Story of a Pavoloch Orphan
(Revised December 2007 by his son Richard Spector)
This is the story of a child born to fear and poverty in the small 19th century shtetl of Pavoloch who managed to immigrate to the United States as a young orphan and become an eminent, nationally recognized physician before his tragically young death at 52. This is a story that ends with the most important questions about his life and his large extended Pavoloch family unanswered. But most of all, this is the story of the father I never knew but whose life I painstakingly reconstructed more than 60 years after he died.
Hyman Ischia Spector was born Chaim Ovsey Spector on July 15, 1894 in the shtetl of Pavoloch in present day Ukraine (then Russia), which was located in the Kiev Gubernia (province) about 61 miles southwest of the city of Kiev. Pavoloch still exists today. He was the second of three children and the first son of Morris David Spector and Shaindel Garber, whose Americanized name as chosen by Hyman was Jennie. Jennie had a daughter, Tsivia (Civia or Celia in its Americanized form), in 1882-1883 by her first husband, whose name was Boruch Vladimirsky. Morris David had a daughter Basheva in 1871-1872 with his first wife. Basheva married Avrum Frenkel, born in 1867-1868, and they had a son Yos born in 1894. Nothing more is known about Basheva and her family.
There are family stories that Hyman had a brother who was in the Russian army and was killed sometime before or during World War I. Family legend has it that Hyman’s brother was killed while Hyman was still in the Ukraine and that Hyman may have witnessed his death. Until at least the late 1930s, Hyman had a photograph of his brother. However, it is fairly certain that this brother was an older half brother, brother of Basheva. Hyman did have a younger brother Shmul-Perets born in 1896 but he could not have been the person to whom the family stories refer. Nothing more is known about Shmul-Perets.
About 1887Jennie and Morris had their first child together: Chave (Eva). The family story has it that Morris David Spector was an “old” man, possibly as much as 30 years older than Jennie, and that he was a yeshiva bocher (scholar); see the next paragraph. According to this story Jennie was forced by her family to divorce her first husband when he obtained gainful employment as a lens maker and turned away from being a yeshiva bocher. The family legend also tells that Jennie died shortly after Hyman was born and that Morris died about that time as well. However, this is incorrect to the extent that it is known from census records that they had another child about two years after Hyman was born and they didn’t die until at least 1896. It is possible that these stories refer to the birth of Hyman’s younger brother Shmul-Perets.
In 2007 research into Jewish census records for Pavoloch discovered that Morris Daivd (Moishe Duvid) Spector was born in 1835. He was the son of Meier Spector (b.1818) and Rysia (b.1816), daughter of Itsko. Meier was the son of Kisil (1793-1842) and Khaya Ruchla (b.1794). Kisil was the son of Yudko who was born no later than about 1775. It is quite possible that Yudko had no surname since surnames weren’t adopted until about 1800. Morris David Spector had an older brother Itsko (1833), a younger brother Yankel (b.1838), two younger sisters, Braina (b.1846) and Malka (b.1848), and a much younger brother Yekusiel, known as Kisil (1867-1868). As we will see later on, some of these names definitively establish the relationships of Hyman to other contemporary Spector families in this country. Given that Kisil’s mother would have been about 52 when Kisil was born and the fact that there was a 20 year gap between Kisil and his next older sibling, it appears that Kisil was either a menopause baby or his mother was a second wife of Meier.
A note about names: it has been suggested that the name “Spector” comes from the Russian word “inspektor” which means the same in Russian as it does in English. There were committees of inspectors in the shtetlach that kept watch over the observance of Jewish customs and ritual. Thus it is plausible that the name “Spector” (“Spektor” in the Russian spelling) did come from the word for inspector. Indeed, the name “Spector” was not an uncommon surname in Eastern Europe around 1900. Various members of the Gerber family spelled their name “Garber” on the ships’ passenger manifests when they immigrated. Once in Chicago they changed the spelling to “Gerber.” Both spellings mean “tanner,” the first in Yiddish and the second in German. In addition, the Ukrainian word is “garbar.” Finally, the name "Ovsey" and the name "Ishia" are variants of the root name "Iisus” which is the transliterated Ashkenazic Hebrew name "Iegoyshia" from Exodus 17:9. Hyman used a phonetic transliteration of his name as "Ischia" early in his life in this country. Later he styled himself Hyman I. Spector.
What is known for certain is that Pavoloch was in existence by the early 16th century and in an area controlled by Lithuania until it came under Polish control in 1659 and then Russian control in 1793. There were only three Jews in Pavoloch in 1683 but by 1886 there were 1,659 Jews. Three years after Hyman immigrated in 1907 to America there were 3,686 Jews in Pavoloch and the surrounding villages. It therefore seems unlikely that Hyman’s ancestors lived in Pavoloch itself in the late 17th century. But whatever the origins of the Jewish community into which Hyman was born, it had certainly been there for many, many centuries in the Lithuanian/Polish/Russian area surrounding Pavoloch.
Jennie came from the nearby shtetl of Brusilov, which was (and still is) less than 25 miles NNE of Pavoloch. Jennie’s first daughter Civia married Jacob Gerber who was Jennie’s nephew. That is, Civia married her first cousin. This is important in understanding Hyman’s relationship to his family in later years. Jacob’s father, Chaim (Jennie’s brother), was a tanner in Brusilov and Jacob’s grandfather (Hyman’s maternal grandfather) was a tanner as well, according to Jacob’s son Vulf (Bill) Gerber. About 1917-1918, Jennie’s brother Chaim (Hyman’s uncle) was attacked by three Cossack soldiers. Jennie’s uncle, a big man who refused to run and take cover in the fields when the attack was imminent, killed all three Cossacks. Unfortunately, during the attack he was mortally wounded and bled to death the next day. Chaim’s grandson Bill Gerber witnessed the scene of Chaim lying on the floor, bleeding, surrounded by three dead Cossacks. In his 90s he could still recall being lifted by his grandfather out of a vat of tanning fluid that he fell into as a small child and he remembered the bodies piled in the barn in the winter because it was too cold to dig graves in the earth. He could recall fleeing through the forest and across the river into Romania when he, his mother, and his two siblings fled from the Ukraine. Several hours of his memories of the Ukraine and Chicago were recorded in January 2003 and then put on a CD by Hyman’s son Richard. Bill Gerber died on May 10, 2006 in Huntington Beach, California.
We know very little about Hyman’s life in Pavoloch except that his earliest memory, according to what he told his daughter Judy, was of hiding under a table when the Cossacks were rampaging through Pavoloch. His sister Eva (“Chava”) was also born Pavoloch. Kamenetz, probably Kamenetz-Podolsky about 175 miles WSW of Pavoloch, is the town from which she emigrated to America in 1907. It is unclear why she emigrated from there. Since it is accepted by family legend that both Morris and Jennie died before the year that Eva and Hyman came to America (1907), it is quite likely that the two children were young orphans taken in by relatives or friends. Perhaps a family in Kamenetz took in Eva and a different family took in Hyman in Pavoloch.
The year 1907 was the peak year for immigration through Ellis Island. Among those immigrating was Eva who arrived on January 29, 1907 aboard the Holland America line’s Potsdam which sailed from Rotterdam on January 19, 1907. She was traveling alone and indicated that she was going to her uncle, Abraham Goldman, a carpenter, living at 150 Spring Street in New York. Abraham had a wife Lena and four children living with him in 1920 in Brooklyn. Efforts to determine how he was Eva’s uncle have only turned up evidence that is unhelpful or puzzling. At this time it has not been possible to make the connection. Eva was definitely in Chicago by December 25, 1909, the day she married Max Silverman. It is most likely that she went to Chicago shortly after arriving in New York.
It is known that Eva had a cousin who immigrated to Chicago from Pavoloch in June 1905. This cousin, also Hyman’s cousin, was Anna Feldman who later married Harry Gomberg. Anna was almost exactly Eva’s age and eventually became Eva’s best friend. Anna is known to have visited Hyman in St. Louis about 1924-1926 accompanied by her two children, Betty and May, and to have kept in her family photo album Hyman’s graduation picture from his junior college. Eva may have stayed with Anna when she went to Chicago before Eva was married. There is evidence to be discussed below that Hyman did indeed stay with the Feldmans when he first came to Chicago. Anna and Hyman were young childhood friends (and relatives) in Pavoloch and knew each other before they immigrated to Chicago.
For a number of reasons, because she came from Pavoloch and because she was also related to another branch of the Spector family, Anna was certainly a relative on Hyman’s father’s side, in other words a Spector, rather than a Gerber relative on his mother’s side. Anna was likely Hyman’s cousin but it is not known at this time if the relationship was through Anna’s mother, Ida Reader Feldman, or her father, Eli Feldman. Since Ida had very extensive family in Chicago and Eli did not, it is possible that the relationship was through Ida. However, more convincingly, it is also known that Anna was related to the Morris and Froma Spector branch of the Spector family described below. Being related to two different branches of the Spector family almost certainly means that the relationship to these branches was through a female Spector ancestor of Anna’s. The maiden name of Anna’s paternal grandmother (Eli’s mother) is not currently known while the maiden name of Anna’s maternal grandmother (Ida’s mother) is known and it is not Spector. If Eli’s mother was a Spector and a sister of Morris David Spector, then Hyman and Eli were first cousins. If she was a sister of Morris Spector (who married Froma and was the nephew of Morris David; see below), then Eli and Hyman would have been second cousins. Any more distant ancestral connection between the families would have made Hyman only remotely related to Eli which doesn’t seem to be the case given Eli’s close relationship to both Chicago Spector branches. Vague stories about having siblings in Brooklyn and Canada have proved difficult to track. Finding a sibling of Eli might enable the discovery of his mother’s name.
Hyman sailed to New York on the Russian Volunteer Fleet’s Saratow (Saratov) which left Libau (now Liepaja), Latvia on October 14, 1907, arriving in New York on October 31 or November 1, 1907 after a stop at Rotterdam on October 19, 1907. A picture of this ship exists and can be obtained from the Steamship Historical Society of America at the University of Baltimore in Baltimore. (The ship was built in 1895 for the Russian Volunteer Fleet by R. & W. Hawthorn, Leslie & Company in Hebburn-on-Tyne in England. It was sold to Greek owners in 1920 and renamed the Bernina. It was sold again to Egyptian owners in 1923, renamed the Egypt, and scrapped in 1924.)
Hyman traveled with a family, four children and their parents, Joss (Yos) and Ester Ruhkla (later Joe and Rose or Rachel) Bassovsky, who also came from Pavoloch. (Three Bassovsky children had each immigrated separately earlier.) Their final destination was New York. Joss Bassovsky listed himself on the manifest as a “joiner” (carpenter). Joss listed a Schiel Spector as his closest friend/relative in Pavoloch. Who was Schiel? It was not Hyman’s paternal grandfather who was named Meier and was most certainly dead by 1907.
However, it is quite likely that Schiel was a distortion or variant of the given name of Yekusiel Spector whose nickname was Kisil, especially since the name Schiel appears not to be an identifiable name at all, neither Russian, Yiddish nor Hebrew. (It must be remembered that information on a ship manifest was recorded by a non-English speaking ship’s officer from the verbal information provided by the immigrant who generally pronounced English poorly.) Yekusiel Spector, as mentioned earlier, was Hyman’s uncle, being the youngest son of Meier Spector. Kisil immigrated from Pavoloch with his wife and six of his seven children to Philadelphia in 1913. A seventh child was born in Philadelphia. Yekustiel’s children are now all dead but a large number of his descendants still survive, in particular Israel (Sulie) Spector, a grandson who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He is alive and well in December 2007 and I visited him in April 2001 and May 2004. It is interesting to note that Kisil’s second son was named Meier (his first son was named after his wife’s father) so we find that the father/son combination of Kisil/Meier is found both as Hyman’s great-grandfather and grandfather and as the grandfather and uncle of Sulie; looked at another way, four generations of Sulie’s male line ancestors, beginning with his great-great-grandfather and ending with his uncle were named: Kisil, Meier, Kisil, Meier..
In October 2004 it was established that Sulie Spector and Hyman’s son Richard had a perfect 12 for 12 y-chromosome marker DNA match meaning that, since they have the same surname and had fathers from Pavoloch, there is essentially a 100% probability that they share a common ancestor within the last 200 years. This is to be expected, of course, since, as wasn’t discovered until 2007, Kisil was Hyman’s uncle, both being sons of Meier Spector.
Why did Hyman travel with the Bassovsky family? It is likely that Joss or Ester was related to him. There were nine Bassovsky children and one of them, Jennie, traveled to America with another Spector family arriving at Ellis Island on July 25, 1907, just a few months before most of the rest of her family arrived with Hyman. On the same ship with Jennie (the Moskwa, which had also sailed from Libau) were Risse (Mollie) Spector and her five children. Mollie, her children, and Jennie Bassovsky were headed to Chicago where Kiva Spector, the head of the family, had immigrated about four years earlier through Canada. Jennie listed Kiva on the ship manifest as her cousin so there is a link between the Bassovsky family and the Kiva Spector family. The Kiva Spector family and the Bassovsky family all came from Pavoloch. We know that Kiva Spector was related to Hyman (see below) and, therefore, it is highly likely that Jennie, and hence either Joss or Ester, was related to Hyman as well. This would make sense, as well, since the Bassovksy family would have been unlikely to add Hyman to their group and undertake the burden of bringing him to America unless he was a relative.
While the precise link between Hyman and the Bassovsky family hasn’t yet been uncovered, a number of obvious possibilities can be ruled out. However, there is just one obvious possibility that cannot be ruled out and which makes sense. If Morris David Spector, Hyman’s father, had a sister named Sarah and she was married to Ester Bassovsky’s mother, then everything falls into place (we know Ester’s mother was named Sarah). Ester would be the neice of Hyman’s father and Jennie would be the first cousin of Kiva’s father. No other relationship connection between the two families that can be conjectured consistent with the known evidence is this simple. Moreover, it is interesting that Ester also had the named Ruchla as did Meier’s grandmother.
In November 2007 two of Joss Bassovsky’s grandsons and many great grandchildren are alive and well spread out between New York City and northern California. One branch of the of the family had changed their surname to Bass sometime in the 1950s or 1960s and two living descendants are William Bass and his daughter Sherry.
Also alive at this time in Winnetka, Illinois outside Chicago is Kenneth Spector, a grandson of Kiva Spector. Kisil Spector, Joe and Ester Bassovsky and Kiva and Mollie Spector (see the connection to Hyman spelled out below) have many, many descendants so, assuming the Bassovsky family was part of Hyman’s family, Hyman’s descendants have m of relatives living all over the United States and Canada. If the relationship if through Ester Bassovsky’s mother, then there is also a relationship to the descendants of her two sisters: Jennie Male Gerr, New York City, and Eva Male Portman, Cleveland.
Hyman passed through Ellis Island and arrived in Chicago on November 10, 1907. Why didn’t Hyman stay with the Bassovsky family in New York? By 1910 Joe and Ester were living with four of their numerous children, Ester’s sister, and her sister’s two children. It is likely that their apartment must have just been much too crowded for them to keep Hyman. Besides, Hyman had a sister and many other relatives in Chicago, as we shall see.
Charlotte, Hyman’s wife, told the story after he died that he lived with a very poor family when he came to Chicago. She added that the family had a daughter of the right age to marry Hyman (obviously in later years, as Hyman was only 13 when he arrived in Chicago) and pleaded with him to marry her but he refused to do so. It is known that from sometime after January 1916 and before January 1, 1920 he moved into the home of Ida and Eli Feldman and their two younger children. By April 15, 1910 he was living with Eva and her husband Max at 1100 S. Sangamon. So it seems quite likely that he and his sister Eva lived with the Feldman family until Eva married on December 25, 1909 and Hyman moved in with Eva and Max in early 1910. Eli Feldman had immigrated to Chicago about 1900 and the rest of the Feldman family immigrated in June 1905 so they were well settled in Chicago when Eva and Hyman arrived. It is also known that the Feldman family in June 1905 lived on S. Sangamon. Since he lived with the Feldmans later on (when Eva’s place became crowded with four children) it is highly likely he lived with them from 1907 until 1910 when he moved in with Eva. It is not plausible that he lived with strangers when close relatives were available. What gives this story credibility is that the Feldmans had a daughter, Ethel, who was two years younger than Hyman. She married about 1917 at age 21 but in the few years before that she would have been of the perfect age to marry Hyman. However, in an audio tape Charlotte made in 1976 she said that she had met the woman once in Chicago and that the woman never married. Whether Charlotte’s memory was correct or the woman really was Ethel we may never know.
Another possibility is that Hyman was living with his cousin Ida Aisuss and her husband Sam. The Aisuss family and its close relationship to Hyman is discussed below. Sam and Ida in 1910 probably lived at 714 S. Laflin where they had a grocery store at least by September 1915. They had a daughter Anne who was born in December 1901 so she was about 7 ½ years younger than Hyman. However, by the time Hyman was in medical school she would have been old enough to marry him. She did marry someone in February 1921 so, like Ethel Feldman, she does not meet Charlotte’s description of a woman who never married.
That address at 1100 S. Sangamon is now part of extensive athletic fields at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Assuming he had been living on S. Sangamon with either family for a year or two he undoubtedly attended the no longer existing Goodrich grade school at 915 W. Taylor (which has also been replaced by the athletic fields) since it was less than two blocks north of where he was living. He likely graduated grade school in 1909 and began high school in the fall.
By September 1912 he was living at 1456 Washburn and was in high school at Joseph Medill High School, which survives as a red brick and stone building (not now used as a high school) backing onto the southern side of the present day Joseph Medill elementary school at 14th Place and Throop.
A large Spector family in Chicago can now be exactly linked to Hyman. Morris David Spector’s brother Itsko had a son named Morris Spector (b.1850) who was, therefore, Hyman’s first cousin. Morris died in Pavoloch but his widow Froma immigrated to the United States. One of her sons was Kiva Spector who immigrated on March 15, 1903 and his wife and five of their six children on July 25, 1907. Kiva was the oldest of five siblings, who were, in order of age, Chave Spector who had married Issac Schwartz in Pavoloch, Louis Spector who had married Sophie Kubernick in Pavoloch, Jacob Spector who married Anna Aerobuch in Chicago, and Dora Spector who married Jacob Koob in Chicago. Chave died in Pavoloch but her husband and six children immigrated to Chicago as did Louis and his family, Jacob, and Dora.
The children of some of these five Chicago Spector siblings were still alive in March 2002 and remember Hyman as their parents’ cousin. Indeed, one of them, Dora Spector Koob’s daughter Eve Koob Schwarz, remembers stories about Froma buying Hyman a suit for $12 to use when he graduated medical school in 1922. Another family member thinks it was her father Jacob who bought the suit. One of Jacob’s daughters, Evelyn Spector Sugar, remembers Hyman visiting Dora in the hospital when she was dying in 1935. Evelyn remembers that she drove to St. Louis in January 1942 on the way to Hot Springs, Arkansas for her honeymoon. Hyman invited her to dinner at the house at 910 Buena Vista. She called Hyman because her father told her that he had a cousin in St. Louis who was an important doctor. She remembered the household as a warm, loving environment. The five Spector siblings had 23 children not all of whom lived to adulthood and had children, but many did, and the number of descendants alive today is so far uncounted but very large.
Resuming the story of Hyman’s life, in April 1913 Jacob Gerber came to Chicago. Jacob was both Hyman’s brother-in-law, by virtue of being married to Civia, and Hyman’s first cousin. Civia and her three children did not join Jacob until July 1922. At some point Jacob became a partner with Max Silverman in a fruit store. Meanwhile, Eva and Max were starting a family with the first child Jean born in November 1910. (Jean later married Hyman Miller and has several children and grandchildren who now live in Texas and the East Coast. She died on May 21, 2002.) There were five children in all, the last one, Morris (!), born in 1920 who died as a child of 8 in 1928. All of them are dead now. The four that lived to adulthood married and had many children and grandchildren, who are now spread from Virginia to Texas and perhaps even more extensively. The entire time Hyman lived in Chicago he was surrounded by an ever-increasing group of nephews and nieces as well as a sister, a brother-in-law, a first cousin, and cousin Anna and her quite extensive Reader family, all the Spector cousins, and the Bolasny/Aisuss cousins described below. Anna had seven Reader first cousins in Chicago, among other relatives. (One of Anna’s uncles, Velvel Vulf Reder, died in 1942 in the Holocaust at Babi Yar. If Hyman’s relationship to Anna was through her mother, then Velvel Vulf was also a relative of Hyman and his descendants.)
In the fall of 1913 Hyman entered Crane Junior College. The site, on Bell just north of Van Buren, exists today as the location for Crane Technical High School, although the current building dates from 1922. At the time Hyman attended, the junior college shared the building with the high school and was part of the Chicago Public Schools system. Crane Junior College was the first junior college in Chicago and one of the first in the country. Opened in 1911 and accredited in 1917, it was the result of an aggressive public campaign by John Dewey, Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House, and other prominent people. They wanted an institution that would provide affordable higher education for the poor and the new immigrants that were flooding into Chicago. Had it not existed Hyman might not have been able to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. Although Crane has had a turbulent history, including several closings, it has persisted to the present day. It became Malcolm X College in 1969 a few years after the City Colleges of Chicago system became independent of the Chicago Public Schools system in 1966. Its physical plant is currently located several blocks to the east of the original site.
By September 18, 1915 Hyman was living by himself or perhaps with a relative at 1456 Spruce Street, which is now named W. Lexington. It is a short street running between S. Laflin and S. Loomis just south of Roosevelt. Just a few doors away Max and Eva lived at 714 S. Laflin. By this date he was using the name Hyman rather than Chaim. After graduating Crane Junior College in 1915, he went to work and moved into his own apartment. The earliest known photograph of Hyman is what appears to be his graduation picture from Crane. Eva and Max had just had their third child in 1914 and their apartment must have been getting cramped. Hyman was now just 21 and wanted to go to medical school. It is likely he went to work for a year to earn enough to get his own place to live and put aside some money for medical school.
On January 13, 1916 Hyman became an American citizen, expressly foreswearing allegiance to Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias. His witnesses on his September 18, 1915 petition for citizenship were his brother-in-law Max Silverman, who at the time was a presser in a clothes factory (a common occupation then), and Louis Aisuss who listed himself as a cigar maker. As was mentioned above, later Max Silverman ran a small fruit store. Sometime after June 5, 1917 (the date on Hyman’s World War I draft registration card) and before January 1, 1920 Hyman moved in with the Feldman family.
Louis Aisuss was Hyman’s cousin through Hyman’s mother’s Gerber family in a manner now lost. Louis, who died on May 28, 1973, was the son of Malka Bolasny and Meir Giligich but for some reason, apparently to aid him in immigrating, he adopted the surname of Malka’s first husband, Aaron Aisuss. The Bolasny and Aisuss famlies were interrelated since a number of cousins married each other. Indeed, Louis’ wife, Rose Bolasny (later Block), was likely his cousin. The Bolasny family was very large with one branch coming from Brusilov where Hyman’s mother came from. The other branch was from Radomyshl which is about 20 miles north of Brusilov. One of the Radomyshl Bolasny members was Ida Bolsany Aisuss (Ida married Sam Aisuss, one of Aaron’s sons). Mary, the youngest daughter of Sam and Ida, was born in 1911 and was alive and well in August 2005 in Chicago and she remembers Hyman from her youth.
