Sunday, March 21, 2010

Interview with Henry Jablonski, Part 3

This is the third and final installment of the interview I conducted with former employee Henry Jablonski.  Parts one at two can be found in the two previous posts.

Eve: So in terms of the people and the environment at Dubrow’s, what did you like best and what did you like least?

Henry: Well, first of all the people who worked in Dubrow’s in those days, were more elderly people.  Today, you go to most fast food stores, it’s mostly young people, or people between jobs,  ahh, school or something. The workforce is altogether different.  It was family people, lot of men like my father who raised his family, many many people I know had families, but today, it’s different, it’s a different story.

Eve: Yeah, it’s interesting, just like many generations of my father worked there, it sounds like multiple generations of your family worked there, your father, you, your son…

Henry: Yeah, other people I know, I also kept in contact with,  in the years after I left Dubrow’s, of course they’ve passed away now,  they were all family people…they wanted me to work in New York, I said, no, I didn’t want to go on the subway anymore, I had enough, so I got a job with the food service for colleges,  on the island, that’s what I was doing, when I retired.

Eve: Are there other specific people you remember from your time working at Dubrow’s?

Henry:  George Dubrow, and Pop Dubrow, for instance,  and there was an elderly gentleman, a very nice gentleman,  I remember him.  He had a driver, I remember he used to drive him, named Joe Hackett.  He drove, we called him Pop Dubrow,  he came to visit my family once, um, we moved to Queens and um,  it was right after the war, and it was summertime,  I was going to take the week off to paint, and uh, get the house in shape,  wallpaper the house,  George Dubrow said,  “no, I need you in the store,  he says, I’ll take care of it,.  So he sent a painter, a wallpaperer in,  my whole house painted and wallpapered.  He took care of it. He was good that way. 

Eve: What was the driver’s name again?

Henry: Hackett. Joe Hackett.  He drove Pops Dubrow all around, wherever he wanted to go,  until he passed away.  Cause Pop’s problem was, one day he couldn’t eat.  Forward’s newspaper, the Jewish newspaper,  caused it,  fell off the chair I understand, and he hurt himself, and ah, then he started deteriorating. 

Eve: That’s Benjamin Dubrow you’re calling Pop?

Henry: Old man Pop. 

Eve: I don’t remember him referred to by that name? That’s Benjamin Dubrow?

Henry: That’s what we, that’s what we…George, Georgie got killed in an automobile accident, that you know, in Florida, right?

Eve: I did know about George’s accident, yes.  So Pops Dubrow was George’s father?

Henry: Right, and he had no seatbelt on, there were no seatbelts in cars in those days, the door opened up and he fell out onto his head.  In fact, after that, I was in the Air Force, and I had a seat belt harness, memorbilia, so I put a seat belt in the front seat of my car.

Eve: So was there anything you didn’t like about working at Dubrow’s?

Henry: No….no,…it was…if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t be there, I would have done something else.  Near the end, it was getting real hard, when Paul took over,  the Eastern, I mean the King’s Highway store,  he had a lot on his mind, I can understand, the store was going down,  King’s Highway, his problem, New York…he was originally in the stock market,  he didn’t want to work in the restaurant,  he wanted to get away from, causing the debts in the family, Max Tobin, and George, and he ended up with the stores, more or less, and they had problems…

Eve: Yeah,  the impression I got was that the reason my grandfather got in was to help Paul Tobin out.

Henry: Right, right…he didn’t want that line of work.  That’s the impression we got. But he couldn’t help himself.

Eve: So after Dubrow’s, you said you left because you didn’t want to go to Manhattan, and you went to college cafeteria?

Henry: Yeah, cafeterias were dying out.  There were a lot of cafeterias, I could mention a lot of names, but they all passed on, one by one,  I was looking for a job and there were no more cafeterias, really,  end of the line so to speak, and of course around that time I was sixty years old, they were looking for young people to work in fast food places and I wasn’t interested in that, and uh I got a job at Lackland Food Service on the, on the Long Island, I used to take care of the colleges, like Queens College and Adelphi and things like that.  I worked at these colleges until I retired.

Eve: Is there any restaurant today that resembles Dubrow’s?

Henry: Not to my knowledge.  The only thing, the food, you might see at a banquet , you might see something like that.  But you gotta remember, this food was made like banquet styles but for a poorer clientele, without all the fancy trimmings and extra expense. There’s no stores around like that anymore. At Dubrow’s, everything came in, when you ordered like a meat, a whole half a cow was coming, or fish, a whole halibut, a hundred pound halibut. So you had the butcher, or somebody who knows how to cut the meat up. When I went to work for the colleges, everything came in packages. In boxes and packages all cut up.  So it was altogether different.  And the preservatives, that was another thing that was different.  Everything was frozen with preservatives,  and canned. I think that’s part of the trouble today, all the food is sold in little packages and prepared, and a lot of preservatives, and you wonder sometimes why people are getting sick, getting diseases, more than in the old days. In the old days everyting you had was fresh.  It was a big difference.

Eve: Are there other memories of Dubrow’s or other people you wanted to offer some stories about?

Henry: Yeah, 1940…the only time the stores were closed, you know, when they had Jewish holidays,  they closed, you know, overnight and we had to clean the whole store, top to bottom. It was the only time we ever closed. 

Eve: Those pictures of the cleaning crews were great. So was one of those when you were a dishwasher? 

Henry: Right, right, the first one, when I was a dishwasher there. Later on, after I came back from the service, the war,  I wasn’t looking to be,  I was a mechan - I went to school,  that’s why I worked at Dubrow’s while I went to aviation school as a mechanic, and I got my license as a mechanic, and then of course the war breaks out, and uh after the war there were so many mechanics and of course the aviation industry wasn’t going good, it was nothing doing, everybody, and I worked at Dubrow’s before, so I worked at Dubrow’s, never thinking I’m going to end up at Dubrow’s because I want for the fireman’s test, I passed the test for firemen in New York City but my cousin got hurt as a fireman so my wife said no, look for something else.  So years went on before you knew it and that’s the way it went.

Eve: Well, this has been great, as I said I may be in touch in the future with further questions.  Thank you so much.

Henry: If there’s anything else you want to know, just call. I’d be glad to tell you.

I did also get his permission to pass his information on to Marcia Bricker Halperin, who is continuing to work on getting a documentary made about Dubrow's and Brooklyn.

I love what he said about the value and uniqueness of having fresh made food, available for the masses at cheap prices.  It's what Michael Pollan has been on a mission to promote today - yet it seems we used to have it, and have lost it in the past fifty years.

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