Interviewer: Ok. This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on November the 9th, Twenty Sixteen as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. The interview is being recorded at the Melton Center, or the…what-the-hell the place is, and my name is Ron Robbins and I am interviewing Tom Kaplin and we’re going to get started and we’re just going to see. This is just like a piece of string. We’re going to just see where this all goes from here.
Kaplin: It probably won’t go too far.
Interviewer: So, we gotta’ start. Where were you born?
Kaplin: Toledo, Ohio.
Interviewer: And when were you born?
Interviewer: 1928. And your mom and dad’s names were…?
Kaplin: …was Tom and Marilyn, er…not Marilyn, Jesus Christ, Tom and…
Interviewer: Well, you could’ve been a junior.
Kaplin: Well, I was junior,
Interviewer: You are?
Kaplin: Well, I was junior and my mother was…not Marilyn, Jesus Christ…
Interviewer: We’ll come back to it. It’ll come to you. So, like, do you have brothers and sisters?
Kaplin: Yeah, I had three brothers.
Kaplin: No. They’re all passed.
Interviewer: All passed away. Alright.
Kaplin: Morrie, Dick and Julien.
Interviewer: Okay. Did your grandparents live in Toledo as well? They had lived…whether on, on my mother’s side they were in Toledo. I don’t know when, they came out of the…early or late 1800s’s I guess. I don’t know when they came into the country.
Interviewer: Did you know them?
Kaplin: I knew my…
Interviewer: This would be your maternal grandparents.
Kaplin: Yeah, my, see that’s why I can’t talk, because of my…
Interviewer: You’re doing good.
Kaplin: …my grand, my grandmother, my grandmother was in Toledo. On my father’s…on my father’s side, she was still alive and that was in Baltimore, Maryland.
Interviewer: That was your dad’s family?
Kaplin: Yeah. That was on my dad’s family.
Interviewer: Was he from Baltimore?
Kaplin: No, no, he was originally from Baltimore and then came to Toledo years ago.
Interviewer: What brought him to Toledo?
Kaplin: Well, he had been in business and busted because he lost his money. Someone stole his money and he had gone to…uh…in to the, G-d dammit, the southern United States, not the United States, in America, in South America.
Interviewer: Oh, really?
Kaplin: Yeah. Then he came back to Toledo for a job which he took over that company. That’s when, at that point he was, like, nineteen. I mean, he started at a young life.
Interviewer: So, you would say he was a go-getter.
Kaplin: Yeah, oh yeah.
Interviewer: He was a go-getter, and then he met your grandmother.
Kaplin: In Toledo. That would be his wife.
Interviewer: And do you remember her name?
Kaplin: G-d dammit, Mother… it was Tom and…Gertrude.
Interviewer: Gertrude. Did you call her Grandma? Did you call her…?
Kaplin: Gertrude was my mother.
Interviewer: Now her mom, did you call her Grandma, did you call her…was the family…
Kaplin: I don’t remember. I think it was Nana. Nana was…
Interviewer: So, they were probably not from Eastern European.
Kaplin: Well, no she was from, from her she was here in Toledo. Now that’s on my mother’s side.
Interviewer: …mother’s side. So, your grandmother was born in Toledo.
Kaplin: Yeah. I think so.
Interviewer: Do you know anything about her parents?
Interviewer: Just that they were not around.
Kaplin: Didn’t pay that much attention.
Interviewer: They were probably gone by the time you were born. Any idea where they came from?
Kaplin: Europe. How’s that?
Interviewer: If I were guessing, if I were guessing, the fact that you are a junior, I would guess that they probably came from somewhere like in Germany or Austria-Hungary…
Kaplin: I don’t know…
Interviewer: …because as a rule, Eastern European Jews did not usually use the same name as the father, you know. It’s unusual to have a junior. We have a junior but it’s unusual. I mean…
Kaplin: Actually, my brother, which was…Dick, his name was Richard Louis… Richard Louis Kaplin…
Kaplin: …so, when it came to me, they said, well, and she had, my wife, or my mother had insisted they had to use my name Thomas, so they couldn’t use it as Louis, so they just said Thomas L. so I have no middle…
Interviewer: So, Thomas L…Tom L doesn’t stand for anything,
Kaplin: No. The “L” I wasn’t used.
Interviewer: Did you, you just had brothers, no sisters.
Kaplin: No sisters.
Interviewer: And they all grew up in Toledo.
Interviewer: And then what was it that your dad did for a living, I mean…?
Kaplin: Well, he was in the billboard business. That’s where he started and then he got in to the real estate business and had a lot of…
Interviewer: …made his own money
Kaplin: Well, yeah, he did a lot of things all over the world, really, all over the city, or not the city but all over Ohio, or the U.S.
Interviewer: And like, growing up, so, you were the youngest of the three.
Interviewer: You were the youngest of the three. Do you remember what it was like, in Toledo, I mean…? Toledo [?] is a neat town.
Kaplin: It was good to live in. It was a very, a good place to live in. ‘Course, at that time, uh, things, that’s when the wars really got started, when I…
Interviewer: That was the Second World War.
Kaplin: Yeah. The Second World War. Things were just beginning…
Interviewer: In the Thirties.
Kaplin: Yeah. That was when things began to change.
Interviewer: Did you live through…you were born, but did you have any recollection of living through the Depression or it was pretty much over by the time you… it was over by the time you…
Kaplin: No, well, things were tough there. They had people…but my father had done very well so he was in, he was in pretty good shape. See, I was born in 1928 so…
Kaplin: I really began to know some things right in the late Thirties, Forties. That when business was starting to happen in Europe.
Interviewer: Now, were you aware of any of that kind of stuff? Did your parents ever say, “Oh my God, it’s really bad. Hitler’s doing this. Hitler’s doing that…or they’re starting to do things to Jews over there.
Kaplin: No. That’s not when you’re too young. Now we did see, once we had a couple people that were from Germany that, you know, were living, so they spoke, they had trouble speaking English, so that’s when I was in probably the fourth or fifth grade.
Interviewer: Now did those kids come to school?
Kaplin: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: You remember them being sort of odd or strange…
Interviewer: ‘cause they didn’t speak English.
Kaplin: Yeah. They were having trouble.
Interviewer: But you know they were Jewish.
Kaplin: Oh yeah, yeah. Zaltzman. I forget the name. It’s funny you remember…
Interviewer: You remember those kinds of things. Well, that must have been a horrible time. I mean, can you imagine being thrown into a situation where you didn’t speak the language and everybody around you’s speaking English and you don’t understand what they’re saying?
Kaplin: Well, but we didn’t’ give a hoot. I mean, you know what? Unless our kids or our buddies were in, and girls were right…we knew everybody ourselves and we had our own groups.
Interviewer: Did you include these kids?
Kaplin: They were different age. I think they were younger as I recall but they were at still school. I remember three was one of two of them at school but not in our, not in our age.
Interviewer: Now did you grow up, I mean, you are certainly Jewish but did you belong to a temple? Did you…
Kaplin: Oh yeah, Temple Israel.
Interviewer: In Toledo.
Kaplin: In Toledo and well, that part of it is interesting because the rabbi there was very modern…
Kaplin: …in those days and there was no Hebrew in it.
Interviewer: It was a Reform congregation.
Kplin: Yeah, but to the extent and you had, we never had, until I got, I don’t know supposedly ten, not ten well, probably eleven or twelve, all of a sudden, they had somebody who knew Hebrew, but you didn’t really have to read it. You didn’t have to work and you didn’t have a, G-d damn, when you’re…uh…
Interviewer: Bar mitzvah. Were you bar mitzvah-ed?
Kaplin: They didn’t have bar mitzvah,
Interviewer: There were not.
Kaplin: No, but just at the time, I would say this, about the time I was fourteen or fifteen, and because you graduated whenever you were fourteen or fifteen, where they gave you…
Interviewer: That was…
Kaplin: It was then they were just beginning to have bar mitzvahs. Oh, that was the first time.
Interviewer: So, your brothers weren’t bar mitzvah-ed.
Kaplin: No and I didn’t. They didn’t even think about it, no, and I wasn’t that smart.
Interviewer: Did you think that…did you think your dad ever was bar mitzvah-ed?
Kaplin: Oh, my dad. Yeah, no. I used to go on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with him because he would go from every temple, not temple but, I used to go and I’d would ride just ‘cause it was fun. I would go to the different…
Interviewer: Oh, he’d move around.
Kaplin: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: So, you didn’t actually belong to….
Kaplin: No, no we…
Interviewer: You did.
Kaplin: Yeah, but he knew everybody there.
Interviewer: Well, it’s that kind of a town.
Kaplin: So, he would go for every Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. We’d go to everyplace and kibbitz and go on to the next guy and kibbitz.
Interviewer: Is it your sense that he was raised a little bit more traditionally?
Kaplin: Oh, he had to be. Yeah, no, in those days, I think you had to be because, you know, you didn’t have any choice.
Interviewer: In your recollection do you think he was able to read Hebrew?
Kaplin: I have no idea. He was there meeting and talking to his buddies. It was time for his buddy time, you know, and I’d go around with him and kibitzing with who was around.
Interviewer: Now, this is going to be a stumper, a stumper. Did you remember having a Hebrew name? Did your parents give you a Hebrew name?
Kaplin: A Hebrew what?
Interviewer: A Hebrew name.
Kaplin: No. I was having a hard enough time saying Tom.
Interviewer: Well, it’s interesting. It’s interesting. At one time the rabbi of the temple up there was a guy by the name of Charlie Freund and Mel Basch, that was her father…
Interviewer: …Yeah, that was her father. He was in Toledo. What was his name? Charles and I forget what Mel’s mother’s name was but you knew Mel and Doc.
Kaplin: Yeah, oh yeah.
Interviewer: that was her dad because he was up there for a while and then he came to Columbus and I think he got into insurance or something like that.
Kaplin: All the rabbis, they make all the money one way or another.
Interviewer: They got to get something out of it. So, from your recollection did you run around with Jewish people or did you run around with everybody?
Interviewer: But our buddies were…and any situations that you remember where somebody said something….
Kaplin: As I got older, there were about four or five of us that were all pretty much…
Kaplin: And then when you got to high school, then they had a, oh I forgot…we came together as a what do you call it, a?
Interviewer: Like a youth group or something?
Kaplin: Well, a youth group but…
Interviewer: Like a fraternity?
Kaplin: Yeah, like a fraternity, a bunch of kids, a bunch of guys.
Interviewer: But that wasn’t just Jews, that was Gentiles and Jews.
Kapin: No, this was just really the Jewish guys.
Interviewer: It was? Oh. Okay.
Kaplin: I don’t know how we ever got together that way but that’s how it ended up.
Interviewer: It’s interesting. It’s interesting. Now, in high school what was Tommy Kaplin like? Did you participate in any sports or anything like that?
Kaplin: Well, I was only at high school for two years and then I went to military school.
Interviewer: Did you go to Culver?
Interviewer: I’ll be darned.
Kaplin: Yeah, well, you’re looking like I shouldn’t have been there.
Interviewer: No. No.
Kaplin: Yeah, I was there. I got there.
Interviewer: That’s why these things are good because you know what? We’re learning an awful lot about Tom Kaplin.
Kaplin: You thought I wasn’t smart enough! Oh, okay, I understand! Not for Culver!
Interviewer: Did…you know, you were thinking about college, how did you decide on going to Ohio State ‘ cause that’s where a lot of…?
Kaplin: That’s an interesting thing because my other brother, Julien, had been at Culver, was a year ahead of me and he was at, not Princeton but, at, oh, G-d, in, oh, anyhow, it was…
Interviewer: …one of the Ivy League schools.
Interviewer: One of the Ivy League schools?
Kaplin: Yeah, Ivy League. Ivy League. Anyhow, so he was at school and I where I was at, the group that I was where I was were very smart guys.
Interviewer: At Culver.
Kaplin: At Culver. These were real brainy guys. So, when they said you have to make an application, you know, they said where do you want to go. I don’t want to go…
Interviewer: ‘I don’t want to go anywhere.’
Kaplin: I don’t even know where I want to go but they had said, “we think maybe you ought to try to go to Harvard.” I said, “No, I want to go where my brother is,” at, I can’t think of it now, but…
Interviewer: was he a Princeton boy? Yale?
Kaplin: No. No. No at New…
Kaplin: No. It’s just right around the corner from New Haven. It’s a little island, a small…
Interviewer: I can’t think of it either, Tommy.
Kaplin: Oh, Christ, and it’s terrible, but anyhow, so the guy says, “No, you can get in there. We’ll get you in there’s no problem. We ought to try to get you in at either Yale of Harvard.” I said, “I want to go where my brother is.” They said, “You can get in there but you’ll find you’ll like it better there. So, we’ll get you in there. That’s easy.” I said, “Okay. Alright. Put me in.” They said, “We’ll, we’ll put you in Yale or Harvard” or something like that and I said, “Okay.” “But, they said, “what else do you want to do? I said, “I don’t know, I’d probably go in business or something.” And they said, “Why don’t you go to Penn State…”
Interviewer: Wharton School of Business.
Kaplin: He said, “That’s a little tough to get in but I think you can probably get in.” I said, “I really don’t want to go there. I want to go…” He said, “No, you do that, that’s no problem.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “That’s the one I want to go to.” [with my brother Julien] “Okay, you can go there.” I said, “Alright.” So, I agreed. They came back really, and my brother-in-law, or my brother, rather, was already there and when he knew it was there, he called and said, “I’ll go find out what’s going on where you can get in.” So, he called and he called back and said, “Look, you can’t get in.” He said, “They’re not taking anybody at all unless you apply if you’re in the number one, if it’s the first that you want. If it’s second or third forget about it and they said, “There’s nothing they will do at all. They won’t even talk about you.” I said, “Oh,” I said, “Well,” and at this point, everyone was out of the army, just getting out of the army, so, you couldn’t even think of going to the [AO] or something like that, so, my father said, “Oh, my G-d. Well, where do you want to go to school?” I said, “I don’t really care about going to school. I don’t need…maybe I won’t…” He says, “You’re going to school.” He said, “I think, maybe you’ll go to, why don’t you go to California, go to Cal.”
Interviewer: UCLA or something.
Kaplin: I said, “Well, I don’t know.” He said, I have a friend of mine and I’ll check and we’ll see what we can do there.” So, he called there and said, “No, I hadn’t taken a re…some sort of language.
Kaplin: No. I had my language but… They’re not accepting…so at that point…meanwhile my father said “You’re going to go to Ohio State, “So, ok if you say I’ll go to Ohio State, so I did which was the best thing that ever happened to me, absolutely. It was the first time I ever went to school where they said “Well, he’s…” what he did, “Oh, you’re already certified for reading. You don’t have to do your freshman English,” which was fine and everybody else looked at me like I was crazy and it worked out because I had been with the group from G-d damn, from school. We were at a school that was…this was the first year that they ever had so many smart guys. I mean, we had guys that were all brilliant guys…and they said, and so as a result, I was really worked like hell and we did very well and that was the idea that at Ohio State it was the easiest thing in the world and I learned how to live because you had quarters. You didn’t have halves. So, the first quarter I was all A’s. Second quarter I was all B’s. Third quarter I was all C’s. That’s when I learned about the women and it all worked out perfectly.
Interviewer: You found the bars and the women.
Kaplin: It all worked out just perfect.
Interviewer: So, you were here four years at Ohio State.
Interviewer: …and graduated in what department?
Kaplin: Business School.
Interviewer: But I remember at Marilyn’s funeral that, you met Marilyn in Chicago.
Interviewer: is that right? So how did that all happen that you got to Chicago from…?
Kaplin: Well, no, she was from Toledo.
Interviewer: Oh, she was?
Kaplin: Well, she had been…her family had been in two or three places, but in high school she was there and I knew her there.
Interviewer: So, you knew her. You didn’t meet her in Chicago.
Kaplin: Oh, no, no, no. We knew each other, we knew each other pretty good and then…
Interviewer: But you didn’t date in high school.
Kaplin: No. I did in college. It was in college. When she was just a junior or sophomore I guess, she got married and then he got killed and so she was just in Columbus at that time and we were… I was working in Columbus then but on weekends I was coming and skiing, not skiing but riding a bike, riding on a boat in Toledo.
Interviewer: Somehow, I thought you met in Chicago.
Kaplin: No. No. You’re wrong.
Interviewer: I am.
Kaplin: It’s normal I understand.
Interviewer: I thought I was listening to the guy when he was talking but I guess I wasn’t listening. I thought he said Chicago. So, now we gotcha’ married. We gotcha’ in Columbus again and now it’s not just Tom Kaplin, now it’s Tom and Marilyn Kaplin and that becomes a big unit, ‘cause you guys had a pretty decent thing going for you and you did well together and now we want to probably talk about what was going on after you and Marilyn got married and settled down in Columbus. What did you do for a living? Well, we had Gomer’s.
Interviewer: Oh, I remember that. That was your dad’s business.
Kaplin: Well, yeah, see the rest of the family was in Toledo. Well, when I got back, no one really wanted me in Toledo ‘cause they were already working whatever they had which wasn’t much so my dad thought about it and said how’d you like to go to Columbus? I said, “Perfect.” That’s really what I had been thinking after being in the army.
Interviewer: I was going to ask you about that. I forgot about your army. Did you enlist or were you drafted?
Kaplin: No, they asked me to come in.
Interviewer: You were drafted. You were drafted. Okay. And did you become an officer or were you just a ‘slug’?
Kaplin: I was just a, I was not a colonel, I was a, I was a, I was nothing.
Interviewer: Okay. So, you carried a gun and you were a foot soldier or something like that. You were in the army?
Interviewer: And four years?
Kaplin: No, two years.
Interviewer: Two years and did you see any active duty?
Kaplin: Well, no, I was there when they captured a general, our general. I was in, G-d damn, I was in, in, not Japan, in Korea.
Interviewer: You were in Korea?
Kaplin: Yes. I was in Korea and then they sent us to, I was in a little island where everybody that had been captured that we had captured…
Interviewer: It was like a prison camp.
Kaplin: It was a prison camp and we had, that’s where I was.
Interviewer: Were you just doing a guard duty thing?
Kaplin: No, I was in charge of…we handled the money. Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Quartermaster corps?
Kaplin: No. We handled we took care of payor, pay and all that.
Interviewer: You weren’t shooting bullets.
Kaplin: No, no, well, we were close and they had, I don’t know there were thousands of guys that they had captured.
Kaplin: Well, no there were Germans, Chinese, see, because the Chinese were fighting us too and we had the Koreans, and you had some of the Chinese that liked fighting us. There was those that didn’t. Then you had the Koreans that wanted to stay with the low group that wanted to fight so they had a whole bunch of different…
Interviewer: So that was what, Fifties?
Kaplin: It was ’51, no ’52, I guess.
Interviewer: ’52. So, then maybe in ‘54 you came back to Columbus?
Kaplin: No, I was out in ’52.
Interviewer: you were out in ’52.
Interviewer: Then you came back to Columbus an got married or were you married before you went?
Kaplin: I had to get married after that, after that yeah.
Interviewer: Alright. So, now we got you in Columbus. We got you married and you’re setting up house where? Where did you have your first place to live?
Kaplin: We were on, way east of, G-d dammit, what, damn this. I can’t talk. What’s the city just…
Interviewer: Not Bexley.
Kaplin: No, no, no, no just west, just east of us?
Interviewer: Reynoldsburg or Whitehall?
Interviewer: You were in Whitehall?
Kaplin: We were just a little east of Whitehall. We had s whole group of…we rented a little building…
Interviewer: An apartment. It wasn’t the ones on Broad Street.
Kaplin: No, no, no this was on Main Street. Just off of Main Street.
Interviewer: Off Main Street.
Kaplin: Way out.
Interviewer: So, there were a lot of other young marrieds all around you?
Kaplin: Nobody we knew.
Interviewer: You didn’t know anybody.
Kaplin: I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t’ know anybody there. At that point when I first went to work there, I didn’t have enough to do, so I decided I’d go to school so at night I used to go to get my law
Interviewer: Like Franklin?
Kaplin: No, I forget what they call it. Maybe it’s Franklin. Law School.
Kaplin: It became Capital.
Interviewer: I think it’s Franklin.
Kaplin: I guess you’re right. It is.
Inerviewer: And you did become a lawyer, right?
Kaplin: Yeah. Not very good, but I was there. Well, I did it originally because I had no time to do it, what the hell, I had nothing else to do. So, then I started. Well, then I got married but in the middle of that, and I said, well, I can’t, I started, now I gotta’ finish it.
Interviewer: Now did you have a group of friends when you got here, or did you…or other marrieds or…?
Kaplin: Originally when I came here just by myself, from the army, I was with a whole bunch of group down on Broad Street. There was a bunch of guys that basically…there were a couple couples but the rest were well, a bunch of other guys and they were pretty much, I think they were all Jewish, too, so I knew everybody.
Interviewer: So, you’re in business now, in the sign business and you’re living in Whitehall.
Kaplin: And then moved in to Bexley and later they rented a place in Bexley, on, what the hell’s the name of the street? Oh, has two words on it. Shoot.
Interviewer: Bexley Park
Kaplin: No. I don’t’ know. It could’ve been.
Interviewer: It has two words.
Kaplin: I’m not sure but anyhow I was there.
Interviewer: Did you have your first child by then?
Kaplin: Yeah, we had one.
Interviewer: And that one’s name?
Kaplin: That was Jamie.
Interviewer: How old would Jamie be now?
Kaplin: Oh, Christ. She’s 59, 58 something like that.
Interviewer: 59, 60…okay and did you become a part of a group? Did you join a temple?
Kaplin: Yeah but I didn’t pay much attention, but yeah, I was a member.
Interviewer: And any other groups?
Kaplin: We went to the golf…
Interviewer: Winding Hollow?
Kaplin: Winding Hollow, didn’t do much there.
Interviewer: Were you a golfer?
Kaplin: Not very often.
Interviewer: Okay, so, you got one kid now and then, her name is Jamie and…
Kaplin: Then we had Trip.
Interviewer: Your son.
Kaplin: Yeah. Then later we, then we bought a place, or we had bought a place on, downtown or, in Bexley, G-d damn…
Interviewer: You used to live on Columbia?
Kaplin: Columbia, yeah.
Interviewer: I thought so.
Kaplin: I was there for years.
Interviewer: And then Trip is how old now?
Kaplin: He’s got to be 56 something like that.
Interviewer: When I first got married, I got married in ’62 and I was teaching Sunday School at Temple Israel and I had Jamie and Trip as students.
Kaplin: Oh, it’s a small world.
Interviewer: Yeah, I remember that. It was unusual. There were few kids who were “Trips.” The Lazarus boy was Trip. There was somebody else.
Kaplin: There is another Trip. I know that.
Interviewer: I don’t remember. I know I had those two Trips. And then you had another daughter.
Kaplin: No. I have a third one. Adam.
Interviewer: Right. And they all live in Columbus or are they all gone?
Kaplin: No. They are all gone, well, Adam is here. Trip is in San Francisco and Jamie’s down in New Mexico.
