Interview with Libby Ginsburg
Interviewed by granddaughter Carolyn Stiman Dec.12,1977
Submitted by granddaughter Sherry Ginsburg Warman
Daughter of Israel & Fruma Sluzhman (later Schulman or Shulman)
b. Romanova 1888
Imm. to U.S. 1911
d. Portland, Maine, 1979
Fond Memories of Romanova
Poor but Happy
Courtship and Marriage on the Lower East Side
A New Start in Portland, Maine
It was a nice life. I know, every holiday what
we had, we had really a holiday. In Russia on Chanukah we used to enjoy
Chanukah. We had Purim, you know what's Purim is? We used to enjoy.
We had shalach monos we sent one to another. You know what shalach monos
is, like presents.
I enjoyed the seders. In Russia when my father and Saul's we used to, everybody used to come for Pesach. Es was the table white. We had a lot of candlesticks. My mother had eight candlesticks we light. We didn't have electric over there. We had just candles only, a lamp, and a kerosene lamp. But it was so...so light and so...so... so happy. We had a little house but we were happy.
I told you that we were not rich because my father used to teach for nothing with a lot of kids. But, you know, the family, Shloimie and Shael, from Lewiston, they had beautiful voices, they singed. And my father had a nice voice. We used to sing all together ... the Haggadah. They all together, people used to stay near the windows to listen how we were singing.
What was your house like?
Just two rooms and one was a cold room, storage
room. There used to go a poor man, he didn't have where to sleep, my mother
made for him a bed and we would take the pillows, everything, and we had
benches, we didn't have chairs. In summertime was all right.
Poor but happy
My mother was very happy with her children.
She loved the children. We used to go by them. When we had something,
a party, a, like a wedding or something, and Shloimie used to sing.
"You wouldn't get a table unless you sing and watch Shael dance."
My mother and father they had a very nice life. In our city we had to go after the water far to the well, carry the water in pails, and we used to fight for the pails, father want to go, the mother want to go. He said, " No, I'll go." We take one the other the pails. Such a nice living. We was poor but we was happy.
My father O.H. he learned from 4 o'clock in the morning 'til
11 o'clock in the night. Is in the morning he used to lock up the door. He had to get up and lock the door. In the evening he had to unlock the door to let them in. In wind and cold, he had to go, in a cold day around, but he never said to us it's too hard for him he didn't like it.
The fire and acts of kindness
The whole street was burned. The Christian
street, all the Palishers [Polish people], every one of them, every house
burned down, the house, the barns, the everything. Across the street we
had a neighbor. My mother was very good with them. They good friends.
we called them and she made a... and we had another room and
no stove in... that was summertime. She let them in. She made
for them beds. I think they had their own beds they took out from the fire.
It started from a barn but it came to the... She gave them the stove to
cook. See we wouldn't cook because we not allowed to, the stove
is treif. But we had a little place where we can make a fire for
us to cook. Then we had use of the whole stove we give to them.
They used to bake bread and ...The people they never forget us. And everybody
was wondering why we do this. We did this!
See, he had a garden from fruit. He want to save the fruit. People ruin, especially the kids, they ruin. We was watching. He had the garden ten years. We used to go sit there after the garden. He had a big, he had a lot of land outside from the city what's he...
How were the Jews treated?
Good. Some they good and some they not.
But one man, a Polish man, he used to be a big drunk. When he's drunk
he's crazy. He was drunk and he broke our windows, 2 windows. Oh,
the people they was mad! It was some they was not good. In fact, my mother
went to the rabbi, asked him if she did good when she… He said very
good, a very good Christian. He saved us our… Three Jewish houses
was left in our place. Our house and four houses was. And in Shvuis no
one would make a fire. He can be jealous if you do this in some places.
He said it's very nice that Jews have to be good to the Christians.
Anything he had for us from the garden he used to give us. We had
beautiful apples and pears and cherries. I still remember the names.
He was very poor. It was by the fire. My mother went to the rich people what's they didn't have a fire. Say that like a lie, he will die from hunger we have to help him. Go take this, take this, take anything what you have in your house, what you have for yourself and give it. Nobody would know. He was ashamed to go say what's he got nothing because before he was rich but after the fire he was very poor. He lost everything. He had gooses and with chickens with cows and horses. I think the cows and horses he was saved but the chickens...When I think about the people I wish if I would see them. Special one girl what she was my friend.
What was the trip like?
The trip? I feeled good. Like my mother and Rochelay didn't feel good. Then I used to go bring them milk. And then was one from the waiters he was a German, and I was at that time I speak good German, then he used to give a lot of things.
How many languages could you speak?
German and Polish and Russian and Jewish.
What was the boat like?
Boat was not very pleasant. We went underneath. See it was the first class and the second class and we were the third. It's one of the cheapest. It's very bad, special my mother and Rochelea, they feeled bad. But I walked around. I tried to help the woman there. We had to go for two weeks on the boat, I think, about two weeks was the boat. We had then, we took black bread, one thing we had, and we dried this. We put cinnamon there and sugar on this and dried it, and this we had on the boat. Some people didn't have this. My mother used to give them. They enjoyed very much. We baked a lot of things, like putterkichelach and we dried this because if not dried will get moldy. I wouldn't like to go back...on the boat.
