Monday, September 29, 2014

Breakfast/Brunch at the Glasers'

We visited my grandparents/mom's parents in the Bronx every other weekend. They visited us on the other weekends. (This continued as long as they lived in the Bronx ).

On the table in my grandparents’ apartment kitchen when we’d walk in for breakfast/brunch:
Breakfast buns
Rye Bread
Raisin Bread
Cream cheese
Chopped liver
Farmer cheese
Muenster cheese
Swiss cheese

Being made:
Fried matzo (matzo brie)
Matzo meal pancakes
Matzo farfel pancakes
Salmon croquettes

Dessert, not yet on the table:

Cake (two kinds)
Chocolate kisses

Malted milk balls


Orange juice

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dad, waves and trains

When we would go to Jones Beach, we wanted to go into the water with Dad because he took us further into the waves :)   Mom would always tell him not to drop us. And he never did :)

Similarly, my brother was scared of trains, but he wanted to see them. So when we took my grandparents (mom's parents) to the LIRR station (Long Island Railroad), he would ask my dad to pick him up and hold him so he could see the train.

I have always liked trains.  Still do. Maybe it is a family thing..

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Frannie story for the High Holidays

The family (mom's mom's side) were gathered together in our backyard in North Massapequa, Long Island, somewhere around Rosh Hashanah. I was six. The grownups were discussing something serious quite seriously, perhaps God (they ranged far and wide in conversation, and they could easily have been talking about God, although they were secular/humanist to a one).

I asked, "Does God curve?"

They looked up at me, amazed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On The Long Island Railroad

Not exactly a Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur story, but for some reason it springs to mind.

My grandmother (mother's mother) was traveling back from our house on Long Island to her place in the Bronx on the Long Island Railroad. (She would then take the subway after she got off in Manhattan.)  It was 1966.

She didn't realize for the first few moments that about ten rows in front of her were sitting our (my brother's and my) shule teachers. (Shul-eh, as opposed to shul. The Shule -Folkshul or folkschool movement- was started in the 1910's by Jewish Socialists or socialists who wanted their Americanized or American children to receive knowledge of Jewish history, culture and, yes, religion too, as well as Yiddish and/or Hebrew, and also a knowledge of the progressive movements of the time. It would not emphasize prayers, but would also provide knowledge of the different groupings in Judaism.)

My brother and I were attending a Workmen's Circle shule in East Meadow, on Long Island. I appreciated it a lot. My brother was not exactly enthralled.

She heard my teacher say:  "Ikh hob di shvester. Feyge. Vos far an ayzerne kop!"  (I have the sister, Feyge (my Yiddish name). What a brilliant mind. Idiomatically, what an iron head (holds onto knowledge and does not let go).

Then she heard my brother's teacher say: "Ober ikh hob di bruder. Oy, iz dos a bandit!"  (I have the brother. Oy, is he a rascal. Since my brother's favorite pastimes in shule were throwing paper airplanes, jumping over desks and opening and shutting the window, "bandit" may have been kind.)

My grandmother knew them, and they knew her (from various places, summer camp among them). She pushed her hand hastily against her mouth because she didn't want them to hear her laughing and she didn't want to embarrass them by somehow showing that she had heard them. (She thought their summations quite accurate.)

Somehow she managed to keep her head lowered so that they did not see her during the entire ride. She told my mom over the phone when she got home amid the laughter that she could now let out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We remember her

For the last five Rosh Hashanahs/Hashanot and Yom Kippurs/Yom Kippurim, my mom read her parts -the same parts-at our Secular Jewish Kehillah Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur programs She read with love, feeling and gorgeous diction. She had to walk very slowly on her walker to get to the microphone, which was then lowered so that it could reach her mouth and adjusted so that she didn't have to hold it.

The section of our program she read is entitled Remembrance. I will read it in her memory on September 25, our first Secular Kehillah Rosh Hashanah without her. On October 4th, I will read the part she read on Yom Kippur.

As I walk to the podium, part of me will walk with her by my side, stooping down so that I can hold her if necessary. The same words that I read more lackadaisically will echo her love and warmth and precision.

And I will say in my heart as well as with my throat, "We remember her now."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mom and Dad

I wish my mom could have seen the series on the Roosevelt. It would have brought back so much for her, especially the war in which blackouts by night accompanied the glamour in dating young men in soldiers' uniforms by day.

Including my dad. He was actually sent to radar school in Chicago and then a special racaldio unit in Texas. Technically he was in the navy. His legs were soon too long for his uniform, my mom told me, because he was still growing.

They met first on a double date, a date on which my mom was paired with my uncle and my dad was paired with a friend of my mom's. But instead, my mom told me, my dad called her up a few days after.

My mom and dad dated for a while, then broke up.

They met again seven years after, when the Korean War and the Cold War were in full swing. It was at a place called Camp Eden, Camp Gan Eden (Garden of Eden), a camp owned by the small but active Jewish Socialist Verband.  She was there for a couple of weeks. He was up for the day.

They became engaged after five dates.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dad's family and the Amalgamated

I will be writing somewhat more about my mom's family than my dad's because two of my first cousins have kids. So they will pass on some of the stories about my dad's family. My brother and I are the only ones left on my mom's side because she was an only child, and neither of us had kids.

However, today I will write a bit about my dad's family.

There have been articles and a film about the four housing Coops of the Bronx that started in the 1910's-1920's (The United Workers' Coops, The Sholom Aleichem Houses, The Farband Coop and The Amalgamated). One of them, the last, remains. It was financed and built by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers' Union so that its members and their children and those of other related (clothing industry) unions would have housing at a reasonable price and in a pleasant environment. It is referred to as The Amalgamated, although its entire name is the The Amalgamated Cooperative Housing Society.

Two more Coop developments were built in the Bronx after, in the 1950's and 1960's:  Parkchester and Coop City, both of which were meant to draw tenants of incomes similar to the other, previous Coops.

My father and his brother grew up in The Amalgamated from 1928-1951 (I believe they moved there when my dad was 3). They were surrounded by people who spoke both English and Yiddish, voted and demonstrated according to their progressive views and generally believed in maintaining their coops and buildings with pride and fun. There were at least one hundred clubs and societies that flourished in their ten block square area. They were also right near Van Cortlandt Park and its wonderful lake.

The two brothers -my dad and my uncle- had a mission of their own: to cause trouble whenever possible. They brought pigeons into the bathtub in their bathroom, they tied people's shoes together, they switched telephone lines so that the residents could not call out and were instead talking to each other, and they gave as much grief as possible to their teachers (one of whom was a cousin).

My dad became an electronic engineer. (I guess that is how many electronic engineers started - by switching people's telephone lines.)  My uncle became an astrophysicist.

I put in an application to live in the Amalgamated in 2006 -the waiting list extends anywhere from five to seven years- but I had to move away from the New York area in 2009, so I never did find out if I would have been accepted.

Would have been interesting, to live there...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My shtetele (shteh-teh-leh) Pelham Parkway

Some (Jewish) people remembered with longing the shtetlekh (villages where Jews lived) of their youth when they came to New York (Manhattan, usually the Lower East Side).  There was a song made wildly popular in and by the Yiddish Theater entitled "Mayn Shtetele Belz" in which the singer reminisces and becomes quite nostalgic for his home shtetl.

The Lower East Side became something of a shtetl on its own. But then those who lived there moved uptown and out - to Brooklyn, The Bronx and then to Queens and out to the Island and then south, west, even north to other states.

So  my "shtetl" was Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, as many of you already know, where my grandparents (mother's parents) lived for forty four years, and where my mom lived for twenty two years before she was married. An urban village, to use the term used by Herbert Gans in his book of  close to the same name (The Urban Villagers). Only it was a shtetl without agents of the Tsar creating pogroms. It was a shtetl the way the shtetl should have been.

My mom grew up there and said it was one of the best places in the world to grow up (especially if one was Jewish).

In the nineteen fifties and sixties, there was still very much of a shtetl feeling about Pelham Parkway. My grandma would go out shopping with her wagon and would meet other ladies she knew who were going shopping with their wagons. The stores selling foods she needed were all on Lydig Avenue, a block or so away, and there were many of them, most of them still small neighborhood stores. Some sold fruit and vegetables. Two sold fish. There were still two butcher shops (one had closed a few years before). There were candy stores which actually sold candy and a lot of other things.

