David Freedman's letter to Joshua

David Freedman photo

Dear Josh:

As I know very little of the 'roots' of my father and mother (your great-grandfather and great-grandmother), I will have to write whatever I can recall of their lives here in the U. S., and, of course, my own life.

My mother, Sarah Freed, came to this country in the late 1880's from one of the Latvian countries. She was the oldest of five sisters and one brother. Her family settled in Connecticut, where my mother went to school. My father, Morris, came from Poland, which was then part of the Russian Czarist empire. He was older than my mother when he came here, and had no chance to go to school. In order to make a living, he walked from house to house, on his back a pack filled with clothes which he sold to those who wanted and could afford them! He was what is known as a peddler.

In the mid-nineties, probably around 1894, he and Sarah were married in Middlebury, Conn. Shortly thereafter, they settled in Naugatuck where he opened a small dry-goods store, and where all the children were born. I was the third of six -- 4 boys and 2 girls -- and was born in November 1900. I went to school, worked in the store, played baseball and football when I had the time. My father's store expanded; and I was the one who swept the store before school and again worked there after school. When a new building was constructed on the corner of the old store, my father rented several of the stores in the new building and established the first department store in Naugatuck. This made it necessary for all the children to work there.

In addition to my other jobs and school, I was selected to take care of the accounting books, the payment of bills, etc., since my father had never had the opportunity to learn to read or write English. However, he was able to speak English, as well as his native Polish, and Russian. In spite of the fact that I was kept so busy with school and the store, I somehow managed to play football, baseball, and even went out for track. I was made captain of the Eagle, Jrs., a neighborhood baseball team -- I was very proud of that, since I was very small for my age and was called 'Midget' by my friends and team-mates! I participated in a track meet in which I won the 100-yard dash. My Aunt Mary was so excited that she showered me with gifts. I forgot to mention that Aunt Mary lived with us until she married.

When I was thirteen, I received a bright red bicycle shipped from a wholesale house in New York. The entire neighborhood gathered around when the bike arrived. It was a gift from my father, who very seldom gave presents even to his own children. So this was certainly a special occasion. All the people admired the bicycle -- a new type with inner tubes and a foot coaster brake. It was a single speed, of course -- anything else was unknown at that time.

The preparation for my Bar Mitzvah was exceedingly difficult for me. To get to my Hebrew teacher, it was necessary to ride five miles on a trolley (street car) to Waterbury. I had a weak stomach and usually became very sick on the ride. When I got to Waterbury, I had a one-mile walk to the teacher's house. And it was all repeated on the way back to Naugatuck!

In spite of all my activities, and usually having to study in the store at night, I graduated from high school with honors. But I was not able to enter college immediately. Our country was involved in the first world war; my brother Clarence was in the navy; and I was needed to work in the store. So I worked for one year and then left home to study mechanical engineering at Rensslaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N. Y. I graduated in four years, with an M. E. degree, but there were no jobs. As a matter of fact, there were very few engineering jobs for the next 17 years. I had technical jobs during that period -- all of them paid very little. The country was in a deep depression. Sixteen million people were out of work. Banks failed. Factories were closed. There were great despair and hunger. It was a rough time.

But, in spite of all this lack of money, I met your grandmother -- at a peace meeting! A few weeks later we were married and living above a store in Hackensack. And two years after that, your mother was born. And that is where we lived for another couple of years.. From there, we moved to Bogota, NEW JERSEY, and lived in our nursery school. From there, we went to Englewood and I think your mother can tell you the rest.

Grandpa Dave

Hope you share this with your brother and sister and M and F.

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