In the joy category, see this fifty-dollar bill. That’s about how much Mim and I spent in honor of our turning fifty in 1946 (me in April and Mim in July). We celebrated on the California coast at a little town—it was little then—called Mendocino.  Mind you, fifty dollars went a long way back then, and we had a glorious weekend, plus the drive there and back, which was an adventure in itself. The Mendocino trip was the second most memorable event for me in ’46. The friendship between Mim and me was close, if not closer, than when we snuck into the fortune-teller’s tent at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition.

Of course a lot of other things happened in 1946. The United Nations got underway. The British Empire was falling apart, including British Mandate Palestine. The people of French Indochina—Vietnam now—were demanding independence from France. President Truman was getting the country back on a peacetime footing, and Bella wrote to say that the large earthquake on Vancouver Island could be felt all the way in Portland. […]

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And I thought I was at at my wit’s end in 1944? So much happened in 1945, that I can’t begin to tell you the half of it. What I remember most about that year is how often Mim and I cried—from happiness or tragedy.

I’ll spare you the see-saw of our emotions, by giving you my aspirin-applesauce summary of 1945. Back then we didn’t have chewable flavored aspirin. Mim used to give her kids crushed aspirin in a teaspoon of applesauce, followed by a teaspoon of just plain applesauce. First the yuck, then the yum.

Churchill, FDR, and Stalin at Yalta, two months before FDR died

So, first the yuck: President Roosevelt died suddenly of a massive stroke on April 12, while he was resting at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. The strain of World War II and February’s Yalta Conference must have been too much. Hitler committed suicide at the end of April—and I wish FDR could have lived to see that.  […]

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The trip to Portland was a resounding success. Hans and I shared all the delights of honeymooners without the honeymoon. We wanted to take a side trip to Mount Hood and stay at the new Timberline Lodge, but the roads were too icy and the lodge had closed for the duration of the war, so we made do with a hike in Washington Park.

The trip did Ephraim a world of good. He drank less after that, as I recall, and he took to writing Bella every few weeks. She was there when he needed her then…and later.

Einstein was Henry’s idol. Henry refused to work on the bomb with Oppenheimer (on the right).

We arrived home to find Sidney and Snuffles in one piece, and Rachel in a snit. Apparently Henry had come home one day and announced that he was switching research teams at the Rad Lab.

“He refuses to go with his old group to the Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico,” she explained to Mim and me. […]

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Yes, the Helsingør Sewing Club had nothing to do with sewing and everything to with ferrying 6,000 Danish Jews to Sweden. Note even Henry guessed then how successful the “club” would be. Besides, he was focused on events closer to home.

Joshua Erik Friis came into the world at 4:37 a.m. on December 29, 1943. They named him in memory of Mim’s father, Julius, and in honor of one of Henry’s relatives. Rachel had a surprisingly easy delivery, and Joshua was a surprisingly fussy baby. He had all the right parts, thank goodness, but something must have bothered him.

Mim told me that Ephraim got a call at Double-J Printers five hours after Joshua was born. Henry was on the phone, and he wanted to ask Ephraim about arrangements for Joshua’s bris. Ephraim contacted Rabbi Stern at Temple Sinai in Oakland, and by the next day all the arrangements had been made for the circumcision ceremony at my place when Joshua was eight days old. […]

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There’s not much good I can say for 1943. Mim worried about Paul—we all did. The few letters from him in the Pacific frightened her, and it was worse when two weeks went by and there were no letters. She fought anxiety by throwing herself into volunteer work with the Korematsu case and with the Double V campaign.

An ad for justice

Have you heard about Double V? The blacks—we said “Negroes” then as a sign of respect—started the Double V campaign to remind Americans that we were fighting for victory against fascism abroad and against racial prejudice at home. You can see why Mim got involved.

“When Paul gets back from the war, I want show him that I’ve fought for democracy and freedom in California,” she told me. “Starting with the Jim Crow conditions in the shipyards.”

Sidney’s friend, the welder

By 1943, people had flooded the Bay Area to build battleships for the military. […]

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That comic book superhero, Wonder Woman, first appeared in 1942, and I’m not surprised. Wonder Woman fought against the forces of evil—which were usually the Nazis. Mim was my personal wonder woman that year. While Paul had enlisted in the Army to fight abroad, Mim battled her forces of evil in California. That’s how she saw it.

It started in February. President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 authorized our military commanders to exclude every Japanese and Japanese American from the Pacific Coast, including all of California.

“These are our neighbors, Florrie,” she told me, pacing back and forth the way she always did when she was upset. “The Nazis are rounding up the Jews and we’re rounding up the Japanese. Have we gone mad?”

I wasn’t even going to try to explain the difference. At the heart of the matter, Mim was right. I still saw in her the same girl who had printed the Vote for Justice card thirty years earlier. […]

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After Rachel and Henry eloped, dare I say life went back to normal? “Normal” then was still budgeting down to the nickel, and wringing the fullest enjoyment out of family life and friendships. Sidney still visited me at the art gallery, even though he was about 15 then, and he and Hans sometimes went out for coffee.

My favorite Monopoly piece, a metal shoe, from the 1935 edition of the game.

Hans was a good sport about sharing our home (my home, actually) with Rachel and Henry. The four of us used to play Monopoly, when Rachel and Henry weren’t studying or more pleasantly occupied. Rachel usually won.

When I stopped by Mim’s most evenings, Ephraim would be sitting by the radio, working a crossword puzzle and listening to Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra. He seemed less concerned about business (or the lack thereof) at Double-J Printers. The United States was supplying ships and war material for the British, and that meant jobs and more orders for Double-J. […]

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One of Sidney’s old comic books

Rachel called me to announce her rash elopement with her Danish lover, and we three met in my parlor to discuss what to tell Mim and Ephraim. Rachel and Henrik arrived with a bottle of my favorite sherry. A good start! They had gifts for the whole family: another typography book by Edmund Gress for Mim; the latest record by Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra for Ephraim; a set of Marvel Mystery comics for Sidney; and some book for Paul (I forget which), even though Paul was still working in Washington State then. They thought the gifts would take the sting out of what they had done.

It didn’t. Rachel called Mim from my house to break the news. She wound up in tears as she handed me the receiver.

Mim had been crying, too. “She thinks everything will be perfect because she’s in love. […]

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Rachel Jacobowitz had grown up, and I didn’t notice. Frankly, I chose not to notice. Weren’t Mim and I still in our 20s? Surely not in our 40s.

By Thanksgiving of 1939, I was a woman of experience, you might say. Once Mim warned me about Rachel, I made sure that Hans had the benefit of my rather extensive knowledge. Dear boy, he didn’t know what hit him!

As it turned out, Rachel had other men on her mind, or at least she did by the time Hans and I saw her again at Sidney’s bar mitzvah service. That was January 6, 1940, as I recall. I gave Sidney cufflinks that were nearly identical to the ones I had given to his older brother, Paul. I’m not very imaginative when it comes to noncontroversial presents for 13-year-old boys.

See that blonde student standing in the background? I’m pretty sure that’s Henrik. […]

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I’ll get right to it. By the end of September, 1939, Europe was at war. Hitler had invaded Poland. France and England—and several of England’s Commonwealth countries—had declared war on Germany. For the time being, the United States remained officially neutral, but conflict practically overwhelmed my dear Mim.

“The human race hasn’t learned anything since the last war twenty years ago,” she railed at me, while she minced onions. “Not one single thing. Peaceful negotiation is the only decent option. But, Florrie, how can we stand by and watch innocent people get slaughtered? What’s going to happen to those children on the St. Louis? What going to happen to my mother?”

I remember that tears were streaming down Mim’s face then, and I hoped they came from the onions. It tore me to pieces to see her so upset. You know that year the Nobel Committee didn’t award the Peace Prize. […]

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