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Wheeling Spoken History Project: Rosalind "Buddy" Rybeck

Date: September 27, 1994; Interview #: 96-022; Title: Roselind "Buddy" Rybeck ]

Unindexed Transcript
 ▼ Begin interview


▼ Interview with Rosalind "Buddy" Rybeck

Title: Roselind "Buddy" Rybeck

Date: September 27, 1994; Interview #: 96-022 ]

MICHAEL NOBEL KLINE: Why don’t we begin by asking your name. Say ‘my name is.’

ROSALIND RYBECK: My name is --

MNK: I’m sorry --

RR: Rosalind --

MNK: I need to get this right here. Okay try it.

RR: My name is Rosalind "Buddy" Rybeck.

MNK: Okay. And you live now in?

RR: I live in Maysville, West Virginia. And you’re supposed to say where’s Maysville. And I say it’s just outside of Morgantown because nobody knows Maysville’s is just a little town, no town. It’s a sign on the road, but there’s nothing there. But I live on a mountain top.

MNK: Nice. And what is the date of your birth?

RR: September 14, 1900.

MNK: Nineteen hundred.

RR: My parents had me in 1900 because they knew I wouldn’t remember any other date! So that makes me -- I just had my 94th birthday.

MNK: Old as the …

RR: Yeah. Yeah, it’s -- A lot has happened in these years.

MNK: I can’t imagine a lifetime that would have seen any more change than yours. (015)

RR: No, no. The children like to hear me tell -- ‘What did you do when you were a little girl?’ There was no TV. There was no radio. We had a Victrola, I think, when I was about six or seven. So I -- Say, "So what did you do?" And I says, "Well, I read a lot." And the thicker the book was, the better I liked it because it took up more time. But no cars, no telephone, no nothing. So --

MNK: And where was that that you grew up? (021)

RR: I grew up in New York. New York City.

MNK: Very interesting.

RR: And --

MNK: Whereabouts in New York City?

RR: Manhattan, which I understand has changed a great deal since I’ve been there. But it was -- And I taught in New York. I lived there until I was married. Nineteen twenty-two. And my husband got a job at Stifels, which was the big department store in Wheeling. And he was -- I thought he was an older man. He was 25! And he moved down here to be the advertising manager there, and I came down the following year. And we both loved Wheeling the minute we got here and never wanted to go back. It -- And he, he named Wheeling the Friendly City, which it’s still called the Friendly City. And we loved every -- We loved everything about it.

MNK: You came here in 1923?

RR: Nineteen twenty-two.

MNK: Twenty-two. (037)

RR: It’s a long time ago. Yeah. And Wheeling was a very funny little town. And I remember coming down the year before I was married with a friend because you didn’t go unchaperoned in those days! You couldn’t go visit your financé without someone else with you. So we were on Main Street, and we saw this big sign up at the end of the street said ‘books.’ And we flew. Bookstore, you know, that was wonderful. And we got up there; it was a shoe store. The name of the people was Books. And it was another company named Snooks. And there was another company named Etts, who were in the leather good business. And we just thought it was so funny. And it was an Eoff (oaf) Street. E-O-F-F, which struck us very -- It’s still Eoff Street. But it was a German town, and a lot of German people were here. So -- But, but we loved it. Stifel’s too, which was a big department store, was a store where they had the open center, you know, with the balconies going around on the different floors. And these change, little boxes that would float across the room. I don’t know if you remember them at all. But -- And everyone had her own salesperson. No matter what you wanted, you would go in and ask for your salesperson. They would yell up the open space, ‘Miss so and so, Mrs. so and so is here.’ And she would come. And whether you needed a girdle or a hat, that was your salesperson. But that all (061) changed very quickly after my husband got here. So, so it was -- It was interesting.

MNK: Now this was -- Stifel was the family that had the, started out with the calico --

RR: Right, right.

MNK: … (064)

RR: Yeah. And I knew Mr. Stifel. Of course he was the owner of the store. It was a very close family. There are a lot of Stifels. There were a lot of Stifels here. They’re beginning to dwindle down too now. The Stifel Arts Center is part of that family. And, and they’re all related to somebody else! And so we -- It was a big name then.

MNK: Was there any -- Tell a little something about Mr. Stifel that would give an indication of his character or personality. (073)

RR: He was -- The first time I saw him, my husband brought me and introduced me. He was a great big man, enormous man, and he sat behind this enormous desk. And Ry, my husband, introduced me, and he kept staring at me and staring at me. And he finally -- He said, "I thought you were going to weigh about 300 pounds!" No reason at all. That was my first introduction to him! But he turned out to be a very pleasant fellow, man. And -- But I didn’t -- He was the owner of the store, and I really didn’t have much to do with him but, except to say good morning or hello. But he was nice to work for, and my husband enjoyed it, working with him. But --

MNK: So where, where did you take up residence then as a new bride? (087)

RR: We rented a house at -- My husband rented a furnished home, because he didn’t know what I wanted, on the Island, which was the garden spot of Wheeling at that time. And we lived there, and I very soon became pregnant and had a baby. And we lived on North Front Street, which runs about a block from the river. And we were at the north point. And I woke up one morning, pulled up the blind, and there was the river on my street. And I was so frightened. I didn’t know anything about floods. And everybody was having the best time. They were going up and down the street in boats and boots and having a high old time. And all I could think of was ‘where am I going to get milk for my baby.’ And, and my husband said, "Well, keep watching the basement. If you see water down there, call me and I’ll come over and get you, and we’ll go to the hotel." Well, we lived on a high spot there, and it never did get in. But, oh, I didn’t like floods. But people here were used to them and they, they were having a great time! And we had some terrible floods in Wheeling over the years until they built the dam system on the river. And that -- We haven’t had any very bad ones for a long time now. But that was a new thing for me! No (109) floods in New York! But then we lived there for, till after Arthur was a little older. Then we moved out to what they call the Pike. That was where everybody was moving. And lived there for several years, and then went out into the country. We always liked the country and lived out there for I don’t know how many years. Forty-five years. So -- But every part of Wheeling is, is lovely. It’s -- And of course we got involved with Oglebay, which was a big thing. When they first started with Oglebay, people said, ‘Oh, that’s, that’s no good. That’s just for rich people because if you don’t have a car, you can’t get up there.’ Of course those were the days when people didn’t have cars. But fortunately they took it as a gift, and everybody does have cars. But we sat in on the very beginning and made plans for it. There was nothing up there but the farm. I mean the Oglebay farm. And sat up there with people from Morgantown, the university, making plans for what they would (128) do with the park. And everything that they did for children, they tried out on Arthur and Walter, my two. So they had a wonderful experience. And I just had a letter the other day from Oglebay thanking me for support for 60 years. I’ve been a member of the institute for 60 years!

MNK: The longest membership no doubt. (135)

RR: It probably is now. I think there were a couple that were there were members before I was, we were, but I think they’ve gone. So I’m probably the oldest one now! And Arthur and Walter were the first junior members at that -- I don’t even think they have that any more, but they had junior memberships. So they were junior members. But it was quite an experience.

MNK: Was Brooks Waitington involved in it at that time? (142)

RR: Not then. He came much later. Nobody was there. I mean they had a staff that you wouldn’t believe. They did everything. Hours were no, and nothing mattered. If it had to be done, they would do it whether it was 10 o’clock in the morning, 10 o’clock at night. It didn’t matter. They did it. And of course today they have nine to five, you know. But then, they worked hard and were wonderful people. One of them, Betty Eckhart, is still alive. She lives in Fredericks, Frederick, is it, outside of Washington? Yeah.

MNK: Frederick, Maryland. (152)

RR: Frederick, Maryland. And Ruth McIntyre, who was also very active, just died this past year. So -- But they were -- They had some wonderful people up there. Which is why -- And Brooks Waitington came in -- Well, when they got the horticulture center, he came in. But that was many years later. I -- My --

MNK: Were you acquainted with him at all? (160)

RR: Oh, yes. Yes. I knew him very well. Knew all the people up there. He’s the father of the Elliot Waitington who wrote the Foxfire thing. And they’re both patients of Arthur’s, so we’ve known them for a long time.

MNK: Where exactly did you live out at the Pike? (167)

RR: Out at the Pike we lived on -- We lived in Dimmeydale, and then we lived -- From there we went up to what they call Clearview, which is --

MNK: Dimmeydale is sort of behind the Stifel Center?

RR: Right. Right. Yeah.

MNK: I’m trying to learn the neighborhoods … (171)

RR: Yeah. We also lived in the house, excuse me, which has been torn down which was owned by the Sweeneys. Sweeney Glass people. You see that great big monument for Mr. Sweeney, the urn, the glass urn. Have you seen that? No, it’s a enormous thing that was used as a grave marker for him. But it’s -- Oh, I don’t know how, how tall it was and how big. They now are selling little replicas of it at the glass house. But we lived in the Sweeney house, which has been torn down because of the highway out there where -- How can I tell you? Where Dieckmann’s is, used to be. They aren’t there either anymore. But anyway, we lived in that house for a while, and I would never let my sons have guns because I didn’t think that was the thing to have, you know. That was bad. So -- But then some friends came one time and brought each of them a BB gun. And I said, "Well, you can’t play with them, but I’ll hang them over the fireplace of your playroom," which we did. And one night we heard this terrible noise and ran to see what had happened. And the guns had slid off the wall behind the fireplace and were down in there so that we could never get them. And I often thought what, wondered what the men thought when they tore the place down and found two guns! So I wouldn’t let my sons play with guns, and they (194) both landed in the war, Second World War, which was terrible. They both went at the same time and the same convoy. And that was a bad time. My husband used to say to me, "Well, we won’t worry. We won’t worry until --," you know. He, he put off things. We just won’t worry until. But I was worried. It just -- But fortunately neither of them was hurt or involved in the fighting. Because you raise children to be nice to people and then say ‘go out and shoot somebody.’ Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

MNK: Not to us. (205)

RR: It’s -- But we’ll never learn, we just don’t learn.

MNK: Ten folks dead in Haiti this past week.

RR: Terrible. It, it -- I don’t know how, how people are going to find out that it, it -- At the end of it when they’re all through, they start right over where they would have if they had started talking. Right back there. But nobody asked me! So --

MNK: Or me.

RR: Or you!

MNK: Tell me your very first impressions of Wheeling. I’m trying to imagine 1923. It must have been horse drawn traffic still? (216)

RR: In 1922 I came.

MNK: Twenty-two. I’m sorry.

RR: It was a -- There were horses, horse drawn carriages, but there were also streetcars. I remember when we came, I came down with Ry’s mother one time before we were married. And he took us out to a picnic in Wheeling Park. And that was a big trip. We packed a lunch, and we took the streetcar. And it took a long time to get out to Wheeling Park. And then we had our picnic, and then we took the streetcar back home again. But now of course it takes 10 minutes to get out to Wheeling Park! But that was Wheeling.

MNK: Streetcar had to come over the mountain, I guess, over the hill? (229)

RR: I’m not sure how it came. I --

MNK: It came right down --

RR: I think it come out what is --


RR: Along the creek maybe. But it was a long trip. We -- Of course now we think nothing of getting in the car and driving out to Wheeling Park, Oglebay Park. But before the car, you, you just didn’t, you just didn’t go that way. And -- But it was a lovely town always. It was beautiful. And we’re lucky to have had two parks that are not taxed by any, the government or the city. I mean they’re all gifts to the city, which I think is pretty remarkable. And of course Oglebay is -- Some day I’m going to ask somebody how they like Oglebay, and they’re going to say, "Hmmm." And I’m going to drop dead because you expect everybody to be ‘oh, it’s wonderful!’ So -- But my husband was very active in the park. He, he run their nature program that’s out there. He’s very instrumental in that. (251) And it was -- Have you heard about A. B. Brooks? A. B. Brooks was the first nature leader they had up there. And man from university who came up -- He was not only a nature lover and teacher, but a wonderful man. And he used to have bird walks on Sunday morning. It was as many as 200 people who would come out at seven o’clock in the morning and go on a bird walk. And he would lead this walk, and then at some point he would station somebody, usually one of my boys, and he’d say, "No talking." And 200 people would walk without saying a word to the place where he was standing on a, a rock of some kind. And he would talk. And he would recite poetry. And he would listen to the birds and tell us what was, what the bird was. And people used to say it was like going to church it was so lovely. And then after the walk, we would go to a picnic site, and they would have breakfast. And it was a wonderful occasion. So just now they’re restoring some of the trails that he used to lead us on. But they -- For a while they just sort of let that (275) go. But he was -- I used to say that between him and my husband, I raised my children. Because he was such a wonderful influence. And -- So it was nice. So --

MNK: More about downtown. I want to --

RR: Downtown.

MNK: Hear about your recollections of -- (281)

RR: Well, downtown -- When I first came to Wheeling with this friend, my husband had rented the bridal suite at the Windsor Hotel, which is now, I think, the Windsor Apartments. They changed it into apartments. But we had a room facing the river, and it was lovely. And we went to bed. In the middle of the night we woke up to these weird sounds and couldn’t figure out what the sounds were. The squeals and -- Couldn’t figure it out and laughed ourselves to sleep. And the next morning we said, "What were those sounds we heard down there?" Well, they were unloading cattle. How could two girls from New York know about unloading cattle! But that’s what they do. They would bring them in on boats and unload them and take them wherever they were going. I know they had a slaughterhouse here. And so that was my first impression of Wheeling. But -- What else would I know about. I told you about Stifels. Stones was here, but it was not a big store the way it is now. And Goods was here, and it was not as big a store as it was eventually. And who else was here. The bank, Security, or what is now Bank One was -- I don’t know what they called it then, but it was on that building on 12th and Main. I don’t even know what they called it. And so it was a very different town, but busy, very busy town. And nice place to shop.

MNK: That was the year before Wheeling Steel was organized, I believe, in ’23. (314)

RR: No, they were here. They were here. They were here and doing very well. And --

MNK: Was it a smoky sort of --

RR: Oh, dirty --

MNK: Industrial -- (317)

RR: Very dirty. And I had a mother-in-law who was the soul of tact, but I would catch her every once in a while dusting! Because everything was so filthy dirty. And I remember going to a, a party when I first came here. And people were talking about house cleaning and washing walls, and fortunately I had sense enough to keep quiet. And I went home and I said to Ry, "What are they talking about washing walls and cleaning house?" He said, "Well, wait till you lived here a little while and you’ll see." But every spring and fall they would wash walls, and I mean things would get black with soot. But I learned, but I never heard of -- I mean I didn’t know what they were talking about. And -- But it was very dirty, but they said that the dirtier it was, the wealthier we were. That’s what made people wealthy around here. And then of course we used to go up to Pittsburgh, which was another day’s trip. I mean that was a big trip. And get up there about noon having left early in the morning. And you couldn’t see anything. It was black. So I traveled down there and here. And -- But it’s all cleared up now, cleaned up.

MNK: On the one hand, you say it was a beautiful city. On the other hand, you say it was really dirty. Did the --

RR: Well --

MNK: Did the dirt detract from it? Or was it … (344)

RR: No, it was beautiful anyway. And when I say it was dirty, it was -- Soot would fall, and it would be dirty. But it wasn’t, wasn’t a dirty city. I mean no litter, no things like that, but just that the soot would get everywhere. And -- But the hills were still beautiful, and the river was still beautiful. And the people were beautiful!

MNK: Must have been a lot of traffic still on the river by that time. (354)

RR: Yes. Yes. A lot of traffic, a lot of river traffic. And you see the barges go down the river or up the river. Still is. Still is a lot of traffic on the river.

MNK: But the -- There were steamboats then, I guess.

RR: Yeah.

MNK: Sternwheelers. (364)

RR: Yeah. And in fact, we took the Delta Queen, the cruise boat down to Cincinnati, I think it was. And that was quite a trip. I don’t know why more people don’t travel that river because now they have very elegant boats I understand. I haven’t been on them, but it was a wonderful trip down the river. Could be a million miles away because you didn’t see anything beyond the trees along the border, and it was so pretty and so leisurely. And they had entertainment and good food and, and we went down twice, I think. Took that trip.

MNK: What sort of entertainment? (378)

RR: Well, people would sing, you know, tell funny stories. Some were funny. Some were funny because they thought they were funny! But, you know, they would have the evenings and have the piano or the calliope. They would play the calliope. It, it was -- It was a lovely trip. I would take it again if I were going any place. But -- And you just move slowly. You go very slowly, and they would stop at the different towns along the river. You could get off if you wanted to. The first time we went down, the boys were about 13 and 14 maybe. And you took your car with you. You took the car on the boat. And we had staterooms next to each other, and the walls were paper thin so you could hear everything. But in the middle of the night we heard this terrible noise, crash. Without putting any slippers, robes, anything on, we ran out to see what had happened. And Arthur was standing in the middle of the floor still asleep, but he had to go down and help the men. They were having trouble down in the engine room. And he had to go down, and he had stepped down from the upper berth onto the suitcases and they fell. And that’s what made the big noise. But he never woke up! We put him back to bed, but we shouldn’t have paid passage for either of them because they were down in the engine room all the time helping (410) the men! That was more fun than being upstairs! But boating was fun. Of course they used to swim in the Ohio River, which they don’t, in recent years they haven’t allowed. And also used to freeze over, which it hasn’t lately. And so there was a lot of activity on the river.

MNK: Were there, were there ever showboats that came?

RR: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Went to showboats and --

MNK: Tell me about it. Tell me everything you can remember about the showboats. (421)

RR: Showboats.

MNK: Remember the names of any of them or --

RR: No, I don’t remember the names, but they were fun. Fun because they -- They weren’t funny now that I, I look back. They weren’t funny at all, but you had a wonderful time. And they selled candy. And you eat candy, taffy, and just very festive, you know. But real riverboats. They’d get, have dancing up on the stage. Women in their flamboyant dresses and men with their funny stories. It was a lot of fun.

MNK: So rather than plays or musicals as we think of them now, it was --

RR: No, no --

MNK: More sort of --

RR: No, no --

MNK: Slapstick or -- (437)

RR: No, they didn’t have -- No, there weren’t any plays, but they did have plays -- I never went to any, but they would have -- That was in recent years, they would, people would charter a boat and put on a play and go down the river. But I never went. We had lots of plays in Wheeling. I mean Wheeling was a big theater town. And we had our own little theater of which my husband was president. And made it a fashionable thing to go to The Little Theater. People used to get all dressed up and, and men in tuxedos and it was really quite an evening.

MNK: What was the name of it?

RR: The Little Theater.

MNK: The Little Theater? (453)

RR: And we held it at the, which is no longer there, the Virginia Theater. Do you know where the Court Theater is? Well, that -- Court Building. I don’t think it’s even a theater anymore. But up the street was a lovely theater called the Virginia Theater. And -- How can I tell you. Just up the street from the Court Theater. And that place used to be packed with people from Wheeling, membership people. And put on some wonderful plays. And my husband was one of the actors. He loved to act. They, they really had -- Then we had a man by the name of Kossuth, George Kossuth. Have you heard of him? He was a world famous photographer, and he was very active in The Little Theater. But -- Did some wonderful photography. And was a -- He loved to act.

MNK: What were some of the memorable productions? (476)

RR: Well, I don’t remember the ones that my husband was in. The Bishop Misbehaves was one. Oh, dear, I can’t remember. The names --

MNK: Was there --

RR: Escape me.

MNK: Shakespeare at all?

