We are at the home of Miriam and Bernie Yenkin. I’m retaping part of my interview with Miriam Yenkin. This is August 14, 2001 and we are at the Yenkin home at 2720 Brentwood Road in Bexley. We did record on June 19, 2001 and this part of the tape will tie into our previous tape. Good morning Miriam.

Yenkin: Good morning.

Interviewer: And I’m Naomi Schottenstein. I happen to be Miriam’s sister-in-law and we’ve known each other for quite a few years, at least 53 I think it is. We are recording this information about Miriam because Miriam has been a community leader. She is a business woman. She comes from a large and prominent family and we have a lot of interesting information to seek. Miriam, let’s start with your original, your Jewish name and do you have nicknames and who might you have been named after?

Yenkin: My name is Miriam Yenkin and my Jewish name is Miriam. I was named after my father’s aunt, his mother’s sister. I never had any nicknames. When I was younger, my friends wanted to try to call me Mimi but I never liked it and I always insisted on Miriam so Miriam was it. I have no middle name.

Interviewer: It’s convenient that Miriam happens to be the Hebrew name so there were no, we didn’t have to think too much about another . . . .

Yenkin: Right, right.

Interviewer: Another name. Tell us about your family name, Schottenstein.

Yenkin: My brother Morris, when researching the family history, traced the name Schottenstein to the original name of Gerzhevsky. I don’t know how to spell it, but in tracing it back to the small area that they lived in in Pilviskiai, Lithuania, he found that the name was Gerzhevsky. It was changed before they came to the United States, because everyone that he interviewed for his family genealogy had a memory of the name being Schottenstein. At that time in Europe, families would often choose the name of someone they worked for and Schottenstein might have been the name of a landowner and, maybe that’s how they chose the name.

Interviewer: So it’s interesting to . . . . out where names come from. Whenever possible, if we have some names that sound a little more complicated, if you just spell, I’m sure the transcriber will appreciate it. Tell us where you were born.

Yenkin: I was born in Columbus in 1935. The physician was Dr. Gallagher. I think that my mother never really went to a gynecologist/specialist. He was a doctor who had a family practice near my father’s store. He was a very fine person and was the doctor who delivered me.

Interviewer: Talking about family store, what was your family business at that time?

Yenkin: Well my father was in the furniture business. It was called Steelton Furniture and it was on Parsons Avenue. He worked in it and my mother worked in it with him.

Interviewer: Do you happen to remember the address on Parsons?

Yenkin: I think 1837 Parsons but I’m not sure. I think it was 1837 Parsons and then when they built another store just a few doors away that was called “The New Steelton Furniture” and I think that address was 1857 Parsons. Then the original store became a used furniture store.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: We were just a few, about a half a block away, from the department store, Schottenstein Department Store.

Interviewer: Which is still located . . . .

Yenkin: Which is still located there.

Interviewer: Uh huh. What are your memories of your family business from a small youngster?

Yenkin: Well everyone was involved in the business and even when my brothers were going to school, they were always working and helping my father. My mother and father were partners. She worked four days a week and only took off on Friday because that was the day she prepared for Shabbat . We spent a lot of time at my father’s store because we didn’t have baby-sitters. My mother would just take us with her to work. The store opened on Saturday night after Shabbat was over and then she also worked all day Sunday. We played in the neighborhood and would go to the movies in the neighborhood. So we felt very much a part of what they were doing because it was something that took almost all of their time. They worked very, very hard.

Interviewer: So the family business was kind of a home away from home?
Yenkin: It really was. It really was.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you remember any of the other businesses around your family store at that time?

Yenkin: Well my Uncle Harry, my father’s twin, had a store down the street and it was a furniture store. And I mentioned before that the department store was also there and a little bit further north was a fruit stand that Abe Robins owned. That’s where my mother and father used to go to buy all their fresh produce. Behind my father’s store was an A&P store and for those days, was a big supermarket and that’s where my mother did all of her other shopping.. And I remember that there was a drugstore across the street that we used to go to. Also across, very close by, was E. J. Schottenstein’s business. He had a jewelry store. So there were a lot of Schottensteins on a few blocks on Parsons Avenue between Reeb and Innis. There was a lot of activity by the Schottensteins . . . .

Interviewer: It was a comfortable area then, wasn’t it?

Yenkin: Yes. It was safe. It was always a low-income area but it was safe and my mother and father felt very comfortable having us just walk around. We would play with the kids in the neighborhood and it was very comfortable.

Interviewer: Miriam, recall some of the homes that your family has lived in. Do you remember your first house?

Yenkin: Well the first house that I remember living in was on Columbus Street and it seemed like a large house then, but when I think about it, it wasn’t so large. There were eight of us living there. Eight children and my parents. Ten of us living there at that time. We had three bedrooms. The four girls slept in one bedroom and the four brothers slept in the other bedroom and my mother and father had the third bedroom. And our bathroom was on the main floor and it was, or seemed like a large bathroom . . . . .

Interviewer: So the bathroom was on the first floor . . . .

Yenkin: First floor.

Interviewer: And all the bedrooms were on the . . . .

Yenkin: On the third floor. And . . . .

Interviewer: Second, second floor?

Yenkin: I mean, all the bedrooms were on the second floor. We had a big kitchen and the bathroom was off the kitchen and then the dining room was off of there. We had a big yard and we used to play a lot in the yard. And that’s the first house I remember.

Interviewer: Do you remember what that address was?

Yenkin: I think it was 875 Columbus.

Interviewer: Do you remember any of the neighbors?

Yenkin: Yes. Well right across the alley the Kanter family lived. That was Abe and Max Kanter and Goldie Mayer’s mother and father.

Interviewer: So Abe, Max and Goldie were two brothers and. . . .

Yenkin: Two brothers and a sister. Abe and Max were physicians. And Goldie was a lawyer. They lived right across the alley from us. Their home actually was on 22nd Street. Columbus ran into 22nd. And then down on 22nd, the Zisenwine family, Harry and Shirley Zisenwine, lived and across the street from them, the Morris Yahr family lived and then the Greenbergs also lived in that area.

Interviewer: Who, tell us who the Greenbergs were?

Yenkin: Ben Greenberg. His son Marty Greenberg is still living in Columbus and Miriam Kayne is his daughter. Also the Zeldin family lived close by and then there were a lot of Catholic families that lived in our area. I just remember the one Catholic family, the Gleich family. They had a lot of children. So did we.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Across from the Kanters, a Weiner family lived right on the corner of 22nd and Columbus.

Interviewer: Who were some of the Weiner children?

Yenkin: Well their granddaughter is Nona Rosen and she’s married to Marv Rosen and their child is Mike Rosen who is the, who writes stories . . . .

Interviewer: A children’s author?

Yenkin: a children’s author.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: They lived on the corner. And then going the other direction, Gilbert was the street on the other side of Columbus, the Cohens lived there. My brother-in-law Albert lived on the corner. So they were neighbors also.

Interviewer: Oh. I’m just recalling that the Cohens did used to live on the West Side but I guess that’s when . . .

Yenkin: Yes, they lived there and so that Albert, when he married my sister Shirley, became my brother-in-law. But he actually was a good friend of my brother Leonard’s first. So we knew him even before he and Shirley were married

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: When I was in the fourth grade, we moved from Columbus to Bedford.

Interviewer: What was the address there 814 or . . . .

Yenkin: 715 Bedford, 716 Bedford, I don’t remember . . . .

Interviewer: 716?

Yenkin: 716 Bedford.

Interviewer: That’s right.

Yenkin: We moved to Bedford and that was very exciting because we had more room. On the second floor, we had four bedrooms including the sun porch which was a bedroom and we had a bathroom upstairs then. By comparison to the bathroom we had before, it seemed very modern and seemed large and it had tile in it. And then the third floor was a finished third floor. It was the bedroom of my brothers Leonard and Bernie. So we really had five bedrooms. It had a much larger living room and kitchen. My aunt Goldie Ruben had lived in the house with her husband Max and their family, and they sold it to my mother and father. We were very thrilled about moving into that house. It just seemed so much more spacious and newer and had beautiful woodwork in it and a crystal chandelier in the dining room.

Interviewer: I think you mentioned on Columbus, that there were eight of you. I know there are nine in your family with this . . . .

Yenkin: Well Rosalie was born while we were on Columbus and then we moved shortly after Rosalie was born. I guess she was in a crib sleeping in my mother’s and father’s room. Sometimes we would joke and try to figure out where she slept on Bedford because Phyllis and I shared the sunroom, my sisters Shirley and Elaine shared a room and my brothers Morris and Irving shared a room and then my mother and father had a room and then Leonard and Bernie were upstairs. One day we asked Rosalie, “Where did you sleep?” And the only thing we can figure out is that she was in a crib until someone moved out.

Interviewer: She didn’t need much room . . . .

Yenkin: No, no. And then shortly after we moved into that home, the war started and my brothers were gone. They were in the service during World War II.

Interviewer: Miriam, you’ve mentioned some of your siblings, probably all of them, but would you go through your sibling list and tell us who they’re married to if they’re married and who their children are.

