JHSBC Oral History Collection

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Interviewed by Ron Stuart, October 21, 1995 and November 11, 1995, Vancouver, B.C.
Meanwhile we were building up our business [Pacific Pine], we were working very hard and we had to work on a shoestring to start because of the financial situation as well as because at the beginning of the war with Japan and the real effects of it on this continent of shortages of different materials, metals and so on, I remember we had to rebuilt a certain section of the mill by using junk from a small mill in Esquimalt and even their supplier had to weld pieces of shaft together to have one shaft for a roll, and things like that.  We also had a timber controller who was distributing orders for war purposes, paring the prices extremely low and without regard to the facilities of the mill, some of them that were beyond our ability to produce even at that time.  However we went through those things, we built the mills and first there were two small mills, we expanded one, automated and developed quite well, later on we ran on a two shift basis, there was a time when we employed as many as 350 people and as work progressed we found out it was necessary to completely modernize one mill, we considered it the small mill but actually it became the big one, the main mill and finally in the ‘60s it became one of the most economical mills and progressive mills in B.C., at that time we closed down the other mill and were producing with about 160 people three times as much lumber as we initially did with 350 people.  
 

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Dan Sonnenschein was interviewed on the life of his mother Bronia Sonnenschein, a Holocaust survivor who grew up in Austria.
 
DS:         …The persecution of Jews culminated in the notorious Kristallnacht, so-called, The Night of the Broken Glass on November 9th 1938 which my mother always described as a government incited riot, the Germans wanted to make it seem like a spontaneous outpouring from people against Jews but it was government incited and orchestrated and synagogues were burned, well it’s a well known historical event so I don’t have to go into it right now. And then soon after well her father was in the textile business and he had business connections in Lodz, Poland which was a big source of the textile industry and so he arranged for the family to go there, he went there first and then he brought his wife and then the daughters were smuggled out and that’s a whole story in itself and I wish I had more documentation on that period, my mother has told me a little about it but it’s not in the book, she never went into those details in her talks because there was just too much to talk about.
 
BB:         They were smuggled out to Poland?
 
DS:         Right.
 
BB:         Well that wasn’t really any safer.
 
DS:         Well it turned out not to be. They didn’t know. There’s that expression of going from the frying pan to the fire and that’s exactly what it was but they didn’t know that at the time. Other Jews escaped, they went to France they went to Holland, wherever and then they ended up being captured by the Nazis so it was a common story of refugees within Europe, Jewish refugees. So they ended up obviously when the Nazis invaded Poland which was September the 1st 1939 they were soon after rounded up and put into this Lodz ghetto which was a very poor part of the city and it was sealed up by barbed wire and they were imprisoned there for five years approximately. They were among the last to be deported from Lodz, more people were sent to Lodz, more Jews and they became extremely overcrowded and there was all sorts of suffering, again it’s really well documented so I won’t go into it and they were among the last to be deported in August 1944. And they were sent to Auschwitz. They were all together at that time, the family, and my grandfather, her father, had always said, “Hang in, freedom will come eventually” and so on. And as my mother has written it was not to be for him because he was killed or died of starvation, beating, whatever, in another concentration camp that they were sent to after Auschwitz called Stutthof, not as well known but extremely bad, also a so-called extermination camp and there were other prisoners there as well, non-Jews, it had been set up very early, it was near Danzig which is now part of Poland, Gdansk actually it’s called now near the Baltic Sea. Anyway they stayed there for a while and then they were sent to Dresden in Germany to do slave labour in a munitions factory. Well my mother actually worked in the office, she was very good with languages and had a knowledge of German which a lot of Jews in occupied Europe did not so that helped her in many ways because she could understand what the Germans were saying, and she worked in an office, she had office skills and so she did dictation and typing and so forth. And that’s where she met this woman who gave her this Schutzbrief, this letter of protection I imagine, this religious letter which she has talked about. So then she was there during the firebombing of Dresden by the Allies, she survived that, she said their captors didn’t let them go, they were still together, now the father was no longer there but her mother and sister and that’s what she always credited her survival to that they were together and she had these others to live for and they lived for each other and they encouraged each other.
 
