Monthly Archives: December 2012
My husband’s grandfather, Aaron Stern came to America from Austria, arriving with little more than a pushcart and a dream. He peddled other people’s pickles up and down Delancey Street, but quickly realized this gave him little competitive edge over other peddlers. He had bigger dreams. As his vision began to take shape, Aaron selected Farmingdale, NY as the site for his factory – a good choice because of its rich source of cucumbers and cabbages from the surrounding farmlands. In 1894 Aaron began making his daily commute on the LI Railroad from his home in Brooklyn to Farmingdale to watch his dream unfold, and actually cut the trees that stood for the next 90 years as the hand-hewn beams supporting the roof of the factory.
Stern’s Pickle Factory – a red barn-like structure
The building was large, both wide and deep. It was a red, barn-like structure with open shelves, which at first were filled sparsely with several varieties of pickles and sauerkraut. Gradually he added additional pickled products as hot peppers, tomatoes, onions and cauliflower along with other specialty items as olives, mustards, Maraschino cherries, ketchups and jams. As his reputation spread, so did his slogan, Pickle Products for Particular People. People traveled from many parts of the metropolitan area for a shopping expedition to Stern’s. Sundays were especially busy, with people arriving in droves and lined up outside, waiting their turn to enter. Often the crowds became so thick that the big sliding doors had to be rolled shut. People waited patiently outside for their turn to enter as other customers made their exits.
Row after row of pickle barrels
Inside, children were given fresh pickles, plucked right from an open pickle barrel, while adult shoppers walked around the periphery of the room, selecting their choices of delicacies. Since there were no shopping baskets, customers carried items in their arms, occasionally unloading them by placing their selections on one of the tables stretching nearly the width of the room. There were no cash registers at Stern’s Pickle Works. Sales people simply added up the cost of a customer’s items on the backs of paper bags.
Shoppers rarely glimpsed the large area behind the store, but these back rooms held their own special mysteries. If you peaked inside, you might just catch a glimpse of men in high rubber boots, stamping their feet inside one of these huge vats as they trampled down the kraut.
One of Stern’s sauerkraut vats
Another back room was used as storage for restocking the front room’s simple open shelves.
Before we were married, Ken took me on a tour of his family’s pickle factory. While poking around in a back room, we discovered something that would have looked like little more than junk to most, but we loved its history and saw a hidden beauty there.
Read this memoir to learn more about our discovery and what it has meant to us over the years.
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TALES2INSPIRE™ ~ The Sapphire Collection
Echoes In the Mind
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A young pastor and his wife, newly assigned to reopen an abandoned church for their first ministry, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they walked inside, they saw that their church was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time for their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard: repairing pews, plastering walls, painting and cleaning. On December 18th they were ahead of schedule – eagerly awaiting their big day.
The little white church
Then on December 19th the unthinkable happened. A driving rainstorm hit the area, lasting for forty-eight hours. When the pastor reentered his church on December 21st, his heart sank. The roof had leaked, causing a a huge hunk of plaster, 20 feet by 8 feet, to fall off the front wall, head high just behind the pulpit. The pastor cleaned up the mess as best he could, thinking the unthinkable. Should he postpone the Christmas Eve service?
On his way home he noticed that a local business was having a flea market charity sale. One of the items that caught his eye was a beautiful, handmade tablecloth. The crochet work was exquisite, the color a soft creamy beige, with a cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover the fallen plaster behind the pulpit.
The pastor bought it and while rushing back to the church, noticed an elderly woman running to catch a bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to sit in his church for the next 45 minutes until she could catch the next scheduled bus. She sat in a pew, paying little attention to the pastor as he got out a ladder and nails to hang his new found wall tapestry. When finished, he sat back and smiled. He could hardly believe how beautiful it looked. What’s more, it covered up the entire damaged wall.
Then he looked up to notice the elderly woman rushing toward him down the center aisle. Her face was pale as a sheet. Pastor, where did you get that tablecloth? she gasped. When the pastor explained, she asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials ERB were crocheted there in tiny letters. They were.
This story is only the beginning of a series of coincidences that make one wonder: “Is there really such a thing as coincidence, or is it divine intervention?” You decide.
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We love heroes. They are people who demonstrate gallant, selfless and audacious behaviors to help others and we’re as proud of them as if we knew them personally.
A first-generation Greek-American, I was schooled in the great heroes of Grecian myths and history: Homer, Plato, Socrates, Zeus and his family of amazing, often-mischievous children, to name but a few. I took it for granted that heroes existed, fictional and real. I knew I had heroes in my family: a father who, at age nine and parentless, came to America to work. He demonstrated a work ethic and code of honor for his children to follow; a brother, an Air Force belly gunner, who died in the Pacific. Surely, he was my hero. And a mother who epitomized all that was good and pure in helping others. Yes, I knew people I considered heroic.
But I had never known my heroic grandfather, a Greek-Orthodox priest, until forty years after his death. Call it kismet: I was in Berchtesgaden, Germany touring the salt mine where Hitler manufactured fighter planes deep underground. Hitler’s summer home, “Eagle’s Nest,” was visible from where I stood. I wandered into a tiny cemetery and stopped short. On each large tombstone was a portrait of a German soldier in uniform. The swastikas leaped out at me. With three brothers in that war, one lost and another wounded, it was still too real and painful. Hitler was a crazed demon to the little girl who saw her mother dressed in mourning black, weeping for the oldest son she would never see again, for the two she might never see again. I stared at the grim faces of Nazi soldiers and officers, chilled to the bone though a hot July sun beat down on me.
“Incredible,” I said to an American tourist from my bus, “that we can see this so many years later and still be affected by it.” He nodded silently. We exchanged names: his was Jacob. He asked the nationality of my last name and I told him it was Greek.
Jacob smiled. “I’m Jewish. If it weren’t for a Greek Orthodox priest in Athens who sheltered my parents from German soldiers, I wouldn’t be here!” I had the strangest feeling that I knew the answer to my question when I asked if he knew the priest’s name.“Father Nicholas,” he replied.
It was my grandfather!
THIS STORY CONTINUES IN TALES2INSPIRE™
Tina Chippas is a founder of the North Palm Beach Writers’ Consortium to support advanced writers to seek publication. She has been published in educational texts and professional periodicals and journals. Tina currently resides in South Florida, where she is working on her next novel and writing a column for a southern Florida newspaper, Condo News. You can read her essays and views on various topics as well as flights of fancy tales about her dogs on condonewsonline.com/ Tina’s new book, Affair in Athens, will be published by Oaklight Publishing under the name “Matina Nicholas,” within a few months.