This past weekend, I met my mother’s cousin on her mother’s side for the first time. My mother and her cousin were very close as children, but today, she lives only about thirty minutes from me in New Jersey. It took a long time for me to get the opportunity to visit, but I’m glad I did.
She shared with me stories from Brooklyn, but she had more than just memories to share. At some point, she had 8mm home movies converted to VHS, so we spent some time watching how she, her family, and occasionally including my mother spent holidays, visited Coney Island, and entertained each other. I thoroughly enjoyed the Yiddish songs performed in next to the Christmas tree.
Entertainment was a major part of life in this family, and the musical talent runs deep on the Berman side. It’s no surprise that my brother is a musician, I, while no longer practicing, studied music for a major part of my life, and other Berman descendants have talent.
My mother’s cousin also helped me complete more missing information about the descendants of my great grandfather, Samuel Wolf Berman, and suggested the burial location for my great grandmother, Anna Neckameyer Berman (who married twice after the death of Samuel). Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to determine the last name of her final husband.
I learned about the musical talents of the Berman side of the family. My mother’s uncle, Aaron (Al) Berman played piano and sang, her aunt Rita Berman Abrams sang, and her great aunt Celia was also a musician. On several occasions, Al, who had a gramophone recorder, pressed 78s as the family played the piano, sang songs, and even delivered comedy. My mother’s cousin, who I visited this past weekend, had six of these 78s.
The Bermans made these recordings in the early 1950s (although the recording equipment makes the recordings sound older). During track 8, someone announces that the date is Sunday, January 2, placing the year of recording as either 1949 or 1955. At the beginning of track 9a, there is an announcement about Kathy Fiscus, a three-year-old child who died after falling into a well in 1949.
I offered to try to digitize the recordings and take as much noise out of the audio as possible, so the music and comedy could be easily shared with the family. I finished digitizing the recordings last night, and you can listen to the recordings on this website.
The comedy in particular may not be suitable for children or for workplace environments, so be careful of your surroundings if you choose to play any of these tracks. The 78s did not offer a lot of time for recording, so many of the records end before the music does. There are some clicks and pops, and the audio isn’t perfect, but it’s at least better than it sounds on the records.
Starting listening with the tracks in bold.