Where did you get the money to come over here?
The children send us.
They were already married when they came here?
They was in Russia married and Ronnee had a...
Ida was a baby about 8 months and she came with the baby here. And
Nechamy had Mirel and Gittel and Lippe - three children when she came here.
We came the first we came to Nechamy in her house and then we took a rent. It was seven dollars a monat. In Portland (Maine). Near the Shul.
You came from Canada, right? The boat went to Canada?
Yeh, the boat went to Canada, and we went .... a station. And Nechamy lived next street then we walked over there with bundles. Oy, everybody came to visit us. How it was? Well, I went to work in a factory on waist. And I went first there. I didn't like too much. And some people was fresh. My boss was telling me he wouldn't say in a nice way but you know he's a boss.
Courtship and marriage on the Lower East Side
After I went to N.Y. for vacation and I met my husband. When I came back there were other workers. I went back in New York, and he took me out to beautiful places. He took me to the best show, to the Jewish show, that was Gerechtikeit, and then he took me to see Hamlet, and he brought me a big box candy, a heart, and we took the third seats from the stage, we took the best seats. He was poor, he was not very rich, but he was a very gentle man. And then when I came home, two weeks I spend, and he took me to the best places. He took me to see the museum, the Statue of Liberty, you know, after his work he used to take me out. Then when I came home I wrote him a letter, and I thanked him. Then he wrote me back. Then we started to write one to the other, and in six monats we got married. We was married here. See, I know them from Russia, but we never thought... He went before in America. And we moved in the same house, not the same rent, but the same house, where his mother lived, this is with the children. And everybody was good to me, they liked me and I liked them. I had a very good mother-in-law.
What did Zaidy do for work?
He was a, for the beginning he was in a store, he worked in a store, like a grocery store. Then after he was knickers, small boys knickers. And then after his factory moved another place then I moved to be near him what's he came home for dinner. I didn't want him to eat, you know, a sandwich, so he used to come every day for dinner. The street was Chrystie St. where he worked. Next we had to cross the Bowery but he come from there. We move out from the family, but they used to come to me just the same, and I used to go there.
Where did you live at first?
On Henry St. You heard of Henry St.? We enjoyed Henry St. because I used to go every Saturday with him in the Educational Alliance. You know what the Educational Alliance is? We used to have Shabbos over there, daven, and we had a big speaker... um...he died already. He used to speak every Friday night for a whole hour. Maslianski. Shabbos we went visiting families, and he used to take me sometimes in the big stores was shows for nothing.
Back to Portland, Maine - to a Polish neighborhood!
I came visiting my parents. Then when I came here then we say is a grocery for us to sell. Then we bought a grocery. It was across the street.
Yeah, but you had a hard time doing it. You had a hard time
getting money, right? Nobody would lend you the money.
I had my ring. We had Zaidy's wristwatch and chain. We got $500 and we paid for the.. well, we had some bonds. And we started the grocery. He used to deliver the groceries. With a horse and team. And I... I stayed in the store by myself and I sold. We had Polish trade. And I was very happy. We had a little house.
You had a hard time finding a rent, though, didn't you?
We had a rent across the street. They wouldn't rent us. We, you know, because we Jews. They wouldn't do this. They don't care to. They wouldn't rent to us because we Jews. After we went to the second house from Dyro's where they come every summer with a whole bus to see the house. Over there was living a big woman. She was a writer. She was writing books. They was very famous. Every summer a whole, a lot would come by cars to see the house, to go outside the house. We took the rent upstairs. Now is American people here. That time was... Lithuanian was here. She gived us the rent, and we was very happy, not very far from the store.
I was very anxious to have a baby. But I stayed in store. After I had a beautiful baby then, what's everybody was going over to her and playing with her. And I used to keep her in the store. I took care of her there. We was happy, we had a very nice life. Wintertime over there was very damp. And I can't have her in the store, and I missed her. Put her in a blanket, a big blanket and she would go with the father to deliver the orders.
After two years I had Sidney. Then my mother-in-law came visit, my husband's mother, and my brothers came from Lewiston, two brothers, Morris's father and Paul and we was so happy that we had a bris. My father was alive that time, my mother was living.
Afterwards they sold the house, and we moved in in this house. And we didn't have any steam. And I had Sidney here. Then we lived in the kitchen, and everything was closed. The pipes was busted. ... There was no toilet. There was in cellar the toilet. And the family from upstairs used to go in toilet too downstairs, just one toilet. Then we fixed. We used to stay both, not to go out. It gets lonesome, you got nothing to do. Now is everything is fixed up....
Next year we saved up money, and we put
in steam. But we paid out the steam, you know, we didn't have the whole
money. But the same year we took out wristwatch with the diamond,
we paid for.. See, because we stayed both in the store, and we didn't live
very rich, we didn't buy clothes...then we paid our lease, and afterwards
we had, then we put in steam, and we put in electric. I think we didn't
have electric, we used to live with a lamp. Then we had gas, we put in
gas. The electric was later. Thank G-d, we little by little,
we paid everything out, we fixed over everything.
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