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Oral History of Beatrice Sopkin -  Date: January 1978

Beatrice Sopkin - Schwartz

Tape of Beatrice Sopkin by Leslie Fox. Location: Miami Beach, Fl

Beatrice’s (Betty) age would have been about 91 when taped. She died 18 months later on June 4, 1979.

Present were Hymie Horowitz (2nd Husband) = "H", a friend, Sarah, and our noisy children - David, Jessica and Ellen. She was reluctant to talk in front of her second husband and the interruption of the children and Hymie and her friend, Sarah, made it difficult to get any details out of her.  Note to all Family Historians ... get the subject ALONE.

  1. Grandma, you’re about to make history. I want you to look back into your memory and I want you to talk to me.
  1. What do you want me to say?
  1. I want you to try to remember things you probably have forgotten.
  1. Very long ago….
  1. Very long ago.
  1. Very long ago…. I was able to talk about things I have forgotten. I can’t even think about it…(laughs)
  1. Were you born in Kiev or outside Kiev?
  1. I was born here.
  1. You weren’t born here. Didn’t you come as a very young child? (Note: US Census of 1900 shows Beatrice coming over at 8 years old.)
  1. I was born here on Cherry Street. [ She was born in Russia – 1900 Census]
  1. I thought that you and Grandpa were born in Russia as little children and came over…
  1. No, no.
  1. No? You were born on Cherry Street?
  1. On 366 Cherry Street. (Note 367 was listed in Census)
  1. Do you know what year? Any idea? What year do you guess?
  1. I go it here .. I … looked up my birth certificate.
  1. But they said you didn’t have a birth certificate. All these years they said they didn’t know when Grandma was born. (Note: Beatrice may have said she was younger to Hymie and didn’t want to change her story.)

S. I was born on the Lower East Side on Riverton (?) Street.

  1. Right. That’s another famous street. But tell me how, for all these years, they said that they didn’t know your exact birth date…it was in March around Purim.
  1. What do I care what birthday. I never listened to them.
  1. Well, then you tell me. When is your birthday?
  1. My birthday is ….(laughs)
  1. When is your birthday?
  1. She is putting me…
  1. Her birthday is in March sometime.
  1. I know it’s in March… March what?
  1. March 19th.
  1. March 19th? That sounds like a good a guess as any other day. Why do you think its the 19th?
  1. Well, now were your parents from Russia?
  1. My parents were from Russia.
  1. Why did they leave?
  1. 90 % of the Jew would like to leave Russia.
  1. Did you know why they left?
  1. They left because they didn’t want to be under the regime of the Russians.
  1. Now what was your mother’s name. I asked Aunt Joyce, she didn’t know. What was her full name?
  1. Eva.
  1. Eva Sopkin… do you know her maiden name?
  1. Bottlekopf.
  1. Eva Bottlekopf. And your father’s name was Louis. Is that right.
  1. Yes, that’s right.
  1. And what did he do? What did he do to make a living? Or did he make a killing?
  1. He was in the shirt business?
  1. Shirt business… I thought he was a milliner
  1. I was in the millinery.
  1. You were in the millinery business. Did he have his own shop or did he make shirts just for other people.
  1. He had his own shop.
  1. Where was the shop?
  1. Eighth street.
  1. Did you have to help out there some time?
  1. I never went near the business.
  1. And what did your mother do at home?
  1. My mother was very sick.
  1. But she lived pretty long.. didn’t she? She died when she was about 50? What did she die of?
  1. She died of leukemia.
  1. But she had quite a number of children. I’ve seen pictures.. she was a big woman.
  1. She wasn’t a big woman.
  1. Were you blond as a child?

(Children are eating some cakes and talking)

  1. Yes. You’re a nudgen.
  1. Chief nudgen is me, but I have to know.
  1. What do you need to know .. What is this thing.. (taps mike)
  1. This is oral history. If you don’t tell me these things, then I will never know.
  1. Of course you wouldn’t.
  1. Right. So that’s why you have to tell me. I am the chief family historian. Every family has to have their historian. I’ve appointed myself and nobody complained. How many brothers and sisters did you have?
  1. Two brothers.
  1. What were their names?
  1. Mo and the other one was a youngster that died. Berel.
  1. That’s an unusual name.
  1. No it isn’t. It’s a real Jewish name. (Note: the 1900 Census lists six children Harry and Morris are the brothers. At that time no children were listed as having died.)

L. How do you spell that?

  1. B..E..R..E..L.
  1. Were any of them born in Russia?
  1. All born here. (Impossible. Louis came over in 1891 and the Census lists Harry, Ida, Bertha, Beatrice as coming in 1896.)
  1. Who knows who told you. And you went to school to about 6th grade?
  1. I went to school on Madison Street and East Broadway. Then I don’t know.
  1. Why did you drop out after 6th grade?
  1. I didn’t drop out, they dropped me. (laughs)
  1. It was common at that time - only 6th grade?
  1. That’s all.
  1. What did you do after that? You went to work?
  1. You know - I never went to work until the last couple of weeks. They needed a saleslady.. so I went.
  1. What do you do at home all the time.
  1. My father had a grocer store.
  1. You told me he had a shirt store. He sold groceries wrapped in shirts.
  1. (laughs)
  1. He had a grocer store or he had a shirt store. Pick one.
  1. He had a shirt store first, then he opened a grocery store.
  1. So you helped in the grocery store? You had how many sisters? Aunt Ida was the oldest?
  1. Aunt Ida and Bertha… and Joyce.


  1. You had a sister named Joyce… Fanny?
  1. Fanny.
  1. Are you the District Attorney?
  1. I’m the District Attorney and if you touch a button, you’ll get sapped.

L. How did you meet Grandpa?

  1. I pulled him out off the street…. (laughs)
  1. You used to tell me something about he took you for a ride someplace in a little horse and buggy.
  1. That’s right, when we were courting.
  1. But how did you meet him.
  1. Who the hell can remember…
  1. Can you remember anything.
  1. No, nothing.
  1. When you meet Grandpa, what was he doing?
  1. He was working on me. (laughs)
  1. Your father had a business, but his father didn’t.. did he?
  1. No.
  1. What did he do?
  1. I never asked him. I never asked my in-laws what they were doing, and how they were doing. What they had…
  1. What kind of family did he come from?Was he born here too?
  1. I don’t really know… honest to God.
  1. What was courting like then?
  1. Courting was the same as today.
  1. No, it was not.
  1. Don’t listen to him.
  1. Come on, people didn’t live together then.
  1. I never knew people who lived together without being married. I never did.
  1. No, not in your time. Now it’s fairly common.
  1. I wouldn’t have my daughter, or my granddaughter, live with a man and not be married.
  1. How long did you know each other before you got married.
  1. About a year and a half.
  1. You must have had a pretty big wedding.
  1. I had a beautiful wedding.
  1. What do you remember.
  1. What do you want me to remember. I remember I was a beautiful bride. And I had a white dress on, a beautiful dress. And that’s it.
  1. Do you go away for your honeymoon.
  1. I went away for three days.
  1. Where did you go?
  1. Where ever my husband took me.
  1. Where was it?
  1. You think I remember. Who can remember.
  1. Wasn’t there a story you told me once. About a horse and buggy that ran away and you were in it. He used to pick you up on Saturdays. Was he working in the post office then.
  1. He worked in the Post Office, then the Shirt business.
  1. How did he happen to go to optometry school?
  1. My husband was very ambitious, very ambitious. He went at night… and he got all his training at night.
  1. You must have had mother (Annabel) pretty soon after marriage.
  1. Sure.
  1. She was born at home - right?
  1. Yes.
  1. What was your first apartment like? Where you with your parents?
  1. No, no. I had a four room apartment. A beautiful apartment!
  1. What was it like… when you looked out the window?

B. She’s closing her eyes….

  1. How come Grandpa never went into the service in World War I?
  1. When you were in the Post Office at that time, you didn’t go into the service.
  1. Did he deliver mail or sort it or what..?
  1. Where ever he was needed.
  1. I have pictures of a place, called Coopers Junction, where you used to go for a vacation. I have a picture of you with my mother in a rowboat. There used to be a costume party they would hold every year.
  1. Yes, every year a costume party, and a nice party, and what ever they wanted to make.
  1. Was this a resort or some friends going up each year?
  1. I think it was some friends.
  1. How did you happen to move up to the Bronx?
  1. That’s where your Grandfather wanted to go.
  1. Why, you were from lower Manhattan. That’s quite a distance.
  1. Yes, yes.. he liked it, so that’s it.
  1. You had a house on Fish Avenue?
  1. Yes, I had the most beautiful house on Fish Avenue. But we sold it.
  1. But you lived there quite a number of years.
  1. When we sold that, we bought the one in Belle Harbor.
  1. But by Belle Harbor, Grandpa was ready to retire at that time. How did you happen to buy property in Florida?
  1. (Testy sounding) Who can remember why.
  1. Do you know why they moved to the Bronx? In those days people lived downtown, and those who had to make a living (?) moved to the Bronx.
  1. Who was my mother named after?
  1. I really don’t know. I don’t remember.
  1. What about Evelyn? Was that after your mother Eva?
  1. And Joyce, also I don’t know….
  1. Did Grandpa have a middle name…?
  1. No.
  1. We kept thinking it was Joseph or something…
  1. Joseph is right.
  1. Do you have a middle name?
  1. No.
  1. You must have been pretty upset when my mother met my father. Not too happy about them getting married.
  1. I didn’t want her to marry him.
  1. Why not?
  1. Why ask, you know why.
  1. Why, because he was married before?
  1. He was married before, a daughter, and he was no man for your mother. But no matter what Joy or I, my daughters used to talk to her… nothing.
  1. But sometimes, when you tell somebody, No, then they go right ahead and do Yes.
  1. Your mother wasn’t like that. When I said no, she knows I meant no!
  1. Why did she go ahead?
  1. When they asked me for permission, then I couldn’t say anything. Go ahead and get married.
  1. Why did you feel… you knew if you said no, it wouldn’t have made any difference?
  1. That’s right.
  1. I’m sure you must have been quite upset though.
  1. No.
  1. By then you were quite used to the idea.
  1. God bless them, they’re happy, so what the hell does…..
  1. That’s right.
  1. Well.
  1. Go ahead, speak up.
  1. No. Well at least they sired me. That turned out pretty well. How much land did you have when you bought in Homestead?
  1. Forty four acres
  1. I thought it was more than that.
  1. We had another plot there. Sixty acres altogether.
  1. And there was a house on it, too. I remember getting locked in the bathroom. What was the story about that? Didn’t Grandpa have to climb in through a window.
  1. I don’t remember. But it paid off very well.
  1. Yes. There were grapefruit groves there… right?
  1. Grapefruits and oranges.
  1. It was farmed by someone else - and you just owned the property.
  1. If you had to pick some time in your life that really was exciting, when would you say it was?
  1. What do you want …my life.
  1. Anything. When I said that, what flashed in you mind?
  1. (Laughs) Sarah, what was..
  1. Going with Grandpa…having children ….
  1. He was very good to his children… Grandpa. Everything to be with the children. So when I got the 60 thousand dollars from one of the parcels, I gave everybody 10 thousand and you got 3 thousand.
  1. But what was the most exciting thing. I wasn’t talking about money, but time…
  1. There’s nothing that’s exciting.
  1. How could you have driven from New York to Mexico in the nineteen thirties on the roads of that time. That must of been crazy.
  1. Your Grandpa could drive. If he was alive now, I would say he knows how to drive, yet!
  1. It was only when he got too sick that he couldn’t drive.
  1. But there were no Interstates and you couldn’t go as fast.
  1. So, it took two and a half days. That’s all.
  1. Did you drive to Mexico.
  1. I was in Mexico four times.
  1. The roads in Mexico must have been bad.
  1. Not too bad. You know the "greyminst" (?) is.
  1. What is the ‘greyminst".
  1. The borderline. So we stopped and we ate and we looked for a couple of rooms. My husband was very good that way. He made friends.
  1. I’m saving this ring for you.
  1. I must say I’d love to have it.
  1. I don’t want to give it to you until…
  1. No, no…but that’s beautiful, its just beautiful.

Note: Leslie received the ring after her Grandmother’s death and treasures it.

End tape Transcribed 1/17/97 G. Fox