Categorized | Adventures in SD History

Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, September 11, 1958, Part 3

With the guardians…
By Ransom Shmansom
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 11

The pall of stale cigar smoke hung over the room—the  weary Guardians seated about the poker table were completely engrossed in their weekly pastime.

The group had dwindled to the six ‘Just one more round” participants. The hours drifted by. One of the players rose to stretch his legs and in so doing exclaimed: “Do you guys know it’s 5:30 and it’s ‘light outside? ”

Sam threw his cards down and yelled: “My wife bolts the door at three—I’ll never get in.

For a fleeting moment the situation looked hopeless but a stroke of genius brushed away the gloom. Sam dialed his home, and, in a performance worthy of an Oscar (in a voice indicating controlled hysteria) he spoke sharply into the phone: “Honey, don’t pay the ransom.’ I escaped!”


Veteran golfer Milt Roberts induced his lovely wife to accompany him to the M. V. golf course last Wednesday. Order of the day: improvement game.

On the seventh some preliminary involving driving, etc., Mrs. R. took six wide-swinging passes at the elusive white ball. But to no avail.

Finally, a weary gopher stuck his head out of the blasted divot and pleaded with Milt: “Say, mister, could you take her home —she’s causing an awful draft down here and my wife’s just getting over a pretty bad cold.”


The Guardian-jeweler and his two retired cronies were passing the time of day in the rear of the store. It was a quiet sultry afternoon—in walked a member. Of a fast vanishing group (not seen locally for several years)—wearing the usual black hat, dark suit, brief case—and a long beard.

The three Guardians smiled, for this would most certainly be a “touch” for some worthy cause.

Before the gentleman could initiate his pitch, the jeweler said in his best Yiddish: “We give directly to the Fund and we don’t approve of Shnorrers.!”

The bearded gent never batted an eye, and in crisp English said unhesitatingly: “I have an extensive selection of fine diamonds which I would like to show you at your convenience.”

The three Guardians were STUNNED.


Minneapolis Gets Into the Act, Too!
By Jack Weinberg
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 11 and 21
★ If we pick brains—we pick the most thoughtful ones possible . . . and here’s a piece by Jack Weinberg, well- known news writer from Minneapolis, intrigued by our recent stories of nostalgia recalling Jewish roots in Chicago and New York.

What’s all this “mishigass” about Chicago and Brooklyn being the real “eppes” of Jewish culture in America during the “Roaring Twenties?” You’re all “farblondget,” my friend.

Brooklyn being the real “eppes” of Jewish culture in America during the “Roaring Twenties?*’” You’re all s “farblondget,” my friend

But for me—and * thousands more who believe as I do—it’s good old Minneapolis, the flour milling center of the world. , There, my friend, you had real culture, considering the fact that you had a Jewish community of under 20,000 set right down where Swedes grow like weeds.

Adelaide Rood. Hers was a name to remember. The redhead, of blessed memory, came to our ghetto in the late 19teens as “library lady” at Sumner Branch library. She soon found herself more than a librarian. She became social worker, referee, judge, jury, teacher, probation officer, policeman, m a r r i a g e counselor and matchmaker rolled into one. Her example made us good citizens. For .many she eased the breakaway of the new first generation child from the befuddled, frustrated immigrant parents.

Marriage may well be made in heaven, but for many Jewish young people in Minneapolis it was contrived in the library where we rushed each night, immediately after supper, to pore over the dictionaries, the encyclopedia, the reference works (who owned books then?) for our homework. Miss Rood instilled in us a love of the American printed word—and few of us left her library without a dozen or more books weighing us down.

Can we forget that hulking Irishman, Mr. Cleary, principal of Grant grade school? He apparently never forgave the school board for relegating him to tending the needs of the little Jews who over-ran the place. His fist had spikes in it, and with it he ruled. Our blood spilled often in the classrooms and the corridors.

But one day we were avenged. Cleary slapped Joe Gordon, later a Big Ten football player, top prize fighter and subsequently a deputy U.S. marshal. Young Joe didn’t like it— and again blood spurted at Grant, only this time the source was Cleary’s bulbous nose where Gordon pasted him hard enough to set the educator back on his seat.

Those of us who went to North High remember fondly our typically absent-minded principal, Waldo W. Hobbs, who chased the errant ones down the halls and shouted, “I know you what’s your name?” And Hobbs’ alter ego, Fred Gates, the assistant, to whom we all took our real problems for discussion and gentle understanding.

Ask any Jewish educator about the Minneapolis Talmud Torah, one of America’s best five-day Hebrew Schools. Mention the name’ of Dr. George J. Gordon who almost single-handedly created the school!

We had to make our own cultural center in Minneapolis because our Jewish population was so small. But we did it—sending nearly two dozen young men into the rabbinate, hundreds more into lay leadership throughout America.

So what did “Maishey” Lifson do? He began calling signals in Hebrew—and the Judeans ran the Pollacks into the ground.

That’s culture? No, but that’s using a cultural head.

So you see, Herb, we in the in hinterlands were fountainheads of Jewish life and culture, no more and no less than Chicago and Brooklyn. The difference was degree only. For me it was Minneapolis. For others it may well have been Omaha, Des Moines, Duluth, Louisville, Winnipeg, or perhaps Butte.

Wherever Jews live and lived, “‘down through the ages, we have carved for ourselves a niche: in some places massive and in others small. But we have happy, wholesome memories of our Jewish youth—even if we didn’t all come from Brooklyn, the Bronx or Chicago.


