Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos


William j. barrett p 21-166 B-I-L-L
Notebook Eight p 160 U.S District Court District of Connecticut Chambers of Saul Seidman Bankruptcy Judge U.S.Courthouse 450 Main Street Hartford, Connecticut 06103 [tel. 244-2480] December 21, 1973 Dear Mrs. Barrett, Please forgive my not having answered your letter prior to this time. I have made a few inquiries in an effort to answer the specific questions which you asked. Unfortunately the people who could answer yur questions are no longer with us. I can, however, give you my own recollection, which is based on what I recall from conversations with my mother. Unfortunately, Mrs. Witkower was not my grandmother, but she was a very close friend and practically a part of the family.I know that my mother's family came from Austria, and I am sure that the Witkowers were from the same community. = You remembered the town of Brod, and my recollection is that that is the town my mother mentioned. I suspect that the Meranskis came from the same locality. = Rose Witkower did live in California, but she recently returned to our community and is living at Apartment 14-7, Regency Drive, Bloomfield, Connecticut. I am sure that she might be able to give you some additinal information.Others whom you might communicate with are Mrs. Morris (Emma) Cohen, 24 Terry Plains Road, Bloomfield, Connecticut,- she and Mrs. Fanchon Hartman Title are active in a local Jewish Historical Society. Mrs. Title's address is 26 High Ridege Road, West Hartford, Connecticut. Sincerely, Saul Seidman."[Notebook Eight p 167]United States District Court District of Connecticut -U.S. courthouse 450 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut 16103 Chambers of Saul Seidman, Bankruptcy Judge January 4, 1974 Dear Mr. Barrett: In your letter you mentioned that your grandmother had lived with a family named Meiselmann in Hartford.That was the name of my mother's parents, and they were the only family of that name in Hartford at the time, so you can safely assume that your grndmother lived with my grandparents when she first came to this country. I know that my grandmother was friendly with your grandparents. I have a recollection of having visited their home with my mother. If my recollection is correct,they lived on the corner of Canton and Bellevue Streeets, which is where your grandfather had his store. [actually 2-4 Wooster Street at Canton St. - perhaps name change.]Sincerely, Saul Seidman." Sophie Barrett note: Seidmans are grandchildren of Meiselmanns who housed Ma. At that time it was Canton and Wooster Street -when the store was in the house, we lived on second floor 4 Wooster St. Now probably it is Bellevue Street in a large redevelopment program. When I left for Mount Holyoke Colege, we lived on Canton and Woosters Streets. +Sophie Barrett letter to Ivan McCormack in Salem New York (Sophie sublet from Mrs. McCormack l927-l930 at 27Commerce St, Greenwich Village) (1973) November 2, 1973 Friday morning VITAMIN enclosed. Dear Ivan, As Esther's birthday approaches on the nineteenth of November it occurs to me that I have neglected her shamefully in my accounts of the four sisters in my family. That is unfaiur as she was as interesting as any of us-taller than the other three with jet black hair like my mother, jet black eyes and with a better figure than Bee, Babe or me.- and from an early age she mothered us as we were eight by birth and more than fourteen by additions of motherless children who actually lived with us.Esther had more close girl friends and boy friends than we did, and with the first money she earned she bought a piano for the family as well as a record player and many records - and paid for a telephone when so few people we knew had telephones that ours rarely rang.She did well professionally because she was smart and went to a fine business college for bookkeeping, typing, and shorthand- at which she was a whiz.But her first job was at Vogel and son,a Hartford wholesale grocer. To preserve their stock there was no heat in the place - not even in her office as the men wore overcoats and sweaters at worlk and warm gloves. It was a big, profitable business that Esther enjoyed,but because she had to do bookkeeping,typing and stenography, she couldn't wear gloves while working and got frostbitten hands as well as feet! He boss liked her, so she stayed despite the cold, but when she confided to her best girl friend that her married boss was trying to make love to her- that friend told my father, who would not let her rtrun to that job- not even to collect her pay and her sweater!Soon the business college got her a job at the H.L. Handy Company,-wholesale dealer in meats, poultry and eggs. In the (p.2) office was Charles Bardous the head bookkeeper, one other male bookkeeper, and Esther.She really liked that job, was a happy girl with a piano record player, telephone,and always treated us to "college ices" -sundaes of chocolate sauce and nuts and always had a pound box of chocolates in her bureau drawer.I used to steal a few candies, which she never complained about if she knew they were gone.One night Pete was reading in bed at age fifteen, and I said to him,"Don't drop those apple cores on the floor- throw them out."