By Harry Glickman, with Jeannette Glickman
The first of the clan to make it to America somehow acquired the name Diamond. We assumed that it was a translation from the Russian Dimaretz. It now seems that it is reverse, that Dimaretz is a translation of the American Diamond. So what, in fact, was my mother's maiden name? The fact that Michael's wife was Rivkah, which became Ruby, may have inspired him to take the name Diamond so that his spouse would become Ruby Diamond, a double jewel. The result, however it originated, is the clan named Diamond.
I remember him, my mother's brother, as Uncle Mike. My first memory of him is driving up in a Paige touring car (folding jump-seats allowed seven passengers) with a bag of Hanukah gelt. It was a silver dollar for my brother Louie, a fifty-cent piece for Edyth, and a quarter for Bessie. Sadie and I, aged about five and four, each received a dime. These coins, all solid silver, were relished by all. Mine was spent for a Union Leader candy bar and a Friday night at the Yesler Theater, where there was a double bill, a serial, a Max Sennet comedy and a newsreel.
Their three-story house on the corner of 26th Ave. and Pike Street attested to the fact that the Diamonds had made it in this land of opportunity. To this five-year old, the house was a castle standing majestically high above the cottages of the neighbors, the only residence in the neighborhood with a garage for an automobile. We five Glickman children along with Esther and Lily were the biological nieces and nephews of Michael. I later learned that the Aronsons and the Shapiros were somehow related to the Diamonds, but not to us. Was Rivkah (Ruby) a Shapiro or Aronson?
It was a special treat to be guests for Friday night dinner, birthday, or holiday. Sadie and I would have a great time playing hide-and-seek, but only on the first floor to which we were restricted. Louie, Edith, and Bessie would disappear right after eating to the mysterious second floor where they would visit with Josef, Leon, and Rose, the youngest of the Diamond offspring, and their contemporaries. The third floor seemed to be off-limits even to them, a sanctuary where the twenty-year olds, Louis, Jean and Sonya would escape from the mob. We rarely saw these older cousins as they were busy. Louis was courting Dorothy, whom he was determined to marry; Jean and Sonya were involved with boy friends. The fact that 16th and Yesler Way, where we lived behind the grocery store, was over a mile from 26th and Pike made the transport in the seven- passenger Paige car an exciting event in itself.
I was about seven when my relationship with Ruby became important.
It must have taken a little convincing by Mama to get the Diamonds to take me along on their summer holidays to Gilberton. I clearly remember when from the ferry dock, where we disembarked on the Olympic Peninsula, Leon and Leo Shulman jumped into the bay. These 14-year olds seemed awfully brave to jump from this seemingly great height into the cold waters of Puget Sound. A short ride brought us to the resort where the cottages were occupied by us and three or four other Workmen Circle families. I was eight years younger than Leon and his friends and ignored by them. This steered me into a friendship with my aunt Rivka. The grassy field in front of the large balcony of the house sloped gently to the beach where I spent the better part of the week. When not occupied digging for clams or playing on the shore I was watching the activity of the adults, especially my aunt who seemed pleased having a young child around since her six were grown. I must have been a good listener as she was talking all the time working around the kitchen. The details of the activities are gone from my memory but I do remember the phonograph blasting away from the house to be heard across the field all the way to the beach. By the end of the week, after hearing it two or three times a day, the Volga Boatman was an old friend singing beautiful music. It was summers at Gilberton with the Diamonds and later at Home Colony where they and our family would vacation along with other Workmen Circle families. Each day Uncle Mike would swim way out into the bay; we would listen to him yodel with the sun reflecting off of his bald head.
In 1922 Louis Diamond was about 23 and infatuated with the phenomenon of the automobile. Not unique, as most young men and boys were hooked. My collection of pictures from advertisements of the new models numbered into the hundreds. In 1923 the Model-T Ford was making a significant impact on the mode of transportation. Just about everyone with a job was buying or considering one. The fact that these cars needed to be serviced regularly with an oil change and grease in all the moving parts launched Louis Diamond into the business that would in a few years catapult the Diamond clan out of the garment industry and into real estate investment and car parking.
1922. The downtown shopping center of Seattle had moved from Yesler Way north to Pike Street where new department stores were being built. The Bon Marche and posh Frederick & Nelson introduced the city to a new mode of shopping that was sweeping America. Hundreds of automobiles would daily bring shoppers to the area. The hero of this story calculated that charging 25 cents to grease a car and 75 to change the oil while the owner was in the Bon or Frederick's could produce a sizable income.
A vacant lot across from the Bon was rented and four pits were dug in which the 'grease monkey' could stand under an automobile to apply grease to the springs and steering apparatus of the vehicle. With four pits it was conceivable to service a hundred or more cars daily producing $100 a day. After paying for oil and grease, wages for help to man 3 of the 4 pits, Louis in the fourth, plus rent for the lot there could be a net profit of $25 a day. With every kid wanting to be a grease monkey and earn a few pennies and with the rent for a lot on Fourth and Pike at maybe $50 a month it looked like a winner. With a sandwich-sign, GREASE JOB @ 25 CENTS, standing on the sidewalk all that was missing were customers. The demand for service in our new enterprise was considerably less than expected. It was after only a few days when a guy drives up in a blue car, not a Model T, saying he did not want it touched but would pay a dime to park on the lot while shopping. A second sign was added-PARKING 10 CENTS. The Diamond Parking Co., the first off-street parking operation in the nation, was launched.
The next ten years of American history saw the economy and stock market booming until 1929; then the start of the disastrous depression. With the crash of the stock market lots of investors, speculators in both the market and in real estate, were in trouble. Guys with mortgages on rental commercial properties without tenants were anxious to get out at any price. Our cousin Louis with a going business of six parking lots was able to finance the purchase of property in the downtown area of the city for a pittance. No tenant was needed-just a matter of a sandwich sign, PARKING 10 CENTS. In the early days of the industry all cars were parked by car-jockeys, guys who liked to drive cars, happy to work for Louis. In 1933, my junior year at Garfield High School, I gave up delivering morning newspapers to a hundred houses each morning and went to work weekends as a car-jockey at 2010 Western Avenue where he was operating a service station and parking lot next to the Pike Place Market. Saturday was the busiest shopping day in the market and I was hired to help the two regular jockeys. The Market was closed on Sunday. In order to earn enough to replace my earnings from the paper route Louis gave me the key to open Sundays with instructions to not give the place away. At a profit of 2 cents a gallon it would take sales of 75 gallons of gasoline to pay the $1.50 that was my salary for the day. I was more concerned than Louis whether keeping open on Sunday was economically realistic. I would keep track of the occasional quart of oil sold and the Gilmore Blue Green gasoline that bubbled into the large glass dispensing container. Most Sundays the 2 cents a gallon profit managed to just about pay my salary. The fact that the windows got washed and the service (grease rack) area cleaned gave me the feeling of earning my pay.
The next few years were economic disaster for most Americans. The Diamond clan with the extraordinary team of Louis, Josef and Leon were able to prosper in spite of the fact that the garment business was suffering. Uncle Mike was determined to do the impossible and rebuild the Diamond Cloak and Suit Company. The business that had sustained the family for years was gone and he was determined to start from scratch. His compulsion to buy bargains, of which there were many in those years, led to the accumulation of lots of bolts of wool cloth for making ladies' coats and suits and lots of debt to the bank. The facts were that ladies were buying very few new clothes, competition was fierce, and his bargain cloth was in outmoded colors. My experience in 1936 working as a cutter in the little factory enriched my relationship with Jean, Rose, Josef, and Uncle Mike.
Jean, at the time a young widow, was employed full-time in this little factory seeing to the business-end, and along with me boxing and shipping the finished garments at the end of each day. Josef was employed as a young lawyer in a prestigious law firm, and trying to keep Uncle Mike from buying more 'job lots' of cloth that he didn't need. Even though I was low man on that totem pole, I felt needed in the operation as I was the cutter, and other than Uncle Mike and Sam Selsnick, the production manager, the only male employee. Uncle Mike's work day started at five in the morning; by noon he had to take a nap, so the Embassy Theater around the corner was the venue for a well needed snooze.
When Leon married Yetta Gustanoff it was almost like marrying into our family. The Gustanoffs lived down the block at 15th and Yesler. Yetta was Bessie's best friend; Abe Gustanoff was Louie's best friend; tomboy Flossie Gustanoff was best friend to Sadie and me. Leon and I bonded when he spent a lot of time on Yesler Way courting Yetta. A few years later, the war over, Leon and I became close friends. With joint ownership of the Fancy Free, a small cruiser, our relationship included meeting for lunch more than once each week, until 1960 when he and Yetta moved to La Jolla where Louis and Dorothy already resided.
Josef, attorney, colonel, entrepreneur, a godfather figure to clients, friends, relatives, and almost anyone aquatinted with him was a workaholic with a track record of a champion. From a young graduate hired into a small law firm he soon became a junior partner with a career that included arguing before the US Supreme Court. Caldwell, Lycett, and Diamond became a major Seattle law firm. He spent the war years in Washington D.C. as an army colonel with administrative responsibility in the legal department. Taking the reigns from his brother Louis who was eager to escape from the business world at age 42, Josef built a car parking empire. Leon, and later Josef's son Joel, managed the parking operation with Joe's guidance, never missing a Saturday morning meeting. He pursued substantial real estate investments and delved into other businesses where a partner would be manager. Josef became senior partner when his bosses retired. His compassion and sympathetic ear instilled confidence in building contractors who valued his business advice. The firm grew, and when the complexity of management infringed on time for his clients and their problems, Josef retired at age 80 and became counsel for a large firm of young attorneys. His time is devoted to helping those of us who appreciate the commonsense legal advice that comes naturally to him. So he is at age 91 kept busy five days each week and on Saturday morning with the operation managers of the Diamond Parking Service Company.
Louis, as stated earlier, was my first employer. In 1933 I was 17 and he was a mature, middle-aged 35. Louis was, and I will venture a guess that he is still a quiet individual. That is, he didn't talk a lot. That probably is why I remember a significant number of things that he said to me in those years of the 30s. I can quote almost as he said to me:
"Never put a car in reverse gear before turning around and looking back."
"When a car doesn't start, check the gas line for fuel and the spark plugs for spark"
"Don't give the place away when alone on Sunday"
"Let the other guys park some of the cars."I was eager and the others seemed lazy.
"Hunting and fishing are immoral."Something about killing for sport.
In the late 40s he and Dorothy were doing lots of touring:
"Paying the asking price without bargaining is a windfall for the native who receives an extra 50 cents, while it is insignificant to me."
"I am uncomfortable flying first class while women and older people in the rear need extra comfort more than I do."
When in their retirement home:
"The world is really a horrible place!"We had been talking for about twenty minutes. His statement did not refer to his personal situation. In fact, they were enjoying the living accommodations where there was more social contact than in their years in La Jolla. He was thinking about the disadvantaged, poverty in the Third World, greed, war, the Holocaust.
It may be the innocence of children that provides the cushion needed to push the horrors under the sand so we may enjoy the natural beauty and wonders of this world.
by Harry Glickman who shares Louis' leanings.
Written with Jen, June 8, 1999
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