Personal narrative of Betty Fleck
From: Betty Fleck (bf)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Wednesday, April 28, 1999
Place: Home of Betty Fleck, 905 Jeffras Ave. Marion, Indiana 46952
Collected by: Phil Dodyk (pd)
00:00 bf: My name is Betty Holland Fleck
pd: Do I have permission to interview you?
pd: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to Marion High School?
pd: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to the Marion Public Library?
pd: The interview may begin.
- 1 Oral History of Betty Fleck
- 1.1 Background
- 1.2 Working Conditions after Pearl Harbor
- 1.3 Family
- 1.4 Discrimination
- 1.5 Travel
- 1.6 Best Small Jewish Community in Indiana
- 1.6.1 Religious School
- 1.6.2 Vacations
- 1.6.3 Temple
- 1.6.4 Recreation
- 1.6.5 Schools
- 1.6.6 World War II
- 1.6.7 Henry
- 1.6.8 Jewish and Christian Friends
Oral History of Betty Fleck
00:21 bf: My name is Betty Holland Fleck and, uhh, my parents, my father was a merchant, my mother was a homemaker, uhh, I was a home maker. Before I was married, I was graduated from Indiana University in 1941, went on to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where I spent one year at all practical training to become a medical technician and then I became a certified medical technician and, uh, this was in 1942 after the war had started. And then I worked from 1942 to 1948, when I was married, uhhm, first, in a hospital as a medical technician and then in a General Motors plant in Anderson Indiana, in a chemistry lab. I had majored in chemistry. I married Henry Fleck, who was born and raised in Marion, Indiana, and, uh, he was a lawyer and then after the war, uhh, went into his parents' business where he used his law but also helped run the business.
Working Conditions after Pearl Harbor
01:46 Umm, working conditions after Pearl Harbor were very different from before because many women started working to take the places of their husbands in the factories and so forth like that. And, uhh, so working conditions of the and jobs were plentiful and everybody thought only about their husbands and sons and brothers who were in the service and that went on until the war was over in 1945. And then the women stopped. A lot of them stopped working, and the men came home and went back to work.
02:28 Uhh, family traditions on weekends as I was growing up were really different from what they are now because family, uhh, there were a lot more family traditions that were taking place than there are today where most of the people had moved away from their parents. And as I, is this okay?
bf: As I grew up, uhh, everything revolved around my family. I was an only child but I did have aunts and uncles and cousins and they were very important to me and we would get together most weekends. Uhh, some of my relatives, I was living after I was 9 years old, I was living in, in, or 9 or 10, I was living in Anderson 30 miles from Marion and many weekends we would come to Marion and many times they would come to Anderson and we would have picnics and just enjoy each other all weekend and, uhhm, so, uhh, it was very, it was very good and I, I really, I had a lot of friends but my family came first.
03:33 Uhhm, in Marion, in Anderson where I really grew up, uhhm, there didn’t seem to me to be a lot of community discrimination as far as the Jewish people were concerned, uhhm, but there weren’t very many Jewish people, very few, so I had, in fact out of a high school of, class of 425, something like that, there was one Jewish boy and one Jewish girl. That was, was me, that was I, but when I moved to Marion, after I was married, uhhm, I wouldn’t say I met discrimination. I never have felt discrimination too much except that there were definitely neighborhoods that didn’t want Jewish people, uhh, and there weren’t any Jewish members at the Country Club and there really weren’t many Jewish members of any of the social clubs at that time. It’s very different now.
We all seemed after the war when all of the fellas came back and got married and wanted to build homes, we all seemed to congrete in, congregate in one area of Marion because we really wanted and a lot of times they would refuse to sell you any ground or any homes in some of the few suburbs that there were. There are a lot more now, so we all ended up living on Euclid Avenue and Jeffras Avenue, uhh, and built very lovely homes and it was a very lovely area. We were all together . . . (phone rings), All of our social life, practically all of it, was with our Jewish friends. We were in all, included in all of the service organizations and groups and held office in most of the organizations, uhh, but in the social, as I said, we were not in those.
