Homesteading Boyle Heights

Table of Contents

Homesteading Boyle Heights

by Gayle Schlissel Riley



After Hersch Schlisselís term in the US army for WWI where he was stationed in San Diego, he decided to move his whole family to Boyle Heights.

They arrived by train late in the afternoon on a Friday. They hurried to find a place to live so they could observe the Sabbath. They found a hotel on Temple Street and took two rooms. Hersch and Kate, my grandparents, took one room; their parents and all their brothers, sisters took another room.

My grandparents had 500 dollars, the sum of all their wedding gift money and, with it,  my grandfather bought a lot at 3025 Boulder Street. On that site they built a duplex. My grandparents and my Dad lived in the front house and they rented out the back house.

Hirsch Schlissel's parents homesteaded1 at 2517 Brooklyn Ave and set up a grocery store just like they had done in Detroit. The three youngest brothers of my grandfather each went to Lincoln High School and then Roosevelt High School. My grandfatherís younger brother Sam was a druggist at the drug store on the corner Brooklyn and Soto on his way to becoming doctor. His office, after his parents died,  was on the site of the grocery store, an office which he shared with his cousin Dr. Sam Kaplan.

My father, George,  was born in Boyle Heights. He had three other brothers who all died of the RH+ factor, in the mid-1920ís. They are buried in the very back of Mt. Zion cemetery. My father graduated from Roosevelt in the winter of 1939. He served in WWII and the Korean War as radioman on board airplanes

The extended family all attended the Cincinnati Street shul, where my father had his Bar Mitzvah in July of 1933.

In 1935 all the male family members, except for my great grandfather, changed their names from Schlissel to Keys. Those records can be found in the basement of the downtown court building. The files are indexed.

Shortly after the Schlissels were settled, their cousins and in-laws arrived. The Eder family had intermarried with the Schlissels back in Tarnobrzeg, Poland. My grandparents were first cousins (which happened a lot, among the Jewish emigres).

The senior Eder was Max (Motel) Eder, who took up residence on 441 Fickett, the house still stands today. He lived a long prosperous life, living until 90 years old.

His nephew was my grandmotherís father Aron, I am told he had a red beard. Aron and Sarah had a very rocky marriage and divorced, she got the house on 526 N. Gage. She was a strange woman who had her days and nights backward. She kept chickens in the backyard. She lived a long life, living to the age of 90.

The men, of the family sat around on Saturday afternoon discussing scriptures. The Ederís had been a very learned family and spoke many languages.

Maxís daughter, Ida, had a genetic deformity.  I do not know if the inter-marrying was the cause. She did marry but died young. Her sister, Pearl, died of the sleeping sickness she got in Detroit.  She was paralyzed by the sleeping sickness at the time of her death.

One by one as the children grew up they moved way from Boyle Heights. My grandparents moved to Alhambra and were the one of the founding members of the Alhambra synagogue. Most of the others went to the San Fernando Valley.

Dr. Sam Keys (Uncle Doc) stayed in Boyle Heights serving the community until his death. Dr. Sam Kaplan stayed even longer until his death in the 1990ís. I grew up getting my glasses there and so did my children.

My memories of the area were the smells: the bakery down the street at Passover time; the butcher shop with its lox tidbits and pickle barrel...sawdust on the ground. . I still drove to bakery in the 1960ís.  It makes me sad, to think that my children will never experience those smells.


[1] Homestead and Naturalization records can be found at the National archive regional branch in Laguna Niguel, California

[2} Homestead Papers


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