Louis S. Goldman

Louis Goldman was born Israel Labe Guntmacher in 1894 in Ladyzhin, Podolsky, Ukraine. The Ukraine is about the size of Texas and Ladyzhin was a small village then with about 800 Jewish families. My father-in-law said it looked just like village, Anatevka, in Fiddler on the Roof. They spoke Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish. In the 1400s, this was part of the Polish empire and Jews, who had been expelled by other European countries, were welcomed by the Polish empire since they could read and write. But in the 1600s, the Polish empire began to lose power and the fortunes of the Jews also declined. When Louis was born, it was ruled by the Russian Czars, and there were restrictions and pogroms against the Jews. Tobacco and wheat were the main crops of Ladyzhin with production controlled by the government. Jews could not own property. The houses were one-story with dirt floors and no running water and water was taken from the river, where people bathed and sent their waste. Lou’s father was a tailor and better off than most of his neighbors, as he had a little work all year long making a few coats, pants and shirts. Many in the village felt lucky to work a few months a year.

In 1905, when Lou was 11, his older brother, Yosell, age 22, was shot by Russian soldiers. He was a University student who joined the Bund, a Jewish socialist revolutionary group aligned with the Bolsheviks. His father blamed too much education for giving Yosell ideas that got him killed. He pulled Louis out of school in the 4th grade and set him to work in the tobacco fields for 20 cents a day.

The Guntmachers and Tabachnicks were very good friends and neighbors. The Tabachnicks were a large family with four boys and two girls, and the youngest girl was born in America. Their going to America left Louis very sad, because the boys were his very best friends. Dave, the oldest and his best friend, promised to find a way to get him to America. In 1910, a letter came from the Tabachnicks saying he could live with them and Dave was sending him a ticket. He couldn’t get a passport because he was only 17, but the letter was accepted by immigration on both sides of the Atlantic.

All across Europe, people worked as agents to sneak those without papers across borders. His father arranged for Lou to meet agents in Russia, Austria and Germany. The agents would gather a group together in farmhouse barns until they had about 20-30 while they searched out safe places to cross. They had to cross a river into Germany holding on tightly to overhead ropes so the current wouldn’t carry them away. In Hamburg, Louis found a ticket agent and got his steerage ticket. It took two weeks to cross, then another week in Baltimore with thousands of other immigrants and then by train to St. Louis. Going through the immigration process was when his name was changed to Louis S. Goldman.

Louis wanted to be an American. He learned to speak and read and write English as quickly as possible. He went to work in the clothing industry. In 1914, at 19 years old, he got terribly homesick and decided to go home for the Passover holiday.

It was dangerous times; war seemed imminent, but he couldn’t be persuaded to stay. He had no passport, but he figured he could bribe his way. All went well until he crossed into Russia where he was arrested. By giving the warden all the rest of the money he had, he was released and even put on a train, but it stopped short of getting him to his home town. Luckily, a wagon master knew him and took him home, where he got paid by the parents. Lou told his parents the whole story and that he would need money to return to America. They sent him to his uncle who gave him a royal dressing down for being so foolish to travel at this time, but the uncle gave him $200. Lou decided to return immediately because of the war clouds. Again, no passport and he had to go through Poland and Austria to Hamburg, Germany. His father would wire him money for the boat ticket. He stayed at a farm house and they loaded 15-20 people in the center of the wagon carrying bales of hay. At the border, soldiers bayonnnetted the hay, but fortunately, no one was hurt. They crossed a river with overhead ropes to Austria. There, while they were waiting, someone ratted them out. They pooled their money to bribe the police and gave a royal beating to the snitch. In Hamburg, Louis went to the ticket agent to get money from his dad. The agent asked him to do a favor. He had an 11-year-old boy traveling alone to St. Louis to meet his sister. The boy’s name was Elie Chadorosky (Al Price). They boarded the Pres. Lincoln and Dad brought him to St. Louis.

He and his friend, Leo Tabachnick, served in the Army during WWI overseas in France and he got his naturalization papers.

In 1922, Lou decided to get his family out of Russia. He had parents, two sisters and a young brother, all almost starved from the different armies commissioned near their town: Red, White Russians, Germans, and Austrians. He made arrangements with agents to get them over the border. In the woods on a Sabbath eve, not far from the border, his mother, a very observant Jew, insisted on lighting the candles and saying the blessing. She put two sticks in the ground, said the prayer and lit the candles. Then she blew them out because of the great danger. With bribes and luck, they did get out of Russia. They got to Belgium and booked passage on the Lapland, but his father had a hernia and had to be left behind for the operation at a Catholic hospital. He left money with the Nuns for his care and to see that he got on the ship to America when he recovered. Lou told his dad the food was Kosher or he wouldn’t have eaten.

He married Cecelia Tabachnick, sister of best friend in 1924. They had four children. The first child died in infancy, then a son in 1927 and twins, a boy and girl in 1935. The youngest son died in 2000 and the oldest in 2002. They were/are a loving family, hardworking, honest and all good citizens. Like most Jewish immigrants, Dad loved America: it’s a wonderful land of opportunity, citizenship, to earn a good living, educate your children and freedom, especially religious freedom. This made America the golden country!

This story was submitted by Lillian Goldman with information that came from her father and research done by her nephew, Mark Goldman.


The Bakery Born in a Kitchen Oven – Freund Baking Company

Story provided by Gladis Barker

Back in the 1850’s when Mrs. Moritz Freund baked Bohemian rye bread for her South St. Louis neighbors, she had no inkling she was starting an institution that was to become a lasting part of St. Louis tradition. Freund Olde Tyme Rye Bread – baked according to Mrs. Freund’s Old World recipe – has been part of the social history of St. Louis. One interesting fact was that Mrs. Freund oven was heated by cordwood supplied by a bearded, struggling farmer who was later to become President of the United States – Ulysses S. Grant!

Her bread was welcomed by the Union Army soldiers at Jefferson Barracks during the Civil War, and by succeeding generations of soldiers until the post was closed after World War II.

The famous Freund rye bread was present at a wide range of important social events and establishments. When the Veiled Prophet made its first visit to St. Louis in 1878, Freund bread had an honored place on the menu of the first queen. It showed up at the fabulous St. Louis World’s Fair where visitors praised the Freund bread and rolls served in every pavilion and booth. In the 1880’s and ‘90’s at the famous outdoor beer gardens, patrons feasted on hearty sandwiches made with Freund rye bread.

A familiar sight was seeing the Freund horse-drawn wagons rolling from the bakery adjoining the family home at 913 Soulard Street to deliver bread and rolls to St. Louis restaurants. The bakery remained at the Soulard location for six generations.  In 1921 the bakery was moved to a larger facility at Taylor and Chouteau and the wagons were replaced by a fleet of modern trucks which distributed the wealth of Freund ovens – bread, rolls, cakes, pies and sweet goods – to customers throughout Greater St. Louis and a nine-state area in the Midwest.

The bakery remained in the Freund family for four generations, run by sons and grandsons. In 1972, the bakery was finally taken over by an outside corporate baking organization and the bakery lost its family identity. But even though the Freund bakery name was lost, it has left an important mark on St. Louis history.

Sam Fox

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

My father moved here from Russia when we was only 17 years old, and then he brought my mother and her family over when he had raised enough money to pay for their trip. They started raising me and my brothers and sisters, but when I was 7 years old, my mother died. My father remarried, and my step-mother wanted us all to learn how to play a musical instrument. I learned how to play the violin, and my younger sister loved to sing. She moved out to California where she once had the pleasure of singing for then Senator, Harry Truman. At age 15, I dropped out of Soldan High School to work in the clothing factory as a bookkeeper. I used to work 6 1/2 days per week for $10. 

When the war started, I joined the Army and ended up as a clerk in Fresno, California. When the War was about to end, they needed some clerks in Europe to help bring American equipment back to the States. I started flying to Europe from Fresno, but I couldn’t handle the flight. I had the air crew let me off in Big Springs, Texas. I was sure I was going to be court marshalled, but the War ended, so the Army had bigger things to worry about.

In the Army, I made a lot of friends. I made an Irish friend who started calling me “O’Brian.” The whole camp started calling me O’Brian. When the officers would pass out checks, you had to wait for your name to be called. The officer went through the entire list and then looked at me and said, “What is your name anyway?” So I had a lot of friends in the army, both gentiles and Jews.

After leaving the Army and working different jobs for a few years, I wound up keeping books at a radio station. I worked there for 7 years, and in that time, I helped on the Arch. We put the background music in the Arch, and I delivered the material to the men. They were exciting times.

Now, I’m 94 years old, and I still call bingo for the Jewish War Veterans Association. I also continue to bowl. My doctor put a pacemaker on my heart, and I wanted to give up the sport, but he said to me, “You bowl until you die!” In the upcoming Senior Olympics, I will be the oldest contestant.

Ruth Mariam

Story was recorded at the Covenant House on May 20, 2008, by Michael Naclerio.

I grew up in a small apartment in North St. Louis off of Easton Avenue or what is now called Martin Luther King Street. My parents both immigrated to the United States before I was born, and when I was little, they opened up a grocery store. We lived in a very diverse neighborhood, filled with Irish, Italian and German immigrants. My parents always created a sense of openness in our house, and we were friends with every resident of the neighborhood regardless of nationality.
In the 1930s when Nazism was on the rise in Germany, we happened to have some very close German friends.  They were an elderly couple that my brother and I loved to spend time with. At Christmas time, they would go to the German house on Grand Avenue to celebrate at the playroom. One Christmas, they invited us to come along. They told me, “Don’t tell anyone you’re Jewish, and don’t tell David I’m going to be Santa Claus.” My little brother, David, was probably about four at the time. When “Santa” walked out onto the stage, he asked David if he would sing “Jingle Bells” for us. David started singing livelily, and we couldn’t get him to stop for 10 verses.

My family truly liked to interact with all members of the community. There was an Irish gravedigger who had many children and was therefore, very poor. He was a regular customer at my father’s grocery store. A couple blocks away from my father’s store was our competition—an Irish-owned grocery store. One day our Irish competitor asked him, “Why do you go to that lousy Jew?” The gravedigger responded, “That ‘lousy Jew’ gives me credit, and you won’t.” My parents were always very popular in the community, and all of my parents’ customers went to my wedding. We had one neighbor who would always come over to our house when my mom was cooking dinner, and she would look in the pot and say, “What are you cooking Molly Goldberg? What are you cooking?” To this day, I follow their example of kindness to others without discriminating based on color, nationality or religion.

David T. Portman: Part III

Part III. Story was originally written by David Portman in 1979 and submitted in 2008 by David’s daughter-in-law, Carol Portman.

There were activities such as drama groups, social clubs, ballroom dancing, schools to teach reading, writing, English and athletics, but most interesting of all to me was a group known as the Alliance Military Cadets which was very popular. The number of youths who participated was so great that three companies had to be formed along with a rifle and bugle corps. We were taught how to handle a rifle, drill and keep in good physical condition. We were drilled by an Army Sergeant who came from Jefferson Barracks and each company had a staff of officers: major, captain, lieutenant, sergeant, etc. Walter Freund became a sponsor and led us in many activities. We went camping in Lakewood on the Gravois, Ladue, which was then a prairie, but mostly to Creve Coeur where we pitched our tents. We carried with us pots, pans and cooks who prepared food for the hundred or more who went camping with us on the weekends or on holidays. All the fellows carried their own camping equipment, traveling by street car and on the open end Creve Coeur trolley where we had so much fun. I believe that from these adventures came the development of the summer camps. The Y and JCCA began offering camping experiences, first Camp Hawthorne on the Lake of the Ozarks, and later Camp Sabra, which serves thousands of our present youngsters and oldsters.

During the westward travel of the Jewish population, the Jewish Alliance moved to 3645 Delmar Square, and a few years later became the YMHA, YWHA, where the activities continued. The Y joined with a group known as Jewish Community Center which was then located in the 3600 block of Page which had outgrown its quarters.

The two organizations merged and purchased property at Union and Enright where extraordinary community activities were offered: a swimming pool, a health club, and multiphased social activities. Some years later, this edifice also became too small, and ground was bought by forward-looking leaders who brought about the Jewish Community Center Association on Schuetz Road which provides excellent facilities for the entire Jewish community.

David T. Portman: Part I

Part I. Story was originally written by David Portman in 1979 and submitted by David’s daughter-in-law, Carol Portman.

I am David Portman, 80 years of age. I arrived in St. Louis about 1905. A year prior, I landed at Ellis Island as an immigrant from Russia, together with my family members, consisting of my mother, an older brother, a younger brother and a sister. My father had emigrated from Russia a few years earlier and had settled in Kansas City where he had found employment as a tailor with Lord & Taylor, a woman’s apparel shop. After we moved from Kansas City to St. Louis, another brother and five sisters were born to our parents. Our first home was a flat at 11th and Washington Street, what is now Cole Street. We lived there for a few years before moving to 11th and Carr Streets, which residence can best be described as a tenement, housing about 20 families. There were 10 families on the first floor and 10 on the second floor, with a common porch for entering and leaving. Each flat consisted of three rooms. There was a water line in the middle of the floor on the outside porch where the tenants from one faucet, obtained their drinking water, clothes-washing water, and bathing water: clothes and body washing were both accomplished in the same galvanized tin tub. We had to keep the faucet running in cold weather in order to avoid freezing. There were no electric lights (or electricity) so we used kerosene lamps which had to be fitted every day, buying the kerosene from a street peddler who supplied the entire neighborhood from his tank filled with coal oil. The glass of the lamp had to be cleaned daily so that we could receive the maximum amount of light; we had a special jug just for the oil. For heat, we bought coal from a peddler which was used in the range that was also utilized for cooking. These needs were purchased daily.

Neighborhood stores abounded. There was a baker who supplied bread, bagels, sweet rolls and on Friday, chala. Across the street from the baker was “Raskas” who sold milk, cheese and dairy goods. We bought milk from a large container, bringing along our own pots and pans to carry it home in. The milk had to be boiled at home since it was not pasteurized. During the boiling process, a skim formed on top of the kettle which was considered a great delicacy. Ice was not available in those years; we didn’t even have ‘ice boxes’ to keep food cold; this advance was yet to come, although it wasn’t too long before we had an ‘ice box’.

The “out-house” was outside in the center of the yard. There were 10 or 15 partitions which were used in true community style by all the tenants year long. We had no flush bowls or fancy soft tissues and not much privacy.

Across the street on the west side of 11th Street, was the Fire Department. On alarm, three horses were led from their stalls to the steam pumper which was always ready to respond to the alarm of the fire and which was always stocked with straw shavings and cord wood. This fuel was used to generate steam to pump water from the hydrant closest to the site of the fire. The three horses ran abreast at full speed to fire, clanging their fire bell, with the firemen hanging on to the side of the engine or on the back of the boiler at the rear of the pumper. A supply wagon loaded with more cord wood and coal would follow the engine as a back-up measure in case the fire was a really bad conflagration requiring extra fuel.

The streets at that time were paved with red granite blocks or compacted rock. For transportation, street cars ran from all parts of the city, leading to the downtown area. The fare was then five cents, including transfers!

About this time, the City of St. Louis started buying a whole block of property from 10th to 11th Streets and Carr to Biddle Streets. This area included a salt warehouse, homes, tenements, stables and houses. It was to become Columbus Square, which would be a recreation spot for the people who lived in that area. There were ball grounds, a concrete wading pool for youngsters, stands for musical concerts, craft rooms and teachers who helped in various crafts. It would serve the poor people in this community who consisted mostly of Italians and Jews and who lived in very close harmony. There was a “Shul” on 9th and Wash Streets, also another one on 11th and Biddle, and another at 14th and Wash Streets where the people went to worship.

An Irish Jew?

I have had a rather unique upbringing.  My mother was raised Catholic, was married and divorced, then converted to Judaism, and finally decided she wanted to have children.  She was artificially inseminated to have me, her now 22 year old daughter.  It has been just my mom and I in my immediate family for my whole life, but we have been blessed with an amazing extended family and have many friends that have become part of and added branch of our family. For the first 9 years of my life, My mom and I lived in the basement apartment of one of my mom’s friends from work.  Elaine was a little older than my mom and had 4 children with her former husband, and had grandchildren that were around my age.  They became my adopted Jewish family.  We moved out when I was in 4th grade, and Elaine passed away when I was in 8th.  We stuck together through that hard time, and we are still extremely close with her family.  Elaine’s son, Andy, is my Godfather.  We spend passover each year with most of the family (it is a huge celebration that I look forward to enthusiastically) and see them on a regular basis throughout the year.  I feel so fortunate to have a strong Jewish family to be a part of.  I am lucky, because I also have a strong, supportive Catholic family.  My mom is one of seven children, so although I don’t know anything about my father or that side of the family, I have many aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I have never felt looked down on or left out with my family even though we are of different faiths.  If anything, it has made both my family bonds and my faith stronger.  I am able to learn from my family and to teach them.  It has created an open forum and has kept communication flowing.

My faith has always been a large part of my life.  Until I was in 3rd grade, we attended conservative Congregation B’nai Amoona, at which point we moved to the reform Congregation Shaare Emeth.  I went through Ladue School District, so I was not alone in my faith at school, seeing as there is a large Jewish community within the district.  I attended Hebrew School and Sunday School, was bat mitzvahed, participated in youth groups through middle and high school, and was a familiar face at temple.  My mom also played a large role in the community as a Gesher (7th grade religious school) and Sunday School teacher.  Since beginning college I have not been able to be as involved with the community, but my faith and spirituality are still a large part of my life.  I attend Saint Louis University, where I am in the extreme minority, but I love representing my religion and discussion theology with my friends and fellow students.

I am so grateful for my unique background.  It has made me a strong, distinct individual.  After all, how many people can say they are Irish Jews?

Lauren Yates