Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Alice Abrams Siegal Interview
Narrator: Alice Abrams Siegal
Interviewer: Becky Fukuda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: December 13, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-salice-01-0008

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BF: So, back in the pre-World War II kind of, World War II era, back in that Central Area that you just described, what was that... I mean, I think to a lot of non-Jewish, they think of the community as being fairly homogenous. But was it diverse, or what, how would you describe it as far as class and level of education and where people came from?

AS: Yeah. Most of them, I think, had, the parents would have come from Europe, usually Eastern Europe. And I'm just trying to think, yeah, these would have been mainly, their parents probably were born in Eastern Europe, or their grandparents for sure, and then parents might have come as young children. They were... I never thought about what they did.

BF: Well, you mentioned that the wealthier families tended to move...

AS: They went, yeah, they went up to Madrona, and Montlake had a lot of Jewish families there. Those were the two main areas for the -- when I was growing up. Lot of store owners, small businesses. Lot of that. Education, education would have been pretty limited, unless they grew up in -- but most of them hadn't, so, but they were smart. They, my father had mainly a religious education, but he was very, he was a very intelligent man. But anyway, so as far as, you know, as far as income goes, probably it'd be sort of lower-middle class. I mean, well, because it was also during the Depression when I was growing up, so it, otherwise it would have considered a middle-class neighborhood. And the homes were modest homes, but they were, they looked nice and most of the people kept up their yards. [Laughs] And so, so it, I would say it would be like a middle-class. And, but certainly when we got to the schools, then we, it was, there were a lot of, I'd say the majority of the students would be non-Jewish, mainly Christian. At Horace Mann, we had several African American students, and, but I can't remember any Asian students when I was at Horace. But when I got to Garfield, that's where I met Asian students, and, of course, a lot more African Americans. And it was very mixed, so it was a mixed population. So, yeah.

BF: Now, back to the Jewish community, do you have, can you think of any memories, or give us sort of a feel for what it was like living in -- I mean, I don't think very many people now experience living in that type of a close-knit, very, where everyone sort of belongs to a certain group, a certain faith.

AS: Right, yeah. Yeah, you're right, it is unusual.

BF: How did, what was that like? Do you have warm memories of that?

AS: Well, yeah, I would say warm memories. I mean, it seemed like a very safe neighborhood. You knew most, most of the neighbors. I mean, not, maybe people were not close buddies, but, but you'd greet each other and so yeah, and then, some of my friends were, closest friends were very close, lived very close. And so it was a friendly, warm, friendly neighborhood.

BF: And then maybe, why, now why do you think you were saying earlier that your grandparents sort of slowly kept moving toward Seattle, kind of in the hopes of getting into a Jewish community, being part of a Jewish community? Was that merely convenience, to --

AS: Oh, you mean when they, maybe it was my father's side of the family, they're the ones that moved from Bellingham...

BF: Yeah, came from...

AS: ...Mount Vernon, Everett. Better, to get better, a chance at better opportunities. My uncle was what's called a shochet, shochet in Yiddish, maybe Hebrew also, which is a ritual killer of animals, because for an animal to be kosher, it has, has to be done as painlessly as possible, and so there is a certain way that it's done, and there are prayers that are said. So, so he was able, in the other cities, there weren't that many Jewish families, so here he could really do what he was trained to do, and I understand he also then would, carried Jewish items, I don't know, like candles for the, lighting for the Sabbath, books, Jewish books, and so, yeah, so it was for the economy, better opportunities, definitely.

<End Segment 8> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.