MARIAN SAHADI INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
Marian Sahadi (MS): They had the Son of the Sheik restaurant there where we used to have, when the war was over they used to have all the parties with the servicemen, and we used to dance and it was nice.
Nobody closed their door downtown, Esther, where lived. Everybody had their doors open.
Esther Regelson (ER): Alright let’s get started…Okay. Just for starters let’s have your name, if you work, are retired, what’s your profession, if you’re willing to state your age, any other pertinent information that you want to…
MS: My name is Marian Sahadi Ciaccia. I lived downtown Lower Manhattan on 63 Washington Street, 82 years ago. I was born in Manhattan. Raised in Manhattan, stayed in Manhattan till I was 14. I attended PS 29 on Albany Street. We went to Saint Joseph’s Church. It was the first Roman Maronite Catholic church on Washington Street. Father Joaquin (?) was our little pastor, Francis Joaquin – He looked like little jolly St. Nick, but he was tiny, wasn’t as big as St. Nick.
And we had a wonderful community. I mean, everybody was helping each other. We had homes with steam heat and houses with coal. And I was unfortunate to be in a steam-heated house. We had 3 bedrooms, and our apartment overlooked the Colgate clock in New Jersey, which you can’t see anymore because of the high-rises, but we used to see the Colgate clock from my living room. I was on the 2nd floor.
ER: You could see it from the 2nd floor!
MS: Mmhmm. Cause everything was open. All they had over there were the docks, so you could see all Jersey from, you know, the window. There was nothing in front of us. There was a big lot where they parked cars on West Street, and then across the street from West Street was United Fruit Company where all the boats used to come in and drop all their fruits from all the warm countries. That’s where we used to run when the boats come in. Everybody would go, “The boats are in!” Everybody would be running. We’d call each other. And it was really, really, very enjoyable living down there, I have to say. We would get bananas. We would get pineapples. And everybody would put it ‘em their pocket or put it in their shirts. You know, they didn’t mind you taking the stuff because it fell when they were putting them in the trucks.
ER: You were helping pick it up.
MS: Yeah! We didn’t want to have loitering down there.
And they also had the Downtown Athletic Club down there, which we were a part of from Trinity Church. The nuns used to take us there and we used to perform ballet dancing, shows. It was really nice. And then they had the 1st Precinct down in Manhattan. Patrolman Murphy, he used to be in charge of PAL. And we’d have nice things to do. There was always some kind of a sports event or some kind of a little fair to do.
MS: Sometimes we were on Trinity Place in one of the buildings there. I don’t recall the building. We used to go there for Catechism also. Catechism from St. Joseph’s Church and then eventually from St. Peter’s on Barclay Street. We were affiliated with St. Peter’s also. And they used to call it Catechism, now they call it CCD.
Mary Ann DiNapoli (MDiN): So where did your family members come from and why did they come to this country?
MS: My father came from Lebanon, a small town named J’Ditta (?)
MS: (cont.) He came here for a better life and he brought his sister with him. And they migrated. They got stopped. They went to Ellis Island, to Battery Park, and they lived down on Washington Street. My mother was brought to United States from Jamaica, British West Indies by her brother. She was born in the British West Indies, in Jamaica, British West Indies. She was from a family of 16. So she came with her brother, and somehow they hooked up my mom with my father. My father at the time was like, almost 40 before he got married, or maybe even a little bit younger than 40. And my mother was 21 or something, but my father was late ‘30’s. And they got married in 1930…’28, 1928, excuse me.
MS:I don’t know when my father came. He migrated from the Turkish Empire. My father, when he came from Lebanon. He came through the Turkish Empire. But they had to make sure they had a job, they got a job with his cousin that had a lingerie shop. And then my father opened his own business after a while with my mother, and that went under, and then he became an elevator operator on Greenwich Street.
He had a lingerie also. There was a lot of lingerie businesses down in Lower Manhattan at the beginning of the 1900’s – a lot of lingerie, there was a lot of grocery stores, a few restaurants, butcher shops …They also had, not only Arabic people. There was Czechoslovakian…They had a Czechoslovakian butcher shop, they had their own grocery stores, we had candy stores on Albany Street. It was really a nice community. And we had Horn N’ Hardart on Greenwich Street many years ago. We used to go there for five cents and get a great piece of Huckleberry pie, which you don’t find today. Huckleberry pie. And you used to go and you could get a dish of mash potatoes. You put your nickel in, and you pull it out, it comes out. You could get a full meal for a quarter at the time when I was a kid. You’d get a piece of meat loaf, with a mash potato and another vegetable.
And they had the desserts. You know, you put the quarter in, and you open the glass and you take out your dessert. All the water you wanted. It was right on Greenwich Street between Rector, and that other street – the street after Albany Street.
MS: Yeah. They used to have Greek people living on Carlisle Street. We were all mixed and everybody went to each other’s homes and had all different food. It was delicious.
MDiN: Can I go back to your mother’s ethnic heritage for a while? [MS: Sure] Her family had lived in Jamaica for a long time?
MS: My grandmother migrated. I don’t know how she got there. She was born in Kura, in Lebanon. And my grandmother was Orthodox you know. So was my mother, but when my mother married my dad she became Maronite.
MDiN: Did you have an aunt that was Melkite?
MS: Yeah. Sutros Beyda (?). Her name was Elizabeth Beyda Buzhar – B-U-Z-H-A-R…and they had a lingerie place also, with T. Buzhar and Son. And she made lingerie for Molly Goldberg. She used to have a big clientele.
ER: So when you say they had a lingerie shop, did they make it there?
MS: They made it there. You would go there and you’d be fitted and they’d make you a nightgown with the robe or a slip. Whatever you wanted, and everything was embroidered with lace. I mean, I’m sorry today I don’t still have the stuff that she made. It was beautiful, really beautiful – beautiful stuff.
ER: I’d be curious to see that.
MS: Yeah. Oh, you gotta see the stuff. There’s was a lot of lingerie stores on Rector Street, on Greenwich Street. Really.
MDiN: When you parents came did they know anybody here?
MS: My father knew the cousin through his sister, cause my aunt was married to the cousin. She lived upstairs. Actually the first floor was empty. We used to play in there, and on the second floor, I lived, and Buzarhada lived on the third, and my aunt was a Buzahad. She lived across the street in a cold flat. I never met her husband. He had died young. She came here with her son George.
MDiN: And on your mother’s side you don’t know if they knew anybody here or not.
MS: Not that I know of.
MDiN: So when your family lived downtown was it always 63 Washington?
MS: Where I lived was 63. My aunt lived at, I think the cold flat was 48, and the …one next door could’ve been 46 and it was in steam heat. But I remember during the cold, (heh!) we used to put in the dumbwaiter and bring the coal up for my aunt and and take it out of the box. It was a dumbwaiter. You know, like they have in the hotels? And we used to put the coal in and she used to have two sinks. And we used to throw ‘em in the sink, in a splash sink.
ER: Where was the dumbwaiter, inside the apartment, or in the hallway.
MS: In the apartment.
MDiN: And the coal was delivered to the basement.
MS: Yeah…And then they would put it in buckets and bring it up. They had to pay. It was like, 25 cents, 50 cents, no more than that. And then we used to have – The guy used to come with the horse and deliver fruits and vegetables.
ER: Did you hear them yelling out the window?
MS: Yeah! “Hey! Melon! Melon!” [laughs] We had an ice box. And you would buy – “Iceman! Iceman’s here!” – And you would run…you know, he’d come, he’d have the rubber over his shoulder, and carry the ice on his shoulder, go up two flights, and we had an ice box. And you’d put it in the icebox, and then you had a bucket, so when it leaked it would go into the bucket. In the summertime it was hot! But we had a nice breeze from the ocean. From the East River we had a nice breeze. We were kinda lucky. And then we faced…we were on Washington Street and we faced Greenwich Street. And they had big yards, like from here to two houses down. And there were Slovakians over there, there were Czechoslovakians living…We were all mixed! It wasn’t that somebody, cause you were Lebanese or Syrian, you had to stay. Everybody incorporated.
And there was a lot of pastry shops. There was Shalhoub’s. there was Alwan, there was Oriental, there was Sahadi. There was a lot of pastry shops down there.
MDiN: Do you remember Abeyd (?)?
MS: Yeah Abeyd! Joey Abeyd and his father Nick.
MS: …In fact Joey’s still alive. I met him at a senior place. He was playing bridge.
MDiN: So what years would you say your family was at 63 Washington Street?
MS: I know, my brother was born there, so I know my father got married and lived there from 1928. He got married in ’28, so he was there before. And then we moved in ’47, cause we had to get out because of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. We rented. Oh, the rents were like $30. They were like, $35. And my mother used to clean the halls in the…two doors away. So we got cheap rent. And she used to take care of you know, the hall where we were. She was like the superintendent over there.
MDiN: And how would you describe the building, 63 Washington?
MS: It was a nice building! There was 3 apartments and you’d go upstairs, you’d walk into a kitchen – On your right was the bathroom, there was a kitchen, then a dining room, then a bedroom, a bedroom, a living room, and another bedroom. It wasn’t railroad. It was a whole floor. You’d walk in and you had the bathroom, and we had a full bathroom. There was no bathroom in the hall. Some of them had the bathrooms in the hallway. So we had a few rooms! I remember, we had a bathroom in our house, and my aunt did too. And we had a shower and a tub. The claw-foot tub! And we had a nice sized kitchen, then the dining room, and then a bedroom, a bedroom, a living room and another bedroom.
MDiN: So it was like a townhouse layout? Did you have a stoop?
MH: No, there was no stoop. It was a hallway. Downstairs was a store. and then on the first floor was an empty loft. And they used that for storage. We used to play there, my brother and I, my cousins. It was a printing shop down there. And then the apartment above it was vacant and then we lived on the second and Sitros Beyda lived on the third.
ER: So the storage was the empty apartment?
MS: It was a big apartment. It was all open. I don’t know. It wasn’t made for an apartment. I think it was supposed to be connected as part of the store downstairs, but he didn’t want it, so they left it empty. It was one big room, one huge room. I remember we used to keep our sleds in there, and our skates, we used to have a box.
MDiN: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
MS: I only had one brother. We’re 5 years apart. He’s the older brother. We were born in Misacordia Hospital. That was in Manhattan. Many years ago. I think it was up, maybe in the 40’s or 50’s like that. Misacordia Hospital.
MDiN: So your father had a lingerie shop for a while, or was that your grandfather?
MS: My father. No, my grandfather I never met. He was in Syria, in Lebanon.
MDiN: So after the lingerie he became an elevator operator.
MS: Yeah, on Greenwich Street.
ER: …Do you know how long he worked for the lingerie company…?
MS: He had the lingerie company before I was born. And I think when they had the Depression, he lost it. Cause his partner took the money and left, so he got stuck with nothing. So.. he started working as an elevator operator. I think it was 147 Greenwich Street. And next door was an Italian restaurant, Tina. And next to him was Mahfouz! They had a lingerie shop. Barbara’a father, on Greenwich Street. And then across the street was Schwery (?). They used to have all the imports, on Greenwich Street. All, like the imported little dresses for girls. You know, years ago they used to do the embroidery on the dresses. I don’t know if you ever saw that. Years ago, yeah.
