Kirk Douglas and The Forverts

Remember the movie “Hester Street”? It was based on the writing of Abe Cahan, who was editor of the Yiddish newspaper, The Forverts (The Forward).  The link above is to a funny story about it as told to my daughter…

Kirk Douglas

On this occasion of his passing, take a moment to hear Mr. Douglas in 2002 singing in Yiddish when he received a lifetime achievement award. The song is Mayn Yidishe Meydele, My Jewish Girl, link below. You won’t believe his eloquent speech and presentation despite suffering a stroke. Such a poignant reminiscence perhaps only a gifted actor could convey.

Olev hasholem.

You Can Take the Girl out of Brooklyn, but…

You can’t take the Brooklyn out of the girl. (I know that “The Bronx” would have worked a lot better in this borrowing but I am not from there.)

Now I ask you, what does the sign, spotted on the Belt Parkway, mean? Does it mean you are leaving Brooklyn so you can just forget it? Or, my interpretation, you are never really leaving Brooklyn behind. To put it another way, “Fuhgeddaboudit? Fuhgeddaboudit!”


My Father the Tailor

Above is quite an old photo of my father, Harry Silberman, who was a tailor from Romania.

The photo above shows Poppa (left) with one of his first bosses when he worked as a tailor in a factory loft in Brooklyn. Poppa later opened his own shop and dry cleaners in Bay Ridge.

But few people wear bespoke clothing anymore. Most people, well…

The Moonlight Flit

Two of our tenants, a mother and daughter, moved to 82nd or 83rd Street from our building on 69th Street. This was in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn during the 1930s. (They did what my husband would call the moonlight flit.) So who does my father send to collect the rent they owed? My mother and me—the two “helds” (heroes). As as we approached their building I saw the mother looking out the window. I saw her and she saw us. They didn’t answer the door. Needless to say we did not get the rent.


My Father’s Store

Here’s a very old photo of Poppa in front of his tailor and dry cleaning store; this must have been in the 1930s. The store was on 77th Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues in Bay Ridge. I remember every detail inside. There was a huge counter when you walked in. Behind it was the pressing machine, and a big wall of cabinets built by my zayde.

One Thin Penny

Our street, 69th Street (aka Bay Ridge Avenue), had trolleys running in both directions. Same goes for Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. I remember vividly how boys used to delight in placing pennies on the trolley tracks, then they would wait for the coins to be totally flattened. But this was during the depression so they only used pennies. A nickel was a real money!

My Mother’s Favorite Joke

You would not believe the week I just had. It was beyond belief.

But now back to the blog: Below you will see a very old photo of my mother and me taken on the rooftop of our building on 69th Street in Bay Ridge. I won’t reveal my age due to security reasons but this photo was taken in the early 1920s.

If you have moment, I also wanted to tell my mother’s favorite joke. Please click on the audio player below the picture…

The Iceman

Joe the iceman came around our neighborhood in Bay Ridge with a big ice wagon. This was in the 1920s and early thirties when we had an icebox. Originally Joe had a horse and cart but afterward he had a truck. You would call down and say, “15 cents worth!”, or “25 cents worth!” He used a pick to cut off a block of ice then grab it with big tongs. He had a rubberized piece of material so he could carry the ice on his back and schlep it up the stairs. We were on the third floor. Joe was Italian and a very hard worker. But don’t worry that he lost his livelihood when refrigerators came along. Joe was the one who bought the building from my father.

New York’s Smartest

Bay Ridge High School 1918
Bay Ridge High School 1918

To the public school teachers: I consider myself a proud, happy, and grateful product of the New York City school system. In my time, the teachers had a tremendous job teaching children of families who emigrated from all over Europe. They had to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and history to form students into solid American citizens. English very often was not the language spoken at home.

I loved my teachers and I loved school. I still remember their names from my time at P.S. 170 and Bay Ridge High School. (I graduated in 1940 so the post card is even older than I am!) I had Miss Rush in Kindergarten. Miss File in third grade. In sixth grade, I had Mrs. Strauss who was so kind. She invited me to her home where she had a beautiful piano and helped me with whatever songs I was learning as a young singer. My high school French teacher was Mlle. Faust. She used a pencil that was red on one side and blue on the other. So trust me, I learned to speak French like a native.

To all the teachers: Thank you, thank you. You will never be forgotten. And I have no reason to think that in the challenging melting pot of New York schools today, the job of the teacher is any easier or that their work is any less miraculous.