Good afternoon. This is the afternoon of November 2, 1999. I’m Naomi
Schottenstein and I’ll be interviewing for the Coumbus Jewish Historical
Society. This afternoon I’m interviewing Charlotte Witkind at 256 S.
Columbia Avenue in Bexley, Ohio. I’m going to continue and Charlotte, I’m
going to ask you to give me your full name.
Witkind: Charlotte Lazarus Witkind.
Interviewer: And your nickname?
Interviewer: Uh huh. And how did your nickname, well that’s not too hard
. . . . short for Charlotte. Do you happen to know your Jewish name?
Witkind: I do not.
Interviewer: Okay. Tell me about your family name. Is it the original
Witkind: As far as I know, my great grandfather, Simon Lazarus, came from
Germany with his wife Amelia in 1851 and they had their oldest child, Fred
Lazarus, was a year old and he came with them. And thereafter, they had a
number of other children who I will name if you like but I’ve never known of
anything but Lazarus.
(Cannot hear the conversation on the tape.)
Interviewer: Your family, I know there are quite a few of them here in
Columbus, how did they come to Columbus?
Witkind: They came from Bavaria. They came during one of the periods when
things were unsettled in Germany. As far as I can tell, there were a couple of
times in the 1800s when it seemed advisable for Jews to get out, particularly,
well the ones I know about I guess were Orthodox as well as Reform. But the
Reform movement seems to have been stronger in Germany and I know my father’s
mother’s family came over about twenty or so years earlier, twenty-five
years earlier, and they went to Cincinnati.
Interviewer: And when was that?
Witkind: That was, I think they got over around 1828 . . . . 1828 to 1830 .
. . . I’ll think of it.
Interviewer: Tell me where you were born.
Witkind: I was born in Columbus. I was born at home on Kennedy Place in
Interviewer: Have you lived in Columbus most of your life?
Witkind: Well I lived in Columbus until I went to college and the year
after I got out of college I was married and followed around during World War
II. But we centered, basically centered, at Mother and Dad’s and the baby
was born here during the war. We stayed and lived with Mother and Dad and it
was to a degree my eldest child and to a degree their youngest child. . . . .
his grandparents’ youngest child. And I’ve only been, he’s the only kid
I ever knew that I really thought had sibling rivalry with his mother because
he would have preferred to be their child, which was very wise of him. At any
rate so I’ve been . . . . in Columbus until after the war when my then
husband, who was a, he was a doctor, a physician, and I followed around with
him until he went overseas and then I came back here for the year he was
overseas. And then we moved to New York while he did his residency and set up
practice in . . . . New York. We had two more children, both, one of whom was
born here in the summertime and the other one, the youngest, Babs, was born in
New York. The two boys were born here and the youngest was born in New York.
Interviewer: Well we’re going to talk more about your . .. .
Interviewer: family . . . .
Witkind: . . . . I came back here after seventeen years in New York, with
my second husband and I’ve lived here since 1963.
Interviewer: Going back to your family, your original family, do you
remember your grandparents?
Witkind: Only, I remember my paternal grandmother a little bit. She was, I
was just four when she died. My maternal grandfather died before I was born.
And my maternal grandmother died unhappily, she’s the one I’m named for,
in the flu epidemic which was before I was born.
Interviewer: What was that year?
Witkind: 18–, let’s see, the pandemic. But the one I really knew was my
mom’s dad. As I say, he was originally from Pittsburgh and . . . . Oh, I
knew him well. He didn’t die until I was 17. No, what am I saying? He didn’t
die until I was 22. He died just before I was married.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you did have an opportunity to bond together?
Witkind: He was a real character. But he wasn’t around. After
Prohibition, he was witnessing, my mother’s father, and so he had to set up
a new career. So then for a while he was in a restaurant in Atlantic City. And
then he went to Paris with his second wife. As I said, he’d been widowed
during the war and he went to Paris. And of all things, he set up a restaurant
in Paris. It’s just what they needed: another restaurant run by an American.
And his lawyer who was Pierre Laval, do you remember who Pierre Laval was?
Interviewer: . . . .
Witkind: He was a complete Nazi. He was just terrible. He was a real
traitor to the French people. He was a snake. And he was Grandpa’s lawyer.
Interviewer: Oh goodness.
Witkind: At any rate, Grandpa came back to the United States, by which time
he was pretty well retired and . . . .
Interviewer: Did the restaurant connect?
Witkind: The restaurant, I have no idea what happened to it. But finally, I
know that my dad had to spend quite a bit of money bailing out that restaurant
from time to time.
Interviewer: What a daring thing though to go to Paris and . . . .
Witkind: He was, he was an adventurer. He was the guy who left home I think
when he was 12 or 13 and went all around the county. Nobody knew where he was.
Occasionally they’d get a card from him. And when he came back at age 14, he
was laden with presents for everybody. He didn’t like school. He dropped out
of school . . . . he had a job. He was married very young and my grandmother
was only I think 16 or 17 when they were married. Mom was born when her mother
was really a kid and still living at home because by then, my grandmother . .
. . This is all not on the Lazarus side. It was the other side. My grandfather
was on the road and she lived at home and helped her father, who didn’t read
or write English. He was Hungarian. But it was a very successful . . . . So
she lived at her grandparents’ house with her aunt, her parents, mostly her
mother, and her aunts, who were younger than she. One who was only two years
older than she . . . .
Interviewer: But it wasn’t unusual for families to live together.
Witkind: And it was very, very nice . . . . And my grandfather, great
grandfather had a truck garden and Mom used to talk about the marvelous
vegetables they got and he loved that and her, his wife, her grandmother, was
a great cook. I never knew her. I met that great grandfather once when I was
three and I have a little memory of him too. And she used to make wonderful
Hungarian dishes which Mother would describe and my mouth would always water.
Interviewer: Well Hungarians are known for their cooking.
Witkind: Yes, and she loved to cook and it was a big family. She
said that when they sat down, anywhere from 8 to 12 or 13 and…
Interviewer: They didn’t eat out a lot? They ate at home?
Witkind: No they rarely ate something out.
Witkind: And then there were parents, there was family on my grandfather’s
side that lived in Pittsburgh too. And so Mother knew all of them growing up.
Interviewer: On your grandmother’s . . . .
Witkind: Yeah on my grand–, all of this is on my grandmother’s side. And
then on my grandfather’s side there was more family and kids. Ample family
though she herself had only one brother who died of typhoid meningitis I think
it was. I think it was, I think he got meningitis after scarlet or typhoid or
something, and he died. And he was younger than she. So her only real
sort-of-sibling was her aunt.
Interviewer: Uh huh. . . . . close relationship?
Witkind: Very close. Yeah.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I’m just going to stop here. Okay we’re going to
continue. Charlotte, let’s talk about homes you lived in as a child. Let’s
start, and tell me where they were located and what memories you have of your
Witkind: We lived, when I was four months old, we moved to 43 Preston Road.
Now that’s two streets from here.
Interviewer: Two streets west of here?
Witkind: Two streets west of here. And we lived there ’till I was 14 and
then moved down to the other end of Preston Road to 2075 Fair Avenue where,
which was headquarters until our son, until I with my own family moved out
here. And we, I used to bring, I lived in New York after the war with my kids,
my husband and my kids, and I always brought my kids out here for the summer.
And I can remember, I’m the song-writer in the family. And I’m a parodyist.
And I wrote one song: “Be Kind to Grandparents”.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Witkind: Except I don’t . . . .
Interviewer: We’re back in business here. We were talking about your
Witkind: Well I was talking about my very many songs that I’d written for
many, many, many occasions but I wrote one that was something called “Be
Kind to your Parents” only this was “Be Kind to Grandparents”.
“Don’t let them be lonely. Remember grandchildren will brighten up all
of their days. Just bring all of the kiddies back home to Columbus to show off
their charming little ways. And keep in mind when you see 23, they all are
branches on your family tree. We’re all taking lessons to . . . . We watch
every little thing you do. Some day we might wake up and find we’re
Interviewer: Wonderful. That is just beautiful Charlotte. I’m so glad we
have that recorded. That is great.
Witkind: I got a million of them.
Interviewer: Oh well. That’s a good start for us. All right, after Fair
Avenue, tell me, can you tell me anything about that house on Fair Avenue?
Witkind: The house on Fair Avenue was a beautiful house. It had a
courtyard. It was designed by a man named Ernest Grunsfeld who also designed
the Planetarium in Chicago and other public buildings. And he designed this
house for Lessing Rosenwald in Philadelphia, which was kind of based on our
house only much larger. Although our house was a pretty darn big house. It’s
a very beautiful house and after Mother and Dad died, we were already
ensconced here in the home that you’re in right now on Columbia Avenue which
is really perfect for us because though it’s a big house, two people – we
have four children and they were all in and out at the time that we bought the
house. But we knew very well it wasn’t going to be too long until there were
going to be two of us. And this is the kind of a house we had built, that two
people don’t rattle. We would have rattled in the other house because the
master bedroom was way the heck at the far end of a long corridor and then
there’s a dressing room and so forth. And really you have to get from one
end of the house to the other. That isn’t true here. Everything opens up as
you can see . . . . each other in this house. So we didn’t take that house
and Babs, my sister Babs, was already well esconsed and Bob and Mary had built
a house on their property, my mother and dad’s property. So we didn’t keep
their house but it’s a very, very beautiful house.
Interviewer: Do you know who lives there now?
Witkind: Yes, a couple named Bundy. He had, whether he’s retired by now
or not I don’t know. But he had a commercial baking . . . . huge commercial
bakery . . . . deal with his headquarters in Urbana, at least his factory is.
And he sells these all around the world. And he met, I don’t know what
happened to his first wife but he had five children. I never knew whether she
had passed away or whether she was . . . . because the kids who were fairly
well grown seemed more or less flustered, I mean you know seemed to gravitate
to him, but he, to his great amazement, he met a young woman, a much younger
woman in South Africa, fell in love with her and he had never thought to marry
again. He did and they had two children, the younger of whom is named Bobby
and I said, “He should be named Robert Lazarus Bundy.”
Interviewer: Oh, because he was so much a part of . . . .
Witkind: It was, you know, Mother and Dad’s house for forty years.
Interviewer: What was the address there?
Witkind: 2075 Fair Avenue. It’s a little piece of Fair Avenue right at
the end of Preston Road.
Interviewer: Right. I know exactly where you’re talking about.
Witkind: It’s a white – it’s about a courtyard with a white brick
Interviewer: Uh huh. Let’s, let’s . . . .
Witkind: And it had a wonderful swimming pool that they built down at the –
it was sort of a creek bed running around that house into Alum Creek at one
time. It was gone by the time they lived there but down in one of the hollows,
there is a great swimming pool that I believe I must have swum over the years
10,000 miles in, up and down.
Interviewer: Oh goodness. So that was really a beautiful part of your life?
Witkind: And continues to be because Bob and Mary, my brother and his wife,
I have. . . . They built a home while Mother and Dad were still alive and when
their children were little, up on the top of the other side of the hill on the
other side of that pool, where they still live. And the pool is part of their
property. So it’s still home.
Interviewer: It is very picturesque there with the trees . . . .
Witkind: Uh huh.
Interviewer: and grounds. It’s beautiful. Just beautiful. Well you told
us a little bit about your neighbors too which is, which is really nice. Tell
me about your siblings and tell me where they are, their names, who they’re
Witkind: Well my second, my first, my next sibling is Babs Sirak and she
had married originally David Rosenfield whose father was, had founded Schenley
Distilleries which was one of the two biggest liquor companies from, well
really from the end of Prohibition until his death in his early 70s I guess.
So that was, you know, a period of about forty years. And then after that,
Schenley was sold. But he became this enormously wealthy man during that
period. And they had two children and Babs married the other one who was my
age actually, David. And he died very suddenly of a heart attack at age 40.
Interviewer: Did they have children?
Witkind: They had four children of whom three are living. And they had
certain . . . . that they . . . . but there have been problems with those kids
which have come right down through their paternal grandfather’s family. The
members of that family in Cincinnati, they’re just like, very serious
psychological problems. So one of Babs’, her younger sons by that marriage,
either killed himself or was murdered. I didn’t . . . . . perfectly awful
Interviewer: I know there were stories about that. Unplug yourself. Okay,
we’re talking about Babs and her first marriage, unfortunately.
Witkind: I’d rather talk about Babs earlier because Babs and I were kind
of raised, she’s two and a half years younger than I. She’s was always big
as a horse. She’s always been taller than I was from the time she was about
three. She learned to read when she was three so she was always up to me and
we were raised kind of like twins and we were dressed alike and so she
objected – I think I was 12 and she was 10. I liked it. But we were dressed
alike and we were very, we slept together and when we moved to the bigger
house on Fair Avenue, we shared the same room. We liked to talk to each other
Interviewer: What a wonderful closeness . . . .
Witkind: And then three years younger than Babs was Jean who was just such
a wonderful person. But she had a few Achilles heels and the worst of them was
that she would never stop smoking. And she died in 1980 of a gruesome lung
Interviewer: Uh huh. How old was she?
Witkind: She was 55. She was, she was an adorable, she was just a marvelous
person. She was, all of us have been very involved civically in one way or
another. With me in New York and then here it was the League of Women Voters
and then various other things after I got out here.
Interviewer: Well let’s not talk about that yet.
Interviewer: I’m going to try to keep this in . . . . Let’s finish up
with Babs first. Now she, that was, we talked about her first marriage. Let’s
go on with . . . .
Witkind: A year later, it was less than a year later, she met Howard Sirak
who, and they fell in love and he had been married. He was married still but
the marriage was kind of on the rocks and so he and Sally were divorced, and
that was Sally who was just calling me on the phone . . . . They have remained
completely friendly and the two couples are very friendly and, but Babs and
Howard were married within a year after she was widowed.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And what is Howard’s profession?
Witkind: Howard is, was a thoracic surgeon. And he retired oh about 27
years ago because he was on the staff at Ohio State and Governor Gilligan had
offered him a place on the Board of Trustees at Ohio State and he, he was a
thoracic surgeon in the early days of heart operations when you know, if you
see a percentage of your patients you were doing well and you were really on
duty 24 hours a day and he’d been doing this for a mighty long time just in
such a concentrated way that he was kind of glad, I think. But whatever Howard
plunges into, he plunges into all the way.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Very complete person?
Witkind: And how. And that’s how they happened to, that’s how they sort
of fell into this art business.
Interviewer: Well wait a minute. Now did Howard have children?
Witkind: Howard had two children and Babs had four and then they had one
together. And the youngest is John who is currently one of the Chief Surgical
Residents at Ohio State. And . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. Who was Howard married, you said . . . .
Witkind: Howard was married to Sally who’s now, whose name now is Sally
Witkind: And . . . .
Interviewer: All right. Now let’s go to another sibling.
Witkind: And Jeannie, Jeannie was married to Junius Hoffman whose parents
Witkind: Junius. Uh huh. Not Julius but Junius. He had, oh it’s too
complicated. And he is alive and they live in Tucson now.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Did she have children?
Witkind: She had three children, one of, the youngest of whom died in a
fire, hideously. I don’t think Jean ever really got over that. He was about
18 and he was the most marvelous kid and it was, nobody else was even hurt in
the fire but they forgot he was asleep.
Interviewer: Oh goodness.
Witkind: . . . . Unbelievable.
Interviewer: And were they living in Phoenix, I mean in Tucson at that . .
Witkind: They were actually, Juney was on a full fellowship in Bogata at
the time and Mike was a senior at Milton Academy, a boarding school outside of
Boston. And he was away for a week-end with, at somebody’s pre-revolutionary
house, when this fire happened and he had unfortunately gone to bed in the
back of the house ahead of the other kids because he was tired. And nobody
Interviewer: Uh huh. What a horrible thing. Horrible. And then you said,
and then Jeannie . . . . .
Witkind: Let’s see, Jeannie died, Mike died in ’71 and Jeannie died in
’80 of this really gruesome lung cancer. It was so gruesome because it went
in her bones, it landed in her bones and the pain was so exhausting. Well
anyway . . . .
Interviewer: It was a tough . . . .
Witkind: That was a very tough time for all of us. And Jean was probably,
we’re all pretty nice but Jean was probably the nicest of any of us. And she
has a, Jeannie had three children. Except Mike died. Pru is not married. She
lives in Tucson. And Ricky is married and has three children. And I haven’t
mentioned Babs’, all Babs’ grandchildren but she does have six grandsons
and two, twin granddaughters who are John’s, who are just three. So her
grandchildren run from I guess about 21 down to three. My grandchildren run
from 28 today, the eldest, it’s his birthday date. Today is Hattie Lazarus
Gorman Simon’s birthday.
Interviewer: Oh. We’re going to get to her in a few minutes.
Interviewer: Okay. I’m trying to keep some organization . . . .
Witkind: The other living sibling is Bob Lazarus . . . .
Interviewer: Married to?
Witkind: Married to Mary, to Mary Lazarus. I introduced them.
Interviewer: Good for you.
Witkind: Well, I’ll tell you, the matrimonial agency that would have
served this family best is the League of Women Voters because I met Mary at
the League of Women Voters where she had a job as the head of the State, the
New York State League, and I was living in New York and I was on the Board of
the New York City League. We had both gone to Wellesley and we became friends
immediately and Bob was coming into New York as a buyer for Lazarus once a
month. She was a beautiful, beautiful girl. She’s still beautiful. Do you
Interviewer: Yes I do and she really is beautiful.
Witkind: Isn’t she?
Interviewer: I agree.
Witkind: As a young, she was absolutely breathtaking.
Interviewer: And a lovely person.
Witkind: And lovely.
Interviewer: How appropriate we’re talking about League of Women Voters
today. I’m going to put this in the records. Today is election day.
Witkind: And at any rate, I introduced them and then also through the
League of Women Voters, I met Dick, my husband. So I think it’s really a
fine; women watch out for each other.
Interviewer: You’re, I think you’re right.
Witkind: I know I’m right. Anyway, they have four lovely, lovely children
and blessedly, their eldest has moved back here. The rest of them, they are,
they have two on the coast in the San Francisco area and one in Dublin. All of
them are married.
Interviewer: Dublin, Ohio?
Witkind: No, Dublin, Ireland. They have just returned from a visit there.
Interviewer: Well I’m glad we cleared that.
Interviewer: Who are their children? Give me their names.
Witkind: Certainly. The eldest is Robert III, known as Trip, for triplet,
obviously because of the third. Trip or Tripper. And he has a couple of kids
but they live here.
Interviewer: What does he do?
Witkind: He develops computer software programs for very advanced college
and professional groups. They’re teaching tools. They’re very advanced
teaching tools and they’re used not only in this country, but they’re used
in Asia I know as well. I know they were used in Japan and Korea because they’re
going, one of the two of them that are working together go over to Asia from
time to time on this.
Interviewer: Such a sophisticated field.
Witkind: And I think his wife’s name is Lexie and they met at a computer
outfit outside of San Francisco and so she’s sort of in on this too. But
they have two little kids and she’s also very involved with Montessori and
that sort of thing too.
Interviewer: And they’re in Columbus of course. And then . . . .
Witkind: And then the next two are in San Francisco, Molly who has two
daughters who are a little older, like probably 13 and 10, maybe something
Interviewer: What’s Molly’s married name?
Witkind: Lazarus. Her husband’s name is Craig Burke. And she thought
Molly Burke sounded entirely too Irish so she became Burke-Lazarus. And the
childrens’ names are Burke-Lazarus.
Interviewer: Oh she kind of worked that one out attaching them together.
Witkind: She really did. And then the other, those kids’ names are
Jessica and Kyle. And then there’s Jerry, who’s an attorney and he is
married to Maria and they have no children and I don’t believe they’re
going to have any children.
Interviewer: But they live in San Francisco?
Witkind: They live in, I think they live in Oakland actually, which is in
the San Francisco area. And then Susan is the one who lives, the youngest
daughter, the younger daughter and the youngest of the children, moved with
her husband and two children outside of Dublin, Ireland. And they both teach
mathematics, they’re both mathematic Ph. D.s, and they teach on the college
level, both of them.
Interviewer: How did they end up settling in Ireland?
Witkind: He is very, very, very Irish, almost Celtic. His mother is very
Celtic. And they all have wild names. His name is Aongus which doesn’t sound
so wild but it’s got a diphthong, it’s A-O-N-G-U-S and there’s a . . . .
Interviewer: Is he from Ireland?
Witkind: Yeah. And his mother runs a pub. And he has a sister named Meave
and a sister named Roshanne or something, not Rochelle. But we were just
talking about these names today. Mary was here for lunch. A brother named
Featro, something like that.
Interviewer: Well they would probably think our American names sound a
little strange, huh?
Witkind: This is sort of a determined effort. You have to work hard to keep
in step in Ireland these days. Ireland has gotten very progressive and for a
while, we had to take Celtic. We had to take Old Irish in the schools. I don’t
think we do any more. I think they’ve cut that out. But as I say, her mother
is Kotchleen and she is very big on this.
Interviewer: How interesting.
Witkind: It really is. It is very interesting.
Interviewer: Okay. So we’ve got their children covered.
Interviewer: Did you have another brother?
Witkind: No, I had another sister but she died as a baby. And she was the
Interviewer: So that pretty much covers your . . . .
Witkind: That covers our siblings, yeah.
Interviewer: Okay. All right. Now, tell us about your children.
Witkind: Okay. My eldest is Robert Lazarus Gorman, Bob, sometimes known as
B.G. because he and Bob Lazarus were both in the house at the same time and
they were both Bobbys and it got very confusing so he, his name became
BobbyGorman, all one word. My first married name was Gorman. And he was
really, I think it was part my kids, more Mother and Dad’s because this was
during a war and I was following around and he was staying there and the same
nurse that was there from the time Bobby Lazarus was a baby was still there
and she was his nurse.
Interviewer: They just went from one generation to the next?
Witkind: That’s right. And it was really nice. There were about 15 years,
15-16 years difference between Bobby, the two Bobs, and they’re very good
friends now. He’s kind of inter-generational, Bob Gorman is.
Interviewer: Well I think there’s a real special thing about having
grandparents around . . . .
Witkind: Well they were sort of half his parents. And I really think in
some weird way he and I are much closer since their death. I mean, they were
my hero and heroine; I absolutely felt they were the most wonderful people in
the world and the loveliest thing I knew when I was in my 40s was to go on a
trip with them. That was the most exciting thing.
Interviewer: Well we’re going to talk about that in a little bit but tell
me all about your children.
Witkind: And anyway, Bobby was, I didn’t tell you about me, actually yet.
I didn’t tell you where I went to school or any . . . .
Interviewer: We’re going to get to that.
Witkind: All right, your order. I’m not . . . .
Interviewer: I’m trying to get all this information . . . .
Witkind: Okay. Bobby was raised in New York at my husband’s, his father
was practicing neuropsychiatry in the City at that time so from the time he
was three or four, he was in New York. But we spent our summers out here until
he was ready to go to camp and we were out here for Christmas every year and
so on. So we had some base at my parents’ house all the time, as long as
they were alive which was until Mom died at 71 and Dad died at 73. So . . . .
Interviewer: Okay. So Bobby’s your oldest child?
Witkind: He’s my eldest and he is a broker with Solomon, Smith, Barney.
And he’s my broker. Bobby is very bright. He went to the Hunter School which
you get in on I.Q. in New York. It’s a public school attached to the college
but you get in, at least you did then, on I.Q. which was a good solution for
me at the time because I really didn’t like to ask for the money for private
school. It didn’t really occur to me until later when it became obvious that
I was going to have to. But anyway, he was there the first six years. He’s
very quick. And he was the one who commented about the orange juice.
Interviewer: Right. That was clever. Why don’t you tell us, put that on
Witkind: Well this morning when I mentioned to him, and I speak to him
every morning because he’s my broker. And I’m in charge of the brokerage
business in this family. Although my husband is a member of the Stock
Exchange, I still do the trading or the investing really.
Interviewer: It gets down to the woman’s decision?
Witkind: Well in this case, it does. It is fun.
Interviewer: I love the track.
Witkind: Uh huh. And so I talk to Bobby every morning and I said I was
going to talk to you and I felt, I said, “It seems strange to me because
I was the first member of this family who had refused Confirmation because I
truly am anti-religion.” It isn’t that I’m anti-Jewish, I’m
anti-religion. Religion has caused a great deal of trouble in the world. And
also I wasn’t going to get up there and say things that I didn’t believe.
And I didn’t get much flack from my parents about this at all. Bob, that’s
when Bobby said, “You should, you should say that you know more about
orange juice than Reform Jews.” (Laughter)
Interviewer: I thought that was pretty cute.
Witkind: I thought it was cute, too.
Interviewer: Is Bobby married?
Witkind: He’s married and he has one daughter.
Interviewer: What’s his wife’s name?
Witkind: His wife’s name is Linda. And she too is from Columbus.
Interviewer: What was her maiden name?
Witkind: Her maiden name was Krinn, K-R-I-N-N. And one of the things that
she did which so depressed me, is she was in the Eastmoor marching band. I can
no more imagine playing an instrument and marching in formation.
Interviewer: Not easy, not easy.
Witkind: That’s very hard to me. So they have the one child, Hattie,
named from my mother.
Interviewer: Okay. And where’s Hattie?
Witkind: And Hattie is here.
Interviewer: How old is she?
Witkind: She’s 28 today.
Interviewer: She’s the one with the birthday?
Witkind: That’s right and she has a nice job with the State working, I
think she’s in mental health, but she’s doing computer graphics for them.
Interviewer: Oh, that’s a fascinating . . . .
Witkind: And she’s having to travel a bit with it too, which is a little
bit hard because she has M.S., not so bad, but she’s got it.
Interviewer: Is she married?
Witkind: Yes. She is married and her name is Sima, S-I-M-A. Michael Sima is
Interviewer: Uh huh. And do they have children?
Witkind: They have no children yet.
Interviewer: Okay. But they, her home base is Columbus?
Witkind: Her home base is, just moved into a new home, I think since the
last couple of two, three days. I haven’t been there yet.
Interviewer: Oh where? Where are they?
Witkind: I think they’re in Westerville. And their parents, Bob and
Linda, are in New Albany. And they’re quite handy to one another.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that’s good. That’s nice.
Witkind: Bobby and Linda are ardent, ardent golfers and so their being in
New Albany is very appropriate.
Interviewer: Yeah, it’s beautiful there. Just a beautiful area. Okay, so
we’ve got Bobby pretty well taken care of.
Witkind: Bobby’s pretty well taken care of. Next in age is Dick’s
daughter. Not mine. He was married before, but she’s been mine most of her
life, and that’s Vivian.
Interviewer: And how old was she when you married?
Witkind: She was twelve.
Witkind: And she had been living with Dick’s mother because her mother
was hospitalized. She was a paranoid schizophrenic and was hospitalized for
the rest of her life.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So Vivian really is pretty much your . . . .
Witkind: Vivian is mine. In fact, if I should ever refer, at the time when
I referred to her mother as such, it would really upset her and I would never
know what I’d done that upset her and then it would divulge that I would get
a note from her. “I wish you wouldn’t do that. You are my mother.”
Interviewer: Yeah, well you were very much dear to her.
Witkind: Well you know, I was the stability and Gladys was the instability.
Poor woman, she was terribly sick her whole life and she’d throw things
around and I imagine that Vivian’s earliest years, she’s been somewhat
abused, though I’m not . . . .
Interviewer: Well, is Vivian married?
Witkind: Yes she is married and she has one adopted son . . . .
Interviewer: What’s her husband’s name?
Interviewer: Her last name is?
Interviewer: And her husband’s . . . .
Witkind: Vivian Witkind Davis and her husband is in commercial real estate.
Interviewer: What’s his first name?
Interviewer: John. Okay. And their children?
Witkind: They have Josh who is, let’s see, where’s he working? He’s
got a new job with one of the computer companaies.
Interviewer: How old would Josh be?
Witkind: Josh was born in ’75 so he is 24. And he graduated from Kenyon.
And by the way, Bobby graduated from Indiana and Viv, my mother graduated from
Wellesley. I graduated from Wellesley. Babs graduated from Wellesley. Jean
graduated from Wellesley. Mary graduated from Wellesley though that was just a
happenstance. Of course, we didn’t know her then. Howard’s daughter, whom
I didn’t mention . . . .
Interviewer: Howard . . . .
Witkind: Howard Sirak’s daughter, graduated from Wellesley in the same
class with Pru who is Jeannie’s daughter. Viv graduated a little bit ahead
of that, for a while, then came Catherine and Pru and then Vancie, my daughter
went to Wellesley but she didn’t graduate from Wellesley. She graduated
actually from California.
Interviewer: Goodness, you could have a Wellesley family reunion.
Witkind: And Trip’s wife went to Wellesley. We have a lot of us Wellesley
background. And I one time asked Mom just a little while before she died, I
said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you for years Mother, how did you
happen to go to Wellesley?”
Interviewer: Yeah, that was a long time ago.
Witkind: She said, “I’m embarrassed to tell you,” she said.
“I read about it in a girls’ book and it sounded nice.”
Interviewer: . . . .
Witkind: I think it’s hysterical that, you know, by these little strings,
all of these other things happen.
Interviewer: Yeah, they all connect us. I think that’s neat. That’s
neat. Okay, do we have Vivian pretty well covered? We have her children, no,
her children. Okay, we’re stilll on . . . .
Witkind: She has two daughters: Babette who is now Babette Witkind Davis
and she now calls herself Witt because there’s so many Babettes around. My
youngest daughter is Babette. We haven’t come to her yet. Because my sister,
I once said maybe I’ll name a girl Babette and Babs kept saying,
“Remember you promised, remember you promised.” So she got named
that and then when Viv had a daughter, she called her Babette to my great
distress because it’s too many.
Interviewer: Too many Babettes?
Witkind: And the daughter feels that way too and she’s now changed her
name to Witt for Witkind. And then there’s a younger daughter who’s 13.
Witt is at Bates in college right now. And the youngest is Charlotte and you
can guess who she’s named for. And she’s 13. All of the kids, all the
local kids went to Columbus School for Girls and all of us went to Columbus
School for Girls.
Interviewer: Oh there’s some more heritage there.
Witkind: All over the place. I mean all local Lazaruses went to Columbus
School for Girls and anyone attached to the family, any girls, went there and
so the school gets better all the time.
Interviewer: It sure does.
Witkind: It’s a small one.
Interviewer: Okay, we got Vivian pretty well.
Witkind: Vivian is sort of . . . . head of an agency at Ohio State called
the National Research and Regulatory Agency which serves public utility
commissions all over the country and she travels a great deal. She was my
second phone call there because she was away for a couple of days and on
Thursday morning, goes away again for a week. ‘Cause she was arranging to
get out for lunch tomorrow.
Interviewer: That sounds like an interesting job though.
Witkind: She’s still running a household and trying to run a 13-year-old
and her husband has M.S.
Interviewer: Oh, oh goodness.
Witkind: So it’s not, Vivian is . . . .
Interviewer: Is he able to work?
Witkind: He’s working but he’s not able to do a lot of things.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So she has a lot of responsibility?
Witkind: She does and she always, to me, looks tired.
Interviewer: Well maybe being involved in the business as she is, that will
be good for her.
Witkind: Well she’s . . . . and to my absolute horror, she took over the
job of being President of the Wellesley Club for this year. That’s just what
she needed was another responsibility.
Interviewer: She probably can handle it though.
Witkind: She looks exhausted. But it’s all right. She likes to, she does
a lot of stuff.
Interviewer: She sounds fascinating.
Witkind: She is. She’s very quiet but she is fascinating when you get
going with her.
Interviewer: Silent, silent run water . . . .
Witkind: Silent waters run deep.
Witkind: She’s very funny. She doesn’t talk. It’s so funny when she
talks but she writes hysterically. She’s a, she writes very well.
Interviewer: Sounds like she takes after her mother.
Witkind: Well she and I get along very well on stuff like this. We both
read and we both write and so forth.
Interviewer: Okay. And your next child?
Witkind: Then comes Donny and he was here. He was married for a while and
had a child with his first marriage.
Interviewer: Who was he married to?
Witkind: Somebody named Marcia Taylor. And that was a very unsuccessful
marriage except that they had a wonderful child who adores Donny and Donny
adores her and . . . .
Interviewer: What’s her name?
Witkind: Her name is Jennifer?
Interviewer: And how old . . . . (blank space at end of tape)
Witkind: . . . . talk, going to talk for a minute about Don Gorman.
Interviewer: Is Donny’s child?
Witkind: And Donny has one child, Jenny, Jennifer, who was just married,
how long ago? I guess about a year and a half ago, almost, to David Speas,
S-P-E-A-S, and he has just finished his training to be an accountant and has
started to work in Nashville and she’s doing, she’s selling advertising
for black radio stations. She just started that and is liking it, in
Nashville. And her parents live here and Don runs a small advertising agency
out of his house. They just built, they’re just finishing, almost finished
building a new house in Gahanna. I had to decide what ‘burb it was but I
guess it’s Gahanna, which looks like it’s going to be a very interesting
house and he’s going to have some decent office space and . . . .
Interviewer: So he works on his own then?
Witkind: Uh huh. And Lisl does all sorts of things. She does everything
well with her hands. And she’s been supervising this house very carefully.
Interviewer: Yeah, that can be a full-time job.
Witkind: Uh huh. And then on the side part of the time, she does
fingernails. Puts those long nails on people.
Interviewer: Oh yeah. Well that probably is fun and a little bit of an
outlet. Okay, so we have a picture of Donny pretty well.
Witkind: Oh by the way, I forgot to mention about Bobby and Linda,
particularly Bobby, is a wonderful cook. Lisl was a good cook and Lynn is a
good cook too. But Bobby learned to cook originally a little bit from Julia
Childs because when she was writing her first book, he was living, he was at
the Harvard Business School and he was living in the home of Mrs. DeVoto. Her
husband had been Editor of Harper’s Magazine. This really goes back.
Mrs. DeVoto was a good friend of Julia Child’s, I mean these were really the
Boston . . . .
Witkind: Elite, exactly. And she used to come over and try recipes in Mrs.
DeVoto’s kitchen and Bobby, when he had time, would go and watch. And
occasionally, they let him try something.
Interviewer: What a wonderful opportunity.
Witkind: And so after he graduated and then he went into service and he had
an apartment before he was married down in, he was working at Foley’s in
Houston ’cause he was going into the department store business at that time,
like the rest of the family, but he began experimenting, using Julia’s first
book and he really learned how to cook and he can do things, as I say, with
one hand tied behind his back. And Bobby will do a Sunday night supper for
twelve as easily as he will do something for two.
Interviewer: Well I’m sure he’s creative.
Witkind: He’s very, very good and Linda’s a good cook too. Her mother
was a good cook and she knew how. They entertain with such ease and so
pleasantly you know and . . . .
Interviewer: Sounds like a family treasure.
Witkind: It truly is a gift. And I think so. I never learned to cook.
Interviewer: Oh is that right?
Witkind: I don’t see very well and I don’t pour things very well and .
. . .
Interviewer: Somehow you’ve managed to raise a family and get through it.
Witkind: Somehow I’ve managed to get help. I’m an anachronism. Well you
wouldn’t live in a house of this kind without it anyway. It wouldn’t be
Interviewer: Okay, so we’ve got Donny pretty well wrapped . . . .
Witkind: And Jenny, as soon as she was able to choose, moved with him as
opposed to her mother. And also, his second wife Lisl. whose name was Haldy,
her maiden name. Remember John Haldy who was at WBNS?
Witkind: That’s Lisl’s dad.
Witkind: And Lisl is Donny’s wife and she was married before and had two
boys who are younger than Jenny. One of them’s a freshman, Morgan is a
freshman at Kansas this year and Cody is a senior at the Columbus Academy and
so they’re with them part of the time and they’re with their father part
of the time too. They’ve got one of these joint custody arrangements which
seems to have worked beautifully in this particular case.
Interviewer: Well it can if you retain your sanity and just . . . .
Witkind: Well everybody got along pretty well on the whole.
Witkind: And the boys are great. So that Donny’s family is not as little
as it sounds.
Witkind: Then we come to Babs, Babette Gorman. We’re back to Gormans. We
have three Gormans and one Witkind, in other words. And Babsy went to
Wellesley, as I say. She went to CSG. They started out at school in New York.
I mean Bobby went through grade school in New York ’till he went to college
from New York. We were still living there. I was divorced from Warren Gorman
in, well we separated in ’55. We were divorced in ’57 and Dick and I were
married in ’58. We met, again, through the League of Women Voters as I said
so that Bobby went through school in New York and then went to Indiana
Interviewer: Yeah, let’s get that covered here.
Witkind: All right. Well, Babs was born in New York in 1951 and she went to
New Lincoln. It’s interesting raising kids in New York because they used to,
you could get a bus pass for like a buck a month and so as soon as a kid could
cross the street, you could really let them be on their own, if you trusted
them to cross the street. And they had a lot more independence, really.
Interviewer: Well you didn’t have to be as concerned about the security
as you do today. I mean, today . . . .
Witkind: I wasn’t, I know. I remember one time that when she was about 8
and she had changed schools. She had been going to a little school right
across the street from us and then she went, she quit after second grade or
something. And she went up to New Lincoln where her brothers were in school.
And so she didn’t have very many friends and someone had invited her for an
overnight over on the west side. We lived at, do you know New York?
Interviewer: Not very well.
Witkind: Well we lived at 96th Street on the east side near Central Park.
And these people lived at 72nd Street all the way over on the west side, all
the way over by the Hudson River. And I came out here that morning, leaving
word that Babsy had been invited to this Dugas thing. And we happened to have
two people at the house: Constance who was sort of the housekeeper and after
Babs was born, we had somebody that was a second person. Well Constance was
determined that Babsy was not supposed to do any such thing and she wouldn’t
let her go or give her taxi money or anything. But Babsy was very anxious to
make friends, set out on her own. She took her bus pass but there was one
little thing she didn’t know and that was that there is no bus that goes
through on 72nd Street that goes West. Now a New Yorker would know that but
Babsy was only 8 and she didn’t know. She took the bus, the Fifth Avenue
bus, down to 72nd Street and waited and waited for a crosstown bus and when
one didn’t come and this was Fall, must have been fairly dark, she walked
through Central Park . . . .
Interviewer: Oh my gosh.
Witkind: and then all the way over by the river. Meanwhile, I was out here.
They were calling me back and forth. I was beside myself . . . .
Interviewer: Well what could you do here . . . .
Witkind: I couldn’t do anything.
Interviewer: ‘Cause there were hours that went by?
Witkind: There were several hours and then she turned up over where she was
supposed, she got where she was supposed to go.
Interviewer: She knew how to get there?
Witkind: She did it by Shank’s Mare. She walked.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Witkind: At age eight.
Interviewer: Oh goodness. Well that was daring.
Witkind: Anyway, we moved out here when she was going in the seventh grade
and she went through CSG the rest of the way and then as I said, she went to
Wellesley and she’s quite beautiful. The kids are all nice looking but Babsy
I think is rather a beauty and I thought so from the minute she was born. And
she’s a darling, darling person. When Dick was suddenly taken with this
operation last week, why she called and said she was in Los Angeles and . . .
. trip here and she said, “Would you like me to come for the
week-end?” And I said, “I can’t think of anything that would make
me happier.” And she did and her plane got cancelled and it took her
nearly 24 hours to get here. But she came.
Interviewer: Turned out to be a big trip but she wanted to be with you.
Witkind: But she was doing it as a gift to me. I mean, she knew it would
have been easier for her not to do. And anyway, after she left Wellesley, she
was going with a guy from Dartmouth so she lived up there in Hanover for a
year and then she moved out to the coast to be with some friends of hers and
eventually later that year enrolled in the University of California at
Berkeley and that’s where she finished up. And then she was home for a bit
and then she went to Boston and she had a job with the Berkelee School of
Music. Babsy’s very musical. She has perfect pitch and a really nice voice
and she . . . .
Interviewer: Her music ability is the voice, singing?
Witkind: Yeah, she’s too lazy ever to really sit down and play the piano
properly. She could play a little bit but at any rate, she likes to belong to
choirs which she very often does and I’m always impressed with somebody who
can sight read with a voice without having heard . . . .
Interviewer: Terrific. Yeah.
Witkind: It’s a . . . .
Interviewer: Sure is.
Witkind: Well anyway . . . .
Interviewer: Tell me about her family.
Witkind: So she got married pretty late. First of all, she was in Boston.
Then after a while, after she worked at Berkelee which is spelled -L-E-E, it’s
a music school in Boston, she then went to work for Filene’s for a while
doing, in their P.R. Department and she was involved with a guy and that kind
of eventually broke up and she was, she decided she might like to come out to
California and she was interested, very interested in the movies. And I was
able to help shoo her into the, well I’m going to block again, just the same
way I blocked on . . . . oh these people who do all the preservation of films
and so on and give out the awards. They give a master’s degree in film
making. AFI. American Film Making, AFI. Yeah, she was, she got a master’s
degree from the American Film Institute in producing and she worked, she did a
wonderful film as her, I thought, a short film. And they had to raise their
own money and everything. But at any rate, she did a great film, little film
for her master’s thesis, that’s what it is. And then she worked on
“Back to the Future” for a bit and she worked on a couple of other
things. But her field is production and it’s very hard to break through and
to be much more than a glorified secretary and she eventually got sick of it
and just quit and then she eventually met David, her husband. She was about 36
when they were married, something like that, and Amy was born when she was 38
Interviewer: What name does Babs, what name does she go by?
Witkind: She goes by Thomson, T-H-O-M-S-O-N. She didn’t stick with the
Gorman. And David is a Scot. He is so Scottish that it’s very difficult to
understand. I can understand most people in Scotland easier than David. He
really has stuck to that burr or the burr has stuck to him.
Interviewer: So you have some Irish and Scottish in your family?
Witkind: Yes, that’s right.
Interviewer: Uh huh. How many children do they have?
Witkind: They have one. My parents have 15 natural grandchildren plus three
people like Vivian and the two Sirak kids. Eighteen altogether.
Interviewer: I think they call that “extended family”?
Witkind: They aren’t even extended, they were really just
by-marriage-family. But at any rate, not one of my parents’ grandchildren
ever married a Jew. Isn’t that weird?
Interviewer: Well the world has gotten so big that they . . . .
Witkind: But not one!
Interviewer: That is unusual.
Witkind: It really is.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I think we’re going to talk a little bit more about
that part of your life but let’s kind of work into it. Now this pretty much
covers your children, right?
Witkind: That covers my children. My Babsy’s daughter is Amy and she’s
nine. Her name is Amelia for the first, Amelia Lazarus Thomson.
Interviewer: Oh well you got that Lazarus in there.
Witkind: And Amelia was the first Mrs. Lazarus that came to this country
and we have taken you back to the beginning. And Babsy is the family
historian. And she keeps the family tree and she’s the one who is putting
the reunion, who puts these reunions together.
Interviewer: Yeah well she has the know-how, she’s got the background.
Witkind: She’s a good producer.
Interviewer: Is there anything written about your family? Are there any
books, stories, written?
Witkind: Well there’s, first of all, there’s a book called, there’s
one called “Lazarus” and then for our, for the reunion, I did a,
well various people did pieces, but the long one is mine because I felt I was
the eldest and remembered the best. I’ve got that. It’s written.
Interviewer: Is there any way we can get a copy of it?
Witkind: You can’t keep it ’cause we’re short. I could get one but if
you’ll give it back to me.
Interviewer: I’d like to know if we can have a copy for the Jewish
Witkind: I don’t have one, extra one.
Interviewer: You just have one? Is there any way we can copy your copy?
Witkind: Sure. You can do it any way you want. You can certainly have a
copy. But I just want my own back.
Interviewer: Sure. I can understand that.
Witkind: We’ve been very short. We just didn’t do enough. And to do
more is a real production. It’s a huge production. And Babsy put this thing
together and she would have to do it.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I’m going to ask you to tell me about your life with
Witkind: Which one?
Interviewer: The husband you’re married to now.
Interviewer: Tell me how you met him. Tell me about him, his name, where he
Witkind: His name is Richard Jules, which he doesn’t; Richard, forget the
Jules, Witkind. He’s from the upper east side New York. His total
background: he went to P.S. 6 which is the . . . . school for that area. He
then went to Horace Mann which was at the time a boys’ school only and it’s
up in Riverdale. And he actually was in the same class with David Rosenfield
who married, who was Babs’ first husband.
Interviewer: Right. But that was just a coincidence?
Witkind: Just a coincidence. In fact, we only got them together for one
summer, the summer before David died, and it was the end of the summer after
Dick and I were married, when we both happened to be in Columbus at the same
time. But it’s such a shame. They would have had a great time together. They
would have enjoyed one another.
Interviewer: A lot in common?
Witkind: Yeah, they’d gone to the same camp and they were at college
together a little bit of the time. And it was, but they were never
particularly friendly. David gave Dick his first beating.
Witkind: And the subject of the beating was interesting.
Interviewer: How old were they?
Witkind: I don’t know. Ten or something. It was over sex and David
explained about sex to Dick who didn’t believe him.
Witkind: Because he didn’t believe him, David was very big. Dick’s real
. . . . David’s was really big. He ended up six foot five. He beat Dick up.
Interviewer: Oh he didn’t like what . . . .
Witkind: No, Dick didn’t like it and said it was a lie and David beat him
Interviewer: Oh goodness.
Witkind: It wasn’t a lie. It was the truth.
Interviewer: The truth ended up hurting him . . . . in more ways than one.
Witkind: So he grew up in New York and he went to Horace Mann and he was an
absolutely stunning kid. I’ll show you a picture of him in the Navy after a
while. But he lost his father when he was just about ten and I really think it
changed his life a great deal. I think he was the most confident – from the
pictures of that kid when he was a younger kid, he looked like he owned the
world, you know, he just was confident. So good looking and so strong and big
and marvelous and so on and it wasn’t that he didn’t look good afterwards,
but he began, he went into, he pushed things back into holes and he just felt
that – you know in those days, if you didn’t have a father, it was a little
stigma to it I think. I don’t think that Dick ever analyzed this kind of
stuff but you know, my first husband was a psychiatrist . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that kind of made you think a lot . . . .
Witkind: Makes you think a lot about things. Dick never could remember very
Interviewer: What’s Dick’s full name?
Interviewer: But did he have a nickname? Well Dick, of course, would be his
Witkind: And he’s a very good-looking guy with a most beautiful voice. I
can still remember when I first knew him when we were dating. We were at a bar
one evening and as we were walking back to the car, I said to him, “You
have one of the most beautiful speaking voices I’ve ever heard.” I
said, “You must have a lovely singing voice.” And he said, “I
can’t carry a tune.” I said, “Oh anybody can carry a tune,” I
said, “I’d love to hear you sing.” And he said, “Okay, what’ll
I sing?” I said, “Sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’.” I
had to sit down on the sidewalk, I laughed so hard. He couldn’t tell his ups
from his downs and Phyllis Greene, you said she always went over, the treat of
going to the football game was to listen to Dick sing the “Star Spangled
Interviewer: Oh . . . .
Witkind: Because we always, he just made us laugh so. He’s a darling man.
Interviewer: What business was he in?
Witkind: He was in the Navy during the war. He was on the battleship
Arkansas, the oldest battleship in the fleet. And he had a good war. He liked
order, he likes routine and so forth and you know exactly what you’re
supposed to do and he liked it. And officers in the Navy are treated very
well. They’re, the officers, they have a good mess and if they put in a
little extra, they have a better mess.
Interviewer: What was his title?
Witkind: He ended up as a, I can only think of Army titles. It’s
equivalent to a major or was it a lieutenant colonel, but that was not his
title. They don’t have things like that in the Navy. We have, I’ll ask him
before we’re finished and you can fill it in.
Witkind: But he was in through the war in the Pacific and then for the
following year, he was the Captain of a small cargo ship in the Caribbean. So
he never got out ’till the summer of ’46. He liked the Navy. And if it had
not been for the fact that by that time, Vivian had arrived and he felt that
he needed to be more available, I think he might have stayed in.
Interviewer: He liked the career of . . . .
Witkind: No he enjoyed the Navy very much. And his ship was never, I think
his ship was only struck once during the entire war and that was by a stray
bullet from the battleship New York.
Interviewer: So he didn’t really have . . . .
Witkind: . . . . submarines and everything else. But they were just lucky.
They were just never hit.
Interviewer: Sure, sure. Okay, then after his military service . . . .
Witkind: And after his military career, the family was in real estate in
New York and he was fooling around with that for a while and then he went to
work doing, I love this story. He went to work, before I knew him, for the
Holland America Lines and he did public relations for their freight business.
Now Holland America had their ships tie up in Hoboken, not in Manhattan the
way most others did. But his office was in Manhattan and it was his job to try
to sell space, cargo space, to go off on those ships. And in order to do that,
he would entertain prospective customers and they would meet him at his office
in the late morning and he would take them downstairs to a bar and give them a
drink and then they would get in a cab and they would go over to whatever ship
was tied up, whatever Holland America ship was tied up in Hoboken, and they
would get on the ship and they would have cocktails and then they would have
an elaborate lunch, luncheon with fine wines and good Dutch beer and so forth.
And then after lunch, they would sit in the lounge and have a few after-dinner
drinks or after-luncheon drinks and eventually they’d get in a cab and go
back to Manhattan and then Dick would take them to the bar again for a drink
for the road and he said he finally quit that job because he realized he was
having somewhere between 10 and 14 drinks before the cocktail hour.
Interviewer: Oh goodness.
Witkind: Fortunately, he had a hollow leg but . . . .
Interviewer: He was wracking up a lot of those . . . .
Witkind: He certainly was. But what he was really interested in was the
market and so he eventually became a broker for what was then Bates and
Company. And then his idea was to own a seat and trade for himself on the
floor and eventually he got the seat in 1964 and they immediately changed the
rules so you couldn’t trade for yourself. By that time, we’d moved out
here and so this was in my behalf. My mother wasn’t well and I wanted to be
here. I told you, I don’t see very well and my parents had, well they had
just been so marvelous to me over the years and I thought if I could give back
anything, it would be good. And I know I did help some those last eight years
of her life. I think she was glad I was here. And they were glad I was here
and I know that Dad was glad because he kept, he was very good at writing and
he kept writing me letters at birthdays and stuff like that, of real thanks.
Interviewer: Letting you know how much it meant to them?
Witkind: That I watched out over Mom.
Interviewer: Sure, sure.
Witkind: Anyway . . . .
Interviewer: What did your husband do then when he came here?
Witkind: Well he commuted for a while and then he didn’t do anything. He
more or less retired.
Interviewer: From that point on?
Witkind: From that point on.
Interviewer: Well thank goodness he was able to do that.
Witkind: I said it was, we were a case where I married him for better or
worse and for lunch and I love it.
Interviewer: Oh good. Well that’s beautiful. So you enjoy your life
Witkind: Well yes. And then another thing happened which brought our lives
much closer together and that – we moved out here in ’63 and Dick is a great
paper reader. He grabs for every paper. He grew up in New York when there were
seven daily papers or something like that and he always went through the late
editions of everything. So one morning, and I’m not a very good newspaper
reader, but one morning, oh, I had come involved, spiritually involved, in
1950 with the New York Yankees.
Interviewer: Yeah, I was going to ask you to tell us about . . . .
Witkind: And that started when Bob Lazarus was at Yale and Jean Hoffman,
that was my sister’s married name, Jeanie’s married name was Hoffman by
the way, when they were both at Yale at the same time and they had friends.
Jeanie was a Yankee fan anyway and they had another couple of friends who were
Yankee fans and we were living in New York, when I was still living with
Warren. And they would come down for a game and they would head toward our
apartment and then I would go to the games with them. And then I became
involved on the radio because they broadcast all the games. And very soon
thereafter, they began to telecast them all. And I began to watch or listen to
them all and even when I came out here in the summer, I’d be out in the yard
with a radio going this way, you know, trying to pick up a New York broadcast.
Interviewer: Get the right band?
Witkind: Well in 197-, this went on and this sport is wonderful because it
goes for six or seven months of the year, and it happens every day and it’s
like this wonderful continued story.
Interviewer: Were you always interested in baseball?
Witkind: I was interested in football because I grew up in Columbus. But
Dad had a piece of the Jets when they were here. I wasn’t as interested
until 1950 though. But because he had a piece of the Jets, I was always able
to get World Series tickets and this World Series, when Dick was sick this
last week, is the first World Series games played in Yankee Stadium since 1950
that I haven’t been at.
Interviewer: That you haven’t been at? Isn’t that something? And you
would have been there if it weren’t for . . . .
Witkind: Of course we would have been there. We had been at the Divisional
Play-Offs and we’d been at the American League Championships quite often.
And I only scheduled this colonoscopy because it was in the extra week that we
had in there.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But you didn’t plan on the other . . . .
Witkind: We certainly didn’t, I mean it was just supposed to be a routine
thing . . . . said he was fine. But he wasn’t fine.
Interviewer: Yeah, well you and I had talked about this before we started
this recording. But just tell us what happened.
Witkind: Well it was just that, well I think I’ll go back and tell you
about the Yankees first.
Interviewer: Let’s do that . . . . for the record. I just want to mention
that you’re wearing a beautiful large ring.
Witkind: I am wearing a 1998 World Championship ring. It’s the only, I
believe it’s the only woman’s ring, I am the only woman in this
partnership and there are 24 diamonds, chip diamonds around the edge of it and
then there’s an interlocking NY, the usual Yankee NY that you see on caps in
the middle of it. It’s on a bed of sapphire and these 24 diamonds each
indicate a World Series, a world champion- ship won by the Yankees.
Interviewer: Oh uh huh. That’s a very meaningful . . . .
Witkind: And my name Witkind is on it.
Interviewer: Oh great. That’s a valuable . . . .
Witkind: It’s a wonderful thing and it’s one of several rings that I’ve
gotten. These earrings, the earrings happened to come from the 1977 rings . .
. . And I’m going to have these but I haven’t got them yet. I also have
some earrings that are a little bit bigger that come from the 1976-1996 rings.
Interviewer: Uh huh . . . . wonderful.
Witkind: The way I got into this thing was on a Saturday morning in January
of ’73, Dick read to me that the Yankees which had belonged for about 7
years at that point, to CBS and had been, really, had just gone downhill like
they were on a roller coaster, were being bought from CBS by a man named
George Steinbrenner from Cleveland, and a group of partners. A group of
partners, and they named all the partners. And that was very interesting. Just
interesting. And that night we went to a party at Jules and Judy Garel’s and
I went in and started talking to a friend of ours named Peter Mykrantz with
whom, for some reason, I always talk about, “I was born for stocks.”
He’s a broker and I am involved in stocks too. So I immediately began
talking about this Yankee thing and he told me that he had been a classmate of
George Steinbrenner’s at Williams and it was as if something came down from
the heavens and hit me in the head and I said, “How well do you know
him?” And he said, “Oh I don’t know him any more. Why?” I
said, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have just a little piece of that
deal?” thinking of the identification. I had never presumed to think
before of any such a thing. And I said, “How well do you know him?”
And he said, “I don’t know him very well. I don’t know him any more.
But of course the Governor knows him very well.” That was when Jack
Gilligan was Governor of Ohio. He was a friend of all of ours and he was at
the party. There were only, you know, about 25 or 30 people. So I immediately
went across the room and said, “Jack, would you be willing to call George
Steinbrenner and see if I could get in on that Yankee partnership of
his?” He said, “Sure, I’ll be glad to.”
Interviewer: Oh what a neat connection.
Witkind: So, that was Saturday night. On Monday morning, Monday noon, the
phone rang and the voice at the other end said, “Hello Char. Jack
Gilligan here. I just talked to George Steinbrenner and he said he’d be glad
to have you if I recommend you.”
Interviewer: Oh boy. Uh huh.
Witkind: And, it sort of gave me the shivers because you see, I felt that I
was being like a whimsical child, like a willful child. I didn’t know what
this was going to cost. I didn’t know what I was getting into. But I was
getting committed and I . . . . sometimes. And I just did this on the spur of
the moment. And Mother had died so I had a little money because Mother’s
money came directly to all of us. I wouldn’t have had anything a couple of
years before that, but Dad was still living and we were going over there to
dinner that night. And I really was worried about telling him that I had gone
and done this crazy thing, and committed myself and Dad was always perfect in
his response to things. He said, “Look Char, if you’re doing this to
make money, don’t. But if you’re doing it to have fun, I think you’ll
have a ball.”
Interviewer: Oh great. So he didn’t discourage you?
Witkind: I felt as if the weight of the world had fallen off my . . . . It
has been the most fantastic investment anyone could ever have made.
Interviewer: How exciting. You mean financially?
Witkind: Financially plus we have had a ball. And we have followed every
scrap of everything together, Dick and I, and for our 25th anniversary, I was
the partner, not Dick. And I was the only woman partner. But he came to all
the meetings. For our 25th anniversary, I gave him part of my shares.
Interviewer: Oh what a neat thing to do.
Witkind: And George, I think George likes Dick much better and he likes me
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you did really know George Steinbrenner?
Witkind: Of course, I’ve known him for 27 years.
Interviewer: That’s great.
Witkind: It is said, though I don’t believe it, that I’m the only one
he’s scared of.
Witkind: I don’t believe that for a second.
Interviewer: Because you speak your piece?
Witkind: Occasionally. Every couple of times I have . . . . well, you know.
Interviewer: You need that little bit of . . . .
Witkind: I don’t believe that. I think that’s just talk.
Interviewer: Maybe that’s the spice in this little pot, you know, it just
adds a little more . . . .
Witkind: We’ve had fun with it. Listen this is his team. It’s nobody
else’s team. That if somebody wants to made the remark to a Wall Street
Journal reporter, one of our department men named John McMullen, said,
“There is nothing in the world quite so limited as being a limited
partner of George Steinbrenner’s.” Which is very true.
Interviewer: He has control. How often do you meet? Is there . . . .
Witkind: Sometimes we meet a couple of times a year; sometimes once.
Interviewer: Whatever the need is?
Witkind: But we go to the games all the time. Now I’m not allowed to fly
any more without oxygen so we’ve been chartering this summer.
Interviewer: . . . . the one that commercial . . . .
Witkind: Well, it gets pretty complicated on commercial flights and so I,
we’ve been chartering this summer. We have been down quite a drop. We have
been down about once a month for. I think we will have seen maybe, we probably
saw about 22 games this year . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah, they’ve had you pretty involved.
Witkind: But usually, it’s about 36.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I want to touch back on a couple of things.
Witkind: But at any rate, that’s one of the close things that Dick and I
Interviewer: Well it sounds like it’s . . . .
Witkind: And it’s, we’ve had a lot of fun.
Interviewer: you’re both interested in it.
Witkind: Uh huh.
Interviewer: That’s fun. That’s exciting. You mentioned something about
vacations as a youngster with your family. Tell us about some of your travels,
Witkind: Well, first of all when we were children, well the first trip I
rem–, I can remember a trip I took with my parents when I was 2. And I can
remember several things about it. We went to Chicago and I can remember a
little bit about Chicago, very little, but I can remember a couple of little
details about Chicago. And we went up to a place called Green Lake, Wisconsin,
and I can remember my second birthday there. Bob Levy, Sr. was with us. I
remember he made me a birthday cake out of sand and then he’d use sticks for
candles . . . .
Interviewer: Were there pictures taken at that time? Do you think maybe
that’s what . . . .
Witkind: I haven’t got them.
Interviewer: your memory?
Witkind: No. I just remember them. And I remember going over to Mother’s
roommate in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and they had two, they had three daughters I
guess but two of them I knew particularly well. Not particularly well but I
knew. And I remember being in a bathtub with them. And things like that that I
remember when I was 2. My memory goes back pretty much. And also, I’m a good
rememberer of things that happened, things that happened to my parents because
I really couldn’t see. They thought I was blind when I was born and my eyes
improved up until I was, they kept improving a bit until I was into puberty
and then they stabilized. But as a result, I’ve spent a lot more time around
grownups and you develop your – and I’m smart – and you develop, so I
remembered what they said.
Interviewer: Did that hinder your schooling in any way?
Witkind: No. Twice I went to doctors who were absolutely astonished that I
was in school, which was ridiculous.
Interviewer: But you could see well enough to read?
Witkind: I couldn’t see the blackboards very well but I could see,
certainly I could see to read. I just had to hold it like this. I still do.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Nearsighted, you could see near?
Witkind: Look at my, watch my right eye now. You see what it’s doing?
Witkind: It’s gotten palsy. That’s not in the eye itself, it’s in the
brain stem and so that’s why I don’t see clearly. Because it won’t hold
still. I can drive.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So it hasn’t hindered you in any way.
Witkind: It has hindered me athletically. And when I say I don’t cook, it
has something to do with it because my spatial perception is not as good in
little things, threading a needle or doing any fine work or . . . .
Interviewer: Well but you’ve managed in so many other ways.
Witkind: You can manage anything by force of a little personality.
Interviewer: That’s true.
Witkind: Anyway, we used to go, well we were taken places as kids. I
remember going to Norfolk a couple of times and taken to Niagara Falls and . .
. . generally Babs and I. Then later as a family, when I was six or so, we’d
go up to Charlevoix, Michigan, for the summer for several years and then I
went to camp at Raildon in Maine beginning when I was 12 and loathed it for
the first year and then later, love-to-hate, you know . . . .
This is Donny Gorman – this is Naomi .
Interviewer: Okay, where were we? We were talking about your trips and . .
Witkind: Well we summered in Charlevoix and we used to go to a, you know,
we called it “the gang” a day group, day camp. And I went to Walden
off and on. I went one year and hated it and was very homesick. I think I was
really scared to death because Mother was pregnant with Nancy, the baby that
didn’t live, and I had been reading a book about a woman, something, a woman
who died in childbirth and . . . .
Interviewer: Oh so you were . . . .
Witkind: Frightened and also I couldn’t do . . . . I couldn’t play
baseball, I couldn’t see the ball. I couldn’t do a lot of the things they
did and I didn’t like not being able, I didn’t like having to do them. I
just didn’t like being away and so on. So I managed to get out of it the
second year and then by the third year, I wanted to go and I went three or
four more years and enjoyed it. But I turned the camp around. I never did the
athletic things, just swimming and boating.
Interviewer: . . . . skills in your brain. Okay.
Witkind: Writing and writing songs and doing the dramatics and doing their
yearbook and stuff like that.
Interviewer: Well those were good memories.
Witkind: Excellent. And we went on a wonderful trip as a family. We were
going to go to, Mother and Dad, Mother was dying for us all to go to Europe
but by the time we were finally able to arrange it, it was 1939 and Dad was
afraid to do it and he was right. So we went on a cruise and went up . . . .
Interviewer: Just for the record, explain why 1939 was not a good time to
be traveling to Europe.
Witkind: Well if war happened to break out, and it looked like it was going
to. On September l the Germans marched into Poland and I will tell you where
we were when that happened because it was interesting. We took a trip on a
British ship, the six of us, my parents and my three siblings and I, on a ship
called the Corinthian, which was a Canarder, that went up to Quebec City, up
the St. Lawrence. And it was supposed to come back through the Gaspe which we
couldn’t do because it was so foggy, and then ended up in Bermuda and then
came back to New York except we stayed in Bermuda for the extra two weeks and
my Dad was not at all well and was having terrible ulcer problems and anyway,
we got picked up. Things were getting more and more frightening and we were
hoping that ship was coming back. But we weren’t positive and we were very
happy when it did get back and we left Bermuda let’s say on maybe the 29th
of August or something like that . . . .
Interviewer: In the year?
Witkind: In the year of ’39. I remember having my 20th birthday while we
were in Bermuda. And we came back blacked out.
Interviewer: Char, I’m going to stop you now because we’re almost at
the end of this tape. I’m going to stop you for a second because I’m going
to switch to another tape. We’re at the end of side B, tape l. . . . . 2. Go
Witkind: Okay, we also were on the Corinthian, coming back from Bermuda
blacked out. They took our radios away as soon as we got on the ship. It was
before the days of regular transistor radios. But there were portable radios
for a brief time before transistors and this one was perhaps oh 18 inches long
and maybe 9 inches deep and so on. And they took them away from us until we
got into New York Harbor where there were black, the decks were covered with
black curtains and you could not show a light on deck. It was scary . . . . We
got our radios back as we got into New York Harbor and got the news that as we
were doing it, the Germans were marching into Poland. And then when we got
home, we heard that England had gone in. And I think we were among those who
did have some feeling of the horribleness of Hitler and some feeling of what
was happening to the Jews but were sort of helpless to do anything about it.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Why do you say that?
Witkind: Why were we helpless?
Interviewer: No, why did you say you had the feeling . . . .
Witkind: Well we listened to the radio a lot. We listened to the news a
Interviewer: So you were in tune with what was going on . . . .
Witkind: Yes, exactly, uh huh.
Interviewer: Did you have, did your father have family there at all?
Interviewer: No relatives were left in Germany?
Witkind: Not that we know of at all. The only, when my grandmother Amelia,
great grandmother Amelia, had been married before and had two children by her
first marriage and must have been widowed, as far as we can figure out. She
was, well her name doesn’t matter but I will find out by the way, that other
name that I couldn’t think of ’cause it’s in the book. And her daughter
Fannie stayed there and had a family over there. But we’re talking back,
this daughter Fannie must have been born in the 1840s. So we’re really
talking back a long time. And she probably had some descendants that may have
been involved but I don’t believe that my father or Uncle Si, Charles’
Lazarus’ father, knew anything about these people. So therefore, we had no,
this was just a branch of the family that was, and they really weren’t even
our, well they were our family. They really weren’t exactly our family
anyway. But so we didn’t. But Dad’s family used to spend summer,
especially the last, there was a period when they used to spend a month or two
at a spa in Germany. And Mother spent one summer in Germany in a small town
where she was allowed to run pretty free, when she was about 9. And she really
learned some German because she was young enough that she picked it up easily
and Dad thought he could speak a little but I can remember being in Germany
with him off a cruise in 1965 and he was simply horrified because he wasn’t
able to make anyone understand him and he wasn’t understanding them.
Interviewer: Well he probably hadn’t used it . . . .
Witkind: But at any rate, we were very pro everything that, anything that
Roosevelt could do to help.
Interviewer: Sure. So your family supported and helped in some way?
Witkind: I don’t know how much we helped.
Interviewer: Do you remember the, did you know about the 5– . . . .
Witkind: Was it the 561 Shop or the 5– . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh. It was part of the Schonthal Center.
Interviewer: Was it next to the Schonthal Center?
Witkind: No, I don’t think so. The shop on Rich Street that Rosalie
Steinhauser started to help the German refugees who got over earlier, people
who’d come from very well-to-do families and they couldn’t practice their
own trade or their own, they were lawyers and things like that and what were
they going to do here? And the women had all had household help in their
houses but Rosalie Steinhauser and some other women taught them how to bake
and they had a wonderful bake shop. “57l Shop” it was called. Was at
571 E. Rich Street. And I don’t think it had a damn thing to do with the
Interviewer: Uh huh. But the purpose was to help . . . .
Witkind: The purpose was to give them a way of making some money and to
help them out that way.
Interviewer: So it turned out to be a successful . . . .
Witkind: It was a successful venture while it lasted and I went away to
college so I don’t know if you know. I left here for college in 1938 and so
I’m not sure how long it went on. But I remember they used to bake
absolutely marvelous, they made good schnecken and they made wonderful
Interviewer: Yeah, I’ve interviewed some people in the past that have
talked about the 571 Shop. There was a lot of interest in that. What about
when you got older? Did you travel on your own, did you go overseas when you
were . . . .
Witkind: Later, a lot later. Dick and I did travel quite a bit. We’ve
never done the hard trips. I always thought it was sort of dumb to go to
Africa if you couldn’t see the zebras.
Interviewer: Well that’s true.
Witkind: I mean it. And I’m kind of lazy and we’ve gone to comfortable
places but we, when I was married to Warren, well first of all, I followed
around during World War II. I figured one time I spent 30 nights during the
time that America, the United States was in the war, I’d spent 30 different
nights on sleepers because Warren used to be switched around a lot as a
doctor. And I would go, and then I would come home to see Bobby and then I
would go back and meet Warren again. So I spent a lot of nights on sleepers.
And lived in Baton Rouge when I was first married. I was married in New
Orleans because his group was alerted just as we were going to be married
Interviewer: So did you have a small wedding then?
Witkind: Yeah, we had a very small wedding. Mother and Dad and Jeanie and
Bob and a friend of mine whose wedding I had been in a couple, a few weeks
earlier, a college friend of mine, and the rabbi whose name was Feibelman, and
his wife, and that was all I think. And I was going through a very difficult
period at that time of having anxiety and panic attacks. I remember I wasn’t
able to quite stay through the dinner. I got sick again. And then we were in
Baton Rouge for about a year and I spent time, a miserable summer because it
was terribly hot. There was no air conditioning and I was pregnant. I wasn’t
sick pregnant but I was still going through the same anxiety business and I
didn’t get sick pregnant, I never got any morning sickness.
Interviewer: It was just not a comfortable . . . .
Witkind: But it was kind of miserable and I was homesick.
Interviewer: Well that probably had a lot to do with it, huh?
Witkind: No, what had to do with it was this other business, as I said,
this anxiety business. And it was uncomfortable. It was mean hot. But I did
know some people there because I had visited there, visited this college
friend there before and they were all nice to me and so I had some friends. I
had people to play bridge with and so forth. And after we were there, I came
home and had Bobby and Warren went to San Antonio to Flight Surgeon School and
after, when Bobby was about six weeks old, I joined him down there and was
there for about a month and then I came home and Warren was sent to, where was
he sent? Oh he was sent to Sacramento where he was for just a very few days
and then he was sent to Santa Maria, California, where he was only for two
days. And then he was sent on detached service up to Minneapolis. But he used
to get home between times. He was very good at that. He would hitch rides on
military planes and get back to see us, to see the baby. I joined him in the
Summer of ’43 in, Bobby was born in ’43, and I joined him in Minneapolis
for about a month where he was on detached service. And then I came, went on
over to Charlevoix where Mother and Dad were with the baby, with Bobby, and
then he was sent back to Santa Maria and then back to Sacramento where I
rejoined him and spent the Fall of ’43 in Sacramento. Do you want all of
Interviewer: Boy you could, you had to keep track of him a lot.
Witkind: Well I, but you see I’ve got this kind of a dumb memory that I
can remember all of this junk.
Interviewer: I think it’s great. It’s truly a gift.
Witkind: And then I came home to see Bobby in December of ’43 and Warren
was trans—, Warren’s group was going to Ardmore, Oklahoma, and then
overseas. But on the way, he developed appendicitis so he stopped. I remember
the name of the place. By God, I was going nuts the other night. I couldn’t
remember the name of where he stopped to get operated on and he was here too.
This was the night before last. I’m going to call him up and tell him. It
was Kingman, Arizona. He was, he just was doubling up and he picked up a
soldier, he was driving the car to Oklahoma from Sacramento. And he got sick.
And he picked up a soldier who was stationed at Kingman and he took Warren to
Kingman and Warren ran into a guy who had been trained at Columbia Pass where
Warren had been at Medical School, a surgeon. So he decided to go ahead and
have his appendix out because he was in agony. And he did. I was on the train.
When I got home I got a call that Warren was in the operating room in Kingman,
Arizona. So then he worked, since he was the head medical officer of his
group, he wrote himself a month’s leave, convalescent leave, and he came
home and . . . .
Interviewer: He didn’t have to go overseas then?
Witkind: His group had gone. So he didn’t have to go. Then he ended up
going back to Ardmore. I joined him in Ardmore and we were just about to bring
Bobby down there, no that wasn’t that time. I joined him in Ardmore. We were
there. And then he was sent to germ warfare school or something like that. He
was sent to Washington anyway, for a couple of months. So I was home again
with Bobby and the family. And met Warren, I remember, at West Chester where
there was a Federated Stores meeting over Mother’s Day. And there was a
funny story on that one. They were having a party at the West Chester Country
Club which was serving as the headquarters of this meeting for everybody, for
Mother’s Day party, and there were some military men in the room and they
were all being honored. There were some Navy enlisted men and there was Warren
who was a, I think a captain at that point, and there was a colonel. And
Warren had gotten a ribbon, a medal, when he joined the Society of Military
Surgeons. It’s a very colorful-looking ribbon, looked rather attractive on
his uniform, and he decided to wear it. And then the other officer, the other
Army officer, Air Force officer, was also wearing a ribbon, that was in the
room that night. He was a very tall man and we were dancing and I was looking
at this ribbon that he was wearing and it was pale blue just with little stars
all over it. (laughs) Do you know what that is?
Interviewer: What is it?
Witkind: The Congressional Medal of Honor.
Interviewer: Oh goodness.
Witkind: And Warren is wearing the Society of Military Surgeons. He never
wore it again.
Interviewer: We were talking about stepping you up a little bit.
Witkind: All right. I’m going to rush through the rest of the Army. Later
we went back to (hearty laughter), after we finished that tour in Washington,
we went back to Ardmore. We were going to bring Bobby down. We had a place out
in the country. We had it for about three days, we got it all furnished, and
he was sent to another military school. And I left and went up to Charlevoix
where Mother and Dad and Bobby were up in Michigan. So then the last, his last
station in the United States was in Great Bend, Kansas. I used to have jobs in
these various places. I would be somebody who would sit at a desk in a
military hospital and take money, dispense condoms, do stuff, locate calls for
people, and so on. Or I would be an assistant librarian. That’s what I did
later. And I was very proud because though I did it on a voluntary basis,
every time I left a place where I was assistant librarian, they got a paid
Interviewer: Oh so you . . . .
Witkind: I thought it was good. I made myself . . . .
Interviewer: You paved the route for them?
Witkind: That’s right. I also used to run my own little USO because there
would be some of the guys, the enlisted men who would, who didn’t like the
enlisted mens’ clubs because they were too noisy. They liked to sit around
and chat about all kinds of controversial subjects and so on. So I furnished
that. And then Warren went overseas and I came home for the year that he was
gone. And then we moved when he returned. He got a residency in
neuropsychiatry and we moved to New York and lived there. I was there from ’45
until ’63 when we moved back out here. And I worked almost all that whole
time. I worked for something called The League for Fair Play first. And then
when that kind of dissolved, that was a, well that was an interesting deal
that I’m not going to go into but I did – but that was a fascinating . . . .
Interviewer: Just give us a touch of what that was.
Witkind: Well what it was really was that the man who started it who had
been a friend of my Dad’s named Clyde Miller, had been in Germany twice
since Hitler was just beginning to come to power. And he had been a man who
had been teaching others how to sell school systems. He was at Columbia at
Teacher’s College and his job was to teach school systems how to sell
themselves to their communities. And he used the various propaganda methods
and he went to Germany and he saw Hitler using these same methods to sell his
hate business to people and he decided that what was terribly needed was a
method of immunizing people against propaganda and he developed something
called Propaganda Analysis. And he did his most, the best work he did was in
Springfield, Massachusetts and he developed the Springfield plan for the
schools and we were, I worked with him later in his propaganda institute
around the country, spreading it around as well as we could. I did that for a
while and then when that began to be, he really wasn’t well enough to go on
with it and we didn’t have enough funding for it after a while. Then I began
to work with my sister Babs for a year with the League of Women Voters. And
then she went to New York. She moved to Tucson. But I stayed with the League
of Women Voters and I worked, it was volunteer but I did it every single day.
I mean I got up and I went down there in the morning . . . .
Interviewer: You were a full-time volunteer?
Witkind: I was a full time, well a three-quarter time, at any rate. I didn’t
get there that early and I usually left so that I would be home fairly soon
after the kids got home from school. But it was an every-day deal and I had,
it was fun because people from all the five boroughs worked on it. There was a
group of us that became very, very close friends and they were wonderful women
and I always said that as a younger person, I never would have gone moved to
any city but what I would have immediately joined the League of Women Voters
because I would have found people who had the same values I did.
Interviewer: Well that’s interesting. I’ve not talked to very many
people about the League of Women Voters but . . . .
Witkind: The League of Women Voters is a wonderful organization. Truly.
Interviewer: I’m going to impose upon you to go back on a couple of
things that I wanted to be sure to cover. First of all, I wanted you to tell
us a little more about your relatives, your uncles and cousins.
Interviewer: And then, the reason I’m doing that Char is because I want
you to lead into the family business, how it evolved, how it developed, and
where it’s . . . .
Witkind: There’s a wonderful book about that which is perfectly available
around that Mary Yerian put together. I’m trying to think of the name of it.
It may just be called “Lazarus” too.
Interviewer: Lazarus also you mean?
Witkind: No, I don’t. It may also be called “Lazarus”. I’ll
have to look and see if I can put my hands on one to lend you and then it’s
going to be a loan.
Interviewer: All right. Well, we’ll talk about that after.
Witkind: But at any rate, I had, the way the family worked down. Let’s go
back to Simon Lazarus. He had two sons and four daughters that survived. The
daughters did not enter into very much except that they were around. They were
my great aunts and . . . . I knew some of them a little bit. One son was my
grandfather, Fred Lazarus. The other son was Ralph Lazarus who never married
and who died at age, I would say about 50 or 51, of Hodgkin’s Disease, many
years before I was born. So that then there was just Fred and his wife whose
name was Rose and was always called Dearie.
Interviewer: Was that a nickname or . . . .
Witkind: It was just what her husband called her and then really her
children sometimes called her Mother and sometimes they called her Dearie. She
was always referred to by all of us as Dearie. I was only four when she died
but she was known as Dearie. And she was big in setting up the sisterhood,
Dearie was, out here. At the Temple, Temple Israel. . . . Eichberg is their
name. My father’s mother’s name was Eichberg, E-I-C-H-B-E-R-G. And they
came to Cincinnati before the Lazaruses came, about twenty years, I would say,
before the Lazaruses came to Columbus. And they settled there and I don’t
think they were very well off and everything. The little bit I got from Dale
Interviewer: Okay. So we’re with Rose and Fred.
Witkind: Rose and Fred had . . . .
Interviewer: They were your grandparents?
Witkind: They were my grandparents and Fred was the only male heir,
surviving heir, of Simon. And the store began to grow a little bit under,
particularly under Uncle Ralph. First of all, Simon died in 1877. He came here
in ’51; he died in ’77, leaving his two young sons . . . .
Interviewer: But he had already started . . . .
Witkind: He had started a small store and I think they sold work pants.
They eventually added shoes and then later on, Uncle Ralph and Grandpa Lazarus
put in, then there began to be ready-made suits. You know, there weren’t
ready-made suits. Suits were made by tailors or your mother or whatever.
Interviewer: But you couldn’t just buy . . . .
Witkind: No you couldn’t.
Interviewer: Where was the first little store that . . . .
Witkind: The first little store, I think, was on High Street, I think it
was. They lived on Front Street and I think the store was on High Street. And
the store that preceded the location where they are now was just on the other
side of Town Street, but also on the west side of High Street. And that store
at one point I know had a pool with a big alligator in it. And also had a big
store front and on Sundays, everybody came down to do inventory and this is
from Dad’s childhood that he’s telling me this. And then they all had
sodas and there was always one guy who used to get his soda and then come back
and say, “I need a little more sody for my ice cream.” And after a
while, he’d need a little more ice cream for his sody.
Interviewer: So it was a never-ending soda?
Witkind: He used to work in four or five, Dad said. So anyway, after Simon’s
death in ’77, Amelia outlived him for 22 years and her two sons who must
have been aged about 26 and 24, or something like that at his death, she didn’t
entirely rely on them about the money and she came down, they lived at the
time at I think I give 380 Town Street at Grant, she came down every single
evening and counted the money.
Interviewer: Oh she wanted to keep her hands on it?
Witkind: That’s right. And Aunt Amelia came down and counted the money. I
always got a big kick out of that. But they never did trust the women very
much. I mean, the men, it was assumed that the men would do it.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That’s kind of Old World too isn’t it?
Witkind: Yeah, yeah. The Old World still exists a lot. Anyway, Babsy and I,
in looking for some various family history at one point went down to the
courthouse and found a will of my grandfather’s which said that he knew that
his sons would respect his wishes enough to see that no share of Lazarus stock
fell into the hands of anyone other than his male heirs.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that tells you something about him.
Witkind: Sure does. And within 12 years, Uncle Fred had turned it into a
public company and anybody could buy it, Federated. It was Uncle, Grandfather,
after Uncle Ralph died in 1903, I believe, Uncle Si, who was Charles Lazarus’s
dad and Uncle Fred, Fred, Jr., was two years younger, Simon Lazarus was born
in ’82 and Uncle Fred in ’84, 18– that is.
Interviewer: Uh huh. That’s important since we’re going into another
Witkind: And we’re now talking, they were in their early 20s at the time
that I’m talking about, they decided the store needed to grow. And they, I
think the store may have already moved over to the other side. I’m not sure.
I’m not quite sure when they moved over on to the side of Town Street they’re
on now, but Uncle, my grandfather really went into hock. I mean, he borrowed a
lot of money and the family always lived comfortably in his lifetime and this
was really something, to let these kids have their way on it but he did and
that was the beginning of being a major institution. And you know, for many,
many years, certainly in all of my life time until the last 20 years, last 15
years I would say, Lazarus was an institution that was, that for a radius of
50 to 75 miles around, it was Mother Lazarus or Father Lazarus or what have
you. Everybody came in and got their Easter outfits, got their back-to-school
stuff, they planned their day to come in and have something to eat at the
Chintz Room and so forth and so on. And all of this growth came under, just
about all of it, under my uncle and my dad. Dad was six years younger than
Uncle Fred. There was another child in there who died of, I think, typhoid
fever at age 3 or something, before Daddy was born. But this enormous growth,
this became the fact that Lazarus was THE feature of Columbus. And
another very interesting Lazarus story that you’ll find, a lot of this stuff
you can find in this long article that I wrote, but Uncle Si decided that they
should have a tea room. And one time he happened to be traveling by train
through Topeka and got off and went to a Fred Harvey Restaurant which he
thought was wonderful and he got hold of the young woman who was running it
and persuaded her to come and open a tea room at Lazarus. Which she did. Her
name was Mary Love. And she opened this very successful tea room about 1915, I
think this was, and Mother was just beginning to come over here to visit and
everybody entertained everybody else in this rather small Jewish community at
that time. And she was often taken to Lazarus for luncheon or for tea and at
the time, chicken salad, a plate of chicken salad with its various garnishes
cost a quarter and fruit salad with little sandwiches was fifteen cents.
Interviewer: Uh huh. But that was pretty elegant eating?
Witkind: Uh huh. And it was, the food was always wonderful. And we used to,
for years, we always went to the Chintz Room and so on. But these were the
years, and then onward, that they’d grown. I can remember at age 3 when the
building between Front Street and the Alley was built. I can remember being in
a car and seeing that building being built. ‘Cause I would go around
everywhere with Mom.
Interviewer: So you’ve really watched the growth from the . . . .
Witkind: Uh huh. Yeah. And it was new. And Dad got the figures every night.
They would call up with a tape . . . . I remember the day’s excitement, the
day the store first had a million dollar day.
Interviewer: Oh boy. Then what about the stock development. How did that
Witkind: Actually, I think after Grandpa Lazarus died in 1917, and I think
very soon thereafter stock was given to some of the higher-up people who were
not in the family, Lazarus stock. And one of the people I happen to know it
was given to was a man named Lee Davis whose daughter, Mary Ann Davis, is a
year younger than I and is not in really very good shape and has never had
very much to go on, but when Campo bought Federated in 1988, which was an
unfriendly takeover, but it paid about twice as much as it was worth at the
time, which was, that was friendly in one sense.
Interviewer: So these are the people who were involved . . . .
Witkind: Well we had a lot of stock but nobody wanted him to have it
anyway. But nonetheless, he got it. But Mary Ann Davis did get a hunk of
Federated stock which was much the most money she’d ever had that her father
had left her. So that Lazarus stock began to be sold and also, Lazarus bought
Shillito’s in Cincinnati in 1927 and then in 1929, the heads of Uncle Fred
and a man from Filene’s named Louis Kerstein, Filene’s in Boston, and
Abraham & Strauss in Brooklyn, Walter Rothchild, decided that they would
like to put those three stores together in a holding company. They would merge
the stock of those three stores, which they did and in 1930, the following
year, Bloomingdale’s came in.
Witkind: That was Federated. Exactly.
Interviewer: Okay. The Federated Chain?
Witkind: That was the Federated group. Those four stores, well there were
really six because Lazarus had Shillito’s and Filene’s had an inexpensive
store named White’s up in Boston. And the head of this thing was one of the
Filene brothers, not Lincoln, the other one. Which Filene? Well anyway it was
the less-active Filene brother. And nothing happened with it, it just was a
stock, until ’41 when he died and Uncle Fred took over. And then all Hell
began breaking loose because Uncle Fred started acquiring other stores and I
had a very good song on that which I won’t sing. But it was “Freddy is
Busting Out All Over”. And they bought stores around the country.
Interviewer: Was that going the right direction?
Witkind: It was going in the right direction.
Interviewer: Positive, real positive move?
Witkind: Yeah they bought Burdine’s in Miami and they bought, the only
mistake was the Milwaukee Boston Store. That one wasn’t so good but they
bought Magnin’s and Bullock’s on the west coast and they bought Goldsmith’s
in Memphis and they bought the big store in Atlanta, oh what, blocking on the
name. What’s the big store in Atlanta?
Interviewer: Oh I remember . . . .
Witkind: I’m not very familiar with Atlanta.
Interviewer: Well I’m not much help to you.
Witkind: At any rate. And they bought Foley’s and big store in Dallas and
then they began building branch stores too and it really did mushroom into a
big deal. And then just to continue to the present, Campo bought the whole
thing and then he went broke. And so it was bought back.
Interviewer: The whole package?
Witkind: The whole package and, but he had divested himself of some of the
stores and added a couple of others and so a group bought them back and it
became Federated. It went into bankruptcy and came out and . . . .
Interviewer: Was it the same family members involved when it came back?
Witkind: Not really, no, huh uh. We were all interested. Except the only
one who is still in it is Bob.
Interviewer: Bob still is interested?
Witkind: Bob is still a Vice-President of Lazarus. But basically now it’s
three groups of stores. (Phone bell and call interrupt.)
Interviewer: Okay, let’s continue now. So the store pretty much, all right,
you said Bob is still . . . .
Witkind: Bob is still, Bob is still a Vice-President of Lazarus. He does
primarily community work for Lazarus and their liaison with the Columbus
community. And he also, sometimes, like right before Christmas, he may go
around and see a lot of the associates at a lot of different stores. You know
there are a bunch of Lazarus stores in Indianapolis. And there are stores in
Lima and Mansfield and there are stores in Pittsburgh and there are stores in
West Virginia. I mean there really are a lot of Lazaruses as well as
Cincinnati and Dayton and so on.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So it’s still a going . . . .
Witkind: It’s a big group of Lazaruses which is just one of the divisions
of Federated. And I think it might be that some day they will call it Macy’s
because they are calling most of the stores on that level Macy’s.
Bloomingdale’s are their more-exclusive stores. Stern’s are their
least-exclusive stores. And Macy’s are their, when they bought Macy’s,
that was a great shock because that was, at any rate . . . .
Interviewer: A big move?
Witkind: A big move but they’ve done very, very well with it and a lot of
it was done by this gentleman named Allen Westrom who is really brilliant and
they brought him back. I think maybe if he’d been doing it originally, they
might have been able to evade Campo. I don’t know. But Allen Westrom did a
magnificent job in bringing this group of stores out of bankruptcy.
Interviewer: Businesses change and life changes with time. Time goes on.
Witkind: Yes it does. But this, I think, was unnecessary.
Interviewer: Well we have some great background about the business and you
said there is a book and we’ll try to latch onto it. We may already have it.
Witkind: I’ll bet you do.
Interviewer: We’ll talk about . . . .
Witkind: It was written by, it was put together by the person who did a lot
of the P.R. stuff for Lazarus named Mary Yerian. And she did different columns
like what was going on in the store, what was going on in the family, what was
going on in Columbus and what was going on in the world.
Interviewer: Great, great. And organized beautifully.
Witkind: Yeah. It’s a little, it’s a brief account but it clues you in
. . . .
Interviewer: Sure. Let’s talk about something we haven’t talked about
yet and . . . .
Witkind: We haven’t talked about my cousins.
Interviewer: Your cousins? Let’s get into that.
Witkind: Fred and Rose Lazarus, Fred, Uncle Fred and Dearie had four sons,
Simon, Fred, Jr., Robert, and Jeffrey. They had, my generation, we think of
ourselves as the fourth generation; they had, there were I think 17 of us
first cousins. And . . . .
Interviewer: There’s a group right there.
Witkind: That’s right, a large group and when most of us married, we were
still at a point where most of us were having three or four kids ’cause
there’s a really big spread of Lazaruses and the . . . . The Baden family
trees are really quite mammoth. And I know there are a lot of big families.
But we had a reunion last, a year ago summer, where we had only people who
were in the family because of Mother and Dad, Bob and Hattie Lazarus, and
there were fifty of us.
Interviewer: So it was just that one branch?
Witkind: Just that one little branch and there were so many branches. And
many of them moved to Cincinnati. Federated Headquarters moved to Cincinnati
and Uncle Fred moved there and some of his kids moved there but we’re all
over the place now.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So you’re in touch with your cousins?
Witkind: I’m in touch. There’s not too much left in my generation; I’m
one of the medium-younger genera—. There were, let’s see, there were five
boys and three girls older than I. Really, two of those three girls were just
barely, they’re alive. But of the boys, I think just two of the five are
left. And we’re all getting on.
Interviewer: Well I’m so glad that I have this opportunity now to talk to
you while we’re both still able to think of . . . .
Witkind: I once said, I tell you Naomi, I could talk to you from now until
next Yom Kippur and I would not run out of material.
Interviewer: I’m just fascinated by your ability to recall all this. But
you mentioned Yom Kippur and that was one of the subjects that I wanted to
kind of talk about. I wanted to talk about what kind of religious background
you had at all. I know your family was associated with Temple Israel.
Interviewer: But you were associated with Temple Israel.
Witkind: We weren’t really.
Interviewer: You weren’t?
Witkind: Not really, no. I think Dad thought his mother started the
sisterhood at Temple Israel. Dad I know must have gone to Temple. . . . . I’m
sure he was confirmed. This was before, this was long before anybody ever
thought of Bar Mitzvah, even in my time at Temple Israel. And when he was a
kid, I think in his teens, I think he taught Sunday School a little bit. But
certainly never in my memory did they go to Temple.
Interviewer: Did they celebrate holidays at all?
Witkind: Not at all. No. And we did a little bit during the year or two
that I went to Sunday School.
Interviewer: You did go to Sunday School?
Witkind: I went in the third grade. I went when I was 8 and I went again
when I was 13 for a little while. And that’s when I opted out completely.
And they didn’t make any fuss ’cause they didn’t do anything about it
either. My own feeling is I am very much with most generalized Jewish values.
I believe in watching out for the other guy. I loathe any type of prejudice.
It really makes me deathly sick, any kind.
Interviewer: I can understand that.
Witkind: But I do not like religion at all. I mean I recognized religion. I
remember that after Donny was born, it was the first time that Rabbi Folkman
had come. I hadn’t gone back to New York yet. We should have gone back
because Donny had sprung a hernia as an infant and I was still new, so I went
to hear the new Rabbi who was supposed to be a very good speaker, for the
first Yom Kippur service. And I was infuriated, not by him, but by the
service. I mean, what were all these people atoning for, they knew not for
what. I loathed the service. I don’t . . . .
Interviewer: So it wasn’t real to you? It just . . . .
Witkind: It was infuriating to me. And I feel that way about most religious
services. Actually, having gone through CSG, I can accept a sort-of a
non-denominational Christian service easier, mainly because I was exposed to
one every day of my life whether I liked it or not and it didn’t effect me.
Interviewer: Was that part of the school . . . .
Witkind: Yeah, we had Chapel every morning. And you know “. . . . our
school, Oh Lord . . . . as the years increase and . . . . and guide her
children wherever they may be, keeping them forever unspotted from the
world”. But then, I can recite responsive readings and stuff like that
that, it’s just rote.
Interviewer: I don’t think they can get away with that today though, with
the religious . . . .
Witkind: Oh yes they can.
Interviewer: In the schools in Columbus?
Witkind: They don’t do it every day but they have it now and then.
Interviewer: Do they?
Witkind: Yeah, uh huh. Yes they do but there’s no Jesus in it. Not much.
There used to be a little Jesus and some of the hymns said “Jesus”.
Actually, I went through a period where I wouldn’t say it. I would skip the
Interviewer: Uh huh. That sounds familiar.
Witkind: It’s that superstitious.
Interviewer: Yeah we did that too. We used to sing the Christmas carols. I’ll
Witkind: But now I always do sing the Christmas carols. . . . .
Interviewer: But your children weren’t raised with any . . . .
Witkind: None. No, and Warren had had none really. And Dick, I didn’t
find out until a year or two ago, was confirmed but he, Vivian’s mother was
not Jewish and, I tell you something . . . . but I have one grandchild who has
been confirmed and that’s Hattie, the one whose birthday it is today. And
she, she was at CSG and she was not happy with the group she was in and she
decided that maybe she might go to Sunday School. Maybe she’d like those
kids better. And she did. And she was confirmed with them and she spent one
summer over at a B’nai B’rith camp over in the Indianapolis area as
counselor, I think. And she still goes to some of the holidays. But that’s
Interviewer: So there’s a little touch of . . . .
Witkind: Her mother was raised Lutheran. And Bobby was raised nothing and
will have nothing to do with it.
Interviewer: It seems like a lot of the younger kids are coming back to . .
Witkind: Well she did. As a matter of fact, Babsy Davis, who is now called
Witt, a lot of her friends and some of her Jewish friends as well as her
Christian friends, were going to Sunday School when she was about seven or
eight. She thought she should go to Sunday School too so . . . . Jack is a
Protestant, her father. Vivian was half Jewish but was not brought up with
anything. But they nonetheless, dutifully joined Temple Israel so that Babs
used to go to Sunday School.
Interviewer: Yeah, we’re ending Side A of Tape 2 and we’re going to
stop at this point and turn the tape over. Thank you. Okay, we’re on Side B
of Tape 2. Go ahead and continue.
Witkind: And I said to Babs, “You’ve been to Sunday School for
several weeks now. What have you learned?” And she said,
“Ohhhh.” And I said, “You must have learned . . . .” She
said, “I’m just one of the new kids.” And I said, “Well then
you certainly should have learned a little something. You must have found out
a few things.” And she said, “Well the only thing I did learn,”
she said, “was who the first Jewish President of the United States
Interviewer: First Jewish President?
Witkind: Uh huh. And I said, “Really?” I said. “Who was
it?” And she said, “Abraham Lincoln.”
Interviewer: She thought he was Jewish? Abraham?
Interviewer: Oh that’s interesting.
Witkind: That’s about as far as she went. And she dropped out.
Interviewer: That was her Jewish education, huh?
Witkind: That’s right.
Interviewer: Well it’s a good thing she dropped out. Then she was on the
Witkind: No I’m afraid there’s been very little on our side of the
family, at all. You’ll find that, well I’m trying to think, if you could
interview Chuck, which wouldn’t be easy because he is not a talker, he’s
done a lot. And actually there’s a lot of material available. There’s a
lot of it up at the Historical Society. And Chuck has really done quite a bit.
His father was, his father used to stand outside during the services, but he
always was an usher. Disliked the service. He was kind of there. He was a
Lazarus. He was representing the . . . . family. But literally we were brought
up without it. And then, as I say, I have seen, to me it’s phony. It’s . .
Interviewer: Well I think if you’ve been taught some ideals and family
morals and . . . .
Witkind: Believe me . . . .
Interviewer: and that’s your values . . . .
Witkind: I am the mother of the, I am the convener, let me say, of this
family and I love being it. And I understand about Jewish mothers.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well you have a lot of family togetherness. That’s
Interviewer: That’s your religion.
Witkind: That and the Yankees.
Interviewer: And the Yankees.
Witkind: That’s right.
Interviewer: Well you know, as you said, we can go on for hours and hours
and . . . .
Witkind: The other thing, I want to make just a few comments.
Inteviewer: I’d appreciate that.
Witkind: In terms of Jewishness and the Jewish community, I used to listen
a great deal to, and I’ve also seen letters of, oh that Mom got, when she
was first . . . . And then I heard stories about family nights and back and
forth and so on. During the late teens and through the 20s and so on, this was
a very intimate, Reform, maybe snobbish, I don’t know, I wouldn’t be a bit
surprised, in its own little Jewish community. I shouldn’t say snobbish but
they were. They were the ones that started Winding Hollow and so forth and so
on. But they got together a lot. And there was a great deal of warmth and
everybody knew everybody, what was happening with everybody else. They wrote
letters all the time. They cared a lot about each other. And there was so much
warmth to the whole thing.
Interviewer: Yeah, it seemed to be a tight community.
Witkind: It was. It was a tiny little community, really.
Interviewer: But it was pretty much separate from the . . . .
Witkind: And they didn’t, for instance, most of our friends, a huge
number of our friends now are gentiles. We, Dick and I, mostly go with people
who are between 5 and 10 years younger than we are. We happen to. We go with,
well we go around with, Bob, all of us do. But my sister Babs is two years
younger, two and a half years younger. . . . . And Mary and Bob who are 7 to
10 years younger, and people like the Garels who are 15 years younger. We’re
still on the edge with, we’re in with that group if there is a group and a
lot of it, some of it’s Jewish, some of it isn’t. But it doesn’t matter
any more. I don’t think it really does.
Interviewer: Well, you’ve established yourself as . . . .
Witkind: People, as people.
Interviewer: But you do still belong to Winding Hollow?
Witkind: No. And the reason we don’t belong to Winding Hollow is that you
always had to have tee-off times and Dick was commuting to begin with, and he
couldn’t always do it, it wasn’t always the same thing. And then, I talked
to somebody at The Golf Club after it opened, and got Dick, managed to get
Dick invited and gave to him as a birthday present a membership at The Golf
Club. At The Golf Club, you know, there are no women.
Interviewer: What golf club?
Witkind: THE Golf Club.
Interviewer: And where’s that?
Witkind: It is out in, it’s east of New Albany a little bit. It’s on
Kitzmiller Road. It’s right out where Leslie Wexner lives.
Interviewer: Uh huh. And it’s called “The Golf Club”?
Witkind: The Golf Club. Modestly it’s called “The Golf Club”.
And it’s only men. Women may play with their husbands I think Sunday
afternoons but that’s about it.
Interviewer: But you’re not a golfer though?
Witkind: No, I might have been but I was not encouraged. I can’t even
ride around in the cart with him on a nice afternoon. It’s unfuriating, the
whole thing. Fred Taylor built this because he got annoyed when he was held
up, continually held up at the Columbus Club. And it’s one of, it’s a
beautiful, beautiful golf course and it’s one of THE great courses in the
country actually. And Dick is a perfectly terrible golfer but he really likes
and he goes out with Bill Smith and the two of them ride around in different
carts but they go together.
Interviewer: But they have a good time. Is there a club house, I mean a . .
Witkind: Sort of. You can get lunch, I mean they can get lunch, but the
best part is the locker room. And then some of the men like John G. McCoy and
some of them have card games that go on all the time out there. But so we don’t
belong to Winding Hollow. I have resigned from more clubs. But Winding Hollow
as of no use to us because it wasn’t any use to play golf. We do have a
cook. We have always had a cook. So we don’t need the club business for
eating. We also have airedales.
Interviewer: Airedales. You have a beautiful airedale walking right next to
Witkind: I thought I might mention that just so that you wouldn’t be
Interviewer: Yeah, that’s probably . . . .
Witkind: And they’re all named, one after the other “Yankee Doodle
Interviewer: You have more than one?
Witkind: No, they’re sequential. He’s our fourth.
Interviewer: Oh I see.
Witkind: But they’re all named Dandy. We never forget their names.
Interviewer: So your home is pretty much your country club and your . . . .
Witkind: That’s right. And then we go out, we did a lot of European
traveling which I haven’t mentioned in the 60s mostly, and in the early 70s.
Then, I haven’t been abroad I don’t think since, we’ve been going down
to Jamaica often for a week and then we spend our winters from the middle of
January until the latter part of March, when it’s time to go for a meeting
in Spring Training, in La Quinta, California, which is just east of Palm
Desert, about 25 miles east of Palm Springs.
Interviewer: So you have your winter months away?
Witkind: Our winter months are away.
Interviewer: Uh huh. I’m going to start wrapping up and on behalf of the
Columbus Jewish Historical Society, I wanted to thank you for the time that we’ve
spent this afternoon. It’s been an absolutely fascinating experience for me
and I hope that we haven’t worn you out.
Witkind: I hope I haven’t bored you to death.
Interviewer: Not at all. Not at all. And we do appreciate your time you’ve
spent with us.
Witkind: I apologize for not being more Jewish. Though what I didn’t tell
you is about all my family’s friends, you know, who were more so than I, and
Levys and the Gundersheimers and the Harmons and . . . .
Interviewer: Yeah, we’re going to have to get into all those different
Witkind: But I think you’ll do really well if you work with Lois and
Interviewer: Yeah. That’s going to be my next approach.
Witkind: You know, Phyllis lost her husband within the last few months, as
you undoubtedly know, and Lois I . . . .
Interviewer: We’re talking about Phyllis Greene.
Witkind: Greene, yeah. Phyllis Greene. When we were kids. We were at CSG
together, we were at Wellesley together. From the time when we were 10, 11 and
12, every Friday night of the world, she came and slept at our house. So we’ve
been friends, you know, forever and Lois too and our families have all been
Interviewer: Yeah, well we’re going to make a great effort to latch onto
those interviews as well.
Interviewer: But thanks again and wish you . . . .
Witkind: It’s been a pleasure. You’ve been very sweet and very patient.
Interviewer: Thank you.
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Transcribed by Honey Abramson