This interview with Irvin Roth was conducted in 1984 by Carol Folkerth
for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project.
Mr. Roth spoke about his family and their early years and education in
Columbus. He established a food market on Main Street in Bexley which became
Paul’s, in addition to a wholesale food enterprise later owned and managed by
his son, Benson Roth. He died shortly after this interview was taped.
Interviewer: Irvin Roth, what was your address during your childhood?
Do you remember what street you lived on?
Roth: Sure – 497 East Fulton Street.
Interviewer: What were your parents’ names?
Roth: Dad’s name was David, or Dave, Mother’s name was Ida.
Roth: That’s right
Interviewer: Where were you born?
Roth: Well, to be honest with you, I don’t know. The reason I’m
making that statement, the nature of the place where I was born went
through so many changes in so many years. Once there was Austria,
Hungary, Poland, and then it reverted back to Poland. Now it’s Poland.
Interviewer: What was the area called?
Roth: Carpathian mountain region.
Interviewer: Do you remember the town?
Roth: Yeah, a town called Turka.
Interviewer: I don’t know my Grandma, but she’s never quite sure
either. Were you an only child?
Roth: No. There was one brother and two sisters that came over from
Europe. One was born here.
Interviewer: When did you come to America?
Roth: In December of 1920.
Interviewer: How old were you when you came?
Roth: About eleven.
Interviewer: And at what age did you start public school?
Interviewer: What grade did they start you in?
Interviewer: Do you know how long you were in second grade? Did they
move you right along real quickly?
Roth: I think I was in second grade around six months – just as soon
as I was able to understand the English language. Then I was moved up to
the fourth grade. In the second grade there was a woman by the name of
Miss Lloyd. In the fourth grade was Martha Dawson. In the fifth grade
was Miss Joyce, in the sixth grade was Miss Niegels. In the fifth grade
was Miss Kisher and Miss Newman.
Interviewer: It seems none of these were Jewish. Do you know what
some of them might have been?
Roth: German. Most of them were of German descent. They were very
helpful with the language area at that time, especially Miss Dawson and
Interviewer: Was that regarding Yiddish?
Roth: Yeah, they spoke German and the Yiddish I was able to speak.
They were able to gather – almost make out what I was referring.
Interviewer: This was at Fulton Street School?
Interviewer: Were you put into any special English classes?
Interviewer: Did you learn most of your English there at school in
the younger grades?
Interviewer: Did any of the teachers or any of the school personnel
ever try to work on your “accent?”
Roth: Yes, Sylvia Schecter, her sister Ruth. Sylvia Schecter,
Interviewer: What did they do?
Roth: Well, you see, we are cousins and being a cousin, we’re
close, because those were the only cousins we had. She would be around
to correct us or help us.
Interviewer: Your cousins helped, right? Anybody else?
Roth: The Furmans, who are also my cousins, and they’re Sylvia’s
cousins, too. Sylvia’s name was Cohen before it was Schechter. Then
the Furmans, that’s who invited me in.
Interviewer: Then, basically in school you spoke English?
Roth: I did.
Interviewer: Did the kids speak English to each other in school?
Roth: Sure. That’s all there were. Blacks and whites and blacks and
Jews practically all in the neighborhood at that time. That was the
ghetto of the city.
Interviewer: Were there mostly Jewish kids at that school? Or –
Roth: There were quite a few, yes. Quite a few.
Interviewer: What language did you speak at home?
Interviewer: Did you mostly speak Yiddish to them, or did you _
Roth: We tried to talk English to them at home. Of course the only
one we had at home was mother. Dad was over in New Straitsville, Ohio.
That’s where he had his business. He just migrated, and came home
every three or four weeks, just for week ends. He was in the scrap metal
business at New Straitsville, Ohio
Interviewer: Did you know someone there, were there businesses there
when you came?
Roth: It’s a long story. The fellow who was responsible for us
being over here was a fellow named Charlie Furman, who was a brother of
my mother’s. He came over in 1912.
Interviewer: Does he still live here?
Roth: No. He’s survived by one son, his other son and wife. All the
rest of them died. And he is the fellow who’s responsible for bringing
over the three sisters – four sisters, rather, including my father and
two of them are living. One of them is Mrs. Rubin, which is Sylvia’s
mother, the other one is Mrs. (Lena) Margulies, the other is Mrs.
