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Happy Hanukkah: The first successful Jewish businessman in Lilly, Pa. was Louis Shulman.

... a Jewish man succeeded in a predominantly Catholic community

The building still stands on the corner of Railroad and Cleveland Streets in Lilly, Pa.

However, it has not been used as a store for about 80 years.

Nevertheless, it was once a very successful business venture by an entrepreneur known as Louis Shuiman, or Louie as the old-timers knew him.

What was unique about Louie Shulman’s store was that it was a department store before they become the vogue in the 1900s.

Unfortunately, I have no information about when the building — which housed his family upstairs — was built or how long it remained in business.

However, I do have some personal reason for knowing about the store.

Talk with Aunt Helen

In one of my many talks with Helen Conrad, my aunt and sister of my dad, we discussed her brother Phil. Helen was about 16 years younger than Phil, who was second in the family. She was the baby, born in 1915.

We talked a great deal about Phil — and this was fascinating because my dad seldom did. It was too painful a memory.

Phil was killed by the Ku Klux Klan when they invaded Lilly in 1924. So, all the tidbits about Phil were appreciated.

One of them involved Louis Shulman and his store.

Phil Conrad

The Shulman store was right at the epicenter of the action that killed Phil. The “KKK Special,” which was a train that sent out of Pittsburgh on April 5, 1924, was leased by the KKK klavern that met in Ferndale, Pa., regularly.

Approximately 450 to 500 Klansmen arrived in Lilly that night to invade a Catholic bastion filled with Irish, German, Italian, Polish, and Slovak immigrants. Contrary to faux historical lore, the KKK chose Lilly because of its religious fervor, not for any other.

In my conversation with Helen in Norristown in the early 1990s, she told me this about Phil,

Phil kept Johnny Platt and Louie Shullman in business because he bought his clothes from Louie. Louie also sold the records for the Victrola.

Conversation with Helen Conrad

From what she told me about Phil, he was a spiffy dresser. He served as a conductor on the Pennsylvania Railroad, though he had been bumped off his job and was working in the coal mine in Moshannon, near Cassandra, when he was killed.

Conversations with Morris

I had numerous conversations with Morris Shullman about the KKK invasion. Morris was Louis’s son, and he witnessed much of it from the upstairs window. He showed me where a bullet lodged in his father’s store.

I have no idea when Louie passed, though some research indicates that it was 1941 and he is buried in Altoona. Not certain if that is true, but I know that in my lifetime, the store never existed. Morris lived upstairs with his family, but he never followed into his father’s footsteps.

What I do know is that a Jewish man built a successful business in Lilly and that my Uncle Phil was one of his best customers. I wish I knew more, but that is all.

For all my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah!

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