This interview is for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and is being recorded on December 10, 2014, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at 4433 Keeler Drive in Columbus, OH. My name is Flo Gurwin, and I am interviewing Michael Rosen.
Interviewer: Michael, what is your full name?
Rosen: Michael Lee Rosen.
Interviewer: You don’t know about your Jewish name. Is that correct?
Interviewer: Or who you were named for?
Interviewer: Okay. How far back can you trace your family’s history?
Rosen: Probably in some instances back to where my grandparents came from, but that’s it. My grandparents, once I grew up near in Indianapolis, didn’t want to talk about where they came from, and, on my mother’s side and my father’s side, because of the Second World War, we rarely, rarely saw them.
Interviewer: Do you know where they came from?
Rosen: Yes. They came from a town called Przemysl , which is on the Polish/Russian border and went back and forth through history.
Interviewer: Do you know how to spell that?
Rosen: Yes. Here it is. P-r-z- e-m-y-s-l, according to the atlas.
Interviewer: And this is Poland or Russia?
Rosen: Yes, Poland. When they came, Russian other times.
Interviewer: Okay and they came here when?
Rosen: Don’t know.
Interviewer: Okay. Have you ever done any research on your family history?
Interviewer: And you trace your family history back to 1900? Is that correct?
Rosen: Yes, well, right. My grandmother on my mother’s side was born, I believe, in 1888.
Interviewer: Okay and do you have brothers and sisters?
Rosen: I have one sister. Her name is Joan Sue, maiden name Rosen, of course. She then married Joe Ehrlichman in Cleveland, then divorced him and she is now married to a fellow by the name of Alan Peters.
Interviewer: …in Cleveland.
Interviewer: …In Cleveland.
Interviewer: Do you have children?
Rosen: I have three children. I have Robin, and she was born in 1963 and Todd and Lisa, twins, were born in 1965.
Interviewer: And where do they live?
Rosen: Robin lives in Euclid, Ohio, and Lisa lives in Sylvania, and Todd lives here in Columbus.
Interviewer: Okay and you’re married.
Rosen: Yes. Well, I was married to Phyllis Rosen, when those kids were born and then Paulanne and I got married in ’79 so then I got three step-children.
Interviewer: What was Paulanne’s maiden name?
Rosen: Her original maiden name was Azorin.
Interviewer: Can you spell that?
Rosen: Yes, A-z-o-r-i-n. And then she was married to Harry Hirschinger when she moved here to Columbus.
Interviewer: Okay and how long have you been married?
Rosen: Thirty-five years.
Interviewer: What were your parents’ full names?
Rosen: My father’s name was Gus P. Rosen and my mother’s maiden name was Rose Ann Schwartz. Then she married my father, of course.
Interviewer: Do you know what the “P” in your father’s name stood for?
Rosen: No. He assumed at some point, Paul, but we don’t know.
Interviewer: Were there any stories or any particular about your family that you heard over the years, family stories?
Rosen: Well, one of them that my grandmother on my mother’s side, her mother, she left the Ukraine on a two-wheeled ox cart. Then they took a boat and wound up in England and then came to the U.S. That’s one story, and my father’s family, they wound up in St. Louis and the relatives, the males, were merchants and wholesale merchants and they [went] up and down the Mississippi River.
Interviewer: What did they sell? What kind of merchandise?
Rosen: They sold buttons, thread, clothing, and my grandfather on my father’s side had a dry goods store in St. Louis, which was where the base of the current Arch is located in St. Louis.
Interviewer: You said your family, that family, came from the Ukraine. Do you know where in the Ukraine it was?
Rosen: They came from a town called Lvov.
Interviewer: When did they come to this country, do you know?
Rosen: Well, the story that I got was that my Aunt Adele on my mother’s side, was born on the ship on the way here, and she was like three years older than my mother. My mother was born in 1912, so that meant that they came here sometime around 1909/1910, somewhere.
Interviewer: Are you sure that that aunt was actually born on the ship?
Interviewer: That’s what I thought.
Rosen: And we don’t really know where my mother was born other than the city of New York certified her birth certificate.
Interviewer: As being born in New York.
Rosen: Yeah, born on the lower east side on Delancy Street.
Interviewer: Okay, so her sisters were born…
Rosen: Well, the older sister was born before her, and my Aunt Florence, who was her younger sister…I don’t know where she was born.
Interviewer: That’s the one that they allege was born on the ship?
Rosen: No, no Adele, the first one.
Interviewer: The first one allegedly was born on the ship.
Interviewer: So, the other sister was born here, too, the youngest one?
Interviewer: Where in New York was your mother born?
Rosen: Delancy Street,
Interviewer: In New York City.
Rosen: Yeah, on the south side, southeast side.
Interviewer: Okay, tell me about your life growing up? Where did you grow up?
Rosen: Okay, well, my parents lived in St. Louis when I was born because my grandfather had had a heart attack and so, they called the kids in to run the store, so to speak. So my father went back from Indianapolis to St. Louis and I was born in St. Louis, in the Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, same place where my father was born and they lived there for about a year and then they moved here to Colum.., not here, to Indianapolis, where my mother was from at that time and so, I grew up in Indianapolis, went to grade school, went to high school there. Then when I went to college, I wanted to study architecture, so schools for that were very limited at the time so, I wound up at the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana and spent five and a half years there. However, in the interim, I needed electives and I needed to get my physics course under my belt and I couldn’t stand the physics course at Illinois, so, I took my physics during the summer at Butler University and I stayed out of Illinois one summer and fall semester and went to Indiana University extension in Indianapolis, while I worked full-time. ‘Course, I worked summers for architects, as well. In those days there was a shortage of people that could do the work, so that’s where I was. I really headed in the direction of my profession at about the age of twelve. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was a carpenter and cabinet maker, which he learned at a young age in the Ukraine, making caskets, which was one of the first things he learned how to make and so, during the Second World War, I would go to his workshop because he did odd jobs on the weekends and I would clean off his workbench, so, there was an affinity, so to speak, to using my hands and doing different things, so, since then, my grandfather and I made some furniture, and then Paulanne and I made these tables that are in here so, I’ve learned how to use my hands other than pushing a pencil, so, anyway, that was part of my growing up. My first job during the summer when I was going to school was in an architectural office that did work for General Motors and I got the job through the fellow that was my father’s barber and he cut the hair of this architect, and that’s how I got introduced, which was kind of interesting. Later on, that fellow, his son went to school at Illinois with me, so, we would travel back and forth together, but, you know, so that’s some of my growing up. Early on, there was a Jewish club of young boys that met on Sunday afternoons, and we kind of did charitable things. This was about the age of twelve or thirteen, when I was in the Boy Scouts even, and so, we did those charitable things, so, then when I went to high school, I joined a Jewish fraternity, high school fraternity and we did charitable things there, and I went up the ladder as an officer in that organization and so, then when I went to college, I joined Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity, and so, I had a home away from home to start out. Back in those days, you didn’t call your parents unless it was an emergency ‘cause phone calls were too expensive, so, you know, I went through that program and graduated from Illinois and went back to Indianapolis to work, and met my first wife while I was working for that firm. Then a friend of mine from high school worked for an employment agency, and he says, “Oh, there’s a design firm in Columbus looking for somebody. Are you interested in moving? and I said, “I don’t know. We’ll go over on a weekend and have an interview,” and that’s kind of how I got here and, of course, they told me that all the Jews lived on the east side, so we went looking for a place to live. We got an apartment at Janet Circle Apartments, which was owned by Julie Cohen at the time and so we moved in there, and, of course, we started meeting some of our neighbors, like Buzzy Kanter. I could knock on the medicine cabinet and talk to him and Stewart Jaffe lived in another building, and Susie Oppenheimer, no, I don’t think that was her name, but, it started with an “o” – Susie. She’s now Susie Kanter and she lived in the complex too.
Rosen: Obermeyer, yeah. Right, you got it. The memory does funny things, so, you know,
that’s how we developed a nucleus of friends. My wife at that time was pregnant. We were a month before the first child was born. Around the corner on Allegheny was a drug store owned by a fellow by the name of Alan Katz, and so he was the first Jewish person that I met in Columbus when I went in for a prescription, and, of course, I found out that Alan had a fraternity brother or roommate who I had gone to high school with in Indianapolis. It is kind of a small world, so to speak. We had a nucleus of friends there, and of course, some of our friends there, like the Harris’s, lived across the street in what was then known as Virginia Lee, which is now Bexley Plaza, so you know, that’s how we started developing friends and meeting people and, of course, besides my work in those days, I was a member of Civitan, which I joined in Indianapolis, which was a men’s organization that does charitable things and so, I met people in that group, and Mr. Mellman was part of the Rotary Club, and so, you know, we just sort of met people in the community that way and then I played softball with Rosenthal, the dentist and he introduced me to a few fellows, and so we played softball, and then I played in the AK League, and in that kind of familiarity, we joined the Sunday night adult bowling league and we met a lot of people, so you know, that’s how we gradually became a part of this community ‘cause we were total strangers here. We didn’t have any relatives at all.
Interviewer: What year was that?
Rosen: This was in ‘63. Now, in those days, Nona Rosen went to Indiana University, and she was in my sister’s sorority, so, that introduced me to Nona and her first husband, and so, we did social things with them, as well, for a while, so, that’s how we became a part of the community.
Interviewer: And ow did you get to where you are now, I mean, working for Ruben?
Rosen: Well, okay, we’ll start at the beginning. I had that job that I came here for and we did mostly churches, recreation centers, schools and apartments and they had a project that they didn’t want to run through the books, so they said, “ Would you do it in the evenings?” I said, “Sure,” and it was a project for Leon Schottenstein, at 485 Parkview and so, that introduced me to Leon and I did a few projects for him through the years. I did some other apartment projects for him and I did some commercial stuff. Well, along the way, he introduced me to his cousin, Bernard Ruben and little did I know at the time that they were partners on projects and so, I did some work for Bernard, and, of course, he would come see me to go over a project and I’d say, “Well, you didn’t pay this last bill,” and he’d said, “If you’ll take X number of dollars for it, you can pick up the check on your way to the office in the morning,” so, that’s the way we handled those things, and of course, I lived at Janet Circle, and his office was on Maryland, so we did that, and I eventually, we got to a project called Kenny Center at Kenny and Henderson and that was owned by Bernard and Schottenstein and there was already a gem discount store there. I think they were building a… it wasn’t a Waffle House, a breakfast place or a York Steak House. I can’t remember which it was and so, I knew that that was there when I laid out a shopping center for the rest of it and he said “No, no, no.” He said, “You’d better go take a look at the property,” so, I did, and there was Walter Katz’s Sangria Lounge there, so. I worked on that shopping center and did that for Schottenstein and Ruben, so we did that and then I did some other work for both of them while I was in private practice. Well, I went to see…Leon started me on a project across the street from Bexley Center, which was owned by Schottenstein, Ruben and Wolfe. There was an old farm house there and, I think, that’s across the street from Bexley Three, where the theater used to be, and so, I did an apartment project for that. We made a model of that, and everything was fine, but the economics didn’t seem to be right for it because it wasn’t quite in Bexley and The Bexley House wasn’t there in those days, so, it got put on hold. Well, then I got a call from Leon that there was a piece of property between the Shell station and 485 [South] Parkview, which another architect had done and he said, “I want to put a building in there,” so that became 505 S. Parkview, and I designed that building for Leon. Well, in the process, Leon passed away and so, it fell into Jerome Schottenstein’s lap, so, I went to see Jerome, and he then introduced me to his brother Alvin and I did a couple of projects for him, and unbeknownst to me, Jerome had an in-house architect at the time and so, he told me. He said, “My in-house architect got into some trouble and he’s no longer with me and I need somebody in here all the time,” and I had just become a full partner in the firm, so, I said, “I think I’d like to try this for a while,” and so, I said, “Would you keep the door open?” Well, this was in ’76 and nine months later, there were no jobs for architects to do, and so, I went back to Jerome and he said, “Yeah, you work for me and you work for my brother,” and so I said, “Okay,” because by that time I knew Alvin and so, I spent two days a week at Mohler Road and three days a week at Westerville Road and there’s grooves in Joyce Avenue where I went back and forth, sometimes twice a day, and so, I started out. There were like fourteen Value City Department Stores and Schottenstein Department Stores and about fourteen furniture stores under Value City and so, I spent twenty-eight years as corporate architect for Schottenstein/Value City. I practiced architecture in eighteen states. I’ve worked with several world-renowned architects – Peter Eisenman, who did the Convention Center and the Wexner Center. We did a Traveler’s Insurance Building out on Long Island and he was a partner with a fellow by the name of Dick Trott from here in town and Dick and I did numerous projects together. We did Morse Center and, I think Dick’s office did the initial designs for out at McNaughten and Main, where I did both sides of the street. Sometimes he would do the design sketches, and then I would do in-house the rest of the drawings and Dick and I, did, we converted Wieboldt’s Department Store in Chicago to an office building and we did something like 300,000 square feet of office space for First National Bank of Chicago. That was a very major project and so, I practiced architecture in eighteen states. In 2004, when I think I was, like, 69 years old, by then Jay had taken over. Jerome had passed and I went to the Chief Financial Officer, Tom Kettler, and I said, “You know I think you ought to bring somebody in here and I would come in part-time and tell him what I know and the places I knew,” because there was nothing, nothing and so, he left then to go to his condominium, but I knew he was getting ready to retire, so….
Interviewer: You mean the other architect.
Rosen: No, No. This is Tom Kettler, chief financial officer for Value City.
Rosen: …and I knew he was getting ready to retire, so I went to see him and told him my story, of course, and so, he said, “I’ll be gone until right before Thanksgiving. Come and see me and we’ll get together,” and so, I called him in Florida and he said, “Yeah I’ll be back,” and so, I went in to see him, and he pulled out a piece of paper, a rough draft of a letter that said, “Thank you for all your years of service,” and so, I kind of knew what that indicated, and at the age of seventy it wasn’t so bad and at that point, neither Paulanne nor I took a pill, you know, so, things were good. Prior to that, Bernard Ruben and Larry came over for a meeting about one of the properties, and I told them I was getting ready to retire, and they said “No you’re not. You’re coming to work for us,” and I said, “Well,” when I went to interview with them I said, “You know, I can’t do it full-time, because my wife is expecting me to work part-time,” and they said, “ How’bout three days a week?” I said, “Beautiful,” so I worked the first few years Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but before I left Schottenstein, of course, we had done Morse Center and McNaughten and stuff in eighteen states. Well, I got a call from a friend of mine that the government wanted to sell the old Rockwell Facility, and one of the partners had been involved in some other stuff, and so I met with the other partners and one of them was somebody from New Jersey that they wanted to get rid of, and so, they wanted Schottenstein to come in, so they took a minor partnership, and Jay got the bulk of the thing. Well, it was, the government was selling it, and they wanted fifteen million dollars. It was three million square feet and like seventy-nine acres and the only private property adjacent to the International Airport with access to the runway and so, the Schottenstein Real Estate Group took it over and bought it from the government and I spent seven years of my life on that project, and when I left, I think we had it like eighty/eighty-five occupied. We had the State of Ohio. We had Millionaire Air Service. We had Republic Airlines. We had lots of good people in there. The east hangar building is so big and the doors on the east end are so large, that you could pull everything in on a 747 except for the tail. The door is like two hundred feet wide and forty-five feet high, so, it’s an amazing piece of property and good, and eventually, after I left Schottenstein, they moved all of their corporate offices all over there, and early on, we had put Safe Auto over there because we did Safe Auto over in Whitehall at the old school, grade school, and so, they had those two locations before they built up at Easton, so, I have done some work for Safe Auto along the way, as well, and I did work for American Eagle Outfitters. I did their corporate distribution center over in Warrendale, Pennsylvania, and I did a jewelry manufacturing for an outfit called American Gem and they moved the diamonds and the gold in a station wagon on a Sunday morning, so, lots of interesting things, and of course, I worked on Jerome’s house and Jay’s house, too, along the way.
Interviewer: You designed their house?
Rosen: No, No.
Interviewer: You just renovate it?
Rosen: There was a fellow by the name of Jay Spector who did interior design work and his assistant took over that interior design practice, and he did a lot of personal design for them.
Interviewer: So, what part of it did you do?
Rosen: I did, I handled a lot of the construction phases of it, but not the drawings.
Interviewer: Do you have any hobbies other than architecture?
Rosen: Well, years ago, I did pottery and woodwork, those kinds of things, but, my hobby now is doing architecture.
Interviewer: You really love it. I can tell.
Rosen: Yeah, yeah. Well, I served on the Board of the Jewish Center when the facility, this original facility was built and I was on the building committee with Jack Wallick and Lee Skilken.
Interviewer: What year was that? Do you remember?
Rosen: No, I don’t.
Interviewer: Was it when they made it from the original building to the one…?
Rosen: Yeah, it had to be about like ‘79/’81. I was interviewed to do that building and a friend of, a good friend of mine with the firm that did it got the job. I came in second, but second’s almost like being in last place.
Interviewer: An also-ran. Do you have any other interests besides architecture?
Rosen: Yes. It’s helping other people. I served thirty-six years on the German Village Commission, twenty-two years as chairman. I now serve on the Board of Commission Appeals. This is the end of my six-year term. I’ve served as a judge for NARI, which is the National Association of Remodeling Industry and they primarily do residential. It’s a residential association and I do that and I was a consultant when the remodeling work was done on Tifereth [Israel] and I did the outdoor play area and the parking lot for Agudas Achim years ago, and so, I occasionally get those kinds of calls, and of course, I got one from the Federation going forward, so, you know, I like doing those kind of things. We belong to a neighborhood association here, which meets monthly and we participate with that. All those kinds of extra-curricular things take up some time.
Interviewer: Are there any other things you like to do besides architecture?
Rosen: Well, socially, we like to go out for dinner. You know, we like to be with friends. As you know, we see the friends gradually shrinking, which is unfortunate, but there’ve been some beautiful times with friends.
Interviewer: Do you take vacations?
Rosen: We have not taken very much in the way of vacations in the last couple of years. My mother was in assisted living up in Menorah Park in a place called Stone Gardens, and she was there for like nine years.
Interviewer: That was in Cleveland, Ohio, right?
Rosen: A beautiful place, a wonderful facility. We had, when our kids lived in Florida, we would go down in the winter time and visit with them and my parents had a condo in Delray, so we would spend close to a month in Florida and after my father passed, my mother had fallen a couple of times and I said to Paulanne, I said, “A thousand miles away, too far away.” Her friends had been dying, no relatives down there, and it gets kind of lonely in old age, so, I said to Paulanne, “We got to bring her back here,” so, Paulanne brought her back from Florida, and then a year later we took her to Florida to see the kids because that was before the kids moved to Israel, and so, we would visit and when we were down there, Mom said, “ You know, to only use this place a couple weeks a month out of the year, it’s not worth keeping,” so, by the time we left Florida, it was sold, and we brought mom back here. Well, when Paulanne and I got married, we put together six kids. One of them lived, only was with us part-time. She was with her mother in Bexley, but so, we put the addition on the house, so, we took a three-bedroom house and basically made it a five and a half bedroom house, and we added a full bath, so, we have two full baths and a half-bath and we took the Dutch seat that was in the kitchen out and we put a pass-through in, so we did some things to convenience-ize and modernize the house, so we brought mom back here and the lower level where we added on was down a grade, so she had no problems getting around and until her hip healed, we set up a table down in the family room and we ate down there. Once we got her healed, Paulanne and she were out running around three and four days a week, and so, you know, they were like girlfriends, so it worked out real well, so with that, my sister being in Beachwood, she wanted to visit with mom, too, so we would meet at Bob Evans in Mansfield and either just have lunch and come home or we’d transfer mom to my sister and she’d take her back for three or four weeks, give Paulanne and I a break and so, we did that, so that pretty well tied us up for a while, and so, we did that and my sister’s first husband, well, my sister’s husband, his first wife was in a wheelchair, so, he had built a house handicapped accessible, so, while my mother was there, she fell because, they have a, why they ever did it, they had a step-down living room – one step. That’s all it takes, and so, Mom went to the hospital and then she went to rehab at Menorah Park and they said, “No, you shouldn’t go back to normal living,” so they had a place available, an efficiency apartment at Stone Gardens, and they moved her in there. It’s absolutely a wonderful, wonderful place – three meals a day, either in the dining room or in your room, multiple prime course choices, or you can order from the menu. I mean, the place is remarkable and the care is wonderful and so, we visited her up there on her hundredth, but we went up regularly, but on her hundredth birthday and you could see that age was really taking hold and so, she got to be a hundred and one, and things were not good and so, systems were failing, and so, she went under the care of Hospice, but they allowed her to stay there and Hospice came in to see her and so, her last days were spent at the Hospice, they called it…my goodness, it slips my mind, but it’s up in Euclid, Ohio, the Hospice place, right on the lake. If you could handle it, it would have been beautiful but, anyway, her final days were there –Western Reserve, the Hospice at Western Reserve, and so, she wound up passing the fifth of July, and on May 17th was her 102nd birthday.
Interviewer: What year was that?
Rosen: That was this year, 2014, so we’ve sort of been settling that up and with regards to vacations again, our daughter and son-in-law and another son have been in Israel for about ten years.
Interviewer: Where in Israel?
Rosen: They were outside of Jerusalem and one of them lived on the mountain there from the days of the Crusades, where they had a castle. It was called Castille is what it was called, so they moved back to the States, and the daughter and son-in-law had jobs in El Paso, Texas.
Interviewer: What are their names?
Rosen: Joel and Pam Bell in El Paso, Texas, so they had jobs there but they owned a house over in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his family, and so, son David moved back.
Interviewer: That’s your son.
Rosen: No, that’s Paulanne’s son, oldest child and he moved back and he lives in the house in Albuquerque. He now works for Wal-Mart but, the son-in-law and daughter, they both work for computer investment firms in El Paso.
Interviewer: That’s their children, David’s children?
Rosen: No, no that’s Paulanne’s daughter and son-in-law.
Interviewer: And their names are?
Rosen: Joel and Pam Bell.
Interviewer: That’s the one that was in Israel.
Rosen: Yeah, the three.
Interviewer: Joel and Pam Bell, and Pam is Paulanne’s daughter.
Rosen: She’s child number two.
Interviewer: And child number one is David?
Rosen: Yeah and number three is Steven, and Steven lives in Baltimore, MD,
Interviewer: And what does he do?
Rosen: Well, he’s a electrical engineer and graduate of Ohio University and he is a IT director and the last full-time job he had for a county over in Maryland where he was the IT director for the county. Before that, he was the director, IT for all the Jewish service organizations in the Washington/Baltimore area.
Interviewer: IT stands for Internet Technology?
Rosen: Yeah. Umh hunh.
Interviewer: Okay and so they are all out-of-town. And your children are?
Rosen: Robin, the oldest and she lives in Euclid, OH and Lisa and her second husband Mike Cod, live in Sylvania and Todd lives up here on the northwest side of Columbus and Todd’s a six and half year veteran of the Navy, and David’s a four and a half year veteran of the Army.
Interviewer: Is there anything unusual that occurred in your adult life that you want to talk about?
Rosen: Anything unusual. Well, I would have to say that almost every project I did while I was at Schottenstein’s was unusual and unique, unusual. Jerome Schottenstein’s house at 490 North Columbia. We put the curve drive in front and a portico shared the front door and so Jerry wanted pavers in the driveway, and so, technically, normally you would put pavers of that type on a sand/cement base. Well, Jerry wanted to use a tile company. I won’t mention any names other than Jerry, and so the tile guy put down concrete and then put these down, so they varied in height from anywhere from an eighth to three eighths of an inch and so, after it was done and I came back in from out-of-town, wherever, I saw it and I walked it barefoot three times with a piece of chalk and marked the ones because I was so concerned that somebody would trip and fall on them, so, you know, that’s the kind of crazy things day in and day out that we dealt with. Another one was, because I’m a computer dinosaur, back in the eighties, I was working with Dick Trott on these projects, a lot of them, and he was getting ready to take a computer on in his office. In those days he was one of the biggest, most prominent architects around, and so, he was looking at a computer and my assistant at Schottenstein’s who’s still there, had gone to school at Ohio University and had started out as a math major and then switched into architecture and then they dropped the program, so she had to come to Ohio State, whatever, but she had a mathematics background and so in those days, the only thing that was available was this Auto CAD computer drafting system and the menu was on the screen so you had to drop from the picture you were working on to the menu and then you would move the mouse around on whatever down below, so you had to keep looking up and down, and I said to Dick, “You know, you’re not going to like that and I’m not going to like that either. These people are all going to have neck trouble.” Well, it was bad enough architects were getting carpal tunnel in those days, so I don’t know which was worse, but anyway, we had that problem and we were all ready to sign up Schottenstein for the computer thing because they were getting into the computer for business purposes. This was like ‘86/87 and so, I had an appointment to sign up for the computer system, and I get a call in the morning from Dick Trott and he says, “Don’t do that.” He said, “There’s this Air Sigma system and the menu doesn’t interfere with the picture and you don’t have to go up and down.” I said, “Wonderful.” We never looked back. As far as I know, they’re still using that system, and of course, Dick’s office went to that, too, and the whole world has changed. Well, when she and I went to the classes to learn how to do this, I had Jerome’s old cell phone, and it was like a box of crackers with [?] cereal. About every ten or fifteen minutes I’d get a call, so I had to go outside to answer the call, so I didn’t learn very much, so, we had this Subway store down at Oak and Parsons to do and so I said to here, I said, “You’ve got to quit doing the hand work and you gotta’ do this computer project, and I think it’s simple enough that we wouldn’t have to call in any experts.” Two weeks later she finished the project. If I had hand-drawn it or she had hand drawn it, maybe a day. But never look back, you know? And so, those are the kinds of things we went through. I went from the days of driving my car to Indianapolis or Parkersburg or Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Detroit to flying commercial to New York to Chicago to St. Louis and then we went from commercial to corporate jets, and that became mind-boggling because we would go to three and four cities and stores. We might go to a place like Atlanta and go to two or three locations and then go to St. Louis and go to two or three locations, so all of a sudden this thing is multiplying and we did stuff in Atlanta, so, you know, it just grew and grew and grew very rapidly, so, obviously, we had to have computer access, but I was a computer dinosaur because, you know, just the way it was, so all I can do now is, I can turn the computer on. I can put my password in. I can get my emails. I can reply to them. I can’t draw on it. I can’t do any of that. I don’t do any banking on the computer, but when I left, retired from Schottenstein’s and went to Plaza, I worked on Bexley Gateway at Parkview and Main. I worked on some of those condos that are there for people, and I worked on the Yukon Building in the Short North. We did Marcello’s Restaurant for Cameron Mitchell and I did the Hartman Building and Larry had already done the Renaissance Building downtown.
Interviewer: Larry Ruben?
Rosen: Yeah, so, you know, multiple projects, and then, in those days not only we were doing multiple condo projects, but we were doing multiple shopping centers, so it was just sort of a natural thing, and of course, back in ’86, I was in a meeting in Jerome Schottenstein’s office with Jerome and Alvin and Bernard and they jointly owned this three hundred and eighty acres up at Hard and Sawmill, and so, we started in on that and that’s back when the environmental days started to kick in, so, there was more, gradually it was if you had more than an acre of considered wetland, you had to do a study. Then it got down to a half-acre. Then it got down to a third-acre, so we had to go through all those hoops and they found Indian artifacts up there on the property. They also found an oak tree on where we wanted to put Hard Road, so we had to jog Hard Road around this oak tree because George Washington said that was a very valuable tree, so, you know, from ‘86, I think Kroger’s opened their doors in like 2006 up there. I think it is one of the busiest Kroger stores in town, and of course, we sold off acreage for condominiums and for single family houses on the south side of Hard and we sold the land to the Dublin School Board for Scioto-Dublin High School. Just recently, Chase Bank bought, put a bank in up there on a corner there, so that’s been an ongoing project for me from 1986 even up to these days, so I still do things for Schottenstein, indirectly, so to speak, so it has been interesting.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to add?
Rosen: No, not really. There was a thing there with regard to family and religion. My grandparents were not religious at all and my father was not very religious. Actually, I think the only time my grandfather on my mother’s side was at a temple or synagogue was for a wedding. I think the Russians really spoiled him in the wrong way.
Interviewer: What do you mean by they spoiled him in the wrong way?
Rosen: Well, the Cossacks and the murdering of the Jews and whatever and when he came here to this country as a carpenter, they called him a “Greenie,” and made fun of him back in the very strong union days as a carpenter, so he really didn’t want to associate with Judaism and so that was kind of in my background and then…
Interviewer: Were you ever bar mitzvahed?
Rosen: When, I have a cousin who is three months younger, and he was my mother’s oldest sister’s son and somehow they decided that he and I should be bar mitzvahed and so, we went to abbreviated training and we had a joint bar mitzvah at a Reform Temple and we had a joint bar mitzvah and we did do that. It was a memorable occasion, but I went to Sunday school up until my bar mitzvah. I told my parents that if I was going to be bar mitzvahed, I’m not going to Sunday school anymore. I guess it was okay as a social activity, but I really didn’t learn hardly anything in Sunday school, so, that kind of terminated that activity, so, when I moved here to Columbus as a part of the Jewish community, we joined, with my first wife we joined Temple Israel, and of course, the kids went to Sunday school, and then when I got a divorce and then I started with Paulanne, she had attended Agudas Achim with Harry, her kids, my step-kids, were a little more into religion than my side of the family and of course, so David had a tutor for Hebrew that came here to the house, fellow by the name of Moishe Mizrachi, and Steven, the youngest, would hang around and Moishe says, “He’s aching for Judaism,” and so that was when bussing was started and he was being bussed down to Main Street School, which was down at, down by the Ohio and Main, down around that area, where the Catholic nuns are and St. Ann’s Hospital, down in that area and so, we put Steven into Torah Academy, and he blossomed and, of course, that was before the days of the high school. That was another project I worked on. I worked on the high school for Torah Academy, so, he blossomed out there and did real well, so, David, the oldest, was bar mitzvahed at Agudas Achim. Pam was bas mitzvahed at the Jewish Center with Shelly Switkin, who had gone to the University of Illinois with me. We knew each other from fraternity rush. I don’t know that he remembers it, but I remember it and I haven’t seen Shelly for a number of years and that was right after he left Tifereth and did the synagogue at the Jewish Center, Reconstruction, so, she was bas mitzvahed there, and then Steven was bar mitzvahed with Rabbi Berman at Tifereth.
Interviewer: What brought you over to Tifereth?
Rosen: An interim position between Temple Israel and Agudas Achim in those days and Rabbi Berman, very special person. That’s kind of what put is there. Rabbi Folkman had married Paulanne and I at Franklin Park Conservatory, so, we kind of bounced around. You know, we have religious yearnings and a commitment, but it comes and goes. It’s not there all the time.
Interviewer: But it is in your heart.
Rosen: Yeah, I think so.
Interviewer: What values did your family instill in you and which you live by today?
Rosen: Well, my father was an adult product of the Depression and I was a Depression baby and my grandparents came from, on my mother’s side, which are really the only ones I really knew, came from basically starvation, so you know, it’s hard to lose those things and there was a time when I couldn’t understand why some folks that became multi-millionaires still lived like they did when they were in poverty. Now I understand that it gets kind of inborn. I won’t mention any names, but there was one that I knew and he never wore matching socks. He didn’t care.
Interviewer: If you could think of a message about life and love to your children and grandchildren and generations to come, what would that be?
Rosen: Well, I think we are here on this earth to help serve our fellow people and I think the lesson and the most satisfaction I get is really helping other people and that’s the thing about my profession. I’m really helping other people although I get paid for it. Sometimes I don’t charge for it because that’s the way it is, but, you know, it is helping other people. There is a fellow here in the neighborhood who is a small kitchen and bath remodeler and he was doing a porch for somebody over in Victorian Village and he says “I got a problem. I’m dealing with the Commission and they need this and this and this and I said, “Well, come over here. We’ll discuss it” and we sat down and he showed me what he had and I said, “Just sit still. I’ll make you a little drawing,” so we kibbutzed and I made a drawing for him. I handed it to him and he said “What do you want for it? “You know, as long as your customer is happy,” you know.
Interviewer: That’s nice.
Rosen: …greatest, good satisfaction I get, you know and what I’ve really appreciated is when I work with Larry, I get a thank you when I get something done. That’s nice.
Interviewer: Mike, is there anything else you would like to add, anything at all?
Rosen: Well, I have a wonderful partner, and she is more charitable than I am. She delivers pots of matzo ball soup or bean and barley soup, whatever, to people just at the drop of a hat and we get very nice phone calls thanking us and the thank-yous all go to her because she does it and she is very thoughtful and concerned about people, probably more so than I am.
Interviewer: On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project. This concludes the interview.
Interviewer: This is an addendum to the interview with Mike Rosen – same day, and same place. Mike, we have found out, was also serving in the military. Mike, tell me something about that military service.
Rosen: Okay, well, when I finished college, the Korean War was ending, but they still had the draft and the Draft Board, because I had deferments, they told me that within graduation, within about forty-five days of graduation, I’d be drafted and I always had liked to select my destiny and so, I joined the Indiana National Guard, and I served six months active duty in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Ft. Gordon Georgia and then after that, I was a Weekend Warrior. And then after three years I moved here to Columbus, of course, and I went to the National Guard, and they said they did not have my paperwork yet, and that, “Wait until they get it.” Well, apparently they never got it and I got a call from the Army Reserve, and they said, and that was after I’d had a break between, took ‘em a while so, they told me to report to the Army Reserve Center on Country Club and so, I finished out my time in the Army Reserves and because I was working on government subsidized housing, I was given an exemption from summer camp, so I didn’t have to go to summer camp, so, in my unit I had some friends like Nate Goldberg and David Margulies. I had some fellow Jews, so to speak, so that was my military service but, Son Todd spent six and a half years in the Navy and he was in the Middle East on a ship during the Desert Storm and Son David was on a MLRS and they drove in to Baghdad.
Interviewer: What’s an MLRS?
Rosen: Some kind of a missile launching vehicle and so, David spent about four years in the Army. Most of his time was in Germany, so that’s the military service of the family.
Interviewer: How long were you in the service?
Rosen: I was active duty for six months, and five and a half years in the Reserves – total of six years. I call it six years, but the VA and the Army say I was six days short of active duty to get VA benefits.
Interviewer: Wow, anything else?
Rosen: No, that’s it.
Interviewer: Thank you. This concludes the addendum to the interview.
Transcribed by Phyllis Komerofsky, March 5, 2015.
Transcript edited by Linda K. Schottenstein, April 9, 2016.