This interview with Dr. Canowitz took place at his home in Columbus in the
summer of 1997, and is a part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral
Dr. Canowitz, who touched many lives as a family practice physician in his 65
– year practice, speaks to Marvin Bonowitz about growing up and practicing
medicine in Columbus. Bonowitz is a cousin of the doctor. The family trees of
the Canowitz family, the David Bonowitz and Samuel Bonowitz families which he
mentions, can be found in the archives of the Columbus Jewish Historical
Society. Dr. Canowitz begins by identifying some of his own sisters and brothers
and their family members at a family picnic.
Dr. Canowitz: We started a family club and we would meet, each one of
us, that one month there was a president, secretary and treasurer, and
we used to have a thanksgiving dinner and a family outing, and we’d
have a little poker game and we’d go out to poker to the penny ante
game and it wasn’t enough, but everyone would chip in – this was one
of the old pictures, and in this one, it just happens that some of our
relatives – our cousins from Cleveland were visiting. I’ll tell you
about them. She made a copy of that (picnic photograph) and listed the
names so you know all this. Now, this one here, is one of the more
recent ones, while (brother) Joe was still living. After my mother
passed away we still tried to have the picnic once a year, and it just
happened that we took a picture of this group. We have an extra picture
if you want to keep it.
It shows Harry and Sarah and Reva – Rudy was already gone, and there
was Judy and Bill (Brown) and Margaret and Lou (Grossman,) and Naomi (my
wife) and I and Celia (Katz) and (brother) Joe (Canowitz.) [Dr. Canowitz
proceeds to speak of David and Sarah Bonowitz and some of their
Some of the things I remember – (Dr. Canowitz begins to speak about
the family of his cousins, David and Sarah Bonowitz,) from the
beginning, the things that I remember. Their oldest daughter (Minnie
Bonowitz) married a man, a Canadian from Toronto and they moved down
here and he had difficulty really making a living. He was an umbrella
maker among umbrella makers, and they lived after he passed away, they
lived on Oakwood Avenue, just south of, just north of Livingston Avenue,
just close to my office. She was a very ill woman, had a lot of trouble
with her legs, and her children – her daughters and son – anyway, her
oldest daughter, Amelia (Gruber) never married. Another daughter married
a relative of theirs, by marriage: Helen (Gruber) Winter. Her husband,
Martin Winter was a brother of Harry Winter, who had married her aunt,
Anna Winter. (Harry and Anna) had two children – the oldest child died
rather young – an interesting story.
I delivered the child. I think his name was Martin. I didn’t think
it was such a difficult delivery, but (Martin Rosen) was so upset by the
delivery, that he said he would have no more children.
Lydia and Madelyn – Madelyn died rather young. Lydia moved to Akron.
They were all patients of mine. Zelda Bonowitz never married. She worked
for the John Deere Plow Company for years and years and years. She lived
in the Governor’s Terrace Apartments on Broad Street and Governor
Place. And then the twins – Esther Bonowitz married and attorney, Frank
Bayer and they moved down to Florida. Goldie became interested in
theatrical work. She was quite talented. Most of her work was in
elocution, in teaching actors how to act, and she made quite a name for
herself. She wasn’t some movie star shortly, and she married a fellow
by the name of Joe Solomon, from Columbus. Elliott Bonowitz was sort of
a – I hate to say this – and I’m going to turn this off because I’m
going to tell you – (pause)
Ol’ Man David Bonowitz, was also an original member of Agudas
Achim but for some reason there was a misunderstanding between the
powers that be there, and he started a new shul there, just two
doors north of Agudas Achim which we called the ogarisineh shul,
but its real name was Ahavas Sholom, and he was the big macher
Interviewer: Ogarisineh means?
Dr. Canowitz: Breaking away. That (breaking away) was quite common,
and this business of Jewish people very frequently separating themselves
from their original shuls, reminds me of a story of a Jewish man
that was shipwrecked on an island. It was habitable and he got along
pretty well, and after several years a ship came to that place, and he
was so proud to show them his accomplishments, and he showed them that
he had built two shuls, and they asked him, “Why did you
build two shuls?” and he said, “One shul I don’t
have to go to.” (hearty laughter)
So those were the things I remember about the family.
Interviewer: Did you take care of those twin boys (David and Dale
Dr. Canowitz: Minnie Reiffel – her husband was a silversmith. The
company he owned at the time – all the nice hotels served on silverware
instead of the stuff they have now. He used to go from city to city to
pick up their silverware and replate it give it to them. They lived very
nicely and my brother Joe and his wife Fannie used to visit them (in
Chicago) frequently, and they came here. She was a nice, elegant lady
and they were nice people. The two children that I remember were Arthur
and – who was the daughter? I don’t know if they’re alive now or
Dr. Canowitz: Naturally, when (my brother) Joe and (his wife) Fanny
were gone, I lost track of (Minnie Reiffel and her husband.) Now who can
I talk about now?
Anna Winter was Daughter #3 (of David and Sarah Bonowitz.) She
married a fellow named Harry Winter who used to work for the Gas
Company. When he quit then they had a little dry goods store on
Cleveland Avenue Harry had a brother named Martin. (I console myself
that I frequently do not recall names so much by saying, not that the
nerves are deteriorating in my head, but that the telephone lines are so
full that the messages don’t come through. It may not be so (laughing
at himself,) but that’s how I console myself.)
After Fanny then there was Zelda and I mentioned to you already about
Zelda working for the Deere Plow company for many, many years. I think
she was sort of running the operation here.
And then came Joe (Bonowitz,) who played high school baseball – he
was a catcher. He graduated high school and he went into professional
baseball. It wasn’t Class A, AAA, not even AA, it was in a western
conference. I forgot the name (of the team.) Naturally, the amount of
money he made was very minimal, and after he married, he moved down to
Florida where he was in the dry cleaning business in West Palm Beach.
Elliott, (Joe’s younger brother) went into professional football on a
Columbus team called the Columbus Senators. It was a time when the
Canton Bulldogs, you know, played at the old Senator’s baseball field
on Cleveland Avenue next to the big bakery there. He was injured and
went into another business. His two sons that I remember (Dale and David
Bonnie) made a name for themselves in college football (at Ohio State.)
Dr. Canowitz now speaks of his own sisters and brothers.
Now the Canowitz’s. Who can I start with? The mother? I never knew
my father – I was born in the old country, in Grodno, and my father died
six months before I was born, left Mother with seven and a half
children. My brother, Joe at that time was still going to the Yeshiva –
at eighteen years old he was quite learned, but he had to quit work, as
did all the rest of them. Rudy, who was 12, Chani (later Berliner) and
Sarah (Wolman) each found bits of work around the county. My younger
sisters, like Judyth (Brown) and Margaret (Grossman) and Celia (Katz)
did attend some schooling in Grodno – there were public schools in
Russia at that time. Jewish enrollment there was limited, so the wealthy
Jews of the small communities like Grodno would sponsor schools for them
to learn not only Russian and Yiddish, but other things like reading and
writing and mathematics and stuff like that. They all did go to school
in the early years.
As a boy, I started to school about the age of 3 1/2 years – I went
to cheder – my mother took me. It used to be the custom of the
father taking a child of 3 1/2 years of age to go to cheder, cover him with his tallis,
and the mother would give him a bag of cookies to sweeten the – I
don’t remember too much of that, and the reason I was sent to cheder
at that age, is that we had anticipated coming to the United States and
we would be coming to a goyishe country that may not have any
My brother Joe was inducted into the army at the age of twenty, but
we realized that that was not any place for him, and he went AWOL, over
the fence so to speak, and left one night. There was a regular, sort of
underground situation in which escapees could go from place to place
until they landed in Bremen, Germany, and then came to the United
He ended up in Circleville, because that’s where his uncle, (Marvin
Bonowitz’s grandfather, Samuel Bonowitz) Simcha Abba lived at that
time. Circleville at that time did have sort of a Jewish community
there. There were the Dulskies, the Friedmans, and so forth, there, but
they must have moved a year later – that was 1910 – and in 1911 they
moved to Columbus, and I believe my brother, Joe, still lived there (in
Circleville.) My brother Rudy and sister, Chani, came in 1910, 1912. I
imagine Chani was about 19 and Rudy was about 17 or so. They came over
and they came to Columbus, where my brother Joe already had a place and
they then lived together all in the same area with my mother’s
brother, Samuel Bonowitz. We lived at 840 Parsons, and the Bonowitzes
lived at 860 Parsons Avenue. At 858 Parsons, were the Grossmans, who
later became related to us when Lou Grossman married my sister Margaret.
But that whole area from Columbus Street south to Livingston, the
whole street was practically all Jewish people.
Anyway, one interesting thing that happened on the trip from Chani
and Rudy was this: they both left together, but during the trip one of
them developed a little eye irritation, and at that time, when you
landed in the United States, they were very, very careful about
admitting anybody with glaucoma, which was quite common at that time, so
Chani and Rudy figured out something. They traded health certificates,
because the one with the irritated eye, I don’t remember which one it
was, whether it was Chani or Rudy. The doctor examined the certificate
and says the eyes are normal, no trouble. He had a good certificate but
had eye irritation, and the other had a certificate listing an eye
irritation, the doctor examined and said, “I can’t see anything
wrong,” and he let her in. Otherwise, one of them would have been
sent back. I do not know the name of the ship they came in.
We were supposed to arrive here in 1914, but in 1913, in January,
February or March, there was a bad flood that inundated the entire west
side to the hilltop, and my mother heard of that, and she was so anxious
to go home to see her family, so we left in June, 1913 for an eighteen
day trip, and we landed June 15, 1913 in Baltimore, not in Ellis Island,
and through the Jewish Aid Society, they directed us to Columbus. Joe
did not get to meet us in New York, and we went directly to 860 Parsons
Avenue, a home that he had furnished for us.
The trip was an eighteen day trip and, most of my family was very
ill. They say
I was the only one that didn’t get seasick and I ran around the entire
ship. I’m giving you some little incidents. To me it was an
experience. I remember the first time eating some fresh fruit, like a
banana – stuff like that. Another thing that I like to mention to
people. We came over here third class. And do you know why we came over
third class? Because there wasn’t any fourth class ! Because we
were very affluent (ironic humor.) I thought I’d slip this in!
I was five years old, came in July, and we went to school right away
– we attended Siebert Street School. I was in the first grade – (sister)
Judy was in the 2B, Sarah was in the 3B, and Margaret even went and I
think Celia even went for a few months there, but she was already an
older girl of fourteen or fifteen. But the interesting thing is this: we
learned English, and that’s all. Not Russian, not Polish, no, we
learned English, and it really bothers me that they allow foreigners
today to come over and learn their language and not learn English. This
is America! If they wanna be American or they wanna be a Latin or Greeks
or Turks, or whatever they are, They ought to learn English American.
My mother’s regret is that we did not teach her English. We only
spoke Yiddish at home, and to this day, I think I can speak a fairly
good Yiddish yet. Much later, when I was a physician already associated
with St. Francis Hospital,
I would take her to some of the affairs, and even though she could
not speak English, she could understand a little bit, and she could get
along and people enjoyed her. As far as my youth is concerned, I was as
ornery a boy as the rest of them, and played tricks, and on Halloween
turned over the outhouses. After all, all the houses had outhouses. We
didn’t have inside plumbing or inside electricity. There was a gas
mantle for light inside the house, and my brother tells me the story
that when they first came here to Circleville, they had gas, too. The
light could blow out but the gas kept going.
My brothers, Joe and Rudy, were tailors. Joe worked for somebody else
at first, in a store at 615 East Main Street just west of Parsons Avenue
by the name of,
I believe, Grodsky. I can’t remember for sure. They were apprentice
tailors in Europe. My brother Rudy went in partnership with your (Marvin
Bonowitz’s) dad on Parsons Avenue close to Oak Street on the east side
of the street. I remember the store very, very well. Later, he bought
out the store at 615 East Main Street. It was just north of, just west
of Parsons Avenue, close to where we lived. Then when your father had to
go to the service, Rudy went into partnership with Joe. He (Joe) had
moved his store to Parsons Avenue near Oak Street, and when your father
came back from the service, he went into business on Mt. Vernon Avenue,
but he had his tailor shop, and then he went into haberdashery and sold
suits and stuff like that.
Interviewer: How did Rudy feel about Abe opening his own store?
Dr. Canowitz: It didn’t bother him, he was all ready, I think, or
Joe thought they’d get together. I’m not sure, actually – Abe was
not a true tailor. He learned whatever he knew from Rudy or picked it up
somewhere. There were two kinds of tailors at that time. There were
those that could make a complete suit from a piece of cloth. The others
were called bushelmen – not bushelers -that’s in the dictionary – an
individual who could do various alterations on sleeves, cuffs, side
Interviewer: Were there any bad feelings that Rudy had?
Dr. Canowitz: Well, really not. There were, just between us – this is
not – I don’t want this (recorder) on – I’ll start again.
There used to be an open air theater on the northwest corner of
Whittier and Parsons that had benches, and we’d go to see a movie. It
would cost all of five cents and very frequently when I was with Joe
visiting your grandpa and David Bonowitz I would get a nickel from my
brother Joe to go to the pictures. Otherwise, we would sometimes get
into the pictures by distributing circulars – go down Stanley Avenue and
other streets, putting a circular into the mail box, so we could get a
ticket to go into the pictures. I hate to tell you this, but a lot of
the circulars went down the sewers – we were kids – they expected it and
they knew we did it – Benny (Abe Bonowitz’s brother) and Elliott and I
and another fellow – a young kid named Joe Somebody, whose father had a
grocery store across Parsons Avenue where the Shusticks lived, and we
were sort of a clan – a group -we’d get into more messes and more
fights – we had nothing to do at night but get into mischief. If we got
caught, we got a licking. Okay, enough of that.
I went to Siebert Street School until the second grade, and then we
moved to 342 Parsons Avenue, closer to Main Street, and we transferred
to Fulton Street School. And there, even though I was an average
student, my sisters were always ahead, and I knew doggone well, if I
didn’t bring home good grades I’d get my tuchus beat up but
good, and the sisters said, “If you fail, don’t come home – just
keep walking!” So I _____ and the funny thing about Fulton Street
School that’s an interesting thing, it was mostly, I would say, the
enrollment was 95% Jewish. Very few colored people, and the rest – 8%
And a curious story about that Fulton Street School. My sister-in-law
Hanna (Neustadt), who was teaching, had passed the Ohio State Board but
was not allowed to teach in Columbus schools until she had a couple of
years practice, so she got a job in Hamilton, Ohio, and after that two
years she came back to Columbus and got a job.
Interviewer: Joe’s wife?
Dr. Canowitz: My sister – in – law, Hanna (Neustadt.) Anyway, there
was a teacher there who was there for years and years. Her name was Miss
Dawson. She was a very good teacher and for some reason she stayed on
for years and years and years. She told Hanna, “Be sure to
not come to school before the bell rang.” And when the bell rang to
dismiss, to leave the school immediately because at that time
already it was overrun by some people that didn’t care and
there was scribbling and all that and urination on the floors and all
that. And this Miss Dawson, she doesn’t know that Hanna is a Jew. She
said, “Fulton Street School is one of the best in the city of
Columbus. And do you know why? Because the enrollment is 95% Jewish
Those of you who look back see that those people who became the
professionals and the big businessmen of Columbus, they were mostly kids
that went to Fulton Street School. It was the best school in the city of
Columbus. It’s not so now.
Anyway, from Fulton Street School to Mound Street School, who also
had a pretty good enrollment, maybe 50% Jewish people, kids. I walked.
It was on the northeast corner of Third and Mound, and I always walked
Parsons Avenue. There was no such thing as busses when you went to
school; winter, summer, snow, you went to school. And you better – my
brother saw to it. And so I did fairly well in the latter part of Fulton
and Mound, and for some reason, I passed.
I skipped some grades. I was five years old when I started school,
and by the time I graduated high school – from Mound I went to South – I
was fifteen years old when I graduated from South High School. At that
time I went into pre-Med at Ohio State University – the total enrollment
at that time was 9,000, and I’m quite sure if we had lived in another
town we would not have been able to afford to go, but I went there and I
was accepted at the end of two years, and I graduated Medical School at
the age of 21.
You worked hard, and during that day when a lot of us were in
college, I worked in the evenings at Central Market, and North Market
every Saturday, every little nickel helped, and I used to work a little
bit for my brothers – they would be making coats for the big stores –
big tailors down town. They would cut them, send them down and my
brothers would put them together. And I used to deliver coats to them –
I did a lot of mending – even when I was 5 -6 -7 – 8 years old, I sold
papers downtown. I sold papers on Spring and High, and we were allowed
to go on foot. Benny would be on one corner, and I would be on the other
corner. and we would go run on the street car one block for nothing to
sell papers. Everybody worked – everybody pitched in to earn a living.
We were very affluent there, as I said before.
