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The Deli Born Out Of The 'Titanic' Disaster

Richard Hyman, great-grandson of "Titanic" survivor Joseph Abraham Hyman, in front of the family business in Manchester, England, his great-grandfather started a year after the "Titanic" sank.
Most people don't associate the "Titanic" with luncheon meat.

That's not the case, however, for the Jewish community in Manchester, England, where the cursed ship's name has long been synonymous with smoked salmon and pickles.

Titanics is a 99-year-old family business now run by Richard Hyman, 42. He's the great-grandson of Joseph Abraham Hyman, a Titanic passenger who survived when the liner struck an iceberg on April 15, 1912.

Joseph was taken to New York by the rescue ship "Carpathia," and was so inspired by the delis in the immigrant-packed U.S. city that he decided to start his own business upon returning to England.

"Really, he was like a minor celebrity in Manchester in that he survived. Not many people had survived and come back to England," Richard Hyman says.

"Whenever he was seen in the street people would point to him and in hushed voices say, 'It's the man from the "Titanic!"' And then it moved from 'going to see the man from the "Titanic"' to just 'going to Titanic's,'" he continues. "So very quickly [his business] became known as 'Titanic's.' The name just sort of stuck and it has for over 90 years now."

'Bloodcurdling Cry'

Joseph's story of survival started well before the sea disaster. Born in 1878 in Russia, he relocated to England amid increasingly frequent pogroms against Jews.

Like many who had secured third-class tickets on board the "Titanic," Hyman was seeking to start a new life. He was destined for Massachusetts, where he planned to join his brother.
Joseph Abraham Hyman (left)
Joseph Abraham Hyman (left)

Instead, of course, all did not go according to plan. After being transported safely to New York City, Joseph gave a detailed account of his ordeal to "The New York Times" and the "New York Herald."

He describes first-class passengers "admiring" a pile of ice on the ship's deck before panic spread through steerage quarters. One man, he says, was shot in the chin by a crewmember as he dashed for one of the few lifeboats in sight.

From his own lifeboat, Hyman recalls, he heard an explosion and screams. "The cry was bloodcurdling and never stopped until the 'Titanic' went down, when it seemed to be sort of choked off. The cry is ringing in my ears now and always will," he is quoted as saying.

"We sat there silent, we were terror-stricken. In less than 10 minutes there came a terrible explosion, and I could see men, women, and pieces of the ship blown into the air from the after-deck. Later I saw bodies partly blown to pieces floating around, and I am sure more than a hundred persons were blown off into the sea by that explosion."

Richard Hyman, who has supplemented the newspaper accounts with knowledge passed down through the family, explains how his great-grandfather managed to make it to safety.

"He was very lucky. He just happened to be near collapsible lifeboat C. My great-grandfather was told to get in because there were mainly women and children in there and they couldn't row the boat. They needed some men to get in because the crew weren’t getting in and [many of] the upper-class people still didn't believe the boat was going to sink," Hyman says.

"So if he hadn't and nobody else could row it, then it also would have also gotten sucked down into the sea with the 'Titanic.'"

Never To Be Mentioned Again

Joseph Hyman died 13 years before his great-grandson was born. But as his deli goes on, so too does his memory. Some of the foods sold at Titanics are still made according to Joseph's recipe. His picture even adorns some of the packaging.

In the days leading up to the 100th anniversary of the "Titanic's" sinking, Richard Hyman has invited local patrons to come by the store to raise a toast to his forebear's life and story of survival.

But if Joseph were still alive, Hyman says, the mood might be very different. According to family members, Joseph rarely broached his "Titanic" story after giving his initial account.

"After that he just didn't really talk about it. He just clammed up. Posttraumatic stress disorder is what you'd call it nowadays," Hyman says.

"I think it was the elephant in the room, where basically everyone knew it was there, but nobody dared speak about it," he adds. "One of our cousins did live with him for a while when he was younger. He recalled him waking up practically every night, screaming."