(Minnie) Peer and my mother (Mrs. Peer was the mother of Adelle Helman
and He brought ’em over. Furman used to have his own filling station
in New Straitsville, Ohio, so when my dad came over in 1914, he brought
’em over down there and he set ’em up Edmund’s Agency – his
business. He came back to Columbus and opened up a truck agency on West
Broad. My dad took over that business over there and they were there
about from 1914 to 1926.
Interviewer: Yet your children and your mother lived with your Aunt
Roth: We lived here by ourselves in a home of our own.
Interviewer: Then in 1926 did you see a change?
Roth: He came here. He had some money accumulated, I guess. He went
out and bought some property. He had some equity in the property, so he
was also able to send for us in 1919 – for his wife. In that time there
were five of us. Five kids.
Interviewer: So for a while he worked in New Straitsville.
Roth: He was still working in New Straitsville.
Interviewer: How much formal education did your father have?
Roth: Not much. He went possibly to cheder and that’s about
it. At that time Galicia could have been Austria.
Interviewer: What about your mother?
Roth: She had very little education. Very little. Of course, you know
the tradition of the old Jew – of a girl who had very little education –
which we look at it today – most of it went to the son. They had a
reason for that – he was the provider for the family. But Mother read
Hebrew. She was a self – taught woman. She would write script – prayer
book and so forth.
Interviewer: Now was he about the same level of reading?
Roth: No, he was higher up. He could provide. I remember when I was a
youngster and was in Europe, I was reading chumash in Russia at ten before
I came here. You can see the advance and advantage a fellow had or may
have had with a girl.
Interviewer: And you had the basic Hebrew education then, in Europe
Roth: Yes, I did, most of it. There was a professor, you’d know
him as a professor. His name was Beckman, Theodore Beckman. He was a
professor at Ohio State University. If you check you’ll find out; he
was my Hebrew teacher at Fulton Street School, and also a guiding hand
at helping immigrants in English. That’s Dr. Beckman, that’s right.
Interviewer: Was he an immigrant from…
Roth: He was also an immigrant. That’s right. He came over prior to
this, but he was a well educated man from Europe. I don’t know what
part of Europe he came from, but his brother, it was Harry Beckman,
brought him over here. They had to have been an educated family from
other parts of Europe because he was teaching Hebrew at Fulton Street
Interviewer: He taught Hebrew!
Roth: Yes. In the meantime he was also going through the university
at the Ohio State University at the same time he was doing that.
Interviewer: When he taught Hebrew at Fulton Street School, was it
during regular school hours?
Roth: No, no. It was after school, that was in the evenings.
Interviewer: It was a regular after-school program. And they used
that school for that work. That’s interesting. I didn’t even know. I
haven’t heard about him yet. Did your parents read any or subscribe to
any Yiddish newspapers?
Roth: Oh, yeah. Religiously. The Forverts (Forward.) My mother
didn’t let a week go by unless she read the Bintele Brief. You
know, the letters…
Interviewer: Like Dear Abby kind of thing.
Roth: That’s right, that’s right.
Interviewer: Good, good!
Roth: And she used to set us kids down and tell us the story.
Interviewer: Did they have any American history in them, in the
Roth: I really, I never paid any attention to it because I was in the
Interviewer: Did you ever teach your parents any English words when
you’d come home from school?
Roth: Oh, sure. We would correct them, and –
Interviewer: You would correct them?
Roth: Sure. Mother, especially.
Interviewer: Any songs, American history, anything like that?
Roth: Well, the girls did more of that than the boys. My oldest
sister just passed away, she used to tutor Mother privately in
English. Matter of fact, she tutored her until she became an American
Interviewer: I see.
Roth: My father, also then became an American citizen. He became a
naturalized citizen in 1926. Yes, he did. My mother didn’t and left in
Interviewer: Were you frequently absent from school?
Roth: No, ma’am.
Interviewer: That’s the standard response. Were you absent on
Jewish holidays ?
Interviewer: Were you ever penalized for being absent on Jewish
Roth: I don’t remember.
Interviewer: You don’t remember that being a big issue.
Roth: That’s right. Never. An excuse was brought in, my father
signed it and that was it.
Interviewer: Did you work before and after school hours, what did you
do? Anything and everything, mixed? Okay. Your brothers and sisters,
did they work?
Roth: My sisters worked…they worked in…there used to be a lot of
merchants on Main Street that had small department stores, dress stores
and hat stores. They used to work part time, especially on Saturday,
some days after school. That’s what I did.
Interviewer: Your brothers did something before and after school.
Roth: My brother followed my footsteps. Whatever I did, he did.
Interviewer: They did. All right. Okay. Do you remember, did you want
to go to school very
much? Was this important to you?
Roth: Oh, yes. Definitely so. It was instilled in me at the time.
When we were in Europe we used to live in a small town and days like
this, when it snowed possibly harder, we would hire a teacher out of a
big city. We were about 150 miles from Krakow, we were 200 or 250 miles
from a big city in Poland…Warsaw, and we would hire a teacher…the
family…possibly 20 families or 50 families of Jewish people. The
parents would hire this teacher for the semester and of course, during
the summer and during the spring, in the fall all the families were out
working in the fields, but during the wintertime, it was a must. And
these teachers would go from one house to another and teach these
children and they would stay there a month at a time, a month at each
house or two weeks, and they would change off. And those teachers were
there to take them and teach us. And that’s how when I was eleven, I
was a chumasher in Russia and that’s where I got it.
Interviewer: But did they teach secular as well as school subjects?
Roth: Well, that was it. You see, arithmetic was one, and of course,
your reading and your writing and of course, your scriptures out of the
book, and that was it. But there was no language brought in outside of
Hebrew. Of course, Yiddish, that came to you naturally.
Interviewer: That was your homework. When you got to America, were
you still anxious to go to school?
Roth: To a certain extent. I was right at home. My brother didn’t.
I loved to live and
I liked to make money, and the things that I adventured in, I always
made money. I did go as far as high school and I had about how many
years that they can graduate, which I didn’t. Nor was it brought about
by — a family that I went to work for turned over their store to me,
and said, “Here, you have been a good employee, either one of you..
You don’t have anybody.” That was my downfall
of no education, see? Also, two of my brothers graduated high school
and also two of my sisters graduated high school, I also gave them a job
during the time they were in high school, and I was the leader in the
family. My mom and dad had an income. Sure, he had a small income from a
little property he had, and I saw him lose his property and somebody had
to take the bull by the horns and maintain a certain level of living and
I was the guy.
Interviewer: When you weren’t in school, was whoever lived with you
any different from the others, maybe American – born Jews or more
Roth: To be honest with you, no. I never had time for that. I have
made a full life of my adventure living as full as from sometime from 4
o’clock in the morning ’til 8 or 9 o’clock at night. Better taking
it step by step. In my early days of being ambitious and wanting the
better things of life, I couldn’t go to my dad and say, “Hey,
Dad, give me $5 or $10.” He didn’t have it So in order for me to
get what I wanted, I had to go out and earn it. I used to get up at 4 or
5 in the morning and go down to the market. I used to make a display on
the covered wagons. These fellows used to cover food with it. I would
get fifty cents off of three or four wagons, and I’d make myself two
dollars before I even went to school. Then after I got into junior high
school I used to work on the market. People on a Saturday, from 2 o’clock
in the morning ’til 9 o’clock at night for five dollars, they used
to send me home for lunch, because they were too tight to pay me.
Interviewer: They didn’t want you to make any more.
Roth: That’s a fact. For a quarter you were able to buy two eggs,
toast and coffee, see? This individual I worked for, he was so tight he
made me walk home.
Interviewer: And you did it.
Roth: I did it.
Interviewer: When you were on your way up and were in high school or
senior high school, or even elementary school, and you were working and
everything like this, did you ever try to imitate American kids, or were
you just —
Roth: Oh, sure. We took on the American ways at a very , very early
Roth: That’s right. Bad things first, then we had the goodies for
us. We did imitate them. We worked with them, and became a part of them.
Of course, in our neighborhood, we had all Jewish families all around
us, and there were very, very few of the gentile people that you would
take and associate with because you’d never come in contact with them.
You know, you’d go to shul Saturdays, during the shul
with your friends. And that was – you were among your own. And the
gentiles – the only time you mixed with them was in school, and you didn’t
have too much to do with them. Of course, they were a different breed of
people than we were.
Interviewer: If you had to pick one…I know this is hard…but one
public school experience that you feel was your most memorable one,
could you pick one out?
Roth: Yes. Fulton Street School. At first it was disgraceful to me.
For some reason I couldn’t understand what they were telling me, what
they were talking to me about, and then I began to love it; the
inter-twining between the students and the help,those teachers were the
most helpful people in the world. Miss Dawson was just a young teacher –
after we became known in the city and became prosperous, she admired us.
She admired me, especially. My name in her late years of teaching, what
could happen, and then Mound Street, from an example, some of my
teachers from Mound Street School that looked up to me.
As a matter of fact, I quit school in my senior year, I supported the
store, and some of these teachers were school teachers. I was only
about eighteen at the time, and some of these teachers came around and
saw the success of the store that it was doing, and then moving it from
one small store room to a super market within a short period of round
about four years, they were amazed at the fact that the success that
came to me. First, it was hard work…it was nothing easy…to do work
and help my father, and I took the store over…my brothers…one brother
who was still with me, and my sisters, I still reminisce about when she
lived in Austin, Texas and when we’d go down to see her every year in
the last few years, December, March – we’d go on trips and so forth,
we still reminisce about it.
Interviewer: It was a relatively short time that you were here. You
were successful. Do you think the teachers looked up to you as an
Roth: They did. They did. They never got over it.
Interviewer: More generally, how did your parents feel about America?
Did they look to it as a new home, or just a temporary…
Roth: They loved it. They loved it. They admired it. ‘Cause for
part the country we came from we always had it in our heart that any
Americans should get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground
that he walks on. That’s our view and in our family my parents felt
the same way about it.
Interviewer: So they really looked upon it as a home?
Roth: They were very grateful about their home. You bet.
Interviewer: Did your parents feel – you’ve somewhat answered this
– but a little more in detail did they feel that your public school
education was very important?
Roth: Definitely! That was a must. That was a must. We got the
preaching from my mother. Even though she wasn’t an educated woman at
all, you got the preaching when you came home, “Irvin, you must do
Interviewer: Even if they…
Roth: That’s right. And even with the low income that my father and
mother had, they hired a private tutor to come over and teach me Hebrew.
There’s another member of the family that should be able to give you a
lot of background, was the Bornstein family. There’s two of them
living now, Phil and his brother. Let’s see, he has a brother…
they’re very successful in restaurant and food supply business. They
had…look up Phil and look up I think it’s Morris. They lived right
across the street from us. They’re a very interesting family. They
came from Russia…now they had two older brothers. One of them was a shochet.
You know what a shochet is…a guy who kills chickens…and how
they get a degree in…to do that you have to be educated!
The other one was supposed to become…Morris…was supposed to
become a rabbi…from Europe. So in a way they were very well educated
people. Well, we had…my mother and dad, hired this fellow, Morris, to
come over twice or three times a week for Hebrew lessons, because the
Hebrew school that they had on Rich Street was not deep enough for me,
because I already had basic and I was tired.
Interviewer: Well I will definitely call them. I appreciate that.
Roth: I’m trying to think of…Joe was the youngest one in the
family…he was an honest person, about my age and then there was
Morris. There is an older brother.
Interviewer: So your parents felt that your public school education
was very important.
Roth: Very important.
Interviewer: And now, if you would come home with say, with some
facts or something you had learned in school, did you have any
conflicts, I mean, your parents would say, well, that’s not the way it
is, or ever –
Roth: Never had any feeling of trouble. I was too busy. Those things
just didn’t bother me. I have always able to take care of myself. I
only had one fight in my life and I was in school.
Interviewer: What was that about?
Roth: A fellow called me a Jew.
Roth: And that was at Fulton Street School. And the fellow I really
beat the hell out of him. He was tall, he was slender and I know that I
never had any trouble.
Interviewer: He was not Jewish.
Roth: No, he wasn’t. Matter of fact, he’s living today and I get
to see him every now and then and we kid about it. That’s right, that’s
Interviewer: Oh, really? You felt that he said it derogatorily –
Roth: He did. Not only once, but he said it twice and he said it and
sat right in back of me in school.
Interviewer: He said the word, “Jew,” in English?
Roth: That’s right, that’s right. I never had any trouble after
that. That was it
Interviewer: Nobody else ever, no teachers, no other problems.
Roth: No problems whatsoever.
Interviewer: Did your parents ever come to visit school or talk to
Roth: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: They’d just come for conferences? Or…
Roth: They really didn’t have any conferences in those days. I don’t
remember any conferences! Every now and then they would have open house.
But really, they never had any conferences between parents and teachers
at that time that I remember. I know when I sent…I had four kids in
school, I was over there four times a month, maybe five times a month –
I was with Boy Scouts, Little Girls, something, always something…
Interviewer: They didn’t have the order they do now. But they felt
comfortable coming to school.
Roth: Oh yes, yes. Yes! Matter of fact, my parents would go over on
their own and talk to the teachers and see how we were getting along, or
whether we were getting along. They couldn’t help us very much, but
just the fact that they took the time doing that…it wasn’t very
often they did it…they just walked into the school, once or twice
during the semester, you know.
Interviewer: They thought it was important, they’re…
Roth: There are the plays. They used to produce plays in the school,
Interviewer: What kind of plays?
Roth: I really don’t know.
Interviewer: Did they have like Christmas?
Roth: Well, around Christmas time the carols…
Interviewer: Did you participate in the Christmas play?
Interviewer: No? Okay. Did anyone ever say that you should, or try to
Roth: No. I just didn’t have the ability, I guess. Also, along
there, I wouldn’t even sing the Christmas songs.
Interviewer: You didn’t sing. Was that from religious…
Roth: That was the religious standpoint. It was a future mind set.
Interviewer: You did not sing carols. It is a problem for children
today, I think. My daughter goes to Arlington Schools, it’s a
problem. She doesn’t know what…you know, to do…she does, I think,
sing, and I wouldn’t tell her not to, but it’s a problem and I was
wondering if it was a problem for you.
Roth: You know, the Hebrew, or the Jewish religion has instilled in
us during my era, that Christ was a bad word, it shouldn’t even
be mentioned. It just wasn’t right. And soon you take and read a
history, why shouldn’t I say it, because he (Jesus) was a Jew. Look,
look. And of course, what did they want from him, they had to explore,
and later he became who he is, and he had a following. It’s a
different era right now, anyway. More wide open.
Interviewer: But nobody in school tries to make you do it. Did they
have anything like The Lord’s Prayer that they said before…
Roth: Yes, before school.
Interviewer: Did you say it?
Roth: Yes, I did say it.
Interviewer: Did you say it voluntarily?
Interviewer: To be part of a group?
Roth: That’s right. I stood up and saluted the American flag before
Interviewer: They did have the American flag?
Roth: Oh, sure. Sure.
Interviewer: Did they have any other type of patriotic ceremony that
Roth: Never, not that I remember of. I remember to say the prayer,
then the salute of the flag. Pledge allegiance to the flag and for which
it stands – you know. That was it.
Interviewer: Did any teacher or school administrator ever suggest to
you that you might change your name? Were you interested in…
Roth: No, the English name was given to us by my uncle.
Interviewer: Oh, I see.
Roth: He and my aunt, they were the old timers here, they gave us my
name and my sisters’ name, and Roth has never been changed. Now
it’s Roth, but it’s never been, now it’s ROTE.
Roth: On account of they’re red heads. Even till the day the
genes will come out in the third generation or fourth generation, the
red hair will show up in the family. My brother’s – his son – has the
very, very red hair, more so than the black, and my sister’s kids show
that too. And I was – our name was R-O-T-H in Europe and it’s R-
O- T- H here.
Interviewer: But they changed your first name.
Roth: Oh, yes, well, I didn’t have any first name. I had a Jewish
Interviewer: Right, but they…
Roth: They changed that, my Jewish name was Isaac. Still is Isaac.
Irvin was my given name in English.
Interviewer: Okay. How did you do in school, generally. How were your
Roth: Pretty good. With the exception of one subject.
Interviewer: What was that?
Interviewer: Spelling? Do you think it was a language problem?
Roth: No, it was my own fault. I didn’t apply myself to the problem
of how I should learn the vowels, one thing and another, basics.
Outside of that, figures were good, chemistry and…
Interviewer: Math, you liked?
Interviewer: History. Chemistry. Any other subjects you remember?
Interviewer: Lunch. Was a very good favorite, still is today. Did you
ever take any music or art classes?
Roth: Music, yes. I was told to keep my mouth shut because I couldn’t
carry a tune but never inclined in music. Reading. I never really began
to love the arts. I liked opera, liked operatic singing. I learned to
like some of the best plays that came to town, I’ve seen ’em all. My
mother instilled that in me when I got married.
Interviewer: Did you ever take any industrial arts, or any vocational
or manual training?
Roth: Manual training, yes.
Interviewer: Was that on Ohio (Avenue School,) you went to a
different building? How long…don’t (indistinct) (noise artifact)
Roth: You mean nobody ever said anything to you about the Schonthal
Interviewer: No, how do you spell that?
Interviewer: Oh, Schonthal. No.
Roth: Well, the Schonthal Home was the beginning of your Jewish
Center out here. It used to be a home on Rich Street, known as the
Schonthal Home. The father of this Mr. Schonthal was a very wealthy
scrap metal dealer. He established this home for immigrants that came
over, where they could congregate and be among their own and learn, and
they had some classes down there for the older ones. They also had
physical training classes down there. They also would have a place where
they would take the young ones take and make – I used to go to a class
and his name was Mr. Miller. He used to be the teacher and he was in the
manual training days to make a lamp out of wood. There was a fellow by
the name of Dr. Shusterman. He died…he graduated as a dentist, but was
a physical education teacher down there. This was the beginning…how
come Harry Schwartz never told you about that? That was the springboard
of your Jewish Center. Beside that, he had an orphan home where he used
to have young children coming there – orphans, or illegitimate, and they
had a regular home life. And next to it they could give them care.
Interviewer: Well. Now, did you go to this Schonthal Home? Was it
during school or during school hours?
Roth: We usually in the evening…in other words, they had a library
down there, they had a physical ed there, and they did have plays there
that they would take and put on. Of course, that was about five or six
years when I wasn’t feeling very well. They used to have a…oh, it
was tremendous. I mean Pop Schonthal would take a bunch of these kids out on a picnic to Franklin Park, feed them, even
wine ’em and dine ’em once a year. He was one of the great ones of our day.
Interviewer: Was he German Jewish?
Roth: He was a German Jew. He was a beautiful man. A beautiful man. I’ll
never forget him as long as I live or anybody else. You ask anybody that
came over in the era of 19 hundred 20’s, the Schonthal Home was the
hangout for the Jewish youngsters. With guidance staff. You can go out
and smoke pot or shoot craps…and the guy kept you busy out there doing
the things you should be doing.
Interviewer: Like the things you mentioned.
Roth: That’s right, exactly.
Interviewer: So you got some manual training there, and not really at
the public school.
Roth: No. And that reminds me, even ’til today, with my hands, all
ten thumbs. I can’t do anything with them.
Interviewer: Did you ever take any foreign language up there?
Interviewer: Did your teacher ever lecture you or your class on
hygiene or cleanliness, health, topics of the sort? Do you remember what
kinds of things she…
Roth: Cleanliness, mostly.
Interviewer: Personal cleanliness, like, would she instruct you on
how to brush your teeth, some of the books report.
Roth: That was in the early part of my life at Fulton Street School.
To brush your teeth was a mess.
Interviewer: Anything else?
Roth: Clean living. You know, they didn’t go into any of those
things. I read some of their lessons from books. Naturally, when I was
going to school, it just wasn’t there.
Interviewer: But she kept an eye, I mean she would instruct you once
in a while about personal cleanliness.
Roth: She never had to instruct me, because my mom, may she rest in
peace, she was in the basement day and night washing, pressing and so
forth, and cleanliness was only recommended that I had a walking to
school one day a pair of suspenders, and I’ll never forget this as
long as I live from this. I was in the second grade, no, the fourth
grade, and Martha Dawson said to me, “Now, Irv,” she said,
“you go home and you tell your mom to buy you a belt,” she
said, ” your suspenders aren’t any good.”
Interviewer: How did you feel?
Roth: I took it this way – you know, it was helpful. If you’re
going to be an American, be one.
Interviewer: I see. That was kind of a…it was an old world –
Roth: That’s right. Suspenders in the old country was the way to
Interviewer: And they’re popular here, and they weren’t then.
Okay, I think that’s about it. You didn’t receive any other Jewish
education when you got here, basically, you didn’t have that…
Roth: Oh, I had a little over here. Oh, sure, up ’til my Bar
Mitzvah I had private tutoring.
Interviewer: You had private tutoring.
Roth: Oh, sure. From the Bornstein boys. Morris Bornstein died at an
early age, 52.
Interviewer: Well, is there anything else about your school
experience that you can remember that you want to tell me about that I
would be interested in it.
Roth: Yes, I should have stayed in school longer than that.
Interviewer: You wish you would have stayed and graduated. What was
your parents’ reaction when you made that decision to stop? What was
Roth: You see, back in those days I was almost the provider of the
family. I worked and I made a lot of money in those days, and the things
I made a lot of money in, I felt that I was ashamed to do that…it was
honest, what I did. I used to sell papers first. Couldn’t make any
money there, and I came along with a bunch of kids, so I quit that, so I
went and started working for people on market, and didn’t make any
money there, but I got an idea at one time that I could make money if I…
then I went to work after school in a factory, as a janitor. I used
to come home from school at 3:30 and I would take and work and sweep the
floors in this factory, where they made men’s topcoats and overcoats
and trousers, called Office Brothers. I was making about a dollar and a
half a day working there, and I worked…I was satisfied, because money
went a long way then.
Then at one time I worked during Christmas vacation and one of the
Office boys came running into the warrant’s office, and he saw that I
had a payroll, and I had made $15 dollars that week. He said that I made
too much money. So I worked for him. I paid him $2 a week for him so he
can maintain my job, I says, No. So what I did, I went out…I got an
idea. I knew all of these people; they must have had two hundred and
some people working in this factory, mostly Jewish formers, tailors,
immigrants, you know what I mean. I didn’t even go to my mother and
ask her for any money there, I went over to an uncle of mine, and I said
to him, “My father told me $2.” He said, “What for?”
I said, “I’m not going to tell you, but I’ll give it back to
you,” and he reached into his pocket and gave me two dollars.
I went to a wholesale candy house and I bought three boxes of candy
bars, Hershey’s, Hershey Bars, Milky Way and another one…at those
times candy bars cost around 65 cents a box and I had enough to take
those boxes of candy. I took those two boxes of candy and went right
back to the Office Brothers plant, opened them up and I sold them for a
nickel a bar. I brought him back a dollar twenty a box, brought him back
three dollars and sixty cents. Well, the next day, most people were glad
to see me because they were hungry in the afternoon and I just…you
know, they didn’t have a cafeteria then as they do now. So, the next
day I bought four boxes of candy and I sold them all. I said, well, if
that’s so good down there, there used to be a lot of places downtown
like garages and auto parts stores. Matter of fact, the other day there
was a fellow by the name of Lou Dorman…he was kidding me about it…he
still does…he had Dorman’s Auto Parts, which is the Ohio Auto Parts
Company right now.
What I did, I instead of buying two or three boxes, I cut myself a
basket with a handle on it, I bought five or six boxes of candy and I
was turning out to be a business man, see. I used to leave school around
3:30 and during the noon time I used to take and tie that basket up and
take it over to the people in the candy store after school. I would go
during my lunch hour. After school I was able to get a hold of the
basket and jump a trolley for five cents and go down to the area where
these garages and lithograph printing machines, printers and so forth…
where these people worked, you see, and I’d go out every day and take
and sell five, six boxes of candy. I used to make myself if I paid
around sixty cents a box, and I would make myself good money.
I started telling you about Lou Dorman. I’d go around and he’d
take a couple of pieces of candy out of the poke…
(Tape ends abruptly)
Thus concludes Irvin Roth’s taped interview for the Oral History
Project of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.