Short stories about the Bexley Jewish community written by community members. To submit a story of your own please contact us here.
The Little Main Street School
By Bernie Yenkin, 11/3/2008
In 1935 when we moved to 2188 Bryden Road, I started school at the Main Street School. My first memories are of the first grade. There may have been a kindergarten, too, but in those years kindergarten was not compulsory, and I don’t remember attending. Of course, there were no pre-schools – certainly not in our circle.
Our move to 2188 Bryden was one of necessity. My father had bought the house shortly after getting married, but those being years of the Great Depression and resultant great frugality, he and my mother had chosen to rent it out, and continue living with my father’s parents and siblings at 381 South Drexel. However, in 1934 Aunt Bess married Uncle Nate (with a party in the big back yard); and then in 1035 Uncle Ben went away to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to get married, bringing his bride Aunt Helen home. Meantime, Uncle Fred, knowing there was no more room at 381, eloped and secretly married Aunt Lillian. So, with all these married couples, there was no room for us, particularly since our family now included my sister Sandra who was born in 1935. How the others managed at the Drexel Avenue house is a bit of a mystery, which maybe I’ll come back to later.
That the Main Street School was a very special place was a fact that I did not comprehend until much later. While I was there, I did not think it was at all unusual that there were only 3 teachers for six grades, using just 3 classrooms. Nor did I think it was out of the ordinary to be sharing a desk with another pupil – these were the old fashioned desks with the bench seat. The desk top had a hole where the ink bottle fit. I will admit that the double seating could get a bit cramped if one’s seat mate was a bit on the chunky side, and perhaps sweaty after recess, but since I was always little, it mostly worked all right for me.
My first teacher was Mrs. Karch, who taught first and second grade and was a very nice lady. One day our class was told that Mrs. Karch had died. Our new teacher was Miss Householder who was also very nice. Miss Hummel taught grades 3 and 4 together in another room; and Mrs. Craig taught 5 and 6. There were probably just 80 or 90 kids in the entire school. It had been the first, but by this time, was the smallest school in the Bexley system. It provided an intimate setting where all the kids and teachers knew each other. Moreover, for me the school was just ½ block away, along a shaded walk that started across the street from our house and ended in the schoolyard.
So you can imagine what a shock I had when the news came during the summer after 5th grade that the Main Street School was being closed. (It was eventually torn down to make room for dorms for Capital University, that being before there was much thought given to historical preservation.) The 6th grade for those kids who lived north of Main Street (that included me) would mean transferring to Cassingham School. Adding to my confusion was that I missed the first two weeks of school that fall. After I came home from Camp Ellwood (more on that elsewhere) in August, I went up to Walloon Lake, Michigan, with my Uncle Fred’s family. Both Uncle Fred and I had severe hayfever, and since there was little air-conditioning at that time, people went away from mid-August to mid-September to escape the high pollen counts in Ohio.
Well, back to Cassingham School – it was a big complex – involved having a homeroom and changing classrooms for each of the different subjects. Few of my friends were transferred there; most of them lived South of Main, and were assigned to the Main-Montrose school. We would not get back together again until high school.
I got off to a rocky start. When told to follow a certain kid who had a schedule the same as mine, I followed the wrong kid (to this day I still have a problem with names and faces). Then there was Miss Beavers who taught Geography. She must have been annoyed that I showed up after the starting date, and took an immediate dislike to me, which was then manifested by her disinterest in helping me make up what I had missed. Thus, the call my mother received from Miss Beavers asking her to come to school, was not to be told what she had been accustomed to hearing about my scholastic excellence, but rather to hear that I had flunked the 1st grading period in geography. I think the breaking point for Miss Beavers was when I defined colliers not as coal miners in England but as a weekly magazine popular at that time.
Things did improve. I made some new good friends, did well in math, science, grammar, and even managed to get through geography. But that experience with Miss Beavers did have a lasting effect, and it was only in adulthood that I realized Geography was a subject I loved – learning about travelling to all kinds of interesting places.
