Bess Falkow and Alan Strauss

Recorded January 9, 2009 Archived January 9, 2009 00:00 minutes
Audio not available

Interview ID: MBY004917


Bess talks about what a wonderful life she has had and how much she has loved her husband.

Subject Log / Time Code

Her best friend from high school just called her this morning.
Her parents had a department store in Albany and observed the sabbath so they got special permission to open on Sunday.
She remembers her husband’s bat mitzvah. She says she met him when she was 4 and loved him then.
They used to flip the row boat over and kiss underneath.
Words of wisdom for her grandson. “You have to get older or you are going to die young.”


  • Bess Falkow
  • Alan Strauss

Recording Location

MobileBooth West


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00:04 So, my name is Alan Strauss and I'm 39 almost 40 hits, January 9th 2009 and I'm in Tucson Arizona with my grandmother.

00:17 My name is best Falco. I am 90 years old. And today is January 9th 2009. I live in Tucson Arizona in an assisted living complex and get my partner is my dearest great-grandson.

00:39 Okay. Well, I'm very glad you came with me to do this and it was interesting cuz on the way here you were telling me about your best friend from high school that contacted you this morning. And so maybe you could talk to me about that. Tell me who it is. And when I met her and it was such a person I went to HighSchool with for many years be very very good friends. I lived in Albany New York where I was born and brought up. She was born in New York City. She came to Albany in our junior year in high school and we were never in the same classrooms except for study room and we became very very very close friend.

01:27 It was an argue books from high school that in the quotes. It was safe. Best said where is Bell and Bell said, where's best we were inseparable and yet we didn't take the same course as we were from two different backgrounds. Everything was just unusual when she called me this morning and I just couldn't believe it. She got the telephone number through my strength and my son-in-law here in Tucson. I don't even know how she got the telephone number but it was a thrill of my lifetime to speak to somebody after all these years. She lives in Florida has moved to New York to be with her son. Ye she's the same age as I am. Yes. There's a very little difference the same year. I'm sure but I mean we were inseparable. I'm here for

02:27 Anyway, so when was the last time that you guys spoke?

02:33 I I really couldn't even I don't even remember certainly years and years since the last time we spoke we haven't been in contact. It was just a miracle to pick up the phone and say this is manufactured son. And I said yes and he told me who it was and he said Bella wants to talk to you and Bill came on the phone course. I couldn't talk I was in tears naturally, but it was just how many years.

03:04 I can't imagine 40 years ago. I must be at least 40 years ago and we were inseparable.

03:15 What else can I say about her when I was going to ask you at the beginning, you know earlier about growing up in Albany, but then I lie. I was going to ask you when I was thinking about to ask you today. I was going to start with growing up in Albany, but then I wanted to reply doll called you today, but maybe we go way back. My mother was born in Albany New York. My father wasn't she was a European man and they were in business in Albany, New York. Very very happily married.

03:46 We had a wonderful family wonderful family.

03:50 I am not going to further I have or I had three sisters and a brother.

03:57 Check I went further. It's up to you. My brother was.

04:03 A graduate of Columbia law school and he was also around by an orthodox Rabbi who was one of the gray just passed away. As a matter of fact, just recently December 1st. He was one of the best known his it was all over the Internet when he passed away because he was one of the greatest Orthodox rabbis in the country.

04:25 His name was Emmanuel. Rackman r a c k m a n.

04:34 Why don't you I say when we were talking about him. You would tell me a lot that you know, what grade is he was he when you know, he'd learned it all from my parents my mother and father and you know, one of the stories I was hoping that you maybe you could talk about was your parents department store and the time that your mother chased down a criminal or something you too and she weigh 220 lb, but she was in proportion as she was tremendous, but the woman fears nothing or anyting

05:09 That my mother and father had a business on the Main Street and city of Albany a dry good store. My mother and father were Orthodox Orthodox Jewish people and they kept the Sabbath their store was closed on Saturday and by by permission of the state of New York were allowed to stay open on Sunday against the ruler which they were supposed to close on Sundays, but because they were closed on Saturday. They were allowed to be open on Sunday. This is a known fact and I got off the track now another wasn't there a burglar or something from one point to always love people and very often she would sit outside in front of the store in the nice days and evenings a man came by and put something a pamphlet in her hand and she got it took it and the men went on to the other stores on the street and my mother look dead and she saw it was in

06:09 Anti-semitic, my mother jumped up and ran after him and she meant he was course twice her size. As I said, she must have been 5 till he was probably 5 5/11 or something. She ran after him and she caught him about 4 stores and I was on the Main Street with all stores. She caught him on front of the store and Below hers. She stopped him and of course he cowered above her and she almost punched him until somebody stopped him and it ended up that they called the police and made that he was passing out anti-semitic material completely terrible and so happens that they called the police immediately and then the police came and so happens unfortunate that he had a relative in the police department and they made him leave town. He did have to leave town but they didn't do anything to him, you know physically or what they didn't they made him leave town, but my mother fears nobody

07:09 Nobody right? So when I wanted to ask you a little bit too coarse a lot about relationships cuz I know that relationships are very important to but certainly am, you know about dating my grandfather and when I know you guys met you were pretty young and all that but I met my husband my future husband my husband when we were probably by 4 years old.

07:32 Asher you I loved him from the beginning.

07:36 We grew up together. We went to school together.

07:40 We were very very very close friends. We went roller skating ice skating schedule. We did everything together.

07:46 And then of course he went on as we went to school. He went to college. I did not go to college for the stupid reason that his family couldn't afford to send him to college and I would love him so much would not go for a college degree without his having fun and ended up. Of course it he got his degree got a message and I never got a college degree, but I never was sorry for it and ended up he was very unusual unusual person. He was a cancer. I don't know whether you understand what that is, but he chanted the religious religious service in the Seneca. I had a beautiful beautiful tenor voice. He was very well known in the City of Tucson at the synagogue here.

08:30 He was also principal of the Hebrew school. He was a brilliant individual.

08:35 And wonderful person. He he counseled many many couples. He did a lot in his lifetime to go back to Albany to hear some of the the early some of the early stories. I've heard you say over the years, you know, I knew it from the first time we met that night at 4 years old. I'm not so sure that that's right. I remember when you were calling. I remember every single thing about him.

09:17 And he knew it even though we had other friends, but we were always very very very close from childhood. And we finally got married. Did you remember the first time that you kissed him remember making in the Park parking in the park? I member priessman what came with a flashlight and placed it in that is what are you doing? You're not allowed to be here and we must have been 18 19 years old and I don't know if a flashlight in the Park Linkin Park in Albany, New York, but we were always so happy that my family knew I loved him and my family thought that we certainly were too young and they threw him out of my house my father to him down the stairs and thank God my father live to see him become the great person. He was which please me it was the greatest day of my life when my father saw my husband could accomplish

10:17 20 Lake too much and you never forget the time. He worked all ready when he was out of school, but I didn't go to college yet but money is not as high school. He works for carpet place name was Warren and Allen will never forget it and one day you took off from work and came out to Lake you took a day off. If not telling me what he was going to do came out too late to visit me. My family had a cottage for the summer on a Lake Nasser Lake Drive 13 miles from the city of Albany. They owned a cottage out there which I and my kid Sister stayed in all summer long my mother and father came out come from the store every night. And of course, they never left this long only during the day, but I remember he got so sunburned and he had to go back to work the next day. It had to tell them that he wasn't sick because there was so stubborn.

11:17 Are the stories I could tell me about him. I remember I think he told me once while ago that you guys used to take a canoe out on the lake and turn the canoe over and over and over and we turn it over. The Border doesn't go up the Warriors Justin's go into the boat and she kissing make love.

11:43 We had a wonderful wonderful wonderful relationship. So you guys came out to Tucson. We were just talking this morning in 1948 because my husband ended up being a cancer.

11:57 Who changed the religious service and we just change the religious religious service in the synagogue. He was in the air force during the second world war and he was stationed on Okinawa.

12:10 And there he met the chaplain and he became the chaplain's assistant because my husband could chance the religious service. So we help the chaplain on Okinawa what the religious Services there and from their Rabbi Gregor when he was home from the service ended up in Tucson, Arizona as a rabbi and the synagogue here on 5th Street and my husband followed him here and we came my family came to Tucson Arizona myself and my two children and a third child was born here in Tucson and my mother-in-law said, where are you taking my son to the desert where you're doing to me, but it was a wonderful wonderful experience, and I'd love to Son to this day. He did to Lennie get a tremendous job.

13:00 He had the most beautiful tenor voice anybody who hurt them could never forget him.

13:08 He was also principal the Hebrew school at the synagogue. He met many children many parents and I can tell you truthfully. I never met anyone who didn't love him.

13:19 And where he was connected with many hundreds of people hundreds and yet everybody loved him. How was your life may be different than you would have expected from when you were young to I couldn't I couldn't want anything. I mean, I've been the happiest person in the world because of him. He was a wonderful person wonderful.

13:42 He was what God meant to be a decent human being he got along with everybody. He got along with black people with white people with Jews non-jewish. He did many services at this at the churches. He gave lectures at Churches of Christ Jesus Christ. He didn't ask for a while there with the New Testament where Christians attended and they adore him.

14:14 He was just a very very unusual man.

14:17 And I want to ask you some questions that maybe you're a little harder to answer because they're not as tied up and facts and history. But if there if there was one memory that from your whole life that you could hold onto forever, what would that one memory be?

14:36 Gosh, I don't know I was so happy on.

14:40 I was so happy with him.

14:43 I would say that my father and mother never approved of them together because they never thought he was good enough for me. And this is the truth. And of course the day that my father realized that he was what I knew him in to be my father was happy and I think that was the greatest day of my life.

15:10 That makes sense.

15:14 So when when your great-grandchildren, you know, we're listening to this in 50 years or a hundred years. What how would you like them to be remembered or how we just re would you like them to remember you or what kind of things would you want to tell Ian so when he goes back to listen to listen 15 years went out and worked. I never went to a job except when I went into real estate for some years. I was in real estate in Tucson, and I actually went to work.

15:51 Because my daughter Lynn wanted a wedding.

15:55 And we couldn't afford a wedding. My husband had cancer salary of a clergyman salary and I went to work to make money. So I went into real estate so that my daughter my older daughter could have a wedding she dreamed of having and she did went and worked and then she had a wedding in The Pioneer Hotel in two of them. Are you going to tell the whole wedding was at the Pioneer? Which burned down yesterday? I can remember the maitre. D' there when I made arrangements course, it wasn't your dinner was just a buffet.

16:29 But it was a beautiful beautiful fair and John.

16:34 What else can I tell you do you have any advice that you would give to me in advice or words of wisdom that you would want your great-grandchildren to hear when they when they come back and listen to this?

16:48 The best you can be a decent.

16:51 Do unto others as you would have done unto you I think she wanted that most important Court quote. I've tried to live with because I think it means so much.

17:05 To be a decent human being

17:09 And Life Goes On

17:12 Hopefully for the good.

17:15 What about things you might have done differently in your life for their choices that you made that you would have made that we he went to Okinawa with Rabbi bracket with Chaplin burger. And we ended up in Tucson. I'd love to Son I really do. I'm very happy being away from cold City like New York. I don't know what else to tell you, but I've always been we've been very happy here. We brought up three children here to be graduates of the University of Arizona.

17:51 And you're my son is a lawyer.

17:54 And you're my older daughter is director of the preschool at the congregation anshe Israel and my younger daughter were at the Eye Institute of Tucson.

18:14 And I have a grandson. I've grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the one thing. I know is that your your person of very strong faith. So tremendous faith. I have tremendous faith is you look back on your life. What what about miracles? Can you experience any miracles in your life? And I think everything everything.

18:41 I hope to live a decent.

18:48 Human like a human should like a mensch.

18:53 Yes, I have great faith Grace faith.

18:57 I always have

18:59 And when I wash my husband I thought the world was was over but I'm still here.

19:04 But I thank God for the years ahead.

19:08 That's what I live with.

19:14 That's the story of my life. I remember when growing up that you guys had a boat. And so we spent tremendous amount of time on the boat. Both loads youngster. Might as I say my parents always had a cottage on a lake and I used to go out go with my younger sister was at years younger than I we say it there at the cottage all of all summer long and my mother and father would drive out every night after they close the business and mine in the morning back to the business and I never left this all alone.

19:50 And Joey loved we love boating. We love Joni so when the time came

19:57 That my husband and myself were able to handle both we bought a big bow. We bought a 28-foot boat.

20:05 Which was it wasn't a yacht but it was a beautiful upstairs and downstairs. They were on it. My grandchildren were honest and fortunately we had wonderful times at Lake Roosevelt. What is it a hundred? And thirty miles? Is it from Tucson or something from one? Of course, he worked weekends mostly because of his position. So we were very off and take off for several days during the week and we spent a lot of time that we loved he left the fish too. But we loved about it was a luxury that I'm so thrilled that we were able to have until it was Cars too big a thing.

20:45 For him to handle we had to get rid of it. I remember I wanted to share one story with you about the lake and I'm not sure why you weren't there. I think you were in North Carolina when Dina lived in North Carolina, but he and I went to the went up to Roosevelt Lake and it was July 4th and terrible Summer monsoon storm came in and pushed the boat up against the floor line in hand weed something happened. I remember the propeller broke it was a mess and and it was about you know, 5 or 6 in the evening storming norming storming and then finally the storm abated and it was dark out and so we thought what what are we going to do to try to get some help and so he always kept a flare gun on the boat and so he got out this flare gun, and we didn't know how to use it when he just he and I and just me and Sadie you didn't know how to use the flare gun. So we found the instructions.

21:45 I hope you weren't going to kill ourselves. And so we shot this flare into the air and it goes up and it explodes for so that people can see it Well, we'd forgotten that it was the Fourth of July and all of a sudden we start hearing people screaming hand clapping and then we were stuck out here on the lake and would probably be spending the night which we were going to be coming home. We had just made a trip. So we really didn't weren't prepared for staying out there and then pretty soon about did, that had seen the flare and then I remember the fellow saying well, I figured that you know, either you guys were in trouble or really drunk because nobody shoots off flares, but that he thought that was quite a miracle then on the 4th of July that you know this but I'm glad you know what I want to go back and you know again and maybe push a little harder and ask you about you know, when you're gone, you know, how do you want to be remembered and we will we go

22:45 Story isn't that reason? I had a very very happy childhood. My parents were wonderful people. They were Orthodox Jewish people. We spent all the holidays together.

22:59 And I was brought up beautifully and I tried to bring my family up the same way.

23:06 And that I see it my grandson.

23:10 That's a great deal of his life. He shares the same feelings that we did.

23:18 I see him doing just what we would have done or would do which is very very gratifying.

23:27 It don't do I have other grandchildren but none of them are quite the same.

23:38 If if this was going to be the last time that we ever talked today, which is not what kind of words of wisdom would you give me for the rest of my life in the person you are?

23:51 I can't say too much yelling about you. You know that.

23:58 Your friend the dearest child to me always. I don't know why I have other grandchildren.

24:08 I've never been so close any of them is I've been in them to you. They're all going to listen to this. So remember for the rest of our lives.

24:26 How can I tell you what I know is you've been wonderful to me events for this occasion? You brought me here.

24:38 I don't know what to say. I don't know how to thank you don't have to thank me. I know that, you know has been very important to you for your whole life. And I thank you for being Beth into my life.

24:55 That this is wife.

24:58 And of course and it's not my credits my great-grandson.

25:08 Well, that's one of the from you go through over our life and you know that the family is one of them say that I'm happy to hear you talk about that when I talk about you as I always say well if there's one thing about my grandmother it's that she can adapt to change so you can adapt to change I would hope so I hope so if one tries to do the impossible, they only got hers you have to sometimes it just what are your mother's or exactly the way you wanted or you learn to try to live the right way but to adjust to what happens to become severe.

26:04 Turn it down some notes to remind me things and I always laughed because one at one time you said something to me that made me laugh and I don't know if you just hit heard it somewhere else heard. It was just something you said but at some point, you know, it hurt for a long time. I was going around saying go, you know, I'm 29 and this year I'm is 29 day and the next year. I was 29 be in 40 overs 29 D&D remember to my real age, but it's been one of those years you use said that it look either have to get older for you're going to die young. And so you might remember that and then the lot of times now when I when I hear my friends talking about, you know, my knees hurt and my back hurts and you know, cuz I'm about to turn 42. I remember that when I see it all the time if you don't if you don't want to accept what is

27:01 Forgetting your life is over. You have to learn in this life to adjust a certain thing. Not everything is perfect and never will be.

27:11 But if you were saying really if you look around you, there's always something worse than you have and sometimes you have to be thankful for whatever little bit you can't expect miracles. You can't expect Perfection. There's no such thing.

27:31 You have to learn to adjust and to be comfortable. Otherwise, she just drive yourself crazy.

27:38 And you can't enjoy life that way.

27:43 Is there anything that you never told me before that you want to share now? And remember that I love you very very much a great deal to me. So it doesn't always will be and I'm thankful for the family. Believe me. They have been wonderful.

28:03 And I'm very very happy for what I've had very happy.

28:09 I couldn't ask Alan for anything. There's no such thing as perfect and I certainly have had from Charleston and had a wonderful child from childhood.

28:21 They lived but I think it's a wonderful life. I don't say it's been perfect. But then never things are one-sided story, you know with my my nephew Lyle.

28:36 Which was there was a time that my my husband and I wanted to walk off the earth for getting back living we were so.

28:46 Upset but also he ended up killing himself. We were still alive.

28:54 You want to hear something else, but I don't have a lot of questions, but I'm just thinking, you know something that I really haven't heard a lot about him and his your wedding are waiting on facts as I think about it. I can't even picture myself to this day have tight. Remember that wedding. I don't remember. I really don't remember. We were there pictures or we are married New Year's Eve because my brother was the only time he could come up from Long Island were married in Albany that you could come up to Albany to Marius. It was a day that there was no nothing doing in his congregation. I knew you so you that's why we were married on December 31st.

29:38 But I actually do not remember exactly a ceremony I seem to remember one Rabbi who was not a member of our congregation Rabbi of a different kind of Geisha in Albany. I seem to remember he was there and that's the only thing I can remember the way I don't remember it at all. I don't I don't remember seeing you remember anything as a matter of fact, I remember I was standing coming down walk getting ready to walk down the aisle and my sister Sarah was standing at the back of the shul and she said take that grin off your face if I'd married but I was so happy as much as I ever remember. It's with my memory of Sarah Sarah just before we were married a very Orthodox man and we were sitting downstairs in the synagogue where that dinner was being held and this Rabbi why he was a little man. He was a beautiful person.

30:37 But he wanted my mother and father to sit separately because he was so Orthodox at the dinner and my mother my father would not make that with my mother and his name was very mad. But my mother my father said no he sat with my mother that's I remember so vividly but that's all I know. It was a beautiful wedding, but I don't remember the ceremony is all I know is that I lost my tuba. I never had I never had a ketubah, which is I never had a copy of the marriage license and you know, they still teach me but he can't get a divorce without it. So I said right before I get back that when it comes to about I was going we never found that we never found a ketubah.

31:29 But it was a wonderful wonderful relationship. Wonderful. I just wish my kids would always have it and that they know I've told you before I look at your relationship with him as a role model for Beth and I so mean you're so I think I'm doing that. I knew him when I was young my father mother didn't think he was good enough for me and you because I came from a fantastic family. You saw there was a tailor

32:08 But thank God the day I say I said before the day that the happiest day of my life I think was when I knew my father so him and I know him.

32:19 Because it will you know, he was a very unusual person.

32:24 And I love them from the day. I know him.

32:29 We roller skating together. We ice skating together.

32:34 Many happy years we had together.

32:37 When he died, I thought I can't live because every memory I had was with him.

32:44 And I'm still alive and you still talk to him. I still talk to him I do.

32:52 Yes, I do.

32:57 Parts of nose

33:00 Oh, wow, that's that. I talked to enough. I really appreciate you coming down. I know that you didn't have any idea what I was getting you into now here, but wonderful life I can tell you that down and very happy with things. Now the way I see my children my grandchildren I couldn't ask for anything more wonderful than having something to do with you. If you have half the good memories that we do I'm sure you're telling the truth.

33:30 Okay.