This is Naomi Schottenstein. I’m with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and we are at the home of Muriel and Dave Derrow, D-E-R-R-O-W. We’re located at 7474 King George Drive in New Albany and it’s May 5, 1999. Muriel and I have known each other for quite a few years so it’ll be a pleasure to be talking to her about her family and her life.
Interviewer: Muriel, give us your complete name.
Derrow: Muriel Beverly Bernstein Derrow.
Interviewer: Okay, and your Jewish name?
Derrow: Muriel Petsya bas Avraham and Chava.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you know who you were named after?
Derrow: Not really. I believe I’m named after my mother’s grandmother
whose name was probably Burmeil.
Interviewer: Oh well.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did you know anything about her?
Interviewer: You hadn’t heard stories about her?
Derrow: Huh. I don’t believe my mother knew her.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. She probably never came to this country either . .
Derrow: No I don’t think my mother ever knew her in Russia.
Interviewer: Okay. Your maiden name was Bernstein. Was that what the original
name was or do you know . . . .
Derrow: We’re not even sure of that because my mother who would know,
because of a complicated family marriage, thought that the name, that my grandpa’s
name was actually Brownstein but I’m not sure that there is a big difference.
Interviewer: Sometimes those names got changed.
Derrow: Yes that . . . . the draft and for all kinds of reasons.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you know, can you tell us how your family originally
came to the United States or when they started here, your maternal and paternal
Derrow: My paternal grandfather was the first of our family to come to this
country. He came by himself in the late 1880s, along with a lot of other people
at that time and I was told by my mother that he had been given warning that he
was about to be drafted into the Russian army so he ran away and emigrated. His
father-in-law was in that town the court rabbi who is not really even a rabbi.
He was a . . . . He kept records of, in the Jewish community. And that’s how
he got that information. At that time he was already married to my grandmother.
My grandmother, Miriam Woffel, who had two children and was pregnant with a
third. So he ran away and came to the United States and ended up somehow in
Providence, Rhode Island.
Interviewer: You don’t know how he got to Providence or why he ended up
Derrow: No. We don’t even know where he landed, whether he landed in Boston
or in New York. No one ever, and my grandfather, at that time nobody seemed to
know anything about his family.
Interviewer: What community did he come from?
Derrow: Well there seems to be a question about that. It’s safe to say that
he came from close to Siniover which is where the bulk of our family comes from.
My mother mentioned the town of Neshbesh . . . .
Interviewer: Do you happen to know any spellings of these names?
Derrow: Sure. Siniover is S-I-N-I-O-V-E-R, it’s . . . . and it’s a small
town in the Ukranian . . . . I think they would call them a county of . . . . It’s
an area from which many, many Jews emigrated, a huge number. And anyway he . . .
. going to get back to wider and interesting complication again. My grandmothers
were sisters, my maternal and paternal grandmothers were sisters so it was my
grandfather Bernstein who came to this country first. He sent for my grandma and
her children within a few months. He apparentlsy prospered very rapidly. I was
told that he had a horse and buggy and collected junk. That was in the late
Interviewer: How many children did she come over with?
Derrow: She came over with two, my Uncle Joe and my Aunt Annie and one, my
Uncle Harry who was not yet born. My Uncle Harry never believed that he was a
citizen because, but my mother told me, my mother had very good family
information but Grandma was pregnant with Harry when Grandpa came to this
country so in that she got to this country before Harry was born. So he was born
in this country but somehow he, you know, always thought that he was an alien
and . . . .
Interviewer: So your grandmother wasn’t left in Europe that long?
Derrow: No she was there a very short period of time.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Very often it’s just like years until they . . . .
Derrow: Well that happened to the other side of the family. And my Grandpa
Bernstein who sent for my mother and her father almost 20 years later. It took a
long time. My mother was the oldest of her family and my grandma, my brothers .
. . . that family’s name was Schwartzburg, Ephraim and Freda Schwartzburg.
They had numerous, she had numerous children who did not live and when my mother
was born in 1900, she was the first child to live so they gave her the name Chava,
Eve, and . . . .
Interviewer: Does Chava have something to do with life or?
Derrow: I think so. I think it’s probably a corruption of chia or chai.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Derrow: That’s what I believe.
Interviewer: Sounds like it could be.
Derrow: Anyway, she was born in 1900 and as the oldest in the family, she had
. . . . responsibilities from very, very early on. There were three other
siblings in that family, my uncles, my mother’s brothers Eli, Jack and
Seymour. My Uncle Jack just died a few weeks ago. He was 95.
Interviewer: He was the youngest of your mother’s . . . .
Derrow: No he was not the youngest. He was next to the youngest.
Interviewer: Oh okay.
Derrow: And the family was really quite remarkable. And anyway my mother came
to this country with her father ’cause she was the oldest, in 1914. She was
not quite 14 years of age. They came in February; her birthday was in March. And
then the war intervened and, World War II, and I can’t remember whether . . .
. World War I and then there was a revolution in Russia so her family, my
Bubbe and her younger brothers remained in Russia until 1920 or 1921. But we
have a tape of my Uncle Jack and Uncle Seymour and they are being interviewed
which we are having copied and we will give a copy to the Historical Society. It
has a lot of details that I never had heard before. So there was a great, my Bubbe
had no way of making a living and so she would get a bootlegger. She made
bootleg whiskey to, you know, to keep body and soul together. They were very
Interviewer: Define to us what “bootleg” might mean. Some of the
younger generation might not . . . .
Interviewer: not understand. Well I think there was a lot of this done during
that period of time. It was a way to earn a living.
Derrow: A lot of the time in this country. It’s illegal whiskey.
Interviewer: Producing whiskey. Uh huh.
Derrow: It’s still being done from what I gather in areas in Kentucky,
moonshine or whatever.
Derrow: But the state normally likes to keep control of the revenue from
things like whiskey and this is a case of where they were able to manufacture
it, I have no idea how, and sell it to the peasants. So that’s how my
grandmother managed to keep body and soul together and her three little boys.
And they came to this country I believe in 1921. My mother and father were
married in 1923 and in January . . . .
Interviewer: How did they meet?
Derrow: My mother and father are first cousins. I told you my grandmothers
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Derrow: And that’s how they met. My father was born in this country. He was
born in Providence in 1897. Shortly after he was born, the family moved to
Paterson, New Jersey. My mother and her father settled in New York on the lower
east side and my mother went to work immediately in a sweat shop and my
grandfather, my Zeyde was a cabinetmaker. And for a time, they lived,
when they first came to this country, they lived with a lantsman in a
tenement. They rented a room in a tenement.
Interviewer: Explain to us what lantsman is.
Derrow: Someone from the same town, whose name was Elias Grossman. And Elias
Grossman is a, became a famous artist, especially in the Jewish community. These
etchings of the rabbi are all over. I’ll show you the one that is very, very
well known and he was a lantsman of my mother. So they moved in that, they rented a room and my mother worked and my Zeyde worked. And they kept sending money, you know, to, whenever they could, to Russia for my Bubbe and her children, my uncles.
Interviewer: When did the rest of the family then finally catch up?
Derrow: They finally came in about 1921.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And they probably all lived together or what?
Derrow: They, well my mother was married. My mother refused to get married
until her mother came to this country and so my mother, they were married in
1923. My Bubbe brought with her, this is an interesting sidelight, a
string of pearls that she purchased from a, my Bubbe purchased from a
Russian princess en route. As you know, the aristocracy in Russia was in
a very sad condition and my mother had those pearls for years and years and
years and then when she passed away, I had them and then I just recently gave
them to my daughter when she was married and she wore them in her wedding and
they were absolutely beautiful. The pearls themselves, they’re fresh water
pearls, they don’t have great intrinsic value but they do have a lovely
antique clasp and they’re very precious because in our family heirlooms are
Derrow: Nobody had any money.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that’s a beautiful thing to be passing . . . .
Derrow: Yeah I was so delighted because I held onto it for a long time hoping
to be able to give it to her and Sandy wore them and they really are beautiful.
Interviewer: Did you ever have to have them restrung?
Derrow: I had them restrung and it probably was a mistake. The pearls are
somewhat irregular. I should have, but I did have them restrung but as I said,
they have no great intrinsic value. The clasp has some more value. But I was pleased that I managed to hold onto them as long as I did and that I was able to give them to my daughter.
Interviewer: Yeah that’s true. There weren’t very many heirlooms that
they were able to bring.
Derrow: And she was thrilled, by the way. She . . . . was lovely.
Interviewer: Sure. She knew your mother and . . . .
Derrow: Yes she was very close to my mother. I also had the good fortune of knowing all of my grandparents very, very well. In my mother’s family, I’m the oldest grandchild and since my uncle just recently passed away, I now have the dubious honor of being the oldest member of my particular family. You finally have earned, I’m not sure that’s such a wonderful honor.
Interviewer: But you’re here to talk about it.
Derrow: And I, that was a very special family.
Interviewer: Tell us about your uncle, your cousins, how many cousins . . . .
Derrow: Well on that family, on that side, on my mother’s side, there are
very few of us. My brother, unfortunately, passed away at the age of 40 in 1970.
Interviewer: Tell us about your brother, about where he . . . .
Derrow: My brother had a difficult life it turns out. It started
traumatically . . . .
Interviewer: . . . .
Derrow: Wallace. Sobel. He had a very traumatic life. He was born prematurely in 1930 at a time when being born premature was very difficult and he was in an incubator for several weeks. And he was born while we were visiting my other parents in Brooklyn. And he was born actually I believe at the Coney Island Hospital. I was sick in one bed with the mumps and my mother was in the other bed trying not to deliver but anyway she had to go to the hospital. But he was born in the Coney Island Hospital and he had to have, at that time on the Boardwalk in Coney Island, Coney Island was a terrific resort at that time for middle class and lower middle class people. They had a display of babies in incubators and I believe that my brother was in, they actually had more babies in incubators because incubators were so new. It was a novelty. And so I go in. My brother was in one of those incubators for a very short time. Anyway he grew to be, even though he was born very small, he grew to be well over six feet tall and became a lawyer and very good looking man and had the misfortune of dropping dead at the age of 40 from a pulmonary embolism which was quite unexpected. Oh it was totally, totally, totally unexpected.
Interviewer: Had he got, been married?
Derrow: Yes he was married and had just adopted, they had just adopted a son
and a daughter. And they were, his wife subsequently remarried and their children were adopted again by her second husband.
Interviewer: What was your sister-in-law’s name?
Interviewer: And she’s remarried now?
Derrow: Yes. She lives in New Jersey.
Interviewer: Are you in touch with her?
Derrow: Not really.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And what about those children? . . . .
Derrow: I have no idea where they are.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What were their names?
Derrow: Larry and Donna.
Interviewer: So you don’t know if they married or . . . .
Derrow: . . . . a long time ago. My mother was actually not in touch with
them either and (mixed conversation) . . . . a lot of trauma concerning my
brother’s death. And a lot of, you know, family problems.
Interviewer: Yeah. You were telling me about your cousins.
Derrow: Yes, I have on the . . . . side I have . . . .
Interviewer: Well tell us, you told us who your uncles were.
Derrow: Yes, my Uncle Eli had one son.
Interviewer: And who was he married to?
Derrow: He was married to Esther. And they were wonderful singers, Eli and Esther, known throughout the Jewish community in New Jersey and New York for they had beautiful voices. And they sang with the Jewish Pro Chorus for a long time. They were soloists. And it was very . . . . they sang Yiddish songs.
Interviewer: Would you say that they were professional or . . . .
Derrow: No, they were semi-professional. They were not professional. They did not make a living singing. They made their lives singing. Their lives revolved around music but my uncle was a, produced, what used to be called butcher fixtures, butcher fixtures ’cause there used to be a lot of butcher stores at that time and they all needed coolers and so he was the provider of those units that of course no longer exist because all those stores, there would be a butcher store or almost one or two on almost every street. In Paterson anyway. And so they had one son Murray who is younger than I. Murray still lives in Tenafly, New Jersey, and I’m in touch with them every so often. I have a cousin Stanley who’s my Uncle Jack’s only son. My Uncle Jack was the one who recently passed away. Jack lives in, Stanley lives in Rochester, New York. He’s a neonatologist and has had also a very interesting life. He and his first wife adopted two children. They had two natural children, Laurie and Mark and then they adopted two children, one a young man, a child of Puerto Rican ancestry. His name is David Schwartzburg, who is an extremely handsome young man who lives in Manhattan and is a stockbroker. And then they have, their other daughter is Sarah Schwartzburg who is a full- blooded Navajo Indian who was raised by my cousin and his wife.
Interviewer: Isn’t that somewhat unusual for Jewish people to . . . .
Derrow: . . . . wife Jean, at that time for his first wife was not Jewish and
she was also a physician. And they wanted a, she was older when they got
married. They had two children very rapidly and then I guess they decided to
adopt two and the children, Sarah now is in New Mexico. She did locate her birth
mother. I, we just heard the story a few weeks ago at Sandy’s wedding. I can’t
give you too many details on that because there was a lot of details I had not
heard before. But Sarah is now living, is married, and she lives in New Mexico
and as my cousin Stanley’s second wife says, Stanley’s second wife’s name
is Mary Jo, Mary Lou, that the Navajos were not terribly receptive to hearing
from a, even though she is full-blooded, a girl whose name was Sarah
Schwartzburg. I mean I guess that was a problem.
Interviewer: Well I can understand that.
Derrow: So she . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . an outsider then.
Derrow: She was an outsider. And then there was a whole story about how she
happened to have been born in Rochester and why she lived, able to be adopted up
there. So anyway then, but they are, it was a very remarkable family. And then I have three cousins, first cousins from my Uncle Seymour. My Uncle Seymour was a brilliant man who died just a few years ago. He spoke more than nine languages. He was a physician. When he came to this country he was 13. He’s the youngest. Either 12 or 13 and he knew not a word of English and did like so many others did of his generation who were emigrated, went to school, rapidly progressed through the grades and went into high school. He played football. He went to CCNY and Columbia and was finally accepted in medical school in Syracuse, New York. His very good friend, the man who got him to apply to the Upstate Medical School, which was what it was called at that time in Syracuse, was a Hyman Tarnower, the diet doctor who was killed by . . . .
Interviewer: That’s a familiar name.
Derrow: Hyman, either Hyman or Herman, I’m not sure what his name was but
yes he wrote one of these famous diet books and he was killed by his mistress
whose name I’ve also forgotten. She was the Head Mistress of . . . . school in
Washington, D.C. But it’s so interesting how many connections you can make
with them. And I’d never have known that until my uncle . . . . He was the one
who persuaded him, doctor, to apply to Upstate Medical School. So my uncle
remained up in Syracuse. He married a Syracuse girl whose name was Edith, Edith
Alderman, who came from a large family in Syracuse, the Alderman family, and
they have three children: Gerald (Jerry) who lives in Phoenix. He’s a
physician. My cousin Judy who lives in Ithaca, New York. . . . . a story all
unto herself, and my cousin Lois who lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts, who is
also a physician and is married to a physician. There are lots of physicians in
Interviewer: It sounds like it.
Derrow: Yeah and the, on my father’s side I had a lot of first cousins
almost all of whom have since passed on.
Interviewer: Let me ask you something. Do you want to tell us any more about
Judy. It sounds like she’s . . . .
Derrow: Not really. It would take a long time. : It’s a story, that’s a story all in itself.
Interviewer: All right. Let’s go on with your paternal family.
Derrow: On my father’s side, my father was one of nine children who
attained adulthood and married and had children and I remember vividly the
Seders that we would have at, this was the Bernstein grandparents’ home, in a
very small house in Paterson, New Jersey. The table would always be one table
but it would stretch from the dining room into the living room. We’re talking
about small rooms. And but the tables would all be put together, everybody was
jammed in and since I was one of the younger grandchildren, I was down at the
end of the table, you know, far away from Grandpa and we would all be, everybody
would be there. The only one who didn’t have children at that time was my
Uncle Morris. He was the youngest of the family and he married late and his
children are actually a generation, they’re like of another generation. They
are my first cousins, but they are much younger than I and younger than
everybody else in the family. And so . . . . seventy at that time . . . . if I remember there were at least teen-age first cousins and, you know, all the way down to toddlers or infants.
Interviewer: What did your grandfather do?
Derrow: My grandfather when he moved to, and I have no idea why they happened
to come to Paterson. It’s also something that is lost in family history.
Interviewer: Well it’s not far from New York. Maybe it was easier . . . .
Derrow: Well he wasn’t in New York. They were in Providence. They moved from Providence to Paterson. The only ones who were not born yet at that time was, and I have a family picture, a wonderful family picture, the only picture I have of my father as a child. Of course my Uncle Jack had not been born and my Uncle Ben, my Uncle Lou and my Uncle Morris. They were all after they moved to Paterson. But my grandmothers had enormous numbers of pregnancies, you know, like 15. They were pregnant rather continuously. My Grandma Bernstein was more fortunate than my Grandma Freda because I guess a lot of it had to do, well I don’t know what it had to do with, but anyway they . . .
Interviewer: She bore . . . .
Derrow: she bore nine children that lived. She had at least 15 or 16. My father was a twin. Who did not survive. On this family picture that I have, she’s on that picture. Her name was Fannie. My father never spoke of her. My father also, somewhere along the line when he was a child, lost an eye. Nobody seems to know, not even his older brother seems to know how that happened. But it was an accident. They lived in a very rough area in Paterson. It happened after they, actually my Uncle Harry who was really one of the older ones in the family, really could not give me any information as to how he happened to lose his eye. But he took, in spite of the fact that he had no eye in that socket, he was a very good looking kid and . . . .
Interviewer: What was it replaced with?
Derrow: When my mother and father became engaged, when my mother came to this
country and she was, you know, the greenhorn, she was in New York and they, I
guess the shiddach was arranged.
Interviewer: It wasn’t, I don’t want to interrupt you but it wasn’t
terribly unusual for first cousins to get married. There are lots of families
here in Columbus that we know . . . .
Derrow: Well it certainly wasn’t unusual in our family. Any confusion that
arises from that is, you know, it can be very confusing. Because I had in the families, in my extended family like my mother’s first cousins, she had first cousins whose parents, “You can’t marry someone with children,” you know . . . . So they would get married. So there’s a lot of mixed-up family trees.
Interviewer: I think it might be interesting to try to determine what the
reason was for these in-family marriages. Was it convenience or you already know
who these people are . . . .
Derrow: A lot of it had to do with they knew not only they knew who the
people were, they knew who their parents and their grandparents and all the
Interviewer: There was that security.
Derrow: It was not only that security but they felt good about it. And I have to say that from what I know, most of the members of my family, when you talk about the survival of the fittest, I certainly think it’s true. My mother’s brother, in spite of my Aunt Betty’s, you know, great difficulty in having a family, the ones that she had lived a very long time. My mother died at the age of 87. She was the oldest. My Uncle Seymour who was the youngest and also the strongest actually, he was in his mid-80s when he died. My Uncle Jack just died. The only one who died more prematurely but my Uncle Eli who had a heart condition. My Bubbe also did not live to be very old. She was only in her 60s when she passed away and that was in 1933.
Interviewer: That probably was pretty average for . . . .
Derrow: It probably was.
Interviewer: That probably was old for . . . .
Derrow: Actually she looked old.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well she was . . . .
Derrow: My grandparents don’t look like grandparents of today. I am older
now than my Grandma Bernstein was and I can show you pictures of her and I don’t
think they . . . . not in rough, but you can see that my Grandma looked really
old. I somehow, I don’t think I look that old.
Interviewer: Well she delivered a lot of children.
Derrow: And life was very difficult.
Interviewer: Life was much more difficult.
Derrow: It was, you know, there were no wash machines even though my grandma
and grandpa lived, even they had a little girl who already . . . . middle class.
. . . . life had not been easy.
Interviewer: They didn’t have the conveniences then that . . . .
Derrow: . . . . It was not . . . . they didn’t have a lot of things. Like
they didn’t have bathrooms.
Derrow: . . . . before they came to this country they certainly didn’t have
Interviewer: Well when you think about it, you mentioned the Seders that you
remember. Was this pretty much an annual thing or . . . .
Derrow: It was always annual. The first Seder we always went to the Bernstein
Seder. Everybody went to the Bernstein Seder. When I say “everybody,”
everybody in the family. All the children. All the Bernstein children, the . . .
Interviewer: Have you got a number that might . . . .
Derrow: Oh I could. Let me see, there were nine children . . . . there were
18. There were at least 17 grandchildren.
Interviewer: So we’re talking maybe 40 people.
Derrow: Well close to it, jammed into a very small space and that affair, the
Seder was catered. There was a woman in Paterson and her son, the woman was
about four feet tall. I’ll never forget it. She did all the cooking. No she
helped my Grandma with the cooking and then her son, whom she was trying to put
through college, he was a . . . . And this was another thing, that was so
astonshing about that time. I mean people just reached out. I mean this woman
needed work, she needed to find a way of helping her child.
Interviewer: Was she Jewish?
Derrow: She was Jewish. Of course. And her son was, I do believe her son got
a Ph.D. I cannot remember her name. What I do remember about her is that she was
extremely small. And since I was very small at that time, she must have been
very, very small, you know something like no more than 4’5″, something
Derrow: And but there was always elegance. When I say there was elegance, by
compari- son with a lot of things. It was always white tablecloths, everybody,
and I think there was decorum. My father’s brothers, the older ones, always
sat near Grandpa. By the way, I called my paternal grandparents
“Grandpa” and “Grandma” and my maternal parents were “Bubbe”
and “Zayde” and . . . .
Interviewer: You were fortunate in knowing your grandparents very well. A lot
of people our age didn’t know any grandparents.
Derrow: My husband . . . . knew none, didn’t know any of the grandparents. And it was wonderful in so many ways because, as I just think about it, we just had a new grandchild born at the end of this century, and I know that my grand- parents, at least my Grandpa Max was born somewhere in the, toward the middle of the last century. I really feel that with Anna, Anna Eve, our new granddaughter, she can probably expect to live ’till the end of the next century and, you know, but my life expectancy (mixed voices) . . . . two hundred years, more than two hundred years.
Derrow: Exactly. It makes me all very, I feel very good about that.
Interviewer: That’s why it’s nice to have these kinds of interviews and
discussions with your family and . . . .
Derrow: And pictures that are . . . .
Derrow: Well our pictures are wonderful, I mean, we have wonderful family
photographs and they’re my most precious possession. And when we see the
devastation in Oklahoma, the most recent devastation . . . it just tears me up and I think to myself, you know, my God, my pictures. You know, furniture can be re. . . . and these are so valuable and they are my real treasures.
Interviewer: They’re irreplaceable, that’s for sure. Tell me more about,
now let’s see, we’ve got a little coverage on the paternal side, with all
that many people. Do you want to talk to your uncles and cousins . . . .
Derrow: Well some of my uncles, several of them, there was eight. My grandpa
established a business in Paterson and my father was born in 1897 and I believe
they came to Paterson like the next year. Paterson, New Jersey is a very
historic city. It was founded by Alexander Hamilton in the latter part of the
18th century after the Revolution, after the United States was formed, to become
the center of industry. This was at the very beginning of the Industrial
Revolution. Paterson has . . . . fake falls and water power was necessary to
make machinery run. So Paterson was established by Alexander Hamilton in the
latter 18th century to be the engine for the industrial development of the
United States. Paterson is about 17 miles, I really don’t know for sure, from
Manhattan, from New York. The Hudson River separates, of course as everybody
knows, New Jersey and New York and at that time there was no George Washington
Bridge or Holland Tunnel or anything. But there was a very historic road called
the Patterson Plank Road that ran from the edge of the Hudson River to Paterson.
And the reason it was called the Paterson Plank Road was because it was actually
made, had wooden planks on it because that area is now called the Meadowlands
and has been very much developed. At that time it was really swamps so they
needed to somehow bolster, you know, the roads, and before concrete and asphalt,
that’s what they did. That road is still called the Paterson Plank Road and
when I was a youngster and we would go to Brooklyn to visit my grandparents, my Bubbe
and Zayde and the entire rest of that family, at that time they were then
living in Brooklyn, we would take the Paterson Plank Road and before the Holland
Tunnel was built we would take the ferry to someplace from, that was the only
way you could get connected. The ferry. There was . . . .
Interviewer: The ferry.
Derrow: There were ferrys plying the Hudson River very busily from several
different places. And then, but that actually, I was, by this time I was, I don’t
know exactly when the tunnel, the first tunnel was built but, the Holland
Tunnel, but that made things much easier.
Derrow: And, but we used to, we’d go to Brooklyn just about every weekend
to visit my mother’s family. When my grandmother, my Zayde came to this
country he had, he was the oldest in his family, he had four brothers, Max,
Morris, Sam. Maybe it was three brothers. No.
Interviewer: What business was you say your . . . .
Derrow: My Zayde, actually I don’t remember him ever working. He
lost the sight of his eyes. He had, contracted glaucoma and he also had
cataracts and so I don’t know, he was a cabinetmaker. But I don’t know when
he stopped working but he was supported to a large extent by his children . . . who didn’t have any money either. My Bubbe, they lived in a house in Brooklyn, I’m just trying to remember, I think it was either three or four brothers and I can’t remember when we grew up; I’ll show you the picture ’cause they’re on the picture. And there was also a sister who did not come to this country. Anyway those brothers, they all lived within a block of each other so when we would go to Brooklyn, I would see all my great uncles and their children who, I think my mother was the oldest in the family of that generation. Neither of, a lot of them were more of my age and so I really always felt like I had millions of cousins. They were second cousins but they were still cousins.
Interviewer: I think relationships were much closer then.
Derrow: Well there was, you know, people went visiting. Well we did. Since
nobody had any money and we did have a car which put us in another category
entirely. What we did on the weekend was visit.
Derrow: Nobody felt compelled to make dinner. Nobody, you know, you got
offered a drink or a cup of tea, a cup of coffee. There was always food on the
table. But you know, no one was expected to make dinner for anybody. It was very
informal and people were welcome, literally to drop in. You were expected to drop in. A lot of visiting back and forth. My great uncles, they all lived in the same, like two of them had adjoining houses. These are these row houses in Brooklyn which is where a lot of the Chassidm are living now. And they were making these houses, this was on 62nd Street and 63rd Street. The shul was in a house, a shtiebel they called them. All the shopping was on 20th Avenue which was the main drag. I don’t, never the names of Brooklyn straight because I did not live there. I don’t know any of Bensonhurst or Boro Park. I don’t have a clue.
Interviewer: We kind of all, one after another.
Derrow: But they weren’t significant to the people who lived there.
Derrow: They don’t mean a thing. I have never been able to figure out which
was which and never cared much . . . .
Interviewer: It doesn’t sound like genuniely warm and . . .
Derrow: Oh absolutely, absolutely. And certainly had . . . . (mixed voices) .
. . . Also they were meeting ’cause that didn’t mean that people didn’t
have, they always had a lot of verbal jousting and not everybody was always
happy to see you. I mean when you have a lot of people, some people are going to
wish you didn’t come or you wished you hadn’t come too.
Interviewer: Well but I’m sure there are a lot of fond memories . . . .
Derrow: Oh absolutely. Only fond memories.
Interviewer: Any connections with relatives that . . . .
Derrow: Yes. Unfortunately, most of whom are no longer around. The big families of today have spread out and a lot of people have lost touch. I have no knowledge of my mother’s first cousins’ children. I don’t know where they are except for one family. My mother’s first cousin, Herbie Schwartzburg, was married to a young woman named Shirley Dallek and the Dallek are a very prominent family in Long Island in the office furniture business. They advertise in The New York Times , the Dallek Office Furniture, D-A-L-L-E-K. And just recently I read that Shirley’s mother passed away. She had to have been over 100 years of age. Shirley Dallek, at their wedding, she and Herbie were married at the Brooklyn Jewish Center I believe on Ocean Parkway and as usual, my uncle Eli made it impossible for us to get to the wedding on time and we missed the ceremony. And the Cantor at the ceremony was Robert Merrill.
Interviewer: Oh. So you missed a lot?
Derrow: We missed a lot. And came and, “You should have heard
that.” But my Uncle Eli, and we traveled, you know, we came to New York
together . . . . together. My mother was, she was always late for everything.
Interviewer: There are family members.
Derrow: Oh any of them, the group was really, it was really . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us about Robert Merrill.
Derrow: He was, at that time he was the Cantor. He was not as famous opera
Interviewer: And that was before . . . .
Derrow: That he became a very famous opera star.But he was the Cantor at their wedding. The Dalleks were always very, very frum. They still are. My cousin Herbie died quite unexpectedly and his wife remarried and she married her uncle.
Derrow: . . . . perfectly legal Jewish wedding. I have no idea which uncle it
is or how that works but that also happened, you know, in the family. Sammy Cahn
wrote a song. Herbie Schwartzburg, he was a first cousin and Sammy Cahn was a
first cousin and Sammy Cahn was . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us about Sammy Cahn.
Derrow: Sammy Cahn was a famous lyracist who wrote many, many songs . . . .
Derrow: Yes. And he wrote lots of . . . . stories. He was, he died not too
long ago. He sang at my mother’s wedding, my mother’s and father’s
wedding, probably while he was still a kid. But he always wanted to be in show business. He looked like my cousin Herbie’s family. He looked, there was a strong family resemblance but Sammy Cahn was not related to us, mispocha-wise but not a relative.
Interviewer: Extended family.
Derrow: . . . . You know I know so little Yiddish but I’m amazed that we
got the . . . . right because I just accept certain words as being like,
Derrow: That might be because I . . . .
Interviewer: We grew up like that.
Derrow: Well I . . . .
Interviewer: I can appreciate that too but just for the record we try to
clarify . . . .
Derrow: . . . . Anyway I come from a very big family that I’m intensely
proud of. I’m intensely proud of how they had the courage to come to this
country and day and night, oh I’ve expressed this many, many times, not only
did they give us life but they gave us our lives and we have, as I look around
and see where we are and how we live and what we have done and how much we’ve
done and the things that we’ve, I feel great strength from my roots. My roots
are very deep.
Interviewer: We talk an awful lot about that today because of what’s been
happening in the last few weeks especially.
Derrow: Oh yes.
Interviewer: On the way over, I was listening to the radio and they were
talking about family morals and setting patterns for lives and I think we have
this value with the way we grew up and because things were rough. Or not as easy
as they are now, not as . . . .
Derrow: Well nobody had any money and when I think of my grandparents, were
middle class. They were. They had standards. But they lived in a two-family
house, very small. Well we had those Seders. It was in an area where there were
not too many Jewish people in that particular area on Lafayette Street. And that
was just a few blocks away from where my parents and I lived and Paterson at
that time was a very pleasant place for people who were middle class to live. It
was a factory town, a very, very busy factory town. It was the center of the
silk industry. Was called “Silk City” and it’s a very famous city.
It was also the center of a very strong labor movement and when I was at NYU I
remember talking, I took labor economics with a Professor Emanuel Stein and he
had done arbitration work for, you know, the unions and the manufacturers. And,
you know, he gave me lots of history about Paterson and how significant it was
and we were strong labor supporters. My grandchildren don’t have a clue as to
what, you know, what, why we feel so strongly about it but you cannot imagine
the conditions that people worked under and how they lived. The labor unions
made our society what it is today.
Interviewer: A lot of change.
Derrow: A lot of them don’t want to give them credit.
Interviewer: And they can’t appreciate what was going on though before
Derrow: Oh they can’t understand that when you raise people who are your
lowest workers and you raise everybody to consider themselves middle class, you
are raising everybody and you’re giving up nothing. You are just making
everybody more able to purchase and to buy things and look what’s going on
now. I mean, we’re living in, who can ever even have imagined an economy like
Interviewer: That’s right. Powerful, powerful.
Derrow: Powerful and I feel so grateful that my forebears had the . . . .
Derrow: strength and the courage and the good sense to come to America.
Interviewer: You mentioned your, the Seder. Particularly it sounded like kind
of one Seder you were talking about that somebody catered.
Derrow: Well there was another Seder the next night.
Interviewer: At the same home?
Derrow: No. The next night we all went, everybody then went to the other
grandparents’ house, the other in-laws.
Interviewer: Yearly did you get together for Seders or?
Derrow: We got together every Pesach.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And what about . . . .
Derrow: And many times in between.
Interviewer: Other holidays?
Derrow: We saw them all the time.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But for holidays you would get together and . . . .
Derrow: Not specifically for holidays. I told you we went to Brooklyn every
weekend. My Bubbe and Zeyda had no way of coming to this country and until my Bubbe died we just went there and we saw everybody else.
Interviewer: . . . . continue our discussion.
Derrow: Well let me tell you about the Seders in Brooklyn. They were very
small because at that time, my earliest recollections, I was the only
grandchild, spoiled rotten because everybody had their own Seders. Even though
my Grandpa’s, Zeyda’s, brothers lived very close, everybody did their
Interviewer: Did their own Seder?
Derrow: With their own family. And so we went to Bubbe and Zeyda’s and I remember that table vividly. It was a wooden table with a glass top on it and we always had borscht. Borscht was what we all had at the second Seder. And it was very good. And I have always adored borscht. This is meat borscht.
Derrow: Meat. . . . . meat.
Interviewer: Uh huh. . . . . ’cause we do that too.
Derrow: Yeah it was traditional in our house and there would be my uncles, my
Uncle Eli, my Uncle Jack and my Uncle Seymour. At that time, the earliest
recollection, they were not married, just my mother and father and me. And I had
my own special little wine cup, a silver cup. And my uncles who were always
absolutely wonderful to me loved to see, you know, that I would have enough wine
and then I would dance for them, you know. I was a little girl. And everybody always got a big charge out of it and it was like a very warm, wonderful event. Nothing at all formal.
Interviewer: Did your grandmother do all the cooking?
Derrow: Yeah, she and my, well my mother wasn’t there because she was, you
know, back at the other Seder the night before. And my, everybody was very
religious. There was no cooking so whatever was done was done before we got
there. And it was always very hamish in my mother’s family’s homes.
It was very, to say unpre- tentious is not even correct. It was just very plain.
But there was always enough to eat. There was always, you know, a place to
sleep. There was always dignity in whatever there was.
Derrow: There was dignity. And even though they had no money, they weren’t
poor. And that’s the way we remained for a very long time. We didn’t have
any money for a long time but we weren’t poor.
Interviewer: You had love and you had the things you needed for everyday
Derrow: Well we had more than that. We did have more than enough to, you
know, we were, it’s just that money is a relative thing. And we had, you know,
we were not poor. There’s no question about it. I always had lovely clothes.
My mother was very, very fashion conscious. I want to say more about my mother
because she . . . . .
Interviewer: I’m going, yeah I’m just going to ask you to talk about . . .
Derrow: My mother was really quite incredible. There are many people in Columbus who will remember her. Her name was Eva Bernstein and my mother was a very positive person about, just about everything. She was also totally unschooled but she was one of the most knowleadgable and sophisticated women I have ever met. She traveled extensively. She always knew what was appropriate, what to do and when to do it. She, after my father passed away, she went to Europe for three months by herself and even though she had her itinerary planned, she had no companion . . . .
Interviewer: What was, do you know what the year was?
Derrow: It was, well my father died in 1955 and my mother was 55 years old
and my father was 58. And she went, probably within a couple of years after
that. And at that time, she was able to stay in the finest hotels in London,
Paris, she traveled, she was gone for three months. And when she got to Milan,
she knew that, you know, Milan has the La Scala Opera so she got a ticket to La
Scala. My mother loved opera and loved all of the arts as a matter of fact. And
so she went to the opera. She knew she needed to wear a long dress so she wore a
long dress and she went to the opera. When she got to Rome, she heard everybody
talking about having an audience with the Pope so she decided she also wanted to
have an audience with the Pope so she also went to see the Pope.
Interviewer: She was a gutsy lady huh?
Derrow: My mother, gutsy is putting it mildly. My childhood was very
enriched. My parents were, loved the theater and we lived in Paterson and the
theater was on Broadway. Now today it doesn’t take very long to get into
midtown Manhattan. Then, you know, so we had a car but we always went to the
theater. And when I say “we,” I always went with them. Theater tickets
were not like they are today and my mother, I went to my first opera when I was
eight. It was at the Hippo- drome which has long since been torn down and I saw
“La Giconda” and I’ll never forget it. And so the love of theater and opera has always been a part of my life. But I had a very enriched life. My mother let nothing, no opportunity pass. If there was something that, there was, you know, at the Oval, and Paterson had a small art scene even then. There was a series at the East Side High School because there was no concert hall in Paterson. And some of the artists I saw there, you know, boggle one’s mind. This was when I was a little girl. There was a fabulous duo-piano team, Rosina
and Joe Zepley . . . . That was the first concert I saw. I could not have been
more than four and I was sitting right in the front row. My mother hoped that by
osmosis, you know, I should learn how to play the piano. And then one of the last concerts I saw was Serge Rachmaninoff. He appeared at East Side High School on his way up, which had to have been his last concert tour of this country. And so we did have, you know, a small art scene in Paterson. My mother, while she was uneducated, was an auto-didact. She learned by herself. She taught herself and she also took advantage of every opportunity to learn something. The public utility in Paterson was called “Public Service” and they would run classes for immigrant women in particular on nutrition, cooking classes. And my mother all her life was very, very into good nutrition. She knew, you know, she knew about it. I grew up on fresh vegetables and, you know, all that good stuff. And she took advantage of everything there was to take advantage of.
Interviewer: Would you say she was a balleboste kind of homemaker.
Derrow: My mother was, my mother had a maid. She was, she had some physical
problems. I don’t know that my mother, you know, it’s an overused term. It’s
trite. My mother was incredibly capable. If that’s what you mean by a balleboste, yeah. But my mother could do anything and nothing phased her. She could, you know, she knew how to take sheets that were wearing out and make pillow cases. She, in those days one didn’t discard things. You didn’t even give them to a nearly new shop or whatever it was at that time. By the time you got rid of something, it was a rag.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So they knew how to recycle.
Derrow: Everything was recycled many times. And yet we always had a lovely
home. There was a piano in my home from as long as I can remember.
Interviewer: Did you learn to play piano?
Derrow: Oh yes. Not well but I did learn to play. I took lessons for many
years. Actually this is the first house I’ve been in; I gave my piano to
Philip because I didn’t, I really didn’t have room for it. But I’m thinking seriously about getting another one because somehow it’s not a home without a piano. But we had, we always, my mother was always very up-to- the-minute on things. We had a radio when they first came out. We always had a lovely home. My mother had a maid. A lot of that was because she suffered from severe phlebitis and had difficulty in getting around. But nothing ever stopped her. Nothing. She got her driver’s license when she was 26 and my father, and this was still in 1926 . . . .
Interviewer: That was unusual for women to be driving.
Derrow: They didn’t even have a car. She had to take lessons on their huge
truck. The Bernstein Brothers had a truck which was a very big, one of those big
old trucks. And my father, I guess thinking that he would discourage her, that
was what she learned on. But my mother’s attitude was, “Well if some
truck driver can learn how to drive, I can learn how to drive.” And she had
her driver’s license up until she passed away.
Interviewer: She didn’t leave many stones unturned, did she?
Interviewer: Did she live in Paterson all the time until she came to . . . .
Derrow: After she married my father, they lived in Paterson until she came to
Ohio in, I think it was 1975. My brother died in 1970 and her brother died, Eli
died a couple of years after that and then there was no one there to look after
and we invited her to come. She knew that she would be welcome here and she
lived at Parkview Arms. And she, her car used to go to the Jewish Center
regularly. She worked out. She swam. She participated in the Senior Olympics and
has won, you know, some medals. Of course she had no competition. She played
bridge. She was very, very, she went to concerts. She was a special kind of
Interviewer: I remember hearing, I knew your mother and I remember hearing
about her being active and involved in some of these different . . . .
Derrow: She was not active in organizational work. That was not what she
Interviewer: But she attended . . . .
Derrow: She was very, yes, she did but that was not her, she was much too
independent to, my mother did not enjoy doing things by committee and I have to
say neither do I. And that’s the heart of any good organization person but she did what she wanted to do and I had the late good fortune to hear her say before she died that the last 12 years of her life were the happiest years of her life. And that made me feel very good.
Interviewer: So it was the right thing for her to do to come here and . . . .
Derrow: Well the reason for that was really to discern. She had, no longer
was taking care of anybody. The only person she had to concern herself with was
herself. Are you getting anxious about the weather?
Interviewer: No, it is windy here. I’m putting that on the record too. No.
Derrow: Because there are storms that are predicted for this area.
Interviewer: Well until we start blowing away, we’ll just hang . . . .
Derrow: I mean we’re . . . . you’re safe. It’s just that I don’t want
you to get concerned. We, my parents were, my father overcame his handicap with his one eye. My father had other handicaps, mainly he lisped. He had a very violent temper. Not physically violent but he would explode and a lot of that was frustration because of all of his siblings, he was the one who had the last amount of schooling and it was nobody’s fault. He just decided to drop out of school. He finished the eighth grade I believe and he went to the same elementary school that I went to, that I ended up going to.
Interviewer: Oh so it was another generation.
Derrow: Yes. He was a very tough kid. My father was fearless but sometimes
dangerously so and he developed a special whistle. And when people would hear
him, it was a very high-pitched whistle. When you heard that you knew that he
was in trouble so everyone would come running to, you know, see that he was
being beat up or he was being, I mean it was a, he was very interesting also. My
father was very good looking. He looked very much, I always thought he looked
like Douglas Fair- banks. He had dark good looks. He had a mustache and he had a
killer smile. When you talk about Jack Nicholson, his smile, my father had a
smile that could light up anything.
Interviewer: Did you have any fear of him yourself?
Derrow: No not at all. My father . . . . he was not physically violent. He just was, he was angry, he was angry within himself but he was not, he would get mad at card games, you know. He would get mad at someone who didn’t do the right thing.
Interviewer: Yeah, sure.
Interviewer: Did you live in very many homes as you, as a child?
Derrow: No we lived in a flat, what is called a flat in New Jersey was the,
always the lowest level of a two-family house. We would move if (a) the landlord
refused to paint or (b) the landlord would raise the rent more than my mother
wanted to pay. So we would move to another, actually we didn’t move very often
at all. When we moved, we moved into, from, in Paterson when I was about nine or
ten, we moved to a flat and I went to School No. 13 which was considered to be
one of the better schools in Paterson. And that’s where I, at that time you
graduated from elemen- tary school. And I graduated from School No. 13 and I had
a very fine education I must say in the Paterson schools. And then we moved to
Newark. My father opened a branch of his, the business in Newark, New Jersey,
and we lived in Newark for about five years, all during my high school period
and I went to an outstanding high school at that time,Weequahic High School.
Interviewer: What was it?
Derrow: Weequahic, W-E-E-Q-U-A-H-I-C. It’s an Indian name. And had a
fantastic education there, absolutely fabulous. To this day I marvel how
wonderful it was. It was the equivalent of any prep school. Very enriched. And
my mother at that time instructed me, you know, how I could get on the bus on
the corner and then go to New York. That wasn’t as easy as getting on the bus
for a nickel. It was getting on a bus and going to Penn Station and, of course
the bus cost a nickel. And getting to Penn Station and from Penn Station and
Newark, taking the tubes to New York, would take you to Penn Station in New
York. And then from New York, you took the subways. So I started going to the
theater as a youngster on Saturdays at a very early age. And my mother also
totally brainwashed me. She said, “Just remember Muriel, the real
theater-goers, all theater lovers, always stayed in the top row of the
balcony.” So I did because at that time you could get seats for maximum 55
cents and sometimes you could get them for, you know, two for 55 cents. I went
with a friend.
Interviewer: Did you travel, I was just going to ask you . . . .
Derrow: A friend, usually a girlfriend. And, but she, I was brainwashed for a long time about that, you know. “If you really love the theater, you sit in the last row of the balcony.” So that’s where I sat at the Metropolitan Opera where I could barely see the people on the stage because they would be about this big.
Interviewer: But you could hear?
Derrow: Yes I could hear.
Interviewer: And you were there?
Derrow: Yes and that was the important thing.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Tell us about your education then after high school.
Derrow: Okay. After high school, and I was a very ordinary student, I went to
the Univer- sity of Wisconsin for a year. Had a wonderful time. Fell madly in
love with the Midwest because it was so totally different from anything I knew
from be. Became a member, didn’t become a member of a sorority but I pledged a
sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma and but never made active because I didn’t make
grades. I was having a wonderful time. I elected not to go back for a second
year which was a big mistake because I lost a lot of credits. I couldn’t
transfer credits. Then I went to New York University where I did get my degree
and I did much better in school and I had a wonderful education. And I got my
degree in political science and economics which was actually no way to get a
job. But I really didn’t want a job anyway. I wanted to get married and you
ask how did David and I meet. Well David and I had known each other all our
lives, all of our lives. David’s parents were at my parents’ wedding. They
came to this country, they arrived in this country just a few weeks before my
parents were married and so they, and they were lantsmen. They were from
the same town as my mother. And so they were at my parents’ wedding and David
and I had known each other continuously. He lived for a very short period of
time after his parents came to this country, and he’ll tell you about that,
but he was born in Harrisburg, New Jersey. When his parents attended my parents’
wedding, he was in the works but he wasn’t born yet. So they were set up in business as was also done by family members, you know, in Harrisburg. But shortly after that, maybe three years, they moved back to New Jersey and as I said, we had a car so we always went visiting. Since we had the transportation, we did the visiting. People couldn’t come to us. We went to them. And we did constantly. And Eli, that was my father-in-law’s name, Eli and Chodsha were on the list of people we visited. And when Eli, Gerald, finally was able to buy a car, he always bought my father’s car. My father would get a new car and then Eli would buy the old car. That went on for a long time. And David and I have always known each other. We were . . . .
Interviewer: So you grew up like relatives actually?
Derrow: We grew up, well actually, he was a pain in the you-know-what because
my mother was constantly holding him up as, you know, as an example of
everything wonderful. My mother always adored David. I don’t know why, maybe
because he’s adorable. But she absolutely always adored him and he was
frequently at our house. I’m talking about when I was a little girl, he was,
you know, and she would always say, “Look how well David eats,” ’cause
I didn’t eat as well as she would have liked me to. You know, he always
finished his food, you know, he always did this, you know, he’s so smart, he
skipped grades and, which created a big problem in my mind because I really didn’t
like being constantly compared, to my detriment . . . .
Interviewer: Put you down some?
Derrow: Well definitely. And I didn’t like that one bit. I still don’t
Interviewer: I can understand that.
Derrow: Anyway, David was the only boy at my tenth birthday party. My mother’s
explanation for that was, “Well you know, he was one of the kids.” You
know, all, everybody else was a girl except David and David has always had this
remark- able ability to be totally unintimidated by anything. And even as a kid,
can you imagine most ten-year-olds, how they would feel if they were suddenly in
a group of, ten-year-old boy with all girls?
Interviewer: But he handled it?
Derrow: I mean to this day he’s the same way. He . . . .
Interviewer: Well there’s a charm about him.
Derrow: He’s not only very charming but even with charm, how charming can a
ten-year- old boy be? But he was just totally comfortable and he gave me a
Mickey Mouse watch . . . .which unfortunately I don’t have. He gave it to me, you know, a Mickey Mouse watch at that time and it was an Ingersoll I remember. They were the ones who had the license to make them. Anyway Dave and I have always known each other. We did not become lovers ’till after he came home from the service. He went away to college but one of the things David always did and I think it was his mother usually told him, “Before you go,” you know before you go to college, “go say goodbye to Muriel.” And before he went into the service, you know, “Go say goodbye to Muriel.” So he came, a dutiful son, he came and I remember when he was going into the service and I had the flu. I was really sick. And he . . . . bed and he came and he said goodbye. We were not dating. We never, we basically hardly ever dated. I did go to his either junior or senior prom, I’m not sure which. No it must have been his senior prom because his father insisted that he take a Jewish girl to the prom. The only Jewish girl he knew was me. I lived in Newark and they were living in Ridgefield Park so my mother got me an evening gown. it was a Deanna Durbin dress. I think it cost about $5 at Klein’s and, at Klein’s on the Square which was a famous store in New York on Union Square. And so I had a very beautiful dress and I went to his prom and we went to New York to a hotel for a, that was what you did then, to a hotel afterwards because there was a band playing there at the McAlpin Hotel and that bandleader was from Ridgefield Park. David lived in Ridgefield Park and he will give you all those details. And anyway that’s, and then we didn’t start dating until, but we always corresponded, we were always in touch. Always. When he was in the service I wrote to him and he wrote to me. When he came out of the service I was living in Paterson and his parents were living in, still Ridgefield Park I guess. And you can hear a lot of noises on this tape from my tummy.
Interviewer: I don’t think that will . . . .
Derrow: I hope not. Otherwise it’s going to be very embarrassing. We were
married in 1947 and he had just been out of the service for about a year and he
was trying to get into medical school.
Interviewer: So you didn’t really date that much then.
Derrow: No, I think we had three dates before, what did we have to find out
about each other? You know, we grew up together. It was, like you know, nobody
has to find out anything.
Interviewer: It was pretty comfortable then just the . . . .
Derrow: It was very, it was, I was dating, you know, both of us were dating
other people. Actually, David had to break a date after we became engaged. He
had a date. Someone had asked him to go to a Yom Kippur dance and this young
woman actually didn’t want him to break the date but he said, “But I’m
engaged”. So . . . . .
Interviewer: She needed a companion.
Derrow: she finally realized that it would have been kind of silly. No we
really did not, we had very few dates.
Interviewer: But all of a sudden your life connected to each other?
Derrow: Well I think what was happening at least from my point of view, I
remember I was dating several other men at that time. Of course the war had, you
know, put a big stop to a lot of dating because the guys were all in the Army or
the Navy. And so, you know, it wasn’t. But right after when the war stopped
there was suddenly a lot of activity. Everybody wanted to get married. That’s
what it was all about. Everybody had put off marriage until after the war. The
war was over. And so we, you know, actually the truth of the matter is the
truth. The truth is that I said to David, “Don’t you think we ought to
Interviewer: Helping things along there?
Derrow: I had, I . . . . comfort . . . . I knew that David always, you know,
that I was always, you know, number 1. So I didn’t really, I didn’t think he
would, it never dawned on me that he might say, “What do you mean, get
married?” It never even occurred to me. So we got married.
Interviewer: Tell us about your wedding. How did that go?
Derrow: We eloped. We eloped because in spite of the, actually we eloped
because the parents as much as they knew each other, as well as they knew each
other, were having terrible disagreements about the wedding. Our wedding was
funny actually. We had plans to be married in Temple Emanuel in Paterson, New
Jersey, which was where my grandparents has their 50th anniversary. I can show
you the invitation. That was in 1934. It was a magnificent Temple. Al Berman,
our Rabbi, grew up in Temple Emanuel. That’s where he went to school and was
very much influenced. Temple Emanuel is a Conservative congregation in Paterson.
The Temple building itself is quite extraordinary. It was designed by the same
people who designed some theaters, the Fabian Theaters. And so it had, it is a
very, very, it is a magnificent structure which is now I believe on the Historic
Register in Paterson. But the congregation is no longer there. They finally had
to give up because the Jewish population of Paterson, which at one time had
numbered well over 25,000, just totally, that’s out of a population of about
130,000 . . . . really moved out. That was after the war. Things changed drastically. But getting back to our wedding. We were supposed to get married, you know, and I tried on wedding dresses. So the only time I ever saw myself in a wedding dress was trying them on. I didn’t . . . .
Interviewer: You didn’t need to get married in, you didn’t get married in
Derrow: And we got married in Pearl River, New York, on January 31, 1947.
Interviewer: So just you and David . . . .
Derrow: Well, yes, just David and I. We were married by a Justice of the
Peace in New City, New York. New City is now the hotbed of Orthodoxy. At that
time it consisted of the courthouse. I mean it was the county seat of Rockland
County. The other thing that was an impetus for us to get married was David was
working as a technician, a lab technician at Lederle Laboratories in Pearl
River, New York, and at that time, housing was next to impossible to find. And
we were and we were able, because of that job, he was able to get a
barracks-converted apartment in what had been Camp Shanks. Camp Shanks was the
Port of Embarcation that he left this country on, from. So we ended up living
there in a converted barracks for which we paid $30 a month. That included
electricity. It had a space heater and it had an ice box. And I had not seen an
ice box in a long time, even in 1940, I mean I had not seen an, ice boxes were
long gone. Everybody had refrigerators.So we had an ice man and we had an ice box and we had a space heater that used kerosene. We . . . . to get this apartment so we grabbed it and then we got married because the parents were really, the in-laws were really arguing over the wedding. My father-in-law was determined to invite the immediate world and my mother, since she was paying for it, took exception.So anyway there were too many arguments so David and I were caught in the middle.
Interviewer: How did they react after they heard you were married?
Derrow: Not well. Well they, the next day, we were married and then we, my
mother-in- law arranged, and this is where the funny story comes in, arranged
for an Orthodox wedding at a cousin’s of hers home in Roselle Park, New
Jersey. So the family was notified, whatever family they could get together,
came to this rabbi’s house . . . .
Interviewer: How long after your elopement?
Derrow: One day, the next day.
Interviewer: Oh the next day? She put it together . . . .
Derrow: It was very hasty. And the, I never saw the rabbi before and there
were four old men holding the chupa and I took great, now you have to
remember I was not, it was not that I was so young. I was quite immature in many
ways and the . . . .
Interviewer: How old were you both?
Derrow: We were 23. And the rabbi kept, referred to me, ’cause you know a woman has nothing to say in a Jewish ceremony, and referred to me as “that woman”. And I thought, I did, as I got older and more, you know, more realistic I realized that he didn’t speak the language very well. I’m sure he did not mean any offense. But anyway, but the funniest thing happened. First of all, nobody was happy. That was the saddesr wedding you have ever, I mean I have, I can’t imagine a less joyous occasion.
Interviewer: For people who really were friends?
Derrow: They really wanted us to get married. I mean they really, they were
pushing us together for years. And that was one of the, you know, there was so,
there was a resistance. On my part it was like, I didn’t want that. You know,
I wanted to marry Errol Flynn. What can I tell you?
Interviewer: Well I can understand that.
Derrow: So the, and then my Aunt, my Aunt Esther, my darling Aunt Esther, my
Uncle Eli’s wife who I loved, who was about four feet, eight, and I towered
over her even then, takes my hand in hers. She says, “Well Muriel,”
she looked me right in the eye, she said, “well Muriel,” she looked up
to me actually. “Muriel, you didn’t get such a good start. I hope it all
works out all right.”
Interviewer: Well thank God it did.
Derrow: Well, and I have to tell you, Aunt Esther, I called her Esther,
“Esther, it’s okay.”
Interviewer: So you got through this turmoil and . . . .
Derrow: Well it wasn’t easy. My father-in-law was mad for a long time but
my father-in- law was mad a lot of times about a lot of things. He was that kind
of a person. That’s a whole other story. The, but the families have always been, you know, we have, I was always close to my, when I say “close” to my in-laws, after I grew up and I learned, you know, like the I can live with the few days that they come to, you know, I didn’t have to collapse just because they’re going to be in my house for a few days. I didn’t have to collapse every time he lost his cool. But they were good people.
Derrow: And my mother-in-law was brilliant. Actually they were all brilliant.
I come from a, you know, these people didn’t get to do the things that they
did without enormous courage and elegance in character.
Interviewer: Right, it sounds like . . . .
Derrow: Nothing came easily.
Interviewer: I’m just watching the tape. So tell us about your, how your
family, you and David, how your family developed. Let’s . . . .
Derrow: We lived very close to both sets of parents.
Interviewer: Where did you live in the first year?
Derrow: We lived in Shanks Village in a, we lived there for four and a half
years. We had our first, actually we had a stillborn child right, the year after
we were married. And then Charles was born the second year we were married. We
lived very nicely even in the barracks.It was a very exciting time to be involved in life. I only, I had no ambitions or aspirations for any kind of a professional life ever. I have always wanted to be a wife and mother. That was all I wanted and, still what I want, and I enjoy it. I have absolutely no, I mean I know that I could have succeeded. Had I decided on something else, I’m sure I would have succeeded but that was not what I wanted.
Interviewer: Tell us who your children are and when they were born.
Derrow: Well there’s Charles who was born in 1949 and Martin who was born
in 1951. Sandy in 1953. Andy in 1957 and Philip in 1959. Philip is going to have
a big birthday party this year because his birthday is December 31, 1999. He’s
going to be 40.
Derrow: And the whole world is going to explode.
Interviewer: That’s going to be a fun time.
Derrow: A fun time. Yeah.
Interviewer: That’s your baby?
Derrow: That’s my baby.
Interviewer: All right. Tell us about each child.
Derrow: Well you don’t have time to hear about, how much time do you have?
It’s a long story.
Interviewer: Well just give us a rundown, a quick rundown of how many, your
children and grandchildren.
Derrow: We have five children and ten grandchildren and we now have added two
Interviewer: So all of your children are married now?
Derrow: Charles is divorced. He’s been divorced twice and he has relocated
to Michigan. He lives in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, where he is the Medical
Director of a large Masonic home for the aged.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And how many children does he have?
Derrow: He has four children, four wonderful children. Two of them are at the
University of Michigan.
Interviewer: Give us their names.
Derrow: Okay. Well I’ll start with the oldest. Solomon is the oldest. He’s
going to be going into his third year of Medical School at Ohio State. He
graduated from the University of Michigan. So he is going to be a senior next
year at the University of Michigan. Aubie is going to be a junior next year at
the University of Michigan and Zoe is going to be a sophomore I think in Bexley
High School. Then Andy has three sons. He lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Andy is married to Janice and they have three boys, Evan who is named for my mother, Shaun who is not named for my mother.
Interviewer: Tell, give us their ages.
Derrow: Evan is 11, 10 or 11. And Shaun is three years younger than that,
whatever that is. And Eli, the youngest, is named for my father-in-law, is going
to be six. And they live in Ridgewood, New Jersey and Andy is, works for, is an
investment banker with the Goldman Sachs and so we have now had the opportunity
to go revisit our roots in New Jersey because they live just a few miles away
from our last home in New Jersey.
Interviewer: Well that’s convenient.
Derrow: Yes and we have picked up some of our old acquaintances. Martin Derrow and his wife live in Florida. They have two daughters.
Interviewer: What’s his wife’s name?
Interviewer: Okay. Where in Florida?
Derrow: They live in Orlando.
Interviewer: Who does Martin, what does he do?
Derrow: He’s a physician. Charles is a physician. I told you that. And one of his daughters, his oldest daughter, Michelle is a staff writer for TIME FOR KIDS.
Interviewer: How old is she?
Derrow: Twenty-four. Solomon is going to be 24 on, tomorrow is Solomon’s
birthday. And, where was I? Amy. After we finish I will give you some additional information that I do not wish to be on the tape.
Interviewer: Okay, uh huh. How old is Amy?
Derrow: I don’t know.
Interviewer: Okay. She’s younger though?
Derrow: She’s younger.
Interviewer: Yeah, okay.
Derrow: The oldest grandchildren are 24.
Interviewer: Okay. And your next child was, we’ve covered three.
Derrow: What do we have, seven, eight, nine. And we just had our tenth. It
was Anna Eve. Anna Eve Derrow is about two months old and was born January 13.
Derrow: Philip’s child. Philip’s and Barb’s. Philip’s wife’s name
is Barb. Barbara. And they live in New Albany and Philip is now the Chief
Executive of Ohio Trans- mission Company which is our company.
Interviewer: Family business?
Derrow: Uh huh. And Sandy has lived in Texas for the last 15 years. She was
recently married. She was married March 20 to a local man whose name is Keith
Perry and she lives in Abilene, Texas, which my husband swore he would never
ever willingly go back to because he was in the Army there; he was in the
service there. And while we were there just before the wedding, we drove down so
that we would have the opportunity just to see that. We found where Camp Barkley
had been. He was in Camp Barkley and it was a very interesting trip. Keith is
the President and CEO of an organization called Sears Methodist Retirement
Centers and he runs about 1400 beds in several different communities but they’re
based in Abilene. Abilene turned out to be a lot nicer than, you know, listening
to all of David’s horror stories, I was really anticipating the worst. And the
problem with Abilene is that it is nowhere. They are not close to anything. It’s
about 170 miles from Fort Worth which is the nearest large city. Due east is
north of Austin which is a wonderful city, which is where she lived. And Sandy
left an outstanding job. She was President of the Texas Association of Homes and
Services for the Aging and has been for 15 years and when she resigned to get
married, she was given a wonderful tribute, a dinner and some wonderful gifts by
the organization. We had the privilege of being there and listening to people
telling us how wonderful Sandy was and she really was, is an outstanding woman
in every way.
Interviewer: Sounds like all of your children have done very well.
Derrow: They have done very well. Yes, I am proud of all of my children. Each
in their fashion have been a credit to us and I feel very good about that.
Interviewer: What was life like as you were having children? How did you
handle . . . .
Derrow: Incredibly difficult. I did not have, you know, adequate household
help to make, you know, to make life . . . . I don’t know how . . . .
Interviewer: Did you like living in Columbus?
Derrow: . . . . Oh you mean after we moved here? We moved here in 1963. But
we lived in Fairlawn.
Interviewer: Okay. So you had . . . .
Derrow: All of our children were born there. All of the children were born
while we were living there.
Interviewer: Oh okay. So what brought you to Columbus?
Derrow: We needed to find a business opportunity. David was, David had been
working for the Bernstein Brothers and my father was bought out of that business
by my Uncle Ben and left, and so David was left without any interest in the
business but David was running the business. David is an extremely capable
executive and as everybody knows, he’s a terrific man. And my uncle had one
son, my cousin Bob, and Bob is incompetent. So he’s six foot, four,
incompetent. But he’s got his size. Anyway, David asked my uncle to sell him,
you know, at least a part of the business and my uncle refused so David started
looking for another place to go. We can shorten that story. We came to Columbus.
I had absolutely no qualms about it. My brother had gone to Ohio State
University and graduated from Ohio State University. And I knew, since I had
gone to the University of Wisconsin, I knew that Columbus was certainly big
enough to have, you know, a comfortable enough Jewish community. I really did
not concern myself at all about it and as I said earlier, I really had fallen in
love with the Midwest. I really liked it. And so I had no qualms about coming to
Columbus. This opportunity presented itself when David started making inquiries
of the people he knew, you know, in the business. And there was a business, a
branch of a business that was out of Toledo and the deal was struck in 1962 and
David came out here the end of January in 1963 and then we came out in June.
Life with raising five children, you have several child- ren, you know, it’s
very hectic. I used to think that from the outside, the roof of my house was
going up and down because of, my children have always been very active, all of
them. I don’t know from children who sit quietly. And when they sat quietly,
they were sick.
Interviewer: Well when you’re five, they seem to create their own havoc
among each other.
Derrow: Well that’s true but there was a lot of, there was always a lot of
activity in the house.
Interviewer: Did David come here and start his business?
Derrow: He didn’t start it. He bought a business. It was an ongoing
Interviewer: Uh huh. So that worked out?
Derrow: Yes. And he also brought a partner. He invited someone who became his
partner who was, that he knew from Bernstein Brothers, to come to . . . .
Interviewer: Is that what his business is today?
Derrow: Yes, Power Transmission. Now the reason my grandfather started that business in Paterson was also very interesting. As I say, I don’t know who told him to go to Paterson, that’s my grandfather. But Paterson was a hub of manufacturing activity in the country. And so my grandfather either got the idea or someone told him he should so some- thing along this line and he started a leather belting shop. The leather belting was used to run the pulleys. At that time you had a series of pullies and things like that in order to get the power from its source to the machines that were operating across the floor. At that time, you had long lines of machinery on the top of a factory floor which was carrying power to the machines that were there, electrical power, which was generated by either the falls or after the falls, by other sources of electricity someplace else. So that’s why it’s called power transmission. It has nothing to do with automobiles but it’s to transmit the power from its source in the factory to where it needs to run the machinery.
Interviewer: That’s interesting. I’m glad you explained that part of it.
I’m going to interrupt for a minute because we’re almost at the end of Side
B, Tape l, and we will continue in just a second here. Okay we’re continuing
on Side A of Tape 2. My interview with Muriel Derrow. Okay you were explaining
the business . . . .
Derrow: That the business that David, he bought a branch I told you of the
company from Toledo. And when he went to give my Uncle Ben, who was the full
owner of Bernstein Brothers at that time, notice, you know, he gave him notice
that he’d work another couple of weeks, my Uncle Ben invited him to leave
immediately. And so he did. And David came out here. I will never forget the day
he left Fairlawn. Sandy was clinging to him. It was, the weather was terrible.
It was, we had snow, it was very cold. He had a station wagon. It was like he
was going off in a covered wagon. It was really so, you know, . . . .
Derrow: It was so evocative of how fathers left to go make their fortune, you
know. It was a throwback. David was leaving, leaving me with the five children
which was a prospect I was not looking forward to one bit, in a large house. ‘Cause
I was supposed to sell the house before I moved. That’s something else. But
the weather was terrible. And he had a check writer. His father gave him a check
writer. He had, you know, his clothes. He had whatever little office equipment
he was taking. At that time it was very minimal. And he went off to Columbus and
he called from the road. He was stuck someplace in Pennsylvania that night ’cause
the weather turned vicious and when he got to Columbus and he will tell you the
story too, he stopped at a Howard Johnsons on East Main Street and when he got
up the next morning to go to his new business, he couldn’t get the car started
because the car actually froze because it was something, it was a record cold
like 18 degrees below zero and that car had never been in that kind of
temperature before. So he had to call somebody at Ohio Transmission to come and
fetch him to go to officially take over the business. But Sandy just clung go
him, “Daddy, don’t go, don’t go Daddy.” She was very traumatized
by it. But my feeling is that children take their cues from their parents, you
know. He was, David was okay, I was okay. We were ready to go forward. And so
that’s what we did.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it was a good move.
Derrow: It was a wonderful move.
Interviewer: So where did you locate when you first came to town? David went
back and . . . .
Derrow: No he came back very infrequently. We were, actually my house was
sold that night. The day that he left my house was sold and there were literally
people waiting, in case, begging for that house. It was a wonderful house with
five bedrooms and it was in a wonderful neighborhood and I loved that house. If
I regretted anything, it was leaving that house. It was a wonderful house.
Interviewer: Do you remember the address?
Derrow: Yes. Number 10 Berry Place. It’s in Radburn, in Fairlawn, New
Jersey. Wonder- ful place. Anyway we, David got out here and he, only David
would do something like this. He did not go take a room at a motel or at a
hotel. He went to the Jewish Center and inquired of Mayer Rosenfeld were there
any Jewish families who were taking in roomers. And he ended up boarding with
Honey Fisher’s mother, Mrs. Fisher, Sarah Fisher, who is also Larry Schaffer’s
Interviewer: Oh okay.
Derrow: In that family. We didn’t know any of that at that time. And she
lives down in Driving Park. She had a, before it turned completely, you know, to
something else. And the office of course is on Parsons Avenue so it was really
very close to the office.
Interviewer: Driving Park, describe where that area is.
Derrow: It’s between Living—, off of Livingston Avenue . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. West of Nelson, west of . . . .
Derrow: West of Nelson. It’s . . . . you know, you asked me that, I know
for a reason, but it’s like I’m, it’s close to downtown. And it was close to where the office was, which was on Parsons Avenue. David took over; well I’ll let David tell you about that. It’s his story. Anyway I remained in Fairlawn with the five children. They had to finish school. And then David came home at the most once a month. He was only home three or four times during that entire period. My mother was very helpful, of course, at that time. My in-laws were very, everyone was very supportive. And there were people who really didn’t understand what we were doing because, well we went back, just a few months ago we were visiting in New Jersey. We went to visit some people who are still living in the same house that they were living in when we left. It’s like . . . .
Interviewer: Time stood still, huh?
Derrow: It really is. We left and we, because we really had to. No way of
knowing how we were going to be able to send our kids to college and it was
just, we were struggling financially. So this was a wonderful move and we never
Interviewer: You had the same kind of courage and guts that people did when
they came from Europe.
Derrow: I think so. But this was of course a lot easier. We did have, we did
have people in this country. We were not that far away, 500 miles . . . .
Interviewer: Well it was all for the good.
Derrow: And it was wonderful.
Interviewer: So when you came with the children, where did you live?
Derrow: We lived on Spartan Drive, 1714 Spartan Drive in Berwick. We looked
for a house. I had come out one weekend to look for a house and I saw lots of
houses and we were looking for a house in the $30,000 range and while we could
find houses in that range, we needed also to have a lot of bedrooms. And we have
always been very, very careful about rent money. We have never overspent on our
habitat. We’re trying to overcome that. But we always lived comfortably but
not extravagantly. We still, even at that time, we had no money but we were not
poor. We could pay our bills and that’s about it. So . . . .
Interviewer: Took a lot of confidence in what your ability and . . . .
Derrow: Well I never doubted David’s ability to succeed. Not for one
minute. It never even crossed my mind. It never crossed my mind that we would
not acclimate ourselves to this community. We lived near the Jewish Center and
we, the down- side of it was that I really was driving back and forth constanty
because that’s the way it is when you live in a place where the, if you, that
was one of the mistakes we made by not moving to Bexley. Bexley was a better
location because at least there’s a bus line on Broad Street and on Main
Street at that time. We were, you know, out in the backwater. And so I had to
drive the children everyplace. And that was a big, I wasn’t used to that
living in Radburn. I didn’t have to do that.
Interviewer: How did you adapt to living in Columbus in terms of being away
from your family?
Derrow: I adapted very well. Well I think I adapted very well. My mother had
told me when I was a very little girl, she said, “Remember Muriel, when you
come into a,” . . . . a little girl and I was complaining I had no one to
play with and she said, “Muriel, nobody knows you’re here.” She
said, “You have to go out and knock on the door and say, My name is Muriel
Bernstein. Do you want to come our and play?”
Interviewer: Good advice.
Derrow: And so I told you, my mother was one of a kind.
Interviewer: I’ll stop for a moment.
Derrow: Okay. Well I’d like to wind this up. I’m getting tired.
Interviewer: So your kids, where did they go to school?
Derrow: Well the younger ones went to Berwick Elementary. Well first of all,
Philip went to, the wonderful thing that happened was it was Summertime. The
kids were all enrolled in the Jewish Center Day Camp, all of them. So they had
an opportunity to meet friends right away. Charles was in Teen Camp, Martin was
in camp, everybody was in camp. Philip was in Camp Orah I think it was called
then. And then they started school so that was wonderful. And I had an
opportunity, we had an opportunity to get the house in order and . . . .
Interviewer: They went to Berwick School did they?
Derrow: Berwick and Jackson Park Junior High School and Eastmoor High School.
They all graduated from Eastmoor High School. They had, actually Charles . . . . the education was not nearly as advanced as it had been in New Jersey, no two ways about it. It was not on the same level. If they got. . . . education they could, you know, here. They all must have gotten a decent education. They all have become educated.
Interviewer: Where did they go to college?
Derrow: Charles went to the University of Michigan and is a very active
alumnus. Martin went to Ohio State University and Ohio State Medical School.
Charles went to Ohio State Medical School. Sandy went to Miami University of
Ohio and did extremely well with the . . . . you know when she graduated from
there kids were not, the year she graduated, nobody was getting a job. She got a
job right away and never stopped. And she got a job, not as a waitress. I mean
she got a job in her field immediately. Andy went, Andy wanted to study vocal music and he did. He went to Eastland School of Music in Rochester for one year. He was accepted for the second year. Wanted to become an opera singer. He returned. Andy has always been extremely mature about his choices. Of all my children, he’s the one who thinks, really knows what he’s about. And I say that and they would agree. Andy wanted to study vocal music. He also decided that he probably was not going it to make it to the Met and he did not want to settle for the Peoria Opera Company. Those were his words. So he decided to go to Ohio State and he got a business, his degree in business and then got a, his graduate degree from Northwestern Kellogg School. Philip graduated from Ohio State University. We’re very happy Philip graduated.
Interviewer: Period, huh?
Derrow: Period. By the time I was having to deal with Philip as a teen-ager,
I was tired.
Derrow: And my . . . .
Interviewer: Was he a little more of a challenge?
Derrow: He was, all of my children were a challenge. Philip was one of the
bigger challenges. Philip just, you know, well first of all, I was older. And it’s
like I was tired and I ran out of patience before I ran out of children. That
was the problem. But we survived. And my feeling is if you survive, that’s
Interviewer: Yeah, a good sign. Did you become a part of the community in
terms of . . . .
Derrow: Yes I joined, I was open as my mother told me, you know. “They’re
getting along just fine without you.” You know, the community was not
waiting for Muriel to show up. So yes, I joined Hadassah and that’s where I
first met you and I met your Aunt Dora, of blessed memory.
Interviewer: Dora Abrams?
Derrow: Dora Abrams. And I remember her so well. I remember those early
meetings. They were such fun. There was such cordiality.
Interviewer: Dora had her style too which . . . .
Derrow: Well it was, everybody who was involved then, everybody was so intent
on doing good. I can remember all the meals that she prepared, I remember what
she looked like and how warm and welcoming she was. So I joined Hadassah. I had
never been a member of Hadassah before. In Fairlawn I was a member of ORT. I was
a, actually I was a Vice-President or ORT. But I was never big on, I really didn’t
have the time. You know you have to have time to do things . . . . didn’t have
Interviewer: We were on some responsible committees together.
Derrow: Yes, well I got involved and I also got involved with the Sisterhood.
I was either chauffeuring children or doing something with children . . . .
Interviewer: Which synagogue did you join?
Derrow: Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: You were always at Tifereth Israel?
Derrow: Always at Tifereth Israel. And we almost didn’t join because the man who came to interview us, I didn’t even know that you had to be accepted. I thought that if you wanted to join, you joined. I didn’t know that there was a . . . .
Interviewer: I didn’t know that either. That’s new.
Derrow: Well you know, I just thought you go, you say, “I’m
here,” you know, and “I’d like to become a member of your
congregation,” and they say, “Okay, the dues are so much.”
Interviewer: That’s what I thought.
Derrow: Well that wasn’t the way it worked in our case. What the hell was
his name, Joe Kass.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Sounds like a country club, you know, you . . . .
Derrow: It was, it was really weird. Actually I almost threw him out of the
house because I had no desire, I mean I don’t take that kind of stuff
comfortably. He was very, very, and it was a very unpleasant interview and we
both, David and I were kind of aghast at this. We were being interviewed as to
whether our membership was going to be accepted and it’s like, I never heard
of this. Where I come from, that didn’t happen.
Interviewer: Yeah I didn’t know it happened here either frankly.
Derrow: Well it was Joe Kass, I think they, he was trying to determine what
level our dues was going to be or som—, I don’t know what excuse he gave.
But he finally said, “Okay,” you know, that he would recommend us in
the Con—. I had no idea that that happened. None. And I told David, one more
minute and I was going to invite him to leave.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And it turns out that you both and your family have
become valuable members of the Congregation.
Derrow: Well yeah but it’s like, it was, and we have always enjoyed that
Interviewer: David has really made his mark there with . . . .
Derrow: Absolutely. And he’s going to be honored in a few weeks . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us what his specialty is.
Derrow: His specialty is sounding the shofar which he does magnificently. But
he has retired from that position (“That must be David. David? He answers,
“Yes”. “Just in time.) David . . . . sound the shofar. He’s
going to be honored. The annual function that they have for the Seminary, the
Jewish Theological Seminary, David is going to be the honoree this year and we’re
very pleased about that. Yes we have, we are, neither one of us are frum
in any sense of the word. We do keep a kosher home and I wouldn’t have it any
Interviewer: Well you certainly are traditional.
Derrow: We are traditional but that word is.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And your children probably are?
Derrow: My children . . . .
Interviewer: Carry on?
Derrow: three of my children are married to, two of my sons, Andrew and
Philip are married to young women who are converts and both charming additions
to our family. Sandy’s husband is not Jewish. He’s a lovely man with two
very nice daughters. But they, their wedding was, they did have a Jewish wedding
in Austin. It was beautiful and we are very comfortable with that situation. And
Keith, that’s Sandy’s husband, has said if they should in fact have any
children, he has abso- lutely no objection to them being raised as Jews. That
likelihood is not likely but it could happen. Look we got Anna Eve.
Interviewer: Yeah that’s pleasant.
Derrow: And Anna Eve is named for David’s mother Anna and my mother Eve.
Interviewer: So she’s added . . . .
Derrow: And we are very happy . . . .
Interviewer: she’s added another dimension to your . . . .
Derrow: We are so thrilled with her. She’s a doll.
Interviewer: That’s great. And she lives close by . . . .
Derrow: She lives close by.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I think we’re going . . . .
Derrow: I was also President of Hadassah, the Columbus Chapter of Hadassah,
for one term and I found that to be a very rewarding experience. However when I
stopped being President, I really wanted out of all organizational work and I
just did not continue. I had had it with meetings. And I have not . . . .
Interviewer: Where did you divert your energy?
Derrow: I started grad school. I enjoy going to the University. I have taken
numerous courses there in Languages and in Psychology and for a brief time I was
in the Master’s Program of the School of Social Work. That didn’t pan out
but I still continue to go back to school and I could have a, I love the freedom
of being able to take what I want to take and do what I want to do. I’m very
jealous of my time. I don’t have that much time.
Interviewer: Well you enjoy yourself in other ways as well?
Derrow: But we like, we travel as much as we can.
Interviewer: Do you want to tell us about your travels or should we let David
elaborate on that?
Derrow: I can tell you some of it. We have always enjoyed traveling. David
and I happen to have a very good time with each other which is the first
imporatant requirement. We do not travel in groups unless we have to. We have,
we started taking cruises in 1996 and we started with a fabulous world cruise
which I will never get over, never ever. It was fabulous. We were gone for three
and a half months and we had a marvelous time. It was on that cruise that, you
know, if I ever didn’t think that I had had a wonderful, charmed life, I
really realized that my life has been very, very good.
Interviewer: Where did this cruise take you to?
Derrow: Around the world. Starting in Los Angeles and ending in London. Going by the Suez Canal. We were in lots of places, too numerous to enumerate.
Interviewer: Before we go . . . .
Derrow: I just wanted to say on that cruise we saw things and people, human
beings, living in conditions that boggle the mind, they are so primitive and so
I more than, you know, I felt so, one of the most . . . . one of the most
enobling experiences in my life and one of the most humbling because, you know,
how come I was so lucky to be born here now in this country in this century. My
parents were, those who came to this country were so wonderful.
Interviewer: Made you appreciate?
Derrow: Well I’ve always appreciated. I never really saw it in terms so
stark. It could have been, there are so many things that human beings . . . . I
felt . . . . have to feel like a prince or a princess.
Derrow: It’s really . . . . absolutely. And we are the elite of the world,
I mean the elite as far as having a good life is concerned. I’m not talking
about any power or anything like that. But certainly we have . . . .
Interviewer: But you’ve taken advantage of learning how to enjoy it and . .
Derrow: We enjoy, yes.
Interviewer: And a lot of people that are in a position where they could do
all these things and we don’t have that ability to put it together and . . . .
Derrow: Well David and I are very fortunate that we have each other and we
have the, as I said before, we’ve been married for 52 years, it’s going to
be 53. We still somehow manage to enjoy being with each other. We enjoy taking
automobile trips, we really enjoy that. I especially enjoy it because David does
the driving and I . . . .
Interviewer: Sure. He needs a co-pilot.
Derrow: Well he’s not comfortable being a co-pilot so I let him be the
pilot and . . . .
Interviewer: And you’ve taken some trips let’s see, around the world.
Derrow: Yes we went around South America which was also a fabulous
experience. And we’re going, we have, coming up we have a cruise in August
around the British Isles and then our big trip this year starts in December in
Australia. It’s also a cruise. We’re going to go on two cruises. The first
cruise is called the Holiday Cruise and that one starts in Australia and ends in
New Zealand, but we’re staying on the ship. And then the second cruise is the
Millenium Cruise and we start that in New Zealand and we will, on the Millenium
on New Year’s Eve, we will be somewhere on or near the International Date
Interviewer: How exciting that will be.
Derrow: Yeah. And it’s going to be, I’m sure, a great time on board the
ship. All our children are getting together and going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming,
to celebrate Philip’s birthday. All the children and as many grandchildren as can get away are going to go there.
Interviewer: When is this?
Derrow: Philip was born December 31st.
Derrow: So he’s, there’s going to be a big party there.
Interviewer: And you won’t be there.
Derrow: No we will not be there. We made our plans about three years ago.
When we first heard about the Millenium Cruise was when we decided to do it. And
we are very excited about it. No we won’t be there, and we’ll miss that but
Philip has managed to spend the last many years skiing on his birthday and we
have not been there so he’s used to it.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well I’m sure they’ll remember you and talk to you.
Derrow: Well we have to, I mean, after all if they didn’t be here . . . .
Interviewer: That’s right, that’s right. They owe you a lot.
Derrow: . . . . our parents.
Derrow: . . . . our lives, they were the same.
Interviewer: For sure, for sure. But it’s nice that they will all be
together. That’s great.
Derrow: We’re pleased with that.
Interviewer: Oh yeah, yeah. Do you have opportunitites to get together other
than Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, or do you . . . .
Derrow: Well we were just down in Texas together, the family was there and
that was wonderful.
Interviewer: Sandy’s wedding?
Derrow: Sandy’s wedding. And the opportunities are not nearly as many as I
would like. Well life is, in this particular instance, everyone is someplace else. But the children keep in touch with each other. They keep in touch with us and I think that’s the best we can do at this time.
Interviewer: Oh sure, sure. When your children were younger did you go on
trips with them, vacations?
Derrow: We couldn’t afford to very often. We did take a couple of very nice
vacations but our vacations were not, we couldn’t do that. That’s why we’re
trying to get even now.
Interviewer: Oh yeah. Now you’re making up for it?
Interviewer: Well you mentioned the house you lived in on Spartan. What other
homes did you live in?
Derrow: In Columbus?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Derrow: Well after we left Spartan Drive we built a house in Windrush Creek
which was a big house with a lot of entertaining spaces, huge. And we left there
five and a half years ago to move to New Albany.
Interviewer: Where you are now?
Derrow: Where we are now. And I am not a mover. I do not like to move. I will
not move again unless I have my back against the wall. I mean, nothing is
forever, I mean, I didn’t, expect that I hate moving.
Interviewer: Yeah well there’s nothing pleasurable about it. But you have a
beautiful home here and you are enjoying your life in New Albany?
Derrow: I am enjoying my life enormously. I work out. I try very hard to keep
active both mentally and physically. But more of a challenge mentally than
Interviewer: Well I can appreciate that too. I’m trying to, ready to wind
up. Okay. I think we’ve had a real interesting, you’ve given us a lot of
good history and background of your family and I really appreciate it. But there
are a couple of more things that maybe you could help us with. You have great
recall and we don’t all have that ability to recall. Can you tell us a little
bit about, I’m just going to spend a few minutes on this, about how things
were when you were very young in terms of radio programs and . . . .
Derrow: Oh sure. Well I used to listen to, we all listened to the radio. And
I had favorite radio programs. There was Uncle Don who was a big favorite when I
was a very little girl. The radio was really new at that time. Everybody
listened to Amos and Andy and there was Mert and Marge and then there were the
really soap operas: Our Gal Sunday. I was sick. I had a long illness when I was
ten years old. I was quite sick. And during the period of time, I was laid up
for about three months, and I’d listen to all the soap operas. Going back to
school was a real problem. Then there was Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy
and there was wonderful radio programs. There was the Mystery Theaters and there
was the Lux Playhouse which would do, and these were all live, which would do
dramas on Monday nights. And, but I told you before, I had a very enriched life
culturally. My mother was determined that I would have every opportunity to,
actually to be a star. I disappointed her in that regard . . . .
Interviewer: But not . . . .
Derrow: Anway she gave me every, she, if there was something to learn, she
was right there with the opportunity. I had piano lessons. I started elocution
lessons. I didn’t continue with those. Everybody was taking elocution lessons
then. Dancing lessons. I did not like to perform so I stopped that. So the only
thing I really continued for any length of time was the piano which I did enjoy
after a while.
Interviewer: But it helped to have this appreciation for the arts.
Derrow: Well not only that. My mother felt that an accomplished woman knows
how to do things much better. An accomplished woman also knows how to keep house
and how to sew, which I never learned how to do, and my mother just was, you
know, you just, you should be able to go anywhere, as she did without any
schooling. She could go anywhere. She could meet the Pope, I told you. And she
would be totally comfortable. My mother was in awe of no one.
Interviewer: I think that with all the valuable information you have given us
and we greatly appreciate this, I think to wind up maybe I can ask you to give
us some message for future generations. We’re reaching the end of this
millenium which is certainly historical and exciting. But can you . . . .
Derrow: I have no message. I think that I feel, I have no message. I’m not
Interviewer: Okay. Well I think your life has been a message. Learn to live
Derrow: I’ve done, I’m happy to say I have lived my life as Frank Sinatra
said, “my way”. Mostly my way anyway. I try hard.
Interviewer: That’s an accomplishment.
Derrow: And I feel good about where I am in life.
Interviewer: That’s as much as you can ask for.
Derrow: I don’t like the fact that it’s, you know, dwindling or the
months go by very rapidly.
Interviewer: Yeah time goes faster doesn’t it? Kind of runs from us.
Derrow: It’s speeding away.
Interviewer: I can understand that, appreciate that.
Derrow: And I really find that very disconcerting
Interviewer: Well on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want
to thank you for this time that we’ve spent together. I’ve really enjoyed it…
Interviewer: and appreciate your time and . . . .
Derrow: My pleasure and I hope I don’t bore the transcriber.
Interviewer: Not at all. Not at all.
Derrow: It’s really such an ordinary story but I know everyone’s life is.
Interviewer: Well but you’ve recalled a lot of interesting . . . .
Derrow: Well I have, I do happen to have, even, I have always had a very long
memory. My mother couldn’t get over the things that I would remember. There
are – you can shut that off.