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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
INTERVIEWEE: Evelyn Blum
INTERVIEWER: Sylvia Lewis
DATE: November 24, 1981
PLACE: West Palm Beach, Florida
L: I.am in the home of Evelyn and Henry Blum, 2305 South Flagler
Drive, in the City of West Palm Beach. The date is November 24,
Evelyn, I want to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for
the Oral History Project of The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach
To start our interview, would you please tell me where and when
you were born?
B: I was born in Stamford, Connecticut, June 15, 1921.
Actually, we lived in so many places in Connecticut that I could
be considered to be the wandering Jew. We lived in Stamford, we
lived in Bridgeport, in Waterbury. We were there. My mother and
my father moved to New York when I was about a year old. We lived
in all five boroughs. It was hard making a living and wherever
my father bought a store, that's where we settled.
One thing stood out very vividly in my mind, that we certainly not
permanent people, We did have to travel around a lot because of
my father's making a living. My mother and father were always in
business together. My dad came from Europe to this country when
he was about 16 years old. He left his mother and father and a
sister in Poland. When he got off the boat at Ellis Island, it
seemed that they called people "Greenies", so my father's name
was Greenspan. When he signed his certificate here, he became
Charles Green because he felt if they called him "Greenie" that
that must be his name. He went into manufacturing hats. At
that time hats were very popular, particularly up north.
L: This would be during the 20's.
B: During the 20's. He must have come here in 1915 and he met my
mother through a "shiddach."
L: Where was your mother from?
B: My mother was born here. My mother comes from a large family. Her
mother and father and several of the children came from Europe.
But half the children were born here in America. I often wondered
why my mother, who was American, would marry a man who was so
definitely European. His accent! I often wondered what attracted
mother to my dad, other than he was handsome and he had a great
personality. But he did have a heavy foreign accent, whereas my
mother did not.
L: The continental charm of a foreign accent.
B: Probably. As I said, we traveled around a great deal. We lived
'in the Bronx, we lived in Manhattan, and we lived out on the
Island. The only place we didn't live was Staten Island. We
I grew up in a very loving family. A family that was hard working
and they really could not give my brother, who is six years younger
than I, and me, too much of the attention that they wanted to.
The quality of concern and love was there. Of course, my mother had
sisters and I loved my aunts as I would my mother, and we all had
great time together. And my mother's mother was the most
marvelous person that God ever put on this earth. All my values,
everything I learned, I learned from my grandmother (only because
my mother was busy in a store). They had a stationery store,
which kept them many hours.
I almost think that I raised myself in certain ways, but because of
the values that I had, I grew up being the person that I am today.
L: What was your exposure to Jewish life, your Jewish background?
B: Actually, my mother kept a kosher home and my father was not religious
at all. When it came to Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashonah, that was a
good exuse sine the store was closed for him to go to a play on
Broadway and take me with him. That was the extent of his Judaism,
although in Europe his father was as close to a rabbi as you could
get. He came from a very religious family.
My mother's family was very religious. I remember my grandfather
being a very tall, elegant man, with a high hat and he looked like
Abraham Lincoln, except that my grandfather was nicer looking.
There were stories (I believe kind of mystic) and my grandfather
was supposed to be a very pious man in Europe. In Poland, after
sundown all the shades went down and no Jew would go out in the
street. If someone got sick, either you suffered till next morning
or you were going to take a chance and go out and try to get a
L: Was that during the Progrom days that you're talking about in Poland?
B: Yes. The story is (now mind you it's silly but I think of it
because I do believe a little bit in the mystic), that someone
knocked at my grandfather's door and said that a neighbor was very
ill. A child needed a doctor, and would he get the doctor? And he
said that he would without any hesitation. He went out into the
street and as he was passing a cemetery, a little man was supposed
to have come out and said, "I will guide you tothe doctor and you
won't be seen."
Sure enough they passed some soldiers on a street and it was like
my grandfather was invisible. He was able to bring the doctor to
the house and help the child. But I think of it because I love
to think of my grandfather as being someone unusual. I never
really had the pleasure of really being with him, so I have my
own little dreams about my grandfather.
Now, my grandmother was a very, very beautiful lady. She was
diabetic, so she was on the heavy side. She sat in her rocker
which I always felt was her throne. She was very pious but never
inflicted (if I can use the word), her feelings on other people.
However, I remember her praying before she ate, and after she ate,
and in-between, and I spent a lot of time with her.
She used to say to me (I had a bad habit of talking a lot) and
she'd say to me, "Don't talk so much. Listen and you'll learn."
I learned from my grandmother. I learned what it is to help your
fellow man. I told you before that my mother and father were busy
and certainly that was not on their mind. They were happy to be
able to help themselves in order to keep the family together.
My grandmother was the one that said, "You must share, no matter
I remember in New York when I went to school and I passed the
subway and I'd see a man without any legs and my mother had given
me a penny for a chocolate graham cracker so that I could buy it
in school. I would give the man the penny and I wouldn't have
the chocolate graham cracker, Another time, if I had two cents,
I shared and gave the man the penny, and I kept the other penny
and got the graham cracker. I remember I used to lick all the
chocolate off the graham cracker first and then eat the graham
To this very day, Sylvia, if I go into a grocery store, I can buy
whole package of graham crackers. I can buy a package and take it
home and eat the whole package, because now I can afford to eat
graham crackers, it's funny the things that leave imprints on
I leanred one thing as I was growing up. It was very important to
be a winner and not a loser. Because people don't follow losers,
they follow winners, and my grandmother had taught me never to
divulge your private business. Never lie, but let them assume
whatever they want. And, as I was growing up we happened to be
living out in Long Beach. I don't know if you're familiar with
Long Beach. It was a very affluent area and my friends happened
to be very, very wealthy children whose homes I used to go to and
watch the butler and maid serve the table. I would sit at the table
and I would watch to see which piece of sterling silver they picked
up. From them I learned what to pick up and how to address someone
because I said my mother and father were busy trying to just make
L: Evelyn, would you tell us about your school days?
B: Yes. I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I was always a
very bright child, first in my class. When we lived out on the
Island, in Queen's Village (which was a Bund area), I was the
only Jewish kid in my class, I was really the smartest. But I
was afraid of raising my hands in fear that they would say "The
Jew is showing off". And, so, I hesitated.
When I had reached and completed the sixth term, they had "The
Rapids" 7a and 7b and 8a and 8b. That would be in Queen's Village
and I would have to go to Jamaica to school for that. I was
always the shortest one in my class, and my mother hesitated to
send me a distance away at that age. But it was very thrilling
when they announced in the Assembly that the only child that they had
selected from this particular school was Evelyn Green.
My parents, of course, were very proud of me, but I went through
some very tough times being the only Jewish child. I learned
then, how non-Jewish people hate Jews, particularly in the area that
I was in, which was a German and Irish area. Not only did they
hate the Jews but at the Catholic Church there, they wouldn't allow
the Italians to go to Mass with them. The Italians had to go to
a twelve o'clock Mass. It was almost similar to how the southerners
treated the black person down here.
At that time I really went through an unhappy period because I was
pretty and boys liked me and the girls were kind of jealous. It
was not only being a Jew, but being a bright one and being pretty.
So, I didn't have good childhood memories of my early grades in
school. The happy part of my early memories is that my mother
used to read a great deal to me.
My mother really was my source of strength, despite the fact I
told you that she was busy in the store. She made it her business
to read to me, to teach me my reading, to teach me my math and
the outside of that, if it were not for the closeness that I had
with my mother, I think that I would have been a pretty unhappy
child. Other kids made me feel like I was different and I
remember because of that, I decided that I was going to go to a
We had moved to a different area where there were more Jewish
children but as I said, my father was not a religious person and
he certainly did not belong to a synagogue, I don't know how it
was in your area, but in New York there were many little store
fronts that were synagogues, and I decided that I was going to go.
This was in Long Beach where we have a beautiful Temple and the
people were wealthier and I decided that I was going to go to
I went and said that I wanted to be in Sunday School. They took
me, and they didn't even ask me questions except where I lived and
my mother and father's names. After the first month, my father
got the bill. He turned to my mother and he said, "Naomi, what's
And she said, "I don't know."
Hesaid, "Who's going to Sunday School?"
They called me in and asked me and I said, "Yes, I was going to
Sunday School, and, as a matter of fact, they had selected me to
be Queen Esther. So, they better pay that bill."
Well, at that time they could barely make ends meet and here they
had to pay, and being proud they certainly would not go to the
Temple and say that they didn't have money. That was my first
entrance into Judaism.
L: Do you remember how old you were at the time?
B: I think I was about eight years old. Of course, you know growing up
in New York, I don't think you feel the necessity to belong to a
Temple as you do in a smalltown. There I had as many non-Jewish
friends as Jewish friends. However, I knew that I had to defend
my Jewish brethren no matter what, even though my father believed
in one world. As a matter of fact, as I was growing up, my father
had a commission bakery in Brooklyn. This was the time of the
Lindbergh kidnapping, and I was a little girl. It's just
incredible that I knew at that time that I watched the communists
talking on corners.
It was a bad time and I decided I was going to go to a young
communist league meeting. I went and I loved their songs and I
was all excited, you know..."arise you workers of salvation," and
I was going to help all these downtrodden people. You remember at
that time they would evict a person, and the mattresses and the
furniture were out in the street. I was just a kid and I would
go on picket lines with them, and I had a feeling that I have to
do something. And one time a customer came into my father's store
to tell my father that he saw me on a picket line.
He said, "You must be crazy. My daughter, Evelyn? Why would she
be there?" Of course he questioned me and I said that I just had
a feeling that I had to do something to help people who were
L: We're talking, I think about the eaely 30's at this time.
B: Yes. Early 30's.
L: Was there any affect on your parents from the depression?
B: I do remember that in 1927 I was about five or something like that.
My father had a very big kosher dairy on Lenox Avenue between
110th and 112th Streets. He did very well and they were
talking about a trip to Europe, then the depression came and
of course, that ended that. Ever since then, they really had a
tough time. And, of course, I'm jumping around now because I
want to get on to when I was a little older.
When I mentioned the Bund area, I was older than I was when I was on
the picket line. At that time when I was in Queen's Village, I
was in the fifth and sixth grade. You know, it really sounds like
we're the wandering Jews. As I was growing up, I used to laugh
about it, but my parents sold their place in Queen's Village. It's
not a pleasant place to be because of the Germans and the Irish.
It sounds funny to say, but then we bought an ice cream parlor in
an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, and that's where we stayed because
that's where they made a very good living until I got married.
The time that we were living in Brooklyn I would have had to have
gone to a school that consisted mostly of Italian and Irish kids,
and I decided that I was going to go to school on the Lower East
Side where there would be many more Jewish children. I went to
Seward Park High School.
My uncle was the Chief Rabbi of the Lower East Side. That was my
mother's oldest sister's husband. He was known in Europe (his
name was Rabbi Garzinsky) and when he settled on the Lower East
Side people knew him from near and far. I was always impressed
with the fact that he never allowed anybody to tip him. He looked
like Santa Claus with a long beard. I would kind of sneak up and
pull his beard and give him a kiss and run away, and he would make
believe that he was angry at me, but he would laugh.
On day he called me into his study and he blessed me. Two of my
aunts were standing outside they were crying, and I wondered why.
He very rarely blessed people, I mean actually made an occasion
out of it. They said to me that I was a blessed child .and I was
gding to grow up to be someone exceptional, so I kind of had to
live up to that feeling, because I certainly didn't want to
disappoint the pious Rabbi.
When he died, I remember at his funeral people walked behind the
hearse for miles and miles and miles.
While I lived in Brooklyn, I went to Lower East Side School. It
was funny, I would sometimes come into the school and no one was
there. And I'd say to the maintenance man"Where is everybody?"
And he'd say, "Don't you know that today was a Jewish holiday?"
Well, when you go to school on the Lower East Side, every muntig
and donershtik is a Jewish holiday. I had good memories in high
school except for the time when the Holocaust occurred in Europe
and we had many wealthy Jewish families coming out of Germany with
children. And the children would tell tales, pretty horrible tales
of how their friends were killed and that bothered me. As I said,
I-had always been conscious of people's welfare.
There were Jewish boys that were not communists, but they really
felt that they had to do something to save people from destruction.
They went on, they were very fine boys, boys who were studying
law and medicine and they were the generation that would have made
their mark in the United States, and they went over there and
many of them lost their lives. And, so all these things I felt
that I had to do something. If all these people are doing, I too had
to do my share.
I remember when I was in high school. I think I must have been in
my junior or senior year when these German kids came in and we
heard all of these tales. I had acousin who was a doctor and he
wanted me to meet one of his friends on a blind date and I was in
high school. I remember what my grandmother had said, not to talk
too much because here he was an intern and I was supposed to be in
college. Anyway, we went to thisperson's home who was giving a
a party. The person was a German doctor who had escaped from
Germany, and she told tales of how in the middle of the night they
knocked on her father's door and without any questions took her
brother and her father away, and they never saw them until there
were sent back in a coffin.
There were many, many tales and I just couldn't believe that they
would do that to our Jewish people, or to any people for that
matter. I made up my mind that I had a mission and maybe this
is what my uncle, the rabbi, had said. I had a mission that I must
devote my life to helping others.
I remember when I was in college, we were on picket lines again,
because we felt that people were being treated unjustly and it gave
me a satisfaction of being able to do just a little bit. And I
thought well, maybe I'd go into politics. I didn't go off to
college, I went to C.C.N.Y. I met my husband and decided to get
married. At that time, my father was hesitating, he said to
Henry, "You go off and serve your time in the Army and then
you'll come back and marry Evelyn."
He said, "Oh, no. It's now." And, so we got married in 1942. It
seems like a thousand years ago. It's forty years that I'm married
so it's 1941. We were married about six months or maybe more, and
Henry was drafted.
I joined the Red Cross and I devoted five days to being an aide
for the Red Cross at Long Island College Hospital and two days at
the blood bank. I was always deathly afraid of hypodermic
needles, so I decided one day to conquer my fear. I was going to
sharpen needles for eight hours, two days a week, so I could
overcome the fear, but anyway I did work in the hospital for the
Red Cross.- Then' I.decided that when I heard that Henry would be'sent over-
seas that perhaps' I should become pregnant and have a child, so that when he
came back I would have a family for him. And I prayed that he would come
back safe,' and if-God wanted to send me to Timbucktu I'd go there, and I
believe'he took me literally because I ended up in Belle Glade.
After.the war Henry came from overseas and he had not seen Iris. She was
13 months old and I went up to Prescow, Maine to live with him and we had
one heck of a time up there. I brought a crib and her high chair and what-
not, and the lady of the house was about 96 years old, she had converted
this house into a rooming house and it was very hard to get rooms. One day
she said to me, I had to move, she said because I was washing clothes too
much, and that the Jews had everything, and here I had been so nice to her.
Every time I went to the PX I would bring back bacon and stuff because I
would see that she had moldy food.
No matter what, it seemed that I could not escape that anti-Semitism, so we
finally went to another little town called Washburn where a Baptist family
took us in. They had never met a Jew and they fell in love with Iris. My
entertainment in this little town in Washburn was to go to a Pentacostal
Church and listen to the Holy Rollers and my landlady was Baptist and she
said, "My goodness! We're the only two people that are different from all
the people who are here.'' But, I tried to teach her something about Judaism
and we would exchange ideas. It was pleasant for the two weeks I stayed in
Washburn. Then we went back to New York.
L: When you went back to New York, Evelyn, what transpired after that?
B: One of Henry's workers who worked for him told him, "You ought to go to Florida,
that's God's country". So, Henry, who could not adjust to the changes in
New York decided to come down here and look around and see what was available.
He met someone who took him out to Belle Glade and there he met Mr. Raider,
who was the richest Jewish man, in the area and he owned a great deal of real
estate. He convinced Henry that this was the place to be.
Henry called me and said "Do you want to move to Florida"? Florida was just
another state on the map to me, because I always told my father I was going
to die on Times Square, there's no place in this world like New York. But of
course, circumstances change, and since I made my promise to God to go any-
place, I was willing to come to Florida.
I must go back and tell that when we were first married,Henry had bought a
beautiful Oldsmobile, which he had to put up on blocks when he went into the
service, and I could have sold it and made a handsome profit but I said no,
next to loving me, that car was Henry's love. So, as soon as he got out of
the service he took the car off the blocks and had the motor checked and we
were ready to go.
So, with Iris in the back of the car, and all our belongings, we came down to
Florida. At last we made our trip starting for Florida. When we got to North
Carolina, I remember having breakfast and they served grits on the plate and I
said "What is this"?
And the lady said, "That's grits".
And I said, "Take it off my plate". But since then I've become very southern,
I just love grits. But coming down we had four blow-outs. It was really like
gypsies because our car was just loaded with our personal belongings.
Apartments were very scarce down here. We had to pay money under the table,
in order to get an-apartment. It wasn't the nicest, but we were happy to get
it and it was furnished, so actually we left our furniture up north, but came
down with all our personal belongings. I had heard that Florida was very
warm and balmy and just beautiful, but when we hit Jacksonville it was so cold,
our teeth were chattering. I kept saying to Henry "Is this Florida", I can't
L: What time of the year was that, do you remember?
B: Yes, it was in October. And it was cold. But we went just a little short
distance. When we got to Daytona and the weather had changed it was just
beautiful and I saw the palm trees and I said "My God, why didn't we come
down sooner"? I fell in love with West Palm Beach. I loved it, however,
Henry was gone to Belle Glade from early morning to late at night. He was
building a store. He was going to open a general store and I was left with
Iris all alone in West Palm Beach with no car. I had to take a bus where-
ever I went. It was a little difficult. I remember pushing Iris in this
open perambulator. It was made of lucite, one of the latest style carriages,
and when we walked down the street everybody looked at us. In the south, no
one at that time, no one used carriages, everyone carried their babies in
their arms. People would turn around and look at us, and I would wonder what
was wrong with us, but it was very strange.
Coming from New York and knowing where to shop, I had to learn all over again,
and I would go into Burdines, and Norman's, and I feel that I am a comparative
shopper and I felt that Norman's gave the best value for the money, especially
when they had sales. I knew Norman's was legitimate. I would go in, and
Sadie Mirsky would be at the desk, and I told Iris that her name is Mrs. Mirsky
and Iris would sing, "Mirsky, Pirsky, here we are", and I would have a lot of
fun with Mrs. Mirsky. It seems strange when you reminisce.
Another thing that bothered me was because I came from a large city like New
York, I had loads of friends and loads of relatives. In fact, in New York we
have a Cousin's Club where we would meet once a month, and everybody would say,
"All right. The line forms to the right. Evelyn is here and she is going to
kiss all the cousins hello". Coming down here it was really being cut off
from the world. It was really like starting a new life, and I found I didn't
know anyone. Their ways were different. The old tempo of living in the south
was different, and I had to adjust. I certainly would not complain to Henry
because he had his own problems out in the Glades, and so it was just Iris and
One day we were going into what at that time was called "Margaret Ann's" which
today would be Winn-Dixie, and I was shopping. I saw this lovely lady with the
kindest looking face, and I watched to see what she was shopping for. I went
over to her and I said, "Do you live in the neighborhood"? Now that's pretty
gutsy, at least for me to doe, but I was desperate. She said yes, she did.
Then I said something that I don't-think I would have ever said if I had been
in New York. I said, "Are you Jewish"?
And she said, "Yes, I am".
Now maybe Jews have invisible antennas that helps us recognize each other, to
know each other. Of all the people in the store, why did I pick on Minnie
Persoff to say "Are you Jewish"? We have been friends ever since. It's been
37 years. 'Minnie was 'a very active lady in the community. She raised her
three sons here. They're all doctors. In fact one of them has come back to
practice in Delray. So, she was my first and steadfast friend. We have gone
through trials and tribulations together, and she was like a mother and a
sister rolled up into one. That was my introduction to West Palm Beach,
having one friend, but this one friend made up for 1,000 friends.
I asked her what are the organizations, because up north I was never involved
in Jewish organizations, it was more political. She said, yes we have a
Hadassah, a B'nai B'rith. I knew Hadassah because everybody had a blue box.
The blue box is the Jewish National Fund, and everybody thought of Hadassah
when it came to activities in Israel.
I decided one day that I would visit one of the organizations, and I had
chosen Hadassah and I took Iris with me. At that time they met at Temple Beth
El on Fern Street. I parked Iris outside like a little puppy dog, sitting on
the steps and I said, "Don't move. I'll watch you from the meeting place". I
walked in and introduced myself, and I thought everyone was going to be so
gracious to me and so happy. It was so ho-hum. I looked at the women and
what I saw was, (I later learned), one table where all the doctor's wives were
sitting and the other table where all the old timers who lived in West Palm
Beach were sitting. They were really not all that hospitable to me, a new-
comer, and right then and there I made up my mind that if I was ever in a
position of leadership,nobody who comes into this town would feel unwanted.
After the meeting someone said to me, "Do you play golf"?
and I said, "No, I don't".
She said, "Do you have someone to take care of your child"?
Coming from New York where if we went out my mother or my mother-in-law would
take care of Iris, somehow it never occurred to me that I needed a strange
person to take care of my child. When I said "No, I don't",
they said, "When you get someone to take care of your child, look us up".
I was just floored. Now, of course, things have changed a great deal and the
people coming down today are very fortunate, because they are greeted with
open arms. I don't know what kind of hospitality you would call it, but I
think it's the northern hospitality transmitted to the south. People now find
a niche immediately, which you could not do years ago unless you became active
with an organization. I made up my mind that was what I was going to do.
Evelyn is not going to sit on the sidelines. However, we moved out to Belle
Glade with a little girl and very few Jewish people out there.
L: Do you remember the names of the Jewish families when you moved out to Belle
B: Yes, there was Harold Raven. Who was the first Jewish Mayor of Belle Glade,
and his family; there was Mr. Motar who owns half the real estate holdings in
Belle Glade; Mr. Raider who owned the other half; there was Mr. Freeheim who
married a .Catholic lady, but supported the Jewish causes; and of course there
were the Kaufmans the Wiser s came after Herdy; there was the Joe Cohn-s; the
Aarons; we were about 23 Jewish families, but that took in Pahokee and Clewiston,
We decided it was time to build a little temple out in Belle Glade.
L: What year was this? Do you remember, was it '47?
B: No, no it was later. It must have been in the early 50's. We built a temple
and I was their first president. We'd have our Seders in the temple and Henry
would go to Miami and buy all the stuff and bring it up here. All the Jewish
families in Belle Glade, and their visitors would have this beautiful Seder
in our temple. In a small town, Jewish people tend to gravitate to Jewish
people. That's what I started to tell you in the early part of our interview.
In New York, I never thought it was necessary to mix with Jewish people, but
when I got down here I realized that this is important to have our own. It
was a sense of security, and then again I must say that the non-Jewish com-
munity kind of made you feel like you had to belong somewhere. Even children
going to Sunday School, each one went to their own church, so why shouldn't a
Jewish child go to a Sunday School and why shouldn't they know that they have
a religion that they should be proud of.
Since we were all young people in Belle Glade and our families were growing,
we had this lovely little temple and we discovered Jack Stateman whose job
was with the Post Office, but he was really a frustrated rabbi who never got
to go to a seminary because he couldn't effort it and he had to earn a living.
We asked him to come out, and he was our Sunday School teacher. He conducted
services on Friday nights and it was very lovely. I remember that Iris's class
was the first confirmation class out in Belle Glade. I remember getting our
Sisterhood to work in the hospital and volunteer and I really tried to, not
only tried but did, become part of the community so non-Jewish people who had
never met a Jew would learn to understand that we don't have horns and that
we're very nice people and we could be friends.
I remember joining the Veteran's of Foreign Wars. Of course, it was very
difficult being with people who valued us so different, but I tried to inte-
grate and be part of the community so that they should understand me and should
try to understand them.
L: Evelyn, did your mother and father come down from New York during this period?
B: Yes. They helped in the store and it was very funny. My father could not
write English too well, but he would draw pictures. If a customer was fat he
1 '. *. ;. 12
would draw a fat person. We did a big credit business so when I would come
in I. would say, "What's this"?
Sand he would say, "This is the fat guy. This is the skinny one",
and he would teach.our help.. We only hired black in our store.
SOur store.was located in a black area where no white people ever strayed. It
.was an area that if a white:person came there, we would feel that they were up
to no good, just as sometimes when people see a black person in a white area,
They think, and get all up tight "What is he or she doing"? That's the way
we felt about white people in the area that we were in. It was really an
"experience for me because coming from New York and calling everybody Mr. and
"Mrs. it was very difficult to come down to Florida when people in the south
called black people "hey you" or "boy" or by their first name. In my store I
called everybody, "Mr." and "Mrs." When the sheriff would come to the store
"Now, what the hell are you doing that for"?
I would tell him, "It's my store and I treat people the way I want to be
I saw some pretty harrowing things out in the Glades. I saw the sheriff take
a 2x4 and hit a man over the head because he didn't walk fast enough. Do you
remember when Henry Wallace was running for president? I wore a button under-
neath my lapel, I could not wear it on top because people would accuse me of
being a "Nigger lover" and, that I better watch out or I might find myself
hanging from a tree. That's what we experienced when we came to Belle Glade.
L: Evelyn, did you find that West Palm Beach and Belle Glade at that time were
expensive places to live?
B: Not really. Not really as compared to New York. I'm trying to think you know,
when you compare something to New York it's like another planet so I can't say.
I don't think so. The only thing is that down here you didn't need winter
coats and you didn't need heavy clothing; however, I must tell you that in
Belle Glade, I experienced some winters that were beastly cold. We used to
heat the house with kerosene heaters. We would put these heaters in the
middle of a hallway because out in the Glades it's very damp and it would get
cold. You did not feel that you were in Florida.
On the whole, I never even gave it a thought. Let me say this to you. In
New York I thought everything was the best, no one can outdo New York. The
first seven years that I lived in Florida, I would go back every 6 months to
have my teeth taken care of, my hair cut, got to the doctor, cause I wouldn't
trust anyone down here. But life was so different down here. I don't want
to be repetitious, but it was like moving to another planet. The first apart-
ment I rented, the landlady said "For goodness sake, would you quit cleaning
the carpeting? You're going to weat it out. I won't have any carpeting for
the next tenant." Everybody did everything very slowly down here, and I think
to this very day I still work fast., talk fast and I just can't get used to the
slowness of many of the people in the south.
L: Did you have any hurricanes out there in Belle Glade, or storms that you could
share with us?
B: My first hurricane was here in West Palm Beach. Henry and I went out to the
movies, had gotten a babysitter, (as a matter of fact our landlady), and sud-
denly I had a feeling that we were all alone. I turned around, and Henry and
I were the only people in the movie. We stayed until the picture was over and
we walked out. There was a movie on the corner of Clematis Street. The Florida
Theater was on the opposite side where they have the parking lot now, and we
walked out. The wind literally lifted us up and carried us over to the next
corner. I said to Henry "We must be crazy being out". Despite that, we went
to a drive-in, and we had fried chicken. This must have been about 11:00 at
night, and the wind was howling. When we got home, I was really not concerned,
but at 3:00 in the morning our house started to vibrate. I thought we were
going to be carried away and looked out. It was lightening and the trees were
swaying, it really was terrifying, but never really where I felt threatened
and I've been through hurricanes in Belle Glade and everybody has heard of
Lake Okeechobee and how in 1927 people were drowned and all that. Since then
they have built a dike. I said, "Maybe I'm stupid, but I never felt threatened".
It was togetherness. You couldn't go any place and you prepared with all your
food. You filled your tub up, and you had your kerosene lamps, and you knew
you were going to be together, and that was it. No radio, no TV. It would
give you a chance to read and to just have a night or a day together.
L: That's an unusual way of describing a hurricane. How about in Belle Glade,
the heat in the summer, the infestation of bugs?
B: They're not little bugs. Some bugs that fly in Belle Glade are like little
bombers. At certain times of the year, when they hit you, that's how it feels.
They're heavy and when they hit you, you really have to duck, because you felt
that you were going to be shot at.
There was a time when the only way to get to Belle Glade was by boat, and this
Mr. Raider who owned all this land in Belle Glade used to travel by boat in
order to get to the Glades. When we moved there it was a very narrow road
with water on each side and the hyacinths would grow, so you didn't even know
that it was water. You thought that it was all flowers, and grass, and what-
not, and little did you know that you could go into about 16 or 20 feet of
I remember the people there that didn't have money to pay their bills took
their children out of school and put them into the Christian schools and I
would tell them, "You don't even have a pot to cook in and there your taking
your child out of public school".. Well, they just didn't want their children
to be with blacks. It was very strange seeing the way people lived. We're
all American but all Americans don't live the same way.
I had my daughter Barbara at St. Mary's hospital in West Palm Beach because I
certainly wasn't gqing to have a baby out in Belle Glade. As a matter of
fact my obstetrician left Belle Glade and settled in West Palm Beach. It was
very primitive out in the Glades.
The only thing that was good.was that you knew where your children were at all
times, and you didn't worry." Of course things have changed out there now.
There are Arabs out there now, drugs, the place is not what it was when we
lived there. It has changed a great deal. Even farming has changed. Sugar
has come in.
When I was there corn was the big thing and cattle. We went into cattle our-
selves. I remember one day Henry went out in his little pick-up truck and
when you see buzzards you know that that's bad news, and the cattle were dead
and there went our investment.
Living in the Glades is a gamble. If you're a farmer, and your crops do well,
the store keepers do well, and it affects the merchants in West Palm Beach
also because the people do their shopping here.
L: So, Belle Glade's main revenue producing is farming because there was no such
thing as tourism?
B: Oh, no. If tourists went out there they would have to be out of their minds
because people ran away from there. You know what we used to do? Of course
we were younger and my mother and father lived with me and we used to get in
the car and we would travel 60 to 80 miles to Miami. We would travel 160
miles to eat Boston Cream Pie, just to get out of the Glades. I loved the
Glades because it did well for me.
One day we decided to come into West Palm Beach and were traveling along
Flagler Drive and saw a sign that said Open House and we came into a house,
a lovely home and I teased Henry I said, "Do you think they'll take a $50
deposit?" Henry came in with a ridiculous offer to the salesman. Well,
when you make an offer, that salesman must take the offer to the seller,
whether it's ridiculous or not. The man had bought a home in Palm Beach and
he had turned down many offers and he didn't particularly like Jews, but the
salesman went with this offer. When I got back from shopping,
Henry said "You got a house". Well, I almost had a heart attack, let alone
a house, because we were not prepared to move into West Palm Beach at that
time. So, we rented the house on Flagler Drive.
L: We are now in Belle Glade. At this point I would like to know what your feel-
ing was when you reached the heartland of West Palm Beach.
B: To backtrack just a little, Henry was not all that anxious to leave to come out
to Belle Glade when we first came to West Palm Beach, and of course I had rented
an apartment here. It was about 6 months.after he had been in Belle Glade that
I took my first trip. Coming from a big city of New York and driving out to
Belle Glade was quite a revelation. First of all, he traveled on bad roads
that were very narrow, with canals on both sides, and you had to make sure
you were driving and keeping your eyes on the road or you would find yourself
in a ditch. When I got to Belle Glade, it reminded me of western movies I
had seen. The main street, which is called Main Street, was really a main
street. Once you left you were out of the shopping area.
The clothing stores were owned by Jewish people. The rest of the stores were
owned by non-Jews. The city itself had a very Christian feeling. There were
many, many churches. I don't think there was a great love for Jewish people
out there; perhaps a lack of understanding.
L: How many people lived out there at that time? Do you remember some of the
B: When we moved there, I would say within a year we had about 23 Jewish families,
which included Clewiston, Pahokee and Belle Glade. At that time we would meet
in the Women's Club for our services. Mr. Abe Debrow, conducted services.
There were the Gold boys who are still out there; there were people by the
name of Moltar (he has since died, and Mrs. Moltar lives in Century Village).
They were one of the wealthiest Jewish families in Belle Glade, and more
southern than Jewish.
L: How long had they lived out in that area?
B: They must have been there about 8 or 9 years before we got there and they
owned most of the property. The other part was owned by Raider. When we got
there Mr. Raider wanted Henry to be a partner in real estate with him, and
also to open a general store with his nephew. This nephew's mother died and
Leo wanted the challenge of straightening him out and giving him something to
work in. Having the store was the last thing I think Henry really wanted to
do, because he came from the service. He really wanted to be in the open.
