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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
JEWISH FEDERATION OF PALM BEACH COUNTY
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Fanny Kotick
INTERVIEWER: Grace Scheinman
DATE: May 1, 1982
PLACE: 516 26th St., W. Palm Beach
This is Grace Scheinman interviewing Mrs. Fanny Kotick in her home in West
Palm Beach, Florida.
S: Mrs. Kotick, first I want to thank you very much for agreeing to be inter-
viewed for the oral history project of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach
County. I know that you're a very, very busy woman and we really appreciate
it. To begin our interview lets go way back. Where were you born?
K: Well, I was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and spent most of my time in Seagate
in New York.
S: You lived in Seagate?
S: In your gorwing up years or in your adult years?
K: As an adult. I was 18 when we left Philadelphia to go to New York. And then
I got married and we moved to Seagate. Then in 1946 my husband became very
ill and the doctor advised us to get away from the cold climate until he was
fully recuperated. So we came to Florida.
S: So that's how you happened to come here. What was your experience? How did
you go about suddenly going to Florida?
K: Well, I don't know if you can remember, but in 1946 you couldn't get a new
car. We had a real old Dodge that we had fixed up for the road. Then, all
of a sudden a friend of ours who had a Plymouth agency called me one day and
said he didn't have a Plymouth, but he had a new Studebaker. So we went
over, and we bought that Studebaker without a back seat and without bumpers.
Our two children were then between 12 and 15, and they sat on milk boxes all
the way down.
I had been advertising in the Miami paper and the New York paper for an
apartment, and it was just impossible to get, especially if you had children.
So we just wound up getting into the car and coming down and starting out.
A neighbor of ours up in Seagate did have some property down here, but she
thought she could rent us the unit. Then things turned out that she needed
it for her mother. So she was gracious enough to say, "Go down there and
use our house until we come down". This was in October. "We won't be down
until the end of November, and in that time you may get located." Her son-
in-law at that time had just opened a business here, Dixie Printing. He was
out of the service, and she said go down and get the key from Milton, and
use our home.
Well we also knew of just a relative of my husband's family down here and we
came down and went looking for her. We couldn't find her the Friday night
we came in. Incidentally, there was a hurricane on the way down. We saw
black flags, but we didn't know it was a hurricane. It was not too major but
when we got into West Palm, we just thought it was a good storm. Well we
couldn't contact her that evening. The next morning we went looking for her
and she was all excited. She had met a woman in temple who had just bought
some property on Georgia Ave. It was three real old shacks up on stilts-like,
and one was vacant. The woman was very, very anxious to rent it, not at
OPA prices, but at whatever she wanted. Well we were so glad to get a
place. I agreed with her, cash on the line and no receipt. Which is what
She was very nice. Prior to our coming down we had packed boxes and things
and shipped our things down. She gave us the essentials until our things
arrived. We stayed there, and rented for the season. We stayed there until
May, (our season is until May). In between, by husband did very well physi-
cally. Dr. Newman, was our doctor. He suggested, what was true, that this
was the place for my husband. We had given up our business up north. The
children liked it. They got into the high school class, made a few friends
among the few Jewish children that we had.
S: Were there many Jewish children?
K: There were not many Jewish children. There was a group, they had just started
the AZA Boys, which is B'nai B'rith and then they started the AZA B'nai B'rith
Girls. My daughter-in-law Ronnie was instrumental with starting this group.
However, they didn't have enough to get the charter. My daughter was just
twelve, and they felt that she was too young. She ate her heart out, because
she wanted to be with friends. But in the long run they finally admitted her
as a member so they could get the charter for the B'nai B'rith Girls in West
S: Were there many Jewish people in the neighborhood where you were living?
K: No. It was near the Fern Street temple. Rabbi Greenspan was the Rabbi then,
and he lived not too far from us.
S: Is the Fern Street Temple the temple that is now Beth El?
K: It was Beth El then too. But it was down on Fern Street. I should say that
we were among Jews because there were a few Jewish families in the neighbor-
S: Have you any idea how much of a congregation it was at that time? Was it very
K: No, it was a small group, but everybody stuck together. That was the main
thing. Now we got back. We bought this house, we felt that if it was good
for him that it was going to be good for us.
S: How long after that?
K: The first six months that we were here we bought this house, before we went
back up north to pack and move down. And we moved down the beginning of
September. Then came Rosh Hashanah and the question of getting to temple.
My husband came from the very orthodox home. I came from a very orthodox
home, but more traditional, let's put it that way. My mother and father were
young people when they came here and married here. So they could look away
from some things.
S: Were they a little more conservative?
K: Yes I would put it that way. So when the holiday came the question arose of
how will we go to temple? We had never ridden on the High Holy Days and my
husband did not think that he should. Especially since he was just getting
over sudh a severe illness. So we debated about it, and we finally came to
the conclusion that it was more important for the children to mingle in a
temple. My.husband had suggested that we just practice the High Holiday
prayers and all in the house. But I felt that the children were at an age
that it was important that they go into the temple. So we decided I wouldn't
drive. We would take the bus and go to temple. Which we did.
The bus used to go down on Dixie. The temple was up on Fern Street at the
hill near Hibiscus or Florida Ave. We got off the bus and we walked to the
temple very slowly. When we came out it was like half-rain and half-not
rain you know. We still didn't know enough about the climate to know that
we were facing a severe hurricane. So we walked down to Olive to get on the
bus to get home. When we got to our corner right here on the Dixie, the
heavens opened. We came home drenched. But, we changed and I took out the
holiday dinner to supposedly enjoy the Yom Tov, when a neighbor from next
door came knocking at the door and he said "You better get started putting
up your shutters because we're going to have a terrible blow. My barometer
is dropping very rapidly". Well that was the first I knew that the hurricane
was even on the way. So we quickly finished our meal and we had storm shut-
ters. My son started to put them up. All of us gave a hand. My husband was
unable to do anything. And gradually the squalls came and it started getting
dark, towards nightfall. It was a two-story house and we still had the up-
stairs to secure. It was almost impossible.
S: Were your neighbors Jewish?
K: These neighbors were not Jewish. We were the only Jewish people on the street.
They had a flower shop, Geeson's Flower Shop. They had completed the flower
shop boarding up, and the house boarding up, and he came over and he helped
my son put up the shutters upstairs. They went up and down a ladder. They
S: That answers my question about did you mingle with your non-Jewish neighbors.
K: During the lull of the Hurricane, and that was some blow for 36 hours we could
hear nothing but wind and storm and storm and rain. And during the eye of the
hurricane the other neighbor on the left of us (the one who had come to tell
us about the hurricane coming) ran across the lawn and knocked on the door and
wanted to know if everything was all right, and if my husband was all right.
To make a long story short, these neighbors have been the best neighbors any-
one could ever ask for all the years that we were here. We never had a prob-
lem with our neighbors.
We had a convention of the B'nai B'rith group from around the state. This was
the central part. The trains, the buses and all. The children danced the
Hora on the lawn. They had slumber parties and I apologized to the neighbor
to the east of us because the kids giggled all night. Everytime I'd go up
and shush them, the next minute would be all over. And in the morning I
apologized. They were people who, had to go to business, and they had no
children. She said to me "We didn't mind at all. It was wonderful to
listen td." It's a fact, I mean it. Your family couldn't have been better.
So this took care of our initiation into West Palm Beach.
S: How about your business, did your husband go into business?
K: My husband did nothing'for about three years, until he was more or less
able to get around. Then we started a business just handling a few specialty
S: Where was your business?
K: We had a place first that was on a warehouse on Clematis Street. Then we had
a business on the Dixie near 15th Street.
S: Were there any other Jewish merchants in the area?
K: No. On Clematis Street there were. Most of Clematis Street storekeepers
were Jewish. We got a warehouse. We had to have a license to do business as
a wholesaler in an area that was for wholesale. We couldn't locate anywhere
and we had met this family, the Rosenthals, who owned a hotel on Clematis
Street. They very graciously offered to rent us their garage so we could
have a commercial address.
S: Did you deal with Jewish people in a business way?
K: Most of it was non-Jewish. The surrounding stores.
S: We are interested in knowing what the relationship was. Business-wise or
otherwise for the Jew-Gentile at that time. Did you ever have any anti-
K: Yes, my husband had one. He went into sell to a hardware on S. Dixie and
the man simply told him that he does not buy from Jews. Never went back.
We figured whatever happens to you should happen. Before we bought this
house we went looking through realtors and we found a very nice home on
South Olive, south of Belvedere, east of Olive Ave., in the El Cid neigh-
borhood. We found a very nice house, very comparable to this and we went
over there on a Saturday afternoon with the realtor. The people were eating
lunch, and we were shown the house. We decided that it would serve our
purpose. So we told the realtor to try to come to terms with the people.
He took the message back. Then he came back, I don't know whether it was
the same day or the following day to ask us a very personal question.
Apologizing, but the people wanted to know if we were Jewish, because they
would not sell to Jews. This was my first experience. I was raised in a
non-Jewish neighborhood from childhood on, and we never had any problems
with neighbors. So I told the realtor that I'm glad he called it to our
attention to go back and tell the people that we intended to pay with
"American money". That's exactly what I told him.
I looked around. I questioned around, and I found out that Dan Goodmark was
active in the ADL. So we went down to Dan's place of business and I told
him about this incident. I felt that it was important to know of it, because
we definitely were a minority. I felt this was uncalled for. They could
have given any other excuse, but not to come out point blank and insult the
Jews. So then we were looking, and finding this house and having gentile
neighbors all around on the whole street and no problems.
S: How old were your children when you came here?
K: Twelve, close to fifteen.
S: So they really spent their high school years here. Did they run into any
K: Only one run-in with my daughter. She was the only Jewish. girl in the class.
There were only a handful of Jewish kids here anyway. But the particular
class that she was in, the teacher was a devout Baptist and every morning the
class had to rise and accept Christ. My daughter would not get up. So she
pointed out day after day that Marion Kotick would not accept Christ. She
is sitting in her seat. And I don't have to tell you that it was very, very
hard for my daughter to accept it. But she was not going to accept it. This
took care of it, that's all. Then eventually she got out of that class, and
got to know more of the Jewish children around here and little by little they
became very well acclimated to the area and to the children here. They made
nice Jewish friends.
S: How about your social life.
K: Most of our social life evolved around the people that we met at the temple.
We made very good friends. We're still good friends. The years have gone
by, the children were raised together we've kept in touch more or less. We
didn't run into problems.
S: How about your whole life here. Were you observant? Did you have a kosher
K: Yes, we have a kosher home.
S: Did you have any trouble?
K: Getting kosher meat was the only problem. When I first got here we had no
butcher in town. We ate fish, and we used to get sour cream at Southern
Dairies. They didn't have it, they used to get it from Miami. I used to
order it. And I would come in they would never get the name "Kotick"
straight, they would yell our Mrs. McEtrick is here for her sour cream, or
farmer cheese, or whatever I used to order. On top of which, we had this
friend, this Jennie. I said, "What do you people do for meat"? She said,
"We get it from a butcher in Jacksonville. He sends it down by railway
express on the train in the morning. We usually get it on a Thursday. One
woman near the temple gets the-orders together and she orders it and then we
to to her house and we pick up our orders." And this is it. So she said,
"Why don't you go down to that woman's house on Thursday when the meat comes
in. Maybe somebody will have a little more than what they really ordered or
wanted and you will get some. And meanwhile for next Thursday, the next
time she sends the order in you can order it also." I went down to this
little house not too far from the Temple. An elderly couple was living there,
and there was this big box standing on the dining room table. I opened it up
and I started to pass out the orders. Every order had a name of who was
supposed to get it. Such commotion! This one was dissatisfied, this one
thought he overcharged. You know these elderly Jewish mammas. So I wound up
with getting nothing. Nobody had too much, and the woman had said to me,
"Next time I send in an order you'll give me your order too". I came home
and I said to my husband, "If they can send a box like that down there. I'm
not going to go down there and distribute and get all the arguments. I will
write this butcher and ask him if he can send it directly to me". Which he
did. So that started us off on getting the meats. Sometimes it came very
good, and sometimes they packed it in dry ice. The train from New York was
hours late and it stood on the platform, and by the time the meat came here
you were afraid to even open the package, let alone for what it smelled like.
It was guaranteed but it meant no meat for that week or whatever it was. But
it worked out all right for a number of years. Then Blanche Lang, I don't know
if you know her. Well Blanche Lang moved down here and she kept a kosher home.
So we got to the point where the two of us would order at one time. She would
have and I would have. And then from there on we found somebody in Miami who
could put it on the bus, which was quicker. And all the years it worked out
and we still keep a kosher home.
S: In the course of the years that you've been here, what is it 35 years, you've
seen how this town has grown. Do you find that the feeling among the Jewish
people here is the same now -- you spoke of how close they were then, do you
feel that there is that feeling here?
K: I still feel that they are close. Yes.
S: And how about the other synagogues in the city, at the time when Beth El was
K: When I moved here there was only one, the Reform Temple, which was Temple
S: Was there any co-mingling at all?
K: Yes. Not to a great extent. They had a rabbi who was no Zionist, who was
against Israel, and all this here. Then I think after him came Rabbi Singer.
Anyway they mellowed, and it became more closely-knit. In fact at one time
I belonged to that Sisterhood and to our temple Sisterhood. You felt that
we could have cooperation between us. Which there was. The only thing we
used to kid about was members in our temple. When they got money then they
joined Temple Israel. Truly. But It didn't matter then. To this day it's
the same. We respect each other's beliefs, and it doesn't mean anything for
a Friday night to go there, if you want to go here. There's a very friendly
S: How about the feeling toward Israel?
K: Very dominant.
S: Yes. It has always been. Very dominant. My husband is a Zionist. When I
first came, my children were out at the beach and they met (at that time it
was) Helen Brookenfeld. They met her daughter. She was about the same age
as my kids at that time, and she was telling my children about how her mother
started the Hadassah. I became a member then.
S: She started it here you mean?
K: In Palm Beach, yes. I forget what her last name was, unfortunately she was
widowed and remarried, but Helen was instrumental. Her sister, Mrs. Britt
was active in National for Hadassah. And we started this chapter here and I
was a member of the board for many years. Then there was a Nat Goldman in
town who came from Toledo, Ohio. Everybody knew him and he started the Jewish
Federation division. I was a member then too. And as I say I spent a good
number of years with Hadassah, with the temple, all the years with the temple.
Working, we felt it was important, and it still is.
S: Now during these years you never worked with your husband?
K: I've worked with my husband all the years, yes.
S: So you've had contact with the business world, as well as the neighborhood
and social world.
S: And all of this time you have found that you have been very comfortable living
here, have younot?
K: Oh definitely.
S: Do you think now that there are so many Jews that have moved into the area,
that anti-Semitism is more or less than it was then?
K: I'll tell you. For awhile it slumbered, the people were here and it was
quiet. Truthfully when the influx came from the north, the anti-Semitism
flared. A lot of our people coming from the big cities. If you don't fight
for it you don't get it. And that's exactly what happened. They were
resented, at the Malls. Century Village got a bad name, for the simple
reason that they didn't try to acclimate themselves to the type of life that
we have here. They wanted things their way. There was a lot of dissention
in the beginning. Now it's simmered down. It's here but it's simmered down
definitely.. Of course so many of our own are here now, that you have to count
the Baptists in the minority.
S: Have you any other comments that you would like to make about life here in
general, how you have felt, how your family has felt. Are you happy that
you've moved here?
K: I never regretted a moment of our moving here. It was hard getting away. It
was hard leaving the family, but most of my family came down. They've moved
down, they've retired, gradually. I have neices, I have nephews, I have
cousins, I have sisters, I have a brother and it's a good feeling. They in
turn are very happy here too. Not one of them has said "Why did I do it?"
My brother said a peculiar thing. He lives down on the inter-coastal in
South Palm Beach. He's been quite ill, in the last years, surgery and what-
not. Thank God he's doing well. But he said a funny thing to me just recently.
When he starts his dinner every evening, he likes to sit out on his patio. He
faces west, watches the beautiful sunset, and the water is right under his
balcony. There are flying fish, the blue herons, whatever. He said to me
just recently, "I go out there, and I sit down and I begin to think that I'm
a blessed person. After all I've gone through, I can sit and enjoy this in
my older years". He's not old, he's 68. He was a very hard worker all of
his life. And after all of these years he is content. I think that this is
a beautiful tribute.
S: I think that this is a beautiful tribute.
K: Now my mother was unable to maintain her home due to illness, so she came
down here a number of years ago and stayed with me a number of years. She
would lie in bed in the morning and watch the birds flittering in the trees,
and listen. Then they had this group, that Sophie Dickson started, the B'nai
B'rith for the elderly people who used to meet at Temple Israel. And I would
bring her down there on the meeting night.
S: How long ago was this?
K: Oh I should judge about six, seven years. My mother is dead now about three
years. Well I took her back to New York in '72, '73.
S: But they did have this for the elderly.
K: Yes, the B'nai B'rith started this Friendship Circle as they called it. The
Friendship Circle, would meet once a week. I think all these women would get
together. Once a month they celebrated everybody's birthdays. Then they
used to have chicken, cake and whatnot. For those who were kosher, they
brought their own little lunch. Then they had coffee and cake. But it had
a very nice group of the elderly people. Men and ladies. Then if they wanted
they played cards. If not, they sat in a circle and told "Meises" you know.
It was very good for her. And of course my mother was a very active Hadassah
woman all her life. The years that she could down here, I always took her to
the meetings, then took her to the luncheons and everything. So she had a
little of her Jewish outlet here also.
S: How old are your children now?
K: Should I tell you? There both over 39.
S: Are they married?
S: Did they marry Jewish mates?
K: Yes, both of them did.
S: Are they Jewish conscious? Do they have Jewish homes?
K: They have Jewish homes but its traditional. Now my daughter....
S: What do you mean when you say traditional?
K: My daughter-in-law does not keep a kosher home, conservative, they belong to
our temple. My daughter lives in California, she belongs to a conservative
temple. Her husband doesn't have too much time, and doesn't bother too much
with the temple.
S: Do they have children?
K: They have children.
S: Do the children go to Sunday school?
K: Well her younger one was just Bar Mitzvah two years ago. But he goes to the
high school, what do they call it the Midrasha classes.
S: In other words they are continuing in the Jewish tradition.
K: Yes. And my daughter-in-law the same thing. My grandson did not marry in
our faith. But I can only say that he couldn't have married a better girl.
Now that's the truth. She's a wonderful person she is extraordinary in the
things she can do and does. She doesn't have a lazy bone in her body. And
he's going to school, taking his Master's in Engineering.
S: Is there something you would like to add to the story into the archives?
K: I have nothing to add except that we stay well and continue as we have been.
S: Mrs. Kotick, thank you very, very much for your time and this was just a
K: Say Fanny.
S: Okay Fanny, thank you very, very much.