Interview with Sara Levy, August 12, 2015

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Childhood in Williamson, West Virginia

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Partial Transcript: Uh, today, today is August 12th, 2015.

Segment Synopsis: Sara Levy talks about growing up in Williamson, West Virginia. She goes on to discuss the Williamson Bargain Store, a clothing store that was owned and operated by her parents.

Keywords: Appalachia; Stone; Tug River; West Virginia; Williamson (W. Va.); Williamson Bargain Store

Subjects: Childhood; Entrepreneurship; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish children; Small business--Ownership

GPS: Williamson, West Virginia
Map Coordinates: 37.6742682, -82.2773629
00:02:37 - Levy's mother / father's immigration

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, when did it--when did your parents move to Williamson, and when did they--

Segment Synopsis: Levy lists off her mother's family from Williamson. She also discusses her father's immigration into the United States from Poland. Once arrived, her father stayed with family in Chicago and worked as a theatre attendant while he taught himself English and assimilated.

Keywords: Chicago (Ill.); Coal; Coal mining; Edith Shannon; Harry Shannon; Hollers (hollows); Jimmy Shannon; Marvin Shannon; Peddlers; Poland; Raymond Shannon

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Family histories.

00:04:46 - Father's arrival in Williamson, West Virginia

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Partial Transcript: And how, how, how old was he and when did he move from Chicago to Williamson?

Segment Synopsis: Levy recounts the story of her father coming to Williamson as a peddler, traveling to remote areas and selling odds and ends, and founding the Williamson Bargain Store with a Syrian business partner named Mikhel. Her father eventually bought out his business partner and remained in Williamson.

Keywords: Appalachia; Auschwitz; Ben Stone; Coal; Coal mining; Concentration camps; Hollers (hollows); Holocaust; Peddlers; Williamson (W. Va.); Yiddish

Subjects: Entrepreneurship; Family histories.; Jewish businesspeople; Small business--Ownership

00:09:54 - Williamson Bargain Store / Williamson Grade School

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Partial Transcript: So, okay. He was here and he went into business with Mikhel, and then Mikhel left the business or your father bought him out.

Segment Synopsis: Levy talks about the clothing store her father owned, Williamson Bargain Store. She and her sister both worked in the store throughout their childhood and attended Williamson Grade School.

Keywords: Cleveland (Ohio); Ofsa Shoe Store; Williamson Daily News; Williamson Grade School; Williamson High School

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Entrepreneurship; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish children; Small business--Ownership

GPS: Cleveland, Ohio
Map Coordinates: 41.49932, -81.6943605
00:16:49 - Jewish practice in the Stone household

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me a little bit about your parents' relationship to Judaism?

Segment Synopsis: Levy recounts her parents' religious practices and beliefs. Her father was not particularly religious and her mother was a devout convert to Judaism. She also recounts her father meeting her mother in the Steckler household.

Keywords: B'nai Israel Temple; Conversion; Gefilte Fish; Huntington (W. Va.); Peddlers; Ruth Steckler; Steckler; Temple

Subjects: Family histories.; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Huntington, West Virginia
Map Coordinates: 38.420833, -82.423611
00:22:10 - First encounter with Antisemitism

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Partial Transcript: Now at--I'll tell you about another experience.

Segment Synopsis: Levy recounts a story of being mocked by a fellow student for being Jewish when she was six years old. This eventually led to a confrontation that led Levy to push her bully down a flight of wooden steps. Williamson Grade School sent teachers to Levy's classroom to teach about Jesus and sing gospel music with the students.

Keywords: Columbus (Ohio); Danny Freeburg; Gloria Ginsburg; Gospel music; Morris Ginsburg; Nashville (Tenn.)

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Childhood; Discrimination.; Jewish children

GPS: Columbus, Ohio
Map Coordinates: 39.9611755, -82.9987942
00:28:52 - The role of Jewish tradition in her childhood

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned, uh, your mom cooking for holidays.

Segment Synopsis: Levy recounts the role of Jewish tradition during her childhood. Her mother was a devout convert and assimilated into Jewish culture and customs. Her father made Chrain from horseradish root and her mother made gefilte fish.

Keywords: Chrain; Gefilte Fish; Hess family; Kashrut; Kosher; Shabbos; Taylor Jewelry Store

Subjects: Childhood; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Religion; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Huntington, West Virginia
Map Coordinates: 38.4192496, -82.445154
00:32:35 - Meeting Erle, and their first date

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Partial Transcript: And their son--Sonia and I were older because Ted Hess wanted to date one of us.

Segment Synopsis: Levy talks about meeting Erle and their first date together. At 16, she met Erle on a blind date in the summer of 1951. She also mentions Zeta Beta Tau and the Jewish students involved in the UK chapter of ZBT.

Keywords: Ivan Goldfarb; Joyland Country Club; Ted Hess; University of Kentucky; Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT)

Subjects: College students--Religious life; College students--Social conditions; Greek letter societies.; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Lexington.; Lexington (Ky.)

00:40:17 - Daily life at the University of Kentucky in the 1950s

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Partial Transcript: So you came and you started school in 1953?

Segment Synopsis: Levy discusses daily life at University of Kentucky in the 1950s, as well as the student dating scene during this time. She also talks about a history professor, Enogh Khrae, who scheduled a test on Yom Kippur and refused to allow her to make up the exam.

Keywords: Enogh Khrae; European History; Fine art; Jewell Hall; Yom Kippur; Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT)

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; College students--Social conditions; Discrimination.; Greek letter societies.; Jews--Kentucky--Lexington.; University of Kentucky

GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.0389023, -84.504929
00:58:25 - Marrying Erle / Erle's family

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Partial Transcript: And when did you get married?

Segment Synopsis: Levy reminisces about marrying Erle. Erle's grandfather owned a shop on Upper Street, Phillip Gall & Son. Levy named her fourth child Phillip, after Erle's grandfather Philip Gall.

Keywords: Clothing stores; Pawnshops; Phillip Gall; Phillip Gall & Son; Upper Street (Lexington)

Subjects: Entrepreneurship; Jewish businesspeople; Jewish families.; Marriage; Small business--Kentucky; Small business--Ownership

GPS: Site of Phillip Gall & Son clothing store
Map Coordinates: 38.047215, -84.4987036
01:04:50 - Jewish sororities at UK

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Partial Transcript: So, can you tell me, I guess, a little bit about how that time at U.K. impacted your Jewish identity?

Segment Synopsis: Levy discusses Jewish sororities at UK, and other Jewish students at the university. Levy was briefly involved in a sorority that she helped found but left because she did not agree with the group's mission. She wanted the sorority's mission to help other students but other members were not as enthusiastic and used the club for social functions.

Keywords: Hillel; Jewish sorority; Lillian Ruben; Phi Sigma Sigma; Shirley Ruby; Sonia Stone

Subjects: College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Religious life; College students--Social conditions; Greek letter societies.; Jewish leadership--Kentucky--Lexington; Jewish women--Kentucky--Lexington

01:14:47 - Jewish community in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: I'm going to ask you some more questions about the family that you and Erle built together, but before I do that and jump ahead to that...

Segment Synopsis: Levy discusses the Jewish community of Lexington. Coming from Williamson, Lexington had a significantly larger Jewish population than her hometown in West Virginia. She recalls 10 or 12 Jewish students that regularly socialized together. They often met at Hillel or at Temple Adath Israel. After Sara and Erle's children grew older she became more involved within the Jewish community in Lexington. She and Erle attended the temple on Friday services as well as during the holidays.

Keywords: Cooper; Gunga Din; Kashrut; Kosher; Moe Davis; Rabbi Leffler; Reform Judaism; Reform Temple; Temple Adath Israel; Yiddish

Subjects: College students--Religious life; Jewish families.; Jews--Kentucky--Lexington.; Lexington (Ky.); Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.035655, -84.482845
01:53:53 - Closing statements

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Partial Transcript: Um, is there anything that else that you would like to share looking back, or?

Segment Synopsis: Levy gives her closing statements for the interview. She talks about her husband Erle and her admiration for him. She also remembers to tell a story about her involvement in a university carnival sponsored by the campus fraternities, perhaps taking place on St. Patrick's Day.

Keywords: Fraternity; St. Patrick's Day; University of Kentucky

Subjects: College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Greek letter societies.; Marriage