Meshingomesia Country Club
05:45 bf: Let’s see then so shall I go on into Meshingomesia Country Club and social events or things like that? Is it [the tape recorder] on?
bf: Oh, okay. Uhhm, there were no [Jewish] members in Meshingomesia Country Club and, uhh, some of the people resented it very much. The Anti-Defamation League or ADL as it, as it's called, was called in to talk to some of the people in Marion concerning the fact that they did not take any members. And they agreed to take some so it was over a period of a year or two that each month another family would be asked to come in and, uhhm, most of our friends went in. And we were one of the last because my husband really wasn’t anxious to go in but I finally, uhhm, convinced him that it was probably the best thing to do and, uhh, we enjoyed it very much. Everyone was very nice to us once they had accepted us, and we tried to forget what had been before. Uhhm, for this reason we started, uhh, becoming more socially integrated with the, uhh, Christian community and, uhhm,so had started you know attending more things and being asked to more things and so there was a back and forth friendship but I think is for the best in the long run.
Uhhm, turn it off. I wanted to ask you something.
07:27 bf: Uhhm, from the time I was probably around 10 years old I would come to visit my friends in Marion and in those days, uhh, you could go back and forth on the interurban from the various towns in, uhh, this, in the, in most of Indiana and, uhh, I could get on a, a train in Marion to, or in Anderson to go to Marion and then back although many times my parents would come over and I would return with them. It was, it was kind of fun and you could also go to, go on to Indianapolis from Marion to Anderson to Indianapolis. Uhh (clears throat), but just like it is now, most of our transportation was by automobile and they didn’t have, uhh, they didn’t have, uhh, 37, Road 37, so to go to Indianapolis you had to go through, uhh, Anderson.
Nausea and Travel to IU
And, uhhm, when I went to Indiana University, you had to go from Marion to Anderson to Indianapolis to Bloomington and so, uhh, it was about 90 miles from Anderson to Bloomington. And I was very homesick and it was a very kind of, uhhm, a lot of turns and everything in the road between Indianapolis and Bloomington and I was so homesick that I’d always get very nauseous on the way down to Bloomington but going home back I never was. When I went from Bloomington to Anderson, it was different. But I got used to that, too, and I didn’t have th- any of th- any of the homesickness after my first semester at school, and I was convinced to stay for the first semester. By then I was fine. Uhhm, so, we also would drive to Cincinnati, Chicago, and, uhhm, so the roads were good; not as good as they are now, but they were, they were fine.
Fear and Flying
My first airplane ride was not until I was past the teens. I was in my twenties when I finally convinced myself to get on a plane. I was really frightened but after I flew awhile, uhhm. First flight I ever had was the worst and I got, we caught in a, at a large storm and, uhh, uhh, I, it was hard for me to even stay on the, uhh, on the plane. Once it came down in Washington D.C. on my way to Newark, New Jersey. But when I got to Newark, I made the reservation to return home immediately. I was afraid if I didn’t, I, I would back out. But, uhhh, as I continued through life I, I done a lot of flying and so far so good.
Best Small Jewish Community in Indiana
10:23 bf: In the forties, we had a large Jewish community in Marion and then actually after the war was over when we, when I was married, and I wasn’t married until 1948, but at that time we had a large Jewish community and supposedly the best small Jewish community in the state of Indiana. We had a lot of fun and a lot of socializing and everything.
Uhhm, we had sixty children when I, when my children or our children started to religious school. We had sixty children in our religious school, and they all loved it. We had very good student rabbis and, uhhm, and mostly the parents taught, but it was a, it was very good.
And, uhhm, a lot of people took vacations. The young people would take their children and my children, I’m sure, always felt denied because we could never go on vacation on holidays because that’s when our business - uhh, it, we had a, a, a lady’s ready-to-wear store which was started by my husband’s grandparents and, uhh, it was, um, it was one of the leading stores in town and naturally, at, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, was one of the big times so we never got to go away at Christmas vacation and then the next one was spring vacation. That was always at Easter, and again our business was very, very busy so we never got to go then. But we would always try to take them some place during the summer and we would go on buying trips, uhh, to New York so we were lucky and we got to see a lot of Broadway shows and, and it was really great. But the chldren didn’t get too much, however; the children really didn’t see much of the forties. They came along at the very end, uhh, our first one.
Uhh, but our Temple was very active and very active in the forties and, uhh, B'nai B'rith - that was the men’s organization - and it was very very active. It was of the most active B'nai B'rith in the state. My husband and my father-in-law and my father were all very active in B'nai B'rith, and my parents, my mother started the sisterhood in Anderson when we moved there. My father started, was one of the ones who started B'nai B'rith in Anderson and likewise in Marion. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were very active. So, my mother-in-law was one of the organizers of the sisterhood in Marion and my father-in-law, of B'nai B'rith and my father-in-law was state president of B'nai B'rith. That was probably in the thirties, and my husband was state president, Henry, uhh, of a B'nai B'rith. Uhhm that was probably in the fifties. So, they were, they were very active in it.
And we were also very active in all of the Temple biennials. We went with, uhh, other couples here in Marion, a couple of other couples; Ann and Julien Sector went with us a lot and Nann and Frank Maidenberg. And, uhh, we would go to all the biennials so we went all over the United States to biennials there would, every two years, they would have, uhhm, national meetings of both sisterhood and Temple. And, let’s see, we went to, well, we went to Miami twice. I remember we went to Chicago once or twice. We went to New York. We went to Washington D.C, San Francisco, that I can think of right off hand. And they were wonderful meetings and, uhh, we would hear top speakers in the country and, and, it, it was really exciting and top Rabbis throughout the United States. So, uhhm, that was very, very exciting and very, uhh, educational, too, uhhm.
We enjoyed the life very much that we had, and in the forties it was exceptionally good because that’s when we got married and it was very exciting.
14:36 bf: Uhh, recreation around Marion, uhh, it was mostly movies, theatre, uhh, lots, played a lot of cards. The men played bridge, and the women played mahjong, mostly mahjong at the beginning and then went into canasta, and bridge. And, uhhm, oh we had a lot of parties for the Temple. We’d have a New Year’s Eve party every year that was really great, and the whole community would come. We had a lot of dinners at the Temple, and, uhhm, well, just . . .
Schools were, were good in Marion, uhhm, even though Marion was small. When our kids went to college, they all held their own and they all did very well and they’re still doing that. So, uhhm, I’ve always felt, and in Anderson also, where I grew up, uhhm, very good, uhh, same thing, the kids would go on to college and would always be top students. Uhh, so that . . . (side of tape ends) 15:00
World War II
15:00 bf: Uhhm, Jewish war veterans, uhh, most of the, uhh, single fellas went to the service when the war started in '42, the end of '41. And, uhhm, two young men uhhm did not come back - uhh, Bob Glogus, who was killed in Europe, and, uhhm, Bob Simons. And they were both, well, Bob Simons especially was very young - probably 19 or 20 at the most - and he was killed in, in Europe in the Battle of Bulge. And Bob Glogas was in the Air Corp, I think, and I think that, I, I’m not really positive, I think he was killed in a plane crash, but I’m not, I’m not a hundred percent sure.
B'nai B'rith Bulletin
Uhhm, during the war, B'nai B'rith decided to put out a bulletin that they sent to all of the, uhh, young fellas in the service, and they really looked forward to that. Milt Maidenberg seemed to head it up, I think, and we have copies of most of the bulletins. They were wonderful. And the girls, the young women, would help, uhhm, on it, and it, it, they were really good bulletins and good. And I, like I said, I think, uhh, Irma has a lot of them and I’ve got a lot of them and, uhh, maybe some of the others, I don’t know.
Return of Soldiers
Uhhm, they all left, and when they came back, naturally, it was, some of the, some of, a few of the fellas were married at the time. I know Julien and Ann Sector were married, and I don’t know some of the others - I can’t remember right now - but most of the fellas were single, so when they came back, then, they all started getting married. And that was, that was great for the community, too. And, they had a lot of out [sic] vet, oh, from the time, from the time they came back until they, most of them are gone now, uhhm, they talked a lot about their experiences in the service. And, uhhm, they were all, you know all, did, did very well, had a lot of interesting experiences. And, uhh, it was, it was hard when they weren’t here because there were so many of them gone - it was a small community. But as I said, when they came back, the community then started having a lot more women, having a lot of children, and, and got back to normal.
And a lot of them came home and went into their fathers' businesses because in those days, uhhm, the factories, any of those big corporations, were not hiring Jewish people, so we didn’t have, I mean most of, most of our people were people who, uhh, were born and raised in Marion and it was, it, that kept us very close, too. Then, as time went on, of course, they started, and all of that opened up. Now we get people who come in. And, uhh, most of our kids left as they grew up and wanted to go other places but then industry started bringing in young couples and that was great for us. And we just wish we’d get more than we do. And we also had professional people, uhh, and we got more. And we did have doctors, and the doctors were married when they went into service. They were married, most of them, and had families - the ones that went in. And we also had some lawyers and some of them went to service and uhhm, uhh, it really, it, it, it changed Marion a lot when they came back. It really did.
18:49 pd: Can you tell me, uhhm, a little more about Henry and the business when he came back?
Change of Career
18:55 bf: Well, then, he came back, and he decided that he should. He had just started his law practice. He, after he was graduated from law school, he went to Washington and worked in the, in the government housing authority and had some interesting years, but then he decided to come back. And before he even did that, I think he’d worked for a law firm in Marion. And so then when he came ba-, and then he started his own, uhh, just an independent practice. And it was just getting started when the war started and so he, uhh, uhh, came back and decided it was silly to try to pick it up again.
He would just go into the business because he felt that his parents might retire, which never happened. But, uhhm, he had thought that it was time for them. They had worked hard, and especially during the war, it was really hard because so many people were gone, And, and, uhh, uhhm, my father-in-law, I know, worked very hard. But uhhm, when he got in, he really, you know, as he went through the business, he became, I don’t think it was ever what he really wanted to do. And he told me many times what he really would have liked to have done would be to teach law school, but it never happened. And he, but salaries were so small during those years that, it, as professors in, in, uhh, colleges, so he felt that, uhh, we couldn’t have as profitable of life. But I think he would have been happier, probably. He would have because he definitely was not a materialist, but he thought I wouldn’t be happy.
So, we stayed in Marion, and we always loved Marion. Uhhm, he did, uhh, get along well in the business and his, he had a cousin from Cincinnati who came back from the service and wasn’t into anything special so he came into the business, too, And together, they, uhh, branched out, and we had s-, uhh, oh, what was it? Two stores in Indianapolis, one in Muncie, one in Marion, and one in Goshen. So that kept ‘em busy, and, uhh, uhhm, and they had good business. It worked out well, and, uhh, and, you know, had a good life from it even.
Love of Learning
But Henry never stopped, uhh, studying and learning, and he went through the whole service during the war. Uhhm, even in foxholes, he taught himself. He was, he was studying French or Hebrew or something like that. He’d, and it was really funny, and many of the fellas said that he was about, he never changed - even the whole war that he went through didn’t change him one bit. And he was just, he was a very, uhhm, different person. I mean there were the, he was, you know there wasn’t,there weren’t any more cut out like him until Alan came along, and then I think he’s, he has turned out similar in his love of study and love of music and the arts. So, uhhm, that, that was interesting, too. We didn’t have any dull moments, and, uhhm, any thing else?
pd: I was just, if there’s anything, this is your story, and . . .
bf: I’m trying to think of what, uhh . . .
pd: Do you want me to stop this?
bf: Uhhm, for a minute, would you?
Jewish and Christian Friends
22:05 bf: You know, Christmas time would come around, the holidays, and he, uhh, especially at the beginning when he was still not too far out of service, he’d get all kinds of cards from people, that, uhh, that, you know from the service, that he knew.
And, of course, most of those, of course, he, in our day, when, as we were growing up, uhhm, we didn’t have a lot of Jewish friends, especially in the schools 'cause there just weren’t very many of us, you know. But when he went to college and went into a Jewish fraternity, and same with me, I went into a Jewish sorority, and that was the first time I really had any Jewish friends. So, that was okay because when we came to Marion, uhhm, we were, it, it’s different 'cause if you grew up in a great big city, you don’t know 'cause you don’t have the experience, but, uhh, if, if you grow up in a great big city, you gravitate toward - there, there are a lot of Jewish people - and you gravitate toward the Jewish people, and you really, don’t have many social friends who aren’t Jewish. You know, I know my friends in Indianapolis that I went to school with, they’d always had nothing but Jewish friends.
Well, when I came to Marion, where there were very few Jewish people, it didn’t, you know, I got along. I could get along very easily with the Christian people 'cause I was used to it. So it was, I thought, an advantage 'cause a lot of these other people didn’t know how to talk to other people. They just weren’t used to it. Uhh, you know, and it’s different; it is different. They, their lives have been quite different from, from, um, what, uhhm, then they are when you live in a town like this. So, I’m trying to think, see the girls that, from Indianapolis - like Irma Maidenberg was from Indianapolis, Ann Ganz was from Indianapolis. They were used to a different kind of life, and they never did really like Marion like I did 'cause I came to a town where there were like, there were very few Jewish people in Anderson. It was a lot bigger than Marion but there just weren’t any Jewish people but, uhh, I was used to all these other people. They weren’t. So I think I kind of fit in. I don’t know, I just, I just really was thrilled when I came to Marion. There were more Jewish people and I, that I wasn’t used to, so I got to know them. And I was used to the others, so that didn’t, you know, so everything, it, it was, it was different, and I never had any desire to leave, uhhm.
When you think, I, you can think of meelings, millions of things later, but if you think you’ve got enough there . . .(24:39)