Handsome Jewish cops were quite a prize for refugee Hungarian girls... my father met my mother at a dance at the Manhatten Jewish Center, and my father offered to walk my mom home. Along the way she stopped and bought him a newspaper. That small act really impressed him, and within a year they were married. Good looking couple, no? I really hit the DNA jackpot with these parents!
At first my parents lived in the south Bronx, and when my sister was born, they bought their baby carriages and such at a local baby supply shop called Sickser's at the corner of Westchester Avenue and Fox. I once asked my father if he remembered a black kid who worked there... "Oh, yeah, der schwartzer... I remember him!" Well, that kid grew up to be General Colin Powell, hero of the first Iraq War and victim - as Secretarty of State - of Bush's second Iraq War. It was at Sickser's that Colin Powell learned to speak Yiddish - which caused Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Shamir a shock when they met and Powell shook hands and said "Men ken red yiddish..." (We can speak in Yiddish.) My sister with my Dad around the time I was born. Some of my first memories were of laughing hysterically while my sister put my parent's 45 RPM records on the record player at 78 rpm speed. It probably ruined my tastes in music for life. My parents were very big on Mambo and Cha-cha-cha, and I have been stuck on latin music ever since.Around 1956 my folks moved to the east Bronx, on Coddington avenue, where I was born. It was great place to grow up. Every evening the neighborhood would come outside and sit on their stoops, which is old New York dutch-derived word for the stairs in front of a house. Our old house - pictured around 1959 at left, is still there, pictured at right as I saw it when my brother Ron and I took a trip back to our ancestral stomping grounds in December, 2007. Television was new and had not conquered the social world, so I remember nights as a kid running up and down the streets while parents chatted away or had parties in the backyards. It was really a wonderful neighborhood back then - a mix of Italians, Germans, Irish, and Greeks, mostly. My dad quit the New York police force in the early 1960s - things had become too violent and corrupt for a family man. He and a partner started an Automobile service station down on Webster Avenue. Then he ran a launderette in the South bronx. Soon, however, he was contracting construction jobs out in New Jersey. When we visited my Mom's family in Hungary in 1965, Dad bought a Volkswagen in Germany and we drove around Europe in it, and eventually shipped it home to New York.We moved out to Teaneck, New Jersey in 1966 and Dad started working first as a building contractor, and later as a real estate salesman. Here's the real estate tycoon version of Jack Cohen around 1990.
So Jack is going to be 81 years young on June 20th! The man is made from pure Moldavian oak. A bit grey at the temples, but mind you, this man ran the New York Marathon every year until about five years ago, and apart from missing a few teeth, he has the strength and litheness of many men twenty years younger. Both my parents have amazingly good health, probably a testamony to their staying together through thick and thin for so many years. The twentieth century threw everything it could at them and still they survived and prospered. So Happy birthday and Happy Father's day, Pop! And don't forget to take Mom out for Chinese food on your birthday...
Lomir Ale ineynem, ineynem, Yitzik mekabl ponim zayn, Yitzik mekabl ponim zayn.
Lomir ale ineynem, lomir ale ineynem,
Trinken a glezele vayn!