Interviewer: Okay. This is Bill Cohen for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society and I am here with Stanley Thall in his house on the eastern edge of Columbus and the date is September 12th, 2016. So, Mr. Thall, let’s start, let’s start with maybe a little bit of history of your family. What can you tell us about your parents or your grandparents, how they, I don’t know if they came to Columbus or not, but give us a little history, what you can remember about your parents and grandparents.
Thall: My mother’s father was sent over there when he was fifteen years old from Lithuania. The Russians were conscripting the young boys for the Russian army, not necessarily to be a soldier. They were using them sexually.
Interviewer: They were using them sexually?
Interviewer: Okay. For the soldiers?
Thall: For the soldiers and his father was a rabbi and he sent Isaac over to a rabbi in New York by the name of London. He came to New York. He had a little, a few shekels in his pocket and he was sent with a group of German immigrants to Columbus. They went by train, not actual train, I mean a, a I’m trying to remember.
Interviewer: A bus?
Thall: Not in eighteen-eighty uh, ball park about 1881 maybe.
Interviewer: That was the year, 1881.
Interviewer: And they came over from Russia first to New York.
Thall: To New York and the rabbi fixed him up with some clothing to, so he could open a business in Columbus.
Interviewer: So he came. He was fifteen years old at the time.
Interviewer: Your grandfather’s name was…
Thall: Isaac Gilbert.
Thall: They changed his name to Gilbert. It was Gilden Baard or Golden Beard. My mother was a Gilbert.
Interviewer: This was your grandfather on your mother’s side.
Thall: Yes and he, to step back a moment, the rabbi had quite a few children. Six of them turned out to be rabbis, boys, of course, and he sent him over here, as I said, and they went down the overland to the Monongahela and then over to the Ohio River and then to Portsmouth and from Portsmouth they went up the Scioto River to Columbus.
Interviewer: Do you mean they traveled by boat?
Thall: They traveled by boat, by barges, but pulled by, well, the current they were going downstream. The current was taking them and that’s how they got up here. Now they did use horses and what have you to go up to the new capital, Columbus.
Interviewer: So they came by boat, by barge from New York City eventually to Columbus.
Thall: Yes, but they had to go to Pittsburgh first to catch the barge.
Interviewer: And so your grandfather on your mother’s side was fifteen years old…
Interviewer: …and he settled in Columbus.
Thall: …settled in Columbus, opened up a little store, and by the time he was twenty his father sent over a woman to be his wife.
Interviewer: From Russia, from Lithuania.
Thall: From Lithuania except she, her name was Schaverovitch and she was a, she went at that time they called it a university but it would be equivalent to our high school and they changed, she and her brother, Joe Schafer, they changed the name from Schaverovitch to Schafer.
Interviewer: And how do you spell Schafer?
Interviewer: …v -e-r, Schaver like shaving your…
Thall: Yeah, wait a minute, S-c-h-a f-e-r. Schafer.
Interviewer: With an f, Schafer.
Interviewer: So, was that your mother?
Thall: That was my grandmother, that was my mother’s mother.
Interviewer: That’s right, that was your mother’s mother, your grandmother on your mother’s side.
Thall: Yes and she came over her with her brother. Her brother’s name was Joe. It’s interesting. Joe ended up marrying my father’s oldest sister. Her name was Ida.
Interviewer: Her first name was Ida.
Thall: Umhum. Let’s go back. I’ll be…I’ll come to my father’s side later…and they were…it was an arranged marriage of course. That’s what they did back then and she ended up having eleven children, eight of whom lived to be in maturity. She had quite a few, a few miscarriages.
Interviewer: And one of those children…
Thall: …was my mother.
Interviewer: Was your mother.
Thall: There was also Harry Gilbert, was also her brother. Harry Gilbert, Joseph Gilbert, Jacob Gilbert, Marion Gilbert, Rose Rosenberg, Jenny Lazear.
Interviewer: These were all your mother’s siblings.
Thall: These were all my mother’s siblings.
Interviewer: Were these Gilberts the Gilberts who later did the Gilbert Shoe Store?
Thall: That’s correct.
Interviewer: Okay, so now we know about your…
Thall: …mother’s side of the family.
Interviewer: Okay. Now tell us about your father’s side.
Thall: …father’s side. He came from Berdertchif, Russia in the Ukraine.
Interviewer: Is there a way you could spell that?
Thall: Not a chance in Hell.
Interviewer: That’s okay. That’s okay. He came from Ukraine which was separate from Russia but it was part of the Soviet Union.
Thall: That’s correct but back then there wasn’t any Soviet Union.
Interviewer: Oh, this was before 1917.
Thall: Oh, yes. This was in the eighteen…
Interviewer: You’re right.
Thall: He came over, let’s see. Samuel came over in 1891, that for a fact because my father was born on shipboard outside of New York Harbor but on his birth certificate when he had to fill it out he said Russia, but he was born just outside of New York Harbor, on the ship.
Interviewer: …and your grandfather…
Thall: My grandfather’s name was Samuel Tartekovsky and they changed it to Thall because again, more German came over and the Russians were not allowed, were not allowing you to take any money out of the country so before he left, he sewed diamonds into his wife’s coat and that’s how he got the money out.
Interviewer: That’s how he got money out of the Ukraine.
Thall: Out of the Ukraine, not of Russia because the czar was having pogroms and this is why they left.
Interviewer: So, Russia controlled the Ukraine at that point…
Thall: Yes, they did.
Interviewer: …and your father’s wife’s name was, your grandfather’s wife’s…
Thall: My father’s, my grandfather’s wife’s name was Bessie.
Thall: Bessie. I don’t know what it was in Russia. I have no idea.
Interviewer: So, your grandmother’s name on that side was Bessie and your grandfather’s name was…
Interviewer: Samuel, and they gave birth to your father.
Thall: My father, Ida, Esther, Harry, John.
Interviewer: Those were the four siblings.
Thall: Those were his four siblings.
Interviewer: And your father’s name was…
Thall: Amon Thall. A-m-o-n. It’s interesting. The wanted to name him Herman. My grandmother could not pronounce the name Herman so his name was Amon H. Thall.
Interviewer: He had three brothers and sisters.
Thall: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: And, so they came to New York…
Thall: They came to New York.
Interviewer: …the grandfather on that side and then what?
Thall: …and then they, let’s see that would be in 1891. Oh, I don’t know the type of transportation but they went overland. They wanted to, probably pretty close to the same way and then went overland from what I was told from Portsmouth because they went down the Ohio River.
Interviewer: Just like the other side of the family.
Thall: Just like the other side.
Interviewer: They came to Portsmouth and then did they come to Columbus?
Thall: Yeah. They came right to Columbus.
Interviewer: So, your grandparents on both sides…
Thall: …on both sides.
Interviewer: …came from New York through Portsmouth to Columbus, Ohio.
Interviewer: Wow. Okay. So, how did your, do you know how your parents met?
Thall: That was an arranged marriage…
Interviewer: Oh, that’s right.
Thall: …because that’s what they did back then and then they got married. Let’s see my mother was born in 1895, Dad 1891. My sister was born, my oldest sister was born in 1917.
Interviewer: Your older sister.
Thall: My oldest sister Bevelyn Ann Thall Simpson.
Interviewer: What was her first name again?
Thall: Bevlyn, B-e-v-l-y-n.
Interviewer: She was the first and then…
Thall: Yes. She was named after my father’s mother who died in, of the flu epidemic of 1917 and this is so, they came up with Bevlyn. I have no idea.
Interviewer: So, your sister was born right in the middle of that epidemic.
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: …and then when were you born?
Thall: I was born in 1926. I have a, there’s a sister, that was, Ruth was born in ’22, 1922.
Inteviewer: So, Ruth was another older sister.
Thall: Yes and then I had a younger brother who was born in 1930 name Robert Thall. He was quite an athlete. His name, in his name you’ll probably find trophies somewhere in Bexley’s trophy windows.
Interviewer: He was an athlete.
Thall: Oh, yes, basketball, baseball and football.
Interviewer: So, are those the four children?
Thall: Those are the four children.
Interviewer: And you are the next to youngest.
Thall: That’s correct.
Interviewer: So, what do you remember of your early years? Where did your family live when you were a young…?
Thall: I was born, I believe the street is called Monroe? It’s right near the temple?
Thall: Right near Next to Tifereth. I was born there.
Interviewer: You lived on Monroe Street.
Thall: From there they moved to Sheridan, in Bexley, and from there to South Cassingham and those were, of course, all rentals. Then they moved to 303 North Cassingham. They were told they were going to build an elementary school there.
Interviewer: Maryland Elementary.
Thall: They built it in time for my children.
Interviewer: Okay, but when you were a child…
Thall: …but when I was a child, my first day of kindergarten, the Rosenbergs were, Rose Rosenberg was my mother’s sister. They lived right next door.
Interviewer: On Monroe?
Thall: No, on North Cassingham now.
Interviewer: Oh, okay.
Thall: And I was four, I was, well, let’s see, I was about four years old when they moved to North Cassingham.
Interviewer: Wow. So, you were born…
Thall: … in about three years they moved and this would be number four, the fourth place. They rented the others and my mother wanted my sisters to go to Bexley.
Interviewer: So, you moved two or three times in Columbus and then you quickly moved to Bexley when you were about four years old. So, that would have been about 1930.
Thall: That’s right. In 1930, step back for a second. In 1930, there was, my, the Gilberts lived at 419 South Columbia. My Uncle Harry renovated that house, used to be a post office and they renovated that house and the reason I know my brother, when I was awakened by some loud noise. I noticed my brother’s crib was right in the same room that I… the house caught on fire at 419 South Columbia. The squirrels had nibbled on wiring in the attic and the house caught on fire and my grandmother, Sere, as they called her, S-e-r-e, stepped out of the bedroom on to the porch roof, slipped, fell and was killed.
Interviewer: Your grandmother.
Thall: My mother’s mother
Interviewer: …was killed in a fire.
Thall: …was killed because of the fire, stepping out on to the porch roof and if you happen to drive past it you will see the roof, and it’s still there and that’s where they grew up. There used to be school on Main Street called the Main Street Elementary and that’s where the kids went. That’s where the Gilbert kids went to school for the elementary school.
Interviewer: So, you never lived at 419 South Columbia…
Interviewer: …but your grandmother lived there.
Thall: My grandmother and Harry Gilbert ended up living there. That’s where Ivan lived and the whole group.
Interviewer: So, you moved from Columbus to Bexley in, around 1930 which is an amazing time…
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: …very early.
Interviewer: Many Jews of course moved to Bexley from the Old Neighborhood but they moved after the War, fifteen years, but you moved in, around 1930.
Thall: Yeah, because my brother was born. I remember my brother in a crib the night my grandmother died and he was born in 1930. So, actually 1930, 31 was when that fire was.
Interviewer: And the Depression was just starting then but you had already made the move to Bexley.
Thall: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: Very interesting. So, where did you go to school then?
Thall: I went to school, my first day of kindergarten, the Rosenbergs lived next door. They had three girls and my two older sisters and my mother drove, and I was in the car. They drove us to the Cassingham School where it is now.
Interviewer: Cassingham Elementary.
Thall: That’s right and my mother said to me, “Wait right here on the corner and I’ll pick you up for lunch. Lunch came. I went out and I waited and I waited and I waited. Finally, there wasn’t anybody else around. I walked from Cassingham up to where the Maryland Avenue School is now. That’s where we lived, 303 North Cassingham. When I was five years old, crossing Broad Street, the whole, whole enchilada. My mother said to me, “Where’ve you been?” I said, “I was waiting at school.” “Oh.” Because there were five girls in that car with my mother and I’m sure they were all chattering like a bunch of chipmunks and she forgot that she took me to school.
Interviewer: She forgot. She forgot to pick you up.
Thall: She forgot to pick me up.
Interviewer: So, you had a very memorable first day of kindergarten.
Thall: Oh, I sure did.
Thall: I also remember when they dug the hole, the basement for the high school.
Interviewer: Bexley High School had not been built yet?
Thall: That’s correct. The high school was the Montrose, on Main and Montrose.
Interviewer: Oh, that was the high school.
Thall: That was the high school.
Interviewer: And then they built a new building for the Bexley High School.
Thall: That’s correct.
Interviewer: So, that was in your elementary school years. You remember that.
Thall: Oh, yes, very much so.
Interviewer: Were you a member of, was your family a member of a synagogue around that time?
Thall: Yes. My grandfather Samuel laid the cornerstone, was president of the Agudas Achim on Donaldson Street when they laid the cornerstone for that temple. It’s now part of the freeway.
Interviewer: Yes. So, you were a member of that synagogue.
Thall: That synagogue and at one time we belonged to all three of them.
Interviewer: All three of them meaning…
Thall: Tifereth, Agudas Achim, and Temple Israel.
Interviewer: …and Temple Israel. So, you were a member of…
Thall: Through their married life, yeah, but when my mother passed away they were members of Temple Israel.
Interviewer: You were a member, when you were a child you were a member of…
Thall: …of Tifereth.
Interviewer: …of Tifereth.
Thall: But it’s interesting, my younger brother was bar mitzvahed from Agudas Achim on Donaldson Street.
Interviewer: Which was an Orthodox synagogue.
Thall: Which was Orthodox.
Interviewer: So you got your, were you bar mitzvahed at Temple Tifereth Israel?
Thall: It was kind of uncomfortable when I first got up there to say my maftir because that was the first time I had gone back to see Rabbi Zelizer. Remember the original story that I said?
Interviewer: Well, you haven’t told that story here…
Interviewer: …during our interview. Did you want to tell that story?
Thall: No. Let’s say, I was tutored by Rabbi Julius Baker and I was bar mitzvahed at Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: Okay. Okay. Do you have any other memories of your bar mitzvah or at Tifereth Israel?
Thall: Well, my, Rabbi Baker came to our, my mother’s home and I think it was three times a week and constantly I memorized my entire maftir. I still cannot read Hebrew but I memorized my maftir and I memorized my speech and it was when I went up to say my maftir it was like somebody plugged me in to a electrical outlet and the recorder came out.
Interviewer: You knew it totally by memory.
Thall: Totally by memory.
Interviewer: You were not reading the Hebrew, you just knew it in your head.
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: Let me ask you this. When you were at Bexley Elementary…
Interviewer: …in the 1930’s…
Interviewer: …that was before a lot of Jews moved to Bexley. What was that like? Were you, were you one of the only Jews or were there a lot of Jews?
Thall: There were a few but there was anti-Semitism.
Interviewer: There was?
Thall: Oh, yes, well, because we had horns.
Interviewer: They thought you had, the non-Jews thought you had horns.
Thall: Yes. It was. I ran into it. There was one exception – Ted Huntington of the Huntington National Bank. I went to a birthday party of his. I didn’t’ want to go but he said, “My mother said, I want you should come. “
Interviewer: Ted Huntington was the child or he was the parent?
Thall: Ted Huntington was a child.
Interviewer: Your age
Thall: My age.
Interviewer: …and he invited you to a party.
Thall: Yeah, a birthday party.
Thall: He lived on Fair avenue.
Interviewer: In Bexley.
Thall: In Bexley, and his parents owned the Huntington National Bank. It was in the Depression and I said, “Ted, I don’t have any money to buy you a present,” and he said, “My mother said she wants you to come,” so, I came. I walked home from Bexley High School with a Black boy, an African American who lived up by the railroad track. His father was a chauffeur or a butler for one of the rich people, and his name was Bob Dave…
Interviewer: Bob Dave?
Thall: and Bob Dave, Dave, D-a-v-e- and Bob Dave, Robert Dave and I walked home from school together and…
Interviewer: …okay because you both lived in North Bexley?
Thall: Yes, we both lived in North Bexley, and Bob was quite a guy. He ended up being in the Tuskegee Air Force.
Interviewer: He was one of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
Thall: Yeah, ended up being in, living in Atlanta, became an accountant.
Interviewer: Wow. Now you were earlier telling me about a birthday party, Ted Huntington’s.
Thall: Yes. Yes.
Interviewer: And what happened there?
Thall: I was welcomed by his parents and I had a lovely time and I thanked them very much when it was done and I went home.
Interviewer: …and you were saying that that was an exception to anti-Semitism.
Thall: There was, there was, there was of course, not everybody, but there was anti-Semitism.
Interviewer: Could you give me an example of what happened in school that made you feel there was anti-Semitism?
Thall: Oh, remarks – “Dirty Jew” – but just by a few, just by a few. There’s always just a few.
Interviewer: Your fellow students…
Thall: Yeah, yeah.
Interviewer: …some of your fellow students would say “Dirty Jew.”
Thall: Yeah, and I had to rationalize and say it’s because what their parents, they learned it from their parents. Now at, when I grew older, and we moved from North Cassingham to Sherwood Road, Sherwood and Remington, 2590 Sherwood, they were preaching anti-Semitism from St. Catherine’s. That’s the time of, oh, he was a radio…
Interviewer: Father Coughlin?
Thall: Father Coughlin.
Thall: He was preaching anti-Semitism at St. Catherine’s.
Interviewer: Well, he was on the radio nationally.
Thall: Yes. Yes, out of New York I believe.
Interviewer: But you felt that there was a link with the local St. Catherine’s.
Thall: Oh, there was no question about it. In fact, it’s interesting. Matt Gilbert drove his car when he was fifteen/sixteen years old, into the middle of the football field at St. Catherine’s.
Thall: Because of the anti-Semitism.
Interviewer: Matt Gilbert protested, it was a protest?
Interviewer: He took his car…
Interviewer: …drove it onto the football field…
Interviewer: …at St. Catherine’s Elementary School and Church.
Thall: St. Catherine’s Elementary School. That’s right.
Interviewer: Right next to Bexley.
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: Do you know approximately what year that would have been?
Thall: When Father Coughlin did it. No I can’t…
Interviewer: The 1930’s.
Thall: Yeh, in the 30’s. Oh, it was in the early 30’s.
Interviewer: And Matt Gilbert, was he one of your relatives?
Thall: Mack Gilbert’s my first cousin.
Interviewer: And you remember, you remember this that he drove his car?
Thall: Oh, yeah. His father made a small donation.
Interviewer: To the church.
Thall: To the church.
Interviewer: To, as compensation?
Thall: Yes, to get Matt out of trouble.
Interviewer: Did you as a child understand what was going on? Did you understand that the reason Matt Gilbert did that was because some of the people at the church were anti-Semitic?
Thall: Yes. Not only that. There was a fellow by the name of Junior Berry.
Interviewer: Junior Berry.
Thal: B – e. Yeah.
Interviewer: B-e r-r-y?
Thall: B-e-r-r-y. That’s another story about that I’ll tell you later, but Junior Berry, and Burns, Bob, Robert Burns, and the O’Donnells, the O’Donnells. Let’s see. That means I would be in junior high school.
Interviewer: Okay, in the 1930’s, and what happened?
Thall: Yes, and I had, they constantly picked on us, on Macky and myself.
Interviewer: They’re students. They’re young children…
Thall: Yeah. They never come after you with just one. It’s always a gang that came after you that to beat you up, to try to beat you up, to harass you in many ways, but as I got older and began working for my father, I developed a couple muscles. I caught each one of ‘em, one at a time, and beat ‘em up,
Interviewer: Three different boys, five different boys.
Thall: Yes, one at a time. It’s interesting. My…as an older person, my first wife died, Sylvia Abramson was my childhood, I’m sorry, high school sweetheart.
Interviewer: …and your first wife.
Thall: …and my first wife, and she died in ’89, and I happened to go, at Mt. Carmel West and I, well she actually died at home but she was, when she was diagnosed and I went in to a restaurant just to get something to eat instead of the hospital and this Junior Berry was sitting there as an adult.
Interviewer: Fifty years, about fifty years after you got in to a fight with him?
Interviewer: And what happened when you met again?
Thall: We talked as human beings, as civilized human beings, apologizing, shaking hands.
Interviewer: You apologized to him and he apologized to you?
Thall: Yes. We grew up and with age comes wisdom if you’re lucky.
Interviewer: Did that make you feel good?
Thall: Yes. It did. It did.
Interviewer: So, when you were harassed by some of the non-Jewish students, that’s your biggest memory of anti-Semitism.
Thall: Yeah. Those five, those five boys.
Interviewer: Hmm. So, you went to Bexley Junior High and then you went to Bexley High School,
Interviewer: …the new Bexley High School.
Thall: That’s correct.
Interviewer: The newly built Bexley High School.
Interviewer: Were most of your friends during that time, were most of them Jewish or did you have non-Jewish friends too?
Thall: I had very few friends.
Interviewer: You had very few friends?
Thall: Very few.
Thall: It was difficult for, it was difficult for me. I was a junior in high school. This was the Valentine’s Day Dance at Bexley and I decided to go stag because I didn’t’ know anybody and I went to the dance and I saw Arty Meizlish. Arty Meizlish.
Interviewer: Arty was his first name and Meizlish…
Interviewer: Yes. M-e-i-z-l-i-s-h? And he was a fellow student?
Thall: Uh, yes, he went to Bexley, too, yes, and I had known him, athletics and what have you and he was dancing with this young lady and I cut in on him. I was the one that took her to a friend’s house that would be, oh, come on Stan, I don’t remember. I can’t remember the friend. Anyway, there were four or five girls and she invited me to come to the after-party.
Interviewer: The girl you cut in on and danced with, she invited you to an after-party and what?
Thall: I married her.
Interviewer: You what?
Thall: I married her.
Interviewer: You married her and what was her name?
Thall: Sylvia Abramson.
Interviewer: Sylvia Abramson became Sylvia Thall.
Thall: That’s correct. Her sister is still alive, Marsha Abramson, well, no, her name is now Marsha Bark. Marsha Abramson married Alan Bark. He was from Youngstown, I believe it was, or Akron, Akron, and Marsha’s still living in Columbus but Sylvia died in ’89 so…
Interviewer: You met her in high school and fell in love.
Interviewer: I met her in high school and we were high school sweethearts all through the War when I was drafted into the Air Corps. Every Sunday she used to go over to my parents’ house and I used to call home.
Interviewer: So, you were drafted…
Thall: Yeah, I was drafted.
Interviewer: …in World War II.
Thall: …in World War II and ended up in the Army Air Corps in Keesler Field, Mississippi.
Interviewer: You were down in Mississippi and is that where you spent the War?
Thall: That’s where, that’s where I took my basic training and from there I ended up with, I was about to be shipped up to Scott Field, Illinois, and I came down with viral pneumonia. I got over that. I went up to, this was close to Christmas time and the captain said, “I see you haven’t had any furlough,” and so, I was allowed to come, to go back to Columbus and have a wonderful time here. We weren’t married, of course, yet. In fact, she had just, I think she was still a senior in high school and I ended up with pneumonia again, ended up at Fort Hayes hospital. There was a hospital at Fort Hayes at that time. Finally, I got over that and went to Scott Field, Illinois, took radio training. I was sent to Langley Field, Virginia, and my good friend Harry Truman said, “I think all of you draftees from a certain date can go home.” So, I went from there to Sihanoukville, Illinois. And there I met a captain. He said, “Are you a relation to Tybe or Thelma Thall?” I said, “Distant, very distant cousins.” He said, “I see you’re just a buck Private.” “Yes.” Well, now you’re a Private First Class and here’s your discharge papers but I one thing, I want you to join the Reserves for three years.” So, I said, “Thank you Sir. It’s a pleasure,” and I went home.
Interviewer: So, this was as World War II was ending, because Truman….
Thall: Yes, it ended, it ended when I was in basic training and…
Interviewer: You were about nineteen at the time because if you were born in 1926, then by 1945 you would be about nineteen.
Thall: Yeah, and I decided to go to Ohio State so, I started and my father said, “Stanley I need you in the business.”
Interviewer: Now remind us again what was the business your father was in?
Thall: My father was in the wholesale produce business, fruit and vegetables. At one time, there were a lot of small grocery stores and that’s what our business was predicated upon and…
Interviewer: Did you deliver the fruits and vegetables?
Thall: We delivered it. You bet. I carried…The wholesale produce business was an interesting business. It was an exciting business.
Interviewer: Where was your store at or your warehouse?
Thall: Town and Fourth Street, on the northeast corner of Town and Fourth Street.
Interviewer: That would be pretty close to what was called Central Market.
Thall: Uhmhum., right katy corner.
Interviewer: But your job…
Thall: We’d drive our trucks in, load and unload them and drive ‘em out of the building. I was driving a truck when I was thirteen. I learned when I was thirteen. One of my dad’s drivers when we used to go out on deliveries and he said, “Do you want to learn to drive?” I said, “Sure.”
Interviewer: Did you actually drive a truck?
Thall: Oh, sure, yeah.
Interviewer: At age thirteen?
Interviewer: Was that legal?
Thall: No. In fact, when I went to get my license I drove the car by myself to…
Interviewer: To a, to the testing center.
Thall: …to the testing center and the fellow said, “Who’d you come with?” I said, “I drove myself.” This was during the War and he looked out and said, “Where’s your car?” I said, “Right over there. It’s parallel parked,” and he said, “Well.” He gave me the written which was a duck soup and he saw what I had done, and how the car was parked. “Here’s your license.”
Interviewer: You didn’t even have to actually do a driving test for him. He was so impressed.”
Thall: That’s right. That was it.
Interviewer: So, when you worked for your dad’s wholesale produce company, your job was to drive a truck and take the fruits and vegetables to restaurants or grocery stores.
Interviewer: That’s correct, both, and also, at, as the business went on I used to drive the truck to Cincinnati to the auction. The people from California, the farmers and distributors used to ship it by freight car to Cincinnati to the auction and we used to go down and buy mostly like your plums, your cherries, all the fruits that were made in California. The head lettuce and so forth, from Arizona, they came in by rail car. Potatoes – that came in by rail car.
Interviewer: So, did you yourself bid? Were you bidding during the auction?
Thall: No, I did not. My father had a buyer but I did the driving of the truck and what have you.
Interviewer: Now, what were your memories there in terms of Jews. Were a lot of the other fruit wholesalers, were a lot of them Jewish also?
Thall: My father’s brother, Roth…
Interviewer: Roth Produce.
Thall: Yeah, they were there. There was quite a few Jews, but in the wholesale end of it there must have been like three of four.
Thall: Mercurio. Sure. In fact, Mike Mercurio was my father’s buyer.
Interviewer: He helped your father in your father’s business even though his own father…
Thall: …his own brother…
Interviewer: …had his own fruit business.
Thall: …had his own fruit produce house right across the street, and John Ball was right down, and my father’s brother had his wholesale produce house right on the, on between Fourth and Third, between Fourth and Lazelle Alley he had a wholesale produce house there.
Interviewer: So, you all competed but it was friendly.
Thall: Yes. Yes. In fact, there was a strike. The Teamsters Union attempted to unionize the produce section and they brought in a bunch of goons and, to try to stop people from buying. They tried to stop us because we were the ones they wanted to unionize.
Interviewer: They wanted to unionize you, for instance, as a truck driver. No?
Interviewer: But you didn’t want to be.
Thall: And the wholesale produce houses too. They wanted to do the whole industry. They wanted to make it all Teamsters.
Interviewer: But you didn’t want to join the union.
Thall: Oh, no.
Thall: Because, we, number one, the business was dying. It was the beginning of the end of the wholesale produce business, as we knew it, down on Town and Fourth and Town Street. That’s where the wholesale produce was and it was…
Interviewer: It was on its way down.
Thall: It was on its way down and the union, I fought it. They used secondary boycott which is against the law. In other words, they notified the people in Cincinnati and in Pittsburgh, “Don’t sell to the people from Columbus,” and they were highly unionized and so, I took a truck, one of my dad’s unmarked trucks the first time and I went to Pittsburgh to get a load of produce. I wanted to buy for the grocery stores that needed vegetables, so, I took a wad of money and one of my dad’s trucks and I went to Pittsburgh and they said, “Where are you from?” I said, “I’m from Hilliards, Ohio.” That was one of my dad’s, I’d made arrangements with this big grocery store in Hilliards and they said, “Well, alright, as long as you’re not from Columbus.” So, I loaded up and I was very apprehensive but I drove that truck right down the middle of Town Street right through the strikers to my father’s store, to my father’s warehouse store and then I did this and there were three different wholesale produce people besides my father who gave me orders that I could fill that I filled and they came and got it so they could take care of their customers and the same thing happened when I went to Cincinnati.
Interviewer: You went in an unmarked truck.
Thall: I went in an unmarked truck. I went down and then the head of the union down there. There was a man by the name of Berger and the wholesale produce houses didn’t want to sell me so, I went to this Berger and I said, “I have a grocery store up in Hilliards, Ohio, and I need merchandise.” He said, “Alright and he went back. He wrote a note permitting me to buy and I did and when I was walking around and shopping for what I wanted, I noticed a fellow completely out of place. He had a fedora, suitcoat, tie and he was, I noticed he seemed to be following me and I went about my business and I began to go, at that time all you had was Route 3, 23 I think it was. I don’t remember the name of the routes anymore. It’s been so many years.
Interviewer: From Cincinnati to Columbus it would have been the 3C Highway.
Thall: Yeah, correct and I had passed Wilmington and on the way to Washington Courthouse and I noticed this car behind me, just, and it was out in the middle of no-place and I had what we call a box hammer. A box hammer you could hold in your hand and the steel bar went out and it became a fork and it was easy to open up crates by using this hammer. I had it on the seat next to me. I took my truck and I turned it and blocked the road. I went out of the passenger’s side of the truck with this in my hand. I didn’t know who it was but we made eye contact. He backed that car up as fast as I’ve ever seen anybody do it and went back the other way. He was from the FBI. One of the men, wholesalers, Fisher, Will Fisher, told them that I was going to down to Cincinnati to get merchandise, to get a load and he had told the FBI and I was being escorted and never knew it. That was the man who was in the fedora.
Interviewer: You were actually being protected by the FBI but you didn’t know that.
Thall: I didn’t know that.
Interviewer: You were worried that you were going to be attacked…
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: … by a Teamsters Union thug.
Thall: That’s correct.
Interviewer: What a story.
Thall: That’s the God’s honest truth.
Interviewer: So, you worked for your father’s wholesale produce business…
Thall: …’til about 1950, uh, late 40’s, late 40’s because my, my son was born in 1950.
Interviewer: So it was around that time, post-War, that you went to Ohio State.
Thall: Right out of the army, right out of the Air Corps.
Interviewer: And what were you, what was your goal there and what did you do?
Thall: I, when I was in high school, I played, I was what they called a tailback, it would be left halfback.
Thall: I was extremely fast, very fast. I’ll tell you another story about that bur I didn’t, decided I don’t want to play my senior year because I didn’t want a football injury keeping out of the service and my kid brother was in the eighth grade and the Bexley Junior High School wanted a football team and… my brother and a group of his classmates came to me and said, “Will you coach us?” I said, “Sure.” I went upstairs. I had the play book that I used. Carlton Smith was coach of Bexley and I, as I said, I did not play my senior year. He stopped me on the street and asked me, “Why aren’t you coming out?” and I told him, “I don’t want a football injury keeping me out of the service.” So, I went up and I devised the defense that is being used in the colleges and pro-football today and I used it. It’s called a 4 4 3 Defense (Four Four Three). I had four linebackers and…
Interviewer: You devised this for the junior high team.
Thall: I devised this back in 1943. They scored over two hundred and seventy odd points to their opponents’ six.
Interviewer: The junior high team did that well.
Thall: Yes. We played Academy. We played in Upper Arlington. We played Gahanna. We played Whitehall and with the plays that I designed plus, and I’ll be honest I took some, took quite a few of Coach Carlton Smith – he was a genius- offense and used my defense. ‘Course Columbus Academy had a regular coach. So, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a high school football coach. That’s what I wanted to do.
Interviewer: That was your goal as you entered Ohio State University.
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: So, did you study phys ed? Was that your major?
Thall: My father said to me, “Stanley I need you in my business.” So, I dropped out of school and went back to work for him and ended up marrying my high school sweetheart and didn’t take too long for the whole business to fold. A lot of the businesses fell because the grocery stores were gone. The big box stores, Albers, Big Bear, Kroger, they all opened up these great big supermarkets…
Interviewer: So, they didn’t need you.
Thall: They didn’t need us.
Interviewer: And your business had been supplying the smaller groceries.
Thall: That’s right and they put them out of business.
Inerviewer: So, you dropped out of Ohio State to continue working with your father’s business, but then it went bankrupt or it went out of business.
Thall: It went out.
Interviewer: So, what happened then?
Thall: Well, I must have had a dozen different jobs over the years but, basically, I did three things: my father’s business, Gilbert Shoe Company – I worked for them for fifteen years. They had an outlying store for example up at Graceland Shopping Center. I managed that one. They had a store up on campus – I managed that one and then my brother said, I got a phone call from my brother who lived in Denver. He said, “Stanley, the Teamsters are trying to organize against us. I need your help. Will you come and help me?”
Interviewer: Now what kind of store did he have?
Thall: They had a wholesale tobacco and candy business. He was with his father-in-law. So, I packed my stuff and I told my wife, “Drive out here when I call you. I’ll find a place to live,” and I worked out there. It was in 1964 and I came in as a warehouse manager for Lohman Sales, was the name of it – L-o-h-m-a-n, Lohman Sales.
Interviewer: You went out there by yourself, not with the rest of your family.
Thall: By myself. That’s right. They followed.
Interviewer: They did follow. They moved out there with you.
Thall: They moved out there for four years, oh, a good three years anyway.
Interviewer: They moved three years and were there with you for three years.
Thall: Yeah, Uhmhum.
Thall: In the 1960’s, early 1960’s, and I went in as a warehouse manager but first, I tried to get friendly with the fellows who were pro-Teamsters and I got some, a little information and what have you but his father was extremely, his father-in-law was extremely difficult to work for and I left after a good year and my wife said, “I want to move back to Columbus,” and I said, “Alright we’ll put the house up for sale but I have to find work,” so I went to work for shoe store there and…
Interviewer: For a shoe store in Denver.
Thall: In Denver.
Interviewer: Okay but you eventually came back to Columbus.
Thall: Came back to Columbus in 1964. That was the year my father died. He had gone out to California with my mother and I had, my youngest sister, the one, Ruth married and went out there and my father, my father never had a vacation in his life until he retired. He worked from four in the morning ‘til six at night and those are the hours I worked up until the time I was thirty, and so, I came back and I worked for Gilbert’s for a few more years and my wife’s brother-in-law was a manufacturer’s representative for a, housewares and after he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and he gave me the territory of southern Indiana. Southern Indiana is Ku Klux Klan territory. Southern Indiana is not a good place for a Jewish boy. There’s, and this was in the 60’s and I found it difficult to sell and…
Interviewer: Do you have any specific memory of something that happened when you went to try to sell somebody these products?
Thall: “What’s your name?” “Stanly Thall.” Oh, no, I don’t need anything.” I mean, that’s as simple as that, but I went to a market which is held at the Navy pier in Chicago and I met a fellow by the name of Abe Goldman. Abe also sold housewares but he also had a small furniture, he had a couple furniture lines as a manufacturer’s rep and he said, “Stan I’m going to have to get rid of this little line. Are you interested?” I would have sold horse manure to make a living. I said, “Yes I do but I don’t know a darn thing about furniture except you see it, sit at a table and eat and you sit in a chair.” It was case goods. It was like tables, chairs, wooden rockers, and I said, but he said, “When we get back to Columbus I’ll give you a quick turn, a quick lesson in the vernacular and then I’ll call Mr. George Greer and tell him ‘I’ve got a good man for you to take my place,’” so I did it and came back to Columbus. He told me, “These are called stretchers.”
Interviewer: You’re pointing to the bottom of the chair there?
Thall: Pointing to the bottom of the chair. “You steam bend the bows in the chairs. Literally, you steam and bend the wood and then you mill it.” I said, “Okay.” I called Mr. Greer and introduced myself. He said, “Okay I want to meet you.” So, he was down in West Virginia and I looked at a map. Let’s see this little road goes over the mountain and down. I said, “Yes, Sir, I’ll meet you there or rather I will come to your factory, but I’ve been working with Abe” -lie-
Interviewer: You’re saying that was a lie?
Thall: That was a lie, ‘cause I never worked for him before in my life and I said, “I want to finish the appointments I have and then I’ll come down.” So, I went to Shilitto’s in Cincinnati, a place called Swallen’s in Cincinnati and I opened up a, I sold the merchandise so I was sending orders in for a good month before I went down to meet him.
Interviewer: You were selling furniture to these department stores.
Thall: Department stores, regular furniture stores, I sent in orders from Glick’s in Columbus, White’s in Columbus and all, and so I’d send him a good month’s worth of orders so when I went down I had a track record and he said, “Alright, I’ll give you six months,” and he was a Southern Baptist man. “I’ll give you six months’ trial.” Within three years I was the number one salesman and I worked for him for nineteen years. I also then picked up other furniture lines, a bedroom line. Oh, I had a phone call from a Dreshur Manufacturing out of Chicago. He said, “We’d like you to come to work for us. We have a line we’d like you to sell, brass beds,” and this was in ’74 and 1976 was about to come and that was the Centennial…
Interviewer: The Bi-Centennial.
Thall: …the Bi-Centennial and I was selling brass beds. I ended up selling, if you could pay your bills and they had a book that give all the customers in Ohio, all the furniture stores. I sold every one who could pay their bills. It didn’t matter if they lived across, if their store was across the street. On the top of a brass bed is a finial, is a piece of brass called a finial that stuck into the, that sticks up on the bed post and some were round, some were acorn shaped, so, I sold one that was round. I sold a competitor, I sold them the acorn one and so everybody was happy.
I sold every department store. If they could pay their bills in the State of Ohio, they knew me, and finally in 1984 I came off the road and my wife said, “Stan, I’ve got a problem. I think I have cancer. I think I have breast cancer,” and I called Andy. Andy at that time was in Las Vegas.
Interviewer: Andy was your son.
Thall: Andy’s my son. “Andy, I really,” – he was teaching school – I said, “Andy, your mother’s got cancer and I need your help,” and he came and I said, “You take the southern half of the state and I’ll take the northern half of the state and this’ll give me more time to be with your mother.”
Interviewer: So, Andy, your son, even though he wasn’t a furniture salesman, he became a furniture salesman to help you and your wife out.
Thall: That’s right. That’s right.
Interviewer: He learned the business.
Thall: He learned the business, and uh, he didn’t like it but he did it. He did it because I asked him to and that’s the way it went. Then finally my wife died in ’89 and Andy went back to teaching, went to Vegas, taught, was teaching in a Hebrew day school and that’s where he met his wife, not Jewish girl but a sweet… He said, “Dad, she’s not really beautiful but, on the outside, but on the inside, she’s pure gold,” and they’re still married. They taught down in, they ended up in Texas, Laredo, Texas, and both of them, she taught grade school, he taught high school, he taught Spanish – at Ohio State he majored in Spanish with a math minor and he taught any kind of math, any kind, and even today he’s subbing when needed at Reynoldsburg.
Interviewer: And is Andy your only child?
Thall: I have a daughter. She went to OU and she majored in speech and hearing pathology but I believe at Reynoldsburg for a short time and ended up marrying Howard Zeldin. Howard’s in the Zeldin family as…
Interviewer: D-i-n, and her name is?
Thall: Marcie Jo Ball Zeldin.
Interviewer: Now when they were children, did they, were they, did they for instance go to Sunday School, go to Jewish Sunday School or did they not do that?
Thall: No. she didn’t. If she did I don’t remember. She probably did a little at TI but you know, I was working so hard I don’t remember.
Interviewer: Do you remember if either of them had a bar mitzvah?
Thall: When I was in Denver, Andy became thirteen as, he had some training, but he came, when he came back to Columbus he was the first one who was bar mitzvahed on a weekday at Tifereth Israel.
Interviewer: Okay. Let me ask you, do you have any memories of, here in Columbus, of some of the Jewish institutions, perhaps the Jewish Center or…
Thall: The, Harry Gilbert helped lay the corner for the Jewish Center. He donated a lot of money for that, never, he was never a flag waver, and yet most of his donations were anonymous. That’s the way Harry Gilbert was. He was that kind of man. He wasn’t like Ivan. Ivan wanted his name known but not Harry.
Interviewer: Remind us. The Gilberts were related to you in what way?
Thall: My mother, my mother was a Gilbert.
Interviewer: So, they were your uncles?
Thall: My, Harry Gilbert was my uncle. Jacob was my uncle. Now interesting thing about Jacob. Jacob graduated law school at Notre Dame, and while he was there, Harry set him up in the business, the shoe store there and Jacob, or my Uncle Yach, as we always called him – that’s Bruce Gilbert’s father – he went up there with two sisters. Jenny married a man by the name of Lou Lazear and had three children. One died when it was quite young. That was Kalman was there and. Martin was there. The other aunt was Esther Frank, never had any offspring. He was a slum lord. He was a slum lord in South Bend, Indiana. He used to…big guy, looked like a sumo wrestler…he was big and he used to go around to the shanties and collect their money, his rent money and…
Interviewer: So, do you remember, you mentioned how your uncle was instrumental in helping the Jewish Center get started, here in Columbus. Do you have any memories of you doing any activities there at the Jewish Center?
Thall: I bowled, then the B’nai B’rith League.
Interviewer: Were you a member of one of the Bnai Brith Youth Groups?
Thall: Oh yeah. Just strictly for bowling. I didn’t have time for anything else.
Interviewer: Because you were working so hard at your father’s fruit wholesaler.
Thall: Yeah and being on the road and… I did not have the time. You gotta’ be a father, too.
Interviewer: Do you remember any Jewish businesses like Martin’s?
Interviewer: What do you remember?
Thall: We delivered to Old Man Godofsky. We delivered when he was on Washington, I…or Parsons, I think it was.
Interviewer: I didn’t know Martin’s was on Parsons. I know that it was on Livingston at one point.
Thall: Yeah, well, this was before that. That was, I’m talking about Marty’s father.
Interviewer: Martin Godofsky’s father…
Interviewer: …had Martin’s?
Thall: …had a butcher store…
Thall: and Godofsky.
Interviewer: It was called Godofsky’s
Thall: God, I think…
Interviewer: …or something like that.
Interviewer: …but you remember that your family…
Thall: Yeah, I delivered produce to him.
Interviewer: Wow. Your business supplied Martin’s Kosher Foods’ predecessor business with fruits and vegetables.
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: Wow. And that was before Martin’s had a store on Livingston.
Thall: That’s right. Do you remember…oh, I think they might have been out of business, Hepps?
Interviewer: Hepps Delicatessin.
Thall: Yeah, on the corner of Washington and, that would be, Washington and Mound, I believe it was, or Main, either Main or Mound and then right around, you go down one block and around, that was Schwartz’s Bakery, wonderful bread. Yeah, sure. Let’s see. What other stores, my golly, Jewish stores? There weren’t too many. There weren’t too many.
Interviewer: Did your fruit wholesaling company and vegetable, did you help supply food for Hepps?
Thall: No. They didn’t sell any vegetables.
Interviewer: You just remember going there as a child.
Thal: Oh, you bet. I remember the pickle barrels and the whole thing. Sure. Yeah. Right. As a child, I remember my dad driving there and getting deli and let’s see.
Interviewer: You were a child during the 1930’s…
Interviewer: …in the depths of the Depression.
Interviewer: Do you, looking back, do you recall feeling that it was very hard economic times?
Thall: Yes. I remember I was home. That’s on North Cassingham and my doorbell rang and my mother went to the door and there was a man out there and he said, “I’m a teacher and I hear they need teachers in Oregon.” Now up in North Bexley, you’re close to the railroad tracks. He rode the rails and came off to get food and what have you and we gave him food and he said, “Let me clean out your garage,” or what have you.
Interviewer: ‘Let me’…he was saying let me do some work in exchange.
Thall: Yes, Yes. He was a teacher, couldn’t get a job. I, when I lived on Sherwood Road, we had a Black lady by the name of Queen Victoria Hill, college graduate could not get a job. This was in the late, uh, oh, let’s see, I graduated in ’44 in high school. This was in the late 30’s, early 40’s. She was our maid, slept in a room up there and…
Interviewer: She was a live-in maid.
Thall: She was a live-in maid.
Interviewer: With a college degree.
Thall: With a college degree. It was tough. Bob Suid. Bob Suid was a son-in-law of my father’s brother John.
Interviewer: Now how do you spell his name? Suid?
Thall: Suid. S-u-i-d.
Thall: Dick Suid I believe lives up in Clintonville somewhere, his son.
Interviewer: What is your memory of him?
Thall: Bob was an attorney, graduated as an attorney, never practiced, or if he did I wasn’t aware of it and he worked for John. He married Blanch Suid, well, Blanche Thall Suid, and that was my first cousin, Blanche was. They, nice guy but couldn’t get a job back in the Depression.
Interviewer: Did he have a lawyer degree then?
Interviewer: But he couldn’t’ get a job.
Thall: …couldn’t get a job, no.
Interviewer: Things were so bad.
Thall: Things were very bad. Now, personally, I never suffered and neither did my parents. After all, we had our fruit and vegetable business and people needed to eat and that’s…it was tough. It was tough. I remember, I’m going to tell you a little, this happened before the, oh, actually I was I’d say about nine or ten, so that would be in the 30’s. My father gave, I’m sorry, well, my father supplied the people on Central Market, a lot of them and he used to give them their fruits and vegetables saying, “I will come in the afternoon to collect,” so, it was on consignment and I remember walking down Fourth Street to Main and then we were going to go down Main Street going east, and I remember stepping over people who were leaning against the wall some of ‘em sleeping, some of ‘em not. They were winos, but they were right there, lined up. I asked my dad, “Why are these people like this?” and he explained to me about the alcohol and it, I mean I can see ‘em today, but anyway, that’s what we did. We went around collecting from the produce people who were standing on the market to, and supplied them with produce so…
Interviewer: So, your business sold fruits and vegetables to grocery stores and restaurants and also to the people who had stalls at the North Market who sold to the general public.
Thall: That’s right.
Interviewer: They were kind of like small grocery stores themselves.
Thall: Yeah. Little benches with canvas tops up and down Fourth Street and Main Street. Also, I remember St, Vincent’s orphanage used to come up every Saturday to my father’s place and my father used to load their little truck up with fruits and vegetables. When a carload, I remember a carload of peaches came in from Georgia and it didn’t pass inspection, my father said, “I’ll buy it.” He called up St. Vincent’s Orphanage and explained what he had and we took the trucks and went to St. Vincent’s Orphanage and they, all the children and the nuns got together. They peeled ‘em, they canned them so they would have fruit all winter, and but every Saturday St. Vincent’s used to come and that’s how I learned tzedakah.
Interviewer: Tzedakah – charity.
Thall: That’s right and today I make these flowers, roses, right here.
Interviewer: I see them. What are they made out of?
Thall: Copper, like this. Behind you there’s more of them.
Interviewer: I see them.
Thall: Okay, and in Naples…
Interviewer: Naples, Florida.
Thall: …yeah, well also here, I donate flowers to the shelters for abused women and children, four times a year, forty flowers each time because that’s all they can hold, how many people that they can house and they use them as centerpieces. Then each lady gets to take one of these flowers back to their rooms. I also go to Hospice in Florida, [in Aval?] Hospice and they allow me to go into their rooms and hand the patients flowers. I’ve had sometimes their families are in there. At one time, I had the daughter coming out throwing money at me so I can keep doing it. Of course, I never took it. I said, “No, this is what I do. It makes me feel good,” and here in Columbus you have the Heart of Columbus which is, they feed, they work out of a church on Washington, right across from the art museum. There’s a church and that’s where the indigent, the homeless go to eat and I’ve donated flowers to them so that they could sell them and raise money for the food.
Interviewer: So, you learned tzedakah just from watching your parents.
Thall: That’s right. That’s right, learned it from Harry Gilbert…
Interviewer: Your uncle.
Thall: …who gave a lot of…he used to give shoes, [suffer ?] little children and, oh, what’s the name of the charity…
Interviewer: Charity Newsies.
Thall: He used to for at Christmas time and at Easter time Harry Gilbert used to give them shoes, the children. They should have good shoes to go to school, so this is how I learned tzedakah.
Interviewer: So, you are now ninety years old?
Thall: I’m ninety, well, I will be. I’ll be next month.
Interviewer: Next month in October…
Thall: In exactly one month I’ll be ninety.
Interviewer: So, looking back at your life and looking back at your life as a Jew and as a mostly a Columbus resident, what do you take away from it?
Thall: I take away the, I take away love, thanking God every day for the opportunity and the blessings that I have, the opportunity to give of myself to help other people because I’m not a wealthy man. Comfortable yes, but by giving, by doing by giving of yourself, working with your hands, I have macular degeneration and a little glaucoma and I said to God, “Let me use my hands and keep my eyes and I will never sell my flowers and the days that go swiftly by, we can only be seen by our mind’s reflected eye, the things we should or should not have done and having seen, we move on praying and hoping and striving to do better.”
Interviewer: Well, with those words of wisdom we’ll end our interview here with Stanley Thall at his house on the eastern edge of Columbus. The date again is September 12th and this interview is being done for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society.