I Remember...

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by Jack Segal, to his grandchildren


or some reasons, while you were all growing up, I did not have the opportunity to tell you about my own childhood, and growing up in Philadelphia, and more about your great grandparents, David and Eva Segal. This may be a way to recall many past memories and to tell you about "our growing up" in Philadelphia.

This will not be an original clear sequence of thoughts, but rather memories that were meant to be brought out, "so you would know."

My sister, Mildred, your great Aunt and my brother, Seymour, your great Uncle, and I were born and raised at 423 South 6th Street, (near 6th and Lombard Sts.) in Philadelphia, a long, long time ago. Your great grandfather, David, was a kosher butcher, with his own kosher meat store, at the same address. The house and store has since been torn down many, many years ago. This area was mainly known as the Jewish Quarter, for many of the earlier years.


photo: Jack Segal, author of "I Remember..."

Mildred was born on December 4th, 1923. I was born on January 11, 1924 and Seymour was born about ten years later on January 22nd,1933.

My sister Mildred and I were born during the "Great Depression years", just before 1929 - although we did not realize we were in a Depression. As a very young child, I realized there was a time, a very hard economic time, that we were nearly evicted from our house, because Dad could not pay the rent that month. Luckily, we always had food to eat. Many times Dad could not pay his bills to his suppliers. Dad was always rushing to the bank to get some extended credit, or to borrow some necessary cash to pay his bills. Our family, somehow, managed to survive the Depression years.

cir 1946

From left to right: Sister Mildred, Jack's father David, Jack's grandmother Pessie,
brother Seymour, and Jack and Seymour's mother Chava (Eva), at Uhr's Restaurant.


Around the corner, on Lombard Street, was our magnificent synagogue. B'nai Abraham, "our shul," which we all attended and in which both Seymour and I had our Bar Mitzvah. It was very well attended on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, and of course, on all Jewish holidays. B'nai Abraham was founded in 1882, and is the oldest Russian Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia. The present structure was dedicated in 1910.

Since in the Orthodox synagogues the women were not allowed to sit with the men on the first floor, there was a separate balcony seating area for the women and children. After a Bar Mitzvah ceremony, the women would bring little white bags filled with raisins, nuts, some candy, some cookies, etc., and throw them down on the Bar Mitzvah celebrity. My brother and I went through this shower of white bags after we finished our Bar Mitzvah ceremony.

The services today are the same as they were then, but then the sermons were in Yiddish, today they are both in Yiddish and English. There is a real connection with the past. When you sat in the pews, you knew someone else was sitting there ninety years ago. You really felt you were a link from the past to the present.


Rabbi Bernard Levinthal was our rabbi at B'nai Abraham. He was also recognized as the dean of the Orthodox Rabbinate of America. He lived only a few blocks from Dad's meat market and since he and his family insisted on the finest strictly kosher meats and poultry, they were regular customers of Dad's kosher meat market. From the day Rabbi Levinthal came to Philadelphia from Kovno, Russia, as a young rabbi, no person was better known to Russian Jewry in Philadelphia. He lived at 716 Pine Street, which was the unofficial city hall of the Jewish Quarter. In the early years of 1900, the Levinthal home was the center of immigrant Jewish religious life in Philadelphia. The house was always open to all newcomers. Anyone wishing to eat had but to come in and seat himself at the large table and a rotund, good-natured cook would emerge from the kitchen and inquire in Yiddish what she should serve. A warm invitation "Kumt Essen" (come eat) greeted all who entered.

In reviewing the synagogues in our old neighborhood, allow me to present some historical background.

Another important synagogue was in this neighborhood. On the south side of the 400 block of Lombard Street was Congregation Kesher Israel. This building had a very interesting background. The building was built by Universalists in 1796 when Philadelphia was the capital of the United States. Joseph Priestly, the famous English scientist spoke there, and Vice President John Adams regularly came to hear him. After the Civil War, the building fell in disuse, and in 1887 the Universalists sold it to a congregation of Russian Jews.

The congregation thrived for many years, but in the 1970's, with the older generation dying out and the younger generation moving elsewhere, the members could hardly raise a minyan, the ten adult males necessary for communal worship. Real estate developers sought to buy the building and turn it into housing. Fortunately they were staved off, and in 1998 there was a rededication of the building.

Maybe nothing momentous happened here, but it was to this area, roughly bounded by Spruce Street on the north, Christian Street on the south, and Second and Sixth on the east and west, that thousands of Jewish immigrants, mostly from Russia, once lived and worked and prayed and studied. It was an area of synagogues, saloons and sweatshops. Today, it is upscale Society Hill plus its unique shops - both old and new, funky South Street, and midscale Queen Village. Brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets add a special charm to the area. South Street is a mix of shops and restaurants. Art galleries are found slightly north of Society Hill. Antique shops are located on Pine Street and Spruce Street, west of the old Jewish quarter and in the city's fastest growing collectibles district around 6th & South Street. Jewish delis can still be found on South St.

There were many Russian Jewish synagogues throughout the old Jewish Quarter - almost one on every corner. When Jews arrived in what would become the Jewish Quarter, they found no Eastern European synagogues. If you had "yahrzeit" they had to walk or take a horse car to a different area of the city of Philadelphia, to a proper synagogue. In 1881, the only site for prayer in the Jewish Quarter was the small prayer house of Beth Elohim, 417 Pine Street. Among the immigrants themselves, a synagogue was called a shul, or a shil, depending on where they came from in Eastern Europe. An immigrant who came from Lithuania, White Russia, and parts of Poland was called a "Litvak" and prayed in a shul. A person who came from Galicia, an area to the south of Lithuania, was sometimes  called a "galitsyaner" and prayed in a shil.

There were eight large synagogues in the Jewish quarter. B'nai Abraham, Kesher Israel, Roumanian American Congregation, the Vilna Shul, Anshe Shavelm, B'nai Reuben, the Hungarian Synagogue and the Neziner Congregation. Plus, there were about twenty-two smaller synagogues located on almost every street, from 3rd St. to 6th St. and from Pine St. to Christian St., during the period of 1887 to 1921. Most are all gone now.


The 400 block of Lombard Street was close to the center of the Jewish Quarter of Philadelphia in the half century starting in 1881. In that year a wave of anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia started a flood of Jewish emigration to the United States. When they arrived in Philadelphia, many of their co-religious groups gave them food and shelter and helped them get on their feet. Possibly, others exploited them in the clothing sweatshops on Monroe, Lombard and South Fourth Streets. The immigrants worked as tailors, peddlers and shopkeepers; they were Orthodox and Zionists; rabbis and reformers, scholars and social workers.


From Fourth to Fifth and from Lombard to South was called the Jewish cafe district. Uhr's Romanian restaurant was located on 5th Street between Lombard and South St. This is where your grandmother Dee and I were married. Across the street was the Colonial restaurant, and at the corner of 5th & Lombard St. was Himmelstein's restaurant. This is where all the intellectuals would come to drink and argue about socialism. At Fifth Street at Pine was a very famous block a hundred years ago. This was known as Newspaper Corner. At one time there were three Yiddish newspapers published here. There was also a Jewish school for immigrants. On one corner was Brown's Book Store and on the other corner was the Jewish Daily Forward.

Pine and Spruce Streets, a block away from our house, from 2nd to 23rd Street was almost entirely professional medical offices. The streets were known as "Doctor's Row". Just a few blocks further away on Chestnut and Market Street was Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was written and signed by our great national forefathers. Inside the Hall is the famous original Liberty Bell, with the authentic crack along the side. The crack was created when it was rung for the very first time. It was always kept that way. The Bell is now enclosed in a protective glass case for all visitors to see. The Betsy Ross house on 3rd and Arch Street, is where the first thirteen star flag was made for George Washington during the Revolutionary War in 1776.


Now, a little history and background of the original Philadelphia.

King Charles II of England granted William Penn a charter which made William Penn proprietor and governor of Pennsylvania. He first visited the colony in 1682 and set up a General Assembly at Chester, Pa. Penn named his capitol Philadelphia, and before allowing settlers into any area, bought the land from the Indians. On Penn's second visit (1699­1701), he granted the Charter of Privileges, which made the legislature independent of the executive and virtually in control of the colony.

Penn established the colony as a refuge for those who were persecuted for their religious beliefs. The persecuted from throughout Europe came, including Quakers from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; Palatines from the Rhine Valley; Anabaptists (Mennonites) from Germany and Switzerland; Dunkards (members of the Church of the Brethren) from Germany in 1721; Roman Catholics from England in 1732; Moravians via Georgia in 1740; Welsh, Swiss and Scotch-Irish between 1700 and 1787; and the Pennsylvania Dutch (who were Germans) around 1740. Indian relations remained peaceable until the French arrived in 1753 and stirred up the Indians, leading to the French and Indian War and Pontiac's War which ended in 1764.

Philadelphia played an important role during the Revolution and in the drafting of the Constitution. Pennsylvania was among the greatest contributors of men, money and supplies to the Revolutionary War and was the site of many of the important battles, such as Washington's crossing of the Delaware River, and the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. Philadelphia served as the capital of the United States from 1790 to 1800.

Tens of thousands of settlers came in the early 1800's to work in mines and industry. They came from Italy, Poland, Russia, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, England, Ireland, Hungary, Sweden Greece, France, Norway, Denmark and Finland. By 1811, steamboats began traveling from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The railroad canal line extended from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh by 1834. With these improvements more immigrants came, so that by 1840 there was no longer a frontier in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania had the first anti-slavery society in 1775, It is no wonder that the state was so pro-Union. Nearly 400,000 men served for the Union, and the battle of Gettysburg was fought on Pennsylvania soil.

Statewide registration of births and deaths began in January 1906. Records prior to 1906 were kept in individual counties or cities, some as early as 1852.


Our house was next door to an African Methodist Episcopal church, separated by a long yard between the church and our house. The A.M.E. church was one of the largest, wealthiest black congregations in the area. They had such a grand organ, that on Sundays, when it was played, the organ music could be heard throughout the neighborhood. When it snowed very hard, the snow would fall from the church slanted roof, next to our house, right into our back yard, making a four or five foot high hill of snow. When that happened, I would take long barrel staves (sides of large barrels) and tie them to my shoes, like skis, and slide down the small hill of snow- much like skiing.

Our house was directly in back of a house in which lived a Negro family with several children. We played together and visited each other's house - just over the dividing fence. They played in our house and many times ate meals with us. We never knew of any racial tensions or discriminations. It was a very safe neighborhood then.

In hot summers, we used to just sit outside, until very late, or fall asleep on a wooden bench, outside until about 2 a.m., because of the cool breezes coming through the long church yard, next to the store.

Our three-story house with the butcher shop was an old house. It was heated by a coal heater. These heaters probably do not exist any more. The coal heater was in the cellar and Dad and I would have to use a huge coal shovel to shovel the coals into the furnace. We also had to take out the ashes with the same shovel every day. About every two or three weeks in the winter, we had to order more coal. A huge coal truck would pull up to the outside cellar door which was on the sidewalk in front of the store, and by a long metal chute from the truck, the driver would shovel the coal into the cellar. Coal was bought by the ton or half ton. Even with all the coal used, the house was always cold in the winter. The heat would come up from the furnace in the cellar, through a duct register in the floor. Many times we all huddled around the heat register in the floor to keep warm. The heat rarely got up to the second or third floors in the house, which was even colder. We always had to wear a sweater or two, or heavy pajamas, when we went to sleep, with many blankets over us.

And there wasn't much hot water either. When we took a bath, we had to first heat up a great kettle of hot water on the kitchen stove and take it upstairs to the bathroom, on the second floor, and pour it into the bathtub. Needless to say, we had to make many trips to fill up the tub with hot water, which cooled while we waited for another kettle of hot water.

We also had a weekly ritual of washing our hair. Mom would fill up a huge basin with hot water in the kitchen, and we would bend over and Mom would scrub and scrub - while we yelled that the water was too hot.

Even though we lacked the luxuries as we know them today - no TV, no modern baths, no microwave ovens, no electric or gas stoves, no electric blenders, no air conditioners, no washing machines or clothes dryers, we all managed to get things done.

Our clothes were washed in a big metal tub with a metal scrubbing board - all by hand - and dried outdoors on a clothes line. We also did not have a refrigerator. We had an "ice box" that required a block of ice in the top compartment to keep the food cold. Many years later, Mom and Dad bought their first early model refrigerator. That was a real modern convenience. We did not have to empty the basin of water that collected under the ice box, due to the melting ice.

We always had something to do, besides working in the store, delivering orders or helping out in the kitchen, plus doing our regular homework and learning our Hebrew lessons.


In contrast to today's "buy me everything" younger generation, as youngsters we made certain moveable toys like "scooters" and wooden racing wagons. To make a scooter, we would take scrap pieces of wood, then find some old roller skates. We would take half of the roller skates for the front wheels and the other half for the back part of the scooter. It looked almost exactly like the expensive store bought scooters of today, only made of scrap wood. For the "soap box derby wagons," we would get an empty apple or orange box or crate, from the local grocery store, and then look around for some used baby carriage wheels. Perfect for the front and back wheels. We would also use a rope-steering method to turn or steer the box wagon. We created these things because we could not afford the real thing. We also made our own pirate swords and other play-acting weapons. We even made our own skate boards, although we did not know they were called skate boards.


Because our Mother and Dad were occupied all day in the butcher store, we had a negro cook and housecleaner. Her name was Clara. Clara was one of the best pie and cake makers I can recall. She would bake the best cherry and apple pies every week. Our oven was a coal-fired black cast iron stove with an oven door. We always knew that there would be a fresh pie or layer cake ready to eat whenever we returned from elementary school, which happened to be located just across the street from the store.



And speaking of baking ... Mom was an excellent cook and "baker." .She would make everything from "scratch" Nothing pre-prepared or frozen or half-made ready to just cook. She would make strudel with the lightest, flakiest covers. She would sift and mix her own flour and knead the dough - let it rise - then knead it again and again, then make it extra thin by using a rolling pin to roll it over and over again until the dough was so extremely thin, you could almost look through it. Then she would prepare all the various fruits, nuts and raisins and then roll it all up in the very thin flaky dough, until it was about a three feet long roll. Mom would then separate the long rolls into smaller portions with the side of her hand. No knife cuts. No one made delicious fruit filled strudel like Mom did. Not even the Jewish bakeries - well, maybe some did. Strudel was not the only pastry delight in which Mom was an expert . She made her own noodle kugels and "kichels", sponge cakes (with loads of butter and many fresh eggs to get that fine golden color and great taste), honey cakes, potato latkes, and the most delicious cheese knishes and cheese blintzes, plus so many other fabulous tasty treats. (Is it any wonder why we all have high cholesterol readings?)


On Friday nights we always had our traditional ritual Sabbath dinners. Mom would clean the house from top to bottom, scrubbed all the floors and put newspapers on the floor to keep it clean. Then she would start preparing the Sabbath meal. Most of the time it was chicken soup followed by roast chicken and several vegetables, which included mashed

carrots - or "tzimmis". When the appetizer was gefilte fish, it certainly was not canned or store bought. No sir! It was home made and hand made. Mom would go the live "fish store" and pick out the necessary different varieties of live fishes that were best for gefilte fish. Then the fish store would cut off the fish head and take off the fish scales. The fish head was kept because it made a flavorful sauce. Then, at home, we would chop the different varieties of fresh fish into small pieces and then we would chop all the pieces together with all the necessary spices, fresh eggs and bread crumbs, into a fine, smooth mash. I do mean chop, chop, chop, from thick large pieces of hard fish into a very finely chopped smooth fish mash. This took hours of hand chopping. Then the small portions were wrapped in the fish skin and cooked.

This fish chopping on Friday afternoons were almost a ritual in its preparation. My sister, Mildred, and my brother Seymour and myself had to do all the hand-chopping. Everything was put into a large wooden bowl, and with a hand held meat or fish chopper knife, we chopped for hours until it was ready and acceptable for the proper flavor and texture.


One of my responsibilities every Friday afternoon was to go to the local Jewish bakery, called Bogaslofsky's, at 5th and Lombard Street, and buy a large egg or raisin challah, choice of braided crust or sections. There was nothing more delicious than a Jewish made challah. I have yet to find fresh challah like the old fashioned European Jewish bakers made. It must be a secret art, skill or talent.




After Dad would close the butcher store on Friday at sundown, he would always go to the synagogue for Sabbath services. After he would come home from the synagogue, Mom would begin serving the Sabbath dinner. First she would light the traditional Sabbath candles in the silver candelabra, say the Sabbath prayer and the prayer over the covered challah, plus the prayer for a cup of sweet wine. We never ate until all the prayers were finished. It was a Friday night ceremony that I will always remember.

As a youngster I certainly remember the Jewish holidays, especially Passover. In preparation for the Passover holiday, our house was thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom - especially the kitchen and dining room, which was in back of the store.

All the regular year-round dishes, silverware, glasses, pots and pans and other cooking utensils were washed and each piece individually wrapped in newspaper and then packed in large boxes or a barrel and stored away in the cellar of the store. We could not use any of these regular dishes and utensils for Passover. Instead, we brought up from the cellar other boxes of very special kosher Passover dishes, that had been packed away carefully the previous year, after the Passover holiday, and then scrubbed clean again. All foods left over in the kitchen before the Passover holiday began had to be thrown out. These non-Passover foods could not "contaminate" the Passover dishes. Then we had to buy special kosher­for-Pesach foods, approved by a Rabbinical council, and it had to have the symbol, "kosher for Passover" on the label, otherwise it was not acceptable to use during Passover.

Above all, we dared not have any bread in the house at all during Passover. It was "traife" (ask your mother for a translation). Instead, we bought boxes of "matzos" - the unleavened "bread" that the ancient Israelites had to hurriedly bake, while making their exodus from bondage in Egypt several thousands of years ago.

During the rest of the year we always had two sets of dishes. One set for dairy foods only, and one set for meat dishes only. We could not eat dairy with meat, according to strict kosher dietary laws, so we could not mix the dishes either.

After Passover, the joyous holiday of Rosh Hashanah (New Years) came with all its Hebrew New Year greeting cards. Dad, of course, closed his store on all holidays, no matter what day it fell on. Yom Kippur followed Rosh Hashanah in the late summer or early Fall, depending on the calendar. Yom Kippur is the most solemn holiday and its observance of a  "fast day." As the Yom Kippur fast ended, most of us looked forward to a light meal of perhaps bagels, cream cheese and smoked fish platters.

On Erev Yom Kippur, there was another orthodox ritual called "Kapporot." Most European Jewish women and very orthodox Jewish women participated in this ceremony. This was a "ritual sacrifice" of a chicken as atonement for sins. The chicken or fowl is passed over the head of a person three times, while reciting the proper prayer. (See photos)

Dad always provided this service to his customers almost every year. He would bring in a coop of live chickens into the store. The customer would pick out a chicken, and then go back into our kitchen to perform the ceremony. Of course, the chicken did not stay still while being held and twirled around a person's head. It would flap its wings wildly with the feathers coming loose and flying all over the kitchen. Mom would have to clean up all the feathers after each customer.

Following Yom Kippur is Sukkot, or Sukkos. Now we start collecting branches, palm leaves, nails, hammers, and paper chains and an assortment of all kinds of fruits, to build the "sukkah" for the holiday.


I remember as a small boy, Dad for many years built a sukkah in the yard in back of his store. Dad built it. Mom decorated it with the customary colorful fruits, grapes, vegetables and other paper-made designs. I recall that we even had a table inside and ate several dinners inside the sukkah.

Sukkot is a time of rejoicing and the recalling of a bountiful harvest. One of the customs of Sukkot is collecting four species of plants. The "etrog" (citron) is a citrus fruit that resembles an enlarged lemon. The "lulav" is a palm branch which is bound together with two willow twigs. (See Photos)

During certain prayers on Sukkot, and when inside a sukkah, tradition teaches us that we hold the "lulav" and "etrog" together and shake them in all directions to honor G-d, and to shake away evil spirits. Dad always brought home the "lulav" and the "etrog", and we all enjoyed the Sukkot ceremony and the special meals prepared for this holiday. Sometimes it was the custom to visit other people's sukkahs, and be invited to share the meal with them. It was a most happy occasion.

As with all Jewish boys and girls, about eight or nine years old, we started to go to Hebrew "school" to learn the Hebrew language and prayers, and to prepare for our Bar Mitzvah, at the age of thirteen. This was mandated. No options to refuse. Mildred also went to Hebrew classes. The Hebrew school was not really a school at all. It was a set aside empty room in our Rabbi's house, about three blocks from our house. After our regular school classes, it was compulsory to go to "chayda" - Hebrew classes. Other young boys and myself sat at a large wooden table, on a long wooden bench. Whenever we made a mistake in reading the Hebrew text, or spoke out of turn, the Rabbi had a long stick and he would hit our hands. We quickly learned to talk only when called upon to read. Of course we also had Hebrew homework - to read or to write lessons in Hebrew. I have never forgotten how to read Hebrew.


Besides cooking, baking, cleaning the house and working in the store with Dad, Mom was an excellent seamstress and also made Mildred's dresses and simple clothing, embroidered pillow cases, and quilt and blanket covers on an old foot-pedal operated Singer sewing machine. Mom also made several "feather beds." These were huge overstuffed quilt-like comforters stuffed with cleaned goose feathers and goose down. They were soft and fluffy and exceptionally warm. These big soft overstuffed comforters were put over our blankets in the winter and almost covered us completely. It kept us very warm - except when we had to get up and get out of bed in the cold room.



After the Friday Sabbath meal, Dad would relax and read the Jewish newspaper- the "Jewish World." We would sit around the radio and listen to some Friday night "radio series." You probably never heard of these programs, "Grand Central Station", "I Remember Momma", and several other nightly dramatic series.

Since we did not have television in those early days, the radio or phonograph was the only means of audio entertainment. We only saw the very earliest television programs by standing in front of an appliance store window, where an early small screen television set was displayed, and watched the program that was on. The early television pictures were very grainy in black and white. Milton Berle and his comedy show was very popular and one of the very early pioneers on TV.

So we listened to radio very much. In Philadelphia at that time, there were several Jewish radio stations and programs, with Yiddish-speaking actors and actresses. Most of these Jewish programs were on Saturday and Sunday, with wonderful Jewish dramas, music and songs. These programs also are gone forever, except perhaps in greater metropolitan areas with a large Jewish population.

My favorite daily radio programs during the week were the fifteen-minute episodes which included, "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" ,"Flash Gordon", "Bobby Benson and the H-Bar Ranch", "Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy", "The Shadow", the "Phantom", "Dick Tracy", and many other exciting radio series, during the week. These were famous names of old-time radio programs that you may not have heard of - but radio was a nightly listening habit. Then there were the famous comedians of radio, and the comedy hours with famous names of that era, such as Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Red Skelton, Fred Allen, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Henny Youngman, and so many more wonderful famous comedy programs that kept you laughing while you listened to the radio. We would sit around the radio, in our dining room in back of the store, and listen and laugh for hours every night. Sound was everything. Radio stimulated your imagination. From the various sound effects that you heard, you could almost see or imagine what was going on, such as the sound of opening or closing the door, footsteps, horses galloping, the roar of a railroad train, carriages traveling on cobblestone streets, a fog in London, the particular sounds of someone walking along a waterfront street, the terror-shriek that made you almost "see" a heroine in distress.


While I am on the subject of entertainment, let me tell you how and where most of our famous comedians started. You probably may have heard, from your parents, about the very well known Catskill Mountains Jewish resorts, in New York, lovingly called the "Borsht Circuit." The famous Jewish hotels in the Catskills, which catered mostly to New York

Jewish summer vacationers, included such famous hotels as Grossingers, Concord, Browns, Kutchners, and others. These were original training "schools" for our early and most successful comedians, musicians and vaudeville stars. Young aspiring stand-up comics who are stars even today, would come to these hotels just to tryout their funny routines. They had several assignments during the day; they would be waiters, busboys, dance partners for the single women vacationers, dish washers, camp counselors for the youngsters who came with their families, game instructors, etc. But at night, they would have their opportunity to come on stage and become one of the comedy acts for the evening entertainment program. Many of the old vaudeville routines came from comedians in the Catskills. Most of "today's famous comedians came up from the "Borsht Circuit", including Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, George Burns, Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Henny Youngman, George Jessel, Eddie Cantor, Joey Bishop, Jackie Mason, Alan King, Sid Caesar, Hershel Bernardi, Sid Silver, Mel Brooks and so many other great comics of their time. Sadly, many of these great names have passed away, and the laughter they created with them.

These Jewish Catskill Mountain resorts were open all year around, and were more famous for their never-ending food serving. By the time you finished a huge breakfast of many courses, it was almost time for another huge lunch - with a long list of delightful choices. Dinner with a long list of entree choices was the gourmet's favorite and the glutton's delight. It seemed the waiters were continually serving food dishes. The waiters never tired of bringing second or third or fourth servings. Just mention your special request and the waiter brought it to your table. These resorts were no place to lose weight. And of course, every evening was topped off with the "Broadway Review", with the Jewish comics, Yiddish humor, favorite music for dancing and more late night snacks, and even some matchmaking introductions. Your grandmother, Dee, and I went to the Catskills several times, with Debra and Lauren.


Now to some background history of my mother and father, Eva and David. My mother, Eva, your great grandmother was born Eva Brockman, on January 15, 1899. She and her two brothers Daniel and Benjamin came from Bessarabia, Romania, in eastern Europe. Her mother's name was Deborah. I have no record of her father's name. Her parents had a large estate with a large house with many servants, plus fruit orchards, horses and carriages. My mother would tell us stories of her childhood and how they rode horse-pulled open sleds in the high snows of winter.

When she was a young girl, there was a Russian revolution going on with dangerous "racial" riots in eastern Europe. All Jewish families were in great danger because of the spread of anti-Semitism in Romania and Russia and other nearby countries. Russian elite cavalry soldiers, known as "Cossacks", in their imposing uniforms and fur skin headwear, would storm into villages on horseback, and waving their long swords would kill many innocent people, for no rational reason. About this same time, because of the dangers of the spreading revolutions, my mother's parents decided to send her and her brother Daniel to America to live with a relative, Uncle Goldstein, in Philadelphia.

My Mother and her brother Daniel, as young as they were, came to America all by themselves, all alone, on a ship with hundreds of other families who were escaping from Romania, Russia, Germany, Ukraine and other parts of Europe, hoping to make a new life in America, referred by them as the "Land of Milk and Honey." It must have been a dreadful trip because of the very poor conditions on the boat. There certainly were no private cabins or dining rooms. They came in "steerage class", the poorest way. They slept in wooden bunks, probably stacked three or four levels high, and ate what little food they had brought with them, or to cook in portable oil stoves, during the many days it took to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

The other brother, Benjamin, who stayed in Romania, was drafted into the Romanian army. There is no record of his survival. I believe the rest of the family that remained in Europe must have perished in the Holocaust, between the WorId War II years from 1938 to 1945. There was no further correspondence from them.


When my Mother and her brother Daniel arrived in Philadelphia, they were greeted by their Uncle Goldstein and his family, who lived on South 6th St., in South Philadelphia.

They both lived with the Goldsteins until Mom met and married my father. Uncle Goldstein had a wholesale banana business around Front and Spruce Street, in the Philadelphia waterfront warehouse district.

The green bananas, imported from South American countries, were kept hanging in huge bunches in a cold refrigerated room, where they slowly ripened and were ready to sell by pushcart merchants or delivered to fruit and produce stores in the area.

photo: Early photo of Jack's parents, David and Eva Segal

Daniel accepted to work with his Uncle Goldstein and served as a fruit vendor. When he had saved enough, he decided to move away into his own apartment. He started to buy house properties and after awhile he was in the real estate business of buying and selling apartment houses. He married his future wife, Bessie. They had two children, Mollie and Milton. Mom and Dad visited Uncle Dan very often, when they lived in Strawberry Mansion - on 33rd St., across from a huge reservoir. I remember playing with Mollie and Milton very often when we visited them. When Milton grew up and was old enough, he was drafted into the U.S. army, just before World War
II started. He was killed in military action in Europe.

While living with the Goldstein's, my mother went to work in a blouse factory and did much hand sewing and embroidering. She became an expert seamstress, working very long hours, six days a week.

My father, David, your great grandfather, was born on November 12, 1894, in a village near Kiev, in the Ukraine, in Eastern Europe. The Ukraine, at that time, was part of all Russia. My father came to America with his mother, Pessie, your great, great grandmother, and his three brothers: Sam, Louis, Isador, and a sister Sarah. My father's father was named Yonkov Mayer. I was named after my grandfather. Meyer is my middle name, which I never used. (The name Segal was changed from a European name to Segal). My father's mother was named Pessie and her maiden name was Abraham. My grandmother and her four sons and one daughter all came from a very orthodox Jewish background. When they all arrived in Philadelphia, they all shared the same house, until all four brothers moved out and established themselves in their own businesses. Dad's mom, Pessie, continued to live by herself in the same house for many years, until she passed away on January 22, 1953. She is buried at Har Nebo Cemetery.

As young children, my sister, Mildred, and I, used to visit Dad's mother, with our parents very often. They all spoke either Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and even in the Ukrainian language. Being very young, I did not understand what they were talking about. Years later, I did begin to understand Yiddish, since it was always spoken in our house and among the Jewish customers in the butcher shop.

I learned that my father worked for a furrier in his village in Europe. Several years after Dad came to America, he went out West and worked as a rancher herding cattle for several cattle ranchers. Then when he came back to Philadelphia, and with his cattle ranching background and experience, he worked for a kosher butcher for some years, and then decided to buy the butcher store from the owner, who retired. Now Dad was the owner of his own business. He built the kosher butcher shop into a well-known and very respectable business.

The expanded neighborhood around the butcher shop was mostly a mixture of European immigrants, and mostly Jewish, who observed the kosher dietary laws. They all became loyal customers of Dad's store for the fine quality of kosher meats and poultry , and the special personal kind and gracious attention received by all.

Mom and Dad met through Uncle Goldstein, who acted as a "matchmaker", and after a proper engagement period, they were married on July 10, 1922, in a Social Hall on 8th street, between Lombard and South Streets, in Philadelphia. Rabbi Leventhal performed the marriage ceremony, which was a great honor for Dad and Mom. Mom quickly learned the meat business and worked very hard alongside Dad, waiting on customers, while at the same time keeping a strictly kosher household and raising Mildred, Seymour and myself.


Dad always worked much too hard. He would get up about 2 or 3 a.m., several times a week and walk to the "chicken market" located at Front and Lombard Streets. He would personally pick out the very best chickens from various chicken coops to serve his customers. He always wanted the very best quality of meats and chicken for his customers. The chickens would then go to the slaughter house, and then delivered to the store. Dad would come back and then open the store for another long, hardworking day, until 10 or 11 p.m. every night. Many times Dad would have to carry the dead chickens in a burlap bag on his shoulders and walk back to the store - twelve or more blocks each way - in summer heat or winter snows.


Dad would keep the store open late very night - except Friday night, the start of "Shabbes", until Saturday night after sundown, when he would again open the store to eagerly awaiting customers.

On Saturday night after sundown, when Dad opened his store, he would put on a freshly laundered, snow-white clean, heavily starched cotton wraparound "surgeon's" coat. On top of that he would wear an immaculately clean white apron. Then he would cut up the fresh kosher beef carcass that had been delivered earlier that Saturday afternoon.

The meat was put into the store's large refrigerator, ready to sell that night. Dad's regular customers would come and wait outside the store, until it opened on Saturday night, to be the first and to get the best cuts of beef.


photo: Jack's father in front of his kosher butcher shop, located at 423 S. 6th St., Philadelphia.

Dad was always extremely generous and sympathetic to his customers, who had little money to buy food in those Depression years, but wanted some meat or chicken to feed their family. He would always give a half pound more than what the customer ordered or what the scale weighed, and never charged an additional cost to the customer. His daily "ledger" with Jewish hand scripted entries, were mostly with large unpaid balances, yet Dad continued to extend credit. He knew that certain customers could never repay their debts for the meats they had bought.


Now, just a little information on "kosher" meats.

Only the forequarter of a steer (not a cow) is considered kosher - because this is the upper half of the steer, which is the "clean" part. The bottom half of the steer, or the hindquarter, is not kosher, because it is the "unclean" half.


When the steer is taken to the slaughter house, a rabbinical veterinarian trained in this ritual, with a very sharp huge knife, cuts the throat of the animal, while it is hung by its rear hoofs. He must only make one cut, which is considered quick and painless. If he has to make two cuts, it is considered painful, and not acceptable. Then the steer is thoroughly washed and cleaned out. Then cut in half, along the spine, and refrigerated. The upper quarter, or forequarter, is sold to kosher meat markets and kosher hotels, etc.

Certain parts of the insides - from the upper half - are also sold to kosher meat markets. These include the heart, the lungs, the pancreas, the brains, the tongue and even the cheeks on the jaws. These can be prepared and considered a delicacy from European recipes. The small knee knuckles of a calf is also used to prepare a dish called "petzah." Most modern housewives of today do not know how to prepare these foods.

My father bought and sold many of the above parts, mostly to older Jewish women of European descent, who do know how to prepare these dishes, considered a staple menu item or even a delicacy.

Dad also made his own "homemade" kosher salami and even kosher hot dogs. He made a "smokehouse" in the yard back of the butcher store. He would take certain parts of the steer's intestines, then thoroughly wash and sterilize the lining. Then with the best quality beef and different necessary spices, he would put this beef through the meat grinder into the tube of intestines attached to the grinder. He would make certain lengths and tie the ends. Then he would smoke them until they were properly cooked and ready for sale. His customers loved these homemade salamis knowing they contained only the best cuts of kosher beef. But after a while, it became too burdensome and he bought the same type of salamis and kosher hot dogs from a kosher wholesaler.

Years later, while I was in junior high school, I delivered the orders to customers on a bike. I would load up the wire basket that was attached to the handle bars, and ride to each customer's house. I would leave the bike with the remaining orders in bags on the bike, and go inside the customer's house. I never worried about someone coming by and taking one of the bags of meats or poultry from my bike.


Mom was the one with the "sense of humor" in our family. She always had a laugh and a joke to tell or a story to tell us of her childhood. Most of the jokes were told to her by the customers coming to the store. Several times a month, Mom would invite some neighbors, friends or a cousin or two, to play cards. Not merely card games, but poker with penny bets. I learned to play cards from Mom. Also, we always had music in our house. We had a player piano, with a piano roll that automatically played the keys while we pumped the foot treadles. Mom always loved to hear violin music. So I was chosen to take violin lessons. My sister, Mildred, was given piano lessons. I wasn't that great as a violinist, but I did manage to join the junior high school orchestra.

Mom was the first to become a naturalized citizen - followed by Dad becoming a citizen. This was every immigrant's dream ... to become an American citizen. I remember Mom and Dad studying the various government questions from the manual that the Citizenship Board would most likely ask. They used every spare moment every night to memorize the questions and answers. I would help asking the questions and help them with the answers.

I knew it must have been very difficult for a stranger in a strange land, studying about their new country's government. Many of the questions were even difficult for naturalized American citizens to answer correctly.

Mom and Dad very proudly became American citizens. Then they gladly offered their knowledge and services in helping other neighbors prepare for their citizenship test.

Mom was also the first in our family to learn how to drive an automobile with the gear shift on the floor. Mom was also the one who wanted to buy our first car. After many auto showroom visits, Mom finally chose our first car, a new 1937 Chevrolet. I believe, or recall, that it cost about four hundred dollars. Imagine, a brand new car for only four hundred dollars. Mom was the chosen driver for all trips. Although Dad also passed his driving test, he was reluctant to drive. He left that to Mom. Then, of course, Mom taught Mildred and myself to drive and we passed our driving test. I still remember the somewhat comical way Mom taught us to drive with four gears and the shift gear on the floor. She would say, "You want first gear ... here's first gear! You want second gear ... here's second gear!" and then would pull the gear into first or second gear, etc., sometimes forgetting to step on the clutch pedal. Our first car, the 1937 Chevy, was our pride and joy . We used it mainly to deliver orders to customers, and to take a pleasure ride on Sundays. We washed it almost every day, since it was parked outside all the time. We certainly did not have a garage. After about five years, Mom decided it was time to trade the 1937 Chevrolet for a newer car. She picked out a real showpiece. It was a 1942 hard-top Ford Victoria, with a bright yellow roof and a black bottom. It was recognized anywhere, because of the outstanding colors and in the newest hard-top model. It did not have power steering or air conditioning, although it did have white leather seats.


Going backwards in time, let me tell you about our experiences in going to Atlantic City, New Jersey.

When we were very young, during the summer months, we all usually went to Atlantic City on the New Jersey coast. Atlantic City then, in those years, was nothing compared to what it is today. Definitely no casinos or very modern hotels with Las Vegas shows and gambling. Secondly, we had to pack a large lunch for four people, in a large basket or box. Then we had to take a trolley from our home, to go to Front and Market Street where the ferry boats were to take us across the Delaware River to Camden, just across the river from Philadelphia. The railroad trains going to Atlantic City were in Camden. Of course, after we got off the ferry, we had to get from the Camden portside to the train station. This was another trolley ride, or taxi ride, with all our bundles, including a battered suitcase with our bathing suits, towels, lotions, sneakers, our food, etc. Then after buying our train tickets, about a block away from the actual trains, we had to walk or run to the trains, before they left, and begin walking through all the cars to find four seats together. This was only the beginning of our ride. Of course there was no air conditioning, so we had to find a place where the windows could be opened. Since the trains had to burn coal or wood to produce the power to move the trains, there was always very heavy black smoke bellowing from the engine smokestack. Naturally, the heavy black smoke blew into the open windows and all over the passengers. It was either suffocate with the windows closed, or be covered with black soot with the windows open. If we came on the train with clean light colored clothes, we were sure to get off the train with the black soot on us and our clothes.

Once we arrived in Atlantic City, then the real burden was to find a place to stay, either for the one day or weekend, or for a week. We would all walk, in the very hot summer heat, up and down the streets nearest to the beach. For Mom, it was a matter of actually walking up to almost every house that had a sign "Rooms for Rent", and inquire if they had an empty room to either change our clothes for the day, or stay for a few days. The rooms were certainly not first class by any means. They were usually on the top floor, facing the back of the house and very hot. Old fashioned broken and rusty window screens tried to keep out the flies and insects. Then we would take the long walk to the beach and looked for a less crowded area to set down with our beach blanket, our folding chairs, possibly a sun umbrella and our basket of food for the day. After some hours on the beach, and getting a bad case of sunburn, we had to trudge back to our room and tried to get cleaned up. We all had to share the single shower on the same floor with other people who also had rented a room for the day. If we stayed overnight, then we had the evening to walk on the boardwalk, hopefully with a cool breeze coming off the ocean. This was always a treat for Mildred and myself. There were many penny arcades where you could play many kiddie games for only a penny. One of the early excitements were the "moving picture machine."


You would look into a box-like contraption with a handle on the side. Upon turning the handle, you would move and rotate cards with drawings on them, like on a rolodex. Each card had a slight movement of the character on the card. As you turned the handle, you turned the cards faster, thus creating a faster movement of the characters. This is probably how the first animated cartoon was created.

Other treats that we looked forward to were the frozen custard shops, the chocolate covered frozen bananas and the cotton candy. Almost everybody walked on the boardwalk with a cone heaped high with frozen "soft" custard ice cream. We would always stop to buy "salt water taffy", and to bring a box home. If we had time in the afternoons, we would go to the Steel Pier which extended out into the ocean on piers. This was a landmark in Atlantic City. Steel Pier has been torn down long ago. But inside were hours and hours of things to do and see, from games to vaudeville shows to thrilling acts of people diving from high levels into shallow pools of water. You could spend an entire day on the Pier. You usually brought your own lunch to eat, overlooking the ocean. At night there were also band concerts on the boardwalk, although all of us would walk from one end of the boardwalk to the other end, which may have been two or three miles long. Wealthier vacationers would ride in the "rolling chairs." These were specially built open carriage chairs for two or three people, pushed from behind by a man who also collected the fare.

If we stayed a week in one of the boarding houses, then the kitchen "fun" began. To stay a week or a weekend, Mom always brought several baskets of meat, chicken or other foods for all our meals. This food was stored in the kitchen "icebox" with all the other guest's foods, and merely identified with our name on the packages. Invariably, each day we would find some food missing. Of course we could not accuse anyone, but we knew the food did not disappear by itself. When we ordered glass quarts of milk, non-homogenized at that time with the cream rising to the top of the glass bottle, these would also be stored in the "communal kitchen ice-box." When we went to use the milk the next morning we

always found the cream part missing, and the glass quart usually filled up with water, which mixed with the remaining milk. We had to put up with all this, if we wanted to remain in that house. My Mom always remembered those days. This was the famous Atlantic City of "those days."




Our neighborhood was a mixture of very friendly nationalities. Many of the early European immigrant "entrepreneurs" of those days are gone forever. For instance, there were many pushcart merchants selling their wares and products along the streets. I'll describe them later in this story. There was even a "Yenta the Matchmaker" in every neighborhood, offering to match up young men and women who had no way to meet each other, except by someone who would introduce them to each other, with each parent's permission .

Our Jewish heritage refrained from taking any kind of charity. We were all imbued with the tradition of hard work to help ourselves and to help others. The pushcart merchants would sell a variety of products from their two-wheel carts, from vegetables, fruits, pots and pans, and even clothing, pillows, linens, dishes, silverware and anything else they could buy and sell from their carts. These hardworking immigrants from Europe and Russia would load up their carts early in the morning, and from morning to late night, even in the harshest winter months, they would walk and push their heavy laden carts from neighborhood to neighborhood, yelling out their wares: "Fresh watermelon", "Fresh tomatoes", "Fresh fish", or "Knives sharpened", etc. Their business and entire paltry income was dependant on their two-wheel pushcarts.

We also had our favorite pushcart and horse and buggy food sellers. One of our favorites was the hot waffle and ice cream horse-drawn wagon. This was well before the "Good Humor man" with his white truck, ringing a bell to attract the children, and selling frozen popsicles and ice cream sandwiches. Here was a horse-drawn wagon with a miniature kitchenlike preparation area in the back of the wagon, lit by a large oil lantern.

The waffle irons were old fashioned and heated by a gas fired flame. The waffle mix was made fresh for every sale. When the hot waffle was done just right, the hot waffle iron lid would be opened with a long metal rod and then a square slice of ice cream would be put between the two pieces of hot waffles, making an ice cream waffle sandwich. It was the best treat we ever had during the hot summer months - for only five cents. We looked forward to his bell ringing almost every night, signaling his approach to our street. Then we would line up outside the wagon, to get our favorite ice cream waffle treat.

Then in the summertime, there was the "water-ice" man. Usually an older man (as he appeared to us as children), pushing a cart with a large block of ice on the cart, covered with a burlap bag to keep it from melting too fast. Alongside the ice were bottles of different flavored syrups in various colors. The "water-ice" man would scrape shavings of ice from the large block of ice with an ice scraper scoop, then put the crushed ice into a cone shaped paper cup and then pour the colored syrup over the ice. Cherry and grape were our favorite flavors - for just three cents each.

During the hot months we also ran after and jumped on the open tailgate of ice delivery trucks when they stopped or slowed down, just to grab a piece of broken ice and put it into our mouth to cool us down.

And then there was the "hurdy-gurdy" man· with his trained monkey. The hurdy-gurdy was a musical instrumental in a box. The hurdy-gurdy music was started by turning a handle on the side of the wagon, which looked like a miniature piano on wheels. The music that came out sounded like a combination of piano, banjo, accordion and drums. There was always a small trained monkey dressed up with a shirt, pants and a small cap. When a crowd would gather and surround the hurdy-gurdy to listen to the music, the small trained monkey would take off his cap and run into the crowd waiting for someone to put some coins into his cap. When he had several coins in his cap, he would return to the hurdy-gurdy player and give him the coins, then he would rush back into the crowd with his open cap to await more coins. I never knew why they called it a "hurdy-gurdy."

There was a large playground and ballpark called "Starr Garden", almost across the street from our house. On summer nights there were silent movies shown on a huge white sheet, hanging from the side of a building. People would come from all neighborhoods with their folding chairs and sit until dusk when the silent movies would begin. The movies were mostly old silent "westerns" with cowboys, Indians and cavalry for all the fast action. The silent conversation, or dialogue, was translated by written captions or sentences printed on the bottom of the screen, corresponding to the action on the screen.

Just another block away, at 7th and Lombard Street, was the Starr Library. The library was actually a two-story house with an office on the first floor and the library on the second floor. The library consisted of two rooms with wall shelves filled with books. I was always there, reading all the favorite books I could. These included all the "Tarzan of the Apes" books, "Dr. Fu Manchu" (exciting Chinese detective stories), mystery books and many books about airplanes, futuristic space adventures, like "Buck Rogers", "Flash Gordon", and all the other space adventure heroes. These are names and books that probably are no longer kept in modern libraries. But they were wonderful imaginative stories. You could just imagine yourself right there with the main characters, flying the rocket ships, landing on outer space planets, etc.

When my mother didn't know where I was, she always checked the library first. I was always there.

We also had "trolley cars" riding down 6th Street, in front of our house. These trolleys, about half the size of a regular bus, had an electrical wheel attached to a long rod from the roof of the trolley, that rolled on an overhead electric wire. This is how the trolley got the power to run on the metal tracks in the street. There was a trolley conductor who started and stopped the car, collected the fares and announced the upcoming streets on his route. The trolley car traveled on metal rails imbedded into the cobblestone streets. They were very noisy - especially at night when you were trying to sleep in front of our house, facing the street. The trolleys ran in one direction on one street to the end of the trolley line, like on 6th St., and then ran in the opposite direction on 7th St. The trolleys ran north and south, and east and west, almost from one end of the city to the opposite end. They were similar to the famous trolleys in San Francisco, only our trolleys were totally enclosed on both sides - due to all kinds of Philadelphia weather. Woodside Park, which was an entertainment park near the Philadelphia Zoo, and the area known as Strawberry Mansion, had open side cars during the summer season. You could ride all around Strawberry Mansion for only a nickel - and also get a free pass to transfer to another trolley going in the opposite direction.

The area around Front Street to 4th Street, from South Street to Market Street, became known as Society Hill. All the old row houses and run down and vacant houses of the past are now refurbished into very expensive condominiums. Today, brick sidewalks and cobblestone streets add a special charm to the area. South Street is a mix of shops and restaurants. Art galleries are found slightly north of Society Hill. Antique shops are located on Pine Street and Spruce Street, and in the city's fastest growing collectibles district around South 6th & Bainbridge St.   

In the early days of the "Jewish Quarter" there were many public bathhouses in the area. On Lombard St. between 3rd St and 4th St. was Bershad's Russian and Turkish Baths. To the neighborhood Jewish men who went there almost regularly on Friday afternoon before sundown, it was known as the "Jewish shvitz." They came here for the steam rooms, the bay leaf and soap massages, and after their showers they usually formed a card game with fellow businessmen.

In the earlier years, because there were very few actual bathrooms and bathtubs in most houses, bathhouses were established mainly for the poor. For five cents each bather was given a room or locker to change their clothes, a large towel, fresh soap and plenty of hot and cold water. As late as 1934 a woman could wash herself, her children and her clothes for five cents.


This area also had many Yiddish theaters  - with live performances from drama to musicals, with outstanding well-known Jewish actors and actresses, including the famous Adler family, Paul Muni, Molly Picon, Maurice Schwartz and other famous theatrical names. Many famous Jewish actors and actresses started their acting career in the Yiddish theater and the Jewish summer resorts.

My mother and father loved to attend the Yiddish theater, with its drama and entertaining music. They took my sister and myself to the Arch Street Theater to see the live Yiddish shows almost every Sunday night after dinner. Because of going to the Jewish or Yiddish theater as a young boy, I acquired an affection for the theater arts. When I grew older I tried to see as many shows and plays as financially possible. I especially loved the modern Broadway shows.

The Jewish theater, or Yiddish theater, was well accepted and very well attended in the original Jewish Quarter in the late 1800's and early 1900's. This was well before my time. There were many Jewish theaters throughout this area in the early history of the Yiddish theater, thus it deserves some background and history.

No matter how difficult life was in the sweatshops, no matter how little the family earned, money was found for the Yiddish theater. The language was "mameloshn" (mother tongue ... Yiddish) and the life portrayed on the stage was followed with great intensity, the action drawing audible responses and comments from the audience as if they too were participants. In Philadelphia in the late 1800's, the stars were in alignment in the world of Yiddish theater. Plays were written in a night. The plots of some plays were stolen in a night - from the gallery in a competitor's theater. A song that played well in one show was sung out of context in another because it was a good song and, was perhaps the actor's favorite. The most loved prayer of the Jewish people, Kol Nidre (All Vows) was chanted to bring the immigrants to tears, whatever the plot.

Early Yiddish drama in the late 1800's was produced at two halls and three theaters in Philadelphia. The two halls were located within the Jewish Quarter, and the three theaters were located just outside of the Quarter.

Gallery tickets were fifteen cents. Seats in the rear of the parquet were twenty-five cents, and the front row seats were sold for half a dollar. Tickets were printed in English and they were the only thing English about the place. There was usually a furious rush for the front seats in the gallery. Nobody talked English. Very few of the patrons of the theater could talk or understand any English. At the front of the stairs leading to the parquet was an apple stand lighted by two tallow candles. There were beer, peanuts, sour balls, apples, pretzels and other refreshments on sale, which were bought by the audience between acts.

The flood tide of East European Jewish immigrants heard much from their American cousins about Yiddish theater in America, and they wanted to see it themselves. To satisfy an increasing demand in Philadelphia, in 1909, a famous Jewish producer relocated his Yiddish theater troupe to the stately Arch Street Theater where Yiddish shows were soon produced nightly, with two shows on Saturday.

The Arch Street Theater was the most famous and most beloved of all the Yiddish theaters in Philadelphia, and in years to follow it highlighted popular Yiddish drama and vaudeville.



While the Arch Street Theater on 6th and Arch Street was the favorite Jewish theater for the general Jewish audience, just further up on Arch Street was the Troc Theater.

The Troc Theater was a fabulous burlesque and vaudeville theater.


In "my time" it was also a favorite with wonderful entertaining vaudeville comedy, featuring great well-known comedians and famous "exotic dancers" and such famous strippers as Gypsy Rose Lee, Blaze Starr, Ann Corio, and other headliners in their time. No, they did not take it "all off' (as they may do these days). These were "teasers" and left much to the imagination.

Burlesque was where famous old time comedians played their "shticks" and slapstick routines. This was clean comedy and very funny. Nothing was foul-mouthed. Nothing was lewd. Nothing was vulgar. Just very funny clean burlesque. Many times we would sneak in (with the permission of the ushers) and go up to the top gallery to watch. Of course, we were so far up everything on the stage seemed so small. But we loved the vaudeville and comedy .. Even this great era of entertainment is gone ... and so are almost all of the famous vaudeville stars and the popular burlesque theaters.

Yes, I did see most of the "exotic dancers" when they appeared at the Troc.

But as funny as the onstage comedians were, and as entertaining as the strip teasers were, the "fun show" was during the intermission breaks, when "candy men" sold boxes of candy or popcorn for ten cents, or fifteen cents a box. To increase the sales of the boxes of popcorn or candy, there was an MC or "barker" on the stage, declaring that there were very expensive watches hidden in certain boxes. No one knew which box held these "expensive watches." This would encourage the audience to buy several boxes in the hope of finding these "famous expensive watches" inside their purchased boxes. There were always some "shills" in the audience - that worked for the theater- that would stand up and raise their hand to buy a box, then look inside and yell out that he "found the expensive watch inside his box." Of course, there was never any famous watch or anything of value in the popcorn or candy boxes. The "shill" would slip his own watch inside the box while opening it, and then suddenly "find" the "expensive watch" or other jewelry. If the sales were still slow, the "barker" would yell out, "Stop the sales. Stop the sales. Tell you what I'm gonna do! Instead of you buying just one box, I'm gonna tell my "associates" selling these packages, to give you one additional box at no extra cost to you. Absolutely free! But I can only do this for the first twenty customers who buy right now." Of course this increased the incentive to buy a box of candy or popcorn, and get another box free, and another chance to find an expensive watch. No one ever found any watch or anything else in the boxes.

It was much fun watching this 'scam' go on, with the audience being encouraged to buy more popcorn and candy, and finding nothing inside the box.

This was "show business", and I loved it. But that's another story.


This area would not be complete without mentioning the "movies." The "Model" moving picture theater - affectionately called the "movies", on South Street near 5th Street, within a short distance from our house, cost ten cents admission. Probably was an original five cents admission. It progressed from silent films to talkies. At intermission, ice cream cones and cups of soda were sold for three cents each. It was here during the years of World War II that the patrons saw the "News of the Day", and learned about the progress of the war. It was also during this era that the movies began to offer free dishes as an incentive to come to their theater on "slow days." One week they would offer a cup, or saucer, or soup plate, etc., until you could accumulate a full serving set of dishes. Many families accumulated their first full set of matching dishes in this manner ... going to the movies.

As a youngster growing up, I always loved to go to the movies, and later to the theater. I usually went to the "Model" movie theater, just several blocks from our home. Admission was only ten cents. The movie theaters were not air conditioned, although some had cooling fans. They were hot and stuffy in the hot summers. Saturday was a special day. Almost every boy and girl of our age went to see the "serials or chapters." These were always some exciting chapter which always ended with the hero just about to be killed, or his airplane crashing into a mountain, or about to be eaten by crocodiles. Just at the point when you would find out what happened, the movie stopped, and you were told to "find out next week" what happens to our hero! Of course, you just had to come back the following Saturday to find out what really happened to our hero.

Just another couple of blocks away on 8th & South Street was another movie theater, called the "Roxy". Most of the time they showed silent western movies, with the famous western stars of those days, too numerous to mention, and you would not recognize any names anyway. Lots of cowboys and Indians - looking very real with their war paint and war bonnets of feathers. There was background piano music that played dramatic or exciting music, according to the action on the screen.


During these early years, most movie theaters just had "movies", but in later years several theaters had "moving pictures" and stage shows.

The most popular combination of entertainment was in mid-city. At 11th and Market Street was the Earle Theater, famous for their fabulous stage shows and the appointed shrine for the Big Bands, such as Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa, Stan Kenton, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and all the other great orchestra leaders. Big band names that evoke memories of popular dancing and even (dare I say it?) jitterbugging!

The bands would come in on a Friday for the weekend. On Fridays, most of the schools in Philadelphia had the greatest absenteeism. The crowds of youngsters, and even parents of all ages, would crowd the sidewalk at the box office, waiting to get in for the best seats up front. The lines would go almost around the block - waiting to get in to see and hear their favorite bands.

When Benny Goodman, the "King of Swing"; came on with his well-known theme song and his magical clarinet, the finger-snapping and foot tapping never stopped. Couples, aroused by the great music, would jump out into the aisles and start dancing.

You certainly would leave the theater singing or humming the melody of your favorite songs as played on stage.

The impressive thing, besides the great listening music, was the "dress code." Every musician wore similar bright colored sport jackets and trousers or suits of the same color and design. Some bands always wore full dress tuxedoes. The female vocalist always wore a beautiful floor length gown.

This was CLASS all the way.

Nowadays, in sharp and disgusting contrast are the "rock groups" appearing half-naked on the stage. Most are naked from the waist up. Most, if not all, look like they had not had a bath in months, with stringy unkempt, uncombed long hair. Most wear torn jeans and ragged T-shirts. What they play (in my opinion) is awesome trash with outrageous ear-splitting volume, and it certainly is not singable. Most are always jumping all over the stage with the microphone almost stuck in their mouth.

Can anyone ever leave such an outrageous rock band, humming or singing any kind of a melody. Impossible!

What has happened to class entertainment?? What has happened to the pride of a clean appearance before the public?

If famous composers can come back in a second life .... George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe .... Where are you when we need you?


As memories go ( and they go fast), I cannot neglect to mention the two very special magnificent movie theaters on Market Street. No, not the run of the mill average movies from 10th Street to about 17th Street.

Just past there, a few blocks west on Market Street were the MOTION PICTURE 'PALACES.'

The Mastbaum and the Erlanger Theaters (Long gone now for many years).

These were "palaces" in almost every sense of the word. Elaborate and ornate splendors of design, with rich carpeting, heavy tapestries and marble staircases leading to the balconies, plus incredibly huge crystal chandeliers in the huge lobby. They featured both motion pictures and live stage shows. There was a time when each theater owner and builder tried to outdo the previously built magnificent monument to entertainment, in almost every major city in the U.S. It was a dress-up affair to go to these two theaters.

The days of these opulent motion picture theaters are a thing of the past.


South Street also had its own colorful characteristics.

I remember that, as a young boy, farmers used to come in to South Street twice a week and line up along the curbing from 2nd to 6th St. They would come in the night before. About daybreak they would open their wagons and display their wares. The big day was Saturday. It started about 5 a.m. and lasted until midnight. For many years, New Jersey farmers brought their produce to sell along the South Street curbstones. I also remember that Mom and Dad would go shopping at this "farmer's market." We usually brought home bags of fresh produce - and during the summer months, we carried home many large watermelons.

While South Street was ever changing, some things never changed. Men's furnishing stores that were here in number until well after World War II were the heart of South Street for many years. Customers were helped into these stores by "pullers-in," salesmen deftly trained at whisking an unsuspecting victim into such an establishment from the pavement in front of the store before the victim could object (other salesmen came by this talent naturally). Years later, these barkers or "pullers-in", who had been a part of South Street life for almost a half a century, were still trying to pull in customers off the street. Many adults today remember in the 1940's and 1950's being pulled into a clothing store on South Street and before they realized what had happened, they were already wearing a jacket, and perhaps more. Even a suit that they really did not want.

East European Jewish businessmen took over South Street and they and their descendants have operated stores to this day.


Did I overlook mentioning the Horn & Hardart Automat - as notable as the Liberty Bell ? It may have been just outside the Jewish Quarter, but it was very well attended by Jewish patrons.

The Horn & Hardart Automat on Chestnut Street, between 8th and 9th St., affectionately called only by the letters, "H &H", was one of the favorite restaurants in mid-city. It was perhaps modern before it's time ­-yet now also of a bygone era.

It was a much looked forward treat to go to the Automat. It was also a great gathering place for people to meet and discuss events over a cup of coffee or hot tea.                                                                                                                      
As you entered past the counter-service section, there was the Automat - a long, complete wall with rows of small glass doors which enclosed a variety of hot and cold dishes.

Each glass door enclosed a small cubicle of food, wide enough for a platter or dish and about five inches high. It was unique because you had to put a certain amount of nickels only, in the coin slot, alongside the glass door, then turn a small knob. When you did, the glass door would pop open for your choice of foods.

There was a great variety of foods in these small cubicles - from rolls to sandwiches to desserts. From ten cents (two nickels) to twenty-five cents (five nickels). The most delicious pies were the finishing touch to any meal. You had your choice of a wide variety of fruit pies including favorites as apple pie, cherry, apricot, blueberry, blackberry, peach, raisin and several others.

But the most favorite of all was the hot apple pie in a deep dish covered with a rich vanilla cream sauce. The second favorites included the tempting coconut custard pie and the custard pumpkin pies. This was not so unusual in itself, except that you received a large quarter of an entire large pie for only two nickels. The joy was to be given a handful of nickels and walk up and down looking through the little glass doors to make your choice with the limited number of nickels you had. Then inserting the proper amount of nickels, turning the little knob, watching the little glass door pop open and reaching in for your food.

Then there was the beverage area - from coffee to cocoa to fresh milk to hot tea, and even chocolate milk with pure chocolate syrup. Each cost only two nickels. After you inserted your two nickels, the coffee, milk or chocolate was dispensed through a metal spout, resembling the beak of a swan, just enough to fill your-cup-or glass. As for milk - this was really vitamin-enriched fresh whole milk - long before cholesterol was a word to alarm you. You put your glass under the spout and milk poured out just enough right to the brim of the glass.

If you really wanted to have a full meal - from rolls to soup to a hot platter with meat, chicken or fish, with two vegetables and a beverage and perhaps dessert, I don't think you could spend more than one dollar.

But besides the wonders of the little glass doors, was the CASHIER.


As you entered the Automat, you were confronted by the cashier's booth. You first had to get all your nickels from the cashier to operate the little glass doors. It was an unforgettable marvel just watching her exchange nickels for any amount of larger coins or bills given to her. I don't think I ever saw her actually count the nickels, as she gave them out. She would grab a handful of nickels from a box loaded with thousands of nickels and she would just open her hand and the exact number of nickels poured out in front of you. Whether you wanted change for a quarter, half dollar or a dollar bill, precisely five nickels, ten nickels or twenty nickels came out of the palm of her hand. Never missed.



