Closets are places to store things … Items you need everyday like shoes, shirts, pants, skirts … items you need every once in a while like a special coat, jacket or purse … and items you just want to store, keep or cherish like photographs, letters or cards.
Our memories are mind closets, places to store things .. items you need everyday like faces, names, and phone numbers … items you need every once in a while like birthdays, shopping lists, directions … and items you just want to store, keep or cherish like the smell of your mother’s apple pie, the sound of your baby’s first cry, or the warmth of holding hands with your first love.
Like a new house with an empty
closet, so is a new baby’s memory.
With each day and each year, the memory closet fills. Initial items
are easily placed, organized and retrieved.
With the passage of time, the closet becomes a holding place of
Decade after decade, the memory closet ultimately helps define who we are by what we have learned, what we have experience, what we like or dislike, what we hope for and dream Each closet is so individually unique.
Come and celebrate 90years with 90 items from Bertha’s Closet.
At its infancy in 1918
90 years later in 2008
“Got a few minutes to sit and chat?”
from Bertha’s Closet
Earliest childhood memory is a needle stick in my rear end for diphtheria. I was screaming and jumping up and down. I was 3 ½.
MY NEXT EARLIEST MEMORY
I was coming home from kindergarten, the
BIRTHDAYS AND FEELING IMPORTANT:
My mother always made birthday parties for us. We were in desperate need for money because my parents were separated. She made me a birthday party, a couple of kids in the neighborhood came. One kid gave me a $1 for a present….that was a lot of money back then. My mother remembered my birthday and I remember I was older then, I wasn’t a baby. I remember my cousin Miriam, she might have been the one who gave me the dollar.
LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER:
So, when Esther was 1 year old, I made a party for her. And all the mothers, the gifts and the babies were there… it was so crowded in that little house.
I remember we moved from that beautiful apartment with a beautiful dog Blitz….the grapes growing over a frame (arbor) with the beautiful yard..
MOVING AND HAVING A STORE:
We moved from there to a house. You went up 10 steps to get to the porch where my mother opened a grocery store. She went to the Jewish man in town who sold things. There was a Catholic school nearby. The kids would run in to buy candy.
You know how a small town is….everybody knew everybody.. Years ago, people didn’t like Jewish people because they had a store, a business. They made a living.
I was a very serious child. .When I was very young, I had to wear what clothing I had.
A FONDNESS FOR SHOES:
I took shoes from the store. I would always go through the shoes. If I liked them, I did something to them like scratch them so my father wouldn’t know the difference. Those were the days we had money. I still like shoes. I don’t buy them unless they fit good.
I always had a cleaning lady. If I couldn’t really afford it. When we were young, we had Minnie and she lived with us. Shirley was a baby. We 3 slept in the bed – my sister Alice, Minnie and me. My brother slept in a cot. All before there was a store or before we had an Eli.
A VERY BRAVE SOUL
There was an incident. My parents went out and we were home alone
with Minnie. Shirley was a baby. We went to bed. We heard a noise in the kitchen. I was always the one who wasn’t afraid to
do anything. I said that I’ll go and
see who it is. Minnie picked up the
SHIRLEY’S BOTTOM BRANDING
Minnie set the baby on the stove…which was not lit….she left the baby and she’s running out too! When I saw it was Jack, I said, “I’m going to tell Daddy!” I can picture Shirley sitting on the stove. I went and picked up Shirley and brought her back to the bedroom.
THE PIANO WOMAN
I went to the
MY FAVORITE SONG TO PLAY
I have a song that I play and my mother loved it, “The Mother’s Prayer” and you know, I’m forgetting how to play it. Mr. Saul a music teacher came to the house and taught piano. My father used to pay me to practice because I didn’t want to practice. That was a period when my father was home.
ABOUT PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT
I wasn’t crazy about playing an instrument. When I got to 7th grade, they gave free lessons. They opened the first band. I took the clarinet. I wanted to play the saxophone, but the teacher said, “No, and that it was better to learn the clarinet first.”
SAD DAD MEMORIES
My father liked women. He was supposed to send my mother money every month. There were a lot of sad memories. He was not a good husband. One time I got $10 from him.
AN ODE TO ELI
Miss Wagner was a good teacher … she was my homeroom
teacher. I liked her. I went to the
I made the honor roll. I used to pity my cousin Miriam. When we were going to have a test, she went home with books…piles of them, to make sure she had everything to help her study. I didn’t do that. I think I liked Math.
Jack and Bertha
GINGER ROGERS…AND FRED ASTAIRE
I loved to dance. No matter where I was, if I heard music, I danced. Especially with my brother Jack – he was my best partner. We would go out to a dance. The two of us would get up on the floor and people would stop and watch us. I love to dance. Jitterbugging was my favorite.
SIMPLY THE BEST
Up to the mountains…wherever we’d go…they would have dancing. As I came off the stage, people would say, “We watched you …you were the best one.”
