Table of Contents


Louis Prepon Oral History

Introduction

Louis Prepon was born “Luzer” or “Luzere Pripon” in Horchiv in 1905. He emigrated to Montreal, Canada in 1922 with his mother, father and sister, and came to New York in 1923. 

Lou married Betty Bernhardt in 1931, and remained her loving husband for 65 years until her death in 1996.  He worked as a tailor and later as a plant manager in Newark, New Jersey and was a long-time resident of Roselle, NJ before retiring to Florida in 1975. He was a founding member of Temple Beth El in Margate, Florida, where he lived until his death in 2000 at the age of 95.

Lou and Betty had two children, Meta Sylvia (Prepon) Thomas and Dr. Michael Alan Prepon. 

An accomplished orthopedic surgeon, Michael died in 1993 of a rare heart disease. He is survived by his wife Marjorie and his five children, Stephanie, Jocelyn, Danielle, Brad, and Laura.

Meta's three children, Amy Sirkin, Barbara Jones and Larry Thomas have six children among them, and Lou was blessed to know all but one of his great-grandchildren during his lifetime.

Lou's oral history was recorded and transcribed by his grandson Larry in August 1997.

Lou's story starts with his maternal grandfather Aaron Schlein, who fled his (unidentified) hometown to settle in Horchiv after being falsely accused of murder.

Aaron's daughter Rebecca (Buncia) Schlein marries Shah-Moshe Pripon. Their children were Lou, Chana, Ethel, Benny and Ruchel.  The family operates a boarding house and restaurant in Horchiv.

Ruchel remains in Horchiv while the rest of the family emigrates, and falls victim to the Holocaust with her husband (Jessgerman?) and family.

 

 
 
Hand-drawn image is on the stationery of the hotel
where we believe they stayed on their honeymoon
 
Wedding portrait of
Louis and Betty (Bernhardt) Prepon, 1931
 
Buncia Shleyin, Lou's mother.  She is pictured
with her daughter Ethel's husband Hymie Jenkins

 


In Europe the house what I remember was that we didn't have a hell of a lot. The house was one floor, we had one big room. In every comer, we had a partition. Every daughter had a room. My father had a room. I used to sleep in the kitchen on the floor or on the bags that were piled up there.

My grandfather, that's the one that had a liquor store. My mother's father, all of his children, I don't remember, I wasn't there, only what I hear from the family. But he used to have barrels full of liquor, wine. All the non-Jews used to come and buy over there. If they needed any favors, they used to come to him. They were very pleasant people, so every time they had any affair they used to invite my grandfather and grandmother.

Anyway, one day the big ones of the town decided to go for an outing for a day on a Sunday. Where did they go, to the woods, where they grow all kinds of berries, to take some berries home as if they needed berries, but that's their day out. So there was one man or one couple that had a daughter and a son. The daughter was eligible to get married, so they were getting married just before they went to this outing. The new son-in-law was with them. So he was thinking that his future father-in-law, such a rich man, when he dies, everything is going to go to the son. He had a younger boy. So he went when everybody went out in the woods. He took a klin, I call it, a wedge, a piece of wood, and he chopped off and made a very sharp point. He went over to the boy and knocked it into his throat. He killed him.

When he came back, they said “What happened here?”

“Aaron did it.” My grandfather did it. He got sent - and I have to tell you in those days what· they thought about the Jews, all over - right away they took my grandfather to put him in jail. My grandmother used to go, they didn't have advocaten, lawyers, so she went to rabbis. “Rabbi. help me,” she tells the story. The rabbis those days had a surrounded place. If you came in, you had to buy a kvitl, a ticket to get in. They presented it to the rabbi they saw what it is, and they used to tell what he bought the hill to come in. Nobody could help, nobody can do anything. Months, months. All the non-Jews that used to live in that little town, used to come at night, and they would sit around the house, and they were crying. “Aaron, you killed my boy. Why did you kill my boy?” In the meantime, the barrels of liquor, they drank it up.

To make the story short, the last rabbi she went to, he told her “All right, you can go home. everything will be all right.” The rabbi says, you take his word for it. She came home.

The authorities took the son-in-law on the stand, and they started to talk to him. It bothered him, too. Until he started to get nuts, he didn't know what he was saying. They started to pull him and finally he confessed, he said that he did it. Aaron is free.

My grandfather came back to the house. Nobody was there except his children. The stable and the house was emptied out. This place that he sold the liquor out of is called monopole. In Russia, it's a monopole. A monopole you cannot run unless you have a certificate from the government, because they're the only ones that can sell a liquor or anything. All the barrels were emptied. Everything was broken, everything was disheveled, and he didn't know what to do. So he couldn't stay there anymore. He couldn't face the people, that they should believe that he could do a thing like this. He took his whole family, and he traveled, it must have been about forty miles away from us. He came to my town where I was born.

There, it was an old house, but it was big. Big stables. So he bought a Torah, and he put it in his house. He bought a house. The sisters and brothers that were there, they all went their own way, and they got married and they lived in different place. But my mother, she remained over there. She was the oldest. He made a regular shul out of it. He knew how to read the Torah, he knew how to do the services, he knew everything. Very religious man. So he invited the whole town, anybody could come with no money, could come at any time for services. So a lot of them did. There wasn't enough room, they used to bring their own chairs along. He became a rabbi. He was very intelligent.

My father used to make sheepskin jackets. Not he himself. He used to buy the skins, and give it out to the non-Jews. They sewed them together and they made a jacket out of them. Fleece. He used to sell them. Every Thursday we had market day, he'd take the jackets out. He'd take a half-a-dozen. “How many do you have?” He had six, he'd sell them.

My mother used to have pottery. She had a store and her sister Chava - her daughter is in Israel. They had two stores, and my grandmother had another store. So they had three stores and put them together, and they put out their pots and pans all over the place. They used to come with a big wagon, packed to the top with dishes, packed in straw or hay. They came from different towns. Lutsk. They used to take them out one at a time and display them. They would sell them to make a living. They had so many of this, so many of that, they used to pay whatever it was, I don't even remember. That was before me, I was a young kid.

Since we had the restaurant when we left, I used to run every morning. At the end of the town where we contracted with a fellow to bake small challas for us with big points on both sides. Anyway, we took those challas, they were delicious. By the time we got home, I ate a few. We used to sell them, my mother, my sister especially. She was an expert, Ethel. She knew figures, without even looking at the books. She didn't know how to write. But this customer wants this, this customer wants that. The pots, some of them were earthenware, some of them were a real mess. That's how we made a living.

Me, as a youngster, I used to go from one store to another. Only at the end, when I was about 10 years old, we had a neighbor whose wife died a long time ago. He was such a... He used to be a rabbi. He was so expert, he knew so much, over here he would be the biggest rabbi. So I used to bring him in a meal every day, we had plenty of food left over. So he appreciated it. He had a nephew whose father had a small store in the city, and gave her about seven children, he was the oldest. So he and I were his students. He was teaching us. So when a holiday came in, we had to know, not only the words and what it says in the Hebrew, we had to know the meaning as to why it said that. We read the Gamorrah every day. We learned such Gamorrah's, such that over here only a rabbi learns. We learned the Kiddush, and the gedden for marriage, that don't even belong to kids like us. But we had to learn each and every thing by heart. G-d forbid even if we made a mistake, we wouldn't hear the end of it. He was sitting on the side, just listening, making believe that he's sleeping and dreaming, and the two of us would read the whole thing.

That's how I learned. I knew every, everything that is in the Gamorrah, everything that's in the Mishna, everything that's in the Bible, we had to know everything. We had to know the meaning of the Hebrew, from Hebrew to Yiddish, and Aramaic too, because our books - over here we have English and Hebrew. Over there, we had Aramaic on one side and Hebrew on the other. Aramaic was only for the Bible. We have passages in Hebrew now. Take the Kaddish for example. I'll give you an example. Y'he shlo marov min shemaya. That's the Kiddush. That's the Hebrew. In Aramaic, it's Y'hee shalom minna shemaya. From the skies, from the immel. V'chaim aleynu. v 'all kol yisrael, everything is slightly off, like Hebrew, it's a little different, but we had to know it.

So at the time, I spoke Yiddish, I read Hebrew, Aramaic, I understood all three. When the Germans came in, we spoke German. When the Polish came in, we spoke Polish. Otherwise, we spoke Russian. And when I came to Montreal, I took up French. I loved that language. I took it four years, so I knew plenty of it. But it was such a mix-up in my mind of all the languages.

The town I lived in, everyone was completely Jewish. Those that were not Jewish, they lived in different sections. We had to walk through a different section, the dogs used to run after us, they used to throw stones at us. But I'll tell you the Jews were not any better. The Jews when they lean anything in the Hebrew, they think everything belongs to them. We had in the book you know the Aleynu at the end of the service, we had one passage. It means they bow to our G-d, that there's a (xxx), they can't do anything it's made of silver or gold, you can't touch it. But to us you had it. And spit there, right in front of their churches. When I used to walk around with a big gun, as big as me, I used to try to knock off the cross from the church. It's crazy. Is it a wonder they didn't like us? Now I see it, because we did some ridiculous things, and the older generations taught us how to do it. And now I'm weak, and anything that I do, I remind myself.

In town, there was a big hill, there was a big church right on top of it. People used to call it the gershtreet, that means the fort part of the city. That's where the cemetery was, all the way on the other side.

The Jews lived among the Jews. Our street was called skolna ulyitsha. Skolna means temple. Temple street. We had a big shul, it must have been eight, ten stories high. Nothing inside all the way up to the top, nothing. But all around, at the bottom, there used to be rabbis, each one belonged to a different group of rabbis. The rabbis used to come once in a year. They used to come, we used to give them some money. On top, the first floor used to be for the women, because we didn't let the women come in the synagogue. So all around the top, the first floor, there used to be one big ladder made of four posts, very very long, until the end. On Simchas Torah, one guy used to walk up with a bag of apples. He used to throw them down from the top. You were lucky if you could catch an apple because if it hit the ground it would splaner.

Purim, the first night we had a seder. When I say a seder, I mean a meal. We used to send out gifts to our neighbors. We sent all kinds of different things, and they used to send to us, we sent to them, so the whole day it went back and forth.

(A story about a neighbor or one of his brothers that was taken away by the army when he was 6 to become a soldier.) They used to take the young kids and train them as soldiers. When he was 6 years, it's young enough. When he must have been about 20, he became a big shot, a marshall. When they came and they passed by our town, it reminded him and his mind went cock-eyed. He started to ask about his sister, and sure enough she was there. So we took him into the house (J wasn't even alive yet, I wasn't born yet), and he became so religious that he stayed there a long time. He used to go to shul three times a day. Every time he went with a tallis. He left the army, they let him go. But he was a big shot, a big officer in the Russian anny. Like a colonel. Starting from the chukski, which is the three stripes, they give him the power to rule over a number of soldiers, six, eight, twenty, thirty, he had a whole army. His mind went, and they let him go. Of course, they let the Jews in the army.

Where does the name Prepon come from, I have no idea. It was my father's and father's name. My father had one brother, he lived in another city. I remember his two girls used to come visit with us and they stayed with us for a while. We used to take them to the woods. In Europe every town has a leader, a khortz, they used to call him. He is the owner of the woods where he lived, and the whole town. Some of them had harems of people working for them. In Poland they used to control so many fields and hundreds of people used to work for them, and they had their barracks, just like soldiers, and they used to serve this boss. When the war broke out. I went to work with my father. All the sheep, all the corn and wheat that the machine blew in. We had to pack it in sacks, big bags, and we got paid for it. But they disappeared. When they were married, when they had children, they all belonged to the khortz. Like years and years ago. But these things happened in my lifetime.

I had a cousin over here, his son lived in New Jersey, and Michael operated on him. “A Prepon, a Prepon? A doctor Prepon?” Your mother would know. Those were the only Prepons. the only real Prepons.

