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Beth Israel Congregation

   
 
 
 

Story of the Povich Family

by Dorice Povich Mensh
October 15, 1972

This is a story of the Povich family, past and present. Although there were progenitors of my grandfather, Simon, I can only begin my story with his birth in 1835, a child of Morris and Goldie Petracovich, of Baltermantz or sometimes called Nutrias Cranius in Lithuania, a county in Vilna, Russia.

As a young man Simon took as his bride, a young maiden by the name of Eva Waserman. To digress she had a brother in Boston who has a grandson at this time where he has earned a chair where he is now a professor at Yale. To get back, Simon and Eva had five children; the oldest, my father Nathan, and four daughters, Jenny, Ida, Annie, and Dora. Around 1878 Simon and Nathan (who was about 12 or 13 years of age) came to the United States. The main reason for coming was because the Cossacks in Russia were capturing 10-year-old boys on the streets to serve in the army. They were never seen again by their parents. Nor did they sail first class, but were placed in the steerage along with other immigrants from other countries also to escape tyranny and starvation and deprivation. Their ship arrived in Boston, therefore they did not have to go through the rivers of Ellis Island. In those days the officers at customs were not oriented in pronouncing these foreign names, so they gave Simon and Nathan the name of Povich, which was much easier to pronounce.

The only means of making a living in those days was as a peddler. With a pack on their backs containing pins, needles, stationary, and other notions they would travel by foot throughout the rural areas. After building up a following and making many friends they were frugal and soon began to save some money.

Then Simon sent for his wife and daughters. Eva and her daughters left Russia and came to Liverpool and from there to sail to the United States. This was in August of 1883. Just before embarking on the ship Eva suddenly became ill and died immediately. The girls ranged in age at that time from 8 through 14. Eva was about 39 years of age. At that time a strange lady stepped up and suggested if they would give her Eva’s ticket she would bring the girls over. In those times no one thought to find out who she was. They came and lived in Boston for a few years.

While peddling, my father Nathan came to Bar Harbor, Maine where he made many friends, so decided to settle there and opened a variety store. Then his father and the girls came and they all settled there and the younger girls enrolled in school.

In 1887 Nathan sent for his first cousin Rosa Orlovich to come here to be his bride. Marriages were arranged at that time and so was this one. My mother was 16 years of age, blonde and blue eyed, and very pretty. She was met at the ship in Boston by my father and his four sisters. She was immediately spirited away to the justice of the peace in Boston to be married, which in those days made her automatically an American citizen. Then they went to a rabbi who performed the religious ceremony according to our Jewish rules.

From there the whole family left for Bar Harbor to begin a life here in the land of the free. All my mother brought with her dowry was her candle sticks and copper cooking pots. Upon arriving in Bar Harbor my father arranged for a lady there to teach her the English language and to read and write. This lady lived to be in her 90s and was very devoted to my mother and always came to visit. Also, my father, who was always sporty, bought two bicycles, one for him and one for his bride. Being first cousins to the girls they were all a happy family and lived together and got along harmoniously.

At that time Nathan owned and operated a furniture store and his older sisters Jenny and Ida helped in the store. The two younger ones went to school. Within a few years Rosa brought to this country her two brothers who were still in Russia, Michael and Abraham. They first spent a few years in New Jersey. While there they met and married young ladies who were working in the shirt factories of that time. The two families moved to Ellsworth, Maine. Mike sired four children and Abraham had one son who we in Bath knew as Sam Povich.

Sam had been a chief petty officer in the war. After the armistice he opened a small grocery store here. At that time, being so close to the Bath Iron Works, many employees used to patronize his store during lunch. It then became a luncheonette. Sam conceived the idea of putting chunks of fresh lobster between a frankfurter roll. It became so famous that his business was every popular and the lobster roll boom was on. Others copied the idea and soon this became a popular item all over the state and still is. All this started in Bath on Middle and Pine Streets.

Back in Bar Harbor it was not unusual for other immigrant men to become peddlers, selling their wears in a small New England state. There a peddler would fall in love with each sister and within a few years they all were married to these peddlers and moved to other towns. Jenny moved to Bath and soon their father Simon also moved since Bath was considered a city with more opportunities. Ida, who lived in Boston, also moved here. In 1889 Nathan and Rosa’s first child, a girl Eva, was born. A few years later a son Samuel followed. However, two years after that Nathan had to be out of town on business, leaving Rosa to tend to the store. While waiting upon a customer she did not notice that Samuel had run up to the hurdy gurdy man who was playing outside. Then, shortly later, a man brought him in in his arms, relating that the child had fallen in the water and was drowned. Rosa was alone, but being very religious and the law to bury the dead at once, according to Orthodox rule, wraped the child in a blanket, took the ferry to the mainland, there to board a train to Bangor to give him a religious burial. Years later she said, had they know about resuscitation at that time he might have been saved.

Nathan and Rosa had eight more children. The family were very close knit. Long winter nights kept them at home where they were taught the Bible and to keep the Jewish religion holy. They were always obedient, good scholars, and had many friends and always a house full of Bar Harbor children who liked to come there where there was always music, games, and cookies. These friendships were everlasting.

Aside from helping in the store each boy became caddies at the golf club and the girls who were the oldest did office work. In 1917 Nathan’s sister Jenny, who lived in Bath, as did their father Simon, urged him to move here where business was booming because of the shipbuilding and the war. Bar Harbor business was seasonal and opportunity for continual work was inviting and so the Povich family moved to Bath.

The city was overpopulated. People were sleeping in tents, wagons, on and under porches, wherever they could lay their heads. Fortunately Simon owned a piece of property and had a little house built for Nathan and family where they lived for a few years. Then Nathan purchased the building at 77 Centre Street where he had his furniture store. The building was called the Music Hall Block and it was on the corner of Washington and Centre Streets. It was a three-story building. On the second floor was a bowling alley. In the rear was a hosiery factory. The top floor was a large dance hall which at various times was rented for different occasions.

At that time, after the war, a depression hit Bath and there was a general exodus. Wagonloads of furniture and people were seen every day riding out of this city. Business was slow and so was the lifestyle. However one incident happened. My father came home excited that he had rented the hall in the building to a man who had approached him for a $10 fee. He told him it was for a clan. When the people in Bath found out, they protested, for it was the Klu Klux Klan. My father had never heard of them and did not know how they functioned. He sadly returned the $10 and canceled their month. However, the Klan did find another place and even paraded down the business section of Bath.

After the war Nathan bought the house at 327 Front Street to house the large family. The children were Eva, who married Morris Povich who owned a clothing store in town. They sired two boys, Albert and Donald who now run the store. Then Goldie, Celia, Morris, Julius, Abraham, Shirley, Dorice, and Bernard. Julius, later called Jay, was the first to graduate from Morse High School in 1920; Abe in 1921; Shirley in 1922; Dorice in 1925; and Bernard in 1927. This being around 1918, many changes became effective. Celia took a civil service exam and was one of the four in the State of Maine to be selected to work in Washington, D.C. Julius, after graduation, followed, then Goldie, then Abe, who in high school was a noted player of sports and selected as baseball champion of Maine, also left. Then Shirley, who was a caddy in Bar Harbor where we spent summers, was invited by Ed McLean, the owner of the Washington Post, to come to D.C. to work for him. After graduation he left Bath and became a copy boy for $12 a week. He was 16 at the time. By chance, one night there was no one to cover a local basketball game so the editor, having no one else, sent Shirley. His story was so outstanding he became a reporter and at 19 he was sport’s editor, the youngest in the country for a newspaper the size of the Washington Post. Since that time he is now acclaimed as one of the top writers and baseball authorities in the United States and has received many prestigious awards attesting to his famous writings. Doris graduated Emerson College and later married a young man from Washington and moved there. Then Bernard, the youngest, after going to Boston University and law school, moved there also where he is now a practicing attorney. Both Goldie and Celia worked for the government in Washington. Jay attended law school there and Morris (Matey, as he was called) worked in Boston, also newspaper writing for the Boston Record. Nathan died suddenly in Washington in 1931. Matey was killed by a drunken driver on the Boothbay Harbor Road in 1936, Rosa in 1934, Eva in 1951, Celia in 1961, Julius in 1964, and Goldie in 1980. There are now children and grandchildren who have followed the original nine. All have done well in being in federal communications, writers, television and radio broadcasters, producers, magazine editors, teachers, and lawyers. Most reside in Washington and all return to Bath every summer, a home they all love. This is the story.

However, to continue, the sisters of Nathan also raised families here; the Solovich and the Miller families. They have another story. Later this family, together with several other Jewish families, felt the need for a house in which to worship. So this handful of people worked and built with much financial stress the synagogue here named Beth Israel, which stands on Washington Street today.