I remember that several celebrities died that year1926but Mim’s father stayed this side of the grave. The ace pilot Bessie Coleman was killed when she fell out of a plane her mechanic was flying. The art world lost Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt. Harry Houdini died on Halloween, a suitable date for a magician, don’t you think?
The death that caused the biggest sensation in 1926 was of Rudolph Valentino. What an attractive man he wasonly 31 years old, just a year older than Mim and me. They released his last movie, The Son of the Sheik, two weeks after his death. Mim and I went to see it. Her pregnancy was starting to show then. She looked radiant.
Mim gave birth to Sidney on January 2, 1927. She designed his birth announcement and Ephraim printed it. Mim was a fine typographer and she managed to split her time between the new baby and Double-J Printers. Sidney didn’t exactly raise himself, but he got less of Mim’s attention than her other babies.
I filled the gap, when I wasn’t busy at the art gallery. He was the child I’d never have. I bought him his first bookWinnie-the-Pooh. It had just been published and was all the rage. I bought Rachel Shen of the Sea, which got that children’s book award, the Newbery. I gave Paul Treasure Island, the 1911 edition with N.C.Wyeth’s illustrations. Frankly, I liked the illustrations better than the story.
The family outgrew the cramped quarters over the print shop, so Mim and Ephraim bought a house on Allston, a few blocks away. She took to gardening with a vengeance, and when she wasn’t keeping house, working at the shop, and raising children, Mim volunteered with the League of Women Voters. She also loved to charleston, and she made Ephraim take her dancing whenever she could.
I remember 1927 as the year that Charles Lindbergh made his famous solo flight across the Atlantic from New York to France. Mim likely remembered 1927 as the year Sacco and Vanzetti lost their appeals on their murder conviction and were executed, despite a roar of protests worldwide.
“What a horrible injustice,” she told me, as she scrubbed the living daylights out of a roasting pan. “It makes me ashamed of America.”
Mim voted for Herbert Hoover in 1928, because she said he was the presidential candidate with the highest values as a human being. She reminded me that Hoover sent food to Communist Russia after the war as part of the American Relief Administration. When people accused him of helping the enemy, it’s claimed that Hoover said, “Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!”
Mim was delighted when Hoover won. She would have drunk to his health, when he was inaugurated the following March, except we still had Prohibition back then.
That same monthMarch 1929I drove Mim and the kids to San Francisco over the new San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. It was the longest bridge in the world back then. Afterward, we treated the children to a showing of Steamboat Willie, that cartoon about Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Even Paul laughed at the shenanigans. We celebrated Paul’s becoming a bar mitzvah that May. It was a modest affair, the way Ephraim’s had been back in Poland, when he turned 13. Paul chanted from the Torah at Shabbat morning services, and we had a festive luncheon at home that afternoon. I bought Paul a pair of cufflinks that he wore when he got married and moved to San Francisco.
We had an uneventful summer, except for the enormous crop of zucchini from Mim’s garden. She must have fed zucchini bread to half of Berkeley. Then came the stock market crash that turned our world upside down.
Sidney was at the park with Oscar and me on “Black Tuesday,” the 29th of October. Oscarmy latestloved children and wanted several, with a wife who stayed home and cooked all day. That’s why I had to set him free later. If you’re wondering about Kenton, let’s just say that if he were a piece of artwork, he’d have been a forgery. I wasted years finding that out.
We adults had been worrying about the stock market since September, when the London Stock Exchange crashed. On October 24, everyone started selling off shares at the New York Stock Exchange. It got worse. By the end of “Black Tuesday” we were in horrible shape.
When Oscar and I returned to Mim’s, she was sitting in the front parlor with that prayer shawl wrapped around her. She looked stunned. I thought it was about the stock market crash, but I was wrong.
Mim finally focused on me. “I just got back,” she said. “I was with Serakh again. In the fortress at Rhodes. With the Knights of St. John. There was an attack, and the Jews there. They ” She rubbed her forehead. “Get me to bed, Florrie. I have to gather my strength before the rest of the family gets home. Ephraim will never believe me.”