Sadie Solomon

Duration: 25mins 54secs
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Interview with: Sadie Solomon
Interviewed by:
Archive Number: OH 410

GC: This is an interview of Mrs. Sadie Solomon and Mrs. Sophie (__??) of Houston, Texas. It was conducted at 3:45pm, 1982, at Seven Acres in Houston. The interview is part of a study sponsored by the Houston Center for the Humanities under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities on Houston, The Development of a City. The interviewer is Grace Cowan, acting as a volunteer from the National Council of Jewish Women in Houston.

GC: Well, it’s not a question of being smart. We just—

SS: Well, he knew so much. He knew what the—how many people were here 61 years ago, see, and I don’t know.

GC: We don’t want facts and figures as much as your history and feelings.

SS: Okay.

GC: I mean, how did your family get to Houston?

SS: When I got married, my husband and I came to Houston.

GC: Where did you meet your husband?

SS: I met my husband when I was about 13 years old. I met him up at a Purim ball from the synagogue.

GC: Oh, you’re in San Antonio, aren’t you?

SS: I’m originally—both of us. We both went to school in San Antonio. We met at this Purim ball and his mother called me over and said, “Where do you live, little girl?” And found at that we lived just a few blocks apart, so he started coming over. And that’s the way it was.

GC: Your father was a dentist?

SS: 02:03.2 Yes, Dr. Feller. Yes, he was. And my brother was a dentist, too, Dr. Max Feller. They both died. My father passed away at 52 of a heart attack, and my brother did, too, 57.

GC: You said that your father’s name was Feller?

SS: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

GC: And he and your brother were both dentists? Was your father born in San Antonio?

SS: No, my father was born in Austria.

GC: And how did he have—

SS: Well, he left Austria when he was 16 years old and came over here to America.

GC: Do you know what port he came to?

SS: New York.

GC: Landed in New York?

SS: Uh-hunh (affirmative). And he became a cigar maker in a factory, and there he met my mother.

GC: Where was she from?

SS: She was from Poland. She also went up to this factory. She got a job as a cigar maker, and that’s where they met and then they got married.

GC: How did they get to—?

SS: To San Antonio? My father—no, we came first. No, my father came to San Antonio first. We were there about 9 months in New York without him, and then we came to San Antonio.

GC: How many children did you say?

SS: Four.

S: Four.

SS: Four of us—two girls and two boys. No, three girls and one boy.

S: 03:53.0 And every one born in San Antonio?

SS: No. We were all born in New York.

S: Oh.

GC: And when did he become a dentist?

SS: My father? That’s a very, very peculiar story. No college education. We had a very dear friend there that his mother raised my father in Europe. My father’s mother died when he was just a very, very young child. This man became a dentist. He went to college. My father came to San Antonio, and he started working with this man in the laboratory. You know what a laboratory is in a dentist—where you make teeth. He was a very, very handy man, and he trained my daddy without a license. He did apply for a license, but before it went through, he passed away. But he—

GC: Oh, he was that old before he changed professions?

SS: Sure. Sure. When he came to San Antonio he changed.

GC: Well, how old were you when you came to San Antonio?

SS: Seven—I was seven years old. He just had a lot of nerve, that’s all. See, I couldn’t understand, but that’s how he became a dentist and a very, very good one.

GC: What kind of training did your brother receive?

SS: Well, he went to dental college. He went to dental college. He lived with me, and he went to dental college.

GC: And you went to nursing school?

SS: Me? No, I didn’t go anywhere.

GC: 05:52.3 I thought you were a nurse?

SS: I got married and had babies.

GC: And that was enough?

SS: And that was what I wanted, to marry Jack and settle in.

S: Why didn’t you tell how many grandchildren you have?

GC: Wait. You’re way ahead of us. Let’s find out how she got to Houston from San Antonio.

SS: Well, I told you. After we got married, my husband got a job here with the wholesale house.

S: Pincus and Jarrett.

SS: Pincus and Jarrett Wholesale. He worked for them for 27 years, and then he went into business for himself during the war with two other fellows.

GC: What kind of business?

SS: Wholesale dry goods. And he did very well.

GC: Solomon, Shapiro, and (Glick?).

SS: That’s right, and I was Solomon. That’s it. He did very well, and then at 81 he passed away.

S: Was he that old—81?

SS: He was 81 years old.

GC: He was 20 when you married?

SS: No, I was 20 and he was 21.

GC: And he met you when you were 15. You had a long—

SS: 07:16.8 Well, this—there was a war that went on—the first war—and then we were kids and my father objected to the marriage. He never wanted my husband (inaudible).

GC: Because he wasn’t a professional man?

SS: No, because he was a poor boy. He was just a very nice, plain boy. I get mad when I have to think about it.

GC: Fathers have not changed much down the years.

SS: No, I don’t guess they have. Oh, yes, and another peculiar—you want me to tell you a peculiar—?

GC: Please.

SS: He didn’t want me to wear a veil. I’ve always been a very sentimental—oh, I forgot.

GC: What’s the matter?

SS: I’m going on here.

GK: Oh, please. Don’t you think that your grandchildren and their—

S: Great grandchildren.

GC: Yes.

SS: Well, he didn’t want me to wear a veil, and I always loved veils. I was always a very sentimental person. So I wore a hat because he didn’t want me to—but I always said if I had children, if I had girls, they would wear veils when they got married, and, by golly, both my girls wore veils. My granddaughters wore veils when they got married, so I was happy.

GC: And you want to leave your note for posterity that all—

SS: That all my children wear veils at their weddings. I was married at home, but I wanted it veil. We had a big, 2-story house, and I had to walk down the steps. But I knew that’s why they wear a veil.

GC: Was your marriage ceremony performed—?

SS: 09:09.1 Rabbi Marks.

GC: And that was in what year?

SS: We were married in 1917.

GC: As you said, right in the middle of a war.

SS: Yes. Right after the war, we got married. He said he just didn’t want to leave me a widow. If he had to go to war, God forbid, he didn’t want to leave me a widow, otherwise we would have gotten married earlier. So we waited.

GC: Mrs. (Cavey??)? Are you with us?

S: I haven’t got anything to say.

GC: So far we haven’t heard from you at all, and I know that you got to Houston some way and that your parents got to America some way, so we’d like to hear about that, too.

S: Well, my father was a soldier—like a Franz Josef—and he wore a beard and they called it Franz Josef’s beard. He was—I said he was a soldier. I don’t know where he came, but before that he was in Austria. But before that, he migrated—I don’t know where—whether he came from Russia or where he came from. Anyway, he landed in Houston—he landed in Galveston—and he and another fellow—he is not living anymore. He (bached?) with another married man. They knew each other from Europe, and they used to cook and sleep together. I think that house is still in Galveston. Then he sent for my mother, and she came over with my oldest brother. He was four years old. My mother came, and when she got to New York, the ship stopped. I don’t know whether they stayed over long, but she enquired—she had some relatives there—that she would like to see them. I guess she had correspondence with them. It was easy. She went to visit with her relatives and she stayed there 2 weeks with a four-year-old son, and then she came to Galveston. The ticket was to Galveston, and she was able to have sense enough to be able to stay over in New York for 2 weeks.

GC: 11:48.4 That’s remarkable, because on some of the boats the passengers were not allowed to get off at the port. If they were signed on to Galveston, they stayed on that ship until the ship got to Galveston.

S: Well, I marvel to think that she was able to do that. Afterwards, there were little storms and things in Galveston. I think one time, they were living in a two-story up in that—(Goldie Gellar’s?) parents were upstairs. Well, anyway, the punch broke, see, and my mama broke her arm and my brother, Morris, had his head scratched. After that, my father had a dream there was going to be another big storm, so he said, “Come on. We’re going to Houston.” I don’t know whether he went by wagon and horse or how he got to Houston, but he took my three brothers. The oldest one was born in Europe, and the other two brothers—one was Elaine’s father—he was the second brother—and then my younger brother—were born in Galveston. When we moved to Houston—

GC: And you were born where?

S: I was born in Galveston. I was 6 months old when we came to Houston. I’m 15 months older than my sister who was born in Houston.

GC: And what kind of work did your husband do?

S: My husband? Do you mean before he married me?

GC: No, after you moved up to Houston. Wait, you haven’t even met him yet. I’m rushing you. I’m sorry.

S: No.

GC: How did you meet him? You better meet him before you marry him.

S: I was just left with my—no my—yeah—all my brothers—three brothers. They were living when I got married. I met him through some women playing cards. I made the arrangement and talked to Louise. Anyway, we got married. I was young when I got married back then.

GC: And what kind of work did he do?

S: He had a liquor store. He had two liquor stores and a pawn shop and he sold dry goods. The one he had—the store before—had groceries. My husband took little notions and men’s shirts, men’s ties—

GC: Did you find, in those early days in Houston that the Jews tended to keep to themselves?

SS: No, they didn’t keep to themselves, but even the Jews weren’t very friendly among themselves—the reformed and the—you know—I don’t think it’s that way now, but it really was earlier.

GC: There was a wide gap between?

SS: Oh, yes, a very wide gap.

GC: Did you find it that way?

S: Well, I guess so. I don’t know.

GC: Do you think it has changed much?

S: Oh, yeah. I think so.

GC: Did you associate much with gentile neighbors and friends?

SS: Oh, yes.

S: That didn’t make no difference.

SS: I think almost every family has got intermarriage.

GC: Back in your marrying days?

SS: Uh-hunh (affirmative).

S: I have a son that has married (inaudible).

SS: I have cousins that intermarried.

GC: But in your generation was there much?

S: No. No. There wasn’t much.

GC: But you did—?

S: And there wasn’t much divorce like there are now. It’s amazing. It’s just so—the living was just very, very different then. That was 60-some odd years ago—than it is now. I’m just amazed at what really goes on because I don’t—I don’t what it is. It’s just amazing.

GC: Were you involved in Jewish organizations?

S: Oh, yes.

GC: Like what? What kind did they have then? Which ones?

SS: When I first came here, I joined Hadassah, I joined B’nai B’rith, and I joined the council; I worked for the council. Anything that was an organization, I joined.

GC: A synagogue?

SS: A synagogue? Oh, yes. We joined Beth El. That was a new one. That was a conservative. Yeah, that was a conservative.

GC: And who was the rabbi? Do you remember?

SS: Garber? I don’t quite remember. He has that all on his tape.

GC: Mrs. (Cavey?), were you a member of the congregation?

S: I still am. And my father used to go to all of them, even out of town, on special occasions to conduct some of the service. You’ve heard of (blowing on the horn?)?

GC: Oh, yes.

S: Well, my father.


S: Is that what it is? My father’s business was groceries, and my oldest brother was in wholesale groceries—(Dimberg__??) company. At our home where we lived, they call it the Five-Point because there was two streets this way and then an alleyway and another one. It was three ways you could drive on.

GC: Did Jews tend to live in one section of town?

SS: Mostly in the Third Ward or the Fifth Ward, stuffed together they way we still do.

S: Yeah. My father—we were in the Second Ward.

SS: We lived in the Third Ward.

GC: I’ve been here 33 years, and I don’t know wards.

SS: Well, we don’t have them anymore do they?

S: Oh, yes. The Fifth Ward and Sixth Ward.

GC: I don’t think we really have them, but the term is used by—

SS: That was called the Second Ward.

GC: The term is still used by old-timers, and people like me have no idea what they’re talking about.

(speaking at same time)

SS: My mother belonged to—it’s a kind of insurance—(__??).

S: I think my father belonged, too, and my mother belonged to it.

GC: Did you keep a close—how close an observance did you keep of the Sabbath and of the holidays?

SS: Well, I have three children. We always go to synagogue on all of them—most of the holidays. My husband was the one that really liked it. He would have loved for me to have gone all out. I never did. But he went along with me, and Friday night we had our Kiddush. The children knew that it was Friday night.

GC: You lit the candles?

SS: 20:07.3 Yes, and then on the holidays we went. And after my son was Bat Mitzvahed, he could—right now, he comes every Friday here and conducts the reformed service for us.

GC: Wonderful.

S: His diction is good.

SS: Maybe you know him, Louis Solomon?

GC: Did you say you have children, (Mrs. Cavey?)?

S: No.

GC: No children? Which congregation—Mrs. (Cavey?), you going to sleep on us? What congregation did you belong to?

S: Beth Yeshurun.

GC: Beth Yeshurun?

S: But I have no way of getting there.

(speaking at same time)

SS: I belong to Beth Yeshurun now. Adath Yeshurun and Temple Beth El joined together, and it became Beth Yeshurun. It’s now a conservative congregation. We bought the Beth Israel—remember—you were too young. Before this big—

GC: They bought out in Riverside and started building. They built a social hall before they moved here, and that was about 30 years ago.

SS: Well, this was even longer. So now we belong over here at Beth Yeshurun, but it was originally Beth El and Adath Yeshurun, so that’s why they named it Beth Yeshurun.

GC: Have you encountered any anti-Semitism in Houston?

SS: No, I don’t mix enough. I don’t think so. I don’t. I don’t know.

S: 22:05.6 There was a—I remember when I was going to Sunday school and I was crossing the Union Station—

SS: I didn’t go to Sunday school.

S: —and some kids hollered, “Hi, (skillet?). Bye, (skillet?).”

SS: When I was a little kid, I don’t remember my children ever complaining when they went to school, being called Jew—never. Now myself, I don’t know. I don’t remember it.

GC: If there was any, it wasn’t deep enough to hurt?

SS: That’s right.

GC: I’m making sure we’re not running out of time. You were saying that you’re so unhappy here.

SS: I don’t want you to put that it in there.

GC: Then we won’t. Whatever you ask.

SS: Please.

GC: Certainly not.

S: It’s depressing, and they take them in here when they’re ready to go in the grave.

GC: Some, as Mrs. Solomon says.

(Break in Tape)

GC: Were you strict with your children?

S: No, I wasn’t strict with them because my father was so strict with me. No, but they were all—all three of them—were very good kids. We never—naturally I worried about them when they went out on dates. We used to set up and wait for them like everybody does. But they all married very nicely and they all have nice homes. My son married a gentile girl, and she converted and brought her boys, no more Hebrew now than a lot of us.

GC: Oh, I’m sure.

SS: I don’t know.

GC: Well, you certainly must have a feeling of accomplishment?

SS: I have 11 great-grandbabies.

GC: Oh, my word! That is an accomplishment.

SS: And two more this summer, so it will be 13.

F: I’ve been looking for her.

GC: Oh, I’m sorry.

(Break in Tape)

SS: She belonged to the Council of Jewish Women. That’s when I was a child in San Antonio.

GC: In 18, 19?

SS: No. This is 19—well, I guess about 1906 or 1907, somewhere around there. I left there in 1919.

GC: And Hadassah, too?

SS: No.

GC: Just the Council?

(speaking at same time)

GC: Thank you. We may come bothering you some more, with your permission.

S: I made one of my nieces (inaudible).

GC: Thank you very much. Mrs. Solomon, there is one other thing.

(End of dictation)