“My mom was still in high school, and she was enrolled in George Washington High School. They lived in Washington Heights, eventually they got an apartment on 181st street, it was a one-bedroom apartment. Apparently, my mother and my aunt slept in the bedroom and my grandparents slept on a couch in the living room. And they had that apartment until my grandfather was in his 80s and moved into a senior independent living home.
“My grandfather, who had been a businessman in Germany also had to look for work. One of the things I found in there in the papers was a letter that he had written to the Gillette company. He had a Gillette safety razor that apparently, he must have acquired before World War I. It made it through World War I and he thought perhaps the Gillette company would be interested in owning this relic or you know historically preserved razor. It was a very elaborate letter, and he got a fairly short, terse, 'thank you we have plenty of these,' but you know, he was trying to trade whatever he could.
"They arrived in 1940, and I don’t know how long it took before he was able to buy a car, he bought a car, and he really became a travelling salesman that sold, you could call them knick-knacks or trinkets, to drug stores, to pharmacies. I mean I remember as a child, I guess there’s a version of this today in CVS and stuff, but as a child there were always these little things that you could buy that were on the counter at the drug store and his trunk was filled with these things, the little people or animals.
“My grandmother did piece work, she knit, she was a very good knitter, she did piece work and knitted and also she worked as a baby nurse. How she found the work? I don’t know. And I think she also did cleaning which when I think about her upbringing as a you know a pretty wealthy woman in Germany to then, you know, she did what they had to do, and it was a very very big change.”
Editor’s Note: Jackie Sherman recalled her grandparents' small apartment in New York City fondly. She remembered Alfred continued to drive even as a much older man. When Jackie’s Oma eventually had to be placed in an assisted living home, Alfred would make sure to visit her a few times a week, despite the home not being very close by.