Ruby Family History Project Blog

Ratner 1910 census record

I just spoke with Sandy and she said she had found an old notebook. The family name had been Tublowitz with a "u," not Tablowitz. I did a quick look on Ancestry.com and found some interesting hits for Tublowitz. More on that later.

I also looked for Abe and Rose Ratner and immediately discovered their 1910 census record. Here is an excerpt of it, from Ward 5 in Albany, listing six children as Peter (Peyser?), Hyman (Herman?), Tillie, Sottie (Selma?), Ruth, and Nellie (Lil?). Abraham's occupation is listed as "mineral water manuf." Here is a closeup of the document.

Brant Lake Camp

In June of 1932, little Stanley Ruby was packed off for his first summer away, attending summer camp in Brant Lake in the Adirondacks, 80 miles due north of Albany. In that year, Brant Lake Camp was in its 15th year of operation. It was run by the Gerstenzang family as a nominally Jewish camp--almost all of the campers were Jewish but there was little or no religious observation.

According to Bob Gersten, the nephew of the founder who is now 86 and still active managing the camp, later on in the 40s and later, Sabbath services were made available to campers offsite. For seven-year-old Stan and his campmates, Brant Lake was an entirely secular but culturally Jewish experience.

What he did there was learn every athletic skill imaginable: tennis, horseback riding, swimming, golf, basketball, boating, archery, shooting, crafts, you name it. Several of these Stan would enjoy as lifelong pleasures, and his abilities for these sports can be traced directly to his three or four summers at Brant Lake.

Unlike camps today where a session might run four or six weeks, Brant Lake ran one summer-long session for 11 weeks. During one weekend each summer, the camp would have visiting days for parents to visit their children. We are fortunate to have a wonderful record of several of these visiting days, when Selma and Walter Ruby, along with several other relatives, visited Stan at Brant Lake.

It turns out that Walter Ruby was a motion picture buff, and that he owned an early 8mm movie camera and projector. He made films of at least two of the Brant Lake visiting days. Stan must have known of the existence of these films, but we never knew of them until we discovered the ancient reels of films and projector among the stash of artifacts that turned up after Stan's and Helga's deaths.

We have since transferred the grainy old film to digital files and sometime soon I will make them available for viewing or download from this site. When you view them, you'll see all the footage of Stan doing camp activities and of a happy Ruby family, including wonderful scenes with Walter and Selma Ruby, their daughter Joan, and several Ratner sisters. In addition, there are other films from Long Beach and New York that will be available.

Walter Ruby the younger and I visited Brant Lake Camp two weeks ago. It is still family owned, and is thriving in its 90th year of operation. We got a grand tour from Bob Gersten himself, fit and active at 86, with sharp memories of Stan both from camp and from Long Beach, where Gersten was also from.

More on that in an upcoming post. For now, here's a teaser closeup of Stan in a group picture we found during our visit in the Brant Lake archives.

21 Brands letterhead


One of the cool items in the Sandy stash was a sheet of letterhead from her father's liquor company. I'd always heard Lee Klein was the upstate representative for 21 Brands, but I didn't realize--even though Walter has it in the manuscript--that this was the same company that ran the legendary 21 Club.

A timeline on the 21 Club history page says that in 1934 co-founder Charlie Berns "creates '21' Brands, a liquor importing/distilling/distributing company; its first salesman is then-aspiring actor David Niven."

Those who have read a draft of the family history manuscript know that the liquor business, before and after Prohibition, plays a big role in the story of the first Walter Ruby. No doubt we'll have occasion to discuss that more in future posts on this blog.

Dan's senior moment

Here is the longer version of how I managed to misplace Sandy and Marsha's treasured photos for nine months. I am so sorry it happened, but am happy now that I have recovered and returned them.

Last October, I made a trip that combined a Twyla college visit and family history tour in New York with a Festival Preview business trip to Nashville. I had a lot going on. Also I was carry two pieces of luggage that I had kept from Helga's estate. It was the first and only time I had used one of those bags.

The family part of the trip was tremendously successful. Joanne, Walter and I were together for a visit to Mount Hermon Cemetery, where Walter and Selma Ruby are buried. Then we met with Sandy and Marsha to share our slide show and videos. Later, with Twyla along, too, we all visited the old Ruby home on Walnut Avenue in Long Beach. Truly a day to remember.

When we were at Sandy's that day, she and Marsha also shared some of their photo albums. We all agreed it would be great if I would be able to scan some of their photos to include in our digital project. So they each took out photos--about a dozen in all--for me to take home for scanning, after which I would of course return them. One of the photos was a larger portrait mounted in a portfolio envelope. I put the other photos inside the portfolio, and slipped that in the outer pocket of my old leather briefcase/computer bag.

I say 'old,' because a few days later, in Nashville, I acquired a new computer bag at the IBMA convention. This is significant because later on, when looking for the picture, I had expected it to still be in that outer pocket in the old briefcase. The briefcase upgrade is what I remembered more than the Helga luggage.

I stayed in Nashville for a full week, staying at a Drury Inn a few miles out of town. Since I would be staying so long, I fully unpacked my suitcases, using the dresser drawers, desk and bedside table to organize my belongings. At that time, I obviously transferred the photo portfolio to a location for safe storage. One thing I worried about was, could I have placed it in a desk drawer and later forgotten to take it? I didn't think that was likely, but it was the worst-case scenario.

What I in fact did was place it in an inside zippered compartment in the unfamiliar suitcase. I then proceeded to forget all about it. I had a very eventful week participating in the bluegrass convention and talking up Festival Preview to everyone I met. I went into a completely different mode and Ruby family history went out of my mind.

When I finally returned home after the long trip, I had accumulated a great deal of literature for the convention and I laid out all these papers on my living room coffee table. Later on, when I began searching for the photos, my assumption was that they would have been among all those papers on the coffee table. Instead they were still in the inside pocket in that now-unpacked and forgotten suitcase in the basement.

A few months went by before Marsha sent me email asking about the photos. Oh my god, I realized I had completely forgotten about them. Strangely I couldn't remember ever having seen them since she handed them to me in Massapequa. It was the day before we were leaving for our family trip to Hawaii, and I assured Marsha I would find them when we got back in January.

Since then I made what I thought were comprehensive searches. They were in none of my home-office storage systems. I checked and rechecked both the old and new briefcase. I checked the luggage that I would usually carry on a trip like this. For some reason, I didn't check the new suitcase.

Before leaving on the most recent trip, I made a further effort by going through some of the remaining boxes of mom and dad's belongings that are in the basement. I didn't really expect to find them there and I didn't. I went off with no resolution to the problem.

Of course, I should have been in touch with Sandy and Marsha about the situation, but instead I had let it fester. Now Walter needed to contact Sandy to get information for our visit to Albany. By the time he spoke to her, we were already in the second cemetery, where Sandy's parents are buried, and she was so upset about the photos that she didn't want to talk to me.

As I sat on a curb in the cemetery as Walter spoke to Sandy on the cell phone, I once again rethought my movements in the Nashville hotel room from nine months earlier. Suddenly the memory of the other suitcases emerged. I remembered there was a zippered compartment. I wouldn't be able to confirm it until I got home five days later, but now I had hope.

Sure enough, when I got back to town on Sunday, I went to the luggage area in the basement and there was that three-piece set of bags sitting in the back. I went to the medium one first, opened the compartment, and there was the portfolio. What a relief.

Now that they are recovered, I feel like a dope not for losing them but for not finding them sooner. Maybe I can make up for it by continuing work on the family project, including posting this note here.

Transliterated tailors


Walter pointed out this surprising aspect of the cemetery plaque. Though written in Hebrew characters, the words are transliterated from English. Albany Hebrew Tailors Organization. It is right there in Hebrew.

The headstones



From the headstones, Walter determined that Rose's father was named Shalom while Abe's father was Chaim. Rose's middle initial is for her maiden name, Talbowitz.

The Ratner grave site

Albany Hebrew Tailors Organization




The next few posts describe our visit to the cemetery where Abe, Rose, and Aunt Til are laid to rest. The Albany Hebrew Tailors Organization cemetery is one of three or four old Jewish cemeteries along Western Ave. in the Albany outskirts. Having trained as a tailor, Abe supported the organization as a charity. His role is signified by the memorial bench inscribed with the Ratner name near the cemetery entrance.

16 Cuyler Avenue



Walter and Dan visited the house on Cuyler Avenue in July 2006 and found a sprawling three story white house with a large front porch. The house was in somewhat dilapidated condition and, like the south-side neighborhood in which it is located, had clearly had seen better days. The various entrances to the house and its large size led us conclude that the house had been built and operated as a multi-dwelling house, and that the Ratners must therefore have had renters in their own dwelling as well as in other properties.

Abraham and Rose Ratner



After returning home from New York yesterday, I found the long-lost photos that had been loaned to me by cousins Sandy Brenner and Marsha Fields. I'll post more later, but here is the priceless one: our great-grandparents Abe and Rose Ratner, presumably from before the time they emigrated from Russia.

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