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December 23, 1988 - Image 107

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-23

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ma raw


Art by Barry Fitzgerald

The Salami And Pumpernickel Caper

Twice a month,
Fannie and Izzie
carried kosher
goodies from
New York City to
their home in
Once, though, it
turned into a real
adventure. A true


Special to The Jewish News


ister Fannie married
Izzy in 1931. They then
made their home in
Washington, D.C. but Fannie,
who was homesick, would re-
turn "home" twice a month
via the Washington, D.C.
excursion train.
The Washington Excursion
train remains unique for what
it offered passengers — a
round trip for only $3.75! The
train would leave New York
City's Penn Station about 11
p.m. and, if lucky, would
arrive in Washington around
6:30 a.m. The ticket allowed
the rider to spend_some 40
hours in Washington (or New
York City), until returning
Sunday about 11 p.m.
The excursion train was
something to behold. The
coaches, probably built
during World War I, boasted
plush seats, once red but
since faded to a rusty hue.
Many seats were prone to
suddenly "attack" their

occupants as springs came
loose. Just about every seat
would be occupied when it
left New York City, Blacks
and whites, Jews and gentiles
sitting beside each other.
Although the excursion
stopped at numerous stations
to drop off passengers, no one
seemed • in a hurry. Comfort-
ably seated as the train left
Penn Station, the passengers
started to open suitcases and
bags, and late dinners were
consumed. Once, sitting next
to an elderly Jewish matron,
I was invited to join her.
From various sources • ap-
peared a whole chicken, a
container of chicken soup
with dumplings, even a fine
piece of sponge cake.
During the seven-and-a-half
hour (or longer) trip, nobody
slept. Indeed, that would
have been impossible given
the noise of the train and the
volume of the voices. lb add
to the noise, the steam loco-
motive would issue a plain-
tive whistle from time to
time. Air conditioning was
unheard of in those days; each

window stood wide open and
hordes of flies; mosquitoes
and other flying pests swooped
down on the innocent pas-
Sister Fannie and my
brother-inllaw Izzy soon
became familiar faces on the
Washington excursion —
after all, they made the trip
twice a month. During their
visits to New York City, they
would purchase various
kosher goodies not obtainable
in Washington, and would
embark on their return trip
laden with three-foot long
salamis, cans of salmon, and
two loaves of the famous
"Mosha's Pumpernickel,"
each weighing five pounds.
Their return to Washington
elicited great joy from re-
latives there who looked
forward to sharing those
One visit to New York City
was just prior to the Jewish
New Year in 1932. Additional
items were purchased for the
family members in Washing-
ton. Fannie and Izzy arrived
at Penn Station for the return

trip, each carrying two heavi-
ly laden shopping bags — and
were promptly arrested.
They were escorted to the
station master's office, where
uniformed and plainclothes
police awaited them. Without
a word, the shopping bags
were snatched away. Horror
of horrors, a policeman ex-
tracted a long salami and
started to dice it up. The
handsome pumpernickels
were treated in the same
fashion, the cans of salmon
were opened, and the other
goodies were also carefully
Throughout this ordeal,
Fannie and Izzy sat silently.
They had already missed the
Washington Excursion train.
Finally, a uniformed police-
man approached them and
asked harshly, "Where's the
Fannie, a little bolder than
her husband, demanded to
know what "stuff" they were
refering to. She wondered
aloud if a law had been passed
prohibiting the transporta-
tion of foodstuffs from state-
to-state? All she was told was
that she and Izzy had been
noticed riding the excursion
train twice a month, each
time returning with loaded
shopping bags.
Fannie explained the rea-
sons for their frequent trips
to New York. The group of
police officers heard them
out, then huddled in quiet
"Well, you can go now,"
Fannie was told.
"But we missed our train,"
she exclaimed.
The officer in charge spoke
to the station master, who left
the room but returned shortly
and handed Izzy two tickets
to Washington on a "deluxe"
"But what about our pur-
chases?" Fannie asked the
"You can write to the police
commissioner's office for pay-
ment," she was told.
Fannie never wrote to the
commissioner's office, fearing
they might be troubled by the
police again. Shortly after-
wards, a young couple was
arrested at Penn Station for
transporting narcotics hidden
in a variety of foodstuffs, as
the police had suspected. The
reason for Fannie and Izzy's
arrest became clear, but that
Jewish New Year holiday, the
Washington relatives had to
do without. 111

Gerald S. Kofsky is a writer
who lives in Holiday, Florida.


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