Thought I saw a Bistrins Bag

Driving through downtown Eureka the other day I thought I spotted an old blue and gold plastic Bistrins bag dancing in the wind.  It was really just one more piece of discarded trash but it made me nostalgic for some of the old stores that just aren’t around any more.

The following comes from the Times Standard archives:    Harry Bistrin — Longtime Humboldt County residents will immediately recognize the name “Bistrin.” Bistrin and his brother Herman owned and operated 23 retail clothing stores known as “Meyer Bistrins,” carrying on a family business that his parents, Lily and Aaron Bistrin, started in Eureka just six months after his birth in 1927. After retirement, Bistrin served as a top aide to state Sen. Barry Keene and district representative for state legislators Virginia Strom-Martin, Patty Berg and others. He died May 19 at the age of 83.

I’ll attach more Bistrin info at the of the post, but here is Fortuna’s Meyer Bistrins on the left (photo credit to Hans Koster of  He actually dug this one up for me by request. Thanks Hans !) Oh, and I just noticed Bon Boniere FOUNTAIN on the right…


And to add to my list of serendipitous history happenings:

I finished a first draft of this post early last week and then stopped at a yard sale last Friday where I found this:


I am sure the woman manning the sale thought I was crazy to want it but I just couldn’t resist.

Times Standard Obituary for Harry Bistrin

Harry Bistrin died in his sleep early Thursday, May 19, 2011, at age 83 in Eureka, where he grew up and lived until moving to the Ukiah Valley more than 20 years ago.

Harry operated a family-owned chain of retail clothing stores called “Meyer Bistrins” with his brother Herman Bistrin. They worked diligently and eventually expanded the business to 23 stores from Northern California to Southern Oregon. After retiring from the retail business, Harry became a top aide to his close friend, former state Senate Majority Leader Barry Keene. He later served as a district representative for former state legislators Virginia Strom-Martin, Dan Hauser, Patti Berg and other Democrats. He also served 33 years on the state Health Facilities Financing Authority. Harry was an excellent listener and communicator who could reach “across the aisle.” Although a staunch Democrat, he counted many Republicans among his good friends. Harry’s keen business and political insights were matched by a wit and warmth that delighted a large and extended family, and a legion of friends across Northern California. Harry and his late wife, Joan, left their native Humboldt County, two decades ago, where they designed and built a dream retirement home in the western hills overlooking the Ukiah Valley. It quickly became the center of family life, and the hub of social gatherings for friends and many civic causes. The Bistrins were active in civic affairs, supporting arts, education and music programs in Ukiah and Eureka. Bistrin most recently served on the Mendocino College Foundation board. Harry was born on Oct. 4, 1927 in Oakland to Russian/Polish immigrant parents Lily and Aaron Bistrin. Within six months of his birth, the senior Bistrins moved to Eureka where they started a retail clothing store. Harry and brother Herman, who survives him, learned retailing from the ground up. Family members recall Herman as the more serious and studious of the two brothers. Harry was described as “mischievous”, a teen that was happiest playing cards or hanging out at the local pool hall “where his father would often find him.” Harry graduated from the University of California Berkeley, and served in the U.S. Army. In 1951, Harry married Katherine Marion Lowy and together they had four children. They spent every summer on the Eel River in Redway at a family summer home, and enjoyed many years of traveling with family and friends. Bistrin also wed Anna Klay. Harry later married Joan Telonicher, a lifelong family friend. For the couple, the next two decades proved to be the “happiest days” of their lives. Together they blended the lives of their extended families, creating a bond that flourishes among them. Harry Bistrin is survived by his brother Herman and his wife Eve; three daughters Karen Bistrin and her husband Rodman Duncan, Tina Griffith and her husband Fred, and Katie Connor and her husband Lindsay; his son, Emil and wife Maria; step-daughter Catherine Arnold; step-son Brett Norberry and his wife Alison; and 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He is also survived by friend and companion, Phyllis Curtis of Ukiah. Harry will be remembered for his love of politics, kindness, perpetual smile, infectious love of life, boundless energy and love for family. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, at Eversole Mortuary on Low Gap Road in Ukiah. A gathering following the service will be held at Barra of Mendocino, 7051 N. State St., Redwood Valley. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the many causes that Harry Bistrin supported including Hospice, Meals on Wheels and the Mendocino College Foundation.

Published in Eureka Times-Standard from May 24 to May 26, 2011


7 Responses to Thought I saw a Bistrins Bag

  1. Kathy says:

    We walk though ‘that which used to be’ everyday. It whispers like a bag blowing by. I love it when you speak to it.

  2. Nan Abrams says:

    I had a brief correspondence with Herman Bistrin as part of my research of the Jewish “pioneers” of Humboldt. He told me that their father took over the business owned by the Pauls who were also from Russia. Of course the Pauls were in Eureka from the late 1800s into the 1920s. One of their businesses was a bicycle shop.

  3. Nan Abrams says:

    I have had little luck finding anything on the Pauls. There was a Lillian Paul who went to Eureka high school (1930s maybe) but do not know if she is of the same family. I came across a descendent of the Pauls through but I lost contact with him. He was desperate to find out their name before they Americanized it. I certainly could not help him there. Anyway, you will find some advertisements in the late 19th early 20th century local papers showing businesses owned by the Pauls–including the bicycle shop. The bicycle shop in the photo was taken in Arcata and their shop was in Eureka–unless they had one in Arcata I do not know about.

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