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´╗┐Betty Bronner:

(Silence). Good afternoon. This is Betty Bronner. I am recording for Jewish Community Center Family History Project, and I have the pleasure this afternoon of presenting Mr. Milton Russman who is kind enough to give us some of his recollections. Milton, would you tell us your name, and your address, and your 1:00phone number, if you care to?

Milton Russman:

Okay, I'm Milton Russman. I reside 3304 Furman Blvd, and our home phone number is 458-1061.

B.B.:

Thank you. And could you begin to tell us about your family, and how they first came? The original people who came to Louisville?

M.R.:

Happy to, actually I'm from a divided family. My father's family has been in Louisville since the early 1870s. And according to the story that's been handed down in the family, my grandfather was brought to this child as an infant in his mother's arms with a stepfather. We know nothing about his father except that his name was [Haim 00:01:56].

M.R.:

He and my grandmother married evidently very, very young. They had 10 children 2:00before he died, and he died at the age of 35 in 1907 leaving her a widow for some 25, 30 years, and she reared all 10 children. And we were told that she even lost a child in a miscarriage along the way. The story goes that as far as naming goes, every one of the 10 children who married and had a son, the first born son was named for my grandfather except me. I'm the exception to it because I was named for the great stepfather.

B.B.:

I see.

M.R.:

A man who was extremely observant. And the story goes, he came to my father in a dream, and he said he had no name and he was ashamed, and he wanted a name. And so I was given the name [Fred Mordecai 00:02:59].

3:00

B.B.:

That's beautiful.

M.R.:

My mother came to this country after the first world war. She was on the losing side. She was on the Austria-Hungarian war and always told us the story that she really wanted to go to Palestine with the bill move movement from Russia. And her mother just said, "No way. You can't go to Palestine. That's where the Turks are." And they were a fearful people. So my mother said, "Well, if I can't go to Palestine then I'm going to go to the United States." And my grandmother thought that was the lesser of two evils and she gave her permission for her to come. So that's how we got here. So for my father's side, I guess you would call as a third or fourth generation and from my mother's side first generation.

B.B.:

Could you please tell us any stories of early Jewish life in Louisville? Or stories about your grandparents or yourselves?

M.R.:

Well unfortunately I didn't know my grandparents at all. They had all died. Then my grandmother died when I was just two years old. I came from a rather 4:00observing home where the holidays, the Shabbat was observed. Although my father had to work on Shabbat in our home, we observed it to the letter of the law and we followed all the observances. I guess really the first thing I remember that still sticks in my mind when I was about four and a half years old I had a mastoid operation, and following that I had to go to the doctor for treatment and it seemed that we had to go on a Saturday. And because I was ill, I went on the bus or at that time a trolley bus.

M.R.:

So I said to my mother, how come we are riding on Shabbat? It just really bothered me. And so she said, "When you are sick, this is permissible. We have to go to the doctor." That's my first impression of being Jewish and breaking a Jewish law.

B.B.:

And probably wondered what would happen to you.

5:00

M.R.:

[crosstalk 00:05:04] Yeah, a little bit on that side too. Yeah.

B.B.:

And how was it growing up in Louisville? Where did you live?

M.R.:

Well, we lived downtown. Of course, all the Jewish people did. We lived on Chestnut Street. I went to George W. Morris School that was at Gray and Chestnut. And when I went there, you were either Jewish or as the other kids would say you were Syrian. Today they would say they are Lebanese because after the First World War, a large Arab group came and lived on Jefferson Street, Market Street among the other Jewish people and it was a very good relationship. And so on a Jewish holiday, half the school was absent and on an Orthodox holiday the other half was absent, and we had a good time.

M.R.:

I guess we were poor, but nobody ever told us we were poor so it didn't make any difference to us. We had books in our home. We would listen, of course, to the 6:00radio. The opera was a favorite of ours to have listened to. And then Let's Pretend, if you may remember, that every year my sister and I would wait for Let's Pretend. We had a good time. We had a happy life.

B.B.:

And about early childhood friends, are there any people today that connect with that time?

M.R.:

My very best friend who lived across the street, Macy Abrams, and I went all the way through high school. We didn't separate until World War II. He went into the Navy. I went into the Army. He now lives in San Diego, California. He was just here a couple months ago for a bar mitzvah and his family. We renewed old stories and we are still the best of friends.

B.B.:

It's wonderful when those relationships last through life. Could you tell us something about the neighborhood, about the merchants?

M.R.:

The neighborhood I grew up in was a really primarily a Catholic neighborhood. We 7:00were in the middle of three Catholic churches but got along beautifully with our neighbors. Let me go back to when I was ill. At that time the doctor said I was so run down that I needed to eat bacon. And my mother said, "Well doctor, there is no way we could have bacon in the house." And one of our Catholic neighbors heard about this and said, "My goodness, just send Milty up.." That's what they would call, Milty... "to my home every day and we'll give him his bacon sandwich." And my mother says I did this for about a week and then I said, "I'm not going back anymore." And I would not go back for the bacon sandwich.

M.R.:

I'm sure there was a guilt feeling in there. [crosstalk 00:07:35] That was it. The merchants, we all of course had the corner grocery stores. There was an ice man who would bring us ice and there were two ice men [inaudible 00:07:45] one was a Mr. Harris, a Jewish ice man, and one was non Jewish. And my mother said, "well we have to buy from Mr. Harris because he needs the help." And next door to us lived a Mr. Harry Davis who was a bread man who delivered his bread in a 8:00horse and buggy. And in the afternoon everybody would come and help Mr. Davis put his cart back into the stable that was off of the alley with his horse, and all the kids did this. On our same block at this time lived a what we would now call an Afro-American. At that time we called her a colored lady and all the kids would go to her house to help her decorate her Christmas tree and we had a wonderful time. We never felt anything about it. All the Jewish kids could go to her house to help her decorate her Christmas tree.

B.B.:

That's very nice. It was a sharing, and an understanding.

M.R.:

A nice relationship. [crosstalk 00:08:42] Yeah.

B.B.:

Do you remember anything about someone's wedding or some special time in that period?

M.R.:

I do remember one thing. Not a wedding unfortunately, it's a funeral [crosstalk 9:0000:08:59] when Rabbi Zafion was shown past [inaudible 00:09:02] the chief rabbi of Louisville. We've lived on the 600 block of Chestnut. He lived on the 500 block and I can recall my mother saying for me to stay on the sidewalk because she had to go up to the next block because it was the rabbi's funeral. And I remember seeing this [inaudible 00:09:18] just hundreds and hundreds of people who were following his cartage up to Chestnut Street to the Hebrew school, which is where they were going to go. They passed the Hebrew school on the way to the cemetery.

B.B.:

And they were walking?

M.R.:

And they were walking.

B.B.:

That's really an interesting vignette.

M.R.:

Yes, that I do recall.

B.B.:

And how was your family involved in religious or in the civic area or in the community affairs or the temple?

M.R.:

Not too much. They were congregants. They were attenders to their [foreign language 00:09:55] to the services. Hard workers who had to work for everything we got. My dad had to be in the store and as he would say, he didn't have time 10:00for these other things. We had to go to Hebrew school, to Sunday school. We had to go to [foreign language 00:10:11] every Shabbat and we had to be able to say we had gone when he would ask us this, but he himself was a very quiet, unassuming man, hard worker and he got the others to become the officers.

B.B.:

I think that says a lot. He raised his family.

M.R.:

Yeah, we were very proud of him.

B.B.:

That's right. And was the Jewish community center of that day part of your life?

M.R.:

No, unfortunately it wasn't because we could not afford membership and my mother would not let us go.

B.B.:

As many other people, if you didn't belong then you just didn't. And the World Wars, how did they affect you?

M.R.:

Well, World War II affected me because I was drafted. I was in the second group 11:00of 18 year olds to be drafted in August, and early September was Rosh Hashanah and you had one homesick kid on your hands in the army. But my parents would come to visit me and we stayed in contact. So the other part of it was that my mother's family that had remained in Europe. Her sister and her brothers and their children were all victims of the Shoah. The last letter we got from them was in 1939 and we've just recently in the past two years found a cousin living in Sweden, the only survivor of my mother's family.

B.B.:

How did you come to find that person?

M.R.:

Quite by accident. I had gone to a genealogical meeting and there was a woman there from the Jewish agency in Israel and I told her the story about the family and she said, "Well let me put the names on the Israeli radio and we'll see if we get any response." And she did and got a response and some people who live in 12:00Haifa. They called us long distance and said, "Well we are distant cousins, but we know where your real cousin is. He lives in Malmo, Sweden" and he has been to Israel to visit them. These are all people from the [foreign language 00:12:16] whrere my mother came from.

B.B.:

That is really interesting. We all have lots of connections that we don't know about, I'm sure. And the Israeli Independence or the Israeli wars?

M.R.:

Oh yes. We have always been active Zionists. We belonged to young Judea and my sister was [inaudible 00:12:37] young group of Hadassah girls. My mother was active in Hadassah. My wife and I were both [inaudible 00:12:43] members of our respective groups. We are dying [inaudible 00:12:48] Zionist all the way, all the way.

B.B.:

Wonderful. And what memories do you have that you consider wonderful Jewish 13:00events and in the way of festivals or family traditions? Or are there any stories from that day?

M.R.:

Of course, the usual ones. Everybody remembers this, the family Seders. I do recall the soldiers coming from Fort Knox for the various holidays, but there is one thing that stands out. Do you know in 1937 we had this terrible flood and everybody living downtown had to evacuate and we finally were taken to the highlands where the rich Jewish people lived as we had been told so many times. And there was no kosher meat for the Jewish population at that time. So we went for several weeks without any kosher meat and eggs and that type of thing, and finally the rabbi who was a rabbi not from [inaudible 00:13:46], the city rabbi, arranged for meat to be brought in, kosher meat, from Chicago. And all the people had to go to Maryland off of Bardstown Road where the fire station is. I 14:00cannot recall who lived in the house, but as you go into Maryland, the first house behind the fire station is where people would pick up their kosher meat. And that was sausages primarily.

B.B.:

That's really very interesting because of course that would be a big problem in those times.

M.R.:

But the Jewish community of other Jewish communities elsewhere in the United States did come to assist us, and I do remember this and am very grateful to those people.

B.B.:

That's wonderful because then it's a feeling of reaching out among people even at that time, and of course we all think about the difference in prices and going to a movie. Is there anything startling that you can report?

M.R.:

The usual Sunday afternoon we would go in. It would cost the nickel, but we would go to the neighborhood movies. The famous Flash Gordon Serials. That we 15:00went to. Yeah, we would go.

B.B.:

That's wonderful. And as far as your family then growing up, could you tell us the names of your family?

M.R.:

Okay so presently I have my sister living, Dorothy Rosenlad, and I have brothers who are twins. One that's Dr. Raymond, who is a dentist here and the other is Cheryl, who's an assistant dean at speed school. They are married, have families. I guess I better rush in here and say I have two sons. One lives in New York and the other one lives in Boston and Mark, who lives in Boston has the two most beautiful grandchildren in the world. A boy and a girl. Haley and Adam. They surpass all other grandchildren. But other than that, we're a normal family.

B.B.:

That's wonderful. Milton I thank you so very much for your time. You've given us wonderful information, and I appreciate your sharing your time with us.

16:00

M.R.:

It's been a pleasure to be with you. You're doing a terrific job. Thank you for asking me.

B.B.:

Thank you.