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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
S: My name is Sylvia Shorstein and I am at Elsie Meyerhoff's home on
May 15, 1980. Elsie, let's start right from the beginning.
E: We were married in my home town, Arolsen in Waldeck. It is a beautiful
city. The prince and princess were living in a mansion and my parents
were very, very well-known, because my father was the only man in horses.
Export and import, and he was delivering the black horses to the prince
S: But 1925 is when you were married?
E: Yes. We started off with a wonderful department store. Ready to wear,
ladies millinery, men's clothg, and all that belongs with it, and we
did very well in my home town. Later on, already we had to move close
to it where Albert was very much known and opened up the smaller store
since it was already beginning with the Nazis, of course.
S: Where was the smaller store?
E: In close to Arolsen in Mengeringhausen, where he was very well-known.
S: Did your department store belong to your family?
E: No, to us. To Albert... of course. Then it got worse. We could not
do business at home anymore, because, whoever went walking with us, the
Nazis were already there to watch them. And so Albert took the car and
he went out to big farmers what exchanged merchandise.
E: That is right. Beg amounts of it they delivered the merchandise to them
but that still got in terrible way, because he had to hide himself, and
farmers do not heat up in the winter-time their living room and so they
sit in the warm kitchen and that is where he did the business. But he
had to hide himself in an ice-cold, freezing room in the living room
because two Nazis walked in that house. The lady said, "Please do not
get out here. Please, they will kill us." So, he came home that night
and said, "This is it, I cannot do it anymore. We have to do something."
He wrote his brother in Fort Pierce, which one left Germany when he was
seventeen years old and he lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, and had also a
business and he looked out for us, got the papers signed for us. Senator
Pepper signed up for us. This was March the fourth, 1937. We had to
go to Stuttgart, Germany, to receive our visa papers. We were living
already in Kassel. It is a big town, two hours from Frankfurt. When
we picked up our things we had a controller there. He watched what we
picked to see if we put any money or things in the stocking or so. So,
at the last minute, our pictures and papers were ready to leave and we
left May the twefth, 1937. It was made out that my brother-in-law would
be in New York to receive us, but he broke a few ribs and could not make
it. He came by car to Jacksonville, and we took the bus from New York
to Jacksonville and that already was murder. I had swollen feet and
of course we were glad to be here. We went then with him by car to
Fort Pierce and there, for me, it was just awful. I locked myself for
weeks in my bedroom and the children, of course were wonderfully received
and there were only five Jewish families living. They were great. They
took the children to the beach and took them to the movies. They picked
up the English language like nothing, because Gertrude and Eric were
only ten and eight years old. Both of us found a job in the tomato
factory from seven ':til five. Then we went home to eat. From seven to
ten we had to go back. The children washed the dishes and also the
breakfast dishes before they went to school in the morning and I had to
cook supper in the evening and wash clothes. Fred got us a very nice
little bungalow, furnished, and that was where we were living. So I
started out with twenty cents an hour grating tomatoes and Albert, I
believe, made twenty-five cents. Then they got him up to making boxes,
to fix boxes to pick the tomatoes. He hit most his fingers more with
the hammar than he could hit the nail to put in the box. Of course, I
became sick, I could not do it and these Jewish families were wonderful,
came to the house, put money under the pillow and did not want me to
work anymore: I cried bitterly and gave the money back. I was not used
to things like that. I was brought up wonderful and had everything in
Germany. I could not keep up with the idea and I did not want to take
charity and I said, "No, nothing doing." Then finally, the lights went
up for us. Mrs. Max Rubin, his first wife here from Jacksonville had
relatives-Rubin's Department Store in Fort Pierce. Wonderful people.
They were gracious. We were there for Passover. They did anything they
could to make it comfortable for us. Mrs. Max Rubin came to visit us
and said, "You cannot live here in Fort Pierce. Your children cannot
have any Jewish education. Mr. Meyerhoff, I want you to come to
Jacksonville, be our guests in our home on fourth Street, where they
were living, and we will go and look for a job for you in Jacksonville."
Albert went a few days to Jacksonville. Mrs. Rubin went from store to
store but nobody wants him. Some people saod, "Who got you over here?"
And he answered, "My brother." "Well, let him take care of you. Senator
Claude Pepper gave the paper, whoever got you here, let them take care
of it." He went to Mr. Levy, she went with him to Levy's and Mr. Levy
got a twenty dollar bill out and said, "Here, I cannot give you a job."
But Albert said, "Mr. Levy thank you. I did not come for charity, I
came for a job." And finally somebody told him Mr. Robert Kloppel from
the Flagler Hotel, he can use maybe somebody. Mrs. Rubin said, I am
not going with you to Mr. Kloppel. He is a Nazi. He is sending money
to Germany/" And Albert said, "I will go by myself." I went in with
him and the main person there said, "Mr. Meyerrhoff, make it fast. Mr.
Kloppel is ready to leave for California for six weeks, so if you want
an interview with him, hurry up." When he saw us and he said, "I will
give you a job, but not you, Mrs. Meyerhoff. You have to make friends
with your Jewish people here to get a job, but I will take care of your
husband." He settled with him to be a dishwasher for the bar at night.
They gave us, at the Flagler Hotel, a room free. Two rooms joined with
a bath for the children one and for us. In the coffee shop, they have
the meals for half a price. Mr. Kloppel was wonderful, but he said,
"Mr. Meyerhoff come here. I want to show you something in my office
here in my drawer. The people here in Jacksonville think I am a Nazi.
I am sending money to Germany to my mother and sister to help them to
live there." He showed him the money orders, the receipts, and Albert
noticed that that was true. Your people think I am a Nazi, but I am
not a Nazi." So he gave him... later on he started off with $10.00 and
later on he also had to make the toast, and made $12.00. Finally, he
gave him day hours.
S: Elsie, where was the Flagler Hotel?
E: Flagler was that big hotel where the Liberty Furniture Store is. They
tore it down completely later. It had different names. Who came there
to visit us by Ruth Stein. She took Eric and Gertrude to service to
the Center and she loved them. They were dressed so beautiful in white
with this marine colors... The dress and suit and they looked so gorge-
ous and she was crazy about them and she met them. She took them to
the service and the Ladies Sheltering Aid gave us a free meal. They
had their restaurant there.
S: Was that a kosher restaurant?
E: Yes, that was the only kosher restaurant. And Safer's was still on
Adams Street and we got delicatessen there, sometimes to eat a sand-
which and so on.
S: Elsie, were you and Albert kosher when you were in Germany?
S: And you were observing too.
E: I was brought up that way. We did not know any better.
S: So you were Orthodox Jews in Germany?
E: Well we were not Orthodox. They called them the Dichen like the Jewish
Temple and so on, but we were Conservative.
S: What did your father do in Germany? He was a merchant?
E: In the horse business. Export and import. He was more out of the
country than in. In Bergen and so on. He was so well-known in Arolsen.
He was a great man. Believe it on not, I was glad he was not living
through that time, that time when the Nazis came. He could not take it,
because he was known as a famous man with Gentile or Jews. Even Ernst,
his son, who came here at seventeen years old and lived with us and got
a job at Sears and Roebuck. He is now forty years with Sears and
Roebuck. From here to Atlanta, from Atlanta to Chicago, and now in
Dallas, and he is doing very well. My sister came in 1938. He was in
Alabama. He got the papers from Alabama from relatives far away. My
other brother was killed in camp. His wife's relatives were living
in Alabama. He came to Jacksonville, and r picked him up from the
train station. Then he did not recognize me with rouge and lipstick
and the way I was dressed. He was speechless. This was 1939 when
he came here.
S: And which brother is this, Elsie?
E: Nynaketz here. He's living on Beredon Street. You know he is married
to Dovah. When he came he had a sign on, "Please help this man he
cannot speak very well English." He lived with us.
Every thursday orders had to go out-of-town and Albert got used to
cutting meats and cleaning the chickens and so on and so on. But
then Gertude was at the seminary and r decided to learn something. And
so Rabbi Sanders Tofield took care of this that I should be Kosher
caterer. Of course, I was not much in favor because I had no idea with
the cooking and so on. I came there in 1947, Rabbi Parnitz was with
Dr. Goldstein at the B'nai Joshua on eighty-ninth Street and they were
the biggest caterers. Tochman and Kotinskg, the biggest caterers, kosher
careers in New York. I got some menus there that I serve with them
and so on.
S: Did you leave without the children when you went to New York?
S: How long did you have to stay there?
E: Gertrude was in New York. I was living with her.
S: Oh, I see, she was grown.
E: Eric was in school. He was in Gainesville, I believe, at the University
at that time. Later he had to go to the army. But he finished. He
wrote a letter to President Roosevelt. He wanted to finish the college
first, and then he went to the army. So I learned and Rabbi Tofield,
they called me back to come to cater a big banquet, That was my first.
By the way, did I tell you that Mrs. Margolis went for all affidavits
for my family, but it was a little late until the numbers all came out.
S: Did you bring anyone over?
E: No. Just my brother. Ernest went in the army. He was too young. He
asked President Roosevelt if he could join the army to find his mother.
He was there when they captured Gerber. He was with them. He became
master sergeant in the United States Army and went from one concentration
camp to the other to find her. He found her finally. He went to
Trblinka and Buchenwald and uh, what was the other one? His father was
E: Auschwitz. So he found her in Horlant and then she came here and they
rented right away a house.
S: Now who was this?
E: This was my sister. She's eighty four years old now. Ernest's mother.
You remember Ernest? He came here when he was seventeen years old and
started at Sears and Roebuck as an elevator boy. Mrs. Seifner met him
at our fruit stand, was crazy about him. Wanted that her husband should
give him a job at Cohens, and he said, ',No, I cannot." But he gave his
car and chaufeur to send him to sears to Mr. Ellis and he engaged him,
first as an elevator boy and then he got himself up as high as he could
now. He is doing very well. I told you before. Then I came back,
catered a banquet and they asked me to stay on for the Center. They
need a kosher caterer and so on and that is when I started.
S: How long was your training in New York?
E: I was there in two months when they called me back or so. Two or
three months only, because they wanted I should have done it. I should
stay on. I could learn much more and so on. But they, they called me
back. I lived with Gertrude on Riverside Drive in an efficiency and
we ate mostly at the seminary and she wanted to become a Hebrew teacher
and in 1949 she got married to Alvin and this was it. But Tachman and
Kotinsky are just wonderful caterers. I learned a lot there. I never
thought I would because I was not interested. I have menus and pictures
and menus from them. But they serve weddings and bar mitzvahs, of
course entirely different than here, and the prices and so on. No
comparison with Jacksonville. I always say that. So then we got better
and better. We were living on Post Street till we had to give up that
house on King Street because we did not want to take a loan. We were
not used to borrowing money. In Germany you pay cash for everything.
S: Even a home?
E: Everything. I will never forget when albert wanted to buy me for my
birthday a little coffee table. He wanted a coffee table to surprise
me. He wanted to pay cash. They said, "We do not want your cash. We
want you to open up a charge account." Albert said, "oh no. If I buy
something, I pay cash." He could not get used to that and when he got
in Perry Steet now Mrs. Krulevitz, she was old Mrs. Margol. She looked
out for my brother to get a job with Setzers and so on, she was great
and so was Mrs. Margolis. She went in the terrible awful weather on
that day, and she came back on my birthday, December seventh, 1939 or
1940, and had all affidavits for my family. I said it was my biggest
birthday present I ever could get, but it was too late. They could not
S: How many were still in Germany, Elsie? Was your mother?
E: My mother was already in the concentration camp.
S: Yes, but you were trying to get her over here though?
E: Yes, we tried. We had the ticket and everything. My brother and I
saved up for the ticket, but it was too late. So my oldest sister was
on this boat, but did not come in here. President Roosevelt did not
give permission to get her in. She was with one of the youngest girls,
Iltza, the other three living here, Edith, Hilda, and Ruth. They are
wonderful girls. They are all three happily married and they are great.
But they lost their parents with the youngest sister, rItza. Another
sister, she was married to a cantor. He was right away in Aucshwitz
killed. Remember when we had this special service? Was it in, 1939,
or in 1940? Meyer was here. He was here already in 1939. In 1940, I
remember we came from Perry Street down the steps and a telegram came
from Germany, from my sister: "Please, Ferdinard killed." That was my
sister's husband. "Please help us others." Rabbi Marqolis took that
telegram and read it from the pulpit, because that was the time that
they captured all of the men on November the eleventh, r believe. That
was in 1940. My brother was here already. So "help us others," but it
was too late, they did not let them. They went by numbers to get them
all out you know. It was too late. But he went to alabama and my sister,
of course, came after six years in concentration camp to the United
States. And then we went in and Beckers came back from New York and
Albert stayed with them until I started in the catering and then he
helped me wonderful. We went out of town and we catered big banquests,
installation dinners for rabbis. I got all the, printed things still
S: How wide an area did you cover when you were catering? I mean what cities
did you go to?
E: We went to Valdosta, Tallahassee, Macon, Waycross, and Quincy.
S: There were Jews There.
E: Yes there were Jews. We catered a gold wedding. Relatives of Mrs. Dave
Harris, her mother and so on, Quincy and Also Mrs. Barnett's parents in
the pecan business. Barnett is here name. She was from Quincy. I for-
got their names. I got it all on papers.
S: Now did you start off only kosher catering?
E: Of course. Yes. And still I keep my kosher. I mean outside eating is
sometimes different, fish and so. But in my home, r kept it kosher.
We were brought you this way also. Friday night at out hometown was
a feast, wonderful, just great. All the Children had to be ready for
shabbas dinner and everything. It was absolutely beautiful.
S: So Elsie, you have worked ever since you came here to this country?
E: Yes, I had no choice. I was not used to it. It was very, very difficult
to get used to that.
S: Was Albert also brought up in an affluent home?
E: Albert was brought up in a small town in Germany and there were ten
children. Of course, Fred Meyerhoff went when he was seventeen years
old to the United States and also one of his sisters were living in
New York all her life.
S: What did Albert's father do?
E: I do not even know. I think he was a merchant. When we got married he
was not living anymore. I have no idea. One of his brothers was also
a cantor and his family were all killed. Two were killed in the First
World War._ Albert was in germany also in the war, see?
S: In the First World War?
E: He was stationed in my hometown.
S: Where did you meet?
E: I will tell you, it was a sad story. My father was sittingshivah three
weeks in ia row. His parents first the mother, then the father passed
away and after this my little twin brother from Mynot. He died when he
was ten. Three weeks in a row, and we met every morning and every night
in my parents home to say Kaddish, minyan and Albert came as a soldier.
He was stationed in Arolsen and he came in and helped make minyan. First
he was crazy about my sister. She was a beauty, she really was. Martha.
She married a cantor too. He was the first one killed in Auschwitz and
she had wonderful children. I got pictures of them here too. They
were all killed except on daughter which went also on this children
transport to England and there she met Rabbi Waxman. She lives in Miami.
They came over from England to us here, looking for a job in the United
States and they took him in Miami. My father was sixty-two years old.
I have always on Yom Kippur night Yahrzeit. He was in a clinic in
Marburg on Yom Kippur and we all talked to him that night. And he fasted
all day and the morning he must have had a heart attack. He died.
S: When was that Elsie?
E: Gertrude in 1926.
S: So he died in 1926.
E: See they asked me if I was pregnant because then I could not go to
the cemetery in Germany.
S: You were married in?
E: Yes, in 1925.
S: Were you the first one to be married in your family?
E: No, they were all married. Their children went to England on a children
transport to get them out of Germany. They were all married. Mynot was
married He married here in the United States. We were settled, see?
Oh, my mother was a beauty. She married so young.
S: When you met Albert he was in the army and he was stationed in Arolsen.
E: In Arolsen, my hometown.
S: He came and that is how you met.
E: That is the way we met, yes.
S: When he came to help make a minyam.
E: I was still in school. I was fifteen years old. My father was not very
much in favor of him because he had such a big family and, he was in the
army and my father wanted something more. Set to be a doctor or a lawyer
and so on and so on.
S: Well you met him when you were fifteen.
S: And then you started dating?
E: Yes, we were starting dating and then, my father was real angry about
it and did not want it and then so on. Finally a cousin of mine ar-
ranged, on my eighteenth birthday, that he could come in the house and
meet my parents and so on.
S: What was he doing then, at eighteen?
E: He was still engaged in the bigibusiness as a-salesman. He was a
"salesman. Going'out of town to the big customers. They buy like crazy.
Big, big amounts of merchandise. Their money just came only in cash.
You do not have this kind of business here. He did very good business
with what he was engaged in. He was with a big outfit and they were
very pleased with him until he started his own business in my hometown.
My father always took me on his trips for the markets for the horses
and so on, ahd he was so proud of me of my hair always this long. When
I cut it off, nobody could understand it.
S: Now, were there horses, were they race horses or were they work horses?
What kind of horses were they? Elsie? He did not raise a breed?
E: No. These were big horses already ready for riding and for driving and
so on. The horse business was real great in Germany. He was very well
know for that. He went to all the markets in big towns and transferred
them by train. The horses went there in big trains and so on.
S: Well, did they have shows where they showed, the pedigreed.
E: That is right.
S: Did you ride?
E: We all did, sure.
S: Did you have a place where you had the horses and you, you rode to-
E: Of course, behind the house, a big place. It was all locked up. Big
place where the captains and lieutenants all came from. We had the
army and soldiers in our hometown. We delivered, my father furnished
them with, with the horses and all. They were owned by us there.
The winde was always flowing and cigars and eating and food was big
factor in our house.
S: So these merchants or whoever was going to buy the horses came into your
home? Your parents were entertaining all the time?
E: Yes, to buy. They made appointments with my father. This was big
S: Before the First World War, did he supply horses to the army?
E: Yes, in Arolsen. Yes, he did. He went to Hassel.
S: What kind of religious life did you grow up with in Germany? Did you
go to a synagogue?
E: Oh yes. We had in our hometown only one? Sure we went, always.
S: You had one synagogue?
S: How big a Jewish community was there in Arolsen?
E: In Arolsen it just was not too big. We had a cantor called it lehrer,
lehrer so and so. So a cantor and he did both the singing and the, and
the teaching and so on in Hebrew and so on. We went to cheder.
S: The girls too?
E: Sure we went to cheder. Of course. In the Holy Days we kept very well.
Never forget my father on Yom Kippur he came in with roses of carnations
to give to the ladies to smell on Yom Kippur. We were very, very Orthodox.
S: When you went to services, how did the men dress?
E: They went to... Most men had a white kittel for the holidays. They had
the white kittel. The ladies wore their slippers for all day long to
stay. Of course we kept it very well.
S: The men were separated, of course, from the women?
E: Yes, on one side the men, and on the other side the ladies.
S: Elsie, Reformed Judaism started in Germany. How widespread was it when
you were there?
E: I have no idea. I was not brought up that way.
S: Probably mostly in the larger cities?
E: Yes. We had only this one Synagogue. We all came together. Even from
smaller towns they came to Arolsen for service.
S: When you were growing up with your brothers and your sisters, what did
..-..thee..children do? I mean, what was your role? Did you help your mother?
E: No, we never did. We went to school, we were dressed beautiful, and
as soon we came from school we had to change into other clothes,
always. Never could we have the same that we wore to school. It had
to be changed right away. We played, and did our homework, and we
played, and we had the afternoons in our garden. We had a wonderful
garden. Coffe klatches and so on. We had a wonderful life and thank
God my parents were very well-off and could afford everything. My
father was terrific. r was his most favorite, because I was the little
one, and I had many, many Gentile friends. I had a lawyer's daughter
that I went to school with. I was with them every Sunday afternoon for
coffee klatch and desserts. We went to the bakery to pick up so much
on Sunday and they were always open. Then we had coffee, cakes, and
pastries. They were were very very good. r had a lot of such people,
very fine people I was educated with, really. In high school we had
this different. We had boys' gymnasium, we called it, and the girls
high school. The daughters hefterschuller, we called it. This means
the girls only... I had English private lessons. I had a wonderful
teacher. I never forgot she always said, "Never put it off for another
day or so, just do it right now." She was a very fine person. We were
connected with wonderful, high class people.
S: It was a very happy childhood.
S: Well intergrated....
E: We never knew anything about stamps or shortages on food or so. We had
S: Now how about anti-Sematism in those days? Did you have a feeling?
E: No. My father had a Scot at card games in the hotel twice a week in
the evening. And we all had wonderful Gentile friends. I will never
forget them. They were at my wedding and everything. Not at all.
We had wonderful Gentile friends, because there were not many Jews,
and they loved us all and they know they could get everything from us
too. My father always spent it here go in the cafe with them. We
had always a great time together, really.
S: So, it was a happy youth?
E: Happy childhood life.
S: Your mother, was she very social?
E: My mother was also brought up from a family that was very religious.
She was a terrific person looking out for the children, after all four
daughters. They all were very well situated when they got married and
so on. Alber loved community work and he never would miss a minyan at
the Center or to bring some others with the car to the Center for
making a minyan. That was his attitude. He had to do this. He was
living and was free.
S: Who was therabbi here at the Center when you first came here?
E: Rabbi Margolis. Rabbi Margolis invited us for Friday night dinner and
he should us Jacksonville. When we were on Main Street, going through
Main Street, he said, "This is the main street in Jacksonville." That
is Rabbi Margolis was the first one. rn our house on Perry Street, in
our seven room apartment, Martin Lind and Lily Lind got married. And
Albert put on the Chupa. In Rabbi Margolis's home was the ceremony.
Then the dinner and, and they stayed on their honeymoon with us, they
rented with us. She was working for Cohen's as a dressmaker and Martin
worked for Williams' paint store on Adams Street, I believe, and later
he opened his own store. That is where the second one that came. See?
Then Curtis Link came. So we were the first Jewish refugee family coming
to Jacksonville. It has now been forty-two years that I have been in
Jacksonville. Still, sometimes I feel like some people never will know
me. They have been very nice to me and got acquainted. Of course, we
were very sensitive, we went through, and we always said, "We never hope
it will happen in the United States," but we had everything in Germany
what people are so anxious to have here. We did not ever miss anything.
S: Getting back to organizations, Albert became active in ZOA? (Zionist
Organization of America)
E: Yes, very much. He went from house to house, but nobody would do to
make a man a member of the ZOA. He made people Zionist members that
never thought of it. Even for Temple people. They did it for Albert,
to become a Zionist member.
S: Who were some of his friends that were getting the organization going?
E: Oh, there was Jack Becker, and of course, the biggest was Jack Becker.
Remember Mickey Bettman, Henry Bettman who is still alive. Who else
was it? The meetings mostly had to be here. Cantor Marton, of course,
was a big macher. He made everybody a Zionist member.
S: Now the cantor was a refugee too, wasn't he? When did he come here?
E: The cantor? I do not know. He came later. When always they came in,
they came to us and they ate with us and to choose whoever they wanted.
I remember there was a cantor Bettman came with Panitz, they both came
they were at Rosh Hashonoh with us on Post Street in Riverside. There
was a, a thunderstorm, terrible weather that Rosh Hashonoh. They were
staying at the Washington Hotel, but came to eat, walked to Riverside
from that old Center, and they had their trousers up to the knee.
Eric walked with them. I will never forget that. They came at three
o'clock in the afternoon on Rosh Hashonoh to eat dinner.
S: Do you remember what year that was, Elsie?
E: I do not.
S: Rabbi Panitz was the rabbi?
E: Y-- es. Rabbi Panitz came with, Cantor Beckman, but they both left, they
did not stay long here. Mrs. Panitz did not like it here. They were on
Riverside Avenue in an apartment house. She wore a blue key and she
was a very highly educated. She did not like Jacksonville at all. That
was the most reason, I think. I remember it very well. We always were
very much connected with the rabbis. Whoever came here and they felt
like home by us. We were still living on King Street in this beautiful
house with the fruit stand. It must have been in 1940. They had thirty-
two Jewish plumbers here from up north from New York and all over, and
they were boarding with me. We could not place them in our house. They
built up Camp Blanding. They opened up Camp Blanding, and the plumbers
were all Jewish. They ate in my home home and we got up at five o'clock
in the morning to make their sandwiches for lunch to take along, a little
brown bag, but we gave them a six o'clock breakfast. Then Albert went
to the market. We had our fruit stand. We worked very hard. Then the
lunch they took with them, but for supper they all came home at five
o'clock and we had them all over in the neighborhood located for a room
and boarding they did with us.
S: How long did they stay?
E: Until they opened up Camp Blanding during the war. They were wonderful
guys, wonderful. I am telling you, there it was years after they still
came here to visit me and they liked it, of course. Their wives came
and ate here and so on and, and they were really wonderful guys. All
from up north, but the work was very, very hard to cook and take orders
for the fruit stand, and deliver. We work very, very hard to make a
living. We never owed anybody a penny. Bills were paid promptly. We
did not know that kind of business like they do with the charge cards.
Albert did not like when I got all charge cards from Furehgottl, Cohen's,
Levy's, everybody, and he never liked it.
S: Because in Europe, it was a cash method of doing business?
S: When did Albert sell or stop doing business with the fruit stand, and
then did he go into catering after that?
E: No, he went to Becker's then. When I stopped by Becker's because I went
to learn the catering and he was in Becker's still; Eric was in College
"in Gainesville. Gertrude was in New York, so he stayed in Post Street
still. Then when I came back and started with the banquet at the Center,
little by little, we went into business and then we got a station wagon
and we started and we were called all over. And in 1952, or was it in
1950, when I had my breast operation, and was very ill. I had taken
already Labor Day, the first week in September, a job in Valdosta, and
I thought I could not keep that job because on July the 15th I had this
operation. Dr. Halpern promised me that I will be ready for my business,
and I was mentally very sick, not physically because he did a marvelous
job. I went to so many ladies in the hospitals all over in Jacksonville
because that was sensational in 1952 to have a breast operation. Today
it is nothing to it anymore, but at that time it was sensational, and
..._ J wen.tto so many people to show them and to give them comfort.
I remember on Shahbos morning, Oscar Margezis came to see me. Who walked
in With Larry? Gertrude, she was here while I was in the hospital.
Had him wrapped in newspaper, nobody should see. But later on, he was
the attraction of the hospital in the waiting room with his little
yellow suit on, six weeks old and just to cheer me up. When I came home
from the hospital, there were three ladies sitting on Post Street.
They were sitting there to make arrangements for the wedding for Labor
Day in Valdosta. Dr. Halpern came every morning and I had breakfast
to me a story and I was very upset, I thought I never can go on with my
business. He comfored me and was wonderful. So these ladies were there
and to get me off from my illness, they fixed up for the wedding. I
never forget, Eric was then in the army and, with his jeep, he followed
us to Valdosta to see how I would act, and really was my left arm. I
could hold a silver platter this high up.
S: How many months was that after you had your operation?
E: Well July the 15th and this was Labor Day. I did a marvelous job and,
of course, Albert was the big helper and it worked out beautiful. I
did so much good to go to people and tell them and show them this was
all cut off here. That was the sensational in 1952 believe it or not.
But Albert worked a lot for wherever they needed him. He was ready to
go and in winter weather, when the weather was awful, he had his first
heart attack when he worked for Becker's. It was the week before Rosh
Hashonoh. He worked day and night.
S: When was this Elsie?
E: When he worked for Becker's. Was this in 1947 or 1948? I do not know
anymore. Went to St. Luke's and, and he always wanted to do good for
people. Then he should not go in such weather to a Minyan at six
o'clock in the morning. He always said "I am doing a mitval." That
was his work always. I am doing a mitvah. He never would miss that,
and went for service. Then with the community council he worked for
S: He was president of ZOA, was not he?
E: No, he was not president. He was membership chairman. Jack Becker
was president, Cantor Martin was president, and I think Philip Bork was
in it, and all his people.
S: He was honored for outstanding service.
S: During the campaign.
E: Yes. He went and explained to them that they are lucky to have a store
here and do not have to go through what we went through. Even if he
got ten dollars. He asked for that, and he said, "You do not have to
give me anything, but thank God you have a good business and you do not
.ba,, to be frightened of anything or afraid of what can happen, what
has happened to us in Germany." To tell them the story.
S: Elsie, when you first came to Jacksonville or even to Fort Pierce,
because you were Germans, did you feel any antiliemitism?
E: No. We were so independent. We were not used to it, that people should
S: Or do things for you.
E: There was one person, Philip Selber. We always were shy, very shy.
Always Philip said, "You are very sensitive. You have got to give
this up." When ever somebody said, "Look at them, they are from Germany,"
or so, it got us. It got us badly, and we were very sensitive, Albert
as well as I am and we could not take that. I cried a lot and did not
want to see anybody because I felt like I was....
S: Well this was early, when you first came over.
E: Yes. I felt like, they do not like us, they do not want us here. We
"do not belong.
S: Do you think that was becuase there were not too many people from
foreign countries living in Jacksonville, whereas, if you would had
settled in New York it might have been different?
E: No. The got more education than we had. But they were wrong. They
thought they are somebody. We are this low and they are that high.
That is what they thought. The clothes I wore were from when Albert
came from Bexlin from buying trips and so on. I wore always the finest
clothes. I wanted to go on with that. If I could not afford it, I
did not buy it. But when I could afford it, I got what I liked. Albert
too. We were very, choosy what we bought. We could not afford it, we
did not buy it, but we did not like junk. We were not brought up that
S: You had fine taste.
E: Yes. So it was with the home, its furniture, with everything. When I
always looked at people and they thought, oh, they look as though they
are somebody, and they do not like us, we are low class people for them.
Then I thought to myself and Albert did too, what you got we had, and
we only jope-that was always our wish-that will never come to you that
you will miss what you got. You got two cars instead one. We had only
one. A maid to have here, it was nothing for us because we all had
maids living with us for years. They had their extra room, they had
everything. When Christmas came, they got a Trouseau. My maid that
got married, you would not believe what she got from us.
S: Now, was this your maid in your parents home, or was this your maid?
E: No, this was in my home. She was a wonderful girl. She raised Gertrude
and Eric. There was not a children's book, that they could not say by
heart. She taught them that. All white. We did not know black people
---n-rr-Germany, never. When we came to Fort Pierce, that was the time that
the black people went from the sidewalk and greeted the people and said,
"Helo," and went off from the sidewalk. Today it is different. r
should say that.
S: Did Eric and Gertrude, have a hard time making friends because they had
German accents or anything?
E: No, not at all. They went very fast. You know who took a great inter-
est in Gertrude when she was at John Goric School so Rabbi Cora Kaplan,
loved Gertrude, and she made her talking to a Murray Hill school. And
she had to give a speech. "Give me liberty or give me peace." Fantastic.
Absolutely. She was so proud. She loved both Eric and Gertrude.
S: So they did not have a hard time?
E: The Kaplans were wonderful, because Rabbi Kaplan was the, one who organized
for the refugees at the Temple downtown, some parties and some got
together also Mrs. Benjamin. We were in her home. Benjamin, but what's
her daughter's name?
S: Rath child?
E: That'is it. She was a terrific. Also Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Brown did a
lot for the German refugees coming here. Mrs. Benjamin had get to- i
gethers in her-home.and we all went. It was wonderful, really.
S: Who were some of the other refugees. You said yourself and Albert were
the first ones.
E: Yes.; Then came the Linds and Curtis Link and Sloitons, he was with
Furchgoffs. She was also a dressmaker. Then Eckstein went in business
with Martin Lint at the Avondale paint store and wallpaper. Then, of
course, some came when we still were living in Springfield and they were
all boarding with us. The community council sent them to me. They had
a special man taking care of the refugees.
S: What year was this?
E: In the early 1940s. Then they stayed with us:and then they were placed
to get jobs and so on. Like Mr. Julius Gross, he still lives in his
first home in Springgield, far out. His son Raymond is a very important
teacher here. His wife passed away. They were living with us all when
they came over first. Community sent them to us. You know who also
was with us? Mr. Benktein's amd Mrs. Sam Witten's mother. Mrs. Stein,
the old lady. She was living with us on Eighth close by St. Lukes. On
Boudevard and Eighth Street, r believe. We had a corner house and Mrs.
Stein the mother was with us, and Sam Witten was very often with us and
Ben Stein to see how we did. We always had the boarders coming in. Mr.
and Mrs. Joseph Border. She is still here, Mitze. She lost her husband
S: Now, were these people your friends too when they came?
E;_Not all of them. The Bolders and Lints, yes. I am close to Mitzi Bolder
today. The lints were good friends and Curtis Link. Others, no. Some
moved away and some were not interested.
We all came from different parts and different families and we had a
good education and we loved people. Albert loved to talk to people
always. He was interested in people, and I had always a good eye to
see. I had this from my father. My father had to look at a person and
he knew what kind of a person or what to think of it. So r always
make my own judgement and stayed away because I thought I was not liked
too much because the English language was hard to get socialized with
S: So you were self-conscious because you felt you could not speak it well.
E: Self-conscious, because I was not interested to take the English lessons.
The lady came to us, a teacher, to our house on Perry Street and to our
apartment and we took lessons. We all were not much interested but
Albert kept up very well and I absolutely I cound not get used to, to
leaving my home. Because I had everything. Had a wonderful life with
Albert and happy life and wonderful children, very smart children, and
our only wish was to give them the right education and that is what
Mrs. Max Rubin said, and that is when we came here to Jacksonville.
We did what we could. Gertrude studied and Eric became an architect
after five years in college. Of course he worked his way through.
He also took jobs here and there and we did whatever we could to help.
So it was not easy, but it. God was good to us. We are very, very
thankful. Very thankful to be here. Our only hope, I said again and
again, "I hope it will not come here." What we went through, because
I have not told you half of the stories what we went through. It was
bitiful. Pitiful to see your children, eight and ten years old, and
don't give them anymore education and get them from the school bench
and keep them to be safe. Otherwise they would beat them up.
S: Were the children ever harmed at all, Elsie?
E: No, thank God not. They were marching people through the town with the
Swastika and everything. They had to march through. If they would not
do it they would beat them to death, from big companies. The heads of
them, the presidents from store like you have Macy's in New York. You
had in Kassel, such big stores and people like this. They took them on
the street and beat them up and killed them. Thank God we did not have
to go through this. We hid in smaller towns and it was pitiful. It
S: Were there a lot of your friends that did get out with their families?
E: Oh yes.
S: They knew that they had to leave.
E: Yes. There were two brothers that came often to us in our town where
we were still having a little business. They beat them up wherever
-theyJsaw them. They were wonderful people, but they went through a
lot and I do not know if they ever made it. One r know lives in Chicago.
Another person was a friend of ours from another city in Germany. Then
Albert's best friend, Max Schwartz, they were living in New York. They
were from Hamburg. You heard of Hamburg. He went to school with him
and the same age, they were in New York, and whenever we came to New
York we viisted them. He was in the millinary factory making hats. He
even delivered to the Radio City Hall. They furnished them with the
hats and everything. They had a factory, like in millinary. Hotel,
everything. Beautiful. And then he retired and lives now in Miami.
He is still alive. Alber became very 1ll. in 1965 he had open heart
surgery, in Rochester.
S: Did he have another heart attack before that?
E: He had several. He knew it was a heart attack. Then he had open
heart surgery in 1965, and he made it another ten years, but the doctor
in Rochester told my children already he gave him another two years only.
I did not know that, they did not tell me. He made it ten more years.
In 1975, when we had our fiftieth wedding anniversary. He was at River
Garden, and we picked him up to be with the children. We could not
celebrated. We had in mind to go to Germany back on our fiftieth. We
never made it. He was over the weekend here and August the 3rd, on
Gertrude's birthday, he passed away. He made it ten more years. He
worked hard his life. We want to give our children whatever we could
and nice home and when we bought this house in 1959 and Mr. Sidney
Silver built it, and when we walked in he took the sign off right away
and said, "I want you to have this house, and I want you to sit home
and play cards like my wife does and not to work so hard anymore." I
will never forget that. He was wonderful. Eric already designed a
house for us. He wanted to buy a spot. We looked one up on Atlantic
Boulevard, but we had trouble with the zoning. We were told from a
lawyer better to stay out of it, it would not work. Then we saw this
and we bought it. And when Eric saw this he said, "It is the ugliest
house I ever have seen."