This is Molly Lakin speaking. I’m visiting Creekside this morning, March 4, 2007, and I’m going to interview Bernie Kaplan.
Interviewer: Good morning Bernie. We finally got together to interview. Bernie, would you tell me about yourself, all about things you’ve done here in Columbus, your life here in Columbus. How long . . . . Thanks very much Bernie. Bernie, when did you come to Columbus?
Kaplan: I came to Columbus when I was 15 years old and that would have been
about 1935, –34, 1934.
Interviewer: And where were you born?
Kaplan: I was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1919.
Interviewer: And your parents, where did your parents come from?
Kaplan: My father came to, was born in Russia, northern Russia, up on the
Caspian Sea. And he, at the age of probably l year old, he and the rest of his
family who remained there came to, worked their way from there to England, from
England to Canada and from Canada they walked across the border into the United
States and made their way from there, and I don’t know how many days or
anything, but my Dad was still an infant, but by the time they got to the United
States he was two years old. And they moved from there and went all the way down
the east coast and then they came in across the country and ended up in
Louisville, Kentucky where the oldest daughter and her husband had come when he
ran away from the Russian conscriptions, when they were taking Jews, and he was
in Louisville, Kentucky.
Interviewer: And your family lived in Louisville?
Kaplan: Yes, my father was originally from Louisville.
Interviewer: So when did you come . . . .
Kaplan: My father came, my father was, grew up and my Dad only went to the
first grade of school. He never went any further. He’d been, he was given to
this, my uncle, who took over the responsibility for him at that time and he was
a shoemaker and so my father started and learned the trade. But he didn’t go
to school. He couldn’t speak English.
Interviewer: That was where he was at that time?
Kaplan: Yeah. But by the time they got to Louisville, my father was already
maybe six years old. Took them that long to get there.
Interviewer: How many, did he come from a big family?
Kaplan: Pardon me?
Interviewer: Did your father come from a big family?
Kaplan: Yeah they lived there, yes it was a big family. They had seven girls
and one boy. My father was the only boy and he was the last one in.
Interviewer: And then he came to Columbus?
Kaplan: No, he never came to Columbus.
Interviewer: And how many brothers and sisters . . . .
Kaplan: No my Dad didn’t come to Columbus then. My dad, as a young man in
the 20s, the war hadn’t started, World War I hadn’t started yet, and he went
to Dayton to work in an armament factory where they were making shells for the .
. . .
Interviewer: The first World War?
Kaplan: for the European war. That was before the United States got in the War. And then he got in with some Jewish people there and he roomed with and eventually somebody said, “Let’s go to Columbus,” and he went to Columbus for a dance that the Jewish girls were having, something . . . It was probably at the Schonthal Center. I don’t know where else it would have been. At least I think it was
at Schonthal Center.
Interviewer: Is that where he met your mother?
Kaplan: And that’s where he met my mother. And within weeks, I guess he
came back to Columbus a few times and he asked my mother to marry him. And she
married him here in Columbus at the Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: What was your mother’s maiden name?
Kaplan: My mother’s maiden name was Rosen. She was Gertrude Rosen.
Interviewer: Uh huh. She has family here in Columbus?
Kaplan: Yeah she had brothers who was my Uncle Louis Rosen who was the father
of Billy and Marty and what was the girl’s name? I can’t come up with that
right now. I don’t, I know it. Anyway, then he had, my mother had a brother
Aaron, the youngest and Hymie, Herman, Hymie they called him.
Interviewer: Herman Rosen?
Kaplan: Yeah. They called him George a lot of times. But his name was Hymie,
Herman. And he’s buried at the Agudas Achim too.
Interviewer: Well then you’re all Columbus . . . . was all Columbusites?
Kaplan: (blank spot on tape) . . . . probably nine or ten years, well maybe
ten years old when we came to Springfield. And then we lived in Springfield five
years. My dad had opened a shoe repair shop there.
Interviewer: Were there many Jewish people in Springfield?
Kaplan: There were enough to have an Orthodox congregation and a in-between
Reform and . . . . (blank spot on tape)
Interviewer: In Springfield? And how long did you live in Springfield?
Kaplan: We lived in Springfield till I was 15.
Interviewer: You went to school there?
Kaplan: I was in high school when I left, yeah. I finished grade school and
middle school and high school.
Interviewer: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
Kaplan: I was in high school when I left.
Interviewer: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
Kaplan: I had two brothers, one Goody, George Kaplan and I had a younger
brother, Paul Kaplan. The three of us served in the United States Army. My
younger brother left when he was 15½ and ended up when they freed the
Philippines. That was the 37th Division in the Ohio National Guard
that was nationalized.
Interviewer: He was with the National Guard?
Kaplan: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Did he come home?
Kaplan: Yes he did.
Interviewer: And where did he live?
Kaplan: He spent his life in Columbus and died in Columbus.
Interviewer: In Columbus too?
