MAXWELL STREET: Survival in a BaZaar by Ira Berkow

MAXWELL STREET: Survival in a BaZaar

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Chicago's MaxweLl Street may be ""truncated and waning,"" but it has a rich, coat-of-many-colors history--as dense as its more celebrated New York counterparts, Delancey and Hester Streets. Berkow's parents were both from that teeming Jewish ghetto neighborhood and he himself remembers hawking ladies' stockings at the Sunday market. A cacophony of sounds and smells, shops and pushcart peddlers, immigrant memories and street scenes from the years 1895-1968 makes up Berkow's homage to Maxwell Street, today cut off by an expressway and a university campus. The life he and other neighborhood alumni recollect has been portrayed on a larger scale by Irving Howe in World of Our Fathers; Berkow's premise is that everyone has a story. He turns up Irving Jacobsen, a veteran of the Yiddish theater who played Sancho Panza in Broadway's Man of La Mancha and knew Paul Muni as Muni Weisenfreund; Ben and Cele Lyon, owners of the street's most popular-deli; Dr. Beatrice Tucker, who delivered babies in basements and attics for 42 years; and Harold Krakow, a.k.a. King Levinsky, who once fought Joe Louis. Most of all Berkow focuses on the merchants who are, or were, the life-blood of the street, haggling, bartering, borrowing, and dreaming of the day they'd relocate to State Street and respectability--for many a dream come true. He has assembled their remembrances and those of their children with some sense of chronology but otherwise no special viewpoint, making this a tour without a guide.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1977
Publisher: Doubleday