This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project with Estelle Goorey is taking place in May, 1988. The interviewer is Jo Goldsmith.
Interviewer: This is Jo Goldsmith. This morning I am interviewing Essy Goorey
about her life. Essy will you please give me your full name.
Goorey: Estelle F. Goorey.
Interviewer: And where were you born?
Goorey: I was born in New York City on February 15, 1900.
Interviewer: Who were your parents?
Goorey: My parents were Louis Fisher, my father, and my mother, Rose Fisher.
Both migrated from Vienna to New York City, late in the 1890s. I was the fifth
girl of a family of eight, five girls and three boys. We all had a nice
childhood life. Mother was very kind and restrictive and raised a very fine
family. We were all educated in the public and high schools of Brooklyn, New
York. I went on to a girls’ school, known as the Hebrew Technical School for
Girls. And in our school that taught business courses and creative sewing,
whatever profession you wished to pursue. That school was known as one of the
finest outstanding schools for girls in the city of New York.
Interviewer: Is it still in existence?
Goorey: No. After graduating from that school I moved to Columbus, Ohio in
the year 1915. My moving here was a outcome of a visit with my oldest sister
whose husband was transferred by the company he worked for to Columbus, Ohio.
Interviewer: What were their names?
Goorey: Their name was Mr. and Mrs. Abraham L. Nassau. We lived on the East
side of Columbus. And joined Temple Israel, who at that time was located on
Interviewer: Now how old were you when you moved to Columbus?
Goorey: I was about, a little past fifteen. April 1915 I was fifteen February
1915, so I was ahead of my class, I want you to know. And found Columbus very
desirable. My living here was sheer accident. When I went back to Brooklyn, New
York it was a little bit too crowded for me. I liked the quiet atmosphere of
Columbus and my sister was very desirous of having me come back here because her
husband traveled a great deal. And she was the mother of one little daughter,
two years old at the time, and was very lonesome. So I filled the gap there and
she made a very beautiful home for me. At no time did I want to go back to New
Interviewer: Didn’t you miss your brothers and your sisters and your
Goorey: Well, I visited frequently. I wrote very frequently. We didn’t
telephone each other in those days. And I did not miss, I must confess, did not
miss too much of my family because it was little leisurely living here. I loved
the quiet and I loved the protection that I got here from my sister. One of the
things I find very annoying about a large family is it’s too much competition.
And while I could take it, I was more of the quiet type and was not much of a
fighter for my rights. So my oldest sisters, brothers always had the upper hand.
But my sister in Columbus, Ohio cooperated, encouraged me to go ahead to further
my education, which I did. I took special courses at the YMCA and other special
courses on the university campus. And at the age of eighteen they discovered I
had a pretty good singing voice and they encouraged me to take voice lessons,
which I did. I studied music and majored in voice and had a very interesting
career in music. I kept that up for quite a few years and found myself moving in
various circles, not only confined to my Jewish friends. But through my music I
was invited to sing at various churches which I found very educational and also
Interviewer: How did you make friends once you came to Columbus? Was that
difficult to make friends your age?
Goorey: Not at all. I reached out to people with the same interests that I
had and through my study of voice I met some very lovely young people. We formed
a friendship that lasted for years and years. I sang in the Temple Israel choir.
Also helped out with the music at Tifereth Israel during the holidays. I started
my singing career actually at Hillel Foundation. Being on campus, they had no
formal group to sing for them and Rabbi Levinger at that time asked me if I
would form a quartet, which we did. And the quartet consisted of Paul Lipson,
who everybody knew rose to fame and fortune in The Fiddler On The Roof. We
also had Dr. Milton Parker, a student at that time, who had a lovely voice and
later became a leading psychologist and psychiatrist. And Reva Lipson was our
contralto. And Isadore Cabakoff became a dentist. So that was quite a very well-known group and most of my friends were formed at Hillel.
Interviewer: Do you still have contact with any of these people?
Goorey: I… well Dr. Parker passed on and I see Dr. Cabakoff now and then
and we have a very fond friendship and a fond remembrance of our early years,
and I get a big, big bear hug from him every time he sees me which is
frequently. And I also see other people that I sang with and the best thing they
could say to me, “Essy you haven’t changed!’ I can’t believe that but I
accept it. I love to be flattered. We all like compliments, that always pumps me
up. My careers I spent. I worked of course for a living.
Interviewer: Who was you first job?
Goorey: My first job was with a small office as a stenographer. And then I
moved down to the Clay Kraft Brick Company, a very fine company here. And soon
became secretary to the vice president, Mr. Kaufman, of that company.
Interviewer: When was this? Do you remember the year?
Goorey: Nineteen hundred and twenty two or three. I joined the Clay Kraft
Brick Company, was with them several years. And my brother-in-law was
transferred to Cleveland. We lived up there for two years. We didn’t like it
so we came back to Columbus and remained here for the rest of my life.
Interviewer: How did you meet your husband?
Goorey: Through singing in a choir. And he was high school principal. And we
had a very beautiful relationship. We loved the same hobbies, which was
important. I’ve always been a dreamer, an idealist. And in 1931 I married
Newman Roseberry, that was my first husband. We had a very happy life. My two
children were born out of that marriage. Mr. Roseberry passed on in 1940, when
my son was eight years old and daughter was two. I remained a widow for three
years when I met Mr. Goorey. In 1943 I married Albert Goorey. Fate, fortune,
whatever you want to call it, was also a little bit unkind to me and took Mr.
Goorey through cancer in the year of 1952. So that marriage lasted about as long
as my first one. I remained a widow up till the present year. I was always a
career woman, found good employment and managed to raise my family and finish
the job of educating my children. My son went on to be a doctor. My daughter
studied to be a secondary school teacher, which she never followed because she
loved drama, followed drama and is this day a artist on TV in commercials and
radios, the voice of RH Bassie out in California. Also broadcasts for Clorox,
Delmonte, all very leading firms. She has been very successful at that career
and has not taught, but I always told her to have a career under her belt, a
degree, so if anything happened to her like it happened to me, she could fall
back on it. And she followed through. I had a very beautiful experience as a
mother because my children came first. It was important that I make a living and
keep the roof over our head because neither husband lived long enough to amass a
fortune or could they afford a lot of insurance on me. The entrance into the
life insurance company was quite accidental. But it was very, very challenging,
hard work which is nothing new to me. I worked, I never thought it was hard
because whatever I did was a pleasure. I worked with an interest that I was
earning money to keep the family together. And until this very day, we are a
very supportive family, loving, helpful. And I always feel well rewarded when my
son would say to his daughters and his grandchildren, “This is what my mother
taught me and she taught me the right things.”
Interviewer: How many grandchildren and great-grandchildren do you have?
Goorey: I now have four grandchildren and four great-grandsons. I am very
proud of my grandchildren and great great-grandsons. They are showing very good
promise of being good students. I reward them every now and then when they come
home and tell me they has progressed in going on to the next grade. The oldest
great-grandson is very musical. He is nine years old, studying the piano, doing
very nicely. I also gave my children musical training of the piano and accordion
and guitar. We have a very, very loving affiliation. I am proud to say that both
my children carried on in the principal of living a righteous life, being
affiliated with the Temple, being God loving, and to pass on the good life as
they knew it under my guidance.
Interviewer: What changes have you seen in Columbus since you’ve lived
Goorey: Columbus, at the time I came here was a great big old road country
town. Large lights over the streets of High Street, cobble stones on High
Street. And I’m proud to say that Columbus has really emerged into a
cosmopolitan city. I have seen enormous changes here and I hope I live long
enough to see the malls in the downtown area improved after means a miracle but
they have done to a little of Columbus, which at the time I came here, I believe
had a population of about two hundred and fifty thousand people. Today I think
the population is close to a million, including the suburbs. Columbus to me is a
miracle city, far ahead of its other cities. When we came here Columbus was the
fourth city; it was Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus. Today it is
Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo. And I have always been very happy in
Interviewer: What are the changes you have seen in the Jewish Community since
you’ve been here?
Goorey: That has really startled me. I have seen children brought up in very
fine homes drift. Never objected to my children dating in groups of non-Jewish
boys and girls. But I was always telling them, “You will be very happy and you’ll
live a long wedded life if you marry in your own faith. I don’t mind you
dating people from boys or girls from different denominations but when it comes
to your future think, think and think about your life with a fine Jewish mate.
You will always find that to be the best gift God could give you. It’s up to
you to make that choice. I’ve done everything to give you a good Jewish
education.” Both of my children were Confirmed at Temple Israel. Both have
followed through. And we have had problems. Both my children divorced their
first mates. My daughter remarried a fine Jewish man. My son married a wonderful
lady of not Jewish, but she has embraced Judaism. He’s very proud to go to
Temple, observe the holidays and we have no problems there. It is a different
story when you marry later in life to someone out of your religion because you
see the maturity there in other fields. Both my son and his wife are very highly
educated. My daughter-in-law was Assistant Dean of Dental Hygiene. She graduated
OSU Cum Laude. And he married her because she had a great deal of things in
common with him and has been a wonderful support in every way to him. They are
very happily married, which pleases me. And every mother should be as happy with
her daughter-in-law and son-in-law as I am.
Interviewer: Now what Jewish organizations were you active in, when you were
younger? And what organizations are you still active in?
Goorey: I was the first President of the Junior Hadassah League. We had a
Junior Hadassah years ago, that was for the single girls. Soon it dwindled and
we merged with the Senior Hadassah. I was very active in Hadassah for many
years. I believe I had the Chairmanship of every committee except Presidency, I
did not want to accept the presidency, because I know it has a lot of headaches.
I was widowed at the time and I could not take the responsibility but I did
carry on as Program Chairman, Membership Chairman and I pat myself on the back
but I did bring in a lot of members into Hadassah. I was very active in the
National Council of Jewish Women. And back in 1948 after the War, I was Chairman
of the New American Sector, who came over from Europe; escorted them to the
Jewish Center; took them to their first home; took them to their first job; and
if they had children I drove them to the schools that were in their area. And I
am proud of every one of them, they had progressed and prospered very
beautifully. I worked with National Council of Jewish Women up to the time of…
Well I’m still a member, I’m an honorary member of the National Council. I
was active in interfaith, interracial, always active with my children’s
school. I was Educational Chairman for the elementary school, university school
that my children attended. Just name it! And I was right there to help out.
Interviewer: Do you still go to community events?
Goorey: My current interests are limited. First of all, I look back and I’m
very proud of the work that I did and see the progress of all these
organizations have made. They grow beautifully, prospered.
Interviewer: Could you tell me some of the women that you worked with over
Goorey: Well, there was (laughter) bless their heart. There was Reva Gordon,
a woman of valor, passed on. Amy Lazarus helped out beautifully with the
newcomers with the National Council of Jewish Women. She gave me her charge
plate; they needed clothes and I could go into Lazarus, purchase what they
needed because they came back, came to Columbus in tattered hand-me-down
clothes, especially the children. And I remember one weekend before Mother’s Day
I welcomed a family with two children and they tore the heart out of you when
you looked at them because they had clothes that, they were two and four years
old and I believe the clothes they wore were for children six and eight. And I
said to my husband who was living at the time, “Don’t buy me any Mother’s Day
gift, but let me take them to Lazarus and I’ll fit them.” Which I did. And
when I told this story to Amy Lazarus she said, “Essy please let me take care
of this, the Council will reimburse you.” She was most cooperative. So was
Francis Gundersheimer. I had the help of all our leading women in the city of
Columbus. I loved to work and help people. Did this all my life. My mother was
very charitable that way, with all the children she raised.
Interviewer: While you were married, did you work outside the home?
Goorey: Yes. I never gave up. I had to reduce some of my responsibility when
my, never resigned, waited for my term to expire and I said I will work as an
ardent member because I never gave up working even though I was married. Both my
husbands were idealists. My second husband was an engineer. But they too were
working for very low wages after the War and it was necessary that I continue
working. It took two of our salaries; in those days to buy a home, pay it off,
send the children to private schools. We were very much concerned about our
children’s education. The best legacy you could leave your children is a good
education and that was our creed. We gave them a very good education, as you
could see from the careers they hold. And that was my goal.
Interviewer: Now what kind of work did you do outside the home for
Goorey: Well, there was soliciting for funds. I always got a kick out of the
Chairman, Chairwoman who would call me and say, “Essy you have such a
convincing voice on the phone (laughter), we would like to have you help us out
in getting a list of women to increase their contributions to whatever we were
raising a fund for.” And I must say I was very successful, I never pressured
anyone, but I did have a nice rapport with people I talked with. I was also on
the Membership Board of Temple Israel for several years. I must put a footnote
in there. I created the nursery care at Temple Israel. After my widowhood, or
before my widowhood, I prepared for widowhood while my second husband was dying.
Rabbi Folkman gave me a position that paved the way for me to get the position
in the Temple office, which I held for two years as Administrative Secretary.
And while in the office, I created the Friday night babysitting accommodations
for parents who couldn’t get a babysitter kept them home. And he said, “Well
who will you get to do the job?” “A High School girl,” I said…..Be
willing to take care of the children, three years up to eight, Friday night for
about an hour and a half. And we would pay her five dollars, which was big money
to her at that time. On Friday night is a very, very active social night at
University High and I told her anytime she couldn’t take the class I would, I’d
pinch hit for her. But everybody needed money in the Goorey family. So she
consented and I created that service for Temple Israel.
Interviewer: Oh, that’s very interesting. People wonder how it came it
Goorey: It wasn’t original because I used to sing in Churches as I told you
earlier in the story. And its amazing how the Churches equip their nurseries
with cribs even for very young babies, two, three, four months old, so the
parents could come to Church on Sunday. When I told this to Rabbi Folkman he was
for it one hundred percent. And he put me in charge of the nursery here. And it
is, has been very successful until this very time.
Interviewer: What did you do after you worked at the Temple Israel as
Goorey: Well I worked there for two years with no increase in pay and that
was when this golden door opened up. The insurance business. I was approached by
a very good friend of mine who knew the manager of the Union Central Life
Insurance Company, who wanted a woman to train for a female agent, who knew a
lot of people, who had a lot of contacts in this community over the years. And
he immediately my name came up in his mind and he said I want you to go up and
see the manager at Union Central. Which I did, more out of curiosity. You know
what could I do with insurance? All I knew was I didn’t have enough of it!
Could have used more. And I will pursue it. And when I was through with that
interview, Mr. Thomally complimented me and said, “You are a natural for an
insurance agent. You are widowed, woefully under insured, have two children to
educate, and to make money for your golden years.” I emphasized golden years,
was the process of aging, is far from being golden, it is terribly tarnished.
You get the fringe benefits of arthritis or neuritis or hepatology, just name it.
But I conquered that, I mastered every obstacle cause I was so in need of money,
income which was quite obvious with two children to educate. Six years with my
son in medical school and there was a six year difference in Lou and Lynn’s
ages and Lynn’s college education would start were he left off. So I embraced
this opportunity, not knowing what I was getting into. But it was very
educational and very broadening and there was no distinction. We made as much
money commission wise as a male.
Interviewer: That’s not true in all jobs today. Women are highly underpaid
as compared to men.
Goorey: Right but in the insurance business it is a totally commissioned
earned job. You work, they will subsidize you. They gave a draw until such time
that I built up a following, but I had to pay it back. If I wanted four hundred
dollars a week, if that was the amount required to keep my family expenses, they
gave it to me. They subsidized me for about a year and a half. Until I worked up
my clientele. I had a very fortunate break in the life insurance business.
Because I was a very young grandma at the time and I immediately insured my
grandchildren, two granddaughters. And I talked to the grandmothers as a market
to buy educational policies for these grandchildren of theirs. Their parents
could not afford it, but grandparents are always spending money on their
grandchildren. So why not invest in their future. We had a wonderful policy
known as “Five-Twenty One.” You bought a thousand dollars at their current
age and at age twenty-one that thousand dollars could increase to five thousand
with no increase in premium. That was enormous appeal to a lot of grandparents.
So I made that my market and that was my springboard into to talking to their
fathers on insurance for the family. My second year I began to reap the benefit
of that idea and write family insurance. From then on until 1985 I completed
thirty-two years in the life insurance industry, which was very good to me. And
as all my friends remember me saying my children’s education was made
possible, not by the insurance their dad left, but by the insurance mom sold. I
delivered a national convention speech back in 1972 for Union Central on that
theme. Oh, I must back track a little and tell you that when I applied for this
position my manager at that time, Mr. Thomally, had a very difficult time
getting me okayed because of my age. I was fifty-five years old when I entered
the life insurance field. What! Fifty-five! “She’s too old,” they said at
the home office. Mr. Thomally said if you met Estelle Goorey you wouldn’t
think she’s fifty-five. She passed the state board and got a high mark with
four other agents that I was interviewing and she came out tops. Would you turn
a woman like that down because of her age. She does not look fifty-five. And
with that they put me on probation, tried me out and at the end of my first year
the editor of our monthly catalogue called me and said what is your scoop, that’s
exactly his words, on this “Five Twenty One.” We always knew it was a good
product but nobody did anything with it excepting you. I said all right Mr.
Jones. I didn’t know where to start, I know a lot of people in this community.
The men always thought of an insurance agent as a male. And I was a curiosity to
them. What does a woman know. And they all knew my background cause I was a very
popular worker in this community. But I did prove my merit. I did prove “Five
Twenty One” would produce what they were looking for as a gift for their
grandchildren. And from then on I naturally progressed to the family plans,
closed the biggest group plan, seven hundred employees for one of the men here
whose mother bought insurance for his children. That was result of the “Five
Twenty One” Policy. And in that group I sold others, we had five branches. I
sold the branch managers, some of the office help, and so on and so forth. And
then I had referrals. And thereby, I was able to say I know all about insurance,
ask a widow. A man doesn’t like to buy too much insurance. All he can think
about is why should my wife have all that money, she’ll remarry. Why should I
struggle to pay the premiums. He’s always scared that he’s going to die and
she’s going to live a happy life, remarry somebody else on his efforts. But
that is not true. There’s a lot of men that are living long. Life insurance is
a protection for the family and income after you’re sixty-five as it builds is
a lot of cash value. And I’m very happy to say that I’ve seen a number of my
client’s cash in on their policies past sixty-five to supplement their pension
plans, social security, just name it. And any number of them would meet me and
say, “Oh, Estelle I wished you had pulled my arm and sold me more.” I said
look I had a heck of a time selling you what you had. And when I’d go back and
say but more, you have another child, you’d always say I’m working for Union
Central. And I’d say yes, but later on Union Central will be your banker. And
it proved to be that way.
Interviewer: So you sold insurance until 1985.
Goorey: 1985 I was honored. Mr. Tally, the first manager, on that middle
picture on the top row, with vice president of Union Central honoring me for
thirty years of successful hard work. The topic of the program was the, they had
a great big display of all my pictures taken from the year I started with them.
A pattern of success, that was the title of the talk. And they showed great big
beautiful display of me in various years. My interviews, how I delivered
policies, how I explained the value of these policies, how I would go back and
increase their estate. And Mr. Thomally took great pride. He’d been with the
company a number of years, unfortunately he passed away a year ago. But I was so
happy to see him and to see my first manager who went to bat for me. And he said
I knew that she had a story to tell and a good one. I can’t recall the figures
they quoted that I sold over the years, but it was a good healthy figure. And I’m
very happy to say that it put me in a position to retire. I have a nice pension
plan with them. And I get all the benefits. They pay for all my hospitalization,
my drugs. And are very helpful to me anytime I call down there. Yes Estelle,
what can we do for you. As though I had just started with them. I’m still an
employee even though I am retired.
Interviewer: Thank you very, very much for spending the time and telling your
Goorey: You’re welcome.
Interviewer: This concludes the interview with Estelle Goorey for the
Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project.