The man in our lives: Remembering Uncle Herman Landman



By Marie Landman Bernstein


I never knew how Herman Landman happened to settle in Kansas City. I understand he had upon arrival in this country [been] in Philadelphia, where he met Adella Goldstein who I think had chestnut hair and blue eyes. She was an excellent homemaker. She was in love with a young man who developed tuberculosis and consequently went to live in Colorado. Her betrothal announcement of May 27, 1894, in Kansas City leads me to believe she was returning from Denver and married Herman Landman on the rebound.


He traveled in summer to the fairs in small Kansas towns and sold novelties. At other times he had a small stock of eyeglasses on a folding table under the 8th Street viaduct in Kansas City. Adella had a love of the finer things in life. She needed money, and the letters dwell on this. She made many trips to Colorado. ...


[page missing describes Adella's kleptomania, her commitment to a state mental hospital and Herman's subsequent divorce from her]


When she returned to St. Joe [the Missouri State Hospital No. 2, St. Joseph, Mo.], he [Herman] went to see her, especially at Passover he would leave K.C. with a box of Passover foods.


Jack [Herman and Adella's son, Joseph "Jack" Landman] went to work at a very early age--13 or 14--I heard. He was very large for his age. Lill [daughter Lillian Landman] went to live with the Englander family. I believe there were five girls and several boys [in the Englander family]. She worked at Kline's, in blouses. Then she had a short-lived marriage. It made Uncle Herman so unhappy, and he worried so about Lill. She became an excellent saleswoman and was so smart-looking and well-dressed. She later worked for the leading specialty store, Woolf Bros.; the leading jewelers, Jaccard's and Tivoli in Kansas City.


She moved to New York. Jack, too, was in the East, and Uncle Herman was left with his sorrow in St. Joe. He never ceased to love Adella and always made his visits on a Sunday. And on the Sundays he didn't go to St. Joe, he would come to our house. My father [Joseph Landman], his brother, died when I was 10 and my sister [Libbie] was 5. We welcomed him, and he became the man in our lives.


He loved music so he paid for music lessons for my sister and me. He never arrived without a bag of candy. So Uncle was very dear to us.


He lived alone in an old-fashioned two-story house [21 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo.] that he purchased in a neighborhood that he thought had a future. He rented out the first floor and lived on the second floor. In one room was stored Lill's old Victrola, the old trunk, the black dress, Adella's portrait in a gold frame. In another room was his stock of novelties that he sold at the fairs and big events in K.C., such as the Stock Show, etc. In the third room was his bed, dresser, [and the] table where he whiled away hours inventing novelties. I have in my sewing box linen tape he used in the making of tumbling blocks covered with metallic paper and held together with the linen tape.


One day he came home and found his room riffled [meaning slightly ruffled; perhaps she meant rifled, meaning ransacked] and he suspected the boy in the downstairs family had taken some money. Thereafter he put him on a weekly allowance to curb his tendency to steal.


Uncle Herman never complained about how lonely was his life. Jack seldom wrote. Lill wrote regularly, but he had so little naches [joy]. He attended my daughter's [Jo Ann's] piano recitals and dance recitals faithfully. Every Sunday he came to my home just as he had come to my mother's home. Sunday dinner wasn't complete without him. He had a severe bout with illness and convalesced at my home.


My husband [Isidore Bernstein] loved him. We would go down to the Stock Show at closing time and bring him home. It was always a week in October. Sometimes it would be cold and drafty where he had his stand. In 1948 he caught pneumonia; as a result he passed away.


Lill was in San Francisco. In a few years she became a victim of cancer and, after recovering from surgery, she came to K.C. to be near her family. We watched over her and tried to ward off her loneliness as we had her father. She was able to return to work and worked for the firms I mentioned earlier. She would visit her mother [in the mental hospital], and we would often go with her.


Adella was a sad figure, usually in a rocking chair but neat and clean. She loved the Jewish delicacies Lill would bring and the sweets. Sometimes Lill would take her out on the grounds for a picnic. Lill always returned [from the visits] in a depressed state. Adella died a few years [1955] after Uncle Herman and they are buried side-by-side at Sheffield Cemetery--just as if the divorce had never been. No mention was ever made of it [the divorce] by Uncle Herman or Lill and she may not have known. I only knew through the clipping [death notice or obituary] and I never mentioned it to her.


I hope you can understand why I refer to my aunt as Adella. I really never knew her as an aunt. Only once as a child I saw her in the synagogue when my grandmother pointed her out to me. We did not speak, and in the later years at the institution she seemed a stranger to me.


Upon Uncle Herman's death in 1948, I took the old battered camel back trunk filled with the odds and ends that Adella left. New embroidered materials in various widths used for petticoats and trimmings, the family album, a red velvet waist [shirt], old letters, an old handbag and such. What memories are in an old trunk!



The black satin dress



By Marie Landman Bernstein


My daughter [Jo Ann] was about 12 years old when I brought home the dress that Uncle Herman turned over to me from his meager collection of memorabilia. He wanted me to take it and hoped I would treasure it as he had thru the years. I don't believe anyone ever possessed a finer example of Victorian dressmakership. Made by Adella's hands.


It is heavy black satin, in excellent condition except for worn elbows. Such a tiny size. My daughter, Jo Ann, begged to try it on, and of course I was willing. The exquisite basque [tight-fitting bodice] waist, stiffly stayed, each stay put in with tiny stitches, trimmed in black beading. The skirt that had the drape across the front and the numerable pleats bunched at the back under which was worn the bustle. It fit Jo Ann perfectly. Adella must have been a very tiny person.


As Jo Ann was strutting about in this elegant dress she felt something striking her leg. We examined the skirt, and there was a pocket hanging down from the inside seam of the skirt tied very securely with a length of the bead trimming of the waist. We removed the tie, but had a challenge in locating the outside entrance to the pocket. It was so hidden. Like discovering the secret door in the mystery story. What lay in the pocket that hit with such weight?


We finally reached the contents---five gold coins, three French, two Italian, dated in the 1860s.


How strange that Adella's affliction (the obsession about money) is substantiated in this masterpiece she left to posterity!



Uncle Herman defends the New Deal

Alfred E. Smith had been the Democratic candidate for president in 1928 who was overwhelmingly defeated by the Republican Herbert Hoover. But as a rival of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Smith came to oppose the New Deal and supported Roosevelt's Republican opponents. In 1936, Herman Landman wrote a letter to the editor of the Kansas City Star critical of Smith's opinions on the New Deal:

"Al Offered No Plan."

To The Star: Alfred E. Smith's speech obliterated party lines, divided the voting masses into two classes---for and against the new deal. He and his followers are blind to the fact millions of unemployed cannot eat the Constitution, and he fails to make any suggestion what should be done for them.

I should like to remind Mr. Smith about the bygone days when free soup houses flourished everywhere, and prosperity was around the corner (which turned out to be around a roundhouse without corners). We Hooverized until our stomachs shrank to insignificance; then came the new deal that abolished the free soup house and we caught prosperity around one corner.

Let us not change the donkey in the middle of the stream. He may lead us to all four corners. The donkey can travel faster than the elephant when urged on by a rough rider.




Herman Landman offers to help his niece Lottie

This undated letter, which is known to be from early in 1924, is for Charlotte "Lotte" Abramovici, daughter of Herman's sister Gitza "Ghisela" Landman Abramovici. It is in response to her letter describing her fear about being unable to pay a  mortgage. (Translated from Yiddish by Yossi Yagur, a member of the JewishGen listserv. Ellipses indicate unreadable words.)

Dear niece Lottie [Abramovici],

I see from your letter your situation is sorry indeed. However, you should not give up hope. I will help you as much as possible. Therefore I advise you to … promptly. Not to lose … If you are obliged to sell it notify me at once. And find out if it is possible to fill out legal documents in my name as an American citizen in case I would like to help you pay your surety. Then you would make a surety in my name. Legal documents have to be filled out. I make this proposition only for the worst case. I … lest you lose the house. I think it is the same house my late father had bought (your grandfather). I wish you health and … You can … I want to help you… …especially from me, your loyal uncle

H. Landman
You are supposed to get 1500 lei from the bank … because I have paid the commission on the draft I send you in this letter.


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