RR: No, no, no. They were all the --

MNK: Contemporary. (484)

RR: Contemporary plays. But good productions. I mean they were well done. Good directors and local people who directed. But very good. And, and you asked before -- You were talking about racial discrimination. When I came from New York, I didn’t know anything about racial discrimination. We didn’t have any there. When I came here, the blacks were in one -- They were always very cordial, but the blacks were in one section and the whites in another. And I remember they were bringing a black singer here, Hayes. Roland Hayes, I think, a very noted, famous singer. And he was coming to the Virginia Theater. And all of a sudden we heard that the blacks could come to hear him, but they would have to sit upstairs in the balcony. And we thought that was terrible. We just -- We couldn’t imagine anything worse. So we got enough people excited about it that they said that if the black couldn’t sit in the regular section, we just wouldn’t have it there. So they went down to the -- They rented the, one of the schools. I forget which school, but they took a school auditorium. And he came there, and the blacks sat wherever they wanted. And whites sat next to them, nothing happened! I mean it was all wonderful. But (519) there was, there was discrimination here. It took, it took a while for it to, to get over it. But it was very strange to us. So -- But --

MNK: Were you members of the Fort Henry Club? (527)

RR: No, no. At that time only -- I didn’t -- They didn’t say they couldn’t join, but they didn’t welcome Jewish people. They do now, but they didn’t then. And even if they have, I don’t think we could have afforded it to have joined at the time. But that, that too has changed.

MNK: What did that feel like to you because you wouldn’t have been excluded from anything --

RR: No.

MNK: In New York City would you? (536)

RR: No, and we wouldn’t -- And we really weren’t excluded here. We went to the Fort, went to the Fort Henry. I mean we were invited, but we just weren’t invited as members. And as I say, we couldn’t have done it anyway, but -- Now that’s been changed. So I don’t think there’s any discrimination anywhere now, that I know of.

MNK: What do you remember then about the, about the Depression? What, what happened with your husband’s business and other business? (551)

RR: We didn’t really suffer from it, but we knew there was a depression. And we had to make some adjustments. We had bought this salary situation was, but it was definitely felt around. Everybody felt it, but, but I don’t have any horrible memories of it.

MNK: Could, could you talk about, a little bit about -- I guess, I guess we’re interested in hearing about the, about the well-to-do class of women in this town. You, you hear about, you hear about these great industrialists, but we don’t know much about their wives or the mothers of the ... (572)

RR: I knew many of them. I knew many of the women, and they were all very, very cordial women. I mean they never flaunted their, their wealth. They may have had it, but they, they didn’t make anything of it. And I knew most of them. Most of the executives -- My husband and I later, after he had left Stifel’s, opened our own business. We had a decorating business which we called the Rybeck Studios. And most of that, those people were our clients and became very friendly with them. So that you went into their homes. I used to say it was like being a doctor. You knew more about them than their friends do because you knew all their intimate lives, lives.

MNK: You did interior decorating? (597)

RR: Yes. And had our business for 42 years. That was another reason I had, most of the people that were with us that worked for me were people that had been with us from the beginning. So they were ready to retire. And I had only kept the business after my husband died because I knew he wanted them to have it. And I was no longer active in it, but when they were ready to retire, I said, "There’s no point in keeping it. We’ll just sell it." So we sold the business, and I’m still -- Most of those people I still am in touch with. But when we first started, we were the only people in town that had a decorating business, but now there are many of them in Wheeling. In fact, the business that bought my store is a decorating business out on National Road. What’s -- Mary Beth Hughes has it now. And she’s doing well. So -- But you asked about the women there. Some of them became very good friends of mine through the business.

MNK: What sort of lives did they lead? (634)

RR: Well, you know, most of them managed their homes. Played a lot of bridge. We had a women’s club which a lot of them belonged to. And --

MNK: What was that called?

RR: The Women’s Club of Wheeling, which I belonged to for many years. And they used to bring programs here every, every Friday I think it was. Every Friday afternoon was Women’s Club Day. And -- We used to -- They were all, I think, culturally minded. I mean most of them wanted to do something, have their charitable organizations that they were involved with. And of course they had their church activities. But it was a very, very pleasant kind of life. Nobody worked in those days! I mean no women worked, business work, you know. No one went into business, but -- And I didn’t go into business until after my sons were through with, and were gone, were on their own. In fact, Arthur started his practice the same year we started our business. And my other son is in Washington who is a writer and lecturer. And so that’s all I can tell you about them.

MNK: They -- So they were just mainly involved in managing their homes and --

RR: Yeah.

MNK: Families and that sort of thing? (677)

RR: Yeah, I think so. I think so.

MNK: Was there an intellectual sort of flavor about their lives? Did they --

RR: Well, the Women’s Club pretended to be. I mean used to bring lecturers here, and so that was one intellectual project. And we had reading clubs and, you know, things like that. So that I don’t think many people were interested in colleges at that time. I don’t think very many of the women are going back to college or taking courses, but I don’t think at that time they’d be doing that. So it was sort of a, you know, just a sort of a superficial kind of happy time. Married a rich man and you just lived out your life. But --

MNK: Interesting. (707)

RR: It’s changed. It’s -- Life has changed. I mean today women are very much involved in all kinds of things no matter what they, financial status is. But in those days your home was your center.

MNK: Had you any background in interior decorating or --

RR: No.

MNK: Was this something that came naturally to you? (720)

RR: No. My husband was managing -- After he left Stifel he was managing a furniture store that was owned by the Ogden -- (side 2)

RR: On its way out. And they wanted to get it into shape so they could sell it. So they asked him if he would take it over and sort of refurbish it. It was a great big store. And so he did. And when it was ready, he said to me, who didn’t have anything to do at home anymore, the boys were away and he said, "Why don’t you come down and hostess for me for a little while?" Just -- I said, "Well, I don’t know anything about business," you know. He said, "Well, just come down and greet people as they come in then." So I said, "Okay." It sounded like fun. And I went down, and I was there for a week and liked it. And I stayed for another week and another week! And about the third week I followed one of the salesmen who was taking a young couple who came in with about three thousand dollars. They wanted to set up housekeeping. And he took them upstairs to show them -- First of course, they wanted to see the bedroom. And they bought a bedroom suite. And then they bought a living room. And then they bought a kitchen. And in about a half an hour they were gone. And I said to myself, ‘this can’t be right.’ He doesn’t know where the furniture is going. They don’t know where the furniture’s going to fit. How can they buy furniture like that. So I said ‘something’s wrong here.’ So then the next time my husband went to market I went with him and got very interested in the furniture field. And studied interior decorating a little while, but always had a feel for it. And came back, and we opened our own shop. And that’s how I became an interior decorator. Started out by being a teacher. I mean that was my profession, but I became an interior decorator. Did some very -- We did some very nice jobs. So --

MNK: In addition to the furniture store? Was it -- (027)

RR: No, that was, that was -- That was sold and closed down. And then we opened our own. And we saw this little place on the Pike there that, on National Road. Thought it was a good place to start, and we had the first, rented the first floor. Didn’t know what we were going to do, but someone opened the door and peeked in and said, "Do you have Dunbar furniture?" And we said, "Yes. We have the catalog." So he came in, bought Dunbar furniture, and that -- The end of the week, the young woman who had helped my husband at the furniture store used to come in and just do whatever little correspondence he had. And the man who had come in to help us, young man, came in on a Wednesday. And on Saturday he came in and saw this beautiful blond sitting at the desk, and his eyes popped. And six months, they were married! So -- And raised a wonderful family, and still, he’s still with us. Still friends. And so that was the, the story with him. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, we didn’t know what we wanted him to do, but we liked one another so that was it. And then we had an interior designer who worked with me who stayed for 42 years, 40 years. And every -- His wife came to work for us. And it was just one big, happy family.

MNK: That’s a wonderful story. So, so the -- Just as you had finished raising your sons, you, you became a professional --

RR: Yeah.

MNK: Partner of your husband’s? (050)

RR: Right, right. And I, I hesitated because I thought he was the most wonderful person in the whole world, admired everything he did, and I know that people in business can be very different from people in social life. And I -- It worried me because I thought, ‘gee, if he ever does anything I don’t like, I’ll be devastated.’ But he never did. So it worked out very happily. And we got along fine. And it was a happy little store we thought. We finally bought the building, took the upstairs, and it was ours. So --

MNK: So as people came in to buy furniture you had this whole approach of asking them about the space they were trying to -- (062)

RR: Oh, sure. I never did anything without seeing their place or seeing their plans for the place. And women used to come in with their little basket with their plans and their thoughts on different things, magazines, you know, they had picked out. And, "Oh, I was a nervous wreck. I’m going to be a nervous wreck." And I used to say, "Look, you ought to go out and buy a fur coat. If you’re not going to be happy building the house, don’t do it." And, you know, tried to settle them down, and we had a very happy time working things out. So it was fun.

MNK: Well, what, what other areas of your life have we not touched on that you would like to talk about? (073)

RR: Oh, dear. Gee, I don’t remember if you asked me -- I guess there are a million things there. Ninety-four years is a long time, but -- Carrie Nobel Kline: Could you tell us what it was like being Jewish in Wheeling? (075)

RR: Oh, we joined the temple when we came here. It was our first project. And of course it was a very big congregation in those days. We were on the -- We were on Eoff Street, the old, old temple was up on Eoff Street. Beautiful old building. And then as people started moving out what they called the Pike, out Woodsdale area, they tore the old building down and moved out. Built the new one, the one that’s there, and it was always a very good relationship there. I started the -- I taught Sunday school or was superintendent for a while. Had a good time doing that. I did everything because my boys were doing it at the, involved in it and so that’s how I did it. It was the same reason that I started the day camp at Oglebay. They were having the families come up for a week, and the husbands would go back to work and then come home at night. And the families would be up there. And I said, "Well, as long as my children are up here and I have to entertain them, I’ll entertain all the children." So we had a day camp. And that day camp is now -- Oh, I don’t know, hundreds of children that they have, and I don’t know how many teachers and superintendents and things, but --

MNK: This was something you started? (095)

RR: Yeah. The day camp.

