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The Story of Isaiah George |
Memories of Isaiah George by Manny
Memories of Isaiah George by Martha
Memories of Isaiah George by Mary
Esther Remembers Her Parents
I Remember Pop by Ginnie
I Remember Mom by Ginnie
The 2nd Generation
Rachel Garboushian, the woman Isaiah George wed the day after he first saw her in 1909 and who became the mother of 15 children, "was a very remarkable lady," writes daughter Ginnie Adair.
I remember that my mother, Rachel, was a very remarkable lady, yet normal. She laughed, she cried, she disagreed, she agreed. She had likes and dislikes, but she had many qualities that, in the eyes of her family, made her special.
She had to be a brave person and a person of great faith, to leave her home and family at 19 to go to another country to marry a man she had never seen.
Mom was born Rachel Garboushian on September 13, 1889 in Kessab, Syria. (Her mother's name was Sarah but no family member can recall her father's name; he is believed to have been murdered by the Ottoman Turks sometime after Rachel came to the U.S.) She was two days short of 20 when she landed by ship on September 11, 1909 at Ellis Island off of New York City. Through an arrangement with my father's family, she had corresponded with him, and Pop had sent her a diamond ring. She came with her sister-in-law, Elizabeth (Auntie), and her father-in-law to be. Her husband-to-be was waiting for her on the Island when the ship docked, having planned a big wedding for them at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. But this never happened because officials refused her entry into the United Statest because she was not 21 and not accompanied by her parents. The only way she could stay was to marry my father and then she would be free to enter the U.S.
Having never seen her husband-to-be, except for a picture he had sent, she was looking for a man with a mustache, but he had shaved it for the wedding. I am not sure what happened then, but likely she was puzzled for a moment. They were married the next day by a German minister on Ellis Island, with a Catholic nun and a black cleaning lady as witnesses. God blessed their union, for Mother gave birth to 15 children, all born at home with the same doctor, except for the 15th who was born in a hospital because of complications.
My first memory of my mother, whom I called Mom, was in a women's hospital after John was born. John lived only a few days, and I was taken there by someone in the family to see Mom. I must have been three years old.
Mom was small in stature, about 4 feet, 11 inches. She was on the plumpish side, weighing about 125 pounds. She had a lovely complexion, pearly white teeth, and jet black hair, with hardly any gray, pulled back in a knot. She ate very little, it seemed, and her favorite dish was lamb chops and peas. She did not like eating out, because she thought the restaurants were not clean. I think Esther and I look more like her, because we both are on the plumpish side. Mom liked nice clothes. She always looked neat and clean. She had, as I mentioned, lovely teeth. There was an old saying that a woman loses at least one tooth with every pregnancy. Though she had 15 children, she didn't lose a tooth!
I didn't have the privilege of knowing my mother as long as I would have loved to, because she died when I was 16 years old, two years after my father went to be with the Lord. I was a junior in high school, so Mom never saw me graduate from high school or college. But she did come to my eighth grade graduation at which I sang a solo, Brahms' "Wiegenlied" ("Lullaby"). She came by herself only a month after my father passed away. Everyone else was either working or at school.
Mom was the Queen of our home. She was loved by all of us, especially my father, who called her Raha, meaning Rachel, I guess. Pop gave Mom a diamond on her wedding band when each one of us was born. She never raised her voice at us and disciplined by saying, "Nooo," and shaking her finger back and forth. She didn't hit any of us and none of us was afraid of her. When she didn't like something or something we did that bothered her, she would show it by twitching her nose. (Jim says I do the same thing when he knows I don't agree with him!)
We all knew that Mom loved us all the same way. But her sons were special, and she spoiled them by not requiring them to do any special work around the house, and in other ways.
Frank was her baby, and she made sure everyone took care of him, even to the fact that when it began to rain one day she sent Mary in the rain to school to give Frank an umbrella. I was in school that day but did I get an umbrella? No.
When Manny worked late and could not eat with the family, she always sat with him while he ate, listening to him tell about his day at the office. She gave him her full attention.
When Eddie would come home for a visit, she cooked all the kind of foods he liked. He was the most important one in our household when he was home.
Mom never seemed overworked, depressed, or tired. As we grew older, the girls in the family took over the house chores. Mom always did all the cooking and her meals were delicious. She never did the clearing up after meals; her daughters did. My job was to wash the dishes every Thursday (no built-in dishwashers back then!). I have yet to taste turkey and dressing like she made and a lamb roast with her stuffing.
We did not have many new things in our home. Most of our furniture was secondhand and given to us. Mother did not put her values in things; what she had was fine for her. My parents never owned their own home. I remember when the landlord raised our rent to $45 a month and this upset them.
Mom's main interest in life was her husband and family and in raising her children to love God and the church. I got ten cents a week and was taught to tithe that--one cent. She believed in education and was satisfied if we did our best in school.
Mom liked special holidays. She made sure I had a costume for Halloween and at night after trick or treating we would have nuts, gingersnaps, and hot cider around our big dining table. One Halloween she put a white sheet over her and knocked on neighbors' doors, the Taylors and the Gallegers.
We always had a big turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, with Mom waking up early to put on the turkey. It was wonderful to awaken to the smell of the turkey cooking. We also enjoyed bender hootz prepared by Auntie.
