Personal Remembrances

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1

Told by Rabbi Daniel Lowy, nephew of Alexander Lowy

2

Told by Nicki Orbach, whose father Fred was a nephew of Alexander Lowy

3

Told by Sybil Lowy, whose husband was Alexander Lowy’s son

4

Told by Rabbi Daniel Lowy, nephew of Alexander Lowy

5

Told by Sybil Lowy, wife of Alexander Lowy, Jr.

6

Told by Rabbi Daniel Lowy, nephew of Alexander Lowy


#1, Told by Rabbi Daniel Lowy, nephew of Alexander Lowy

'll try to begin now......First and foremost in my mind was the special relationship between my father James Lowy and your grandfather, my Uncle Al.........They were the two youngest siblings of eight in the Lowy family......and my father made every effort to visit with Uncle Al every time he came to New York city.......at least twice a year......I was in on this because my father used to insist that my mother and I come along as he would go down to the Hotel Pennsylvania at 33rd Street and 7th avenue for hour long get-togethers in the lobby of that hotel.....and I believe that they had a closer relationship than the others.

But there was one thing that was very important to me........At the age of five I developed  what came to be known as a Thyroglossal Cyst on my neck.......Initially, it was thought to be my "Adam’s Apple." until it started to drain fluid.........Actually this cyst was in a very dangerous place......entwined in the vocal chords. An operation was the only way to go but most surgeons could not guarantee that it would not grow back if it was removed.......and I could lose my ability to speak in the process.

For four years, this condition persisted and I would be wearing neck bandages to catch the drainage......However, no physician could guarantee the success of the surgery. Now one of those times that we met with Uncle Al at the hotel, he arranged to have a consultation with Dr. Cryle of Cleveland, Ohio.  Dr. Cryle was one who could guarantee the operation, but he said to my parents that rather than have me brought to Cleveland, they should seek out the Goetche Brothers at the Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn......They could guarantee the surgery as well.   As a result, after 4 years, the surgery was done by Dr. Emil Goetsche, the older brother......and of course everything was fine........Incidentally, you can still see the "T" on my neck to this very day.............

#2, Told by Nicki Orbach, whose father Fred was a nephew of Alexander Lowy

Uncle Alex was a great influence on my dad who really looked up to Alex. My dad was very smart. He was valedictorian in his high school and also won the highest award in Fordham when he graduated. This was quite an achievement for a Jewish kid going to a Catholic college. My dad wanted to be a chemist just like his Uncle Alex. My dad had a very pronounced stutter so teaching would have been difficult for him. Also at that time chemical companies like DuPont would not hire Jews. Taking all of this in account Alex advised my dad that chemistry might not be the best profession to go into. My dad picked pharmacy instead. 

My dad went by the name of Fred. He was born at home and a German doctor delivered him. His name was supposed to be Ferenc Arpad Orbach, a nice Hungarian name. The birth certificate has him down as Frederick Adolf Orbach.  My dad didn't discover his official name until much later when he needed a copy of his birth certificate.

#3, Told by Sybil Lowy, whose husband was Alexander Lowy’s son

Your uncle Al told me that his father needed money as a college student and therefore got a job working as an usher at the old Roxy Theater in New York City. There was a light at the end of each row, next to the aisle. So when people were sitting in their seats and watching the performance your grandfather would find a spot at the back of the theater and would sit on the floor next to the light, in order to do his homework.

#4, Also told by Rabbi Daniel Lowy, nephew of Alexander Lowy

Your grandfather was a uniformed usher who always had a book in one hand when he worked at the Roxy, which had been built by Roxy Rothafel. The people paid 25 cents up until 2:00 PM in order to see the entire performance. There was first a movie, followed by a show on the stage. There were about 6000 seats in the entire place.  My Uncle Alex as we called him would study during the performance by using the light that was at the end of each row of seats. This was a very important place for people to go in NYC and it even competed in the later years with Radio City Music Hall.  

#5, Told by Sybil Lowy, wife of Alexander Lowy, Jr.

I didn’t realize that during my 2nd year of college at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada in 1941 that my class had used a chemistry textbook without me knowing its importance. Four years later an announcement of my engagement to Alexander Lowy, Jr. was placed in the Jewish newspaper in Winnipeg. A former boyfriend then called my mother in Winnipeg to congratulate her and he asked if this Lowy person I was marrying was in any way related to the Dr. Lowy who had written the chemistry book we had used at school. He was told by mother that indeed this Dr Lowy was the father of the man I was going to marry. So regarding that famous chemistry book, we had used it earlier in college but I hadn’t realized that my deceased father-in law to be was in fact the author of the Lowy and Harrow chemistry book that I had used back then during my second year of college.  

#6, Told by Rabbi Daniel Lowy, nephew of Alexander Lowy

Reminiscences concerning the old Lowy Homestead in the East Bronx in New York City.

The Lowys had traditionally been a very close knit family as long as their homestead, 1457 Bryant Avenue in the East Bronx, was the focal point of all their activities. It was not until the late 1940’s when the family relocated to the Jackson Heights section of the Borough of Queens and other parts of New York City and later on to other parts of the U.S.A. that this cohesiveness dwindled.

 Originally, David and Fannie Lowy had eight children, four boys and four girls of which my father, James Lowy, was the youngest and Dr. Alexander Lowy was the next older sibling. Now my father, James ( Jimmy...or IMREH in Hungarian) was very loyal to his brothers and sisters. Regardless of the season, my father insisted that we make the pilgrimage every Sunday afternoon to the “Homestead.” It was a traditional, old style brownstone attached on both sides and consisting of three floors of living area plus an unfinished basement. Actually, on each floor, there was a subway-type apartment with one room behind the others. Somehow, it housed the whole Lowy family and for the most part, on every trip to 1457 Bryant Avenue, one could visit all the members.

 My father, Jimmy, the youngest of the eight siblings, was very devoted to his brothers and sisters, so we travelled to see them almost every Sunday when the weather made it feasible. My mother was not always happy with that. Being of German ancestry, she was particularly annoyed when the folks would drop off into speaking Hungarian, a language she never learned to understand. I never understood it either, but that never bothered me for there was always great love between me, my uncles and my aunts. In fact, what bothered my mother even more was that soon after our arrival at the homestead, I quietly disappeared. First I was led up to the third floor where Irma Nanny and Eulon (Julia) Nanny shared a kitchen. They had me sample delicacies they were contributing to the dinner menu that evening. Next, on the second floor, I sampled the recipes of Hermimomma (Hermine Lowy) and lastly, I was to enjoy the tasty treats of Berta Nanny in the first floor kitchen. By the time I returned to the first floor living room, my mother was quite upset. After the Thyroglossal Cyst operation on my neck at age nine I was rapidly gaining weight around my middle and she wanted to get me down to the slim boy I once was...but alas it was not to be. What can I tell you !

Oh yes…..I neglected to tell you about the very slow journey from the West to the East Bronx which took an hour or more on two rickety old trolley cars. We would mount the street car on Burnside at Harrison Avenue. Then it would stop at every corner where there were prospective passengers. After a main station at Webster Avenue where there were special platforms in the street, the tracks moved on to Tremont Avenue and thus it became known as the Tremont Avenue Line. Yet, block after block, the old cars went “crotzing” along until we came to a main intersection at Southern Boulevard. At that point, we had to change trolleys to go South on Southern Boulevard until we reached Jenning’s Street. Disembarking at this point, we walked to Hoe Avenue, Vyse Avenue, and then Bryant Avenue where the folks lived. Yes it was an arduous ritual and we just had to get used to it. Sometimes, as an alternative, we took the Lexington Avenue Subway down to 149th street and Mott Ave. and then changed trains for another Lexington Avenue train going north up through the East Bronx. The train travel took only half an hour, but in essence that was not any faster, because of the walk of five - seven blocks on each end and then climbing all those flights of stairs to reach the elevated platform. Of course, transportation fares per person each way were only a nickel including transfer slips, where necessary. Those were the days. And then at times, my uncles, Julius Ligeti or Sigmund (Giga) Orbach would drive us home in record time - that is only 15 minutes.

Yes, we went dutifully, and I got to know everyone in all branches of the family as well......but then there were times when my Uncle Al was coming to town. Dr. Alexander Lowy, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, was our shining star....and though he never visited our home in the West Bronx (1875 Harrison Avenue) because of his very busy schedule with meetings while in New York, he did come to the family homestead in the east Bronx. To this day, I remember him coming through the hail on the first floor...a big tall strapping powerful presence. As he passed through to the rear dining room, there was the sound of awe....ALEX (pronounced with a long AR) had arrived. The minute he appeared, everyone rose to offer him a seat. The charisma that this giant of a man had in his family was unbelievable. At any rate, it seemed that Uncle Al and my father, being the closest in age, also had the closest relationship as siblings. Uncle Al was about six years older than my father, but the other brothers and sisters seemed to be far beyond that in years.

 Uncle Al was also the first member of that generation of the Lowy family to pass away. At the early age of 52, he died on Dec. 25th, 1941 in Pittsburgh and of course my parents joined all the sisters and brothers and their spouses, taking that long nine hour train ride to attend the funeral. Of course, in a way they were resentful of the medical team in Pittsburgh. They thought that the New York doctors could have saved him....but I learned later that was not true. Uncle Al died from pancreatic cancer, a terminal condition that was not reversible especially at that time. The funeral was conducted by Dr. Solomon Freehof, the renowned senior Rabbi of Temple Rodef Shalom, the largest Reform Temple in all of Western Pennsylvania. It was considered a privilege to have him deliver the eulogy. Now my Uncle Al was so well known that a large obituary was printed not only in the Pittsburgh newspapers but in the New York Times as well. However, Dr. Al’s sisters, being observant and more orthodox than his brothers, were not happy with the funeral. For one thing they were herded into a side room which was completely separated from the total assemblage. They felt that perhaps because of their foreign accent when they spoke English they were considered an embarrassment to friends and even more than that to University officials. Also, being Orthodox, they did not like the soil being covered with imitation grass, and they were not allowed to personally shovel the soil to cover the casket after it was lowered into the ground at the cemetery. Also they were bemoaning the expense for the trip and especially the cost of food in the dining car. Just think! Coffee cost 25 cents per cup. As you might expect, they were anything but seasoned travelers. Of course, I received all this information secondhand as I was not with my parents, aunts and uncles on this trip.