This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
I: This interview is being conducted with Belle Gendzier by Natalie Glickstein
and Sylvia Shortstein. I will begin the questioning by asking Belle to
please tell me something about her parents. Where did they come from,
when did they come to this country, when did they come to Jacksonville,
and just a general background about your parents?
S: Dad came at least three times before and brought the family the third
time. The first time he left Europe, or Pushalot. He was studying to
be a rabbi, but you could not do it there. He came to America, in 1895,
he became a citizen. During the Spanish-American War here, in America,
he, Marx Baker's father, and Harry Sandler of Tampa were given bacon
and they would trade it for flour during that period. They traveled in
the southern part of the country just selling any merchandise that they
could. When Dad came the third time, by that time my brother Neal was
already here, and Uncle Harry.
I: Would you please state the name of your father?
S: Gabriel Finkelstein.
I: And your mother?
S: Sarah Finkelstein.
I: When was the first time he came to this country?
S: I do not know the exact date, but as I am telling you the second date I
can tell you because that was when he became a citizen.
I: He became a citizen in 1895?
S: Then the family was brought over here in 1900.
I: Who did the family consist of at that time?
S: I was already the youngest. I was the last one. Mother had me just be-
fore we left Pushalot.
I: Would you please name your family, your brother and sisters?
S: That is a mighty long list now.
S: All right I had five brothers, Neal, Harry, Louis, Moey, and Charliel. I
had three sisters. Dora, Tillie, Patty, and myself.
I: You were all born in the old country?
S: All born in the old country.
I: What you know about Pushalot?
S: Nothing, expect it was a small village. For instance, my sister Hattie
had polio there. She had polio when she was a year and a half and walked
for about six months. There was no way, they did not know how to treat
it at all or anything. Then she was brought here to America. I was the
last one born. Mother wanted a boy and I came as a girl.
I: You would not remember anyone from Pushalot? Your father came, he be-
came a citizen in 1895. Was there a time requirement for citizenship
prior to 1895?
S: That I could not tell you.
I: Well that would be something interesting to check on. You came to this
country three times, the third time he brought his family. How did he
make a living on the first two trips?
S: As far as I know, they sold merchandise, picked up things that could be
I: Like peddling?
S: Like peddling, a push cart, "Pekalas" on their back. That was how the
three men got together and would go and maybe in the same direction or
meet each other.
I: Describe the circumstances under which Gabriel and Sarah and the children
came to Jacksonville please. Why did they settle in Jacksonville?
S: Because Dad liked it here.
I: What did he like about it?
S: He liked it, because first place, Neal and Harry were already here when he
finally settled down. He liked the countryside. He liked what he was
doing, and he found it just comfortable I imagine.
I: When you speak of Harry Finkelstein, are you speaking of Sophie's Harry
and Eli's father and Tootie and Elsie. I did not know that he was your
S: He was not my brother, he was my uncle. Harry Finkestein was my uncle.
I also have a brother.
I: That is what I wanted to clear up. That the Harry finkelstein your are
speaking of is your brother.
S: Harry Finkelstein of Jacksonville was my uncle.
I: Yes, so there were two Harry Finkesteins. That was the point I wanted to
clarify. But Neal was your brother?
S: Neal was my brother.
I: Your father liked it here, and he settled here. What did he do?
S: He opened a tailoring shop.
I: Do you remember where?
S: On Bay Street.
I: Was it his own shop?
S: I take it for granted it was his own shop.
I: What year was this?
S: Well, it was after we were settled here. They were already on Bay Street
when that fire happened.
I: Was he burned out in the fire of 1901?
S: He was not bunt out. That one block where Neal, and Uncle Harry and
Marx stayed. That happened to be a block that was not burned out at
I: You remember what the boundaries were on that block? r mean what street?
S: It was the Jefferson and Broad street.
I: Jefferson and Broad Streets were spared. So your family business was
spared. There has been a great deal said about the Finkelstein home.
The people who came to Jacksonville and stayed in your home. Was it a
hotel? Was it a boarding house?
S: When Dad went into the business and they needed, let's say, someone to
help in the business. Now whether the young man happened to come into
the town, and he asked for work and they took him, that I cannot tell
you exactly. But where was a Jewish buy going to live in Jacksonville?
