B is for the Bermans

The photo portrait of Rosa Parks that hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery was taken by IdaBerman BEFORE Rosa refused to yield her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in December 1955.

Charlotte (Berman) Yates, Gertrude (Yates) Williams, Trudy (Williams) Green, Roger Green- 13 Maple St, Binghamton, NY

When Charlotte Berman married Ernest Yates in 1937, it was a pretty radical event at the time. Charlotte was from a family of Jews from eastern Europe, and Ernie was black.

But let’s back up a bit. “Pinches Barosin, a teacher in the small town of Warklian, Latvia, and his wife, Slatte” had five children, the youngest of which, Isaac, was born in 1886. In the US, Barosin became Berman; Isaac married Sara Schmuelowitsch in 1910. They had eight children: Ida, Benjamin, Charlotte, Frances, Jacob, Mary, Samuel, and Arnold, most of whom I got to know to various degrees. Isaac, a trucking company executive, died before I was born, but Sara lived until 1971 and died in my hometown of Binghamton, so I did meet her.

Of the children, I’ll take Charlotte (1914-2003), the third child, out of order, because she’s the link to me. Ernie Yates, who she married, was the brother of my maternal grandmother, Gert. Ernie and Charlotte’s kids were my mother’s first cousins. And until Ernie died, shortly after I was born, they lived in Binghamton. Even after they moved to St. Albans, Queens in New York City, we saw Charlotte, her kids, and eventually her grandkids all the time. The photo is of Charlotte (I think Ernie is just out of the frame), my grandmother, my mother and me, at my grandmother’s house.

Ida (1911-2009) was the Berman, other than Charlotte, I was closest to. She was an accomplished photographer. The photo portrait of Rosa Parks that hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery was taken by Ida BEFORE Rosa refused to yield her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in December 1955. Never married, she seemed to have adopted me and would take me to art galleries whenever I saw her in NYC.

Ben (1912-1989) I knew not well, but like his siblings, I would see at him at the weddings of Charlotte’s children and other events.

Fran (1916-2011) married Professor Irwin Corey, the comedian, c 1940, and it was exciting to see him on Ed Sullivan or some other TV variety show. For some reason, Charlotte once took us to Fran and Irwin’s house when they weren’t there. I saw Fran and Irwin at a couple of birthday parties for Charlotte in 1994 (her 80th) and 2002 (her 88th, and last).

The kids of Jack (1918-2001) and Berta, known as Chicha, grew up in Binghamton; they were born between 1948 and 1957, around my time. Didn’t know them well, and was unclear to me at the time of their relationship to me.

Mary (1922-2006), who married Sam Rosen, I don’t really recall; she wasn’t living in New York State, though she probably showed up at some family events too. But her youngest son, Jonny Rosen, is one of the leaders of the Albany area band Annie & the Hedonists, “an eclectic mix of acoustic blues, vintage jazz and swing, and folk roots Americana.” They are, BTW, really good. (n.b., Sharp Little Pencil – I think you’d like them). I just saw them play this past Mother’s Day.

Charlotte always referred to her two younger brothers collectively as “the boys,” even when they were adults. Sam (b. 1923), who is still alive, and married to Vivian, was a folk singer. I wonder if he influenced my father somehow?

Arnold (b. 1924), a widower (Miriam), is not only alive; he put together this extensive website on the Barosin/Berman family. He also recalls a trip Charlotte and my sister Leslie took to Mexico in the summer of 1972: “[His wife] Miriam and I visited while [Charlotte] was there. I know that Ida was there at the time. My most striking memory in that visit was Leslie, that beautiful, tall Black girl who attracted so much attention from the local short Mexicans as we traveled by bus through the small villages.” Leslie got a kick out of THAT.

There are some gaps on the website – Charlotte’s youngest, Robert isn’t represented, e,g. – but it is filled with fascinating stuff. There are photos, many taken by Ida, and videos. I highly recommend that you check it out.

ABC Wednesday – Round 13

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

26 thoughts on “B is for the Bermans”

  1. Fascinating how some families are linked with an interesting past. Actually you can write a family saga! After all you are a writer. Very appropiate post voor B.
    Have a wonderful week, Roger.
    Wil, ABCW Team.

