Was that in the Bronx or in Brooklyn? Now I got two things confused. We also lived in Brooklyn, that I remember, on South 3rd Street, for one term. Both neighborhoods were sort of similar. I know on one corner there was a big tenement house that the kids on the block used to call the Jew Flat. All the Jewish people lived in there. The rest of the block was Polish, Irish.... all that, in the Bronx. And the same thing on South Third Street in Brooklyn, mostly Polish and Irish. On one of them, next to us was a church. Sunday morning everybody dressed in their good clothes, shiny shoes, they went to church. There were plenty of black eyes in the crowd from the Saturday night drinking festivals that they went through, but they were in church, all dolled up. And every time they would make fun of us on the count of we were Jews, I 'd say, “Yeah, but we don't beat up our people, they don't go out with black eyes on Sunday morning.” It was fun.
What did we call the Poles, Pollacks? The Italians were Dagos. We were Shimis. You think anybody got mad? Naah. We thought it was fun. The Irish were also Mics. I know in the Bronx where we had the empty lot across the street we used to roast potatoes on open fires... the Jews, the Pollacks, everybody together, did not matter, believe me. The question was, who was gonna go home and steal a potato, which day. “I'll go,” “I'll go,” This one went for a potato, that one went for a potato. We didn't really have to steal, all we had to do was go ask Momma for a potato, which we got these great big baking potatoes. We'd build a bonfire, put them at the end of sticks, and we would bake those spuds. Want me to tell you somethin', nothin' tasted as good. Why? I don't know. No butter, no salt, no nothin'. Just a baked potato on the open fire in the empty lot. We had a ball. So we had a good time. The fact that we were, in a way, antagonistic to each other did not seem to matter. Course, my Mother, everybody loved my Mother. That's the type she was.
On South Third Street, we lived in what had been a one family house. There were a lot of one family houses around, the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, because that's the way the people lived in those days, the people who had money. Then as they got more money and moved away, maybe to Long Island or where ever, these house were then converted. We lived in a two family house. The parlor floor and basement was occupied by one family, and we had the two upper floors which had originally, of course, been all the bedrooms. The way these house were made is the basement was usually the kitchen and the dining room, the parlor floor was a front parlor and a back parlor, the back parlor being sort of a family room. Then there were the bedrooms and the top floor, if they had a lot, was usually like a nursery or the school room or the maids room or whatever.
Anyhow, we had the two upper floors and a German family had the two lower floors, and I want you to know, this was about the war time. World War I. And this was a German family, Christian German family down below. And here moved in this Jewish family. At that time, we had living with us, my Grandma, my Aunt Rose and my Aunt Rifka. They always lived close to us, cause my mother was the one who took care of her mother and her two sisters, the most. The other sisters, I'll tell you about that later, pitched in, but Momma took care of them basically. At this point, they came to live with us. We tried an experiment to see if it would work out.
The house had no central heating. Wood stove first floor in the kitchen, wood stove upstairs on the bedroom floor, and we did our best to keep warm. All I remember is my poor father walking block after block to get sacks of coal, things were scarce. To buy the sacks of coal and drag them from where he got them to the house so we could have a little heat in the house. It was hard times, very hard times. But there again, like I say, we were happy people. And we had a dog, his name was Buzzer. And I'll never forget my Aunt Rifka, who was somewhat retarded, was able to communicate with that dog. He was a big dog, a beautiful dog. “Come down on the chair Buzzer, come down on the chair.” She used to say. She wanted him to get up on the chair and sit on the chair. And he obeyed her. It was a riot to watch them.