Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Di zibn boarders: Solomon Shmulewitz writes a 1917 tell-all

This one has been in my to-do folder for years. A delightful collection of lebns-bilder!

I adapted a Sam Zagat cartoon to adorn it: this is from the day in 1916 when he came back to work after having been away from the newspaper for several months. For more of his work see

There's a lot of Yinglish here and some other interesting words. Couldn't figure out what "weik" (veyk) was. I liked pinke. Paul Wexler in Jewish and non-Jewish Creators of "Jewish Languages" (find it on google books) says pinke is, in Czech and Hungarian, "a box for money paid by cardplayers to the innkeeper" and that it stems from Judeo-Aramaic and perhaps Greek before that. Evidently the landlady was profiting by her association with her connected boarder until he cleaned her out.

I only recorded five of the seven verses but you can see them all after the jump.


Mayn ershter boarder Rosen er flegt zikh tomid blozn
Far dray dollar te mit koffe vashn vesh un haynt fun sofe
Ayngebrokhn borkh hashem dem spring
Geven a groyser nasher far im nit veyk nit kasher
Krikhn flegt er in di teplekh kh'zol im makhn khremslekh kreplekh
s'hot zikh im gegenzlt ales ding

Hert zikh vayblekh ayn leygt nor tsu dem kop
nemt fun mir a muser zikh arop
vilt ir lebn fayn der kop zol ruik zayn
lost in hoyz keyn border nit arayn.

Mayn tsveyter boarder Kraser, a yidisher farfaser,
Flegt er shraybn, flegt er mekn,
S'flegt a gantsn tog mir klekn
Blaybendik in shtub mit im aleyn
Flegt mir makhn zitsn, hern zayne skitsn,
Forgeshtelt mir lebns-bilder!
Eynmol hot mayn man der vilder
Oysgezetst fun moyl im ale tseyn!

Mayn driter boarder Breyver
S'mazl im in keyver...
Hot dem gantsn front farnumen ven mayn man flegt dortn kumen,
Hot er shoyn dos laydn nit gevolt
Flegt zikh mit mir shafn vi mit zayns a shklafn
Zikh gehaltn far a makher, iz geven a dever-akher
Rent far dray monatn nit batsolt!

Mayn ferter boarder Traybl hot gehat a vaybl
Flegt zi kumen shrayen, sheltn,
Zidln undz un kern veltn
Vos mir hobn ir ir glik geroybt
Aza min kalakotke ongemakht a plotke
Hot mayn man farshteyn gegebn az der boarder iz mayn lebn
Un mayn groyser khokhem hot gegloybt!

Mayn finfter boarder Beygl a khevre-man, a foygl
Er hot fun mayn erlekh hayzl gor gemakht a gembling klayzl
Kortn-shpiler hobn nit gefelt!
Kh'hob gehat fun "Pinke" un nokh fun zakhn linke
Eyn fartog iz er farshvundn, hobn zol er tsores, vundn,
Oysgeramt mayn 'jewelry' un gelt!

Mayn zekster boarder Spekter iz geven an ekter
Do hot mir mayn shlag getrofn biz nokh mitog flegt er shlofn
Kh'hob di hoyz nit oyframen gekent
Un ven er flegt dervakhn, flegt er probes makhn:
Veynen, shrayen, kvitshen, zingen
Mayne oyern farklingen
Un mit "peses" opgetsolt zayn rent

Mayn letster boarder Reyner iz geven a sheyner
Hot farmogt a zisn shmeykhl un gehat a yam mit seykhl
Mir geakht, geshetst mayn yeder trit
Flegt zikh prost basmakn fun mayn kokhn, bakn
Nor nit lang iz er farblibn,
S'hot mayn brokh im gor fartribn
Un mer keyn boarders haltn lozt er nit!

My first boarder, Rosen, was a blowhard.
For three dollars, tea and coffee, I washed his clothes and on top of that:
He broke the spring in my sofa.
He was a big eater, for him no ? nothing kosher.
He used to sneak into the booze...
He wanted me to make him kremslekh and kreplekh.
He had a hankering for everything.

Listen, women, get this in your heads, take advice from me.
If you want to live well and peacefully
Don't let any boarders into your house.

My second boarder, Kraser, was a Yiddish author.
He used to write, he used to erase,
He used to be after me all day to hang out in his room with him, alone.
He used to make me sit and listen to his skits,
He performed scenes from life for me.
Once my wild husband knocked out all his teeth.

My third boarder Breyver, may he rest in peace,
He used to ? be busy when my husband used to come in.
He didn't want to suffer.
He used to boss me around as if I were his slave
He considered himself a bigshot, he was a pig/scoundrel!
He didn't pay rent for three months!

My fourth boarder Traybl had a wife, she used to come shouting and cursing,
Berating us and turning things upside down
Because we'd robbed her of her happiness
Such a chatterbox causing an uproar
She implied to my husband the boarder was my love
And my genius believed her!

My fifth boarder Beygl was a great guy, a sly one,
He made of my respectable home a gambling house.
Card players were not in short supply!
I had money, and lots of dubiously legal stuff.
One day he disappeared, may he have miseries and wounds,
He stole my jewelry and money!

My sixth boarder, Spekter, was an actor.
What a pest! He slept till past noon,
I couldn't clean the house.
And when he'd wake up, he used to rehearse:
Crying, shouting, shrieking, singing,
My ears were ringing.
And he paid his rent with theater passes.

My last boarder Reyner was handsome,
He had a sweet smile and was very smart.
He esteemed me, he doted on my every step.
He used to simple inhale my cooking, my baking,
But he didn't stay for long...
My disaster of a husband drove him out
And wouldn't allow any more boarders.

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