-And as he chewed Esther's candies, he replied with a gleam in his eye,"Sis, there are no cores in these apples!"Esther must have known we were eating her candies, but she never stopped us or let us know she realized we were at her drawer.And when I could not see how I could pay the colllege fees, Esther and Al told me to go ahead - they would meet the expenses! Esther gave me her suitcase, her winter coat, and a lot more , and Al took me right to my room at the college (September l9l9). =And Esther was at the station to see me off in HER best clothes I was wearing. In my freshman year she came to visit and won the hearts of my classmates, who gave supper parties in their rooms for her, and the house mother invited Esther to sit with her at the head table while I waited on that table for one hundred dollars that year.Esther was so proud of me as very few women from Hartford went to the five best women's colleges in those days- certainly none of our friends except one older one who went to Brown University in Providence (earlier) but was working in Washington when I was growing up. And when I came home, Esther had a grand job for me (l921) for the summer in HER office- so we walked to and from work together every day and across the street near the lad I eventually invited to my junior prom (p 3) for a fabulously delightful weekend- a prom date with a car and a tux of his own!I was blind to the charms of Esther because she never seemed to have men come to the house for a date but yet she went out every evening, and I thought she was walking with her girl friends - who by then had telephones.One night I went to an outdoor summer dance with a girl Esther's age and was startled when she told me she was sorry for Esther. Only then did I learn that Esther and her young boss in the office were deeply in love and had been for years, but Esther would not marry him.What I did not know is that my father REFUSED to allow it and would not let Charlie come to the house, so she met him every evening on Main Street - had no place to entertain him in any weather, and that bothered Esther's close friend, as Esther told her it would be Charlie Bardous or no one. My father objected to Charles only because he was not Jewish. This went on for years while Esther saw me through college after Al married, and then Esther began to see Pete through college and medical school and mother Babe when I was away and when my mother died.Even then my father would not see Charlie.H.L. Handy sold out to Swift and Company, so Esther and Charlie were transferred to a big office force where they were never alone. Charlie then lived with his aged mother, who was as opposed to a Jewish daughter-in-law (beautiful and generous and wise and kind and musical and in love with Charlie to the exclusion )(p.4) of all other men) Julius Aronson loved her for years before he finally married Mollie at an advanced age.So it went on.My father died in l933, so Esther was free to follow her heart, but Charlie's mother stayed alive.- and by the time she grudgingly agreed that Esther could live with them Esther would not marry Charlie and live with that old witch -whom even Charlie thought to be a witch- and he supported her as his duty and not for love of her.Esther could not bring herself to live under the same roof as she knew the mother would make her true love's life miserable. That mother lived until she was close to one hundred (years).I don't know what finally happened to Charles as I was so rarely in Hartford- but Esther never dated dany other men! She went to live with Babe and with Geetter to help them with the five children when Geetter went to war.She lugged home the meat and eggs after work from Swift and Company and stayed with the five babies while Babe shopped in the evening- and helped with the washing and the housework in addition to her job. Geetter said to me, "I think so much of Esther I don't know which one I married - Babe or Esther." She was always "Nan" to the children and should have had a flock of her own! Now her birthday approaches- about seventy-nine and Geetter will send the the big yellow chrysanthemum he sends every year - the flowers that will still be fresh on Thanksgiviing Day. Esther and I were very close, but never once did she breathe to me the sadness of her broken romance. Maybe now you will know why I was so secretive about my marriage (p5) to Jack - an Irish Catholic and a devout one.I knew about Esther's broken romance with a Christian, and I feared for mine even though I learned about Esther's only from her best friend who later told me Esther wept bitterly often over my father's attitude before Charles ever told his mother about Esther.So I kept my marriage secret until I was about to sail, and then I did NOT go to Hartford to see my good Dad bfore I sailed.I did not want to see him hurt that his daughter who had been so sought after by fine Jewish men should marry a Christian- even one as fine as Jack Barrett. Esther's life had been ruined, and no one was going to ruin life forjack and me.I saw my father only once after that in l932 shortly before he died, but Jack was not with me.Pa ignored my marriage and made no effort to see me in Boston and died some months later (March 29, l933).All Hartford was there (at his funeral) to hear the rabbi say "David gave his life to the unfortunate in Hartford after the expense of his own chldren, who numbered eight by birth but countless by his big heart." Esther loved him always, so she disregarded Charlie's pleas that she elope with him as she had no desire to hurt Pa.What a person. Greater than I could ever hope to be. I was headstrong. Even when my father came to New York to urge me to accept Bill Nuremberg and to forget the charming but poor Irish naval officer of a different faith.He came to New York only to dissuade me from Jack long before Jack proposed.What I did not know was that Jack (p.6) went (December l928) to New Haven and to Hartford to inspect naval Reserves at the armories there, had found my brother Al's home had dinner there and left Al with the impression that he was seriously interested in me.Al told Pa, who came rushing to New York to put a stop to the nonsense.She had NOT met Jack but did meet him at your apartment (27 Commerce Street) the night he lost his money to thieves in the subway.There is no doubt Pa likedJack BUT vastly preferred Bill (Nuremberg) whom he had called on atGrand Central Building that afternoon without my knowledge or consent.The father watched his daughters closely - could run Esther, Bee, Babe but found me always headstrong attractive to the Italian and Irish boys.He moved away from 25 Morgan Street (l9l6) because of the attentions of Joe Paonessa- a rich builder's son from Holy Cross who lived across the street. And on Wooster Street he told Justin McCarthy a United States sailor, that his daughter could not go out with him and could NOT accept thebeaded bag Justin had brought to me all the way from the Mediterranean. Justin went off with that bag really scared, and I never saw him again.My father was very tall- powerful, and even an Irish sailor feared his wrath.He did likeSam Pollack Dr. Geetter, and his three good Jewish daughter-in-law! All (except Pete and Jen in Baltimore) were married in his living room except Babe, who was married in his summer home ("The Shack" or "Snug Harbor" near Windsor) with Jack present (June l6, l929).A really wonderful man of principle. He did not just blindly object to marriage outsidethe faith. He believed firmly that the chance o hapiness in mixed marriages was slight but p7 above all he believed such marriage a great injustice to the children.I had a very good father and a very good mother.I believe Esther would be the first to agree.Charles Bardous was not her only chance for happiness.Julius Aronson loved her, Jack Fine loved her,Charlie Rosenblatt loved her - all had sense enough to make happy marriages with other girls- all were successful, happy men - all would have made Esther happy,and my father knew it. But she was in love with Charlie when she knew himother objected and knew that after their elopement she would have to live with her as Charlie would never desert that mother who tied him so closely for her own support.He did not earn enough as one employed bookkeeper to support two households.She was happy (later) to live with Babe and Geetter and her five nieces and nephews who adore her as she appraoches her birthday on November l9. But isn't it strange that p8- she never talked to Bee or to me or to Babe about her broken rmance and that I never heard it discussed by any of my sisters or brothers? I got it in bits and piece from her friends and from my father.One of her friends married Julis Aronson and another close friend married Charles Rosenblatt.... Phil and Peggy Dahlquist loyally support (President +Nixon) Phil lied storeies about my family - please send this to him (Round robin letters were a Meranski family tradition - also among Mount Holyoke l23csmate and Sophie often sent round robin letters l970's to Ivan McCormack, Phil and Peggy Dahlquist, Admiral Stika USCG retired, to Sophie's nephew Col. Arthur Meranki in Abede Maryland, to Gertrude and Paul Rice in Pasadena and separately a group of HANNIBAL friends - Mary Boyd, Mary Ascherfeld, Adm. Visser, Captain Mercin Halstead, the Lehmans, Candlers, and others.) Of the others my father and mother cared for in their home I have only sketchy information except for Julius Aronson and Catherine Cooper, who for years I believed were my blood sister and brother. And Catherine married Sam Aronson! He was Julius's brother -9- who almost lived with us when his mother died but went home only to sleep as we had run out of bedspace! All of us slept two in a bed- four in a room, but we ran out of space even when my two oldest brothers Harry and Ben offered to sleep on the living room floor if my parents would only keep a few of their motherless friends. One day Al stepped on Ben's hand while Ben was sleeping on thefloor, and his hand was broken.Ben needed that hand to play the saxophone when he had the vaudeville bug at an early age and left the good job in the drug store and then added gray hairs to my father's fine head of jet black hair!My father put Ben out of the house for giving up that job.Then he sent me out with fod for Ben and shut his eyes when Ben sneaked in to bed at night! - And poor Pete had the earache, and Ma got Dr. Kates to come in. He asked her what she had done for the boy, and Ma said she had heated sweet oil and put a spoonful or two in the ear.The doctor turned on Ma - a very Jewish doctor and said, "I don't want no 'hoil' in 'dat h'ear."Poor Pete was in pain, but he roared laughing, and after that we would mimic"I don't want no 'hoil' in that h'ear." I forget what he prescribed, but he did clear it up. I suppose my mother could have clogged the ear andhurt the hearing permanently. When I was small my father owned a good-sized restaurant He had a big coal stove and loved to stand near it. At times one of his customers would brew tea- strong tea there and -p 10- put it into small bottles. he claimed to be a drug salesman. I learned later that he sold that tea as eye drops from his pack of patent medicines he sold to druggists. That was about 1909.(After recent Halloween activity in West Roxbury) I am remind of l907 the one year we lived on 27th Street in the heart of the East Side of New York city in the Panicof l906 when I was five or six.In terror I stood at the window on the second floor of the tenement house and watched the boys with long stockings - wmen's black- filled with fluor hit poor passing men and other boys across the back- hit them so hard white flour showed on their overcoats. I was petrified and did not go out all day. It was traditional then just as trick or treat is here." Notebook Eight p. 172 Letter from Mrs. Herbert Gitlen niece of Sophie Meranski Barrett "11 Barn Hill Road Bloomfield, Connecticut 06002 January 14, 1974 Dear Aunt Sophie, I'm afraid I think in shorthand, and write the same way. I envy you and others who can put down a 'complete' thought - maybe I don't have 'complete' thoughts - only outlines. Anyway, I am finally answering your last letter that enclosed one of my better snapshots. Yes, I do have a copy in the house and so I am returning your as you requested. Just to pretty-up the contents, I also enclose a recent picture of my daughter Andy. Her brother took it one Sunday when we all booked over to Ne York. She is a high school senior, doing quite well, and has applied to colleges. We wait -with crossed fingers! Ted called me last week - in fifteen years he's written no more than five times. He's fine and told me expressly to remember him to you. He loves living in the warm climate, and even though I constantly invite him up to visit, he fears it might be too cold - even in July! Tomorrow the fifteenth is a 'no-school' day in the area. We (Bloomfield) observe the birthday of Martin Luther King. My son Jess will spent it skiing in Vermont. Last year he broke a leg on this very same trip. We are hoping for a more successful outing this year. I have never been a winter person, and someday Herb and I (Herb loves the winter) will move to the shore in a warmer zone. If I didn't have to get up every morning to go to the office, I doubt I'd leave the house at all on some days. On February seventeen along with another couple, we're flying to Acapulco for a week in 'guaranteed sunshine'. It will be a welcome break from winter. Do you get to see Buzzy or Suzanne? Aren't they both in your area? Arthur writes a helluva letter. His hadwriting, by the way, is identical to Ted's if I remember correctly. Take care, aunt Sophie - say 'hi' to John, and write when you have time.Love - Carol" ( 1975 Sophie note "Daughter is Andrea; son is Jess. In 1975 Andrea is at University of Connecticut")
Year: 1973_