Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Louise Wile, Joseph S. Wile, August 15, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Introduction and family background

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Partial Transcript: Well, Louise and Joe Wile, Helen Paritz, Carolyn Weinberger, and I, Ruth Kessler, are most happy to be in your charming home; it's just lovely.

Segment Synopsis: Joe Wile introduces himself and mentions his parents, sister, children, and grandchildren. Joe was born in Lexington, Kentucky on January 5, 1906. His parents were Edith S. Wile and Dolph Wile. Nannette Wile Straus was his sister. With his wife, Louise, Joe has two children, Joe Wile Jr. and Louise Wile Helm. Joe and Louise also have 7 grandchildren.

Keywords: Dolph Wile; Edith S. Wile; Joe Wile Jr.; Joseph S. Wile; Louise Wile Helm; Nannette Wile Straus

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Louisville (Ky.)

00:02:11 - Joe's education

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Partial Transcript: Now, did you go to, uh, school here, in Lexington?

Segment Synopsis: Joe explains that he went to school in Lexington from elementary through high school. Then he attended the University of Pennsylvania and did military service from 1942-1945.

Keywords: Economics; Grammar schools; Junior high schools; Military service; Pennsylvania; Philadelphia (Pa.); Schooling; Senior high schools

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Families.; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); University of Pennsylvania

00:02:52 - The Wolf Wile Department Store

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Partial Transcript: Now, has your father always had the store?

Segment Synopsis: Joe Wile describes how his father acquired the family business, the Wolf Wile Department Store. Dolph Wile and Simon Wolf were the owners of the store until Mr. Wolf died in 1921. Dolph Wile then bought out Mr. Wolf's partnership interest, and Joe began working in the store in 1927 after graduating from college. He says the store changed location from West Main Street next to Versailles Road to the Hernando Building on East Main Street in 1921. Finally, the shop moved to 244 East Main Street on June 1, 1950. There the shop remained until its closing in 1992.

Keywords: Downtown Lexington; East Main Street; Family stores; Fire of 1921; Germany; Hernando Building; Jewish downtown; Jewish-owned stores; Modern architecture; Simon Wolf; St. Louis (Mo.); Stewarts Building; University of Kentucky; Versailles Road; West Main Street; Wolf Wile

Subjects: Entrepreneurship; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership

00:06:41 - The Wolfe Wile Department Store--Employees

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Partial Transcript: And what's remarkable is that the store is, uh, just as, uh, beautiful as it was years ago. Even the merchandising is beautiful.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewers and Joe describe Joe and Louise's family store, Wolf Wile, as being a modern store with old fashioned standards and quality. Joe describes the employees, particularly Nona Richardson, an 81-year-old woman who worked for the store for 64 years.

Keywords: Downtown Lexington; Jewish-owned stores; Mall-type stores; Malls; Nona Richardson; Store clerks; Store standards; Wolf Wile

Subjects: Entrepreneurship; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership

00:09:27 - Joe's childhood involvement at Temple Adath Israel

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Partial Transcript: Um, tell us, um, you did go to the temple religious school?

Segment Synopsis: Joe talks about Temple Adath Israel on Maryland Avenue that he attended when he was young. He and the interviewers then spend time trying to remember and list names of people who were confirmed at the same time as Joe.

Keywords: Bob Strauss; Confirmation; Frankel & Curtis; Hannah Parotz; Hebrew Union College; Jacob Spire; James Frankel; Jim Strauss; John J. Curtis; Leon K. Frankel; Marie Heimlan; Maryland Avenue; Millers; Norris Lovenheart; Oppenheimer; Rabbis; Rose Paritz; Sadie Paritz; Sunday schools; Temple Adath Israel; Temple religious schools; Visiting rabbi; Wolf Rosenberg

Subjects: Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion

00:14:40 - Joe meeting his wife, Louise

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Partial Transcript: How, how did you meet Louise?

Segment Synopsis: Joe and Louise describe the circumstances in which they met. Louise was selling student advertisements and came to the Wolf Wile store. Then Joe reads a poem he had written about Hamilton College, a junior college for girls in Lexington, and how the girls there had changed over the years.

Keywords: Advertisements; Day School; Education; Hamilton College; May Queens; North Broadway; Poems; Poetry; Saleswoman; Selling ads; Small schools; Student-store relations; Students; Transylvania College; Transylvania University

Subjects: College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Couples.; Dating (Social customs); Education, Higher; Entrepreneurship; Interpersonal relations; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership; Universities and colleges.

00:18:03 - Married life

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Partial Transcript: --And he'll tell us when they were married.

Segment Synopsis: Joe begins by explaining that he and Louise were married in 1932 in Covington, Kentucky. Then they discuss their friends at the time of the marriage, and the section ends with Louise reading another poem about their marriage written to her by Joe.

Keywords: Alvin Hamil; Bob Embry; Church differences; Cliff Thompson; Covington, Kentucky; Fairway Drive; First National Bank; Jimmy McFarland; Judie Frankel; Kenton; Louis Felsenthal; Louise Culbertson Ware; Marion "Jeff" Davis; Orie Solomon Ware; Pat Ferra; Poems; Poetry; Rental rates; Tin Castle Road

Subjects: Couples.; Covington (Ky.); Dating (Social customs); Interpersonal relations; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Marriage

00:22:32 - Other Jewish businesses in 1927 downtown Lexington

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Partial Transcript: Joe, getting back to, uh, downtown Lexington and the stores, um, were there--there--were there many Jewish, uh, businesses when you first came into the store?

Segment Synopsis: The group attempts to remember the various Jewish businesses that existed in downtown Lexington in 1927.

Keywords: August Hamil; Ben Roose; Ben Sneider; Downtown Lexington; Grievel's; Hamil's Clothing Store; Jewish businesses; Jewish-owned stores; Kaufmann Clothing Company; Laurence Rosenberg; Sid Bing; Strauss; The Kentuckian; William Moses

Subjects: Entrepreneurship; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership

00:24:17 - The Great Depression and Lexington post-war industry

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Partial Transcript: Well, Joe and I were married in the depths of the Depression.

Segment Synopsis: Louise and Joe describe the struggles of living during the Great Depression, and Joe recalls the developments that changed Lexington for the better. They also mention how Joe helped change the name of Chesapeake Alley to Quality Street.

Keywords: Agriculture; Chesapeake Alley; Computer stores; Great Depression; Industrial Park; International Business Machines (IBM); Quality Street; Rental rates; Specialty stores; Train stations; West Main Street; World War II

Subjects: Depressions--1929; Employment; Lexington (Ky.); United States--Economic conditions--1918-1945.; World War, 1939-1945

00:31:02 - Military service and entertainment in Lexington from 1920s to 1940s

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Partial Transcript: I, uh--Joe was in the, uh--away from Lexington for three years.

Segment Synopsis: Louise describes how Joe had military service for three years, from 1942-1945, including two years in the South Pacific. Then Joe tells of the various developments that contributed to the overall attendance at the temple. Finally, they discuss the places of amusement in Lexington.

Keywords: Alice Pennington; Amusement; Austin (Tex.); Austin, Texas; Entertainment; Golden Horseshoe; Horse sales; Industry; Joyland Park; Lafayette Hotel; Military service; Narcotics Hospital; Paris Pike; Phoenix Hotel; South Pacific; Springhurst; Temple Adath Israel; Temple membership; University of Kentucky Medical Center; VA Hospitals

Subjects: Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Recreation; World War, 1939-1945

00:37:42 - Business pressure to move the shop's location

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Partial Transcript: Uh, Joe has the--did the Chamber of Commerce ever think that the downtown would, well it just went down in such a hurry...

Segment Synopsis: Joe explains that after the Turfland Mall was built, a lot of downtown stores decided to move to the shopping centers or divide to two locations.

Keywords: Christ Church Apartment; Downtown Lexington; Downtown offices; Downtown stores; Fayette Mall; Location pressures; Malls; Shopping centers; Turfland Mall; Woodlands; suburbs

Subjects: Entrepreneurship; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership

00:42:31 - Joe's encounter with Belle Breezing as a child

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Partial Transcript: Um, you might be interested, uh, I mean you've read this book about Belle Breezing--

Segment Synopsis: Joe tells a funny story about when he encountered the famous madam Belle Breezing on a package delivery.

Keywords: Belle Breezing; Eastern Avenue; Package delivery; Wilson Street; Wolf Wile Department Store

Subjects: Childhood; Employment--Kentucky; Lexington (Ky.)

00:45:08 - Temple Adath Israel involvement and 50th class reunion

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Partial Transcript: I became a member of the Temple after I graduated from college, and, uh, I served on several committees.

Segment Synopsis: Joe describes his involvement at Temple Adath Israel. Then Joe and Louise talk about the 50th year class reunion of the Old Lexington High School that Joe and two friends organized.

Keywords: Class reunions; Emith Milward; John Barkley; Old Lexington High School; Temple Adath Israel; Temple presidents; Temples; Tom Adams

Subjects: Education; Jewish leadership--Kentucky--Lexington; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion