This is March 24, 2011 and my name is Naomi Schottenstein and I’m interviewing Sonia Modes Schottenstein and we’re at my residence at 2200 Welcome Place, Apartment 310, in Columbus, Ohio. The name of our building here is called Creekside. And now I’m going to start by asking Sonia who were you named for? Do you know who you were named . . .
Schottenstein: My aunt liked the name Sonia.
Interviewer: Your aunt liked . . . .
Schottenstein: My aunt, we’ll say my aunt I loved so much.
Interviewer: Well we’re going to talk about her as we go on. Do you have a Jewish name?
Interviewer: Sema? Okay. How far back do you think you can trace your family history?
Schottenstein: Really not that far because I only knew my mother’s parents, my grandparents, and I did not know my . . . . father, ahavas shalom grandparents, I mean parents which would be my grandparents because they were killed in the Holocaust.
Interviewer: So you probably didn’t hear very many stories of their past? Could that be true?
Schottenstein: My father was ready to bring them over and it just didn’t work.
Interviewer: Did he talk about his childhood or . . . .
Schottenstein: Oh he was the only son. They loved him and it was so hard for them to say goodbye to him when he came to America.
Interviewer: Well it’s probably because they knew that they most likely probably wouldn’t see each other. Travel then wasn’t like it is now.
Interviewer: For sure. What was your mother’s full name?
Schottenstein: Rose Schuster Modes.
Interviewer: What country was she born in?
Schottenstein: She was born in Louisville, Kentucky.
Schottenstein: My favorite town next to Columbus.
Interviewer: How about that? So she was born in America?
Schottenstein: My father was born in Grodna, outside of Warsaw, Poland.
Interviewer: Grodna? Could you, do you have any idea how that would have been spelled?
Schottenstein: No idea. . . . . Grodna, I think similar.
Interviewer: Sounds like it. So your father was born in, was that Russia at that time or Poland?
Schottenstein: I think it was Poland.
Interviewer: Poland. Russia-Poland changed lines during that era.
Interviewer: How did he come to this country? What brought him to America?
Schottenstein: His sister was in Louisville, Kentucky. Originally Columbus, excuse me, and then moved to Louisville with her husband.
Interviewer: Do you know where he entered this country, what port of entry?
Schottenstein: Ellis Island. His name was Mojeski and they called him Modes.
Schottenstein: So that’s how Modes . . . .
Interviewer: Abbreviated. Did that happen do you think at the port of entry or do you think he did that?
Schottenstein: Either as he entered or later on. I think probably as he entered.
Schottenstein: Or as he left.
Interviewer: Because he was here . . . .
Interviewer: Mojeski? Okay. (Mixed voices) . . . . spell it phonetically if you . . . .
Schottenstein: M-O-J-E-S-K-I, something like that.
Interviewer: Okay, sounds close enough.
Interviewer: So did your father have family to come to in this country?
Schottenstein: One sister.
Interviewer: Just the one sister? And of course your mother was born here. Did you hear any stories about your mother when she was young? Did she talk about her childhood?
Schottenstein: Not a lot but my father’s, I want to say ahavas shalom to everybody, sister when she moved to Louisville met my mother. My mother was very elegant, always wore gloves and a hat, you know.
Interviewer: Oh wow!
Schottenstein: Elegant type of lady so she told my father to come to Louisville to meet Rose Schuster. And he had just opened his business, you know, been a few years and before he left he said to the man who was going to run his store while he was gone, “Here’s money for any mishulach, anybody who comes for charity, even if he is nobody.”
Interviewer: Where was the store at that time?
Schottenstein: On Long Street.
Interviewer: In Columbus?
Interviewer: We’re going to get . . . .
Schottenstein: He originally worked for the Rubens, Saul Ruben.
Interviewer: Which Ruben was that?
Schottenstein: The father of, I can’t remember all their names but it was Ruben’s Pawn Shop.
Interviewer: Do you know how old your father might have been at that time or your mother at the time that they were about . . . .
Schottenstein: My father was older than my mother. She was 23 and I think he was 32.
Interviewer: How did your aunt know your mother?
Schottenstein: Now that I don’t know, I never found out.
Interviewer: Yeah, but she was in Louisville and your . . . .
Schottenstein: And my father came to Louisville and he met my mother. I’ve got a picture of their meeting and my mother looks so elegant.
Interviewer: Awww. It’s great that you got the picture.
Interviewer: And I always find that interesting how we have pictures of people when they were growing up.
Schottenstein: It came from my aunt . . . . daughter.
Interviewer: She took pictures?
Schottenstein: They had taken the picture.
Interviewer: Do you have any relatives who still, probably don’t, do you have any relatives that still live in Russia or in Poland?
Schottenstein: No and I only have one cousin left from my father’s sister.
Schottenstein: There were two boys and two girls and my aunt Miriam who was the one that introduced my parents, she always used to say to her two sons, “You’re going to be doctors, you’re going to be doctors.” One was a gynecologist, one was an internist and both girls, one was a psychiatric social worker and the other was a sociologist.
Interviewer: So these are your . . . .
Schottenstein: My only first cousins.
Interviewer: Tell us their names so we have . . . .
Schottenstein: There was Lill, she married a doctor, Dr. Mel Shine.
Interviewer: Where do they live, do you know?
Schottenstein: . . . . in Louisville.
Interviewer: In Louisville?
Schottenstein: And Dr. Sam Gordon. He was a gynecologist and taught at the University of Louisville Medical School. And then my cousin . . . .
Interviewer: Is he still . . . .
Schottenstein: . . . . And Abe, my cousin, he’s one of the discoverers of a cure for cholera.
Interviewer: Well they did okay. His mom encouraged him. . . . .
Schottenstein: Educate them. She . . . .
Interviewer: Do you happen to know the names of your grandparents or your . . . .
Schottenstein: My father’s I couldn’t really tell you. But my mother’s, ahavas shalom, were Bauer, B-A-U-E-R, Bauer Schuster.
Schottenstein: Bauer Schuster.
Schottenstein: And my grandma was Fanny Schuster.
Interviewer: Fanny Schuster?
Schottenstein: Fannie Cohen Schuster.
Interviewer: The Schuster name sounds very familiar here in Columbus.
Schottenstein: Yes but they’re not related.
Interviewer: They’re not related? So you did tell me how your parents met. What year were they married?
Schottenstein: 1925 . . . .
Interviewer: And where did they get married?
Schottenstein: In Louisville.
Interviewer: Do you know if they had a big wedding or a little wedding . . . .
Schottenstein: I know they went to Cincinnati for their honeymoon.
Schottenstein: Because my father had . . . . very hard worker.
Interviewer: So your father, his business, what was his business?
Schottenstein: He had a pawn shop.
Interviewer: Pawn shop? On Long Street?
Interviewer: I think there were a lot of pawn shops on Long Street.
Schottenstein: Absolutely. And then he decided, he had the first cut rate photography store in Columbus, Ohio, Joe Modes.
Interviewer: Is that right? And that lasted a long time, didn’t it?
Interviewer: Why don’t you tell us more about that, with the business, what happened?
Schottenstein: Well I don’t know why he left the pawn business but he opened a sporting goods and camera store.
Interviewer: Where . . . . camera store.
Schottenstein: And then it became all cameras.
Interviewer: Yeah, we’re talking about the early 1900s, 19–, probably 19– . . . .
Schottenstein: Well let’s see, he was a pawnbroker during the Depression.
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Schottenstein: And I don’t know, I think over 50 years he was a pawnbroker.
Interviewer: Wow! That was an important business . . . .
Schottenstein: Oh yes.
Interviewer: during the Depression.
Schottenstein: Governor Rhodes called him his “banker”. He would bring his golf clubs, I shouldn’t say that, he’d bring his golf clubs in and pawn them and then on Saturday he’d go play golf, he’d come take them out and he’d put them back in.
Interviewer: Well it worked too.
Interviewer: It worked for him.
Schottenstein: He called my father his “banker”.
Interviewer: That’s good. But it worked. That’s what a pawn shop is for.
Schottenstein: Yes. I saw a man pawn his suit, grab a cab and go home in his underwear.
Interviewer: Was that during the Depression?
Schottenstein: Yes, during the Depression. Pawn the gold teeth, whatever they had.
Interviewer: I have to tell you more about a book that I just read that had a lot to do with the Depression and how somebody helped a lot of people.
Interviewer: Tell us about your siblings.
Schottenstein: I have two brothers, God bless them. Stuart Modes and his wife Tari and Irving Modes and his wife Julia (Judi).
Interviewer: Do they live in Columbus?
Schottenstein: Yes. We’re very, very close.
Interviewer: Tell me about both of their families, their children . . . .
Schottenstein: Each one has a son who is an Orthodox Rabbi.
Interviewer: Now wait a minute. Let’s start with just one. Which one do you want to . . . .
Schottenstein: Okay. Stuart has a son Robert who is a Rabbi.
Interviewer: Where is he?
Schottenstein: In Cleveland. But he’s not practicing.
Interviewer: Is he married?
Schottenstein: He has two boys. His wife is Chantel. They met in Israel but she’s from Pittsburgh.
Schottenstein: And my brother Irving son is . . . . named for my father Joseph Modes.
Schottenstein: And he’s in a Kollel in L.A.
Interviewer: Okay, is he married?
Schottenstein: Yes. Going to have his fifth child. His wife Dina is one of eleven so I figure they’ll have eleven.
Interviewer: Oh, big family. Where did you live when you were growing up?
Schottenstein: I lived at 724 Linwood Avenue.
Interviewer: Is that the first . . . .
Schottenstein: The first place where I was born was on Monroe. It was a bunch of doubles.
Interviewer: On Monroe between Broad and Main.
Schottenstein: Right off of Main Street.
Interviewer: Right off of Main Street?
Schottenstein: Back in those days it was nice.
Interviewer: Yeah, well there’s some lovely homes still there. What were some of your earliest memories when you were growing up? Well, wait a minute. You lived on Monroe. Let’s go to the next house. You mentioned another house after that.
Schottenstein: Then 724 Linwood Avenue. We lived there for many years.
Interviewer: And can you give us some memories of either one of the houses, maybe neighbors or who you knew?
Schottenstein: I didn’t know anybody on Monroe ’cause I was just a baby. On Linwood, yes, I knew the neighbors but, strange, that house was toxic to me.
Interviewer: It was?
Schottenstein: Yes. I was never happy in that house. ‘Cause it added up to 13 and I don’t like 13.
Interviewer: Oh. If you’re into numbers . . . .
Schottenstein: I’m into numbers, astrology and God.
Interviewer: Yeah. We’re going to talk more about that in a, why don’t we talk about that now, your interest in numbers and astrology and so forth.
Schottenstein: Well there are numbers that are toxic to me whether you know it or not.
Interviewer: So they just don’t work for your life. And . . . .
Schottenstein: And astrology teaches you how to get along with people. There are certain character-istics and there are certain fire signs and certain earthy signs. You’re an earthy sign. You’re more fiery.