And, of course, I cannot omit our favorite "shopping street" ... 4th Street. Fourth Street at South Street, just known as 4th Street - were the blocks on 4th Street between South St. and Christian St. It was an old fashioned food shopping mecca, with streets filled with pushcart merchants and street vendors selling all sorts of merchandise. The entire street, on both sides, were lined with pushcarts, many with the same produce and vegetables and others with a variety of household needs and linens. Each vendor competing with the others to attract customers. South Street itself from 2nd St. to about 23rd St. was a retail shopping area, with every desirable retail store you could think of, including several movie theaters, men's suit stores, ladies dress shops, jewelry stores, many shoe stores, drug stores, tobacco shops, furniture stores, fine fabric shops, candy stores, pawn shops and other fine shops.

South St. from 2nd St. to 6th St. also had some of our favorite "snack" vendors.

Who could forget the soft pretzels with mustard smeared on them with a wooden stick; the delicious hot dogs on a hot roll with sauerkraut and relish on it, along with some orange or flavored cold drink dispensed from a pump container, also on a portable cart; or the hot chestnuts roasted over a charcoal stove on top of a small-wheeled wagon? Pretzels only two cents and the hot dog with everything on it. .. only five cents. And while mentioning hot dogs, hot dogs made some businesses famous.


It is impossible for a Jewish Philadelphian - and for many Italian American, African American, Polish American and Irish American Philadelphians - born before World War II, to say the words "Levis Hot Dogs" without thinking of food. These three words not only bring to mind tastes and smells of another time, they bring back the clang of the bell of the trolley car on 6th Street which frequently stopped to let passengers off at Levis' to order a hot dog and a glass of Champ Cherry Soda, without regard to the traffic back-up and blowing horns.

Abraham Levis was the founder of this popular eatery. At age fourteen, he immigrated to Philadelphia in 1885. After he married Ann Solo, they sold fish cakes and hot dogs from Anna's own recipe. They then acquired the property at 507 S. 6th St. in 1910. Concerning the origination of the soda fountain, the. story goes that "Abe Levis was not content to be remembered simply as the "wizard of the wiener." He went on to develop another specialty of the house "Champ Cherry Soda." To glorify it, he installed an ornate little dispensing cabinet, complete with dark wood, mirrors and marble. He called it the "soda fountain."

Levis developed an early interest in the movies and acquired several nickelodeons. He built the first theatre on South Street. In addition, anticipating outdoor movies by several decades, Levis erected a giant screen on the roof over his store, at 507 S. 6th Street, and he showed free movies that could be seen from the playground across the street. Although the store was passed on to his sons and grandchildren during the 1990's, the business was sold. The Levis family no longer operates the business at 507 S. 6th Street.

If you walked along 4th St. from South St. to Bainbridge St., you could not miss the zesty aroma of fresh ground horseradish and sour pickles ripening in cold brine in a large wooden barrel, in which shoppers stuck their arms up to their elbows to pick a " better pickle" from the bottom of the barrel. And then there were the favorite Jewish delicatessens, on the corner of 4th & Bainbridge Sts., just past South St., where the wonderful aroma of hot corned beef, hot pastrami, fresh cooked roast beef and garlic-loaded Jewish salamis filled the air. Once you entered these "food emporiums" you could not leave without a bag full of hot corned beef sandwiches, smoked salmon (lox), or shmaltz herring - plus a bagful of the warm, freshly baked rye and dark pumpernickel breads, and the real Jewish wonderfully crusted and crunchy assorted bagels.

Then there was the "Saler's Dairy Store." This was an all white tiled store with white ceramic tiles from floor to ceiling. It was how the dairy products were sold and how it looked that was so different from a supermarket dairy department of today.

Butter was sold from a half-barrel size mold of creamery butter - cut into square pieces to fit the weight that you ordered, and wrapped in white paper to take home. Margarine was something no one ever thought of eating. It was like white fat with a capsule of yellow coloring that you broke open and then mixed it with the package of margarine to give it the color of butter. That's why we ate too much of very high fat creamery butter. Cream cheese came in large five pound square boxes - then cut to weight with a wire knife cutter. Cottage cheese came in huge ten gallon size metal cans - and scooped out with a large wooden spoon into paper cartons. Fresh white and brown eggs were piled high, very carefully, in cardboard containers - and the customers picked their own selections. The wide variety of cheeses came in huge "wheels" - Swiss, French, German, soft or hard, in every variety of flavors from many countries. These had to be cut with a very large bladed knife, to cut through the thick hard rind covering the entire wheel of cheese.

On Friday and Saturday afternoons 4th street was so crowded you could hardly walk without bumping into the shoppers around you. And it was not unusual to meet your neighbors or friends on the sidewalk and exchange the latest gossip.

If 4th Street was a Jewish food shopping area, then the area on South 9th Street from Fitzwater Street past Washington Avenue was the "Italian Market." This was the heart of South Philly. Every corner store on both sides of 9th Street in this area had an Italian meat store. Inside whole hogs and pigs hung from meat hooks, in the window display area. Other displayed meats included smoked Italian salamis and all kinds of Italian sausages, rabbits, deer carcasses and other edible wild meats. Of course, each side of the street was lined with similar pushcarts, end to end for five or six blocks, every one laden with all kinds of produce and vegetables. In season, there were baskets of live crabs, lobsters and many other kinds of fresh fish, kept fresh with crushed ice over them. Each side of the street had several Italian bakeries - with all kinds of various shaped breads and luscious cream-filled Italian pastries. The Italian market wouldn't be complete without an Italian cheese store - with shelves and full window displays of whole cheeses from Provolone and Mozzarella to Bleu cheese plus hard and soft rind varieties.

But the popular attraction at 9th & Christian Streets, was "Pat's Philly Steak Sandwiches", with a sign over the serving area reading, "Pat - King of the Philly Steak Sandwiches." It was an unusual "store." It really wasn't a restaurant or steak house at all. There was no inside sitting area or tables. The storefront consisted of a sliding glass window, and in back was the kitchen with the meat grill. The outside had waist-high counter tops, just below the glass window. The meat grill was within sight of the customers on the outside, looking through the sliding window.

The grill was always piled high with raw and cooked onions, frying in olive oil. Next to the fried onions were mounds of sliced beef. (Sometimes there may have been some doubt that the beef may not have come from a cow or steer.)

Next to the grill were bags and bags of fresh Italian breads, or huge rolls. When you bought a Philly Steak Sandwich, in South Philly, you got a whole Italian bread, about a foot long - very hard crusty on the outside and very chewy inside. The bread was sliced down the whole side and loaded with grilled "steak", lots of cooked onions that was simmered in garlic-flavored olive oil and then doused with salt, pepper, spices, red pepper, and more olive oil. Just outside, next to the front of the sliding windows, on a long shelf, were huge glass jars filled with mustard, ketchup, relishes, hot peppers, green peppers, raw onions, sauerkraut, pepper hash, and assorted green relishes. You helped yourself and put on your steak sandwich whatever you desired, or could eat or endure. All this for only thirty-five cents - for the largest Philly steak sandwich you could eat. Almost a meal in itself. Of course, this was many years ago. I guess today the price has gone up and the breads and rolls and the steak sandwiches are smaller.

There may be Philly Steak Sandwich franchises and fast food stores that claim to make Philly steak sandwiches, but there is no comparison to the original South Philly steak sandwich with the real crusty Italian bread. This has been copied, but never duplicated.

South Philly can also claim some fame to another sandwich.


Many years ago, sometime after World War I, there was a factory making military items and other manufactured items, located on Hog Island, just outside of Philadelphia. Most of the employees were of Italian descent who lived in the nearby suburbs. Probably all brought their lunches with them consisting of Italian foods and sandwiches. Most of the sandwiches were made with their favorite Italian bread or rolls, which was a large very crusty bread, and of course filled with many varieties of sliced Italian meats, cheeses, sliced hardboiled eggs and vegetables. Soon small luncheonettes adjacent to the factory started making these favorite sandwiches to sell to the factory employees who may not have brought their own lunch. These sandwiches soon were called "hoggies", named after Hog Island. Soon the name was slightly revised to "hoaggies" for easier ordering. After awhile someone noticed that the shape of the Italian bread, which was long and came to a point at both ends, looked like a miniature shaped submarine. So they soon became known as "submarine" sandwiches. And then the name was shortened to just "subs." The fillings never changed - they were still filled with many varieties of Italian style sliced cold cuts, several slices of Italian cheeses, sliced eggs, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and lots of olive oil and spices. Today, you have a choice of a wide variety of ingredients from tuna, sliced beef, chicken, turkey, and anything else that can fit in between the sliced bread or rolls.


South Philadelphia was also noted for some notorious and infamous Mafia families, or the Cosa Nostra. Yes, here in the heart of South Philly was the beginning of some of the most notorious and violent gangster and Mafia families. Many of the "most wanted" Italian Mafia gangsters and racketeers were born and raised in these streets. Big names of organized crime ruled the area and the corrupt businesses. Yet, no one would have known what was going on behind secret meetings of the top "bosses." The Italian members always put on a show of being a respectable family man - until one or two of his "family" were gunned down in the streets in mid-afternoon. Then there would be blood shed in revenge among the different "families." The street names of these "hit men" almost described their characters.

The movie "The Godfather" could very well have been filmed in the deep heart of South Philly streets. The neighborhood, and the Mafia family names, were almost a true reflection of the movie - about the life and death of an Italian Mafia family.

Even today, the "Costa Nostra", with their Mafia code of silence, still exists in South Philly. Everyone knows about it - all the notorious members are well known, but you dare not discuss it in open conversation.

So much for the great famous and infamous South Philly.

Yet, despite all of the above, South Philly also produced very well-known opera singers (Maria Lanza), many famous pop singers such as Eddie Fisher, Bobbie Daren, Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Chubby Checkers; famous comedians and actors and actresses -and perhaps, many honest judges. There are streets where the fictional Rocky ran, and the streets where the films were made.