If we didn't go to the Thanksgiving parade in town, we would go to the Penn-Princeton football game at Franklin Field while the turkey roasted and Mom got everything ready. Besides the ten children around our table, and Mom and Pop, we always had guests. Mom's mother, Kitty Ma, came to visit us for a short time and stayed 12 years. So she also sat at our table. But she went back home after I started grade school (that's a story in itself!).
Mom loved Christmas and always took me to see Santa Claus in town. When I was four or five, Mom bought me a little red coat with a gray fur collar and cuffs and a hat to match. I also carried a white fur muff. She took me to Wanamakers to see Santa that year and I remember Santa put me on his lap and asked what I wanted for Christmas. I told him I wanted a diedy doll that wet itself when given a bottle. Mom must have been listening, because I got it for Christmas. It was very unusual for any of us to get such a big gift as that. I never believed there was a real Santa. I guess I was taught that he was just a fairy tale character.
We never decorated our live tree until Christmas Eve. Mom used to put a chair next to my bed and she would put the few gifts I got on this chair. She also stuffed an old silk stocking with nuts and a tangerine and other goodies. We did receive big boxes of chocolate candy from friends of my parents, to thank them for their hospitality, I think.
When I was in the fourth grade a gang of boys wanted to beat me up. I never knew why. That was the way it was back then. It could have been that I was teacher's pet, because every teacher knew our family. One day the gang chased me home from school. I was so frightened that I told my mother I would never go back to that school again, and I didn't. Mom had Pop go downtown to the Board of Education building to see the superintendent of schools. Pop got in somehow and the following week I went to my new school. The thing that was so unusual was this school had a waiting list of about 75 children. (I'd like to know what he said to the superintendent!) I took a trolley car to get to school. This school was a public school connected to the Normal School for teachers. It wasn't unusual to see lines of chauffeur cars dropping off and picking up children. The trolley car was just fine for me; it went right past the school.
Just a little note aside about this. My teacher, Miss Stephens graduated from Penn with Manny and was in the same Phi Beta Kappa Club with him. This made my transition to the new school very easy, for she asked me if my brother was Manny and treated me special.
At Eastertime I always got a new bonnet, dress, and spring coat to wear to church. Mom taught me how to dye eggs with onion skins. The four younger members of our family got Easter baskets with jelly beans and a big chocolate Easter egg in it, along with the dyed eggs.
As we grew up Mom was like one of the sisters. She had a great sense of humor. She had a strong character and respect for people who were care people in her life, such as her doctor or minister. She did not call these people by their first names but always addressed them by Doctor, Mister, Mrs., or Miss. She was very loyal to her doctor, Dr. Killian and to her pastor, Dr. Mackie and our Sunday School teachers, Mrs. Hicks, Mrs. Alexander, et al. We never called them by their first names, following Mom's example. To this day I do the same thing. For example, it's Dr. Jorden, our good friend, who, with his wife, Janet, we have traveled together.
Mom was very kind and enjoyed inviting people to our home for dinner. She would invite Dr. Killian and his wife for chicken dinners, giving them twice the amount we had for ourselves. When she invited Mrs. Mackie, our minister's wife once, she refused to come because she would have made the thirteenth person around our table and that meant bad luck. Mom simply did "nose" and let it pass, for Mrs. Mackie obviously was a very superstitious lady.
One day she invited the Methodist minister's wife, Mrs. Goff, over and after dinner this lady sat down at the piano to play. All of a sudden she started to sing real loud, and she had a very deep contralto voice. Mom could not control her laughing and ran out of the room. I did the same thing, and Mary followed. I think Ruth was the only one left in the room. She happened to be sitting on the bench next to Mrs. Goff; I still wonder how she controlled herself from laughing. But Mom soon got herself under control and came back into the room before Mrs. Goff finished. She was not making fun of this lady, but it was something she never expected.
It was as if someone suddenly tickled her without warning. At least it was for me. I still remember the hymn Mrs. Goff sang--"God's Tomorrow."
The women of the church and neighborhood all liked Mom. If some of them got under her skin, she was bold enough to let them know.
I think Mom had a sixth sense. She seemed to know things were going to happen before they did. She could tell what people were trustworthy and she let us know. She was always right, it seemed.
I never heard Mom pray out loud, but I remember seeing her on her knees in her bedroom talking to the Lord. She could speak several languages and did not have a foreign accent at all, though she got some of her words twisted.
To sum up her gifts, I would say she gave her daughters each one or two of them:
To Martha she gave the gift of organization and a high standard of morals.
To Mary she gave the gift of love and compassion.
To Florence, the gift of sharing and giving.
To Esther, the gift of boldness and loyalty.
To Ruth, the gift of meekness and strength.
To Tuddy, the gift of humor and caring.
To me, the gift of hospitality and sensitiveness.
I believer these gifts were our inheritance from God, and they outweigh any amount of money we would have inherited had my parents been wealthy. Mom had all of the gifts to some degree, and her daughters undoubtedly have more gifts than I listed.
After Pop passed away. It seemed Mom lost some of the light in her life. She lost her battle with lymphosarcoma and went to be with her Lord in May 1944, two years after Pop entered the Glory Land. I believe all the light came back to her that day when she met him again in heaven.
I know there are many more stories that could be told about our mother. So I hope other members of the family will write their thoughts about her. My siblings knew her longer. But I think I had a closeness to her which they may not have had, because I was home alone with her as a child while everyone else was at school or working. Back in those days there were no kindergartens, so we had those preschool years by ourselves during the daytime. The book I enjoyed her reading to me was Little Black Sambo, now banned in elementary schools.
I hope those of you who never knew your grandmother, great grandmother or mother-in-law will get a little realistic picture of her through this article.
My memories of Pop, as I called my father, are not as detailed as the older members of our family. I was the youngest. Pop was sick most of the time I was growing up. He died from a heart problem when I was 13, the month I graduated from the eighth grade.
I do remember when I was about four or five years old, I would get in bed with my mother and father and he would tell me Bible stories about Daniel in the lions' den, Samuel and Eli (I really liked that one!), Joseph, and King David. Father spoke very softly and used lots of expression.
As I got older, I was in charge of putting on Pop's gray spats. (For those who never heard of spats, or never saw them, spats were made of cloth and worn around the ankles and over and under shoes, and held on with buttons on the side of each shoe. To this day I really do not know why men wore them, but it was stylish and perhaps to protect the shoes and ankles from being splattered with mud.)
Pop enjoyed having me make orangeade for him in the afternoons. I would squeeze a couple of fresh oranges in a glass over crushed ice and add some water and a little sugar. He told me I made it better than any one else in the family, so that kept me wanting to do it.
He also liked to play board games, such as Chinese Checkers and Contact. One day I was winning all the games and felt sorry for him, so I started to lose some on purpose. He never knew, apparently.
I will never forget the day when my father and mother bought me a little desk of my own so that I could play school with my dolls. That was a big sacrifice for them, but it made them very happy to see me so happy. I can even remember the furniture store it came from: Kravit's on Lancaster Avenue.
I used to go with my father to The Old Men's Home (real name!) for Sunday afternoon church services. He liked to take part in the services by saying the prayer. Every time I went I had to sing for the men, and after the services I'd shake hands with all of them. I always sang the same song: "I Need Jesus." My girlfriend Hazel's mother played the piano for those services. Mr. Farr and Reverend Stern, who cleared his throat about every other sentence, gave the messages.
I remember going to Fairmont Park for picnics with Father and Mother. Pop loved taking us for rides on the Woodside Park trolley car, which was an open air trolley. Woodside Park was an amusement park, and we would go there after picnics.
Pop loved politics. He would stay close to the radio (no TV then!) to hear the election returns. If his man did not win, Pop would have a heart attack that night. I knew, because I slept in the room next door and could hear all the talk and commotion, and soon Dr. Killian arrived (no 911 back then).
Pop was a strong Republican. He did not like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he became very upset when FDR was elected to a third term. He told me he was afraid the country was heading toward a dictatorship, because people were following FDR like they were doing in Germany to Hitler.
Pop also liked the old hymns of the church, especially "O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth." He enjoyed the choruses of that time. One of his favorites went
On Monday I am happy.Another favorite was "Oh, Say But I'm Glad."
On Tuesday full of joy.
On Wednesday have the peace within, the devil can't destroy.
On Thursday and on Friday, I'm walking in the light.
On Saturday have the peace within
And Sunday always bright.
Sing glory, glory, glory, glory,
Sing glory to the Lamb.
Oh, hallelujah, praise the Lord,
I'm saved, I know I am.
I can't remember Pop ever hollering at me. He used to show disappointment in his eyes. I knew I never wanted him to be angry with me. If I knew that, it would have been worse than any kind of discipline. I guess this is the reason I don't believe in hitting children in discipling them. Someone said to me that if I raised boys, my whole attitude would be different.
Pop would get angry at people who he thought were doing him an injustice in his business. Whenever we heard him say dava lack ormea (however spelled!) or sana gid the sana (spelling?) we knew to stay clear of him. Till this day I do not know what either meant, but both were bad news.
My mother was his princess and he never raised his voice at her; at least I never heard him do so.
Pop was always so proud of us when we graduated from high school and college, because he believed so much in higher education. He himself never had the opportunity of having a good, formal education. I can still remember our living room walls which were all decorated with diplomas. I counted 10 once. These diplomas were not small, perhaps as much as 15 x 18 inches.
Pop loved ice cream and used to give us a dollar to go to Green's Drug Store to buy 8-10 cones. Those five-cent cones were wonderful! It seems like ice cream back then was better and creamer.
I was never envious of my friends who had younger fathers, because most of these men were seldom at home. They were too busy working and too tired to do much with their children when they were around. I was blessed with a very caring, fun-loving, respected and moral father. whose beliefs helped shape my life. I thank God for the quality time He gave me with my Pop.
Father was a very kind man with a strong character, and so was our mother. Our parents loved Jesus Christ, and Christ was the center of our home life. We were brought up in a wonderful home, where we learned to share, to care, and to reach out to others. Our home was always open to others. Bible study classes met in our home, as well as youth groups and social gatherings. Everyone was welcome regardless of their standing, rich or poor, black or white, educated and not educated. Our home was very ecumenical, even before the word "ecumenical" was part of the every day language as it is today.
Father had a very prosperous diamond-cutting business until the time of the Great Depression of the early 1930s in America. He did business with the heads of large jewelry firms--Tiffany's in New York, John Wanamakers in Philadelphia, Bailey Banks & Biddle, and others.
