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I Remember When
In 2003 Roz (R.) spoke about her family and her life in a group gathering.
Among those present were Marcia (M.), Roz's daughter, Roz's husband Jerry (J),
cousins Annette (A.), Aunt Celia (C.) and this museum's founder Steven Lasky (S.).
Here are some excerpts of the conversation.
[For reference: Roz's parents were Fannie and Max. Her step-father was Sam. Sam's brother was Charlie.]
R: We were definitely Depression children. We really were. There’s no question about it. I think depression babies remain depression babies … I think that’s why we look at things so differently now.
Do you know that I remember that my brother and I used to stand, palpitating on Saturday mornings, to go to the movies? My mother would make us the lunch, you know, with a cheese sandwich, or chicken with chicken fat on it, that we used to pack in the bag. And we used to wait for Sam to come to give us the eleven cents, ‘cause my mother couldn’t give it to us. And it was that bad, that I had to wait. And we used to say, oh my G-d, we’re going to miss the shorts, because, you know, we wanted to get there. And then he would always show up, Sam, and give my brother the eleven cents, and me the eleven cents, and we’d run to the movies ... We went to the Livonia Supreme. That’s where we went. We walked, because we were only a block away. ... And they used to give away dishes. My mother went too. That’s how she used to run. She didn’t care what picture was playing … she had to run to the movies to get that one dish for the set. I remember it was ten cents, and then they raised it to eleven cents. And I had to go home, and get my father, because they thought -- at the movies, they thought that I was older than eleven years old, or whatever it was, and you had to pay more. I just had the dime or the eleven cents, so I had to go home and get my father.
ROZ AND JERRY
R: We didn’t have a telephone for a long while. We had no telephone in the house ... Someone would call from downstairs and get two cents … They would call up from the candy store, and I'd run down to get the call.
J: I went down to a drugstore. I met Roz when we were both living in Brooklyn. And when I was sixteen, I had already known her for two years, but we knew we were for each other even from the beginning. So I moved to Brighton [where she lived after Fannie and Sam got married], and I used to go downstairs. We didn’t have a phone, so I used to go to the drugstore, call her for a nickel, call Katz’s candy store on the corner [of Riverdale and Williams Avenue], and Katz would come and yell upstairs, “There’s a phone call for you.”
R: I lived on the third floor, and I used to run down the two flights of steps.
J: And we were both sitting in the phone booths, talking to one another.
J: I used to climb up -- I was fourteen years old when I met Roz -- and I climbed up the telephone pole. I was ashamed to go into the house. I was too young. So I used to call her through the kitchen window, climbing up the telephone pole, until one day Roz’s mother said to her, “If he wants to come and see you, tell him to come upstairs.” And that’s how I started to come up into the house.” (laugh) Remember?
R: Aunt Celia, wasn’t the Davis family the same relationship as the Glickman family? I think they were the same kind of cousins, like the Glickmans -- but the Davis uncle was the brother of somebody ...
A: I think it was our grandmother’s brother, the Davis person, because my father used to say that when our grandmother married our grandfather, they disowned her because he was only a blacksmith, and she married below her station on life. (They didn’t see her again.) They cut her off. She was a widow with five children and nobody would come and help her. So when he came here and Uncle Davis got him a job in a garter factory, somebody said to him, “He probably really doesn’t like you because you can get killed in here, and if you were smart, you’d get out.”
C: And “You start with five, you’ll die with five.”
A: That’s what they told him.
R: I remember them. We were all in awe. When they came to the house, people looked down downstairs if they knew there was a car parked downstairs. We were in awe. They were the rich side of the family, like the Glickmans. I think they lost contact with us many years ago.
I remember my mother and father going to the -- they had a society in Manhattan, and they used to go like once a month or so, and that’s what it was. The whole society was people from the town of Jedwabne, and they had a burial plot in a cemetery … that’s what it is. All the graves in that area are from that organization.
SAM, MAX AND FANNIE
S: When did Sam
M: But in Orthodox, when the man died, the brother is supposed to take care of the wife.
R: She was very lucky, because she had two men who really loved her dearly. They really did. Both of them. Really did.
S: So Max and Fannie were living at 510 Riverdale since when? Since they got married?
R: Until he died. Sure. And then after my father passed away, Mom and Sam moved to Brighton Beach. And they lived on Oceanview Avenue.