He didn't want to be closed in, in a store. But anyway, they did open a
large general store and Henry did go into partnership with Leo Raider. As I
said, Leo Raider was the richest Jewish person in the Glades.
Now, coming from a big city like New York it was very hard to adjust to a
small town and small town thinking because the Jewish people in the Glades
(again, I have to say), thought like southerners, they did not think like
Jews. Hal Raven was the Jewish Mayor, the one and only Jewish Mayor out there,
but with no Jewish background. I remember, and I'm going ahead of myself but
when we built our Temple out there and the children were going to Sunday School.
Before that, I had asked Helen to become a member of B'nai B'rith Women, and
she said, "What is it? Who needs it"? But one day, when the children were
going to Sunday School, when they got to the Temple it was all marked up with
swastikas and the children ran home hysterical.
Then I got a call from good old Hal Raven and his wife, "What are we going to
do about it"?
I said, "When I asked you to support B'nai B'rith Women, you didn't feel it was
necessary. But now that your child was confronted with something that made her
hysterical, you want to do something about it".
We did get hold of the chief of police, and in their own quiet way they were
able to solve who did it, and it was done by some high school kids. However,
that was the first feeling, I think, of some of the smug Jewish people out
there, that there is another world and Jewish people can be touched by it.
Belle Glade is a funny town. It's divided. It's like you live on one side of
the track and the poor live on the other side of the track. It had two migra-
tory camps, one for blacks and one for whites. Now most of the people in the
town knew each other, especially if you were in the upper financial strata.
There was a country club out there, golf club, and we all went to the club on
a Saturday night.
L: It was an open club? Open to all but blacks?
B: That's right. I remember on Saturday nights, it was a big night in Belle Glade
and everybody came to town and all the merchants were waiting for thier custom-
ers. The white people walked on the sidewalks and they carried their little
babies in their arms and dragged a couple of barefooted kids along with them
at their sides. The blacks walked in the road. They were not allowed on the
sidewalk and God forbid one should brush against a white person.
All these things were very new to me. It was something that perhaps we read
in a book but never dreamed seeing in person. On a Saturday night when we
closed our store, (as I told you we had this big general store), and Saturday
night was a big night. We closed even at midnight. All of us would meet and
go dancing until 6 o'clock in the morning, and then Henry and I would open our
store just in time to go home and change our clothes and go out and open up
the store. I forgot to mention that my mother and father were living with me
when I got out to Belle Glade.
L: They had come from New York?
B: They came from New York, yes.
L: How long did they live with you in Belle Glade?
B: They lived with me from 1948 to 1960 when we moved to West Palm Beach. The
store was busy in the morning, and at night when the workers got off the bus,
but during the day there really wasn't any business. My father would be in
the store with the workers. We only employed black help. Actually, in the
area where we had our store, Henry and I were the only white people. My
mother helped out in the store until she had an operation and could no longer
I had mentioned in the beginning that Hal Raider had a nephew, and that he left
the business. At that time, my father and mother would come into the store.
I told you that they lived with us. We built a lovely home out 'in the Glades
and they had a separate wing on one end of the house. Fortunately, we were a
Sclosely-knit family, We got along very well, except, we only owned one TV at
that time. For instance, when grandma and grandpa wanted to watch something,
and when the grandchildren wanted to watch -. However, I would say that
living out in the Glades was the happiest part of my life. It was easy living
despite the fact that Henry and I worked very hard in the store, and we worked
seven days a week. Our business started in October and was over in May.
That's when we had harvesting, if there was a harvest.
I think that the all year round population was between 35,000 to 40,000.
From the time that I moved to Belle Glade, blacks were not included in the
L: You're talking about from South Bay to Belle Glade areas, right?
B: I'm not quite sure. I would have to ask Henry about that. However, when the
harvest time came around it doubled, because all the workers came in, and
they were not counted in a permanent population. If you recall, they cer-
tainly did not have the right to vote at that time. I told you that our
Jewish people, the people that had been in Belle Glade for a long time, were
assimilated with the southerners. Now the northern Jews that came in, like
myself and other, had a quite different attitude.
In my store, I sold hardware, and jewelry and clothing, and I had a sub-
station. I was the Postmistress of the station. Our customers were only
black, and they were off-shore laborers. They came from the Bahamas, Barbados,
and Jamaica. They were like soldiers. They were contracted to farmers so they
owed their soul to the company store exactly like the song expresses it.
However, they quickly learned that there was an Evelyn and a Henry Blum who
allowed them to shop and pay whatever they could. I kept their credit on
In the farming area you were going into a very treacherous area of gambling.
You can become very wealthy, or you can become very poor, and it depended on
the weather. If the weather is cold and you have crops come up and it freezes,
then we all lose out. Then we wait for the next harvest which is a strain.
So, we're always holding our breath and waiting. Now, off-shore laborers
are quite different than American Negroes to the point where they didn't want
to stand in line with the American Negro. They felt the American Negro was
stupid, and could not figure, where the off-shore laborers were very arrogant.
They were always on the defensive, ready to see if the white man was going to
cheat them. Very thrifty, always put money away, and the farmers have to send
a certain amount of their salary home. It was a forced saving. When they
first came and they would have to buy things, their clothing, their boots and
whatever they needed to work, the farmers who own stores used to take out their
money and they never had any money, but in my store, they didn't have to do
that. If they owed me $30 and they gave me $15, it left a balance of $15 and
that's the way we would go. As a result, we worked up a reputation. They
knew of us in the Islands, and when they came over they would not want to do
any business with the farmers.
As a result of that, there used to be a bridge that connected my store with
the labor camp. The farmers were the board members of the labor camp. They
went and lifted the bridge so that these boys could not come over to our
store. They literally cut the hearts out of the business. One day we were
thriving, and the next day we had no business.
L: Did you complain about it to anybody?
B:. There was nobody to complain to, because it was a brotherhood and they were
the power and they were united. I thought my father was going to have a
heart attack, it was so upsetting. But we hired buses, and we did a door-to-
do6r delivery. These workers got service better than they would in Palm
Beach because all they had to do was walk over, and we would take them back,
even if it was for a quarter-of-a-pound of butter. When this first occurred,
when the workers would not go to the farmer's store, I got a call from one of
the leading powers in the Glades and he said, "How does it feel not to have
the boys coming into your store"? Well, we overcame that, and there were
times when buses went to South Bay which is about 4 or 5 miles from our store.
A sheriff would stop the bus and say there were too many riders on the bus.
They tried to make it hard for us to make a living, but we overcame that.
L: Did you feel that there was any anti-Semitism?
L: Did you ever have anything directed against you? I think you mentioned being
B: Well, yes. We were so good to the blacks that they called us "Nigger lovers",
particularly me since I was a lot more vocal than Henry. He was busy doing
the books and what not. I must tell you that when my mother and father came
into the business Henry was given that freedom to do what he wanted to do, and
that was build rooming houses. We built the first concrete 2-story rooming
house in the Glades, and it was in the Tampa News, and in the Orlando Sentinal,
as the first concrete structure, and it was a beautiful rooming house. It
didn't remain beautiful, but it was a shame because I was so proud of it, and I
would stand on the corner and say, "This belongs to me"!
L: Who were your roomers?
B: Native American blacks. Unfortunately they didn't know, or had not been taught,
what to use a bathroom for, or what to use a sink for, and we would have to
employ one person who just cleaned toilets. After that, there was a program to
help blacks to teach them what to use and how to use utensils and teach them
how to read.
I remember that we had a bunch of little black children who needed dental work,
I feel that whether your black or white, if you're in a certain category, some-
times you close your eyes to the underdog. I remember going to the wealthy
undertaker in Belle Glade, (his name escapes me), and I asked him if he would
let me follow some of this limosines so we could take these children in, and
they shouldn't be crunched in a car. He refused me. Anyway, we took these
children into St. Mary's because they had the dental clinic there. Coming
home, (I'll never forget), each child had a little cup that they would spit in
because they had teeth extracted, and they were youngsters, and we would have
to stop by the side of the road to empty the cups.
L: Did you organize a group?
B: Well, I did this through my Temple, when I became president of the Sisterhood.
By the way, I told you that we met in the Women's Club, then we decided that
we should have a- Temple. The Jewish people banded together and we all put
money into it, and built this lovely little Temple, Temple Beth Shalom.
L: What year was that?
B: 1955 or '56, something like that. Again, I would have to go back in my
records. (I did have a lucky charm but it was stolen which said the date
exactly). Anyway, we built the Temple, and at that time I met Jack Stateman
who was a mailman in West Palm Beach, but who wanted to be a rabbi desperately.
He knew how to sing, and he knew how to read Hebrew. As a matter of fact he
taught the children their Bar Mitzvah. He used to come out every Friday
night and every Sunday and we would have our services. I think I may have told
you this on another tape, but I believe -
L: I would just like to put in a little editorial note here. We are continuing
previous tapes and there may be some repetition at this point.
B: I just want to give you some ideas of how people lived out in Belle Glade.
Let's say we had a freeze or a frost, and people were not working. The Red
Cross would come out with care packages and I would help them sign up the
people. Well,I knew who the people were, and I was able to help the Red Cross,
but it was only one care package to a family. I was able to identify people
who stood in line. The mother would stand in one line, and the children would
stand in another, but I was able to help the Red Cross when they needed help.
I was able to collect clothing through our Temple.
L: Were most of these black people? Were there any poor whites out there?
B: Yes, of course we had poor whites, but they were segregated, so you would not
have a white and a black standing on the same line. It's quite different
today, you know. It's hard to believe that we had it, but it was there. The
manager of my store was a black lady, and I would say to her "Telly, don't you
resent having to drink from a fountain that says 'colored' on it"? And she
said that she very rarely went to places where they would have that. She said
she stayed within her own environment. We owned what one called a "Juke" out
in Belle Glade next to the grocery store, next to the general store, it was a
beer and wine place where people came in the evening and they danced. Blacks
love to dance. No white person was allowed into their "Juke" as we called it,
because then the whites were invading their privacy. They protected their
privacy to the extent that even I, who they knew well, didn't feel like I wanted
to go in there. I didn't feel like I was welcome. It was their little haven,
and that's where they had their fun.
They used to sell numbers called "Cubas". It was gambling in Cuba and the
numbers would be telegraphed, I guess, to the U. S. They had runners with
cigar boxes and they would sell numbers to most every black person, because it's
only natural that you hope you'll make a killing. It seems like such a long
time ago. I said to Henry, "Gee, we ought to get into this because there's a
lot of money to be made".
L: Was it legal?
B: No. So, Henry said that's one thing he wouldn't do. He wanted to go to
sleep at night and make sure no one knocked at his door. But there was a
lot of money to be made out in the Glades when there was a harvest. If you
sold thread on the corner you could have made money, but only when there was
a good harvest. At that time you didn't have machinery. People picked by
hand. So you had string beans by the bushel, radishes, celery, every celery
had to be cut by a certain time of day, otherwise it will turn sour, so there
was much to be done out in the Glades at that time.
