Midwood woman, turning 107, shares her memories of turn-of-the-century Brooklyn

Dorothy Horowitz Fand remembers when Flatbush was farmland

October 8, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dorothy Horowitz Fand turns 107.
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She remembers when streetlamps were lit by hand, and when subways cost five cents a ride.

She remembers when Borough Park and Flatbush were mostly farmland and her family bought their fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers.

Dorothy Horowitz Fand, of Avenue M and 15th Street, Midwood, is turning 107 on Oct. 9, and though her hearing and eyesight aren’t what they used to be, her memory is as sharp as a tack, says her daughter Susan Moses, 74.

“Things I forget, she remembers,” Susan told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Susan said that her mom, who lives in an apartment in her son William’s house, enjoys classical music and opera, loves to read – though she requires large-type books now — and keeps on top of the news.

“She follows politics, she knows about ISIS. She has to know what’s going on,” Susan said.

And she still gets riled up by conservative talk radio programs.

“She’s listening to Michael Savage talk about the Ebola virus right now,” Susan said via a phone interview on Friday. “She’s yelling about the situation – ‘Close the borders, don’t let anybody in from Africa!’”

Dorothy, one of two surviving siblings out of an original ten, was born in Borough Park and grew up there. Her husband Nathan died 23 years ago. “They had a good marriage, they were very happy,” said Susan. “He was in the food line.”

Dorothy’s sister Hilda will be 100 in April. “They talk on the phone,” Susan said. “They wish they could get together but it’s hard. Hilda can’t climb stairs,” and Dorothy is afraid to venture down the stairs since a fall last year.

Her children, grandchildren Lisa and Michael, and great grandchildren all come to visit, however. A dozen or so friends and relatives will be gathering at the house for a birthday party on Thursday, said Susan.


Lived Through the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age

When she was interviewed at the age of 100, Dorothy told reporters that she remembered when the inventions of the 20th century were introduced — for example, when the electric typewriter was considered “out of this world.”

At 107, she shared some of her Brooklyn memories with her daughter, who related them via telephone to the Eagle.

“She remembers World War I — several of her brothers fought in that war — and World War II,” and covering the windows during the war so the lights wouldn’t alert the enemy, Susan said. “She remembers armed guards walking up and down the street.”

“She remembers when they delivered seltzer bottles to the house. A man delivered ice for the ice box every day. Milk was delivered by a horse and carriage, and there was cream on the top.”

There were peddlers all over, Susan related. “They were new immigrants; they sold fruit and vegetables.”

Irons had to be heated over a fire, and clothes sometimes burned if the fire was too hot. There were open trolley cars, and people stood on the running boards.

Dorothy told her daughter that she remembered regular winter snowfalls of 19 to 20 inches. “It was difficult to dig their way out,” she said.

“There were vegetable farms all over. Everything was fresh,” Susan related. “There was no junk food.”

Her mom has always been a sensible eater — and still stays away from doctors, Susan said. “She eats very well – fresh vegetables and chicken, low in calories and cholesterol. She reads all about that. She won’t take Tylenol unless she is really in pain. She doesn’t take any medication – she doesn’t believe in it.”

When she was younger, Dorothy loved ice skating. “She was very good,” Susan said. “She played tennis, she was a good swimmer. She was a voracious reader.”

Surprising, Dorothy smoked cigarettes for roughly 15 years, though she gave up the habit.

Her parents came to America from an area belonging at various times to Russia and Poland. Her grandfather came over with six children, including Dorothy’s mother. With 10 children in the family, her parents were very strict. “They ate a lot of potatoes – they were cheap,” Susan said.

“They got one pair of shoes every year. The shoemaker was an important person in the community. With long walks to school, “they lined their shoes with cardboard,” Susan said.

Few people had phones, though Dorothy’s family did. Her family also had one of the first TV sets. It had an 8 inch screen. “Everyone came up to watch it,” Susan said.

Dorothy doesn’t understand computers, “but she’s amazed at what they can do,” Susan said. “She’s astounded by cell phones. She loves the modern technology – she thinks it’s wonderful.

“She thinks the good old days were good, too,” Susan related. “In school, reading, writing and arithmetic – it was easier.”

Dorothy told her daughter, “We did very well in spite of it.”

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