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...

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