Written by Moe Baskand
As I at last begin writing a history of our family, my greatest regret is that my sister Rose is not alive. She would have given me much information of an interesting nature that I only possess slightly.
Our family came from what is now either Poland or Lithuania. We are classed however as Litvoks. My fathers family lived in a village called Ilya. If you can find a large map of Russia or Poland you might spot it. I once saw it on a map, but I don’t recall what book. It is somewhat south of the larger city of Vilna.
My father, born about 1861 was the second oldest of a family of six boys and one girl. The oldest was Chai Mendel, although in my cousin Joseph Baskind’s book he calls him Menachim Mendel. Next was my father, Avrum Pesach, then David “Cooperstock,” followed by Hirschl, Itche, Rivka (who became an Arian) and Shmeul. In Russia the eldest son was exempt from army duty so somehow David was made the eldest son of a Cooperstock family. They were the only family that never came over, although some of the children came here, and some landed in Israel.
How they all made a living before coming to America, I can’t tell you. Their parents names were Berel and Rashi. Their father died rather young, and they were all out on their own when youngsters. Their mother died about 1904 or 1905, and I believe at the time, only my Aunt Rivka was living in Europe.
How well I remember the peculiar custom prevailing then that when a letter came from Europe announcing the death of a parent or close relative, the news was kept from the immediate family member. Sometimes, for a year. It would seem that this would have an effect on saying kaddish, and why a death was kept secret, I don’t know.
Chai Mendel who landed and stayed in New York was a shammes and part reverend. He was the father of Joseph, a prominent member and General Secretary of the ARBEITER RING, the national Jewish Labor organization. His other children were Louie, who has some children living in Miami Beach. Tillie Broida, who lived in Pittsburgh for awhile, and then moved to New York, and Fannie, who also lived in New York. The other son who stayed in New York was Uncle Schmuel. The was the father of Rose Somberg, now living in Cleveland.
I believe Uncle Hirshel, the father of Dinah Slavin, Minnie Baskind, Beckie Minister, Rose Kohl, and Manny was the first to arrive in the United States. His wife, Tante Sarita, was distantly related to the Brudno family of Cleveland and perhaps that is why they came to Cleveland. The Brudno’s already had a large stogie factory in Cleveland. I remember it on lower Broadway. It must have been five or six stories high. When Uncle Hirschel came to Cleveland, he immediately went to work for the Brudno’s. My Aunt Sarita was very proud of her ancestor, Menasseh of Ilya, who is mentioned in the Encyclopedia Britanica as one of the five famous pupils of the Vilna Gaon. That is why there are so many Emanuel’s in their family.
Tante Rivka married an Arian who was either a first or second cousin to the Baskind’s. They were the last of my fathers family to come over and consisted of Ida Newmeyer, George who lived in California, Rose, now with the Blonder company and retired. Harry a druggist who passed away early in life, and Ben, the only one born in this country Ben passed away in 1973. The reason they came later was due to the inability of my Uncle Isaac Arion to enter this country on his first attempt. How well I remember his efforts, only to be turned away at Ellis Island in New York because of weak eyes. I don’t remember how many times he tried but finally made it.
My Uncle Itche came over as a single man, and then brought over his future wife Sarah. I vaguely remember their wedding, although Minnie Baskind says she remembers it well. I think it about 1901 or 1902. They had four sons and one daughter. All the sons became the famous druggists of Cleveland. Harry, the oldest became the first Jewish Chairman of the State Pharmacy Board in Ohio. Perhaps the first Jew in that capacity of any state. Harry died in 1975. Next was Jack, now retired, who recently celebrated his 75th birthday. Then came Al and David, who passed away early in life, and last, the only girl Florence. Of course all of these cousins of mine have numerous children. There were many other cousins from Uncle Schmuel’s family as well.
Now some information of my mother’s family. She was born about 1863. They were not poor as my fathers. Her father and mother, Beritche and Pia, lived in Kablonka, a small village not too far from Ilya. My grandfather inherited the rights to the lease of a grain mill plus some small acreage of land. I call it rights because they were not allowed to own any land. However their ancestors received that right from the Poretz or Count who owned the land for many miles around.
My mother had an older sister Shana who married a specter and had one son, Abe. None of Abe’s children survive today. Other children of Shana are Dinah Kline, who had several children. Gute Friedland, who had Dorothy and other daughters and sons whom I don’t remember.
A younger brother of my mother Moshe Hirschel Alpert had to leave a daughter in Europe because of illness. Another daughter was Freda Rubenstein who lived in Denver and passed away in 1976. Freda had a son and a daughter. Her daughter lives in Denver and is called Mrs. Mosco. Abe, a son of Moshe Hirschel was a druggist, now passed away. How many children, I don’t know.
I’m not sure how my parents met. But in the usual manner of those days, my grandfather Alpert could afford son in laws, and got them. How my father received an education as all young men did in those days is best described in Maurice Samuels “World of Sholem Aleichem”. My father, poor as many young men of his generation, was able to continue his religious education and still eat by getting food from the villagers and in a different home everyday. Sometimes they slept with some villagers but most often slept in the synagogue on hard chairs. Uncle Itche tells the best story of those days. He was sleeping in a villagers home in the same bed as their son. One night a big thunderstorm came on and the father came into the bedroom and took his son to his own bedroom. My Uncle said he never felt so much an orphan as he did then. Harry Blonder was also an orphan and had many stories to tell of his “Yeshiva Bochers” days. I do not remember them, but I do remember telling that many a day he only had a piece of herring and stale bread to eat all day. My father must have continued like that until he was almost 21. At that time around 1882, he married my mother and received two years of Kest or board. In other words, two free years of living in my grandfather’s house. All he had to do was study Talmud. I know that later he became a Hebrew Teacher, or Melamed in Vilna and other towns. I also know that my mother had her children in various places, either Ilya or Kablonka. I was born in Kablonka.
My father left for this country in 1895, four months after my birth. Until we emigrated we lived in both Ilya and Kablonka. Believe it or not I can remember both places, even though I was just four and one half when we came to America. I remember Rose, my sister, not believing that I could, and was astonished when I described where we lived in Ilya. She thought I remembered by listening to family talk, but only my own memory could help me describe the area. It was a very small village, and we lived on top of a hill running off the main street. To this day, I recall a parade or as I know now a religious procession going through the streets below us. During those processions the Jews kept indoors. Our street ran into a lake or river, and my sister Ann Blonder almost drowned in that body of water. It is indelibly on my mind how she was brought back into the house, on her feet and alive. She seemed to me then as a heroine. I can describe Kablonka as if I were there yesterday. Between our house and the mill was a little bridge over a small stream. I can recall getting caught going from the mill to the house bare footed, and the little bridge full of bugs. I also recall when a large cow was sitting in front of the house and I had to yell for someone to get me past this frightening animal. Both incidents are forever inscribed in my memory. There is also the story of the drunken horse. When I told my Uncle Moshe Herschl about it years later he said it was possible that the horse could have eaten some fermented vegetables that made it drunk. Since I can remember these stories from both Ilya and Kablonka we must have spent our time divided between these two villages.
My father tarried only a short while in New York, going on to Cleveland and to work at the Brudnos as a cigar packer. He was making six to eight dollars a week and was able to send for Abe. Abe was Bar Mitzvah’d in Cleveland before the rest of us came, so he must have been not quite 12 when he came over. After two years the rest of us came. In those days everyone had to travel on a false passport, or steal over the border through graft. By this time, we were affluent (in a way) and we came on a false passport. An additional problem was that if you had boys in the family eligible for army duty in the future, Russia wouldn’t allow you to get out. But we did: my mother, Rose, Ann, Harry and me.
I remember the trip over, going through the Kiel Canal, staying over in Liverpool England for several days, and then landing in Canada. In leaving Russia, I remember being blessed by the Rabbi. I also remember Rose and Ann constantly reminding me that my name was Lazar, which appeared on the false passport. In case I was asked I had to forget my real name. I was then four and one half years old, Harry was about six, Ann close to nine, and Rose about 11 or 12.
After starting to read “World of our Fathers” I thought I ought to give you more detail about our emigration and early years in Cleveland. My father and Abe stole over the border. Mother and the rest of us came as noted on false passport. I know we went through Germany and then to England. We stayed in England and Liverpool for more than a week. Why I can’t tell you. We were in Steerage, of course. I remember the bunks we slept in. Being so young I can’t remember the stink it must have been. But I do remember a rumor that we would be vaccinated. I was scared and remember that I got on the bunk and covered myself so that they couldn’t find me. That episode sticks in my mind and also the passengers constantly standing at the rail and a big wave would come overboard and everybody scattered. My father considered himself as wealthy and he avoided us gong to Ellis Island and we came through Canada. I think we went up the St. Lawrence River and entered the United States at Buffalo. It still strikes in my mind that on the train from Buffalo to Cleveland, we ate our first Banana.
Father was working at Brudnos’ packing cigars or stogies as they were called, and making about $8 a week. I believe Abe worked there also, but made less money. And between these two (by not going to Miami for the winter) saved enough to bring the rest of us over. The first place we lived was on Perry Street (now 22nd Street) just west of Grange Avenue. We had a lady boarded to help with expenses. We didn’t live there very long and moved to a house on Orange Ave. about two blocks closer to town from Perry Street. I don’t believe Rose or Abe went to school then, but I believe Ann did for one year. Rather than go to school they began working, but where it was I don’t recall. Harry and I the two youngest went to Harmon school, corner of Woodland and 18th or 19th. I wonder if it is still standing? I’m sure the houses we lived in are no longer there.
One thing I remember from the era is the assassination of President McKinley. The extras in the newspapers being shouted on the streets, the peddlers selling McKinley buttons with black ribbons. I believe he died on late Friday night or Saturday morning. I remember walking downtown on Saturday afternoon with the family and watching the newspapers being printed announcing the particulars of his death. Of course there was no radio or television, so whenever anything important happened the papers printed ‘extra’ editions.
About 1902 or 1903 we moved to Henry Street, now 25th Street. The house was near Scovill across from the then Scovill avenue Temple, now Euclid Ave. Temple. The lot had a house in front and one in the rear. Also a barn above which was a large room, that my father converted to a stogie or tobacco factory. This was his first venture in his own business.
The cuttings remaining from the stogies were converted into raw chewing tobacco and packed into bags. Although most chewing tobacco was flavored, this was not. The foreigners working in the mills used this raw tobacco for chewing and also smoked it in their pipes. So my father bough a horse and wagon and peddled his merchandise to saloons all over Cleveland. Later Abe took over that part of the business. All of the family, including my Mother, worked in the tobacco factory. We even had a maid, a Jewish one at that, so that my mother could spend time on the job. During the summer months Harry and I worked there, and later on after school as well.
Since Rose and Ann were not going to school they had a student teacher, who bicycled over in the evenings. He later became a famous judge, Judge Levine. I believe he was a US Circuit Court Judge before he passed away. That was still on Orange Street. When we moved to Henry Street, Harry and I attended Marion School, around 24th and Marion, from which we both graduated. Harry in 1908 and I in 1909.
At that time, the Hirschel and Sarita Baskinds lived on Scovill between 25th and 26th. I believe the Itche Baskinds lived on 33rd street. It was during this period that Uncle Isaac Arion finally brought his family over. Meanwhile, my mother’s brother, Moishe Hirschel came back from Europe on his second trip, and brought with him my maternal grandmother whose husband had passed away. She was near 70 – very squat and heavy.
Here I must tell you how immigrants came from New York. They were put on trains for immigrants only and we in the interior would get a wire from Ellis Island telling when they would arrive. As trains still do today, they generally arrived late, scheduled or not. I remember when Uncle Isaac came we must have gone to the train station three or four times by street car. The train finally arrived a day or two late! However, when Uncle Moishe Hirshel came with Grandma, this being his second trip, he wasn’t afforded the luxury of a welcoming crowd. I can still see him and grandma now getting off the streetcar themselves, loaded down with heavy baggage.
There is an amusing story of my grandmother on her first morning in our house. She was busying herself when the mailman knocked on the door. She answered it and became speaking Polish to him. Upon being told that the mailman couldn’t understand Polish she was surprised and said “But he’s a Goy, isn’t he?” Where she came from, all Gentiles spoke Polish.
My grandmother also had trouble getting accustomed to the wealth in America. Not only heavy of foot, but with poor eyesight, she constantly tripped over the carpets. Although we didn’t have wall to wall then, neither did we have rugs in Europe.
I think the Spectors came shortly after we did. My Uncle Spector became a peddler of notions. He knocked on doors with his stock in a basket, consisting of collar buttons, safety pins, matches, etc. One day when he returned we asked him now business was, and he said he didn’t do too well, since he didn’t have the right merchandise. What was he missing we asked? He replied that if he only had an item called ‘not today’ he would have had a big day. A real wit.
It was in this period that the depression of 1907 occurred. I remember fairly well dressed men knocking on the door, and asking for a meal. There were no questions asked as to why. One knew and gave.
It was at this time my father became ambitious and opened a cigar store on Ontario Street, somewhere between sixth and ninth streets. The factory was in the rear. One of the brands we sold was called Baskinola. My father ran the factory and Abe was out with the horse and wagon, peddling direct to the saloons. After awhile, with the store doing poorly, further misfortune occurred when a fired burned the building down. To add to that, it was not fully covered by insurance. Back went the factory to the room above the barn on 25th street. You’ll recall I mentioned a second house on the lot on 26th street. This house was occupied by the Friedland family and that is how Gute met one of the brothers and was married to him. How can I ever forget that wedding? It must have occurred about 1903 or 1904 and in the manner of the time, a carriage was sent for our family. It took us to Tevtonia Hall, which was on Scovill Avenue at 30th or 33rd street. Some class, I thought.
In addition to attending public school, Harry and I received our Hebrew education as well. My father felt that there wasn’t any Hebrew school good enough and so we were given private lessons by a Mr. Siegel. In the summer, we would go to his Cheder with the rest of his pupils. One day, Harry and I were playing ball on the street and forgot to go to Cheder. But the teacher, the melamed was not going to allow us to miss a lesson that easily. He came to our house after Cheder to give us a catch up lesson. I shall never forget the licking my father gave us. He used a rope and a belt in order to impress us not to miss a lesson. He impressed our backsides, but not our minds. Both Harry and I had a negative reaction and when we got old enough we skipped the lessons altogether. My fathers idea of discipline in order to make good Orthodox Jews out of Harry and me was to say the least oppressive. We were never allowed to play on the street. He thought that only bums did that. Whenever he went downtown on business we of course played on the street and we could watch the street cars on Scovill as we lived only four or five houses from the corner. If we saw a street car stop and he coming off it we would run back to the yard. How often we stayed in the yard when he was home, looking out on the street, watching the other boys play ball. I don’t think it worked too well. We went to services every Friday night and Saturday morning. I did enjoy Saturday mornings because at Torah reading time we went out with the other boys and discussed athletics of all kinds. But we had to miss high school football games played often on Saturday Mornings. As soon as we quit high school, all that discipline and training went down the drain.
About this time, we acquired our first telephone. Those days they were attached to the wall. Seventy five years later, wall attached phones are considered new and up to date!! We were one of the first, chiefly because we were in business. When we moved into the house, it was lit with kerosene lamps. The toilet was in a little shack in the backyard called a privy. In due time, they dug up the street in front and installed gas lines. Inside the house, we used a gas jet and later when we got affluent, a gas mantle. Our heating was done by coal stoves and alter with gas in stoves and the fireplace. Bathing was done in large wash tubs in the house or in the many public bath houses, usually before a Holy day or on the Friday before the Sabbath.
Also our house of 57th street was the first that had an inside toilet and bathtub. My father planted on the side yard on Henry street, sunflowers and corn. On 57th street we had a flock of chickens. My father never passed a yard with chickens that he didn’t stop and watch them. Until we got to 57th street, my mother shopped for fruits and vegetables at the farmers market which in those days was on Woodland street, from 14th to 22nd street. We had a dog on Perry Street, and I remember we gave him to one of the farmers at the market, and I remember we gave him to one of the farmers at the market and that the dog would come in town on market day, visit us, and then go back to the farmer. My mother somehow got an old baby buggy and went to market every Thursday and came back loaded with fruits and vegetables. But of course the older folks always talked about how much better they tasted in the old county. It must have been so since they ate them just as they got them off the trees and out of the ground.
Contrary to what happened in a lot of Jewish families in the Shetlach, my mother was not a breadwinner. My father was a dominant person, and ruled the roost. He was very argumentative and did have a good knowledge of the Talmud. He always lead the discussions on a blat (page) gemorrah in whatever synagogue he attended. He was always the shofar blower too. My most painful experience was one Rosh Hashonah when he was in his 60s. His breath was so shortened that the vice president had to take the shofar out of his hands and finish the job.
My mother was not the typical Jewish mother as portrayed in so many Jewish Novels. She was very docile letting my father be boss. And she was a good hearted woman, also very pessimistic. Her favorite express as I remember was “Oy vey is mir”. She constantly worried about everything and everybody. She stayed up nights worrying about her nieces getting married. She and her sister were the cleanest housekeepers you could find. One of our landlords said he might not renew our lease because my mother scrubbed the back stairs too often, and he was afraid she’d wear them down.
The story of Harry Blonder, whose life affected so many of ours, begins during the depression of 1907. He was working at that at time in a rubber factory in Woonsocket, Rhode Island but due to the economic conditions of the time, he was laid off. He was a first or second cousin to my father and had already met all of us in New York. He decided therefore to follow us to Cleveland and try his luck there with a supply of gas mantles he had shipped in from a friend in Woonsocket.
I will never forget that one evening when about 5 o’clock Harry Blonder came to our house. Brother Harry and I were studying our Hebrew lessons while waiting for the Rebbe to come. Cousin Harry, wanting to show my mother how much he knew, sat down with us for a little coaching. As any young students would react, we didn’t exactly appreciate it. That was the first of many lessons he taught me, although those later in life were much more valuable, and appreciated.
Anyhow, after a few days of his arrival, the gas mantles came and we got Harry is first sale at the house next door. We all watched nervously through the window as Harry made the installation. It was a tricky operation as you generally first put a match to the mantle to burn off the coating. Then you lit it, sometimes putting the gas on before the coating was completely burnt off. We looked in amazement as three mantles went up in smoke. A disaster. Of course, Harry would have to take the loss and we all felt rather blue as there would be no profit on this sale. After the third explosion, Harry dejectedly came back to the house. We all sat down and tried to figure out what had happened. Finally, we discovered upon reading the instructions, that the mantles were made for artificial gas only while in Cleveland we had natural gas. Harry there upon returned his gas mantles and ventured into another industry. Repairing foot rubbers. He set up a table in our shop, and went to work. Again, chaos. As a 25 cents charge per pair he soon exhausted his potential and ran out of customers. Anyhow the summer months were approaching and the foot rubber season was rather short.
And so Harry got into another line of work and the third time was a charm. Our Uncle Isaac was a paperhanger, a natural vocation for bookbinders, which he was in Europe. He already had taught his trade to one of his nephews, Louis Arian and since Harry was an unemployed gas mantle installer and foot rubber repairer, Uncle Isaac took him in as an apprentice. Harry was a natural and in no time he was a full fledged paperhanger working out of a downtown decorators office. This was the beginning of what eventually became the overwhelming success of the Blonder name in the wallpaper business in this country. The Blonder boys will have to fill out the details of the years in between.
About 1908 my father bought the house and barn on 57th between Quincy and Central. If I remember the address it was 2357, near Central. The big barn in back was remodeled as a two story factory. We had about fifteen or twenty employees making stogies and Abe continued on that route with the horse and wagon selling tobacco. Harry and I continued in Marion School, Harry only needing a few months to graduate and I needed one year. We would graduate public school in those days after the eighth grade. One of the events I remember was about April or May 1909. Running back to school after lunch a tornado blew up. I remember stopping in a confectionary store at 46th and central to wait out the storm. I watched a building cave in across the street. When the storm abated I continued to school which was at 24th street and when I got there my father was waiting for me. You see, he got on a street car and came to school. Our teacher then gave a lecture on how parents love and care for their children. My father was worried about how I got to school through that storm.
Harry was by that time in Central High School on 55th Street between Central and Cedar. I entered in the fall of 1909.
After school and in the summer we worked in the factory. Harry, I think was making stogies as was Ann. Rose was a packer and I helped my father spread the tobacco to dry. Tobacco first came in bunches. Then we soaked it in water after which it was stripped, that is the stem was removed. Then it was dried on screens. Not too dry or it would be ruined. Just supple so that we could make bunches, and then it was rolled in a wrapper of tobacco. We thought we were rich but now I know it was almost impossible to make money because we were only contractors, not selling our merchandise direct but to wholesale distributors.
During this period Rose was being put on the ‘market’ as all decent girls were. There were marriage brokers constantly bringing out prospects. That is the way all good girls got married. But Ann was a rebel especially since Harry Blonder started courting her. Of course, it was a breech of custom to court the younger sister but those two were the first ones I know to press the generation gap. But fortunately for all concerned Izzy Levinson was visiting his sister Mrs. Appelbaum. Harry and I attended services every Saturday with our father on 37th Street at the ‘Polish Shul’ as it was known, and now the Park Synagogue. And then one Saturday Izzy was with his brother in law, Mr. Appelbaum, who sat next to my father and one word led to another. Izzy and Rose were married about January, 1910 in the Globe Hall on Woodland near 55th. Ann and Harry were married the following July in an outdoor wedding in our yard on 57th. The custom was preserved!
Previous to the girls getting married, or around the 1907 depression, Joseph Baskin (I don’t know why, but the New York Baskin’s spelled theirs without the D) our cousin came on to Cleveland looking for a job. He left his wife in New York, with whom he had just recently come over. He was an electrical engineer with a degree from a French University, but that didn’t do him much good. After working as one for awhile, he landed a job as a motorman on a street car, through the influence of one of the Brudno’s who was an assistant city solicitor. later, he got a job at Weestinghouse in Pittsburgh. It was at this time that his wife ran off with another man, and he came back to Cleveland to Ann and Harry’s wedding. I remember my father admonishing him that he shouldn’t care about his wife leaving him, because he was a socialist and evidently believed in free love. Later, he returned to New York, becoming the General Secretary of the “Arbeiter Ring”, a Jewish Labor fraternal organization. He became so prominent that he was one of the eulogizers at Abe Cahan’s funeral, the editor of the ‘Daily Forward’.
It was shortly after, that the fortunes of my father deteriorated. The factory was given up and my father opened a series of grocery stores. The first one was on 53th street at south of Woodland. I don’t remember the exact sequence of events after that. Abe had gone to Chicago, to seek work and there met Lena Shapiro who was visiting a sister, and Abe then moved to Pittsburgh and married Lena. Harry quit High School and went to work in a cigar store. I stayed on by buying a newspaper route, later worked as a cash boy Saturday night at the Bailey company. Department stores were open till ten o’clock Saturday night. I worked from six to ten PM for 50 cents. A cash boys duty was to take the sales slip from the salesman to the cashier and bring the change back to the salesman. Later I got a job with Keith’s Hippodrome Theater as an usher. This was all done after school and affecting negatively my class work where I was one of the best students in my various rooms.
