By J. Kott-Wolle
Oil on Canvas, 24x36, painted 2019
Original photograph taken - 1969
My grandfather was the hero of my dad’s family during the Holocaust. In 1949, after ensuring their survival, Zeidi brought his family to Canada at the age of 50 where he quickly grew to understand that his best years were probably behind him and real opportunity was reserved for the next generation. Nevertheless hard work was expected and Zeidi and his brother Usher got into the shmata (fabric) business. They opened Kot Textiles on Queen Street. It never took off. Jewish success stories are often peppered with tales of shmata peddlers who turned their small operations into some of the biggest names in fashion today but this was not in the cards for Zeidi and Usher. I grew up visiting that store on weekends with my parents and sisters. I remember Zeidi reading the “Yiddish Forverts” (The Forward) and always having a brown paper bag full of chocolate bars from the corner store ‘fir de kinderlach’. Zeidi did not speak English well but I do remember the sense of importance I felt when he’d ‘test’ the quality of the fabric of my clothes by rubbing a swatch between his fingers and then give a nod of approval. The store smelled like Pine-Sol, reams of material and cigarette smoke. I was certain that if he just had some good and colorful signage (which I’d hand draw) sales would go up.