Father did our food shopping at the Italian market in downtown Philadelphia. Each Friday after leaving his office he went to the market and bought our meat for the week--perhaps two live chickens, which he picked and then killed, from the many in the chicken stores; and a half of a lamb, which he asked to have cut up into lamp chops, lamp shoulder, and leg of lamb ground. Mother made Armenian dishes with the ground lamb. He also bought food from the Greek store--ripe olives, Greek cheese, olive oil, wheat. Mother made delicious Armenian meals with the wheat. Our meals were plain and healthy. Mother made our own yogurt and other such healthy foods each week.
Each Sunday our parents went with all of the children to Sunday School and church. They were part of our lives, and they lived the life they wanted us to live. On Family Day one year at Northminster Presbyterian Church, announcement was made that the family with the largest attendance present would receive a Bible. Our family, of course, received the Bible.
Our parents always stood behind us in all that we did. They encouraged us all along the way, and they were proud of our accomplishments. Because of their love and example, the ten of us who grew up together were able to become accomplished in all that we did. We praise the Lord that all members of our family are Christians and have been able to serve Jesus Christ our Savior in many areas of our lives.
For our parents we can say, We thank our God for every remembrance of them.
After he learned diamond cutting, Father settled on Jewelry Row and in the beginning had a good business. He used to tell us how he would go to John Wanamaker's private office to do business with him. He also did work for well-known jewelry stores such as Bailey, Banks and Biddle and S. Kind and Sons.
At Northminister Presbyterian Church Father met many fine Christians. Among them were two godly men, who became faithful, loyal friends of our family. They were Mr. Egbert Farr and Mr. William Adolph [an engraver of government bonds]. Mr. Adolph was the father of Dr. Paul Adolph, who for many years was a medical missionary to China, under the China Inland Mission. Paul Adolph was the father of Dr. Harold Adolph [he has been an overnight guest in recent times at 516], who served as a medical missionary in Africa for the Sudan Interior Mission [SIM]. He is also the brother of Robert Adolph, who serves as a missionary in Bangladesh.
In my youth these two godly men, Mr. Farr and Mr. Adolph, made a deep impression on my life and I know in the lives of our whole family. In time of sickness and death, Father called these friends, and they would come to the house to pray, help, and encourage and comfort the family. Sometimes they would hold Bible classes and cottage prayer meetings in our house. As children, we were fortunate to sit and listen to the teaching of God's Word under these men.
Father's role in the house was that of a loving husband, faithful, kind, and sacrificial father, and a priest in the home. Every Sunday morning Father would call us together for family worship. It was a natural sight to walk in our parents' bedroom and see Father on his knees in prayer or reading his Bible.
Before meals we were taught to say grace. Usually at dinner, Father sat at the head of the table, with Mother and the children around the large dining room table. Father would offer prayer. We would listen to letters that came from the old country. Any special news or information was given at this time. Father and Mother were very hospitable people. Usually, every Sunday they would invite one or more for dinner, people from various races, cultures, and backgrounds.
In the early 1930s the Great Depression was upon us. Father's business suffered, yet he went every day to his shop. Around that time a doctor discovered a tumor on father's neck. It was near the jugular vein. So the doctor could not operate. Word was that he had seven years to live. When Father was in stress, especially about his work, his tumor would swell, and Father usually had a heart attack. So when I graduated from Temple and could not find a teaching job, Father asked me to accompany him to work.
At that time I began attending the evening school of the Bible Institute of Pennsylvania. I attended the school three years and graduated. I had no income, and I knew Father could not afford to pay my tuition or even my carfare. I trusted God to provide for my needs, and just when I needed the money God provided me with a baby sitting job. Never once did He fail me. During those three years I learned to walk by faith.
One day while I was eating lunch with Father in his shop, the phone rang. Father answered and became flushed in his face and his hand trembled. When he put down the receiver, he went to the safe, took out a diamond ring, and asked me to take it to his bank. I had never been there before. He told me to tell the banker to accept the ring until the next day, when he would send some money. I was confused and embarrassed.
When I delivered my message, the banker refused to accept the ring and told me to go back and tell my father if he didn't have five dollars by morning, the bank would have to close his account. Then I understood what had happened: Father had used up all his money in the bank. That evening after supper, I called together some of the young members of my family, to whom I had been teaching Bible verses. We prayed for Father and his problem, and believed God would provide the money.
It was Father's custom when he arrived at his shop to pray and then read the Bible. The next day, when Father was having his private devotions in his inner office, a young man came to the outer office and asked for Isaiah George. He said to me, "You do not know me, but my father owes your father some money. He borrowed it six months ago. He is sorry he was so late in paying." He gave me an envelope that contained about $10. Father gave me the envelope and asked me to take it to the bank. Together we praised and thanked God for answering our prayers.
This was just one way God tested our faith and met our needs during the Depression. Because many days there was no work, Father and I enjoyed talking and sharing God's Word and His promises with each other.
I never heard Father complain. When trials were the greatest, he would ask us to sing. Fanny Crosby's song "Never Give Up" was a favorite for these times. The chorus says, "Sing when your trials are greatest, Trust in the Lord and take heart."
Father always listened to Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse on the radio on Sunday afternoons. He also enjoyed Dr. Charles Fuller's "Old Fashioned Revival Hour." Later on, when we became teenagers, Father listened with us to Percy Crawford on the "Young People's Church of the Air."
