Afghan and Vegetable Chopper

Afghan Square and Vegetable Chopper from Grandma Betty
Afghan Square and Vegetable Chopper from Grandma Betty

When I was heading to college in 1965, my maternal grandmother, Grandma Betty, made me a beautiful Granny Square afghan which I treasure to this day. She was a warm, friendly woman who was always encouraging me. It was much later that I found out about the challenges in her life.

Rebecca "Betty" Kimmelman Garrett was one of eight children who immigrated with their parents from Galicia, Austria, to New York City about 1900. In the 1910 Census they appear as living on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side. Father Isaac Kimmelman was a pushcart vendor. Their mother, Ester, had passed away.

The last time I saw Grandma Betty, shortly before she died in 1973, she told me she had worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. She was proud to get that job, “because of my little nose." She was Jewish and sensitive about her looks.

Sadly, I did not know the details of the tragic fire which took 146 lives at the Triangle in 1911, or I would have urged her to tell me more. She only said that on that Saturday, she was home taking care of her ailing step-mother. Ludlow Street was a 30-minute walk from the factory. Word would have spread quickly. She would have run to the Asch Building and found so many of her workmates lying lifeless in the street.

Grandma kept it a secret, much like the WWI and WWII vets did about their war experiences. No one else in my mother’s generation knew about this part of her life. Despite this and hard times in the Depression, Grandma Betty went on to lead what I thought was a wonderful life, living to 82, enjoying cooking, dancing, and crocheting. I inherited this little piece from her kitchen: her vegetable chopping bowl.

Year: 1911

– Kathy S.

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant