I was born in the 50’s, the youngest of two girls, whose parents left New York City in the late 50’s and moved to CT, suburbia at its best – where all the up and comers were moving young families as they built their careers. My parents moved to Connecticut to be among their friends in the advertising and broadcasting industry. It was the thing to do back then – a measure of success and affluence.
My memories of childhood were magical. I had two sets of grandparents who would come visit from the Bronx and Washington Heights. My father’s father was a kosher butcher and would unpack a trunk full of frozen meats into our freezer. If they came on Saturdays, we were often told the story about how he would have to sneak into his store on the Sabbath to pack the car and hope that no one would see him. We would feast on food that was being lovingly prepared. Little did I know then that lamb chops were not as common as hot dogs?
There was always a game on our one TV and that was “family time” with my Dad. He would come home from playing golf and sit on the couch and I knew that was my time with him. He was big – really big! 6’6 and 225lbs and when he sat next to me on the couch and put his arms around me, all was well in the world. There wasn’t much on TV in those days. My favorite memory was watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and having my father tell me they were a passing phase. He loved the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”; thought it was hysterical. And I remember him talking about this amazing new, young singer, Barbra Streisand. He worked long days and commuted from Stamford to NYC daily. In those days, the bar car was very active at night, along with tables that were set up for the card games. He usually didn’t get home until 8 or 9 pm most nights. My sister and I would have already had dinner. In the early 60’s kids of all ages and sex played together in the neighborhood. Hard core games like touch football, ”hit the bat”, tag and cootie – and later on, spin the bottle! Tag and cootie were much the same and sadly being the youngest, I always seemed to be “IT”. Our front yard was the biggest and so, it became the field. If we got really lucky sometimes my father would make it home before it got too dark and throw us “pop-ups” for us to catch or hit us fly balls REALLY far. I was so proud that my Dad could do these cool things. It was the early 60’s and my father was working for Edward Petry Broadcasting – it was a selling company. He was a national representative, acting as the national sales arm for TV stations, and selling TV time to national advertisers. It was his only job – as many men in his generation experienced. He started right after college, in the mid-late 50’s. College had been postponed until after WWII. The 60’s was when his career took off and eventually he became the CEO of the Petry Company He was a smart, educated Jewish guy from Washington Heights who broke into the broadcasting business at a time when anti-Semitism was rampant. My Dad managed through this with his big, kind personality and extraordinary talent as a sales man . My father’s career was dedicated to selling time on TV and radio, and building this company, which became one of the most successful media buying services in the US. He worked a lot, and his way to relax on weekends mostly included golf and card-playing with his country club and industry buddies. We would often meet up on at his golf club for dinner. He was a champion at golf but for reasons my sister and I never understood, he never introduced the sport to us. I suppose that was his complete escape – his way to unwind. My father lived his life big and owned every room he walked into. They called him the “big guy”. Marty Nierman.
Life was very different when I was growing up. No books on parenting; in fact, I’m pretty sure my mother gave me a shot of whisky to quiet me at night! My grandmother used to tell me to pass my son over the gas stove! I promise I didn’t. The truth is, my memories are loving. In spite of the limited parenting by my father, I knew I was loved and adored.
My father retired early for various reasons and the silver lining for me was that he was able to be a full time grandparent to my two sons the way he was rarely a parent to me. He was able to teach them golf, baseball, war and how to catch one of his famous “pop-ups”! Sadly, all that drinking and smoking caught up with him and took him from us long before we were ready to say goodbye. I was lucky though; I had a chance to be with him in the later years after he retired. He and I would get together and discuss my life as an adult. I treasured those moments. It was a lot easier for my father to throw a ball than to sit and have a conversation with me. Men of that generation did not freely share their feelings. To do so would have been unmanly and my father was every bit a man. That generation was burdened with the inability to express themselves and then came the 60s with the pendulum swing in the other direction.
His legacy of a sales and communications expert did get passed on in our family; to me as a Short Hills Real Estate Agent for 16 years. My son, Tyler VP Global Talent Management for the Discovery Communications Channel, my son, Keith, is known as the “Mayor of New York” – beloved by all, and is a Manager and part owner of several sports bars in NY, and my daughter, Hilary Benjamin is employed by MSNBC.