PAPA WAS A FARMER by Brenda Weisberg Meckler


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The author, in her late 80s, recalls her childhood and youth from her arrival in America at four with her Jewish emigrÉ parents from Russia, through hard-working, eye-opening, but generally happy years farming in Ohio, to the sad farewell to the Ohio farm in the 20's. It was Uncle Mike in Boston (Mama's family had arrived in the New World some time before) who sang the siren song about Jewish destiny being involved with the land. So autocratic Papa (apt to make scathing remarks about the ""peasant"" origins of his wife), after a start in shoemaking, and then the junk business in Cincinnati, ordered his tiny family to a rural town in Ohio, a run-down farmhouse, and 60 intimidating acres. Before long, Uncle Mike opts out, but the Weisbergs soldier on, with the considerable help of friendly neighbors, endless labor, and bits of luck. Although the child Brenda (then ""Goldie"") hated being ripped away from the security of family in Boston and friends in Cincinnati, she takes quickly to the drama of growing things and animals, of new friends, and of teachers of varying abilities in the one-room schoolhouse; looks forward to fish-frys and Sunday school picnics; and learns to milk cows to music. Brenda will weather crises in the often unhappy union of her parents, and a stirring flood and a fire (which rallied the good neighbors of the community). Then there are those thrilling landmark events--like the advent of the telephone, when Mama could entertain ladies on the party line with gramophone records of operettas and rousing numbers in Yiddish. A mild, even-tempered memoir, although domestic tensions--seen from a child's perspective--are outlined rather than explored. Of particular interest to those with nostalgia for barefoot farm days or concern with the US Jewish agrarian movement.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1988
Publisher: Algonquin