Joseph Resnick and Ethan Herschenfeld

Recorded August 18, 2004 Archived August 18, 2004 01:33:42
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GCT000818



  • Joseph Resnick
  • Ethan Herschenfeld


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00:02 I'm Ethan herschenfeld. I'm 35 years old here in Grand Central Station in New York.

00:13 Family also calls me a time. So that's the way I guess my grandfather would refer to me.

00:20 And here he is.

00:24 And your name Joseph Resnick grandfather of a ton on the maternal side?

00:34 And they age

00:36 Age 95 and a half

00:41 Born in 1909

00:45 When the population of the United States was maybe 20% of what it is today.

00:53 In figures maybe 50 million or so, but that's just my guess and born where I was born in the United States in Brooklyn New York. And what was then known as the end is today. You also known as the Brownsville section which was

01:18 Almost 100% ethnic of the Jewish faith

01:28 If your parents my parents name, my mother's name was Esther Falls.

01:36 And my father's name was Barnet Resnick. They both migrated from Russia.

01:46 And

01:48 What the way to England where they stayed temporarily and then sailed on to the United States somewheres around 1904.

02:05 And I have kids at that point or if my parents were married in England.

02:13 The

02:17 I was the second child, but the first

02:26 Baby that was born before we died in childbirth.

02:34 All family consisted of a younger brother two years younger than I

02:40 Who has since passed on Jack Jack? That was his name?

02:50 I now reside.

02:53 In Elizabeth, New Jersey and have been there for over.

03:04 65 years in the same house same Residence at 208 Shelley Avenue in Elizabeth. Just by the way the phone number to rent to the place they rented in my youth was spent in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, which I believed till the age of about thirteen when I was a bar mitzvah.

03:49 That's the whole world was practically all Jewish.

03:56 Here and there we had a gentile neighbor aside from that my public school teachers.

04:10 Were mostly English but they were some Jewish teachers in the public school system at that time when you said English when I graduated from public school, I was the valedictorian and PS 175.

04:31 I just want that when you said that that's what some of the teachers were English you mean. They were just like that my parents lived in a five-room walk-up apartment on the third floor.

04:54 And their monthly rent at that time was $4 a month.

05:01 We had a nice box and a nice man who would come up the flights of stairs to deliver a cake of ice and we had a dish pan under the ice box.

05:20 Where when the ice melted became water and periodically it had to be emptied in the sink to prevent it from overflowing.

05:34 There was no television.

05:40 In our apartment and their device invented as yet and neither was the telephone around at that time. So in my lifetime.

05:54 The American way of life has changed through inventions Edison invented the electric bulb in my lifetime Henry Ford invent the automobile in my lifetime the Wright brothers flew their airplane in my lifetime and there was nothing like computers or internet at that time. And of course the world has changed.

06:33 When I went to the movies when I was a Youngster.

06:39 Believe it or not. I paid $0.02 and my friend paid $0.03 in other words two of us going to see a movie for $0.05 the

07:01 Movie theaters had were very small at that time and maybe they had a capacity of 100 or 200 seats and an automatic piano player with play William tell's Overture.

07:19 And and Tom Mix and William Fannin and pearl white at that time and movies were made in Carl Laemmle studio in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn the West to Hollywood.

07:46 I just want to ask you when you have an intermission. I believe I mentioned Harry Ford that had a specific question. Could you and me to tell me an interesting story 2 weeks ago about your uncle who had this fruit business? I had to Uncle's both younger than my father by a few years and my Uncle Louie.

08:25 Was a

08:27 Wholesale Distributor of vegetables and fruits which he sold to various restaurants in Manhattan.

08:42 I would accompany you into the wall about Market in Manhattan.

08:48 We would leave around 4:30 in the morning to get to the wallabout market where we loaded the horse and wagon.

09:01 Where did the various supplies and then we would work anyways from SE 14th Street to maybe 57th Street delivering these vegetables and fruits to different restaurants.

09:25 My uncle at that time would

09:30 Don't look at the vegetables and in many cases sell it to be paid later on.

09:41 In many cases the restaurants when we came back or not in existence and my uncle lost considerable amount of money to these absconders who was owned restaurants and disappeared overnight.

09:59 Information you don't have to worry if you really think about the mic the microphone by the way, my uncle would allow me to hold the reins of the horse when we went through it all days work and the animal would actually

10:20 Find its way back.

10:23 To the stable. Where was kept overnight in Brooklyn, we'd cross the Brooklyn Bridge and I would just have to hold the reins and they horse would almost go there by itself.

10:38 This was quite an experience for me at that time. I may have been.

10:44 12 13 or 14 years of age

10:53 I just wanna ask about it. So your your other the work that you ended up doing graduating from public school. I entered commercial high school in Brooklyn during my second year there the third year the name was changed to Alexander Hamilton.

11:20 I

11:22 Became

11:27 Upon graduation. I became the I was voted the class athletes. I

11:35 Was captain of the tennis team and also captain of the soccer team and a member of the track team at that time. Never an Olympic quality athlete but good enough in those days to make the old Scholastic in some sports.

12:01 From there I matriculated to st. John's College in Brooklyn where I took my pre-law and those days in order to qualify you for law school. All you needed was one year of college credits to matriculate to law school. I applied to Brooklyn law school was accepted and

12:41 Spent three fruitful years studying for law. I graduated in June 1930.

12:58 Today is 2004 or 74 years ago.

13:05 After graduating from Brooklyn law, I went back and took my masters in law on which took me a few years.

13:19 And at that time I had an amazing time. I had gotten married and moved to New Jersey.

13:30 From there on 1930

13:34 What is a fateful year the economy of the United States was in very poor condition?

13:43 The stock market crashed in 1929 and many a person who was a millionaire in 28 and 29 became a pauper in 1930 people.

14:04 Was selling apples on the corner for a few pennies or maybe $0.05 in order to exist.

14:16 I

14:17 Getting out of law school was offered $5 a week provided I could bring in a client or two to the office. And so I got a job instead.

14:34 As a bookkeeper for $35 a week, which was a lot of money in those days and I could help out at home.

14:44 Is that a law firm or not in the building line? So I know you told all those guys were from Italy they were like mad at this company where I took care of the books and also try to make myself useful and help the needy collection of the accounts receivable and

15:25 Help pay the expenses that time. Well, one of the one of them in this construction company, we supplied the cut stone or ornamental treatments for apartment buildings. We Woods in those days have Clovis Stone card was who were actually artists and when you're looking buildings today and you see the Lions and the difference figures allegorical figures and trimmings over the door to door sales door entrances. These were done by

16:23 European mostly European wood Stone Carvers and they were the highest paid people at that time and in our industry. Did you have a my running right? There was a rolling stone. Are you trying to help solve? They were loading a truck with window sills Stone window sills and as the load of window sills started to reach the truck tipped and I try to hold it up back and caught one of my fingers against the uprights and almost lost the finger.

17:16 But fortunately it healed after a long time and I was looking go to doctor trying to treat her with something that the compensation Doctor Who treated it kept applying a save and the finger kept pestering me that front unusual long time and I finally decided I would stop going to the doctor and see what happened by just allowing the finger to heal and fortunately it did. So in that case I proved to be my own doctor better than another job you had when you were young about singing like boy soprano for a Cantor in one of my while I was in high school.

18:06 Are you still with 10 the?

18:14 Brooklyn h e s the Brooklyn Hebrew Institute in Brownsville, you could go there and it was like the Wyatt Community houses. All the wine meche's are YMCAs that we have today and you could please Sports them you could play checkers or spend the time listening to lectures and I at one time somebody came around and said they're forming a quiet with anybody you like to apply.

19:02 So I did and at that time I imagined I was only about 11 somewhere else in that age and

19:15 I had a soprano voice at that time and I got the job. We rehearsed an entire cell, I was not the lead soprano. I was one of the cars and the lead soprano was a

19:38 Elderly gentleman whose voice remains soprano and maybe the choirmaster was a former Metropolitan singer who had lost his voice and now became a choir miss them after spending the whole summer the singing We were not paid because the performance during the high holy holidays were not financially successful. And so one day another choir singer of myself visited the choir Master collection to try

20:27 Be compensated when we came he.

20:32 Apologized and explained that he had lost money in the Endeavour and he gave us each. I don't remember exactly was either five or $10 each to just satisfy us. So that was my experience with singing when I got a little older my voice changed and I lost my voice completely. So where my grandson gets his talent from? I don't believe it's from me not a singing voice other side. I guess the other side of the family. Yeah, maybe it came from the side of the family.

21:23 What? Oh, yeah from due to the fact that I couldn't get it at a

21:30 Paying job in law

21:35 Got a job in the manufacturing field and my future wife's father employed me.

21:49 And I spent the next half a century in the Garment business, but my I believe that my legal training.

22:02 What is a help in my?

22:08 Work during this time

22:13 What was so Croatan was able, I was employed for about?

22:25 17 years by my father-in-law and after that around 1945 I

22:36 Went into business on my own and started with a factory in Jersey City.

22:47 Where this was right after right at the end of World War II and stay there for a few years and then moved on to

23:05 Pennsylvania to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, stay there for about work there for about five or six years and then moved to Tennessee whiskey, Tennessee what what precipitated the moves each time and the change of Labor markets and the trend was toward the warmer climates and I spent 35 years.

23:48 In working in, Tennessee and Alabama

23:55 Until the

24:00 Imports started to overtake domestic production and so I moved on to Imports.

24:11 And was in that endeavor until 2002.

24:19 When I retired

24:25 In all that time

24:31 United States

24:34 Went through many changes and

24:39 If required business to be flexible and move with the times about early on you told me you're doing your own sales calls like a Fifth Avenue like visiting customers walking.

25:00 Stories in a little while. I was employed by my father-in-law. I was engaged in the sales department and I

25:15 Used to take selling trips

25:19 Around the United States starting with Syracuse Rochester Buffalo.

25:28 Cleveland, Cincinnati

25:31 Chicago

25:34 And then I would

25:37 Travel down to Mississippi to Memphis

25:41 And New Orleans and then work my way back to Atlanta.

25:51 Charlotte

25:55 Baltimore and back home in those days. I could travel by train that was before airplane travel and the railroad says were a penny a mile.

26:14 I can travel the whole United States for maybe.

26:20 35 of $40 and if I had to use a Pullman at night traveling from one city to the other we would step up the fair to a penny and a half a mile and you'd pay you for the Pullman berth. It was cheaper on the up of birth and a little bit more expensive a dollar or two more for the lower berth in addition to that and when I

26:57 Didn't take sales trips. I had maybe

27:03 15 or 20 good accounts in New York City and those days were always had their buying office a New York soda WT Grant F&W green FM W Grant and green and F&W Grant and several dozen others in addition to buying offices.

27:36 That represented department stores all over the United States. And in those days the New York Times with the list and arrival of Baez daily.

27:49 And so you know, what office is the coil on when the you're a customer came to town? That is no longer the

28:00 Case today

28:05 Walmart was just one of the interesting things that I had was having mister.

28:17 Sam Walton as a customer when he had four stores and they were

28:29 Walgreens

28:33 I believe they will no no. No, they want to walk me. There was another Chicago company just a minute now.

28:50 They are you had for stores at that time and

28:56 The

29:00 President of the buying office who accompanied? Mr. Walton on his buying trip

29:09 Ask me to invest $10,000 with mr. Walton at that time, which I

29:20 Explain that I never invested anything with any of my customers which was the biggest mistake I ever made if I had gone along with mr. Walton at that time. What year was I would have been a millionaire many times over just on that one investment. You did what you did? All right with you did all right with your hard work. Anyway, brother your grandson. Well, what is that?

30:02 When I retired

30:11 I had some Capital left over and was looking for ways.

30:19 Or Avenues to invest and so one of my you successful grandchildren who?

30:32 Converted several buildings from factories in Brooklyn the Williamsburg section 2 apartments and

30:47 Fortunately, the trend has been favorable and

30:55 It has proven to be successful. Does it feel good that I have participated in a small degree to keep interested and current with things going on at present. And one of my mottos is if you don't use use it you lose it.

31:26 I just I'm so I'm happy to say so far. It's worked out good. Does it just seem nice or right or fitting somehow that it's happening in Brooklyn where you grew up originally do you like that fact or is it just to the fact that this is Renovations and stuff stuff are happening there. Is that on New York and its immediate environment New York City is unique?

32:00 Nothing, but in my observation New York City is a city of maybe

32:10 A dozen or more ethnic groups. You can find a German section and Italian section sweetest section and Oriental section and I can go on English section and Irish section and

32:34 It's this mixture.

32:37 Different

32:41 Sex that has made New York the

32:48 Interesting and successful the city that it is.

32:54 People have come here penniless and have become very substantial American citizens.

33:06 Somehow or other there are there is an element that is not

33:15 As

33:18 Successful or as enterprising as the earlier people who came here during the early part of the 20th century.

33:34 And so

33:38 I still find New York City fascinating and looking forward to the future.

33:48 We still have a long way to go.

33:51 But each generation has its problems and each generation has to find ways of solving.

34:01 Their immediate situations

34:12 Gertrude my grandmother your wife. Yes. How did you meet? When did you meet and when I graduated from Law School?

34:27 I got a summer job.

34:33 In the Catskill Mountains as the tennis instructor.

34:40 And assistance to the general

34:48 Manager

34:50 During one of my sessions a guests arrived and they ask for tennis instructions, which I was happy to give her and that's female and after we were through we chatted for a while and that is how I met my future wife and how will we know each other for maybe?

35:23 3 years before we became engaged and then married in 1932 and have you dated anyone else before? She was your first serious girlfriend? Well,

35:39 I have seen other young ladies before but nothing no commitments that did, you know right away at the first lesson that she was special think it was gradual. Yeah, it was not spontaneous so to speak but it was mutual and you graduated from New Jersey college for women which later became Douglas which was which is part of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and we both graduated in 1930. I from law school and my wife from Douglas and you on your honeymoon back up to the Catskills and no I didn't know. Where did you go? I went to Lake Placid from Lake Placid. We went to Skyrim Manor where we spent the most of

36:39 Honeymoon in the Adirondacks. Was there a story where you saw other people you knew from the Garment business or law school at the honeymoon.

36:50 Hey ya incident. My wife was rather shy and so she employed me not to say that we were on our honeymoon in June of 1930 32, excuse me. And so I agreed and when I went into the lobby I met a friend who was then employed by Gimbel Brothers in New York? And I said, what are you doing here? And he said that I'm here on my honeymoon. He said than solar every does everybody else see if it's June and so I went back and told my wife everybody was there on our honeymoon and it was silly not to admit that we were on our honeymoon. Just an incident.

37:41 How do you remember your wife for how would you describe her?

37:47 I would say that.

37:50 I was fortunate.

37:53 As an American

37:55 Of Jewish faith to be born in the United States.

38:01 With the opportunity to get an education.

38:06 And

38:08 2

38:10 Have the freedom

38:13 Oliver an American citizen

38:16 I think that is one of the most valuable things of person can have and nowhere nowhere else.

38:25 In this world. Is there a better chance then in the United States and for that I am grateful and how do you remember your wife? How do you remember Gertrude? How would you describe her?

38:41 My wife

38:44 What's a very fine person?

38:48 She had a model one of the pool.

38:53 Sense of decency and

38:59 Had the respect and love of her immediate family.

39:07 And myself

39:11 And her children

39:13 Adored her

39:16 She left she outlived everyone enough family and live to the Knight's age of 90.

39:27 When her health just kept failing and weakness overtook her system until

39:36 She gave up.

39:42 And that's how I remember hun, and I miss her.

39:50 It just about grandkids and great-grandkids. I have been blessed.

40:01 With having

40:03 2 Jordans

40:05 And the Sun

40:09 My three children

40:12 All graduated from college

40:17 And

40:20 Are living today they in turn have presented me with 10 grandchildren.

40:34 As I am recording this message.

40:39 At the age of 95 Plus

40:43 I now have nine great-grandchildren.

40:49 And expect the addition of two more in the next few months Akiva who lives in Jerusalem is having his third child.

41:12 My wife and I were married for 67 years. Do you have for your great-grandchildren Rancho? How do you do it?

41:27 My hope is that all my progeny.

41:33 Will live

41:35 Up, right?

41:38 American decent lives and become good citizens of this wonderful country.

41:49 And it sounds like maybe you get your day started. Right? What do you have for breakfast that keeps you going so long well.

42:01 When are you graduated from high school my physical ed teacher?

42:10 Help me up as a

42:14 Example

42:16 I'll buy.

42:19 Good.

42:22 Physical specimen

42:24 And I always endeavored not to abuse myself.

42:33 I feel I am normal in most respects. No one is perfect, but I have never tried.

42:45 Drugs

42:48 I never had a taste for alcohol.

42:53 Or smoking

42:57 And I attribute.

42:59 The facts

43:01 That I

43:04 Try to get

43:06 A

43:09 Seven or eight hours rest. Every day.

43:15 From abusing my body

43:19 As a reason for

43:23 My age up to this time and what do you have for breakfast?

43:28 I start my day.

43:31 With orange juice

43:37 A whole Bran cereal

43:42 With milk

43:49 And a decaffeinated

43:53 Cup of coffee and

43:57 Hey you roll or a bun?

44:04 And then wait for lunch, which I don't overeat. What what's the other item? You have breakfast at breakfast. Well, my doctors have prescribed certain pills, which I take for thinning the blood and an aspirin to prevent heart trouble.

44:43 Life time I've had the prostate operation and an angio plastic treatment.

44:55 And I ended up singing in an opera with your surgeon. You remember that your cardiologist and of course my grandson on herschenfeld L who is an aspiring bass no more aspiring. I'm working on stage and has reached.

45:25 Almost to the poor dog. Right and he is now committed to perform at Carnegie Hall and then and he's been there already. He is also going to sing at the City Opera. He has sung in the in Italy Austria and Israel and Hong Kong and we look forward to it. He is now going to sing with the outstanding base Samuel rainy and I think he's on his way to the top.

46:18 Grandpa yeah, I think they're just wanted to thank you. I think we're going to come back and do some more but for right now.

46:33 I'm going to fight you going to say thanks.

46:37 40 minutes flew flew by but thanks for