Thursday, August 13, 2009

Still Tasting the Sweetness of Growing Up in Half-Sours

It's great to see a picture of Guss. I recognized that face instantly
an excerpt from a recent article in the nytimes by SUSAN DOMINUS
I know it’s unseemly to brag about one’s illustrious family lines, but sometimes a historic turn of events invites the opportunity to name-drop. Some of my closest friends don’t even know it, but I’m related to Jewish royalty (by marriage, I should clarify, but still). My brother married into pickles — Guss’ Pickles, to be specific, the famous Lower East Side institution that announced this week that it would soon leave that neighborhood for the lower rents and enthusiastic pickle purchasers of Borough Park, Brooklyn.
The New York blogs have been outdoing themselves in fits of nostalgia about this loss of lingering history on Orchard Street. But for my brother’s mother-in-law, Marilyn Altman, and her sister, Goldie Daniels — the Guss girls, as they were known back in the day, along with their late sister, Elaine — the news about the business, which they sold in 1979, came as a shock. It was also an excuse for them to come in from New Jersey, where they both live, share some old stories about their father, Isadore Guss, and, in Goldie’s case, wolf down some of the half-sours she loves so well.
After greeting the current owner of the shop, Goldie, blond and petite at 71, in a gold watch and gold hoops, instinctively situated herself in back of the barrels, the vantage point from which she had sold so many pickles to long lines down Hester Street, the store’s original location. “I ate more pickles than I sold,” she said, dipping a pan — a schissel, she called it, Yiddish for pail — into a barrel. “I loooove pickles.” She took a bite and rolled her eyes. “It’s like my heritage.”
Of the three daughters, only Marilyn, the baby, now 65, was deprived the privilege of working at the store. That’s what you get for dropping a yo-yo in a pickle barrel and thinking maybe no one would notice.
Goldie, however, worked there until she had children. If her mother had thought a woman could run a business, Goldie would have taken it over after her father’s death in 1975. Those days holding court behind the barrels as the whole neighborhood stopped by were some of the happiest of her life.

an audio of Guss' daughters reminiscing

Thanks to Murray and Susan for reminding me of this story
an email from Susan
I was friends with Goldie Guss for sometime. I met her on one of my trips to Israel and she lived in East Brunswick (about 15 minutes from me). We lost contact after a few years. There was just a big article about the two Guss sisters in the Times this past weekend. Her married name is Daniels. Small world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have fond memories of Guss' Pickles. Izzie and his brother Ben were cousins of my Grandfather Max Goldstein.

My Dad, Howard Davis had a luncheonette on Houston Street and we would go and get pickles from Izzie. He would always make me get my own from the barrel. I remember helping him and Benny stage barrels on occassion. Filling them with Cucumbers and I would smell like garlic all day.

I lost track of the family after Izzie's death and my moving to the west coast. I would love to reconnect with the family. If you know how to get in touch with them I would apprecite it if you would forward my contact information.


Steve Davis