Anyway, after graduating, I was accepted at St. Francis Hospital as
an intern, and I got along with the nurses with the sisters there very
well so they asked me to stay there as a resident. I was only 21 to
begin with, and I felt that I was still too young to go really out and
compete with the older Jewish doctors – Adelman and Lou Harris, so I
took an internship and two years’ residency at St. Francis. They
couldn’t afford to pay a resident, so one of my professors – really a
mentor – in my third year in medical school there was a doctor by the
name of Ernest Scott, who was head of the Department of Pathology, and I
got along very well with him. He sort of took a liking to me, and he
paid for my college. I was making fifty bucks a month. When I was an
intern I was making twenty – five bucks a month, the cost of board and
room. Then I got fifty bucks a month for which I would do all the
pathology work – I did all the autopsies at St. Francis, all the
autopsies at Columbus State Hospital, where you had to examine not only
the body but the brain, and all that, and I learned a lot during that
And during that time also while at St. Francis, even during my
internship, they didn’t have a full – time anesthetist and generally,
the doctor who sent the patient in frequently gave the person the
anesthetic, and it was not really a good system. They wanted somebody
who would stay there and learn and learn and learn. I sort of took a
liking to it. In addition to my general practice, which included
deliveries and house calls and all the things you run together. And of
course I got married in 1936 and David was born in 1938 and when he was
5 months old I developed a ruptured diaphragm. I lifted a patient off
the table and tore my diaphragm and had to go to the Mayo Clinic to have
it fixed because there was really nobody in town that was doing chest
work at that time.
One of the doctors I was friendly with in Columbus knew the surgeon
in the Mayo Clinicand sent me there and I got along pretty well. My wife
went with me – she left her five – month – old baby with her sister and
I’m quite sure it didn’t help her morale much.
Anyway, in 1942 I was drafted for the army but they turned me down
because I had an incarcerated hernia that I did not know about. When I
came back I had it repaired and I applied again. Dr. I. B. Harris, who
was Chief of Surgery at St. Francis said, “You don’t have to go –
I can write them a letter saying that you are important to the
So I said, “Dr. Harris, is your son in the army?” His son
was also a doctor. He says, “Yeah.” I said, “Well, I
gotta go into the Army, too. There were a lot of Jews who are being hurt
over there and I want to go to the army.” Well, Naomi was very,
very much upset, and of course, I don’t need to tell you that my
mother was quite concerned, too. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you a
little meise: a week or two before I was going to go into the
service in 1943, my mother came into my office – I asked her to come in
at that time – just for a check – up. Her blood pressure was so high
that I said – in fact, we didn’t have medication for blood pressure.
All we knew was rest and giving them a sedative. And I said,
“Mother, if you were an ordinary patient of mine, I would put you
to bed for two weeks. And her face got so red and so suffused, I said,
“Forget it, Mother, forget it.”
And my mother stayed alive until I came back from the service in
1946, in August. She died in December, 1946. She stayed alive by her own
will and determination. So that’s my story.
My second child was born in 1940, so when I left for the service I
left two children and my wife. So that brings us up to pretty near
modern times. Your (Marvin’s) grandmother lived between Forest and
Columbus on the west side of Ohio Avenue.
Interviewer: First on Parsons Avenue.
Dr. Canowitz: Parsons Avenue. Across the street. And of course I
remember Fannie, and Abe, Bobby and Ced (Shustick.) Cecil is a little
younger than I am. Didn’t Bobby live in Dayton and Molly in
Cincinnati? You see, I remember the little details!
I remember your grandfather – your mother’s father very well. He
was the big contributor to the Bes Yankov (Beth Jacob) and when Bes
Yankov moved from Donaldson Street to Bulen Avenue, your
grandparents lived – it was an even number, on the east side of the
street, at 1044 Bulen Avenue and I used to see them frequently. And on
the other side of the street, they lived close to the Whites. Mrs. White
was the one who catered my bar mitzvah. And the old man White later
became the shammes for the Hungarian shul (Tifereth
Israel) that was at the corner of McCallister and Parsons.
We lived two doors away from them and I was already bar mitzvah so
he used to wake me up every morning and Lou Gertner, who lived on Mound
Street, right off of Parsons, to help make a minyan, because the
Margulises, the Schlezingers, the Polsters were all saying kaddish
at the same time, and they needed a minyan, so morning and
evening, Lou and I were there, and as a result, they gave us at the end
of the year, a signet ring which I wore all the time until I even
graduated medical school and was in practice at Ohio and Whittier, until
the damn thing sort of wore down. So I sort of cherished it. And the man
who lived next to me was a jeweler who worked for Hohenstein’s the big
shots’ jeweler downtown, and I designed a ring and this followed the
intials were from the old gold, and he made the rest of the ring onyx
out of new gold.
So I feel – I always contribute a little something every year – fifty
dollars or something like that just for old times’ sake – and I got
married. If it had come in 1914 it would have been too late, and my
brother Joe said, and it was almost like a korvan – a
sacrifice that my father did so that we all lived. He died at 42 years
of age of appendicitis or something. Naomi’s father died …
This concludes the interview with Aaron Canowitz, which is a part
of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project.
Interview #2 with Dr. Aaron Canowitz
This interview was recorded on December 17, 1998 for the Columbus
Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project.
Dr. Canowitz lived in the area of Parsons Avenue and Fulton Street
after coming to the United States at the age of three with his mother, two
brothers and five sisters. At age 90, he speaks about his medical practice and career. See also another
interview taped earlier in which he speaks about his family, schools and living in the south
Interviewer: This is Marvin Bonowitz, speaking with Dr. Aaron
Canowitz on December 17,
1998 in his home on Effingham Road in east Columbus. His son, David,
is also present.
Dr. Canowitz: — the practice of medicine in that transition period,
where some of the old things were used and new things were being
discovered. Some of the old things, for example, ether was discovered in
the 1500s, but it became from what they do nowadays for local fun.
People would take it, get a little high, and one time when people were
getting a little high, and one of them went out completely, hurt
himself, woke up and didn’t have any pain. That was started by a
dentist. The first operation using ether was in 1846 in a general
And chloroform, became popular because the queen of England was given
Chloroform in 1909 to deliver King Edward, and later on local agents
became popular. We always knew about morphine, but local agent like
cocaine were used to great effect. One of the discoverers became an
addict in the late 1900s, then they started to use more general
anesthetics, but ether was so unpleasant to take, patients dreaded it.
There was nausea and vomiting after it, so they used some agents to make
people sleepy, like ethyl chloride was sprayed onto a mask. Too much of
it was dangerous. Then came vynathane that was pleasant.
Then the gas machines came out. A man by the name of Gwathmey, from
Toledo, was one of the first to make a gas machine that used nitrous
oxide. That made it more pleasant to go to sleep. People were terrified
going to sleep, when they finally developed Pentothal to put ’em to
sleep, because then you could eat other agents were not sole anesthesia
agents. They were not relaxing, they were to relieve pain and help put
you to sleep, but it didn’t relax you.
So we learned about different drugs – Pentothal, and Valium now, that
we use as a preliminary to putting them to sleep. We’ve progressed
from open drops on a mask to a gas machine, to Valium.
Medicine, in general has progressed in a lot of ways. X-ray machine
was crude, and many of the old x-ray technicians lost fingers because
they didn’t know to protect themselves with lead shielding. The first
electrocardiogram that I saw when I was a medical student was brought
into town by a Doctor Nelson, a very good surgeon and a good friend of
mine. It was a huuuuuge machine. Now they’ve got a little – bitty
machine they attach it and they take it – it has a light here and a
Dr. Nelson was an excellent doctor.
Then there were some diseases that I saw during my time – Smallpox.
Malaria was seen during the time of the Spanish – American War and when
they were building the Panama Canal they realized that the mosquito was
the cause of it. Polio was dreaded and in the middle 1950s our place was
filled with people in Drinker respirators – so called Iron Lung – the
whole body was placed in it, only the head out. Children’s Hospital
was the center for treatment.
I graduated at an early age – I was very young, and I thought it
would be to my advantage to take some extra work. I interned for a year
at St. Francis Hospital and as a resident for two years in pathology and
anesthesia, then when I went out into practice I did get a lot of Jewish
patients, chiefly because I could speak Yiddish to them. A lot of them
appreciated that because they spoke Yiddish at home.
In my early practice, I did (childbirth) deliveries at home – the bad
cases you went to the hospital but I did a lot of deliveries and other
procedures in (the patient’s) home. That was during the days of the
depression, in the early to mid – 1930s, and people were sent to the
hospital at the drop of a hat. You had a fracture, you gave a little
liniment, a little nitrous oxide, reduce the fracture and put a cast on
Many a wound I used to take ’em to the Emergency Room and sew ’em
up. They accepted what you did, they’re not going to sue you. In a
kid, I would put _______________ on it. Hospital work, general practice,
deliver babies at night, you worked 24 hours a day. You had office hours
every day and even came in Saturday morning!
We charged $25 up to $50 depending on how well – off they were, and
that included all the pre – natal care and six weeks post -operative
care, hospital visits and all that.
Speaking of taking care of old Jewish people, there was an old
gentleman who was quite well know, and he came to my office sort of
downcast, long – faced, and to cheer him up, I told him in Yiddish,
“Ver viten yor kucht ois azey vi hott nit die maedel zi kaches –
Sir! You don’t have the strength of a young girl!” He said,
“Mein kind,” after all, he was older than I was. I was
a youngster. “Not that I don’t have kaches for a maedel
– not that I don’t have the strength of a young girl, I don’t
have the strength for a young maedel.”
