Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Margie Nahmias Angel Interview
Narrator: Margie Nahmias Angel
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: June 21, 2011
Densho ID: denshovh-amargie-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

TI: Okay, so Margie, I always start with the date and where we are, so today's Tuesday, June 21, 2011. On camera we have Dana Hoshide, and I'm the interviewer, Tom Ikeda, and we have Margie Angel here this morning. We're in Seattle at the Densho office. And so, Margie, I'm just gonna start with the first question, can you tell me where and when you were born?

MA: I was born in Seattle at the Swedish Hospital on June 1, 1924.

TI: And what was the name given to you at birth?

MA: Let's see, Margaret, I think it was, Luna, L-U-N-A, Nahmias.

TI: Nahmias. And do you know where "Margaret" or "Luna" came from?

MA: Well, yes. [Laughs] It's kind of crazy. In a custom, I guess, with our people, with the Sephardic Jews I'm assuming. My mother lost a lot of children to illness or stillbirth etcetera, and so there's a custom where you buy, she'll pay coins -- in Spanish it's called mercada -- which means I was "bought." And that's kind of, kind of supposedly a good luck future, hopefully, for my mother and her children, any future children she might have, and kind of to remind her that she had lost so many. There would've been twelve of us, but ended up with three of us.

TI: So they, and when she "bought" you essentially, did that also come into your naming also, in terms of --

MA: Well, yes, mercada, and so from mercada, meaning "bought" in Spanish, they picked up with Margaret. It was just kind of something that sounded like mercada, I suppose.

TI: How interesting. So let's talk about your parents, and why don't we talk about your father first? Can you tell me his name and where he was from?

MA: His name was Samuel and he was from what was then Constantinople, Turkey, and he came here probably in about 1910 or '11, thereabouts. And he was one that supported his sister's family, and the reason I bring that up is -- this may be going ahead again -- but then he had made it known to his sister that he wanted his niece, who was my mother, to be his wife. So he married his niece.

TI: Okay. And so they were also here? Or they came --

MA: No, at that time they both, they were in Turkey, and of course, like so many of the immigrants from whatever background, they wanted to come to the land of milk and honey, which was here, the U.S., and also he didn't want to be involved with the kind of wars that were starting to take place there. So he supported his sister's family and then eventually brought them all over here, and in so doing at that time married my mother sometime, probably 1912, '13, thereabouts.

TI: And how did he go from Turkey to Seattle? Why Seattle?

MA: Well, I don't know if he knew somebody. I did hear a story from a friend of mine whose father was a friend of my father. Now, whether they discussed it, whether this man suggested it to my father and -- but, like him, many others did come about that time, as you know, from all different countries -- and he, I think he was kind of an adventurous guy, and he was kind of a risk taker even in business. There he sold stuff on carts, like there's a dessert that's very well-known in Turkish, chaimach, or else umbrellas, anything, sold fish from carts. He always was able to make a buck. And so I don't think he was afraid of that, but once he got here -- shall I go further?

TI: Yeah, tell me about what he did here.

MA: Once he got here, of course, now he didn't know how to read nor write, never did learn to sign his name. He always had the famous X for his signature. And he came here, and like I said, he seemed to always know how to make a buck, and that's kind of a crude way to put it, but that's what I've always thought. And so he started out with a little teeny, teeny shop on Third Avenue between Pike and Pine next to the Winter Garden Theater, and he sold little wax flowers. And then he went on to Pike Street -- no, Pine Street, between Third and Fourth across from the Bon Marche, and he sold, he had a hat block and shoeshine stand. And one cute little story then was that he had a sign, a clapboard sign out in front of the store, and it said, "shoeshine five cents," and then down at the bottom, "one shoe." So very clever. [Laughs] And he might've even been a bootlegger if it had gone any further, because he, I used to see under his hats he had bottles of whiskey. He never drank, so I thought, "Well, what does he do, sell whiskey or something?" That, I never learned exactly what the answer was, however.

TI: So as a child you would go to the shoeshine and see this?

MA: See all this. And he was, his shop, shoeshine and hat blocking was adjacent to another immigrant family of Greek people, and so I saw a lot of that. I was kind of a downtown person anyway. [Laughs]

TI: Interesting. Let me ask a little bit about your mother. What was your mother's name?

MA: Her name was Victoria.

TI: And tell me a little bit about her, what she did.

MA: Well, I understand that when he made it known to his sister that he wanted her, his niece for his bride, this was because he had supported their family, his sister felt indebted to him because he also, not only supported them but brought them over to this country, and so they felt very much indebted. Well, what I heard was -- and I don't know how accurate this story is -- was when she was leaving to get on the ship she had a boyfriend already who was crying and reading poetry to her because he didn't want her to leave. But she had no choice because her destiny had already been chosen. So she came here.

TI: Is there an age difference between your father --

MA: There were twenty-one years, I think.

TI: Wow, so quite a bit.

MA: Yeah. And when she got here, when she got acquainted with the Sephardic community, those that were here, part of them were the Alhadeffs that had the Palace Fish and all them, well, they said, "You shouldn't marry him. He's twenty years your senior and he's your uncle." And I guess from what all they said she was a very beautiful young woman, but she had no choice, again.

TI: And so how old was she when she...

MA: When she came here? I would imagine that she was about sixteen or seventeen. She might've been a bit older, but I would imagine she was that...

TI: And your father, then, would be in his thirties, mid to late thirties.

MA: Yeah, he was probably close to forty and she was maybe close to twenty, but I'm not positive. I've never quite figured that one yet.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2011 Densho. All Rights Reserved.