IT SNOWS ON THE CHICKEN FARM – OOPS!

Today’s upcoming first snow of winter on November 13 brought to mind dozens of my childhood adventures with snow. Most of all, today reminded me of my family’s sojourn on a chicken farm in Richland, NJ between 1941 and 1947.

Chapter One: America was not a time of content for my parents. They missed the wide open spaces of their vacation home in Klosterneuburg near Vienna, with its acres of orchards, lush fields, and clean air.

They missed having the closest neighbors hundreds of feet from their dwelling. They missed swimming in the Danube and its mud/sand beaches. They missed riding their bicycles along unpaved country roads – with me in a rumble seat on mom’s bicycle.

Although we escaped the crowded and noisy living spaces of Manhattan by moving to Astoria, New York City, my parents wanted to live in the “wide open spaces of this great country.”
Unfortunately, they missed the courage to go to California or the Pacific Northwest or Vermont to join various relatives and close friends who had felt likewise. The Southeast didn’t appeal to them because of the prejudice against Jews, the control of the KKK, and an insular outlook which is still alive and well.

How ironic life often turns out to be!

In 1941, they made an appointment with the Hebrew International Settlement Agency (HIAS) as suggested by my Dad’s first cousin, Leo.

Leo had developed the same feelings as they did, and wished to move from the city to the wilds of Eastern Long Island to the large open spaces of Huntington, New York. It was a totally rural area at the time, and never became crowded and urban.

He and his various familial groups – through divorce, affairs, and another marriage with three children – and another divorce – lived there until the time of his death. His son from Leo’s first marriage, my beloved cousin Ivan, stayed there until he graduated from college.

So Leo went to the Hebrew International Settlement Agency and asked to be retrained as a farmer. When told of the enormous difficulties of farming life, together with the management and expense of hundreds to thousands acres of land, he decided against it. However, HIAS made him another offer: they would train him to become a chicken farmer – this was in the days before Colonel Saunders ruined the rural aspects of this occupation by raising chickens in veritable concentration camps.
It sounded too good to be true. And, in the end, it was. Leo eventually ended up being a master plumber, but that, dear reader, is another story.

At any rate, he suggested my father go to HIAS, and as a result, the two men were trained for six months in a HIAS facility in Bound Brook, New York.

After graduation, my mother refused to move to Huntington. She and Leo had a hate relationship which both of them cultivated. To me, the ultimate irony for Cousin Ivan and myself is the two of them are spending eternity together in the same cemetery plot.

After a great deal of Sturm und Drang, HIAS arranged for us to move to Richland, NJ so my father could become a chicken farmer.

With few exceptions, it was a dreadful time for us, especially for my parents – the insularity, physical attacks, and prejudices of the area – including the KKK burning a cross on our front lawn – were dreadful. “We should have moved to the New England States.”, was an unending lament.

Eventually, mom made my father attend training classes as an upholsterer in nearby Philadelphia. Then they, themselves – both expert carpenters – built a huge one-story building, the size of a present day Colonel Saunder’s chicken coop, in which my father plied his successful new craft. Mom, after all the years of being a farmer’s wife, returned to her occupation of being a quilt maker. She turned out fabulous and hugely popular  machine sewn down comforters and pillows, as well as hand stitched woolbatt quilts.

The building still stands today.

The former chicken coops and barn were abandoned with glee.

Life is never smooth, is it? After the death of my brother, Larry, in 1947, we returned to Long Island: Jackson Heights, New York, where they opened a successful Upholstery / Quilt store in the shadow of the Elevated Subway trestle.

Chapter Two: Liesl’s Adventures and Joys in Richland. Liesl is my family nickname.

Despite the negative aspects of Richland for the grownups, during the year, I roamed free through the adjacent Pine Barrens. Sometimes my companion was the next door neighbors’ grandson, Richie. He was a year younger than I, and we managed to get into trouble on a regular basis. His grandmother and my mother often punished us for our misadventures, and finally believed they had trained us well. No such thing occurred! We just learned to lie.

But that is … “y’know”, as the Geico commercial says …
My parents would never recover from the flatness of the land. They had to ice skate on the pond of an old gravel pit when it was cold enough to freeze. Skiing was an impossibility: no hills and no snow.

However, Dickie and I had no problems with swimming in Pine Barrens tea water, climbing high tension poles, meeting hermits and ghosts (really! See Annie under the Faith Category)), working with and harvesting various crops for surrounding farmers, and riding our bicycles for miles on the dirt road in front of our homes, which led to a network of more dirt roads. We picked berries and cranberries in season, gleefully worked in our own homesteads’ gardens and chicken coops, learned to candle eggs, kill chickens, hunt with rifles, and cut down Christmas Trees in the surrounding pine forests around us.

In the winter, it seldom snowed, so we had no use for my sled. The few time an inch or so fell, we gleefully zoomed into the old gravel pit until all the snow was demolished. Mud doesn’t work as well as snow.

Snowmen were built, of course – however they were only six inches high.

One winter, there was a blizzard. More than two feet of snow fell. We sledded to our hearts’ content!

Then, the next day, it was so cold, the snow actually turned to ice , and the dirt road in front of our farms lent itself to ice skating until the thaw began.

I had a brilliant idea.

Glancing at the barn at Dickie’s grandparents farm, I pointed out the steepness of the roof and its side penthouse, as well as the steep roof and its full penthouse around the long side.

Dickie was excited with my plan.

We got to work by dragging four inch thick by two feet wide by twelve feet long boards to the penthouse, and laboriously dragged a set to connect the barn roof to the lower addition by jamming it the eave. Then we were able to line up another board from outer edge of the penthouse roof to the ground. There were no eaves underneath.

It took us over two hours to get everything lined up.

Next, we climbed the ladder up the side penthouse and up its next ladder to the peak of the barn roof. We hauled our sled up using a rope.

Carefully crawling along the peak, we placed the sled facing downwards. We fastened one end of the rope to the weather vane, and I held the other end which had been placed sideways between the runners. Dickie got on first and then I mounted the sled.

At the count of “three!” we detached.

What a glorious ride!

Down the barn!

Onto the first board!

Down the second roof!

Onto the second board!

The board had never been weighted down on its lower end where it touched the ground.

We hit the board.

The connector end crashed like a broken seesaw.

Dickie became airborne and was thrown head over heels into a pile of hay about a dozen feet away.

I, unfortunately, stayed on the board as it slammed straight onto the ground.

My coccyx was smashed.

Well, an ambulance ride is not as thrilling as a sled ride.

There was nothing they could do at the hospital.

After three months the pain was gone.

And, then – THEN! – my mother spanked me.

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PERSONAL HALLOWEEN HISTORY – Ragamuffins and Anarchists

>< ~ >< ~ ><  Chapter One   Halloween begins in my life
                When I was a child in the early 1940’s, we lived in a lower-middle-class working neighborhood in a section of Queens – one of New York City’s five boroughs. This area is, still, to this day, named Astoria. Visiting Queens through the last six decades has been fascinating, I might add, because it is mostly unchanged. The seven rental homes in that borough where we lived in over the timeline of my existence are, with one exception, still standing, as are the various schools I attended. Visiting my high school has been eerie!
                 In August of 1940, we moved from the crowded multi-story living of Manhattan to the relatively open spaces of Astoria  and took up residence on the second floor of a two-family home. At last I finally had a bedroom with a window and was delighted. Mom and Dad still continued to commute to work in one of the sweatshops of Manhattan, and, so, at the age of six and a half, I became a Latchkey Kid.
                Parenthetically, most of us were Latchkey Kids! When we came home from grammar school, we had to stay indoors, where we cleaned house, made beds, took care of younger siblings and pets, and folded laundry. We were required to read classics one hour a day … although most of us doubled the time.
                For those whose families owned family businesses, there was no latchkey. Instead, those children would go there after school. When needed, they would work as needed for their parents. Oh, how we envied them and their freedom! When time allowed, they would do their homework.
                Homework did not begin until after supper, which we girls helped our mothers prepare. Before homework began, however, we assisted with the clearing up and preparing of the next day’s lunch for all of us. Then, the homework was done under the eagle eye of our parents.
                Halloween was not a major event for us. We did NOT get dressed up in today’s sense of that word. Rather, we attended a party in our individual classrooms, preceded by a half hour “parade” around the playground. No prizes were given out. Mostly, we dressed in older siblings’ or grandparents’/parents’ clothing temporarily held together with safety pins.
                For both boys and girls, our biggest thrill was being permitted to wear Mom’s or Grand Mom’s costume jewelry and use their leftover lipsticks, which had worn down to the edge of the tube. They were kept for Halloween, at which time it was used on lips, faces, and hands liberally smeared with a thin coat of Pond’s face cream. Popsicle sticks, saved from the warmer days, were used as applicators.
                If our parents happened to have the money to spare, we owned a black Lone Ranger style face mask held on by tied cords. It was a treasure used for several years each October thirty first.
                The religious faiths of neighborhood orthodox families whose children attended either the Catholic or Jewish schools, did not allow participation in the Halloween dress ups.
                 For the rest of us, there were many restrictions. Demons were not celebrated because they were considered real, and they were supposed to frighten people. No Jewish child would dare to dress like The Golem – shades of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings ! (Thank you for your insight, Zachary.) Nor did the Catholics allow children to dress like Satan and his minions! Angels and biblical figures were also out of bounds. Keep in mind, also, the two deeply celebratory  faith days after Halloween  (on November 1st or 2nd, depending on the Christian denomination) were All Saints’ Day and the Mexican Day of the Dead.
                As I began reminiscing with others about the Halloweens of my childhood and the years that followed, various friends, in turn, journeyed back to their own past. Some questions came up which sent me back into the byways of memory: each question deserves its own chapter!

>< ~ >< ~ ><  Chapter Two Being a Ragamuffin and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Didn’t you feel deprived with this lack of Trick Or Treating? 
                 Many areas of the Northeastern United States adopted Saint Martin’s Day on November 11, as a religious celebration day coinciding with Thanksgiving Day in the 1870’s. It was a holiday that addressed the poor and disenfranchised throughout the Christian world. However, few communities took care of the real poor. Rather, it was a time for children to dress up as dirty ragamuffins and go door to door on Thanksgiving morning, begging for treats, coins, and other foodstuff. Often, informal parades were formed, and our treasures were waved over our heads. 
                (FYI: Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November as a national day of thankfulness. In 1963, Congress made it a legal holiday.)
                Off we traipsed, often covering ten square blocks. We rang doorbells. We knocked on doors. We showed up in stores. When the residents or store employees responded, we would chorus “Anyt’ing for T’anksgivin’?”
                By the by, in 1930, the New York City Superintendent of Schools succeeded in having a law passed against the Ragamuffin excursions and “parades”, but most New York City communities, especially on Long Island, merrily ignored the law.     
                I soon became the envy of the neighborhood children because neither of my parents had to work on Thanksgiving Day. So, after I returned home around 11 am and changed my clothes. Then my parents and I traipsed via subway to downtown Manhattan to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. 
                To this day, as I watch the parade on TV, I sink into a reverie of fond remembrances. Who NEEDED Halloween, anyway?

>< ~ >< ~ ><  Chapter Three What was your most UNIQUE Halloween experience?  A Halloween Trip To the ER
                By the time I had begun teaching in 1973 in New Jersey, Halloween practices had begun to change dramatically. In the early 1980’s, and the beginning of the electronic age, a revolution occurred. The moirés of the “old days” were gone. Living and working in middle class neighborhoods meant there was too much ready cash available. Parents began to outdo each other in providing costumes. The heroes of old became passé. New heroes killed, shot, burned, and karate-ed others to death. Women wore fewer clothing. Whoever would have thought that Wonder Woman looked drab and overdressed? 
                When I began teaching in Mount Laurel, NJ, Halloween in the United States had embarked on an exercise in greed and outdoing others.
                Today, ironically enough, the practices which appalled me then seem relatively harmless. 
                Every year, the schoolrooms had more elaborate parties for the students. The parents endeavored to outdo each other with refreshments and games. Teachers and principals dressed in costumes. An hour-long parade happened after lunch, and prizes were awarded to both teachers and students … and finally, to parents. The children left school at the end of the school day, determined to fill their shopping bags to the rim with loot. Alas! By 1982 (at which time I had applied for a position in another district school), I got caught up in the fever. Each year, I had developed more and more amusing but wacky costumes. 
                Finally, my most glorious Halloween Day arrived. I would dress in a billowing gown decorated with brightly printed rainbows, and puffed out with a half dozen petticoats.  I would have a gilded soldier helmet on my head, and clump around in along in hiking boots with gilt laces. In addition I carried a gilded toy rifle to “shoot” birds flying overhead. I figured I would have the teacher prize “nailed down”. I now suspect God must have been appalled and decided to take action. 
                Since we had to have our regular morning classes before lunch, I settled my students into their groups and began teaching. The first group of students sat at the reading table and starting reading about an Olympic swimmer, who persevered in winning the backstroke swimming gold medal. She was quite a heroine. One of the students asked me what a “backstroke” was. The other five students in the group nodded their heads. 
                I tried to explain with words. No one quite understood me. So, still sitting in my chair, I demonstrated.
                “Oh, now we understand,” chorused the students.
                Gleefully pushing with my feet on the carpet tiles, and enthusiastically back stroking, I slid myself and the chair around the group while the children cheered me on to an imaginary finish line.        
                There was a sharp snap in my lower back, and I was unable to move. The pain was excruciating. Quickly I sent a student to the nurse’s office for two aspirin. Within minutes he returned with the two tablets, and I took them with water. 
                Twenty minutes later I still couldn’t stand up. It was approaching lunch time.
                After another twenty minutes, I sent him back to the nurse’s office for two more aspirin. Nurse Joan Cornew arrived with a dosage container and stood about five feet away from me, holding it up. The principal came in, too. I told them what had happened. Still standing in her position, Joan looked at me and said, “Come and get it.”
                Alas! I was unable to move. She nodded her head sagely. 
                The principal said, “I’m calling the first aid squad.”
                A temporary substitute teacher took the students to the lunchroom. 
                The first aid squad arrived, accompanied by the full fire department. I could not stand to be lifted onto a stretcher. So the paramedics lifted up the chair I was sitting in and slid me onto the stretcher on my back. They used inflated cubes to support my legs. It was humiliating.  The students, with trepidation, watched me being loaded onto the ambulance. 
                On the ride to the hospital, I had to tell the medics about the situation. They called the ER and explained about their patient. The ER doctor said, “I didn’t know there was a swimming pool in Countryside School?” Tersely, the medic snapped, “There is NOT.” 
                All the employees in ER – of course – were in full Halloween regalia. The head nurse – a friend of mine – was dressed like a witch with a green-painted face and her favorite set of fangs, rushed in and exclaimed, “Oh! My heavens! It’s John’s mom!” As she looked at my position, and heard the story, she said, “I didn’t know your school has a swimming pool?” The entire first aid squad chorused: “There isn’t any!” Explanations were rapidly made. 
                 I was admitted to the hospital. Within 24 hours the doctors had straightened out my body, although I still couldn’t walk, and I was sent home.
                By the way, my son John was, at that time, a nurse in the ER. It was his day off. When he heard what had happened, he rushed back to work, took a look at me, patted me on the head, and said just one accusatory word: “MOM!?!”      
                Recuperation time was awful. It was three weeks before I could return to school. Workman’s Compensation covered my expenses. “Only,” said MaryAnn Kirvan, our secretary, “because I didn’t volunteer extra information about our school’s pool.”           
                Anyt’ing for Thanksgivin’?

>< ~ >< ~ ><  Which of your costumes caused the greatest reaction?  The Anarchist and the Prostitute 
                Several years after getting married, my husband and I were invited to a friend’s house for a Halloween party. They lived a half hour subway ride away from us, and we were delighted to come. Another friend was driving back to the city from a work-related trip in New England, and told us he would gladly drive us home.
                I asked him about his own costume, and he said he would dress as a living spirit. After he arrived at the party, we discovered his gift of understatement. The “sheet” was a large white bedspread bespattered by rips and tears of all sizes, accentuated by red paint. He wore the spread over his head and had cut out eye holes so he could see. Once he got there, he could not partake of the refreshments, so I slit a mouth hole for him, and he wore his handkerchief loosely tied over his hidden mouth, in bandit style.
                The late afternoon of the party, my husband said he wanted to surprise me; and in turn, I wanted to surprise him. We both had all we needed for our costumes. Then one of us holed up in the bedroom, the other in the bathroom. A half hour later, we called out “Ready!’ and came out.
                One stunned look, and we collapsed in helpless laughter.
                Hubby had cut a bristle hairbrush into tiny pieces, put glue on his cheeks and chin, and spread the bristles on his face. What an unshaven mess! Then, he spread hair gel in his hair and rumpled it into hills and valleys. His clothes were ragged. He wore only one sock. He had painted large concentric circles on the soles of his shoes that looked like holes. His shirt was missing buttons and was only partially tucked in.
                In his hand he carried a black rubber ball to which he had taped a half inch diameter, ten inch long cord. It looked like a bomb.
                There was an (empty) pistol in his other hand.
                Choking with laughter, I immediately identified him as an anarchist.
                He looked at me and laughed hysterically. I had taken a bright red, tightly fitting dress and its inviting false leopard skin belt, and had cut the hemline to midway up the thighs. My hosiery was held up by extra long garters extending below the hemline. They were fastened to my black sheer stockings. My brown hair was streaked with blond and red highlights, and was almost as wild as my husband’s, thanks to my own tube of gel. I had enough so much makeup on my face, I could barely smile. When I open , my thickly smeared red lips, one front tooth was blacked out. My shoes had four inch heels. Of course, I had the foresight to bring newly purchased flip flops being sold in boutiques,  in a pocketbook bought for the occasion: silver sequins, folks. Silver sequins.
                Choking with laughter, he immediately identified me as a prostitute.
                It happened to be a warm evening, so we didn’t bother to wear coats.
                Merrily, we walked the five minutes to the subway station and soon boarded a train. Most of the people were on their way home from work. Everyone stopped talking and stared. No one said a word.
                At each station, people emptied out and people poured in. The newcomers stared at us in stunned silence.
                By the time we reached our third or fourth stop, most of the passengers had begun to laugh and started to banter with us. We played our roles to the hilt.
                Some invited us to ply our obvious “trades” in their neighborhoods. People in the 1950’s of New York City were quite aware of the realities of life.
                As soon as the doors opened and a new crowd came in, the same patterns of silence and laughter reoccurred.
     Our stop came up, and as we left, most of the passengers spontaneously sang, “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.
                 Fortunately, our friends lived only a minute’s walk from  away from the station. More fortunately, we had an auto ride home.
                Oh, yes. We won 1st prize.
                It was two days before we could get all the gunk off our bodies.
Happy Halloween.

 

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POLISH MUSHROOMS OUTSMART COMMIES – Ya Gotta Do …

            The history of Poland, homeland of my mother’s family since the 1500’s, tore through that unfortunate nation during the 20th Century. The beginning of the Second World War saw both Nazi and Russian invasions as the realm was shredded. In 1945, the eventual Russian “liberation” of this war-torn nation led to the ultimate nadir during the Communist takeover, which was finally broken in 1989.

            An unknown number of my family members – all Jewish – died in the concentration camps and many mass executions during the nightmare. Family lore puts the number at more than six hundred murdered souls.              Before the First World War, four of my mother’s family had emigrated and settled in the United States. Also before World 1, my grandmother and grandfather, as well as several of my grandmother’s brothers, along with my two uncles and my mother emigrated to Vienna, Austria. Some few, including my grandparents, mother, and both uncles made it to the United States by 1942. Two other relatives ended up in the United Kingdom, four to Australia, one to China, three to the Netherlands, and three to Israel during the beginnings of the War.

            By the end of WWII, all of them  – including five concentration camp survivors were able to contact each other throughout the world.

            Then, in 1945, the Russians closed Poland, and we were unable to search for awhile. However, even Communists need funds to run a nation, so Stalin decreed war survivors could connect with relatives throughout the world and ask for food, money, necessities, tools, clothing, and “appropriate gifts, but no jewelry”. The survivors were officially warned “gossip” – i.e. truth – about their political restrictions would lead to immediate execution and their family’s land would be confiscated.

            Several relatives, who had been hidden during the Second World War by Christian neighbors, came to light. Two who were educated and had liberal outlooks perished under the Communists. Some others walked through a living hell during the nights to reach Western Europe and its seaports and ended up in Israel or Australia. Several may have come to the United States. But we have never able to find them because their names were changed. All in all, our family’s WWII survivor generation count was up to a dozen.

            As soon as the  Communist decree went out, my grandmother the Polish survivors were able to touch base. She and my grandfather did indeed send most of what was asked for, but drew the line at a tractor. The “supply choo-choo” as my grandfather named it, continued into the 1970’s,

            In Poland, all mail to the United States and from here, was, of course censored.

            Desperate for news, and aware the Polish relatives were in the same mind, Oma Feld started to reminisce in her letters and packages about the childhood days of the family. She complained long, often, and bitterly about American food:  the “tasteless mushrooms” for sale in the United States, the lack of “decent” smoked salmon, “kielbasa and other divine sausages which are worse than tasteless, which is an obscenity!” she groused.  She offered to send money if “these foods, especially large 5-6 inch diameter  heavenly mushrooms” were sent to her.

            Her “complaints” to Poland were not censored by the Russians. Oma’s sister sent a letter to the United States which started off with “I hear what you are saying, dear sister. Let’s try to rectify this. But do send not stop sending money for us to purchase the supplies.”

            Soon a thriving exchange of Polish food and American money became established on a broad basis between other families. This system is called capitalism. Capitalism and its connecting greed will eventually destroy Communism.

            One afternoon, while visiting during the summer, I was sent from my grandparents’ store to pick up the mail, and there was a package from Poland. I brought it to her, and she immediately opened it. There was a beautifully decorated Polish wildflowers enameled box, eight inches by four inches by four inches high.

            Opa Feld was brought into the office. Both were excited. The two of them began to laugh with delight.

            I wondered what was in it, but was told we would have to wait until after dinner and the ensuing quilt deliveries to clients that evening.

            Finally, the work day ended, and we went home.

            We sat around the dining room table, found a key taped to the bottom, and the box was unlocked.

            It was full of shriveled, dried mushrooms, each about three inches in diameter.

            “There are no stems!” I shouted, as I picked them up and smelled them. “Oh, they smell so good!”

            Both grandparents laughed merrily, then told me to sit down and watch.

            Carefully Oma and Opa began to break open the dried mushrooms.

            I gasped in amazement. “Aren’t you going to cook them? Those pieces are so small!”

            Both Opa and Oma smiled at me, and put their fingers to their mouths. Tiny pieces remained there.

            To my total amazement, each mushroom had a small three inch by two inch strip of crumpled paper in it. There were about fifty such. The paper had been placed into the fresh mushrooms, which were then permitted to dry and shrivel.

            My grandparents carefully smoothed out the paper wrinkles and began to read messages written in tiny print for which they had to use a magnifying glass.

            News of the family and their fortunate or unfortunate status had been smuggled past the Russian censors! A letter from my grandmother’s sister was opened. She said she had brought a “similar box” to the post office as a treat because “The Communists are really changing this nation for the better, and they deserve a reward.”

            Opa snorted. “I hope the monsters enjoyed their mushrooms!”

            The three of us joined hands and danced around the dining room table, singing and kicking our heels in the polka step. Then we all had a sip of wine and toasted the mushroom family.

            Until the 1970’s the mushrooms were a regular gift from Poland, and enabled my grandparents to keep in touch with the family. They, in turn notified the other survivors throughout the world.

            When I visited the Australia in 2006 for the New Year’s celebration, Polish Mushrooms were part of the many dishes. A toast was always made to the mushroom family.

            Oma Feld often said, when discussing this important part of her life – in Polish – a phrase similar to “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!”

           

           

 

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Halloweens Then and Later – Thanksgiving Followup

>< ~ >< ~ ><
Chapter One
Halloween begins in my life

When I was a child in the early 40’s, we lived in a lower-middle-class working neighborhood in a section of Queens – one of New York City’s five boroughs. This area is, still, to this day, named Astoria. Visiting Queens through the last six decades has been fascinating, I might add, because it is mostly unchanged. The seven rental homes in that borough where we lived in over the timeline of my existence are, with one exception, still standing; as are the various schools I attended. Visiting my high school has been eerie!
In August of 1940 we moved from the crowded multi-story living of Manhattan to the relatively open spaces of Astoria, and took up residence on the second floor of a two family home. I finally had a bedroom with a window and was delighted. Mom and Dad still continued to commute to work in one of the sweatshops of Manhattan, and, so, at the age of six and a half I became a Latchkey Kid.
Parenthetically, most of us were Latchkey Kids! When we came home from grammar school, we had to stay indoors, where we cleaned house, made beds, took care of younger siblings and pets, and folded laundry. We were required to read classics one hour a day … although most of us doubled the time.
For those whose families owned family businesses, there was no latchkey. Instead, those children would go there after school. When needed, they would work. Oh, how we envied them and their freedom! When time allowed, they would do their homework.
Homework did not begin until after supper, which we girls helped our mothers prepare. Before homework began, however, we assisted with the clearing up and preparing of the next day’s lunch for all of us.
Then, the homework was done under the eagle eye of our parents.
Halloween was not a major event for us. We did NOT get dressed up in today’s sense of that word. Rather, we attended a party in our individual classrooms, preceded by a half hour “parade” around the playground. No prizes were given out. Mostly we dressed in older siblings’ or grandparents’/parents’ clothing temporarily held together with safety pins.
For both boys and girls, our biggest thrill was being permitted to wear mom’s or grandmom’s costume jewelry and use their leftover lipsticks which had worn down to the edge of the tube. They were kept for Halloween, at which time it was used on lips, faces, and hands liberally coated with a thin coat of Pond’s face cream. Popsicle sticks saved from the warmer days were used as applicators.
If our parents happened to have the money to spare, we owned a black Lone Ranger style face mask held on by tied cords. It was a treasure used for several years each October 31st.
The religious faiths of neighborhood orthodox families whose children attended either the Catholic and Jewish schools did not allow participation in the Halloween dress ups.
For the rest of us, there were many restrictions. Demons were considered real, and were supposed to frighten people, be celebrated. No Jewish child in their right mind would dare to dress like The Golem – shades of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings ! (Thank you for your insight, Zachary.) Nor did the Catholics allow children to dress like Satan and his minions! Angels and biblical figures were also out of bounds. Keep in mind, also, the two deeply celebratory faith days after Halloween – on November 1st, and the Mexican Day of the Dead on November 2nd.
As I began reminiscing with others about the Halloweens of my childhood and the years that followed, various friends, in turn, journeyed back to their own past. Some questions came up which sent me back into the byways of memory: each question deserves its own chapter!

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Chapter Two

Didn’t you feel deprived with this lack of Trick Or Treating?
Being a Ragamuffin and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
      Many areas of the Northeastern United States adopted Saint Martin’s Day as a religious celebration day coinciding with Thanksgiving Day in the 1870’s. It was a holiday that addressed the poor and disenfranchised throughout the Christian world. However, few communities took care of the real poor. Rather, it was a time for children to dress up as dirty ragamuffins and go door to door on Thanksgiving morning begging for treats, coins, and other foodstuffs. Often, informal parades were formed and our treasures were waved over our heads.
     (FYI: Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November as a national day of thankfulness. In 1963, Congress made it a legal holiday.)
     Off we traipsed, often covering ten square blocks. We rang doorbells. We knocked on doors. We showed up in stores. When the residents or store employees responded, we would chorus Anyt’ing for T’anksgivin’?
     By the by, in 1930, the New York City Superintendent of Schools succeeded in having a law passed against the Ragamuffin excursions and “parades”, but most New York City communities, especially on Long Island, merrily ignored the law.
I soon became the envy of the neighborhood children because neither of my parents had to work on Thanksgiving Day. So after I returned home around 11 am and changed my clothes, we traipsed via subway to downtown Manhattan to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
To this day, as I watch the parade on TV, and sink into a reverie of fond remembrances. Who NEEDED Halloween, anyway?

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Chapter Three
What was your most UNIQUE Halloween experience?
A Halloween Trip To the ER

By the time I had begun teaching in 1973, Halloween practices had begun to change dramatically. In the early 80’s, and the beginning of the electronics’ age, a revolution occurred. The moirés of the “old days” were gone. Living and working in middle class neighborhoods meant there was too much ready cash available. Parents began to outdo each other in providing costumes. The heroes of old became passé. New heroes killed, shot, burned, and karate-ed others to death. Women wore fewer clothing. Whoever would have thought that Wonder Woman looked drab and overdressed?
When I began teaching in Mount Laurel, NJ, Halloween in the United States had embarked on an exercise in greed and outdoing others.
Today, ironically enough, the practices which appalled me then seem relatively harmless.
Every year, the schoolrooms had huger and more elaborate parties for the students. The parents endeavored to outdo each other with refreshments and games. Teachers and principals dressed in costumes. An hour-long parade happened after lunch, and prizes were awarded to both teachers and students … and finally, to parents.          The children left school at the end of the school day determined to fill their shopping bags to the rim with loot. Alas! By 1982 (at which time I had applied for a position in another district school), I got caught up in the fever. Each year, I had developed more and more amusing but wacky costumes.
Finally, came my most glorious day: I would dress in a billowing gown decorated with bright rainbows, and puffed out with a half dozen petticoats, wear a gilded soldier helmet, and clump around in along in hiking boots with gilt laces. In addition I carried a toy gilded toy rifle to “shoot” birds flying overhead. I figured I would have the teacher prize “nailed down”. I now suspect God must have been appalled and decided to take action.
Since we had to have our regular morning classes before lunch, I settled my students into their groups, and began teaching. The first group of students sat at the reading table and began to read about an Olympic swimmer who persevered in winning the backstroke swimming gold medal. She was quite a heroine. One of the students asked me what a ‘backstroke’ was. The other five students in the group nodded their heads.
So I tried to explain with words. No one quite understood me. So, still sitting in my chair, I demonstrated. “Oh, now we understand,” chorused the students. Gleefully pushing with my feet, and enthusiastically back stroking, I slid myself and the chair around the group while they cheered me on to an imaginary finish line.         There was a sharp snap in my lower back, and I was unable to move. The pain was excruciating. Quickly I sent a student to the nurse’s office for two aspirin. Within minutes he returned, and I took them.
Twenty minutes later I couldn’t stand up. After another twenty minutes I sent him back to the nurse’s office for two more aspirin. Nurse Joan C. arrived with a dosage container and stood about five feet away from me, holding it up. The principal came in, too. I told them what had happened. Still standing in her position, Joan looked at me and said, “Come and get it.” Alas! I was unable to move. She nodded her head sagely.
The principal said, “I’m calling the first aid squad.” A temporary substitute teacher took the students to the lunchroom.
The first aid squad arrived, accompanied by the full fire department. I was lifted onto a stretcher in the sitting position and on my back. The students,with trepidation, watched me being loaded onto the ambulance.
On the ride to the hospital, I had to tell the medics about the situation. They called the ER and explained about their patient. The ER doctor said, “I didn’t know there was a swimming pool in Countryside School?” Tersely, the medic snapped, “There is NOT.”
All the employees in ER – of course – were dressed in full Halloween regalia. The head nurse – a friend of mine – was dressed like a witch with a green-painted face and fangs – rushed in, said “Oh! My heavens! It’s John’s mom!” When she saw my position, and heard the story, she said, “I didn’t know your school has a swimming pool?” The entire first aid squad chorused: “There isn’t any!” Explanations were rapidly made.
I was admitted to the hospital. Within 24 hours they had straightened out my body, and then was sent home.       By the way, my son John was, at that time, a nurse in the ER. It was his day off. When he heard what had happened, he rushed in, took a look at me, patted me on the head, and said just one accusatory word: “MOM!?!”      Recuperation time was awful. It was three weeks before I could return to school. Workman’s Compensation covered my expenses. “Only” said MaryAnn K, our secretary, “because I didn’t volunteer our school’s pool.”           Anyt’ing for Thanksgivin’.

>< ~ >< ~ ><
Which of costume of yours caused the biggest reaction?
The Anarchist and the Prostitute
       Several years after getting married, my husband I were invited to a friend’s house for a Halloween party. They lived a half hour subway ride away from us, and we were delighted to come. Another friend was driving back to the city from a work-related trip in New England, and told us he would gladly drive us home.
      I asked him about his own costume, and he said he would dress as a living spirit. After he arrived at the party, we discovered his gift of understatement. The “sheet” was a large white bedspread bespattered by rips and tears of all sizes, accentuated by red paint. He wore the spread over his head and had cut out eye holes so he could see. Once he got there, he could not partake of the refreshments, so I slit a mouth hole for him, and he wore his handkerchief loosely tied over his hidden mouth in bandit style.
     The late afternoon of the party, my husband said he wanted to surprise me; and in turn, I wanted to surprise him. We both had all we needed for our costumes. Then one of us holed up in the bedroom;, the other in the bathroom. A half hour later we called out “Ready!’ and came out.
     One shocked look, and we collapsed in helpless laughter.
     Hubby had cut a bristle hairbrush into tiny pieces, put glue on his cheeks and chin, and spread the bristles on his face. What an unshaven mess! Then, he spread hair gel in his hair and rumpled it into hills and valleys. His clothes were ragged. He wore only one sock. He had painted large concentric circles on the soles of his shoes that looked like holes. His shirt was missing buttons and was only partially tucked in.
      In his hand he carried a black rubber ball to which he had taped a half inch diameter, ten inch long cord. It looked like a bomb.
      There was an (empty) pistol in his other hand.
      Choking with laughter, I immediately identified him as an anarchist.
      He looked at me and laughed hysterically. I had taken a bright red, tightly fitting dress with the false leopard skin belt, and had cut the hemline to midway up the thighs. My hosiery was held up by extra long garters extending below the hemline. They were fastened to my black sheer stockings. My brown hair was streaked with blond and red highlights, and was almost as wild as his, thanks to my own tube of jell. I had enough makeup on my face and eyes so that I could barely smile. One front tooth was blacked out. My shoes had four inch high heels. Of course, I had the foresight to bring flat flip flops in a pocketbook bought for the occasion: silver sequins, folks. Silver sequins.
      Choking with laughter, he immediately identified me as a prostitute.
It happened to be a warm evening out, so we 
didn’t bother to wear coats.
      Merrily, we walked the five minutes to the subway station and soon boarded a train. Most of the people were on their way home from work and were not in costume. Everyone stopped talking and stared. No one said a word.
      At each station, people emptied out and people poured in. The newcomers stared at us in stunned silence.
      By the time we reached our third or fourth stop, most of the passengers had begun to laugh and started to banter with us. We played our roles to the hilt.
      Some invited us to ply our obvious “trades” in their neighborhoods.
     As soon as the doors opened and a new crowd came in, the same patterns of silence and laughter reoccurred.
     Our stop came up, and as we left, the whole car spontaneously sang, “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.
     Fortunately, our friends lived a half a minute away from the station. More fortunately, we had an auto ride home.
     Oh, yes. We won 1st prize.
     It was two days before we could get all the gunk off our bodies.

Happy Halloween.

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POLAND’S MUSHROOMS – Ya Gotta Do What Ya Gotta Do

The history of Poland, homeland of my mother’s family since the 1500’s, tore through this nation during the 20th Century. The beginning of the 2nd World War saw both Nazi and Russian invasions as the realm was shredded. In 1945, the eventual Russian “liberation” of this war-torn nation led to the nadir with the Communist takeover, which was finally broken in 1989.
An unknown number of family members – all of Jewish – died in the concentration camps and mass executions during the nightmare. Family lore puts the number at more than six hundred murdered souls. Before the First World War, four of my mother’s family had emigrated and settled in the United States. At the same time, my grandmother and grandfather, as well as my grandmother’s brothers, along with my two uncles and my mother emigrated to Vienna, Austria. Some few, including my grandparents, mother, and both uncles made it to the United States by 1942. Two other relatives ended up in the United Kingdom, four to Australia, one to China, three to the Netherlands, and three to Israel during this decade.
By the end of the war, all – including five concentration camp survivors were able to contact each other throughout the world.
Then, in 1945, the Russians closed the country, and we were unable to search for awhile. However, even Communists need funds to run a nation, so Stalin decreed war survivors could connect with relatives throughout the world and ask for food, money, necessities, tools, clothing, and “gifts”. They were officially warned “gossip” – i.e. truth – about their political restrictions would lead to immediate execution and their family’s land would be confiscated.
Several relatives, who had been hidden during the entire war by Christian neighbors, came to light. Two who were educated and had liberal outlooks perished under the Communists. Some others walked during the nights to Western Europe, seaports and ended up in Israel or Australia. Several may have come to the United States. All in all, our family’s survivor generation count was up to a dozen.
As soon as the decree went out, my grandmother was able to contact the Polish survivors. She and my grandfather did indeed send most of what was asked for, but drew the line at a tractor. The supplies continued into the 1970’s,
All mail to the United States and from here, was, of course censored. So Oma Feld started to reminisce about the childhood days of the family. She complained long, often, and bitterly about American food: the “tasteless mushrooms” for sale in the United States, the lack of “decent” smoked salmon, kielbasa and other sausages which are worse than tasteless, it is an obscenity!” She offered to send money if these foods were sent to her.
Her “complaints” to Poland were not censored. Oma’s sister sent a letter to the United States which started off with “I hear what you are saying, dear sister. Let’s try to rectify this. But do send money for the supplies.”
Soon a thriving exchange of Polish food and American money became established on a broad basis between other families. This system is called capitalism. Capitalism and its connecting greed will eventually destroy Communism.
One afternoon, after work, I was sent from their store to pick up the mail, and there was a package from Poland. I brought it to her, and she immediately opened it. There was a beautifully decorated Polish wildflowers enameled box, eight inches by four inches by four inches high.
Opa Feld was excitedly brought into the office. The two of them began to laugh with delight.
I wondered what was in it, but was told we would have to wait until after quilt deliveries to clients that evening.
Finally, the work day ended, and we went home.
We sat around the dining room table, and the box was unlocked.
It was full of shriveled, dried mushrooms, each about three inches in diameter.
“There are no stems!” I shouted, as I picked them up and smelled them. “Oh, they smell so good!”
Both grandparents laughed merrily, then told me to sit down and watch.
Carefully Oma and Opa began to break open the dried mushrooms.
To my total amazement, each mushroom had a small three inch by two inch strip of crumpled paper in it. There were about fifty such.
My grandparents carefully smoothed out the wrinkles and began to read the messages written in tiny print with a magnifying glass.
News of the family and their fortunate or unfortunate status had been smuggled past the Russian censors. A letter from my grandmother’s sister was opened. She said she had brought a similar box to the post office as a treat because “The Communists are really changing this nation for the better, and they deserve a reward.”
Opa snorted. “I hope the monsters enjoyed their mushrooms!” The three of us joined hands and danced around the dining room table, singing and kicking our heels in the polka step. Then we all had a sip of wine and toasted the mushroom family.
Until the 1950’s the mushrooms were a regular gift from Poland, and enabled my grandparents to keep in touch with the family. They, in turn notified the other survivors.
When I visited the Australia in 2006, Mushrooms were part of many dinners. A toast was always made to the mushroom family.
Oma Feld often said – in Polish – a phrase similar to “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!”

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OUR MINISTER’S DAY OFF

In the 1960’s we moved to scenic West Milford; then a rural community in the rolling hills of North Eastern New Jersey. Our four bedroom Cape Cod was built into a half acre of wooded hillside – so the front looked tiny. However, the back was actually three stories high and consisted of an above-ground basement, the ground floor, the three room upper story, and a full-size attic above which was hidden within the roof itself.

            It was – and still is – a fascinating area. The hills were formed at the same time as the Appalachians, eroded down, and then rounded off by glaciers. There are ruins of iron mines, furnaces, and manufacturing plants. Gold, silver, and various semi-precious stones can be found, Lenape Indian villages are scattered throughout. Unique plants, animals, and birds found nowhere else in the state live there, including cactus! In the hills are caves famous for their bats and fluorescent minerals. UpperGreenwoodLake is a well-known body of water in the northern part of West Milford.

            In those days, funds were very tight, so we only had one bathroom for ourselves and our four children.

            The development had two streets which formed a “Y” from the main road. It was small: about seventeen homes from the top of the hill. Our home was at the intersection of that Y, which ran steeply downward to the shores of the PequannockRiver.

            We lived there between 1966 and 1977, at which time we moved to the RancocasNatureCenter in Westampton, New Jersey.

            Over the years, we finished off bedrooms, and part of the basement, and added a huge garden, which at one point contained marijuana plants – but that, my friends, is another story. Most of it was legal, by the way.

            Some of my children are still in touch with former neighbors’ children through Facebook, and I occasionally exchange messages with them.

            Our basement was an interesting place. Over the years the usual laundry and heating appliances and the children’s indoor play area played host to a series of pets and exotic pets we were baby sitting: a South African Otter named Sam, exotic snakes (our own pet snakes were kept in cages in the living and dining rooms), various rabbits, tame rats, turtles, opossums, baby raccoons, wounded birds, and a semi-tame woodchuck who ate his way through the insulation up into the attic.

            In other words, we felt at home.

            As time went on, I graduated from college, and the funding situation improved. Until then Christmas presents from our parents were used to purchase auto tires, make repairs, and replace worn out appliances.

            One Christmas Eve, our gas hot water heater blew up. You know: BANG!!!

            However, the annual Christmas largess enabled us to buy a new one. The plumber, an old timer in the town, was a bit crotchety, and  he agreed to come on Christmas Day to install the new heater.

            As usual, brought his tools and his daily ration of bourbon: a quart bottle. After the pleasantries, he lit his cigarette and disappeared into the basement. Occasionally he would call on my husband and/or myself to assist, but he was cheerful.

            Finally, after two hours of hard work, the heater was installed. He told me he was ready for lunch, so I dutifully went upstairs to prepare it.

            Our intrepid hero, lit a cigarette, and turned on the gas.

            A huge explosion followed by a sickening THUNK rocked our house.

            I called 911. Within minutes the volunteer fire department arrived. They were having a Christmas celebration at the firehouse, a mile away.

            Frantically, I raced downstairs, while my husband turned off the gas. Our hero was burned on his arms and face, so, being on the first aid squad, I gave him first aid. There was no fire. The tank did not go through the ceiling. But when it came down, it knocked him in the head and opened a cut.

            Suddenly, I realized there was one fully clad fireman – complete with axe and carrying part of a hose on each one of our basement steps. While I filled them in on the events, they came down and inspected. I look at one of the volunteers, and said, “Hey! I know you! What’s your name?”

            Everyone started to laugh hysterically.

            I was stunned.

            He took off his coat. He took off his undercoat. He took off his hat. Then slowly he removed his goggles.

            Very slowly and dramatically he said, “I am your minister, Liz.”

            My jaw dropped.

            “I didn’t recognize you without your collar.” I stuttered. He took off his scarf. There was the clerical collar.

            Then he reached over and lifted my jaw back into place.

            Eventually, then they put the plumber on a stretcher which had been wheeled in.

They took away the plumber’s bottle and cigarettes.

Then, the crew removed the wounded heater, brought another one from the plumber’s truck, installed it, all the while singing Christmas carols.

Within half an hour we had hot water again.

As we merrily exchanged Christmas greetings and hugs, our plumber friend was put into his truck, and the minister drove him home. Just before they left, one of the firemen brought him his bourbon and his cigarettes.

Thankfully, he took a swig and lit a cigarette.

I understand his wife almost had a heart attack when the entire fire department arrived at their house.

Oh, yes, our friend recovered in a few weeks. The injuries were not dangerous.

In church that Sunday, the minister strode to the altar dressed in full fire gear, while we call gasped. After he stripped them off, he told of his adventures.

It was a merry service.

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STRAWBERRYRASPBERRYDUKEFAMILY – EH! 09/02/13

INTRODUCTION: I love to relate the tales of my parents’ and grandparents’ interaction with the rich and famous during their sojourn in Austria. These family exploits and adventures were related to me over and over again throughout my childhood and early adulthood. Quite often, there was a great deal of reminiscing during conversations amongst themselves and their friends.

The family reminiscences had one shortcoming. The name, rank, serial number of these contacts were never spoken. After all, everyone knew who was being spoken of. So, informal names, according to family tradition – were used based on nicknames, old ranks, behaviors, parental connections, etc.

So, when Der Verrükter (The Lunatic) came up, I knew they were referring to family friend Sigmund Freud. His family had informal names: Die arme Frau Doktor Freud (That poor married to HIM Mrs. Freud). Daughter Anna had no formal nickname. Everyone just held their open hands upright on their cheeks whilst rolling their eyes heavenward.

As time goes by, I find myself increasingly caught up in gaps of the stories of my family’s history. Peculiar matters such as names, relationships – or even royal titles – are little minutiae of my parents’ and grandparents’ relationships which have slipped away into the corners of my brain tissue.

The internet saves me from embarrassment.

When an incident of the present time reminds me of a family reminiscence, I have learned – the hard way – to research the facts.

September 01, 2013 happened to be a wonderful day in church for me: It was my turn to read the scriptures. Luke 14:1, 7-14 holds a parable which expands upon egotistical, self-centered attendees with overblown egos at a banquet, and their total lack of humbleness and humility. A warning is given to us by Jesus: live in humility, humble yourself before those you serve, and don’t be expect to be repaid. Pastor Joe’s sermon detailed these words of Jesus and expanded the meaning of their truths within our own life styles and responsibilities.

As the words flowed through me, I was wafted back in memory as I recalled the egotism of my father and his first cousin Hans back in the 1920’s.

These two men cultivated and fostered a lack of humility, lack of humbleness, an overblown opinion of themselves – all their lives. Yes, I loved them a great deal. And yes, the tales of their adventures and incidents were really funny to listen to. However, eventually I trod the road taught to me by my grandmothers and grandfather, who spelled out my responsibilities to heaven, to this nation, and to the unfortunate.

The retelling of the following event was always preceded by gales of laughter, whenever Dad and Hans gleefully related us about “Strawberry. Raspberry. White Tie. White Tails. Oh my! Was the Emperor furious with us!” They would chant. Decades after the event, they still recalled every detail.

Dad: Leon Peter Bruck, 1899-1979. Cousin Hans Lurien, lived in Paris post WWII. I last met him in California in the mid-60’s when we both were visiting his sister Margarete. Therein lies another – but related tale.

Well, I thought to myself, but Emperor Franz Josef, who and his wife were friendly with my dad’s parents – was assassinated in 1914. That’s when the WWI started.

After the war, the Austrian Empire was dismantled, and it became a half-serious Republic until Hitler invaded in 1938.
And … and … who would have thought in The Weavings of the Tapestry of Life – as well as in the Six Degrees of Separation Theory – there would be a direct connection between myself and the Pretender to the Austrian Throne Otto von Habsburg?

The retelling of the following event was always preceded by gales of laughter, as Dad and Hans told us about “Strawberry. Raspberry. White Tie. White Tails. Oh my! Was the Emperor furious with us!” They would chant. Decades after the event, they still recalled every detail.

STATISTICS: Dad: Leon Peter Bruck, 1899-1979. Cousin Hans Lurien, lived in Paris post WWII. I Last met him in California in mid-60’s when we both visited his sister Margarete.
Well, I thought to myself, but Emperor Franz Josef, who was friendly with my dad’s parents – as was his wife – was assassinated in 1914. That’s when the WWI started.

After the war, the Austrian Empire was dismantled, and it became a half-serious Republic until Hitler invaded in 1938.
But the emperor had been assassinated, and Austria became a Republic. Who in heaven’s name was the “Emperor” my relatives and grandmother were referring to after WWI?

The answer, my friends was not blowing in the wind. Once again, the truth was on the Internet.

The House of Habsburg rose to power in Europe at the end of the 13th Century, and at its height ruled much of the continent. Otto von Habsburg saw the crumbling of the empire that his family had ruled for centuries and emerged from its ashes as a champion of a united and democratic Europe. The oldest son of Austria-Hungary’s last emperor fought Nazism and Soviet communism during his long decades of exile from his homeland, and was lionized by leaders across the continent as a great European.

Otto von Habsburg used his influence in a vain struggle to keep the Nazis from annexing Austria before World War II, lived in Washington DC during the war, then campaigned for the opening of the Iron Curtain in the decades after the war. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, he used his seat in European Parliament to lobby for expanding the European Union to include former Eastern bloc nations.

Born in 1912 in Austria, Otto von Habsburg witnessed the family’s decline after the empire was dismantled and Austria became a republic following World War I. He became head of the family at his father’s death 1922, and the nine-year-old Otto officially took over as the head of the House of Habsburg. He and his family continued to claim the throne until the 1960s, when he and his family relinquished his title as The Pretender and Emperor.

THE FRUIT OF THE MATTER. In the 1920’s my Dad and Hans were frequent visitors at banquets in the palace. After her husband’s death, the two men went because my Oma Mausi insisted they be her escorts.

They hated the formalities, tuxedo – white tie – tails events because of the arrogance and lack of humility of most of the guests. They, and my grandmother always sat a few seats down from the Emperor. The young men’s humor and laughter became very much appreciated, and while the Pharisees at the table looked on in horror, he and has wife and several close friends laughed heartily at the cousins’ antics.

During the last event they attended, the Master Chef brought in the piece de resistance for the desert. It was a five foot in diameter, twenty four inch high Torte covered with raspberry icing and many decorations.
Otto thanked the chef profusely and ordered similar cakes to be delivered to the twenty or so banquet tables.
No one in the huge room smiled, or cheered. A few people clapped lightly and politely.

Hans and Dad looked at each other across the table and asked if it was strawberry or raspberry flavored.
They smiled wickedly.
Oma Mausi looked stricken, and hurriedly excused herself.
Dad looked at Emperor Otto and innocently asked, “Is your majesty SURE it is indeed raspberry.”
“Oh yes,” came the answer.
Dad reached over, and delicately took a small swipe of the icing. He tasted it. “Yes, your majesty, it is indeed raspberry.”
Hans did the same motion, tasted it, and said, “Strawberry!”
Dad once again repeated his action and statement.
Hans did the same.
This was repeated about six times.
Conversation ceased around the table.
Then Dad took a two finger swipe and repeated his “Raspberry!”
Hans retaliated in kind: “Strawberry!”

The two trouble makers stood up. They each swiped a handful of icing. They loudly repeated their point of view.
Women began to sniff their smelling salts.
The Emperor was stunned.

The two mean started throwing chunks of icing, decorations, and cake at each other. They were covered with debris. After a half dozen icing tosses, they were both pink.

Then each grabbed a huge handful, bowed to the Emperor, and left whilst rubbing the material in each others heads and laughing hysterically.

The cake was ruined. Everyone from the Emperor to about a dozen attendees were covered with pink goop.

The butlers called the armed guards with pikes, who escorted the Dad and Hans from the table and onto the courtyard.
Oma returned and was escorted to her seat.

The Emperor and his wife got up to hug her and give their blessings.

He and his wife held her in their arms and she was told they would always be friends, but her son and his cousin were to be banned forever from the entire Palace grounds.
FOREVER.

Oma Mausi didn’t talk to the two men for almost six months. And they never dared to reminisce when visiting her in New York City, where she lived.

Boys should not upset emperors or mamas.

While doing my research today, I saw the photographs of Otto von Hapsburg and, in a flash, I remembered his face! Otto von Habsburg remained good friends with my Oma Mausi, and would visit her in New York City from time to time during the Second World War. He served as an advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the war, and lived in Washington DC.

The four of us all would have coffee together at her apartment in New York City when I was a child. She was not permitted to serve him either raspberry nor strawberry jellies.

He never talked to my father again.

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