As a youngster, I remember the automobiles having a five or six inch metal bumper - front and rear - that had shock absorbers behind the bumper, attached to the front of the car and rear of the car. With any bump into a car, the front bumper "gave in" a couple of inches and absorbed the shock. This prevented any damage to the front or rear of the car. In today's cars the front and rear bumpers are made of hard rubber or vinyl and they are easily dented, if not crushed, creating sizable damage and expensive repair or replacement parts. The old cars withstood less damage. They also did not drive so fast on the streets or highways. All this was well before airbags, air conditioning, CD players, no key entry and other modern attachments.

I also remember that to start the older cars, someone had to stand in front of the car and with a metal crank, would turn the crank as fast as he could to "turn over" or to start the engine. The driver had to adjust several levers in the middle of the large steering wheel to adjust the "spark" or the choke, to get the engine going. Rain, shine or snow, someone had to stand in front of the car and crank up the engine. In later cars, a starter button was created on the dashboard, and still later, the ignition key was created to start the engine. Somehow, the older cars lasted longer than the newer cars. Best of all, the speedometers never showed more than fifty miles per hour - so you could not drive it at dangerous accident-prone speeds.


After I got my driver's license, Dad allowed me to drive our first car to the chicken market and pick up the slaughtered chickens. I would put the dead chickens in a burlap bag and put them in the trunk of the car ­ then head back to the store. Every night I would have to wash and clean out the trunk because of the smell and even some of the fresh blood of the chickens that leaked out of the burlap bag, and into the trunk. Of course, this was easier than putting the burlap bag of chickens in the wire basket on the front of my bicycle, and cycling back to the store. Sometimes the bag of chickens was so heavy on the wire basket that I had to walk the bicycle back to the store.

One of my first jobs while still in high school was working as a stock boy, with several of my neighborhood friends, in one of the more popular men's clothing store ... Sam Gerson's, at 6th& Bainbridge Street. Sam Gerson started out as a tailor with his brother, Irving. After some years they opened their own clothing store. It soon gained a great reputation as a very upscale men's clothing store for fine quality suits and attracted a diversified and large clientele. This was about 1939, just before World War II was declared. Fine quality suits were only $39.95. You could upgrade to a much finer tailored suit for only $49.95. Can you imagine one of the finest men's suits made ... only $49.95? When Gerson's ran their annual sale, it attracted such a huge crowd that some times the Manager would have to allow only a certain number of customers in, after the same number of satisfied customers left the store. The store was always crowded with customers.

I worked twelve hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday, twelve hours each day, for $15.00 a day, and was glad to earn my own money. Now young workers may be asking for $15.00 an hour!

The weather in Philadelphia was not the kindest to endure. I still remember the winter snowfalls in Philadelphia. In the worst winters the snows fell heavily, sometimes up to two feet high and up to four feet high in snow drifts. Sometimes the snows would blow against the front door of our house, at 6307 Foxhill Road, so high that you could not open the door. We would have to go out by the back door.


Going to Bartlett Jr. High School at 12th & Catherine Street, in the winter storms was a real challenge just to get to school. We walked every day from 6th & Lombard S1. to 12th & Catherine St. every day, high snow or no high snow. This was about fifteen blocks away. Even though the carfare was only ten cents, I did not want to spend the ten cents, so I walked each way, even when it rained heavily. Many times our shoes and stockings were soaking wet from walking in puddles and heavy rains. We didn't have school bags as you have today. We tied all our books with a rope or leather strap, and carried them that way. We also always brought our lunch from home to save the money that it would have cost. Mostly we brought a sandwich and a cold drink in a small bottle.

When I was to going to public school and junior high school, I remember we always had to wear a clean shirt and tie. Most of the time we were required to wear a white shirt. Sweat shirts or T-shirts, or anything other than a white shirt was forbidden in class. We had to wear leather shoes in school. Sneakers were also forbidden in class, and only worn in gym classes.


In my early years in school, we wore "knickers" the knee length pants, with elastic on the bottom to keep the "knickers" from falling down. We also wore hi-top stockings that were usually falling down below the pants. Jeans were absolutely forbidden in classes.

One of the popular school-age shoes at that time were the hi-top, half­boots that laced up to the mid-calf of the leg. These were very popular because there was a pocket on the side of the boot which contained either a small penknife or a pencil or pen. You would also get a free gift from the shoe store where you bought the boots or shoes.

When we went out to visit, young boys always wore a suit and leather shoes. (Sloppy T-shirts weren't even considered) This certainly is far different from today's students who wear T-shirts to class, even torn blue jeans at the knees, sneakers and even open toe sandals. Such clothing would have created a classroom crisis back when I went to public school. The students would have been sent home to change, or not be admitted to class.


Graduation was always a dress-up affair and ceremony - with required white shirt, tie and a new suit. Yes, dress codes were very important and such good training stayed with us as we entered the business or professional world.

photo: Jack Segal with violin in knee high knickers

When I graduated Bartlett Jr. High School, I went to Benjamin Franklin High School, at Broad & Spring Garden Sts. Yes, I even walked every day to and from high school, good weather and bad weather. It wasn't a matter of how many blocks was now a matter of how many miles away. It was approximately twenty-four blocks each way.

While attending high school biology and anatomy classes, I would bring in real samples of body organs - from a steer or cow. I would bring in the total brains with all the membranes and nerves showing. The brain of a cow looks exactly like a human brain. Or I would bring in the eyes with the optic nerve still attached, or a small liver, or a set of lungs or a heart, or a length of intestines, and even the jaw bones with the teeth still in them. This was as close as the other students would come to seeing a real "live" specimen that we were studying in anatomy class. It was almost like operating on a cadaver. Many of the girls in the class would close their eyes, rather than look at the organs of the animal.

Philadelphia also has several great museums, such as the Philadelphia Art Museum, Rodin Museum and the Franklin Institute, which has gigantic displays of scientific experiments and science displays.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is world renowned. As a young man I visited all the museums many, many times and also attended several Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.


Let's jump ahead a few years....Just prior to World War II, around 1939 and through the declared War into 1946, America went on the rationing system. During this period most of the meats, foods, fuels, soaps, gasoline and other critical materials, as well as certain metals, went to the military, serving in the armed forces in all the areas of the war. To support the war effort, there was a shortage of almost everything for the civilians. They had to line up for government issued ration stamp books. Everything was rationed. You needed a ration stamp for almost everything you wanted to buy, be it meats, groceries, sugar, flour, gasoline, tires, etc. Stamps were marked A, B, C, D. For instance, if you went to buy meat, you were limited or rationed, to a certain amount of meat with the A stamp. If your family was larger, you could use the B or C stamp, which allowed you to buy a larger quantity of meat. If you wanted to buy gasoline for your car, you had to wait in a long line, just to get to the pump. You were limited to only four gallons of gasoline a week with the A stamp. So all pleasure driving was curtailed for the duration of the war. If you needed more gasoline for a business, you could use a larger designated stamp - one stamp per week.

And believe it or not, gasoline was only thirteen cents per gallon during this time. Most gasoline stations were also rationed in the amount of gasoline they received each week, so many times they ran out of gasoline during the week, or even the same day.

Because of all the food rationing, including meat and poultry rationing, Dad was also "rationed" in what he ordered. With his limited allotted amount of beef, and all of his customers waiting in line to use their food stamps, he was completely sold out by early afternoon each day. At least that gave him a chance to rest the balance of the day. Even cigarettes and cigars were rationed, since most of the tobacco products went overseas to our troops. Used aluminum wrap was saved by housewives, and turned in to the local receiving depots. Even cooking fat was saved and collected for the war effort. Of course, after the war was over, rationing also ended.


Sad to say, but growing up in America in the early and mid 1900's was not such an easy acceptable life for the Jewish people. There was another dark chapter in American history.

During the 1920's and through the 1940's (and most likely much earlier), there was a very evident anti-Semitic treatment and discrimination policy throughout America. It was clearly and obviously evident when Jewish people were deliberately not hired by major corporations (like Ford Motor Co.), and other local companies. Jewish people were not accepted in regular "Anglo-Saxon" country clubs because of their religion. Many real estate people would not sell homes to Jewish families, especially in gentile neighborhoods. There were actual signs that said "restricted community." If a Jewish lawyer was finally admitted to a law firm, it was known that he would never become a "partner." (An unwritten agreement).

Well known anti-Semitic Catholic priests, such as " Father Coughlin" spewed out his venomous anti-Semitic speeches on his nationwide radio program - which had a great influence with the listening public.

Many well-known anti-Semitic newspapers ran cruel headlines falsely blaming the Jewish people for all the ills and troubles of the times ­ including the Depression of 1929, the stock market crash of 1929, accusations of manipulating big corporations, etc. These were obviously false statements and lies - to blame the scapegoats and shift the blame away from the real industrial gentile culprits.

While I was still a youngster I would take walks along Market Street, in mid-city Philadelphia. I used to see men on the sidewalk giving out free newspapers. I recognized the word "JEW" in the bold headlines, but did not realize what it was all about. The person giving out the newspapers would be shouting out the headlines, blaming the Jewish people for many false things. No one tried to stop him or forbid him from shouting such anti-Semitic false remarks. I knew I was Jewish, but did not understand why he was saying such things about the Jewish people.


Even worse was the anti-Semitic policy of our own U.S. government, in not admitting European Jewish immigrants trying to escape from Nazi Germany. During this same time there was an unimaginable and horrendous persecution of Jewish people in Germany and most of Europe. Visas and passports were denied to them, or delayed for months, and in many cases for years. All Jewish people in Germany were ordered to leave their homes and possessions, and herded into crowded cattle cars and sent to Nazi concentration camps - and to their eventual deaths, either by firing squads or death in gas chambers!

These were part of the innocent 6,000,000 Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust. I will discuss the Holocaust later in these memories of the past.

The few lucky Jewish people who finally got their passports to leave Germany, boarded ships to America. Still they faced additional obstructions.

The U.S. Customs Department, under orders from the White House in Washington, denied these ships entry into U.S. ports. When turned away from U.S. coastal ports, these same ships with the Jewish immigrants, tried to enter Cuba. The ships were again denied access to the ports, not allowed to unload their passengers. These same persecuted Jewish families had to return to Germany, or other anti-Semitic countries, to face a dismal future of frightful harassment and additional persecution.

Even the White House, with Franklin Roosevelt as President, refused to believe the very strong evidence of the massive atrocities in the German Nazi concentration camps. Germany's unquestioned diabolical intent was to annihilate the entire Jewish race in Germany and other European countries allied with Germany.






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