L: Were you and Henry involved in any farming activities at all?
B: Very little. It was bad enough to worry about what would happen with the
store if we had a frost or freeze. We did invest in cattle, and it was a
most unfortunate investment. We lost all our cattle. But those who preserved
made a great deal of money. Those who remained and went into sugar made a
great deal of money. I always felt that the Glades was a place where you
either feasted or you had famine.
We were involved, when I say "we", I mean the Temple Beth Shalom Sisterhood
with the hospital out in the Everglades Memorial out in the Glades. If any
Jewish person was sick or if they had an accident we would be there to serve
them, to do whatever they liked us to do for them.
L: Very close-knit Jewish community.
B: On Passover Henry would go down to Miami and bring back all the food, and we
would have a beautiful ceremony in the temple and, in fact many of our
Christian friends would want to come and have Passover with us. We really
didn't have that much room because we had everybody coming, and seated at
the tables it was a little difficult. But we did have fun, and we cried with
each other, and laughed with each other. Sometime we ever were a little
jealous of each other. You know, if somebody bought an Oldsmobile and some-
one bought a Cadillac, the Oldsmobile was traded in for a Cadillac. The
Jewish people had to keep up with each other. There could be no secrets
because, as I say, we were one big family.
L: How about the upbringing of the Jewish children.
B: There was Sunday School.
L: How many children would you say there were?
B: At that time, I would say, there must have been about 12 children. Unfor-
tunately there aren't any in the Glades today. There are very few Jewish
people left in the Glades. They have moved. Royal Palm Beach opened up,
so those people who lived, say in Pahokee bought condominiums in Royal Palm
Beach. It was still close enough to go to Pahokee. Others like myself,
were coming to West Palm Beach.
When Iris was reaching 16, I told Henry I didn't care what we had to give up
in income, we were going to move into West Palm Beach so that Iris would
have an opportunity to meet more Jewish boys.
L: I remember you inviting some B'nai B'rith women out to Belle Glade, and the
fear that some of us had going out on the roads, maybe ending up in a ditch.
B: I remember before we moved into West Palm Beach, I had become a member of
B'nai B'rith Women and I would travel from Belle Glade to West Palm Beach in
the evenings, because you had evening meetings.
L: It took you how long?
B: It would take a little more than an hour at that time. But I would pick up
other women, so I would have to go through Pahokee and then back to Belle
Glade. We would sometimes start out and it would be lovely, and then hit a
storm and thought that we would never be able to survive. I remember once
going through a tornado, and the trees landing right in front of my car, and
I prayed that we would arrive in Belle Glade in one piece. I wondered if the
women in B'nai B'rith would understand what a sacrifice it was to travel in
from the Glades. But I felt that I wanted to do it, I felt that B'nai B'rith
was worthy of it and that I wanted to get out and help in whatever way I could.
L: I think you became a vice-president first, and then president. There were
several functions when you were living at the Palm Beach Towers -
B: When I still lived in Belle Glade, as I told you our season started in October
and ended in May, so even if you wanted to give anything away at the end of
May you couldn't find anyone to give it to except the flies out there. We
would come into Palm Beach and at that time Palm Beach Towers was a hotel. We
would rent a two-bedroom apartment and stay there until Labor Day, and then go
back to Belle Glade. It was there that I was membership chairman. The Towers
was such a new place. It's funny when you look at your telephone book now and
then. I would start with the "A's" and when I found any Jewish-sounding name,
I would call them and invite them to come to the Towers to a tea, to a break-
fast, or what have you. There were times when I would call people and they
would say they were sorry they were not of the Jewish faith. You know, it's
hard to tell by a name. Of course, you couldn't do that today, and you would'
have to do it today. But the telephone book that we had then, looked like
perhaps just the "A's" of what we have today.
L: We're talking of 1960. We're talking 22 years ago. That made all the differ-
ence when the Jewish population of Palm Beach County might have reached 5,000
people in the whole county including Belle Glade and up to Jupiter, now we
talk about, 50,000 or 60,000, with a projected growth of 100,000 Jews in this
B: For 2 years we did that when I was membership chairman. Do you remember, the
first year we had 123 new members coming into B'nai B'rith Women, so it's
exciting to me. It gave me a chance to meet new people and it gave me a
chance to be hospitable to others coming into the community.
L: Well, it gave B'nai B'rith Women also an image of a terrific, wonderful,
woman who is so dedicated to Judiaism that she would travel 2 hours round trip
at night dyer those treacherous roads. Your leadership was one of the great-
est things that happened to the B'nai B'rith Women's Chapter here, and from
that we' really went onto really great heights.
B: That sounds almost like an obituary.
L: As a side note, Evelyn Blum and I have been friends for 30 or 32 years.
B: I'll move into West Palm Beach. Iris was 16 years old and Barbara was 6
years younger, that made her 10 years old. I became active in all the
organizations we had here at that time, that's our Sisterhood, Hadassah,
B'nai B'rith Women. We did not have any others because I remember that as
a leader in West Palm Beach, I didn't want any other organizations to come.in.
I felt it would be a drain on the power that we did have in our Sisterhood
because I found that those people were the workers in all the organizations.
We really couldn't afford at that time to have new organizations coming into
town. But, we did reactivate the Jewish Federation. That was in 1961, I
L: 1962 or '63. It had been -- the Jewish Charities.
B: After that we reorganized and we started the Women's Division which we both
were very active in. At that time, which I'll never forget, our community
relations committee was made up of a rabbi, and I think you were on it, and
several other people. They were supposed to do the TV show for the Jewish
Federation. Suddenly I found that I was the hostess and moderator for the
new TV show called "People of the Book" and I don't mind telling you that I
was scared out of my wits. They really threw me to the wolves. I didn't
get much help from Channel 5, --
L: It's quite different today.
B: Yes, everything is quite different today. Being a pioneer is not the easiest
thing in the world but, being proud of being a Jew, I wanted the community to
know what makes Jews tick.
You had asked me about covert anti-Semitism in Belle Glade. As far as I'm
concerned there has always been covert anti-Semitism both in West Palm Beach
and in Belle Glade where I lived. I felt it on many occasions that perhaps
I was the one that was different. "You're different." And that was the
warning that you had to watch out for these people. In Belle Glade it was
covert, it was overt. When the White Citizens Council was out there, the
Ku Klux Klan, we had to monitor their meetings and then report back. It was
very frightening. I know that you can have a mob scene and when they want to
arouse their anger, they can talk .about the "dirty Jew" or the "nigger" and
get funds out of these people who really didn't have perhaps money to buy
bread, but they knew that they had to fight against us.
L: Evelyn, it's quite interesting that you mentioned the Ku Klux Klan, the
White Citizens Council. During the 50's there was a bit of activity out in
the western part of the County as we discussed, but what alarms me is the
fact that the Ku Klux Klan which at that time was considered rednecks, have
today become respectable and active in the -West Palm Beach area.
B: It goes to show you that the feeling towards Jews did not die. Perhaps it was
dormant for a while, or it was covert, but it was there. We have to fight each
and every day to be on our toes so that we are protected and then we can at
least influence'some people to know that we are part of the community and
want to do things.. That's why I'm so proud of Century Village because Century
Village really put West .Palm Beach on the map as far as volunteerism is con-
"cerned. There isn't a Volunteer program that Jews are not part of.
L:. Tell me something,.Evelyn. :The TV program "People of the Book" what was your
Impression as hostess of it as to the effect that it had on the Jewish and
Br- We started with budget zero, and we had to draw from the community. It was
'. not the community that you have today where you have noted people coming into
Sthe area, where you have organizations in which noted figures wanted to speak.
At that time we were small. I wanted it to be folksy, and so for the first 10
minutes of the program I asked a rabbi to give a sermon so that the Jews and
the non-Jews would understand what Judiaism was about. The next 15 minutes
would be on some program that's being conducted in West Palm Beach, whether it
was the Sisterhood or whether it was B'nai B'rith Women, or Hadassah, or a
program of Temple Israel's Sisterhood, or we brought in the Jewish War Veterans,
or the Anti Defamation League. So that the people in the community knew what
organizations existed, and the services that we were giving.
The last 5 minutes I always asked for a very "WASPY" looking announcer. Some-
one who cduld give news from Israel that they did not see in their papers here.
The last 5 minutes of the program would be that. I felt that It had a very
good effect on the people of Palm Beach. Not only that, but the program was
seen up in Ft. Pierce and down almost to Miami. I have an uncle who lives in
Hallendale who saw it. The non-Jewish community really had an eye-opener, and
they were very interested in what makes the Jewish person tick. When Barbara
was going to school the teachers would tell her that they didn't know that
Jewish people did this and that, and so I felt that despite the hardship on
me because I was not a professional entertainer or a moderator I felt that the
desire to bring this to the community was greater than what it cost me in my
physical health because it did take something.
L: The response that you got from the community letter wise, telephone wise was
quite heavy at that time?
B: Yes. And it was really heart warming. I felt that everything was worthwhile
L: How interesting it is for those again who are listening to know the TV program
"Mosaic" to know that there were other programs before, and some of the trials
and tribulations that you ran into. Of course there's a lack of funding. I
remember full well when you had the Dolls for Democracy. Program on.
B: I had given it.
L: It still remained the same name?
B: No, it was called "Our People" now it's called "Mosaic". The time that I was
president of B'nai B'rith Women was a very thrilling time for me because it
gave me an opportunity to reach out with the wonderful membership to the entire
community. Even our newspaper which really was not sympathetic to the Jewish
causes, started to put articles in. There wasn't a week that went by, that
we did not have an article in the paper. In fact, we were given credit for
things that we didn't do, and I would have to correct them. You know non-
Jewish people kind of lump all Jews into one group and I'd have to correct
them and say, "No, this was done by this Sisterhood". They thought every-
thing was done by B'nai B'rith Women, which suits me fine.
But we did do things. We had.physical handicapped programs. I don't know if
you went with us to St. Petersburg to the Veteran's Hospital there and collected
gifts and we brought all the patients presents. We had a milk fund. Then we
went to the Holly Hospital which was for tubercular patients and for Passover
we brought packages. At the Rehabilitation Center, we had dances and parties
for the people there. I think B'nai B'rith really did a great deal for this
community. They really had an eye opener to see what the Jewish women can do
and did do.
L: How about the programs in the schools?
B: We did programs in the schools, we were on TV.
Do you remember the mother and sister, I can't think of their names, who did
TV programs every Sunday? They were English. We had stimulated the blood
bank. I listened to Mr. Schutzer talk about B'nai B'rith Men. It seems that
the men were the ones who were the first large group, I think they started
before the women.
L: Oh, yes, the men were started first.
B: You know how much B'nai B'rith Women have dedicated, and the work that they do.
I really felt we were the most outstanding organization.
L: If you remember one time at a district convention, the Palm Beach County
Chapter of B'nai B'rith Women walked off with 11 of the 20 awards for the
B: That's right. I still have them. One of these days I'm going to put them
up on the wall. At that time, when I started living in West Palm Beach, I
noticed that the children from Temple Beth El stayed with the children from
Temple Beth El and the children from Temple Israel stayed at the Temple.
