Densho Digital Archive
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Title: Alice Abrams Siegal Interview
Narrator: Alice Abrams Siegal
Interviewer: Becky Fukuda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 13, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-salice-01-0001

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BF: This is Becky Fukuda, and today's date is December 13, 2004, and we are conducting a Densho interview with Alice Abrams Siegal at the Densho offices in Seattle, Washington. And today's interview will focus on Alice's experience growing up in an area of Seattle that was important to a number of ethnic groups, including Japanese Americans and the Jewish community. And also, we'll be doing just basically a life history of Alice. So, Alice, are you ready to begin?

AS: Yes.

BF: Great. Let's start with your parents and their immigration to the U.S. Can you tell me a bit about where they came from and why?

AS: Well, my mother's parents sort of came before my father did. And my mother was... okay, well, back up here. My grandfather came to the United States first, and somehow or other, he got to South Bend, Indiana, where he worked for Studebaker as a, I guess sort of a machinist. He was a blacksmith and trained in Russia, but, from Russia, a little village. And when my grandfather saved up enough money and it took him three years, then he sent for his wife and two children, and the older of the two children was my mother. And so, and my mother at that time was six years old. The, my grandfather also had read probably in a Jewish newspaper -- and by Jewish, I mean the writing was in Yiddish, 'cause that was the spoken language in most of Eastern Europe for Jewish people. And he read that the government was dividing land, homesteading, and there was, I guess there was an advertisement about homesteading in Republic, Washington. So he applied for that and then went out there, and he did build a home for the family so that when they came -- and they came when they -- well, they were, of course, at Ellis Island, and then they went across Canada on the railroad, where, which was closest to Republic, Washington -- I mean, a railroad that is closest to Republic, Washington.

And so that would have been about 1906, and the sad part about the situation was that my grandfather dug a well, but there was no water. And that was pretty hard when you're planning to raise crops and have a farm. So he had to take a job in the little town of -- I guess it was a little town then, it's not that big now -- of Republic, where he was able to do his blacksmith work. And so they, after a while, it seemed... I'm not sure how long it was before my grandmother's -- it was less than three years -- my grandmother felt they needed to move into town because of the lack of water there, and her children, my mother, her younger brother was still under school age. So, so my mother would be able to go to school. And so they moved into the town of Republic, and about two years ago, my husband and I went to Republic to see if we could find where they were. And we found approximately where the home would have been in Republic, but we didn't, we couldn't find the information about the homesteading, where that was. And, but after three years, my grandmother said, "This is no place to raise Jewish children." [Laughs]

BF: Because there weren't other Jews?

AS: Well, there were some other Jewish families there. In fact, apparently several Jewish families went there because of the homesteading. But that's not a huge number. By several... I don't even know if there were ten. I'm sure it was less than ten families that were Jewish. And so getting the kosher food was impossible, and they had to bring in the meat from Spokane, and that was difficult. But most of all, my grandmother felt they should be, get a better education in the city and be with more Jewish people, so then they moved to Seattle. And so that's, and so that would have been about 1909 when they arrived in Seattle.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.