The Chattanooga History Center is accepting reservations for its 7th Annual History Makers Luncheon at which it will honor The Legacy of Mose and Garrison Siskin.
The annual History Makers Award recognizes local individuals or groups who have made significant contributions to Chattanooga, the region, the state, or the country.
Past honorees include; Ruth Holmberg, Rev. Paul McDaniel, and Dalton Roberts; Mr. & Mrs. Jack T. Lupton and the Lyndhurst Foundation; the Howard High School Student Led Sit-Ins of 1960; Fletcher Bright and the Dismembered Tennesseans; the Legacy of the William E. Brock, Sr. Family; and Chattanooga Venture and Vision 2000.
The 2012 award will recognize the far reaching impact the work and philanthropy of the Siskin brothers has had on the Chattanooga area, and, through the Siskin Hospital and the Siskin Children's Institute, continues to have. The award, an original sculpture by Cessna Decosimo, will be presented at a luncheon at 11:30am-1:00pm, Wednesday, November 7th, at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Mose and Garrison Siskin's children, Claire Siskin Binder, Anita Siskin Levine, Helen Siskin Pregulman, and Robert H. Siskin, will accept the award.
The History Makers Luncheon is the History Center’s major fund raiser of the year. Individual tickets are $65, and table sponsorships are available. For information, call 265-3247.
The Honoree’s Story
Robert H. Siskin, Mose and Garrison's father, immigrated from Lithuania in the 1890's to escape religious persecution. Steered to Chattanooga by a companion on the ship, he became an itinerant peddlar, covering a 75 mile route on foot and carrying his merchandise. He saved the money to bring his wife to Chattanooga, and, in 1900, became a partner in a scrap metal business named Rubin and Siskin Iron & Metal.
Son, Mose, was also born in 1900, and Garrison, in 1903. In 1910, Siskin bought out his partner, and, with $6 starting capital, set up his own business, R.H. Siskin & Sons, though his boys were only 7 and 10 years old at the time. The boys had already been contributing to the family income by selling milk from the family cow, and selling newspapers on the street. The boys made a soapbox wagon and gathered metal scraps, bottles and whatever salvageable junk they could find. Robert Siskin died in 1926, and Mose and Garrison succeeded him, and built their company into one of Chattanooga's most successful businesses.
In 1942, Garrison suffered a serious injury to his leg, and amputation seemed likely. He made a promise to God that, if his leg was spared, he would devote his life to helping those in need. He received whole-hearted support from his brother, and Mose is reported to have said, "Your promise is my promise." The Siskin Memorial Foundation, the Siskin Children's Institute, the Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation and many lesser known good works followed, and continue to impact countless families and individuals in the region.
The Siskin story is the quintessential American rags to riches story, but with an important difference. Google that phrase, quintessential American rags to riches story, and you will find example after example, such as Fitzgerald's Gatsby, Hubert Humphrey, Starbucks owner Howard Schultz, vaudeville theater owner Alexander Pantages, Benjamin Franklin, even a Dancing With the Stars contestant. All those people were great achievers, and some even achieved greatness. If you dig, you may find others who, like the Siskin brothers, turned their wealth toward people in need and set up institutions to carry the work forward to future generations, but they are few. The Siskins were different. Their pursuit of the American Dream brought better lives to thousands.