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Labor Day Essay: Why I’ll be Marching for Jobs on Oct 2!

September 6, 2010

Join  Ekos-Squared  and the Cole Family on Saturday, October 2, 2010
For Details: http://www.onenationworkingtogether.org/?p=206

Roselle, NJ, 1959, June — The first day of summer vacation and my mother, Jeanette, wakes me 6:00 AM. “You need to get out of the house and find a job.” I was 16 and old enough to work full time. She had breakfast waiting. As I went out the door, muttering, she hollered, “And don’t come back until you get one!”
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What was I going to do? Well, I thought, “what about the Gold-Bell Bakery on St. George Avenue? Great bread  Maybe I’ll get lucky.” I took the railroad track hypotenuse and soon found myself at the G-B counter breathing in the aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries. The woman behind the counter, “what can I get you, today?” I said, “well, I, errr, I’m looking for a job.” She said “Wait here.” Then to my astonishment out comes Mr. Gold (Saul Feingold) or Mr. Bell? (can’t remember which) holding an apron!!!! — short and stocky, chewing a cigar stub. “Can, you work (woik) now?” – (Brooklynese Yiddish accent).
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I followed him back to the big workroom with its wooden floor and tables, huge mixing bowls and ovens. He showed me the duties of a “cleanup boy.” I was the only non-union guy in the shop, so I was not to do anything connected to baking. The biggies were scraping the chars off the post-baking bread trays, sweeping, and washing huge dough-soaked bowls. The worst job was cleaning sinks — generally clogged with a sodden medley of dough and cigar buts.  The best job was frying donuts. Donuts — not covered by any unions. Gold-Bell sold no bagels (different union).
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On that first day they kept me busy until 6:30 PM. As I left, one of the owners gave me a huge bag of breads and rolls. When I got home my mother was visibly relieved. (She recently admitted her fear she had sent me into harm’s way.) My father, always looking for pun, called me “the family bread winner.” I felt like a million bucks.
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Photo of Babka -- imagine oven fresh with melted butter. For source and recipe see: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gale-gand/chocolate-babka-recipe/index.html

I remember the bakery job as one the best in my life. I felt I was doing something that mattered (food); I was part of a team. I learned how bread and rolls are made. I learned how to make pumpernickel sour starter — stale old rye breads in a big barrel of water, fermenting. The cake baker taught me all about icing; one of the bread guys was a young Puerto Rican who was shocked that I was still a virgin at 16. He tried (unsuccessfully) to fix me up with one of the girls up front.
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Friday mornings were wonderful times. Gold sent me down the street to get the coffee to go with the just-out-of-the-oven babkas.   Most were for sale, but two were for the workforce, and they got dosed with butter while hot. Oh, Lord – that with fresh coffee. To hell with diets.
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Labor Day was an important holiday in my family. My father, Archie Cole, was a union organizer from his twenties until the day he died of cancer at the age of 77 (1994). He devoted his entire career to efforts to improve the wages and job conditions of workers. And although he served as President of the New Jersey Industrial Council he never stopped joining the workers on picket lines. He got arrested more than once. He also worked tirelessly for racial equality and was a long-standing member of the NAACP — typically the only white guy in sight. His union IUE, AFL-CIO, brought hundreds of buses to the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. I was on one of those buses, and had the great privilege of hearing Martin Luther King’s famous I have a dream speech in person. (Use this link to see a great video of the speech with many pictures of this historic day.)
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Archer Cole, Father and Trade Unionist, 1917-1994; he always knew how to get his points across

Arch often spoke of the importance of unions to all families – union or not. The victories of union workers have raised the wages and working conditions of all workers. In his last two decades he shared with us his discouragement – the number of union members, especially in manufacturing, were continually dropping owing to automation, job export, and increasingly aggressive corporate campaigns to break unions. I believe that the demise of the labor movement is one of the key reasons why the great majority of Americans have seen their economic security dwindle.

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On this Labor Day I think of the more than 15 million Americans who are unemployed – many for a long time, and many have run out of government support, and how they must feel when they look at their spouses and children. And millions have lost their homes.
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What I learned at the bakery is that work is not just about making a buck. It’s about being connected to the great cycle of life, its about being valuable and contributing to the human community; it’s about being a “bread winner” with a feeling of worth and dignity. And this is why I will be marching on October 2. I hope you will too.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Addresses March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963, Source: UK Guardian

Union leaders (you can see Walter Reuther) center right. Can you identify others?

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. harvey feingold permalink
    December 2, 2015 2:48 am

    Dear Hank-I meant to check off the two boxes below after submitting my last note. Harvey Feingold

  2. harvey feingold permalink
    December 1, 2015 4:03 pm

    Dear Dr. Cole-I just had Aaron (Dr. Aaron Feingold) email the link to this site since I had misplaced it. Glad to hear that many people remember my Uncle Saul’s bakery so fondly. I, by the way am Harvey Feingold, Aaron’s first cousin. I remember visiting Uncle Saul’s bakery in the early 50s when I was an aspiring young Zionist living on a training farm just outside Hightstown N. J. On one of my visits to the bakery and Saul’s home I recall him introducing me to the staff, and for some reason, I had the feeling he wanted me to stay and work there. I think that’s because my Dad Yechiel Feingold (Saul’s older brother in Winnipeg Canada) asked Saul to “get me out of there!” (the farm as well as the whole concept of training to be a farmer in israel. Well, that never happened, and we did go for a few years and then returned to Canada and eventually Los Angeles, where my wife Arlene (whom I met in Hightstown) grew up after her family fled Europe just before the war. But-there’s a lot more to be told there. Thanks for your great article about Gold Bell and thanks for the wonderful work you do in connection with the environment, fair labor practices, and many good causes. I would love to hear from you on my personal email. All the best, Harvey Feingold.

    • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
      December 1, 2015 5:09 pm

      Thanks, I never dreamed that the response on Gold Bell would be so wonderful and that members of the Feingold family would respond with happy memories.
      I still tell people, my summer at Gold Bell Bakery was the best job I have ever had. At least the most fun. Hank Cole

  3. Steve Cole permalink
    September 14, 2015 1:38 pm

    Hank, nice post. I can’t remember specifically when you came home with all that bread on your first day at Gold Bell Bakery. But I can vividly remember the innumerable times I went there early in the morning with Dad to get rye bread and rolls.The warm, deliciously smelling bread would be so unresistible that as soon as we got back in the car, we’d start eating the small pieces at the end of the loaf, including the union label on the somewhat shiny, finely cracked crust. In Chicago, I’m still looking for Gold-Bell quality rye.

    In Greece, there is a somewhat similar experience, but still not Gold-Bell rye. The small bakeshops everywhere make koulouria, a eight-inch in diameter hoop of sesame seed-topped bread, about 1 1/2 inches thick. If you don’t get to the bakery early, the koulouria will be gone. If you don’t get their early enough, it won’t still be warm, which is, of course, when it is best.

  4. DR Aaron Feingold permalink
    September 12, 2015 10:54 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful article , I am the son of Saul Feingold and you have captured the moment in time we remember so well ,both of the Bakery and my Dad. His influence and goodness have permeated all of our beings in the family and he thus lives on. He told me stories that he used the bakery for instance to provide sustenance and jobs to scores and scores of families during the depression. The Bakery was his vehicle to achieve success and to give back to the country and people that took him in as an orphaned immigrant refugee at age 12 in 1921

    • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
      September 13, 2015 11:25 am

      Dr. Feingold, thanks for your wonderful comment. Is the bakery still in business? Where do you live etc. Great to hear from you. I will pass the article and your commment to
      family members. Sadly my mother who sent me on the journey to the bakery died 2 years ago at the age of 93. She was a great woman with a great love for good bread–and that’s what
      Gold Bell gave the world. Hank Cole

      • Diane Bergamo permalink
        September 13, 2015 3:24 pm

        I remember going to Gold Bell bakery as a kid. They made the best crumb buns with yellow crumbs that were drizzled in white icing. Over the years I have asked several bakeries to duplicate them and no one ever has been able to do it. Gold Bell will forever be a cherised memory from my childhood. If you can pass my comments along to Saul’s son that would be great. Even greater if I could get that recipe from him!

      • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
        September 13, 2015 10:45 pm

        Diane, Dr. Feingold is a subscriber and should see your comment. Perhaps he’ll have something to say about the crumb buns. Best regards, Hank Cole

      • DR Aaron Feingold permalink
        September 13, 2015 11:07 pm

        Diane and Henry, all of us in the family are constantly looking for the cakes and breads and smells that will bring us back, like Proust. Sometimes we get close but never have really found a real successor to the any of the baked goods .There was a recipe book, scribbled by hand and well stained but when my sisters tried to use it they could not make the appropriate reduction from his large ingredients i.e. use fifty pounds of sugar .A nephew opened a Bakery in Amsterdam , Netherlands and called it Uncle Saul”s for a while. When he read Henry’s post which I sent around ,he posted on Facebook that over the years he has had over 1000 employees and has tried to emulate the “labor practices” of Uncle Saul. I still live in New Jersey and very occasionally drive by Gold Bell. It is a tire store and the Bakery closed in the early !980’s .In !968 for health reason Saul sold his interest to his partner Dave Rubell and used the proceeds for college and medical school tuitions for my sister and myself , He died in Hillside , New Jersey in 1999 at age 91.

      • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
        September 13, 2015 11:23 pm

        Aaron, I think there is the making of a book following Saul and David’s epic story from beginning to end. How sad that one of the best bakeries in the U.S. has become a tire shop.
        Especially given that good bread is very hard to find these days. I have to get mine shipped from the Orchard Hill Bakery in New Hampshire. Panera’s makes a pretty good rye bread — no where as good as Gold Bell’s, but Panera’s other breads are terrible.

        What about combining bread recipes with the history of Gold Bell. Best, Hank Cole

      • DR Aaron Feingold permalink
        September 14, 2015 12:36 am

        There is a very close Rye bread, Pechters . I have the seeded Rye at Harold’s New York Deli in Edison NJ He gets two deliveries a day and slices it there . It is wonderful and he saves the ends for me. A book would be great.. My older sisters who delighted in your article know tons and tons of stories . My friend Ted Merwin is publishing in October a book on the ethos of the Jewish deli called “Pastrami on Rye” I brought him to Harolds for the Rye . Best Aaron

      • harvey feingold permalink
        December 2, 2015 2:30 am

        Dear Hank -thanks for your prompt and kind reply to my note about Uncle Saul. Our entire family (my brother, sister and our (combined) 8 children have very fond memories of Saul, and it’s nice to read your references to him and his business. A visit by Saul to our far- flung home in Winnipeg when we were young was very special. He was always kind and, as you might remember, tough (but fair) when he had to be. The nephew referred to by Aaron in one of his notes to you was my older son Gary, who lives in Amsterdam, where we will visit him next week. He did try to pattern his business partly after Saul’s practices, and at one time had a number of shops he called Gary’s Muffins. Currently he has two shops one of which is a bagel/coffee shop and the other a very special place that combines good food with occasional entertainment. Once again, thanks for your kind thoughts about Uncle Saul and for the good work you are doing. There are others in the family who would be interested in your work, notably my younger son Danny who is Communications Director for a non-profit (LAANE) engaged mainly in promoting fair labor and safe environmental practices. They have had considerable success in these areas. Kind regards, Harvey Feingold

      • Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
        December 2, 2015 11:46 am

        Harvey, thanks again. I have many reasons to return to Netherlands (where I’ve been numerous times). So, I’ll try to go to Gary’s places when I’m there.
        Also I’d be interested in hearing from Danny about his work. hcole@hcole-environmental.com Thanks, Hank

  5. Rick Poleshuck permalink
    March 6, 2013 10:39 am

    Great post. I wish I had seen it earlier.

  6. September 15, 2010 5:40 pm

    Thank you very much my friend, you are very kind in sharing this useful information with? others…. The details were such a blessing, thanks.

  7. September 8, 2010 10:57 am

    Nice thoughts, can’t agree further.

  8. Jeanette Malinow permalink
    September 7, 2010 11:37 am

    Rick: Read some history, biographies or novels of the history of the USA. Big money/ big industry, from even before the Civil War (think railrooads), fought the unions tooth and nail to keep workers from organizing. Successful unionization meant better wages and working conditions, including health (OSHA) and working hours. Who put an end to child labor? Unions didn’t send their own jobs overseas. Greed for profits did that.

    Here’s a good quote from “The Given Day” by Dennis Lehane. In this recent novel: one cop is trying to get his buddy to come to a meeting where police need to discuss their working conditions. “When they need us they talk of DUTY. When we need them they talk of BUDGETS.”

  9. Greg permalink
    September 6, 2010 7:32 pm

    Great tribute to your father and all he represented. I wish I could have met him. On second thought, I may have. His spirit seems alive and well in you…

  10. rachael permalink
    September 6, 2010 3:04 pm

    great post! i can smell the babkas.

  11. Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
    September 6, 2010 12:01 pm

    What does this have to do with the environment? Everything:

    See previous posts:

    https://ecosquared.wordpress.com/2010/08/20/more-skepticism-on-administrations-gulf-oil-disappearing-act/

    and
    https://ecosquared.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/wind-versus-big-coal-and-oil/

  12. Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. permalink*
    September 6, 2010 11:37 am

    Rick, I don’t agree with you, but respect your views. I would ask you to consider the following:

    What union leader makes tens of millions of dollars — salaries typical of the Wall Street execs?

    Who fought for the 40 hour work week, for paid vacations, for decent wages, for an end to child labor?

    Was it Wall Street banks or unions that caused the financial collapse and continuing recession?
    Is it unions or corporations that are outsourcing jobs and factories to low-wage countries?

    Now unions like other institutions are not perfect. Your grandfather may have had a particularly bad experience. No institutions escape the corrupting influence of greed and power.

    Thanks for your comment — we publish all views including those we disagree with so long are thoughtful and respectful.

  13. rick permalink
    September 6, 2010 11:20 am

    The labor movement is a MAJOR reason why jobs have left this country. As my grandfather said, “Son, my Union does nothing but cause headaches , take my dues and doesn’t even provide the aspirin for the headache.”
    Ask yourself when was the last time you saw an underpaid Union Leader? They are just stealing your money in a con!

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