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My name is Isadore Deckelbaum. My father's name was Gedalia (George) Deckelbaum, and my mother's name was Bessie. I was born on February 3, 1899 in the small town of Rafalovka, population about 1500. There were about 200 Jewish families in the town. We had two synagogues, one public bath and a mikvah for the Jewish women. We had a shoeman and a tailor, an iron works, one bakery and a few grocery stores. In the grocery stores a person could go and buy for two cents, a herring and for two cents more, sugar. Also, kerosene to light the lamps and candles for the Sabbath.

We had a nice house with a garden where we used to raise potatoes, cucumbers, tobacco, and tomato beans. My grandfather tended the garden and the tobacco. He used the tobacco for himself. He had a liolke (a pipe) and he smoked the tobacco. His name was Joseff. He was about 75 years old and he suffered a lot from rheumatism. Our house consisted of one bedroom, one big dining room, a kitchen, and a big ribe where in wintertime we used to burn wood in order to keep warm and also a brick oven where my mother used to bake bread and cook. In the dining room we had a big table with two long benches to sit and eat. A baby crib was hanging from the ceiling and we used to swing the babies in that crib. The floor was a dirt floor. For Shavout we used to pick green lepads and put them on the floor just for that holiday. We also had chickens. The chickens used to lay their eggs under the brick stove and my job was to crawl inside and bring the eggs out every day. Was also had a cow. My mother used to milk the cow once a day, and she made her own butter and buttermilk.

We were six brothers and one sister. I was the oldest and my sister, Ida, was the youngest. Every Friday morning my mother would get up early in the morning whether it was still dark or getting light. She would start baking latkes (pancakes) for all seven of us. The faster she made the pancakes, the faster we ate them. We had no bathroom, so we had to go outside to dispose of our waste. My mother had a big wooden tub, and gave each of us a bath. We didn't have any water in the house, so my older brothers and I had to go to a stream and bring buckets of water back for cooking, baking and washing.

I remember that one day my brother, Louis, came home and he was crying. Some boy had beaten him up and my grandfather told him to show him who the boy was and he would fix him. So Louis went with our Zaddie, and showed him who the boy was. My Zaddie hit Louis in the stomach by mistake (he couldn't see very well). My brother said, "Zaddie, you beat me instead of the boy." Our Zaddie started to cry and apologized to Louis.

Life was not rosy for us. My poor mother had her hands full, taking care of a house and seven children. We were not allowed to go to public school, instead we had Rabbis. The Rabbis used to teach us how to read and write and also taught us how to pray or davin. Lots of children became well-learned. Some of them even became Rabbis.

In the summertime, we used to go bathing. We had no bathing suits, so the men wore their pants, and the women wore their nightgowns. Everybody was happy with their lives. We all had weddings with music from a violin and a clarinet, plenty to eat, and especially, vodka to drink. After the wedding ceremony, the parents of the bride and groom used to take the young couple to their rooms and closed the door so they would celebrate their honeymoon. They had the bed fancily dressed up and that was their honeymoon.

Now about my father's profession. He owned a ferry that transports people and animals across the river. It was just like two boats nailed together, and it wasn't much of a business. My father had to be on it day and night.

When the war broke out with Russia and Japan, my father had to go into the army. When you became 21 years old, a man had to go into the army for four years. When he came out, the war broke out with Japan, and my father didn't want to go to the army again. He made up his mind to go to America. He hired an agent to take him over the border. In other words, he ran away to America and left his wife and 5 children.

Note: The passenger arrival record for the Port of Philadelphia shows that Gedalia arrived on December 13, 1904, and was going to stay with his brother-in-law Benjamin Kolker in Baltimore. Benjamin was married to Gedalia's wife's sister (Hannah Melomedick).

He arrived in Baltimore and got himself a job with Sonnabonn Factory, where he was a tailor, and stayed with a wonderful family, Mr. and Mrs. Carpel. He was making $3/week. Out of that money, he lived and saved some of it. Those days when you walked into a saloon to buy a glass of beer, the bartender would give a person herring and bread enough to eat for 5¢. He would send my mother $25 every three months. After working in America for three years, my father managed to save $700 in cash. My father received a letter from his brother, telling him that a water ground mill was for sell. He suggested that he come back, buy the mill, and be with his family. My father decided to come back home. On the way home, he got caught at the border. A trial was held because he refused to go to war. He sent a cablegram to my mother, telling her that he was caught on the border, and she should come and see what she could do to get him out of jail. My mother got dressed in her best clothing, and left for the town called Radziavid. When she arrived in that town, she went to see the commander, but he refused to see her. My mother could not do anything to help my father. My father's fine was that they transported him by foot from town to town with police until he arrived home. It take many weeks until he finally arrived back home. He was all played out and it was good to see my father back home with his family. After a short rest, everybody came to greet my father, and he was glad to see everyone.

My uncle Abraham, told my father to buy the mill. He bought it and took possession of the mill. In consisted of one house with a place to eat and a place to sleep. My father spent most of his days in the mill. My mother used to cook meals for my dad and my brother Freddy and I used to take it to him. My mother used to make pickled herring whenever he got hungry. One time, my mother cooked some rice with milk, and Freddy and I took it over to him. On our way, we had to cross a ridge of water. There was a small boat standing there in order for us to go across, but we were young. We didn't go into the boat, but we walked on the side of the boat, and we fell in. The bucket of rice spilled in the boat. So with our bare hands, we got up all the rice we could, and we brought it to my father. When he tried to eat it, he couldn't understand why the rice in milk was dirty, but he ate it anyway.

The mill business was a bad life for my parents, and one day, my father made up his mind to return to America. We children didn't know anything. One morning, he said to me, "Son, you take care of the business, and I am going home." I said "Ok, Dad. You go home and I will take care of everything." I was about 12 years old. One day had passed, and my father didn't come back to the mill. On the second day, rumors came out that my father had run away to America. When I heard that, I asked my mother. She said it was true. He arrived in Baltimore, and went into the rag business on Pratt Street, and he made a good living.

Note: The passenger arrival record for the Port of Baltimore shows that Gedalia arrived on June 29, 1913, and was going to stay with his nephew S. Deckelbaum in Washington DC.

I was hired out as a teacher in a small village to teach children Hebrew, reading, and writing. My pay was room and board and a couple of chickens for the holiday. I was in Suberchitz, a small village. Finally, when I got a bit bigger, I went with my brother, Louis, to the big city of Kiev. I found a job working in a grocery store. The man I worked for was a very fine man, Mr. Diamond. My brother got a job in a medal store.

In 1911 the Revolution broke out in Russia, and all hell broke loose. People were marching in the streets and singing Russian songs. Policeman would be killed if they were caught on the street. That's when they executed the Czar and all his family, and Lenin took over. That's when I decided to go back home with my brother. During the war with Russia and Germany, my mother and the children moved to the town Wladimerez. There I met a girl named Sylvia. We used to go out with each other, and fell in love. My girlfriend was a dressmaker, and she made good money repairing the clothes of the soldiers. She lived with my aunt and uncle Shlome. She used to come over to our house to help my mother. Nothing was too much for her. We were very much in love with each other.

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