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§12 Fratka Lewin

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Fannie Forman was born as Fratka Lewin in Dziewieniszki, Russia on October 2, 1893. She was the youngest Lewin child of the nine known children of Rivka (Sarah) and Meyer Lewin. By the time she was six years old, her older brothres and sisters had started leaving Russia for Leeds, England. By the time she was twelve or thirteen, the last family member to leave for Leeds was her brother David, who emigrated around 1905-6. He was only about 3 years older than Fratka. At that time, we do know that her father, Meyer, was still alive. We do not know the vital statistics of her mother. In any case, around the same time, Fratka was sent to the Capitol City of Vilna (Wilno) where she stayed with a family and worked for room and board and very little pay. She worked as a mothers helper doing house chores and, in her spare time, helped as a sales girl in the grocery store owned by the head of the household. She often spoke of how well the family in Vilna treated her and how the lady taught her how to cook. Probably around 1910, she returned for a while to Dziewieniszki and then said goodbye to her parent(s) and brother Pesach and sister Channa and left for Leeds, perhaps no later than 1912. Arriving in Leeds, her name was changed from Fratka Lewin to Fanny Levy to match the names of her brothers, already there. Sometimes, Fannie was spelled Fanny and sometimes Levy was spelled Levi. We don't know what Fannie did in Leeds but we can assume she helped in the tailoring businesses of her brothers and/or in their households. We think that she stayed with her oldest sister Malka (Paltiel/Lazarus). Her stay in Leeds was only for a couple of years at most and she left for Toronto in 1912. She was a cabin mate with a Mrs. Snegg who cared for Fannie who was very ill on the voyage. Mrs. Snegg remained a friend of hte family all her life and was extremely close to Itka Singer and her family. Mrs. Ruth Gottesman, Mrs. Snegg's daughter, still corresponds with Lil Singer and Jean Singer/Slatin and she has provided us with a few photographs of Fannie and Itka and some written memories.

Simon Forman was also born in Russia on May 1, 1894. His niece, Fanny Ross in Toronto, thinks that he was from a town called Porozova. The closest we can find on a map is the town of Borysowka, near Dziewieniszki, but we cannot be sure it is the same place. Simon was the youngest of five brothers, possibly of the Russian family name of Formanski. Simon was perhaps 10 or 15 years younger than his older brother, Samuel Forman, who was a Hebrew teacher in Toronto. Samuel visited Petaluma in 1939. We are still in contact with Samuel's three daughters in Toronto, namely Belle Sernick, Fanny Ross and Gert Baskin. Their brother, Sidney, was a science advisor to the Prime Minister of Canada. Israel Forman, the oldest of the five brothers, had children that are now thought to live in Southern California. Contact has been lost with them. The fourth brother was Victor and the fifth was Herschel who has a son, Jack living in Detroit. The Forman brothers also had a sister, Rose Ritter. Belle Sernick, Simon's niece, thinks that he arrived in Toronto around 1911. Your editor surmises that the date was earlier, perhaps around 1906. Some documents indicate that in the 1910-1918 period, Simon worked in the tailoring related trades and dealt in second-hand goods. He might also have dealt in cigars, but we are not sure.

Somewhere along the line, Simon Forman met Fanny Levy who was living in Toronto with the Lazarus family. On September 3, 1916, Fanny and Simon were married at a gala event staged in the back of the Lazarus cleaning-dying shop on Dundas Street. While in Toronto, their first son, Leonard Jack Forman, was born May 27, 1918. Leonard recalls that the family emigrated from Toronto when he was only one year old, which means about mid-year, 1919. Our best guess is that the Formans first moved to Fresno where Simon probably worked for or with David and Morris Levi in the junk/second-hand related businesses. By sometime around 1920, the Formans moved to Turlock and opened a junk business with Joseph Lazarus. A year later, the business blossomed into the "Turlock Bargain House". Pictures are shown in this section of the family book and with the Joseph Lazarus portion of the Lazarus section.

Love Eifie Forman was born to Simon and Fannie on August 1, 1921, in Turlock. Some five and a half months later, she suffocated on baby powder and died January 22, 1922, also in Turlock. Joseph Lazarus took her little body to Fresno for Jewish burial. See his story elsewhere in this book. When the little girl died, her name was Sarah R. Forman.

Simon Forman and Joseph Lazarus bought the building and property of the "Turlock Bargain House" and had a going business. Later on, the state cut off the front of the building in order to widen the street. All went well until Joe married May in 1923. May didn't like the hot weather in Turlock so Joe sold out his interest to Simon and moved away. This happened about the same time as Milton Lawrence Forman was born in Turlock on June 7, 1923.

In 1925, when Leonard was 6 and Lawrence was 2, the Formans left Turlock for good and moved to Santa Rosa where they lived and worked for only six or seven months. On May 1, 1926, the Forman family moved to Petaluma where SImon went into partnership with Morris Levi who had moved there from Fresno with wife Annie and son Myron. That business was hardware and related items butthe partnership only lasted a year as Morris had Asthma and it was aggravated by local climatic conditions and Morris decided to take his family and move back to Hanford.

Simon and Fannie remained in Petaluma for the rest of their lives. Fannie raised her two boys and helped Simon with his hardware business. As the boys grew, they also joined into the family business, Leonard in the hardware store and Lawrence with a related plumbing business. Simon also raised chickens behind the Forman house but it was more for hobby fun than for profit.

The Formans always remained very close to the Lazarus family and to the Levis and Singers as well. They were a very loving couple who lived a quiet and simple lifestyle. From immigrant beginnings, they left a nice business legacy to their two sons and their families. Simon and Fannie had eight grandchildren who now have produced ten children of their own, perhaps with many more to come. The Forman name will only be continued if one of the two grandsons of Fannie and Simon get busy and have some children. So far, only the girls in the family have had children.

Simon died on March 23, 1975 and Fannie on January 31, 1982. They will be remembered with much love.

MILTON LAWRENCE "MILT" FORMAN. I was born to Simon and Fannie (Lewin) Forman in Turlock, California on June 7, 1923. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Santa Rosa for a short time and then to Petaluma where I spent most of my youth and adult life. During the second world war, I served in the Merchant Marine. I married Billie June Guiney on March 18, 1949 and we lived in Bakersfield for a while where our first child was born. We returned to Petaluma for most of the rest of our years where I was a plumbing contractor until my retirement. We have four children and six granchildren. I keep active and stay in good physical shape by jogging several miles almost every day near our Petaluma home. During the 1950's, for a while, I had a big plumbing contracting job in Las Vegas so stayed there for a while where Ben Baylinson agreed to oversee the whole operation for me as he was, by then, retired from his own plumbing business. He, Bee and their grandson Michael (Barnhill) James all moved to Las Vegas for a while to help in my enterprise there.

DON L. FORMAN. I was born in Petaluma to Billie June (Guiney) and Milton Lawrence Forman on October 17, 1956. My 1976 marriage to Gina Lucas didn't last. On New Year's Eve, 1988, I married Wendy Smith. She has two children. Rachel is 12 and Joshua is 11. I followed in my father's footsteps and am now operating my own business as a plumbing contractor.