No FearMy family came from Hungary before the turn of the century, as a result of my father’s being conscripted into the Hungarian army. From the stories he tells me, they were very poor in Hungary. He and his whole family lived on a small farm about eight or nine acres, and he said the government took everything away from it in taxes. They had four boys and a girl. One boy went to the yeshiva; none of the other children got to school at all. He brought out all of his relatives. He paid the way for his sister and his three brothers. His father and mother would not come. They refused to leave Hungary. He said that when they conscripted the Jewish boys into the Hungarian army, they treated them worse than slaves, made them do all the menial tasks, all the dirty filthy work. They never trained them to be soldiers or anything of that nature. He refused to fight for Hungary, so he emigrated to the United States when he was about nineteen years old. My mother—they didn’t know each other, although they lived close to each other near Budapest—she followed not long after that, not for the same reason, but because she wanted to live in the United States. They met here. She came alone, he came alone, both of them. Those people in those days, they didn’t know anything about fear or things of that nature. My daddy couldn’t speak a word of English and neither could my mother. He had no education at all. My mother at least had—her father was a minor tax collector in Hungary, so at least she went to school. He had no education at all. None. Wound up being a multimillionaire.
The Goldener LandIn the Old Country, Flossie was Frumasheina. In Yiddish, Fruma means religious, and sheina means beautiful. That was her name, Frumasheina. Riding on the train from New Jersey to Charleston, Papa was calling “Frumasheinka.” Somebody said, “What kind of name is that, mister?” Papa says, in his English broken but still understandable—Mamma didn’t understand a word—he says, “That’s her name.” He says, “Ooo, and you’re going to give her that name in America? She’s going to live like that with a name like that. I don’t know.” So Papa figured, what could he name her that started with an “F”? Later they’re riding past farms and see these huge cows with the big tits hanging, milking cows. And they heard the farmers saying, “Flossie! Flossie,” herding the cows in. Papa said, “That’s a good name, Flossie. Flossie is perfect.” Heavy milking cows—that was the theory they brought over from the old country. They didn’t have food to eat when they came to this country, they were forced to come here, to seek the goldener land.
I'm No FoxWhen [my father] came over, he started out and couldn’t speak English. One of his first jobs was delivering seltzer bottles in the flats of New York. He was short but very strong. He was very muscled up and had a good frame. He said he carried the bottles up four or five flights. That was his first job, and then he was told that he could make a lot of money because they were using immigrants to build roads in Pennsylvania. So, he went to the work crew, most of whom were Italians and not very bright, and he said that going out and digging roads wasn’t his exact idea of really getting ahead in the world. He got disillusioned with New York very speedily. So, he thought of his uncle who lived in Barnwell, South Carolina. He had an uncle who was really Beryl but who was called “Barney.” He had settled in the Barnwell County area at the time my father decided to move down and was already a very prosperous merchant in the town of Barnwell. In fact, I think there were some hard feelings because Barney was the one who had sneaked out from the army and had caused the family a lot of trouble. They had gotten into a big argument about that and Dad didn’t know if he would be welcome when he got down to Barnwell. He said he took a boat, a steamer, looks like a coastal steamer, from New York to Norfolk, where you would disembark, and then you’d catch I think it was already the Atlantic Coastline Railway that would come all the way through Virginia and North Carolina and terminated at Augusta, Georgia. It went right through Barnwell. So, he came in about two in the morning on the train. He got off in the dark and he said the first one to greet him was the colored porter, standing on the platform. And the fellow said to him, “Hello, white folks.” Dad, with his poor knowledge of English, thought he was calling him a fox. “I’m no fox,” he said. You know, the black person was very meek. He must have scared Dad to death because he said all he could see in the dark were these white teeth grinning at him. But, anyway, he finally made it known well enough to–I guess he kind of made him understand that he was looking for Barnwell. It was a little village. About daylight he got to his uncle’s house. He called it Mazourski so they must have recognized the name ’cause that’s what his uncle went by. He walked up to the door. He wasn’t announced; he hadn’t sent him any letter in advance. He knocked on the door and said, “Uncle Beryl?” “Who are you?” “I’m Abram Yitzak, David’s son, you know.” And he took him in.
Throw me OverboardI have to tell you, when we were coming from Kobrin, the big port of Danzig, to London on the boat, I got so sick that I pleaded with my mother to throw me overboard. I said, “Mama, you’ve got Paul.” I was so sick. She said to me, “I can’t do that.” A cousin of ours also met us on the boat. She wanted to go shopping. She couldn’t get over—I had on an undershirt and another—it was cold—I was layered. I still remember it was a blue wool dress. I had about three or four garments on.
I Know Enough NowI just know it was before the turn of the century—I don’t know exactly when, but before the turn of the century. Even in those days, of course, Hungary had anti-Semitism, which Dad said was terrible. People who could get out, of course, would leave, and they didn’t mind; they let you go. They was happy to get rid of the Jews. He had a landsman, somebody from the little village that they lived in, and he sent my father enough money to come to the United States. He got a job in a little grocery store, he worked there for about three months, said, “I know enough now,” moved to Pennsylvania and bought a little grocery store there and expanded on out. These were all mining towns in that area.
Crossing Her LegsSo then, when he [my father] traveled—he decided he wanted to travel the whole United States. So he left New York and went to the West Coast, circled back around and was coming back east when he stopped in Charleston, met a good-looking lady, and romanced her and married her and stayed here. They got married in October. It was October 22, 1922, and I came along February of ’24, and my sister came along in April of ’25. My mother said that she found out what caused it, she started crossing her legs, and that’s what was the end of the Stines. I always thought that was cute, the way she’d tell us she crossed her legs.
The Wild WestMy father left New York when he was about seventeen. He went to Florida. They were having a land boom there, and he settled in Lake Worth, Florida. He did various odd jobs and he used to work on a ferry that went back and forth; he worked on the ferry selling cigars and candy. The ferry went between West Palm and Palm Beach. He had various and sundry jobs. This was a cow town. It was almost like the Wild West in those days. It was cattle country. People used to wear guns and ride horses. But at any rate, he apprenticed himself. A druggist there allowed him to apprentice himself to him and after a couple of years he got his license as a pharmacist. Later, the old man who owned the drug store died and they sold the store to my father.
You Can Make a Living HereMy father was born in Bialystok in Poland and my mother came from Vilna, now Vilnius, in Lithuania. And Vilna Guberniya was a center of Jewish learning going back for centuries, the home of the Vilna Gaon, a leading biblical scholar. So Vilna was famous. My father came about 1906 as a teenager, alone. His mother had a crippled knee, which meant that she would never get through immigration in America, so he knew when he left that he wasn’t going to see his parents again. Some Ellis Island functionary changed his name from Tschaplinsky to Chaplin by chopping off the first two and last three letters. He worked in shoe factories around Boston: Lynn, Chelsea, Haverhill. He went to night school for four years to learn English and on Saturday nights he used to box Irishmen to make an extra two dollars. His reason for going to Boston was a cousin there, a Mrs. Finkelstein, who ran a boarding house for immigrants. It was the kind of place where on Monday one of the boarders would ask Mrs. Finkelstein, “Efsher kan Ich haben ein schtickel herring Donnerstag in der frie? [phonetic]—Can I have a piece of herring Thursday morning?” Dad never went beyond those four years of night school, but I remember him very well reading the New York Times and theWall Street Journal.. Chaplin/Citron/Berkovitz Families, 1916 Max Citron enticed my dad to Columbia. A fellow Bialystoker, they were kids together. They corresponded. My dad came to this country, he wrote Max, Max says, “You can make a living here.” That’s how people get to where they settle. How does a Jew get to Montana for God’s sake? Somebody, originally from his shtetl, is in Montana, sends word back. I’ve traveled a fair amount. In Melbourne, Australia, a good friend, then with Pan American Airways introduces me to Oliver somebody and we go to his house to have a drink and I see Hebrew books in his library. I said, “Oliver, why are they here?” He said, “I’m part of a big Bialystoker community.” A lot of Bialystokers went to Australia. It simply means one or two went and wrote back telling glowing stories. An influx followed. That’s happened all over.
The Triangle Shirtwaist FireMy mother, Netty, her family name in Europe was Bojarski. As you know, Ellis Island changed millions of names. When she came out, she was Brown. Netty Brown. She had a brother who had come earlier, but she came as a teenager alone. Her parents came in the 1920s and moved in with us in Columbia. My grandmother took over the kitchen, could speak no English so I had to learn a little Yiddish because I liked to eat—Ich leibe zu essen, so that’s how I got my limited pidgen Yiddish. Mama was born in Vilna, December of 1891, and died January of ’71, six months before my dad, almost to the day. She got a job in the sweat shops, euphemistically called sewing plants, on the Lower East Side. A friend of hers said to her, “Netty, why don’t you come and work with me in my plant?” So my mother went over and signed up but the day she was supposed to report she had a bad cold and knew it would not be advisable to show up in that condition, so she stayed home. That was the day of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, when something like one hundred eighty young women died. They were on the eighth or ninth floor, but the steps burned, the one rickety elevator became inoperative, and there was no way out. Somebody had a ladder which they put across the alley to another window and a few of the more intrepid ones crawled over there. But a lot of them threw themselves out of windows. That led to a revision of the tenement building code in New York City. Thank God for my mother’s bad cold. The hairs on my neck still go up a little bit even now and that was, God knows how many years ago.
All Kind of AdviceNow my father was here in 1920. I told you he came on the US Lenox. They arrived [in Charleston] December 13th and he sent for my mother. Now in Europe at the time was Mr. I. M. Goldberg, who was [already] a successful furniture merchant [in Charleston]. He came back not to live, but to see his family, and and he was giving my mother all kind of advice. He was telling my mother that to wear the fur coat, you don’t have to declare it, and not only that it was so bulky getting into small packages that she had, she may not be able to get it in. My mother [arrived in New York] with the fur coat, with the heat and all that she must have developed a fever. They held us overnight and this is very, very risky. I was at Ellis Island just last month and they told us that one thousand immigrants a month was being returned to Europe. I also just found out the first and second class passengers did not have to go through an examination, just the third class and steerage went through this examination. If they had any suspicion of any eye trouble or any serious disease or if you got fever, they didn’t bother with you, they sent you back, but we spent the night. Well, the following day, we had to go before an Appeals Court of five men—I just learned this—and they approved (my mother’s fever had gone down) and they approved and we came to America. We arrived, I think I told you, October 2nd, 1921. We came to America.
Vilnius Sounds Like VeniceMy mother’s eldest brother, whose name was Read, R-E-A-D, Frank Read came to South Carolina. He came directly to Moncks Corner in 1890. My father came to this country in 1902. He came from one of the ghetto villages at Lithuania. My mother is from Vilna, which is now called Vilnius, V-I-L-N-I-U-S—think of Venice. But my mother’s elder brother whose name was Read was the predecessor of all of the family on her side. My father had two nephews who later came here and they settled in Sumter, South Carolina. So they came over in 1920. He settled in Moncks Corner and brought all two or three of his brothers and when my father married the younger sister of my uncle he brought over my mother and another sister and left the remaining segment of her family in Europe. They all vanished, finished off by Hitler. My father didn’t [talk about his parents]. My father was in the Russian army and he was so happy to purchase his way out of the army. He took a German freighter and landed at Ellis Island. My father was a very aggressive fellow and came to South Carolina with one notion. He wanted to take advantage of the wonderful atmosphere of America, the ability to earn a livelihood without the oppressive circumstances that Jews were living in in that part of the world. He worked very hard and within two years he had already gone in business for himself and had earned enough money to send for my mother. My aunt tells the story that when my father sent for my mother to come to this country, it cost about two thousand dollars for transportation and getting out of where she was. Apparently they had—it was almost as if they were paying, I got the impression that they were paying monies to get a permit to leave. And when she got to New York at Ellis Island they had such a tremendous group of people and such terrible decisions to make. History has proved that the negative decisions hit the Jewish people, particularly on the east coast because at that time they weren’t bringing in any Asians or blacks. They turned my mother down because whoever examined her said she had a communicable eye disease. The agency in New York, apparently—and I am very grateful and thankful for all of these things that I know so little about—had her sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia. She stayed there for two months with this wonderful gentile family who took care of her, saw to it that she had any medical attention she needed and gave her a very very comfortable domicile. One of the humorous things that came out of it—when my mother had all of the certifications between the New York agency and the medical examiners in Halifax, Nova Scotia, [they] wrote my father—I was told it took thirty-five hundred dollars to arrange for passage for my father to go to pick her up and for transportation—and he was told that there was not a bill for any of her expenditures in Halifax, but it would be nice if he made a contribution. Anyway, to abbreviate the story, my uncle told my father that he was not sophisticated enough to bring his sister back and that he would like to pick up my mother. My father agreed to send my uncle up but he never forgave him for that. Anyway, my mother came—this was in 1905 or 1906—and moved with my father to Bonneau, South Carolina. [Later] the family moved to Charleston and bought a house at 182 Wentworth Street which is still in existence—a right attractive typical Charleston two-story house with a porch on the first and second floor. He knew that he could not raise a Jewish family in Bonneau. We became a part of the community of Charleston and in 1916 they became domiciled in Charleston and became a member of Brith Sholom Synagogue. And four Dumas children were born in South Carolina. My two older sisters and my twin brother and I were born on Sullivan’s Island.
Two GrandfathersThe two grandfathers in Liverpool, England, were running out of money. Now Liverpool, as I understand, was a city in England that took in these immigrants for lodging, better than London. Some of the community had houses or apartments and let these young fellows stay there free—where they got food from I don’t know either. But they were running out of money one Friday and they didn’t know what to do about having food for Shabbos. One of them told the other, he says, “You stay here outside this hardware store, department store, or whatever it was, and when I come out, you bump into me.” And he did. He had a piece of window glass in his hand and he dropped it when they ran to each other and they started crying. “There goes our money and we were going to put in a window for somebody so we can buy something for tomorrow’s meal.” Some of the people passing by gave a little money so they had enough money for Shabbos foods.
There's Nobody Up ThereIf you want to know anything about the Gelson family, it’s interesting because they lived in a different village—this is my father’s family—and there was a school, a Russian school, therefore all the Gelsons were educated to a degree. My mother would say my father had the equivalency of a high school education, because it seems there was a Catholic school, so they were all atheists of a kind. They came to this country and they were socialists, they belonged to things like the Arbiterung [Workman’s Circle]. My mother would say to me—because my father died young—“Papa said there’s nobody up there.” However, the contradiction is, the paradox, that they were active in the synagogue because they were educated. Now, I’m not sure any of the other Gelsons ever went to synagogue much. They just stuck with their atheism.
The DowryDC: He [Sol Rosen] was to come [to America] with Uncle Sam, an older brother, and then the sister, Gussie, wanted to come, too, and the story was that my mother loaned her her dowry- Mama was older, and she had a dowry saved up. Aunt Gussie came to this country and returned that money to her. Then my mother was able to bring her and her husband—my father—and a sister, Mary, with that money that Aunt Gussie returned. MR: Sam decided to come [from Poughkeepsie to Charleston]. The story told in the family is—I don’t think anyone really believes it—is that he went to Penn Station and he said he had so much money, where would it take him, and the fellow said Charleston, South Carolina, and that’s how he ended up here.
Gelson and RosenUncle Sol is responsible for our moving to Charleston. He and my father got along really well together, so he wrote to Poughkeepsie—and this had to be in 1919, because I was just born- suggesting that my father come and go into business with him. The business was called Gelson and Rosen in Yonges Island.
America is something, isn't it?The ship docked and he had to wait for Sam to come in with the little boat from Awendaw to pick him up. There weren’t any bridges in those days across the Cooper River. He was early, so he walked down Broad Street, and he said he remembered the building that I later bought and practiced law in on Broad and Church. He said, “I remember walking by that building, looking in the windows and all.” He said, “America is something, isn’t it? You end up owning that building.” He said, “I was just killing time walking down Broad Street.” And then Sam picked him up. Sam had a boat that he would carry goods from Charleston to Awendaw, you see, on the inland waterway, or whatever waterway was in existence then. He’d bring the boat in, they’d put sacks they’d buy from the wholesale district on East Bay Street. East Bay was a big wholesale district in those days. They’d load up the boats, and Papa went back on the boat. That’s how he came down and joined Sam, by himself. Probably sixteen, seventeen years old.
According to my FatherAccording to my father, I got the impression that it wasn’t his intention to come to this country. It was very commonplace for people to leave children and take off for one reason or another. In a lot of instances they never saw the relative anymore for the rest of their lives. My maternal grandfather came to this country in 1913, and his wife and daughter, who was my mother, didn’t come to this country until 1920. They were separated for seven years. Imagine that, being separated from a wife and daughter for seven years. First of all when he came into Danzig, he sent a wire home to Poland, Kaluszyn, that he had arrived safely. The reason that he felt it was necessary is that the authorities were looking for him. He’d already been drafted into the army and he actually deserted. He and his brother both had false passports made in Warsaw and came to this country with false passports. They had to have their eyes examined. My father, in the meantime, had an eye infection and some Jewish doctor happened to examine him. He understood the circumstances. He gave him a bill of health and let him board the ship. Otherwise, he might have been detained and he might have been sent back to Kaluszyn. As a matter of fact, he came here to Ellis Island, he and his brother together. At Ellis Island they gave him the name Cohen. They gave his brother the name Goldberg. Imagine that. Their name was Miedzyrzecki, which was a Polish name. Coincidentally the name Miedrzyrzecki means between two rivers and Charleston is also between two rivers.
ReunionI was born in Europe, in Warsaw, Poland. I lived there until I was twelve years old and all of a sudden the war starts and we are trying to get out of the trouble. My trip was really a miserable one. We left Warsaw in 1916. We had to go through Berlin to get the train from Warsaw and after that we traveled thirty days to Rotterdam in order to get the boat. And when we got there we found that the trip [ship?] had been canceled and it’s prolonged again. But we stayed in the Rotterdam Hotel until things were available again to the immigrants. I left there shortly after and when we got on the trip [ship?] every country’s waters refused to let us go through because we were on a German ship. Our passage was supposed to be first class and we finally ended up on the bottom of the boat where the kitchen was. We were so tired and starved because during the time we lived in Warsaw, after Germany took over they got all the food and the residents didn’t get any. We were hoping that when we got to Rotterdam we’d have something to eat. But still there was no food available. It was really miserable. We didn’t know what we were going to do. But we finally went on the journey and London was very very helpful. They allowed our boat to land and took care of us. They had a meal but we couldn’t afford to eat because we didn’t know whether it was free or whether we had to pay. All we had were twenty-five dollars to show on Ellis Island when we got there. My father and two sisters were already in New York. We sent them a telegram from Ellis Island when we arrived there. They missed the telegram and couldn’t come out that evening to get us. We thought that we had been forgotten or something had happened to them and we just gave up. We said that if we couldn’t get anything to eat and my father didn’t come to get us off Ellis Island the next thing to do was to go into the ocean and forget about everything. But fortunately the next morning at five o’clock we were told, “The Mendelson family should come into so-and-so cabin. We are ready to release you.” We didn’t know who had come until we got into the room where they had told us to go to. And then there were my father and two sisters waiting on the outside. And they had gotten the telegram and made all the arrangements to come in the next morning. That was at five in the morning and you can imagine what a reunion that was, not to have seen each other for two years and not knowing whether we were still alive or dead. The reunion was something special and from then on we really were happy. The trip itself we could have eliminated but we had no other way to get where we were going to the United States of America and looking forward to it of course because we knew here we would have a chance to really live normally. And that’s what my dad wanted for his six children. To bring them up normally. He was not happy with the European way of living because the Christians there, the Pollacks, tortured the Jewish people. It was a shame we had to be born Jews but I never regretted it because that was the only place—America—that took care of people like us wanting to live, to do something with life, and not to be handicapped. So at first [my father] went to Rio de Janeiro and it wasn’t any better. He came back to Warsaw and tried to get another ticket to the United States and this is where he went to. He met a family that gave him a job to sew the tiny little things on suspenders to catch them on the pants button. And he learned how to do that. Until then he had never worked. He was a Hebrew student. His father was the same way. They lived in the suburb of Warsaw where they had a little cottage and some land. They had someone to cultivate it for them and they ate what was grown on that area. When he came to Europe after he got married to my mother they were both sixteen years old and he didn’t have trade of any kind. So my mother had to go and peddle like the people do here, selling sheets and pillow cases door to door. When she was pregnant with a child and it was due she stayed over until the baby was delivered and went back to work. They raised six wonderful children—I have to say because we were a nice family. And little by little he trained my two older sisters how to do that work and they were able to make a livelihood for the family. But mother still kept on peddling. Until we left [Europe] we were not living normal lives. We were tortured. And that was the reason why we were thinking of leaving for the United States.