There was no place to eat Jewish food. So Mama, out of consideration
for that, he would eat with us, with the Finkelstein house. That does
not mean he lived there at that time because it was begun before the
move. No, I would not say that. It must have been begun when they
built the big house. But they had the boys come before that.
I: What big house?
S: The boarding house.
I: Then your parents lived in one house and moved to another house?
S: During the fire on Church or Monroe or Duval Street, their house was
I: Their home was burned?
S: Their home was burned down. We moved on Adams Street in one of those
houses on the next block from where this was was built, and the Pittons
were over on that same block until they moved away from there. Dad
built the big house that was between Jefferson and Madison on Adams.
I: On Adams?
S: Yes, It was a two story house and naturally when they had been feeding
some of these boys and more people were coming down. So t would call
it a boarding house.
I: Do you know if any other Jewish boarding houses in Jacksonville at that
S: Not at that period.
I: Does the name Mrs. Wolfe's boarding house mean anything to you?
I: When did your family open the big house? Was it after the fire of 1901?
S: I do not remember the year.
I: Did you build it yourself?
S: Dad built it and I can say this, when I was going to school at Lavilla,
I was five or six years old. That big house was already there. In
fact, you could say 1906.
I: If you were burned out you probably stayed somewhere temporarily and
then went into the big house. Did your father continue as a tailor?
S: I do not know how long, because he always took someone in as a partner
and the partner always took over.
I: Who ran the boarding house?
S: Mama ran it.
I: And who did the cooking?
S: She did the cooking.
I: Did she have help in the kitchen?
S: Maybe a Negro helper. I do not remember any white help, but let's say a
Negro helper because that was the time we used to use Negro help.
I: You were too young.
S: I grew up with it. That house was there a long time.
I: What years did the house operate? It was built approximately 1902, we
S: I married Harry in 1925 and he had been to the house before he went to
war. Harry would remember better than I would exactly.
I: What year did your mother die?
S: I will have to look it up. That is when Dad died, and even though Mother
lived until 1941, I am quite sure the boarding part must have stopped
years before that. Let s say at least five years before that. Not
that we did not rent the rooms out, but there was not any food eaten in
I: Belle, would you describe to us some of the activities that went on in
the boarding house and some of the people as you remember it?
S: They were all nice Jewish men. I think maybe once or twice we had a
woman come. The families began to come. It had a big living room and
a parlor and a big dining room. And during the Passover holidays they
would open this up and you would have on one table one to the other.
At that time we did not have radios and things, so we played the piano.
Hattie played piano and I played the violin. I am talking about later
now years. Jake Safer, the Safer family lived a block up on Duval Street.
We had really a little orchestra. Carrie Pilton Beeker and Louy Safer,
played the drums, Jake Safer played the banjo, I played the violin.
Carrie Pilton played the piano, and we would have a good time just doing
things like that. We sang alot. There were a number of weddings that
were performed in the big living room. My sisters, I remember both,
Til and Dora being married there. I will tell who else was married
that I remember. Annie Hoffenberg, she is dead now, but the boys are
still alive. They would play these games that they played at that time,
turning the dish, you know, the play around. That is where we all
learned to dance if you want to know the truth. That was carried on
really until the UMHA was built, (Young Men's Hebrew Association) and
then, of course, with a bigger place, things took place then. So it
you know the nineteen, that, and the block, Jake Safer had his grocery
store on that block. The Klephers had their drug store on the corner.
I: Which Jake Safer is that please?
S: That is Rabbi Safer's brother who is in the grocery business. As far
as how Rabbi Safer or Reverend Safer came, I understood he had come to
Savannah, and who talked him into coming to Jacksonsville afterwards,
and naturally any family that came would stay at the big house till they
could find a place for them selves and feel kosher.
I: What do you know about the beginnings of the Pushalot Society please?
S: That I know a great deal about, because the women used to collect us
quarters, dimes, anything. In fact Lynn Safer wrote in her article
about when they were in shule, someone had a little bag or basket or
something, and go around and just say, "Give, give." Now Carrie and I
went after we got out of school. We would take the Florida Avenue Bus
and go way out there and collect fifteen cents for the war sufferers
and for that, but during the early period, everybody-had bushkas and
they put money in the bushkas. Now Mrs. Stein and the Shapiros and I
do not want to forget so many names, the old time names, they were all
I: Mention some of these people that were Pushaloters.
S: Some of them have-passed away already. The Nabins and I told you the
Shapiros and Mrs. Stein.
I: Why did so many Pushaloters happen to come to Jacksonville, and who was
S: I think we must have been the first. Because they had family in Pushalot.
Mrs. Morgenstern was in Pushalot.
I: Does the name Harry Goldman mean anything to you?
S: The name is familiar, tell me what he did.
I: But I heard that he was supposed to have been the first Pushalot, but
I do not know what year he came. But since I know what year your father
came, we can now understand. What did the Pushalot Society do in
S: They were the ones that took care of anyone that came down here and had
no money to live or to eat. They would try to see that they got settled
somewhere and help them get a job. They were also the ones that used
to take food to the prison's during the holidays.
I: Where did you tell me Pushalot is, in what country?
S: It was a part of Russia, but I do not know whether you would call part of
Poland and Russia. It is sort of wiped out now.
I: Tell me about what religious education you had.
S: It is funny, I took up Hebrew but I cannot remember the name of who
taught it. I do not think it was Rabbi Safer, I think we had a teacher
at that time. Even though I did not go back anymore I can still follow.
I cannot translate and when they got real fast I can lose it, but I find
I know enough about it yet that I can follow them when I go to services.
I: Where your brothers taught more intensely than you were?
S: I have no record. My brothers were much older than I was, and I have
no recollection of them being home with us. Neal as I say was at least
twenty-five years older than I was. When I got engaged, they thought
he was my father. But, I cannot give you any background for them. They
were interested in the shule enough that when the Safer twins used to
sing for services Dave Davis and Neal Finkelstein gave them each watches
for that year. They thought they were so wonderful, those boys. So he
had to have a religious background of some sort.
I: Do you know under which circumstances Neal became involved in the Temple?
S: I would say when they moved in that section of town near the Temple,
and Marie was much more social-mineded, I mean as far as the Orthdox
religion. She preferred maybe the Conservative at that time. She was
the first president, by the way of Hadassah and that was the only time
I took a chairmanship as secretary because she begged me to take it with
her. Marie Finkelstein was Neal's wife.
I: These are the parents of Leonard Fink.
S: Yes, and Marvin Fink, and Chester and Harold Fink.
I: Leonard is the only one living now. Did any other members of your family
drift to the Temple?
S: Dora, Loy Panken, that is Irma's mother and father.
I: Do you know the circumstances of that?
S: That also I think was you living on that side, near the temple and the
children are growing up and whole crowds there so they went to the temple,
maybe to both places. I can say like this, when we moved on Park Street
there, near the school, the Center did not have a rabbi that time and
Shal and Rita were growing up and we could walk to the Temple, so we
joined the Temple for them to go there. Now Rita went all through that
portion of the Temple. But, Shal went back, wanted to be Bar Mitzvahed
and went back to the Center when we could afford a car and they had a
rabbi. So maybe this was a little bit similar, I cannot tell you.
I: Was this experience typical of many families who moved into Riverside
and yet had orthodox or conservative leanings with their children?
S: I think so.
I: Belle, I would like to go back and talk more about the Finkelstein
boarding house. What other events took place there, and who were
some of the people that would come over, and participate in some of
the social activities?
S: During that young time when almost all the people were there, I was a
little bit too young too know exactly who came, it was mostly the family
came over naturally, and whoever was staying in the place. Alise Diamonds
mother, Garen, was staying in that place before he got married, and the
Borksons were staying in the place before they got married. There was
so many changeovers that I am not good at remembering the names like
that. I am afraid I am not going to be able to. Harry can give you
that better than I can.
I: What was the size of the boarding house, how many rooms beside the parlor
and the dining room?
S: The downstairs floor outside of that was three bedrooms, and a little
side room. That was the whole thing. The funny thing about it was when
Dad built that house he did not know the people were using these big
wardrobes for closet. There was not a closet in the house. When he put
on the third floor though, he knew to put in closets. (laughter)
I: What about bathrooms?
S: Well downstairs of course had the main bathroom. Up on the second floor
there must have been, I would say there was two but I do not really
I: With indoor plumbing?
S: Indoor plumbing. We had steam heat. The first time any house I would
say had steam heat there.
I: Do you know what the rates were for boarding? Do you remember any of
S: No, you ask Harry He would know rates.
I: Did Harry stay at the boarding house?
S: When Harry came down here he wanted to go to college in Gainesville.
When he went there he was too soon for something but he knew Judge Pankin
in New York. So Lou Pankin was my brother-in-law. He stopped in there
to see Lou Pankin and Lou asked whether he would not help him out in
the shoe business until he went to college and that is what he did. So
he asked him where he stayed, and when he found out that he stayed in
goyisck place, he says that is not the place for you. So he brought
him to the big house.
I: That is how you and Uncle Harry met?
S: That is how we met. Then of course he went to war in 1914 when all the
other boys went to war, but he enlisted. He was only seventeen, but
he always looked older.
I: And he came back to Jacksonville?
S: He came back first to New York, and then to Jacksonville and then back
to New York again.
I: Whe were you married?
I: So it was a long time from the time that he first came to Jacksonville
and you first met him. Did he ever get to college?
I: Did he go into the shoe business originally?
S: He went with Lou Pankin into the shoe business, and then when they parted
partnership, he went one time, you know you have heard him talk about
his boyhood friend Harris Goldman from Miami? They grew-up in New York.
.H He is still very close and they go on boat trips and every thing together.
When he went over there he saw that this man who was not how shall I say
kind of crude in the old Jewish.way and he had a beautiful Cadillac car,
outside the business, and Harry liked the idea of the business. But
Harris told him that if he went into that business that he would take
his eyeballs out, that's they way it worked. But he went into it any-
way and was very successful.
I: Belle, let's go back again to the boarding house and you say that you
played the violin.
S: Hattie played the piano.
I: Harry played too?
S: Harry played too.
I: Please tell us about the lessons that you and your sisters took and your
friends and you took and under what circumstances.
S: I can only tell you who I took them from. I took from Mr. Orner.
I: Did you?
S: Yes, naturally taking lessons from him, I wrote down somewhere the first
I: Is that George?
S: That was George Orner, there was someone right before him, I just do not
remember the name.
I: What did Professor Meyer teach?
I: He was the first violin teacher that I took from.
S: Yes, I took from him and then I do not remember whether he passed away
or he went out of the business or what. Then I took from Mr. Orner
after that. And Mr. Orner had formed this orchestra which we played
once a year or something like that, but that was your basis of your
symphony orchestra today.
I: So tell me about your affiliation with B'nai Israel and how you happened to
be a part of the Center, and that period of religious history of
S: Well, when I grew up, naturally my folks were orthodox at that time
and the shul was on Duval and Jefferson, and since we lived on Adams
Street, it was very easy to walk there. Not only were we right near it
but there were so many others people of the Jewish families. The Beat'
whittens, the Wittens, and actually you formed your friendships growing
up with all the boys and girls. I did go to the Hebrew school as far
I remembered during the time when Joe Becker went in the same year.
I do not know who else was in the class really. I do remember when I
was very small and the woman sat upstairs and the men downstairs, we
would go up there, with the women and we were always welcome even though
we were a nuisance I was quite sure. Now they had a Mikua there but
I do not remember ever using it.
I: We were speaking of B'n ai Isreal and you were upstairs and the men are
downstairs, and the mikup.... Do you remember any of the religious
leadership of the N'nai Israel?
S: No,. I do not. It seems to me at one time there was a Cohen and he was
really outstanding, whether he was the rabbi or just the head of the
school or what, I do not remember. He made a very big impression upon
all the Jewish boys and girls there. That is how come most of us became
young Zionists and everything.
I: Does the name Rabbi Gindlzzer mean anything to you?
I: Do you remember anything of the changover? Tell me something about the
establishment of the Jewish Center.
S: Well, I could not tell you much about that. I will tell when we went
there the ones that wanted to keep us strickly Orthodox were downstairs
and those that wanted a little change went upstairs.
I: But that was already after the Center had been built. I am speaking of
the time before the Center was built.
S: They still separated. They never came together, the women never sat
with the men.
I: How did the Jewish Center come about being established as opposed to B'nai
S: The people wanted something a little bit less Orthodox. That was when
they built the Center.
I: Who were some of the leaders in the movement toward Conservativeism?
S: I could not tell you.
I: Do you remember who the rabbi was at that time?
S: I think you have that already and you you have it much better than I can
I: How did your father feel about moving over to the new Center?
S: I think he was content where he was. It was within walking distance for
him. This way you had to take your car and drive there and it was much
"easier than it was before. But Dad I think was a little more, how shall
I say, willing to change than Mama. Mama stayed practically orthodox
all the way through.
I: Would you say that your father wanted to be a rabbi?
S: He studied to be a rabbi.
I: But your mother was the more observant of the two?
S: She carried out everything according to Jewishness.
I: More traditional?
S: Yes. She was the one that made more of the living in the end than he
did. Of course, Dad was charming, and people came there and talked to
him and could discuss, could discuss any thing with him and like it very
much. If they came and did not have a cent, they were welcome to be
with us too.
I: Where did you and Uncle Harry live when you were first married?
S: We lived here about one year and then moved to Tampa. They opened up
another shoe store there he was in charge of Then in the 1929 Boom
came, we lost everything. So we came back to Jacksonville but we were
going to move to New York. I stayed with Mother until he got settled
up there because he had a brother-in-law that was in the dress manufac-
turing business, he went up there, and when he got settled and they
settled it for me to come up with the children, I did.
I: Sheldon and Rita were both were both young children at that time?
S: Young children.
I: So you went to New York for how long?
S: I think we came back in 1933. I tell you when it comes to dates you
have got the wrong person.
I: The height of the Depression?
S: Yes, we came back in the height of Depression is right. Harry did not
like it up there, and naturally I was glad to come back. I had never
taken care of two children in a household and everything. Not that I
found it that hard, I really did not.
I will tell you a cute story about Rita. She got up one morning, I dressed
her up and it came time for her nap in the afternoon which she took.
When she got up she said she wanted clean clothes. I said Mommy has to
wash these, and now Sear you put it on this morning and you wear it again.
I: Belle, did you work in the boarding house? Did you work at all from the
time you graduated from High School?
S: Yes, I went to Massey's Business College. I worked for a firm here.
They broke up and the firm passed to Edgar W. Waybright. I passed him
in the park one day, and I said, "Mr. Waybright don't you want a good
stenographer?" He knew my reputation already from the Butler and Boyer
I worked for. So he said to come up, maybe he had something for me to
do. He did not tell me what and he did not tell me he was going to keep
me or anything. He had his own private secretary, and he was in partners
with a Mr. Royal at that time, so he turned me over to Mr. Royal. I
found in the end I could take testimony for divorces cases when you have
it in the office. (the hearing) I would not be able to take a bit of
shorthand anymore and I left there. But my brother-in-law wanted me to
come work for him. I said, "no" I had to try to see if I was any good.
And then when Neal took sick, he wanted me to come into the store to be
there while he was: ill. They needed someone in the office. I have up
a five day week for a six-day week.
I: What was your salary in those days when you were working for Waybright?
S: I could tell you a good story about him. They called for a girl with a
high school education. Butler and Boyer did. So I went up there, I
had never taken dictation, I had never used the blue sheet. I went
up there and he dictated and I am with a book and he was very,
very slow. So every word he put down, I did not know what to put on
top. I wrote it out. I would never had prosecution, defense, I never
had anything pertaining to a law. So after he gave it to me, I had two
days or almost a half a week before the other man came back. Bu that
time, believe me, I knew the words and could take dictation then.
I: I was asking you what your salary was when you worked.
S: Well, when I wanted that first job he wanted to pay me ten dollars a
week, but I said I heard it was fifteen dollars a week. We compromised
on twelve dollars the first week andthen if r was any good he would
give me the fifteen dollars. I was with them quite a while. I graduated
in 1918, married in 1925. I know I was with Edgar W. Waybright at least
I: Is that the Edgar Waybright who was reputed to be with the KU Klux Klan?
S: I do not know about the Ku Klux Klan, but he had a wife that was in the
I: He eventually married Ruth Hope Leon, did he not?
S: He was friends with here, I know that.
I: You do not have any evidence of his being affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan?
S: No, I did not come in contact with that at all. He might have been but
I did not know anything about it.
I: So you and Uncle Harry came back to Jacksonville in the thirties?
S: Moved into the big house for the time being.
I: Back into the Finkelstein home?
I: Then you lived there with the children?
I: What did Uncle Harry do then?
S: Well, at that time nobody wanted anyone who had a place of their own.
They would not hire you because they felt you wanted it for now and you
could get out. So he managed to open up a shoe store. That was when
he opened up a shoe store on Main Street. He could not get the location
he wanted Philip Bork had that location. I would say as soon as he
could make ends meet we moved out.
I: What was the location on Main Street?
S: It was between Duval and Church, Philip was between Monroe and Duval.
It made a difference. You would not think so but it did...
I: How long did he stay in the shoe business?
S: Till he went into the rag business.
I: Do you know when that was?
S; I should know but I do not. I would have to look it up again.
I: How did Uncle Harry get into the rag business?
S: I told you, he went to see this man, Harris Goldman, and he liked the
car. That's how he got into it. he had to learn it from scratch.
Price was the name. Price was in the rag business at that time.
I: That is Rae and Isser Price?
S: That is.right. And when he saw Isser Price, saw the type of man Isser
Price was and the amount of money he had, seemingly made, he flet he
could do the same thing. It took nerve but he did it.
I: Was Isser Price his only competition at that time?
I: There were many people in the same business?
S: There were other people. That is why I think he was told that if he
starts, they would really take it away from him.
I: What were the rags used for that are bought in such large amounts?
S: What he bought their these Japanese rags that came from Japan, white.
But they bought everything. Whatever you could buy, they bought the
rags sugar, sacks from sugar, rags-that held anything in it. They were
considered different kinds of rags.
I: Was it was salvage rag business or new rags used for other things?
S: It was both. You washed the old rags. Also cotten for the mattresses,
and the covers. He bought certain cotten which he sold to South America.
He is still partly in it, but very little compared to the paper. That
you have to know so many things about the paper. With all the new kinds,
of nylon. He went practically out of rags, everything became nylon.
I: That was later, that was around the forties I think that nylon came in.
Before that it was either linen or cotten or felt.
I: What did you do as a young lady for the early years that you and Harry
were married, for entertainment in Jacksonville apart from what went on
in the boarding house?
S: There really was not anything unless you went to a movie. We were always
interested in music, but I do not remember anything at that time until
we moved back to Jacksonville after coming back from New York.
I: Was your entertaining centered mostly in your home?
S: Mostly in the big house. I had lived just about a year out of the big
house in Jacksonville. We played bridge. We had a big group, about
three tables of bridge.
I: What about the synagogwe whether it was B'nai Israel or the Jewish Center?
Were there social events connected with the synagogue?
S: Well, before I got married, we went to the synagogue on Friday nights,
and after the services the boys took us out in the car and we went dancing.
You used to have places like in Ortega where you go for a couple dances.
The we had a group of the boys, we went to the beach by train.
I: Belle, I want to ask you about your going to the beach, as far back as
you can remember.
S: Let's say the first time that I went to the Beach was before I was old
enough to go with a crowd. My brother Neal and Dave Davis had a house
there, and my sister Dora and Lou Pankin rented a house there, and Dad
had bought a house there, a three story house. The houses were all
I: Where-twasthis located?
S: This was on the south side, near where the lighthouse, or Red Cross is.
I: Was it called Jacksonville Beach?
S: That was Jacksonville Beach. All this is still Jacksonville Beach.
I: What was Pablo Beach?
S: Pablo Beach was the beginning of Jacksonville Beach.
I: That was the first name? That was before 1915.
S: That was before the Jacksonville Beach. They changed it afterwards to
I: You said your folks had a house there?
S: Dad built a house there.
I: What street was that on now?
S: I could not tell you.
I: Was it on the boardwalk along with the Finkelstein and Davis house?
S: No, that was already Neptune Beach, where they were. How did they call
I: Jacksonville Beach.
S: That's where they were. This was a house on the south side of that.
I think they called it the south side of Jacksonville Beach, and he
sold it. When he used to go there we would go in bathing. This was
before I was old enough to go as a group. We had a group and we would
take the train after work, at least I would be after work.
I: Where did you.take the train?
S: I caught it under the Broad Street viaduct the Expressway. They would
stop there and pick up anyone who wanted to go to the beach. We would
go there and we would if we wanted to you could go in bathing. But
usually, by that time we would have supper out there and we would dance.
And if you did not catch the train back when it left at 12:30 or 1:00,
you were stuck.
I: Now, you danced on the pier?
S: We danced on the pier. They had pavillions in a couple of places there.
I think dances were two for a nickle or things like that. They were
nice dances. There was nothing that you had to worry about when you
went out there with a crowd.
I: -In-other words, it was not a rough crowd, it was not a rowdy crowd?
S: Either the pier or there, or any of these.
I: They had more than one pavillion?
S: t think there were two dance places. Maybe I am wrong but I think it
was at least two places that you could go in and dance and pay for it.
I do not remember all the eating places, but we would manage to find
someplace where we could have hish and things like that.
I: When you said two dances per nickle, did someone ask you to dance?
S: I am talking about when we went as five boys, five girls. We went as a
crowd. Abe Newman was there, Joe Becker was there. I am trying to
think of who the crowd was Carrie and myself, Ethel Tillman and the
Witten boy who died. The one that they said committed suicide.
S: Max Witten. He was part of that crowd. Ish Witten was I think part of
that crowd. We had about five or six, some of the boys changed at times
and one of the girls that would come out. I do not remember all the
girls anymore. We had an awfully good time.
I: Did the boys pay for the dances?
S: For the dances and for the food. We used to go on these boats.
I: What boats?
S: To Green Cove Springs in Jacksonville.
I: Tell us about that.
S: The YMHA that we had here, the girls would make lunches, the boys would
pay for the boats, and we would go on this boat in the morning, go all
the way to Green Cove Springs.
I: Then what would you do?
S: Well, they had that pool there if you wanted to go in the pool or to
dance or to whatever you wanted to do. You had so many hours there,
and then we would get on and come back again.
I: This was during the period after the War and before your marriage, in
the early twenties that you are speaking of?
S: Before I got married anyway. But we had a good time.
I: Belle, I have here the Spring Festival of March 1918, sponsored by the
YMHA and YWHA, and it says that Harry was the editor and really the
movement behind this program. I thought he was in the service. Did he
get out early or was he stationed in Jacksonville?
S: No, he got out. He went in 1917. He was back when the war quit.
I: The war ended in November and this is March of 1918 in this book. Did
he come home early?
S: Wait, he did this before he left. He took an active part of the shul.
I: I realize that.
S: So it might have been before he went into-the War. He did come back
after the War. But he could not possibly, I do not think he came back
I: Well I just wanted to see for my information, som of these dates here.
You took boatrides to Green Cove Springs, and you went dancing on the
pier. What about automobiles? Did any of you have automobiles?
S: Joe Becker had an automobile, my brother Neal had an automobiles, Harry
Finkelstein most likely had one. Hoe Becker got a Ford, and in his
Ford all of us girls learned how to drive.
I: I want to change the subject and shift gears just a little bit, and
speak to you about your Uncle Harry Finkelstein. Do you know who was
the first Jewish person to move to Riverside? Have you any idea?
S: Not who was the first one.
I: Do you who were amongst the first to move to Riverside?
S: Let's say they were part of it. I think you could get from Carrie and
Joe when they moved over there. I do not remember the dates. I think
it is a lost subject with me.
I: Just because it seems that the Jewish community was centered in Spring-
field, and then there was the movement to Riverside and I wondered if
you remembered any of these people.
S: No, I would not remember who moved over there first. Out in Springfield
before they moved over there. I thought at that time they had a
lovely house there before they moved over to Riverside.
I: It is quite possible. I am only concerning myself with the Jewish move
to the Riverside area.
S: I could not tell you that.
I: When did you move here Aunt Belle?
S: In this house here?
S: I lived on Park Street first when we came back from New York and Harry
went into business.
I: When was that?
S: I think it was 1933 but I do not know whether I am telling you the right
thing or not. I might be wrong because when it comes to dates I do not
know. When we moved here, there was a lot of Jewish people already here.
Alice Bisco was already here. I moved here when shel had his Bar
Mitzvah. We moved from the Park Street here and the lady that built
this house had everything dark wood, but, good wood. I was friends-with
her for years. She built that other house there too, but we have been
living here since then.
I: Did you and Harry keep Kosher?
S: I kept kosher until I went to New York, and there I broke it.
I: Was this more you inclination ot keep kosher than Harry's?
S: Yes, it did not make any difference to Harry. But when I was there and
found I liked things, well partly when I lived in Tampa too, you have
maid service. Of course you know you always get certain things mixed
up, but I tried it anyway. I was very careful at the very beginning,
but with the children it made a difference. But even so, I keep half
I: Aunt Belle, were you yourself active in the organizations or groups?
S: I took apart of anything that came among the Jewish people. I went out
for the war sufferers to collect money. I did anything that I could
help along. As I said that was River Garden really started to grow.
(River Garden Herew Home forth AGRD) The member ship really grew then
I: Belle, may I please go back to a general subject. The relationship in
your younger years, I am speaking of.up say through 1920 as best you
can remember, up to 1930. The relationship that existed socially and
otherwise between the Reform and Orthodox groups. What brought them
together? What kept them apart?
S: I think because so many of the Orthodox people went to the Temple there
was a relationship, but it was mostly social. Yes, it would seem
Yes, it would seem mostly social. I can tell you then the Temple and
the Center decided that they would have services one Friday night or
one Saturday. I think it was a Friday night services since the Center
had services on Friday nights too. When the Center went to the Temple,
they went in a crowd. When the Temple came to the Center, it was very
few people. I would say maybe at the very beginning there were more,
but it dwindled down to practically nothing. When Bertie Davis Myerson
was president of Sisterhood of the Temple, she once asked me, "Why
don't we come on over there to the Temple." Well, I did not really want
to say anything, but I could have told her, "Bertie, I do not see you
coming for anything over here when we have it." I suppose that is the
way they felt.
....J -Did-you feel that there was any antagonism of the Reform towards the
Orthodox or Orthodox towards Reform socially or religiously or in
S: Maybe socially a little. Because everybody had their own social groups
though there was a difference in what they did. But a lot of the group
went to the Temple, partly because of the social. They felt it was a
more, maybe what they wanted to do.
I: Did money separate people?
S: I do not think so.
I: Were there little groups of people that had more money than the next
S: I think so.
I: To your knowledge, who were the wealthy Orthodox Jews in Jacksonville?
S: Until years later I never knew. Of course the Wolfson's made money, and
the lippman's made money. I am just talking about those that I know
I: Was your family, the Finkelsteins, considered to be wealthy?
S: Neal was supposed to be wealthy. Uncle Harry was wealthy, there was no
question about that.
I: How did Uncle Harry make his money?
S: In that pawn shop, jewelry business. Neal did the same thing. Marx
Barker's father, not father, Marx Baker. I do not think the father
had anything to do with it. But marx Baker and Harry Baker also owned
the next block.
I: Did they acquire property as they went along, holdings and mortgages?
S: Yes, half of Broad Street was Harry Finkelstein. There are just getting
rid of the rest of it. Neal had Eighth Street and Miami, and yet when
the boom came, he almost lost everything he had, but they were able to
save enough to start and then he started that jewerly store on Forsyth.
I: Was Marie a local resident?
S: No, from Baltimore.
I: She was from Baltimore?
I: She was: a very beautiful woman, wasn't she?
S: ___She_was=pretty, but she was very social minded, and we lived on the wrong
side of the tracks.
I: Well getting back to Marie.
S: Marie was Leonard's Mother.
I: And, Melvin's mother, and her husband was Neal. They became then
members of the Temple.
I: I see. They came over to Riverside, and then they moved over on the
other side of town. Is there anything else that you would like to tell
us about your children or your husband?
S: I am not good at that. If we had Harry here he could tell you.
I: Well he has-a 'different approach. Now he is a community approach to
Jacksonville, and I wanted the Finkelstein family and the boarding
house. That interested me a great deal.
S: He could tell you something about the boarding house and the Finkelstein
family too. Maybe even more than I can tell you.
I: What kind of front doors did you have on the boarding house, double
doors or single doors, do you remember?
I: Did you open two doors this way?
S: I know what you are talking about but I think it was a single door.
I: Did you have double glass windows or just plain windows?
S: I think just plain. We had a beautiful yard in front and roses climbing
up to the second floor and they were really gorgeous roses.
I: Aunt Belle, do you know of anyone who would have a picture of the boarding
S: I have no idea. I think we were very fortunate that we have pictures
of Mother and Dad.
I: Aunt Belle, thank you very much for letting us come into talk to you
today. Thank you very much.