Interviewer: This is December 8, 2004. I am Naomi Schottenstein and this
afternoon I’m interviewing Larry Schaffer. We’re at the office of the
Coumbus Jewish Historical Society at 1175 College Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. I’ll
start interviewing Larry by stating that this last, past weekend, which was a
very exciting, important weekend for Larry and that will kind of set the pace
and the scene for this interview this afternoon. Larry, just fill us in on the
honor that was bestowed on you this weekend.
Schaffer: Okay. The Columbus Jewish Federation honored me as “Volunteer
of the Year” that was a culmination, hopefully not a culmination but a
milestone on the fact that I had served 45 years on the Board of the Federation
in three different positions: Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. I’m now
retired as the Honorary Treasurer but they wanted to honor me for my service to
Interviewer: Are you still actively involved in the Federation?
Schaffer: I’m more actively involved now than when I was the elected
Interviewer: I know how those things work. They can’t let a good person go
without contin- uing to use their resource there. Tell us about the evening if
you will, where was it and . . . .
Schaffer: Well this was fairly informal. It was at the Huntington Bank Center
where they were making Super Sunday telephone calls and what they did is just
had the pre- sentation right in the room where people were making their
telephone call solicita- tions and they had everybody stop for ten or 15 minutes
and they did a little program, not only the award to me but accepting a $10,000
check from Anheuser- Busch as their contribution to this year’s campaign and
other announcements for Federation. But it was just, it was probably 60-80
people who were there, either my family or people who were making phone calls
for Super Sunday.
Interviewer: Those calls are made all day, aren’t they?
Schaffer: Right. Everybody comes in and volunteers for two-hour shifts and
for two hours, they make telephone calls. They raised $127,000 on Sunday from
Interviewer: Well that’s fantastic. And a lot of those will be follow-up
situations too, probably. I know I got a call late in the afternoon and somebody
else had answered the phone and they will call back then and contact me.
Interviewer: Okay that was a real lovely event and certainly well deserved.
Also Larry do you mind if we, also talk about you had a very important closing
recently and do you want to tell us a little bit about that?
Schaffer: Fine. I’m in the real estate business but mostly in property
management but I had the opportunity to broker a sale between two friends, Bob
Shamansky who owned the Seneca Hotel, and David Adelman from Philadelphia who
was coming into Columbus and intends to buy more downtown buildings to remodel
into apart- ments so David’s company, Campus Apartments of Philadelphia,
bought the old Seneca Hotel.
Interviewer: It certainly was a landmark in this community.
Schaffer: It is one that has been empty for the last 17 years and was in
danger a couple of times of being torn down but luckily it was a meeting of an
owner who wanted it restored and people whose specialty was restoring older
Interviewer: Can you give us a little bit of history of the Seneca Hotel?
This is really unusual for me to be starting at the end of a situation. It is
Schaffer: Well I’m not much of a historian but a person close to the Seneca
Hotel. I can remember it when you and I were younger and I remember when friends
of my parents lived at the Seneca and when I was in the Sammy fraternity at Ohio
State, we had many of our formal dinners and dances at the Seneca Hotel. And at
that time it was considered one of the nicer places in Columbus for people who
sold their homes and wanted to live near downtown.
Interviewer: What will be the future use of the building?
Schaffer: They’re going to remodel it into apartments.
Interviewer: Well we’re glad that that’s being saved and that something
is being done with it.
Schaffer: I am too.
Interviewer: That was an exciting time for the city on the east side, for
sure. Larry, we’re going to continue by starting at the beginning of your
life. Give us your full name.
Schaffer: Lawrence David Schaffer.
Interviewer: And nickname?
Interviewer: And your Jewish name?
Schaffer: Arye. No Label is my Jewish name, Arye is my
Interviewer: Do you know who you were named after?
Schaffer: I was named after my maternal grandfather.
Interviewer: I know your family has been in Columbus for a long time. Is that
where you were born?
Schaffer: Yes I was born in Columbus. My parents were both immigrants. I’m
a first gener- ation American.
Interviewer: Tell us how your family came to Columbus, your mother and dad.
Schaffer: Okay. My, I’m not sure which one came first. I’ve got the exact
dates at the office. I didn’t bring them along. My father came to Columbus
because he was sponsored when he emigrated by his uncle Abraham Golberg, who was
one of the founders of Agudas Achim and Uncle Goldberg, as he was called,
sponsored a number of his relatives to come to Columbus. My mother came here . .
Interviewer: Can you give us an approximate time slot for that, when your
Schaffer: I believe it was immediately after the first World War. I would say
probably around 1916.
Interviewer: Were there other family members of the Goldberg family here?
Schaffer: Yes, yes. Uncle Goldberg was here, three of his sisters were here
with their families already growing up and I think Uncle Goldberg may have
sponsored another cousin or two at that point, but I’m not sure about that. I
do have a family history but I haven’t brought that with me. My mother came to
Columbus when she emigrated to America again about that time, maybe closer to
1920. She went first to older sisters who were living in Toledo: Lill Broner and
Rose Ziegler. It was very interesting. My mother was coming to live with sisters
that she never knew because they had emigrated to Columbus before she was born.
My grandfather had two wives and they were children of the first wife and my
mother was a child of the second marriage. So she went originally to Toledo with
them and then when they moved to Columbus, she moved to Columbus with them.
Interviewer: Tell us about your mother’s grandparents, I mean your
Interviewer: Their names.
Schaffer: Their name in the old country was Rybac. It was Label and Rochel
were their names. They lived in a smalll town called Gonitz near the
city of Byalistok in Poland.
Interviewer: Do you have any idea how the town was spelled? We try to help
the transcriber a little.
Schaffer: G-O-N-I-T-Z I believe.
Interviewer: Good. And your grandfather’s last name? Can you spell it?
Schaffer: R-Y-B-A-C which means “fish” in Polish so when the first
uncle came to the United States, changed the name to “Fisher,” so over
here they were known as Fisher.
Interviewer: Well that’s interesting.
Schaffer: Right. Honey Abramson who does a lot of your transcribing is a
Fisher cousin. Her father and my mother were full sisters and brothers. Mickey
and Laura Ziegler whom you may have heard of, Laura being the artist, their
Mother Rose was a half sister from the first mother.
Interviewer: And your mother ended up in Columbus?
Schaffer: Yes she ended up in Columbus. When she first got here, she worked
at the Godman Shoe Factory and then somewhere in the early 20s, middle 20s, she
met my father and they got married in 1926.
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Schaffer: In Columbus.
Interviewer: And established their home here?
Schaffer: Yes. I have one sister, Ruth, who, when we were children, was two
years older than me and now she’s ten years younger than I.
Interviewer: I know exactly what you’re talking about. My husband and I
have the same thing.
Schaffer: Isn’t it amazing?
Interviewer: How they can turn the calendar around. Yeah we do kid about that
a lot. And tell us Ruth’s last name.
Schaffer: Ruth’s last name is Schildhouse. She’s married to Burt. They
have three daugh- ters. Two of them live in Columbus, that’s Julie Jacobson
and her husband Michael; Amy Greenberg and her husband Josh and their three
children. And then the third daughter, Melissa Welsh and her husband Chip live
on Long Island with their two children.
Interviewer: Tell us who your great nieces are, your nieces and nephews. Your
nieces all have children.
Schaffer: Julie and Michael do not have children. Amy and Josh Greenberg have
three children. The oldest is Daniel Zabladovsky who is from Amy’s first
Interviewer: Would you be able to spell that one for us?
Schaffer: Sure. Z-A-B-L-A-D-O-V-S-K-Y. Daniel is now I believe 16 and then
there’s Bess Greenberg who is I think six and Jake Greenberg who is three. And
Melissa and Chip Welsh have two, Lily who is five and Max who is two-and-a-half.
Interviewer: I know you’re close to those families and they are lovely
people. They were neighbors of ours. We lived across the street from each other
and so I saw those girls grow up.
Schaffer: You sure did.
Interviewer: And they’re sweethearts even today.
Schaffer: Thank you.
Interviewer: What business did your father go into?
Schaffer: My father when he first came to this country sold fruits and
vegetables from a horse-drawn cart and I don’t know how many years. He did
that for a couple of years. An interesting sidelight is when I went to South
High School there was a young man whose last name was also Schaffer. We called
him Red. I forget what his first name is. And he was the first Schaffer I ever
met who spelled his last name the same as we spelled ours. So at some time
either my sister or I got into conversation with him and asked him about the
coincidence that he spelled the name and it turned out when my father got out of
the fruit and vegetable business, he sold his horse and cart to Red Schaffer’s
father and in those days it was cheaper to change the spelling of his name than
it was to repaint the cart.
Interviewer: Oh well that worked out.
