copy. One such copy was of furniture that was in the Stanford White home. He made the newspapers for some famous (or infamous) event (murder) about which I don't now recall much, but the furniture pictured appealed to Grandma.
Grandpa Nathan during those years built his business, the Pine Tree Clothing Supply, at 111 Middle Street and became the supplier to many of the Jewish peddlers. I remember going with him to make collections from various people who bought merchandise from him to sell on the road with the proviso they would pay him later. In many instances, later did not come. I came across a "Receivables" ledger from those early years when we were emptying the house on Grasmere Road around 1972 or 1973. It had between $10,000.00 and $15,000.00 in receivables that were never repaid to Grandpa, and those were from the years on either side of the market crash of 1929, a time when any income was of extreme importance.
This reminds me of another story of Grandpa's early years and involved a man who eventually became one of the wealthiest men in Portland and a most charitable individual. This man had incurred a debt with Grandpa during the very late 19-teens or early 1920's. It seems that when this man was getting started in his business he had many setbacks which eventually required him to go bankrupt. Though his debts were officially wiped out by the bankruptcy, he repaid only one debt, that to Grandpa Nathan because Grandpa never asked him for repayment nor dunned him for the money. They remained friends for life and I remember when I was very little he would give me a ride into Portland from Old Orchard Beach and frequently give me a half dollar, which was an extremely large gift in those days.
Grandpa moved his store from 111 Middle Street to 221 Middle Street, a more "uptown" location opposite Union Street. That location is now torn down for "progress" to make room for an expanded Temple Street. The 111 Middle Street is still standing, but most of the stores nearby are gone in favor of office buildings or streets or parking lots. The Portland Police Station now occupies the area from 111 Middle Street to the corner of Franklin, replacing Blooms Tailor Shop, David Finkelstein's store, the Anthoesen Southworth Press, and de Julio's Drugstore. There was another store at the corner, I think the Gordon’s Model Market. Now, across the street from there is a large office building, mostly still unoccupied, but considered "progress". It destroyed the Chatham Vine Deer Streets and the stores which were there, among them Hirshon's Jewelry Store, and Schlosberg's Leather and Shoe Repair store. In 1981, when we were living in North Miami Beach for the winter, I needed some shoes repaired. I went into a nearby shoe repair shop and was warmly greeted by name. It was the son of the Schlosberg Shoe Store owner from Middle Street!
Uncle Harold went to college in 1930, so Grandpa now had two sons in college, a great expense in those days and those economic times. It was over those next few years, I recall, that Myer Lerman and Joe Hirshon would help with loans. Not only were the times after the "crash of 1929" difficult, but now Grandpa had two sons in college and both went beyond the mere four years of undergraduate work.
One incident, in particular, told me of his circumstances. Some of my friends had suede jackets and I wanted one. A clothing salesman wholesaler representative had come into the store to sell my father clothing and he had those jackets for sale, but I was made to realize this was not possible at that time. A few months later, however, there was the jacket for me. Somehow, Grandpa was able to get it for me, knowing how much I wanted it. Grandpa would make do with what he had, but made sure his children were provided for. But we were never "in need". All families were "in the same boat", so to speak.
I notice that I more and more cite the problems with "progress". Though I invariably drive around town (Portland) and revisit places that bring back memories. There are fewer and fewer buildings still standing, affirmation, I suppose, that "you can't go home again!" except in memories.
Redman's Hall, where Grandpa Nathan and Grandma Rose were married, is gone and has been replaced by part of the Press Herald Building and a parking lot. (Tommy Livingston's men's store was on one side and a church on the other at the corner of Pearl and Congress Streets.) The old Jewish Community Center on Wilmot Street as well as the Pearl Street location of my Portland Hebrew School are now gone. All the stores near or across from 111 Middle Street are gone, as well as the 221 Middle Street store. The Monument Street school has been torn down and replaced by a house.
The Shailer School and Emerson School, though still standing, are now condominiums. Brickman's store opposite the 56 Congress Street house is now a parking lot. Mendel Robinson's house still stands, but his garage is the playground for the Marada Adams School. She would be so upset at the city's having omitted her "a", the separating middle initial from the name! On and on the disappearances continue and I must call upon the mind's visual eye to see those buildings still stand. Now, too late, like the City's lack of foresight, I wish I had retained those memories, at least, in photographs.
Grandpa even sought to expand his business in the very early 1930's by first selling from his store "on the road", creating a large group of customers who were not able to come to his store in Portland and making available to them goods at a price they could afford and on a credit basis. This was probably the beginning of what was later to become a flourishing economic part of the American economy when others entered that same market on similar credit terms with the selling of insurance for $.25 or $.50 per week: the house to house business of selling housewares at so much per week; the Avon and Fuller Brush door to door sales organizations; and later the vacuum sales and magazine sales door to door. He was undoubtedly not the first to think of this idea, but he was one of the first to turn it into a flourishing business. I even participated in that, functioning as a collector. At first, when I was fourteen years old, a man used to drive me around in my father's car to the various people who owed monies for their purchases. I would collect either $.25 or $.50 per week. In those days quite a few people could not afford to pay cash and the weekly payment method enabled them to make purchases for what they needed. In looking back, I think I figured out why Grandpa never became wealthy as others in that type of business did. He trusted almost everyone, as his delinquent accounts and bad debts later indicated.
Also, he "pitied" those who couldn't pay and I would sometimes take a half dozen or a dozen eggs or a pound of butter as payment, or sometimes nothing for weeks at a time. One reason for this was not that these people were "dead beats, but Grandpa had most of his customers on a route that encompassed the Biddeford Saco area, which was hard hit by the depression of 1929 and following, and textiles, which were the back bone of industry in those cities, became hardest hit. After all these years I still remember some of those people, the good and the bad, and I must say, they were mostly good.
It was during this period that I decided that I should be able to drive a car so it would not be necessary for Grandpa Nathan to pay to have a driver with me. During one of those times on a route in Saco collecting monies and with "George", the driver, beside me, I drove and didn't turn the steering wheel back in time when making a turn and drove into a fence. I was scared and didn't want to drive anymore, but George made me. Following that, I would practice driving and one Sunday morning, before my folks got up I backed the car out of the garage and practiced driving all around Portland and had the car back in the garage before they woke up and knew I was out. I was fourteen and couldn't wait for my fifteenth birthday, at which time I was able to get my license.
It was also during this period around 1933 and 1934 that he decided to open another store, this one in Biddeford called the Parisian Shop. This store was on Main Street and became one of the better Ladies clothing stores in the area, prospering for a number of years until the latter part of the 1930s.
He would run the Portland store and Grandma the Biddeford store until he eventually gave up the Portland store to devote full time to the one in Biddeford. He manned the Portland store full time with the aid of a book keeper, the first, Rita Epstein, and then Esther Mack. Grandma ran the Biddeford store with two saleswomen and a part time seamstress. There was also a subleased dry cleaning department in the Biddeford store and a sub leased millinery department.
The good times there lasted a few years until the late 1930s, when one of the storekeepers in Biddeford, a Mr Green, decided to make some extra money as a "finder" and viewed Grandpa Nathan's store as a site for an out of town department store in its place and he found fertile listening ground in the Parisian Shop's location owners, the Oshers. They broke the leases for that location and others, forcing Grandpa Nathan to move. I still, after these many years since, find it difficult to forgive the actions of those people, though I have gotten to the point where I can be friendly with some of their offspring. I guess the reason for my feelings is the difficulties and difficult times that circumstance visited on Grandpa Nathan and Grandma Rose.
In here is to be placed the “Osher” segment I wrote to Robert when the question arose about funding for Bowdoin’s Hillel.
In my notes concerning the Nathan and Rose Chandler Education Fund contribution for Bowdoin Hillel being considered, I mentioned one aspect that was close to my memory for many, many years. That has to do with the matching Osher fund and my “feeling” that it should be treated the same as would a college match, namely, that is, the name should be solely that of Nathan and Rose Chandler. I think you should all be apprized as to my reasons beyond what you might think from such a short “advisement” for it has to do with the “Osher” part of it and that is my “mishegass.”
First, and at this point, I want you to know that of Sam’s children, Hy Osher has been a very good friend of mine, as have been his two brothers, Bill and Al . In fact, Bill was a classmate of mine at Bowdoin. Al was our Karen’s orthodontist. I only knew Barney slightly and that he has been a fine philanthropist. I do not know their sister well. As to her, the only think I can think of, since I didn’t really know her, was she seems like a chip off the old block (her mother) when it comes to business and money. That said, I go back to a time before I even knew Hy and the others, back to the 1933-1934 period specifically, and some ensuing years.
Grandpa Nathan and Grandma Rose had, during the “great depression of 1929-et seq., opened a store in Biddeford, Maine: The Parisian Shoppe. It was located at one of the finest retail spots on Main Street in Biddeford and was doing extremely well for those times. Grandma and Grandpa were under a severed financial burden then. Not only had the depression hit. The mills in Biddeford, its mainstay economic base, had strikes and were in trouble, and my brothers were going through college and graduate school. Harold went to Bowdoin and Jefferson Med, while Lou was a BU College of Business and then Law School.
The store in Biddeford was not making a fortune, but enough to “pull through” with some aid from friends and relatives, at times. And I was at the very impressionable ages of from 11/12 on. The “on” is important, too. You can see what the drain on family finances were and how I was exposed to that problem daily, even though I “was a kid” and Grandma and Grandpa didn’t think I observed that much. But it not only affected me then in the early to mid-thirties, but the late thirties and beyond, because I carried in my mind what occurred then and was exposed to it in some psychological fashion ever since, including my time at Bowdoin as a classmate to Bill Osher.
Sam Osher and his wife, and she was actually the prime mover in this scenario, were very friendly with a group in Portland associated with Rines Bros. Store, The Weiners and another (I can’t remember the other, though if I heard it or even hear it now, I get slightly upset.) Just as our store was coming around to being rather successful. Besides Grandma and Grandpa being in the store all the time, we had two other clerks, Mrs. Grenier and Lawrence (a she), and a seamstress-clerk, Madame Crepeau. So you can see it was a pretty good organization for that period.
The Weiner group (Rines Bros.) Wanted to open a store in Biddeford and prevailed on the owners of our shop’s property, Sam Osher and his wife, to tear up the lease on our store and the shop next to us. That shop was a fabric shop owned by people named Dorfman. More on him later, too. They closed us up in practically no time and I remember driving a truck filled with merchandise to store it until we could find another site. I didn’t even know how to shift truck gears and went from one location to another using only one gear!
We found a retail store’s owner named Sam Polakewich who offered to build us a store on Lower Main Street. He felt we had gotten a raw deal and built is a store directly opposite his on Main Street and at a better price and lease than we had with the Oshers. There were many people who helped then, especially the Simanskys, who had a ladies’ shop, one of our competitors, helping with storage and reopening etc. A slight twist to the story: Mrs. Simansky was a sister to Mrs. Osher! Mrs. Simansky was Tyna’s mother.
Another twist, Mr. Dorfman, who lost his store, couldn’t cope with the loss even though he opened a new store. He became ill shortly thereafter and died. At my age, that was cause and effect.
The foregoing is but a short synopsis of my reasoning concerning the “name” for the contribution. If it were a Bowdoin matching fund, the name would not be the “Chandler-Bowdoin” Hillel contribution or a Chandler Bowdoin Chair of Hebraic Studies. It would still be only the “Chandler” funding.
Time for me to figuratively “drop the bone.”
They moved their store from that location to one a few doors farther down the Main Street towards Alfred Street and still functioned quite well. I drove the truck to move the merchandise from one store to another. Actually, the merchandise had to be put into storage first, because there was not a place available to which to move to immediately. Mr. Polakewich, who owned a men's store on Main Street in Biddeford, had an empty lot on the street and offered to build a store from Grandpa Nathan. Mr. Polakewich was from the "old" school which tempered business with moral considerations. Grandpa had known him not only from the business community on Main Street, but also from their both being involved in maintaining the "shul" in Old Orchard Beach.
Announcement of Parisian Shop opening
Uncle Lou had graduated from law school by then (1934) and had passed the Maine and Massachusetts Bars. Uncle Harold started in 1930 at the University of Maine in Orono for what he thought would be a career in chemical engineering, but switched in mid term of his first year to Bowdoin to "pre med".
Grandpa Nathan, Grandma Rose, and I drove up to Orono to visit Harold once and I remember waiting for him at a movie he had gone to: Eddie Cantor in "Whoopie". He had a room mate, whom I shall not name, who used to get packages from home as did Harold. While Harold shared his packages, the room mate hid his. Harold graduated Bowdoin in 1934 and was admitted to Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia the day after classes there began. It was right around this time that the following picture was taken when we were visited by a nephew of Grandma Rose's, Itzak Filler, who was a Rabbi in New York.
Harold, Nathan Rose, Itzak, Miriam, Lou
One of the reasons for the late admission was what existed then, but was winked at the "quota" system. This was a practice, though unannounced, and if referred to, was said not to have existed, the practice of limiting the number of Jewish students admitted to Medical School. We knew of his admission when he sent a telegram home asking for the money to register for classes. We drove down there for his graduation (1938). I remember only a few of things about Philadelphia and Jefferson and Harold of that period. Harold had a very close friend named Josh Segal at med school.
We visited an Italian family whom Uncle Harold had met and they served us a fabulous home cooked Italian meal (Grandma Rose made the bean dish we had there with her own variations); and we visited Washington. We ate in a fancy French restaurant in Washington and I remember buying a silky scarf. I think that was the first time I had been so far away from Portland!
The same discrimination as was evident in Harold’s case at medical school was true of undergraduate school, as I found it to be true when I went to college. It was the rare class at Bowdoin, a rather tolerant institution which denied that biases existed, where there was ever a class with more than four or five Jewish students or, for that matter, more than one black student. When I mention “class” I do not mean as in one classroom, but in an entire year’s class. There were no facilities for Jewish students such as fraternities or eating clubs and the sort. Though Jewish students may have been "rushed" by the fraternities at the beginning of the year, there was a drop in the fraternity's interest to pursue that, usually after the first day of "rushing". Fraternity members would deny this, but could only point out one exception where a most popular football player was pledged in the late 1930s.
On my first day at Bowdoin I was invited to Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, an invitation which I found to be the norm as far as "invites" (“Rushes”) were concerned, but within one or two days all such invitations to Jewish students stopped. What was interesting was that at that first ATO dinner we were served a meal which became the first time I had ever eaten non Kosher food. We were served some sort of creamed chicken and, to this day, I have not been able to eat most creamed foods of that type. Maybe that is where my aversion to many chicken based dishes started. Bowdoin, however, was good to me, as it was to all members of our family who attended.
Though my freshman year was a stressful one academically because of the bout I had with Pneumonia, it was the start of the real opening of my eyes and mind to what the world offered. I had decided to become a Mathematics major, but retained an interest in almost all other areas offered and over the years at Bowdoin I not only continued my "math" major and finished that by my junior year, but took enough courses to qualify for Economics and Government majors and a minor in German.
The extracurricular exposures were important in that I was able to further my interest in the arts, literature, and music. The Political Science Forum enabled me to travel to other colleges and universities in New England. Now standing out in memory are the one to Wellesley, where I heard Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt speak; one to MIT; and one at Smith College. All these broadened my political knowledge, as well as the understanding of socio economic issues considered as part of those meetings.
In the sports area I took fencing which I kept at until the mid to late 1970's when I had to give it up because of osteoarthritis in my hips. Besides affording me the opportunity to travel with the team, which was important during my last two years at Bowdoin since most of the trips were to the Boston area where I was able to see Marge, it enabled me, over the years, to meet other interesting people. In the late 1940's in Bangor, Maine, there was a fellow named Alejandro Solozarno, an ex-army colonel in the Ecuadorean cavalry; in the 1950's and 60's. There were also Al Solomon, a New York light fixture salesman, and "Doc" (D.O) Miller, a surgeon at the Osteopathic Hospital in Portland, Maine, all good fencers.
I’m sure I will jump back and forth in time and place, since these memories don't come to mind in a chronologically correct order, but one memory triggers another which may be further away in time and space from the original thought.
I see where I have not mentioned much of my high school years. There was little untoward during that time. It seemed it was studying, and practicing the piano, and doing nothing really out of the ordinary living that would make an impression lasting until now, except for the close family life we lived. School was…school. My teachers, or many of them, did make lasting impressions.
Though I had a number of teachers in each course over the years, a few stood out. My English and literature courses were taught competently by a Ms. Davis and Ms. Lila Stetson, but I remember most and best Ms. Ruth Sturgis. She made literature come alive. She knew, or seemed to know, Shakespeare most completely and by "heart" and would act out the various roles of each person in any comedy or tragedy we studied. She made those characters come alive. The Mathematics teachers were equally as good. "Bulldog" (I guess for her tenaciousness in insisting on our studying and learning) Stetson, through her course in Algebra, created the recognition and liking for the balance in thinking and thought that has stayed with me all these years. Ms. Martha Hopkins did the same for me in Geometry, with the niceties of logical thought and eventual proofs arising from that thought. It was through her teaching that I first thought I would become an architectural engineer, but this faded over time. Augusta B. Paine did the same for me in Latin. Even though there was “cribbing" in the translations (mostly between Kay Flaherty and me that I remember), she conveyed the love of foreign language and created the basis for a vocabulary that one would never attain without her specific guidance. Though I had other teachers for those same subjects, they fade before those I have mentioned. That does not mean they were not "good" teachers; only that these I mentioned were such outstanding ones.
It was in what I recall as my junior year in High School that a niece of my mother's, Anne Filler, came to the United States and stayed with us for a while. She was the daughter of my mother's brother, Shmuel (Samuel) and his wife, Mindel.
Anne Jack Filler's wife, Eva Hyman
(Sister to Jack) (brother to Rose)
Sister to Eva Filler
As I remember, he had died and Mindel emigrated to Montreal with her children, although I have been told that some of her children may have preceded her there. Her other children, besides Anne, were Jack (Yankel), in Montreal, who married Eva Herscovitch; Isaac (Yitzchak), who became a rabbi, married Dorothy Arshansky, and lived in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Hyman (Chayim), in Montreal, who married Sophie Simon from whom he was later divorced; Joseph, of Montreal, who married Helen Chopp; Celia, in Montreal, who was married to Morris Galet; Rose, who was married to Justin Fromme and about whom there is quite a story; and Herschel, of Montreal and who married Shaindel Feldstein. The brothers were in the electrical business in Montreal. Jack had been a lineman in Poland.
The Fromme story is but a sidelight, but an interesting one. He was a rabbi in one of the larger synagogues in Montreal. In 1970 he and Rose were divorced. It seems he became enamored of a French girl and the two ran away to one of the eastern provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.
But we come back to Anne. She and my mother's brother, Uncle Hyman, fell in love. He used to be in Portland quite a bit. He had many friends there and I remember that he used to like to play the mandolin, which he kept stored in the closet in our front hall. Anne and Hyman were married. My mother made a shower for her in Portland. They had no children. They moved to Montreal where he started a business catering to the ship's trade and he also had a facility in St. John, New Brunswick in the same business.
In 1938, I entered Bowdoin College. It was a difficult first year, since I got pneumonia in November of 1938 and couldn't return to classes until the second semester was about to begin in January of 1939. I crash studied and was able to pass all my first semester course with fairly decent grades so that I began the second semester on time. It was in 1939 that I met another couple of my cousins who had come to visit my folks.
Yetta's (Joseph Filler's second wife) had a son, Beryl. He was married twice. He married his first wife, Rivka (Rita), around 1891, whom he divorced after thirty five years. They had seven children. I remember visiting Beryl and his family when they lived in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Irving and Samuel (Simcha) Filler were the two cousins who visited us in Portland. One, Irving, had changed his name to Ving Fuller. He became involved on Broadway and helped create and stage the show "Hellza Poppin" and also the cartoon character of Hellza poppin. He died in 1965 and I do not know more about him.
Sam, the other brother, changed his name to Sam Fuller. He had difficulties at home and left home at an early age. He worked on a newspaper in New York (Rochester?) and then went to Hollywood. I'm sure it didn't happen that quickly, but took many years. He became a writer and director and producer there. The first movie of his that I recall was on the "Front Page" format and was partly autobiographical. The next one I saw was "The Steel Helmet", which was a story of the Korean War and the next one I saw advertised was "The Big Red", which was also partially autobiographical.
He has become a cult figure as king of the "B" movies and the University of Miami had a film festival in his honor in the late 1980s.
I had not seen him since 1939. One of May Lerman's daughters had been in Hollywood a few years before and had not been able to contact him. When I saw his name in the Miami Herald for the festival announcement, I decided to see him. . . after fifty years. My wife and I were living in Florida for the winter at the time and it was only a short distance to the convention hall where he was to be. I didn't know what he looked like, but felt I would recognize him easily. I stood at the entrance to the Center and soon saw this small statured man in a white suit who seemed to be accompanied by a couple of students. He looked like some of my other cousins, but I wanted to make sure he would stop and talk. I walked up to him and addressed him by his Jewish name, Simchah, thinking that would surely get his attention. It did! He did a double take, asking me what I had said. When I repeated it, he wanted to know where I had gotten that name, since no one had called him that in almost fifty years. I told him my parents' names and he then hugged me and we started talking. He was not a "family" man in the sense that he belonged to the large and extended Filler family. He was, however, extremely concerned with his "new" family, since he had only a few years before married a girl in France and had become a father of a little girl. We spent a short, but pleasant few moments, which passed all too quickly.
A second experience with Sam Fuller occurred in May of 1993 when we went to Israel and passed through Paris. I knew that he was living in Paris, but did not have his address or telephone number, but thought I would like to contact him. I was able to hunt through some telephone books and found he was living at 18 Reuilly and called him. Interestingly, the first comment he made epitomized his view of family relationships when he asked "What do you want?" After we got by that we did have a pleasant few minutes of conversation, but I am left with the distinct impression that stems from one incident related to me by another cousin about him during that cousin's visit to Hollywood and a discussion I also had with his sister, Rose, that he wanted to distance himself from family, or at least, portions thereof.
The experience with his sister, Rose Leah, who had married a William Epstein of Jackson Heights, N.Y., came shortly before I met Sam. My Uncle, Irving, had told me of another cousin I had never met and took me over to see her at Miami Beach. She, also, had not seen her brother, Sam, all these years and could not seem to contact him, the circumstances of which seemed to bear out my thought of his avoiding his family.
She had an interesting story to tell me. She came from Europe on a ship to Portland, Maine, in 1911, but that coming was a problem. I do not know with whom she came, if anyone, but she was quite young (under ten years of age). The problem was with her papers. She had taken the place of one of the Baer girls (Ruth Baer) on the ship and was carrying Ruth's papers. When Immigration asked her for her name she gave them her real name of Rose. That didn't match the ship's papers and Immigration refused to let her disembark. My father got word of that and went to Immigration and was able to have them release her to him. That is how she got to the United States and she has never forgotten how my father was able to get her off the ship. She even recalls the date in a round about way. It seems that my father had taken with him his first born in a carriage when he came down to get her. My brother Lou was born in 1911.
While I was in attendance at Bowdoin from 1938 to graduation in 1942 the "non fraternity" students started a "club" similar to a fraternity, but which was mostly for social considerations. This was the Thorndike Club of which I, at one time before graduation, was president. (Interestingly, in time, the Thorndike Club was later replaced by another non sectarian group, Alpha Rho Upsilon, of which our son, Barry, became its president.) This club was not only for Jewish students, but for the one or two blacks who may have been admitted to each class, another group on the "quota" system.
There were others, also. Years later that was converted to a fraternity, Alpha Rho Upsilon, but that disappeared in recent memory.
One incident told me of the anti Semitic biases that existed at colleges and in the world outside the colleges. I suppose that since I had been exposed to that while in grade and secondary school, I had developed a "thick skin" and accepted it as "normal". It was brought home vividly during the stay at Bowdoin, though most of the non Jewish students were not overtly anti Semitic.
It was in my senior year and I was walking across campus with Dean Paul Nixon, a prince of a fellow who believed in helping students as much as possible. I was a mathematics major and was interested in entering the field of actuarial work. I had already taken the first five exams in the field and passed them and was considering graduate school in the field. We were having a long talk about that and he told me that I should reconsider since the field was one which denied Jewish people entry or severely restricted them.
This did not restrict my enjoyment of the school, the education it afforded me, nor the participation in school activities. My professors were not only good teachers, but friendly and helpful beyond what I would consider necessary for their chosen career. I was able to "sit at the feet" of the resident poet, Robert Peter Tristam Coffin, literally, since we sat on the floor around him, and it was not a course he was offering, but he opened his house in informal seminars to students who were interested in poetry. I made trips as a member of the Political Affairs Club, was a fencer on the fencing team, and participated in other activities. I look back on those years with a fondness that sometimes amazes me and I can now understand why my father and mother felt as they did about the college even though they did not attend, but were considered Bowdoin parents.
I mentioned the social aspects of the Thorndike Club. Actually, it could not do much since there was no facility for its private use. Non fraternity students still ate at Moulton Union or one of the many restaurants in Brunswick, such as Jarvis or Miss Brunswick Diner or Vic's. And everyone, at some time or other, would eat hot dogs from a street vendor: Mike's. There was a problem during Christmas and Spring house-parties. The members of the fraternities would vacate their houses so their dates would have housing facilities. Non fraternity members did not have this opportunity, but had to scrounge around the area for rooms. There was the Eagle Hotel, the Walker House in Topsham, and very little else in Brunswick. President Sills ("KC") and his wife, Edith, would open up the president's house for the girl friends of non fraternity students to the extent there was space.
An interesting sidelight to this occurred in 1987, when Grandma Marge and I returned for my 45th Reunion. A large number of the class was sitting at the table during the class banquet. We were the only Jewish people present, so I don't know how the subject arose, but one of the fellows, one of whom I would have least expected it, said he was apologizing for himself and his classmates and the others at the table agreed for the way Jewish students were treated when we were going to college, but they had not realized that at the time we were in school!
During one house-party time I remember Mrs. Sills standing at the foot of the stairs going to the second floor of her house to bar male students’ way up to where the girls would stay. Grandma Marge stayed with them in my senior year and I remember going to the Sill's house to pick her up one morning to go to class with me. "KC", the President, invited me to sit down at the dining room table with Grandma Marge while he made and served us breakfast. They were such wonderful people.
The class we went to that day was one he taught in Comparative Literature and it was his class, but mostly him and the way he made literature vital and vibrant that influenced my literature likes even to this day. He was a Dante student and I have read and reread Dante many times since graduation, the interest in Dante and Renaissance literature coming from him.
We used to do all the things that young people do now--football games, dances, double dates. I remember one double date in particular with our friends, Mickey Waks and Arlene Rice. We had gone out for the evening and finished up at Howard Johnson's in Portland for ice cream and "stuff". When it came to pay the bill, Mickey reached in his pockets and, with a groan, proclaimed he didn't have any money. It was a good thing I did! I used to cut lilac bush florals from the lilac bushes in his yard to bring to Grandma Marge.
While I was going to Bowdoin College, Grandpa Nathan decided to open a summer ladies wear store at Old Orchard Beach. One of my summer vacation jobs was to help in the running of the store since I was by then at college and was “free” summers. By this time he had closed the Portland store, deciding to spend his efforts in Biddeford and, later, with the Old Orchard store. This store was profitable until the war (WWII) years, which came near the end of my undergraduate college years. It was not long before he gave up on the Old Orchard venture.
Uncle Lou married Auntie Mickey (Miriam Lourie), on November 21, 1937, to be exact, and was practicing law in Boston. Uncle Harold graduated medical school in 1938, the same year I graduated high school. After internships and residencies, and when the war broke out, he joined a medical unit and went overseas to Europe, mostly in Britain and Belgium. A month after the declaration of war, in January of 1942, I enlisted in the Army Air Corps, but was not immediately called, since I was still in college.
War was declared almost immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I was a senior in college. I graduated in June of 1942 and since I had enlisted and was subject to being called up, it became difficult to find work. I finally did get a job working for the U. S. Government as a cost accountant for the U. S. Engineers, a job that paid the magnificent sum of $1620.00…per year! That was a lot of money then when the hope for most people was to be able to earn the magnificent sum of $5000.00 per year. Little did I think, at that time, that almost fifty years later I would purchase a set of golf clubs that would cost more than that year's salary! Grandma Marge got a job at the Filene's store in Portland for, would you believe, the minimum wage of $.25 per hour.
I had been "going with" Grandma Marge for about a year before that. We had discussed the future, and one prospect before the war was that we would secretly marry and I would go to graduate school while she would pursue her advanced education, but being married, we could live more cheaply together, a major concern for us at the time, especially since we wanted to marry anyhow. The war changed that, but we decided on marrying after I graduated Bowdoin.
We decided this in early July of 1942 and, naive as we were, we went to the Portland City Hall to take out a marriage license. Little did we realize the public nature of such a step. Not only did we just miss being seen by Poppie (Grandma Marge's father, Leo) when we went there, as he was on his way to work and just crossed our path, but we did not count on the marriage intention announcements in the papers. When told of this, we tried to have the announcement not made and were told this would be impossible, since it was public policy not to do that unless the bride to be was pregnant. That was a dilemma, especially since the society editor of the paper at that time, and the person who would have all that knowledge, was a cousin of ours, Sylvia Cook. We decided not to make that kind of a fuss and let the city records be entered, hoping no one would notice.
No such luck! Grandma Marge's cousin in Portland, Shirley Baker, used to read everything in the papers. That same evening she called Grandma Dot (Grandma Marge's mother) to congratulate her for a marriage Grandma Dot didn't even know was being planned. Well! You may not know Grandma Dot, but a wedding and all the fixings were planned and we were married at the Beacon House in Boston, Massachusetts on August 16, 1942. The war was "on" and travel was limited, but we borrowed Grandpa Leo's car, were able to get gas ration coupons (gas was rationed because of the war) and went on a honeymoon to Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire.
My job took me to the islands of Casco Bay in Portland where the government was building defensive gun emplacements. It was my duty to keep check on the costs of that work and in the process I would take a boat every morning at about five o'clock to get to work. In addition to that I obtained a public school teacher's certificate and taught mathematics (mostly Algebra, Trigonometry, and Geometry) at the Portland High School in the evening. I remember one of the students, a Wilfred Duffy, who was a co owner of the Old Orchard Pier. He had graduated from Princeton and was entering the service in a field that required him to have a mathematics background which he had apparently not gained while at Princeton. At the end of the course he gave me a bottle of Haig & Haig pinch bottle to express his satisfaction. And thereon hangs another story.
This was now November of 1942 and I was wondering why I hadn't yet been called to active duty. I sent telegrams about that to the Air Corps and to its Commanding General (Hap Arnold). I got a collect telegram back telling me to wait. It wasn't long (November, 1942) before I had my orders to report to Scott Field, Illinois.
END RACHEL PART 4
BEGIN RACHEL PART 5
I left off with a statement that it was now November of 1942. I left out how it got there from Bowdoin. . . and some other intervening events and/or just "living”. The telling of that might also have some repetitions.
Going back in time to December 7, 1941, and President Roosevelt's speech on the 8th of December, the "patriotism" bug bit many students in college as well as everyone else. College was not the place one sought as happened in the Vietnam War days. Some of my classmates left college before graduation to enlist. Bowdoin had already become a "training base" for naval officers who were there to take specialized courses to bring them "up to snuff" for their futures in the navy. My physics professor, Boyd Bartlett, was called back to duty and went to West Point. I remember tutoring one officer in particular in various areas of mathematics with which I was familiar.
In early February of 1942, after researching the various opportunities and openings (my first choice of Meteorology was "filled" - a euphemism for “barred for members of the Jewish faith”) I enlisted to be an Air Corps cadet in the field of Communications. I passed the physical in Portland. The physician was a dentist, Dr. Goldberg, the father of some of my friends. I had a second "physical" in Boston where my eyes were checked for color blindness, though for the life of me, I have never been able to figure out relationship of color blindness and communications! Graduation, marriage, and working for the U.S. Government as a cost accountant for the U. S. Engineers followed.
On our honeymoon at Lake Winnepesaukee
Finally, in November of 1942, after receiving orders to report to Scott Field, Illinois, I took the train to the base. I had applied originally for work in the field of meteorology. That area was not available, as I have mentioned. Actually, as a fact of life, it was not available to anyone of the Jewish faith, as I found out later. I then applied for my second choice of careers in the Air Corps, that in Communications. You will note that the reference was to the "Air Corps". There was no Air Force at that time. What did exist was the U. S. Army Air Corps as a part of the regular army.
An interesting coincidence occurred on my trip to Scott Field, a base close enough to St. Louis so that I would later visit relatives there. However, on the train from home to there, whom should I meet on the train but my wife's (Grandma Marge's) aunt and uncle, Rae and Reuben Lipson. They were on their way to Texas at the time and we spent a pleasant evening together.
Though the time at Scott Field was hectic in that we were being outfitted in army clothes, learning the "ropes" of being in the military with its following of orders, its training programs, and learning, also, that the others and I, who were new cadets, were at the bottom of the totem pole as far as privilege was concerned. We had to follow orders not only of the regular army personnel, but also those cadets who were more senior. The "bad" side of all that quickly evaporated when we were told that we would only be at Scott for a few weeks and we would then be "shipping out" to a new base, New Haven, Connecticut, to be stationed at Yale University. This brought me within a few miles, comparative to Illinois, of home and Grandma Marge. I couldn't wait to tell her and we made plans to meet after I would arrive in New Haven. In the meantime, I engaged in the normal training exercises and duties, which included a sort of basic training and the "seniority" aspects of learning the Air Corps song and inspections by "upperclassmen". By the end of January, shortly after arriving in Connecticut, I had lost thirty pounds and my army issue clothes just hung on me. In fact, I had lost so much weight that when my folks and Marge's folks visited us in New Haven, they almost didn't recognize me. The army "great coat" became about four or five sizes too large for me and just hung on my frame, but I was in good shape, physically.
During the stay at Scott Field, I had a free Sunday. I had been told that I had a relative in St. Louis who was in the clothing manufacturing business and decided to pay a call. The relative was a cousin, Max Nelson, a brother to the sisters Becky, Rose, Sarah, Esther, and Eeta of the Schleger family, the sisters who were so close to my parents. I spent the afternoon with the Nelsons. He had left Portland some time before I had the opportunity to get to know him, but he was just as were the others ...extremely hospitable and warm and made me feel we had known each other forever. It gave me a wonderful feeling to be so accepted when I was alone and away from everyone and everything I knew
Not many days after that visit, the entire corps of Communications cadets entrained for New Haven. We were based in the Yale "quad" dormitories. Years later, when our son, Michael was a freshman at Yale, he roomed in the same dormitory, but one floor up from where I was in 1943. Though there was a mixture of people, it was pretty obvious that there were a large number of Jewish cadets and most told me the same story of their refusal for entry into the Meteorology program and the transfer choice to Communications.
The course subjects were concentrated in content and extremely focused. We covered most of the "signal" areas of communications, including telephone, signal, and radio equipment. We had to learn not only the functions, but operations and maintenance, literally from the ground up, since we even laid "ground" and "land" lines and set up field telephone and signal equipment operations.
For most of the cadets who were in my class that type of work seemed to be second nature. Of the 250 cadets in the class, it seemed that 249 were engineers of one type or another, mostly electrical engineers. I was the only non-engineer in the group, being a mathematics major. When one speaks of "focused", it was even more so for me since I had to catch up on the basics that the others already had learned in undergraduate school. And I had barely made a "decent" mark in Physics at Bowdoin!
We were up at the break of dawn for Reveille and inspection; then the march to "mess" (breakfast) which was followed by a full schedule of Communication courses. As if that were not enough, we then broke for P.T. (Physical Training) which took place at Yale's nine story Payne gymnasium.
The reason I mention the height is that we "warmed up" by running up and down the stairs of the gym twice before actually engaging in the physical training program proper. Now you can see why I lost the weight I did during the first few weeks. We were even too tired to eat lunch after PT, at least I was. The entire corps would march through New Haven streets to and from either Woolsey Hall (the mess hall) or Payne Gymnasium singing as we went. One of the songs, as I recall, was "I've Got Sixpence". In the beginning, the residents of New Haven used to line up and watch us go by, but the longer we were there, the less novel was our presence, to them and to us. It may be that I had better things to do, since the mess hall was run by an outside caterer who hired only cadet wives to work at the mess hall. Grandma Marge came to New Haven and went to work there and the only time I could see her was when we ate breakfast and lunch or the part of one day per week that we had free. Grandma and I made news, literally, at Yale. We were seen sitting outside the mess hall in one of the plaza type areas sitting on a bench and, would you believe, holding hands! It was considered quite a story and the Yale paper published a front page article about that event. Another incident I remember was the Colonel in the mess hall taking me to task for spending time with Grandma Marge during meals.
Grandma Marge made a negligible amount of money from that work, but got her meals free. I had to return a major share of my earnings as a cadet to pay for the outside catering, but we had enough left to get along and to rent a room for Grandma on Whitney Avenue near the museum in a house catering to graduate students. It was about a mile from the campus and Grandma would have to walk from there about four o'clock in the morning to get to work. With everything, we thought it was worth it just to be able to be together and see each other for the short times we could. Grandma also worked for "a little Jewish man" who employed cadet wives. He really didn't have that much work, but did have a factory of sorts where he would make up needle kits for servicemen. Grandma took a second job putting the needles in the packets to make additional money. She enjoyed the workplace because of the cameraderie of the other cadet wives and the fact that the owner of the enterprise didn't care how long you worked and would let you leave whenever you wished if you wished to be with your husband.
When we moved into the rented room, we were on the third floor. We wanted a big double bed instead of the small singles and the owner yelled down the three flights that "Mrs. Chandler wants a double bed!" I'm sure every graduate student looked out of his room at us!
There wasn't much to do besides training and study for me and Grandma Marge had even less. She did get to see a pre Broadway opening, since New Haven was one of the road show sites at that time. The musical she saw was "Green Grow the Lilacs" or something like that which later became the big Broadway hit "Oklahoma".
It was still army, however. On one occasion I had to stand guard. I had reported with a 103 degree fever, but was ordered to complete the guard duty, in the snow, from which I went straight to the infirmary where I was diagnosed as having a bad case of measles and was quarantined there for a week. The school work was not the easiest, either. Part of the pressure for doing well was the fact that of the 250 who would graduate, the fifteen top graduates would be chosen to go for further training at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Success at Yale would thus mean another one to two months that Grandma and I could be together and further impetus was that the top ten of the Harvard graduates would go on for additional training for five more months at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), also in Cambridge. You can bet that the studying at Yale took on added importance. I was studying using a flashlight under the blankets in the dorm and would even study a good part of the time on the supposed day off. Grandma used to question why I didn't get 100's on my tests instead of some of the 99's!
It was getting close to April (1943) graduation and Passover was coming. We had not been away from home for Passover before this. Again we were fortunate, since there was the Bloom family in New Haven who were friends of Grandma's parents. They were in the furniture business. They invited us for the Seders. I remember that it was during one of those Seders that we were telephoned that Grandma Marge's Grandfather Wine had died.
In March of 1943, we were given our uniform allowances and were having our uniforms made. Mine were made at J. Press and I wore it for the first time in April at the graduation dance, the night before being presented with our lieutenancy. That was almost a fiasco. Grandma Marge had celebrated with me. She must have taken a smell of the cork from a bottle of liquor and was "feeling little or no pain", as the saying goes. She did not concern herself with the fact that I needed the uniform for the next day at graduation. She actually sat in the gutter of one of the streets and told the taxi driver that picked us up that I had gotten her drunk! The uniform almost didn't make it after we got back to her room since Grandma thought the floor next to the bed was as good as the toilet for her needs, but . . . it did . . . and I did . . . and I did make the top fifteen in the class so that my orders took us to Boston and to Harvard. That was in mid April of 1943.
There the cadets were combined with men from the other armed services . . . the Navy and the Marine Corps, and we made up another big group and were first required to go through a course at Harvard's Cruft Lab. For that period I was in my element. Most of the work was in Mathematics and related areas and I wound up in the very top part, something I had been aiming for, since then I might be in the top ten chosen to go on to MIT. And I was! One of the Navy personnel whom I met there was a Dick Bechtel, who was a Bowdoin graduate. Years later, in 197(7?), when we were on a trip up the intra-coastal with the Wolfson's we stopped at a place called Coinjock, south of Norfolk, Virginia. The owner of the place we stopped at was another Navy fellow I had met at MIT! Again, it is a small world!
You must remember that during this period we were away from Portland and home and our parents. This made it difficult for us to keep up with what was happening in the family other than "things were all right!" Grandpa Nathan had given up the Old Orchard store. He was spending his time in the Biddeford store, especially since around that time, Grandma Rose had become severely incapacitated with arthritis. There were times when she would crawl on her hands and knees to get around. She used to soak her hands and wrists in tins of melted wax to get relief from the pain.
Arthritis had thus limited her ability to attend to the stores the way she used to, though when she felt well she attempted to do everything she used to , whether it was the stores, or knitting, or baking and cooking, and even entertaining, which I think was at the top of her list. She loved to entertain people.
We were living in the Boston area, first in a room in Arlington, and then we moved to an apartment building on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. Uncle Lou introduced us to the manager of the apartment building a Mr. Rotenberg(?) on Memorial Drive right next to the MIT dormitories.
Marge in front of Memorial Drive apartment
Another of Marge at Memorial Drive
We thoroughly enjoyed the stay there. Not only did we have relatives in Boston, but the folks were nearby, comparatively. Somehow, even though we didn't see them regularly, there was a comfortable feeling in knowing they were close. Uncle Lou and Auntie Mickey were living in Brookline. He was working at the War Labor Board. We would see each other and Grandma Marge's Uncle Moe and Aunt also lived in Brookline, and Grandma Marge spent parts of each week with her aunt, sometimes going to exercise classes with her and finishing up with hot "challah" (bread) from the Jewish bakeries on Harvard Street. She went shopping at Filene's basement with her aunt and also with Auntie Mickey.
A propros of this mention of Moe and Anne, another interesting happening occurred years later. Sometime in the late 1980's or very early 1990's, we were in Portland. I was out, but someone came to knock on the door to see us. When Grandma Marge answered the door she saw Harry Israelson, who, before moving to California, lived three doors away from us with his wife, Betty. Betty was one of the Troubh children next door to us at Old Orchard Beach. Betty had died a couple of years before this.
Harry told Grandma Marge he would like to have her meet someone he had met while living in California. He proceeded to introduce her to her Aunt Ann from Brookline, Mass. (who had been married to her uncle Moe!) Ann had left Moe. Moe was hard of hearing and one day he was on the telephone in their apartment making a date with one of his secretaries and did not hear Ann come into the room where she heard all this. She divorced him and married a fellow who owned the Myles Standish Hotel. Following this last husband's death, I don't know what developed, but eventually Ann wound up in California with Harry Israelson.
While I was stationed at Harvard and MIT we went to shows in Boston, musicals and plays. In addition to the various stores for shopping for groceries, we used to go to the outdoor markets near the Haymarket Square area and Hanover Street because there were such bargains to be had there.
We did not have a car so we would then lug the bundles home, sometimes walking part way or by subway. The lack of transportation was not even noticed as an inconvenience. We walked a lot. On Yom Kippur we walked from Cambridge over to Beacon Street to Temple Israel, a walk which must have been three or four miles. When we got there, we found it too "reformed" for our tastes and walked to Kehilleth Israel on Harvard Street, another mile or two, and then back to Cambridge. Harvard Street in Brookline had a "home" flavor which made us feel comfortable and we used to shop the bakeries and meat markets there. We had two favorite restaurants in Boston, too. In the Haymarket Square area on Hanover Street was the American European (Italian) and downtown was the Ararat (Lebanese).
The classes at MIT were quite intense. We covered enough material in so many different areas of electronics and electronic communications and engineering from Antennas and Fourier Analyses and the like that MIT allowed me twenty four hours credit towards the thirty hours needed at that time for the doctorate in Electronic Engineering. More on that later.
Of the ten Army Air Corps personnel at MIT, there would be a further division when we would graduate. About eight would be going overseas immediately, most to the RCM (Radar Counter Measures) programs and the others to the training school at Boca Raton, Florida, where we would train enlisted personnel. I was fortunate in that not only was I in the group to go to Boca Raton with its promise of continuing to be with Grandma, but also was later chosen to remain there after all others in the group had left. I must mention that word came back that all those who went overseas in the RCM program were killed in action not too long after being sent overseas.
We drove to Boca (Raton) from Maine where we had bought a 1939 or 1940 Oldsmobile Cabriolet for the trip. That was like the more modern Toronados. Grandma Marge's cousin's (Shirley Levy Baker) husband, Irving Baker, sold the car to us for $800.00. (We sold it for $1200.00 when I got my orders to go overseas.) It was a "snazzy" car with leather upholstery. It also had another quality which kept Grandma Marge busy once we were in Florida. That was its oil consumption. We would feed the car more often that we would ourselves on the trip from Maine to Florida, since it consumed one quart of oil for every fifty or so miles. Grandma Marge seemed to spend more time in the garages in Fort Lauderdale until we decided to have new rings and pistons installed.
On leave in Portland before driving to Boca Raton
Because of the tire and gas shortages, we did not deviate too much from the route to sight see on our way down to the Boca Raton area. We did stop in Washington for a brief visit. From there we kept moving until Jacksonville, Florida, where we stopped to see Grandma Marge's cousin Beverly (Lipson Carmen). She had gotten married before we did, to Bill Carmen, who was then stationed at the Naval base in Jacksonville.
(Coincidences abound! Bev and Billie (Carmen) now live at Boca West, five miles from us in Boca Raton and we see them as well as Shirley and Irving Baker, who have a condo at the Hamlet in Delray Beach. It's a small world!)
The stop in Washington
From there, after a brief stop in St. Augustine, it was on to Boca Raton to "report in".
A real estate agent found a house for us to rent in Lake Worth. It was owned by a couple from Cleveland, the Dailitz's. He was in the machine tool business in Cleveland. They gave us a fabulous rental deal which I'm sure was, in part, his contribution to the war effort. It was the first house I had ever seen with solar heat for the hot water and there were grapefruit and orange trees in the yard.
The house in Lake Worth
We stayed there for only a short time because it was about twelve to fourteen miles from the base and though I could get the "gas" coupons it was inconvenient since it left Grandma Marge high and dry with no transportation while I was away. We later found a house on Southeast Sixth Street to rent in Boca Raton that was almost across from both the office I had at the Boca Raton Hotel and Club and from the Railroad station.
Houses on S. E. Sixth St., Boca Raton, FL
Our house on Sixth Street., Boca Raton, Florida
The back yard
Marge on steps at Boca Raton house
A sidelight to that house occurred in 1991. We went down to that area from where we were living in 1991 and went up and down the streets, stopping at our old house. Not many were standing by this time. They were all four or five room box types with hollow walls. We walked in (it had been converted to an office) and asked to look around, explaining the background of wanting to see the house. Nothing on the inside seemed to have changed except the decor. I must first tell you that when we were leaving in the 1940's when I was transferred overseas, we were offered the house for $4000.00. The gentleman who was now in the "office" asked us about the house and whether it had the hardwood floors. We explained that it did and, in addition, had an icebox for refrigeration. He was astonished at the price we had quoted, telling us that the property cost him $250,000.00 only a couple of years before (1991).
Boca Raton in 1943 was not the Boca Raton of today. There was a garage at the corner of the main intersection of town (what is now Palmetto Park and Route 1). Morris's Grocery store was behind it. The Post Office was a little cubby hole the next street up (what would now be Northeast 1st) and our house, which was one of forty that was built for army personnel only. On Dixie Highway, about a half mile from the house on the way to Morris's was a huge mango tree and during the season we could pick as many mangoes as we wanted. Marge made pies from them. About a mile north of there on Dixie was a section called "Pearl City" where the blacks used to live.
At one end of our street was Dixie Highway and the railroad station and at the other end was Route 1 (Federal Highway) and the Boca Raton Country Club. That was the extent of Boca Raton.
Our "iceman" was from Pearl City. We would leave the house unlocked and he would come to put ice in our icebox. There was no such thing as a refrigerator. For air conditioning we would put a cake of ice in a tub and have a fan blow across the cold cake of ice. It sounds primitive, but at the time there was nothing better.
Since we didn't expect to stay very long, we rented furniture from Cater's Furniture in West Palm Beach. After a few months with no orders to leave Boca Raton, we bought the furniture. The store gave us credit for the rental payments and the entire house was furnished with "victory" furniture for under $300.00. We tacked up the curtains because it appeared so impermanent and even used an orange crate, which we covered, for an end table.
Life in Boca Raton was pleasant with the exception of the possibility of transfer always hanging over us. We took advantage of the time and place. We were close enough to Miami and Miami Beach to make frequent trips there. We would picnic in Greynolds Park with our friends, Mac and Jeanette Frank and their daughter, Lenore ("Cookie").
A view of Greynolds Park
They lived a couple of houses East of us. He was a civilian instructor at the base. Another couple we became quite friendly with were Marilyn and David Lasser, who lived next door. They were from Chicago. His father was in the pants manufacturing business and his sister was married to Teddy Briskin, of the Revere Camera Co. Marge's Aunt Mary and her husband Eddie lived in Miami and we visited with them as frequently as we could, staying at what was then the newly opened Versailles Hotel. There was nothing beyond 79th Street, where now the Fontainbleu Hotel stands. At that time that location was the Firestone estate. On one of our visits to Marge’s Aunt Mary we stayed at the Versailles and were able to make use of the bath tub, the first time we were near a tub since coming to Florida almost two months before.
The tub at the Versailles
The "club" (Boca Raton Hotel and Club) had facilities of which we made use, especially the olympic-sized swimming pool on the beach. It was about the only built up location on the beach at that time and land was there almost for the asking. So you will not think that it was all frolic and fun, we did have duties to perform. I ran the Loran radar school which trained technicians in its operation and maintenance. I chose the first shift which started at dawn. I had two able corporals, Tollefson and Clinton, who would get things moving early and I would finish duties there around noon, so we had most afternoons free. The pool was not overly used and two enlisted men who had, it was rumored, trained swimmers for the olympics, were on duty there. They helped in perfecting our swimming, but I think Grandma Marge got the most benefit out of that. The club was a meeting place for many of the officers wives as well as many of our friends. They lived within a radius of twenty to thirty miles of the base and it was not unusual to visit them to get a change of scenery. Miami was only forty five miles to the south and West Palm Beach was twenty five miles to the north.
Part of the Club from my office
Getting used to the warm weather during the winter time was strange, at first. The first year we were there we went to the club for a New Year’s dance - all “spiffed up”.
Ready for the Club dance
Initially I was in charge of a Loran training school. I remember a Lt. Myers and a Lt. Godfrey were also there with me, though they were not in the "ten" group from MIT. Lt. Myers was in the Loran radar program and Lt. Godfrey was an aide to a Major (Hertzberg) who was in charge of that group of schools.
We had other duties in addition to the training of the technicians. We had to participate in field exercises, going on bivouac where we slept in "pup" tents and used bottles of "no see em" bug protection. My bunk mate was a Lieutenant named Weisberg who was over six feet tall and had to sleep with his feet sticking out of the flaps of the tent. And the bugs no see ums were intolerable. We also flew training missions in B 17s off the coast of Florida, making use of the equipments we were using in our training programs.
We also had visitors from home (Portland) and one time Marge's cousin, Herbie Iventasch, visited us from his station at Fort Myers (FL). The visitors from Portland were "Ma(y)shie)" (Morton) Mack, "Shummie" (Sampson) Grunes, and Harold Romanow. At one time the three from Portland were all there at once and we had them over for meals, either individually or together, at various times.
Harold Me Sampson Morton (Ma(y)shie
Romanow Grunes Mack
Sampson Marge Joe
Herbie (Iventash - Marge’s cousin) was stationed at Fort Myers, Florida and he once visited when he was partially incapacitated with a bad ankle. I mentioned that the walls of our house were "hollow". We heard noises in the walls and it turned out that there were mice that ran up the walls to the attic. Herbie hobbled around on his bum leg trying to beat to death with a broom one of the mice that got into the house and Grandma Marge was screaming atop one of the chairs.
Herbie Me Marge
On beach at Boca Raton
I mentioned Lt. Godfrey. I don't remember the exact time of the event, but within a year or so of our arriving at Boca (Raton), he told me that I was to "bark" the orders for a full dress parade for a visiting General from AACTC (Army Air Corps Training Command). I knew absolutely nothing about "full dress parades" and we had a limited time to learn the procedures that we hoped would satisfy the brass who had all that knowledge from having gone to West Point. I scrounged around and came up with a couple of ex military school types who filled me in as best they could. Suffice to say, we did get through the "parade", but I recall one stage where I kept repeating the same set of orders over and over for what seemed an interminable period, but was probably only two or three times until I remembered. The outcome of that repetition was that I had the officers with me going in complete "square" circles, but no one seemed to remark about our "inadequacy" in that area.
During the course of our stay at Boca I was sometimes sent on what was known as TD (Temporary Duty). One of those was a trip to Massachusetts. I was in charge of testing some new Bendix equipment that we helped develop at MIT. It was a SHORAN triangulation type. We took it out in the field at Gloucester, Massachusetts, and set it up in the big park opposite the fisherman statue on the shore.
The "equipment" set up
It was while stationed at Gloucester that I was introduced to eating Lobster at a restaurant in Rockport, Massachusetts. I finally "caved in", figuring that if so many people enjoyed it, there had to be something enjoyable in eating lobster.
END RACHEL PART 5
BEGIN RACHEL 10 [there seem to be no 6-9]
It began a few years ago. I got a telephone call from my granddaughter, Rachel (Rochel Roze, named after my mother, Rose), asking me if I knew any "immigrants". Well, who could be closer to me, a first generation descendant from immigrants, than my own family. And it was especially on point since it gave me a chance to "enlighten" my family on this since I had started about a family tree fifty or sixty years ago and have maintained it since so that it now contains about 1300 1400 names and covers a period of at least 400 years. I must admit there is one small gap, but that is not important, since the oral history that has been part of our tradition all these years fills that admirably.
I must explain here that this "disc" is called "Rachel3" because I did most of the genealogical aspect of this first in response to Rachel's request, and followed that with "Rachel2" which gave a brief family history over the time period from about 1887 through the near present. It is just that now I have come to realize that there is much anecdotal material that should have been included and I will attempt to do this here.
It is always difficult to pick a time to start, but probably the best would be in the late 1800's with stories I have overheard or been told about the family and some of its members and that life which started the trek to the United States and the present. One aside is the knowledge I have of the family which was grounded in part of that oral history I mentioned. My grandfather, Zaydeh, on my father's side, was a learned man who also had accomplished much both in Europe and in the United States. It was he who told me that we were Levi's (Levites) descended from Mordechai Ben Judah, also known as Nossen from Prietsk (Mordechai Mordesh), and he had written a commentary on the "Bir B'Sheit". My feeling was that if he were such a learned scholar and student of the Talmud, there should be encyclopedic mention of this. It was this that made me search the Jewish Encyclopedias for verification. I found this, together with the names and the fact that Mordechai Mordesh of Prietsk died in 1584 and had written such a commentary. This was the beginning of the "Family Tree."
