This Was a No Dream, Becky Friday Fictioneers

With ten uncles and aunts, I was part of a large Jewish family. Fortunately, I grew up in New York City; they, for the most part, lived in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. An unlikely place for a Jewish family.

Friday Fictioneers – Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts a pic to write a 100 word story about.
This week it’s: Memories

Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Copyright-Rochelle Wisoff-Fields


This Was a No Dream, Becky

Bubbie’s menorah stood next to a picture of Uncle Bernie. I never met him because he married a shickseh.

Zayde commanded us to “NEVER say his name!’

The tears stopped years ago; the hushed stories about his family, my unknown cousins, did not.

With my crayons at the gossip bench, I did the other unmentionable. I listened to conversations on the party line.

They didn’t exist in NYC. A small Pennsylvania town’s telephone line was too much of a temptation.

Zayde always caught me. I was a “vilda chaya”, a wild animal, and told mom she’d better discipline me better.

Randy Mazie


38 thoughts on “This Was a No Dream, Becky Friday Fictioneers

  1. Ah, the party line (and I’m not talking politics)! My grandparents had a party line. Each family’s ring was different but once they answered, most of the others on the line would pick up their phones and listen, too. The more people on the line, the less volume.

    As for the Jewishness, I’m starting to feel a bit left out this week as I’m not. 🙂 Well, I guess I am originally as are well all, but…


  2. Randy, you’re amazing. I didn’t even realize it was you until I saw your name at the bottom of the page. Did i ever mention that me mother was jewish? See? We really are related!

  3. Dear Randy,
    Beautiful story. I could, of course, relate. When my cousin Max married a shiksa it was a huge family scandal. Not only that they only had mints, cake and punch at the reception. Oy. (I think the ill fated marriage lasted over 40 years,…Dorothy eventually converted).

    • Such a shonder, a shame, that a reception would be so skimpy. But what could you expect from such unthinking actions. Only a good Jewish family palms ahead, and makes a real celebration.

      It’s good that she converted, but the children? (Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical only)


    • In the “old days” several families on the street shared the same phone line. You had to wait for your next door neighbor to get off the phone in order for you to use the telephone.

      You could listen in on them while they were talking. It was considered though impolite to listen in. You had to keep going back to the phone to see if you could get a dial tone, meaning your neighbors were off the line and you were free to now call. At first when you got a dial tone, you could click the handle and the switchboard operator would come on asking you what number you wanted to call and she would put the call through. Later, after being modernized, you could simply dial your number yourself once you got a free line, or a dial tone. However, while you were talking on the phone, your neighbors could listen in on your conversations.

      The table the phone generally sat on, because we listened in on others’ conversations, was called a gossip bench.

  4. good one — I had a jewish girlfriend as a young man. I ended up signing someone’s wedding certificate after I took her to the family wedding. Until i was a teen we had a party line, and yes we listened to what our neighbors had so say!

  5. This works well! The stories that seem to come out of a prompt like this always intrigue me. This one worked great!

    BTW, Rochelle is my cousin … her cousin Andy and my Jewish uncle Oscar were related. It’s an interesting story how we found out!

    • I was amazed to learn ho many folks had not heard about this facet of life. I loved to learn about my parents generation growing up – with Saturday night bath houses, or baths in the kitchen, sleeping on fire escapes or on roofs or in the parks in the cities during the summer to remain cool, or sharing a bathroom on a floor for several different apartments. And on and on…

  6. I’m much too young to have ever used a party line but I certainly knew what it was. These are some things we take for granted as is witnessed by the young ladies statement above who had never heard of a part y line (I am obviously not THAT young 😉 )

  7. I’m assuming a shickseh is a non Jewish person. Learning a lot this week. It’s such a shame those attitudes exist… No matter the faith or race. Guess I’d better add gender to be current. I enjoyed your story, Randy.

    • a shikseh is a non-Jewish woman; a shagetz is a man; goyim is the plural for non-Jews or gentiles, and a goy is the singular(male or female). I am by no means a good Yiddish historian – only snippets of memories growing up in a second generational home. keeping families intact when we came over was (and for many Jews – and other faiths and cultures – still is)a means of keeping important traditions alive, keeping a memory of persecution strong so that “it shouldn’t happen ever again” and a means of comfort and financial security and help. Families worked together to get each other jobs, buy and fix up homes, help with the “kinder” (children) – and as much as the “attitudes” were difficult, the positive sides of the “attitude” helped families to adjust, survive, and even flourish…


    • Most of the disasters happen because of teenagers listening in on the party lines and it was the teenagers who suffer the consequences of these disasters at the hands of the parents getting to the bottom of things, particularly teenage bottoms.

      Thank you for commenting.

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