Schaffer: That’s why he spelled the same name.
Interviewer: How does that spell?
Schaffer: There’s probably about 22 different variations of it. My father
then went into business with a cousin of his into a company called Reliable
Laundry and then later they took in a partner by the name of William Cohen and
my father and Mr. Cohen were partners in the laundry until after the second
World War at which time my father sold out his interest to his partner. His
timing was very good because that was about the time that washers and dryers for
homes started to be manufactured and the commercial laundries, all of them in
Columbus, eventually went out of business. One or two of them are still around
as linen supply. But nobody sends their home laundry out to a commercial laundry
Interviewer: So it was laundry rather than dry cleaning?
Schaffer: Yes it was laundry.
Interviewer: I didn’t realize that there was a difference. But I can
understand that with the wash machines coming in the picture.
Schaffer: It was big starting at the end of the second World War. Everybody
started buying a washer and a dryer.
Interviewer: Sure, sure. Was your father, were your father or mother able to
be educated in this country?
Schaffer: They didn’t do any schooling. My mother took those courses she
needed to take for her naturalization papers and I assume my father did sometime
earlier even. I remember when my mother was doing it but my father evidently had
been taken it before then. But they were both naturalized citizens.
Interviewer: You mentioned your mother had sisters.
Interviewer: And your father, did he have siblings?
Schaffer: He had one sister here in Columbus. Her name was Jennie Goldenberg
and she had two daughters. None of that family is alive. He had cousins through
the Goldberg family. My father’s family was still in Europe. And my mother’s
parents had, like 14 kids. There were six of them who came to this country, two
sisters went to Israel. And the rest were in Poland when the war started. All of
the family was destroyed with the exception, my father had two nephews in Poland
who escaped Poland and joined the Red Army, the Russian Army, and by that they
were able to escape going to concentration camps and eventually ended up in
Interviewer: Are you in contact with any of the Israel family?
Schaffer: Only we know those two cousins are not alive. We recently have
discovered the widow of one through E-mail contact and we’ve had some E-mail
contact back and forth but we haven’t met face to face. I have a cousin on my
father’s side by the name of Toby Brief, whose father is Dr. Brief, the doctor
who used to be on Whittier.
Interviewer: Jerome Brief. Is that . . . .
Schaffer: Yeah, Jerry Brief. Right. And Toby got into all of the making a
family tree for the Brief family and of course, her grandmother was my father’s
first cousin. So eventually going up to the Goldberg side, we entwined the whole
family and she was searching for other relatives and she found this one widow in
Israel and started a correspondence back and forth. My sister Ruth is in
correspondence with her.
Interviewer: Yeah I can appreciate the value of going into genealogy and
family history. It does take a lot of effort but as you uncover these tidbits
they become more fascinating and you get really enthralled with the results.
Schaffer: It reminds you of what a mistake it was not to listen. Pictures and
addresses, at the time you had somebody who knew them. We have a picture of my
mother’s parents and some of her siblings taken in Poland in the middle teens,
1910, before she emigrated in this country and we never asked my mother to put
the names down. From time to time when we had taken the picture out and talked
about it and she pointed out a couple of the ones who were alive. But when she
passed on and her younger sister, my Aunt Yospe, Y-O-S-P-E, came to this country
a number of times and we tried to get her to identify the people but she was so
small at the time and then very young when she went to Israel so she didn’t
remember who they were. So . . . .
Interviewer: We don’t appreciate, we didn’t then, appreciate the value of
recording those inter- esting times and dates. And a lot of times people who
came from Europe didn’t even want to talk about their happenings back home.
Schaffer: It is an interesting thing if you stop to think about it, whether
you or I, and I doubt if I could have done it, could have made that trip back in
the early 1900s on a steamship to this country, leaving your family there and
knowing that you’ll never be able to go back and see them. It isn’t like
today where . . . . I’ll take a weekend and I’ll fly to Warsaw. In those
days they knew that when they left, they probably would never go back. One of my
mother’s brothers, my mother’s oldest step- brother, did go back in 1913. He
and his wife took a trip back to Poland to visit his parents and a few years
ago, five or ten years ago, my sister was in Poland for a meeting of her
international program and she got one of the former participants who had come to
Columbus for a year, a Polish man, got a car and drove Ruth and Burt down to see
the old family town which turned out to be a little village with houses on one
street and at first all of the people they talked to said, “No we never had
any Jews live here.” The reason they said that is the Poles in the town are
the ones that killed my family and not the Nazis. When the Germans moved into
Poland, the Poles killed all the Jews in the village. Finally they found an old
man who said, “Yes I remember there were some Jews who lived in that
building down the street,” and they got to reminisce. He said, “They
had a rich son that came back from America and came to visit this family and
that was very unusual for us.”
Interviewer: Oh that would have been phenomenal . . . .
Schaffer: . . . . these people come back to visit. So that was the only one
of the family who ever went back. I did visit my mother’s two sisters in
Israel when they were still alive and met my cousins and then the younger aunt,
I brought her here for Amy’s wedding and for Julie’s wedding. I think she
was probably not still alive with Melissa’s. If she was, I brought her to that
Interviewer: So you have had opportunity to connect with some branches . . .
Schaffer: But she’s passed on and my sister visited her when she had her
80th birthday and we’ve met all the cousins on both sides in Israel at one
time or another. We’re not in touch much but my cousin, Bernice Ziegler, Laura’s
older sister lives in Jerusalem and she keeps in touch with my mother’s side
of the family who is living in Israel.
Interviewer: Did your family move around very much in Columbus or can you
tell us what homes you lived in, what neighborhoods?
Schaffer: When I was born they lived on Berkeley Road in Columbus in Driving
Park. In fact they had moved into the house about 30 days before I was born.
They lived there until 1947 and in 1947 they sold their house and they moved
into an apart- ment on North Cassady, into a twin single on North Cassady, a
block or two from where the old Excelsior Club was. And they lived there until
1956. Then in 1956 they moved to Miami. They lived in North Miami Beach until my
father got ill in the late 50s and came back to Columbus in 1960 because he was
ill and they stayed with me ’till my father died in early ‘6l. Then my
mother went back to North Miami Beach and lived there for about another ten
years and then came back to Columbus. Had her own apartment out on East Broad
Street in one of the Schottenstein-management buildings for a number of years
and then was one of the first residents in Heritage Tower and lived there almost
until her death. She was in Heritage House for about three or four months
between the time she lived in the Tower and the time she passed away.
Interviewer: I don’t know if we got your mother’s name.
Schaffer: Esther Fisher Schaffer.
Interviewer: And your father?
Schaffer: Was Max Schaffer.
Interviewer: Okay. I know we have it probably written down here, you know,
but I’d just rather have the information twice than not at all. So when did
they actually pass away? What years?
Schaffer: My father passed away I believe in 1961. My mother passed away in
Interviewer: That wasn’t terribly long ago was it? Okay. What can you tell
us about traditions growing up in your home, you know, in terms of Judaism and
what synagogue were you involved in?
Schaffer: The family belonged to Agudas Achim . . . . at Washington and
Donaldson. I remember on all the holidays we walked from the Driving Park to and
back from shul. Usually coming back from shul, we stopped on
Linwood Avenue where we would visit my father’s cousins, Sarah and Jake
Krakowitz and also his uncle and aunt, the Goldbergs, Abraham Goldberg and his
wife. And that was a good break about half-way home to walk and my parents kept
the traditional kosher home as long as we lived on Berkeley Road. They kept a
kosher home after they moved into the apartment. I’m sort of a communal Jew in
that I was Bar Mitzvahed at Agudas Achim. I was confirmed at Tifereth
Israel and when I was in college, I taught Sunday School at the old Bryden Road
Interviewer: Oh well you gave them all a break, huh?
Schaffer: Gave them all a break. And after my Bar Mitzvah, Ruth and I
asked our parents to join Tifereth Israel so we could go to Sunday School there
which was a much nicer Sunday School than the Agudas Achim had so from that
point, as long as they were in Columbus, my parents belonged to both
Interviewer: Well there have been a lot of changes in the congregations too,
Schaffer: Sure have been.
Interviewer: Can you tell us something about people that you remember at home
in the neighborhoods that you lived in as a youngster?
Schaffer: Okay. Driving Park, Berkeley Road at that point, had a number of
Jewish families. I don’t know how many I will remember. Don Schlonsky and his
parents lived at the end of the block. A young lady by the name of Toby Echt and
her brothers Gilbert and I’ve forgotten the other one, lived a few doors away
from us. Bob Shamansky’s aunt and uncle whose name I don’t remember but he
was a doctor, lived across the street from Don Schlonsky’s family. As the
neighborhood filled up, Charlie Young, the dentist’s family, built a house
right next door to us. A couple of doors away was Victor Goodman and his
parents, Willie and Minnie Goodman. Across the street was the Fox family. I
think the son’s name was Carl. I’m not . . . . sure. Next door to them was
Bobby Carroll, Bob Carroll and his parents. All around the Driving Park area
there were quite a few Jewish families lived there. Ben Ratner and his wife. The
Moss family, Corinne Moss’s parents. Bernie and Faye Ruben, no it wasn’t
Faye, it was the blonde Ruben.
Interviewer: He had a first wife, probably had a first wife. Oh the artist.
He was married to . . . . .
Schaffer: It’s not the Bernie Ruben who owns the shopping center?
Schaffer: It was the other Bernie Ruben.
Interviewer: Yeah they were cousins.
Schaffer: Right. And then as you go around the circle there on what was the
center of the Driving Park, my Aunt Rose Ziegler and her family lived in one
apartment across the park from where my Aunt Lill Broner and her husband Bill
lived in one apartment. A number of other Jews. I remember there was a lady by
the name of Komessar who lived in one of the apartments around the park and my
uncle Eddie Fisher and his wife Sarah lived two blocks away on Kelton Avenue. We
got into the habit, my family, many times on Friday night after we finished Shabbos
dinner, we would walk over to visit one of the aunts or my uncle and their
family which always turned out to be punishment for me because I was very thin
in those days and regardless of which aunt’s house I came to, they said,
“Oh you look like you need something to eat . . . .”
Interviewer: So they’d stuff you, huh?
Schaffer: “Oh no, I just finished a full dinner at my mother’s
table.” “Oh no, you got to eat something.” So I always had to eat
Interviewer: Well the hospitality was . . . .
Schaffer: Right it was very . . . .
Interviewer: prevalent everyplace and I wasn’t exactly skinny but I know
everyplace we went to they were always offering . . . .
Schaffer: And so you had to take some . . . .
Interviewer: Well those were fond memories as a child, that there was so much
warmth in all these homes.
Schaffer: And all my aunts were very good cooks so it was hard to refuse.
Interviewer: Well that was good. That was good. So a lot of your life was
integrated right into your own community where you lived.
Schaffer: Right, right.
Interviewer: What school did you go to?
Schaffer: I went to Fairwood Elementary which is still there. I went to
Roosevelt Junior High School which has been torn down. Then I graduated from
South High School.
Interviewer: Do you go to any of the South High school reunions?
Schaffer: My class has a reunion every five years. It started with our 25th
and I’ve gone to every one. They decided two years ago on our 55th that every
five years was too long so they had a 57th this last Spring but unfortunately at
the last minute, my client from Philadelphia came in on the Seneca Hotel deal so
I had to miss it. Yes we do have reunions continually.
Interviewer: I know I’ve gone to a lot, a couple of reunions with my
husband who graduated from South and the idea of making them closer, I certainly
Schaffer: We had quite a few Jewish kids in my class, many of whom I see
outside of the reunions. Some of them I only see at the reunions.
Interviewer: Who are some of these people that you’re still in touch with?
Schaffer: I believe the closest ones since the seventh grade at Roosevelt
Junior High are Marilyn and Lee Skilken. Lee and I knew each other causally
before Junior High School. Marilyn had just moved into town at that point and we’ve
been best friends ever since and then Marvin Greenberg was in our class. Maxine
Weisman Greenberg was in our class. Myra Speyer Rosen was in there. Jean Mamet
lives in Lima and her married last name is Goldman. Lois Canowitz was in our
class. Ronnie Rosen, the optometrist. Louis Waitzman. Victor Levin. Jack Gaiser
who just passed away. Harold Flox was in our class. Probably more of them if I
stop to think of them.
Interviewer: Well it gives us kind of a flavor of the, there was a lot of
closeness and interest in each other.
Schaffer: Right. . . . member of the class who were also members in AZA with
me, some of them in Boy Scouts with me at the Tifereth Israel troop. Lee was a
Boy Scout at the Jewish Center troop so that’s why we didn’t know
each other well until after our Bar Mitzvah. Lee and I both became Eagle
Scouts at the same Court of Honor. I tell him that I had the honor of being the
second Jewish Eagle Scout in Columbus and he was the third because they went
alphabetically in the Court of Honor so I was ahead of him. The first Jewish
Eagle Scout was a man who was in my troop, was a man by the name of Marvin
Interviewer: It was unusual for Jewish fellas to become Eagle Scouts, wasn’t
it? And it is today too. Right?
Schaffer: Right. Today there’s only one troop I think is sponsored out of
the Jewish Center. There are Jewish Scouts who belong to non-Jewish troops. But
at that time, both of those troops were all Jewish.
Interviewer: Can you tell us something about your Bar Mitzvah, what
you remenber, how were you trained and how was it celebrated or acknowledged?
Schaffer: Well we need to go back a few years Naomi. The only thing I do
recall is the Bar Mitzvah itself. I think I probably was trained by the
Cantor, Cantor Gellman, at Agudas Achim. I don’t have any picture of the
training period. I may have been trained at the Columbus Hebrew School which I
was attending at that point and I have the feeling that they may have done that
as part of their teaching.
Interviewer: Do you remember some of the teachers at the Hebrew School at
Schaffer: I remember Mr. Metchnik who was the Principal and that was Martin
Godofsky’s wife’s father. I don’t remember her name.
Schaffer: . . . . And the Columbus Hebrew School at that time was in an old,
old house right across the street from the Schonthal Center which was our Jewish
Center at that time at 555 East Rich, which is now, they tore the building down
and it’s the Columbus Teamsters Union Headquarters. But I do remember standing
up at the bima at Agudas Achim during my Bar Mitzvah and doing all
my best to make my speech to the congregation at Agudas Achim at that time. The
men sat down- stairs. The women sat upstairs in the balcony and everybody talks
right through the ceremony so it didn’t make any difference if you were making
a speech or not.
Interviewer: All that hard work for nothing.
Schaffer: . . . . my father’s relatives and friends like Herbie and Artie
Meizlish’s father who sat where we did in the front in the synagogue and I’m
sure there were others who were all gathered right down below the bema so
that I had some support there even though other people were busy talking.
Interviewer: Sure. It’s frightening I imagine for a youngster to be doing
that and somewhat disruptive with the adults not giving you the respect you
Schaffer: And then we had the Bar Mitzvah party Saturday night at the
old Excelsior Club that at that time was at the corner of Rich and Parsons. It
was an old house that got torn down when the freeway went through.
Interviewer: Where did the Excelsior Club go after that?
Schaffer: They moved out to Bexley where that 509 North Cassady apartment is
now and they operated in Bexley probably for 20 years. They were still operating
when I came back from the Air Force in ’55 and I think they operated for a
couple years more after that. But by that time Winding Hollow had bought their
country club out on Cleveland Avenue and there were other swimming pools around
town and so forth, so they no longer were competitive.
Interviewer: So after you graduated, what year did you graduate from South
Schaffer: I graduated in 1947. And talking about the Excelsior Club reminds
me of a few more names in my class, Nancy Levison Frank and Joanie Schlonsky
Friedman Rosenfeld . . . .
Interviewer: Right. These are all very familiar names to me too. They’re
still in the community. So after graduation, where did you go?
Schaffer: I went to Ohio State for six years. My senior year was the best
three years of my life at Ohio State. I was fortunate while I was at Ohio State.
Harry Truman sent me a letter and invited me to join his army during the Korean
War and that year, which was my senior year, up until May of that year, if you
had been drafted, and of course I took my physical and I was 1-A, so I knew I
was gone at the end of the year. If you were drafted, you couldn’t get
deferred, you went at the end of the school year. That’s all there was. On May
1 they changed the rules and said even though you’ve gotten your draft notice,
if you want to you can join the advanced ROTC so I signed up for Air Force ROTC
on May 1st, the first day I was eligible, and spent two more years enjoying Ohio
State and earning my second lieutenant’s commission in the Air Force, which I
got on the day that I graduated and that was in June of ’53 and then in the
Fall of ’53 I was called to duty and I spent 18 months in Germany. I spent
three months before that in training school in Denver in Intelligence School and
then I spent 18 months in Germany.
Interviewer: What part of Germany?
Schaffer: Air base, well it was the southwest part of Germany. I was at an
air base called Ramstein. If you listen to news reports now, when they talk
about flying wounded soldiers from Iraq to the major hospital in Germany, that
is they call it Ramstein, which was across the road. When I was there, Ramstein
was the sign on the railways and Ramstein was the 12th Air Force Headquarters
and that’s where I was assigned to work. But that’s the location so
evidently the whole complex is still there.
Interviewer: How did you feel about being in the service at that time? Was
that a comfortable time or . . . .
Schaffer: It was comfortable for me. In my class in Intelligence School,
there were 22 of us in Denver and when we graduated, just like the military
service always does, they say, “Where would you like to be stationed?”
So I put Rickenbacker Air Force Base which at that time was Lockbourne Air Force
Base, Columbus. My second choice was the Caribbean and my third choice was, I
don’t know, some other exotic place.
Interviewer: None of which . . . .
Schaffer: None of which I got and they listened to our choices so well in my
class, the first 18 guys alphabetically went to Korea, the next two went to
North Africa and the last two of us were sent to Europe. So it didn’t make any
difference what you picked or how good you were, they just went alphabetically.
Interviewer: It was all set before . . . .
Schaffer: I was excited about going to Europe. Obviously I’d rather not
have been in service at all but at least I went as an Air Force officer. I went
to Germany. The Air Force was very good to me. As I was going through an
orientation for a week at 12th Air Force Headquarters, which they did for all
new officers coming in, then after you took that orientation course, they sent
you out to the air fields in France, Belgium, Germany and so forth, all of which
were out in rural areas. As I was going through this week of training, I went to
one particular office where I was there for a day and half learning what they
were doing, what they called targeting, and there was a Jewish major who was in
charge of that office. I don’t think religion had anything to do with it but
he asked me and one of the other officers, “How would you like to stay
here?” And I said, “I would love to.” So I was assigned to the
Headquarters for the whole time I was over there which was very close to 17
months. I think there were six second lieutenants assigned to this headquarters,
sixty full colonels and three generals so the second group of lieu- tenants were
sort of unique and they didn’t give us a hard time. Because it was
intelligence work, we couldn’t take any work home at night or on the weekend
and my major was a very kind gentleman, said to all of his officers and his
airman, mind you this is 1954, he said, “Most of you will never be in
Europe again. I don’t want to hear of you hanging around in Bachelor Officer’s
Quarters on the weekends and holidays. I want you to get out and see Europe and
I want you to take a three-day weekend every month and go someplace and see
Interviewer: Sounds like an order.
Schaffer: Yes it was and it was done, you know, with a smile on his face, but
he really wanted people there to see Europe. The Air Force had shipped my car
over and I had two fraternity brothers who were stationed in other parts of
Europe. There were a couple of guys who I had gone through indoctrination with
and we managed to get together with different people and travel. I think I hit
22 countries before I came home.
Interviewer: At that time it really wasn’t difficult to go from one part of
Europe to another with the passports and . . . .
Schaffer: Another lucky thing about being in the Air Force headquarters was
that the Air Force had a requirement that if you were a pilot or navigator or
any flying personnel, even though you had a desk job, if you got four hours a
month worth of flying time, you would still continue to get your flying pay
which was a nice increment on the top. I was not a flying officer but eveyone of
the officers I worked with was. The first Summer I got there, since I got there
right about Memorial Day, I didn’t know what was going on so I spent that
Summer traveling with my friends in my car. But as of the winter I learned,
people used to stick their head in the door and say, “I’ve got a flight
going to London this weekend. Anybody interested?” . . . . And what they
would do is they would requisition an aircraft and there might be three pilots
and three co-pilots and two navigators, all of whom wanted to get their flying
time in and anybody else who wanted to go along for the ride could go along for
the ride. So I took one weekend and went to Sweden. One weekend, we were
supposed to go to Spain and Portugal but that got cancelled and before I came
home we had one trip that went from Germany to Athens. We stayed overnight in
Athens. The next night we flew to Cairo. I left them in Cairo, flew to Cyprus,
flew from Cyprus to Israel because there was no direct connection between Egypt
and Israel, spent a week visiting my aunts and my cousins, flew back. At that
point, during that whole period of time, my cousin Laurabelle Ziegler was living
in Rome so coming back from Israel, I stopped for a couple of days in Rome to
visit her, and then back to Germany. Couple of days later, got my flight back
home. So the Air Force was very good to me.
Interviewer: Yeah it sounds like you were able to enjoy your life too at that
Schaffer: Yes I did.
Interviewer: Were you able to come back home at that time on furlough?
Interviewer: So you didn’t really see your Columbus family for the time
that you were . . . .
Schaffer: During the two years, when I finished the training school in
Denver, I went in in October. I did my organizational work at Geneva Air Force
Base in New York up by the Finger Lakes and I was there for two or three weeks.
I got an assignment to Denver. I probably stopped home on my way driving out to
Denver. I was in Denver for like 12 weeks. Then I was shipped from there to
Germany. I was able to drive home and I think I had two weeks to spend in
Columbus and then I drove to New Jersey, dropped my car off and flew out of
Massachusetts to Germany.
Interviewer: I’m going to stop for a second here Larry and turn this tape
over. We’re at the end of Tape 1, Side l. Okay we’re now on the first tape,
Side B and we’re going to continue with our interview with Larry Schaffer.
Larry, all right, after the service?
Schaffer: Came back to Columbus. By the way I stayed in the Air Force Reserve
for another six years, earning the rank of captain and then was retired on
medical disability from the Reserve. Came back to Columbus, went to work for
Jerry Friedman’s older brother Allen Friedman who had a real estate company by
the name of Friedman-Deems. I worked for them for a couple of years, earned my
broker’s license, became a partner with them in the management company that
they set up. We were very lucky at that time. People like Sam Sherman and Julie
Cohen and Leo Yassenoff were building apartments and gave us their apartment
complexes to manage so that very quickly we built up to about 1,000 units. But
then I had some partnership disagreements with my existing brokers and decided
to go out on my own and I left them I think late 1958 and went into commercial
and industrial brokerage. The highlight of the couple of years in the commercial
and industrial sales was that Millard Cummins, whose father had passed away and
left him two businesses, one the Thurman Scale Company. The other was a group of
service stations called Sun Flash that had seven stations in Columbus and six
others between Columbus and the Ohio River going down Route 23. And Millard
decided that he couldn’t capably handle both. His managerial personnel at Sun
Flash was getting near retirement age and he decided he wanted to sell that
business. And to make a long story short, I managed to broker that sale to
Standard Oil of New Jersey who came into Columbus at that time under the name of
Humble, later changed it to Exxon when they wanted a label that they could use
all around the country. So I sold them those 13 stations and then I sold Humble
another 12 locations around the city of Columbus plus one in Dayton for them to
build service stations. During the middle 60s, I had done a couple restorations
of houses that I had picked up in various ways, estates and so forth, and had
restored in ’64 my first home in German Village. I thought that was very
interesting and . . . .
Interviewer: ‘Cause then German Village was just really starting to get to
be a hot area.
Schaffer: Just getting off the ground. I took the Second House and Garden
Tour in German Village in 1962 and said, “Well this is someplace I’d like
to live.” At that point I was living in the apartments off of James Road,
Stelzer Road, that later became, Beverly . . . .
Interviewer: Beverly Manor.
Schaffer: When I lived there and I lived there for six or seven years and I
finally said to myself, “This is stupid. You’re in the real estate
business, why are you paying rent to somebody else? You ought to buy something
and you don’t know any of your neighbors any more ’cause they’d moved in
and out a number of times during that period of time.” So I took the German
Village tour and decided what I wanted and it took me two years to find a house
that met my specifications. But yes, it was just getting off the ground at that
Interviewer: So where was this house that you finally selected?
Schaffer: 745 South Fifth Street at the corner of Fifth and Frankfort. I
gutted the house and completely redid the inside and when I got done, the
property also had a two-family, brick two-family on the rear of the lot facing
Macon Alley, which I didn’t do anything to but I had tenants in it. And when I
got all done, I said, “Well you idiot, you got more money in this property
than it’s worth. But you know, I’ll be living here for a long time so what
difference does it make? You did it to make yourself comfortable.” I have
to admit, it’s worth a little bit more now than it was when I first did it.
Interviewer: I’ll bet it is. Is that where you’re living now?
Schaffer: No, I lived there for 20 years and after 20 years I decided you
either have to clean the house or move and it was easier to move.
Interviewer: I understand that.
Schaffer: So I picked up, I took only one piece of furniture and my bed. Left
all the other furniture in the house and had been leasing it out for a number of
years furnished. Now we just lease it out unfurnished and I bought a house on
Thurman Avenue at 160 Thurman that I had originally owned as a partner with my
younger partner in my business, Howard Lynn. He and I restored the house and
when he and Ruth got married, they moved into the house and were living there.
Interviewer: When you say you restored, did you physically do the restoration
or you hired subcontractors?
Schaffer: Subcontractors. No I didn’t do any of my own. However, after
Howard and Ruth moved into the house, they did the easy jobs like scraping all
the paint off of the original woodwork and so forth, the kind of job that I
would never think of starting but they did a beautiful job.
