Berman descendants were leading local businessmen

Published 12:00am Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Berman family name is a memory only in the minds of the older citizens of Andalusia and the surrounding communities. It was once a leading one in the business industry of the area. Isaac Berman, a native of Russia, moved his family from the State of Maryland to Andalusia in 1895. The date of his immigration to this country is not known to this writer.

Before the move, Isaac earned his living and supported his young family by working as a foot-peddler. It has been told that he arrived in Andalusia with his few “belongings,” tied in a sack, which he carried over his shoulder. He most likely had a few choice items to begin his sales activities in this area. From this meager beginning, he became a leading merchant in the young Town of Andalusia during the early 1900s. He is reported to have arranged to purchase a number of the buildings surrounding the Court Square in Andalusia.

When Isaac Berman brought his family to Andalusia in 1895, he and his wife, Rosa, also a native of Russia, had only one young son, Samuel Moses Berman, who was three years old. Samuel was born in Maryland in 1892, and grew to be one of the most successful businessmen of Andalusia.

In the 1900 federal census, the household of Isaac Berman was enumerated as residents of Andalusia as follows: Isaac, 40 years old; Rosa, 34; with Samuel M., 8. There was a Samuel E. Roddy, 20, living in the household as well.

There was a M. Joe Berman who was a native of Russia who immigrated to the United States in 1904. A number of facts suggest he might have been a brother to the above Isaac Berman. They were both native Russians who moved to Covington County within nine years of each other. Both men owned general stores in the sawmill Town of Falco during its days of prosperity. Although he was living in Andalusia in 1910, M. Joe Berman ended up residing in the Hart Community of Covington County in 1920 and later moved to Montgomery before 1930.

In the 1910 federal census, the M.J. Berman family was listed in Andalusia in the following manner: M.J. Berman, 39; Mary, 34; Isadore, 11; Bessie, 9; and Johnnie, 1. In the 1920 Census for the Hart community in Covington County, the family was described as follows: Joe M. Berman, 50; Mary, 47; Isadore, 20; Bessie, 18; James, 11; Louis Jolman, 49; and Rosa Jolman, 46. The family was living in Montgomery when the 1830 census was taken, and it was enumerated as follows: Joe M. Berman, 58; Mary, 55; Isadore, 30; and Jonah H., 21.

Back to the Isaac Berman family: Samuel Moses Berman, son of Isaac and Rosa Berman, joined his father at age 18 in the partnership of I. Berman and Son’s Department Store in Andalusia in 1910. He had been one of three students to be graduated by the Andalusia School in its third graduating class in 1907.

The Berman business was located in the south section of the building currently housing Brook’s True Value Hardware at 102 South Three-Notch Street. Elmore’s Five and Dime operated in the north section of the building, and the A & P. Grocery was in the middle section where the entrance to Brook’s Hardware is today. Some years later, Baxter’s Shoes was located in the space where the A & P Store had been earlier. Also in later years, the Thrifty Stores, a dry goods store, was housed in the same space where the Berman store had been. Mr. Hanson Colvin was a longtime manager of this store, which included men, women and children’s clothing departments for many years.

The July 17, 1969, edition of The Andalusia Star-News featured the Berman Department Store in a short story with a photograph of the business. In the picture made in 1924, the interior of the store was shown with the following employees standing in front of the wide range of merchandize: Sam Berman, partner with his father; Mrs. Mamie Farnell; Isaac Berman, founder of the store; Mrs. Cliff (Irene Faulkenberry) Hines; Mrs. Sara Hinson Claibourne; Walter Bruce; Albert Kirkpatrick; and Jack Hodges.

The Berman family truly prospered in Andalusia and became leading citizens even though they were only one of a very few families of the Jewish faith. In addition to the two different Berman families, there was the Turner family who owned and operated the Turners’ Ladies Department Store on the Southwest former of Court Square. Currently this building is occupied by attorney Wayne Bush. A daughter in the Turner family was married to Sol Rosen who worked in the family business.

For an overview of the Berman family, Isaac Berman, is the earliest known to this writer. He was born in Russia circa 1860 and was married to Rosa whose maiden name is not known. The year of their immigration to the United States of America is not known, but they were residing in the State of Maryland when their oldest son, Samuel M., was born in 1892. It is understood that Isaac or “Ike” Berman earned his living as a foot peddler after arriving in this country. He began his first days in Andalusia in the same line of work when he moved here in 1895.

Samuel Moses Berman is the only known child for Isaac and Rosa Berman. He was three years old when they moved to Andalusia. In addition to the information already stated regarding Samuel, other records reveal that he had four years of college education, worked as a merchant and helped in the growth of his town. For instance, in 1934 he was elected to serve as a director of the new First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Andalusia. The Board held its first meeting on July 12, 1934. He was also a key player in establishing the Andalusia Country Club and other civic organizations.

During the late 1960s, Sam was also instrumental in securing the land for the construction of the Lurleen B. Wallace State Junior College. Always a believer in education, he “achieved his desire for advanced educational opportunities for local students who wanted to remain in Covington County.”

Samuel Moses Berman was married circa 1917 to Rose Cohen who was a native of Milton, Fla. Their residence for many years, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s, was 212 Dunson Street. Some years later the family resided on Roosevelt Street, which is located near the Andalusia High School. They reared the following three children: Fay Hilda, b. ca 1919, m. ? Cohen and lived in Baltimore, Md.; Doris Marie, b. 1919, d. 1993, single and lived with parents; and Anne Louise “Tupie,” b. 1925, m. M.I. Ullman and lived in La Habra, Calif.

A tragic automobile accident claimed the life of Sam Berman on Thurs., Dec. 6, 1979, when he turned into the path of a tractor-trailer truck hauling steel pipe. He was traveling west on U.S. 84 and attempted to turn left onto old Sanford Road, which was directly in front of the local radio station. Local authorities believe a blinding sun may have been a major contributing cause for the accident. Berman was taken to the Andalusia Hospital and then transferred to a Pensacola, Fla., hospital, where he died about five hours after the accident. His funeral was held at Foreman’s Funeral Home in Andalusia with burial in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.

Sources for this writing included interviews with local citizens, newspaper articles including an obituary and Ancestry.com.

Anyone who might have a correction to any of the above or additional information on the

Berman family is requested to contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; 334-222-6467; or email: cthomasson@centurytel.net.

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