In first person… Lower East Side — a place immigrants called home

The neighborhood I grew up in on the Lower East Side of New York was very mixed. We had Irish and Italians and Jews. Our bedroom windows faced Allen Street and the elevated trains ran right by.

We had a lovely delicatessen on the corner, and they had barrels of pickles standing on the floor and cheeses in brine. We had all kinds of smoked fish — smoked whitefish, smoked salmon, smoked sturgeon.

The barbershop across the street was up about four or five steps, and the barber not only was a barber, but he used to put those little glass cups on the backs of people if they had bad backs. He used to heat them with some sort of flame and put them on the backs of people so that it would supposedly draw out the impurities.

Down in the basement of one of the apartment buildings was an Italian bakery, and the Orthodox women used to make up their cholent for Saturday and bring it there to keep it warm in their oven.

My school was three blocks away, P.S. 91, and believe it or not it's still standing.

My parents were from Romania, and a couple of blocks away they had a wonderful Romanian restaurant. We'd have the most wonderful meals, with steak or lamb chops broiled over the coals. And they always served a bottle of wine on the table.

Once a year, during Passover, we'd go to the circus and have ice cream, which was a no-no.