Tessie Mund was still living with the Flashenbergs at their home on Avenue O in Brooklyn when the 1940 Federal Census was taken. At the time she was unemployed but responded to the Census taker that she was seeking work.
Tessie was not listed in the 1940 Brooklyn Phone Directory and neither was her father, Michael. A phone was still considered a sign of a family that was doing well, according to what my parents told me of the 1940s. Many families had relatives within a 4-5 block radius and sometimes even on the same block or same apartment building. The sense that a telephone was a necessity rather than a luxury had yet to take root in many communities. When you needed to communicate something important you went to the relative’s house or sent one of the children with a note.
I think in Tessie’s case she did not have a phone because she would have used my Great Grandparents’ phone. Benjamin continued to work in 1940 and with son David’s salary the combined household income for the year prior was slightly over $2,000. When the average middle class salary was $1,000 a year in 1949 the Flashenbergs could well afford a phone .
Whatever happened after 1940-41 caused the Flashenbergs to move to West 29th Street in Coney Island around 1942. Tessie did not follow the Flashenbergs but instead at some point after 1940 and before 1942 returned to live with her father, Michael, in the Jerome Street apartment he had lived in with his late wife ever since moving to Brooklyn sometime after 1920.
This information came to me via Tessie’s SS5 which arrived about 3 weeks ago. When I viewed the copy of the original form her penmanship reminded me of that of a young student who had just learned handwriting. She was still unemployed as of September 28, 1942 when the SS5 was completed.
The only time I saw mention of her profession as a clerk was in the 1933 Brooklyn City Directory and on her Death Certificate from 1987. I wondered if there was some reason for gaps between jobs.
I look to my Grandma Bessie and my Father for some answers to this. Grandma Bessie was very close to her daughter Maureen. Grandpa Al was very protective of Maureen as well. My Dad always told me that when Maureen was growing up Grandma Bessie repeatedly promised her that when she got married she’d never have to worry about where to live or how much rent would cost. The upstairs apartment in their two family house was waiting for her and her future husband. The expectation Grandma Bessie and Grandpa Al had was that their trusted and only daughter would be there for them when they grew older.
This was an attitude that was prevalent in many Italian-American families. I’m not sure if the Flashenbergs also held this attitude but it was one which my Grandma Bessie supported and often encouraged me to consider. It was encouraged that I always consider my parental home a safe haven, a place that would offer me protection and encouragement at any point in life.
My Dad carried these same attitudes and expectations into his relationship with me. My Mom backed him up to the maximum. He used to call me “his little insurance policy for old age.” He said not only could I live at home but there was never any question in his mind that I’d make a go of it in life whether or not I married.
Grandma Bessie and Grandpa Al never told me I was an odd little girl because I said I didn’t want to get married and have children. They encouraged me to keep up with my studies in school and make several kinds of plans for my future when I grew up. Grandpa Al said it’s good to have a Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work. And also a Plan C and Plan D. What they did emphasize was the need to have a reliable skill, a job with a reputable company and the need to use my head and not my emotions when making decisions.
I think that Tessie did not have to worry about rent and necessities because she was supported in her choice to live with my Great Grandparents. I have spoken to my relatives and friends about possible roles in the Flashenberg household and the one I’m given the most is that she may have helped Great Grandmother Tillie with running the three family house on Avenue O when she was not working in an office.
This makes sense to me. What I also think happened is that Michael Mund needed Tessie to come back to live with him because he was getting older. Michael passed on in 1948 at the age of 78.
I plan to go to the Brooklyn Public Library once the weather is warmer and I’m feeling better. There I can access The Brooklyn Phonebooks for years after 1948 and look up Tessie, as well as Great Uncle Irving. If I can find even one, two or three listings throughout the years that follow I will be satisfied. I’ll then have a better idea of what their quality of life was like based on the history of the neighborhoods they lived in.
At the time of her death Tessie was living on Ocean Parkway in the Homecrest section of Brooklyn. The building was called the Parkway Lane Gardens and is situated conveniently to public transportation, houses of worship and shopping. Photos of apartments currently for rent show that the building is well maintained.
Tessie remained single until her passing in 1987. Her executor was Louis Feit of the Feit and Auster Family Society. This was the Landsmanschaften which her parents were founding members of. On her gravestone it states that Tessie was a “Beloved Society Member”. I think the Feit and Auster Family Society, which still exists today as the Feit and Auster Benevolent Association, helped Tessie throughout her transition to living a life on her own and was with her throughout her later years as well.
In the pattern of her life that I have seen through the Census records I can relate on many levels. I, too, had frequent stretches of unemployment during the years I lived with my Mom and the manifestation of the Parkinsonism increased. And in the past there was always my Maternal Grandparents to fall back on when Mom and I needed a place to live for a short time or some assistance with household needs.
I want to see if there is a way to contact the Feit and Auster Benevolent Society for any information and possible photos of Tessie. Although the research seems to be complete I have a feeling that there is the possibility for more information out there. I just need to go a little deeper and search through other resources I hope to learn about.
1940 Federal Census
SS5 for Tessie Mund
Death Certificate for Tessie Mund
FindAGrave Memorials for Tessie, Michael and Mary Mund.