From 1925 to 1973, there was a Leber living at 2054 78th Street.

2054 78th Street, Brooklyn, NY

In 1925, Ben Pollay, husband of Ray Leber Pollay, purchased 2054 78th Street in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn.  The apartment building consisted of 4 apartments and a small fenced-in backyard.  Three of the apartments had 2 bedrooms and one apartment had only one bedroom.  The “House” was in a good location and within walking distance to parks, schools, shopping and the “El” (elevated train).

At first there were tenants in the building, but one, by one, the tenants moved out and the sisters moved in.  Ben and Ray and their children had the upstairs front-facing apartment.  Minnie moved into the upstairs back-facing apartment in 1925 or so.  Goldie asked to move in and took the rear-facing downstairs apartment.  Rose lived next door but to save money, she eventually moved into the only one bedroom, which was on the first floor facing the street.

Although Ray’s daughter, Millie, was 9 years younger than Minnie’s daughter, May, Millie looked forward to May coming home from school.  They would sit together on the floor in the upstairs hallway and play jacks.

Minnie was the one who mainly stayed in touch with the half-siblings. When anyone came to visit, they went first to Minnie’s apartment.  Although she did not like to cook, she always put out a nice spread with lots of “noshes”.  She would buy deli, like salami or herring, and lots of other goodies.

Minnie Laber - in backyard of House of the Four Sisters in 1944

Minnie in the backyard of 2054 78th Street in 1944.  Note the clothesline for drying laundry about her head.

The sisters were not religious but Minnie did make Seders and all the sisters would go to Minnie’s apartment.

As the families grew, the Leber clan started having joint  Seders in a Catering Hall, The joint family Seders seem to stop about the time World War II broke out as everyone was concerned about their own family and which of their  men were headed off to war.

Leber Family Seder, 1942

                                                                                        Extended Leber Family Seder – 1942

I was born in 1947 and we lived in Grandma’s apartment until I was 5 when my brother, Ira, was born and we needed more space.  I remember Grandma Minnie’s apartment quite well.  You would walk into the foyer. She kept a large refrigerator in there.  To the right was the bathroom.  The phone was situated on the wall right outside the bathroom.  When facing the bathroom, on the right was the kitchen. On the other side of the foyer was the living room (to the left of the bathroom).  The windows overlooked the alley that led to the backyard. Off of the living room were 2 bedrooms.  My parents had the one on the right, and Grandma Minnie and I shared the one on the left.

Tara in the backyard

 Tara in the backyard   

Tara on the front stoop

Tara on the front stoop

May and Tara shopping in Brooklyn

May and Tara shopping in the area

We would often go downstairs to say hello to Aunt Rose.  I remember her apartment as being dark and I was always happy to go back upstairs.  Note her window behind the girls below. It seemed to me she was always sitting there wathcing the world go by.  That is how I most remember her.

Tara on front stoop of 2054 78th Street
Tara (second from right) and friends sitting on front stoop of 2054 78th Street.

Why do I remember the position of the phone so well?  It was special to have a phone, although in those days, there were no private phone lines.  They were called party lines.  You would call an operator who would connect you to the person you wanted to speak to.  You could hear other conversations going on in the background and of course, the operator could interrupt at any time and heard everything you were saying.

Also, imagine one bathroom for all of those people!  However, that was better than Grandma had it growing up when everyone shared a bathroom out in the hall.

The sisters didn’t need other friends – they had each other.  After putting kids to sleep, they would go in each other’s apartments while the husbands baby-sat.  The only one who had outside friends was Goldie through her husband Hilloh’s work.

Tara in Minnie's apartment, circa 1952
Tara in Grandma Minnie’s apartment, circa 1952

Sometime before 1947, Ben had to sell the “House of the Four Sisters”. Ben and Ray moved a block away from the “House of the Four sisters” into a two-family house.  At first they rented out the upstairs, but, when Millie got married, she moved in there.  Ray babysat for her a lot so Millie had a lot of freedom.

Goldie also moved to a larger home a few blocks away, so by the time I was born, only Minnie and Rose remained. Harry moved in with his older sister, Minnie, when May and Bernie moved out. He kept the apartment until he retired to FL in 1973.

Ray is missing from the photo.

According to family stories, it wasn’t always smooth sailing with the four sisters living in the same building. There were arguments and fights.

However, in the long run, they all remained friends and were supportive of each other. When Minnie was suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease and lived in a nursing home, they would visit her every day and sit with her.

Rose was the last sister to live at 2054 87th Street. She lived there until she died in 1971. However, Harry remained in MInnie’s apartment until 1973 when he relocated to Florida.

In circa 2004, Ira stopped by 2054 78th Street so his wife, Sue, could see where he was born.

Sue in front of 2054 78th Street
Ira in front of 2054 78th Street

                                                                                    Sue and Ira in front of 2054 78th Street, circa 2004

Thanks to Google Maps, here is what 2054 78th Street looked like in 2017:

2054 78th Street, circa 2017


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