Kaplan: Uh huh.
Interviewer: And Goody came back too?
Kaplan: And my brother Goody came home. My brother Goody never went overseas. My brother Goody started out as an air cadet. He volunteered before they drafted him. He’d already, both he and I had already started a business but he volunteered rather than be drafted. That was probably a year and a half after the war started. I volunteered the day after Pearl Harbor.
Interviewer: Where did you serve?
Kaplan: I left Columbus, I went to enlist rather and they sent us back to our
registry place for the draft and they said they could save two guys from going
if they would just go through it as volunteers under the draft. So we did and we
ended up at Fort Hayes and they had so many people wanting to go to service that
they had to give us a date to come back. So inasmuch as I had a job that my
brother and I made for ourselves, we started a little house-to-house business
selling silverware sets, William Roger silverware sets. Knocking on doors and then collecting 50 cents down and 50 cents a week. And by the time the war was declared December 7, we were, we had a little store on the second floor on High Street between Long and Gay, over a ten cent store. And we opened up a little jewelry store up there which we knew nothing about but we were willing to learn.
Interviewer: How interesting. All from selling silverware?
Kaplan: Yeah. Well, from the silverware though we had already expanded that
and we found out everybody needed mattresses. They had a bed and they needed mattresses.
Interviewer: So what did you do?
Kaplan: So we got a sample of a mattress that was maybe two feet by two feet,
the regular thickness of the mattress. We went around and sold those.
Interviewer: From house to house?
Kaplan: Fifty cents down and 50 cents a week. And this was, we were just
coming out of the Depression really.
Interviewer: But you were making a living that way?
Kaplan: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: How long were you in the mattress business?
Kaplan: Well at that point I was in it, Goody and I were in it probably 10 or
11 months. By the time, something like that. But it just caught on.
Interviewer: Is that right? People were in need of things like that?
Kaplan: People needed them and we had them.
Interviewer: At 50 cents a week?
Kaplan: Well each item so that, then it became a dollar a week.
Interviewer: It’s beginning of the credit business. Then what happened?
Kaplan: Well I volunteered and went to service. My brother gave me all kinds
of, he wasn’t very happy.
Interviewer: ‘Cause you went away.
Interviewer: Was this Goody?
Interviewer: Did he stay on with the business?
Kaplan: Oh one other comment. Where did we get the financing? My brother’s
father-in-law was Ben Friedman who was an attorney. And Ben Friedman at that point of life had some extra money and he invested it in Goody and I. And that’s where we got our financing. We didn’t have to go to a bank. And he financed this deal and he gave us the seed money. Fact of the matter is he gave us $5,000 to start off with and Goody and I at that point, that was before we started the business entirely. We went to Chicago and we got
off the train we went on and we hailed a taxicab and we told the taxicab driver
to take us to the center where all the manufacturers showed their merchandise in
Chicago. And he took us and drove us around. What we didn’t know is it was
just around the corner from the hotel we got. (Laughter)
Interviewer: Couple of farm boys going to the big city. So what happened?
Where did you end up then? In the jewelry . . . .
Kaplan: We had a house-to-house business. Within a few months, it wasn’t a
year, it was just a few months, we were able to, we were collecting and we would
sell and then we had to have somebody collect. So Goody continued on the selling
end and I started on the collecting end and the selling end, combining them. And
it worked out pretty good. Then we had a lucky break. A man that I knew from a former job that I had for a short period of time while I was going to Ohio State University. I would come in the afternoon, I would go in the mornings rather, in the mornings I would come in and check it. I had a job doing, this is before we had a store. And before we were even in
business. This was, precedes the business, oh that’s another story. I’ll
leave that alone.
Interviewer: What about this man?
Interviewer: What about this man?
Kaplan: Oh Goody and I were able to get this man that had worked with this
company that I was the clean-up guy in the mornings. I handed out the sets of
silver to these fellows that worked in a crew and they knocked on doors and sold
things to . . . .
Kaplan: No they sold 50 cents down, 50 cents a week. That’s . . . .
Interviewer: Isn’t that what they call “peddlers”?
Kaplan: That’s the way we got the idea, yeah. That started it. That’s
where we started. So we took one of those crews. He happened to be a Jewish man
that was a friend of my father’s and my mother’s. And he took his crew away
from that company and brought them to us so we had a crew.
Interviewer: Oh yeah, so you, the beginning of your business?
Kaplan: Uh huh, the beginning of our business.
Interviewer: And where did you go from there?
Kaplan: Well we had this store that we, this was a few months later, we had
this store. It was before Pearl Harbor. Then had the store and we were doing
pretty good in it.
Interviewer: Where was the store?
Kaplan: It was upstairs and it was across the street from Kay Jewelers and
there was a department store there, Dunn-Taft. And what else was there? And
Morrey Jewelers was on that side, the other side of the street. And around the
corner was the Union Company at Long and High. And in the one jewelry store
across the street, no it was in the Dunn-Taft store, they had a watch repair
department in that and the watch repairman and Goody became friends. So whenever
Goody would get something that he couldn’t handle or wouldn’t learn, he’d
go over and talk to the watch man.
