Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

LOVE 1920s Style

Minnie Crane
This romance involves suitors, love at first sight, cold feet and french toast! Minnie Crane, my great-grandmother and star of my book, Stored Treasures, A memoir, was twenty-four years old. New York City, as she described it, was a happening place.
"At the time, I had broken up with my former boyfriend. I was rather footloose and fancy-free. I was restless and tired of Hartford and its provincialism. So, I uprooted myself and in the spring of 1920, went to live in New York City for the second time in my life. New York City is a wonderful place for young people to live. There are many advantages: cultural, moral and physical." 
I think she would be pleased to know, that it's still true today. I myself spent an adventuresome year in New York when I was twenty two. All of my first cousins (four of them) are in their twenties, and have moved to the Big Apple to follow their dreams. Like their great-grandmother before them, they flocked to the city in pursuit of work, studies, music and most of all—love.

Minnie immigrated to America in 1913 from a small shtetl in Russia called Belitsa (now in Belarus). When she first arrived, she joined her brother Harry in New York, got a job as a dressmaker in a factory, only to be called upon to support someone else's dream. Their younger brother Bernard, was coming to America with hopes to become a Doctor. The brothers met, and agreed that the only way to make this possible was for the five Crane siblings living in America (four brothers and Minnie) to pool their resources and live together under one roof. The three older brothers would work, Minnie would keep house, and Bernard would study. Minnie did not hesitate.  I don't know that she had a choice. Her brothers were the ones who bought her ticket to America. They were still supplementing her income. She spoke no English. And Bernard, the "baby," he was going to be a DOCTOR! Minnie put New York on hold and moved to Hartford. Despite the great sacrifice, she describes those years as some of the best of her life. She was able to go to night school, learn English and study to become a bookkeeper. Bernard graduated from High School and was the first in the family to go to college. In 1919, he headed to medical school at the University of Michigan.

Minnie, was once again free to pursuit her own dreams. She packed her bags and moved to New York.  Her studies had paid off and she got a great job as head bookkeeper for an interior design company. She boarded with a family and went to Columbia Extension school at night. She had many suitors. She even talks about dating several men at the same time. Then one day, everything changed.

Mary Kastelansky (Poczyna), was Minnie's best friend. Mary's cousin, William Bloomfield, was coming to New York for a visit. William must have been quite the eligible bachelor. He was thirty-three years old, tall and handsome. Minnie heard about William before he arrived. The Jewish matchmaking machine was in motion and I assume William must have known about Minnie as well. Despite high expectations—which often lead to disaster—sparks were flying from the start. William called looking for his cousin. Minnie answered and he politely invited her to join them for a night on the town. She stopped seeing all other suitors that very same week.

William Bloomfield
William was on a trip up north, after spending five years in Texas. Perhaps work was difficult to find, but it didn't seem like William had a job. Minnie went to work, and William would meet her for lunch. Then, he would wait for her to finish. When she had night classes, he would accompany her on the subway to Columbia. She would go to class and he would wait yet again. My favorite scene of those early days together, is them babysitting for Mary's baby. They fell asleep with baby Grace in the bed between them. I'm sure, this would have been quite scandalous back in the old country, but Minnie was no shtetel girl, she had transformed into a liberated young American woman.

Out of the blue, William got cold feet! With little warning, he announced he was moving to Pittsburgh for work. If William was here to defend himself, he may claim that he did not leave Minnie but really did need a job. Nevertheless, my grandmother was devastated. She couldn't sleep, she stopped eating and she just couldn't understand why he ran off like that. Deep down inside she wanted to believe he loved her, but he was gone. They wrote letters everyday. She clung to those letters, looking for an answers.

Ida Weiner (Pomerantz)
This is where my favorite character comes into the story. Aunt Ida! Every respectable Jewish family has an aunt Ida. Our Ida, Ida Weiner (Pomerantz) was William's mother's sister.  She was recently widowed and running a large produce business in Pittsburgh . She offered William a job, but William's mind was not on the job. Wise aunt Ida must have worried about William's fear of commitment. She called him in for a talking and asked:
"Willie what are you doing here? What's this business of daily letters?" 
She wanted to know if he loved this girl he was writing to. When he replied that he did, she told him to go back to New York and marry his Minnie, because if he didn't, he would "never be happy." Thank you aunt Ida!

William, sat down and wrote a long letter to his beloved. How I wish I had a copy of that letter. It arrived only a couple of days before his promised return. Minnie, tears streaming down her face, read and reread the words in disbelief. William was coming back to her. (Here is an important tip: do not throw away old letters! It does not matter if you can not read them because they are in Yiddish or some other foreign language. Interesting or not, set old letters aside. I wish my family had. We threw away all of Minnie's old letters when she died. I can almost bet that this cherished letter was among them).

This next love scene feels like a scene from a movie. It's a Sunday morning in October of 1920 and Minnie Crane has been checking her watch every few seconds since the crack of dawn. She's been wandering the city endlessly. She arrives at Grand Central Station with hours to spare and she sits on a bench in the grand hall, staring at the huge clock and the travelers coming and going. Finally, she heads to the track and waits for the Pittsburgh train. It takes forever to arrive and then as the trains empties, she begins to doubt herself. Maybe he had another change of heart. Maybe he's not coming? Finally, William appears. Six foot tall and handsome, he embraces the petite Minnie and they walk off into the sunset. Fine, that's really cheesy. I'll let Minnie tell you:
"So the train finally arrived. After being sure he wasn't on the train, there he was, embracing me in his wonderful tender arms and kissing and hugging me again and again. Oh how beautiful he looked to me! I thought my heart would burst with happiness. 
Over toast and coffee, he burst out, 'Let's get married. I'll meet you at the office for lunch, and we'll go to city hall.' "
Minnie and William Bloomfield 1942
shortly before William Died
William Bloomfield was the love of Minnie's life. They spent twenty-two wonderful years together until he died suddenly. Where is the French Toast you ask? The wedding was simple. There was no party, no cake and no photographer. After the ceremony (which Minnie insisted had to be performed by a Rabbi and not at city hall), they went to their favorite cafeteria and had their usual: french toast. (Here is another tip: if you are planning to write a memoir, don't forget to mention places by name. What I would give to know the name of William and Minnie's favorite cafeteria). From then on, every 23rd of October, they celebrated their anniversary with french toast.

That's all, I will share today from Minnie's Memoir. To learn more about Minnie's beautiful story you'll have to read my book,  Stored Treasures, A Memoir. It's the story of a young woman's coming of age. The love story between Minnie and William is at the heart of the book most appropriate for a Valentines day post! I dedicate this post to my cousins Matt and Dan and their fiances Hannah and Lauren, all of whom have found love in the great city of New York.

Happy Valentines Day! If you have a favorite love story to share from your family's history please share with us!

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