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One Photo; One Story: Nana's fur coat. (and Sadie)

Sadie was dirty, drunk, and smoked cheap hand-rolled cigarettes. She was never allowed to get her hands on that fur coat.

My Grandmother, Margaret, (Nana) to us, was a true New Yorker. She raised her eight kids in three of New York’s five boroughs; the lower east side of Manhattan, the south Bronx, and later Jamaica, Queens.

Her children were coming fast during the first half of the 20th century. Most being born during the height of the depression and raised during WWII, life was challenging.

My grandfather, worked out of the union hall as a relief bartender in some of the roughest neighborhoods in New York. He was rarely home. Nana was left to raise her children alone.

There is a family slogan that comes from the Machiavellian stunts that my grandfather would pull on Nana and her growing family.

“Adam had em”.

He’d come home long enough to gain her trust and just like that leave her with another child on the way.

She was such a sweet and wonderful person, Nana and the neighborhood looked after her. It was that way in New York in those days.

There was the insurance man,

Mr. Goldberg that made sure she had burial insurance for the children even as she missed her payments.

Tony Poveromo, the ice-man, would put a block of ice under her ice box and forget to collect. Years later hiring my father to delivery ice up the tenement stairs for a few pennies a trip.

Then there was aunt Nellie, my grandmother’s sister. She was married to a New York City Fireman, and they always kept an eye on her and her many children.

Dad recalls being sent to see the pretzel man. The pretzel man sold fresh long hot pretzels in a five-gallon can. He was handed the can and told to rush right home with it. He imagined the taste as he ran the can home through the streets and up the stairs.

Inside the can was a new fur coat. “Why is the pretzel man, giving my mother a new fur coat?” My dad thought suspiciously, until he heard about “Sadie”.

Sadie was a neighborhood woman who wasn’t shy about helping herself, overstaying her welcome, and over taxing the generosity of her friends.

Aunt Nellie was at her wits end with Sadie during this time. She smoked cheap hand rolled cigarettes, drank all of aunt Nellie’s liquor, and according to dad; “Smelled so bad it brought tears to your eyes.”

She hounded aunt Nellie for the fur coat and there was no way she was getting it. It was Nellie's coat and she wanted my grandmother to have it.

Several times through out the 40’s and 50’s Nana hocked that fur whenever she needed cash. When her home relief check would come, she’d get her coat back.

Over the years that fur was left in hock too long and was eventually sold.

Nana always appreciated the style and look of nice things. As the kids got older they contributed to the family funds and looked after Nana.

The photo is from the 1970’s, Jamaica, Queens. Aunt Helen taking Nana out for Mother’s Day.

August 2, 2018. It’s been 116 years since her birth. We love you Nana, Thank You and we miss you so, so, much.

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