Interview with Rose Kulmutz, March 18, 1982

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Interview with Rose Kulmutz, March 18, 1982
Kulmutz, Rose ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Palm Beach County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Palm Beach (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.

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Palm Beach' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Interview of Rose Kalmutz of 170 N. Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL., at her home.

Today is Thursday, March 18, 1982. Interviewed by Mollie Fitterman.

F: On behalf of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, I want to thank

you for agreeing to be interviewed for our oral history project. To start

our interview, would you please tell us when and where you were born?
K: I was born July 23, 1902 in Hudson, Pennsylvania.

F: Did you live in another community before coming here,and,if so, why did you

come here?

K: Woolksberry, Pennsylvania and we came here for the change of climate.

F: Where did you live when you came here? Was there a Jewish neighborhood?

K: No. We lived in the southern part of West Palm Beach and we would drive.

There were Jewish families in the area and there were the Lessers, the

Myers, Gruners, Kapners, Commoners, and Goodmarks.

F: Did your family come with you?

K: Our son and our daughter.

F: How many children do you have?

K: Two. My daughter was four and my son was seven.

F: When you came here, how did you and your husband make a living?

K: My husband went into the plumbing supply business. We didn't do any

plumbing, just the supplies.

F: What was the name of the business and where was it located?

K: K & K Pipe and Supply Company, 412 Florida Avenue, West Palm Beach. People

were very happy that we did go into that business because they saved a lot

of money. The price was the same that we would charge a plumber.

F: What kind of Jewish life did you find here? Synlogues, organizations, organized

Jewish charities?

K: Well, there were two temples here, one was Beth El Conservative and the

other was Temple Israel Reform. We became members of Temple Israel because


they did not have a rabbi at the conservative temple only for holidays, and

our son had already started religious school before we moved here and I

wanted him to continue.

There was B'nai B'rith. I was active with Temple Israel's Sisterhood.

I taught at the sunday school, I was secretary for two years, treasurer for

two years, and then before the Federation was formed, there was, I think it

was called Federal Service and I was active in that. I was the only woman.

F: What did you do?

K: I used to keep the books, finance and so forth, handled all of the meetings.

When we had a meeting and there was a speaker, we always had it at the
Brookenfeld residence.

F: Why?
U~/en i-i-
K: There 4e;4ns. many people who were attending.

F: Was the Brookenfeld house a large house?
K: Oh, yes, a large house. Today Mrs. Brookenfeld is Mrs. Landy, Helen Landy.

Then Hadosa was formed, I think about 31 years ago, and I was one of the 50

original members. Not many from the reformed temple had joined.

F: I don't think that some people didn't join hadosa early but eventually

became ardent Israel supporters.

K: Oh, yes. Well, it all depended on the rabbi.

F: During World War II, I hear that you had a lot of responsibility for

hospitality and many other things that you did. Would you like to tell us

about that?

K: Yes. My husband's brother happen to run into some Jewish soldiers in the

park one day and they were dissapointed that there wasn't a Jewish organi-

zation to give them a little entertainment, so, I arranged for every

Saturday night, to have m sic, a dance, kosher refreshments, and, in Boca
Raton the would go down and I had a group of young girls,

high school girls, that would go down too and with them I would sent

refreshments, but most of it I would take myself. And then, on the high


holidays, I did all the cooking. The two Jewish soldiers came from

Katler that's up the line and picked up the food. At the local

camp I and they told me -- I spoke to someone

at the camps and they said "don't bother sending vegetables" so I made

fish and chicken soup with chicken and several desserts.

I did it all myself.

F: That's wonderful.

K: Of course, I did have some pretty good help. Then for -_e (l__ I got some

women to help me out and we had StCitbI the first night asxxtkLan at Beth El

and Rabbi did it, he took care of the services. For that I had

women help me out with some of the cooking. Then I tried to get some of the

families to have at least one boy, or maybe two, to have them at service

with them at their home.

Now, I had one young man, I never knew him, until he came to town, that

was from my home town. So, he was supposed to come in early on Saturday

and then he would leave Saturday night, Sunday night, or Monday morning.

F: Very good.'"I was active with Red Cross and I offered to go to the bus h \'

station several times a week and both-T-aiIoad stations twice a weekwVhen

the soldiers were sent overseas, I would go take care of the wife and the

children and see that they got on the bus all right or they got on the train.

They were upset and crying, but I think I took good care of them.

Then on a Saturday afternoon, I would go and visit the Breakers, it was

turned into a hospital, and the soldiers that couldn't be moved, and I would

go and I would always ask someone else to go with me and go visit them to

see if there was anything that I could do.

Then, once a month they would have a party for them and I would go.

The most I did there was talk with the boys in wheelchairs and try to get

them to laugh and I would take care of the {( Pet ) ouC rrUh[


That was it. Of course I (U' it for the Red Cross.

One other thing is I never did it more than twice a week, I think,

they would pick me up, a soldier would come and pick me up about quarter of

twelve and take me out to the camp and they had a little hut there and if

it was a cool morning, then I served the soldiers that were roaming around

until they had to go back and wait for orders to fly off when morning comes.

If it was a very warm morning then I had iced tea for them or punch.

Then, I wouldn't get back until about 6:30 and I would have them drop me off

at the office, I wouldn't go home because I knew my husband had probably left.

I had to do the bookkeeping.

F: You worked very hard in those days didn't you? By the way, how did the climate

effect you? Were you personally affected by the hurricane?

K: No. We didn't have a severe hurricane while we were here. We had a few

alarms, but we weren't harmed.

F: Were you involved in any programs for Israel in the community? The state of

Israel started in '48, so that was right after the war.

K: I don't know what I did. I don't remember. At that time I tried to talk

people into buying bonds and things like that.

F: Did you have any type of Jewish education and what kind of Jewish observance

was in your house?

K: Well, I was orthodox and my husband was orthodox, but when his mother passed

away, thel we became rYflfTI\C Oconservative. I kept a kosher home when

I came down here until I couldn't get kosher meat and the children were

hungry for lamb chops, the only thing kosher I could get was chicken and

I must tell you this, at the market I kept going in every Tuesday and

Thursday and said "I've got to have kosher meat or I'll probably move back

to Pennsylvania" so he said "Well, you know, we have to wait until more kosher

people start coming in to buy it, it will be another two weeks." Well, then

it was another two weeks and then another week. So I gave him the order

and the shop wasn't too far from our place of business and I had Mike go

pick it up, so he did. Then when I went in the following week to give him

an order again for Thursday he said "I'm so sorry to dis point you."

I said "What do you mean? My husband picked up my order here on Thursday."

It wasn't kosher. My son didn't realize it so my husband

F: When you came here were the Jews friendly to you, to each other?

K: They were very friendly through the temple. They would have a card game there

once a week and I always dealt and once and a while it was Mrs. Gruner who

was in charge and when she was on vacation, she asked me take over for her

and I really worked hard because I had never been on my knees scrubing floors

before. When the workers didn't come in I would take them in the kitchen

and they wouldn't eat anything that we were going to serve them, so I had

to clean up the kitchen and I called one of my friends and she came over,

we had the clean the cupboards, the coffee pot and everything. But, I loved
d read about it
the old girl. Just as a w md up, I don't know if you kmwxikHr kXx or not,

I think I would very much like to be of some help in the Federation if I

lived closer. I'm not as young as three other ladies who volunteer, but

if there was anything I could do I would be happy to.

F: I'm sure that if anything comes up, that they will ask you, but in the

meantime, can I go back and ask you if you've every had any personal

experience with anti-Semitism?

K: Yes, I did.

F: Can you tell us about it?

K: The first house we lived in, there were two empty lots between our house

and the next one. They had two children, a daughter and a son the same age

as ours and I was very happy about it. But they wouldn't play with our

children and one day they did call them over and they were so excited, I

thought they would fall running over and when they got there, they had

handfulls of sand from the empty lot and throu it right in their faces.


And the mother was just as bad. We only had one car at the time and when

I would get finished at the office I would take a bus home and I would get
off just the block before where we lived and this woman would be Mwing the

lawn and she would see me coming she would water the curb. So, I would get

out on the street and she would see that some of the water got on me.

The Kapners, who lived across the street from us, he was just

furious and one night we went to a B'nai B'rith meeting and he got

I didn't know he was going to do

it P2 7 eieV ku Ir LA) 1- 'U ^ ^- tra &KI So, we

moved from there to the north end of town.

F: Was that a better location for you?

K: Yes.

F: Was that the big anti-Semitic thing that --

K: Well, my son had some problems at school. He as at time about 10 or 11

years old and he didn't say anything to me, but the principal called me

that if I had time she would like to see me. So I told him about it and he

said "Well, I told him what happened". I said "What?". They were calling

him christ killer, dirty Jew and all that stuff, so when I went to see the

principal she said "Why won't your son play with the other children, the

other boys. Your husband drops him off" and the school wasn't far from our

place of business, he dropped him off early and he would just stand up

against the wall and have nothing to do with them. So, I told her


Page Page 7

K: Well, she was shocked. Cause he taught those boys in Sunday school.
He-said, you know, if it wasn't for

F: Was there any problems in your business? We'll go back for a moment to your
business. Was anti-semitism so far as your husbands business was concerned.
K: No. We meet some of our old customers in Publix and they still say they wish
he was still in the business. You know,

F: Our customers appreciated what we did for them. During the war the woman would
come innthat had no bathrooms and we would teach them how te take care of all the
equipment. And the same thing with the ,)TT-M .\l S lC Y'\ We'd just
run a line different ways and hbw the connections t 1e mde and that.they weren't
going to use city water but they were using a pump. There wasn't a thing that
we didn't help them with. And then when there was another store not too far
from us, and they had a little problem with the license and they would always
call Mike in, and question him about it So, he would say,

"Well, I guess maybe they are paying more money than I am." He would not squeal

on them. So, ah, well after we sold the building, I can not tell you how many calls

we would get when we were having dinner and how many nights a week a family needs


F:: Did ah, Jews become community leaders? I am not talking about right now, but you

know in the years that you progressed. Did they become leaders, not only in the

Jewish, but in the general community that you know about?

K: I really do not know. I /ave an idea of people who were in business must have. You

know there was a United Fund and there was a a they when we contributed.

that is my business.

F: But did they become active in the community in like as they would in their own Jewish

community? You do not know?

K: Well, there may have beenjah a few of the men that did.

F: But 'you do not personally know?

K: Well, I think Mr.CO1 and I think ah Mr. O. P.

ah I can not think, ah Goldstein, Dave, Dave and Lou Goldstein.

hc WQ

F: Do you think that the Jewish families moving into the community today have to face the same

problems you did, adjusting to a new environment?

K: I do not think so. I do not think so.

F: Do you think that the ah community is as friendly as to newcomers as to people were to you

when you came in?

K: Yeah. I think so.

F: Were the schools that your children attended, were they good schools? Were they enlightened

schools or were they ah...?

K: Well, I will tell you, we, we got permission to send the children, well, Barbara started out

in kindergarten, but ah, we got permission for them to go)ah to what is now called Twin Lakes.

School. Because it was just a couple of blocks away from our place of business and ah there

was a storm, it would be very easy to just drive up and pick em, pick them up. So, they,

instead of going to Northwood School, they went to th same school all through elementary and

high school. Now, Barbara's children graduated fronATwin Lakes and the youngest one is a

junior at Twin Lakes.

F: Did you find that there were any restrictions because, for a minority group just as a Jews or

the Blacks in any area?

K: Well, there was the Black. They could not sit in the)ah in the front of the bus. They would

have to sit in the back.

F: What else?

K: I really, outside of that neighbor of mine, I had no problems at all.

F: But the Blacks not only could not sit in the bus, what else couldn't they do as a minority

group? Could they eat in the same restaurant?

K: No. And you know, I do not remember seeing them in the movies. They did have a movie in

their area on Rosemary a few years ago, they gave it up. Our son, Sheldon, he is a

psychiatrist in California, in California. But he was divorced and his ex-wife was going

to live in the home and then he thought he had better move. So, he went back to college

and took the,ah,courses in psychiatry. And he is very happy in California. He has a good:

practice aridum weekends he spends at a ranch with the with a a bulls and cows. But he is

happy. Our daughter, who is younger, she is very active with Beth El Temple. She was

Yt'c Lt!

K: ...President and really gave too much of her time.

F: You are talking about Barbara?

K: Barbara. Andah now she is very active with Jewish Community Center. And she has three

children. One twenty-one, a girl who is eighteen and the youngest is sixteen. She lives here

in Palm Beach. AndahShe is kept busy. Barbara is the typetis very active with the Jewish

Commununity Center. She is on T.V. the last Saturday in the month and the program is From

Generation to Generation. ... of the Jewish Community Center. That tells and shows on T.V.

what the Jewish Community Center do from children on a nursery or kindergarten and all the way

up to very elderly people. They pick people up and take them where they want to go, for the

doctor or no matter where it is.

F: Well, thank you again, Mrs. Kalmutz, for sharing your experiences and memories for posterity.