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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. Max Rose
INTERVIEWER: Doris Proctor and Sylvia Shorstein
DATE: January 28, 1976
P: Where were you born?
R: I was born in the old country, you know, Pushalot. My mother died five days
after my birth, and I was the only child. I was raised by my grandparents.
When I was bar mitzvahed, my father was in South Africa. He wanted me to
come over there, put me in school, but he got sick and I had to help him
make a living. I didn't go to school. I went to work-in South Africa.
Stayed there six and a half years. Then I came to the U.S. You know
Mrs. CIda] Feldman? They didn't have no children. She was my mother's
sister. I came over here and I went to work for the Feldmans.
P: Why did you come to the United States?
R: I would say I want to be with family over here. The Schemers. See, my
mother was a Schemer. Mrs. Feldman was a Schemer.
S: What business were the Feldmans in?
R: The whiskey business.
S: Whiskey. So you went to work for them? I see.
P: You were twenty years old when....
R: Twenty years old.
S: Did they bring you over from South Africa?
R: No, I paid my own money. I had twenty dollars left when I came to the
S: So, did you live with the Feldmans?
R: Yeah, I lived with the Feldmans. Board and room. Do you want me to tell
you how much they paid me? Ten dollars a month plus the room.
P: So you never lived in the Finkelstein boarding house, did you?
R: No, I stayed all the time with Mrs. Feldman, even after I got married.
We rented out. We just got by.
S: When did you start in business for yourself?
R: I went into business for myself about fifty years ago. No, it was even
more than fifty years ago. Of course, I ran a different kind of business.
You mean in the grocery business?
S: What did you do before that?
R: I went out and bought a livery stable. They used to rent out horse-and-
buggies. People would come there if they wanted to, like you would rent
out a car now.
S: Where was that location?
R: That was Ashley and Davis. And then I peddled ice with Ben and Abe Setzer.
Then I bought a grocery store.
P: Was it a large grocery store?
R: No, it was small.
P: Did you carry kosher meats or...?
R: No, no kosher meat.
S: Whs there a kosher market here at that time?
R: Yes, Safer's. He was a Safer back then. They had the kosher market.
S: What time are you talking about? What year?
R: Well, I came here in 1911. By then Frank Safer already came here, born
here, you know. And he had his kosher market. Everybody....
S: This is Reverend Safer...
R: Yeah, Reverend Safer.
S: ...who was also at the center.
S: He was the shamus and he was....
R: Well, he was kind of a lama, you know, teacher and everything.
P: Where was your grocery store located?
R: Sixth and Market.
P: Was that in the Jewish community?
R: No, well, there were some, lots of Jewish people lived in Springfield at
that time, or they mixed, you know. Most of them lived out on Duval Street,
Church Street, and Monroe Street in those days when I first came here. But
then they started moving back in Springfield area.
S: Didn't they call that LaVilla?
R: LaVilla's there. There was Duval Street.
S: That was LaVilla?
R: Yeah, LaVilla. Is that what they still called LaVilla now? It's right
between Hogan and Lee Streets. They had to take from Bay Street to Bevis
Street. They never did call it LaVilla.
P: Did you join the synagogue as soon as you came to Jacksonville?
R: I used to go there all right. Jefferson and Duval Street, the synagogue
was built already.
S: Was that B'nai Israel?
R: B'nai Israel, yeah. They had an upstairs where they'd go for services.
Downstairs was a Hebrew school.
S: Social hall.
R: They had a kind of like a cellar.
P: What was the social life like then?
R: Well, I'll tell you. I think they was more stuck together. Mrs. Feldman
is the one first to organize. They called it Hebrew Sheltering Aid. Jewish
people used to;come in here, and they didn't have anything, and they used to
give them a place to sleep, something to eat, some proper clothes and any-
thing like that. They called it Hebrew Sheltering Aid.
P: Where was the first Hebrew Sheltering Aid?
R: Well, they used to take them into homes, you know. Everybody volunteered
like you established, even if you had an extra room or any Jewish people
that would take them in. I'1 tell you a story about the Wolfsons. You
know, Wolfsons, Mr. Feldman had a barroom in Baltimore, Maryland, and Mr.
Wolfson used to serve them with ice. He used to peddle that ice in Balti-
more. So he came to Jacksonville and he was looking around to find some-
thing and couldn't find it, so finally, he had about twenty dollars left
over. So he came over to the Feldmans and told them that he can buy a
horse and wagon for seventy-five dollars, but he's got twenty dollars. He's
going to buy some food, and could she lend him seventy-five dollars to buy
the horse and wagon? Mr. Feldman said he didn't have it. He couldn't spare
it. He didn't have it. He couldn't go to get it, and my aunt knew that I
had saved up that much. So she comes and says, "Max, go give it. He'll
pay it back. He's a real nice man." So I loaned him the seventy-five dollars
and he went and bought that horse and wagon and went out peddling. He
peddled right here in Southside. Used to go over the ferry.
S: Where did he get the fruit from?
R: The fruit? Well, the Chepnick's used to handle that.
S: Max, what year was it that you loaned Mr. Wolfson the money? Do you remember?
R: Well, I would say it would probably be 1913 or '14 or '12. I don't know.
It was that time, I don't know exactly. But I had saved that from ten dollars
a month, you know, that I saved up to seventy-five dollars. It must have
taken me a good while to do that.
S: Were you, you know, did you want to loan him the money or did you feel that...?
R: Well,Mrs. Feldman said he was all right.
S: Did he pay it back?
R: Oh, yeah. He paid it back, but I'll tell you, after he paid me back, you
know what he told me? He says, "Look," he says, "I paid you back." He
said, "Give me that money back, and I'm going peddling, and I'm going to
buy up old automobile tires." And then he said, "Whatever profit it will
be, we'll split." And Mr. Feldman had there in the back of his house on
Duval Street two stables for two horses. So he gave us a stable to store
the tires. And his fruit business got better, and putting an old tire by
his fruit would look bad. So he came over one time. He says, "Look." He
says, "First of all," he says, "I've worked so hard, and the tires don't
look good on the wagon." He said, "Now you go ahead and sell them, but
any profit that you get, well, take it all. If there's any losses, see, I'll
S: Whatever happened with Mr. Wolfson? Did he get out of the fruit business or...?
R: I suppose after he saved up enough money, he went into the junk business.
But everytime he had any affair, anything like that, why, you know, a bris
or anything like that, he used to always invite me. I was one of the first
ones to be invited. Besides that, he used to come sometimes on Saturday night.
They didn't let him peddle here on Sunday.
P: Uh huh.
R: He used to come Saturday night and had some old ripe bananas and sometimes
peaches that had just come from Georgia. He'd come up all dusted up, sweated
up, hot. If he kept the fruit over Sunday, he'd lose it. So he used to bring
it all right out on Davis and Adams Street, and my uncle used to send me out
there to sell it. He used to go down and clean himself up. But I used to
sell all that fruit. Anything I could get for it you know.
P: What kind of affairs did Mr. Wolfson have? Were they...?
R: Oh, he had real nice parties in those days. I don't remember exactly, but
I know it was real nice parties.
S: What was the age difference? How old was Mr. Wolfson when you loaned him
R: Well, Mr. Wolfson was a little bit older than I am, of course, he was married
already, and I think he had two children in Baltimore. Well, I would say he
must have been close to thirty.
P: How many Jewish families were in Jacksonville when you came?
R: There wasn't too many. There was the Finkelsteins. There was my Uncle
Goldman and Safers, and I would say around about seventy-five families.
P: Were they real close?
R: Everybody was close together here. Especially a lot of them came after these
kept on coming. Pushalot relatives and everything like that. We used to
get together every Sunday, and we had a Pushaloters Society too here, with
the man and the woman.
S: That's what I was going to ask you, if it was just women or was it men and
R: Well, the men and the women sometimes would get together, but depends what
occasion it was. But the Pushaloter men used to have a society, and the
Pushaloter women had a society.
P: Did you bring anybody over from Pushalot?
R: No, I didn't. But they came over, the Schemers came over, the Lasris, Margols,
Cohens, and then lots of Pushaloters. You know what we used to do? We used to
get us a bank to send money to Pushalot and tell them to divide it equally
to everybody, even therewere some Christians there, at least two or three
or four, to give them part. Many times we sent money to Pushalot.
P: Were you instrumental when the new synagogue was built?
R: When's that?
P: Was it in 1927 when B'nai Israel became the center? Were you in that group
that started the new center?
R: Well, yes, about then.
P: In 1927?
R: Oh yeah, let me, I'll show you something in just a minute.
P: All right, tell us about when the center began. You were treasurer?
R: Yeah, I was treasurer at one time. I was kind of consistently helping.
They didn't exactly elect me, but they asked me to go out collecting. We
used to go out collecting together, and we used to have to go there some-
times to people to visit them to collect the dues.
P: What would happen if they didn't have the money?
R: Well, at that time they didn't need very much. You know, they didn't keep
any for Mr. Safer. I don't know whether he was getting any salary or not.
I don't remember. After they built that center, they had to have some
money. They got by pretty good.
P: Did your social life revolve around the center? Did y'all have a lot to do
at the center?
R: Oh, yeah. We kept meeting people and they had social things too. When I
came in 1911, there was a ghetto, but everybody was trying to make a living.
You know Ben Setzer, when he came over, he went to work in a woodyard and
chopped wood. Three and a half dollars a week. And sometimes I had to go
to work down there at six o'clock in:the morning. The barroom in those
days used to keep open till twelve o'clock. So, sometimes Mr. Feldman used
to let me off in the afternoons, like two, three hours. So I came in one
time and Benny was sitting on the back step. I said, "What's the matter?"
You know he was a Pushaloter too.
S: You're talking about Ben Setzer?
R: Ben Setzer, yes. I say, "What's the matter?" He'd say, "The man says that
I'm not chopping enough wood for that three and a half dollars a week." I
said, "Tell you what you do. Tell him you'll charge so much a cord." When
I was off, I used to go in and help him chop the wood. And finally one
time, his boss come over and says."Well, are you trying to make four, five,
six dollars a week?" He says, "I know you was loafing." He didn't know I
was helping Ben chopping the wood. Benny used to get the biggest kick every-
time I'd see him in the ghetto. "Come here, Max. See this man here? He
used to chop wood and I used to get paid."
P: What were your children doing at this time in the 1920s? Were they active
socially in the center?
R: Well, they were small. Mildred, my older daughter, was very active in the
P: Did they go to Hebrew school?
R: Yes, they had Hebrew school. They all went to Hebrew school. Of course, at
that time, they didn't have the facilities like they have now.
P: How about youth groups like the Center Youth League or B'nai B'rith groups?
Were they active in those? Young Judea?
R: I can't recollect. I know I belonged to the Zionist organization. B'nai
B'rith, I don't remember when I joined that. Pushalot, that's the whole
thing. They ran this organization, yeah. We had a club too. We had a
picture of the young people. We used to go out for boat rides. I have a
picture of that.
S: Where'd you go?
R: We used to go out on the boat rides on St. John's River, you know.
P: Were you a member of the YMHA [Young Men's Hebrew Association]?
R: Yeah, I was a member of the YMHA. Now the YMHA was built during my time.
S: Now, who organized it? Do you know?
R: It was the man who was running it. What was his name? Hurkovitch? I can't
think of his name right now. It was right across the street. Then they
built right across from Mr. Feldman's house on the corner of Duval and...
right across, I suppose, from Duval and Lee or....They built a Holiday, some
kind of an organization. What do they call themselves? Workmen's Circle,
I believe, that's what.
P: Those Wotkmen's Circles?
R: Workmen's Circles, yeah. They have another building they built right at
the corner. Right across the street from Feldman's. At that time, they
didn't have no zoning thing. You could build anything you want.
P: What year were you married?
R: We were married fifty-nine years yesterday [chuckle].
P: Oh, well, happy anniversary.
S: Happy anniversary, well.
R: That's even very nice. What do they call us? About fifty-nine years ago?
P: Well, when you got married in Jacksonville, did you have a big wedding?
R: No, they go to Baltimore to get married.
P: You went to Baltimore?
S: In 1917?
R: Of course my uncle fixed me up with a Baltimore girl there.
P: Well, what kind of weddings did they have in Jacksonville at that time?
R: I couldn't tell you.
P: Well, do you think most of them in Jacksonville were in the home?
R: Most of them was in the home. I tell you, the YMHA, they used to have some
nice affairs down there. Dances and different things, getting together over
P: Did they have weddings there too?
R: I think they had some weddings. Of course, I can't remember any, you know.
P: Were the Bar Mitzvahs big affairs in those days?
R: No, just regular Bar Mitzvahs.
P: Quiet family....
R: I don't think they, just the family. I don't think they ever made any re-
freshments or anything like that. I don't remember. They might, but I
P: Was Mrs. Feldman one of the originators of the Pushaloter Society?
R: Yes, she was in the Pushaloter Society, but she was the first to organize
that Hebrew Sheltering Aid.
P: And then when they disbanded, they had $500 and they gave that toward the
R: Well, when Mrs. Feldman died, she made her will out to give 25 per cent to
the center, 50 per cent to the home, 25 per cent to send away to Israel.
P: Was that a usual practice that people left so much money to the center?
R: Well, she didn't have any children. She left that estate in my possession
for five years. So they appraised it as about $35-40,000 as property. Then
when I got through, I had over $105,000.
P: When you went into your grocery business, what other kind of businesses were
in your neighborhood? Were there a lot of groceries?
R: Well, no. There was just a store and the neighbors. Of course, on
Main Street, they had some business. That was just two blocks from Main
Street. See, there was Market, there was Main, Hubbard and Market, and there
was a church across the street from my store. But otherwise, there was
P: What kind of business were most of the Jewish people in?
R: Well, the Finkelsteins was in the pawn business and then clothing and gro-
ceries. That's about all. Max Feldman was in the liquor business and then
they, as soon as they come over, they opened up some butcher shops. They
had another kosher butcher shop. Safer had a kosher....
S: Kosher butcher shop?
R: Yeah. He had it on Adams Street.
P: That was next door to the boarding house, wasn't it?
R: Was it?
P: I think so.
R: No. The boarding house was on Adams Street and the Safers had it, I know
they, what's their name, there, his brother, too, down there.
P: So everybody sort of lived in the same general vicinity?
R: Yeah, the Safers. They were right there on Duval, Broadway, Adams.
P: Did you all drive on Shabuoth or work on Shabuoth?
R: Oh, yeah. We had to drive. Of course, it was horse and wagon back then.
That's all we could drive.
P: But did anybody keep their stores open on Shabuoth?
R: Yeah, they kept open on Shabuoth. Some of them did.
P: So it wasn't real strict?
R: Yeah, well, not real, real...you know. But everybody lived in the community.
They used to get together all the time down there, but they all got so
scattered. You got to go six, seven eight miles from one place to another.
P: What do you think got the Jewish community together--the temple group and
the center group? Was it the war that made people unite together?
R: Oh, yeah, I think the center's doing a wonderful job.
P: How about the Jewish Community Council?
R: Oh, the council is good too. That's real nice.
P: When did that start?
R: I don't know. I know they came over and I heard Jack Benny come over and
talk about it. Asked me to contribute and I contributed, and I still con-
S: How long did you stay in the grocery business?
R: Fifty years.
S: And then what, did you retire?
P: Let me ask you something about the Hebrew Social Club. Did you organize
this? Were you one of the...?
R: Yeah, I was one of the members. I don't think I organized it, but I was one
of the members. We used to have, especially the YMHA, we used to get to-
gether like the boat ride. Most of the time, on Sundays. Everybody was busy
during the week. Sunday everything was closed. No business.
P: Was it strictly for social or did you do any charity work or...?
R: Well, I don't know. Some of them that joined might do some charity work.
P: Do you know when the Hebrew Social Club started?
R: I don't remember.
P: Now this picture is 1914.
R: I came here in 1911.
P: Was it already established when you...?
R: No. In 1911 it wasn't there, it was built between 1911 and 1914. I tell
you, it must have been right after the YMHA was built.
P: Was it just a young crowd or were all ages involved in the social club?
R: Not a young crowd. I think this is the whole crowd. Everyone of them
down there. I think everybody was there [refers to photo].
P: When did this club end?
R: I don't know when it ended. I think after the center got it, and that broke
it up. I think everyone of them there was members. Just everyone of them
there on the boat ride.
P: Who were some of your friends in the social club?
R: I don't remember exactly.
P: Did you have a girlfriend?
R: No, I didn't have a girlfriend. I wasn't there at that time. I was there in
S: Were you active in any other Jewish organizations in town?
R: Well, I tell you. I had to make a living. I wanted to, but most of the time,
I was active in the center. That's about all.
S: Besides being treasurer, what else did you do?
R: Well, I used to go out collecting. Mr. Benjamin Baker used to be very
active. We used to go out collecting money. I used to take part in the
social work. Some of these things you have to guess the best way you can.
Nobody will ever remember. You can write it up the best way you can.
P: Mr. Rose, it certainly was a pleasure talking to you.
R: Well, good.
P: We enjoyed it.
R: If there's anything else I can help you Cwith], I'll be glad to.