Interview with Sam Mendelson

Material Information

Interview with Sam Mendelson
Mendelson, Sam ( Interviewee )


Subjects / Keywords:
Leon County Oral History Collection ( local )
Jewish Diaspora Collection ( local )
Jewish Oral Histories ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Leon County (Fla.) -- History.


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Leon County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
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the University of Florida.

G: I am Rabbi Stanley Garfein, and this is the third interview on

the Jewish community in Tallahassee. This interview is with Sam

Mendelson, who is the third-longest Jewish resident of


M: I came in 1912.

G: 1912. So there really was not a very large Jewish community at

that time, was there?

M: No. No, but they told me that they had the largest Jewish

community before I came. When the town was wet, you know, they

used to be in the saloon business. When they dry, lots of them

left for Jacksonville. I did not intend to leave Romania, you

know. They had pogroms. All of us remained in different towns.

The town that I lived in

G: What was the name of that town?

M: The town Drland. So the man that I worked for particularly in

the little dork [sp?] store did not mingle much with Jewish

people. He only mingled with Christian people. The pogrom

finally came to that town, and the police gave notice to the

Jewish people, so they all closed up.

G: The police knew that the pogrom was going to happen?

M: Yes, they knew it. They could not stop it, you see. They came

in tremendous big numbers that was students from colleges.

G: Students?

M: Students. Yes. They used to make these pogroms, and they used

to get in the tassles [?] and tell them about the Jewish people--

they are rich, and they are poor; build them up. So this man

that I worked for never did mingle with Jewish people. In fact,

he did not go to the synagogue or Rosh Hoshanna or Yom Kippur.


What I think happened was all the Jewish people closed up, and he

himself, on the same day, knew that they would be [against him]

irregardless. So he went down in the cellar, hiding out, you

see, until the thing blew over. They could not damage each place

because he had the windows and iron doors at night. But they did

damage to all the smaller stores, and so forth. When that

happened, I did not sleep all night. I had been thinking about

it, and in another few months I was to be inducted in the

service. I took stock: what was the future for me? I saw no

future, and I made up my mind that night that I was going to

leave for the United States. So I wrote a letter to my parents

(they lived in another town, a few hundred miles [away]) about

what I had witnessed the night before, and I had firmly made up

my mind that I would leave Romania.

G: What about that experience you had with the army officer?

M: Oh, that was way before. That was about five years before. I

stayed in the army. I bumped into [him] but I could not help it,

the way the soybuld[?sp?] was built. So I excused myself; I

begged him to forgive me because I could not see him. Instead he

cursed me hard, so I cursed him back. I was a young fellow,

about twenty-one years (no, I was younger). So I cursed him

back, and he took his saber. I ran around the block and came

back to the bank, and got in the store. Well, anyhow, I was

worried about it because he told me that he had his eye on me and

he was going to get me wherever I might be. He meant when I got

in the service. I was worried. So my mother came over; she

lived in another town. I told her the story about it, that I was


troubled and I could not get what he told me out of my mind. She

told me "why don't you go up to a good name.[?] Well, he

listened to my story. You [have to] make a petition.

G: And you have to wait in a long line?

M: I waited in a long line with some Gobbers [sp?]. Do you know

what a Gobber is?

G: Officers. Officials.

M: Yes. It takes hours before they get to you. And after your

petition is up there, then I put on the petition what was

troubling me. After I told them these things, he said, "if I

were you, I would not worry a bit about it." He asked me how old

I was, and I told him. At that time I guess I was about fifteen.

So he said I should not worry. Until the age of twenty lots of

things could happen. He told me he could have a mischemashmer

[sp?]. Do you know what a mischemashmer is?

G: And unnatural death.

M: An unnatural death. Then he says, "you may be over mei


G: Go across the sea.

M: Go over the sea. And he said to forget about and not to think

about it; "everything will be all right." It made me feel good.