He went to Pennsylvania to the coal mines cause he had heard so many stories about making money. The problem he found there was that you owed your life to the company, because you were always in debt to the company store. Instead of paying you wages, what they did was you bought things from them, your food, your clothing, whatever you did, you got from the company store. By the time you got through, you had nothing left. And the work was hard, it was arduous, the hours were horrible. Didn't take long before he came back to New York.
Then what did he do. At one time, he had ... The greatest time of my life was when he had that coffee store. He had a retail shop on Forsyth Street where we sold coffee beans, teas, all kinds, all brands of teas, coffee, he'd get the beans and grind them. We had this great big grinding machine where you got different grinds, like to use for making coffee in a pot or to make the Turkish or Romanian coffees, like very fine, fine ground coffee, we had machines that did that. And the place smelled beautiful. We also sold chocolate, we got big blocks, oh... how big, 20” square maybe, maybe bigger then that, huge blocks of chocolate and we had a little knife that we clonked it with to break it into pieces, not neat. And weighed it that way. And it was so delicious. And as I say the smells were so wonderful. That we liked.
My father finally wound up at the end owning a Romanian Coffee house. They had Russian Tea houses - they had Romanian Coffee houses. These were places, sort of like, in a way like a club where, women didn't go.. well it was a different life. Women stayed home, the men went out in the evening. The Irish guys would go the bar, the pubs, whatever. But the Russians went to their Tea Houses and the Romanians to the Coffee House, where they drank this coffee that my father used to make, this Romanian coffee. And he also had food, he made wonderful food. Steaks and chops. A minimum. A variety, it was a steak and a chop and a baked potato maybe, and they ate and the also played cards, they also played billiards. It was, like I say, it was a sort of a club type thing, where the men would gather in the evening and discuss politics and whatever... state of the Union, making money, not making money.
And that's what my father wound up doing. I mean it wasn't something you could rave or brag about. He wasn't a college professor, but he made a living. And it kept us in food and in clothing, and it paid the rent, let's face it.
A little bit about the area and the people. When people came from Europe in those days, they came on the big ocean liners, but they all came in steerage on a count of because they didn't have any money. Steerage was the only thing they could afford. Of course it was a horrible way but they were so glad when they got here. And it wasn't like today, it was hard to get into this country. In the first place you went through a physical examination. If you had anything wrong with you, bingo, you did not come to this country. If you had lice in your hair or things of that kind which were prevalent on those ships, I think they had an area where they kept you while they tried to get rid of some of that stuff. If you had a real serious illness or any kind of a contagious thing, you know, you went right back to Europe again. And mostly they had to come to someone, like a sponsor, which is why so many of the families where we lived on the East side had borders or lodgers. Somebody came from the old country, you put them up for a while until they got on their feet and could find a place of their own. For that reason the same kind of people lived in the same areas, it was almost forgone. For example, the Romanians lived around the Forsythe, Chirstie, Broom street area, those were all Romanians. Eldridge Street, a couple blocks of Eldridge Street were German Jews, I'm talking about Jews now, German Jews.