Interviewer: I’m fiery. I’ll have to remember that. Okay.
Schottenstein: . . . . to prove their point. They are very protective of those they love.
Interviewer: Okay, you’re right about that. Okay. You’re on track.
Interviewer: How did you become interested?
Schottenstein: I picked up a book, probably 50 years ago. My sign is a Sagittarius. I started to read. I said, “How do they know me, they can’t know me.” I’m strictly a career girl. I don’t like to dust, I don’t like to clean. I’m a people person. Yes. And I happened to find my niche.
Interviewer: So the written word was true?
Interviewer: And it’s worked for you . . . .
Schottenstein: And sometimes you get along with it and sometimes you clash. Haven’t you ever noticed certain people you clash with?
Interviewer: I want to talk more about that. Maybe we’ll just talk about it now. How do you use that in your life now?
Schottenstein: I do. When I’m matching people I say, “What’s your astrology sign?”
Interviewer: Tell us about matching people. How does that work? . . . .
Schottenstein: Actually Debbie Schottenstein and Allen Schottenstein, they own the bike store, the Columbus Cycle.
Schottenstein: She came to Columbus to live after she was divorced. And she brought a girl over from Ireland to live with her, to be her housekeeper. She said, “Sonia…” (We’re going back to the 50s.) I forget what her name was right at this moment (long time ago). This was my first match. “Will you take so-and-so with you to work?” And I did.
Interviewer: Just to estimate what year it might have been, just kind of around . . . .
Schottenstein: I went to the Desert Inn in ’55 so it probably was between ’55 and ’60.
Interviewer: Okay, okay.
Schottenstein: And I took her there and I introduced her to a fellow and they fell in love and that was the first match that I ever made.
Interviewer: Did you go by the numbers . . . .
Schottenstein: No I didn’t . . . . Ellen and Sonny Romanoff are one of my good first marriages.
Schottenstein: And um . . . .
Interviewer: But tell us about how many marriages you’ve . . . .
Schottenstein: I just, about six weeks ago, got my 40th marriage.
Schottenstein: 40th couple I put together. I have 10 divorces though.
Interviewer: Well we won’t count the divorces. We’ll just work on the marriages.
Schottenstein: And I have a lot of marriages that took place because this person came to see me and that person came to see me. They sat next to each other and they talked to each other and they fell in love. But I didn’t say, “Naomi this is Bernie,” so I can’t make it, I don’t count that. They want me to take credit but I won’t. If I didn’t say, “So-and-so, this is so-and-so,” I don’t count it.
Interviewer: Where did all this happen, this . . . .
Schottenstein: All during my career. And I have a sixth sense. I can look at a person and I can say, “Are you married, are you single? I have somebody for you.” I scared a girl to death. She wouldn’t even give me her phone number. Came back two weeks later, she gave me her phone number. That girl tells me whenever she writes me a Christmas card or something, she’s never been so happy in her whole life.
Interviewer: Well this has been very satisfying to you.
Schottenstein: Oh very. I love bringing people together.
Interviewer: Yeah. Are you going to aim for 50?
Schottenstein: Oh I’d love to.
Interviewer: Well good luck. I want to wish you at this point good luck and make that . . . .
Schottenstein: I had couples like Gladys Herwald and Marty Tuck. They didn’t marry but they had ten wonderful years together.
Schottenstein: I’ve got three couples living together but I don’t count that in my 40. My 40 are people that got married.
Interviewer: Okay. But you did make a lot of people happy and that’s what’s important.
Interviewer: What was your teenage years. . . .
Schottenstein: Not good because I was not well. My kidney was rotting away and I didn’t know it. A kidney stone had lodged in my kidney and my kidney was removed when I was 16 and I suffered a lot of infections and didn’t know why I had a temperature. Couldn’t walk ’cause it was painful so my youth was not so happy. But the good part, my Mother, ahavas shalom, took me and my brother to visit my grandma. I only had one brother back then. And when they’re sitting in the kitchen, and I’m telling you I don’t remember but I’m told, they’re in the kitchen talking and all of a sudden somebody’s playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” perfectly. And I sat down at their piano and never having seen a piano in my life and I played “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Interviewer: You never saw a piano so obviously you didn’t have piano lessons?
Schottenstein: No I get the feeling like my Daddy could do the same thing.
Interviewer: Your Dad could too? So your Dad had musical ability?
Schottenstein: He played the violin.
Interviewer: He did?
Interviewer: Did he just play for . . . .
Interviewer: Himself, uh huh.
Schottenstein: But I played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and did they ever get a piano fast.
Interviewer: Your parents did.
Schottenstein: I learned to read music before I learned my A-B-Cs.
Interviewer: Really? Well you were quite young then?
Schottenstein: Yes. I’ve been playing ever since.
Interviewer: You just have a natural ear . . . .
Schottenstein: If I can hum it, thank God in heaven, I can play it.
Interviewer: Well that is a gift.
Interviewer: It’s a gift. She’s talking on our recorder manned . . . . and he happens to be single.
(Laughter) For now.
Interviewer: So she’s aiming for 50 Jeff, so be careful. Where did, tell us about your school years.
Schottenstein: Well I went to Ohio Avenue Grade School, Roosevelt Junior High School and University High School. That’s on the Ohio State campus, and it was a progressive educational school.
Interviewer: It was a grade school too wasn’t it . . . . Was it fairly new when you went or was it . . . .
Schottenstein: No it had been there a while.
Interviewer: . . . . What kind of a student were you?
Schottenstein: There’s my problem. I was always called out of class to the Auditorium: accompany this one, get ready for the operetta, I was in the band. So my education was very much neglected.
