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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
JEWISH FEDERATION OF PALM BEACH COUNTY
INTERVIEWEE: Ann Blicher
INTERVIEWER: Evelyn Blum
DATE: January 27, 1982
PLACE: West Palm Beach, Florida
EB: Good morning, Ann. I am glad to be here today because I am most
anxious to hear all about your life in Palm Beach County. Tell me
what brought you to Florida.
AB: Well, actually, I thought I was coming for a two-week visit. My older
sister was already living here. Her husband was a traveling salesman
and about a year before he had come to this part of Florida and had
fallen in love with this area. It didn't take him very long to go
back up north, get my sister and their first child and come back and
settle here in Florida.
My family had moved from Camden, New Jersey where I grew up, to
Atlantic City and I was not thrilled with Atlantic City out of season. I
had left all my friends that I had grown up with, and a fairly nice
social life in Camden and Philadelphia, and I really was not too happy
in Atlantic City. My parents said that if I wanted, I could go and
visit my older sister for two weeks, and then when I came back, maybe
I would be happier in Atlantic City. So, I made my reservations and
came down to Florida on the Orange Blossom Special which was the crack
train of the Florida East Coast Railroad at that time.
When I got to Florida, one of the first things that I said was that it
was a lovely place but I didn't think I would be content to live in
the same kind of weather all the time, that to me, the change of
seasons was very important. That was in March, 1926.
I came in March which would have been the beginning of spring up North,
and there were no spring flowers, no change in the climate. It was
very warm. It was lovely to be able to go to the beach in March, but
I though at that time that this was not the kind of climate that I would
care to spend a great deal of time in. Around the end of that week
my sister said that there was a dance planned at Temple Beth El, and
she asked me if I thought I would enjoy going to the dance and I said,
"Yes, why not?" There was not that much else to do.
I had not yet met anybody except a few of my sister's friends who were
all married couples. I went to the dance at Temple Beth El, which
was very well attended by young men, not very many young women, and
actually by the whole community because that was onething that was
characteristic of this community at that time. When there was anything
going on, everybody went, all ages.
EB: Did everybody come out to meet you? Did your sister tell others that
she had her sister visiting from Atlantic City and that she wanted
everyone to meet her?
AB: Well, she told all of her friends and some of them came to the house
to greet me and she thought that this dance at Temple Beth El would be
a good opportunity for me to meet the rest of the community.
EB: What year are you talking about?
AB: I am talking about 1926. The first week or two that I was here.
EB: You were 19 years old?
AB: Yes, that's right. So, I went to the dance and it was very nice to have
people waiting in line to dance with me because there were more young
men than young women.
At that time, most of them had been brought here by the prospect of
making acick bundle in the real estate boom. So, I had a very nice
time and I met my husband, among others. I have to say that I had no
particular forewarning that this was to be the young man that I was
going to marry and spend almost 45 years of married life with.
EB: You mean it wasn't love at first sight?
AB: He asked if he could take me home, and, of course, I expected it would
just be he and I in the car. However, he had provided transportation
for two or three of the other young men, so, we all piled into the
car afterward and I asked to be dropped off first, which he did, but he
said he would like to see me again and I said "Fine".
Sometime during that week, he contacted me and asked me for a date
which I consented to. When the night of the date came, no young man
showed up and this made me very, very angry and I said to my sister,
"You know, at ;:home I'm not actually the belle of the ball, but I don't
have that much trouble getting dates. When I get a date, nobody ever
stands me up." I was not too crazy about the situation. I never heard
from him, but by this time I had accepted a job offer and was planning
to stay until June.
Sometime later, maybe the next week, I was walking on Clematis Street
and I saw him approaching from the other direction. I deliberately
crossed the street so that I would not have to have any conversation
with him. However, he did manage to see me and to explain that the
reason that he did not come to take me out that night was because there
was one car in the family and his father had said that he needed the
car that night. There was no way to contact me because, although many
people had their names on the list for a telephone, the telephone
company was at least a year behind on its ability to provide people with
So, after that explanation, during which time I had had a few other
dates, I decided, well, I would give this young man a chance. From
there we became fiances; we were engaged in October of 1926. My
mother and my youngest aunt came down for a party which my husband's
parents gave for us, an engagement party, and we were married in
October of 1927.
EB: How did your parents feel about your leaving Atlantic City? After all,
you were just 19 years old.
AB: Well, to be perfectly frank, they were very unhappy about it. They
were not too happy when my sister moved there, but, at least she was
married. She had a husband who could look after her, but they were
really not all that pleased about my decision.
