Milstein/Scenes from a Life


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photos + vignettes, 7 x 7, color interior

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Sidney Milstein Scenes from My Life


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Sidney Milstein • Scenes from My Life


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Copyright © 2014 by Sidney Milstein. All rights reserved. Produced by Personal History Productions. Helping clients record and preserve their life stories for future generations of their families. 707.539.5559


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INTRODUCTION • F or my 85th birthday, my children gave me the gi of a life story project, which resulted in the book you are about to read. I began working on the project by looking through the thousands of family photos we had in albums and boxes and choosing about 30 photos that were key to the most important turning points and events in my life. Each photo has a corresponding vignette or story that tells what was going on in my life at that time. I hope these photos and accompanying stories will give you a sense of the wonderful life I have led. I always knew I was a lucky guy with much in my life to be thankful for. Taking the time to reminisce and re ect on my past has only deepened my sense of appreciation and joy. Sidney Milstein February 2014


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JEWISH EASTERN EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS • M y father, Julius Milstein, was 15 in 1903 when he le Pinsk, Russia, following the death of both his parents. He and his 10-year-old brother traveled alone by ship, rst to England and then to New York. My mother, Frances (née Markman), was from what is now Lithuania. She was 17 or 18 when she arrived at Ellis Island with her younger brother, Ben. In New York, my mother and her brother joined their two older sisters, who had come over earlier. My father rst got a job in a factory making wooden cigar boxes. He was good with tools and eventually learned all the basics of carpentry; that became his career for the rest of his life. For a Jewish man to be a carpenter was unusual; most of the Eastern European Jewish immigrants worked in the garment district. My mother worked brie y in the fur industry before her marriage. My father was a quiet man, and hardworking. For a time, my parents lived in Ohio, where they bought quite a substantial house in Akron. But the economy there slowed around 1927, and my father couldn’t get any work. He abandoned the house and moved the family back to New York. 4


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My parents, Julius and Frances Milstein in New York City, New York, 1915.


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BOY FROM THE BRONX • I was born in the Bronx on May 30, 1928. My brother Bernard was 13 at the time, Mildred was nine, and Joe was six. While I was growing up, we lived in several di erent walkup apartments, all in the Bronx. I always shared a room with Joe, and as a result I felt especially close to him. My brothers were both amateur ham-radio operators and talked to people from all over the world on the radio they set up in our apartment. My father never had a full-time, steady job; he would get carpentry jobs that would last for a few days or a few weeks. When one job ended, he would go down to a park in the East Bronx where carpenters gathered and contractors came to hire workers. My father never owned a car and never learned to drive, so we didn’t take family vacations. Sometimes on a Sunday in summer, we would take the train out to Westchester County to attend picnics organized by my mother’s relatives. ose were about the only times we ever got out of the city. 6


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Family pictures (clockwise from top left): the four Milstein children, little Sidney, Joe, Mildred, and Bernard, at Lake Mohegan, 1931; baby Sidney, 1930; Sidney with parents Julius and Frances, at a park in the Bronx, 1938; and with brothers Bernard (left) and Joe (right), 1931.


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A CROWDED HOUSEHOLD • I was about nine years old when my aunt Sylvia died suddenly from a sinus infection that had spread to her brain. Sylvia was married to my mother’s brother, Ben, and they had three children: Annette, who was about my age, and Gloria and Joel, who were younger. Since the children didn’t have a mother to take care of them, my mother and father decided that our family and theirs should move into a big apartment together so that my mother could take care of all the children while my father and Uncle Ben worked. By then Bernard had le home. at le six children and three adults living in one apartment. e apartment we moved into together on Clark Place had four bedrooms, but it still felt crowded. We lived together in that apartment for a year and a half. 8


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Cousins (l-r): Gloria Markman, Joel Markman, cousin Thelma Abramson, Sid, unknown child, and Annette Markman, 1939.


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PLAYING STICKBALL AND BUILDING FORTS • I attended elementary school at P.S. 64 and then went on to Creston Junior High School and Dewitt Clinton High School. I was always a good student. In junior high I was placed in the Rapid Advance Program, which prepared me to skip the rst year of high school. As a result I nished high school in three years. When I wasn’t in school, I spent most of my time playing outside in the neighborhood. I had a lot of friends. We played in the streets and in vacant lots; we played stickball and basketball and games like “Johnny on a Pony” and “Ring Aleevo.” I was smaller than most of the other boys my age, but I held my own. One time during WWII, I was part of a group of kids that went doorto-door collecting metal for the war e ort. We came across a bicycle that was being thrown away. I asked if I could I have it. at was my rst two-wheel bicycle. It had wooden wheels that were bent out of shape. I took it to the bicycle shop and got the wheels straightened out. I loved that bicycle and rode it for years. 10


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Sidney, age 10, outside the apartment building at 129th Street in the Bronx, where his family lived.


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BEST BUDDIES • s a teenager, I had two best friends: Jack Ackerman and Jerry Rodman. Jack lived across the street from me, and Jerry lived down the block. We’d been friends from the time we were about 10 years old. Jack’s father had owned a clothing store and had been well to do, but he died when Jack was young. A er that Jack was very protective of his mother. Jerry’s father was a taxi driver. During the Korean War, Jack, Jerry, and I all went into the military. Jack joined the air force. He tried to become a pilot, but he washed out. Jerry became a lieutenant in the army. We stayed in touch even a er the war; both guys were at my wedding. Jerry ended up working as an engineer at Maidenform, but I don’t know what became of Jack; he disappeared. We eventually lost touch. A 12


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(From left) Jack Ackerman, Jerry Rodman, and Sidney, posing for the camera on a night out in Times Square, 1945.



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