Interviewer: And he learned from him?
Kaplan: He learned from him. He learned to repair watches. He was very
mechanical. Goody was very mechanical . . . .And that led him into the business that he had when he came back from service. Goody was drafted. They were going to call him for the draft and he went and volunteered so that he could become a, go in the Air Force. It wasn’t
the Air Force then. It was the Air Corps. And Goody volunteered about a year and
a half after I went in and I was in already eight or nine months.
Interviewer: Who took care of the business while you guys were gone?
Kaplan: Well when the three of us were gone, my sister-in-law Annette took it
over. She took it over and ran it. But then she got pregnant on one of Goody’s,
she went down and visited Goody in Miami and got pregnant.
Interviewer: Then what happened?
Kaplan: And then, we had a nice little business going too. And then . . . .
Interviewer: What was the name of your business?
Kaplan: It was sold. She and her dad engineered a sale while Goody was in
service. See, she ran it until she couldn’t.
Interviewer: And then when you came back what happened?
Kaplan: Oh my coming back is a story in itself.
Interviewer: Is that right? I’d like to hear it.
Kaplan: I ended up in the Air Force too but at that point, I was in the
Signal Corps. And I went to, left, no I wasn’t in anything at this point. I
went to Fort Hayes . . . . and after enlisting here and going through Fort Hayes
and the physical, about two or three days later, and it could have been longer
’cause this was after Christmas and before New Year, all this other happened
and I spent New Year on a train going from Columbus to New Jersey. And we ended
up at Fort Dix, New Jersey in a military camp that had been there for the New
Jersey National Guard and they still had their summer tents pitched. And so we
slept in a Summer tent that first couple of nights and then they finally got
some craftsmen to come in and put some boards up around the outside of the tents
to winterize them. That was the winterization. A couple of boards at the bottom,
eight inch boards at the bottom.
Interviewer: And what, did you go overseas?
Kaplan: Well in a period of six months, I spent two months there and they put
me in a Signal Corps Division of the Army. And at that point they also started a
school on radar, ground radar. The United States had learned about radar from
Britain, Great Britain. And they had radars there and so they started us on, to
learn radar. Nobody, the teachers didn’t even know what they were teaching.
Interviewer: It was all brand new?
Kaplan: Yeah everything was new.
Interviewer: Now how long were you in the Army?
Kaplan: I couldn’t even solder two wires together.
Interviewer: But when did you come back to Columbus?
Kaplan: No wait a minute. I went from there, we ended up in Florida at Tampa,
at Tampa, Florida. And we spent, that was at, by that time, by the time we got
there, this all took time. By the time we got there it was Spring and we spent
Spring in Tampa and I was supposed to be going to school to learn radar, which
they didn’t have a school. And nobody knew any more about it than I did.
Interviewer: But you were sent to learn?
Kaplan: And I didn’t know anything. And we were sent out as radar
Interviewer: Experts, huh?
Kaplan: And that’s, well I’d never seen a radar. (Laughter) We only knew
what the theory was.
Interviewer: But it was new, huh?
Kaplan: Anyhow, from there we were put on a train and we didn’t know where
we were going. And this is at, after we spent the cold weather in Fort Dix most
of the Winter. Then they put us on the train and by the time we get to the Tampa
it was Spring, which was completely ridiculous. And then we spent the Spring
there and that was sort of nice. Weather was nice and we thought we had it made.
From there we went to New Orleans. We went to New Orleans. And in New Orleans
they billeted us in the stadium they had for the university there. And we slept
on the ramps with our head up at the, the cots were on a slant of the ramp. And
that’s where they had put the cots. And your feet were down there and your
head was up here.
Interviewer: Like in a stadium?
Kaplan: And we had a ball. You want me to . . . .
Interviewer: I want to hear about when you came back to Columbus.
Kaplan: There was a couple of good experiences there in that but I won’t go
over that because we were there in that, we didn’t know what we were waiting
for. We were there waiting for an assignment. We knew we were going someplace
but we didn’t know where we were going.
Interviewer: Where did you go?
Kaplan: Well they gave us Winter uniforms. So where would you think we were
Interviewer: Up north?
Kaplan: We thought we were going over to Great Britain at that point.
Interviewer: Where did you end up?
Kaplan: No we didn’t end up there. We ended up after being, we went out to,
we were put on a boat and we were only allowed to come up, and the boat was in
the Gulf and we would, we left New Orleans. We know the boat was sailing but we
couldn’t even come up to see where we were going or even look. And we didn’t
know where we were going. And we were on that boat for ten days.
Interviewer: And you didn’t know where you were going?