Mendelson and Son1916. We came into New York. We stayed there three years. And through mutual friends, I don’t know if you know the name Kaufman [???] in Charleston—that was my dad’s friend. How he became a friend is very important. My dad had a habit of going for a walk in Warsaw every night after dinner and everybody knew everybody. He finally noticed this strange man there and he asked him if he could be of any help. And the man says, “Can you tell me of a kosher place where I could go and have a meal?” And he says, “That will not be necessary. You can come into our home. There are eight of us and when you cook for eight there are always leftovers.” So we took him home and my dad asked him whether he knew of a place he is going to spend the night and he said, “No, can you suggest anything?” My dad said, “It’s not necessary to do that. You can come in. We’ll put up a bed or cot whatever and you can stay overnight and tomorrow I’ll help you find a place.” Well, he spent the night and never left. He stayed with us, I think, three years. He became an uncle out of a clear sky because that’s how people treated one another then. You know what I mean. You were there to help and if you could you did. Well, anyway, when he got the visa, permission to leave, he went to Charleston from Warsaw. This was his home. You know they had a whole of group of Kaluszyners. They lived in Kaluszyn, which was a little suburb from Warsaw, and when one came over they brought their family after a while and helped the next fellow in the family. We became very close friends by then and when he saw the insert in the paper that we had arrived in New York he remembered the name Mendelson and he decided to come up and visit if it was okay with us. Well, we agreed. He came up and stayed ten days and he saw how my dad had to go to work at six in the morning and come home at eleven at night. He worked overtime to feed enough people, eight. Had to clothe them and pay rent and he saw this was not a good future. And he decided then and there he was not going to let us stay in New York. That wasn’t a place to settle with a family. He decided to take my only brother, Isadore Mendelson, who was in the jewelry business in Charleston, and he opened up a little store with accessories like socks and different little things like hankies—things of that sort. He took my brother in there and he said, “This is for you and your father.” My brother didn’t know what to do or say. He went in and thanked the man. He didn’t know what the outcome would be. Mr. Kaufman in the meantime called my father—when his vacation came he was to come to him. And anyway my dad came and Mr. Kaufman took him by the hand like a friend and he said, “Abraham, this if for you and family. I’m going to give you this on one condition. That you accept it.” My dad said, “The only way I will accept it will be if I pay for it.” They discussed the situation and finally my dad accepted. They paid him off and we opened up a store Mendelson and Son. We established a good name for us and worked until 1928. We decided, my husband at the time—I was married in 1927. My brother played the mandolin and my husband played the violin. He was with the Charleston Symphony. And they decided to open up a little store. They just had a few violins or whatever—they couldn’t go into piano, there was too much competition. There was Seigling Music House. We all worked in the business. I worked constantly in the business since it was opened up in1928. And after Otto died the children decided to keep the business and each one got a share and they worked up a beautiful business with me included. I worked every day of my life since I was twelve.
The Unordained RabbiI think the Ellison family settled in Savannah. He was kind of an unordained rabbi, Mr. Ellison was. His professional life was spent in the synagogue either as custodian or as a part-time rabbi or some official capacity. And he landed in Savannah. Very soon after that he got a telegram that there was a job in Charleston if he wanted to move here, so he did.
Dairy PeopleMy father’s parents came from Pusville in Lithuania. My grandfather came first, and then he sent for his family—they settled in Baltimore, and then they came south. He tried to farm and was unsuccessful—he loved the outdoors. His family before him were dairy people, and they loved animals and outdoors, so he wanted to farm, so he came south. He peddled. They walked until they were [inaudible] enough to have a horse and a wagon, and they came on south. They were in Virginia—in fact, my father was bar mitzvahed in Norfolk, Virginia, because that’s where they were. My daddy was very good at taking care—what they call birthing animals, he delivered the animals. If they had a problem in their delivery, he could turn the animal around and deliver it properly. He was good at it, and his father, his grandfather, they all—I guess animals go way back. They were supposed to have been dairy people, but I guess, in a small shtetl, if you had two cows, you became a dairyman. But they all liked big animals, and they had big animals. I don’t visualize them being affluent dairy people, you know. You like to say “dairy people.”
The Young MaccabeeMy father was probably the neatest, most proud man you ever met. He was involved with the Young Maccabees—something like Hillel, I think, would be over here, or AZA would be over here—very active as a Zionist in those days. I think he came to this country because he didn’t feel like England was—[he felt it] had too many restrictions on Jews in those days, I think. I’ve been back since 1960 a half-a-dozen times, and I see these relatives of mine who live, most of them, almost [in] like a ghetto in big cities. So he decided to come to this country. My mother came from a small town in Lithuania. Rozenka. It’s a long story. Rozenka is on the Polish border, one time Polish, one time Lithuanian—it changed back and forth. The reason I found it— I was in Lithuania [for] about five days, and [I was] unable to locate the town. A few weeks after I returned, I was at a dinner party in Jacksonville and we got talking somehow [about] this. One of the men said his ancestors came from Lithuania. I said, “I was just there!” I told him the fact that I tried to find this town and couldn’t. He said, “Give me the name of the town [where your mother was born],” and I gave it to him, he wrote it down. Two nights later he called me up. He said, “I found the town for you.” He had a map of Lithuania. He pointed it out on the map and sent it to me, and that’s how I found it. My father came from Bialystok, which is [in] Russia or Poland, depending on the year. Russia, I think. Well, my dad came over here in about 1910, and stayed a short time, then went back to England. He was living there. That’s where my parents met. He came back in the fall of 1912, and he brought my mother, who was pregnant with me—I was born three months later in January 1913—my two brothers, a niece of my mother’s, and my father’s brother—his half-brother actually, he was about fifteen years old. Brought them all at one time. We settled here. The reason he came to Charleston, he had a very distant cousin whose name was Harry Goldberg. He was the Robinsons’ step-grandfather.
Rough VoyageMy mother’s maiden name was Tewell and they, and I understand, Taber, does it mean table? I think that was the European name and my mother came from part of a family that were Austrian and part were German and my grandmother was going back to Europe to see her family and my mother had been conceived already, and on the voyage back to America, which was aboard a French ship, she was born because of such a rough voyage. And she was born and she never wanted anyone to know that she wasn’t a true-blue American. It was an embarrassment to her.
First ClassI do [remember the passage from the old country]. The same brother that was killed by the Holocaust, he came with us as far as Danzig, and my sister Minnie was kind of—she was a flirt, she could never make up her mind who she was going to marry, and she was very popular. She was in love with this nice Jewish man—she thought she was—in Gritse. He asked her not to go to the United States, and my father sent her the money to get married in Gritse. When we got to Danzig she was there to meet us. She decided she didn’t want to stay in Poland no matter how the boy liked her. He could follow her— Which he did, but she never married him, she married a boy from Charleston, Holly Hill. So she met us in Danzig and we had to stay there a couple of weeks, and then we went on to Liverpool, and we stayed in Liverpool a couple of weeks before the ship came in. We stayed in a nice hotel. Everything was paid for. We went first-class. We came on to the United States and we never went to Ellis Island; we went to Philadelphia. Yes, that’s what I want to tell you. My sister Annie was always very adventurous, and we had two hours to stay in Philadelphia. She wanted my mother to give her permission to get a cab or a bus and ride into the town to see how Philadelphia looks. We were talking Jewish between us, and of course my mother was very scared, and this Jewish man came up to us—we didn’t know if he was Jewish or not—and he spoke a perfect Jewish. When I tell you who it was you’ll think— He says, “Ich hab nich grossinger gayen avag.” [phonetic transcription] She was really good-looking, hefty-looking, she was a big girl. Guess who it was? Norman Arnold’s grandfather, Ginsburg. Norman’s grandfather, who was a great friend of my father’s, but he was a student of my father’s. My father held adult classes three times a week, and these people who were not so educated at that time, they would come and my father held classes for them. Well, Mr. Ginsburg was shocked—when we got to Charleston, it must have been fifty cars at the station, all my mother’s relatives. See, she knew him yet from the old country, some of them, you know, like Hymie Karesh—not this Hymie Karesh here but his grandfather—a lot of them, a lot of the Pearlstines. They were not Reform Jews in the old country, they were all Orthodox, but I guess the children changed.
Very Good Furniture MenYes. They were all from Kaluszyn. I.M. Goldberg was the first Goldberg here. And that was my mother’s brother and she loved him. She thought he was wonderful. He was the first and he started bringing family over little by little. And then J. L. Goldberg came. Max Goldberg. Saul Goldberg. I don’t know how the sequence went, but J.L. Goldberg is a brother. Max Goldberg is a brother. Saul Goldberg is a brother. Max and Saul were single when they came. They lived in my house. And Max is the one that went back to Europe and he came back with Esther Goldberg. Who is still living. She lives in Florida now and Max died. She used to live right down the street from us. Saul lived in our home. He was a boxer and he just recently died. And he married a girl from Savannah, GA. Rita Cramer who was a lovely lady. She now lives in Atlanta. She has three children. One lives in Atlanta. One moved back to Charleston and lives on Sullivans Island. Sandy Goldberg lives on Sullivans Island. One lives in California, he is a plastic surgeon out in California. Eddy Goldberg. I.M. Goldberg opened a furniture store. And he had a quality furniture store. High class furniture. They were very good furniture men. J.L. Goldberg opened a furniture store and he had, I don’t want to insult you. He had borax. In other words, if you wanted fine quality furniture you would go to I.M. If you wanted run of the mill stuff you would go to mass marketing. I.M. was not mass market. So, J.L. got into the business. So then, Max Goldberg got into the business. So, Saul Goldberg got in the business. So, (inaudible) Appel got in the business. All furniture stores. And some man named (inaudible) who in somewhere in this chain whose name was (inaudible). He was in the business also. I.M. was the first Jew from that area to come here. The first Jews were the (inaudible) and stuff like that. But this is the Goldberg family.
Two Candlesticks[My parents] were sweethearts [before they came to this country]. They lived in the same town. My mother used to say, “In the same apartment house”—I don’t know, some sort of dwelling. My father came first, and he came by way of England. This will help to establish exactly the year he got here, because he was there [during] Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, if you look up exactly when that is. I remember hearing him tell, he was in England and he climbed up in a tree to see the parade of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. After he was here a while, he sent for my mother, and she came by way of Germany—the boat stopped in Hamburg. When the children were growing up, and they’d say they wanted a hamburger, she always would tell them about how she stopped in Hamburg. In my house—this is the craziest thing. When we went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington—I think that’s where we saw the exhibit of things that people brought over—I couldn’t believe, it was just exactly the things that my mother brought, too. I have two candlesticks in my house—I’m so glad, one for each one of my girls. How did they bring all of these things? They were heavy, heavy. I have some pots, copper pots, and you can tell they were hand-made, that she brought in her bag. She brought quilts, featherbeds. She just had one sister. That’s how we got to South Carolina, because all my father’s people were in Worcester, Massachusetts. In his family there were five boys and one girl, just like the Poliakoffs. The reason he emigrated from Worcester, Massachusetts, to South Carolina is my mother just had one sister, and she was in South Carolina, and they wanted to be together. So they came. They said, well, we’re going to live in South Carolina with my mother’s sister. Her last name was Berlin. That was an outstanding family. There were six children in that family. First they lived in Union, where my mother came, then they moved to Greer, South Carolina, [and] then they moved to Charlotte because they wanted to be where there was a large Jewish synagogue.
A Shepherd's CrookNow, his grandfather was a postman, rural delivery postman and he—that means that he knew how to read Russian or Polish I guess. His grandfather. My father’s grandfather. And I think his father before him may have had a postman, but the grandfather was a postman. And his father, who would have been my great grandfather, was a foreman in a plant that made wooden nails for shoes. They used to make wooden nails, maybe they were wooden shoes, I don’t know, but from what I heard they made wooden nails, and he was a foreman. So, they must have a little bit of an income, a fair decent income, and apparently enough to get my father to Manchester when he was about eleven or twelve years old. Because they wanted him avoid—he was the oldest son and they wanted him to avoid the conscription. And you probably know this but the conscription in those days, the little Jewish boys of twelve, before they were bar mitzvah, they were conscripted into the Russian army. And marched until they either died or they became converts to Catholicism, to Orthodox Russian. That’s a matter of history, you know, the histories that you see of the period. So, apparently to keep him from having to get into that setup, they got him to Manchester. Now, Leon Banov, Sr., he told how he was brought to Hamburg to embark on a trip to the United States where he came and was apparently handled by my father many years later. Because he was quite a bit younger. What they did was, there were entrepreneurs who took the kids and brought them to the border and there were weak spots in the border, and they gave these kids—there were farms which were on two sides of the border—they gave these kids a little band of sheep and a shepherd’s crook and they drove the sheep across the border and they went in across the border and once they went across the border the men took them and brought them to Hamburg for a fee. And then, of course, they went wherever they were scheduled to go. My father was scheduled to go to Manchester, England because he had an uncle there. And the uncle’s name was I think Simon Gorse, that’s the name it eventually became, it was originally Gourovitz, I think, or something like that. But the Gourse family and the Banov family were very closely intertwined. This Gourse was an uncle on his mother’s side. They were big tall strapping people who had been fishermen on the Neimond River. Big strapping guys. Now, getting back to my father, he stayed there and accumulated a little money and had a money belt and he came to Fall River, Massachusetts, where another Uncle Gourse was, I don’t know what his name was. He came there and just as he was about to work as a tailor he got a summons from Charleston where he had an older first cousin by the name of Wolf Banov. So, that’s why my father came to Charleston. Because Wolf Banov heard that he had a young cousin in Massachusetts who was a tailor and he just happened to need a tailor at that time so he sent for him. And Sam, my father, worked for them for a couple of years until he got to know the business, then he started his own business. He must have gotten a little credit somewhere or something, started his own business, I think at John and King Street. And the next progression was King and Spring Street, which was a bigger store, and he ended up very successful and expanded the business, started one brother-in-law in a furniture business and the brother-in-law didn’t do too well and he had to take over the furniture business. Started another brother-in-law in a pawn shop and that didn’t do too well and he ended up having to take over the pawn shop. Because he was a pretty smart businessman and evidently when it was necessary for him to take it over, he made it work.
