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P U B L I C A T I O N S  >  R E M I N I S C E N C E S

bullet Preface
bullet Foreword
bullet Grandfather     Dictated by Ary
bullet The Village     Dictated by Ary
bullet Supplement to the Village
bullet Vilna     Dictated by Ary
bullet Supplemet to Vilna
bullet Coming to the United States     Dictated by Ary
bullet Back of the Store     Dictated by Ary
bullet Omaha     Dictated by Ary
bullet Ary in New York - 1919
bullet Ary in Paris
bullet Ary Comes Back to the United States
bullet Ary's Marriage
bullet Summer Cottage in Harmon
bullet The Studio on Fifty-Ninth Street
bullet We Return to Paris
bullet Cuernavaca-Houston
bullet Ary and Music
bullet Ary and the English Language
bullet Ary Stillman - Thoughts on Painting

Back of The Store
Dictated by Ary

Portrait of Mrs.Brodkey
Portrait of Mrs. Brodkey
oil on canvas
28 x 21 1/2
Foundation Collection, TX

One of the ingredients of the back of the store was dust. The back of the store was never cleaned. It had a high ceiling, very high. There was not a complete separation from front to back, just a continuation. The only thing, which separated back and front, was a wall-case where we had on display shotguns and musical instruments and other dust-accumulating things. The back of the store consisted of about one-third of the entire floor space. The store itself had its store fixtures and the back of each was saturated with dust. Hardly ever would they move a wall-case to clean the back of the case and the wall. Whoever cleaned the store managed in the most ingenious ways not to touch too far under the wall-cases. In the back of the wall-cases there were spider webs and dead insects. At the entrance to the back room was an old curtain that you would be afraid to touch because the dust would begin to come out. There was a back door leading to a back lot filled with all kinds of garbage — empty cans, boxes of all kinds, all sorts of bric-a-brac, which constantly attracted junk collectors. After glancing at the things they would drop them and turn away.

There were two windows to the back of the store. Since they were never washed and the dust was so thick, they formed a permanent curtain between the outside and inside. We rubbed only a few places so as to get the view in the back.

The back yard extended quite a long distance and it reached the back of the building on the street to the south (Third Street). That building was occupied by some sort of a hotel and the inhabitants of these hotels, in those days, were mostly prostitutes. Occasionally these maidens would take a sunbath by opening wide the window.

Great-uncle was a pious man and occasionally in the morning he would use the back of the store to recite his prayers. I observed once that he was walking back and forth, spitting to the right and left. It was puzzling for awhile, and then, looking through the clear space in one of the windows I saw a "Mademoiselle," fascinated by the view of the old man with the big white bears, and exposing her completely naked body. Great-uncle, who was near-sighted, noticed something without exactly knowing what it was, when suddenly in the midst of his prayers he realized that he was looking at a naked woman. As a consequence, he walked back and forth and kept on spitting right and left. I doubt if he ever felt he had washed out the sin he considered he had committed.

The furniture in the back of the store consisted of a big table painted brown, some old chairs and a number of rusty folding beds. My brother Abe and I slept on two of these folding beds. One night the spring on my bed got loose. Being a heavy sleeper I didn't realize that one end was loose and in my sleep I rolled down under the bed. When I woke up, I hit my head against the bed-spring. I managed to crawl out from under the bed and went to the front of the store, to the great surprise and relief of my brother, who was about to inform the police that I had disappeared during the night.

My older brother and I lived in the back of the store before Mother came and we continued to live there with Mother and the children when they came over, in order to save rental. There was an old stove, charcoal, I think, on which Mother prepared the meals during the first four or five months after their arrival. During that period the back of the store began to clear up. It got so that once when the landlord out of curiosity looked in the back of the store he exclaimed, "It's nice there" and we were afraid he might want to raise the rent so we quickly began to throw things around to look like the olden days.

The voices from the front of the store carried back in an unusual way. When one of the drunkards who had a habit of coming in would tell nasty anecdotes, we were glad that Mother couldn't understand English.

There were all kinds of things in the back of the store, which puzzled us as to how they got there. There was some Confederate money, and one day we found a General's uniform. When a friend of ours came in and we showed it to him, he concocted a story, which would have been good for a mystery novel.

The door to the back was bolted with all kinds of iron bars, eaten through with rust.

We worked long hours, but on Sunday and holidays and occasionally in the evening I would have a chance to paint. I would set up a still-life on the table at the back of the store, or I would paint a portrait. Once my cousin, Max Brodkey, one of the owners of the store, asked the ex-Mayor, Herbert Quick, to pose for me, and I made a good portrait of him. He was tall and dignified, with a reddish face. When he came the first time he grabbed a chair from a corner to sit down, and before I had time to realize that it was the chair with one leg missing, the Mayor was already stretched out on the floor.

Of all the things that Sioux City needed in those days, it was an Esperanto Society. We were ready for universal peace; it was a time when everything was going according to plan and we would have universal peace and the only thing lacking was a universal language. So we organized a branch of the Esperanto Society. The Society started to hold its meetings in the back of our store. So if the historians will try to trace where the spirit of universalism was promoted, it was right in the back of the store. Every week we had to drag a bench from somewhere because there weren't enough chairs. And there was peace —universal peace.

Among the members there was a woman who had 9 or 10 children. Very idealistic; a member of the Socialist Club, an Esperantist, very much preoccupied that her children should live in a better society than ours. So occasionally she would bring the children and they livened up the meeting. All were religiously devoted to the cause of peace and right. There was an old man, an agent for an insurance company, who was very religiously devoted to the Great Future. When Billy Sunday came to Sioux City the old man became so absorbed in the evangelization that he couldn't reconcile all these things — the religious teaching of Billy Sunday, the propaganda for socialism, and he wasn't a good Esperantist, he couldn't learn the words. Finally the poor man took to drinking.

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