MATHESON HISTORICAL MUSEUM
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Interviewer: Transcriber:
Faye Silverman Mary Ann Cofrin Ruth C. Marston
Interview with Faye SilvermanI February 4, 2001
C: My name is Mary Ann Coffin, and I am interviewing Faye Silverman in my
home, for the Matheson Museum on February 4, 2001. Please state your full
name and birth date for the tape, please.
S: Faye Eunice Safer Silverman. June 29, 1912. C: Where were you born, Faye? S: Jacksonville, Florida. C: Were your parents from that area? 5: They were from New York City. They came down after the big Jacksonville fire,
which was in 1903, I think.
C: Were they natives of New York City? S: They were Russian immigrants. C: Did both of their sets of parents live in Russia?
5 : Yes, they all immigrated to New York. C: Your grandparents didn't. S: One of my grandfathers lived with us when I was little. C: Your father's father? S: It was from my mother's side. C: Do you have many memories of him? S: Yes, I always will. C: What were your parents' names?
5 : Jacob and Ida Bloom-Safer. C: Was your early childhood in Jacksonville? 5: Yes. I was born in Jacksonville, went to school there at LaVilla School. We
lived out in the LaVilla section, which is near the downtown. I think they still
have that section. It's the all colored section now. C: Was that grade school and high school?
Interview with Faye Silverman 2
February 4, 2001
S No, just grade school. Then we moved to the house that my family owned until
we sold it. On 3rd Street right across from Springfield Park. That's where we
C: What was the name of the high school?
S Andrew Jackson. We had two. Jackson was where I lived in the Springfield
section. It was right across from Springfield Park, near the tennis courts where
we all played tennis.
C: So you played a lot of tennis?
S I played a lot of tennis. My brother, Louis, was the main one in Jacksonville. He
was the champion, and when he went to the University of Florida he was teaching
tennis while he was in school. He was a great tennis player.
C: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
S : Two brothers and two sisters. There were five of us.
C: You stayed in Jacksonville through high school?
S Yes. Then I went off to Florida State College for Women. After I graduated, I
got married and we moved to Gainesville.
C: Well, tell me where did you meet Joe?
S When I was sixteen, he was in one of my classes in high school. He was from
Baltimore. His family had moved down to Jacksonville, and he came walking in my class one day. I remember it was Latin, and he had already had his Advanced Latin, so the next day they took him out and put him into another class. Then he went to the Jacksonville Jewish Center, which was right across the street from my family home, and that's where we all used to meet. We didn't have dates in those days. Everybody used to go to parties and dances, and you would meet people
C: Was Joe older than you?
S : One year.
C: But you really didn't start dating until .
S I was sixteen when I first met him. Then we started dancing. Everybody was
dancing with everybody. When he asked if he could take me home, I said,
"Sure." Then he asked, "Where do you live?" I said, "Across the street."
Interview with Faye Silverman 3
February 4, 2001
C: You were then about seventeen?
S : No, I was still sixteen years old, but I had known him a long time.
C: You started dating then soon after you met him. Do you still have special
memories of your grade school or high school days other than meeting Joe and
falling in love?
S I had the highest average in the high school at Andrew Jackson. I remember that
Joe wanted to march with me. We always marched in at graduation years ago,
and they said no, that I had the highest average and had to be the first one in line.
C: Now when you went to Tallahassee, you were away from Joe.
S : He was living in Gainesville but he used to come up a lot.
C: What year was that?
S It was 1930. 1 had the two-year course. In those days they had what they called
an Allied Degree and then you could teach school, so I took that two-year course and I was able to teach school. After Joe graduated, he was working for Brownstein's Department Store in Gainesville. It was right across from the square downtown. The Brownstein's had moved from a little town outside of
C: Joe came here straight from high school in 1930?
S Yes. Two years later he was going to come to school here. One of his friends had
moved here and said, "Why don't you come with me?" He did, and by that time the Brownstein's came and opened up this department store, and they needed somebody to work. Joe was a terrific salesman. He had been working since he
was about fourteen years old, so he knew all about stores.
C: You said something about him coming to Gainesville in 1933. You don't think
S: No, we got married in 1933.
C: These articles say he came in '33, but you think he was here before that.
S : He must have come right after he graduated high school in 1930.
C: So you graduated from high school in 1930.
Interview with Faye Silverman 4
February 4, 2001
S: Yes, we both did. I went to Tallahassee in 1930 and graduated in 1932 from the
Allied Course. Joe and I got married November 29, 1933, and it was Thanksgiving. I was going up to Tallahassee for our reunion. We used to have a reunion there. The girls played football; we didn't have boys there. We all
C: When I was there, they called them the Odds and the Evens. It depended on your
graduation year, whether you were an Odd or an Even.
S: That's right. I was an Even.
C: I was an Even, too.
S5: Thanksgiving was our biggest time.
C: That's right. You didn't go home for Thanksgiving.
S: No. We didn't go home until Christmas. That was the only thing we had. Then
he used to come up there. A lot of boys from the University used to go to
Tallahassee to visit the girls on the weekends.
C: Then you got married in 1933.
S: At the time, Joe and I went to Tallahassee for the Thanksgiving festivities the year
after I graduated. We planned to go to Valdosta, Georgia, to be secretly married.
The secret got out because a relative in Valdosta spoiled us and spread the word.
After that I had to tell my parents. My folks did forgive me and gave us a
reception in Jacksonville.
When I got married, I was in my first year of teaching at Fishweir School in
Jacksonville, which is right out there in the Orange Park area.
C: Now if you taught there, was he in Gainesville?
5: Yes, he came over on the weekends. I couldn't get a job any other place. I was
lucky to get that job. Then he said maybe I could get a job in Gainesville. I couldn't get a job teaching school, but they had an opening at the Personality Shop, and I went to work there. All my life I've worked, even when I was in Jacksonville and I was either 14 or 15 years old. I always worked in a dress shop.
Summer times you know.
C: Okay, so who owned the Personality Shop?
5 : The Edelstein's. Willy Edelstein. There were three brothers.
C: That was the Personality Shop, and one was called the Fashion Shop.
Interview with Faye Silverman 5
February 4, 2001
5: That was Hymie. Hyman asked me to come over there and be his manager. He
gave me more money, so I left Willy for his brother.
Hymie didn't marry until later in life. He married Gussie Ruddennan's sister.
She came to visit one summer. I can still see what she looked like. She had black hair; she was little. She came to visit Gussie one time. She was divorced. She had one daughter. I remember she had her eye out for him. Everybody wanted Hymie to get married because he was the one with all the money. He had so many girl friends. I know when I was running his store, I used to just die on a Sunday because on the weekend, especially Saturday night, all his girl friends came in and the whole store was messed up. It took me two weeks to clean it up.
They were trying on clothes in every dressing room. He would bring in all his
girl friends and give them clothes.
C: Now, the Personality Shop, his wife's name was .
5 : Gina Edelstein.
C: I remember her.
5: She was from Tampa. She started one year before I did at Florida College for
Women, and she was a member of our sorority.
There were two grade schools: Eastside, which became Kirby-Smith, and Westside, which became Gainesville High School. Kirby-Smith only went up through the 6 t grade, and they had only six teachers, one in each class. I got a
substitute position at Westside in the elementary school.
C: The one over there where the 720 Building is now?
5: Yes. They used to call me whenever somebody needed a sub, and then I also
taught reading. I had reading classes and music. None of those teachers knew anything about music. The school music that I had and playing the piano and being in music so long, I knew all about it. I had a pitch pipe and had them sit certain places. The ones who could sing I would sit in the front and the ones who
couldn't were in the back. I don't know how I did all that. It was fun.
C: Where did you and Joe live?
5: Our first home was in someone's house. We had two rooms upstairs and shared a
bathroom with somebody. It was right downtown in Gainesville. Nothing was out of the area. We walked to everything we did. The Lyric Theater and Joe
Wise's Drug Store were right downtown.
C: What are your earliest memories of Gainesville as a young woman?
Interview with Faye Silverman 6
February 4, 2001
S Jacksonville was a big city compared to what this was. In Jacksonville we wore
gloves and hats when we went downtown. In Gainesville, we didn't. We had a hat for everything in those days. You never went anywhere without gloves or a hat, plus going to church. Even if you just went downtown, you had to be dressed
in Jacksonville. You never went downtown looking like they do now here.
C: I can remember my grandmother still wearing gloves in the afternoon to go to
town when my mother picked her up, but nobody else did!
S I remember that.
C: You were not terribly impressed with Gainesville or did you like it anyway?
S I thought I liked it, but it was small. Jacksonville was small enough, but this was
like nothing. But I got adjusted to it. Also, I had brothers who went to school at the University of Florida. We had a big fraternity row but the girls hadn't come yet. I used to go to all of their parties. They used to have me be chaperone when they had to have one. That's how I got started going. In those days, we had all the name bands that would come to Florida. They would all stop off at the University, and we had big affairs at the gym. We had big social affairs. We had the Military Ball. We went to everything. Every well-known band you could
think of came to Gainesville.
C: As a young married, you got to enjoy all the big affairs.
S : I really did. I went to everything they ever had.
C: Now who were the best friends of yours and Joe when you were young marrieds?
S Joe's best friend was Itz Greenberg, who worked in the Brownstein Department
Store. He was the manager. I think his name must have been Isadore or something, but they called him Itz. He ran that store. He was a friend of Joe's, and that's how Joe started working over at Brownstein's right after we got
C: Joe didn't stay there real long before he opened his own store.
S No, Brownstein's was on the square. Later Brownstein decided he would open up
a shoe store. He put Joe as manager of it. It was on the south side of University Avenue west of the square. Later on, Bob's Shoe Store bought it. He did the
repairing and things.
C: Bob's was on the south side of the street.
Interview with Faye Silverman 7
February 4, 2001
S: Yes. Then he went over and took that corner. And then Fagan's came in and
opened up a shoe store.
C: How long did Joe stay at the shoe store before he opened his own store?
S: We were in there about a year or so, that's about all. That building was still on
C: Where was your original old store after you left Brownstein's?
S: The store was located on the south side of University where J. C. Penney later had
C: What was the name of your first store? I have down that they called it Collegiate
Men's Shop, first opened in 1935.
5: That's right, because he catered to the students at the University of Florida. He
didn't have men's clothing, mostly students. He also went to all the fraternities at night and took measurements. Tailor-made clothes were used a lot in those days.
There weren't many places that even had ready-made clothes. You had to go to cities like Baltimore, which had a lot of big factories. That's how we got started
C: You worked in the store with him?
S: Yes. I did all the books. I had to do everything, cleaned up, swept up. I worked
all the time there.
C: You didn't have children. When did you have them?
S5: Carol was born in 1936.
C: Anyway, you worked at the store even when you had children? Did you have
help at home?
5: Yes, I always had help. Our housekeeper took them to dances. She took them to
piano. She took them everywhere because I had to be downtown at 11I o'clock every day when they started lunch hour. We used to open up at 9 o'clock in those days, not 10. At I11 we started the lunch hour and I had to be down there when the lunch hour started. I had to take over. She came at 9 in the morning, and she would get everything ready, and she would cook my dinner at night. She had
everything ready. She was a great cook. For twenty years she did this.
C: That was wonderful. Now you obviously didn't stay in the rooming house very
Interview with Faye Silverman 8
February 4, 2001
C: Where did you move to?
S: We moved into the first apartment house in Gainesville. It was built by the
Duke's Lumber Company. That was the first apartment house built. Nobody would believe it. Louis's Burger King was across the street, and on the right, next
door to us, was that bakery shop.
C: Okay, so that's where you moved after your first home.
S: Yes, that was the first apartment house that was built in Gainesville. It was four
apartments, and each one had two big bedrooms.
C: How long did you live there?
S: We lived there until after Carol was born. When Gene was going to be born, we
needed another bedroom so we had to move out somewhere. I remember living on that corner for a long time. I think that's when we got a house across from the J.J. Finley School. It was the county then; we weren't even in the city. We were at 416 N. W. 19 t Street. We had a little house that was right across the street from J.J. Finley that M.M. Parrish built. For so many years he built houses. He built our house and then when we started Sorority Row, I had him build the sorority
C: Now, tell me about your first daughter. She was Carol.
5: Yes. Then Gene was born a year later. Carol was born in '36 and Gene in '37.
Susan was born ten years later, in '46.
C: We'll get to her in a minute, but we've got those two and you're living in the
Finley area. You stayed there in that house probably. I don't have anything until
your husband opened in '43 the Men's Store. Was that a second store?
C: The first was the Collegiate Men's Shop.
5: When we first opened our store, they told us we wouldn't last two months
because we were moving a block away from the square and nobody would walk
off the square.
C: So you were moving too far away?
5 : Yes, they said we moved too far away.
Interview with Faye Silverman 9
February 4, 2001
C: What did your husband say?
S: He said, "Listen. How are they going to get here? Come downtown and they've
got to come right by me."
C: The University of Florida boys had to come right by! S: He would be standing outside waiting for them, and they liked him and we
worked with all the fraternities so they all knew him. We sold tailor-made clothes
and in those days that was the big thing.
We eventually changed the name from Collegiate Men's Shop because older men were coming in. We started getting more mature looking clothes and called it
Silverman's The Man's Store. It was the only men's store in Gainesville. C: And it was still on University Avenue? 5: Yes, but we moved to the north side of University Avenue between Lewis Jewelry
and the Primrose Grill.
C: He made quite a reputation for himself 5: In 1960 we moved again, back to the south side to the same building we still own.
It was a big store.
C: Tfhat's when you probably changed the name. Silverman's for Men and Women. S: Yes. We decided to have women's clothes. C: That was in 1960.
5: Right. We sold Manhattan shirts for men. The salesman, who lived in Palatka,
came in to see us, and he said, "Why don't you start puffing in some lady's things? I have a few." Well, the first thing they had was lady's pajamas matching with the boys' pajamas, which was a big deal. In those years, who ever heard about that? Matching shirts we had so they could get their girl friend or boy
friend a shirt. That's how we started with that. It began with Manhattan.
We kept the store on the north side and called it The Young American Shop. We
later sold it to one of our employees, Jim Foresman.
C: In 1963, your husband won the Jaycee award. Do you remember that? For being
"The Friendliest Merchant in Gainesville."
Interview with Faye Silverman 10
February 4, 2001
S Right. I have the article at home. He was also President of the Lions' Club. Joe
did a lot of work in town. He used to go around to all the little towns in Florida
and help them start their Lions' Clubs.
C: He was very active.
S Very active in those years. There wasn't anything he couldn't do. Any time they
needed something, they would call Joe to come because they knew he would get it
C: He had a good reputation.
S : Very good and was very well liked.
C: He was the unofficial toastmaster for a lot of organizations.
S : Oh yes. He could tell stories and he didn't need a script. He just talked.
C: In 1960, 1 believe you have a story about moving from one store to the other.
S Yes. We were just moving from one side of the street near The Primrose Grill
across the street to the other building that we bought from the First National Bank. We figured out that we would move on Saturday and Sunday. The city closed up the street. They didn't let any cars through there, so we could go across the street just walking across. There was no place to drive across the street. I remember we kept Zero in the big store putting the stuff on the shelves and we were all walking back and forth and back and forth. That was on Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday morning we opened up the business. Everything was
ready. That's how fast we got it done.
C: You must have worked all day Sunday.
S He hired a lot of University boys, a lot of them we knew from the fraternity
houses, and they all would try to make extra money, so they'd come work a few
hours here and everybody was carrying things.
C: That was a wonderful way to move.
S Of course, First National Bank was moving out and they asked us if we wanted to
buy that building. Dr. Snow owned the building, I remember. They gave us a ten-year mortgage on it to pay it off. That was the first thing I did the first of every month. I went over there and paid that bill. I wanted to be sure nothing happened. I didn't care if we needed that money to eat, we were paying that mortgage. That was important. That was the most exciting thing we had ever had. We hadn't owned anything before, and now we were going to own that big
building. Then we had all those doctors upstairs and they paid us rent.
Interview with Faye Silverman I I
February 4, 2001
C: Now, when you started selling women's clothes, you were in the sales area more
than just in the bookkeeping end.
S I did all of it. I did the bookkeeping and I kept all that. We had one girl who was
18 years old, I remember. Her husband was working for Belk-Lindsey then and he used to come down and visit with her during the lunch hour, and that's how
they started going together.
C: Did you do the buying for the store, too?
S : Yes. I did it with my husband.
C: Did you go to New York?
S We used to go to New York five times a year. Every season you bought for the
store during market week. We had salesmen coming around, and we would stay there four or five days. I remember the place was near the station there, right down from Penn Station. That's where everything was. That was the hub. 40 th
St., 42nd St., right in that area. They didn't have anything any other place.
C: That was a treat, to go to New York.
S Oh yes, that was great. We would go to all the shows. All the salesmen, the
manufacturers, used to buy tickets to all the shows, so we saw every new show that ever came out in New York. They would take us to dinner. There were so many places. It was hard to believe all those things that we did. It was wonderful
because we didn't have anything in Gainesville of that nature.
C: Okay, I got you past your first two children. Now when did the next one come
S Susan was born in 1946. Ilene was born in 1952.
C: Tbat's four, and that's all you had.
S: Right. I was too busy.
C: Did you still live near Finley when these last two were born?
S: Yes. Ilene and Susan used to be on the school patrol. They used to have school
patrols in those days.
C: Do you have any special things you want to say about the other business people in
town? There were a lot of nice stores. Wilson's was one.
Interview with Faye Silvennan 12
February 4, 2001
S5: Yes, and L. & L. Shop, right down from us.
C: They had Ruddy's and Geiger's.
S: Mrs. Geiger. She had lady's and all the cocktail clothes and the wedding gowns.
She had a big lady's store.
C: Were you friends with the Rudderman's?
5: Yes. They came later. Ruddennan's came the summer that Carol was born.
That's when they showed up. It was in August, 1936.
C: They were on the south side of the square.
5: They bought Brownstein's Store, when they decided to move back to
Jacksonville. Brownstein had a very large store there at one time, right on Bay
C: So Rudderman's were friends of yours?
5 : We got to know them very well. His wife was very nice.
C: Was Gussie older than you?
5: Yes. Gussie was always working in the store, too. All of them did. That's what
they did in their other stores. Everybody worked. In those days, you worked, you raised your kids, you came home and got supper, got into bed, and virtually did
C: Except you had some good help.
5: Yes. I was lucky that I had someone who worked for me for many years. Every
store was open until 12 o'clock on Saturday nights, but we used to close on Wednesdays half a day. All the stores would close on Wednesday at 1 o'clock.
That's how they could get half a day off. Everybody was downtown Saturday night. All the country people from all the little towns would all be parked
downtown. You would see the trucks. Everybody waited until Saturday.
C: Now that probably didn't last up until the 40's. That was way back, don't you
5: No, it was probably in the 30's. I remember when we had to stay. A lot of times I
wanted to go to a fraternity dance but they had me working because they didn't have many young women in town, so I had to go to every dance and chaperone
every fraternity we had. We had two fraternities.
Interview with Faye Silverman 13
February 4, 2001
C: They must have not made you stay down there and work until midnight.
S: Well, I'd get off at 9 o'clock so I could go over to the University as they insisted
that somebody be there. I had to sign a paper every year that said that I was going
to be the chaperone. Not like it is today, when they do nothing.
C: You have some fond memories of Gainesville. You probably have some good
stories to tell.
S: Joe Wise's father ran a store. Wise's Drug Store.
C: Did you know them? Were they good friends?
5: Oh yes, they were good friends. They were in our block when we opened up our
big store. We still get all our drugs from Wise's. His children were growing up.
They had four children, and all of the boys got into business. Those were some
years, great years.
Then the telephone company opened up on the next block. That's what helped build up the downtown area. All the people that worked there all came over to Wise's. If you wanted to eat, you had to go to Joe Wise's Drug Store. That's also
where we got all our medicines.
Joe Wise bought our little car that we had so that the boy could deliver. In those days they delivered, not like it is today. It was a 2-door car we had, and they said they would buy it. When our children got larger, it was getting too hard so we decided to sell it to those boys, and they used it to run around and deliver. I used
to know the one that did all the deliveries for years and years.
C: Now, you had some people who worked in your store a long time. One of them
was Zero Mazo.
S: Oh yes. Zero Mazo. When he got out of the navy, I remember when he came
into our shop. He was short and fat and had his navy uniform on. I see that picture with me all the time; I'll never forget how he looked with his sailor cap when he came walking in. None of them had jobs. They were all young. So he came in. His brother, David, had worked for us for some months, and then he got married and moved to Jacksonville, so we gave Zero the job and he was there all
C: When you closed that store finally, he left and retired.
5 : Yes, I see him and I talk to Zero. He still lives in the same house where he lived.
C: Zero used to be water boy for the football team.
Interview with Faye Silverman 14
February 4, 2001
S He was the water boy. He used to sit right on the front. When he was like six
years old, he would sit like he was the water boy. You're right. They don't have
anyone like that any more, do they?
C: No. All the boys have water out of a dipper.
S : I remember. He used to run with the bucket.
C: Now, Joe came from Baltimore and he and his parents moved to Jacksonville.
Were his parents Russian immigrants?
S Yes. His father was a plumber and he ran a plumbing place there. His father was
out working one day and died right there on the job. He had a heart attack. His mother moved back to Baltimore. Joe had two sisters living in Baltimore, so she moved back to live with them. She used to come down every summer and visit with us. He had a younger brother who came down years later, and he would work in our store. Joe put him to work. He said he had to do something with him. He was going to the University of Florida and working for us. His name
C: Was he the only brother Joe had?
S : Yes.
C: Did he have any sisters?
S Two sisters and a brother. We raised him. We were living right across from
Finley School so he used to come home to lunch every day.
C: So he came while a young man.
S: Yes, and he was a big cater. I tell you I had to hide everything. I would be gone
and when I came home we couldn't have any dinner at night because he had
already eaten everything up.
C: He was older than your children?
S : Yes, a lot older.
C: But if he came to grade school?
S No, not grade school. He was in high school, and when he got to the University,
Joe put him to work. I said, "Joe, we've got to give him something to do. He's sitting around here and eating." So then Joe had him work every aftemoon in the store. He cleaned up and helped straighten out. We gave him all kinds of things to do. I could always find something else for him to do. Otherwise, they were
Interview with Faye Silverman 15
February 4, 2001
talking. They used to stand there and talk all the time. I'd say, "Boys, let's get some of this done." Joe would say, "If you want it done, do it yourself" I used to
When the war came and we had that military training at the University, they became Second Lieutenants after three months, so that's how we really got started in business. Joe sold them all their uniforms. He had to go over and measure the men and order the uniforms and then he would bring the unifonns to the men when they arrived. I remember those days. Even to get men's white underwear, you could have a hard time because of their sending it off to men in the service.
The men would watch and if they saw a truck come, they would run right in and say, "Joe, did you get any white underpants in?" They weren't wearing those knits in those years. It was the boxers that they wore. Another thing that was hard to get was white shirts. You couldn't get white shirts from anybody! Most everything was sent to the service. The factories only made war things. It was
hard in those days.
C: During the war, we all had ration books.
S : They rationed shoes, I remember. Sugar, butter.
C: When you went to New York in those days, I suspect all along, you went on the
train, didn't you?
S Yes, and we went together. We had to go to Waldo and get the train.
C: The Silver Meteor.
S: We had to sit up until we got there. Then we stayed at the New Yorker Hotel.
That was practically the only hotel they had. It wasn't big but that's all they had.
It was right near the Penn Station. We would run around and enjoy what we could. That's where B. Altmann was and I used to get all our kids' clothes there.
We used to go in there and buy all their school clothes and have them shipped in.
There was no place in Gainesville to buy their clothes and I couldn't run to
Jacksonville all the time.
C: Have any of your children worked down at the store?
S Gene. When he was in high school, he worked part-time and after he got his CPA
degree, then he came into the store. Joe said, "There's no use working around here. You can do my CPA work and you've got to work running the store." He was a good salesman. He had a lot of the professors at the University of Florida.
In fact, some of them he is still friends with. They used to be coming up here. He
would meet them at night and sell them their clothes. He was a good salesman.
Interview with Faye Silverman 16
February 4, 2001
We altered their clothes for them. Mary Dowdell was the lady who worked for us for forty years. She used to work across the street for a little tailor they called Tony the Greek. She worked for him for umpteen years and she used to do all our tailoring. She would even take things home and work at home. There were a lot of people who still remember her. She could take a suit and tear the whole thing
apart and put it back. She would take the collars off. I mean everything.
C: She knew how to make them fit.
S Oh, she was tremendous. It didn't make any difference what you looked like.
Your back could be humped. She had that collar pulled back. She was just tremendous. Nobody could sew like that. She did everybody's work. All the professors. I know Sam Proctor has gone for years to her. He would go out to her house and take pants and other things to her, and she did all his work for him.
After we stopped, she would do his work over there. She was just a wonderful seamstress, and nobody could sew like that. They didn't have people who knew
how to sew in town here.
C: What ever happened to Carol? Did she ever work at the store?
S Yes, she did after college when the women's department was opened. Then she
went to school at Alabama and that's where she met her husband, who was from New Jersey. All the New Yorkers came down south to go to school. The University of Georgia hadn't really started yet. That was beginning. Later I made Ilene go to the University of Georgia because I thought it was such a great school, and I used to travel for our sorority. I had five states that I used to have to travel
to. I went to all the places that we had sororities.
C: Tell me the name of the sorority.
S : Delta Phi Epsilon.
C: So you went to all the different programs. So your oldest daughter married and
never really stayed in Gainesville.
S Carol was in Journalism. That's what she did. She worked for radio stations and
C: Was this after she finished college before she got married?
S : Right.
C: Okay. Then she got married and left you.
Interview with Faye Silverman 17
February 4, 2001
S That's right. Her husband was a lawyer and they lived in Birmingham for about a
year. In those days, you had to have a year of training before you could go out to
a finn. They lived in Birmingham.
C: Now the third child, Susan, where is she? S : She lives in Tampa.
C: Did she ever work for you?
S Well, when she was 14 or 15, she used to do the ads for us in the paper and she
used to go to the fraternity houses. She was so young I wouldn't let her go with
C: Was she an artist?
S No, she didn't draw the ads. They photographed the ads. Of course, we had the
newspaper every weekend and we used to advertise Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
and Sunday. We'd take her picture.
C: You used her as a model?
S Yes. That's when we had the women's clothes. When she got married and
moved to Atlanta, she worked for Country Set, the firm that we used to buy all our women's clothes from. She used to work for all the shows and modeled, and
she wore all their clothes.
C: Okay, well next comes Ilene, and she worked at the store.
S : Yes, after college.
C: When did she graduate from college?
S 1974 from the University of Georgia, at Athens. I said all our friends were going
to Florida, she wasn't coming here. She had to go to a new school. I loved
Athens, Georgia. It was a great spot.
C: When she came back home, then she went to work at the store.
S At first she was going to move to Atlanta. I said, "You know what? We need you
here. You've got to come back here." She had a personal thing. She was going to marry this guy; then she wasn't going to marry him. I was going crazy in those
years. We didn't know if we were moving her up or moving her down.
C: But you got her to Gainesville, and she worked at the store. Did she model some?
Interview with Faye Silverman 18
February 4, 2001
5: Oh, she did everything. She did all the TV ads. Ilene is great, you know. She is
the one that was most outgoing of all the children. There was nothing she couldn't do. That's why they had her on all the TV ads. Our radio station was
just starting. WRUF was just beginning. C: Did she do sales, too, and buying? 5: Yes, she sold and she helped me to buy. If I wasn't talking to the salesmen, Ilene
was talking to them.
C: Now when you went to New York, Joe and you and she -all three -went. 5: First just Joe and I went. Then they opened up an Atlanta market, and Ilene used
to go there with me. They had regional markets. We used to go to Dallas. Joe
and Gene did the men's buying.
C: So you didn't go to New York any more? 5: No, we didn't need to. New York was hard to work in. They had these offices
and you had to go to big offices all day, going to these big office buildings, and they wanted to know where you were from, how did you find them. They didn't have a salesman. They would ask if we wanted to see what they sell here. We used to go to Dallas a lot and then they opened the Atlanta market and we started
C: That sounds wonderful.
5 : We really went through one thing after another. C: So you kept right on.
5 : I kept right on going.
C: The tragic thing was Joe's death in 1986. 5: Yes. We had been married 50 years in '83. We celebrated our 50 t anniversary in
1983. Three years later we went to California and we had just come back home
and about three months later he died. C: Now, tell me, had Joe been sick? S: He had never been sick in his life.
C: Did he have a heart attack?
Interview with Faye Silverman 19
February 4, 2001
S: He had a hemorrhage, what they called in those days a cerebral hemorrhage. The
doctor said he couldn't do anything.
C: That must have been a terrible tragedy for all of your family.
S: It was Thanksgiving. We didn't know what we were going to do. It's a good
thing we had Zero working. That was our busiest time. Joe had just put a sale ad in the paper that weekend. We closed up for a few days and then we didn't know what to do. People were coming by. At first, nobody wanted to come to the store because they were so used to him being out there. He was greeting everybody and talking to everybody. They said they couldn't come to the store if he wasn't
going to be there.
C: But they did finally.
S: Yes. It took about a week and it was getting on to Christmas time. I said to Zero,
"Do you think we'll have a Christmas sale if anybody will come?" You should have seen his eyes. Then our customers slowly started coming back. It was a
very sad time.
C: I'm sure it was. How long did you stay open after he died?
S: About three years. Then Ilene decided to open up the women's shop, Ilene's for
Fashion. It was in August we were thinking about it and went over to Millhopper
Square in November, 1989.
C: And you closed down the store? Did you sell the building or did you keep it?
5: No, we kept it. It was bought not too long ago. Before that it was rented. It is
now the Silver Q.
C: Do you help Ilene with her new shop?
5 : Oh yes. I work around to make sure they've got everything straight in there.
C: When did Ilene get married?
5: 1982. She married Harvey Budd, who was a C.P.A. Harvey had a place up the
street from our home and he used to come in the store every afternoon. The ladies' department was on the balcony, and he would see her up there. I
C: What balcony?
5: When we moved over across the street to Silverman's, we had two stories, and the
women's department was on the balcony.
Interview with Faye Silverman 20
February 4, 2001
C: When did you move from the Finley area? Was that when you built your house
that you're in now?
S We left the house across from Finley in 1956 and moved over where I am now.
That house was great. It was near the school. It was still county though. We still weren't in the city yet. We had to get somebody to pick up trash and everything.
We were only five blocks from the University. C: Did you put air conditioning in that house? S : It was already in.
C: Who owned that house?
S : He was a roofer.
C: Do you remember his name?
S : No. It was great getting in there. We had attic fans and air conditioning. C: Well, you've enjoyed living in that house. S : Yes, we always did.
C: Did you and Joe ever get a chance to travel except to go on buying trips? S One summer we took in all the Scandinavian countries. We took a trip to Europe
and to Italy and then we went to Israel. We had some great trips. C: Good. You didn't work all the time. S My sister and brother-in-law went with us. Every time we'd take a trip, we'd say,
"Let's go." One time we went to Paris and to Rome, and we'd say, "This summer
let's go here." We'd take about two weeks and go. We had great trips.
C: Did you and Joe have any other activities like golf or tennis? You were a tennis
player from high school.
S Yes. We used to play a lot of tennis. Then we became a member of the
Gainesville Golf & Country Club, the old one. Then we took up golf We used to golf every Sunday, and all the people on the comers would watch us. Ilene used to go to wash the golf balls. Her job was to wash the balls. She would stand there and get those balls washed up for us every Sunday afternoon. Of course, nobody wanted to take her anywhere. The other children had things to do and didn't want to take her with them, so she had to go with us. She wanted to drive the golf cart
Interview with Faye Silverman 21
February 4, 2001
and wash those golf balls. Thatwasherjob. I can still see her pushing those golf
balls up and down.
C: You kept her out of trouble.
S Yes, I kept her out of trouble. We were talking about it today when we were at
the club for lunch.
C: It sounds like you've had a wonderful life and a lot of good memories.
S : Oh yes.
C: Have we forgotten anything?
S Way back there was Bank Night. It was Tuesday night in the Florida Theater.
Everybody was there. Of course, you had to be there to win it. They all stood out there in the street and waited and at nine o'clock, somebody would draw the number and they would announce it. Sometimes we got someone to stay with Carol, but sometimes I'd stay home with her. That one night Joe was getting ready to go and she was standing there crying. She loved her daddy. The boys liked me; the girls liked Daddy. He started to go out the door. She was in her playpen, I remember, and she was crying and crying. I said, "Just go, Joe, and she'll stop . No, no," she was crying, "Pick me up, Daddy." I remember when we used to drive on Sunday, take drives, she would always stand up behind him and she would comb his hair. He had curly, wavy hair, and she was always
standing them combing Daddy's hair. She was very close to him.
I remember that night. I can still see her in that playpen screaming and hollering.
I said, "Joe, it's Bank Night. Go ahead." He said, "No, I'm not going to win it anyway." Well, they had the Bank Night and then our phone started ringing and people were knocking on our door. They said, "Joe, where are you? They called
your name." $700!!
C: And he didn't get it?
S No. I'll never forget that. They said, "We stalled them. We told everybody that
you were always here and we had to find you. You were out there somewhere."
Then they called him at home. He said, "You're pulling my leg . Joe, they called your name." We only lived a few blocks from there. They said, "Come on down here right away. I'm stalling so you can win it." But it was too late then.
That $700 we could have really used.
C: In those days, that was a lot of money.
S : Everybody used to be out there. That was the biggest thing we ever had.
Interview with Faye Silverman 22
February 4, 2001
C: That's right. Well, Gainesville was a great place to grow up.
S I love Gainesville. It really was a great place. The people were so nice and
everything about it was so friendly, and all the storekeepers. Anytime I need something, I call Joe Wise and he'll be out there. He'll get us this and get us that,
or order this and send me this. He is so nice to us.
C: Tell me about your political office.
S : Chairman of the Democratic Party.
C: Oh you were?
S Nobody would believe that one. I must have been crazy. The Democratic Party
came to see Joe and they said, "We want your wife to be the Chainnan of the Democratic Party." He said, "Are you crazy? She doesn't have time." I remember that they said, "We want her to be Party Chairman because she's the only one who gets anything done in this town." Most of the women either stayed home or they worked. I had this maid for twenty years. I was always out doing something. I never stayed home. I was always running around, doing things in town, and I worked with the school system. I was head of the PTA. I raised money. That piano that J.J. Finley has I'm the one who raised the money for it. I went to every storekeeper in town. I said, "We need a piano and I want money."
Everybody gave me money, and that's how we bought that piano. I used to say, "Don't anybody do anything with this piano. I had a hard time getting it." It was
a baby grand piano.
C: So they convinced you to be the Chairman of the Democratic Party.
S Yes. When they asked me, I said, "I don't have time. I'm too busy doing stuff."
So they said, "Joe, your wife is the only one who's active in this family. She'll be able to do it. We'll get her a group working for her." They got me an empty store downtown, put me in charge, and they had a few of the women I knew who weren't doing anything but playing bridge, so they worked and they used to go around town and sell ads, talk to storekeepers. I had a whole group of women.
We'd have a meeting once or twice a week. I don't know how I got to do all that.
Also with me was Dr. Delaney. Do you remember him?
C: Of course, I know him.
S I saw him the other day. He and I got on the state committee, and every Saturday
morning he and I had to go to a meeting. He would come by at nine o'clock in the morning and pick me up, and off I would go with him and we'd go to
meetings all over the state.
C: Now was that a presidential election that got you going?
Interview with Faye Silverman 23
February 4, 2001
S No. It was just the city. Dr. Delaney and I would have our meetings every
Monday at The Primrose Grill. We would eat dinner there and have a meeting. I would tell them what was going on and then I had to name different people who had to work, different officers who had to go to the state. I had people
everywhere doing something.
C: Now was this city elections as well as, do you think, some state offices, too? S A few state but mostly from the city. City Commission and such. I don't know
how I did all that.
C: It sounds like you led a very active life. S Also, I was President of the Tuberculosis Association, and I had to go all over,
traveling with that, and then we had to raise money. We did it every Saturday at the Florida Theater. I would get the girls from the different schools and we would have a table set up and they used to sell these tickets. All the different clubs were
doing it. Every Saturday I had a different club.
C: They were raising money for the Tuberculosis Association. S : That's right. That's how we did that. C: You've seen Gainesville change a lot. S : Oh yes. A lot of changes.
C: Some for the good, some not so good. S Gainesville was a great place to live. I've always enjoyed it and I've never
wanted to move anywhere else.
C: Well, we'll edit this and I thank you so much for your time. We can add or
subtract anything you want.
Interview with Faye Silverman 24
February 4, 2001
SUPPLEMENTAL INTERVIEW April 9,2001
C: My name is Mary Ann Coffin. I am doing a supplemental interview with Faye
Eunice Safer Silverman at my home today on April 9, 2001. We forgot to talk about many things, and one of the things I was going to ask you to tell me about
was your friend, Elsie Saltzman. Tell me something about Elsie.
5: She was my best friend. She got married and they had a store around the corner
from our store.
C: This was in Gainesville?
5: Yes, right in Gainesville, really one block from us. You would go down that little
short street, and they were down there. J.B. Wright was right across the street
C: That would be S. First Avenue.
S: Right across from Woolworth's. Woolworth's was on the corner, and she was
right across the street.
C: So they were east of where you were.
C: Now this was after you were first married, when you were first living in
Gainesville, and she was your best friend. What was the name of their shop?
5: They called it Jack's Department Store. Her clientele called Elsie "Mrs. Jack."
The main thing she had was hats. In those days, everyone wore a hat when they
went to church or anywhere. You could only buy a hat there.
C: How long did she stay in Gainesville? As long as you were here?
5 : Until she died.
C: How old was she? Quite old?
5: Yes. She died about two years before Joe died, in 1984. She and I were the exact
same age. She had a heart attack. I remember because Mr. Beasley in the store next door used to watch out for her. What they did was open up a door between Elsie's store and their store, so if she needed him she would holler. They watched out for her all the time. That last morning they noticed that she didn't open up her store, and when they checked at her home, they found that she had died of a heart
Interview with Faye Silverman 25
February 4, 2001
C: Her husband wasn't living? S No. He had died a long time before. He had cancer of the throat, but they didn't
even know that anybody even had cancer of the throat in those days. C: No. So he died pretty young and she ran the store alone. S : Yes, she did all the buying and everything. C: Did she have children?
S Yes, she had one daughter who was Susan's age. Then she had twins, a boy and a
C: When she and her husband were both living, they socialized with you and Joe a
S Yes. Elsie used to bring her mother, Elsie, out every weekend to take care of the
kids so we were always having fun. C: Her mother lived here.
S : Yes, her mother lived here. They were both named Elsie. C: Any special stories about Elsie that you want to share with us? S She was just a ball of fire. She would get in those windows. They had two big
windows to dress. She waited on all the trade. All the black people knew her, because they all owed her money. They would come in every week and pay her a dollar or $2.00. She used to do the alterations in the back of her store. She would
sell the clothing, pin it, and alter it, too!
C: What about somebody named Roz Williams? Does that ring a bell? S She was one of my best friends. I knew her from the time I was in grade school.
We went to Florida State College for Women together, and we were roommates. C: She was from Jacksonville then?
S Originally. We belonged to the same sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, at Florida State
College for Women.
C: So she married and came to Gainesville. Did she come to Gainesville about the
same time that you and Joe did?
Interview with Faye Silverman 26
February 4, 2001
S: No. She lived in Ocala. I knew her from the time she was six years old. Her
grandparents lived in Jacksonville and she used to come to visit them. They lived right across the street from where I lived, so we got to be good friends, and then
we decided to go to school and be roommates.
C: Then when she moved to Gainesville, you were already here and you just took up
your friendship again.
S: Yes. On weekends we used to go to Starke to visit because all the senators and
the representatives -Smathers and Johns (from Starke) were in Tallahassee.
Every weekend he would go home to Starke and he would take the two of us. On a Sunday afternoon we used to go to Kingsley Lake. We used to be there every weekend, and that's where I got to know all the Brownlee's, who used to live
C: You mean Milton?
S: Yes. They all lived there, and we used to have a lot of fun.
C: I understand when you were first married you weren't much of a good cook?
S: I never could cook.
C: Well, where did you eat? You had to eat.
5: Luckily, Zero Mazo's mother had a boarding house, (There is a photo of this
boarding house at the Matheson Museum.) She served Kosher meals for the boys, who came mostly from Jacksonville in those days. In those days, the noon meal was the big meal, so at twelve o'clock we used to go to the boarding house. I ate so slowly that she used to save mine in the kitchen because when the boys got through, I didn't have anything to eat! By the time they had passed it around,
they had about cleaned up everything.
C: So she served your plate in the kitchen.
5 : She was always in the kitchen. She was a marvelous cook.
C: So that's where you ate?
5: If we didn't have that noon meal, I don't know what we would have done. At
night we would just pick up something light -a sandwich or something like that.
She tried to teach me. I said, "Listen. Give up. I don't even have time. I'm busy
working. When can I cook?"
C: Now you had a potbelly stove in this 2-room apartment?
Interview with Faye Silverman 27
February 4, 2001
S5: Yes. We had to have a stove.
C: And when you started having your family, you had to boil your diapers and baby
bottles and everything on that little stove.
5: Yes. Outside. You had to boil them outside in one of those black kettles. We
had charcoal for that. I was lucky that I had good maids in those years. One stayed with me twenty years, and she had to come out every morning and get that fire going underneath the kettle. When it would get hot, she would run and throw
the diapers in it, and then run and pick them up again. I tell you!
C: Now this was after you moved into the apartment house probably, because you
S: Yes. When we were near the courthouse.
C: Gene and Carol were babies.
C: Do you remember anything special about your first refrigerator? They tell me
you had a Kelvinator.
5: A Kelvinator, and that was from Beasley & Williams. It was the first one they
got. They handled it.
C: This was the first refrigerator. Now, we're not talking about iceboxes. We're
talking about a real electric refrigerator.
S: Yes. There was just a little old place on top for ice. They had four trays, but they
were so little. Every day you used to have to do your marketing because you had no place to put things. You didn't have freezers. Piggly Wiggly was there. The
butcher was the one who taught me how to cook.
C: Piggly Wiggly was down on the south side of the Square?
S: Yes. I used to go over there every day. I would get a lesson. He would sell me
the meat and show me how to cook it. That's how I learned. Would you believe
C: I think that was a pretty smart butcher. He wanted you for a customer.
S: He would say, "Now you get this kind of meat." I had a Blue Sea notebook. In
those days we used to use that for school. We used to use it for school and
everything. I don't think there's anything like that now.
Interview with Faye Silverman 28
February 4, 2001
C: And you wrote your recipes down?
5: So I would walk around town with that book and I would go to Zero's mother.
They all had stores. Ms. Rabinowitz and her sister -they all had stores. I'd go from one to the other, and they'd give me the ideas and they'd tell me, "Go cook it." I'd say, "How much meat do I need for two people?" They would tell me how much to buy. I will never go for a chicken again. In those days they didn't clean the chickens. You did it yourself. I told Joe, "We're not eating chicken in
C: What was Mrs. Rabinowitz's shop?
5: It was not a shop. It was a boarding house for young men.
C: She had a really big place?
5: Yes. She served dinner, but not a night meal -- at noon. She had all the boys
from the frat house.
C: So she served the same way that Mrs. Mazo did.
5: Yes, they were sisters. Mrs. Mazo had the boys that were Kosher. There were a
lot of them from Jacksonville that were all Kosher. There were some from Live
Oak that I knew.
C: But Mrs. Rabinowitz just served anybody. It wasn't a Kosher kitchen.
5: Mrs. Mazo used to have to order the food from Jacksonville from the Kosher
bakery and the meat market. They would put it on the bus. I don't know how we
managed all that.
C: You just did.
5: Joe was first working at Brownstein's Department Store on the corner where
Harry's place is now. Joe used to travel to all the little towns in those days, and if he was selling something out of the truck he would go to all these houses and knock on the door. He knew them all. That's what he did, and he worked with
him for a long time until we opened our first store.
C: Now, as your children got grown, you got involved in the Jewish community
5: Oh yes. Daughters of Israel. I was President of Hadassah.
C: Now tell me the difference. What's Daughters of Israel?
Interview with Faye Silverman 29
February 4, 2001
S: The Daughters of Israel was the one that was connected with the synagogue. C: That was part of your temple. S: Yes. We raised the money for it, but everything was done for that. C: It was like a church circle. S: Yes.
C: Were there different groups? S: No, it was all one group. C: Hadassah was something different? Was it a social club? 5: Hadassah was a national thing. That's the big one that had the hospital in
Jerusalem. They were well known everywhere.
C: It was a national Jewish women's organization. Did it have any special aims
besides the hospital or was it just charity work, philanthropy?
5: It did a lot of charity, but the main thing was the big hospital in Jerusalem. C: When do you think Hadassah was formed? Was it long before you knew anything
5: Oh yes, years before I was in it. Everybody knew about it because Jerusalem was
the main city and that was where the big hospital was. There were a lot of boys who went to the University of Florida who went there and worked for the hospital. Shands wasn't here yet, and they had no place to go, so a lot of them
went over there to work.
C: Don't you think a lot of them did this as volunteers? They weren't medical
students because we didn't have a medical school.
5: No, but they learned plenty. They had to give them something or how would they
live there? Not what they get today, but it was something. C: I'm sure, but they weren't doctors.
S No. They learned. Jerusalem had a terrific hospital. They had a lot of doctors
that taught the students.
C: Hadassah is still very active?
Interview with Faye Silvennan 30
February 4, 2001
S5: Yes, we have a chapter here. C: Are you active any more? S: Not as much. A lot of the young people, I am sure, are doing it. I am a member
locally, and I'm a national member. I donated at a certain level to become a
C: You were President of that group? 5: Everybody took turns being President of everything. We all took our turns. C: You were President of Daughters of Israel? S: Yes.
C: You were also active in the Gainesville Women's Club? 5: Yes. I was active in the Gainesville Women's Club. I still see a lot of the women
who were members of the Women's Club. C: You're not active in that anymore, are you? 5: I'm still a member, and I go to lunches, but I don't work in it like I used to. We
all had to work in the kitchen in those days. You took your turn.
C: Sure. You don't have to anymore. It's not your turn. It's somebody else's turn. 5 : But you know they did honor me when I had been a member there for fifty years. C: Did they?
5: They sure did. They called me up and said they had been checking the records
and I had been a member for fifty years. They had a big luncheon, and they wanted to honor me because I had been a member for so long. That was really
C: That was an exciting time. It certainly was 5: I remember when the Women's Club used to be downtown, right by the railroad
station. That's where it was in the beginning.
C: Can you think of any other stories you want to tell us about? We've covered a lot
5: I know it. So many things happened.
Interview with Faye Silverman 31
February 4, 2001
C: There again, even if we stop, we can always add things. I can't think of anything
we haven't covered. Did you talk enough about your friends, Elsie and Roz? 5: Roz married Jack Williams.
C: Why did she come to Gainesville? You said she was living in Ocala. S: Well, she wanted to get ajob. Ocala didn't have any so she came to Gainesville. C: What did she do in Ocala?
5 : She was teaching school. We all took education. There wasn't anything else. C: Not much else for women. So she decided she was through with teaching school
and she came to Gainesville.
5: No, she came to Gainesville and that's when she met her husband. They were
both going to summer school together at the University of Florida. C: What was she taking then?
5: She was just going on with education. We all had an Allied Course in Tallahassee
-two years -and then you could teach. That was the first. After a certain time
you had to continue your education. The state made you continue.
C: So she taught in Ocala for a couple years after graduation and then she came here
to further her education.
5: Every summer she came to summer school to get another degree. C: So she didn't move to Gainesville; she came to summer school and met Jack
5: That's right. He was from Hawthorne. C: So after she marr ied, she didn't go back to Ocala. They stayed in Gainesville. 5: For a while they lived in Hawthorne and then they moved into Gainesville.
Jack's brother, Dick, had the funeral home in Hawthorne. When he came into
Gainesville, he opened up one here so we had one.
C: Well, Oscar Thomas already had one. Did Dick go into business with Oscar
Thomas in the funeral home?
5: No, he took that over.
Interview with Faye Silverman 32
February 4, 2001
C: But it was Williams-Thomas for a long time. S: Yes, it was but he took it over. It was the only one we had. C: Well, there was DeWitt-Smith. I don't know whether it was here then. It was
down on South Main and now it's Milam. Anyway, Dick went into the funeral
5: Dick got it from Thomas, but he called it Williams-Thomas. That's why he kept
the name because everybody knew Thomas.
C: Had Thomas retired, do you think, or did he actually sell out?
5 : He sold out and retired. But Dick Williams kept the Thomas name. C: Smart marketing!
5: That's right. Jack's uncle was very wealthy. He owned the franchise for the
Balfour Company that made class rings, fraternity and sorority pins, etc. That's
what he sold.
C: Roz never worked then?
5: She worked with Jack. She traveled with him. They used to go all through the
state of Florida. Most of the time she did the driving. C: He died before she did?
C: I can't think of another thing to ask you unless you come up with something. If
you think of anything else, have your daughters write it out for you and we can add it. We'll let you edit this one, too. We'll finish this up one of these days. I
thank you so much.
S: Oh, Iwas glad todoit.