SAM SINGER AND THE SUNDAY SCHLEPS
[schlep: Yiddish word meaning to carry, tote or steal]
Sam Singer worked hard every day from early in the morning to prepare food for the luncheonette until closing time on many days. However, in that day and age, Sunday was a “blue” day and most stores were closed. That was their family day.
Sunday was also Chinese dinner at various places they liked. One special place was “The Dragon Seed” which was a little more upscale than other local joints and Sam was friendly with the owner. This required a car trip even though it wasn’t all that far from our home. The food was delicious though even if a little more pricey than other places. It was always a treat when Sam would tell the family that’s where they were going.
Sometimes, they went to an Italian place. Another favorite was La Bilbaina, a Spanish restaurant in Manhattan. This was definitely a car trip and it was up a flight of stairs. They loved the authentic food and after dinner looked in the gift shop window down below it. Martha would often order a dish that had a green sauce that was ripe with garlic and they would all laugh and tease her on the way home about her terrible breath!
There was also, at one time, a huge Swedish Smorgasbord that was in a hotel in Manhattan and they went there sometimes also where it was impossible not to find something for everyone.
They especially loved the Sundays when they would go to Times Square and just walk around looking at the sights. It was a thrill when they saw Mr. Peanut, a guy in the peanut suit and cane who walked around greeting people. They loved looking at all the schlock shops that lined the street and Sam bought Marcia these little realistic mice holding a piece of corn. She had a number of them over the years and still has one left in her miniature collection.
Another special trek was when they went to the East Side which is an area in lower Manhattan where Jewish vendors had small shops or vendor carts full of wholesale goods of every kind imaginable! It was a fascinating place and they bought things there if they needed them. Marcia’s enjoyed it because Sam would get her a bag of red pistachios. By the time she was finished eating them, her fingers and mouth would be bright red from the food coloring. She still loves them and they remind her of this special time, but she opts for the plain ones now. Much less mess!
It’s likely that Martha was the one who suggested many of these outings, but Sam had no problem shlepping everyone to them. They often went to Chisolm Park in Queens which was near the water because there were rocks between the path and the water and Jeff and Marcia would walk on them trying not to slip and fall. There was a hill leading down to the path with places you could slide down. Many of the trees were huge with many low branches that Marcia was able to climb up on them! Jeff, being the monkey he was, could climb to the very top of the trees. They would also get Button Candy from a little shack at the park. It’s hard to say why they were so much fun to eat, but they were. They also liked those little wax bottles that had colored sugary water inside. Shops also used to have chocolate candy cigarettes! They wouldn’t fly today.
They had their choice of beaches too. Rockaway Beach in Brooklyn was small, but close and they often went there in the summer. Sometimes, they would take the car out to Jones Beach which was out on Long Island. It was a huge beach and it seemed the water was a mile from the parking lot. They all had to schlep the blankets, chairs, umbrella and coolers with food all that way! Still, it was a fun time.
Another popular place for fun in the sun was Whitestone Pool. They had a large pool for adults, two tiny pools for babies and one medium sized pool for in between kids. They would arrive early because they loved to get a spot underneath a shade tree that faced that medium pool and that was the one Marcia swam in because she wasn’t big enough for the big pool where Lynn and Jeff would go. Sometimes, Jeff would play with Marcia in the big pool so she could go down one of the slides they had and he would catch her. There was also a small playground they could play in. Other areas had picnic tables and grills for those who wanted to do that. They would get lockers and could change clothes in the locker room so they wouldn’t have to be wet on the drive home. They spent many glorious Sundays there and enjoyed it immensely.
It was a fun time going occasionally to Aunt Adele’s place for a cookout. She was a beautiful, special person and everyone loved Adele. She had a huge bell collection and took up the guitar and played us songs and sang. They also played games at the Singer get-togethers. It was always fun. The kids loved when their cousin Alvin joined the festivities because he was a ‘little person’ who was their size! He was only about 3 ft, 6 in. tall, but a grownup and would smoke cigars. He too was a smart and special person who they all enjoyed being around.
The Danbury Fair in Connecticut was an annual event they attended for many years. We have a lot of photos from that time. Marcia recalls one year in particular. She was only about five years old and that year they were selling blow up dinosaurs and she wanted one badly. However, her parents told her no. She was disappointed. As they were walking around, she saw a person coming at her dangling a cigarette in his hand and didn’t see her. The cigarette touched Marcia in the neck and she screamed! It hurt terribly, and she told her parents what happened in between sobs. They searched for a first aid station, but it took a long time to finally find it. They put something on the burn, but it was too late. Marcia still has a circular scar there. For some reason, no one else seems to remember this incident and Martha said the scar came from a bout with swollen glands. Sorry, Mom, but it looks just like a cigarette burn. The upshot was that since they felt so sorry for her ordeal, they bought her a green blow-up stegosaurus! She kept it a long time until the rubber became rotten.
One year in the 1950’s, they all took a trip upstate to visit the Howe Caverns and the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a long drive in their Studebaker with no air conditioning. Once they were out of New York City, they saw nothing but cow farms. Cows after cows. They had never seen so many dairy farms!
Marcia can remember the dark caverns and Sam holding her on his shoulders at one point so she could see. There was a small river of water that ran through the cavern and small boats they rode on. Marcia was too young to remember much more than that.
Sam went into the baseball museum, but Martha, Jeff and Marcia waited outside and they watched a group of roosters peck the ground. Jeff tried to annoy them and probably succeeded.
They also had their yearly trips South to visit Martha’s relatives. Often, Sam couldn’t leave work except for one week, so the others would go by train and spend a few weeks. Then Sam would drive down by himself to stay the last week.
When the World’s Fair came to Flushing, New York in 1964, it was just a short subway ride from Elmhurst. Sam bought a large packet of tickets so everyone could go over and over. Some of Martha’s family made the trip north during this time so they could experience this wonderful entertaining extravaganza. Nothing like this would ever be near Smithfield, NC. Marcia, 13 years old at the time, often went with her friends. They all went to the best pavilions time after time. It was a once in a life time event for everyone.
At the fair, which had an international section, there was a Swedish pavilion. Marcia was so excited when she discovered they sold the famous orange, wooden good luck horses there and there was a basketful of the tiny, tiny ones she loved. She already had a few and they were among her prized possessions. One time long before the fair, Martha took Marcia to a Swedish store in Manhattan and bought her the biggest horse they had! It was 8 inches tall while her tiny one was 1 ¼” tall. They became her favorite toys.
Martha also joined Marcia’s class on field trips and they went a few times to the Brooklyn Museum and lo and behold, they sold those Swedish horses! Marcia was so excited to be able to add a few more to her collection each time they went.
In her later years, Marcia found more Swedish horses on the internet being sold on Ebay! Not only were they different sizes, they were different colors: blue, green, yellow and pink. She went a little crazy over this fantastic find and now her collection of horses numbers 22 which includes one soft, stuffed one. The smallest is 1” tall, but the biggest is still the one that Martha bought for her.
Another time Martha took Marcia to the Hammer Galleries in Manhattan when the internationally known artist, Joe King, known as Vinciata, was going to be there. Joe King was a native of Winston-Salem, NC which made him all the more special. His paintings of people include the Queen of England and he was quite famous. They all met and he graciously gave Marcia his autograph which is very special to her and is in her scrapbook.
Sam and Martha later on went on a number of cruises, but the first one was in 1967, when Marcia was sixteen. She, along with Sam, Martha and her brother Jeff, took an Israeli cruise ship from New York up the coast and down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal where the Montreal Expo was being held. The ship docked right there so they only had to walk a short way to attend the events. They had a fantastic time not only on the ship and at the Expo, but they also toured the City of Montreal, Canada.
As the kids got older and were doing their own ‘thing’, these Sunday trips stopped. However, they still attended Mets games at times and Sunday was always Chinese food day. Even after Marcia moved to North Carolina where her parents had also moved, they found Chinese restaurants to eat at although they were, sadly, not quite as good as they were used to. In New York, Marcia always ate the roast pork appetizer with white rice, Won Ton Soup and sometimes egg rolls. The Chinese places in North Carolina did not have this style pork so eventually she learned to eat other dishes and enjoyed them.
Another special memory is their New Year’s Eve tradition. Martha always fixed dinner rather early in the evening, usually around 5:00 p.m. So late in the evening on New Year’s Eve, everyone was going to stay up late to see the ball drop and they would get hungry, especially Sam. That late at night, the only thing open was Chinese take-out and maybe pizza, but he didn’t eat pizza, to take-out it was. They didn’t get a full meal, but soup, fried rice and egg rolls were no doubt a staple for a late snack. It became a tradition after doing it for so many years.
Marcia introduced this tradition to her husband Phil and he too became a big fan of Chinese cuisine. His family had never eaten it! Now, even after all these years, they have Chinese at least once a week and always on New Year’s Eve.
There are many languages of love and not all of them are verbal. Case in point, Sam never told his kids he loved them, but he showed them love every day he got up early to go to work at the Store. No one ever asked him if he liked it. He did it because he had a family to care of. He showed his love every time he took them places so they would have a good time. Was he often really too tired for this? Probably. They all saw how exhausted he would be after a long day at the Store. Still, he made the effort and they had a full and happy childhood and no one ever questioned his love. He showed it every day. All they had to do was see it. Perhaps at the time, they didn’t, but now it is so obvious. They can only hope that he knew how much they loved him also.