Then other things you try to make a living with, you found little
Dr. E. J. Gordon, who was a good friend of the family, gave me a job
at the Jewish Infants Home, which was on Rich Street, next to the old
Schonthal Home. Dr. Edelman used to take care of them, but he was very,
very busy and he was like throwing me a bone, but which I accepted very
much, and that was one of the things that made me like children very
much – pediatrics – and I took care of those children at the Jewish
Occasionally there were things we had to do outside the hospital. The
surgeons at St. Francis asked me to give the anesthetic for a woman who
lived out in the country, who we operated on her on the kitchen table.
Give her anesthetic, I brought stuff along with me, and I had gone one
time to Marion, Ohio, to give an anesthetic for a bad gall bladder. One
of the residents at St. Francis was practicing and this was a big case
Other incidents – we were staying with a family in Clearwater,
Florida. A friend of mine who was a resident at St. Francis with me had
a patient in Dunedin, ten miles north of Clearwater, called me one time
– he knew I was in town, I’d had dinner with him – he had two bad
cases – an 85 – year – old man with gall bladder difficulty and a
newborn baby who did not have a connection between his stomach and his
small bowel, called pyloric atresia.
Naturally, I did the baby, kept it warm on a heating pad, took its
temperature, found a vein on the back of his hand, gave it blood in
small doses. The surgeon was a trained man from Mayo’s and he did the
operation successfully in an hour or so.
David Canowitz speaks:
A couple of stories that happened within the family. Dad always
brought home Jewish residents and interns from Children’s Hospital,
especially on a Friday night or yontiff – this one time there was
this very shy doctor from Mexico. His name was Juan Berkowitz. He spoke
Yiddish with a Spanish accent. He was extremely shy. Dad had been
carving a turkey at table and had this platter piled high and he passes
it to Dr. Berkowitz at first who takes one little piece.
Dad says, “Don’t be so shy, take more,” whereupon he
takes his knife from one end of the platter to the other, he scooped
everything off his plate. Dad said, “My eyes popped out of my head,
I didn’t know what to do.”
The other story happened with dad was when Ethel Neustadt (sister of
Aaron’s wife, Naomi) had two of her sons (Jim and Charles Neustadt) in
Mexico City and they were involved in a very serious auto accident.
Charles was okay, Jim was in a coma with a fractured skull and other
injuries. They called Dad, and he was getting ready to go down there,
because knowing the type of medical services and inadequate equipment
down there, he was going to go down there. This was in 1958 or 1959.
Just before he was ready to go to the airport, he gets a call from the
doctor down there, it turns out the surgeon down there had trained at
Ohio State University and it turns out the anesthesiologist had been a
resident under Dad at Children’s.
(Dr. Canowitz refers to a video tape recently given to him containing
a tribute by esteemed colleague, H. William Clatworthy. On this tape, he
asks to view it. His son suggests that they view it after this interview
The Jewish neighborhood at the time that we came here in 1913 was
around Washington and Donaldson, and another Jewish neighborhood was
around Parsons between Livingston and Whittier. I started school at
Siebert Street School and then went to Fulton Street School. Fulton
Street School was considered one of the best schools in Columbus. My
sister – in – law, Hannah Neustadt, when she started to teach in
Columbus, taught at Fulton Street School. There was an old teacher there
that used to tell her, “When the bell rings at 3 o’clock, you
scram. Don’t come in before 8 o’clock, because you’ll see this place
all full of scribbling and all that and it’s not fit, but (she did not
know Hannah was Jewish) she said, “Fulton Street School was the
best school in the city of Columbus. You know why? It was 95% Jewish
kids.” On the holidays they closed the school.
I was not a goody – goody boy. Harry Mellman, who was a good friend
of mine – his birthday and bar mitzvah were a month ahead of mine – we
were kicked out of Sunday School for acting up. The superintendent at
the shul thought he was going to stick us up on the second floor
balcony, in that room where the women were, and give us a licking, but
we didn’t stay there. I never went back. I did have my bar mitzvah at
Agudas Achim, Harry Mellman had one there a month before. Rabbi Neches
was the rabbi at the time. ( fact checked okay. M. B. )
As a youngster I got into all kinds of difficulties, some of which I
deserved capital punishment, which meant a good lickin’. For example,
my brother Joe caught me riding on the back of a street car on the
trailer that connected the street cars one to another – he caught me as
he was going home for lunch. He dragged me to the back porch and beat
the heck out of me! Harry Mellman and I got into a lot of difficulties.