They offered me a number of inducements, including an offer to let
me go to Temple University if I would stay at home, but by that time,
I was having too good a time here and enjoying my job besides. I was
pretty sure that I had met the man I was going to spend the rest of my
life with, and, so, because of the fact that I was after all, living
with my sister, my parents reluctantly said that I could remain in
Florida. We came to this agreement the following summer. I came down
in March of 1926 and then in the summer of '26, I went back up north
to spend a month at home with my parents and that was when I told them
that I really wanted to stay in Florida, and we came to that agreement.
EB: When you were little, did your parents give you any religious background?
Were they religious people, did they practice any Judaism?
AB: They both came from a very religious background.
My mother's father was very well educated in Jewish, Hebrew and in
religion. He was trained as an agriculturist. His father took up land
in the Crimea, the land that was given to Baron DeHirsch as a gift
after he finished the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and he grew up on that
land. Nevertheless, when the Jews were expelled from the Crimea, he
became a teacher, a Malamed and that was what he did when he came to
the United States.
When my father was a very young child, his family was living in a part
of Russia that is now Romania, although they were not Romanian. When
my father's father decided to move into Russia proper, his father kept
all the boys until they were 13 years old to make sure they got a good
Jewish education and we Bar Mitzvah before he sent them on one-by-one
to their parents in Russia.
EB: Did you parents and grandparents live together at that time?
AB: No, my grandparents lived in Philadelphia when they first came to this
They had three, single daughters and they lived together in Philadelphia.
My parents lived in Philadelphia a very short while. My mother hated
Philadelphia. She couldn't stand the water and a lot of other things
about it, so, we moved across the Delaware River to Camden, New Jersey
where we lived until the family moved to Atlantic City in 1925.
EB: Did you have contact with your grandparents?
AB: We had very close contact with our grandparents. We spent all the
big holidays with them. Passover was always at my grandparent's home.
A great many of the other holidays were celebrated there, and, in
addition to that, we visited back and forth quite often. My parents
saw to it.
They, themselves, did not consider themselves really, particularly
religious. My father was a socialist and a member of Arbeiter Ring
and considered himself a free thinker. My mother told me, after my
grandfather died, that she did not feel that what you put into your
stomach was nearly as important as what you put into your head.
However, our house, until my grandfather died, was a strictly kosher
home. The dietary laws were very strictly observed because of the
great respect that my parents had for my maternal grandfather and they
knew that he would never eat in our home unless he knew that the
home was kosher. My grandparents spent many of the minor holidays
EB: Do you remember your grandmother well?
AB: I remember both my grandparents well because I was lucky enough to have
my grandfather until I was 14 years old. I am speaking of my mother's
parents because my father's parents remained in Russia.
My grandfather was not a large man. He was rather slight with a
forked beard, the brightest blue eyes, and as kind and as sweet a
man as you could possibly imagine. When I was a small child, if
anybody had asked me if I knew what God looked like, I would have
described my grandfather.
EB: Oh, that's beautiful.
AB: My grandmother was somewhat taller than my grandfather. A very quiet,
reserved woman, but very warm and affectionate to the children. During
the summers, we would sometimes, one at a time, go and stay at my
grandparents' home for a few days and it is one of the loveliest
memories of my life.
My grandfather always made the samovar in the morning. He would pour
some of the cream off the top of the milk bottle for the cat, let it
out and then he would fix tea for himself and for me. On Sukkat, he
built a sukkah in the backyard and we would have our meals out there.
So, I have wonderful memories of my grandfather. My grandmother, of
course, lived until she was 82 years old and even my daughter has very
happy memories of her great grandmother.
EB: Is there anything in particular that you loved about your grandmother?
Did she do anything that was different, or unusual?
AB: It wasn't that she did anything that was that different or unusual, but
she was very exact about everything she did.
She used to make a certain kind of pastry that some people call
"Rugalach", but we used to call "Dreidlach", and we used to say that
if you took'a caliper and measured them, every single one would come
out exactly right. We used to tease her that she measured her noodles.
When she set the table, everything had to be exactly in its place.
But, she was not a rigid person. In fact, after my grandfather died,
she said, "My home is kosher," she said to her daughters "but, in
your homes you can do whatever you like." When she would come and
visit, naturally, nobody ever served her treif, or anything like that,
but she never asked.
