This is Naomi Schottenstein, I’m an interviewer with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. I’m in the office of David Derrow at 666 Parsons Avenue. The name of his company is Ohio Transmission Corporation. Okay, I think we are correct, right Dave?
Interviewer: Okay. And this is May 13, 1999. David, I’m going to ask you your full English name and your Jewish name, if you will.
Derrow: David Donald Derrow. Dovid.
Interviewer: Okay. It’s a lot of Ds. Right?
Interviewer: Do you know who you were named after?
Derrow: I was named after a great, great, great grandfather. I don’t know who or, ’cause I’ve never met any of my grandparents. But there were quite a few members of our overall family all named David.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And probably with the same Jewish name?
Derrow: The same. Yes.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You don’t have a nickname. You probably go . . . .
Derrow: Just Dave . . . .
Derrow: or David.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you know what your original family name was?
Interviewer: De. . . .
Interviewer: Okay. Do you have any idea how that may be spelled? D-E-R-E-V-I-T-Z-. . .
Derrow: No. D-E-R-, D-E-R-E-V-I-T-Z-K-Y.
Interviewer: Okay. That sounds Russian?
Derrow: It is Russian.
Interviewer: Okay. Can you tell me where your family originated? Your parents?
Derrow: My parents originated from a town in the Ukraine called Alte Sinova, S-I-N-O-V-A.
Interviewer: Okay. Both of your parents?
Derrow: Both parents came from the same town.
Interviewer: Okay. Well, we’ll get into that a little further in a little bit. Where were you born?
Derrow: I was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Interviewer: And tell us your birth date if you will.
Derrow: October 5, 1923.
Interviewer: Okay. Tell us more now about your parents. Your parents’ names and, you told us where they originally come from, and how they got to Pennsylvania?
Derrow: Well my mother was Anna Goldberg. My father was Elias Derevitzky from the same town in the Ukraine. They were childhood sweethearts. They married when my mother was 18 and my father was 20. And they married in 1920. And then made plans to come to the United States but they could not get to the United States because the Russian Revolution had taken place and there were laws passed which prevented immigration from Russia to the United States at that time. So their original destination upon leaving Russia, they absolutely wanted to leave, upon leaving Russia, was to go to Argentina. And they went to Argentina and they were there for a little over two years and then from Argentina, they emigrated to the United States.
Interviewer: Why did they want to leave Russia? I, we know, but let’s, for the record . . . .
Derrow: They wanted to leave Russia because my father had been fighting against what they used to call the “Banditen” or the Cossacks, first. And then they had trouble with the Communists as well and both my mother and father were educated in the Gymnasium. They were two of the few young people in this largely Jewish little shtetl that went to a Gymnasium in Odessa. My father’s family had more money and my father’s family paid for my mother to go because they were childhood sweethearts. And they knew that there was no future for them in Russia.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Your parents’ relationship sounds like you and Muriel that you, you were childhood, you knew each other from childhood. . . .
Derrow: We knew each other. My, but my parents were not related to each other.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Derrow: Whereas Muriel and I have some kind of a relationship, maybe fifth or sixth cousins, or something like that. But we knew each other because Muriel’s mother came from the same shtetl. And lived right next door, in fact, to my father’s family.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you remember any, your father telling any stories about the community that they, the shtetl that he came from in Russia?
Derrow: My father was not a story-teller per se. My father always worked in the store for the whole time that I was there. My mother would tell stories because my mother’s father, my grandfather, was both the town shochet and the town mohel. In fact, to make it even more so, my grandfather, my mother’s father, was the mohel for Muriel’s three uncles, her mother’s brothers.
Interviewer: Well goodness. You do have a lot of tie-ins . . . .
Interviewer: All the way back?
Interviewer: Uh huh. You said your father worked in the store. What kind of store was it?
Derrow: A store in this country. Right. But he, my father, my grandfather had money because my grandfather ran a sugar beet farm in Russia for the graf of the area at that time. That’s where we think the name came from because Derevitzky is certainly not a Jewish name. So we think the name was probably the name of the graf of that area.
Interviewer: What is . . . .
Derrow: Graf means Count. And my grandfather ran this sugar beet farm and my father was the one who ran the sugar beet rendering plant on the farm to make sugar out of beets. But when my parents left, they left and went to Argentina; my father was a pushcart peddler in Argentina for two years.
Interviewer: What took them to Argentina?
Derrow: Other people, Argentina had one of the largest Jewish populations outside of Eastern Europe and the United States. Argentina got as many as 400,000 Jews. And there were people from Sinova who were in Argentina as well.
Interviewer: And so why did he, why did they want to leave Argentina? Why . . . .
Derrow: Well . . . their original destination was always the United States. And when they were able to get in on the Argentinian quota to the United States, that’s what they did. In addition, we think, because it was difficult to get information from my parents, we think that one of the reasons they wanted to leave quickly was my mother gave birth to a son in Argentina who died when he was three months old. And we think that as soon as this child died, they decided they weren’t going to stay there. Because it was only a matter of a couple months when they were in the United States.
Interviewer: So that was her first child?
Derrow: That was her first child. And in fact, after my father died here in 1992, in 1993, Muriel and I went to Argentina and we found my brother’s grave.
Interviewer: Nobody had ever . . . .
Derrow: Nobody had ever done that before.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I remember you telling us about that. And when they came to the United States, did they have any established places that they knew they were going to go to?
Derrow: No, but my father always worked. My father was never one not to work. And he had two uncles, my great uncles who were here, who were brothers of my father’s mother. And one of them was in Harrisburg and my father made arrangements, after working for a few months in an ice cream factory in Brooklyn as a laborer, made arrangements to go to Harrisburg where one of his uncles bought him a store for $900. And it was a store with a fountain and candy.
Interviewer: So like a soda fountain?
Interviewer: And your mother, did she . . . .
Derrow: My mother followed my father. My mother always worked in the store with my father.
Interviewer: So they knew some people . . . .
Derrow: Well they knew the relatives who were relatives of my father’s mother. . in Harrisburg. And that’s all.
Interviewer: Is that the business your father al—- . . . .
Derrow: My father stayed in that kind of a business, well, the next step was after I was born when I was not quite three years old and I don’t remember any of this, my parents moved back to New Jersey where the other uncle was, where my father went into the wholesale business of selling candy and cigarettes and stuff as a wholesaler. In Clifton, New Jersey.
Interviewer: So it was kind of a related kind of . . . .
Derrow: Right, right.
Derrow: And we’re now reaching a point where we’re coming to the Depression. And when the Depression occurred, he lost that business. He was in partners with another man. He lost that business and in 1931, he started another store in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. Now we’re up to that point. So, yeah, what else do you want?
Interviewer: Yeah, why don’t you just continue with what your father . . . .
Derrow: In Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, my mother, let me see . . . . my mother had given birth to another child when we first lived in Passaic, and there was a three-year differential between me and this other brother. And in Ridgefield Park when I was eight years old, very shortly after we moved there, this brother was burned to death in a fire. And that one I remember.
Interviewer: And how old was he when . . . .
Derrow: Five. And a few years after that, my mother gave birth to my brother who is the only one other than I who is alive, and he is thirteen years my junior.And he lives in Long Island. He’s a physician. But my father, during the Depression, it was very difficult and it’s hard to explain to people that No. 1, we lived above the store in Ridgefield Park whereas in Harrisburg we had a couple of rooms in the back of the store. But my mother always worked with my father and I always worked. From the time I was eight years old, I worked. And what is difficult to explain to people is that except for the two Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashonah, I never had a single meal with both parents at the same time.
Interviewer: Well that is hard to . . . .
Derrow: Well because we lived upstairs . . . .
Derrow: And we didn’t have cafeterias in those days . . . .
Derrow: So I would come home from school for lunch. But when I came home, whoever was down there would go up and have lunch and then that person would come down and I would go up and have lunch.
Interviewer: So you had to cover for each other?
Derrow: That’s right. And that was always the case. I, until I graduated from high school and went to college and then came home, I never had a meal with both parents at the same time.
Interviewer: Uh huh. You probably didn’t think of that as being a deprived situation?
Derrow: No, because that was routine. People, to make a living, didn’t hire people, other people. The family worked. It’s difficult to explain to children today.
Interviewer: Today. Sure.
Derrow: But that’s the way it was.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Tell me some more about your brother.
Derrow: My brother as I say is thirteen years my junior. My mother became seriously ill about eight or nine months after my brother was born. And again, to show the tie-in in families, she needed a blood transfusion and Muriel’s uncle was the one who gave her the blood transfusion.
Interviewer: Oh gosh. Well . . . .
Derrow: Because we only lived about twenty miles away. They lived in Paterson and we lived in Ridgefield Park. But, so my brother’s relationship with me was more I was a parent rather than a brother. Because again, my parents worked in the store. So if both parents were in the store, I was taking care of the baby.
Interviewer: What was your, give me your brother’s name?
Derrow: Alfred. Alfred and . . . . Well, and then in 1940, I went away to college in 1940. And I graduated high school when I was 16 and went away to college and graduated college when I was 19, because now the war had come.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well let’s, tell me what schools. We’re going to come back to your brother but tell me what schools you went to.
Derrow: I went to Ridgefield Park Grammar School and Ridgefield Park High School and went to Johns Hopkins University for College.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And you got your degree . . . .
Derrow: I got my degree at Johns Hopkins University. And got my degree in Chemistry and Biology. My brother, as I said, went to school in FairLawn High School, FairLawn, New Jersey. Then went to Harvard undergraduate school and graduated fromTufts Medical School.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Sounds like you might have been on the way to Medical School?
Derrow: I was but . . . . , but the war and the fact that I had nobody, we had no relatives who were physicians or anything else. And when 13 years earlier they had quota systems and all of those things.
Interviewer: Right, right. Where does your brother live now?
Derrow: In Long Island. Dix Hills, Long Island.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And he’s married, is he?
Derrow: He is married and . . . .
Interviewer: His wife’s name?
Derrow: His wife’s name is Joyce. And he has two daughters. One married, Cindy and Paula.
Interviewer: OK. One of those daughters is married?
Derrow: Cindy is married.
Interviewer: Uh huh. OK. You see . . . .
Derrow: Has two little boys.
Interviewer: You see your brother very often?
Derrow: Three, four, five times a year, whenever there are, whenever we go to New Jersey for one reason or another to visit our son who lives in, one of our sons lives in New Jersey. Then we also see my brother. And whenever we have family affairs, like we just had the wedding in Texas and my brother and sister-in-law were there.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah, your daughter was married recently?
Derrow: . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. Do you remember, did your parents speak English? Did they .
Derrow: When I was born, my parents couldn’t speak English because I was born within a year after they came to the United States. My parents spoke Yiddish at home. But my parents also, since they were educated in the Gymnasium, were also fluent in Russian because the Gymnasium was based, they taught in Russian. So when I was born, I was bilingual. I was able to learn English from around me. . . . and the Yiddish in order to speak to my parents. And I continued to be bilingual ’till I graduated from grammar school when most of my activities were already with non-Yiddish-speaking people and we lived in a community where there were virtually no other Jews. So my parents also learned to speak English.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did you live in many different homes as a youngster?
Derrow: No, I don’t remember living in Harrisburg but I know we lived behind the store in Harrisburg. And li—, I remember the apartment we lived above the wholesale establishment that my father had in Clifton. Then I remember another apartment we had in Passaic and then we moved to Ridgefield Park where I spent the bulk of my childhood, from the time I was in the third grade until the time I graduated from high school . . . in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. Then after that, I was pretty much on my own simply because I graduated from college and then within a few months, went into the Army and went to Germany to fight in the war. And then when I came back, I got a job at Lederle Laboratories in Pearl River, New York, as a parasitologist. Did research work in tropical diseases.
Interviewer: What is that word now?
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Derrow: Now I can spell it if you want. P-a-r-a-s-i-t-o-l-o-g-i-s-t.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Not sure I ever heard of that word but it . . . .
Derrow: It is the study and working with diseases caused by parasites. Such as malaria, worm infestations. Things like that. Diseases where you need something else in order to be infected. No, you can’t get it from another person. If you have malaria, I can’t get it from you. You have to be bitten by a mosquito. The mosquito then has to bite me. See?
(Indistinct) Derrow: . . . . where the parasite comes from.
Interviewer: Well that, that was an unusual field for that period of time?
Derrow: But I had learned a lot of that. Yes, but I had learned a lot of that in the Army because my initial training in the Army was in the Medical Department.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I want to ask you more about your military experience.
Interviewer: Yeah tell us where you . . . .
Derrow: Well, I went into the Army and was immediately assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for three weeks before being sent out for basic training. Because of my college education and because of the specialty that the, because of my majors of chemistry and biology, I was sent to a dispensary and made for the three weeks that I was there, the Dispensary X Chiropodist. Now a Chiropodist was what they called a Podiatrist in those days. Today they’re called Podiatrist but they were Chiropodists. And the way I got that was, the man who interviewed me said, “What do you know about the foot?” So I said, “The only thing I know about the foot is the anatomy of the foot.” He said, “That’s enough. You’re now the Chiropodist for Dispensary X.”
Interviewer: Goodness! Really fell into it, didn’t you?
Derrow: Well . . . .
Interviewer: Was that an advantage? Was that . . . .
Derrow: No, because I actually had to do things that I had no knowledge of. You know people would come in with blisters and bunions and this, that, and the other thing and what did I know about that stuff?
Interviewer: Uh huh. It’s kind of scary, isn’t it?
Derrow: It was scary. It was scary. But you know, you did the best you could under the circumstances. But you have to remember, there were, this was right in the middle of ten million men going for training, being sent into war.
Interviewer: Well going into war is scary, too.
Interviewer: That’s something that nobody had experience with previously either.
Derrow: . . . . right. And then I was sent to Camp Barkley, Texas, which is in Abilene, Texas, which was at that time the largest medical basic training camp in the country. And the only one. They were at one time, they had as many as 60,000 troops there learning medical basic training. And again, because of my education, as soon as I finished with that after four months, and that was a horrible place, absolutely awful because of the weather and everything else. I was sent to O’Riley General Hospital for advanced training in laboratory work. Then Muriel actually came out to visit me when I was at O’Riley General Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. And just at that particular time, the Germans had the Bulge and everything. And everybody who was in services like medical department and so forth was given another physical and those of us who were in good physical condition were immediately put into the Infantry. And I was because I had played football in college as well as football in high school. And I was in good physical condition. And then went across in January of ’45, right after the, right after the Bulge. And sent to France, moved to Holland and from Holland into Germany where the unit I was with started fighting. So I was actually in a combat situation for about a week or so when there was an accident with the troops and a big fire with flash burns and because of my training, I was the only one at that particular place who knew how to get everybody bandaged and ready. And when the ambulances came, they wanted to know who did it and I raised my hand as high as I possibly could . . .and got back into the Medical Department because the man said, “What are you doing here in the Infantry?” So I said, “I don’t belong here,” and he says, “You’re right,” and three days later, I was in the Medical Department.
Interviewer: Sounds like you got put into medicine really quickly, really . . . .
Derrow: Well, I got taken out first.
Interviewer: Yeah, sure.
Derrow: I was supposed to go to the Pacific to do lab work because that’s where parasitic diseases . . .were endemic.
Interviewer: Uh, what unit were you with in the . . . .
Derrow: 83rd Infantry Division. Which by pure coincidence was an Ohio Division.
Interviewer: Hmmmmm. And you weren’t established yet in any place?
Interviewer: I mean, you weren’t in Ohio yet?
Interviewer: You didn’t even know there was an Ohio probably?
Derrow: That’s right. I thought Indians were in Ohio.
Interviewer: That’s right. People from the East always thought that.
Interviewer: Let’s see. Does that cover, pretty much cover your military experience?
Derrow: Well that’s right. Then when the war was over, I had become the first sergeant of the Headquarters Company Medical Detachment and we were then in occupation for over a year and I became an interpreter as well because German was one of my minors in college and I was fluent in German at that time so in the area where we were, I was the general interpreter. Because during peace time we didn’t need any for intelligence purposes. And then, when it came time to go home, we were in occupation for a year and then I went home. And I went home on a liberty ship which was about as awful as you can imagine.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Tell us about the liberty ship.
Derrow: Liberty ship was made by Kaiser Shipyards. They were called liberty ships because in the middle of the war, they were being turned out at the rate of one per day in the Kaiser Shipyard in the West Coast. They were approximately 1100 tons whereas if you figure one of these giant passenger liners are over 100,000 tons. So you get an idea of the size. And half the people on them got sick. Terribly sick. But coming back, we didn’t have to worry about suffering because the war was over. So you’d go directly back. When we went to Europe, we were on a much larger ship but there we were zigzagging because the war was on.
Interviewer: Uh huh. How long, do you remember how long it took you to come back . . . .
Derrow: Come back? Took us as long coming back in a straight line as it took us zigzagging because of the size of the ship. About ten days.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So it was a long ten days, huh?
Derrow: It was a long ten days. And we were in charge of the sick bay. That’s how they sent troops back. They sent a medical detachment back with each group of troops who ran, the medical detachment ran the sick bay.
Interviewer: Hum. I bet you were pretty busy then?
Derrow: All the time.
Interviewer: Yeah. When you came back, where did you, how did you pick up your life?
Derrow: When I came back, I came back in May of 1946. May or June, I don’t remember exactly. May or June of 1946. And within a few months, got a job as a parasitologist for Lederle Laboratories, which was at Pearl River, New York, which wasn’t that far away. Then Muriel and I were married in 1947 and we went to live out in Rockland County which was the adjoining county of New York to New Jersey. The suburban county at that point. And because I was a returning veteran, we got an apartment in what was called Shank’s Village, which was an old Army camp.
Derrow: I should know better than that.
Derrow: Yeah . . . . Well, oh, and I got a job as a parasitologist at Lederle Laboratories and by 1948 . . . . We were married in ’47. By 1948, Muriel was pregnant for the second time and I realized that in order for me to be able to go on in that field, I would have to get my D.Sc., which was a Doctor of Science which then required two years of residency. And I had no money to stop working and support a family and, go to school full time for two more years.
Interviewer: What kind of work were you doing at that point then?
Derrow: I was doing research work in tropical diseases.
Derrow: That’s what parasitology is. And then I got a job working in the field that I am now, working for Muriel’s father. He was a partner in a company called Bernstein Brothers, Inc. in Paterson, New Jersey, which was a distributor of mechanical and electrical power transmission equipment and pumps and air compressors. And do you want me to continue with that career for . . . .
Interviewer: Well let’s, yeah let’s go on with that and then we’ll come back to . . . .
Derrow: Well I knew nothing about this and I started to work at the counter. And I worked at the counter for eighteen months to learn the business because in those days people would come in to the counter to want whatever they wanted to make machinery run. What I do and what that company did has nothing to do with automotive transmissions. Nothing whatsoever. What it is is everything necessary to make machinery run. So we only did business with factories which had machines or else there was nothing for us to sell. The factories could be in building or they could be sand and gravel pits on the outside. When you see a sand and gravel pit, you see conveyors and you see shovels and things like that. All of that has mechanical equipment. That’s what we sold.
Interviewer: But it’s really a unique niche, isn’t it?
Derrow: Yes, it is a specific, a specific type of distributorship. We manufactured nothing. We manufacture nothing here. What we did was take the material manufactured by others and bring it to a specific location. In this case it was North Jersey, to sell to all the factories that exist in North Jersey. So that’s what a distributorship does. And I worked there for fifteen years. And my father-in-law meanwhile died in 1955. I started working there in ’48. Seven years after I got there. And I continued to work there and I became Vice President and General Manager of that company.
Interviewer: Were there other family members in the business?
Derrow: Yes, my father’s brother. And his son. And at one time, there were seven Bernstein brothers there. My father-in-law’s brother. And my father-in-law’s brother was able over a period of time to get rid of everybody, including my father-in-law, and became the sole owner at this time, while I’m still moving up. But I realized there was nothing there for me and by this time we had five children. By 1962; in ’59, we had our fifth child. That I had no real future there although I was making good money. I had a good position and making good money but I had no future. Because in those days there was no such thing as a retirement plan or anything like that. So I began looking for something else and heard about a very small company in Columbus, Ohio, which was a branch of a company in Toledo, and it was called Ohio Transmission Company. I met with the owner twice in September and December of 1962 and we shook hands on it without my ever seeing it and I bought the company.
Interviewer: Just at that point. You just . . .It was daring, wasn’t it?
Derrow: Right. Especially with a wife and five children. And saw it for the first time when I came out here on January 28 of 1963. I resigned from my company in December, from the company in New Jersey. And came out here in January and took it over as of February 1. And it has grown.
Interviewer: It has grown?
Derrow: It had six people working for it at that time and losing money. As I say, it was a branch of a Toledo operation.
Interviewer: That was a pretty gutsy thing to do, wasn’t it?
Derrow: Well I had confidence in my own ability.
Derrow: I knew the lines that the company had and I didn’t know it would grow as nicely as it did grow, but we’ve grown from six employees to 230-some-odd employees and from one location to 14 locations and we’ve changed the business considerably.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But it’s still transmissions . . . .
Derrow: It is still mechanical and electrical power transmission equipment but now it had major departments with pumps and air compressors.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What states are you located in?
Derrow: The home office is Columbus, Ohio, with six branches in Ohio, and then we have two in Indiana, two in Kentucky and two in West Virginia and we also have separate locations for our Air Technologies to bring it up to fourteen. Air Technologies is the company that sells and services air compressors.
Interviewer: Huh. That’s fascinating company growth there. Let’s go back to your life, well let’s go back to you as a youth, as a youngster. You mentioned that you worked in the store a lot, your parents worked. So there were no breaks there except for holidays. Is that what I understand?
Derrow: The store was closed for us to leave the store. The candy store-stationery store, which used to be called a candy store . . .Or confectionery store in those days, was open seven days a week and open from six o’clock in the morning to eleven o’clock at night.
Derrow: And on Sunday, my father had to get up at four o’clock in the morning to put newspapers together, the Sunday papers together. And depending on as I grew older, how old I was, would depend on the amount of time that I would put in the store too. But I was a worker in the store. My mother worked alongside my father all the time. And that went on through 1946. Uh . . . .
Interviewer: Okay. Continue.
Derrow: Um, but then I was in the Army. I went away to college in 1940, went to the Army in the beginning of 1944, came back, got married in 1947. In the meantime, my father sold the store in 1946 and bought and started another store in Maywood, New Jersey, a five and ten. That was a big improvement because that was only open six days a week. And it closed at eight o’clock. I never really worked in that store except on the holidays. After I was married, I used to come back and work on Christmas and give them a hand. My brother always made believe he couldn’t work the cash register and my father was a genius in terms of being able to add up columns of figures. In those days, they didn’t have adding machine cash registers. So if you remember, they used to put the amount that you bought on the paper bag on the outside. And then add that up. Well my father could add up a column of figures four wide faster than you could put it into an adding machine. And could until the day he died, actually. And I had a similar capability in terms of working with figures. My brother was smarter than I was. He’d always claimed he couldn’t do it so my father wouldn’t let him work the cash register.
Interviewer: Oh well. You got that honor?
Derrow: Uh huh. So I continued to work in the store on holidays even after I was married. And I would get an extra few bucks. When you’re having a bunch of children . . . .
Derrow: you know the extra few dollars always helped.
Interviewer: What I wanted to know is, as a youngster, did you belong to any organizations?
Derrow: No. The town we lived in in Ridgefield Park has virtually no Jewish people. I had to be taken to Passaic, New Jersey, to go to a cheder for my Bar Mitzvah and that was only for six months before I was Bar Mitzvahed. Because there was no shul in Ridgefield Park at that time. And I couldn’t really be in with other youngsters because I had to work in the store and I couldn’t really have a whole bunch of dates ’cause there were no Jewish girls. And my father was one, he would allow me to have dates and I would take the girl to the movies that was, the movie was two blocks away from my father’s store, and bring her back to the store for an ice cream soda that I would make for her.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That was a big night out, huh?
Derrow: Right. But since I graduated from high school at 16, I couldn’t drive a car because in New Jersey, you had to be 17. So I could only go where I, where we could walk. And, but I couldn’t take a non-Jewish girl to a prom.
Interviewer: That was a . . . .
Derrow: Well because my father had the feeling, and my father would say to me, and he said it to me in Yiddish, “If you’re going to spend one or two dollars on a date, you can spend it on a shixa. But if you’re going to spend five or ten dollars on a date, you’re going to spend it on a Yiddishe madel or not at all.”
Interviewer: Oh well there’s wise planning.
Derrow: Right. So . . . .
Interviewer: How did you maintain your Jewish ties in a small community where there were almost no Jews, no other Jews?
Derrow: With great difficulty.
Derrow: . . . .
Interviewer: Did they keep kosher? Do you remember?
Derrow: No but my mo— . . . . my father only bought Kosher meat. My mother would only prepare Kosher meat and kept a semblance of kashrut but not true kashrut. Uh.
Interviewer: What about observance of holidays? You had to go someplace else to shul?
Derrow: We had to go other places. I almost never went because I had to stay in the store. The store was open seven days a week.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So somebody had to be there?
Derrow: So I stayed in the store. When I got to be eleven or twelve years old, I was the one who stayed in the store by myself. But my father also had enough intelligence to know that I couldn’t just go to school and come to the store. And also, there was a great deal of anti-Semitism in this particular area. This was a large German population there and the German-American Bund was quite the force. In fact, Camp Nordland and Camp Siegried which were Bund camps, were in North Jersey.
Derrow: And I had quite a bit of physical battles with kids. One time I came home crying and my father said, “Next time you come home crying, I’ll hit you harder than they did.” So I got to be quite strong . . . .
Interviewer: It toughened you up, didn’t it?
Derrow: And went out for the football team and made the football team. In high school. And my father came to every game. My mother wouldn’t go because she didn’t want to see me get hurt . . . . She couldn’t because she was in the store.
Interviewer: Sure, sure.
Derrow: And even when I went to college, Johns Hopkins, thank goodness, didn’t have a strong football program and I was the only one with three years of high school experience so I was first string for Johns Hopkins.
Interviewer: Oh goodness. So you had a good experience for you too then?
Derrow: So I played football there. But I was also very smart in high school and, exempt in all my exams but two in the four years of high school, and so that I had, I had a certain recognition in the community.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you always as a youngster, you didn’t live that kind of “play games” kind of youth.
Interviewer: You were always serious and . . . .
Interviewer: and focused on . . . .
Derrow: Well because . . . .
Interviewer: family needs . . . .
Derrow: If you add to that the fact that a year after we got there, when I was eight years old, my brother died and five years later, my other brother was born and my mother got sick, I had responsibilities that a lot of other children don’t have. Other chil—, some children do have. But I had a series of responsibilities which kept me from just playing around.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Those were fast-growing-up times?
Derrow: Right. …and remember, I graduated high school at sixteen. But still couldn’t drive.
Interviewer: Were you able to have opportunities to meet, have family gatherings? Did people come to visit you, relatives, friends?
Derrow: That was a general thing. On Sundays, Jews in the metropolitan New York area, which included North Jersey, got in cars and went visiting. We didn’t go anyplace but people came to visit us. We couldn’t go because the store was open. But Muriel’s parents used to come and my father’s brother. My father had one brother in this country. My mother, none of her siblings ever came here. And none of my father’s other siblings came here. But my father’s brother also had a store.
Interviewer: What was your father’s brother’s name?
Derrow: Abraham. Abe. And the same type of store. And the only time we would see them was after 11 o’clock in the summertime when they closed the store, we used to go to Passaic to go to a Kosher delicatessen . . . .and have hot dogs at 12 o’clock at night.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So that was your social-gathering time?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well those are fond memories then.
Derrow: Yes. But you know we didn’t have vacations per se.
Interviewer: Yeah. Sure.
Derrow: I never had a vacation as a child. I went to Boy Scout Camp but that’s all.
Interviewer: Okay, to continue. Do you remember very much about your Bar Mitzvah?
Derrow: Yes. I was Bar Mitzvahed in an Orthodox shul, in a very small Orthodox shul where my great uncle, one of my father’s uncles who lived in Passaic, was the macher in this very small shul. He’s the one who gave money for the siyyum, for the room, and stuff like that. Because we had no relationship with a shul at that time. And what I remember at the small Orthodox shul is that the bema was in the center. The women were upstairs. And when I finished with my Haftorah, the women all threw small bags of hard candy down. I remember I was get—, I was getting hit and I wasn’t, I was doing good things and here I was getting hit with these small bags of hard candy.
Interviewer: You didn’t know that was going to happen?
Interviewer: Well they do that now in shul but . . . .
Derrow: They throw the hard candy for the oof ruuf.
Derrow: But they don’t do it for Bar Mitzvahs now.
Interviewer: Well . . . .
Derrow: They do it . . . .
Interviewer: some, in some synagogues.
Derrow: Some synagogues.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Some synagogues they do.
Derrow: Uh huh. So that’s what I remember. I also remember the party was in our apartment which was on top of the store.
Interviewer: Kind of an Open House kind of thing?
Interviewer: Close relatives and family. So tell us about your life with Muriel. How you kept in touch with her all these years. You knew her since . . . . childhood.
Derrow: Muriel and I have known each other all of our lives. My first, my memories do not go back as far as Muriel’s because after we moved to Clifton, New Jersey, when I was four and a half years old, I started to get mastoiditis which is infection in back of the ear. And from the time I was four and half until the time I was six, I was operated on seven different times . . . . for the scraping and removal of the mastoid bone on both sides. The reason why I’m mentioning that is in talking to professionals about it, what I remember is the terrible pain of the mastoid. And most of the professionals have said when you have severe pain like that at a specific time in life, sometimes it wipes out all memory of what . . . . went on before. So I remem—, I remember nothing of my time in Harrisburg. But I remember the first time I remember having a specific memory of being with Muriel was when we were both six years old and we were on the porch of her house at the bris of her brother. And then we’ve known each other all the way through. In fact, Muriel is one of the girls I took to one of my high school proms because she was a Yiddishe madel.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And your father allowed you to spend at least $5 on it?
Derrow: That’s right. And Muriel’s mother was so happy that she even brought her from Newark to Ridgefield Park for me to take her. Remember, I couldn’t drive.
Interviewer: That’s right. That’s right.
Derrow: So and we had, growing up, we had different boyfriends and girlfriends. We never really went out. For her tenth birthday party, I was the only boy invited. I remember things like that. It never bothered me. And when I went to the Army, when I went across, I stopped in to see her and she was sick and we would tell each other about the boyfriends and girlfriends that we had. And we didn’t really have to write to each other prior to that because we would see each other two, three, four times a year. When I came back from the Army, I had a girlfriend in Brooklyn who invited me to a Couples Club and then I was announced as the fiancé of this girl.
Interviewer: And you didn’t know that was going to happen?
Derrow: Not only didn’t know. I hadn’t asked her to marry me.
Interviewer: Oh, well, there you go. Sounds like you were getting . . . .
Derrow: That was the end of that relationship.
Interviewer: you were being set up?
Derrow: Right. And then I had a couple of dates with Muriel. But in the meantime, I had arranged in North Jersey, in the metropolitan area, the day after the Yom Kippur, the evening, the night of Yom Kippur was the day when everybody went out. They used to have Yom Kippur dances.
Interviewrer: Right. It was party time.
Derrow: Right. So in Bergen County, the county seat was Hackensack; the Y was in Hackensack. And I had a date for that, for the after-Yom-Kippur-dance. And in the meantime, I had had a couple of date . . . . and that I arranged, but you had to arrange for that weeks in advance. In the meantime, I had had several dates with Muriel and we decided to get married. Now I’m not going to embarrass anybody saying who asked who, but we decided to get married. Then I said, “By the way, I have a date for the after-Yom-Kippur-dance,” which was going to be in a few days. She said, “Well, you’re going to have to break that.” So I said, “Well, I’ll try.” Nice Jewish girl. Nice girl too. And I called her and said, “I’ve just gotten engaged. I would appreciate it if we could break the date.” And she said, “No, I can’t get another date at this particular time.”
Interviewer: Oh gosh.
Derrow: And so forth and so on. And I hung up. Then I called back again and I said, “You know, this is going to be in the newspaper that I’m engaged and it isn’t gonna look good.” “Even for you.” And that’s when she let me off. And then, so this was in October and Muriel and I eloped on the 31st of January.
Interviewer: And we’re talking to David about Muriel and he eloping. How did your parents take to that?
Derrow: Well, going back in the previous history, you know that our parents had known each other all of their lives. That creates a great deal of trouble and it created a great deal of trouble for us. Muriel’s mother and my father were very similar in being very, very strong individuals and believing that what they said was right, regardless of whether it was right or not.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And they weren’t always right together?
Derrow: They were never right together. If my father said, “black”, Muriel’s mother would say, “white”, and vice versa . When it came time for the wedding, if Muriel’s mother said, “chicken”, my father said, “roast beef”. And even though my father had no business saying “roast beef”, he would say it anyway. If Muriel’s mother said, “You can bring 50 people,” he said, “I have a hundred and fifty people to bring.”
Interviewer: Oh well, I can, I’m getting the picture there.
Derrow: And . . . .
Interviewer: So one thing led to another?
Derrow: One thing led to another and we decided that the best thing to do would be to get married. So we eloped to New City, New York, which is in Rockland County. We were married by a Justice of the Peace. When we then called our parents to tell them we were married, my mother arranged for us to be married by a Rabbi the next day in Roselle Park, New Jersey . . . . and we were married by a Rabbi who was known by a cousin of my mother’s, who we had never seen before, spoke English very, very badly.
Interviewer: Were your parents there?
Derrow: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Both sets of parents came?
Derrow: Both sets of parents were there. Muriel’s aunt and uncle were there. Muriel’s aunt whom she loved dearly and we continued until she died, said to Muriel, “It isn’t starting off so good but let’s hope it ends better.”
Interviewer: Oh, well thank God it did.
Derrow: And the Rabbi, in speaking in English and Yiddish, kept on referring to Muriel as not “this” woman but “that” woman. “Do you take that woman to be . . . .”
Interviewer: That wasn’t too . . . .
Derrow: No, Muriel was not too happy with that.
Interviewer: I can understand that.
Derrow: But that was our, that was our start. And we went to live in a converted barracks in . . . . I left from Camp Shanks in New York when I went abroad, and we came back to live in Shanks Village, New York, which were converted barracks into apartments for returning veterans. And we have been married now for fifty-two years.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Now you left to come to Columbus and you already had five children.
Derrow: Five children.
Interviewer: Yeah. How did that move happen? How did you manage that? You were going, you were communicating back and forth?
Derrow: I left, I left on the 28th of January. Muriel stayed to do several things. Sell the house and for the children to finish school and we didn’t know that the house would sell the next day. But the house did sell the next day. But we still had made all the arrangements for Muriel to stay there and I, we had no house here or anything else. So I came, took over the business as of February 1st and Muriel and the children came to Columbus to live on January 24th.
Interviewer: Had you already found a place for them?
Derrow: Yeah, well, what happened was Muriel had never been to Columbus and I arranged with Eva Luper, remember Eva Luper?
Derrow: Eva Luper was the agent that I contacted to look at a whole bunch of houses. And Muriel came out, I think it was in April but I don’t remember exactly when. April of ’63. And looked at houses and looked at houses. And the ones I selected, she didn’t want. And Eva showed her another one in Berwick and that’s where we moved. That’s where we bought.
Interviewer: Where was that?
Derrow: On uh Spartan Drive in Berwick. Right off Schaaf.
Interviewer: So she came in with the family . . . .
Derrow: With five children . . . .
Interviewer: to start right away.
Derrow: ranging in age from three to fourteen.
Interviewer: Where did you stay before you moved?
Derrow: I stayed with uh . . . .
Interviewer: Before Muriel moved here?
Derrow: Mrs. Fisher. Did you know a Honey Fisher who used to be Rabbi Folkman’s secretary?
Interviewer: Oh, I remember hearing the name but I didn’t really know her.
Derrow: That was Honey Fisher. Sarah Fisher was the mother. I went to the Center and asked if there were any Jewish families who were taking in boarders and they said that Sarah Fisher needed some extra money. She was a widow and she lived on Kelton in Driving Park. And I went to see her and she said uh, “Yes, I could stay (there) but I couldn’t eat (there).” She wasn’t going to feed me. But she was very, very nice and charged me ten dollars a week. And after being there for a few weeks, she then asked me to come for dinner on Wednesday night so I took her out on Sunday, to the corner of James, no, no, Hamilton and Main. What was the Italian place that had the big pies and stuff?
Interviewer: Yeah, I can’t remember the name of it.
Interviewer: Emil’s. Emil’s.
Interviewer: Yeah. The big, that was a very popular restaurant.
Derrow: Well she got such a big kick that somebody, a young man was taking her to dinner on Sunday.
Interviewer: Oh, that was special for her?
Derrow: That was special for her. And she fed me on Wednesday.
Interviewer: Oh, well that was a good deal.
Derrow: And then Muriel came out and Mrs. Fisher was very hurt when Muriel and I did not stay at her house when she came out, but we went to a hotel.
Interviewer: Oh. So did it take very long for the kids to get established?
Derrow: No, we were fortunate. We lived in Berwick, a mile away from the Jewish Center. And I had made arrangements for the kids to be enrolled in the Jewish Center camps. So we arrived on the 24th and the next week, the camps opened so the kids went right to camp.
Interviewer: Well that was a good way to get established.
Derrow: So they, right away they got in, they didn’t come in as strangers into a school because the school was closed. But they got to know the kids during the summer. So it, that worked out very, very well for us.
Derrow: The result of that was because the Center was the key to my family getting into the community, I gave my time to the Center at that time and that was, and then ten years later, eight years later, I became the President of the Center.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah, I remember that, too. Tell us about your children. Let’s start at the beginning and tell us who the . . . .
Derrow: My, our oldest son is Charles who is the physician, who is a graduate of Michigan and OSU School of Medicine and is now living in Michigan but he had a practice up until this past December here in Columbus. And he is an internist and a geriatrician.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Is he presently married?
Derrow: He is not married. He has been married twice and with his first wife, he has four children, our grandchildren. None with the second wife.
Interviewer: And who are the grandchildren?
Derrow: The grandchildren are Solomon, who is a third-year medical student at OSU, Shoshe who is a now going to be a senior at Michigan, Avi who is now going to be a junior at Michigan, and Zoe who is going to be a Junior at Bexley.
Interviewer: Very interesting names.
Interviewer: Beautiful names.
Derrow: Yes. The children are, the grandchildren are absolutely wonderful. In spite of the estranged family life of having divorced parents and so forth, obviously they are doing very, very well. But it was quite traumatic on them . . . during that period of time.
Interviewer: I want to speak more about your relationship with the kids ’cause I remember when they were younger, but let’s come back to that after you tell me about . . ..
Interviewer: the rest of your children.
Derrow: Then my next son is Martin who is also a physician and he and his wife and their two children, but their two children are now, are now away from home, live in Florida, in Longview, Florida. And we do not have a relationship with our second son, unfortunately.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So was he at your daughter’s wedding?
Interviewer: So he’s not . . . .
Derrow: He has no relationship with his siblings which is most unfortunate. And his children have no relationship with their other first cousins. Which is also very unfortunate. Our next child is Sandra who was just married. And she has been for fifteen years the President of the Texas Association for the Homes for the Aged and is now working as a consultant in that field and her husband is the CEO of seven different, distinct assisted-care facilities for older people. Our fourth son, our fourth child is our son Andrew who lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and by sheer coincidence, lives five miles from where we used to live in Fairlawn.
Interviewer: Oh. That is a coincidence. Uh huh.
Derrow: He has three children.
Interviewer: What’s his wife’s name?
Derrow: His wife’s name is Janis and they have three children who are six, eight, and ten; all sons.
Interviewer: And their names?
Derrow: Starting with the oldest, Evan, Sean and Eli. Eli is named for my father. Evan is named for Muriel’s mother, Eva.
Derrow: Sean is named for Janis’ . . . . He has a fascinating name, Sean. Sean Isaac. My daughter-in-law Janis is converted to Judaism but her original name was Shanahan so . . . . pure Irish, so Sean Isaac is an absolutely marvelous name.
Interviewer: It blends in.
Interviewer: Uh huh. It works.
Derrow: And our youngest son is Philip who is the President and CEO of this company now. He became CEO last year and he is married to Barb and they have a brand new baby, my newest granddaughter, Anna Eve, named for my mother and Muriel’s mother. Those are my five children and the grandchildren and Sandy, in marrying her husband, has two teen-aged daughters. Step-daughters.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Just going back to your grandchildren, I remember many years ago when you would go to synagogue services with the children. Can you tell us a little bit about that? That was a real special relationship.
Derrow: Both Martin and Charles lived in Columbus during this period of time when the children were growing up. And Martin’s two older children are the same age as Charles’ two older children.Martin’s two children. And I would pick them up whoever was going to go every Saturday morning, and take any wheres from two to six children to services. Once all the children that Charles had were born, and some even, as long as they were out of diapers, I would take them. And when Charles and Sherry were divorced, I was the only constant because Charles and Sherry have had shared custody. One week with Charles and one week with Sherry. But every Saturday, I would pick them up. So I was the constant that these children had. Not that there was anything wrong with Charles and Sherry, but it was still an adversarial relationship. But I kept, still have a reasonable relationship with Sherry and Sherry was very happy to have me pick the children up on Saturdays. And I liked the idea that they would go to shul, what they had to do for me is go to services and then two Saturdays out of every month, I would take them to the movies after services. And the other two Saturdays, we would do some of the things that I wanted to do. Such as go to the Museum of Art. About once every two or three months, we’d go to the Museum of Art. Once a month, we would go to COSI. Once every two or three months, we would go to the Ohio Historical Museum. So we would do things that I wanted to do.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Which was fun, I’m sure, for them too.
Derrow: Well, and when it was Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or something like that, or close to that particular time, I would take them shopping for their mother or their father. But we always had things to do and they were with me.
Interviewer: Well you gave them fond memories. I’m sure . . . .
Derrow: They all remember that and they all remember the M&Ms . . . .that I was . . . . ‘Course people . . . . how you . . . . six children quiet in Temple. And if you remember, these kids made no sound. They were not bad, well I don’t know whether you ever saw us in Temple.
Interviewer: No but we ran into you a few times afterwards. You were having lunch with all these little ones . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . trailing after you. Now to continue here.
Derrow: As far as the children were concerned, this is almost like imprinted on the kids. Sol just turned 24. With even like today, all of a sudden, he’ll show up at 11 o’clock outside the door, “Where are you taking me for lunch today, Grandpa?” If he doesn’t have any classes in the afternoon and he’s finished his work in Med School, next thing I know, he’s here.
Interviewer: Well, that’s great.
Derrow: So it gets imprinted.
Interviewer: It sure does.
Derrow: And the kids really keep in close touch. One of the regrets that we have is that we don’t have that same relationship with our three grandchildren in New Jersey because we’re at this distance. So we’re going to make some additional plans to go and see them more often and see if we can have them send them to us. And we’re doing more traveling and things like that. But even so, the relationship was a good one. Unfortunately, we with my two granddaughters who are Martin’s children, that relationship has disappeared.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well, who knows, it may turn around at some point.
Derrow: . . . .
Interviewer: We won’t dwell on that. So do the children all see each other though, other than well maybe family get-togethers?
Derrow: Well the other four children, Charles, Sandy, Andy and Philip are probably talking to each other three, four, five times a week.
Interviewer: Well that’s beautiful. So some things worked there.
Derrow: And Andy is a Vice President of Goldman Sachs and as you know, in those New York investment banking companies, they can do whatever they want so Andy has two-, three- and four-way conversations with his siblings several times a week.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it’s beautiful. That’s great. Do you, have you taken trips with the children, all of the kids?
Derrow: When they were younger, well, first of all, we couldn’t afford to when we were very young.
Derrow: A couple of times we did. We went to Washington and we went to Florida when I, after I came here, with all five of them. With four of them, we went out to California once, again, after we came here. Prior to that, we couldn’t afford it. And then for our 45th anniversary, we took the entire family of four children and their children to Tortola.
Interviewer: Where is this?
Derrow: British Virgin Islands. For a week. And it was our anniversary but we took them.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well, that’s the pleasure you have as a parent.
Interviewer: We just did that with our kids. And we were happy.
Derrow: Oh, we, we loved every minute of it.
Interviewer: Sure, sure.
Derrow: It was absolutely terrific. So we do a lot of that. And . . . .
Interviewer: And there are opportunities with Bar Mitzvahs and . . . .
Derrow: And they, yeah, that’s right.
Interviewer: Bat Mitzvahs.
Derrow: We’ve had the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs of Charles’ children and . . . .
Interviewer: Pretty soon you’ll have weddings of grandchildren.
Derrow: Oh yeah. At Sandy’s wedding, they were all there. In Chicago and now we had Sandy’s wedding in Austin, Texas. So we, we have those opportunities to get together and then when Andy comes here to visit with the kids, Charles, well Charles was here and Philip is here. Sandy would come up from Texas and stuff like that. So we would get together.
Interviewer: Sure. Just to go back just a tiny little bit before we go further ahead, do you have very many memories that you can share with us about the Depression?
Derrow: Yes. My father opened the store in 1931 which was at the beginning of the worst stages of the Depression. My father’s gross sales in the store for a week was $95 in those days. Which meant that his profit was about $25. And our rent was $50 a month. So half of the profit went for rent. But because of the Depression, we lived in the apartment above the store. We got the apartment for nothing during the Depression, yet my father would pay the rent for the store, which was $50 a month. And cigarettes were 13 cents a pack, two for a quarter. And a lot of people were out of work.
Derrow: People today, unless they are our age or older, don’t know the Depression. And they don’t know what the Depression was . . . .
Interviewer: They may read about it but it’s hard to understand.
Derrow: They don’t know it.
Interviewer: No, they really don’t.
Derrow: They can’t understand that 25% of the men in the country were out of work. Not 4%, 5%, 8%, but 25% were out of work. And it made no difference whether you were a college graduate or not.
Interviewer: That’s right.
Derrow: They were out of work. And I remember my father’s, customers saying, “I can’t pay you today,” and if he was a customer for years, my father would say, “OK, pay me when you can.”
Interviewer: And they usually did.
Derrow: And they usually did. And I remember my father, the people who sold cigars to my father, would come around . . . . with a closed station wagon and have the cigars in the back. And they would collect the last week’s delivery when they gave you this week’s delivery. And occasionally my father couldn’t pay for last week’s delivery so he used to hide in the toilet in the back and send me out to tell the guy that my father isn’t here.
Interviewer: Put him off for a while.
Derrow: ‘Till next week.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah, well I think it’s important to . . . .
Derrow: . . . . we, we always had enough to eat. A lot of potatoes. Never had red meat. We had chopped meat occasionally but most of the time, it was chicken. But we always had food on the table. And always had something to wear. I didn’t have a suit until, well, lot . . . . , most young, most kids my age didn’t have suits until they were Bar Mitzvah.
Derrow: That was the first suit.
Interviewer: There was no need for it really.
Derrow: And you went to the East Side to buy it as cheaply as you could.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Uh huh. What about your first car?
Derrow: My first car was when I came back from the Army. Well again, what you have to understand, not only did you have the Depression, but you now had the war. From 1941 to 1946, no cars were made in the United States for civilians. A lot of people don’t know that.All the automotive plants, all of the plants that made stuff for consumers, were making stuff for the Army and the Navy and all the armed forces. So my first car was a 1937 Ford which I got in 1946. A 1937 Ford that had three fenders.
Interviewer: Three fenders?
Derrow: Three fenders. One fender was missing. That’s the car in which Muriel and I decided to get married So that was my first car and the second car . . . .
Interviewer: Do you remember how much it was, how much it might have cost?
Derrow: Oh it was less than $100.
Derrow: Because my first new car was after we got married, was a Nash 600 that cost $800. Brand new car. But it had an engine that was like an engine for a sewing machine. Don’t go up a hill with it. And after that, I had used cars until I got to be a Vice President of the company I was working for.
Interviewer: And your family was getting bigger then too?
Derrow: And the family was getting bigger. First new car after that was a Plymouth.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What do you remember about Presidents during your early life?
Derrow: Well, we had one President for over 12 years and that was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who to this day I consider one of the greatest Presidents. But prior to 1932, what was I going to remember about Hoover and . . . .
Derrow: . . . . But I remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt and I remember when he died because I was in Germany when he died. And then Truman, and so forth. Then I came back and was able to vote and I remember voting for Adlai Stevenson. And so forth.
Interviewer: Were you, were you very involved in politics?
Derrow: I was involved in local politics. I became the President in Fairlawn, New Jersey, of what was called the Non-Partisan League. We had non-partisan elections for mayor and council. But the Republicans always controlled it until we formed the Non-Partisan League and we threw the Republicans out. Then the Republicans gathered forces and threw us out.
Interviewer: Huh. So it was a switch-around?
Derrow: But I was always, I was always actively involved until I came here. And here I never got involved in politics.
Interviewer: Well I know that you were very involved in organizations and before your voice falls out of you, I’m going to, I’m going to get some of that background.
Interviewer: I know that . . . .
Derrow: My first, because of what the Center did for us, I decided that whatever free time I would have, I would devote to the Center. Because I felt that they made it possible for my family to be here. And I volunteered for committees, then became Vice President of Programming and then became President in 1971. And was President for two years. I also became involved in the Temple and became a Secretary and a member of the Board.
Interviewer: What Temple is this?
Derrow: Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: Okay. And you’re still a member of Tifereth Israel?
Derrow: Still a member of Tifereth Israel and, for close to 30 years, I have been sounding the shofar at Tifereth Israel. And just retired this past Yom Kippur.
Interviewer: Yeah I know you were always spoken very highly of as an outstanding shofar blower. How did you get your training? How did . . . .
Derrow: I started doing it in Fairlawn. And one time, and we belonged to the Conservative congregation there when I did it there. And the Rabbi here knew the Rabbi there and one time said to him, “We need somebody to sound the shofar,” and Rabbi Glustrom, who was our Rabbi in Fairlawn said, “Well, you have somebody there. You have Dave Derrow and he sounded it here.” So Rabbi Zelizer asked if I would sound it. And I did. Then I shared it with, I’ve forgotten who it is now.
Interviewer: But you just did it because you wanted to?
Derrow: Well I knew how. I knew how. And I enjoy doing it. And according to what people have said, I did it well.
Interviewer: Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that.
Derrow: I didn’t, I don’t miss any notes. And I’ve trained quite a few people to do it locally. But at 75, I think I’ve done it enough.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s time for a rest.
Interviewer: From that. I know you do . . . .
Derrow: So . . . .
Interviewer: Let’s continue with your organizations . . . .
Derrow: . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . involved . . . .
Derrow: When I was President of the Center, you’re automatically on the Board of the Federation. So I was on the Board of the Federation for a number of years and didn’t see eye-to-eye with the way they were running things and resigned from that. I have a certain problem with people being gauged on their value in the community based on how much they give, rather than based on what they do. And then I also was the Vice President at Jewish Family Services and was on the Board of Heritage for a couple of years. And over the last, I guess, seven years, became active in the Historical Society, Columbus Jewish Historical Society. And I’ve just finished being President there.
Interviewer: Yeah, well, we enjoyed your reign as President. You were . . . .
Derrow: So basically the years that I’ve been here, I’ve had a reasonable amount of activity in the community. I consider the community a very good community that’s been good to us and . . . . the official part of the Jewish community sometimes goes in directions that I would like to see changed. But we’re fortunate. This community raises more money per capita than most other places I’ve ever seen.But money becomes the end-all, be-all and that’s something I have a certain amount of difficulty with . . . . as generous and as philanthropic as the next person, but I don’t like to be considered based on how much money I give or don’t give.
Interviewer: . . . . you don’t want that to be what you’re judged on?
Interviewer: Yeah, I can understand that. Let’s see I had a question here I wanted to get into. Tell us about your retirement. I know that you . . . .
Derrow: Well . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . retirement.
Derrow: This company has done very, very well for me. I’m proud of what the company has become. And some of the plans that I had fell through in terms of manage- ment, but Philip has taken over control.
Interviewer: How long has Philip been involved in the business?
Derrow: Philip has been in the business for 17 years but up until last year, he was only in one part of it. He was the President of the air compressor part of the business. He never had anything to do with the power transmission part of it. So when I had to make certain changes, I had essentially retired three years ago and had someone else as President of the power transmission part and Philip as President of the air compressor part. And when I had to make a change in the power transmission part, I went back and took over control again. And that was 1997. And last year, I moved Philip in here from the air compressor part and last year, a year ago this month, made him the CEO of the corporation. But I maintain my activity in handling, in order to run this company, you can’t do some of the things that have to be done because of the size that we are now. So I come to the office any wheres from three to six-seven hours. I was here this morning at 8:30 in the morning. And I handle the finance and the buildings and the relationship with vendors. But I’m gradually move—, I’m out of the day-to-day running of the business altogether. So I am retired from one end but not retired from the company.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Are you satisfied with that arrangement?
Derrow: Oh yes, oh yes.
Interviewer: And looking forward to leaving?
Derrow: I’m looking forward, I have a consulting contract with the company for five years. So the company can use what knowledge I have for the next five years, next four years now. And we go from there.
Interviewer: Uh huh. It sounds like a good arrangement.
Interviewer: I know you and Muriel have had some incredible travel experiences.
Interviewer: Why don’t we go back a few years and tell us about some of these experiences.
Derrow: Well Muriel and I as a couple did not travel outside of the United States until our 30th anniversary. On our 30th anniversary, we went for the first time and took a European trip for 30 days. Then we didn’t do it again until our 35th anniversary.
Interviewer: Oh, Europe. What part of Europe did you go to?
Derrow: We started in England and went from England to France to Italy and to Greece.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Was this an organized tour?
Derrow: No, we did it on our own. We almost never have taken organized tours. The exception to that was when we went to Israel in 198-, no 1972. And we went to Russia and the Soviet Union in 1979. When we went to Russia in 1979, I met for the first time three of my aunts and one uncle.
Interviewer: Who lived in?
Derrow: Lived in Moscow. They were my mother’s siblings.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That would be exciting.
Derrow: It was.
Derrow: It was very exciting. And first cousins. Saw them for the first time. I had never, I had never seen, and still, any of my grandparents. They all died before I got there. And they never came to this country. But this was the first time, other than my father’s brother in this country, that I have ever seen any aunts and uncles.
Interviewer: Uh huh. How were you able to communicate with the relatives?
Derrow: In Yiddish.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you knew Yiddish? You remembered it well enough?
Derrow: I remembered Yiddish well enough to be able to . . . . communicate. And for our 35th anniversary, we spent 35 days in Europe. This time, we drove. And we started in France and went from France to Switzerland, to Austria and to Germany. For 35 days. And we really enjoyed that. 35th anniversary. For our 40th anniversary, my mother-in-law got very sick and . . . .
Interviewer: She was living in Columbus at that time?
Derrow: Yeah. My mother-in-law moved to Columbus in 1975. Stayed, and was here for 12 years. And was very active and enjoyed herself. So we could only go away for our 40th for one week because she was ill. So we spent three days in London and four days in Paris . . . . it sounds like it’s a lot but it’s like in five-year intervals.And for our 45th anniversary is when we took the kids and the entire family to Tortola. And then three years ago, we took our first real cruise which was the first time we had taken a cruise in forty years and we went around the world for three and a half months.
Interviewer: Well that was fascinating.
Derrow: That was superb.
Interviewer: You didn’t get restless and feel like you . . . .
Derrow: No, it was just one of those serendipitous things that was just perfect for us. We enjoyed it thoroughly. We met very, very nice people and we were on a luxury ship that was everything we could have hoped for. And the next year, that was a 96-day cruise. The next year, we took a 57-day cruise around South America, which was also great. Now in between, remember I said one time we had been to Buenos Aires to get my brother’s grave and we spent two weeks in South America that time. But that was on a flight. This was a 57-day cruise that went all around South America, all around. Down to the bottom, the Falkland Islands, all of that.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah, that’s a long cruise.
Derrow: Then last year, we took a cruise in the summertime and started in Copenhagen and ended up in London. It was a two-week cruise. And we haven’t been away but we will be going in August for another trip that starts in London and goes around the British Isles and Ireland, for two weeks. And then at the end of this year, we’re taking a Millennium Cruise which will be four weeks.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Muriel was telling me a little bit about that. That sounds like it should be great. A lot of fun.
Derrow: It should be marvelous.So those are the things we’re doing. It still, you know, most of the time, we’re still home.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But you do things you enjoy doing?
Derrow: We do things and we . . . .
Interviewer: You go to the theater?
Derrow: Oh we go to the theater as often as we can. Both here and in New York. And when we go, that’s one of the reasons why we like to go to London so much because London has marvelous theater.
Interviewer: Right. Well . . . .
Derrow: The other thing is it’s difficult to say this to people ’cause they don’t quite understand: we don’t go with anybody from home. We go by oursleves because that’s the way you meet new people. If you go with a couple of couples that you’re with a lot here, those are the only people you’re going to associate with.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Right, you’re pretty much locked in . . . .
Interviewer: to your little circle.
Derrow: So we never do that . . . . by ourselves.
Interviewer: When the children were young, did you take trips with the kids?
Derrow: Not too many other than the ones I’ve already told you about. Again, simply because we couldn’t afford it.
Interviewer: Have the kids been to Israel?
Derrow: Oh yes. The kids started taking trips long before we ever started taking trips.
Interviewer: Yeah. Somehow, it’s much easier for them.
Derrow: Charles has been to Israel several times. Shoshi’s been to Israel. Avi has not been and Zoe has not been but Zoe is going to go. Zoe is very active in the Temple.
Interviewer: Yeah, I see her name in the Chronicle . . . .
Interviewer: and I hear about her. Okay.
Derrow: Well Sandy has been doing a lot of traveling and Andy has been . . . . travel since he was, well Andy traveled before he was married too. He back-packed across Europe.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s great how those kids have . . . .
Derrow: But . . . .
Interviewer: that experience?
Interviewer: Just like we did, huh?
Derrow: I had to, I had to wait for the government to send me when guns were . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah right, Uncle Sam.
Interviewer: Uncle Sam took care of that. Yeah I’m going to start kind of winding up . . . .
Interviewer: ’cause we’re getting at the end of this tape. But I know you’ve had a lot of great experiences with your organizations and with your business and with your family and as a parent, a grandparent, an active person in the community. Can you kind of size up your life? I know it’s not easy to do in just a few words, but any messages you might give to us in terms of . . . .
Derrow: Well . . . .
Interviewer: your involvement and so forth?
Derrow: Well I am convinced that people make of their lives what they want to make of them. I always thought that I would be going to medical school and be a physician. It didn’t happen. Just because it didn’t happen, I didn’t stop doing the things that I had to do. I always thought I would get to be six foot tall. Didn’t happen. Now because I’m five foot, four inches tall, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t play football. It didn’t mean that I couldn’t study and do the things that I wanted to do. And it also didn’t mean that because I didn’t become a physician, that I couldn’t start to work in an entirely different field other than what I was training for and get to be successful in that field. Not anybody can do that. But I had good fortune and worked hard. And when I first came to Columbus, I worked until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. I was fortunate that I didn’t have my family here for the first five months so I was able to work until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. And start the company in the way that it had to go. People will make of their lives what they want to. The community here, we enjoyed ourselves in Fairlawn, New Jersey. We had a lot of friends. We still see some of them. The community here has been an accepting community and I can’t complain nor can Muriel complain nor can our children complain even though they may want to, of the opportunities that have been coming our way. You either accept them or not. I remember coming here and I remember other people that we met who would say what a terrible place Columbus is. There is no art, there is no culture, there is no this, there is no that. And we would say, “Well do you go up to Mershon Auditorium at the University?” “No.” “Do you take the kids to the Columbus Symphony?” “It’s awful.” Well . . . it’s not the New York Philharmonic at that time . . . .it’s not the Cleveland or the Cincinnati, but it still is the Columbus Symphony. Well if you don’t take advantage of what’s here, you’re not going to enjoy it.
Interviewer: Well you’ve lived through the years of Columbus developing into an entirely different kind of . . . .
Derrow: When I first . . . .
Derrow: yeah. First of all, we were an outsider. And Columbus is a very close-knit community. And when you’re an outsider, it takes a little time before you’re accepted. And when we got here, the only building that was over eight stories tall was the Lincoln Leveque Building. And you take a look now. The community has grown.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well you certainly have seen a lot of changes here.
Derrow: Yes. And the question is whether you change with the changes, whether you take advantage of the opportunities that are here or whether you decry the things that have occurred and say, “I like it the old-fashioned way.”
Interviewer: Sure, sure. Well, I’m going to wind this lovely afternoon up and thank you David on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’ve enjoyed our friendship through the years and you certainly have blended into Columbus. I was an outsider but I keep forgetting that I was an outsider.
Derrow: Well, that’s right.
Interviewer: That was a few years ago and I, we love Columbus and I wish you . . . .
Derrow: It’s been good to us.
Interviewer: It has been good. And I wish you well on your future adventures, your travels and I hope you and Muriel continue for many more years to come.
Derrow: Thank you.
Interviewer: Thank you again.