Schaffer: Right. They did that. And then they had two lovely daughters and by
the time Annie the oldest was ready to go to school they started thinking about
school systems so they decided they wanted to move to Bexley and we found a
house in Bexley that again needed a complete redo but that they were willing to
tackle and they needed to move quickly. So, oh excuse me, one step back, when
the kids were born, they added on a bedroom and a dining room and so forth. So
at that time, I gave my interest to Howard and Ruth. We had been partners but we
had no money, out-of-pocket money in the property. It was completely financed.
So I gave them my interest and when they decided to move and they found this
other property, I said, “Okay, I’ll buy the house back from you.”
And I bought it back at the appraised price and I thought I would just turn
around and sell it because in the beginning, I said, “What do I need a
three bedroom house just for me?” But the more I thought about it, I
thought, “Well it would be nice to have some extra room.” So I moved
into it and this year makes 20 years and now I have to figure out do I need to
clean it or . . . .
Interviewer: Is it time to move or clean, huh?
Schaffer: But I think I’ll have to clean. I’m not into moving again.
Interviewer: Yeah it becomes harder as years go along.
Schaffer: As you get more mature.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah. At this stage of life I wish I had a family member
that had a couple of extra bedrooms. As our family has got larger . . . .
Interviewer: So you need more space. But living in German Village has been
interesting for you, hasn’t it?
Schaffer: Yes it has been. I moved in in ’64. In ’65, Mayor Sensenbrenner
appointed me Chairman of the German Village Commission and I served on that for
three years which was interesting in that it was very early in the game and a
lot of people didn’t understand or didn’t want to follow the architectural
requirements that the Commission had set up and it wasn’t like you could say,
“You do it or else.” We had to sell the people on the idea, especially
the old-time residents, that if you do it the right way and if you watch
everything that’s going on around you, the value of your house is going up
every year just because of what everybody else did. And it took a while to
convince some people but this certainly has been the most success- ful private
urban restoration program in the country.
Interviewer: They have actually, is that?
Schaffer: Yes. Real estate values there, I saw something recently from the
Society, have gone up 480% since the German Village program started.
Interviewer: Wow. Yeah I have fond memories of seeing it develop, but you
have even a deeper interest so . . . .
Schaffer: Well I got a kick out of things like Herman Katz said to me one
time, “You know, I used to live on Beck Street when I was growing up.”
And I said, “What address?” And he said, “328.” And I said,
“That’s interesting. I bought that house when I first lived in German
Village and the restoration hadn’t really picked up and I should have hung
onto it but I didn’t. I turned around and sold it again but,” I said,
“I remember the house.”
Interviewer: Yeah who knew it would come to what it is today?
Schaffer: That’s right.
Interviewer: And actually when you started, it was really gutsy to be living
in German Village.
Schaffer: Over the course of the time that I’ve been down there, Lee
Skilken and I, in one of our partnerships, restored about 27 different rental
units. Some of them are two- family. Some of them are six-family and
eight-family. Some of them were singles and so forth. We have several we own
currently. Lee and I together own eight units on Whittier and four units where
our office is on Livingston and then I own three other rental units plus my
house in German Village today.
Interviewer: So your office is actually on Livingston? I think I have the
Schaffer: Yeah. 407 E. Livingston, just east of Grant. We’re in the last
block in German Village. Lathrop Street is the end of German Village at that
point. Lathrop Street used to be known as “Poorhouse Lane” because
where the Beck Street School stands now used to be the County Poorhouse and so
people would go that way to get to the Poorhouse.
Interviewer: Oh I hadn’t heard that. My husband grew up in the South End.
Schaffer: He would not know.
Interviewer: I think every place they moved was Poorhouse Lane.
Schaffer: A couple of years ago the German Village Society in their annual
phone directory printed an old map of the German Village in the 1800s and I can
pick out the building where our office is. And the next corner, which is three
doors away says “Poorhouse Lane” right on the map.
Interviewer: Well it’s an interesting . . . . And there was another area.
Going back, well let’s stay where we’re at here for a couple of minutes, so
you do own properties still in the German Village area. What about other parts
of the community?
Schaffer: Yes, well it was ’68 to ’73, our company developed low-income
housing in the inner city for low-income families on a sale basis on one of the
federal programs where they could buy homes at a low price. We both built new
homes on scattered lots and we bought old vacant houses and restored them and
sold them under the program. We built about 240 houses on that program. then Mr.
Reagan came along and decided poor people didn’t need housing and cut out the
programs so in the middle 70s we decided we ought to do something with the
talents we developed in restoring older propereties and we went around and we
bought a couple of apartment complexes where the builders had gone bankrupt
during construction. We still own Bexley Village.
Interviewer: Who are your partners now?
Schaffer: Well in the real estate was Lee Skilken and I, Howard Lynn who has
since passed away, and then we have limited partners in some of the complexes.
We still own Bexley Village on Sheridan Avenue which was about one third
completed when we bought it from a group of Savings and Loan. We own Schrock
Park up on Schrock Road in which one out of the three buildings was completed
and we finished that construction and we still own that. Lee and I and Ruth
Lynn, Howard’s widow, now Ruth Sniderman, are partners in that. And then while
we were working on that, the Savings and Loan who sold us that said, “Hey
we’ve got something else you ought to take a look at that this gentleman has
got a number of properties that are in foreclosure and he’s got two here in
Columbus that he has to sell and go take a look at them and if you have any
trouble making the deal, let us know and we’ll help you make the deal ’cause
he’s got to pay off his mortgages to us. We’re paying it out elsewhere and
the only way he’s going to get any money is to sell the completed ones so he
can raise some capital.” So we bought what is now Karl Village on Karl Road
just south of Schrock and we bought one called Moonglow with the same partners
which is along the north freeway just north of Hudson but we have subsequently
sold that. Then when the Carter administration came back in, they said, “We
need housing for low-income families,” and they came up with a Section 8
program of multi-family housing. So we again did restoration of older
two-families, eight-families, four-families, near east side, near north side.
Subject to the Section 8 subsidies, all of those we did with limited partners
that we got through people who syndicated it and they put together the partners
and they came and bought into the deal.. We also own Long Manor apartments on
East Long Street that Leon Schottenstein had originally built for Torah Academy
and at a certain point, there was enough equity built up that Torah Academy
wanted the money so we bought that from them and we still own that. We have a
group of local partners on that.
Interviewer: So a lot of the properties that you are in on are for low-income
Schaffer: About 50%, about 45% of what we own and manage are low-income
properties. The remainder are conventional properties. We also manage a 150-unit
complex for low-income families in Urbancrest which is owned by a partnership
headed by a small Baptist church and we manage that for them.
Interviewer: Well it sounds like you’re still very actively involved.
Schaffer: Yes I retired in 1995 on Social Security and now I just volunteer
60 hours a week in the office . . . .
Interviewer: That’s by choice.
Interviewer: But I think you probably love what you’re doing. You’ve
really made a name for yourself and a place.
Schaffer: Yes I do enjoy what we’re doing. I have a wonderful staff. Most
of the people in key positions on my staff and most of the managers have been
with me between 20 and 35 years.
Interviewer: Well that says a lot for you.
Schaffer: We have very little turnover of our, the only turnover we have are
maintenance men and that’s endemic in our business.
Interviewer: Yeah, sure. I’m going to go way back, first of all, your
college degree. What was that in?
Schaffer: In business.
Interviewer: So it was natural for you to go into the investment kind of
Schaffer: At the time I had taken some real estate courses. I never intended
to go in the real estate business. But I said that the degree was in marketing
which again is broad scope and I said, like everybody else when I graduated,
“Well my degree and a nickel will get me a job at Lazarus.” But when I
graduated and first started to interview, I knew I was going to be called to
active duty. At that time I was supposed to be called the end of July. They
later postponed it until October so there was no sense trying to interview for a
permanent job. When I came back from the service, I had a pretty good idea of
what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and Jerry
Friedman who was a long-time friend said, “My brother is looking for real
estate salesmen. Why don’t you talk to him?”
Interviewer: So the timing was right for you.
Schaffer: Right. And Al Friedman and Ray Deems were as good at selling the
real estate business as they were selling the real estate. And they really made
it sound terrific and they were good brokers because in the first year or so
since I was their only salesman, they took me with them on everything they did.
So I was able to learn not only how they handled the negotiaton on a buy-or-sell
position, but all the technical things of how you do to close the deal.
Schaffer: One of the things that I was especially proud of, I had been in the
business about six months and I sold a house on the west side on the Hilltop and
a lady broker represented the buyers and when it came time to set up a closing,
I called her on the phone and I said, “Do you want me to make out the
closing statement or do you want to make it?” deferring to her because she
was a broker and I was only a salesman. She said, “Well you know if you
could do it, I would appreciate it.” She said, “My broker never taught
me how to do that,” and she said, “and now that I’m a broker,
whenever I have a closing I hire my attorney to go to the closing and do the
closing for me.” I said, “I’ll be glad to do it. I know exactly what
to do,” and I did it.
Interviewer: You have been valuable to me. I was in real estate too and I,
the broker state- ments were a nightmare to me that, I just wasn’t comfortable
with them so I can appreciate that.
Schaffer: Well they made an attempt to make sure that I knew how and for a
while I was their sales manager and I felt it was my job to teach the other
salesmen how to do things so that they could be successful.
Interviewer: Absolutely. That’s an important part of it. Let’s go back a
few more years to World War II. What memories do you have of that period of
Schaffer: I remember December 7th, coming back on a street car from a show .
. . .
Interviewer: Today’s December 8th.
Schaffer: Right. A movie, my sister and I went to a movie at Loew’s Ohio
and we got on the street car to come home and somebody said, “The Japanese
have bombed Pearl Harbor.” So I remember that happening. I remember Troop
202 at Tifereth Israel Boy Scouts. We were assigned as assistants to air raid
wardens in the neighbor- hood around the Temple and they used to have drills
from time to time, blackouts and so forth. And we went out with the air raid
wardens and knocked on doors if people hadn’t shut their lights off and all
those kind of things . . . .
Interviewer: Now how old were you at that, when were you born? I don’t
think we got that at the beginning.
Schaffer: I was born in 1929 so in ’41 I would have been twelve years old.
I was in the Boy Scouts. I remember when Rabbi Zelizer went off to be a chaplain
in the Army. I remember when he came back. Oh and I remember living on Berkeley
Road and having a Navy plane crash on Seymour Avenue a couple of blocks away
Interviewer: Oh really?
Schaffer: And the whole area was shut off. . . . I remember that we loaded
hot coffee into a thermos and went around the area and gave all the soldiers who
were guarding the area hot coffee until the aircraft was inspected and then made
sure there was no secret papers or instruction books or anything that somebody
could walk off with.
Interviewer: Do you remember any hardships in terms of your family’s
business and everyday activities, anything dramatic?
Schaffer: No nothing dramatic. Gasoline rationing. But I also remember that
at that time, and I don’t know if it was connected with the war but I think
so, they were willing to give temporary permits to people at age 14, maybe even
at age 12. I’m not sure. And since my mother didn’t drive, I got a driver’s
license that I could drive as long as there was an adult with me in the car.
Interviewer: At age 14?
Schaffer: Yeah, it might have even been younger. It might have been at age 12
because they relaxed the rules during that period of time because so many men
were off in the Army.
Interviewer: Yeah that’s an interesting point. You mentioned at some point
about the Jewish Center, the facility that was the Jewish Center at that time.
Can you tell us a little bit about your memories of Schonthal Center?
Schaffer: Well the Schonthal Center was an old mansion. I don’t know
whether Pop Schon- thal lived in it or whether he bought it for the purpose of
the Jewish community. There also was a house next door that they called the
“557 Club” or something like that and the Council of Jewish Women ran
both a bake shop in there to raise money and they collected used clothing to
give to refugees who were able to get out and come to this country and
especially after the war.
Interviewer: So you think that came about because of World War II.
Schaffer: I think it was because of World War II. I don’t believe it was
there before but I could be mistaken. Jewish Center, the Schonthal Center, the
downstairs had a couple of meeting rooms. It’s where my AZA group met. The
Director’s office was, there was a big curving wooden stair going up to the
second and then to the third floor and her office was tucked in under the
stairway on the first floor between one of the meeting rooms and the stairway.
Interviewer: Who was the director?
Schaffer: Rose Sugarman. And the second floor, there were just a bunch more
rooms and then the third floor, there was a large ballroom which many of the old
mansions in those days had and that we had plays and skits and dramas and
musicals and all kinds of things like that.
Interviewer: So it was kind of a theater?
Schaffer: Yes. Used as a theater for the community. Now in those days, B’nai
B’rith was the major cultural organization in Columbus and B’nai B’rith
used to bring in speakers and stuff and they met at Tifereth Israel or at least
they had their programming at Tifereth Israel because the center wasn’t big
enough for the turnout that they would get.
Interviewer: Did you spend a lot of time at the center? Was that an important
part of your life as you were growing up?
Schaffer: Yes it was. As a youngster, I belonged to the Young Judea group
there. When I got a little older, I belonged to the AZA Chapter there. I
probably was in AZA for three or four years. I was President of Columbus Chapter
of AZA and then when that group got very large, we split it in half and we
started another group called Heart of Ohio AZA. And then in the, again during
the World War, probably ’43 or ’44, there were a couple of B’nai B’rith
Girls groups and we formed a BBYO Council and I was the first President of the
BBYO Council in Columbus and it was to coordinate activities between the two AZA
and the two BBG groups. I don’t remember at that time, I don’t think we had
a BBYO older group formed yet in those days.
Interviewer: I’ve been, I know that you’ve been very active in the
community. Are you still active in any other organizations other than what we’ve
Schaffer: Yeah I just kept on going. I grew from AZA to Sammy at Ohio State.
I was President of the Chapter at Sammy. I was there for the six years. When I
came back after the two years, I became the Chapter adviser and I was the
adviser for 48 years continually.
Interviewer: You must have done a good job.
Schaffer: Right. It was a high-paying good job. Lot of friendships. That was
the pay, helping young men and making a lot of friendships. During that 48-year
period of time, I became a national officer, eventually becoming National
President in 1967 to 1969. At the same time, I was President of the Hillel
Interviewer: At the same time?
Schaffer: At the same time. At the same time, I was President of the Alumni
Inter-Fraternity Council at Ohio State and . . . .
Interviewer: Well your hours were filled.
Schaffer: Yes they were. It kept me busy and then after the two years as
President of the national fraternity, I went on the National Endowment Fund and
the National Foundation Board. I served on the Endowment Fund until this last
January. I retired from that and I’ve been President of the National
Foundation since, I think, 1994, something like that. I’ve been on it since
Interviewer: I’m going to just stop for a second. Okay to continue. We were
just talking about what you’re actively involved in today and it doesn’t
sound like you’re nearly done. You’ve got a lot more to do.
Schaffer: Right. I’m still going on. I’m currently Honorary Treasurer at
the Federation, on the Finance Committee, on the Executive Committee. I’m
still, I’m President of the Hillel Building Corporation and I serve on the
Hillel Operating Board as a Past President. I’m still active in that. I’m a
founding Trustee in the Columbus Jewish Day School but I’m not active on their
board any longer and I’m Chairman of the House Corporation for the Sammy
Chapter here at Ohio State.
Interviewer: Is the Sammy Chapter still actively involved, I mean still
Schaffer: Yeah it’s still very active. We had a reorganization about five
years ago because we weren’t happy with the young men who were in the Chapter
at the time and we sort of cleaned house and started over. But as of May last
year, they had 100 members again and hopefully with their new class this coming
winter quarter, they’ll be in the range of 100 to 125 so they’re back and
very strong and extremely active.
Interviewer: Well that’s encouraging isn’t it?
Interviewer: And, let me see, I was just going to ask you about what changes
with Hillel. You’ve been involved with Hillel for a number of years.
Schaffer: Yes, I was student President when I was in college and at that
point, they called it Student Council. I was President of that. Jerry Friedman
was my Vice President on the Council. That took place in 1948 when we had just
completed the construction of the last Hillel building. At that time, it was the
new Hillel building.
Interviewer: Where was that located?
Schaffer: At the same location . . . .
Interviewer: Where it is now?
Schaffer: Yes, 46 E. Sixteenth. And then I was President of the Hillel Board
itself in ’69 and ’70, I believe were the years. And then as Past President,
I’ve been active since then and I’ve been on the Hillel Building Corporation
probably since I went off being an officer, being President of the Operating
Board. And then I took over the presidency when Jack Resler passed away a number
of years ago, prob- ably 12-15 years ago.
Interviewer: What’s the responsibility of the Building Committee?
Schaffer: The Building Corporation is the owner of the building. We own it
separately from the Operating Board. There are financial reasons to do that so
that the people who are on the Operating Board who serve a couple of years and
then are gone, don’t take it financially off into a direction which might
eventually cause the loss of the property. Then every organization worries about
that so you try to separate it a little bit so that the Building Corporation is
the long-term owner and the operating corporation are the people who run the
program day by day and year by year. I, also as Chairman of the Building
Corporation, served as Chairman of the Capital Campaign six or seven years ago
when we raised the money to build the new building that is there now. And we
tore down the old building we had and built the new building on the same spot.
