Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ben and Alice Roth

Alice and Ben Roth at Jeffrey Roth's Bar Mitzvah abt 1963
Ben's brother Aaron and his wife Pearl in the background.

     Although he later claimed to have been born on Independence Day, Beny Roth was born to my grandparents, Armin and Mary Roth, on July 6, 1896 in Manhattan[1], where Armin had first settled on arrival in the US, and where he and Mary had married.  As I mentioned in my post in April about Armin and Mary, the family soon moved to Trenton, NJ where Armin had cousins.
     Now called Benjamin, or Ben, The young man went to elementary school where he learned to play the piano.  He graduated from Trenton High School in the class of 1914.  After High School, Ben went to the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied dentistry, graduating on June 20, 1917[2].  The announcement that he had passed the state licensing exam was made on July nineteenth of that year[3].
     When he registered for the draft in June of the next year, he had already opened a dentist office at 129 S. Broad Street in Trenton[4].  In July 1918 he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve Forces, serving actively in the war until December 26, 1918.  After the war Ben worked on establishing his dental practice.  He maintained the office at 129 S. Broad for a while, then moved briefly 200 S. Broad St., before settling in at 37 West State Street in about 1928[5].  Ben was in the inactive Reserve until September 1921 when he again became an active reservist as a Captain in the Officers Reserve Corps, 119th Medical Regiment, 155th Hospital Company, of Trenton.[6]  Captain Roth participated in a recruiting exhibition of the Hospital Company's facilities held in Stacy Park, Trenton in July 1926.  The 50'x16' tent was fully equipped and contained "surgical units, dental units, first aid and shower baths" as they would be set up in time of action[7].   
     Daniel Block had come to the US in about 1880 from Wurttemburg, Germany.  He went to work for his uncle Simon Samler, already in Trenton, and later ran the Washington Market Clothing Company. He married Bertha Gutmann in Philadelphia in 1891[8], and had two children, Lester Gutmann Block in 1895, and Alice Block in 1898. By 1907 he owned the Daniel Block Clothing Company at 107-109 South Broad Street[9], a successful business that paid $9 in taxes in 1908. [10].   He was a successful businessman and active in many charities and civic associations as well as Har Sinai Temple[11].  Between 1900 and 1903, he and his family travelled back to Germany three times, the last trip with his son Lester, lasting from July to October 1903[12].  Lester joined the Naval Reserves in April 1917 and served on Submarine Chaser No. 243.  He nearly lost his life in an explosion aboard the ship on May 6, 1919 when it was docked in Bermuda on its voyage back to the U.S.  When he returned home  in June after treatment, Lester was made a partner in his fathers business[13], as Daniel was already confined to his home by the illness that took his life on September 10th, 1919[14].
     In October, 1923, Ben Roth became engaged to Daniel and Bertha's daughter, Alice Block. Alice had graduated the Model School (predecessor of the State Teachers College)[15]. Perhaps they met through Ben and Lester's shared Naval Reserve activities.  Lester chaired the committee that organized a bachelor dinner for Ben at the Hotel Sterling on the night before the wedding.  It featured several short talks and the gift of a vacuum cleaner[16].  On April 16, 1924, Ben and Alice were married in a quiet ceremony at The Hillwood Inn in Trenton attended by their immediate families.  Alice wore a gown of powder blue beaded crepe romaine and carried roses and lilies of the valley. Fanny Block, Lester's wife, wore a coral beaded gown.  Unusually for a wedding, both mothers, Alice's aunt Rose Samler, and the Rabbi's wife all wore black.  After the ceremony, the couple left on a motor trip through the South, returning to their new home at 24 Newell Avenue[17].
     On February 24, 1927, Alice and Ben welcomed a son to the family.  He was named Daniel Block
Ben Roth with son Daniel.
About 1935
Roth after Alice's father.  In 1934, after the death of Ben's father Armin, Ben's youngest brother Barney,, and possibly his mother Mary, moved into the house at 24 Newell Ave[18].  The house, a duplex, was too small for the family, and in 1935 Ben and Alice moved to a large freestanding home at 928 Edgewood Avenue, near the Cadwalader Park[19].  Ben's mother died in 1939, and by 1940  the three family members lived in the large home alone.  About 1949, after Daniel was grown, Ben and Alice moved into the newly completed Brookville apartments in "the Island"section of town between Riverside Drive and Clearfield Avenue.  The complex was advertised as providing "homes for 132 families who can afford to pay $85 a month rent."[20]  

     My family lived on the same court in Brookville between about 1950 and 1954, and my strongest memories of Ben and Alice are from that time.  I remember going to Ben's office to have my teeth checked, although if any of us needed work, he sent us to someone else because "you are family".  We were in and out of their apartment as kids.  Ben (the dentist) always had a stash of candy in a drawer of the breakfront and he gave it to us in quantities that I know our parents disapproved.  Alice often made meals the we kids ate sitting at metal TV Trays in front of the set in the living room.  She encouraged us to eat our vegetables (especially succotash) by suggesting that we mix them into the mashed potatoes and calling the mixture "chaserei", Yiddish for pig food.  Alice was very active in the synagogue and various women's groups, and enjoyed playing cards.
     Alice died on March 19, 1966[21].  Ben, who in my parents words, "did not know how to get himself a glass of water without Alice," moved to a smaller place at the Carteret Arms at 333 West State Street.  He died on June 15, 1970.[22]  Alice and Ben were buried at the Ewing Cemetery.

1.  Ancestry.com, New York, New York, Birth Index, 1879-1909 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2014) Ancestry.com. Record for Beny Roth
2.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Monday June 18, 1917. "Roth to Graduate then Join Army" Genealogybank.com.
3.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Thursday July, 19, 1917 p.4 "Two Trentoniana Pass as Dentists" Genealogybank.com
4.  Ancestry.com, World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005) ancestry.com Database online. Registration Location;Mercer county, New Jersey; Roll 1754444; Draft board 3.  
5.    Ancestry.com, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011) Ancestry.com. Directories for Trenton New Jersey  1920, 1926, 1936
6.  Ancestry.com, U.S. Select Military Registers, 1862-1985- (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013) Ancestry.com, Record for Benjamin Roth USNRF.
7.  Trenton Evening Times, (Trenton, NJ), Tuesday, July 6, 1926 "Medical Company has Tent Exhibition"  Genealogybank.com
8.  Ancestry.com, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Marriage Index, 1885-1951 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011) Record for Bertha Gutmann.
9.  Ancestry.com.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ), October 25, 1907. p. 11 "Advertisement for Daniel Block Clothing Co."
10.  "Twenty-fifth Annual Report of the State Board of Assessors of the State of New Jersey for the Year 1908, Part II"  Trenton, N.J. MacCrellish & Quigley, State Printers. 1909. p. 110. Accessed via Google Books.
11.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) p. 1, Wednesday September 10, 1919. "Daniel Block, Ill Long Time, Dead. Prominent Merchant Passed Away this Morning -- Confined to Home a Year" Geneaologybank.com
12.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ). Monday, April 30, 1900. "Trentonians Off for Europe".; Tuesday, July 23,1901 p.5. "Personal". Tuesday, May 26, 1903. p. 1 "Will Visit in Germany" Genealogybank.com
13.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Monday June 23, 1919. p. 2. "Hero Will be his Father's Partner. Lester G. Block , Naval Explosion Victim, Soon to Receive Discharge" Genealogybank.com
14.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Wednesday September 10, 1919. Op Cit.
15.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Wednesday, April 16, 1924. p. 8 "Miss Block to Be Bride of Dr. Roth" Genealogybank.com
16.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Tuesday, April 15, 1924. "Dr. Benjamin Roth is Tendered Dinner" Genealogybank.com
17.  Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Thursday, April 17, 1924. p.9 "Miss Alice Block Bride of Dr. Roth" Genealogybank.com
18.  Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011) Ancestry.com 1935 Trenton, NJ, City Directory.  Record for Barney Roth.
19,  Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012) www.ancestry.comYear:1940; Census Place Trenton, Mercer, New Jersey;Roll T627-2437; Page 1B; Enumeration District: 27-139 Record for Roth D. Benjamin.
20.  Trenton Evening Times (trenton, NJ) Friday, December 3, 1948. p. 14 "Island Apartment Project Progressing" Genealogybank.com
21.  Sunday Times Advertiser (Trenton, NJ) March 20, 1966. "Mrs. Benjamin Roth, Wife of Doctor." Genealogybank.com
22.  The Evening Times (Trenton, NJ) Tuesday June 16, 1970. p. 10. "Dr. Roth, 71, Dentist Here for 50 Years" Genealogybank.com