Note: ophie Newcombe, Francis Shimer, and the Art Institute of Chicago (photography and painting). Her first job was copy editor at Writer's Digest in Cincinnati, where she met Maxwell Marks, then his brother, Lester. Her sister, Barbara, visited her in Cincy and told her to go for the younger one (Lester). She was a bookkeeper for Crawford Lumber, then Clavey Treeland in Highland Park.(She later married her boss.) Active in Civil Defense, Girl Scouts, and Republican politics. YOUR MOM MARGE (MARJE) Your mom Marge was not just my sister: She was my playmate, my enemy, my friend, my counselor and most important to me, my mentor. When she passed away 27 years ago and ever since, I have felt like the captain of a ship heading out to sea after the pilot debarks and heads back to the harbor. I didn’t really know her when I was an infant. She and our older sister Barbara roomed across the hall from the room with my crib. Our mom was preoccupied with the sudden loss of Junior, my 12-year-old brother. Marge had what I later was told was “swollen glands” and was confined to her room, so Barbara, still in high school, did what she could to care for me. Then, in 1931, Barbara disappeared, first on a trip to Europe, then to an eastern finishing school, Pine Manor. I didn’t see her very often after that until World War II, when both my sisters returned home with their young families. When at the age of four or five I was finally allowed to eat in the dining room with our folks, Marge sat across from me, to the right of our mom. We ate the same things mostly but there was rivalry for the dark meat of chicken and eclairs versus cream puffs. She was taking tap dancing at the Merriel Abbott school in the Loop and rehearsed her “lessons” on her bathroom floor until our folks became concerned the ceiling would cave in. She was acrobatic too; she did handstands and cartwheels in our front yard. She introduced me to the wonderful games of childhood: hide-and-seek, red-light, statues – she always won. the joy of running through the sprinkler. Then, when I was about seven or eight, she introduced me and Ira Plonsker, my friend from across the street, to Monopoly. When she won, which she usually did, I thought she was cheating. My terrible temper would not tolerate that. Somewhere I found a hammer and chased her to safety behind her locked bathroom door. To make me afraid to go into her room, she made up a story. She told me during thunder storms, lightning balls would hide in her closet and chase anyone who opened the door. The door to Marge’s bedroom led to a hallway and just to the east of the door there was a back stairway illuminated by a solitary light bulb and leading to a door to the kitchen. Next to that door was the door to the basement. During the night (I don’t remember when), Marge awoke and noticed something was wrong: The light from the back stairs was dimmer than usual. Smoke! The house was on fire. She rushed to our folks’ bedroom and woke up our father. He casually went down two flights of stairs to the basement, saw flaming oil from our oil burner spreading on the floor. He should have known better: He threw water on the flames, which spread even more. Back upstairs, he called the fire department. As they extinguished the blaze and read all his diplomas, he sat in a chair in his study, reading a book. Marge had saved us and our house. When both of us were a little older, she became my counselor. She introduced me to popular music and persuaded me to buy records she liked at a 55th Street store. I’ve never stopped buying them since. When I was entering puberty, Marge was the one who told me how to take care of my fingernails and why I should use deodorant. I’m sure our mother loved us but she was more a manager than a mom and Marge was often castigated or ridiculed for this or that. One time our mom accused her of dying her hair. Strong denials. Several weeks later, our mom’s hair suddenly changed from grey to reddish-brown. Then there was the incident at the front door. Marge had braces because she was having her teeth straightened by our dentist, Dr. Carl Buyer. One night, before midnight, our front doorbell kept ringing and ringing. Our father got out of bed and went downstairs to see what was the matter. There was Marge at the front door, her braces caught in her date’s braces. Our dad helped them separate. Another time she dated a guy who wore a green suit. My father made fun of that. We never saw the guy again. Another thing about her teen years: She could sleep till noon. I didn’t understand that: How can you enjoy life when you sleep so long? But she did. In 1935 we had one of our first trips together, from New York where we shared a room in the Waldorf Astoria to the Caribbean and South America. In the Norse Grill in the hotel, she introduced me to cinnamon toast. We shared a stateroom on the<i> Queen of Bermuda, </i>fighting from time to time, but the most memorable thing to me about that trip is she taught me how to swim