June 13, 2015 § 4 Comments
May 23, 2015 § 1 Comment
A short film for Memorial Day Weekend.
Photographers, what kind of camera is my dad holding? Fashion enthusiasts note the Hermès Birkin style handbag.
May 18, 2015 § 6 Comments
May 2, 2015 § 4 Comments
I’m really loving my new photo scanner and all that it brings. Since my dad was much older than my mother most of his family is now gone. Fortunately they left us with a plethora (one of my dad’s favorite words) of images. I found this small envelope tucked away in one of my grandfather’s albums with negatives from May 1st, 1916.
My dad would have been around 10 months old then. I never met my grandmother Rose and when I look at these pictures that are now almost 100 years old I still feel this longing to. Growing up everyone around me spoke about her. How she was funny with a dry wit and quick temper and very pretty when she met my grandfather. My mother still uses some of her sayings like “What a boring world this would be if we all wore the same hat”. I wonder what she sounded like. She’s so stylish in the pictures. I love the Polka Dotted veil she’s wearing. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the fascination I have with my grandfather’s history and I think one reason is because he saw so many changes in his lifetime. For most of us things haven’t changed that much. Yes we use technology more, but it’s not like we never had it. My grandfather went from horses to cars and gas lamps to electricity. What I find interesting in these pictures too is how many things in New York City still haven’t changed. It makes me think of the novel Time and Again.
If you stood in just the right spot you might be able to go back in time.
I had my struggles the first 2 years, see? Until your grandmother was pregnant with your father. Then she says we gotta settle down, because I was going from one town to the other. As soon as I had a job, earned some money, saved up a little, I spent it on railroad fare. You can’t travel around with a baby coming. We settled first in the Bronx. We had this one room furnished apartment and I found myself a good job cutting pocket books. Bags. Never did it before in my life, but it was good money. Made more money then I could in the shoe factories. There were seasons in those days for every trade and when the seasons finished the shoe factory started to get in business. I saw an ad for a job in Brooklyn. I went over to Brooklyn to apply for the job in this factory and I got the job. I liked it, so I said to grandmother, I says lets move to Brooklyn. I was still Penny Pinching. I didn’t have any money. I had no money to even buy a baby carriage to take him out in the air. There was a little park near us then and we use to carry him in our arms over to the park and we use to sit on a bench so as he had fresh air or make a bed for him on the bench – your Dad. All I was trying to do was striving all the time to get enough, earn enough money to get the necessities of life. – Ben Benjamin
April 23, 2015 § 5 Comments
Among the family slides I found one of a shoe and wonder if it’s the pump my grandfather told me about as a child.
Then I created a little pump with a certain bow on it…and that’s what kept us busy…Well that little shoe, forget now what the name… we had a name for it…And I kept on creating new things. – Ben Benjamin
Ben Benjamin Appointed By United States Secretary Of Labor As Special Employer Representative To Meeting In San Juan, Puerto Rico.
March 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
A year into this blog and I’m still searching for the year that my grandfather went to Puerto Rico. I found another news clipping recently, but again with no date. My guess is sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. He bought his house in Florida in 1957 and retired from I. Miller shoes sometime after 1955…back to the library.
December 9, 2014 § 6 Comments
Growing up there was a rusted metal box in one of our closets that was filled with cans of 16mm film. As a child they seemed kind of creepy to me. Trapped memories. We had no way to watch them. By the time I was old enough to appreciate their value they had started to disintegrate. They had that vinegary smell that old film gets. Now working at a post house in New York that transferred film to tape, on one of my visits to my mother’s I put all of the film in ziplock bags and took it back with me on the plane to New York. I was able to transfer most it. A few rolls were badly melted and fused together, so had to be thrown out. Most of the film was so delicate that we opted not to clean it before we transferred it. Again like the family photos there was little information written on the film boxes. –Sometimes I think of the journey that the photographs and films have made. Leaving New York, traveling thousands of miles to sit in a closet for years untouched then back to where they started. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing them come to life. When I began my blog almost a year ago I posted this clip, so some of you who have been following may remember it. It’s a short sampling of some of the film footage I put together when I was working in Post Production.
December 4, 2014 § 2 Comments
If all goes well tomorrow morning NASA’s Orion spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
Note: Jerry Pankin was a shoe designer in Manhattan. I remember hearing his name growing up and found the above copy while doing research on my grandfather, Ben Benjamin. I asked my mother about Jerry and she remembered he was a lot of fun. She recalled him telling her once in jest he was going to design a refrigerator a foot deep that covered the length of a room, that way you could always find what you were looking for. Genius!
November 29, 2014 § 12 Comments
I’ve imagined for so long the stories that were told to me that they’ve become part of my own memory. My dad traveled when we were children so my sisters and I spent a lot of time with our grandfather. He taught us to remember who and where we came from and no matter how much money you have you’ll never be poor if you know your history. He wasn’t what I would think of as religious, but lit candles every Friday night and said prayers. He believed in Jewish Mysticism before it was trendy and told us about a man in London that he met when he was young who read the bumps on his head and told him about how in the future everyone would be watching a box. When he couldn’t sleep at night he would lay in bed imagining fantastical machines he would invent and later tell us about them. I also remember him telling us that he didn’t suffer during the great depression because he hadn’t put everything in the stock market. Seemingly conservative – but also extremely open minded. Because of his heart condition my parents were very protective of him. I remember when my aunt had cancer and I overheard them saying they were afraid to tell him how bad it was, keeping him from the news until she died and making sure he was sitting down with a glass of scotch when they did tell him. I never understood why they didn’t have faith that someone who had experienced so much loss wouldn’t be able to handle it — he did. He told us he believed in moderation. Maybe, because of his humble beginnings. That having too much of anything wasn’t good and took pride in telling us that he used the money he did make to bring his brothers and sisters to America.
We always made a profit. Even through the depression in 1929 and 30 we still made a profit. We didn’t lose any money see? Ben Benjamin talking about Schwartz and Benjamin.(from the tapes I made as a child)
I recently found this album full of beautiful unmarked photos. I never knew my grandfather when he was healthy and physically strong so it’s fun to see him in a different light and amazing to remember the adversity that he overcame from his Dickensian childhood. I’m guessing they’re from the late 1920’s or early 1930’s.
November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
Curious about my grandfather’s V cut throat pump that I wrote about in my previous post, I contacted Fashion Historian Jonathan Walford. Jonathan has an illustrious resume which includes Curatorial Director of The Fashion History Museum in Ontario, Canada and Founding Curator of The Bata Shoe Museum. Jonathan is also an accomplished writer. Two of his books, The Seductive Shoe: Four Centuries of Fashion Footwear and Shoes A-Z: Designers, Brands, Manufacturers, and Retailers, are published by Thames & Hudson.
You can see he’s definitely the go to person when you have any fashion history questions. Here’s what he had to say:
A design patent protects the patent holder for three years before it falls into general use. They are rarely taken out because they are expensive, laborious and non-renewable, they also don’t require legal proof of original design, which a regular patent would require. As your grandfather made shoes for independent shoe retailers and stores it would make sense that he took out design patents to protect his shoe designs which kept them from being knocked off by someone else.
The V throat was certainly fashionable in shoes in the 1940s, and again in the 1980s, so your grandfather may have originated the fashion in Western footwear, although he wouldn’t have financially benefited from that, as a design patent is not the same as an intellectual copyright – you don’t own the idea for your lifetime. I can’t think of any ‘V’ cut throats that predate the late 1930s unless I look at examples like these below from China from the 1910s. Your grandfather may have borrowed the idea from shoes similar to these, or come up with the idea on his own.