Monday, July 9, 2007

Thursday July 10


C.I.

Sent home $15
5 for Mother, 5 Gittel,
3 Ettel, and 2 for Fule

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Matt's Notes

Papa has been spending a lot of time at Coney Island since he and his friends took a locker for the season at Hahn's Baths on the Boardwalk at 31st Street. I don't have any photos of Hahn's, but I do have this picture of what a Boardwalk bath house (in this case the Washington Baths at 21st street1) would have looked like in the 20's:




Here it is a little closer:





And closer still:




As nice as it was for him to spend his days at the beach, Papa would have preferred to be at work. He was on a forced vacation due to his factory's slack season, but he disliked idleness and, especially in the aftermath of his father's death, dreaded free time, saw each unoccupied moment as a hazardous, risky invitation to depressing, worried thoughts.

He had also vowed to give more support to his family in the old country now that his father was gone, but working less obviously made this more difficult. I think that accounts for the careful distribution, and this entry's careful accounting, of the $15 he sent home. I'm sure he gave to each person according to his perception of her needs, with his newly-widowed mother and his sister Gitel, who recently let him know she and her family were starving, getting the most and Ettel and Fule, the oldest and youngest sisters respectively, getting the least.

Regardless of Papa's financial constraints, his siblings surely analyzed and discussed whatever messages, preferences and signs of failing generosity his disbursement described. If his previous descriptions of their attitudes are accurate, they thought the streets of New York were paved with gold and were sure he held out on them. Papa has described of both his guilt over not having the means to do more and, in one unusually dark moment, his resentment of their demands, and I can't help but find some signs of related tension in this entry. He has never described who got what in such detail, and he also leaves out his brother Isaac, who has been the most vocal about his dissatisfaction with Papa's support. Did Papa not name Isaac for this reason, or did he feel that Isaac, as a man, did not need as much help?

In any event, the women Papa mentions above are pictured below. They are, clockwise from the bottom right: Gittel (in a photo from 1938) Ettel (in a photo from 1895) his mother, Fagale (from an undated photo, but probably taken in the 1910's) and Fule (in the photo with Gittel from 1938).



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References

1 - According to a 1930's Coney Island directory archived at the Coney Island History Project, the Washington Baths were a place "Where young and old enjoy the swimming pool, handball courts, athletic fields, and tennis courts" and also "nude sun bathing." The same brochure also touts "Baby Incubators," "where premature infants first see the light of day. An educational journey through a miniature hospital." If that grabs your interest, do yourself a favor and check out the Coney Island History Project's collections.

2 comments:

  1. WHEN i was a young girl i went to washintons baths with my brothers harry and philip that was the best but of course they smuggled me in beacuse money was very sparce

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  2. What a great "Papa" he is, for him to support his family and his siblings too without fail.

    I believe that he shouldn't resent himself over minor details. I mean, he helped them out, expecting no return. It doesn't matter how small the help was, it's still the thought that counts.

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