Kaplan: We didn’t know where we were going. But anyhow, one night we’re
on the boat and we know that something’s bumping the boat but we still didn’t
know. Nobody told us anything. And what we were doing was going through the
Panama Canal. We’d just entered into it.
Interviewer: Then did you have an idea where you were going?
Kaplan: And then they took us on that boat and the boat raised up with the
water. By that time it was daybreak and we could see where we were at. We were
in the Panama Canal.
Interviewer: You had no idea?
Kaplan: No idea. Anyhow we got off there and we were put into platoons and
they drilled us for a while. I conked out. They sent me to a hospital to see
what was wrong and I was only there a couple of days and they sent me back. And we were assigned to a aircraft learning group in one of the small, the permanent, they had permanent bases in Panama already and that had been there for a long, long time. And they had training facilities so they started training us at that point. And we went through some training but we never did see a radar. And oh it’s plenty of experiences in Panama, Panama City, and those are all stories by themselves. And then we went to, they put us on a boat and we didn’t know where we were going and we ended up on the Sandblass Islands.
Interviewer: Where’s that?
Kaplan: That’s south of the Canal, on the south side of the Canal, on the
Atlantic side. It’s, we were about half way between Panama, between the Canal
itself and the start of Colombia.
Interviewer: How long after that . . . .
Kaplan: We were on that island and that’s a story in itself. And they did
visual observation, looking for aircraft with a communication system by radio
into the Canal. And we had that for visual observation and that lasted a good
three months, maybe four months. It went a lot more than that. Anyhow what were
around us were just these natives who had, they had rings in their noses . . . .
Interviewer: Jungle people?
Kaplan: gold rings in their noses. They were gold.
Interviewer: Jungle people?
Kaplan: No the Indians? They weren’t jungle people. They were island people. They made their living, they made their food supply from the sea. They farmed on Panama itself and had little acreage farms where they grew some stuff, but not very much. (blank space on tape)
Interviewer: You stayed in the jungle for two years?
Kaplan: Yeah two years.
Interviewer: And then where did you go from there?
Kaplan: I came back to, I came in from the jungles because while we were
unloading a boat of supplies, I caught a barrel of oil, we had to have oil. By
that time we had a whole station that they built for us with a portable radar
unit up on the hill. And we had to have diesel engine fuel for it.
Interviewer: And you stayed there for . . . .
Kaplan: I stayed there for, well the total time out at the Sandblass and
coming back in to get my teeth fixed after I had an accident when they were
unloading the oil and one of the things came back and hit me in the mouth.
Interviewer: Were you hurt badly?
Kaplan: No, broke out my teeth, two teeth. And they took me back in to have
that fixed but that was after we’d already had a barracks up on the hill, on
what, we called it “the hill” ’cause it wasn’t a mountain. It was
a high hill. And they’d sent engineers out and people to build a barracks up
on the hill that held 50 men. We had 50 men by the end of, oh I’d say it must
have been six months after I had gone there. And I spent the next year and a
half there on the hill. And then the hill was in the jungle.
Interviewer: This was a lookout place?
Kaplan: By that time, it took months but I can’t put it in order. But
before I left we had a tower that was 300 feet high and had a visual observation
point up on top that you had to go every night, or every day and night, 24-hour
day and night, and somebody had to be up there and look out to the Mediterranean
and see what’s going on. And in that period of time, we did see activity with
boats which we had to report and then we also saw aircraft fly and we had to
report. And we did that by radio connection.
Interviewer: When were you out of the Army?
Kaplan: I spent two years there. I came home. I made application from there
to be an air cadet. And they accepted me and I came in by the Panama Canal. I
came back to the Panama Canal when I broke my teeth out. A barrel of oil where
we were unloading hit me in the face. And it didn’t break my nose but it
bruised it pretty badly, but it broke out my two front teeth. So they sent me in
’cause the nerve was exposed and I was in pain.
Interviewer: And then how long after that were you in the Army?
Kaplan: They even sent a boat in after me, which was nice of them.
Interviewer: Well the Army did do some good things. Now how long were you in
the Army after that?
Kaplan: Well from there, I was in there and I applied for air cadet. So they
were still taking guys who wanted to fly. So I passed the test. Even I took off
my glasses and passed all their tests.
Interviewer: Good. So you came back and you went to air cadet school?
Kaplan: I came back as an air cadet. They washed the whole group, took them
Interviewer: Is that right? It was all in vain?
Kaplan: That was about two years after the war started, they washed it out.
They had enough guys.
Interviewer: What did you do?
Kaplan: By that time they put me in a, where did they send me?
Interviewer: Did they send you home?
Kaplan: Oh no, no.
Interviewer: When did you get home?
Kaplan: About six months later. Six months later they gave me a furlough and
I came back to Columbus.
Interviewer: All your family here?
Kaplan: I had been corresponding with Eileen Grossman. Her parents’ name
was Louis and Margaret Grossman. And related to Ben Grossman’s family, a
brother. And she had a sister too. Can’t come up with her name, all right.
Interviewer: That’s when you came back to Columbus? Then you got married?
Kaplan: At that point? No. I went back to camp but I’d been corresponding
with Eileen and she and I hit it off real good before the service. And I was
there for a while and I came home on furlough and that was about a year later,
not quite a year later, nine months later or something like that. And I came
home on a furlough and we decided to get married. We had decided that by
correspondence that we were going to do that.
Interviewer: It happened to a lot of people in the service . . . .
Kaplan: So we came home and we had a wedding at the Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: Agudas Achim was on Donaldson Street then wasn’t it?
Kaplan: No we had the wedding, not at Agudas Achim because why I don’t
recall why it was but they had a school that they had, that they used for
weddings so it was on a street just north of Main Street, but I can’t remember
where. It wasn’t Bryden Road.
Kaplan: There was a house there that they had.
Interviewer: Okay, let’s continue. And that was the beginning of your life
Kaplan: No, not yet.
Interviewer: Oh you didn’t stay in Columbus?
Kaplan: No, when I came home, I came home to Columbus, yes. And that was
after I was discharged.
Interviewer: Yeah. Was your business still going on?
Kaplan: No it had been sold.
Interviewer: So what did you guys do then?
Kaplan: I thought I was going to go back to school.
Interviewer: And did you?
Kaplan: No because while I was in service I got interested in plastics. And I
had taken a correspondence school course while I was in the islands, with a
correspondence school, in plastics.
Interviewer: Oh plastics was a new thing then?
Kaplan: Plastics was new.
Interviewer: And did you continue with it?
Kaplan: And I came back and my intention was to find a school that taught
plastics. And which I did. I found a school in California that, that’s all
they taught was plastics. They didn’t teach English or anything else, just
plastics. And rather than go to Ohio State and spend that time I decided to go
to this school.
Interviewer: In California?
Kaplan: In California. So Eileen and I went to California.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And you learned about plastics?
Kaplan: And we ended up in a little town south of Los Angeles and I went to
school for a year. They qualified you as a plastic, they didn’t call it an
engineer, they called it a technician.
Interviewer: Well what did that consist of?
Kaplan: You were supposed to be able to use plastics in many forms. It was
really the beginning of the plastic industry too. They’d already had some
plastic. Even Columbus had a plastic plant. And by the end of the war, the start
of plastics was right then.
Interviewer: Was the manufacture of plastics . . . .
Kaplan: But I came home from that, I’d finished the course. It was a year’s
Interviewer: In California?
Kaplan: Yeah that’s a condensed course, studying nothing but the one
subject. You didn’t have any other subjects. Just the one subject. And you
got that seven hours a day.
Interviewer: And what did that consist of?
Kaplan: It took the tune of everything in the making of the plastic that you
could make something else from.
Interviewer: Oh plastic was a substance?
Kaplan: The plastic itself starts as a liquid . . . .
Kaplan: and then it becomes a solid and then from a solid, it becomes
whatever you convert it to.
Interviewer: And you didn’t continue with that?
Kaplan: Yeah I graduated as a plastic engineer. Yeah. I came back to Columbus and I spent a few weeks trying to find somebody in the plastics. Well I found a couple of places that had plastics, even one Jewish man who was related to Ben Friedman. His brother owned a plastic plant.
Interviewer: Oh they manufactured . . . .
Kaplan: But they didn’t offer me no job.
Interviewer: He didn’t?
Kaplan: No, no he didn’t.
Interviewer: Did they have plastics then here in Columbus?
Kaplan: Yeah by that time they had several small plants. Small plants. What
they were making in Columbus at that time, by that time, I spent a year at
school. By that time they were making plastic tile. That was the simple thing to
make, shaping that tile. And Ben Friedman’s brother even had a plant
Interviewer: Here in Columbus?
Interviewer: Where was that?
Kaplan: The plant. I don’t remember where it was at now. It was on the east
side and . . . . .
Interviewer: No place for you?
Kaplan: Knowing what I knew about the jewelry business . . . . By that time
it was November and I went to, I went to the Union to buy me some clothes. I
didn’t have any clothes and on the way out from the Union I seen this store
across the street called Morrey’s Jewelers.
Interviewer: Morrey Levison?
Kaplan: And I knew the store because it had been there when Goody and I had
the store across the street. So I went into Morrey’s and I had to wait a while
and this man comes in the door and walks in and everybody says, “Hello Mr.
Morrey”. It was Morrey Greenstein. And he owned Morrey’s Jewelers and he
sat me down and talked to me and by that time my brother Goody was already home
from the Army and he had a small business that was already established.
Kaplan: No, jewelry findings. The Mentser boys, Marv Mentser’s brother . .
Kaplan: Bernie had bought the other half of what Goody bought. Goody bought
the repair part. He couldn’t swing the whole deal. He could have had the whole
deal but he took the repair part and the balance was sold to the Mentsers.
Interviewer: . . . . jewelry store?
Kaplan: That, so Goody was in the findings business and as had already
learned enough about watch repair and he knew about parts so he got in the
parts, took over the parts business and that, and built it up. And that was very
good, a good business. But that was Goody. But I ended up at Morrey’s Jewelers
and worked at Morrey’s Jewelers, where I worked for a year and a half. And
that story’s in itself too. And then from there I worked at Morrey’s for a year and a half.
Morrey died and I was working for his widow and I was making a salary and I’d
already gone to the bank and asked them about borrowing money to build a house
and they told me what I needed and I’d made arrangements to, I didn’t have
any money then. I made arrangements to borrow some money.
Interviewer: Was it difficult then?
Kaplan: Not for me it wasn’t. I didn’t go to the bank.
Interviewer: Who did you go to?
Kaplan: At that point I didn’t go anywhere then. Yes I did. I went to a
bank, a little bank. Not one on the street. It was upstairs in a building close
to Roy’s Jewelers.
Interviewer: On North High Street?
Kaplan: Yeah. Fact of the matter is, Kahn’s had a place later on in that
building. But they had it later on.
Interviewer: The opposite there?
Kaplan: They didn’t have that there then. It wasn’t their first place.
That was later. Anyway that was where it was that I borrowed the money. And they
asked me who I was. And I told them who I was.
Interviewer: And they loaned you the money?
Kaplan: They would have lent the money, yeah. But I decided I didn’t want
to do that.
Interviewer: What did you do?
Kaplan: Anyway, from there I went to, I was at Morrey’s when Morrey died.
Kaplan: Morrey Greenstein died. I’d been there about a year and by that
time Eileen and I had an apartment.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Where did you live?
Kaplan: You know where the post office is in Bexley on Main Street?
Interviewer: Eastmoor and Main?
Kaplan: North on Main Street. It’s near Eastmoor, one block over. You know where Grill and Skillet is?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Kaplan: Across the street from Grill and Skillet.
Interviewer: Did the . . . . living there?
Kaplan: At that time it was Germain?
Interviewer: It was what?
Kaplan: Germain. That was Germain’s first store. . . . all the big, they owned a Cadillac agency and . . . .
Interviewer: And they had one on Main Street at that time?
Kaplan: That’s, they had, they sold Mercury, Mercury automobiles. Which is in between a Ford and a, what can you compare it to, a Buick, I guess that was at that time. It was an in-between car. And anyhow, they started that business right there in that post office and Eileen and I rented an apartment around the corner. We had an apartment there.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You were one of the few people that moved east?
Kaplan: And at that time there was the youngest Kahn boy that lived
downstairs, Aaron Kahn lived downstairs. I was upstairs.
Interviewer: Was that Enfield?
Kaplan: No. Mellman, Jerry Mellman lived there in those apartments. So we got
an apartment there.
Interviewer: Now that was, what street was that?
Kaplan: Chesterfield. On Chesterfield. We had a . . . .
Interviewer: There weren’t many homes around that area, were there?
Kaplan: The apartment building was finally built at that time. They’re
still there. Fact of the matter is my mother had one of them.
Interviewer: On Chesterfield?
Kaplan: Yes. She was living in that apartment there when she moved to,
before, after that, Germain started and they started their business while I was
living in that apartment in that location.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Then a lot of people started moving east at that time?
Kaplan: Uh huh.
Interviewer: And were you still in business with Goody?
Kaplan: No that business was sold while Goody and I were in service. And that was . . . . so then it was time to do something.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And where did you go, what were you doing after that?
Kaplan: Well when I came home and I spent considerable time trying to locate
a plastic job.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You weren’t successful?
Kaplan: But Christmas came, it was coming, and by that time I had introduced
myself to Mr. Greenstein who owned Morrey’s Jewelers. And he offered me a job and I talked to Eileen, I talked to her parents, I talked to my mother and I decided I’d take the job, at least for Christmas. Yeah, I fit in pretty good in his organization. And he asked me if I would stay. And I’m still looking for plastics.
Kaplan: But I needed . . . .
Interviewer: Somebody to back you?
Kaplan: No I needed the money. I had . . . .
Interviewer: A family?
Kaplan: I had responsibilities.So I needed the money?
Interviewer: So nothing came with the plastics?
Kaplan: I never did get into plastics.
Interviewer: And that was just the beginning of the plastic era?
Kaplan: . . . . it didn’t happen. Columbus Plastic Products was a small
company. They were making the tile, plastic tile people were using to make their
bathrooms pretty, which was great. It was a simple operation. It was a stamping operation and I went and applied there and then I had corresponded with this man while I was in service . . . while I was taking the courses. And he says, “When you come home
. . . . come to see me.” And I thought, “How interesting”. And I come home and I came to see him. Now this was before I was in the jewelry business again. This is, goes back.
And I went to see him, introduced myself, I had corresponded with him and told him where I was at with this plastic course. “Be sure and stop,” in the letters. I walked in the door, he takes one look at me and he said, “I’m sorry,” he says, “we just can’t use you at this time”.
Interviewer: Not a personal reason?
Kaplan: Well it was a personal reason.
Interviewer: What was that?
Kaplan: I was Jewish.
Interviewer: Is that right? Now who was the man that owned that?
Kaplan: I don’t know who . . . . I did know but I, right now I can’t come
up with his name. It was a big plastic company.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that was the beginning of the pastic business. So
you went back to the jewelry business?
Kaplan: Well I went to Morrey’s for some time with the thought of going in
plastics and I tried to make connections but I just . . . But I found I liked the jewelry business. I found that I liked it. I knew that I already had some connections there. It wasn’t very much but by the time we went to service, we were selling watches. We weren’t
selling rings, we were selling watches along with the silver. And we also were
Kaplan: You keep adding a product. You got a good customer that needs things
so you, what do they need, so you could find out and satisfy a need. That’s
what we did. So we had a nice little business going for that. And it went all
through the war, not the whole war. It was . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . many years . . . .
Kaplan: Goody was there for the next year and half and then Annette ran it
for another . . . . .
Interviewer: Did you have another brother that was a jewelry man?
Interviewer: Another brother that was a watchmaker?
Kaplan: No, Goody was. Goody became capable of repairing a watch. And he didn’t send his wife out in that. He sent his wife in the parts business end of it.
Interviewer: In later years?
Kaplan: Goody did. And I spent my business life in jewelry.
Interviewer: In jewelry. And you went with the Union?
Kaplan: I went to Roger’s Jewelers. At Roger’s Jewelers, I became a manager of the downtown store for a while and then by that time we has suburban stores and we had a couple of nice Jewish guys who worked for us there who later on owned their own stores. And I ended up, I left Roger’s because I was given a choice of becoming an assistant manager of the store, which I had been assistant manager of the store. And then I was offered a job with a store of my own ’cause Roger’s was starting to expand.
Interviewer: That’s when the malls were starting?
Interviewer: That’s when they started having the malls?
Kaplan: No that’s before the malls. The first store was a store at Town and Country. And that store was given to Meyer Weisman who now has his own jewelry store. And Meyer Weisman had come to Roger’s, I met him one day, we were having lunch and he told me he
wasn’t happy where he was at. So the job he had, he was working in a jewelry
store and he wasn’t happy with it and he met me and I said, “Well come on in and talk to Jack Ratner,” who owned Roger’s. And Meyer came over and talked to him and he gave him a job. And Meyer ended up being a manager of asuburban store. When they opened . .
Interviewer: Town and Country?
Kaplan: Town and Country he became the manager. And Stu Newpoff also was at
Roger’s as a salesman. He came in there after I did at Roger’s and he ended
up owning a store too in a shopping center up north. And Roger’s ended up by
the time I left, I spent ten years at Roger’s.
Interviewer: You were with the downtown store?
Kaplan: The downtown store. I was at the downtown store all the time. I could
have had any of the satellite stores I wanted.
Interviewer: You were there at the beginning of the jewelry operation?
Kaplan: I liked being downtown.
Interviewer: And just the jewelry business . . .
Kaplan: From there Jack Ratner wanted me to take a new store that he was
opening up at Graceland Shopping Center and he put in a real nice store there.
At Town and Country it was just a little store.
Interviewer: A little corner store, yeah.
Kaplan: But this was in, by that time we also had a store at Great Southern
and CheChe Goodman became the manager of it. And CheChe had started, Stu Newpoff
and CheChe both came into Roger’s after me. So now they didn’t have Roger’s
yet but they had Great Southern. Jack had Great Southern and Great Southern, by
that time CheChe was out there. He was the manager and Stu was already the
manager up there. Jack gets a guy that comes in and he’s going to expand the
Interviewer: Who’s that, Jack?
Kaplan: Jack Ratner. Jack was the man who was supposed to come in and we were
going to spring and have other stores. And this guy that came in says to Jack,
“You don’t have an efficient operation”. He says, “The downtown
store can operate without two head people.” There was . . . .
Kaplan: No there was another man that was over me.
Interviewer: Manny, Manny Block?
Kaplan: No, Manny was the manager at the Kay Jewelry Company.
Interviewer: Oh Kay Jewelry. That’s right.
Kaplan: Anyway, he at that point, I have to get this in chronological order.
Am I dragging this out too long?
Interviewer: Huh uh. It’s fine and I still have some tape. I’m just
interested in hearing about . . . . the jewelry business here in Columbus.
Kaplan: So anyway so I . . . . While I was at Jack Ratner’s, I was there
for almost ten years.
Interviewer: Is that right? At Roger’s store.
Kaplan: Yeah. I worked my way up and became a, actually I was sort of in
charge of the suburban stores. And then at one point there it changed over . . .
. for some reason and gave that job to Glenn Butz who was over me at Roger’s.
Interviewer: Was he a Columbus man?
Kaplan: He spent most of his life here in Columbus. But he’d been at Roger’s
for twenty-odd years and grew up there and then I came in and I was there ten
years. And at that point Jack was wanting to expand.
Interviewer: Did he?
Kaplan: Yeah we opened up a store up north.
Interviewer: Also Roger’s?
Kaplan: Yeah they put in Graceland Shopping Center. And we had a store there.
So then we had Town and Country and Meyer took Town and Country. He’d started
with us and Stu had started with us and Stu had taken, first he started at the
store we had on South High Street, at a shopping center down there. And, who was
going to open up another store, and Jack then brings in a guy who’s a
organization man, an organizer. And he tells Jack that he’s got too many
executives. You don’t need that many executives yet. So okay. So who’s, Stu’s
there and Meyer’s at Town and Country and I’m downtown. By that time I was
managing downtown. And Butz was the outside man. But Butz wasn’t happy.
Interviewer: Who was this?
Kaplan: Butz. That was his last name, B-U-T-Z.
Interviewer: Oh, oh, oh, the new manager?
Kaplan: Well he was the acting manager but Jack was the boss. And Glenn, when
Jack wasn’t there, Glenn was in charge sort of. And then I was the next. Well
this guy says that you don’t need that many executives. You got to cut one. So
Jack calls me in the office and he says, “Bernie you can have any store you
want”, but this is what we have to do. And I said, “I’d like to
think about it”. So I went home and that would be working nights. So I went
home and I talked to Eileen and she says, “What do you want to do?” I
said, “I don’t know what I want to do”. She says, “Well do you
want to do that?” I said, “No”. And she says, “Are you going
to do that?” I said, “No”. She said, “Well what are you
going to do?” I said, “I don’t know”. And she says, by that
time we already had a house. We’d already built the house. And she says to me,
“Well do what you want to do. Use your judgment. You won’t go
wrong.” So I says, “Okay”. I went back to him and said, “I
quit”. I asked him how much time he wanted and he gave me two weeks.
Interviewer: What did you do then?
Kaplan: And in two week’s-time I looked around and . . . . I just quit.
Went home and I started showing jewelry to some of my, didn’t show them
jewelry, I just started talking to everybody. And somebody said, “Hey I
need this and I need this and I need this,” and I’d get it for him. I
started doing that. And before you know it I found a store at Main and High. Nat
Brestin had bought it at my suggestion.
Interviewer: Main and High?
Kaplan: Nat Brestin had worked with me at Morrey’s and when that store
became avail- able, which I knew about and I wasn’t ready for it at that time,
he took it and he operated it until he was ready to sell. So when he was ready
to sell and I’d just got fired . . . .
Interviewer: You were ready for it?
Kaplan: I wasn’t fired, I just quit. I could have had a job. And that’s my story. And we were at Main and High, Art and I were partners, and we were there . . . .
Interviewer: You joined up with Art Levy?
Kaplan: Uh huh. And Art and I were partners and we built up a nice business
as Bernhard Jewelers. And we were considering expanding by that time. And Sun TV
was right next door to us.
Kaplan: Sun TV. And Rite Rug was right down the street. So we had a, we all had nice
businesses there. And so Columbus was changing and by that time I’d already.
Interviewer: Was that when . . . . come in?
Kaplan: Art and I took an old jewelry store, an old-time jewelry store and
made it into a modern store. I mean, we took this, it was a year or two later
after we bought it that we built a nice business up. And then, what was it, a
number of years went by and we were still at Main and High and we had another
store in Logan, Ohio that we bought. And we had the watchmaker from here went
down there as the manager, which he later bought from us.
Interviewer: Interesting what happens in the jewelry business. It was really
interesting . . . .
Kaplan: Are you tiring? Are you tired?
Interviewer: No I’m not the least bit tired. No I’m finding it very
interesting learning about the jewelry business here in Columbus.
Kaplan: Kahn’s started that business . . . .
Interviewer: About that time too?
Kaplan: Oh not really. They were already in business. Goody had a charge
account at Kahn’s. They gave it to us when we were in, I think we were still
in high school.
Interviewer: Is that right? Well they started that 50 cents a week too, didn’t
Kaplan: Yeah, I think we were in high school and bought my mother a toaster
from Kahn Jewelers.
Interviewer: Thanks very much. Just hope you stay well and keep on doing what
Kaplan: Well I’ve got a lot more history to talk about.
Interviewer: Well I’m sure you have.
Kaplan: I haven’t told you about my lineage at all.
Interviewer: Your what?
* * * * *
Addendum: In later years, the store owned in partnership between Kaplan and
Levy moved to a leased department in the Union at Town and Country Shopping
Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz
Edited by Peggy Kaplan