Academic journal article Care Management Journals

Elsie Shemin Roth

Academic journal article Care Management Journals

Elsie Shemin Roth

Article excerpt

ElSiE: I grew up in the Bronx. I was born in 1929, which makes me 83 years old. My father and mother were professional horticulturists. We had greenhouses and nurseries. The Bronx at that time was very rural. We lived near Westchester County, offthe Boston Post Road. There was a lot of greenery at that time in the Bronx. In those days, it was not uncommon to see the word "BRONX" spelled B-R-O-N-C-K-S! It was the Dutch spelling.

We had five acres; we grew up in the business. We all worked from the time we could walk. We worked out in the fields and potting plants. And my father had another nursery in upper New York State. My father was also a forest ranger in his early years and a very distinguished war veteran, too, holding the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation's second highest award. We would spend 4 months a year in northern New York on Lake Champlain, in a little town called Chazy. My father's nurseries were up there, and we would grow a lot of plant materials on the five acres we had up there and bring them back to the nurseries we had in the Bronx. So the whole family went up there. I went to school there. It was all French Canadian, a rural area, but on the New York side of the line.

MB: Was it a one-room school?

El: No, it was a school donated by a multimillionaire, a beautiful school for the town of Chazy. But I did go to a three-room school in the Bronx, PS 84. We took our shoes offand sat around the furnace when we got there because we walked in the snow and got wet. You know the old story about walking 2 miles to school in the snow? Well, I did! Five days a week. And this was a time when girls couldn't wear pants to school, so we had snow suits and our dresses over that, so our legs were blue by the time we got there. It was quite an amazing time to be growing up. Very, very rural. In the middle of nowhere. I started there in the first grade and went through the fifth, I think. Then, I transferred to PS 68 thru the eighth grade and then to Evander Childs High School in New York City. When I went there, I had to take two buses and walk because I lived so far north in the Bronx, literally in the last block in the Bronx. The area next to us was Pelham Manor, which was Westchester.

MB: Did you have brothers and sisters?

El: Yes, I do. I am the oldest of three. My brother was a year and a half younger, he's deceased, he died 2 years ago. And I have a sister, 4 years younger who lives in Somers, New York. Sometimes we walked to school together and sometimes we didn't. We'd start out together and pick up our friends along the way. I remember, though, my mother always fixed baloney sandwiches, which we thought were terrible. Other kids always got better stuffthan we did. And I used to give my baloney sandwich to dogs along the way that I thought were hungry. I didn't have much for lunch because my lunch was always given away to the animals. I always worried about the animals, even at a very young age. There were some dogs that initially appeared very aggressive and would bark and then I started to feed them, and they would come right over to me.

I started school at a very young age. My parents didn't enroll me in kindergarten; I don't remember why, so I started in first grade. Then I skipped a grade, seventh I think, it was during the war and there weren't enough teachers; and I was just 16 when I graduated from high school. I applied to colleges and no schools would take me because I was so young, and at Cornell there was another issue. Actually, there was a very nasty experience.

I wanted to go to Cornell University, to the College of Agriculture. They turned me down because I was Jewish. It was very anti-Semitic at that time. My father fought this. He went to the state Supreme Court, he knew a chief judge there. And the judge fixed it big time. He said, "You are going to take her. She's academically within the range of where she should be. Cornell University is a state school and so is the College of Agriculture. …

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