Mary remembers that her mother Ida used to make sandwiches for Hyman when he was in medical school. Mary, who was living at her mother’s grocery store at 714 S. Laflin (Sam committed suicide in 1915), remembers Hyman bringing in mice to experiment on in the basement. Mary, being a youngster, was mad at Hyman for bringing his mice into the house but Ida was quite supportive of Hyman’s studying the mice. Also living there at that time was Hyman’s cousin and brother-in-law Jacob Gerber who was living with Ida (his childhood sweetheart to whom he had been engaged but never married). Hyman’s sister Eva was furious with Jacob over the affair he was having with Ida which caused a permanent split among between Eva and Ida and Jacob. Eva even wrote a letter to her half-sister Civia and told her she had better come to Chicago as soon as possible. Mary remembers the large, warm, close and supportive family that surrounded Hyman during his school years.
The Bolasny family is very large with branches in Canada, the east coast of the United States from New England to Florida, Chicago, and Melbourne, Australia. Although the connection between the Gerber and Bolasny families is now lost, perhaps forever, Hyman’s descendants have distant Bolasny cousins all over the world.
The areas that Hyman lived in, especially when he lived at 1100 S. Sangamon, were part of the historic Maxwell Street area. This was a district teeming with tens of thousands of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Its bustle, noise, crowded conditions, poverty, lack of sanitation, and street carts resembled in every way the famous Lower East Side of New York at the end of the 19th century. Maxwell Street peaked in about 1905-1910 after which the Jewish community began to move further to the west. However, it continued in existence, although in much altered form, into the 1960s even as other ethnic groups moved in. However, the building of the Dan Ryan Expressway split the area in half essentially killing it. As late as the 1970s there were still vestigial remains of what had been the Maxwell Street area. But slowly the parts that were not taken over and demolished by UIC in 1994 were reduced to abandoned buildings and boarded up storefronts. As late at early 2000 one block of these still existed, although it is impossible to see what Maxwell Street was like 100 years ago.
When Hyman graduated from high school in 1913 he was nearly 19 years old, about a year older than his classmates. This was a very common situation with immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe in that era because of their lack of secular western education and severe language problems. Many were more than a year older than their classmates. Most of these immigrants dropped out of school early. Few finished high school and fewer still went on to a college education as Hyman did. An extraordinarily small percentage went on even further to professional schools of law or medicine. We can only be awed by Hyman’s tenacity, ambition, drive, and ability to do what most other immigrant families accomplished only in their first or second generation of Americans. We do know that he worked part time earning money as a cigar worker, but he must have had substantial financial and emotional support from his sister and her husband.
An interesting conjecture is that Anna Gomberg’s husband Harry who was a doctor may have influenced and encouraged Hyman to go to medical school. Hyman lived for many of his school years with Eva who was best friends with Anna. Because of this relationship Hyman must have been exposed to Harry’s presence quite frequently. Perhaps he was instrumental in causing Hyman to set his goals so high as to go to medical school which would have been quite ambitious for a young orphan immigrant.
Despite a search, no grade school, high school, or junior college records of Hyman’s days in the Chicago public schools have yet been found.
In June of 1916 Hyman entered the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. In those days only two years of higher education were required before entering medical school. At that time the campus was not at its present location but somewhat to the west between Paulina and Ashland where the present day Rush Presbyterian St. Lukes medical campus stands. The normal program was four years of classroom work and one year of in-hospital experience. However, for reasons not known today, Hyman was admitted as a special student who, it appears, was required to spend six years to get his medical degree. The reason may have been that he graduated from an unaccredited junior college. The only thing we know about his medical student days is that he was a member of the Student Army Training Corps. While his obituary says that he served in the military and received an honorable discharge, Hyman listed himself on the 1930 census as never having served in the military.
On June 5, 1917 Hyman filled out his mandatory World War I draft registration card indicating he was a medical student. On the line asking if he claimed exemption from the draft he specified that he wanted to complete his (medical) training and that he had “heart trouble.”
By January 1, 1920 he was living with the Feldman family at 1549 S. Kedzie just west of Douglas Park. The street is quite rundown now and that precise address is an empty lot. However, at the time it was in an up and coming Jewish district that was, if not fashionable, at least respectable. He most likely rode the streetcar to medical school, as it was a bit far to walk. By this time Max and Eva and their five children had moved somewhat to the north and lived at 2720 Thomas Street, just southeast of Humboldt Park. Jean still had memories of Hyman’s medical instruments lying around her apartment as she was growing up.
In 1921 Hyman and three of his classmates went to the St. Louis City Hospital to do their final year of hospital internship. Most of his classmates went to Chicago area hospitals but, according to his daughter Judy, he was unable to get a position in Chicago because of being Jewish and an immigrant. He formally obtained his medical degree on July 1, 1922 in Chicago but he lived the rest of his life in St. Louis after moving there in 1921.
Not long before Hyman moved to St. Louis his half sister Civia tried to immigrate to Chicago with her three children, Joe, Jennie (named for Civia’s and Hyman’s mother), and Bill. However, for reasons that are now unclear, Civia’s immigration was not permitted and she and the children returned to Paris where they lived for about two years until they were finally able to immigrate on July 22, 1922 to rejoin Jacob who had been in Chicago for nine years. It is known that in about 1918 Civia was living in Bucharest, Romania with the children and there is a picture of her from that time taken with her daughter Jennie. It is not known why she was there but it was wartime and she may have gotten stuck there after fleeing the Ukraine. She was in her very early 30s when the picture was taken and she was strikingly beautiful, unlike her half sister Eva who was quite short, about 5 feet, and pudgy. Jennie died on August 7, 2001 near Los Angeles where she had been living in a nursing home for some time. Joe eventually moved to Detroit and died there in 1990 although his grandchildren still live there. His daughter Renee Weinenger lives in Tucson, Arizona.
After his year of internship Hyman moved to Robert Koch Hospital where he became a resident, chief resident, and then superintendent from 1923 to 1925. Koch Hospital was the municipal tuberculosis sanatorium at that time and was located at an isolated location on the edges of St. Louis. He probably got the position of superintendent only a year out of medical school because no one else wanted the job. However, he turned this position into a launching platform for an impressive medical career. Initially he lived in the housing provided by the hospital for physicians. There is a picture of him in those days standing in front of the very southern looking white board residence building. At some point before he married in 1927 he lived at 3701 Lindell Boulevard.
Tuberculosis was a widespread disease in the 1920s and for several decades thereafter. We cannot imagine today the attention it received in the press, from political office holders, and from the medical community. Although Hyman represented himself as an internist he specialized early in diseases of the lung, especially tuberculosis, and that brought him to local and, ultimately, national prominence as a chest physician. In 1925 he became Tuberculosis Controller of St. Louis but resigned after one year due to political infighting involving health matters among the Democrats and Republicans on the city council.
In 1932 Hyman again was appointed Tuberculosis Controller of St. Louis, a position he retained until he was appointed Assistant Health Commissioner of St. Louis on June 15, 1934. He was also chief of the medical section of the St. Louis Health Department. He retained these positions until 1943. During the period from 1934 to 1943 Hyman was a well-known public figure and was mentioned in over 55 articles in the St. Louis newspapers. His wife Charlotte clipped these articles and put them into a scrapbook. The originals still exist. They show how tirelessly he worked to improve hospital conditions and hospital availability for the poor and, especially, the blacks who were in those days forced to use a separate hospital. They also show that the newspapers often sought him out on medical matters involving lung diseases.
In addition to his public duties, Hyman ran a private medical practice, which he started about 1926, and about 1928 he became affiliated with the medical school of St. Louis University. He rose to Associate Professor of Internal Medicine in 1944 and was chief of the Chest Division. He was a prolific writer and published over 30 papers between 1935 and 1945, half of them on diseases other than tuberculosis. Moreover, he devoted time to the American College of Chest Physicians holding the office of Regent from 1945 until he died and serving as chairman of the Board of Examiners. He was vice president of the St. Louis Tuberculosis Society and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Tuberculosis Association. He also served on many committees of the organizations to which he belonged.
Hyman was Chairman of the Committee of Industrial Health for the Missouri State Medical Association from 1944 until 1946 and was instrumental in formulating a comprehensive program for safeguarding the health of industrial workers. Hyman considered this to be one of his finest pieces of work.
Hyman also kept in close contact with his family in Chicago, certainly his mother’s Gerber family and probably his Spector family. One of Anna Gomberg’s daughers remembers that there was something of a falling out with the Feldman/Gomberg family so Hyman may not have stayed in touch with them. He traveled to Chicago, sometimes with his wife, to visit with them and they traveled to St. Louis to visit him. Eva’s daughter Jean remembered the trips she took to St. Louis. So did Bill Gerber, Civia’s youngest son. Anna Feldman Gomberg’s two children May and Betty in 2001 still remembered the trip they took with their mother in about 1924-1926 to visit Hyman. Betty remembers him as being very kind and sweet to her during the visit (she was about seven years old) and that he lived in a house with a maid (likely provided by the hospital). We know he visited his cousin Dora Spector Koob in about 1935 when she was dying in the hospital in Chicago. We also know that when Hyman’s half sister Civia was in the hospital dying of cancer in August 1941 Hyman went to Chicago to be her attending physician and to do what he could for her.
Years later, Hyman’s niece Mildred Braus (a daughter of Eva and Max Silverman) named her son Harvey after Hyman. In addition, Renee Weinenger, the daughter of Hyman’s nephew Joseph Gerber, named her younger son Harold after Hyman. On March 13, 2005 Hyman’s great granddaughter, Tenley Hope Tuschman who is the daughter of Jennifer Spector Tuschman (Richard Spector’s third daughter), was named Chaya after both Hyman and Jennifer’s husband’s maternal grandfather.
