This is Carol Shkolnik, volunteer oral history interviewer for the Columbus
Jewish Historical Society. Today is January 19, 2004, and Dr. Brief, could you
say something so we can see if it’s picking up?
Brief: Yes. This is Dr. B. J. Brief.
Interviewer: Okay. We’ll just continue from here. Dr. Brief, could you
please tell me how your family came to be in Columbus, Ohio?
Brief: Yes, this is a very famous local story. My grandfather on my mother’s
side came to the United States from the Polish area of the pale of the
settlement from the area known as Volhyn and his connections locally were due to
the projects of the . . . .
Interviewer: Okay, you were saying about your grandfather coming over?
Brief: Yes, he eventually became involved with a physician locally with the
name of Sam Edelman.
Interviewer: Than this is your grandfather you’re talking about?
Brief: So my grandfather, this is his connection with Columbus, Ohio. And my
grand- father had come to the United States and settled in the town of, what was
it, Topeka that he went to first and he stayed there for a while as part of his
program of repaying the railroad who had sponsored his trip to the United
States, in return for his eventual release of his obligation for his support by
Interviewer: So did your grandfather work for the railroad then?
Brief: No he had a disagreement that was made up through these public
corporations who sponsored these Jewish immigrants and in return they were
expected to give up their title to the land that they were brought in to . . . .
Interviewer: To farm or something?
Brief: Yes. They were to occupy it for a period of time, a period of so many
years, at which time the Federal Government gave them title to the land that
they had settled on.
Interviewer: I see.
Brief: And when my grandfather got here with his few friends from this area
of Volhyn, and they got tired of it and since there was no future for them in
Topeka anyway because the land was entailed in this scheme to obtain the rights
to the land by their deciding on the, to change the terms of their receiving
this funding from the Federal Government and also from this immigration society.
My grandfather decided to leave Kansas and come back to New York where his
wife was staying at the time with the children that she brought over with her.
Interviewer: Now what was your grandfather’s name?
Brief: His name was Avrom Elye Goldberg.
Interviewer: Okay. And his wife, your grandmother was . . . .
Brief: Toba Goldberg.
Interviewer: And I would imagine your daughter was named for her?
Brief: That’s right.
Interviewer: Okay. All right. And then how did they get, after returning to
New York from Topeka, how did they end up coming to Columbus?
Brief: Well he didn’t go to Topeka from Columbus?
Interviewer: No, I know.
Brief: I mean from Topeka to Columbus required my grandfather to buy a horse
to travel. And he did that. The horse brought my grandfather to Columbus where
he promptly died, that is, the horse died.
Interviewer: I’m glad you clarified that.
Brief: And the family has remained here ever since. That is, my grandfather
occupied a home in the east end of Columbus and set himself up as a junk dealer.
Interviewer: And did you know your grandfather?
Brief: Oh very well. My grandfather was a very active man until he died in
his 80s of carcinoma of the stomach. And when he decided to remain here because
of the horse’s termination that he was going to remain here, he decided to
bring my grandmother and her children to Columbus where he had already contacted
this physician to become a leading citizen of the immigrant community because of
his connections from his own family back in this Polish area of Russia in Volhyn.
And he subsequently organized a Jewish community based on the presence here of a
number of Russian Jews who were not the most desirable of the representatives
according to the German-Jewish community here. They eventually, over a period of
time, split off into many little sects and my grandfather became involved with
the group which eventually became the Agudas Achim Congregation, and then
eventually led to other groups and from the men’s department, they formed
immigrant aid societies, one of which was my grandmother’s ladies aid society,
the Ezras Noshim Society of which she was president for 50 years until it
Interviewer: So do I understand correctly that your grandfather was really
intending to go to New York but stayed in Columbus because the horse died?
Brief: That’s right.
Interviewer: Okay. I’ve heard of similar stories. There are a lot of people
who took the boat to England intending to leave England and come to this country
and they stayed in England, a lot of them.
Brief: Yes, and some of them came here.
Interviewer: And some of them came here.
Brief: Which were the Weisberg family.
Interviewer: Okay now . . . .
Brief: Which is related to us by the fact that Manya Weisberg went to London
because the boat that she was to come to the United States on had left Hamburg
with this group and they stayed in London for several years to learn the English
language and she was eventually, in my recollection, a blonde, dyed-haired woman
with an English accent. She was an aunt of mine.
Interviewer: Okay. So did anybody from your grandfather’s family come over
to this country, just for the record?
Brief: Yes he had some relatives which I don’t think I met any except the
ones who were the Horwitzs which are his in-laws.
Interviewer: Okay. I see. And this is your grandfather we’re talking about.
Brief: This is my mother’s father.
Interviewer: Right. Okay. All right. So now we’ve got your family in
Columbus and it sounds like your grandfather was a, did you say a junk dealer in
Interviewer: Okay. And then tell me where your parents were born. I think I
know but tell us for the recording.
Brief: Well my mother was born in Olyka before the family left there and my
father was born in Vladimer Volinsk which is a major town in this community of
Volhyn. His family apparently had a sugar mill.
Interviewer: And that was in Volhyn?
Brief: That was somewhere in Volhyn. And they apparently were fairly well off
because the story is told that when the Czar was making a tour of his properties
in the area, he visited my father’s family and saw a clock there which he
desired and of course, he was immediately given his wishes.
Interviewer: Okay. So I don’t want to spend too much more time on this
because I want to talk about a little closer to the present, but how did your
father’s family get to Columbus then? You were talking about your maternal
grandmother I believe. Maybe it was paternal. You know, you were talking
Goldbergs and that was your mother’s family. Okay.
Brief: That’s right.
Interviewer: How did your father’s family happen to come to this area?
Brief: Well his eldest sister, who was the first of her family to arrive in
the United States and they came , well my father came because he was, he had
been Bar Mitzvah, and this was in 1904 I presume, the time of the
pogroms. And he was sent as an individual because his father had died of
pneumonia and he was the only remaining male of the family. And in order to
survive, he was sent to Hamburg where he caught the boat for Boston. There he
stayed for a short time with his sister where he ran a company which made
Anderson Underwear. And after he stayed there a while, he decided he was going
to become an American and he knew that he had some type of relationship with
this Goldberg family out in Ohio and he started writing to my mother and they
had a relationship through their communications and eventually, since they were
of the same social background, they became engaged and eventually my father and
mother were married here in Columbus, Ohio, and they stayed from there on.
Interviewer: Okay. All right. Tell me about your childhood in Columbus and
Brief: Well I was very obviously from a very religiously-minded household and
this involved, my grandfather started a Talmud Torah in Columbus and this
required funding and the funds were obtained through a society known as the
Ivreeyoh Society here, the Jewish women’s society.
Interviewer: Could you attempt a spelling for that since someone’s going to
be transcribing this? Ivreah?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Brief: I-V-R-E-A-H I suppose.
Interviewer: Okay. Thank you.
Brief: Which put on a fund-raiser in the Spring or early Summers, at
Heinmiller’s, Hein– somebody’s, I don’t know what to call this, a huge
picnic which involved the entire German-Jewish community as well as the
Russian-Jewish community. And they also put on a Fall Ball in the Franklin
County Memorial Building. And it was a dance and get-together, I suppose you’d
call it. These were the major social events of the systems, obtaining funds
therefrom for the community and its what would be the present-day I suppose a
Interviewer: So I imagine you had an Orthodox upbringing?
Brief: I had a very Orthodox upbringing and I was very much opposed to it
because it interfered with my personal life.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And how did it do that?
Brief: Well when I came home from school, I had a chance to eat and then run
to the Hebrew School and this eliminated a lot of my social life.
Interviewer: Like, what was it keeping you from?
Brief: Keeping me from, as a young child, playing with my friends from the
Interviewer: Uh huh. I see you went to Main Street School?
Interviewer: And then East High School?
Brief: Yes there was a Roosevelt Junior High in between there.
Interviewer: Right. So did you rebel or you complied, or a combination of the
Brief: Well I was unable to rebel in any meaningful way so I complied and
this drove me from the Jewish community.
Interviewer: I see.
Brief: And I therefore failed to accommodate to either the Jewish community’s
request for socialization with them.
Interviewer: So you socialized with others that weren’t Jewish?
Brief: Yes basically.
Interviewer: And how did your parents react to that?
Brief: Well my father was a most tolerant man and he permitted anything that
went along with our wishes provided they were evidence of toleration by us of
all our community demands.
Interviewer: Okay. And did you have brothers or sisters?
Brief: I had an older sister who is dead about ten years now. She was ten
years older than I was.
Interviewer: And what was your sister’s name?
Brief: Her name was Edythe Brief.
Interviewer: Did she stay in Columbus or she moved elsewhere?
Brief: She stayed in Columbus with my parents for many years. And eventually,
after the war, she married and left Columbus and lived South with her husband
and she remained married for about five years when she eventually was divorced
and she returned then to live with my parents who were by that time fairly old
and that was it.
Interviewer: Where was the house you lived at in the early days?
Brief: Well I don’t remember the house that I was born into because by the
age of 2, we had moved to a house on Kimball Place which was a modern house at
the time and very comfortable.
Interviewer: Okay. So your grandfather was a junk dealer. What business was
your father in or what did he do?
Brief: Well he had numerous businesses. He had started out working with an
uncle of mine by marriage, or his in-laws.
Interviewer: And who was that?
Brief: His name was Harry Cohen and they modified telephones, cut down the
old- fashioned long telephones into a more convenient, smaller box. And I
remember helping by knocking the platinum electrodes out of the magnetos, which
were the driving mechanism for contacting the women who were working at the
Interviewer: So how was your father, did he do pretty well financially?
Brief: No my father was not a very financially-minded person and while we
never went hungry, we certainly didn’t have the financial . . . .
Interviewer: Well that’s one thing I’m leading up to. How did you manage
to go to college and to medical school and did your sister go to college?
Brief: Yes, my sister graduated from Ohio State in the 20s.
Interviewer: And you graduated with a Bachelor’s down here in 1937?
Interviewer: Now I’m having a little trouble reading your writing. You were
born in 1916?
Interviewer: Okay. The 6 looks almost like an 11 because it’s running into
what’s underneath it. So okay, you were born in 1916. Okay. So did you have to
work your way through school? Were your parents able to help?
Brief: Yes, my parents supported me and I was able to go through college on
the basis of a scholarship.
Interviewer: Was this undergraduate school?
Brief: Undergraduate and part of my graduate school.
Interviewer: When did you, How old were you or at what stage in your studies
were you when you knew you wanted to become a doctor?
Brief: I don’t know. I don’t know why I wanted to become a doctor even. I
was interested in chemistry at the time and I received this scholarship to the
University as an upper 3% of the entering group of The Ohio State University
where I was offered these scholarships. This is one area where I felt that I had
been let down somewhat because of this conflict with the Jewish population.
Interviewer: Tell me more about this conflict, please.
Brief: Well at the time, if you were a — well I don’t know that I can go
on with that.
Interviewer: Okay. All right. Where were you and what did you do during World
Brief: Well World War II came along in 1939. As a medical student, I was
encouraged to join the Army of the United States, which I signed up as a
reserve. And then in 1940 I guess it was, I was activated.
Interviewer: What year again was that?
Brief: I think it must have been 1940. And I graduated in ’41 and was
permitted to finish an internship at Springfield City Hospital, which I did with
five other medical students. And then in August of 1941 I was assigned to a
Medical Field Service School at Carlyle Barracks, Pennsylvania, which lasted one
month. Having graduated from that, I was sent to Panama and was assigned as a
Battalion Surgeon to the 88th Coast Artillery and was sent to an eventual
assignment as a jungle officer in the medical staff of the 88th Coast Artillery.
Interviewer: And where was this?
Brief: This was in Panama.
Interviewer: Oh still in Panama? Okay.
Brief: I stayed in Panama in the jungle for the next three years.
Interviewer: And you were a surgeon?
Brief: I was called a Battalion Surgeon which is a generic name for any
battalion medical officer.
Interviewer: But you didn’t actually, or not necessarily, perform surgery?
Brief: That’s right.
Interviewer: Okay. So what did they mostly need you for, soldiers who were
sick or soldiers who were injured or what?
Brief: I did the routine medical care of the people that were involved in
this Coast Artillery Unit and eventually it became an Automatic Weapons
Battalion, 901st AW Battalion. And I was the Battalion Surgeon for that until,
oh I don’t know, it must have been October or so of 1945, when I was
transferred to the Panama Canal Department Headquarters and was given an award
for many years of service in the jungle to become the Transport Surgeon for the
U.S.S. Cuba. Made three or four trips, four trips I guess it was, maybe three,
back to the United States from Panama, hauling back dependents and then I
received my final promotion in the Army to Major and left the Army in March, I
guess it was, 1945.
Interviewer: And so you got out of the Army in ’45. What did you do when
you came back?
Brief: Well I loafed for as long as I could.
Interviewer: How long?
Brief: Oh I don’t know, a couple of weeks.
Interviewer: Oh that’s not very long.
Brief: No. Then I realized that I had been in a male, adult population for
these three and a half years while I was with the Army. I approached this Dr.
Edelman who by that time was the senior medical person in the Jewish population
of Columbus, and I stayed with him until September of that year at which time I
occupied the premises at 1211 Whittier.
Interviewer: Where were you living at this time?
Brief: I lived at home.
Interviewer: At home? And was that still Kimball?
Brief: That was still the place.
Interviewer: Okay. Living at home and you opened an office on Whittier near
Brief: That’s right.
Interviewer: And what kind of practice was this?
Brief: This was a general practice.
Interviewer: General practice? And how many years were you in that location?
Brief: I was in that location until I retired in, when did I retire, Jean?
(Voice off to the side cannot be heard.)
Interviewer: So I imagine having been in that community in that location for
a long time, there were a lot of sentimental farewells and things like that?
Brief: There were some gummy-type farewells.
Interviewer: Gummy-type farewells?
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Brief: Oh kids would come in and bring me my balloon for the day or candy and
so forth. Or they’d steal my roses that were growing in the yard and present
them to me. And eventually I received a recognition from the City Council which
is over there on the wall.
Interviewer: Behind me?
Brief: Behind me.
Interviewer: Okay. I’ll look at it before I go. Toby told me that you’d
have some interesting things to show me.
Brief: Well she’s interested in the Chinese stuff that I’m very
interested in. But . . . .
Interviewer: So did you then see families, people of all ages? Mostly
children or mixture?
Brief: I saw a mixture and I was very interested in care of children. I was
Chief of the Department of Family Practice at Children’s Hospital for 37
Interviewer: I noticed that. I figure you had to like kids to do that.
Interviewer: So we need to detour back a little bit because Jean came into
the picture somewhere. You want to tell me how you met and all that kind of
Brief: Well when I was early in my practice of course, I was taking medical
calls through the Medical Bureau and her mother got sick, blood pressure, and I
was asked to make a house call, which I did. This was at the time of the cheaper
house call. I was getting $8 a call then.
Interviewer: For a house call?
Brief: For a house call.
Interviewer: And how much for an office call?
Brief: Those were $3.
Interviewer: Wow. This was what, 194—, the late 1940s?
Brief: This was the early 1940s I guess, wasn’t it Jean?
Interviewer: Your wife thinks 50s. You came home in ’45, ’46?
Brief: Yes, okay. It was in the 50s then and after examining the mother, I
noticed the daughter and consequently the next day I called her at her work.
Interviewer: Which was where?
Brief: She was working at, where were you working at Jean, the Art Gallery?
Yeah and I asked her what the status of her mother was after being under my care
for 24 hours. And that led to my inviting her to have a beer with me.
Interviewer: And where did you go to have the beer?
Brief: I don’t remember. I suppose it was out here at the, what do you call
that, the . . . .
Interviewer: He asked you if you remember Jean?
Jean: Well we went to Reeb’s.
Jean: Yes and also the . . . .
Interviewer: The same evening?
Jean: No at a different time.
Interviewer: Okay. So how long did this courtship last?
Brief: The courtship lasted for eight years.
Interviewer: Eight years? Okay. So Jean Brief just indicated she thinks they
met in 1949. And it lasted for eight years. Now during that time were you
“playing the field” or you didn’t know you wanted to get married, or
why eight years? And you can tell me it’s not my business if you care to.
Brief: No I don’t know why it lasted eight years. Originally I had warned
her that it would probably last six months and she accepted that.
Interviewer: You mean the relationship would only last six months?
Interviewer: Okay. Why? Was that your pattern?
Brief: That was my pattern at the time.
Interviewer: I see. So what made you finally decide to get married?
Brief: She got me drunk and asked me.
Interviewer: (laughter) Should I ask her if that was true or are you going to
Brief: No it’s not true but it’s my story and I’m stuck with it.
Interviewer: Stuck with it? Don’t you want your grandchildren to know the
real story some day?
Brief: That’s enough. If they can’t read between the lines in all this
drivel that I’ve talked for this past half hour . . . .
Interviewer: Well maybe somebody wanted to have a baby or something?
Brief: Well somebody was young enough and that wasn’t a pressing thing at
Interviewer: I see. Okay. So what year was it you got married again?
Brief: ’54 or ’55? What was it? ’56? Well it seemed like it was much
earlier than that.
Interviewer: That is a long time. Now how old were you Dr. Brief?
Brief: I was 39?
Interviewer: And how old were you?
Interviewer: Oh wow. So you were really young when the two of you started
going out. Wow. I see. Okay. So being how you felt about the Orthodox life, how
did the two of you raise your children?
Brief: Well Jean had become very interested in the problems of the Jewish
religion and she had converted through taking the course of treatment I suppose
it would be called. At any rate, she converted long before we got married.
Interviewer: She got interested through knowing you?
Brief: I assume so. I mean I don’t think she had many Jewish friends at the
time that we were going together except some neighbors of hers that she had
known for years and years and years.
Interviewer: Okay so we’ve got you two together. Let’s make sure we don’t
overlook some other things. I see here, you mentioned you were Chief of Family
Practice at Children’s. What other kind of professional or non-professional
activities were you engaged in in those years? Or even longer. Were you involved
in any community service organizations or was most of it through your work?
Brief: It was all through my work.
Interviewer: I see.
Brief: I figured that was long enough.
Interviewer: Did you work long hours?
Brief: Long hours and evening hours and so forth. And by this time I’d
become involved with the community who were patients of mine. And this was my
Interviewer: I see. I can understand that. So you worked quite a long time?
Brief: Yes I did.
Interviewer: How old were you when you retired?
Interviewer: Uh huh. And why did you retire at that time and not sooner and
not later? How did you know it was the time?
Brief: I was tired.
Interviewer: You were tired? Did you keep that pace all those years?
Brief: Pretty much.
Interviewer: Wow. Well I can understand that. So tell me a little bit about
your home life after you got married and stuff. You weren’t home a whole lot.
Brief: No. Come home for meals and that was about it. And then every year we’d
take off for three weeks, two to three weeks, for a vacation and starting with
whenever we could, which was after our first child was born a year after we were
married, and by the time she was three we were taking her on vacations with us.
And at first we’d go to places like Florida in the Summertime. And then when
we had our little boy and he was six years, seven years younger than the girl,
we were inquiring about going to the West Coast and we were discouraged in that
by our local community travel agent and he suggested we go to Spain that year.
And he said it would be cheaper than going to the West Coast, the way we were
going to the West Coast. And so we went to Spain and our Spanish tour was
delightful except when the kids got sick.
Interviewer: Now you had to work on your vacation?
Brief: I had to work on my vacation. They had enteritis and from then on, we
would go to Europe at least every other year.
Interviewer: Did you ever go to Israel?
Brief: No we never were to Israel. The closest we got was to Constantinople
and that was because we were taking a Greek Island tour and again, this was
something I’d put off too long probably because I eventually got to the place
where I couldn’t travel. And so much for that.
Interviewer: Now let’s ask something else since this is being done for the
Jewish Historical Society, tell me about the relationship, how your family
reacted to you marrying Jean who was a convert. How did that go?
Brief: Well I never felt very strongly about that particular thing when we
were young. I mean she was a convert so she had converted and she was doing this
with her eyes wide open. And I didn’t encourage her or discourage her as best
as I can remember.
Interviewer: And during your courtship, did your wife do things with your
family pretty often?
Brief: Well that depends on how you mean “pretty often”.
Interviewer: Well whatever you would have done at least.
Brief: Well she certainly was comfortable in my house.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful.
Brief: And she felt comfortable leaving the kids at my house when we’d go
off on our own for a vacation for a few days or something like that. And
everybody that knew us were very encouraged by our part coping with all the
problems that they thought were problems and we didn’t.
Interviewer: Well it’s wonderful it worked out so well. And it sounds like,
did your sister ever have any children?
Interviewer: So your children were your parents’ grandchildren and only
grandchildren. So I’m sure they were thrilled.
Brief: Oh yes.
Interviewer: I’m sure they were thrilled. Did you live at home until you
and Jean got married or did you move out any time before that?
Brief: No I lived at home.
Interviewer: Okay. And that was, I guess, pretty common back then. So did
your children go to Agudas Achim Sunday School?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Were they deeply involved?
Brief: Well my daughter was more deeply involved than my son was. Yes they
were fairly well involved, much more so than I was for example.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. I’m going to stop this just for a second. Okay.
So you retired in 1989. Tell me what you’ve been doing since then, especially
in the beginning.
Brief: Well in the beginning, I’d gotten ill and they almost left me with
an inability to drive safely and so I did the responsible thing and gave up my
license to drive a car as well as practice medicine.
Interviewer: Must have been a pretty serious illness.
Brief: Well I had gone to my daughter in the mountains of New Hampshire where
she lived in a place called, what does she call that?
Jean: Waterville Valley.
Brief: Waterville Valley Estates which is a decent sort of place for people
who have second homes. And she had just gotten enough of an income to be able to
purchase a chalet-type of dwelling place there on the side of this Campton Moun-
tain. And this one Summer, the Summer of my retirement, I had gone up there and
was helping her clear some of the land and I can’t forget. On the Fourth of
July I got sick. And we had planned to go visit some friends of Toby’s and I
wasn’t able to make it because I was nauseated and had a bellyache. So I
stayed home while my daughter and I guess my son was somewhere else by this
time, and I felt around to see what was going on with me and I decided I had a
gall bladder attack. And it was the Fourth of July. There you go, you got me on
the wedding part you see. At any rate, I took off for Columbus because I did not
want to have my gall bladder out in a little town in New Hampshire.
Interviewer: Did you see a doctor there to confirm it was gall bladder?
Brief: No I didn’t need any consultant on that. I would feel through my
belly wall that my gall bladder was dilated. And I came back to town and
interrupted my friend’s weekend and fortunately, he had given me a routine
work-up in addition to my pre-operative gall bladder and he decided he’s
better take a look in my stomach while we were at it. It was the same general
area. And at any rate, he found a little polyp in my stomach which had begun to
bleed and this affected the outflow of my bile from my gall bladder. So he had
to take out the gall bladder and half of my stomach. And at the time, I began
having visual difficulties and the combination led us to the diagnosis finally
of carcinoma of the stomach and an acute gall bladder on top of that. And the
whole was held together by a diagnosis that we made at the time of Parkinson’s
Interviewer: That’s a lot.
Brief: Yeah it was a lot. So for the remainder of that Summer, I spent on our
patio and . . . .
Interviewer: Let nature take its course.
Brief: Yes and I’d been assured by the CDCs that the type of stomach cancer
that I had had a life expectancy of six years.
Interviewer: This was what, fourteen years ago?
Brief: I’m a cancer survivor.
Interviewer: Yes you are. How was it being a patient after having been in
control for all those years?
Brief: It’s very embarrassing.
Brief: Because I have to straighten people out?
Interviewer: (laughter) And how do you do that?
Brief: I just simply bawl them out and point out the things that they’re
Interviewer: Do they usually agree with you?
Brief: Eventually they will.
Interviewer: I don’t see any signs of Parkinson’s now, I mean not
Brief: I don’t have the tremor.
Interviewer: I see.
Brief: That’s all that I’ve gotten out of it. You see that I’m walking
with a cane which keeps me from falling. And the falling is one of the major
pathahumonic signs of the disease. In Parkinson’s original description of the
condition, he wrote a book on the falling illness.
Interviewer: Who wrote the book?
Brief: Guy by the name of Parkinson.
Interviewer: Oh I see.
Brief: And so this is what’s supporting me now.
Interviewer: So have you been able to do, I understood the illness has
limited you in many ways but weren’t there any interests or hobbies you’ve
been able to pursue during your retirement that you haven’t had any time or
enough time for during your working years?
Brief: I didn’t have enough time to follow my interests in hobbies but I
did, starting with a small cup I got made out of jade and that led me on into
Interviewer: Oh that’s interesting. Where did you get the first one?
Brief: A friend of mine who was a jeweler was offered this piece by a client
of his and he knew that I’d become interested a little bit in jade. When we
were first married, I bought Jean, or right before we were married, I got her
some fish in jade. And he thought he’d arouse my interest in something like
that. I did and he did, very much so and this has led to these 150 or so odd
pieces of jade that we have in the house. And that got too expensive for me
after a while. So I collected medical books. So I’ve given the medical books
to Children’s Hospital Library, all my pediatric texts which involved all of
the texts on pediatric subjects from 1780 on.
Interviewer: Wow. How have you acquired the jade and the textbooks? Different
ways? Antique sales? Antique shows?
Brief: Antique shows and originally I had, on jades, I had a lot of dealers
who would come visit me once they knew my interest in it. And these dealers
would come through maybe once or twice a year and they would stop in my home and
show me whatever they had with them.
Interviewer: Have you done any shopping on the Internet?
Brief: No, don’t trust them. They were pretty worthless, some objects of
Interviewer: Okay. So tell me about your wife and children and do you have
Brief: None to speak of.
Interviewer: To speak of? (laughter)
Brief: Yes I have no grandchildren.
Interviewer: What is Toby doing with her life and how about Samuel?
Brief: Well Toby has got the ideal life as far as I can see. She is a
graduate of Boston University and then she got her Master’s at Tufts in family
planning, not family planning but city planning in Tufts. And at the other
school she got her degree in English and something else.
Jean: Psychology, Jerry.
Brief: Psychology. Okay.
Interviewer: And so that’s what she is doing in New Hampshire?
Brief: Nope, she’s traveling out of New Hampshire. This is what makes it
such an ideal situation. During the time that she was in college in Boston, she
became involved with a group of people who are entrepreneurs as far as housing
is concerned. And she eventually became their right-hand man for buying up
property and then remodeling and eventually she had some 300 apartments that she
was responsible for and the construction of a whole town actually, is what it
amounted to. And then she went to Tufts and by this time, she was tired of
working on that and so she got involved with another group that was remodeling
hotels. And then after she graduated, she went to work for Bank One here in
Columbus but Bank One had responsibility for buying up properties in
Massachusetts, which they made two billion dollars on. That was her portfolio.
She had things in New Hampshire which made it convenient for her to work in New
Hampshire, occupy her chalet around the year. And she lived out there for
several years doing that. And then she got into New York and she worked for a
man who is a very hot shot in the hotel business and she did the, remodeled
several hotels for him. Right now she’s just waiting to, well she took off
when her mother got ill ’cause she knew I wasn’t a very good cook, and so
she stayed with us for almost a year.
Interviewer: When was that?
Brief: Just this past year.
Interviewer: Really? I bet you enjoyed having her around.
Brief: She was a lifesaver to us.
Interviewer: And your son? Tell me what he’s doing.
Brief: Well he’s leading the typical life of a kid from a family that could
absorb his tuition and so forth. And he is, well he almost got shot over here in
Johnson Park school when they started having riots over there.
Interviewer: When was that?
Brief: Just over 28 years ago. And we took him out of Johnson Park and put
him in the Academy. He graduated at Academy and we started looking at a place
for him to go to college. And he was a swimmer at the Academy so a school had to
have a swimming set-up. The best one he could find is Kenyon
Interviewer: Really? It’s a good school.
Brief: It’s a good school. So he stayed there for two years and then he had
taken all the courses that they had to offer in his major which was, what the
heck do you call that Jean?
Jean: Political Science.
Brief: Political Science, right. He took all the courses that they had in
Political Science in two years and he decided that he didn’t want that any
more and he took off from school then, spent a year bumming around the South.
And then he went to Ohio State and graduated from Ohio State in his same
Political science. Only this time he was smart ’cause the first course he took
at Ohio State was a course in wine tasting. At any rate he graduated Ohio State
and he went to live in the South. He loved it in North Carolina and he lives now
in a place called, what do you call it?
Jean: Wrightsville Beach.
Brief: Wrightsville Beach, yes. And he’s now going to college again. This
time he’s going on his own so he decided that he better get something that
will pay him better than whatever he’s getting out of his Political Science. I
was just down visiting him a few months ago.
Interviewer: Oh you were? That’s great? Just the two, you and Toby? All
right. Well we’re getting near the end of the tape and like I said, we have
another one. But I think we’re probably about done except that I’d like to
give you an opportunity to say anything else that you’d like to say . . . .
posterity and yourself.
Brief: I have nothing else to say.
Interviewer: Okay. Well I thank you very much for your time and hopefully
soon this will be available, transcribed or otherwise over at the Jewish
Historical Society. This concludes our interview, Carol Shkolnik interviewing
Dr. B. J. Brief.
Transcribed by Honey Abramson