This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on August 16, 2011 as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society’s Oral History Project. My name is Naomi Schottenstein and I am doing an interview at my apartment at Creekside at the Village located at 2200 Welcome Place in Columbus, Ohio. I am interviewing Herb Solomon. The reason that we are interviewing Herb is, thank goodness, he has lived to be a ripe age and has had a lot of experiences here in Columbus, Ohio through the years and also was involved in some interesting history; for instance, he was a theater operator at one time, even an outdoor theater operator. He can fill you in on the rest of his interesting occupations through the years. He is also a resident of Creekside.
Interviewer: Let’s start with giving us your full name.
Solomon: Herbert Leonard Solomon.
Interviewer: Do you have a Jewish name?
Solomon: Chaim Labe.
Interviewer: Who were you named for? Do you remember? You have no idea who you were named for?
Interviewer: Well, can you trace your family back very many years? Not much information.
Interviewer: Well, we’ll come back to that in a little bit. What was your mother’s full name?
Solomon: Anna Davidow Solomon.
Interviewer: Your father’s full name?
Solomon: Benjamin Solomon.
Interviewer: What country was your mother born in?
Solomon: She was born in the United States, probably in Columbus.
Interviewer: What about your father?
Solomon: He was probably born in Russia.
Interviewer: Do you know what part of Russia?
Interviewer: Sometimes that becomes an interesting issue if someone in the family wants to look up more history in years to come. That’s happened very many times. Sometimes the village that they came from might not be in existence. Flo, our recorder, has indicated that it is. Can you tell us how your father came to this country, where he landed or why he ended up in the United States?
Solomon: He no doubt landed in New York, and he was the youngest of his siblings. He came by himself.
Interviewer: Where did he go when he landed? What city did he end up living in and when?
Solomon: The only city I remember is Columbus. I don’t know when he came here.
Interviewer: You just wonder what brought him to Columbus. Was it a relative, a landsman, somebody who came from his village?
Solomon: I really don’t know. He didn’t talk about it.
Interviewer: That wasn’t too unusual for people of that era who came over, not to discuss a whole lot about their past. I think they wanted to put it aside. I think there may be some curiosity in years to come. What makes you sure, or are you sure, that he landed in New York? That would be Ellis Island, right?
Solomon: Yes. I don’t know of any other place.
Interviewer: Do you know how he got started here? What did he do when he first came here? Did he work for somebody?
Solomon: He went to school. He was about eleven years old. He came with another relative, his father or sister. I don’t know. He was the youngest of his siblings. Most of them lived in New Jersey.
Interviewer: Can you tell us anything about his siblings? Did you know them? Tell us what you remember of any one of them or all of them.
Solomon: There was David. He was in the construction business in New Jersey. There was Harry who lived in New Jersey. He was also a carpenter or construction.
Interviewer: Did either one of them have children that you can remember? I know I am digging into your brain, but this is history. Whatever you can come up with will be helpful.
Solomon: Yes, they had children. David had one daughter who was adopted, Maylene, and is not living anymore. Harry had a number of children. Through earlier years I kept in touch with them. There was Danny, Hilda, Lillian, Mary, Rosetta. My father’s other sibling was Morris. His children were Jeanette, Charlie and Ruth.
Interviewer: Do you know what Morris’s occupation was?
Solomon: From what I remember, he was in the candy manufacturing business in Atlantic City. He and his brother-in-law started a salt water taffy business with one of my father’s sisters, Becky, who was married to Louis. My father also had a sister, Henya (Anna), who was probably the oldest. She had one daughter that I know. Her name was Ida, who died not too long ago. I went to Philadelphia for her 90th birthday a few years ago. She was married to someone named Morris Shulberg. They had one son, Gary, who is still single, living in the house that his mother had. Gary is retired, in his 60’s, worked for the government. He came to see me a few weeks ago for a short visit.
Interviewer: Any other children of Anna’s that you can talk about?
Solomon: Ida had brothers who I know by name, but I don’t know them. Ida was very close to my mother and dad in early years. She was Anna’s daughter.
Interviewer: Have you heard any information from any of these folks, or your dad, about their parents? Nothing about what they did in Europe?
