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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
PALM BEACH COUNTY
INTERVIEWEE: Rose Ritter
INTERVIEWER: Arlene Kurtis
DATE: May 8, 1982
Tape 32A & 32B
Interviewer: Arlene Kurtis
Interviewee: Rose Ritter
Rose Ritter was selected for the oral history report because she was
practically born here, she came as a babe in arms.
K: Rose, could you tell us something about where you lived when you
first came down here?
R: Well, we lived downtown in West Palm Beach next door to, and immediately
north of, what is now known as, I think, the Helen Wilkes Hotel.
It was being built in those years, and it was the Eldorado Hotel.
We lived in a rooming house next door, immediately north. It was a
charming place upstairs over a fish and poultry market. The marina,
if you could call it that at that time, housed mainly commercial
fishermen and was directly across the street from where we lived.
As a matter of fact, the fisherman used to come and bring some of
their catch to my folks many times over. I remember my mother
getting fresh crawfish and putting them behind a door and stepping
on them and twisting the tails off, so that we could have them for
My dad came here, I think, basically because it was an adventur-
ous time in his life, he felt that he could make a start. He had
been a bookkeeper at one point and he didn't care for that type of
work. He was not inclined to sit at a desk. My father was an
outdoorsman and he liked the idea of coming to a place that was
building, an exciting time of building, and he felt that the area
offered a lot to a man that liked to be out of doors. So he went
and worked as a plumber. Of course in later years, had his own firm,
and he helped to build this area.
K: This is right after WW1, right?
R: Right. My folks were really pioneers, I think, in every sense of
the word because they were very hard-working people and time that
was free really was spent getting into the nature of the place.
K: Once you left the boarding house, did you move further west?
R: It wasn't a boarding house actually, it was a rooming house. My
folks bought their first piece of property in, what we now call,
Riviera. It was called "Rivera" in those days for many years. As a
matter of fact, I still have a tendency to call it "Rivera".
They built their first piece of property, which I wish I had
today. It was right on the Dixie Highway, which was just barely wide
enough for two cars, you know, as cars were in those days. We lived
there for a year, and then my folks bought a piece of property on
Okeechobee Road, which was really, you might say, the wilds of the
area. My dad built apartments and continued to build more apart-
ments. He had a few out there.
We were sort of a peninsula in a sense, in the road, because
every year in the rainy season, the lake overflowed, and we were
surrounded on three sides by water.
K: Do you mean Clear Lake?
R: Right. Growing up was not like too many of the other children, I
guess, in this area, because wherever we went we had to walk. Dad
was not too terribly inclined to drive us. He was tired, he had
very hard work, so, wherever we went, we had to walk which was a
matter of miles.
K: Did you walk to school?
R: I walked to school, I walked to the beach. If I was inclined to go
to Sunday School (which was not too frequently because of the dis-
tance), I had to walk to Sunday School.
K: Please tell us where that was?
R: Well, Sunday School in those days was on Seventh Street, and I would
say it was roughly three miles from where I lived.
K: Was it part of the Temple?
R: They had a Temple, I guess it was Temple Beth El, even in those
days, and I'm not really sure about that. I don't know whether the
building is still standing, but I rather imagine it is. It was a
big barn-like structure actually, and the only thing I can recall
particularly about the interior of it was the openness and the
curtain they had that they would roll down which had everybody's
advertising on it. Friedman Plumbing, I think was one of the adver-
tisers on the curtain.
K: That was your dad?
R: That was my father.
K: Where was the curtain?
R: It was in front of the stage. They rolled it down if they wanted to
do some sort of a program or something.
K: It was like a social hall as well?
R: It was more of a community hall than a Temple, as you know it.
K: How were the teen years here for you? Did you have a big social
R: My social life was really not too terribly big. I don't think I
was a terribly gregarious sort of a person in those days. I think
that we sort of stuck to the kids in the neighborhood, so to speak.
We always had a good time together. There were several boys, there
were several girls, and we all sort of stuck together in a group.
K: Were you aware of whether they were Jewish, or not?
R: They were not Jewish, and of course I have always been a person
that is very aware of the fact that I am Jewish, but not traditionally
so, in that I didn't have the traditional Jewish education.
Yes, we were well aware of each other's identity, but we all
respected each other's beliefs and we got along. There was never
any slur. The only time that we, or that I, really remember having
a real set-to with anyone, was when I was quite young, and my folks
had tenants in the apartments. On the ground floor there was one
family who had two children and for a reason, which is very obscure
right now, they called my sister and myself a "dirty Jew" and ran in
the house. Whereupon, my sister and I pelted the inside of their
house with sand from the flower boxes outside, and we really gave it
to them. Of course, they were punished by their parents, who probably
instilled this in them in the first place. We were punished by our
parents who said you just don't do things like this, but you were
right in your standing up for your own religion.
K: How was it in school? Was there any perception that there were
Jewish holidays. I mean today we do have some reflection of Passover,
or Hanukah, in the school. There is an awareness in the community,
but I imagine there wasn't then.
R: No, there really wasn't an awareness in school.
K: Did you wonder about that?
R: I really never wondered about it at all. As a matter of fact, I've
always been the sort of a person who celebrates everything coming down
the pike. I didn't have the feeling of wanting that tradition instilled
in me through Sunday School and whatever.
I never really was aware of it, and I wasn't particularly unhappy
about it. It was just one of the facts of life. We got along with
K: I would like to hear a little about excursions you took, particularly
with your father's interest in the natural environment. Did you ever
go out to Lake Okeechobee?
R: He didn't have time for that sort of thing. I did go out to the
Glades one time with tenants of my folks. My father would not talk to
either me or my mother after that because it was a very dangerous
business to go out there. The roads were very hazardous, they still
are. But, we went out there. These people were farmers, and they
went out as a natural course of events. They were going to pick some
vegetables and allowed me to come along with them.
As far as my father was concerned, my father loved to fish, he
loved to hunt also. He went out the Glades to hunt, but he went
with a man generally, who was a guide. They used to bring back game,
ducks in particular. My father was a marvelous shot. He sponsored a
rifle team in this area and they actually had a championship. They
beat the National Guard team at that time.
My dad loved to hunt, and he loved to fish, and we used to go on
excursions to the beach or to the pier and we would spend the entire
night. We camped. As I said, we were sort of like, we were natives,
K: Did you have a tent? Were you insect free?
R: No. Not at that time, and people talk about spraying today for
insects which are coming from all this rain we've had, but the insects,
the mosquitos at that time were so thick that it was incredible in the
summer months. We really had insects like you wouldn't believe. But,
there again, it was a matter of course, that you knew that when the
rainy season was coming, mosquitos were coming and that was it. There
was no other alternative.
K: You did camp?
R: Oh, sure. My father would slap the mosquitos and it didn't bother him
a bit. It bothered us but that was beside the point. My mother and
my sister and I would sit there and mash our teeth, but we spent the
night. We used to go every Sunday morning practically of our lives
for many, many years would find us up in DuBois Park. I don't know if
you've ever been in DuBois Park, butt is today, I think, county owned.
It is in Jupiter, and right on the Inlet, the Jupiter Inlet. There
used to be a place of absolute beauty. It was lovely. There was
grass, there were Palm trees. Today it's quite commercial, and
it's quite populated in the summertime, and you can't even get in
there. When we went there, there was always space, and it was
really beautiful. Mom used to pack a marvelous picnic lunch. She
would spend half her life doing it, and at 4:30 in the morning we
would set out to catch the high tide. Frequently that's all we
caught, but we used to enjoy spending our days up there, our
Sunday that is.
K: How did your husband come into your life?
R: Well, my husband came into my life many years later. When my
husband came into my life I had two small daughters, tiny daughters
who he adopted a year later, a year after we were married. I met
him after a great deal of personal unhappiness and he, at the time
that I met him, had an office furniture store here, office furni-
ture and supplies. I met him, and I chased him, until he caught me.
K: You have a daughter together?
R: We have a daughter together, but we have three lovely ladies.
K: Tell us about your young daughter because someday she may be a star
and we'll want to know the connection.
R: Well, I would like to think, of course, that she will continue in
this. It seems to be, or it seems that she wants to remain in show
business, I don't know. She was graduated from Palm Beach Jr. College
and from Florida Atlantic University, a drama major, and as a matter
of fact, when she was graduated from Palm Beach Junior College, she
was awarded a scholarship by Burt Reynolds to continue her studies.
She was awarded this twice, as a matter of fact. She received a
great many honors, and then went away from here to do her apprentice
work and she is now in New York, a struggling young actress. She has
had very busy times, you know, working in dinner theatres, as a matter
of fact, in Burt Reynolds' Dinner Theatre
K: Is she using her own name?
R: She uses her own name.
K: Which is?
R: Elaine Ritter. And, Gerry Ritter, who is our eldest, is a mother of
two children and lives with her husband in Charlottesville, Va. where
her husband, Chelsie White, is professor at the University of Virginia.
Our middle daughter, who is Carol Robin, is in Atlanta living
with her husband, who is a stock broker, and their three daughters.
We're very proud of all of them. They're all lovely.
K: We skipped ahead to the next generation, but can we go back now.
Can you tell us something about the hurricane, or any special,
natural event that you experienced as a young girl.
R: In 1926, we had a very, very big hurricane which actually hit the
Miami area more than it did here. But it was a frightening kind of
a thing, and, of course, the water afterwards was really something.
Then, in 1928, we had a real disaster. The disaster was enough
for our area. The buildings my father had over on Okeechobee Road,
he had bought as it was, and all the walls in that building collapsed.
All the tenants congregated in my folks' dining room, which was
10 x 12, but that was where we spent the night. Afterward, many of
them could not go into their apartment because there were two by
fours stuck in the walls just over our heads.
K: Was it the wind or the water?
R: The wind mainly. They spent a couple of weeks sleeping and eating in
my folks' apartment because they couldn't get back into their own
There were two-story buildings on the street that were tele-
scoped, well you know, one story into another. There was a three-
story building, a brand new building on our street that was a one-
story after the hurricane. The oddities of such a thing are such
that we had a little shanty across the street from us which remained
in absolutely perfect condition after all of this.
But, the real disaster, of course, was in the Glades because the
water just overflowed and they had a tidal wave, or what amounted to
a tidal wave and there were over 2000 people, I think, that were killed
in that disaster. My dad took his stake truck and went out as a
volunteer to help retrieve some of the bodies and bring them to a
central area in the Glades.
K: What does that mean?
R: Well, a stake body truck is one that you can take the sides of it off,
or put them on, by means of stakes. It would be like a fence, almost,
I don't know how else to describe it.
K: Did he use it out there?
R: To haul bodies to a central place where they could either be identi-
fied or from there, you know, buried.
It was a very difficult time for us. My father, after a couple
of weeks, and the property next door to us, which was not filled in,
or had not been filled in, my father had not gotten around to doing
that at that point, the water was so deep there you could just barely
see the tops of the cabs of the trucks that he had parked in there.
K: Did he rebuild that property?
R: Well, yes.
K: How did people that didn't have disaster insurance deal with things
R: There was some disaster insurance but I'm really unclear as to how
this sort of process went, how you went about collecting any insurance
of that sort. But my father was a building type of a man and he did a
lot of his own work in that regard. In those days they swapped off
work too. You know, times were difficult and tenants were having very
difficult times, and people just got together and they helped each
other, and they did the best they possibly could to reconstruct.
K: It sounds like he was sort-of close to his tenants.
R: He was very close to his tenants. As a matter of fact, it was the
funniest thing, because when we used to come home, when my folks were
renting the apartments, there were a couple of times that I recall
coming home from school and walking into the wrong apartment. If some-
one wanted the apartment that we lived in, my father said, "Okay" and
we moved. That could be in the course of one day, you know, during the
school hours. And I would come home and there was nobody there that I
I have to tell you about my mother. My folks came to this country.
My dad came to this country as a very small boy. He was brought here
when he was, I believe, three. He was brought by foster parents.
My mother came in her late teens and I'm very, very proud of the
fact that, as far back in my earliest recollection, I never recall my
mother having any type of an accent, any regional dialect of any sort.
She taught herself. She was so amoured with America, that she taught
herself in the main because she had very little schooling. She spoke
beautifully, she wrote beautifully, she typed with a touch system which
she taught herself. She played a mean game of tennis, and in my very
early teens, my mom and I used to walk to the beach in the mornings. I
don't know how many people hearing this will remember, but at one
point, there was an exercise class. That was long before people thought
of having to take exercises.
K: You were a teenager at that time?
R: I was in my early teens, and mom and I would walk to the beach in the
morning, take the community exercises, and walk back home. My mother
would walk when I walked to school. My mother would walk along as far
as Howard Park and play a couple of sets of tennis and then go and put
in a day's work. I would just walk to school. I mean when you talk
about walking to the beach, I'm talking about walking about at least
21 miles, are we not? Maybe three?
K: Over the bridge?
R: Yes, over the bridge. We were considerably west of town and it was 2
or 3 miles at least* And this was a hike in the morning.
K: So, we're talking about a time probably before World War II.
K: Where Howard Park already had tennis courts and there was a recreation
R: Right. The Recreation Department was in its infancy at that time. The
tennis courts were there, but there was not too much else for people to do
K: What was your perception of the growing community in Palm Beach? As
you were growing up?
R: As I was growing up, I used to read about the progress all over the
country, and I would think to myself, we had a lot of waste land here.
In my wildest dreams I didn't think that this land would be so used up.
I sort of envisioned something with a little more grace, and little
more quiet than we have today.
K: In West Palm Beach.
R: In West Palm Beach and in Palm Beach, but I guess this is what they call
progress, and there's little I suppose that any of us can do. I don't
know what you would do to avoid this type of growth.
K: Well, on the whole, do you feel that's been good for the earlier resi-
dents or is it becoming too commercial?
R: Well, as a business person you can't say it's become too commercial.
You know, there are always two sides to us I guess. You cannot say
it's become too commercial. As a native you always want to see
things remain sort of as they are, none of us wants to touch that part
of our lives, but you either progress I suppose in a business way or
you die. I do not resent the commerce, but I'm a little loafed to give
up the quiet that we have.
K: As World War II came to this area, what are your recollections?
R: Well, my recollection of World War II are sort 6f--it was a wild time.
People were busily engaged in defense-type things. My dad was an air-
plane spotter. My mother knitted furiously for the men overseas and
they did whatever they could to help. They policed the neighborhoods.
K: You were than a young woman. What role did you play then?
R: Actually my role was not anything of any particular value except try-
ing to build morale, that's all. I was working in those years and
when you are at work, you are there for a period of time, I should say
8 hours a day, 6 days a week. Except three nights a week, I worked also,
and it gave little time to do too much of anything else of any real
K: Did you have the shop then?
R: No, I worked for chain stores, for an independent merchant. I
trimmed windows, I sewed, and it was a full-time job.
K: Then, you had the children.
R: Well, I didn't have my children until after World War II. Then I was engaged
in another kind of a job, of course. That in itself was a full time
job. But, the war years were, I guess, sort of crazy years for every-
one. This area, had been a sleepy sort of an area. This was really
when we started to see some growth in the area. We had Morrison Field.
My husband was stationed at Morrison Field. I didn't know him then,
but he was stationed there. This was an embarkation point. So we had
so many people, the influx of Army personnel, Air Force personnel was
tremendous, and it was just a completely different life.
K: This is news to me that it was an embarkation point. Where were they being
R: All over the world. Many of them went to the China-Burma-India area.
Many of the young men that we knew, growing up, left here for the first
time in their life. Some of them had never been out of the state of
Florida, and, they went to India. This was their first trip out of the
state of Florida. Many of them did not come back. Many of them went
to the European theatre of operations and many of them did not come
back. It was a very hectic time.
K: Rose, could I ask you to please spell for me the name of your parents.
K: And the name of the hotel that the Helen Wilkes replaced?
R: E-L-V-E-R-N-O. And it was after the El Verno, the next name was
George washington. It was the George Washington Hotel. I don't
remember when that was renamed. I do have to tell you one thing that I
recall from the dim recesses of my mind.
When I was a very small child, we moved away from downtown West Palm
Beach when I was five, and we had a band shell where the library is
today. The original band shell was a little, wooden gazebo-type arrangement.
There was a small zoo in there, incidentally,also. We had band concerts
there, and I guess they must have been quite frequent.
My mother and father used to take me to the band concerts and we would
stand there and watch. I would dance, and people actually came over,to
my folks embarrassment, and threw pennies at me. My mother told me one
person came up to me and asked where I had learned dancing, and I said,
"At home," and they said,"Do you have music?" Who plays for you?" I
said,"My father plays," and they said, "What does he play?" .I said
"The piano." Well, I'had a little toy piano and my father used to tap out
the only tune he knew, and this was my dancing instruction in those days.
I used to model children's knit wear in a knit shop that was on Narcissus
Street. My mother would take me there because my mother was quite a
knitter, and we lived really just around the corner you might say.
One time, the actress Agnes Ayres came to town. This is a name from the
K: Would you spell it for us?
R: A-G-N-E-S A-Y-R-E-S.
K: Now, you were telling us about how you were used in publicity pictures.
R: Yes, I was invited to pose with Agnes Ayres ii front of a yacht. I
don't really know to this day whatever happened with all of this publicity
but I do think they were making a movie of some sort down here at the time,
and why they chose to invite me to pose, I really don't know, but I
guess at that point, it was a highlight in my life.
K: Then, would you tell us about the Seminoles after that?
R: The Seminole Sundances were held, just north of the El Verno Hotel,
and were held annually for a time. I was very young then but I
recall the fireworks and the excitement of the carnival atmosphere
and so on. I'm not too positive of all of the reasons for doing this,
for having the Seminoles, except it was a means of having some sort of
anannual affair,say, like a county fair, to which we could point with
a certain amount of pride.
K: You said the Indians were seen in town selling?
R: Oh, yes. They sold huckleberries in the summer months. I say in the
summer months. It could be that they sold them in the winter also,
but it was always summer anyway.
K: Were there any native Americans in your classes? Did any live in town?
R: No. None of them lived in town. There was a reservation, I think, just
west of Miami at that time and I should imagine that from that general
area and further west toward the Glades area, they sort of had their
K: Would you speak about your group relations with the black community and
your perception of that relationship?
R: Yes. There was no real relationship. There were no black students in
our schools. The black people lived in the area that we called "colored
town", and the only relations you had with the black people were those
people that worked for you. My father employed quite a few black men.
My mother on occasion, would have a black maid. That was about it. My
folks always taught me and my sister to be as respectful to them as to
anyone else in our acquaintance. They were always given a great deal of
consideration; however, at one point in my life, I lived for a few
months in Philadelphia and experienced going to the Horn & Hardart
Restaurant which was a big adventure for me because I had never been in
an Automat before in my life. We sort of started out backward, and my
husband, who was a native of Philadelphia said, "Go sit down and
I will bring you the food". And I sat down and a very beautifully
dressed, well-groomed black woman sat down next to me. Now, with
absolutely no animosity in my heart whatsoever I got up and moved from
that table and to this day I cannot tell you why. She was better dressed
than I, and perhaps better educated, but it was just a fact of life that
you did not sit in a public place with other than white people.
K: If you had done so down here it would have been very shocking.
R: Restaurants weren't integrated. There would be no opportunity.
K: How about the movie houses?
R: Movie houses also. You did not integrate in a movie house. On
occasion the white people would go into colored town and enjoy some of
the things that went on there in their various clubs or whatever, but
they did not come to our movies.
K: They had different movie houses?
R: They had different movie houses, everything different and separate.
The back of the bus, all this sort of thing. Today, of course, I look
back at this and I think "why". You wonder how this could be allowed
K: How about in the department stores? People had to shop. Did they also
go to separate stores?
R: No. They had the same stores, but they had separate facilities. There
were separate drinking fountains, there were separate restrooms, if
there were, indeed, any restrooms for the blacks. There were separate
dressing rooms in Women's Wear shops, and I'm sure in the Men's Wear
there was the same sort of thing. You made every sort of effort to
keep the black people separated somehow or another.
I worked for an independent shop at one time and I had a lot of
black customers. I had a lot of people from the Glades area who used
to come in and sit and wait for me because they were treated as human
beings when I took care of them. It was a very strange sort of a
sensation, because in my inner being, I didn't want to separate them
from everybody else; I wanted to give them the same attention that any-
one else received. It was difficult.
K: Was there a group in town that promoted integration, or did it just
happen by the Federal government? How did you make the transition here?
Was it a difficult one?
R: Nothing of this sort is ever established without difficulty. I think it
was during the time of the marches to try to promote integration that
people started to have sit-in's. It seems to me that one of the first
ones was in McCrory's Five & Ten, if I recall correctly, where a couple
of blacks sat down and wanted to be served. I remember a black coming
into the drug store where we used to eat in about '50 or '51, and the
waitress wouldn't wait on him, and ignored him, so it was hard. The
things of that sort are always harder on the people who are being hurt
than they are on those who are doing the hurting or those who are ob-
serving the hurting. There is nothing much you can do.
K: But, suddenly the day came where a black went to a counter and sat down.
R: Of course.
K: Was that accepted?
R: Yes. It wasn't accepted really gracefully, but it was accepted, I
think, eventually they saw the handwriting on the wall and they felt
that there was nothing else they could do. I am totally against busing
children, and yet, I would like very much and have always wanted for
many years to see the black children get the same advantages of educa-
tion. I object to the busing simply because these little things are
subject to having to ride most of their day away.
K: Do you think, for instance, Twin Lakes High School, which was your high
school formally called Palm Beach High School, is a stronger school
because of integration? They've had a lot of fighting. They've had a
lot of problems there. There have been a lot of problems in all the
schools, but I think it is the only right thing to do. If it becomes
a strong school, if it isn't indeed already, then it will be because
people have settled their differences and at least allowed the education
to go on.
We're not really, shall I say "the South". I always think of the
South as being Alabama and Georgia, the Carolinas.
K: How do you account for that?
R: Well, because of the influx of tourists. Of course for as many years
as I can remember, and it's strange how things eveolve, I remember when I
went to high school, my mother telling me that I HAD to study Spanish.
Now I wanted to take French, and my mother said, "No, you will take
Spanish because on occasion there are a lot of visitors from Cuba. Just
think how proud you'll be if someday somebody comes up to you and asks
'where is anything?' and you are able to answer them in their own tongue.
You'll be very proud of yourself". Of course, this was a hundred years
ago, but my mother was a very forward thinking person.
K: Did you, in fact, have a lot of visitors from Cuba?
R: There were quite a few, not in West Palm Beach, as such, there were some
who came here but mainly in Miami. Miami was always sort of a Mecca for
K: Tell us something about Palm Beach now in terms of retailing and in
terms of not getting along in what was not a Jewish community.
R: Well, my first entry in Palm Beach retailing actually was when I worked
for two or three firms on this side. I did have a very good following.
I still have, I'm proud to say. My following at that time in the early
years until we went into business for ourselves here, was mainly WASP
in every sense of the word; however, I have always done what I possibly
could to bridge any gap. I stand up for the fact that I am Jewish, re-
gardless of my lack of education in that direction, and everyone who
knows me knows that I am Jewish and I will not brook any disrespect for
that. However, I try my very best to treat my customers and the friends
that they bring in with a great deal of consideration for their feelings,
and for their needs.
K: How do you convey to someone that you are Jewish?
R: Well, I don't carry a shield around, but if it comes up in the conver-
sation, I let them know, in no uncertain terms, that I am Jewish.
K: You mean, if something approaching a slur comes up?
K: You're anticipating a slur. Can you think of an example?
R: I can't think of an example because I can't think of anyone who has
really made any particular attempt to slur in front of me. If something
like this happens, (it happened only a few times in my life), I let them
K: Well, is there any perception among your customers that there were more
Jews coming to town, or any reflection of that?
R: Well, they don't actually come out and say it to me, but of course, you
know that this exists. You know that people would resent any kind of an
influx, as a matter of fact, you will hear a lot of people say at times,
"well, the place is full of New Yorkers".
K: Do they mean "Jews" by that?
R: They may very well, but they will use this type of an expression and
they resent it, because they're giving up their space. I think each of
us, in a sense, resents having your space taken away from you, you know.
K: Was there a great difference in retailing in Palm Beach when it wasn't
such a year-round community?
R: Oh, yes. The merchants, at one time, in West Palm Beach used to pull
card tables out on the sidewalk and have card marathons in the back
rooms and on the sidewalks and whatever. I remember Clematis Street
being papered with bankruptcy signs. A lot of families that are
fairly prominent today, in the days before bankruptcy laws, had a lot
K: You mean after the season was over?
R: I wasn't aware of the season as such at that time. When I was old
enough to realize that Palm Beach was a place of some elegance, then
was different because as far as I was concerned the whole place
belonged to me, personally, you know. But, Palm Beach used to close
up right after Easter, I think, and everyone closed. There were no
stores open at all. All of Worth Avenue (it was known even then) was
boarded up and nothing was open. There's a lot of difference now.
K: What did the working people do? Their jobs were only three or five
R: Those people that worked in the shops over here, a lot of them went
north with them. Many of the stores that operated in those days had
northern companies, so a lot of the people went north.
K: What about a person like yourself?
R: I wasn't working over here in those years. I worked in Lerners', I
worked in the Darling Shop, I worked for independent merchants that
had a shop on Clematis Street, but I used to say that I really pre-
ferred to work with the working people.
K: The people that lived here all year round?
R: Right. Those people were West Palm Beach people.
K: And, in fact, it was the only place to shop I suppose, because you
didn't have Palm Beach Lakes Blvd.?
R: No. Oh, Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. was a swamp.
K: So, as far as retail shops and even perhaps supermarkets. Were there
R: Oh, sure, there was a supermarket. As a matter of fact, going way
back, there was a supermarket called "PigglyWiggly"on Clematis Street.
There was a big grocery store on Clematis Street called "Eureka Market,"
if I recall correctly. Eventually, there was a kosher butcher on
Clematis Street (and food store), operated by a family called Goldberg.
There were supermarkets. My mom and I used to walk downtown to come to
the supermarket because other than that there was just little inde-
K: I'm amazed to hear about a kosher market.
R: Yes. There was.
K: In other words, the butcher kosher killed?
R: I think he received goods from Miami.
K: Well, then, there must have been quite a Jewish community.
R: That was in years just before, and during my very early teens.
K: Did your mother have associations with other Jewish women?
R: Very few. My mother was not a card player. She didn't really have
the time to be social. She didn't have the energy when she had the
time to be social. If you were not (and I think it's largely like
that today), terribly social minded, you sat by yourself. So, she
did not have that sort of association to much of a degree.
My mother died when she was 53, and she died without ever really
having lived, but in the few years previous to her death, she thought
she might like to have some of that Jewish culture and she volunteered
to be a Sunday School teacher at Temple Beth El. For a few years she
did go every Sunday. By that time, my sister was driving a car so she
had a way of getting there and back.
We did not have that interaction with the Jewish community.
K: How about when your children were growing up?
R: Not when my children were growing up either. It's a strange thing, when
you're involved in the business of pecking out a living, there are a
lot of things that go by the board. The first things to go, are the
things that you are not accustomed to. So, my children are like we are.
They are Jewish. They went to Sunday School for a very short period of
time, but they have not had terribly much Jewish education as such.
K: Do you think they will transmit to their children a sense of Judaism?
R: I really don't know, and I must confess and perhaps this is a terrible
thing to say, but I feel that before this, I want them to transmit
to their children a sense of what is right and wrong and a sense of the
golden rule perhaps, a reverence for nature. To know that there has to
be a power that put it together. These things, I think, come before
anything. If they grow up to be good human beings and then, if they are
taught this at an early age, I think the other will come later if they
feel it necessary or feel it important to their lives. I don't really
know what my girls will do about this, to tell you the truth.
There has been a lack of that sort of thing in my life, and I
can't say that I have missed it. What you don't know, I suppose you
don't miss. Coming from a more larger metropolitan area, I am sure
that most people who come down here seek out the companionship, the
association of other Jewish people; whereas with us, as a matter of
existing, we were shall I say forced, (I don't know if I could use
another word), to become part of the mainstream and you make the best
of it and you do the thing that you have to do and that is, to get
along and make people appreciate you for what you are, to understand
that your beliefs are your very own.
I recall hearing John F. Kennedy one time telling someone on TV
that his religion was his own business and he made quite a remarkable
stride toward gaining the presidency of the United States. It was an
unheard thing to have a Catholic. So, as far as we were concerned, it
may have been an unheard of thing for a Jew to become part of this
mainstream and to remain there with respect from the others and the
object in mind to get along.
K: You brought up the name of Kennedy and, of course, I would like to know
if you had any contact with the family?
R: I have only had contact with his mother who was a customer in a shop
that I managed at one time. She has been in my shop. She was in just
once briefly, this was it. One of our daughters worked in Saks Fifth
Avenue on a holiday vacation from college, and she was very excited
because she had taken care of Teddy Kennedy, but that was about the
size of it.
K: What about when he was president? Did this town reflect his presence?
R: Oh, yes.
K: How did you know?
R: I personally was so excited one day coming up to an intersection in
West Palm Beach when he was arriving. I had our youngest daughter with
me at the time, and seeing the president drive by in his car, and seeing
him wave was just really exciting. It could have been anyone really, but
the President of the United States, it was just something! I've never
been terribly celebrity conscious, but that was really something.
Then, one day I told my husband I came upon one of the inter-
sections when I was driving to our shop and the police were out guarding
the intersections and so on, I came back to the shop and I told my husband
"You better go out because the President is coming by," and my husband
pooh-pobhed it. But he went, and he came back to the shop later, ;-r
four feet off the ground. He was the only one on the corner and the
President saw him and waved at him. This was really incredible.
K: Were other presidents in Palm Beach?
R: I think Richard Nixon has been here. I think, really there have been
several of them that have come through, and Truman, of course, used
to come to Key West, but that I guess was the winter White House at
I sound as if I might have gone through life sort of in my own
little orbit and I'm sorry if it's a bore to whoever might be in the
future reading these words of wisdom, but all I can offer as I said,
is a love for humanity as such and for nature to begin with.
K: Have you enjoyed being a retailer?
K: Do you like dealing with people?
R: Yes, I write love letters to my customers' twice a year, and I like
dealing with people, and I have found, by and large, that my clientele
is just wonderful. Once in a while, you'll have someone come in that
sort of puts you to the test.
K: Describe what kind of shop you have?
R: Well, I carry women's sportswear and sort of semi-dressy things, casually
dressy things. My things are in the lower price ranges as opposed to
many of the shops on Worth Avenue; of course, that are very expensive
and very, very high-toned.
So, we try. We have moderately priced clothing and we basically
want our customers to look well and to walk out of here feeling ten feet
K: Did you say that there are a lot of return customers?
R: Oh, yes. A great many return customers. I'm very proud of the fact
that our shop has a very good reputation. We are known as much for the
fact that our shop is cordial and comfortable to shop in. This is some-
thing that I've tried to do all my life around retailing.
K: Are you open all year now?
R: No. We close in August and we're generally closed for about two months.
K: You mean August and September?
K: Have you traveled much Rose--out of this area?
R: I don't travel too much. I'm a strange duck. I"m very happy where
I am. Going to see our children is perhaps the highlight of our
traveling. I would prefer it if they would come here truly. I'd
love to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and I would like to see the
Swiss Alps, and if they ever bring them over, I'll be the first in
line to see them. But, I'm not really a traveler per se.
At one time, when our girls were quite young, I had a Brownie
Troop. Of course, it was a mixed bag. We had Jewish children, we
had Gentile children, and they were all very happy to be in the same
Troop. I never gave it a thought because this has been a way of life
for me always. A woman came up to me one day and she said something
about wanting to gether child into a Brownie Troop, and I said, "Oh,
well, what school does she attend?". I said, "I happen to have a
Brownie Troop". And she said, "Oh, I didn't know that there were any
Jewish Brownie Troops in the area". Well, there are not, of course.
They may be today, but in those days, there were none. I didn't ever
think of it in that light, but I REALIZED people coming from other
areas regard this type of living as a way of life and it has never been
K: Because sometimes they were affiliated with the Temple and if a child
in the neighborhood wanted to join, they could?
R: I suppose.
K: But, generally, it was Jewish kids.
R: Yeah. But, you see, I lived among the Gentile children such a very
long time, to me a-child was a child was a child.
K: What happened when the State of Israel finally came to be? Do you
feel this community contributed, or was excited about it?
R: The people who are the Jewish leaders of this community were very
excited about it. And they have done a great deal to contribute by
way of fund drives, many different things that they have helped to
organize, to assist them and so on, and so forth. I was never a part
of the Jewish community, really, I suppose, I was namely on the outside
of the efforts and didn't participate in that sort of thing.
K: Do you personally have any desire to go to Israel as well as Italy?
R: None, whatsoever. I have no desire to go to Italy. As I said, if they
would come and bring me those various things, I would be very happy, but
I have no desire to go. I have no desire to go abroad and this will
Tape 32 B
possibly make me sound even narrower than I have up to this point. I
feel that the American is so much hated in Europe and almost in any
K: So you have no interest in going abroad?
R: My parents were such patriots. Very few people that I know that were
so devoted about it, and I remember during the war years actually, my
dad was a member of the National Guard here and his little troop was
on parade along with many others on some national holiday. I remember
going to the parade with a great deal of pride in seeing my father
parading down the street and my sister and I yelled out, "Hi Dad," and
every man in the troop turned around, but not my dad. He was a super,
super patriot. A super human being really.
K: Were you active in any Fraternal Organizations, or was your husband?
R: No. My hubby was an Elk for a time. We're not joiners. I was a Girl
Scout growing up, but we are not joiners. We have been busy in the
effort of trying to make a living, trying to educate our three daughters.
K: What about your social life, there must have been a time when you would
have liked to have been--
R: Yes. We have friends. There are not too many friends because we have
found over the period of time, as have many people, that when things
are going well for you, you can have all the "friends" you want. When
things are difficult, you are very much alone. So, we have our few
close friends whose company we enjoy, but not too frequently at that.
We are still very busily engaged in working for a living.
K: Is there a Merchants Association?
R: There is a Merchants Association but that is the Worth Avenue Merchants
Association. They make this very clear. We are on Peruvian Avenue and
you just don't join. We would have no benefits even if we were allowed
to join the Association.
K: Do you think the Town of Palm Beach has been a good host to their
R: I think they have been the worst hosts possible.
K: In what way?
R: Well, parking is severely limited here and there is no effort whatso-
ever to see that we improve this situation. As a matter of fact, it
works in reverse. They are terrible hosts and the landlords are going
up, up in the rents and business is dispersing. Worth Avenue, they say,
is an institution. It's the most beautiful street in the world and there
will always be a Worth Avenue, but the business on Worth Avenue, in
spite of what anybody might say, has dissipated toward other areas,
you know, the malls, the shopping centers and so on.
K: Has the Esplanade affected business?
R: Oh, I think it did. Yes. I think it really sort of syphoned a lot
of the traffic into that upper block of Worth Avenue and there are
many merchants on the avenue in the Esplanade that have gone out in
the couple of years that they've been there, so I don't know that
they've been all that great.
K: Do you feel that you have to advertise to get people to come to
R: Well, the only times that I advertise are at sale time. Actually, in
the beginning of the year, I write a love letter to my customers and
this is my way of thanking them for even having come into our shop.
Maybe many of these people didn't even buy anything. I also write a
letter at the end of the season advising them before our first season,
end of the season sale is about to start before it's advertised in the
paper. That gives them a little bit of an edge, you know, to come in.
I have found that this advertising, which is sort of a non-adver-
tising program, has been more effective for me than any advertising I've
K: Rose, you have your own style here. I notice it in so many things that
you do. Your love letter. There's an American Express sign in the
window that's really a petit point.
R: A needle point.
K: Who did that?
R: There is a woman up in Vero who does all our little things of that sort.
K: Did you get that idea that you would like to get that done in needle
R: She was the one that had the idea and when she mentioned it, I jumped on
it in a hurry because I thought it was a very clever one.
K: Then the flowered canopy gives a very nice cottage feel ing.
R: I would like it to be more cottage. I wish I had a cottage, you know.
This to me, is a wonderful way to do business.
K: Have you always been at this location?
R: Well, since we've been in this business. My hubby was in the office
furniture supply business before.
K: I just want to follow one other thought. Did you, or do you, adver-
tise in the Palm Beach paper? The Daily News? The Shiney Sheet?
R: I don't advertise in The Shiney Sheet. I have advertised a time or
two in the Condo News, which basically goes to Palm Beach. I have
advertised in the Palm Beacher. I may have put one ad in The Shiney
Sheet, I'm not sure. But generally, in the Post-Times.
K: So, then you draw from West Palm Beach as well as Palm Beach.
R: Right. Now, you know, there have been many, many, slurs about Century
Village. I happen to have a very lovely representative group from
Century Village who are customers of mine, and I find that if I'm going
to advertise in the paper that the Palm Beach Post was perhaps the one
that reaches them, certainly more than any of the Palm Beach papers. I
like to encourage that type of customer.
The type of customers that we have in here, that we enjoy in here,
have a sense of humor and have respect for us and for what we're trying
to do here and they in turn are given a great deal of respect and
friendship. That, perhaps, is why we don't do as much socializing as a
lot of other people. I really exhaust myself during the day giving of
myself and my time and my husband's, because I happened to have a
wonderful husband and he's very outgoing, so, we try to do this and we
find that after this is over, then the essential thing is our relation-
ship to each other.
K: So, you have a really rich life between the store and your free time.
It is quite a full life.
R: Yes. It is quite a full life and we have three daughters that have
brought us nothing but honor, many honors. It is funny, our eldest
daughter was one of twenty some odd girls in a scholarship house in
Tallahassee when she was in her last two years of college. She was the
only Jewish girl in the house and everyone said that because they were
in this house that everybody would sort of look down on them. Scholars
are not appreciated perhaps enough. She was called, after not too long
a time (she was only there a year), "Super Jew" because she had no short-
age of dates and she had no shortage of invitations. Everybody really
respected and admired her. That was sort of indicative of our gals all
the way through school, all the way through everything.
So, we do have a rich life. We are very proud of many things.
K: I want to thank you very much for giving your time, providing this in-
formation. If you should think of some story you want to tell, just let
me know and I'll come back with my machine.
R: There really isn't much to tell, as .I said we've had such a simple
existence, simply trying to have an existence. I think, looking
back, I'd like to have a piece of property that my father used to
stand on, on Singer Island to fish. There was nothing there then.
K: When you said "Rivera" you meant the other side, then you didn't mean
R: No. I meant the mainland. It was "Rivera" in those days, but today
they call it "Riviera" which is perhaps correct.
K: Okay. Thanks again.
K: This is about Rose's father who I understood became a plumber when he
came down here and the reason he came down here is that they were
advertising for trades people, because they were building so much.
R: Right. They were getting ready to start building and they wanted to
create a paradise here, and of course, then, they had ideas of building
up Singer Island, because they had visions of putting up a very grand
hotel there. -The only thing I remember of the hotel was the skeleton
of this building, which of course, could not be completed and then
subsequently burned and various other things and they finally razed the
building. I think after the war years, it was there again, like a piece
of furniture that you live with. The place was barren and they wanted
men to come down and learn trades.
My father came here and learned to be a plumber. My father subse-
quently taught a few other men the plumbing trade.
K: What did he do mostly?
R: Well, he did a lot of swimming pools and of course, in those days who
had a swimming pool? They were in their infancy and my father used to
have to hire crews to go out and lay the lines. In those years, no one
knowing what you were going to encounter. He went through many, many
men before he found any. They were largely black men, and it was
discovered that many of the black men do not swim. Peculiarly enough,
I heard someone say this on TV the other day. Arthur Ashe, who is a very
famous tennis player said, "You know, most of us cannot swim". Of course,
here this was mainly due to the fact that they were not allowed on the
public beaches. There was one area where they could go to swim, and it
was way up on Singer Island, if I recall correctly. So, it was not
conducive to going out and really learning in the ocean.
So, my dad, under very primitive conditions, installed quite a
number of swimming pools here with ocean water, not with fresh water.
They are on the ocean. There are some of the pools, of course, still
in existence today. There is one club that I pass by that is no longer
in use and is just decaying there on the ocean property that was
originally installed by my dad.
K: To tie it up, are you indicating that the plumber had to actually go
out to the ocean with pipes and the black people did not only not know
how to swim, might have presented a real problem?
R: Right. My dad had to go out and actually show them, and many times he
was washed against the posts and there might have been barnacles
accumulated. He came home battered and bruised many times. But my dad
was a very strong swimmer and, as a matter of fact, he used to swim way
out beyond the end of our pier that used to be at the head of Worth
Avenue. There was a fishing pier, I forget now how long it was. This
is a tale of things that I had forgotten, but my dad used to go out and
sometimes swim out to a fishing boat and swim back with a line of fish,
a string of fish, in his teeth, to come back to bring some fresh fish in
just for fun. This was his sport.
K: Were any of the pools private?
R: They were all in homes. These were in homes. One was a club and that
was a private club.
K: Did your father regret coming down to Florida?
R: No. My father loved Florida, loved everything about it. There was no
place else from the day he came here till the day he died.
K: Do you think your mother felt the same?
R: Oh yes. My mother missed possibly, not having a little more time to
improve herself, to improve her surroundings, to have some of the
niceties of life, but there was no place else for her, I would say.
K: Did your sister stay in the area?
R: My sister lives here today. She certainly did stay in the area. My
sister and brother-in-law have three children; two daughters and one
K: Have they remained here?
R: Oh yes.
K: Do you have a special pride about this area? Of course it's your home
but now it's quite a different place than when you remember?
K: But, do you feel the growing year-round community is a healthy devel-
R: Yes. I think it should be a growing year-round community, but I use
the word "growing" as it is, not growing, growing and growing. You
like to see some period of reconsideration, of stopping and taking a
look at our water problems. Thank God, we haven't had another hurricane
of any size, and I really knock wood when I say this, but I hesitate to
think what's going to happen if some of the buildings that are right on
the ocean that have been built with not as much planning as they should
K: You mean down in South Palm Beach?
R: South Palm Beach, all the way from South Palm Beach to Miami. Looking
back, it's been a marvelous place to grow up and I've always said that
I didn't know how anyone up north had courage to have children. I
think if I had had to put three sweaters and a snow suit on a child, and
then have them say to me, "I want to go to the bathroom"; that would
have been the end of any northern experience for me.
I have a lot of pride in this area. I think it's beautiful. It
is beautiful in spite of what man has done to it.
K: Thank you.