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From Shtetl to Jello » Apart From My Art
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From Shtetl to Jello

Kopaigorod, a shtetl in Ukraine. 

My father, Simon, grew up there in the early 1900’s.

It was a good place to be from.


On a good day, he and his brother, Saul (on the right) looked like this.

In 1924, he was finally able to get his visa to come to the United States.

His two eldest brothers had already traveled to America in search of a new life for their entire family including five boys and two girls. There was really no other choice. There were no jobs for Jews except as cannon fodder in the Russian army. Fortunately, with help from a Jewish organization in the U.S., he and his family were able to settle in Los Angeles in the 1920’s.

After building a successful career as one of LA’s finest dental technicians –– I was told he made the most beautiful false teeth in the city –– he was forced to close his business because of the Depression and went to work for his brothers at the Friedman Bag Company.

I was born in the early 40’s.

From the very beginning, I always looked forward to special times with my father.

Dad and me at the Merrygoround

He loved taking me to work. It was a treat for me, too. I would go into one of the offices of the bag company and write and draw while he worked in the enormous print shop, printing burlap bags.Thinking back, he must have been proud of me because he would always take me out to lunch to one of his favorite places and introduce me to his friends and coworkers.

At the top of his list was Philippe’s, near Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. It opened in 1908 and is the home of the Original French Dip Sandwich.

A local fireman actually “invented” the first French dip sandwich when a piece of his French roll fell into the gravy. The fireman thought it was so good, he came back the next day and asked for another sandwich dipped in gravy! So pretty soon, every policeman, fireman and blue-collar worker like my dad showed up and ordered that “sandwich dipped in gravy.”


Sandra Sallin at the entrance to Philippe

The place still feels the same. There are always many lines of customers, waiting to order at all hours of the day and night. 


Sandra in Phone booth with iPhone




Can you hear me?

Remember phone booths? 






Sandra on an old scale at Philippe














In those prehistoric days, I loved getting weighed.

Today, not so much.






Sandra in Artfulhome.com

My tunic is from artfulhome.com. It’s the Colorblock Deborah Tunic by Comfy USA. 


holding hands

I loved being with my mother, too. She was vivacious and, considering her shtetl roots, had a very strong visual sensibility. Even though our family didn’t have much money, our home was always filled with beautiful colors, paintings on the walls and lovely furniture. She also managed to dress stylishly and made sure my sisters and I did, too.

Mom with Judy on her lap

  We didn’t have a babysitter or nanny, so she took me with her almost everywhere. I can still remember riding buses and streetcars from our home on the edge of Hancock Park, along Wilshire Boulevard to downtown Los Angeles and our favorite department store, Bullock’s.

Me as a young girl sitting on a step

 But the end of the rainbow for me was lunch at Clifton’s Cafeteria. There was no place like it. They opened in 1935 and stayed in business until 2010 when the downtown LA real estate market tumbled. They recently renovated and reopened it, and today it almost feels like the Clifton’s I remember. Almost, but not quite.

Entrance to Clifton Clifton

Sandy by Chair

Clifton Cafeteria InteriorToo many choices!

My mother and I both had our favorites. Hers was chicken chow mein and mine was jello! I couldn’t decide. I couldn’t decide.


But downtown meant more to me than a rainbow of jello. A lot of it was also associated with my love for my parents and their love for food.  Like many poor immigrants, food was very important to our family because there was never enough to eat in their shtetl.

I only recently discovered that Clifford Clinton had his restaurant serve millions of meals for free to needy patrons, as well as to paying ones during the Depression.The restaurant chain was noted for aiding those who could not afford to pay. This approach to business reflected the owner’s ethos—he never turned anyone away hungry.In 1946, Clifford and his wife Nelda retired to devote their attention to Meals for Millions, a non-profit charitable organization he founded in the wake of World War II to distribute food to millions of starving and malnourished people throughout the world.

I hope they include jello.



*This is a sponsored post from Artful Home


All images appearing on From Shtetl to Jello are the expressed property of Sandra Sallin. All rights reserved. In other words, don’t steal it!

Facebook Comments
  • Barbara - What adorable pictures and sweet family history to read here. And that jello? Oh my! What kid wouldn’t die to dig into that?ReplyCancel

    • sandra - I still can’t decide. Glad you enjoyed the photos and history. It’s fun looking back.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - So glad you enjoyed my little bit of history. I still can’t decide which jello I want. Do I want the mosaic, the layers the????ReplyCancel

  • Jon Sichel-Outcalt - I love your walk through your history. You look as beautiful today as you did during your visits to Clifton’s a few years ago!! Thank you for sharing your stories with us. What a gift you have for bringing jello to life!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks Jonathan. I love that I bring Jello to life! Which one was your favorite flavor? It’s always been a tough decision. Loved seeing you in LA. Thanks for your support!ReplyCancel

  • Kenju - You were an adorable kid!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Thanks. You’re sweet.ReplyCancel

    I L O V E the TUNIC!
    I want to go to both places with YOU!I ADORED FRENCH DIPS AS A KID now GF prohibits me from the DELICIOUS SANDWICH!THAT other SPOT CLIFTON’s LOOKS SO INTERESTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Yes, there is a link to the tunic right on the blog where I mention it’s name. You’d look fantastic in it with your jewelry piled around your neck!

      You’re right Clifton’s is fascinating. It’s not only a cafeteria but people were settled in for the day. Drinking in the bar and listening to music. The food looked so good I couldn’t decide.ReplyCancel

    I FOUND THE LINK!!!!!!!!
    OFF TO SHOP!!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • cindy hattersley - What a fun post. Isn’t it wonderful that some places can remain the same and still thrive? You look adorable in that tunic. I am wanting it now that I see how darling it is on you!!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Love seeing the clothes on each other. You’re right every time I see something on you I want it also! Glad you enjoyed! This is fun.ReplyCancel

  • classic • casual • home - Sandra, I savored every word of this post. I remember going to Phillipe’s with my dad. A big deal for us to go into downtown L.A.

    You look so chic in that tunic!!! I bet it would be great for travel, too.

    Mary AnnReplyCancel

    • sandra - Oh Mary Ann, I didn’t know you lived in LA. It was a big deal going Downtown. Loved it. Such an adventure. To be honest I think it’s getting better. Many new places I’ll have to introduce people to. Lots of young people have moved down there or are working so things are hoping. Lots of luck getting into The Broad Museum! Ever here of that? Also a fun restaurant “Egg Slut.” I’m going to have fun introducing fun places to you guys,ReplyCancel

  • sandra - Yes, there is a link to the tunic right on the blog where I mention it’s name. You’d look fantastic in it with your jewelry piled around your neck!

    You’re right Clifton’s is fascinating. It’s not only a cafeteria but people were settled in for the day. Drinking in the bar and listening to music. The food looked so good I couldn’t decide.ReplyCancel

  • Susan B. - I love seeing LA through your eyes. Haven’t been to Philippe in AGES, think it’s time to go again.

    Love that tunic on you, and the gorgeous necklace too!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - You’ve got to go to Clifton’s also. That’s a date night! Look at all the blue tops and hats at Philipppe’s. It’s right near Dodger Stadium. It’s a hoot!ReplyCancel

  • cam - Those restaurants were never passed down the generations — you must change that! I only got Pink’s.

    Bullocks, luckily, was, though I just remember playing hide and seek in the dressing rooms with all the beautiful clothing.

    Speaking of which, I want that tunic — NOW! I’ll never get it before i leave, but I can order it and have it waiting 😉

    Was that photo of you and grandpa at Kiddieland?

    And you must show grandma’s ring today on your elegant fingers.ReplyCancel

    • sandra - I think people stopped going Downtown. Too much traffic and many new restaurants closer. Did you ever go to Blum’s?ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Yes, you have sharp eye’s that was Kiddieland and is now The Beverly. I’ll wear the ring today. Isn’t that amazing to see the ring on grandma’s finger. Order the tunic today and it will be here when you return.Tell them that you need it for your return. They’re great about helping.ReplyCancel

  • June - You were an adorable child and still looking pretty. BUT…..where are those shoes from???ReplyCancel

    • sandra - They are about three years old and were on sale. Smart me bought them in black and grey. The French saleswoman insisted I get them in Grey. How right she was. They are by Arche´.ReplyCancel

  • Judie Rosenman - Sandra, we led parallel lives growing up in LA! (I just went to Cliftons for lunch – they dont have the lime jello with cottage cheese top anymore! Major disappointment but i think they’ve done a pretty good renovation otherwise.) My other favorite place was Fishers Hambughers at the Farmers Market, sadly no longer there. It was my mother’s ‘carrot’ to get David and me to the dentist which was nearby, next to Lanz – (remember those nightgowns?) on Wilshire.ReplyCancel

  • Diana Amato - I adore stories like this! To weave the history of our families’ past with the knowledge that we’ve brought so much of it forward into our current life, isn’t that amazing to be able to walk around with those kinds of riches? You are an Inspiration and an Ambassador of Beauty! Thank you for sharing this today. I will definitely put a couple of these places on my checklist the next time I am in LA!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Downtown is going through a renaissance. Lots to see and do!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie Haws - Love the photo of you as a young girl…it’s all about the “attitude” and you sure had it then AND NOW! Thanks for sharing your history. I thoroughly enjoyed your post!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - So glad you enjoyed the photos and the post.ReplyCancel

  • Rena - Love this tunic…love you even more!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Don’t know how you can say that. I give you such grief!ReplyCancel

  • Sandra - Another wonderful post, Sandy! I love the photos of you as a little girl and of your parents. You also look wonderful in the color block tunic. I have eaten at Clifton’s Cafeteria (before the remodel) and it was a fun experience. I was also glad to learn that the owner of Clifton’s fed people who could not afford to eat in his cafeteria. I look forward to your next post!ReplyCancel

  • Joy moos - Finally received your blog……and what a delight it is,, ,,,,your re-living your Dad’s coming to America was poetic in that you combined your love for him with his pride of you,,,,,,,memories to treasure.
    Of course adding the restaurants was more magic ( I have eaten at both)……..actually you were and are the magic!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - So glad you were able to receive my blog and “get it.” Thank you for your “magic” comment. I’m quite touched by it. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Shirley Raymond - Had lunch at Clifton’s on my honeymoon! Thank you for your memories!ReplyCancel

    • sandra - Isn’t that amazing how we all have memories of Cliftons. What a large part it played in all of our lives. Let’s here it for Jello!ReplyCancel

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