My mother's family name was Shlayim. My mother had one, two sisters. One lived in Pittsburgh, and the other one Chava was at home. Her children traveled to IsraeL She has a daughter of her own now. When we were there. she cooked us a soup that you could smell a mile away. They used to send messages to the hotel where we stayed, they couldn't get us all the time. So finally we took a trip and we went to a big town over there, and we left the tour and told them we'd see them later. We came down to see them, they have their own home. Nice, quite, with a bathroom and a shower.

About two weeks before Passover, my father used to start making matzo. The people used to buy their own flour, and they used to come. There were two ovens. We started the ovens. Over there, we didn't have water faucets like we have over here, so we had two boys who used to make the holes in the matzos. They had a wheel with little points, and a metal plate. Every five or ten minutes you had to wash it off otherwise it stuck to it. So let's say you had five pounds,

ten pounds, fifteen pounds, whatever the family had, we used to bake the matzos. We hired all the women from around the neighborhood, they used to come in. We had big boards, as wide as this. Eighteen inches wide. We used to clean them with a plate before we started, we had to wash and clean them because this dough, it would stick. The two boys when the matzos were finished, would take them out of the oven and put them in a bag. The bag was hanging with two points tied together on one side, two points tied together on this side, it was a big bag. They used to put in a long stick, and they used to carry out to wherever the people wanted, and they made a lot of money. I wanted the job, they wouldn't let me. My mother wouldn't let me work. We would bake for about two weeks.

The day before Passover, if tonight is Passover, we used to bake shmeer matzos. Those are the matzos that are made specially for the very educated and kosher. They used to watch when they cut the wheat in the field that they took off a certain amount of wheat themselves and they'd watch them how they went through the mill, and they came with us. We had to have water a tremendous barrel about this big. We filled it up in the morning, and during the day it was necessary to cover it with a white sheet. That day, they used to bake matzos. So who was there? AU the rabbis in the city, all the shoctem in the city. You know what a shochet is? The one that killed the chicken and the cows was called a shochet. Betty's father was a shochet, not only a shochet. he could have been a rabbi too. He was a very educated man. That's one of the reasons I wanted to be with Betty. They all used to sing Hallel, that's the praise to G-d.

When they finished, about one o'clock, we had to remove all the things that were in the house. Scrub the floors, wash everything for Passover. Who do you think would do it? All the women from the street, they used to come in. They were working with us all these weeks, so they came in to clean up. I'll never forget this. When it was finished, you can't eat anymore to religious people. So my father used to go and put eggs into the oven. The oven was so hot that eggs used to split, but the egg was good. It was baked. Everyone was eating all the eggs and nothing else. You're not allowed during Passover you have to eat after twelve o'clock and that's it, during the day only. The very religious, after twelve o'clock. We used to put sand on the floor. The floors were plain floors, like they used to have in the West.

My father was an expert at baking matzos. When you put them inside. they shouldn't bend, they shouldn't squeeze. He used to put them in, he used to take them from the oven, after they would make a horse and he would put them outside. He had a long stick with a flat side, and he would take them over otherwise they would burn. He wasn't a baker, but this had nothing to do with being a baker.

That day, I'll never forget, how they used to sing the Hallel, and they were all crying. They had their wine and eggs, wine and eggs and that's it. You know what the Torah says, Kohl poh alli, all the (xx) belong to me.

You're not allowed to eat hametz. So whatever was baked before the matzo, that's what you had. On regular days, the bread used to be made on Thursday, because Friday' s too short. It used to last for the whole week, because every day you'd take out a bread and it was there until the next Friday. Friday you used to have challa and you would make bread for the week. My mother used to make latkes. She would wake me up Thursday night, the latke was so hot, and I loved it.

In the summertime, it was nice. Passover time, we were able to go out without shoes already. All around the house it was dried up, but we still had plenty of mud. You don't know about mud that goes up to your knees. I can't begin to tell you.

In the wintertime, the lake that we lived on used to freeze over with very thick ice. They used to drive their horses in from their farms and from the city on top of the ice, and it was holding. There was a khortz, he had a son but they had no lakes anywhere except our lake. He used to come down and show off how he could go around. The younger generation, I remember. 1 used to make from the chair that we were sitting on and I'd put on the bottom sleds. My sister used to sit on it and I skated her around the lake. I had skates. I had bones from a cow that were curved, like ribs, and I used to skate on them. I would tie them to my shoes with rope. We couldn't afford skates. How many people had skates?

We had police, a police department. They took the orders from whoever was ahead of them. They used to come from one city to another. After the season was over, they used to come to look into the houses and see what you had, what it's worth, and you had to pay your taxes. If you had a big house, or a little house, but everybody was poor.

In the small towns, they have a chevra kadisheem. The chevra kadeesh is the one who takes anybody that dies. They take them out to the cemetery, they do whatever they have to do, and they bury them. They don't charge any money, especially to the poor people. For the richer people, they gave them a bottle of schnapps, that's all they need.

Anyway, when my brother was born, and when I was born, they wrote in what they called a pinchus, that means a book, a big book, that is written down all the names of anyone that came out. What is the pinchus? That when the boy gets old enough, he goes to have ...

You know my father once told the story that they had a funeral and they took him in the middle of the night, and they have at least six guys carrying it. They don't have boxes like we have over here. They just tie them up, and they do what they have to do. A little dog was running in front of them. When they came about two blocks further, the same little dog, but it was bigger. And when they went about ten blocks, the dog was so big that they were scared. They were all scared. So my father took one of the big supports from the funeral and he threw it at the dog. It made such a noise, and it disappeared.

Why am I telling you, I don't know. But I know that I used to go with my father during the day. Since he was a president, he had the privilege of getting fruits from the trees on the cemetery. We had a lot of fruit trees. The hay that was cut down, too. We had two cows, we had to feed them. So I remember I used to help him carry the bags home. When he was cutting the grass, I used to lay on the floor and look up to the sky. And see the blue sky, and I was wondering “What the hell is going on here? How do we exist, how do we go dead?” Talk about the different planets, and it was so immense.

Eventually I grew up. When they declared war in 1914, that I remember, all my neighbors, they took away all the men, my father too. But my father couldn't be a soldier with his long beard. So he was driving the pavyant, two or four horses, and the food for the soldiers. They had about twenty or thirty wagons, they used to call it a boz. Each one was bringing something else for the soldiers. When he came to another town, about 50 miles away, he left the wagon and he came home. Like over here, when the war came. I had to go to register. But I was too old for it, what did they call it at the time? I was a reserve, but they didn't take me in. I didn't need to serve in the army.

When the war came, we had soldiers dying in the middle of the street without legs, we had to go collect them. Sometimes the soldiers used to sit like, especially the Australian, not Australian, the Austrian soldiers used to sit at the hotel they had a big high stoop. He used to sit over there like this, smoking a pipe. This is really something that you can't tell people, because they wouldn't even believe you.

We used to imitate the soldiers. Our streets where we lived, we had all the boys lined up. We made a soldier out of them. We made swords from the heavy metal that they use to tie around packages, strapping. We used to make a sword out of it. The other kids would come from the other side of town and we used to fight like hell. One big guy, the other side had a leader. I was big, but I was still young.

After the Germans sent us out to Poland, we had to use a different ways to make a living. We couldn't use money, because here the Germans, here the Austrians, here the Russians, we didn't know what money to use. So they paid us in bags of potatoes, corn, wheat, and when I say corn, I don't mean the corn that you know of. I mean corn groats (?). That's not made of corn. Anyway, when we came back from Poland, we got so many bags that we'd taken to our town.

My bar mitzvah, I had in Poland, before we came home. They don't call you to the Torah on a Saturday or anything, but it has to be a Saturday. If they give you an aliyah, that's about it. Youngsters cannot go up to the bima, and the women. G-d forbid. That's the old orthodox. But here we're training the young ones, they should know something, so they read the Torah, and they call them up for an aliyah. My bar mitzvah was in the winter-time. My father gave me the tfillin, and he put them on and says that the knot of the tfillin has to be right in here, and the head over here, and you have to say the proper prayers for everything. That's all there was. I didn't go to shul.

The life we had over there, those Polish people. They were so selfish. I don't know whether if because they were poor or they just had no brains. People came in wild, they had nothing, they had nothing to eat, they had no place to go. They shouldn't invite them to their house or say a good word? Nothing. The same as when we were travelling by train. The train was open except for slats of wood on the side so you shouldn't fall out. In any case, I remember one night we passed by the city Belz. Some Jews should come out and do something for us? Not a glass of water, nothing. I looked out and I saw one of the shacks and one of them without the lights. I was just thinking what kind of a life over there and, the life over here. It's a different world. I had no use for them. People that don't even care for anybody else. We come into shul with them, in Europe we were used to anybody who would come into the shul was welcome, like my grandfather opened his house for everybody. Come, pray. Here, nothing. They didn't care, they didn't bother.

When we came back, the lake was drained. You had a mill at the end of the lake. And the water ran over, the fish were swimming around in puddles. And where the water used to accumulate to form the lake, they knocked in piles and they made a mini-train. And this mini-train took us from over there where the regular train was to our city. When we came into our city, our house was rebuilt, and when we got the papers to come to America, my father didn't want to go. My mother said she wanted to see her children before she dies. I had a brother and two sisters. And they rebuilt the house and my sister made a double story of the house. And the people that were left over in the town were starving. They didn't have anything to eat for months and months. You see, when we were there I was fed by the Germans, by the big cattle that they kept over for the soldiers. They said “Feed me, Jew.” My father wouldn't eat it. But I did. I was a kid. I didn't care. There we made the restaurant in the house. The house is a big house. And they rebuilt the tremendous stable with cement that you could drive in about 6 pair of horses and wagons, that's how big it was. On the lake. The lake was extended because of all of the dirt that they had added into the lake.

When we used to go out in the field to dig potatoes for somebody, whatever the fields they had, they were afraid to go up in the fields because the shrapnel falls all over. So all the town went to dig potatoes, and whatever they got they used to get half of it, or a quarter of it. I don't remember if it was a quarter or a half. We used to go out and dig and whoever took home the potatoes, we used to pay him to take ours too. At the time, we didn't have a horse, we didn't have anything, we just had one cow left. We used to dig the whole day in the field. The owner used to cook potatoes, he made mashed potatoes, it was sweet.

After the war, horses used to run around in the street. When all the non-Jews left, so what did they do with their things, all the stock that they had, geese, duck, chickens, they left everything in the streets and they walked away. So we used to pick up some of it and take it to the shochet. Every Passover, every holiday I should say, people used to go to the shochet with their chickens. They would get home, they started to cook, they made so much fat for the whole year long, especially in the winter.

We had a restaurant in the house. We did all the work ourselves. Cooking the pots, everything, my sister and my mother used to take care of everything. One day of the week, a Thursday usually, they used to have a yarid, an open city. They used to have an open city. People used to bring meats, they'd have them on the stands. They used to bring fruits, anything that they had, whatever they grew at home they brought to the city. It was fresh, but the meats I wouldn't touch. Polish kielbasi. Every Thursday was market day, and everybody from all over the towns used to bring something. Either they had a little table or a big table. Even horses and cows, they used to buy there.

We served to the people who used to come and sit down to eat. The non-Jews used to come in for a glass of tea. So they used to take the sugar and put it in their pockets. So one said to the other, “I fooled a Jew.” “What did you do?” “I drank the tea, but I have the sugar.”

We had the whole town, it had one light in it that lit up the street. One light. We used to go dowm with hot bread with the fats on top of it. We acquired a horse, another white. It was white with black spots. We used to call him Shpock, that means spotted. We made a wagon, and I used to drive around. I could have made a lot of money, but my father sold it.

We left the house at the time to go to America. That was about 1919, at the end of the War. And that part where we lived was given over to Poland, to the Poles, and so it was taken. They were against the Jews, all Poland. That part I wouldn't even talk about, because we all know that story.

We traveled to Warsaw, I think that part I wrote down. My mother, my father, and my sister Chava and I. Chava, she married a fellow and they were in the business of making valises. So they were well off. My other sister Ethel and brother-in-law Ingerman remained over in our town. And they had a little girl that we left over there. She wanted to stay home and they made a lot of money at the time, until the Germans started to take over and they killed everybody in the town, all the Jews. That must have been after Hitler went in in 1929, so it must have been 1940, '41, '42. We used to send letters, but we didn't really know what actually went on over there. We were in Montreal, or in the United States at the time.

