Kremer shares his lively encounters with the famous and not so famous, from
Pope John Paul II to Phil Kohut, Robert
Kennedy to "Uncle Pete" De Sibio. From his days as a cub reporter in Long Beach to the pinnacle of New York State politics as the chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee, Kremer tells all. Come along for the ride of a lifetime.
|Publisher:||City of Light Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.32(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The distance between the floor of the majestic New York State Assembly Chamber and the ceiling is about 300 feet. The chandeliers are massive, as they must spread light to all corners of the historic meeting hall. The distance from a tiny grocery store in Long Beach on Long Island, to Albany is even greater.
In the very last row of the 150 assigned seats, I sat in awe of my surroundings. How often does the son of a grocer who immigrated to this country in 1922 get a chance to be transported to this chamber in Albany and be given the opportunity to be part of history?
To experience the honor of being an elected state official is something very special. There is no handing down of a title by divine right. If you want it badly enough and are willing to fight for it, you will get there. Twenty-three years after being elected to state office, I brought a beautiful chapter in my life to a close. But the path I took to get there is worth writing about.
My road to Albany was riddled with potholes, but also strewn with lucky breaks. For me, life started out in the Bronx. It was there that my parents settled after years of living on the Lower East Side. Charles and Dorothy Wender Kremer immigrated to the United States in 1922. Although they had lived in the same region in Romania, they did not know each other in their home community. I know little of my father's parents, except that I bear the name Arthur, the English version of my grandfather's name: Abraham. My father was one of seven children. I knew his brother Joe, his sister Mary, and their children, but no other siblings.
In an effort to find a familiar face, many new arrivals to this country sought out places that gave them comfort and the chance to reminisce about their lives in the Old Country. My father and mother met at such a place. The hometown group was known as the Progressive Jazlowitzer Society, a name given to hometown associations. Societies in those years offered the comfort of a safe meeting place, the opportunity to trade stories about families left behind, and even an opportunity to buy a low-cost burial plot.
My mother and father got to know each other in this fashion and their chance meeting eventually blossomed into marriage. Like most Eastern European couples at that time, they settled on the Lower East Side. I know little about the history of their coming together, but in the early 1930s they moved to 801 Crotona Park North in the Bronx.
My brother, David, was born in 1929. On May 27, 1939, I came onto the scene. In those days, there were few city hospitals that catered to newborns. According to my brother, I was born in a small sanitarium on Crotona Park North. Such establishments were like clinics. The facility provided accessible health care and was probably much cheaper to operate than today's facilities. It was the only choice for working families needing medical care.
I know little about our days in the Bronx except for the fact that David and I were born during the Depression. Obviously, this was not an easy time to have children. My father described having children during the Depression as a "courageous" act considering that food was expensive and work was hard to get. Being born in the Bronx, however, can offer political advantages even if you don't recall much about it. There will be more about the Bronx connection later on.
Our next stop on the trail to Long Beach was Brooklyn. I was eight years old when my family left the Bronx for a home in Brooklyn. My grandmother's brother, Billy Biller, owned a home at 801 Jefferson Avenue in an area known as Bedford-Stuyvesant. Uncle Billy invited my parents to live in this house and make rental payments. I'm sure they paid the rent as often as possible, but I doubt this happened with any regularity, given the times.
We were one of the few Jewish families on the block. While I wasn't immediately conscious of that fact, there was no doubt that we were vastly outnumbered by Irish, Italian, and Polish families. Our next-door neighbors were Jewish, and it took a few years for me to understand why I couldn't be paid twenty-five cents to turn their gas and lights on and off on the Sabbath. They wanted a "Sabbath Goy" and I didn't qualify for that job.
Our Brooklyn neighborhood was pretty much lily-white in those days. Most of the parades and events centered around Catholic holidays. Holy communions were a big deal on our block, as every family dressed in their finest for their son's or daughter's big church moment.
Stickball was the neighborhood street sport. As 'the kid brother,' I was often the spectator while my brother played. The basic component of stickball was a bat, which was usually your mother's best broom with the bottom sawed off. Games were held throughout the summer months, interrupted only when the police came and confiscated the bat. It then went down the nearest sewer.
The other essential requirement of the game was the ball. In most cases, this was a pink Spalding ball, which cost five cents at Cheap Charlie's, the local stationery store on Ralph Avenue. For quite a few years, Spalding stopped making them. Thankfully, Spalding came to its senses and realized that nostalgia trumps everything. Today you can once again buy them, but they'll set you back about two bucks.
I don't have many Brooklyn stories, as I was quite young and watched rather than participated in city life. Being the kid brother, I was ignored by Dave's friends Eddie Applei, Ed McKeon, and a few others I didn't know well. Applei became a policeman and died at a very young age. I lost track of Ed McKeon, but I know he became a doctor.
I distinctly remember our downstairs tenants, the McMahons. The father was a heavy drinker and, from time to time, was sent to a rehab facility to dry out. His wife, Helen, was a saint who tolerated years of her husband's relapses. Our next-door neighbors were the Tators, who operated a funeral parlor a few blocks away. Mrs. Tator looked like Rita Hayworth and the kids on the block were always trying to sneak a peek at her. One of my jobs was to borrow chairs from the Tator funeral parlor when we had a family gathering. As I grabbed the chairs, I tried my best to avoid looking around the room in fear of seeing the latest customer.
Looking back at one of my money-raising activities, I recall getting paid twenty-five cents for every pitcher of beer I carried from Nolan's Saloon. How could a ten-year-old have been allowed to carry glass pitchers of beer two blocks to make a home delivery? I have never figured out how I could legally have done this, but these sorts of things were common back in the days when Roosevelt was president.
I do have a few poignant memories from my Brooklyn years. Three of them took place during World War II.
War-time conditions required every house to install black-out shades that kept the lights from being seen on the streets. There were periodic air raid warnings and every so often, a volunteer air raid warden would ring our doorbell. He yelled that we should turn off the lights when the shades weren't pulled down. The loud blare of the air raid sirens was pretty scary to a nine-year-old. There was a shortage of oils of all kinds. Mom used to drain the fat from the dinner table and put it in a tin can. The collections were taken to the local butcher shop, and we were given red tokens that could be used to buy meat, which was also rationed. Meat was a precious commodity. Although gas was rationed too, this did not affect my family-we didn't have a car.
The church bells of the nearby Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church began ringing at around 6:00 p.m. on April 12, 1945, and kept ringing and ringing. To our sadness, we learned that President Roosevelt, who had led our country for twelve long years, through the Depression and a world war, had died at his Warm Springs, Georgia, retreat, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. While that wasn't the beginning of my political awakening, it certainly stirred my interest in the world and the people outside of Brooklyn and my small Jefferson Avenue universe.
But events close to home also created poignant memories. The big hurricane of September 1945 caused no small amount of havoc on our block. A tree in front of our house came crashing onto our roof, causing major damage. It was then that I almost left this world due to a fluke occurrence. During the three days of stormy weather I had complained about stomach pain. Our family doctor Bruno Waldman could not get to our home (doctors still made house calls in those days) because of the bad weather.
When Dr. Waldman finally got to our house, I had a high fever and apparently had suffered an appendicitis attack. I was rushed to Kew Gardens General Hospital in Queens, which was a long distance away. The operating doctor told my parents that I was "close to dying" at the time of surgery which, needless to say, would have made this book unnecessary.
Another untold story about my life in Brooklyn relates to matches. I guess you could say I was intrigued by matches and liked to play with them. One quiet day, while my mother was at work at Hearns Department Store as a saleswoman, I crawled under a bed and lit some matches. The mattress caught fire and I panicked but stayed under the bed. My mother arrived home in time to put out the fire. I don't recall what my punishment was, but no doubt it was severe once my father got home. I still like the occasional blaze, but now confine it to the fireplace. Fearing that old habits die hard, my wife Suzan has recently installed a gas fireplace in our newly renovated vacation home.
"If you can arrange to have rich parents, great - if not, try to make sure they are forgiving."
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction vii
One Everything Has a Beginning 2
Two The Kremer Clan 8
Three The City by the Sea 13
Four Pay Low, Aim High 16
Five Everyone Needs a Mentor 22
Six No Hand-Me-Downs in Politics 27
Seven Nassau County-GOP Heaven 30Eight Running Is One Thing, Winning Is Another 32
Nine How We Won 38
Ten Welcome to Albany 41
Eleven Tote That Barge 46
Twelve Rocky Rules 50
Thirteen Freshmen Years 55
Fourteen Playing the Game 58
Fifteen Two Hats Don't Fit 63
Sixteen Buying Back My Reputation 66
Seventeen A Fight to the Finish 68
Eighteen Palm Sunday and Uncle Pete 74
Nineteen Race to the Top 77
Twenty The Joys of Ways and Means 81
Twenty-one When Losing Counts 91
Twenty-two My Cloak and Dagger Experience 94
Twenty-three The Race Is On 100
Twenty-four Legislative Legacy 106
Twenty-five Fond Recollections 111
Twenty-six Famous People and What They Taught Me 116Twenty-seven Life After Politics 126
Twenty-eight A Look Back At Albany 130
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a young elected official, I think that this book is a "must" read. It shows that you can come from humble beginnings and make your way to the top to give your community a voice that produces results. It is not often that an elected official from Long Island no matter how charismatic or popular or how big their campaign war chest is gets a chance to make it to a high position in Albany due to competing interests from other parts of the state, namely New York City. This book shows that it can be done and it can be done ethically. I am inspired by Kremer's experiences and found the account to be very easy to read and loved the pictures. I recommend this book to others who want to know what local government is really about and will use it when I talk to young people about getting involved in government. I loved the story about the painting he purchased at a prison art exhibit which later on became the envy of Governor Nelson Rockefeller. I respect Kremer for sharing the fact that as much as he loved to serve, he knew when to leave the position for more important personal pursuits. I highly recommend this book. Carrie' Solages Legislator