On Saturday there was a hush over the area, even though many people didn't go to shul or to synagogue. It didn't matter. Some of the stores closed, some were still open. But it was still quiet. Then after services (not attended by all), people of all groupings walked around and greeted each other: the Orthodox, the Conservative, the Reform, the Secular. No one quarreled, at least on the basis of spirituality or belief systems.

The one group missing from this pleasing portrait of city life:  children.

We lived in the Bronx -after moving back from Rome, NY- until I was almost three. Then,, along with the majority of those who were in their twenties and had kids, we moved. For us, it was out to Long Island. So many reasons: houses were too expensive in Pelham Parkway, people my parents' age were moving out too, the commute to work was shorter, and it was supposed to be good for married couples to have their own lives apart from their parents.

We came back every weekend. Or my grandparents (mother's parents) came to us.

When I got older (12), we moved to Queens, and it became easier to go to the Bronx to visit  them by myself.

It was good to be back.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Forgot the paintings

I described one of my two favorite rooms of all times last night - the living room in my grandparents'  (mother's parents) apartment . But I forgot to describe one of its most prominent features:  the two paintings, each on opposite walls, facing each other.

One is of a snake smiling as an oyster opens below it, revealing a pearl.  The other is of a naked woman in orange outline, with delineated areas of blue and white surrounding her.

Both are cubist. Both are by a painter, a friend of my grandfather's, named Michael Sollento, who gave them to my grandparents (mom's parents) as a wedding present in 1925.

Now when one grows up with art in a room one loves, one is apt to love the art and not even think much about its placement.. My cousin Barbara, from whom you've heard, did not think that the room matched the paintings, My mom was a bit embarrassed by them, especially when her numerous boyfriends saw them. I, on the other hand, had a most interesting time debating with both friends and boyfriends whether the lady in the painting had two or three nipples. The snake was a bit too smug for my taste, but I understood why it was smiling.

We still have the paintings on our wall(s) in the living room here, in Cherry Hill. I love them as much or perhaps more than I did then because they bring back the memories of that room.

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Perfect Room

In my entire life, I have been in two perfect rooms.

I was privileged to stay, to sit in one of them hundreds of times. It was in my grandparents' (mother's parents) Pelham Parkway, Bronx apartment, the living room, to be exact. The walls were beigish salmon with the molded lines that I loved. The carpet was gold by that time, and the oldish couch was upholstered in a cotton material of beige, brown and tan with gold threads. The cocktail table held both a large glass bowl and smaller ones filled with candy. (1940's-1960's, if you wish to imagine the furnishing era.)

The little two-tiered beehive table housed a cranberry colored glass dish and two little gold cups and saucers I had bought my grandma for some birthday of hers when I was seven. It also held a nut dish with those old fashioned silver picks and matching nutcracker. In a white and silver glass dish were 15 pieces of artificial fruit - apples, bananas, oranges, tangerines, pears and grapes.

The TV sat in front of the back wall and the twin windows with greenish-olive and gold curtains with sashes. Formal royalish chairs sat on either side of the TV and presented themselves as oh so perfect for looking out on the fire escapes and the wet street and the grinning gargoyles of the mellow bricked building across the street in the rain. The rain seemed to bring out their grins.

On either side of the couch were side tables with several drawers. At this stage the drawers held albums of photographs. I could and did at times look through them for hours, just as I did watch TV from time to time, but mostly if someone else was watching.

In the front of the room, on the left side of the entrance arch, was the bar, which held many types of glasses for parties and a fair selection of liquor and wine.

I wondered at times what it took to make a room like that, a room so perfect that one didn't want to leave. When I was in a pensive mood, I liked to make myself sad by imagining what it would be like if I had to live in that apartment and sit in that room alone, after no one else was around.

Sadly the time came when much of the furniture and glassware w-ere sold, and my grandma came to live with us in Cherry Hill after my grandfather died. But she and I and my mom never stopped missing the apartment and that room, in which, my mom told me, she had lived and slept when the greatgrandmas (her grandmas) occupied the second bedroom, one at a time. When she moved out after she married my dad, she said, it became a living room again.

I have been back many times and looked up at the apartment, seeing each room in my mind's eye. I never rang the bell or knocked at the door of those who occupied it after. I didn't want to see the changes.

This way I get to go on seeing it as it was then. Indulgence of the most cloying sort, I suppose.

But I can't help it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Split Heritage?

Not only did I have one relative who "named names" during the HUAC/McCarthy Hearings (third cousin) and one who didn't (grandfather), but I also had one grandfather who was a conscientious objector to World War I, and one who served in the Polar Bear/North Russia Expeditionary Force (anti-Soviet action) in 1918-1919.

I have not yet spoken about my father's side of the family, but let me introduce you to my grandfather - father's father- Jacob Kantrowitz/Kantorovich, later Kant. He was born in Kishinev in 1886. Kishinev shuffled back and forth between Romania and Russia, and was also the site of the worst pogrom (official action against the Jews, which included killing, raping, maiming, burning and looting,as well as desecrating holy books). He told us that his father, a rabbi, had, um, a few places of residence and a few wives, one for each place:  Russia, Turkey, Israel (Palestine then) and maybe France, as well. Jacob started organizing for the Jewish Labor Bund (Jewish Socialist and Self-Defence Organization) when he was quite young (13?) and traveled to many places in Russia and Poland, as my mother's father did with Young People's Socialist League here, in the USA.

However, when my grandfather -father's father- arrived here in the USA, he didn't find any jobs on which he could live. So he went into the Army. To his surprise, they made him a sergeant and a Russian and French interpreter. He ended up being awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Cross of St. George.

My dad dug this up.

Soldier Summary

Jacob Kantrowitz

Altername names
  • Kant, Jacob
Military History
Rank: Sergeant (French and Russian Interpreter)
Unit: United States. Army. Infantry, 339th. Company M.
Medals Awarded
  • Cross of St. George
  • Croix de Guerre
Bronx, NY
The history of the American expedition fighting the Bolsheviki; campaigning in north Russia 1918-1919
"M" Company 339th infantry in North Russia
Joel Roscoe Moore papers, 1917-1929, 1940, and 1949-1952

Almost all of the Polar Bear Expedition manuscript and archival materials held by the Bentley Historical Library, as well as related books and periodicals, have been digitized and are freely available for public use on this website. The library is actively seeking additions to the collections, so some recently-acquired materials are not available online. However, all of these collections are described on this site, and researchers are welcome to contact the library's reference staffregarding access or copies.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Odinovs moved around

When my greatgrandparents (mom's mom's parents) came to the USA with their family -my greatgrandfather came first, with my grandmother's half sister (from his first wife, who had died years before). Then the oldest sister of the rest of the family (second wife's children - my great aunt Eleanor) came. My greatgrandfather then sent for the rest of his family a year and a half later. They lived first on the Lower East Side, then moved to the Bronx, then moved to Brooklyn. Many of the children -my grandmother and her siblings, my great aunts and uncles- moved back to the Bronx after.

It turned out that a very dear friend's grandma -from Puerto Rico- lived in the same building in the Bronx that my great grandparents and family had lived in two generations before, near Washington Ave and 175th. I guess it could be considered either Tremont or Crotona Park.

When my grandparents -mother's parents- moved back to the Bronx in 1931, they moved instead to the new Pelham Parkway section, with Art Deco buildings with mosaic lobby floors and stucco walls on each story, and an echoing, dreamy quality to the floor and walls when one opened the door and breathed out.

They lived in several different apartment buildings before they moved, in 1941, to 2181 Wallace Ave, to the apartment they would inhabit for 44 years - 2D. My mom was 10 at the time. She lived there until she was married, in 1953.

She considered it more of a  home than any other place in which she lived, and so did I.

Greatgrandparents/mom's mom's parents

Moisei./Moshe/Moses Odinov - born in Gorki, Russia. Died at 82 in New York. Dates uncertain.?)

One child by his first wife: Rose Odinov Jacobson, emigrated with her father in 1911.

Rochel Schneiderman Odinov - born  in 1876 in Dubrika, Belarus, . Died in 1955, in New York, at 79. Emigrated with 6 of 7 children in 1913. Eleanor, the oldest, emigrated in 1912.

Their children (all born in Ryasna, Mogilev, Belarus):

Eleanor Odinov Chalek. Born 1898. Died in 1984 in New York.

Helen Odinov Glaser.    Born 1900. Died in 1988 in Cherry Hill, NJ

Shirley Odinov Nichols. Born 1901. Died in 1995 in New York.

Irene Odinov Turkin.  Born 1903. Died in 1970 in New York.

Benjamin Odinov. Born 1904. Died in 1998 in New York.

Arthur Odinov. Born 1907. Died in 2001 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Irwin Dilworth Odinov ("Dilly"). Born 1908. Died in 1979 in New York.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A few more things

A few more things about The Little Mother, as Barbara aptly called my greatgrandmother (mother's father's mother).

She marched in two May Day parades (in New York) at the age(s) of 77 and 78.

My mom adored her because The Little Mother told her stories and sang to her. (The voice gene was from her side; it went to my grandpa, my mom and to a lesser extent, me.)

Fannie Blaeman Glaser:  1858-1949              The Little Mother/Greatgrandmother, Grandma, Mother
Born in Pruzhany, Belarus (?), moved to Ukraine/Dneprpetrovsk
Emigrated 1902. Lived in Philadelphia and New York.
Died in New York

James S. Glaser     1899-1985                        Grandpa/Uncle Jim - also "Poppy"
Born in Ukraine/Dneprpetrovsk
Emigrated 1902. Lived in Philadelphia, New York
and many other places.
Died in New York.

Helen Odinov Glaser:  1900-1988                 Grandma/Aunt Helen - also "Nanny"
Born in Ryasna, Mogilev/Mahilow, Belarus
Emigrated 1913. Lived in New York
and many other places.
Died in Cherry Hill, NJ

Millicent Eunice Glaser Kant  1928-2014     Mom/Cousin Millicent
Born in Brooklyn, NY, but moved to the Bronx
when she was 3.
Lived in the Bronx, Long Island, Queens
and Cherry Hill, NJ
Died in Cherry Hill, NJ

Barbara Paull                                    2nd Cousin (We share a greatgrandmother - The Little Mother)
Born in Pittsburgh, PA and resides
there, but has lived in many other places.
Writer/Public Relations/Journalist

Barbara Paull: What Aunt Helen told me about the Little Mother

The Little Mother was my great grandmother (mother's father's mother), my mom's grandma, my grandma's mother in law, my grandpa's mom, and Barbara's great aunt.

Aunt Helen was my grandma (mother's mother) and Barbara's aunt. Uncle Jim was my grandfather and Barbara's uncle.

What the Little Mother Ate
She was short and thin, very tiny, but strong).   In the morning she used to eat oatmeal, but later she stopped because she said the oatmeal stuck to the pot and made it hard to clean.  So then she changed to kasha, which she cooked with butter.  She made something she called cuytr (sp.?) of one cup coffee, a mixture of one cup water and one cup of milk, into which she stirred two spoons full of coffee. She drank one cup at breakfast and one cup later in the morning.  She ate no meat or fish.

For lunch she would have more coffee with perhaps a slice of toast with a piece of cheese.  For dinner she might have an egg or a mashed potato and some tea.

She read the Forward every day and especially a column by  some doctor who answered questions and gave answers about health.  If the doctor would say, You shouldn’t eat this or that because it’s bad for the kidneys, or People with heart trouble should avoid thus and so, she would stop eating it.  She followed his directions for every illness.

How she came to live with Helen and Jim:
The Little Mother had gone to Altoona for a visit with Aunt Mary, and she developed a cyst or growth on her urinary passage.  Because of that, it was painful to urinate.  So Aunt Mary took her to a doctor.  The doctor said it was a result of old age and that nothing could be done about it.  But the Little Mother was no fool or ignorant woman.  She called the doctor a “carnaval.”  In Russian that refers to someone who castrates bulls to make them oxen.  Aunt Mary was so embarrassed, but at least the doctor didn’t know Russian.  So she came to us in New York and I took her to my gynecologist who said it could be burned off with some acid. He did it in his office, but it wasn’t completely successful, so she went into the hospital for a little operation.  Oh, she was so happy there, so much attention.  Instead of staying for one week,, she stayed in for two.  And when she was discharged we couldn’t just send her back to her little apartment, so she came to us. At that time, we lived across the street. We had two bedrooms, but only one bathroom. If I wanted to clean it, she would be so worried that she would need the bathroom, she’d bang on the door.  So I went to the agent for the building and said, “Please, my mother-in-law is with me.  I need an apartment with two bathrooms.”  He didn’t have one in that building, so he said he’ll give us one across the street.  We carried all the small things across the street ourselves.  Aunt Mary came to help us move.  And then we got a truck and movers for the furniture.  It only took them two hours to move us across the street, but they had a minimum charge of four hours, so after they finished the job, they just sat out on the curb. We had to pay them for the two hours of just sitting on the curb.

What the Little Mother Wore:
The Little Mother was very vain.  She had very fancy clothes.  Aunt Mary used to send all of her fancy dresses when she had tired of them.  Aunt Mary was the same height, only much bigger, so the Little Mother would take all the clothes in on the sides.

Once before she came to live with us, she became very sick.  At that time the city had an epidemic of bronchial pneumonia.  She got a hold of her son Ben, who lived near her in the Bronx, and he sent her in a cab to us.  I called the doctor to come amd when he arrived, she said she wasn’t ready.  She always wore heavy underwear, but she didn’t want the doctor to see such underwear, so she asked him to wait.  Finally, she came in with a fancy robe and her lace underwear.  The doctor said, “Well, that’s very nice, but you’ll have to take it off.  How can I examine you with so many clothes on?  You’ve been to a doctor before, you know not to wear all that.”

She just loved to dress up, and she especially loved big hats.  Aunt Mary would send her fancy hats.  In the ebening I remember she’d put on a white suit, with a lace blouse, and white shoes and a big hat and gloves and walk down to the corner.  It was the only place she had to go, so she’d dress up like that just to get the Forward!

Told to me by my aunt, Helen Glaser

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My grandfather (mother's father) and the Palmer Raids

I have said in the past that I am not a political writer, and this is true. Yet my grandparents and mom lived so much in and with the urgent realities of politics that I end up having to talk about many different occurrences and movements.

After World War I, and in the wake of the Russian Revolution, actions by a certain group of anarchists elevated fears of /against foreign groups and alleged agitators blossomed into the Red Scare of 1919-1924 (the year that strict quotas against potential Southern and Eastern European immigrants were put into place). In 1919 and 1920, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer attempted to cast a wide net and compiled a list which named almost 60,000 supposedly "hyphenated American" dangerous radicals. Only a small fraction of them were actually deported, but the threat of deportation was quite real for most of them.

As a conscientious objector to World War I and the main writer and publisher of the Socialist Philadelphia Free Press (the predecessor of the Philadelphia Free Press of the 1960's-1970's), as well as a member of the Soldiers and Sailors Workingmen's Councils (a division of the IWW), and of course as someone who had not been born in the USA (he came here at the age of 3), my grandfather was a prime target for the Palmer Raids. The District Attorney of Pennsylvania, Francis Fisher Kane, was sympathetic to the accused and denounced the injustice of the raids. His office managed to tip off some of the potential targets. My grandfather was not even able to say goodbye to his mom; the contact arranged to get word to her.

His printing press was smashed, as was Marat's in the French Revolution.

He went south that evening and ended up working for different papers in Delaware, North Carolina and Georgia until the raids stopped and it was safe for him to go back north. By then, my great grandmother had relocated from Philadelphia to New York, and my grandfather became acquainted with the Village (Greenwich Village) and made many friends.

He also found out that two of his best friends had been deported in the Raids.

Barbara goes to New York

Contributed by Barbara Paull, my second cousin and dear friend

When I was about 12 years old, my mother gave me a wonderful gift.  She bought me not only a train ticket, but a ticket for a special little compartment with a pull down bed, a sink,  a closet and a good reading light.  All this to take a night train to New York City, where I would spend a vacation with my Glaser relatives: Uncle Jim, Aunt Helen and their daughter Millicent. It was a lovely trip through the Pennsylvania countryside. Even better was to see the Glasers waiting for me in Penn Station.

I had met the Glasers several years previously, and was madly in love with Uncle Jim, an elfin gentleman with a head of white hair.  At that time I believe my uncle worked at the New York Post--and even then I knew I too wanted to be a writer.

My week or so with the Glasers, in their Bronx apartment, opened a whole world for me.  This was a world where adults spoke with youngsters as equals--about politics (they were socialists), about books, about the world in general. Way beyond my experiences with other adults.

Here is the cast of characters:  Uncle Jim, a highly politicized writer/editor.  In his younger days, he was an activist for John Reed and Reed’s efforts to stir up support in New York and Philadelphia.  According the others in the family, Philadelphia became too hot for Uncle Jim at some point, and he moved his family to Pittsburgh. 

Then there was Aunt Helen.  I loved to go shopping with her at the stores on Pelham Parkway, carefully selecting for fruit, the vegetables and the marvelous breads for the day. To make my trip even more special, Aunt Helen organized a little trip to Manhattan, to see the Planetarium with her niece and her sister-in-law.  Afterwards, of course, we met Uncle Jim at his favorite hangout--Horn and Hardart--watching food magically appear behind little glass windows.

Next came Millicent, the daughter of the family, already studying for a career as a mezzo-soprano, hopefully at the Metropolitan Opera.  This was something totally new for me.  What could be more glamorous than singing for your supper.   Millicent was glamorous-looking. with a lovely face and thick, curly hair.  I watched one night as Aunt Helen carefully worked olive oil into Millicent’s scalp and hair, practically strand by strand, to give her hair rich body. 

In that age of radio, Saturday afternoons offered a weekly highlight, the Metropolitan Opera broadcast.  Millicent brought chairs into the front room, lined with bookshelves and filled to overflowing with books.  She fiddled with the dial until the station was clear and static-free.  Then came two or three hours of rapt attention to the day’ opera.

Oh, I forgot to mention The Little Mother (a name I have always used to identify this ancient woman who was the doyenne of the  family). She, too, joined the opera audience.  I do not know her name and I did not speak to her because we did not share a common language.  Hers may have been Russian and it may have been Yiddish.  She wore carefully made and beautiful clothing and was attended with great deference by all.  I believe she was Uncle Jim’s mother.  I also believe that she spent time at the homes of various of her offspring.  I know I saw her also at the home of my mother’s Aunt Mary.

What I remember most of all from my visit was the love and respect shown by each member of the family to all.  I never heard a voice raised in anger or denigration.  Little gifts were shared by all.  A trip to the movie theater was accompanied by lovely bars of chocolate filled with fruit jams.  A dinner cooked by Aunt Helen always featured a lovingly made potato kugel.  And the books--in the many years I was to visit, then and in the future, I could never have read all the books on the shelves, but they were eagerly shared with me and I read and digested each one.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not Puppets

When my mom's dad/my grandfather became the manager of The DailyWorker (leading Communist paper in the USA, which later became The Daily World), he was aghast to find that the reporters and others working for it worked six day weeks and at least 12 hours a day. He quickly put them on schedules of 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.

A representative of the Communist Party called on him and sneered that he had fallen into a bourgeois error by granting the equivalent of union working conditions to the workers and staff of the Daily Worker. My grandfather answered that it was fair, not bourgeois, and that American Communists were not puppets.

Eventually, disgusted by the attitude manifested by this representative and many more like him, my grandfather left the CP in 1937.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A teacher by any other nick..

The stories will not come in any order. Here is the first.

When my grandfather (mother's father) joined the Communist Party in 1929, he took another name. His Communist name was James Casey. My mother acquired the (new) name, at 1 year of age, of Baby Casey.

As James Casey, he then taught journalism at the Rand School for Social Science, the one school where Socialism (in several varieties) was actually taught. Many years later someone said to a friend of his that he learned more from his little Irish teacher, James Casey, in the Rand School than he ever did in any other journalism school. Hehe...wonder how he would have felt if he had known that his teacher was not Irish..

Victor Navasky gets his name wrong in Naming Names. It was James Casey, not Jack Casey (p. 58).

Monday, September 8, 2014

Introducing Frannie's Family

Introducing Frannie's Family..

I have no children, so I must pass on the stories about my family in another way. This blog is to help accomplish the preservation and hand down the stories about my mom and dad and their families. Thus they will continue, somehow...