Conversation of Pearl Zemel Bier being interviewed by Sarah Chausmer Chernin

This will be of particular interest to both the Zemel and Gruber descendants. This was transcribed by Deborah Chernin.
Pearl Zemel Bier talking with Sarah Chausmer Chernin:
Pearl: Where was my father born? My father was born in...
Sarah: Don't get nervous
P: No, I hope I'm talking loud enough
S: No, no you don't have to talk loud
P: My father was born in Lublin, Poland. My mother was born in a small community someplace, the name was Karillis. Whether the pronunciation was right or not I don't know. But that's the way my mother pronounced it.
S: That was in Poland, they were both from Poland.
P: Yes. They both were born in Poland. Now, my father's father was quite well off. He had a bakery, he had ---- which was like a motel, for transients to come and stay overnight or as long as they did business. And he'd sell to business or whatever he did. And one day somebody, one of the workmen, came and told him that the mill wasn't working. He went to see what was wrong and when he bent over, somebody pushed him from the back and he started to yell and he got all that flour in his lungs. On his way home, coughing, he dropped dead. He was picked up from the street. My father was a very young child, he was only three years old and very frightened by it and whenever he saw the men, because they took him and buried him right away, he always feared these men. But he grew up. My grandmother sent him to --- whatever it was. He had two brothers and I think it was two sisters. One was Rivka and I forget what the other one's name was, but Rivka I know was one. And these two brothers were very well educated. My mother's sister, my Aunt Esther, always said that they were so well educated that if they were in America they would have been very big rabbis. But, they wasn't so good to my grandmother, politely and --- they took over the business, they took over everything, and they pushed her out to the extent that she had to sit in the -- that's in a marketplace and peddle bagels, rolls, bread, whatever it was. She had a pushcart. And she supported herself that way. And, in the meantime,...I forgot where I am...
Had a wife and two children, two boys. One was named after his father Herschel, and I don't know what the other one was...
S: That was Harry...
P: Harry, and he was divorced...
S: Because that's supposed to be the skeleton.
P: Yes, that's right. And he was divorced from his wife, and I don't know how long after that, but from the time he divorced his wife until the time he married my mother, one of the children died. Herschel I think was the oldest one, but I'm not sure. One of them was left alive. That was Herschel. He married my mother with this one child, and them he gave birth to your mother. And, he bought himself a saloon, a tavern, whatever you want to call it. But, in Poland, being a Jew, he couldn't keep it on his name. He had to get some goy that would take it on his name. And he paid him off a certain amount. And things were very good with my mother. She had everything she wanted because...pardon me I gotta belch...the ---, the people used to come into the saloon to barter and they used to bring all sorts of things, hand crocheted, hand knitted--everthing--aprons, pillowcases, bedclothes, whatever you wanted they brought in. And she in turn used those and gave them some schnapps or whatever it was. And she had the finest of butter and eggs and milk and everything. And then Frieda was born, no Meyer was born.
S: Wait, Mama--my mother was the oldest...
P: That's right. And she was very good as a
S: Then Meyer.
P: Then Meyer was born and she still had it good
S: And then Frieda
P: And then Frieda. Everytime she had to renew these licenses for the saloon, the tavern, whatever it was, they had to pay this goy off and he kept his mouth shut. And a couple of times they'd come in, and Mama would quick dump the liquor out and close it out and they'd fine them. But then, shortly after--this happened twice--and they gave them a warning that if it happened a third time they'd put them in jail and throw the key away. Charlie was an infant at the time.
S: Charlie was born in Europe too?
P: Sure. Charlie was an infant--I think he was two years old when she brought him here--two and a half--something of that sort. And Papa saw things were very bad here. And he didn't care what it cost him to pay off the man. But when it came to send him to jail, he was afraid. So he and Mama decided that they would sell it and with the money they would go to America. My mother...my father went back to visit my mother and didn't mention that he was going to Europe
S: To America
P: To America. He didn't want to hurt her feelings. But, after he went away to Europe...
S: To America
P: ...his brothers very nicely told her about it and she cried and carried on, but there was nothing..
S: You mean he left without telling her?
P: He went to visit her. And he visited her but he didn't tell her he was...he said goodbye to her but didn't say he was go8ing to America.
S: Oh, I see.
P: He didn't want to hurt her. Anyway, after he went away, she found out about it. They got on a train, they started for America, and after they loaded...
S: Your father was already in America...
P: No, my father...the both of them...they sold the saloon, the tavern, whatever it was, and they got on a train and after he got on the train and they stopped at one place they had to go over another --- whatever boundary line ...then they had to...Papa took out his money and started figuring with Mama how much it was going to cost them to get to the place where the boats sailed. Otherwise they wouldn't have enough money. They figured out that they didn't have enough for both of them, for all of them to go together with the children. So they decided that he would go on to America and she, he would get in touch with his brothers to help her out, to take care of her, till he could send. The brothers very nicely ignored her and the children. He left them where the boat was to sail which was a big city. And my mother had no way of earning a living. Charlie was nursing. The other children were small. So she plucked chickens, she plucked turkeys, whatever there was to pluck. She was a wet nurse; she nursed strange children. She did everything under the sun that she could to support these children. She had a very hard time. she had no place to go. And she used to tell how one time she was on the road and she an old barn or something. And she sneaked in with Harry and Bella and Meyer and Frieda and Charlie. With five littles bits of children...she was a very young woman yet...she married when she was sixteen. And right away she conceived, she was very young. Because she was twenty nine years old when she came to America. So, she saw this barn and she went into it. With the children, this one was sleepy and that, and she was herself. She says to the woman, could she stay overnight, the next day she'd move on or something. So the woman said "I don't mind if you stay on but don't tell anybody." So she went in and whatever they had to eat, whatever they carried along from the few pennies she made and she stayed. During the night, the children were hungry and they were cold...they had nothing to cover up with or anything...and they cried. And the husband heard that crying. And he wanted to know what it was. So his wife says go to sleep, go to sleep forget about it, it's a ---, let her stay overnight. He says "No you don't, they're disturbing my sleep. And midnight or whatever time it was she and the children -----till they got some place and they begged a little coffee or they begged something from the restaurants because they were in a bigger city already, you understand? So they begged this food, they got the things together and then one told the other they could need a serving girl, they could need this they could need ... and she would leave the children because somebody needed to mind the children...she had no place. But Meyer was very alert. He was very protective of them. And she would run back and forth, and as soon as she had a few pennies then she would...and then she would ask the people she lived from, maybe they had a place where she could live from, where she could lay on overnight. And she did that for a whole year.
She travelled on from one place to another. And it's a long, long year like that there. But my father came to America, came to America, New York City. And when he came to New York City, they were laying the sewers for New York City. They had those big...what do you call it...those big...not tanks...
S: Pipes
P: ...pipes, those real big ones. And, in order to pay a dollar a week for a room he didn't pay it, he wanted to save that dollar to send for Mama. So, he would sleep in these things. It was in the summertime. So he slept...but they had to throw themselves...they had to throw the rats off, the rats were in New York, where these things were laying, but anyway, they did. And I think you know in time what an immaculate man he was. So he did, but it was very hard for him. As winter moved in, he lived in a moving van. The reason for a moving van was because there was all blankets and things that they used for the furniture. Everything so that the dollar would save maybe a dollar a day or fifty cents or whatever it is. Somebody told him that in Newark he would get a hatter. The greenhorns are going to hatters. And you get a dollar a day there. So he came to America. They wrote it down for him. He came across the ferry
S: To Newark
P: He came to Newark. And he lived on Boston Street or one of those streets up there. And he got a hatter for seven dollars a week. And he lived in someplace, maybe a basement or something. Very little. Finally he went to the...what do you call it..the agent. And you didn't pay all at once. You paid installments. When he wrote to my mother...
S: How could he find your mother?
P: Well wait a minute. He wrote to my mother and he couldn't find her. The brothers didn't know, they didn't answer him or anything. So, she was known all over as the ----. She must have been a good-looking woman. She was tall and thin ---- with these five children. So all these neighborhoods, everybody knew. So somebody, the rabbi got a letter from Papa. Did they know where a woman was with five children, a description of her and everything. If it is so he wants to send a ship's card to send her to America. So when this rabbi got it, he asked all over and they finally got her and the rabbi read it to her and told her. And of course by the time they answered...at that time they came by boat...boats cost three four months at a time they come back and forth...it didn't take a week like today.
S: Yeah, I know. But didn't somebody want to buy her or..
P: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. In the meantime, Papa was making a few dollars and getting ready, she was starving. Sosomebody told her that there was a --- which was a princess or whatever a --- was and they liked, what's her name, Frieda. She was a wet nurse, she was everything. They took a liking to Frieda so they went to this --- and they says if they has some money to pay for this woman they could buy this child from her it was a beautiful child. She saw the child and she wanted Bella.
S: Frieda
P: Frieda. They wanted Frieda. And, they dickered back and forth. she didn't want to give her, but she felt very bad. But she figured at least let her live. They were starving. In the meantime Meyer says 'Whatever's going to be with all of us will be with her, too. Don't give her away. Don't give her away." In the meantime, this --- fell in love with her so much that she took and outfitted her. But she was willing to do it. But Papa listened to Meyer. Bella started to cry and they didn't want to give her up. They were old enough. See Charlie didn't understand. Anyway, to make the story short...
S: You've got lots of time...
P: Papa's ship's card came and she landed to America. And in that he had an apartment finished. Apartment, cold water flat, the pump was in the yard, the toilet was in the yard and he bought a black bureau with painted, paint over paint over paint. I remember itfor years after that we had it. And this thing with the grapes. Do you see that?
S: Oh my goodness.
P: Can they hear? This here thing with 19 cents, two of those on the top of the bureau for decorations. It was nineteen cents a piece. It was many years after that Fireda broke one and Mama almost killed her for that.
When they landed in America, my father had gotten so thin that my mother didn't recognize him and he didn't recognize her. But Bella, your mother, said Mama ---(that is our father)--she could only talk jewish. And, of course, the other children recognized him and he took them to Newark, because that was in Ellis Island. They brought him to Newark and that's where he lived here. His seven dollars a week was fine. In the meantime, as soon as he had a few dollars and there was a job, he sent for Mr Gruber, my mother's brother. He was a young fellow. He left his wife and children...
S: In other words, Grandma's maiden name was Gruber...
P: Gruber, yes.
S: And she had a sister, Esther...that's Esther Katz (?)
P: Esther, yes, well she came later...So she came and Nathan Gruber came to America and Papa brought him in to America and he was a border in Mama's house. And then they brought Mendel Tuck over and he also made a hatter out of him. Mama had a border but he was so tight...se Nathan Gruber her brother he was more generous. At that time, meat was six cents a pound. So, all she could afford was a pound for herself. But when she was a customer that could buy a pound of meat, things were so bad, she had these two borders, another half a pound of meat, so with that she already got bones, a piece of lung, a piece of liver, everything thrown in and rice barley and all those things were four cents a pound. So she bought two cents of this and two cents of that and she made a pot of soup. She had the bones and the children and her father had the meat. My uncle, Mr. Gruber, he took the piece of meat with the soup and different thngs and that was all right. Papa went to New York on Sunday morning with two big pillowcases, cause there were no Jewish bakeries. He had two big bakeries and he came off, took it across the ferry into Jersey City across the ferry, then he walked to New York to the bakery and the way back until he got on the ferry to come back. And he came home with two big bags of stale rolls, bread, whatever they threw in, and that was 25 cents a roll. And when they brought that home, Mama would sprinkle a little water on, pardon me, and they'd put it into the oven to freshen it up. And that's what they ate with this meat and everything. They had a good meal. But Mendel Tuck was a quarter of a pound cause they got a half pound for the two of them, it shrunk up. And when you gave him a quarter of a p ound of meat, he took it on his fork and he turned it this way and that way "...is this a quarter of a pound, is that a quarter of a pound is this all the rice or barley or whatever it was..." And she couldn't make a penny. She, on the other hand, couldn't afford shoes or anything so she had old shoes from them , so she wore the old shoes. And things were very very hard. She would take an old dress, a dress somebody would give them or they'd buy a dress the first time it came. She would take the dress apart and cut it out and sew it by hand. That's the way they had to live from hand to mouth. It was very difficult.
One day they were building a big shul in Newark. And they came to her, oo they had a big job for her. They finished the shul and it was wintertime and they were hurried getting ready for Pesach. They gave her the job to scrub and whitewash all that white stuff was all over the floors. And it was an Orthodox shul, upstairs and downstairs, it was a big thing...
S: Where was this?
P: In Newark someplace. I don't know where. She went to work, it was cold. There was no heat in the place. It was wintertime, the cold water and everything. She scrubbed it and everything. And she came for her money, so they told her that she had earned a mitzvah. But you see she needed the money, she needed it. They says you got such a big mitzvah, you don't need money. And that's the thanks she got for that. So that was that.
To make a long story short, Papa got a few dollars together, and he bought her a gold chain with a watch. He loved her and he wanted to give her something, so
S: Instead of food? He got her a watch?
P: Well, there was food--food to mouth. In the meantime, Neute (?) and Mendel and Papa and Harry was a big boy already, they pooled each a dollar or two together and they opened a hat shop themselves. And they worked together. But when it came to the end of the week--they had men working too--they couldn't pay, Papa couldn't pay his bills. So he would pawn that watch and chain every week. And by the time people paid him for his work, it was time to get it out again, it was time to put it in again, and that's the way it was.
Finally after she gave birth to Jennie, she opened a grocery store. With very little, very little. They lived next door and in back of the rooms...
S: That was on Ferry Street...
P: No, no that wasl way up on Boston or Whitler Street. Oh yes. And all was spoken was Jewish cause all the neighbors was Jewish. So it fitted in all right. And the few pennies that Papa brought in she bought merchandise and it was transit..(?) and it was all right.
One day, you know the toilet was in the yard, it was a heavy snow, and Meyer on his way to the toilet, took his pisher out and walked along the snow in the yard and made designs. The landlady lived upstairs and she says oh she hoped his whosis would rot and fall off for doing a thing like that--she cursed him. Mama felt very bad cause she had lost a child with diptheria.
S: Grandma did?
P: Yes, she lost a seven year old boy. His name was Moishe.
S: I never knew that.
P: Yeah, during the time they had this business in Europe. From diptheria, he died. Your mother was first, then there was Moishe, then Meyer. So when anybody cursed her Meyer, after losing this boy, she says to my father we must get out of here, we must get out. And that's when they moved down--oh wait a minute, I forgot to tell you, while they lived up there, Charlie got pneumonia. And he was very sick. And there was a dispensery down on Broad Street--you know where the Center Market was--and there was a Sure Grocery Store there downstairs, and then upstairs was a dispensery. She must have been pregnant with Abie. And on the way down by the courthouse they were selling half oranges, cause half was rotten. So they cut halves or quarters and you paid a penny apiece for them. And she was pregnant and she felt like something. So she bought an orange and it was so rotten it was not cut away and she was sick to her stomach she vomited all the way down the dispensery on Broad Street, she walked all the way down from Whitler Street down to Broad Street over there--you knwow where that is--
S: Up near Prince Street
P: Way down to Broad Street and all the way over. And she came all the way up and they gave her medicine for Charlie. And when they brought the medicine for her and before she got ready to give it to him, Meyer drank the medicine up...
S: The whole thing?
P: Yeah. He took the bottle, he put it to his mouth and he drank it.
S: Oh my god...
P: But she had nothing to give him so she suffered along with him
S: It could have killed him...
P: It could have, but it didn't...However, he got through, but he was very sickly all the time. In the meantime, Jennie was born, meantime Abie was born, she moved down to Ferry Street. The reason she moved down to Ferry Street was because Papa couldn't hold on to the hat shop. He had to get rid of that. And he went to work for Pat Riley.
S: The tannery...
P: Yes. And in that corner, Lexington and Ferry Street, is where the store was, and Riley was the landlord. It was Riley's row of red brick houses, three stories. And they opened this grocery store, they moved the grocery store here. Wait, before they did that, wait a minute, no no it was after, they moved down to Ferry Street and while at Ferry Street they started to make a few dollars. Papa worked for seven dollars a week, it was very difficult. He was short. And Pat Riley, the Irishman who worked with Papa, they had him work two shifts and they had these leathers stretched out in big things. And naturally that big fella carried all the weight down on Papa. So he complained about that. They put him in another place where there was vitriol and they had to wash those. And his stomach so burned it was raw flesh. He was short and everything splashed, he was unhandy doing it, period. However, to make a long story short, he did that there. In the meantime, Harry went to work in the cigarette place, no he went to work, I don't know where. And mother went to work at Wiss, a foot press for three dollars a week. And Meyer went to work, but he did not want to work for anybody. He worked and the boss told him to do this and to do this and he wanted to do it his way and Meyer that way. He came home with all sorts of excuses. So meantime she was pregnant with Evie, and then she got pregnant with me. And she was making a fairly good living in the store. She took care of it all day but in the evening Papa came home and that was it.
They bought a cow, and they rented a place, wait a minute, before that they opened a grocery store on Pearl Street, right near Washington Street. Cause Meyer couldn't work for anybody, so Meyer and your mother ran that store. And now the Weiners, Miriam Weiner who was later married to Jay, Frederick Jay, well anyway, this Jay had seven or eight children. And they didn't make much of a living, the father didn't. But she wasn't fussy, she took on the book, and didn't pay. And a couple of others. And first thing you know Papa was out of business for Bella and Meyer.
So, they were back on Ferry Street again, and doing that there. So then they bought one cow or two cows, and they rented a barn from Fay's. Now, you remember where Ferry Street was? Down to Lenox Avenue, right near Horatio Street, where Fay's was.
S: There was a farm there
P: The other one was closed. That's right, a farm, Horatio Street. But Lenox Avenue where it ended they had a field. And they found a little property and bought a secondhand wagon and they started to go around peddling the milk. For that Meyer was handy. And Frieda. She was growing up, they went on this route, the first thing you know, Papa never milked a cow. He wasn't handy at it. And your mother didn't, she wasn't handy at milking a cow. So she worked. But Mama and Meyer and Frieda, they walked from Lexington and Ferry Street down to Lenox Avenue at three, four o'clock in the morning. They had to milk and set it out, nobody had refrigeration. And milk was four cents a quart. But with all their work in it, and then the afternoon was another route, they had to wash the bottles and do everything, gradually they got up to nine cows. And they had two milk wagons. And suddenly there was a fire. They were just beginning to live and they had this fire. It burned the barn down where Fay's did. Insurance they didn't have. They were out.
But they went to Carney, where bull's head, where the auction place was. There was a man by the name of Blake. And he gave them a few cows on installment. He had pity on them, he gave them on installment. And they had another little barn there and they worked along with that and the first thing you know, with the store and with the route, the made a few dollars. And then they built 82 Vincent Street. But before they built it they built the barn. There was an old barn, a little barn on the other side, where the horses were kept later on. But in this first barn they kept them. And they started buying cows and buying and building the big one until they had sixty cows.
S: They did have that many?
P: Yes, they had three milk routes. Charlie had one, and Jennie used to go with Charlie, Meyer, I don't know if they did that there, and they started making a good living--are you running short?
S: No, no. Go right ahead.
P: They went on with this milk route and they were making good money. And they moved to Vincent Street and now Papa was out. He washed the bottles, He washed them and he filled the bottles and the cans, strained the milk...
S: What ever happened to Harry in the meantime?
P: Harry worked. In the meantime, he got to be seventeen or eighteen years old, he got married.
S: Oh, he did get married.
P: He got married...
S: To the Teuyba(?) family?
P: No, no, let me tell you. He didn't get married to Fanny, no he didn't. In the meantime, I forgot to tell you, Mama brought Sarah Tuck to America, and Moishe Koch was a man, oh Sarah, I forgot, this is a long story. After my mother's side, my grandfather, when my grandmother died, he remarried a woman, and she told him on her deathbed not to marry this one that she was mean to her children. But she made herself up to him and he didn't listen. In thirty days he married. Mama was married to Papa, from the distance she heard about it, there was nothing she could do. She had a son, and she didn't want him to associate with mama before she got married because he was dark and she was dark and the children would be dark. But she liked Sarah for a daughter-in-law cause Sarah, not Sarah but Esther, Esther was very pretty and she was blond with blue eyes, but this guy was stupid guy. And Esther did not like him. But she was forced into it. Her father died and she had nobody so she had to do what the stepmother told her to do. She married him and she was with him one night and she rebelled, she would not live with him. She came to Mama, wherever Mama lived because she couldn't go bacvk to the stepmother. And then she went to an aunt or somebody, cause Mama couldn't keep her either. So she went to an aunt or somebody, and there they brought a shidduch for her it was with Moishe Katz. His name was Koch, Pap always said it wasn't Katz, it was Koch, like it was Cach. Well anyways, and he was much older than her, he had children as old as she was. When my father in the distance wherever he was, when he heard that she was going to get married, he jumped, he liked her, as a child he liked her. he didn't want that. He carried on terrible but she had no home, she had nothing, she married him.
And how did he make his living? He was a mooseh. What is a mooseh? A squealer. He made his living from squealing. If a man wanted to divorce his wife he went to Moishe Koch and gave him a few rubles, whatever it was, and told her to --------, you brought her, you tricked her. You came to visit, you shook hands and handed her the gelt. She was divorced. Papa knew that and didn't want her, but she was married to him and that's all.
