Choosing One's Parents Carefully
If one could choose one's parents and if I were given this chance – I would again choose Fan (Tanenbaum) and Lou Rosen. They were caring, loving and thoughtful. Later I was to learn how hard working and resourceful they were. Their sense of family and the importance of family togetherness was paramount in their minds. Making time to be with members of our extended family was important and I remember going every Friday night to the home of my aunties – my mother's five sisters: Sadie, Pearl, Goldie, Toby and Miriam, and my grandfather, John Tanenbaum. He lived with them. My grandmother had passed away earlier. We went there only for dessert and adult conversation. Somehow, even at an early age, I enjoyed the lively energetic discussions on very very liberal subjects.
My folks, after leaving St. Louis, my father's hometown, opened a children's wear store on the South Side of Chicago. I remember them working very hard with long hours. They were innovative also because they even sold baby furniture as a side enterprise as the neighborhood had no children's furniture store. I loved being in the store and watching them patiently wait on customers. On some Sundays I remember them taking me to the wholesale section of Chicago to do buying for the store.
They gave me much free reign as I was able to walk to school alone at an early age and even go to the movie theater alone. It must have taken courage to move to California during the Great Depression. The lovely childrenswear store was lost to bankruptcy and we climbed into a new Hupmobile (a brand of a car) on the long Route 66 trip to Los Angeles. It was in Los Angeles that my father began a neighborhood newspaper which turned out to be an instant success. He paid young boys to distribute it block by block and the merchants in the area were pleased by the response to their ads. Hard work was rewarded so much so that my folks began looking to purchase orange grove on the outskirts of Los Angeles. It was then that my mother who was homesick for her sisters in Chicago took my sister Beth and visited Chicago. I was left alone under my father's care. He thought that he would give me a treat and took me to the movie theater to see the movie "Frankenstein". Needless to say, I was terrified. I would no longer go to the washroom at night unless my misguided father took me.
Herb Rosen with the Hupmobile, traveling out to California during the Great Depression.
The photo is scanned from a scrapbook made by Herb's wife, Shari Rosen, in honor of his 35th birthday.
The family settled down in LA but it was short lived as my mother missed her family in Chicago and we moved back to the Hyde Park area in Chicago to be near our family. This was at the height of the Great Depression (1931). There was a financial struggle as my father had no job. He bought gold jewelry house to house with me going on one side of the street and he the other, and then sold the jewelry to a gold company. But in the end we solved the financial problem by opening a women's apparel store in the small town of Libertyville, north of Chicago. We found a farmhouse for our family on the outskirts of town. I was enrolled in a one room country schoolhouse which had all eight grades in one room. I loved it! I was in fourth grade but I would listen to the lessons of the seventh and eighth grade students.
The store that the folks set up began to do very well and my folks loved the small town atmosphere. But we missed having Jewish friends. For services we would travel to Waukegan but that was a distance. Mom and dad both worked in the store and it was my mother who did the buying. Somehow she knew what would sell and what would not. The Libertyville store had to be closed because the landlord needed more space for a 5 and 10 cents store that was about to be opened.
We then moved to an upscale neighborhood in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. It was a most astute move that my folks made. The store was a fine women's apparel store in the heart of Beverly and it was an instant success. They featured moderate to high end fashion and remodeled the store by an interior designer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was a leading interior decorator for stores. My folks made friends with a University of Chicago graduate who owned a department store some five miles from where my folks had their store. The owner of the store was Mr. Arthur Bear. He was also president of the Beverly Bank. My folks became very close friends of Mr. Bear and my father was asked to join the Board of Directors of three banks that Mr. Bear purchased. So my father became a banker, alongside working in the store. From what I was told he contributed his past business experience and his remarkable ability with math. He loved doing addition in his head and at a grocery store knew the total of all the items even if there were many of them.
Mother was proud of her buying skills and she would travel by herself to New York at least once a year to do spectacular buying that became the trademark of their store named "The Beverly Tog Shop" (Tog is a shortened word for clothing). The store was walking distance to our apartment and later, when they bought their first house on Winchester Street in Beverly, it too was a short walk. They were so proud to be owners of a single family home (that was rare for Jewish people to own at that time. Most Jewish families lived in apartments). The home was quite large having five bedrooms and a spacious downstairs. It was heated by a coal fired furnace in the basement and I remember taking a shovel and feeding the disgusting coal to the furnace. The house had radiators that had hot water running through them and the heat radiated through the rooms, making for a cozy, warm environment. There wasn't air conditioning but the walls of the house were almost 12 inches thick and were able to keep the bad weather out. There was one lovely sunroom overlooking the backyard. The spacious backyard had large maple trees but more important had three apple trees.