My Zaydeh was also named Mordechai, after Mordechaia Mordesh, and my father was named Nossen after Mordechai Mordesh's other name, Nossen. I should point out that they still lived in Prietsk after 300 years, later moving to Kisselin (both Poland Russia interchangeables in the 1800's). I do not remember many stories from my father's childhood except that he and all the boys in his family were required to attend the local Hebrew schools for most of each day. My father received an extensive education there to what I have been told was the equivalent of enough to prepare him to become a "Rov", should he wish, which he didn't, choosing instead to come to America.
Two of my father's three brothers, Irving and Srol (Israel), did come to the United States. Since my father was older, he was expected to be the more responsible. A couple of anecdotes will depict this. Irving also went to Yeshiva, but he used to "skip" classes and play around the village and pick cherries and such. It fell on my father to set out in a horse and wagon to chase him down one day and haul him back home.
My Uncle Srol was even "wilder" (was the term used). He was anti establishment and if he had been a youngster in the 1960's or 1970's would have been a "hippie", anti war, and anti government. I came to this conclusion from the fact that I was told he joined any "out" group and he confirmed this to my young ears when he taught me a song which he said was Polish (maybe it was Russian) which began with the words "Hey! Hey! de lo polizei, de lo samdejavits sitz russe!" This is all phonetic and I may not have the word breaks in the proper places, but the gist of it had something to do with "down with the Police!"
During my early years (1920's to very early 1930's) there was a schism of sorts between my father and his brother, Irving. The best I could put together by piecing bits of what I heard was that my father, Nathan, had scrimped to save money to bring his parents (Mordechai and Hoodis) and his sisters (Rita and Celia) and his brother, Irving, to the United States. Irving was supposed to have reimbursed him, to what extent I was never told. Irving, however, reneged on the deal. It wasn't until the early 1930's that "Shalom" came about, though not by an exchange of money. How it happened, I did not know, but I do remember that we went to Providence and relationships seemed to be better after that.
My father was generous in his dealings with family and even when it came time for Doug and Joe (Irving's sons) to go to medical school, my father advanced the money for this, a sum which was not fully repaid until my brother Lou, in 1966, asked Joe and Doug to take care of that "oversight". I did not see much of either Joe or Douglas, or even their sister, Elaine, as we were growing up since they were in Providence and we were in Portland. It wasn't until we were wintering in Boca Raton, Florida, I think it was the winter of 1990 or 1991, that I was told that Joe was in Palm Beach. I located him and we met, this time at our club with Elaine also in attendance. Following that we met with Joe two more times, both of which in the company of a girl friend of his since his wife had died a few years before that. Since then, around 1992, we have lost touch again with Joe, though we have seen Elaine almost once per year since then.
There was a family reunion in November of 1992 in Florida and there were many "cousins" first and second and first once removed, and the like. Neither Joe nor Doug attended though their sister and children, for the most part, did. These get togethers were a yearly event (and still are) for the Thanksgiving week. The 1993 meeting was in Boston and the next one was in Houston, neither of which we attended.
What you will have to forgive in this portion is the jumping around in time and the placement of certain events. When trying to remember, as in Rachel 1, I concentrated as much as possible on the highlights as they came to me. Now, after reflection and reminders from what was written in Rachel 1, other memories come to the fore. That starts another series of memories, displaced in time, but generated by the original thought and that is why I try to write it down at the same time.
As an example of what I have just referred to late in Rachel 1 I write of my entering Bowdoin in 1938 and getting sick with pneumonia. That was the major memory. Others of that incident now come to the fore. One of the sports in which I participated in at Bowdoin was swimming. One night in November we were required to swim and I did not fully realize the temperature change on leaving the gym that night. It was then that I got pneumonia. My mother, Rose, took care of me at home. One evening she called the Doctor (Henry Tabachnick, a relative through her aunt). He came to the house to examine me, but didn't get to see me for at least close to an hour. My mother made sure he sat down to eat supper first!
Henry was that kind of a doctor. Another instance involving him happened in the 1940's when Marge's brother, Bud (Jordan Howard Wine), had what he thought was an attack of appendicitis. He went to Henry's for an exam. To this day I don't know whether he was examined! When he got to the office, he and Henry engaged in a long session concerning picture development and they forgot the reason he was at the doctor's, the symptoms having disappeared. Though it may seem insignificant, the outcome was not. Bud went into the army through ASTP and wound up overseas. Just prior to the Battle of The Bulge, he had another attack of appendicitis and had to be operated on in France. That attack kept him out of the Bulge where many of his friends in his unit were captured and interned as prisoners of war. It was, also, a time for reunion since he met his uncle Julie (Leo Wine's sister's (Mildred's Millie's) husband) while recuperating in the hospital in France.
Back to when Grandma Rose was taking care of me for pneumonia (See what I mean about the necessary displacement of recorded memorable events!) she came down with pneumonia, too. Minnie Cook, who lived around the corner on Vesper Street, came in every day to bring food or take care of us in some way. What I should say here is that although we were very and continuously friendly with Max and Minnie Cook and I knew their children, their sons, Morris and George, never lived in Portland, to my memory, having left home while their family still lived in Sanford, Maine. Burton Cook was much younger than I and we didn't have much in common during our growing years. I did know Sylvia, but she was older and traveled in a different group.
Story of Sylvia and our wedding intentions announcement! Marge and I decided to “elope” to get married so we could live together in Boston while I went to graduate school and she finished undergraduate studies. Being naive, we went to the Portland City Hall to get a marriage license. Knowing that those announcements of intended marriages were published in the Portland papers, we asked them not to publish ours, but on contacting the newspaper, were told that only those of pregnant girls would not be published. That is all we needed to stop publishing, especially since Sylvia Cook was a society editor! So, the small notice was in the paper and wouldn’t you know that Marge’s cousin, Shirley Baker, read the notice and called Marge’s mother to congratulate her. No more “elope”., but a wedding at the Beacon House in Boston a few weeks later.
Jumping to the near past and present, when we finally started to come to Florida for more than just a week or two, we started seeing Burton much more frequently and even visited with George and his wife, Lenore, a few times before George died. On one visit to Burton's we met Morris's wife, Annette, and on another visit with them (1994) we met their (Burton's and Helen's) children and grandchildren.
It was also in Florida that I renewed acquaintance with one of Esther (Schleger, of the five sisters) Katz's sons, Lou. He had left Portland in 1927 or 1928, whether before the Katz family itself moved or with them I do not remember. I had heard that he had retired (as an executive with Warner Communications, New York) to Florida with his wife, Bernice. I contacted him (early 1980's when we were at North Miami Beach) and we used to see each other two or three times per "season" until we moved to Boca Raton. The distance between where he lived and our place, though not overly long about thirty miles made it inconvenient and we went down to about once per season, usually when we all got together at George and Lenore Cook's where she had many of the Cook family members in attendance. That stopped after George died in Februa-ry of 1994, and Lou (now Kates) died in May of 1994.
There are some things of the 1920's and 1930's that I haven't mentioned that come to mind. I recall selling magazine subscriptions to "Liberty" and "Women's Home Companion" and the like and also delivering newspapers for a fellow named Feeney and another named Johnny Cochran. I was pretty adept at playing "glassies" (marbles) and accumulated quite a "stash" of them.
My brother, Harold, played the saxaphone in the Portland High School Band (late 1920s) and Lou was a manager of the "Little Boy Blues" High School basketball team in 1927 8. When he was in college (Boston University) he was active in the Governor Curley elections. He made extra money one summer running an ice cream concession, hiring kids to walk up and down the beach at Old Orchard hawking ice cream from shoulder boxes.
Check out Documenting Maine Jewry