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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

HELLO COLUMBUS...WITH THANKS TO PHILIP ROTH

My paternal grandfather, Isaac Vinocur, escaped a small Russian village, much like "Fiddler on the Roof"'s Anatevka, to avoid the pogroms and conscription. He brought his first born daughter, Emma, with him, leaving my grandmother, Anna, and  son, Joe, in the Ukraine. As a devout orthodox Jew, he made his way to Cleveland, Ohio to start a new life in the early 1900's. After accumulating some cash, two years later he urged his wife and his son to join him. Over the next seven years my grandmother had six more children, including a set of twins. Isaac was a firm believer in higher education, and sent his oldest daughter to college, when few women enjoyed that privilege. The five brothers were given the same opportunity. Joe became a doctor, Sam, a dentist, and Harry and Morry, the twins, studied Pharmacy. Of the five boys, only my father, Lou,  failed to graduate. At Ohio State, in  his senior year, he fell in love with a pretty young Columbus girl, Edith Solomon. They were married in January, 1934, and I was born in 11 months later. My father, needing to support his new family, dropped out with only one quarter needed to graduate. He sold shoes. My grandfather was so pissed, he disowned us, even though my father was struggling to make ends meet.

As a result when I was two, we moved back to Cleveland, and you guessed it, my grandfather, on seeing his first born grandchild, embraced us. (The next year, my Aunt Lee entered a photo of me in The Cleveland Press's beautiful baby contest. My blonde curls propelled me to a second place finish.) My grandfather had borrowed $5000 from relatives to buy a third of a struggling dairy with a large retail store,It was a bottling plant with a large retail store that sold milk and cream. It also featured a large soda fountain. and forty tables. Tapor Dairy served as a hangout for high school kids (we had a huge juke box), as well as families looking for sundaes and sodas at night. We even made our own ice cream. My father managed the retail operation and worked 10 hours a day, seven days a week. I don't think my parents ever took a vacation  together.

In 1938, my brother, Bruce was born. Every Sunday, after his daily nap, my father would drop the three of us at my grandparents' house to visit them and all of my aunts and uncles. We'd usually read,eat, and as I vividly remember, listen to the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra on  the radio. One Sunday, that  program was interrupted by an IMPORTANT NEWS FLASH! The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. It was three weeks after my seventh birthday, and  in retrospect, I realize that World War II changed my life. It made me a news junkie. In 1942 I bought two scrapbooks, one for the European Theater and the other for the Pacific.  Every day I would devour the three dailies, clipping headlines  and maps of the U.S. advances in the war. All four of my father's brothers served, with ranks ranging from Colonel to First Lieutenant. Only my father, because he had two kids and worked in an essential industry, did not serve.

 1948 was a monumental year in the life of this 14-year-old. As an avid Indian fan, I attended a number of games. I met  centerfielder Larry Doby, whose number was also 14.We sat on the third base side, thanks to my Aunt Lee's boss who had season tickets and I became Kenny Keltner's friend. (He was the guy that stopped Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941.) We saw The Indians beat the Red Sox in a playoff game and beat the Braves in the World Series. I was on hand to watch Steve Gromek pitch a masterful 2-1 Saturday victory. The Browns were also winning, and I knew then that I would become a sports writer. The year wasn't all roses. Babe Ruth died, and so did my grandfather. The next year my mother gave birth to another son and four years later, the daughter she always wanted, escalating my father's financial woes

Despite of the advice given to me by the city's sports editors I made up my mind to major in journalism at Ohio State The question, to be answered in Friday's post, was "How am I going to finance the four years in Columbus, Ohio's capitol, and my birthplace.