MNK: What, what year would it have been?

RR: Well, let’s see. Arthur was about --


RR: Arthur was about ten. Ten from 70 would be what? Sixty years ago. So that’s what, 60 from 94 would be in the thirties. And that was at Oglebay. And it was, you know, it was fun. You had about 50 children, and they had a good time. We’d read, and we’d play games. And we’d -- Wasn’t any swimming pool. And there wasn’t any, there wasn’t anything up there! But we made whatever was there something good. We had the, the first tent that was ever pitched, we did up at Oglebay. The superintendent up there said, "You know, we’d like to pitch a tent. Would you like to do it up here?" And we said, "Sure." So we went up there and spent 10 days. We were five minutes from home. We never went back home! We stayed up there all the time and slept in a tent with our dog! It was a wonderful -- And so Oglebay was very much our second home.

MNK: So you started out with the temple on --

RR: On the temple, yes.

MNK: Eoff Street. (114)

RR: Eoff Street.

MNK: There were two other congregations at that time?

RR: There was the Orthodox. We were the Reformed Temple, and there was an Orthodox Temple which, Synagogue. Which I, I don’t even know if they had a building then. Yes, they did. They were out on Edgington Lane. And there was a congregation … that was closely connected. And we had some wonderful rabbis here. And it was a very close-knit congregation. We would have our dinners and women working the kitchen. Women that wouldn’t do the, wash the dishes at home would get involved with all the dirty work in the kitchen at the temple and enjoy it! And then we had our Twig, which was the hospital group. We worked for the hospital. We sewed for the hospital. And that went on for many years after the Ohio Valley Hospital -- And sewed countless diapers and towels and hospital gowns and things like that.

CNK: It was called Twig? (135)

RR: Twig. T-W-I-G. Yeah. They were --

MNK: What, what does that mean Twig?

RR: I don’t know, the name was borrowed, I think, from some organization up in the east, northeast. Someone came back and said that they would do -- People up there were doing that for the hospital. So they did it here for the hospital and was very valuable because you turned out a lot of work, and there were many Twigs that did that. There was some Twigs that did, raised money only. I mean that was their sole project. And others that did cookbooks and things like that. And -- But we were a sewing Twig. And that was done through the temple.

MNK: Then eventually those three congregations merged into --

RR: Yes.

MNK: The present one? (147)

RR: Yes. They’re all, all one in the temple here in Woodsdale. And it worked out very well. They were -- It’s funny, they were all friends. I mean both congregations, the women and the men were all friends. It was just that they had the different temples. And so it was difficult at first, but eventually became easy. And now I suppose there aren’t many people that even remember we were separate.

MNK: Who were some of the memorable rabbis that you, that you recall? (156)

RR: Before I came, Rabbi Silver, who became a national figure, was here. And --


RR: Yeah. S-I-L-V-E-R.

MNK: Oh, V-E-R.

RR: V-E-R. Silver. And he left here and went, I think, to Cleveland. But he became a national figure, and everybody -- He married a Wheeling girl. And in fact, he married a Wheeling girl by the name of Horkheimer. And his -- Silver’s -- I don’t know if they were related. Another rabbi, Lazaurus, married this Horkheimer girl’s sister. So that -- And he went to -- I don’t know where -- He went to Washington or someplace. So there were two famous rabbis. And then we had Dr. Leiberman who was also a very well-known rabbi. He went to Canada, I think. And who else. There were several that were just rabbis and were not noted men. I don’t remember the name.

MNK: During the Second World War, was the, were the women’s groups involved in any --

RR: Oh yes.

MNK: Support activities? (176)

RR: Oh yes. The knitting and the --

MNK: Tell me about that.

RR: The sweaters. Well, they all knitted, and they were all busy sending care packages and writing letters and all that sort of thing. And -- The same as people all over the world, all over the country were doing. And most of us had sons or brothers in the war. And it was a very difficult time. And I think if the, if I had the courage then that I had today, my sons wouldn’t have gone. I wouldn’t have let them go because I used to say ‘over my dead body they’ll go to war.’ But everybody else’s sons was going, were going. I said I didn’t have the courage then that I have today, but -- So they went. But it was a horrible time. But --

MNK: Did you have family in, in Europe that were --

RR: No. No.

MNK: … people had come here. (193)

RR: They were all here. Yeah. And it’s a --

MNK: Where did, where did they come from? Where did your family come from in Europe?

RR: My mother’s mother and father -- My mother’s mother came from Austria. My mother’s father came from France. My father’s mother and father came from Austria-Hungary. Austria-Hungary. But my father came here when he was 13, and my mother was born here. So we had nobody over there that was close to us.

MNK: Carrie, what else have we forgotten?

CNK: What do you remember about Germans in Wheeling during the war? How were they treating other people? (209)

RR: Germans. No differently than us. That was -- They were mostly all second generation. I mean they came -- A lot of Germans came to Wheeling, but by that time they were all Americanized. It was no feeling about it.

CNK: Were the Jews in Wheeling united in trying to get our country to do something about Hitler? (216)

RR: No. I don’t think -- I don’t understand why we didn’t feel more deeply about Hitler. I thought, I thought I felt as badly, as badly as I could feel about people that were trapped over there until I met my daughter-in-law, who was a survivor of the holocaust. And then, then I realized what it was. That she was, she was eight years old when her parents got her out of -- She was an only child, and her parents got her out of Europe just in time. She was raised in Scotland by some nuns, by the nuns up there and never saw her parents again. Never heard -- Had a letter from her father, but never, never saw them again. And then I realized what it must have been to people to send their child away. It --

MNK: When they couldn’t leave themselves. (234)

RR: They couldn’t, couldn’t go with her. Knowing that they would never see her again. They were both killed in the gas chambers. In fact, she and her husband are leaving October 2 to go back to the town where she was raised in, lived in. A little town called Hoenau. And she doesn’t even know what’s left there. Her father was a famous chemist and been decorated by the German government. And they were not exempt. But they had a sugar factory there, beet sugar factory and it’s still there, but it’s publicly owned now. They’re going back to, to see it.

MNK: This is your son and -- (249)

RR: My son and his wife.

CNK: They don’t live in Wheeling now?

RR: They live in Washington. And she and my husband, she and my son and their two boys were with us when we went to Europe. She wanted us to meet the, the nuns who had raised her. And we went to all the different convents that she had been in. And the youngest son is a pianist. I mean he’s been a pianist since he was three years old! And one of the pictures I have is of the, his playing in the gymnasium of this convent and all the nuns in their costumes dancing around! Costumes floating around, and they were having a great time. And they just -- When they heard Erica was there, they came out of the woodwork. They were so glad to see her. So that was an interesting experience. But that’s where my husband died. We were there for two weeks, three weeks. Two weeks we had a marvelous time. He just had the best time.

MNK: In Scotland? (268)

RR: Scotland, Ireland, Vienna, France. He died in Vienna. England. Had a heart attack and died. I didn’t want to go, but he wanted me to have that as my 45th anniversary present. And we never got to it. So -- But fortunately Erica and Walter were there because Erica spoke German and French, which I didn’t. Walter spoke a little German. And otherwise I don’t know how I’d have gotten through, through it. But they were. That was 27 years ago. And if anybody had told me I’d be hanging around for 27 years without him, I’d have thought they were crazy.

MNK: What’s that been like? (283)

RR: I must say the children have tried to make it as wonderful as they could. They’ve been -- The children and the grandchildren have been marvelous. But -- It’s been a lonely time.

MNK: Were there enough wonderful things about being with him that you were able to come to terms with being without him? Or has it been just utterly devastating?

RR: When you really don’t have a choice --

MNK: No, of course you don’t have a choice, but -- (294)

RR: You don’t have a choice.

MNK: Whatever you make of it, I guess.

RR: Yeah. And as I say, for the children and the grandchildren I had to at least pretend that I was having a good time. I mean it has been, it has been a good time. I mean they, they have shown more love and devotion than any children I know. And so I’ve been blessed in that … .

MNK: Well, thank you. This has been a wonderful, wonderful talk. Now, tell me about Bill Lias. (305)

RR: Well, he -- First of all --

MNK: Mention his name.

RR: Bill Lias was an enormous man. And we made -- The studio made a special chair for him because he wouldn’t fit into a regular chair. And he was the, the master gangster of town, but a very generous man. He gave and gave and gave. And he had a wife who was so beautiful that I used to stare at her. She was a real Grecian beauty. She was just, just beautiful. They had two children. They had a son who looked just like his mother. And a daughter who looked just like her father! Which just seemed cruel. But their home was filled with precious things, but all the windows were barred. They had a, a pantry of china the likes of which I’ve never seen. I mean all sets of china. And -- But there were guards there. All the people who worked for them were guards. And it was a terrible life. Terrible and -- They had all the money in the world. They owned the racetrack. At that time it was a, raced horses. We never went, but we had some visitors and so we took them over there. And had wonderful restaurant. We ordered dinner, and had dinner. And when it was time for the check, the check came down with the compliments of Mrs. Lias! (335) So, so as I say, they were very generous people, but -- And they were customers of ours so got to know them, but they were -- He had a steak house in town. Really knew all, all the right people in that field!

MNK: But the, the entry to their home was just spectacular, I guess? (343)

RR: It was beautiful. They had wonderful things. And money was no object, so they had everything.

CNK: Did you go to Zeller’s? Zeller’s Steak --

RR: Yes I’ve been in Zeller’s and had wonderful steaks! But, but you always wondered where the money came from. You knew where the money came from, but it didn’t seem to matter.

CNK: Would you dance there? (352)

RR: No. I don’t think they had dancing. Did they have dancing? Maybe they did, but I, I -- We didn’t dance there. But, but they were really interesting people.

MNK: Thanks.

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