Monday, July 31, 2006

Etta Rabinowitz married an Italian guy

It seems like the Ratner boys werent the only ones marrying out of the faith back in the day.

Etta Rabinowitz 1896-1979 (died in the Bronx) was the daughter of Barnet Rabinowitz and Rebecca Kurser. Her spouse was named Fran cesco James Pastorino.

Joanne Ruby fan chart

Walter asked about what kind of graphics we can do with the family tree. The program I use has a lot of output options. Most are very large, either horizontally or vertically. One format called a fan chart is compact enough for the confines of the blog. As an example, here is a four-generation fan chart for Joanne. You can see we have a lot of work to do on the Herman Ringel sector. Hopefully, there will soon be a Ze'ev interview.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Joseph's naturalization record

This is exciting because it shows Joseph Rabinowitz gaining his citizenship in 1892 and it also provides an exact date of arrival, Nov. 23, 1875. Something may not jibe exactly, since I believe one of the census documents had it in 1874. And wasn't Julius born in 1874?

Walter, I noticed on the Castle Garden site, they had an advanced search capability that involves human researchers. It costs $45. I put in a request for a Joseph Rabinowitz arriving between 1870 and 1880. I'm supposed to get an email with preliminary results before paying.

Joseph and Lena

Wow--the 1900 census has Joseph born in about 1855 and Lena in 1857, which is really getting back there. Lena is 36 when she has Walter, her last of 8 children (one deceased). They reside at 288 Pleasant Ave. in Manhattan, wherever that is. A deluge of info--but I have to stop now because must get up and finish writing a story tomorrow.

a few new findings--The Bloch-Ratners arrived in 1890 or 1891

Dan gave me the password to and showed me around a little bit, and I managed to make a few findings from the census. The 1900 census lists the arrival date of Abraham and Rose Ratner in America as 1890 (whereas the 1930 census says 1891). Assuming that one or the other is correct it solves the Ellis Island mystery--they arrived shortly before the opening of the Island on January 1, 1892 and were probably processed in the barge office that served as the site between the closing of Castle Garden on April 18, 1890 and the opening of Ellis Island. We see from that census that their oldest child was Peyzer born 1891 followed by Hyman (George?) 1892 and Lillie (probably Til ) 1896 and Sadie (clearly Selma) 1899 and Dora born 1900, who probably died soon thereafter. At that time they lived at 42 Broad Street, are renting their house and Abe is already listed as a soda water manufacturer. The 1930 census, by the way, has Abe, Rose and Thelma (Til) at 16 Cuyler Ave, which has a net worth of $14,000 and mentiones that they own a radio set (one of the few on the this page of the survey to do so). Amazing stuff.
Well, lets collect a lot more of this stuff before I get back to revising the Ruby Family Histories.

The 1917-18 military drafts

Here are excerpts from Kennedy about the 1917-18 military drafts. There will be more from him on other subjects, such as the gassing of American troops in France, at a later time.

Wilson might have accepted a comporomise that permitted at least an interim trial to the volunteer system, had not his arch-rival Theodore Roosevelt been busily establishing himself, with strong Republican backing, as the coountry's most visibly eligible volunteer....

Wilson determined to nullify the possibility that Roosevelt might lead a volunteer division to France by largely foreclosing all forms of volunteering....

The first order of business was to compile a national roster of eligible men in the designated age group between 21 and 30. The government quickly decided that the only expedient way to proceed was somehow to induce the men to come forward and register themselves. It was not at all certain that this scheme would work. Memories of Civil War draft riots haunted the adminitration. Senator James Reed of Missouri starkly predicted that the streets of America would run red with blood on registration day, June 5....

Governors, mayors, chambers of commerce, and state council of defense joined in concerted patriotic incantation to urge young men to the registarion places on June 5. Wilson himself struck the keynote of this gigantic propaganda exercise when he proclaimed, some what disingenuously, that the draft was not really a draft but a "selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass." ...

For all its ambiguity, the administration's approach to the distasteful business of military impression was largely successful. Nearly ten million men presented themselves at their local polling places to be registered on June 5, and the day, somewhat to Secretary Baker's amazement, went by without serious incident...

At 10:00 am on July 20, a blindfolded Baker drew the first draft number from a huge glass bowl in a ceremony at the Senate Office Building. College student tellers drew more numbers throughout the afternoon and evening, until by two the following morning a national "order-of-call" list had been compiled and telegraphed to local boards throughout the country...

At first the administration proceeded rather hesitantly against "slackers." By mid-1918 the Justice Department had prosecuted only 10,000 persons for failure to register. But in March of that year the Department inauguarted a new tactic, aimed not at the individual offender but designed to round up thousands of delinquents in one swoop. Justice Department agents launched the first "slacker raid" in Pittsburgh. More raids followed in Chicago, Boston and other cities, most notoriously in New York and norther New Jersey from September 3 thorough 6. In these last raids, armed soldier and sailors joined a canvass that detained more than 50,000 apparently draft-age men who were often apprehended at bayonet point in ball parks, restaurants, or on street corners and made to show their Selective Service documents....

In August, Congress extended the eligible age limits to 18 and 45, a step that called for a massive new registration on September 12 of the estimated 13 million men under 21 and over 30 now suddenly liable to the draft...

Immigrants in military service

I remembered I have a great book on the World War and American society that I acquired for family history research, Over Here by the historian and former Stanford University president David M. Kennedy. I've just begun to dip into it, but here's a striking passage, during a section on the political debate in 1917 about universal service, also called conscription:
Shared military service was the only way to "yank the hyphen" out of Italian-Americans or Polish Americans or other imperfectly assimilated immigrants. "The military tent where they all sleep side by side," Theodore Roosevelt preached, "will rank next to the public school among the great agents of democratization." Compulsory military training, said a Representatiove in 1917, "is a melting pot which will ... break down distinctions of race and class and mold us into a new nation and bhring forth the new Americans"

More later if the book has anything specific to the Rabinowitz and Ratner men as the country prepared for war.

Changes in the sidebar

You can see that I have been fooling around in the sidebar to demonstrate how the blog will provide access to documents and artifacts that we already produced. The trouble is that none of those links are live. I hope to start fooling around later to figure out how to host our multimedia assets so that the links can be made live.

Seymour's draft card

I noticed on Seymour Rabinowitz's draft registration that he gives his real birth date but changes the year to make himself 28 instead of 30. Was that intentional to get into the war? However, the card also notes that he is blind in one eye. Was that to get out of the war? This is our future truant officer, now an unemployed bookkeeper.

It would be worth reading up on the draft of 1917-18 to get a sense of how popular the war was. Were men of all ages required to register? It's interesting that Julius registered at age 41.

Welcome Joanne as a blogger

At this hour, Joanne and Lani's non-stop flight has just departed SFO bound for Heathrow. From there, they will take several trains to connect to the express for Paris, arriving perhaps 15 hours from now. They will spend a few days in Paris, then have a week or so in Venice, come back to Paris for a week, and then end with a three-day stay in London, where they will also reunite with Bill and Zach, who will be on the way home from their trans-Siberian adventure.

Busy as she was getting ready for the trip, Jo completed the registration and is now set up to contribute her own posts to this blog. You can see the three of us listed at right under "Contributors" in the blog sidebar. As the blog grows in the future, I can imagine that other family members and friends might also join in. (Of course, anyone can add a comment to any of the blog posts, whether or not they are a "contributor").

For now, welcome to Joanne. Maybe she'll have time to put up a word or two from an Internet cafe sometime during her trip.

Bette Wohlgemuth's maiden name

This was an unexpected small step forward. The death record for Elly Ringel lists her mother Bette Wohlgemuth's maiden name as Katz. Bette was the one in Walter's narrative who kisses Elly and Helga goodbye at the Berlin train station, never to see them again.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hunting for the truant officer

Tracking Blossom and Meta is harder since we don't have married names for them, but the Rabinowitz boys should be trackable. I checked Julius and found a 1920 census listing Anna as spouse, and three children Seymour, Abner and Judith. Walter's history mentions that Julius had a daughter Judith who was friendly with Stan's sister Joan, and who was about Joan's age. Sure enough, Judith Rabinowitz is one year old in 1920.

Walter's history also has Julius working for the New York City school board as a truant officer, but the census records show his occupation as bookkeeper (1910) and clerk-dry goods (1920). Perhaps it was one of the other brothers, Henry, Seymour or Abe, who worked in the schools. Like his younger brother Walter, Julius registered for the draft in 1918 even though he was then 41 years old.

Checking the other brothers, there are several plausible Henry Rabinowitzes, none a truant officer. I have an Abraham Rabinowitz who matches Walter's description as a men's clothing cutter. In 1920, he lives in the Bronx with wife Celia and children Yetta and Isadore. For Seymour, I have a 1917 draft registration card listing him as an unemployed bookkeeper who is blind in one eye, a 1930 census record showing him living alone in the Bronx and working as a--aha, there it is--a truant officer in the public schools, and a New York death notice recorded in February 1963.

Rabinowitz family

My most recent find are census records for the Rabinowitz family in 1900 and 1910. In our family tree that I have been assembling, we had Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz with five children--Julius, Meta, Abe, and Blossom in addition to little Walter, the youngest.

The 1900 census gives us a number of other names. In order, the children with their birth years, are Julius (1874), Henry (1879), Sadie (1881), Abraham (1883), Mammie (1886), Seymour (1887), Blossom (1891), and Walter (1893). Also living in the household was a boarder, Barnard Linkoff, presumably Lena's brother. All of the children were born in New York, so Joseph and Lena must have emigrated no later than 1875.

Oh, here it is right here. The year of immigration to the United States for Joseph and Lena is 1874. Barnard arrived in the same year, when he was only five years old, presumably traveling together with Joseph and Lena. Joseph's occupation is listed as "peddler." The oldest children were already employed, in order, as a bookkeeper, stock clerk and milliner. Barnard Linkoff's occupation was clothing salesman.

Then we move on to 1910 for the same family. The family, now living at an address on 118th St., now includes Joseph, Lena, Abraham, Sadie, Meta, Seymour, Blossom and Walter. Barnard is still in residence along with his spouse, Fannie. Joseph is still listed as a peddler, and all of the kids now have jobs. Walter at age 16 is listed as an office clerk.

I have image clips from the two census documents but for some reason Blogger doesn't want to upload them now. I will add them later on.

The Jersey City Rubys

Good news, I've found a plausible Walter Ruby in New Jersey for the 1920 census, a good bet to be the young man who will be in a car accident in Jersey City 15 years later. He is Walter Ruby, 25, one of three Ruby-surnamed stepsons of Thomas Fahey of Jersey City Ward 10. This Walter Ruby was born in New Jersey of parents born in New York, like the one from the 1930 census. He is listed as being a clerk with a steel company.

Anyway, it puts to rest the whole double life scenario. Wild goose chase indeed. By the way, it is amazing just how many Walter Rubys there were with birth dates in the 1890s. There are WRs in Nebraska, Kentucky, Alabama, and several other places, in addition to the one in Manhattan and the one in Jersey City.

Gerald Clerc

From Walter's link in the previous post. Is he a grandson of Joe Liebman?

Israel family reunion

On a whole different front, Walter is getting ready to meet up with our Israeli family next week, as he travels there despite the war before meeting up with Tanya in the Ukraine. Meanwhile, Joanne has canceled her visit to Israel, but will instead travel with Lani to Venice, Paris and London. In London, she has hopes to contact Helga's cousing Edit who is reported by one of the young Israeli relatives to be alive and well.

To give a flavor, here is a series of emails, with Walter's latest update on contingency plans for meeting the family if Afeq remains unsafe.


I had a long talk with Dalit and Tal on Thursday and Tal offered to have me picked up at airport upon arrival in his company car and brought to their house in Zichron. That is on the morning of the 7th. Dalit said that if the present situation is continuing at that point, the family reunion set for August 8th on Afek will be moved to Zichron, which as you know is about 15 miles south of Haifa and no rockets have gotten there yet, although some have gotten pretty close. The problem, of course, will be what to do about Ze'ev ,who might not be able to move to Zichron, though Raya, Pnina etc. certainly can do so. But the feeling is 'you do what you can' and 'zeh mah she yesh' and if we need to hold the reunion in Ze;ev's absence thats what will have to be. Tal said rockets have landed all around Afek and they themselves wouldn't travel there at this point at least.

Dalit, who I havent spoken to in about 30 years, was a delight, an absolutely charming person, very thoughtful, speaking about the sense of fragility of life in Israel--one moment a beautiful summer season, the next moment all of this horror. The situation is bringing people together and causing people to rise to the next level of generosity and collectiveness and all of that, but its still a dispiriting mess.

So, presumably the family reunion will take place on the 8th, probably in Zichron and of course you can be involved by phone. They all very much wish you could come, but understand and respect your concern about Lani.

I dont remember the address of the chateau in Neuilly--I have a picture of it in my mind's eye, but wouldnt know how to find it. And, as I may have mentioned, Clerc is gone. It used to be on the Place de La Opera, but I couldnt find it when I was there with Tanya in January.

But look at this link I just found on Google.

it seems to be the same firm. Do you think Gerald is Arnaud's son? So, according to this, the firm appears to have been created in 1874 on the Place de L'Opera and Joe Leibman must have taken it over at some point.

Love, W.

On 7/29/06, joanne ruby wrote:

joanne ruby wrote:
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2006 23:05:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: joanne ruby <>
Subject: Re: Edit and Gina
To: Dan Ruby

good go, Dan. I will write Achikam shortly w/ this and see what he can add for preparation to my talking by phone or in-person w/ Edit Aug. 14-16 in London.

Walt, shall we think about when/ how we can communicate while you are in Ha'aretz w/ our cousins. I think you definitely need to show them all the blog. Can you access Dan's photo album on line? would surely blow them away. are you taking the CD - Stories of Helga and Stan Ruby? wow. you two sure are pulling it all together. Walt, do you have recollection of location of Hilda's mansion in Neuilly? I'd love to find it. Is anyone buried there we need to find? Now there's a question (am I blogging yet?): where is Hilda buried?

Dan Ruby wrote:
Edit and Gina were daughters of Bette Ringel, who was Hermann's sister. There
was a third sibling Rosa, mother of Ze'ev and his sister Margot. We
don't know anything about Hermann, Bette, and Rosa's parents.

The Jersey City mystery deepens

Remember that among the New York Times clippings about Walter Ruby that I discovered last year there was one that reported an auto accident taking place in Jersey City on June 14, 1936. A car driven by a Walter Ruby, age 41, of 110 Cottage Street in Jersey City, collided with another car, resulting in six injured people. One of the injured was Evelyn Ladd, 52, of the same address listed for Walter Ruby.

This article has been a continuing mystery. Perhaps it is a different Walter Ruby, though the age is about right. If it is our Walter, why does he have an address in Jersey City? I had came to the conclusion at that time that the reporter had made an error and gave the Cottage Street address for Ruby, particularly since I had interpreted the article as suggesting that Mrs. Ladd had been a passenger in the other car. My explanation was that our Walter was passing through Jersey City, perhaps on business, had an unfortunate accident, and that the news report was mistaken about his address.

So today I am looking at census records available at Earlier I already described the 1930 census record for the Ruby household at 685 West End Ave. Now pops up another 1930 census record for a Walter Ruby, listed as a boarder in a Jersey City household with Edmund and Evelyn Ladd.

This is six years before the accident at a different Jersey City address, but obviously if Walter Ruby were a boarder with Evelyn Ladd in 1930, the same Mrs. Ladd must have been in his car in the accident. So my explanation about the mistaken address is not correct. The obvious explanation is that it is a different Walter Ruby.

The one thing that continues to raise an eyebrow is that the Jersey City Ruby lists his industry as "jobber," the exact term listed for the West End Ave. Ruby. Is there any possibility that our Walter conducted business in Jersey City and kept a room there for occasional times that he needed to sleep over? If someone kept a part-time apartment in addition to his family home, is it possible he could have been counted twice in the 1930 census?

But there are a few more anomolies about the Jersey City listing. This Walter Ruby is listed as being 36 years old on April 30, 1930, which would have been correct for our Walter. However, he is listed as being unmarried. Also, it says he was born in New Jersey and that his mother and father were born in the U.S. Those facts are obviously wrong. Also, going back to the newspaper clipping, his correct age on the date of the accident would have been 42, not 41.

So what are we to make of this? Almost certainly we are looking at another Walter Ruby. I will go back into the records and see if I can document an earlier history for this other person. But we can't yet entirely rule out the possibility that our Walter Ruby kept an outside apartment in New Jersey for at least six years in the 1930s, and that if so he evidently fictionalized some details about his life despite using his real name.

I'm going to see if I can find anything else that would bring some clarity. researches

I mentioned yesterday that I signed up for a 14-day trial period with It has proven very useful so far, turning up various census and death records. If it continues to be useful, I will have to consider paying the very expensive membership fee--more than $300 a year or about $40 a month for access to their worldwide databases. I'm going to try to get as much use of it as I can in the trial period.

