This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded
on January 25, 2007, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral
History Project. The interview is being recorded at 1175 College Avenue, the
Columbus Jewish Federation Building. My name is Peggy Kaplan and I am
interviewing Dr. Allan Blair. Good morning, Allan.
Blair: Good morning.
Interviewer: I’d like for you to tell me your full name please.
Blair: Allan Edward Blair.
Interviewer: And how do you spell Allan?
Interviewer: Allan Edward Blair, B-L-A-I-R?
Interviewer: Okay. Do you have a Jewish name?
Interviewer: Could you tell me?
Blair: Yeah, Avrom Yitzkhok.
Interviewer: That is very good. Could you spell that for me very slowly
Blair: In Hebrew or English?
Interviewer: English so that we can transcribe it.
Blair: A-V-R-O-M Y-I-T-Z-K-H-O-K.
Interviewer: And do you know the meaning of your Hebrew name?
Blair: Well it’s, that’s in Yiddish and it translates in Hebrew to
Abraham Isaac. I’m named for my grandfather.
Interviewer: For your grandfather? And what was your mother’s name?
Blair: Rose and her maiden name was Weiss.
Interviewer: And your father?
Blair: Sam, Samuel.
Interviewer: And what country was your mother born?
Blair: She was born in Riga, Latvia. I guess it was part of the Russian
Empire at the time. And they came here from Riga.
Interviewer: Do you know when she came?
Blair: Let me see. I think it was, I don’t have the exact year. I think it
was somewhere around 1903 or something like that.
Interviewer: And did she come as a single woman or was she married at the
Blair: No, she came as a single woman. She was only about six.
Interviewer: So she came with her parents?
Blair: Came with her parents and her sisters. Her brothers had come here
Interviewer: How many sisters did she have?
Blair: Two sisters and three brothers.
Interviewer: So the brothers were already in the United States?
Blair: Yes, they came here with the Czar’s Army right on their heels.
Interviewer: Do you know their names, your uncles’ names?
Blair: Oh sure. One was Albert and Benjamin and Louis.
Interviewer: And did they come to Columbus as well or did they go elsewhere?
Blair: No, they went to Cleveland ultimately, which is where I grew up, and I’m
not sure if they went anywhere else first. They went, they worked in the steel
mills in Cleveland to bring the rest of the family over.
Interviewer: And what about your mother when she came to the United States.
Where did she go?
Blair: Well, she went with her family to Cleveland.
Interviewer: To Cleveland also?
Blair: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Did the two families, I mean, oh right, they went to be with the
brothers in Cleveland?
Interviewer: So did your mother come with both her mother and father or was
the father here earlier?
Blair: She came with her sisters and her mother and father.
Interviewer: Wow! You have a very big family.
Blair: It was.
Interviewer: Do you know anything about the experience of coming to the
Interviewer: Any stories that you remember?
Blair: As far as my mother goes?
Blair: I’m not really tuned into that. I’m pretty sure they came through
the port of Baltimore and from there they went to Cleveland where, I don’t
know whether my uncles met them at the dock or what. But they came right to
Cleveland from Baltimore, where they settled. Ultimately my uncles went into
business and the girls were quite young and they went to elementary school and
Interviewer: Uh huh. And how about your father? How did he get here?
Blair: Well I’m a little more tuned into that. My dad came here at age 17
when his father said to him, “Sam there’s no future for you here in
Russia”. Actually it was the Ukraine in a town called Vorozhilovka.
Interviewer: Could you spell that for me?
Blair: Oh I don’t think so. V-O-R-O-Z-H-I-L-O-V-K-A.
Interviewer: And that was where again?
Blair: That was in the present Ukraine.
Interviewer: Ukraine, okay.
Blair: At the time it was the Russian Empire. So he, at age 17, he came here.
He walked and hitchhiked and what have you until he got to the port of Bremen in
Germany and got on a ship there. Came to the United States where the ship docked
in New York and they wouldn’t let him off because he was all alone, 17 years
old, no job, no money, no relatives, no nothing. So they were going to send him
back to Russia. So he stayed on the ship but the ship, fortunately, had one more
stop which was Galveston. And in Galveston, United HIAS, Hebrew Immigrant Aid
Society, took him off, gave him ten bucks, said, “Good luck, Sam”. So
he got off the ship and there was like a seaside park there so he sat down on
the bench and didn’t know where to go, what. Couldn’t speak English and he
did what any normal teenager would do. He sat down on the bench and cried. And a
man walked by and he says, “What’s the matter young man?”
Interviewer: In what language?
Blair: In English? And dad looked at him and just shook his head. And then
just on sort of a whim, this man said, “Vos is der mehr yingele?”
and which is the same thing in Yiddish and dad answered him and he said,
“Come with me”, and he had a little needle and thread shop in
Galveston near the docks. He closed his shop for the day, it was early
afternoon, and found dad a place to live and found him a job, all in that
afternoon. We don’t know that guy’s name but I’m greatly indebted to him.
Interviewer: What was the job?
Blair: I don’t remember, or if I ever knew. But ultimately, in Galveston he
apprenticed and learned a trade in the women’s clothing industry as a presser,
which is more than just ironing wrinkled clothing. It’s fitting and shaping
women’s garments, in what they called the cloak industry which meant women’s
rather heavy suits, woolen suits and coats. And he stayed there in Galveston for
a while till he finished his apprenticeship and then he was told of a very good
job in Rock Island, Illinois. So he went there. He stayed there for a short time
and there was an even better job in Cleveland.
Interviewer: Was that the same line of work?
Blair: Yes, yes, in the clothing industry.
Interviewer: In clothing?
Blair: Yeah. And he went to Cleveland and he had an even better job in the
Cleveland clothing industry which was quite large at the time. And that’s when
he started going out with my mother and it was one of these things where her
parents, my grandparents, just loved Dad. But she didn’t think he was so hot.
And then suddenly it was 1917 and the United States was at war. And Dad said,
“This is my country. I’ve got to go protect it.” And he enlisted. He
was one of the first enlistees, American enlistees, in World War I. And he went
to the Army and he served there with great distinction and rose to the rank of
Corporal and he was a machine gun instructor. And then when he came back, when
he was mustered out, he came back and my mother saw him walking down the street
in uniform and she said, “Oh, see that’s Sam? He really looks handsome
now.” And, well the rest is history. They got married in about 1920.
Interviewer: So how did your parents meet originally, the very first time?
Blair: I don’t know. It, there were all sorts of ways to bring young
immigrants together, social affairs and he met her at one of these, you know,
like a Yom Kippur dance. I don’t know whether it was that but they met at one
of these social affairs, yeah.
Interviewer: And they got married in what year again?
Blair: Oh I think it was 1919.
Interviewer: Uh huh, uh huh. And they were married in the Cleveland area?
Blair: Oh yeah. They lived their whole lives, the whole rest of their lives,
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. Tell me a little bit about your grandparents.
Blair: Well I only knew one grandparent. That was my grandmother, my Bobbeh.
And she lived with us.
Interviewer: Was that your mother’s . . . .
Blair: My mother’s mother. That’s the only one of the four of them that I
really ever knew. I heard a great deal about my mother’s father after whom I
was named and in the old country, in Latvia, he was, I don’t know what they
called him. Not a cobbler but a shoemaker in the sense that he made shoes. He
made orthopedic shoes. Because there was a lot of hip displasia and problems,
congenital prob- lems, in Europe that resulted in a lot of kids having one foot,
one leg, shorter than the other one and no way to correct it as we have now.
But, so he made shoes for these people, you know, with one shoe built up so that
they could walk straight.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Very interesting.
Blair: Then he came here and he opened a shoe store in Cleveland. And . . . .
Interviewer: Same type of shoes?
Blair: No just a regular family shoe store.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Blair: And he operated that shoe store on the west side of Cleveland for a
number of years until my uncles said, “Dad, we don’t want you to work any
more. Close the store and we’ll take care of you.” And they did. And they
took care of him and Bobbeh until he died and then Bobbeh came to
live with us and she lived there till she died which was another eight years.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So did she cook for you? Did she make any of the old
Blair: No, I don’t remember her cooking anything. Mother did all of the
Jewish cooking and really all . . . .
Interviewer: What’s your favorite memory about Jewish cooking, Jewish food?
Blair: Mostly meat and potatoes. And the arguments I had with my mother over
the fact I wouldn’t eat tuna fish salad ’cause I hated it, which I do till
this day. And, but almost anything she made was terrific, not only the main
courses for the meals but she was an excellent baker and I remember the pies and
cakes and things that she made, they were all, always stupendous. And Friday
night was always a special night in our house. No matter who was there or what
we had on the schedule for that night, it was always, Mother made a special
chopped liver all decorated with whites of eggs and egg yolks. It was always a
big production, you know. It was always a big pie for dessert and a chicken for
the main course. Shabbos was special in our house.
Interviewer: Was your family a religious family?
Blair: Moderately so.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Blair: You know, they weren’t meshuga but they observed Kashruth,
we had a kosher home and which meant every now and then I’d have to bury the
knives in the dirt outside to re-kosher them.
Interviewer: ‘Cause someone made a mistake?
Blair: Yeah, usually me. And, oh what else were you asking about that?
Interviewer: I was asking about your family, was it a religious family?
Blair: Oh yes, yeah. And my sisters and I all went through Hebrew School at
the Temple on the Heights which was a Conservative shul and my sister, my
middle sister, or the middle child really, went through and graduated from
Hebrew School and she was really a good Hebrew student. And I kind of dwindled
off after my Bar Mitzvah as a lot of boys do. We didn’t want to go to
Hebrew School any more.
Interviewer: Right. Tell me your sister’s names?
Blair: My oldest sister’s name is Evelyn, her middle name Goldie which in
Yiddish comes out to Chava Golda. My other sister was named Bernice but
we all called her Bloomie, which was . . . .
Blair: Bloomie, you know like bloomers, Blome. And it was, that was an
English adaptation to her name in Yiddish, which was Blumah or in Hebrew,
Parach, which means flower, bloom. But to this day she’s still known as
Interviewer: You have two sisters?
Interviewer: And brothers?
Blair: No brothers.
Interviewer: No brothers? Where do your sisters live?
Blair: One lives in Sarasota, Florida, the oldest one. And the other sister
lives in Richmond, Virginia.
Interviewer: Do you have any memories or stories you’d like to tell about
your uncles or your aunts?
Blair: No, we’ll be here all day.
Blair: But, gee, I don’t know. My Uncle Al, who I refer to as Albert,
because he was never called Albert, it was always Al, and I call him Fetter
Elyeh which means Uncle Al in Yiddish.
Interviewer: How do you spell that?
Blair: F-E-T-T-E-R E-L-Y-E-H.
Blair: Close enough for government work. And he had his tailor shop right
near Roosevelt Junior High School where I went to Junior High. And I would see
him every day. He was absolutely my favorite uncle. And he was a Torah scholar
and he just knew all sorts of things and we would discuss all sorts of things in
his tailor shop.
Interviewer: So you learned quite a bit from your uncle?
Blair: Yeah, I did.
Interviewer: And aunts. Any favorite aunt?
Blair: Well my Aunt Mary was my favorite aunt. For some reason, once they got
here, everybody called her Mary, probably because her Yiddish name was Marakeh.
But her real name in English was Thelma. I can’t figure that all out but
that’s the way it was. And she was very little when she came here. She went to
elementary school and high school and she even had a year of business college.
Interviewer: What made her your favorite aunt?
Blair: I don’t know. My mother loved me dearly but she had a horrible
temper and she’d get mad at me pretty often because I was usually doing
something mischievous. And Aunt Mary was always my port in the storm. When I was
very little, Mother used to throw me out of the house and I used to sit on the
front stoop with my head in my hands. And usually Aunt Mary came by the house
fairly often and she liked to talk about seeing me sitting on the front steps
with my head in my hands. “What’s the matter?” “Mom got mad at
me and threw me out.” And then later when I was a little more mobile and
she lived fairly close, I’d go over there on my bicycle and just for a few
minutes, visit on my way to someplace.
Interviewer: So what did you do to get thrown out of the house?
Blair: Oh various things, something bad.
Blair: I don’t know, like leaving my socks on the floor. Who knows? I don’t
remember that part.
Interviewer: You don’t remember it?
Blair: No. I just remember I was bad. I really gave her hell.
Interviewer: So tell me again what your father’s living was.
Blair: My dad did a number of things. When he first came to Cleveland, he was
in the women’s clothing industry or it was called cloak industry. Suits and
overcoats and stuff for women. He was a presser. And then later after he and Mom
got married, first they had a grocery store which was like a mini-supermarket.
They were very proud of that. But then for some reason, he opened an auto
accessory and tire store.
Interviewer: That’s a long way from women’s clothing?
Blair: Yeah, yeah. Well he was very mechanically inclined and he liked cars
and so he did that for a while until after I was born and then somewhere in the
middle of the Great Depression, he and Uncle Al went into the women’s clothing
industry. The name of their place was Maid Rite Dresses, M-A-I-D R-I-T-E, Maid
Rite. And well it was the wrong thing at the wrong place. The Depression doomed
every-body starting into business and that only lasted for a few years. And then
he tried peddling dry goods from house to house which is something my Uncle
Yoyel did. That’s my father’s brother. That’s an interesting story in
itself. And he tried peddling but he thought that was too degrading. He couldn’t
stand that and then finally he went back to his old trade in the women’s
clothing industry. He first found a job in Cincinnati and boy, that was too far
from Cleveland. The first time he came home, we wouldn’t let him go back. And
he did find a job there in Cleveland which he worked at that almost until the
end of his life. And which was only 68 or 69 and that really devastated me. I
was very close to Dad.
