I am the son of a German Jewish Holocaust survivor. My family escaped Nazi Germany like so many others and found their way to New York City where I was born. Not having the elbow room my dad needed, he eventually moved the family to Fair Lawn, New Jersey a sleeper suburb of the big city. We lived in a house next to the old Erie Lackawanna railroad line which took all of the fathers into the city every day to work. My brothers and I called it, “The Daddy Train”.
My dad was a very handy fellow and on the weekends he would take great pride in fixing everything that my brothers and I managed to break that week in the house. Almost every Saturday morning we would go to the center of town, a place called “Radburn”, to the local hardware store and pick up the needed supplies to complete the projects. The store was called “Kronkies Hardware”. This was back in the day before the big box stores took over. You would walk in and a kind and elderly Mr. Kronkie would say to my dad, “Hello Henry, what did the kids break this week?” We would then walk around the store and I was just amazed with all the neat tools and gadgets that were on display. At the checkout counter old Mrs. Kronkie would always offer me a big sugar cookie from the oversized cookie jar sitting on the counter. For a boy who was just 7, it was love at first sight.
When we returned home, I would help my dad fix the things I had helped to break. This was a real bonding moment between my dad and me. He taught me a lot through hands on experience and when I help my boys today, I can’t help to think about those wonderful memories of the days gone by and how much I miss my dad.
I went to Thomas Jefferson Junior High School and in 1962 and signed up for my first woodshop class. It was neat! After learning all the basics, like how NOT to cut your fingers off or get splinters in your hands, the teacher turned us loose to make something for the holidays. I decided to make a Star of David tray for my grandfather and grandmother.
The bandsaw was fun to use and it cut the outer shape just perfectly, leaving the nice sharp edges that were required. Next it was time to carve out the inside of the tray, by hand. It went well until I got too aggressive and actually cut through the bottom. (If you hold it up to the light, you can see where I goofed.)
I was proud of what I made and it gave me great satisfaction to see the look on my grandparents faces when I gave it to them. Much to my surprise, they decided to hang it up on a wall for everyone to see and to display their faith rather than only use it occasionally as a serving tray.
They are all long gone now. Only memories remain. I have the tray still. It reminds me of the sacrifices that they made in getting to this great country of ours. It reminds me of how I fell in love with woodworking.
Many of you have purchased and have made our seasonal bowl and tray templates. Be assured, the Star of David is on the list and I hope to have it you in time to make it for Passover.
Whatever your faith is, may you and your family have a warm, safe and joyous holiday season.