Archive | June 2012

Sam Singer Faces Down the Mob

SAM SINGER FACES DOWN THE MOB

Pop & Sam at the Store on Broadway

Pop & Sam at the Store on Broadway

Sam and his brother Al operated a luncheonette (the Store) first on Broadway in Elmhurst, Queens, New York and later moved to one on 82nd Street in Jackson Heights. The one on Broadway was across the street on the next block from where the Singers lived at 80-20 Broadway. This building was also known as “Robinwood”. They had a 2-bedroom apartment on the first floor with one small bathroom and a tiny kitchen as described in “Sam Singer and the Thanksgiving Gravy Fiasco” story.

At one time, before Sam’s kids came along, Mom and Pop had that apartment and their son Al and daughters Ruth and Adele lived there too. Mom and Pop also used to have a store in the Bronx before moving to Elmhurst.

The family often ate their dinner meals at the Store and just hung out at times. Many kids don’t get to see what their fathers do for a living, but all we had to do was cross the street and sit down on one of the stools and watch! Sam got up early every day to go in to cook the meats and make the salads like tuna and egg salad. They only used the best ingredients and everything was fresh. Marcia and her brother Jeffrey would hang out and Sam would give them each a quarter to “dry the utensils” which didn’t really need it, but it kept them busy and they liked getting paid for it.

Before Marcia could even read, she loved to take the comic books that were sale (along with newspapers and other magazines) and look at the pictures and try to understand what the story was about. She was always careful not to mess them up at all so someone could buy them later.

One day, the suppliers of the newspapers and magazine told Sam they wanted him to also start selling certain “naughty” magazines. These suppliers were a large, powerful company with “connections”, if you get the drift.

However, Sam didn’t like that idea at all! This was a family restaurant and not only did his kids came here, but other kids from the neighborhood as well. No way!

No stranger to cussing, Sam boldly and blisteringly told them, “You can shove your papers up your  a..!” and he refused from then on to sell any of them.  So that was why papers, magazines and comics disappeared from the Store.

Sam at Store in his "whites"

Sam at Store in his “whites”

At the time, Marcia just missed being able to read the comics and only learned the truth much later on. Still, she was proud of Sam for standing up for what he believed was right and didn’t let anyone bully him! Fortunately, there were no consequences. Actually, many people thought Sam was in the Mob himself as he looked a little Italian, but wasn’t. However, he did instill fear in those who tried to cross him!

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Sam Singer and the Army Lieutenant

SAM SINGER AND THE ARMY LIEUTENANT

Sam Singer

Sam Singer

The following poem, written by family friend Kathryn M. Fisher, was inspired by Marcia’s portrait of Sam in his army helmet with the cross on it that he wore when he was in the Medics. Sam never talked to the family about the war days so little is known except he did have some medals which Marcia has in a box frame created lovingly by Richard Young, the second husband of Sam’s youngest sister, Adele. Marcia also has the flag provided by the military that was draped over Sam’s coffin when he died on May 27, 1977 at the age of 63.

Sense of Courage

By Kathryn M. Fisher

I heard the cannon shout at the devil

Felt the sting of lead shred my flesh

A salty, coppery taste filled my mouth

And mixed with the smell of my own blood and sweat

Then a gentle touch, strong as an iron hand

Dragged me back from the battlefield

And I saw the white cross on the helmet.

*******************************************************

One story that was told about Sam’s army days was when he was in charge of the kitchen and preparation of the meals. It is not known where this was, but Sam was in the vicinity of the Battle of the Bulge, one of the most famous battles of World War II. Martha’s brother, Burton Sugg, was also there. Perhaps it was here in the heat of the last days of the war.

One day, a perfectly decked out young Lieutenant came with some underlings into the hallowed halls of Sam’s kitchen. It is likely this was more of a tent than a building, but that is not known. This young man had probably just been promoted and was feeling like he was “All That”, as the saying today would go. Perhaps he wanted to throw his weight around just a little and show everyone who was in charge. Again, these are suppositions, but let’s go with it.

He strutted in wearing pristine white gloves and proceeded to touch the surfaces of the stoves and countertops. He frowned as he inspected the gloves for any sign of dirt. Knowing Sam, there was probably plenty of dirt or mess to be found, but he wasn’t having any of this!

Sam was well known for his quickness to anger and consequent yelling so what happened was not really a surprise to those who knew him.  Sam exploded and told that Lieutenant, “Get the Hell out of my kitchen and never come back!”  The young soldier left in a huff.

One can only assume that in the absence of a court martial, no bodily contact was made and also that the Lieutenant never reported such insubordination. Most likely, others told him it was quite foolish to mess with Sam especially because he was the cook and the food was good. Don’t rock the boat!!

Here is a notation in one of the Army bulletins about Sam:

Hq. 78th Inf Div, APO 78, US Army, GO 47 dtd 7 February, 1946

Staff Sergeant Samuel Singer, Medical Corps, Company C, 303 Medical Battalion, for meritorious services in connection with military operations against the enemy during the period from 9 December 1944 to 38 April 1945 in Germany. Staff Sergeant Singer, as company supply sergeant has displayed initiative and resourcefulness in maintaining a steady flow of medical supplies and equipment. On numerous occasions he has traveled roads which were under direct enemy observation and shell fire to carry plasma, penicillin, and other medical supplies to the forward units. His sustained efforts and devotion to duty are in accordance with the highest military traditions. Entered the military service from New York.

By Command of Major General Barker:

Joseph A. Nichols

Colonel, General Staff Corps.

Deputy Chief of Staff

Sam in uniform

Sam in uniform

Sam Singer and the Thanksgiving Gravy Fiasco

SAM SINGER AND THE THANKSGIVING GRAVY FIASCO

 Sam Singer was born in 1914 in Philadelphia, New York, the second son of Meyer and Esther Singer who both came to the United States from Russia in the early 1900’s. Esther, a short, rotund lady who loved to gamble, was also a good cook and shared her precious recipes with Sam. The Singers owned and operated a luncheonette in Elmhurst, New York in the 1940’s and 50’s. Sam and his brother Al also worked at the Store as everyone called it. Sam became a good cook also, but went at it like he did most things: too fast and furious as if speed was of the essence instead of quality. Someone had the job of cleaning up after him and it was no doubt a difficult one. While in the army during World War II, Sam was sent to cooking school and spent much of his service time preparing meals for the troops. When he came home from the war, he and Al again operated the luncheonette along with Mom and Pop, as their parents were called by everyone.

Sam’s wife, Martha Sugg, came from a teensy town in rural North Carolina and they met in Durham at a military dance. They wed in 1943 and my mother moved to New York. That is a whole other story!

One Thanksgiving, the Singer clan was gathering at Sam and Martha’s 2-bedroom apartment which they shared with three children. Space was at a premium with only one bathroom and a tiny galley style kitchen that was too small for even one person to cook in, much less two or three. The dining area held a small table and it was a chore to get the whole family of five around it, but they made it work.

However, with the other relatives coming over, a larger table was set up in the living room so as to accommodate a large and noisy crowd.

For some reason unknown to man, Martha decided this year to delegate the making of the turkey gravy to Sam, since he made such good food for the Store. You would think this would be a good idea. Hah! Little did she know.

First thing, with so little space in the kitchen, Sam cleared everyone out so he could create his masterpiece. Peeking in the doorway, we could see a fury of activity and much banging of pots and pans. There was probably some cussing going on too if Sam ran true to form.

Eventually, we had gravy and it was, no doubt, fine gravy. The kitchen, however, looked like an explosion had gone off! There was gravy on the stove, on the washing machine, dripping down onto the floor and seemingly everywhere! We later joked it was even on the ceiling and perhaps it was true. He had also used up an extraordinary amount of pots, dishes and utensils that seemed quite excessive for such a simple task. Sam didn’t clean up his mess either. He walked out of the kitchen and left that to the women as was befitting such a culinary master.

The whole ordeal was such a disaster that Sam was never asked to make gravy (or anything else) ever again in the home.  We just to laugh about it though and it became one of the family’s favorite stories about Sam.