The Ilowite Family Tree
I am not sure what my Uncle Louie did for a living. I believe that at some point in time he and my father were partners in an auto radiator business and that someone named Hoyle was in with them. They lived near us in Queens and Mae (my mother) and Alice were close. Belmont had a friendship with the author Bud Shulberg who wrote the book “What Makes Sammy Run”, a best seller, and we heard a lot about that. Aunt Alice frequently wore her son’s sweaters and they would complain that she left “bumps” in them. Of course we always heard about Roy’s successes and I know my father attended the games with Louie. Roy and Joy had a very long courtship-maybe 7 or 8 years (my mother did not approve of that).
I always had a crush on Louie's son Allan (he was in between Nita and me age-wise) - but he considered me a baby.
My family usually hosted Thanksgiving and Passover, and Alice and Louie and Mae and Arthur and Selma and Irving were always there (with their children of course). One year Herman and his wife were there too, and Herman laughed so hard at my father’s jokes that he slipped under the table and couldn’t stop laughing.
I know “Uncle” Arthur was a salesman for Burry’s biscuits and we were always well supplied. Either Arthur or Irving used to claim that he came to the states alone at under 10 years of age (probably to join his brothers) and worked as a house painter to sustain himself.
My sister Anita came very close to marrying Ralph, who courted her for years. Ralph and Nita went out together frequently. My father would pass Ralph a discrete few bucks. She refused to marry him just so they could get settled in Red Hook, NJ where he had a job with a radio station, and he then married Wini (my name too) of course. Ralph was also pretty close friends with my brother Arthur.
Irving's favorite piece of music was Scheherazade.
Norman and I spent the summer of 1939 (we were both 11) going to the New York World’s Fair together. He was my closest friend that summer and lost a lot of weight trying unsuccessfully to teach me to ride a bicycle. Aunt Selma complained to my mother about it. Through the years I skied and played tennis, but I never did learn to ride a bike. Norman was like my closest girl friend the summer we spent together. We never had a romantic relationship but were very intimate mentally.
Of the brothers, we were only close with Louie, Irving and Arthur. My father was a snob and always kind of looked down on the Ilowite brothers as “greenhorns” because he was born in New York City into a family of “intelligencia” from Riga. The Zuckerman’s (Mae, Alice, and siblings) were of Romanian extraction.
We also saw a great deal of Arthur & Mae, Dorothy, and Sheldon. The three girls would sleep in the same bed (Nita, Me, and Dorothy) - Mae and Arthur’s daughter Dorothy frequently slept over, and my sister (Nita) and I shared a double bed with her. We ignored Sheldon who was younger. Nowadays Sheldon would be classified as an ADD kid, but he was really just rambunctious.
Most people of their generation did not travel. My parents were more adventuresome than most. There were some trips to the Catskills (the Borsht Circuit) in the summer. In later years they would drive to Florida. My parents flew (on prop planes) before anyone else. But mostly they took busses to places like Portland, Maine or St. Augustine, Florida – just for a change of pace.
Mainly, the Ilowites came to sit around and gab in the evenings and my parents would send one of the kids around the corner to get a pint of hand packed ice cream. Ice boxes and later the early refrigerators could not hold ice cream for any length of time. We would sometimes meet them and walk to North Beach Airport (now LaGuardia) to watch the planes take off and land and then stop at the White Castle for nickel hamburgers. That was a treat. My father was always a “big shot” and insisted on paying – although he could not afford it.
I remember the Orson Wells's production of “War of the Worlds”. Most of our family had read the book by H.G. Wells and knew it was a dramatization, but Mae and Arthur arrived at our place traumatized! They heard it on the car radio while they were en route, and Mae was so stressed that they had left their children home alone and the world was ending.