Now there were children that were not affiliated with any temple and somebody
had called us and asked if we would start a program for all the Jewish people
in the community. At that time I was heavily involved with B'nai B'rith
Women but Henry took it over. They called it The Very Interested Parents In
The Jewish Community. We formed a board. I remember B. J. Harris was very
influential in getting us places to have dances and Henry saw to it that when
the young people came in they did not leave. They could not go out for a
beer or whatever and then come back. It was only Jewish children. The
children that came together were shocked to learn that the kids that they
thought were not Jewish were Jewish.
L: Was that like the fore-runner or the BBYO?
B: Oh, no,,.it was after the BBYO. The BBYO was very active at the time because.
I remember we had a convention here and I had all the kids in the house here.
L: Was V.I.P. connected with any organization?
B: No, no. It was a separate organization. I think Barbara Moskowitz was very
active in it. Henry would plan. activities for all the children in different
groups for the Christman holidays. The elementary, the high school, the
college and the single groups. And, I remember Henry took them to Busch
Gardens. At that time, Jackie Gleason had a TV show in Miami and they went
to see Jackie Gleason. It was really a very great group except that it got
too big for a non-professional to handle, and Henry felt that it should be
taken over by the Jewish Federation because it needed professional program-
ming. I really don't know what happened after that.
L: Of course today there is the Jewish Community Center and Youth Council.
B: That's right, which is important and needed. You're right the Jewish Community
Center today is what the V.I.P.'s were at that time. In the V.I.P.'s we did
not have the parents, we did not say to a child "you cannot come if your mother
and father are not members". We did have to raise money but we did not keep
any child out. So, many friendships were formed through that. Then came
Camp Shalom which came before actually the other activities of the Jewish
L: Before the Jewish Community Center?
B: It was there before the Jewish Family Children's Services.
L: Henry, as I remember, was most active.
B: Well, he was the one. We were both on the Board of the Jewish Federation at
that time, Henry had come in after he semi-retired, and I was busy with my
activities. I figured the best way to keep a marriage together and happy is
to involve a husband. It's easier for a woman than a man to do things because
a man is usually in business and he wants to take care of his own things.
Anyway, Henry volunteered to help build the Camp and he and a black man who
worked for us for many years went out every single day with a tractor and
turned the ground and toiled and literally did it by hand. They had very
little money. We tried to raise money, asking people to donate lumber or
what have you.
L: The land had been donated?
B: Yes, by Bob List's father.
L: Where Camp Shalom is today.
B: Then they put the olympic swimming pool in. I remember we would be at a
party or something and Henry would say we have to go out to the camp to see
if the pump is working and if it was pitch black out there with no lights,
We'd go out to listen to see if the pump was on so that the kids would have
a swimming pool when camp time came around. You know when you think about it,
those people who lived here in those years were the pioneers, and those who
came in now have everything ready for them.
S L: That's an interesting side-light. One of the questions that we ask on the oral
history is about the Jewish families moving in today who view our well-estab-
lished community, yet we're basically a very new community. A lot of our
pioneers go back to the 20's and 30's and I think the purpose of their oral
S history is to bring out the fact to the people coming in of the hard work that
was done, technically blood, sweat and tears of the pioneers in the 50's and
B: I remember when Israel Bonds used to have their big functions, in the beginning
I think it was held in Elsie Leviton's house. It was very small, but when we
started to have it in a hotel, we've got in the entire community 250 people
coming. That doesn't mean that 250 people would buy, but 250 people coming,
we thought that was the greatest thing. Now, when I have my Women's Division
Israel Bonds where they must purchase a $500 Bond, we have 800 women coming
and our workers say, "Gee, we hope somebody cancels out" because the fire laws
will not permit us to have anymore there. So we have seen great changes in
L: Now, Evelyn, I would like to take you back again regarding something that was
very, very dear to you and very important for 13 years in this community to
our older citizens. That was the Friendship Circle of B'nai Brith Women.
Please tell us exactly how this started.
B: I've told it so many times, I think that I've told it to you. When we left the
Glades, my mother and father wanted to have an apartment for themselves. We
found them a lovely little place on Walton Ave., and every day at 12:00 I
would take my father to the beach. At 4:00 I would pick him up and bring him
home. He would say to me, "Aren't there any Jewish people in this community"?
So, I said, "Of course there are".
He said, "Where are they"?
I said, "Let's see". And, we put an ad in the paper for all Jewish people
senior citizen's age, I'm not even sure what senior citizens were then because
my father was much younger than 65 at that time, so I really don't know --.
We were going to have an open house at 2305 South Flagler Drive for the Jewish
people and one does not have to be affiliated with any Jewish organization.
As long as they were Jewish, they're welcome. And we had 125 people come in,
and we served dessert and coffee and Bobby Roysch played her accordian and
songs were sung and jokes were told and really it became a great family. We
met at Howard Park.
L: This was what year?
B: Again, 1962. Almost everything kind of happened, the Federation was organized
in '62 and '63, around those years. Again, the Friendship Circle of B'nai
B'rith Women, and I was the chairperson. Before that, it was Ruth Benison.
She really.was the one who got this thing on the road. Ruth had.very
sophisticated ideas that perhaps today she could implement. At that time
these people just wanted to play cards, talk to each other. They didn't
want lectures. They didn't want to be told that today you're going to listen
to Dr. So-and-So. and tomorrow you'll listen to --. People today are more
hungry for those things, but they just wanted friendship at that time, and
that's what they' got.
L: I believe I remember you developed a transportation service.
B: Yes, the B'nai B'rith Women picked these people up and brought them home.
There were times when we knew there were children living in this community who
would have nothing to do with their parent's afternoon pleasure. It took
total strangers. It took women from B'nai B'rith to pick them up and take
them home. I remember even at that time, and I'm going away from the Friend-
ship Circle, when we used to do it for the Rehabilitation Center, the Goldie
Paley Center. We used to take people from there to hospitals. I think there
was not an area service that B'nai B'rith did not touch.
L: It is so interesting too, because in those days some of the women were working.
Practically all were mothers with families. None of them ever said, "I don't
have time to do it".
B: That's right.
L: Like we find today in the larger community.
B: We did things the Red Cross didn't have time to do. We had time to do things
that people today don't.
L: Do you think it was because it was a smaller community, a more closely knit
community where people knew each other?
B: Well, I think that's one of the reasons. I think it was our upbringing. I
was brought up to share. We were blessed with what we had, and we shared with
others. This was part of our living Judaism.. Today, I think, people say if
it isn't good for me, then I really don't have to do it.
L: Well, I think of course that the times are different.
B: Today I think young people have a great deal more than what we had. I think
we were willing to sacrifice and do a great deal and it didn't come that fast,
yet we appreciated what we had.
(Bobbie Taffel substituting for Sylvia Lewis as Interviewer.)
T: Evelyn, would you give us a review of tape #1 and then go on with how life
was about 35 years ago in Belle Glade in West Palm Beach.
B: I want to do this as quickly and as briefly as I can because I had already
given Sylvia Lewis the first part.
Living in Belle Glade was an experience, and I felt like a pioneer. First of
all, the roads from West Palm Beach to Belle Glade were just absolutely horrible
with canals on both sides of the roads so that you had to be very careful when
you traveled. Living in Belle Glade, were 23 Jewish families, including
Clewiston, Pahokee and Belle Glade. The Jewish people in the glades were in
the retail business. We did have a few people that were involved in farming,
primarily Sam Senter who had one of the largest farms in Belle Glade. Living
in Belle Glade was really pleasant because people knew each other. When you're
raising children, you felt like you were in a safe place. It was kind of the
thing that you see in the movies, on the other side of the tracks. You have
the haves and the have-nots.
Everybody in the town, knew who the Blums were. We were involved in all the
social activities. There was a country club there, people met on a Saturday
night and you did your drinking, your dancing. There was the political aspect
with the Democratic Party, the Vererans of Foreign Wars. I felt very uncomfort-
able with some of these things primarily because they were people who lived a
different way of life than the average Jewish person. After all, we were with
non-Jews and their values were quite different than ours.
I remember when I would go to women's club meetings. All the women in there
wore their little white gloves and their little hats. And when they laughed I
didn't laugh, and when I laughed, they didn't. Our sense of humor was quite
different. The only time I could really be compatible with these people on a
Saturday night was if I had a Martini, because then everything seemed quite
funny to me. Other than that our values and our thinking was quite far apart.
T: Can you give us some idea of how their values were different than yours and
why you think you were far apart?
B: These people were real Southerners. Their expressions were different. They
could say "nigger" at the drop of a hat, which I was appalled to hear, and I
trembled. I saw things. Where I had my store, Henry and I were the only white
people. We were known as Miss Evelyn and Mr. Henry, because all the rest of
the people were black. Well I saw the Sheriff come down one day and take a
2x4 and hit a black man right across his head and almost broke his skull open.
Now that isn't something that I could get used to. To the people there that
meant nothing. "Just another nigger being hit on the head." Their terminology:
they used 'Nigger' as I would say 'Good morning, isn't it a lovely day'?
When I had a black person working for me, and I invited her to come in at lunch-
time, I would say "Come on and have your lunch". She would take her lunch, and
she would want to sit out the back door. I said, "Hey where are you going"?
She said, "Well, this is where I have my lunch",
I said, "Not in my house".
She said, "Mrs. Blum, I would feel most comfortable sitting outside. I don't
want your neighbors to see that I was sitting at your table". That was the
way of life in the Glades. We had Jewish families who lived for many, many
years in the Glades or in the South and they felt the same way. It wasn't
that it was just the non-Jew. There were Jews who treated black people in
the same manner. They were the servants and they would be treated as such.
Now I couldn't see that. When we lived in Belle Glade, I helped black people.
I was threatened, they said if you are going to be a nigger lover, watch out.
You'll find yourself hanging from a tree. Things were quite primitive in the
Glades! However, they could not change me. I was brought up with values, and
people were people. I could not see color. As a result we were very success-
ful in our store. We helped the black people, and the black people sought us
There were many times that I would send a black family to the doctor. We had
a Jewish doctor in Belle Glade whose name was Herman Bacht. I would call
Herman and say this child is sick, I would pay for your services. There were
many times that he would not charge me. I felt that I could not turn my back
on the people. I had a black manager in my store. As I told you, Henry and I
were the only two whites -- all my help was black. If a white person walked
into our store then we all looked to see what he was doing there. We would
feel that he was going to hold us up or something, because we did not have
white people there.
I asked the black people how they felt about the separate drinking fountains,
and they said they did not go where they were not wanted. They felt very
secure in their own environment. As a matter of fact, we owned a beer and
wine place where people danced on a Saturday night. I never walked in there,
because they did not feel comfortable with a white person watching them dance.
These are the things that you learn when you were living there. But in all
the years that I lived there, Belle Glade was good to me, and the black people
were good to me. I was good to the black people. I really have a really good
feeling which holds to this very day. I happen to have been there the other
day, and one of my old customers was sitting outside. "Miss Evelyn, how are
you?" I said to him, "Eddie, How are you? By the way, how old are you"?
He said "I'm a hundred years old".
I said, "Well take good care of yourself". Henry and I had a good rapport with
the black people. We made a nice living there, but when my girls, when my
older daughter reached 16, I said to Henry, "I don't care what we give up. We
must live in West Palm Beach where Iris will meet more Jewish people." We had
a black manager, but came June you couldn't give something away if you wanted
to. From June to September everybody left. The only people that stayed there
were perhaps people on welfare, and it didn't pay for them to go up.
T: Are you saying that the black people left during the summer?
T: So that they had to be rather well off.
B: no, no, they went picking. They were migrants. They went to Georgia for the
peaches, and they went up tolNorth Carolina for whatever was up there. They
went for corn up in New York, whatever the case may be. They went with the
crews. There was a crew leader and he had some busses. They would pack up
their stuff and they would go. As I said, the only people who stayed behind
were the elderly who were on welfare, or whatever. Some people had steady
jobs and they stayed on.
We would take an apartment at the Palm Beach Towers, which was a hotel, and
I'd stay there from June until after Labor Day. Well I was made membership
chairman for B'nai B'rith Women. I asked how do you reach out, who were the
Jews? After all it was very difficult to know. I would spend the day with
the telephone book. I would call every person who had a Jewish-sounding
name, and invite them to come to my apartment for membership. There were
many times when I talked to somebody and they would say that they wish that
they could accept my invitation, but they were not of the Jewish faith. But
they did have Jewish sounding names. It's very difficult today to know who
is a Jew and who is not. I could never do it today. Besides the telephone
book is about five times, if not more, in thickness than it was at that time.
Anyway, the first year that I held these coffees I was able to recruit 125
new members who were B'nai B'rith Women. That's the way I met the Jewish
people of West Palm Beach.
In 1961 I believe it was, we decided to come into West Palm Beach. We came
in, and it was more or less like retirement. My mother and father had lived
with me through the years in Belle Glade. My father used to stay in the store
during the day because there weren't any customers. Our customers were in
the morning when they got on the trucks, they would buy their lunches or
whatever, and at night when they got off the truck to get their meal for the
evening. That's when Henry and I would be in the store and we'd stay in the
store until 9:00 o'clock and on the weekend until 12:00 o'clock at night. I
even had my children working in the store so that they knew how we made our
It's funny. When you have off-shore laborers, those that come from the Bahamas,
Jamaica and Grenada they will not stand on line with an American negro. They
felt that the American negro was dirt, ignorant and they did not want to lower
themselves. So I had to have special registers for the American negro, and
have special ones for my off-shore laborers. We had built up such a reputation,
that when people came from these different countries, these different Islands,
they came in and they asked for Miss Evelyn. They were penniless, and we would
start them going. The farmer who would get them into the country, would house
them, and would try to feed them, but would take all their pay out of their
envelopes. These off-shore laborers from the Grenadas and the British West
Indies were very bright and they learned very fast. They would not deal with
the farmers and they would come into my store. I would start them off from
scratch, and trust that they would pay me. And they did! We led a very
interesting life in Belle Glade but there came a time that we felt that we
should leave the Glades and come into West Palm Beach.
T: You said that they came in the morning to take their meals to work and that's
understandable. What we would call the brown bag, is that correct?
B: That's correct.
T: But when they would come back at night, do you mean the whole family would
come back at night, to eat at the store?
B: Oh, no. They would buy their pork chops or ham hocks or whatever, and then
they would go home and cook. At that time everybody cooked on a kerosene
stove. We pumped kerosene like mad. The Negroes at that time could not
read very well and they did not even have television when I first came there.
But they would look at the labels on the cans and they knew what they wanted.
Because they could not figure, they really have a great distrust for white
people, and likely so. But I would really bend over backwards and they felt
it. I treated my customers like I would want to be treated, and it paid off
for us. I had bought a home in 1955 in West Palm Beach, but didn't live in
it until we moved in 1961. Henry had semi-retired. He was a very young man
and I was involved in B'nai B'rith Women and we had just organized the Jewish
Federation. Both Henry and I were on the board of the Federation. Henry was
responsible for Camp Shalom. He went out there with a black man who had been
in our employ for many, many years. They literally toiled, they turned the
ground in the camp. They actually worked with their hands and the tractor
and they started the Camp Shalom. The big swimming pool out there now. I
remember a time when we threw a little party and 12:00 o'clock at night we
would want to go out to see if the pump was running. It was dark out there
because there were no lights. But this was his baby, and we're very proud to
tell our grandchildren that their grandfather was responsible for Camp Shalom.
As a volunteer, he did this.
I too was active with the Jewish Federation and I was the first moderator for
the television program which was called at that time "People of the Book". I
never dreamed that I would be doing it, because it was supposed to be done by
the rabbis. When we had a meeting of the Community Relations Council, it
seemed like the rabbis were too busy and suddenly I had inherited a program.
Of course I felt that it was a very important thing for this community to
teach non-Jews what Jewish people were like. I accepted it, and made the
program really not geared for Jewish people, although it had news for Jewish
people. I wanted it for the non-Jews so that they would know that the Jewish
community was involved with community affairs in the entire county.
T: As I recall you and Henry did some organizing for young teenagers at the time.
Would you tell us something about that?
B: It was not I, it was really Henry that organized the V.I.P.'s, (Very Interested
Parents Of The Jewish Community). What had happened was, people called us and
said, "Listen, you do so much for the community doing both the Jewish and the
non-Jewish. Why don't you do something for the children?" Well, children had
never been my forte as far as the young kids are concerned, but Henry and
Rosita Franks who has since moved got together, and they formed this organiza-
tion. Henry took the children on long trips to Busch Gardens. It was divided
into elementary school, junior high and high school and college kids. They had
dances at which time the kids were surprised to see that there were other
Jewish kids in the community, because at that time, each Temple kind of sep-
arated the children from each other. If you were Conservative you only knew
Conservative Jews, and if you were Reform you only knew Reform. I guess it was
a dirty word if Reform went with Conservative Jews, and vice versa. But at our
meetings all Jewish children, whether they were affiliated or not affiliated,
were welcome and it grew. It grew so big that Henry felt that I should be
taken over by professionals and turned it over to the Jewish Federation, who
really didn't think that it was necessary to have that type of program. Then
it died by the wayside for a long time, until of course, the Jewish Community
Center became established. Of course, the Temples themselves had the youth
groups, but it had not been organized on that same style as when Henry had it.
T: While you were, and still are of course, but in those days working within a
community did you come across any anti-Semitism for yourself personally or
other people that you noticed?
B: Well, there was always anti-Semitism. It was a covert, very little overt. They
knew who I was. However anti-Semitism as far as I'm concerned will always be
in Palm Beach County, for many different reasons. But at that time, in 1961 I
became president of B'nai B'rith Women and was always in contact with the ADL.
When we heard that, perhaps tests were given on holidays, and we tried to fight
that, so that teachers and principals should be aware. We distributed our ADL
books and we told them they really should be no excuse, because in the calendar
books they would see that there were certain Jewish holidays that we didn't
expect them to give tests on. Of course their answer was, "Well there were so
few Jewish kids, that it doesn't make much difference.
I remember a time when the American Nazi Party wanted to establish headquarters
in West Palm Beach. I called together ministers, the Sheriff's Department, and
the ADL and we had a meeting in my house. We had plans of what we were going
to do if the party came into town. We tried to discourage it in which every
way we could. And we did. Therefore through pressure the Nazi Party never was
able to come into West Palm Beach. But we have white citizens councils, even
to this very day. You have a Lake Worth Herald which writes anti-Semitic
articles. We have the KKK which hands out articles right now in Lake Worth.
As a matter of fact I showed my grandson. We were driving through on Jog Road,
and I showed him the people. He said that he was very much aware, he had heard
on television. So our Jewish children, if they feel that they are secure, have
to see some of this to be jolted to know that they have to always be aware of
what's happening in this community.
Yes I have in the non-Jewish agencies that are anti-Semitic. Sometimes they
want to hold meetings on a Friday night, and I have to make them aware that we
don't hold meetings on Friday nights, because that is the Sabbath. I heard
remarks under their breath, "Why should it be that way, after all we're the
majority and they are minority. "Why should it be". But those Jews who have
been vocal have really made people aware that we are to be respected as we
respect them. But as far as anti-Semitism, you hear it on the radio every day
over talk shows, you see it in the paper if you read some of your letters to
the editors where they're annoyed that the help that is given Israel. We live
with it, but I feel that we have to teach our children about it.
We should never forget the Holocaust and because of that in all the years that
I have lived in West Palm Beach, I've been terribly involved with Israel Bonds
so that we must always support Israel and set an example for our children so
that they should be doing the same thing. I try to be in every Jewish cause,
because there are so few of us, that we really have to do whatever we can to
make the Jewish people strong and that they should be respected by the rest
of the community. And I've always felt that if we sit back and we don't do
it, we're going to be lose. I was president of B'nai B'rith Women in 1961 and
1962. In 1963 I was the State Federation President of B'nai B'rith Women. I
won a $1,000 from Pantry Pride one time, and I decided after having a con-
ference with my family that it was to be given to B'nai B'rith for the Hillel
Campuses in both Gainesville and Miami. Which I did and I received an award.
I'm the only woman to receive an award from the Men's Lodges of Florida for
the work that I did for Hillel.
I'm very proud that in 1970 I was voted Florida State Mother, which made me
the only Jewish woman in the State of Florida to have ever received that award.
In 1971 I received the Shalom Award from the State of Israel, which I'm very
proud of too, and that's what I'm bragging about. Those two awards, among other
things that I've gotten, stand out as awards that I can kind of brag about.
T: Evelyn why don't you tell us some of the other things that you've gotten into,
I think that is part of the history of this community. The awards that you've
gotten were mostly obtained because of your tremendous work within the com-
B: Well I received the Myrtle Wreath Award from Hadassah for community work and
in the school system, the human relations counsellors gave me an award for my
PIN program, which is Parents In Need, helping abusing parents. I also got a
community award for the Commission on Status of Women, Outstanding Woman of
the Year. You know Bobbie, I'm really a modest person, but you'd never know
it from the things that I'm saying. I do want this to be, as long as it's
going on the records, I want this for my children and grandchildren and all
the rest to come to know that their family, that their mother and father felt
that giving to the community was top priority both in the Jewish and non-Jewish
community. So that they should be able to do the same thing.
T: Also, you were a member and are a member of many other organizations, which I
wish you would tell us about right now since we're talking about all your
B: I've been on the board of the Nell Smith Home, that's a home for dependent girls
I've been their admission chairman for the last, almost 10 years. I'm on the
Child Advocate Board, and that was because of founding this program for abusing
parents. I convinced one of the commissioners that we should have it, an
advocacy board, which was ogranized about 5 years ago. I'm on the Community
Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation and have chaired three successful
Interfaith Breakfasts of which I am very, very proud. This was geared to the
Ministerial Association and we wanted them to have a better understanding of
what's happening in Israel. Israel has always been a prime concern of mine.
In fact in Belle Glade in 1947 when we had the partitioning of Israel, I went
to collect money from our Christian neighbors, because the Jewish people had
always given for any and every church function. And they really didn't even
know what I was talking about, but they gave me money only because they felt
they had to help their Jewish neighbor. But they didn't know what it was for.
Except one place that I went to I was thrown out of the store. He said, "He
didn't want any part of Jews and he threw me out, and he said "Get out of
here". Well I must tell you that this man's son married one of our Jewish
neighbors in Belle Glade and the boy converted to Judaism and I had the
delight of seeing this man even in a Conservative ceremony walking down the
aisle with his son, because that was the custom, he and his wife, he wearing
a yarmulkah. I said truth is stranger than fiction. But I remember that time,
and people in the Temple said don't expose yourself to this kind of treatment,
but my desire, my love for my Jewish people, nothing was too big or too small
T: I know you're Vice President in the Jewish Family and Children Service's and you
did work with the Jewish Community Center...
B: I'm secretary in the Jewish Family and Children's Service.
T: But you were vice president at one time?
B: Yes, I forgot about that, You're right, and I'm the past president of the
Center of Family Services which included Traveler's Aid, and Big Brothers and
Sisters. I've been involved with the drug program for the last ten years. It
first was called ADACK, and then it was changed to DATA. I'm now on the district
mental health board #9, I'm on the Nursing Home Ombudsman Committee for District
#9, which is a Governor's appointment.
T: What does District #9 comprise?
B: Of five counties. The counties are Henry, Martin, St. Lucy, Okeechobee, and
Palm Beach, and that takes in a great deal of territory. I enjoy being on this
District #9 Mental Health Board because we're the ones that distribute the
money for the different services of the mental health agencies in the area. So
it's quite a responsibility. However, I see my whole life has been volunteer-
ism, I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't volunteer. But, I also think it's
important for people to be part of the non-Jewish Community so that those that
have funny ideas about Jews are straightened out and they know that we're like
them, if not better. You know I belong to so many organizations, Bobbie it
would take a great deal of time. I'm very active with ORT, incidentally ORT
and National Council Of Jewish Women are organizations that are not as old as
the Hadassah and the B'nai B'rith and the Sisterhood that we have here.
You know Bobbie, when I lived in West Palm Beach back in 1961, we had the
Sisterhoods of B'nai B'rith and Hadassah, they were the leading organizations,
and Brandeis. At that time we couldn't think of any other organizations coming
into town because that would take our women power away. Of course we had the
Women's Division of the Jewish Federation and at that time we did not have a
permanent office of Israel Bonds, so when Israel Bond came into town we would
use our B'nai B'rith, because I was very active with B'nai B'rith and we would
use our B'nai B'rith Women to be at our big banquet. We had a big banquet that
consisted of maybe 250 people, if we had that many people coming.
T: Were you active in your temple, Evelyn, Temple Israel?
B: Well, in my last tape I think I spoke about my temple out in Belle Glade, and
that I was their Sisterhood President until I moved into West Palm Beach. The
first year that I was exposed to Temple Israel which is a Reform Temple and
I was not a Reform Jew, I enjoyed the company of all the Jewish couples that
I met and they allowed me to be part of them for one year and then for the
next year they said that I had to join. So I joined Temple Israel so that I
could enjoy the social aspect of the Temple. I became very involved with the
Couples Club. I was their program chairman then their president. The women
used to prepare the dinners for that, and I tell you that I swore that after
I gave up the presidency that I would never eat chopped liver again because we
ate so much of it. But I really enjoyed those days. Whenever they asked me
to do something at a Temple or at the Sisterhood I always did. On Mother's
Day we served mother-daughter teas, but then I decided little boys have mothers
too. Then we made it for children and their mothers. I remember when Rabbi
Cohen was in the Temple 15 years, I was the hostess that evening that we had a
big party, I believe it was at the Colonnades. It seems like such a long time
ago, because Rabbi Cohen was retired after 25 years. Raising girls in West
Palm Beach was really a delight because it wasn't a big city and they knew each
other. If we would have any doubts about their friends we could always ask
teachers and councellors at school and they were willing to tell us who the
good kids were. My home was always open for parties and Henry and I were
delighted when all the kids came to our house.
T: You don't mean that it was difficult to raise boys and not difficult to raise
B: Since I didn't have a boy I really wouldn't know. But my children, were always
told about anti-Semitism, they were fortunate particularly Barbara who is the
younger one. She is younger than Iris, she never experienced it. But they
were always made aware. They were always made aware that I wanted them to
marry Jewish boys, although I could not say that if there was a party that you
couldn't go if there wasn't Jewish, because our community didn't have that many
Jewish people in it. I've seen many, many changes in West Palm Beach, and all
for the better. I remember when we'd have fund-raising affair that was like
you had gathered everybody, all the conscientious Jews of Palm Beach County.
Now today at the drop of a hat you could have 200 people coming to a meeting.
Just a couple of weeks ago it was the Unity Rally for Israel, it was their
withdrawing from the Sinai. I was the moderator at Temple Beth El for Israel
Bonds and we had close to a thousand people coming without much effort. So to
me being in the fund-raising area of Jewish organizations, I'm delighted to see
the growth of Jewish people in the community.
T: So you have observed other changes in the community since the influx of so
many Jewish residents.
B: I've seen many changes. I remember that when we had an Israel Bond dinner the
Ambassador from Israel to the United States was coming in on the Sunshine
Parkway and he saw a large crowd and police on Okeechobee and he wanted to know
what happened. It was the opening of the kosher market. Well that was a
tremendous event for our people in the Palm Beaches. Plus, with the growth of
Deerfield and Delray, they broke off and they had their own South Federation
T: What about the newspapers in this area?
B: That's very interesting. When I became active with the B'nai B'rith Women,
I've always felt that public relations was very, very good for whatever pro-
gram you were running. B'nai B'rith Women did a great deal. We started the
Milk Fund for underpriviledged children, and we helped the veterans, and we
have a Dolls for Democracy program in school. Well you can't keep it for
yourself, you've got to let other people know about it. Every week I'd be
running up to the newspapers with a different article on B'nai B'rith Women
and we pushed it on television. I remember doing a program for the physically
handicapped on television. So everybody got to know what Jewish people were
doing in the community, not for Jews but for all people. We were credited,
the Jewish people were credited for things that they didn't do. We were so
outstanding in our volunteerism, that the newspapers accepted our articles,
when at one point they would never accept anything that was done in the Jewish
Community. But we made great strides in that respect, and of course now the
newspapers are just full. In the letters to the editor, you see so many Jewish
sounding names. The only thing that I don't like when I look in the local
papers unfortunately is that years ago when I read obituary, there were very
few Jewish names in the obituary. Today, I think that you have as many, if
not more, comparatively speaking of the Jewish population dying. As a matter
of fact we have two funeral parlors that are Jewish owned. So we've made big
strides in the community. And on volunteerism, Bobbie, there isn't a program
in this community that does not have Jewish volunteers. The community, has
learned what volunteerism is through our Jewish people. Our people are in the
hospitals, they are in the schools, they're in anything that will make our
community a better place to live in. Our Jewish people, I'm very proud to say
that, are responsible for making a richer community.
T: Evelyn, I certainly agree with you, and you have not told us anything negative
about the Jewish community. I'm not saying that there is anything negative,
maybe there isn't. But is there anything that you feel was not of a positive
nature so far as the Jewish community itself was concerned?
B: Well because I love Jewish people, I wouldn't want anybody else to talk about
them so why should I. The only thing that I did observe, and it bothered me,
but I guess people are getting used to it. When people come from different
parts of the country, they have their own way of living and expressing them-
selves. Coming into a sleepy town, a quiet town and suddenly when people
observe them in food stores or what have you, and see some of the things that
they do caused a flurry of anti-Semitism that had been dormant for awhile.
You know anti-Semitism is always here, but it is not brought to the surface.
When certain things happen in stores or restaurants they started to express
their dislike. The non-Jew expressed their dislike for the newcomer very
openly. However, I must tell you that the Jews who lived in this community
for a long time did not like the influx of the Jews that were coming in, and
expressed it, and wished that they would disappear and go away. So I don't
know whether you would feel that resentment could only be to non-Jews for
their expression of dislike, when Jewish people felt the same way. I person-
ally see nothing negative because, as far as I'm concerned Jewish people
brought culture, music, taught other Jews philanthropy. Wherever you want
help, you can turn to Jewish people for help. In the opera they are giving
scholarships. There helping in the schools with scholarships. There isn't
any part of the Jewish community that has not enriched the entire community.
So I don't find anything negative.
T: Evelyn, you are on the National Board of the Women's division of Israel Bonds,
Chairman of the Southeast District of the Israel Bonds and Chairman of the
Women's Division in Palm Beach county. Can you tell us something of the
growth of Israel Bonds?
B: Yes I'm delighted. You asked me about the negative aspects of the influx of
Jewish people and I said that there aren't any, and believe me I'm so delighted
that they're here because at one time if we sold $100,000 in Israel Bonds it
would be a tremendous amount of money. Today we raise $11 million dollars for
the State of Israel. Now to me you can't say one word bad about Jewish people.
Not when they give, and much of this comes from people who live on fixed
income. When it comes to the State of Israel they are dedicated and marvelous
people and I am very proud of them.
T: I know that your daughter Iris who has been living in this area for some time
is following in your footsteps, so far as volunteer work and working in the
B: Well I hope she follows in my footsteps. In fact I hope that all my children
follow in our, in Henry and mine, because we are very dedicated to the com-
munity and we want our children to feel the same way. Iris came here when she
was not quite two years old and Barbara who is six years younger, was born in
West Palm Beach and it's rare when you meet a native of the city. My children
are married, (incidentally all of them have been in the school system and their
all educators, when I say all my son-in-law's are educators too). Fortunately,
Iris lives here, and she has a little boy who is 8 years old. She is involved
with the Jewish community, in fact she started the pre-school program for the
Jewish Community Center. She is with the religious committee of Temple Israel,
and many more Jewish activities in the community as well as in the non-Jewish
T: Now Evelyn, what is your latest venture in the community?
B: Well in addition to all the things that I've been doing, and I certainly won't
give up doing it, because I love it. It's very fulfilling to me. I am now on
the board for the Jewish Home for the Aged. I feel that that is going to be a
tremendous project for the Jewish people in the community, and certainly will
be supported for who knows, it may be our home for all of us one day. But I
feel very strongly that we do need it and that all the Jewish people should
work for it and I know that I will really put my heart and sole in it and try
and make it a success. Whatever they ask me to do I'll do without any hesita-
T: Thank you Evelyn. I'm sure that everyone will find this most interesting and
informative. Thank you.