the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

On June 20, we celebrate Father's Day. Sam Levenson wrote, "...any honest kid will tell you under oath, there are days when kids can be quite impossible--like Monday through Sunday. Come to think of it, the only perfect kid I ever heard of was my father when he was a kid." ("Everything But Money")

Shown below is the Yiddish version of a piece taken from It's titled "50's & 60's," and gives a wonderful explanation of what life was like in the past.

"Hey, Tate (Dad)." My "zun" (son) asked the other day, "what was your favorite "gikh" (fast) food when you were growing up?"

"We didn't have fast food when I was growing up."

"C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?"

"We ate at "heym" (home)," I explained. We didn't "esn aroys" (eat out). My "muter" (mother) cooked every day and when Dad got home, we all sat down together at "der tish" (the table), and if I didn't like what she put on my plate I had to "zetsn zikh" (sit down) there until I did like it."

"Dos gelekhter" (the laughter) was so hard.

By this time, my "zun" was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer some serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to get my "tate's" permission to leave the table.

Here are some other things I would have told him about my "kindhayt" (childhood), if I had figured his system could handle it.

My "tate" and "muter" never: wore Levi's, set "fus" (foot) on a golf course, belonged to a"golfshtekn" (golf club), traveled out of "dos land" (the country), flew in an "aeroplan" (airplane) or had a "kredit-kartl" (credit card).

In their later years they had something called a "revolving charge card" but they never actually used it. It was only good at Sears-Roebuck. Or maybe it was Sears and Roebuck. Either way, there is no Roebuck anymore.

My parents never drove me to soccer practice. This was because soccer back then was just for "di meydlekh" (the girls).

We actually had to "shpatsirn" (to walk) to school. By the time you were in "zekster" (6th) grade it was not cool to ride the "oytobus" (bus) unless you lived more than 4 or 5 miles from the school, even when it was "regndik" (rainy) or there was "ayz" (ice) or "shney" (snow) on "di erd" (the ground).

Outdoor sports consisted of stickball, snowball fights, building forts, making snowmen and sliding down "dosf bergl" (the hill) on a piece of cardboard.

No skateboards, roller blades or trail bikes.

We didn't have "televisye" in our "hoys" (house) until I was "tsvelf" (12). It was, of course, "shvats un vays" (black and white), but you could buy a special colored "plastik" (plastic) to cover the screen. The top third was "bloy" (blue), like the "himl" (sky), and the bottom third was "grin" (green), like "groz" (grass). The middle third was "royt" (red). It was perfect for programs that had scenes of "faver" (fire) trucks riding across someone's "lonke" (lawn) on a "zunik" (sunny) day.

I was 13 before I tasted my "ershter" (first) pizza. It was Sam's Pizza at the East end of Fruit Street in Milford. My "fraynt" (friend), Steve, took me there to try what he called "pizza pie." When I bit into it, what a "bren" (burn) I got on the roof of my "moyl" (mouth). "Der kez" (the cheese) slid off, swung down and plastered itself against my "gombe" (chin). It's still the best pizza I ever had.

Pizzas were "nisht" (not) delivered to your "hoyz" back then, but the "milkh" (milk) was. I looked forward to "vinter" because the "krem" (cream) on top of the bottle would "frirn" (freeze) and push the cap off. Of course, us kids would get up first to get the "milkh" and eat the "farfroyrn" (frozen) "krem" before our mother could catch us.

I never had a "telefon" in my room. Actually, the only phone in the "hoyz" was in the "koridor" (hallway) and it was a party line.
Before you could make a call, you had to listen in to make sure someone else wasn't using the line. If the line was not in use, an Operator would come on and ask, "tsol" (number) please" and you would give her the number you wanted to call.

There was no such thing as a "kompyuter" or a "hant" (hand) held calculator.

We were required to memorize the "times tables." Believe it or not, we were tested each "vokh" (week) on our ability to perform "matematik" (mathematics) with nothing but a "blayer" (pencil) and "papir."

We took a spelling test every day. There was no such thing as a social "hekherung" (promotion). If you flunked a class, you repeated that grade the following "yor" (year).

Nobody was concerned about your "self esteem." We had to actually do something praiseworthy before we were praised. ("lobyn" means "to praise.") We learned that you had to earn "derekh-erets" (respect).

(In 2010, some Massachusetts children are jumping rope without ropes because of a self-esteem obsession. The assumption is that thinking highly of oneself is a prerequisite for high achievement.)

"Di tsaytung" (the newspaper) was delivered by "yinglekh" (boys) and most all boys delivered newspapers. I delivered the "Milford Daily News" six days a week. It cost "zibn" (7) cents a "papir," of which I got to keep 2 cents.

On "shabes" (Saturday), I had to collect the 42 cents from my customers. My favorite "koyne" (customer) was the one who gave me 50 cents and told me to keep the change. My least favorite were the ones who seemed to never be "heym" on "zamlung" (collection) day.

Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut on screen. Touching someone else's "tsung" (tongue) with yours was called French kissing and they just didn't do that in "der kino" (movie theatre) back then. I had no idea what they did in French movies. French movies were considered "shmuts" (dirty/unclean matter) and we weren't allowed to see them.

You never saw the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers or anyone else actually kill someone. "Der held" (the hero) would just shoot the "biks" (gun) out of the bad man's "hant" (hand). There was no"blut" (blood) and "gvald" (violence).

When you were "krank" (sick), "der dokter" actually came to your "hoys." No, I am not making this up. I'm no "shpilmener" (tale teller). I'm not telling a "bobbeh meisseh" (grandmother story).

Drugs were something you purchased at a "apteyk" (pharmacy) in order to cure an "krankayt" (illness).

If we dared to "sass" our parents, or any other "dervaksener" (adult/grown-up), we immediately found out what "zeyf" (soap) tasted like. For more serious infractions, we learned about something called a "this hurts me more than it hurt you." I never did quite understand that one.

In those days, parents were expected to discipline "der kinder." There was no interference from "di regirung" (the government), "Social Services," or "Family Services." It had not been invented (the ninth and tenth amendments to the constitution were still observed in those days.

I must be getting "alt" (old) because I find myself reflecting back "a sakh mer" (a lot more) and thinking I liked it a lot "beser" (better) back then.

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe wishes her 98- year-old father, Bernard Gottlieb, a Happy Father's Day.


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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