We owned our house on 57th street, but after giving up the factory we lived in various parts of Scovill avenue. Abe, Rose, and Ann married while we lived there. It was on 57th street that my maternal grandma became a victim of civilization. The whole family was invited to a latke party at Rose’s house on the West side. They had opened a jewelry store on west 25th near Clark. In those days you had to be real rich to buy and icebox, and it being winter Rose kept the butter on a shelf going down the cellar steps. Somehow my grandmother went after the butter and fell down the steps. She was brought home in an ambulance and never really recovered although she lived several years after that. She also became sort of famous in Cleveland, having Dr. Grile remove a tumor from her stomach about the size of a melon and she being over seventy then.. She died at the age of 74 or thereabouts and is buried in a cemetery off Lansing Road, if I remember correctly. I was not in Cleveland at the time of her death. Where was I? I shall tell you as I go along. As noted, in order to stay in high school, we had to do a lot of work, after school hours. Harry finally quit going to work and then went back to finish high school and went on to dental school. As I noted my grades deteriorated and I couldn’t take the pressure so I left school and went to work. My first real job was as a timekeeper in the Cleveland Cliffs iron Works, but one day, disappointed because I couldn’t graduate high school with my class and classmates, I left home or rather ran away from home and went to Toledo. I didn’t tell my family where I had gone until several weeks later, when I got a job as a new butcher on the Ann Arbor Rail Road. You wouldn’t believe how I lost my job there. At that time, the famous picture “September Morn” was painted showing a nude girl in a stream but in such a way that most of her nudity was covered up. A man got on the train one day, came up to my trunk where my merchandise was displayed. He bought one of the “September Morn” postcards, and immediately disclosed he was a vice-president of the Rail Road and made me close up my shop. When we returned to Toledo, I was ordered to stay away from that job. So I became a waiter in the Union Depot restaurant of Toledo. Soon I returned to Cleveland. Through one of my friends Sid Amster, I got a job at the Coca Cola Company in the office. It was then in 1917 that I was drafted in the army. I left for the army the day after Rosh Hashanah being among the first to be drafted. My numbers at Jai Lai, or the horse races don’t come up, but it was one of the first for World War I.
My father at this time had a grocery on 53rd street south of Woodland.
I stayed in the army until February 1919. I luckily came home from France. I may get a chance to tell you more about it later. But during my service my father gave up his grocery due to illness. He smoked a lot and boy did he cough. You could hear him blocks away. The doctors diagnosed it a s asthma and he was told to go to California. My mother when she returned from California told how disappointed she was . Looking out the window as the train was approaching Los Angeles in bright sunshine in Winter she noticed a cemetery and commented to herself “My God, they die here too”.
It was at this time that Harry Blonder together with Nathan Milner bought out a wallpaper store. My brother Harry was their first bookkeeper. He was going to dental school then. Since Harry was a dental student he was exempt from army duty. I didn’t like army life at all particularly that I was in the infantry and drilled all day. It sure got monotonous. And one day I heard a rumor from boys just coming to Camp Sherman in Chillicothe where I was, that in the train depot they saw dental and medical students from Western Reserve going to the Army. I was really worried for Harry and was beside myself. I was so upset that Harry would have to be in the army, but it was only a rumor. One of my most disturbing moments was when we were in high school and Harry went with his club to Canton for a debate. Sunday evening came and Harry wasn’t home. The whole family slept but I couldn’t fall asleep until Harry came home after midnight. That could only happen when we were young. In later life you are far apart.
My story now ends during the first world war. With all the Baskind brothers and sisters married with the exception of myself, the next decade brings the birth of many families that began with Avrum Baskind, and his wife. It is now up to you, dear readers, to continue with you own branches. I am merely one link of a family that began thousands of years before Christ was born, but whose specific written history begins in the middle of the 19th century. If you carry it on, who knows, some day we might be on television in the 21st century as another “Roots.”