The ship wasn't such a modern ship. We stayed downstairs below, and from one family to another they put a curtain up. We lived separated only by a curtain. I have no idea how many people were on the ship. I know it was a full ship. The ship's name was Melita, even Mom remembers. It was such a poor life. Every day, after every meal, they used to go out and vomit. But I didn't vomit once. I looked at the water, the water going up and down, it didn't bother me. The trip was about 10 days, we left out of Danzig. Danzig used to be the German name. But when they handed it over to Poland, they called it Gdinya. That's where all the ships used to be made by the Poles. We had to travel to different towns on the water.

So about a day before we landed, two days before, I got very sick. I don't know where it was from, somebody gave me an aura, I don't know, a “bad eye” they call it. Whatever it was, I was very sick, I had fever. All the women downstairs used to take cold sheets and wrap me around and they kept changing them all the time. For two days I lay there. The last night, I remember my grandfather - I never saw him in my life. I wasn't born yet when he died. He shows up and he gave me a little bag, and says “This will help you.” When I tell you the thing like this, it makes me cry. When I got up in the morning, I was looking under the pillow. Where's the little bag? My mother said, “What are you looking for?” I said, “Grandpa gave me a bag.” Anyway, I got up like nothing happened. That's how they let us in. If you're sick, they send you to a hospital someplace. So explain these things, I don't.

At the time when I did a concert aboard ship going to Canada. I became a master violinist. The violin, I took it out once, and one of the strings busted I couldn't stay in the house until I could get one. There used to be a store here in Elizabeth a music store, you used to get a string for $1.50, two dollars. Here I paid $4.80 for one string!

It was me and my mother, my sister, my father. We came to Quebec. We made a mistake. My· brother-in-law was in the fur business and if you know how to write Jewish, a Pe is counted as either an “f” or a “p”. So he wrote that he was in the “Futtah” business and we thought that it was “Puttah” business - butter! So if he was dealing in butter, he must have a farm or something. So when we came to Quebec and they started to ask questions, I said that my brother-in-law was a farmer making butter.

So my brother-in-law came to where the ship came in. He was standing downstairs, and he's calling “Prepons! Prepons! Are the Prepons here?” So we came over. He sent us food, he sent us bananas. We didn't know what side was good, what side was bad, so we gave away the bananas, a whole bunch of bananas. We didn't know. We'd never seen anything like that, grapefruits, oranges.

We stayed in Montreal for about a year, year-and-a-half. My brother lived in New York, with his wife Anna. He carne here as a youngster. I had two sisters, Sarah and Ethel. Anyway, he went to Ottawa and straightened everything out, and he carne again and we traveled to Montreal.

I had my two sisters in Canada, and one sister was with me, and one sister was in Europe. Four sisters and two brothers. We were six. My oldest was Sarah, and the second one was Ethel, then my brother Benny.

He was a manufacturer in New York. He took me in the first time. It shows you how a Jew can handle another Jew. He had about four cutters, they used to cut. And he wanted to take me in to show me how to cut, but they wouldn't let him. They complained to the unIon, and no more. So I had to become an operator. From the operator, I worked myself up, I learned the business very fast. One day I went in as partners with them. He was outside, I was inside. He was with customers, and I run the factory. Eventually, he had to close. They went on strike, they wanted more money, and if you can't afford it, you don't have enough goods, you don't have anything to work with. But that was enough, we didn't do so well we had to close it. In New York, that's what happens. You're in business one day, you're out the next.

I went over to work for Dave Schulman when my brother closed up. And Dave Schulman said to me, “You, come.” And he took me over to Harry Schulman and he says “You be me, you take my place over here. You're their partner, not me. Do you know how to do it?” I knew everything, I knew how to make a garment, how not to make a garment, I knew how to cut, I knew everything. I gave my niece, I used to teach the girls. This factory was in New Jersey, in Newark, and I stayed there for 22 or 23-odd years.

 

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