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To begin with, when and where you were born? Then perhaps a
little bit about who your parents were and so forth.
I was born in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, on August 3, 1915.
We lived there until I was about sixteen years of age. My family
moved to East Flatbush for one year and then to Boro Park. The
Williamsburg section was a predominantly working-class area, a
My parents -- Abe Foner, was a seltzer man; that is, he went around
with a horse and wagon and delivered seltzer to the people in the
neighborhood. He had come to the United States as a teenager from
Poland, the first of several brothers who came here, and helped bring
the others here and then his parents. They were a closely knit Jewish
family, not particularly religious but observed all the holidays and
Friday nights and that kind of thing.
My mother, maiden name Mary Smith, Smith obviously given to her
when she arrived, came here from Poland, met my father, I'm never
sure how, but was a housewife all her life. I am one of four brothers.
My older brothers, Jack and Phil, twins, are four years older than I am,
and my brother Henry is four years younger. I am the middle Foner.
We went to school at Public School 19, which was across the street in
Brooklyn, in Williamsburg, then to PS 50, and then to Eastern District
High School. All of us went to the same PS 19 and Eastern District
High School. I'll deal with college later. My brothers were--
Before you go on to your brothers, what part of Poland did your
parents come from, and why did they come? First, when exactly did
they come, do you know?
I don't have specific dates on that. My father was born in
Bielsk in Russia. My mother was born in Poland, we don't know which
town. My father came in response to pogroms and the uncertainty at
that time, and looking for great opportunities in the new world. He
came with no money. He would tell us of the difficulty in finding bread
to eat. He knew no one. Someone helped him find a place to sleep,
and gradually through people who lived here from the town in which
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