Monday, June 21, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Interview with Melvin Lester Newmark - Part 5

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I continue transcribing an interview of my paternal grandfather, Melvin Lester Newmark, conducted in 1987.  He is discussing the elementary schools he attended.


Interviewer: After Ashland, Where did you go?
Melvin: Samuel Cupples School. That was a block immediately east of Kingshighway, I think is Enright. Enright is parallel to Kingshighway, am I right?
Interviewer: We’ll check it out later, I don’t think so. All right, in any case, in other words you didn’t graduate from Ashland?
Melvin: No.
Interviewer: You moved?
Melvin: We moved.
Interviewer: So you got to Cupples.
Melvin: I got to Cupples when I was 8 or 9. Maybe I’d done 3 or 4 years at Ashland. Then we moved to Samuel Cupples. It was from Samuel Cupples I graduated. And I hoped then to go to Soldan High School where all the Jewish kids went.
Interviewer: Everybody.
Melvin: And I went to Soldan High School – and my father tried his darnedest to get me into Soldan High School but we were half a block over the boundary. So I had to go to Beaumont High School. Beaumont was in another world.
Interviewer: Good or bad?
Melvin: Well, it wasn't Jewish. The Jewish kids went to Soldan. Beaumont, there may have been 3 or 4 Jewish kids in a school that had, what, 3000 kids, I don’t know, it was a big school.
Interviewer: So what could you do about it?
Melvin: Nothing. I enjoyed it.
Interviewer: You went four years?
Melvin: I probably went 1 semester to Soldan, and 7 semesters to Beaumont.
Interviewer: And you were a nice student?
Melvin: I was a good student, yeah. Compared to the kids there I was a genius.
Interviewer: OK, and what were your favorite courses?
Melvin: Geography, history, sciences, I loved sciences. In those days they used to have various tracks. Mine was the highest, I forget what they called that track we had all the sciences
Interviewer: College-going or something
Melvin: Yeah, that’s right, you had to take that kind of a course to get into college.
Interviewer: Right, and you knew already
Melvin: Oh, yes, I was preparing for college.
Interviewer: And you discussed it at dinner?
Melvin: Always, it was all we talked about. My father lived for the day I would start at Washington University. Where else would you go?
Interviewer: Right, but it was a great dream.
Melvin: Oh, of course, but it was something understood that had to be done. Now, my brother didn’t go to college.
Interviewer: Harold?
Melvin: No.
Interviewer: Why not?
Melvin: He worked for a couple…He went for a year, he didn’t do well in school. Harold worked all the time. I think he worked to help me get through college.
Interviewer: That was nice. What kind of work was he involved in?
Melvin: He worked in the store, and when we had a cleaning shop he drove the truck, he made deliveries, whatever had to be done, he did it. He was a good kid.
Interviewer: Eventually he got out of it?
Melvin: Yeah, today he’s retired and lives in Hilton Head.
Interviewer: No, I mean, what did he do before? What was his career?
Melvin: Well, after he got married he was a manufacturer on Washington Avenue. That was about it.
Interviewer: All right, so tell me what your social life was like in high school?
Melvin: It was good, I was happy. Of course, always, I worked after school. And the weekends. Whatever social life I had revolved around B’nai El Temple. So I could be with Jewish kids. Once I got…
Interviewer: Where was B’nai El?
Melvin: Spring and Flad in South St. Louis.
Interviewer: Still?
Melvin: Oh, no!
Interviewer: I mean, it was still there then at that time.
Melvin: Yeah.
Interviewer: So it was a commute?
Melvin: Oh, yeah. By streetcar or bus. I would ride that bus, an open air bus, on Grand avenue, all the way to south St. Louis.
Interviewer: Tell me about the open air bus
Melvin: It was the double decker bus – the top floor didn’t have a roof. It was like being at sea. I loved it.
Interviewer: Did it only happen in summer that way?
Melvin: Yeah, in the winter time you were smart if you went downstairs where it was closed in.
Interviewer: So you really went there regularly for your social life?
Melvin: Yes. Even for my boyscouting. I belonged to a scout troop at B’nai El Temple.
Interviewer: How long did it take for you to get there?
Melvin: Maybe an hour.
Interviewer: But you didn’t have that much time if you’re working too.
Melvin: No, but we did it.
Interviewer: Interesting. Did your parents ever go there?


Melvin: They never went to Temple.
Interviewer: But you did because of your social life.
Melvin: Right, we didn’t go to Friday evening services or anything like that.
Interviewer: When did you go? Sunday School?
Melvin: Always to Sunday School.
Interviewer: Brother Harold, go to?
Melvin: Always.
Interviewer: Took him along with you?
Melvin: Yes.
Interviewer: And who were your buddies?
Melvin: At B’nai El Temple?
Interviewer: Yes.
Melvin: I don’t think I remained close to any of them I went to school with. Not even the girls, isn’t that strange? Except for my cousin Sylvia. Sylvia Fudemberg was a classmate of mine, and we were very close. Early years, even through college, our social lives were very close. She didn’t go to college, but her husband, Sam Schneider, was a classmate of mine at Washington University. He became a physician. And we were very very close. Almost like brother and sister, Sylvia and I.
Interviewer: Alright, so your Beaumont buddies, you didn’t really see much, except in class.
Melvin: That’s right. I didn’t mix with them.
Interviewer: OK. Did you go to dances? Was there that sort of thing? Or movies?
Melvin: Not really. Movies – we’d go to the movies, sure. But in the neighborhood, that’s all. As we got older, to Grand Avenue or to Loew Estate (?) or something, but with kids, but not anybody from Beaumont.
Interviewer: Were you driving by this time?
Melvin: Not yet. I started driving when I was about – well I had finished high school already.
Interviewer: When you started driving. Did your father drive?
Melvin: Yes.
Interviewer: Did you have a family car?
Melvin: Yes.
Interviewer: What kind?
Melvin: I think it was an Oakland.
Interviewer: Oh. Did you all go out to Forest Park?
Melvin: Oh, we used to go to what we called The Hill. The Hill was – Forest Park – our family in the summer time. Remember, there was no air conditioning in those days. Our entire family would meet on the hill every night. By entire family I mean all my uncles and aunts and their kids. So all of the cousins.
Interviewer: (tape break) The Pavilion – it would be a meeting place?
Melvin: Every night. In the summer time when there was no air conditioning.
Interviewer: And you’d run around?
Melvin: We’d run around. I’d torment my father, I guess, for a dime to get a hot dog sandwich, a nickel to get a bottle of soda. We were expected. Usually my brother and I would get a hotdog and soda every night.
Interviewer: It was fun.
Melvin: We didn’t know any other kind of life.
Interviewer: Did you ever drop into the Art Museum?
Melvin: Occasionally. Yes, we went there. If I went there now as often as I did then, it would be wonderful. But we did, yes.
Interviewer: And what about Union Station? Was that a part of your life ever?
Melvin: It was bustling. I left Union Station to go to war, we went to Chicago, or some place. It was an exciting place to be. To see the people, the movement, the bustling. But we didn’t get there too often.
Interviewer: Did you go to Chicago to visit that relative that was there?
Melvin: Yes.
Interviewer: Which one was that?
Melvin: Jacobs. Katie Jacobs. She had two children. Those two cousins I still see.
Interviewer: And what are their names?
Melvin: The girl is Natalie. She’s my age, and lives now in Chicago, and spends her winters in Florida.
Interviewer: Her last name?
Melvin: You know, she’s been married so many times. She’s not married now.
Interviewer: She has a brother?
Melvin: A brother, Harold, who we thought was going to be a world champion heavyweight fighter.
Interviewer: But?
Melvin: A wonderful guy he is. He did train as a prizefighter. He got knocked out by Joe Louis in the first round. And that was sort of the end of Harold Jacobs career as either a trainer or as a fighter.


1) Samuel Cupples School was located at 4906 Cote Brilliante Avenue.  On the corner of Euclid.  (Enright is parallel to Cote Brilliante, about 10 blocks south.)

2.  An Oakland Automobile from 1917.  The Newmark family car my grandfather refers to would have probably been a model from the early 1920s.

3) It appears the interviewer stops the tape to clarify what my grandfather means by 'the hill.'  There are many hills in Forest Park.  He was referencing the World's Fair Pavilion on Government Hill.  (Built in 1909 with proceeds from the 1904 World's Fair.)

4) From some quick research in Google's News Archive, it appears Harold Jacobs was a middleweight boxer in the 1930s, but he was a trainer for Johnny Paychek, who was knocked out by Joe Louis in the second round at Madison Square Gardens, March 29, 1940.  Harold retired from training shortly afterwards. I need to find the specific Chicago Tribune articles to be certain; I think I can access them at a nearby university.

No comments: