B&W photograph depicts the sign of Nalos Lumber Ltd. on a black background.
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.
JG: What did your parents do for a living?
LK: My father was in the clothing business. He had a store called Regent Tailors. And he, he came out here, my father came out here from Toronto originally to open Tip Top Tailors in Vancouver. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was one of the owners of Tip Top Tailors, one of the starters of the company.
JG: Name? His name?
LK: Cohen, his name was Cohen. Israel Cohen. And my father came out here to open the Tip Top Tailors in this area which he did do. And later on had an opportunity to go into business for himself. A chain of stores called Regent Tailors had broken up and he had the opportunity to buy one for $200 [laughs]. That’s hard to believe, to go into business for $200. He couldn’t, he couldn’t get the, put the money together. He had to take in a partner for $100.
JG: Oh my.
LK: [Laughs]. And the business started in 1932 and finally folded up 50 years later in 1982. My father had passed away before that of course and my brother and myself took over the business and we ran it until the clothing business collapsed and we had to close it up.
ST: Where was the butcher shop?
RS: On Main and Hastings, in what was the City Market.
ST: So that was down in Strathcona?
RS: It was…No, on Main and Hastings. Strathcona was…
ST: Dunlevy and…sort of in that area. Where the City Market was?
RS: Strathcona was more the Commercial Drive area…
ST: No, it was in Dunlevy and…in that area right around the synagogue, right around Heatley.
RS: Well, that is further up. I mean, it’s not that far but the City Market...There was the Public Library was there…
ST: The Carnegie Library?
RS: It was the old Vancouver Public Library, I think now it’s a museum, a museum there on the corner of Hastings and Main…
ST: And the City Market was right next to it.
RS: It was right, that building right next to it. Oh, it was rat-infested; there was nothing but rats running through the butcher shop. [Bell chimes in the background]. Oh, it was awful! Just awful! It was so cold, and no heat but we worked there all the time.
ST: Did you work on weekends?
RS: Yes, I worked every school holiday, and every Saturday. Sunday was a day off.
ST: How about after school did you have to go?
RS: After school sometimes I had to go, but not always after school. But always on Sports Days. I was never allowed to participate in anything else…it was work! And my brother worked. We had a kosher shop there also. We had a non-Jewish butcher shop and a kosher butcher shop, that was the only kosher butcher shop in the city, right there in the City Market. My dad started that. Then my brother used to make the night deliveries and worked in the shop full time. He quit school and Sonny became a butcher.
ID: What was your father’s business, Esmond?
EL: Father? Well, he started out…I think he worked with Shineman in his general store, then he opened up a…right across from the Prince Rupert Hotel which was a new hotel I think it was on First Avenue, next to the [West Home] Theatre. He had a place that sold tobaccos, groceries, fruit, anything you’d lay your hand on. And it was a great place. The fishermen came in and they didn’t buy…the Norwegian fishermen, they didn’t buy a package of cigarettes. They come in and bought four big two foot rolls of snus [finely ground tobacco taken orally] or they’d take a plug of tobacco but a plug of tobacco had to be a foot long and about an inch thick and five inches wide and they took the whole thing with them. They took these things out with them and chewed on them when they were away for two or three, four, five, or six weeks so it was…they came in and apparently they were very fond of buttermilk and they had buttermilk by the tub being dumped there and apparently the older buttermilk the more higher it got and these boys liked high buttermilk so they it became quite a place. The…punch boys were the thing at that time, they had gold watch fobs and you had to punch…you had a punch business, you sold 10 punches for a dollar and if you got a lucky number you got a gold watch fob. They’d come in and spend 10, 20, 20, 40 dollars trying to get themselves a 10 dollar gold fob. It was the pioneer people with really nothing to do and no entertainment.
ID: This was their entertainment.
JB: And what did your father do when he got to Vancouver as his occupation?
BH: Well he did what everybody did when they first came, he peddled. Which means he went out, got old, used things and sold them to, by the pound, rags or metals or whatever. But many people, men, who came had no education, at first didn’t have any language, stayed with the junk business, but my father loathed it with a passion, and he was very ambitious, worked very, very hard, and in no time he had graduated from a little push-cart to a horse and wagon, and shortly after that, it wasn’t long before he got rid of the horse and wagon and got a motor flatbed, a little motor truck and that’s when he began to go further afield, and he went into the Okanagan, not the Okanagan Valley, the Chilliwack, you know around the Chilliwack area…
JB: The Lynn Valley?
BH: Oh no, Lynn Valley is on the North Shore.
JB: Fraser Valley?
BH: The Fraser Valley, right. And he principally went to buy sacks, used sacks from feed and grain and so on from the farmers, it’s all farm country, and noticed that an awful lot of them had orchards on their farms and the fruit wasn’t being picked. So he asked around and found out that they couldn’t find pickers, it was too difficult for them. So anyway, he was a very enterprising man, he hired pickers and used his truck and transported cases of fruit, picked fruit, into Vancouver, sold them, and this went on for awhile and then he opened a big fruit and vegetable wholesale. And in the summer he’d haul stuff in from the Fraser Valley, and all year round he would import stuff from the States or from wherever it came. And he had, the rest of his life he had a fruit and vegetable wholesale.
AZ: So you came to Trail and then went to Rossland later.
CW: Rossland, well after, I took my business course and I was to go to Vancouver. I was the only Jewish girl my age in Trail and my parents were a little bit concerned, you know, here I am eighteen years old and I’m dating non-Jewish boys [laughs] so I was to go to Vancouver to stay with relatives because I had taken my business course and just before that Chuck came, my husband, came to Trail. I worked in a confectionery store after school and on Saturdays and he came to give regards from Saskatchewan to my boss, and I met him there and but, we would date, because it was a small community we would often be invited to the same parties and everything. So I still was booked to go to Vancouver and stay with family but he wrote me letters every single day, I got thirty some odd letters for the month and my aunt said, “You know we live here but you’re the only one that gets the mail.” And I was to go to be a dental assistant but my auntie said, “You know if somebody cares enough to write you every day, you’ve got to go back and make sure that this is the life you really want.” So I went back and I stayed there, we became engaged and married in Trail, that was the first Jewish wedding there, and then my husband came as a graduate to work at Cominco. There were a few other boys who came at the same time, and he was employed as a research chemist until he graduated.
Once you apply yourself to something he found out that that was the way he really didn’t want to go so he went into business with my dad and it was a family business, we all worked together in Rossland and we moved into a hardware store, left the grocery business and went into the hardware business. And they, my dad and my husband worked together for another fifteen years in Rossland and my parents wanted to retire, and so Chuck had his education but everybody said he should be a teacher because he’s just a born teacher. So he went back for one year to take his teacher’s training and he came back and he taught in Castlegar and then he signed up for Victoria and Vancouver, and Victoria came first. He had been coming here to mark papers and the kids had been coming here, oh I had three children, two girls and a boy, and they were in school bands and everything so they knew what Victoria was like and they said, “Oh Mom you’ll love it there, you’ve got to go and see it.” So we moved here, we came in ’67 so we’ve been here forty two or three years now, and he passed away two years ago.
JG: And what brought them, then, to Vancouver?
SK: Well, then, my dad and mother were married in 1916 in St. Paul. My mother’s family...I, I have no idea when my dad moved to St. Paul, but it wasn’t far ahead of 1916 when they were married. They were married in St. Paul in 1916 and 1918, Dad decided that he wanted to move, well he got the attraction of ‘Go west young man, go west,’ which was quite strong at that time. And he went as far west as he could. He got a one way train ticket to Prince Rupert. And that’s where he was going to set up.
JG: I see. Go on.
SK: And he only stayed there a week. It rained every day and he said this is not for me (laughter). He moved down to Vancouver. Meantime, my mom of course, she didn’t hear from him for the first two months after the move. Didn’t know if he was alive or dead. But, he was busy trying to place himself and he finally, he met on the street here some Jewish people who told him what to do, and he, he himself was a, he had trained with his dad as a, as a hat man. That’s what my grandpa’s business was, making men’s hats, making men’s hats and selling them. And, my dad had learnt that, but he started out in Vancouver as a, well, a, as a furrier.
Now, he didn’t know a thing about fur, but, they, they, I remember him telling me, he said, they, they said, “Can you drop furs?” and my dad says, “Of course I can drop furs.” But he didn’t know what that meant. So, they hired him and he learnt how to drop furs. And he became pretty good at it, at a furrier, being in the fur business. So much so that he, he, yeah, the Canadian, the B.C. Government appointed him an agent for them to go and buy furs from the Indians. So for, he, for several years, that’s what he did. In the meantime, mother came from St. Paul, Minneapolis didn’t exist in those days, it was St. Paul. And, uh, they set up shop here in Vancouver.
And, after the stint with the fur business, my dad went into the business he knew, millenary, hats, making hats. And that’s where he, about, 19, I would say that would have been about 1920. He opened, he started to manufacture hats, and..
JG: What was the name of his company?
SK: His own name, Charles Korsch Limited. And he was, and his trade name was on, on all his hats, was “Made in the West for the Western Made.”