The Drexel Avenue Streetcar
By Bernie Yenkin, 11/3/08
In the 1930’s a single streetcar track ran down the center of Drexel Avenue in Bexley, Ohio, starting at Drexel and Main where the double tracks from downtown ended, and after an eastward jog of one block at Powell, continued over the lawns on the east side of Dawson to almost Broad St. If a streetcar arrived at Drexel and Main from downtown before a preceding streetcar had returned from traversing Bexley’s single track route, it would just have to wait there.
The fare was 6 cents per ride; you could buy a strip of 5-tickets for a quarter. Kids rode for 3 cents.
From 1930 (the year I was born) until 1935 I was a kid living at 381 South Drexel. The streetcar stopped in front of our house and I rode it often with my grandmother and grandfather who did not drive a car. Anyway, there was just one car for the Yenkin family, which also included my mother and father, two uncles, and an aunt. Well actually, my mother had a car of her own, a Chevy coupe with a rumble seat that her father had given her when she started at Ohio State.
Early each weekday morning the family car would go off with my father Abe, two uncles Ben and Fred, and grandfather Jacob to the paint factory, and would not return until dinnertime. My Aunt Bess would go to work at a store downtown. I would spend a leisurely day doing kid things, playing with friends up and down Drexel Avenue, and being catered to by my mother Eleanore, and especially by my Grandma Musa. Grandma also took me shopping with her at the A&P grocery, the cleaners, Bexley Goodie Shop, and other stores clustered around the Drexel and Main corner.
I was the first grandchild, and the only grandchild in the Yenkin household, in those years until my sister Sandra was born in 1935. So as you can imagine, living there with parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunt, I received lots of attention. My grandma made me my favorite sandwich consisting of butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. My mother, although she was no longer enrolled, often took me up to “campus” at Ohio State in her Chevy coupe to spend time with her girl friends. At night when everyone came home from work my Uncle Ben liked to sing “My Darling Clementine” with me sitting on his lap.
The house which my grandfather had bought in 1926 when the family decided to move out from 22nd Street on the South Side to Bexley, had 3 bedrooms on the second floor with an unheated sleeping porch at the back. My uncles slept on the sleeping porch. My grandparents had the small bedroom in the front. My parents and I had a bedroom, and Aunt Bess had a large bedroom for herself. There was one bathroom, which we all shared, plus a small room with a toilet and sink off the kitchen on the first floor.
At that time, before the remodeling that my parents did in the mid-1940’s when they bought the house from my grandparents, the house was red brick with white trim. It had a small front stoop with an arched roof, and a narrow curving concrete driveway with curbs that, later on when I was learning to drive, helped me to hone my skills at backing out without scarring the whitewall tires. The lot had a deep back yard with a large weeping willow tree. It was considered to be a very nice comfortable home, and was the gathering place for many events involving our extended family.
The Glass Bowl
by Howard Teichmann
(with thanks to the Schlezinger Family)
Before the words, “fast food,” became part of the American language as well as the American diet, before McDonald’s and Burger King, yes, even Wendy’s three young people came up with an idea for a new type of hamburger stand in Bexley.
The notion took root in California where Morris Sher, attending the University of Southern California, was attracted by the exotic and outlandish architecture of newly constructed drive-ins that proliferated the Los Angeles area. Back in Bexley for a Christmas vacation, he broached the idea to Madalyn Maybrook and her cousin Evelyn Goldstein. THe three agreed to join forces and build a structure which would be called, “The Glass Bowl”.
Miss Maybruck, is now Mrs. Edward Schlezinger and lives with her husband on Bryden Road in Columbus, and Miss Goldstein, now Mrs. Howard Teichmann, wife of the author and presently a resident of New York City, decidedto take on the task of raising the capital from their fathers, Harry Maybrook and Joseph Goldstein, partners in the Buckeye Bag and Burlap Company.
Mr. Sher, whose brother Jack, was already in the restaurant business in Columbus and later owned the famous Maramor on East Broad Street, hired a Cleveland architect. The year was 1937. The building was to resemble an inverted champagne goblet. Glass bricks imported from Belgium were slow in arriving, consequently construction was not completed until late spring of 1938.
A gem of art deco design, the much admired building cost $10,000, a seemingly outrageous sum in what was still the Great Depression. Its clean lines and unusual structure brought people from all over Central Ohio who may not have bought hamburgers but who came to see and express approval.
Situated on the North-west corner of Main Street and Cassingham Road, the Glass Bowl seated a mere 18 customers, but outside more than enough parking space was provided on the parking lot for automobiles whose occupants wished what was known as “curb service,” trays attached to lowered car windows.
Fresh from graduation from Northwestern University, Miss Maybrook slipped into a pair of navy slacks, a white T-shirt, a white gob’s cap and became the Glass Bowl’s first waitress. Her cousin, Miss Goldstein, upon her graduation from the University of Wisconsin, followed her immediately.
At the very start the venture proved a success save for the fact that in the winter, only a limited number of the customers could be served at any given time. The idea, however, appeared attractive enough to envision a chain of Glass Bowls across the country. More pressing, even greater happenings worked against this plan. First, one waitress-partner left to get married. Then another. Finally, the draft and World War II sought out the third member of the enterprise, and the Glass Bowl not only failed to expand but the original building was sold to a downtown restauranteur, the Tsitouris Family, who destroyed the symmetry of the building by adding a wing. This existed until April 1, 1968, when Dale Cochran, a druggist purchased it and razed the building in order to erect a two story office complex on the site.
Two blocks away, the owners of the small White Castle hamburger establishment, breathed collective sighs of relief.
The Excelsior Club
By Denise Kohn
Summertime use to mean swimming and playing at The Excelsior Club on N. Cassady, in Bexley in the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s for many people in the Columbus Jewish community. This Club answered the need for a “club-type” setting offering swimming and other activities for families.
*It was actually begun by seven immigrants in 1924 to create social status for east European Jewish immigrants who were prohibited from joining German Jewish social clubs, and was patterned after a Cleveland club by the same name. It used an old carpet warehouse for meetings and later moved to a “home” at the corner of Rich Street and Parsons Avenue.* At that time and for many decades following, Jews were not accepted into many of the other country clubs that existed in the Columbus community. * [As referenced in Marc Lee Raphael’s “Jews and Judaism in a Midwestern Community: Columbus, Ohio, 1840-1975]
The pool in Bexley was one of the largest in the community—rivaled only by The Grandview Pool, which still exists. To get an idea of the size of the pool’s length, a large apartment complex now sits on the site at 509 N. Cassady Avenue. Although the width was not comparable to the length, it seemed endless when a kid was trying to pass the “deep end” test (the ability to swim the width across and back 4 times) to prove to the Lifeguard his eligibility to swim in the deep end of the pool (Nine feet deep!).
Kids could also hone their diving skills on the low board or amazingly, the high board—an endless trajectory to the water below. Those were the days before heated pools, so the water could be frigid—possibly it was spring-fed. One summer there was a terrific heat wave and the pool management arranged for the Murray Ice Company to drive out and unload huge blocks of ice into the pool to cool it down! That being an era before many people had home air-conditioning, the pool was wall-to-wall humanity.
In the mid-50’s all of the buildings on the site—the clubhouse, locker rooms and snack shack—received an entire face lift, updating the facilities and adding air conditioning. The Club building itself was not huge, but pleasant. It had a dining room, an area where one could dance (usually an adult party), and a stairway to the upstairs which was the secret lair of the MEN. They would disappear up those stairs, not to be seen for several hours—in fact, needing to be coaxed downstairs for dinner—and it was forbidden to climb the stairs and disturb their “game.” Young children never knew quite what went on up there, but money figured into the equation.
Beyond the side of the building was a grassy, somewhat treed area with lounge chairs for people to sun, stretch out on a towel or to play cards under whatever shade they could find. This was the WOMEN’S space. Children weren’t supposed to disturb them either, but they could be a ‘softer touch’ for change to buy an ice cream treat or candy to keep the kids away from their card game.
Adjacent to the pool was a cement picnic area and a basketball court, so it was possible to get there when the pool opened and stay the entire day if Mom and Dad agreed.
Those were indeed wonderful summers to remember.