Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irving Altus - June 2, 1982

Relatives in Detroit (Continued)

But him, you remember.

He left with his mother. You know, this was the, the, the going in Poland. And the husband runned away for any reason, then if he made a few dollars after years they brought--if he wants it to bring the family and the kids. But my, my Aunt Dotty was lucky. She, she did came to America with two sons. So I knew him and I was during the...

He met you after...


...he met you at this train station.

Yeah. Fine. Beautiful. Had a wife, two daughters. I could talk to him you know, in Yiddish. And he said to me--he can get a job for me. He was really here uh, uh...

Wife: He was a good man.

He was a good man and he was really had a lot of connections and a good talker. And people liked him. He was a wonderful person. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. And uh, he said to me, for twenty-five dollars and I was afraid to be back Monday morning on the job--he says, "I don't think, for, for that much money, I'll give you a job..." he says, "in one hour, here." He couldn't believe it, the thing. No, I listened. Listen, what I, I gotta listen. I said, "Look, one thing, don't mislead me. I have a wife and a kid. Whatever I make I'm happy, but whatever you want to do for me, fine, but please. Because I know maybe somebody going to promise you, maybe need me for a week, a month or so, and then..." if you'll get a job. So he went with me and ??? was a cleaner and tailoring, Young's Cleaners, clothing and everything, I remember. And he says he knows his son and the thing, they're friends. But one thing, he says, "Call up your wife and tell her you're not coming tonight home, they shouldn't wait for you. You're going to stay here, I'm going to see what I can do for you. But you gotta be here." In Saturday uh, I came here and Sunday then it's uh, nothing. He talked me in and I listen. I like to listen, I listen. Monday morning we go out taking the car to go look for jobs. We went to a lot of his friends and even in ??? thing, nothing. So we went into this Young's, he was asking for his friend you know, the old man was there, he said he wants to see Eddie, Eddie was his friend. And, and uh, the old man was a tailor, Mr. Young. But the, the two or three sons, they run the business, the clothing store and the cleaning and everything, a big business. And I told them what I know, the old man and thing, he says, "Okay, I can use you." And, and again I begged him "Please, I have a wife. If you really think you can keep me. But if I cannot do the job it's one thing, but don't mislead me. I'll work a few days and you can tell me if I'm good or not..." I mean. So he told me to sit down and give me some work and things. And he did like whatever I did. It wasn't so perfect so he say, you know, "This is not Europe, but you know really, you know the things. But to change the style and thing, this I can teach you, it's not a big thing. As long as you know the work." And he said, "I can pay you for five days or something like that..."

Wife: Sixty dollars.

"...sixty dollars." I didn't tell him, he tell me. I thought he's joking. I mean, what should I go now tell my aunt and my wife. You know, he says, "Okay you got a job. I'm not going to fire you. I mean, you'll work. I'm not going to keep you a day or a week or--I'll pay you sixty dollars and you'll work." So I did--you know, so I had to work a few days and show and so. And I'll tell you, again I called my wife and I told her what it is and thing, and I said, "I'm not afraid now for the job in Albany because I think we're going to move." My aunt in Albany and the cousins, they did like us. But they would not stop us. When they here I can make sixty dollars, I mean, they were so happy. And it's still okay, they want me there in Albany and thing, but look it's still America. They knew what a hard time they had to find a job for twenty-five dollars. What could I pay? The rent or food? What can I do with twenty-five dollars? And if the guy is going to give me another five dollar raise. And another five dollars. What? How can you net twenty-five, thirty dollars to sixty?

Wife: ???

So, I took the job. We came home and we packed and we came here to Detroit and my cousin was good to me. He went and rent a room for us. And I worked a few months, he went--he got an apartment, a whole flat for us. When I came he rented one room you know, with some people. And then on Elmhurst he did get us a six-room apartment. We had another son after that, so we had two sons. He did give me a raise, I made another ten--twenty dollars. And finally when I was here a few weeks, a few months, I found myself another job. A normal. So I want to be nice to him, I said, "I can make more money." But he didn't want to raise me, you know. So in a nice way you tell him and no, no hard feeling. I wouldn't do it even if he wouldn't be my cousin's friends or something. I always did it in a nice way. If you can pay me what somebody else you know, it's no charity it's no favors. He says "No." I went I made ninety dollars. And I went and I start working in a pawn shop on Hastings Street. I worked there for five years. I made good money. 'Til a friend of mine came here and he says, "Do you want to go in business?" And I went with a friend, we bought from somebody a cleaning store. This was in '54 or '55 you know, after five years working in the pawn shop. And I was with my partner on Six Mile Road and Livernois. My cleaning store and I was with, five years with my partner. We made a living and again we couldn't see you know, a big success. And we talked about, in a nice way, to split up you know. For two it's not enough, maybe one could save a few dollars. Either he'll pay me out, I'll pay him out. And we did made it in a nice way. He paid me out. And it's a good friend, maybe, maybe you know him, Simon Schwartzberg, he's uh, he was in the...

Yeah, mm-hm.

He was my first partner. He remained uh, I went--we moved and rent a store in Oak Park in '59, like I say. So I worked five years in the pawn shop, five years I was with my partner. I opened a store here, it wasn't too good from the beginning, but after a year or so I started getting busy.

Wife: But that's in Germany $2,000 because getting money from Germany.

Well, it doesn't matter how, but. It came out--we split up and it came out good. He made a few dollars there because instead of two people taking home wages. And I suffered here a year or so, which I could not make a living the first year. I went and borrowed money from my friends for food. When you open up a new business and it's no business. After a year, a year and a half, I start getting busy. And I was real successful. And I was in business on Coolidge and Nine Mile, Irving's Cleaners. I was there for ten years and I sold it and I went with some people in, in managing business you know, in property management. And this is what I'm doing 'til now. And I'm very happy.

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