Interviewer: Alright and do they have children?
Interviewer: None of them.
Kaplin: None of them.
Interviewer: So, you’ve got no grandkids.
Kaplin: No grandkids.
Interviewer: Awwww. What a shame.
Kaplin: That’s the way it goes.
Interviewer: Now are they all married?
Kaplin: No, none of them.
Interviewer: None of them are. Were they?
Kaplin: Trip was there for a short time. Didn’t work out.
Interviewer: Didn’t work out.
Kaplin: Well, that’s a shame, but I know you probably see them often.
Kaplin: Not too regularly. ‘Cause they’re too far away
Interviewer: Not too regularly. They don’t like you.
Kaplin: Well that’s part of the problem too.
Interviewer: You’re a mean old bastard. Now, I’m sort of interested, since yesterday was election and before we got to this being recorded, we were talking about the election and one of my recollections of the Kaplins was that they were freely active in the Democratic party in Columbus. In fact, I think, you, Tom ran for public office at one time.
Kaplin: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: Did you make it? I don’t remember?
Kaplin: No, well, I was on the City, Columbus City Council.
Interviewer: You were on Council. I remember that. Okay. So, what was it that got you into politics, got you going on that?
Kaplin: That was when I had the fun of it, you know.
Interviewer: You were pretty, pretty, at one time you were pretty well known in the Democratic circles.
Kaplin: You know, I used to, I ‘d been on a lot of different campaigns.
Interviewer: What were some of the campaigns you were on? Do you recall?
Kaplin: I should have written it, ‘cause I brought some, because I didn’t remember some of it.
Interviewer: Is that stuff we can copy?
Kaplin: Yeah, I did stuff for John Glenn. We worked on John Glenn. This is another to do with Gore.
Interviewer: Maybe after this is over, you’ll let them take photos of this [ they are looking at materials]and so they can put in in the archives.
Kaplin: Nah, I should donate. I brought this so I could remember whether I did…What the hell did I do with the other stuff? A lot of, for President, when he was here…This is guy I worked with. He and I were good friends, but he was with John Glenn but we also worked with Celeste. Oh, I remember all that shit but I don’t remember, can’t tell you…
Interviewer: Let me see just see a sec and then maybe I can, it will jog here.
Kaplin: Is there anything there? I don’t know if there is anything there or not.
Interviewer: This says that “Governor Richard Celeste, has appointed Thomas L. Kaplin, 55, of Columbus to the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Veterans Children’s Home.”
Kaplin: Yeah. I did that for…
Interviewer: And it says here that “Kaplin is active in community affairs, serving as a member of the Columbus Jewish Federation…
Interviewer: Senior Citizens Placement Bureau.” I remember the… what was his name, uh, Hauser. WAsn’t that, who was the guy who was…worked really hard in that placement thing. it wasn’t Hauser. Who was…oh, I don’t’ remember… and “currently treasurer of the Columbus Jewish Center.” See, those are really important things. Those are big things. Those are really big things. And, and, “He was also the past president of the Columbus Urban League and from 1980 to 1983, was a member of the Ohio Elections Commission.”
Kaplin: Oh, I did the Urban League. I was president of the Columbus Urban League.
Interviewer: Alright. I’m glad you brought this ‘cause this is helpful.
Kaplin: The Urban League. I remember that.
Interviewer: And you “have a degree in business administration and in 1959 [you] got your Bachelor of Law degree from Franklin University, was admitted to the Bar in 1959. He’s married has a wife and three kids.”
Kaplin: Yep, that’s right.
Interviewer: Thanks for bringing that in.
Kaplin: Yeah, I already told you that.
Interviewer: Thanks for telling me.
Kaplin: And I was Recreation and Parks Commission.
Interviewer: Yes, we’ll take pictures of this stuff.
Kaplin: That’s the shit you left me and I just…
Interviewer: Let’s see, this one.
Kaplin: Oh, that’s just, this is a guy that I worked with.
Interviewer: “Bob McCallister is reopening tzar.” I don’t know who Bob McCallister is. “He worked to defeat Richard Nixon in 1972. Columbus Democrat Robert B. McCallister apparently fancied Nixon’s madam theory of bargaining so… blah blah blah, so [reading] McCallister was with Bricker and Hostetler and he was a litigator” but I don’t know what you did with him.
Kaplin: He was close, just …
Interviewer: Just good friends?
Kaplin: Yeah. We worked. He got me, I was his assistant there and then I ended up handling Cincinnati, took care of, I used to go down there every week, took care of.. stuff to do.
Interviewer: Well, maybe hold on to that stuff, and just take pictures of it and we got files, Tom, of people and this is going to go in your file and eventually it will be online and people will be able to access it and…
Kaplin: What would they want to see?
Interviewer: I don’t know what they’d want to see. I don’t know. Somebody might be doing a paper on Tom Kaplin someday and they need some information and they’ll go to this. Maybe your kids will want to see it.
Kaplin: Well, the Urban League. That’s when I really was doing some stuff in 1967.
Interviewer: That was significant. That was significant stuff that you were doing for the Urban League.
Kaplin: That was good. We got a lot of stuff done.
Kaplin: Well, working with… biggest thing we got into was with the city, uh, the schools and trying to get the…at that time they had the blacks would only go to this one and the whites would only go to this one. So, there was movement. We were moving to get mixing people together and we had to, dealing with the…I forget the guy, was the mayor, not the mayor but the head of the city school who was appointed and who ran it. He got to the point that when I got on the telephone, he didn’t know who it was on the phone, he had my number, he knew who it was. We had talked enough times and I had not talked very nicely to him and I had tried a number of times…
Interviewer: That’s when the desegregation stuff was going on and major busing was going on…
Interviewer: …and you were in the forefront.
