The Spirit of Lake Superior

May 28, 2010
I have always wanted to be able to use a great-great-relative in a coherent sentence. Thanks to Ava’s Man and this assignment, I can. My great-great-grandfather’s name was Dov David Goldish.
Dov David was born in 1860 in Russia and Died in 1929 in Duluth, MN. My Zayda (Yiddish for grandfather), Dr. Robert “Bob” Goldish was quoted as saying, “He was known in the congregation as Berl Dovid, and only after I studied Hebrew did I figure out why. His name was really Dov Doveed -- as recorded on his gravestone. Dov is the Hebrew word for bear. So his English name should have been recorded as Dov David Goldish. (Seems to me that Beryl was the Yiddish word for "little bear" -- sort of intimate name, like Bobby for Robert.) If somebody had wanted to anglicize the name further, it could have been changed to Bear David Goldish." (Dr. Robert “Bob” Goldish March 2009) David’s family moved here in 1888 for what is now Lithuania, what was then a region occupied by Russia. Lithuanian Jews were very Orthodox and upon arrival to Ellis Island, New York, they were told to ask two Yiddish words for “work” and “housing”. The immigration official converted their money and directed them to Duluth, Minnesota, a rapidly expanding port city where Kosher food was available life was manageable for Jewish immigrants Over the next 10 years, his family would save money to transport immediate family, distant, family, friends, and neighbors, eventually creating a small community of Lithuanian Jews. They recruited enough Jewish men (10) to form a minion to be able to pray and have a synagogue.
Their village was subject to pogroms by the Russian Cossack cavalry, persecuting both Jews and Christians alike. David is the earliest clear relative to my great-grandfather, the subject of this story.
David married Tillie Tiba Mark (1867-1936) and together they had six children: Benjamin (1886-1962), Samuel S. Shmuel (1890-1970) Louis (1891-1913), Samuel Leonard Shapse Lazer (1894-1966), Sara Goldish (1896-1918), Harry (1899-1990), Rose (1900-1947), and Jack (1901-1947).
Dov David started the Lake Superior Fish Company in 1896 when there was an entrepreneurial opening in the Duluth area fish transportation industry. It was the largest frozen fish shipper in the territory and also had a retail store. David’s three middle sons: Louie, Samuel L., my great-grandfather, and Harry, were all involved in the business at a fairly young age.

Louis Goldish, my great-grand father’s older brother, became manager of the Lake Superior Fishing Company in 1911 when he was only 20. In 1913, The company had a little, 65 foot passenger packet boat made. Since Louie was the oldest available son, he was to be captain of the boat. Unfortunately, not long after, while handling docking lines in Superior, WI, he was caught in the lines while the ship pulled away, crushing his leg in the ropes relentlessly. Louis was hospitalized and within two days later of blood poisoning.

This tragedy left the next in line, my great-grandfather, S. L. Goldish left in charge of the vessel. He was nicknamed as “Cap” Goldish ever since. Cap, age 20, and his little brother Harry, age 18, became leaders of the boat now called the L Goldish in Louis’s memory, and of the Lake Superior Fishing Company itself. The boys faked their ages in order to receive their licenses and obtained their training in Wisconsin: Cap learned navigation and Harry learned to be the engineer of the vessel. The young brothers were the youngest licensed officials on the lake. Around the Duluth harbor, they were referred to and known as “the Goldish kids”. Soon they hired 5 other men as deckhands; some were former marines and others were sailors. All of them doubled as employees at the company warehouse

While operating the business, Cap and Harry covered 137 pickup stops along the Minnesota North Shore not including the Wisconsin South Shore and the Apostle Islands. What’s more, Cap knew every route separately and intimately. He also knew where there were safe places to take refuge when the lake became violent and there were storms.

Learning all of this about my great-grandfather and his achievements makes me proud to be descended of him. However, all of that was accomplished in his early 20’s.

However, what Cap was most known for on Lake Superior was his and his brother’s legacy of rescues and distress responses even in the most dangerous of situations.

The first recue took place on November 23, 1916. The Booth Company, LSFC’s competitor called for help when their ship, the C.W. Turner was in trouble near an island on the lake. The L Goldish was rattled and took some damage by the time it reached the other boat. The $3oo paid by the Booth Company didn’t cover all damages but the 13 lives that Cap and the L Goldish saved were priceless. Cap later recounted that he remembered that day for a different reason as well. It was his first drink of liquor. Cap kept a bottle for medicinal purposes on the boat for emergencies. A deckhand asked him in the middle of the rescue, “Cap, any liquor on board? It’s only right we have a drink before we die.” Only after the rescue was completed and the tow was successfully in progress did Cap say, “Get the bottle”.

Eight years later, in 1924, a snowstorm pounded the Duluth-Superior area. It was so violent that the Aerial Bridge, the bridge connecting the mainland of Duluth to the 7-mile sandbar right next to it, was damaged and broken. This is how his day went:

He rose at his regular time, 4:30 A.M. and walked the mile to the Singer dock, near the company headquarters. His business hours began at 5 A.M. and he would be joined by his deckhands to work at the warehouse. Cap called his wife Hattie (Mima) Kenner Goldish as he always did before and after a voyage if possible. The lake was frozen except for a patch of thin ice between where the L Goldish was docked and Minnesota Point where some emergencies were developing. The Coast Guard called Cap to ask if he could break a way through the ice to a little store on Minnesota point. He said yes.
Cap assured Mima that he would call her after he completed the 300 or so yards to the store. The journey took him the time it would take to cover 3o miles over open water. The storekeeper informed Cap of the emergencies, a pregnant woman in labor and a man with an appendicitis. Pausing only to call Mima, Cap set out with the woman back to the Duluth canal where there was an ambulance waiting. Cap and Harry prayed that they would arrive in time. They did.
Calling Mima to report a successful trip, he said he would remain at work in case of more trouble. Two hours later it came. The man with the appendicitis required surgery. The L Goldish set out again for Minnesota Point. The journey was slightly faster with a path. They returned just in time to the canal where the ambulance was waiting.
Both woman and baby and sick man survived, thanks to Cap, my great-grandfather.
In the late 1920’s, Cap received a call from the Coast Guard which had been immobilized by a snowstorm to aid four Norwegian sailors whose motor had died. They sailors were drifting slowly toward the Wisconsin Shore breakers, a certain death. They reached the men in time.
That added to the total of lives saved by Cap S.L. Goldish. The record by the end of his career stood and still stands (for a private group) at 29. That is an amazing feat for a young captain of a 65-foot packet boat.

I find it amazing that while I will be in college and starting a career in my 20’s and 30’s, Cap was sailing Lake Michgain starting at age 19 or 20, and saved lives through his late 30’s. It just shows the hard work and bravery that was a part of Cap’s nature.
Later, The L Goldish was sold and ended its days in operation on Lake Michigain.
Mima and Cap had three children: Robert Joseph Goldish, my Zayda (1924-present), Esther Syril Goldish Krovitz (1928-present), and Barbara Devorah Goldish Bearman (1935).
My Zayda, remembers a story about Cap, The L Goldish and the Lake Superior Fishing Company, “"The L Goldish was not a fishing boat. Dad once told me, in answer to my query, that he had caught a fish only once, and he felt so sorry for the fish that he threw the fish and the tackle and the 'whole damn thing' into the water and never went fishing again. The L. Goldish was a packet boat, not a fishing boat, with arrangements with dozens of fishermen along the N and S Shores -- taking freight and supplies from Duluth to them, and bringing fish back to the LSF Co. warehouse for repacking, icing, retail sales and wholesale sales both locally and sent around the country by railroad express." (March 2009) This story reflects the humble, modest, and innocent character that was, my great-grandfather, Cap Goldish.
My Zayda, Robert. J Goldish married Selma Senior in 1951 and together they had four children: Lisa Harriet (1952 to present), Susan Rose (1955 to present), Melanie Tess, my mother (1958-present), and Bruce Benjamin (1959-present).
My mother married Joseph in 1989 and I was born in 1992, and my brother, Spencer, in 1994.
While I grew up, cap was like a legend to me. He still is actually. I was raised hearing stories about him, and Harry and Louie. However, I never was really able to grasp the full meaning of them until now. I have spent hours reading newspaper articles and family records about him and I am still not done reading them. Learning about Cap made me realize there was so much about my family and so many family members that I did not know before doing my research. For example, I did not know that Louie, Cap, and Harry, had five other siblings. It just astounds me what I have learned. There are still a lot more mysteries for me to uncover and uncertainties regarding my family’s past before Dov David Goldish.
I could write pages and pages more about Cap, and it is tempting to do thius for his siblings and father and mother as well, but I’m satisfied for now.
One thing is for certain however, the spirit of Captain S.L. Goldish lives on and as long as his loved ones live, it will never die.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Rivka Morris said...
Sept. 17, 2016 at 6:47 pm
Hi, I found your essay very interesting! We are obviously related. Probably from one of the Samuel's because my grandfather's name was Shmuel (Sam) Yitzhak Goldish and his cousin was Benjamin Goldish. My grandfather died in 1995 and one of his son's is David. So you see the same first names as those first Goldishes you mentioned. I know my grandfather was born and raised in Marietta, Ohio and he married and raised his family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Also my mom (Goldish) has mentioned... (more »)
Rivka Morris said...
Sept. 17, 2016 at 6:47 pm
Hi, I found your essay very interesting! We are obviously related. Probably from one of the Samuel's because my grandfather's name was Shmuel (Sam) Yitzhak Goldish and his cousin was Benjamin Goldish. My grandfather died in 1995 and one of his son's is David. So you see the same first names as those first Goldishes you mentioned. I know my grandfather was born and raised in Marietta, Ohio and he married and raised his family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Also my mom (Goldish) has mentioned... (more »)
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