ARTHUR MURRAY OF THE JCC
There were boys in town who would go to the JCC. Every time there were new dance numbers, I would get a book of well known dancing teachers. We learned how to dance from the steps in the book…what to do with your feet. They would come and I would instruct them.
FAVORITE DANCING SONG OR MUSIC
The music was from a nickelodeon at the JCC. Benny Goodman was a good one….big band music.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
I love music…that Jazz age. … you know “5 foot 2 …eyes of blue.”
EARLY DATING: ALL ABOUT SAMMY
Through my senior year, I had a steady boyfriend. Sammy Miller. I had just moved and met him through my mother’s bakery store. His sister was my girlfriend. He said, “Would you be my girlfriend? At that time, I was 16. I said, “Sure.” It was wonderful because he had a car. You had to go up a hill to get to school. He would bring me home for lunch. He’d pick me up and half a dozen other boys would be on the running board of the car. He was a great guy and good looking too.
PMS or PMs…NOT WHAT YOU THINK
While I was in high school, I worked at the shoe store on weekends. After high school, I worked there more days. I used to make more money selling PMs (could PM be post mortem?…I don’t know). They were shoes that hadn’t sold and before the new ones would come in. I left the shoe store for the meat store.
Note from Yale: I did an Internet search for “PMs shoe store” and found this entry. “I earned $1.55 per hour, with extras added for selling PMs, those shoes with colored stickers on the boxes. Each sticker gave you Pocket Money, from ten cents up to a dollar depending upon sticker color. They were affixed to out-of-style or one-of-a-kind shoes. Benny used PMs to motivate the sales force to clean out old stock.”
Before I got married, I worked at a butcher shop….a kosher butcher shop and got meat at a discount. I made calls…”Do you want to place an order for tomorrow?” and then if so, I would write it down. I earned about 30 cents an hour. After I graduated, I worked full time. I might have worked for Berman’s, a children’s store with all kinds of kids’ clothes.
My mother had this store on
POPPED THE QUESTION
We dated 2 years and 3 months and he asked me to marry him. He took me out for a ride and parked the car. He said, “I have to ask you a question. Do you want to have children?” I said, “Why of course.” Later, he said if I had said no…he wouldn’t have asked me. I must have said yes, because we got married. He asked the two questions right after the other. He gave me a ring, which I lost.
… wasn’t an elaborate wedding. I don’t remember too much about it. I think there was cake. I knew him 3 years and 3 months when we got married. I said we would be engaged for a year. There was not too much planning.
BECOMING A MRS.
Dec 23rd a minute before midnight, we got
HONEYMOON AND S*X
After that affair, at one minute to twelve ‘til I don’t know what time in the morning, we were done celebrating. We took the bus to NY in the early hours in the morning. It was funny, when we got off the bus, there was a sign lit up for the ESSEX HOTEL but two of the lights were burned out – so it said **SEX HOTEL. He promised me that he wasn’t going to take advantage of me. I said to him, “Wait ‘til tomorrow, wait ‘til tomorrow.” I was scared.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
It wasn’t like it is now, where everyone is running to each other. If you went with someone and people found out …you were labeled. My mother said your reputation is like a beautiful white silk handkerchief – if you stained it, the mark would be there forever. If a person is good…there is no problem. If a person has sex with somebody even if they’re going to marry them, there is a problem. She said you had to be extra special good, because we were in a town where everybody knows everybody in the family. (We were already labeled because of Dad’s reputation.)
FAVORITE SONG WITH
“Oh how we danced …all alone in the world.” That’s our favorite song…the Anniversary Song.
FAVORITE MEAL TOGETHER
Sandwiches…or anyone who has food. He wasn’t hard to please.
I told him that I wasn’t going to work when I first got married. My mother worked so hard. He said, “So don’t work.” He told me what we earned. I only had that to spend unless I wanted to go to work.
We lived in Tamaqua for about 3 years.
I am regretful in one way and I’m not in another. At the time when I could have had children, I was very careful not to. I’m sorry I didn’t have more children.
FIRST TIME MOTHER EXPERIENCES
I don’t think it was hard. I did not have the Baby Blues. The first one was breast fed and that was Esther. Then she got sick and they didn’t know what it was. One doctor said diphtheria, one said that it was something else. They were guessing.
WITH AND WITHOUT HIM: PROs and CONs of the DRAFT
MORE ABOUT IN-LAWS
His mother had an apartment building. We had the second floor apartment. We just didn’t get along. She was on the first floor. I was a new bride and I didn’t have to
work. But everything I did was
wrong. Today I would appreciate her
knowing that I was lucky to have someone who was wanting
to be part of our lives, but she used to drive me crazy.
A LITTLE OLDER, A LITTLE BIT
You get older. You get a little more sense. By the time Esther had a baby, I was more tolerant. By then I was happy.
2 KIDS…AND WITH HELP
I had someone who did the cleaning and took care of the kids. I wasn’t rich but I could afford a young kid. The girl who worked for me at that time was named Solaria. Her family had a farm. During the summers she was free from school. She would come and stay with me all week. They (her parents) were happy she was earning money and had a place to be, to keep out of trouble. They were very nice people. She cleaned the potatoes and peppers and onions.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING A MOTHER
It depends on the day you’re talking about. I was always prideful of my kids. I was a bragging mother. Esther is named for my mother in law’s mother who was alive…Esther Sarah. Yale is my mother’s father’s name. On a good day, I never realized how much I could appreciate Yale. He was a good son as a kid. He never got in trouble. But I heard about things later on … years later, like when one ran after the other with a knife, kicking in the door.
COMING HOME FROM THE ARMY
A WORKING MOTHER
I worked when the kids were young. The kids went to Bubby’s….my mom in Hazelton. Ask Esther. She would say, “My mother went to work.” I’d say, “As soon as I get rid of these customers… As soon as I finish what I’m doing here.” I’m always absorbed in my work.
ABOUT WORKING IN SALES
Sales is what I liked the most. I met people; I talked to people.
First I was working at Tobias on
PRIDE AND JOY
I’m most proud that I raised two kids who didn’t get into any trouble. When I would go to school on parents’ day, they would say, “Your son and your daughter -- no problems.” Except for the math teacher for Yale - he knew more than the teacher.
AN ODE TO MOM
It was a lot of work to be a mom, but I had my mother with me. I’m proud to have a mother like her. There was never anything wrong. If she had something that bothered her, she just managed to make do. She would never tell us.
ONE MORE THING ABOUT MY MOTHER-IN-LAW
As I got older I realized that I should appreciate her more. She loved to tell jokes…she really had a good disposition.
ONE OF MY GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS
From the age of 15, I kept a diary, except for this year. Esther writes a journal…inspired by her mom.
BEST (PAID) WORK
Yes, I’m good in sales. I’m like Danny, I don’t like to work for anyone else.
IF YOU COULD CHOOSE ANYONE IN HISTORY
OR IN THE WORLD, WITH WHOM
WOULD YOU LIKE TO EAT DINNER?
Oh my, that’s a hard question….what’s his name…Obama.
ANYWHERE YOU’D LIKE TO GO IN THE WORLD
Ice cream soda … a cup of tea.
… Piece of Nina’s apple pie…
… Swiss cheese…
ELECTION 2008 VOTE
Obama. Originally, I would’ve voted for
Hillary. I thought
ARE DIMONDS A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND?
I don’t think I like jewelry. I have one ring that I wear that
THINGS YOU ABSOLUTELY DISLIKE
…I don’t like flying…
IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY AND HAD A
I have enough money to live any way that I want
to. I know what
FAMOUS OR IN FAMOUS
Bertha’s apple cake. I’m famous for that. I ain’t too famous for other things.
FAVORITE TV SHOW OF ALL TIME
“Everybody Loves Raymond” The mother is my favorite character.
My husband. His mother had a nice voice…and he came close to having a nice voice. I have him singing with his mother on tape.
HOBBIES or CRAFTS
I crocheted, I embroidered. I knitted black and gold macramé purses. Then I made animals. Yale says it was the general craze at that time.
FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME
“Gone with the Wind.” I watch very little TV but I like movies.
Ingrid Bergman. I like the guy with the dimple in his chin, Kirk Douglas.
I’ve read a lot a lot of books. I can’t pick one. I like cookbooks.
ABOUT TURNING 90
I wish I was younger and didn’t have any aches and pains.
SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT BEING IN YOUR 91ST YEAR
I would say that I know that my kids do care for me, even though I’m not a very appreciative person.
ADVICE FOR A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Have a good lawyer, a good doctor and someone who lives long in your genes.
HEALTH … THROUGH THE YEARS
I had a hysterectomy, appendicitis…. sicknesses that I could stand. If I had to go through what Shirley went through and what she is still going through, I thank God that I don’t have to put up with that.
I smoked when I was 17 years old. I didn’t hide it. My mother said it’s dangerous…you shouldn’t
smoke. I wasn’t particular about the
brands But as soon as I heard there
was cancer, I stopped. I was in the
hospital because I had a Crohn’s attack. I made up
my mind that if I were going to get out of the hospital, I wasn’t going to
I eat whatever I feel like eating.
Spaghetti and meatballs…because it’s easy to eat since I have a problem with my teeth. A rib steak if it were guaranteed that there were no problems eating. I would also choose a lobster tail.
Red. It’s stimulating and it makes you happy.
…AND IN CONCLUSION…
It was good to think on the things that happened.
Author’s note to Bertha
Thank you for opening the door and allowing us the opportunity to explore and share in your closet. On your 9th decade, we celebrate everything this is special about you….we love you.
Copyright 2009 by the author of this book (Lynda). The book author retains sole copyright to his or her contributions to this book.
Bertha with Yale and Esther
at her 90th birthday celebration
in the summer of 2008.