(July 14th) 1998 and it just so happens that it is Bastille Day, great celebration for the
French, and we’re at the residence of Sam and Betty Gordon at 5750 Bastille
Place, Columbus, Ohio. I’m in the kitchen interviewing Sam. My name is Naomi
Schottenstein and I’m with the Columbus Jewish Historical Society. First thing
I’m going to ask you is, what is your Jewish name?
Gordon: My Hebrew name is Schmuel or sometimes called Hymie Schlahme, but
I believe it was Schmuel a Hebrew name I was given. I can’t tell you a middle
Interviewer: What’s your full English name?
Gordon: Samuel Cohen Gordon.
Interviewer: Do you know who you were named after?
Gordon: After my mother’s father who was Samuel Cohen.
Interviewer: That’s where the Cohen comes from?
Gordon: And the Samuel.
Interviewer: And the Samuel.
Interviewer: Do you have memories of your grandparents?
Gordon: I have memories of one, my mother’s mother who lived for, who
probably died when I was about three or four years old. I just remembered she
had white hair and long white hair and she was very thin and tall and wore
dresses as did most people in those days.
Interviewer: Can you tell me the names of…now this was your mother’s
Gordon: My mother’s
Gordon: My mother’s mother.
Interviewer: And what was your mother’s father’s name?
Interviewer: Right. That’s who you’re named after. And what about
your father’s parents, their names?
Gordon: Rosa and Jacob.
Interviewer: OK. Tell me where you were born.
Gordon: I was born in Columbus, Ohio, September 20, 1923.
Interviewer: And where did your family live when you were born?
Gordon: My family lived at 607 East Rich Street.
Interviewer: That was a popular neighborhood. We’ll talk more about
that as we go on. What was your father’s occupation when you were born, doing
for a living?
Gordon: When I was born my father was a deputy sheriff with the sheriff’s
department. My father probably became a sheriff in 1917 after having been on the
Columbus police force from 1899 to 1917 when he had been disabled.
Interviewer: What was he disabled from?
Gordon: He was kicked in the leg while taking in a prisoner as to the
best of my knowledge, and my father had diabetes and did not heal up very well.
He was sick most of, he died when I was 11 years old. Most of my recollections
of my father was him being ill. He was very ill the last couple of years of his
Interviewer: Let’s fill in with your family. Tell me about your
siblings who, you want to start with the oldest one. You’ve told me you’re
from a large family.
Gordon: I’m the youngest of 10 children. My oldest brother was Jack or
Jacob who was 17 years older than I, and if you add two years to each of our
lives it will almost hit the nail on the head for all of us.
Interviewer: Almost a mathematical equation.
Gordon: Right. My brother Jack was a top salesman, the top salesman in
the United States for Pound Persona Blade Company in the 30s and 40s. He went on
the road when he was 17 years old, the year I was born, he went to work. My next
Interviewer: Let’s stay for Jack for a few minutes. Did he marry?
Gordon: Yes. Jack married.
Interviewer: And his wife’s name?
Gordon: Yeah, his wife’s name was Selma. He married in the late part of
Interviewer: And did they have children?
Interviewer: And where did they live?
Gordon: Chicago and St. Paul.
Interviewer: And who’s after Jack?
Gordon: David. David Meyer Gordon, called as most people knew him Mick or
Make. He was two years younger than Jack and he went to medical school at Ohio
State University and I believe became a doctor in 1932. He practiced in Mt.
Vernon, NY which is in Westchester County, until…he died I believe in 1991.
Interviewer: And was he married?
Gordon: He was married in about 1933 and had three children.
Interviewer: And who were they?
Gordon: Myra, Michael and Joseph. They are still around.
Interviewer: And where do they live?
Gordon: Myra lives in, her residence is in Canada but she travels the
United States; she’s a chemist. Michael is in Pennsylvania, Lancaster,
Pennsylvania; he’s a radiologist. And Joseph is in Mt. Vernon, NY; he’s a
school administrator and teacher I believe.
Interviewer: And after David?
Gordon: After David it was Ruth. Ruth graduated Ohio State University as
a social worker and in the mid 30s immigrated to Wichita, Kansas and passed away
in 1965. She was I believe the first female president of her temple in Wichita,
Interviewer: That’s an accomplishment. Did she leave family?
Gordon: She had no children.
Interviewer: Did you say she was married?
Gordon: She was married, her name was Yas…she was married to Henry
Yaboroff. Mick was married to Grace Aronson.
Interviewer: OK. After Ruth?
Gordon: After Ruth was, I had one brother, Karpel, who died when I was
two years old. He died at the age of 12, he had rheumatic heart fever and so he
was 12 at that time and I believe Ruth was older than he, I’m sure she was, so
he was probably next in line. And next after him was Florence. Florence
graduated Ohio State, and married Dr. Joe Kaplan and they lived in Cleveland…
Interviewer: Did she have family, children?
Gordon: In 1938. No, no, no, no. He got his degree in 1938 and she was
married in 1941 I believe. They had two children, Susan, Susie and Howard. They
both live in Cleveland. Howard’s an [?] and Susie’s retired.
Interviewer: And after Florence?
Gordon: And after Florence was Ellen. She worked after she got out of
high school and supported the family. She was a wonderful, wonderful person, but
everybody else was either going to school or making livings. My father was very,
very sick, and when he became sick she went to work, worked for Koehler Brothers
Plumbing Company on the East Long Street across from Daisy Levison’s pawn
shop. She moved after my mother died in 1944 to Wichita, Kansas where she
married Adolph Brick and she passed away in 1989 after being in Heritage House
in Columbus, Ohio eight and half years. She has one son, Bobby, Robert Brick.
Interviewer: Where does he live?
Gordon: He lives in Columbus.
Interviewer: Brick is spelled as it sounds?
Gordon: As it sounds.
Interviewer: And after Ellen?
Gordon: Ellen, was Russ, Russell. Russell after getting out of the Air
Force and graduating from Ohio State moved to Wichita, Kansas and went into the
business with my sister and her husband, Brick’s Menswear, which was a very,
very fine men’s clothing store. Russ died four years ago.
Interviewer: Not too long ago.
Gordon: That’s right.
Interviewer: Did he live in Kansas?
Gordon: Yes, he lived in Wichita, Kansas.
Interviewer: Did he have family?
Gordon: He had two daughters and a son. All of whom are still living.
Interviewer: And wife?
Gordon: Lois. His wife was Lois and she was from Columbus and Lois died
three years ago.
Interviewer: OK, and after Russ?
Gordon: After Russ was Esther. Esther Naomi Gordon.
Interviewer: Sounds familiar.
Gordon: Right. And Esther graduated from Ohio State as a social worker
and I believe she worked in Cincinnati for a while and married Dr. Hyman
Greenfield about 1944 and lived in Memphis, Tennessee for about 40 years, and
moved to Morristown, NY and now lives with her youngest daughter in Morristown.
She has a daughter Janie and a son Gary. Janie lives Memphis; Gary lives in
Interviewer: You’re keeping track of your nieces and nephews.
Gordon: I keep in touch with them. I call them on a regular basis. My
next oldest brother Mick did that and after he passed away I sort of took that
Interviewer: That’s a nice trait.
Gordon: We’re very close. Like the Schottensteins a very, very close
family and we still are.
Interviewer: Well, there’s nothing more valuable than that for sure.
And then after Esther?
Gordon: Esther was Lawrence whose wife now calls him Larry. We always
called him affectionately, Petey; always called him Petey. He after getting out
of the service had a jewelry store across from Town and Country, Gordon Jewelers
and moved to Florida about four or five years ago, and lives there most of the…all
Interviewer: And he’s married to who?
Gordon: Ida Wolpert.
Interviewer: And who are their children?
Gordon: Their children are Scott Gordon and Joanne Gordon who got married
two years ago and I can’t tell you her last name right now.
Interviewer: She lives in Cleveland, is that correct?
Gordon: She lives in Cleveland, right and she’s a school teacher.
Interviewer: And Scott lives?
Gordon: And Scott lives in Columbus in Pickerington. He’s in computers.
Interviewer: That’s a popular occupation these days. And we have a
couple of more to go. After Larry.
Gordon: That’s all. Well, there’s Sam, that is I am Sam, Sam I am.
Interviewer: Sam the man. OK, we got that all together. That’s a
Gordon: I hope I didn’t miss any body.
Interviewer: Well, I can account for nine here.
Gordon: There were ten. Jack, David, Ruth, Karpel, Florence, Helen…
Interviewer: You’re right, I got it.
Gordon: You got them all.
Interviewer: We got them all. I didn’t want to leave anybody out.
Interviewer: That’s great we got them covered. You were born in
Gordon: Incidentally I did mention that Russ and Larry were in the
service as was I and also as was my next older brother David.
Interviewer: We’re going to talk more about military service as time
goes on here, want to get this family picture all put together. What do you
remember or do you remember your father and mother talking about where they came
Gordon: I don’t remember them having spoken at all because my father
died when I was 11 and he was sick for many years. I have no memories
Interviewer: Where were they born?
Gordon: We don’t know for sure where my mother was born. We’re
working on a family history right now. My father was born in Basagovia,
Lithuania and came to this country I believe in 1892 and don’t know if you
want anything else about that.
Interviewer: Well, whatever you can tell us about the family history.
Gordon: He came into Columbus in 1892. I spoke to the historical society
about six or seven years ago with most of this information. Came here with his
father who was naturalized in 1895. I have those naturalization papers. Then he
also came with his brother and sister. His brother was Dr. Elijah Gordon of
Columbus, and his sister was Elena Rosenfeld, mother Myron, Dora and Zal and
Marion Rosenfeld. I did get the 1910 census when I was in Utah and at that time
my father lived at 601 East Livingston which is the intersection of Livingston
and Parsons which is 601 Parsons which is also at that intersection where Bobb
Chevrolet is. In the census it showed that my father was living there with my
mother and my father’s mother and living with my father also was his brother
Dr. Gordon and his sister Elena Gordon and three children, three year old Jack,
Jacob and a one year old David and an infant Ruth. And that’s where they lived
at that time.
Interviewer: They all were in that one house?
Gordon: Yes, the rest of them lived there. And that was very common as
you know in those days.
Interviewer: Sure. They had to come some place and help each other out.
Gordon: That’s right. The story that I had gotten that had come down
the line was that my father I believe in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I don’t
know for sure how he got there. We don’t know yet. His father sent him to find
a Jewish community where, you know, there would be a synagogue and the like. And
I don’t if he was supposed to go to Pittsburgh but somehow he ended up in
Columbus and contacted his father and said I found a house very close to the
shul which was Agudas Achim which at that time was not on Washington and
Donaldson but maybe further west on Donaldson or maybe on Fifth and Main
wherever Agudas Achim was at that time.
Interviewer: So that was before Donaldson as a lot of people would..?
Gordon: Yeah, before Donaldson. And so he told his father I found this
house and he was 17 years old at that time. They moved to Columbus on the
strength of what he told his father. Later on in the year 1905 the Agudas Achim
on Donaldson and Washington was completed and I’ve been told by many people,
most of whom are gone now, that my father was the moving force of erection for
the Agudas Achim Synagogue on Washington and Donaldson. Frank Nutis reminded me
of that several times. Frank’s father was friendly with my father. So my
father was secretary of the shul for many years and very, very active as was my
Interviewer: This is real valuable information in giving us some
community history as well.
Gordon: Do you want a little more community history?
Interviewer: Yeah, if you can give from that.
Gordon: I can’t give you the date but there was a delicatessen which
most people knew as Hepps Delicatessen on the corner of Washington and Main,
on the southeast corner. Before Hepps bought that which was some where in the
1920s people named Wider owned it. It was a Felix Wider. I don’t know his
brother’s name or the parents. Those Widers two years before Hepps bought it
from Wider, the Widers bought it from my father who originally had that
delicatessen. My father, as I said, was on the police force and also became a
deputy sheriff but he also had a delicatessen somewhere I can’t tell you
in the 1920s.
Interviewer: So he operated the deli as well as doing all the other?
Gordon: Yeah. He may have done both at one time because you know he had a
big family so they worked you know my older brothers and sisters worked there.
Interviewer: Everyone pitched in.
Gordon: Yeah, but I don’t remember it at because I was probably five
years old at the oldest and maybe he may have deposed of that many years before
Interviewer: Do you happen to know what the name of the store might have
Gordon: Gordon’s Delicatessen. It’s kind of an unusual name
Interviewer: Well, I have to tell you it’s the first time I’m hearing
about Gordon’s Deli.
Interviewer: And it’s really interesting because it leads us into the
next deli stage which even I remember, Hepps.
Gordon: Right. Well, Hess was next. Well, second after.
Interviewer: Tell us a little more about what you remember about Hess.
Gordon: I really don’t remember anything about the deli. You mean about
Interviewer: Yeah, after your father.
Gordon: After my father had it I was told by the old-timers that going
back that it was the place in town to go, it was the hangout and they use
to come down from the university, the students and the professors, you know, to
get a corned beef sandwich or whatever. I went in to Hepps many years later when
Dorothy and Morris Hepps owned it before they moved out on East Broad Street near
Interviewer: Right. I remember that.
Gordon: That was quite a hangout too.
Interviewer: You mentioned that several members of your family and you
also went to college. Tell us a little bit about, or as much as you can
remember, about your education, your family’s education, yours, in terms of
elementary school, high school and college. Let’s start with you, what schools
you went to.
Gordon: I went to Ohio Avenue School on the corner of Ohio and Fulton.
After that I went to Roosevelt Junior High School for one-half a year and went
two and half years to Franklin Junior High and three years to East High School,
Interviewer: And you graduated from East?
Gordon: From East, graduated from East. And went to Ohio State, went in
the Navy, went to Ohio Wesleyan University pre-midshipman school and…
Interviewer: Did you get your degree from Ohio State?
Gordon: No, I didn’t get my degree. I went to, I didn’t get, I lacked a quarter of getting a degree. But I went to work after I got out of the service. I was a single, didn’t have any family in Columbus at that time, any immediate family. But I went to Ohio Wesleyan, I went to Cornell, got my naval commission at Cornell, then after the service I went to Ohio U. for a couple of weeks and was injured and dropped out of school at that time.
Interviewer: Injured at Ohio U.?
Gordon: At Ohio U.
Interviewer: And your sisters and brothers that were educated at college.
A lot of them had college educations.
Interviewer: How were they able to manage that?
Gordon: Everyone helped in our family. Everybody helped. In fact, when I
got out of the service my brothers and sisters all got together and wanted to
send me, you know, to help supplement me with the G.I. Bill and so forth. And I
chose to do otherwise. But I my oldest brother sent my sister Esther with whom I’d
had just spoken to on the phone; I told you when you came here. And he sent her
through school. They use to help the family because 10 children was a large
Interviewer: A lot of responsibility and financial responsibility.
Gordon: Right. Everybody helped. I remember my brother Russ worked for
Schiff Shoes when he was in high school, in the summer, he was making $19 a
week, he gave me $2 a week voluntarily. I didn’t know why but our family was
always very close and would never think of not helping some one else, family or
otherwise. My mother and I have so many other people if I’m going into too
many details tell me.
Interviewer: No, that’s fine.
Gordon: But there were people at our house, there was never a stranger
that at our table, outsiders and the family. I remember a fellow by the name of
Dave Grossman from Pittsburgh got ill, he was going to university with my sister
Florence, my brother Russ; he got ill and my mother insisted that he come out to
the house and she nursed him to health. It took her two weeks. Anyhow, I run
into people all the time said “Oh, I used to be out to your house all the
Interviewer: Pretty interesting when you think about how our houses were
then. They probably were three bedroom or so houses. I know Bernie was raised in
a house where there were four bedrooms and one bathroom and nine children and
two parents, and somehow they all got through it.
Gordon: We had the same thing. There was the same thing. As I said I had
one brother when I was two months old, but there was always eight, nine, ten
people in our house. We had four bedrooms. We had an unfinished attic and some
of us, my younger brother Larry, Petey, slept up there and everybody else
doubled up. And we had one bathroom.
Interviewer: But you weren’t missing anything?
Interviewer: Or you didn’t know you were missing anything.
Gordon: That’s right. We were poor and we didn’t know it because it
was normal for a lot of people in the neighborhood.
Interviewer: Sure. What about some of your neighbors? Can you tell me a
little bit about your neighborhood? Do you remember people there?
Gordon: I remember most of the people in the neighborhood. There was an
older couple and their children lived next to us and their grandchildren named
Roberts, that was at, we lived at 498 South Ohio, they lived at 500. And I think
it was at 502 South Ohio, was Harry Margulis and Lena Margulis and Julius
Margulis and Ruth Margulis, Edith Margulis and Leon Margulis. They lived two
doors from us. Catty corner from us lived the Liebermans, Harold Lieberman, not
the optometrist. But he moved out of town, Harold and Norma and the Peers lived
on the other corner from us. The school was on the other corner. So, yes, I
probably knew everybody a block each way of us on every street.
Interviewer: What synagogue did your family stay with?
Gordon: Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: And you, where do you belong now?
Gordon: I belong to Temple Israel. I joined Temple Israel after I was
married in 1951. My wife was brought up in a very Reformed temple in Youngstown,
Ohio and it was a lot easier for her, and I no objection at all and I’ve
enjoyed our membership at Temple Israel.
Interviewer: OK. Can you tell us about, going back to your old
neighborhood; we’re trying to get a picture of that, what were some of the
places that as kids you hung out at, if you had time to hang out? I know kids
started working when they were very young.
Gordon: Well, yes, we worked I remember at the age of 12 selling shopping
bags down on Central Market. Bought the shopping bags from Mr. Luper on
Washington just north of Fulton near Mound and they sold for a nickel at that
time. I remember I had an excellent day; I made $11 one Saturday.
Interviewer: You remember that.
Gordon: I remember that cause the average income back at that time was
eight or nine dollars. But it was Christmas time and people were in a festive
Interviewer: Now, were these paper bags?
Gordon: Paper shopping bags with handle on it, you know. Sold for a
nickel and cost us two cents. And…
Interviewer: Had to sell a lot of them.
Gordon: So, as I said, we all worked. I went to work, we carried papers,
my brother and I, my brother Petey and I, carried newspapers, sold newspapers. I
sold them on the corner of Broad and Ohio Avenue. Used to sell 16 of them a day.
They sold for a penny; we made a half cent a piece. We made eight cents a day.
We use to average 75 cents to a dollar a week. But that was decent money back
Interviewer: Yeah. Gave you something to go on.
Gordon: There were a couple of confectionaries in the…in our…a couple
of doors from us. Ohio Avenue school was directly across from us and in the
summers as children we use to play softball quite a bit, and most of the boys I
grew up with and my brother, Petey, were mostly Catholics, went to Rosary and
St. John’s about two blocks south on Ohio Avenue. And there were a few Jewish
boys. I said the Margulises and then Eddie Fisher and a few others. And probably
our biggest hangout was Sloan’s Drugs on the northwest corner of Main and Ohio
Avenue which was owned by Ted Scholonsky which was in the late 1930s. And Ted
would open in the morning and closed at like 10 o’clock at night. We were
there seven days a week. He was one of the finest gentlemen I ever knew, Ted
Scholonsky which was Sam Scholonsky’s brother and he had a son, Joe Scholonsky
and he has a daughter, I don’t know what her name is. Those were our hangouts.
Interviewer: Those were good recollections.
Interviewer: What about as a youngster, do you remember; well, let’s
talk about your bar mitzvah.
Interviewer: Do you remember your bar mitzvah? How you were trained?
Interviewer: Did you have a bar mitzvah?
Gordon: Yes, I had a bar mitzvah. I’ll try and talk about it. I was
trained by Rabbi Hirschbrum; used to go to his house on 18th Street
right near Childrens’ Hospital. And, in fact, I have a letter here in my house
that was written to my brother in New York telling about the bar mitzvah. My
mother having written to my brother an in the letter she relates the party we
had at our house which at the time was 213 South Ohio which was the first house
north of, behind the Mettermorrow Apartments behind Bryden and Ohio.
Interviewer: What were the apartments?
Gordon: The Mettermorrow Apartments which were very nice, very nice
apartments. And, she told my brother about the bar mitzvah and who helped her
prepare for the bar mitzvah. I can’t tell you exactly what, but Rose Reuben,
Mrs. Saul Reuben, Mrs. Lou, and Bertha and Bunny and Pauline’s mother made a
cake. And Goldie Reuben, Mrs. Max Reuben, made another kind of a cake and that
was in this letter that I have. It was a sad time for us because my father had
died in ’35 and I was bar mitzvahed in ’36, just a year and a couple of
Interviewer: So it made it hard to get through.
Gordon: Very difficult.
Interviewer: But you had a lot of family and friends around?
Gordon: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: Tell us some more about your relatives. You mentioned some
way back at the beginning of our interview. Cousins, aunts, uncles?
Gordon: I’ve got the Rosenfelds living in Columbus. I’m sure you know
Mayer Rosenfeld who is director of the Jewish Center, executive director, and
his brother, Zal, who bequested some very fine funds to the Jewish Center. Dora,
sister Dora, who I still see regularly, who is the director of the Columbus
Cultural Arts Center. The sister, well, Rosalie, lives in New York; Mayer still
lives here; Zal passed away. My first cousins were the Franks, Mel Frank and I
imagine you remember Mel Frank who was married to Augusta Frank who was a
concert pianist. They had Frank Insurances or Insurance Company. And Mel was a
councilman in the early 1930s in Columbus; ran for mayor I believe in 1930 and
lost to Myron Gessleman, who became the mayor. I remember him; I was just a
little boy probably eight or nine years old. The anti-Semitic literature that
printed in some back alley down near Grant and Main; terrible anti-Semitic
literature, you know, about the Jews and Mel Frank.
Interviewer: What was the year?
Gordon: About 1932.
Interviewer: Things were starting to stir up in Europe.
Gordon: Yes, right. And then Mel had several sisters and a brother. Most
of them had moved to New York. We were very, very close. The last of them, three
of them passed away within the last four years, and that was the end of the
Frank family. There were only two offspring because they only had two children
and in that entire family; they just didn’t have children for whatever the
reason may be; there’s only one child left of all those children, one passed
away several years ago.
Interviewer: So that’s a branch that will not propagate?
Gordon: Right. And that was the Frank family. That was my mother’s
sister’s children. And their father’s name was Sam Frank who was in the
produce business here in Columbus. And we had relatives who I wouldn’t know
who were close to my parents and my older brothers and sisters. There were the
Buricks from Dayton, Ohio, Rabbi Burick, and they’re still around and one
Burick, Esther Burick, I believe, was married to S. Myron Gurvitz in town, and
she now lives in, I believe, Dayton.
Interviewer: How do you spell Burick?
Interviewer: And you mentioned your uncle way back, you want to…
Gordon: Yes, my uncle Lies, my father’s brother, Dr. E.J. Gordon, who
to my knowledge was the only Jewish, only Jew who was the chairman of the
College of Medicine of Ohio State University ever since before or after his
tenancy which I believe was about 1925 to 1937, he was chairman of the College
of Medicine. Dr. Edelman, he got Dr. Edelman on the staff of the university and
my uncle was I think in 1927 was featured in an article in Time magazine, which
I have the original article, for some work he did with anemia in testing it in
certain animal organs. He was outstanding; I don’t know how many people, five
or six people that I know of, can mention by name, who said he saved their
lives. He was a diagnostician and an outstanding physician.
Interviewer: I know he went to beyond being an outstanding physician; he
was a great community leader too.
Gordon: He and my Aunt Reva were known internationally for their
philanthropy and their work, good works; which I just put into possession of my
daughter, Jodie Scheiman, a lot of things that will be going to the historical
society, showing my aunt worked through HIAS bringing the new Americans in the
late 30s and 40s and not only Jews but non-Jews too who were displaced and
brought to this country. I have got communications showing about money, I guess
ransoms that had to be put up, about $2000, $1000, and about a lot of people who
are now in the community, Columbus community; how they got here and where they
went to work and even how much they got paid when they…you know a lot of them
went to work for Yenkins and Schottensteins and Leo Yassenoff, Gilberts, the
Union, different places.
Interviewer: They found a niche for everyone to work and find their own
Gordon: Right. And my…and the Jewish Center which was the Schonthal
Jewish Center was at 555 East Rich Street, and directly across the street from
the Schonthal Center was Talmud Torah, the Hebrew School. Right next to the lot,
sitting on the same lot is the Schonthal Center which was at 555 East Rich, was
a building at 571 East Rich which was the Jewish Orphanage and which later my
aunt turned into the 571 Shop which was a teaching unit to teach the new
Americans trades like sewing, cooking and baking. There was a bakery there and
people use to go down and buy baked goods which my aunt was very proud of
because the Wilhelmsen was an outstanding bakery in Columbus.
Interviewer: Sam, I’m going to cut you short here because we’re at
the end of…
Gordon: 571 Shop my aunt was, took exceptional proud in a lot things
about the 571 Shop, and my wife and my children and I were very, very close to
my aunt and uncle, both of whom died in 1963.
Interviewer: Did they have children?
Gordon: They did not have children. They loved children. We very close,
they were at their house, I was with them several times a week. My aunt died in
May and my uncle died in September I believe.
Interviewer: Of the same year?
Gordon: Of the same, 1963. Any how she was very proud of the 571 Shop, as
I said, because of the baked goods. She used butter (laughter), not oleo. Anyhow that’s that story.
Interviewer: Oleo wasn’t what it is today cause oleo had a different…
Interviewer: Yeah, when we first, in our youth it was something during
the war and they had to mix the color in.
Gordon: Was it called lard?
Gordon: OK, Oleo.
Interviewer: Oleo margarine.
Gordon: I remember mixing, people mixing the…
Interviewer: It was white and had, it was just grease. Well, we won’t
talk about that any more. Is there any more you want to share about your aunt
and uncle? I know they were super-special people in this community and really
made their mark and left so much love and devotion here and I know you had a
special relationship with them.
Gordon: Right. It was honorary, and president and honorary lifetime
president of the Jewish Center; president of Hillel. My daughter Jodie and her
husband Jeff have established a cultural series, can’t tell you exactly, but
they established it just this year at Hillel. In fact, the first program they
had was Madam Sadat spoke up there about a month and half, two months ago at
Hillel. So, my uncle, that was very close to his heart.
Interviewer: Before we get any further, I don’t want to forget this, I
know I won’t forget, but this is a very important part of this whole
interview. Want you to tell us about your family, your immediate family, your
Gordon: Well, I’ve got three daughters, the oldest is Jodie Scheiman,
the second in age is Lisa Schwager, whose husband is Harvey Schwager, and the
youngest is Amy Gordon.
Interviewer: Starting with Jodie, she has children? Did you tell us her
Interviewer: OK, tell us what both Jeff and Jodie do.
Gordon: Jodie is a stockbroker to my knowledge dealing mostly in bonds,
government bonds, and municipal bonds and so forth.
Interviewer: What company is she with?
Gordon: She is with Paine Webber and she’s been with them I think about
nine years. She was previously with a company called Blount, Ellis and Lowy and
at that time was chosen as one of the ten outstanding brokers in the United
States of America by a national broker magazine, I can’t tell you what the
name is and she’s still doing very well. She’s very active in the community;
she’s president of the Temple Israel, she and her husband are very active in
the AIDS Task Force here in Columbus. They have fundraisers every year and I
think they went six or seven years ago when they got involved in it from raising
$50,000 one year to raising this last year close to $300,000. Jodie was a Women
of Achievement in Columbus last year; one of the six or eight Women of
Achievement. She’s had many honors. Jeff owns SOS Productions which is a video
production company on Harmon. He does a lot of commercials like Big Bear,
Schottensteins, Red Roof; you know, it varies. And he does a lot of public
service work also; I mean he volunteers. He’s very active, he’s chairman of
the CCAD, the Columbus College of Art and Design; very community minded also.
Lisa, they have two children, Jordan who was just bar mitzvahed a week ago,
two weeks ago in Israel and will have a bar mitzvah here in October, I think the
19th. We all, almost the entire family, Amy was not able to make it,
went to Israel. There were a group of thirty of us, close friends of Jodie’s
and Jeff’s and our families, and Jeff’s parents also went there. And Lisa…and
I said that’s Jordan and they have a daughter Jamie. Jamie’s two years
younger than Jordan. And she’s a very active adorable little girl like all
Interviewer: Where do they go to school?
Gordon: They go to Academy. Both of them go to Academy.
Interviewer: Columbus Academy?
Interviewer: And they live in Bexley?
Gordon: They live in Bexley, right.
Gordon: Lisa and Harvey live in Bexley, their children go to Cassingham.
Harvey is an architect and he’s with Mark Feinkoff.
Interviewer: Did you give us Harvey and Lisa’s last name?
Gordon: Yes, Schwager.
Interviewer: And how do you spell that?
Gordon: Schwager. Harvey’s from Cleveland and he’s worked with the
Federation and he was on the board of the Jewish Center so he’s been very
active and he’s a very nice, very nice guy. Lisa’s a marketing director for
Physicians Insurance Company out off of Route 256, I can’t tell you, and 201.
She’s been there 12, 14 years.
Interviewer: They have children?
Gordon: Yes, she and Harvey have two children, Adam’s the oldest and
Daniel. They’re about nine and seven. And they’re active in athletics and do
very well in school and very precocious children. But like I said all
grandchildren are. And Lisa is active at the Center and is active on committees
at the Temple and I said they are very civic minded also.
Amy has, she’s now, she just got a job with a company I can’t tell you
the name of the company but she’s been pretty disabled physically. She has a
physical problem, so she hasn’t been able to get out too much. We hear from
her regularly. We’re very close with all our children.
Interviewer: Where does Amy live?
Gordon: She lives up north near Sawmill. In that area.
Interviewer: She’s in Columbus?
Interviewer: OK. That must have been an exciting trip to Israel.
Gordon: Unbelievable. Yes. Right.
Interviewer: That’s wonderful.
Gordon: And we’ll be going back in two years for Jamie’s bat mitzvah.
Interviewer: Terrific. So you know what to do now.
Gordon: Right. We did the whole thing. Camel riding and everything.
Interviewer: And you have it all recorded; I know that. Let’s talk
about your marriage. How did you meet your wife and where were you married? Give
us some background on that.
Gordon: I met my wife in Columbus; was introduced by Howard Schoenbaum
who I knew, played ball with Howard, and by Maxine Freidman Schoenbaum, and who
I knew and who Betty was I believe a dorm mate up at Ohio State University. So
they knew each other before and we met in May the 8th, 1951. We were
engaged July the 4th, 1951. We were married September 16th, 1951.
Interviewer: Wow, you have that down pat, that’s great. Maxine’s
better know as…
Interviewer: Mickey Schoenbaum. And where was your weeding, where did you
Gordon: We were married at Rodesh Shalom Temple in Youngstown, Ohio. And
we have lived in Columbus; we lived briefly for six months in Youngstown.
Interviewer: Who were her parents?
Gordon: Emil and Lillian Jacobs. Emil died in 1970 and Lillian died, I
think, in 1994 at the age of 90. She lived here in Columbus, moved here in the
mid 50s and we were close to her as was Betty’s sister, Maxine Bally, who
lives in Columbus.
Interviewer: Were there only two in that family? Betty and her sister?
Gordon: Right. Betty and her sister.
Interviewer: Does her sister have a family here?
Gordon: Maxine has two children, one lives in New York and the other
lives in Columbus, Jason and Jennifer.
Interviewer: OK. Tell us about your jobs. What kind of work did you do
and are you still working? Give us your career background.
Gordon: I was a…when I first got out of the service I went to work for
Bunny and Lou Ruben. First, I worked for Roy’s Jewelers for five months and
then worked for Bunny and Lou Ruben at Sol Ruben’s gun shop, pawn shop,
jewelry shop, sporting goods and luggage shop.
Interviewer: Where was that located?
Gordon: East Long Street which was originally belonged to Sol Ruben who
was one of the finest men that ever lived. I worked for Bunny and Lou and Rose
Ruben for two and a half years. And then I had my own business for a few years,
I was in the freezer and then got into the real estate business for about a year
and a half and then fell into, I accidentally got into the liquidation business
which I did until 1987 when I retired.
Interviewer: What kind of liquidation? What was…
Gordon: Used to liquidate stores, merchandise, store fixtures, anything
that came down the pike. Very interesting business; never had a day where I
begrudged getting up; I enjoyed everything. There are problems, you know,
sometimes you didn’t have good days, but I never had a day where I said,
“Boy, do I have to get up today and go to work?”
Interviewer: So, it was a little bit of a challenge?
Gordon: All kinds of interesting acquisitions and so forth. Just a lot
of, it was a fun thing.
Interviewer: And you were independent all those years?
Interviewer: Where were some of or all the homes you and Betty have lived
Gordon: Betty and I lived in Chesterfield Apartments for maybe two years
after we were married. Then we moved to 57 North Merkle Road and lived there for
about 30 years, and moved out to Touville where we are now sitting about 11
Interviewer: You’ve been here 11 years?
Gordon: Been here 11 years.
Interviewer: OK, let’s go back to your military service. Tell us, give
us some background on that.
Gordon: Well, I did mention military because there were four of the five
brothers, my oldest brother was 37 years old, I believe, he was overage to be
inducted into the military; he tried to enlist but they wouldn’t take him
because of his age. I guess they didn’t need them at that time, but my three
other living brothers, Mick or David, Russ, Petey and myself were all in the
service at the same time.
Interviewer: What was that, give us a year.
Gordon: 19…from 1942 to 1946. I went in 43 until 46 and, I think, Mick
and Petey and Russ went in 42. I was the youngest when I got out of school and
then I did go into the military. My brother Dave was in, I think, the field
artillery, I’m not certain, but he was a doctor in the field artillery. And
Russ and Petey were both in the Air force and then I went to, got commissioned
at Cornell University at Ithaca, New York and had amphibious duty in the
Pacific, mostly in the Phillipine area, Borneo.
Interviewer: So you saw some action there?
Gordon: A little bit. Just a little bit.
Interviewer: Do you ever attend reunions of military personnel?
Gordon: No, never have attended one.
Interviewer: So are you in touch with anybody at all that you were in the
Gordon: I ran into a couple of times and spoke to, communicated with one
fellow who was aboard my ship who served under me, by the name of Jesse Cole. He
became a judge and just retired down in Pike County, Ohio.
Interviewer: What was his last name?
Gordon: Cole. Jesse Cole.
Interviewer: Kind of put that all aside.
Gordon: Right. I didn’t keep in touch with anybody. It was kind of
unusual. On our ship we had a complement of 55 men which was five officers and
50 men. We were a flotilla commander, we were LSM which is a landing ship
medium, which is not a big ship, it was 208 foot long. We had 36 LCI which was
landing craft infantry underneath. However, on our ship, of the five officers,
three of us were Jewish.
Interviewer: That was interesting.
Gordon: That was kind of interesting.
Interviewer: Kind of elevated your position there.
Interviewer: A little bit of hard work gets you some place. Let’s talk
about your youth when you were in high school, junior high school. Did you
become active in athletics or organizations of different kinds? Can you fill us
in on that?
Gordon: Well, when I was in junior high school I played what they called
American Legion little league baseball and then the boys I grew up, we had a
club, the ball players and neighbors and so forth called the Eastside AC,
Eastside Athletic Club. Then we became the Eastside Boosters and then we got
sponsors and had softball teams and did extremely well for a young team. We went
to the finals at the average age of 19 years in 1941, I believe it was, to the
central district finals and lost in the finals. We weren’t given a chance but
we were just very, a bunch of guys who wanted to play real hard and hustle. We
were sponsored later on by Kahn Jewelers. Ray handled it all but he sponsored
our team which I said was mostly non-Jewish.
Then after the war, well, in high school I played three sports. I played
baseball, football and wrestled. And I was fortunate enough to be All-Columbus
in football and the entire central district of Ohio heavy weight wrestling
Went up to Ohio State, played on the freshman team in 1942 which was suppose
to have been the outstanding freshman team ever at Ohio State University, which
included fellows like Lou Groza, Touchdown Tommy Phillips, Tony Adamle and so
forth who later played with the Cleveland Browns. Then in 1943, in the Spring, I
played in the varsity with Bill Willis who was All-American, All-Pro, who was
And then went into service; played football at Ohio Wesleyan University when
I was in the service.
