Tuesday, October 19, 2010

For my mom...

Text (c) Robert Barry Francos, 2010
Photos from the RBF archive; credit given where known
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them

October 19 is my mom's 84th birthday, being born in 1926, but she never made it past June 25, 1981. In fact, I'm older now than she had ever been.

This blog is to celebrate Helen Rosen Francos by showing her and her family that she loved so dearly, the Rosens. Some have since fallen out of favor with those that remain; as with any family there are squabbles, but while my mother was alive, she loved them all. The Rosen siblings are, in order of age from eldest to youngest, Miriam, Elsie, Eli and Helen. Elsie is the last remaining sibling. I used to love going to her house, and would spend a couple of weeks there every summer. She made the best noodle kugel in the world, and would cook me up a ton of bacon, as my parents kept their apartment kosher (at my dad's insistence). Elsie has a wild sense of humor that would fit in well in the Borscht Belt.

Caveat: My apologies for anyone left out, as I have not scanned everything I have yet, and there are definite gaps; photos that had been used in recent blogs, such as the Laffer celebration at the beginning of this month, have not been included. There are a lot of names and dates I'm not sure of, and I am certain I will have some wrong information on who is who, so those Rosens out there, please feel free to let me know, and I will make the corrections and update as I get the info. Email me at rbf55@msn.com to let me know, and give me the picture number so I can made the changes; or leave comments on the blog.

1. That's Helen as a young girl, helping to push the swing. The older gentleman is Helen's uncle, Lewis Rosen , who was married to Celia, and the child is Arthur Rosen. This is probably in the early 1930s.

2. The big party: That is my great grandfather, Koppel with the beard on the far right. The rest of this branch of the family are Arthur (with his back turned), Celia Rosen, baby Seymour, and Louis Rosen (my grandmother's brother). This was taken at Bensonhurst Park, near Cropsy Ave and Bay Parkway, in Brooklyn.

3. Left to right: Great Aunt Celia Rosen, Great Grandpa Koppel (seated), sons Seymour (on lap) and Arthur (standing), and Aunt Celia's husband Louis Rosen. Celia and her husband lived along 2oth Avenue in Brooklyn by the subway el, just a few blocks away from us, and we'd often have Passover at their house. In fact, the first time I was ever drunk was at a Seder in their apartment after I had downed a glass of Concord Grape wine, thinking it grape juice. I was 5 years old.

4. During WWII, teenage Helen (far left) and her friends at Coney Island beach. The one next to her was "Chickee" Dolce, who lived on Bay 22th Street (where the Rosens also lived for a brief time before moving to 8109 20 Ave.). She died quite young, and my mom and her mother, Rose, remained close over the years. The names of the other two friends are unknown.

5-6. My mother's eldest sister, Miriam, who died in 1951. She is sitting in front of the apartment my family lived in from 1938 until 2009. Because my grandfather was a furrier, all the Rosen girls had full length fur coats throughout their youth.

7. My uncle Eli in Miami Beach, just after the end of the war.

8. Helen, sitting on the stoop of the Rosen apartment on Bay 22nd St in Bensonhurst, where she became friends two others; all of her friends had nicknames. My mom was "Blondie" and another pal, "Lefty," married the brother of Mel Brooks. Helen's sister, Elsie Rosen, was married to Albert Laffer in that apartment on Dec 5, 1942.
9. Miriam Rosen at age 19. She shares a birthday with her sister Elsie on Oct.27. Elsie is two years younger.

10. Unknown; may not even be a relative?

11. This is the young son of Sara, a neice of Aunt Celia's that was rescued from a concentation camp and she brought to America. We were all at a bungalow colony in South Fallsberg, NY ("the Catskills") when the photo was taken.

12. My great-zayde, Koppel, who a religious man.

13. Eli was a dapper ladies man, and remained so for most of his life. His business was to buy out a bunch of stores that were struggling, consolidate the stock and sell off the now empty shops, and then have a huge sale, and when the merchandise was gone, finally getting rid of the last business. An A-type personality, he overworked himself rather than delegate, and weakened his heart by doing so.

14. Miriam and new husband right after their marriage in 1950. She died 14 months later. He gave Elsie her fur jacket which she sold to buy a bench at her gravesite in New Montifiore Cemetery on Long Island, where Grandma Fannie and Uncle Eli Rosen are buried. Helen and Leo Francos are a few rows back in the same cemetary.
15. Aunt Miriam, once again. The Rosens are an attractive family.
16. Helen in the early 1950s. This was up in the Catskills, at Woodburne, NY. She and Elsie had their own bungalos that year. [pic: probably Leo Francos or Elsie Laffer]

17. The Catskills in the 1950s. [Pic: probably Leo Francos]

18. Helen (standing) looking dressed up for my brother's briss in 1951, with some of her Francos in-laws, including patriarch Benjamin Francos (aka Benjamin Weintraub, aka Benjamin Franczozs), and his wife on the right. He was married a few times, and I'm not sure of the names. The woman to the left is unknown. [Pic: probably Leo Francos]

19. Helen and my older brother, Richard, 1952. [pic: probably Leo Francos]

20. Eli had a close relationship to my brother Richard in the early years. He bought him a full cowboy outfit, as Rich loved westerns. [Pic: probably Leo Francos]

21. I believe this is Eli with me, as I had light hair for a short while.

22. Eli with Elsie's son, Ken, and my brother Rich, in the mid-1950s.

23. Helen and Leo, waiting to go to a party, 1960s.

24: The photo on the left is Helen and Robert in the late 1950s; the one on the right is my Grandma Fannie, holding Robert. The girl to the left is unknown.

25. Helen helping me blow out a birthday candle. I'm guessing this is around 1959. I don't know who is the other youngster.

26. Helen and Richard in the Catskills, early 1950s.

27. Helen and Robert at the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, Queens. Note even then I had a camera handy (as my dad was not fond of taking photos, this quickly fell to me). [Pic: Richard Francos]

28. Helen in Washington, DC in 1965 on a family vacation. Richard, who had recently turned 13, is sitting on the far right, trying to get out of camera range. [Pic: RBF]

29. Visiting her kids in sleepaway camp, Helen shows how happy she is to see little Robert. [Pic: Richard Francos]

30. Helen standin' on the dock of the bay...well, Lake Stahahe, in Harriman State Park in the Catskills, anyway, while visiting us in camp. [Pic: RBF]

31. Helen looking very noir and debonair.

32. Helen was head Den Mother when Richard and Robert joined the Cub Scouts. The other woman is unknown.

33. Before Richard's bar mitzvah in 1964, Aunt Celia, Helen, and great cousin Shirley gather in our Bensonshurst living room before we all head up to Spring Valley, NY.

34. On the lawn of the Weiner house in Spring Valley, is Celia, Helen, Robert in front, Richard, Shirley, and Leo's sister, Lillian Weiner. T'was a sunny day as we squint away.

35. Helen sitting at her bedroom window, talking to Robert who was just home from school. [Pic: Richard Francos]

36. 1970 family vacation to Canada to see Niagara Falls. [Pic: RBF]

37. Richard's junior high graduation, held at Brooklyn College. Helen stands with Rose Dolce, our "Italian Grandmother," who was always called Nany. Rose had worked in the garment industry and spoke fluent Yiddish along with Italian, and in her spare time she sewed the nun's habits for the local St. Finbar's Church. Helen, as you may have noticed, was quite fond of the beehive style of haircut.

38. On vacation in the '70s to the Bahamas with her sister Elsie, Helen wears... well, I don't know what the hell that is, truthfully. [Pic: probably Elsie Laffer]

39. Robert's junior high grad, also held at Brooklyn College, around 1970.

40. One of my favorite pictures of Helen. It captures a moment of honesty. I'm always going to miss her. Happy birthday, mom!

Special thanks for their help in naming names, places, and situations: Elsie Rosen Laffer and Sy Rosen.


  1. This may be the best post you've ever put up. I am sorta the family genealogist, and work hard on family-tree type stuff. Seeing photos of my grandmother when she was young, with her whole life ahead of her, is both wonderful and sad. The memories will fade and disappear, but with posts like this you help to spread the stories for everyone to share. These won't just be lost photos in a thrift store.

  2. Then perhaps you can help me with some identifying. There are many here I'm not sure of, sadly. Feel free to copy out the photos. I have more, and I'm happy to send them to you via email. Mine is, as stated, rbf55@msn.com. Somewhere, after a visit to my Aunt Elsie back in the early '90s, I made a Rosen tree; I wish I could find it. I did it in a software that doesn't exist anymore, and put it on a 7" disk which cannot be read either. Somewhere, I have a printout. Now to just find it...

  3. RBF, I meant MY family genealogist. Sorry, bro! Oh, and I recommend Mac Family Tree...if you have a Mac that is.