MDiN: …Besides the tunnel obviously, what caused people to move out of the neighborhood…?
MS: There were no more apartments. But then my aunt bought a house in Bay Ridge and she made us come live there. So that’s why we left. Some people I know still stayed there. Hajar…Junie Hajar (?). She lived down there longer than I did. Her father used to have a butcher shop on Morris Street. They were on Morris Street. They all went…But some of them went up past Albany Street and some of the apartments on Cedar Street.
ER: And then they got kicked out for the World Trade Center?
MS: Well…I don’t know. I know anybody on Washington Street got kicked out. All the stores down there. Albany Street, we had a school, PS 29, that was right on Washington and West Street. That school went. They had a big candy store on Albany Street we used to hang out in. And then we had the Washington Market where you used to go shopping outside. It was like a big old farmer’s market outside. They used to call it Washington Market.
MDiN: Was it mostly Fruits and vegetables?
MS: No, they had meat. They had meats and stuff.
ER: So what year were you born?
MS: I was born in 1935. I commuted back for a year. So I was there till I was…’35…I would say like 10, 11 years. I went back to school. Yeah I had to leave because they wanted…But the school, we graduated from PS 29.
MS: Oh, we all felt very upset. We were very depressed, because we had friends. But a lot of the friends moved to Bay Ridge and we kept in touch. In fact, one of my friends just passed away – from Washington Street – in Florida. Numia her name was, Lila Numia. Her brother got killed in Pearl Harbor. He was in a submarine.
MDiN: So that’s when you moved to Bay Ridge…?
MS: Yeah. My mother before she got married, she lived down on Clinton Street with my uncle. I don’t know how she got introduced to my father…They never told us that. She worked as a finisher in Manhattan on ladies clothes. She used, you know, make sure they were all clean to go out. On 23rd Street she worked. My mother used to be dressed up for the Red Cross during the war when they had lights out. My father was an air raid warden. He used to wear the helmet. In fact he’s in a picture in one of the books. He had the band on his arm, carrying the flag. Marty Rizek lived behind us, not directly behind, he lived like two doors. He used to play the violin every night. He used to practise the violin.
MDiN: SO that was Greenwich Street he lived on?
MS: Yeah. We used to have parties at Christmas. It was nice. You know. They had a lot of reunions. I didn’t go to any of them, maybe one. And then my brother, he didn’t bother. I went to Fort Hamilton here in Brooklyn. My brother went to textile in Manhattan, and then from there he went to college in West Virginia.
MDiN: Were there a lot of groups in the neighborhood?
MS: Not many – Maybe two, three families. But they had the St. Nicholas church down there, the Greek Orthodox church. They made a lot of money on 9/11. We didn’t make anything, St. Joseph, when it moved to West Street. But, you know, I don’t think it’s the same St. Joseph’s that was our church. Cause we a piece of that stone from the church in our cathedral, downtown Brooklyn.
MDiN: But they have the windows.
MS: They still have the windows?
MDiN: They still have the stained glass windows, yep, all Lebanese names.
ER: In Battery Park City, but they’re threatening to shut it down…
MD: We should talk to the bishop. Maybe he can get those windows.
MDiN: Yeah. We should because it would be nice for them to have a good home.
MDiN: Was there any clash among different groups, ethnic groups or other groups?
MS: No. Everybody got along as one family. If you needed help and you were Puerto Rican or you were Czechoslovakian, or Arabic or Greek, and you needed help, everybody helped. In fact when the war was over they had a big party and a parade in the street. They had big parties. They were marching. All the soldiers came home. They used to have the flag in the window. It was a nice community. My godparents lived on top. Their name was Corbash (?). They lived on top.
MDiN: Are they related to Frank Corbash?
MS: They’re distant, they’re cousins. My godmother was Adele and her husband was Harry. And they lived on top of Shalhoub’s Pastry Shop. In fact, they went to Atlantic Avenue after Brooklyn – Shalhoub, Joseph Shalhoub and Son. I think the were between Clinton and Henry? They were on Washington. There was everybody was on Washington! They were between Rector and Morris. Everybody was between Rector and Morris. And we delivered the paper for the Al Houda…and the Son of the Sheik Restaurant. We used to pick up the papers near the restaurant and my brother and I used to deliver them for a nickel.
Just around the neighborhood. You know, we had a bike. I mean, I walked, because I couldn’t ride a bike. I fell off the bike.
MDiN: How long did you do that for?
MS: Oh I did that for about 3, 4 years. I think I started when I was 10, and then we finished up when I left, When they closed everything I left. In fact Mary McKelsoe, she used to be in charge of the Al Houda.
ER: Tell me how did the war affect you…?
MS: Oh, we had the rations. We used to go and get sugar and butter and coffee. But we made do with what we had. We weren’t a gourmet family. My parents didn’t cook gourmet, but they cooked delicious. I mean, they would make potatoes with meat, and then with rice on the side, or peas with meat, you know, or string beans. That’s what we all grew up on, all that kind of food. Fish – The guy used to come around with the fish, sell the fish.
ER: Were there specific Syrian or Lebanese dishes that they would make?
MS: Oh yeah, my mother made grape leaves, she made kibbe, she made all the Lebanese food. She made meat pie. She made all that. But when they had the rations, that’s when you ate, you know, within yourself. We would eat the same damn food for a whole week!
ER: Were there less ships coming in?
MS: That I don’t recall truthfully, but United Fruit was a big company down there. They had their boats all over the east river, you know?
ER: I wonder if during war time they had less coming in.MS: They were still delivering to the markets and everything. You know what I’m amazed how they built those places on top of all that water.
MS: You wonder if it ever gonna sink. Cause that was all water.
MDiN: So the piers were…It’s so hard for us to envision today. So there was like, pier after pier after pier…?
MS: Yeah. Downtown, yeah. Yeah.
ER: Did it stop where the Coast Guard pier is at Battery Park?
MS: They started. Yeah, they stopped there, and I think they were up, up near Vesey Street, up,all at Cortlandt, all the way down that way. It was a big pier! There was nobody living there. I don’t know if they stopped, like around Vesey Street or Cortlandt Street. We just focused on West Street, and Morris Street and Rector Street, cause that was our area – Albany Street, that was all our area.
MDiN: What was the American response to your being Lebanese?
MS: Nobody said anything. There was no hatred amongst anyone down there. They all came from Syria. Everybody was Syrian till they had the war, and then everybody became Lebanese. Think about that. Am I right? Although my father was born like, in Lebanon, Jditta (?), but his papers said he came through the Turkish Empire.
MDiN: So your class in PS 29, what percentage of kids were Syrian and Lebanese and what percentage of kids were other…?
MS: We were all mixed. I can’t really break it down. It was mixed. Like, when I graduated, we had Czechoslovakian, we had Greek, myself, Irish, Slovakian. You know. It was a mixed. It was a mixed. I had pictures. I don’t know where they all went. We made our own graduation dress. We used to have cooking school. That was nice! We used to learn how to cook. That was cute. We used have to wear the netting on our head. That was a nice school. That was between Albany, and what did you say that street was after Rector?…[ER: Carlisle.]…Yeah. It was a nice school PS 29, a really nice school. On Albany. It was between West Street and Albany Street, and Washington…Albany and Washington.
ER: Right. Cause when I moved in it was an empty lot with one tiny little building and parking for a while, and then they built the Marriot.
MS: Yeah, then that’s where that school was. And I’m not sure what building was next door to that.
ER: I wonder why they knocked the school down and it was an empty lot for so long.
MS: I don’t know. Maybe cause all the people left. I commuted and then I graduated, but there were some people still left, but I think they all went to different schools. I mean, Saint Peter’s never had a school.
MDiN: So besides, you mentioned the war, what other things kinda brought people together or united them?
MS: When they felt like having a party they’d all get out in the street, with the Argeeleys (?) and you know, the hookahs, and…sit around and talk. Who would cook something, “Come here! Come and have some of this!” A lot of the people worked down there. You know what I’m saying? They had businesses too.
We had no stoop. We sat sometimes on the fire escape in the back. We didn’t have a stoop, cause the building went right in. Some of them had stoops. Down near the Son of the Sheik, they had stoops. Where Agoras (?) lived, they had a stoop. And we had Awns around the corner. That was some department store! That was a beautiful department store!
Awns, it was on…A-W-N-S they called it. It was on Greenwich Street between Rector, and you know where the parking lot is, that big parking building? It was over there. Awns. It was a women’s specialty shop. They had beautiful bags and lingerie and clothing – All beautiful – jewelry. The Awn brothers – I know there was Mitchell, another brother, John.
ER: So you knew the owners. Did they live in the neighborhood too
MS: I don’t really remember if they lived there, but they had their business there.
MDiN: Do you know why they closed?
MS: Well, they all had to leave. They were next to the parking garage there. I think they left because business wasn’t…I don’t know. Or they had to leave. See on Rector and Washington they had a big cafeteria under the building. Yeah. A big cafeteria on 17 Rector. They had a big cafeteria there. When you could walk you could see the restaurant. It wasn’t below. It was on street level. And then on Rector Street there they had another shop. They had Shalhoub. They had lingerie – Joe Shalhoub, Anretha (?). And then they had the Gores (?), Melechi Gore (?) and then, that lived down there, that had a woman’s specialty shop. It was a nice shop – Gores. And they lived on Washington Street. Their house was up on a stoop. You could sit on their steps to go into their house. And then they had the barber shop there – Barber, haircuts for a quarter.
ER: Tell me what you did after school hours.
MS: Well we did homework and then we’d go out and play Kick the Can, stoopball. Whoever had a stoop we used to go there and play. And then they made little carts with skates and we’d use the carts with the skates. And we played with marbles, and hopscotch. We played, like, all those games. And then we had to do chores. We had chores in the house to help our parents .
ER: And when did you deliver the paper? Was that in the morning? MS: After school.
ER: How long did that take?
MS: About an hour, and hour and a half. Not bad. My brother did one and I did the other. It was good.
MDiN: Were there any particular kinds of parades or festivals that would occur…?
MS: No…They only had like, parades when the war was over, sometimes they did a parade from the church for our holy day. It wasn’t much. We used to have bazaars. You know. Outside.
MDiN: Do you remember anybody having ethnic dress?…[MS: Wearing them?]…Wearing it or having it?
MS: No I don’t remember. My father had a tarboosh. It’s a fez. They used to call it a tarboosh. He never went back to Lebanon once he came, cause he didn’t have the money. And he didn’t talk much about his family in Lebanon.
ER: But why did he leave?
MS: He left because his sister wanted to come and the cousins were here, and for a better life I guess. He never said why he left. And like I say we never thought to ask these questions when we were ([young]. Now they ask. But when we were young we…never asked questions, what where and when.
MDiN: What were the important institutions in the neighborhood?
MS: Well they had Saint Joseph’s Church, Saint George’s Church. They had Saint Nicholas’ Church, they had the Community House.
MDiN: And what did the community house do…?
MS: Well they had after school programs – Arts, and whatever. All different programs. They had whatever you were interested in. You wanted to play ping pong, you know.
MDiN: And what about Trinity? What role did that play in the neighborhood?