Got out of the service and still played ball; played with some of the best
teams in Columbus. Played in the fast-ball league in the United States, which
was the national fast-ball league, and also one of my greatest thrills,
accomplishments, honors, was having been chosen to play with the 740 AC in 1947,
I believe. They took me to the state tournament, softball tournament and 740 AC
had been an all African-American, all black team which we’d known at that
time. They picked up two players which was myself and another fellow who was
white. The following year we committed to playing with them and he reneged
because of a lot of pressures which I had too. I had pressures not to play with
this black team, it would look bad for you and so forth. And a lot of the
pressures were by local Jewish people. However, I made a commitment. But, the
honor was not that they were black but to play with the finest team in this part
of Ohio, and maybe best in Ohio and in the country. So, I did that. Played in
the Sunday morning league, softball, which was a Jewish league started, I think,
in 1932. Frank Insurance was the first champions. I played with a couple of
different teams, Green Katz and Champion Antiseptic. I managed nine teams in
nine years, we won seven championships, so softball was a great sport for me as
well as wrestling. That’s pretty much what I did.
Interviewer: That’s quite an accomplishment for a young Jewish man who
had to earn a living too with all this. Were any of your sports able to earn you
any scholarships or income?
Gordon: Well I was offered, I went down to Ohio U. and played there for
two weeks and then was injured. I was there on a full scholarship. Then when I
went up to Ohio State, they were going to supplement me. But I didn’t need to
because I then went into the service. Then when played with some different teams
it was amateur but they did reimburse us a little bit with expenses I guess.
Kind of whatever that might have been. It wasn’t semi-pro, but then I also
played one game at Ohio State at Columbus Clippers which was the Redbird Stadium
against the King and His Court, the greatest four-man softball team. They played
nine-man ball teams and won 80 or 90 percent of their games. But that’s
another story. But that was interesting.
Interviewer: You mentioned the Clipper Stadium. Is that what is now know
as Cooper Stadium?
Gordon: Cooper Stadium, Clipper Stadium, Redbird Stadium when I was a
little boy, 10, 12, 14 years old we use to go to the ball games out there which
I imagine Bernie did too. They use to have what was called the Knot Hole Gang
and you got in for a nickel or a dime or whatever it was.
Interviewer: Still located in the same place?
Gordon: Yeah, West Mound Street. Same stadium which is now called Cooper.
Interviewer: I think it’s called Cooper Stadium.
Gordon: It’s called Cooper, right.
Interviewer: Well, it sounds like you had a colorful athletic background.
Gordon: Yes. I enjoyed athletics very much.
Interviewer: Going back again a little trying to bring some nostalgia
into this, do you remember how you traveled around this city? Did you have a car
as a young man? Did you travel by bus?
Gordon: I did not have a car. My parents never had an automobile. My
oldest brother had a car because he was on the road; he went on the road, as I
said, when he was 17. He traveled North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, what was
called I think the Midwest at that time and maybe so today. But we never had an
automobile. I remember when I was maybe five years old, I was not a good
traveler, I got ill in an automobile, you know, I still don’t like to travel
in the back seat of a car. I remember one time, my father, we went for a ride in
a friend’s car out in the country and I became ill. But we never had a car.
We never bought a bicycle, but had bicycles because we went to the junkyard
and picked up a frame and we would pick up spokes and we would put bikes
together. That’s how we got our bicycles.
What was the other part of your question? Something with, oh, how we got
around town. We took the streetcar. This was the streetcar that had a pole at
the top which was attached to a wire a wire cable. We paid as children three
cents to ride on the streetcar. If you were an adult it was six cents. If you
bought tickets, I think it was six tickets for a quarter. Incidentally, we, as I
said, I grew up in an Orthodox family and I tell this to some Orthodox people,
they don’t remember this, but we never, as a kid, I never would have money and
not, when I said never have money, if I had ten cents or twenty cents, would
never carry it in my pockets on Shabbas; never carry it in my pockets.
Interviewer: You weren’t allowed to have money.
Gordon: That’s right; would never think about riding. My father died, I
said, when I was 11 years old and I said Kaddish for him every morning and every
night and walked from Ohio Avenue and Fulton to Washington and Donaldson. Once
in a while we’d get a ride from Abe Topolosky who lived right next to Son’s
Drugs on Main and Ohio who’s from Joe Topy and Harry Topy and Sanford Topy’s
uncle and so forth. But we did have roller skates, we use to get around. I
worked when I was 15 years old for Charlie Michaelson on the corner of Sixth and
Main in a second-hand store and use to roller skate there. Or maybe jump on the
back of a bumper or hold onto the back of a bumper and pull myself down Bryden
Road as far as I could and then roller skate the rest of the way by myself.
Interviewer: Doesn’t sound safe, but we didn’t have seat belts then
either, did we?
Gordon: No, no.
Interviewer: But we created a lot of our own activity without too much
equipment, didn’t we? Always played games; there was always someone to play
Gordon: Absolutely. Then the neighbors, we always had a ball game. I
remember my brother Russ, who I said, was seven years older than I. He played
around the school ground, you know, when I was much younger but in the same
groups of neighborhood people. Use to go over and watch him play every night,
you know. Then we would play and run around the school yard on the gravel school
yard. That’s what is was, gravel, barefoot; never bothered us, you know, our
feet were strong.
Interviewer: Tough. Did your mother always work at home? Is that how you
Gordon: She, yes, I remembered my mother very well and she had probably
had more friends than anybody I know in all. She was friendly, as I said, with
Rose Ruben, Goldie Goldman, Goldie Ruben. Our house was a gathering spot for
everybody in Columbus, and I’m saying that facetiously. But there were people
at our house all the time. My mother had more friends than anybody.
Interviewer: Well, you started out with having your own group right
there. What are some of your recollections about Schoenthal Center? That seemed
to be an important meeting place. As a youngster did you participate in a lot of
activity there? Schoenfeld Center.
Gordon: In regards to the Schoenfeld Center on 555 East Rich, I have very
little recollection of that. I only remember one time lived only half a block, I
said I was born at 607; I remember walking up the street and picking some
flowers along the curb and going to the Schoenfeld Center, but I don’t have
very little recollection. I do remember later maybe when I was 15 years old use
to go there and they had a gymnasium behind the center and the gymnasium was
probably the size of, the entire building behind the Schoenfeld Center, was
maybe the size of just maybe a four bedroom house. It was a very small place.
But they also, I have a picture, it was probably taken about 1922 of the
workshop they had at the Schoenfeld Center because the brother I had who died
when he was 12 was in that picture. It shows the white ceramic walls and so
forth. But, I remember Rose Sugarman directed, was in charge of the Schoenfeld
Center. Later on before they built the new center on College Avenue…
Interviewer: The new Jewish Center as we knew it.
Gordon: The new Jewish Center, right, before they built that, Doc Cheroff
was in charge of the Schoenfeld Center on Rich Street.
Interviewer: Cherroff. How do you spell that?
Gordon: Cheroff. Doc, we called him Doc. I don’t know what his first
name was. He asked me to take a basketball team up to Canton. Do you know where
Interviewer: I’m from Canton. (Laughter)
Gordon: We played, I took a team up there and we played in a tournament
against, at Canton.
Interviewer: I probably watched that game.
Gordon: You may have. Then he asked me to form a basketball league. I
formed the Jewish Center basketball league at Roosevelt Junior High which I
still have articles in the Chronicle about that league. So, I did form that
league. We played there for one or two years. And that was probably, no I know
it was 1946 or 1947 because when I got out I had majored in physical education
and a few of the boys had belonged to KTZ basketball organization asked me to
coach a team for them so I did. So I remember those things very well.
Interviewer: Yeah, and what we call now the new Jewish Center you were
probably active in that as well.
Gordon: Yes, I was active. As I said, Mayer Rosenthal, my cousin, was the
director there and I played softball there. I played a year or two in the AK
League and played in the basketball league; they had a basketball league. And we
used to go over there. My wife, we’re still members; we’ve always been
members even though we don’t go there, haven’t gone there for years. We
always went to the swimming pool.
Interviewer: That was always an important part of the Jewish community.
Gordon: Absolutely. And it is still very important.
Interviewer: Sure. Let see I had a thought I wanted to go back too. Do
you, can you give us some recollections of how, as a kid, you celebrated
Gordon: Well, yes, I can remember, I can’t remember holidays with my
father, because we lived at 498 South Ohio at that time. I do remember seeing
him sitting at the table but he was just very, very sick all the time. But later
on I remember sitting around and having the Seders. The Seders were, I remember
they were long, and we always had company. When we lived at 213 South Ohio I was
crushed, maybe I shouldn’t be divulging this, but it’s a truth. We had a big
dining room table and there were probably sitted14 people, and my brother and I
had to sit out in the kitchen. There just was not room and we had to sit out in
the kitchen, I was just crushed. I would never do that, but my mother had no
choice, you know, because she had all these people. I remember in the late 30s
in sitting at that table and the news of Hitler moving into the other European
countries, Czechoslovakia, and so forth, and listening and heard the families
during the holidays. This one specific holiday which was probably Rosh Hashanah
or Yom Kippur and I could tell even though I was young and really didn’t know
the consequences or outcome might be, but they were talking in hushed voices
about what Hitler was doing. But I knew it was very, very frightening at the
time. That was in the late 30s.
Interviewer: And that as when things were just starting and they probably
had families or knew of families that were still left there.
Gordon: Oh, right, right.
Interviewer: And we didn’t know how serious it was going to become. It
just got worse from that point on.
Gordon: It was, you speaking earlier, I was speaking, you were asking,
whatever, about my uncle and aunt, and I told you she was active in bringing the
new Americans over. There was one fellow who was a classmate in high school
named Harry Eckstein and who was related, I believe, he was related to Baum,
Eric Baum, who, and, oh, I can’t tell you the different people. But he came
over in the late 30s, and he was in my high school and he had a 148 IQ out of
160. He was the brightest guy, probably in the world. And he has since I have
found out, because I looked him up six years ago when I MC’d my high school,
my 50th year reunion from East High. I looked him up in Who’s Who
in America, he was living in California. He was very close to my aunt and uncle,
Dr. and Mrs. Gordon, and he considered them his guardians even though legally
they weren’t. He asked them permission t marry a certain woman. He’s since
been, he’s on his third marriage now I believe. I have the letter that he
wrote to them and the letter she wrote back to him, and but he has written ten
books on world economics. When I was in Israel I was speaking to a fellow who
was head of the economics department at, in Tel Aviv. He was a guide of ours, he
joined with a guide for a day and I asked him if he knew this fellow, and he
said he never met him but he was outstanding writer. So that was Harry Eckstein
who was a classmate, who was, and he dedicated his first book which I have in
the other room to my aunt and uncle.
Interviewer: That’s beautiful tribute. Have you been to Israel before?
Gordon: No, I haven’t, but my wife and daughter, Jodie, and her husband
were there in l989. I choose not to go at that time.
Interviewer: So this was a real special thrill?
Gordon: Oh, yes, it was an outstanding experience.
Interviewer: And you’d looked forward to going again.
Gordon: Oh, yes. It was very, very emotional.
Interviewer: I told you I’d start warning you as we get toward the end
of the tape, and sometimes this is the difficult part of it and sometimes it
goes real easily. I don’t know but whatever you want to make of it, but
sometimes we try to talk about, or wrap up with some kind of philosophy or some
message you’d like to leave your family, share with your family. Hopefully,
you’ll be around many more years and continue to guide them with your warmth
Gordon: Well, I’ll try to say one thing that I could capsulize is when
I am gone, from a selfish, thinking, talking about me, I would rather celebrate
my life than mourn my death. I have no compunctions or worries about my family
being good honorable people. And that’s one thing that I use to lecture my
children on is honesty and my wife use to say, don’t bug them, and the kids
would say keep talking to me about it. I use to tell them a little saying,
philosophizing, to thy own self be true. I just, a lot of people use the
expression, and they may be 100 percent right, you get a lot of knaches from
your children. I don’t look to my children for knaches. If my children give
themselves knaches, I will be happy. I want them to do it for themselves, not
Interviewer: Absolutely, that’s beautiful. Fortunately, for people in
our generation, I’m talking about people like you and I, we are able to talk
to our children about our background and about our life. Our parents either didn’t
have time or the visions they had of their childhood were not the kind they
wanted to continue to talk about. Fortunately we’ve been able to do that and I
think in doing these interviews that helps prolong those conversations too and
gives us something to go on. On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical
Society, unless you can think of some more things you’d like to add, we’ll….
Gordon: Well, I can’t think of any more to add. I’m sure when you
leave I’ll think of 50 more things.
Interviewer: Well, we’ll have to do another tape then.
Gordon: I have a lot more blank tapes if you want to do them now. You in
Interviewer: I’ve got a few blanks here too. But, on behalf of the
Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I want to thank you and you’ve given us a
lot of valuable information. Thanks again.