Two things of note I discovered today. I was doing searches on some of the Ratner children and was able to follow George and wife Emma to Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1920, where he was listed as a grocery proprietor. Household members were wife Emma, daughter Marjorie (age 2) and Emma's mother Louise Paeglow. From there I can follow Marjorie into her marriage with Robert K. Decker, evidently known as Ken. Marjorie and Ken appear to still be living at age 89 and 91 at 20 Willow Dr. in Delmar NY, outside of Albany. The phone number listed is 518-478-0208. We know that Marjorie (Stan's first cousin) and Ken had two sons, Kurt and Ronald, but I have not yet been able to find them among the many Deckers with those first names.

But much more exciting than any of that is this morsel, Walter Ruby's draft registration card from June 5, 1917, apparently filled out in his own hand. He lists his name as Walter Ruby Rabinowitz. It provides an exact birthdate for him, October 15, 1893, a datum we may not have had. He lists his occupation as "salesman" with (as best I can make out) Lenox Novelty Co., located at 109 Lenox Ave. in New York City. He is 23 years old and writes that he is a "natural born" citizen.

Here's the image.

BLC photos

Here's a taste of how Brant Lake Camp looks in the summer of 2006, 74 years after Stan first attended. Our guide is 86-year-old former camp director Bob Gersten, who was four years ahead of Stan in camp and in Long Beach High School. Gersten was a star athlete who went on to play starting guard at University of North Carolina. He has fond memories of young Stan Ruby.

Rose's name in Rostov was Raizel

Just to record here the other wonderful discovery from our visit to the Hebrew Tailor's Assn cemetery--the Hebew inscription on Rose Ratner's grave refers to her as 'Raizel', which is Yiddish for 'Rose'. Some Google accounts say Raizel is actually Hebrew for Rose, but I had always thought of Rose as Vered or Varda, but my Eevreet is lamentably more rusty than it used to be. Anyway, its exciting to have the correct name to go with the young woman from Rostov-on-Don during her girlhood and when she was looking out the upstairs window to check if her would-be suitor Abraham Ratner was sufficiently presentable for her to come downstairs and make an appearance. (He was). The name Raizel tangibly connects us to the mysterious pre-American life of Rose and the whole Tulbowitz clan and that makes it very precious to me.

Thanks, Jo, for providing Mom and Dad's anniversary. June 7, 1947, five days after Helga received her American citizenship. It must have been an incredible week.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Home movie technology

I kept wondering what kind of family had a home movie camera and projector in the late 1920s and early '30s. Here's a tidbit from the history section on Kodak's web page:

"For years, the Eastman Kodak Company had worked to develop a system of movie equipment and film that would be easy enough for the advanced amateur photographer to use, yet reasonably affordable. The result was the Sixteen Millimeter "Cine Kodak" Camera and the Kodascope Projector". The camera itself weighed about seven pounds, and had to be handcranked at two turns per second during filming. A tripod was included in the package, all of which cost a whopping $335.00! And this in a time when a new Ford automobile could be purchased for $550.00."

In 1932, Kodak introduced a new format, Cine Kodak Eight, which made home movie-making more accessible. Here are some photos of what Walter's camera and projector probably looked like. Actually, I can check, since the actual projector is over at Joanne's house. On the other hand, the camera did not turn up in the stash, so we will have to guess which model Walter owned.

Visa stamps

Nice work, Walter. Too bad the full file is missing, but it is great that you found those records. The visa information and Ecuador story are consistent with the stamps in Elly's passport, which we have. Here is a page with a stamp for the transit visa in New York and a visa issued in Lisbon for Ecuador.

I don't see anything that shows they actually went to either Ecuador or Costa Rica. The next stamp (on the next page) is from the Cuban consulate in Nueva York, dated May 7, following a notation about a payment of $500 per person. Following that are two U.S. immigration visas issued to Elly and Helga on May 21, 1941, by the U.S. Consul in Havana. Finally, there are U.S. Immigration and Natularization Service stamps noting their arrival in Miami on May 23.

Helga and Elly's arrival in NY in 1941

Valery Bazarov, the present-day historian at HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), the international refugee agency that helped Elli, Hilda, and Helga at several points in their three year long oddessey across France and Portugal to the safety of America, offered to look in the organization's archives in New York to see what they have on their case. Valery informed me that HIAS was very active in southern France from the time of the fall of Paris to the Nazis in June 1940 until the German occupation of southern France in November 1942--helping thousands of Jews escape the Nazis including prominent people like Marc Chagall --and therefore might be able to determine whether the organization helped them there as well as in Portugal and New York.

Today. when I visited him at HIAS' office on 7th Ave in Manhattan, Valery regretfully told me that he only found two pieces of paper that seem to have been part of a larger file, but the file itself seems to have disappeared. I will describe these two documents here, and since I dont have a scanner at home, will put them up on the website in several days. The first is a hand written scrap of paper, apparently from their days in Lisbon, reading:

Ringel, Elly
Ringel, Helga
Polonaise, Kattovice, 3.7.900
Address: rua de gloria 41-28

As we know, Elli and Helga had obtained fake Polish passports that must have listed Elli's borthplace as Kattovice--perhaps the 3.7.900 refers to Elli's birthday in 1900 (the correct year of her birth. The address is clearly where they lived in Lisbon.

The second document was issued by HIAS upon their arrival in New York on Aopril 23,1941.
It gives us the important information that the ship they arrived on was the S.S. Guine, a Portuguese ship that Bazarov said was one of the main ships that carried refugees from Lisbon to New York during those years. It lists Elly as a widow 40 years of age of Polish nationality and Helga as being 15 (actually she was 16). It lists their residency as Hotel Paris in New York, which was probably where Elli and Hilda stayed during the week that they spent in New York (Helga was held on Ellis Island during that period) connecting with Judge Ringel who apparently signed on as their guarator in New York even though he had never met them before and there was no discernable family connection. All of that was arranged through the aegis of HIAS. so it is a great shame that the file has been lost. It lists the HIAS worker who dealt with their case as Neubau (the first name is indistinct), who Valery said was a well known HIAS worker during those days and had the distinction of handling the very last immigrant held on Ellis Island when that facililty closed in 1954.

Bazarov urged me to check with the office of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington (now under Homeland Security) which likely has records from Elli, Hilda and Helga's arrival, which would shed light on how they managed to get permission to come back to the U.S. as permanent residents after travelling to Cuba from New York. The HIAS form lists them as "in transit to Ecuador" and specifies that they arrived in New York on "4/23-bonds to 5/10", apparently they would have to leave by May 10. I am going to have to rewrite some of the Ruby Family History account on all of this as in our last interview, Helga spoke of travelling on visas to Costa Rica, not Ecuador, and although she had previously spoken of Ecuador as the country whose visas they had purchased in France, thus allowing them to travel to Portugal and on to the Western Hemisphere, I went with the Costa Rican story in the RFH.

After leaving HIAS I went to the National Archives Research Administration in lower Manhattan--I had to research another person for an article I am writing about claims that Pope Pius XII supposedly helped 800 Jews and 11 nuns cross the ocean from Portugal to the US--also in 1941--and unfortunately was unable to find confirmation of that claim. That story and another one I have been working on re Pius and the Jews has turned out to be a wild goose chase that has taken way too much of my time over the past several weeks. But I did use the opportunity to find confirmation of Elli and Helga's arrival on microfilm. There was also a notation that Helga was naturalized (received U.S. citizenship) on June 2, 1947, only a week or two before she and Stan got married (Dan, Jo, what was their anniversary--I seem to remember June 9 or 11)? The office closed before I could secure Helga's naturalization (citizenship) papers, which Dan and Joanne were unable to find in their treasure trove of documents they discovered in Helga and Stan's attic last year, so now at last we will get it back.


Walter arrives

I'm terribly excited to be on. Enornmous thanks to Dan for getting this up.

1930 census

Here's a snippet from the 1930 census listing Walter, Selma, Joan and Stanley Ruby. A few interesting things to note here. On April 26, 1930, they were listed as living at 685 West End Ave. in Manhattan. According to our manuscript, Walter purchased the Long Beach home a year earlier. Also listed as residing with the family is Bertha Denkut, a servant. The census enumerator screwed up the ages of the Joan, Walter, and Bertha. Presumably, Joan was 11, Stanley 5, and Bertha 30 on the day of the census. Walter's occupation is listed as owner and his industry as jobber, or wholesaler.

Ratner 1910 census record

I just spoke with Sandy and she said she had found an old notebook. The family name had been Tublowitz with a "u," not Tablowitz. I did a quick look on and found some interesting hits for Tublowitz. More on that later.

I also looked for Abe and Rose Ratner and immediately discovered their 1910 census record. Here is an excerpt of it, from Ward 5 in Albany, listing six children as Peter (Peyser?), Hyman (Herman?), Tillie, Sottie (Selma?), Ruth, and Nellie (Lil?). Abraham's occupation is listed as "mineral water manuf." Here is a closeup of the document.

Brant Lake Camp

In June of 1932, little Stanley Ruby was packed off for his first summer away, attending summer camp in Brant Lake in the Adirondacks, 80 miles due north of Albany. In that year, Brant Lake Camp was in its 15th year of operation. It was run by the Gerstenzang family as a nominally Jewish camp--almost all of the campers were Jewish but there was little or no religious observation.

According to Bob Gersten, the nephew of the founder who is now 86 and still active managing the camp, later on in the 40s and later, Sabbath services were made available to campers offsite. For seven-year-old Stan and his campmates, Brant Lake was an entirely secular but culturally Jewish experience.

What he did there was learn every athletic skill imaginable: tennis, horseback riding, swimming, golf, basketball, boating, archery, shooting, crafts, you name it. Several of these Stan would enjoy as lifelong pleasures, and his abilities for these sports can be traced directly to his three or four summers at Brant Lake.

Unlike camps today where a session might run four or six weeks, Brant Lake ran one summer-long session for 11 weeks. During one weekend each summer, the camp would have visiting days for parents to visit their children. We are fortunate to have a wonderful record of several of these visiting days, when Selma and Walter Ruby, along with several other relatives, visited Stan at Brant Lake.

It turns out that Walter Ruby was a motion picture buff, and that he owned an early 8mm movie camera and projector. He made films of at least two of the Brant Lake visiting days. Stan must have known of the existence of these films, but we never knew of them until we discovered the ancient reels of films and projector among the stash of artifacts that turned up after Stan's and Helga's deaths.

We have since transferred the grainy old film to digital files and sometime soon I will make them available for viewing or download from this site. When you view them, you'll see all the footage of Stan doing camp activities and of a happy Ruby family, including wonderful scenes with Walter and Selma Ruby, their daughter Joan, and several Ratner sisters. In addition, there are other films from Long Beach and New York that will be available.

Walter Ruby the younger and I visited Brant Lake Camp two weeks ago. It is still family owned, and is thriving in its 90th year of operation. We got a grand tour from Bob Gersten himself, fit and active at 86, with sharp memories of Stan both from camp and from Long Beach, where Gersten was also from.

More on that in an upcoming post. For now, here's a teaser closeup of Stan in a group picture we found during our visit in the Brant Lake archives.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

21 Brands letterhead

One of the cool items in the Sandy stash was a sheet of letterhead from her father's liquor company. I'd always heard Lee Klein was the upstate representative for 21 Brands, but I didn't realize--even though Walter has it in the manuscript--that this was the same company that ran the legendary 21 Club.

A timeline on the 21 Club history page says that in 1934 co-founder Charlie Berns "creates '21' Brands, a liquor importing/distilling/distributing company; its first salesman is then-aspiring actor David Niven."

Those who have read a draft of the family history manuscript know that the liquor business, before and after Prohibition, plays a big role in the story of the first Walter Ruby. No doubt we'll have occasion to discuss that more in future posts on this blog.

Dan's senior moment

Here is the longer version of how I managed to misplace Sandy and Marsha's treasured photos for nine months. I am so sorry it happened, but am happy now that I have recovered and returned them.

Last October, I made a trip that combined a Twyla college visit and family history tour in New York with a Festival Preview business trip to Nashville. I had a lot going on. Also I was carry two pieces of luggage that I had kept from Helga's estate. It was the first and only time I had used one of those bags.

The family part of the trip was tremendously successful. Joanne, Walter and I were together for a visit to Mount Hermon Cemetery, where Walter and Selma Ruby are buried. Then we met with Sandy and Marsha to share our slide show and videos. Later, with Twyla along, too, we all visited the old Ruby home on Walnut Avenue in Long Beach. Truly a day to remember.

When we were at Sandy's that day, she and Marsha also shared some of their photo albums. We all agreed it would be great if I would be able to scan some of their photos to include in our digital project. So they each took out photos--about a dozen in all--for me to take home for scanning, after which I would of course return them. One of the photos was a larger portrait mounted in a portfolio envelope. I put the other photos inside the portfolio, and slipped that in the outer pocket of my old leather briefcase/computer bag.