MS: Trinity Church? The nuns used to talk to us…[MDiN: From Trinity?]…Yeah, and they used to go to the New York Athletic Club and have Christmas parties for the kids, and stuff. You know, they would very good to the people that needed help. If they needed clothing or food they were very good to the people. They used to wear these white hats, the nuns in Trinity Church. A lot of things changed.
MDiN: Did people tend to marry within their ethnic group or religious group?
MS: See that I didn’t know, because I was so young down there.
MDiN: What about in your family? You father was Maronite?
MS: My father was Maronite, my mother was Orthodox, but she became Maronite to marry my father. But my husband and I couldn’t get married in the Maronite Church because my husband wasn’t Maronite, but now they marry anybody. It’s such a farce!
MDiN: Yeah. That was probably Canon law at the time.
MS: Yeah. Now they marry, you know. If you’re Maronite you marry on the altar, but if you’re not you marry behind the altar. Because he married a couple that he was Jewish and she was Maronite, but they didn’t get married at the altar, they got married at the bottom of the altar. They stopped it and now they started it again. I went down to Saint Mary’s. They had a thing on Lebanon. You know. Oh, it poured like hell that day. Norma Hajdad? She was in charge of it.
MDiN: When you were a kid were there people that you looked up to, particularly, I mean, outside the family?
MS: Well, I looked up to all the like, you know, my godmother, and the people that owned their stores. You know, we called everybody “aunt” and “uncle.” It was a big thing. You know, (foreign word here? Sounds like “achoute”) “Aunt this, aunt that. Uncle this.” And the kids would say, “How many aunts and uncles do we have?” But even my kids, you know, my neighbor next door, they used to called her “Aunt Kathy.”
ER: Interesting, cause I’ve noticed they do that in India, just routinely still now. [MS: Yeah!]– Anybody who’s older than you.
MS: Yeah. Like they call me “Tante” (?) in church.
MDiN: So there was a good rapport between the business owners and the neighbors in general?
MS: Oh yeah. Nobody fought with anybody, not that I know of.
MDiN: Did most of the business owners live there? They lived above the store?
MS: That I don’t know, truthfully, cause I was so young. But I know that Shalhoubs lived upstairs, that Bades (?) lived, you know. Gores (?) lived around the corner, the other Shalhoub lived – They didn’t live on top of the store. Maybe they had apartments. Some of them had apartments, cause the 46, I think, with the steam heat had a lot of apartments that people lived in that had businesses.
MDiN: So a lot of them lived in the neighborhood, though not above the store.
MS: I think so. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, most of them.
MDiN: Besides Al Houda were there other newspapers or magazines that you or your family read?
MS: My father read the Al Houda. We read magazines from school, that was it.
MDiN: And where did your family do their grocery shopping and meat shopping?
MS: Well we would go around the corner to Mike, to, uh, what’s his name? Hajad, around the corner. Then we’d go to the Washington Street Market, and then they used to come with the trucks selling stuff with the horse and the carriage at one point. As then as it got on they had trucks selling stuff.
MDiN: And what kind of stuff did Hajar have?
MS: He had lamb, you know. He was a butcher. Hagar his name was.
ER: And the carts that sold on the street, what do you remember that they sold? Besides, you mentioned the ice.
MS: Yeah. Oh, and they sold, like, beets and they sold celery and potatoes and carrots. Bunches! Everything in bunches, nothing in cellophane, everything, like, just being picked out of the garden.
MDiN: And fish too?
MS: Yeah. They’d come around with fish too. They had a fish, they’d clean it for you right there and then. I remember my father used to like the poagies, and they used to clean them. And he liked them fried. The whole fish they would fry. Yeah. They were like, 39 cents a pound, 29 cents a pound. I don’t know where they got it from. Not from…I don’t know, they got ‘em wholesale from somewhere. They did that as a courtesy, but you would walk down to the Washington Market. That was down…I know it was past Cedar Street. It was more near Barclay Street around that way, the market. It was big! And they had meats inside with a refrigerator. It was a huge…you never saw that market. Did you see the pictures of the market? That was nice. They sold everything in the market – bread, meat.
MDiN: And it was open every day?
MS: Yeah the market was open every day.
ER: Seven days a week? It didn’t close on Sunday?
MS: Yeah. I don’t think so. I don’t remember if it closed on Sunday, but the stores down on Washington, they all observed Sunday for mass. Years ago nobody was opened on Sunday. No vendor was open, not like today. That’s why I give the Jewish people credit. They close on the Sabbath. I think that’s wonderful. And they all go to church, or they go to Synagogue. I think that’s great. I respect them for that, not cause you’re Jewish, but I always said that. I respect the Jewish people like that.
ER: And there weren’t, I guess hospitals and things like that were further…
MS: Beekman. We used to go to Beekman Hospital. And then we used to go to Judson Health Center. It was in the village. In the west, not in the east. I went to the dentist. It was a quarter to fill your teeth. Yeah. I mean we used to go there to get examined, get our shots. Judson Health Center they called it. That’s where we went. Yeah. We got all our shots there and everything.
ER: And what about…clothing shops…What was good for kids for clothing?
MS: We used to go to 14th Street on the train. To Klein’s, and all that. I mean, that’s where we shopped. And then for entertainment we used to go to Coney Island by train. And then we had the Battery Park Zoo. That was beautiful. That was some zoo! I remember as a kid we used to go there. It was free! We used to go all the time. On a Saturday if we had nothing to do we used to go to the zoo. It wasn’t a zoo. It was the aquarium. Sorry. It was the aquarium. It was nice.
MDiN: Was that at Castle Clinton?
MS: It was downtown (Brooklyn) on the Battery Park! Right in Battery Park was the Aquarium!
MDiN: Was that where Castle Clinton is? The round building?
MS: Yeah. Is that Castle Clinton? We had the Aquarium, the New York Aquarium. It was beautiful. They had…Oh, they had all kinds of fish and whales. You know, all of that stuff. It was nice!
ER: I can’t imagine a whale there now. What kind of whale?
MS: Small. They weren’t big. Yeah. I don’t know how big they were, but you know. You’re talking 70 years ago kid! You know Esther! [Laughs]
MDiN: Is there anything else you remember, a special event or anything else you’d like to touch on?
MS: We used to entertain the troops. When they used to go to Son of the Sheik, we used to do Lebanese dancing. I used to do Lebanese dancing.
MDiN: Really? Wow!
MS: I was a kid doing my Lebanese dancing. You know. We’d get them up to dance with us. And they all came! If they were Chinese, black, Russian, they all came to the Lebanese restaurant, Son of the Sheik – Sheikreh Shineh (?) Sounds like)
MDiN: Was it a big restaurant?
MS: It wasn’t that big. You’d go up a couple of steps and it was there. It was right past where the houses were with the steps.
Saint George’s Church, I loved going there. My aunt was Melkite, and we used to go upstairs to Monseignor Gosin (?). I don’t know if it was Yonkers where he was or New Rochelle. Somewhere. But he had a house up there. It was a big property and we used to go and everybody would cook and bring something. And then they used to have Mahrajans (?) in different cities, you know, when I was a kid. It was like a big festival. They’d have it in Danbury Connecticut. They’d have it in New Jersey. And I remember my father, they had a truck, and they would put everything on the truck, and as kids we’d sit on the truck and go. They had all, you know…They don’t do that anymore. Some of them have festivals in church like we have. But we can’t do it now because we got the library. See we didn’t do it last year either.
We rented the first floor to the library, the Brooklyn, for 3 years. SoSo they fixed the whole library and they’re renting from us. And I don’t know how much they got, but they could use the money, you know, for the church. So we did that, and we have just downstairs, and that’s very hard to do a festival, cause the library’s open on Saturday also. So I don’t know if they would like it, you know, putting out the machines to cook. I don’t know…
ER: You’re still doing the street fair?
MS: No they haven’t had that. They didn’t do it last year. They may do the Saj (?) You know, where they make the meat pie on top, the zata, the cheese pie. They may do that for a couple of Sundays. I don’t know. I don’t know what they’re doing. This hand don’t tell this hand. See I’m not president anymore, so I don’t know what’s going on. I was there 4 years as president, so I’m not president, so I really don’t know what’s going on.
ER: Now, you said, what is it Mujdar?
MS: Mahrajan. It’s M-A-H-R-A-J-A-N, I think they used to call it. And everybody would bring food. And everybody, you know, would either cook food or they have barbecue. And they bring the aric (?) in, and they play the music and everybody would be dancing. It’s nice! I used to enjoy having that.
MDiN: Do you remember going to other people’s houses for house parties where people would play music…?
MS: Yeah I used to go to my aunt next door, my aunt upstairs or people across the street.
MDiN: And they played instruments?
MS: Yeah my father played the derbekkeh. And one guy played the oud. And one guy played the other thing (whistles)…Yeah.
MDiN: Oh the nien (?), the flute …The derbekkeh’s the drum, the oud is the lute.
ER: Let me go back a bit. You talked about all the soldiers going to Son of the Sheik. Was that like mecca for the soldiers?
MS: Well, yeah when they would, you know, they would come home and they would go there and meet. Cause that was the only restaurant there, that Lebanese restaurant was there.
ER: That’s where their boats would dock…?
MS: Sometimes the boats would dock all the way down on West Street all the way down. People used to go there to eat. When the war was over and they had parties there, that was big…He opened up the restaurant to all the service men, and they had, you know, free food he would give them. He was very good, Sheikreh Shineh. (?) Then he went to Court Street, and then he went to Atlantic Avenue. Of course my uncle used to go there. He’d have his bottle of scotch in the back! We’d meet once a month, my uncle, and we’d have dinner.
ER: When did that finally close and why – The Son of the Sheik?
MS: Oh, he closed Washington Street. He had to get out. Then he went to Court Street, then he moved to Atlantic Avenue. And I don’t know.
MDiN: That was in my lifetime, so I would say that the last…That Court Street was probably in the ‘50s, maybe into the early ‘60’s, and then it was on Atlantic maybe until 1970’s, so something like that. Cause my father used to like going there, so…
MS: Yeah.He had the best food. You can’t find a good Lebanese restaurant anymore. Really. But they say there’s a couple of them in Manhattan…I went to El Bustan. It was okay. Tanoreen is Palestinian. She uses all the Palestinian herbs.
Authentic, you can’t get it there. Sally’s was the best. But the coffee shop still sells some of the food.
ER: We have an interview with Yasmine Alwan, who’s father had Alwan’s Pastry Shop. [MS: Pastry.]…Do you have any memories of the pastry shop?
MS: Yeah, because there was one after the other. There was Alwan, there was Abeyd, there was Shalhoub, there was Oriental. There was a bunch of them down there. Yeah.
MDiN: Did you mother make her own sweets?
MS: No. We would always go to Shalhoub. They always gave the kids, you know, free stuff. The Lebanese ice cream was good.
You know who made sweets? My grandmother. Not my mother. Yeah. My grandmother was a big sweet maker. Cause my mother worked. She never had time. And then on the weekends she’d be cleaning the…the superintendent of the buildings 2 doors away. So she never had time to do pastry. But my grandmother used to make cigars and the baklava…Oh! She was good, my grandmother!
MDiN: So this ice cream and pastry place on 5th Avenue, it’s just, that’s all it is is just ice cream and pastry?
MS: Yeah, but then the next block is Beladie. (?) They sell every kind of Lebanese, you know. They’re Muslim, but they sell the cheeses and the Zeytouns, and all that stuff. And then they made a bigger store. You know how the Lebanese people put that brassy stuff? You know, like, the coffee pot, the brass color? They have all brass kind of ornaments and stuff. They just opened there. I haven’t been down to see it. But they just opened it.
ER: It’s interesting because there’s Syrian and Lebanese stuff in the Bay Ridge neighborhood, and you moved here, so how did everyone wind up coming to this area…?
MS: My aunt moved to Bay Ridge. A lot of Lebanese people moved…A lot of them were downtown, which some of them stayed. And I remember the (?) bishop telling everybody, “Buy down here.” And they didn’t want to listen. They wanted to go to Bay Ridge. And today the ones that went there were sorry because the properties downtown Brooklyn is, forget it, out of reach. Then my aunt moved to Bay Ridge Parkway, 75th Street, and gave us an apartment, and that’s where we lived.
ER: So not a lot of people moved here. It was mainly your family that wound up in this neighborhood?
MS: No, my godmother was here. She was on the other side of the bridge and then she had to move because they did the bridge. A lot of people had to move from one end to the other because…There’s some people on 76th Street, there’s some people on 80th Street. You know, they’re all scattered from the neighborhood. There’s not many left from the old neighborhood, really. I could name a few of them. That’s it.
MDiN: But a lot of people that lived in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill also moved to Bay Ridge. [MS; To Bay ridge. Yeah. Yeah.] So, I don’t know what particularly drew them unless there was new construction and people were starting to have cars. I mean, there had been Syrians and Lebanese in Sunset Park/Bay Ridge as early as the beginning of the 20th Century, but it was a scattering. You know, it wasn’t a ton of people. And then there was a big interim push to Park Slope, but I don’t know if the folks from Washington Street moved to Park Slope.
MS: I was more of a Washington Street person, cause my school was on Washington and Albany, you know. Like, everything was…My friends lived around the corner, you know. We had friends…No I only stayed on Washington Street.
MDiN: Al Houda was on Washington Street?
MS: I think so. I think so. I don’t know where exactly. Cause don’t forget I was young when I did the paper, ten you know, you’re going back 73 years.
MDiN: And you were fluent in Arabic as a kid?
MS: Not really. I really became very fluent when I went back to the church. I used to go to Our Lady of Lebanon all the time. And then when I met my husband and married my husband, and had children, well naturally I had to go to the church where my kids were Baptised, and they went to school here. I just went back to Our Lady of Lebanon I’d say15 years ago. When my husband died I was lookin’ that I needed to be somewhere and I went back down there.
MDiN: Were your parents fluent in English?
MS: Yeah! Yeah. My father could read and write Arabic and read and write English. And my mother wasn’t fluent in Arabic at all. My father was more than…He used to get mail from Lebanon. He used to read me the letters.
MDiN: So he kept in touch with them.
MS: He kept in touch, but nobody came.
ER: So he didn’t bring anybody over?
MS: No. Just his sister came.
ER: How big was his family?
MS: He had, I think, 2 brothers and a sister, or 2 sisters. I think there were 5 or 6.
ER: So he and his sister came and then he didn’t see anyone else.
MS: Yeah he never went back, and neither did my aunt. And I was too young to say, let’s go to Lebanon, you know?
ER: Have you met family since then back there? You’ve been back to Lebanon?
MS: I went back to Lebanon, but what happened was, my father’s sister’s daughter’s daughter – Her son came from Ohio, or from Lebanon had called us, and they stayed with me and my husband for 2 weeks with 2 kids before they went to Michigan. And then they migrated from Michigan. They’re in California.
When I went to Lebanon in 2010, and I called the cousin – They’re like, 4th cousin – “Oh, He said, “Come up here. I got hurt. I fell off the ladder. I can’t come get you.” He said, “I’m busy. I can’t pick you up. Come by cab to where I live.” I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know the area, and I’m not going…” I mean, I’m in Beirut. I didn’t know this guy from that guy. I didn’t know who was a crook and who wasn’t. Cause they see you. Let me tell you. They put a mark on me and my girlfriend. They just dropped us in the middle of somewhere. We didn’t know where we were!
So when I got back and I called my cousin – Cause my brother had gone to Lebanon. And they came down, they took him to dinner and they made dinner for him. You gotta understand, the Arabic people, they’re hands on with the men more than the women. The women are not in their caliber. I’m sorry. That’s why I married an Italian.
MS: My father wasn’t that way, but you know.
ER:…You say your mother’s family you really don’t know that much about?…
MS: Oh no. They’re from Jamaica. They…My uncles came from the West Indies and they lived Bay Ridge. My grandmother was from Lebanon and she went to the Jamaica West Indies and married my grandfather. I don’t know if it was fixed, I don’t know how she ended up there. Now she had 16 kids…Yeah, I know. I think one or two died. I had my Uncle Phil, and my Uncle Eddie come here and my Uncle Al and my mom. That was four.
ER: They all came together?
MS: No they all came at separate times. Then my Uncle Sam came with his wife.
ER: And did they settle in Lower Manhattan?
MS: No. Nobody went to Manhattan. No. They all came to Brooklyn. They had nothing to do with Manhattan on my mother’s side.
MDiN: When did they come? Like, later, after the tunnel?
MS: I don’t know. My grandmother was living in Bay Ridge when we moved to Bay Ridge. Yeah. Probably.
ER: Wait, you mother came before because she met your father…
MS: Yeah. She met my father. My mother came here in the late ‘20s, because she got married in 1928, and my brother was born in ’30, I was born in ’35. So she came here in the late 1920’s. As a young girl, I think she was 20 or 21. I think she was 20-something and he was late ‘30s. I try to figure it out by sitting..Alot of figuring it out!
I have this! I want to show you this…(Digging through stuff)…[Off mic] Hopefully it’s still here…[Rummaging through pile]… Oh, here’s the certificate of marriage. This was when my father came. See? Through the Empire, it tells you.
ER: Wow! I like that it says, “Two moles on left cheek.”
MS: Yeah, they checked everything. Yeah. He wasn’t married when he came. He was 34. See? So I’m trying to figure this out. In 1922 he was 34. So when he got married he was 40. Cause he got married in ’28.
ER: And “residing at 103 Washington.”
MS: That’s where he lived first and then moved to 63.
MS: See he got…He came here he was 34.
ER: Okay. Nineteen hundred twenty two. Okay.
MS: And he got married 6 years later. He got married in ’28. SO he was 40 when he married my mother.
ER: It says Naturalization Citizen, subject of Turkey.
MS: Yeah. See.
ER: Yeah. And he was at 103 Washington and then they made it into a church a few years later, so he might have had to move because they sold it for the church.
MS: He went to 163…Yeah and this is…This is when he got married. They put ’38, but he got married in ’28. No, this is when they registered it. He got married in ’28, October.
Look at Eddie Kolchak (?). My brother gave me this. He didn’t want it. Imagine…He hasn’t been down to church. He hasn’t been in church.
MDiN: …Does he come?…
MS: He used to, but he doesn’t come.
ER: 57 Washington Street, so that’s where they got married.
So, Joseph Sahadi and Helen Hanna, so that’s her maiden name. Married on the 10th day of October 1928. Rev. Frances Joaquin (?) was the clergyman, Habib Corvage and Victoria Fadoul were the witnsses.
MS: Yeah, that was my aunt, my mother’s sister, and my godmother’s husband.
So, this came from my niece.And she sent it to me, and I said, you know what? I’m gonna put it in a frame!…
[Looking through photos and documents]
What’s this here? Oh, look at this, when my husband worked for the Daily News. Look at the Trade Center. Isn’t that sad? That’s sad! This guy used to play at all the parties. See, this is the Derbekkeh…they have it back here, derbekkeh. “Happy birthday Lou and Marian. God bless you! -Eddie the Sheik.
MDiN: He’s a great guy, Eddie. He’s gotta be in his, what, 90’s now?
MS: Oh yeah. He’s the last of the family to be around…Oh they put “drums” they didn’t put derbekkeh…Oh! Debke .(?) The debke is the dance.
ER: Oh. I wanted to ask you about that, cause you said you danced a Lebanese dance.
MS: But they did it this way, like that. (demonstrates).
ER: So where did you learn to dance like that?
MS: Oh, you saw it from the people doing it and you learned.
ER: There’s no classes or techniques…?
MDiN: No. It’s all handed down and you go to parties and you watch people or you learn it from your family…
MS: That’s how you learn. And they dance, you ever see the Greek dance? We do that. We call that the Debke, the Greek dance.
MDiN: Who’s this?
MS: My father and mother in Flatbush at my grandmother’s.
ER: And who’s the baby?
MS: They said it was my brother, so I don’t know.
MS: What boat is this? The Normandy! Look at this picture of the Normandy. That’s my uncle…Yeah, that’s where our doors are from!
ER: Is that your dad?
MS: This is my Uncle Eddie. My Uncle Eddie, my Uncle Phil. These are my two uncles.
Oh! Let me show you my father’s parents. There we had one – One, two three – Three brothers and two sisters I think. That’s my father’s family.
MS: Yeah. He’s right here. That’s my dad, my Uncle Deeb (?). This is auntie, my father’s sister. This is his other sister Julia. I don’t know. I don’t know. My father never told me who was anybody.
ER: Which sister came with him?
MS: This one, Mamie. This is my grandmother and my grandfather…Oh, that was me pregnant…
MDiN: So this was taken on the other side?
MS: Yeah in Lebanon.
MS: Oh, those are my kids. I was pregnant with my son. She’s the oldest, Kathy.
MDiN: This is your father?
ER: And this is the one who came.
ER: This looks like it could be Manhattan…
MS: That was Flatbush. They used to have the roofs. My grandmother used to live on DeKalb Avenue before she moved to Bay Ridge.
MDiN: See it’s very interesting that the women had their heads covered. Well the men do too for that matter.
MS: But they wear the little Terboush (?).
MDiN: Cause my grandmother used to sew these squares. She used to get like, a chiffon handkerchief, and she would crochet around the edges. She called it a “mendiel” (?). And I actually found a picture of a 19th century woman wearing one, a Christian woman. Yeah it was really interesting.
MS: You don’t have nay? Aww. Well some of the women in church now wear the thing on their head in our church. Her name was Mamie, but we call her Umpty.
MDiN: Umpty is like aunt.
MS: Aunt. That’s the father’s sister you called Umpty.
ER: So did you go to Lebanon a couple of times?
MS: Once. Just once. 2010. And, you know, we toured all the churches. That’s’ what you do when you go on these things. Now they’re having a pilgrimage, our church, to the Holy Land. You’re not gonna see me there.
MS: You know the priest in Saint George’s church, where it is now, he had and elevator cause he was all the way on the top floor. They got people living there…on top of the Chinese restaurant?
ER: They did have some apartments that Brian Lydon had renovated when it was Moran’s. He made some apartments.
MS: They’re nice apartments up there!
ER: You’ve been there? In the apartments?
MS; Yeah. The priest…Oh, not when they were renovated, but when Monseignor Chussen (?) was there we used to go upstairs. Yeah. They’re nice rooms up there.
MDiN: Oh this was wonderful. Thank you Marian.
02:32:26:16: END OF INTERVIEW