This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on April 8, 2008 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral
History Project. The interview is being recorded at the Federation, 1175 College
Avenue. My name is Helena Schlam and I am interviewing Alan Weiler.
It’s so nice to be able to find out about your family and then your
business involvement in Columbus.
Interviewer: How long have you lived in Columbus Alan?
Weiler: I’ve lived here all my life. I was born in Columbus June 3, 1933 and other than in college and the military, I’m a lifelong Columbus resident.
Interviewer: That is exactly what we need for our history. That being the case let me go back to your parents. Were they born in Columbus?
Weiler: Yes, both my mom and dad were born in Columbus. My dad is Robert Weiler and actually he was born in Hartford City, Indiana and he moved to Columbus when he was 10 years old. My mom was Alene Basch and she was born in Columbus and went to Douglas School, went to Columbus schools. My dad graduated from East High School He went to the University of Pennsylvania and my mom went to Smith
College. They met and got married after college.
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Weiler: In Columbus. My mom’s parents were Joseph and Ida Basch and of
course they lived in Columbus life-long. My grandfather, Joe Basch owned a tobacco
and candy company near the old Union Station on North High Street called the Levi Mendel
Tobacco Company. He sold candy bars, which was of course was why I went up to
see him. He sold cigars, cigarettes, pipes and there was a wonderful smell about
Interviewer: So you had quite a relationship with him?
Weiler: He lived to be 93. He was called “the general.” He was a very
handsome man. At least in my family he was called “the general.” My
mom idolized him. My mom had a twin brother named Joseph Basch. My uncle Joseph
moved to Detroit, Michigan where he lived an unusual life. He worked for General
Motors on the assembly line, married a woman, but never had nerve enough to tell
his mom that he was married. When she went up to visit him he introduced her as
Interviewer: Oh no!
Weiler: He lived on Second Avenue in downtown Detroit where it
was unlikely to have a maid. My grandmother thought that her son had a maid
rather than a wife.
Interviewer: Why was he afraid to tell her? If he were married, he thought she wouldn’t
Weiler: Exactly. My Uncle Joseph was a stutterer. His mother, my grandmother Ida
Basch, was a very domineering woman. After he finished Ohio State he just wanted
to get out of town and he ended up living in Detroit, I think became an
alcoholic, really lived a very unusual life. The lady he married, Winola, was a
lovely lady. She was illiterate. She couldn’t read or write. My brother Bob
and I went up and met her and she was a lovely lady. She would have made a very
good wife, better than a maid, I’m sure.
Interviewer: That is a very interesting story. Can you go back to your grandmother’s
family? When did they come to the United States?
Weiler: I’m not sure when they came to the United States. My grandmother’s maiden
name was Steinhauser. They lived in the United States a long time. I’m not
sure when they came from Germany. It was probably about 1830. That would be my
guess. Julius Steinhauser, her brother, was the Treasurer of Lazarus store. So
her family was in Columbus. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Joseph Basch, was originally from
Pennsylvania. I’m not sure how he ended up coming to Columbus, but he did.
Interviewer: Do you know about his family?
Weiler: I really don’t know much about his family at all.
Interviewer: Were they originally from Germany?
Weiler: They were from Germany but I really don’t know too much about them. He was
93. He died about 1950 so that goes back a long ways.
Interviewer: Your children were able to know him?
Weiler: No, my children did not know any of my grandparents.
Weiler: My dad’s
side of the family came from Hartford City, Indiana. My dad’s family had a
number of dry goods stores in Hartford City, Portland, Indiana, small towns in
Indiana, little hardware stores.
Before my dad passed away my wife Bobby and I went back to Hartford City and
in downtown Hartford City, on the main square, there’s a building that says
“Weilers, 1898” on it. My dad lived on Kickapoo Street in Hartford
City. My dad had two sisters. One was named Rosina Weiler Kohn. She married
Harry Kohn. The other sister was named Amy Harmon Lazarus. She was married to Al
Harmon. When Al Harmon died in 1938 my dad’s sister married Simon Lazarus so
there’s a remote Lazarus connection in our family.
My dad moved to Columbus
when he was 9 years old because his mom and dad wanted their daughters to meet
some Jewish boys. There weren’t many in Hartford City, Indiana so my dad moved
to Columbus. His father passed away when my dad was about 10 or 11 years old so
he was raised by his mother. They lived on Miami Avenue. My dad went to East
High School. So that’s a lot of history.
Interviewer: A lot of history, wonderful. What
about your dad and mom? Where did they live? Where did you grow up?
Weiler: My mom and dad married after dad finished college. He went to Wharton School
at the University of Pennsylvania. I think my dad was a little old when he got
married. I think he was almost 30. My mom was 25. She had taught school at
Douglas School for a little while. They got married and they lived on Ardmore
Avenue in Bexley when they first got married. Then they built a house at 2424
Bexley Park, where I grew up, which is between Dawson and Cassady.
I still think
I live at 2424 Bexley Park because that’s where I think my home is. Where we
grew up I went to Bexley High School, graduated in 1951. I have a brother, Bob,
who is three years younger and we were very close. I finished Bexley in 1951,
went to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, graduated in 1955. I had
the privilege of getting inducted into the army for two years from 1955 to 1957.
I lived in Columbus all my life. That’s basically not exciting.
Interviewer: Oh no!
Weiler: My wife and I, when we first got married, lived in one of Bunny Rubin’s
apartments at 3114 Maryland Avenue. Then we moved to 2606 Fair Avenue, where we
had our children. We have three children. My daughter Wendy Weiler, she’s
married to a fellow named Michael Dwyer, very happily married. She was born in
1960. Our son Steve was born in 1963. Steve Weiler lives in Columbus, has two
daughters, two of our grandchildren. Our youngest daughter Susan was born when
we moved to 300 North Drexel which was just south of Maryland Avenue on Drexel.
About 20 years ago we did something totally outrageous. We didn’t want to live
and die in the same zip code which was going to happen if we didn’t do
something so we moved up to Delaware County. We wanted to live on the Scioto
River. We live on the Scioto River near the Zoo at Rivers End which is a street
south of Delaware but north of Columbus. I think you’ve been there?
Interviewer: Yes it’s beautiful.
Weiler: I had to convince my wife to move because she didn’t want to. I didn’t
want to but I thought we should because you think you never live out of Bexley,
sort of a depressing thought.
Interviewer: Where did you spend your life?
Weiler: Well my wife lived in Bexley all her life, I lived in Bexley all my life so we wanted to move
out. We thought we’d be back in three or four years but we’re still there.
Interviewer: It was a good choice.
Weiler: It was a good choice, it was fine.
Interviewer: How did you meet your wife?
Weiler: Well Bobbie, I finished college, went in the army,
got back to Columbus in 1957. Bobbie was in college and we met. She really knew my brother Bob better than
she knew me. My folks knew her mom and dad. Sol Morton Isaac was her dad and her
mom died. So we just met and started dating. We got married in 1958. So it’s
been great, 50 years this November.
Interviewer: That is a wonderful thing.
Weiler: I’m very fortunate. I feel great, good health, feel very, very lucky.
Interviewer: I’m curious about your experience at Dartmouth. I don’t think there were
many Jews at that time. Maybe I’m wrong?
Weiler: No, you’re probably right.
There are certainly a lot more now. For me Dartmouth was very challenging
academically. When I went to Dartmouth in 1951 you didn’t have to take SATs. I
really was a decent student at Bexley but I was probably in the top third of the
class, not the top 10% of the class by a mile. When I got in Dartmouth I’d
never seen it. I read about it but I’d never been there. The first time I saw
it was when I went up there.
Interviewer: That was the only college you considered going to?
Weiler: Well three or four friends from high school got in. I also applied to
Michigan and Miami and Bowling Green. I felt, well if I got in I should try it.
The first couple of years I thought I had to work to stay in.
I had a number of Jewish friends. One of my roommates was sort of
semi-Jewish. He was born Jewish but he wasn’t really a practicing Jew. His
parents I think were Jewish. I was not in a Jewish fraternity but there were two Jewish fraternities.
Interviewer: There were?
Weiler: Pi Lam and Kap. Fraternities were a fairly big part of college
life. I think at that time I really was not Jewish Jewish. We’d been very
Reform. I never really…I tried to practice religion but not observant.
Interviewer: I was thinking on a different line as to whether you had to deal with any kind of anti Semitism?
Weiler: You know, the anti-Semitism I really remember was growing up during World War
II where there was a lot of anti-Semitism, the word “dirty Jew.” I
think there was a lot of feeling, at least my recall was America was in the war
for the Jews. I think I felt more anti-Semitism, more consciousness about my
being Jewish growing up during World War II from early 1941 when I was 8 or 9
years old, much more conscious and maybe embarrassed about being Jewish then.
You know we grew up in a very Reformed atmosphere. None of our friends were
Bar Mitzvahed. I was confirmed at Temple Israel. Bar Mitzvah
The first person I ever knew who was a good friend who was Bar Mitzvahed was Gordon Zacks. We really didn’t know much about Bar
Mitzvah. Now our kids, you know, our granddaughter and grandsons were Bar
and Bat Mitzvahed. Their father is not Jewish but they wanted it. When we
grew up it was not nearly as prevalent as it is now. I remember being very
conscious of my Jewishness. At high school, Bexley, there was a Jewish
fraternity and a Gentile fraternity. I don’t have any idea if they’re still
in existence but it was…Jews at that time were not in the Gentile
fraternities. You were very aware of your Jewishness in high school. I think a
lot of that was World War II.
Interviewer: Once you went into the army what kind of an experience did you have as a Jew?
Weiler: As a Jew, I really didn’t…when I was in college you got a student
deferment as long as you were in school. When you graduated, if you weren’t
married, or didn’t have a child, or didn’t go to Graduate School, you were
going to be drafted. I was drafted December, 1955. As a Jew, there really was
no, absolutely no Jewishness in the army. I probably would not be a good interviewer to tell you my Jewish experiences
in the army because there weren’t any.
Interviewer: That means you also didn’t feel any anti-Semitism?
Weiler: Exactly, none, absolutely none. We were in a group where
almost everybody was a college graduate. My experience in the army was totally
positive. I was at Fort Lewis, Washington. I worked as a clerk in the Judge
Advocate General Section. The Colonel I think was Jewish. His name was Cohen. I
didn’t discuss religion with him. I felt no, no Jewishness in the army. I went
from Fort Lewis, Washington to Heidelberg, Germany.
This was in 1956 so I
probably should have been much more aware of Jewishness but at that age you’re
really not, you know. I wasn’t over there to try to discuss the Holocaust with
the Germans. I worked with a lot of Germans. I was in a situation where most of
the fellow employees were German civilians and you tried to make friends with
them. You tried to meet them. You didn’t try to discuss philosophy with them.
Although, this is an aside that has nothing to do with it. I was on the Board of
a company called Cincinnati Financial Corporation which is a big insurance
holding company in Cincinnati. We had a meeting in Munich. This was about five
years ago. When we got to this meeting in Munich there were meetings and then
they had tours and all these tours were like the Burgess Garden, you know,
wherever you go. There was no tour to Dachau which of course was right outside
Munich so I said to the person putting on, I said, “We’d like to go to
Our son Steve was with us, so it was Steve and Mary, his wife, and Bobbie and
myself. I said “We’d like you to take us to Dachau.” He said,
“No, no we don’t have a tour going to Dachau.” I said “Well, I’d
like you to have one.” They had a sign-up sheet and almost everybody signed
up and went to Dachau to see it. So that was just so interesting that there was
such interest in this group. I was so glad that happened because this insurance
company, I was on the Board, I’m sure I was the only Jewish person ever on
that Board. I felt good about it. So anyway that’s an aside.
Interviewer: That’s a wonderful aside. That’s really what I was most interested in
asking about because I thought perhaps in your time in Germany that…
Weiler: Not really, I traveled a lot in Germany with good friends, a good friend from
Columbus happened to be there with me and other people. You know when you’re
22 you don’t…I mean we were very Reform Jews. I didn’t go over there to
Interviewer: No? You felt American?
Weiler: I felt American and I wanted to make
friends with the Germans, not discuss the Holocaust with them. I don’t know
how that would have turned out. It probably wouldn’t have been very pleasant.
This was Heidelberg. I’m sure they would have said, “We didn’t know
anything about it. Those were the bad Germans, we’re the good Germans.”
Most of the Germans who I met who knew anything about the United States had been
prisoners of war. They’d been in Mississippi as prisoners of war and they
thought the United States was wonderful because they were treated so well here.
I don’t know at that point whether you could even visit the concentration
camps in 1956. I don’t know whether they were even available.
Interviewer: I’m not sure either. They may well not have been. People weren’t talking about it.
Weiler: This is when you had the American zone, the British zone, the French zone and
the Russian zone. You really just didn’t go back into the Russian zone. That’s
when they had the Check Point Charlie and all these you know, things. It wasn’t
like it is now. I mean there was East Germany, West Germany. I think they were
fine, nothing to do with what you asked me.
Interviewer: After you got out of the army and came back to Columbus…
Weiler: Let me tell you, my dad being a Jewish father, a loving Jewish father,
expected his sons to go into his business. My dad really was in two businesses,
the Robert Weiler Company which was at that time a real estate construction
company and a sales company and he owned a company called Archer Meek Weiler
Insurance. Taking a step back, my dad’s sister I mentioned was Amy Harmon. She
married a gentleman named Alfred Harmon who was the father of the Al Harmon who
you know here in Columbus. When Mr. Harmon died in 1938 my dad’s sister
married Simon Lazarus. Mr. Harmon had been in the insurance business so my dad’s
sister inherited a partnership in what was then Archer Meek and Harmon. My dad
bought that interest from his sister and it became Archer Meek and Weiler.
Archer Meek and Weiler at that time insured the Lazarus stores. My dad’s
sister became Mrs. Simon Lazarus so my dad of course felt that if he bought the
insurance agency that insured Lazarus stores and his sister was Amy Lazarus that
would be a nice insurance account. It didn’t last very long because Lazarus
became part of Federated Department Stores. All the insurance was moved to
I guess if you go into business for the wrong reason bad things tend
to happen. I went to Dartmouth which was a liberal arts college. I majored in
government so I didn’t know very much. My brother, Bob, went to the University
of Arizona. He majored in finance and real estate. When Bob came back to
Columbus in 1953, excuse me, he graduated from college in 1957. When he came
back in 1957 I was still in the army. He obviously was much more interested in
real estate so my dad wanted one son to go in one end of the business, the other
son to go in the other. So I went into the insurance with Archer Meek and Weiler.
It was a good decision for both of us. Bob has done very well in the real estate
business and I’ve enjoyed being in the insurance business so it’s worked out
fine. Bob and I are very close. We’re partners in lots of things. His family,
up till very recently, owned 50% of the insurance agency and I owned 50% of a
lot of Bob’s real estate projects. When the insurance business was good Bob
benefitted. When the real estate business was good I benefited. So it worked out
great. It was a nice partnership. Bob knows as much about insurance as I know
about real estate which isn’t really very much. It’s nice that way.
Our agency grew from a…oh gosh, in 1957 I think we had about five or six people.
We now have about 40. We recently sold Archer Meek Weiler to the Huntington
National Bank so I am now working for the Huntington National Bank. It just
happened in October, 2007. There are a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the
insurance business so I felt that if ever you could find a good partner in
Columbus it would be the Huntington. When they expressed interest in developing
an insurance income it just seemed like a wonderful opportunity. Archer Meek
Weiler is now owned by the Huntington, so we’ll see what happens.
Interviewer: You continue…
Weiler: Yes, our son Steve is in business with me. Steve and I were
Co-Chairmen of the agency. Now Steve is… I think he’s either Vice President
of the Huntington Insurance … I’m not sure titles mean very much. So nothing
really has changed in the operation other than we are owned by the Huntington. I
really feel I’ve got to be the luckiest guy in the world. My health has been
good. My kids are I think real happy. I enjoy Columbus. I’ve been active in a
number of Columbus activities.
When I first got back to Columbus I felt I should
become active in the Jewish community which I really had never been active in
before. I ran for President of B’nai B’rith Zion Lodge 62. I was President
of that in about, I guess about 1960. That was kind of a big deal. At the time
Zion Lodge B’nai B’rith was a very big Jewish organization. You had to run
for office and campaign. Now the feeling is they have to go out and find you and
drag you in to do something like that. We were a bunch of young people. I think
everybody wanted to get active in the community and I ran against, he finally
became a good friend, Ace Strip, A.C. Strip, who I’m sure he has as little
interest in it now as I do because I think Zion Lodge is now down the tubes. I
was President of Zion Lodge…
Interviewer: For how long?
Weiler: I think a couple of years. It was kind of fading. A lot of the leaders, I.W. Garek, a lot of wonderful people,
a lot of older people who knew, I think had a different background than I had,
people who you know wonderful people but different generations. Jewishwise I’ve
been President of Winding Hollow Country Club. I think every organization I
touch goes out of business, I was President of Winding Hollow back in
1970, something like that, 1971-1972. It was a nice, you know very, very
nice experience. As far as the Jewish community I am now Chairman of the Wexner
Village Foundation Board. That’s very, very nice, trying to raise money for
basically Heritage House. It’s been very, very rewarding. I’ve certainly
enjoyed that. I’ve gotten some nice undeserved honors along the way. In the
community I was President of the Central Ohio Lung Association, and the Columbus
Speech and Hearing Center, I’ve been active. I’m still trying to be active
in both of those organizations. Our son Steve was born with a cleft lip and
cleft palette so he needed some speech therapy growing up. That’s when we got
interested in the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center. If it hadn’t been for
the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center we probably would have had to figure out
what we were going to do. Steve got good help there so we became active in that
and I’ve been active in a number of things.
Interviewer: You and Bobbie are members of Temple Israel?
Weiler: Yes, we are life-time members of Temple Israel. We had an issue with Temple
Israel maybe 20 years ago when Rabbi Kiner who was Rabbi at Temple Israel, he
was let go. I guess we would never do something like that again but we got
involved in forming a new temple, Temple Beth Shalom, in New Albany. We were one
of the early founders of Beth Shalom. We were very good friends with Jim and
Babette Feibel who I’m sure you know. They took this on sort of as a personal
mission statement. My wife Bobbie and I had never really been temple-goers. We
were friends of the Kiners socially. We were sorry that he was let go. My
brother Bob at that time was very active at Temple Israel. I think he was on the
Board. Not that Temple Israel did a thing wrong, I just think it was a case of
feeling sympathy for the Kiners and that Temple Israel had grown larger and
perhaps it was time for another reform temple out East. We were involved with
the founding of Beth Shalom. They were meeting at that time in a church at the
corner of Harding and Broad Street, I think Eastminister Methodist Church, which
was convenient to where we lived and it just seemed like something different. It
was like a snowball. Everybody was so involved with what was going to happen
with Rabbi Kiner. Would he be rehired, not rehired, was the Board at Temple
Israel responsive to the members or not, so we were involved in the forming of
this new temple. I think my wife Bobbie was the first Secretary of Beth Shalom.
Since then, I’ve got to say, we are really not very active and probably…
Interviewer: You are members of both?
Weiler: Oh yeah, very supportive members of both. I think very
highly of Temple Israel. I think Elaine Tannenbaum has done a very good job as
the Administratix of it and we’re very happy to support it, and Beth Shalom
Interviewer: The prospect of another synagogue being needed was probably…
Weiler: I think so, Temple Israel was very large and…
Interviewer: Beth Shalom has thrived.
Weiler: I think Beth Shalom has done a very nice job. They’ve got a beautiful facility
in New Albany. I don’t think it’s competitive really. I think there’s room
for two Reform temples. When I go to Temple Israel I think it’s a very, very
beautiful place so I’m pleased. I’m pleased we started New Albany but
sometimes I have second thoughts about it.
Interviewer: It looks like from your story you’ve been in on the ground level of a
number of significant institutions?
Weiler: We’ve had some interesting things. One of the interesting things was
Winding Hollow. Winding Hollow was an all Jewish club, did I tell you? When it
became apparent that Winding Hollow had to increase its membership the only way
we could increase its membership was to take non-Jews. It is so unusual to think
now that a Jewish country club wouldn’t take Gentiles. It’s like how can you
expect a Gentiles club to welcome Jews if you don’t welcome Gentiles.
This goes back a number of years. We had a meeting in our house. One of my friends
who was a Doctor, Terry Meyer, sponsored one of his partners for membership in
Winding Hollow, a non-Jew named Ollie Southworth who had been a fine member. We
had several meetings because there was a rule at Winding Hollow, with one
blackball, he wouldn’t be a member. This is hard to believe. Today when
country clubs are sending cabs to get members, you know, the idea of a blackball
is so outrageous. You’re trying to get members not keep them out. Today clubs
need members. The rule was one blackball he wouldn’t be a member so we had
meetings at our house.
I remember Rabbi Folkman, so it goes back to Rabbi
Folkman, Rabbi Folkman said “I wouldn’t be a member of a club that
discriminated.” The thing that was most shocking to me was some of our
members who were the most community oriented, members of Rotary Club and other
organizations said if you took a Gentile they would drop out because the
Gentiles didn’t let them into their club. I thought that was the silliest thing. It’s
like cutting off your nose to spite your face. We were not successful in opening
the club membership because people on the Board would have voted against a
Gentile member in our country club. I think maybe that was sort of the beginning
of the end of Winding Hollow when it didn’t open its membership because the
membership shrunk and that’s what happened to the club. Then of course Winding
Hollow moved from where we were on Westerville Road to New Albany. We tried to
get members where we could find them. With the competition from the New Albany
Country Club it just wasn’t viable. So anyway that’s sort of interesting.
Interviewer: What do you know about the founding of Winding Hollow, the background of that?
Weiler: From what I know about the founding of Winding Hollow, there was a club in
Columbus called the Progress Club. The Progress Club was a Jewish club in the
city and I’m not sure exactly where it was. It was a club of, I assume, Jewish
men in Columbus who played cards. They founded Winding Hollow. Winding Hollow
was founded about, I don’t want to give a date because it could be way wrong.
I remember going to Winding Hollow, I was born in 1933. Winding Hollow was there
way before that. Winding Hollow was probably founded in 1920, something like
that. There were two Jewish clubs in Columbus, Winding Hollow and the Excelsior
Club. The Excelsior Club was a swimming club on North Cassady Avenue where the
railroad tracks cross Cassady Avenue now. That was called the Excelsior Club. We
didn’t think that was as fancy a club as Winding Hollow because Winding Hollow
had a golf course. The Excelsior Club just had a swimming pool. So there were
two Jewish clubs in Columbus.
Interviewer: Was there a difference, Jews from German backgrounds?
Weiler: I believe the German Jews tended to go to Winding Hollow and I think the
Eastern European Jews tended to go to the Excelsior Club. I really didn’t know
that much about the Excelsior Club other than I had a lot of friends in high
school who were members of the Excelsior Club. It was right there in Bexley so
it was a very convenient club. I think it was not, I don’t want to say this to
hurt anyone’s feelings, but I don’t know that it was as exclusive as Winding
Hollow, not that Winding Hollow was all that exclusive. At one time Winding
Hollow, the Lazarus family, the Levy family, a lot of the prominent, the Summer
family, some of the prominent Reform Jewish families were members of Winding
Hollow. I think it was a very highly thought of country club. We spent a lot of
time at Winding Hollow growing up. I remember Winding Hollow clearly. A lot of
changes, so many changes in the Jewish community today, it’s spread out
throughout the city. The Reform Jewish community isn’t nearly as strong. It
doesn’t seem to me as strong as it was. When I look at who the leaders of the
Jewish community were and who they are now it’s really a different group of
people. Thank goodness we have the leaders we have now. I think a lot of the
Reform Jews have lost their influence, lost their base of support. It’s
wonderful that you have other people coming along.
Interviewer: Well at the risk of your thinking I’m paranoid, what I was really curious
about was whether the clubs were formed because Jews were…
Weiler: I think there’s no doubt about that. I think there’s no question, the clubs were formed
because Jews were not admitted in other clubs. I think during this time the
Reform Jews tried to be as Christian as they could. I think if you listen to the
sermons at Temple Israel you would find much more Reform, less Hebrew than
today. Most of my friends had Christmas trees, celebrated Christmas as a
holiday, tried to fit in. Today it is different. I think it’s better.
I think a lot of the Jews of my folks’ age I don’t think were embarrassed
by their Jewishness but they were so anxious to be American that they celebrated
the traditional holidays and didn’t celebrate the Jewish holidays. We had
Hanukah lights but my dad would bet which one would go out first. That was the
extent of our religion, lighting the lights and my dad betting, you know you
would get a dime and you’d bet whose light lasted the longest. That’s
teaching about religion in the most extreme manner. Having said that, my folks’
friends were all Jewish, all Reform Jewish. Today Bobbie and my friends, we have
many Jewish friends but we have many non-Jewish friends. My folks’ friends
were all Jewish. I guess that’s because there just wasn’t the mixing.
Interviewer: I think that observation is right on.
Weiler: You know you go to Greenlawn Cemetery,
there’s a Jewish section. There are two Jewish sections. I think peoples’
thinking was Jews stuck with Jews. I think that Winding Hollow, our older
members just felt that they didn’t like to play golf with non-Jews.
Interviewer: That’s a very interesting story.
Weiler: Right, of course I thought my folks’ friends
were just the most fabulous people in the world, you know, but they were all
Interviewer: Were most of them born in the States or was there a mixture?
Weiler: I think it was a mixture. I think they were mostly born in the states. I
really don’t know where. My dad’s best friends were the Shinbachs, Sam
Shinbachs’ family and that’s Bob and SuKie Kaynes, Ibby and Bill Mosher, the
Roth family, the Lurie famlly and the families, that you think of being Bexley
families. My mom was a member of a group called the “Meanies.” There
were Jewish groups of women. One was called the “Meanies.” They would
get together and I guess talk about other people. Then there were the
“Jingles” and there were older groups and they would get together and
talk about people. It was all Jewish. All their friends were Jewish.
My grandmother, Ida Basch, worked at the Schonthal Center at something called
the 571 Shop which was…571…I think Rich Street where during World War II they
made bandages and did things to support the war and tried to help the Jews in
Europe, I’m sure, to the extent that they could. It was a very Jewish. Jews
were Jews, Jews were together. It gave me sort of a feeling of anxiety I think
when you’re around… I didn’t really date Jewish girls but you knew you
were Jewish, no question about it.
Interviewer: When you were in high school?
Weiler: When I was in high school and in college, my friends just…I had a lot of Jewish
friends but I had a lot of non-Jewish friends. My class at Bexley, it just
happened there weren’t that many Jewish kids. My brother Bob who graduated in
1953, many of his best friends, he had many non-Jewish friends but his best
friends were Jewish. That’s just the way it was I guess.
Interviewer: So it depended on the demographics of the year?
Interviewer: I would like to back up because I’m curious as to when you began in the
insurance business, what your relationship was with your father and what he was
Weiler: I finished college in 1955. I got licensed in the insurance business and I
went to Hartford with the Aetna Insurance Company to get some basic training,
basically. For six months I was in the insurance business. I think my dad
enjoyed real estate a lot more than insurance. In real estate you can be more
creative and make one or two deals a year and my dad was also in the building
business. He did a lot of building after World War II. He did a lot of building
on Sherwood Road and Roosevelt in Bexley. He built a lot of houses. His partner
was Ben Lurie and they built, they had a company called BenBo Construction, Ben
and Bob. My dad really I think spent more time enjoying real estate.
There were no mentors for me in the insurance business. Basically I had a
wonderful relationship with my dad. We loved each other a lot. My dad had
emphysema. My dad died in 1974. He had emphysema for 15 years so he really wasn’t
as active as he would have liked to have been. We had a wonderful relationship.
I sort of followed in the insurance business with all I know. I enjoyed it. I
was very fortunate in it. Bob was in the real estate. Our offices were at 175
South High Street which was practically the corner of Town and High on the same
side of the street as the Lazarus store but just a little bit south of that. In
1967 there was a fire in that building so we had to move. That’s when my
brother moved to the Beggs Building which was a building at 21 East State Street
which is now the Fifth Third Building, we used to call the Beggs Building. We
ultimately moved into the Beggs Building but we moved to the second floor. My
brother was on one of the upper floors. Then Bob moved his office to where he is
now which is in the Huntington Bank Building at 17 South High and we moved to
another building. Our offices were separate, which is probably good because he
doesn’t see all the mistakes I make and I don’t have to worry about what he’s
doing over there.
I’ve been in this business 50 years and it’s changed
dramatically. It has gone from a business of perhaps expertise to a business of
marketing. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s what it’s been.
Interviewer: You’re continuing to work in it. Obviously it gives you satisfaction?
Weiler: It does. Ultimately I became a CPCU, which is called a Charter Property and Casualty Underwriter in
1964, which is a designation you strive to get. I’ve been very fortunate. I
was on the Board of, I mentioned before, Cincinnati Financial Corporation which
operates Cincinnati Insurance Company. Cincinnati Financial is I think about the
20th largest insurance company in the United States and it’s in
Cincinnati obviously. That goes without saying.
It’s a non-Jewish company. I mean it’s a very conservative…other
Board members were a fellow named Mike Brown, the Bengals Mike Brown, the
football family, a lot of prominent Cincinnati people. I had experiences being
on that Board I would never have had had I not been on the Board. As far as
honors go, I felt it was a sincere honor to be asked to be on that Board. I was
on it for 12 years. When I reached the magic age of 70 their By-Laws require
that you get off the Board. I’m also on the Board of Glimcher Realty Trust.
I think Herb Glimcher, a very prominent Columbus citizen, went public in I
think 1994 and he asked me to be on his Board. It’s on the New York Stock
Exchange. That’s an exciting time. Herb’s a very unique, marvelous person.
Being on his Board was a unique honor also. I’m now on the Board of a company
called Century Surety which is on the NASDAQ. It’s a small insurance company.
It’s been a nice learning experience. Being on the Board of a public company
is a responsibility. You have to be very careful.
Interviewer: You have a big fiduciary responsibility.
Weiler: You don’t want to say the wrong thing to the wrong person
and end up as a roommate with Blackwell or something. You know it’s a real
honor. To be on Herb’s Board was a great honor for me so I really feel very,
Interviewer: You’ve made a very important contribution in terms of the development of Columbus.
Weiler: Well, yes. Herb has done a wonderful job with
Polaris. My brother Bob was one of the developers of Polaris. Bob and I are…
there are many partners, but Bob and I…Bob was one of the founding partners of
Polaris. Polaris did well but when Herb was able to get his mall built up there
it did much better. I think Herb was the engine that really pulled Polaris to
where it is today. I think in real estate if you hit a couple of home runs, you
know, one big deal in real estate is about all maybe you deserve and Polaris was
really a good deal. I thank my brother for that because I really had no
involvement in it. Bob and I are partners in it so it was really wonderful for
our kids who actually are the owners. I try to transfer as much as I can to our
kids so, fortunately for me…
Interviewer: That’s what parents strive to do.
Weiler: That’s what parents like to do and that makes sense. It’s nice to think that our kids
will benefit from that.
Interviewer: And your grandkids.
Weiler: And hopefully our grandkids.
I think I mentioned to you, our daughter Wendy is married to a gentleman named
Michael Dwyer. They live up in Westerville. They have three children. Our
grandchildren range in age from 22 years old to 8.
Interviewer: You’re lucky.
Weiler: Right I’m very lucky to have all but one of them in Columbus. We have a grandson in
Boston. Our youngest daughter Susan lives in Boston.
Interviewer: Didn’t you just return from Florida?
Weiler: Yeah, we were in Florida.
Interviewer: I thought perhaps that was with grandchildren?
Weiler: It was. We rented a house in
Florida for a couple weeks and our kids came down. We drove down because we took
our dog with us. I should have mentioned that dogs have been a big part of our
life. We love dogs. I remember growing up we had a dog named Becksy. I’m sure
people would be very interested in hearing all this. We had a dog named Becksy.
We always had dogs. Our last dog was named Mulligan because we found him on a
golf course and now this dog was a found dog. We didn’t want to leave our dog
at home so we were in Florida with our grandchildren, not all of them. Our son
Steve’s kids were with him. Our goal is to live as nice a life as our
grandchildren. I don’t think we’re going to quite achieve but there’s no
denying we live a good life.
Interviewer: It must give you satisfaction to have Steve follow in your footsteps?
Weiler: It does as long as it makes him happy. If he’s happy it gives me
satisfaction. If he’s unhappy it gives me satisfaction that the Huntington
owns it. Steve can leave it. He doesn’t feel that he has to work in insurance
all his life if he’s not happy doing it.
My brother Bob’s kids who were co-owners of the agency now have been cashed
out so to speak so Steve should not have any anxieties about, if he’s not
happy, that he’s letting any family members down. To be honest about it that
was a big thing that I thought of. Working for your dad is wonderful. My dad was
fabulous but there’s sort of an anxiety there that you don’t want to let him
down, you don’t want to let your family down.
In 50 years there were a lot of
times when I probably could have said “the hell with this” and you
know done something entirely different. You get calls at night. People are
unhappy. “I’m getting quotes, my premium went up, no one told me I had
this deductible, I didn’t know I should have scheduled my ring, why didn’t
you tell me?” All the things you hear from people all the time. There were
lots of times when I felt do I really need this the rest of my life. Yet, you
know I felt it was a family business. My brother’s kids were involved. Now I
feel a big relief because it’s sold. Steve has all the money from that he’ll
need. If he’s not happy he should do what makes him happy. Maybe that’s a
negative way of looking at it but that’s kind of the way I looked at it. Plus
partnering with the Huntington, the positive was partnering with the Huntington,
a wonderful family here in Columbus.
Hopefully he’ll be successful for a long
time and who would be better partners. I often thought if my dad came back today
he’d be amazed as to what happened with Bob’s involvement with Polaris and
his development. We lived, I’m telling you a lot of things that you don’t
want to hear about.
Interviewer: No I want to hear all of these things.
Weiler: We lived at 2606 Fair Avenue. It was a small house. We had two children. We wanted a bigger
house. There was a lot for sale at 300 North Drexel. This is north of Broad and
south of Maryland Avenue. The lot was for sale for $25,000. We were told about
it and we made an offer on it of $25,000. When I told my dad he just went off
the charts. This was in 1970 something or other. If he drove me up and down
Sherwood Road he said “I built this house for $11,000, I built this house
…How could you pay $25,000 for the lot?” He said “It’s a hundred
front feet. You paid $250 a front foot.” He thought I totally lost it. He
said “Why’d you do that?” I said “Dad, the only reason it did
it was if someone else had offered that and if I didn’t offer we wouldn’t
get it.” We ended up building this house on North Drexel. It cost about
$14.00 a foot to build so we had about $75,000 in the house. My dad finally said
well he thought it worked out okay.
It’s hard to imagine houses $5-, $6-,
$7,000 in my lifetime. When World War II was over my dad was a kind of a
builder, I would say he was a Jewish investor builder. He built a lot of houses
on Weyant Avenue and Napoleon which is out East. These houses sold like hotcakes
to GIs. They were probably about 1,000 square feet. They sold for about $5-, $6
thousand. If they had a porch they sold for a couple thousand more. That’s
when you could buy a house for $5,000 so the idea of $25,000 for a lot was just
Interviewer: Well I think it’s beautiful and the story though is that
your father came to recognize it was a good…
Weiler: My dad was the most
supportive person in the world. He thought we could do no wrong. You know the
idea, the same idea I have when I drive by Bexley Park and I see that house sold
for $600,000 and my folks sold it for $29,000 when they moved from Bexley Park
to Harding Road. They had a terrible time selling their house. I think they sold
it for $29,000. Of course that was a long time ago but in my mind it wasn’t
that long ago because I can remember it was in 1953 maybe. I remember when they
moved from Bexley to Eastmoor, basically a one-story house, selling their house
in Bexley for like $29,000 and you know these houses are selling for $600,000.
It does kind of make you wonder.
Interviewer: Well we know there’s a problem with inflation. It’s not surprising as far as housing…
Weiler: That’s right, that’s what it is and I’m sure they’ll keep going up.
It is hard to believe. I think back to Columbus I can certainly remember lots of
nice things you ought to be talking about, streetcars today. I remember my
grandmother who lived at 703 Franklin Avenue which is near Franklin and Parsons
and there’s a streetcar #703 and she used to take me for rides on that
streetcar. We’d go out Main Street, up Dawson in Bexley and so they’re
talking about streetcars today in Columbus. I certainly remember streetcars
then. I mentioned to you our office, was at Town and High Street, Lazarus being
right next door. When they’d have a Remnant Day sale the crowds at Town and
High were just literally unbelievable. There was a “Walk” and
“Don’t Walk” sign. The question was could you put all the
“Walk” signs all on “Walk” so people could walk catty-
corner because there were so many people to try to cross the street downtown to
get in the Lazarus store. How times have changed.
Interviewer: You have a wonderful memory for detail. This is just fascinating.
Weiler: I can remember a lot of detail in Columbus. I love Columbus. I remember Union Station
and all the exciting things that bring back memories of Columbus. Someone asked
me when I thought downtown Columbus started to decline. I’m not sure whether
it started to decline when Union Station closed or Lazarus built the first
suburban store. I think that was sort of the beginning of the decline of
downtown Columbus. I’m not that old but I’ve been in Columbus all my life so
I remember my mom taking me to Central Market where she used to shop. You kind
of wonder are things better now or are they not better. I guess maybe you
glamorize the past. I have lots of wonderful memories of growing up in Columbus
and Bexley. I feel very, very fortunate.
Interviewer: Well that’s what counts. I would like to back up and explore one other aspect of Archer, Meek and Weiler. When it started with the Weilers what happened with Archer and Meek?
Weiler: The agency was known as Archer, Meek and Harmon. Al Harmon was a fine
insurance agent and his partners were a fellow named Jay Archer and Hugh Meek.
Mr. Archer passed away way well before 1938. I don’t think my dad ever really
had a relationship with Mr. Archer. Hugh Meek was my dad’s partner and he came
from a prominent Gentile family and his clients included many of the prominent
Gentile firms in Columbus. I think he spent more time in Marzetti’s Bar than
he did in the office. Getting back to the history, Al Harmon passed away I
mentioned in 1938 and left his interest, the partnership to his wife Amy Harmon,
my dad’s sister.
Dad then bought that interest from his sister who became
Mrs. Simon Lazarus. My dad was a partner of Hugh Meek. They paid Mr. Archer’s
estate I think $100 a year to keep his name because in the phone book at that
point in the yellow pages “A” there weren’t that many insurance
agencies so Archer Meek Weiler was maybe the first insurance agency listed. If
someone was going to call an insurance agency they would see Archer. Our phone
number had been Main 3225. Now it’s 221-3225. The phone number hasn’t
changed in many, many years. I remember when you got a letter you would just
type the address, type “City”. You didn’t put “Columbus,
There were no zip codes. It was like if you’re writing Madison’s
Department Store, you would write Madison, 72 North High Street, City. I’d get
two or three mail deliveries a day. We had a morning and an afternoon. I don’t
know if there was a noon delivery but we had at least two mail deliveries a day.
Things have changed. It was much more personal, more letter writing, more
face-to-face than it is today.
Interviewer: Was Mr. Harmon in at the founding of Archer?
Weiler: No, I’m not sure, I wish I could tell you. I don’t know when he got in. I don’t know how he
happened to be partners with Jay Archer and Hugh Meek. I’m not sure exactly
what the extent of their partnership was. Mr. Archer was out before my dad had
anything to do with it so I really don’t know how Al Harmon came to get in the
insurance business. The insurance business was so different. We were agents for
a company called The Hartford. Mr. Harmon was I think their exclusive agent
here. I’m not really positive about how he and Hugh Meek hooked up. It wasn’t
because they were social friends I don’t think because Hugh Meek came from an
entirely different background than Al Harmon but they were partners so I really
don’t know how that came about.
Interviewer: That brings another question to my mind. With all your experience in insurance over these years how involved are Jews in the insurance business?
Weiler: Well today I think there are many Jews. When I first started there was Abe
Wolman who was a fine man. His son Herb Wolman is still very active in
insurance. He’s a fine insurance agent. There was an agency call the Wolf
Insurance Agency. They were on East Broad Street and that was an agency of Al
Esterkin and Clarence Koltun.
They had a very fine agency. They were on Broad Street just east of James
Road. That agency is no longer here. A fellow called Mel Frank, now called the
Frank London Insurance Agency, they’ve been quite successful. My dad and mom’s
life insurance agent was a fellow named Alan Tarshish who was a Rabbi; I don’t
know if he was the Rabbi, but Rabbi Tarshish, I think it might have been his
brother. He was a very prominent life insurance agent. I think Jews have been
very prominent in insurance because I think Jews think of family first. I think
when you think of your family first you think of life insurance. I think Jews in
Columbus have been very prominent in insurance. Forgive me whoever I’m
forgetting. I just remember a number of Jewish…Stuart Benis’ dad was in
the life insurance business, I.C. Benis.
There is no end to the number of Jews
in the insurance business. We all had a nice relationship. It was a less
competitive time. I think my dad had his clients. Abe Wolman had his clients. My
dad, most of his clients were Reform Jews. I think Abe Wolman’s clients were
mostly the more Orthodox Jews. The Wolf Agency were members of Tifereth Israel,
so Conservative. That’s kind of the way it worked.
Interviewer: That is a very interesting observation.
Weiler: That’s the way it worked then. Dad and Abe Wolman
were good friends. I know my dad often spoke of Abe Wolman and I’m sure Al
Esterkin and Clarence Koltun as well. Although I think he knew Abe Wolman. Abe
was very involved in Jewish philanthropies. My dad was one of the, well I don’t
know if he was one of the founders of Heritage House but he was very active in
the construction of Heritage House, as was Abe Wolman. They worked together very
well. My dad also was Chairman of the United Way here, the Community Chest. My
dad was very active in the community.
Interviewer: Your continuing on with work at Heritage House honors his involvement as well.
Weiler: Right, it makes me feel good
that I’m involved in Heritage House. Heritage House has changed so
drastically. It’s a Jewish home for the aged and maimed. When you go in there
it’s not really a Jewish home for the aged, it’s a home for the aged that
practices Jewish customs.
Interviewer: I didn’t ask when you spoke of your father but it did register. Your father was a college graduate. That was not the norm.
Weiler: I’m not really sure whether his friends were college graduates or not but
dad went to Wharton School. Dad was a very, very smart person and he enjoyed
My dad started with a real estate company in Columbus called W. T. Zane and
Company which were downtown real estate specialists. That’s when downtown
Columbus was thriving. My dad knew the dimensions of every building downtown.
You know downtown Columbus, it was where people were. My dad had a reputation
for being a successful commercial real estate person. Then he went in business
for himself and formed the Robert Weiler Company.
One of his clients was the
Lazarus family. I didn’t mention this to you but one of my dad’s activities
was appraising properties for tax purposes. If you owned a property and you felt
your property taxes were too high you would hire someone who would appraise the
property and appeal to try to get a lower tax. The Lazarus family hired my dad
to appraise the Southern Hotel which they owned because they felt that the taxes
were too high. My dad appraised it and the Lazarus’s were very unhappy with
the appraisal. They said he appraised it for more than he thought it was worth.
My dad said well if you think it’s appraised too high I’ll buy it for that,
and he did, which was probably the biggest business mistake he ever made because
he ended up…our family ended up owning the Southern Hotel. My dad looked at it
as a real estate property, the hotel building at Main and High. He didn’t look
at it as an operating business.
As an operating business it was not operating
well at all so my dad ended up having to manage it an be concerned with running
the Southern Hotel. He finally sold it to the fellow who owned WMNI which was a
tenant of the hotel. For seven or eight years my dad owned the Southern Hotel.
When we had an office party it was at the Southern Hotel. I think my mom and dad
got married at the Southern Hotel.
Interviewer: Oh the ballroom is exquisite.
Weiler: I know when you look at it you think this is a beautiful building. If my dad came back
to earth today and he went down there and saw it was a Weston, he wouldn’t
believe it. He didn’t know what to do with it, turn it into an old folks home,
try to make it…you know what would you do with that old place. He had no idea
what to do with it and then when Weston came in and franchised it or whatever
they’ve done with it, turned it into a Weston, it’s just sort of
unbelievable. I wonder whether they’re glad to have it or not because I don’t
think it’s thriving. A lot of nice memories of Columbus.
Interviewer: Your dad obviously recognized it as being important.
Weiler: He recognized it,
how big it was, what a wonderful big fireproof building it was, how much it
would cost to build something like that. When the Lazarus’s said it’s not
really as valuable as you’ve appraised it, he said “Well if you don’t
believe my appraisal I’ll buy it for that.” That’s probably something
he never should have said.
Interviewer: That is a fascinating story.
Weiler: My mom was a housewife. Those were the days when women really spent their time being mothers
and teachers. I think that if my mom hadn’t spent time with me, making certain
that I kept up with my numbers and did what I was supposed to do, I’m sure
that I would have had a lot more problems. When I think today how different it
is with mothers out of the house. This was before television. This is when you
were much more at home.
Interviewer: You also mentioned your mom taking you. She did volunteer work?
Weiler: Yes she did some volunteer work, sure, but she was really just a wonderful
mother. When we lived on Bexley Park there were not a lot of Jewish families. My
friends were really not Jewish because at that point there weren’t that many
Jews in Bexley I don’t think. I think most of the Jews lived in the Livingston
Avenue south area I believe. They didn’t really move into Bexley until later.
Interviewer: Temple Israel was not yet….
Weiler: Temple Israel was on Bryden Road. My grandmother
lived on Franklin Avenue. That was the, you know, Franklin and Rich Street and
Town Street, that’s where the Jewish section was you know. Hepp’s
Delicatessen was like at Washington and Main I believe. There were two or three
delicatessens down there. My dad used to stop at Hepps and get corned beef, you
know Sunday morning, very nice memories. I don’t know if our kids will have
the same memories that we had.
Interviewer: They’ll have different ones but nice ones.
Weiler: I hope they have nice ones but certainly different ones.
Interviewer: So Sunday morning was delicatessen day?
Weiler: Yeah, my dad would stop at Hepp’s and we’d go down there
and get corned beef. I don’t remember the name of the other delicatessen but
there were two sort of competing delicatessens. My dad always thought Hepp’s
had better corned beef. Sundays we would often get corned beef and then go to,
what’s now Wings Restaurant. It was called the Far East Chinese and all the
Jews had Chinese food for Sunday night.
Interviewer: So when you would go out on Sunday evening you would see friends in the restaurant?
Weiler: Right, my folks’ best friends were the Hofheimers who’ve since kind of moved out of Columbus. They
moved to Norfolk, Virginia. My mom’s best friend was a lady named Margie
Hofheimer. When she moved it kind of broke my mother’s heart. That’s tough.
That was about 1952, maybe. My mom was very devoted. I think it was different.
Women have friends now but I don’t know that they have the same kind of
friends, you know. You didn’t have that many cars and people weren’t running
all over the place. People were in the community and spent a lot more time
together, played Maj Jong and Bridge. I don’t know what they did but they saw
a lot more of their friends, at least than we do. I think other people maybe are
different but we don’t have that kind of relationship.
Interviewer: As a child you knew your mother’s friends well?
Weiler: Very well.
Interviewer: And your father’s friends as you say?
Weiler: Very well, they’d come over and my dad
would play cards on Wednesday. When I was like 12 or 13 years old he’d have
his card games, just very much enjoyed being with them, always thought they were
the smartest, most handsome, best people in the world.
Interviewer: Did your dad teach you to play cards?
Weiler: Not really. I’ve never been much of a card player. I play
Bridge. They just had a network of friends that revolved around Winding Hollow.
When you look at Winding Hollow in those days and you see the pictures, the old
club with many, many, many families, most of them from the same Jewish
background, it’s entirely different today.
Interviewer: I’m going to go in another direction. What about involvement with Israel?
Weiler: My dad sponsored…we were aware of Israel but we were far from Zionists.
Interviewer: Reform Jews often were not.
Weiler: Not by a mile. My dad helped bring Walter Neuron. He
became a photographer and a skier. I think they helped sponsor…helped get jobs
for Jews who could get to the United States. As far as Israel, being Zionists, I
would say we were 180 degrees from being a Zionist. I’ve got to tell you, 15
years ago when I said to Bobbie “I’m not going to take another trip until
we go to Israel. I want to go and see these countries.” Once you go there
it is so changing. My wife who came from a more Reform background than I do even
where the bigger the Christmas tree the better, when she saw the Wailing Wall
she started to cry. You have that in you but you just don’t really…my idea
was that Reform Jews wanted to integrate, did not want to really think about
ever moving to or being associated with Israel, financially supported Israel but
didn’t feel that was a homeland. They felt this was our homeland. I don’t
remember Temple Israel having an Israeli flag, I just remember an American flag.
Temple Israel, most of the songs and the words were in English not in Hebrew.
Interviewer: You, yourself, said you wanted to go to…
Weiler: Israel, yeah because I felt I wanted to see Israel and what you see is totally inspiring.
Interviewer: It is inspiring.
Weiler: You’ve been there?
Interviewer: I lived there.
Weiler: You lived there?
Interviewer: It’s totally inspiring.
Weiler: When you get there it is mind-boggling inspiring. It was a
wonderful experience. I don’t feel that is my homeland but I’m glad it’s
there for self insurance.
Interviewer: That is a beautiful, appropriate closing.
Weiler: I think it’s like insurance. You know it’s Israel and it’s insurance. I feel
very proud to be Jewish. I think that when I was growing up there were times
when I was very embarrassed by it and kind of wished I wasn’t Jewish. To be
honest about it, it would have been easier not to be Jewish sometimes. As you
get older and mature, I probably matured later than I should have, you’re
proud to be what you are rather than wish you were something else. I remember,
particularly 8th grade. When I was in 8th grade it would
have been the middle of World War II. I wished I wasn’t Jewish. I don’t want
to hear about the Jews this, you know.
Interviewer: It could not have been comfortable.
Weiler: It wasn’t comfortable for me because I didn’t have the self confidence and I
really wasn’t brought up to really treasure my Jewishness.
Interviewer: Clearly you treasure it now.
Weiler: For sure, for sure, I think we live a Jewish spiritual life although we don’t live a particularly religious life.
Interviewer: Many Jews throughout history have had a Jewish identity expressed in ways other than religious.
Weiler: Right, today you’re proud to be Jewish. I’m proud
to be Jewish but when I was growing up it was a different thing. So anyway thank
Interviewer: Thank you and now I will read the conclusion.
Weiler: Want me to leave any of
this with you? Would you like to read any of this? Do you want to hear any of
this stuff? This is my folks’ story, the May Companies. It’s so interesting
to me in Indiana where they had these dry goods stores. Weiler Brothers was like
the leading store in Hartford City, Indiana. The leading store in Hartford City
Indiana no doubt now is a WalMart store if they’ve got it, a store in Hartford
City, Indiana. You read this thing, wow, this is really a time that was quite
enjoyable to be able to walk to Main Street and Kickapoo Street in Hartford City
and the main square.
Interviewer: In fact that’s important to have on here. We talked
about that before we began the interview. If you don’t mind to repeat that.
Weiler: Sure, when my dad was sick, Bobbie, my wife and I wanted to go over to Hartford City
just to see what it was like so we went over to Hartford City, Indiana. My dad’s
family had a store on the main square in Hartford City called Weiler Brothers
and the building was still there with “Weilers” on it and my dad lived
on Kickapoo Street in Hartford City. He had such wonderful memories of growing
up in Hartford City like I have nice memories of growing up in Bexley, probably
very similar under the circumstances. I should mention my dad’s father came to
Columbus with the expectation of being a partner in the Union Department Store
with the Levy family. I don’t really know why that didn’t happen, whether
there was a falling out or why it didn’t happen. I’m sure it was nothing
negative that anybody did but he did not become a partner in the Union. He died
at a very young age. He died in his early 50’s, 53 so I’m not sure what he
did when he moved to Columbus but it was shortly after he moved that he passed
away. He died at 53. They moved…my dad was about nine, so they moved in 1913 or
something and he died shortly thereafter so he died when my dad was just a
youngster. I was born in 1933 and he died well before I was born so I don’t
know why he did not become a partner in the Union Company, but he didn’t.
Interviewer: Did he establish that store?
Weiler: No, his family did. There were several Weiler
Brothers and it was called Weiler Brothers. They had stores in Hartford City,
Indiana, Portland, Indiana, several little towns in Indiana.
His wife was named Blanche Kahn. She was from Indianapolis. When they lived
in Hartford City his wife wanted to move to Columbus so that Amy and Rosina
would meet some Jewish boys. That’s when he moved to Columbus. That would have
been in 1910 or 11 or something like that. He wanted to go into retail business
with Levys but he never did, why I’m not sure.
Interviewer: The May Company you said…
Weiler: Herbert May was a partner in one of their
stores and he went on to form the May Company. There’s an article that I
brought you about a little history of Weiler Brothers in Indiana. It was such a
big store with an inventory of several hundred thousand dollars which at that
time was a big inventory. I think it was like a Sears Store they sold clothing
and hardware and stuff.
Interviewer: They sold hardware?
Weiler: I believe so, interesting reading about their family.
Interviewer: It’s a wonderful story and thank you.
Weiler: Thank you for letting me share it with you. I don’t know that I’ve done a very good job of it.
Interviewer: Oh, you’ve done an excellent job.
Weiler: I’m going to leave you some material and then you can see what I’ve said wrong. I don’t know that I reviewed well.
Interviewer: I think your memory was exceedingly sharp.
Weiler: Thank you.
Interviewer: On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project and this concludes the interview.