Interviewer: Oh wow! But you got through school?
Schottenstein: Yes. I did go to college and then I started my career and then I went full time on career.
Interviewer: What did you start to study in college?
Interviewer: At Ohio State? Well it must have helped some.
Interviewer: I’m sure it did.
Schottenstein: And then my career started and I didn’t even have time for anything. I’ll have to tell you how my career started.
Interviewer: Well tell us how your career started.
Schottenstein: My dear beloved Daddy, ahavas shalom, had a heart attack so we all took turns staying with him in a hotel in Florida.
Interviewer: About what year was this?
Interviewer: Was it a . . . .
Schottenstein: Somewhere in the late 40s or early 50s.
Interviewer: Somewhere in the late 40s? Okay.
Schottenstein: You know it’s been some time and I can’t remember. Anyway he loved to hear me play the piano. So we . . . . and I didn’t play for anybody in those days. My Mother used to say, “Are you going to play for the four walls all your life?”
Schottenstein: (Laughs) And . . . .
Interviewer: That was really encouraging . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes and in the hotel lounge they put chairs up on the table. They’re cleaning and nobody’s in there, just me and my Dad. So I went in there. I started to play. This one walked in, that one walked in.
Interviewer: Where were you at the time?
Schottenstein: In a hotel in Florida.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: . . . . And anyway, people started to come and ask requests and I could do it. And it was so fulfilling for me. I said, “This is what I want to do.”
Interviewer: You just knew the music so you obviously were not still reading music, were you?
Schottenstein: I mean, I play by ear. I do my own arranging.
Interviewer: Yeah. That’s good. And your memory is great, I know that. Uh huh.
Schottenstein: I hope so.
Interviewer: So that was how, that started your career?
Schottenstein: Came home and got an agent.
Interviewer: You got an agent at that time?
Schottenstein: I didn’t know what to do. And my Mother went with me and sat in the corner every time. They wouldn’t let me go by myself.
Interviewer: Is that right?
Schottenstein: Go and leave their daughter playing in a bar? No, no, no.
Interviewer: That’s interesting. You know, we didn’t have the kind of freedom then, well you were . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes, true.
Interviewer: What were some the places you started playing at?
Schottenstein: The first place was a little nothing my agent got named Kurwin’s on West Broad. But then I’ve played a lot of little places. I played in a Hotel in Washington, D.C. I played a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, Lima, Ohio, Marietta, Ohio, you know that kind of places. My first real job was the Desert Inn, going there in ’55 to 1965.
Interviewer: Here in Columbus?
Interviewer: On East Broad Street?
Schottenstein: Yes and I was there for ten years. Then I went to the Top Steak House.
Interviewer: Well tell us a little bit about the Desert Inn. I remember that. That was a great place.
Schottenstein: It was.
Schottenstein: They had . . . .
Interviewer: Who were the owners?
Schottenstein: The Alexanders.
Interviewer: The Alexanders?
Schottenstein: And they had an . . . . Room where they had big bands and dancing. They had a little lounge they built for me. I played in the dining room so I used to play the dining room 6 to 9, go in the Lounge and play 9 to 2. Can you imagine that much work?
Interviewer: Well you were . . . .
Schottenstein: And I was overweight and by the time I got through one year, I had lost 48 pounds.
Interviewer: You were overweight? That’s a little hard to believe but I guess you, that’s interesting.
Interviewer: You’re not overweight now?
Schottenstein: No, no, I know. I weigh less than a hundred now.
Interviewer: Wow! But that, you were happy doing that?
Schottenstein: Oh yes.
Schottenstein: My passion is music, playing the piano.
Schottenstein: I can be so troubled, the minute I start to play . . . .
Interviewer: Well you certainly are blessed with that ability.
Schottenstein: Thank you.
Interviewer: You’ve gotten through a lot, you know. After the Desert Inn, why did you stop playing there?
Schottenstein: I asked for a $l0 raise. I asked for a raise after ten years. The old man said, “No,” and I said, “That’s the time to go.” So the manager of the Top was a customer and I said, “I don’t want to take anybody’s job but when you have an opening,” and I gave him my number to call me and a few months later the fellow had left and he called me.
Interviewer: Who was the manager then?
Schottenstein: Don Bizzelli.
Interviewer: Well the Top has been there for a long time . . . .
Schottenstein: Oh yes.
Interviewer: hasn’t it?
Interviewer: And it’s still the same? It looks the same as it’s been for a number of years that I can remember.
Schottenstein: I had been married first. I didn’t tell you that.
Interviewer: Well I’m going to get to, I’m going to get to your adult . . . . in a little bit. Your career has been very interesting so I wanted to . . . .
Schottenstein: When I married, I married Saul Schottenstein in 1971 and I quit music. From August to January I wanted to be a wife but my husband was so busy, he traveled. When he came home he wanted to go to the golf course, he wanted to go to water skiing and to the mountains to snow ski so I said, “What are we doing New Years’ Eve?” He said, “I don’t know what you’re doing but I’m going with my buddies like I always do, skiing in Michigan.” And I said, “That’s it.” I got the Sonia Modes Trio together and that was the beginning of another part of my career.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: Mr. John Walton Wolfe, the most powerful man in Columbus, lived in my building so I was playing at the Marriott on Hamilton Road, subbing for Duke Jenkins. I said, “John Wolfe, what are you doing tonight?” And I said, “Come hear me at the Marriott Inn.” I knew he owned the Neil House.
Schottenstein: He hired me on the spot.
Interviewer: Was this at the Neil House?
Schottenstein: Yes that was in 1971.
Interviewer: At the Neil House?
Schottenstein: And on that night he hired me to work at the Neil House. He said he could shoot a gun and hit nobody in that dining room. But let me tell you we built a dinner-dancing that he even put a half a million just to decorate the room, fix it up and he got the best chef in the country and we had the most wonderful turnout.
Interviewer: It was probably one of the most popular places in the city.
Schottenstein: Yes. And he would hire a new manager. He’d say, “Do anything you want but hands off Sonia.”
Interviewer: Oh . . . .
Schottenstein: I had a lifetime job ’till they tore it down.
Interviewer: They did tear it down eventually?
Schottenstein: Late ’72 is when I went there, ’72.
Interviewer: I know we’ve kind of jumped forward and we’re going to come back to this part of your life but I want to go back. We were talking about school and your education and how your career started. Did you happen to remember anything that you can tell us about the Depression or how your family coped? Did they ever . . . .
Interviewer: talk about the Depression?
Schottenstein: I do know it was very sad. People had to give up everything they owned just to eat.
Interviewer: Just to eat? Was your father working at his business . . . .
Schottenstein: My Father was very compassionate during the whole thing for people, you know, when they couldn’t pay the interest . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: You know?
Interviewer: Yeah well that’s back when he owned a pawn shop and he was . . . .
Schottenstein: Very charitable, very charitable.
Interviewer: What about World War II? Do you have memories of World War II? What you can share with us about that?
Schottenstein: No, with that I don’t ’cause I didn’t have anybody in the service. I mean I know how bad it was but . . . .
Interviewer: You didn’t have, did you have family or neighbors or . . . .
Schottenstein: I mean I don’t know that I remember.
Interviewer: Well everybody was involved . . . .
Interviewer: you probably knew people.
Schottenstein: Well there was one man, Maurice Topolosky . . . .
Schottenstein: He worked for my father. He was a lawyer. He got killed. That bothered all of us terribly.
Interviewer: Well that, I remember people . . . . talking about Maurice Topolosky. All right, tell us about your married life. I’m just going to let you handle that.
Schottenstein: Well I was playing in a little lounge downtown. Remember Max Schell?
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: He owned a place called “Club 21.”
Interviewer: Where was that located?
Schottenstein: On Spring Street.
Schottenstein: Do you remember Moe Mendel?
Interviewer: Sure do . . . .
Schottenstein: Yeah. So my first husband Jack Marx was a dentist.
Interviewer: How do you spell Marx?
Interviewer: Yeah . . . .
Schottenstein: So Max told Jack that you got to come down and meet me. So in walks Jack Marx, and Moe Mendel, and Jack walks up to the piano and he says, clapped his hands together and he said, “Call the Rabbi.”
Schottenstein: That’s how he asked me out.
Interviewer: That’s what’s called immediate proposal. Had he ever gone out with you yet?
Schottenstein: We’d just met.
Interviewer: That’s interesting.
Schottenstein: And I of course had dated before I fell in love.
Interviewer: How long were you married?
Schottenstein: Nine years.
Interviewer: Nine years?
Schottenstein: Actually nine and a half.
Schottenstein: He was sick and I didn’t know he was sick. I thought he was lazy.
Interviewer: Well I guess some people are reluctant to admit, in denial sometimes, about the illnesses we have.
Interviewer: Those are hard things to deal with.
Interviewer: And then after Jack, who were you married to?
Schottenstein: Then, everything in my life, nine. You talk about numerology.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: Nine, my number is nine or any multiple of nine. My address, I had a property at 1773 E. Main Street back in, 189. Eight and one is 9, 9 and nine is 18. Everything was 18. I was married in ’53 the first time.
Schottenstein: Divorced in 1962.
Interviewer: Eight, uh huh. You got the 8 there.
Schottenstein: Married Saul August 19, figure that out. Eight and 1 is nine.
Interviewer: I know.
Schottenstein: And that was 1971. Nine and one is 10, seven and 1 is eighteen. You talk about numerology. How can you deny it?
Interviewer: We’re convinced right here at this . . . . So you and Saul were married in ’71? Did you have a wedding? I mean did you have a . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes we got married at Tifereth Israel Temple.
Interviewer: ceremony? That’ll work too. And where did you first live, you and Saul?
Schottenstein: Leon, his brother, ahavas shalom, got the apartment on Parkview.
Interviewer: No before Parkview you lived someplace else, other places?
Schottenstein: So we lived at the 485 building where the office is.
Interviewer: On Parkview? South Parkview?
Interviewer: Um, let’s see where we’re going to go down here. So you’re still working, aren’t you?
Schottenstein: Yes I am, two days a week.
Interviewer: Two days a week.
Schottenstein: Tuesday and Saturday at the Top Steak House.
Interviewer: But you did work . . . .
Schottenstein: And I’m doing a lot of nursing homes. . . . . on the Wesley Ridge I did last week and they liked it so much they called us back already.
Interviewer: And you have played at Creekside since I’ve been here two-and-a-half years, of course.
Schottenstein: I came a couple of times.
Interviewer: And looking forward to the next time.
Schottenstein: Thank you.
Interviewer: Maybe we’ll get you up to eight times. Keep those numbers up there.
Interviewer: And your lucky number again. Did you ever have any other hobbies?
Schottenstein: I was consumed with music. I really was. I worked seven days a week, two jobs a day some days. I played at the Officer’s Club and I would do the early cocktail hour and run to my job.
Interviewer: So that was your whole life? Well you did travel a little bit. Before you were married, you said you lived . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes but my mother always went with me.
Interviewer: Did you travel by car or train, how did you get around?