  2. Ah, my fellow Binghamtonian, what a story. I love your histories of our town. Someday I’ll write about Sharkey’s!

    Ida, who “adopted you,” seems to have been seminal in your creative side emerging. I loved her portrait of Rosa Parks. Folks don’t remember she was a YOUNG woman on that bus ride – the glasses made her look older. They also don’t remember the truth that “lies behind the lies” of the history books: She was a member of the NAACP in Montgomery, volunteered to be “the person,” and had, in fact, been ejected from another bus… the next time, she “stood her ground.” I use that work with purpose – and my poem today reflects the myriad ways we “stand our ground” without resorting to violence.

    Thanks for a stirring story, and my mom’s name was Charlotte, so that’s equally thrilling! But Prof. Irwin Corey (whom I think was the inspiration for Christopher Lloyd’s Jim Ignatowski on “Taxi”), is wonderful, too. Amy

  3. what a poignant story! I had forgotten about Professor Corwin! I remember his being on the Ed Sullivan Show which was a mainstay in our home; I think it viewed on Sunday nights. love the connections of family!

  4. What a history! Fascinating! My sister is our family geneologist and I love reading through all the various connections. You and I have a “connection” in that your sister and I have the same name – even spelled the same!

    abcw team

  5. I have always enjoyed delving into family histories.
    You definitely have an eclectic past.
    Thanks for sharing the fascinating facts with us.
    I do remember Irwin Correy. Hadn’t thought of him in years.

  6. Oh my what a fascinating read. I loved the links and the photo. Your do have a saga, and would make for a very good book.

  7. Wonderful bit of genealogy, and a great family to research, Roger. It does sounds like a very close relationship you had with them.

  8. Roger, such a great job on this post. I’m the genealogist in our family and it’s quite an endeavor. I love this picture of you.

  9. It sounds funny now “Annie and the Hedonists.” There are not many bands where they aren’t hedonists, lol! Wow, I wish I have your recollective powers, Roger!

  10. My head is spinning from all the connections, but your history is a fascinating glimpse at America at its best.

  11. Ah… there you are! Having a relative who takes you to art galleries – that’s just wonderful.

  12. A fascinating read, Roger, and I love that you and Amy are both Binghamtonians, each with stories to tell of Rosa Parks. I remember hearing about her history-making bus ride and I admired her so much.
    Of course there are musicians and performers in your family history; it’s no surprise to me you came by your musical interest honestly.
    My mother tried to appoint me genealogist of my family but, at the time, the research was entirely too tedious and most of my grandparents’ generation were gone, so it never got done. I wish I’d been in a better position to continue with it.

  13. How wonderful that you have such an in depth genealogy of that portion of your family! Really fascinating read, thanks!

  14. Hi there. Ida took met to museums in NYC too; I don’t remember seeing you there? When I was with Ida I was the most special child in the world, as well as the most gifted and brilliant, so perhaps I was on the special tour. Then again, every nephew or niece of Ida’s in the extended family was also the most special and brilliant child in the world. (Actually, even the man selling stuff on a blanket on the sidewalk was special and worthy of stopping to listen to and share some kind words with, I remember).
    Regards from Michael, Sam Berman’s son.

  15. I’m Jack and Chicha’s granddaughter– Ed’s daughter. I googled Chicha in an effort to find out more about her, and stumbled upon this.

    If I did the math right, this makes me your grandmother’s brother’s wife’s brother’s granddaughter? And you would be my grandfather’s sister’s husband’s sister’s grandson.

  16. RB- I think you’re correct. I grew up in Binghamton and met Jack and Chicha. Don’t think I ever knew her birth name until maybe a decade ago.
    Jack’s sister Charlotte married my grandmother’s brother Ernie Yates.
    I knew Charlotte and her children very well (I went to Robert and Donald’s funeral).
    I’be been in contact with your great uncle Arnold – have you been to his website?
    There’s a newspaper clipping in one of the Binghamton papers c 1946 about Chicha’s rescue in WWII – do you have it? It’s in my email somewhere and has a pic of Chicha and her sisters.

  17. I am Ed Berman. Jack and Chicha were my parents. My mother’s real name was Berta. Of the eight siblings on my father’s, including my father, only one is left- Sam, who is turning 97, I think. The youngest, Arnold, just died in New York around one week ago. I think he was 94.
    My aunt on my mother’s side, Isabella, wrote two books about their experiences in the Holocaust, including their rescue by the Red Army, in January of 1945. We have a lot of that history.

  18. Ed- it’s probable we met as children. I didn’t know about your mother’s and aunts’ rescue until years later. What’s the title of the book?

    I was sorry to hear about Arnold; I saw him last at the funeral of our aunt Charlotte’s son Donald maybe a year and a half ago.

    Charlotte’s granddaughter Lisa Beal has been doing genealogy for the past two decades.

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