Louis Gertner lived in that same area and swiped some cigarettes from my
brother Rudy, and ran behind the Blind School – that was where we smoked
’em. But the stuff got on our hands, and as our mothers smelled them
and as I reached for some food, she knew what the hell was happening. I
was not a goody – goody boy. But one thing was sure. Learning and going
to school was the important thing.
For instance, when I was in the third grade, we had these desks where
the person in front of you sat. The little girl had gone to the
blackboard, and as she came back, I lifted up the seat and she fell down
and hit the floor. The teacher saw me do it, came over, and gave me one
across the face that made my ears ring. I was tickled to death that she
did not tell my sisters, who were in the other grades, what happened,
cause my brothers Joe and Rudy sure would beat the heck out of me!
When we finally graduated South High School and had gone on to the
University, there was a course in organic chemistry. It was just an
elective course on Saturday morning at ten o’clock every Saturday that
was years! So a bunch of us Jewish boys – Mel Goodman, Sammy Goldstein,
myself, there were a couple of Jewish boys from Cleveland who roomed in
the same area, we all walked to the Ohio State University and back.
Youngsters. The Jewish boys did very well. From Fulton Street School we
went to Mound Street School, and I skipped a grade or two. Several of us
Jewish boys got that promotion. Mound Street was called an intermediate
school. Now they call it a middle school or junior high.
And from there we went to South. I graduated from South when I was
fifteen years of age. We knew that studying was the most important thing
in life, and when Sammy Goldstein and I finally got into medical school
in 1925 after only two years of pre – med. We studied at each other’s
homes. One night at his house, and one night at my house. We were given
a lot of cooperation from the family. Nobody disturbed us, we had the
dining room to ourselves. That’s where the Jewish parents came in. The
Jewish parents and the families co – operated. There was no distraction
of t.v. radio, or anything like that. This was a time for learning.
Sammy Goldstein passed away about a year ago. He practiced here until
1950. He did not enter the army, he had some difficulty with his feet.
Milt Goodman and I went. Then Sammy went to practice in Florida, but
because he was from “out of state,” he had to take an
internship there for a year so that he could take his medical boards,
and he made #1 in the year he took the medical boards, and he was
connected with the Miami General Hospital there.
Our grades were exactly the same, I don’t think there wasn’t a
half a point difference in our grades in the medical board examination.
But one thing that taught me a good lesson – as a freshman in chemistry,
and the problem was with Helium. The atomic weight of Helium is 1.006,
and I made the equation at 1.06 and everything else was correct, and I
ran up to the professor and complained, and the professor, and he taught
me a good lesson. He said, “What are you planning to do?” And
he says, “I want to be a doctor.” Professor said, “When
you’re a doctor you had better put the decimal point in the right
place, or else you’re going to get into trouble. And that’s a true
story. Oh yeah.
And in exams our chairs were far apart. There was no cribbing and no
cheating. They wouldn’t stand for that.
Modern times now, as I see it, after not being in practice almost 20
years – my practice ended in 1979. Doctors rarely make house calls
anymore. They send you to the Emergency Room. And the next day when they
get the information, you go back to his office. I don’t know whether
that’s good or bad. It’s good for the doctor, but not so much for
If something was wrong with you, many the night I slept on the couch.
If a guy had a coronary or something like that, we didn’t send him to
the hospital. They gave him morphine and ____.
The other thing is this about lawsuits now – sometimes in self –
defense the doctor has to over – do things.
I’m ninety years old – there’s an old saying, “The old and
the dying harvest their memories with an abounding zeal.” And some
of the memories may be worthwhile to me. They may not be worthwhile to
anybody else, but, for example, the children’s home. To me that was a
big thing. It gave me a little extra money. Dr. E. J. Gordon was quite
influential at the University College of Medicine and naturally, Dr.
Gordon was a one time Temporary Dean of the Medical School at the
University. He was always a Professor of Medicine. He was in charge of
the out – patient clinic and we became great friends – friends of the
whole family, particularly, if it weren’t for Eva, a good friend of
the Neustadts. He was a ____ . Years ago we had a doctor name of Dr.
Fisher, that was during the 1913 flood. Dr. Edelman was my doctor and
later on we became quite friendly to the extent that if I had to have a
pediatric consultation he would sit in for me, and later on when he got
to be more and more disabled, and afraid to drive at night, I was living
then at the Park Towers, and I picked him up at night and carried him to
dinner meetings and brought him back, and we became quite friendly.
As a matter of fact, —
This concludes this interview with Dr. Canowitz for the Columbus
Jewish Historical Society.