Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Joy’s Diamond Ring (2):Romance & Racketeers…by Robert M. Katzman

Robert M. Katzman’s Amazing Story:  http://www.differentslants.com/?p=355

Part 2: (scroll down for part 1)

About a year prior to that evening at the Kinzie Steakhouse, I once read an item in a movie magazine about actor Richard Burton, giving his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, a ridiculously enormous diamond ring.  I remember dismissively saying to Joy that for a diamond that large, a person could go to Europe twenty times.  I said that would be a far better use of money, in my opinion.

I am certain that Joy silently filed this unwelcome comment from me in her mental file cabinet under,

Bob: Clueless!!  

However, like numerous other people have in my life, she underestimated me.  Her shock at receiving the diamond ring that night was also a subtle jolt from me to her that I was far more aware about what was important to her than she had previously assumed.  It certainly redefined our relationship on that wintery December night in 1977 when I asked Joy to marry me.

So…okay, a nice romantic moment, yes?

Maybe, but not nearly as fascinating a story as where Joy’s ring came from.  Because on the morning of December 31, 1977, that diamond ring did not exist.  Yet.

What follows now, is the truly convoluted story of the long, long journey leading to the creation of Joy’s diamond ring.  I suppose I’m writing this story for my granddaughter Natalia, and her soon-to-be sibling and cousin whom are both presently on the way.  The next generation should know about these intricate old family stories. 

In 1939, when my talented and artistic mother, Anne, then only 18 years old, was already designing detailed, imaginative jewelry.  Although her parents, who were from the Jewish Pale in Eastern Europe, were not in that business and her father was essentially a peddler to other immigrants near the steel mills located at the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan, the Chicago-area Jewish community was still small enough so that she was able to befriend, through friends of friends, some of the veteran jewelers working Downtown on Wabash Street.  For a curvaceous pretty girl, which she certainly was, doors frequently opened more easily for her than they might have opened for any man.

These old men whom she gradually came to know, turned her designs into reality, and as those finished designs sold, my mother began to make a name for herself in the tight little world of men who handled diamonds, rubies and pearls every day.

One of those unusual people I can still remember from over fifty years ago was a very old, very short man named Sander Goldstein.  He appeared to me to be a formally-dressed and always laughing…elf.

He always wore a white dress shirt, a black vest, had thick-lensed glasses with gold wire frames plus a jeweler’s loop—a kind of high-powered miniature magnifying glass inside of a small black plastic tube—with him at all times.  He had a wispy angelic-looking fringe of fine white hair, was round-shouldered from endlessly sitting hunched over his cluttered work table for so many decades, skillfully placing precious stones in gold, silver and platinum settings.  He also repaired broken watches and necklaces.

In 1955, when I was five years old, I thought he must have been at least one hundred years old.  I still do.

My parents first met in 1945 after my Dad returned from the War in the Pacific at the age of 33, older than most returning vets.  He felt his life was slipping by and he had no home, no wife and no kids.  Then he met Anne Warman in Chicago.  He was quite swept away by her glamorous beauty and aggressive style.  He had never met anyone like her before, coming from a bland working-class background and Jacob, his silent and steady carpenter father.  She dazzled him.

When Anne learned he was looking for work, she offered to tutor him in the retail jewelry business.  He still had a little money left from his mustering out pay when he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army.  Anne’s parents, Celia and Nathan from Byelorussia and Poland also had a little money set aside to get him set up, if it appeared that a marriage was going to happen. And finally, she would be his partner, making connections for both of them within the trade and also waiting on customers.

So, they were married on June 30th 1946, sixty-four years ago as of this writing, and they opened up a small jewelry store at 5 North Wabash in Downtown Chicago, under the elevated tracks everyone called then and now, “The Loop.”

They were moderately successful for a while, but after Anne gave birth to my sister Bonnie Sue on October 22, 1947, and then me on April 30, 1950, she was much too busy to help him sell jewelry in the store anymore.

Though my father was an excellent salesman, even before the war, he became increasingly disenchanted working their business day after day by himself.  He felt trapped.

Other problems arose between the two of  them when my mother discovered that she was increasingly disenchanted with having and raising children.  It was far less glamorous caring for two crying, peeing demanding babies than selling diamonds, opals and rubies to her sophisticated cliental.

A rift opened between my parents with these two critical discoveries in the early Fifties and it never closed.  Though their jewelry store kept making money, my father eventually decided that it wasn’t for him.  Money never was a sufficient motivation to keep him doing something he didn’t want to do.

After 42 months overseas in the Signal Corp. working for General Douglas MacArthur, the tough, still baseball-playing World War II vet simply couldn’t shrink his world down to a dozen rotating trays each in a cluster of electric jewelry display cases inside of a small shop on the fifth floor of an anonymous old building on North Wabash Street.  It was too quiet.  He felt like he was being buried in silence.

After experiencing gang fights during the Twenties on the dangerous immigrant-filled West Side of Chicago, then starving with his brother and three sisters through the Great Depression of the Thirties, crossing the Pacific westward with massed troops in transport ships to battle the Japanese Army from island to island for years, being bombed and wounded in the Philippines and finally walking through the deadly silence of Nagasaki after it was flattened by an atomic bomb…my Dad later told me that his being reduced from being an essential US Army sergeant teaching Morse Code to many men in vital situations…to selling watches and rings post war…had no meaning for him.

Even though he closed and left that store in 1956, after selling off all the inventory and display cases to the many contacts he had developed over the years he spent in that business, he still kept up all those relationships in his complex web of many friends.  To me, even as a small child, my father seemed to know everybody, especially whom to call for a very specific reason.

He didn’t view friendship as a means to an end.  He viewed friendship as holding another person in high esteem, someone to confront life with.

After a while of exploring some possibilities, buoyed by the cash raised from closing the jewelry store, my Dad ended up selling low quality furniture, which was called “Borax furniture” in his level of the trade.  The name was derived from when the cheaply manufactured furniture was given away as contest premiums by giant soap companies when they were major advertisers on popular radio shows in the late Thirties and beyond that, through the war.  Even after that situation stopped post WWII, the distinctive name of that category of furniture still stuck.

But my Dad was an “outside man” and the new job let him drive all over northern Illinois and Indiana visiting with and selling to his many customers.  He was an ace salesman, made a fair buck on a regular basis and most importantly, he was content.

The job kept him away from our house on the South Side of Chicago for long stretches, which kept the marriage going a lot longer than it probably should have, although my sister and I wished he could have been home more.   A perfect example of a situation seemingly starting out so well, and then becoming doomed by unforeseen circumstances, in this case independently affecting both of my parents.

My mother’s days of designing beautiful jewelry long over, she somehow morphed into an interior decorator and lived in the basement of our brick home, surrounded by color swatches, scheming and smoking pack after pack of her Pall Mall cigarettes.

My sister and I rarely saw what slowly became a very embittered woman. An increasingly dangerous, frustrated, angry woman trapped between anonymity and invoices.

All these events that gradually led to my parents becoming who they were as their lives evolved, also affected the personalities of Bonnie and myself, over time.  Children cannot protect themselves from their parent’s unhappiness.  It falls on them like endless rain.


Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $24.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle: bob_katzman



Comment by Don Larson

July 16, 2010 @ 8:45 pm


This is one of the very best articles I’ve ever read about life.

“He didn’t view friendship as a means to an end.  He viewed friendship as holding another person in high esteem, someone to confront life with.”

If only all people could hold that lesson in their heart.

“Children cannot protect themselves from their parents unhappiness. It falls on them like endless rain.”

You’ve made the Sun come out again. For you, your family, for others including me.



Comment by jokie solomon

July 19, 2010 @ 3:10 pm


I’m a sucker for a romantic story!!!I look forward with GUSTO to the next installment when I will learn more about Joy’s diamond ring.

Jokie S.

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