Who was Goldie before she was Mrs. Kosower, ma bubie , the lady always there behind the bakery counter?
Golda Elster was born in 1911 at Amstev, Poland a shtetl which was a village like so many other Jewish villages. She was the second oldest of 7 children: Fishl, Sally,Pessi, Dobra, Geyla and Hana. She was chosen by her family to immigrate to Canada. It was 1927 and she was 15 years old. It was on Lippincott Street that she met and began to live with her aunt, uncle and grandmother who had come to Canada some years before.
It was in the next 8 years that two more of the Elster girls immigrated to Canada. The rest of the family remained helpless in Poland and perished in the horror of Treblinka.
Goldie’s first job was as seamstress in a Spadina Ave. garment factory But sewing was not one of her talents. She soon lost her job and when her beloved uncle Sam Elster found her crying“ I can’t sew, can’t speak English ,can’t do anything. She wept bitterly. Uncle Sam asked her” kenst tseyln gelt?” Can you count money.? Yes, she answered confidently.So Sam gave her a job as cashier in his movie house the old” Photodrome.”
And so, Goldie the business lady was born.She still had a problem or two. Her King Edward nightschool English was still pretty basic. “What should I tell the customers when they ask what’s playing tonight. Sam answered Tell them the name of the movie is the Finsternish fun Africa “ which translates as Darkness in Africa.So it was in the romantic darkness of the movie house that she met Alter her husband -to be.
Alter loved the movies and spent many hours before and after hard day and night work in the Kensington Jewish bakery shops. Alter was born in Kosov Poland in 1910. He came to Canada about the same time as Goldie.
He came to Canada when he was 18 to work as baker’s apprentice in Jewish bakeries in Toronto and Hamilton.Alter was always keen on having a business of his own. He worked day and night until he achieved his goal. On May 8th 1945 the Kosowers bought the little bakery next to the fish market at the corner of Major and Harbord. This was still a time when the locals brought their own cakes and savoury sabbath meals to bake in the bakery’s brick oven.
His brother Haim came to Canada in 1948 and joined Albert as a baker in the shop. Right from the beginning the little bakery which had been so popular with the locals began to thrive. Month by month the list of bake goods was expanded to include many of Albert’s creative delicious breads, simple cakes and rolls.
In 1955 a brand new building was designed and built to expand the business but remained basically what is now called, an artisan shop. Albert and Goldie divided their time, their work between front and back. Albert was famous for developing an early morning coffee club with business men and locals . He opened the store very early to accommodate this special group wherethey would discuss all sorts of things.
Goldie did much the same in the front. Her specialties were families, couples, joyous and not so happy eventsproblems and solutions. She became a loving and beloved community resource.
Together Goldie and Albert established a Toronto landmark.
The family lived above the bakery for many years. Marriage for Goldie and Albert was an old fashioned pragmatic approach to raising a family while running a business. They knew a great deal about the lives of their customers. Their customers became their friends and they earned an enduring loyalty from everyone who’s life they touched.
We could go on and on telling of their lives and accomplishments.
Enough to end now with our heartfelt thanks to the City for recognizing with us the laneway dedication to the Goldie and Albert Kosower story.
A special thanks to Councillor Adam Vaughan and his team for their dedicated work in helping us make this happen.