Oh, one other thing,you asked me if there was anything unusual about
her. She had, what some'people called, a gift of being able to tell
fortunes. She would use cards,but, actually, I think it was her own
observations, her own keen understanding of human nature and the people
around her. She would sometimes be persuaded to tell fortunes, to
foretell the future, but long before I was grown she had decided she
would not do that anymore.
Like my grandfather, she was very religious and she said, "If God
wanted us to know what the future held for us, he would find a way to
let us know without this nonsense with the cards." I think that her
talent for foretelling the future, or describing people's character,
was not due to clairvoyance or anything like that. I think it was just
due to the fact that she quietly observed and understood people.
EB: Were her predictions usually right?
AB: Well, she never gave predictions, like, "you are going to meet a dark
man and take a trip over water," or anything like that. It was really
more in general terms of what kind of person you are likely to attract,
that she could judge from her knowledge of that particular person's
character because she did not do this for strangers, so, her
intelligence, coupled with her understanding of the people whose future
she was foretelling, were the basis of her ability.
EB: So, your memories of your grandparents are good ones?
AB: They are wonderful and happy memories, yes.
EB: As a grandparent now, do you, in any way,, try to emulate some of the
things your grandparents did?
AB: Well, we live an entirely different life now, but, I have tried, and
I think in some measure, I have succeeded in being close to my grand-
children in trying to answer their questions in an open manner so that
they will speak openly to me. They tell me that they have always
felt very close to me and able to talk to me, so, I think that what I
have done, thinking back to my grandmother, is to listen more than to
talk, and, for that reason, I always feel very warm and very close with
EB: Let's go back to your younger days when you came to West Palm Beach
and met your husband and there was a great social life among the
young Jewish couples. Who were the couples that you were friends with?
Do you remember?
AB: Oh, yes, of course. We had a group of about 13 young couples. There
was my brother-in-law, Dr. Barney Blicher and his wife; Dave and Rose
Tisnower; Irving and Mildred Kapner; Gertie and Al Moss; Bill and
Bertha Hahn, who were associated in business with the Kapners and the
Tisnowers. Altogether, a group of 13 couples.
Since there was not a great deal going on in town in the way of
amusement, and we were all very young couples just starting out and
between the crash of the real estate boom and the depression, there was
not a great deal of money around, we used to meet every two weeks or
so, and each couple would take their turn being host for a party. It
was not only a dinner party but some type of entertainment had to be
provided by the couple.
I remember one party that we gave. The menu was quite simple. It was
an Italian dinner with spaghetti and meat sauce. I think that was after
1933, so, we had wine and the entertainment was a shadow play with a
sheet hung across the place between the dining room and the living room
and the play was an operation behind this curtain with lights behind
it so we saw only the shadow.
It sounds very simple, but we had a lot of fun and we looked forward
to these parties since, as I said, nobody was all that well off.
Every couple chipped in $2.00 and it is amazing the kind of parties
that we used to put on for $26.00 or $30.00 and whatever else, of
course, the host and hostess wanted to add to it.
EB: That sounds great. But, you said that it must have been after 1933 that
you served wine. Was this a dry town? Why did you say that?
AB: Well, don't forget that we were under prohibition until about 1933 when
they repealed the Volstead Amendment. West Palm Beach was a tremendous
center for bootlegging. In fact, there is a home in the 3100 block
of North Flagler Drive on the lakefront that had it's own turning
basin. The speedboats used to come in from the Bahamas and unload
there, then turn around and go back. There was tremendous traffic of
that sort here. Of course, the people in Palm Beach never lacked for
liquor during prohibition. But, it was expensive and we were gust not a
drinking crowd, so, if you served wine at dinner that was a big deal.
EB: Now, did you have children at that time? Did you have Doris then?
AB: Doris was born in October, 1928. She was born in Good Samaritan
Hospital as were Elliot Argintar; Oscar, Ruth and Abe Dobrow's son;
and another couple's child, Mona Pastroff, whose parents subsequently
moved to Miami.
At that time, a lot of us were having our babies and most of them were
born at Good Samaritan Hospital. It was very different from what it
If you go past the hospital on the North Dixie side and you see a
small building sort of squeezed in between the two big wings, that
was the entire hospital.
EB: That was the entire hospital?
AB: A small, two-story building, that was the whole hospital.
In October of 1928 when Doris and these other children I mentioned
were being born, the hospital had been damaged by the hurricane of
1928. The delivery room was unuseable, so, a good deal of the labor
went on in a curtained-off portion of the hallway. However, we had
good doctors and the hospital was good. We survived and the children
EB: Were there Jewish doctors here at that time?
AB: No, I don't remember a Jewish doctor being here until the 1940's.
EB: Can you describe what Clematis Street looked like then? Do you
remember if Clematis Street looked very different in those days?
AB: I only wish that I had come to Florida a few weeks before I did
because I was told that only a week or two before I got here, they had
removed the bicycle racks from the middle of Clematis Street. Until
the early 20's when automobile traffic became more common, the way of
getting around here was by bicycle. Everybody they tell me, rode a
bicycle wherever they had to go. They would have all-day excursions
riding to Lake Worth, picnicing and coming back to West Palm Beach.
But, by the time I got here, they had decided that West Palm Beach was
on its way to becoming a metropolis and didn't think it looked nice
to have bicycle racks down the middle of the street. So, they took
They had two-way traffic and angle parking on Clematis Street. The
cars were much smaller then and were parked at an angle and a lot of
people used to come in from the country, or even from West Palm Beach,
on Saturday night when the stores stayed open until ten o'clock and
just park their cars and sit and watch the people walking up and down,
greet their friends and maybe go into Rexall's to have a chocolate
The Rexall store was somewhat west of where Norman's store is now.
The store called "Designer To You" was originally the Lerner'slocation.
Before that, when I arrived, it was an empty lot with a little news
stand on it, and, for some reason, it was always breezy there because
the Comeau Building was already built and somehow or another, an
updraught would come across that empty lot and up the face of the
building. So, that was one of the breezy spots where you could stop
and get cooled off a little during the hot summer days; and, also,
the something where the Citizen'sBuilding is. That was a very windy
Across from the Citizen's Building was a movie theater called the
Ketler. It was built by Carl Ketler who is the father of Ralph
Ketler who was a member of the schoolboard for many years. Across
the street was a building owned by the Schrebnik family and the
Florida Power and Light Company had their offices there. Dr. Blicher
had his first office there. That was later demolished and the Florida
Theater was built, but that wasn't until the 1940's.
Farther down the block where Walgreen's Drug Store is now, was a
three-story hotel called the Jefferson Hotel. It was not named after
President Jefferson but after the owner, the man who built it, his name
was Joe Jefferson and, at that time, he was a famous actor who had
toured the whole country in a play about Rip Van Winkle. He had come
to West Palm Beach, I believe, to retire and had built this three-story
hotel in, what was then, the center of town.
On the northwest corner of Olive and Clematis was a department store
called Hatch's. It was owned by a local family. Later Burdine's
bought the business and the building.
The Goldsmith Brothers were in business in the Comeau arcade. For a
time, Cy Argentar had a store on the corner of Clematis and Dixie where
there is a record shop now, I believe. 0. P. Gruner and Tobby Meyers
had their stores on the west side of the railroad tracks on Clematis
Street, but Mr. Gruner later moved over to the southwest corner of
Clematis and Dixie where the Kress Building was later built,and
Meyers Luggage was in the middle of the 300 block.
The Mirskys came here, I think, in the very late 30's or early 40's,
and their original store was on Datura Street. They later moved to
Clematis Street. Butler Shoe Company, which became a large chain, was
started by two men who were living in West Palm Beach, Bernie Feldman
and Dave Slan, I believe his name was. I think that Butler's Store
on Clematis Street was their first store and it later grew into a very
EB: Did they have family here, too?
AB: Oh, yes.
EB: And, you were all friends?
AB: We didn't really know the Slans, but we were friendly with the
Feldmans. They later moved to Atlanta where Butler Shoes has their
headquarters. They were not part of our smaller group, but they were
part of the community.
We also had friends who lived on Park Avenue, so we moved over there
in 1936, mainly so that Doris could go to school in Palm Beach.
There was a certain amount of anti-Semitism and it was overt. It was
not pleasant, but once we had moved over there, we were not in any
hurry to move back and I felt that since wherever she went there
would only be one or two Jewish children in the class, it would not
be that much different no matter where she lived. She went to Palm
Beach Public through junior high school and had very, very little
social contact with any of the non-Jewish children, except in class.
But, I don't know that it would have been that much different had we
lived in West Palm Beach during those years. However, it made it all
the more important that she go to religious school on Sundays and
meet the other Jewish children.
EB: How many Jews lived in Palm Beach?
AB: By that time, by the 1940's the community had grown, so, there must have
been at least a thousand, perhaps more.
EB: Did you live in Palm Beach, too?
AB: No. When I say Palm Beach, I'm talking about Palm Beach County.
There were actually very few Jews living year round in Palm Beach.
EB: I understand the Jews were not welcome over there.
AB: No, they weren't. They were not welcomed in the hotels. I think we
talked about that before. There was a great difficulty, also, if they
wanted to purchase property for homes there. In fact, that existed
on some streets up until the 1950's.
EB: Did you, at any time, live in Palm Beach?
AB: I lived in Palm Beach from 1934 or so, up until the beginning of
the 40's, I guess. Then from 1955 to 1967 I lived in Palm Beach, in
the north end.
EB: Well, now you said you lived there in the 30's when Jews were not
welcomed there, what made you live in Palm Beach at that time?
AB: Don't forget, Palm Beach is not all elegant homes. There are some
streets like Park Avenue and Oleander Avenue where there are nice
apartments and nice homes, but they were mainly lived in by people
who either worked in Palm Beach or were people who had businesses
there. The main reason why I lived in Palm Beach was because, by that
time, I was spending a lot of time in the business with my husband
and Palm Beach Public had smaller classes than the schools in West
EB: It was still a public school, was it not?
AB: Of course, it still is. Doris continued there through junior high,
then she went to Palm Beach High School, then the only high school
in West Palm Beach. It is now called Twin Lakes.
She went to Temple Israel Sunday School and went there straight
through Confirmation. They didn't have Bar Mitzvoh and Bas Mitzvoh
then. She built up friendships with the Gruner girls; with Esther
Barish; the Dubin girls; and the Gelders girls, so, she did have
The social life situation for the young Jewish girls in this town
was very, very poor.
EB: During the war years, when the soldiers came into town, did that have
any effect on the Jewish community as far as socibility of the girls
AB: Oh, it had a tremendous effect, it even resulted in several marriages,
but the main thing that we did, as I said, was have the dances at
Temple Beth El.
EB: Who sponsored that? Was that by Sisterhood, or just the community at
AB: The Sisterhoods. The Temple Israel social hall was too small, so,
everybody pitched in, and, as a member of Temple Israel, I chaperoned
those dances every Saturday night, partly from patriotism and partly
because I wanted to be the one to take my child home.
EB: I don't blame you for that. Did Doris meet her husband down here?
AB: No, she didn't. She went to college at Penn State where several
members of my family had gone, and she met him while she was attending
EB: She wanted to leave this area as she got older?
AB: No, she loved it here. She always loved it here. She was happy to go
away to college and I encouraged her because I felt that she should
have the experience of living in another area and in a larger city.
I had a lot of family in Philadelphia and knew that that would be her
home away from home. Whenever she wanted to get away from school she
would have a place to go without having to come all the way down to
Florida. And, I think for a girl growing up in what was a very small
town with a very limited social life, it was a very good experience.
She was more fortunate than most because, by that time, my inlaws had
moved to Miami and Doris had always enjoyed a very close relationship
with her grandparents and so most school holidays, and part of the
summer vacation, she would spend with them in Miami and there she
became acquainted with a group of young people, I'm talking now about
high school years, who were in the B'nai Brith Youth Organization.
So, she had a lot more experience in dating and being with groups of
girls and boys than the other girls who lived in West Palm Beach.
EB: Now, I know that you mentioned that you were active in your Sisterhood.
When you look back now, I imagine that you've seen great changes
between the Sisterhood now and the Sisterhood then. Can you tell us
some of the changes?
AB: Oh, I should say so. In the first place, the membership was much
smaller. In the second place, we did many, many of the things
that we now pay to have done. For instance, one of our early
Sisterhood members, Virginia Argintar, tells that even though she
had servants in her home to vacuum her floors, she used to carry
her vacuum over to the Temple and vacuum the rugs so the Temple
would be fresh and clean for Friday night services.
One of our main methods of fund raising was the weekly card party.
The women used to take turns providing the refreshments and seeing
to it that the card party was run properly. If we had a luncheon,
we did not call up the banquet department at the Breakers and
arrange for a luncheon. We would very frequently, in the early days,
have covered dish luncheons, which meant, of course, that every
member would bring something to the luncheon and we would have a
chance to sample everybody's cooking.
EB: About how many members did you have then in the Sisterhood?
AB: Before the 40's I doubt that we ever had more than 40 or 50 members.
EB: Are many of them alive today?
AB: Yes, quite a few.
EB: And, still belong to Temple Israel?
AB: And still belong to Temple Israel. Some of them, like myself,
are still fairly active. Lillian Goldsmith, Honey Halpern,
Virginia Argintar. Of course, when we come to Temple, or come to
any of the Temple events, we sort of look around like we're the
EB: You're the strangers?
AB: Yes. And when we see a familiar face, we rush to each other like
sailors who see another person on the island where they've been
cast away. But we think that it's wonderful that the Temple has
grown the way it has.
I was secretary of the Temple for a number of years and president
for two terms in the late 1950's. One thing that I am proud of
is the fact that before then, the chairwoman in charge of seeing
that there were flowers on the altar every Friday night would
have the job of calling up people and saying, "Will you contribute?"
We're talking about the Flower Fund for the Temple. I suggested
to the membership that we should setup a floral fund and anyone
who wanted to contribute would contribute to this fund so that
there would always be money in this particular fund for the Friday
night flowers and for the flowers for the holidays.
If anybody wanted to particularly specify that they were contri-
buting for that it would be mentioned in the bulletin. And, so
that was one thing we could stop Schnorring about, the flowers for
I may have mentioned before that I also taught in the Sunday
School during the first years when my daughter was attending the
religious school. The Temple at that time, the early days, was
really the center of social life. Everybody went to Temple on
Friday night. Not 100% for religious reasons, it was a way to
meet the rest of the community.
EB: All right, what years are you talking about?
AB: Now, I'm going back to the years before 1940. There was no air-
conditioning and the only air-conditioning we had in the Temples
were the paper fans that were donated by the various funeral
homes around the city. The benches in the Temple were plain wooden
pews varnished every year before the high holidays and I can still
remember sitting in those pews on a very hot night and when it
came time to rise up and say the Schma or when the Ark was opened,
you could hear little sounds all over the Temple of peoples'
clothes getting unstuck from the varnish as they stood up. But
that was a long time ago.
After Friday night services, during the warm weather, most people
would drive over to the beach and sit either on the pier or on
the benches along the beach to cool off after the warmth of the
Temples. And we would meet people from the other Temple there
and it was a nice wind up to the evening.
EB: In other words, you --
AB: There was a warmth and a closeness in the community which,
inevitably gets lost when it gets larger. It's impossible to
keep up that kind of relationship with large groups.
One of the things that I remember the most, most pleasantly, was
the Sunday School picnics, for which everybody turned out and it
was an event that we looked forward to. We didn't have Camp
Shalom, so for a number of years we had our picnics at a place
called the Log Cabin, up near Stuart.
EB: You mean, you travelled from here to Stuart?
AB: Yes. And another occasion was, another place where we had the
Sunday School picnics for quite a long time was a place that's
now a State Park, Bubois Park. At that time, it was privately
owndd and we used to go there and stay all day, but the group
that I was part of used to have our own picnics on Sunday after-
noons. We would pick up the children from Sunday School and drive
over to Singer Island.
At that time, Singer Island consisted of a little row of stores,
a restaurant, a bath house and,I think,a bar. I think that's all
there was there.
EB: Did they have a wooden bridge that went over there, was it
AB: No, they had a wooden bridge, a two lane wooden bridge. We would
go over to Singer Island and,as I said, it consisted of this little
row of stores and the rest of the Island were the magnificent beaches
and pine trees all over the Island and the ruins of a hotel that had
been started in the '20's. The Blue Heron Hotel. We would stay
there, we had our little barbecue grills and we would fix steaks
or hamburgers, or whatever we wanted, and have our dinner there
and we would bring along things like hard-boiled eggs and
sardines and salad vegetables so that we could have our supper
without any further cooking. The rule was that the men cooked and
the women cleaned up. We would stay until dark and it was a very,
very pleasant way to spend a Sunday. Very, very often we were
almost the only ones on the beach.
EB: Were you plagued with mosquitos or anything like that?
AB: It depended on which way the breeze was blowing. If it was blowing
off the ocean, there were no mosquitos. We were not bothered by
mosquitos in the winter time anyway, but if it was blowing from the
Glades, we had mosquitos.
We did have a summertime plague, particularly in Palm Beach,
sand flies. They were tiny, tiny little flies that could squeeze
through the mesh of the finest screen and they had a bite that was
all out of proportion to their size. And, the only way that you
could keep most of them out, not all, was to paint your screens on
the outside with some kind of a sticky concoction. But we survived
that and a lot of other things.
Unfortunately, the coming of the war and the camps all over this
side of Florida, the military camps, put an end to our Sunday
picnics, because you had to submit to a search of your car when you
went on the Island and you had to leave before dark.
There was a very good reason for this because the Gulfstream being
only a mile away from shore and the ships, particularly the tankers
that went down to South America and to other places to pickup oil,
in order to avoid the northward drift of the Gulfstream, would come
inside between shore and the Gulfstream and that became a happy
hunting ground for German submarines and more than once we would
see the hulks of ships, burnt down to the deck, that had been
torpeoed by German submarines and in fact, very often you would see
a sleepy-eyed merchant tending to his business during the day and
you didn't ask any questions, but you were pretty sure that he had
been aroused during the night by the Red Cross or the Coast Guard
to open up the store so that they could provide sailors, whose
ship had been torpeoed with clothing.
EB: Did you read any of this in your local newspapers?
AB: No, there was not a word of it in the local newspaper and nobody
said anything anymore than the women who went over to Morrison
Field to set up the Canteen for night time arrivals would say
what they had done.
EB: Did that stop your adventures over at Singer Island?
AB: Unfortunately, it did because as I said, you had to be off before
dark and it became more of a chore than it was worth. However,
there was on incident that we did know about and that people
laughed about for quite a while.
It seems that one of the bakeries was supplying the little store
on Singer Island with pies, among it's other customers, and the
driver of the truck that was delivering pies was stopped by the
Coast Guard which was guarding that bridge and asked what he had
in his truck. And being a smart mouth, he said he was carrying
messages to the Germans, to the German submarines which were
operating off the coast. And when they told him to open up his
truck, he said, "Well, they're only pies" and they said, "Yeah,
they're pies okay, open up the pies" and they cut every single
pie in four pieces to make sure there were no messages hidden in
the pies. That shows you the seriousness, it was no joke.
We laughed about it because we thought the young man got what he
deserved, but it was very, very serious business.
When you went down to the beach and you saw adhip floating down
with nobody on it and the entire super structure burned away,
there was nothing to laugh about. It was very, very serious.
EB: Did you find a great influx of people? Was it a status quo
during the war years?
AB: During the war years, there were very few permanent arrivals at
that time. The place was full of military, the whole state of
Florida actually was an army camp. There was a tremendous amount
of flight training going on, not only for American fliers, but for
fliers from many different countries, training in Florida where
there are something like 300 flying days a year.
But, many of the servicemen who were stationed here liked it and
came back after the war. From 1947 1948 on was when the real
influx of population came to West Palm Beach. Strange thing
was that the City of West Palm Beach itself did not grow by that
much, but all the outlying areas which had been considered country,
actually out in the boondocks, became populated.
EB: But, didn't real estate become more valuable during the war years?
Didn't these military men bring their families to live here?
AB: Rents went up, but not property value to that extent because most
servicemen were temporary and all they were looking for was
temporary housing. And there was not all that much real estate
activity. The real estate activity really started by the
beginning of the 50's.
EB: So, you saw a great difference in the area after around the 50's,
the early 50's, 47, 48 around that time, things started to change?
Did you still have your business?
AB: Yes, we continued in business until 1962.
EB: You didn't tell me, I'm sorry Ann, but you didn't tell me about
when Doris got married.
AB: Well, as I said, she met her husband, Stanley Ellenbogen, when
they were both students at Penn State. Stanley had a degree in
chemistry and a minor in bio-chemistry, but he was actually
always more interested in agriculture than anything else, which
is surprising for a boy who was born and grew up in Brooklyn.
Anyway, they became engaged while they were still in college and
when Stanley graduated in 1946, I believe it was 1946 or 1947,
it's not important, Doris left college and he came down here, he
had worked for a while in New York, was not too crazy about the
job and came down here.
My husband asked him if he would be interested in trying out our
business. Now, what most people don't know is that there is a
great deal of chemistry involved in both dry cleaning and laundry.
And it interested him and more than anything, he loved the climate.
He vowed he was never going to go back to live in New York. So,
in December of 1949, they were married here in Temple Israel.
They were the last couple married in the old Temple and my oldest
grandson, Paul, was the first baby named in the new Temple.
EB: Isn't that nice. The new Temple on Flagler Drive?
AB: On Flagler Drive, right. And, as I said, Stanley became part of
Later on, together, we started Comet Cleaners and as things
changed in this particular business, Acme Cleaners was phased out
and it's now owned and operated by my son-in-law, Stanley Ellenbogen,
as Comet Cleaners.
EB: When did Mr. Blicher pass away? What year was that?
EB: Oh, I see.
AB: He retired because of ill health in 1962 and at that time we were
still operating Acme Cleaners.