Kaplin: We were in the midst of…we had, oh at one point we had, oh there was the black guy that was here that was really excellent and he moved, he went to Dayton and then ran for something. He died young and another gal, lot of interesting… it was stuff that was fun, and I remember, I had, ‘cause the city was trying to get everybody to work and cooperate and we were part of the interest and this one lady who was really radical, way radical, but somebody was giving her some trouble I guess, [?] people and I got ahold of her and people announced that she was doing a good…she’s intention to do whatever she was supposed…and when it was done she called me and said I want to appreciate that you took care of me, or didn’t take care of me but expressed our, my concerns because it was people like you who that really helped me.
Interviewer: You know, this is interesting. This is a little side thing but, what do you think it was about your growing up and your home, it probably had a lot to do with Marilyn but you were really active in social action kinds of stuff which wasn’t all that usual in those days. I mean, a lot of people said, ‘Yeah it’s too bad what’s going on with the blacks…yeah it’s too bad what’s going on, but no one really stepped up and really got into it like you and Marilyn did. What do you think was the basis of that?
Kaplin: I really, you know, it was, we were always interested in, you know, people have a right to do things, I mean, you know. maybe because I was raised with three other kids. You had to defend yourself, but I don’t know. I, we were involved in it.
Interviewer: I know you’re deeply involved and at the time it wasn’t so cool. I mean, did you take any flak from your more conservative Jewish friends, you know, ‘What are you mixing in that stuff for, what are you getting involved, it’s none of your business, it’s none of your…?’
Kaplin: No, I never had a problem. People were always willing to…you know. That was part of it. I don’t know. I never had anybody, yeah, I had, I do have people that have raised hell with me, thought I was on the wrong side [?] They didn’t appreciate what… and you knew that, but most people were really willing to…
Kaplin: And I think most people are willing to …
Interviewer: …because people are basically decent.
Kaplin: They basically want to do it right and if they know, they’ll do things that are not wrong, ‘er, that are wrong but if somebody raises it a little, they’ll usually agree to doing and they’ll understand that they should be doing.
Interviewer: …that they should be doing, because, like I said, I remember that, I wasn’t that involved but I remember that you and Marilyn were in the papers quite a bit for leading certain movements, doing good things.
Interviewer: Doing good things. Now, that was big part of your life, though, wasn’t it?
Kaplin: Yeah. It was interesting. It was what we were into and well, whatever you’re into that’s what you ought to be involved in.
Kaplin: If you’re not doing anything, what the hell are you living for? You know?
Interviewer: Keep that thought ‘cause when we get done with this, I like to ask people, you know now we’ve talked, how would you like to be remembered? How would you like people to remember you?
Kaplin: Not at all.
Interviewer: Yeah you do. Yeah you do.
Kaplin: No, I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to… I’ll be still around. I want to be still around!
Interviewer: I’m not saying that. I’m just saying, you know, people want to, you’ve left a legacy,
Kaplin: I don’t know.
Interviewer: You have, and what would you like your kids to know? I mean, what would you like your kids to do? Are they involved in social action kinds of things? That’s what we call it, social action. I think in the Fifties and Sixties and Seventies they called it social action. Now they don’t call it that anymore. I don’t know what they call it.
Kaplin: Well, my son…
Kaplin: Adam was active. When he was in Colorado he ran for office and tried to do some things, and yeah, and he’s still, he doesn’t’ do anything about it but he’s still interested in stuff, yeah.
Interviewer: How ‘bout the other two?
Kaplin: Not really. No. No. Jamie’s doing a… yeah, Jamie’s doing a little stuff that she wants, but…
Interviewer: So, some of that stuff that you and Marilyn did rubbed off on them and they still took the ball and ran with it a little bit.
Kaplin: Yeah, you go wherever you’re going and that’s a lot of the fun of it. Most of the fun I had was with the people, just, not with the stuff that we were doing necessarily, ‘cause you’re working at things, but just meeting people and having fun with it.
Interviewer: Well, you know, I’m just saying this for the tape, I knew you and I knew Marilyn before this interview and that’s the kind of people you want…
Kaplin: I don’t think I want you to know that!
Interviewer: But you were, I mean, you were always sort of, where the action was. Your house was always sort of like, the place you lived in German Village and I think Bobbie Levy lived next door to you and those were two houses that, you know, a lot of stuff went on down there…all of it good.
Kaplin: None of y our business…
Interviewer: We don’t have to talk about that here, but you were really active in the community, you were active in the city, and I know you had a lot of campaign stuff going on at your house.
Kaplin: Yeah, we did all that kind of stuff. We also did the Jewish stuff, too.
Interviewer: Oh, we should talk about the Jewish stuff. This is for the Jewish Historical Society. Tell me about the Jewish stuff. What w the Jewish stuff? You were active at the Federation. You were active in United Jewish appeal.
Interviewer: Yeah, well, not the United Jewish Appeal. I don’t think I ever did really.
Interviewer: I know you were in the Federation.
Kaplin: Had for years. Well, the next door…
Interviewer: The Melton thing?
Interviewer: Heritage House?
Kaplin: No, the exercise thing.
Interviewer: Oh, exercise at the Jewish Center. You were president.
Kaplin: Well, no, they wanted me, I was the what-do-you-call it, I was the treasurer. They wanted, what was it, somebody who was supposed to be the president and they said, “You could go do it ahead of him,” and I said, “No,I’m not going to do that. Let him stay ‘cause I’m going to get out anyhow in another year of worth doing.
Interviewer: You had a lot of activities going on. Well, he wanted to be the president and he had been there a long time and he should. Well, they thought maybe I’m going to give them more money and make me be the president.’ I said, no, I didn’t want to give them more money and I didn’t want to be president.
Interviewer: I know this. I know that you are pretty generous with your money. You were pretty, pretty generous, but, do you still go to the Center anytime? Do you go over there now?
Kaplin: You know, about four times a week. Oh yeah.
Interviewer: Still working out?
Kaplin: Oh yeah. It’s one of the… keeps me alive.
Interviewer: When you are working out? I work out. I love working out. I’ve never seen you. You must go later in the day.
Kaplin: I’m usually go about 3:00 or 3:30 and I’m there for, I run for forty minutes, thirty or forty minutes.
Interviewer: you’re still running?
Interviewer: I had to give up running. Messed up my knees.
Kaplin: Well, I don’t do the running. I do it on a…
Interviewer: That’s pretty good.
Kaplin: Have you done that?
Interviewer: Yeah. That’s what I can do now.
Kaplin: I don’t do the…
Interviewer: I can’t do the running anymore.
Kaplin: No. No. I don’t run at all. No, I started doing that ten years ago.
Interviewer: Do any bicycling?
Interviewer: Did you at one time?
Kaplin: I did.
Interviewer: That’s what I thought. I thought you were a big biker.
Kaplin: No, not a big biker. I never did big biking.
Interviewer: No? I bet you now you’d probably do the Pelatonia.
Kaplin: The what?
Interviewer: You know where they ride to, I don’t know where the hell they ride to, but they’re riding for cancer or something like that. Pelaton. I don’t know. It’s a good thing to do.
Kaplin: I don’t know. No, I don’t want that. The hell with ‘em. They’re gonna’ die, let ‘em die. [kidding]
Interviewer: Why not? Let’s… I think we’ve pretty much, it’s been like an hour. You didn’t think you’d eve take a half hour. Here we’ve been kibitzing for an hour. You know, you can wax philosophical. You can wax philosophical. What do you want to know? What do you want to tell everybody now about Tom Kaplin and about your life? You’ve got a chance now to sort of reprise it. You know, you got a chance to sort of [say] what made Tom Kaplin Tom Kaplin.
Kaplin: Well, just sort of you know, you know, you think back and you spend the time like when I was on the board or at the city, you learn. Everything you do you learn from, you know? Whether you learn it there or you learn it here or you learn it there and everything is, you learn more everything you do. You do it better.
Interviewer: Well, you’ve done enough that you’ve learned enough that, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s good.
Kaplin: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, when I think of all, when I was on City uh, City uh, City, uh
Kaplin: You know, everybody that, all anybody that worked there, you used to make sure on City Council, you learned a lot of people.
Interviewer: You did
Kaplin: But you learned also a lot of things that you’re never going to do again but it’s things that are interesting. You watch things and have been given the opportunity to see things happen.
Interviewer: What sort of things do you think that you saw going on in Columbus that sort of sticks in your mind now, some of the accomplishments that you can see that you had a hand in it? You had a hand in it.
Kaplin: Well, just that you see something get built and then you see it done and you make sure that it’s done the way it’s done. You see how some people, when you see the people that are really, that have a problem that maybe aren’t really problems and you learn what really makes things go, I mean, it’s just the more you learn and do it, the more you learn.
Interviewer: Well, what do you think about Columbus now? I mean, it’s not the little cow-town it was at one time. I mean, are you impressed with the way the city’s going now?
Kaplin: Not really, no, not really.
Interviewer: Okay, because…
Kaplin: It’s, and I’m in no condition and people aren’t, I just see the people coming in aren’t, when I see the people that are sitting at City Council, at that night, the guys that we had that were there, and I was not there that often. I mean I was only there for 4 days, for 4 years rather, they all had [or maybe it says were head of?] a lot of establishments, I mean, that they knew some things that they didn’t necessarily need and then they were young at that time but still they had a…
Interviewer: I’m trying to think who was on Council with you?
Kaplin: Oh, there’s what-cha-ma-call it, what’s her name, oh, oh, uh, oh… Lazarus
Interviewer: Oh, Cindy? Cindy Lazarus? She was on Council when you were there?
Kaplin: Oh, oh, Eddy…oh, it’s terrible when I think of the…oh…
Interviewer: I can’t remember because, you know, I didn’t know that much about Columbus politics. I wasn’t that involved in it.
Kaplin: Well, it was, it was, we all were interested in doing it. We weren’t that young. I mean, I’m looking at some of the people that are voting for Columbus or Ohio, even, the gal, some idiot, she’s, I think she got elected for some of the county things and she doesn’t have any brains to do what she’s doing.
Interviewer: You know, I don’t know who you’re talking about, because I didn’t look at the paper today. I was running late so I’m not sure really who we’ve got.
Kaplin: You’re always late.
Interviewer: I know. I know.
Kaplin: I just know I’m supposed to get up in the morning.
Interviewer: A day late and a dollar short. What’s that going on? But, anyhow, I think you guys did a good job in that you put Columbus in the path and I think that the path it’s going on is good. I think Columbus is a neat place to live now. It’s an exciting place. I mean the Short North is good. The German Village is a fun place to be. The buildings that’s going on now. Now all of a sudden – this probably is going to be interesting to you – I forget what they said how many thousands of people are living in downtown Columbus now. They’ve got all these new apartments down there and all these condos.
Kaplin: They got a lot of empties too.
Kaplin: I’m glad you’re not buying, you’re not buying or owning. Don’t you want to own?
Kaplin: You don’t want to own?
Kaplin: There’s a lot of space.
Interviewer: There is a lot of space, but It’s interesting. It’s getting to be more, I mean, of a big city, like New York, where people are living downtown.
Kaplin: Yeah, but they’re not, we’re not there though.
Interviewer: Not yet.
Kaplin: And I don’t know how long it’s going to happen because you know, I look around and see ‘cause a lot of space is available, a lot of space, and I think a lot of it is financing by the government, by the state, ‘er, by the city.
Interviewer: By the city.
Kaplin: I guarantee…so, it’s, we’re gonna’, we’ll find out in the next four or five years.
Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah.
Kaplin: I remember when we put the water in, when they were going to turn everything in, take the junk, to put the, see, you didn’t know anything about that.
Interviewer: I did not. Tell me about it.
Kaplin: ‘Cause I was involved. This is where I was involved. This is really funny. It was before I was in the Council. That’s when the city decided, the mayor. It was the mayor’s fault really.
Interviewer: Was that Sensenbrenner?
Kaplin: No. No. Uhn uhn.
Interviewer: Buck Rhinehart?
Kaplin: No, it was before him.
Interviewer: I don’t know.
Kaplin: Anyhow, and he was in school with me. I knew him too, when I was practicing, not practicing, learning about law, but anyhow, that’s where the city decided they were going to take all your junk, all you trash and they were going to burn it.
Interviewer: Oh, the trash…tell me about it.
Kaplin: I was not on the board but I looked at it and I said this is wrong. This is not going to work. It can’t work and there was a group from, that was investigating and it had researched stuff for the city independently and they had written a note but meantime the mayor was pushing this thing and he sold all the guys on the city council that this is, they were going to make…I don’t know if there was money involved as it turned out but they were going to build this thing. They were going to burn it.
Interviewer: That was the trash burning plant.
Kaplin: Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: And they tried to pass it one time and it couldn’t get through so they were redoing it. Well, I knew at the time, I met a guy who was a guy who was, not an attorney he was a, a, a… oh, see, that’s why I can’t talk, a legal’s aid. He was an engineer and he knew engineering. He had fought it the first time. And it came out and he starts ranting and I got ahold of him and I said “Is this really as terrible as you, it looks like it’s exactly what you write.” He says, “No question, it’s terrible. It’s not going to work. It can’t work.” So, I said, “Well, let’s get and let’s do it.” He said, “I’ll do whatever I can to help you.” He said, “I’ll do everything, but I went through it and I’m not going to, publicly I’m not going to be a part, I won’t be openly, openly I won’t do it,” but he’d do it. So, he said, “You’re a hundred percent right.” He’s telling me, he said, “This is absolutely the worst thing in the world.” He said, “They’ve done this in Boston,” not in Boston but someplace in Massachusetts,” he says and it’s a [dessert, desire] a
Kaplin: …disaster. Thanks. Every place you look they say it’s impossible. They say it’s in Germany. Tuckerman, Germany. They find out what the cost of it. The cost is like, way exceeds this because of the age, etc., so, I started to look and I said “you’re right.” So, we started to talk around, so we represented a group and “We’re going to fight this. It’s terrible.” So, we started a run. We got on radio and the mayor’s part of it. He’s going to talk at the same time I’m talking. So, I just got the talk from the guy from Boston, engineer and he’s saying,” Oh, it’s absolutely terrible. He says, “It’s not working. It cost you more than what we think it is.” He says, “So this is what it is. So, we know about it.” Okay. I said, “Thank you.” So, we got on, we’re on TV with, I forget the radio number, and we’re both on it. Now, understand, I know the mayor. He was in school the same time I was for my law degree so I knew him pretty good. We were sort of, you know, friendly, not close friends, but knew him well enough. So we’re sitting there and we’re on the radio and I’m saying this is why it’s bad and it shouldn’t be this. So, he gets on and says we’ve adjusted this etc., etc., and in Boston,” or wherever we are, or not Boston but Massachusetts, and says, “This program is on and it’s working 100%,” and I get hot. Then I get hot. I said, “That’s 100% wrong.” I said, “I just was on the telephone number “and I gave him the name, “and he has told us exactly ‘this is what’s happened. This is what’s happened. This is what’s happened’ and that’s wrong and you know it’s wrong and it’s calling destruction to Columbus.” Well, he hung up. That’s the last time I ever talked to him again. Anyway, I’ll add to that, that he told his assistant, “Don’t ever get me on TV again.”
Interviewer: But the trash thing came to be. I think they did build it.
Kaplin: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: They did build it and it was bad.
Kaplin: Oh yeah. There’s no way it could happen. It could not happen. That was the point. It never happened. It never, never happened and when I got onto the Council, because I was going on the Council, I sat down with, who was the head of it, Jerry Hammond.
Interviewer: Oh, Jerry Hammond.
Kaplin: Jerry and I were good friends and he came in and said, look, “About the appointment, I think we’re going to appoint you, but if we do, you will not say anything to, will you?” No, he said, “Will you promise not to say anything about this issue at all?” I said, “Jerry, absolutely. I won’t say any more about it.” Because by that time the [door is closed?] and the building was a disaster.
Interviewer: Hey, that’s politics, eh?
Interviewer: That’s politics.
Kaplin: Yeah, well.
Interviewer: We probably have to be somewhat concise here so, or short, I mean we can’t go on, but those kinds of stories, if you remember them and you can think of them, we can come back because I think, I think, that kind of history is important. I mean, that was stuff that was happening in the city that’s part of history, not maybe Jewish history but it’s more history.
Kaplin: Well, you got it, so it’s on, don’t worry about it.
Interviewer: Oh, I know. That’s why we wanted you, Tom. That’s why we wanted you, Tom.
Kaplin: That’s an old story, one of those things, but those old stories get forgotten and that was a disaster.
Interviewer: It was a disaster. I remember that. I think it exploded a couple times.
Kaplin: Well, the cost of what they put it up I think it was maybe 400,000 thousand dollars and it cost them again almost half again as much, that was more money.
Interviewer: I think we’re almost done. But just before, I said, what have you learned in life that maybe would help someone else? Anything at all. That’s a hard question because you have to think about it. If I were down in Brazil, I would have given you this before you got here so then you could think about it, but I want it to be sort of spontaneous and, you know, the thing that occurs to you that, that is important about life.
Kaplin: I, you know, if you’re happy with what you’ve done, that’s the best world.
Interviewer: I think so and that’s a good place to end.
Kaplin: And know that I don’t have to talk to you.
Interviewer: And know that you don’t have to talk to me unless you want to, but I have to do this: On behalf of the [Columbus]Jewish Historical Society…
Kaplin: Give me the money.
Interviewer: Later, later, when we’re offline… On behalf of the Jewish Historical Society I want to thank you for contributing to the Oral History Project and this concludes our interview.