Interviewer: What caused his such early death?
Blair: Heart attack, which we all have a share of. As we get older, I’ve
had two myself. So that wasn’t one of the better things that Dad left to me.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you remember the Great Depression?
Blair: Oh yes, clearly.
Interviewer: What do you . . . .
Blair: We, well we used to say to each other, “We had everything except
money”. We did, we had a wonderful home and loving parents and we never
missed a meal so what else did we need? But I remember it. I remember a lot of
things that we just plain couldn’t afford. I remember in elementary school,
once a year they would put the students on a bus and take them down to Severence
Hall which was a magnificent concert hall in Cleveland. And we had a wonderful
symphony orchestra, the Cleveland Symphony, but it cost fifty cents. Well it was
one of those days we didn’t have the fifty cents. So we were left behind in
school. I don’t see that as a big trauma in my life but I remember it.
Interviewer: At that time it was.
Interviewer: Did your mother work?
Blair: Intermittently. She worked, she enjoyed working. And where I mostly
remember her working was in a friend’s women’s clothing shop which was in
the black neighborhood and she was a wonderful saleswoman so she worked there.
But I hated it when she worked ’cause I liked to see her at home when I came
Interviewer: Uh huh. She never worked with your father’s business?
Blair: No, never did, except maybe in that grocery store around 1920. But
obviously I don’t remember that. I wasn’t around.
Interviewer: So during the Depression you said you had a home, you had food.
Did other members of the family move in with you?
Blair: Yes, toward the end of the Depression my Aunt Mary, Uncle Joe and my
two cousins, Herb and Rozzie, all moved in with us. And that was very stressful
on my sisters because they were old enough to pick up all the nuances in the
house. With two whole families living in one house was not good. I thought it
was terrific because my cousin Herb was sort of my ideal. I just worshipped that
guy. You know, he was everything I wanted to be. He played football and tennis
and before that he had been a Boy Scout and he did it. He was doing everything I
wanted to do when I got a little older, so . . . .
Interviewer: How old were you then at that time?
Blair: Oh let me see, it must have been about eight, eight or nine.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Blair: And Herb and I shared a room. I slept on a cot and he got the bed.
That had been my grandmother’s room and she died in 1938.
Interviewer: What was the house like that you all lived in?
Blair: It was a wonderful house. My dad built it himself. We were a little
better financially in 1929 and ’30 when I came along.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Blair: And the Depression sort of knocked that out from under us but Dad
built that house and he was the general contractor so he really built it
himself. And it was a beautiful house on a very nice street in Cleveland
Heights. And it was important to Mother and Dad that we all go to the right
school. The Cleveland Heights schools were somewhat like the Bexley Schools
here. It was upper middle class and they were all fine teaching institutions and
all the kids were, almost all the kids were college-bound when they finished
high school. So that was for us. And, but Dad just couldn’t keep up the
mortgage payments on the house and we were really in danger of losing the house
when my mother sat down and wrote a letter to President Roosevelt. And my Dad
said, “You gansa knocker Rosie. She’s writing to the
President.” She said, “Mind your own business”. And she did write
to the President and it went something like this:
“Dear President Roosevelt:
“My husband came here from Russia as a teenager and he
loved his country and when the war broke out, he was one of the
first men to enlist in the Army and he served honorably in the
Army. And now we can’t pay our mortgage payments and
they’re going to take away our house. Tell me Mr. President,
do you think it was worth it that my husband offered his life for
And then she signed it and we never got a letter back but we got a phone call
from the lending institution and they said, “Sam, just pay the interest on
the loan and we’ll work something out”. So that was my mother’s
relationship with President Roosevelt.
Blair: So we held onto the house as long as we could but in 1939 we had to
give it up.
Interviewer: Was it a two-story, a three-story?
Blair: It was a two-story, very modern brick house on a big lot that I used
to love to play in. And . . . .
Interviewer: How many bedrooms?
Blair: Let’s see, altogether we had four bedrooms. One, you know, was a
suite on the third floor with, you know bathroom and everything. So that was
four bedrooms which meant that with my grandmother living with us, I had to
sleep in my sister’s room on that same cot that I later shared with Herbie.
But it was a lovely, warm house. Then we moved to a rental property on a place
that we fondly called “the ghetto”. It was all Jewish.
Interviewer: How old were you when you made this move?
Blair: I was about nine.
Interviewer: when you moved out of the big house?
Blair: Yeah, yeah. I loved it though because we were one of the few Jewish
families on Compton Road in our original house. And as I look back, I endured an
anti-Semitic encounter almost every day. But when we moved to this Jewish
neighborhood, I didn’t have to worry about that. And I had lots of kids to play
with. I was ecstatic; my sisters were miserable. My parents just endured. And
later on, just before I went to college, Dad bought a house up the street that
was kind of decrepit. It was a nice neighborhood but this house had been
neglected. And I remember when I was a newspaper boy, I used to hate to deliver
papers to that house because it stunk and it was disgusting looking and, well
Dad bought that house, I don’t know for how much, not much, and he himself
rehabbed that house. He could do everything.
Interviewer: Let’s back up just a second.
Interviewer: You moved out of the big house when you were about nine. That
was in a community similar to Bexley?
Interviewer: And then you moved to what you called “the Jewish
Blair: It was only a . . . .
Interviewer: The same school district?
Blair: Oh yes. Oh they wouldn’t move out of the Cleveland Heights School
District. As a matter of fact we were the last house in Cleveland Heights. The
house next door was in East Cleveland. But we went to Cleveland Heights schools.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And then when your father bought the house, the decrepit
house, how old were you then?
Interviewer: Okay. So you were almost out of high school?
Blair: Yeah, right.
Interviewer: Okay. Well let’s talk about your early life in school. How did
you get to school?
Interviewer: How far?
Blair: Oh about 20 miles it seemed, uphill both ways. No I don’t remember.
It wasn’t that far ’cause we all walked in groups.
Interviewer: So you walked with your friends?
Blair: Yeah, every day.
Interviewer: do you remember those friends?
Blair: Oh those were friends I had even through high school. ‘Cause the
ones I knew in elementary school, I was reunited with in junior high.
Interviewer: What was the name of the high school that you went to?
Blair: High school was Cleveland Heights High School.
Interviewer: Okay. And the elementary school?
Blair: Well until I was about eight, I went to Boulevard Elementary School
and for the fifth and sixth grades, I went to Coventry to elementary school.
Then all those schools fed into Roosevelt Junior High. The City of Cleveland
Heights, although it resembled Bexley, it was much larger. It was bout 68,000
people. And it had two junior highs and those two fed into Heights High School.
Interviewer: As you say, you all came together again then for high school?
Blair: Yeah. Well the other junior high school was Monticello and it was
interesting because the Monticello was almost all Gentile, Christian. And
Roosevelt was mostly Jewish. And when they wanted to get to us, they’d call it
“Jewsavelt”. But it was named after Teddy Roosevelt, not Franklin.
Interviewer: Your position in the family, you’re the youngest?
Blair: Yes I was the baby.
Interviewer: What can you tell me about growing up with your sisters? What
kind of relationship did you have with your sisters?
Blair: Oh I had a wonderful relationship. My older sister, Evelyn, I thought
was terribly bossy. And she loved to boss me around and mostly I did what she
told me. Otherwise I’d fight with her. My sister Bloomie and I, we were only
five years apart. Evelyn and I were nine years apart so we were almost of a
different generation. But Bloomie and I were buddies and she schlepped me
around all over. But one time, my mother liked to tell the story. I don’t
remember this too clearly but sort of that she, I think, had enough of me and
she says, “We’re going to play ‘Cowboys and Indians'”. And she
and her girlfriend tied me up to a tree and they went away. And there I was tied
to the tree until finally, Bobbeh came out and untied me. (Laughter) But
we had a great relationship. Bloomie and I went to Hebrew School together and we
were very close.
Interviewer: And you still are? I was going to say, are you still close?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you remember any special neighbors?
Blair: Well I remember the neighbors on Compton who were both terribly
anti-Semitic. And they never said more than a word to me, mostly ’cause I cut
across their lawn or something. But never a friendly word.
Interviewer: What were you like as a teenager? Were you the same as you are
Blair: Kind of nutty. The way I am now. I was, I was an active teenager. I
was interested in sports and I played football at Heights for the first year,
but I really wasn’t big enough or good enough to stay on the football team.
But I was a big fan. And I belonged to, we had a fraternity system,
fraternity-sorority system, in Heights. Yeah. And I was in this high school
fraternity and I was ultimately President. And some of those fellows I went on
to college with and gosh, they’re all over the country now. And every now and
then I run across their address and I write them a letter and they write me back
but that’s not often.
Interviewer: Do you remember your first job?
Blair: Yes, yes, it was working as a schlepper for Pick-and-Pay which
is like Big Bear here or Big Bear was. Or Krogers. And I helped carry out the
bags of groceries to the cars and such and do stock work. And I’d work after
school and on Saturday.
Interviewer: How much did you make?
Blair: A quarter an hour, 25 cents an hour. Big money then. I always had some
kind of a job after school and on Saturday.
Interviewer: And then how did you decide to go to college? Was it a given?
Blair: Oh yeah. There was no discussion that I would go. It was just a matter
Interviewer: Uh huh. And where did you go?
Blair: I went to Ohio State. My parents really wanted me to go to Western
Reserve because it was in Cleveland. But I really didn’t want to. And I
half-heartedly applied to the school of Pharmacy. I thought maybe I wanted to be
a pharmacist. At that time, Western Reserve turned me down because my grades in
high school weren’t the greatest. So I went to Ohio State with a number of my
friends in 1947 and interestingly enough, it was before the first week of school
that set my course for the rest of my life. We were rushing in the fraternity
sector and I went to the ZBT house for some kind of party and there I met a guy
named Bill Lustig. And he had just graduated from college one year before and he
was a freshman dental student. He was just going to start his sophomore year.
And we started talking. What do you talk to with a kid of 18 that you don’t
know, you don’t know anything about. So we talked about school. So I said,
“Well I was in Pre-Pharmacy. At that time you had to, at Ohio State, you
had to go two years to Pre- Pharmacy and then three years in Pharmacy. And I
said, “Well what are you in?” And he said, “Well I just finished
a year of dental school.” “Oh really? Gee I remember my dad thought it
would be pretty neat if I would go into dentistry. But well what do you take in
dental school?” Well he told me about the technique courses and gross human
anatomy and histology, which is microscopic anatomy and I said, “Boy that
sounds pretty interesting”. So it was on a Friday or Saturday night. And
the next Monday morning I changed my curric- ulum from Pre-Pharmacy to
Pre-Dentistry, which wasn’t all that different. They, all that group of
pre-meds were pretty much the same. So I started on my course toward dental
school and along the way somewhere I had met an Oral Surgeon in Cleveland named
Edward Reiter who had perfected several techniques of what’s known as
Orthognastic Surgery which means, these are a series of operations that Oral
Surgeons do to correct discrepancy of the jaws. It’s all, if your lower jaw is
too big, they make it smaller. If your upper jaw is too little, they make it
bigger. Whatever needs to be done and boy, I thought that was neat and I visited
him in his office once and it was a wonderful experience. And Dr. Reiter at that
time was Head of the Residency Program at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Well that was so
far off in the future for me but I wanted to do that. You know, how does any kid
decide what he wants to do for the rest of his life? It sounds neat, right? It
sounded pretty neat to me. So that’s where I set my final course.
Interviewer: Very good, very good. I think what I’m going to do is stop the
Interviewer: Allan, I’d like to reflect back just a little with a couple of
questions. Your household growing up. What was the language that was spoken?
Blair: Mostly English. My parents were very American and, but they liked
speaking Yiddish to each other and to their friends. So I say almost always
spoke English. But when my mother spoke Yiddish to me, I would cover my ears and
say, “Don’t talk that, whatever it is”. I hated the sound of Yiddish
because it was somehow to me un-American. So we’re Americans now and we should
speak English all the time.
Interviewer: So how did you . . . .
Blair: And my mother said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. It never hurts to know
another language.” And I answered, Well that isn’t a language. I don’t
know what it is but it isn’t a language.” So I never learned to speak
Yiddish as a kid although I heard it around me all the time. But then at age 48
I decided, you know, I really ought to learn this language. I studied Spanish, I
studied Hebrew. I ought to learn this language. It’s somewhere in my head. And
I went out and I bought an elementary school teaching textbook of Yiddish. And
then I progressed through about three or four textbooks until I got to college
Yiddish taught by Weinreich and I went to Ohio State and I audited a number of
classes there and then I decided I’m really going to learn this so I went to
Israel one Summer to Bar Ilan University where we spoke nothing but Yiddish and
studied nothing but Yiddish every day all day.
Interviewer: How long did you do that?
Blair: It was about six weeks in the Summer. I really got pretty fluent in
Yiddish. We even went to the Yiddish theater in Israel which was just marvelous.
They put on an American play but it was all in Yiddish. The play was called,
“I’m Not Rappaport” and it was marvelous, marvelous play. And then I
came back and I took some more classes in Yiddish and along the way I helped
found the Inter- national Association of Yiddish Clubs which, and we meet every
year in different cities with Yiddish speakers from all over the world. And it
was interesting that most people consider Yiddish as a 100% Jewish language but
one year in the graduate school in, when I was studying Yiddish at Ohio State,
there were seven of us graduate students. I was the only one that was Jewish.
One was even a black woman and she spoke beautifully. She got her Ph.D. in
Interviewer: I want to go back for a spell. You said that your graduated
through elementary books to college books by someone and I didn’t catch that
Blair: Well the first book I bought was written by a man named Goldin,
Interviewer: But you mentioned a college book.
Blair: That was written by a scholar named Yuriel Weinreich,
Interviewer: Thank you. Very good. So it was later in life that you decided
that . . . .
Blair: Very late in life.
Interviewer: really something that you wanted to learn.
Interviewer: You’ve done very well.
Blair: And then I started the Yiddish Club here in Columbus and I branched
out to another Yiddish Club I founded in Heritage House.
Interviewer: Now how often do those clubs meet?
Blair: Oh I meet with my Heritage House people once a week and we sit around
and sing songs in Yiddish and we read things that come along and I don’t know,
whatever kind of strikes me. They’re pretty flexible. But the other Yiddish
Club is really all Yiddish-speaking. The people at Heritage House don’t speak
Yiddish very well. But over in the main Yiddish Club which meets once a month,
they speak well. We used to meet once a week when we first started going but I
kind of ran out of material to have for the meetings once a week. That’s a
hell of an assignment. So we meet once a month and we have interesting speakers
from the community that mostly speak to us in Yiddish. Occasionally we’ve had
a few history professors that talked about the country that our Yiddish
professors called Ashkenaz which was all of Eastern European Jewry. Professor
Jacobs used to say Ashkenaz was the biggest country in Europe except it didn’t
have an army and it didn’t have a navy. So we didn’t do so well. But
Ashkenaz included all of the countries of eastern Germany and Poland and the
Baltic states where my mother came from, the Ukraine, and the Balkans, which was
Hungary and Romania and not Bulgaria though. Bulgaria, the Jews were all
Sephardic. They were of Spanish ancestry. So they spoke a language called
“Ladino” which is almost pure 15th Century Castilian
Spanish. They’re very interesting but that’s another whole discussion.
Interviewer: Allan, you mentioned in your young life that you had many
anti-Semitic encounters. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Blair: Yeah. Up until the age of nine, we lived on a street where there was
only one other Jewish kid and she was a girl but I had to play with her anyhow.
Her name was Nanette Rappaport. And I think there was one other Jewish family
who was an ophthalmologist, Dr. Wolfenstein. But mostly as far as us kids were
going, the girl Nanette was my age and I mostly played with a Catholic family
down the street who were Italian. They had a million kids and they were mafiosa.
I didn’t realize it then but looking back and putting everything together,
they were. And everything usually was okay with those kids except like on Easter
when I guess they got riled up by their local priest and they were really mad at
the Jews. And then when I went to school I met Protestant anti-Semites. And now
looking back from my vantage point, these kids didn’t make it up themselves.
They heard it from their parents and, you know, they repeated it. But that was
an invitation for a fistfight ’cause I couldn’t just stand there and take
Interviewer: And you did?
Blair: Yeah. I fought a lot. Got bloody noses and split lips and, but nothing
Interviewer: So that was in the elementary time?
Blair: Yeah, up until the fifth grade when I moved to a more Jewish-oriented
school, with more Jewish kids.
Interviewer: And then what about your high school?
Blair: Oh high school, it was interesting. You know, I remember the date that
I went to high school was between ’43 and ’47. So we were at the end of the
war and oh, I can’t remember where I was going. Was that, let’s see, oh yes,
how things were on the anti-Semitic front.
Interviewer: In the high school setting.
Blair: by that time we were too numerous and strong to hear much of that. As
a little kid, I heard it a lot. But as a high school student, I didn’t get
into that, very rarely. But mostly things were against the more voluble
anti-Semites. So I didn’t have to tangle with them.
Interviewer: That’s good. You al-. . . .
Blair: ‘Cause they got big and I didn’t get much bigger than I am now.
Interviewer: You also mentioned that your father’s retail shop was on the
west side of Cleveland . . . .
Blair: No, no, let me correct you.
Blair: It was my grandfather’s shoe store that was on the west side and
after a few years they moved to the east side where the Jewish population was. I
guess he opened his store out there because he didn’t know the demographics of
the city very well. And my mother’s family also spoke fluent German and there
were a lot of German-speakers on the west side. So he thought, you know, since
he couldn’t speak English too well, he would at least have someone to speak
with in German.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Blair: But when they moved over to the east side, well then they found a lot
of Yiddish-speakers and they were home.
Interviewer: Did you serve in the armed forces?
Blair: Oh yes. I was in the Navy from ’55 to ’57 and I was stationed with
the second Marine Air Wing.
Interviewer: And did you go there as a dentist?
Blair: Yes I went there after dental school and before I took my specialty
training. I served two years as a general dentist in the Navy and from there I
went to University Hospital here in Columbus and spent three more years in oral
Interviewer: When you were in the Navy, where were you stationed?
Blair: Cherry Point, North Carolina. That’s right on the coast of North
Interviewer: Did you get on a ship?
Blair: Never saw a ship. I was with the Marine Air. Saw a lot of airplanes.
Interviewer: And your citations? Any citations?
Blair: No, my commanding officer was just glad to be rid of me. I hated him
and he hated me.
Interviewer: Okay Allan, let’s move on a little bit. What is your wife’s
Blair: My wife’s name is Judith.
Interviewer: And her maiden name?
Blair: Her maiden name was Hare.
Interviewer: From Columbus?
Blair: No she’s from New Jersey, West Orange, New Jersey.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Blair: And this is the second marriage for both of us.
Interviewer: Okay. And how did you and Judy meet?
Blair: Well Judy was a friend of my first wife.
Interviewer: And your first wife’s name?
Blair: Barbara Krakoff. And that’s an old Columbus family.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did you and Barbara have children?
Blair: We had three boys.
Interviewer: And their names?
Blair: Their names are Bradley who is now a general dentist, and Brian who is
an executive with the Ohio EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, and my youngest
who is not 46, but my youngest is Scott who is not an oncologist, a cancer
Interviewer: Very good. And the three boys are married?
Blair: They’re all married. No, Brian is just sort of married. He’s been
separated from his wife for about five years and why they don’t get a divorce
I’ll never know. They never produced any children. They made up their mind
they weren’t going to add to the population of the world. But my other two
sons did fine. One of them produced for me three grandchildren, the other, two.
Interviewer: That’s very, very good.
Blair: Yeah. Ten grandchildren all together. So that’s two stepchildren.
Interviewer: I was going to ask did Judy have children?
Blair: Yeah she had two, Joel who is the same age as Brad, about 50. And Beth
is a daughter and she is the same age as Brian. And they were all in school
Interviewer: And . . . .
Blair: That was interesting.
Interviewer: Judy was married to whom before?
Blair: she was married to a guy named Ed Ghitman.
Interviewer: So the two chil–, her two children are Ghitmans?
Interviewer: Okay. Do they all live here in Columbus, all the five children?
Blair: Well, four of them live in close proximity. Three of them live in
Bexley and one Brian, who works for the EPA, is about 40 miles down the road and
it’s just as well as in Columbus. And Beth lives in Milwaukee.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Can you describe your decision to marry and propose to
Blair: Oh I don’t know. We had known each other for quite a while and she
was in the midst of getting a divorce when Barbara and I separated. And she just
looked kind of interesting to me. I’d always liked her. We had always had
similar interests. As a matter of fact, one year we went to Hebrew School
together, to an adult education class at Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: Before you were married?
Blair: Yeah. We were married to others at the time. So after we each got a
divorce we started going out together and she seemed pretty nice to me, so we
Interviewer: Did you get married here in Columbus?
Blair: Yes. I had belonged to Beth Tikvah up north at the time and we were
married by Rabbi Allen Ponn, P-O-N-N, and we belonged to Beth Tikvah for a
while. It was a Reform synagogue. But Judy and I had more traditional leanings
and Beth Tikvah was getting more and more Reform so we left Beth Tikvah and went
back to Tifereth Israel which we both had originally belonged to.
Interviewer: How long have you been married?
Blair: Thirty-five years.
Interviewer: That’s pretty good.
Blair: Yeah. So far, not bad.
Interviewer: And so between you, you have how many grandchildren?
Interviewer: Ten grandchildren. That’s wonderful. That is wonderful.
Blair: Ten great kids.
Interviewer: So Allan have you taken an interest, other than the Yiddish
Club, an interest in community work here in Columbus.
Blair: No I really hadn’t. For a while I was a volunteer at the Historical
Society but they sort of ran out of work for me to do.
Interviewer: What kind of work were you doing there?
Blair: Oh scut work. Shuffling papers and, the only real work that I did for
them is they had, well what would I call it, sort of a display at the Ohio
Village, which is an 18th Century pioneer village and different
houses and everything and we did different things that the pioneers might have
done in their homes. So we had about five different things. I had one and my job
was to explain Hanukkah to them because it was a Christmas-time activity. I
explained Hanukkah to these kids and we played a few Hanukkah games like Dreidel.
And we had them play a little Dreidel and gamble with a few things, not money,
just things. But after that there wasn’t much to do so I wrote them a letter,
“If you ever have anything to do for a volunteer, call me. I’ll be right
down.” But as it stands, there’s nothing to do. So I became involved in
the Hospice movement, both Judy and I.
Interviewer: Uh huh. The Hospice unit at . . . .
Blair: Yeah, Zusman House.
Interviewer: at Wexner Heritage?
Blair: Right, right. And that’s very rewarding.
Interviewer: So you’re a volunteer and what do you do as a volunteer?
Blair: Oh there are a number of things that we can do. It all depends on what
the patient is like. If they’re very alert and can, you know, at least carry a
conversation, I just sit and talk to them or I read to them or I tell them about
what I’m doing. If they’re Yiddish-speaking, I speak to them in Yiddish. But
it’s a very, very nice thing to do for those people or sometimes I just ask
their caretakers if I can do anything for them. Because they’re kind of stuck.
Or sometimes I just sort of baby-sit with them. Just hang around, even if they’re
Interviewer: Now you’re talking about volunteering at Zusman House. But
there are other Hospice patients that are still living in their homes. Do you
volunteer . . . .
Blair: No I don’t go out to the homes but I have visited some in the
regular Heritage House in their rooms there and I’ve taken some patients from
there and I do some volunteer work at Heritage House. You know, my Yiddish club
there is as a volunteer.
Interviewer: So on a weekly basis, Allan, what, how much time would you say
you spend volunteering for Hospice?
Blair: Oh about four to six hours.
Interviewer: That’s very good. That’s very good. How about the synagogue?
Have you become involved at all with the synagogue?
Blair: No in the past I was more involved in the Men’s Club and I was on
the Board of Trustees. And that just didn’t seem very rewarding to me so that
just sort of petered out.
Interviewer: Uh huh, uh huh.
Blair: I think it’s good enough they have my body on Shabbat, on
Interviewer: So you’re completely retired as a dentist?
Interviewer: Tell me a little bit about your dental career.
Blair: Well as I told you before, I came out of the service and I was
accepted into the residency at Ohio State University Hospital. And at that time
it was a three-year residency beyond dental school. Now it’s four years. But
that was kind of a tough three years. It was tough on my then-wife because I
would be on call one out of three nights, which I had to be at the hospital. And
we would take call one out of three weekends. We’d take the whole weekend to
be on call. And when I’d come home after that weekend, I may have been up all
night for three nights straight and I came home and my wife had been talking to
a four-year-old and a two-year-old and a newborn for three days. So she wanted
to have some adult conversation. And all I wanted to do was sack out on the
couch. So this was a resident syndrome and it wasn’t only with me. Every
resident, after he was on call for an extended time, came home and argued with
Interviewer: So you became an oral surgeon?
Blair: Yes. I was going to go to Florida. I even went down there and passed
the Florida Board which is . . . .
Interviewer: That’s very difficult.
Blair: It is. But I passed and I was really going to go down there, but
Columbus began to look more and more interesting. I was offered a job teaching
at the Medical School, teaching Physiology, which really put bread and butter on
my table ’cause it was a tough couple of years starting out in practice. But
Columbus started to look better and better to me and I went down to Florida to
look around on the more promising places. One was Fort Myers which at the time
was about 25,000 people and had just built a new hospital and didn’t have an
oral surgeon in the county, not even one. And oh, that looked good. But I picked
up the Fort Myers telephone book and I looked for Goldbergs and Cohens and Levys
and any other Jewish name I could think of and nobody Jewish lived there. And I
said, “Boy, that’s going to be tough to get started there”. And I
looked at Tampa. Tampa was not a real attractive-looking city. And I looked. It
just sort of didn’t appeal to me. And I already knew people here so I came
back to Columbus and I opened an office about a block from where we’re sitting
Interviewer: So you were never a general dentist . . . .
Interviewer: in practice?
Blair: Just in the Navy I did general practice.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Then you went right in as your practice, it was an oral
history? Excuse me . . . .
Blair: Oral surgeon.
Interviewer: oral surgeon?
Blair: And then my practice expanded to maxillofacial surgery so I did oral
and maxillofacial surgery.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And how long were you in practice?
Blair: Oh gee, about 38 years.
Interviewer: And now you’re totally retired from dentistry?
Blair: I’m a total goof off. I don’t do anything.
Interviewer: How about Judy? Is she a community-minded worker or person?
Blair: Well she had a career with the Columbus Public Schools and she also
retired and she does volunteer work at Zusman and she did a a lot of work in
teaching English as a second language to immigrants and for a while she was
dealing with Spanish-speaking immigrants because she speaks fluent Spanish. And
then we both taught the Russian immigrants and I don’t know what other
Interviewer: Uh huh. Uh huh. How about your hobbies and other interests?
Blair: Oh I have a number of hobbies. I used to have so many hobbies I can
hardly work. But I enjoy fooling around with the computer, so I do a little
computer. And I used to have my own darkroom in my house so I did a lot of
photography and laboratory work there and of course now all of that stuff is out
now that the digital age is here. But I gave my whole darkroom to Bexley High
school where they like to take their photography students through all phases of
photography so they welcomed the whole darkroom. Didn’t have to buy anything.
And I do woodworking. Did a little woodworking on my fingernail about a year
ago, so I haven’t been down there much since then. But I enjoyed woodworking,
just kind of fooling around. And I enjoy cycling very much and . . . .
Interviewer: Do you belong to a cycle club?
Blair: Just informally. I just start calling guys I know who are cyclists
and, “You want to ride Sunday? Want to ride “Saturday?” Or
Interviewer: How long do you ride?
Blair: Oh from 30 to 50 miles on a weekend, you know, 15 miles out, 15 miles
Interviewer: Did you ever ride in the TOSRV Ride?
Blair: No my sons have done that for years and years and years and years,
since they were about 13 and very excellent cyclists. I’m just a schmo.
I just toddle along. But the boys and I have gone for weekend bike rides where
we would make about 50 miles a day. It isn’t in practice as strenuous as it
sounds ’cause we’d do 25 miles in the morning, 25 miles in the afternoon.
And we went away for a few three-day weekends.
Interviewer: Did you camp out or motels?
Blair: No we stayed in motels. But another part of my life, my hobby, was
sailing. I enjoyed sailboat racing and my crew were my sons.
Interviewer: And where did you sail?
Blair: At Hoover, belonged to the Hoover Yacht Club and we raced every
Wednesday night, every Saturday afternoon, Sunday afternoon. We got pretty good
after a while.
Interviewer: Did you own your own boat?
Blair: Oh yes, I had a Highlander which is a rather big racing sailboat, 20
feet long and had a huge amount of square feet of sail. And we spent a lot of
time together. I enjoyed that. But then they discovered girls and they went to
college and they went off to do their own thing and . . . .
Interviewer: You lost your crew?
Blair: there I was. I had one left and that was my stepson Joel. He would
sail with me fairly often but mostly he liked to use the boat for dating girls.
And he didn’t have too much money so that was a cheap date.
Interviewer: How about your travels and your vacations?
Blair: Oh Judy and I love to travel and we’ve traveled to most places in
Europe and we’ve made about eight trips to Israel. But now that I have
difficulty walking we haven’t traveled much.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What’s your favorite place to visit in this world?
Blair: Oh well, I don’t know. I got very familiar with Israel, very much at
home there and I have a lot of friends there. Not only friends that used to live
in Columbus like Jesse and Frayda Shapiro, and we love to visit with them and we
stay in their house. But I have a lot of oral surgery colleagues. I spent a few
months one year as a visiting professor at Hebrew University. So we lived there
like real Israelis for a couple months. One year when I was at the University
and as I told you before, I went one Summer to Bar Ilan University studying
Yiddish, which was quite an experience. When you do that, you even think in
Yiddish. Or even all your small talk in the halls was in Yiddish. Some of it
slipped away but it was a good experience.
Interviewer: When you were living in Israel for the several reasons, where
did you live?
Blair: Oh when I was studying a foreign language, I lived in the dormitories.
Judy wasn’t with me for that trip. When I was a visiting professor, I lived on
the campus of Hadassah Hospital where the Medical School and Dental School were.
We had a nice little apartment among all the other visiting professors and that
was fun too.
Interviewer: So you lived an Israeli life?
Interviewer: And you bought food, Israeli style . . . .
Blair: Judy did.
Interviewer: And you . . . .
Blair: She went on the bus with her little string bag and went to the
Interviewer: Supermarket? Do they have supermarkets?
Blair: Oh yes. They call them Supersol.
Interviewer: Is that similar to what we know, like Krogers?
Blair: Not too different, smaller, smaller. They don’t have those huge
establishments. But pretty much the same. Judy has a few funny stories to tell
about her shopping because not only did she have to read the labels in Hebrew,
Judy’s not bad in Hebrew, but they don’t use any vowels in Israel. So she
was looking for salt one day and she sees this box that had the Hebrew letters Sahmech,
Lahmed, Tavh, which phonetically kind of looks like salt. But it was “Soleet”,
which is like Pablum. (Laughter) And she couldn’t figure out what the hell was
going on. We went to a party that night, a university party, and she told a
couple of the gals who were there, some of the wives that she was having this
trouble, Sahmech, Lahmed, Tavh. And they just howled. They thought that
was the funniest thing because what she bought was “Soleet”.
Interviewer: It’s amazing when you go to a different country, you know, you
even look at the pictures and . . . .
Blair: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: they aren’t what we expect.
Blair: But you know in Jerusalem and in Haifa and in all the big cities, Tel
Aviv, you can do fine with speaking English. As a mattera of fact, most Israelis
want to speak English with you. They don’t want you to speak Hebrew. But Judy
got along pretty well in Hebrew. We studied that together too.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Excellent. You mentioned Allan, the death of your father
and how it affected you. Were there any other loved ones who passed away that
affected your life?
Blair: Not like my dad’s death did. We were very close and I just
worshipped him. He was a wonderful person. I was very sad when my mother died.
But it wasn’t like losing my dad. First of all, I was much older and so was
she. She was, I think, 77 when she died. Dad was only 68. He was my buddy.
Interviewer: Nice to have that relationship with your parent. Is there
anything Allan in your adult life that you would like to talk about that I haven’t
touched on yet?
Blair: Wow. I don’t know. I kind of look back sometimes and think, boy I’ve
been lucky all my life. I had a profession that I loved. I loved going to work
every day. I had children that I was nuts about. I had an unfortunate first
marriage but I have a super second marriage.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful. You talked about your religious life growing
up in your family.
Blair: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Has that carried through into your adult and married life with
your children’s family?
Blair: Well Judy and I are very Jewish-oriented. We don’t keep a kosher
home but we enjoy going to the synagogue together. We enjoy the Jewish holidays.
And now we share that with our children and grandchildren which is terrific.
Interviewer: What’s your favorite holiday?
Blair: Gee, I don’t know. I guess it’s got to be Passover and I think you
would find that in most Jewish families because this is the time when, if
families get together once a year, this is the time. And until last year, we had
the first Seder at our house and, you know, when you invite all your children
plus their spouses plus their children, there’s a hell of a lot of people.
Interviewer: A big table?
Blair: And last year Judy said, “I’m resigning from Passover”.
And she passed it on to our daughters-in-laws who very graciously accepted. We
still have Hanukkah at our house. That’s fun too. But it’s not a real
important Jewish holiday like Passover or Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashonah.
Interviewer: And so you feel that your children will carry on religious-wise
the importance of Passover and other Jewish holidays?
Blair: Yes, yes, yes. My, three of my boys, my stepson and two sons, have
very Jewish homes and one son married a Gentile girl who he’s separated from
now but watching him year by year, he seems to be getting more and more Jewish
every year. So I don’t worry about him. I worried about having Jewish
Interviewer: Wonderful. Tell me, growing up, what values did your family
instill in you that you still live by today?
Blair: Oh probably the thing I heard mostly in my house was, oh several
things. But I heard a lot about education. That was the key to everything. That’s
why there wasn’t any discussion about whether I would go to college or not.
You know, like you go to high school after junior high school, you go to college
after high school. The only question was what I was going to do with it. And I
took care of that pretty well. Jewish values were very important. We weren’t a
go-to-shul-every-day family but we enjoyed occasional Shabbos
services and we enjoyed the Jewish holidays. They were very important to my
parents. And everybody came to our house which is what I carried on and so do my
Interviewer: Excellent. Who had the greatest influence on you while you were
Blair: My father.
Interviewer: Did you pass on some of that?
Blair: I hope I did. I hope I did. I spent a lot of time with my sons while
they were growing up. We spent a lot of time talking. Some of it, I think all of
it they absorbed. But most of it they followed through on it. A few things they
haven’t but I guess they’re not too important.
Interviewer: And during your life, I’m sure that like all of us, have had
some difficult times. Who helped you the most to get through difficult times in
Blair: Wow! Well it depends on what time of life it is. When I was pretty
young, my sister Bloomie helped me through a number of tough times. In my later
life now, the past 35 years, it’s been my wife Judy.
Interviewer: And could you compare lives of children today with when you were
a young child?
Blair: Well they’re given a lot more liberty although my grandchildren
somehow look pretty much like my kids did when I raised them. And so the values
have stuck through. Four of them had no experience with drugs or any kind of
serious things that a lot of kids today get themselves involved in. My
stepdaughter was involved with drugs and running away and all that terrible kind
of thing but she settled down pretty well now. Unfortunately, she lives in
Milwaukee and we’re in Columbus.
Interviewer: Do you think that television has had a definite influence on our
Blair: Well not in my family it hasn’t. To some extent, like everybody. But
I don’t think very, I really don’t think it had much of an effect on at
least my four boys.
Interviewer: They were not “couch potato” kind of kids?
Blair: Well maybe around early high school and junior high school they did
like all kids that age do. But mostly they were “up and at ’em” kind
Interviewer: Uh huh. Uh huh. Allan, I’m going to ask you a question that,
about your feelings about the future. If you could give a message about life and
love to your children, grandchildren and generations to come, what would that
Blair: Well one thing that I always told my sons and they heeded this,
“Remember who you are. You’re a Jewish young man. You have Jewish values.
And I tried to give all I had in that matter to you and so did Judy and we tried
to give you a Jewish home. I want you to also have a Jewish home and think about
our history, not only of our family but of the Jewish people. It’s very
important to me. And I want you to raise your children with those values.”
Interviewer: Excellent. Very good. Is there anything, Allan, more that you
would like to tell me about your person, or your feelings or experiences or, I
know you delve into genealogy with your family. Is there anything else you’d
like to tell me?
Blair: Oh there was a period there that I did the genealogy thing and I got
as far back as my maternal great-grandfather, Mosheh. I don’t know who
his wife was. I don’t know what he was like. But he was born in 1850. And I
dug that out but I hit a stone wall in genealogy because the records were all in
Europe and I couldn’t get them to answer me by post and I don’t even know if
that little town where my father grew up, where his father was a cattle dealer,
I don’t even know if it still exists. I had found, you remember I told you the
name of this little town which was Vorozhilovka and it was near Kiev. I found
about four Vorozhilovkas, five Vorozhilovkas, all near Kiev in a circle around
it. So I don’t even know what that word means. It’s something in Russian.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Blair: I don’t think I have much left to tell. You wrung it all out of me.
Interviewer: Let us stop this tape for just . . . . On behalf of the Columbus
Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you Allan for contributing to the Oral
History Project. This interview will become part of the archives of the Society
and this concludes the interview today. Thank you very, very much.
Blair: Good. Thank you Peggy.
Interviewer: Allan, you just mentioned something about you had a name change?
Blair: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Will you tell me what that is?
Blair: I had a name that I was ashamed of, a last name that I was saddled
with and it bugged me for most of my young life. The name was Baygel. See. You’re
laughing. That’s what everybody did. And I couldn’t stand it!
Interviewer: That was a nickname?
Blair: No that was our legal name, B-A-Y-G-E-L. And I used to say to my
father, “I’m going to get rid of that God-damned name as soon as I’m
21″. You had to be 21 to do anything like that then. “Oy,” he
said to me, “look I don’t want to have a name different from yours. The
girls got married and they have different names. But I’ll change my name and
then your name will be changed along with it.” So I know he didn’t have
much money for frivolous things. But he found out how to do it. He went down to
the court and they told him he had to advertise for two weeks in the Legal
Reporter and, you know, in case you have any outstanding debts. So he did
that and then he went down to the court and said he wanted to change his name.
Why? Because it sounds funny. Okay. So I gave Dad a middle name which was
Charles. I don’t know why. But he became Samuel Charles Blair and I became
Allan Edward Blair.
Interviewer: And spell the original name again for me.
Blair: B-A-Y-G-E-L. I couldn’t even stand the sound of it. It was so
Interviewer: Was that the name originally in the old country?
Blair: No, no. The name was something like that. It was Beigel. It
would be spelled really in the United States B-E-I-G-E-L. But that’s the way
it got spelled when he came here so he stayed with it. It didn’t bother him.
But it bothered me a lot. People go, “Yeah I had you for breakfast,”
“I had you with butter on it,” and “They’re good with lox on
it,” and it wouldn’t…(Tape ends.)
* * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Proofread by Marvin Bonowitz
Corrected by Allan Blair
Edited by Toby Brief