I’m at the home of Ruth and Burt Schildhouse at 322 S. Harding Road in
Columbus, Ohio, and it’s July 15, 2003, and I’m Naomi Schottenstein, the
interviewer. We’re going to start, I’m going to be interviewing both Ruth
and Burt but we’re going to start with Burt first.
Interviewer: Burt, I’m going to ask you what your full name is.
Burton: My full name is Burton Schildhouse.
Interviewer: Is that B-U-R?
Interviewer: Okay. You want to spell your last name for us?
Interviewer: Do you know what your Jewish name is?
Interviewer: Sounds familiar. We have a few of those in our family. Do you
have any nicknames that you’ve gone by?
Burton: No. . . . . Burt.
Interviewer: Burt? Well that’s kind of a shortened version. Your original
family name, do you know if it’s Schildhouse or was it changed?
Interviewer: That was the original?
Interviewer: Burt, tell me where you were born. Where did you originate from?
Burton: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 23, 1925.
Interviewer: Okay. And can you tell how your family got to Cleveland, how
your parents ended up in Cleveland?
Burton: They both came from Lemberg, Austria, which is now called Louv, at
the western edge of the former Soviet Union.
Interviewer: Were they both from the same community?
Burton: Yeah, they were both from the same community. My mother’s mother
wheeled my father in a baby buggy as a baby-sitter.
Interviewer: Oh is that right?
Interviewer: So your mother was somewhat older than your dad?
Burton: Well it was my mother’s mother.
Interviewer: Oh your mother’s mother. Oh, okay. Okay. So they’ve known
each other forever?
Burton: They both came to America at slightly different times. They settled
first in Utica, New York, and then they, I think went to Rochester, New York,
and then to Cleveland.
Interviewer: Did they come to the states, were they married before they came.
Burton: No they were married in the United States.
Interviewer: But they knew each other in Europe?
Burton: I don’t think they knew that they knew each other.
Burton: The families knew each other?
Interviewer: The families knew each other. Well then how did they meet up
when they came to this country? How did that happen?
Burton: They came to this country and were helped, each by members of their
own fam- ilies, and somewhere along the line, they met.
Interviewer: Do you know when, can you tell us when your father came and when
your mother came here?
Burton: My dad came in 1913 and my mother came about the same time. She
settled first with her family in Manhattan, lower Manhattan.
Interviewer: Do you know what your father did for a living when he first came
here, I mean to the States?
Burton: When he first came, he was, they called him an outdoor sign painter.
He went out on the sides of hills and stuff like that. Now they use paper but in
those days, they painted the message on the signboards.
Interviewer: Oh but, so they were just like immediate messages? It wasn’t a
sign for any long period of time?
Burton: . . . .I think . . . . try this or buy that . . . .
Burton: . . . . and it’s all billboard signs.
Interviewer: Huh! That was int—. Did he have any training or he just needed
to make . . . . .
Burton: I think he learned that trade as a helper and as a sign writer.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And what about your mother? Did she work when she first
Burton: My knowledge of it is that she did not work. She was a helper in the
family but she didn’t work. She had a younger brother and a younger sister to
help raise but I think the worker in the family was my grandmother, my mother’s
Interviewer: What did she do?
Burton: Anything that needed to be done. In her later years, she ran a
Russian Turkish bath in Cleveland, Ohio.
Interviewer: In Cleveland?
Interviewer: When your family first came to this country, your mother and
dad, when did they get married?
Burton: I’m not sure of the year but it was somewhere before 1920. I think
it was about 1917 – 1918.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Now once they got to Cleveland, they stayed there, is
Burton: Yeah, they lived in Cleveland almost all their lives. My dad did. My
mother came and lived in Columbus the last few years of her life from her age
about 70 to 79, I think?
Interviewer: After your father was deceased?
(Offside indistinct chatter.)
Interviewer: Uh huh. So she lived with you at the latter part of her life?
Burton: She lived in Columbus.
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Burton: She was on her own.
Interviewer: On her own?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you remember very many houses that you lived in as a
Burton: I was born at 981 E. 128th Street in Cleveland which was the last
street in Cleveland before East Cleveland. I lived in that and then I lived on Ashbury
Avenue in Cleveland for a couple of years.
Interviewer: What part of Cleveland? Was that on the east side too?
Burton: Yeah. Then I moved to the Hough area in an apartment and on Birchdale
Avenue. Then Ruth and I got married and we lived on Cornell Road near campus,
the Western Reserve campus.
Interviewer: Yeah that’s still a popular street I think in Cleveland.
Burton: Mostly institutions are there now . . . .
Interviewer: Okay, to continue, do you remember any neighbors when you were
Burton: On one side of our house on 128th Street when I was a kid were the
Hershs. Max Hersh sold shoes at the May Company and in order to make sure he had
ends meeting, he also took up selling insurance, New York Life and he had two
sons. One was a pianist and the other one was a junior champ in tennis.
Interviewer: What were their names?
Interviewer: No the sons.
Burton: Jack and Howard Hersh. And Jack was the tennis player and Howard was
the pianist. On the other side was a family, a Gentile family by the name of
Interviewer: Uh huh. Was it mostly a Jewish neighborhood or . . . .
Burton: It was not. It was a very mixed neighborhood, mostly Catholics in the
Interviewer: Uh huh. Tell us about, do you have siblings first?
Burton: I had two sisters older than I am, Frances and Evelyn. Frances was
the elder of the two.
Interviewer: Tell us about Frances first.
Burton: Frances was a workaholic who helped her grandma run the Russian
Turkish bath on ladies’ night, which was every Wednesday. She, on graduation
from high school, became a secretary to some attorneys and then to a
manufacturer and then she had a civil service job as a secretary in the school
system and was a secretary before she left her job and before I joined the
school at the same high school, John Hay.
Interviewer: Before you went to that . . . .
Burton: I went to that school.
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Burton: She had three sons.
Interviewer: Who did she marry?
Burton: Aaron Weinberg from Cleveland. He was a dental technician and founded
two dental labs in Cleveland.
Interviewer: And their children?
Burton: Are Harold Roy, the oldest. Norman William is the second.
Interviewer: You remember their middle names too, huh? Good.
Burton: And Robert.
Interviewer: Okay, and do you know where they’re at now?
Burton: Both Frances and Evelyn died earlier this year.
Interviewer: No I mean Frances’ children.
Burton: Oh Frances’ children. Harold Roy is a professor of law at the
University of Kentucky Law School. Norman William Weinberg is a manager of a
Space Agency project at Case Western Reserve University. Robert, that’s his
whole name, Robert Leon Weinberg . . . . Is semi-retired owner of a plant, a
manufacturing plant and he is now in the business of development rather than
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you’re in touch with them, are you?
Burton: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: Keep in touch with them? Well you’re their uncle so it’s
nice to . . . .
Burton: Well Harold was born when I was in service so he’s kind of special.
I remember his birthdate and I don’t remember my family’s, but I remember
Interviewer: Uh huh. Yeah, it was a special time. And, now tell me about your
Burton: My sister Evelyn . . . .
Interviewer: Just give me, let’s go back to Frances. Is she still . . . .
Burton: No she died earlier.
Interviewer: Oh you did . . . .
Burton: About a month after Evelyn died.
Interviewer: Oh is that right? They died . . . . just this year?
Interviewer: Uh huh. And Evelyn, tell us about her.
Burton: She was a person who loved books and who got into retailing as an
assistant book buyer and became a buyer for the Higbee Company in Cleveland,
then the May Company in Cleveland, then Kaufman’s in Pittsburgh and Brentanos
in San Francisco then back to Pittsburgh and Horne’s Department Stores. When
she retired she moved from Pittsburgh back to Cleveland.
Interviewer: It sounds like she had a very successful career.
Burton: Yeah. She was very good at what she did and had a successful career
and remained single.
Interviewer: Uh huh. She was single? So she ended up living in Cleveland
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well should I let you tell us about your children or do
you want Ruth to tell us about your children and grandchildren?
Burton: I think Ruth will do that.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you remember any stories of your parents or
grandparents? Did you know your grandparents?
Burton: I knew my mother’s mother and step-father. I didn’t know my
paternal grand-father. And I knew my father’s mother who came over from
Europe. She never spoke English . . . .
Interviewer: How did you communicate?
Burton: She understood English but she didn’t speak it.
Interviewer: So how did she . . . .
Burton: My dad was the interpreter. We would visit her every Sunday. She
lived in a home for the aged when I knew her, and my dad would interpret if it
Interviewer: Did she speak Yiddish or . . . .
Burton: Yiddish. Her name was Wagner.
Interviewer: Wagner? What was her first name?
Interviewer: Probably have children named after her. Yeah, it’s okay. Your
grandparents, did they come to this country with your parents or they came at
separate times? You remember any of that?
Burton: My grandma on my mother’s side brought the children, three
children, with her. Her son Max and her daughters Sadye, which was my mother,
and . . . . Gertrude, yeah.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Where did they end up living?
Burton: Gertrude was a sister. Max was my mother’s brother. Yeah . . . .
husband’s name was William Estrin.
Interviewer: Do you remember, do you have fond memories of those families
Burton: They didn’t have a lot to do with each other. It’s funny. They
lived in a different part of the city. At one time my mother’s sister’s
husband and my dad were partners in a sign shop. We saw them but not a lot. We
had more to do with my father’s family, his sisters and brothers and so forth.
Interviewer: How many siblings did your dad have?
Burton: He had two sisters and a brother.
Interviewer: Tell us what their names were.
Burton: Anna was the oldest of the Schildhouse children and she lived in
Rochester, New York, and raised two children, a boy and a girl. The boy David,
Diamond was her married name, is a famous composer and also was a teacher and at
Interviewer: David Diamond. Very creative family then, wasn’t it?
Burton: Up to now.
Interviewer: Who do we have?
Burton: Yes Anna was his older sister and Florence was the younger sister who
came to work in Cleveland. She had a wonderful sense of humor. Florence raised
two daughters, and had one or two marriages. I know she had more than one
marriage, two marriages.
Interviewer: Wow. But you kept track of that part of the family? Well you
kind of knew what was going on with that part of the family?
Burton: Yeah we had, on my Dad’s side, we had a lot more to do with
everybody. It was the Depression when I first realized who the relatives were.
In Depression days you had a lot more to do with each other.
Interviewer: Why was that Burt?
Burton: Lodging and food and so forth. You wanted to make sure that your
brother and your sister’s family were okay . . . . taking care of others.
Interviewer: You wanted to make sure everybody was covered?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you, can you tell us very much about what you
remember from the Depression?
Burton: The other day I was telling someone about the Wayfarer’s Lodge in
Cleveland for men who either left their families or were homeless.
Interviewer: Wayfarer’s Lodge?
Burton: Wayfarer’s Lodge. And it was on a street called Lakeside at about
40th and Lakeside. And it must have served three or four hundred men every
night and they could only stay there two nights. . . . . I remember seeing these
men arriving. They got a meal and things and a bed.
Interviewer: Were you old enough to realize . . . .
Burton: I saw people selling apples.
Interviewer: On the street?
Burton: On the street. Yeah. And I remember the WPA because they built the
cover on the creek around our neighborhood.
Interviewer: What does WPA stand for Burt?
Burton: Works Progress Administration. It was the Roosevelt era idea to help
families stay together.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Create jobs?
Burton: Well it mostly did public facilities. That was a precursor to
programs like the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. They built a lot of
parks in cities. And they ended up preparing some young men who trained before
World War II.
Interviewer: Did you feel that you were going through any hardship in your
own immediate family?
Burton: We lost our home.
Interviewer: Which wasn’t at all unusual.
Interviewer: But you were able to continue living there, were you?
Burton: No the Home Owners Loan Corporation sold it. We started apartment
living. That’s when we moved to Ashbury Avenue which was just off Wade Park in
the east side of Cleveland.
Interviewer: So that was a very strong memory for you. wasn’t it, the
Burton: And of course, everybody in the family tried to bring in some income
so my mother started working about that time. And later on she and my dad
operated a stamp shop. It got started as a hobby, philately, and they got into
being store owners, not very successful store owners but . . . .
Interviewer: You mean postage stamp collection, was that . . . .
Burton: Stamps from around the world.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But your father continued the billboard and the sign
Burton: He kept the sign company going. At one time, the stamp enterprise was
bigger. He would travel to shows around Ohio and deal with collectors. I got
some travel in in those days.
Interviewer: So you were an associate at that point, were you?
Burton: Not really. I felt like an associate. It was cheaper than getting a
baby-sitter for me.
Interviewer: Yeah. Helping your dad out a little bit. Uh huh. Did that lead
to any interest for you to collect stamps?
Burton: I had a collection and it basically led to an interest in geography .
. . .
Interviewer: That’s true. It does teach you. It’s a great learning tool.
What about celebrations and holidays? Were you able, even as a youngster . . . .
Burton: We, my sisters were confirmed and I was Bar Mitzvahed and we observed
holidays. The major memory for me is Passover because the family was together
and sometimes relatives would be in on the Seder.
Interviewer: Which families would gather for that?
Burton: Usually my dad’s relatives, one or two of them.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Would they be at your parents’ home or . . . .
Burton: Yeah. They, I’m sure, were observant. They went to an Orthodox shul
and we went to a Conservative.
Interviewer: What was your synagogue?
Burton: It’s now called Park Synagogue. In those days it was the Jewish
Center of Cleveland.
Interviewer: The Jewish Center?
Burton: Yeah that’s what its name was.
Interviewer: That was the synagogue?
Burton: Synagogue and gymnasium and swimming pool.
Interviewer: Oh so it was a combination then?
Burton: They added buildings. It was later purchased by the people who
developed Cory Methodist Church like . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. So were those fond memories of going to synagogue and
celebrating Jewish holidays?
Burton: Yeah for the most part they were.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What about . . . .
Burton: I remember celebrating them and having one shirt and one pair of
slacks and every night my mother would launder my shirt so that it was fresh and
clean . . . . My sister and her husband, who I think had been married by that
time, threw a little party after my Bar Mitzvah and brought me the only gift I
received. I didn’t get a lot from anybody else but my family. And they and my
parents, but not my sister Evelyn who had to work, attended my Bar Mitzvah. And
no one else from the family did.
Interviewer: Was it on a Saturday?
Burton: On a Saturday and I was apprehensive about it. I started my maftir
an octive higher than it should have been. And I recovered from that and
listened to the older people in the congregation correcting my Hebrew. It sort
of left quite an imprint on my . . . .
Interviewer: Was it a good imprint or do you feel like you missed out on
Burton: Oh it was a lasting imprint of experience mostly and then of the
generosity of my sister and her husband when . . . .
Interviewer: Do you remember, can you tell us what the gift was?
Burton: It was a little table on which I put a little radio that I had in my
room at home.
Interviewer: Oh but it was meaningful to you, the table served a purpose and
it . . . . Do you still have the table?
Interviewer: Okay. Probably wasn’t terribly unusual not to have a big
celebration at that time, you know, they just, you did what you had to do and it
wasn’t like it is now; a big deal with parties and . . . .
Burton: I remember my sister’s, Frances’ marriage. It was followed by a
reception to which she and her husband contributed to help my dad pay for it. My
Uncle Harry, my father’s brother, spiked the punch. I got very sick.
Interviewer: Oh, oh. You got sick?
Interviewer: You weren’t used to the booze huh?
Burton: Not alcohol, no. But these are really fond memories.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Did your mother enjoy cooking? Was she into traditional foods?
Burton: She was a very great cook and pretty good teacher of cooking.
Interviewer: Who did she teach to cook?
Burton: My sister Frances and my wife Ruth.
Interviewer: Oh, Ruth?
Interviewer: Okay. Credit her with that.
Burton: She loved to make classic dishes that were European like lungen and
so-called Jewish style.
Interviewer: Soul food, huh?
Interviewer: Which you’re not even allowed to eat or buy or sell in today’s
world. Yeah, I remember those Burt so I can understand . . . .
Burton: Do you remember fees?
Interviewer: Yes I sure do. Feet. What did they do with those?
Burton: They jelled them.
Interviewer: And what was that called?
Burton: Some people called it patcha.
Interviewer: Patcha, uh huh. Yeah.
Burton: My mother was a very good cook.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Sounds like real traditional soul food, what I call soul
Burton: She was not into baking and stuff like that.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did your relatives have reunions other than occasional
weddings, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation?
Burton: Not really. We kept in touch and I think I remember one family
reunion that was organized by my daughter Julie and a number of the other
Schildhouses in the family.
Interviewer: How long ago was that?
Burton: About 20 years ago, something like that. 15-20 years ago.
Interviewer: Well that was an ambitious undertaking for her.
Burton: People came from around the country and it was really mostly, we have
a very small family, so it was mostly the other side of their family showed up.
But it was fun to see them and we’ve kept in touch with some of them.
Interviewer: So this happened in Columbus then?
Burton: No we went from Columbus to Cleveland to attend this get-together.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Were most of your relatives in Cleveland at that time?
Is that why?
Burton: Some came from elsewhere. I think one of the people who came was
David Diamond who was my sister’s . . . . He visited with us and maybe lived
with us for a while when he was studying at the music school in Cleveland.
Interviewer: I don’t remember if you told us where David lives now. It
sounds like . . . .
Burton: He lives in Rochester.
Burton: And in Manhattan.
Interviewer: In Manhattan? Uh huh. So you’re still in touch with him, are
Burton: No, regretfully. My sister Evelyn did most of that kind of . . . .
Interviewer: Oh, uh huh. Were photographs important in your family? Mementos?
Burton: To some extent, like most families, we, my dad had a camera called an
Autograph Camera which had a stand. You would take a picture and then whoever
was in the picture would sign it.
Interviewer: Oh I never heard of that. The Autograph Camera?
Burton: Kodak Autograph Camera.
Interviewer: Well that’s interesting.
Burton: Well it took pictures for anything. It produced for my mother and dad
. . . . country club, learning how to play golf.
Interviewer: So your parents did get into golf, huh?
Burton: Briefly. My dad did because his colleagues assured him that it was a
business activity that he ought to like.
Interviewer: Well that was somewhat unusual.
Burton: Different from boxing. He had been a mostly amateur boxer.
Interviewer: Is that right? That was unusual for . . . . We were just talking
about the fact that your dad took up golf and that was unusual in that era I
think. I don’t remember growing up, people, my parents . . . .
Burton: . . . . at the time developing people in the Jewish business
community, at least in Cleveland, would join country clubs. Cleveland had a a
lot of Jewish country clubs and a few public courses. And my father’s
brother-in-law who was a partner in one of the sign enterprises, convinced my
dad to join a country club.
Interviewer: What country club did they belong to?
Burton: I really don’t remember the name of it. But my dad slacked off on
golf, bought equipment but he didn’t play much and my Uncle William Estrin
took on the burden of taking clients out to play golf.
Interviewer: So he was the social contact, huh?
Burton: Yeah, he was Mr. Outside. My dad ran the plant.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it sounds like a good combination.
Burton: It worked . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you weren’t involved in country club activity then,
Burton: No, I used to walk by one on the way to the lake. We lived about
three or four miles from the lake and a neighbor boy, Jack Hersh, I mentioned
him earlier, and I would treck up on Eddy Road in Cleveland . . . . to the lake.
Interviewer: Sounds like a few miles then to walk. Did you actually walk that
Burton: We walked it . . . . they tell me at the age of three. I can’t
Interviewer: That at the age of three walked to the lake?
Interviewer: All those miles?
Interviewer: Isn’t that something?
Burton: The local police were looking for us until five o’clock or
Interviewer: Oh goodness! Huh. What do you remember about transportation as a
Burton: We had an auto. My dad drove a car. Middle or late, mid-forties I
think or maybe into the late forties. And most of my travel was by the bus
system in Cleveland. CTS it was . . . . . and I knew all the routes and was able
to navigate by myself. We had school passes and then later weekly passes for
adults and my first real job was to deliver to the dentists in Cleveland for my
brother-in-law. He furnished the weekly pass to me . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you were a delivery man, delivery boy?
Burton: Yeah. Got my Social Security card when I was about 14 or 15.
Interviewer: About 14?
Interviewer: ‘Course now you can get Social Security card at birth.
Burton: That’s right.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What other jobs do you remember?
Burton: I was a part-time soda jerk.
Interviewer: Where was this?
Burton: In the neighborhood drug store.
Interviewer: Do you remember what you got paid?
Burton: I think I got about a buck and a half a night.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And all the ice cream you could eat?
Burton: Well that was the premise but . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah you get, not as good as it looks, sounds?
Burton: Well I also had a magazine route which every kid had I think.
Interviewer: How did that work?
Burton: A lot of people owed me money. You know, . . . . the Depression and
when you went to collect, either the spouse wasn’t home or they didn’t have
change or whatever.
Interviewer: So were you stuck with it then?
Burton: Yeah. We had family dogs over the years and the dogs would go with me
on my route.
Burton: But they often got killed by automobiles or broke out of the back
Interviewer: So it was an occupational hazard?
Burton: Yeah. First a delivery person for my brother-in-law. And I worked in
haberdashery when I was in high school.
Interviewer: Uh huh. As a salesperson?
Burton: Every Saturday. Yeah. Went there.
Interviewer: What was the name of that store?
Burton: Jerry Mills. It was Jerry something and Milt something. The men who
started businesses merged and this big chain of two stores . . . .
Interviewer: Big chain, huh?
Burton: One on Euclid Avenue and one on Prospect.
Interviewer: Huh. Did you enjoy that job?
Burton: Yeah it was kind of fun ’cause at least I knew where I could buy a
shirt if I had the money.
Interviewer: Sure. By then . . . .
Burton: I was interested in dressing nicely and so forth.
Interviewer: You were past the stage of one shirt and one pair of pants then?
Burton: Just past it.
Interviewer: Just past it?
Ruth: Where did you get the leather jacket that you’re in the photo in?
Burton: My dad bought that jacket . . . .
Interviewer: This was a leather jacket?
Interviewer: Uh huh. How old were you when you got it?
Burton: It was probably stolen from a shipment. He bought it off the back end
of a truck.
Interviewer: How old were you when you had this leather jacket?
Burton: I was in high school I think and actually my dad got it and my sister
gave him back the money and gave me the jacket.
Interviewer: Were you happy about having a leather jacket?
Burton: Well it looked like you were in the service and a war was going on
and it felt pretty good like that.
Interviewer: Kind of made you grown up and important huh? I don’t think we
talked about your schools. I know we did a little before. Tell us a little about
all the schools starting from the beginning. Wait a minute. Let’s go back to
the jobs. Did we cover all your jobs picture now?
Burton: Not all.
Interviewer: Well yeah, let’s continue, let’s just continue with your
jobs. We got haberdashery. What happened after that?
Burton: After that, I told you earlier, I was doing what I thought was sales
at my dad’s stamp shop. . . . . After I got home from service . . . .
Interviewer: We’re going to talk more about the service in a little bit but
let’s continue with the job. Okay?
Burton: Then I went toward advertising and marketing and then consulting and
Ruth: You worked on a campaign?
Burton: Oh yeah. One of my professors at Case Western Reserve ran for
Congress. I worked on his campaign. So that was my first touch of politics. What
I remember about the time in politics was that . . . . the area of living in
Cleveland, most of the students who were politicians were Republicans.
Interviewer: Huh. I thought I remember Democrats.
Burton: Well might have been, yeah, one would think so but the office holders
who were Jewish were Republicans.
Interviewer: Hummm. Let’s continue with your job picture while we’re on
Burton: My next employment was very briefly in sales while I was trying to
get a job to complement the income in college and then following graduation. I
worked briefly in a television sales shop.
Interviewer: Television sales? What year was that Burt?
Interviewer: So television was just starting, wasn’t it?
Burton: Yeah, it’s interesting ’cause one of the names, there was a
franchise for Muntz Television and the guy who had the factory was called
“Mad Man Muntz” but he brought television to the market a little bit
cheaper than RCA and the other brands.
Inteviewer: How do you spell that Muntz?
Burton: M-U-N-T-Z. Earl Muntz who had an auto dealership became a television
Interviewer: Well that’s interesting.
Burton: Sold franchises and one of the franchises was in Cleveland and the
owner of the franchise operated a beverage store in our neighborhood, which I
told Ruth recently was a laundry for money from other activities.
Interviewer: That wasn’t unusual either?
Burton: Nobody ever came into the Mad Man Muntz showroom while I was working.
Interviewer: Huh, it was just a front?
Burton: . . . . yeah. No it might not have been a front. People might come in
. . . . And then I got a job, after graduation, my first real job was at an
Interviewer: What was that agency?
Burton: It was called the Ohio Advertising Agency owned by a man whose name
was Sam Abrams and he was graduated . . . . from Case Western Reserve and for a
while, it looked like those were the only people he hired and fortunately for
me, I was in that group. And he hired me to be a copy writer for radio and
television ads and I then got into production of TV and that led to the
management of the business.
Interviewer: Yeah but that was an exciting time to be in that business?
Burton: Oh yeah . . . . And the other night we were talking about Steve
Lawrence and his wife . . . .
Interviewer: Edie? Edie Gormey?
Burton: Local shows. Networks didn’t exist and we had a variety of artists
come too, Tony Bennett who wasn’t quite there yet, came to Cleveland and other
cities I presume, and I wrote commercials for those shows and produced some of
Ruth: How about the experience you got when you were looking for a job in
Burton: My dad sold stamps to a man by the name of Boheme, B-O-H-E-M-E, who
operated an engraving shop. He made engravings for advertising for magazines and
so forth. When I told my dad what I wanted to do and he said, “Let’s see
Mr. Boheme cause he works with these; he can suggest agencies you might want to
go and seek a job.” Mr. Boheme said, he named some agencies and they were
all Jewish owned enterprises.
Interviewer: But Boheme, was he . . . .
Burton: Boheme wasn’t Jewish.
Interviewer: Wasn’t? Uh huh.
Burton: He said, “Go to them first because the big agencies, the others,
don’t hire Jews. So you’ll be wasting your time.”
Interviewer: Hmmmm. So that was good advice, huh?
Burton: Yes. Was good advice. I was angry about it but it was good advice.
Interviewer: Huh. That’s interesting. So you got the, you began right in on
the base level of a new industry and . . . .
Burton: Moved around quickly. That’s true. And as a management person, the
first thing, merger with another ad agency and I didn’t have much hope at
first but Mr. Abrams was active in state wide Democratic politics and was
especially active with Governor Lausche at the time and when he merged and I
became a rainmaker instead of a copy writer . . . .
Interviewer: What’s the, tell us what a “rainmaker” is.
Burton: Goes out and finds paying clients and works with them, develops
business. At . . . . . I wanted to be a copy writer and be in TV and I wasn’t
going to do that at this agency. Along came a man running for Governor of Ohio
and was unlike Frank Lausche. And we made a proposal of how he should campaign
in Ohio and it was Michael V. Di Salle. He was from Toledo.
Interviewer: Michael V. Di Salle. What was the, do you remember what year
that might have been?
Burton: It was 1959. And he ran in ’59. Anyway, he was the first four-year
governor of Ohio and he was a long shot because his major activity that anybody
knew about was he was the Price Administrator during World War II in the Truman
Interviewer: Price Administrator?
Burton: Yeah. And we made a pitch to Mr. Di Salle to run his campaign, how to
run his campaign, how to advertise, and I wrote the pitch and presented it to
him and he told the owner of the agency, “You can have the business but
only if he comes and works for me.”
Interviewer: So that was you?
Interviewer: Wow! What an opportunity.
Burton: For his campaign in Northern Ohio and he ran the rest of it out of
Interviewer: Uh hum. I’m going to stop at this point. We’re at the end of
Side A, Tape 1 and I’m just going to turn this tape over. Just a second here.
Okay, we’re on Side B of Tape 1. Okay, we were talking about your job Burt and
this is where your boss said that you would be part of the package.
Interviewer: Okay, let’s continue from there.
Burton: So Di Salle won the election . . . .
Interviewer: Di Salle won, uh huh.
Burton: and said to me that he would like me to come into his administration.
I didn’t know where at the time, where my talent might be best used and
afterward, we presumed that the person he assigned me to, who was the Director
of Highway Safety, was his choice to be following him as the Governor, campaign
for the Democrats. The guy’s name was Grant Keys. He was Mayor of Elyria,
Ohio, and I became the Assistant Director of that Department. The major job was
to organize their communications and to write speeches for Grant Keys. And
that, I learned a lot about marketing also and management experience. We went to
help people like Woody Hayes. We were probably the first governmental agency in
the country to use sports stars to sell safety.
Interviewer: Oh. So did you get to know Woody Hayes very well?
Burton: Well, over the years, yeah. . . . . and the later part of his career
Interviewer: You had close contact with a lot of legends, didn’t you,
through these . . . .
Burton: And more to come.
Interviewer: And more to come? Okay. Well let’s go on.
Burton: The biggest name in politics was John Glenn.
Interviewer: John Glenn?
Burton: Yeah. I worked on his campaign and sort of retain a friendship with
Interviewer: Still kind of in touch with him a little?
Ruth: Tell us how he took the TV apart.
Burton: Oh yeah. In his campaign . . . .
Interviewer: This is John Glenn we’re talking about? Uh huh.
Burton: He campaigned out of Columbus. Before leaving the Marines, he was
going to be a candidate and actually filed the papers to be a candidate. And his
opponent was Howard Metzenbaum and a group of people who were going to support
John hopefully with money but with political help, met to meet him and to
decide who was going to raise money for him and who was going to do other
things. And it was in an apartment that a mentor of mine provided. And it’s
now a senior housing I think on East Broad Street.
Ruth: 1100 E. Broad.
Interviewer: 1100 E. Broad? Yeah.
Burton: And the morning of one of those meetings, John got up, went in to
shave and shower and noticed that the medicine cabinet was a little askew and he
went to correct it and it came off the wall and his feet went out from under him
and he fell and hit his head . . . .
Interviewer: Oh I think I…wasn’t it in the news? It was in the news,
yeah. It was big time, uh huh.
Ruth: That’s after, you know, he was the astronaut.
Interviewer: Yeah. After he was an astronaut. Uh huh.
Ruth: He was very famous.
Burton: The emergency squad came and he went to Grant and he had an inner ear
problem from that point on for quite a while. And that became part of the
campaign. He had meetings where the campaign people perched in the . . . . from
the hospital bed and . . . . his wife encouraged him to get out of the race,
which I think for his career was a good move.
Ruth: And Metzenbaum got elected that year.
Interviewer: Yeah. Howard Metzenbaum did get elected. Uh huh.
Burton: And John liked politics even though he had that experience of
falling. And he chose to run again against Howard, who was then an incumbent,
and I worked in that campaign as well. Between those two campaigns, I was
retained by John Gilligan, to organize his campaign for Governor, the one he was
victorious in . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah. You had some wonderful experiences that ended up so
Burton: Either as people or as politicians, they were some of the finest I’ve
ever met, including Howard. So I got that job with Highway Safety and Governor
Di Salle lost his reelection campaign to Governor Rhoades and there we were four
years out of Cleveland, looking for a job and I got a job sort of as a copy
writer/rainmaker with Gene Hameroff who at the time was in an agency called
Hameroff and Smith.
Interviewer: What kind of agency was this?
Burton: Ad agency. And he drove me up to Cleveland to pitch Glenn and the
campaign . . . . But I learned a lot about how politics and decisions ran. That
seemed to be a focus that continued through the rest of my career.
Ruth: About the development part.
Burton: Oh yeah. About that time, the same people who interestingly enough
were . . . . in electing Glenn when he fell, were very dissatisfied with the
development of things in Columbus and there was a person who had been mayor
earlier that they supported who walked into the Democratic Party and said,
“I’m a candidate again.” And it was Jack Sensenbrenner who was a
one-termer originally and lost, he won from a man by the name of Oestreicher, I
don’t know if that was an automobile dealership as well but he lost to Ralston
Interviewer: Westlake. Uh huh.
Burton: Oh yeah. And Jack Sensenbrenner being the candidate, helped save
Columbus and I was at Hameroff and somebody from Glenn called me and said they’d
like me to meet with Sensenbrenner and it turned out to be a couple of people
from my Glenn days and they said, “What would you do, how much would it
cost?” And I told them what I thought he could do because his personality,
he was his campaign, you know. He was his message. ‘Cause his message:
“We can do better, we can be a bigger, richer, better community”.
Interviewer: As I remember Sensenbrenner, he was a small person of build but
he was a strong individual, quite outspoken, colorful.
Burton: Yeah. And came from a Christian, religious background . . . . and I
forget what that publication recently did pretty good . . . . about him in one
of the local weeklies just recently? But anyway, I said, “If we do it and
you run this way, I think you can get elected if you can raise $12,000.”
$12,000 with which some people buy postage stamps . . . . election if they want
to be on City Council.
Interviewer: That was a drop in the, well today, that would be a drop in the
Burton: And he won.
Interviewer: He won?
Burton: But he won because we got free TV. Every time he had something to
say, we made sure a camera was there. And I was still working with Hameroff and
kind of on the side, trying to help Jack Sensenbrenner and he won and after he
was inaugurated, he drove around town in a big black Buick and a policeman was
assigned to drive him around as a bodyguard and I was still working at Hameroff
and he was driving at Broad and High and rolled down the window and said,
“Hey Burt, $12,000, ha, ha, ha.”
Interviewer: Oh, that was a fun kick wasn’t it?
Burton: But I stayed with him. He won several more times.
Interviewer: Yeah he did.
Burton: And then he began to suffer with Alzheimer’s but nobody picked it
up immediately and he lost his last campaign by a couple of hundred votes.
Interviewer: Hum. Yeah, he was pretty popular, wasn’t he?
Burton: He was popular and loved to get things accomplished.
Interviewer: Accomplished like what?
Burton: Accomplished a lot and was a real leader. He got good people around
him like Maury Portman and others, “Hap” Cremean, and he said,
“Do the best you can and make this a great city.” And it worked.
Interviewer: And now he has a grandson following in his footsteps?
Burton: Yeah. A very nice young man, very nice young man.
Interviewer: Yeah. So does that pretty much take you through your career or
Ruth: How you ended up.
Burton: Oh yeah. So I started trying to find clients for Hameroff and Smith.
Smith was his partner. And the first one I got was a group of people in Planned
Parenthood wanted to change the law in Ohio. If you talked about birth control
or advertised about it or had a listing in the phone book, you were breaking the
law and they were called “Comstock Laws”.
Interviewer: So that was a no-no discussion?
Burton: And people I had started doing some work for them when I was with
Hameroff and Smith, asked me if I could advise them on how to change things. I
wasn’t a lobbyist but was beginning to be called a communicator. And I helped
them change the law in Ohio. And I was working with a group of Republican,
mostly Republican members of the Legislature who were willing to do it. Rhodes
was Governor then and if he could keep out of the way, he would. And these folks
tried to get the law changed and it worked. We changed it and about that time, I
thought to myself, “You know, nobody’s doing this kind of stuff.” It
isn’t lobbying. It’s helping people make decisions when they need to make
decisions. And of course the company I worked for didn’t like that idea as
much as I did and Hameroff and Smith, not because of the split up and like the
days of slavery, Hameroff took some clients and Smith got me.
Interviewer: Oh. Well they got the better part of the deal.
Burton: Well I left them because he wasn’t interested in the kind of stuff
I was. He was a copy writer himself and loved to do that. He was kind of hoping
I’d bring in clients.
Interviewer: So that didn’t work?
Ruth: And meanwhile, Hameroff grew to be the largest agency in Ohio.
Interviewer: What was the name of his company? Was it still Hameroff?
Ruth: Hameroff and Spence.
Interviewer: Which it still is that same name?
Ruth: I think they’ve changed the name again. . . . But anyhow, that’s
where the . . . .
Burton: Gene was always available to cry for help . . . . one person who did
that when everybody . . . . He started his career with Byer and Bowman, a Jewish
Interviewer: Yeah, that’s right.
Burton: And he got a lot of advice from them and he was willing to sit down
with you and help you in any way . . . . A couple of times in order to work with
a campaign, expenses were paid by the advertising commissions and Gene would
place the ads for me and split the commission with me.
Interviewer: So he was a real fair guy, wasn’t he?
Burton: Fair and interesting he was. A lot of the people, a lot of them with
advertising, his slogans were like. “It’s not the steak, it’s the
sizzle which you sell.”
Interviewer: Oh, that’s interesting.
Burton: Uh huh. So I went into this business and had a lot of assignments
that had to do with the future of not only Columbus but Ohio. . . . . to get
things moved up more quickly, like the Alum Creek Dam, the 315 freeway, the
Transportation Research Center. It was a great time. And from there I went, I
was recruited by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and I helped them organize
the Small Business Center and operated it until I retired.
Interviewer: When did you retire, Burt?
Burton: I think in 1998.
Interviewer: Just about 5 years ago?
Burton: Longer than that.
Ruth: I think 1990.
Burton: . . . . So I must have been retired at least a couple of years before
. . . . I started with the Chamber in �85 . . . .
Interviewer: Okay, we’re talking about the, your employment with the
Columbus Chamber of Commerce . . . .
Burton: And Al, what’s his name?
Burton: Al Deitzel was the President of the Chamber at the time I joined
them. He went on to do business with the Limited. He’s a Vice-President there.
Very slight guy that came out of advertising and came to Columbus to run the
United Way and he kept climbing from that point on.
Interviewer: Yeah, he’s had a colorful career too.
Burton: Yeah, and he, somebody told me, maybe Bob Lazarus, I’m not sure,
told him about me and the people who were going to help back it were Bank One .
. . . some project that the Chamber had out of retired, not retiring
Vice-President of Bank One, Mr. Case, and I drew up my proposal sort of like the
Di Salle base on what they should do. That’s what they asked us to do and when
we presented it to them and they took it to the Board, Mr. Dietzel came back and
said, “Well, have a program between two men. We’ll run it.” So that’s
how I started working with the Chamber and worked through the Christie era, John
Christie became President after Al and then a psychologist by the name of York,
John York . . . . came to be President of the Chamber and got rid of everygody
who’s been there except me, I think.
Interviewer: Cleaned house, huh?
Burton: Yeah, and I continued to work for him until he left the Chamber and
there was a brief period under new President, Sally Jackson, and on my
retirement I was retained to consult with the Chamber which I did for about a
half a year. But I, it impinged on my retirement which was doing nothing, but it
. . . .
Interviewer: I was going to ask you about your retirement. How did you handle
Burton: I’m not sure I handled it well. I . . . .
Interviewer: Did you have other interests that . . . .
Burton: . . . . that kind of stuff was my real interest. Fortunately, Ruth
and I did some traveling and then I realized what could be a really nice
Interviewer: Uh huh. There are a couple of more subjects I want to cover with
you Burt. One is, tell us about your school starting from when you first started
school and take us on through your graduation of college and so forth. I don’t
think we got all that.
Burton: I really was not much of a student. I was a wiseacre and class clown
and something happened in junior high school with the teachers, I think it was
the war had started. The teacher said, “You’re never going to get ahead
without a good education.” And they were good and supportive and nice and I
listened to them and started heading in that direction. One was a math teacher
and one was a drama teacher.
Interviewer: So they had a positive influence on you?
Burton: Oh all of my education was . . . . mostly positive.
Interviewer: Where did you start school? Elementary school?
Burton: Hazeldell Elementary School which was one of those
turn-of-the-century schools that had an add-on probably and it was a couple of
miles from where we lived on 128th Street in Cleveland and it was in between 2
parish schools, Saint Philomena and Saint Agnes.
Ruth: Culture and Major Work. He says he wasn’t a good student but . . . .
Burton: Well I wasn’t. I mean I had the equipment . . . .
Ruth: Major Work was where they, you know, picked the brightest kid . . . .
Interviewer: What was this?
Ruth: The brightest kid.
Interviewer: What was it called though?
Ruth: Major Work. That was in the Cleveland . . . .
Interviewer: Major Work. I never heard that one. Uh huh.
Ruth: You learned French in elementary school and I mean they were really,
they were the gifted students.
Interviewer: Well then it sounded like you had something to go on Burt.
Burton: Well yeah. I think it was the teacher’s work for us. Elementary
school and Major Work. I had a serious operation and my teacher came and sat
next to the bed and taught me the things that I had missed while I was in the
Interviewer: Oh she kept you up to date then?
Burton: Yeah. And in junior high a couple of the teachers told me that I
could get on track very easily, do my work, which I needed to do to have . . . .
Interviewer: So they recognized your ability?
Ruth: And then in high school.
Burton: When I went to high school, my sister had retired to have a baby. She
was the secretary of the Assistant Principal of John Hay High School and he
was a disciplinarian. He would, if you were sent to the Principal’s Office,
you ended up with her boss. And I warmed that bench a lot. But I had begun to
turn around. By the time I was maybe a sophomore in high school, I was a
no-nonsense student and something of an activist in school. I was in the Student
Council representing my home room and they had an office called Student-City
Manager which is like the mayor. One of the teachers was hot on making us
understand how things were done in the United States because most of us were the
children of immigrants and she encouraged me to run for Student-City Manager and
I did and I was elected and that got me into politics.
Interviewer: I was just going to say you started your political career.
Burton: It was Frank Lausche and he had come to speak to us and I didn’t
understand what he said but he was very forceful. At that time he was a judge
before he became Mayor.
Interviewer: Why didn’t you understand what he said?
Burton: Because he made a canned speech on patriotism and the flag and so
forth. Not about any issues that were of interest to me like, by that time,
education and employment and so forth.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Ruth: So your senior year, you were student . . . .
Interviewer: Your senior year . . . .
Ruth: In high school.
Burton: I dabbled a little bit in entertainment. I liked entertainment so did
some stuff in high school.
Interviewer: Like what?
Burton: Well in junior high I did a, I was in an operetta.
Interviewer: You sang?
Burton: Yeah, sang and danced. And I was not a good dancer but . . . .
Interviewer: But you must have had a decent voice?
Burton: Well I knew, a lot of the stuff in high school I’m just recalling.
I did other impersonations that I . . . . years to college . . . . When I
couldn’t do anything else, I would present whatever the question was that you
had to present, whether it was history or political science on how these
entertainers would approach it. And I got by doing that.
Interviewer: Well you were creative. That’s for sure.
Burton: Yeah. I took a lot of writing courses. This was in college and I . .
Interviewer: College? And where did you go? So where did you get your, where
was your whole college career?
Burton: . . . . When I was, let’s see, I think it was 17, when I was
graduated from high school and I would have been further in maybe four or five
more months, but I couldn’t get a job because nobody was going to hire you
knowing that you’d either be drafted or you’d volunteer.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did you tell us the name of your high school?
Burton: John Hay.
Interviewer: Yeah you did. Uh huh. Yeah.
Burton: On 107th between Euclid and Carnegie in Cleveland. So the job that I
got, a friend of mine in high school who was one of my fellow students, got
because his uncle, who was a bookkeeper for a labor union, turned out to be the
steel workers. And he suggested that we try to get employment at the steel mill,
that they just needed people. They were making fasteners for airplanes that the
army was buying.
Interviewer: So this was war time, World War II?
Burton: Yeah. The job we got was moving these fasteners from the production
floor of the steel mill to the delivery dock ’cause all the other stuff was
even heavier work. That’s what they would give us for starters. And we both
joined the steel worker’s union and operated an elevator that loaded the goods
that were made to the shipping dock. And that, and I kept, and I enlisted at the
same time. But I wasn’t old enough yet to get into active service so I kept
the steel job and then in the fall of ’43, I was summoned by the army and he
said, “Before you entered active service, we have a program called ASTP
which involves study at a university and eventually becoming an engineering
officer. It all works. So my first activity at a college was at the University
of Kentucky where the Army had a program.
Interviewer: Was that in engineering or . . . .
Burton: Yeah and I was terrible in that program.
Interviewer: That wasn’t what you were at all interested in was it?
Burton: No it wasn’t, but I was interested in getting at Hitler so they
called us up and we went into the service and we left Cleveland, went through
the intake in Columbus, learned a little bit about the army segregation
policies. Couldn’t do, couldn’t get a pass to go downtown to Columbus to see
a movie or anything unless you served food to the other soldiers, you know, in
the mess hall, and they wouldn’t let us serve food because we had black people
in our contingent and they didn’t want the blacks touching the food that . . .
Interviewer: Oh gosh. Well that was a different era, wasn’t it?
Burton: Yeah. So we figured out a strategy. The blacks, two or three of them,
were honor students athletes from small cities in Ohio and they had it really
good they thought because they shoveled coal. Those were the jobs that blacks .
. . .
Interviewer: Very menial kind of jobs, huh?
Burton: Yeah but they got so many days work and they got 2 days off. They
worked one day and got two days off. And they got a pass and they didn’t jump
over the fence every night with a pass the way the whites did. And that was what
segregation was in the army. Went from there to Miami Beach where we were then
going to be recruited for the Army Air Corps, it was called. And took training
there. Learned how to march mostly and how to conform; it was basic training.
Went to Laredo, Texas for; this was Miami Beach, by the way.
Interviewer: Yeah. Were you still in the college program?
Burton: No. After one quarter at the University of Kentucky we were inducted.
Interviewer: Did you have the option of leaving, did you?
Burton: No, we were called into active duty.
Interviewer: Oh okay.
Burton: . . . . and there were two Jewish people in that contingent, myself
and a kid from West Virginia . . . . I lost track of him. Later into the war but
they sort of needed fodder and from Miami Beach, I went to Laredo, Texas, to
learn how to shoot a machine gun and I was going to become an aerial gunner in a
B17. And that’s where I went overseas to do that work.
Interviewer: So was this a choice thing Burt at that point?
Burton: The Army made your choice.
Interviewer: You never had a choice? Okay. I just wanted to clear that.
Burton: I still wanted to get the Germans but . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. That was the main goal.
Interviewer: Right, right. So you went, you went to gunnery school.
Burton: Very briefly.
Burton: But I got into service and got into the, what is now called the Air
Force for training. I was, they interviewed you when you were graduating from
the training and bomber gunnery. The interview was by Army Intelligence and the
sergeant who interviewed me said he noticed my name. He said, “Where were
your parents born?” and I told him in Austria. And he said, “Well how
would you feel about dropping bombs on your family’s, your parents?”
which was probably a good question. How did I feel about that and I told him
why I had joined the army in the first place so he probably asked the same
question to everybody who had a Germanic family name. But I was lying on my bunk
in June of ’44 when the invasion began and I knew that we would be following
them very shortly. And we did. We went first to a port near Boston. We went
overseas on a cruise ship, former cruise ship, that was refigured with bunks
about three or four high.
Interviewer: So they really packed them in?
Burton: Yeah. I think mine was the Uruguay, the S. S. Uruguay.
Interviewer: How long did it take you to get overseas?
Burton: We got overseas in about 8 days. And we had all kinds of battleships
and cruisers around us because the trips we took were really in cruise ships.
Interviewer: Where did you land?
Burton: We landed in, near Liverpool but at a port in Northern England.
Interviewer: Northern England?
Burton: Yeah. In a place called Stoke on Trent. It was like a receiving area
and they gave us guns that we didn’t know how to shoot and they put us on
guard duty and showed us to a place near Ascot, England, which was a, they
called them “repple-depples” and they were replacement depots and you
were to be sent where either troops were needed or people had been killed, as a
replacement. And that’s where John Hay saved my life probably because I
learned shorthand at John Hay and they came to the barracks where I was, or
tents I think at the time where I was, said, “Does anybody here know
shorthand,” because the…what you’d call them, like the prose-cuting
attorney in the army, Judge Advocate, had to hold a trial immediately of a man
who had raped, or allegedly raped, a British girl. The second case on the docket
was two sergeants who killed two other sergeants with an automobile. They hit
them on the road.
Burton: Anyway . . . .
Interviewer: So you got embarked on another career?
Burton: Yeah, to cover those trials and be assigned to that officer when
upstairs was the commanding general and his staff and they said, “Why don’t
you go up there and help them,” because there wasn’t anybody doing
malfacting at the time so the Judge Advocate didn’t need any help. And I, that’s
where my career in the military sort of ended or it began in an airborne army
called the First Airborne Army. And I was a secretary to the General.
Interviewer: So you stayed in England then, is that right?
Burton: No we went, a couple of months later, we went to France and we also
were in Belgium and Holland and then finally, Berlin. Which is when I left the
Interviewer: Was the war over then?
Burton: The war was over a couple months but people were either being sent
home or to the Pacific and because I was in this unit…airborne…they were
credited with enough battle stars that I got to go home and leave the army which
Interviewer: How did your credits work? Can you give us some idea of how that
Burton: Well it did well for people were separated from the service on
account of what they said the ASTP program was. They came over and they couldn’t
get anybody to accept them and the university, and then the army said, “We
don’t know what you’re talking about,” and that program was terminated
and so forth. And they wanted the government to square with them. This is how
they got into the service and didn’t plan on going back into the engineering
life anyway. So my, the GI Bill is how I got through Case Western Reserve.
Interviewer: The GI Bill? Tell us a little bit how that worked.
Burton: GI Bill paid your tuition and gave you like $21 a month, something
Interviewer: To help cover expenses?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Burton: The major thing the GI Bill did was put people in housing in this
country. You got a loan at probably a quarter of what the market loan was and as
people were employed and . . . . the more they bought homes and from Democrats,
they became Republicans.
Interviewer: But when you came back from the service, did you go immediately
into college or what?
Burton: I had a wait, I applied at Adelbert College which was one of the
colleges of Case Western Reserve. They said they would be happy to have me and
my grades were okay but I’d have to wait a year. People were coming out of the
service and they had paying customers also. And I wanted to get on with my life
so I joined Case Western Reserve at Cleveland College which would accept you
right away and those credits from my . . . . life at the University of Kentucky
helped me get through there in three years instead of four. They gave me
generous credits for my Kentucky courses.
Interviewer: Uh huh. What degree did you graduate with then?
Burton: An A.B. or B.A. Bachelor of Arts.
Interviewer: Then you were no longer involved in engineering at that point?
Burton: . . . .
Ruth: He also graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well let’s put that on the record. I think that’s
Burton: And once again, the threat of politics was there. My instructor in
political science ran for Congress and that’s probably the first real campaign
that I knew about and got involved with as a gopher.
Interviewer: What rank did you reach in the service?
Burton: A T-3 which was a staff sergeant and that was sort of near the end
when I took over the responsibility for our section. I got promoted real quick.
Went up the stairs for the couple of months. When I left, I had a pretty good
Ruth: Tell them what you did on the general’s staff, what kind of things
Burton: Well . . . .
Interviewer: On the general’s staff?
Ruth: He was, he got assigned to the general’s office after he was with the
Burton: Yeah. The company commander for us by the way was my gym teacher only
I didn’t know that until later on in my army experience but he was a saver
just like those teachers were in high school. I was sort of the standby
secretary for the general’s office. My boss, a man by the name of Naramone, a
major, was a shell-shocked officer who got assigned to us because he and a
general jumped into a hole at the same time during a battle and the general was
killed and he wasn’t and he was dealing with that issue so he didn’t pay
much attention to me but therefore it got me a place to sleep. We didn’t have
quarters. I got to eat in the officer’s mess in the kitchen when I needed to.
Interviewer: So you . . . .
Burton: It was turned around…24 hour duty with the general. But the
payoff there was that I got to sleep in a real barracks and to take a bath at
the headquarters . . . . .
Interviewer: Wow. You had the advantage of assignment.
Burton: Yeah. I had to keep a diary for the army. They had a historian but
mine was to deal with the decisions of the general staff and that’s why the
big name that I worked with was General Gavin.
Interviewer: General Gavin?
Burton: One of the heroes of World War II and I asked him for help and he was
willing to give it to me to go to Lemberg, Austria, which was in the Russian
Sector to see what it was like before I went home. And he asked our Russian
translator to check it out for me and he called me and said, “You can go if
you want to but there’s nothing left of the town and there’s still
anti-Semitism there. I recommend that you go to Denmark on leave.” Which I
Interviewer: But you were interested in your family roots at that point? Uh
huh. Uh huh.
Ruth: You also went to Dresden just after we bombed it. After . . . .
Ruth: It was right after the bombing ended.
Interviewer: Tell us about that . . . .
Burton: The only clearing that had been done was where some troops were in
the city . . . .
Interviewer: The city of Dresden?
Burton: Yes. So . . . . and they’d had, I forget what they called it but it
was a night of terror in which they rained bombs on them all night long and
there wasn’t much left standing in the center of the city where we were. The
officer I was traveling with on the way to Berlin, knocked on the door of one of
the existing buildings and said, “We’re going to sleep here
tonight.” Just took it over and people were scurrying around like rodents,
Interviewer: Well it was a very frightful time.
Burton: To get bombed.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Burton: We saw experimental aircraft on the way to Berlin that the Germans
were trying to manufacture to win the war. But we did get to Berlin finally. The
officer I was with, a major, became my boss after the other major was cashiered
Interviewer: Uh huh. How long were you in Berlin?
Burton: I was in Berlin for about three months, I think. It seemed like a
Interviewer: Yeah, I’m sure.
Ruth: . . . . two years. You were in for about two years.
Burton: Yeah. I went in in ’43 and got out of it at the end of ’45.
Ruth: . . . .You were 18 when you went in . . . .
Interviewer: So you were just a young kid. 20 when you got out?
Burton: Something like that.
Interviewer: It was a lifetime.
Burton: But I was telling Ruth that, and I have told other people, one of my
jobs was to attend the staff meetings and write up the decisions that were made
and the two that I remember was General Patton presented a plan to General
Eisenhower to win the war by getting to Berlin first and when we were going to
do it was we would take our gliders and our paratroopers and go ahead of the
fighting and capture an airport and then Patton would come with the tanks and
secure . . . . jump again or glider again to the next major airport ’till we
got to Berlin.
Interviewer: Well, Burt, I’m going to stop you at this point and remember
what you’re going into and we’re going to turn to another tape. This is the
end of Side B, Tape 1. Okay, we’re on Tape 2, Side A, and Burt, we’re going
to continue. You were telling us about your war experience.
Burton: Yeah so there was this staff meeting to go over the plan to reach
Berlin ahead of everybody. And we would break the Germans and end the war. And
we had a general, a major general by the name of Cutler. He was the operations
general for our army and we went around the table. I didn’t. The general at
the time whose name was Ransom, we had a series of groups where generals would
come and go. Ransom was followed by Gavin. But anyway, General Ransom went
around the table and said, “You signal thumbs up or thumbs down on
this.” And he got to the operations general, Cutler. He said, “Well we
did a projection of the casualties and the casualties would be above 45% in this
operation.” And General Ransom said, “Well we’ll send a message with
that news back to General Eisenhower and as, while I’m conducting this part of
the army, we won’t do that program.”
Interviewer: Too many casualties?
Burton: Yeah. A little bit later, there was a man in the advertising business
in real life from out of Philadelphia and he modeled himself after Patton with a
pearl-handled revolver and so forth. And he went through that and he voted to do
it. I mean he was not thinking of the troops but he liked the idea of jumping
and fighting and glory. Later on a representative from the Joint Distribution
Committee, was sent by Eisenhower’s office to us to pursue liberating Jewish
people who might still be in the Russian Sector and even further to the east.
And I can’t remember the guy’s name but he was like a J.W.B. type person.
Very nice, very mild spoken and they asked him what he wanted and he said,
“I need a driver and a jeep, and I can take care of the rest. I speak
German and Russian. And whoever we find, we can work out a way to get them out
of there and.” To Greece they were taking them at the time.
Interviewer: To where?
Burton: To Greece.
Ruth: These were refugees.
Ruth: They had been caught in the war.
Burton: Some of them were people who were forced labor and they went back to
their, they didn’t want to leave or didn’t know how to leave so they went
back to their communities when they were liberated. Anyway, that was the program
that the Joint Distribution Committee presented. And they excused this
representative of the Joint Distribution. And then it went around the table
again as it always did. This time it was General Ransom and he said, “What
do you think?” And the second person he talked to, everybody was for it,
but the second person he talked to was the pearl-handled guy who later became
the commander in Berlin. And he said, “Well you might as well do it ’cause
Jews control the world anyway.”
Burton: I thought, “What in the world were we fighting about when our
senior officers in our army are saying those kinds of things?”
Burton: And I met with the general afterwards and I gave him my transcript
and it had what the guy from Philadelphia said in it and he said, “We’re
going to leave it in.”
Interviewer: Leave it in the transcript?
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it was the spoken word.
Burton: But that societal issue was there everywhere in the war.
Interviewer: It sounds like you . . . .
Burton: Segregation was there. Anti-Semitism was there. I had a big fight in
Miami Beach with a guy from Chicago who said I needed to do more work in peeling
potatoes because you know, the Jews are slackers.
Interviewer: But you were all fighting for the same goal.
Burton: Following orders. If they told us which way to aim our guns, we would
Interviewer: Uh huh. Sure. Too bad anti-Semitism and racism was so strong at
Ruth: Tell about ending up in Berlin with Nate to find his sister?
Burton: Well we apparently got that assignment to be the, to run the American
District, the French, British and Russian. And of course the whole premise was
that we had to get there ahead of the Russians. As it worked, they got their
first and they set up the check points and the person who was going to go into
Berlin took me along in a jeep and I didn’t drive at the time. Ruth taught me
how to drive. So we set off for Berlin from Bielafeld, Germany, which was a big
German army camp that hadn’t been bombed for several days in a row. And we,
that’s when we went past Dresden and some other bombed out places and we got
to Berlin eventually but my major drove the wrong way for about 112 miles or
something like that. He didn’t read the signs in German and he went the wrong
way on the Autobahn and got delayed quite a bit. We really didn’t get along
well, the U.S. troops, the U.S. commanders and the Russian commanders. The
Soviets pretty well got along and the French and the British didn’t seem to
have any problem with them at all. But we were already having second thoughts
about why we were in the war with the Russian as allies.
Interviewer: So there was some differences.
Burton: Some specific differences.
Ruth: And that’s how we found the thing you typed.
Burton: Oh, I’m sorry. We had in the general staff of the First Airborne
Army, my job was to be the secretary for the staff general and some . . . .
later when we lived in Columbus and Ruth was the Executive for the Columbus
International Program, we went on a trip that they sponsored where you’d go
through East Germany and end up in Hungary but you’d make these wonderful
stops on the way. And the first stop was East Berlin and we got to East Berlin
and one of the members of our group, a long-time volunteer in CIP nationally,
raised a lot of fuss at the check point because they wanted to examine luggage,
the Russians did. And he was an anti-communist person and he just wouldn’t
give in and do it. But my experience from the military was just do what they
asked you to and I jumped off the bus and opened our little suitcase and they
didn’t even look in it but they waved us on at the beginning of our visit and
we stayed at a hotel I think in Berlin and it was the 500th anniversary being
celebrated in Berlin with all the still-being buildings, many of them hadn’t
been refurbished yet. Some had. And we went to this exhibit and Ruth will help
me on this. As you went up five floors and one was early history of Berlin.
Another one was pre-World War II from around the time of World War I, what
happened to Berlin. And then came another one that was the yellow arm bands, the
material that . . . . when those arm bands, which the Jews of Berlin had to
Interviewer: Oh so this was part of the display?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Burton: And . . . .
Interviewer: What year was this?
Burton: That we went there?
Ruth: It was the year the Berlin Wall came down.
Ruth: Is that when it was?
Interviewer: 1989. ‘Cause we went there that year.
Interviewer: Close to ’89.
Ruth: It went down. Yes.
Interviewer: So it could have been ’88.
Ruth: Yeah I think it might have been ’88. I’ll have to get all those
dates . . . .
Burton: We ascended and got to the Nazi era and then we got to the World War
II era apparently. There was a glass encased exhibit and I said, “That
really looks like my office and you know, that typewriter looks like my
typewriter,” I mean, you know, the same kind of typewriter. Then we got up to
the glass and I looked at the typewriter and it was complete with bad typing,
the Order to Assist in the Democratization of Berlin by supporting a non-Nazi
who was then the Mayor of Berlin. That was one of the staff discussions. And I
said, “My God, that’s my typewriter and my typing!”
Interviewer: Isn’t that fascinating that you just came upon it and it was
in the display? And it’s still there?
Ruth: I don’t know if that display is still up, you know. It was just for
the 500th anniversary.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s someplace.
Burton: We took a photo of it.
Ruth: Yeah we have the photo of it. That floor, I mean that part of it was
divided up like the different sectors and there was a display of the American
Sector and a display . . . .
Burton: We were in the American, that’s right . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. Let me see if your voice is coming in here. Okay, to
Ruth: Another interesting thing. About a year ago or so, Burt got a phone
call from the woman who had been his girlfriend in high school. She was the
President of the Student Council when he was the City Manager and he wrote to
her almost every day during those two years that he was in the service and she
called him about a year ago and said, “I have all of your letters. I’ve
been going through them and I’ve been thinking that your children ought to
have these letters.” He hadn’t heard from her really at all, had you? She
lives in California and he only saw her, you know, when he came back from the
Interviewer: So she was able to track him down?
Ruth: Yes. It turned out that she met someone who came from Columbus who knew
us from CIP.
Burton: Was in college with her.
Ruth: with her. And who had never told us that she had met Burt, this woman,
although I knew her. And she’s the one I think that told her that she knew
Burt in Columbus.
Interviewer: Did you get the letters?
Ruth: We got the letters.
Interviewer: Oh that’s interesting. Yeah. Did you ever, you haven’t met
Ruth: Yes, that is, we were in California last summer I think it was and we
met her and she’s adorable and she kept them all together by date and
everything so we have all these letters and. Yeah. . . . . that we ought to do
something with them because Burt was, you know, in such a decision making part
of the war.
Interviewer: Yeah. But how much information was he allowed to share at that
Ruth: We don’t know.
Burton: I haven’t read the letters yet.
Ruth: Yeah. But I’m sure he said some things that only he witnessed.
Burton: Probably more about what my reactions were to review what actually
Interviewer: Your children and grandchildren will have kind of a history
Ruth: Yeah, they’re in a notebook.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Very good. Okay, does that pretty much take us through
your military service and let’s see, there’s a lot more, there’s just so
many experiences that you had that were so great for us to share but there’s a
lot more family life that I’m going to get Ruth to fill in with. Are there any
more thoughts at this point, Burt? You’ve had such a fascinating life. Are
there any messages that you would include?
Ruth: When they interviewed Burt for Tifereth Israel, you know, they’re
putting together a publication . . . .
Interviewer: Yes I heard. I heard they were.
Ruth: And Burt was interviewed and he talked about getting Mayor
Sensenbrenner and Rabbi Zelizer together that was interesting.
Interviewer: Rabbi Zelizer was a very colorful and political rabbi, wasn’t
Burton: He was a Republican.
Interviewer: He was?
Burton: He was taken with Jack Sensenbrenner and when we went to rebuild our shul
at Tifereth Israel, the Mayor had gotten . . . . and they were talking about
where it would be rebuilt, out east somewhere like Temple Israel was.
Interviewer: But you were located where you are now on East Broad Street? Uh
Burton: And Rabbi Zelizer, after meeting with the Mayor, came to our
committee meeting and he said, “We want to be, don’t we want to be a shul
where people who are going into town can pass it every day and know that the
Jews exist in Columbus?” And that was the advice he got from Mayor
Interviewer: So it stayed where it was?
Ruth: And didn’t he, Mayor Sensenbrenner name him to that Recreation
Commission . . . . .
Burton: Yeah, yeah.
Ruth: ultimately he became the head of it.
Interviewer: Recreation Commission?
Burton: Of Columbus, yeah. And he, like Zelizer was an activist and Zelizer
was a Republican I think.
Interviewer: I think he was, yeah. Burt, I’m going to just stop here and
just switch over to Ruth and then if you think of things as we go along, I’m
going to let you take a little rest . . . .
Ruth: . . . .
Interviewer: Okay now to continue. We’re still on Side A, Tape 2 and we’ve
got Ruth Schildhouse here now and Ruth, we’re going to start with your life
history like we did with Burt and give us your full name.
Ruth: It’s Ruth and my maiden name was Schaffer so it’s Ruth Schaffer
Interviewer: And what is your Jewish name Ruth?
Ruth: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Okay. Do you, and no nickname?
Ruth: No nickname. No.
Interviewer: What about your family name, Schaffer. Was that original? Spell
Schaffer for us.
Ruth: S-C-H-A-F-F-E-R and what I’ve discovered is that my father’s name
was Schaffer but it was spelled differently. It was S-C-H-A-F-I-R. And we have
his passport and that’s the way it’s spelled there.
Interviewer: On the passport? Uh huh.
Ruth: When he came to this country.
Interviewer: And tell us how your family got established in Columbus? Were
you born in Columbus?
Ruth: I was born in Columbus.
Interviewer: Okay. And what was your birthdate?
Ruth: October 29, 1927.
Interviewer: What was Burt’s?
Interviewer: But his birthday?
Ruth: October 23.
Interviewer: That’s what I thought.
Ruth: Our birthdays are a week apart.
Interviewer: Oh, and mine’s the 18th.
Ruth: Oh really?
Interviewer: So I’m right in there too. How about your family? How did they
come to Columbus?
Ruth: My father came because he had some family in Columbus. His family was
the Goldberg family. Their name was actually Auerbach. But his uncle, Abraham
Goldberg changed his name before he came to America in 1885. He was the
patriarch of the family. There are a lot of stories about Abraham Goldberg, how
he was traveling by horse and buggy from Kansas, where he was homesteading. The
horse died in Columbus, so he settled in Columbus.
Interviewer: Oh well there are so many stories about why people end up in
Columbus. I hadn’t heard that one.
Ruth: Abraham Goldberg was quite a leader in the community. When he died in
1940 at the age of 84, I was in Hebrew School and all the children from the
Hebrew School stood out on the street as the hearse went by . . . .
Interviewer: In respect?
Ruth: In respect for him because he started the Hebrew School and he was very
active at Agudas Achim and was quite a benefactor and leader of the Jewish
Interviewer: How is he related to your father?
Ruth: My father’s mother was Abraham Goldberg’s sister. So he was his
uncle. And my father had, in addition to the whole Goldberg family which is
quite large, the Krakowitzs, Sarah and Jake Krakowitz. Sarah was my father’s
cousin. Her mother, Zlata Seigel, was another sister of Abraham Goldberg and she
lived here locally. Another sister of Abraham Goldberg was Eva Goldweber. She
also lived here in Columbus and there were five Goldweber offspring. My father
came from a town called Rositch in the Ukraine which was near Ludt. Ludt was the
big capital city. He had other sisters and brothers who died during the
Holocaust that were in Rositch. We just recently traced down one family. One of
my father’s sisters married a man named Widra and we have found their
Interviewer: How did, how would you . . . .
Ruth: W-I-D-R-A. And we found those relatives in Israel. My father’s
nephews have died but there is a wife and offspring that we’re just getting in
touch with and trying to find out more about my father’s immediate family.
Interviewer: So your father came here because of the Abe Goldberg family?
Ruth: Abraham Goldberg. There was another family. The Bronsteins, whose
mother Jennie was another sister of Abraham’s. My father ended up going into
business with his cousin, David Bronstein. They owned the Reliable Laundry.
Interviewer: So he always was in that business? Uh huh. Who did your father
come here with?
Ruth: He came alone. He did travel with a companion from somewhere nearby
where he grew up. They came in through Baltimore and this friend settled in
Baltimore, Maryland. When we were children, we were somewhat in touch with this
friend. He was a traveling salesman and he would come through Columbus. My
father never really talked much about his childhood. A lot of these things I’ve
learned about since he died.
Interviewer: I hear that very often because they left a life that wasn’t
great . . . .
Interviewer: nothing to really talk about, nothing they wanted to remember.
Ruth: Yeah. Even though he had a large family. I remember him being very
concerned during the war about his family there.
Interviewer: Did any of his siblings end up in the States?
Ruth: He had one sister who was here . . . .
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Ruth: in Columbus and her name was Jennie Goldenberg. And she lived in
Newark, Ohio, then in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She had two beautiful
daughters. My Tante Jennie moved to Columbus after the girls graduated from high
school. They were older than me. I don’t know if she was divorced or if her
husband deserted the family. We never really knew . . . .
Interviewer: Or talked about it?
Ruth: And they didn’t talk about it.
Interviewer: Sure, sure. Tell us about your mother, how she came to Columbus.
Ruth: My mother came from a village, Goniads, near Bialostok, Poland.
Interviewer: She wasn’t born here?
Ruth: No. She came to the States when she was 17 or 18 She already had some
siblings that were here. She had a brother and two sisters who were
half-siblings, in other words they had a different mother than my mother, and
two full brothers in the U.S. My mother was the child of my grandfather’s
second wife. When Mother arrived, she lived in the Toledo area. One of her
relatives settled in Columbus, Rose Ziegler.
Ruth: Yeah, her half sister. First my mother went to Toledo. Her brother,
Eddie Fisher, Honey Abramson’s father, met her at Ellis Island and took her to
Toledo where he was living at the time. Then she eventually came to Columbus.
She lived with the Ziegler family. She met my father here. There was a whole
group of young immigrants who got to know each other.
Interviewer: So they were married in Columbus then?
Ruth: They were married in 1925. She came to the U.S. in 1922. She had 5
siblings in the States.
Interviewer: So you had some family to start with?
Ruth: Yes, on my mother’s side. And my mother talked much more about her
family who she had left behind in Goniads, Poland.
Interviewer: Did you remain close to your mother’s siblings and her family?
Ruth: Yeah, my cousins, you know, Laura Ziegler and Mickey Ziegler. We were
very close. And Honey Fisher Abramson and her family were also in Columbus. I
had another aunt, Lill Broner. She didn’t have children. I had an uncle in
Toledo who also didn’t have children. There weren’t a lot of children in the
family. My mother had cousins and other people from Goniads who did not live in
Columbus, but she was in touch with them.
Interviewer: The family ties meant a lot and they needed, supported each
other. Tell us about your siblings or how many . . . .
Ruth: Just one brother, Larry.
Ruth: Lawrence Schaffer.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And did Larry ever marry?
Interviewer: Okay. So he was . . . . Well tell us about your family, your
children and grandchildren.
Ruth: Okay. We have three daughters: Julie, Amy and Melissa. All the girls
went to school in Columbus, graduated from public schools here. From Eastmoor
High School, they all graduated from Eastmoor.
Interviewer: Tell us about Julie’s background in terms of her education and
Ruth: Julie went to Ohio University and worked in Columbus in TV at Channel 6
after college. Amy went to Vassar and when she graduated from Vassar, she and
some friends took an apartment in New York. Wonderful location, 54th and 7th
Avenue and so Julie eventually moved to New York and lived with Amy. Melissa
went to Sarah Lawrence which is also outside of New York and so when she
graduated or whenever she had weekends off, she went and stayed with the girls,
so even though Amy originally got that apartment with four other girls, it ended
up that our three daughters lived there in New York.
Interviewer: Oh that’s neat. Uh huh.
Ruth: And they had that apartment for about 15 years.
Interviewer: They did?
Interviewer: Wow! Was this an apartment they rented or . . . .
Ruth: They rented it. They never had the opportunity to buy it because it was
a rent-stabilized apartment and the people who lived in it wouldn’t move out
and so there was no opportunity ever to buy it.
Interviewer: So it was decent rent?
Ruth: Yes, it was good rent. And it’s since been totally modernized and
right across the street is one of New York’s most expensive Japanese hotels.
Interviewer: Oh. What a wonderful opportunity for your girls to live
Ruth: Yeah it was great. And you know, they all loved New York. That was an
important part of their lives. Melissa was actually the last one to live in it
and she married someone from New York and they lived in the apartrment for a
while. He worked for Sun Microsystems and was assigned, after they were married,
to go to Russia. They lived in Russia for a year. And so the ownership of the
apartment started bringing laws suits against them because they weren’t
actually living there. They had sublet it to somebody else and eventually they
had to move. They couldn’t hold onto that apartment. They had moved to
California after they came back from Russia.
Interviewer: Tell us when Melissa was born.
Ruth: Melissa was born in 1961 and Amy in ’57 and Julie in ’55.
Interviewer: Okay. Let’s start with Julie and tell us about her family.
Ruth: Well, she doesn’t have children. She continued to stay in New York.
Eventually got her own apartment. She worked for a company that put on
conferences and so she did a lot of traveling and had fun jobs. She met her
husband through answering a personals ad.
Ruth: Yeah. He’s a lawyer who grew up in New York in Rockville Center.
Interviewer: His name?
Ruth: Michael Jacobson. Mike had a house when they got married so they lived
in his house in Rockville Center and Julie finally convinced him to move to
Columbus. Well, Mike didn’t like being a lawyer any more. He went back to
school to get a degree in design from Pratt School of Design.
Interviewer: Oh that was a switch, wasn’t it?
Ruth: Yeah a big switch. He went to school for two years and graduated and
when he got the degree, then Julie convinced him that they should move to
Columbus. He was starting a new career so they moved back to Columbus.
Interviewer: And what is Julie doing now?
Ruth: She’d doing the same thing. Working for a New York company for
somebody that she worked with when she was in New York, selling sponsorship for
conferences and meeting events. And she’s become very active in the
community. She was the Chair of Tifereth Israel’s hundredth anniversary party.
Interviewer: Yeah that was a big event.
Ruth: Big event. Yeah.
Interviewer: Very successful. Uh huh. I wonder who she took after? (Laughter)
Who does Mike work for now?
Ruth: Well Mike is pretty much self-employed. He did take the Bar in Ohio so
he’s still a lawyer but his heart is really in design and he takes on various
projects of design whenever he has the opportunity.
Interviewer: Kind of a free-lancer?
Ruth: Free-lancer. Right.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay.
Ruth: Amy married a Jewish young man from Mexico. Amy had spent a lot of time
in Mexico and in Spain during her college years. She met Moises Zabludovsky in
Interviewer: Maybe you ought to spell that for our interpreter here.
Ruth: Z-A-B-L-U-D-O-V-S-K-Y. Moises. They were a wonderful family that she
married into. His uncle was a TV newscaster. He was the Walter Cronkite of
Mexico. Everybody knows him. If you meet anybody from Mexico, they all know who
he is. And Moises’ father was an architect, a very famous architect in Mexico
and Moises was a painter. We thought Amy was going to have a wonderful life in
Interviewer: An artist?
Ruth: Yes, he was an artist. Not a painter but an artist. Yeah. And after
they were married a year, their son Daniel was born in 1988 and Moises really
lost it at that point. He just wasn’t ready for the responsibility of having a
family and a child and had a lot of emotional problems. They ended up getting
divorced and Amy and Daniel came back to Columbus and lived with us for a few
months and then she took her own apartment and I don’t know how long after she
was back here she met her eighth-grade boyfriend, Josh Greenberg.
Interviewer: Sure. Had she gotten a job by then in Columbus?
Ruth: Amy was working at the Jewish Center, running the senior citizen
program there which is something I had done . . . . and she and Josh, you know,
started their relationship and they were married and Josh has been just a
wonderful father to Daniel. They’ve since had two other children, Bess Esther,
born in 1997, named for Josh’s grandmother and my mother, and Jacob Max, born
in 1999, who was named for Burt’s and my father. So they’re a great family.
Interviewer: Where does Bess go to school?
Ruth: Bess goes to Torah Academy.
Interviewer: Torah Academy?
Ruth: Daniel also went to Torah Academy until he completed 6th grade. Now he’s
at Bexley and loves Bexley. He has a band. Last month he went back to Mexico
because his grandfather died this year. There was a big memorial in a museum
that his grandfather designed which is the Refuno Tomayo Museum. And so, you
know, Daniel has a wonderful legacy of family. Moises stays in touch with him.
Interviewer: Well that’s good, that’s healthy.
Ruth: . . . . Moises has remarried, has two little girls.
Interviewer: I know they’re a beautiful family here in Columbus.
Ruth: Yes, they really are. A great family. Melissa met Chip Welsh in New
York and they went together for about 7 years before Melissa finally decided to
marry him. Chip isn’t Jewish but they are raising their children Jewish. They
have 2 children, Lily, born in 1999.
Burton: She’s four.
Ruth: And Max who was named for my father, born in 2001, who just had his
second birthday yesterday. Melissa was calling to tell us about his birthday.
That’s who just called.
Interviewer: And where does she live?
Ruth: They had lived in Palo Alto when they came back from Russia. They lived
in Palo Alto because Chip went back with Sun Microsystems. Then he left Sun and
went to another company, another computer company, but they stayed in Palo Alto.
And that company, called Active Card, wanted to start a New York office and so
Chip agreed to go back to New York. They live on Long Island, Sands Point, Long
Interviewer: Oh so they went from coast to coast?
Ruth: It’s been just a year since they’ve been there.
Interviewer: How was their time in Russia? What kind of an experience was
Ruth: Well it was interesting. We visited. We spent a month with them while
they were there. They lived in a gorgeous new apartment building where Sun had
its offices and their apartment was there and they had . . . .
Burton: Armed guards.
Ruth: armed guards and they had a chauffeur to drive them places and of
course, they didn’t have the children then. It was just when things were
changing in Moscow and there were modern stores and boutiques.
Interviewer: What about the language? How did that work for them?
Ruth: They studied Russian. Melissa is very good at languages. She’s
completely fluent in Spanish. She was a tour leader for the Experiment in
International Living for a couple of years and worked in their New York office
and then she became a Spanish speaking guide at the United Nations. And of
course, Amy’s fluent in Spanish also. So Melissa did pretty well with Russian
for just a year, you know. They were happy to get back when they did.
Interviewer: Oh that was a nice time of their life though to have that
Ruth: Yeah they traveled a lot. They’ve always traveled a lot because when
Chip worked for Sun Microsystems, he was on their international staff, so he
traveled a lot. Melissa was able to go with him.
Interviewer: Well that was great.
Ruth: Hong Kong, Beijing, France, everywhere.
Interviewer: Tell us how you met Burt and about your marriage.
Ruth: Okay. Let’s see. I guess I was pretty clear about what I decided to
do as a career. I always wanted to be a social worker. When I listed my jobs, it
was interesting, I worked at the Columbus Jewish Center, I worked at the
Cleveland Jewish Center, I worked at the Euclid Jewish Center. My first
full-time job was at the Cleveland Jewish Center when I got out of college at
Ohio State. I got my undergraduate degree at Ohio State and . . . .
Interviewer: In social work?
Ruth: In social work. Always social work. Everything was. And let’s see,
when I was in college, I guess, it started, The Jewish Welfare Board had an
organization, a youth organization called the National Council of Jewish Youth
and it was nationwide and I became an officer in that organization. I became
the Vice-President. That involved a lot of being able to go to New York for
meetings and go to other communities. And this was in college. As a result of my
being involved with that, I was offered a job at the Cleveland Jewish Center.
Interviewer: Where were you in college?
Ruth: I was at Ohio State. I spent a year on the staff at Cleveland Jewish
Center and I soon learned in Cleveland that you had to have a master’s degree
in social work if you wanted to get anywhere in the field, so after the year, I
decided to go to Western Reserve and get my master’s. I was in school at
Western Reserve and it was during my second year when we got married. During the
first year I was still very involved with this National Jewish Youth
organization and you know, going to meetings. And paper work for graduate
school. People were constantly introducing me to new people and there were like
three different people who told me about Burt and said, “You’ve got to
meet this guy.” One of them was dating my roommate, so he persuaded Burt to
call me and when Burt first called me, I didn’t have any time to go out with
him. I was traveling and in school and doing all these . . . .
Interviewer: You really didn’t have time?
Ruth: No I really didn’t. And so we finally decided on a date on Christmas
Day and we went to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day and from there, I mean
we had so many things in common and so many things we were both interested in
and we started seeing a lot of each other. He was working at the time which was
wonderful. He had his job at the advertising agency and he would take me out to
dinner in restaurants . . . .
Interviewer: So that gave a little security?
Ruth: Oh it was really nice.
Interviewer: Ruth, I’m just going to stop you for a minute because we’re
almost at the end of this tape. I’m just going to turn it over. We’re ending
Side A, Tape 2. Okay, we’re on Side B, Tape 2.
Ruth: Two interesting things during that time was, as a result of being on
this National Jewish Youth organization, I was appointed one of 5 youth
delegates to the Mid-Century White House Conference on Children and Youth on
the planning committee and on that planning committee was Dr. Spock who I saw
regularly and other important people . . . .
Interviewer: Tell us about Dr. Spock.
Ruth: He was delightful. Just a wonderful, warm, nice person.
Interviewer: Famous pediatrician.
Ruth: Right, right.
Interviewer: But we all used his advice to raise our children.
Ruth: Exactly. And besides, the five youth delegates came from different
organizations. I was the Jewish representative and then there was somebody from
a Protestant church and a Catholic. There were 5 of us and we met every two
month in Washington planning that conference. That was great. That was a great
experience. I met Harry Truman at that point. We met at the White House several
times. And that helped when I got into school at Western Reserve, you know,
everybody knew that I had done that and . . . .
Interviewer: Where was the conference held?
Ruth: In Washington. In the White House. That’s a thing they do regularly.
They have conferences on different important subjects and people come from all
over the country, professionals. As a result of having been on that, Grace Coyle
was my adviser when I went to Western Reserve and she was like the leading
person in group work at the time and everything seemed really great. But another
thing that had happened is that while I worked at the Jewish Center in
Cleveland, they were organized, they were a union, and the union went out on
strike during that year I worked there. The faculty at Case Western Reserve didn’t
like that at all, you know, that professional social workers went out on strike.
So Grace Coyle really kept her eye on me during the time that I was in graduate
school and so it was sort of a mixed blessing. I was kind of Miss Celebrity
because of the White House Conference but I was also very suspect because I had
been involved in that union at the JCC. Burt and I got married while I was still
in school, during my second year, and that’s when we got the apartment on
Interviewer: How long had you date until you got married?
Ruth: One year. We got married one year from our first date. We went out on
Christmas in 1950 and we were married on December 23rd in 1951.
Interviewer: Oh it was really just a year?
Interviewer: Tell us about your wedding.
Ruth: Well during the summer before we got married, I worked at the Jewish
Center here and Burt came in to visit almost every weekend. I taught him to
Interviewer: Oh you were in Columbus?
Ruth: I came back to Columbus because, you know, we weren’t married yet.
Interviewer: And you had already learned to drive?
Ruth: I taught Burt. I already knew. My father taught me to drive when I was
16. I had a car when I was 16 so; now I don’t like to drive.
Interviewer: You had enough of that?
Ruth: I guess. We decided to have our wedding in Cleveland because by then,
we had many more connections in Cleveland than we had in Columbus. I felt that
my relatives from Columbus would come to the wedding in Cleveland so we had it
at a hotel in Cleveland and it turned out to be a terribly cold day . . . .
Interviewer: In December. I guess so.
Ruth: And a big snow storm. My Aunt Rose Ziegler had terminal cancer at that
point so none of her kids came to the wedding. Honey’s mother and Honey came
but really very few of my relatives came, but Burt’s family was there.
Burton: The Krakowitzes came.
Ruth: The Krakowitzes came with my parents and that was the time when we didn’t
want big weddings, you know. We hand-wrote the invitations to our wedding. One
of my aunts got insulted and said she hadn’t really received an invitation.
She didn’t count a hand-written note as an invitation.
Interviewer: Was that because you wanted it more personal or was it a
Ruth: We wanted it more personal and you know, that was during a sort of
hippie time when you didn’t want a big wedding and you didn’t want a big
Interviewer: And you were independent?
Ruth: And I was, felt very independent. Yes. So we had a lovely wedding. We
had harp music. That was a big thing.
Interviewer: A reception?
Ruth: A reception at the hotel and my parents were really great about it
because they would have loved a big wedding with all their friends in Columbus.
Interviewer: Right. You were an only daughter.
Ruth: Yes, but I felt like those weren’t my friends, you know. And that was
the kind of wedding we wanted.
Burton: The man who encouraged me to meet Ruth was like the chauffeur for the
rabbi. He went and got him.
Interviewer: He was the driver, the man who introduced you?
Ruth: Because of that big snow . . . . too. Nobody could get around.
Interviewer: Yeah well when there’s a snowstorm in Cleveland, you know it.
Ruth: Right. And as we were going down the aisle, Larry was Burt’s best man
and we didn’t have any other attendants, that’s all. And Larry said to Burt,
“How much money should I give the Rabbi?” Neither Burt nor Larry knew
what you were supposed to give the Rabbi. The Rabbi was Rabbi Rudy Rosenthal who
was at Park Synagogue, is that where he was?
Burton: Temple on the Heights.
Ruth: Oh, Temple on the Heights. He had been a family friend of Burt’s
family. And so the Krakowitzes got to talking to people and learned about Rabbi
Rosenthal and who he was and just as we were going down the aisle, Jake
Krakowitz came up to Burt and said, “Give him a hundred dollars. He’s a
Interviewer: Oh. That was not exactly the appropriate time, was it? But his
value was there.
Ruth: Right. . . . . Krakowitz, I don’t know, but people know him. He was a
big macher in Columbus.
Interviewer: So you wanted to be sure you did the right thing? Or what he
thought was the right thing?
Ruth: Right. Then we came back and my parents gave a big dinner party at the
Seneca Hotel for us and invited their friends. That was a nice thing.
Burton: Ruth cured me of air sickness then. . . . . We took a plane to New
York on our honeymoon. I told her, “Don’t be alarmed if I get ill.”
I was in the glider troops and every time we went up, I got ill.
Interviewer: Oh. And did he get ill?
Burton: Ruth said to me, “You know why you get ill? You’re afraid. And
think about it.” So I thought about it and I said, “By golly, she’s
right.” And I’ve never gotten sick since.
Interviewer: You were not afraid then? You were not afraid when you flew to
New York? But you were afraid when you were in a glider in the service? Well I
Sure. They were being shot at then.
Ruth: But that got him out of the glider service too, the fact that he would
throw up . . . .
Interviewer: They didn’t need him there, that’s for sure . . . .
Burton: I got sick all the time.
Interviewer: Well it got you out of that anyhow. And so you spent your
honeymoon in New York?
Ruth: In New York . . . . .
Interviewer: And where did you live then when you came back here?
Ruth: We had rented an apartment on Cornell Road which is right in the
Burton: . . . . the advertising agency’s father owned the apartment
Interviewer: I don’t think apartments were that easy to get at that time,
Ruth: No. Burt’s boss in the advertising agency, his father owned this
building and that was great and the location: I could walk to classes and even
come home between classes.
Interviewer: Just to give us a sense of how things were at that time, do you
remember what your rent was?
Burton: . . . . seventy-eight dollars a month.
Ruth: Seventy-eight dollars a month and it was a furnished apartment. And
little by little we replaced the furniture with our own. Theirs was pretty
ratty. We painted the apartment ourselves. We had a black bathroom and a brown
Interviewer: Well I don’t blame you for repainting it.
Ruth: No we did that.
Interviewer: That was your style?
Interviewer: Oh well.
Ruth: A couple of newlyweds lived right next door to us who I had known from
the Jewish Center. I had known the wife. We became very good friends and we used
to, we would give parties and formed a discussion group.
Interviewer: Who are they?
Ruth: Well they’re in Cleveland. Savine Weizman and her husband, Al Weizman.
He died of a heart attack. He was about 42 when he died. Savine has become a
very well-known psychologist. But it was great. We had these side-by-side
apartments and we could give parties and stuff.
Interviewer: Yeah. It sounds like a fun time.
Ruth: Yeah. And that became really a lifetime friendship. We got very
involved in political groups, Burt and I. We both had that interest. We
protested the Korean War. We went on a trip to Chicago when we first met each
other, in a protest group against the Korean War. Those were the things that we
really had in common.
Interviewer: Strong interests . . . .
Ruth: Yeah, yeah.
Burton: We wanted to review the Rosenberg case.
Ruth: The Rosenbergs, you remember, were put to death. We helped organize a
rally to, you know, not put them to death. And Burt signed for the rental of the
hall. Somebody had to sign for it. It was the Public Hall in Cleveland. It was
going to be a really big rally. And my first job out of school was with the
Y.W.C.A. in Cleveland and this was during the McCarthy era and when they found
that Burt had signed for the hall, I ended up losing my job at the Y.W.C.A.
Interviewer: Oh they followed that? Uh huh.
Ruth: Yeah. And we got pretty used to having our license number taken down
wherever we went and being under surveillence at meetings and stuff.
Interviewer: Kind of suspicious?
Ruth: Yeah. So when I lost the job at the Y.W.C.A., I got a wonderful job at
the Cleveland Psychiatric Hospital that was just starting a group work
program. I was among the first group of eight group workers that they hired to
work with the patients to see if that would improve their mental health. I
worked there until I became pregnant with Julie. I worked there for 3-4 years.
When Julie was born, we bought a house in Euclid and I quit my job.
Burton: The company that built the house, that sold the house, was owned by
the parents of the Ambassador to Austria, Milton Wolfe.
Interviewer: Milton Wolfe? Yeah I know, we all know Milton Wolfe. We know of
him for sure.
Burton: He was a nice man then and apparently still is.
Interviewer: Would you repeat that? I’m not sure that that came on.
Ruth: The house that we bought in Euclid was part of a development that was
owned and built by Milton Wolfe, who later became the Ambassador to Austria and
it was, you know, an area where all the houses looked the same, brick houses,
Interviewer: Kind of cookie-cutter?
Ruth: Yeah and it was a good, mixed neighborhood. There were several, many
Jewish families there but also many non-Jewish families. I took a job working
for the Euclid Jewish Center which was in the synagogue in Euclid. That was a
part-time job, when Julie was a baby. But the really good thing that happened
was that I became involved in the League of Women Voters there and became very
involved in that. Amy was born 20 months after Julie and that was during the
time that Burt was working on the Di Salle campaign. And so he was traveling a
lot with Di Salle and during that time he started working in Columbus and he
lived with Larry while we tried to sell our house in Euclid and I was there with
the two little girls.
Interviewer: So you were anticipating your move to Columbus?
Ruth: Yeah. It took us about six months then.
Burton: It didn’t, the house didn’t sell right away.
Ruth: I know. �Cause there were so many and they were building new ones,
you know, people could get new ones. But we finally sold it and were able to
move to Columbus and at that time, you know, I thought Columbus was probably the
last place in the world I wanted to come back to. Being in Cleveland was so
exciting and I had also lived in New York for a summer and all of that, exciting
. . . .
Burton: . . . . very apprehensive . . . .
Ruth: about coming back to Columbus. But it turned out Columbus had changed
so much and continues to change.
Interviewer: Yeah, getting more metropolitan, big city.
Ruth: And the things that Burt was involved in, you know, really got us
involved in a lot of interesting things and . . . . people.
Interviewer: So when you came here, where did you locate?
Ruth: We first bought a house off of Hamilton Road on Gaynor and Melissa was
born there and when Melissa was 5, we found this house.
Interviewer: Where you’re . . . .
Ruth: Yeah, where we live now.
Ruth: S. Harding Road. And so basically, Julie was in the sixth grade at that
time and Amy in the fourth grade and Melissa was just starting kindergarten. And
it was hard on Julie ’cause the sixth grade is not a good time to make a
change. But then she started at Eastmoor Junior High and met a lot of new people
and that was . . . .
Interviewer: Well it was good for us because we were your neighbors right
across the street.
Ruth: . . . .
Interviewer: This was a great neighborhood. My kids have great, fond memories
Ruth: My kids too.
Interviewer: So then where did your career go from then after Melissa?
Ruth: After Melissa and after we moved in the house, I worked part-time at
the Jewish Center in Columbus and ran the seniors, the Golden Age Program. And .
. . .
Interviewer: Who was the Director of the Center at that time?
Ruth: Mayer Rosenfeld was the Director and Sam Stellman was the Program
Director so Sam was basically my boss and that was only a part-time job. I
worked two days a week at the Center. That’s all the program they had for the
golden agers then. But I continued being involved with the League of Women
Voters and I became President of the League and I was President for 4 years of
the Metropolitan Columbus League of Women Voters. So I had the two things going:
the job and the League of Women Voters, which was great.
Interviewer: Wow. And still raising your family?
Ruth: Raising my family and being in a new house and we were able to do a lot
of interesting things with the golden agers because of my connection with the
League of Women Voters. We brought speakers and you know, really raised the
program to another level. And one of the people I worked was with Rae Greenspan,
the person from the Council of Jewish Women who was Volunteer Chair for the
Golden Age Club and she just dearly loved the program and nothing was too much
for her to do, you know. We put on great parties and she wanted the golden agers
to really experience life. We had New Year’s Eve parties. We had dinner
parties once a month for them, using volunteers from the Council of Jewish
Interviewer: Golden agers are now the senior citizens?
Ruth: Right. Exactly. So that was great. And during, well let’s see, I was
President of the League for 4 years and then I ran for the Columbus Board of
Education during the time when people really wanted to see a big change in the
Columbus schools and I ran as part of a team of three people and we really
stirred up the community. We didn’t get elected. The person who got elected
that year was Moyer, Tom Moyer, now Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. I
mean, the fact that three of us ran as a team was a first for this community.
Ruth: Ray Ball and me and a young lawyer . . . .
Burton: Phil Moots.
Ruth: It was Moots, Schildhouse and Ball. And we had tremendous support and
we had wonderful, yard signs everybody saw all over. And I still run into people
who remember that campaign and tell me they knew me. And that really grew out of
the League of Women Voters. That’s how I did that. So when I didn’t get
elected, before very long, Governor Gilligan appointed me to the State Board of
Education and I served at that appointed term and then I had to run for election
and I was elected twice so I served about 10 years on the State Board of
Education and then decided not to run again so that was part of my career. I
also got appointed to a number of other committees and stuff by Mayor
Sensenbrenner ’cause I was the President of the League of Women Voters so . .
Interviewer: That led you to other possibilities?
Ruth: A lot of other things. In 1972, Burt became involved in a program that
Ohio State was setting up, an international program that had existed in
Cleveland, that started in Cleveland and we knew about it when we were there. It
involved putting on a training program for foreign social workers, for
international social workers to come for either a summer or the year and have
the experience of American life and so forth. And it was a program that was
funded partly by the U.S. State Department and partly by the University. We had
known the program in Cleveland so Burt got put on the board of the program named
the Columbus International Program (CIP), and I was busy with the League of
Women Voters. The University ran the program for two years and then decided that
it should be a community program and that they wanted more community involvement
in it. They were looking for a director for it and Burt suggested that I apply
for the director and I did and I got it and so I was appointed then as a faculty
member at the College of Social Work to run the program and after a short time,
we discovered that there was a conflict of interest because I was on the State
Board of Education and you couldn’t serve on the State Board and be employed
by the College so we proceeded to set it up as a completely independent program
but there was still support from the University. The University continued to
contribute finances toward it and made all kinds of services available. We were
able to hold our orientation at the University and the people who came on the
program got University I.D. cards and all of that because of the tie. But it
became an independent program.
Interviewer: That’s a real fascinating program. It opened a lot of doors
for you, didn’t it?
Ruth: Yeah it did. And you know, I immediately saw that for it to support
itself without being part of the University, it had to be a larger program and
people had to stay for the year rather than just for the summer, so it grew
quite a bit during the time of those first early years but we didn’t have an
office. I did it all out of our home. I did have a secretary but we worked at
Interviewer: Is it still in operation?
Ruth: It’s still in operation. I retired in ’99 but the program had
continued. There have been two other directors since me . . . .
Interviewer: But I bet you’re still in touch with a lot of it?
Ruth: Oh yes, very much involved.
Interviewer: You know people from all over the world, huh?
Ruth: Yes. And during those years, probably started in the late 70s, I was
assigned to do the interviews in Latin America and South America and Central
America and I was sent on interviewing trips where we interviewed the
prospective people that we were bringing into the program. It was a nationwide
program by then. There were 16 communities this program was in, all more or less
connected with colleges of social work in the same way that we were. So Burt
took care of the kids during those interviewing trips and I got to travel
throughout South America and Central America and the Caribbean. Those were three
week trips. I think the longest one, one time I was gone 5 weeks I think. But I
really had the chance to go to countries I never would have seen.
Interviewer: What a wonderful opportunity that turned out . . . .
Ruth: And then as Burt mentioned, the program every two years has a
conference somewhere in the world that the alumni plan and we’ve been on I
guess about 8 of those conferences in different parts of the world and there’s
always a trip connected with it where you travel around.
Interviewer: Some of the surrounding communities?
Ruth: Yeah. So a lot of our travel has been that.
Interviewer: I was going to ask you about your travels because I know that
you and Burt both have traveled a lot.
Ruth: Well most of it was that kind of travel connected with the program.
Although we did go to Israel when Julie was 13. Instead of having a Bat Mitzvah,
we took the family to Israel. And just this year, Julie was an adult Bat Mitzvah
at our Temple.
Interviewer: Yes she was. I saw that. That’s great.
Ruth: And she was great. She just about ran the whole service. She was just
Interviewer: Well there were several of them, weren’t there?
Ruth: Yes there were seven women in the Bat Mitzvah group.
Interviewer: Yeah that was a nice . . . .
Ruth: And so we’ve done a lot of traveling on our own . . . .
Interviewer: Like…give us some background on that.
Ruth: In addition to all the places we went on CIP trips. Where did we go? We
went to Spain and Portugal on our own. We went to England on our own. But these
CIP trips were much more exotic. We went to Hungary as we mentioned and we went
to, one of the conferences was in Sweden. Another one was in Greece. Another one
was in France.
Interviewer: And then you’re with people who are really top notch
Ruth: Yeah and . . . .
Interviewer: And they show you around?
Ruth: People from each country actually plan the conference and want to show
you everything, because they have had the experience of being in the
international program which has changed their lives.
Interviewer: Where do these people end up living when the students come for
Ruth: Well part of it during the orientation was to live with host families
and that was part of my job to find families that they could live with. And that
was three families for a month each and then we leased apartments from the
University. We had a building actually on Lane Avenue that belonged to OSU. We
used all the apartments. When the program grew big enough to have 16 people here
for a year, we had those apartments on Lane Avenue. In the early 90s, one of our
Board Members was the son-in-law of people who owned Olentangy Village
Apartments and he arranged a lease with Olentangy Village and that was a more
desirable place to live really than the apartments on campus. We still use those
apartments . . . .
Interviewer: Well that was a big job to get everybody placed and . . . .
Ruth: Well, the way the program is funded, everybody has to be placed at an
agency or business for their training experience and the agency entered into a
contract with our program and that’s how we supported the people while they
were here and that supported the program. What paid for the program were the
contracts with the agencies. So we had people placed in state government and in
local government as well in private social service agencies. And in recent
years, we started taking other than social workers so we had some architects
here, some lawyers here, and other professionals.
Interviewer: Expanded the program?
Interviewer: Well that’s interesting. . . . .
Burton: Including the food industry.
Ruth: Yeah, the hospitality industry later.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Are you still involved in any way with . . . .
Ruth: Julie’s on the board now. She’s very active.
Interviewer: Oh, that’s interesting.
Ruth: She’s chair of this year’s fundraiser. There’s one big fundraiser
a year which is a big international buffet where we have about 35 restaurants
that contribute the food free of charge so everything is totally gratis.
Interviewer: And where is that held?
Ruth: It’s going to be at University Inn which is on Olentangy River Road.
But it’s been in various places. We started this event in 1972 as just a wine
tasting. The first one was at the Sirak home where they showed their priceless
paintings. That got us off to a great start. We had it in homes for a number of
years. But then it got too big and we started looking. Burt found a lot of
wonderful people who donated locations such as office and business sites.
Interviewer: How exciting that Julie is getting involved in that way.
Ruth: Yeah she’s doing a great job of leading the many volunteers who are
Interviewer: Well you can be very proud that your children have fallen into
nice patterns and followed a lot of the footsteps that you and Burt have gone.
Some of the things that I wanted to ask or usually ask about are almost mundane
after all the exciting experiences that you both have had. I kind of wanted to
talk a little bit about when you were a youngster, Ruth, about how your family
celebrated holidays. Did you? What synagogues did you go to as a youngster?
Ruth: My father, of course, was active at Agudas Achim and that was his synagogue.
But both my mother and father wanted to be more modern and so they also
joined the Conservative Temple and sent us to Sunday School at Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: It was pretty daring during that time.
Ruth: Yeah, it really was. I mean, I marvel at my mother when I think about
it, that she came at 18 not knowing the language and became this really modern
American woman. Yeah. But she did.
Interviewer: Pretty daring to be so liberal.
Ruth: My father never, you know, made religion a burden to us at all. We did
have Shabbas dinner and my mother kept kosher but we always ate in restaurants.
We went out every Thursday night for Chinese food. . . . . That’s right. And
we ate in downtown restaurants in Columbus. There was one, Hirsch’s Steak
House on Long Street that I remember. And the Far East was the Chinese
restaurant that we always went to. And so with Agudas Achim, I didn’t like the
Sunday School there. Oh I went to Hebrew School. Both Larry and I went to Hebrew
School and I loved Hebrew School.
Interviewer: Where was it held?
Ruth: It was on Rich Street. The Columbus Hebrew School.
Interviewer: Who were your teachers?
Ruth: Mr. Metchnik, who was Leah Godofsky’s father, was the principal and I
was one of his pets. When he’d call on students to recite, he’d call me
“the class”. Because I had to answer for everybody.
Interviewer: He was a tough teacher from what I understand.
Ruth: Yeah, he was. He could be very strict. But I didn’t like Agudas
Achim. It was so disorganized, the Sunday School. And my cousins the Zieglers
all went to Tifereth Israel so my father kept his membership at Agudas Achim but
Larry and I went to Sunday School at Tifereth Israel. And I was confirmed from
Tifereth Israel but Larry’s Bar Mitzvah was at Agudas Achim. And I really
think that the most I learned about Judaism was when Larry was studying for his
Bar Mitzvah and Mr. Solomon used to come to our house . . . .
Interviewer: But he was a fine . . . . nice person.
Ruth: And I sat in on it so the prayers that I knew and really learning to
read Hebrew and so forth, I learned from Mr. Solomon while he taught Larry.
Interviewer: So you think you learned at that time also?
Interviewer: But he wasn’t really teaching you?
Ruth: No. But I was there. I was always there for classes and stuff and once
when I was working in Cleveland at the Jewish Center, I did study Hebrew then
for a year so my Hebrew got better . . . . but the basis really was Mr. Solomon
and, you know, what I learned in Columbus Hebrew School.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I wanted to ask you what your interests are now. I mean,
I know I’ve seen you and Larry and Burt at shows, at the Symphony.
Ruth: Yes, we regularly go to the Symphony. We’re very involved. We were
sort of instrumental in getting Laura Ziegler’s art show set up at the Museum.
It was a big involvement for a while.
Interviewer: Well I can say as a docent at the Museum, it was a very exciting
experience for us ’cause I knew of Laura and some of the other people,
especially the Jewish docents, knew of her. So that was very . . . .
Ruth: She’s had several important shows in several other countries.
Interviewer: In other countries?
Ruth: Yeah. Of course she always has had big shows in Italy but she’s had
some others in . . . .
Interviewer: Have you visited her in Italy?
Ruth: Yes. And she has kept an apartment here in Columbus.
Interviewer: Oh she has?
Ruth: Her oldest brother Harold “Red” Ziegler died several years
ago and she just kept his apartment. And so Laura and her husband come back
every once in a while but not nearly for long enough. And our further
involvement with the Symphony is that her husband, Laura’s husband, Herbert
Handt, is a musician. At the beginning of his career, he worked with Siciliani’s
father who was the Director of La Scala Opera and he knew Siciliani, who is now
the Columbus Symphony music director, when he was a little boy.
Interviewer: Oh that’s interesting.
Ruth: So he’s always been very interested in what happened here in
Interviewer: Yeah, that would be another dimension there. Uh huh. Yeah, we
met them both at the show so that was a fun time. Well I know that you see your
children a lot and do you have holidays together?
Ruth: Yes. We have holidays together. Amy keeps kosher. She has a completely
kosher house so we do have most holiday meals holidays together at her home.
Interviewer: So you get to spend a lot of time with your grandchildren. That’s
Ruth: And we see Melissa. Even though she’s not living here, she, her
husband and children come in for the holidays and we go there quite frequently.
Interviewer: Are you still traveling very much?
Ruth: Not as much as before.
Interviewer: You’ve kind of slowed down a little bit? Uh huh. So you keep
active enough and just keep your life interesting. Unless you both have anything
more that you want to share, it’s just been a really fascinating afternoon for
me and I hope that it’s a good experience for you and that we have some lovely
information here that your children and grandchildren I think will enjoy.
Ruth: I guess one thing I would add is that Toby Brief, who is, her father is
Dr. Jerry Brief, and Toby’s Amy’s age. She’s a young woman that’s been
doing a genealogy of my father’s family.
Interviewer: Is she related to you?
Ruth: She, well Abraham Goldberg was her great-grandfather in the Goldberg
family and she’s been tracking down because in our family, there has been this
family history that we are related to Rashi, one of Rashi’s daughters. It’s
the line and Toby’s tracking that down and she’s doing this tracking down
all of the family and she’s really the one that found . . . my father’s
nephews for us.
Interviewer: Just for the record here, tell us who Rashi is.
Ruth: He was a great rabbi . . .
Ruth: yeah of the Torah and . . .
Interviewer: People study him with great ernest and interest.
Ruth: I’ve got to get his dates down like when he existed.
Interviewer: There’s a lot to learn about . . .
Ruth: A lot to learn. Yes. But Toby has been a blessing in our lives I mean
because she’s so enthusiastic about the genealogy and . . .
Interviewer: There’s a lot of excitement there . . .
Ruth: and we never understood my father’s real connection, you know, with
the family and all of that. She’s got it all laid out for us.
Interviewer: Great. Well hopefully this was a little more family history too.
On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you and
personally, I want to thank you for the time you’ve given me this afternoon
and I find it a very fascinating experience. Thank you very much.
Ruth: Good job.
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Transcribed by Honey Abramson