LongevityJacob, he was known as Yankel, Jacob Goldberg. He was born in Russia in 1854. Probably around the Minsk area. And he died in Charleston in 1930. And my maternal grandmother—Sarah Lipsitt was her given name—also was born in Russia, probably the same area, born in 1862 and died in 1954, old age. Longevity there. Back in those days they had sort of a network that you could send people—children—by this network. And [my father] was taken out of Russia by somebody who saw to it that he got on the ship and he came to America. It amazes me. I can’t visualize my son when he was 14 years old being shunted off to go by himself to America. And he had more experience in traveling than my father had. My father probably never got far from the shtetl he lived in or the city he lived in.
Send Old ThingsWe sent packages during the war. My father had an uncle, his name was Yankel Green, he decided to—At that time, there were a lot of Jews from Lithuania who went to Africa—I know you’ve heard this before, they said that the Jewish people from Russia, Lithuania, helped to establish the gold mines or diamond mines in Africa. He went to South Africa from this town in Lithuania, and I don’t know whether he got sick or what, but he finally went back to Russia, to Lithuania. He wrote letters to my father that he needed some clothes, but he said, don’t send new clothes, because if you send new clothes the government—they didn’t get through. He said, “Don’t send anything new. Send old things.” For a long time they’d get letters from him. Even after my father passed away, he would write to my mother and say what he needed, and she’d send him things, but then the letters stopped coming so we knew there was no more Yankel Green.
Family was FamilyYou know, it’s hard for young people today to understand but in those days family was family. You know, one helped the other. It was no such thing as one having and one not having. If one in the family had it it meant everybody in the family ate. There was no such thing as my car, your car. It was our car. You know, there was a family car. There was a family business. There was always room in the house for everybody. I know when my Uncle Ed married Bernice Bluestein, they lived in a little house like in the back of grandmother’s house. Everybody, you know, there was always room. Until people got on their feet. As families brought people over from the old country there was always room in the house for people. You didn’t say, “Well, I don’t have room. I only have three bedrooms.” If you had three bedrooms you could sleep twelve people. It was, and if when you cooked you cooked enough for everybody to eat. There was just that feeling of family.
There was Always RoomJews came to this country, ’cause the ones that came first swore to take care of those that came afterwards, and they did. That was the only reason they let as many come in as they did. You know, every—you had to have a sponsor, somebody was responsible for you. And for years there was no such thing as public assistance for Jews. They took care of themselves or took care of each other. In New York, it—the stories are endless, I don’t care who you were, you came from the old country, you had a landsman, there were five in the apartment, you brought in four more, and they all stayed in the same apartment. There was always room. Now, nobody has room for anybody.
Story from: Ackerman, William |
Story from: Banov, Edna Ginsberg |
Story from: Mazursky, Morris David |
Story from: Ullman, Harriet Birnbaum |
Story from: Ackerman, William |
Story from: Stine, Gordan B. |
Story from: Arnold, Norman J. |
Story from: Chaplin, George |
Story from: Chaplin, George |
Story from: Kirshstein, Max |
Story from: Dumas, Abe |
Story from: Jacobs, Isaac |
Story from: Cohen, Dorothy ("Dutch") Idalin Gelson |
Story from: Rosen, Morris David | Cohen, Dorothy ("Dutch") Idalin Gelson |
Story from: Cohen, Dorothy ("Dutch") Idalin Gelson |
Story from: Rosen, Morris David |
Story from: Kirshtein, Sam |
Story from: Fox, Sarah Mendelson |
Story from: Fox, Sarah Mendelson |
Story from: Karesh, Karl |
Story from: Schlosburg, Ella Levenson |
Story from: Addlestone, Nathan S. |
Story from: Baum, Norman E. |
Story from: Levinson, Libby Friedman |
Story from: Appel, Samuel |
Story from: Poliakoff, Rosa From |
Story from: Banov, Abel |
Story from: Breibart, Solomon |
Story from: Poliakoff, Rosa From |
Story from: Berlin, Shera Lee Ellison |
Story from: Schlosburg, Ella Levenson |