In the meantime, some of this children came to Philadelphia, and they brought him and then they brought her to Philadelphia. And Moishe Koch had nothing to do, he was a roamer, his children supported him. Harry acquainted himself with one of his daughters and went to Philadelphia where she was, left Mama and Papa, went to Philadelphia, never married, or if he did marry, I don't know it. Married, he was very young, and she was very young and they lived together a very short time and he came back home. She never divorced him, he never divorced her. She remarried, had grownup children already, he married a Teuyba
S: That's Teuyba Fanny...
P: Yes. Never divorced his first wife and she never divorced her husband. That was dissolved like that. And in the meantime he would come home to live. But what would he do. He made three dollars a week or five dollars a week so he gave Papa a few dollars. But he used so much cigarettes, in packing his lunch and everything, that Papa says to him you're eating up my profits, I can't afford to keep you. You're making money, pay me for the cigarettes, do that. So he left the house and he went and married Teuyba. And he bacame a hatter.
S: So that's where Louie calls the skeleton...
P: No, wait a minute, no, no that's not the skeleton yet. And he became a hatter, and he was a damn good hatter. And he used to make at that time twenty, twenty five dollars a week. And with Teuyba, they rented an apartment and that stove shone, they never cooked anything on the stove. You cooked it on anything, a plate or anything, she didn't polish the stove, she was a lady.
When she came, I was born--that's when he got married, when I was born--and when she came to Ferry Street, she didn't hear even in her younger days, shrieker shrieker, she carried on, that she didn't like the way Mama was living. But she couldn't live differently, but they had a hell of a good time. At that time they used to go to Coney Island over the weekend, on the boat and they danced and danced for all they was worth. And Monday or Tuesday they came back, they didn't have a dollar. So he used to come to Papa to lend, and papa wouldn't lend him a dollar, because he spent it that way. He didn't help or anything. So they were a little bit estranged. He didn't come and lived for himself, never had any children with her.
Later on, oh they were married a long, long time--15, 20 years--no, I don't think I was that old, I must have been younger than that, sure I must have been maybe 15 or 16 years, and finally he located his mother. His mother located him. She had remarried once or twice, since divorcing my father and with one of these men that she married, she had a child, a daughter. And Harry was a good Samaritan he sent for the daughter. He sent for the mother, I don't know. I was very young. Pardon me. I didn't understand what it was about. Anyway, he brought her to America and apparently she was very pretty. And that was his sister, he took her into his house, they lived on Jones Street, and they took her out dancing, they treated her and everything and the first thing you know they fell in love with one another and she became pregnant.
When she became pregnant, Teuyba found out, she wanted him arrested, and she did arrest him. And Meyer came to Papa and Papa wanted nothing to do with him. Well anyway,------, Papa had to pony up to get him out, on bail. At that time it was fifty dollars bail, twenty five dollars, whatever it was. Meyer took him down to Penn Station and gave him twenty five dollars--at that time it was alot of money--and says to him get the hell out of here, go to Canada, otherwise she'll throw you in jail and you won't be able to get out. And he very nicely took this gal along with him and he was there a few months, when all of a sudden, one day, he comes back. He needed money.
Papa chased him. Go to jail he says. You're no good, go to jail. Meyer took him again to Penn Station and says to him, look, get the hell out of here and stay away, don't ever come back. Which he did. And there he had three or four or five children, I don't know how many children. And that was the skeleton, that's Louie's skeleton. But he probably heard talk of that from his father. But other than that what did he know. He knew nothing about it. That's the story.
Want to stop it for a minute, my throat is a little dry...
When your father and mother were getting married, and Papa and Mama took stock of what they had in the grocery store, they bought from the different people that supplied the food

S: ...the suppliers...
P: Yeah, suppliers, up to $500
S: My father came from Scranton
P: Philadelphia...
S: Scranton...
P: Was it Scranton, I don't know, someplace...
S: Scranton, PA.
P: Yeah, he came there. I remember he had a big trunk. I remember. And you know what he had in that trunk, cause that trunk landed down in Vincent Street in our cellar. And he had pink shirts, he had shirts with ruffles, like they're wearing now, these fancy shirts, and I never saw that from our boys. I only saw that from your father, he brought that stuff. It was down in our basement. Whatever happened to it I don't know. But that's what he had.
Well, anyway, they had that grocery store, Papa and Mama, and the milk business was going good. In the meantime my cousin, what's his name, I forget his name, but schlemmer? came and Abisch Gruber came to Papa with an idea to open a liquor manufacture, to make liquor. And, with Charlie, ...
S: In other words to have a still?
P: A still, yeah, they had a still. A distillery. And they had the license and everything on the side of the building and on the manufacturer's place it said the name of the company and it gave the number
S: the license
P: it gave everything there was to it there. And it was being sold and everything. In the meantime, a man and woman came along and they wanted to buy this. And Papa and Mama were glad to get rid of it cause it wasn't to their liking. And these people, I don't know where they came from, but by that time your mother and father had moved out of Ferry Street--I don't know if they sold it or what was there--but they went to corner Bowery and Mott Street. And in back of the store was a kitchen. And upstairs there was bedrooms. And this man and woman stayed with your mother and father. See they had children but their children weren't there. And they came and they bought this business.
Now I don't know what the story was, they made a deposit, but it was a business with no lawyer or anything, just shook hands on it...
S: A verbal agreement...
P: ...verbal agreement, and he gave my father so much, whatever the amount was, I don't remember, I never did know, and he had the business. Mrs Tuck was there, she must have brought the men together, I don't know what it was, but she was there for some reason. And after the first payment or something, the man decided he wasn't going to pay anymore. That he wasn't and if my father wanted it he would have to sue him for whatever it was. In the meantime he wasn't properly marking down how much stuff you use, whether you made it from apples or from dried fruit, or whatever it was, you had to record all that stuff. Charlie took all that stuff, how much liquor they made from so much stuff and everything but when he sold it to them he didn't do that anymore. These people did it, supposedly did it. I can't think of their name, I might think of it later on. But anyway, and apparently they wasn't doing what they was supposed to do and when the government got after them they said they didn't own it, it wasn't theirs. And this was cash, a verbal agreement. And Papa says he didn't own it, he didn't have anything, and he had no proof, but Papa says to Mrs Tuck you were there, you know it...oh yes, she knows all about it. Well the case went down to Trenton--it was government, a distillery. After paying for her to go down, when she got down there and they called her on the stand she says I don't remember maybe my husband remembers.
S: Sarah Tuck...
P: Sarah Tuck. And I don't know, Papa had to hire a lawyer, he got out of it. But it wasn't easy. It wasn't easy, cause I'll tell you when that happened...when Evelyn Thaw Nesbitt, what was it, when Evelyn Thaw married Nesbitt Weiss...White...Weiss...White whatever it was, that's when that case was going on, cause Papa and Meyer and Charlie would go to Trenton in the morning and they didn't come home till dark. We would stand at Otto Carr's corner cause we didn't know if they were coming on the plank road or on Ferry Street--you see you understand that, somebody else wouldn't. And with a big shawl Mama and Jennie and I would stand there and wait and shiver, it was bitter cold, till we saw them to see what the outcome was, until that go through.
When we were done with that up there, then somebody came along and bought the charcoal business. They went into the charcoal business and things started to go very good. So Meyer and Fanny got married, so Papa decided he didn't need the milk business anymore, that that was Meyer's. And Bella they gave the grocery store. And that was Meyer's. And of course they knew that Fanny wouldn't milk cows, and Charlie was with the charcoal business and --- and everything, there was nobody to milk, so they decided to sell the cows, just to keep two for our own use, and they would buy milk and they would bring it and Papa and Mama would bottle it and everything for Meyer, he lived upstairs, and in the wintertime they'd bring it in our dining room to defrost it because it was frozen, the milk when they got it. And they took it out and they bottled it and Papa and Mama they washed the bottles and everything to make him make a living. And he kept that for a couple of years, milk was sold that way and he made out all right.
In the meantime, Papa went into the bundlewood business. And that didn't turn out so good. And then tey went into the salt business, and that wasn't too good. and meantime...
S: But they still had the charcoal business...
P: ...they had the charcoal business, and the meantime, Mr Kerry that was a millionaire, and Mr Newman, and what was the other fellow--the Irish guy--I can't think of his name. They were in New York and they thought that we were making alot of money here. Well we went in the business only--Sam Decker had it from Harris. And Papa got together with Sam and they used to control, let the price down or up, they didn't fight, they got along together. The Hagemanns they never could control or fix it. But these New Yorkers wanted this business. So they started to squeeze, they wanted it, and Papa would go to NY with Charlie and they didn't want to sell, Papa was making a good living, his children, Charlie. Abie, they were all making a good living. But Mr Kerry died and Mrs Kerry called Pap to NY one time, and Papa went, and she stood face to face with him ans she says you will sell me the business or I will sell charcoal for a penny a bag and put you out of business. He had no alternative. When he came home and told that there Mama cried cause she had suffered so much and now she was making a good living that now she was satisfied, they didn't.
However, to make the long story short, they dickered back and forth, it didn't happen all of a sudden, it went on for a couple of months, and finally they forced Papa and Mama. In the meantime, the charcoal business was very good, if you had good shippers. We had the Wisley (?) Lumber Company, Rocklin NY, they used to manufacture alcohol from their wood and what wa left was charcoal. And their charcoal was light in weight, it was very profitable. But when we bought from down South, it was heavy and we couldn't make a living from that there, but you had to keep both of them in order to go. The contract ran out and they wrote to McKenzie--at that time you didn't telephone or anything, you wrote--they wrote to McKenzie we want to renew it, whatever the price, whatever they agreed on, and it's fixed. Meantime, they forced us to sell. They came to our house on that Friday, Ebie Newman, he bought his son for $25,000 on the stock market he bought him a seat. Remember?
S: I remember the $25,000.
P: Well he bought that. They were such wealthy people at that time, we were paupers, nothing, we thought we were good, making a good living, but we didn't have what they had. And we had to sell. And they wanted Meyer to sign and they wanted Charlie. They didn't think about Abie. And Abie ----, and he didn't so they signed. In the meantime, McKenzie from Rock--- was supposed to send that contract, the new contract, and it went lost. Where did it go? It went to Newark, NY, not Newark, NJ, you see. They didn't know about this contract, so after they settled, they got $25,000 in cash and they got...
This was Friday night. Evie and I, there was portieres, do you remember the portieres over the door to the bedroom? The sitting room was in the front and then Mama's bedroom. Evie and I laid on the floor and suddenly somebody opened the portiere and there we were looking in to see what was going on. I don't know where Abie was. He disappeared, which was right. However, Saturday morning, they sold as much as they could of the charcoal because they wanted to get as much as they could out of it.
On Monday morning, Charlie and Abie went to Brooklyn, and they rented a shed--at that time you didn't have cars, there were a few cars, but mainly it was horses and wagons--they went to Brooklyn, Williamsburg or wherever it was and they rented a place and this contract came in so they had the contract. And they went and bought horses and cows, they got established, on Abie's name. See Charlie couldn't, it was not in his name. And they were in the charcoal business in Brooklyn. With the $25,000 they gave, they bought the business there and they made it...it wasn't easy to go from Newark to Brooklyn, you know, without a car, it wasn't easy.
Anyway, they did it, they had to do it. It was a living and they did it. And about six months later--this was very cold--it got to be in the summer, they couldn't do any business in Newark. They just died. I think my parents bought it back for maybe a couple hundred dollars.
S: They did...
P: Maybe two or three thousand dollars...The horses died, the wagons fell apart, there was nobody, no boss to run it, you understand? So Mrs Kerry called (Kerry, K-E-R-R-Y) she got it settled and they got it back. Of course then they were in business again. And then they nursed Brooklyn as long as they could, but it never amounted to too much. And they were back in Newark again.
Well everything in Newark went fine. In the meantime, the boys were investing in property and real estate and different things and the charcoal got to the point, Abie ran the movies, Meyer had real estate with Charlie...
S: Joe didn't have any part of that?
P: He was a young boy then...
S: He went to school...
P: He was going to school, he was young. And, in the meantime, they was doing this here and there was nobody to run the charcoal business. If one wanted to run it, they could have made a living, but Evie didn't want to and they gave it away. I don't think they sold it to anybody...
S: They didn't?
P: They just gave it away. And before that, when they went into the charcoal business, then the second time after they came back from Brooklyn, they went into grinding. Cause now they used it for medicinal purposes, at that time they were too. As long as we were in the charcoal business we never had a fire, until we started to grind the charcoal.
S: Oh I remember that shed burning up...
P: A couple of times. I remember from the bedroom you saw the flames. It seems as though--do you remember here a couple of months ago that the grain things, the fine stuff, they had the fires, that's what happened with our charcoal. It burned down once, they rebuilt a bigger one, and it burned down and that was the end of it, they didn't do it any grinding. But they did a very good business on that grinding, whatever they used it for. They made a very good living on that there. So they were in the charcoal business and there was nothing there, so they went into the real estate business. And you know that, that was the end of it.
Now we go back to my mother's side of the family. I didn't tell them, I told you off the record, didn't I, about my mother being the first child born to her? after the older one... He was married, had adult children, my mother's father...
S: Your mother's father, his name was what?
P: Wait a minute, wait a minute, Moishe...
S: Moishe Gruber...
P: Wait a minute, let me make sure. Sure he was Shleiman (?) Abisch's father.
S: Moishe Gruber was your...
P: ...my uncle, my mother's brother.
S: Yeah, but your grandfather on your mother's side, what was his name?
P: Leib Gadalia. Pardon me I gotta belch...pardon me. Leib Gadalia ...
S: Gruber...
P: Gruber was my grandfather and my grandmother was Bella.
S: Bella Gruber. That was your grandmother.
P: That's right. Your mother was named after her.
S: That's what I wanted to know.
P: Yes. In the meantime...
S: And they had how many children? They had...
P: The first one, the oldest one, then they had my mother...
S: well that was Margaret...Miriam
P: and Nathan...
S: Wait a minute, there was Miriam...
P: Margaret, Miriam...
S: Cause I never knew her maiden name...
P: Oh yes, Margaret, Miriam, and Nathan and Tsura and Esther
S: Sarah and Esther--that was Gruber
P: That was my mother's father and mother. That was that--my father's side. Those are the ones my father and mother brought to America later on. Oh and then they brought Yoncle, they brought Choima...
S: They brought cousins...
P: Cousins, they brought them all.
S: Your grandma lost all the children until...
P: She couldn't conceive..she conceived but she couldn't carry them through...and if she did, if they were born they lasted maybe a couple of months or a year and then died. Until finally, mind you, it was such a big difference that the oldest one was married by the time my mother was born. It was a long time, but she couldn't conceive. She apparently ws very young becuase otherwise she couldn't have done that there. And then she had these children one after another because she could. But that was the first that she could.
S: She had to wear white...
P: My mother wore white linen the whole seven years...
S: For seven years...
P: Yes. And then after that she could be dressed in anything. She apparently was all right. But when she was so very sick and they gave her a name my grandmother was afraid she was going to lose her too, like the others, but she perisited, and after that she had all the other children. So that was the big difference there.
And of course my grandmother died with hasty consumption, did I tell you this here?
S: Yeah.
P: DId I record it I mean?
S: Yeah.
P: I did? She was the business lady. He made the money, but she was the business lady.
S: She was a ...
P: ...a moneylender, whatever you call it. She took care of his finances..
S: She was a financier...
P: That's right. He gave it to her and she invested it and she did everything, the deals...
S: So on Grandma's side they were quite well off...
P: Both sides...
S: Both sides...
P: Both sides. Until her mother died, until his father died. That's what happens in a family. When the father and mother dies, they were not with much. However, my father married my mother and she was very young, she went to the city to live with him, and my father's sisters--sister-in-laws--they made fun of my mother because she didn't know no ---, she was a balabosta, and after all from her mother she was twelve years old, she saw the way her mother cooked and carried on, and came Pesach, and taking about making food or something, she says -- lukshen, how can you make a ---, how? So she made ---lukshen. They couldn't get over it, they thought that she was a terrible spendthrift, she spent so much money on eggs. But she had good times already with my father from this tavern that they had. You understand? And she had plenty of milk and cream and cheese and she was not lazy.
S: No, well I remember on Vincent Street all the cheese and the cream...
P: ...cream, no she was not lazy, some people were lazy. They didn't want to do it, but she was not lazy. She did it. Yeah the same thing now with this here--what is this they call...
S: Yogurt?
P: Yogurt. I don't know if you remember the big crocks Mama used to have on the end of the stove...
S: Yeah, yeah,
P: at the end of the stove...
S: That was to make cheese...\
P: If you let it it became cheese, but if you got if before it was like yogurt. And we didn't drink it. My mother would take a glass of it, with a knife, a spoon you take it, and she would drink it. Fred used to come and she used to give him that there, Fred used to love it, Herman Baum, but none of us ever drank it. It was yogurt. And I didn't know. I thought cheese was cheese. The Dicks, they knew cause they used to come and get cheese from Mama. But when I got married, and wehen I'd go home back to Hoboken, Mama would give me a whole cheese. And I didn't think that I'd want that cheese, and I gave it to my mother-in-law. They loved that cheese because they could tell the difference. I didn't know the difference. But we had everything, plenty of everything because my mother wasn't lazy. We had our own eggs, milk, butter, cheese...
S: Cause she was brought up on a farm, in the country...
P: That's right.
S: ...she knew how to do all that...
P: That's right. She was not lazy and we did that there. And what else shall I go into? Let me hear...I am lost...turn it off for a minute Sarah....
As soon as Papa started making a living, from the charcoal business, he decided he wanted a minyan, it was too far to walk to Prince Street. So, he hired Jews. And there was no Jews living downtown at that time. But they all wanted to work that time and they all came to work. And the greenhorns all came to work for Papa, Hersch Bitteman, Eliah Bitteman, Berol. Shoal, ...
S: They were all related, weren't they?
P: Sure they were all related, they were all cousins. He brought them all here and gave them jobs. But with the understanding that they had to live nearly cause he wanted to have a minyan Friday night and Saturday. He went for the entitlement. And then for the --- he hired a hassan, used to come in a hall or a store or whatever, and they had a minyan, cause it was so far to walk. Till they made Jefferson Street Shul.
But they never went to Jefferson Street Shul...
S: No, they never went there.
P: No, they never did. So, ...
S: They fixed up their house...
P: In the dining room they had a minyan for during the week. It was only for the --- that they went to another place.
S: They went to the store.
P: And we had a minyan. And then they decided to, Moishe Gingold, he was educated, --- Lerner, Pete Szasz, you know, all these people. And they used to have Jake Goldman, and they used to get together Saturday night, for Mama's birthday, for this. They looked for something. And then everybody in the neighborhood used to come there for a bris, for anything. Whatshisname, the fellow who lived down --the island, they used to call it--I forget his name...
S: Chapel Street?
P: Yeah he lived down there, his twin daughters were born, they came to Mama's ouse to name them. Minnie Boch was married in Mama's house. What's his name, the Rosenbergs, he worked for the tallow factory. Drove the tallow truck...
S: Standard Tallow...
P: Standard Tallow, his boys were bar mitzvahed in our house, whatever happened...
S: Ben had his ufruf there...
P: He did? See, I don't remember that.
S: Sure.
P: See, that was after I was married. And Rivka was born there, and when she was named Rivka, Papa says Oh my----, because he had a stroke already and Mama didn't tell him.
S: Those were happy days...
P: We didn't know any different. You didn't get anything over the radio or over the television or anything. You waited for that Newark Evening News and you sat outside. Remember with the Indain Nuts, two pounds for a quarter...
S: Oh my god...
P: Sarah, two pounds for a quarter...what do they cost now? Must be about ten dollars a pound.
S: I don't know. I don't even buy them.
P: Do you remember sitting for hours?
S: I used to break them for Grandma because I couldn't eat them.
P: But sitting by, sitting on the stoop and you took a walk at night on Vincent Street and Papa and Mama would come up to visit your mother...
S: With the dogs, and the nanny goat...
P: ...and sit outside the sallon for a little while...and walk back again. And Sarah, Papa wore a diamond ring and a diamond stud and the diamond earrings Mama wore. And Mrs Smith used to say when she looked out the back she could see the sun shining on Papa's diamond. Nobody attempted to rob them, did they?
S: No.
P: We were in a different world, Sarah. Try and think of that.
S: Oh, I know.
P: Nobody broke into our house. Nobody robbed us. I used to come running from Ferry Street, a couple blocks in on Sunday night when I went out with the girls, I'd run those two blocks down, nobody evey bothered me. Did they ever bother you?
S: No, never.
P: Never bothered us. Never, never, never.
S: But it was different down there. We had farms down there, what was their names? Hannaways?
P: Hannaways...
S: Hannaways Farm...
P: And somebody, I forget the name of the other one, Boney Camper, there was so many different things. There was Smiths Creek...it was a different life. Different life. Different life entirely.
That's what I said to my children, if they were living in Puerto Rico, I could live in Puerto Rico. I would adjust to it. But alone to live there...for me, not for me...
S: Well, that's it, I guess...
P: So you think I gave you enough?
S: That's it...