Interview with Nate Radzek on September 27, 1983 by Art Levy. This interview is taking place at the Heritage House, Room 79, Columbus, Ohio, as part of the Oral History Project of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.
Interviewer: Nate will be 90 years old next month, October, 1983. Nate, tell me about your boyhood in Poland and about your family.
Radzek: Well I was left orphaned, both me and my brother.
Interviewer: Was your brother older or younger?
Radzek: He was about three or three-and-a-half years older. We were orphans when my parents died during an epidemic.
Interviewer: How old were you when they died?
Radzek: When they died I was not quite a year old and my brother was about 3 ‘/2 years old.
Interviewer: What was the epidemic?
Radzek: Cholera epidemic. Of course I had two sets of grandparents. My father’s side was much older. And my mother’s side was younger, at least 20 year younger. So they decided that my brother would go to the older ones and I would go to my mother’s side. They took me and raised me.
Interviewer: What did your father do for a living? Do you remember?
Radzek: He was educated but in Europe they liked a son to be a rabbi. He was. That was what I was told. He graduated to be a rabbi, he got his certificate to be a rabbi but after he got married, my father didn’t like being a rabbi. A rabbi people. The rabbi is the keeper of donations from the people. To him, it looked like he was living on charity. He just didn’t like it so my grandparents who gave him the education to be a rabbi, they didn’t like it. I was told my father told my grandfather, “I don’t like to live on donations.” My grandfather on my mother’s side was pretty well fixed. He was in the money. He was a business man and he traveled. He traveled in Germany, Belgium. He, at that time, was a tannery.
Interviewer: He tanned hides?
Radzek: He was an expert. He used 14 or 15 different varieties of leather. That kind of leather was the important…………………………………………………… for our country. You had to have harnesses for horses to pull a wagon, harnesses to pull a tractor, leather to make boots, shoes, etc. Every piece of leather had to be cured, in the oven for strength, flexibility. Understand? He was an expert and people, you might say, stood in line for my grandfather to sell them the merchandise. He couldn’t make it fast enough because he furnished harnesses for saddles of all kinds. You know, over there, at that time, they were what you call They owned maybe a thousand or two thousand acres and they had a lot of peasants living there. They had all kinds of harness making. They had an opera house on the premises at that time. They used to own beautiful carriages, beautiful horses. You know, my grandfather was so important, they used to come over there and invite my grandfather and grandmother and take them to the opera house and stay there overnight and then take them back home.
Interviewer: Did your father go to work for your grandfather?
Radzek: No. I’ll tell you what my grandfather on my mother’s side did. He bought my father a business. It just happened that there was family, two girls and a boy. They had a business there – a thriving business. I don’t remember what business it was. The boy went to America and left the two sisters there with the business. One girl got married and they ran the business. Pretty soon one girl sold out to the other girl. Then the married couple didn’t like it and they decided they’d like to go to America.
To buy a business like that, you’ve got to have money. Not everybody had money at that time. My grandfather found out about the business. He turned around, bought the business and gave it to my father. The way I was told, he bought the business, he gave them so much down and told them you must stay in the business for so long and teach him and explain to him how to run the business.
Interviewer: Than you said the epidemic came.
Radzek: Then all of a sudden, the epidemic came and it took away my father, then my mother died and about 90 miles from there, my mother’s sister (she was the oldest) died.
Interviewer: How old were your parents at that time?
Radzek: I’ll tell you how old they were. There were two girls and a boy. My mother had a brother and a sister. My mother was the youngest in the family. She couldn’t be any more than 20 years old.
Interviewer: And your father?
Radzek: My father was the older but my mother couldn’t be any older than about 20. I’l tell you why. Her brother left that town because a little piece of that part belonged to Russia. At that time, when you were 21 years old, you had to go into the service. So he didn’t want to go. At that time, you had to serve five years and before you got out, it was maybe six years So my uncle didn’t like that. He took some money from my grandfather and he want to America. This happened before I was even born. He couldn’t have been very old – he was going on 21 so my mother wasn’t any more than 20 years old. And my mother’s sister was the oldest.
Interviewer: How old were you when you came to the United States?
Radzek: I will tell you. I was already a pretty good age – 16 or 17 years old.
Interviewer: What about school?
Radzek: I went to school in Europe. Let me tell you about my grandfather. When I got to be school age, the first thing they did was send me to Cheder, religious school. When I started religious school, I was already able to say my prayer, maybe three prayers. Over bread, over wine. My grandmother used to take me by the hand -1 was maybe six years old when I started to go to Cheder. I went to Cheder. I think, until I was eight years old. You asked me about my holiday and I could tell you why this holiday is. I could even write Jewish pretty good. I could write my address in Polish. I’ll never forget, my grandfather, who was Orthodox, religious but not fanatic, was sitting and eating after Ma ‘ariv and he made a remark to my grandmother. He said, “You know what I’m going to do?” My name was originally Naphtali. You know what it means in Jewish? In Jewish, in English, it’s pronounced the same way. Only thing is, in Europe an I is an E. I had a teacher when I went to school who asked me a lot of questions. He said, “If I were you, I would go right back to your name.”
So my grandfather said to my grandmother, “I’m going to enroll him in public school. He’s got enough Jewish education now. I want him to know what’s going on in the world. I want him to be able to read and write and be able to read a paper and know
what’s going on. Yiddish is no language. It’s a made-up language.” So my grandfather
enrolled me in public school. In the meantime, where my brother lived……..
Interviewer: Did he live near you? In the same city?
Radzek: About half a block away.
Interviewer: What city was that?
Radzek: It’s called………. You can see my citizen papers. Anyhow, he enrolled me but in the meantime, there was another son where my brother lived. See my father’s brother was the youngest. He was a big guy – I’ll bet he weighed 185-190 pounds – an overgrown boy. He turned around and started to go with girls.
Interviewer: Jewish girls?
Radzek: Yes. He picked up Jewish girls. So I’ll tell you what happened. My brother told me this because I didn’t live there. My grandmother, one time in the evening, made a remark, “Herman, why don’t you date a girl in your own class? Look at the beautiful girls in that city. Nice, beautiful, respectable girls. There for the asking. They’d go out with you. I’m sure they would. Why pick on her? She is no good.” That’s what my brother told me my grandmother said. He was a good looking and husky boy. You know, a boy that age, when he sees a girl, she gives a smile at him, he likes to have it right away. My brother told me, “She probably gives him all he wants,” and he told me there was no other girl that had what…. my brother was smart. Two or three months later, he disappeared. My aunt, my father’s sister, who was a younger girl, stayed home. She was a beautiful girl. In the meantime, she had a lot of cousins. One of them settled in Denver, Colorado, and had four boys. Another one settled in Ohio, and he was the youngest one. Anyhow, he disappeared. He took six or eight months. Then she received a letter from him from England. That’s where he was
Interviewer: Did you go to school then?
Radzek: Yes, I went to school. I was already in the third grade. Could write Polish pretty good already.
Interviewer: When you were in the third grade, how old were you at that time. Did you quit school?
Radzek: No, I didn’t quit. My brother learned it in America too quick. Anyhow, my grandmother’s brother Ben left the same time I was born. He left our town when he was only six years old. His parents took him to Germany. They left him there with a friend. He went to school and was raised in Germany. His other brother, who was already married and had four little children, no girls, went in the Cheder with my father. They were first cousins. All of a sudden, he disappeared, took the family and went to Germany, too. I don’t know why. He settled and then moved to Colorado. Well, I didn’t know him even though he was an uncle of mine. He went to England. Finally he got tired of living in England. I guess things didn’t go so good for him. He was a good mechanic so he wrote to my grandmother’s brother who had settled in Ohio. Do you know why he settled in Ohio? At that time, it was during Alexander the Great. When boys were eight years old, they gook them into the army and the boys stayed there for 40 years. So that’s why he went to Germany and he was raised there. There were more boys in the family, so when he raised up, he decided to go to America. He settled in Ohio. Do you know where he settled first? East of here. Across from Gahanna was a little town. That’s where he settled first. From there he came to Columbus. He was single then. Then he married a cantor’s daughter.
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Radzek: Yes, in Columbus. I got this from my brother. Of course, he used to see my Uncle Benjamin pretty often. He had a nice family. One son who I met later when I came here, his name was Charles Frosh and he was a doctor of medicine. He had a couple of girls. One girl, Helen, the youngest, taught music. The other girls, the older one, married a Jewish fellow. A Hungarian. You know who the Hungarian fellow was? You know the shul down there on Broad Street near Wilson?
Interviewer: Tifereth Israel?
Radzek: He gave that ground. He was a Hungarian with two brothers. He married my second cousin. He was in the liquor business. The Hungarian Shul used to be on Parsons Avenue near Main Street on the east side of the street. He didn’t like it there. He made some money so he bought that mansion on Broad Street and he bought that ground and built the Hungarian Shul. Then he took my aunt on a world tour. They went all over the civilized world: England, Egypt, Berlin, Holland. He took pictures of the old shuls wherever he went. He brought home from Holland certain pictures but they didn’t let them go through, because they had certain walls. See, these were old paintings. The government said you could take pictures but no paintings. These were beautiful paintings of the old shuls, rabbis. He wanted to get it but couldn’t go through. He wouldn’t go against the government. When they came home, he wanted to start the shul. He gave the shul $50,000 to get started.
Interviewer: That was a lot of money in those days.
Radzek: You’re darn right it was a lot of money. But he was making a lot of money. He had nine liquor stores.
Some of the Wasserstroms used to run some of his stores. Golden used to run his liquor stores. He had valuable
real estate. He owned the corner drugstore on High Street, the southeast corner. It must have been a three-story
building. He had a beautiful saloon at that time and was doing a thriving business. I’ll tell you what happened. He
had a skylight there.
In the winter time when there was snow on the ground, he called the roofer and the roofer said, “I can’t do anything until the snow melts. As soon as the sun comes out, we can fix it.” He had a different idea. He took a broom and shoveled the snow – there would be less water going.
You could still find out, if you go to the shul. I belong to B’nai B’rith. We used to meet there after the shul was finished. It was a beautiful place. I went there to Judy’s wedding.
Interviewer: That’s my brother-in-law’s daughter.
Radzek: Yes, Al’s daughter. I’ll never forget, his mother was still living at that time. I was sitting with her. So this gives you an idea of who I am. So finally the shul was built. If you go there, you can read the bronze square. You know the two brothers. One of them married my second cousin. His name is Emil Kohn. He had a younger brother who was an attorney. I found out, since I’ve been here, his younger brother’s wife is down here. Lou Robbins told me. I met him at the funeral when Kohn’s wife got killed. I knew his wife before he knew here. She lived with two sisters. They both almost looked alike. They lived in Fulton Street, not far from where I lived. I lived on Fulton Street and 72 South Monroe Avenue. She lived close.
Interviewer: Fulton and Monroe?
Radzek: I lived on Monroe. Every time I went to work, I went to the corner; I always went by, just to see him. Lou Robbins, when I met him there, he told me, Mr. Kohn’s wife is in Heritage House. I knew her when she was a girl. She had black hair and she was an attractive girl. She worked in an office; she was a typist, shorthand. So I figured I’d like to get better acquainted with her. Do you know why? Her husband used to come to my store to see me and my brothers. He was looking after us.
Interviewer: That’s Mr. Kohn?
Radzek: Yes, Mr. Kohn. That’s Emil’s brother. He used to come in; he used to like to play golf. Every day he’d come in with a big smile and he’d ask my brother if we needed any help or anything. He and a lot of his friends who lived in Bexley used to be our customers and they used to come in the store more often. They used to get information on one another. If I needed any help, I could get it – indirectly or directly. So last minute, they always watched over us. I could tell. I handled the public all my life. When I came over here, I brought some money. My grandfather gave me twenty dollar gold pieces.
Interviewer: About how many did he give you?
Radzek: I really don’t know but I had enough to live for one-and-a-half years on it. Tell you what I did. I was already civilized. When I left he gave me some money. In the meantime, my uncle in New York, my mother’s brother, he left there before I was born. When I left, I got his address. I had three girlfriends in Europe before I left. Nice kids. I know one of them since she was about six years old. She and I went to Cheder. When I was walking by the picket fence, there was a little girl in a modest dress. You know that girl – the neighbors later told me – she had cheeks hanging down so heavy, she was a freak. To me, it was something I couldn’t make out if she was a boy or a girl. I found out later, her mother used to take her for a walk twice a day, she was so heavy. A couple minutes later, I stopped and looked and I saw she had a nice braid in her hair. That’s how I found out she was a girl. Then I met two girls – sisters who lived about four or five blocks away. They had a beautiful store – a ladies store. Everything you would want. Beautiful. They were so lit up. Modern gaslights. It was so bright, you have no idea. You think this light is bright? I stopped and talked to the girls and the girls talked to me. Nice kids. Good looking. But their mother was just entirely different. She saw me talking to the girls and told me to go away. Their mother was a good looking lady. Their father smoked beautiful, expensive cigarettes. They had one boy and he was my brother’s friend. They went to Cheder together. Through my brother, I used to sneak in and see the girls. I used to play baseball. Every time I’d get out of public school, we’d get boys together to play ball – they were all Gentile – and those girls used to watch me playing ball.
Interviewer: They liked you, huh?
Radzek: That’s not liking. They were healthy-looking kids about maybe six months younger than
I was. They were already getting mature but nice kids. The family mostly………. through the brother. That’s old tradition. Pretty soon my uncle, the fellow that was in England, was dissatisfied so he wrote to my uncle in America to come over there to……………………………………………… and he found out what happened to my father and mother because his sister used to communicate with him. When he passed away he left that kind, he was way advanced.
Interviewer: You said your brother would always come down and see you right after school.
Radzek: Right after school. Every time he would get out of school, we walked right down there together. He liked fishing and swimming. We lived close to a river where I was raised. He’d jump into the river. Could he swim!! I was going to school, probably second grade. He was learning Talmud. He used to tell me stories about Talmud. To him it was like reading a good book. He explained to me what it contained and what it meant. Anything you’d want to know was in the Talmud. He got so advanced in the Talmud, his teacher used to let him teach someone else. I wouldn’t doubt that he knew more than his teacher.
My grandfather wheenmy brother stayed, they were not fortunate enough and they didn’t have the money. I’d come over there after school, first thing, my grandmother would do was cut off some bread and put some butter and all kinds of preserve. That bread was all homemade bread and baked with wood. A certain kind of bread. When I came out, my brother was me eating and said, “I’m hungry too.” So I’d break it in half and I’d holler to my grandmother that Louis is hungry too. She’d say, “Give him.” It didn’t take any time that my granmother would come out with a big slice of bread. We were together all the time.
Another thing he told me, he found out someone had a book which explained how Christ was born and everything fanatic religious people believe. You read that book, they’ll kill you. My brother told me he used to hide the book in the woodshed between the wood after he got through reading He used to tell me about this. When you study
Talmud, you got………. He could tell you all about any religion. The only religion he
couldn’t tell you about was Chinese and three or four Moslem religions. He knew every little detail about the Christian religion. The Christians never tried to get into a discussion with him. Only one fellow, they used to play cards together (there were eight fellows – all Gentiles), Wilbur Hutchinson. He was a commercial artist. He was the only one who would discuss world history. He was a helluva nice fellow. He was so
dedicated to me and my brother, finally he………. He didn’t work very much, maybe
five or six months out of the year, but he made more money, with his art than someone who worked all year. That Seal of Ohio – he drew that. He got a good price for it too.
He came in one day at lunch. We used to eat at…….. and Main Streets. They put out
Interviewer: What year was that?
Radzek: I’ll tell you the truth, that’s pretty hard to go back.
Interviewer: Before or after World War I?
Radzek: After World War I. It was after they closed up the liquor, too. I’ll tell you what
happened. We were coming………. I ate there pretty often; the girls knew me. So we sat
down there and we ordered our meat. They have regular books, slips, and we talked. Finally we got through eating. While we were waiting, he turned around, took the slip, took the pencil, and drew a picture of a beautiful, sexy girl. So she came back and wanted to know I we wanted anything else, dessert or something. He said, “Yes, I want some dessert. That’s what I want.” She saw the picture. You know what she did? She said, “Nobody is going to get that.”
Interviewer: Was there anti-Semitism over in Europe in those days?
Radzek: Yes. Those holy holidays – Christmas. We had to bolt them up – our windows. You
know what’s the matter? That’s the trouble with the religion. They teach in school that
Jews killed their god. Understand? They killed Christ and Christ is supposed to be their
god. What do you expect? When they go to church, they don’t speak Polish. Those
people are ignorant and they keep them ignorant. The priests speak Latin. What the hell
do they know? They don’t understand a damn thing. The only thing they know is…………
Interviewer: That’s called genuflect.
Radzek: Yes. And another thing, they had places in Poland where there are images………..
Interviewer: Outside? So they can pray?
Radzek: When they go by. Some go there and kiss the idol. Understand? It’s still going on in South America. Exactly the same.
Interviewer: What did the families do there in Poland?
Radzek: Farming. They were good farmers.
Interviewer: Did they get together and have dances? Did they go out together?
Radzek: You know what they did to get together? When the holiday came………
Interviewer: A Jewish holiday?
Radzek: No. They had holidays just as much as the Jews. Christmas – eight days. They have more holidays than the Jewish people.
Interviewer: What did the Jewish people do when they got together? Did they get together on Saturday night? Sunday afternoon?
Radzek: My grandfather, I’ll tell you what he was. We had a shul over there, better than Agudas Achim here. You should have seen the paintings -just like an opera house. You should have seen those chandeliers – crystal chandeliers. The most beautiful. You should have seen the gold. They got together and had drinks. There are two sets. Some are Orthodox, some are just fanatic. That’s what I hate. They pray, go out and steal, give to him and then you are a good man.
Interviewer: Are those the Jews or the Polish?
Radzek: No I am talking about the Jews.
Interviewer: Well, the Catholics have something similar. They have Confession.
Radzek: The Confession is a little different than this. When they go out and get drunk and maybe screw somebody, then they go to Confession. The priests make all kinds of money. They give the priest money and the priest forgives him so the next week he comes and brings a couple more dollars. Those Catholics, some of them have a pretty good education. The rich people go away to get their education.
Interviewer: When did you come to New York?
Radzek: I came to New York at around sixteen or seventeen years old.
Interviewer: What year was that?
Radzek: October, 1911.
Interviewer: Where did you come over to? New York?
Radzek: I stopped over in New York. I didn’t come directly to Columbus.
Interviewer: Where did you go?
Radzek: I went to see my uncle and I had an awful time. I’ll tell you what I had. I came on a luxury steamer, Crown Prince Wilhelm. I had plenty of money then. I even met a Jewish couple on the steamer. They came from Russia. I’ll tell you what happened. When the weather was bad, the waves were heavy and we got a little seasick. I couldn’t eat even when they handed it to me. When I traveled from Germany, I bought a bottle of spiced whiskey. I had it in my room. I took little nips when I was home. I knew how to handle it. But its much milder with spices. I couldn’t eat for days from being seasick. Finally the weather was nice and it settled down. I got up from my room and went out on the deck to get a little sunshine. There were chairs there. There was a tall young man with a good-looking girl. She was short. I heard them talking Yiddish. I became interested and finally I got next to them. They were sister and brother. I sat down next
to her. He was a……… Europe. He used to travel, work here and work there. So on the
ship, we had a lot of things to do, dances, music, singing. That fellow, the next day after we got acquainted, made the remark in Yiddish, “Take care of my sister.” He left and I was sitting there and looked around. I could tell she was so poor, poor as a church mouse. I could tell by her clothes but she was so beautiful and so nice. I told her I was going to the store and I’d be right back. They had stores on the ship. I brought back two big oranges. I mean nice ones. You never saw such nice ones. They got the best. So I brought two oranges. We used to get oranges through Israel once a year. A man down there with a store, he kept a lot of Israelis came to living down there, to call it Eretz Yisroel – that’s what they called it. A lot of that fruit, nuts, figs, came from Palestine. They brought whatever they could bring without it getting spoiled. I always had money. My grandfather always gave me money. So when I was on the ship, I had money and I bought two oranges. I gave the girl one. I took my orange and peeled it. She didn’t even know how to peel it. So I peeled it a little and then I told her to peel it. I told her that oranges are the best thing for you especially if you can’t eat. You know what she did? She ate half the orange and when her brother came down, she gave him the other half. You see, you could tell how close and what kind of family they were. Then in a couple more days, after all, I had someone to talk to, I bought two big almond bars. She knew what that was because she knew chocolate. I ate mine but she just ate half. When her brother came, she gave him the other half. One time we were talking and pretty soon, she got tired and she fell asleep. She fell asleep on my shoulder and slept for an hour. I didn’t even want to disturb her. I’m just telling about this experience.
One mistake I made was, I didn’t get her address, where she was going. I lost her when we came to Ellis Island. The ship arrived in the evening, just after it got dark so the captain said we couldn’t get off. We’d sleep on the ship and get off in the morning. In the meantime, the ship was still and I had a pretty good night’s sleep. My stomach quieted down a little bit. Finally we went out there into a big reception room. I mean it was large. Signs. Any language you wanted. I saw Jewish and I went to the Jewish sign. You could see Polish, Russian, Slavic, anything. I went down there and the first thing I saw was a big pie, it had a heavy crust everywhere. It reminded me ofstrudel in the home. I bought the pie and I bought a bottle of pop. I had plenty of money.
In the meantime, two men came to me. They said, “Vi gayst du? (Where are you going?)” I didn’t answer. Finally they asked me again; see the other one was watching you should go to the right place. I said, “I’m going to see my uncle. He’s in New York.” My papers said I was supposed to go to Ohio. I told them. “I’m going to Columbus, Ohio later. I’m going to see my uncle first.” Do you think they wouldn’t let me? They. …. nothing. So I said, “No, I’m not going to Ohio. I’m going to New York to see my uncle.” I took out my address book and said, “That’s where I’m going.” They started arguing with me. They said, “You’re supposed to go to Columbus, Ohio.” They started to call the Pennsylvania office so I snuck away. They caught me and I said, “I’m not going to Columbus, Ohio.” Finally they called a taxi and told him, “Take him to this address, if nobody’s home, bring him right back.” He asked me if I had any money and I said, “Yes”. So I went there in the taxi and soon we arrived at my uncle’s house. I looked up and recognized the number which I had in my pocket. It was a four-family duplex, two up and two down. The taxi driver followed me in. A lady was just walking out from upstairs. She could have been around sixty years old. So I made the remark to her, “Does Mr. Moskowitz live here?” She said, “Yes, number drei (three).” Finally I went up, rang the bell and my aunt answered the door. She recognized me right away. She’d seen me when I was pretty little when she went to New York. She didn’t go to New York right away, my uncle went first and then sent after her. So she knew right away who I was. She grabbed me and kissed me. She didn’t ask any questions, nothing. She just took me in. I paid the taxi driver. She just kept talking, all in Yiddish. I wish I could understand half the Yiddish. In the meantime, she was making lunch for me while she was talking. And I didn’t even feel like eating. I had the pie. Anyhow, I just wanted to tell you the difference in people.
I stayed there about two weeks. I was there two days when my cousin came home from school and my aunt said, “Take him for a walk. Show him how we live in America.” She spoke in Yiddish. He took me in the streets to walk. Those sidewalks were so crowded with people. All kinds of customs, all kinds of different people. I even saw rabbis with yarmalkas in what they call Shamus, one side and another on the other side. You hand them a quarter or fifty cents and they complain. That kind of people.
So finally I came back from dinner with my uncle. In about three days, I told my uncle, “I want to buy an American suit.” I had nice clothes but when I saw people with their clothes, I didn’t like mine. They dressed differently. They looked different. He understood. The next day he took me where he bought his clothes to a street named Delancey Street where there were all kinds of clothing stores. He took me over there to a big store. He suggested I buy a dark suit so I agreed. I liked snappy clothes. I tried it on, they took my measurements. They had about three tailors who shortened the sleeves, fixed the length of the pants. I was walking in the store. I bought socks, shoes and even underwear, shorts and ties. I put them on right there. Then I put on the tie. Then I said, “I want a hat.” My uncle suggested a certain kind of hat. I’ll never forget. It was a Royal Stetson, a real light-weight. He told me, “That’s the hat you should buy.” He showed me why. He took the hat, folded it up and stuck it in his pocket. He said, “If you go to a show, you can keep your hat in your pocket.” Then he took it out, opened it up and there were no wrinkles left. I put it on and bought that hat. Then I told him I wanted three handkerchiefs. He gave me a pack. Then I put on the trousers and took everything out from the other trousers. My uncle took out a roll of money and started to pay for it. I took him aside and told him, “I have money.” He said, “No, I’ll pay for it. You keep the money.” You know what I answered? “When I need money, I’ll write to you to send me some money.” He understood. I was no greenhorn anymore. I wore an American suit, an American hat and American shoes. I was up-to-date. Everything was fine.
Soon I wrote a letter to my brother in Columbus and I told him I was going to leave New York and come to Columbus. In the meantime, one time my cousin didn’t go to school in the morning. After we had breakfast, I saw my aunt give my cousin some money to take me out. We went to streetcars and we walked. Finally we went to Broadway. I didn’t know what Broadway was at that time. There were bright lights and we walked around. We went shopping. Then I saw people standing in three lines. I couldn’t figure out why they were standing there. So my cousin explained that they came over there to buy their tickets to go to a show. They had to do that, otherwise, the tickets would be sold out and they wouldn’t be able to get tickets. He explained everything to me in
Yiddish. We were killing time until it was finally time for lunch. We walked up there
and it was so big it looked like a football field. In the middle were little tables lined up.
Then he told me that when the time came at 12:00 o’clock, I would hear so much noise,
like a bunch of ducks and geese. Those girls would come down from those office
buildings to eat lunch and they would fight for tables. Sometimes two girls, sometimes a
boy with a girl. Most of them were girls – very few boys. I saw hundreds of………..
Interviewer: Nate, tell me why you came to Columbus. First, when did you come to Columbus. What year? Radzek: October 11,1911.
Interviewer: Why did you come to Columbus?
Radzek: My brother was here.
Interviewer: Why did he come?
Radzek: My father’s brother happened to be in Columbus at the time. When he came to America, he settled in Columbus. He was in business here.
Interviewer: What kind of business?
Radzek: He had a shop. He had a lot of people.
Interviewer: What kind of shop?
Radzek: Tailoring and contracting.
Interviewer: Like Mr. Rosen?
Radzek: Yes. Just exactly.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Radzek: Herman Radzek.
Interviewer: How long had he been here?
Radzek: In Columbus?
Interviewer: Yes. How long had your family been in Columbus when you came here?
Radzek: I couldn’t tell you exactly. My father’s brother went from Europe to England. He stayed in England at least five years. He didn’t like it over there. He had an uncle, my grandmother’s brother, living in Columbus.
Interviewer: Was it Frosh? They were furniture people, weren’t they?
Radzek: Their sons.
Radzek: Benjamin Frosh was his uncle so he was my great uncle, my grandmother’s brother.
Interviewer: Your family was here a long time then. How long were the Frosh’s here, do you know?
Radzek: This is history. I don’t know exactly. That’s what I should find out. Benjamin Frosh left Europe the same time that I was born. When he was six or seven years old, h is family took him to Germany and left him with family there. The family could have been a relation or just friends.
Interviewer: Why did they do that?
Radzek: Because they had to. Where we lived, Russia dominated the little piece of territory.
Interviewer: Was that when they were taking the boys…….. ?
Radzek: Alexander the Great………
Interviewer: Was that when they were taking boys in the army at about ten years old?
Radzek: Eight years old. When they were eight years old, they’d take them to the army and they stayed there forty years before they got out of the army. That was the way under Alexander the Great. So his family took him across to Germany and left him with a family. He went to school there and when he grew up, he left for America. When he came to America, he settled in Ohio. First he settled in Reynoldsburg. Then from there, he came to Columbus. He went into business over here and was successful in a tailoring business at that time. He probably learned that trade in Germany. At that time, you were a shoemaker or a tailor or a blacksmith. That was the condition at that time. When he came here, he was single but then he married a girl who was a cantor’s daughter.
Interviewer: When you say cantor, do you mean a cantor of a shaft
Radzek: That’s right.
Interviewer: I didn’t know if you meant that cantor was his last name.
Radzek: No, no. that’s who he met, a cantor’s daughter. My brother told me. They raised a family. When I came here, some of his family was married. The one I knew in later years was Dr. Charles Frosh, a son who was practicing medicine in Columbus. The youngest daughter, Helen, taught music at the time that I came here.
Interviewer: He came here inl910orl911 and had married children, then he must have come twenty or twenty-five years before the. Around 1880.
Radzek: Earlier than that. He had a grown son, Louis Frosh, who was at least forty years old.
Interviewer: Then he must have come at least fifty years before that. So you came in 1910; he must have been here around 1860.
Radzek: He was a young man. He could have been a teenager when he came to America.
Interviewer: What part of town did you live in when you came to Columbus? Where did you live?
Was it the East end? Around Washington? In through there?
Radzek: When I came to Columbus? My brother came first and there’s a whole story about my brother when he came here. H e lived with my uncle.
Interviewer: Your uncle Radzek?
Radzek: Herman Radzek and his wife was…………………..
Interviewer: That’s where you stayed when you first came?
Radzek: Yes. While he stayed there, he didn’t like it. He was mistreated.
Interviewer: Where was that in Columbus? What street?
Radzek: At the corner of Washington and Donaldson. No, it was on Parsons Avenue. I’ll tell you
exactly, almost the corner of Parsons and Livingston. He lived in the third house from
Livingston on Parsons, on the west side of the street. Interviewer: Is that south of Livingston? Radzek: Yes, south of Livingston. 491 Parsons Avenue. Interviewer: What synagogues were there? Radzek: My brother told me that when he came to Columbus, they were just starting to build the
Interviewer: Which one?
Radzek: Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: On Washington and Donaldson. What about the rest of them?
Radzek: They used to rent a couple of rooms upstairs. Interviewer: Do you know where upstairs? Mound and Washington?
Radzek: I couldn’t tell you exactly. Could have been on Main Street in someone’s home. Interviewer: Who were the rabbis in those days? Do you remember?
Radzek: I don’t remember. I knew one rabbi at one time who was a nice-looking fellow. He was married to a Schottenstein’s daughter.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Radzek: Not the Schottenstein, a relation. There was another Schottenstein – a redhead, big and tall. There used to be a Schottenstein business on Long Street. They had bicycles.
Interviewer: Columbus Cycles, I believe.
Radzek: This was years ago. They were pretty well fixed.
Interviewer: How about kosher butchers? Where were the kosher butchers in those days?
Radzek: They were spread out. Some were on Livingston Avenue, some on the corner of Mound and Washington.
Interviewer: What stores did you shop in? Lazarus? Were there other stores that you shopped in for clothes and shoes?
Radzek: Neighborhood stores.
Interviewer: Do you remember the names of any of them? Was Margulis one of them?
Radzek: Margulis was in later years. He was on Fifth and Livingston.
Interviewer: Do you remember the names of any of the stores?
Radzek: One store was on Livingston; it was like a department store.
Interviewer: Where on Livingston?
Radzek: East of Washington Avenue on the south side of the street, right on the corner of the east
side. The only thing I remember was the grocery store. Mr Mendelson had a grocery
Interviewer: Menselson’s was on the other side of the street.
Radzek: Yes, on the southeast corner. His son was a doctor. These people who owned the dry
goods store had three daughters.
Interviewer: You don’t remember their names?
Radzek: Yes, I knew then well. Rosenthal. He made a lot of money.
Interviewer: How about clubs? Did you belong to any clubs besides the fishing club?
Radzek: I used to belong to……… Zion. I was a Zionist.
Interviewer: You also sent pigeons over to………
Radzek: Yes, in 1950 sent some good birds to………. Of course, since they got modem radar____ . I gave pigeons to the United States twice.
Interviewer: I saw the letter.
Radzek: A letter. A certificate from the government. I got two of them.
Interviewer: Were there any other Jewish people in the pigeon club?
Radzek: Only one. When I came in to fly pigeons, he was going out.
Interviewer. Who was that?
Interviewer: Mr. Winters?
Radzek: Yes. I forgot his name. A nice fellow. He had a brother but he was the younger one. I think he lived on 22nd Street too. Hs lived on the same side where the Rosens lived but he lived three or four blocks north. He had a pigeon loft. He just quit. I don’t know why. Things changed and he quit. Interviewer: Did you tell me on the first tape that Mr. Frosh donated the land that Tifereth Israel is on now?
Radzek: No. Interviewer: Who was it? Radzek: His son-in-law.
Interviewer: What was his name?
Radzek: Emil Kohn.
Interviewer: Was he an insurance man?
Radzek: He was a philanthropist. He was in the liquor business. He was killed.
Interviewer: Yes. You told me about that. He fell through the skylight. I think we must have put that
on the first tape. How about politics? Were you ever interested in politics? Did you
ever do anything besides vote?
Radzek: Once in a while I donated some money to Ohio State University when they built the stadium.
Interviewer: Wasn’t the engineer a customer of yours?
Radzek: Yes. Edgar Leighton, he built the stadium. He was our customer.
Interviewer: I think you mentioned on the other tape that you had a tailor shop in Bexley on the right hand side of the street. What was the number there?
Radzek: It was on the south side of the street.
Interviewer: First you were in business in Columbus on Miller and Main.
Radzek: Then I moved to Bexley. I had to move to 2505 East Main Street. It’s right where you come from north to Cassingham and go right into my store. We were there maybe ten years. When things started to change and rent was so high, I was going to quit the business. But I got acquainted with a gentleman, old man Henley and he owned the property east on Montrose and Main. We got acquainted when he bought me some work so I was talking to him and said, “Mr. Henley, I would’t mind renting on of your stores when it becomes empty.” He was a nice old man and he was getting pretty old then. I’ll betcha he was 80 years old. So we talked – he liked baseball land I liked baseball and we discussed baseball. He was retired.
Interviewer: His name was Henley? Was that real estate?
Radzek: No. He was a plumber. He owned all the good property. One of the rabbis lived in one of his properties on Bryden Road. He had a beautiful home there. Later on, in the two story on the corner, Zettler had one. Not this Zettler. There used to be a Zettler all by himself. His uncle Mithoff wanted me to………. They owned the building where you are in business.
Interviewer: Main and High?
Radzek: Yes. They owned the building right there. His nephew opened up that house in Bexley where Henley had the two storerooms.
Interviewer: He was on the corner and yours……..
Radzek: Isaly’s was on the corner.
Interviewer: Ice cream?
Radzek: Ice cream and cheese. They had a store on the comer and in the middle, next door to the west, there was a hardware store.
Interviewer: Wasn’t that where your store was?
Radzek: Yes. I had the middle one, then I got the store. That Mithoff was a nephew who owned the building. His uncle put him in the business. They were in the hardware business too. They could have been wholesale at that time but they were getting out of it. He put his nephew in it. He gave him money and merchandise. He was a young fellow and wasn’t even married yet. He was just eating and drinking and spending money. So finally, things changed and a jewelry store got in there. It was well known on the south side.
Interviewer: What was the name?
Radzek: I don’t remember the name. Scubert or Schneider. I don’t remember. He was the one who was doing good there and he was there a long time and he was successful. In the meantime, you know Fred Munch?
Radzek: He and his wife came to Columbus to the east end.
Interviewer: Yes, but he wasn’t in Bexley, was he? He was at Miller and Main.
Radzek: Yes, he came to Miller and Main. I’m talking about Miller and Main.
Interviewer: I thought you were talking about Bexley.
Radzek: No, Miller and Main. His was two storerooms near Kelton on the south side of the street. Wooden structures. He rented one of the storerooms.
Interviewer: Was it Kelton or Miller?
Radzek: Kelton and Main between Kelton and Miller, closer to Kelton. Munsh came around
there. He rented a store and he lived in the store. Know what he did? There was a big storeroom and he put up a curtain and he lived in the back and he did the repairing.
Interviewer: Was that his location before he moved downtown?
Radzek: This was way before. That’s wheat I’m coming to.
Interviewer: Didn’t he then move to Miller and Main?
Radzek: No, I’ll come to it. Finally my brother had a couple alarm clocks. Something was wrong and he took them to be fixed. So my brother made a remark to me, “He seems to be a good mechanic, the way he fixes things.” Next to me on East Main Street, there was an old man with two storerooms, then after that there was a little storeroom . It used to be a little shoe store. That store was owned by a fellow by the name of Harris. The building was a two-story brick building. The big storeroom was a drugstore. Harris owned the storeroom and the drugstore.
In the meantime, I found out that the fellow had the little shoe store was going to quit. He wasn’t making any money, so I talked to Munsh and said, “If I can get you the little storeroom over there, will you move there?” He said, “Yes,” but Harris wouldn’t rent him the store. He was afraid Munsh would not be able to pay the rent. My brother told me he was a good mechanic and he said, “I’m sure if he comes over here, he’ll make a better living.” We were doing pretty good at that time so I said, “Harris, why don’t you rent to him?” At that time, Munsh had a little girl already. Harris said, “He’ll take away business from me,” and I said, “He’ll take away nothing. You might be able to sell more.” Munsh belonged to a Masonic Order and Harris belonged in Columbus. So I said, “Harris, if you’re afraid he won’t be able to pay rent, if he doesn’t pay you rent in tan days, I’ll come down with a check and I’ll pay it.” The rent was $20 or $25. I knew Harris before he owned the drugstore. He said, “You have a lot of faith in Munsh” and I said, “After all, I like to help him. He’s a family man and I’d like to see him make a living. He’s a nice fellow.” So finally, Harris gave Munsh a lease. He stayed there and made good and in less than two years, he bought an old two-story house on Rich Street and he moved there. Then he bought a brand new Plymouth touring car. He was in business.
Interviewer: Let me ask you this. You mentioned about playing cards with the fellows and going to baseball games. Where was the baseball stadium in those days? On Cleveland Avenue? Was that the Red Birds or before the Red Birds?
Radzek: That was before my time. It used to be a baseball and football field.
Interviewer: On Cleveland Avenue? It was close to Fort Hayes, I believe.
Interviewer: You told me you used to date. Where did you go on your dates in those days? Olentangy Park? Wasn’t there a skating rink of North Fourth Street?
Radzek: There used to be two parks. Indianola Park and Olentangy. Yes, we went out with three or four Jewish girls… We used to ride the Loop-the-loop. Those girls used to holler.
Interviewer: They used to have a White Castle there. The streetcar ended there and there was a car barn.
Radzek: Believe it or not, the park belonged to a Jewish fellow by the name of Max Stern. He lived in Bexley on Parkview Avenue in a big mansion.
Interviewer: I know we used to ride the bus up there and go swimming and there used to be a White Castle there. White Castle hamburgers were a nickel a piece.
Radzek: We had a white Castle in Bexley.
Interviewer: Fifty-three years ago, maybe 1925 or 1930 is when I used to go to White Castle and Olentangy Park.
Radzek: We used to go, three fellows and three girls.
Interviewer: How did you get there? Did you have a car?
Radzek: No, we walked to High Street, then took the streetcar.
Interviewer: How about Buckeye Lake? Did you ever go to Buckeye Lake?
Radzek: Pretty near every Saturday night. Anyhow, Olentangy Park belonged to Max Stern.
Interviewer: I didn’t know that. I knew the name Max Stern. It must have been in later years.
Radzek: Do you remember the shooting galleries on High Street? He owned all of that. He was married to a Gentile and I think he was more a German Jew. He wore the finest clothes.
Interviewer: Did he get them from you?
Radzek: No, I only took care of his clothes. I repaired them and put new linings in his suits. For awhile, he had some of his clothes made by Louie Lakin.
Interviewer: He was related to Connie somehow (Connie is the wife of the Interviewer).
Radzek: He finally got mad at Lakin and wouldn’t have anything to do with him so he went to New York to get his clothes. But I straightened him around. Stern heard that Louis Lakin sold someone else a suit that was the same material as Lakin’s for maybe $10 less.
Interviewer: How much were handmade suits then?
Radzek: $75. You could go downtown and buy a suit for $25.
Interviewer: You said Stern burned them up. Do you mean Lakin burned Stern up?
Radzek: Yes. He got angry because Lakin charged him $10 more than anyone else for the same suit, same material. I took care of Stern’s relations, cleaning and repairs. You know what Stern did? When he’d come in and leave me a couple suits, he’d tell me what to do. “Take a sheet of paper, mark exactly what I’m supposed to do and what I charged him for he’s going to watch this is done. I usually charged him five cents more.
Interviewer: That was the reason he had so much money. He was shrewd.
Radzek: He was absolutely honest. He didn’t give a dam about the money. If he wanted
something, his credit was 100% here in town. A lot of the stores were just waiting for him to come in. He’d come in and buy some stuff and used cash and they knew he’d give them a big order. Later on, I straightened him out. I said, “Mr. Stern, I want you to listen to me. I’m not going to take Lakin’s part and I’m not going to take your part. I understand Mr. Lakin overcharged you $10 for the same suit. Mr. Lakin did not overcharge you one penny. Mr. Lakin gave you $10’s worth, maybe more. He probably gave you a better lining in your suit or he gave you better quality trimmings inside the suit than the others. He is a better tailor and more qualified than most other tailors. If you run across this fellow with the same suit, I would like you to open his suit and see what kind of lining he has. Look very carefully. Look at your lapels and see how smooth everything is.
Interviewer: Let me get back to Louis Lakin for a minute. His son Sanford was the first Jewish fellow in Columbus who was killed in World War n. He was a Navy officer and he went down with the ship. He was married to Ilonka. Did you know Ilonka?
Radzek: I knew Lakin’s wife. She died.
Interviewer: He had a son and a daughter but the son, Sanford, was married to Ilonka. Ilonka, at that time, had a candy shop where she made candy. It was on Oak and Wilson. In later years, she opened up The Party House on East Broad Street, where you had weddings and Bar Mitzvah parties.
Radzek: I ate here food. It was good.
Interviewer: Let me ask you this. Do you think there have been any changes in Columbus since you came here?
Radzek: Many changes everyday!
Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to say before I cut this off?
Radzek: I just want to tell you that Mr. Stern went back to Lakin and Lakin made him some clothes. There was never again any trouble.
Interviewer: Is there anything else you want to add to this tape?
Radzek: My brother used to tell me that when he came over here Lazarus had only a little store.
Interviewer: Let’s see, your brother and you had the tailor shop, Radzek Brothers. How long has Louis been gone? Eight, nine years?
Radzek: He died in 1975.
Interviewer: That’s eight years ago. I just want to note that you were in the tailoring business in Bexley. I think we’ve pretty much covered everything. Thank you, Nate, for sharing your personal life experiences with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.