I say 'old,' because a few days later, in Nashville, I acquired a new computer bag at the IBMA convention. This is significant because later on, when looking for the picture, I had expected it to still be in that outer pocket in the old briefcase. The briefcase upgrade is what I remembered more than the Helga luggage.

I stayed in Nashville for a full week, staying at a Drury Inn a few miles out of town. Since I would be staying so long, I fully unpacked my suitcases, using the dresser drawers, desk and bedside table to organize my belongings. At that time, I obviously transferred the photo portfolio to a location for safe storage. One thing I worried about was, could I have placed it in a desk drawer and later forgotten to take it? I didn't think that was likely, but it was the worst-case scenario.

What I in fact did was place it in an inside zippered compartment in the unfamiliar suitcase. I then proceeded to forget all about it. I had a very eventful week participating in the bluegrass convention and talking up Festival Preview to everyone I met. I went into a completely different mode and Ruby family history went out of my mind.

When I finally returned home after the long trip, I had accumulated a great deal of literature for the convention and I laid out all these papers on my living room coffee table. Later on, when I began searching for the photos, my assumption was that they would have been among all those papers on the coffee table. Instead they were still in the inside pocket in that now-unpacked and forgotten suitcase in the basement.

A few months went by before Marsha sent me email asking about the photos. Oh my god, I realized I had completely forgotten about them. Strangely I couldn't remember ever having seen them since she handed them to me in Massapequa. It was the day before we were leaving for our family trip to Hawaii, and I assured Marsha I would find them when we got back in January.

Since then I made what I thought were comprehensive searches. They were in none of my home-office storage systems. I checked and rechecked both the old and new briefcase. I checked the luggage that I would usually carry on a trip like this. For some reason, I didn't check the new suitcase.

Before leaving on the most recent trip, I made a further effort by going through some of the remaining boxes of mom and dad's belongings that are in the basement. I didn't really expect to find them there and I didn't. I went off with no resolution to the problem.

Of course, I should have been in touch with Sandy and Marsha about the situation, but instead I had let it fester. Now Walter needed to contact Sandy to get information for our visit to Albany. By the time he spoke to her, we were already in the second cemetery, where Sandy's parents are buried, and she was so upset about the photos that she didn't want to talk to me.

As I sat on a curb in the cemetery as Walter spoke to Sandy on the cell phone, I once again rethought my movements in the Nashville hotel room from nine months earlier. Suddenly the memory of the other suitcases emerged. I remembered there was a zippered compartment. I wouldn't be able to confirm it until I got home five days later, but now I had hope.

Sure enough, when I got back to town on Sunday, I went to the luggage area in the basement and there was that three-piece set of bags sitting in the back. I went to the medium one first, opened the compartment, and there was the portfolio. What a relief.

Now that they are recovered, I feel like a dope not for losing them but for not finding them sooner. Maybe I can make up for it by continuing work on the family project, including posting this note here.

Transliterated tailors

Walter pointed out this surprising aspect of the cemetery plaque. Though written in Hebrew characters, the words are transliterated from English. Albany Hebrew Tailors Organization. It is right there in Hebrew.

The headstones

From the headstones, Walter determined that Rose's father was named Shalom while Abe's father was Chaim. Rose's middle initial is for her maiden name, Talbowitz.

The Ratner grave site

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Albany Hebrew Tailors Organization

The next few posts describe our visit to the cemetery where Abe, Rose, and Aunt Til are laid to rest. The Albany Hebrew Tailors Organization cemetery is one of three or four old Jewish cemeteries along Western Ave. in the Albany outskirts. Having trained as a tailor, Abe supported the organization as a charity. His role is signified by the memorial bench inscribed with the Ratner name near the cemetery entrance.

16 Cuyler Avenue

Walter and Dan visited the house on Cuyler Avenue in July 2006 and found a sprawling three story white house with a large front porch. The house was in somewhat dilapidated condition and, like the south-side neighborhood in which it is located, had clearly had seen better days. The various entrances to the house and its large size led us conclude that the house had been built and operated as a multi-dwelling house, and that the Ratners must therefore have had renters in their own dwelling as well as in other properties.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Abraham and Rose Ratner

After returning home from New York yesterday, I found the long-lost photos that had been loaned to me by cousins Sandy Brenner and Marsha Fields. I'll post more later, but here is the priceless one: our great-grandparents Abe and Rose Ratner, presumably from before the time they emigrated from Russia.