I first visited Littman’s
Theatre in Detroit in 1928 when
I was just twelve years old. I
got a job as an usher there. I
remember that the head of the
ushers was named Irving. I don’t
know his last name. I also
remember working with a Mickey
Goodman. At the time I lived
with my family on Pingree and 12th Street
toward Woodrow Wilson. I lived
next to a shochet who was next
to Virginia Park. I used to help
Mr. Margolis, the shochet, by
plucking the feathers on the
chickens. I would come home
scratching myself, so eventually
my mother forbid me to go back.
My mother was born in Poland.
Her entire family was killed
during the war. I remember the
time one Friday night that a
letter came telling us of the
terrible news. I was the one who
had to break it to my mother
that her mother, her uncle
Sidney and three of her sisters
were gone. I’ll never forget how
she screamed upon hearing the
As for my
father, he passed away on my eleventh birthday; he was
only thirty-eight years old. I won’t forget that either.
He and his brother Harry owned the Rosner Bros.
Department store on the east side of Detroit at Gratiot
and Culver. They sold hardware and dry goods there. My
uncle Harry lived with us. His wife had died during the
epidemic that swept the nation during World War I. I
tried to help out my family financially whenever I
could. I had a paper route and I also earned money being
an usher at Littman’s Theatre. My mother worked too on
Warren, selling chickens in a poultry market.
We lived in
a Jewish neighborhood; we had more fun. In the
neighborhood there were all kinds of stores. There was
the Chic Dress Shop, C.F. Smith’s Grocery Store,
Boesky’s Deli on 12th and Hazelwood, and of
course the Cream of Michigan, a restaurant where
everyone went to. Boesky’s was known for their banana
cream pie. Johnny, the owner, was a swell guy. The way
the streets went from 12th Street was: Lee
Place, Blaine, Gladstone, and then Hazelwood. Some of
the Purple Gang hung out at a poolroom on Blaine. I had
a friend Yudi who was a member the Purple Gang.
There was a
bookie named Sherman on Philadelphia and 12th. I
remember making a bet for a Madam. She used to call me
“Jockey”. I gave her the 1933 Kentucky Derby winner and
she gave me fifty dollars after she won. That was a lot
of money in those days. I gave it to my mother. She
asked if I had stolen the money. I told her the truth.
When I was
a teenager I went to Hutchins Intermediate School. We’d
get out at two o’clock. One day I came home and I
couldn’t get into the house because the door was locked.
I rang the bell and there was no answer. It was a
two-story flat and we lived upstairs. I climbed up to
our flat and looked in the window. There was my mother
tied up on a chair!! I broke the window and went in to
help her. “What happened?” I asked. Two boys had taken
her mink coat and tried to get her wedding ring off her
finger, but it wouldn’t come off. I went to my friend
Yudi and he told the Purple Gang what had happened. They
found out who it was. My mother confronted the mother of
the boys, but the mother said her boys were good and
wouldn’t do anything like that. The boys were sent to
jail, but they never did recover the mink coat.
Theatre was on Seward and 12th Street on the
east side of 12th. It was a nice theatre. The
musicians played in a pit. It had a nice curtain that
was pulled by the manager. I got to go backstage. Mr.
Littman, the theatre manager, was partly blind.
have to look very closely at the tickets to see them. He
had steady customers who used to come to sit in the
balcony. There was a whole Friday night
group—twenty-five or so that we knew. The seats in the
balcony were much cheaper than the seats on the main
floor. Our head usher Irving would watch Mr. Littman to
know which of the seats were empty. Many of these people
would give Irving, me and the other ushers a fifty-cent
piece and we’d move them to the main floor. Mr. Littman
could never understand why the main floor was filling
up! We were happy to get these fifty-cent pieces. We
knew the regulars who would come, such as Morrie
Wasserman and Mickey Goodman.
I knew many of the girls in the chorus. There was Ida
Diamond, Edith Cohen, Goldie Young, Freda Dubin, Mildred
Rutzky Madven and Mary Hoffman Jordan. There were
usually four or five of them on stage at one time; the
stage wasn’t that big. Sometimes the chorus girls would
get bit parts. Mary got incorporated into plays little
by little. Sometimes she would play a maid. I knew her
the minute she walked into this apartment building even
though I hadn’t seen her in sixty years. I loved her
little face. How can you forget such a wonderful person?
Her husband, Harry Jordan, was a handsome man. He played
years, Goldie Young was the president of the City of
Hope. She made “Hello Dolly” Jewish and put on the play
for this charity group.
Some of the
actors I saw perform at Littman’s Theatre were Aaron
Lebedeff, Leo Fuchs, Jack Bernardi, Menashe Skulnik,
Molly Picon and Diana Goldberg. Diana was married to the
manager. I thought Aaron Lebedeff was the best. He
wasn’t so European. Skulnik played “Pinya.” I loved the
play and the part he played in it. We used to have a
performance every Friday night and two performances on
Sunday--a matinee and one show in the evening.
I learned a
lot of Yiddish from these shows. We didn’t speak it at
home because my parents wanted to become Americanized.
Hour radio program on Sundays with Weinberg was good. It
advertised the Yiddish Theatre. The program was live and
not recorded. Some of the stars that performed at
Littman’s Theatre appeared on the show too. They sang
Yiddish songs, but they also sang some in English too.
I moved from 12th Street to Dexter and didn’t
go back to the theatre much. But I did see the previews
of the shows in “The Forward” newspaper.
In 1934 I went to work at Sam’s. It was there I
saw the girl who I was going to marry. She was on roller
skates, and I told my mother “I’m going to marry that
girl.” I took her dancing under the stars. On 8 Mile
Road and Gratiot there was a place called Eastwood
Gardens. We danced under the stars. Rudy Vallee and
Tommy Dorsey played there. On the other side of town was
Westwood. It was on 7 Mile Road and Grand River. Again,
we danced under the stars to music, this time by Woody
Herman. We also dance at Walled Lake.
In 1939 I
went to the World’s Fair in New York with a cousin of
mine. I came back with an engagement ring and the love
of my life, Norma Fisher, said “Yes.” We were married on
the top floor of the Macabees Building in Detroit. The
family cooked chickens and Cantor Mogil sang. All my
friends were in the wedding party. Norma and I were
married for fifty-two years!