The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991

By Michèle Levy; Alfred H. Mendes | Go to book overview
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Chapter 10

NEW YORK, 1933-1940

I had long since applied for citizenship and my papers had already come through. The time was fast approaching for my final papers and I was looking forward to the day of full citizenship. Amongst immigrants in the United States, it is an occasion for celebrating. When the time was at hand, I would make my plans.

In the meantime, I was seeing Ellen three or four times a week. She had a job as hairdresser with McCreery's Department Store next door to the Empire State Building, another odd link in the chain that was binding me to her, for I used to meet her frequently at the Empire State Building main entrance. Her brothers had given her a small Chevrolet car which was now old, but which worked well. Early on in our relationship I introduced her to the Sagar family, 1 with whom I was now happily settled and whom I liked more and more. The father, Lestar, had been in pre-Depression days an impresario on Broadway and was then enjoying a large income; now he was out of work, on relief, and facing up to adversity with courage and humour. He was actually enjoying life on the plane of poverty, he told me, as much as he had ever enjoyed it on the apex of prosperity. His wife, Jessie, was as hard-working a woman as I had ever known. She cooked for a family of six, she was always on her knees scrubbing floors, she did all the family laundry her home was as spick and span as a new-minted silver coin, all of this work accompanied by an incessant flow of words which at times was quite entertaining. The husband took it all in his stride, now and again interpolating a facetious or sardonic remark.

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