#1 of 3 tapes by Judy Blair recorded May 14, 1985
Note: Sentences containing the underscore (_______) denote words or phrases that are indistinct.
In addition to this series of three tapes of interviews in 1985 by
Judy Blair, please see also transcriptions of Marc Lee Raphael’s 1974
interview and Marc Polster’s 1997 interview.
Edward Schlezinger has devoted many years to various positions of
leadership in the Columbus Jewish community. He served as president of the
Hillel Foundation, president of B’nai Brith, chairman of the building
committee of the Columbus Jewish Center. In interviews by three individuals for
the Columbus Jewish Historical Committee’s Oral History Project, he speaks
about his family and their careers and his own process of growth and community
His father, an immigrant from Austria – Hungary, began to work as a peddler,
became a captain of industry in the family scrap iron business during World War
II and president of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Columbus.
This is an interview with Edward Schlezinger taken May 14, 1985,
at his home, 2713 Bryden Road in Bexley, for the Columbus Jewish Historical
Society Oral History Project. The interviewer is Judy Blair.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about your early family, Ed. Your family, your parents, where
they came from.
Schlezinger: My parents – and then my earliest recollection, that’s all I
can do. My parents came from what was then called Austria – Hungary. Today it’s
called – it became Czechoslovakia after World War I. They used to talk, like
most new immigrants – they talked mostly about where they came from. The
relatives. And my assumption and rightly so, is my father came first, and he
came to Columbus because usually immigrants will go where relatives are and
there were some Polsters here, there were some Wasserstroms here and we’re
related to both Polsters and Wasserstroms. My mother’s maiden name was
Polster. She was one of the original Polsters here. She was the sister of Max,
Morris and Louie Polster.
Interviewer: Were your parents married at the time they came?
Schlezinger: When he came, yes. And after he settled here for a year or two
my father sent for my mother and they had one child, Louie. And Louie was about
a year or two years old. Not more than two, and possibly only one or one and a
half. Something like that, and I think he came over about 1898, but I’ll allow
a tolerance and we’ll say not later than 1900. Some time in that period, 1898-1900
my dad came over, and then my mother followed a year or so later, or a
year and a half later, with Louie.
Interviewer: Do you know what it was that prompted your father to come? Was
it economics, was it…
Schlezinger: Oh, I would think -I really don’t know. I mean, I would think
it was like what governed most of the immigrants of that period. That was when the big rush was…
started around 1890, you know and started to hit this country, and it lasted clear up to the
first world war. I would think it was because he saw no future there. He was a
young man and he could see there was a lot of anti – semitism, no matter what
they did, and they were living at that time in probably the most favorable
place, because Austria-Hungary, as I have been told by him and by other people
under that emperor, Franz Josef, who was supposed to be very benevolent to the
Jews – a very strong friend of the Jews. Well, they got along pretty good, but I
think my father probably saw no future at all there and decided to take – and
you know, over there America was the land opportunity, see what I mean?
Interviewer: What did he do?
Schlezinger: He was a young man when he came here.
Interviewer: He was not engaged in any kind of vocation?
Schlezinger: I don’t know. They lived on farms there. My mother was raised
on a farm, my father lived on a farm, but my father had the good fortune of
having a very good education. Not only did he attend a yeshiva – that’s what
it was called – but he taught as a young man in Europe at a yeshiva before he
came here, and so I think that put him a few notches ahead of most people,
because it was very noticeable after he came here that a lot of rabbis would
come over to talk to him and consult him – this is true – and the people that
would get letters in Hebrew, or languages, would come over and have him read for
them the languages or help them write a reply. I noticed that as a kid, and I
take that for a fact that he had an education – you know, a good education,
which he did. And he could speak fluently Hebrew and he could write Hebrew.
Interviewer: That was a scholarly thing to be able to do.
Schlezinger: Well, that’s good – he had a yeshiva training. Look, as I
understand it, Europe, in those days, if you didn’t have the fortunate thing
of attending the yeshiva, I don’t think they had big public schools where you
went to, where would you get your education, unless you went to a church school
or something like that. That I was told by other people. So he was fortunate
that way and of course, I’m prejudiced – I thought he was the world’s
greatest man and very intelligent. There was no question about that.
Interviewer: Did he speak Yiddish, also?
Schlezinger: Yeh, oh yeh, he could converse with everybody. And so – I wasn’t
born until 1910, so this I’m thinking of what I heard around. What does a
little child – what he hears!- tries to absorb maybe.
Interviewer: Now were you the second child?
Schlezinger: No, no, Louie was the oldest, or Louie as we called him. I had a
sister Lena that was next and then came Gertrude, who is still here – Gertrude
Lewin, and after Gertrude came three boys – Nathan, myself, and Julius. I’m
next to the youngest. I think Lena was born here. So those were the – so what
did he do when he got here? What did most immigrants do if you go back even to
1850 or 1840 – they were peddlers. And I think it’s something to be proud of.
I don’t understand why sometimes you run into people that want to bury them. I
Interviewer: Know where did he land, in New York?
Schlezinger: Yeh, they came directly here because there were some Polsters
here and there were one or two Wasserstroms. Now my dad was related to the
Wasserstroms. My mother was a Polster, and that’s how it split up, you see.
Now he and Nathan Wasserstrom were first cousins. Nathan Wasserstrom was the
original of this family that we know. Now along the charter of our synagogue,
you’ll notice there’s an S. J. Wasserstrom. Well, he was a relative of these
Wasserstroms – probably an uncle – Nathan was not on the charter but the other
one was. I think Nathan Wasserstrom’s mother was a Schlezinger. See what I
mean? There was that relationship. And of course, my mother was a Polster. Her
brothers were here – Max, Louie and Morris were here. That’s her brothers. And
so they settled here, you know, and the first thing I remember is that talking
around the house is about his horses and his wagons, and things like that, you
know. Now I wish I’d heard more of it because to me that’s just tremendous,
see? And that –
Interviewer: Now what did he sell?
Schlezinger: No, he probably did sell things, but he would go out in the
Interviewer: Dry goods?
Schlezinger: Let me put it this way. He would go out – he had imagination –
he would go out in the country, and he developed a regular clientele among the
farmers. Transportation was the main thing in those days, and if you lived on a
farm, you probably wouldn’t go to the next city. You’d get into that city
maybe once in five years, because that was a big trip. You’d have to go by
buggy, or by horse and wagon, so they would – the women would give him orders to
bring out to them things – to pick up for them – and then he would trade –
trading – it was called – then if they accumulated – like the husbands had a
pile of old iron on the farm – scrap iron – he would take that in return, and he
developed quite a clientele on that. He was good. And maybe he was stuck out in
the country, he would stay overnight at the farmers’. And everybody called him
“I. H.” That’s the way they called him. And years later, I remember
people coming in – to the office after we were already what you’d say, well –
established or something like that – I don’t want to make it bigger than it
is, but that goes –
Interviewer: You want me to turn it off?
Schlezinger: I didn’t mean to – but anyhow, I remember once in a while
people would come and say, “Say, is this I. H. Schlezinger?” They’d
see the sign and “Who are you,” and I’d say, “Well, he was my
father.” “Well my father told me about I. H. Schlezinger. I was
raised on a farm and they waited for him, he’d come out and ______ hills”
– he made his friends he had the gift of making friends. Everybody like him,
see. And I think that’s interesting. You may not think so, but I think so.
Interviewer: No, I think it’s very interesting.
Schlezinger: And that’s how it started.
Interviewer: So it was essentially a business of barter – I’m going back to
the city I’ll bring you this, and you’ll give me whatever you have.
Schlezinger: Whatever they did those days – maybe what did they have – like
yarn or pots and pans.
Interviewer: Or eggs from the chicken?
Schlezinger: No, no, they were the farm people – he would bring them out –
Interviewer: But they would pay him – in things –
Schlezinger: I suppose most of the time they paid him, but I think most of
the time he took it back in commodities like scrap iron or metal or something
like that, and that’s how we got in the metal business, cause one thing leads
to another, and I remember the early conversations were about the horses and the
wagons, like you hear today people in business talk about their equipment and
trucks, you know, but you had to take care of horses and you had to take care of
the wagons and you had breakdowns, you know, things like that. Well anyway, that’s
the way it got started. So I would classify him as a peddler in those early
days, but as a very intelligent peddler. I may be prejudiced, but that’s my
Interviewer: Well, he had the foresight to see.
Schlezinger: And then it gradually led to, like – the first place, where he
no longer traveled, but he established a place.
Interviewer: Do you have any idea about what year this might have been?
Schlezinger: Well, I was born in 1910, but you know the first few years after
– I wouldn’t know. But I would say, by 1910 he probably had his own place. He
got a small place.
Interviewer: So as a little boy you remember that there was always a place.
Schlezinger: The rest I heard. It was on Main Street between Washington and
Schlezinger: Then he had to have a bigger place and he moved over on
Donaldson Street and it was next to the Beth Jacob. At that time the Beth Jacob
Synagogue was there. You probably know that they were probably the closest thing
to a sephardic synagogue we had in this area you know, with the pulpit in the
Interviewer: Now where did you live at this time? Did you live near there?
Schlezinger: On Ohio Avenue. My earliest recollection of living was on Ohio
Avenue, but I was told by my brothers and sisters that I was born on Fulton
Street, but we lived on Ohio Avenue. My earliest thinking is Ohio Avenue.
Interviewer: And did you live in a single family house?
Schlezinger: In a single house, and then we moved – and I remember him saying
the location was no good because it was next to the shul – synagogue.
Interviewer: Why would it have been no good?
Schlezinger: Because of the type of work. Certainly they don’t want to be
sitting, saying prayers and davenning, looking out the window and seeing all the
old scrap iron – I would say – I’d kick, too on that. And then he moved to a
larger place down on Donaldson Street near Grant Avenue that was the Goldberg
operation, and they moved to a bigger place on West Goodale. You’ve heard of
the Goldberg Iron and Steel Company. And they became competitive, but still, you
know, we were competitors, but he took over the Goldberg place and it was still
on Mound Street, but it was right, practically next to Grant Avenue. And that’s
where they were for quite a while. By that time my brother Louie was helping
them. You know, Louie was also working there, helping them out, and the rest of
us were going to school, I guess, so you wanted the early start and that’s
what I can say about it.
The first things I can remember, living on Ohio Avenue, I vaguely recall
seeing a fire engine coming down the street, pulled by horses. Now I know I saw
it because it keeps popping up in my mind, so I do remember that. And I remember
that on Saturdays, he did not go out to work on Saturday, but Saturday afternoon
he would hook up the horse to a buggy – there aren’t – weren’t too many
automobiles in that day, maybe not even one or two and he hooked up on Saturday
afternoon towards evening – it would be towards evening – and a buggy – it was
all polished up and the horse was all polished up and we were all dressed up and
we’d go in the buggy and he’d take us down to Central Market, me and my
mother. In those days we had a big Central Market on Fourth Street – you may
have heard about it, and that was where everybody congregated on Saturday night.
Just teeming with humanity, and you know the stands were along – but the break
for us was that these Polsters- Max Polster had a store there, Louie had a
store, and Morris Polster had a store. All three were brothers. Louie and Max
Polster’s stores were next to each other.
Interviewer: And what did they deal in?
Schlezinger: They dealt – their stores, like Max Polster had some clothing in
there, too. Louie Polster was the forerunner of what they do now – had mostly
china, dishes, things like that – and utensils, but not the same type of thing
where they are big now, wholesalers, just a retail store. Max and Louie were
next to each other, then about a block north, towards Town Street, was Morris
Polster, and he had also china wear and things like that, and so my folks would
leave us in the stores with my uncles – you know, they were all uncles, and they
would go out and shop, you know, and buy their stuff on Saturday. It was
shopping and it was conversation. That’s where you saw everybody else –
Interviewer: The social —
Schlezinger: Especially for this type or group of immigrants – you know, that
first generation, ’cause other people – like they were there, too.
Interviewer: With their friends, did your parents talk English?
Schlezinger: My father talked English very rapidly. My mother had trouble
talking – she didn’t go to night school, he did when he got here. By the way,
that’s where the name business came in. In Europe, the name – the name is kind
of a German name. We don’t claim to be of German descent, but it is kind of a
– E is pronounced like an A and S is pronounced like
a Z in German, if you go back to your class you’ll find out, so the
correct, let’s put it, European pronunciation of it was “shlayzinger”
s-c-h-l-e-s-i-n-g-e-r – that’s “shlayzinger.” What happened – he
went to night school and the teacher got his name all right, but he wrote with a
Z instead of an S, – the teacher – and my dad kept on using it, and as we were
growing up, we – you know we even – I remember Corey – he would correspond with
his father – that’s our gran _____ – was still living in Europe – his letter
would come with an S. His name was _______ and he wouldn’t understand about
the Z. And Louie used to talk about it. He was the oldest one and he said,
“You’ve got that Z in there,” well, then, he explained it. So then
he – I do remember vaguely saying, “Now look – what do you want me to do?
Change it back to way it was?” ‘Cause his brothers, our uncles, spelled
with an S. All our relatives spelled with an S, and I remember Louie saying,
“Look, it’s the only one in the world with a Z,” and then we all
piped up and said, “No, it’s the only one in the world with a Z!”
So, (laughter) I shouldn’t put that on there, but that’s actually the truth.
Interviewer: What they’ll do is transcribe this and send you a copy so you
can edit out anything you don’t want.
Schlezinger: Well, I was just telling you –
Interviewer: I think it’s hilarious.
Schlezinger: Well if that’s the way you want the stuff, but if you notice,
whenever you say SchleSSinger you say it with an S. That’s the way it’s
supposed to be spelled. Now when Joe Schlezinger came over – he was the last one
we got out – my dad got out – you know he was trying to beat Hitler on this
thing, like the Gutters came out – he spelled his name with an S but he lived at
our house and changed it to a Z because he wanted to be within conform…
so the only place you’ll ever find the Z is in Washington I have a brother,
in Philadelphia I have a brother, and my brother has a son in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He’s got two sons, and we kept the tradition –
Interviewer: With the z.
Schlezinger: The Z. We kept the tradition with the Z. We don’t care what
you say – you can call us schlezinger, shlayzinger, shlessinger – we call it
Schlezinger. See, so – and some people write it this way, all through – and when
I went to school, no matter what I told the teacher, the teacher wrote it with
an S. So I quit arguing about it. But we write it with a Z.
Interviewer: What are your early recollections about religion in the home and
Schlezinger: I was going to say that the earliest thing I can remember is
that – and I realize now when I’m older, what I missed then – that this
dedication to religion – that’s all you knew about there. That’s all – their
life was made of their children, the desire to feed their children – they were
newcomers – they had to make enough or get money to buy food, and to educate
their children. And you know, Jewish parents, that’s number one, you know, and
the synagogue, and that’s all their life was. The tremendous devotion, I mean
devotion and dedication to the synagogue, that seemed to have top priority over
everything, see? And then, you know, trying to elevate the standard of living
and to feed everybody and buy clothes and send ’em to school. Education was
very important and I think you’ll find out from all those immigrants –
education for their children – not for themselves, for their children.
Interviewer: Now where was the synagogue? Where did they go to services at
Schlezinger: Well, at the beginning they all went to the Orthodox. Then they
Interviewer: To Beth Jacob?
Schlezinger: But then they decided to get – no, to Agudas Achim, I think,
mostly. But they didn’t break away, like some people say. They did not break
away. They decided when they had enough they were going to organize their own
groups, ’cause they were all from what was called – they were Hungarians. You
know, there was sort of a separation there. I don’t know who – you know,
separation on both sides.
Schlezinger: I don’t know, the Hungarians seemed to kind of kept to
themselves and I think the first name of our synagogue was The First Hungarian
Synagogue, wasn’t it? It was the first name of it. And it’s all written up
in those books. You’ll find it in there, the whole story, and they started to
go to different homes at the beginning. You want to know about that. First they
went to a private home, then they moved to larger – that’s got it, too, but I’ll
get this one, it’s easier to read. This is better than my talking about it.
Interviewer: I love to hear you talking about –
Schlezinger: Well, you know the start of the Tifereth Israel – you’ve heard
was at a minyan at the bris of Nathan Polster – that’s Louie Polster’s son.
He’s been gone a long time. His widow still lives here, is Miriam. You may
Interviewer: Yeah, I know who she is.
Schlezinger: Let’s put it another way. His daughter, one of his daughters,
just married Heinz Hoffman.
Schlezinger: Judy. – is a daughter of Nathan Polster. So it was at his bris,
I guess, I can visualize it, just sitting around and they decided to – and who
was present at the bris. Why you can see it right there: Morris Polster, I. H.
Schlezinger, Jacob Stern. There was a family name of Stern. They’ve
disappeared. Samuel Wasserstrom. Now Samuel Wasserstrom is from the Wassers –
but not this family that we know – he was an uncle, I think. Max Bayer and Emil
Kohn. All of whom were Hungarian – Jewish immigrants. (Reading:) “Although
they had worshipped in the local orthodox synagogue since their arrival in
Columbus, they were still strongly impressed with the need for a congregation
with a more modern service.” So that’s how it started.
“Then under the leadership of Emil Kohn, who served as president of the
new congregation from 1901 to 1914,” now that’s a long time, “the
group met for sabbath services at the home of S. J. Wasserstrom on McAllister
Avenue, and then, with Max Bayer as Chairman of the Committee, they applied for
a charter that was signed by Emil Kohn, Max Bayer, Samuel Wasserstrom, I. H.
