This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project with Ivan Gilbert is taking place at 91 Eastwind Dr., Westerville, Ohio on November 18, 1997. My name is Naomi Schottenstein and Hinda Riker is here with me.
Interviewer: This is November 18, 1997, we are in the office Dr. Ivan Gilbert
at 921 Eastwind Dr. in Westerville and we are interviewing Dr. Ivan Gilbert. I’m
going to be asking questions, Ivan and whenever you feel like jumping off, you
are welcome to do so. I am going to start way back with memories of your
parents. Who were your parents.
Gilbert: My father was Harry Gilbert and my mother was Fanny
Rosenthal Gilbert. How much do you want?
Interviewer: Whatever you like…
Gilbert: I am fully capable…
Interviewer: Yes, give us some background.
Gilbert: My grandparents came to Columbus, my grandfather, my
father’s father, my grandfather came to Columbus in response
to call from a cousin of his who had become Rabbi at the
Agudas Achim who had come from the shtetl from which from
whence we rise and sent the word out and the whole family,
over a period of years came down to Columbus in the 1800’s,
Interviewer: What was the name of the shtetl that they came from.
Gilbert: I don’t know.
Interviewer: Was it Russia…
Gilbert: Lithuania, we’re all from the Bronx.
Gilbert: We came, the Schottensteins came, the Weiners came, the Ziskins came,
we are all from the same shtetl. And I’ve got about 300 hundred
relatives in Columbus right now, many of whose names I names I don’t even know.
I think your husband came from that same area.
Interviewer: Yeah, my husband’s family, father was from that same area.
Gilbert: And we all came down, the reason we came was that one of our relatives
came here as a Rabbi And he liked it.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Gilbert: I don’t know, my father knew but I don’t know. And he liked it sent the
word and the whole family came. And my grand-father came here, he was my father’s father came here and he was broke like
Interviewer: What was his name? Your father’s father.
Gilbert: His name was Gilberg, his name was Isaac Gilberg. Our family
name overseas was Gelbaird, yellow beard. The family was
all blonde. When they came through customs they were
Gilberg and my father changed his name to Gilbert when he
opened the store. He thought it was a better name and less
Jewish. He had the sense of anti-Semitism so he decided to
be less Jewish. Some of our family is still Gilbergs, the
Gilbergs out of Freemont. But my grandfather came here, he
was also running from the Russian military, he was 17 or 18.
A lot of male Jews came here at that period.
Interviewer: The Pogroms.
Gilbert: Pogroms. Well the attractions was the armies, 10 years in
the army, what Jewish boy wants to be in the army. And he
came here and he apparently started selling needles and pins
and stuff on the street and he apparently had married his
wife overseas, and she came too eventually. He got a hock
shop going on North Third Street and he and my grandmother.
Interviewer: What was that hock shop, which is, describe that.
Gilbert: Pawn shop. He and my mother, grandmother several men and 11
children…my grandfather worked in the hock shop and they
all lived in the apartment above the hock shop.
Interviewer: So your father was one of 11.
Gilbert: One of 11, yeah…
Interviewer: And they all born here.
Gilbert: They were all born here.
Interviewer: In Columbus, that is.
Gilbert: And my, of whom 8 grew up, 3 died. My grandfather ran this
hock shop and he worked very hard. He was a pious Jew. My
father described him as being tow head blond, beautiful, and
having a wonderful sing voice. Our family were all cantors
and Rabbis and my Tante Sarah Lake who when I was kid sat
with me over on Bryden Road, in her home, told me she had
seen our family records in the old Country before she came
over. We had family records back to Spain when the family
left Spain in the 15th, 16th century. And it passed through
Holland and up into Lithuania. But the family were all
Rabbis and scholars. The interesting thing is, one of the
interesting things about this family that they are very
proud, very intellectual, educated and they lost all their
money the generation before they immigrated. You didn’t
have any money for dowries for the girls. So they married
the girls to cousins within the incest variant permissions.
Unless you have the Ziskins married to Ziskins and the
Weiners married to Weiners. They made all girls, they
wanted the girls to have good to have good husbands and they
couldn’t buy them, so they married them.
Interviewer: That wasn’t unusual during that era.
Gilbert: No it wasn’t, I mean but we also have some interesting
results and strange people.
Interviewer: Interesting. OK.
Gilbert: So anyway they came over here and my…my father, I don’t
know much about my grandfather because he died in 40’s. Both
of my grandfather’s died in their 40’s. One from a
strangulated hernia and the other from pneumonia. My
mother’s father in the meantime, had left. Had been married
to my mother’s mother left Russia, Lithuania and went to
South Africa and dug in the gold mines for awhile. Then
came to America and had his wife come over with her baby
daughter, who was my mother who was a year, year and half
old when she got here.
Interviewer: So your mother was the first in her family, first sibling,
Gilbert: Yes, she was the first child in her family.
Interviewer: And how many siblings did she…
Gilbert: There were four brother, Tom, Sam, Louie and Herman all of
whom who lived in Columbus.
Interviewer: So she was the only daughter.
Gilbert: She was the only daughter.
Interviewer: And what was her…Rosenthall?
Gilbert: And she came over here and her met her, my grandmother and
met her husband and they started a hock shop about four hock
shops down from my father’s hock shop. And so kids grew up
knowing each other and married when they got of sufficient
age to get married. They came from the same backgrounds.
They were very good in the hock shop business. Anyway, my
father had a very tough life cause there was no money in the
family and he and my uncle Joe were selling news papers on
horse carts when they were five years old and bringing their
money home to their mother, seven years old.
Interviewer: Tell me who your father’s sibling were.
Gilbert: OK, my father’s siblings were Joe Gilbert, Yack – Jacob
Interviewer: Is Joe, is Joe Jacob or is that’s two or are we talking
about two different…
Gilbert: Joe Gilbert was his oldest brother, Jacob Gilbert was his
youngest brother. There was Mollie Gilbert, that was his
sister and there was Ester Frank, who was his sister, and
there was, let me see, Rosie was his sister, Jenny Lazeer
was his sister, who have I missed?
Interviewer: I think we have six.
Gilbert: Emin Saul, Fanny Thall…
Interviewer: Fanny Thall was another sister.
Gilbert: Is that eight now?
Interviewer: And then your Dad…
Gilbert: And my Dad.
Interviewer: I think that’s pretty close to all siblings.
Gilbert: Ben Rosenberg was Rosie Rosenberg. That was the other
sister Rosie. And they were all lived in Columbus except
Easter Frank who married a guy in South Bend and went there.
But the, anyway, when my father was 16, his father bought
him a cobbler shop and paid fifty bucks for it. Which was
fortuitous because about two year later his father died.
And my father was trying to go to college and worked in the
cobbler shop, was forced not to not go to college, but to
work to bring home money for his siblings.
Interviewer: Took care of the rest of the family.
Gilbert: Yeah, and he had this cobbler shop and he started selling
used shoes. Used shoes were big selling items because, you
don’t remember this, but in those days, better shoes had
open soles and cheaper shoes had belly soles and belly soles
lasted about six weeks and open soles would last six or
eight months. So open bend so that’s part of the bend of
the leather that’s a stronger piece of leather. So the
belly soles would last a lot longer, so there was market for
used shoes. For the same money they would wear a lot longer. Y
You were at a time then when you didn’t have influence where
money was important as shoes length wearing was important.
Gilbert: So he started out and he started selling used shoe as you
would buy around from…and they started to go real well
and he ran out of used shoes, so he went over to H.C. Godman
Company and he used to buy new shoes, seconds, close out and
he would take them out in the back yard the back alley
rubbed the soles so they look dirty so he would sell them as
Interviewer: That was the market.
Gilbert: People wanted used shoes. And the business started to get
pretty successful and he had a little fourteen foot cobbler
shop. So he rented the next cobbler, the next room to it
and started to expanding and that’s was the thing that ended
up as that big large orange building that Gilbert’s had.
That went on and on and on. He had start kept renting rooms
until he rented the whole block.
Interviewer: Where was that located at? Tell us exactly…
Gilbert: 210 E. Town Street and it became very successful. He
married my mother, I don’t know how old they were, twenties,
and he gone into the, he had the shoe store, but he turned
it over uncle Yack and he started right after the war, he
started opening military stores, outdoor military stores.
He had twenty five or thirty of those around the country
when that boom busted and he closed them up and went back to
shoe business. And the shoe business became an off price
shoe business. Shoes off price. When the depression hit
became very successful we sold 20% of all the shoes sold in
Columbus because of the idea of saving money had become very
important and he had about a hundred clerks in there and he
had a policy he never fired anybody during the depression.
He paid all the help eight dollars a week and all the
department mangers 12 dollars a week and he said I’m not
firing anybody because there is no work out there, you guys
want quit that one thing. At that time in the 1932 a person
could live on eight dollars a week. Louie Feuer who was
16 was working at the store and he with no other money
coming into his family. His father wasn’t working, his
brother wasn’t working that eight bucks a week kept them
going for a year. You could buy food and pay rent and do
everything on eight dollar…you didn’t have any surplus
money. It’s hard for us to realize…
Interviewer: It put it in perspective for what the time was then.
Gilbert: I remember men on the street when I was a kid selling apples
for a nickel. You to young to remember that but I remember
that. The…so that the family business prospered during
the 30’s and my father became reasonably well affluent and
became involved in community activities which you are
probably aware of.
Interviewer: Before we go any further I want to make sure I have your
siblings, did I ask him…tell me who your brothers and
sister and your siblings…
Gilbert: I have a brother called Mack Joseph Gilbert, who is an
entrepreneurial, theatrical type who lives in New York.
Interviewer: I’m sure we could spend the tape talking about him, but
let’s just talk a couple of minutes talking about him.
Gilbert: Oh, well Mack was the last child of my parents, became
interested in the theater when he was young, went to the
Yale School of Drama, subsequently came back and worked in
the shoe business for awhile and managed to screw it up
pretty well. Really he should not have been in the shoe
business but his heart was in New York. He headed for New
York and he has made a movie and he has done a play and he
has not been to successful but he is very…this is his
life, this is what turns him on, this is what makes him
Interviewer: He couldn’t be happy doing anything else.
Gilbert: That’s right, that’s the only thing he has ever been
interested in is show biz. As I said he married Groucho
Marks daughter, Melinda. And that wedding was a very long
term affair, lasted about ninety days.
Interviewer: The whole wedding, the whole marriage, the marriage lasted
Gilbert: I have written on that marriage, if you want to read it
someday, I’ll give you a copy.
Interviewer: We’ll have to put that in our archives.
Gilbert: Well, yeah. Anyway lets go back…
Interviewer: Tell me about your other siblings you have.
Gilbert: My other sibling was Dorothy Friedman, she was married to Al
Friedman who was a realtor in town who died from genetic
disposition to heart disease, he died at 49, playing tennis
at the Winding Hollow and of course he died from emphysema
four or five years ago.
Interviewer: Who were Dorothy’s children?
Gilbert: Dorothy’s children, Daniel Friedman who is professor of
psychology at Antioch. And Jimmy Friedman who is ex-
professor of photography at Ohio State and a really world
Interviewer: Yes he is, I have seen some of his works at the museum as a
matter of fact, Columbus Museum.
Gilbert: Did you see the one of that couple kissing.
Interviewer: Yes, it was very popular.
Gilbert: Did you notice who the male was.
Interviewer: Was it you? It was you.
Gilbert: He took a hundred pictures and they had the audacity to use
Interviewer: It was popular and turned out fine. Is Daniel married?
Interviewer: Tell me about your children.
Gilbert: Well, I have Lawrence, Richard, and Jonathan. Lawrence is
working here in the business, he went to Reed College became
a “Reedy”, big mistake, never let your kid go any place for
college that you can’t get home on a three day vacation. I
have advised everybody of that. He went to Oregon and you never saw him.
Interviewer: He was swallowed up there, huh.
Gilbert: He loved Oregon, he couldn’t come home for Thanksgiving or
anything. Anyway, now he is home in our business in our MIS
Department. He is a computer maven.
Interviewer: So, he works with you.
Gilbert: Yeah, but just latterly, just in the last two or three
years. Richard is in Phoenix, he is in foreign trade. He does
buying and selling all over the world. One day he is in
Yugoslavia and the next day he is in Brazil. And that’s
what he likes. He has a masters degree in foreign trade at
Thunder Bird. And that’s which is in Phoenix and the reason
he stays in Phoenix.
Interviewer: My son graduated from there.
Gilbert: Did he?
Gilbert: Great school.
Interviewer: And we have run into Rick at the airport, as we go to
Arizona a lot.
Gilbert: He is either going or coming.
Interviewer: Yeah, right, that’s Rick.
Gilbert: And my other son, Jonathan is a sculptor and he is in
Asheville, North Carolina.
Interviewer: He has done well.
Gilbert: He is a very good sculptor.
Interviewer: He has done some important pieces here in Columbus, hasn’t
Gilbert: Yeah, he did Over the Waves, which is that big piece in
front of the water works. Which fell down, because the City
of Columbus wouldn’t maintain it. You, know with steel and
it had steel bolts and the bolts rusted and the wind came
along. And he is very upset about. He has a big one out in
Interviewer: What used to be Kobackers.
Gilbert: Kobackers, yeah, called the Tree of Life. Very strong.
Interviewer: You can see it from the freeway, I enjoyed that very much
Gilbert: I thinking about trying to figuring some place to move it.
Either to the Agudas Achim or Torah Academy or something,
because there is no sense to have it in front of Kobackers.
Interviewer: No. Well that’s worth accomplishing.
Gilbert: Anyway, what else do you want to know?
Interviewer: OK, we were talking about your father and his
establishment in the business and I know his reputation in
the City as a retailer. When did your father pass away?
Gilbert: I don’t know.
Interviewer: Long time ago.
Gilbert: Fifteen years, maybe, probably 15 years.
Interviewer: At least.
Gilbert: Yeah, 20 years, I don’t know.
Interviewer: And your mother? Do you remember?
Gilbert: She has been gone more than 35 years.
Interviewer: No, just for the records it kind of helps to put things into
place. But you weren’t in the business? Or were you?
Gilbert: Which business.
Interviewer: Shoe business.
Gilbert: I’ve been in everything.
Interviewer: Where does this Dr. Ivan Gilbert come from?
Gilbert: From medical school.
Interviewer: From medical school, OK.
Gilbert: I’m a licensed physician, if you look at my resume I gave
you. I’m a licensed physician, I am.
Interviewer: Did you ever practice?
Gilbert: Sort of. What happened, if you want to know the whole
horrible tale. Is that I got tuberculosis at the end of my
internship and had to go cure for it. And during the year
that I cured for it, I became educated. Medical school, is
like plumbing with vocabulary. It’s a trade school and had
no significance in making anything of a person except a good
technician. The only thing you ever learn is stuff of no
significance in terms of life. But it makes you a damn good
plumber. So, when I got out of….when I got sick, I had to
spend the year doing nothing. So I went to the library and
read Hegel and Spinoza, Kirkegaard and Herodatus and modern
novels. When I came out of it, with some recognition there
was more to the world that somebody’s spleen. And about
that time, when I was getting over, still resting but a, my
father said why don’t you come into the shoe store and spend
a little time, at least it would give you something to do.
So I did. The same time, Frank Rebor asked to take charge
of Alum Crest Hospital and I became Medical Director of Alum
Crest Hospital. I was working around my father’s store and
he said and still once in a while, why don’t you take these
stores I own and go run with them. So I took the two stores
and pretty soon I was up to about 10 stores and I was
running the hospital and I was having all kinds of neurotic
problems. I just didn’t know what was wrong.
Interviewer: You were doing all that at the same time?
Gilbert: Yeah, I was having neurotic problems so very, neurotic, very
upset, I have free fully anxieties and I went to Herb
Pariser and I said Herb, I don’t feel well. And he worked
with me for awhile for awhile and he said Ivan, I can’t
handle you, you have too many problems for me. So he
Interviewer: So you did him in as a psychiatrist…
Gilbert: No, no, he stayed with me, he said, I’m in psychoanalyst and
you need to be in psychoanalysis. So I went to Detroit with
him and we both went to his psychoanalyst, a guy names Mort
Barnett, who was great, great psychoanalyst. And I spent
eight years up there and decided to become an analyst. I
was going to become an analyst. I couldn’t run the business
and run the…
Interviewer: Wait, wait a minute, you said you were eight years there,
you didn’t stay there for eight…
Gilbert: I went there two days a week for eight years.
Interviewer: OK, OK
Gilbert: I couldn’t run the business, do the analyst, and run the
hospital. So, I told Frank I have to give up the hospital.
When I get through the analyst, I’ll be an analysis. In the
mean time, the business paid for the analysis, because the
analysis wasn’t cheap. The business was growing and I got
through the analysts and I said Frank, I mean Mort, I ain’t
going to spend the rest of my life listening to the kind of
shit you’re listening to from me. I ain’t going to go
through this the rest of my life. I don’t want to be an
analyst. That’s what I told him. I’m not quoting this. He
said, OK. So I went back and I was at that point not, I
don’t believe you should go anything in any field unless you
are really qualified and really wasn’t up to speed in
medicine. And I either had to go back and do another
residency or and let business exploding and I’m running my
father’s at that point and I’ve got about 20 shoes stores
and things are sort of rolling along and I said the hell
with it and said I’m not going back. And I kept my license
but I wasn’t practicing very much. I had a big fight with
Interviewer: What did he want you to do?
Gilbert: He wanted me…my father was the nicest man whoever lived.
He was nice the way other people used whips. He wanted me
Interviewer: Go into the business?
Gilbert: I was already in the business. He wanted me do things he
wanted me to do. It was sort of control issue. I wasn’t
old enough yet to understand how to handle him. I was going
through my adolescent rebellion and the age of 30. So I
just went into him one day and said, this is a shoe store.
I don’t want to run your business anymore, you run your
business I don’t want to run it. I want you to loan me
$100,000. I got to leave this business so I can expand my
business and so he did. I paid him back in a couple of
years. I started my chain, which I ended up with about two
hundred stores before I got done with it.
Interviewer: So, you continued in the shoe business though.
Gilbert: Yeah, well…
Interviewer: In your way.
Gilbert: Yeah, well, I continued in the shoe business but I also
started PTA. I was president of PTA at the University School
and one day one of my friends came up and he looked like
hell, I said, what’s wrong with you and he said well, I’m
head of R & D and Industrial Nucleonics and I went out and
found a patent and I’m and I’ve been talking to Burt Chope
and I said Burt you gotta buy this and Burt said nobody
can tell me what nobody tells me what I have to…and I
ain’t going to buy it. So for three months I have been
trying to get Burt to buy this, it is very important to our
business. ….so what do you want to do, I want to buy it
myself and start my own company, I said, OK, I’ll tell you
what you do. You go see Burt and you write Burt a letter
you say Burt, instead of R & D, I found this.
Interviewer: R & D did you…
Gilbert: Research and Development. If you don’t buy this, for the
company, then I’m going to buy and start my own company.
But you write him and tell him that. Cause if you don’t,
he’ll sue you silly. And, he did and Burt said, nobody
tells me what I have to do, I ain’t going to do it. that’s
the kind of guy Chope was. So we went out and bought the
patent and started the company. Put it public, and it became quite
Interviewer: This other person, Chope, how do you spell that, C-H-O-P-E?
Gilbert: Yes, Burt Chope, he was the founder of Industrial Nucleonics.
Don Brontin, who was my friend was PHD in charge of Research
and Development. So we started this company and ran it five
or six years. It was a side company to my shoe company.
Interviewer: What was this time period in there?
Gilbert: That happened about 60’s. My friend Brontin was a short,
engaging red face white haired 50 year old fellow from
Canada. He was very courageous and he went out and bought
himself an airplane and one day in February he took his
airplane and his chief engineer, against advice, and flew
the thing up toward Ottawa to put in and installation and he
burned up. The thing got ice on the wings and it fell over
and he burned up. We sold the company because, our
investment groups, we owed a lot money in there and our
investment groups weren’t comfortable, we sold it to whom?
Gilbert: Burt Chopes. The guy who took over when Burt left. So they
eventually did get the patent but the hard way. I have been
Interviewer: Before we get to far away with some other businesses, let’s
scoot back to where you born, you said you were born…
Gilbert: I was born in Grant Hospital and lived at 1520 Menlo Place.
Interviewer: And is that where you spent most of your childhood?
Gilbert: We stayed there till I was 4 1/2 or 5 years old at which
…6, I had to be 6 because we went the first year we
started to a school, Menlo Place, I don’t know if you know
where it is? It’s just two blocks north of Long Street,
runs east off of Taylor. We went to some school, around
Fair Avenue School, I think, and it turned out that the
teacher at Fair Avenue School had been mad at my father for
some reason, I don’t know, so she slugged my sister and my
mother yanked us both out of school and sent us both to St.
Mary’s of the Springs.
Interviewer: Oh, well that was daring.
Gilbert: Well, she would have her slug her little girl. So I went to
St. Mary’s of the Springs the first year, in the meantime,
father bought a house, rented a house in Bexley, 60 S.
Cassingham. So we moved out to Bexley in about, 29, 28, 29,
and have been there every since. That was an interesting
experience because St. Mary’s of the Spring’s tried to make
me write right handed and I’m left handed and I start
stuttering and Sam Edleman who was our pediatrician, said
you tell them damn nurses let that kid write with whatever
hand he wants to. But has a result, they ruined my hand
writing and they made me write down like this so I would
slant the right the right way. And I never did have any
good hand writing.
Interviewer: What year were you born?
Gilbert: 1922 and stayed in Bexley the rest of my life and I grew up
Interviewer: Was that still family house on Cassingham?
Gilbert: No, no, no, what happened was that my grandmother, my
father’s mother, became psychotic, she developed a psychosis
of pregnancy which is common, but today we treat. But a
that time didn’t know how to treat it. And she became a
little strange. So my father my that time started to make
some money went out in the country and brought her a great
big old farm house to keep her in. She and Aunt Mollie
lived there. And in 1931 there was a fire in the farm house
and my Aunt and my grandmother jumped out of the window when
the fireman were coming up and she killed herself. That was
New Years Eve 1931 I think. Father remodeled the house and
remember he said he brought his uncle in and said Uncle
Jake, look at this, I’ve put hard wood floors on and
stippled walls and these wrought iron fixtures, which were
the big fixtures and, at that point, he says I’m going to
sell it. And he said my uncle says, the good Lord should
bring you a customer cause this 1932 and there weren’t…so
the house never sold. So father, we all moved in…
Interviewer: This was on…
Gilbert: 419 South Columbia?
Interviewer: That was in the country?
Gilbert: It was in the country when we bought it…
Interviewer: I’m glad you have us the address cause that is important.
Gilbert: It was not country when we moved. We stayed there and I
grew up there, it was a great house. Use to have initiation
on the third floor. We discovered a third floor. There had
been fire, as I said, we discovered the third and a secret
compartment. We would take girls up there and have
alligators crawl on there stomachs and initiated them into
various a sundry organizations that we had when we were 7, 8,
or 9 years old.
Interviewer: So that was 419 South Columbia.
Gilbert: So I grew up there, went to Bexley schools. Very active, I
was always been very active in something. I was very active
the Jewish programs. I have a very peculiar Jewish history.
Interviewer: Starting with going to St. Mary’s of the Springs.
Gilbert: Yeah, what…
Interviewer: …what was your father’s religious orientation, where did he
belong, which synagogue?
Gilbert: I don’t believe he belonged anywhere. He was a member, my
family came out of the Agudas Achim. My great uncle, cousin
was a Rabbi there and the whole family came there. But my
father was a probably the most prominent Jewish Social
Jewish Community leader of his era. People forget that now,
but he was. He was…
Interviewer: No, I remember that…
Gilbert: He was the person who dreamed up and started the Jewish
Center, he was the person who dreamed up and started up
Torah Academy. He was the person that raised the money for
the Agudas Achim mortgage. He was the person who raised the
money for the Israel Mortgage. About the time…one of the
early things that happened was that Tifereth Israel Mortgage
and father raised the money and helped get that thing going
and he went on the board of the Tifereth Israel so he sent
his kids to the Tifereth Israel Sunday School instead of the
Agudas Achim. So I grew up Tifereth Israel, which was a
disastrous place to grow up in. They had a Rabbi from
Europe named Zelizer who had no comprehension of children
whatsoever. And they had a cantor who liked the broads and
he use to chase the broads. He used chase me down the
street cause I can remember when they had a Hebrew School…
Interviewer: Do you think it would safe to tell us the Cantor’s name?
Gilbert: I don’t remember. But he was dark haired with a little
Interviewer: It’s just as well…
Gilbert: I don’t remember his name, I just know he liked the ladies
and they ran him out of town because of that. There was this
old gray building which was the Hebrew School and it was
characterized by green wooden floors that had never painted
or cleaned and gray walls and dim lights and a smell of
smoke because they’re using a coal furnace that wasn’t very
well ventilated and my mother would bring me there it was
twice a week there. My mother would bring me there and
would always bring me a banana and a bread and butter
sandwich or something cause I…
And I would go in there and there was this nasty looking old Jewish gentlemen and I
wasn’t use to old men, I mean sitting there this ugly old
man was sitting there davining. he couldn’t speak English
and I did speak Yiddish and they taught me Hebrew in a way
that you just learn to read it, but there wasn’t any sense
and I hated every minute of it. I was forced to go there,
then I was forced to go to the Tifereth Israel Synagogue.
Synagogue was my father and we had hard wooden pews. I
don’t know it you remember. They had hard wooden pews. I
didn’t have seats, these were benches.
Interviewer: Not very comfortable.
Gilbert: Well, I didn’t mind that, but my father put us in the middle
and put himself on the end and wouldn’t let me out. He had
me blocked in and wouldn’t let me out.
Interviewer: He had you blocked in?
Gilbert: He had me blocked me in and I hated it. I got Bar Mitzvah
there. The and of course we had a big Bar Mitzvah party at
my father’s house, which is the way Bar Mitzvah’s were done
at time and should be done now, because fundamentally the
purpose of the Bar Mitzvah is a puberty right. And it’s
function is to welcome the young male into society. Which
means he should be joining his peers who are his father’s
friends and of course we perverted the thing to be kids fun
and it’s a sign of the deterioration of our Jewish
intellectualism that we now think kids funds and support
many…well anyway that’s a different issue.
So, I grew up there, but I went to Bexley, and Bexley I ran
around with all my friends, all friends were at Bexley.
Most all of them were reformed.
Interviewer: Can you think, can you give un some names of some… It
might be fun a little of that flavor to it?
Gilbert: Sure, I can give you all of them, there was Ruddy Stern,
Manny Hassel, Nicki Rosenthall, Marvin Rosenthall, Bob
Burncrant… things come back to me, Bob Sculler. The
girls, there was Sally Steinhauser, there was Gerrie
Robbins, there was my sister, there was Harriet Stern, there
was a girl named Night, who moved to Toledo, There was
Interviewer: Have you kept in touch with some of these?
Gilbert: Most of them, Jean Mickler, Jean Mickler and I were in the
Interviewer: A lot of these names sound familiar to me.
Gilbert: Well, lot of them are married now and go buy their married
names. I’m blanking out, Norm Meizlish, Connie Spaget.
Interviewer: Is she from Columbus?
Gilbert: No, she is from New York. She was the New York Jewish girl
who came to Columbus when she was 11 or 12 and I remember
she was friendly with… she lived down the street … she
lived some place on Columbia, on Cassingham at the time. I
remember sitting outside the window of her house in the
summer time. She was very good friends with Harriet Schift,
Sterns, who is now Harriet Schift and they were talking
about boys and smoking. She smoked, she always smoked and
she still did. Except her heart is in pretty bad shape.
Interviewer: Not well, yeah.
Gilbert: But she is now Norm Meizleish’s wife.
Interviewer: Right. Well let’s get back to your family. I just wanted a
little bit of flavor of who you went to school with.
Gilbert: I’ll tell you, so what happened was that I grew up… that
there was the Schift and it was just sporadic Maybrook all
these kids were going to Temple Israel and they were three
boys short for the confirmation class dances, so they
groomed me and Niki Rosenthall and Manny Hassel to be the
three extra boys. So I got involved in the Young Folks
Temple League and became president of the Young Folks Temple
League, but my father wouldn’t join because he said he
wouldn’t join any Synagogue with Rabbi that ate a ham
sandwich and get a Christmas tree. Which they did. In
fact, he once took me out and pointed out to me that
Christmas trees in all the Reformed Jews homes at the time
it was great disgust. But I was President WFTL and, then
Betty Shanfarber who was a very close friend of mine and I
were working, I was working at the AZA at the Schonthal
Center at that time. Daddy and I were both going to the
Schonthal Center. So I said to Betty, that’s organized…
by that time the Jews had moved about 20% were in Bexley and
80% in the South End. So I said to Betty, I don’t see any
difference, why don’t we all get together? So we decided to
organize parties at the Schonthal Center with the Bexley
kids and the South End kids.
Interviewer: How did that work out?
Gilbert: The Bexley kids wouldn’t come. They were snobby little
bastards. So, I had… I was very upset about it, I can’t
see the difference, the Germans killing us all over the
place and were sitting there ….. it’s insane.
Anyway, that didn’t work out, but I got involved in
community activities and was in them forever more. The, but
the same time, I went to college and I married out of my
Interviewer: Where did you go to college?
Gilbert: Ohio State.
Interviewer: OK, and tell us about you spouse.
Gilbert: Well, I married a Reform Jew. And I consider that I
married out my religion.
Interviewer: What’s your wife’s name?
Gilbert: Marcy. Which…
Interviewer: Where’s she from.
Gilbert: Marcy Spirrow from Youngstown, Ohio.
Interviewer: What year were you married?
Gilbert: 1944. I told you I had been married to that rat too long.
The, but my first experience with Reform Judaism as a …
but as a result of that we got married and had some kids she
wanted to go to Temple Israel so I joined Temple Israel so,
at that point, I had left Tifereth Israel as soon I get big
enough to get the hell out of there, because I couldn’t
stand it. Every time I walked in I got these waves of
antipathy toward my experience as a youth. I went over to
the Agudas Achim which I liked. It’s my kind of place.
Interviewer: Still belong to Agudas Achim.
Gilbert: Yeah, but I also joined Temple Israel cause Marcy wanted to
be members so we would go on the first night of Rosh Ha Shona
we would go to Temple Israel. The rest of the time I would
go to the Agudas Achim. But she wanted the kids to go
Sunday School at the Temple Israel so I sent them to Temple
Israel for a couple years until I realized that was insanity
since it was a different religion and stuck them back in
Agudas Achim. So they all got Bar Mitzvahed in the Agudas
Achim except Jonathan, who is dyslexic and we Bar Mitzvahed
him in New York so he wouldn’t have to go through he was in
a school for dyslexic children. He didn’t have to go
through that pressure of all those people it was very
difficult, he just couldn’t handle he couldn’t handle
English at that point let alone Hebrew very well.
Interviewer: We’ve learned a lot about dyslexia, but even then to
recognize it was pretty amazing.
Gilbert: I was well I was the first expert in dyslexia in Columbus
and I got there cause I was able I was president of the
parents in University School. I’m saying to the teachers
what the hell is wrong with Jonathan, he’s not like my other
kids, he learns something but he doesn’t know it. They
said, he just a neurotic Jewish child who will be all right.
And I said, no he ain’t. There’s something wrong with him
but I didn’t know what it was. So my neighbor girl,
Clarence Copeland’s daughter, came back and she was doing a
masters degree in learning disabilities in New York. She
said I think the kid has dyslexia. And I said what is
dyslexia? So she told me…
Interviewer: It was a new word them.
Gilbert: Yeah, I’d never even heard of it till she told me and I
called her professor and I said I think I got a dyslexia
kid, what do I do? Why, I don’t know what to tell you. I
can’t test him, I haven’t time. I finally found a lady in
North Carolina who’s husband had written the first book on
dyslexia. And I took my son down there, the son was
dyslexic, we sent him to the school for dyslexia and we Bar
Mitzvahed him in New York. But that was very interesting.
Where are we now? What do you want to know.
Interviewer: I just wanted to know where did you raise your children.
Where you and Marcy were, in your family homes?
Gilbert: I’ve been at 2824 Elm since we lived in an apartment in
Robbinsville. You’ve heard of Robbinsville?
Interviewer: Yeah, north of Marilyn Avenue.
van: Yeah, there was there was everybody with their Howard
Sirak, was there with his first wife, Bucky Miller was
there, Marcy and I were there, the I’m blanking names but
the John Wolf was there John Wolton Wolfe was living in
there just the whole group of us I stayed there through my
second child. And then when Marcy got pregnant with the
third child she said if we don’t buy a house, I’m leaving.
So we bought a house on 2824 Elm and have been there ever
Interviewer: And you’re still there
Gilbert: Yeah, but I’m thinking about moving because Marcy is tired
of running up and down the stairs and she wants a one floor
Interviewer: Yeah, I remember talking to her about that a few years ago
Gilbert: So, I think maybe I’ll buy her one now since I think that
Oh, I think running up and down the stairs keeps your heart
in condition and joints in good condition.
Interviewer: Well, there is a point to that. We’re going to stop at this
point and just turn this tape over. OK, were going to go
back to talking about your father. I know he was a very
important part of the community and he left quite a few
Gilbert: Well, I really want to discuss him because, money has away
of recreating history. The institution that father created
I think should be on the record. To begin with the, we had
…I was secretary of the Jewish Community Council at the
time, cause father was president. He used to drag me along
to into the organizations he was involved in. He with a
couple other guys decided that we ought to have a Jewish
Community Center because there was no place…this
incident I told you about Betty Shanfarber and I there was
no way to get the Jewish kids from Bexley and the Jewish
kids from the South End together and there was no Jewish
Community meeting area and father felt that we ought to have
a place for Jewish kids can meet Jewish kids and end up
marrying Jewish kids because his intent was to stay and
there was no place. So they decided the thing to do was to
build Jewish Community Center. So they started out they
bought nine acres at the corner of Merkle and Broad. It
started at Merkle and went back to Powell, right before
Powell they bought that nine acres in there went from Merkle
to Gould and put a Jewish Center there. They decided A was
to small and B was located wrong because at that point about
60 or 70% of the Jews were still in the South End. They
decided they felt that they better put a place where all the
Jews could get to it and the poor Jewish kids didn’t have to
run way over in the Jewish the rich Jewish kids be there.
So they went looking around and they found this dump, this
filled in dump that was for sale on College Avenue and they
bought it about a hundred acres there. It gave more land
that’s where they put the Jewish Center.
Interviewer: What was the time period of that, do you remember of what
year that might have been.
Gilbert: I don’t know, 50’s…
Interviewer: 50’s, but there was a there was a Schonthal Center at that
Gilbert: Oh, yeah. The Schonthal Center existed until the Jewish
Center then it was folded into the Jewish Center. The
Schonthal Center was the to a certain extent was a service
for the poor kind of thing. You know it’s only when we got
rich that we stop taking care of our poor in the Jewish
Community. Until that time we had a policy in this
community that no Jew would every be on charity we took care
of our poor. When we became affluent, egotistical,
opinionated, and independent we stopped taking care of our
poor and assigned them to some social agency what have you.
We took care of our poor. The Schonthal Center was the place where we distributed
funds and stuff. They had someone I remember, don’t
remember the name anymore was sort of the social worker.
Interviewer: Yeah, we just did a whole tape on Schonthal Center. So
we’ve got some background on that.
Gilbert: So the Schonthal Center the Community Council met there.
Father was president of Community Council and they he and
Abe Yenkin and Garek and a couple of other people, I forget,
Dr. the fellow’s whose wife Dr., Dr., Dr., he was professor
at the University of Internal Medicine. I can’t remember
his name. That was the group that and Ann-Summers.
Interviewer: Joe Summer.
Gilbert: Not Joe, his father were involved and they said they were
community center and that’s how they kicked the thing off
and put the thing together. They got Leo Yassenoff to build
it. Leo had a deal with them, he said. I’ll build the
center, but you bastards can’t come around, I don’t want to
see you, I don’t want hear from you, I’ll build it, I’ll do
you a hell’ve job when I get done you’re welcome, but you
can’t come around. They had architectural plans in what
they want it.
Interviewer: He didn’t want them to interfere.
Gilbert: He didn’t want any interference. He built the center and he
saved enough money that he tossed in the bowling alley and
the indoor swimming pool.
Interviewer: The bowling alley was quite unique phenomena for a Jewish
Center, wasn’t it?
Gilbert: Yeah, and the indoor swimming pool.
Interviewer: And the indoor swimming pool, right.
Gilbert: Leo tossed those in from the savings so everyone would say
well he got this stuff on the ceilings sort of asbestos as
he said look that building won’t last over 30 or 40 years,
but it we’ll wear out it’s function in 30 or 40 years. I
just built a building that will last 30 to 40 years. I’m
not building marble towers. And the interesting thing about
that building, that you may not be aware of, that nobody’s
name was on that building.
Interviewer: But it was called.
Gilbert: It was called the Columbus Jewish Community Center.
Gilbert: But there was no…there were no Jewish Community…there was no
Jewish auditorium…there wasn’t anybody’s auditorium…there
wasn’t anybody’s auditorium.
Interviewer: The room is dedicated to families or anything like that.
Gilbert: Cause the sense was it was a Jewish Center and we shouldn’t
build, we shouldn’t have you have the ego gratification of
Interviewer: Like today there…
Gilbert: There is a plaque on the wall on which they had the benefactors
listed and that was it. Counter wise to what they did
at the best place where they spent inordinate amounts of
money over build a building that was fancy marble and did
not put adequate service areas into it. But that’s another
issue. And then they dedicated it, you know Leo Yassenoff
would have died if he would have know that they were going
to put his name on that building. I knew them very well and
he wouldn’t let his name be on anything. When he built the
Agudas Achim, he built Hillel, the Jewish Center, he built
just a tremendous amount buildings. You never saw his name
on anything. That was his way of paying back for getting
rich. He was a very…
Gilbert: Did you every ever hear anything about Leo? Anyone ever
talk about Leo?
Interviewer: Well, we’re working on that.
Gilbert: He is very difficult talk about, because not to many people
remember him and know him cause his kids all died and he was
…some day I’ll tell you about that.
Interviewer: Yeah, we’ll get into that one day, Ivan.
Gilbert: The, anyway, father built that thing then he decided that
there had to be… then he was working raising money for the
Synagogues. But that wasn’t where his heart was. He
decided that in order to have Jewish survivors, we had to
have Jewish Education for the children. We started
something called the Columbus Self-Development School and
hired a woman name Rose Schwartz to run it. Started out as
pre-school kindergarten. After a few years, we went to K-1,
1’st Grade, second grade. It was quite a burden, father had
given them a house on Bryden Road and that’s where the thing
Interviewer: What was it called?
Gilbert: The Columbus Self-Development School. Father was on the
board at the center and I was on the board at the center we
got to talking with the Center and the Centers said well, we
don’t have a pre-school why don’t we take over as a Self-
Development School and make it the Columbus Jewish Center
School? It was a little burden and father said let me think
…so anyway we had a bunch of meeting with Jewish Center
at that point. The Columbus Self-Development School Board,
fundamentally, father was having these meetings. He finally
worked out a deal. But the problem was, we established the
first and second grade teaching Hebrew. The Jewish Center
said, well we will take over the pre-school but we won’t
allow you to have a first and second grade. After a great
deal of travail my father finally gave in and said, OK, take
the school. They took the school and the took Rosie
Schwartz and she stayed at the Jewish Center for many years.
But father walked out of there and said, I’ve just made the
biggest mistake of my life. He said, I shouldn’t never have
given up that first and second grade. That’s the key to
education, the key to everything. So after a year or two he
started again and they got together a group of guys and
started the Torah Academy. This he got himself and I was
there, Leon Schottenstein and Jerry Schottenstein was a
minor player at the time. They were only in history became
major player but he wasn’t. Leon was the major player…
Interviewer: …to start with.
Gilbert: Leon and my father were the major players. Frank Nutis and
there are a couple of other people that I am blanking out on
now, we were the guys that started the school and we went
out and got eleven kids that year and a teacher and started.
The hell with it, let’s start. That how we started the
Interviewer: Columbus Torah Academy.
Gilbert: Columbus Torah Academy and we started in the basement of the
Agudas Achim. We had all the Rabbis, we had Rabbi
Rubenstein’s support, Rabbi Stavsky, support. We didn’t care
about the other Rabbis. I think Hirschbraun was gone, I
Interviewer: I think he was gone then.
Gilbert: And we started the school and we were hated. You have know
idea how hated we were. I used to go up to Winding Hollow
and people would yell at me. You have destroyed America,
you have created a parochial school, and it is anti-
American. I got on a air plane once with Jack Resler was on
the plane looks at me and he starts hissing at me. We were
absolutely hated. They used to pick on Marcy and Marcy was
the most innocuous, the Jews couldn’t stand the idea of a
Interviewer: It interesting that you mentioned Jack Resler because
Gilbert: And interesting thing is that Jack Resler hated the school,
but twenty years or fifteen years later he gave us the land. You see…
Interviewer: That’s right.
Gilbert: …the feelings changed. When pioneer some thing, you have to
feel your right and screw the rest of the world. You’re
going to do this. If the world don’t like anything good,
they can go flying jump. Because, if you pay any attention
what anybody likes, they don’t like it. Most people don’t
like anything new that’s written by new things. And the
Torah Academy was extremely threatening to the Jewish
population of this community. After all we were Jews who
had been…I will tell you about that period sometime. We
had come through a terrible period, we were scared silly, we
were freighted animals and rightfully so because a few years
earlier the German American Bund was marching up and down
High Street and you did not know and don’t forget we’re the
people who didn’t hit the streets when that Brainman came
sailing around New York and Florida. The Jews did not make
Interviewer: What was this?
Gilbert: When the Germans ship the Jews over when no body in the
world would take them and they took them back and killed
them. You remember that?
Interviewer: During, you mean…
Gilbert: …the Second World War, right before the in the 30’s. Hitler put
a whole bunch of Jews on a boat, I forget the name of the
boat, but he shipped them and nobody would let them off.
They cruised along Florida and up to New York no body would
let them off. They wouldn’t let them off in England, so the
Germans took them back and killed them and said well if
nobody wants the Jews … that was one of the incidences
that led to the killing of the Jews. But the Jews in this
country were partially the blame.
Interviewer: They didn’t take enough effort.
Gilbert: They didn’t, we didn’t, they were scared. We didn’t hit the
streets and yell and scream and say you can’t. Right now,
what would’ve happened if you would have tried something
like this. You see, we were frighten people. There was
tremendous fear of the gentiles in this community. When we
started the Torah Academy, every body want you should go to
public school and should be like all the gentiles and should
do what they do and…
Interviewer: …blend in.
Gilbert: Blend in and be part of the scene. But when we started the
school and said we are going to Jewish the Jews in the it
wasn’t like the Reformed were mad, everybody was mad. The
Reformed was mad, the all conservative was … they were all
scared, they were all mad, they thought we were violating
Interviewer: So it took strong committed pioneers to weather this storm.
Gilbert: In my own fear of training, I invented an old adage, which
goes when I was young I used to think that the earth spun
around the sun, but now I’m old and wise I realize that the
world spins around me. And you’ve got to believe in
yourself and what you do when you can’t worry about what
anybody else thinks, cause who in the hell are they. Who in
the hell is anybody else in the world except you and your
wife and your kids.
Gilbert: You see? But that was the…that was…and the school built
out of that and we…it was a fascinating experience…I
suppose you have plenty of history on the Torah Academy.
Interviewer: Yeah, we’ve gotten some different…
Gilbert: Have you heard about the times when we couldn’t make the
payroll? And the IRS was threatening to take the children?
Interviewer: I think Frank Nutis talked to Tess about it. But let’s have
your version of it. I think it might be interesting…
Gilbert: I was president of the Torah Academy and we had a very
difficult problem. The problem was that every two weeks the
people wanted to get paid. Every two weeks we ran out of
money. So the executive director, who was a wonderful guy,
…what’s his name?
Interviewer: Irv Freed.
Gilbert: Irv Freed would take a couple of guys like Frank Nutis or me
or Irv Baker or somebody and they would hit the streets.
They’d get enough money to come in to make the payroll.
Interviewer: So this happened every few weeks, every month.
Gilbert: Yeah, we just ran out of money. Early in the year the
tuitions would come in and wouldn’t be so bad see…but as
the tuition money got spent it went down the road, toward
the end of the year, you were chronically out of money and
you had to pay the teacher cause they were depending on the
money to eat. Well we ran out of the money to pay the
withholding taxes, so wouldn’t pay the withholding taxes.
So the IRS they get very nasty, we got up where we owed them
40 or $50,000 bucks of withholding taxes. They were
threatening to close the school. We said, well, the school
is in the basement of the Agudas Achim the chairs were owned
by the Agudas Achim the blackboards are owned by the Agudas
Achim the books were owned by the children, but why don’t
you come in and take the children?
Interviewer: You want to make a deal.
Gilbert: You want to make a deal, here have the kids. So they worked
out we finally got them paid up. But it was sort it was
fun it was a very exciting creative educational period
because we were trying new things. We had wonderful
committed, dedicated teachers. The thing that made Torah
Academy so great was the wonderful teachers and Irving Freed
who was the most lovable guy you had ever meet. The
children loved him, he was a child with the children. He
wasn’t very good with the adults, not on a group bases,
because he was more … he could handle the children, but
the adults… he was very child like. And very bright, PHD.
in education, a very sharp guy. He was the heart and soul
of the Torah Academy. He really made the Torah Academy.
His commitment, he was just a wonderful fellow, he didn’t
know how to get a long with the adults…
Interviewer: I think he was intimidated by the desperation, and finances…
Gilbert: Well, you see, later on they were accusing him of not
running a good school. So I founded this organization,
what’s it called? This associations we’re now a member of,
I said you guys don’t know what the hell your talking about,
you wouldn’t know wouldn’t know a good school from bad
school, you’ve all got opinions and don’t know anything.
Interviewer: What was the name of the organization?
Gilbert: We’re now a member of it…
Interviewer: You mean Torah Academy is…
Interviewer: Oh, ok.
Gilbert: It’s the National Association of Day School, not Jewish, all
day schools. So, in order to join, so I called them and
said we want to be considered for membership. They said we
will consider you, but we gotta send a team of people to
take a look at your school and look at your school and
evaluate your school while you teach and everything. I
said, we want that. We had a meeting and Ellen Ziskins
house and said, let’s bring the this group in and see what
outside group thinks of Torah Academy. What kind of
education are we giving these kids, what kind of… Is
there some group we’ve got to associate with, if it’s a
national, it was a big prestigious goyashe CSG was a member
of Columbus Academy was a member, I said, well hell…
Interviewer: It covers everybody…
Gilbert: If they can be a members, we ought to be members we’re as
good as those folks. Well, they came in, and they did an assessment of us and
they said we were superlative. Everyone in the Jewish
Community was yelling that the school ain’t good enough,
it’s this it’s that and get rid of Freed and the school was
superlative. We’ll, I think Freed probably was time for him
to move on, because the school got to a point it took a lot
more management and a lot less principaling. They got out
and guy the guy the got right now, who is not in the same
ball park as Irving as a teacher and a professor, but I
think is a better administrator and he is running a pretty
darn good school there.
Interviewer: Well, it’s a big business now.
Gilbert: It’s a big business see, but those were very exciting days.
Interviewer: It’s interesting how you hung in there with Torah Academy
and it developed to what you really, beyond probably what
you and your dad dreamt it would be.
Gilbert: Frank Nutis, and I tried to get a high school going
about 12, 13 years ago, we couldn’t find where there was
enough kids that would go to it. I thought we were going to
have to build a dormitory and make it…
Interviewer: a kind of yeshiva or something…
Gilbert: A day school to have enough kids for high school. What’s
astounded me about it is that we had enough kids to run the
high school. I don’t know where their coming from.
Interviewer: Yeah, Yeah
Gilbert: It’s ah…
Interviewer: Probably and influx of Russian kids too…helped that.
Gilbert: I think that probably it, that the Russians…
Interviewer: What other organizations were you and your dad involved in?
It sounds like you and your dad we’re involved together in a…
Gilbert: He was sometimes, he was and sometimes, I was, see.
Interviewer: What else were you involved in?
Gilbert: Well, I was, I was one of the founders of the State of Israel
Bonds in Columbus and was chairman. Way back when they
had the lunger lux running it. That was interesting period,
because the Torah…the United Jewish Fund, which I have
very little respect for was…
Interviewer: We’re not going to talk very much about that.
Gilbert: Well, I would be very happy to talk them about it.
Interviewer: Well, not for the record here.
Gilbert: I have no problem putting it on the record. If I’m against
you, I’m against you. If I’m for you I am for you. And
there ain’t no secrets. But, anyway, we had the bonds for Israel and it was an
interesting period, because the Federation opposing the
Israeli bonds. They did not want us raising money in the
community because they thought it would interfere with their
fund raising, but as a matter of fact it didn’t and now these
two organizations work together.
Interviewer: Work together, right
Gilbert: We had a long tall guy named Brooks here at the time, who
was running Israeli Bonds and it was he was a very hard
working non organization type of guy, who would go out and
get the money. I think we got up to a couple hundred
thousand dollars, that was a lot of money and now they do
that from one giver. But it was fun, it was the earlier stages.
And I, at one point, was on the allocations committee of
the Federation. Till I discovered what my feelings were about
them. Other organizations I’ve been in, you name it, and I have
been in it.
Interviewer: What about your business you are in now? Tell us about the
development of your business your in now.
Gilbert: Which one?
Interviewer: Well, tell us about all of them.
Gilbert: Well, all right, well let’s see.
Interviewer: I know you have a great variety of interest. Collections,
art work, books, tell us a little bit about…
Gilbert: Well let’s see, business. I started out in my father’s
business and I ran that for a while till he and I got …..
it was my fault, he controlled by love and I couldn’t deal
with that. It’s very hard to fight with a guy who would say
you are right and smile with at you and you knew and you
knew he was wrong. So I split up with him.
I had the shoe chain, for a number of years. I had a chain
of shoe stores, I had a chain of nursing homes, I had a
chain of toy stores…
Interviewer: Toy stores too…
Interviewer: How great of and area did these stores and business cover?
Was it more that Ohio?
Gilbert: The nursing homes were in Sacramento. The toy stores were
in St. Louis and shoe stores were, I had 40 stores out of
Phoenix. I spent ten years in Phoenix. A week a month for
ten years, cause I had a chain of stores out of Phoenix that
we ran up to Albuquerque and Grants and all through Mexico
and Tucson, down into Pumpkin Head Indian Country. It was
an interesting…then I had Brunson Sensor System. I told
you about, I was one of the key people in Contract
Computerized Traffic Control and as I said Brunson Sensor
Systems and then I bought Respite Care, Home Oxygen and kept
it for a number of years, when the government started
changing its rules, I decided it was time to get out. I
sold it and got the devil out of that and I had Sel Joy,
which was Joyce Shoes. We had Joyce Shoes in the malls, had
stores in Northland, Eastland and I kept that for about ten
or twelve…. things were working together, I never stayed
in one thing at a time. I kept that for ten or twelve years
until there was a word called son-of-bitch Jacoby, you now
the shopping center people out of Cleveland, we had
beautiful real estate folks, we had leases in those stores,
about fifteen dollars a square foot against 6% and we were
delivering thirty some dollars a foot. And our leases came
up and I got a new lease, they wouldn’t tell me whether they
would give me a lease or not until six months… that’s why
I’m mad at them… till six months before my lease, which
didn’t give me time to move if I wanted to. Then they put
it to me, they wanted forty eight bucks a foot in Eastland
and Northland and some others, so I sold the shoe stores.
These was concept stores of U. S. Shoe Company. So I sold
the stores to U.S. and got out, because I couldn’t afford to
spent forty eight bucks a foot.
Interviewer: They kind of squeezed you out of it.
Gilbert: I had to spent a hundred grand to start a remodelment,
because they were old stores and there’s just no profit.
So, I sold the back to Joyce but, then I started this
business with my partner. What we do is with a 800 number
on your health care card, if you dial 800 you will get our
service and we are doctors, nurses who do evaluations, your
doctor wants to rip out your gall bladder, and he calls him
and says I’ll rip out her gall bladder, I say well tell us
about it. He gives us the symptoms and why he wants to rip
it out and your lab work and the physical findings and then
we either agree that you oughta get it out of there and then
will discuss we you how much time he needs, how much money
he needs and then well authorize the insure company to pay
it. We work for the payers. Or we’ll say we don’t agree
with the old doc, we want a second opinion. We are the
second opinion people.
Interviewer: How big of company is this in terms of geographically, what
Gilbert: Fifty states, we have branches in Arkansas, Pennsylvania,
Interviewer: Their called health care?
Gilbert: No, we live in the homes of our customers. We either do it
here or we do it or we do it there and we don’t…see we
are a creature of computers, telephones and nurses. 800
numbers, computers, and nurses, we take old computer nurse, we
take a good nurse, we take a good computer… we got a
special operating room we grab them together and have comput-
o-nurse. That’s how we run it.
Interviewer: Comput-o-nurse, huh?
Gilbert: It’s a real professional company and we are doing very well.
Interviewer: Do you work full time?
Gilbert: Yeah, well, I have a partner who is a young fifty year old
and he…I get in his way sometimes, he doesn’t understand
how and old fart whose of seventy-five is gonna really
wants to work. I said, you’ll understand, old age is ten
years older than me on a moving scale, I ain’t never going
to get old till I die.
Interviewer: Well, good for you.
Gilbert: I’m never going quit working.
Interviewer: I like your formula.
Gilbert: Well, I’m in geriatrics, I’m a founder of the Hospice movement.
A bunch of us couldn’t stand what was happening and we decided
to form Hospice of Columbus here and we worked in it for four or
five years and then formed the Ohio Hospice Association and then
we went on to Washington. Kalavan was that his name? The
Secretary of Health and Welfare under Kennedy, said we’ll get
you some money. I was executive director of Hospice in Columbus…
Interviewer: You mean nationally or locally? The Hospice…
Gilbert: We got money for nationally, but I was Executive Director of
Hospice in Columbus for a year here. When the Ohio Hospice
Association…I get bored when things get really rolling,
it got going…
Interviewer: Then you look for new challenge
Interviewer: What about your other interests, your hobbies and you were
mentioning before you have written or you are writing…
Gilbert: I’m writing. I’ve got four books under, one of them is
called “Patterns” which is a book that has to do with the
idea that patterning is a norm of living with cells and we
pattern repetitive experience in order to handle them more
rapidly and in which leaves ourselves more time and energy
to deal with the unexpected. And that is a genetic positive
so Adam’s pattern will survive. That’s what that book’s
about. One of them is called…it’s on a whole series…it called…
“Walking Dickens”. Essays that I have written as I walk my
dog. I have a dog named Charles Dickens the III. One of
the books I am writing is called “Jews”. That’s the one I’m
trying to get out now. It’s subtitle is “Israel the New
Golden Calf” and it’s a somewhat different perception of
Judaism from most of my peers.
Interviewer: These books are published, or in the process…
Gilbert: We are trying…we are in the process of trying to get them
published. That may be selling here. It’s my Jewish Irish
editor. She is Jewish, she is Irish. She converted and
married a Jewish fellow and then they got divorced and she
Interviewer: How interesting combination here.
Gilbert: She is a good kid.
Interviewer: Let see, do we have your books covered now? Did we get all
Gilbert: Well, I got poetry.
Interviewer: You write poetry? Do you have them in book… putting them
in a book form?
Gilbert: Yeah, I’ve gotten in … I just don’t have it published…
poetry is pretty personal.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s really difficult.
Gilbert: But, I don’t mine, I mean, if your not willing to get un
dressed, you can’t write.
Interviewer: Well, I guess it takes a lot of liberty.
Gilbert: My stuff is written by a pair of Siamese twins, gnomes,
named Mike and Izzie. And they write it and they won’t be…
if I try to censor them, they quit writing.
Interviewer: But you know how to handle them.
Gilbert: Well, normally a knock on the back of my eye balls and say
open your mouth and get out your tape recorder and it all
Interviewer: Ok, whatever works?
Gilbert: And I have to get it typed and then I can censor, I can
censor my stuff, but I can censor when I’m writing.
Interviewer: Okay. You’ve got to get all that out first and then kind of
Gilbert: Sort of stream of conscious kind of stuff, that’s the only
way I can write.
Interviewer: What about collections? I see you have, we’re looking here
in your office at some interesting old shoes and some
Gilbert: I collect things that turn me on. The only thing I have
never collected is women, because my wife wouldn’t let me.
Gilbert: She, I married one of these old fashion women
Interviewer: I don’t think you need to collect anymore wives, you have a
pretty super wife.
Gilbert: You know what I’m saying. But, you know, she, I asked her
once if I could horse around and she said no. So that was
the end of that. I don’t do that.
Interviewer: Well, at least you agreed on that.
Gilbert: I didn’t agree, never get your wife mad at you, that’s the
worst thing you can do. Anyway, I collect things I like.
Interviewer: Your a collector of eclectics?
Gilbert: Not necessarily the eclectic, I have some eclectic stuff, I
collect things that I like. My criteria for collecting
something is two. One of them is that I like it and the
other is I can afford it.
Interviewer: Ok, that’s interesting.
Gilbert: I don’t feel anybody else’s judgment or taste is any better
than mine and I’ll go with mine. I have found I have
changed my mind stuff I’ve bought, but I think everybody…
but I can’t be bothered by… if somebody else is… this
concept of a critic is ridiculous cause whose the critic?
When did he get his expertise? If he study painting, you
study the history of painting, you’ll find out, without
exception, almost every critic’s wrong. Because, they all
judge in terms of the society in which they exist and
practically none of them are capable of judging the next
generation. The new artist who are really going to be the
artist of the next generation are all as a rule rejected by
the critics of the current generation, they don’t look right
“look right”. So you’ve just got to buy what you like.
Interviewer: I think that’s true. You have to live with it and you’re
the one who makes that immediate decision.
Gilbert: I’ve been collecting recently a lot stuff, a lot of stuff
I’m collect is folk art today. Because I like the idea that
the artist is not being impacted by what Picasso did. This
is something coming out of him or her.
Interviewer: Fresh approach…
Gilbert: Whatever, which you’re seeing an unalloyed expression of
perception and feeling on the part of a person whose not
being impacted by what’s somebody feels. There is in
Columbus an ex-curator of the Columbus Museum who has one of
the finest painting techniques in the world. Masterful
Interviewer: Who is this.
Gilbert: For the record, I don’t know if I should mention…Elvin
Keen, I don’t care. And he is a lovely intellectual,
cultured fine gentlemen, but he has been painting for
twenty five years and I have never seen an Edmund Keen. He
paints Bonnard, he paints Bofay, he paints Talouse Lautrec, he
paints Van Gogh, but he can’t paint Keen, he’s never found
Keen. And a folk artist, if he doesn’t do anything else, has
Found himself because that’s all he’s got. So you see
The interesting different perceptions that aren’t colored by
The society… he is free from societal impact that anyone
else can be.
Interviewer: No other influences…
Gilbert: Well, obviously some, there’s his preacher, there’s the way
his wife looks at him, you know everybody has influences.
But at least it’s his influences.
Interviewer: I think we can do probably a two hour tape on attitudes of
art and a lot of other interesting things, but Ivan, I think
we are going to wrap it up at this point because we have
gotten a lot great information.
Gilbert: I told you some, I can talk for hours because I’m…
Interviewer: Well, its a lot of fun to talk you, cause…
Gilbert: But, I’m giving it to you from my book you see, a lot of
this stuff is in my book.
Interviewer: Well, we’ll have to buy you book then when they get
Gilbert: I don’t know, I think I’ll be an elitist and sell it to
anyone unless you’ll pay the money
Interviewer: You’ll let us read it though I’m sure.
Gilbert: For money.
Interviewer: On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and the Oral
History Project, I want to thank you for giving us your time this afternoon.