Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cousin Norm recently told me this story. When Grandmother discovered our inbibing in her wine stash, she put her hands to her head and started chanting, "Öy yoy yoy shicker is a goy." Prety catchy. We chanted it all summer.

Norm said the expression stayed with him over the years as he went through school in Medford, Oregon. Some of his friends who happened be on the yell team thought it was catchy too and incorporated it into the school yell book - until Aunt Sophie explained that it was disrespectful and inappropriate.

Grandfather's plans regarding his family were interupted by war. By 1921 he was a U. S. citizen, had some money, and a viable way to rescue his loved ones. Traveling East, he visited Philadelphia to visit cousins and buddies from his former days in that city.

He was besieged by people who heard he was going back to the old country. They pressed money into his hands with the instructions that a member of their families would claim the money in Bucharest. All told, I have heard amounts ranging from $25,000 to $40,000. The cash was carried in a money belt secured around Grandfather's waist.

Grandmother received the word that Grandfather was waiting for her accross the border in Romania. What mixed thoughts she must have had. Just the trip to the border in the post revolutionary chaos was a challenge. The idea of leaving friends and heading for a brand new culture must have been mind boggling.

Packing just the barest essentials she told her neighbors she was off to visit a sister in a town several miles down the road hoping that they would not realize that the town was close to the border.

After a tearful goodby to the sister, she began the final leg to the border. A whole family moving to the border might create suspicion. With David the youngest in hand, Sophie aged fifteen was to hang back at a distance where she could keep her mother in sight but not appear to be with her. Israel at sixteen was to trail behind her.

On they walked for some time until Sophie ran her mother crying that there was no sign of Isreal They must backtrack to find what had happened. Israel, my father, had passed through a country market and had become enthralled with a Punch and Judy show.

This delay made them late at the crossing where the border smuggler would row them accross the river and out of Russia. The smuggler hid them in his barn telling them to sleep well. He would wake them before dawn.

The person who woke them was not the smuggler but his wife. Shaking them awake she implored them to run as fast as they could. Her message to Grandmother, "I am not a friend of Jews but I am a mother.

Some of my husband's friends brought over a bottle of vodka. In their drunkeness they have convinced themselves that you have alot of money and jewels with you. They are going to kill you and your children if they catch you. Take your children and run.

Back to the sister's house they went to make new arrangements.

Meanwhile, Grandfather was busy doling out money. Typically, a threadbare child would knock at the door. He would identify himself explaining that his mother had received word that a messenger would have money from his dad. "My mother hoped there would at least be a dollar or two." Eyes turned as big as saucers at the sight of the fat envelope of greenbacks he would be handed.

Grandfather enjoyed being SAnta Claus but where was his family? He approached the river crossing point

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Received an E-mail from cousin Jan asking me to recount some memories of grandmother, Rissa or Ricy Barer.

A woman of small physical stature she was built of solid stuff. Apparently grandfather's second wife. His first wife died very young. She became the step-mother of an infant daughter and in short order beacame the mother of her own son and daughter.

I am not sure of the exact time sequences here but I know grandfather left for the U.S. early on. The story I have heard is that in a fight he mortally wounded his oponent. His brother, Ike, already established in America arranged for his escape.

Grandfather was able to return to Europe to visit his family once more. He left again for the U. S. to secure his citizens paper and build some assets to support a family in the American economy. He also left grandmother pregnant with a third child.

There was sadness for the far away husband but also the sadness of reporting that the seven year old daughter of his former marriage died of a ruptured appendix.

Grandmother lived with her in-laws. Never a good situation but for Grandmother even worse. In a moment of desperation she sold Grandfather's inheritance, a valued seat on the eastern wall of the synagogue. Her father-in-law Joseph put a curse on her for her willful act.

Meanwhile, World War I broke out and alternately armies of the Czar, Austria-Hungary, and finally the Bolsheviks fought through the area. Grandmother told me that when the machine guns were firing she would gather her children together on the ground and use her own body over them as a shield.

Grandmother made the the most delicious Passover wine from white and dark raisins. It was more like a cider. Cousin Norm and I drank a lot of it when we were kids. Back in Europe she sold it it to the troops passing through to supplement the few dollars that Grandfather sent from America.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Here is a situation in wich I used one of grandfather Barer's stories.
I have asthma and have a reaction to second hand cigaret smoke. I also served many years on the state board of directors of tha American Lung Association of Washington.
A lady wrote in the Letters to the Editor department of the Walla Walla newspaper railing at those people who were taking away her freedom to smoke anywhere she chose.

I felt compelled to answer and used this story.

Grandfather's citizenship class had completed its work. The tests had been taken and passed. They appeared before a superior court judge to take the oath of allegiance. Having administered the oath, the judge gave them a lecture on American freedom and dismissed them

One new citizen ran out of the courthouse and punched the first person he saw in the nose. A policeman dragged the poor guy back to the same judge. The man said, "Judge you told us we were free citizens."

The judge replied. "Sir, your freedom ends where that guys nose begins."

The lady quit smoking and became an advocate against smoking.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I have seen a check written by grandfather, Barl Barer (his grandson named for him spells it Burl) dated 1917 I have been told that this is when he came to Walla Walla.

In what is now the Ukraine B. Barer was a cooper. He repaired wooden drums.

He often told me stories to illustrate a point. This one involves himself and another apprentice cooper. He discovered that the other apprentice was earning much more than he did. He approached the boss and demanded to know why.

Just then there was a noise outside in the village square. The master said,

"Run out and see what is happening." He came back with the report that three wagons had pulled up to the tavern.

The master then sent the high paid apprentice out. He returned with the report that the wagons had come from some distance to drop off cucumbers at a local pickle factory. They would be picking up a load of pickles but several of there wooden drums were dammaged. The head drover's name was Ivan. If the boss could get over to the tavern right away, he would get the repair job.

He turned to Grandfather and asked, "Do you see why I pay this boy more?"

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Just watched the Seahawks insure their first ever participation in the Super Bowl. Apparently, Paul Allen,s faith in Mike Holmgren is justified.

My interest, however, in this blog is not in sports but in conveying a little bit of history. Please remember that history is the memory of the reporter and is subject to challenge.

Let me give you an example. In 1959 along with other members of the family I purchased a building. Over a period of time I became the sole owner. On the face of the building was a small parapet with the name of a former owner and the date, 1887. When I put a new facade on the structure I had the mason replace the five letter name of a territorial druggist with "BARER1887". People looking at the facade will now swear that the builder must have been a member of the Barer family.

I was born and spent almost seventy years of my life in Walla Walla, Washington.

My grand uncle Isaac or Uncle Ike moved to Walla Walla about 1905 having married a widow there. With four young children to support and a business involving traveling on the back roads from farm to farm buying animal skins she needed a partner.

Neither the marriage nor the partnership was long lasting. The city directory in 1907 indicates that I. Barer operated as a sole proprietor. He had also remarried.

Things became more complex as time went on. The first of five children of this union was born and his son from an earlier marriage wedded the sister of Uncle Ike's new bride. The families moved to Montana.

My grandfather, B. Barer, moved from Philadelphia to Walla Walla in 1917 replaced his brother as a buyer of animal skins.