This interview is taking place by Carol Folkerth as part of the Oral History Project of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.
Interviewer: Right. OK. Do you remember your address in childhood; or what
street you lived on?
Kanter: Yes, I think we were living on S. Parsons Avenue. I think it was
around 750 then. As a matter of fact, it was probably 758. That’s close
enough; it was around Sycamore and Parsons.
Interviewer: What was your mother’s name? And your father’s?
Kanter: Sarah. David Abraham.
Interviewer: Did their name change when they came over here?
Kanter: Yeah. Kantrovitch, I believe. “Vitch” means “son
of” so they just eliminated it.
Interviewer: And where were you born?
Kanter: Well, I was born in Paint; just a few miles – a small village in
Russia – more nearly Polish Russia.
Interviewer: And were you an only child? How many brothers and sisters?
Kanter: I had one brother and one sister.
Interviewer: And when did you come to America?
Kanter: December 28, 1906 – came to Columbus. Came to the country on December
Interviewer: And how old were you then in 1906?
Kanter: I was 8 years old. Born in 1898.
Interviewer: And what school did you go to?
Kanter: Livingston Avenue Elementary School – grade school. That was the
first one I went to.
Interviewer: Did you later go to another one?
Kanter: Bexley and then to Fulton Street
Interviewer: And how old were you when you first started school? Did you
start school right away?
Kanter: I started in the next September because I came to Columbus in the
middle of the year.
Interviewer: What grade did you start in?
Kanter: I started in the first grade; course I had two years of Russian and
also learned Hebrew.
Interviewer: Now, in Russia, did you go to a Russian school or Jewish school?
Kanter: There wasn’t any Jewish school; I went to a Russian school.
Interviewer: So, you had a couple of years there in formal education. Now,
were you put in any special English classes, that you remember?
Interviewer: Where did you learn English?
Kanter: I wanted to complain to the children’s centers. I sold newspapers.
I was a news boy.
Interviewer: You worked before and after school?
Kanter: I worked after school and delivered the Sunday paper and sometimes
nights when they had an Extra, or something.
Interviewer: Did anyone at school ever work on your accent, the way you
Kanter: No, never.
Interviewer: And did you only speak English at school, like to the other
Kanter: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: What language did you speak at home?
Kanter: At home, I spoke Yiddish and English, I think. Both of them.
Interviewer: Did you try to speak English to your parents? Did they encourage
Kanter: My dad could speak a little, you know. He was a school teacher here
and he was able to pick it up very quickly.
Interviewer: Your dad taught???
Kanter: He taught Hebrew and he was able to pick up English very quickly. In
fact, he was the one who had the first Hebrew shul in the city of Columbus.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Kanter: When he came here, he and a fellow by the name of Chataqua and he
finally an attorney and they formed their own Hebrew shul.
Interviewer: And they really had the first one here in Columbus. Did you come
with your parents or had they come earlier?
Kanter: I came with my mother; my father had come earlier.
Interviewer: How long had your dad been here before you came.
Kanter: He was here close to two years. About two years. I don’t have the
exact figure, but its close enough.
Interviewer: What did your dad do; what was his occupation?
Kanter: His occupation was teacher.
Interviewer: That’s right. He was a full time teacher.
Kanter: He was a full time teacher. He went into business later on.
Interviewer: Did your mom ever work outside the home?
Kanter: She helped him out in the store.
Interviewer: Did she have any formal education in Russia, that you know of?
Kanter: Oh sure. She went to school over there.
Interviewer: So, she could read and write Russian?
Kanter: She could read and write Russian; she knew Yiddish, and she leaned
Interviewer: Did you come home from school and ever teach your parents any
Kanter: No, No. Well we spoke English but I never had to teach them. My dad
was able to pick up the grammar better than I did. He was a good student.
Interviewer: Now, when you were in elementary school, were you frequently
absent from school?
Kanter: I was never absent except for all the Jewish holidays. Even in
college or medical school. I never went to school on a Jewish holiday.
Interviewer: Were you ever penalized for not attending school on a Jewish
Kanter: No! No! Never.
Interviewer: Were most of the kids in your class Jewish, in those schools?
Kanter: No! No! There were some.
Interviewer: But you didn’t go to schools where there were mostly Jewish
Kanter: No. No.
Interviewer: OK. Did either your brother or your sister work after school,
like you did?
Kanter: Well, I think my brother used to work in the summers and he worked
some after shul.
Interviewer: Did your sister complete high school; did your brother?
Kanter: We all completed college.
Interviewer: They all went the whole way? Sometimes people said their sisters
quit a little earlier. Your sister went all the way. OK. When you were little,
do you remember, did you want to go to public school? Were you happy there?
Kanter: Oh, yes. Absolutely!
Interviewer: It was important to you. Was your brother and sister too?
Kanter: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Did you ever feel different from any of the more American kids
in your class? Maybe the American-born kids? Maybe the way you dressed? Or
anything like that?
Kanter: No, No. Maybe a little in high school but that didn’t amount to
anything. We were on pretty good terms, I mean, I didn’t know anything about
segregation or de-segregation or anything else. Black rights or whatever. We
were Jewish, gentile. We were all on very friendly terms. It isn’t anything
Interviewer: Now, if you had to pick one public school experience that you
remember the most, that is most memorable, could you tell me about it?
Kanter: Do you mean grade school or…
Interviewer: Yeah. Let’s try grade school, if you can. If not, high school
would be Ok.
Kanter: Any one particular experience??? The experience that I probably
remember the most ____ _____ _____. She was an excellent English teacher
probably on the college level. She was very good. She was a well educated
Interviewer: Have you kept in touch with any of your teachers throughout the
Kanter: Yeah. Once in a while. Yeah. A reunion or something from high school.
Not grade school but the high school.
Interviewer: Did that English teacher take a special interest in you?
Kanter: Not particularly. She was just a good teacher.
Interviewer: She was just a really good teacher. You remember.
Kanter: She was ____ _____ ______.
Interviewer: And that impressed you, to remember her. Did she encourage you
or did she encourage you students to go on?
Kanter: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. So, for the next two years, through the 8th
grade, you had to settle the _____ _____ doing everything. That was another
Interviewer: Like a junior high?
Kanter: Well, sorta like a junior high. Just like a _____ ______. A very fine
teacher. There was a pretty good group of kids.
In fact, we used to have the more affluent than the poor. The poor public
schools had everybody there, you know. You went to school, whether you had ten
dollars or ten thousand dollars, you know.
Interviewer: Did you enjoy your public schools?
Kanter: Oh, yes. I enjoyed all the schools.
Interviewer: Did your parents feel that the public school education was
important for you? And for your brother and sister? Would they make sacrifices
in order to send you there, if they had to?
Kanter: Oh, yes. Yes.
Interviewer: It was that important, huh? How did your parents feel about
America? Did they look on it as their new home or, was it temporary?
Kanter: No. They looked on it as their new home. They wanted to put their
roots here as their new home.
Interviewer: Did they come to the school very often? Did your parents ever
come to school?
Kanter: No. Once in a while but if there was some kind of affair or
something, they would come occasionally. They were too busy. My dad had to be in
business meetings. He worked during the day and he didn’t have time for it. He
always saw to it that we studied, I mean, he saw to it that we studied. And, if
we ever needed any help with anything, you know, he would help because he did
have a formal education.
Interviewer: Was there ever any conflict between you and him? What you might
learn at school.
Kanter: No. No. No. Never.
Interviewer: Basically, they were supportive of the school, what the school
Kanter: That’s right.
Interviewer: How about, did you ever participate in any of the Christmas
Kanter: No. No. They never asked me to and I wouldn’t anyhow, but they
never asked me.
Interviewer: Did your parents have any feelings about that, that you recall?
Kanter: No. No way. They knew that I wouldn’t participate without even
Interviewer: I see. Did they have prayers at your school? Did they open the
day with a prayer?
Kanter: I wouldn’t want to tell you yes; I wouldn’t tell you no, but I
Interviewer: OK. Alright. Did a teacher ever suggest to you anything about
changing your name?
Kanter: No. No.
Interviewer: Alright. Do you remember going to ceremonies like the pledge of
allegiance or God praying experimenting?
Kanter: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: Did you participate in that? How did you feel about that?
Kanter: No. I think it was this is my home and this is my country and I
wanted to be a model citizen; that was all.
Interviewer: How were your grades in school? Were they pretty good?
Kanter: Yeah. My grades in parochial school; I’d say my grades were above
average in grade school and in high school, I had a couple of subjects that I
wasn’t so hot in, especially civics and geometry. I mean I wasn’t too hot in
those two subjects, but…
Interviewer: Geometry threw you, huh? What were your favorite ones; what did
you do the best in?
Kanter: My favorite ones were Latin, German, English, and English literature,
you know. At South High School, I would be called a life literary (??); no
typing , no shorthand, nothing like that.
Interviewer: You would call it preparatory; you were preparing for college.
Did you have any manual training back then in public school, any manual training
where you had to make tables.
Kanter: Yes, I mean I had some manual training. In my estimation, there was
not too much to it, but they did have manual training and they had some sports.
You know, they had baseball. We used to play baseball. Of course, and myself, I
would play baseball. And in high school, I mean I was the, I was on the debating
team in high school and also, outside of high school. It is a different thing
Interviewer: Did you ever have any music or art, that you remember in public
Kanter: Well, they were teaching music, but I mean, I was never musically
inclined. I mean, one on one, some were musically inclined and I was not.
Interviewer: That’s it? OK. But they gave you some music in the public
Kanter: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: Did the teacher ever lecture you or your class on hygiene?
Interviewer: Did you remember how she would do that? What she would talk
Kanter: Well, the way you do it. You know, they ask. They’d choose someone
who wasn’t groomed, they would mention, you didn’t wash your face; or you
didn’t wash your neck. I never had that trouble because I was always….ever
since I was a kid, I wore a white shirt. That I remember, to school, I was
Interviewer: That was kind of a symbol, I guess of that…They kind of kept
an eye on the kids?
Kanter: I had a hobby in school.
Interviewer: What was that?
Kanter: Marbles. Champion marble shooter.
Interviewer: Champion. Marble shooter? OK?
Kanter: Yes, champion marble shooter. And you’re not just whistling Dixie.
He was marvelous and the kids would start crying cause the teacher…
Interviewer: Really? Did the teachers ever say anything to you?
Kanter: No, No.
Interviewer: Did you do that in junior high? And high school too?
Kanter: No. Just in grade school. Just in elementary school.
Interviewer: Did lots of kids do that?
Kanter: Play with marbles? Sure. Yes. That was very popular.
Interviewer: A popular game? OK. Now, did you receive any other Jewish
education in this country?
Kanter: No, never went to Hebrew school. No, I received it from my father.
Interviewer: You had your built-in private teacher? OK. Were any of your
teachers Jewish, that you remember?
Kanter: I don’t remember. There was a Jewish teacher in the school but none
of my teachers were Jewish. I had no Jewish teachers.
Interviewer: Well, is there anything else; that is most of the questions I
have here. Anything else that you can remember about school that I haven’t
already asked about? Did you take any civics courses or study anything like
that, that you can remember?
Kanter: I think I had some courses; mostly history, I mean. American history,
Interviewer: Did you have something like penmanship?
Kanter: Yes. Well, we had penmanship too. Zainerpotz, if I remember; it was
all…On my own, of course, I used to, I used to go to the library every Sunday
afternoon. The libraries were open and I used to go over every Sunday afternoon,
after I got through delivering the papers from 2 to 5, and I would always go in
there and read, especially the English; most of the English writers and English
Interviewer: It was a favorite of your…
Kanter: It was a favorite of mine; I’d just go. How was it to write
Shakespeare, Barton, Keats, Shelley, Poe. I mean I’d loved poetry.
Interviewer: Did you ever write any poetry?
Kanter: Well, I probably did. I was just too busy, you know, and you know my
big thing was, my parents were immigrants and they did everything. So, I
supplement; I worked in a secondhand store and pawnshops, you know, every
Interviewer: I see. Did you go to summer school? Did they have summer school
Kanter: I went to summer school one time when I was in high school, so I
could graduate and make up one semester. I went to the YMCA summer school; they
had summer school.
Interviewer: Oh, they did? OK. Well, you’ve been very helpful. Really.
There is a lot of information here.
Kanter: Well, I gave you what I could, you know. And, I couldn’t
participate in the baseball team because I was selling papers after school, you
know. I told them I had to get down there. But I was always interested in
baseball, not football. Woody Hayes wouldn’t put me on the team.
Interviewer: He wouldn’t, would he? Ha. Ha. I got a lot of those in my
class, though, I’ll tell you about them…football players.
Kanter: What do you teach?
Interviewer: American history. I’m a teaching assistant. Oh, now they have
special tutors and everything. You know, they get all the business.
Kanter: Our daughter has a degree, you know, in child guidance, a Masters in
child guidance and she also has a certificate to teach French in high school.
She doesn’t want to teach so she’s a social worker with a hospital.
Interviewer: Oh, she is?
Kanter: She’s working with a doctor in renal disease, kidney disease.
Interviewer: Oh, is that right? My husband’s a doctor and he says he knew
you. His name’s Marvin Fitch.
Kanter: Oh, Marvin! Where is he practicing?
Interviewer: He’s at Riverside. But he used to be at White Cross.
Kanter: Oh, yes. I remember that name.
Interviewer: Well, OK. You’ve been very, very helpful.
Kanter: OK. Nice to have met you.
Interviewer: Nice to meet you and I think you’re about….Thank you, Dr.
Kanter, for sharing your personal life experiences with the Columbus Jewish
Historical Society Oral History Project.