Extended Family

Herb describes the multi-generational household experience that was common in Brooklyn at the time and his memories of WWII.

A Multi-generation Household

  • It was a multigenerational family house. It wasn't like now where the grandparents live there and the parents live there and the children live there. Everybody lived in one house, and they lived, basically, in the bakery. There were two-story buildings on top of the store. There was a staircase that would go up to the living quarters, and there were a whole bunch of bedrooms here. My grandparents had a bedroom; my parents had a bedroom; Chickie had a bedroom; I had a cot; Uncle Howard had a cot. When a couple of cousins (the Schlesingers) came - you know they needed to stay with us for a while they were studying - they would get cots in this, what was really the living room, whatever. It was the other room - and then off to the side of that would be the kitchen and the bathroom. People were coming and going all the time.

  • Every Friday, all the uncles and children and everybody would gather in this house and not just the ones who worked there but all four brothers and their families would come and you would have Friday night services. Because great-grandmother Rose and great-grandfather Izzy stuck to the Jewish faith and they had two sets of dishes and whenever there was a holiday like Passover or Hanukah, that’s the house that everyone would gather in. It was not uncommon for many generations to live together because it was expensive to go move out by yourself and it was still the depression.


Friday night seders. Itzak and Susie shown

Remembering the War

  • I remember when war was declared. Our household was very upset about it. Then immediately, my Uncle Howard, my Uncle Louis and Irwin were drafted. Irwin was sent to Princeton because they wanted him to go to Officer Training School, but they needed bodies so soon after he arrived at Princeton, maybe within a few months, his entire class of officer training people were shipped off to Europe. He never became an officer, but he fought his way across France and Germany. He had a very hard war. Howard was made a cook. He was in Europe – in fact, he and Irwin bumped into each other once or twice. I don’t think he had a shooting war the way Irwin did. And Louis was teaching the Japanese at internment camps. Bernie was rejected because his blood pressure was sky high, and he eventually worked as a movie projector. He would show films and stuff. He was clever with electronics which is something no one else in the Kleiman family was able to do.

  • He (Mitch) had a brother and sister also in Russia. The brother went into the Russian army, and I don’t know what the sister did. They were doing okay, and during the war, when times were tough in Russia, our parents would send them aid packages - food and stuff like this. As the war came to an end and the Cold War heated up, they told my father, “Don’t send us stuff anymore because it just would make problems for us because the Americans are our enemies now.” So, we lost track of them completely. I never knew anything about Mitch’s father except that he was a baker and had a bakery.

  • During the war, every day they would break out the newspaper and on a map show you where the front was, where the Americans were advancing. We had war bonds. We saved silver foil and rubber bands. The government wanted it. They were resources that you needed. We had ration books as to how much butter and stuff you could have. Now my father was running a bakery so we never had to worry about getting butter or bread or stuff like that but in terms of meat, you could only get so much meat. I wouldn’t say it was a good war but it was a war in which the country was not divided at all. That’s why I still read newspapers. The blather you get from television isn’t worth hearing. That goes for both sides – Democrats and Republicans. CNN in their own way is as prejudiced as Fox News is. So I don’t watch any of that crap.

Howard and Louis with Rose in front of the bakery

In-Laws Are Family

  • When Irwin came, he became my brother. You know I always say: I don’t have in-laws, I just have children. I get that strictly from my father. When Irwin came back from the war, Mitch took him in as a partner. He and Chickie moved into our house on Howard Avenue because they had no place else to live for a while. He worked in the bakery - he made cakes. He was very active in it. He almost took over from my father. But Irwin, he wanted a business of his own. He wanted to go into the automobile business. When the time was ready - the neighborhood we were living in was deteriorating. It was becoming crime ridden and stuff like this - so my father sold the bakery while it still had some value. And he gave Irwin half of that money so Irwin could go into the automobile business. He did very well. He eventually had one of the most successful General Motors agencies in Westchester. He was able to put all his kids through whatever college they wanted. My father then worked as a baker in other people’s bakeries to support the remains of his family which was basically me. Putting me through college at that point and putting Chickie through nursing school.

  • When we came back to Massachusetts, they still lived in Hutchinson Court in Brooklyn in that same house but shortly after that because Uncle Irwin had been successful and he moved into Westchester, he arranged for them to move into a nice place in Poughkeepsie. They were there for a while until Irwin moved to Florida and then they moved to Florida with them. Once they moved to Florida, Irwin first lived in a town closer to Miami and my parents had a condo there. Irwin was arranging where they would live and convincing them that they were paying for it, that it was part of paying back for the bakery and stuff like this although really Irwin was supporting them. And then Irwin moved to up near West Palm Beach. It was a gated community and probably 98 percent Jewish. My parents didn’t want to live there. It was too fancy for them. It was golf courses and all that. So they went and lived in the town right below West Palm Beach.

Herb, Susie, Charlotte (Chickie) and Irwin

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