Friday, April 28, 2006

Little Sophie Barer

As a chld, the home at 28 W. Chestnut was a fascinating place place. The parlor was off limits. Everyone gathered in the large dining room where you could pickup the candlestick telephone. A sweet feminine voice would ask, "Number please?" and you would request 1633 for I. J. Barer, 1441 for D. Barer, or 953 for B. Barer & Sons, hides, furs and metals. 3086 was the number for B. Barer.

I loved to wander through the house. I could find fascinating things such as a razor blade sharpener. You could twirl the handle and the blade would scrape against the grinding wheel for a few revolutions then flip over to do the other side. Through a confessions magazine left behind by cousin Thelma I learned of the anguish of Joan/John born with the genitalia of both sexes she/he was raised as a girl but yearned to be a boy. (1939)

In a closet where I found grandfather's money belt which I used as a bandolier when I was a cowboy or a cavalry man in our games, Uncle Dave's home built crystal radio, and an article from the local newspaper about little Sophie Barer who had advanced four grades in four months at Sharpstein school. The three children although they lived across the street from the old Lincoln School which was replaced by Paine Scool attended Sharpstein School because it offered a course in English as a second language. Aunt Sophie started as a first grader speaking no English but after four months she was mainstreamed into the regular classes at the fourth grade level.

Wow! Once I get started it is hard to turn off the stream of memories. When we returned from Montana we lived at 28 W. Chestnut for awhile. My mother tells of Uncle Dave and the Stoller boys making use of the candlestick telephone to call every taxi company in town to make a pickup at the intersection outside the house and then giggling as they all showed up to look for the phantom fare. "Dirty Blonde" was a slang expression of the day and the pranksters would take turns calling laundries asking if they were able to wash dirty blondes.

I had the pleasure of sitting at a lunch counter with Arnold, Harold, and Harvey Stoller and we reminiced about those times. The crystal radio came up and Harvey told of building it as a group project out of odds and ends. The problem was the earphones. Everything Electric had the best buy but the boys could not come up with the $2.00 for the hi-tech necessity. They approached grandfather B for a loan.

He responded that if they could make the contraption "talk" he would give them the two dollars.
They approached the merchant with the proposition and he gave them the earphones on approval.

That evening grandfather adjusted the earphones as the boys "tickled the cat's wisker" on the crystal. He smiled and reached into his pocket for two silver dollars.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Snow in July

-----or the new frontier. Mother and Dad were maried. They moved into the Clinton Court apartments then with me on the way they moved to a small house on Waverley just a few blocks from our later Isaacs and Bellevue location.

The 1920's was an era of opportunity. The Great Gatsby. The sky's the limit. The young couple moved to Livingston, Montana.

Dad rented a building and bought a truck. He was in the scrap metal and animal skins business.
His cousin Bud in Bozeman and his Uncle Ike in Misoula were his support system buying whatever he produced so that he could keep his capital rolling.

These were good times. Prohibition did not mean inhibition. Bathtub gin and and speakeasys were in the language of the day. While Dad was on the road, Mother kept track of the "shop"
as I bounced up and down in a canvas chair hung on a spring from the ceiling.

Livingtston is known as the gateway to Yellowstone Park and the family would gather at the park for picnics.

On a happy fourth of July the table was set up with the bowls of food, everyone sat down to the picnic feast when suddenly the sky darkened. First it was a few flakes then a blizzard began to form. End of fourth of July picnic.

Like a portent in a novel the screwball weather heralded the beginning of the Grest Depression.

What a time of falling prices and unemployment. Mother reported that a grocery store advertised 12 loafs of bread for a dollar. When that failed to bring in customers, the store revised the ad to a "baker's dozen" (13 loaves for a dollar). Few people had the money to buy anything.

Prices of commodities dropped from hour to hour. Dad would come in from a successful day on the road buying skins only to find that the price had fallen below what he had payed for them.

On top of this Dad contracted an infection of the adnoids. Today, an antibiotic would cure the malady in a few days. At that time not far progressed from the era of "bleeding" nature had to take its course. Weight down fifty pounds an SOS was sent to Grandfather B who drove from Walla Walla to pick up the ailing Israel.

Maybe it was his mother's chicken soup or better medicine over seversl weeks the patient improved.

Meanwhile back in Livingston, the mean old landlord was not receiving his rent and a sheriff's seal was put of the door of the shop locking Dad out from his inventory and eqipment.

Mother went to the bank to secure a loan of $250.00. When the banker asked what was available to secure the loan, Mother pulled off her wedding ring. The banker was aghast. He informed her that he was not running a "hock shop"and had no idea of the value but she persisted and the banker put the ring in his safe for collateral and gave her the money.

More on Montana to come

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More Grandfather Pacey

Of this person the first thought that comes into my mind is "jolly". A tailor in the backroom at the Myer and Frank department store his pride was in his workmanship rather than the "I can make it big attitude of the 1920's." While he treasured an article in the Oregonian proclaiming him the king of pants cuffers for cuffing a fantastic number of pairs of pants during a sale, he would exclaim, "He must have been a Bootlegger!" at the mention of someone who had property or other assets.

I remember attending a family picnic at the old Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in Portland. Grandfather disappeared for sometime only to be seen with a throng of about fifteen children heading for the ice cream concession.

He had encountered other members of the family also out for the day and their children had to be treated to ice cream. With or without ice cream Uncle Pacey was their hero.

Grandfather P was not the greatest businessman. It is said that he spent a lot of time in a pool parlor. On one occasion a man a man walked in and proclaimed that he would bet anyone a dollar that it would rain that very day. Grandfather called out that he would cover the bet. Everyone had a laugh at his expense as the man's coat and umbrella were soaked.

In 1890's the Willamette River flooded. Grandfather came home to find his wife up to her knees in floodwater with her infant son on a floating dining room table. He had had enough of that. He moved to San Francisco. After the 1906 earthquake shook down most of San Francisco, he took his family back to Portland.

At a post office auction grandfather bought a steamer trunk that covered most of the free space in his small bedroombu no fortune hidden in a secret drawer. He also bought a bamboo fishing rod with a large reel and a line heavy enough for marlin which stood him in good stead when he hooked and landed a three foot sand shark from the beach at Seaside.
Grandfather Pacey

My mother's maiden name was Mozorosky. Her brother Nate became Nate Morey other relatives became Moziers (which has a kind of French ring to it).

Her mother's name was Ida or in Hebrew, Udell also my daughter's Hebrew name. Her father's name was Philip or Pesach. Dan, who incidently was born Seder evening, carries on his Hebrew name.

I didn't know my maternal grandmother. She died when I was an infant. She had been ill for many years but bore four children, two who were able to achieveve advanced degrees including an LLD and a PHD as children of a tailor of very modest means.

Tom Hanks may have used my grandfather as a model. I remember a large photo he had of the governor of Washington and the governor of Oregon cutting a ribbon at the dedication of the Portland-Vancouver Interstate Bridge. Visible between and just behind them is guess who. Also, the front page photo in the Portland papers following the landing in 1935 of two Russian pilots who had made a non stop flight from Siberia to Vancouver, Washington, showed a dapper man in an ice crean suit and a straw sailor hat talking to the visitors in Russian.

Grandfather once read about a man who discovered several thousnd dollars in a suitcase he bought at a post office auction auction. He took every opportunity to attend auctions.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Did David Barer Speak French?

In the days prior to WWII B. Barer & Sons prime source of income was the purchase of wool and animal skins.

The spring time was sheep shearing season. That meant days on the road seeking shearing sites with the hope of buying the "clip" and or the pelts of aninals that had perished over the winter.

Most of the farmers and herders were of French origin. David would wile away the evenings in the isolated sheep camps playing pinochle with the DeRewes, Ganguets, and Jausauds (Joso), etc.

Did he pick up a bit of French?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006



Mike published some his memories of B. Barer & Sons. I would like to enlarge a bit.

My first memories go back to a time before the service station and the concrete warehouses.

Except for the store building, the lot was covered with a row of shacks fronted on Fourth street by a couple of store fronts.

My mother always maintained that one of the store fronts was a beauty shop operated by the family of Alice, the head waitress at the country club at the time we were members.

One of the rear shacks was used for stacking cowhides in a salt brine until enough were accumulated to market. Next to the hide pit was a Chinese laundry. I believe the family also lived there.

Scrap iron was accumulated against the concrete wall of the store building. When enough was accumulated to load a railcar, day laborers would be hired to load the material onto small pickup trucks, make the trip a few blocks to the loading dock, and heave the pieces into the railcar.

Inside the"shop" or store were exotic? smells. In the basement hanging from nails on the floor joists were skins of coyotes, mink, muscrats. beaver, skunks, etc. on stretch boards drying and awaiting the pelt buyer.

Before the Anchor Tavern shared the building the space was occupied by the Salvation Army.

The store side was jammed with six foot tall wool bags stuffed with over two hundred pounds of wool fleeces each. On occasion I would wander into the place after school. I would be asked to take care of the store while the men went out to coffee. This was a fun time to crawl up the side of one of the bags and run back and forth accross the top of them.
I have often pondered as to what my fate wold have been had the bags shifted on a silly ten or eleven year old boy.

Mike, the "hatchet that was buried in Touchet" was a record of a truce between K. Henderson, our long time foreman and Jack Githens who operated Jack's Auto REpair for a few years in that building.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


My mother and father had what may be a unique courtship.

Uncle Ike knew grandfather Philip Mozorosky in Canada. When Dad turned twenty one, Ike suggested his father take him to Portland to meet his old buddy's youngest daughter, Esther.

A blind date was arranged. The two went to see "The Jazz Singer". Filmed as a silent movie it was billed as the first "talkie". During the course of the movie Al Jolson could be heard singing and ended propheticly with he trademark " You ain't heard nothing yet!"

As they approached mother's front door she was startled to hear her date of the evening say I want to marry you. He would not leave that night until he had her promise of marriage.

Unle Dave was about ten when he came to the U. S. While my father never lost his accent, Uncle Dave was comfortable in switching from Yiddish to English and back with no trace of accent.

Enrolled in an English as a second language program at Sharpstein school he was quickly mainstreamed His goal was to memorize a page of this dictionary each day.

He loved to play basketball and was heartbroken to not be allowed to finish the eighth grade ruling out high school and a chance to make the basketball team.

In 1984 a group of the Whitman College class of "34" in town for their fiftieth reunion came to my office to inquire as why their "classmate" Dave was not attending the reunion. An avid tennis player and Clark Gable look-a-like he was a popular man on campus tho not an enrolled student.

Shortly before his graduation his father, grandfather Barel, had an attack of asthma.
The only known paliative was to spend time in Arizona. The absence of mold and pollen in the desert climate provided temporary relief. This was the sheep shearing season. The family income was derived mostly in a short time each year by purchasing crops of wool from ranchers and reselling to Pendleton Woolen Mills.

David entered the wool buying business with vigor. In fact his early successes in the business lead to a run in with the Leher family.

Suave Joe Leher was an established wool buyer in the Walla Walla area. Year to year he contracted in advance to buy the crops of the major wool producers in the area. Grandfather Barel new to the business and with limited English had to compete with him.

David began by calling on the biggest producers and buying from some of them.

One day he received a summons to report to the prosecuting attourney's office. After sitting in a waiting room for some time wondering what it was about, he was summoned into the office of the deputy prosecuting attourney Bernie Leher the Harvaed Law School graduate son of Joe Leher.

After glaring across the the desk for a suitable amount of time he consulted a document and began, "Young man, it has come to this office's attention that you have conspired with the following wool growers ---- to break existing contracts.
This is a serious offense in the state of Washington of which you can be tried and convicted."

"Set up your trial," replied the teen age David. "I am sure the judge would like to know that you are using your public office for the benefit of your father's business". He turned his back to the flustered Bernie and walked out of the office.