Schlezinger, Louie Polster, Morris Polster and Jacob A. Stern.” So that
gives you the picture. And then it says, “Twenty members of this newly
organized but homeless congregation, soon preferred the services of Reverend
Dumb from Zanesville, Ohio – D-U-M-B, so I guess that’s the way you pronounce
it, and it’s incidentally interesting to note that it was the Zanesville
Jewish Community which furnished our congregation with the first Sefer Torah
used during the high holiday services.” In other words, the same
congregation – “held in 1901 at the Standard Club in the old I.O.O.F.
Temple.” You know, there were a lot of lodges in those days. People hadda
-I think that stands for Independent Order of the Odd Fellows.
Interviewer: Odd Fellows, I think. Yeah.
Schlezinger: “After which the most encouraging surplus of a hundred and
five dollars remains after the holidays. The sabbath services were conducted
-” is this all right, what I’m doing?
Schlezinger: “Sabbath services were conducted at the home of Reverend
Dumb, who also served as teacher for the children. And for a time High Holiday
services were held in a building at the north – west corner of Main and Third
Streets and the Congregation became the proud possessor of its own Sefer Torah
which was donated by S. J. Wasserstrom.” See, so they had played an
important part. “And the drive for the purchase of the cemetery in 1902 was
-” – now that’s the old cemetery along Alum Creek Drive – in 1902,
“was led by Emil Kohn, and a few years later the burial grounds were
landscaped under the supervision of Moritz Weiss.” Now I remember that very
well. But it’s interesting to note in a community the changes that take place.
They were – Marysville – they had a department store. And it was pretty big for
that size town. And they were very well off and they were devoted to our
congregation. There are still two daughters of theirs living in Columbus – that’s
why I thought you’d like to know. Do you know Elizabeth Goldberg? The widow of
Harry Goldberg – the Goldberg Iron and Steel Company?
Interviewer: No, I don’t know her.
Schlezinger: And the mother of a Dr. Goldberg?
Interviewer: Okay. Jack Goldberg. Yeah.
Schlezinger: No, Jack Goldberg is the eye doctor. No, no, this is a regular
doctor. I forgot his first name. Well, anyway, she’s the daughter of the
Weisses. Have you heard of Mildred Tarshish?
Schlezinger: She’s a daughter. She’s Elizabeth Goldberg’s sister.
Interviewer: Okay. Now Cecile mentions her a lot.
Schlezinger: Yeah. Well, they’re – well that’s from her age, from her
time. Well, they’re the daughters of Moritz Weiss and his wife, and they’re
still here in town, but this is their father. Mildred Tarshish is the widow of
Allen Tarshish, whose brother was Rabbi Tarshish – you’ve heard of him – at
Temple Israel – has always been at Temple Israel. And Elizabeth Goldberg’s
husband – the Goldberg family were always an important part of Agudas Achim, but
in later years she – over at Temple Israel, see. But their father and mother
were devoted to our congregation and her brother, or their son, Nelson Weiss,
until he died, came – I used to see him sitting there – – the holidays, he
always sat in our congregation – you know, he was always there. First he could
come with his mother when she was a widow, and after she died, he’d come by
himself, and he died then. And another thing: if you look at the stained glass
windows in the sanctuary, you’ll see the name Weiss.
Interviewer: That’s why I ask because it’s spelled M-O-R-I-T-Z. And that’s
why I asked. I always – we play trivia at home and we wonder who this man is.
Schlezinger: It’s the same one. As a matter of fact, I saw Mildred Tarshish
not long ago. She says, ” I don’t know if you know it,” she says,
“but I always send something over every once in a while, in memory of my
folks.” So she must – she mentioned it to me not too long ago. __ that’s
the same people. She reminded me about the stained glass window.
Interviewer: Okay. Maybe that was the original spelling.
Schlezinger: That’s probably the correct spelling. You know, when somebody
prints something both their rights are broken. That’s interesting, because
that shows you how many paths or how many families have crossed the threshold of
different places. Like I can remember the founder of the Schiff Shoe Company –
now SCOA – Robert Schiff, Herbert Schiff’s father – he used to come to our
synagogue. His first wife -they had up above the bima, at the top, was a
memorial to her. Did you know that?
Interviewer: Yeah, I –
Schlezinger: You heard about it
Interviewer: Was that in the Bryden –
Schlezinger: No, that was in our synagogue, but when they remodeled the
synagogue, they turned it around, and when they turned it around, Al Solove told
me – turn it off. (Tape paused.) They’ve got it stored there.
Interviewer: What do you remember about your family celebrating holidays
together. Here, you have this tremendous family – aunts, uncles, cousins,
brothers. As a youngster, what happened at Passover?
Schlezinger: At Passover, every family had their own seder. You had enough of
your own. We had six children, that’s eight people to start with, and then
maybe you had some in – laws came along. We celebrated the two nights of
Passover and my father conducted the service. And very thoroughly, too, because
my mother was there watching every step, because there was nobody more Orthodox
in religion and kosher, than my mother. She was tops. I should have mentioned
this before. When Rabbi Greenwald came to Columbus – have you heard of Rabbi
Greenwald? He was a great scholar. He – probably in the history of Columbus the
most brilliant or learned rabbi in the history of Columbus. He – just a scholar,
see? He had written a lot of books. Not everybody came close. Most rabbis, those
days, had come from Europe. We didn’t raise our own rabbis in those days,
until later, and the teachers were from Europe. But Rabbi Greenwald was a
lovable man. There was nobody more orthodox or religious. He would come to our
house and he would eat at our house because of my mother. And that was
considered to be the greatest compliment in the world because he didn’t eat
every place. She was very devout. Always. Always. Even in the later years she
never deviated. That’s the way she was brought up on her farm, her father was
a farmer, her grandfather was a farmer, and things had to go the way they went
for two hundred years or a thousand years. I don’t know. You couldn’t
deviate one bit.
Now, my father was a religious man, but not that religious, because he went
out in the world of commerce. He had to be a business man and you can’t do it.
You know, you had to – in other words, he had to liberalize and he was more
liberal, you see, but my mother, there was no question about my mother, and we
had to follow along, as long as we were at home, right to a tee.
Interviewer: Where did you go to school?
Schlezinger: Elementary school – I told you we lived on Ohio Avenue and there’s
an Ohio Avenue School. I started first grade and went six years there. Later
years, I realized we lived in kind of a dangerous territory. I didn’t realize
at the time, I didn’t know any other world any way.
Interviewer: Why was it dangerous?
Schlezinger: Because there were a lot of feelings then that you don’t have
now. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Ohio Avenue was the dividing line.
South of Ohio – you see down on Ohio Avenue near Livingston there was a big
Catholic church – Saint John’s. And from Ohio Avenue on down south, towards
Livingston and past, were probably 99% – 100% Catholic families. There used to
be little gang fights. North of Fulton Street there were some Jews,
like us, and some non – Jews, but they were not Catholics. So on one side – I’m
talking as a kid. So on one side of the street we had our group, or our gang,
down there they had the other and there used to be little mix – ups and so on.
And I realize years later, when I read about these things of these other cities,
I think, my God, maybe that was a little bit of what we went – it was not as
Interviewer: Do you remember any particular anti-Semitic acts?
Schlezinger: There was plenty of that stuff. Anti – Semitism. They’d call
you a Jew, “Jew boy,” other things I don’t want to repeat. We got
used to it, but it didn’t hurt, I can’t compare it to gang warfare or what
goes on with –
Interviewer: Was there any hitting or stone throwing?
Schlezinger: There would be some stone – throwing, but not in a big way. But
we had some big people on our side, too. That’s all it took was one or two big
ones. That would set ’em back – but it was that way. Maybe I shouldn’t even
mention it. It wasn’t that dramatic. I’m not trying to make it – but later
on you recognize you did go through some things, you know.
Interviewer: And that was a part of life at that time.
Schlezinger: I took it for granted – that was a part of it. I didn’t know
it any other way. When I moved out to Bexley we didn’t find anything like
Interviewer: At that time, were you attending cheder?
Schlezinger: What little we had – Hebrew education was not too good – we didn’t
have it. That’s the reason I don’t know my stuff, you know. Later on — my
mother couldn’t teach me, she couldn’t write or read, and my father didn’t
have the time. He would have been good, but he didn’t have the time. He’d
insist we had to have some Hebrew education, but as I look back, I would say
that was the lowest period in American – Jewish history, of Jewish or Hebrew
education, and I think other people will agree. It was later that the
destruction of the Jewish community of eastern Europe – of Hitler and nazism and
the thousands of yeshivas and the people – that’s where it all came from. With
the destruction of that, there was a tremendous momentum that builded up in the
United States – you’ve seen the effect of it – the tremendous build – up in
the last 25 – 30 years – I went through the lowest – and there’s the teachers.
So we’d go two or three afternoons when we had the synagogue on Parsons
Avenue, and I we’d have it and I think I remember going down two afternoons a
week. But there wasn’t – didn’t learn too much about it. Yeah, I could say
something, but not like I should.
Interviewer: When did the family move to Bexley? How old were you then?
Schlezinger: I was six years at Ohio Avenue School, three years at Roosevelt
Junior High School and just about that time we moved to Bexley. So I’ve lived
continuously in Bexley for 61 years. There were very few Jewish people in
Bexley, if you go back to the record, you’ll see that we were probably among
the first. Now the Louie Polster family was here before we were. They were at
Drexel and Fair Avenue. We moved to the old part of Bryden Road, between
Parkview and Columbia. We call that the old part of Bexley. You know where you
come in on Parkview Avenue off of Main, then there’s Bryden, you turn towards
Drexel, we lived in that block. New houses are there now, across the street from
where we lived. We lived on the north side in an old brick house and that’s
where I grew up, and I’ve lived 61 years in Bexley, continuously.
I started here at the high school at Main and Montrose. There were no schools
on Cassingham – they hadn’t been built yet – just a paved street. We used to
roller skate over.
They were beginning to sell lots. Well, there were some houses, I think, but
I went to school over here at Main and Montrose.
Interviewer: Where were the elementary schools then?
Schlezinger: There were a couple grades of elementary in this school
building. You know where that shopping center is across from Capital University,
that new one there with that Overbey’s, there was a school there – an old
brick school. I was told that my graduating class at Bexley High School was the
sixth graduating class in that school. That shows you how early – Bexley was a
little village, by the way, there was no city, just a little village. Everybody
knew everybody else.
Interviewer: And the Jewish families were just beginning to come up from
Donaldson Street –
Schlezinger: They started – that momentum began later on, I would say, the
later 30s – we moved out here about 1924. I would say after the middle 30s
things started to recover, then into the 40s then you saw the tremendous – after
the war was a big inflow, you see. My wife and I built this house. We started it
when Pearl Harbor came along and we finished it – we thought we wouldn’t be
able to finish it because they froze everything. Then they released this – they
said anything under construction you can finish, but had we known there was
going to be a Pearl Harbor, we never would have started a house – you’d have
to be crazy, not knowing what lies ahead, see, but we finished and moved in 1942
– ___ four years.
Interviewer: It’s a lovely home. Beautiful condition.
Schlezinger: So anyway I went to Bexley High School. There were very few
Jewish students – there were 36, maybe 37 in the graduating class.
Interviewer: Who among them would be of interest to the Jewish community?
Schlezinger: There were a handful of us. I don’t know if you remember
Morrie Mattlin. He was my best friend, myself, Si Skuller, he was in my class.
Sanford Lakin. There was a tailor in Columbus by the name of Louie Lakin. That’s
part of the history of Columbus. I don’t know if you remember, but he was the
tailor, you see – if you had a Louie Lakin suit, you were it. How can
you compare? What would you consider? Well, if you had a Mercedes you’re
supposed – well, if you had a Louie Lakin suit, you were in, see.
And they lived on Linwood Avenue. Everything was on a smaller scale because
he wanted them to be with us, and we wanted him, too. He paid tuition for him to
go to Bexley High School, and Sanford Lakin went with us to Bexley High School
and incidentally, he lost his life in World War II. I often think of him, by the
way, because I was very close to him. He would have been a very successful
lawyer. He was a lawyer. You know what he did? He just quit and enlisted like
most people did. Everybody was
patriotic and he went to Officers Training School – he applied, got accepted
in the navy and they sent him to officers school for six months, and the first
ship they put him on was torpedoed.
Interviewer: He didn’t have much of a chance then.
Schlezinger: He was gone. He would have been a successful attorney – he was a
heck of a guy. He was also a president of B’nai Brith. I was president of B’nai
Brith. Do you remember, do you know there was Ilonka’s out here on East Broad
Street? Helen? Well, she was married to Sanford Lakin.
Schlezinger: You didn’t know that? She was his widow before she married
three or four times since then. I understand she’s sick. They’d invite us
over for dinner, we’d come running. She was Hungarian – not Jewish.
Interviewer: So you had this little group in Bexley High School. It sounds
like there was a disproportionate number of Jewish students then.
Schlezinger: I suppose there were. More of them came later, but I don’t
think there was that many. Do you think that was a disproportionate number?
Interviewer: Well, out of thirty people in your class?
Schlezinger: Well, around 38, I would say. There was Morrie, Si Skuller,
myself, that’s three, Sanford Lakin is four. That’s it. Now there were other
classes. My brother, Julius, was one year in back of me. Martin Polster went to
school with Julius.
Interviewer: I understand you had some musical abilities in high school.
Schlezinger: Where’d you get that?
Interviewer: I’m not going to tell you where I found out.
Schlezinger: Where’d you get that?
Interviewer: I’m not going to tell you. You tell me.
Schlezinger: Well, the school was young. I’ll give you the funny part. The
school was young and there were a lot of things that were precedents, right? And
when it’s a real small place there’s all kinds of things go on. So it seems
I had a horn and somebody else had a trumpet, so we decided to have a band one
day, and they found enough people to make a band, and that’s where you got it
– so we had the first band. It didn’t amount to anything –
Interviewer: What’d you do, play for a dance, or just for fun?
Schlezinger: We played for fun – we’d march out there on the football field
for a little bit. There weren’t enough of us. The best part was we got off
from class to practice. You see, in high school anything – and, oh – there was a
fellow who lived on Columbia Avenue – his name was Frank Smith, and you know, in
those days, kids had – they called ’em jalopies. They’d buy them for 40, 50
dollars. He had a jalopy. You know what he did? He went to the office over there
and told them the horn I had was too heavy to carry, so they let him off to take
me to get my horn on practice days – then we stopped at Wentz’s Drug Store and
get a soda. That was his idea. That’s what you do with a small –
Interviewer: What other kinds of memories of this sort-
Schlezinger: You mean from high school? I could tell you everything – like
the first band? Well, the first managers. It seems that every boy, just about,
had a letter and Smitty, – did you ever hear of Smitty Smith? He was the coach
for years over there. He’s retired now. He lives in a Nursing Home. I went up
to him one day. I don’t know what made me – someone may have put it up to me,
I don’t think I’d have thought of it myself. I went up to him and said,
“Mr. Smith, everybody’s got a letter, just about, and I don’t have a
letter,” and he thought and thought and he says, “Well we don’t have
a manager,” he says, “we’ll make you manager.” That’s a
letter – a B with an M on – so I go tell Morrie Mattlin. So he goes in two or
three days later, and he says, “How come he can get a letter and I don’t
have it? (Smitty) says, “Well, you’re co – manager.” That’s what
you do in local business, by the way, so two of us had B’s – my mother sewed a
B on my sweater, everything was new in those days.
Interviewer: What about your social life in those days in high school?
Parties? Dating? Dances?
Schlezinger: No, no. That’s odd, when you think about it, compared to what
came later, but I don’t remember that. It seems that we had enough playing
baseball, playing cards, fooling around, you might say, and all that, but at
least the group I was with we didn’t date or go out much. I think came time
for the junior – senior prom, and then it was like you thought, you thought, you sweated perspiration, “Well, maybe I
can get out of it.”
It wasn’t like you went to do it…to go, you see, then maybe you went. And
some of us went without dates. First of all, there weren’t too many Jewish
girls. We had pretty strict parents. No one looks for trouble, at least in those
Interviewer: Were there any Jewish girls in your class?
Schlezinger: I don’t think so. I’m trying to remember. I don’t remember
Schlezinger: …get there and decided they weren’t going to wait too much
longer so they had another one in ’55. Last year it was.
Interviewer: How many people were there?
Schlezinger: With the wives? Madelyn, (Schlezinger calls his wife,) weren’t
there around 18 – 20 people at that reunion last year? It was around 18 or 20.
That’s because of the wives – the spouses, you know, the husbands. In fact,
one couple came in from Tulsa, Oklahoma. You remember Marty Heil and his wife
came in? Amazing! Fifty – five years!
Interviewer: What was happening in the family at this time? Business must
have been going well.
Schlezinger: Business had its interruptions, recessions and everything, but
on the whole, I have to say, it progressed. It became more active, we got
bigger, I guess. It’s hard for me to say – I’d rather somebody else said
that, but we think –
Interviewer: You have your perception of it –
Schlezinger: We got bigger. I think we became more of a factor right along.
We spread out, we did business around the country – it wasn’t so much – the
base was still Columbus but a lot of our business in the last 20 – 25 years was
from all over the area because steel was at its peak then. Now it’s not
important any more, it seems like, but the steel age went from 1900 to about
1975, I would say, was the peak of the steel age. To make steel you’ve got to
have scrap, you see, so we got along very good. We built big plants, big yards
and other people did – we had lots of competition and it was fun. I enjoyed it.
By the way, I had more fun out of that than anything else.
Interviewer: As a youngster, though, you had many opportunities that many
other children didn’t have.
Schlezinger: Because why, because my folks took care of me?
Interviewer: Because the business was successful and growing.
Schlezinger: Well, it wasn’t so successful during the great Depression. We
had our problems.
Interviewer: Tell me about it. When the Depression came you were already in
Schlezinger: I had started in 1928, the fall of ’28. I got out in ’32. I
worked the last two years. I think I paid my own way through school. Of course,
compared to today, it was hardly anything, when you look back, relatively
speaking. I worked on the campus. What I did, was, I went out for a job and I
never thought I’d get it, but I got it. It was competitive. And that is, the
campus, they published certain things. You know, they had a daily newspaper,
well you had to be in the journalism school for that. You’ve heard of The
Lantern. They had a yearly annual, the Makio, well you had to be – well,
they had a humor magazine- they called it The Sundial. It came out once a
I went out to work for it to see maybe I could get someplace, and peculiar
enough, I became business manager. I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did
Interviewer: And what did that involve?
Schlezinger: Those days, everything was loose. The business manager got 37
1/2 per cent of the profit, the editor got 37 1/2 per cent, the art editor got
10 per cent and the university got the rest. Is that on the tape recorder?
Interviewer: It sure is!
Schlezinger: So it was a break, but I worked my head off for it. You know
where the revenue came out of? You know these big national corporations go after
the college people. In those days it was the cigarette companies. They’d give
you a yearly contract and they’d buy the inside front page and the back page
and the middle page, you know, and that was a big revenue in those days. And
then clothing companies would go after the college business. They’d advertise
and that’s where you got your money and then the business manager had to have
a staff and I had an office up there in the old Ohio Union Building, and you
placed your contracts for the printing. I had an editor who was theoretically
the boss, but he wasn’t. All he was interested in was money, so he would
insist that we do all our part of whatever we needed to fill in between the ads
he would supply material. He wanted money. He’s dead now. He got it, too. That
helped put me through school.
Interviewer: What did you study?
Schlezinger: I just went through the Commerce College, that’s all. Nothing
in particular. I enjoyed school very much and I worked up there. I liked working
on the campus. I lived at home – I knew a lot of people because when you hold a
job like that – I don’t know what it is – today it’s 50 – some years later.
Things may have changed, but that was also a smaller school. The total
enrollment was around ten thousand and today the total enrollment is fifty
thousand. Our freshman class had what, two thousand, fifteen hundred? I don’t
remember. Today they have thousands. Because of the magazine I came in contact
with a lot of people. I lived here at home, over on Bryden Road at the old
place, but it took me an hour by streetcar – we had the streetcars – I’d catch
it at Parkview and Main. I had to go down to High Street and transfer and then
go on up to Fifteenth and High, and it took exactly an hour and when you had an
eight o’clock class, it was something, particularly in the winter time. Oh, it
was terrible! I missed some eight o’clock classes, too.
Interviewer: Now what about your brothers and sisters at this time? Most of
them were —
Schlezinger: My sisters went to Ohio State, and Nathan – that’s the one in
Philadelphia – the doctor – he was accepted – he went to medical school in
Philadelphia – one of the best – Thomas Jefferson School. He was accepted
without an undergraduate degree. I think it’s impossible today. But what he
did was come back two summers and went to summer school at Ohio State so he
could get his B. A. You know, his degree. They let him go into medical school
without it, but he came back two summers to get it, and he got it and he went to
Jefferson, and he graduated in 1932 from medical school, and I remember my folks
going for his graduation and then hurrying right back so they wouldn’t miss
mine, because they felt it would be terrible – you know the mental state – but
he was graduating from the medical school. I was just graduating from
Interviewer: You were pretty much at the end of the line of children, so they
were all pretty well educated by the time the Depression came along.
Schlezinger: Well, there was just Julius after me. Gertrude was – Nathan,
well that took care of him. Nathan, he isn’t only four years older than I am,
he’s only 2 1/2 years older than I am, but I told you the reason it was close,
because he went into medical school without his undergraduate degree. See what I
mean? He had a very good record. Both of them. Julius was on the debating team
at Ohio State – Louie went too. I told you, the folks had just one thing in
mind. That’s the thing that gets me, when I look back I wonder – we had to
face the same thing and go immigrate or overseas, not know the language, not
have a penny in the pocket, could we do the same thing? And you know, sometimes
I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about – not that other people don’t,
too. I don’t think we could do that. I don’t see how they did it, and all
they were interested in was their children and their synagogue. Feeding their
children, raising their standard of living, educating the children and the
synagogue. That was all. That was the world. And except that they were very
patriotic. Now they were patriotic. All of ’em were, and you remember the 60’s,
we had all these rebellions around on the campus – nobody could understand it,
you know, because I remember my mother and father- my father said, “no
matter how bad it can get over here, it’s paradise.”
Interviewer: Now the Depression has come along, and how does this affect the
Schlezinger: Well, the Depression was hard, but the thing is, you had plenty
of company. You see, that’s the one thing – I would think you had more
psychiatric problems with all the high standard of living than you had back
then. You had a high degree of suicides I remember, because people lost
everything and that was the quickest way – but down to total it didn’t mean
that much. But everybody else was in the same boat. Nobody had anything that I
know. I didn’t have anything, my father didn’t either. He was hanging on –
well, be honest about it, everybody was hanging on, but nothing cost anything.
You’d take a date out, it was a quarter for the movie. No, it was fifteen
cents for the movie and I think for the other fifteen cents you got sodas. And
you walked home. That’s the way. It was about thirty cents for the date. How
do you like that?
And I remember the deluxe dinner at Mill’s Restaurant. That was The
Restaurant to go to – you probably have heard of Mill’s Restaurant – on High
Street. High and Broad? Deluxe, super, super dinner – the steak – ultra deluxe,
was ninety – seven cents plus three cents sales tax, one dollar.
Interviewer: Is that where you enjoyed going?
Schlezinger: Once in a while, when I had a dollar in my pocket. I’ll tell
you something. I bought that car because I had that job. I made some money off
Interviewer: Tell me about your car.
Schlezinger: I bought a Model A Ford with a rumble seat. Know what a rumble
Interviewer: I’ve never been in one.
Schlezinger: And it cost $500, I’ll never forget that, and the guy wouldn’t
sell it to me until he called up my father. And he says, “You’ve got no
business buying it,” he says, “your father’s working hard,” and
I says, “I’m paying for it,” and he says “you can’t pay for
it yourself, you wouldn’t have anything.” This guy, we knew him, and he
called him up and Dad says, “Let him go ahead and buy it. It’s his
Interviewer: How old were you at that time?
Schlezinger: Oh, I was just getting out of school. It was the summer after I
got out – I was about 22, so what does a 22 – year – old guy do, he spends what
Interviewer: Of course! On a car! So then what did you do, go into the
business with your dad after that?
Schlezinger: Well, I had come down after school or during vacations. See, my
brother Louie – Louie was a hard worker. Louie was plenty smart. It wasn’t
just the other two, you know that were smart. Louie was plenty smart. I don’t
know if you heard it from other people, but he stayed. See, my father moved up,
then he moved from Donaldson Street to a bigger place where you could really do
things – in other words with the rail tracks – Donaldson Street was no railroad
street, and with the rail tracks so you could load freight cars inbound and
outbound – see, that’s what became big with us later on, and Louie stayed down
there to run that place. He didn’t want to give it up, and then Louie took it
over. It was his. And then they separated. I don’t know if I should say that,
but they separated. There was nothing wrong with that. I think Louie wanted to
be on his own, and some people, you know, do get- So I used to come down and
help my father.
And I did get acquainted with the company and the business. I was pretty much
involved, but I didn’t actually join full time until I got out of school in
’32. I didn’t get any salary because Louie didn’t have anything. But if I
told you what I made, you wouldn’t believe me. I didn’t get anything.
Interviewer: You were still living at home?
Schlezinger: Oh, I lived at home until I was 30. I didn’t get married until
I was 30. She wouldn’t have me! I kept asking her and she wouldn’t do
anything about it. But any way, –
Interviewer: How did you meet Madalyn?
Schlezinger: I didn’t know her in Columbus, and she was born in Columbus. I
met her through a football game. You know, when you’re young you do all kinds
of things – when you’re a bachelor – I went to a Michigan – Morrie Mattlin and
I used to run around together, I think I told you – I went to a Michigan
football game at Ann Arbor. We were with some people we knew, we were sitting
around, and one of ’em makes a crack, “There’s a real cute girl at
Michigan but she’s from Columbus,” so somebody said, ” Hey, Ed, do
you know her?” He mentioned her name. I said, “No, I don’t know
her.” “Why don’t you call her up some time?” She was going to
Michigan. She’s from Columbus. So I came back and I asked somebody, they said,
“Yeah, we know the family and everything else.”
I guess I called her, and I said, “Somebody told me up in Ann Arbor you’re
a real cute girl” – I shouldn’t put that on – how do you start — that’s
how we got acquainted with each other, but – I went to work and I started to
travel a little, and things started to pick up. Roosevelt came along, and things
started in – we started to pick up and I got on the road, for which I’m very
thankful, because I got to know Ohio intimately. My dad would have me out
Interviewer: Where’d you go?
Schlezinger: Little towns, calling on people, ya know. I’d call on
foundries, and I’d call on steel mills
once in a while, and then sometimes I’d call on scrap dealers in little
towns and see if there was anything we could do together. My ______ got to know
a lot people – I did – I got to know a lot of people. Business began to pick up.
We began to put more equipment in there and it just went on its merry way. And
then, when my father had his first heart attack in 1939 I was with Louie some
place, and I said, “Louie,” you know about him – he was in the
hospital, my dad, and I said, “What do you think? Don’t you think we
ought to put this thing together? He’s sick. Nobody knows what’s gonna
-” And he says, “Yeah, I’ve been thinking that way, too,” and
that’s how we put it together. And I think it was the best thing to do. You
shouldn’t have two brothers competing.
Interviewer: Yeah. Were any of the other brothers in the business?
Schlezinger: No, no, no. I’ve got two brilliant brothers there. Listen, the
doctor? Oh, my god! Of course, he’s semi – retired. He’s older than I am.
No, he went to Jefferson. From Jefferson he went to New York State, Columbia
Presbyterian Medical Center – The Psychiatric Institute – he went there, then he
went up to the Montifiore Hospital up in The Bronx – that’s one of the big
hospitals. He was there three or four years – he was the chief resident. They
didn’t want him to leave, and he’s got degrees from these different places
and he studied and everything and then Jefferson asked him to come back to
teach. And he taught. He was just made him professor emeritus and he became a
neurologist. He was in psychiatry at the beginning but then more of a
neurologist. He taught at Jefferson Medical School for years. He just quit
teaching a couple of years ago and he gave up – he had a big office with some
other doctors but he gave all that up. But that was a little, tiny office. You
gotta have an office, you know. They travel. They do nothing but travel, and he
is a lecturer all over the world, and delivers papers, what they call on his
subject, you know? A few years ago in Russia he delivered a paper at a medical
school. In Jerusalem, too. And Rumania. He goes to medical meetings. I’m not
saying he’s a great, world – wide something – he is a very – well, he’s
good. He’s smart and he became prominent in his field, let’s put it that
way. He became prominent in his field. All they do is travel. I think they’re
in Mexico City this week at a medical meeting.
Interviewer: What about the other brothers?
Schlezinger: The younger one, he – I told you he was on the debating team at
Ohio State. He also graduated and became a member of the honorary society, The
Loyal Order of Coif. I don’t know whether you know what that is. Well, in Law
School, Coif takes only a few at a time. It’s a society – whatever you call it
– an honorary, so he’s what they call a Coif man. They wear a key and all
that. And he went directly from law school to Washington, because at that time
Roosevelt brought the New Deal in and they went around to leading law schools
throughout the country looking for people at the top of the class to bring to
Washington. You heard about this – and they picked him to go. That was
thrilling, you know, to get out of Columbus, and he went to Washington and he
went to work for the Department of Labor and he stayed in Washington like the
other one stayed in Philadelphia, then he went to the Justice Department and he
met a girl there – a lawyer – and he married her, and she became a judge. (She’s
dead now.) She was quite prominent.
He stayed with the Justice Department and then he enlisted when war broke out
he took a leave of absence, and as a lawyer working for the government, he could
have gone to officers school, but he turned it down and he enlisted as a
private. Then he went into training and he went overseas and he participated in
some battles over the sea. He got a decoration. Madalyn (he calls,) I think on
the bar there is a copy of Julius’s Bronze Star, isn’t it? Can you find it
there? Got it? Good.
Interviewer: I’ve never seen one of those.
Schlezinger: Listen – this guy is – or was – he’s toned down – he was a
fiery guy, I’m telling ya. Oh, it was there, I saw it before when I looked at
these other books. Is that it? Read it – you’ll never believe a Schlezinger
could do that. Here’s a guy that’s a lawyer – he could have gone to Officers
School. He enlisted, and he was honored, I guess – that’s on his record. But
you reminded me of it – I forgot it was up there. I’m glad we got it. A
private, first class.
Interviewer: You went into this with Louie –
Schlezinger: We ran the company while our father was sick and as far as my
going into the army, first of all they questioned my eyes. I’ve always worn
glasses, and I took the position I wasn’t going to do anything, whatever they
decided, I would do. I wouldn’t fight anything, but at the same time I was – I
had to stay here when Dad was sick. No, he died already when war broke out. So
then they decided I’d be more important to the war effort here because of the
nature of the business, see what I mean? They became very critical of that sort
of thing so they put me in that class that I was important to the war.
Interviewer: How did the nature of the business change because of the war?
Schlezinger: It changed to this extent, the government took control of the
Interviewer: So you were essentially working for the government, then.
Schlezinger: Well, from a profit point of view. We made our money after the
war was over. It was the biggest boom in history after that because of the
penned up – everything had been stopped.
Then when they took the controls off, they had everything strictly
controlled. They had price control and they had production control. They would
tell us where to ship and they even sent material in to us for processing. We
would process – I remember they would send us in carloads and carloads of
landing pads – steel landing mats that they had on the ground for airplanes to
land, and they would tell us what to do to process it or to ship it – the
finished product. You know, that’s what we do.
Interviewer: How did you learn all this? Just from experience? This is very
Schlezinger: What do you mean? I was raised in that business. You mean about
machinery equipment? That’s part of it. If you don’t, somebody else – you’ve
got somebody with you. We had people working – you have to have equipment —
cranes, and things like that — presses, you know, and so Julius – but I want to
tell you about Julius because you reminded me again. He really has had a
spectacular career. He was overseas in Europe in ’45 and after and they
released him from the army and flew him back to Washington, and a week or so or
a few weeks later they flew him back to Germany and he became a member of the
legal staff of the Allied Military Government. They had to have wires in that
thing and they – he wasn’t the only one. As soon as they could release
somebody who was qualified they’d bring ’em back. So when he left Germany
there were certain things he couldn’t do. Officers Clubs – he wasn’t allowed
to go in. He was a private or corporal or something. Two weeks later he could
walk in anyplace he wanted to, because he was a lawyer on the legal staff. I
thought it was funny (laughter.) But anyway, he came on what they call the legal
staff – counsel, or whatever it is, on the Allied Military Government. He was
there at an interesting time. They were getting ready for the Nuremburg trials –
Interviewer: Did he participate in that?
Schlezinger: I don’t think so, but I think he helped set it up. Then they
sent him back to the United States. He went back to the Justice Department and
then he became the Chief Counsel for what they called the Alien Property
Custodian’s office. That was the millions – there were hundreds of millions of
dollars worth of enemy property that they seized during the war and it had to be
liquidated, or it had to be returned, or it had to be this and that, and he
became chief counsel for that. At one time he had 140 lawyers under him. He got
as far as he could go from a career point of view. Above him would have to be a
presidential appointment. His boss was appointed by the president, attorney
general or something like that. He got about as far as he could go from a career
point – and it drove him crazy. He got to be a nervous wreck because every time
he turned around there was some senator who wanted this for a friend and the
congressman wanted this and they called him up and he had to go appear before
the congress where they had to go in and explain something, testimony or
whatever – you see ’em on the _______ and the hearings, you know.
So when Truman went out of office he thought it was a good time to quit or
resign then he found out something that he should have known in the first place:
that if he went from private practice from a money point of view, he’d make a
lot more money and then the golden days started for him, because you know –
Interviewer: He also had many contacts at that time.
Schlezinger: You know what happens to most of the lawyers that go to work for
the government, eventually they join a law firm and they’ve got the advantage
of – sure, there’s no question about it. He became a partner of a very
prominent law firm and he’s retired now because they had a mandatory rule that
at a certain age they can’t be a partner – they’ve got to sit it out. He’s
Interviewer: You know in Washington he lived across the street from Allan’s
Schlezinger: You know Julius, don’t you?
Interviewer: I’ve met him. Yeah. I think just once.
Schlezinger: He was just here. He stayed here. He came in last Thursday night
and left Saturday afternoon because he came in for his fiftieth reunion of his
law class they had this weekend. He was there and he left Saturday afternoon.
Today, Tuesday, he took off for Europe. He’s married again. She’s very nice.
I wish you could have met ’em. He was here. We went out with Gertrude Thursday
night – Friday night, too. That’s right, we went out Thursday and Friday night
Interviewer: What I’d like to do, I’d like to go back now and pick up
with your marriage. I don’t know about you but I’m gettin’ tired – I’m
poopin’ out – (laughter) –
Schlezinger: Years later when we got much bigger, of course, we did establish
ourselves in the industrial world – the people would say, “When was your
company founded?” and we would answer, “that year was 1905,”
because we knew we had to pick a year, so we picked 1905. That’s what we
considered what it was now – 1905 – and I was born in 1910. Of course, Louie was
around, he was still a little kid. And so forth – that’s what happened.
Interviewer: Now as you look back over the period of time, we just mentioned
before we turned on the tape, that there was a timing – a period of expansion
that was very fortunate for the incoming immigrants — plus factor in the
Schlezinger: You had, I think, starting in the 1890’s, and that’s when
this big immigration wave, what they call the eastern Europe, you know the first
big Jewish immigration around 1850 – 60,
that was the first big – then it quieted down, then it started again, I
guess, because of the pogroms in eastern Europe and things like that. There was
a mass of it and it began to grow by leaps and bounds, and, of course, the –
from Austria – Hungary, too, they picked –
Interviewer: But the country was ready to receive them. Not only –
Schlezinger: …invariably – because you were on the verge of what turned out
to be a tremendous growth in the industrial capacity of the United States. There’s
no question – you had this tremendous growth from then on. Sure, you had little
recessions in between, and prolonged ones, too, and then World War I came along
in the teens, and the United States entered that in 1917 and the Federal Reserve
Bank was established, I think, in 1913 and income taxes became a factor then,
because that’s when they really became a factor and there was this tremendous
growth and World War was won – was part of it – and then I think they had a deep
recession in 1921 or something like that.
Interviewer: How did that affect the business?
Schlezinger: Our business? Oh, it was way down. Our business was tied to the
steel industry. If the steel mills – and that was the key industry in America –
not any more – but that long period from 1900 to 1970, I would say that was
really considered the backbone of American industry, was the steel industry,
then the automobile industry. We were in that business. Scrap iron was the
principal raw material for many _______ so we grew right with it. Most people
did. Some _________s became giants. We weren’t one of the biggest, but we did
find our place in this area and –
Interviewer: How did you rate in size in the national picture?
Schlezinger: We couldn’t relate in the national picture – I don’t think –
until maybe years later. We might have been the region’s – but I don’t think
– oh, we were known. We were known nationally in the 70s and 60s – they knew us
all right, we were an old firm. We were considered an old firm. We – in
industry, the biggest was the old Joseph Schonthal Company. The oldest. It
became Summer and Company – it was written up in the paper this morning – I
think it said it was founded in 1933 because they were not using the name
Schonthal. That’s why they changed the name. That was the biggest at one time. They were tremendous. They owned a steel
mill. That’s all on tape, because I don’t want to talk about it.
Then, after them, I would say equal or fairly equal in size – (deleted) that
was founded by their father, who was a peddler originally – his name was Abe
Goldberg. He was very prominent in Agudas Achim. You may have read about ’em.
They were a very prominent family. Their mother was very active, and their
father was very active.
Interviewer: Did their family donate the library or something at Agudas Achim?
The Goldberg library?
Schlezinger: Might have.
Interviewer: I don’t mean the library. I mean a study, or a class room or a
conference room, something like that?
Schlezinger: I don’t know, I’m not that familiar with Agudas Achim. But I
know that Harry was a chairman of the chevra kaddisha all his life
because his father was, and because of his father, he kept it, although his
wife, Elizabeth, became active at Temple Israel. Oh, sure, there more at Temple
Israel, but he never let go at Agudas Achim, and I imagine they did. I knew the
Goldbergs, Harry and Arthur – they’re both gone. Then there was ours, I. H.
Schlezinger and Sons, then later the Handler Company came along just a little
bit later. We started — very rapidly. They were sizable, then they sold out to
Summer a few years ago. Our company was sold to Worthington Industries, so I
think you knew that, and shortly after that Handler was sold to Summers.
Interviewer: So really, there were two or three major iron and steel people –
Schlezinger: There were three, really, for a while. There was Summer,
Goldberg and Schlezinger. There were always a lot of others. Listen – anybody
can get in trouble. I remember once – you see, in my field – my dad started me
in, was with the mills and the foundries, and that’s where I used to go all
the time. Later, I became active in everything.
Interviewer: What type of work did you do with the mills and the foundries?
Schlezinger: I would call on them and see what kind of material, and what
their specifications were, and try to get orders from them, because our way of
operating like Summer and Goldberg, too, was from the consumers’ standpoints.
Most – a lot of – like any industry it was split up in different segments or
sections. The average person thinks of scrap iron as somebody buying scrap,
piling it up, you know, this and that. Automobile wrecking yards and all that,
see. We didn’t do that. They were our sources. When I talk about Goldberg and
Summer, they also were like that. The places that we drew tremendous hundreds of
_______ – were automobile wrecking yards and things like you get – we were
interested in the ferrous scrap – the iron and steel part and then either we
processed it and every mill had its own specifications as to what they wanted in
there or what the couldn’t use, and foundries – they all had their own
specifications. You had to –
Interviewer: And you processed it and turned out some product that they
Schlezinger: We processed it to fit their specifications.
Interviewer: What would they want, for instance – I-beams for buildings or
something like that?
Schlezinger: No, they didn’t. That isn’t the way you do it. Scrap iron
was melted and it became a virgin material – a raw material. Then out of that
raw material was made the products. You see what I mean? It didn’t go into the
making of I-beams. It went into making melted irons – molten irons. You really
want to know about the _____ , I’ll tell ya about the __________.
Interviewer: What happens when you’ve got this pot of molten metal?
Schlezinger: Well, then, it’s whatever you want to make. You use it for –
it goes into the forms of the castings that you’re gonna – if you made
automobiles, you’d need steel sheets for automobiles. This is going to become
in its final form, steel sheets. Or if you want I-beams, it’s going to become
structural steel and I – beams and so forth.
Interviewer: So you produced, then, some sort of sheet –
Schlezinger: No, we didn’t produce that at all.
Interviewer: Well what did you deliver to your customers?
Schlezinger: We delivered bulk – in bulk – mostly by freight cars – now it’s
back with trucks again, but then we get the _______ . That’s why it was so
important we had the railroad facilities. We delivered – it’s a bulk freight –
it’s a raw material – it’s a bulk commodity, like iron ore would be in a
freight car, or coal in a freight car or something else. It’s a raw material.
It’s a basic raw material. Out of that you make things, see? You’d have had
to go to a steel mill or a foundry to be melted. Do you follow me? What did I
do? I went out and we started to get orders. I’d take orders and make contacts
and that was part of my job among others, and say, for instance, we’d go into
a steel mill, and we’d become very familiar with them, and they with us – and
over the years it would have to develop a mutual respect and a confidence in you
as a supplier, and in them as a consumer – that only comes from years of work,
or there was a question like any other business, like integrity, you know, and
things like that, so suppose I would go in – we had one mill we were very close
to near Pittsburgh – matter of fact we were very close to them. They were the
backbone of – we’d go in and, say, take an order for two or three thousand
tons of a certain type of material for delivery over the next 30 – 40 days, then
we would process that material out of our yards and if we didn’t, we had to go
out and buy it already processed from other dealers. And that’s how you
developed a brokerage entity and as the years went by, our basis was our plant –
our yard. It was not all our business, because we began to broker scrap from
around the country.
Interviewer: If you’re in the processing end of it, though, this must
represent a huge investment in equipment. I mean this has to be huge pieces of
Schlezinger: That’s right. We had almost three thousand feet of railroad
track in our place at the end – two lines. We had our own switch – railroad
switch, and that’s a big investment. When I worked there when it was sold to
Worthington, we had seven operating cranes over there. But it did take that kind
of investment. It was a lot of fun, too.
Interviewer: The decline of the railroads, then, had a tremendous impact on
Schlezinger: Oh, there was a period that railroads were extremely important,
and we were to them,
because they wanted revenue and they wanted freight shipments. In the 20s, I
told you we were on Donaldson Street, where the Goldbergs used to be, then in
the early 20s my father went on up to Neilston Street – that was on the N &
W Railroad yards, and they gave us or sold us and rented part of that to us, and
that’s were we built our yard. At the north end of Hill Street – that is in
back of Union Station sort of under the Fourth Street viaduct to the east. We
had the railroad facility there and it was beautiful and we put a lot of
equipment in there and they came along to build the Ft. Hayes interchange and we
had to get out of there and we had a big fuss with ’em about it and finally we
had to…our thing had to be together with the N & W Railroad because they
had their facilities there, too.
So it was really because they owned part of the
ground, they represented us. In other words, that was how we got acquainted with
our lawyer ’cause they were the N & W – we used one law firm and there was
a big fuss over it. I got to be in politics for a few days. But anyway, we got
out of there. We were building our new place up along Joyce Avenue, and the main…
N & W main Columbus yards are up there under that Joyce Avenue viaduct
that you go north of Fifth. And they cut off twenty – some acres of ground for
us from their yards. Up until then, until those years, railroads resisted selling ground. They
held ground, and they’d lease it if they thought they’d get some break from
Interviewer: Did they give you a right – of – way?
Schlezinger: No, they’d lease it to ya if they thought they’d get some
revenue from it. After that, they broke loose and started to sell like mad. To
get money. All of ’em did, because the railroads owned the best ground in any
town. We were one of the first they sold to in Columbus and we had twenty – some
acres and we told ’em we would not move up there unless they sold. No more
leasing. Because when we were on Neilston Street we had a lot of the ground
leased and here we had this heavy equipment on it – and you know you’ve got to
have your own grounds. We told them we’ d have to buy it. They had to go clear
to their home office in Roanoke to get the approval of their board of directors
to sell us that ground, because they knew – I didn’t have to kid them that the
Pennsylvania Railroad and the C & O and the B & O would have liked us to
move to them – to their _________ . You see we were competing with our railroad
___________ . We probably shipped then maybe a thousand, 1200 cargoes of scrap a
year. That’s a lot of freight revenue.
Interviewer: That sounds like a tremendous amount to me. In my mind there’s
a question, though. During World War II, which you had told me previously was a
tremendous growth period for the iron and steel industry –
Schlezinger: Yeah, but it was very strictly regulated. From a profit point of
view it was not – most people think it was, but it was not. It was very strictly
regulated. Price control and also the War Production Board would tell you where
to ship to, or they would direct material into you and maybe you were busy and
working day and night and then you’d have to stop everything to process it –
they would do that sort of thing, and they would get a lot of things mixed up.
Everybody worked to help out during the war, but you know how it is, when there’s
a lot of people there would be – – I remember the – our biggest scrap broker was
Buckeye Steel. You ever heard about them? Their raw material was scrap. Those
furnaces down there melt scrap. And they must have melted 8 – 10,000 ton a
month. For a foundry, that’s big. I remember getting an order from the War
Production Board an order to ship some scrap – a certain type of scrap – to
Kansas City. It didn’t make —
This part of the interview continues on the Tape #3 of Judy Blair’s
interview with Edward Schlezinger at tape counter marker 35,
where Mrs. Blair says, “Hi, the interview with Edward Schlezinger about the
development of the Jewish Center and the compromise between Dr. Marvin Fox and Charles Lazarus.
End of Tape 1, Side B
Interview with Edward Schlezinger
#2 of 3 tapes recorded with Judy Blair, May 14, 1985
Tape 2, Side A, Edward Schlezinger continues his interview with Judy
Blair begun on May 14, 1985.
Schlezinger: …every time she’d sing, “Oh, I knew your father, I love
you,” that song, I’ll never forget that. She was the head of it under my
administration. That’s when she started. I went out to see here. Anyway, that’s
how it was passed. The next day after this passed, I got two telephone calls,
which shows you we were right. Harry Gilbert called up and said that I’d sold
out to Town and High Street. And Julius Steinhauser, who was with the Lazarus
Company, called up and said, “Boy, you sure let the other people take you
over,” and at the next executive committee meeting I reported, I said,
“I had two calls. From what people call inside telling me that we did a
I don’t know too much about – I still remember what I said, “It seems
to me we must have done the right thing, because we’re being
condemned _____agreed we did the right thing ______ and it worked out, didn’t it?
The town was being torn apart and really, literally torn apart, something
like that, and then we had these other debates. I remember that there was a
feeling, and I think they were right, at the time, that there was – we had
started off with a bang but we had neglected the Hebrew background in the
Center. The Hebrew culture is it, or the education or something in the Center,
that the atmosphere had to be Jewish and we were neglecting adult education and
things like that – programs. You know, that first, second year? ___________
secular? So we talked about appropriate money. There was a young man getting
started out of Ohio State that became a national great figure. Fox. I don’t
know if you remember, Rabbi Fox, he was still up at the University, and he was
participating there and he argued for Hebrew education, or Adult education. In
the meantime, Charles Lazarus was interested in the Center part of it and he
wanted more baseball diamonds, and he was arguing for lighted baseball diamonds
at night and expanded that __________ , you know. I think, as a matter of fact,
they got a little fund set up there they call “the Lazarus fund for
athletics.” They still have it. And naturally he was interested – as a
member of the community he was more interested in the Center serving the east
side community, whether Jewish or non – Jewish than from the religious point,
and that started to get into an event.
The contents to this point in Tape #2 of 3 containing Judy Blair’s
interview with Edward Schlezinger, are actually from Tape #3 and are repeated on
You’re talking about our business. A great part of it then, was from the
outside as we grew. That would be normal. You know where we’d go to get
material from other shippers to ship in direct to the consumers on our order and
the consumers played b___- –were very loyal to you because you were doing a job
for them. You see a steel mill or a foundry can’t go out and place an order
with any body that comes around, you know, they want to put the order where they
can depend on us, so they know somebody is going to stand in back of it and they
expect – and that’s where we make what we call our brokerage commissions. It
was important to have the consumers – and it was our good fortune – and I think
I had something to do with it, in fact I know I did, because that’s where I
really emphasized – when I got active as far as deliveries in the yard and also
from trucks and from dealers and from auto workers and all that – that was all
from local industry suppliers. The major source of scrap, by the way, is
industry, not what the public sees on the street. The tonnage of scrap comes out
And that’s another thing we always specialized in what they called
industrial scrap. That’s why we got acquainted with Worthington. They became
so big and the biggest by – product was scrap. Do you know what I mean by
Interviewer: I assume something that comes from a plant –
Schlezinger: Well, let’s take an example. General Motors has a plant on the
west side, and it’s stamping out the hardware for the automobiles and things
like that and that is made out of steel. But that leaves the skeleton, and that’s
the scrap. They’re big enough that they produce a lot of it. Most of theirs –
they’re so big they ship in carloads themselves. Now the other way, not only
is it a by – product that produces revenue for the manufacturer that’s become
very important to them, but it also is a ______- he can’t move. His plant is
built for production of his product and if he can’t move that scrap and it
doesn’t move for two or three days, the whole plant has to shut down, maybe
two or three thousand people are laid off. So that’s why it’s so terrible.
And to do that they have to use the industry across the country, because they
can’t afford to fool around themselves with a steel mill or a foundry. They’ve
got to have an industry that’ll absorb it or take care of it.
I’m giving you that as an example. Worthington got to be very big in the
steel business, and in their processing they produced the scrap that things came
out and they became very big and it became a tremendous tonnage problem over
there. We’ve always been very close with them since they first started in
Columbus, and we moved their scrap. Sometimes we had to have trucks up there day
and night because they were not on railroad facilities.
We became closer and closer and their tonnage became bigger – they became a
tremendous producer. Two things important – one thing is important for revenue
because it amounted to – I hate to tell you what it amounted to a year what they
got out of it – I don’t hate to tell you that, but their revenue — it just
had to move. So finally, they decided they were getting so big that they decided
they’d better do something about it themselves. So rather than try to develop
their own scrap organization and knowing us as they did, since they started,
they decided to start working on us. The initiative came from them, not from us,
and that was their best bet – to pick up an already established organization
that they knew – had confidence in, and knew very much about us and our
operation and that we were not too big to be out of control and were not too
little that we couldn’t do it. That’s the way they figured it. They came to
us and that was about the time I came back from my first operation. Louie had
already died. About the fall of 1979.
Interviewer: This must have been a tremendous growth spurt for your business
then – the interest that Worthington Steel took in your business.
Schlezinger: Well they came to us with the idea. They were very nice people.
They didn’t come in with a sledge hammer or a club, although they could have
used one – after all, they’re big enough. They came in with the idea of maybe
there was something we could work out, and I had just come back from my first
operation. I think they were worried about that place because there are some
people who are not forgivers, you know, and what’s going to happen, and so
everybody thought it was for the good. Right or wrong, they thought it was good.
I’ve got one son –
I asked him, of course. My first thought was of him. He was working for the
Southern Company and he says, “No, don’t count on me,” so we decided
to go ahead. That’s what happened. Whether I had regrets later, I’m not
going to say. Once it’s done it’s done.
That’s what happened. From there maybe people didn’t know – that don’t
know the steel industry, but from their point of view it was a natural. Not only
was it because of that, for their own problem, because the year before or two
years before, they bought control of the Buckeye Steel Castings Company. They
owned the Buckeye Steel, which, I told ya the chief raw material was scrap and
we were their number one supplier for years. In other words, when Buckeye Steel
bought so many tons a month – pick a figure – say six thousand ton or seven
thousand ton a month, we would probably get 70% of it. That’s the way you
figure. We would never want 100%. We never tried. We’re not big enough. And
the reason for that is if something should happen in the flow of scrap, again it
would be the responsibility that the whole mill would shut down. There’s an
old saying in the steel industry, that you can’t melt air. You’ve got to
have something to put into those furnaces.
So from Worthington’s point of view, not only were they a tremendous
producer of scrap, they suddenly overnight became a consumer of scrap and they
had never been that before and there’s a very fine line dividing the two. One
is a producer, one is a consumer, and the scrap dealer’s industry was playing
in between. See what I mean? And I think that was part of their reason, that
they’d better have some things on the _______ and they’re very happy
Interviewer: I can’t imagine that a family that has built a business, like
I. H. Schlezinger can’t let the business go without some regrets. None of the
children were ever interested.
Schlezinger: I had one son, and Louie’s son left town years ago.
Interviewer: What did your son study?
Schlezinger: He studied business. He went to Cornell University. Then he came
back and went to the Ohio State. Then he got his degree here at Ohio State – he
didn’t like Cornell and from here he went to graduate school at Columbia
University in New York and he got his Master’s in Business there and then he
went to work for the Boeing Company out in Seattle and then he got divorced and
then he came back. He went in the army for a while – it was during the Viet Nam
War and he had to go in there for a while.
Then he came back to Columbus and he worked for us for a couple of years and
then he decided he was bored. And I’ll not put it on tape, possibly it was my
– our fault. Maybe we didn’t make it interesting or turn things over to him. I’ve
heard this from other people that – you can’t ________ between fathers.
He left us and he went to New York and he worked for a dress manufacturer,
believe it or not, and then he thought he’d have a lot of fun so he went on
the road selling Leslie Fay. Did you ever hear of Leslie – well, he was the man.
Imagine that – all the medals -buttons – ______ and that’s where he met his
present wife, very nice, he met her in New York and then he got married again
and then his best friend in College had gone into the metals business in
California in what we call “high temperature alloys,” because his
father had been in that with a major company, and he went – organized his own
company with some other people and had become phenomenally successful in Los
Angeles. And that was his best friend. He used to go on skiing trips with him
and all that, and he kept talking to Howard and he said, you’re wasting your
time up here fooling around with dresses – come out to California and try us for
a year, and if you like it, because we’re getting bigger all the time and we
want to establish another place in the middle west, and if you want to we’ll
put it in Columbus, if you like.
And so he went out to California. He was already married and his wife joined
him then. She was teaching school. He worked for them for almost a year.
They started him from the ground up. A laborer, then up – finally they put
him out as a salesman, you know, and all that, and he loved it. Then they asked
me to have a meeting with him and they said now they’d like to establish in
the middle west – and they could go to Indianapolis, Toledo or Dayton, but they
would pick Columbus because it was his home town, and if we were interested in
helping him they would come to Columbus and we said, “Fine.”
So we went along with them. They started in Columbus and he moved back to
Columbus with his wife and it became his baby. They let him alone. It belongs to
them. It’s their company, but they let him alone. They helped him.
______ but it was his baby, so he gets the credit. And it’s still growing –
it’s pretty big– about fifty people working for him now. As the years went
by, like everything else, metals became specialized and everything specialized
and this is a new field that developed since World War II in metallics that had
to be created because things were going higher and higher – into space. Jets and
the spacecraft, and if you know about, you know the big worry is things get up
in the atmosphere and they melt away – there had to be metals that could resist
the heat more and more and we call those “high temperature alloys.”
They’re not precious metals. Precious metals are gold, silver, platinum and
so forth. This is the next group of metals to them – they’re high temperature
alloys. They’re like nickel, titanium and cobalt and things like that and that’s
what these people are in. It’s scrap, but that’s beginning to be bigger
scrap deal all the time, and he runs the Columbus division. It’s his baby. He
runs it. He’s got a beautiful plant. He’s got his own laboratory – where he
has a lab man there that analyzes, because this type of stuff has to be
perfection, because going back into the jet engines, there can be no tolerance
where there ___________ there has to be perfection. They have to certify it when
they ship it, put a number on it, the whole thing. So they have to test it,
analyze it, you know, and different things. The percentage of nickel, the
percentage of this or that and that’s what they do over there. They’ve got a
Interviewer: So in a sense he’s doing some research work in addition –
Schlezinger: He’s head man over there. It’s a division of the people in
Los Angeles – but the local one. He’s the head man there and so far he likes
it. Except it’s Spring now, he’s not very busy. I think it’s slowed up.
Interviewer: He’s obviously learned his business from you , he’s learned
something from the family business.
Schlezinger: Well, maybe, but not from me, particularly, he’s on his own.
But he could have done a lot of other things, too. He’s got two beautiful
children. I don’t know if you’ve seen ’em or not. Do you know his wife?
Interviewer: I don’t think I know your son. What’s his name?
Schlezinger: Howard, I. Howard, but it’s Howard, a common name. It’s
I. Howard because we wanted the I. H. as my father used call himself. It’s
funny, you know, how my father, because my brother in Washington, he’s got a
son and the way he did it – my brother’s son lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and he’s
got the initials I. H. If I’m not mistaken, I think Leonard and Ellen
Mae’s son, Howard, also has the first – they wanted the I. H. You don’t
know my son? I’m surprised.
Interviewer: Where does he live?
Schlezinger: North Ardmore, just north of Broad, 84 N. Ardmore. He’s a man.
He’s always been in athletics. He plays baseball, he goes skiing in the
wintertime, golf in the summertime, he disappears – in the winter, if he doesn’t
get away on a skiing trip we can’t even talk to him. He plays baseball – I
think he plays at the Center, in that league they have. The A K League. He plays
golf all the time. He likes that stuff.
Interviewer: I want to go back and talk a little bit. We sort of ended last
week at the time you met Madalyn and you got married.
Schlezinger: Let me tell you about one incident in high school, because
things stand out when other things don’t. You kept talking about the horn and
I was trying to figure out what you meant, because that’s nothing.
Interviewer: Did you tear that place apart?
Schlezinger: I even got suspended in high school. Do you want to know why?
You know, everything was just developing at this school – a small village.
The football team, they decided to start building a program of out of town,
games – aways – so they had on their schedule to play a high school in a suburb
of Dayton. It was called, I think, Oakwood High School. We had a superintendent
out here that – he was from the old times. They talk about paddling today, do
you what they would do – he calls, say, a student to his office and tell him to
hold out his hand and hit him with a ruler on his hand. It’s from the old –
there’s no such thing as paddling there – but anyway, you can imagine how
things went in a school like this – it was pretty much – I wouldn’t call it
too much discipline, but he was a disciplinarian. He was strictly a
disciplinarian – and he used to call ’em chapelling – it was like pep – where
you call the whole school together in the auditorium to honor this or honor that
or to pep up the athletic team. So he had a chapel meeting – he called a chapel
meeting before they went to Dayton to play Oakwood High School. And he made an
announcement that outside of the coach and the staff and some of the teachers he
wanted, and just the members of the football team, he wanted nobody from the
school to go to that game.
I knew why, because he was afraid maybe they’d have an accident, you know –
from the student body. That’s fine. Everybody could talk me into anything, I
guess, so some guys got one of those old jalopies. His name was Seibert. Henry
Seibert – he’s dead now. He gets a group of us together, tells us,
“Listen,” Mr. Dietrich was the name of the ____, “he’s not
going to know the difference. Let’s drive over in my car and we’ll see the
game!” He talked us into it!
There were about five or six of us, including Morrie Mattlin, too, so Seibert
takes us in this old jalopy, we get over to Dayton, stop for a traffic light and
who pulls up alongside, stops for the same red light, but Mr. Dietrich, and he
looks over to the side in the window and he doesn’t say anything.
The next Monday he calls us into his office and says, “You boys can go
home.” Is that what you call a suspension?
Interviewer: I’d call that a suspension.
Schlezinger: He says, “I gave directions and they weren’t
followed,” very quietly. So we went home. He didn’t say when you can come
back or anything like that, he didn’t say anything. My mother was going crazy.
“What are you doin’ at home?”
I said, “He sent us home.” She says, “I’m going to call
him.” I said, “No, don’t call him, leave him alone. I don’t know,
he’ll – ” I dunno, I was just a kid anyway. And sure enough, about two
days later, comes a telephone call for my mother, “How come that boy isn’t
in school?” And he called all the other mothers: “How come that boy
isn’t in school?” I went back to school the next day. And that was my
Interviewer: And your mother didn’t even know why you were home.
Schlezinger: Sure, I told her. I was worried, too. It might have been two or
three days, but he called and told us that was his way of punishing – send ’em
home for two or three days. I don’t know if I should say suspended, but –
Interviewer: That’s exactly what it was. You weren’t allowed to come to
Schlezinger: But I wanted to tell you another incident that has always – now
I remember. The first Bexley Library. Now you know you’ve got a beautiful
building over there – it’s a nice one. The first library was established when
I was in school, and that’s when they turned over one room in that high school
at Main and Montrose and made a library out of it – they called that officially,
the Bexley Public Library, and they hired a librarian. Her name was Sara Bilby,
B I L B Y. She was the most wonderful person you could ever meet. The sweetest
person you ever saw. Really, what librarians should be like, quiet, – – not our
age, she was much older. Old enough to be my mother, but anyway, we were down
there that first day and the boxes were being delivered with the books, and the
shelving was up already, and she asked another fella and myself if we would come
back after class and help her, and we did. We helped unpack the boxes, we helped
put the books on the shelves, the way she wanted us, and we did that almost
every day for a week until she got settled. That was the first library. We liked
her. Not only that, it was fun, too. And you know, I never forgot it; she never
forgot it and I’ve got to show you something that I found that I’d forgotten
When they gave her a dinner on the 25th or 26th anniversary of Bexley head
librarians, she requested, and I got an invitation to come and it was at her
request. She had never forgotten – the other fellow did too. She had never
forgotten that we’d helped her unpack. Now that stands out in my mind. That’s
the kind of thing, cause she was wonderful. I liked her. Everybody did.
I ran into her a couple of years ago after I had retired, and I hadn’t been
over there for years, and I went over there and I looked around to see if her
picture was there, and her picture has never been there. I walked up to somebody
and I said, “You mean that you don’t have a picture of the first
librarian this town ever had?” “Who was she?” I mentioned her name. “Never heard of her!”
I was shocked. Now, I know some people would know who she was. I was shocked.
I really was. That I remember. I know the meises very well.
Interviewer: Wentz’s Drug Store was the hangout for the high school kids.
What did you do, go over there after school with your friends?
Schlezinger: In the evening. We used to hang out there and some of the boys
worked there behind the soda fountain and Old Man Wentz would chase us out with
a broom and then we could come back in. I think that soda fountain’s one of
the oldest around. In fact it was written up a few years ago in the paper. There
are very few around. I was talking to the younger Wentz. The younger Wentz! —
He’s already in his 50s, maybe close to 60. He’s, I think, the second one. I
call him The Younger Wentz. In fact I stop in there about once a month. We talk.
He’ll always stand around and talk for half an hour. He was telling me, see,
one of the Wolfes, moved over there on Bryden Road across from where we used to
live, and he must have thought I didn’t know them and he says, “I wanna
tell you you’ve got fancy company across from where you grew up. I know all
I wanted to tell you the story about Miss Bilby, because to me that’s
always stood out and it’s unbelievable what kind of person she was. I used to
in there after I got married and we were living over here and I used to go
over and see her just to stop in and say hello. Then I don’t know, I got busy
and it all disappeared by the wayside and I don’t know anybody over there and
they don’t know me. It’s a big library – they added on to it – remember?
One of the things she said – one of the things she said in that article – she
said – I’m still going to try to find that article – she mentions that
“Ed Schlezinger, even after he got out of school and went to work, kept
coming over to the library.” Something like that. She was the sweetest
person I ever saw. I don’t think she ever got married. Librarians in those
days never did.
That’s the thing that stands out, as far at that’s concerned, in high
school . I think we were the sixth graduating class in this small school in a
I’ll tell you the pranks, you know – we used to – the street cars would
come up to Drexel and Main from downtown, and from there transfer to a small
streetcar that was backed up at Drexel – you know the streetcar tracks? Just
before Broad Street it went over to Dawson and then up to Broad and then it came
back down to Drexel and Main and then transfer over to the big – we called it
the Toonerville Trolley, because in those days there was, in the comics, about a
Toonerville Trolley with all kinds of fun – and even sometimes we’d pull the
thing off the trolley. You’d get outside and pull the pole down. The motorman
would come out and chase us – they called it The Toonerville Trolley because of
Bexley had no city hall or anything like that. There was a barber shop over
on Main Street – Barnett’s Barber Shop – and in the back room was where the
village councilmen would you know, the ordinances were passed and this and that,
and the clerk ran Bexley. He was a very close friend of my father’s. And you
know what? Talk about a cycle of – something – fate – do you know where he ended
up in his old years before he got – right over here, next door. That’s where
he lives. Dan Roberts. He was with Market Exchange Bank. And he married one of
the Seidenstickers, they were the people who originally owned that bank. They
were one of the prominent families. We used to live next door and she always
reminded us that she was a Seidensticker. But they were friendly people.
There was no prejudice about religion in those days. She was a Catholic and
he was a Protestant. His daughters went to Bexley High School and his sons went
to the Catholic school. That’s the way they split the thing up. And we got
along with them, and he ended up here next door. Not now, but when he died They’d
pass an ordinance and how did they publish the ordinance? They’d nail it up on
a telephone pole outside Wentz’ Drug Store. Any time a new thing was passed, a
rule, or whatever you’d call – a law, an ordinance, they’d nail it up. They
had to publicize it. Sometimes, we’d pull it down.
We didn’t have any place to play out here, except Capital University.
Capital had the school proms, the tennis courts – there were some private tennis
courts, we played on – one on Parkview Avenue but Capital had all the gym
facilities and all that. And that’s where I learned all about the Lutherans,
too- you know the history of Bexley, it was run by the Lutheran Church in
Germany and that’s how I came in contact with them, I grew up with them.
Interviewer: I want to go back now to 1941, meeting with Madalyn and your
Schlezinger: I went to a football game up in Ann Arbor – didn’t I tell you
Interviewer: Yeah, I want to talk about that a little bit.
Schlezinger: Well, I went to a football game with some other boys from here.
You know, when you’re first out of school for a few years you still run around
real rabbit – like with the school athletics and that and then you begin to take
it easy. I think Ohio State was playing Michigan. Sure, we went up there and
after the game we were over at- I think it was a fraternity house. We were
sitting around and talking to various people, meeting people coming in and out.
Somebody I knew very well was up there – no, his brother – he was at Ohio State,
the one I knew, but he had a brother going to Michigan and his brother was
sitting there and he and I knew him and he said to me, “Hey, there’s a
cute girl from Columbus up here” and “do you know her?” He
mentioned her name, and I said, “No, I don’t know her.”
When you’re at that age, a few years difference is a big difference. Isn’t
that right? I was five or six years older than Madalyn. That would be a big
difference, wouldn’t it. I would be out of school before she arrived.
Anyway, he said, yeah, she was a freshman up here at Michigan and I was
already out of school. And he told me, and I said, “Well, maybe I’ll get
around and give her a call.” He said, “Well, she ought to be home for
Christmas vacation,” or something like that and I called her. I think,
though, that’s not out of the ordinary. Don’t people do that when they’re
Interviewer: They do, I mean they did. I don’t think it works the same way
Schlezinger: And she agreed to let me come over one afternoon and I did, and
I asked her for a date and that was the truth and I don’t remember where I
Interviewer: But she does?
Schlezinger: I don’t think so. That’s how, and then we got to be
friendly. She was going to school and I was out of school and I’d see her once
in a while -she’d come home. She went to Michigan for two years and then
transferred to Northwestern and she would come home and I’d know she’d be
home and I’d call her. I was living at home and when you live at home, you
know, you’re not in a hurry to get out of it, but she – I guess that’s the
way – she got out of school and we started to see each other once in a while. It
went on a long time.
Interviewer: Did she finish school before you were married?
Schlezinger: Oh, yes, that was about six or seven years we were going around
before we got married. And every six months my family would tell me that they
were giving me six more months and then I’m going to get out. Didn’t want me
around any more, because it’s a shame and a disgrace that I’m not married
and everyone else is married, and get out! Then six months later they’d give
me an extension for another six months. My mother – (I was crazy about Madalyn,)
said, “It’s been going on for years – people are going to talk.” I
said, “You talk to her, she don’t want to!”
Interviewer: Did you have a hard time convincing her?
Schlezinger: I had a lot of competition. Let’s put it that way. That
happens. So that was it. When you’re a bachelor and you’re older and you’re
living at home, I think it works both ways. There isn’t that much of a push
on, either. My mother was a good cook and took care of me.
Interviewer: Did you have a big wedding?
Schlezinger: No, it was not very – __ into that. I’ve never forgotten. I
know she says nothing, but I know she’s never forgotten it either. I’ll tell
you what happened. We were supposed to get married the day my father died and he
was very sick. Finally we decided we didn’t know how much longer he was going
to last and he kept saying at least before I die I want to see you married. You’re
the only one that isn’t married. That’s true. I was the last one. So we
decided to get married. The rabbi said that we could get married at his bedside
and I called my brother in Philadelphia and the one in Washington and they said
they would come in. And he died. We knew about it the day before – it looked
like the end, so I called them not to come in and we didn’t get married that
day. And Rabbi Zelizer said, “You wait thirty days,” and he died
January 26, I think and we got married March 7. We got married in Rabbi Zelizer’s
office in the Temple.
Did I tell you that Madalyn walked in there and said, “Rabbi, you’ve
got to at least empty the ashtrays!?” You know, he was a heavy cigarette
smoker and it was full of stubs. She said, at least I’m getting married,”
she said, “here in this place and it’s not the most glamorous place in
the world, but at least empty the ashtrays.” I don’t think he ever forgot
that. And that’s what happened. _______ .
We never had a big wedding.
Interviewer: Did you take a honeymoon after that?
Schlezinger: Just for a short time. I’ve always regretted that, too.
Interviewer: Why not now?
Schlezinger: Because – well, we traveled since then, but I always regretted
that, too. Where’d we go? We went to Washington to see my brother and his wife
and we went to Philadelphia to see my brother and his wife and we went to New
York to see her cousin and her best friend was in New York, and we saw them and
did some other things and then we came back because I was worried about the
office. Louie was there but I wanted to get back. When you do things over you do
them different. I don’t know if everybody…
When you’re working and you’re over thirty years old and getting married,
it’s not like you’re getting married when you’re twenty-two. You’re
more used to a schedule, working and this and that. Don’t you think there’s
Interviewer: Your life has taken on a pattern. I think that’s very true. We
see that with our one son who’s getting married now. He’s going to be 29 –
he’s Brad’s age. He’s a lot different than the other boys who were
Schlezinger: Then, of course, my father had died and Louie and I, we did
something that I don’t think people do anymore, and I’ve never regretted –
we went to say kaddish every morning and night for eleven months – seven
days a week. That’s the only time we ever did it – we did it for my father. My
mother was living, and boy, she was the boss.
Interviewer: Yeah! You told me you called her the boss! Why’d you call her
Schlezinger: She was the matriarch. She was the head person – no fooling
around with her. You remember my brother Louie? What’s your daughter – in –
law’s name? Susan- that’s her grandfather.
Interviewer: No, I don’t remember him.
Schlezinger: He was a lot older than me. He’d walk in the room and my
mother would say, “Louie,” you know, like that. __________ . We
all did, you see.
Interviewer: And he was a tough one to deal with, I understand.
Schlezinger: You’re not going to get a comment from that –
Interviewer: I could try! (laughs)
Schlezinger: In those years, you know, you take like Ellen Mae (Schottenstein
daughter). I don’t know – was ____. Was she when I went to high school? How
old is she?
Interviewer: I think Ellen is 57 or 58, is that about right?
Schlezinger: She was just an infant.
Schlezinger: Two years old? One year old? So you see you’ve got to take
those things just what they are. She was just a baby. She wouldn’t know
anything about —
See, Louie – when my father moved out to the Neilston Street Yard, when we
really got into the bigger sphere with the railroad company, Louie went into
business for himself. He took over the one at Donaldson and Grant. That was his
company. I don’t know if you know that. He was in business for himself until
my father had his first heart attack and it was me that did it. I thought, oh,
it looks like he’s going to be very sick, and here he was down there. Here I
was up at the bigger place and I thought maybe it might be good from the future
point of view and I went down to see him. I didn’t have to. I said it wouldn’t
be right for two of us like that -____ . He said, “Okay,” he said,
“I’ll join you.” So that’s what happened. And then we were
together which you know.
Interviewer: Tell me: after you were married then you had your family? Your
Schlezinger: Oh, yeah. We had three. We were married in March 2, 1941 and we
moved into a furnished apartment at the Royal York. You know where the Royal
York is on (1445 East) Broad Street? That was before the Park Towers – Robert
Schiff lived in the penthouse way up on top – well, he owned it. But we found a
furnished apartment over there – very reasonable – and furnished. Very
reasonable. We moved in there. I didn’t know what to do. How did I know? You
never saw such a guy who was so scared in his life. I’m telling you the truth
– I was scared stiff when I got married, ’cause I’d always – I was over
thirty years old and everything had always been taken care of, and all of a
sudden I got myself a wife, who I loved very dearly, and a lot of
responsibilities and then my mother starts on me, that “you’re nobody
until you have your own home- ” that’s from the old school and that
“You’re going to be a gypsy all you’re life? You’re going to be
somebody that moves from door to door? And you rent? A furnished
apartment?” So she talked me into buying a lot, which is this one, now she
says, “you’ve got a lot, you’ve got to build a house.”
Madalyn got pregnant – that was Howard, so I would say that in the space of a
little over a year, we got married, we built a house and had a child. And when I
look back at it and I say, oh, my god, did we do all this? You know something?
I think it was something. We were married March 2, oh, and then I got fed up
with the apartment – that also was my fault, because I’d never lived in an
apartment all my life and I kept feeling like I had people around. I couldn’t
do what I wanted. I couldn’t stretch out and we heard the neighbors in the
next apartment through walls. I kept carrying on about it. So then when we
started building the house here we decided to give up the apartment and move
over to my mother’s house, so we lived there. Madalyn and I lived there while
she was pregnant.
Interviewer: How did that work?
Schlezinger: Oh, fine. My mother was tickled to death.
Interviewer: How about Madalyn?
Schlezinger: I never asked her. But anyway – well, my mother was older
already, and Madalyn was there, she could go to the grocery store and do this
and that. We started the construction around October, I think, of 1941. We were
living at my mother’s at this house, and Pearl Harbor came on December 7 and
nobody had dreamt that it would go that far. That changed the world. Your life,
everything. And I remember that first of all, the shock of somebody attacking
the United States, and secondly…
…that we had a house under construction that I was ready to give up. I didn’t
know what the outcome – first of all, I didn’t know if I had to go to the
army, ’cause that changed the whole picture.
Up until then they were drafting people, they let me alone because my father
had gotten sick and they thought it was just as well, beside my eyes – I had
very bad eyes, I always had – so I guess they decided – so but when Pearl Harbor
came, I told ’em whatever they do is gonna be all right with me ’cause I
wasn’t gonna – with the baby coming on and the business, I wasn’t going to
go run the first day to volunteer. On the other hand, if they wanted to draft
me, I wasn’t going to argue either. Then they decided to put me in the defense
Pearl Harbor came along and they froze everything material – wise. Then they
released the material to finish what was under construction, so the contractor
went ahead with our house. We moved in in May, 1942 and Howard was born in June,
that was 1942. He was born one month after we moved in here. So all that went on
– don’t you think that was something, for one year? That’s a lot of change
in one year. That’s what you wanted to know, so that’s what went on.
So we’ve lived here what? Forty – three years we’ve lived here.
Interviewer: And then the two girls came along –
Schlezinger: Howard was born and he’s 42 – then Joannie is 40. Annie came
along quite a bit later. She’s 31. You’ve always got something to make the
neighborhood excited. Annie came along until the next thing chases off the first
thing on the headline – when Annie came along the neighborhood was excited
because I was already considered to be an older person. They got a baby!
Everybody around us, every place I went. That was funny, because I used to – on
Sundays I was busy all the time working and then I got involved in community
work which you may know or not know about. I got too involved – I went too far –
that’s why I quit –
I was busy all the time but then on Sundays I used to take little Annie out.
Howard Johnson’s had a place at James and Broad and I used to go over there
with her and have breakfast, you see, and after the second or third time the
waitress tells her to be sure to tell Grandpa to bring you back – and I quit
(about thirty seconds of unrecorded tape at this place)
Look at what Rabbi Zelizer gave – He outdid himself. Read what he wrote.
Interviewer: I want to talk now about your activities with the synagogue and
with other organizations.
Schlezinger: He was born in this country and he was considered a great man at
Interviewer: Rabbi Zelizer wrote this poem?
Schlezinger: He said he did.
Interviewer: Well, it’s so personal, it’d have to have been.
Schlezinger: Well, my father hired him when he came to Columbus. He was like
his – I won’t say Godfather, but he was – listened to Zelizer in another town.
He’d go over to consult him on almost everything.
Interviewer: It was a natural thing for you to become active in the
Schlezinger: Well, we split it up. Louie was the active one. I can’t take
that away from Louie, but I was with him. I was his partner. What we did when he
died, because he had been so involved in the synagogue – of course, that was
part of our family at that time. You know, I tried to tell you that the
synagogue was part of our growing up. Between us, when you’re partners in
business and you’re brothers- things are sensitive, you know, so we decided to
avoid any trouble, since he was older that he would take care of the activities
– he wanted to anyway – and if I was asked, in the community, I would do it.
That’s the kind of understanding we had. He was really the one. I wasn’t
Interviewer: Tell me where you first became active in the Jewish Community.
Which organizations were you involved in?
Schlezinger: Want me to make it sound like an obituary?
Interviewer: If you want to write your obituary, why not?
Schlezinger: Because I told my wife if something happened to me I don’t
want it written up.
Interviewer: Well, we’d better get it on tape right now then.
Schlezinger: How did that happen? I don’t know how it happened. I got in
over my head, apparently. What happened was, back in those days, the
organization traditionally and actively and everything, that held the Jewish
people together was the B’nai Brith. That was all through the middle west and
probably in other states, B’nai Brith was the thing because the B’nai Brith
had been founded by the original pioneers, the German people and was old already
then. It was an old organization. Today it’s probably what – 180 years old? I’ve
seen that published. In fact I even remember seeing some of the minutes were
written in German. Didn’t you know that? The Columbus Lodge? Up until a
certain period the minutes were all written in German, maybe to a period as much
as the 50s.
When I got out of college, the first thing automatically you were expected to
do was join the B’nai Brith. Everybody did. And they had tremendous meetings.
You’ve got to understand that there was nothing else outside of some of the
charitable groups. There was no Federation then. Sure, there was a United Jewish
Appeal or something that maybe once a year or once every other year, decided the
poor Jews in Europe you gotta help ’em and somebody had a little drive. They
had a little office. Finally Schanfarber had a little office for ’em with one
girl in a tiny office next door to his office.
And he was the head man. Everybody joined the B’nai Brith and everything
was interesting. That was the organization that brought the two worlds together
from the old people, who in many cases people thought were the aristocracy, you
know from the original, to the new immigrants that come out, like the Schonthal
Center was the settlement house. The B’nai Brith opened its doors to these
people finally – by the way at first they didn’t do that and they began to
come in together.
I joined. And when did I join if I graduated from Ohio State in 1932 it must
have been the early 30s I suppose – 1933, 34. And this was the big thing: in
order to become an officer or a president of B’nai Brith you had to go through
a competitive election. And it became a big political thing. It was the first
office – after that you automatically went up every year – I forgot the name of
the first office, but it took five or six years to become president.
They were big campaigns, like a regular political campaigns.
I didn’t belong to anything like that. I really had no – I shouldn’t have
been in it. Somebody, I remember, talked me into running for that first office,
and I think to this day, they talked me into it because I think they thought
they had to have another candidate against the sure guy that they figure was
going to make it – the cannon fodder. I was a businessman. I don’t every
recall, until I got in there, that the officer, the president wasn’t always a
lawyer. It was always a lawyer. It wasn’t a businessman.
But anyway, I ran for office. When the campaign started, everybody started
coming over. All my relatives. “Oh, you’re going to run for office. We’re
backing you.” And “you gotta do this -” and they printed posters
– that’s the way you campaigned in those days – you just don’t know how if
you haven’t heard about it. You didn’t know about it. Posters – you put ’em
up in butcher shops – it was a regular election and it was very competitive.
I know that my Uncle Louie – now that’s Martin Polster’s father – Tobias
and Lawrence’s father – was in a sickbed, he was dying. They passed a
resolution that they could have absentee ballots because he insisted on voting
for me and they had somebody go over and pick up his ballot. That’s what kind
of – and Bill Wasserstrom, my cousin, he already was going through the chairs. I
don’t know if he’d been president, he went ahead of me – he said, “I’ve
got another relative -“
I remember that. He wanted me to come to his office – his law office. He had
another relative and you gotta do this and you gotta do that and my advisor was
Everybody was in the picture – they had a competitive election. Well, I won!
Strangely enough, I suppose you’d call it an upset. What happened, I think,
why I won, was – I’m not going to mention the name of the fellow that- he’s
still around – he and I were very cordial, went around shaking hands, he never
forgot it. We were very friendly.
What happened was, he was a lawyer and has been a lawyer. He did a campaign
speech just before the ballots were passed out. Everybody had – the place was
packed. Standing room only. What else did you have to do? B’nai Brith was
everything. He talked and he talked for at least 45 minutes and maybe an hour,
but I’ll say 45 minutes – and this was no brains on my part, I just didn’t
know what to say. I was afraid I didn’t know how to talk – I wasn’t a lawyer
– so I just got up and said, “I’m a businessman. I can’t make a speech.
I’m supposed to make a speech. All I can tell you is my name’s up here, vote
for me if you think it’s all right,” and I sat down. I don’t think I
spoke more over three minutes. It was tough holding ___. I don’t know if it
had anything to do with it. I think ___ .
Interviewer: They were probably tired of sitting and grateful that you didn’t
Schlezinger: Somebody said maybe it was time to have a change from lawyers.
So that was the start. I started going through the offices and once you’re in
and you realize you’re an officer and the whole sense of responsibility, you
don’t want to make a fool of yourself so you try to do the best you can. That’s
the whole thing. You figure you’re in the spotlight and you don’t want to
make a jackass out of yourself, so I did try to do the best I could. Eventually
I moved up and became the president of the whole lodge. It was a big lodge.
There was only one lodge. Now I think you’ve got more of them. And B’nai
Brith is not today what it was then.
See, the Federation movement came along and displaced them. I became
president and after I became president I served – I was president during the war
and we were full of all kinds of things for the country. We had giant Bond
rallies. I remember once we sponsored a rally for War Bonds out at the baseball
stadium on the west side and we had thousands of people there and nationally
known singers and our lodge sponsored them. War time things.
They must have thought I did all right, because I went on to the District
Grand Lodge. Then I realized I was on the District Court and I realized I’d
better step out of that because I couldn’t be in business and do that too. I
was only on it one year and I said I can’t have any part of it because I had
to make a living. And they’re mostly lawyers. They do that. That’s good for
their legal — sort of thing. So I stepped out of that, but you know, I became
pretty active at the Hillel Foundation ’cause Hillel was and has been
sponsored by B’nai Brith – it was a B’nai Brith institution. And with B’nai
Brith you became active in all their things and I had belonged to Hillel when I
went to Ohio State but I wasn’t unduly active there. They put me on the board
up there and I started to go to some of the board meetings and we had a lot of
things going and also Leo Yassenoff was very active and others – Kobacker –
Arthur Kobacker’s mother, she was very active up there. The Schiffs – were
very active. Albert Schiff and William Schiff and the others.
I don’t know what happened but some years later they elected me president
of the board of Hillel and I took it because I am an ex – president of the board
and I became chairman of the building committee because Leo Yassenoff – they
wanted – oh – the war ended and Schanfarber had died. He was the great name in
that period. That was the Schanfarber era in Columbus. You know, there was the
Schonthal era then the Schanfarber era, and he was something.
He died and everybody felt there had to be a memorial to him, so they decided
that the new Hillel Building – the one they got now – was going to be a memorial
to him. The name is the Schanfarber – with his pictures and Leo Yassenoff was a
great admirer of Schanfarber. Schanfarber was his lawyer. He was a great admirer
and Leo Yassenoff was making all kinds of money. That was the beginning of all
his fortunes. During the war and after the war – during the war he was building
military complexes, buildings and so forth and Schanfarber was his lawyer.
When Schanfarber died, he bought the ground or that building on Seventeen
Avenue and then decided we were going to build a new – and they had a drive for
money. I wasn’t president yet. Dr. Adelman – you remember
Sam Adelman? He was president of the board, but I was very active. They had a
drive and they raised the money locally. Most of it. Some from out of town but
most of it locally.
Just about when I became president you could see there wasn’t enough money
and they wanted to pay for it 100%, not borrowing. Leo said, and the others
said, then we’ll go out on a second drive. We gotta get enough. Rabbi Harry
Kaplan, who was loved by everybody, was the Director and that was a big asset,
too. I was president of the board then and they named me Chairman of the
Building Committee. Then Leo would come around every day to pick me up at the
office. He drove ’em crazy, that man. He drove everybody else crazy, too, but
he picked me up to go out, he says, “This isn’t a big enough campaign to
have an organization. You and I are going to raise the money!” And we did,
In a week or ten days we went to Robert Lazarus, Senior, and the hell with
______ . He loved Harry Kaplan. He says, “I’m doing it for Harry
Kaplan.” He gave us money. We went to some of the others and ourselves, and
you know, we got that money. The two of us, we got that money.
And we started. Leo built the building. Then one of the great things I had –
I was president and chairman of the building committee but one of the things
when it came to the decorating of the building, Harry Kaplan’s first wife,
Rebecca Kaplan who was a very brilliant person – I don’t know if you ever
heard of her –
Interviewer: I’ve heard of her, I didn’t know her.
Schlezinger: Well, you know his second wife –
Interviewer: I know Theresa.
Schlezinger: … is a brilliant person. She thought the women she wanted to
be in charge of the decorating, like drapes and things like that – and Leo
Yassenoff said, “Nothin’ doin’. We’re gonna do it and we’re gonna
do it all the way.” And there developed a tremendous argument and both of
them apparently sensitive, but you know it got
so they didn’t talk to each other. I remember one night until two in the
I saw Leo in his home on Fair Avenue, I drive up to Hillel to talk to
Rebecca, come back to see Leo, go back to see – anyway, by four o’clock in the
morning we reached a compromise. I don’t know what it was about. All I know is
I came home and I said, “You know, I deserve my money.” I gave my
money so I deserve my salary. We got a compromise. They were cold towards each
other after that but we got a compromise on the decorating, ’cause she
insisted that he shouldn’t decorate.
Then you usually were president for two terms. That’s two years and then
you change. They said a third, because everything was new and there was no time
to make a change. Then the fourth! I was president over four years!
Interviewer: That was quite an honor. Obviously you were doing the job right.
Schlezinger: You look at it the wrong way. I never considered it an honor. I
considered it work – w – o – r – k.
Interviewer: It is work, but it’s also an honor. If you hadn’t done a
good job at it they wouldn’t have asked you to stay on.
Schlezinger: Well I’ll tell you something – it would have been all right
with me. I didn’t ask for the job in the first place and I never have since
that one running I never asked for anything. I don’t believe in asking for a
job and as far as I’m concerned it may be an honor but you can take the honor
with a degree of temperance because it’s work. It’s in me because when I’m
away I’ve got a feeling I might look like a fool and I’ve gotta do good, and
that’s when they get you, but any way I was president four years at Hillel,
chairman of the building committee, got everything done, it was fully paid for,
100%. Not only that, we set up a fund, we had money left over. We’ve still got
that money, by the way, in what they call the Hillel Building Corporation. I don’t
know what’s happened to it because there’s all new people. I’ve been out
of it for years.
Interviewer: Was it set up to maintain the building?
Schlezinger: It was going to be used for the building exclusively and at that
time when we set it up we put in rules that nobody in the operating department
could get their fingers on it, ’cause it was used to protect the building.
They still have money in it but I don’t know who’s involved in it. I was a
trustee, but it’s been long since I’m no longer – it’s just as well,
because again it has to be what? That building was dedicated around 1948, I
think, so there I started with B’nai Brith and suddenly became president, got
active in Hillel.
I remember Rabbi Kaplan, for years afterwards I’d be up there. He’d call
me up and I’d come up and I remember I’d be Master of Ceremonies at some of
the dinners – he always insisted on it. He and I got along beautifully. We got
along beautifully. Do you want to hear a story?
This was years later, but I don’t know – when Rebecca Kaplan was dying –
she had cancer. I went to see her. She asked me – I was still president of
Hillel. She said the greatest thing in the world, she said, would be something
for Harry. She knows she lives in his heart and she doesn’t know any way it
can ever be brought about, but she didn’t know how long – she died a week
later or two weeks later, and she still mentioned it to me, and that was, she
knows he would give anything to get an honorary degree from Ohio State.
First of all, not many Jewish people have gotten honorary degrees but nobody
in the history of Ohio State that was not affiliated normally with the school
but was only in a religious non – part of the school, a religious director of a
center – Newman Foundation Catholic, the Wesley Foundation, Protestant, Hillel
Foundation Jewish, nobody would ever have thought the director what world does
he fit in, the academic world? And I was flabbergasted.
One day I kept thinking about it. I saw Robert Lazarus Senior or ran into him
somewhere – because he was pretty active. I always thought he was a great man. I
liked Harry Kaplan. I got along with him very well. To him I was one of the
younger men – I ran into him and I told him about the conversation – Rebecca had
already died – he was a trustee at Ohio State – I told him about it. He shook
his head – he said, “I don’t know how – nobody ever -” He said,
I mentioned it to him, I didn’t know anybody else to mention and I forgot
about it. Because he was a _________- I could go out walking up and down High
Street to find somebody? I didn’t know anybody. About six months later on a
Sunday morning I got a telephone call at home. It was him on the phone.
“Ed,” he says, “I don’t like to bother you on Sunday
morning, but it’s done.” I knew what he meant and he said, ” That’s
all, it’s between you and me.” And you now and me. I never mentioned it
to anyone. “Ed,” he said, “it’s done.” And sure enough,
June commencement came along and Rabbi Kaplan was up there getting an honorary
degree. He must have wanted that all his life.
I don’t know if I had anything to do with that and I don’t want to be
audacious about or presumptuous enough to think that I did – but I started it. I
mentioned it to Bob Lazarus.
He was the first of those kind of – you know, at that time – they’re closer
to the university now. In those days I don’t think they were that close to the
academic structure. They were kind of peripheral – You know, he had something.
The Hillel Key. I don’t know what it’s like now but he guarded that like it
was gold bars in Fort Knox. You couldn’t get a Hillel Key if you stood on your
head, except somebody got -every year there’d be that final big dinner and
banquet and some of the students got Hillel keys. They deserved it. But for
somebody from the other world – older people – no longer to get a Hillel Key.
You know, they finally gave me one. I almost had to ask him. For years I was up
there all the time, he never gave it to me when I was president, or after, but a
few years later he finally gave me a Hillel Key.
I got along with him beautifully. Everybody else did, but you know something.
He was somebody you loved.
I remember Larry Schaffer. Larry Schaffer was president of the Student
Council at Hillel that ran all that. We had our annual banquet in the Spring and
he was sitting in back of me and he made a speech and I was sitting at the table
where I was president. I was presiding – I was Master of Ceremonies – I used to
do that. I introduced him and after it was over I said, “Larry, you’re a
young man, just getting out of school and I don’t consider myself old, but I
guess I am. But here I see him and he is gray – he isn’t a kid sitting up
there, you know. What am I when I see him? You know what he calls me? He calls
me Uncle Ed.
Schlezinger: But he was there when I was there. He’s become very active. He’s
an officer of the Federation.
Interviewer: And he’s still active at Hillel. He’s up there all the time
– I think he’s still maybe on the board.
Schlezinger: I think he still controls that realty fund building corporation.
I think he does. After we raised the money I think we had the meeting at this
house to set up about keeping the money and then some lady died and left a lot
of money. Bob Mellman was secretary for years. See, he used to work for
Schanfarber. We had this lady talked into it. She loved Harry Kaplan. Just crazy
about him. When she died, in her will – she left even in those days, if I’m
not mistaken, it was over $100,000. That’s real money. She left it. So they’ve
got money in that building fund.
Interviewer: Where’d you go after Hillel? They didn’t let you retire.
Schlezinger: Well, I was always in the community. I’ve been on committees,
like everybody else, but when we – I called up Sam Summer, Sr., when we had that
little drive, Leo and I for money for the Hillel Foundation, if he’d give us
some money. And did he – as far as I’m concerned, I don’t think he knew what
Hillel was or ever heard of it, but you know, he was in a different world. But
he was a very prominent man from the standpoint of success. He was a director of
an international bank – his name’s on the cornerstone of the Ohio Stadium, he
was on the committee that built the stadium. I think he was the treasurer and
that’s something. Prominent industrialist, you know – it all came out of scrap
He said to me, he says, “You know,” – I knew the feud between him
and Ed Schanfarber, but Schanfarber was dead already and he started to mix in
Jewish activities – while Schanfarber was living and you couldn’t get Sam
Summer, Sr. to handle it. He wasn’t involved. He changed the name of the
company from the Schonthal Company to Summer.
I dunno, he was a nice guy, I found out, but anyway, I called him up and he
said, “Ed,” he said, and the _______- was up, he says, “I’ll
make a deal. You know, I’m getting involved. I think we need a new community
center – Jewish in Columbus. I’m gonna be involved in it, and I’ve already
agreed to take on the campaign chairmanship on that to raise funds. If you’ll
help me, I’ll give you a donation for Hillel.”
I said, “Why sure, I’ll help you, I’ll get involved with it-” I
was already going to some meeting – so he sent over a check for $2500, which in
those days was ________ and then he was the chairman of the campaign
organization to raise funds for the Center and then he became president of the
Center, but he wasn’t president while it was standing up. I was the first
president after it was completed. And he became president of the Center and also
the chairman of the campaign to raise funds. See, previous to that, after the
war ended, there was a big debate – argument going on between people and Harry
Gilbert was on one side and – that we should postpone the Hillel Foundation and
go all out for the Center. But we won, our group, that we should get the
Foundation done first and then go to the Center. So he led the campaign for it.
In the meantime, I was on the committee – the site committee – to pick the
site for it. I don’t know if you knew that, but that turned out to be a
historic committee. Abe Yenkin was chairman and every Sunday morning Abe Yenkin
would pick me up and some of the others, usually not more than one or two cars,
and every Sunday we’d go out looking for locations and then we’d report to
Sam Summer. Sometimes he held the meeting on Sunday down at the Huntington Bank.
He was a director and he could get a room and we could go and have the meeting.
There was no Federation Building and there was no place to go, unless we went to
a house, so we went out and we finally decided, all of us, on College Avenue and
that’s the biggest part of it was ever bought. Do you know what that’s
worth, that whole thing?
Interviewer: I can’t even calculate it.
Schlezinger: Millions and millions – that complex – but then it was nothing
but the ground and since then it’s been added to – and we bought that site.
Interviewer: Do you remember how much you paid for it?
Schlezinger: I don’t remember. I was trying to think of it the other day
and I don’t remember. But if you look on the Center thing where it’s posted,
you’ll see on the site committee, my name on it. I think I’m the only one
left living – I’m not sure. I’ve got it in that book but I don’t want to
take the time. We raised the money and then Leo built it. Again Leo. And I was
on all these committees, too.
And on the board, first we’d meet all the time, before we’d meet up at
the old Schonthal Center. The Schonthal Center was also the Jewish Family
Service and I remember when we split it off, then, because each agency was
growing, and they let the Board members pick which one you wanted to be on and I
I wanted on the Center, not the Jewish Family Service, but anyway, we used to
hold the meetings about the plans for the new Center at the old Schonthal
Center. Everything was new. Everything was precedent at the Center.
We had a lot of arguments. I remember one argument – and don’t forget,
everyone was involved. The complex at Town and High (Lazarus) was involved, too,
very actively, and I remember when it was decided we were going to serve kosher
food at the center and I remember the big argument- somebody got up and said,
“You mean I can’t come in there and have a ham sandwich?”
Interviewer: You know, they still have the same argument! (laughter)
Schlezinger: Do they? Well I think those things are the greatest things when
I look back at ’em I think they’re the funniest things, and I remember when
it was settled when somebody decided that non – kosher people could eat kosher
food but kosher people couldn’t eat non – kosher food, so we decided to make
it kosher. We even put two kitchens. All that went on. It was funny.
Anyway, after Sam Summer got sick, and he died shortly after, Iz Garek – you’ve
heard of him – he was very prominent, very active did a very good job in this
town community – wise – he was a B’nai Brith man – he was Mr. B’nai Brith.
Schanfarber was and after him came Garek, and he became president of the Center
and the building was under construction. It was going up, Leo was dying.
And I was on the board and active on all the committees and everyone was
active. Everybody was involved.
And then I remember, I got called up -there was going to be another election
or a nomination. Harry Gilbert said, “I want to see you,” and I said,
“Well, I’ll come downtown,” because it was courteous to go to see
him, he’s older. “No,” he said, “I’ll stop by the house. I’m
coming over with somebody else.” And he came over. You want to know how I
got to be president of the center?
There was no more surprised person in the world. He came over to the house.
Never even dreamt anything like this, ’cause I was just one of the board and I
was active like everybody else. I didn’t mix in to too many – by the way, I
didn’t mix into a lot of the debates – that may have had something to do with
it. I said this – did what they told me. But anyway, he came over and he said,
“Some of us have decided -” oh, he says, “You know about Iz Garek.”
I said, “No!” He says, “Well, you know Iz Garek’s not gonna run
– refuses to accept another term as president.” I said, “That’s
impossible,” I said, “he and Sam Summer are really responsible for
this thing.” I said, “Why would he do a thing like that?”
He says, “Well, Iz Garek says that it’s ruined his law practice. He
allows how he’s made a lot of enemies.” These debates were pretty thick.
You’ve got to remember – and I want to tell you again – when anything lands on
a community that’s new, everybody gets passionate, because it sets the lines
for the future. Iz Garek says it’s ruined his law practice and it’s about
children and he’s going to have a nervous breakdown and he refuses to have
anything more added.”
So I said to him, “What do you want to see me about?” See, I was
close to Iz Garek, we were fellow B’nai Brith people. He says, “Some of
us have decided that we want to nominate you for president,” and I could
I’m telling you – I says, “Me? Why me? I’m not a Summer or a Garek,
I’m just a businessman, a scrap iron business, yet too.” I says
“What do you want me for? I’m not unusually active, I was on the site
committee, I’ve been on the other committees-“
And he says, “Well, Dr. Gordon” – Harry Gilbert was doing the
talking – he said, “That’s one of the reasons we want you, because you’re
a neutral position.” I says, “What do you mean by that?” He says,
“First of all, you’re not a lawyer. Nobody can hurt your law practice.
Secondly, you’re in a business that nobody can hurt you. What does anybody –
they’re all retailers or lawyers,” he says. “How they gonna hurt
you? They can get mad at you – they gonna do anything to you?” He says.
“You’re just prime for the thing. The other thing is you’ve always been
active and you were president of Hillel and B’nai Brith – and people know you
and your family, and we think, by a peculiar thing just at the moment – the
timing – that we need somebody like you. Neutral, never stuck his neck out, and
we think it’s just the right thing.”
“You mean to tell me that I can be president of the Center, I can —-
You may not believe it but I couldn’t even dream –that was number one job
in this town, you know” and they made me president of the center. So here
are these people working to build that building – came time for the dedication,
the opening of those doors, who’s presiding up there but me. I felt kind of
funny about it. Jerry did the work. Summer did the work. Others did the work and
here am I, the president. I presided over the whole damn scene at the
dedication. I tried to be a good president. I did.
Interviewer: And you were.
Schlezinger: I don’t know, but I did try to be, because, again, that’s
always happened to me.
I began to think, oh, my God, I’m in the public eye. I can’t make a
jackass out of myself – and then you do it. I asked them if I could ask for
some- have an opinion on some of the officers, they said, “yes.” I
said, “I’d like, if you can, get Charles Lazarus as the vice president
’cause I wanted to keep this what they call the Town and High Complex – the
other – try to keep everything together.
They asked him and he was a working vice – president. He turned in many years
and had a lot of help. Now, I don’t even know him, he doesn’t know me,
maybe, but I haven’t seen him in years. He was vice president, Abe Yenkin was
vice president, and I was president before Abe Yenkin – and he was chairman of
the site committee.
Interviewer: Now this was approximately what year?
Schlezinger: I think we dedicated that Center in 1950, or ’51. It was the
big thing in the community. We’ve never been – that’s something we just tore
down, but we’ve never had anything like that before, so it made a tremendous
repercussion in the non – Jewish community, too. They’d never seen anything
like that before, with the swimming pools out here in the east end, our great
park, people, non – Jewish people were flocking in to become members and we were
a United Appeal Agency – now they call it United Way, and everything, all those
I served as president for two terms and those were the first two operating
terms, and again, I had this responsibility, a nerve – wracking of the first two
operating years. We had more debates and more this – and – that than I’d ever
dreamt in my life. And did you know what came out of it? I came out of it, I
think, strong and everything else and I think we had a united community.
I remember that I asked permission to have an executive committee – have a
small one – I don’t know what _____ . And I said the reason for those things
that are coming up, I don’t want to be in a scared position of having a
nervous breakdown ______. I said, “I’ve got to have advice and I said I
want a small committee and he gave me that privilege and I think they still have
it. And Charles Lazarus turned into a big ________. I’ve got to admit he was a
true leader; in fact he was so busy sometimes in order to have our executive
committee meeting so he’d be in attendance we held ’em down at the store. He
was there. Now that’s being _____. And I kind of liked that ________- now here
was a man, and his uncle was our main speaker at the dedication. Fred Lazarus.
He was the founder of the Federated Department Stores. His uncle, not his
brother. His uncle or his cousin – his uncle was our main speaker. I’ve got
the program here.
Then there was Dr. Gordon who was tremendous. Arthur Goldberg was treasurer
and Abe Yenkin was a vice – president and that’s what we had. We had a
tremendous group. We had these great debates. We had the one that Harry Gilbert
was leading. Oh, and Harry Gilbert, I loved him, he was a great man, but – see,
he had come to see me, and ask me to be president. Harry Gilbert was that kind
of guy. That meant to him that I was his man. Well, he didn’t love me so much
afterwards, because ________. I just wouldn’t let him walk right over me. He
even told me, he said, “Now, I’ll tell you what to do.” He tells me
________ , I should know.
I didn’t, but I tried to be fair back then, but they had started a
forerunner of a day school – they had started a school. It was over on Bryden
Road and like a lot of things they were pushing for it to become an agency of –
you know, it was private – he was the biggest supporter and they wanted it go
into the new Center, and there was a terrific fight, because the other people –
’cause that school had the first and second grades. It was a forerunner of the
Torah Academy, and the other school of thought, the other philosophy was under
_____________ because it was called, they thought it was a parochial school.
Under no conditions! They fought bitterly about it. No, sir, we will not stand
for a parochial school. We want public education –
End of Tape 2 Side B
INTERVIEW WITH EDWARD SCHLEZINGER
#3 of 3 tapes recorded with Judy Blair – May 14, 1985?
Tape 3, Side A
Interview continues from Tape 2, Side B, discussing the
initial thoughts of establishing a Jewish Day School.
Schlezinger: …that part of it and religious education in the Hebrew Schools
and no public
school. And they fought and it was — it would have torn the Center apart.
They had debate after debate and I was _______. And finally I pondered a
commission that came up with a recommendation and I asked Herman Katz to be
Chairman, and he was chairman and then when it came up I called it the Katz
White Paper – remember the British White Paper about Palestine? Huh? We had to
have something. We called it the Katz White paper. That meeting lasted until one
o’clock in the morning ’cause we gave everybody a chance to talk and
everybody talked – from every side and finally we came up with the recommendation of this White Paper was that we would take the nursery school
and eliminate the first and second grades. People were better ______ at that and
we’d get along.
The recommendation was passed and we took in the nursery school which became a tremendous part of the center – it was loved by everybody. I went
out to see What’s-her-name and hired her. I was given permission.
Interviewer: Rose Schwartz?
Schlezinger: Rose Schwartz! And you know she was – “Ohhh, I knew your
father!” and this and that, and every time she’d sing, “Oh, I knew
your father and I loved you…” I’ll never forget that. She was the head
of it under my administration, so she ________. She was there for many years,
but that’s when she started. I went out to see her. But anyway, it was passed.
The next day after it was passed I got two telephone calls which shows you we
were right. Harry Gilbert called up and said I’d sold out to Town and High
Street (Lazarus.) Julius Steinhauser, who was with the Lazarus Company, called
up and said, “Boy, you sure let the other people take you over.” And
the next ______ at the next executive committee meeting I reported, I said,
“I had two calls of people calling me saying we did a terrible thing.”
I don’t know too much about it – I still remember what I said: “It seems
to me we must have done the right thing ’cause we’re in
_________. And he agreed that we did the right thing because we’re
We were literally torn apart on something like that and then we added these
other debates. I remember there was a feeling and I think they were right at the
time – that we had started off with a plan but we had neglected the Hebrew
background in the Center. The Hebrew cultural, is it, education something at the
Center, that the atmosphere had to be Jewish and we were neglecting Adult
Education and things like that programs that ________. So we talked
about appropriate money and there was a young man getting started out at Ohio
Note from Transcriber MB: The above text has been transcribed from Tape#3,
Side A of Judy Blair’s interview with Ed Schlezinger. Part of this content is
heard at the beginning of Tape #2, Side A in the same series.
At this point, Marker 35 on the tape counter, following some 7 seconds of
dead tape, Judy resumes:
Interviewer: Hi, the interview with Edward Schlezinger – Judy Blair is the
interviewer. We are picking up our discussion about the development of the
Jewish Center and the compromise between Dr. Marvin Fox and Charles Lazarus –
Schlezinger: … because then everything was new precedent setting. We’ve
got to emphasize that. Everything was a compromise because there were tremendous
feelings on the part of everybody. This was a new community venture, so there
was a desire to expand the athletic fields – the baseball diamonds – light ’em
at night so they could use ’em at night. On the other hand, there was the
feeling that we were lacking in Jewish education and Jewish programming because
there was the emphasis on the part of a lot of people was to see that it was a
Jewish Center, even though it was a Red Feather Agency – what they call the
United Way today. The emphasis was back on Jewish culture. So they pushed in
both directions, you know, and the compromises and the group help from the
Jewish education is what you’re talking about and Dr. Fox, as I remember, got
up and spoke out very highly for the lighted baseball diamonds.
When you look back on it is kind of comedy because you don’t associate that
– he’s a teacher – professor – philosopher. He’s become very famous, by the
way. And that was in his early days.
Interviewer: It was important for his support to develop that aspect of the
Schlezinger: I remember we talked about it – that’s the way the community
should go: always go look for a compromise in everything that came up, and the
words flew hot and heavy on some of those things, as it was all new. We had some
very spectacular meetings. People were not afraid to get up and talk.
Interviewer: Was there a divisiveness within the community itself?
Schlezinger: Well it could have been, but it was controlled. Sometimes the
sparks got out of hand, but the basis was always that there was more
everybody could agree on than disagree, so therefore, work from that angle that
we could always work from the basis that we agreed on most of these things, so
let’s solve what we disagree on. Let’s compromise. You heard of Dr. Gordon
-he and his wife were tremendous in those early days of the Center. They were
tremendous. They were a powerful packet and they helped build everything. They
had no children. That’s too bad, but they were something else.
Interviewer: The lecture series was a result of their funding, wasn’t it?
Schlezinger: I think the library was.
Interviewer: There was a Gordon Lecture Series, too, for a couple of years. I
don’t know what happened to it?
Schlezinger: Mayer Rosenfeld, who was the director for years, was their
Interviewer: I didn’t know that.
Schlezinger: That’s how we knew him in the first place. Although he had
been born in Columbus and raised in Columbus, but he’d been out – of – town –
some connection with something. He served there as director for years and years.
He was their nephew. Dr. Gordon and his wife – Reva was her name – boy were they
Interviewer: Did they exert a lot of influence?
Schlezinger: Oh, yeah, they were very influencing.
Interviewer: And how did they feel about this particular thing – Jewish
education and the –
Schlezinger: Well, they felt that a compromise could be worked out and they
were more inclined to think, too, – I think everybody agreed that should start
moving in the direction of more Jewish background. That first couple of years
maybe we didn’t, but we couldn’t do everything. We couldn’t. We did move
in the direction –
I think we set up a program of adult education – for adult members of The
Center and things like that went on, you know, and grew. There’s no question
that the Center is known as a Jewish Center, although it’s got a lot of
non – Jewish members, it’s known as the Jewish Center. You’ve got to
remember again that everything was new, there were no precedents.
Interviewer: I remember I was on the board at the time of the opening of the
pool on Shabbat.
Schlezinger: … Rabbi Rubenstein thundered from the pulpit? – and I say “thundered,”
as the early bird gets _______________ . I remember, Boy, on Saturday
morning he would deliver a lecture there about this thing – is this thing (tape
Interviewer: Yes, it’s going. Well, let’s move on and talk about the
Federation. You went on to the Federation presidency after the Jewish Center?
Schlezinger: After the Jewish Center. But we were always active – the same
people were active in everything. It isn’t a question of who’d be over the
____________. The Federation – I started to go through the committee setup – I
would do it today, but in those days they – but I was always active anyway with
it. When Schanfarber was living I was working on it. We called it the United
Jewish Fund. And there was a Council of Jewish Agencies and that was merged and
we called it The United Jewish Fund and Council and then it became the Columbus
Jewish Federation. And the Federation movement was growing tremendously all
across the country. The Council of Jewish Welfare Funds became the parent
organization and it was growing tremendously across every community in the
country, and it took over everything and I guess, rightly so. It organized the
American Jewish Community like it’s never been organized before.
Interviewer: Do you think that’s been an asset?
Schlezinger: Well, from the standpoint of raising funds, it’s been a
tremendous asset. I don’t think that the funds that were raised could have
Interviewer: How about the development of community solidarity? Has it
enhanced or detracted from our…
Schlezinger: I think it has advanced community solidarity. It’s become in a
very dominant position. Remember, in the early days, it was the B’nai Brith
that was in every community, but it was pushed out and all we got are some
(sub?) organizations that became minor. Maybe some people didn’t like that.
You’ve got the highest and most proficient professionals in the Federation
movement every place. The Jewish Community across the country could never have
been as organized as _______and the Israel _______was the
leading factor, too. Don’t forget, it had its biggest growth from when Israel
was created as a state. From then on it was this tremendous desire to back up
Israel in every phase. I don’t think – without the Federation we could have
And then, of course, the local projects came along. Today the local get as
much attention as the overseas things. Don’t you think so?
Interviewer: I’m sure they do. They’re more meaningful to the people at
home who are not –
Schlezinger: That’s right, but there’s that little thing that goes on
when it comes to allocation and it comes up every year.
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about how the Allocations Committee
Schlezinger: We didn’t have a series of committees. We had some chairmen
and they would submit things and like they do now we didn’t have. And the
Allocations Committee meeting would be called by the president and it was all
done in one day. We used to meet at 7:30 in the morning for breakfast and
usually at the Southern Hotel. When Simon Lazarus was president – and the
Lazarus Family owned the Southern Hotel then – he’d always call it and we’d
be there all day, sometimes ’til 4:30 in the afternoon. We’d have lunch
there and have a ten – minute break and the go back and because it was
_______and sometimes it didn’t last that long, but that was the day
you allocated the funds.
Interviewer: And then you would anticipate on the basis of what you had
raised last year, what could be raised this year –
Schlezinger: Well, the campaign would be all over already. Now you don’t
allocate funds finally until the campaign is over. The campaign chairman would
certify what he thought was available and then from there he allocated the
funds. From there it grew. Now you have a whole setup – you have all kinds of
committees and _______that agencies have to submit, go through the
committee structure and all that. In those days, if you were going through what
I call the offices,
I worked on that like everybody else did from way back. You worked at it – in
Columbus you worked on The United Jewish Fund. I remember when Schanfarber,
Simon Lazarus, Robert Schiff – I used to help him all the time, and all of them,
as far as that’s concerned. I was always either chairman of the committee, or
Interviewer: Were there arguments about the distributions of funds, one
person felt like his pet project should get something more? Tell me about some
of them that you recall.
Schlezinger: There was a fellow worked for Jack Resler at Hercules Trouser
Company by the name of Ben Borowitz. Now his son has become a famous rabbi. You’ve
heard of Rabbi Borowitz. He has spoken here, and he grew up in our synagogue
although he’s a Reform rabbi – he went to Hebrew Union College. Rabbi Eugene
Borowitz, that’s him. I know him pretty well. When he was in Columbus the last
time we got together ________. His father was a very learned man.
He was a tailor with the Hercules Trouser Company which was ________and
he used to debate _______? as only those European Jews could with his dialect
– you know, with his broken English. He used to debate with Simon Lazarus and
the fur would fly. He wasn’t afraid of anybody. That’s another thing. Nobody
was afraid. I don’t recall what they were about – I’m sure some of them had
to do with the establishment of the Hebrew School, because there was a feeling
on the part of some of those people that the Hebrew School should not be an
agency of the United Jewish Fund or the Federation, as it was called. There was
a profound feeling about that and he felt that Hebrew education was in the
province of the synagogue and the temple; it did not belong in a community –
wide raising (of) funds – of course, that goes back to your ________.
And Boy, did that (fur) fly. But you know, they became good friends. As time
went on that Lazarus enjoyed arguing with that Borowitz and Borowitz would go
down to the store some times and the would sit and talk for a while. Here was
like two opposite sides – the aristocrat and the – I’m telling you, that Simon
Lazarus was an unusual man. You could see it during campaign time for the funds
– that was after Schanfarber died. There was a tremendous feeling in our
community that everything was going to slide down in the dye ________? after
Schanfarber – it was a one – man show. They had all these other names mixed in
then – Lazarus and Summer you know, all that.
You see it on Long Street, between High and Third, was the place with all the
pawn shops. And they were all Jewish. You know, that’s where a lot of the
families got started – on Long Street – some of the well – known wealthy
families were on Long Street. You know, Glicks were there, you know, Glick’s
Furniture. It was fun to walk down Long Street. People would be standing in
their doorways, say Hello to you.
I saw, during a campaign, Simon Lazarus walking down Long Street with his big
flower – he always wore a flower – a great, big flower, and he was going in and
out all the pawn shops because it was campaign time and “don’t forget to
You don’t have that today. Can you get a picture of that? When I _______
came she enjoyed it.
Interviewer: Who else was on Long Street? Who had their stores there? I just
get the picture.
Schlezinger: Well, the Rubens were the big ones. They became big, wealthy
people – but I haven’t _______. Rubens – a big family, you know. Myer
Mellman’s wife is from that family – Lou Ruben, who’s very sick, lives
across the street, is from that family. Bertha Wasserstrom is a sister. There’s
Bunny Ruben – that was a tremendous family. They had a big one. Then there was
Levison. Levison is the only one left. His family was there long before he was –
his father, his brothers – he had a lot of brothers.
Then down the street there were two or three – Joe Modes – and there were a
bunch of others eventually moved away as they tore everything down. And on both
sides of the street – I don’t remember – now Goldsmith was right around the
corner on Third Street. That’s Dave Goldsmith’s family. He was past
president of ________ also past president of the Center. Janet – you remember
Janet – that was a long time ago – you’ve been here a long time.
Then on the other side there were the pawn shops and also ________ so big
you didn’t have ’em _______? Like you got now, Rodgers ________
____________– There was Glicks. At one time that’s the only store they
had. And there’d be Phil York, who was related to the Glicks. He was a brother
to one of the _____________ . And his family – there was Izzy Glick, ’cause
Bob and Bill Glick that you know now, that are active, well, their father died
during the depression and his brother, their uncle, Izzy Glick – a little short
man, ran it. He was always running around up and down Long Street. Everybody
knew him – Izzy, they called him.
Then, down at the corner of Long and High was a cigar store run by Izzy Roth.
Have you ever heard of the Harry Roth family? I think Mrs. Harry Roth is still
around. She lives at the Park Towers. Her husband’s brother was Izzy Roth and
he ran the cigar store at the corner of Long and High – and that was a gathering
place. Boy, it was fun! When I was young _______ Hirsch opened up the
Continental Restaurant. There was a Continental Restaurant.
Interviewer: Which Hirsch is this, now?
Schlezinger: Well you wouldn’t know – it was a different Hirsch not related
to the other. I think his son is still around – Paul Hirsch. His father and
mother opened up this restaurant and it became a meeting place and I’d go
there for lunch. That was where your son-in-law was _______.
Hirsch was there, and that was quite an environment down there. A lot of these
people – you know, _______ went on – as time went on.
Well, you know Lou Ruben then had the Shaw Jewelry Company at Town and High
Street, you know. His father’s name was Saul Ruben. Ben Schottenstein had the
Columbus Cycle Company – they were there on Long Street. By the way, that was
the wealthy Schottenstein Store. The others moved out. They became pretty good –
Interviewer: That was Cal Schottenstein, wasn’t he the one that had the
Schlezinger: No, Cal, I think, was Harold Schottenstein’s brother. That’s
from the soda water – Pepsi. His name was Something Else and his father’s
name, I think, was Max. They had the cycle company and that became the big cycle
distributor through the middle west. They called it the Columbus Cycle Company.
They were big, because I remember Ray, when he moved here from Charleston and
his father had a store in Charleston and they handled bicycles, too, and they
certainly had to get ’em through that – because they were a very big
distributor. In fact, I remember when Howard was old enough to ride a bicycle, I
called his father in Charleston and he called Schottenstein here and I got the
bicycle and then the bill came from Charleston.
Interviewer: It would have been easier to pick up the bicycle here.
Schlezinger: No, they weren’t allowed. They were in the wholesale business.
There’s something ________
I served as Chairman of _______ but I think in those days you almost
had to – then I became – then the real job is when you become chairman of the –
what we called then, the major gifts committee. That’s next to the general
campaign chairman. I became chairman of the major gifts committee and then the
next year I became general campaign chairman. I don’t know if the rule still
holds, but in order to become the president or vice – president you had to serve
as a general campaign chairman. Now there you became the selection…
Now that doesn’t mean that every general campaign chairman became an
officer- they didn’t and not everyone became president, most of them, you
know, but in order to be president, they had to be – that was the rule – I don’t
know if it was a fixed rule or if it’s just followed. That’s just the way it
happened. We did the same thing.
Interviewer: What was the toughest job that you remember – the toughest
committee appointment in the Federation?
Schlezinger: Before I became the office? Chairman of the Allocations. That’s
where the arguments are. Everybody’s got their pets. They argued. Nobody’s
afraid to talk, you know.
Interviewer: What about big gifts?
Schlezinger: That’s advance gifts.
Interviewer: Was that a difficult job or where those people pretty well sure
Schlezinger: Well, that was the same people, and they knew they were expected
to come through. Yeah, it might be considered it was a lot of work – in those
days what was called the major gift division, we called upon ’em personally.
The campaign chairman was supposed to call on ’em personally. I would take
along with me the chairman of the advance gifts would come along with me because
then the next year he was campaign chairman. In other words, when I was advance
gifts chairman, Harold Schottenstein, who recently died, was general campaign
chairman, so I would go with him, so when I because general campaign chairman,
Billy Glick – you know Bill Glick? – was advance gifts chairman and he would go
with me every place. See what I mean? And we made a rule that we’d take two
days a week and spend those two days – completely – I don’t know what they do
now, but we took off two days a week because we figured the best thing to do was
to get it over with in a hurry, as fast as possible, instead of stretching it
out – at least the big gifts.
So we would take off two days a week and start in the morning with breakfast
and then go one after the other and see, until we made – I think we did pretty
good that way. As a matter of fact, I remember we threw – what we started we
threw a dinner down at the Fort Hayes Hotel. It was on West Spring Street, to
which we invited every past president and every past campaign chairman and the
officers and that’s all, and Bill and I, I remember, we both thought we were –
I don’t know, we were scared about it. I suppose you get scared about it maybe
it’s from campaigning. You know, you have a bunch of people, but we got up –
the two of us – we used pretty strong language in ________ and told
them if they didn’t help us and didn’t back us up and make their commitments
we were walkin’ out on them. I don’t know – a couple kids, that’s all. It
We got a lot of help, but I suppose other people did, too. That’s the first
time, I think that was done. There’s always something new. ______
will be chairman, because we thought it would be a good idea, but we paid
_____. Now Harold Schottenstein – I didn’t have anything to do with
selection ______ at that time. ______ He didn’t go on. He became
vice – president and after that he didn’t go on.
I already served as chairman of the allocations committee. See, the last
_______ sweet job is chairman of the campaign – general chairman. And then
I became vice – president and then I became president. They asked me to serve as
president. I didn’t ask anybody for the job. I’ve never asked anybody, so
_______ or something so I was president for two years which
is no secret. You were here.
Interviewer: What were the demands of that job on your wife and your time?
Schlezinger: Full time. Full time. That’s one of the reasons I quit
everything a few years ago. I’d just tell ’em because it takes it out
of you; if you’re conscientious and if you’re sincere, which I think I was,
even though I kid a lot – because as I told you once before, and I’m not
trying to make a speech out of it, I think nobody wants to be a ______
so you develop some insight as you go because you don’t want anybody to say
you didn’t do a good job. Is that normal?
Interviewer: I think that’s absolutely right.
Schlezinger: ______ and it was – Ben Mandelkorn was here
already, and he didn’t let you alone, either, and those were the years – he’s
more mellow now- a lot of people didn’t like him because he was kind of
abrasive and we drove and it was day after day and I remember meeting after
meeting, morning, noon and night. Breakfast meeting, luncheon meeting, dinner
meeting and I was exhausted.
I really liked it – still do, but I had a business and don’t forget, Louis
was getting older and he didn’t care that much. Louis’s philosophy was a
little different and I never said it was wrong, he thought that while you’re
alive, you live it up. And he did. He traveled with Lucille, they went around
the world, you know, and I’m glad they did, because when he passed away
_______then he moved to Florida later – but Ray was already in our
place. Marvin (Louis’s son) had left, but Ray…
The tape ended at this point.