[The 90’s raw: Mary Polon]

Raw footage for the award-winning series The 90's. Vicki Polon interviews her mother, Mary Polon. Mrs. Polon, the daughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants to New York City, is completely charming, telling several hilarious anecdotes about her family.

00:00Copy video clip URL Mary Polon is sitting on a couch in what looks like her home. She gestures a lot while speaking and tells funny stories from her childhood. She begins by talking about the responsibilities she had as a fourteen year old girl, while her mother converted their family bakery into a restaurant (the “Ideal Luncheon”).

03:12Copy video clip URL She then talks about trips to Coney Island, and how her mother had hidden her diamond earrings in an enema bag while they were away, because it was a safe hiding place. However, her husband found them wrapped in paper, and threw them out the window. They never found them, and her mother suspected a store keeper downstairs had found them. She then goes on to detail some of the amusing customers her mother had.

09:46Copy video clip URL Vicki Polon asks her mother to talk about Sonia, who was Polon’s mother’s friend, who was “an old-time whore, but she was sweet” and kind. She talks about Mrs. Rosenberg, who bought the restaurant under the condition that she and her mother would still work there. Mrs. Polon then goes back to Sonia. She says her father brought home a veteran to stay with them. He kept his money in a handkerchief tied around his penis, and Sonia saw this and stole it from him nevertheless.

14:43Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon talks about Mrs. Rosenberg more, who did not work even though she had bought the restaurant. Instead, she played a piano in the luncheonette. Mrs. Polon tells a short anecdote about carrying a fish platter. She says then her father died, and her mother had a suitor who was also a baker. And then she changes to describing how her parents put condoms in vases in the dining room. Then she talks about her parents getting dressed up and going out for her mother to get abortions.

19:41Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon talks about her birth — that she weighed 12 pounds and was initially a still-born. She says her mother had an easy time delivering her, and her father plunged the baby into ice water and into hot water, and after this she came to.

22:06Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon talks about the somewhat squalid conditions in which they lived in the tenements, and how this caused her to have to leave school (because of nits). Mrs. Polon vividly describes the process of getting nits removed.

24:15Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon talks about her mother’s second husband, who had a heart attack. However, they couldn’t close the coffin. So they got a bigger one, but then the grave was not big enough for the bigger coffin. She says in the building her mother lived in with her second husband, they were the only white family, but her mother was completely comfortable with black families.

27:30Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon talks about her mother’s vanity: Her mother had asked her to come with her to buy a bathing suit, but instead of buying an age-appropriate bathing suit, she was trying on bikinis. She ended up buying a bikini, and was proud.

30:30Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon talks about sleeping with her mother when she was little. Once, her mother had put a towel over a light bulb, but the bulb started a fire over where Mrs. Polon was sleeping. Luckily the fire was spotted before it spread to the blankets. She then talks about being lost from her aunt when she was four, and how the police end up picking her up. She went to the police station, and her whole family ran in with toys.

35:05Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon’s mother kept boarders, and they decided to make whiskey in a still. Somebody in the building called the police, and she put the still in a bed with three children in order to hide it. The police did not find the whiskey in the end.

36:55Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon’s mother’s sister came from Warsaw to America. Her father stayed over with her aunt one night after a fight with her mother, and Mrs. Polon recounts the fight between her mother and her aunt amusingly, though apparently this fight resulted in silence between the two for years.

39:35Copy video clip URL “My mother was illiterate, and the only thing she was so unhappy about was the inability to write her name.” She learned to scrawl her name, but she got a job where she needed to know numbers. A pencil then became “her badge of honor” and she kept her job.

41:27Copy video clip URL Photos of Polon’s family briefly, while they take a break.

41:50Copy video clip URL Back to the couch, Mrs. Polon describes a bakery, and a glamorous steak restaurant (Manny Wolf’s?) that was their customer. The sound of a motorcycle interrupts the interview. Mrs. Polon then talks about accidentally getting caught on fire in the bakery, and she says “I had half my hair burned off from that.” Manny Wolf was charmed, and wanted to adopt her, and her mother agreed, but she herself did not want to go. Years later, he still recognized her. She also talks about a family that made pickles for a living.

48:45Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon talks about the time after she was divorced, and was doing a lot of painting. She met a man at the opera with whom she fell in love. One night, she was wearing a smock, and he was naked in the tenement building. They got trapped in the hallway outside of her studio, in the freezing cold. So, she had to go downstairs, and go up the fire escape to get into her studio. She was half naked and barefoot on the fire escape at about midnight and a bunch of kids saw her. She tells another story about a spa.

55:46Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon says her mother had wanted to return to Paris, but would not fly. She bought a mink stole, and even though it was hot she never took it off, because it was a status symbol. The whole family came to meet them at the pier.

58:25Copy video clip URL Mrs. Polon shows several old photos of her and her family.

01:02:11Copy video clip URL End of tape.

 

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