Yenkin: Okay. Well my oldest brother is Leonard and he’s married to Ellen Schlezinger and they have five children and their children are Howard, Debbie, Ricky,Susie and Karin. And then my brother Bernie, and he’s married to Naomi and her maiden name was Gendel and they have four children and their children are Beryl, Harlan, Sheri and Larry. And then my sister Shirley. She’s married to Albert Cohen and they live in Florida and have three children: Jeffrey, Jeri Beth and Jay. And then my brother Irving who is married to Frances Polster and they have four children. Their children are Gary, Bobby, Linda and Steven. And then my sister Elaine. She was married to Michael Karr. They are now divorced. She has four children. Her children are Lisa, Keith, Missy (Melissa) and Elisabeth. And then after my sister Elaine, is my sister Phyllis. She lives in Washington and she’s unmarried. And then I’m number seven in that line-up and I’m married to Bernard Yenkin . . . .

Interviewer: And we’ll go through your family in just a minute.

Yenkin: Okay. And then my brother Morris. He was married to Roz Kirkel. He is divorced and is now married to Elizabeth Sierra. He had two children. Liann is his oldest and then his son Loren died a year ago last January. And then the youngest is my sister Rosalie. She was married to Jimmy Miller. Rosalie is now divorced from Jimmy and she has three children, David and Linda and Jeffrey.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay, that’s . . . .

Yenkin: I passed that test.

Interviewer: Yes, you’ve got them all in there. Miriam, tell us now about your own immediate family.

Yenkin: Okay.

Interviewer: Children and grandchildren . . . .

Yenkin: Okay. Bernie and I have four children. We were married in 1957 in Columbus at the Agudas Achim. Our oldest daughter is Leslie and she’s married to Jonathan Petuchowski. . . .

Interviewer: This is where we could use some spelling.

Yenkin: Okay. P-E-T-U-C-H-O-W-S-K-I and they have one daughter Abbe, and that’s spelled A-B-B-E. She’s seven years old and they live in Columbus now. And then we have a son Jonathan and he’s married to Susan Fisher and they have two sons, Max and Alex, and they live in Wilmette, Illinois. That’s a suburb of Chicago. And our daughter Allison is married to Tolya Katsev, spelled K-A-T-S-E-V and they live in Mountain View, California, that’s just outside of Palo Alto. And they have two daughters, Libbie, spelled L-I-B-B-I-E and Sarah and . . . .

Interviewer: Sarah is spelled . . . .

Yenkin: With an H on the end, S-A-R-A-H . . . .

Interviewer: I know that years later, children want to make sure that their names are spelled . . . .

Yenkin: Exactly. And then our youngest daughter Amy is married to Rob Usdan, U-S-D-A-N, and they live in New York and they have one child, a son, Cole, C-O-L-E. An interesting sidelight in our family history is that our daughter, Allison, is married to a Soviet Jew. She was married in 1987 in Moscow. She was a Russian history major and had been going to Russia since 1985 to study. She had been there five times on five different study programs and when we went to Russia in July of ’87 to visit with her in the former Soviet Union, she told us that she had met someone and they were very much in love and that she was going to be married in October. They already had been to the Russian Bureau, the Marriage Bureau, and they had gotten a date of October 20th. The next day we met him and he was wonderful and we met his parents, and they were wonderful. But we were very nervous about it because we knew that at that particular time that even Russians who were married to American citizens, let alone Soviet Jews, were not getting out. But he did get out in February of ’88. They were remarried again that summer by Rabbi Alan Ciner in a Jewish ceremony because in the Soviet Union, they had to be married in a Russian Wedding palace. So it was a very exciting time.

Interviewer: Indistinct

Yenkin: Very tense.

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s interesting. Miriam, you do remember some of your grandparents I think?

Yenkin: Yes, I do. Just one. Three, two actually. My mother’s father, Rabbi Isaac Moses Silverman, the Orthodox Rabbi in Toledo, died in the 30s and I never knew him. And my father’s mother died when he was very young. And I never knew her. He didn’t really talk a lot about her. She was killed in an accident. She was stepping off of a street car and was run over. I don’t know very much about her at all. My father’s father, I knew him. He died I believe in 1944 or so, so I was just about nine years old

Interviewer: Your grandfather, your father’s father remarried, didn’t he?

Yenkin: He remarried twice, but for as long as I can remember, he was married to Anna. And she had a daughter, Rose Javis, and then my father had a half brother, Bernard Schottenstein. There were nine in their family and my mother had nine in her family. So we come from very large families.

Interviewer: Nine seems to be . . . .
Yenkin: Yes. And my mother’s mother died in 1944 too, so I knew two of my grandparents. I think they both died in 1944. It might have been early in 1945. It was very close to the end of the war. I remember, now that I think about it, it was very close to the time when President Roosevelt died. Sometime around then. Somehow, I connect the two of those events. I was young.

Interviewer: Miriam, I’m going to ask you to tell us a little bit about the family members’ relatives.

Yenkin: Well my mother was very close with her family. She had a sister that lived in Columbus, my Aunt Dora Abrams. And after we moved to Bedford,. she bought a house on Bedford also. Her sister, Frieda, who had lived in Springfield, Frieda Goldberg, moved to Columbus with her husband. My mother had two brothers. Her brother Manny lived in Springfield and then moved to Dayton and her brother Sam Silverman moved to Dayton also. Her oldest sister, Fannie, lived in Dayton and was married to Sam Shapiro, who was respected as the holiest member of the Jewish community in Dayton. Her sister Etta, who lived in New York was married to Rabbi Herschel Stollman. And then of course, her sister Eunice was married to Rabbi Nehemiah Katz, who was the Orthodox Rabbi in Toledo. My mother had a sister Dina who lived in California and I can only remember seeing her twice. My mother did write to her, but California was very far away then. The Ohio family all used to come to Columbus to visit and they would all come to our home. So I have the memory of my mother’s family being in our home a great deal. She was the core; she held her family together. She was the one person that they all felt close to. My strongest memory is of my mother’s family being in our home a lot, being there together and speaking very loudly.

Interviewer: (laughs) They always had some interesting subjects to go to.

Interviewer: I’m going to kind of do some continuing here. The home, we’re still talking about the homes. We’re on Bedford. Now what’s the next house?

Yenkin: The next house was . . . .

Interviewer: And then we’ll go back to some family situations.

Yenkin: The next house was on Harding Road when I was in college. I think I was probably a junior at Ohio State. My mother and father bought a lot on Harding Road. My mother was going to now build her dream house. The home was at 327 S. Harding. Bernie and Naomi, my brother and sister-in-law, were building a house at 307 S. Harding Road, with just a house in between us. And this was the house that my mother had always dreamed about. It was a one-floor plan. It was all modern and everything was new. Nothing was worn out. And it was a lovely home. It brought my mother such happiness. My father was building it, so he was happy; my father liked to build.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: He made a transition in life where he went from the furniture business, when he was about 50, to building. And he taught himself; he didn’t know a thing about it. He went out and he just got people who knew how to build and they taught him how to build. It was remarkable strength and self-confidence . . . .

Interviewer: Sure.

Yenkin: To go do that. He just got tired of sitting in a furniture store where maybe you had three customers a day and they make your day. He wanted to be out. And so he was building our house and building Naomi and Bernie’s house. It was just a very enjoyable time. Of course then my mother only lived in that house for about three or four years.

Yenkin: Mother died in 1958.

Interviewer: They moved in ’55 I think it was.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: She enjoyed it so much, After my mother died, my father lived there alone and it was lonely for him, but there were certain things that he loved about it. Rose bushes – he planted rose bushes, loads of them.

Interviewer: I saw the Palestrants. This is my own little interjection here, but I saw the Palestrants just last week. They live in the house that was between ours and yours and Jack reminded me of Dad’s roses and they’re still, there are some still there and we’re talking about a number of years and . . . .

Yenkin: Yeah.

Interviewer: Jack talked about it.

Yenkin: My father moved from that house probably I would guess in the early 70s so it’s been a long time since that house has not belonged to my father.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: It brought us a lot of pleasure and also it was very nice because we lived very close to Naomi and Bernie and in our family, while I wasn’t very close to my cousins, we were very close to my nieces and nephews and I was very close to my sisters-in-law and to my brothers. Our family was together a lot. This just put us together even more because I spent a lot of time over at Naomi’s house when I was in college.

Interviewer: Kind of like a compound?

Yenkin: Naomi’s house was the compound. She had a finished basement and when we’d finish finals, she’d give us permission to celebrate in her basement because my parents were very strict and the thought of bringing in beer to celebrate was something that they would not have understood but Naomi understood that we were just having fun.

Interviewer: Right.

Yenkin: She was wonderful.

Interviewer: And maybe a little bit of baby-sitting there too?

Yenkin: And maybe a little bit of baby-sitting. Yeah, I was a big-time baby-sitter.

Interviewer: Miriam, do you remember any, I know you do, family visits of your family going to visit anybody? I’m sure they were relatives that you visited. Do you remember some of those experiences?

Yenkin: Well the most immediate relatives we visited were the ones that lived in Columbus. We would take Saturday walks and we’d walk to Max and Ann Schottenstein’s house and visit with them. Or we’d walk over to see Max and Goldie Ruben, my aunt and uncle. We took the train up to Toledo to visit my mother’s mother. My grandfather died before I was born, my mother’s father. So we would take the train to Toledo and that was a big adventure. And . . . .

Interviewer: Do you remember how long it might have taken on a train?

Yenkin: I don’t remember. It seemed like it was a long trip.

Interviewer: Probably a couple of hours?

Yenkin: Right. My mother and father didn’t really travel a lot because my father wasn’t one to get in the car and go driving. They worked very hard and so they pretty much stayed in town. I don’t remember visiting any other relatives . . . .

Interviewer: What about Springfield or . . . .

Yenkin: Springfield? They would do most of . . . . I remember being in Springfield but they would drive mostly here because my uncle Harry Goldberg had a sister, Ann Maybrook, who lived in Columbus so they came to Columbus a lot. But I certainly was in their home and I was in Dayton at the homes of my uncles Sam and Manny Silverman and my aunt Fannie who also lived in Dayton. My grandmother lived with my Aunt Eunice and my uncle Nechemiah Katz in Toledo. He was the Orthodox rabbi in Toledo. My mother’s father came to the United States from Russia in 1903 to be the Orthodox rabbi in Toledo. He was the rabbi of the two Orthodox synagogues, one very, very small and one that was considered the larger Orthodox synagogue. He came with his family, and sometime, I understand, on the trip between Ellis Island and Toledo, on the train, they changed their name from Olchik to Silverman because the story goes that someone said that he needed a name that sounded more American than Olchik, so he chose the name Silverman.

Interviewer: You don’t know how that came about?

Yenkin: No, but that’s the story that’s told. He was the rabbi of the Orthodox synagogues in Toledo until he died in the early 30s and then after he died, his son-in-law, my uncle, Nechemiah Katz became the Orthodox rabbi and he was the Orthodox rabbi in Toledo until the middle 70s, until he retired. So from 1903 until the middle 70s, the Orthodox rabbi in Toledo was either my grandfather or my uncle.

Interviewer: Do you happen to remember the name of the Congregation?

Yenkin: Etz Hayim. Etz Hayim.

Interviewer: Okay. Great.

Yenkin: Uh huh. So we had a a lot of roots there even though we weren’t there that often. Whenever I see anyone from Toledo, often at national meetings, all I have to do is mention either Rabbi Silverman or Rabbi Katz and they all have a memory of them.

Interviewer: What was your grandfather’s first name?

Yenkin: Isaac Moses, Silverman.

Interviewer: Uh huh. And Katz, Rabbi Katz?

Yenkin: Nechemiah

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And his sister was married to . . .

Interviewer: Moishe?

Yenkin: Moishe Finkelstein.

Interviewer: Feinstein.

Yenkin: Feinstein. Excuse me. Moishe Feinstein, who was a great Halachic scholar.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Yes.

Interviewer: Miriam, do you know how your parents met? I mean your mother was from Toledo; your father lived in Columbus.

Yenkin: Well what my father told me was that he was working for Jacob Schottenstein who owned a bicycle company. That would have been my father’s uncle. And he was on the road trying to sell these bikes. Someone told him that the Rabbi in Toledo had a really good-looking daughter. These are my father’s words.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: “Had a good-looking daughter” and when he was in Toledo, to go over and look the Rabbi up and meet his daughter. That’s how he said he met my mother. They got married and then she moved to Columbus.

Interviewer: Well it was a good marriage and we all celebrated that marriage a lot.

Yenkin: Yes.

Interviewer: Do you know anything about their wedding or how long they courted or anything?

Yenkin: No, I don’t. I don’t even know where they were married.

Interviewer: Probably . . . .

Yenkin: I think they went to Delaware on their honeymoon . . .

Interviewer: That was their honeymoon?

Yenkin: On their honeymoon and I’m kind of smiling because I’m trying to figure out what kind of honeymoon. It was probably overnight to Delaware and back to work, (laughter) knowing my father.

Interviewer: But even that was a big deal?

Yenkin: Right. And, or, I know, they might have gone to Magnetic Springs, because I used to hear a lot about “going to Magnetic Springs”, so they . . . .

Interviewer: Well you have to go through Delaware . . . .

Yenkin: Sure, to get to Magenetic Springs, so that was probably part of it, Magnetic Springs and Delaware.

Interviewer: Do you remember any cars, transportation in your family?

Yenkin: The first car that I remember was a ’52 Plymouth. And I mean that. I was in high school and I remember my father bought that ’52 Plymouth. I don’t remember very much about cars. I really don’t. It seems kind of strange, but I don’t.

Interviewer: So, but there was always some transportation?

Yenkin: I remember my father’s truck that he had to deliver furniture. He had a big truck.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: We didn’t do a lot of driving, although I remember when I was a little kid, that my mother used to take me with her when she would buy chickens. They were live chickens and were tied up in a box that was put in the back seat of the car. We would go to a place on Donaldson Street where they would slaughter the chickens. I can remember sitting in a car, scared to death of those chickens. I just don’t know which car it was . . . . I’ll have to listen to my brothers’ tapes.

Interviewer: Yeah, we’ll have to compare everybody’s thoughts, memories.

Yenkin: I guess when you’re six and seven in age, you don’t pay much attention to what kind of a car it is.

Interviewer: But you knew there was transportation?

Yenkin: There was transportation.

Interviewer: What about when you didn’t go in your parents’ car? How did you get around?

Yenkin: I, I . . . .

Interviewer: Other than walking? Do you remember . . . .

Yenkin: Huh uh. I walked. We used to walk long distances to school. No one ever took us. We just walked.

Interviewer: What about street car or bus?

Yenkin: I used to take the bus and the street car when I was in high school. I lived far away when I went to South High School. I was living on Bedford then so I had to transfer and I used to take two busses to get to school. But . . . .

Interviewer: Were there still street cars?

Yenkin: There were street cars, there were busses, but most of the street cars were already gone. But when I was younger, there were street cars. I guess that we must have taken street cars when, if we’d ever go downtown. I remember every once in a while, my mother would take us to Mills. That was a cafeteria and that was a big treat.

Interviewer: Where was that located?

Yenkin: On High Street, very close to State.

Interviewer: What’s there now? Mills isn’t there any more, unfortunately.

Yenkin: No, they got replaced. There was a Woolworth five and dime that was on the corner and now they are both the Riffe Center.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: It was just great to go to that cafeteria and we probably got something like Boston Cream Pie or something like that. We weren’t going there to eat a whole meal; we were just going there . . . .

Interviewer: For dessert?

Yenkin: for dessert. Yeah, that was a big treat…

Interviewer: Tell us what else when you went downtown, where else did you go to shop and . . . .

Yenkin: Most of our clothes were purchased from Schottenstein’s. Their store was right down from my father’s store. Mostly everything I had was a hand-me-down. I very rarely ever got new clothes.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: The only time I would get a new outfit was for Rosh Hashonah. I always got a new dress for Rosh Hashonah, new shoes, everything new for Rosh Hashonah. And that was my good dress for the year. Until next Rosh Hashonah.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And everything else that I had was pretty much hand-me-downs…. hand-me-downs from Sylvia Ruben, because she was about nine months older than I and would grow out of her stuff.

Interviewer: And she was an only child?

Yenkin: Only daughter, not only child.

Interviewer: Only daughter, rather?

Yenkin: She was the only daughter. So I got a lot, but they were being taken in all the time because I was, I was really small for my age.

Interviewer: What else do you remember about downtown Columbus?

Yenkin: Well I remember when there was the Ohio Theater and then the Grand Theater and then the Hartman Theater on State Street. I never was in the Hartman until I was going to college. They would have plays at the Hartman. I never had enough money to pay for that. My parents were budgeting so closely that that wouldn’t have been something they would include. The Palace Theater was on Broad Street and Lazarus of course, was where Lazarus is on Town and High and the Union was on Long and High and then on North High was the railroad station, which was a big thing to me because the railroad station was, as you know, how we went to Toledo. I can still remember being in the railroad station when my brother Leonard came back from the service and waiting for him to come up from the train.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And I think that there just was a lot of stuff in between that didn’t mean much to me. Of course the State Office Building and the State Capitol were always there.

Interviewer: What about movies as a youngster?

Yenkin: We went mostly to neighborhood movies when I was really little. There was a theater on Livingston just past Champion. I think it was actually called the Champion Theater. We would go every Saturday to the movies. That was a whole big thing because it was Shabbat and my father was very Orthodox. He did not want us to go. My mother had more understanding of little kids and the need to be able to have that kind of recreation.

Interviewer: Miriam, I’m going to stop at this point and turn the tape off. We’re at the end of Tape 1, Side A, just for a moment.

Interviewer: Okay, we’re on Side B of Tape 1 and we’re going to continue with Miriam. You’re telling us about the movies. You remember the Champion Theater . . . .

Yenkin: That was where everyone went; all the kids went every Saturday and they’d have these long double features so you could just spend the whole day there. You couldn’t buy the tickets ahead of time like you can now. You were going to have to pay for the tickets on Saturday. My father, as I said, was very, very Orthodox. My mother, even though her father was an Orthodox rabbi, had a different understanding of perhaps what we needed. She would give us the money to go to the movies, but when we would walk, and we’d have to walk on 22nd Street over to Livingston to Champion to go to this movie. We were always so afraid that our father would see us going to the movie. He was a very stern disciplinarian. It sounds crazy, but we used to walk backwards for about three or four blocks so in case we saw my father, we could just start walking toward him and he wouldn’t know that we were going to this movie.

Interviewer: Do you remember how much it cost to go?

Yenkin: Oh, I don’t remember but it couldn’t have been much.

Interviewer: Yeah probably . . . .

Yenkin: It couldn’t have been much.

Interviewer: Dime . . . .

Yenkin: I was going to say it probably cost a dime.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: They’d have these serials in between the double features that would continue from week-to-week so you’d follow each episode of what was happening, you know, like a soap opera kind of thing.

Interviewer: What if it was a birthday? Did you get free entrance into the theater?

Yenkin: No.

Interviewer: None of that stuff?

Yenkin: No, no, no, huh uh, no. But everybody was there; I mean it was just loaded with kids.

Interviewer: That’s where they all met, huh?

Yenkin: That’s where we all met. When I was a teen-ager living on Bedford, I used to go to the Livingston Theater that was on Livingston near the Driving Park, near Lilley.. . . . . that was a far walk. I would go there and I’d meet my friends from Roosevelt Junior High School, and then later friends from South High School. I used to take the bus. The big treat was to go downtown to the Ohio Theater. I mean it was like, you know, being in this gorgeous palace, which it is.

Interviewer: Uh huh

Interviewer: So that was movies at that . . . .

Yenkin: That was movies.

Interviewer: Uh huh. I wanted to go back to your family life and ask how holidays were celebrated.

Yenkin: Everyone was there for Friday night dinner and you were all cleaned up and you were there when Friday night dinner started. It was very strict in our house in terms of obeying Orthodox rules. We were totally observant in our home. My mother would have been cooking all day long, so Friday night dinner was always very, very special with my father, you know, saying the Kiddush and the prayers. The holidays were also very special in our home, very, very special. Every holiday was celebrated in our home; we were never permitted to go to school. We were all there and we all celebrated together. In our home, we were always dressed for the holidays. There was a very strong feeling of the importance of celebrating the holidays in our home, not just going to synagogue.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: My father used to go to the Ahavas Shalom which was located on Ohio Avenue at that time. He would go and . . . . and we would go too, but just kind of run around. I think that still happens at the Ahavas Shalom on Broad Street . . . .

Interviewer: Called hanging out?

Yenkin: Hanging out. There were no separate activities for kids so they were always running around. The holidays were a very warm time for us. During Succot, we always had a succah outside of our dining room window that my father made out of doors stuck together. Pesach was . . . wonderful.with Seders.

Interviewer: A lot of special preparations?

Yenkin: A lot of special preparations. My mother made all of the holiday meals and it was very festive . . . . She was a wonderful Jewish cook.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And she made holidays very special. It wasn’t always easy for her because she didn’t have a freezer, she didn’t have a dishwasher, she was working four days a week and had nine children Indistinct

Interviewer: Let’s get, let’s get a picture of your education Miriam, where you went to school and take us from . . . . start through college.

Yenkin: When I started school, they didn’t have kindergarten so I went to Heyl Avenue School in the first grade and went through the fourth grade and then when we moved to Bedford, I went to Main Street School. Main Street went through the sixth grade so when I graduated sixth grade, I went to Roosevelt Junior High School for the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. When I graduated Junior High School, I went to South High School. I graduated from South High School and then I went to Ohio State and graduated from Ohio State in 1957.

Interviewer: What was your degree in?

Yenkin: In social work. I also went to the Columbus Hebrew School. I was just thinking about this because I saw an old article. I started Columbus Hebrew School when I was in the first grade. My father required that we all go to Hebrew School and at that time, the Columbus Hebrew School was on Rich Street. Because kids always were dropping out, they never had enough for a graduation class. And in this article that I just found, I graduated in 1951, so I was 16 years old. There were four of us in the class. My brother Morris, who’s two years younger, Victor Goodman who was one year younger, and Evelyn Fox who was in my class. Everyone else dropped out when they were 13 or before.

Interviewer: You mean of your siblings or the kids that went. . . .

Yenkin: My other brothers probably dropped out when they were 13. Most of the kids did not continue in Hebrew School.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Miriam, I know your mother used to shop pretty often, every day, but could you tell us a little bit about what shops were around, deli, butcher shops, stores . . . .

Yenkin: Let’s see . . . .

Interviewer: and who maybe the vendors were so we got a picture of . . . .

Yenkin: She bought her meat from Katz’s Kosher Butcher Shop and then it became Goldmeier’s and then . . . .

Interviewer: Where was that located?

Yenkin: Goldmeier’s was on Main Street and Katz’s, I don’t remember the exact location of where when she first was buying at Katz’s. But Katz’s ended up someplace on Livingston Avenue. I’m not quite sure. And then I think Martin’s bought that. Martin’s first kosher butcher shop I think was on Livingston. Do you remember?

Interviewer: Godofsky?

Yenkin: Yeah.

Interviewer: Yeah, I think their first really was on, on Parsons . . . .

Yenkin: Parsons and then they . . . . Indistinct

Interviewer: . . . . on Livingston near Lilley.

Yenkin: Livingston near Lilley. And then she used to shop at A&P a lot for all the stuff that you get at a supermarket other than your kosher meats and . . . .

Interviewer: A&P was pretty much the only supermarket, wasn’t it?

Yenkin: It was the big supermarket and there was one that was right behind our store on Parsons Avenue. She used to watch for whatever kind of specials they might have for napkins, toilet tissues, whatever . . .

Interviewer: Stock up?

Yenkin: Stock up. But I remember they never had big baskets in those days in super markets and when she went shopping, she used to have two or three baskets loaded just for the week for the family because she used to try to do all of her major shopping once a week on Thursday.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: My brothers would take her shopping and then she would just fill in the rest of the time. Abe Robins owned a produce stand on Parsons Avenue.. It was an open fruit market.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: A vegetable and fruit market. She used to buy a lot from him.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Miriam, I know that we have, our family has I think pretty great family reunions and I’d like to have you give us a description of how these work and how long we’ve been doing that, why, and so forth.

Yenkin: My mother died in 1958 and my father died in 1984. In 1984 after he died, we started talking about how we could do something to preserve their memory. We came up with the idea that probably the way to best remember my parents, and in the spirit of what was the most important to my parents, would be to have a family reunion every other year and just bring everyone together. When I say “everyone”, I mean my brothers and sisters, their children and their children, not the extended family.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Just our immediate branch from Meyer and Libbie and because . . . .

Interviewer: Do you know what the number is total of Meyer and Libbie’s family, children and grandchildren?

Yenkin: I don’t know right now. I think that the total number when Susie Blair chaired the reunion, was a hundred and twenty-seven or twenty-eight.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: But there have been other children born since then. In 1985, we had our first reunion and . . . .

Interviewer: Where was it?

Yenkin: We decided to have it in Columbus. It would be coming home. From a practical point of view, we could make the arrangements, but even more important than that was the fact that most of my nieces and nephews who no longer lived in Columbus, grew up in Columbus. They had people, friends that lived here that they could see and other relatives to be with who were not a part of this reunion. They could visit where they had lived in Columbus. They could show their families where they went to school. We just thought that that was the most meaningful way to do it. At first we did it every other year. As the grandchildren got older, with their conflicts in terms of going away to camp and getting ready to go away to college, it’s been harder to find the time. So the last two have been three years apart. We just had one this last May and there were 80 at the reunion. We have Friday and Saturday nights together and then we have a Sunday brunch. The thing that still seems to be the warmest thing that happens at the reunion is when we start talking about our families and my parents, their grandparents. It’s not just the actual stories, but the closeness that is generated. The feeling of the importance of family gets transmitted.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: When they start talking about things they have done and shared with the cousins of their age, they realize that they, too, have memories. That’s important.

Interviewer: Sure.

Yenkin: It isn’t just those who had a direct experience with my mother and father because a lot of the grandchildren were born after my mother and father had died . . . . The experiences they have with their cousins are beginning to form an important part of their lives.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: The other nice thing about it is that in the beginning, we, the sibling generation, were in charge of it. I did it and Naomi did it. Now it’s my nieces and nephews that are doing it and taking the responsibility for it. Naomi’s son Larry did it. He was the first of the grandchildren.

Interviewer: Yeah, I think he did it two or three years in a row.

Yenkin: For two or three years he did it and then after that, Susie Blair took the chairmanship of it, Leonard’s daughter. And this year, my brother Morris’ daughter Liann and my sister Rosalie’s son Jeffrey Miller, did it. It’s really nice to see that they care enough to make sure it happens.

Interviewer: Uh huh. And I think they all look forward to it.

Yenkin: They do. They do.

Interviewer: Miriam, before we get too far away, I want to kind of finish the picture, not finish, but continue the picture of your life with your husband. Tell us how you and Bernie met and about your marriage and . . . .

Yenkin: Okay. Bernie and I did not know each other while I was growing up or in high school and I really didn’t meet Bernie until I was going into my senior year at Ohio State. Bernie’s five years older than I am, so he was really away at school all of those times when I was going out and dating and going to parties and going to youth group meetings. I knew his sister Sandra who is the same age as I am, but I never knew Bernie. And, his family belongs to Agudas Achim as does mine. It was during Yom Kippur when everyone whose parents were still living went out during Memorial Services, when you didn’t stay in while they had Yizkor. Bernie was out on the lawn of the Agudas Achim and I was out because both our parents were living. We were out there and we just started talking. He called me shortly after that and it’s kind of funny. He called to fix me up with a friend of his from college who was stationed at Wright- Patterson. Bernie had just come home from graduate school. Bernie had gone to Yale and Harvard Business School and had just come home. He was now in his family’s business, Yenkin-Majestic Paint. I was busy and then some time later, he called and asked me to go out. And we started dating. He tells the story that I was standing under the sign at the Jewish Center that said, “There’s Something for Everyone at The Jewish Center”. . . .

Interviewer: The Jewish Center? I remember him saying that.

Yenkin: He tells that story but I’m on record saying that’s not where it happened.

Yenkin: He likes that story.

Interviewer: It is a good story.

Yenkin: So we were married on March 31 in 1957. I graduated college about two weeks before and then we were married. And we’ve lived in Columbus all of our married lives.

Interviewer: What kind of a wedding did you have?

Yenkin: Well for us, it seemed small. We had, I remember two hundred and fifty people. The Schottenstein Family is very big and Bernie’s family also had a lot of relatives and a lot of friends. Also they were all from Columbus. We were each given half of that list. We were married at the Agudas Achim and we had our dinner in the Agudas Achim Social Hall. It was a very beautiful wedding. I remember we wanted to have round tables and the Agudas Achim never had round tables at a dinner. They only had these long tables that everyone sat down at like for a shul dinner.

Interviewer: Shul dinner . . . .

Yenkin: My mother and I, because I was a senior in college, could plan it together. We called all over and we got round tables. And that was the biggest thing. It was such a beautiful dinner because we had these round tables and . . . .

Interviewer: You might have started a new trend.

Yenkin: We did. Yes. We were married there and we went to Nassau on our honeymoon and . . . .

Interviewer: Where was your first home?

Yenkin: We lived in an apartment, the Virginia Lee apartments, on North Chesterfield. We lived in that apartment until 1959. When I became pregnant with Leslie, we started looking for a home and we moved into our home on Chesterfield.

Interviewer: What was the address there?

Yenkin: Chesterfield was 104 South Chesterfield. It was right off of Broad Street. And we lived on Chesterfield until 1965. We moved here when our fourth child was born. When Amy was born, we had three bedrooms on Chesterfield and it was getting a little bit cramped, so we started house hunting and we bought this house and we’ve lived here since 1965.

Interviewer: Miriam, tell us a little bit about your jobs, where you worked through your lifetime.

Yenkin: Well when I first graduated college, I started volunteering. I became very active in National Council of Jewish Women and very quickly started doing major jobs. I started off as the membership chairman and then I became secretary and a vice president of social services. I was very active for a long time in Council of Jewish Women. I also became very active in the Federation, in the Young Women’s Division. Then it was called the Young Matron’s Division. Within a year, I was asked to go onto the board of the Young Matron’s Division and very quickly I became the Campaign Chairman for the Young Matron’s Division and in a very short time, I became the Co-chairman of the Young Matron’s Division.

Interviewer: Can you tell us what the years were for . . . .

Yenkin: I know that by 1961, I believe, I had already been the Chairman of the Young Matron’s Division. I just became very, very active and I worked at it almost like someone worked at a full-time job. And I had very responsible positions because at the same time, in the Federation, I was being appointed to committees. I was already serving on national committees also. At that time, the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds was the umbrella organization for all federations in the United States. I was serving on the national committees on young leadership. I was invited to speak at a General Assembly which brings 2000 participants from all over the United States. I was invited to speak at the opening meeting on the future of young Jewish leadership in the community.

Interviewer: Where was this?

Yenkin: That was in St. Louis.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: I was invited to speak with the then senior leadership of the National Jewish Leadership. I quickly became very involved in really all of the Federation activities in terms of allocations and planning and fund raising and served on and as chairman of every major committee that the Federation had. And then in 1985, I was elected the first woman President of the Federation. The Federation was also celebrating its 60th birthday.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: I was the first woman President in 60 years of the Federation and the community celebrated that a woman was elected President. At the same time that I was doing all that, I was also working in organizations, I mean, . . I worked for Hillel, I worked for the Pre-School, I chaired the Pre-School Committee for the Jewish Center, and was on the Jewish Center Board, I was on the Jewish Family Service Board, I was very active in Torah Academy and chaired the dinner committee for at least eight years, chaired the Education Committee and was also going to all these national meetings that had anything to do with the major issues confronting Jewish life.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And . . . . at the same time, I was very active in the Civil Rights Movement. I was working for fair housing and for fair education and working on all these committees that had to do with welfare rights. I did much of that in my own name as well as representing the Jewish community because I was very active in the Community Relations Committee.. And I participated in Christian-Jewish dialogue groups. I was never interested in just the Jewish community. I was always interested in the Jewish community and the general community, the national and the world community. All of it, everything that we were a part of, and so I never limited my activities to just working on Jewish issues or just the Jewish community in Columbus and . . . .

Interviewer: Then you’ve had a very extensive and successful career as a volunteer?

Yenkin: As a volunteer. And in 19–, I believe about 1985 or maybe a little bit, 1983. Oh no, actually it was in the 70s because I had been a docent at the museum since 1971 and I had docented for several years and was doing a program where I was going to the schools working with a program called “Arts Impact . . . .” bringing the perspective of the docent to that program. I felt the need for something new and I started looking for a job.

Yenkin: Because I felt that I’d truly become an expert on Community Planning and Volunteerism, I went to work for the Multiple Sclerosis Society as their first Volunteer Coordinator. I can’t remember the exact time, but it was the late 70s. They had no volunteers. I developed their Volunteer Department, which meant developing programs for volunteers to work in as well as getting volunteers, and all that goes with that.

Interviewer: So that was a paying job?

Yenkin: A paying job. Uh huh, that was a paying job. I also worked on a lot of community committees. I was on the board of the Volunteer Action Center. And I was on the board of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. And I was on the United Way. I, I just was very involved. I enjoyed it very much.

Interviewer: Are you still an active volunteer?

Yenkin: I consider myself an active volunteer but in a different sort of way. I assume responsibilities, but mostly in planning and advisory, which, suits me really well.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: I don’t have to go to as many daily meetings.

Interviewer: Your time is a little more . . . .

Yenkin: Much more time spent planning and advising.

Interviewer: Are you, does that pretty much cover . . . .

Yenkin: Yeah.

Interviewer: Are you sure now because I know you have been an exceptional community person . . . .

Yenkin: Well, I was a National Vice-Chairman of the UJA for eight years and also served as a Vice-President of the Council of Jewish Federations.

Interviewer: Maybe you can lead us into what you’re doing as far as your business is concerned too.

Yenkin: Two things that meant a lot to me are that I was the first Young Leadership Award winner for the Federation, the very first year that they established it. Marvin Glassman and I won that award together, and that Bernie and I received the Mayor’s Award for voluntary service, for the service that we gave to the community.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Those two awards meant a lot to me because it showed that my concerns, were concerns for the well-being of all people, not just for Jews.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And so it, it, it . . . .

Interviewer: Very meaningful?

Yenkin: Yes. It represented the way I wanted to teach our children in the way . . . .

Interviewer: Sure.

Yenkin: that I led my life.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: After I left working for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, I went to work with a friend who had started an agency called Options. They did career counseling, individual career counseling and corporate career counseling, and so I just transferred all my skills over there, and I was doing workshops on management-development and individual career counseling with women who were going back into the work force and shifting gears. Then at some point, I was ready to move on and for a year or two I worked doing customer service workshops with Sharon Gutterman. She had developed a whole practice of doing that and invited me to come in and do that with her. We did those in mostly hospital settings. In 1991, it sounds sort of strange, after we remodeled our kitchen and the sun room, the architect and the contractor that were working with us said, when we finished, “if you have any business things you want to work on, you know, we’d like to be a part of it.” And I said, “well my husband had mentioned that he wanted me to try to get involved with renovating an old paint factory we bought.” In 1985, Yenkin-Majestic bought the Dean & Barry Paint Company. They moved all of the manufacturing over to our plant on Fifth and Leonard. It’s a beautiful old building that dated back beginning in 1891.

Interviewer: Where was that located?

Yenkin: Nationwide and Marconi. Right now, right in the middle of where the whole Arena District is but when this was happening, there was nothing around it, just parking lots.

Interviewer: And a penitentiary?

Yenkin: And a penitentiary. And so my husband had been asking me to take over that project and to see about renovating it, doing something with it. We were just using it very passively for warehousing for our company. So when the contractor and the architect asked, I said, “Well we have this old building over on Nationwide and Marconi and,” I said to the contractor, “Why don’t you go take a look at it.” And it is quite a nice-sized building; it’s 85,000 square feet. It’s kind of like a little square. He called and said, “That’s a wonderful old building.” He said, “Have you walked through it?” and I said, “No”. So then I walked through it and I got very excited about it. It was a mess. It looked like a paint factory frozen in time because it had always been a paint factory from 1891 until 1985. And they hadn’t done a lot of modernization in the last 30 years

Interviewer: But at that point it was deserted?

Yenkin: It was used passively just for old warehousing. We put paint cans that got dented and old fixtures that were broken and . . . .

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And a small bit of it was used for the offices for our retail stores. Bob Shapiro, who is the President of our Retail Division, had offices there. A very little piece of it was used for that. So I got very excited and we started thinking together and doing some brain storming and it became my next learning experience which was renovation, historical renovation, of an old building to be used for modern offices, for galleries of, not galleries – for design space, studio space, and so I began working with an architect and working with a contractor in a different way and working with marketing people and working with zoning people and working with all of the elements that have to come together and . . . .

Interviewer: All your experiences as a volunteer from the community . . . .

Yenkin: Right . . . .

Interviewer: and your father’s genes and not being afraid . . . .

Yenkin: Well my father’s genes and some good advice that my father gave to me. Someone once, who was over at our house said — the building now is called Marconi Square and it’s a beautifully-renovated modern office building that has received national awards for the historical renovation as well as for the aesthetics — said, “How did you know, where did you learn all of what you had to know about that? What had you renovated before?” I said, “A kitchen that’s 15 X 15.” And he said, “Well where did you get the courage?” And I said, “My father always said ‘you can do anything you want to do as long as you know what you need to learn from someone else. Then go get that someone else. . . .

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: to tell you how to do it.’” And, I said, “that’s just what I did.” Plus, it wasn’t alien to me because from the time I was a little kid, my father used to discuss leases when I didn’t even know what he was talking about. He’d say, “Should I give a lease to the Salvation Army for 30 years?” and I was a little kid. My brothers, you know, after the furniture business, were developing apartments and properties and so the language was not foreign to me. But I just learned it and we renovated Marconi Square and I now do the over-all supervision. I don’t do the day-to-day management but I’m in charge of the project. Then about four years ago, a cousin of ours had a business called Rosenfeld’s. It was on Main Street. It was recycling office furniture. He had bought the business and we bought the building from Mayer Rosenfeld’s family. Mayer was the first Director of the new Jewish Center on College.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Okay. He was closing that business and . . . .

Interviewer: Where was this located?

Yenkin: It’s at 399 Main Street.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Actually it’s more like about, I think it’s more like about six years ago. It’s been four years that we’ve been leasing it. And the question came up again, should we lease it or should we fix it up? Couldn’t lease it because it was in fairly beat-up looking shape, but should we keep it or should we tear it down? And we looked at it and the same eyes looking at it that looked at Marconi and we decided to renovate it. so that was my next project.

Interviewer: So you preserved the historical value of it?

Yenkin: Yes we did and when we renovated Marconi, there was a lot of pressure on us to sell it for a parking garage. And we just refused to do it. It was a beautiful, old historical sight, but not only that, there were only a couple of them left. Everything else had been torn down. There was one next door to us and then there was one a little further away that George Aycock the architect had renovated. Things were being torn down rather than preserved and we just felt that it was important for the history of Columbus and for the character of Columbus to not lose its history.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Everyone looks at it now and says, “My God, how lucky you were . . . .” But we made that decision when it didn’t look like it was going to have all the pluses of being in the middle of the Arena District.

Interviewer: Yeah, you just lucked into all that.

Yenkin: And we wouldn’t change it. It’s been a wonderful experience, because it has brought me into contact with all of our wonderful tenants and with the people that I worked with, the contractors and architects, realtors, the marketing people. . and the City, and now Nationwide.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: There are all these different levels of contacts and things that have to be done and I still do that because I enjoy it.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Well, talking about timeliness, the building on Main Street also is in a timely situation.

Yenkin: Very.

Interviewer: Describe what’s happening there.

Yenkin: Well the buildiing on Main Street, when we decided to renovate it, was a really “iffy” thing. There were some nice buildings there. Dan Schmidt had a nice dealership there. It was the dealership for Oldsmobile and some other cars . . . . He had renovated the building across the street and had done a beautiful job on that renovation, but there was still a lot of seedy stuff on Main Street. We had a sense that Main Street would come up because it is very close to Grant and the Franklin University was doing beautiful things. My brother Bernie built apartments that were close to there. But they were more identified with German Village and Grant and Franklin than right there with Main Street.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: Since that time, Dan Schmidt has been renovating and building all these new, very attractive buildings. It’s now become the Discovery District. And the Discovery District now not only goes from what is at 71 east on Main Street, it goes all the way up to atleast High Street. so now we have . . . . all these other wonderful old buildings that are being renovated. We have the Southern Theater which is a gorgeous renovation that’s in the Discovery District. The Hartman Building is being renovated and the buildings across the street are being renovated. The old buildings are not being torn down. The Discovery District now has expanded so that it includes the buildings that are on Grant, that I believe, are on the north side of Livingston and the buildings on Broad Street, including Capital UniversityLaw School. We’re a part of an exciting new area on Main Street.

Interviewer: That’s booming.

Yenkin: It’s just booming.

Interviewer: Yeah, it sure is.

Yenkin: Yes.

Interviewer: Yeah. Well, lucky for you that you got involved in two fantastic projects that are . . . .

Yenkin: It’s been very exciting. We made the right decisions. Our sensors were up and they proved to be sensing that something was going to be happening there.

Interviewer: I guess that old adage, location, location, location. . . .

Yenkin: Location, location . . . .

Interviewer: But time, time, time also has a lot to do with it, too.

Yenkin: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Does that pretty much cover your activities as far as business and . . . .
Yenkin: It really does. Right now, my husband and I, he’s still active in his business, Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation, probably through the week, put in 10 or 15 hours working on Marconi and Main Street and we also travel a lot now.

Interviewer: Yeah, that’s the next phase that I want to get into, your travels. I know that you’ve had some wonderful experiences.

Yenkin: We really do. We travel a lot. We like to plan our own trips. We don’t use travel agents. We go to the library. We get the books. We read everything. We decide on where we want to go. Bernie and I operate as a team. I decide on the basic itinerary and where we’re going to stay. We like to stay in little places where they don’t have a lot of rooms, little inns. Then Bernie takes over and he does the FAXing and, before we had FAXes, he would do the calling. If it were in France, he’d be speaking in French. He makes the reservations and then the next job is that I learn the language. And I get Berlitz. And I listen to it and I try to build a vocabulary of twelve to twenty words. It’s not that you can’t travel without language. It just that it makes it more fun to travel. It makes it possible for us to stay in places that are very small where they don’t speak English. It makes it possible for us to drive through towns that are not accustomed to tourists. Just this last year, in October, 2000, we went to Turkey for three weeks and drove all around. We flew into Istanbul and then flew into Ankara and then drove all through central Turkey and down along the coast and back.

Interviewer: So you rented a car and you did your own driving?

Yenkin: And did our own driving.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: That was a wonderful trip and much to my amazement, because the Turkish language is just impossible, I learned about twenty-five words in Turkish and it was fun. I almost threw in the towel on that one.. And then . . . .

Interviewer: Did anybody else go on that trip with you?

Yenkin: We invited my sister Rosalie . . . .

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: to go on that trip and preceding that trip, in May, we had gone to Israel. Bernie’s two sisters and he gave a wonderful gift to the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliyah. They deeded to the IDC, land, purchased by Bernie’s father in the early twenties, that provided a campus for the new Interdisciplinary Center. The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliyah is the first and only private university in Israel, and now there is the Yenkin Campus and . . . .

Interviewer: Is that what it’s called?

Yenkin: The Yenkin Campus of the Interdisciplinary Center. It’s a wonderful, wonderful new university. We went to Israel in May for the dedication of the Yenkin Campus and then in October, 2000, we went to Turkey, and then when we came home, we went out to Colorado in December. We own a home in Colorado. We go out to Colorado every December and usually in February and March for skiing. We ofen meet our family. In December, from Colorado, we went to California to visit with our daughter Allison and her husband and two children. We came back in January. In the middle of January, we went to New York to do some baby-sitting with grandson Cole. So you get a sense of that we don’t just go on trips to travel, we also go to visit and be with our children. We came back the end of January from baby-sitting in New York with Cole and went to Italy the first of February. We had arranged a trip going to three major cities in Italy: Florence, Bologna and Milan to hear opera. That was very exciting because we were able to secure all of the tickets on the Internet. The day that I got the tickets for La Scala in Milan was so exciting to think I was on the Internet getting these tickets. We did that in February.

Interviewer: Did anybody go on that trip . . . .

Yenkin: Bernie and I just went by ourselves.

Interviewer: Huh.

Yenkin: And we are right now talking about where we want to plan to go next October. On July 13, 2001, which is about four weeks from now, we will be going to Telluride to spend some time there this summer. We love to go in the summertime too and our daughter Allison will be out there again. And then we go to Telluride every Labor Day because they have an international film festival. In 1982, and then for three or four summers, we took a villa in the south of France for a month. We took our children that were able to go with us. We would go and then while we were there, we would travel around and drive. One time we drove into Hungary, into Budapest, while it was still under the Iron Curtain. Another time we drove to Spain. Once we came down from England. And then we drove all over the south of France. We traveled a lot with our children. We also traveled a lot with our children in the United States. They feel very comfortable with the world and traveling because we’ve done that. They’re also very interested in what’s happening in the world. I myself, I’ve been to Israel more than twenty times. Our first trip to Israel was in 1968. We were part of a Young Leadership Mission to Israel and we made a promise to ourselves that we would go back at least every three years and for a while, we were doing that. In 1971, our son Jonathan was Bar Mitzvahed in Israel. We took our whole family to Israel for his Bar Mitzvah. Bernie and I have gone many times by oursleves. And I’ve gone many times with the UJA on special missions particularly during the Soviet Aliyah. I’ve gone for family Bar Mitzvahs. My nephew Ricky made aliyah and I’ve gone to two of his sons’ Bar Mitzvahs. I’ve been to the Soviet Union twice. I’ve been to Romania, I’ve been to Poland, I’ve been to Jordan. I’ve been to Latvia and Lithuania, Estonia. When I was in Lithuania with our daughter, Amy, we visited Pilvashkai which is where my father was born. We have been to Spain, Italy, France. We enjoyed Germany, Czechoslovakia. We went to Czechoslovakia right after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Interviewer: What was the year?

Yenkin: 1990. We were going to go to Turkey that year. The Soviets had just been expelled from the Eastern European countries so we changed our plans. We wanted to see what Eastern Europe looked like, close enough to when the Soviets were there. Right at the time of the liberation. We rented a car. We flew into Munich. We drove down into Austria and into Vienna and drove into the then Czechoslovakia and went to Prague. You could just see all the footprints of all the Soviets there because they had just been freed from the occupation. Then we drove from Czechoslovakia up across the border between Czechoslovakia and Poland, the same place that Hitler crossed. I mean, it was such an eerie, scary feeling to just coincidentally be going there when we went to Crakow. And then we went to Warsaw and through Poland and then drove into Berlin to see where the Berlin Wall had come down. At that time, I was very active with the Joint Distribution Committee and they told me to learn about twelve good German words and that’s what I did. We used a lot of that because they had not seen any Americans where we were driving and it was a real adventure. But we did that. It was such an exciting piece of history. We enjoy doing that kind of thing. We always try to combine our trips with not just enjoying and having fun but getting a sense of history and what occurred there and how it impacted on what was happening today. When we were taking our kids to vacation in France, we also took them up through Austria and they visited Mauthausen so they had a sense of what the Holocaust history was about.

Interviewer: Wonderful valuable experiences.

Yenkin: Yeah.

Interviewer: But on a more fun note, I know that when you rented a villa in southern France, you were kind enough to share it with family members, I being one, and I know you had a lot of other experiences. Can you kind of tell us a little more about your villa.

Yenkin: Yes. Well we had a very good friend who is French and lived in Paris. We told him what we were looking for and he found us this wonderful place right on the Mediterranean about 12 kilometers west of San Tropez in the vineyards of France, very close to a perched village, a perched village that’s very important in French history, Ramatuelle. We initially took it with my sister Phyllis and my mother-in-law for a month. We each had a bedroom and we were each permitted to invite whomever we wanted to share the bedrooms. This villa was large. It had a beautiful deck across the front that overlooked the Mediterranean. It was on the top of a hill. And it had a living area where you could open up sleeping bags so it was very expandable. It had a wonderful French kitchen and we just set up house there. We went and I learned French and we would go shopping every day.

Interviewer: Is that how you learned French initially?

Yenkin: That’s how I learned French. Bernie already knew French because he had taken French in high school and college and had spent a summer in France. And our kids all knew some French because they had all taken four years of French in high school and they were very good at languages because they all spoke Hebrew because they’d gone to Torah Academy. I’d taken Latin. I took Hebrew when they didn’t teach you how to speak it, you just translated and knew grammar. So I was really kind of surprised that I was good at languages and . . . .

Interviewer: Okay to continue.

Yenkin: I was really kind of surprised at, I mean I was pleasantly surprised that I really was comfortable with it because they always say that as an adult when you learn a foreign language, you’re always afraid to speak it. But I had to because my sister Phyllis and my mother-in-law didn’t know how. So I had to speak it because there I was in the Super Marche, shopping for food and asking for directions. It was great for me because it forced me to speak French and it forced us to be a part of our little area.

Interviewer: Did you have a car there?

Yenkin: From Columbus we bought a Peugot that was going to be ours. We were going to drive it in France for the month and then they were shipping it back to the United States. It was the red Peugot, the 1983 Peugot. It was 1982 when we were in France, but they said it was the first 1983 Peugot off the line that was built for the United States market. We picked it up at the airport in Paris. Phyllis was the driver because she was more comfortable driving a shift car. It was a big drive. We drove from Paris. We stopped two or three places along the way. We had our whole itinerary. It was wonderful. We drove through the French countryside. That summer, all of our kids, except our daughter Amy who was at Camp Ramah and didn’t want to leave her friends at Camp Ramah, came and spent time with us.

Interviewer: What about Bernie?

Yenkin: Bernie came for two weeks.

Interviewer: The last two weeks?

Yenkin: The last two weeks. He came with our daughter Leslie for the last two weeks because everyone, except Amy, was in college and working that summer so they were working around schedules. Leslie came for two weeks and Allison came for a couple of weeks. She came over with Jonathan, who with some of his friends from college, took off and traveled around Europe. And then we had some cousins. The children of Roberta Krakoff, Roberta Yenkin, who is Bernie’s first cousin, who is married to Larry Krakoff were traveling around Europe. At an out-of-the-way spot, we had people dropping in. We had your daughter Sheri one year. After she was married, she and Michael were going to be honeymooning and just camping around, driving around France so they started their honeymoon with us in France. They stayed with us a couple of days, then we sent them on their way. We had a gorgeous beach. Then we invited Naomi and my sisters Rosalie and Phyllis to come. I think that might have been the third year that we had it. . We would just drive all over the Riviera.. .

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: We had such a wonderful time the first year, we were afraid to go back. We were afraid that it wouldn’t meet our expectations. So the following year we went to Norway. We went with our daughter Leslie and our daughter Allison. Whenever we traveled in the summertime, whoever could go with us, of our children, we just took them.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: That year with you, we drove back to Paris . . . .

Interviewer: Amy was with us.

Yenkin: Amy was with us that year. Amy only missed one year. She missed one year and then after that she always came. She didn’t want to miss any more.

Interviewer: (laughs)

Yenkin: We drove back to Paris. We stopped in a little town on the way and spent some time in Paris together and . . .

Interviewer: And in the Bernie Yenkin fashion, he had made all kinds of reservations for us for meals and housing and he just really made it, took a lot of pressure off.

Yenkin: Yeah.

Interviewer: Big pressure off of me.

Yenkin: Bernie loves to do all of the arrangements. But he doesn’t do them just haphazardly. He reads and he studies, so that when he makes a reservation, you know you’re going to a special restaurant. It’s not only that it’s a three star, there’s something special about it. We have been doing that together, but at that time, Bernie was doing the whole thing. It just was wonderful having our family and sharing those experiences and speaking about traveling with family. When our kids were little, we used to take trips out west and we’d invite nephews to go with us. Once we invited my nephew Rick Schottenstein. We went all the way from Columbus to the west coast with him and left him in Los Angeles. We took Harley with us once.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: And . . . .

Interviewer: How did you travel from Columbus . . . . west coast?

Yenkin: I believe that when we went with Harley, maybe we flew. Maybe we flew to Phoenix. We had a paint store, a Woolco store, and I think we flew to Phoenix with Harley. Then we got a car and drove all around through Arizona and then went over into California and were at Laguna Beach for a while and then we went up North and drove all the way up to Yosemite and then to San Francisco and Harley . . . .

Interviewer: You had a lot of people . . . .

Yenkin: We had a lot of people in the car. We had our kids
(Tape fades out.)

Yenkin: We took a train trip. The last train probably out of Columbus. We decided we wanted to take a train trip.We caught the train about 2 in the morning. It was supposed to be here at 12 and it didn’t arrive. It came through about 2 in the morning. We took the train to Chicago. We’d invited my nephew David Miller, to go. He was in the third grade. Amy was younger. She was in the first grade, and Allison also was in the third grade. She and David were the same age. And Jonathan went with us. At that time, Leslie was already at Camp Ramah. So what we were going to do was catch the train, take it to Chicago, catch the Super Chief in Chicago that takes you to Albuquerque. And then we were going to get a car in Albuquerque and then start driving all through the west, stopping at the different parks. My sister Phyllis flew into Chicago from Washington and met us. She joined us on the Super Chief part of it. We told the kids that their luggage had to be one suitcase that each one could carry. Even Amy who was going into the first grade. And a back pack on their back. We were really kind of roughing it. We took this wonderful train ride. We stopped in Crested Butte, Colorado. At that time, they had a summer Alpine program. It was being run by college students from Prescott University in Arizona. We spent about four or five days there. The kids were doing mountain climbing and riding horses in the mountains. Crested Butte at that time was still a real old mining town. Now it’s a wonderful ski area that they’ve built up. The kids were going down mines and studying the geology of the mountains and kayaking and I think all our kids did white water rafting. And then two days later, we’d be someplace where Bernie would be visiting a store. And then we would just do whatever was interesting in that town.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: They were wonderful, wonderful trips. When we took Ricky with us, we drove and picnicked across the whole United States.. We drove with Ricky because we were making stops that went up into Wisconsin and down across Minnesota. And we all . . . .

Interviewer: Did Larry go with you?

Yenkin: Larry went skiing with us. We used to go skiing every year to Aspen and we invited Larry to ski with us one year. He and Jonathan liked to ski together. I think that’s where Larry learned how to ski. He took a week of ski lessons in Aspen. Even now in Telluride, our family visits us. Sherri lives in Phoenix, about a nine-hour drive from Telluride. Sherri has come up several times to visit with us with her kids, without her kids, in the summer, in the winter . . . .

Interviewer: How long ago did you buy the unit in Telluride?

Yenkin: 1987.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: We’ve been skiing in the west and always in Aspen and then in ’87, we took an extra treat trip to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We went to Telluride because we’d heard a lot about it. how it was not very busy and very natural. We fell in love with it and we bought a place. My brother Leonard, for four or five years, would come out and bring his grandchildren. Leonard doesn’t ski, but he wanted his grandchildren to be able to learn how to ski. So, several of my great nieces and nephews spent time in our place in Telluride because Leonard brought them out. They would stay with us and then when it got complicated, they’d stay a couple of blocks away but they were in our house all the time. My niece in California, Lisa, comes out every year. We ski together and if we have room, she stays with us with her two children, Abby, who is now finishing her freshman year at Penn and her son, Michael. One year, everyone decided to meet in Telluride. My sister Shirley came with her kids from Florida and her grandchildren. Leonard was there and Phyllis was there and our children were there. I can’t remember whether Elaine was there but we had about 25 or 26 people for Friday night dinner.

Interviewer: Wow.

Yenkin: We didn’t have enough seating for them. They were all sitting on the floor.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Sounds like a lot of fun though.

Yenkin: I think everyone was going to give Bernie Yenkin the “In-Law of the Year Award”.

Interviewer: I would say.

Yenkin: For being with all of my family.

Interviewer: He certainly deserved it.

Yenkin: And . . . .

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: We just enjoyed being with our family and . . . .

Interviewer: I think that’s what’s so special about your trips, that most of them, you’ve included family members and it’s been special to them for sure.

Yenkin: Yes we really have. Last October, we took my sister Rosalie to France with us. We went to Provence. We took Rosalie with us on a trip through Italy, through Tuscany. Her family is not yet able to travel with her like that, so we try to include her.

Interviewer: I know she loves those opportunities.

Yenkin: Uh huh. Traveling has been something we just enjoy so much and so now we’re looking forward to where we’re going next.

Interviewer: It sounds like it’ll be an interesting place, I’m sure.

Yenkin: Yes.

Interviewer: Well, Miriam, we’ve covered a lot of territory and I don’t know if we left very much out but I think we’ve gotten a feeling for how your life has been and you know, we appreciate sharing all that. I just wondered if you could kind of wrap this up for us by giving us your philosophy of life, how you feel about the future and maybe some message to your grandchildren.

Yenkin: I think that I always felt that it’s important to be a strong individualist and to have a strong sense of who you are. But I always felt that you have to see how you’re connected to other people, to those that are around you and that no matter how good you feel about yourself or how well things are going for you, that unless the people that are around you or the community that’s around you are also experiencing some of that, it will diminish the quality of your life. I went through a period of feeling as though I had to save the world. I’ve never changed my mind that an individual can make a difference. I believe that very strongly. But I believe now that you have to not become discouraged by thinking that the problem is too big or it’s too overwhelming and feeling that you can’t make a difference. If you just make a difference to the people you touch, the ones that are around you, then healthy people will make healthy people. Somehow or another it will ripple and it will make a difference. So, you work on big issues and you work on small issues and you never lose sight that the most important people are the people that you’re touching. And work with a care and concern that enables you to listen and have respect for things that are different and differ with your point of view. When you believe in something, I think that you should fight for it fiercely. I believe in fighting for things that are important. And sometimes you find that you are not alone, and somebody else has joined in for something that they think is important too. But they needed someone else, to be a part of it.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Because of the ripple effect, huh?

Yenkin: Uh huh.

Interviewer: Well I just want to finish this interview by my own comment that I’ve been impressed with your courage and intelligence to meet the goals that you’ve set for yourself which are always very high goals and now your children and grandchildren will hopefully follow those paths . . . . . and I want to thank you on behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.

* * * * * * *
Interviewer: Okay. Miriam, to continue, we’ve decided to add this little bit of information because we thought it was really interesting and historical. What I wanted to ask you is to talk about how life was during World War II. Go ahead and tell us what was going on at that time.

Yenkin: Well during the war, my brother Leonard and my brother Bernie were both in the army. Bernie was in Patton’s Third Army and my brother Leonard served in the South Pacific. It was a very exciting time for me as a little girl who was about six or seven years old when my big brothers went off to the service. We had hung little banners that were stars in the window. You hung a banner for each member of your family that was serving in the armed forces. And so we had two . . . .

Interviewer: What was actually on the banner?

Yenkin: There were stars on it. There was a red star and it had fringe hanging from it, like a little satin banner. And if someone in your family was killed in the service, then you replaced the banner that had a red star with a banner with a gold star. And thankfully that never happened to us. My brothers both came home safely. During those years, it was a very patriotic time. My mother let me buy some very pretty little stationery and I would write to my brothers. It seemed like every day. I’d write them letters to tell them about what was going on. We all followed the war very, very closely in our family. My brother, being in Patton’s Third Army, served in some very famous battles like the Battle of the Bulge and went into Germany. My brother Leonard, who was in the South Pacific, was in Okinawa. Being so young, I never realized what my parents were going through, but for us, it was a time when we listened to the news all of the time. There was rationing going on and I remember my mother with her books that would give her coupons so that she could buy sugar, milk and gasoline. We would buy stamps and victory bonds. Every Friday in school we would use our money to buy stamps that would go into a book and when you filled the book, which was worth $18.75, you got a savings bond and that was all part of our working for the war effort. I also remember that on an empty lot that was near my father’s store on Parsons Avenue, there would be rallys every once in a while where there would be entertainers who would come. It would be a flat-bed truck and they would be selling bonds. Our whole time during the war was very much involved with my brothers being in the service and with all of the soldiers who were fighting in the South Pacific and in Europe.

Interviewer: I just wanted to go back to the coupons that you were talking about. Not only were they for gas but they were for very specific food items . . . .

Yenkin: Yes, yes. I remember sugar and flour, I believe, were rationed.

Interviewer: And shortening.

Yenkin: And shortening. And it always seemed like we had a a lot of coupons because there were so many children. But actually there weren’t that many coupons. There were a lot of books but there weren’t that many coupons and my mother really watched very, very closely. I remember that another item that was very hard to get that seemed very important to me as a little child was that we could never get bubble gum. It was rationed. Whenever the drug store on Livingston Avenue was going to have bubble gum, the word went out that they were going to have Fleer’s Bubble Gum. We would line up and we were only allowed to purchase, I think, two pieces of bubble gum per customer. We would then take our bubble gum home and instead of eating a whole piece of bubble gum, we’d take little bites of the bubble gum to make it last as long as it could.

Interviewer: So that was self-rationing?

Yenkin: Self-rationing.

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Yenkin: When my brothers came home, I remember going down to the train station on high street and waiting to see them coming up. I particularly remember when my brother Leonard came back, he thought that Rosalie was me because she had grown so much in the years that he was gone. He looked at her and he called her “Miriam” because she was not a baby any more. She was a grown-up little girl.

Interviewer: Those are years that he had lost?

Yenkin: Yeah, that he had lost. Yeah.

Interviewer: Uh huh. Okay. Miriam, before we wind up, are there any other thoughts that maybe you could add about the war years.

Yenkin: Yes actually there is. I remember that before Bernie and Leonard went to the service, they also were participating in the war drive. They used to have these big drives that would collect scrap metal and steel. I have a very strong visual image of Bernie dragging a metal bed down the street to take it to wherever the collection point was for all kinds of scrap metal and steel to be melted down for the war effort. These are images that stay with me.

Interviewer: It certainly was a patriotic time and Miriam, I think this pretty much winds up our discussion for today and again, I appreciate your patience and time. On behalf of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society . . . .




AUGUST 14, 2000