“My dad always had a joke, or a smile on his face waiting for somebody to make a joke,” Rosalyn Routbard remembers. In the 40s and 50s, Hyman’s Delicatessen stood on the west side of Bagot Street, next to Chown’s tinsmithing operation. When you went out the back door, it was a straight shot over to Beth Israel Synagogue across Queen Street. When you went in the front door, the first thing you would see was a pinball machine, and then a jukebox. There was also a big sign: “In God we trust; everyone else pays cash.” That was bluster, Rosalyn says: “my dad gave credit right left and centre.” Hyman sold “all the smoked meats, brought right from Montreal.” Meanwhile, Becky Silverman was in the kitchen, dishing up soup, pancakes, hamburgers, potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, sweet and sour meatballs, and noodle pudding. She came across the street from home at 5 in the morning for the deliveries: ice, bread, milk, ice cream. As they grew up, the kids had to help out in various ways. Rosalyn’s twin, Estelle, loved to fish — and if she skipped out on chores, she was forgiven if she came back from the causeway with a bass or a pike that would be cleaned in the backyard and fried up for dinner. The delicatessen was open seven days a week, and the family ate there every night at one of the three tables in front of the counter.
Saturdays were special. For one thing, Hyman’s mother Gittel lived with the family, “an absolute delightful little 4 foot nothing lady who disliked speaking English. She was the one who said, yes you go to synagogue.” The kids would also often take the chance to walk downtown to see the Wolfe Island Ferry come in, or they would go to the market to see what the vendors had on offer. And then it was opera time back at the deli. “My father’s brother would come,” Rosalyn remembers, “and we would listen to The Shadow on the radio in the kitchen, and then we would listen to the opera. I never understood a single word, but it was family, and here I was sitting on my uncle’s knee, my sister might be off someplace, my brother might be off in the front of the delicatessen helping somebody, and I was being pampered. It’s in front of my eyes. I had a lap to myself. My uncle would sing, and he had a beautiful voice. A beautiful voice. And there were workers from the garage that would come in and they would sing too, going along with what was on the radio.”
The building burned down around 1956. After that, Hyman went to work in the menswear department at the S&R, where he stayed until 1977. He loved that job. Years later, Rosalyn would still find herself recognized with the exclamation, “Oh! Hymie Silverman’s daughter!” “That was nice,” she says.
— Laura Murray