On August 9, 1937 Hyman left for a month’s trip to Europe. The reason for the trip is not clear although he visited with many doctors on the trip and went to a number of hospitals and laboratories. Yet he also did an extensive amount of sightseeing. Charlotte could not go because she was pregnant with Richard. A copy of Hyman’s diary in his own hand still exists. He sailed from New York on the Queen Mary (“Marie”) and shared a cabin with two others. In an unintentionally amusing comment he writes “as compared with 30 years ago ocean travel has certainly changed.” He was, of course, referring to his immigration to American 30 years earlier on the Saratow at age 13, undoubtedly traveling in steerage! The comment does strongly suggest that his 1937 trip was his first trip back to Europe since he came to America in 1907. He stayed at the Park Lane Hotel in London but did not care for it. He complained about the high prices and the “rotten” coffee. While in London he went to Windsor Castle, the “London Art Gallery,” and the Tower of London, which was his favorite. He complained about the lack of nightlife. He took the cross channel ferry from Dover to Ostend and then went by train to Germany. Seeing all the uniformed soldiers in Germany he wrote that “one gets the impression that we are in a militaristic country.” He spent the night in a German hotel and wrote that he “felt unsafe in this Hotel—was unable to sleep whole night.” On the train trip to Vienna he again commented on seeing German soldiers in uniforms of all descriptions everywhere. In Vienna he saw Schoenbrunn Castle which he liked better than Versailles which he visited later on the trip.
He heard from a doctor in Vienna that the Jewish professors were being let go and he wondered if it was the “Hitler influence.” In Venice he complained about the mosquitoes and smell but enjoyed the works of Titian and Tintoretto. He also went to the beach at the Lido. He went on to Florence and admired the statues of Michelangelo and Titian. In Genoa he especially liked the cemetery since “people of all religions are buried in the same cemetery.” He noted that “the Tower of Pisa …is crooked.” Was he expressing droll humor or making an unintentionally humorous comment? His daughter said he had no sense of humor and it is unlikely to be a droll comment. Her view accords with the memories of Hyman that other people had. He did a tour of the nightclubs in Paris but complained that they were no better than the ones in Chicago or New York. He set sail for America on September 9, 1937 on the Vulcania from Lisbon, Portugal and noted that on the ship he met an opera star from La Scala. He docked in New York on September 16, 1937. He carried Passport No. 463209 issued at Washington, D.C. on July 10, 1937; exactly 28 years to the day before his grandchild Jacquie Spector would be would born.
All those in St. Louis, California, and Chicago who remember Hyman describe him as a sweet, soft, gentle, kind man, serious and quiet. He loved to read and greatly loved the opera and almost never used a swear word. He had an accent (Yiddish being his native tongue) and it bothered him that he couldn’t pronounce certain words correctly. His daughter described him as “urgent,” meaning he was driven to get on with making a success of his career and his life. She says that only once did she ever see him burst out in laughter. It happened when a pony she was riding stopped dead in its tracks and decided to urinate. Charlotte called him “the kindest man who ever lived.” Charlotte told the story of how he once went to attend an ill, poor woman at her home who had to be sent to the hospital. Hyman babysat with her children until her husband could get home from work. Many stories tell of his gentle, kind way with his family and his patients. Typical of Hyman is what he did in 1946 when he knew he was dying. He had a trip to San Francisco scheduled where he was to deliver a paper at a medical convention. Despite the fact that he was ill and knew he was dying he went to California early, taking his son Gene with him, and went to Venice, near Los Angeles, so they could visit with his nephew Bill who had moved there a few years before.
He collapsed in San Francisco and was taken to the hospital. Charlotte came out to be with him. He wished to die at home so, accompanied by his son Gene and his wife, Hyman boarded the train for St. Louis. On July 6, 1946 he died of myocarditis aboard the Union Pacific train in Laramie, Wyoming. He was buried in New Mount Sinai Cemetery in St. Louis on July 10, 1946. In remembrance his name has been placed on the Ellis Island Wall of Honor on plaque 565.
Thirty-one years later Charlotte in describing his funeral said, “The most ardent, the most devout mourners, the people who cried the most were the raggedy, the poor, the deformed, the sick who came from his clinics and wept. They had lost a friend.”
How did this frightened but determined little orphan from the shtetl of Pavoloch rise to become an eminent leader of his profession and such a respected, kind, and gracious man? How did he defeat innumerable obstacles to accomplish what he could have only dreamed of as a little boy? Indeed, how did he even form the dreams that drove him all his life? And, finally, how are all the intertwining Pavoloch families related? These are the most interesting questions, but sadly we will never know the answers.