1935 - 2007 (72 years)
||Sumner Simon |
||15 Feb 1935
||12 Oct 2007
||Zarakov Family History
||20 May 2016 |
||Louis Simon, b. Aug 1898, Russia , d. 16 Nov 1971, Brookline, MA (Age ~ 73 years) |
||Jeanette Wolk, b. 10 Aug 1908, Vilnius, Lithuania , d. 09 Mar 1982, Newton, MA (Age 73 years) |
||19 Jun 1932
- Married at the Nathanson's Hotel.
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
- Sonny was adopted by Louis and Jean on August 18, 1940 at the age of 5 1/2 according to "official" papers. Lou and Jean actually had him since April 30, 1940.
Interview with Sumner (Sonny) Simon (Sumner Simon, 84 Bishop Drive, Framingham, MA 01701) by Milo Zarakov, May 27, 2001. Transcript held in 2001 by Milo Zarakov (391 Crest Avenue, Alamo, CA 94507)
Interview took place at Sumner Simon's son's apt (Doug Simon) on Broadway Terrace, Oakland
Present during the interview was Sonny's wife, Ina
Milo: When were you born?
Sonny: February 15, 1935. First lived in Dorchester on Calendar Street. Then we moved to Brighton, we moved there when I was in the third grade, I think it was.
Milo: What was it like growing up with Uncle Lou and Aunt Jean (my Aunt Jean)?
Sonny: Uncle Lou, I rarely saw, because he worked day and night. He was a work-aholic, my dad. He worked at the Boston Arena, then he worked in the summer at Suffix Downs, then he'd go to the track in New Hampshire (Rockingham).
Milo: During WWII, was your dad able get things on the black market?
Sonny: Well he used to get hosiery from my mother's sister, Anna. And he was also able to get candy.
Milo: Was he able to sell that on the side?
Sonny: I don't know if he sold it on the side or not.
Milo: What were their political views?
Sonny: No, they never talked about politics, but they liked Roosevelt, that much I do remember. I remember them crying when Roosevelt died.
Milo: Tell me about where you lived.
Sonny: In Dorchester, it was mostly Jewish. The people upstairs, the Gilfenbanes, had one daughter, who was older than me, but we used to play together. I think I used to call them Uncle Chick and Aunt Mary. Chick had seats at the Red Sox games, and he took me once, he had sky view seats. Another thing I remember about Chick was that he played golf, when that was a rich man's sport. Your ordinary person didn't play golf in those years.
Chick was in the fruit produce (business) with his brothers.
Milo: Did you ever go to the Boston Gardens when you were a kid?
Sonny: Oh, many a times, as a matter fact, the thing I remember, one of the ushers was
teasing me one day about taking me to the first night game ever in Boston which was the Boston Braves. And he did take me, and it was big thrill. My dad used to take me into the dressing rooms to meet the players.
Milo: What players did you meet? Any famous players?
Sonny: That I don't remember.
Milo: How about basketball players, did you meet any of them?
Sonny: No. I remember seeing the Boston Celtics when Chuck Connors who was The Rifleman on TV played for them. Not only was he a good basketball player, he was a good baseball player. Played in the Dodger's AAA system. Had big numbers, but back in those years he stayed in the minors. He was an all around athlete besides an actor.
Milo: Did you ever meet Bob Cousey?
Sonny: No. No, never met him.
Milo: I remember Uncle Lou giving me autographed pictures of Bob Cousey and others.
Sonny: I did have autographed pictures. I don't remember meeting these people, but I did go in dressing rooms and I don't remember who they were at the time.
Milo: Did Uncle Lou or Aunt Jean ever talk about the old country, you know, where they came from in Lithuania?
Milo: Did they have any friends that lived near them that they knew from the old country?
Sonny: They had plenty of friends, but I don't think they were from the old country.
Milo: What did Aunt Jean and Uncle Lou do for fun? Plays? Movies?
Sonny: That I don't remember.
Milo: You said your dad worked a lot.
Sonny: He did. Day and night.
Milo: Tell me about your mom's cooking.
Sonny: The guy's used to love to come over my house to eat. She'd always make a lot of things when she knew the kids were coming up. She loved good eaters.
Milo: She made a lot of great Jewish food.
Sonny: Knishes, kagelech, poppy seed cookies. Doug loved her chicken soup. Blintzes. Both my kids loved her blintzes and she'd used to send them over by the dozens and Ina would put them in the freezer.
As a matter of fact, just the other day, I asked, (Ina) do you miss Jean's blintzes? Ina said yes.
Milo: I remember them too.
Milo: Yesterday you were telling me about the army. Were you drafted?
Sonny: I pushed my name up on the draft.
Milo: How did you do that?
Sonny: Back in those years you had to go unless you had a reason, so I just went up to the draft board and just pushed up my name. How you did it, I don't know.
Milo: How did you end up in Alaska?
Sonny: Draw of the cards.
Milo: You didn't have to get up early when you were in the army. What were you doing?
Sonny: I worked in the Post Office with two Sergeants who I got along with very well. And there was a captain who used to come in, who I also got along with well. Him and I used to talk about the Red Sox, even though he wasn't, but he liked the Red Sox. This captain. Captain Weston.
Milo: So you didn't have to do the regular duty. What was your major job, most of the time while you were in the army?
Sonny: I'd go, they'd give a driver to take me to the trains to pick up the mail. And sometimes the officers would ask me if they could get a ride with me - if I liked them I said OK, if I didn't, I gave them a rough time about it and got away with it and I knew it.
Milo: So you'd get the mail and bring the mail back?
Sonny: And also the movies.
Milo: So then you'd sort the mail?
Milo: The movies, were they first run movies? What kind of movies were these?
Sonny: The movie that I remember, where I saw guys that were crooks on the outside and everything. Had tears when watching, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, with William Holden and Jennifer Jones.
Milo: What kind of car do you remember Uncle Lou and Aunt Jean having?
Sonny: A Dodge and a Desoto I think, and he kept cars for too long. Used to get after him. He never let me drive any of his cars nor my mother. That was his one Schtick. But when I got my license and I got cars, he always wanted to drive them.
Milo: So when you were in high school, what did you do in high school? Did you play sports? Or did you…?
Sonny: I played football in high school.
Milo: What position did you play?
Sonny: Guard. I was a little heavier (laughs). Slightly.
Milo: Did you have a championship team or a so-so team?
Milo: Did you have fun doing it?
Milo: After the army, what happened to you, what did you decide to do? Did you go to college, or did you go to work?
Sonny: Went to Radio/TV School for a while. And, after I finished, I wasn't that interested it anymore. So I went to a few jobs, then I landed with the state (Massachusetts) and I've been there 43 years. I'm a civil engineer with them.
Milo: What kind of work did you do as a civil engineer?
Sonny: Mass highways.
Sonny: Originally, when I first started, I used to be when they were building the roads to make sure that everything was done to specifications. As a matter of fact, I had one of the subcontractors tear down some catch basins, because they weren't done to specs.
Milo: Did anyone ever try to bribe you?
Sonny: Nope. One of the contractors used to say, "Give me a break Sonny, give me a break" (laughs). That was a funny line, when I used see him, I'd say, Manny, give me a break.
Milo: They knew you weren't going to give them a break.
Sonny: That's right, exactly. One time, when I wasn't going to pay the contractor, back in those years, contractors had big "ins" with the big officials in the state. So they were going to transfer me to Springfield and I knew the reason why.
Sonny: Cause I wasn't going to pay for something that shouldn't of been paid for. This contractor had a big "in".
Milo: So what happened?
Sonny: About that time, Uncle Lou was in the hospital. I says there was no way I was going, cause my dad. I ended up getting a tremendous deal. And, after I had an aneurysm, I did go back to work, I went back to the job where I had the aneurysm (aneurysm did not occur at work, Sonny is referring to going back to the job location he had at that time). That was 15 miles from the house. I didn't think I had enough room for the guys to go by me either way, so it was pure sweat when I got to the job and when I got home. I did that for quite awhile. Then they shipped me into Boston where I've been. My job now is when these roads are finished, I check the quantities to see if any money is coming back to the state or any money is going back to the contractor. Which I found some big $ 20,000 on one job.. mistake.
Milo: Is that the biggest mistake you found.
Sonny: Yeah. On one item, that was on one item.
Milo: When you had your aneurysm, what year was that?
Sonny: 1970, February 18th.
Milo: And you remember that day?
Sonny: Yep. Five minutes before I was driving, I passed out.
Milo: So five minutes before you got into the car?
Sonny: No, five minutes after I got out of the car to open up to the trunk to get the carriage, because Doug was an infant at the time, I just collapsed.
Milo: Was he in your arms at the time?
