This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society is being recorded on November 7, 2014, as part of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History Project. This interview is being recorded at Kensington Retirement Village at 1001 Parkview Boulevard, Apartment 109.  My name is Bill Cohen and I am interviewing Arthur Block.

INTERVIEWER: Why don’t we just start off Mr. Block, tell us when were you born and where?

BLOCK:  I was born in Mt. Carmel Hospital West, in 1922, August 6th.  Mt. Carmel West Hospital has always been kind of like a family hospital.  I had an uncle that every time our grandfather bought a new car he always ran it off a cliff or off the road or something.  He was always there.  I had another uncle who was a surgeon.  He was practicing in Detroit for many years and after a family divorce or something I don’t know exactly what it was but he came to Columbus to live. He was also at Mt. Carmel.

INTERVIEWER:  So let me understand, where did you live?  When you were born, where was your family?

BLOCK: I was born…our first residence was upstairs over the Danziger store. There were three or four apartments in that building.

INTERVIEWER:  The Danziger Store, and where was that?

BLOCK:  West Broad Street, 971 West Broad.

INTERVIEWER:  971 West Broad in what we now call Franklinton or the Bottoms.

BLOCK:  Well, they talk about Franklinton, the Bottoms they’re think they’re going to restore it like German Village.  They’re full of crap…

INTERVIEWER:  So, what do you remember of your early years there on the near West Side?

BLOCK:  Well, I remember more than anything, when we moved from that apartment over to West Town Street, I don’t remember, probably 800 block of West Town Street, I should remember that address because that was my grandfather’s property and he also owned a row of flats so to speak next to it. I used to collect the rent I can remember.  I guess that’s part of the aging process. You don’t remember a lot of things.

INTERVIEWER:  Your childhood was on the near west side. Now I don’t, now was that a Jewish community there?

BLOCK:  No, no.  There were a few Jewish people living on the west side.  In my younger days, there was a Berman family that lived at the corner of West State Street and not City Park, the next street over, don’t remember the exact name.

INTERVIEWER:  But on the near west side, the Berman family.

BLOCK:  They also had a store in the 1200 block of West Broad Street and our family was in the 971, [..?  ] street, West Broad.

INTERVIEWER:  And what did the Danziger Store sell?

BLOCK:  The Danziger Store was a neighborhood department store, dry goods, shoes, dresses, pants and shirts, overalls.  Actually as I grew up in my teens, I realized that we were the only store in town that carried men’s heavy fleece lined underwear up to size 60, as well as men’s pants up to size 60.

INTERVIEWER:  Big, big sizes.

BLOCK:  Some of the other stores downtown, the Army-Navy stores carried some of that stuff but  they gradually went out of business and we became the only [?] people there.

INTERVIEWER:  This was a store that was run by your father…

BLOCK:  It was run by my…first it was run by my grandfather and his family.  When they came to Columbus, I think four of the children were still in high school age. Those children that went to school in the day time came to the store worked in the evenings and those people that worked in the store, the other way around. That’s why in those years a man made a lot of money.  There was no income tax to worry about and he had a lot of free help.  It really wasn’t free as I know when they were, when the girls were teenagers they had a charge card and they could go to Lazarus and buy anything they wanted, within reason, that the store didn’t sell or that they couldn’t buy wholesale somewhere and it’s like my mother told me that any time we wanted something we could go there and buy it. My father was very liberal with his daughters.  With his sons I don’t think he was that liberal. They had six daughters, four sons.

INTERVIEWER:  You were one of ten children?

BLOCK:  I was one of …no,  I was… my mother was one of ten children.

INTERVIEWER:  Your mother was one of ten children.

BLOCK:  She was a, oldest daughter.  They came originally, my grandfather came to New York at about 16 years old and he was from what you call Turkmen which is near Riga, Latvia, a little shtetl and he came to this country at sixteen years old as I understand it.  He sold apples on the streets of New York, on the corners.

INTERVIEWER:  This was the father of your mother.

BLOCK:  This was my grandfather, my mother’s father and I gather that when he married my grandmother, who was from a, if I remember, it was near Kiev,

INTERVIEWER:  Your grandfather on your mother’s side was from Kiev.

BLOCK:  My cousin…I don’t know who has it now.  Benson Wolman had it and maybe his brother Irving has got it now or maybe his widow has got it.  I don’t know. They have the family tree from that area.

INTERVIEWER:  Okay, okay.

BLOCK:  Anyway, my grandfather started in business as a confectionary so to speak.  You know in New York City in those years every corner had a confectionary or a little…a confectionary, some of them sold a little clothing,  a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  As I understand it, my grandmother started one and then he sold it and moved six blocks up the street and opened another one.  There was no laws in those years of non-competitive or something like that.

INTERVIEWER:  A confectionary was a candy store?

BLOCK:  It was originally a candy store and then it got involved in clothing and so forth and over the years he did well.  The children, I believe, yeah, they were all born in New York City.  No, no they weren’t. The first, I just can’t remember, don’t know exactly what it was.  The first three or four children were born in New York City and what had happened…there was a man that had a general store in Frankfort, Michigan, that used to purchase his merchandise from a wholesaler in New York City.  I remember the name of that wholesaler [Berwin Stokel?].  This guy owed them a lot of money and they were taking over the store but they had nobody to take care of it, so they came to my grandfather and he, “Okay, I’ll go,” and so, he took his family to Frankfort, Michigan.

INTERVIEWER:  So your mother’s father and his wife took the whole family including your mother to Michigan.

BLOCK: …to Michigan, Northern Michigan.

INTERVIEWER:  Northern Michigan.

BLOCK:  Fact is, the state of Michigan, even today, is probably the largest group of people that came from that particular area of New York City, of Riga, Latvia.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, there were several people from Latvia who came to Michigan.

BLOCK:  No. The whole state of Michigan had a very large population and even today, the people that were called Korlanders. I think that was the name of the area – Korland.  They lived up there in Northern Michigan for a few years.  They had a, where did I see, I have a book somewhere else, too.  It had some pictures of the house that they lived in and the yard.  It was on a, as I understand, it was a big house on a corner and the back of the house went in toward to the, they had some kind of a lake there.  They had their own cow.  I guess once a month or once a week the shocket came through and they’d kosher the meat and so forth, the chickens.  I don’t know how they handled things in those years.  They didn’t have refrigeration like they have now.  I really don’t.


BLOCK:  I don’t know how that worked.

INTERVIEWER:  So, how did your mother eventually get to Columbus, Ohio?

BLOCK:  Well, my grandfather did very well up there in northern Michigan, and then he decided to bring his children into a Jewish area so they came down to Detroit, and as I understand it he had a store up on the east side of Detroit, and things went along and after the 1913 flood here in Columbus, there was a gentleman by the name of Anspaugh who decided he wanted to move to Indiana where some of his family was.  Anspaugh happened to have been the brother of a brother-in-law to my grandfather.  My grandfather’s sister married an Anspaugh and this Anspaugh was a brother and so they came to Columbus to West Broad Street to the store here.   I guess it was a total mess when they came down here.

INTERVIEWER:  Because of the flood?

BLOCK:  Because of the flood. I think it was1915 is when they came to Columbus and they lived on the west side originally on Dakota Avenue which was a couple blocks away from the store and anyway, did well enough to buy the building and the building next to him and over the years residential buildings in the area, rows of townhouses, and…

INTERVIEWER:  This is the father of your mother.

BLOCK:  Right, my grandfather.

INTERVIEWER:  Your grandfather on your mother’s side, he owns stores and apartments on the west side, the near west side.

BLOCK:  A lot of real estate on the west side.  As I got older, I used to be the one to collect rent, when I was in my late teens.

INTERVIEWER:  This was the Danziger family.

BLOCK:  Right, right.

INTERVIEWER:  And then how did your mother meet your father?

BLOCK:  Well, what happened was, my father came out of the army and moved to Columbus.  What brought him to Columbus was he had a sister by the name of Mollie who was married to a man by the name of Isaac Nutis.  Now Isaac Nutis was a bookbinder and he, I don’t know the where-with-all.  He was also from Burlington, Vermont, where my father’s family settled when they came to the country.

INTERVIEWER:  Where was that?

BLOCK:  Burlington.

INTERVIEWER:  Burlington, Vermont.

BLOCK:  Yes.  Joseph Block.

INTERVIEWER:  Joseph Block, okay.

BLOCK:  As I understand, he stayed at Mollie’s house and I guess everybody that came from Burlington stayed at her house, and got a job somewhere and had to pay rent.  That’s a long  story from way back. I’m not going to go into that.  My dad lived, he told me, in an apartment in a rooming house at Parsons and Main.

INTERVIEWER:  Parsons and Main.  Now that really was the heart of the Jewish community.

BLOCK:  That was not the heart of it but that was the fringe end area of… no, I would say probably Parsons and Main might have been the heart of it.  He went to work for Mr. Danziger in Danziger Store.

INTERVIEWER:   And the rest is history.

BLOCK:  And the rest is history.

INTERVIEWER:  He met your mother and they married.  Okay, now we got the story.

BLOCK:  Those years there was always a big, can’t think of the word like an endowment….


BLOCK:  Dowry, so that kind of, that dowry that my grandfather got for my mother, they set up a store down the street

INTERVIEWER:  So, your grandfather on your mother’s side had a store but, now you’re telling me that your mother and your father then started their own store.

BLOCK:  Their own store down the street.  See my grandfather at one time had three stores on West Broad Street, one at 649 West Broad Street, and the main store was at 971 West Broad Street, and they had one up on the Hilltop.  After all, he had enough children to put them in these stores.  He didn’t have to rely on hired help outside the family to run these stores.

INTERVIEWER:  So the ten children of your grandparents on your mother’s side your mother and her nine brothers and sisters, they helped to staff these stores.

BLOCK:  They helped to staff these stores, but then as they got older, my Aunt Rose Wolman and Uncle Harold, they were the two youngest.  They went on to college.  Before they came to Columbus, sorry, two of them went to college in Detroit. One became a surgeon who at the age of 21 was in World War I as a field surgeon in Europe.  The other one became a lawyer, never practiced law but he became a lawyer.  So, actually he came to Columbus I believe with eight children.  There’s the family right over there, several pictures which I also would like to someday donate to the Historical Society. I’d like to make a note to my best friend Susie as to where things’re supposed to go.

INTERVIEWER:  So this store then, your mother and your father started their own store.  Now what did they sell? Was that the one that sold the long underwear in big sizes?

BLOCK:  Look, all of them, everybody, selling the sales of underwear in big sizes, I remember was, after I got out of high school from 1940, when I was more or less active in the stores.

INTERVIEWER:  So, these were all department stores.

BLOCK:  All department stores.

INTERVIEWER:  Even the one, not just the ones that your grandfather ran, but the ones that your mother and father ran.  They were basically corner department stores.

BLOCK:  The Depression came along and my mother and my father had an opportunity to go to Coshocton [?], Ohio and had a leased shoe department.  Understand, my father and his brothers with the exception of the youngest one were always involved in shoes.


BLOCK:  My father’s father, my grandfather Block was a shoemaker from [?].

INTERVIEWER:  Your grandfather Block on your father’s side was a shoemaker.  When he came to this country as I understand, he just got involved in those years, my father and my grandfather and I think my Uncle Bloom all had a wagon with a horse. They used to travel through Vermont.  Each one of them had their separate route where they’d go to sell.  You know,  a wagon peddler they were.  They had everything on their little wagon.

INTERVIEWER:  What would they sell?

BLOCK:  They had pots and pans and underwear and yard goods and things like that.  They were a general department store on wheels with a horse.

INTERVIEWER:  That was on your father’s side and then when everybody came to Columbus shoes were part of the…

BLOCK:  Basically, basically.  My father had a general department store a neighborhood department store, [Sandusky] and Broad.  My brother Lou had a shoe store on farther down on Broad Street. Another brother, let’s see, Nathan stayed in Vermont. He didn’t come to Columbus ‘til many later years.  My brother-in-law had a shoe store on Mt. Vernon Avenue. Another brother…

INTERVIEWER:  These are your father’s brothers, your uncles on your father’s side.  They had stores.  So, not only did your grandparents have a few stores and your parents had stores, but then your uncles had stores.

BLOCK:  Oh, yeah.  The whole family were always… I know my, I had an aunt.  When I closed the store in 19…I forgot the date, the year.

INTERVIEWER:   You closed a store?

BLOCK:  As time went on I fell heir to the department store on West Broad Street.

INTERVIEWER:  You became the owner of that department store.

BLOCK:  I became the owner actually after my parents died, but during that time…when I came back from the service in ’46, I expanded the store.  There was a vacancy next door.  Kroger’s had been there for years.  They moved up the street to a bigger halfway super-grocery-store- like similar to what you have today.

INTERVIEWER:  So Kroger moved out and there was extra space.

BLOCK:  We took the room next door and that’s where I had appliances, televisions, refrigerators, home appliances, all kinds of home appliances, plus a paint department.  I was at that time the largest independent Sherwin Williams dealer in Central Ohio.

INTERVIEWER:  Now what was the name of that store?

BLOCK: Danziger’s Department Store.

INTERVIEWER:  Danziger’s Department Store on West Broad Street.

BLOCK:  On West Broad Street.

INTERVIEWER:  So, that was in the forties, the fifties?

BLOCK:  It was in the late forties, early fifties actually when I came back from the service.  I came back in ’46.

INTERVIEWER:  Let me ask you a little bit about your childhood. You grew up on the near west side.  What do you remember…

BLOCK:  Not really.


BLOCK:  See, actually when I was about five years old we moved to Carpenter Street.

INTERVIEWER:  To Carpenter Street.  Okay, over on the near east side.  That was more of the Jewish community.

BLOCK:  Right. Right.

INTERVIEWER:  So, what do you remember there? Do you remember?  Were most of your friends Jewish or not Jewish?  Was it a mix? What do you remember about…?

BLOCK:  It was a mixed.  I remember, oh [?] my mother used to walk me down the street about three blocks down where the Finkelstein family lived, and the older Finkelstein boy, Ted, used to walk, take  me to shul at Washington and Donaldson, the old Agudas Achim shul.

INTERVIEWER:  Agudas Achim on Washington and Donaldson.  That’s where his family lived, ‘er, joined and he used to take me there for the Junior Congregation downstairs.  I’ll tell you a funny thing I remember about that.  They used to have services.  That’s where I learned to daven. And at the end of the services Harry Maybruck who used to more or less sponsor that and keep it together, older gentleman by that time of course, married, and he always brought in a big box of Hershey bars.  So, after we sang Adon Olam, and services were over, everybody had a Hershey bar.  Now to this day when they sing Adon Olam, I remember Hershey bars. That comes to my mind.  It’s really, really funny.

INTERVIEWER:  It’s a good memory.

BLOCK:  I just, all this time and Adon Olam and Hershey bars.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, wow. Okay so, you lived on Carpenter Street.

BLOCK:  I lived on Carpenter Street ‘til the fourth grade.

INTERVIEWER:  And what school did you go to?

BLOCK:  Ohio Avenue.  In the fourth grade is when the folks moved to Coshocton, Ohio.

INTERVIEWER:  Until the fourth grade when your folks moved to Coshocton.

INTERVIEWER:  And did you move with them?

BLOCK:  Oh, of course.   I went to school.  Every summer I came to Columbus to be with my grandmother’s house, my grandfather’s house and they had a teacher coming in.  Moshe Cohen came to teach me, prepare me for my bar mitzvah.

INTERVIEWER:  Moshe Cohen helped prepare you for your bar mitzvah.

BLOCK:  I’ll tell you who he is.  He used to come at ten o’clock in the morning to the Rubens’ house on the next street on Bedford Place to teach Bunny.

INTERVIEWER:  To teach what?

BLOCK:  Bunny, Bunny Ruben,

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, to teach Bernie Ruben.

BLOCK:  And then he’d come back on Newton Street and stop on Linwood Avenue at our house to teach me and he’d walk through Newton Street all the way down to Carpenter Street to teach Frank Nutis.  He lived on Monroe Street or something like that. Bernie Ruben later in years married his granddaughter.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you, even though you were living most of the year in Coshocton with your parents…

BLOCK:  To the school year other than Coshocton,

INTERVIEWER:  But then you came back in the summers…

BLOCK:  In the summer I came to Columbus.

INTERVIEWER:  And that’s where you got your bar mitzvah training, and did you have your bar mitzvah ceremony at Agudas Achim?

BLOCK:  Oh yeah, yeah.  Fact is, Bernie Ruben and I at that time became very close friends.  We would ride our bicycles all through the eastern part of Columbus on many streets here when they were just dirt roads and anyway, when it came bar mitzvah time, we were born about, let’s see. I was born on the 6th.  He was born on the 8th or the 10th.

INTERVIEWER:  Your birthdays were very close.

BLOCK:  Bar mitzvahs were going to be very close and my grandfather did not want to have a joint bar mitzvah. Neither did Max Ruben, so, while we were learning, I learned his haftarah as well as mine and he learned mine as well as his.

INTERVIEWER:  Wow, that’s a lot of work to learn two.

BLOCK:  Lot of work, lot of work and I don’t know how it happened we decided which one was going to get which.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you did have separate bar mitzvahs on different weeks.

BLOCK:  Oh yes, we had separate bar mitzvahs. Bar Mitzvahs in those years, they, we always had a big party at the house. It was a big deal. We always had the Kiddush in the shul. I can remember downstairs in the shul they had the long tables and the Orthodox Jews came down there and the herring was set up.  The first ones that came down had the best part of the herring and the back sat down, by the time they all sat down the herring was all gone.

INTERVIEWER:  Herring, now, pickled herring was the big…

BLOCK:  Pickled herring.  That’s what, I couldn’t understand how these Jews, these old timers could take a piece of fork and put it in the herring, had all the bones in it and to eat around those bones.  I could never figure out how they could do that.  As I got older I tried it once.  It didn’t work.

INTERVIEWER:  The older Jews, they figured out how to eat herring even with the bones in it.  They’d just pick around.

BLOCK:  Well, they just stuck a fork in it, in the middle and ate around it.

INTERVIEWER:  Let me ask you this.  You went to school then.  Most of your schooling after fourth grade was in Coshocton.

BLOCK:  No, only up ‘til the seventh.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, until the seventh grade. Oh, so, then what happened? Then you came back to live in Columbus?

BLOCK:  We all came back to Columbus to live.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s when you had your bar mitzvah.

BLOCK:  Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER:  And where did you live then?

BLOCK:  I had my bar mitzvah, lived on Bedford Place.

INTERVIEWER:  Bedford Place.

BLOCK:  That was the next street over from Linwood Avenue.

INTERVIEWER:  Near Linwood.  Okay, again, that’s the heart…

BLOCK:  I went to East High School from there.

INTERVIEWER:  East High School. What do you, were the Jews prominent at East or were they outnumbered?  Were they the majority, the minority? What was it like at East High School?

BLOCK:  At East High school, there were a few. I can’t remember exactly how many but there were a few.  East High School, at that time, forty percent of the attendance were Black people.

INTERVIEWER:  Black people were forty percent of the East High School students. Do you, what do you remember about mixing with other students at East? Were Jews friendly with non-Jews or did the Jews keep…?

BLOCK:  Oh yes, oh, yes, yes, yes.  We used to sit in the cafeteria at lunchtime and there’d be a mixture of six or eight of us guys sitting around a table and me. I don’t know exactly how many [?] I do know there were two Black people that sat with us all the time and there were, I recall…

INTERVIEWER:  People got along.

BLOCK:  Oh, we got along. There was always a fuss and a fight.

INTERVIEWER:  There was always what?

BLOCK:  After school there was always a fuss and a fight behind school.   Today they would call it a race riot and the newspapers would blow it up to beat hell.  Next day we’d come to school and we’d laugh about who got punched in the eye and who got punched in the jaw. After the fight, people went south together and people went north.

INTERVIEWER:  So, in a way, people got along but in another way you say they didn’t get along.

BLOCK:  Well, I’d just say in the hallway might be a little jostling back and forth, “I’ll see ya’ outside later.” It was one of these things. It was like a playful thing.

INTERVIEWER:  I see. Hunh. So, do you remember, now this would have been in the 1940s.

BLOCK:  Well, I graduated in the forties.

INTERVIEWER:  You graduated high school in the forty so this would have been in the late 1930’s when you were at East.

BLOCK:  Right.

INTERVIEWER:  Do you remember encountering anti-Semitism?

BLOCK:  Yes.  When I lived in Coshocton up to the fourth grade, I was the only Jewish person on that side of town.  On the other side of town, there were six or eight and the kids used to chase me after school, grab my hat, “Where’s your horns?”

INTERVIEWER:  They’d ask,” Where are your horns?” because they thought that Jews had horns like the devil.

BLOCK:  Right, right.  So, it finally got so that the principal let me out of school fifteen minutes early so I could get home before the kids started running after me.  Now, next door to me was a Catholic family of about eight kids and they were told, “You play with him and be nice to him because he’s Jesus’s cousin.” So, one day one of the older boys of the Weaver family, said to me…

INTERVIEWER:  One of the Catholic boys said to you…

BLOCK:  Yeah, said to me, I guess it was a day or so later. It was going to be an All Saints day and they weren’t going to be in school, so, they met me coming from the school on the courthouse square – in those years almost every town had a courthouse, wide sidewalks all the way around the square – and we met at the square and they gave me a pair of brass, it wasn’t brass knuckles but it was metal knuckles made from horseshoe nails put together. One of the older boys had a way of doing it.

INTERVIEWER:  And these, they were like brass knuckles and what happened with those brass knuckles?

BLOCK:  They were like brass knuckles. Well, we were going to have a fight.  And they drew a line on the [?] as the other kids came down the street and he said something about,” Oh, there’s the Jew boy,” and these guys, Catholic boys and myself, we were in that fight.  We beat the hell out of these kids.

INTERVIEWER:  Now the Catholic boys were on your side and you fought against these other children who were yelling things about Jews.

BLOCK:  Right, right.  Unfortunately, the square was like this but on the other side of the square was the business section, and there was my father’s shoe store and I came in and he could see that my hands were dirty.  “What were you in?  What was going on over there?” I said, “Nothing happened.”

INTERVIEWER:  So, after the fight, you’d been injured a little bit and you went to the shoe store.

BLOCK:  I did that every day.  I stopped at the shoe store. My first job was breaking up the empty boxes, packing them and things like that. So, he said, “Were you fighting?”  I said, “Yes.” He was sitting on a, he sat down on a shoe stool, grabbed a pair of slippers, turned me over his knee and beat my tushy pretty damn good.  That was the first time he ever gave me a spanking and it was the last time and he said to me, “You don’t fight because when you fight, you put yourself down to their level.”  That’s something I remembered all my life.

INTERVIEWER:  Fourth grade.  It was after a big fight and your father…

BLOCK:  At that time there was a lot of anti-Semitism toward me because I was the only Jew in that side of town.  There were only about eight or ten families in the whole town.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you say anything to your father like, “Well, they were anti-Semitic.  They made fun of me, they wanted to fight me.” ?

BLOCK:  I certainly did. I said the fight was started primarily because the Weaver boys next door took care of me and they didn’t like the idea of the other boys hassling me around.  So, I became, I remember being in the fifth grade they had this Christmas party, Christmas play and I can’t remember what part I had in it but I had a prominent part in it and I didn’t like the idea, but I remember the principal.   Della Leach her name was.

INTERVIEWER:  What was her name?

BLOCK:  Della Leach, L-e-a-c-h.

INTERVIEWER:  Della Leach was the principal.

BLOCK:  Her brothers were prominent attorneys in the city and I can remember that time of her {saying}, “Now you don’t have to worry. It’s nice of you to take this part.”  I forget just exactly what it was but I was one of the three guys on a camel that came in.  I don’t remember.

INTERVIEWER:  You might have been one of the Three Wise Men.

BLOCK:  All I knew is I had a prominent part in that play.  I didn’t like the idea but she said, “This’ll be good. This will teach people that you’re a Jew and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

INTERVIEWER:  Wait, say that again, your principal said, “This will teach other people that” what?

BLOCK:  “That you’re a Jew and you should have nothing to be ashamed of.”

INTERVIEWER:  “You’re a Jew and you should have nothing to be ashamed of.”

BLOCK:  I can remember these words [?]  But yes, a lot of anti-Semitism in those years in a small town, although they came to my father’s store and…

INTERVIEWER:  The non-Jews came to your father’s store.

BLOCK:  The non-Jews came to my father’s store and of course that’s all they had were customers that were non-Jews. The farmers from around there patronized my dad.  There were a few Amish people there that came in to my dad and he had the kind of shoes they were allowed to wear. Ah, we survived.  We survived.

INTERVIEWER:  Now, you came back to Columbus in seventh grade and then you lived on the near east side.  Now, tell me…

BLOCK:  I came back to Columbus in the seventh grade, yes.  No, I came back to Columbus really it was eighth grade.

INTERVIEWER:  Right around the time of your bar mitzvah.

BLOCK:  Yeah ‘cause eighth grade I went to Roosevelt Junior High School for the eighth and ninth grade.

INTERVIEWER:  Roosevelt Junior High.  Now tell me about, did you feel any anti-Semitism when you came back to Columbus?  Did you experience any?

BLOCK:  I can’t say that I did because the Jewish kids all hung together.  The fact is when Bernie learned that I was going to go to East High, actually we were in the East High District.  We were one block north of Livingston Avenue. Livingston Avenue is the boundary. He arranged to go to South High.

INTERVIEWER:  Who went to South High?

BLOCK:  He arranged to go to South High because there were more Jewish kids down there.

INTERVIEWER:  Wait, who’s the “he?”

BLOCK:  Bernie, Bunny.

INTERVIEWER:  Bernie, your friend.

BLOCK:  My friend Bunny Ruben.

INTERVIEWER:  Your friend arranged for himself to go to South.   Okay.

BLOCK:  When he [? ] over he went to South.

INTERVIEWER:  Because there more Jews in South. He went to South.

BLOCK:  He went to South.

INTERVIEWER:  You went to East.

BLOCK:  I went to East.

INTERVIEWER:  But you didn’t feel any anti-Semitism much there.

BLOCK:  Nothing radical, no, nothing radical.  I was the only.  There were three people of us that played in the orchestra.    I remember Miriam Winters played a bass violin and I played the violin and there was the other one there.  I can’t remember who the other…I know there were three of us.

INTERVIEWER:  Three Jewish kids at East but, there were other Jewish kids.

BLOCK:  There were three Jewish kids in the orchestra.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, in the orchestra, okay, yes, as you said there were many other Jews at East.

BLOCK:  Oh yeah, there were quite a few of us, not too many but there were quite a few.

INTERVIEWER:  Hunh.  What Jewish institutions, you say you went to Agudas Achim for the synagogue. Any other Jewish institutions that you remember?

BLOCK:  Oh, yes, yes, yes.  I went to the Columbus Hebrew School.  Funny thing is I was expelled from the Columbus Hebrew School.  I used to ask questions.  Old Man Menschnik…

INTERVIEWER:  Menschnik?

BLOCK:  Menschnik. He was the principal.

INTERVIEWER:  Mr. Menschnik, okay the principal of the Columbus Hebrew School.

BLOCK:  He happened to be the father-in-law of Martin Godofksy.

INTERVIEWER:  The father-in-law of Martin Godofsky who ran for many, many years Martin’s Kosher Foods. And what did he do?

BLOCK:  He used to growl at me and finally one day he just took me by the arm and took me to the top of the stairs and threw me down the steps.  “Get out of here and stay out of here.”

INTERVIEWER:  He threw you out of the Hebrew School.

BLOCK:  Yeah.

INTERVIEWER:  Because what do you do?

BLOCK:  I used to ask questions and he couldn’t answer ‘em.

INTERVIEWER:  What kind of questions?

BLOCK:  He would mention something about a ruling. I’d say, why do we do this or why do we do that and he couldn’t give me an answer.

INTERVIEWER:  Your questions had to do with why do we Jews worship a certain way or…

BLOCK:  Yeah, things that would come up from the studies and so forth.  There were certain questions I would ask.  I don’t remember exactly which ones but he could not answer those questions and so he threw me out.  Now, understand.  When my grandfather heard I was thrown out.

INTERVIEWER:  When your grandfather heard you were thrown out…

BLOCK:  He threw me out of his house.

INTERVIEWER:  You couldn’t go to your grandfather’s house.

BLOCK:  It was the only time I could visit with my grandmother, they would speak Yiddish to each other.  Well, on Saturday afternoon he’d come home from shul, he’d have his lunch and then go upstairs and he’d go to bed.

INTERVIEWER:  So, then the coast was clear for you to be with your grandmother.


BLOCK:  I’d go in the side door, the coast was clear and we’d sit in the kitchen table and we would talk and talk in Yiddish.

INTERVIEWER:  This was your grandmother on your…

BLOCK:  My mother’s side. .

INTERVIEWER:  On your mother’s side.

BLOCK:   Now the sad part of it is my grandfather and Abe Goldberg were the two people that started the Columbus Hebrew School. At my pidyon haben, is when all the people with a little money were invited.  They raised the money to start the Columbus Hebrew School.

INTERVIEWER:  And you had been kicked out of the Columbus Hebrew School.

BLOCK:  I had been kicked out. So, I was kicked out.  I was ostracized from his class.

INTERVIEWER:  Wow. Okay.  How ‘bout the Jewish Center?  Was it the Schonthal Center then or…?

BLOCK:  The Center was the Schonthal Center. We used to go there. We used to have dances on the third floor which was a ballroom, which incidentally there is where I saw and listened to Molly Picon.

INTERVIEWER:  Molly Picon, famous actress, singer.

BLOCK:  Actress, singer, Jewish actress. And used to go, the lower level was a workshop and the man that, I always thought he was not Jewish. His name was Miller.

INTERVIEWER:  His name was Miller.

BLOCK:  Arthur Miller [pause for something to drink].  M-i-l-l-e-r.

INTERVIEWER:  Arthur Miller. That’s a famous name but I’m sure this is a different Arthur Miller. So, did this Arthur Miller work you say at the Schonthal Center in the workshop?  What was the workshop about?

BLOCK:  I don’t remember. They had a woodworking shop down there.

INTERVIEWER:  Woodworking, okay.

BLOCK:  And something else. I do remember he taught us how to use a paintbrush to paint signs.  I can’t remember exactly what we did down there.

INTERVIEWER:  You remember dances and then you remember the workshop and what else did you do at the Schonthal Center?

BLOCK:  Oh, we had AZA meetings there.

INTERVIEWER:  AZA. That was the boys’ B’nai B’rith and that’s where I really mingled very heavily with Jewish people, Jewish boys, very heavily.  Going to high school I don’t recall any anti-Semitism.  I do recall a principal at East High School was very, he used to pick on me quite a bit.  Reason being was I had a car then, Model T Ford, the stagecoach body, I can recall when talking about it.

INTERVIEWER:  You were a high school student with your own car.

BLOCK:  Own car.  Yeah.  I bought it for $7.50.  It was on blocks on the west side at a garage for many years and after checking through the serial number I found out that car was made on the same day I was born.

INTERVIEWER:  Wow.  And it wasn’t running but you got it running.

BLOCK:  Yeah. Actually all I had to do was put a battery in it and it kicked off.  It was one of the first Fords with a self-starter.  It had a crank, too.  Once in a while I had to use it.

INTERVIEWER:  So, the principal of East High School picked on you.

BLOCK:  This was the vice principal.

INTERVIEWER:  Why was he picking on you?

BLOCK:  Well, four or five of us guys used to pile into my car at lunchtime and drive out East Main Street to Swenson’s Hamburger Joint.  Now Swenson’s Hamburger Joint was at Kenwick and Main.

INTERVIEWER:  Kenwick and Main just on the other side of Bexley.

BLOCK:  That’s right. It’s not there now, and we would sit there and have our hamburgers and coke for lunch and all of a sudden we’d look up and hey, here he comes. He was looking for us. We’d get that damn car started and we drove through every alley on the east side to get back and we would sit there parked and he’d come by and he’d say, “How long you guys been there?” and we’d say, “ We’ve been here ever since lunch time,” and he knew we weren’t.

INTERVIEWER:  Were you not supposed to leave the school for lunch?

BLOCK:  Right, right.

INTERVIEWER:   Oh, you broke the rule.

BLOCK:  Broke the rule.


BLOCK:  After I had the Model T Ford I had the Model A Ford.  Anyway, three weeks before graduation he come down the hall and I’m taking my jacket out of the laundry and my smoking pipe fell out and that was it, “Out of here. You’re expelled.”

INTERVIEWER:  The vice principal of East High School expelled you.

BLOCK:  I had to be expelled from school.

INTERVIEWER:  He expelled you because you had a pipe.

BLOCK:  Right, so my mother took me downtown to the superintendent which was, I think, his name was Repluble or something like that and we told him what happened and he got me reinstated so I could graduate.

INTERVIEWER:  And you graduated East High School in what year was that?

BLOCK:  1940.

INTERVIEWER:  1940. So, what happened then? What did you do then after high school?

BLOCK:  After high school I went to Bliss Business College and after that I went into the army.

INTERVIEWER:  You went into the army. I was gosh, I was twenty years old and I went into the army.

INTERVIEWER:  Were you drafted?

BLOCK:  I was drafted.  Oh, I was called up before the draft several times but they knocked me out.  I had bad feet then.  The army fixed them. That’s why I run around on a scooter.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s why you have a scooter now.

BLOCK:   I can’t walk much more than fifteen maybe twenty feet and my legs will cramp up and then I fall.

INTERVIEWER:  But back then you had a foot problem but the army fixed it?

BLOCK:   I had a foot problem but it was minor. I mean, my dad used to, I’m sure it was a hardship on him, to buy my shoes.  There was a shoe store on East Broad Street that catered to hard to fit shoes.

INTERVIEWER: So, you had to wear special shoes.

BLOCK:  I had to wear special shoes.

INTERVIEWER:  But the army said…

BLOCK:  The army broke, really fixed them ‘cause they broke completely in the army.  I was in the [?Honor] Parade. That’s another story.

INTERVIEWER:  Your feet broke. Wow.

BLOCK:  My legs cramped up. I fell over in the parade and they just pushed me over the ditch.  I laid there for two and a half hours before they picked me up.  It didn’t have to happen  ‘cause  the shoes the army gave me were not, they didn’t have narrow shoes.  It was either medium, wide or extra wide, or the box. You take your choice what you want to wear. So, I used to go to the supply room, [to get the supply] serge a cigar or something like that.  I used to get toilet paper.  I used to stuff my shoes with toilet paper, take maybe two rolls of toilet paper in each shoe so that my foot wouldn’t roll around.

INTERVIEWER:  That helped your foot feel better.

BLOCK:  It helped it better.  It didn’t, it helped it a little because I didn’t wear the army shoes only on the inspections or parades.   That’s all. So, I’m sitting there getting ready for this big parade.  This old army sergeant comes by and says, “What are you doing?”  I said,  “I’m getting these shoes to fit me.”  He says, “Oh, no, no, no, no. The army knows best.  If they gave you those shoes those are the shoes you’re going to wear,” and he pulled all the stuffing out.  I hobbled.  I couldn’t walk.  I hobbled with those shoes and while we were on this parade that’s when my…I could feel the crunch on one foot and then the next step I could feel the crunch on the other and first thing you know I’m on the ground.

INTERVIEWER:  So, your feet, you actually broke bones in your feet, but then the army…

BLOCK:  I actually broke the muscles.  It’s just something that can’t be repaired. At that time I was at Fort Dix, Atlantic City waiting to go over…


BLOCK:  To Europe, overseas. I was headed for Lisbon, Portugal.  At that time I was in the CIC, Counter Intelligence Corps. You know, I wanted to fly.  I wanted to fly so bad.  I wanted to be a pilot, I mean, to be a fighter pilot.  Well, my eyes knocked me out then. I was a little bit near-sighted.

INTERVIEWER:  Your eyes knocked you out so you could not be a fighter pilot.

BLOCK:  I couldn’t be, so then I said, “How ’bout let me be a radio operator.  Let me be a navigator.”  They gave me the test for radio operator over at Fort Benjamin Harrison.  The room I bet was maybe ten below zero or at least it felt ten below zero.

INTERVIEWER:  The temperature in the room felt like it was ten degrees below zero?

BLOCK:  I couldn’t make that clicker go dots or dashes, see.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, the Morse code machine.  You couldn’t make it work.

BLOCK:  I didn’t know the difference between a dot and a dash or whatever. So, that knocked me out of that.  I said, “Well, I let me go to mechanic school.  I’ve got the skill to be a mechanic.” I used to, we used to soup up the Ford motors all the time, take the heads off, grind around inside and so forth. I used to do a lot of things.

INTERVIEWER:  So, what did you wind up doing in the army in the end?

BLOCK: They said, “No, with your GCT, your General Classification Code, you can’t go to any of these places.  You’re going to have to be…I was taken in at limited service and I ended up being a cryptographer and a teletype operator.

INTERVIEWER:  What was the first thing?

BLOCK:  A cryptographer.

INTERVIEWER:  Cryptographer. That has to do with decoding messages.

BLOCK:  Decoding messages, right and I really ended up…I was the station chief of the army weather central in the Pentagon.

INTERVIEWER:  The army …

BLOCK:  Weather Central.  We handled the weather messages.  You know these things they put up in the air called Pi-balls? It’s like a balloon.  It’s got a little radio in it.

INTERVIEWER:  A balloon. Okay.

BLOCK: …and as it goes up the information comes back as to what the wind is at that particular time, whether it’s damp.  It was really a great science.  I used to put up these pi-balls every hour.

INTERVIEWER:  So, these were weather balloons that would tell you what the temperature was like a thousand feet off the ground and a mile away.

BLOCK:  They would go way up in the air before they’d bust and this information was, from every radio station, from every weather station, would be relayed back to Washington.  We would get it in through the teletype operator to the teletype lines. We would get it in. Across the hall would be mostly WAC officers [?] some of them [?].

INTERVIEWER:  The women, the WACKS.

BLOCK:  The women.  They would take it, mark it down on the map and that map would go down the hall to a captain or major who was a meteorologist.

INTERVIEWER:  A real weather expert.

BLOCK:  He would, they would figure out what’s going to be, what’s going to be and that information would come back to us and we would send it out to all the air bases.

INTERVIEWER:  …so that all the troops would know what the weather was in various places.

BLOCK: …primarily the airplanes.  My outfit was known as the Army Air Wave Communications System.  I personally, they had the control towers, the radio stations and anything to do with communications for the airplanes. My main job was as the station chief of the Army Weather Central.

INTERVIEWER:  …and that was located…

BLOCK:  …in the Pentagon.

INTERVIEWER:  …in the Pentagon.  You were in the Pentagon.

BLOCK:  And where that airplane hit on Nine Eleven, used to be my office.  That was my headquarters.


BLOCK:  Don’t think I got the chills when that happened and I found out where it hit!

INTERVIEWER:  The place inside the Pentagon where it hit was your office.

BLOCK:  Yeah. From the Pentagon I went other places, not permanently but, the only place I was semi-permanently was when I went to Alaska and out the Aleutians. There I hit some anti-Semitism.

INTERVIEWER:  What happened there?

BLOCK:  I got a promotion to become a warrant officer. Two days I was a warrant officer and didn’t have a chance to sew any bars on or anything like that.  The chief of the radio station there was an old army man and when he saw those orders come in for me to become a warrant officer and then, twelve hours later orders came in to get me back to Washington. He blew his stack. He called me, he sat there and called me a “kike Jew.”  I looked at him and I want to tell you something.  I never hit a man in my life until then.  I haven’t hit a man since.  I reached across the desk.  I don’t know where I got the strength or what to do, ‘cause I’m not a big tough guy.  I was always rather, not frail but average.  I grabbed him by the necktie and the shirt, jerked him out of that chair and I smacked him.

INTERVIEWER:  …and you smacked him.

BLOCK:  I smacked him hard on his jaw.  My hand swelled up like this.

INTERVIEWER:   Your fist against his jaw.

BLOCK:  Course I’m in trouble right away.

INTERVIEWER:  You were in trouble because he was a superior officer.

BLOCK:  Oh, he was a captain!

INTERVIEWER:  You hit a superior officer.

BLOCK:  I hit a superior officer.  He cussed me out, called me a “kike Jew” and I asked him to apologize.  He said, “No way.”  I said, “The only answer I can give you is “phooh.”  I was hot. Fortunately for me the head of the cryptology unit was a Jewish guy, a Jewish officer.  He sent, in code, through the weather channels, a note back to my commanding general.  At that time my commanding general was a brigadier.  When I first met him he was a first lieutenant.  We became good friends. He sent a note back what went on and General [?] sent a note came back, tell him to go to the adjutant’s office, resign your commission and pack your bag and get on the first flight back, which I did.

INTERVIEWER:  He said for you to resign your commission.

BLOCK:  Yeah.

INTERVIEWER:  Now what does that mean exactly?

BLOCK:  I don’t want to be this.  That’s all.

INTERVIEWER:  It means you’re not going to be there anymore.

BLOCK:  I’m not going to be there.  I’m not going to be a warrant officer anymore.

INTERVIEWER:  Does that mean you were demoted?

BLOCK: Yeah. See actually warrant officers were not part of the army.

INTERVIEWER:  And so you were demoted because you struck your superior officer.

BLOCK:  I wasn’t demoted yet.  I just resigned my commission which actually made me a bunk private again and some buddies of mine there – they heard what was going on there and so forth.  They knew what the deal was – resigned my commission and they helped me pack my bags and the first mail plane that came out of there, I was on that plane, behind the freight, because that plane stopped at every little airstrip on the way down. By that time word was out to these airstrips, all the MP’s supposed to search the plane to get me off there.  Well, these guys just,  “Aw, no he ain’t here.”  They knew what happened and everybody up down the Alcan Highway where all the airstrips were hated this captain’s guts.

INTERVIEWER:  The guy you struck.

BLOCK:  Yeah. Everybody hated his guts.

INTERVIEWER:  So, they wanted to help you.

BLOCK:  Everybody helped me. The plane landed in Great Falls, Montana, that airstrip there. It taxied away from the as they were taxiing past [?] toward the towers.  At the end of the field, they taxied, they opened the door and I was put out of the plane with my baggage, my [? Berge] bag.   They told me. “You walk through that field. There’s a lane through there and there’s a road on the other side and there’s going to be a Jeep waiting for you.”

INTERVIEWER:  So, that was good news for you.

BLOCK:  Oh, yeah, I walked through there and got on the Jeep.  They took me to town to the railroad station and they put me on the upstairs of a fleabag hotel.  “Train comes through here.” I guess it was midnight or something.  “You get on that train.  Go to Chicago. When you get to Chicago you’re on your own.”

INTERVIEWER:  The train took you back to Chicago.

BLOCK:  Yeah.  I got off the…and I’m walking with my, an envelope with a seal on it, traveling under sealed orders.  So, I get off the plane, off the train there and as I was walking to the area to get off, Captain Lundberg comes walking by.  He was the chaplain at White Horse in Yukon Territory.

INTERVIEWER:  A captain from Alaska was there.

BLOCK:  He was coming back from furlough and he said, “What happened? Where are you?  Where are you going?”  I told him what happened.  He said “Alright, you stay with me until your next train comes along.”  What happened was, [? when I was supposed] not going, I called Washington and found out what I was supposed to do and they told me “Go home. Spend a couple, few days there and then a plane’ll pick you up from Lundberg Air Base.”

INTERVIEWER:  So, you came back to Columbus.

BLOCK:  I came back to Columbus and spent a week with the family.  Then I get a phone call.  “There’ll be a staff guard picking you up,” which he did.  The next door to us was a retired army major and he tried very hard when I got in to pull strings to get me to the quarter master department ‘cause he was a retired…didn’t work.  At any rate, went back to Washington, got my stripes back.  The commanding general, so [?] says to me, “Well, we’ll get you your bars back.”  I said, “Who the hell gives a damn?”  I really didn’t care, but….

INTERVIEWER:   So, your demotion was reversed. You got your…

BLOCK:   It was reversed.  Oh yeah.

INTERVIEWER:  Okay. So, after the War…

BLOCK:  I had more stripes than the zebra. Every time I’d become a first, a staff or a tech sergeant, I’d have to go, they’d want me to go to leadership school on my time and I wasn’t interested in that, because my time was filled up with going to college.  I got my bachelor’s degree from a college in Washington called the Columbian School for Business of Law.  It’s not in existence today.

INTERVIEWER:  School for Business and Law.  You got a Bachelor’s Degree.

BLOCK:  I got a BBA, a Bachelor of Business Administration.

INTERVIEWER:  And you did that while you were in the army?

BLOCK:  I did it while I was in the army, when I was in Alaska.  In Alaska, did it by correspondence and in Washington at that time during the War, classes were held morning, afternoon and evening. If I worked days, which I did, I worked around the clock, various times, for three days from four to twelve, three days for twenty four hours later from twelve to eight, and twenty four hours later from eight to four. Eight to four then I had seventy two hours off.  I used to come to Columbus on a train, took the Jeffersonian out of Washington, DC, in the late afternoon, be in Columbus in the morning, spend that day, that night.  The next day home, then that night take the same train here and the next day I’m in Washington, DC, in time to clean up, change clothes and go to work.

INTERVIEWER: So, after World War II, you were out of the army.  What did you do then?

BLOCK:  Well there’s a lot of incidents happened that I don’t want to discuss, but I came home, didn’t want to but I did.

INTERVIEWER:  You came home to Columbus and what did you do?

BLOCK:  I worked in the store and that’s when we expanded the store, put in the appliances and all those kinds of stuff.

INTERVIEWER:  So, what’s your general view of, not quite sure how to ask the question, what’s your general view of the Jewish community here in Columbus especially looking back on it and you were a big part of it?

BLOCK:  Looking back on it, I knew there was a new shul built.  When my grandfather Danziger died in 1939, he left ten thousand dollars to the Agudas Achim toward building a new shul.  That was a lot of money and Abe Wolman, who was president of the congregation at that time and an uncle, he helped bring some of these other guys together, shake them down for money and he was very instrumental in the building of the building at Roosevelt and Broad.  He was very instrumental.  I remember when Rabbi Rubenstein first came to town, he came just before Pesach and somehow or other some of his belongings, which included the Pasedik dishes and so forth, didn’t get through or were lost or something.  I don’t know what it was but, Abe brought him down to the store, and the rabbi and his wife, and I fixed them up with all kinds of chukluck and dishes and things like that. I was probably the second or third person that he met when he came to town. We became very good friends.  He used to drive me nuts, but when my dad died we had a bus and I still went to Agudas Achim, but didn’t like the rabbi.

INTERVIEWER:  You didn’t like Rabbi Rubenstein later but you helped to welcome him because you sold him his kosher dishes when he got to town.

BLOCK:  …his kosher dishes, pots and pans and so forth. Course, I got married in 1946.  That’s another story about a mistake I made in my life.

INTERVIEWER: Just tell me a little bit though.  Your wife was…

BLOCK: She was a Wasserstrom.

INTERVIEWER:  What was her first name?

BLOCK:  Gloria.

INTERVIEWER:  Gloria Wasserstrom and she was the daughter of…

BLOCK:  Joe Wasserstrom.

INTERVIEWER:  Which one?

BLOCK:  Joseph Wasserstrom.

INTERVIEWER:  Joseph Wasserstrom.

BLOCK:  He had a bar and grill at Third and Town.

INTERVIEWER:  Any relation to my former dentist Leonard and Stanley Wasserstrom?

BLOCK:  Unfortunately, yes, cousins.

INTERVIEWER:  Cousins. Okay, okay.

BLOCK:  When we get through you can turn that off and I’ll tell you.

INTERVIEWER:  So, 1946 you were married and just for the record, did you have children?

BLOCK:  We adopted two boys.  There was a physical problem and I couldn’t give her kids.  When I was younger I had chicken pox and mumps at the same time.


BLOCK: Left me sterile.


BLOCK:   I wish I had known about that when I was in the army.  Oh, man.

INTERVIEWER:  Now, I think I understand what you’re saying.

BLOCK:  As it is in Washington, DC, there were eleven women to every man.

INTERVIEWER:  Eleven women for every man in Washington.

INTERVIEWER:  So, you were sterile you would say.

BLOCK:  I was sterile, yes. I said it.

INTERVIEWER:  And you didn’t know it.  So, your two sons were, what were their names?

BLOCK:  Herbert and Barry.

INTERVIEWER:  Barry, and what was the first one?

BLOCK:  Herbert.

INTERVIEWER:  Herbert.  Herbert and Barry, okay, and are they still alive?

BLOCK:  I don’t know. I guess so.


BLOCK:  After the divorce, we, Gloria and her family did a damned good job of turning these kids against me.

INTERVIEWER:  Enough said. So, looking back is there anything we haven’t covered here, anything we haven’t covered you think is important for people to know about your life, the Jewish community back then?

BLOCK:  Well, after I was expelled from Hebrew School, my mother took me over to Rabbi Zelizer’s shul.

INTERVIEWER:  Tifereth Israel

BLOCK:  Tifereth Israel and he had two students – myself and Gene Borowitz and he was preparing both of us to go to the Yeshiva.

INTERVIEWER:  He was…to go to a Jewish school.

BLOCK:  Rabbi Eugene Borowitz went to the Hebrew Union College.   He’s a big macher in the Reform movement.  Instead of my going to the Theological Seminary in New York, I went to the army.

INTERVIEWER:  Ah, okay.  So, if you hadn’t have gone into the army, you might be a rabbi today. Is that what you’re saying?

BLOCK:  Ehhh, I doubt that they would let me be a rabbi, even if I would go through and study and graduate.  With my attitudes, personalities, things like that, I could never be a rabbi.  Well, let’s put it this way, I’d have to be an administrative rabbi…

INTERVIEWER:  I understand.

BLOCK:  …which would be, to me an administrative rabbi, okay, he’s got a job, he’s doing his job and I…to be a pulpit rabbi…

INTERVIEWER:  That would not be your strath.

BLOCK:  I’m too radical for that.

INTERVIEWER:  You’re too radical?

BLOCK:  I’ll tell you one thing, when I was in White Horse, Yukon Territory, the captain I told you about, the chaplain that met me in Chicago.  He was the chaplain there, and I’m in the barracks about two, three days and he came in one night and there was a hot crap game going.


BLOCK:  I gambled a lot in the army and I was very, very lucky.  I made a lot of money and I don’t ever forget I came home from Washington one time on a pass, about the first time I came back.  I bought my dad a box of Berry Cigars.  A box of Berry’s at that time was impossible to get and I bought my mother some presents and I bought my sister some presents.  He looked at me.  My dad looked at me.  He said, “How’d you do all that, Son?

BLOCK:  “I bought it.”

INTERVIEWER:  He wanted to know where you got the money.

BLOCK:  “How much money you got in your pocket?” “A couple hundred bucks.” He said, “What are you doing?”  I said, “You know, Dad, you used to tell me what a good crapshooter you were in the army?  I hate to say it, Pop, but you weren’t a big guy like me.”

INTERVIEWER:  You were telling your dad that you were a better gambler than he was.

BLOCK:  Well, I was. [?] a pay-day. Seven o’clock they’d have a crap game in the main barracks.  The main barracks had a game room and the commandant of the field would stay there in the middle and he’d break open a set of dice, sealed dice.  Nobody could come in that room with any rank on their coat.  They had to leave their jackets outside.  If they had a rank on their shirt they couldn’t come in. They got to go back and get another shirt without the rank.

INTERVIEWER:  Because it was supposed to be secret.

BLOCK:  Not necessarily secret.  It was no secret at all that this game was on…


BLOCK:  …because a lot of officers would come from other areas.  They would come on over but they had to take their jackets off outside.  Everybody was equal inside.  That’s the way it was. First night I’m there I sat down at the end of the table.  I brought up a piece of cloth down there I had.  I was taking side bets only.  I learned how to shoot crap from Marvin Gutter here in town. Marvin died a few years ago.  He taught me how to shoot crap on a train going from Fort Benjamin Harrison to I don’t know where we were going.  He and I were the only ones that had draft area that stayed in the army for more than ninety months. The other twenty or thirty people were all out within ninety months, ninety days I should say, but Marvin and I were the only two that stayed in for the whole

INTERVIEWER:  Okay.  Anything else that we haven’t covered that you want people to know?

BLOCK:  Let’s get back to,  “You gotta’ take the dice.  You can’t just take side bets.”

INTERVIEWER:  Wait, who said this?

BLOCK:  The colonel.

INTERVIEWER:  The colonel.

BLOCK:  I would take the dice.  The game was supposed to break up at eleven o’clock but the game was always over about ten, maybe before that.  I was lucky.  I clean everybody out.

INTERVIEWER:  You had good luck.

BLOCK:  That’s why I had money in my pocket.

INTERVIEWER:  Okay, Mr. Block.  Thank you very much.   Art Block, Thank you very much for your time.  This concludes our interview with Art Block at Kensington on November 7th, 2014.


Transcriber:  Linda Kalette Schottenstein