Tuesday, July 22, 2008

August 7, 1928 - New York City



Aug 7, 1928 10 P.M.

My beloved Jeanie:

You will know by the paper I'm using that
I'm using that (pardon this error) I'm writing this at your home.2

Oh Dear if you only knew how miserable I felt
all day yesterday and today without news from you
you would realize how happy I was when I heard
your sweet voice on the phone, I was so determined
to speak to you that I would have waited all
night until you'd come to the phone from anywhere,
and I will surely call you on Saturday at
8:30 Eastern daylight saving time to find out from
you at what time we may expect you, and whether
I should wait for you at the Wise home or not,

I am under the impression that that man will
not arrive there before 12 noon as he might try to
bring passengers along on the [trip] there, and perhaps
he might be there Saturday night yet, at any
rate you will be able to tell me more about it3

[I, your father, 
and your mother, send you the best wishes that you 
should be healthy and remain healthy, from me, 
your father Shimon David Ben Jacob Pollack.]4

at the appointed time on Sat. night.

Mom tells me now that she sent you
a letter today, the only news that I can add is
that Murray (your Intended in law) intends
to come this Sunday with a truck (exactly
a truck) to give your folks and Sally a ride
to Coney Island, You know that his car is rather
small for the whole family therefore the truck idea.
It's too bad that you will have to miss this sport,
Last Sunday he (Murray) 5 gave pop a ride in his
Pierce and as Sadie was in it too, he had to
take the door out so as far as air is concerned
they had plenty of it and by the way Sally is
out with him now having their Midsummernightsdream
and if she ever saw this she'd shoot me with a
knife. 6

Your folks were glad to hear that I've spoken to
you they're O.K. and kibitzing.

Please write at least one more letter before you
return besides those you've already written.

Closing with Love and Kisses


More greetings to the Wise sisters


I'm adding this at home, your
father added his love and ma's
you will easily recognize his handwriting
He signs his full Hebrew name as follows
Shimon David Ben (Son of) Jacob Pollack

Please don't think because of my
funny writing that I'm casting any
reflections upon Murray God forbid!
I think him a fine gentleman of fine
calibre whom I tip my hat for, I've grown
to like and admire him, I'm sure Sally
does and that you'll like him too 7

Love Harry


1 - Papa addressed this letter to “Fraulein Jean Pollack”, continuing a little foreign honorific joke he started when he addressed his last letter to “Mmle Jean de Pollack”. Perhaps, if Papa had reason to write more, he might have joked in all of the seven languages he spoke. Alas, my grandmother was about to return from her summer vacation, so this is the last letter Papa wrote to her (or at least the last she saved) in 1928.

2 - I’m not quite sure what Papa means by “You will know by the paper I'm using that I'm writing this at your home” since he’s written this letter on what appears to be ruled notebook paper as opposed to some kind of recognizable stationery. Perhaps, if he wasn’t writing on his own paper and therefore not at home, my grandmother would have assumed he was at her family’s home because he hung around there so much.

3 - This paragraph seems a little cryptic, but I suppose “that man” is merely the person who was giving my grandmother a ride back from the country and dropping her at “the Wise home.”

4 - As Papa notes in his postscript, my grandmother’s father wrote this passage in Yiddish, most likely at Papa’s behest. Here’s how it looks up close:

We know Papa put a big premium on whether or not people wrote to each other and had been trying to get my grandmother’s family to write her more often for years (just as he had been trying to get my grandmother to write him more often). His first letter to her contains a reluctantly-penned passage from her sister Sally; in subsequent letters, he assures her that others intend to send her letters; and here, five years later, he’s finally gotten her father to scribble a few lines to her. I wonder if my grandmother’s family began to dread Papa’s visits because they knew each one would involve a discussion of their correspondence habits.

I’m kind of amused by the contents of the note, too. It reads more like a prayer than a greeting, a request from God for good health with an implicit reminder to my grandmother of how thankful she should be for the absence of illness in her body. Note, too, how my great-grandfather phrases his request, wishing not only that my grandmother “should be healthy” in the present but that she should “remain healthy” in the future as well, a clever hedge designed to make sure God doesn’t lose track of my grandmother’s condition or play gotcha with my great-grandfather’s request (“well, you didn’t say whether or not she had to remain healthy, did you?”). Ladies and gentlemen, these are my people, the Jews -- always waiting for God, that prankster, to nail us on a technicality.

5 - So, Sally is engaged at last!

For those of you just joining us, Papa was introduced to my grandmother’s sister, Sally, for matrimonial purposes in early 1925 but fell in love with my grandmother instead. This didn’t sit will with my grandmother’s family, a relatively wealthy bunch who considered Papa, a salaried garment worker, good enough for the less desirable, grouchy Sally but not in the same league as my beautiful, younger grandmother. Sally probably didn’t feel too good about it either, nor could Papa’s dogged pursuit of my grandmother’s hand have done a lot for Sally and my grandmother’s already strained relationship.

But, here we are in 1928, and it’s a new day as Murray, Sally’s future husband and the man with whom she would raise a child (my cousin Doris) comes around regularly and takes the family on excursions in his various vehicles. Here’s what his 1928 Pierce-Arrow might have looked like (via webshots.com):

1928 Pierce-Arrow

And if the truck in which he brought everyone to Coney was a Ford pickup, it might have looked a little something like this (via Wikimedia):

I’d like to say Murray’s presence and Sally’s new found bliss helped ease the tensions between Sally and my grandmother, but they still found plenty to fight about in the ensuing decades.

6 - I can’t tell if the phrase “shoot me with a knife” is an amusing slip of Papa’s pen or if it was some kind of comical catch phrase in the 1920’s. In any event, I’m going to say it from now on.

7 - This postscript appears on what looks to be a torn-off piece of brown wrapping paper. It’s not Papa's style to write on scraps, but even though he was out of writing paper he really must have really wanted to make sure, for the record, that my grandmother didn’t think he was “casting reflections” on Murray.

No comments:

Post a Comment