Points and Counterpoints
Tough World of Chicago
I Remember Claremont Avenue

By Herb Brin
Southwestern Jewish Press, September 11, 1958, Page 12 and 21

The world of Louis Falstein was Oakley Blvd. in Chicago. Mine was Claremont Ave.
We went to the same school—perhaps together.

And it is good that these memories be captured upon a broad canvas of Jewish life in America. For the transition days from immigrant to integrate was as dramatic as the historic migration of a people from the pale of settlements the shtetl, the protective ghetto, to the stor-ke or the customer peddler of Chicago or Philadelphia.

This tiny segment of slum life in Chicago that was Louis Falstein’s and mine, is no more.

The slums continue, but their character is irretrievably altered.

The Jewish civilization that came to the area around Division and Western in Chicago had superimposed itself upon an old German settlement. The old families had moved away, integrated. Knute Rockne had gone to school on Claremont Ave.

It was now the Jewish turn. Later, in the shifting of populations that continually takes place in the teeming city of Chicago, Poles moved in. Negroes will come later, all seeking integration, communal stature in a slum.

My street was Claremont Ave., a block west of Louis Falstein’s Oakley Blvd.

My first memory of family life was in the basement flat in which we lived. Uncle Sholem, of blessed memory, called me a “havri- lah” for not wearing a yarmulke at the Seder. I collapsed to the floor in tears, under the Seder table. I might, open the door for the “Novi,” offered Uncle Sholem—and at the proper moment I flung the door open to admit a rat to the Seder.

My father was a salesman for the gas company. But to keep the family in food, he also sold newspapers at Chicago and Crawford (later changed to Pulaski Road). Always he worked. Hours were to work. There were no international bankers among the Jews on Claremont Ave.

A ‘Shtetl’
★ In past months we’ve carried many items about the Chicago “shtetl”, that spawned Mike Todd and many others, famous and infamous. Here’s one we published several years ago.

On Sundays the family would take the elevated to Wilmette where we would picnic in the park at the harbor. My father would tell about the rich people living in these suburban homes — and the tiny, glistening boats in the harbor were magnets for adventure of the spirit.

Then we would return to Claremont Ave, the dirty streets, storage house on one corner, the steaming laundry on the other, and across the street they would let us play checkers in the locker room

This was the heart of a tough neighborhood.

There were gang wars between the Jews and the Poles.

As children we heard stirring accounts of exploits of the Terry and Witt Gang and how it protected the neighborhood from the outside gangs.

Through it all sifted stories of the infamous 42 Gang further south, with its supposed ties with the Capone mob.

There were slashing and continued violence in this settlement of Jewish life in the new country. This, in addition to the horse-radish grinders and the peddlers calling “potatoes!” to the highest tenement windows in vain. . . .

But on the Sabbath there would be beautiful candles in the windows, warmth of ancient holiness in the windows. And the shule on Claremont Ave never lacked of minyon — at least until we were Bar Mitzvah. And then we were pulled inside, bodily.

On occasion I rang the bell at school. The same bell rung Louis Falstein.

The name of the school was Schley School and next door to the school was a candy store owned by Mr. Edelman, a kindly soul whose candy counter was a point of daily visit.

The boys’ school yard was a field of cinders. The girls’ school yard was paved with red brick.

The flag pole was in the girls’ yard.

The old principal with the spindly legs and lace collar – a throwback to another century.

This happened to me on several occasions.

Her, assistant was Mrs. Larsen.

I remember Miss Haley, my first grade teacher, trying to explain a lesson, using German to new arrivals who could speak but Yiddish.

‘And for a “long time I was certain that the Christmas song we learned was “Heck the Hails with Bowls of Cholley. . .”

Which posed a problem in logic, but if the teacher wanted bowls of cholley in the halls, what might one say?

X was not a greenhorn.
Greenie was a greenhorn.

He was Greenie Brown, son of the fruit store owner on Potomac Ave. I confess I cannot recall his first name!

Greenie Brown later went back to Europe to die in America’s fight against Hitler.

I was not a greenhorn. • But mine was transition even as that of youngsters born in another land. For this was the ghetto transplanted.

I was badly burned in a gang fight. I nearly lost an eye in a Fourth of July explosion, a patriotic occasion that excused young terrorism in the big city.

And I was somewhat apart because of an incessant urge, to read.

Louis Falstein’s father was not just an ordinary peddler. He was a customer peddler, calling at the homes of people who trusted him. This accounts for his enormous interest in the welfare of his customers.

Because there was need in our home, we had roomers. One was a customer peddler who wove wonderful tales about his travels and visits to people.

And once, I recall, a Mr. Becker came to live with us, a carpenter whose delight was storytelling — and meat-and-potatoes. There was pixie humor in his eyes and his remembrances of the old country held fascination.

But to read, to read of a wondrous world beyond Claremont Ave., one must escape from Claremont. Ave.

And soon I discovered that since the brick walls of Schley School had indentations on each fifth course of bricks, I might scale the walls by hanging on to a downspout near the furnace room.

Daily I would scale this wall with my book after school. I would sit on a corner of the roof just out of view of Miss Hoermann’s window and here I would consume book after book.

Once I was discovered and chased down, I almost fell in my hurry down the side of the building. But I got away.

I, too, felt disturbed at’ the closing of Humboldt State Bank on Division Street, where Louis Falstein lost two dollars.

It was a crushing thing to hear people tell how much they lost when the bank was closed.

It was crushing to contemplate that others had money in the bank to lose.

Transcribed in 2017 by Sam Chessler and Nick Laqua.

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