A Nostalgic Rendezvous with a New York Family from 100 Years Ago

(DGIwire)  Opening the pages of Growing Up in Ridgewood, Queens, 1920 to 1932 by Griselda Holzinger Lobell is like stepping back into the New York of yesteryear. This historic memoir chronicles the intimate life of a middle class second generation family – their values, daily routines, women’s roles, personal triumphs and tragedies. Griselda remembers in detail what schools were like, how street games were played, excursions to Manhattan, shopping, washing and sewing clothes, and cycles of weddings and funerals. Accompanied by photos, maps, diagrams and family trees, this memoir is a must-read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of New York history and our ancestors’ lifestyles.

Ridgewood is a landmarked neighborhood, which, when Griselda was growing up, was mostly ethnic German with some Italian, Irish and a scattering of Jewish shopkeepers. There were as many horse-drawn carts as cars and trucks. Family members lived near and took care of one another. New York City schools were among the best in the world. It was also a world of fresh food: “The fruits and vegetables were unchemicalled, unsprayed, unfrozen and unrefrigerated—nothing had been done to ruin the natural flavor. Meats and fowl were unhormoned, milk unhomogenized, and dairy cream fresh and thick.”

This book is rich with stories of families who traveled from Europe, found work, built businesses, wooed spouses, created homes, raised families, lost loved ones in the Great War and survived the Depression.

In this deep emersion into a previous century, you will learn about silent movies, vaudeville, and the thrill of going to Broadway theatres. Describing a world without television, Griselda writes, “We had a wind-up Victrola in the kitchen and if Papa sold a story (he was a mystery writer) the first purchase on the way home from the bank would be a classical record. These records were very expensive—sometimes as much as ten dollars, which was a week’s wages for most people. Caruso, Galli-Curci, Schumann-Heink, and many others who all sounded terrible to me, especially when the machine wound down in the middle.”

In this time before antibiotics pneumonia could lead to a missed semester of school or even death. When Griselda made trips to the country with her grandmother to pick berries for preserves they risked traveling in a Model T with inadequate brakes.

This memoir is mostly about the life of a delightful but strong willed little girl. As a teen Griselda set her sights on Barnard College. Her mother Florence ran the jewelry repair desk at Saks Fifth Avenue, but her income was not enough to cover tuition, so Griselda’s father John had to find a way for his writing to make the needed extra money. He did. After three years at Barnard, Griselda was among the first women to attend Columbia Law School. There she met the man who would become her husband, Nathan Lobell, and began her own family while also becoming a mystery writer like her father.

A wonderful gift to take us down memory lane and also reveal to young people what life was like “back then,” Growing Up in Ridgewood, Queens, 1920 to 1932 by Griselda Holzinger Lobell is published by JXJ Publications and is available on Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com.