December 20, 2017 § Leave a comment
For the record.
May 18, 2015 § 6 Comments
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
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.
October 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
The Shoe Shows are where buyers come to see the latest styles for the upcoming fashion season — the two biggest for fall and spring.
I have wonderful memories of meeting my dad for dinner after the shows with fellow shoe people and the banter that went with that. My dad friendly with every mai·tre d’ at every restaurant was greeted by name when we walked through the door. One of his favorite’s, Il Gattopardo, still around today and as a treat he would take us after for ice-cream to Rumpelmayer’s on Central Park South.
My sister recently found this great photo from one of the shows. Obviously taken after a few drinks. I wonder what my dad’s trying so hard to hold on to?
October 5, 2014 § 10 Comments
Left with a treasure trove of film, photographs and newspaper clippings that have no dates or names I think about the thousands of digital photographs sitting in my own computer that need to be labeled. The task so daunting I keep putting it off. I guess the lesson learned from my own ancestors is take the time and do it.
September 30, 2014 § 1 Comment
I designed the shoes and at first I cut them too, and I uh ran the factory, handled everything. I bought the machinery, equipped the plant, set up the plant, laid out the plans. — I invented a lot of things.
Ben Benjamin on starting Schwartz & Benjamin.
July 8, 2014 § 2 Comments
I’ve been spending a lot of time at the library these days looking through The Boot and Shoe Recorder magazines from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I’m hoping to match the dates to events in my grandfather, Ben Benjamin’s shoe career. Today I found a notice in the trade magazine from June 15th, 1952 mentioning his new position as the General Manager of I. Miller Shoes.
May 14, 2014 § 8 Comments
Haunted by the tapes I made of my grandfather as a child I’ve always wanted to share his story. A few months ago when I submitted an article to Wikipedia on him it was rejected due to not being notable. Kate Gosslein and Kim Kardashian are notable, but not my grandfather? i.e. A self-made man orphaned at 12 who rose to be one of the biggest shoemen in this country. Instead of spending my time proving to Wikipedia that he is, I started this blog to try and put together the missing pieces. The answers are out there I just have to keep asking the questions.
The first place I started was a box of papers I had. It was a mess of old college letters, drawings from high school, stickers, junk, but inside all of that junk there was a manila envelope with some letters and notebooks that my grandfather must have given me I had forgotten about. They were his notebooks from when he was an apprentice in England as a boy and the letters of reference that he brought with him to America.
Each twist and turn I take is just another layer to be peeled away.
April 12, 2014 § 17 Comments
When I think of my favorite shoes growing up 3 come to mind. My huaraches from Mexico. My dad taught us to stand in the bathtub with them on and then wear until dry so they could conform to your feet. My moccasins that were sent to us every year — I always thought from a friend of my dad’s at Minnetonka. I only just recently learned that my Dad had worked as a designer and stylist for Minnehaha (a contemporary or Minnetonka) in the 1950’s — one of the advantages of having a dad in the shoe business who was well liked was the shoes that came with that. Read more about my dad who would wake us up singing “there’s no business like shoe business ” — Ode To An Older Parent And Tribute To The Veteran In My Life by award winning Television writer sister Liz Benjamin. It pretty much says it all.
…and my 3rd favorite were my Penny Loafers. Going to school in Florida I wore them without socks and always with 2 new Pennies.
In 1936 George Henry Bass created the first Penny Loafer based on a Norwegian farm shoe and called them Weejuns.