This interview for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society Oral History
Project with Morris Pic Fleishman is taking place on April 20, 1993.
Interviewer: Good afternoon Mr. Fleishman, it’s nice to spend
some time with you, we are looking forward to hearing a bit about
your life here in Columbus and your involvement, especially, with
the Jewish community.
Fleishman: Thank you very much! I guess the first thing I want to
say is I was born January 12, 1909, on Washington and Donaldson
Street, which was very, very much a Jewish community. There actually
were three synagogues there. There was the Agudas Achim, The Ahavas
Shalom and The Beth Jacob. So, it shows that we all came up in the
early years, when all the community actually were living in one
Now, I’d like to tell you something about my early life. Probably, I was about 9 or 10 years old and I went to work for my uncle, Herman Bender, who about 5 months ago passed
away. I always worked from my early years, until now, of course. I worked with my uncle on a fruit and produce wagon and of course, I met a lot of people through that combination. And then, when I got to be about 13 years old, or 14, I sold newspapers, Dispatchs.
Sunday Dispatchs and daily Dispatchs. So what I’m trying to say is I really started working at an early age, and of course, I haven’t quit yet, ah it was very interesting.
I want to thank many people because I’m very grateful for the life I led and everybody was
real nice to me and everybody, God was good to me! Gave me good health so I could do the things I wanted to do.
My mother and father came from Odessa, Russia. They didn’t have any particular skills
but oddly enough, my mother worked in a tobacco factory and made
cigars. My father was a bookbinder by trade and did a very good job
of it but he couldn’t’ work inside and every time he went to
work inside, he became ill. I guess because he didn’t get enough
air. He had to go on the outside and became what they called in
those days, a fruit peddler. He had a horse and wagon where he got
fruit at the wholesale house and sold it to residents.
Believe it or
not, I think a lot of people today would still enjoy somebody
calling on them and sell fruit or bread. So they wouldn’t have to
go to the store.
So I did that every summer. I had my own route. I
must have been, maybe 14 or 15 and I had two men working for me and
I gave them $3.00 a day and I hired a horse and wagon, I think it
was about $4.00 a day and I would go down a certain district. Like
the north end, Linden, south end, Arlington, one district and I’d
have these two men. And one man would be on one side of the street,
and the other on the other, and they’d be what was called, Glade
Houses. In other words, they’d go up to the door, and knock on the
door. “How do you do? How are you? Anything you want today?
Apples? Potatoes?” And they’d take the order, bring it to me,
I’d deliver it an get the money for it.
Now, that took about, I
would say I started out about 3:00 AM Saturday. See, we have to
catch the farmers to get the fruit, and I’d probably finish up
about 6:00 in the evening, well, believe it or not, even though I
paid them $3.00 a day and paid for the wagon, I always made $8.00 or
$10.00 for myself! Which was a lot of money in the early 1900s. But
I’ll tell you one thing it did for me – it gave me a lot of self
confidence to be out in the worked and do things on my own. And of
course, I’ve been more or less independent all my life in that
Now, from there even though and then I went to school of
course and I graduated school, high school in 1927 but three years
before that I worked at Gilbert’s Shoe Store who had a store at
210 E. Town with 99 clerks. We sold shoes from 25 cents up to $3.00
or $4.00. Course, that was 1924,24,26, so I mean those are things
that if you tell a teenager today, they just can’t believe it or
understand it. And it’s very interesting for them to know about it
– to know what happened in the early days.
Well, I worked for
Gilbert’s for three or four years, or five, I don’t remember
exactly, and I became manager of the children’s department and one
day a big chain executive came in and asked if I would like to
manage one of his stores. And I consented and I went to Zanesville
to manager his store. From then on, I remained in the shoe business
with two or three chains for about 10 years.
After I finished up
with this first chain store, I went to Louisville, KY and I worked
for a store. I was assistant manager and the manager came to me and
he said, “Supervisor’s here, we’re going to open more
stores (by the way, it was the Dan Cohen Shoe Company out of
Cincinnati) and we’d like for you to be the manager.”
so I became affiliated with them and during that period in
Louisville, KY I met my beloved wife. I think it was 1935 and we got
married and from then on, we were on the road because my company had
me as a troubleshooter of all the stores and I opened up about 10
stores in 10 years and so you must remember with 10 stores in 10
years I moved to 10 different places, you know, but they finally
located me in the south. I was in the south about 10-11 years,
opening stores. So I mean, you can tell from my conversation that it
was a very active life. And I enjoyed every bit of it.
And I had a
daughter who was born in Knoxville, TN and she today is about 55
years old. And doing very well. She’s an author and her husband
was. And she currently lives in Nice, France, because of her
combinations of her continuation of writing books, ah, language
books, that libraries have and colleges have. It’s a simple way to
teach a foreign language. And she has about five different languages
that are listed in these books. She also has cassette tapes so I
mean you can listen to cassette tapes and over a period of maybe a
week or so, you get the basics of most of these languages and she
has about three publishers that take care of all the preparatory
work and the marketing. So she’s doing pretty well so I really don’t
have to worry about Beverly.
Getting back to that, Beverly has two
children and ah, which is my granddaughter and my grandson. Now my
granddaughter lives now in Paris and she’s going to the Cinema
School and will graduate in about a year. And after she graduates,
she’ll be what they call an international producer, movie producer
because she’s going to produce movies and she speaks about four
different languages. And she went to these schools purposely so she
could speak these languages so wherever she went, went to Russia or
France or wherever, she could be very knowledgeable about these
movies. In fact, even today she still writes a lot of scripts and ok’s
certain stories that the TV news station in France chose her to see
if they’re applicable to be put on the air. So she’s a pretty,
smart little baby, and 25.
And my grandson is 27 and he lives in
Alaska and he’s teaching the 4th grade and on the side
he works on a fishing ship. So, I mean, you know, life isn’t a
bowl of cherries. But I really miss my family. But I do visit them.
I’ve been to France about three times and Paris about three times
and of course, I’ve been other places. London, Venice and so on.
The point I’m trying to make, even though I did go there on those
times, I still miss my family. But I have a lot of friends in
Columbus and my time is so taken up that I don’t have a chance to
get bored, you know me.
Now, I guess people that know me, know that I’m very active in
the Jewish community. I was chairman of the Columbus Federation
about 10 years ago in one of the categories doctors, lawyers and
restaurant owners and so I’ve been very active with the Columbus
Federation and at that time it was called the United Jewish Fund.
People know it by that so I’ve been a fund raiser, I would say,
for about 35 years. So I also work with the Jewish National Fund,
and I’ve been on the board of the Jewish National Fund, the
Columbus Federation and I’m also affiliated with the Capital Needs
Fund Budget because that’s the budget that takes care of the
Heritage House, the Jewish Center and the Shalom House, the Towers.
Our committee passes on all budget needs for that complex.
course, most of the time I’m very active with the Agudas Achim. I’ve
been president-chairman of the board an director of different
organizations. So, I mean I’ve very busy, but I attribute – one
thing I want to tell people – this I attribute my good health and my
attitude to keeping busy in these departments and I think that it
helps me physically and mentally, I know. So, I mean, I’m not
trying to show an example of what I do but I would say this: If
people today would get busy with things that – the little extra
things – I think they’d feel better and they wouldn’t have to
worry about something that never happens. So, I mean, I really enjoy
And, of course, you must remember I said at the
beginning I was born in 1909 so on January 12, 1994, I’ll be 85
years old. But I still am active every day. And I’m thankful for
that. I would like to add one more thing. How active I am with the
Agudas Achim. I’m on the board of the synagogue, also on the
brotherhood board. That’s something, and I usher every Saturday.
So you see, I’m very close to my synagogue. Which I want to be and
I’ll tell you one thing, when you go to the synagogue every
Saturday, when you leave there’s a feeling you get that’s hard
to explain. It’s a good feeling. A feeling that makes you feel
like you’ve accomplished something and I love to do that.
another thing I’d like to mention, for the past 17 years I have
been involved with Boy’s Night Out. Now, you’re going to say,
“What’s Boy’s Night Out?” Well, Boy’s Night Out is a
fund raiser for the Agudas Achim Brotherhood. Now what we do we’d
go out to New York or Philadelphia and make calls and connections
through agents and we’d get entertainers and we’d bring them in
on a particular night that we decide on and we have some of the best
comedians, Rodney Dangerfield, Mr. Cohen, Morey Amsterdam, Pat
Cooper, so you see we’ve had some of the top names in the country
and we also bring in a band with a singer – front singer.
So we give
the crowd and it’s for Boys Night Out and it means just that – it’s
for men only. And we usually attract between 300 to 350 or 400
people. And we serve a very fine dinner and entertainment. And these
people every year look forward to coming to Boy’s Night Out. In
fact, about right now, every time I’m somewhere people ask,
“What do you have this year?” So I mean, it’s a fund
raiser and we do pretty well and it will implicate to about 15 or 20
people. I take care of the ads. We have advertising and raffles and
it’s a beautiful night and we do very well financially. And this
year will be the 17th year. So you see, I’m still going
strong. I hope next year will be stronger.
This concludes the interview.