At age 88, Arizona author Sheldon Sid Brodkin has achieved longevity threefold: in marriage, in health and in business. Equally sharp and optimistic when envisioning the future as when recalling the past, Brodkin personifies the spirit that has propelled him through his World War II Navy service, his 60-year career in business sales and his 61-year marriage to his wife, Sally, his “bella sposa” (beautiful bride). He is friendly, sharp as a tack and doesn’t linger in the past. He and Sally have a daughter, Gwen, who lives in Connecticut.
“Each day should be a new life for a wise person,” Brodkin says, referencing a fellow author he admires, Dale Carnegie, of How to Win Friends and Influence People. “You have to keep moving forward.”
Growing up impoverished in the Borough Park area of Brooklyn, NY, in the 1940s was wrenching for Brodkin. “The impact is still with me,” he explains. “I knew one thing I wanted out of life: I didn’t want to be poor.” Childhood dreams of playing baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers were delayed by schooling and a part-time job delivering telegrams for Western Union, an experience he credits with giving him a strong work ethic. He graduated in 1943 and, after passing a civil service exam, began working as an assistant storekeeper for the 3rd Naval District and preparing to go to war against Japan.
“Most Americans still don’t understand the significance of Aug. 6, 1945,” Brodkin says. “But that was the day our entire barracks erupted into cheers of joy at the news of the Hiroshima bombings. We were working with the Marines, training to invade Japan as ground fodder.” Victory for the United States meant a new chance for Brodkin to work on his boxing, a a sport he always loved and wanted to train formally for.
But his mother was hard-set against his prospects in baseball or boxing, so he placed a free advertisement for returning veterans for employment and was hired by Rudin and Roth, a hosiery partnership. “I loved the business, it was challenging and exciting,” he recalls. “(The partners) were like big brothers to me.” Eventually the partners offered him a share of ownership, and he advanced quickly through the ranks of salesman, mill agent and manager. Brodkin left the firm as president in 1972 after watching the business evolve from a simple operation to a national enterprise with seven U.S. factories, including one in Puerto Rico.
Seeking a fresh start, he and Sally relocated to Tucson at the encouragement of their friend “Big Sam” Marcus, who extolled his childhood home in Nogales to the couple. They’ve owned their Catalina Foothills home for more than 40 years. Not content to retire into boredom, the couple plunged into Tucson life. Sally became involved in Hadassah, Sid continued to work as a regional sales broker for the hosiery industry.
During his sales work, he developed a unique product, Bubby Hosiery, a one-size cotton and stretch fabric blend of stocking well-suited to female seniors. After local testing and a trial at Good Housekeeping magazine, the product sold well. When Brodkin reached what he termed “the point of diminishing returns” with his stockings, he sold the business.
He reflected with great affection on the kind letters he received from women he’d helped over the years. “I truly felt I had done a mitzvah for these ladies,” he says of their messages, “and I carry that good feeling with me today.” At his retirement, he was presented with a plaque that credits him with selling one billion pairs of socks in 25 years, “unquestionably the number one hosiery salesman of all times.”
Ever the sportsman, Brodkin turned to golf. “I love golf !” Brodkin says gleefully. “Although it took me years to realize I wasn’t swinging a bat!” Despite two knee replacements, two hip replacements and one shoulder replacement surgery, Brodkin claims he’s still going strong. “You have to keep up with your exercise in your life … it’s all connected.” One of Brodkin’s favorite hobbies is gaming. He recalls evolving from shooting craps in a cellar in Brooklyn to playing Sally and sheldon Sid Brodkin married June 14, 1953, in Brooklyn, NY.
One of Brodkin’s favorite hobbies is gaming. He recalls evolving from shooting craps in a cellar in Brooklyn to playing cards in the Navy to his first trip to Las Vegas in 1958 with a dear friend to the grand opening of the Tropicana Hotel. His favorite game is craps, a game about which he claims, “most don’t understand the game and are too intimidated.” His friendships with Las Vegas gamers and hoteliers during the early construction boom served as inspiration for the two books he’s written.
The first book, Boro Park, Vegas, and All the In-Betweens, published in 2009, is a fictional narrative loosely based on his friendship with Ash Resnick, a childhood sports hero of Brodkin’s who later became a casino executive, sports promoter and a close friend. The second book, A Las Vegas Memoir: Ash Resnick and Me, published last spring, details their actual friendship as adults. Brodkin is planning a third book, The Marker, a tale exploring the intersection of Hollywood movie optioning and the gaming industry.
Asked where he gets his inspiration, Brodkin taps his head, winks and says with a smile, “I’ve lived a long time, I’ve seen a lot.” He and Sally have put off moving into a retirement home, laughing at their decision. “Every three years we shrug and say, ‘Ack! Let’s wait another three.’ ”
Boro Park, Vegas, and All the In-Betweens is $18, plus $2.84 postage. A Las Vegas Memoir, Ash Resnick and Me is $10.95, plus $2.84 postage. Brodkin is offering Arizona Jewish Life readers a special price of $25 for both books, with no charge for shipping. Checks should be made out to Sid Brodkin and mailed to 6520 N Pontatoc Road, Tucson, AZ 85718. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 520-299-2152.