Father encouraged us to have Bible studies and cottage prayer meetings in our home. He would join our young friends in these meetings. He loved to gather the children and sing the old hymns of the church. He would ask someone to play the piano, and we would have a happy time singing some of Father's favorites. Some were:
"O could I speak those matchless words," "Amazing love and can it be, that Thou my God should die for me," "Happy Day," and "When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there."
He loved some of the choruses of the day: "Oh say but I'm glad," "Heavenly Sunshine," "Sing and Smile and Pray," and a little chorus taught by an evangelist friend of his:
"Now don't be downhearted,
Cheer up, cheer up.
Jesus is on the throne.
And He will supply all your needs from on high.
Cheer up, cheer up, cheer up."
Around 1940 Father's heart attacks increased. One day in the office he took an attack. I took him home by taxi cab. When the doctor finished examining Father, he told me the attacks would increase and become more severe.
In the spring of 1941 the attacks were so bad that Father was home a lot. Before he died, he was home for a month. Three days before Father died, the doctor ordered an oxygen tent.
During those days Father was in a coma. When Father died, my brother Manny knelt in prayer and prayed the prayer of Job: "The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord."
I thank God for giving me such a wonderful father. Today I praise Him for letting me share in his joys and sorrows.
Father did not leave us material wealth, but he gave us something that surpassed all earthly treasures. That was a godly heritage. He left us a wonderful legacy expressed in the motto that has hung in our house for many years:
"The crown of the home is godliness,
The beauty of the home is order,
The glory of the home is hospitality
The blessing of the home is contentment.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Five of our parents' children died in their early years. During that time I recall Father's words to sympathizers: "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23) and "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).
Father always resorted to prayer and the Scriptures in time of sorrow. He was strong in his faith. I was very close to Billy, who was two years younger than I.. I used to read Bible stories to him in the evenings. I took Billy's death very badly. When Father saw my grief, he invited me to go with him to his shop. The following day we went, and that was the first time I was ever there. He was a great comforter. On the way home we stopped at the Woolworth Five and Dime Store to by paper fans for those who would come to the funeral.
When Father announced Billy's death to all the children, he first made sure every one had his or her breakfast. Then he told us to gather in the parlor. "Billy was in the hospital and he died during the night," Father told us. "Billy is all right now. He has no more pain. He is in heaven with Jesus."
Father was a person who possessed gentle and mild characteristics, yet he was firm in his beliefs. The Word of God was Father's basic tool for training his children along the straight and narrow path.
Family devotions were part of the evening activities in our home. As the children grew older, personal devotions replaced the daily family gatherings. However, the devotional time which Father initiated for the entire family to be together on Sunday mornings still continues.
My earliest recollection of observing Father's deep concern and love for his children goes back to an incident which took place nine days before Christmas 1922. Two weeks prior to Christmas, our 4-year-old sister Helen and 2 1/2-year-old brother Egbert were confined to bed because of serious illnesses.
On the night of December 14, about 6 o'clock, I stood in front of the parlor window waiting for Father to come home from work. Sad news awaited Father. He walked into the house carrying the usual shopping bags containing a variety of interesting foods, which he always enjoyed buying. As Father went up the stairs, the news that Helen had died was given to him. Father went into his bedroom, sat on the side of his bed, and wept bitterly. Father said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away." I was ten years old when this incident took place.
Father received great pleasure in seeing his children fed and clothed. He enjoyed going to the department stores to purchase clothes and have them delivered to our home. On one occasion this was done in order to help Mother get the children ready for a family portrait. I remember sailor dresses were worn by the older girls and soldier suits by the boys. We still have this family portrait in our sitting room.
Father also enjoyed going with Mother to purchase for her coats, dresses, and hats. Father had a very good taste in making these selections.
I always enjoyed going places with Father, especially out of town. When I was in my early teens, I have the privilege of going with him to New York City to meet Grandmother, who was arriving by boat from Syria. Father and I left Philadelphia by train on Monday morning. When we arrived on Ellis Island, the message was given to us that the boat was delayed. It was scheduled to arrive on Thursday. Father left me in New York City with friends and went back to Philadelphia.
Early Thursday morning Father came to New York, and he and I went to a restaurant for breakfast. I enjoyed having breakfast with Father in a different town.
Even though Father was a quiet person, he had a good sense of humor. Our brother Emmanuel had a gift of making comments and relating incidents in such a manner which caused much laughter on the part of the audience. Father was a part of this audience. As the saying goes, "We were in stitches," including Father.
Father was proud of his children. I recall one very hot summer evening we were sitting on the front porch. Father was surrounded by his daughters, who were fanning him just for fun. Father commented, "I feel like a king with all my princesses around me."
I never felt alone or afraid when I was with Father. His sincere faith in God gave me a secure feeling and courage to look forward and persevere.
[When Father arrived in Philadelphia from Boston], he got off the train at 30th Street, took streetcar 38 into West Philadelphia, not knowing where he was going. He said to himself that he would get off at the corner where he would see a church lit up. He saw old Northminister Presbyterian Church at 35th and Baring. Walked into Wednesday evening prayer meeting, was befriended by 2 Christian gentlemen, Egbert Farr and William Adolph.
Found a place to live. After starting business at 7th and Samson Streets, he was ready to settle down and get married. He had a dream that he should write home to Syria for a Christian girl. Parents found a girl, Rachel, and sent her picture to him. He agreed to marry her.
Editor's note: "The Story of Isaiah George" states that Isaiah had his dream in Brazil; Manny's account is probably accurate, that he wrote home after arriving in Philadelphia. The account of writing for a bride when he was in Brazil seems to be the story most often told. But since Rachel was born in 1889, she would have been too young to become his fiancee while Isaiah was in Brazil, it seems.Rachel, Isaiah's father John, and his sister Elizabeth came to the U.S. He married Rachel on Ellis Island and came to the home he rented in West Philadelphia. A year later their first child, Edward, was born prematurely, and not expected to live. They prayed and said if God spared the child, they would dedicate the boy to the ministry (this came about 26 years later; both parents lived to see this).
By 1916 middle of WWI they had 5 children. Got letter from Old Country telling of deaths and massacre by Turks on Armenians; many relatives killed.
Father became successful in business. During '20s many more children born--total of 15 children. Five children died.
Father very kind to immigrants from the Old Country. Would vouch for them, house them, and set them up in business. He was so grateful for this country. Even though he didn't have to pay taxes, he would go to the tax office and give money to tax people.
He brought up his family as Americans. He believed in "when in Rome do as the Romans do." Family raised as Americans in American community. However, he himself did not break ties with countrymen. He was respected and looked up to.
Then came the Depression. Had to support 13--10 children, sister, and he and his wife.
Despite the Depression, he was able, through prayer and sacrifice and borrowing (much to his distaste) to put older children through college. He wanted his children to get the best education possible.
Had a good sense of humor. Hearty laugh. All his children took music lessons. Civic leaders would seek him to get the Armenian vote at election time.
When [I] second son was six months old, Father went to Brazil to buy rough diamonds. Went into the hills on a donkey for several days. Directed to a cave where he met a native. Had rough stones wrapped up in old newspaper. Made a deal and brought a number of diamonds back to the States to cut and sell.
Excerpts, incidents, conversations:
Oftentimes when Father would have friends come in, particularly the men, in the course of the evening over cups of Turkish coffee, which was the accustomed beverage for entertaining, the men would talk in loud voices, gesticulating with their arms and hands. I once asked Father as a boy, "Are you men angry at each other?" He laughingly said that no, they were having a good time; that's the way they talked.
Father was a keen buyer. Since we had a large family and there was little money, during the depression years Father would always buy the clothes for each member of the family, by himself. I would be allowed to go with him on occasion as a young boy; this was a treat. I didn't understand the bargaining.
Most of the merchants were Jewish. Father, being an expert on clothes, would go into a store and look over the clothing and say, "Don't you have any thing better?" He would gradually be ushered to the top floor of the store and there he would see displays of suits and dresses at top prices--up to $100 in the 1930s. He would select what he wanted and ask how much. The merchant would say, "For you ninety dollars." Father would shake his head and say, "Ten dollars." The man would throw a fit. Father would then start walking away toward the stairway. The man would say, "Seventy dollars." Father still said, "Ten dollars." The man would be furious by then. Father would walk down the stairs. The man would follow him, saying, "For you fifty dollars." Father would keep walking and reach the front door. The merchant would grab Father's arm and say, "Be reasonable; my last offer, thirty dollars." Father would say, "If you sell me two suits, I'll give you thirty dollars." The sale was made.
After we were outside, I asked my father why he was so hard in making the deal. He said that this was the method of bargaining prevalent in Europe and Asia. I asked Father whether the man made any money on the sale. Father said yes, about fifty cents for each suit. And since he knew the value of the suits, wholesale, he could dicker till the man made the least profit, just to make a sale.
The deaths of four brothers and a sister at an early age was sad for us, but Father and Mother, being true Christians, believed it was God's will and accepted this. We once had a sudden death of a nine-year-old, William. He was OK at school on the fateful day. He came home and complained about a stomach ache. A friend told my mother to give him a "physic" [laxitive], which she did. The boy got worse and she called a doctor. He was taken to the hospital in the early evening. We all went to bed, saddened. Next morning I came down stairs and there were Father and Mother. I asked, "How is William?" They said, "He is all right, he is with the Lord." This struck me powerfully. There was Father and Mother without a tear. The boy had died during the night, of a burst appendix, and gangrene had set in. Back in 1925 penicillin wasn't even thought of.
Father was concerned about us as we grew up. When I was in my teens, I would date, and then if I went out with a girl a number of times, he would ask me to be careful and not get involved emotionally, particularly if she was of another faith. He was firm. His desire was for us to go with Christian girls.
We never had a car as a family. But Father's one desire was to buy me a car after I started working. Since during the Depression I was the main support of the family, it was a struggle. Since he was a jeweler, he always counted on a sale of diamond rings, which was infrequent. He would say, "The next big sale, I'll buy you a car." This never happened. He never had the money.
We were taught by precept and example in the Christian religion and always went to church. In the early days we all would walk to Sunday School and church as a family. We always had devotions at home, always read the Bible together, and prayed together. Father was the leader for all of this. We grew into the knowledge of Christ and accepted Him as our Savior in this growth.
When I was 12 years old, a child evangelist visited Philadelphia. She was 12 also. Father asked me whether I would go with him to hear her. I said yes. We went and I answered an altar call to accept Christ, even though I knew I was saved. This pleased Father very much. He bought me an ice cream soda on our way back home.
