Article in the Phoenix Gazette

By Dave Eskes

Phoenix Gazette


Scottsdale — Agnes Tennenbaum will never forget her grandmother, Molly.


“Sweet Molly,” as her New York City tenement neighbors called her, came from Hungary to America in the 1880s with her husband, Ira.


She was a determined and gay 17-year-old with, as Tennenbaum says, “fire in her eyes.”


Sadly, America turned out to be more struggle than success, and Molly and Ira eventually returned to Hungary.


Shortly after their eighth child was born, Ira died and Molly was left to raise her brood by herself.


This she did in the face of privation and great self-sacrifice.


Later, her children became successful and supported her.


It was then that Molly became fully able to enjoy life.


And she enjoyed it very much, characteristically sharing her good fortune with those around her.


“She enriched my life in so many ways,” Tennenbaum says. “She took me to the movies for the first time, to theaters, concerts and ballet.


“She triggered my imagination with colorful, fascinating stories about her journey to New York.”


To Tennenbaum, Molly was a true aristocrat. A woman of pride, determination and unqualified love.


The last time she saw her was June 16, 1944 as Molly — by then almost 80 years old — stepped off a cattle car at a German death camp.


“I ran to her,” Tennenbaum recalls. “I did not want to cry. I only looked at her.


“She looked very tired, but she held her head high. Her back was still straight.


“She was about the same as usual — only the fire was gone from her amber eyes.”


Tennenbaum’s memoir is one of more than 30 in “A Second Map of Days,” published by the Senior Adult Writing Project of Scottsdale Community College.


The book is a collection of essays, stories and poems. The first book, “A Map of Days,” appeared in 1986.


The authors, who come from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, are Valley residents ranging in age from 60 to 90.


Although most selections are not as wrenching as Tennenbaum’s, they are nonetheless illuminating. And instructive.


Nostalgia seldom interferes with fact, thanks to good editing and writing restraint.


In many ways, the book resembles the work of Studs Terkel, who’s “Hard Times,” “The Good War” and “Working” popularized the history-as-reminiscence format.


The pieces cover more than 50 years of history, beginning at the turn of the century.


Among historical topics covered are the great flu epidemic of 1918 and the bombing of Pearl Harbor.


These recollections are, as other pieces, from a man-on-the-street vantage point.


Information about the 128-page book — edited by Nadine Smith, Sarah Darland and Nancy Hawkey — is available from Smith at 423–6535.