This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on January 1st, 2013, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at 389 Northview Drive [home of interviewee], Bexley, Ohio. My Name is Linda Kalette Schottenstein and I am interviewing Ellen Mae Schlezinger Schottenstein.
Interviewer: So. So, let’s start. Do you know your Hebrew name?
Ellen: Uh, let’s see. Is this being recorded now? Oh.
Interviewer: I think it’s Leah…
Ellen: eah Miriam.
Interviewer: Ok, and do you know your father’s Hebrew name?
Interviewer: Okay. Were you named after anyone do you know?
Interviewer: Ok. You don’t know or you don’t think you were?
Ellen: I don’t think I was.
Interviewer: Do you know how far back you can trace your family? Like, do you know who the first people were who came to the United States in your family?
Ellen: Um, yes, on one side. Yes.
Interviewer: Who would that be?
Ellen: That would be the Schlezingers, my grandparents.
Interviewer: So that would be I.H.
Ellen: I.H. and Pearl Schlezinger.
Interviewer: And they were not born in the United States?
Ellen: Uh, no.
Interviewer: OK. Do you know where they came from?
Interviewer: Both of them?
Interviewer: Do you remember any stories about their coming to the United States? Why they left?
Ellen: I don’t know that and I don’t know why they came directly to Columbus, uh, but that’s, that’s what they did. They came here.
Interviewer: Would you have any idea when they came? Was he the first in his family to come or do you know?
Ellen: Well, there were cousins that came here -the Polster family and others, Wasserstroms. They all seemed to come right here to Columbus. Um, I don’t know all the facts.
Interviewer: They came first and then, and now your mother was a Polster, I mean your grandmother Pearl was a Polster.
Ellen: My fathers’ mother.
Interviewer: She was a Polster. So her family came first?
Ellen: Uh, well she came with her husband but I don’t know all the facts.
Interviewer: Do you know if they were married here or they were married before they came?
Ellen: I think they were married in Europe.
Interviewer: Ok and then on your mother’s side, your grandmother Hannah was born in Cincinnati, is that right?
Interviewer: Was your grandfather on that side also born in the United States?
Ellen: I believe so.
Interviewer: Do you know where their family was from?
Interviewer: And do you know their name, Hannah’s family name or Fred?
Interviewer: She was a Goldsmith? Do you know her parents’ names?
Ellen: No, but she had a brother who lived here, Henry Goldsmith, who settled in this area, Bexley. I don’t know the whole history.
Interviewer: OK. Was he the one who had something to do with costumes?
Interviewer: Was it a store?
Ellen: I believe so. Yes.
Interviewer: In Columbus? Did he make them? Do you know?
Ellen: I don’t believe he made them. I’m not sure if he made some of them. I’m not positive.
Interviewer: Do you know now this would be your grandparents, no your great-grandparents- the Reichelsheimers, and the Goldsmith- do you know what occupation they did?
Ellen: Um. No.
Interviewer: Were they from Germany or they were born here? They were the first ones who came here you think- her parents- the Goldsmiths and his, the Reichelsheimers? You think they came here from Germany?
Ellen: I think so. I can’t be positive.
Interviewer: Did you ever meet them?
Interviewer: Can you remember any stories about your grandparents, either Fred and Hannah or Pearl and I.H.?
Ellen: I can’t remember stories except uh, we just had a good relationship as family but I don’t really know histories very well about them. They, the Schlezinger family started out having scrap yards.
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Interviewer: Do you know the name of it?
Ellen: It was I.H. Schlezinger and Son, yes, and Son.
Interviewer: Were they in business by themselves?
Interviewer: And then your father was in business with him?
Ellen: No, he started his own. The Acme Waste Material Company.
Interviewer: Was that amicable? Was it okay that..?
Ellen: You mean that they split and did different things? It seemed to be, yes, to me. I was a kid but it seemed to be.
Interviewer: So was Acme Waste also scrap?
Ellen: Yes, my father started it himself.
Interviewer: Ok. And where was that? Do you know where it was located?
Ellen: It was in Columbus. Let me think what street it was. Oh, it was in the south side. Oh Gosh, I knew the name of it. Linda, I may think of it later. I can’t remember.
Interviewer: That’s okay. So do you know if anyone in your family came through Ellis Island? Did you ever hear stories?
Ellen: Uh, I don’t remember any stories.
Interviewer: OK. Um, so, your father Louis had, I think this is correct- he had 3 brothers and 2 sisters? He had, his brothers were Nate
Ellen: Nate, Julius, Edward,
Interviewer: Gertrude and was there another sister?
Ellen: Lena. She died as a young mother.
Interviewer: Do you know how she died?
Ellen: I don’t know exactly how she died but her daughter who was a little child was started being raised by my grandmother and then went to live with an uncle and aunt who were in Philadelphia.
Interviewer: And your mom had one sister?
Ellen: Yes, Lillian.
Interviewer: She had no brothers?
Interviewer: So can you tell me something about your mom?
Ellen: She was, uh, how can I say, what can I say about her? She had women friends, went to meetings, went to market to shop and to stores. She had her car, you know, and drove around doing things and was neighborly and she was involved in the synagogue [Tifereth Israel] and the meetings with Sisterhood and…
Interviewer: Was she president. I think Debbie said she was president of the Sisterhood?
Ellen: For a short time.
Interviewer: Did she work outside the home?
Ellen: No. Most of her friends didn’t. Most of her friends didn’t, most of the neighbors, you know the women were very much in touch with each other. I use the word kibbitz but they were in touch and they watched their children play. It was like a neighborly kind of situation. You saw people out all the time talking and walking which you don’t now.
Interviewer: Where did they live, what street, do you know?
Ellen: My parents? Where I lived? Well, after a while it was on Fair Avenue, but, where did we live? We lived on, gosh, I can’t remember. I should. Maybe I’ll remember later.
Interviewer: That’s ok, but they lived in Columbus and did your mom go to…
Ellen: East High School.
Interviewer: Did she go to college?
Interviewer: Debbie said she used to tell a story that she blew up a lab at Ohio State and then she quit.
Ellen: Oh, maybe that was it. I don’t remember that.
Interviewer: Was that a true story or did she say that?
Ellen: Was it me or was it her?
Interviewer: Debbie mentioned that she.
Ellen: That my mother did?
Interviewer: …or did you?
Ellen: It might have been me.
Interviewer: Did you go to Ohio State?
Ellen: For a short time. Yes. I didn’t blow up a lab.
Interviewer: I think it might be just a story.
Ellen: Wait a minute. I can’t remember.
Interviewer: Tell me something about your father.
Ellen: He was very, well, I don’t want to use the word the word strict but he was not easy-going. I would say difficult. Came home from work after working hard and having to wash because he was so messed up from his work. And he didn’t have a ..what should I say, he had not a sweetness about him.
Uh, he wasn’t easy.
Interviewer: You say he worked hard.
Ellen: Yes, he did work hard and it wasn’t clean work. He came home and had to really clean himself. And we didn’t have air conditioning either so everything was very difficult and I can remember him coming in and having to go straight to the lavatory to wash all the dirt off and he had this little office and his secretary was Miss Shenk and uh, she was very nice, but it wasn’t clean work. And then he had, there was a little store not far from his junk yard where when the kids went there to see him he sent them down to get candy bars to this little confectionery store so we were waiting for our treats every time we visited him we wanted to go down and get our treats.
Interviewer: How did you get there from your house? How did you get to his business?
Ellen: My mother drove.
Interviewer: Do you know what kind of car she had?
Ellen: I think it was a Packard. I know at one time we had a Packard which was a big old car. My grandparents though had a car you had to crank up. The Reichelsheimers and they would come in that old square car, dark car and take us for little rides to, there was a, on Livingston Avenue there was a little amusement park. It had like a merry-go-round and a ferris wheel and a couple of rides. So our big day was to go there in that car.
Interviewer: What was that called? The park, do you know?
Interviewer: What was the park called, the name of the park?
Interviewer: It’s not still there?
Ellen: Oh no. That was ancient. No nothing like that is there now. Those streets weren’t full of traffic at all. Um, and all the cars were those older kind, of course. Well, you know I have that book about Columbus in the old days [Marvin Bonowitz: Mt.Vernon Ave.- Jewish Businesses in a Changing Neighborhood 1918-1999] and I open it up and look through it and I say, oh gosh, I remember some of that. It’s so ancient how things were. We had tracks in the middle like of Broad or Main, streetcars going downtown, people waiting on the corners to get in them and then sometimes I would start out in Bexley. The car ended over on Main and Drexel and I would get on and a little farther down somebody I knew would get on who lived farther past Bexley. We knew people would get on that we were familiar with ’cause everybody needed, many people needed rides downtown, to go down and that was just so different. ‘cause you saw them on all the corners waiting for buses. You know, they didn’t have a lot of cars.
Interviewer: So you would take, when you were a teenager did you go when you went downtown?
Ellen: Hmuhm, yeah. O yeah. And you had to dress nicely if you went downtown, not, we didn’t have blue jeans then. We had to dress very nicely when we were going down there.
Interviewer: What was downtown?
Ellen: Lazarus, Woolworth’s Five and Ten Cent store, uh, the other stores were, the Fashion, Moorehouse Fashion, [Montaldo’s] and the Union. The Union was farther down
[Recording stopped- -I – the interviewer accidently put it on pause when checkingit!]
Interviewer: Oh, no. I don’t know when it [the recording] stopped. Ok. Go back to talking about when you lived on 146 South Stanwood and you went to Cassingham [Elementary School].
Interviewer: And your first teacher you said was.
Ellen: Miss McGrainer. I don’t remember how you spelled it. Uh, we had uh, the janitor always helped the children cross the street at the school. And um, gosh, I can’t remember a lot of things except going to the school, um, playing on the playground when it was recess time. And classes weren’t big. Uh, I don’t remember a whole lot except that it was a pleasant good school to go to. It had nice teachers. Most of the women teachers wore these long dresses with big shoes on. I mean, you know, they were old fashioned. When I think back they aren’t like today. And everything was kind of serious and we had, we had good times and we were serious, too. And many people were walking on the street not like today, um, I don’t know what else to say.
Interviewer: Were there a lot of Jewish kids? Jewish families?
Ellen: In my mind there were quite a few and they also kept kind of separated. You know it was like they had their own friends and things that they were involved in. It was a little different well maybe now they are separated some ways but they’re more together. And uh, I enjoyed school.
Interviewer: Separated in, because they wanted to be together, or because it seemed like outside influence?
Ellen: It just seemed like the non-Jewish kids, I don’t know why. There was a separation there. There were a couple of Jewish kids that joined in that weren’t traditional Jewish you know what I mean? They’re, only a couple that joined in with the others but most of them kept their own histories and their own ways of living separated. And uh, there, what should I say? It was a good school to be in because you felt as though you were accepted anyway. You had good friends there everywhere but in those days, um, you were not labeled but you were known to have a different kind of life than the non- Jewish.
Interviewer: In what way?
Ellen: Maybe because they knew your traditions, you know, you had holidays and observances and they didn’t come together as much even in business so much or anything. They, most of the Jewish people had little businesses -little shops, not that they weren’t having other people come in and out, but it just seemed like there wasn’t as much going together. Well, you kept your traditions sort of separated like, you know. You felt comfortable but not altogether tied to everybody. Maybe today it’s partly that way but then it was very much so. You were the people that were brought up in a different kind of home and different holidays.
Interviewer: Did you ever feel that there was anti-semitism or you were just a little.
Ellen: It felt sometimes it was like a separation but it wasn’t hard for you to be a friend but there was a separation.
Interviewer: What was your early religious life like? I know your grandfather helped found Tifereth Israel.
Ellen: Tifereth Israel
Interviewer: So you must have been pretty active in the synagogue.
Interviewer: Your family.
Ellen: My family. Oh, yeah, my father became a president, too, later. My mother was a short time president of Sisterhood, not very long., but um, we were very much, well, we had not great numbers in members so we knew everybody. And we were related to a lot of people there- the Polsters, Wasserstroms and other people related to them. We were all kind of like a big family and uh,
Interviewer: I know “they say” at one point it felt like everyone was related to everyone else.
Ellen: Yes, that’s right and I don’t know how to express how it was but it wasn’t like today. It was kind of personal and not as developed and there were classes down in the basement in the lower level, uh. The kids, it was an assembly where they got together and the person in charge of the children would handle that. They had programs, sometimes there would be uh, oh, people singing or dancing or you know, putting on a little program.
Interviewer: Now was this the current building or before that? This was the current location?
Ellen: This was the location, everybody entered the front. There was no parking lot so you parked on the street and walked over and walked up the steps or if you were an old person that couldn’t you went over to where you could walk up and over where you didn’t have steps to get in to the building. There was a way for them to get in. But um, it was, you saw people, many times all coming together in the front, congregating on the steps, and in front, with their cars. Course it wasn’t that crowded full of members the way they were later. And the rabbis were a little less than formal like we had a rabbi that would say [pointing finger] “Now would you please stop talking up there?”
Interviewer: Who was that?
Ellen: Rabbi Zelizer.
Interviewer: You had a balcony?
Ellen: Yeah. We did.
Interviewer: Was it a mechitza? Were women and men separated?
Ellen: No. Unhuhn. Mostly young people went up there to the balcony. And it wasn’t like it is. It was turned around like in the front those windows are now on the side when you are inside. But they were where you walked in and there was a hall and then you walked across it and then the doors opened to go down to your seats. It was all different.
Interviewer: Did social life revolve around the synagogue as well?
Ellen: Well, there were dinners and uh, I’m not sure what the social life was. I don’t remember if there were, where thy got together. There might have been.
Interviewer: I think you once told me that weddings were open, that everyone would go. It wasn’t like invitations the way we do it sometimes, that everyone was invited, weddings were open?
Interviewer: And receptions were open?
Interviewer: Do you remember any weddings?
Ellen: Vaguely. What do I remember? Weddings. I don’t even remember people’s names.
Interviewer: That’s okay. You were talking earlier though, about taking was it the trolley, you would take the trolley downtown?
Ellen: They were buses. At the beginning they were on tracks. We took, they called them streetcars and you waited on the corner of, uh, oh, Main and Drexel.
Interviewer: Main and Drexel you said and that was where Wentz’s was?
Interviewer: I think you once told me about the high steps at Wentz’s and you said something about there were carriages and the women would get off on the high steps or something?
Ellen: Maybe I did say that. Yeah.
Interviewer: Anyway, so you would go downtown and to.. Lazaraus to Union, to Woolworth’s. Do you remember any restaurants?
Ellen: Lazarus and the Union. I should remember them. Oh, Linda, I wish I had thought about it earlier maybe I would it I would have come in my mind.
Interviewer: Well, Debbie mentioned there was a Jack and Benny’s? Does that sound familiar? Or Kuennings?
Interviewer: How about theaters? Did you ever go to theaters? Downtown?
Ellen: Yes, there was the Palace, the Grand and the Ohio.
Interviewer: Did you ever get to go to any of them?
Ellen: Uh, not often. I don’t remember when I went. There were some. There were some shows where people came and they were on stage, too, there that they were special. I remember going to see them. The famous people would come here and do a show. Of course they do that now don’t they?
Interviewer: Do you mean the Kenley players? Not Kenley Players. That was later.
Ellen: No, something like Fred Astair, you know.
Interviewer: Did you ever see him?
Ellen: I think I did but it’s hard for me to remember. Um, I think I did see him and others who were known then. Famous stars would come and have an audience.
Interviewer: When you graduated from Bexley, then you went to Ohio State you said for a while.
Ellen: For a short time.
Interviewer: What did you study?
Ellen: Art. I was an art major. I took a lot of art and, what do you call it when you are making statues?
Interviewer: Your cousin Phyllis Cohen said that you were such a wonderful artist that various organizations would ask you to do publicity or draw things for them and you were always being asked.
Ellen: I think I did some of that, yes.
Interviewer: Do you remember doing that?
Ellen: I think so at times, yeah.
Interviewer: Do you remember who you did it for?
Ellen: No. It’s all kind of faded. Uh.
Interviewer: Why did you stop going to college? Do you know why?
Ellen: Well, I guess I wanted to raise a family for one thing and I don’t know why. I just stopped.
Interviewer: How did you meet um, Dad/your husband/Leonard?
Ellen: Leonard. Let me think. Wait a minute.
Interviewer: I think you said it was at a wedding but I don’t know whose. You met at a wedding.
Ellen: Yes, went to a wedding [Ethel and Benny Izeman’s]. We weren’t invited but people in those days there was a small Jewish population and if they didn’t go to the dinner afterward, they still went to the wedding to watch the people get married ‘cause you knew them and uh, I remember they had a reception or lunch after their wedding at the Seneca Hotel. But we weren’t invited so, I wanted to go to their wedding and Leonard had just gotten out of the army. He was still in his uniform and was there and I went down to get something to drink ‘cause I was thirsty and he went down to get a drink ‘cause he was thirsty. So we stood there getting our water to drink or whatever it was and started talking and then I went over to get my coat on to go out the door and there was a tap on my shoulder and he said “Can I call you sometime?” and I said, ”Yes.” So that started our relationship and he did call me to get together and we stayed together.
Interviewer: So you met after he was already out of the army.
Ellen: He had just gotten out.
Interviewer: So go back a little bit. Do you remember much about the Depression? Did that affect your family?
Ellen: Yeah, my dad I remember, it was, I think all around us we felt it. I was so young then that I didn’t feel like we went through painful things like, much of it was really hurting everyone. Yeah, that was a bad time. It was bad for everybody and a lot of things have faded and I don’t try to remember.
Interviewer: That’s ok. You were very young then, but do you remember much about the War, about World War II and when..?
Ellen: I don’t remember a lot about it except that it was something everybody worried about. You heard about sadness with what happened to some of the, our soldiers, people involved and the countries. Um
Interviewer: Did you know a lot of young men who went into the service?
Ellen: Did I know them? I don’t remember knowing a lot of them. I must have though, you know, because it was a time I was in high school or getting out, or soon to be out.
Interviewer: Do you remember knowing much about what was happening during the War?
Ellen: I knew it was sad and awful and uh, that it affected everyone and that the whole country was geared for dealing with it and people were in uniform that you saw. Yeah, I remember, I guess I, we all went through it together. It was hard.
Interviewer: How did you get news at the time? How did people learn what was going on?
Ellen: Newspapers and radio and yeah everybody got news about the hardship and the sadness and uh, it was terrible. You were used to seeing people in uniform in those days.
Interviewer: Did Leonard ever talk much about his experiences?
Ellen: He didn’t say much about it. He just enjoyed life after it. He was upbeat, so upbeat about things, and um, enjoyed his family. He was the oldest of nine children and he loved his, he loved his life and his family and he always smiled. He was very upbeat and smiling and had good friends. Leonard was a good person to everybody.
Interviewer: Was it a big deal when you introduced him to your family?
Ellen: Um, it was a happy deal. Yes. Oh, I was so glad he decided he would not leave me for someone else.
Interviewer: Do you remember much about your wedding?
Ellen: Uh, I look through my album a lot to remember some of it. I don’t remember whole lot of detail.
Interviewer: How did he ask you to marry him?
Ellen: How did he ask me to marry him? I don’t even remember. I think it was just casual, casual asking. Uh, I don’t remember how he asked me.
Interviewer: Your father was president of the synagogue at the time?
Interviewer: So, was the whole congregation invited, did everyone come or what do you remember?
Ellen: I believe so. Uh, I have my album in there.
Interviewer: Was your reception at the synagogue?
Ellen: Where was it?
Interviewer: You mentioned before a reception was at the Seneca Hotel . Was that a place where.
Ellen: Yes, Seneca Hotel.
Interviewer: Was that where yours was or was it at the synagogue?
Ellen: I don’t remember where my reception was.
Interviewer: That’s okay. Was it common for, like you said when you met him he was wearing his uniform. Was it common if men were out of the army to wear their uniforms?
Ellen: No. He had just gotten out and it wasn’t common. I mean, you weren’t surprised to see some of them in uniform but he was ready to change to ordinary clothes. He had just gotten out. Maybe he hadn’t been shopping yet for them, you know the clothes.
Interviewer: Did you have family in Europe that perished that you know?
Ellen: Uh, yes, my father had a lot of family in Europe who perished, yes, but I didn’t know them.
Interviewer: Was he able to bring anyone here, did any come here?
Ellen: One came. They brought one. They were going to bring one at a time or a couple at a time. My cousin Joe was brought over and he went to live with my grandmother and he went to my high school.
Interviewer: Joe Schlezinger.
Ellen: Schlezinger and he met Miriam [when he went back after the War to search for family in Czechoslavakia. She came to Columbus in 1947 as his fiancé after about a year’s process of getting papers in order and] he married her and they settled in Bexley and had 2 daughters.
Interviewer: He was the only one they were able to
Ellen: Yeah, of his whole big family.
Interviewer: Where did they live – Szhatzchevitz (sp?), Czechoslavkia.
Ellen: Uh, he started, uh, the girls liked him here. Oh, did he ever join up and dance and went to everywhere with the groups and felt at ease.
Interviewer: Your grandmother that would have been Pearl?
Ellen: Pearl. Oh, I wish we had recorded…
Interviewer: He brought her here?
Ellen: He had her brought here.
Interviewer: Wow. What did Leonard do? What was his occupation when you married him? When you married him, what was he doing?
Ellen: Um, he was working for cousins in their store, you know, Schottensteins.
Interviewer: Was it called that?
Ellen: Uhmhm. Yeah.
Interviewer: And did he have a furniture store too?
Ellen: Yeah, later he opened Leonard’s Furniture store.
Interviewer: Where was that?
Ellen: It was on [High Street or] Cleveland Avenue. Cleveland Avenue.
Interviewer: He was just in business by himself then?
Ellen: Um, who as with him? Of his family he was by himself. Yeah I think he might have had some relatives, but, you know I can’t remember very much. [Leonard worked at Leonard Furniture on Cleveland Avenue and his brothers- Bernard, Irving, and Morris – worked on Parsons Avenue at Steelton Furniture and all the brothers- Leonard, Bernie, Irving and Morris, owned both stores. Their father Meyer Schottenstein had a ‘trade-in store’ about a block away selling used furniture and miscellanea]
Interviewer: That’s okay. Um. So, you were married in 1947 I believe.
Interviewer: And that was the year before Israel was formed. Do you remember anything about Israel being declared a state?
Ellen: No just that I knew of it from the news, yeah.
Interviewer: Did you ever go, the two of you? Did you ever go visit?
Ellen: Uh, did we go to Israel once. I know we were there one time. My mind is so bad.
Interviewer: That’s okay. Did your family, when you were young did your family take vacations much? Probably with your father working so much it would have been hard.
Ellen: Well, they used to go to Florida and uh,
Interviewer: With the kids, with you?
Ellen: : They took me once yeah. Uh.
Interviewer: You had 2 brothers?
Ellen: Yes. One died when he was in his early marriage.
Ellen: Clifford. It was awful because I try not to go back but he choked to death something closed up in his throat. Oh, it was awful. And course he had this one child and one on the way, you know I think about that when I’m with Phyllis [his widow Phyllis Cantor] and talk to her, too. She made a good life with her second husband.
Interviewer: So, Clifford was your younger brother. What was the age difference? The age, between, were you the oldest?
Ellen: Uhmhm. Then my brother Marvin. I don’t know. I haven’t figured out the number of years but he was my really young brother. It’s hard. It’s like a dream now. It doesn’t seem real. You know it’s so long ago and it’s so distant. It’s uh, he was a good person, really good. So good, I think Phyllis really missed him terribly but she was lucky she had a good life after, too.
Interviewer: So you had, you and Leonard had five children.
Interviewer: So their names?
Ellen: Howard, Deborah, Richard, Susan and Karin.
Interviewer: And now you have 16 grandchildren and you have…
Ellen: Don’t ask me numbers now.
Interviewer: And you have 5 great- grandchildren.
Ellen: Ok I guess you’re informing me.
Interviewer: So that must feel pretty good.
Ellen: It does and I’m glad they are all healthy. I, I treasure that that they have good lives. Yes I want them to be healthy and have good lives and good futures. And uh, you know all of us have ups and downs but I want them to enjoy.
Interviewer: Do you have a philosophy of life, something that you.
Ellen: I don’t have a philosophy. I have a feeling that we have to go along and try to make much of what is good and enjoy and try to deal with things. I want to hear good news for the whole world. You know that’s how I feel. I want other people to enjoy life too and have good families.
Interviewer: Your generation has seen a lot of change in technology.
Ellen: Oh, have we ever! We kept all of our windows open. Well, a lot of people still don’t have air conditioning I think but I feel very secure with all the windows closed and air conditioning and I can feel comfortable all year round and I live in a good community. Oh, I am so glad I live here and I have good memories of raising my family and my family is, including you, Linda, I am so thankful that I have good people around me and my family. I wish some didn’t live so far away but I ‘m glad they are enjoying life but I don’t want them to be far away, but what am I gonna’ do? Talk on the phone right?
Interviewer: You talked about radio and do you remember when you got your first television?
Ellen: My mother and dad got the first television and it was so incredible because we used to, in my early days I used to, sat by the radio hearing it, hearing stories and things and the black and white TV was amazing. I just couldn’t get over it.
Interviewer: Do you remember watching anything special?
Ellen: Special? I can’t remember the things I watched. Everything was. I don’t remember exactly.
Interviewer: This was – your first TV was at your parents.
Ellen: Yeah, they lived on Chesterfield. That’s where they were when they got the first one.
Interviewer: That wasn’t in Bexley.
Ellen: No. No.
Interviewer: You and Leonard, when they were living on Chesterfield, were you living there?
Ellen: Leonard and I had lived in different houses, little houses in different areas, Whitehall and, I have to go down those streets to remember. One was, oh, golly, Linda I can’t remember. I’m sorry.
Interviewer: That’s alright. Go back a little bit because I had accidently turned this off when you were talking about your father. And I don’t know how much I lost. You were talking about he would come home from work and he would have to clean and it was hard for him. I may have erased that accidently. But, did he make all the decisions in the family? Was, did you remember if your mom and dad made joint decisions?
Ellen: I don’t remember who made what decisions. My mother had her life with ladies, you know and uh grandmothers and he had his meetings. They played bridge with couples.
Interviewer: Do you remember major events. I know we talked a little about the War and about the Depression which you were really very young, but do you remember other major events that were taking place either in the community or in the world, like we talked about technology and the man on the moon and all that. Did you, were those things.
Ellen: Well, they were very effective in making you excited and glad and you know, going along with history like that, but I guess I can’t exactly know how I , I can’t exactly remember how I was with each thing. I just knew I had to get through days, get through school and be with friends. I don’t know. I had my own life.
Interviewer: I know we are jumping around a bit. So, when you were, you had five children to raise and that was probably pretty time consuming.
Ellen: Yes. That was not a big family being that my husband was one of nine. Uh, and I enjoyed it, enjoyed having the family. I enjoyed going to the store to buy food and to fix food and have them all around and it made my life happy. I was happy with them and with my husband. He was great. Great. He had good friends wherever he went. He always had friends. Buddy Beim became a good friend and they were good friends. Leonard had a way of communicating and getting personal and good with them. He did. He was so good with everybody, including everyone in his family. The oldest of nine children he did so much to make their family good, to be how he was. He looked handsome in his uniform, too.
Interviewer: Was his whole family active in the synagogue.
Ellen: Whose family?
Interviewer: Dad’s, your husband’s? Was his family…
Ellen: No, not active.
Interviewer: When you were raising your kids was your family pretty involved with Tifereth Israel?
Ellen: In ways, but not up and close. They all went to school there and participated and, you know, my father was big there and my mother in Sisterhood. I mean I was very comfortable with my synagogue and the rabbi. The rabbi used to stop talking and he’d say “Will you be quiet up there?” ’cause kids were talking in the balcony and he was very informal. It was funny. They became more formal.
Interviewer: Your son became president of the synagogue as well later, Howard.
Ellen: Uhmhm. Yeah. I was proud of him.
Interviewer: No were you active, besides Sisterhood, in other Jewish organizations?
Ellen: Well, I wasn’t so active in Hadassah but I belonged, went to meetings. No I wasn’t really efficient.
Interviewer: What was that like in early years, Hadassah?
Ellen: They had meetings and speakers and they did things for the community. What was it like? It was getting together, you know, as a group which was good.
Interviewer: How was it with your children, with young children? How did you do that? How were you…? Do you remember when meetings when you met? Was it evenings?
Ellen: No, it was afternoon but I think they had places for the kids to be. I don’t remember, Linda. It’s hard to remember. It’s so hard. It’s getting fuzzy.
Interviewer: I don’t know. I think you’re pretty remarkable.
Ellen: Oh, no, Linda. There are people with better minds than mine. It’s remarkable that I can remember yeah, what I can, but I wish I could remember more. But, you know, there are things that I know that I am so appreciative of in my life in my community where I live, my synagogue, my friends around me. I am so thankful, my family, my grandmother living not too far [then] both grandmothers but my dad’s mother settled here from Europe and she kind of kept us together on holidays with her dinners.
Interviewer: Libbie- no
Interviewer: Oh, I was thinking Dad’s/Leonard.
ELLEN: Did I say that?
Interviewer: No. It’s okay.
Ellen: Pearl Schlezinger. Pearl and Harry were my father’s parents.
Interviewer: Is that what the “H” was? It was Harry?
Ellen: His middle name was Harry but they called him I. H.
Interviewer: I didn’t know that.
Ellen: Herschel a lot of times they called him. They had a junkyard, a fancy junkyard, high class. My dad didn’t have a high class one.
Interviewer: Well, is there anything else you can think of or anything you thought I was going to ask and didn’t or anything else you can..?
Ellen: Uh, my mind is not good, Linda. If you had told me earlier I might have concentrated and tried to think of things but, uh, I don’t think my life has been extremely interesting.
Interviewer: You don’t think your life has been extremely interesting?
Ellen: Well, it has been wonderful and successful.
Interviewer: That’s pretty interesting.
ELLEN: It’s been wonderful. I’m glad my parents settled here, right in this area. Yeah. My grandmother used her sewing machine all the time, mending and doing things on her sewing machine. My grandfather made root beer in the basement.
Interviewer: Wait was this Hannah?
Interviewer: Really! He made root beer in the basement?
Ellen: I don’t know how he did it. He must have bought something and mixed it. I don’t know.
Interviewer: Did she sew for other people? Was it a business?
Ellen: Only for the family, not for other people. Maybe friends.
Interviewer: What was his, what did he do? How did he make a living?
Ellen: I don’t remember. What did Fred do?
Interviewer: I remember that your mother lived with you toward the end of her life. Was that something in your family that, um, was there a tradition of taking care of elderly in your family? Did your grandmother ever live with your parents or anything like that? Did that ever happen?
Ellen: I don’t think so. I think
Interviewer: I think at one time Debbie had said, your daughter Debbie, had said something about your, your grandmother. Did your grandmother live with your parents at one time? Your Grandmother Reichelsheimer?
Ellen: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: So she did, she also lived with your parents and then you took care of your mother in your house.
Ellen: Yes, oh yes, my grandmother did. Oh yes, I remember that well.
Ellen: My grandmother living with my parents?
Interviewer: What was that like?
Ellen: In my day it wasn’t fun. She was sitting in her chair.
Interviewer: It was probably hard.
Ellen: Oh yeah. I don’t know. You can’t help how you are. You can’t be what you were. And women in those days did not have occupations outside the home either so she hadn’t had a history of anything, you know, that you would remember. She just was there being taken care of. My mother always had a person like a maid, somebody working daily in the house.
Interviewer: Was that pretty common??
Ellen: Uhnuhn. And a lot of them needed the work, too. They needed to work in somebody’s house to make money.
Interviewer: How did they find people to work?
Ellen: Uh, you know you’re asking a question that I should be able to answer.
Interviewer: No, not necessarily. You might not have had any awareness.
Ellen: My mother probably went to an agency or something to find a person.
Interviewer: Did you ever have anyone help? I mean with five children, did you have anyone help you?
Interviewer: And how did you get, how did you hire someone? Do you remember?
Ellen: How did I do that? Probably called from an ad. Yeah I looked at ads. I was lucky I had nice people around.
Interviewer: Did you have pets?
Ellen: Uhmhm. Always had a dog. I think I had a cat too at one time.
Interviewer: Did they [dogs] have to be on leashes like they do now?
Ellen: No. They were running all around and then came back home.
Interviewer: That’s different.
Ellen: Yeah. It was different. You saw everybody’s dog mingling with other dogs. And neighbors were also out. The women a lot of them were out chatting with each other and it wasn’t, it wasn’t quiet like it is. People were walking around talking to each other. Kids were all over the place. In the winter they all had their sleds out on the streets and in the yards. You saw people everywhere. It wasn’t like today. Course they are inside because it’s more comfortable inside, too. It’s warm when it’s cold and it’s warm in here and it’s cool when you‘ve got air conditioning in the summer. Once in a while people are walking but in the old days everybody was out. Even the people on the next street would be in their back yards. We would be in our yard, back and forth always, over that way, that way. Yeah we were in touch with one another. We had really good friends in the house in back of us [the Coffmans]. The kids all played together.
Interviewer: Now we all have cell phones and computers. You didn’t have those.
Interviewer: What do you think about that?
Ellen: Well, I think it’s probably good in some ways and a lot of ways. People are safe. You know they are in touch and get help. I have to get used to modern times. I mean I am used to it and I think about the blessings, the things that are good about it. The only thing is, we’ve lost touch with all the neighbors around everywhere. They were all, you know, in touch with each other. Now I don’t even know who lives in that house over there or over there.
Interviewer: It’s different.
Ellen: It’s different, but it’s good too because you’re safe, you know, and you also are comfortable with air conditioning. It used to be awful.
Interviewer: I remember, too, when we didn’t have it.
Ellen: It was awful. You couldn’t sleep at night.
Interviewer: I remember mosquitoes.
Ellen: A lot of people don’t have it. They can’t afford it either. I keep thinking how fortunate I have been. But the greatest fortune was meeting my husband and I go over and over it in my mind how we met. Uh, isn’t it wonderful that he was thirsty at the same time I was?
Interviewer: Yes, it is.
Ellen: We were getting our drink of water and I started walking out and he ran up and tapped me on the shoulder and said “Can I call you sometime?” He didn’t use the word “May I?” He probably said, “Can I?”
Interviewer: “And the rest is history.”
Ellen: Yes. Oh, yes. What luck that was! What luck I couldn’t have met a better person in my life than that, than he was.
Interviewer: I am sure he felt the same way.
Ellen: Oh, I felt like he took me on and I was somebody he had to deal with. Anyway no, I think he was glad he had his family and relatives of mine he became close to, like, you know a lot of relatives.
Interviewer: Well, can you think of anything else?
Ellen: Um. I am trying to think. The synagogue was a very, oh, did we say that we went to Sunday School in the back of the synagogue and it was an old house?
Interviewer: No. Your kids or when you were going?
Ellen: When I was there. Uh, we had to keep our coats on because the little stove down below which heated the house did not reach up to the place where we were taught, where we were being taught. So we were cold sitting there in that old house in back where the parking lot is now and when I think back I think Oh, God did I go through that? Yeah I did and a whole lot of other kids and our old teacher, Miriam Shenker died recently. She was later on my teacher, I think, but I liked her so much. You know when you let go of those people you are letting go of your history. What a nice person she was and another guy became famous who was in our Sunday school. Oh what was his name? It slipped me now. He had articles in the newspaper. I’ll think of it someday. Oh, gosh I can still see him sitting there in the social hall where we met, you know, after Sunday School and he would slip off his seat and land on his rear end just to get attention. Yeah.
Interviewer: And he became a famous writer?
Ellen: He was writing for the newspaper, not so famous, but you saw his articles in the news with his name.
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Ellen: No it was nationally. I’ll think of it. Oh, I think of it sometimes and then I lose it. Oh yeah.
Anyway he wouldn’t be living now because he was older than I was. But he used to do things to get attention. He might be living. [possibly Eugene Borowitz who became a well-known Reform rabbi (?)]
Interviewer: Can you talk a little bit about your hand? I know you were an artist and because you had that accident one night?
Ellen: No, I don’t want to talk about my accident, okay?
Interviewer: OK. That’s fine. We were glad that Grandma was living here though, that your mom was living here, that she was able to call for help.
Interviewer: That was a good thing about technology.
Ellen: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: She could press a button and get a hold of Debbie, I think.
Ellen: Uhmhm. The big thing was having this operation. I lost all these muscles and…
Interviewer: You’re a cancer survivor.
Ellen: Yes, a cancer survivor. Cancer got me.
Interviewer: That was a pretty big deal.
Ellen: Oh yeah, changed my life.
Interviewer: That was many years ago.
Ellen: Yeah, I used to wear bras.
Interviewer: That was probably what 40, how many years ago was that?
Ellen: I can’t remember.
Interviewer: A Long time. You’re pretty, uh…
Ellen: I live with it. But I’m lucky. Look at my family. I am just so fortunate. You’re part of it.
Ellen: And my kids were good. I lived in a good area. I mean I am always grateful, no matter what I’ve lost or don’t have and, you know, whatever problems I have. I do have problems, but you know I’m lucky. I feel fortunate. I do. Look at my house and my area. I ‘m so glad my family settled around here. My grandmother came from Europe and settled on Bryden Road. Can you believe it? I ‘m glad it wasn’t New York. I am so glad it wasn’t New York. How fortunate. And we had so many relatives, the Polsters, the Wasserstroms. They all came her to Columbus. No better place to live I think for me. I love this area. I’m sure your family loved where you settled, too.
Interviewer: Uhmhm. It’s home.
Ellen: You’d rather be there than in New York City. New York City was a great place for excitement for few days and then you want to go back home.
Ellen: No I couldn’t, I wouldn’t want to live in New York, New York City. Some people would for the excitement. I wouldn’t like taking buses all the time and I loved it here. I count my blessings and my good fortune and I think I was blessed and that my mother met my father. I liked having my family. My family was great, my cousins, the Polsters, the Wasserstroms. They all came here. Did you have many relatives where you settled in your family?
Interviewer: My dad’s brother was there. He had adopted five kids. I had some cousins at home. His sister was in Binghamton and they had 2 kids. My mom’s family was in New York. Her sister was in New York. Her brother was in Milwaukee.
Ellen: What part of New York?
Interviewer: New York City.
Ellen: New York City? Oh, from the Big City.
Interviewer: Uhmhm. Then they moved to New Jersey. She grew up in Boston, Binghamton and then Boston, actually Binghamton, Albany and then Boston.
Ellen: Aren’t you glad they didn’t stay in New York City?
Interviewer: Well, yeah, it would have been well, I get scared, I got scared driving to City Center. I would have had a hard time but you get used to whatever you have.
Ellen: I wouldn’t want to live in New York City, taking subways, and taxi cabs.
Interviewer: This is a good place to live.
Ellen: Oh, yeah, I love Ohio. It’s, you know it’s comfortable and I loved my teachers. I loved them in school. They weren’t New Yorkers.
Interviewer: That’s true. Well on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project and this concludes the interview.
Ellen: Oh, Linda, thank you.
Interviewer: Thank you so much.
Ellen: It was a pleasure for me.
Interviewer: I sure hope this worked.
Ellen: I hope so, Linda.
Interviewer: Gosh, I hope.
Ellen: Thank you for all that you do for us. You are such a good person to have around, to have.
Interviewer: I don’t have that on tape.
Ellen: Oh, you don’t?
Interviewer: No. [I didn’t think I did]
ELLEN: Well just remember what I said okay?