in the inside saltwater pool. We shared staterooms and hotel rooms after that, in 1936 on the <i>Prince Rupert</i> to Alaska and back on the inland waterway and in 1937 on the<i> Normandie, </i>to and from England, often with my stormy rage, yet she continued to look out for me. In Vancouver, BC, she saw to it that our mom bought me my first pair of long pants at the Hudson’s Bay Co., and a year later in Sweden, she ordered a chocolate ice cream soda for me – the first I ever had. In 1937 I suddenly found myself alone. Barbara got married and moved to Rochester, MN, and Marge went away to school in New Orleans. In the years after that, things changed for me too: a trip to California in 1938, to New England and the New York Worlds Fair in 1939 and ’40, then Exeter for four consecutive summers and a couple of winters. But Marge returned home in 1938. Attended Frances Shimer and later the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1940 or so she became interested in photography and set up a dark room in the basement of our house at 5543 Blackstone. It was notable for several reasons. First, she “borrowed” our father’s fine Kodak 828 camera, a gift he’d received for his 50th birthday. Second, she decided to take pictures of me shirtless until for reasons I never learned, our folks put a stop to that, and last, there was a shard of glass jutting out where she did her developing. After a heavy downpour, the room flooded and our mom, without help on a Sunday, determined to mop the floor herself. She cut her arm to the bone on the shard and had to be rushed to the hospital. Three weeks short of her graduation from the School of the Art Institute and about the time of my confirmation at Temple Isaiah Israel (across from Obama’s house), she moved to Cincinnati for a job as assistant editor of <i>Minicam, </i>a photography magazine, met and married your dad and moved around with him after he joined the Army during WW II. I slept on the floor of their house in Rockford when he was at Camp Grant but had far superior accommodations after the war when I stayed in the magnificent home of your dad’s parents. There’s a photo of Marge at a family dinner party in the Empire Room of the Palmer House. It’s a memorable meal because of what happened. Our Grandmother Mantel, a widow, was living with our folks and was at that dinner. Her entrée was turkey over ham covered by a thick gravy. As Grandma Mantel ate, she kept saying, “This is the most delicious turkey I’ve ever eaten.” Finally your mom could keep silent no longer. “Grandma,” she said, “that’s turkey over ham.” Grandma replied, “Shush, not till I’m done.” I kept hearing about what Marge was doing in Cincinnati and of course, about you children but I never saw her again until the summer of 1950, when I flew to Cincinnati with my fiancée at the time, Eileen Tepper of South Orange, NJ. Your mom didn’t like her (nor did other members of the family) but she never told me until after we broke up. In the mid-‘50s when I had moved back to Chicago from Springfield, your family moved to 400 Prospect, Highland Park. I was working nights and on weekends, she invited us to spend the night in your home. Ann and I really had great times with your mom and dad, drinking, eating things we’d never tasted and talking till we were overcome with the drowsiness. We were living in a third-floor apartment in Rogers Park, Ann, me, Amy, Danny and our basset hound Hubert. We wanted to live in a house but on my salary and Ann’s modeling fees, we couldn’t afford to do so. That’s when your mom went to bat for us and persuaded our mother to finance a house for us at 248 Ivy Lane. It had a big ravine lot, wonderful trees and at $34,500 it was a bargain but also the ultimate fixer-upper, which led me to write a three-part series for the <i>Sun-Times </i>about all that was wrong with it. and what we repaired. That house has been updated several times since 1965 when we sold it for $43,000. Today it's on the market for $1,419,000. Your mom went to bat for me again after our folks died. Barbara, your mom and Ann met to divide our folks’ personal property. Ann, whom I had sent in my place, came home in tears because of what Barbara was claiming. I phoned your mom and the next day, she and Ann sided against Barbara: There was a more equitable distribution of property but the bad feelings between my sisters never ebbed. A final note. After your dad died, your mom seemed lost. Trash piled up inside your home and I was too dumb to realize she was in an abyss of demoralization.. Then she met Jack and many times I thanked him for enabling your mom to have an enjoyable life, both in Highland Park and Havana. Your mom was everything to me. Ann and I talk of her often, miss her often and hope as she wanted, in the Great Beyond, she’s surrounded by children and dogs. Justin Fishbein, November 5, 2012.
Note: Attended U of Chicago Lab School. Six years of college, no degree at S
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