EB: That was on Dixie?
AB: On Dixie, exactly.
EB: Where is the business now?
AB: Well, there are, because of the change of the type of business,
we have a laundry plant on 25th Street and then there are a number
of smaller, self-contained outlets where the dry cleaning and some
of the laundry is done right on the premises.
EB: And Stanley is running the operation?
EB: Any of the grandchildren remain in West Palm Beach?
AB: Only the youngest one, Mark, who presently is attending Palm Beach
Junior College. The other two, the oldest, Paul, is a graduate
of Tulane University in New Orleans. He received his masters
in Jewish Community Development in the Hornstein School at Brandeis
University and is now the Campaign Director of the Jewish
Philanthropies of St. Paul, Minnesota.
EB: That's interesting.
AB: Yes. My granddaughter, Marcie, like the other two children, graduated
from Forest Hill High School and went to Tulane University, married
a young man from Rochester, New York and now lives outside of
Rochester, New York on a small farm and,in addition to her degree
from Tulane, has a degree in ornamental horticulture and is
connected with one of the largest mail order nurseries in the eastern
part of the United States.
EB: Well, it seems like she took a page out of her father's book, he was
interested in agriculture and she went into horticulture.
EB: It's interesting to see how children kind of evolve from their
environment, I think.
EB: Before we close, is there something, do you have strong feelings of
things that have happened in Palm Beach County, do you, would you
like to share it with the community?
AB: You know we have been talking about many years of my living here
since practically my girlhood and thinking back,it was a nice place
to live then, however, there were certain disadvantages living in
a small town.
There was no music, there was no opera, there was no dance, many
of the things that we enjoy now, but there was a closeness among
the people. You walked down the street, and Clematis Street was
the center of town, you walked down the street and you knew at
least two people out of every ten that passed you by. You knew
every.merchant on the street. There was a warmth and a closeness which
you have to lose when the town grows. However, in many, many ways,
it isamuch more interesting place to live in now, a place you don't
have to feel that your children, when they grow up, have to go away
in order to make their careers. So, everything is a sort of a trade
off. And, I think on balance we gained a great deal more than we
lost by having the town grow.
EB: Now, Ann, I know that you're still active in many community
programs. Can you tell me which ones are your favorites and what
you're doing right now?
AB: Well, I worked for three years on Crisis Line, which, incidently, is
the oldest existing Crisis Line, Hot Line, in the continuous
operation in the United States and I worked for eight years as a
counselor at Planned Parenthood.
Both of those activities I found very rewarding and very worthwhile.
I am not quite so active now, but one of my most enjoyable activities
is working in the Temple Israel Community Library. Not only do I get
first crack at all the new books, but I have the pleasure of
expressing my opinions about those books occasionally in the column
in the Jewish Floridian, which is called "Browsing in Books". That
is interesting and exciting to me.
For this past year, I also assisted the Program Chairman of Temple
Israel Sisterhood and I have kept up over the years my interest in
the Spanish language and still attend a weekly class in conversational
Spanish. I don't know when I'm going to use it in a Spanish speaking
country again, but I still don't want to lose what facility I have
in the language.
EB: Yes, I noticed that was a book on your table.
AB: Oh, yes, and I taught a class for beginners in Spanish at the
Jewish Community Center this past winter, which was a lot of fun
for me and I hope was of some use to'the people who took part in
that program. Of course, as time goes on, my activities become
more limited. So for the time being, as long as I can drive my
car and get around, I will still try to be part of the community.
EB: You forgot to say that you're involved with the Jewish Family and
AB: Oh, yes, I also serve on the Board of the Jewish Family and
Children's Service, which I find not only interesting, but a very
EB: So, we can wind this up, you're actually, tell me how old you are
AB: March 23rd of this year, I will be 77 years old.
EB: Seventy-seven, and, you've contributed so much to the community and
you've continued to, I guess that's what keeps you young, Ann.
You're young looking and beautiful. I'm not good in arithmetic and
I was kind of taken back when you said "77". I was figuring on
maybe 67. I thinks that's marvelous.
AB: Well, you know, I suppose it depends on how you feel. I go past
a mirror occasionally and glance at it and say "Who's that old
dame walking past there?".
EB: No, that's not true.
AB: But now I try to enjoy my life day-by-day, not worry too much about
EB: And, I think that you set an example for your own family so that
they can say that their grandmother was a great lady in the community.
AB: You're very kind.
EB: I think that will about wind up our interview.
Thank you very much, Ann.