Anyhow, Phil, you don't know me and I don't
know you, although, perhaps, in some generic sense we do know each
other. Couple of weeks ago, my old Hillside school mate Sid Galanty
from Conklin Ave. in Hillside (currently in Pacific Palisades, CA)
called me and asked if I had read Philip Roth's latest book, "The
Plot Against America". Of course, I hadn't; the last
and only thing I ever read by Roth was Portnoy's Complaint when
it first was published and I loved it, although, too many years
have gone by and I can't remember anything about the story. So,
I went to Border's Book Store and skimmed through a copy and when
I saw the places and things to which the story referred, I bought
it and got hooked on it by page 2 where references are made to the
Weequahic section, Summit Ave. and Hillside.
My name is Marty Mandel. I was born on November 9, 1932 , the night
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first elected president of the United
States of America. So, you can see that FDR was my childhood and
lifelong idol . He was my hero. He pulled my country through the
Second World War and did good things for the Jews and all Americans.
When I was born, my family lived on Stecher St., off Chancellor
Ave. on the border of Irvington. (A couple of years, ago, I returned
to Hillside and Newark for the first time in about 40 years and
took my wife, Anna, to see where I lived, but, as you know, there
is just air above the freeway there, now.) Then we moved to Hobson
St. across from Chancellor Ave. School where I attended kindergarten.
In your story, you ran up Goldsmith Ave., then over on Hobson St.,
which had a row of 4-family houses, to reach Chancellor Ave. Well,
you ran past my house which was the third one from the corner of
As I'm reading your book, I'm getting pulled deeper and deeper
into the plot; this could have easily been me, instead of you, telling
the story. Your references to different places and things in Newark
I know all about; I was there. At age 6 years, my family bought
a house on Dorer Ave. (off Liberty Ave.) in Hillside where I lived
till about 1952. My buddies, Barry Torine, Marvin Engle, Sid and
a bunch of others from Hillside(especially, Conklin and Williamson
Ave) spent much time on Chancellor Ave. playground, Weequahic Park(our
big favorite), walking and bikeriding all over the place. Yes, we
ate French creames from AnnaMae's chocolates, can't begin to tell
you how many hot dogs from Sid's with mustard, sauerkraut and hot
relish and potato dogs from Mrs. Cohen's on Hawthorne Ave. I worked
one summer delivering orders for Tabatchnik's on Maple Ave. in Hillside.
I'm telling you all this because you told me all this in your story
and I identified with almost everything you did and said. For days,
I kept thinking of the plot against the Jews and, although, I knew
it was fiction, was it really? I was constantly thinking of you
and your situation and couldn't separate reality from fiction. Your
references to real things were astonishing to me. You mentioned
that your phone number was WAvery-3-4269 (sorry for the error),
well, mine was WA-3-4489. Why do I remember that from 55 years,
About Longie Zwillman: my father was a milkman and owned his own
business called "Square Deal Dairy" for about 20
to 30 years in Hillside and, mainly, Newark. I used to work with
him delivering milk 6 days a week (before going to school every
morning) and had some interesting experiences with him. One morning,
we're driving slowly up a hill (I think it was Nye ave) crossing,
I think, Clinton Place when a limousine comes down the street and
runs into my father's milk truck causing much damage. Anyhow, I
recall being in court with my father about the accident and he lost
the case. He remarked that he had no chance because the driver was
a henchman of Longie Zwillman. Of course, you knew about him. One
other recollection: My father (Max Mandel) told me that when he
grew up in the Bronzeville section of Brooklyn that he was in the
same crowd with Louie Lepke of "Murder, Inc."; that's
all I know of that subject.
Anyhow, Phil, now you know why I feel we may know each other, generically.
One last thing and this one is a beauty. I'm looking at the picture
of you on the inside back cover of the book, and I must tell you,
we resemble each other; we have very similar facial characteristics.
I've included a recent photo of myself for comparison. Strange,
isn't it? We possibly could be mishpulchah, who knows?
In any event, I had to write to you to get this off my chest. Your
book has had a profound effect on me and I want to thank you for
writing it. I won't say that I enjoyed the story; it was too harsh
for that. I was engrossed and involved in it.