We raised $5,200,000. At that time, the building, the day it was opened, was
free and clear. We had no mortgage on it. We had a $500,000 endowment for
maintaining the building and we have a $l,000,000 endowment that’s now a
$1,200,000 endowment with the Columbus Jewish Foundation for which the income
can be used for programming only so that they always have an extra spurt of
money to do their programming.
Interviewer: Well those endowments are critical aren’t they?
Interviewer: For every organization.
Schaffer: Right, right. I think we’re the only Jewish beneficiary agency of
the Federation who followed the requirements to set up an endowment to maintain
the building when you got it done. A lot of others have built new buildings and
ran out of fund raising before they built the endowment. Now the Jewish Center
has it built in their program but that’s going to be the last money coming in
and ours was all there when we opened the front door.
Interviewer: Well that’s fantastic.
Schaffer: . . . . As an offhand comment, I think I served on every Jewish
beneficiary board in Columbus at one time or another. I am on the Jewish Center
Board now. I served for six years and was off for ten or twelve and now I’m
back for the fourth out of six years of this term.
Interviewer: Hmmm. We were talking a little while ago about all that you’re
doing and you made a comment about you have a lot of years yet to finish some of
your goals, your accomplishments that you want to see in the future. So I just
hope that you can continue to be as actively involved and enthusiastic as you
Schaffer: I expect to be around many years and to be sitting across the desk
from you Naomi for another 25 to 50 years.
Interviewer: I don’t know. It’s something to look forward to. Sure.
Always have to be optimistic. I know you traveled through, Uncle Sam helped you
see some parts of the world, namely Europe during those military years. Have you
done some traveling other than that?
Schaffer: Not a great deal. I went to Mexico City when my niece Amy got
married the first time. I go to the Cayman Islands occasionslly where my
partners, Lee and Marilyn Skilken, own a condo. I took one trip to Israel in
1987 as part of a UJA Mission for treasurers, for allocation chairmen from the
various cities, one from each city around the country. There probably were 30 of
us in the world who went over so they could tell us all the problems they had
and why we should raise more money which we always raise more money. But that’s
all the foreign travel I’ve done. As National President of the fraternity, I
traveled around and visited about 35 campuses each year of the two years that I
was National President and now as Chairman of the Foundation, I attend their
National Board Meetings three times a year and the convention in the summer
which is when my Foundation Board meets. This weekend I’m going to Dallas for
three days for the National Board Meeting.
Interviewer: So you do travel?
Schaffer: I do some.
Interviewer: Most organizational kind of things. Well you don’t need to go
for vacations because living in German Village is a vacation.
Schaffer: As long as you’re doing things you like, work is a vacation.
Interviewer: Do you walk around the village very much?
Schaffer: Not much. Not as much as I should. I’m not very much
exercise-oriented. I should be but I’m not.
Interviewer: Well, sounds like a familiar story of a lot of people. How do
you celebrate holidays the last few years?
Schaffer: Most of the Jewish holidays I’m with my family, either my sister
has everybody at her home or one of my nieces has it at their home. Passover we
have one Orthodox night at Amy Greenberg’s and one regular night at either my
sister’s or my niece Julie’s. And my niece Melissa and her family come in
for the major holidays.
Interviewer: Yeah, I know how important those things are. I just wanted to
ask you about something like Lazarus that just recently closed and changed the
downtown picture a lot. Can you give us some feeling about memories of going
downtown and maybe focus on a bit.
Schaffer: I got my Lazarus charge card when I was in college, I think in 1953
and I carried the same card, I don’t do much shopping. I hate to do shopping
and when I go to buy clothes, suits, I buy three or four at a time so I don’t
have to go back very frequently. But about two years ago, I went to buy some
shirts at the downtown Lazarus store and I gave the young lady my brown and
creme credit card and she looked at it and said, “What is this?” and I
said, “That’s my Lazarus charge account.” So she called upstairs to
the credit office to make sure it was valid and they said, “Yes it
certainly is, go ahead and use it but tell him we’ll send him a new Lazarus
credit card.” So I used that . . . .
Interviewer: That was a rarity wasn’t it?
Schaffer: Yes it was. By then it was an antique and the dumb thing is when
they sent me a new credit card, I threw the old one away. You know, who ever
thought that Lazarus would go out of business.
Interviewer: Yeah it could have been an heirloom.
Schaffer: It probably could have but I do remember going to Lazarus as a
child, going with my mother shopping. Always hated it, shopping for myself when
I needed to and you know, eating at the Lazarus restaurant and all that kind of
stuff. I remember a lot of the jewelry, all of the merchants up and down High
Street. Joe Levison had a jewelry store, Lynn’s Jewelers and . . . .
Interviewer: Where was that located?
Schaffer: That was just immediately south of Lazarus on High Street and
Bernie Frank, his son-in-law took it over and operated it for a number of years.
My mother had a close friend, Flora Cohen, who was a saleslady at Madison’s so
I went shopping with my mother. I got roped into going into Madison’s. Flora
Cohen’s sister, Esther, I forget . . . .
Interviewer: By the way, Madison’s is still there isn’t it?
Schaffer: The store is not operated.
Interviewer: No it hasn’t operated for years but the store . . . .
Schaffer: The store is still there.
Interviewer: And the sign, I just read something in the paper recently about
Schaffer: That building’s going to be condemned or something and then Flora’s
sister, Esther Fine, was a buyer at Lazarus. My mother had some other friend who
worked at Madison’s, not at Madison’s, at Montaldos on East Broad.
Interviewer: Yeah that was a very popular store.
Schaffer: Right it was and the Maramor Restaurant there was very popular. And
Marzetti’s downtown was an excellent restaurant and Kuennings downtown was an
excellent restaurant. The building where Kuennings was was torn down, the
building where Mills Cafeteria was was torn down for the State Office Building,
for the Riffe Building. Marzetti’s was at 16 East Broad. That went out of
business. I remem- ber the restaurant that was on the third floor of the
Galleria called Mario’s which was also an excellent restaurant. I remember as
a child on East Broad Street where across the street from State Auto now has
their Claims Office, there was a building where Vernor’s Ginger Ale had a soda
fountain and they would serve Vernor’s Ginger Ale directly from the tap and if
you wanted, they put a scoop of ice cream in and made a soda out of it.
Interviewer: Sounds like a float, doesn’t it?
Schaffer: That’s right. And that was a Sunday treat to go down there for
Interviewer: Those are all good memories. What about movie theaters or are
there live theater?
Schaffer: I remember the Ohio as being a movie theater. There was the Grand
on State Street. There was the Palace and there was the Broad Theater across the
street. Palace used to have vaudeville shows from time to time and then there
was the Hartman and from the time that I was in high school, my sister and I
used to go to shows at the Hartman. They had Peanut Gallery clear up at the top
where you could buy low-priced tickets and you had to run up three floors to be
the first one there, got the best seats type of thing.
Interviewer: That’s when we were able to run up.
Schaffer: That’s right and it seems to me it was a couple of years that a
man who used to work for my father at Reliable Laundry was either the manager or
a volunteer for some of the theatricals that took place there so he used to be
able to get us tickets. When the house wasn’t sold out, he would give us free
tickets. I remember seeing Al Jolsen at the Hartman Theater. Thought his
language was filthy but it was a good show. I don’t remember any of the other
shows but . . . .
Interviewer: In today’s world that wouldn’t be filthy language, it would
be every-day talk, huh?
Schaffer: Oh no, not at all. Right.
Interviewer: And the Jewish Center. Were you ever involved in theater at the
Schaffer: At the Schonthal House, my sister has a scrapbook, we put on a
pageant and I don’t remember the name but it was all the kids and some young
adults took part and my cousin Laura Ziegler painted the scenery and so forth
and there were articles in the Chronicle about it and so forth. I did
not, that I can recall, take part in any volunteer theater either there or at
Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about Laura. You mentioned her a couple of
times and I remember her from ‘way back. As a matter of fact, a couple of
years ago, Bernie and I went to an opening at the Columbus Museum.
Schaffer: Right they had a show for her. Right.
Interviewer: Yeah. And it was really interesting how she has developed
through the years and is now a very established sculptress.
Schaffer: Yeah she is. She got into art as a young lady, went to Columbus Art
School at that time. Now it’s Columbus Community College for Design, even
taught there for a while. Got her Fine Arts degree at Ohio State where she came
under the tutelage of some very good sculpture and art people there. She made
The Burning Bush on the front of Temple Israel. She made the cross at St.
Stephens’s Church on West Woodruff just off of High. You can stand in front of
the building and you can see right through the building and there’s the blue
cross glazed, I think glass or something up above the altar. She’s got a
couple of pieces that are in the Hirsh- horn Museum in Washington and a couple
of pieces in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Columbus Museum of Art
owns some of her stuff but it’s usually not on display. She went as a young
lady, I’m trying to remember, she got a Fulbright Scholarship which gave her
one year in Italy and she was in Rome and she studied under a famous sculptor
there and did a lot of her work. She came home for a little while and then
decided she wanted to go back and as a matter of fact when I was in the Air
Force driving my car to New Jersey to ship it overseas, she was going back to
Italy so she rode with me to New York and then she caught her flight from there
and I dropped my car off in the airport. The Air Force bussed me up to
Massachusetts where I got on a flight going to Germany. I visited her twice
while I was in Italy for a couple of days each time in Rome and she now has
permanent residence in Luca, Italy, which is up near Pisa, the Leaning Tower of
Pisa. She married Herbie Handt. Herbie was an opera singer and then as he
matured, he became a symphony conductor and traveled all around Europe, traveled
into this country doing conducting and so forth. They live permanently in Luca.
Herbie runs a Summer Opera Festival in Luca or in the next town whose name I don’t
know, which is very famous over there and so forth. And she, they come back and
forth to this country from time to time. Her older brother Harold was living in
Columbus. When he passed away and he had an apartment out on Livingston Avenue,
almost out to Hamilton, and she’s kept that apartment as her connection with
her anchor to Columbus . . . .
Interviewer: That’s a good idea.
Schaffer: so when they come to Columbus . . . . use the apartment.
Interviewer: We’re continuing our interview with Larry Schaffer and we’re
on the second tape, side A. Larry was just talking about Laura Ziegler and I
think we pretty much have that wrapped up. And you were going to tell us about
the dinner . . . .
Schaffer: I just wanted to mention to you how proud I . . . . the Jewish
Center gave a dinner in which they created an award called the Shem Tov
award which means “good name” award and that award is going to be
awarded annually to a young leader not specifically a young leader of the Center
but somebody who is a young leader in the community with the hope that that will
encourage young people to continue being volunteers for the community and it is
being called the “Lawrence D. Schaffer Shem Tov Award” and they had a
dinner to give me the award and we awarded it for the first time to Shelly
Igdaloff this year. And it was a lovely dinner. At first when Joel said,
“Would you like to have a dinner before the Annual Meeting?” I said,
“Oh, okay.” And I said to him a couple of days later, “You mean
my family? Should I invite my family?” He said, “Oh invite whoever you
want.” I said, “Well how big are you thinking?” He said,
“Whatever you want. Fifty people, a hundred, and hundred and fifty,
whatever you want to invite.” Well we ended up with 180 people which was
the capacity of the room and the day of the dinner they turned down two or three
people who called at the last minute.
Interviewer: Oh that’s a tribute in itself.
Schaffer: It was and it was a very lovely occasion and I’m very proud that
they did it and I’m very proud that they named that award after me.
Interviewer: Yeah I would say. That’s a wonderful idea. That leads me to
this question. How do you feel about volunteerism in today’s world? I don’t
know a lot of younger people that are doing the kind of thing that we did when
we were younger.
Schaffer: I think there are a lot of young people, you and I being a little
more mature don’t exactly cross paths with them all the time but I see in the
Young Jewish Profes- sionals Group and the Young Adult Division of Federation
that they have now, they’ve got a lot of very enthusiastic young people
participating as we did when we were in the 30s. It’s a little more difficult
to get the best people to commit their time because all the other organizations,
not only the Jewish organizations, but the community organizations have learned
that Jewish people who volunteer are dedicated volunteers and in many cases
bring skills from the Jewish community to the general community so it no longer
is a matter where you can have people on the board where they just sit there and
the exec reads the report and they go home. If they can’t participate and do
something meaningful there are plenty of other organizations that are looking
for their services and I run across young people in all kinds of community
organizations nowadays but I think those that do it do it as we did it for the
love of the Jewish community, for the desire not only to perpetuate the Jewish
community, but to make it better than when we found it and it certainly is a
much broader, better run, better organized, more mature community now than it
was when I first started back then in the 30s. And even the Federation from the
time that I first became a board member has grown and the activity the
Federation does have grown and the activities that they sponsor in the community
have grown and the Federation has helped to spawn a number of other Jewish
groups by giving them assistance in the beginning and then letting them grow
independently on their own, which have been terrific for the community.
Interviewer: Having been somewhat active in community events, I always felt
that Columbus had a real special place in the Jewish realm in this part of the
country and I think a lot of other communities look to Columbus for . . . .
Schaffer: Yes that’s absolutely true.
Interviewer: their ideas.
Schaffer: In the Federation, the Jewish Federation which has since merged
with UJA, so now it’s the, I forget the name, National Jewish Federation, when
I was active younger with UJA and the Council of Jewish Federations considered
Columbus to be such an outstanding community even though our population would
have placed us in their medium-city grouping, they put us into their large-city
groupings because we were too sophisticated, too well organized for the
medium-city and even in our fund raising, we were much closer to the large-city
rankings than the smaller ones. And we’ve always had the ability to develop
our own young leadership and to encourage them to grow with the community and to
do things better than we did and I think we are still looked upon as being a
leader in that way and other communities come to Columbus to learn how we do it.
When we founded the Columbus Jewish Day School six or seven years ago and we
struggled for a couple of years before we could open the front door and we had
very few models to look to because there weren’t many non-Orthodox day schools
in those days and we developed an excellent school and then Council on Jewish
Education and other national organizations would say to people, “If you’re
thinking of starting a day school in your town, we recommend you take a visit to
Columbus and talk to their board and talk to their leadership to see what kind
of problems you’re going to encounter and how you’re going to solve
Interviewer: Well I have a special interest in the Columbus Jewish Day School
’cause I have a couple of grandchildren who are, one is still in there and we
have a couple more coming up. We’re looking forward . . . .
Schaffer: . . . . nothing but outstanding. If you’ve heard Nelson . . . .
Schaffer: No no, on the radio, uh, oh golly, my memory gets . . . . his
program, but he said, “This is the town where all the women are beautiful
and all the children are above average.”
Interviewer: Oh that sounds like Columbus, Ohio.
Schaffer: In the Jewish Day school, all the children are excellent and they
are. It’s the cream of the crop there.
Interviewer: Yeah my kids seem to be very satisfied with it so I’m real
glad that that’s got the kind of interest that it needs. So you’re real
optimistic about Columbus continuing to be successful?
Schaffer: Yes I am and we’ve gone through a number of changes in Federation
in recent years, some good and some bad. We did what we called reinventing the
Federa- tion which was somebody’s idea to completely change the operation
which turned out that it turned a lot of people off and since Marsha Hurwitz has
been there we’ve gone back to the old style of doing things and doing it at a
higher, more quality level and a lot more people have gotten involved and I
think we’re doing a great job now.
Interviewer: My thoughts about being a member of the Columbus Jewish
community go directly to the area that we’re in right here, geographic area.
When I think of the campus that we’re on with the Heritage House and Heritage
Tower and Creekside being built and the Jewish Center and all that, I just have
a tremendous feeling of pride that this has developed the way it has. Isn’t
this somewhat unique?
Schaffer: Yes it is very unique. There are some cities that have one or two
organizations in the same area. Some of the smaller or medium-sized cities might
have Federation and Jewish Center in one building. But this is unique. It’s
something special. It has grown a lot bigger than we orignally intended but it
has become the center of the Jewish community.
Interviewer: Now personally I never dreamt that the Ebner Building would be
built on that little island and it’s there.
Schaffer: Another addition to the campus.
Interviewer: Well I think we share a lot of excitement and interest in this
community . . . .
Schaffer: . . . . share optimism on what’s going to happen in the next
Interviewer: I’m looking forward to it. I have young families and am
hopeful that they will continue to progress and add to this community as well.
Larry I’ve certainly enjoyed interviewing you this afternoon and unless you
can think of some more things to share with us . . . .
Schaffer: . . . .
Interviewer: I think we’re kind of wearing you down.
Schaffer: I pity the poor typist who has to type it all up.
Interviewer: Well Honey will get in touch with you.
Schaffer: If she doesn’t understand anything or a name, she’ll check it
Interviewer: Yeah she’s done a really outstanding job as a volunteer, by
Schaffer: You know she’s one of the outstanding volunteers in absolutely
everything now that she’s back in Columbus.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well we’re happy that she came back here.
Schaffer: We are too.
Interviewer: But on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want
to thank you for the time that we’ve spent this afternoon and wishing you that
your life continues to be happy so that you can continue all these exciting
Schaffer: Thank you Naomi and thank you for all that you do.
* * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson