Insurance Policy

Before moving out to the farm in New Jersey, we lived on the fifth floor at 1566 Washington Avenue in the Bronx.  My paternal grandfather owned this building, so the rent was reasonable. 

The candy store downstairs had a telephone that was used for the building.  Whenever a call came in, someone hollered up so that the whole block knew who the caller was and who was being called.

There was an elderly insurance man that visited us regularly to collect the monthly insurance premiums.  Mama always spoke to him in Yiddish and likewise he always replied in Yiddish. 

It has been many years since that time and I have forgotten his name, but his voice and appearance will stay with me to my last days.  He had a small, thick, black leather book that had a wide rubber band around it.

Mama had taken out a policy a week after Fishl was born.  Mama said that if anything happened to her she wanted to be sure that the $1,000 would be there for her funeral and to take care of her boys.  Papa didn’t believe in insurance policies because, “It only makes the insurance companies richer.”

When we moved to the farm in 1937, Mama was upset because the insurance man could not come out to collect the premiums. 

Mama trusted him more than the United States Post Office to see that the New York Life Insurance Company got her money.  When the insurance man wrote it in the book, that was that, and it made no difference what happened to the money as long as it was written in the book.  If the envelope was lost in the mail, it meant that the premium wasn’t paid and there would be no money to pay for her burial or to take care of her boys.

For many years Mama saved the letter that the elderly Jewish New York Life Insurance agent sent.  It was written in Yiddish and told Mama that when the check was in the mail it was just as good as when he collected the cash.  Mama believed it until her dying day. 

The letter also assured Mama that the New York Life Insurance Company was good in New Jersey even though the name of the company was New York.  Mama also had asked if there was a New Jersey Life Insurance Company.  The letter assured her that there was no New Jersey Life Insurance Company.

I find it ironic that my wife, Sally, was an insurance underwriter and had a small agency in Fair Lawn, New Jersey where she sold personal and commercial lines.  However, when we moved to California, she worked for The James McGovern Insurance Company in Belmont and later retired from an Allstate agency in Millbrae in October of 2008—just short of her 80th birthday.