And so they were sent on this death march, walking for… I’d have to look it up or do some more research, let’s say ten days to two weeks approximately and they were almost ready to give up. I mean my mother and her sister, her sister had apparently suggested… well they marched along this river the River Elbe, a big long river in Germany that goes into different countries and her sister had said, “Well we can’t go on any longer and so let’s just throw ourselves in the river and end it.” And so they went to their mother who said, “Yes well maybe you’re right but let’s wait one more day,” because she had overheard a guard saying the date or somehow knew that the date next day was April 24th which happened to be my aunt’s birthday. She said, “Let’s hang on one more day, it’s Paula’s birthday,” that was her name and that’s how it’s pronounced or was in Austria, “and maybe a miracle will happen.”And so my mother always remembered that because the very next day they were brought to the gates of this last remaining ghetto called Theresienstadt a famous ghetto just north of Prague in Czechoslovakia and there were Jews welcoming them there and apparently the plan had been for the Germans to just…they wanted to get rid of like any criminals to get rid of the witnesses to their crimes and apparently their plan was to blow up this ghetto with all the Jews inside and destroy all the witnesses, that’s what they were trying to do in the end and that’s why they didn’t want to let them go but by then the Russians were rapidly advancing and the Germans were very afraid of the Russians, much more so than the Americans, they knew by reputation that the Russians were brutal and treated the German soldiers very harshly and so they were afraid and they ran away. And so the Jews were just sitting around in the ghetto finally my mother when they came they were welcomed by the remaining Jews in this ghetto, they were given fresh clothes from their rags, they were given food and a bath finally, that type of thing and so it was a tremendous relief, soup and so forth they had…
 
And then on May 8th they were officially liberated when a Russian soldier came on horseback into the courtyard of this ghetto and said, “You’re free, you can go home now,” and Mother could gather what he was saying, he spoke in Russian but she knew some other languages, Slavic languages like Polish which she’d picked up in the ghetto and there were similarities in the words and she gathered what he was saying from some of the words and the context, it was clear. And so that was a wonderful moment that she obviously never forgot. The Jews were not like, she said, compared like with people at the end of the war, it was announced in Times Square and people were throwing confetti and celebrating but for them it was not like that, they just wept, you know.

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                CP:         The first place where we lived that I can recall was called Pine Court. It was on 10th Avenue between Fir and Pine. And there’s a beautiful high rise on that spot right now [laughs]. After that we moved to 7th Avenue in the 1500 block, that’s the block west of Granville. And we lived there for quite a while. I remember we lived there when my brother was born in 1929. It was a, if you want a description, I would say it was a lower middle class area. My father had a manufacturing business and in the house we lived in there, there was a huge room on the main floor and attached to the house and he had his manufacturing business in that room. Then we moved, why I don’t know. We moved up to 22nd Avenue, one block east of Oak. And I remember when we lived in that area, because we lived [laughs]…We lived in three houses there: 22nd Avenue one block east of Oak, 21st Avenue one block east of Oak, and 20th Avenue just into the second block east of Oak. And I remember in those days, well you know what Oak Street is like today, but in those days there was a single track streetcar line and I can remember at about 23rd or 24th the track doubled. And the streetcar coming up, going south or coming north would have to wait there until the streetcar going in the opposite direction came and they passed a baton and then they could go on the single track. Now, if that’s a bit of history of Vancouver, so maybe…
 
SA:         Well that is. Well, that’s interesting. The next question I was going to ask you was: What are some of your earliest memories as a child?
 
CP:         Oh, well, that’s one of them.
 
SA:         If you have another one, maybe we’ll just do one or two.
 
CP:         Well, I can remember swinging on the gate on 7th Avenue on August the 5th, 1929, while my brother was being born in the house at home. And I didn’t even know my mother was pregnant [laughs].
 
SA:         Times have changed.
 
CP:         Have they ever! I do have other memories. I remember when I was going to Edith Cavell School my father very often would come up at lunch time, drive up from wherever his factory was then—because we weren’t living on 7th then, I think his factory was on Broadway then—he would come up and he’d bring me wurst sandwiches. And we’d sit in his car and eat them. I mean, I don’t have too many memories that would be interesting.
 
SA:         Well, those are quite colourful ones. Yes, definitely. So were there other relatives living around you?
 
CP:         No, no, when my grandmother came to Vancouver she lived in the West End and my uncle, Dave Genser lived with her. And my other uncle, Gordon Genser lived over on Dunbar Street and 11th. And then when Dave got married he and his wife lived over, they didn’t live right around us but…
 
SA:         They were here.
 
CP:         They were here, yeah.
 
SA:         You did have family here.
 
CP:         And my mother’s uncle Bill Genser and his family lived on the West Side too. I don’t know when they came here, whether, they must have been here about the same time we were.

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AW:       And just also I’m interested, were your parents very involved in the Jewish community in Winnipeg?
 
SS:          I would say yes and their friends were Jewish but life changed when you suddenly went from being prosperous to not having a telephone in the house and leaving your house on 337 Church Avenue. My older brother had to quit university in his second year. He had come out here when he quit university, took some machines from my father’s factory and came out to Vancouver. We came out a year later. He started a little storefront factory making taxi drivers’ caps and things like that. And then we came out a year later. To what I was told we just walked out of the house and dad couldn’t even pay the mortgage.
 
AW:       What year was that?
 
SS:          That would have been the ‘30s, mid ‘30s. I was finished high school and I was out of high school one year. So I was about 17 or 18, because I started at five and went only to Grade 11. I would have loved to have gone to Grade 12 but you had to pay a hundred dollars to go to Grade 12 and I wouldn’t even dream of asking my parents for that hundred dollars, things were so bad.
 
Also I remember going back to earlier years there was an epidemic in Vancouver of infantile paralysis. That was polio. And I remember standing in our front garden and a lady screaming across the street carrying a child. People were so worried. There was no vaccine. It came after that. One lady that I knew or played with her kids, she said, “I even washed the tomatoes.” I remember her saying, “I even take the skin off the tomatoes.” It was terrible. It was two items, the epidemic and the Depression. That was in the ‘30s. It started earlier, it started in the late ‘20s. We used to wait for my dad. My mother was quite ill, a neglected diabetic. There were doctors but they didn’t know it.
 
I remember waiting for dad to bring, there was no such thing as food…there was something like food stamps. I remember he’d make us cream of wheat pancakes. He had to feed us this and it wasn’t terrible for a kid to have this experience. I became very creative, I had lots of friends and I didn’t know too much what was going on with my parents, never. Busy, you know when you’re a teenager, it’s your friends, and there was a YMHA in Winnipeg so there used to be parties and things for teenagers. I wanted red shoes so I got a bottle of red nail polish and painted my shoes. Things like that. I think it helped me to be broke. I became very creative.

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                Interviewer: Irene Dodek & Cyril E. Leonoff
 
 
 
 
 
ID:          So you were impressed with the escalator?
 
SW:        With the escalator and the displays in the store and they had everything, you know, and when we came from Germany they had stuff but it wasn’t displayed so beautifully. It was actually almost immediately after the war, it was only a few years, and Germany was completely destroyed, completely destroyed and so we really didn’t see, and since I left Poland it was many, many years by then and so I liked everything, produce, I was impressed with everything. First of all it was so interesting that people were so easygoing and without any worries, no bad memories no bad experiences except maybe the Depression they went through but you know no cruelty, it was beautiful.
 
ID:          That’s true, no cruelty.
 
SW:        No disasters.
 
ID:          The Canadian experience at least and there was a lot of it was food rationing, sugar rationing, and butter rationing, and so on.
 
SW:        But nobody was going hungry.
 
ID:          Nobody went hungry, of course there were young people lost in the war going to fight for the Allies.
 
SW:        Yes, but they watched it from a distance, we saw dying, we saw dying of our closest friends, beaten up and mishandled and abused and cruelty all around and people who seemed to be friends who turned out to be traitors, those were very disappointing and painful things, but I was all over this now so I liked it so Monday morning I decided to go downtown and buy a hat and so Rose said, “How would you go, I mean you never went alone, you are here only three days.” I said, “Yes I will find my way, I can read and if you can read you have the whole world at the end of your tongue.” So she couldn’t come with me so I went alone and Ishu [Sophie’s husband Isaac Waldman] gave me some money, gave me $30; $30 in that time was a lot of money, a lot of money and I didn’t know the value of the money, the dollar. She told me which bus to take and I took the bus and I said to the bus driver, “Hoodsons Buy.” He looked at me and he said, “Hoodsons Buy.” He probably was a Ukrainian you know, there were lots of Ukrainians, his grandmother would probably say the same, so I sat close to him, next to him and when the Hudson’s Bay approached at the top of his voice he said, “Hoodsons Buy” [laughter] so I took off to Hudson’s Bay and I bought a beautiful hat and paid something like $22 for it when the average hat cost about three or four but that was the most beautiful and I didn’t know I just bought what I liked, I didn’t look at the prices, not because I was so lavish in spending money I just needed a hat. I came home and I gave the change to my husband and he said, “My goodness,” because all we had was about $80 to our name and we had to pay up for the flight and for our passage from the train.
 
ID:          Where did you get the money for your passage, did the Waldmans give you the money to come?
 
SW:        No, no we had money but we paid it up because I worked and he worked, I worked in the dispensary, I think I said I was in charge of the dispensary and he was director of ORT so not much but enough but not enough to come here and make a living so we had to work immediately and pay up these things.
 
ID:          How long did you keep that hat?
 
SW:        I had this hat for about 20 years, it was a beautiful hat as a matter of fact I went to a Hadassah meeting with Rose because there was a special opening luncheon right after Pesach you know to start the season and she invited me to come with her and I was the best dressed woman on the floor, I had a beautiful dress from Germany but we all used to wear hats at that time and I had the most expensive, beautiful hat and I was the best and people just couldn’t believe that this poor girl who came from Germany as a refugee was dressed so nicely, but that was my first experience with ‘Hoodsons Buy.’

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                Interviewer: Irene Dodek & Cyril E. Leonoff
 
 
 
 
 
ID:          Then the Germans came and that was it.
 
SW:        And that was it. And I was working in a [pharmacy] dispensary at that time and first the Gestapo came in, you know, and then the military came in and they were very nice, just the soldiers and so on not Gestapo, and they were nice people you know, Germans, nice people who had to serve and go and the front moved farther east, the Gestapo remained and then they started to introduce their own system. There were quite a large number in that city, at that time I lived in the city Brody and Brody before the First World War was a free city, it was between Austria and Russia and it was a free city, a very prosperous city and eventually it became Poland and it was a nice big city with many Jewish people and the majority of people there were merchants and tradesmen and professional people. There were three pharmacies and all three belonged to Jewish people, the majority of doctors were Jewish doctors only two Polish doctors and one Ukrainian and otherwise we had about 15, 16 doctors, Jewish doctors and they were well off and all the lawyers, the majority of lawyers were Jewish people so a lot of intelligentsia. So the Gestapo called up, there was an order that all the intelligentsia, all the professionals have to report to one of the barracks because they are going to make a Jewish community and they wanted, they didn’t call it ghetto just a separate Jewish community and [they wanted that] Jewish people would have to do their own administration and supervision and they will not be under the Polish government, they will just have to have their own rules and regulations and so on. So they had to order to come and report and naturally all the people came. I went too but my husband didn’t, my husband actually was in hiding because he was known as very pro-Soviet at that time so he didn’t show up, he just didn’t leave his room, absolutely not because he was exposed…
 
ID:          Wasn’t that dangerous for him though? Would anybody have reported him?
 
SW:        No, nobody reported him, nobody kind of specially, he was not actually, he known among the teachers but actually he didn’t have enemies, he was just a Socialist but, you know, that was enough, he was an inspector and he was a principal so that was enough to expose him if he would have been caught, so he did not go but I went. And everybody came, they told us to call the pharmacist for about two hours and we did and then everybody came, in our pharmacy there were four employees, all the pharmacists who were in charge, three of us, three pharmacists and one assistant pharmacist and so they gave us instructions that we have to meet together and everybody has to be assigned among us, that was the trick, to get us all in and we didn’t realize, nobody realized that, and that we have to have a president, a leader, and we have to have secretaries, everybody had to have a function, a position in that government, in the Jewish government. So they said, “Next week we will call you all again and you have to come and then we will know how you have to present.” Naturally if you know Jewish nature everybody wanted to have a chair, everybody wanted to do something and there was quite a bit of fighting between the community. I stayed away I never wanted to be exposed to any offices the same as I don’t want to be now in the public eye for any reasons and I was the same before so but I had to come but I didn’t have any position, I didn’t apply for anything so the pharmacists had to have a head pharmacist, a doctor in charge of the doctors, and the lawyers and everybody, you know, the merchants didn’t come just the professional people. And I went to see my parents in the country and I was late, when I came to the gate of the barracks there were some Gestapo men and I said, “I’m so sorry I’m half an hour late because my mother was sick and I had to go and see her.” So he said to me, “You are not Jewish, you don’t look Jewish and I don’t know why you wanted to go in, you just go home.” So I said, “I may be punished, we all had to report here.” He said, “Well I am telling you and you go, and you go now.” So I went home and I was very unhappy because I was sure that I would have to pay the consequences because I didn’t report, and they took them all out into the field and they shot them, every one of them. Not everyone, I’m sorry, they left three doctors, they left three pharmacists in charge of every pharmacy because they were needed and two or three more but there were about 60 of them or 70 that reported, the rest were taken and disappeared, they told us that they were sent to other cities, to work in other cities and for many, many months…
 
ID:          Did you believe that?
 
SW:        You know the people want to believe, because it was just the beginning of it, of this extermination, and this is how I got out.
 
ID:          Did you pass yourself as a non-Jew after that?
 
SW:        Yes, I did. When they formed a ghetto I was never in the ghetto and then after that they had an order on every wall, big signs that Jews have to wear a white band with a blue star of David, I had the star but I never wore it, you know. First of all I didn’t look Jewish, my great grandmother was not Jewish and I had contacts, you know, we never associated with that family never and I grew up and I didn’t know that my great grandmother was not Jewish and nobody told me, my mother told us when we were just about engaged and we were grown up and my sister had a family already. I knew that sometimes she would send some money to somebody but I never thought of it, we didn’t associate with them, it just happened two generations back, that was my mother’s grandmother. So anyway, during the war that came in handy because these people came forward and they gave me the papers, original papers, one of these distant relatives whom I never met in my life she knew of us, she found us and she came and she gave me and my sister papers and I used that name and my name was Eugenia Homich, Jenny Homich, and this is what I used.
 
ID:          Who was this name? Was this somebody from your great grandmother?
 
SW:        Great grandmother, one of the family.
 
ID:          And they had the papers, maybe had died a long time ago?
 
SW:        They had the papers and they just gave me and I was eight years younger on these papers.
 
ID:          So that’s how you survived.
 
SW:        This is how I survived but it was difficult because my sister did not survive.

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                CL:         So looking back at life in those days what do you have to say about it?
 
                RL:         I think we’re very lucky, I was very lucky. I lived in the city where my grandmother used to walk from Haro Street down through the forest to Stanley Park and the English Bay, there were no streets. And I was just telling them, looking here out the window, that I went to King George High School. I walked from Denman and Comox where we lived pretty well, all the way up to King George which is Burrard and home for lunch and back up again and back down again. And then after that we would walk along Denman and along Georgia and into Stanley Park and out to Point Grey and play grass hockey for an hour after school. And then walk all the way back. And that’s the kind of, nobody was spoiled in those years because you did those things.
 
CL:         No.
 
Unidentified man: And you were taught how to swim by the famous Joe Fortes.
 
RL:         Oh yes, Old Black Joe [Joe Fortes was a well-loved swimming teacher and lifeguard at English Bay. Many people respectfully called him ‘Old Black Joe’].
 
CL:         Is that right, eh?
 
RL:         Yeah, yeah. He taught my aunt, he taught my aunts to swim, he taught me to swim.
 
CL:         So what were the sports? Grass hockey was popular then?
 
RL:         I happened to be one of those that was interested in sports. There weren’t too many, I don’t think there were many Jewish girls who were interested in sports. My father had been a baseball player in the United States, so he always taught me…That’s a funny story. I went to Lord Roberts. I was probably the only Jewish girl in Lord Roberts and I was short and fat and not the most popular of all. And this was in the lower grades and baseball was the great game. And so whenever they picked the side, you know, you stood there and you’d be chosen.
 
Unidentified woman: Yeah right.
 
RL:         I’d be the last one to get chosen. So, but my father always loved to play ball with, you know, he’d pitch a ball and I’d catch it, because I wasn’t a boy and he was frustrated. So it’s what we did. Anyway, one day the pitcher, something happened to the pitcher so I said, “Well, I’d like to try pitching.” And they sort of laughed, “Ha, ha, ha.” Well, I put a strike out every time I threw a ball.
 
Unidentified woman: [Laughs].
 
RL:         Suddenly I became from the least desirable to the most desirable. But that wasn’t the end of the story. We were playing Dawson School and I guess Dawson School was gone by now. You don’t even know where it is, do you?
 
CL:         That was up here too, wasn’t it?
 
RL:         Yeah, on Burrard Street.
 
CL:         I remember, sure.
 
RL:         We were playing Dawson School and I had never told my father of the success that I had had. I was a little ashamed of it in a way because, you know, [I didn’t want to tell]. I was hot, as hot as you can imagine. Every one of those things was a strike I was putting in. Suddenly, I look up over the fence and who’s standing on the other side…
 
Unidentified woman: Your father!
 
RL:         My father. I blew, I couldn’t throw a ball. They put me out in the field again. But no, I always loved sports. Basketball I played for, basketball for high school. I played grass hockey for high school.
 
Unidentified man: You played it at UBC?
 
RL:         Yeah, I played basketball for UBC. I loved…Oh, tennis, we used to get up at four o’clock in the morning and walk down to Stanley Park and play for two hours before school and then walk up to school.

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JG:          When you came to Victoria were you looking to connect with the Jewish community?
 
LS:          No. No way was I, I wasn’t, I was what I call relatively neutral, Jewishly. I didn’t hide but I didn’t really do too much. You know I, sometimes, you know, melodies would come and things like that. The Victoria story, it’s only in Victoria is this story possible. So when Charlotte and I were about to get married, I met Charlotte here in Victoria at a therapy workshop. So as we started a relationship, we started to get married she didn’t even know I was Jewish really originally. It turns out that Charlotte had independently of anything to do with me always been interested in Israel and Zionism. And actually spent some time on a kibbutz, right. So, but as the marriage started and, you know, and I’m in a different phase in my life something started to happen where I wanted to do something to do with Yiddishkeit [the Jewish way of life] in my marriage. So, I started the talk around and to see what I could do about that. There was no rabbi here at the time. So I talked to someone who was sort of functioning as a lay spiritual leader. He wouldn’t officiate which I certainly respect now, and I did at the time. So we were married by a Unitarian minister. And my brothers came up from, where were they, one in California, one in North Carolina, I think, for the wedding. And we interpolated, you know, some Jewish thematic material. But it was through that marriage that I started dipping my foot back, my feet back into the waters. So I went to shul. And you can’t imagine what it was like then. It was chaotic, nobody knew what they were doing. So the first time I’m at shul nobody’s there who’s able to doven [lead prayers] or lead shachrit [morning prayers]. So they say, “Can anybody do this?” I knew I could do this because spontaneously at different times in my life the melodies would just come back to me. So I did. And that was really the beginning of my reconnection, yeah, which is now becoming, you know, the centre [of my life]. So that’s the story. It’s not an unusual story for Victoria. Many, many of the people in the congregation of Victoria had very little to do with Yiddishkeit, very tangential in their lives. And somehow or other either through children or through something, you know they had to make some kind of movement, but tremendously deepen their connection with [Jewry] here in Victoria.
 
JG:          So what does the synagogue or what is the synagogue, the Temple Emanu-El that allows people to do this?
 
LS:          It’s really hard to describe because it’s a culture of encouragement, permissiveness, but limit setting at the same time. People have a lot of room to move into leadership roles here. And we encourage participation. So we encourage training, we teach each other, and different people move in and out of the limelight along that. So that’s just, sometimes it’s just been necessity because that’s the way it was but now it’s a value.

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                Interviewer: Cyril E. Leonoff & A. Myer Freedman
 
 
               MF:        At that time you didn’t practice in Vancouver at all, you went directly to the Yukon?
 
               IS:           I practiced in interior British Columbia for a couple of months: Lillooet, Lytton, Ashcroft, and then Dr. Franks had gone up North that fall and he did so well and saw the need of dentists in that part of the country, he asked me if I would join him. So in 1925, in January, we left for Stewart, British Columbia. And we were supposed to take over a dental practice of an unlicensed dentist there but we didn’t like Stewart and we kept going and finally got to Skagway and from Skagway we went to Whitehorse. And we got to Whitehorse and we found out that there had been two dentists living in the Yukon: one had passed away and the other had left for Seattle. And there were no dentists in the Yukon at all. So that was our reason for going into Whitehorse and then into Dawson.
 
MF:        And you moved about from city to city as your services were required?
 
IS:           Yeah, we had portable equipment that we could set up in about two or three hours and we would be ready to work.
 
CL:         This was Robert Franks?
 
IS:           Robert Franks.
 
CL:         And he was the son of Zebulon…
 
IS:           Zebulon Franks.
 
CL:         Were you the first two Jewish boys that graduated from dentistry?
 
IS:           No, the first Jewish dentist here was Dr. Gerald Plant and there was another dentist, I can’t recall his name now, about that time.
 
CL:         And where did they get their training?
 
IS:           Gerald Plant also got [his] from North Pacific College in Oregon.
 
CL:         How much before you would he have been?
 
IS:           Four or five years before we graduated.
 
MF:        Did you meet any other Jewish people in the Yukon at that time?
 
IS:           There was…We only ran across one man who was mining about 60 miles out of Dawson. But I did meet various Jewish people because in the summer time the tourist boats would come into Dawson. And I went down and met the rabbi from Los Angeles, I can’t remember his name now…[Magnun]. Rabbi [Magnun]. And I saw his name in the paper as having arrived in Dawson so I went down on the boat and I made myself known to him. And he said, “How would a young fellow like you decide to come up here and practice dentistry in the Yukon [laughing]?” So I told him the same story I’m telling you…

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Posted by jyuhasz
 
 
               LR:         What was the industry like at that time? I mean were people very competitive with people who were both, you know, in the business and also comrades today. Did they socialize? Was there a lot of competition? Was there any sort of…
 
               MG:       It was a brand new city and competition was there. It’s always there even in a small town. Depends what you do with it, you know. If you have the ambition or the creativeness to make it, you build in that knowledge to what you already know.
 
DG:        It’s not as scary as it is today. Competition then was, you know, provided by stores like Woodward’s or the odd number of independents that were around but I think what helped my father stand out was his personality and his knowledge and love of the business. And his flair for promotion. And so he really was a leader in his category in those days and remained so for many years.
 
LR:         What kind of promotions did you have? Did you have anything that was like, you know, ‘buy one, get this, this, this and that’ or…
 
MG:       Well, that was a normal thing, yeah. Buy one, get one free. Or we’d have two for one suit sales. And with a jingle, “There’s not a single suit for sale at Murray Goldman, that’s because they come in twos.” So there was always a catch.
 
DG:        He would give away things with the purchase of a suit that were very innovative for their day. For instance, when portable radios first came out in the 1950s it was a very new product. It was a radio you could play without plugging it into the wall. You know, not so earth-shattering today but then it was very innovative. And you would get one free with the purchase of a suit.
 
LR:         Oh wow.
 
DG:        Did the same thing with movie cameras when they first came out in the early 1960s.
 
MG:       Kodak movie camera.
 
DG:        Kodak movie camera, get one free with the purchase of a suit. At a time when the BC Lions and football was particularly meaningful in the city he would give away a pair of Grey Cup tickets with the purchase of a suit. You couldn’t buy a pair of Grey Cup tickets in those days, they would sell out very quickly. You could get a pair free for the purchase of a suit. Very innovate in its day.

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