R: My father died in 1950, that Marcia is named after him. And then she married Sam in ’51. She didn’t actually want to get married at all. We really talked her into it.
R: Sam was a butcher. He worked in the wholesale part of meats. In the slaughterhouse. ... In fact, when we used to eat a frankfurter he used to die, because he knew what went into that. “Oh, you must never eat that. ‘Cause if there’s a mouse around, it goes right into it!” That’s what he did. He did it until he retired.
S: Now, your father Max used to be in moving he used to be a trucking man?
R: Yes. He had his own truck.
R: He had a hernia. It was ruptured.
J: It was supposed to have been strangulated. He was fifty-two years old when he died.
R: My father used to deliver from furniture stores. He didn’t do moving. He delivered furniture from furniture stores. He had one or two men working for him because he never—he drove. It was his truck.
My mother worked. That’s why we’re “Depression children.” She worked on gloves in a glove factory. And then she worked on gloves, and she also did the pearls of the ... She strung the pearls. That’s what she did.
J: That’s where they got the song, “String of Pearls.” (laugh)
R: That’s what she did. She strung the pearls. She did that piecework.
R: My father was here much before my mother. They were childhood sweethearts. They lived across the street from one another in Jedwabne. They were married since 1923, and my father died in 1950.
J: Twenty-seven years.
R: I lived at 510 Riverdale Avenue, right around the corner from your grandmother. We moved away in 1948.
J: I moved away in 1946.
R: I’m saying that when I got married, that’s when I left.
R: Katz’s candy store was right on the corner. I lived over that candy store.
J: You were on the third floor.
R: There were all houses. One side was all tenement houses, but across the street were smaller houses. They were not stores. I know on Riverdale there was a fruit store.
S: So Max and Fannie were living at 510 Riverdale since when? Since they got married?
Until he died. Sure. And then after my father passed away, they moved to Brighton.
J: Brighton Beach. Yeah. They moved to Brighton Beach.
R: And they lived on Oceanview Avenue. My mother and Sam got married about a year later. My father died in 1950, and then she married Sam in ’51. She didn’t actually want to get married at all. We really talked her into it.
R: Sam was a butcher. He worked in the wholesale part of meats. In the slaughterhouse.
In fact, he was—when we used to eat a frankfurter—he used to die, because he knew what went into that. “Oh, you must never eat that. ‘Cause if there’s a mouse around, it goes right into it!” That’s what he did.
He must have processed meats, and—he was in that type of business. You know, that type of work. That’s what he did.
He did it until he retired.
R: My brother Aaron is two years and nine months younger than me.
S: Do you speak to him a lot? Do you have good relations?
R: Yes. Very much. He’s my best delicious brother.
R: He does not have a bad bone in his entire body. He really doesn’t. He’s the best brother anybody could wish for. He really is. He’s wonderful.
S: How would you describe your father?
R: Oh, I loved my father. Well, I loved my father because I—I’m gonna cry.
M: He was very good to her. That was his special girl.
R:I was the apple of his eye.
S: So he was a loving father?
R: Yes. I remember (crying).
S: Well, it’s a good cry anyway.
R: Yeah. I remember as a little girl, when I knew he was going to come home, waiting at the corner, for him to come. I used to—I didn’t care if I had to stand there a half hour, until I saw him, and I would run, because he was very affectionate. He was very affectionate to my mother, and he was very affectionate to us.
S: Were the Buracks
S: How many years
were they married?
S: And was Mom
affectionate too, or less so?
A: Oh G-d.
R: My mother was very affectionate. Very affectionate. She was the most wonderful, wonderful mother, wife and grandmother. Very…
S: So you were very lucky.
R: Very. Oh, yeah.
S: So Dad was a hard worker, too.
R: Yes. And when my father passed away, oh, it took me, what, five or six years to really get over it. I was really -- I couldn’t go -- I wore black for almost a year.
J: You’re seventy-four now. You were only twenty-one when he passed away.
R: Right. Right. I took his death very badly.
S: And you weren’t married when….
R: Yes. I was married two years.
J: We married very young. I was twenty and she was nineteen.
R: But I took his death very badly. I couldn’t adjust to it. I couldn’t go to the cemetery. I didn’t go for many years.
J: Well, it was also a shock because it happened so quickly.
R: Yeah. It happened -- and he got sick…
J: And five days later…
R: We didn’t know what hit us.
J: And five days later he was gone.
R: And you know,
when we took him into the hospital, he said, “I’m never going to come
out.” The most amazing thing, that he knew something was not right. You
R: Yeah. Grandma knew too.
M: Grandma told you.
S: Did your father and mother visit my grandparents a lot?
R: I don’t—I don’t think there was a very good feeling, I don’t think, as a child. I don’t think there was a—too friendly between your mother—your grandmother and my mother.
S: They were just around the corner from each other.
J: Down the street. Right down the street.
R: And my father was very—if anybody said one word that hurt my mother—they were finished.
S: Said about your
S: But he himself didn’t go see his sister?
R: Yeah. He did. And my mother did too, but I don’t think it was a love affair. Let’s put it that way.
J: Yeah, we were there. I was there too.
R: We were there many times as a family.
S: So you were
living on Riverdale Avenue between what years?
S: And you were born
what year again?
S: So between 1929 and through the thirties and forties.
J: Nineteen years, and that’s when we got married. She was nineteen years old.
R: We lived firstly in Brighton Beach, and then we lived at 1411 Avenue N. The Glickmans owned that building. Charlie Glickman owned that building. And my mother begged him to get us -- you know, you couldn’t get an apartment. And he finally got us an apartment. We lived there. Marcia was born there, and Debbie was born there, at 1411 Avenue N. And from 1411 Avenue N, we moved to Queens.
J: In 1957, we moved to Cambria Heights, Queens.
R: We moved to Cambria Heights, Queens, and then after Queens we moved to Rockland County. We were there for eighteen years.
S: Where in Rockland County?
J and R: Pomona.
R: When I got out of high school, my first job was with your mother. At Raphan’s. I—right out of high school I started working at Raphan’s on Sutter Avenue. That’s where I started. I did full-charge bookkeeping.
Then they transferred us to Kings Highway. I worked for them until Marcia [one of her daughters] was born. Full-charge bookkeeping. And I ran a twenty-account real estate business on the side for him.
UNCLE CHARLIE BURACK
R: Charlie was really sick. But he had -- he was not a well person. I remember as a child, he had a lot of trouble with his legs. And it was also circulation.
S: Now Charlie worked in a chemical plant…
S: But what did he do in the chemical plant?
R: I really don’t remember. I know he worked something with chemicals, but I don’t remember what he did there ...
S: But he had a stroke.
S: And maybe we think that he died from complications from a stroke.
R: Could be.
S: But he didn’t die until a while after he had the stroke.
R: Yeah. He was sick for a while after the stroke. He was still at your grandmother’s. He still lived there.
He never married.
J: He was a bachelor all his life.
R: Right. Well, he and Sam were very close. They were inseparable. Many times, he and Charlie, my Uncle Charlie, and Sam, both of them, were in my house together.
S: Did Charlie date at all, or…
R: I don’t think so.
J: I don’t think so.
A: He would go out with the children. He was a very nice-looking man.
A: Very handsome.
R: Very handsome man.
S: But what kind of person was Charlie?
R: Also, very quiet. Very quiet. You had to draw him into a conversation … The only one I remember him being very, you know, more talkative with, would be to your grandmother [Flora] or Sam. But otherwise, he was very quiet. A very quiet man … I liked him. He was very, very, very nice looking.
A: He came to visit one time, and we would sit in the store with him ...
R: But Sam, well, he was like my second father. That’s why, when my mother married him, it was like -- he was like my father.
S: So what did Charlie and Sam do together, just talk? Did they go places?
R: Yeah. They went places. A lot of times, they used to take my brother and myself, like on a Sunday, to a park, and we used to make sandwiches, and he would take us for the whole day. My brother and myself.
S: I guess back then, people went a lot of times to Prospect Park?
R: Yeah. Prospect Park. Any of those places. ‘Cause my father wasn’t able to do a lot of these things. I remember, as a child, he had a lot of trouble with his legs. And he couldn't walk that much. So Sam was the one. And Sam was like the reason I had such a closeness. Even with the movies, he was the one who gave us the dollar, or gave us the quarter, or gave … You know, anything that we needed, ‘cause there was not money. There was no money. It was bad times.
R: Charlie lived with your mother a long time. Yeah. But Sam was very close with us. Sam was in our home every week. He was very handsome. And he was always my favorite uncle. Always. He was so handsome. Seriously. I really do mean that. The Buracks are a good-looking family … It’s true. And I think the Burack personality is a very good personality. I think they’re warm, they’re kind. And generous, right. Yeah. I’m very pleased to be a Burack ... I remember you (Celia, husband Aaron -- who was a brother to Max, Sam, Charlie and Flora -- and Annette's family) all coming. I really do, as a child.
A: Every single week.
S: So your Dad (Aaron) visited them and my grandparents?
A: Every Sunday. ... Sam would come over, usually he came …
R: Yeah. He was always in my house. Our home was like his home.
S: How come Sam never got married before?
R: He never got married. I’m telling you, I truthfully -- I really think he was in love with my mother all through the years. I’ll be very honest.
S: How many years did they have together?
R: Over twenty. And he, as I said, my mother was very lucky because both my father and him were very attentive to her, and it was a great love. I mean, he was really in love with her.
S: She was very lucky then.
R: Yes, she was. Very lucky. She was very lucky.
S: Was your mom a good cook?
R: My mother was a good cook, but she went to work. I was thirteen years old, and my brother was ten. I took care of him. She taught me how to cook. I used to have their dinner ready when they came home. I learned how to make soup and meat and I didn’t … When I came home from high school, I did the shopping. I had really very little childhood ... My mother used to bake her own cholly on Fridays. I used to come home from school, and smell the baking, and the chicken soup, and the papers on the floor, the newspapers. She washed the floor. When I used to come home, I used to walk on the newspapers. That’s how we grew up.
S: So was the Depression tough for your family?
R: Yes. But we didn’t know. We were all poor, so…
S: How old were you then during the Depression?
R: I was born in 1929. My whole childhood was the Depression.
S: When would you say the Depression ended? With the New Deal?
J: More or less, yeah. When Roosevelt came in. And then the second World War turned things around.
R: Yeah. I would say.
J: Because of the war, the economy got much better. People had jobs and things changed. Things turned around then.
R: It was funny, ‘cause my mother and father were childhood sweethearts, and Jerry and I are childhood sweethearts. We know each other since we’re thirteen and fourteen. Isn’t that amazing? And Joel and Marcia are childhood sweethearts.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
R: And how they all came here to this country, I don’t know. My father never spoke about it.
A: My father brought Sam and Charlie here.
R: Yeah. But how did my father get here?
A: That I don’t know.
R: See? I don’t know.
A: Flora was sponsored. Maybe she sponsored him. I don’t know.
S: She was sponsored by the Davises, according to my ….
R: If she was sponsored by the Davises, then my father was too.
S: Now do you know where your father came into? Did he come into Ellis Island, or somewhere else?
R: I think Ellis.
S: I thought Artie said my grandmother came in through Detroit.
R: I think my father came in here -- in Ellis. See Sam came in illegally. He was smuggled in … I think they came into Cuba or something.
S: Grandfather Ness immigrated in 1890 or 1891. He picked the summertime (for his birthday), maybe because it was hot. And Sam actually picked July 15th too…
R: Right. That’s right. Sam was July 15th too.
S: 1897. And then I have for Max Burack, I only have 1897.
R: No, no. My father was older than him. My father was older than Sam.
S: Well, yeah. I have 1897 for Sam. Your brother said your dad was born in 1897. And if Sam was born in 1897, ‘cause that what they have on his tombstone…
R: It couldn’t be.
A: It couldn’t be, because there’s Charlie and Max older than him.
S: Wasn’t Sam ninety-three when he died?
S: So when did he die?
R: Gee, I don’t know. I don’t remember.
A: We don’t know for sure that he was ninety-three.
R: You don’t. We don’t have any… I think Sam came in…
J: Came in illegally.
R: In some mysterious way. He didn’t come in legally.
A: My father brought him in through Cuba.
R: Through Cuba, right. That’s how he came in, through Cuba. And Charlie came in through Canada.
S: July 8, 1991 Sam passed away. So that makes it about 1898, give or take. So that’s not…
R: So they might have been a year or so—those years… They might have been a year of two apart at the most. ... I always knew that Uncle Aaron was the youngest. I always knew that he was the youngest brother. But that’s about all I really knew. So my father … You know, they didn’t speak much, I mean, about these things, so we really never knew very much about dates.
Once they came here as young people, they knew they’d never see their family in Europe again. That was it.
R: You want to know something? I adored my mother and father? I really truly did. All my years. Do you know that to this day, my mother is always with me?
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