Interview with Mark Wides, March 18, 2016

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


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00:00:00 - Family history

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Partial Transcript: For official purposes, today is March 18th, 2016.

Segment Synopsis: Wides describes his family history and relations in Kentucky. He also describes his relations to other Jewish families, including the Ades, the Micklers, and the Cohens.

Keywords: Alison Kinningham; Alison Michelle Wides; Avery Madison; Bella Jane Kinningham; Betsy Wides; Betty Claire Mickler; Brandom Michael Wides; Bristol Kate Wides; Brittany Wides; David Ades; Family history; Family relations; Harry Cohen; John Kinningham; Justin Alan Wides; Laura Wides; Lily Ades; Lily Claire Kinningham; Mike Ades; Norman Aaron Wides; Robert Cohen; William Joseph Kinningham; Yvonne Fister

Subjects: Family histories.; Jewish families.; Jews--Kentucky--Lexington.; Lexington (Ky.)

00:08:59 - History of Wides Scrap Metals

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Partial Transcript: What were your parents' occupations?

Segment Synopsis: Wides provides a history of the Wides Scrap Metals company, established in 1946 after his father returned from World War II. He got a loan from his grandmother and opened the business with his brother, Ed Wides. He details how the business competed with larger firms by purchasing from steel centers and eventually became a steel and miscellaneous building supply company. Wides also discusses his relationship to the Skuller and Cohen families, and mentions the newly renovated Skuller clock on Main Street.

Keywords: Baker and Wides; Baker family; Ben Norris; Building businesses; Contracting; Edward Joseph Wides; Family history; Harry Gordon; Harry Gordon Steel; Jewish businesses; Morris Baker; Morris Wides; Mort Norris; Scrap metal; Skuller; Skuller's Jewelry Store; Steel service centers; Wides Scrap Metals; World War II

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

00:22:47 - Growing up Jewish in Lexington, Kentucky in the 1950s and 1960s

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Partial Transcript: Okay, what was your Judaism in your family like growing up? How did Jewishness figure into your childhood and what traditions did you follow?

Segment Synopsis: Wides describes his experience growing up Jewish, including his connections to the larger Jewish community through summer camps in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and New York. Although he used to be involved with Temple Adath Israel, including teaching Sunday school, he is not as active anymore. He remembers the holidays with his family and celebrating the holidays with his Gentile friends.

Keywords: Bar mitzvahs; Bill Shraberg; Education; Hanukkah (also Chanukah and other spellings); Henry Clay High School (Lexington, Ky.); Integration; Jewish communities; Jewish friends; Jewish life; Jewish networks; Jewish religion; Jewish tradition; Membership; North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY); Summer camps; Temple Adath Israel (Lexington, synagogue); Youth organizations

Subjects: Childhood; Holidays.; Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Lexington.; Lexington (Ky.)

00:36:26 - Photographs from Wides Scrap Metals

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Partial Transcript: Before we get into, um, your college life, can we talk about the pictures you brought?

Segment Synopsis: Wides shares some photos from the original Wides Scrap Metal company. He discusses the employment of George Jackson, an African-American and the first person they hired in 1946. Wides also talks about the process of collecting and processing scrap metal.

Keywords: Building businesses; George Jackson; Jewish businesses; Photographs; Processing; Railroad; Relations with African Americans; Scrap metal; Steel; Wides Material; Wides Scrap Metals

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

00:39:17 - College life at the University of Kentucky in the mid-1960s

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Partial Transcript: I know that you graduated high school in June of 1966, and therefore probably started college that following fall.

Segment Synopsis: Wides describes his time as a student in the mid-1960s at the University of Kentucky in the school of architecture. He also shares his experience as a swimmer in high school and college and the establishment of the first dedicated swim space for the Greater Lexington Aquatic Club (now Kentucky Aquatics) which is housed at the Lancaster Aquatic Center at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Architecture; Colleges; Education; Greater Lexington Aquatic Club; Greater Lexington Swim Association; Housing; Lexington history; Libraries; Residence; Sports; Swimming

Subjects: College environment; College facilities.; College students--Social conditions; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky. College of Architecture

00:49:42 - Greek life and the establishment of Alpha Epsilon Pi at the University of Kentucky in 1972

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Partial Transcript: Mark, it was my understanding that while you were at the University of Kentucky you were involved to some degree in the establishment or an attempted establishment of the Jewish fraternity AEPi.

Segment Synopsis: Wides describes his experience as a Jew at the University of Kentucky during the turbulent era of the 1970s, and his role in the establishment of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi.

Keywords: 1970s; Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) (University of Kentucky); Community involvement; Education; Fraternity; Greek life (fraternities, sororities); Jewish holidays; Jewish life; Jewish networks; Jewish organizations; Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT)

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

01:04:09 - Jewish life, community involvement, and negative family attitudes towards intermarriage

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Partial Transcript: You've talked a little bit about your Jewish life after college, um, and why you stayed in Lexington in order to continue working, and that your wife's family is, obviously, from here as well.

Segment Synopsis: Wides describes his life as a Jew in Lexington, his involvement in the Jewish community which included a tenure on the board of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass, and his children's relationship to Judaism. Although the Lexington community was relatively open to the Jewish community, Wides describes the range of his family's attitudes, from delight to hostile, towards his marriage to his wife, who is not Jewish.

Keywords: Bill Leffler; Child-rearing; Civic involvement; Community involvement; Family life; Family values; Interfaith dating; Intermarriage; Israel; Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass; Jewish identity; Jewish life; Jewish practices; Jewish tradition; Jews in civic/social scene; Leadership; Zionism

Subjects: Families.; Interfaith marriage.; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Jews--Kentucky--Lexington.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.)

01:12:37 - Growing acceptance in the Lexington community and Jewish values in business

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Partial Transcript: How have things changed in Lexington, um, since you've been here, as far as the Jewish community? Or do you see the changes?

Segment Synopsis: Wides describes how the Lexington community has become more accepting of the Jewish community, particularly in business. He also explains how Jewish values employed in Jewish businesses, such as compassion, a strong work ethic, and a balance between work and family, has permeated to non-Jewish businesses.

Keywords: Business ethics; Child-rearing; Cultural acceptance; Jewish businesses; Jewish communities; Jewish holidays; Jewish identity; Jewish life; Wides Scrap Metals

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