Schottenstein: I don’t fly now but maybe I did fly a lot. I can’t remember.
Interviewer: But you don’t like flying at all? No?
Schottenstein: No. . . .
Interviewer: A lot of people don’t but they swallow and go ahead.
Interviewer: But you still drive and you get to your jobs?
Schottenstein: Oh yes.
Interviewer: And you’re still working long hours?
Interviewer: So I know you’re a night person. How do you manage your time with night and day?
Schottenstein: Well I have to sleep later than most people but it’s been that way for so many years.
Interviewer: When you come home from working it’s usually . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes I have my routine.
Interviewer: Tell us about your routine.
Schottenstein: The first thing I do is pray.
Schottenstein: Takes me over an hour to pray.
Interviewer: When you come home from work? Uh huh.
Schottenstein: And I eat and then I walk the hall for 40 minutes, every night. I’ve been walking every day since ’77 except there’s been a couple of days I’ve had to miss. But you could count on one hand how many times I missed.
Schottenstein: I did 1500 miles one year on the street. I logged every mile.
Interviewer: You did? Interesting. Well that’s what’s kept you going. You don’t run into any people in the middle of the night.
Schottenstein: I walk the hall.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: While people are sleeping.
Interviewer: Well I live in the same building. I never heard you walk so you’re a quiet walker.
Interviewer: Well that’s interesting and weather wasn’t a hindrance at all for you then.
Schottenstein: No. I feel like the person that walks out in their back yard and jumps in their pool.
Schottenstein: I walk out my door and I got my track.
Interviewer: Your routine, uh huh. Then you sleep till late in the day then?
Schottenstein: Early after–, you know, in the early afternoon.
Interviewer: And then your afternoons are kind of relaxing a little bit?
Schottenstein: Yes, well not today, right now. Visiting my brother in Heritage House, recovering. And you know Bob’s in intensive care, and going straight there from here.
Interviewer: Tell us all about your friend that you are . . . .
Schottenstein: Well yes, the last thing in the world I was looking for was a man.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: Saul had been sick so long I said, “I just want peace of mind, peace of mind.”
Interviewer: When did Saul pass away?
Schottenstein: August 11th. Going to be four years August 11, 2011. You know those things kind of leave me. I can’t even remember, my mother I think passed away in ’98. I just, you know, I get blank when I think about . . . . I mean, but I know it’s three years, along coming on four. Now wait a minute. I met Bob at The Top. He came to have dinner with his former business partner and watch his grandson work. He was a young high school boy. He was a busboy. And I met him. Felt nothing. I didn’t think even of saying, “Hello, how are you?” And he kept coming back. He likes to sing and he loves music. And he reminded me of my Daddy in some ways.
Schottenstein: That’s probably the first thing . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: that I looked at.
Interviewer: Yeah he’s a gentle man.
Interviewer: Do you want to tell us his last name?
Schottenstein: Bob Greenberg, Robert Greenberg.
Interviewer: And you were just telling us that he had an accident a couple of days ago.
Schottenstein: He fell and broke his hip.
Interviewer: So he’s recuperating in a hospital . . . .
Schottenstein: In intensive care. He really was critical but he’s fairly stable now so I think they’re going to go to the next level.
Interviewer: Well . . . .
Schottenstein: It’s been awfully hard on me.
Interviewer: Yeah. I bet you’re doing a lot of prayers now?
Schottenstein: . . . . I did. You have no idea. From California to Cleveland . . . . everywhere people are praying.
Interviewer: Yeah. And I know that you’re very concerned about your brother too.
Schottenstein: Oh yes.
Schottenstein: Bob’s in the same place where my brother was.
Interviewer: Is he really?
Schottenstein: He’s on a ventilator and they didn’t give him any hope.
Interviewer: I know that you’ve had some community interests.
Schottenstein: Oh yes. I support Torah Academy and I support Shalom House, Kollel, Habad House at campus and a lot of charities. I’ve got this list of charities.
Interviewer: Yeah. We’re talking about financial support.
Interviewer: Do you physically belong to these two organizations that you . . . .
Schottenstein: I belong to nothing. I don’t have time.
Interviewer: So you’ve never had board positions on any of . . . .
Schottenstein: I don’t have time for that.
Interviewer: That’s okay. You participate in your way . . . .
Interviewer: . . . . that’s certainly helpful. And I think also the interest in volunteering sometimes for . . . .
Schottenstein: Oh I do. I play at Creekside . . . . I’ve played Heritage House for 50 years.
Interviewer: I know you’ve played there from a number of people talking a lot about that and you’re very devoted to . . . .
Schottenstein: . . . .
Interviewer: all that time.
Schottenstein: I played for nine years so she could listen to me while she ate.
Interviewer: Oh. Well you were right there.
Schottenstein: Yes. I was devoted to my parents. If somebody offered me a career in New York or . . . . or anywhere, I would not leave my parents.
Interviewer: Do you remember what your, can you tell us when your father passed away of or how he?
Schottenstein: Probably heart. I lost my dear beloved Daddy at Heritage House, my dear beloved Mother at Heritage House. Saul was there, . . . . seven and a half years.
Interviewer: So Heritage House is an important part . . . .
Interviewer: unfortunately, of your life. But on the other hand they did take care of your family.
Schottenstein: I’m a really a sort of supporter of Heritage House.
Interviewer: Well we’re pretty lucky in this community to have a facility like that.
Schottenstein: Oh it’s wonderful.
Interviewer: And the whole campus, so . . . .
Schottenstein: Isn’t it wonderful? I think it’s outstanding.
Interviewer: Yeah, very unusual. I’m not familiar with the whole country but it would be a treasure if other countries had this. Okay, we got that covered. How about holidays? How do you handle holidays?
Schottenstein: Usually with family now.
Interviewer: So you’re, are you in touch with Saul’s family . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes. Not as often as I’d like ’cause everybody’s so busy.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: They travel so much.
Interviewer: You want to tell us a little bit about your nieces and nephews, through Saul’s family?
Schottenstein: Oh yes, they’re wonderful.
Interviewer: Can you tell us who they are?
Schottenstein: Yes, there’s Susie and Jay and Jeanie. I’m going to have dinner with Lori next week I hope. Yes, they’re wonderful. And Ann’s children, she has four.
Interviewer: And Ann, can you tell us who Ann’s husband is?
Schottenstein: Oh Ari Deshe.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: He’s the founder of Safe Auto.
Interviewer: Right, and they have four children?
Interviewer: Okay and then you mentioned Susie. What is her husband’s name?
Schottenstein: Jonny, Jon Diamond.
Interviewer: How many children do they have?
Schottenstein: They have Jillian, Josh, Jake . . . .
Interviewer: Is that it, three children?
Interviewer: Okay, Jeanie and Jay.
Schottenstein: And Jeanie, they had three boys, Joey, Jeffrey, and Jonathan.
Interviewer: Okay. And Lori.
Schottenstein: Middle, yes. She gave $2,000,000 to build the Lori Schottenstein Habad House.
Schottenstein: Habad in New Albany, the Lori Schottenstein Habad House. That’s beautiful.
Interviewer: Yeah it sure is. It’s a win-win situation for Lori. I know she gets a lot of pleasure . . . .
Schottenstein: I did one thing in memory of my beloved Mother and Daddy. I built a music room at the Torah Academy.
Interviewer: Oh really?
Interviewer: Yeah, well that was an important facility too.
Schottenstein: And they didn’t have any place to rehearse. So they have drums, they have piano and they have a place to rehearse plays and, it’s the Sonia Modes Schottenstein Music Room.
Interviewer: That’s good.
Schottenstein: In memory of my beloved parents.
Interviewer: Yeah. Let’s see, we got some of your nieces and nephews covered. You want to, I know you have a whole bunch of them Sonia. You’re probably closer because of the ones that are in town. You probably see them a little more but aren’t there some more in town, aren’t there?. Uh huh.
Schottenstein: In town I just have, my brothers each have a daughter.
Interviewer: Oh no, okay.
Schottenstein: Your nephews are the two Rabbis . . . .
Schottenstein: in college.
Interviewer: Yeah. And then how about filling in who your brothers, do you see them?
Schottenstein: Yes I do.
Interviewer: . . . .
Schottenstein: I’m . . . . Tommy .
Interviewer: Tommy? And he has a sister?
Schottenstein: Oh she’s wonderful. Eileen.
Interviewer: Eileen? They all go by Hebrew names.
Interviewer: I still call them by the names I remember from a long time ago.
Schottenstein: Well they’re your nieces and nephews too.
Interviewer: They’re my cousins, they’re . . . .
Schottenstein: Your cousins?
Interviewer: Yeah. I know religion plays an important part in your life.
Schottenstein: Very, very important.
Interviewer: Do you want to touch on that and give us a little bit of what you, how you handle that?
Schottenstein: It’s very important to me. I pray a lot.
Interviewer: Well I know you mentioned that you pray every day and . . . .
Schottenstein: Every day. There are two things I have to do, pray and walk.
Interviewer: And that’s . . . .
Schottenstein: That’s even before eating.
Interviewer: And play piano?
Schottenstein: And play piano.
Interviewer: Well . . . .
Schottenstein: I gave you one of my CDs.
Interviewer: Yes you did.
Schottenstein: I have two albums.
Interviewer: So getting you through tough times has been pretty much relied on with the piano?
Schottenstein: Yes it has.
Interviewer: . . . . gotten you through.
Schottenstein: I have to say I’ve had some tough times.
Interviewer: Yeah. You still are learning new songs and new music?
Schottenstein: Yes but I have so many standards that most people like.
Interviewer: Yes, the oldies but goodies, the familiar ones.
Schottenstein: Gershwin, Cole Porter . . . .
Interviewer: Sure. Do you ever get to watch television? Are you interested in any . . . .
Schottenstein: I do like “American Idol” because I love good talent. I like all those shows like “20-20,” “Dateline,” or “60 Minutes.” I don’t care for sitcoms or that kind of thing.
Interviewer: It’s interesting you mentioned American Idol because I’m watching that now that they’re into finals.
Interviewer: Yeah I find it more interesting (mixed voices) They’ve got successful ones coming up and it will be hard . . . .
Schottenstein: I saw it last night.
Interviewer: I did too. I really . . . .
Schottenstein: The one I liked the least was the guitar player/singer.
Interviewer: Well you know . . . . going to get a lot of attention with public acceptance too ’cause you can call in votes.
Interviewer: The reason I was interested in what you just said because I was at the beauty shop this morning and overhearing some ladies talk and they were talking about different television shows and one of the ones they mentioned was how much they disliked “American Idol.” So I almost gulped. They didn’t know I was listening so I couldn’t really do anything about that.
Schottenstein: Yes, no. The girl in the black, she was so elegant, sang so beautifully.
Interviewer: Yeah. . . . . yeah. How do you feel that the youth of today are going to be influenced . . . . You don’t have many young people that come . . . .
Schottenstein: No. Well I do in a way.
Interviewer: Young, you have young, probably college-aged kids, not high school kids very much, no?
Interviewer: ‘Cause you’re . . . .
Schottenstein: I have two young Jewish doctors I’d give anything to find wives for and I can’t find it.
Interviewer: You’re going to have to work on that?
Interviewer: We’ll talk about that after the interview.
Schottenstein: Yes? (Laughs)
Interviewer: Are there any messages that you feel you can share with the future, anything that you want to encourage youth?
Schottenstein: Well I can only say I believe in charity, I believe in God.
Interviewer: Giving of yourself and believing in God? Well it sounds like very important . . . .
Schottenstein: And always try to help if you can help somebody.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: Or make them feel good.
Interviewer: And, let’s see. Do you feel that we’ve pretty much covered what you can offer?
Interviewer: Okay. Well you’ve given us some information about your family life and a little bit about the community. You know one thing that maybe we didn’t touch on that maybe you could help us a little bit is remembering what old neighborhoods were like. And the reason I’m bringing that up is when we drive down, for instance . . . .
Schottenstein: Bryden Road for example.
Interviewer: Bryden Road, right, okay.
Schottenstein: And that’s called Old Town East.
Interviewer: Those were elegant . . . .
Interviewer: mansions . . . .
Schottenstein: Oh yes.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: Try to heat them today!
Schottenstein: (Laughs) With the cost of utilities.
Interviewer: Yeah. What about Broad Street? Would that . . . .
Schottenstein: Broad Street was always a lovely street.
Interviewer: Elegant too.
Schottenstein: Oh yes
Interviewer: Bryden Road became funky for a while but now they . . . .
Schottenstein: They’ve restored it.
Interviewer: a lot of it. Beautiful. And what about places like kosher butcher shops and bakeries? Do you remember?
Schottenstein: That’s it. There’s not enough.
Interviewer: Not enough now. What do you remember though from the past?
Schottenstein: Well we always had a kosher meat market.
Interviewer: More than one.
Schottenstein: More than one. We did.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Schottenstein: We had Goldmeier’s, we had Bexley Kosher, what’s his name, Irv . . . .
Schottenstein: Godofsky. He owned Martin’s (Kosher meats, etc.).
Interviewer: Godofsky, uh huh.
Schottenstein: Now you’ve got to go to Kroger to get kosher meat.
Interviewer: Well I know, okay, a bit about, I was thinking of places like Children’s Hospital, in that neighborhood on . . . .
Schottenstein: Oh yes.
Interviewer: . . . . Street, Carpenter and Ann Street.
Interviewer: What are . . . .
Schottenstein: That was the Jewish neighborhood.
Interviewer: Yeah. Was that where people, most people lived and the synagogues lived. What synagogue was your family involved with?
Schottenstein: Agudas Achim on Washington and Donaldson Avenues.
Schottenstein: We used to sleep over on Yom Kippur at the Seneca Hotel and then walk down.
Interviewer: Oh is that right? Where was the Seneca? Right down the street, Grant and Broad?
Schottenstein: Broad and Grant.
Schottenstein: Agudas Achim was at Washington and Donaldson.
Interviewer: Oh Washington.
Interviewer: Do you still belong to Agudas Achim?
Schottenstein: I belong to Jay’s shul, Torah Emet.
Interviewer: Torah Emet? Which is on Main Street. What was one of your most memorable experiences playing in Columbus?
Schottenstein: Oh I played Les Wexner’s wedding brunch (Laughs).
Interviewer: Oh did you? Well that’s . . . .
Schottenstein: Among the celebrities.
Interviewer: Where was that wedding held?
Schottenstein: Well I played the wedding brunch at the Tuckerman’s house.
Interviewer: Oh, that, there must have been a lot of interesting people at that event . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes, I’m trying to think of who all was there.
Interviewer: What about, how about the most famous person you might have met?
Schottenstein: I met Bob Hope and he said, “You ought to be out in Hollywood.”
Schottenstein: That was a long, long time ago.
Interviewer: Did Bob Hope have ties to Columbus, personal ties?
Schottenstein: His brother had a business here.
Interviewer: What kind of . . . .
Schottenstein: A rendering business.
Interviewer: Ohio Provision. Well there were some other famous Hollywood people that came from Columbus. They might have been where you were playing piano and didn’t stop to talk . . . .
Interviewer: and they were busy doing whatever they were busy doing with other folks.
Interviewer: So you’ve had a real interesting life and you’ve met a lot of . . . .
Schottenstein: Oh I had a wonderful career. I wouldn’t trade my career for anything.
Interviewer: Well you certainly are well known and well liked . . . .
Interviewer: I know people come to you because they have fun.
Interviewer: Yeah. It’s like the old television show “Cheers” where everybody knows your name.
Schottenstein: There you go, exactly.
Schottenstein: Nobody’s a stranger that sits at my piano . . . .
Interviewer: I know as soon as you walk in. I’ve walked in and you’d look up and mention names and make me feel very welcome.
Schottenstein: Play their favorite song.
Interviewer: Yeah and it’s like we’d come to visit you in your home, wherever you are, that’s your home.
Schottenstein: That’s right.
Interviewer: Okay. We’re ending, at the end of Tape 1 and I want to take this moment to thank Sonia on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.
Schottenstein: Well I thank you.
Interviewer: And it’s been fun talking to you. It’s always fun talking to you.
Schottenstein: Thank you.
Interviewer: And we were neighbors and we’re friends . . . .
Schottenstein: Yes . . . . absolutely.
Interviewer: All right. Thanks again Sonia.
Schottenstein: I thank you again, Naomi.
* * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson
Corrected by Sonia Modes Schottenstein