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B'nai Spotlight - Smelkinson Family

If you stand today in Jonestown, on the north side of the 1000 block of Lombard Street and look across to Attman’s Deli you no longer see Smelkinson's Dairy to its right.  That parking lot was where  Smelkinson's Dairy at 1017 E. Lombard Street once stood, owned by Morris and Sophie (Stein) Smelkinson.  Zell's Deli was on the other side. Where you now stand looking at what was once Smelkinson's Dairy was Tulkoff's. 

Morris and Sophie  had seven children: Ralph, Benjamin, Isadore (Izzy), Isaac, Vivian and Rona. Ralph, the oldest, married Mildred and they had a daughter, Judy.

In the 1942 picture from the archives of The Jewish Museum of Maryland to the right you see (standing left to right): Sophie, Judy, an unidentified man and woman, (crouching left to right): Aaron "Al" and Rose. They are gathered in front of Smelkinson's Dairy.

Members of the Smelkinson family appear in several early 20th century B’nai Israel records, including the membership ledger, the Chevra Kadisha, and the yahrzeit board for those studying Talmud at B’nai Israel. 

Morris and Sophie had both emigrated from Russia, Morris arriving in the United States in 1907 or 1909 (the 1910 and 1920 censuses differ regarding the year) and Sophie in 1906 (according to the 1910 census which shows her as a 16 year old in Philadelphia working as a sewer of dresses). That same year, Morris was living with a cousin in New York City and working as a barber.  They married in Philadelphia in 1911.

However, the two families were intertwined before Morris and Sophie married.  Sophie’s mother, Chaska “Ida”, was also a Smelkinson. Chaska was the younger sister of Morris’ father, Yitzchak “Issac”. Chaska and Yitzchak’s parents were Aaron Smelkinson and Cheva “Jennie” Krupnik.  So, the Smelhinson’s already had family in Philadelphia, which seems to be how Morris and Sophie met.

By the time of the 1920 census the family had moved to Baltimore and were renting a home at 135 High Street in Jonestown.  Morris is identified as a tailor. Though the census does not identify the clothing shop at which he was working, his World War I draft registration card, dated 12 September 1918, identifies his employer as Vilenzik & Cohen at 1010 E. Fayette Street.

The family relocated to 3 N. Bond Street before 1924, but by the time of the 1930 census, Smelkinson’s Dairy had opened at 1017 Lombard Street and the family was living above the business.

Between 8:30 pm and 9:00 pm on Monday, the 8th of April 1968, during the riots, a fire erupted at Smelkinson’s and Attman’s.  Because of the riots, fire fighters had a difficult time responding.  The fire raged and sometime after 10:30 pm firefighters abandoned efforts to control the fire. Morris and Sophie’s son, Ralph, was running the dairy at the time.  He retired shortly thereafter

However, the Smelkinson legacy did not end in the blazes of the fire.  Morris’ brothers Joseph and Benjamin started a West Camden street butter and egg wholesale business that became Smelkinson Brothers. Joseph’s wife, Irene, hosted large family seders. They became a tradition, which  their son Robert inherited, and which were featured in a Baltimore Sun article in 2006, A Celebration of Family and Freedom.

Mon, December 11 2023 28 Kislev 5784