# 4 …My Father’s Family

April 17, 2016

 

I never had a conversation with my dad about how he felt about being the oldest son in a Jewish family and going outside his religion to marry.

I believe my father would have felt that was a stupid question because he didn’t analyze life decisions… at least not for me.   He did what he felt and wasn’t a second guesser.. But, I do believe my father saw himself as a new breed of American who would not be bound by religious  rules or prejudices of the past.

I know via my mother that my father’s only sister Rachel  ( third oldest of five )  told her that as oldest brother, my dad was very protective of his prerogatives  and possessions and that he would know if one of his brothers had so much as opened his clothing drawers.  And, I know from personal experience that my uncles Sol, Lawrence and Milton respected and only had warm feelings for him which he reciprocated..

When my fathers’s family moved north from the lower East Side to St Anns Avenue in the South Bronx, my father ran with a bunch of street kids who were not necessarily Jewish and the photos we have confirm him posing with a pretty diverse group.

My fathers father Samuel was always in his own business or  involved in something where he could delineate and be rewarded for his  specific contributions.  My father only graduated from grammar school,  but was tough minded, gifted with memory  and was able to calculate numbers in a very unorthodox, but logical way,  He  had a gunslinger mentality when it came to taking risk.  He never felt limited by any circumstance and always believed he could find  a way, especially if it involved an  interpersonal solution.  Looking back, I can see that he was the prototype of what people would later describe as being a grass roots capitalist.  He was comfortable in his skin and could converse with anyone on any level.

I now recall that my mother and father did not meet on the Westchester Avenue elevated train, but they traveled together to work every morning, she at Metropolitan Life and he for some bank.  Now I recall that they met via a blind date set up by one of my mother’s girlfriends.  She gave him an impressive buildup which included the fact that he dated mostly Broadway showgirls and was very generous including taking his dates  home in a ” heated taxi “.

My father was always a very good dresser and not a department store shopper. He was friendly with tailors who would hand make his clothes and he knew style. Not traditional, not preppy…more like a taller version of George Raft with a face to match.  In his prosperous fifties, he would think nothing of walking the length of 3rd Avenue looking for a particular style of soup tureen.  I got my love of decorating from him and my mom who would change drapes, slipcovers, and rugs every Spring and Fall..  He owned  a series of Cadillacs and continuously tried to sell my mom on the idea that they should get a new car to ” keep up their investment”.  Good try dad.  But, my mother never called him on it because she was his biggest booster, always ingraining in me and my sister that he was expending work energy  for us at a level no one had a right to expect and he deserved anything he wanted..

 

flaper and mom and dad0001

 

 

Back to their courtship.  After a couple of dates he ” confessed ” to her that he was Jewish and so she probably wouldn’t want to continue with him. But I think by  that time my mother knew he was a ” keeper” because her reply was. Why ?…. Jesus was a Jew. End of story. My grandmother Tenety reinforced this by telling my mother that  Jewish men make the best husbands.

And,… he was interested in clothes for me too. .  Always leather leggings, always an overcoat and a cap. Always an Easter outfit.  If possible, not retail..but .from a manufacturer in the 23rd Street area.  On Sundays, we would take a trolley from the German / Irish end of   East Tremont Avenue  to 176th Street where it was about to become West Tremont Avenue….just the other side of The Grand Concourse.  The Grand Concourse was the Bronx version of Park Avenue , Manhatten.and was mostly apartment houses inhabited by  prosperous Jewish families who couldn’t yet afford the real deal…Park Avenue, NYC between 46th Street and  86th Street.  But, the Concourse was probably the nicest apartment house address ( with Riverdale ) in the Bronx.  My grandparents lived on a park, just off the Concourse.

My grandparents lived in the same building with my Aunt Rae and her husband Lew Brenner. At that time they had only one child, my cousin Sandra whom I always looked forward to visiting because she was fun to be with and a smarty pants.  We would play on the wide stairs and take the elevator between her apartment on the 5th floor and my grandparent’s apartment on the 3rd floor.  She was at the epicenter of Goro life and navigated it with a smile always on her face.

My Grandfather was a dignified gentlemen who referred to me as his little Cossack ( which makes me think they really were born in the Ukraine…Odessa…and not Russia.)  My grandmother would always lift me and bite my face on both cheeks and always had a butterscotch pudding waiting for discovery by me in her refrigerator.

My Uncle Sol and Ann and their children , the twins, Jay and Joan would also visit my grandparents on weekends and very likely Milton would show up with his girlfriend Ethel and Larry with his girlfriend, Lilly.  This was a family that valued the concept of family and clearly enjoyed being together. After me ,Sandra, Jay and Joan Garrow  came a second, much younger , wave of children which included Stuart Brenner, my sister Lilibeth Gore , Sheila Garrow, Marlene and Jeffrey Goro ( Larry  and Lilly ), as well as Marilyn Sue and Steven Goro ( Milton and Ethel Goro ).  If we had all lived closer I am sure I would have had much more contact with this younger group. But, time, distance and new trails to new lives took their toll.    But….

I can tell you right now that as the oldest cousin I have only one regret and it has haunted me for forty years. When I moved Majestic offices to  32nd street and Park Avenue, I soon discovered by chance that my much younger cousin, Marilyn Sue worked in the building.  In fact we met on an elevator once. I don’t know why I didn’t,  but I should have made a big fuss over her, taken her to lunch etc because I could plainly  see she was a sweet girl.  But,  I didn’t and I’ve always regretted it as I’ve gotten older and it really began to hit me when I learned she had died . All I can do now is  hope the ones that follow me will be warned by this  not to make the stupid omission  I made…by taking a relative’s life for granted and assuming she’d always be there…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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