Interviewer: Okay. This is Bill Cohen for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and we’re at the Columbus Jewish Center today which is Memorial Day and we’re interviewing Diane Mathless Warren. So Diane, maybe you could start by telling us a little bit about any grandparents or even great-grand-parents you know just so we can kind of get your roots.
Warren: Sure. Let’s start with my mother’s side. My mother’s father died before I was born. He died in 1945. He’s Benjamin Schottenstein. They owned Standard Soda Water. And I have, actually, this is interesting, I have a lot of letters that they had written to each other when he went overseas to Lithuania, I believe, to see his mother before she passed in 1926. And it’s interesting. The letters are really interesting to me because as a small business person, and my grandfather died in 1945 and my grandmother Sadie Schottenstein, who we called Mimi, took over the business and she ran it by herself until 1957. And a lot of these letters are, about two thirds, “Honey, how are you doing? How’s the family?”, and one third her telling him, “These are the checks that I wrote. These are the new accounts that I got.” It was just fabulous to me to read all that. Anyway, yes.
Interviewer: … And what was the business?
Warren: Standard, Columbus Standard Soda Water. It was soda pop and when I was a kid, my mother who was, believed that soda pop made your teeth rot, would never let us drink it except on special occasions and I liked the red pop the best. That was my personal memory, but, you know, it was great and they would sell their soda water, their soda pop to restaurants and stores, you know that kind of stuff. They had delivery people who delivered it around. They had salespeople. It was really a small business but really interesting.
Interviewer: That was here in Columbus?
Warren: That was here in Columbus. Right. It was on, I think it was on Mt Vernon.
Interviewer: … and the name of the soda, if I would go into a restaurant and ask for this soda, what would I ask for?
Warren: Well, you would ask for Red Pop or you would ask for Root Beer or whatever but this was the soda. It’s like when you go into, well, I understand now because now it’s Pepsi or Coke, but it was Standard Soda Water. That was the name of the company and that was the name of their product. I know. It’s great.
Interviewer: So, you have a business background in your roots.
Warren: Oh, I do, my father’s side as well, but let’s talk about my mother who was a fabulous person. She actually I think has done this. I think she was interviewed for this because, because I have the [?wrist/?risked] and she was, she was just a fantastic person. I mean, she took over this business when her cousin Herman Schottenstein died and he had two kids. It was Geri Ann and Jeffery, and they were in high school and their mother had died when they were young, so they were orphans, and so Sadie, my grandmother Sadie, took care of them until they were with eighteen and therefore certainly liberated and went on to college, etcetera. She didn’t drive so she learned to drive. They had a house in Bexley and she learned to drive so that she could better take care of these kids for the few years that she was responsible for them which I thought was awesome for her to do that. You know, she was in her fifties, maybe sixty and she was learning to drive so she could take care of these kids. I thought that was fabulous so, yeah, she was amazing. She was an amazing person. My grandfather as I said I never knew. My father’s side, who was Morris and Bess Mathless, they, my father grew up in their house on Wilson Avenue. I think it was 745 Wilson Avenue, which they owned. It was a double. My father had twin sisters, Ruth and Joan and a younger brother Gene. There were two children in that family that died young. One was Sylvia. It died as a baby and there was Arthur. It was a young, young boy when he passed. And my grandfather had, he also was a small business person when he came over and he came to this country in the early nineteen hundred’s. He had a junk yard kind of business and then he had, I think he did some other things in between, and there was, the Depression was in there. Then he had a Sunoco Station franchise, and my father was young and my father used to help him out over there which he didn’t like doing but that was my dad.
Interviewer: Where was that Sunoco gas station?
Warren:You know it was downtown. I think it was like on Rich Street maybe, or something. You know downtown was all completely different than it is now, of course, but I remember that. I remember going there when I was a kid, and he had that until, I think the early Sixties? Sixty-one maybe when he sold it, but that may have been when they sold their house on Wilson Avenue. I mean, life really changed when that, the Interstate went through and really cut off that neighborhood. So, they sold their house and moved to Chesterfield Road, very near our house which was on South Roosevelt, and everything was really close together, and my grandfather, he had a car which he called “The Machine,” which we always thought was like, “Well that’s strange.” We all’s call it a car, Grandpa.” “Well, I think it’s a machine,” and he had a thick accent. He was a terrific guy.
Interviewer: He had a thick accent. He was from where?
Warren: He was from, well, let’s look. It’s on my thing here ‘cause I forget. He was from Lat…no that was Ben. You know what? I…here we go he was from the Ukraine – Olyka, O-l-y-k-a. He got married in 1917 to Bess who was, I think, also from that area? She was very young when she came over. He was older. Hew was a teenager so he had an accent that he carried with him his, you know, my whole memory of him. He died in 1967 of a heart attack and then Bess died in 1982. She had cancer, can’t remember what kind, colon cancer, I think. And yeah, and you know again, so, small business people and when he sold, or when he got out of the Sunoco Station, he sold that, he went to work for my father who was a CPA. My father opened his business in 1947, the day after I was born. He was supposed to open on the day that I was born but since I was born that day he took that day off and then opened it the next day and it was at Roosevelt and Main Street and in his fifty or so years that he had that business he had three different offices all within that block of Roosevelt and Main Street, which was very funny because we lived on Roosevelt, South Roosevelt down near Broad Street, and everything was like all compact and it’s really interesting when you think about it, because you think about where these people came from. They came from these, you know, these small communities, these small shtetls and my parents and my grand-parents, they kind of all still lived like that as I think many, many Jewish people did when they moved to this country. They stayed within the Jewish community. One of the reasons my parents built their house on Roosevelt when they did was because it was very close to the Agudas Achim where they all went, so that everybody could stay at their house, that didn’t ride on Shabbos or didn’t ride on the Holidays could stay at their house so they could walk to services. That was mainly for her mother, Sadie, and my grand-parents on my father’s side were close enough to walk themselves because they were just right down the street on Chesterfield. It was, it was just very, very close and very funny.
Interviewer: So, your father was born here in Columbus.
Warren: He was, he was, Wilson Avenue. He grew up on Wilson Avenue. That’s right.
Interviewer: And your mother was born…
Warren: …in Columbus. Yes, Carpenter, Carpenter Street, they lived, and she had two sisters and a brother. Her sisters were Helen and June and her brother was Neil.
Interviewer: Now, again your mother’s name was …
Interviewer: And her maiden name was…
Warren: Schottenstein. Right. Thank you, for asking. I’m getting confused. Right. Janice Schottenstein, that’s right. That’s right, yeah. And she and my father got married and my father went off to War. Let’s see, so, my father graduated from college, from Ohio State and joined the Army, and he had been in ROTC (She said it not spelled). He joined the Army in, before the War started over here so it was 1940, I think, and, or before we got in to it.so it, maybe 1939…no, 1940, so he was…he met my mother and he, when he came back on leave in 1943, they got married – family wedding, you know, at their house, at my grandmother’s house, and then they went off to different stations in the United States. They were in New Jersey. They were in South Carolina. They had great stories. They both had very funny stories about when they were in the Army together. And then he went overseas in 1945 for D-Day and got sick, so he couldn’t participate in D-Day, which I was always very glad it happened because if it hadn’t happened he might have died but it did happen, but he got sick and was in the Army, was in the hospital while everybody else was out risking their lives. He always felt very badly about that. When he came back he spent a lot of time in the hospital when he came back. He had severe phlebitis, may be some other things as well but that’s what I’m aware of, and then he went on to be a CPA and his first job was with a company in the Lincoln Leveque Tower, but then in 1947 he went off on his own and he did that until he died in 1998.
Interviewer: …and the name of your father’s…
Warren: Norman, Norman Mathless. It was Mathless and Mathless Accounting.
Interviewer: Mathless and Mathless Accounting.
Warren: Mathless and Mathless Accounting, and thank you for making that little like, “huh?” because there’s actually an article written up about that and I actually have a copy of it about Mathless and Mathless Accounting and how weird that, that name would be in an accounting company and…
Interviewer: Well, who was the other…
Warren: Gene, his brother Gene.
Interviewer: His brother Gene.
Warren: His brother Gene. That’s right.
Warren: G-e-n-e. That’s correct.
Interviewer: They were both CPA’s.
Warren: Both CPA’s that’s right. That’s right.Yah.
Interviewer: You mentioned about stories your father had.
Interviewer: We’re always looking for the Jewish angle here.
Interviewer: Did he, did your father tell you any stories that had any, any link with what it was like being a Jew in the Armed Forces during World War II? Anything come to mind?
Warren: [You] know, he did. He was, he was in the South part of the time and especially when they were there in South Carolina, he was shocked at how little people knew about Jews, about Judaism, about anything about that, about anything that wasn’t Christianity, right? And he would, he became friends with these guys and they would play cards together. My dad was really, really good at poker and he would win and unh…unh, but, and the main thing my father would talk about was how surprising it was to him how little they knew – first Jew they ever met, what does this mean, how are you people different, you know, those kinds of things that you hear about people saying when they meet a Jewish person for the first time and they go, “ Oh my God, you don’t have horns!” or whatever it is that they may have thought, whatever kind of prejudicial kind of attitude that they’d had, yeah, it was, that was always really a story for him. He talked about that a lot.
Interviewer: Did he ever actually say that he experienced anti-Semitism?
Warren: You know, I do not recall that, but I’ll ask my brother. He’s got a better memory than I do.
Interviewer: So, in 1947, your father and his brother start the CPA firm…
Warren: No, my father started it and then Gene who was ten years younger came in to it later, like four or five years later, I think.
Interviewer: So, in 1947 it was just your father’s CPA firm and you were born that same year…
Warren: Yes. That’s right, that same day.
Interviewer: …and by that time where did your family live?
Warren: They lived on Ohio Avenue. We lived on Ohio Avenue.
Interviewer: So, when you were born, the family was still in what we might call the Old Jewish Neighborhood.
Warren: No, I’m sorry, no no, no, that’s right, it was Ohio Avenue, that’s right, the Old Jewish Neighborhood.
Interviewer: The Old Jewish Neighborhood.
Warren: That’s right. The Furman’s lived downstairs. Next to us was a family from Israel. I’m not remembering their names but boy, I had a crush on their son. I was, like, three years old. That’s irrelevant. Anyway, yeah, it was the Old Jewish Neighborhood ,right, and everybody left about the same time. In 1951 we built our house on Roosevelt.
Interviewer: In Bexley.
Warren: In Bexley. That’s right, South Roosevelt not too far from Broad Street.
Interviewer: So, you were kind of typical of a lot of Jews at that time. In the Forties and Thirties, they were in the Old Jewish Neighborhood. Post-World War II they started moving in to Bexley, Eastmoor, and the other…
Warren: That’s right.
Interviewer: …the east side of Nelson Road.
Warren: That’s right.
Interviewer: …and you kind of symbolized that. Do you have any memories though or were you too young? Do you have any memories of the Old Neighborhood?
Warren: I do, but, you know, they’re all about me, you know ‘cause I was the baby. I was a kid. I broke my arm. I remember that. And Dr. Fisher set it. I don’t know if Dr. Fisher’s come up in any of these interviews but he was a Jewish doctor on, God, his office was in Bexley, I think, back then. I think. Anyway. That may not be true. Yes, I remember that. I remember Mrs. Furman. I don’t know why. I just remember she lived downstairs and she was always very nice, and I remember the Pieres. They were the people from Israel. Their name was Piere, P-i-e-r-e, I believe, that lived next door to us.
Interviewer: So, you sense it was a, that you were, surrounded by Jews, other fellow Jews.
Warren: Yeah, that’s right and there was four apartments in that building and I don’t remember who was in the fourth one. Yeah, but I remember Mrs. Furman because she was at the bottom of the steps. She was sitting on this little porch on the bottom of the steps when I fell down the steps and she caught me. That’s my, that’s my memory of her, and then I had a cast on my arm and wanted everybody to sign it. That was my biggest memory of when I was that old. Oh, no also I remember my parents had a friend – now this may, well, a friend who had a daughter, from somewhere not in Columbus who had a daughter my age and I just adored this little girl and she would come to visit with her parents who came to see my parents and there’s pictures of us when we were little sitting in front of the, sitting on the stoop in front of this apartment building.
Interviewer: So, when you moved to Bexley, now you were in your own home.
Interviewer: Do you have any memories of how different that was?
Warren: I don’t. I don’t. I’ve not really thought about that. I was four.
Interviewer: Did you go to Cassingham Elementary School?
Warren: I did.
Interviewer: So, what, do you have any memories? You were Jewish. There were other Jews there but Jews were not in a majority. Any memories of, of early years there in terms of, were most of your friends Jewish or not?
Warren: Yes. Right. Most of them were, and some of them I’m still friendly with, not close friends, well a couple of them close friends with still but most of them, you know, yeah. Most of us… it’s interesting. I think about that now in relationship to, you know, how diverse the world is now and how when I grew up it was the Jews, or you were Catholic or Protestant, but there really weren’t really any other religions or societies or demographics associated with Bexley, and when I was a kid, there weren’t any Black kids in Bexley. There was one Black young man, who I think was in the first couple years of our high school years, who was the son of a maid of somebody who went to live on Parkview. That was the only Black kid that I can remember and when I was in school, you know there was a lot of kids who weren’t Jewish that I was friends with, but my best friends were mostly… Marsha Ziskind, Debbie Kayne, you know, Sandy Erkis, I mean it was, it’s just the way it was…Toby Kahn. I mean it’s just the way it was. It was just…we all ended up, I think a lot of it was because we went to services together. We went to Sunday School together which was a big deal, which we all hated and made fun of the teachers. We were terribly mean and rude and awful and I can’t believe the teachers did it and taught us Sunday School. It was just uhh. We were such dreadful little children, and, but the…so, we had that other association, and when we got to be bar mitzvah age, course none of the girls were bat mitzvah, but when we got to be bar mitzvah age and we all had these parties, and the non-Jewish kids would be invited to them and so, now it was just like “Oh, wow, it’s a great party” and the people that weren’t being bar mitzvahed, they didn’t understand what that was about and the importance of it. All they knew was they had to give presents and go to the party and you know, it was just that kind of yah, that kind of cross-over experience between cultures, but, then we had Chanukah. They had Christmas.
Interviewer: What synagogue did you go to?
Warren: Agudas Achim.
Interviewer: Still Agudas Achim which was Orthodox at the time.
Warren: It was. It was. Right.
Interviewer: Did you, was there any sense…did you have any sense of the fact that there were country clubs or events that were off-limits to Jews?
Warren: I had heard the rumor. I had also heard that you couldn’t get into, you couldn’t buy a house in Arlington if you were Jewish.
Interviewer: You could not.
Warren: You could not, right, which actually was true. You could not until sometime in the Sixties. So, I was born in ’47 so, that’s, you know, thirteen years minimum. Yeah, I knew about that. It was interesting. I personally had not experienced any anti-Semitism. I can honestly say I still haven’t really experienced any horrible kinds of anti-Semitism that was personal, but after I graduated from college, no, after I graduated from high school before I went to college, then I started again meeting those kinds of people that my father used to talk about that like, had never met a Jew before, or “You’re not like all the other Jews that I know,” and that kind of thing. It was like, “Huh? Really?” but, ‘cause yes, I really am, but, you know, it’s like…when think about the history of my grandparents and my great-grandparents and what they lived through, I think, by and large, the Jews in Columbus and in Bexley had it pretty good when it came to experiencing anti-Semitism because we, you know, Bexley was another one of those small shtetl-like communities, regardless if you were Jewish or not, and people were very accepting and I think, I think actually in Bexley it had more to do with what part of Bexley you lived in than what religion you were. South Bexley was the ghetto of Bexley. Really, you know? But, you know, well, then there’s North Bexley. It’s like, you know, wow, the Taj Mahal of Bexley. It was just…
Interviewer: So, you’re saying people south of Bexley were looked down upon.
Warren: Yes. I think that that’s true and I think it’s because, you know, for us kids, it was I don’t think we looked down on our friends that lived in South Bexley but I think there was that just sort of that sense that South Bexley was lesser than because they lived there because they didn’t have as much money as the people who lived in Central Bexley and North Bexley which is, which was probably true, and it’s that reputation that Bexley has, you know: Bexley’s rich. Bexley’s Jewish and, by and large that’s not true. May be more true today than it was when I grew up, but my folks weren’t rich.
Interviewer: Were there many Jews living in South Bexley?
Warren: I can’t answer that question. I had some friends that lived in South Bexley. I had a lot of friends that lived in South Bexley. Bonnie Passoff did, Lonnie Rosen. Boy, I’m trying to think who else…
Interviewer: So, they were Jews…
Warren: Yes, they were definitely, oh, absolutely there were Jews in South Bexley so being Jewish didn’t necessarily mean that you were rich, although it didn’t necessarily mean that you were poor either, I guess, so…
Interviewer: So, were you, you were somewhat aware that there was separateness between the Jews and non-Jews but did it, was that hurtful or that was just the way things were?
Warren: Just the way things were. Right. It wasn’t painful because it…there was a difference, that didn’t mean it was bad. It was just different, so I didn’t feel that people didn’t like me or didn’t like my friends because we were Jewish. It’s just that we all recognized that we were different. We celebrated different holidays. You know, the big thing was that, you know this was before the schools in Bexley closed for Rosh Hashanah and Passover and Yom Kippur and…
Interviewer: This is before the Bexley Schools closed for Jewish holidays.
Warren: Exactly. Right.
Interviewer: In the Fifties they did not close.
Warren: They did not, not in the Sixties, either, I don’t think. Well, I graduated in ’65. I don’t remember, I don’t it ever did happen when I was in school. So, it’s that kind of thing of like, we got a free day off and they didn’t, you know. We had eight days of presents. They only had one, you know. There’s lots of thing you can like, well, you know, it’s not so bad, so…
Interviewer: Now did you go to the Excelsior Club?
Warren: I did but I did not go to the Winding Hollow except when I was invited.
Interviewer: …and that was the other Jewish swimming pool.
Warren: That’s right and that was the golf club as well and it was more expensive to belong there and yah, I went to the Excelsior Club…Thank you for asking about that. I haven’t thought of that in years.
Interviewer: Did you have a sense, did you have a sense, did you know back then when you were a teenager that the reason there was an Excelsior Club and Winding Hollow was because Jews were not allowed in the non-Jewish…?
Warren: No. Winding Hollow was Jewish.
Warren: Right. Oh, oh, because they weren’t allowed in like, the other… I didn’t even know what they were. I actually I think I did hear that discussed, yes.
Interviewer: No big deal.
Interviewer: To you it wasn’t a big deal.
Warren: Well, I was a kid. I could like go to the Excelsior Club and I could play with my friends and we could swim and we could play canasta and we could go in that little courthouse, that little room and have lunch and oh, my God it was fabulous. We’d get suntans and it was just great, you know, so, who cared if I wasn’t allowed to belong someplace else? This was fabulous so, you know. It’s like that. I don’t remember, yeah, I probably did at the time. I don’t remember being angry about not being…I remember, I do remember this sort of large world-wide kind of sense of discrimination being wrong. Certainly, Black discrimination, this was sort of the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. I do remember that very clearly. I don’t remember it impacting me personally that I couldn’t do these, that I couldn’t belong to these more elite clubs because I didn’t know anybody there. Why would I want to go? You know, that kind of thing, so… yah, right.
Interviewer: So, you begrudgingly went to Sunday School.
Interviewer: Did you have to go to Hebrew School?
Warren: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: You went to Hebrew school even though you were not preparing for a Bat Mitzvah.
Warren: Yes, we all did. Everybody went to Hebrew School. Everybody went to Hebrew School until they were about…So they went to Confirmation was what, when you were about twelve? Yeah, everybody went to Hebrew school. We all did.
Interviewer: The boys went to Hebrew School so that they could learn their prayers and read the Torah for their Bar Mitzvah.
Interviewer: …but even though you’re saying that the girls in general were not getting Bat Mitzvah’d, they still had to go to Hebrew School.
Warren: We went to Hebrew School and I do remember the most abuse that we as girls got was on the Hebrew School bus and that was obviously from boys our age, and it was just…I remember coming home and saying to my mom, my dad …because I would hear these words that I’d never heard before, words that I don’t’ care to repeat right now because this is going to go into some sort of lasting venue, but I remember hearing boys talk about these things and like, I’d go home and say, “ Mom what’s a this or whatever and she would go “(gasp) Well, that’s not a nice word.”
Interviewer: You were being verbally abused by the Jewish boys.
Warren: …and had no idea what it meant, you know? So, if some little Jewish snot-nosed kid calls me a douchebag, I’m like, “What’s that?” You know and I’d go home. “What is that?” And she’d be like, “Well, not a nice word to use, but,” and she would explain to me what it was actually and then say, “but that’s rude and nobody should ever say that to you,” and I’d say, “Well I learned that on the Hebrew bus.” And I think that was when my parents go, “Maybe she shouldn’t be taking Hebrew lessons.”
Interviewer: …and this was on a bus headed to an Orthodox synagogue.
Warren: That’s right. You got it. That’s right. I know.
Interviewer: Did you, were you, did your parents say, “Now Diane, you can only date Jewish boys”?
Warren: Always. She always said that. They always said that. They were so disappointed when I did not follow through with that.
Interviewer: You mean in high school you dated some non-Jewish boys.
Warren: I did, I did. yeah, with great guilt. Right, but I did.
Interviewer: …and you did it openly?
Interviewer: So, even though your parents said, “You cannot date non-Jewish boys,” you did anyway and they did not…
Warren: What are they gonna’ do, you know? Like, I’m a mother, what are you gonna’ do when your kids don’t [? ] says, “No,” what are you gonna’ do? It’s a different world than they had, when they grew up. With them, I remember my mom telling me this, with their father just said, “No,” that was just it. There was no conversation and they didn’t. With my sister and my brother and I, we just, you know, we rebelled.
Interviewer: You said, “No,” and there were no consequences.
Warren: There were no consequences, right. That’s right and I think I was, I think I was, hid it sometimes, I think I did. I really don’t remember very well and I think it was, I mean, the guys I dated when I was younger were largely Jewish. I think as I got to be closer to graduation from high school I started to go out with some guys who weren’t Jewish, right, but that was on the cusp of being free so, at that point it was really silly for them to…
Interviewer: Are there any Jewish institutions in Columbus that you, that you frequented or were involved with, for instance, the Jewish Center or the Federation or the BBY… is that what they were…?
Warren: BBG, the Bnai Brith Girls.
Interviewer: Bnai Brith Youth…anything that you…
Warren: I actually I was. You know, we spent a lot of time at the Center when I was younger, when they had the bowling alley. We used to swim here before the Excelsior Club opened which…I remember that, ‘cause I remember that really taking a lot of people from the swimming pool at the Jewish Center, the old Jewish Center before we had this brand new beautiful facility that we have now and it took a lot of people away from swimming there, but…yeah, so I spent a lot of time here when I was in, probably through sixth grade. I think by the time I was a, in junior high school and high school I didn’t. I was not active in any of those organizations. My relationship with my religion is different than my relationship with my traditions. I think that’s true of many people my age. My parents when we were little were more Orthodox. We kept kosher and I don’t remember if we went to synagogue more frequently or not. You know, obviously we went to Sunday School but when…
Interviewer: You were raised in a kosher household.
Warren: A kosher household until I was ten, and when I was ten my father lost his biggest client who was about a third of his business, and I’m sure I heard this story after the fact, but, maybe I heard it when I was ten. I don’t remember. We stopped keeping kosher because they said we can’t really afford to buy the kosher meats and we have a budget now and so, we stopped keeping kosher. Now we never had traif in the house, well, except for non-kosher meat and non-kosher kitchen, and chicken, and, etc. We never, we never had pork or shrimp or anything like that in the house. And my parents never ate it out of the house. Now my father did say to me he did eat pork when he was in the Army because it was the only thing that they served some days and he ate it then and he always felt badly about it. He did say that. Yeah, so the relationship with active participation in my religion was different than my relationship with my respect for the traditions and the values and the pride I have in being Jewish but, many people I’m sure would say, “You don’t really act like it. You don’t go to shul,” and that’s true. I don’t, but…
Interviewer: …but you have a, you have pride in being Jewish?
Warren: Oh, absolutely. Sure. I’ve been a Jewish quote-unquote-style delicatessen for thirty-two years. Right.
Interviewer: Yes, tell us about how that began.
Warren: Sure. I was married to a non-Jewish guy, Steve Warren. We got married in Ann Arbor. Well, actually we got married in Texas but we lived in Ann Arbor at the time. We came back to Columbus, we moved to Chicago. We were there for about nine months and hated it. Our daughter was born in Ann Arbor. We moved to Chicago. We were there for about nine months and the whole time we were in Chicago, I’m like, I want my kid to have grandparents. I had grandparents. I want my kid to have grandparents. I want to go home where my grandparents are, where their grandparents are, where her grandparents are, so we moved back to Columbus in 1984 and, without a plan. And one day, Steve said, and I’d always loved delis. Steve liked them too but would…loved delis. I mean from the first deli I went to when I was a kid, to when I used to go to Miami when I was a teenager and in college. I’d go to Pumpernick’s and Wolfie’s and Rascal House, and oh my God, the food was so fabulous and the whole atmosphere was just, Ohh! I just loved it so… you can tell by the way I’m talking. I loved it so much and he said, “Let’s open a…and Zingerman’s who we were friends with, the people that opened Zingerman’s when we were in Ann Arbor, they had just opened in Ann Arbor in ‘82. This was ‘84 and Steve said, “Do you want to open a deli?” and I went, “God, I don’t know, do you?” and he went, “Well if you do…” “Well, ok, let’s do it.” It was like that stupid, it was like stupid! And we, like had no idea what we were doing, and Steve was like, put together a business plan. He went to the library and I typed it on a Selectric typewriter and here I am doing it now and, you know, we put this thing together, you know, we put this business plan together. We went to banks and with my father’s help we, my father co-signed for a loan for us and we opened Katzinger’s in 1984, October 1st.. And the whole idea was to have a Jewish style delicatessen, not a deli, a delicatessen in Columbus, Ohio because Columbus was now at a point where it would accept one. And the reason I say that is because, prior to Katzinger’s, delis were sandwich shops. They were bologna on white bread. They were, they were, they were just, they weren’t really delis. They weren’t like really great bread with crusts on them, European style bread. They weren’t really great corned beef. They just, it wasn’t and people kind of just had a different kind of expectation, but then we had this big influx of people from the East Coast for Nationwide Insurance and I think there was some other place that was bringing a lot of people in from the East Coast, maybe the Limited, bringing a lot of people in from the East Coast and there were people in Columbus and we had been gone. We’d been in Ann Arbor and Chicago and came back and went. Columbus is different now. We could do a deli now, and so, we opened Katzinger’s. We had it opened in…it took us about nine months to get in opened.
Interviewer: It’s at the corner of Livingston and Third.
Warren: Third, in German Village. Perfect location, perfect location and at that time the only neighborhood in Columbus that was both commercial and residential. Gahanna or Grandview wasn’t, Arlington wasn’t. I mean nothing. Bexley wasn’t. There was no commerce in Bexley
It was the only one that was both commercial and residential and we need that because we wanted to sell not just our restaurant type foods. We also wanted to sell the breads and the cheeses and the olive oils and all those other things that we brought in to introduce to Columbus.
Interviewer: Now you say the perfect location…
Interviewer: …but German Village was not a Jewish neighborhood.
Warren: No, no.
Interviewer: The Jews were four miles east in Bexley/Berwick, so…
Warren: …and that’s exactly the point is that delis, delicatessens, real New York-style delicatessens weren’t for just Jews, and this was something that I learned. I was nervous about this. This was something I learned. I remember writing a newsletter at the end of the first year and one of the things that I said in it was how surprised I was to see the number of different kinds of people that love deli food. And there was Asians, there was Blacks. Of course, there were the Jews. We expected that. One thing that Steve always said was, if you, if you come to a town and you don’t know anything about this town and you want a good deli you’re going to ask a Jew, and so, we really want to have the Jews on your side and we always did. We always did things that branded us as a Jewish deli. We always had things like, not just matza balls but we had kreplach, we had latkes, we had blintzes, we had kugel, we had knishes, things that some people had never heard of. When we first opened, I know I’m regressing a little time-wise, when we first opened, we had to you know get a staff in and in the first staff we had, half of them had never heard of a bagel. I know we laugh today ‘cause there’s bagels everywhere. There are bad ones everywhere, right? But they didn’t know what a bagel was. That was outside of their realm of experience.
Interviewer: Your own staffers…
Warren: My own staffers and so, I went, “Oh, we have a whole lot of training to do,” because if they didn’t know what a bagel was, they certainly weren’t going to know what a latke was or a knishe or a kugel any of that kind of stuff. It was a whole different, it was a whole different kind of training that we had to do that we had not anticipated. It was sure fun. It was really interesting, but, yeah, they didn’t know. It was just a whole different world.
Interviewer: it sounds a little like that famous poster, “You don’t need to be Jewish to like Levy’s Rye Bread or…
Interviewer: …something like that. That’s what you’re saying.
Warren: That’s right. That’s right.
Interviewer: It’s true. Non-Jews liked delis.
Warren: All ethnics like delis’ so, then the first year, people from South Asia, people from all over the world, they would come to the, they would come to Katzinger’s. We were little. We had thirty-two seats. It was a teensy-weensy deli. They would come to the deli because it was the only place in town that they could get good quality deli food that they’d had in New York and in Germany and in Paris and all other parts of the world. They ended up in Columbus, “Where can I get a good deli sandwich?” “Katzinger’s”, and that was it and I have to honestly say, thirty-two years later it’s still us. It’s still Katzinger’s. It’s no longer mine but it’s still Katzinger’s, right.
Interviewer: You even had some famous people stop by.
Warren: Oh, many. We did. We did. Well, we had our most famous certainly was Bill Clinton. In 1989, I had cancer, cervical cancer, and my health insurance costs went sky-high, and even then we were supplying health insurance for, and actually paid the whole amount for our staff, and then I get cancer. I get sick and our health insurance prices start creeping up and up and double and double and double and I’m crazed about this and then here’s Bill Clinton going, “We can do something about that,” and it’s kind of a long story but, I ended up with Clinton at the deli. Okay. I’ll tell you a little bit of the long story. I was, I was lobbying for health care reform and you know, Bill and Hilary Clinton were working on that, you know, sort of politically within their administration and I ended up speaking in front of the Ted Kennedy’s Health and Human Services Committee for the United States Senate, which was an, just an amazing experience, far beyond, just really an extraordinary experience and to have that opportunity to do that as a small business person that felt that health care reform was essential to this country and being, you know, like probably one of ten business people who agreed with that. I mean, it was…I spoke to the Chamber of Commerce, man they practically threw eggs at me. It was just really dreadful, but again, this was 1984. This was different. I mean 1994 and this was different. It was a different time, a little bit different. Anyway, a friend of mine who I’d been working with on, you know, lobbying and things like that, called me and said, “The President’s going to be in town. He’s going to do a Meet & Greet at the airport. Would you like to go?” And I said, this was Greg Haas, and I said, “How many people will be there?” and he said, “Probably about two hundred, two hundred fifty,” and I said,” Why don’t you just, why don’t you just bring him to the deli?” and Greg goes, “That’s a great idea. What a great photo-op is this!” Right? And he just took it from there. I mean all I did was say, ‘Hey bring him to the deli,’ and he went, ‘Okay,’ and so, he made it happen, and that’s how that happened.
Interviewer: How did you get two hundred people into that…
Warren: Oh, no-no-no-no-no. It had nothing to do with the people at the airport. They were at the airport. He still did his thing at the airport but, without me.
Warren: But he came to the deli and it was interesting. He did not know that I had health care reform on my agenda, on my personal agenda. He didn’t know that. All he knew was that ‘there was this great little deli in German Village. This would be a really great place for him to go. It’s a really good photo-op. The people love you. They’re Democrats. Let’s go there.’ That was the way it was played to him, and so, and so, he invites us to sit, so he was with, it was Clinton. Senator Glenn was there, John Glenn was there. Former Attorney General Lee Fisher was there. There was also a guy from London, Ohio. I don’t remember his name. He was there. Oh, and Joe Biden was there. I know, it was…really hit the jackpot, and he invited us to sit down with them, Steve and I, and we, of course, did, and somewhere in the beginning of this conversation he asked me about health insurance and I said, “Yeah, I provide health insurance for my staff. The price keeps going higher and higher and higher.” I told him about speaking in front of the Senate, the Senate Committee. It was just… forty-five minutes. I spent forty-five minutes with the President of the United States talking about health care insurance. It was just a…friggin phenomenal.
Interviewer: And you were talking about your own personal…
Warren: I was talking about my own personal experience.
Interviewer: …your cancer and your health insurance…
Warren: That’s right. That’s right.
Interviewer: …as a consumer and as a business person.
Warren: That’s right, and why I thought it was important for the country. Regardless, down the road on this, this was in February, 1994 and this was just at that point where it was really the tipping point where Republicans were getting really, um, really, really creating a plan to defeat this health insurance plan, and, um, he would go…the President would, President Clinton would go around the country and he would lobby for it. He would advocate for it and did different places around the country, and people in different cities, and people would call me from those various cities – Texas, Florida, wherever, and they’d say, “ I went to see Clinton today,” and he would say, and he would say, “I was just in Columbus, Ohio, at this little deli and the owner of this little deli told me this story.” Now he never mentioned my name, probably forgot it, never mentioned my name, but he, three or four times, I heard that story from different people around the country. So, it was a story that was universal. It was more universal than I was aware of, and then, you know, it lost, so, but it was an incredible experience. We’ve had, we’ve had amazing people at the deli, though. We had…James Taylor was terrific. He was here he was here for a couple of days because he was doing a concert with the Columbus Symphony. This was also in the Eighties, late Eighties, I think, maybe early Nineties, and he came in, he came in…you know, we had a specialty food store with, you know, olive oils and vinegars and cheeses and meats and all that kind of stuff and he came in with his partner/wife, I don’t know who she was, and they bought a bunch of stuff. I wasn’t there at the time and my staff said, “[Honey], he was so nice and he bought this and this and this and it was great…” and then they came back the next day and they had lunch and then they came back the next day the third day. The second day, the day I came back from lunch, I made it a habit of never interrupting people, famous people, especially, while they were eating because I thought, hey, they deserve their space but, he’d already been there twice and like, why not? So, so, I went over and I thanked him for coming in and he said, “You know, I was listening to this song on your sound system yesterday and I don’t know the name of the, it was a bluesy song and I don’t know the name of this artist. Can you find out for me?” and I said, “What else can you tell me about him? He said, “I don’t know. He told me some things and I said, “Well, come upstairs and look at my music.” I had all this music in my office so, he came upstairs and looked at all of our music and we had tons and tons and tons of cd’s and he couldn’t figure out what it was either, so, he was so nice and it was crazy, like, ‘James Taylor, here come upstairs and look at my music.’ It was really crazy, but we never did figure out what song it was or who the artist was, but nonetheless, he was amazing. We’ve had lots of people. Maya Angelou was there, um, we had lots of, lots of politicians. We had lots of sports figures. Lyle Lovett…I don’t know. I’m sorry go ahead.
Interviewer: So, looking back you, I was asking you earlier what Jewish institutions you were connected with. You actually created a Jewish institution that really has been around so long it does, it does qualify as an institution in the Jewish community, and in the, also, in the broader community.
Warren: You know, I’m glad you brought it up because one of the things that we did from the very beginning, from…we opened August, I mean October of 1984 and in December we were going, “Let us do your latkes for you,” and by 1985, we were planning menus to help people out that they could do for Rosh Hashana. I mean, obviously not kosher – up front, not kosher but if you’re not a, if you don’t have a kosher home, let us make your brisket, that kind of stuff, and we started doing that from the very beginning and we had…and Yom Kippur, especially, because we had this great smoked fish that we would get in from New York and it was so fabulous and sable and white/smoked whitefish and just, it was just, just great and so, we, by doing that we started establishing this group of customers and we kept records. We kept records every year of who ordered from us and what they ordered so, if they called the next year we could say, “Well last year you had twenty guests and this is what you ordered. How many guests do you have this year?” and they’d say, “This year we have eighteen. No, problem…want this and this and this and we’ll get you blintzes and…” we’ve done that for thirty years and it’s such a prideful thing for me to be able to say that, that we have some of the same customers…now I don’t know that we have anybody that we served thirty years ago. I don’t know. People die, people move, all that kinds of things, but we have a lot of people, the same people, year after year after year, especially for Yom Kippur that will get their break fast food from us. I’m so proud of that. I mean, that just really, that totally tickles me. It makes me so proud.
Interviewer: As a kid, as a teenager, do you remember Martin’s Kosher Foods?
Warren: Martin’s. Sure, Yeah. Yeah.
Interviewer: What do you…you’re a “foody” now. Did you…actually, we didn’t even have that term back then. Do you have any memory of Martin’s?
Warren: I just remember it being the only kosher place in town. That’s where my mother shopped and that’s why she always shopped there before we stopped keeping kosher and then she shopped there for certain things, you know forever, until Martin’s sold it to, I’m drawing a blank on his name. Do you remember?
Interviewer: Was it Irv Szames?
Warren: It was Irv.
Interviewer: I’m not sure.
Warren: I think you’re right. Yeah, and, but by then I, when his went up for sale I gave about a three- minute thought to buying and it and I went, ‘Nah, I’m not gonna’ do that.’
Interviewer: At one point you thought about buying Martin’s.
Warren: Well, not Martin’s, after Martin’s sold it to Irv or whatever his name was, and when he, when he was getting ready to sell it, about three minutes I thought about that one. ‘Nah, I don’t want to do that,’ so…
Interviewer: That was after you had established Katzinger’s?
Warren: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: So, you had already great experience as a food …
Warren: Yeah, right.
Interviewer: … food business and you thought just for a second about…
Warren: Yes, and then went nah-nah-nah. That’s not a good idea. Bad idea so, right, so, but it’s…I find it unfortunate that a city the size of Columbus doesn’t have a kosher grocery store and that we get our kosher food at Kroger’s. I think that’s sad, but because it’s different. Now, Katzinger’s obviously is not Jewish, but it does as a whole have a kind of a Jewish vibe to it. On our twenty-fifth anniversary, we had a Klezmer band play. I mean, it was so fabulous. It was so great. It’s definitely got a Jewish vibe to it. It doesn’t hide behind the fact we’re Jewish. It’s, ‘Yes, we’re Jewish.’ This is what we did man. This is our Jewish specialty foods right here, right here on the menu, Jewish specialty foods, and the fact that Columbus can’t support a Jewish grocery store I think, is unfortunate because you cannot walk in Kroger’s even go into the little Jewish department and feel that this is a Jewish thing. It isn’t. It’s like, and I’m being real political here about this and I apologize for that, but it’s, it’s, it’s just unfortunate, you know so that’s just my opinion.
Interviewer: Now when you were a baby you grew up in the old Jewish neighborhood…
Interviewer: …Ohio Avenue, Bryden Road, Parsons…
Interviewer: Then the Jewish community moved. A lot of the Jews moved to Bexley, Eastmoor, Berwick…
Interviewer: …but still it was in one general area. Now, of course, you see that Jews are living in Upper Arlington, Gahanna, New Albany
Interviewer: Worthington, Clintonville, everywhere.
Interviewer: What’s your take on that? Has that been, is that a good thing, a bad thing?
Warren: I think it’s just what it is and all of our kids leave town and go away and don’t come back, too. I mean this is just what happened. This is the way society has been for the last what, forty years. People leave and they relocate someplace else and the question is where’re you gonna’, where’re you gonna’, where’re you gonna’ bury Mom? And I don’t think that that’s a bad thing. I think it’s just what it is. I’ve been very fortunate. My daughter who left Columbus and went to New York for ten years, nine years, moved back. I’m like Oh, God I’m so friggin’ lucky my kid is in town, but I know a lot of parents whose kids aren’t in town, kids that are my daughter’s age that left town. They’re not coming back. They relocated someplace else and for some of them, their parents weren’t born in Columbus. They relocated to Columbus. It’s just that’s just the way the world is now. That’s just what happens and I think the, I think the, I think we just have to adjust to understanding that we have to make our own communities. The communities used to be ready-made for you. You know, when the Schottensteins moved to Columbus there was family there already for them that had already moved, you know, ten, twenty, thirty years before, had already come over, crossed the ocean and come over and settled in Columbus and so, when these people, my father, my grandfather came over, both my grand-fathers came over, there was family here already for them or a community already for them. Now, when all the Russians came in in the Eighties they had to create a community and the Jews were so fabulous in helping them create a community here, but boy, those guys are here to stay. I know some of them. They’re here to stay. They’ve been here for thirty years. This is their home now. This is where their kids were born. That’s just the way the world is now. I mean, you just relocate and find your own community. It’s not family, it’s not familial like it used to be but it’s life now. It’s just like all the other weird stuff that we do now. Who ever thought of email? Come on, you know?
Interviewer: Now, you talked earlier that in high school your closest friends were Jews.
Interviewer: Now, how about now?
Warren: Not so much. Nope, they’re not. No. I have less close friends, too. The older I get, the more valuable my time is and then more specific I am about who I spend it with so, I have less really close friends. You know when you’re a kid everybody’s a close friend. You know, ‘it’s my best friend.’ That’s not so true anymore. That hasn’t been true for a long time but my best friend from high school, Lonnie Rosen, is still my best friend. I’m very happy to say that. I see Toby Kahn regularly when she comes in town, but most of the people, nah. No, most of my friends are not.
Interviewer: And what do you attribute that to that you have more of a mix
Warren: Yeah, because that’s the way my life is now. My life is not…it’s a really good question. My life is not encompassed by, just [trying?] to figure out how to say this. My life is not encompassed by a community. It’s sort of like the business associates become friends. There’s people that I meet in other circumstances that become friends. You just make friends for different reasons. It’s like this. When you go off to college, chances are if you’re very fortunate, you’re going to meet the love of your life, get married and that’s the person you’re going to stay with forever. How often does that really happen? Because that’s why we have, you know, all of these online matchmaking things, you know, J-Date and whatever they’re called, because it’s likely that doesn’t happen, that’s not the way the world is anymore. That’s not the way the world operates anymore and so we make adjustments so that we can deal with it the way it is, not the way we want it to be, or the way it used to be. And then the next generation doesn’t know from how it used to be except for what they hear and they make their own adjustments for their futures and it’s just the way the world is. It’s just life. It’s just life. Life’s always been like this. It just didn’t happen so quickly, you know.
Interviewer: We talked about the term, “The Jewish Community” in Columbus…
Interviewer: … but it sounds like what you’re saying is there’s less community these days.
Warren: I think it’s not that there’s less community, I think it’s differently defined community. I think in my personal experience, all the Jews that I know, not all of them, many of the Jews that I know are very proud to be Jewish and, and live a life, a Jewish life in some manor, but their more secular lives are really more important What their kids are doing, what their spouses are doing, what their, what their business is like. That just sort of overwhelms the Jewish community. Now, I don’t know enough about Jewish community other than that my grandparents, but again they came from the Old Country so they had that, and then next was us, was our generation, so we’re the ones who went, ‘I don’t need to do this to be a Jew. I don’t need to keep kosher to be a Jew. I don’t need to go to shul every Saturday to be a Jew. I don’t’ need to do that to be a Jew. I can be a Jew in a different kind of way and my community knows that and my community feels the same way about it, so that when I meet people that are Jewish, there’s a…you know, it’s…you the expression, Gaydar? Yeah, right, and I was always really bad at Gaydar. Like ‘Really, he’s gay? No kidding’. But, you kind of have a J-dar, you know? You kind of have that sense of like, in conversation like, ‘Oh my God, I think that person’s Jewish. Let me see how I can find out about that without offending anything potentially in the process,’ and you sort of work your way in to a conversation and then all of a sudden you have some kind of primal friendship with this person because there’s something in our DNA that connects us. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s spiritual. I don’t know if it’s biological. I don’t know if it’s even real. There’s just something that connects you, and yah, and I think, that’s, that’s the community doesn’t go away. It just expresses itself in a different way.
Interviewer: Well, that sounds like a perfect ending for this interview…
Warren: It does.
Interviewer: …but it doesn’t need to be the end.
Interviewer: Is there anything else? Is there something that you want to tell people about yourself or your business or the Jewish community of Columbus, or your memories of Jewish Columbus.
Warren: Boy. You know, I moved to Berwick. I moved from Bexley to Berwick about two years ago and I’m surrounded by ultra-Orthodox Jews. It’s just really kind of a gas. It’s really kind of terrific, um, wonderful big families, wonderful people all of them, like across the street from me and down the street and really kind of surrounding me and it’s really a pleasure to see that and it’s interesting to…I took some classes. I took some Melman [ed. Melton] classes here at the Center and when those classes were over there was a small group of us that kind of didn’t want that to end, that whole sort of really interesting historical perspective of, you know learning to read the Tanakh and all that kind of stuff. It was so interesting and fun and we had such great teachers, and so, we put together a small group of people and we got together with Rabbi Tuchman. Do you remember him? He was with, oh God, I’m drawing a blank on the name.
Interviewer: A specific synagogue?
Warren: No. it was this…
Interviewer: The Kollel?
Warren: The Kollel right, right, right. He was with the Kollel and I took those classes for about five years and there was four or five of us from the original Melman class and then I don’t remember why but for some reason I stopped doing it. It’s still going on though and every once in a while I’ll run in to Joyce White and she’ll go, “Come back,” but I haven’t done that yet, but I think that sort of, that desire to know more about our history and our ancestry hasn’t gone away for me. I have not actively pursued it, but it is, it’s kind of on my list of things to do now that I’m retired, and it’s very interesting to me. I’m with a guy, living with Jim Kirkpatrick who is not Jewish, but that’s doesn’t stand in my way, certainly, so yeah, I think that’s the only thing I’d want to add. It doesn’t go away.
Interviewer: So, you have a strong Jewish identity…
Interviewer: …and pride in being Jewish…
Interviewer: …even though you don’t, you don’t call yourself an Orthodox Jew, obviously…
Interviewer: …but you are enjoying being surrounded by some Orthodox Jews.
Warren: Yes, I am. I am. It’s really kind of fun. Well, they’re so wonderfully enthusiastic about their religion and I, I, you know, I admire that with anybody with any religion if, unless they’re proselytizing. That’s a whole other story. I don’t like that but, if they’re enthusiastic about what they do, I think that’s fabulous, but, thank you so much. This has been fun.
Interviewer: Thank you very much. Let’s wrap this up. We’ve been talking with Diane Mathless Warren and we’ve been doing this interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society here in the Columbus Jewish Center and it’s Memorial Day 2017 and my name is Bill Cohen. Thank you so much.
Transcribed by Linda Kalette Schottenstein
March 13, 2018