Monday, December 04, 2006

Dubrow's as cultural milepost

About a year ago, I found a reference in another blog to a visit to Brooklyn by JFK, which apparently took place right in front of Dubrow's Cafeteria.

Today I found another reference to what may be the same event, in an article by Carol DeMare, as the subject of her story recalls JFK's assassination:

"Albany attorney Jerry Weiss, was 18 and working in the accounting department of Irving Bank and Trust Co. on Wall Street while attending college. A co-worker heard it over the radio, and "we thought he was kidding, and when we realized he wasn't, a pall came over, and by the time we left ... it was dark and dismal." The subway was dead silent "and people were literally crying, tears running down their cheeks," Weiss said. "It was the most eerie awful train ride home ever."

Weiss, 61, was energized seeing the candidate in Brooklyn outside Dubrow's Cafeteria where 10,000 came out. "This figure jutting up from a convertible, it was magical. I think he stood for the notion we can be better than we are as a nation, so when it was lights out, it was a terrible blow."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Family-owned business

I believe this is the last of the stories I collected over last Passover. It's sort of two stories in one, told by my mother. First, she recalls working at Dubrow's and trying to get take-out orders right. Then, she tells a story about a situation unique to working in a family-owned business...

OK. So I would answer all the phones, and mostly it was nothing. But from about 11 to 1, we’d get all these huge office runs, from the, uh, fashion district, and I remember the guy who was running the outgoing business, was real anxious sort, but he was always yelling, and pulling out clumps of his hair. No, really, he had like bald spots from literally pulling out his hair. And invariably I would get the whole order, it was big, like twenty sandwiches, and forget to ask, “do you want pumpernickel or rye?” On each sandwich I had to ask them that. And he would see my order and see I didn’t have that down, and he would – (I would say:) “I swear, they all wanted rye bread!”

So he arrived at work, and he would always come by and find out how I was doing, and so one day I said to him, there’s this man– he keeps looking at me – and he was so excited, it was something he could get into, because I’m sixteen, and no one should be looking at his cousin, and he says “oh – tell me the next time you see him, point him out to me!” He was hoping to push him down the stairs or something. So, uh - no really he was, he was looking for a fight– so, um, finally, I did see him again, and I said “He’s over there, in the corner there.” He says, “Where, where?” I said “Over there in the corner.” He said “well, tell me where he is – is he next to cousin PG?”

Stewart: It is cousin PG.

Bonnie: It is cousin PG – he (was) staring at me because I look like Sylvia. Is that funny?

Stewart is my uncle, the husband of my mother's sister Beth. Sylvia was, of course, Irving Kaplan's wife and Benjamin Dubrow's second youngest daughter. Apparently my mother had a cousin she didn't know, who wandered into Dubrow's, and was watching her because of her resemblence to her mother. Which is just the kind of thing that would only ever happen in a family-owned business.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dubrow's mentioned in an obituary

From an obituary for "Dr. Harvey 'Gizmo' Rosenburg" by Gayle Gleckler, the deceased's self-described "first ex-wife."

"I met Harvey in 1974 at Leber Katz Partners Advertising where he was consulting the agency to help us win the Celanese account. We didn't get the account. But I won Harvey. My life started spinning instantly. A whirlwind romance...we were married at the UN Chapel, handholding friends circling around us as we said our vows to be true while simultaneously letting each other be free spirits. An inspirational conundrum. Our black tie reception was held at his family's famous Dubrow's Cafeteria in the Garment Center. The great deco room was filled with minks, diamonds, amazing music, and my creative centerpieces made of carrots, celery and parsley. His grandma told me later she took a few home. They were delicious and made a great soup. Advertising, fashion folks from Manhattan, his mom, Helen, hisdad, Henry, Phyliss, Paul, family from Brooklyn and the five towns went through the cafeteria line for seconds and thirds of blintzes, pastrami, rice pudding."

Now, what's interesting here is that the author of this memorial says Harvey was a member of the family, yet I've never heard of him. Maybe he was a member of the larger Dubrow's family. Still, the idea of a wedding reception at Dubrow's seems like it would be memorable. I wonder if he was the only one to do so. Does anyone remember him? He sounds like quite a character.

Also, later she makes mention a disturbing incident:

"Nothing with Harvey was ordinary. In the midst of the nuptial excitement and happiness of this splendiferous occasion there was a random murder - I believe a stabbing - outside Dubrow's that night."

Surely someone knows something about this? A murder that took place outside Dubrow's? Anyone recall hearing about this?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A few other tidbits

I'm in the middle of moving across town, so I've been too busy to do much with this blog lately, but I found a couple interesting things on the internet today:

Dubrow's Table Talk
Published: August 16, 1985

To the Editor:
A eulogy for New York's late Dubrow's cafeteria (news story, Aug. 3):
I went there for lunch a few months ago. As was the custom, a stranger, about my father's age, sat down at my table. He looked at my tray - blintzes, coffee and Boston cream pie - and then did his duty: ''You call that lunch?'' STEPHEN DRUCKER New York, Aug. 5, 1985

Also, in this article about my cousin Joe, who worked at Dubrow's and who has shared several of his memories of Dubrow's, the author mentions the Dubrow's that was opened on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Anyone remember that one? How did it differ? How was it similar? How long was it open?

"The Cafeteria" (VHS, 2000)

Just noticed on there's a bunch of copies of this video for sale. It's pretty good. Kind of depressing. It's an American Playhouse production, released on video in 2000, and based on the short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. I think I might buy myself a copy at some point, mostly for the footage of Dubrow's, where it was filmed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stealing from Dubrow's

More memories from the stories I tape recorded and transcribed while I was down in Miami for Passover...again, Bonnie is my mother (Benjamin Dubrow's granddaughter) and Ruthie is my great-aunt (Benjamin's youngest daughter).

Bonnie: Well, Irving told me a great one, that when he was running Dubrow’s, he told the help, uh, you have to also help us not have people stealing, so if you see people stealing, let me know. So, uh, one of the waiters sees a person that had cottage cheese for like, ten cents, had a prune, it was like fifteen cents. He saw somebody push the prune into the cottage cheese and cover it up! So – he dutifully reports it. I mean, what is he going to do – he wanted the help to be wary – what is he going to do – “Is there a prune buried in your cottage cheese?”

Well how about the story on 7th Avenue, when, uh, your father found out some guy was regularly stealing the two dollar cakes, they cost two dollars, or three dollars, whatever they were – he was putting them in his pocket – knowing your father, you’re not going to be surprised to know this – when they finally caught him, he said “you know, I don’t mind you having it, I’m glad you like it, but supposing you pay for it?” He said “I should pay for something so small?”

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Eastern Parkway Dubrow's

I received a great link to a message board where people recalled memories of the Dubrow's on Eastern Parkway. I thought I's highlight some of the comments here, because so little has emerged about this Dubrow's - most of the stories have been about the Manhattan and King's Highway locations.

Walter starts things off by writing:
"Who remembers Dubrow's on Eastern Parkway and Utica Ave...Corned Beef, Pastrami, Chopped Liver, Chopped Herring..great bread and all the seltzer you could drink...I got heartburn just writing about this "delicious" place."

Kath replies: "Dubrow's changed the face of truth in menu laws because it's sandwich salads were not as labeled. The chicken salad had turkey scraps left over from the carving station so they had to call it poultry salad. Tuna was renamed tuna and egg salad, etc. Who cared? We loved them!"

Barbara wrote:"Kings Highway was the one I went to. Great place for people watching. Some of the strangest people I've ever observed were regulars at Dubrow's. Best bagle (sic) with lox and cream cheese for only $1.35 in the mid 70's. I remember being at a rally in front of Dubrow's for Hubert Humphrey when he was running for president in the sixties. Lot's (sic) of celebrities were there and my friend and I were almost trampled in the crowd."

Joe wrote: "how about the waffles?? best i ever had - and the coffee came with cream in little ceramic mugs - the city has lost a lot of good places to eat - the Automat was a great place - to this day i've never had macaroni and cheese or baked beans like they made them."

Another person wrote in: "And besides all the wonderful food you already mentioned they also had a rice pudding or noodle pudding with warm cherry sauce that I loved --something I can't find anymore. I used to love those cafeterias."

Finally, users named Barry and Art Weiss concluded that "The Dubrow's on Kings Highway was better."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Now that we're into this thing...

I'm really curious to know about who's visiting, who's reading, and what your experiences have been - either with Dubrow's, or with the blog. Please comment on this post, even if you do so anonymously, so I know you're here.
When you do, please answer these questions:

1. How did you find this blog?
2. What was your experience of Dubrow's Cafeteria?
3. What part of the world do you now live in?
4. How often do you visit this blog?
5. What would you like to see me do differently? What would not want to see changed?

We're approaching 1000 hits since I installed the counter a couple months ago, which is fantastic. Now I want to know more about all of who have been by.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hungry Jews

This one also comes from the Passover transcriptions - my cousin Joe recalling his days working at Dubrow's. As you may have gathered, a lot of people in my mother's generation worked at Dubrow's for a summer or two. Joe's mother was Lila Adler (nee Dubrow), and one of Ruthie's older sisters.

Joe: There’s nothing worse than hungry Jews, in July. I worked for uncle Max a lot, during the summer, and I was behind the counter, and I can tell you, when they get off the train, I can tell you –

Ruthie: I didn’t know you worked there.

Joe: Oh, many summers – grandma said, “you’re gonna go to camp.” “No, I’m not going to camp.” “Who do you think you are, the Prince of Vales?” Someday I’m going to write my biography, I’m going to title it “The Prince of Vales” ...she would say, go to Canada. Well, that was when I didn’t go to Canada, and I worked there. And there was one woman, every day, wore the same sweater, and she would say “I vant a piece of corn.” And I go to the corn, and she would say “Not that one! That one! Not that one, that one!” Every day, that corn, this corn, that corn, this corn. Then you’d finally do it, she’d look at it, “no, maybe I don’t..” It was a ritual. Every day.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

With hot milk? Or without milk?

Another from my Passover transcriptions. This comes from my mother, Bonnie. What I love about these stories is the equal affection with which customers and employees are recalled.

For this one, it was hard to capture because it relies on hearing my mother use a Yiddish accent, much as in the one Ruthie told earlier. I've done my best to convey the humor, but you'll have to use your imagination a little as well to really hear it.

Bonnie: No, my favorite Dubrow’s story is…somebody who was behind the counter who was not English speaking, is trying to serve oatmeal to someone, and is trying to inquire, “do you want it with hot milk…or without milk?” And so the person says, “With hout milk!” “With hot milk? Or without milk?” “With hout milk!” Back and forth for awhile – finally, it dawned on him, the person, give him the oatmeal, and the milk on the side. Isn’t that great! “With hout milk!”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Another mural photo

This is why I sometimes think I have ADHD: I was just looking through the photo gallery (see the link of the right) and I realized that I never posted this photo when I posted the others taken by Marcia Bricker. Unlike the others, which were of the mural and architecture of the King's Highway location, this one is of the mural that was in the Manhattan location.

Also, you might have noticed the counter installed on this blog couple weeks ago. I'm pretty impressed that in just a couple weeks we've already had over 200 hits...also, I think it's pretty cool that people in Poland, Spain, Ireland, Columbia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have come by. Welcome!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A bit controversial

I thought for a long time about whether I should post this piece of the transcriptions. As you'll see, Joe is telling me not to put it on the blog. My mother, meanwhile, gives the go ahead. But the whole point of this blog is to commemorate and document Dubrow's. Any good documentary maker would say that you don't censor what you find just because you don't like it. So here we go.

Joe: Now, Bonnie, you gotta hear this one (to me)– turn the tape recorder off –

Bonnie: No, you’re not turning it off –

Joe: This is not good. This is not good for our image. Uh…they were trying to unionize the cafeteria. And they didn’t want to unionize. So the union went down to the bowery…the truck – they gave them more money – this is absolutely true – my father was there. (to Ruthie) See, they don’t tell you the bad news, you would have said “Pop, unionize!” You know, I told my father, I asked him once, “why are there no Black countermen?” He said, "You want to go to college?" I said, “No, I really don’t want to go to college, frankly. And I’d rather you put Black people behind the counter.” He said, “You want me to be the first?” I said, “yes, I want you to be the first!” But, your father, my father, they weren’t the first. I know people who were – I’ve given awards to people who were – people who had the balls in Miami Beach in those days to stand up, and it wasn’t our family. But anyway, they were also – they didn’t want to unionize – they would bring these bums in, and of course it drove all these other people away - Simon Batwinick was by a tree, outside, screaming “The Jews go to Miami in the winter!” – he was mister union man. Now, years later, he’s a partner of our father’s and he was the worst son of a bitch to people that worked under him, ever, ever…I don’t know anyone who was as mean as I heard he was…

Ruthie: I didn’t know that either.

Joe: Yeah, that’s where he was: “The Dubrows go to Florida in the winter!” What a bastard he was when he became a boss. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Apparently, Dubrow's employees at one or more of the locations attempted to unionize. Anyone else have recollection of this? If Simon Batwinick (spelling uncertain) or his family are reading this blog, I feel compelled to note that the opinions suggested here are not the opinions of anyone other than Joe. I would very much like to hear your story, if you are out there.

As a former union president myself (Parry Center for Children, local 987 of SEIU/OPEU) I find it unsettling to think that any of my relatives were anti-union. But I also know that the way the world works is that there are managers and workers, and that when you're on the manager side being accountable for the bottom line, things look a lot different than when you're the worker, defending your right to organize. Both sides have truths, both sides have struggles. One side just has more power, and power is rarely given up without a fight. It's easy to empathize with why they would have resisted unionization, even if it's not pretty.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Photo of the Manhattan Dubrow's

This is a good shot of the Manhattan Dubrow's. It's not a great photograph - it looks like it was undeveloped in the bottom half, where it's white - but it's a good shot. I'm not sure who took it. We found it while going through my grandparents' old photographs and papers this spring.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The two Simons

This is a transcribed conversation between my great aunt Ruthie and my cousin Joe, who is a nephew of Benjamin Dubrow. They are recalling two men who used to work at Dubrow's, both of whom were named Simon.

Ruthie: There were two men named Simon. Do you remember that story? Well, one of them you knew, Simon Botwinik –

Joe: I’ll tell you a story about him in a second.

Ruthie: Anyhow, I forget what the other Simon did, Nathan I think was a manager. Oh, he was at the salads?

Joe: That’s the guy who would sweat, making the chicken, uh, tuna fish salad…

Ruthie: Anyhow, just by pure coincidence, both men named Simon, that was their actual names, had the hugest noses. But huge. But, uh, Simon Botwinik finally had plastic surgery done…it was still far from perfect…but it was much smaller then. So they then became – this is Yiddish – Simon 'untha nose,' that was him, without the nose – and Simon 'wittha nose.'

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nathan Make-a-Line

Finally, months later, I've had a few hours to sit down and transcribe some of the stories I gathered when I was down in Miami for Passover this year. Yes, Passover! It's been a busy couple months. I'll post them one at a time, because they're rich with flavor, like the food at Dubrow's itself. I plan to post them as they were transcribed, that is, as they were told to me, because I think the personality telling the stories adds to the stories themselves.

This one comes from my great aunt Ruthie, Benjamin Dubrow's youngest daughter:

Ruthie: Well, one that was one of my favorites, had to do with - you know, the cafeteria set up, well, there was a counter worker, and uh, he was very short. Which I can appreciate, because I can never see the person on the other side when I’m shopping. But he had difficulty seeing who was there most of the time. But he knew what he wanted to say, and he said it. And uh, no matter who was there, if there was one person there, he would say “make a line!” So, you know, all the characters who worked there – some of the customers had made up names, and he was called ‘Nathan Make-a-Line.’ Because my father started (Dubrow's) when I was, you know, real young, that’s what I thought his name was: “Nathan Make-a-Line.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Irving in Dubrow's

Found some more photos in my aunt Beth's house - this one is of Irving Kaplan in the Manhattan restaurant.

Friday, April 21, 2006

You can ignore this

I'm just posting this image so I can use it as my User Photo. Click on my user profile to see it...

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Dubrow's tray

Look what I scored on my recent trip down to Miami!

We had one growing up, but my mom wasn't parting with hers. Turns out my aunt Beth has several of them, so she passed one on to me...

I also got some great stories from my great aunt Ruthie and my cousins Joe and Steven...but it'll take me a little while to get them up here. I just got back from our annual Passover trip late late last night.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Rose Dubrow

This is only marginally related to Dubrow's Cafeteria, but I'm going to post it anyway.

This is the only thing I have that belonged to my great grandmother, Rose Dubrow, wife of Benjamin Dubrow, who of course was the man who started the Dubrow's Cafeteria chain. The inside monogram of the mink stole indicates that belonged to Rose Dubrow. It says "Rose D" and there is a similarly monogrammed mink stole that belonged to Sylvia Kaplan, Rose's daughter.

Very little was known about Benjamin Dubrow. He emigrated in 1914 from the village of Pagost (Pahust) outside Minsk, Russia. Simon and Rivka Soloway, parents of Rose Dubrow, had already emigrated in 1907. Little is known about Benjamin Dubrow's parents or ancestors, except that he had a sister named Sylvia who refused to emigrate when he did.

A family story that has been passed down to my from my grandparents and mother is that Benjamin did not want to leave Russia, but Rose did. She took him to the rebbe in their community, who told him "if you don't like it, you can come back." They left for America, on what turned out to be the last boat before World War I, when the ports closed. Effectively, this meant Benjamin Dubrow couldn't come back.

And had he waffled any longer, and not listened to Rose and his rebbe, he might not have ever made it here. And - though this seems inconsequential in some ways - there might never have been a Dubrow's Cafeteria.

George Dubrow (1903-1956)

This is a plaque of George Dubrow, which reads:
"Dedicated to the memory of George F. Dubrow 1903-1956 as a tribute by his employees to his inspirational leadership and valued friendship."

The photo was taken by Leonard Dubrow, who was George's son. George was Benjamin Dubrow's son, and one of the earliest managers at Dubrow's Cafeteria. He died too young in a car accident. Tragically, George's oldest son, Irwin, who also worked at Dubrow's for awhile, also died too young but by his own hands.

I have heard that this plaque was on display in Dubrow's - I am not sure which one. Anyone remember it?