Solomon: I think my father’s father probably was a carpenter also. His name was Wolfe Solomon.
Interviewer: Can you tell us something about your mother’s siblings?
Solomon: She had two brothers and a sister, Morris and Louis and Fannie. She had two children. Her married name was Grossman. She had Jerry who was living in Hawaii and a girl whose name escapes me. I think I met Jerry when I was in the service in Hawaii in the 40’s. I had contact with his sister for awhile. My sister used to have contact with her. I don’t know where she is now.
Interviewer: Can you tell us how your father and mother got along as far as making a living? Did your mother ever work?
Solomon: She worked as a seamstress in a factory.
Interviewer: Did she ever talk about how much she made per hour?
Solomon: Not once.
Interviewer: I don’t think they wanted to talk about it.
Solomon: That was Depression days.
Interviewer: What about your dad? Was he able to make a living? Do you remember the Depression era, anything about it?
Solomon: Yes, he was able to make a living. We didn’t have any money.
Interviewer: We’re going through what we call a recession, but it is not as severe as the Depression. Do you have any memories of being without things?
Solomon: Well, we got along. One thing I do remember is putting cardboard in my shoes because they couldn’t get the soles re-soled.
Interviewer: Tell me what year you were born. Let’s go back.
Solomon: 1921. I was just 90.
Interviewer: Your kids had a kiddush for you in shul for your birthday. That’s one of the reasons we are interviewing you. You are an old-timer. You were born in Columbus?
Solomon: I was born in Philadelphia.
Interviewer: So your dad must have settled in Philadelphia, not in Columbus.
Interviewer: How old were you when you left Philadelphia? Do you know?
Solomon: Well, I left Philadelphia when I went into the service in the war, 1942.
Interviewer: Did your parents eventually move to Columbus?
Interviewer: Did you have brothers or sisters?
Solomon: I have one sister. She’s living in Tarzana, California. Her name is Gloria Baral. She has lived in California and in Arizona, back and forth. She has a daughter, Wanda, not married, living in California. She has Andy, Jodi and Kevin, all living in California. I have not been in recent contact with them.
Interviewer: Has your sister been to Columbus?
Solomon: No, not for a long time. She’s on dialysis for many years. She is also hard of hearing, not loss, just total hard of hearing.
Interviewer: It’s hard to communicate and hard to travel at that stage. What do you remember as a youngster growing up with your sister?
Solomon: No particular outstanding memories.
Interviewer: Do you remember where you went to school?
Solomon: I went to Thomas Creighton Elementary School in Philadelphia, Olney High School, which was brand new when I went there. I graduated from Olney High School in Philadelphia and went to Temple University and graduated.
Interviewer: Do you remember what it cost you to go to college at Temple? Do you have any idea? Or how you paid for it?
Solomon: Well, part of it was scholarship, like $45 a quarter, or something like that.
Interviewer: That was probably a good part of your tuition.
Solomon: I had a scholarship for part of it, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go. I majored in Business Administration, Statistics, Accounting.
Interviewer: Well, that came in handy, didn’t it, for making a living?
Interviewer: Going back to your sister. What was your sister’s husband’s name?
Interviewer: And you went into the Armed Forces in 1942. Did you enlist?
Interviewer: What branch of the service were you in?
Solomon: Air Corps. I went in as a private and eventually went into Officers Candidate School (OCS) and became an officer.
Interviewer: What office?
Solomon: Lieutenant and then went specialized and became a cryptographic officer.
Interviewer: Can you explain what that is?
Solomon: You’re in charge of a code room.
Interviewer: That was a very important job, wasn’t it?
Solomon: Yes, it was.
Interviewer: Where were you stationed?
Solomon: In Samoa and then in Johnson Island in the Pacific. It was a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide. It was just an air strip.
Interviewer: How long were you at each place?
Solomon: A little longer than eight months maybe overseas, after I was commissioned, and went to cryptographic school, and then you wait to be assigned, etc. So I was in altogether about forty-two months.
Interviewer: Do you have any memories of how that went for you? Were you as satisfied as you could be? Were you able to communicate with your family in any way?
Solomon: Yes, through V-mail.
Interviewer: That was those one sheet letters that you folded up?
Interviewer: It probably took a few days to get back and forth. Did you ever receive any packages while you were overseas?
Solomon: I believe I did.
Interviewer: Your family sent you some goodies? That’s a memory that a lot of soldiers talk about that was a big part of being far, far away from home. Anything else you can tell us about while you were in the service?
Solomon: I got out when the war was over. I went into the service in 1942, and then after basic training in Miami Beach. I was supposed to go overseas, but I had put in to go to OCS. At first I was turned down, etc. I finally did get to go and got out in 1946.
Interviewer: Where did you come back to?
Solomon: Columbus. Well, when I was in service, I was stationed at Lockbourne for awhile. The women from B’nai B’rith used to come out to the air base for Friday night Oneg Shabbat. That’s how I met Evelyn.
Interviewer: Give us your wife’s full name.
Solomon: Evelyn Knight Solomon.
Interviewer: Where was she from originally?
Solomon: Youngstown, Ohio.
Interviewer: What brought her to Lockbourne Air Force Base?
Solomon: She was living in Columbus, where she came with her family. They moved from Youngstown to Columbus.
Interviewer: What was she doing then at the time?
Solomon: She worked for an actuary.
Interviewer: So she had some bookkeeping background.
Interviewer: How long did you and Evelyn date before you got married?
Solomon: Well, our dating was by mail once I went overseas. As soon as I got back, we got married. All arranged.
Interviewer: But it was a good arrangement.
Solomon: I guess so. It lasted fifty years.
Interviewer: Where was your wedding?
Solomon: In the Ft. Hayes Hotel in Columbus.
Interviewer: That was a well-known venue. Was it a big wedding?
Solomon: A couple hundred people.
Interviewer: Did you go on a honeymoon? Were you able to finance a honeymoon?
Solomon: Yes. We went to New York.
Interviewer: Everyone seemed to go east instead of west. Where did you live after you were married?
Solomon: We were waiting for an apartment which was still being built on Lilly Avenue. So we lived with my in-laws for awhile until the apartment was ready.
Interviewer: If I remember correctly, apartments were hard to come by after the war, weren’t they?
Solomon: Oh, yeah. Everything was hard to come by. We couldn’t get a car, an apartment. Oscar Berman was the builder. We waited for that. I don’t remember what the rent was.
Interviewer: How long did you live on Lilly Avenue?
Solomon: It was 997 Lilly Avenue.
Interviewer: Sometimes children and grandchildre like to go back and see the house their grandparents lived in. You might have been ready to move out of there, but kids are curious.
Solomon: It was a four-family apartment. I can’t think of the names of the others right now. Virginia Gold was one of them.
Interviewer: Do you remember any of the other neighbors at all? Where were you working at that time?
Solomon: Well, when I came back from service, I went into the theater business with my father-in-law. He had several theaters.
Interviewer: Tell us a little about that business.
Solomon: They were indoor theaters down on Main Street, Parsons Avenue. The Royal Theater at 251 E. Main St., The New Theater was a 409. The Russell Theater was on Parsons. That was at the time that drive-in theaters were growing. So we had somebody who was looking for a piece of property out of Columbus. He found a piece of land up in Findlay, OH. We gave him a minor interest in the partnership. His name was Dean Dennis.
Interviewer: Were there other outdoor theaters at that time?
Solomon: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: So you had the opportunity to do this in Findlay?
Solomon: Right. And that’s when I moved to Findlay.
Interviewer: Talking about the theaters on Main St. and Parsons, do you remember what the admission fee was at that time?
Solomon: Probably fifty cents.
Interviewer: So it wasn’t $7.50 to $12.00, like what it is now? Did you sell popcorn and candy and all those goodies?
Solomon: Yes, we sold popcorn and candy.
Interviewer: So you built a theater, you and your partner, in Findlay, and you actually lived there? Did Evelyn and the rest of your family move there too?
Solomon: We did and then we commuted. She didn’t like Findlay, so we moved back to Columbus, as far as a permanent house was concerned. During the summer I would commute back and forth.
Interviewer: Where were you living when you lived in Findlay? Where was your house in Columbus? Was it still Lilly or had you bought a house then?
Solomon: No, no. We moved out of Lilly. We did buy a house here at that time.
Interviewer: Were your children born when you started the business in Findlay. I’m just trying to think of you driving back and forth and how that worked in terms of your family.
Interviewer: Why don’t you tell us about your children, their names and who they are married to.
Solomon: There was Robert, who was married to Rochelle. They are divorced now but had one child, Benjamin, who is deceased. He had familial dysautonomia (FD), a Jewish genetic disorder. They lived in Shaker Heights. They adopted Adam, who lives with his mother in Shaker Heights. Robert remarried to Nancy, living in Henderson, Nevada. My second child is Ronald, married to Barbara. They live in Cincinnati. Robert is an attorney, and Ronald is a dentist. Ronald has Scott and Aaron and Stephanie. Scott is divorced now. Aaron is married to Cassi, who now has twin baby girls that are about three months old, maybe older now. Stephanie has two little girls. Elsie is almost three, and the other one is Ewan. I also have Edie. She met Mordechai from Israel in Columbus and moved to Israel. He was going to school in Columbus. They have Tomer, who is now a lieutenant in the Israeli Navy, and Cegal, who has already completed her military obligation. She is supposed to start college in the fall in Israel. For the time being, she will stay in Israel. Edie was ill and passed away in December, 2009.
Interviewer: Edie was quite an outstanding young lady.
Solomon: She really was. She had a lot to give yet.
Interviewer: Did you travel very much at all with the kids when they were young?
Solomon: Compared to some people, no, but we did travel. We took a driving trip out west, to New York, Washington, around the USA.
Interviewer: Were you able to travel to Israel very much once Edie moved there?
Solomon: I don’t know how many times I’ve been there. Probably 8-10 times now.
Interviewer: I don’t know if I asked you when Evelyn passed away. What year?
Interviewer: So she was able to go to Israel?
Solomon: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: Can you tell us anything about Evelyn’s family? Who her siblings were?
Solomon: Her brother, Julius, who I was partners with in the drive-in theater business in Columbus. His wife was Helen, who is still living in Ft. Myers, Florida. There was June, who was married to Richard Rieger and lived in Lorain, Ohio, and a brother Jerry Knight, who lives in Columbus.
Interviewer: Can you tell us anything about June’s children?
Solomon: Denny and Terry. If I can recollect, Denny died. Julius’ children are David, who is living in the Columbus area and Ruth, who lives out in Missouri.
Interviewer: How about Jerry’s family?
Solomon: There is Joanie Rosen in Columbus and Lani, who lives in Chicago, not married, and Mara.
Interviewer: Tell us something about where your children went to school.
Solomon: Well, Robert went to OSU and Northwestern Law School. Ron went to OSU and OSU Dental School. Edith went to the University of Cincinnati, majoring in Communications and Public Relations.
Interviewer: She used to write articles for the Chronicle, didn’t she? I remember when she went to Israel that she would keep us in tune with her life in Israel, which was very interesting.
Solomon: Yes. She wrote very well.
Interviewer: What year did they move to Israel? Do you remember how old their children were? We’ll have to guess how many years ago that was to try to figure that out.
Solomon: They had just started elementary school and are now in their 20’s.
Interviewer: Let’s switch to a different channel all together and tell us something about your interest in the community. What kind of community work did you do?
Solomon: Well, I was president of the Columbus Hebrew School. I was secretary of the board at Agudas Achim Synagogue. I was on the board and treasurer of Jewish Family Service.
Interviewer: Who were some of the principals or teachers at that time?
Solomon: Dan Harrison.
Interviewer: Well, you were quite involved in Jewish community work, for sure. What about Jewish War Veterans?
Solomon: I had some kind of a job, but I don’t remember what it was. I still belong.
Interviewer: I think I saw you in the July 4th Parade last year. That is always a biggie.
Interviewer: Do you have any remembrances at all of your children’s tuitions were at college?
Interviewer: How about membership dues at Agudas Achim?
Interviewer: Are you still doing any organizational work?
Solomon: Not really. Retired.
Interviewer: Your life here at Creekside. Before you moved to Creekside, where were you living?
Solomon: In Gahanna at 3743 Renwick Lane, a condo.
Interviewer: Did you ever belong to the Jewish Center?
Solomon: I did at one time, but wasn’t involved in anything? No swimming or bowling at the JCC.
Interviewer: What about any other interests you had in your adult life? I know you worked a lot in the theater business and your hours were strange. How many years were you involved in the Findlay drive-in?
Solomon: I think it was 1949-1978.
Interviewer: Did you sell the outdoor theater?
Solomon: No, that’s a whole other story. The interesting part was that we had a fire there in September. At that time of the year, you are temporarily shut down during the week and open only on weekends. It was the Jewish holidays and I was in Columbus. I got a phone call after Rosh Hashanah services saying that there was a fire at the theater. I said, “Well, put it out!”
Interviewer: That was good advice!
Solomon: What happened was that someone had broken in and vandalized the place and set fire to the concession stand. Plastic signs melted, and the smoke damage in the projection room, etc. We wanted to sell it, and we decided not to rebuild and just get rid of it. So we finally did sell the business.
Interviewer: How did you live when you were in Findlay? Did you have an apartment?
Solomon: Each summer was another experience. I would rent a room in the early part of the season before school was out, because we didn’t take the kids out of school. Then for the summer we rented a house or an apartment or something, and the family came up there. The kids were small and we were shlepping all the stuff, you know. We took a playpen and other equipment. They spent the summer in Findlay. I did rent a house and the family lived there for awhile, all through the year.
Interviewer: Let me put you back on another track. I happen to remember another house that you lived in near the school off of Maryland Avenue.
Solomon: That was after we moved back to Columbus. Findlay was still in existence, but we moved back. Evelyn didn’t want to live in Findlay. It was not a Jewish environment. There were some Jews, but we went to Lima for services.
Interviewer: So what was your address where you moved to in Columbus?
Solomon: Across from Maryland Avenue School. Can’t remember the address. We moved there because it was close to the school. At that time, Evelyn wasn’t driving. I remember one Sunday getting the Columbus paper, and I went to Columbus to see what there is, which I did. And I saw this house near Maryland Avenue and thought it would be the right thing. So the next day we came into Columbus and the advantage of it was that it was across from the school, close enough to shul to walk and everything fit in. I made the offer and “boop,” it was accepted. I think it was 321 Cassingham.
Interviewer: I think you and Evelyn and the children were involved in a lot of things at Agudas Achim. My family was the same age. There were a lot of activities at that time.
Solomon: Yes, Evelyn was active in Sisterhood.
Interviewer: Was she involved in the business, too?
Interviewer: How do you feel about modern things like television, computers and all this digital stuff?
Solomon: I do not have a computer. I do my bookkeeping by pen and pencil.
Interviewer: How about when you were in the bookkeeping business? Did you have an office?
Solomon: Well, I didn’t have a bookkeeping business. I had a tax preparation service. I worked for Universal Tax Service and I had personal tax clients. I was doing that while I still had the theater too. That was off-season.
Interviewer: Any other memories that you would like to share with us. Family or business memories or community memories? Have you seen a lot of changes in the growth of Columbus?
Interviewer: Has a lot of machinery come into the picture? How about your life here at Creekside? How do you feel about where you are now?
Solomon: Well, I’m glad that I made the change. As in most cases, if you talk to people here, their children didn’t want them to live by themselves. You found the same thing probably. Most people moved here because their kids didn’t want them to be alone and to be in a safe environment, and you’re with people. So, that’s the good part.
Interviewer: And you blend in. I see that you participate in a lot of things and go listen to the concerts. We have meals together sometimes. It is all right here. Well, you’ve given us a lot of information, more than you thought you knew. I appreciate your time this afternoon. On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I want to thank you for your time. I hope this doesn’t keep you awake at night thinking about what you forgot to talk about. We got a good start.
Solomon: You are welcome.
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Transcribed by Phyllis Komerofsky
Edited by: Helena Schlam
May 23, 2012