My name is Naomi Schottenstein. I’m an interviewer for the
Columbus Jewish Historical Society and I’m at the Federation Building at 1175
College Avenue here in Columbus and it’s December 1, 1988, and I’m
interviewing Alvin Ruben of Columbus, Ohio. Alvin, I’m going to start by askng
do you remember any grandparents in your life?
Ruben: Yes I do. My father’s father and wife, Harry Ruben and her first
name was Martha, and they were mostly retired people when they came to Columbus.
My father had a store, my father went in business with his brother Sol Ruben who
is since deceased. My father is deceased also. And they were in partnership
together. After a year they had this fire and my father went in business for
himself and my uncle did likewise.
Interviewer: Now do I understand, was your grandfather in the same business?
Ruben: He didn’t.
Interviewer: What did your grandfather do when he first came to this…
Ruben: He didn’t do anything at all and the family kept him up.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Ruben: And he killed horses in Europe. That was his profession.
Interviewer: Do you know when they came to this country?
Ruben: My father came here in 1906 with his wife and I don’t know
about the children or anything. I was too young. I wasn’t born yet. In fact I
was born in 1916 and right now I’m 82 years old.
Interviewer: Where did your grandparents come from originally?
Ruben: Russia. I forget, I forget…
Interviewer: Well it will come back to you later.
Ruben: All right. And my father was in the pawn business. He went into the
pawn business in that time and he went out in 1933. He gave up the business.
Interviewer: That’s the pawn shop business?
Ruben: That’s the pawn business.
Interviewer: Where was the pawn shop?
Ruben: Third, on Third Street between Spring and Long Street, right on the
corner of the alley. Had a store there for a number of years and then we went
into the men’s clothing business around, I think 1941 and we had a beautiful
store, 105 feet of frontage, around 70 feet deep. All blue Carrara glass front,
six big plate windows, 105 feet of frontage and we did one big job. We stayed
there until 1958. Then we went out of business and sold out to the public.
Interviewer: When you say “we,” who all was involved in this
Ruben: My brother Bernard and my brother Saul for I think 2 years and he
wanted to go in business for himself so he went to Pittsburgh and established
himself. And we did a big business with Saul Wilkinson Clothing Jobbers at that
time and they told my brother Saul about a man who was ill and wanted to sell
out so that was his chance in leaving the business. His wife felt there wouldn’t
be enough business for three boys drawing a living for three years to come. And
it worked out beautiful because we went out of business in 1958, like I say and
the first 2 years I was lost because I didn’t know what to do and I had one
big break in my life. Consolidated Foods ran a big ad in, we had the morning
paper called the morning Journal and they ran an ad looking for investors and
speculators to open up stores for their Lawson Milk Company, which was
Consolidated Foods, like their 7-11 stores and that was my big break but I had
no money. So everything I did with borrowed money.
Interviewer: So this was the late 1950s?
Ruben: Around 1960-61 and I started with $50. That was my whole estate. $50!
So I stayed in the men’s clothing business for 17 long years and I went out
with a little less than $30,000.
Interviewer: Doesn’t sound like a lot does it?
Ruben: No. You know how long it would take to eat up $30,000. So I got in . .
Interviewer: But you did have a successful business while you were . . . .
Ruben: Yes I drew a nice salary and, but then, Bunny and I we had a salary of
$50 a week each, Brother Saul, and then we started drawing a little more money,
$75 a week. And as the years went on then it went to $100 a week and we did a
very large business and started up but then the OPA come in, that’s Office of
Price Administration, and we didn’t have hardly any merchandise ’cause we
just went in business in ’41. We didn’t have, with manufacturers we were not
established so it was very, very hard. And also with very little money. And we
had the money from the loan business which we sold out.
Interviewer: Let me ask you a question here. Why did you go out of the loan
business and into the clothing business.? How did that happen?
Ruben: Well we felt that it’s, although we did a nice business in the loan
business at that, at the end there, for years to come, I mean, we felt that the
new clothing business was a better chance to get established.
Interviewer: A new opportunity?
Ruben: Yes it was the right opportunity and we had quite a bit of money in
those days selling out the business. Of course, looking at it today, it wouldn’t
be too much money at all. So anyway while I was in the men’s clothing
business, one week Bunny would open up and I would open up the next week in the
morning. So I got the morning Journal . I found where an Italian
counselor who was located at Long and High Street, he ran an ad, he had 4
4-families for sale, 1 year old. And naturally I was interested in real estate
and I . . . .
Interviewer: 4-families? You mean . . . .
Ruben: 4-families, double duplexes, 1 year old. So I set up the cashier and
at 9:30 I went over to Long and High Street to talk business with this man and
after talking with him, I find he had 5 4-families. He just wanted to sell them.
Why, wherefore, I didn’t go into that. Probably needed the money. Who knows?
Anyway . . . .
Interviewer: But you were ready too?
Ruben: And I had no experience in financing or anything in real estate. I
guess you’re born with it, I guess. And I did all the financing for the real
estate and the buying and my family left me alone. They left, it’s just
ironinc. They left me do the whole transaction and after, around 2 or 3 years,
my brother then said he wanted to go to Pittsburgh so we paid him out the
business and after around, I don’t know, 6 or 7 years we sold the real estate
and I come out with $15,000 for myself. And that’s how I built my home. Other
than that, I wouldn’t have 5 cents. In those days, those days. And I had the
land all paid from my home on Bexley Park Road which I bought for $3500.
Interviewer: The land?
Ruben: The land. So after, during the . . . .
Interviewer: What was the year you started your house there?
Ruben: Oh well, it’s around 50 years old. So I don’t know. It’s right
after they took off the stipulation that you could only build a home for 1700
square feet. Well I wasn’t going to build a home for 1700 square feet. So that
year they took that stipulation off and you can build a home for as large as you
want. Right after the war. So I was ready to build and I had $15,000. That was
my whole estate. Yeah, that’s how . . . .
Interviewer: But then you went into your own real estate business at that
Ruben: Well, no, no. Well a lot of things expired I would say. The first 2
years I was not doing anything at all.
Interviewer: After the clothing business?
Ruben: After the clothing business I was lost and my wife, and I said,
“I am interested in real estate.” ‘Course I could never be a real
estate salesman ’cause I would not know when I’m going to make my next deal
to eat. So that would make me very nervous and I didn’t go into that phase of
it, you see. So the same man who built my home, he was architectural real estate
and he was . . .
Interviewer: Who was that?
Ruben: Cecil, oh the C. K. Rose Company. They built most in Bexley so I had
him start with Consolidated Foods with the Lawson and I got in with a company
there that’s in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It’s right near Akron. And I got in
with them and I had over 9 stores at one time, mind you, Lawson stores, yes.
They had beautiful leases and I’d borrow mostly all of the money on the lease
and I had very little cash to put up and then I had to buy a lot that was big
enough for parking on one side of the building because it’s a free-standing
building. And after I got together with them for the first 2-3 years, they said
they want to change their image and have a store 61′ X 42′ instead of 22′ X 80′. I
said, “Fine.” I said, “Would you care to have other people along
with you?” They said, “No, we don’t care.” So I looked at the
sky and I said, “Here I come.” I had a lot of brokers bringing me
tenants and I started buying land for 150-200 feet of frontage and I was going
all right, I was going okay. Everything on borrowed money, everything on
borrowed money. Very little money to work with. Some people are born with money.
I was not born with anything. I didn’t inherit 5 cents and I made everything
myself. I was in Marysville. Also I built 3 stores for Goodyear Tire in my
Interviewer: In this area?
Ruben: No I built, right near, you’re from Canton?
Ruben: All right. What’s that, 25 miles away. What’s that town?
Ruben: 25 miles from Akron. I built a Goodyear store there. Massillon. And
Dayton and Delaware. And I still have the store in Delaware which I gave it to
my grand- children quite a few years ago.
Interviewer: So you only built those 3 for Goodyear?
Ruben: That’s 3 for Goodyear. I was in Marysville. I built for Lawson
there, with other stores. In Marysville and Marion and Columbus, naturally, and
Reynoldsburg. I pioneered in Reynoldsburg when they had 1500 population. I was
the first one out there. Right across the street from the shopping center at
that time. And City Hall.
Interviewer: You were daring with the areas you went to.
Ruben: Wife was home dying of cancer. I don’t know why. I took a ride out
that way by myself and I saw 2 houses had “For Sale” signs right smack
across the street from City Hall. Right on E. Main Street and Half Drive.
Interviewer: That was like in another country.
Ruben: At that time. And I had the money from the store and I just, and I had
another building that I built near Morse Road and High, a 2-story building, and
when I got out of business I had a little mortgage on that and I want to be sure
that I’m going to eat so I paid off the mortgage of that building and within 2
weeks later this deal come along and I didn’t want to go into the bank and
borrow money on a note because a note, the bank would press me for 90 days or
120 days, I got to come in and pay off the note. I didn’t want that and I don’t
want anybody to push me. So I went back and remortgaged that building to have
enough money to buy the 2 houses which was very, very reasonable in those days –
$250-$275 a linear foot. And I bought the best corner, Half Drive and E. Main,
and I put up 6 storerooms on one corner. And then I built across the street. And
he had a little sign there “For Sale.” He had a house ready to fall
down. And I says, “You got 90 feet for sale?” He says,
“Yes.” I said, “Well I have very little money. I own this here
corner here and I can take 45 feet off of your hands.” He said, “What
do you want me to do with the other 45 feet?” I said, “I’ll take it
off your hands but you give me 3-4 years. But you can’t put any first mortgage
or second mortgage on this land. I’ll pay you in cash for the 90 feet.”
He was very much agreeable. He said, “I’m not worried about you
Ruben.” He said, “I know you own the other corner.” So that was
another break in my life. So I owned the two best corners in Reynoldsburg and I
was the first one that pioneered out there and I’d say in 1961. And my
contractor who built my home, he built a beautiful building for, I had 2
dentists, Dr. Geanekopulos, twins. They were in the old section of Reynoldsburg.
They contacted me and they found out that I’m buying this corner here and they
said, “Well, we’d like to be right on the corner.” And my architect,
and he was an engineer too. He was very, very helpful. Cecil Rose. He’s passed
away since then.
Interviewer: Did he do your building too?
Ruben: Yeah, yeah. He put up the beautiful stone and brick front, right on
the corner there, Geanekopulos there, and 3 other storerooms. So I had 90 feet
on one. I had both corners. Mind you, everything but no money now. Everything.
So that was Reynoldsburg. And then I went to, when I started in the clothing
business when I was young with $50 and $75 and $100 a week, putting in 60 hours
of my time. Of course, in those days, that was money.
Interviewer: Time was money. Sure.
Ruben: I saved up $2250 and I made a deposit on a double store room on
Grandview Avenue. And that’s really my foundation. I started out and I kept
the building around 4 or 5 years and I made around $4- or $5000 profit and I
paid off the mortgage, around a couple of thousand dollars, and I went forward.
Then I figured I’m going to go on North High Street. Mind you now, everything
but no money. So I find another little piece there near Longview and High where
the Ohio National Bank still is, or National City. There was a double storeroom.
There was a double storeroom, 2-story, had 2 or 3 apartments on the second
floor. I buy that building and then another year or two later, there was a piece
of land that was vacated adjacent, south and adjacent to this building. My
contract goes in there. I buy that and I level off the land and he builds me 2
lovely storerooms so I had 4 storerooms right together.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That’s a shopping center.
Ruben: Yes, yes. Right. But no parking, only parking on the street. You had
to park in the back in those days. So then in a few years, probably around oh I
think around 7-8 years, this was all slow because I had no money to work with, I
go north on North High to Chase and High. And Chase and High there was 80 feet
of frontage that was right on the edge of Worthington lot line. I’m telling
you I did wonders. Everything with no money.
Interviewer: Well that was pretty far out too, wasn’t it?
Ruben: Yes, I’m going into Worthington now but this is still Columbus,
Chase and High. A man has a sign out there, he wants to sell the land. So he
asked $17,500. So I said, “You can send up a contract. I’ll go along with
$17,000. That’s close enough.” So this here broker, takes the contract.
He says, “I really didn’t have it tied up,” he says, “But now
the man changed his mind. He wants $19,500.” I said, “You just got
done telling me $17,500.” So I said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do
with you. I’ll give you $19,500 but you give me some of your commission as a
rebate.” So we worked it out like that.
Interviewer: You negotiated it?
Ruben: And I got a loan from Dollar Savings at that time for the 4 storerooms
and it worked out very, very beautiful and I took my daughter out there at that
time, with my wife, after the 4 storerooms. He put up a beautiful building with
stone front, the latest. And glass coming down to the sidewalk there. And you
park right in front. And my daughter said, “Is this all yours Daddy?”
I said, “Yes, this is mine.” Everything on paper. So I had around, I
think it was, well it was close to $20- stuck in the land and the building cost
me $40- in those days so I had around $60-. I kept that building for around 25
years and I sold it for $300,000.
Interviewer: Wow. That’s, turned it over well.
Ruben: So I go up north in Worthington, one block north of #161 which was an
A&P store on the east side of the street and I had, there was a big lot for
sale, a 67-feet with a 71-feet, right together.
Interviewer: Now A&P was a chain of grocery stores way back when?
Ruben: Yes, that was a supermarket right directly across the street from this
piece of land. This piece of land was very, very deep so I got together with my
contractor and I said, “I’m going to give you the 67-feet and I’ll take
the 71-feet and we’ll go in partners together.” So he said, “I don’t
care to do this but I’ll go along with you.” So he builds me 3 storerooms
and Lawson was one of them and he pushes back the building around, he pushed it
from the street. They called it a front set-back, 120 feet. Mind you, I got 2
rows of parking right in front of the building. So after he gets that all
finished, I says, “Now when are you going to start?” ‘Course we
cleared off the land and the trees and everything. So he says, “I (indistinct)
” So I said, “You have any bites?” He says, “I have no
bites.” I says, “You can’t leave me here with 3 storerooms.”
Then I had to allow room for a side drive to come ’round in the back. I had
parking in the back too. Plus parking in the front. It was a deep lot.
Interviewer: Well that was an asset.
Ruben: Oh yeah. So he says, “I have no bites.” I says, “You
can’t leave me here like this.” I said, “I’ll tell you Cecil what
I’m going to do. I’m going to give you $3000 profit of what you paid and I’ll
pay you for leveling off the land.” He says, “Let me think it over.”
Interviewer: You wanted to own the whole thing, uh huh?
Ruben: He has no bites. I can’t leave him out there with, it’s like an
ant on the elephant’s back. He comes back to me within a week. He says,
“Give me $4000.” I says, “You got yourself a deal.” I buy
that piece of land from him, give him $4000 profit, give him what he paid for
the land and also the leveling off of the trees and he leveled it off, ready to
start building. Then we built a 2-story building adjacent to my 1-story building
and adding 3 more stores. It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. The latest in
design for a storeroom.
Interviewer: So you had it all locked up yourself then?
Ruben: Everything myself. I had no partners by the way in my whole life.
Never had a partner so. So I get a loan on the 2-, well after he builds me the 3
storerooms, I was ready to go on to something else, once I had my loan and I
paid him off. So he builds me 8 4-room offices with a doorway on the end
entrance to go upstairs. And I had it all panelled with walnut panelling and 3
more storerooms attached to my 3 storerooms to the north. So I had 3 storerooms
to the south all attached. It was a shopping center, 6 storerooms with a doorway
going up with all glass doors at the door going upstairs, beautiful hall . . . .
Ruben: So the way he made the offices, if a person wanted an accordion door,
he wanted to close the 2 rooms so we can rent a person for 4 rooms, either way.
Interviewer: Expandable, uh huh.
Ruben: And even we can go rent a person 8 rooms. Anyway, I had 8 4-room
suites and 2 2-room, and 2 rooms for the leaders in the back and everything and
the steel stairway going outside for the exit, all steel stairway. He made a
beautiful building there. I kept that building for 25 years and I sold it for
$400,000. That was years ago. The same man who owns it now could probably sell
it for $7- or $800,000.
Interviewer: It’s still standing?
Ruben: Oh yeah. Yeah. Beautiful.
Interviewer: What was going on in the world at that time when you were doing
all this building?
Ruben: Well my wife passed away in the meantime after a few years there. She
had died of cancer.
Interviewer: Billie, Billie Sillman. Her maiden name was Sillman?
Ruben: Yeah she was a college graduate and had a . . . .
Interviewer: She was from here in Columbus?
Ruben: Yeah she had. And she was on the honor roll, cum laude. She was
a graduate social worker.
Interviewer: Who were her parents, her family . . . .
Ruben: Abe Sillman was her father who had a tailor shop and dry cleaning.
They lived on the hillltop and they had their business on West Broad Street near
their home. So anyway, I don’t know where I met her, at a dance or someplace.
I just can’t think where I met, anyway we were married for around 19-20 years
and then she passed away. She died of leukemia. She had 2 cancers, cancer of the
rectum, for, well lasted 17 years with leukemia. Had 2 cancers and . . . . life.
Interviewer: And you had a child together, you and Billie?
Ruben: Yes had one child, Peggy, and she died of liver cancer.
Interviewer: And how old was she?
Ruben: Thrity-four years old.
Interviewer: And what year was that?
Ruben: I don’t know what year it was. Anyway, so . . . .
Interviewer: Been a lot of years?
Ruben: My daughter had two lovely children and the children today worked out
beautiful. One’s married to a nice Jewish boy her age.
Interviewer: Tell us your granddaughter’s name, give us your grauddaughter’s
names and who they’re married to.
Ruben: Cathy married a young man named Zweig.
Interviewer: His last name is Zweig, Z-W-E-I-G?
Ruben: Michael Zweig, Z-W-E-I-G, yes.
Interviewer: And where do they live?
Ruben: They live in Aurora, Ohio, right, it’s in Cleveland. It’s right on
the outskirts of Cleveland. Well it’s about 20 minutes from . . . .
Interviewer: What’s their, do they have children do they?
Ruben: Yeah two lovely children. The young boy is around about two and a half
Interviewer: What’s his name?
Ruben: . . . . name is Jacob. And the girls’a name is Olivia. She’s
around three months old now.
Interviewer: And what does Michael do for a living?
Ruben: He’s a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch downtown Cleveland.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And I know you see them pretty often.
Ruben: Yes. I just bought them a beautiful home, a 4-bedroom home, brand new.
It was one-year old.
Interviewer: And tell me about her sister?
Ruben: Her sister, she had a sister who is in New York City and went to
school there and graduated and went to Atlanta, Georgia and graduated and went
back to New York and she had a very fine job and . . . .
Interviewer: Tell me her name?
Ruben: Betty Jane Klinger. She married a young man named Andrew Klinger which
she met, a Jewish boy, and they met in New York, they’ve been married. Her
age. It’s all fate. So he come from a lovely family.
Interviewer: And they have children, do they, Betty Jane and . . . .
Ruben: Trying to raise a family but nothing’s happening as yet. I bought
them a new home and . . . . home. It’s a showplace.
Interviewer: In . . . .
Ruben: In New Albany, Ohio.
Interviewer: It’s beautiful there. Well thank God you were able to enjoy
their life with you.
Ruben: I’m not patting myself on the back but I don’t know if there’s
ten people in my status that have done for their grandchildren. I’ve made big
investments for them with very little money and it’s come up. I’ve invested
in annuities and the annuities quadrupled and quadrupled and quadrupled and due
to that investment, they outfitted their homes with their annuities. They can’t,
I made it that they cannot touch their money but they get the income. So their
income starts at two years from now and it lasts for life. If they’re a
hundred years old, it lasts for life and it goes for two generations. Now my
granddaughters’ children can enjoy that. Now they got to pay tax on that. My
grandchildren get the income but they got to pay tax on it. It’s taxable. It’s
taxable. But they get it.
Interviewer: So you’ve provided comfort . . . .
Ruben: Ohhhhh. Say no more, say no more. That’s, there’s no, I don’t
think there’s ten people, I know in my life my cousin Leonard Schottenstein
did this same thing. He buys a piece of real estate, he puts all his
grandchildrens’ names on it, which is smart, very, very smart. Oh I built
another building in East Brunswick, New Jersey. I took over a man for . . . .
and I took a man who was in financial trouble and I took over his mortgate while
the building was going up. It was being built full union by Borden’s and they
had their engineers in New York City at that time. Beautiful lease, a 15-year
lease with a rental at $6750 a month and after the building is two years old,
Borden’s is responsible for the inside and outside and the blacktop and
Interviewer: So that’s . . . .
Ruben: . . . . fifty.
Ruben: Who’d, my accountant calls me in one day. He says, “You know,
see, this building, the income is going to cost you quite a bit of money because
your interest is naturally deductible from your income and your taxes.” But
I had around $2000 of that income every month going into principle. Well even
so, well I don’t have it in my pocket but it’s there. Uncle Sam’s going to
tax you on that, see? So he said, “I would say if you can sell it or give
it to the trust.” I said, “Which would be cheaper.” He said,
“Well if you establish your trust,” I’ve got several trusts already,
he said, “You give it to the trust.” So I paid $42,000 in taxes as a
gift tax just to give to the trust, that building. I had no cash flow if you
know what I’m talking about; cash flow is over and above the mortgage
payments, which they even paid the real estate tax. I had nothing to pay off.
They paid everything. I had expense, I had zero. You could stay home and clean
your fingernails and that check would come in for $6750. How beautiful. I
offered it to several people already and they asked me how much cash flow it’s
got. I said, “It don’t have any cash flow but this building, Borden’s
going to, it’s got a 15-year lease with a 15-year loan. In other words, Borden’s
going to pay off this building to the last day of your lease.”
Interviewer: That’s pretty good security.
Ruben: Who do I find? Your own brother-in-law.
Ruben: Leonard. Leonard and Bernie. They all had money. They just got done
selling several pieces of property. Call him in. Within five minutes, it had no
cash flow now, took close to $300,000 just to handle the deal. See ’cause he
took over my mortgage in other words. So anyway. Then prior to that, I go out
and buy a piece of land in Reynoldsburg next to my centers, that’s a little
later on in life. And I buy a piece of land that I could build six storerooms.
After the broker sells me that, he comes back within two weeks. He says,
“You want $50,000 profit?” I said, “That sounds pretty
good.” I said, “Let me go home and think about it. Let me go home and
think about it.” I go home and I start thinking the broker’s commission
and Uncle Sam’s tax on it at $50,000, I’m going to wind up with $20-, not
$50. Come back to my broker and says, “This is no deal,” I says.
“I got to pay out too much money from the $50-. I don’t keep
anything.” He said, “Well you bought a piece of land. We can always
build storerooms.” I says, “Yes, that’s the way we’re going to
go.” I happened to get a broker, I had a lot of brokers come to my rescue.
There was an optical place on Front Street that had to move because there was a,
what do you call that there when they, case they make you move and they condemn
the place, or something. I don’t know. So he brought me these; there was a
couple of tenants in this building. The Gas Company was right near Chestnut and
Interviewer: Downtown Columbus?
Ruben: Yeah. He brings me these people. Anyway he builds me six beautiful,
Twentieth Century at that time I got to build me six storerooms that I wanted to
get somebody else as far as the building costs started going up. So within two
years the broker come to me. He says, ‘course he put in some high-leases and
he comes over to me. He says, “I got a buyer of these people, the optical,
they come out with quite a bit of money and they would like to buy the whole
Interviewer: What was the optical company?
Ruben: I just can’t think of it.
Ruben: Anyway so I says, “Cecil, I didn’t build this to sell.”
And here this broker is offering me a big price for the building. I said,
“All right, I’m going to go along and sell the building.” So instead
of $50,000 profit, I made $265,000 profit on this building.
Interviewer: You waited for the right time?
Ruben: I didn’t know it was the right time. But anyway I got these. So then
I looked for a trade and that’s how I found the Bordens that was just a man
had bought it and he wanted to get out from under. He had no cash flow and he
was in financial distress and I, he turned me over the mortgage and I paid $2000
for the mortgage and I think I give him, I think the whole deal cost me $60,000
outright. So that was a beautiful thing. That was a beautiful thing.
Interviewer: So let me ask you this. Or maybe it’s jumping the gun. But you
are retired now?
Ruben: I’m retired now. I sold out the real estate. I had nineteen
buildings in my lifetime. Started with $50. There’s a lot of jumping around
with $50. Anyway, be as it may, I put all that money, whatever I got for the
real estate into the stock market and that’s where I am right now. I also want
you to know I never bought a share of stock on credit. That’s called
“margin” because that can give you a heart attack because if you buy
on margin and the stock price goes down and the broker calls you in and says,
“You have to come up with quite a bit of money,” and you go to the
bank and he says, “Well the climate is not right today.” He says,
“Maybe you come back in another couple of months and we’ll see what we
can do.” I didn’t want that to happen and that would give me a heart
Interviewer: And you’d be stuck?
Ruben: And I’d be stuck. Somebody’s got to rescue you or you may have to
come up with, I don’t know, maybe $10,000, $20,000, money that I would not
have. And that would give you a heart attack. Anyway, I never did that and I
never got myself in that kind of a condition and I’m not that greedy. So . . .
Interviewer: You didn’t dig any holes you couldn’t jump out of?
Ruben: That’s right, that’s right. And I never had a partner. I never had
Interviewer: Well I know you did well and thank God that worked out with . .
. . Let’s go back to, I want to get some more pictures of your family and we’ll
talk more business as it pops up. Tell us about your mother and dad.
Ruben: Well my dad worked very hard and he shouldn’t have been in that kind
of business that he . . . .
Interviewer: Could you tell me your dad’s name again?
Ruben: Max Ruben.
Interviewer: Yeah and your mother?
Ruben: Is Goldie Schottenstein Ruben. And I think my mother got married when
she was 19 in those days and my dad was around 12 years older I believe. I think
he was, I don’t know maybe 26, 27 years old. And, but like I say he come to
Columbus and went in business in 1906. He come with no money at all. No money at
Interviewer: Tell me who your siblings are, your brothers and your sister?
Ruben: Well I have a brother Saul who is a year and a half older than I am.
Interviewer: Saul is the oldest then?
Ruben: Saul is the oldest. He lives in Pittsburgh and he’s been living
there since 1945.
Interviewer: Tell me about his family.
Ruben: His family. He married a Silberstein, Jack Silberstein’s sister and
married oh a short time, I think 4 or 5 years or something like that, and she
fell off the couch one night, cerebral hemorrhage. And she lasted for around 4
days, 5 days.
Interviewer: Did they have children?
Ruben: Thay had children, two children who are still living and one girl is
married and one girl never did get married.
Interviewer: What are their names?
Ruben: Judy is one child, and my mind can’t work here.
Interviewer: That’s okay.
Ruben: Another girl who’s a psychologist and lives in Connecticut. And Judy
is married to a cardiologist.
Interviewer: Did Saul remarry eventually?
Ruben: He remarried and he’s married now 37 years, 5 years longer than I am
to a Jewish girl, a young lady, who was a widow of 12 years. Met her on a blind
Ruben: Yeah, Ethel was a widow and she had two children.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And they still live in Pittsburgh?
Ruben: Still live in Pitts—. The daughter lives in Pittsburgh but the son
is married and he’s with a big law firm. He’s a . . . .
Interviewer: But Saul and Ethel still live in Pittsburgh?
Ruben: Oh yeah. In Pittsburgh. Yes. In a condominium. Yes. In a 6-story
Interviewer: And another brother?
Interviewer: Bernard? And tell us about his family.
Ruben: Well he married Harry Cowan’s daughter Florine and Florine had a
sister. Just the two girls. And her sister was married to Morrey Levison who is
still living and her sister has since passed away.
Interviewer: Her sister’s name was? Peggy?
Ruben: Peggy. Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: And how many children do . . . . Bernard is known as Bunny.
Ruben: Yes. Now you want me to tell you about Bunny’s family?
Interviewer: Bunny’s family. Uh huh.
Ruben: Well Bunny had Harlan and Larry and Marcie.
Interviewer: And they’re all married and live here in Columbus?
Ruben: All married and live here in Columbus. Yes, yes, yes.
Interviewer: And your sister?
Ruben: I have a sister who was born when I was 18 years of age. And she’s
married to Murray Ebner and she’s a grandmother.
Interviewer: Your sister’s name is?
Ruben: Is Sylvia.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And Sylvia and Murray have how many children?
Ruben: Well they have Alisa and Cindy and Mark. Three. Yeah.
Interviewer: And they all live in Columbus?
Ruben: All live in Columbus. And Cindy is the only one that is not married.
She lives in German Village.
Interviewer: Okay. I know you come from a huge family and I’m one of your
Interviewer: Can you tell us something about your relatives, your family?
Give us some background on that? Your mother was one of . . . .
Ruben: Well she was the only girl in the family. She had all these brothers
and they had all these children and that’s why I have so many cousins
Interviewer: How many brothers did your mother have?
Ruben: Mother had . . . .
Ruben: Eight. Yeah.
Interviewer: My father-in-law Meyer was one of them.
Ruben: Yes and Ephraim Schottenstein, who was the oldest brother, he married
a Zussman, young lady from Cincinnati who was in the jobbing business and quite
well-to-do family at that time. They had a big jobbing business in Cincinnati
and Leon, I mean Ehphiam Schottenstein, that’s who I’m talking about, little
family always bought the goods from Cincinnati and they never purchased anything
in Columbus for their own personal needs. Never went to the Union or Lazarus to
buy anything. Always, that’s where they operated. I’m not criticizing people
but my mother always took us, we always went got the clothing from Lazarus and
the Union, always got the best. Always got the best. Even when my father could
not afford it. My father was not wealthy but he always made a living. We always
had plenty . . . .
Interviewer: Let me ask you something. When you talk about “a
living,” do you have any, I’m sure you have some recollections of the
great Depression. Can you tell us about what your life was like around then?
Ruben: Well I don’t know. I was 16, 17 years old at that time in 1929 and
there was no business. So I went to work for Schiff Shoe Store. I was maybe 17,
18 years old and I worked all day, just on Saturday. On Saturday. They couldn’t
use me for the rest of the week. I was through high school or in high school. I
just forget. I worked all day Saturday and made $2.25. So what I did with the
$2.25, Ed Bailey had a shirt shop on, he sold shirts, Arrow shirts on Broad and
High. A little 2X4′. So I went in there and bought a shirt. That was nice.
Interviewer: With your big money?
Ruben: With my big money, $2.25. Yeah. But things were very, very bad and
Schiff Shoe Store, they had coupons for shoes and clothing. And they had, on the
desk there they had coupons . . . .
Interviewer: What were the coupons about? How did you . . . .
Ruben: Well people had no money then.
Interviewer: So they used coupons? They got coupons from the government?
Ruben: It’s like, yeah. For food, but they used it as for shoes.
Interviewer: Like food stamps are now?
Ruben: Yes, yes. And specified for shoes and that’s how Schiff’s had a
store there on Long and High Street.
Interviewer: So they were able to take care of the people?
Ruben: Things were very, very bad in those days. In fact nobody knew how to
make any money. Nobody had any money and the government was issuing script in
those days. It would be used the same as money.
Ruben: Script. Yeah. Which they never did but it was on the verge of that.
Interviewer: But it never, never did . . . .
Ruben: No occurred. No, no.
Interviewer: Okay. Alvin, we’re just about at the end of this first tape so
I’m going to stop and turn the tape over and we’re finishing Tape 1. Okay,
we’re now on Side B of Tape 1 and we’re going to continue our discussion. We
were talking about the great Depression and how life was then. Tell me a little
bit about your, what was going on at home. Where did you live? Do you remember
the first house you lived in?
Ruben: After getting married . . . .
Interviewer: No we talked about when you were a kid.
Ruben: Oh when I was a kid on Bedford Place. And this is one block east of
Linwood Avenue and we lived there for 17 years.
Interviewer: It was 716 Bedford.
Ruben: 716 Bedford right. And my dad I think bought the house for $6500 in
those days. And we were the first family, a new loan, feature come in from the
Galbreath, 4% loan on anyone who would buy a house. So my dad was one of the
first applicants to get the 4% loan. He was paying much higher rate for interest
on a mortgage rate.
Interviewer: Do you remember where you lived before that? Before Bedford?
Ruben: On South High Street. I moved from, when I was about 2 years old, from
South High Street. My mother had a 10-flat, 10-apartment flat with her brothers.
Interviewer: Was that 1510 South High?
Ruben: 1502 South High Street. Yeah.
Interviewer: My husband and I lived at 1510.
Ruben: Is that right?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Ruben: So anyway we moved away from there when I was around 2 years old,
something like that, and we lived on Bedford. So Bedford, it was, it was
beautiful surroundings there, a lovely neighborhood and lovely homes and all
the, my uncle, Uncle Sol Ruben lived on Linwood Avenue and the Goldbergs and the
Krakowitzes all lived right near each other and later on, Justin Sillman, who
was my brother-in-law, he lived across the street from Sol Ruben so within that
block or two, they all lived together there.
Interviewer: It was a good neighborhood?
Ruben: Yes, very nice, very nice.
Interviewer: So you lived there until you got married?
Ruben: ‘Till I got married and then I lived on, 7 long years I went into a
3-bedroom second floor apartment on Geers Avenue. It was a building that, single
duplex, owned by a teacher from Roosevelt Junior High School and she had another
4-family right adjacent to that. And it was a lovely place and we had 3 bedrooms
so we lived there for 7 long years and then my mother-in-law, she was not
feeling well at the time so the doctor said she should live with someone for a
little while and maybe she would feel better. I don’t know what was wrong with
her at the time. Anyway so I consented to, anyway. So we had 2 families living
in that 3-bedroom which was nice and they didn’t intercede with my personal
business and I . . . .
Interviewer: Well that wasn’t too unusual at that time that people came
from other parts of the world and they had to make . . . .
Ruben: No, no, everybody did that. So within that 7 years I was looking for a
house. Every Sunday to go ahead and buy, I could never find anything. Maybe just
fate. So I had no money and my mother said she’d give me $3,000 to go and find
a house. My in-laws, I didn’t ask them and they didn’t want to give or they
did want to give, they didn’t give, I don’t know. Anyway I wind up with
nothing. And I stayed there 7 long years ’till I found a piece of land of
Bexley Park for $3450 I believe, 65–they were all 65-foot lots and on Fair
Avenue there was only 65- and 70-foot lots.
Interviewer: What’s your address on Bexley Park?
Ruben: 2785 Bexley Park.
Interviewer: You still live there?
Ruben: Still live there, 50 years. I built a story and a half. I sleep
downstairs. We’ve got a bathroom, a dining room, a living room and den.
Interviewer: Lovely home.
Ruben: Yeah and two bedrooms and a gorgeous bath upstairs, all white glass,
Carrara glass. So God forbid I would have to sell my home if I had a heart
attack. That was my thought, see, to have a bedroom downstairs.
Interviewer: Well that’s your foresight.
Ruben: Yeah. All the lots were for sale and I had no, I could have bought
beautiful lots for $65-$70 on Fair Avenue where Herman Schottenstein bought one
right on the corner. My mouth was drooling for that lot, 72-feet. For $65.
Ruben: $65 a linear foot. A linear foot. That come to around, I don’t know,
$6500 for the whole lot. Something like that. There’s a lot of lots, all those
lots and beautiful homes that were like on a corner of Roosevelt and Fair, they
were selling for $15,000, the houses that you’d pay today, $2-, $2 and a half.
Interviewer: $200-, and $250,000 and up.
Interviewer: You’re right. Let me ask you about the synagogue you belong
Ruben: Oh by the way, so after I sell these apartments, my share was $15,000.
That’s all I had. Well we had, it’s a place . . . . High Street, Howald’s
Ruben: H-O-W-A-L-D-‘-S. They had draperies and bedroom furniture so they
outfitted the whole house, the carpeting and the draperies and everything, in
those days. So I figured, well, I’m going to get a loan on my home so I can’t
pay Howalds and pay the mortgage loan at the same time ’cause I’m only
drawing $50 or $75 a week working 60 hours, so instead of getting a $13,5- loan,
I got a $15- loan on the house and then when I went in to start the building,
they said, “buildings,” I had the house all paid for in 3 years.
Interviewer: Wow, that was good.
Ruben: I didn’t want anybody to push me with a note loan if I go into the
bank because they would be 120 days or 90 days and I’d have to come in and pay
off the loan from the note so that’s why I went back and remortgaged my home
again with a 15-20 year loan. I got plenty time, nobody’s pushing me. See? And
that’s my thought. That’s just what I did. I had my house remortgaged 3
times. Of course I paid it off a long time ago, but I’m talking about . . . .
Interviewer: But you had a base to work with?
Ruben: Yes. After I had my house, yes.
Interviewer: Sure. All right, let’s go back now to your, we’re talking
about your neighbor- hood. You mentioned some of the neighbors. Who were some of
your boyfriends as you . . . .
Ruben: I had a very close boyfriend, Hyman Sowalsky. His father was in the
scrap, he was a broker in the scrap, and his family was very, he had a nice
sister Bess and she worked at the Union. She was very close to us. And just a
half a block towards, that would be south of our house, just a half a block on
our street and he and I were good friends. And then I had a very close friend
with Milton Cohen who was Norman Cohen’s brother. And then we all chummed
around together and he’s since passed away a long time ago and he went to,
where did he go, Atlanta, Georgia I believe. I’ve got to stop and think. He’s
since passed away. Anyway, he and I, and then Harold Korn. All our boys, all our
friends were about the same age.
Interviewer: Where did you guys hang out when you were youngsters?
Ruben: Well we had Buckeye Lake which was 28 miles from Columbus and there
was two dance halls on one side of Buckeye Lake and also on the other and we
used to go there and dance and we met a lot of girls and there was dirty roads
at that time, all muddy roads at that time. There wasn’t like it is right now.
That all come later.
Interviewer: Who had a car to drive out there?
Ruben: Well, who had a car? Well we’d take our own car.
Interviewer: Your dad’s car?
Ruben: Your dad’s car. We bought a new Dodge in 1926 and after the war, the
family bought a 5-passenger Chevrolet coupe at a price of $750, brand new, in
Interviewer: You wish you had it today, huh?
Ruben: And then my brother Bunny and my brothers start fighting, who’s
going to have the car what night and they were issuing gas stamps, gas coupons
so my brother Bunny said, “If I can’t have this car tonight, I’m
going,” so he took the whole booklet of gas stamps and tore up the whole
book. I had to go over to Fairwood Avenue School where they had OPA down there
and I told them I misplaced the book or something happened to it . . . .
Interviewer: He destroyed it?
Ruben: He destroyed it. If he can’t have it, he wanted his way, see. So
anyway, I got a new book of gas stamps so we all stopped fighting, who’s going
to have the car.
Interviewer: Let me ask you did you fill us in on all your friends that you
had during school and . . . .
Ruben: I probably had, there was Lou Ruben who was a cousin of mine and I had
a cousin also Bernard Ruben and . . . .
Interviewer: Where did you go to school? Where did you go to elementary?
Ruben: Elementary school was Main Street School and went there for elementary
to junior high school, Roosevelt Junior High. So I graduated there and then went
to South High School. Everybody went to South High School. They placed me in
East High for two weeks and I don’t know why because of our lot line from our
house. They separated the street and lot lines. I seen it right away. I went to
the Board of Education. I got transferred right away to South High School ’cause
I’d get a street car on Linwood and Livingston and that would take me to
Parsons and Livingston and I would transfer to the other bus that would go down
Parsons Avenue and leave me off at South High School.
Interviewer: It was a bus?
Ruben: Yes. A street car actually in those days. Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Do you remember what it cost to take the street car?
Ruben: Six cents. Six tickets for a quarter.
Ruben: And gasoline was 15-16 cents a gallon.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Nobody thought anything about taking the bus or walking
to wherever you had to go.
Ruben: It was too far to walk. That was too far to walk, yes. Yeah,
everything was, busses later on in life, but street cars mostly.
Interviewer: Did you go to college or anything?
Ruben: Went to Ohio State for over a year. Yes, I went for around 15 months
but I was interested in business and I didn’t want any more school and school
was not my cup of tea. Everybody kept telling me, “You can’t put your
mind on it if you don’t like it, if you don’t like what you’re
doing.” Anyway, my father had a store and instead of us kids coming being
in school and playing basketball, we don’t have any athletes in the family, we
were not sports minded, so we all went to the store right from school.
Interviewer: That was your . . . .
Ruben: That was my program.
Interviewer: Yeah. And you didn’t think anything, I mean, you didn’t
fight it. You just, that’s what you wanted to do and you had to do?
Ruben: It’s another place to go, right from school, yeah.
Interviewer: Were you involved at all in activities like at Schonthal Center
or . . . .
Ruben: Oh yes, we went to the Schonthal Center, yes.
Interviewer: What do you remember about Schonthal Center?
Ruben: Well I remember the home and . . . .
Interviewer: What kind of activities?
Ruben: fairly new. Well we had AZA there and we had Demolay and I belonged. I
started the Hersch Kobacker Chapter of Demolay.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Tell us what Demolay is.
Ruben: Well it’s a offset of the Masons. And that lasted, we named it after
Arthur Kobacker’s grandfather. And Arthur Kobacker’s father gave us a little
money from time to time to set up the Hersch Kobacker Chapter of Demolay.
Interviewer: So you found some time . . . .
Ruben: Yes, and we had the dances with AZA and different things that we took
part in there. There were other sport things. They had pool tables there in the
Schonthal Center. It was a big home actually and . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us about what World War II, what happened during the war?
Did you have to go into the service? Anybody in your family have to go into the
Ruben: Oh yes. Well World War II come along and we all went to the induction
center and I was taken and my brother Bunny was taken the same day and my
brother Saul. My father thought he would lose his mind. Three brothers the same
day in the same truck. So it just happened that my brother Bunny who has asthma
in those days and my brother Saul, he had a little too high blood pressure.
Anyway they got thrown out, told to go back home, and they took me into the
service and I was into Field Artillery for 13 months.
Interviewer: Where were you stationed?
Ruben: Stationed different places. Camp Reilley, Florida, Camp Becker,
Virginia, and then we were in Nashville, Tenneseee on maneuvers.
Interviewer: You didn’t have to go overseas?
Ruben: I didn’t go overseas. We were in maneuvers then in Nashville and
they were getting ready to go over and someone come to me and told me I’m
getting out of the service. I says, “Stop your kidding.” He said,
“Yes, that’s right. They’re going to leave you out of the
service.” I said, “Why?” He says, “They say you’re not
fit, you’re unfit for overseas.” Well I didn’t cry about it.
Interviewer: No I bet you didn’t.
Ruben: So 13 long months and my daughter was born. It was probably 5-6 weeks
before I even got to see her. Couldn’t even get a pass to come and see her.
See the baby.
Interviewer: So you were in the service already and you were married?
Ruben: Thirteen months, yeah. But I was lucky enough I didn’t see any
overseas duty. I was with the 79th Division Field Artillery.
Interviewer: Now you told us about your first wife and I know you were a
widower for a few years.
Ruben: Yeah a widower for five long years and everybody I was meeting had
small children. I was 50 or 52 years old already and I didn’t want any small
children. I wanted small children, I had myself. So I wasn’t looking for that.
And all at once I had a second cousin who was in the jewelry business downtown
South Bend and then he had a, my cousin Bunny Ruben, he was traveling around
different cities and he stopped in to talk to his uncle in South Bend. Well my
wife was a widow of two years. So his name was Lou Block. All the Block boys
were in the jewelry business. They had around 5-6 stores and one of them was
located in South Bend. That’s where my wife is from. So he calls me up one day
and he says, “Are you engaged?” I said, “No, I’m not
engaged.” Been going around with a young lady, a Jewish lady in Toledo and
I had one in Detroit I’m going around with. “But,” I said, “I’m
not engaged at the present moment.” He says, “Well I’m calling you
up right now to tell you that I think I have a lovely young lady for you of two
years and if I was looking for someone to get married, I’d go for her
myself.” Well he got my ears really perked up.
Interviewer: Perked up, huh?
Ruben: Well I was busy during the week but weekends I was not busy. So I was
down there within a couple weeks and they had a little house gathering and I met
her and I met some of her friends and everything and she was married to a young
man who was Manny Liss’s brother. Anyway, it was the Liss family. Anyway . . .
Interviewer: And then she was widowed?
Ruben: Yeah for two years and lived in a gorgeous home in South Bend with a
horseshoe drive and it broke my heart ’cause I couldn’t locate there ’cause
my business was in Columbus.
Interviewer: Sure, sure. How many children did she have?
Ruben: Well she had two grown children. One was in college and one boy was
teaching school. That’s Barry of course.
Interviewer: And her daughter’s name is?
Ruben: Her daughter’s Mary D. Miller at the present time. See? Yes.
Interviewer: So how long did you date before you married . . . .
Ruben: A little less than three months. I was ready and she was ready. Some
people go around today three years. They don’t know what they want.
Ruben: So anyway we got married and . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us your wife’s name.
Ruben: Yes. Fay Ruben. Fay Rodenstein at that time. Well Fay Rodenstein Liss
at that time and what I was going to say . . . .
Interviewer: So you got married after three months . . . .
Ruben: After three months.
Interviewer: and she came here to Columbus?
Ruben: Went on our honeymoon to Honolulu. That was a beautiful honeymoon.
Interviewer: What year were you married?
Ruben: June. Well we’ve been married 32 years. So you subtract it from 1998
from . . . .
Ruben: Well, yeah.
Interviewer: Okay. I know you have a happy marriage.
Ruben: Yes very, very happy marriage and my wife brought me a lot of luck.
Yeah. Lot of luck.
Interviewer: She is a lovely woman. I can add that. Mary D. is . . . .
Ruben: Mother of four children and she’s going through a divorce at the
present time. Married 17 long years to two different, well married 17 years to
this young man, a Jewish boy. Married the first husband, a Jewish boy. Just wasn’t
lucky enough to have happy marriages.
Interviewer: Who are her children?
Ruben: Her children are Adam and Jason Snyder.
Interviewer: Twin brothers?
Ruben: Twin brothers who are, one’s single and one’s married and one’s
living in Cleveland, Ohio and married a Jewish girl. Very happy. And she just
received her Master’s. So she’s working now so they have two incomes so that’s
really better than one income. Anyway . . . .
Interviewer: And where’s the other one?
Ruben: Adam is living here in town. He’s got an apartment on the Short
North I believe it is. And he works for Etna Life Insurance Company in the
Health Department. Doing a beautiful job. Beautiful job. Sells not single
individuals but he sells companies. Health insurance. Big thing today is health.
Interviewer: Very profitable. And her others?
Ruben: Yes. And the other two children is Benjy . . . . who’s 16 I believe
at the moment and he’s in high school and he’s got another year and a half I
think to graduate, or two years. And Sarah is the youngest child Mary D. has.
Lovely little girl. She goes to Bexley. She’s 12. Wait a minute. Ten or
Interviewer: She’s probably not quite 12.
Ruben: Yeah, I think she’s eleven years old. Yes, yes.
Interviewer: So Mary D. has a lovely family?
Ruben: Yes, yes.
Interviewer: And Barry her brother lives here in Columbus?
Ruben: Yes he lives in Columbus. Got an apartment there on E. Livingston
Avenue near Yearling Road there.
Interviewer: Okay. Let’s see, we’ve got a lot of, where do you spend your
winters? I know you don’t, you leave Columbus.
Ruben: Well we bought this, or rather Bunny bought this apartment and we both
went there at the same time actually in this high rise in Bal Harbour which is
North Miami, south of Hollywood, called Bal Harbour and we’re right across the
street from the Bal Harbour Shopping Center which got Nieman Marcus on one side
and Saks Fifth Avenue on the other.
Interviewer: It’s a beautiful area.
Ruben: A beautiful area. We’re next door south and adjacent to the Sheraton
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you spend the winter months there?
Ruben: Yes we come back very few times though but bought this apartment 18
Interviewer: Have you and Fay taken some other trips and traveled very much
Ruben: Well we went with Bunny and Florine with Johanson Tours to Canada, all
through Canada, around three years ago, and other different places.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You probably prefer being at home? You’re not much of
a traveler, huh?
Ruben: We don’t go away much in the summer time. Not too much. Mostly in
the winter though, in the winter time.
Interviewer: Well a business man like you who was always attached to what you
were doing with your business, and you probably didn’t need to travel a lot?
Ruben: Well as a young boy, I used to go Great Lakes cruises. I used to go, I
used to love those. That was ‘way before I was married. Used to go with Alvin
Interviewer: Have you ever been overseas? Have you gone to Israel or . . . .
Ruben: Oh yes. We went to Israel three years ago and we stopped in Paris on
the way back and we went there for oh that was ten days. We went this tour from
. . . .
Interviewer: The Federation?
Ruben: The Federation, yes.
Interviewer: They have great tours.
Ruben: Yeah so that was right around three years ago.
Interviewer: You know Alvin you’ve, thank God, lived a lot of wonderful
years and can you give us some picture of some things that you’ve seen change
like technology? I mean I know in my own lifetime I’ve seen, we’ve gone from
ice boxes to refrigerators. We’ve gone from listening to the radio to watching
television. There have been a lot of those kinds of changes.
Ruben: Yes. I remember the train station there on, interurban train there
where Nationwide Insurance is, where the whole block there . . . .
Interviewer: On North High Street?
Ruben: Yeah all North High Street, yes. And they did a beautiful job with
building the Nationwide building and the Regency Hyatt there. I guess it’s in
the Short North. I pioneered that North High Street over, good God it was 35-40
years ago and I bought a building there when Bunny and I was in business at 1112
North High Street, which I’ve since sold quite some time ago, right near
Fourth and High Street. Now after I sold that building, then the Short North
come into its own. Well that was quite a few years later though.
Ruben: All those shops there, I mean, just sprang up.
Interviewer: Well that’s where the train station was, in that area.
Ruben: Yeah, farther north, farther north.
Interviewer: The Short North is further north.
Ruben: Yes, we take Fifth and High and come in going south, back, to Fourth
and High, Third and High, First and High and then we keep on going south and
that’s where the Short North, between the Third and Fourth, and yes.
Interviewer: Yeah it took a few years ’till that got built up.
Ruben: Quite, quite. I remember when radio first come in. We had the Capehart
radio and RCA and different cabinets. And then there was no TV in those days
Interviewer: TV came in the early 50s.
Ruben: In fact when we were in business and went out of business those
shopping centers just started up. There was no discount houses. You never heard
of the name “discount.” And then years later then the discount houses
started up. In those days everybody wanted to do their shopping from 4:00 to
9:00 at night and we didn’t have the help to venture out and it was just a
stroke of luck that we did not have it ’cause we may have still been in the
clothing business and it would be a downhill . . . .
Interviewer: You’d be stuck there.
Ruben: Yeah, be stuck there is right. So just the fate of luck that it worked
out for us and for my brother Bunny, who was very, very successful. He didn’t
have any more than I had when we started out in business as far as that is
concerned. So after going out of the business in ’58, he went for himself and
I went for myself. Mind you, I never had a partner. Took years though. Took
Interviewer: Well we’re not going to talk a whole lot about what Bunny’s
life is like because I’m hoping I’ll be able to interview him too. It will
be interesting to get another family member interviewed. What do you find is
most important in your life now?
Ruben: Waking up in the morning and feeling all right.
Interviewer: Yeah that’s true.
Ruben: That’s your health. That’s how I worry about my health. I had a
very good report today. I got back from the doctor. My cholesterol is 140. Last
time it was 148 from almost 200. I take Zocor with 10 mg every night before I go
to bed. And that knocked it down.
Interviewer: Well you probably watch yourself.
Ruben: Used to be 225-250. I was afraid to take a cholesterol pill because I
did hear that there was a drug called Nevakor and Nevakor could harm your liver
so I was afraid to take that. So going to Florida, I have a very fine doctor. He
could be a doctor’s doctor, this man. And he had, he’s still got a practice
like General Motors. And he just sold his practice around 2-3 years ago. He’s
71 years old. So anyway . . . .
Interviewer: But you’re satisfied with your doctoring in Florida as well?
Ruben: Oh yes, and he, see I take my blood every three months. So I know what’s
doing with my body at all times. I don’t have to ask questions.
Interviewer: Well that’s the way to do it.
Ruben: So I know what my blood count is, what my sugar count, and
Interviewer: Well that’s the way to do it, you keep on top of it.
Interviewer: We didn’t talk very much, I don’t think we talked at all
about which synagogue you belong to.
Ruben: Agudas Achim. I was Bar Mitzvahed at the Agudas Achim synagogue
on Washington and Donaldson when I was 13 years old, naturally.
Interviewer: What was your Bar Mitzvah like? I know today we go to Bar
. . . .
Ruben: We didn’t have no such thing as parties. My dad had some wine and
some whiskey and a loaf of bread or a few loaves of bread. And that was the Kiddush
on Saturday morning.
Interviewer: In shul?
Ruben: In shul. That’s what you call poorer than poor.
Interviewer: But you didn’t, I don’t think people knew then that they
were poor. That was just the style then.
Interviewer: Now they can’t have parties big enough and loud enough.
Ruben: So I got a lot of presents in my day which come to $50. That was my
total monetary gifts.
Interviewer: Oh goodness. But you remembered that.
Ruben: I remember that.
Interviewer: People gave money usually for gifts, didn’t they, for Bar
Ruben: So then I hear that my mother’s brother Abe Schottenstein, that’s
Mel Schottenstein’s father, he was in the clothing business and he was so hard
up for money, I loaned him the $50.
Interviewer: Oh my goodness. At 13 years of age?
Ruben: At 13 years of age. I asked for that money back around ten times ’till
I got blue in the face and I finally, he scraped up $50 to repay me. Is this on
tape? It’s okay.
Interviewer: It’s okay. It’s humorous now as you look back.
Ruben: Yeah when you look back. Yeah. He gave me the $50. My mother didn’t
make any parties for me and I . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah. But that was the general style.
Ruben: And when I got married to my first wife, I didn’t have any party
either and I ran away because the war was coming on and I thought if I got
married, I got married at the age of 27 years old, and I thought that would save
me from the draft which it did not. So I got married in Covington, Kentucky by
the justice of the peace and then we got a rabbi. So we got twice.
Interviewer: So you eloped . . . .
Interviewer: and then later had a Jewish . . . .
Ruben: Well next day. Next day. And then we went in the rabbi’s study.
There was my Uncle Ben Schottenstein and his wife.
Interviewer: How did your family feel about it? Were they, did they approve?
Ruben: Oh yes, everything was approved but there was no parties or anything.
Nobody had no money for parties. We had a war coming on. Nobody was interested
in no parties. There was no money. So anyway.
Interviewer: Well you know I think we’re just getting ready to wind up now
but at the beginning of the tape I meant to establish a theme but now in
listening to our interview, I think it wouldn’t take very much effort to
realize that our theme pretty much was about your life, your business life and
your family life and you’ve lived in Columbus all your life so you are
certainly well established here.
Ruben: But my present wife was very, brought me quite a bit of luck. Yeah. I
did everything myself with no one’s help monetarily or any otherwise. If I
needed money, I’d go to the bank and . . . .
Interviewer: Do it on your own?
Ruben: Do it on my own, And it just to happened my brother-in-law, I can hear
him say now, “Now don’t involve Fay in your business.”
Interviewer: Who was that?
Ruben: My wife’s brother Stanley Rodenstein.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Ruben: So I . . . .
Interviewer: ‘Cause she was left a little bit of money?
Ruben: Well she had on her own. I didn’t, that’s one thing, I never . . .
Interviewer: That was hers?
Ruben: I never, my wife’s better, to have happiness in a family your wife
should have her own checking account and I have mine. I know what I write. She
knows what she writes. Understand. And that way you have happiness, especially
on the second time around.
Interviewer: Well still on the first time, I can tell you. I’m, thank God,
on my first marriage. I like that independence too. You need to be independent,
to be able to function on your own.
Ruben: Yes. So I wrote to all my people who where I had mortgages. I had
eight mortgages at the time when I got married to my second wife. I told all
these people I’m very, very prompt in paying you. I got the finest rating. And
my brother-in-law don’t want my wife involved in my business. And you know, my
sources, they went along with me. She signed the note but she didn’t sign the
mortgage. They went along with me anyway. I don’t know if that could happen
today though but anyway my sources . . . .
Interviewer: Well you certainly proved yourself.
Ruben: I had eight mortgages with Midland Mutual Life and I was the best
runner that they had. And I was prompt and they loved me and I got together with
them and . . . .
Interviewer: Well it worked out.
Ruben: beautiful relations with Midland Mutual Life. I started with them.
They were a source of luck too and good . . . .
Interviewer: Well I want to thank you on behalf . . . .
Ruben: That’s all right.
Interviewer: of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and I’ve enjoyed
having this opportunity to talk to you and sharing some of your life with us and
I hope your health continues and…
Ruben: I hope so.
Interviewer: we’ll have some more. Maybe we can do another tape in another
few years. See what happens.
Ruben: Thank you. Thank you.
* * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson