Thursday, May 31, 2007

Family Facts

As I've said before, my family is not so great about keeping its history, but apparently some of its members are. Thank God, because my maternal family is fascinating. The following are things my mom learned at my uncle's funeral, fascinating stuff really. (Mich, you'll get a hell of a kick out of all this.)

• While still living on Long Island, my great-grandfather Martin—who worked his way up from taxi-driver living in the Bronx to real-estate magnate—owned the first gas station outside NYC, in Nassau County where you could buy fireworks.

• He then went on to create some kind of tire/rubber business and manufactured some kind of rubber part that helped during the war.

• While still in NY, due to his and my great-grandmother's (Millie) philanthropic endeavors, they befriended Eleanor Roosevelt. (!) She later stayed at their house when she visited Sarasota.

• Martin had a heart-attack at a young age and decided to retire. They took the boat down to Boca Grande, Florida, near Sarasota, and were going to settle there. Then they discovered Sarasota and Martin fell in love and decided to relocate there.

• Never having been in the building/construction business—and remember he moved there to retire—he was unhappy that the Sarasota marina did not have bathrooms. So he built them. And thus Paver Development Co. was born.

• They started with the residential development Paver Park, in which streets are named after my mom, aunt, grandparents etc. They went on to develop 6,700 residential homes in Sarasota county, and owned a utilities plant, a sewage plant and the land that is now the outlet mall there.

• They patented some kind of element in the pantry where you open the door and then there are multi-level shelves and called it the "Paver Pantry." Alas, the patent expired and people just copied them.

• They supposedly invented the "villa" type of housing, where you have two homes one lot.

• This is my favorite one, as it illustrates the wild streak that runs in my family: During the war Martin was arrested for rum-running. Millie had to go to the police and beg them to let him out, as he had children to take care of. Ha!

• Way back in the 40s, Martin built the first synagogue in Sarasota, Beth Shalom, as a gift of course. Later, when the synagogue moved to its new location, the firm gave them the land it now sits on and built the property for them at cost. When we were young, we would go into the Martin and Mildred Paver religious school, where there is a metal bust of great-grandpa, who we never knew, and rub his nose. He had quite a prominent nose.

• Millie's parents were from Vienna, where apparently they were the photographers for the royal family. And although when it was time for Millie to be born they were in the U.S., her mother wanted her to be born in Vienna. So she went there for Millie's birth and died in childbirth. Millie and her sibling were then sent back to the states to live with their dad.

• What else? So much more, they were such benevolent people to the Sarasota community, which is evident if you read the comments in the guest book of Uncle Paul's obituary.

And then there's me, who sits at her computer all day, typing drivel. I'm sure they would be so proud. I have to say, we have not lived up to the legacy of our forefathers.