Sonny: No, he was with Ina. And Leslie was outside with me and she saw me collapse and of course screamed, which is a natural thing.
Milo: Then, how long were you in the hospital?
Sonny: February and I didn't go back to work till July 1st that year. Which the doctor wasn't, when I went back, I had no protection in my head. That was before they put the plate in. So I used to drive with a helmet.
Milo: That was 31 years ago.
Sonny: Right. 31 years later, I end up with Parkinson's as you have heard.
Milo: Do you think that it related?
Sonny: No, Ina asked.
Milo: It's not?
Milo: As you think back about growing up with Aunt Jean when you were growing up, what are some of the best memories that you have?
Sonny: Aunt Jean was a wonderful woman, but hard to get along with, with some people. She was wonderful. And I have a letter at home, from a nurse at the St. Elisabeth's hospital, that she was one of the greatest women she ever met. Because she did volunteer work, even while she had leukemia. Till the end, she worked at the hospital.
Milo: She used to write to people, didn't she? Movie stars, and…
Sonny: She wrote to Jimmy Durante when they adopted the kid, she got an answer back too. And she used to write to Ann Mera, of Stella and Mera. How they met was when my dad was in the hospital Ann Mera's father was in the next room. They got friendly, my mother and her, and Jerry. And they used to write back to each other for years. As a matter of fact, they sent me a record when they made the record.
Milo: You mean when they cut a record.
Sonny: Yeah, with their routine.
Milo: How long ago was that?
Sonny: Ina, were you going with me at the time?
Sonny: That I can't remember.
Milo: It was a long time ago.
Sonny: Yeah, right.
Milo: And did you ever meet their baby? I think Ben.
Sonny: No, I saw Jerry and Ann years later at a road builders meeting that the state has, but the contractor pays for and I says to Jerry and Ann, "What the hell are you doing here?" They (the contractors) gave them a rough time there and I was ashamed. They says their agent booked them. But as you know, they both have made it big since. And, "Ina, what is Jerry Stiller in now?"
Sonny: What's Jerry Stiller in now? The show he's on, Heart's or something?
Milo: When you were growing up, did you always have enough food?
Milo: Even during the war?
Sonny: It was a long time ago, Milo. But I remember she used to go to Jack, the butcher. And she went and had a certain place for fish. Back in those years, there was no supermarkets. So you had a fruit and vegetable place you went to. You went to the corner store.
Milo: How did you get the nickname, "Sonny"?
Sonny: That, I don't remember. I asked someone my real name was and they said, Edward.
Milo: That was before you were adopted?
Milo: How old were you, when you were adopted?
Sonny: Five. This is what they told me. Now they didn't tell me till I got out of the army.
Milo: So you found out you were adopted when?
Sonny: When I got out of the army in '56. We had an argument one day.
Milo: With who, your mom?
Sonny: Right. Then it came out. Cause the funny part of it is, for years, I used to say to them, "how come there are no baby pictures of me. "There was a fire". Now, I did not look like either one of them.
And then I can remember being with a lot of kids. As a matter of fact I said to her (Aunt Jean) that I remember being in church. I also remember an incident coming home from school, first grade I think it was, somebody called my name at one of the houses. I looked at them and I screamed, and came running home screaming. My mother said that was a foster home I was in. It always stuck in my memory.
Milo: So that's where you were, in a foster home then, is that what you remember?
Sonny: No, I remember it, but I must of, because I screamed when they, so they must have been rotten to me, for me to scream.
Milo: Did you like going to high school?
Sonny: Oh, I had a great time at Brighton High.
Milo: What kind of stuff did you do?
Sonny: We used to have a bunch of guys that used to get together on weekends. Back in those years, we didn't date that much. We more interested in playing sports, and meeting on Friday nights, going bowling. There was girls in the crowd. We used to have jam sessions up at the house.
Milo: About politics, were you always pretty much a democrat?
Sonny: Actually, I'm an independent.
Milo: Then let me back up. How do you classify your political beliefs?
Sonny: Well, I'm independent, but, except when I am voting for governor. I'll usually vote Democrat. Because they've been better to us, with the exception of one.
Milo: Who's that?
Sonny: King. Pause. He murdered us. By the way he turned Republican, which I always thought he was. Played football too many times without a helmet. He played pro football.
Milo: Recently you tend to like the Democrats more than the Republicans. Is that kinda true? Or not?
Sonny: Yes, it is. I do. But, I wasn't too pleased with either one of these two guys (Bush and Gore). I did vote. And I did vote for Gore because he was the better of the two evils, but I wasn' t pleased with him either. I didn't want either one of them to win.
Milo: Have you always been pretty much Independent since you remember?
Sonny: Yeah, yeah. You are right, I do feel more towards the Democrats, but I like feel when it I think it was Humphrey running against Reagan.
Milo: Humphrey ran against Nixon, I think. In '68 it was Nixon and Humphrey.
Sonny: The first time I didn't vote for Reagan. I think I did the 2nd time, because I didn't like who he was running against, and I wasn't that crazy about Reagan either, but there again didn't like who the Democrats……I voted for Carter.
Milo: You've always lived in Massachusetts, right?
Sonny: Correct. As far as I know.
Milo: Always in Framingham?
Sonny: I married late. I've lived in Framingham the whole time. Don't ask me how many years.
Milo: I remember going upstairs to where she (Aunt Jean) lived. Was that in Brighton?
Sonny: It might have been in West Roxbury. That's where the last place was.
Milo: I think that before that, when I used to visit.
Sonny: That was in Brighton.
Milo: I remember that you wouldn't be home, but I liked to go in to your room. All the pennants.
Sonny: Correct, that had to be Brighton.
Milo: I remember as a kid of 5 or 6 going into your room. I thought it was a pretty neat room. This is what I want my room to look like.
Sonny: Doug gets mad that I didn't save my baseball cards. And if I ever knew what they'd be worth…
Milo: I had a bunch too, that I threw out when I moved to California that I wish I'd kept.
Milo: Do you have any bad habits?
Sonny: Sure, doesn't everybody?
Milo: Do you have any bad habits that you'd talk about?
Milo: You got bar mitzvah right?
Milo: Do you remember what city, what temple that was?
Sonny: It was at the Aperion Plaza where the affair was.
Milo: The Aperion Plaza, did people get married there too?
Milo: OK, I'm not sure, but I think my mom and dad got married there.
Sonny: I think they did.
Milo: So is the Aperion Plaza is a temple?
Sonny: No, no it wasn't a temple. It was a place where you made affairs.
Milo: Okay, like a hall.
Milo: Did you go to my parents' wedding?
Milo: Do you remember who was there?
Sonny: I think we were all there. Jackie, Kenny, and Bernie.
Milo: Do you remember your grandmother Bella?
Sonny: Sure. I remember when she was married to Levinsky. Saul Levinsky. In Malden. I can remember going over there. And I can remember my mother talking Yiddish to her over the phone all the time. We went over there quite often.
Milo: What was she like? (Bella)
Sonny: She was a big woman, I remember. She was very nice.
Milo: Did she laugh, was she serious?
Sonny: That I don't remember.
Milo: Do you remember Harry Wolk at all?
Sonny: No. Him I don't remember. Probably before me. Saul was a quiet guy.
Milo: When you were in High School, did you have favorite movie stars or singers?
Sonny: I used to like Frankie Lane.
Milo: Do you remember certain events, like Pearl Harbor?
Sonny: That I don't remember, but I do remember, as I told you earlier, about when Roosevelt died. We lived in Dorchester at the time.
Milo: Did you have any favorite restaurants?
Sonny: My dad knew one restaurant, Ken's Steakhouse in Framingham and I find myself doing the same thing for special occasions. That's where we go.
Milo: I think that's where we all met ourselves, several years ago.
Milo: Is that spelled K-E-N?
Sonny: Right, Correct. He's dead now, but the brothers and sons run it. That's been there since the 30's, right Ina?
Ina: I guess.
Sonny: They still do a big business.
Milo: When you were younger, did you ever have a pet, like a dog or a cat?
Milo: Did you ever want one?
Milo: Is there is favorite place you have been to?
Sonny: Besides here in California, and besides my service places, the only other places I was is Puerto Rico and Florida. Florida I hated, because of the weather was bad for the whole ten days. In Puerto Rico, I had a wonderful time. As a matter of fact, I went there on my honeymoon afterwards.
Milo: Can you think of anything that was very embarrassing that happened to you.
Sonny: (Pause) Many times people will say hello to me and I don't know who they are. And I know them and I can't remember who they are, and that's happened more than once. As a matter of fact, it happens in my own building, where I work.
Milo: It happens to me too.
Milo: How tall are you?
Sonny: 5' 6" and I weigh 125
Milo: You have blue eyes?