"...the summer my brother Max came back from living in Pinsk (summer of 1903). Max was the second brother (the family’s third child). Max or Chaim Mordechai, as he was called in Hebrew, was a very sensitive boy. At a very young age, he was sent to study at the Yeshiva in Pinsk with my mother’s brother Hillel. Max went to continue his studies, help his uncle with the younger students, who were rich, spoiled kids, and sort of look after them. Max’s job was to wait on the kids, bring their lunches, run errands, and so forth. Somewhere in the process of study, he became indoctrinated with the ideas of socialism through some young revolutionaries. Uncle Hillel had a small printing press for his school. Max and his radical friends secretly printed propaganda leaflets on the school printing machines. Unfortunately, they were found out.
Pressure was put on Uncle. “Either you send Max away, or we tell the police.” He packed Max off home without any ceremony. Max found our small hometown to be intolerable. There was no one his age in Belitsa with whom he could exchange ideas. He left for America. Max was seventeen when he came to the United States.
...Max arrived in New York. Mother’s brother, Harry Yarmove, was there to greet him, but Max did not like New York. Instead, he headed to New Britain, Connecticut, where father’s youngest brother, Oscar Kranowitz had settled. (Note: Oscar used the name Aaron in the States)
...They (Oscar's family) treated him like one of their own boys. He found work in a large food market. He went to night school and worked days as a clerk and delivery boy for the large market. Max was a young boy of seventeen or so, attractive with blond, baby soft, curly hair, blue eyes, fair skin, and a mischievous nature. The women customers liked to have Max take their grocery order and deliver it to them. Yes, in the pre-supermarket days, groceries were delivered. Max’s popularity with the ladies made a nice profit for the owner. Max could always get another job if the one he held did not suit him. Max made a nice living and saved his money. When he had saved enough, he sent for Brother Will (Vevel) and then for the rest of us.Fairly faint and scant as this treasure map is, it will have to do. X- marks the spot of the treasure, but in this case the X is not end of the story. Max's story ends tragically and Minnie chose to omit it from his story. At times, Minnie filtered her stories through a rose color lens. Max committed suicide. When Minnie sat down to share her stored treasures, the subject of Max's death remained too taboo.
Roots Tech 2013 encouraged us all to improve our stories telling. I'm afraid I've given away the ending of Max's story long ago. My quest is to uncover the missing details of his story, to fill-in the gaps and figure out how this "very sensitive boy" reached a premature death. The gaps are the treasures I'm seeking or the X in my analogy.
Treasure hunters often follow the wrong trail. Not long ago, I was was led off course by an erroneous death certificate.. With the help of +Jacqi Stevens, and +Jenny Lanctot I discarded the New York death certificate which turned out to belong to another poor Max H Crane who committed suicide as well (Mystery Monday: Max Crane). I therefore retraced my steps back to square one, New Britain, CT. New Britain was where Max lived most of his life in America. Max's grave and death certificates continue to elude me, but yesterday, I stumbled across a small treasure—a previously unknown story—by turning to the local papers. Yesterday, the Genealogy Gods were with me, and I found an amazing newspaper article from 1909!
|Max Kranowitz's listing from 1909 New Britain City Directory|
Source: Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories,
1821-1989 (Beta) [database on-line].
New Britain, CT 1909
I doubt Minnie knew this story about her big brother. This event, which made headlines, happened four years before she joined her brothers in America. She was about twelve years old in 1909. If she knew this story, she consciously or unconsciously omitted it from our family history.
Picture the twenty years-old Max who by 1909 had been living on his own in America for about four years.
Kranowitz Was Badly Beaten
I doubt Max wrote home with news of this beating. A severe beating from fellow Jews may have scared his family from joining him in the States. This article, paints Max not in the pinkish hue of a loving sister. Somehow, despite being the victim in this story, Max seems like a tough guy. He did make it to the police station and not the hospital. Minnie's comment about Max’s revolutionary days comes to mind. The police did arrest the bully, Berkowitz, but the severity of the beating seems disproportionate to the crime of standing on the wrong side of the street. I am beginning to imagine young Jewish hoodlums, marking their territories. Max wasn't alone. He had a companion, and another quickly surfaced at the police station. Why didn't Max and his companion just leave the street like they were told, if they knew this was Berkowitz/Waskowitz territory? Why was Max the only one to take the beating?
"Samuel Berkowitz was locked up last evening on the charge of assaulting Max Kranowitz, by Captain Grace. Kranowitz and a companion called at the station and made a complaint. They had hardly finished telling their story when Sam Berkowitz and his brother-in-law,Sam Waskowitz, hurried in. They were so intent on getting their complaint in first they did not notice Kranowitz and his companion, who were standing over by the window. The captain saw he had a nice kettle of fish on his hands, with the air vibrating with charges and counter charges. He called Kranowitz's witnesses, two others having joined him in the meantime, in his private office, to get as near a correct version as possible. All concurred in the story that Berkowitz had assaulted Kranowitz. According to the story Kranowitz was standing with his friend over by Berkowitz and Waskowitz's new block at the corner of Hartford Avenue and North Street. Waskowitz ordered them away and Kranowitz moved over to the curb. Berkowitz wasn't satisfied, told him that he had no business around there and beat him severely. Berkowitz was taken to the cell room, protesting against the alleged injustice of locking him up. An interesting story is promised in the police court today."
Special to The Hartford Courant; September 17, 1909
ProQuest Historical Newspapers
There is more to this story, which for now, will just have to wait until Part II of this post. The treasure trail is heating up again and there is surely much more to be discovered. Any leads to obtaining court and police records from this case would be greatly appreciated!
Other posts about Max Crane:
Should Genealogist Spill Family Secrets?
Mystery Monday: Max Crane
Back to Square One
Trail Heating Up Part II
Part III: Why Was Max Hanging Around the Block?
Part IV: The Max Crane Mystery Continues