Legacy Books

Memory Books

Mandy Syers

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Excerpts from Legacy Books

Chuck (60th birthday)

When I was growing up I never had toys. My parents were very frugal, and they didn't spend money on luxury items. But one of the cool things I had in my room that a lot of kids didn't have was a vacuum cleaner. My mother kept it in the metal wardrobe in my room. Now, if you don't have any toys, a vacuum cleaner is really a neat thing for a kid to have. Just think of it. You've got the hoses: they're snakes. You've got the tubes, which are guns. You've got the little brushes and things, which can be anything, and you've got this big thing that looks like a bagpipe, and the cord.... So if I really wanted to do something, I would redecorate my room with blankets and the vacuum cleaner. I remember I was very, very upset when my mother got rid of that vacuum cleaner and got an Electrolux, which wasn't nearly as interesting. But you could still have some fun with that too. And I'm still attracted to vacuum cleaners, to tell you the truth. I don't mind vacuuming because I think it goes back to my past.

Helen (1910-1998)

I remember the day the stock market crashed. I was engaged to Joe. He had twenty dollars in the bank. Joe wanted to get married and I said, "I'm not gonna marry you 'til you save two hundred dollars." I was afraid to get married without any money. So that's what he did. He saved his money, and we got married. Joe was a very hard worker. He used to get up at six o'clock in the morning and get home by nine-thirty, ten at night, and I used to walk to the streetcar to meet him. And that's how we lived. I'll tell you something, life was very easy. You didn't make a lot of money, but you didn't need a lot. And you know, when we had a little party, do you know what we'd serve? Sardines. That's right.


During Prohibition -- which was the heyday of pharmacy -- all drugstores sold liquor, because pharmacists used to prescribe alcohol for medicinal purposes. My father would have the doctor sign a big stack of blank prescriptions. Then when a customer came into the store, my father would write their name on top, fill in what they wanted in the liquor line, and record it in the federal book. That made it "legal." Whiskey, ginů he had it all. It was good stuff, too. It wasn't bootleg stuff. It was all imported by the government.

Mark (retirement)

I was born on August 31, 1931. We were brought up on a farm. I was born into this world on a clay floor, and the roof of the house was thatch. It was well-kept, but we had no electricity and no gas. The only means of cooking was a fire of turf or sticks known as a hearth fire. All the bread was baked in an oven hung over the fire, and if the fire went out at night it was a nightmare in the morning to get it lit. No matter how desperate you might be for a cup of tea, you might have to wait one hour until that kettle boiled. Not like today.

Sylvia (87th birthday)

When my mother and father got married, my father was a traveling salesman. One time, he was away, and the old Jewish custom was that on Thursday you'd buy a live fish. You bought a live fish, you brought it home, and you threw it in the bathtub, and on Friday you killed the fish and cooked it. My mother was alone in the house, and she heard some noise. She did not go to look and see where the noise came from, but she opened up the window, and she screamed, "Help!" In those days, you had foot patrol police. So the patrolman heard "Help!" and went upstairs to help. She said, "Somebody was trying to break in." Well, they looked at the door, and the door wasn't jimmied in any way. He went into the house, and he looked in every room, and nothing looked like it had been disturbed. Then he went into the bathroom. In those days, she had a bathtub that had legs, and it was so high from the floor. She did not have a lot of water in the bathtub, so the fish jumped out of the bathtub and got under the bathtub and went swish, swish, swish, and she heard that noise. When my father came home after that trip, she said to him, "You're not leaving me anymore."

Frank and Betty (50th wedding anniversary)

Frank: One time, Dave and I went fishing. We were out all night, and when we came home we fell asleep and we never woke up the whole next day. We slept the whole day in. Dave had a date with Joan, and I had a date with Betty.
Betty: We were going to a formal dance, and I had gotten a new dress and everything. Comes the night of the party, Frank doesn't show up. I was so angry. As far as I was concerned, that was the end of him. Well, Dave came over and pleaded and told me what a wonderful guy Frank was and all that stuff, but I didn't want to have anything more to do with him. After a stunt like that, who needed him?
Frank: I got her in the end, though.
Betty: Yeah, but I had my doubts.
Frank: You did?
Betty: I sure did!
Frank: You did not. You chased me all over town!

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