This interview with Frances Goldberg for the Columbus Jewish Historical
Society was conducted at Heritage House by Rhea Kaplan on
September 15, 1983. Mrs. Goldberg speaks about her childhood, family life and
how she helped her physically challenged son to prepare to live independently.
She mentions her son, Lawrence, who wrote an informative autobiography about
schools and therapies, his experiences as a board member of various helping
organizations for the disabled. It is available at the Jewish Historical Society
Interviewer: Frances, can you tell me when you came to this country,
with whom, and what you remember of your early years as a child in
Goldberg: I came from Kiev, Russia, at the age of three months, with
my mother and my brother, who is two years and three months older than
Interviewer: And what is his name?
Goldberg: His name is Joseph Goldberg.
Interviewer: And where did you come to?
Goldberg: We came to Philadelphia, where my father was waiting for
us, and we lived in Philadelphia for a very short time, and where a
friend of his from Russia who had come here and established himself as a
custom tailor – that was my father’s profession, and they knew each
other very well – Ike Martlin – who coaxed my father to come to Columbus
to live here.
Interviewer: Did you have other relatives here, or just the friends.
Goldberg: No, just the friends. An aunt and uncle came later.
Interviewer: And what were their names?
Goldberg: Sadie and George Shustick. That was my mother’s only
Interviewer: We have you living in Columbus with just the one
Goldberg: That’s the only relative we had, and still have.
Interviewer: And how old was your brother when he came with you and
Goldberg: He was two years and three months old.
Interviewer: He was just two years older than you.
Goldberg: Two years and three months.
Interviewer: I notice in your questionnaire something about your
mother bringing you between two pillows?
Goldberg: Two pillows.
Interviewer: What was that story about?
Goldberg: Well, when my father left Russia, my mother was pregnant,
and they advised that she shouldn’t travel, and he said he would send
for her after my birth.
Interviewer: You were talking about how your father sent for you and
your mother sometime after your birth, and something about two pillows.
It started out about two pillows.
Goldberg: I was a very small child, and Mother wanted to be very sure
that I had good protection, and she thought that two pillows would
answer the purpose. And that’s about all I can remember my mother
talking about. My mother came second class, and I still have her
passport. When I went to Israel I had to produce it to show that we came
here under proper circumstances. And it tells the name of the boat and
all the information necessary. A very important document.
Interviewer: It certainly was. And when you first came to Columbus,
where did you live? Do you remember that?
Goldberg: No, I don’t remember that.
Interviewer: Do you remember what school you went to?
Goldberg: Well, we had moved to our first home when I was about five.
The first time my father bought. When I was six, I entered Siebert
Street School and stayed at Siebert Street School for three years when
Heyl Avenue School was built and I was at that school, and I was in that
district. I went there until I was ready for junior high, and from there
I went to Studer Avenue School, which was just really there – districts
kept changing, and from there I went to South High School.
Interviewer: From where you graduated.
Goldberg: Not only that, but after I went through high school I went
to business college and started to work at seventeen. I was a happy
child – made friends easily – it made no difference who my playmates
were. If they were friendly, I was friendly with them. I don’t think
my mother showed any discrimination about who I was as long as the
people were honest and they didn’t try to change me, and I never knew
the difference. My father was very strict; my mother not restrictive,
and we were a very close-knit family. Very close.
Interviewer: You were very lucky.
Goldberg: Yes. I felt as I grew older I was a little more
discriminating in choosing friends, and I was brought up in a home that
loved music and learned the better things of life, although my father
was a very sick man and we had more opportunities to cultivate in any
educational manner. It seemed to be an inborn and innate thing. My
brother was very artistic, and my sister and I were very much interested
Interviewer: When was your sister born?
Goldberg: My sister was born a year and a half after we came here.
Interviewer: And her name was –
Goldberg: Mahlee. (She spelled it M a h l e e.)
Interviewer: Mahlee. Did your neighborhood and your school friends –
were they primarily Jewish, or were they mixed?
Goldberg: They were mixed.
Interviewer: They were mixed. You said your father was ill. Was that
over a long period of time?
Goldberg: It seemed so. Yes. He had surgery after we moved into a new
Interviewer: Do you remember what year that was, and where that was?
Goldberg: It was – it must have been about 1908.
Interviewer: And do you remember what part of town that was?
Goldberg: It was in the south end, and he went to Grant Hospital and
had surgery there. It was a stomach condition. An ulcer, I think it must
have been. He remained weak after that – he never regained much
Interviewer: Was he able to continue work?
Goldberg: He continued work, yes, and he was an excellent tailor.
Excellent. His work was quite well known, and he died at an early age.
Interviewer: How old was he?
Interviewer: And what happened to your family then. Did your mother
have to work?
Goldberg: No, my mother never worked. All three of us – my brother
became an architectural engineer –
Interviewer: Did he get his training at Ohio State?
Goldberg: At Ohio State. Yes, I worked. The last place I worked, I
worked for forty-five years for Western Union, and I did go back to
school. I went back to “State,” and took a course in Speech. I’m
trying to think back – I’m slow in answering any questions.
Interviewer: You got your business training at a business college?
Goldberg: Yes – at Bliss College. Took basic training there.
Interviewer: And you took your course in Speech at Ohio State.
Goldberg: Yes. I didn’t have enough credit – I had to do a year’s
work to get credit. I think it was a corrective speech course at the
university. It was a small class. I had a handicapped child – a cerebral
palsied boy – who was born with a birth injury – a forceps delivery and
there was an injury to the base of the brain and it affected his speech
and his motor coordination. And I realized he needed speech – corrective
speech – and as many lessons as he was getting before I went back to
school, I noticed he had learned enough. I couldn’t afford too much.
And that was during the depression. And so I went to school to get what
I could in the short time that I thought I would be able to pay my way.
The difficulty came when I had a nervous breakdown because I worked and
I went to school.
Interviewer: Let me stop you for a minute and then I’ll come back
to you. Your sister Mahlie also worked.
Goldberg: My sister worked as a bookkeeper on a machine of some kind
– she worked on a Burroughs bookkeeping machine.
Interviewer: Now I’d like to go back to re-interview to take care
of your mother after your father’s death.
Goldberg: …and my brother.
Goldberg: My brother was an architect and he worked for the architect
at the university.
Interviewer: Now at what point did this nervous breakdown occur? How
old were you then?
Goldberg: About forty-five.
Interviewer: You had been married before then.
Goldberg: Oh, sure
Interviewer: How old were you when you married, and who did you
Goldberg: I married a man from Cincinnati at the age of 21. And he
was a Goldberg, too. But my people were Russian and his people were
German. His name was Bernard Goldberg and his father was a podiatrist,
and we were a close family. We lived in Cincinnati at the time of the
marriage, and married in Cincinnati. My people were Orthodox, and his
people were very Reform, but there was no difficulty. I kept a kosher
home because I wanted my people to come and eat at our home.
Interviewer: May I backtrack a little bit? You were brought up in an
Goldberg: …in an orthodox home. Yes.
Interviewer: Can you tell me about any religious affiliations that
Goldberg: Oooh! I want to tell you that my father was one of the
organizers of the Beth Jacob Congregation, and was very active in the
shul, and my people, as I said, were very orthodox. I went to Sunday
School. At the time Agudas Achim had the only Sunday School, so I went
to the Agudas Achim Sunday School because all the people that went to
Sunday School had to go to Agudas Achim Sunday School because Beth Jacob
didn’t have one. Thinking back on my childhood – it’s a warm
feeling. I smile and I’m happy about my childhood.
Interviewer: Did you celebrate the Jewish holidays in your home?
Goldberg: Oh, yes, absolutely. To the letter of orthodoxy – the very
Interviewer: Did you share these holidays with friends and family?
Goldberg: Oh, our home – we had an open door. We always had friends
come in on holidays, and our mother always had portions of marvelous
cooking going. And there was always a bountiful cake on the table, and
it didn’t make any difference whether it was a Jewish holiday or the
fourth of July, we had friends. We always did.
Interviewer: And were they also Christian or Gentile friends?
Goldberg: No, they were only Jews.
Interviewer: Only Jewish friends. Then you were married, I presume,
with an orthodox family. Is that correct?
Goldberg: No, I was married in a Reform – in Cincinnati by a Reform
rabbi. That was something that – that was the first big disappointment
that I gave my family.
Interviewer: Now why did you make that selection?
Goldberg: ‘Cause I loved him.
Interviewer: And he wanted to be married.
Goldberg: I felt I had to cooperate, because he was going to permit
me to do the things that I wanted after marriage, but that was the least
I could do.
Interviewer: Sounds like a very happy marriage. And did you have
Goldberg: Oh, yes, I had this one son, the only child I have.
Interviewer: And what is his name?
Goldberg: His name is Lawrence.
Interviewer: Is he still living?
Goldberg: Yes, he’s living, and he’s married –
Interviewer: And where does he live?
Goldberg: He lives in Columbus, up north.
Interviewer: And grandchildren?
Goldberg: No. No grandchildren
Interviewer: And now I’d like to get back to your home life. Were
you brought up in a home where you had chores and responsibilities?
Goldberg: No, we – other than doing the dishes and taking care of our
own rooms at some times.
Interviewer: Did you have help in the house? Domestic help?
Goldberg: After my father passed away, my mother got very ill, and
then we had help. It was Colored help, and the woman was with us for
eighteen years. We learned to respect other people. My mother was very
broad in her thought about – when it came to people’s feelings, we
were supposed to recognize them as our own. She was a wonderful woman,
just a wonderful woman.
Interviewer: Now, as you were growing up, do you recall any changes
in ideas that you might have had, or were your ideas set pretty much as
a child, and did they stay with you?
Goldberg: They – my ideas were such that they were pretty well
stabilized as to the way I started feeling. And as an adult my likes
changed as to the manner in which I lived. I had no discrimination – it
didn’t make any difference – I, Jewish people – that is, I chose
people mostly by the way I would want them to live. That’s how I chose
Interviewer: You mentioned before that your family was very fond of
Interviewer: How did they express that?
Goldberg: One of the first things that my father bought for our
amusement was a Victrola. We never knew what jazz was, or popular music,
or orchestration, and it was one of these large (long interval of silent
My sister and I both took lessons, but she played a better piano than
I did, but I used to sing. I sang quite well.
Interviewer: Did you go to concerts?
Goldberg: Oh, yes. I can even remember going to the first concert
that Caruso gave in Columbus. Martinelli, Tetrazzini, there were so
many. We bought season tickets. We were back in old Memorial Hall.
Interviewer: Old Memorial Hall! Did you have any other hobbies?
Goldberg: I used to be a record collector. I still am. When I went to
school English was my best subject.
Interviewer: Were you active in any political groups or did politics
enter into conversations with your friends?
Goldberg: Only in later years. We were Democrats. We always were. Dad
was in business for himself. He had Republican and Democratic customers.
He had buttons for each party, and he knew, when he had to make a
fitting for someone, which button to put on. It was comical. He seemed
to be more flexible than the children.
Interviewer: Do you remember what year your father died?
Goldberg: (No response on tape)
Interviewer: What year were you married?
Goldberg: 1921. I was just 21.
Interviewer: And you moved to Cincinnati.
Goldberg: I moved to Cincinnati. And my child was born when I was 23.
Interviewer: You were 23 when your son was born. And how long did you
live in Cincinnati?
Goldberg: We lived in Cincinnati seven years.
Interviewer: Did you continue to work after you were married?
Goldberg: Not after. I worked a couple of years before I left
Cincinnati, all with Western Union. My husband was a supervisor. That’s
how I met him.
Interviewer: Then where did you move to, from Cincinnati.
Goldberg: Back to Columbus.
Interviewer: Was that because your husband – your job – there was a
transfer. And did you go back to work then?
Goldberg: I went back to work. I worked for twenty-five years.
Interviewer: What were job conditions like in those days?
Goldberg: I liked my work and at that time we were not millionaires
and our income was very low.
Interviewer: Do you recall what your beginning salary was?
Goldberg: When I had to go to school to learn where I was to work at
and I was paid forty-three cents an hour. And I became an operator after
schooling, and I was raised to 70 cents an hour. We got automatic
raises, and until the union came in I was only making about $34 a week.
Interviewer: Were you working a 40-hour week?
Goldberg: Forty hour weeks. Later on, of course, the union came in
and we were raised if I remember correctly, it was $1.15 and we had
continued working we had automatic raises and were very well paid.
Interviewer: And when you stopped working, do you recall what year
Interviewer: I’d like to go back to your early marriage years. You
have already talked about deciding to be married in the Reform Temple,
and in exchange your husband said yes, –
Goldberg: -and I benched licht and I kept a strictly kosher
Interviewer: Do you remember the name of the rabbi who married you?
Goldberg: I thought about that last night and tried to remember.
Interviewer: But you did decide to live in Cincinnati and then you
moved up here. Did your husband share your pleasure in music?
Goldberg: Yes. In fact, he was a musician on the side. He played the
Interviewer: Did he play in an orchestra or band?
Goldberg: They were just a group of friends that used to get together
to play. But before we were married, he played for dances and he was
quite efficient (?) in that. And of course, my son is very musical.
Every record he gets – he has a beautiful record library – and he tapes
every record, because, he says, the tapes will last longer than the
records because sometimes the records scratch, and he said because of
that he recorded all of his records.
Interviewer: We were talking about your son’s interest in music and
you said something about cerebral palsy. Does he suffer from cerebral
Interviewer: But he did marry.
Goldberg: He did marry. He’s in a wheel chair. His wife is also in
a wheel chair. They have a beautiful, beautiful relationship.
Interviewer: May I go back a bit to your early days. Was he schooled
in the public schools?
Goldberg: No, he went to the school for crippled children after three
years of home tutors.
Interviewer: Was this the one at Parsons and Main, was that the
school for the blind?
Goldberg: That was the school for the blind, yes.
Interviewer: Where was the school that he went to?
Goldberg: That school was in what is now German Village.
Interviewer: Yes, –
Goldberg: And he went through high school. Just before he graduated
he had serious surgery – stabilization of his ankles, so he had home
tutoring and he graduated from East High School and it was quite an
affair, because he graduated with very high honors. He’s brilliant – a
brilliant young man. He’s sixty years old now!
Interviewer: Did he have any kind of speech problem?
Goldberg: He still has a speech problem.
Interviewer: How does he lead his life?
Goldberg: Through the Cerebral Palsy Center, which I helped organize.
Interviewer: Here in Columbus?
Goldberg: Yes, for the adults.
Interviewer: Was she Jewish?
Goldberg: No, she was not Jewish. This was something that even the
rabbi said, this was something that was okay. The rabbi said it was
perfectly all right. My brother and I were a little not only surprised –
I didn’t think I’d ever get to see him married – but this is
something that happens with handicapped people.
Interviewer: How old was he when he married?
Goldberg: He’s sixty – and Julie is 47 or 48 now. Larry is about 15
years older than his wife.
Interviewer: Do they have their own home?
Goldberg: No, they rent. They have an apartment- it’s a first floor
apartment. I cut my apron strings from my son. I was a hard nut and
very, very strict and raised him to be independent and he raised his
wife to be independent. It’s just a beautiful relationship. It’s
marvelous! He became a Mason and he’s very active in the Grotto.
Interviewer: What is the Grotto?
Goldberg: The Grotto is the social organization that is part of
Masonry. That it sponsors the handicapped. That is why he joined it.
Larry went away to school for ten years in Cincinnati for speech
correction and he learned a great deal there and he learned how to take
care of himself. And before he married, he left home for a year, had his
own apartment to see how he could handle himself, because if he couldn’t,
he wouldn’t get married. He found that he did, and he got married.
Interviewer: You’re smiling because you’re proud and you have
every right to be.
Goldberg: It is the thing I thank God for morning and night. It’s a
feeling that really cannot be described – that I can see how independent
he is, how lovely their home is furnished. They never got anything in
their home they didn’t pay cash for. If they couldn’t afford it,
they didn’t buy it. They saved for it. He is thrifty without being
stingy. And he has taught her that. Her name is Julie, and he calls her
his Jewel. It’s just beautiful.
Interviewer: Where did they get – from what source do they derive
Goldberg: He gets his social security because he’s handicapped. He
got my social security and when he became of age to get his social
security, which is a lot younger than so-called normal people pass, and
then moneys that were given to him over the years from his bar mitzvah
up to the time of his wedding, and her people are well fixed. Or were –
they’re both gone now. And she gets social security, and the income
that they have that she gets now, helps very deeply. And they have a
Interviewer: Can we go back to your husband now – when you moved to
Columbus, he moved of course, he was still with Western Union. Did he
stay with them for the rest of his life?
Goldberg: With Western Union for the rest of his life.
Interviewer: And did he retire?
Goldberg: Oh, no, he’s gone on.
Interviewer: Did he retire before his death or did his death come
before his retirement?
Goldberg: No, no, he died a young man. He had cancer on his head that
went to his brain.
Interviewer: How old was he when he died?
Interviewer: You’ve had a great deal of sorrow in your life, but
you’ve also had a great deal of joy that you look back on.
Goldberg: The rest of my life I just gave to myself.
Interviewer: You continued to work after your husband died.
Goldberg: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: When did you come to live in Columbus – I mean to
Goldberg: Heritage House, it’s going on six years. I came on the
ninth of March, I guess five years ago. 1978. I’m in my sixth year.
Interviewer: And at that time you gave up your own home.
Goldberg: Yes. My brother still lives in that apartment, and he’s
made application to go to the Towers. First we had a three-bedroom
apartment. He doesn’t need three bedrooms. He’s a bachelor.
Interviewer: Did he live with you?
Goldberg: We all lived together. My sister married at New Haven,
Connecticut, and so she’s lived there all her life, has her family,
and her roots are there. My brother and I and my son lived together in
the apartment. We had our own home. We rented only a few years when we
came to America. After that, every home we lived in, we bought. Then I
developed a heart condition, and the doctor said, “No more
stairs.” We lived in a very large home. It was three stories. I’ll
never forget, and it had three porches had a lot of wood floors. I was
told, “One floor plan, no stairs.” So we moved into an
apartment and had three bedrooms. So my brother still lives in the
apartment until he makes a move.
Interviewer: I didn’t get one thing clear. Did your mother live
with you in Columbus, you, and your husband and your child in Columbus?
From the time that you –
Goldberg: My husband never lived in Columbus.
Interviewer: Didn’t he?
Goldberg: No, no. He died in Cincinnati.
Interviewer: Oh! Then how long after you were married did he die?
Goldberg: About seven years.
Interviewer: Oh! so you brought up your child all by yourself.
Goldberg: That’s right.
Interviewer: Is that why you came back to Columbus!
Goldberg: That’s right, and I moved in with my mother.
Interviewer: Was your brother living at home then, too?
Goldberg: Why, yes. We lived in our home almost fifty years, in the
last home before we moved to the apartment.
Interviewer: So your marriage only lasted seven years.
Goldberg: A short time, a very short time.
Interviewer: And you felt the full responsibility then.
Goldberg: That’s right.
Interviewer: Then after your mother died, you and your brother and
your son stayed the same. What advice have you got to give to the young
people today who don’t know how to cope – with marriage?
Goldberg: You’ve got to have faith, you’ve got to believe in God.
And that’s the way my mother raised us. And if I hadn’t had a strong
faith, I would have never been able to do what I did for myself for
Interviewer: How do you believe that your belief in God helped you?
Goldberg: Well, do you understand Yiddish?
Interviewer: Not very well.
Goldberg: When my son never was able to walk well, and he’d fall a
great deal, whenever he’d fall, my mother would say, in Yiddish,
“Pick yourself up, mein kind,.” –“Pick yourself
up, my child, Got vet helfen” – God always helps. I stayed
with him. And he’s also a very firm believer in God. My brother is an
agnostic. I am a really firm believer.
Interviewer: Mrs. Goldberg went on to emphasize the devotion
exhibited toward one another in her small, close family. Her mother and
father were close, though her mother was more openly affectionate.
When Frances returned from Cincinnati, her brother, Joseph, was
working out of town. It was at this time that Rabbi Nathan Zelizer came
to Columbus as a student. He needed a room in an orthodox home near
Tifereth Israel, and chose the Goldberg home. It fulfilled the
requirements and had a vacant room. Rabbi Zelizer lived with the family
until the year before his marriage.
When Joseph returned to Columbus and took up residence with Frances
and Lawrence, the uncle became almost a father to the boy. Frances said
that she was able to cut the apron strings between herself and her son,
before the uncle was able to. She had great confidence in her son’s
ability. Lawrence attended Ohio State for what she thinks was three
quarters, where he took courses in English Composition and Writing. He
received three citations from the governor for his work with the
handicapped. He is presently writing his autobiography. (1998 note: The
autobiography referred to is available for copying or reading at the
Columbus Jewish Historical Society.)
It was almost two years before Mrs. Goldberg was called back to work
– she had been laid off because of the depression. She found her work at
the school for crippled children rewarding, but not sufficiently
remunerative. However, her work with the handicapped, as a volunteer,
continued for about thirty years. She worked principally with the
Franklin County Cerebral Palsy Center for Adults and Children, which she
had helped to organize with Myrrh Warken, and Mr. Warken and she sat on
the board of the United Cerebral Palsy Center for Adults for many years.
For ten years, Larry attended the Berry School for Physical
Correction in Cincinnati. While he was there, Frances went to the Berry
School in Winnebago, Wisconsin for three months. This was a teachers’
training school and enabled Frances to continue the program of physical
correction for Larry.
This concludes the Interview of Frances Goldberg by Rhea Kaplan for
the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project.