What is the story of how Salisbury came to be your home town?


The text below is a copy of a comment I wrote on Facebook. Eric Hall posted a question to the ‘You might be from Salisbury if…’ Facebook group. He asked”What is the story of how Salisbury came to be your home town?” The answers are quite interesting. Life is such a serendipitous phenomenon. My comment, below, is mostly accurate. There may be a few minor errors that could be fact checked by listening to some oral history tapes or questioning my siblings. But it’s about right.

My grandparents (Sam and Anna Zimmerman) immigrated here around the turn of the century. He was from Austria. She from Latvia. He didn’t speak Russian and she didn’t speak German — but they both spoke Yiddish.

In Europe, my grandfather was trained as an architect. Here, he was a peddler, working the South. My grandmother somehow found her way from Rochester to New Jersey and then to live with a sister in Orangeburg, SC. I think. She may have lived other places. I don’t know. I think they met in SC.

Somehow they wound up in Morganton, NC, where they had a store and started a family with two children.

The store was close to the law office of Sam Ervin, who would become a senator. They knew each other. I know this because, even though my grandfather died before I was born, I had the opportunity to ask Senator Ervin if he remembered my grandfather, Sam Zimmerman — and he said, “Yes, with the store.”

During the depression, they moved to Marion, VA and then, in the mid 30’s, to Salisbury. They had been able to live in a house in Morganton and Marion, but times were tough and they rented 110 N. Main St. in Salisbury, where they could live upstairs, above the store. The building had been vacant. My mom said, when they moved there, that the previous business had been a type of farmers’ market. She said there was handwriting on the walls — stuff like “Eggs,” Tomatoes,” “Okra,” — with prices.

Mom said she did not like Salisbury at first. She would walk home from Wiley School, embarrassed for anyone to know she did not live in a house, but above a store. Her English teacher, the legendary Helen Jenkins, would walk with her and say “Rose Hannah, Salisbury is not so bad. You’ll do fine here.”

They turned it into a small store. My grandfather was a handy guy who could build shelves and make clothes. He spent a lot of time during the day at The Friendly Cue and at night at Purcell’s Drug Store, which was a gathering place for men who would gather round the radio, in the early 40’s, and listen to news of the war.

They lived upstairs. Mom said they had one dresser with four drawers, and each member of the family had one drawer, which kept all of that person’s clothes.

During the Depression, my grandmother made as much extra food as she could afford in order to give out plates to hungry people who knocked on the back door.

My father’s parents immigrated from Russia. He grew up in NY and was a student at Columbia. After Pearl Harbor, he quit school, changed his name from Pozarick to Post, and joined the Air Force.

After the war, his aunt gave him a job managing a furniture factory she had somehow acquired, in Mocksville. There were no restaurants or movie theaters in Mocksville. My dad lived in Salisbury because there were three movie theaters downtown. He rented a room from George Rusher on Mitchell or Maupin or Wiley (not exactly sure which).

In 1948, he was walking down Main St. and my grandfather was standing outside the store. They struck up a conversation and my grandfather invited my father to dinner, where he could meet a Jewish girl, his daughter. My mom was in college, in Greensboro, and home at the time. Maybe it was a weekend, holiday, or summer — I don’t know.

They got married and my father paid for her last year of college. Then they moved to NYC, stayed a year, had one child, and moved back to Salisbury in 1950.

My father and my uncle focused on the family business, Zimmerman’s, and having more children and raising families. Zimmerman’s had no employees in the 30s and 40s. It grew in the 50s and 60s.

They raised families here. So I was born here.