I was enrolled in the Vanderpoel School in 7th grade, the only Jewish boy in the class. The classes were large, almost 50 children to a class. The teachers were not inspiring, but they permitted us to work on our own, so I did research, made graphs of the research and loved it. Later, I went to Morgan Park High School, a relatively small high school. And again, I was the only Jewish boy in a class of 300. I was good at sports so my non Jewish friends accepted me because I played sports and loved being in school. The highlight of my time at the high school was that I was selected by the principal Eston V. Tubbs to be in his class for international relations. That was the greatest. I enjoyed and I remember getting a top mark called an "S" (the best mark was "S" and then A, B, C, D, F).
The holidays, especially around Christmas, were difficult because the store was opened every night, so Hannukah was celebrated after Christmas no matter when it fell. The store at that time was open at 9 AM to 9 PM from Thanksgiving through Christmas. It was open every day except Sunday. During the last days before Christmas all my aunts would come to wait on trade. Five aunts would help. I would help too. I would wash the windows and make deliveries. And later, at age 14, I learned to drive. The proudest moment was when my dad gave me three days of receipts, trusting me with all that money. I drove them to the bank.
The congregation we belonged to was KAM – Kehilat Anshei Ma'arav – Men of the West – in Chicago. It was there that I went to Sunday school taking a street car and travelling almost an hour to get to the synagogue. The congregation was Reform, with fabulous rabbi, Rabbi Josh Loth Leibman. Famous guy. Later he got an offer to leave to a synagogue in Boston and I felt so badly. I was in the class for confirmation and enjoyed being with Jewish children. For confirmation I wrote an article which I read about one of the ten commandments before the whole congregation. I was 15 or 16. (It wasn't like a Bar Mitzvah at 13. There was no Aliyah to the Torah.) It made a profound impression on me. Services were on Sunday. We would go there on the high holidays too.
After services on Sunday I would walk to my aunts' home and have another breakfast until my folks came to pick me up. They were at home on Sundays and slept late. I had to leave at 7 in the morning to get to the synagogue.
My fives aunts lived all together. Toby got married and died in childbirth. That was terrible. I'll never forget it. At that age I couldn't imagine somebody dying. I was in high school. We were so close to all of my aunts. I was lucky being the first nephew and I was special for them.
My mother, Fannie (Feige), was the oldest child in the Tanenbaum family. She was born in the USA. Her mother's, my grandmother's, name was Elizabeth (my sister was named for her), and my grandfather's name was John. The next children were: Sadie, Albert (Uncle Al), Pearl, Goldie, Toby and then Miriam. Pearl, Miriam and Sadie worked for the United Nations. They even went to Bari, Italy, and worked there during the war and right after. One went to Cairo. Goldie was a teacher. Uncle Al was a physician and was in cancer research but he was really a toxicologist (worked with poisons) so it was natural for him to be called upon to do research on the effects of radiation. They asked him to be part of the Manhatten Project, working on the atomic bomb. The main part of the project was in the University of Chicago. That was were they had the first chain reaction.
My parents met at a wedding in St. Louis. That is where my father Lou (Leib)'s family lived. He had three siblings, 2 sisters and a brother. I was born there but then my parents moved to Chicago. The 300 miles were a bad separation with the family in St. Louis, so that was a shame.
After I got out of navy service I opened up a practice in a small town called Worth, IL. An owner of a hardware store had a huge space above the store, which he rented to me – a dentist – together with a physician and an optometrist. So it was a mini medical center. The rent was 25$ per month, and he helped me build out my cute little office that had only one operatory and a small business office and laboratory. I was the first dentist in a town of 2000 people and I found myself busy from the first day I began to practice. My patients were appreciative and so easy to please. I stayed in this location for only two years and then I informed my father about a large empty lot in the heart of the business district. I needed so much more office space and the town needed more stores.
There was an empty lot in the heart of the business district. I showed my dad the lot and he decided to build four stores there, and a medical center. I moved into the medical building and opened my practice there. It was wonderful. I was so busy I had to hire another dentist to help me. He rented out the other stores. My parents opened up a women's store for about two years (They had closed the Beverly Tog Shop earlier) and my sister worked there before she was married. They kept the center for a long while and then they sold it. I was there for a short while after and then I rented it from the new owners.
Graduating Dental School, 1948. From the scrapbook made by Shari in honor of Herb's 35th birthday.
A type of car produced in the US by the Hupp motor company, common in the early 20th century in America