We always had a big house, with three stories. The third floor was reserved for people Father had vouched for from the Old Country. He would go to Ellis Island, sign papers, and bring them home to live with us. Usually they were a man and his wife. He would give them money to get started, find jobs for them, and when they could make it on their own, they left and we would get another couple.
Even though we always had a large family, we occupied the first and second floors of our house. We always had company in our house. At our evening meals, we would average 15-17 people. These were joyous occasions.
When Father was in his last sickness, bedridden, I bought him an electric razor, one of the first that came out. He was a straight razor user all his life. Since he couldn't shave very well, I shaved him with the electric razor. It fascinated him. He could even us it in bed. That's the way he shaved before he died.
He was fascinated with radio, how a voice could come through the air and be captured in a small box. He said this is the way God works, His Spirit is everywhere.
Father's handling of languages was amazing, particularly when he had no formal training in them. Often when I accompanied him while shopping in ethnic stores and crowds, he would hear a man speak in a foreign tongue. Father would go to the man and start to converse. The man would be surprised and delighted that someone would speak to him in his native tongue. Before long the man's arm would be around Father's shoulder and he was welcomed. If he happened to be a store merchant, Father could have anything he wanted at Father's price.
Father was a devout family man and cared for his wife and children very much. The least success or public interest in them, he cherished. I once won a five dollar prize for a "Confucius Say" contest. Father cut out the clipping from the paper and carried it in his wallet till he died.
Father was very faithful and loyal to his church, business associates, and friends. He would go out of his way to help them in need or a political way. A lawyer friend of his ran for public office in 1926. Father solicited the Armenian community to vote for him. The lawyer was ever grateful and would do any favor for Father when he was in need.
During the Depression of the 1930s Father's business was stalemated. No one had money to buy jewelry or have repair work done. This was very hard on him with such a big family and most of the children in school This took a lot out of him and contributed to his ill health toward the end of his life. He always prayed, and God granted his requests in emergencies, which were food, clothing, and lodging for his family. The monies would be in the form of an unexpected sale or a gift or loan from a friend to carry him over.
The naming of children was interesting. Five of the girls were named after Bible persons--Martha, Mary, Esther, Ruth, and Elizabeth. One was named after a king of England, Edward, whom Father admired. I, Emmanuel, was named after a brother of my father, who died at the age of four. Father was very attached to him. Florence was named after a close friend of the family. Egbert, who died at the age of seven, and William, who died at age nine, were named after the first two Christian friends that Father made when he came to Philadelphia, Egbert Farr and William Adolph. Franklin was named after Franklin Kind, a well-known jeweler on Chestnut Street. Virginia was named after Virginia Alexander, a well-loved Sunday School teacher. Helen, who died at age five, and Joseph Fred, who died at one month, were named after friends.
The influence and legacy of Isaiah George: He raised a Christian family and their influence as Christians carried on in their lives, service to others. Four of the ten living children married and have families of their own. All married Christians and raised Christian families. So the heritage goes on.
Note: In the near future, more memories of Isaiah George will be introduced, and hopefully memories of Rachel.
by James R. Adair
Adapted with additions from an article published in the Sept. 13, 1987 issue of Power for Living and based on information given by the progeny of Isaiah George.
Like millions of other immigrants entering the United States before him, 32-year-old Isaiah George, gazed with awe at the Statue of Liberty as his ship approached New York Harbor in 1906. A godly man, he probably breathed a prayer as he stood on deck, thanking God that he was coming to live in a land where he could enjoy "the blessings of liberty."
America became Isaiah's beloved country, so much so that in his early years he insisted on paying taxes that he didn't really owe. Here, he married a young woman he had never seen, and here they reared a family that today continues to be involved in ministering to the needs and problems of others, even as Isaiah did in his lifetime.
Isaiah was born Isaiah Geragosian of Armenian parents January 15, 1872 in Antioch, Syria, where followers of Christ were first called Christians Acts 11:26. He was introduced to Christ early in his life by his devout parents.
Isaiah gave credit to God for sparing his life through direct intervention, making it possible for him to come to America. There are two scenarios involving his imprisonment and narrowly escaping death before he viewed the Statue of Liberty..
The most popular account suggests that Isaiah was imprisoned in 1895 by the Turks, probably in Syria, and sentenced to death for being a Christian Armenian. Between 1863 and 1896, as many as 50,000 Armenian Christians were massacred in southwestern Asia by Ottoman Turks. Throughout the night he meditated on Scripture and prayed fervently. Next morning, without explanation, he was released and instructed to leave the country. He traveled through Europe for several years and eventually sailed for Brazil.
Another scenario, recounted by Manny George, Isaiah's second son, has Isaiah leaving home at the age of 19 in 1891 to "seek his fortune" and hitchhiking through Asia, Europe, and Egypt. In Cairo he apparently was mistaken for a criminal, imprisoned, and was told he would be executed the next day. He prayed all night and was mysteriously freed the next morning, and told to leave the country. He boarded a ship and left for Brazil.
The latter version seems plausible, but has no connection with the Turkish massacre, which other family members mention in connection with his imprisonment. If the Manny George version is correct in detail, then since Isaiah talked to his children about the Turkish massacre, in which he lost friends and his bride lost relatives, could some of his progeny mistakenly understood that their father Isaiah himself was imprisoned for execution by the Turks?
In either case, Isaiah definitely had a narrow escape and through the years gave God the glory for saving his life. Whether he traveled widely before or after he escaped death, he, according to Manny, managed to learn to read and write in, besides Armenian, the following languages: Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Portuguese, English, and German. Otherwise, he was not formally educated.
In Sao Paulo, on the coast of Brazil, Isaiah became a clothing merchant and a candle maker. Here he met a British nurse, a Christian, and was contemplating marriage when he had a dream in which his grandfather spoke to him, telling him he should have his parents pick an Armenian girl to become his bride. They put him in touch with a pretty 16-year-old girl named Rachel Garboushian, born September 13, 1889 in Kessab, Syria, and he began corresponding with her. They exchanged pictures, and soon an engagement ring went from Sao Paulo to Kessab. It was an engagement old-country style, purely on faith.
Meantime, after several years in Brazil, Isaiah met a Mr. Ohanian, an Armenian diamond merchant seeking diamonds in Brazil who invited him to come to Boston. "Come, I'll teach you to cut diamonds, and you can go into the diamond business in the United States," challenged Mr. Ohanian. Isaiah accepted the offer.
After his arrival in New York, he journeyed on to Boston, where he served as an apprentice to Ohanian for two years. Then he settled in Philadelphia, where he set up shop at Eighth and Samson Streets on Jewelers Row and became the city's first diamond cutter.
The day he arrived in 1908 in Philadelphia, Isaiah boarded a streetcar and, seeing a church after riding for a while, he got off at 35th and Baring Streets. He read the sign, Northminister Presbyterian Church. Apparently it was prayer meeting night, and here the pastor gave him a warm greeting and he met two men. He rented a room nearby, and Northminister became an important part of his life, the place where he worshiped and made many new friends, among them two who became lifetime confidants, Egbert Farr and William Adolph.
By 1909 Isaiah had accumulated enough money to send for Rachel. She arrived in New York Harbor on September 11. With her were Isaiah's father, John [Isaiah's mother had died], and sister, Elizabeth.
Isaiah searched anxiously as passengers disembarked, and then he saw her, his lovely bride to be. The handsome, mustached, gentle 37-year-old diamond cutter embraced shy Rachel. She must have been overawed at 20 years of age to sail into the likes of New York City and for the first time see the man with whom she would live the rest of her life.
Though a church wedding had been planned, immigration authorities decreed that Rachel could not enter the country unless she were married to Isaiah. A man of action, Isaiah rounded up a German minister, a Catholic nun, and a black cleaning woman, and the wedding proceeded right there on Ellis Island, with the latter two as witnesses.
One of Isaiah's favorite Bible verses was Psalms 127:3--"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward." He might have well added verse 5--"Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them." Isaiah, being a diamond cutter, placed a diamond in his wife's wedding band each time a child was born to them. She eventually wore 15 diamonds.
Their first child was Edward, born prematurely July 5, 1910 and given little chance to live. But Isaiah and Rachel in faith asked God to spare him, and when the danger passed, they dedicated their firstborn to the serve the Lord as a minister. They both lived to see him serve God as an evangelical pastor in upstate New York, the Bronx, New Jersey, and two pastorates in Pennsylvania.
Father did the grocery shopping, a middle daughter, Esther, recalls, buying half a lamb on Fridays at the Italian market and having it cut into cops and a shoulder roast, with other portions ground. Mother performed magic with ground lamb and wheat.
Sundays especially ushered in good times in the George household. There was no school homework permitted; the day was reserved for worship and good, old-fashioned fellowship. Sunday began with everyone gathering before church time for family worship.
Though Isaiah was a patient and kind man and rather reserved, Father expected and got obedience from his children. He especially loved his daughters. "You are my jewels," he would say. Once on a hot summer evening, several daughters surrounded him, fanning him for fun. "I feel like a king with all my princesses around me," he chuckled.
Times of sorrow involving the deaths of five children etched deep memories on the George siblings. Two children died of pneumonia within hours. Both parents wept when a child died but God soon brought comfort. Mary George recalled her father's words at the death of one of the children: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" Psalms 30:5.
Many immigrants found in Isaiah a source of strength and encouragement. For years the third floor of the George residence was reserved especially for new arrivals from overseas; here Isaiah cared for them until he could find them jobs. Even on the street or while shopping in an ethnic store, Isaiah had his ear cocked for a foreign tongue and, knowing so many languages, he would befriend not only other Armenians but Germans, French, Spanish, and Jews.
The Great Depression in the 1930s took its toll on Isaiah physically as well as materially. Who could afford diamonds during these years? Very few. A staunch Republican, he could not stand President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The thought of him and the pressures of the era brought on heart attacks that become more and more frequent.
"Father never complained," his daughter Florence remembers. "When trials were greatest, he would ask us to sing Fanny Crosby's song 'Never Give Up.' He liked the chorus: 'Sing when your trials are greatest, trust in the Lord and take heart.' "
Isaiah died at the age of 69 on May 28, 1941 as his adopted country approached World War II. Rachel, heartbroken and lonely without him, became ill and died of lymphosarcoma two years later on May 5, 1943 at the age of 53. Two Armenian immigrants who found happiness and fulfillment in America and in each other were now with their Savior and their five departed children.
Isaiah George, the progenitor of the George Family of Philadelphia, left behind offspring who would continue to reach out in love to others as he had done during his lifetime. I know because as son-in-law, I have observed them in action.