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Transcript of interview with Deanne Alterwitz-Stralser by Barbara Tabach, November 1, 2014

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2014-11-01
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Interview with Deanne Alterwitz-Stralser with contributions from her son Daryl Alterwitz on November 1, 2014. In this interview Deanne talks about her Jewish upbringing near the Illinois-Indiana state line, meeting her first husband Oscar, with whom she had four children, and the difficulties with keeping kosher. The family moved to Las Vegas from Gary, Indiana for opportunities in the furniture business. Daryl weighs in on his father's personality, business decisions, and their move to Las Vegas. They discuss the location of the store the Alterwitz's bought (Walker Furniture) and purchasing the building from Jackie Gaughan, and the different tastes in furniture in Las Vegas. Then they talk about the Jewish community and the division between the east and west sides.

On New Year's Day, 1931, Deanne Alterwitz-Stralser was born Deanne Friedman in Hammond, Indiana, the daughter of an insurance salesman and a stay-at-home mom. Deanne spent her childhood in Calumet City, just across the state line in Illinois, and was raised with a strong Jewish identity. At the age of sixteen, she met her first husband, Oscar Alterwitz, at an Alpha Zadik Alpha (AZA) dance in Gary, Indiana, and the two were married in 1950. Deanne and Oscar settled in Gary, where they had four children?Aimee, Larry, Daryl and Linda?and took over the Alterwitz family furniture business. Eventually, the couple grew the business to three successful retail furniture stores. However, a decline in the city's safety and opportunities forced the Alterwitz's to consider relocating, and in 1973, after a family vote, Deanne and Oscar moved their family to Las Vegas. Upon arrival, Deanne and Oscar bought Walker Furniture from original owners, George and Ruth Walker. Deanne used her artistic eye and training from the Art Institute of Chicago to lead the design and merchandising elements of the business. Socially, Deanne integrated into the local Jewish community, and ensured her children participated in Jewish life as well. Deanne and Oscar's children still remained involved in Walker Furniture operations, including Daryl, who serves as the company's general counsel; Larry, who is the company's president; and a daughter who now oversees the store's design and merchandising.

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Deanne Alterwitz-Strasler oral history interview, 2014 November 01. OH-02178. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d19s1pm9n

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AN INTERVIEW WITH DEANNE ALTERWITZ-STRALSER An Oral History Conducted by Barbara Tabach The Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries ?Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV - University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers: Barbara Tabach, Claytee D. White Editors and Project Assistants: Maggie Lopes, Stefani Evans ii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader's understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iii PREFACE. On New Year's Day, 1931, Deanne Alterwitz-Stralser was born Deanne Friedman in Hammond, Indiana, the daughter of an insurance salesman and a stay-at-home mom. Deanne spent her childhood in Calumet City, just across the state line in Illinois, and was raised with a strong Jewish identity. At the age of sixteen, she met her first husband, Oscar Alterwitz, at an Alpha Zadik Alpha (AZA) dance in Gary, Indiana, and the two were married in 1950. Deanne and Oscar settled in Gary, where they had four children?Aimee, Larry, Daryl and Linda?and took over the Alterwitz family furniture business. Eventually, the couple grew the business to three successful retail furniture stores. However, a decline in the city's safety and opportunities forced the Alterwitz's to consider relocating, and in 1973, after a family vote, Deanne and Oscar moved their family to Las Vegas. Upon arrival, Deanne and Oscar bought Walker Furniture from original owners, George and Ruth Walker. Deanne used her artistic eye and training from the Art Institute of Chicago to lead the design and merchandizing elements of the business. Socially, Deanne integrated into the local Jewish community, and ensured her children participated in Jewish life as well. Deanne and Oscar's children still remained involved in Walker Furniture operations, including Daryl, who serves as the company's general counsel; Larry, who is the company's president; and a daughter who now oversees the store's design and merchandizing. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Deanne Alterwitz-Stralser on November 1, 2014 by Barbara Tabach in Las Vegas, Nevada Preface iv Talks about grandparents; childhood in Illinois during the Depression; first husband's career path. Describes how met first husband; getting married. Mentions relationship with grandmother; relationship with mother-in-law. With son Daryl, talks about decision to move from Gary to Las Vegas; how the family got into the furniture business; Oscar getting financing and growing the company 1-8 Both explain what a gifted salesperson Oscar was; describe the first Gary Sanitary Bedding store; expanding business in Indiana; challenges with, and living in, the Gary community. More about decision to move business and family to Las Vegas; buying Walker Furniture. Daryl mentions his siblings. Both talk about Las Vegas family home; school district when arrived. Describes how Oscar grew business in Las Vegas; Deanne's role in business 9-15 Both discuss Oscar buying building from Jackie Gaughan. Deanne talks about her job at the store; background in design; integrating into the local Jewish community; Temple Beth Sholom; taking children to Hebrew school. Daryl mentions joining Congregation Ner Tamid later in life. Deanne describes giving land, along with other families, to Jewish Federation; serving on Federation Board; what endeared the family in Las Vegas 16-23 Reflect on business; handling customers; serving famous customers. Deanne recalls popular furniture styles in Las Vegas, and changes over time. Mentions how different family members still involved with business; Oscar writing column called Up with People. Remark on differences in race relations in Gary and Las Vegas 24-30 Index 31-32 v Today is November first, 2014. I'm sitting with...please say your whole name for me and spell it so that the transcriber will know. I use Deanne Alterwitz, but my second husband's name is Stralser. Okay. Alterwitz is A-L-T-E... T-E-R-W-I-T-Z. And Stralser is? S-T-R-A-L-S-E-R. And your maiden name was Friedman. Yes. Tell me a little bit about what you do know about your grandparents. I think we found out that they were born in Lithuania in... Vilnius? I don't know. I will say that the second voice that we hear on here is Mrs. Stralser's? Alterwitz. ?Alterwitz' son Daryl. Sarah just told me. I'll look it up. That's okay. I don't want you to stress over things like that. Where were you born and raised? Calumet City, Illinois, from one honky-tonk to another. That's funny. What do you remember about growing up in Illinois? What was it like? It was fine. It was right after the Depression, so everybody was poor. 1 Did they feel poor? I never knew it. I hear that often, that it was bad economic times, but? It was terrible. It was the South Side of Chicago. Do you remember the story Poppa used to tell about delivering produce? Yes. They used to have to stand on the back of the truck. People would try to jump on the truck and steal the food. Do you remember that story? When you say Poppa, you're referring to... ? My father. And what was his name? Max Friedman. What did he do? What was his occupation? After he got off the produce trucks...no, they had a produce stand in Hammond, but he was an insurance salesman for... MassMutual? Metropolitan. Metropolitan, yes. He retired from there after twenty-five years. Can you tell me a little bit about how you met your first husband? Sure. At an AZA dance in Gary. How old were you? 2 Fifteen, sixteen. Wow. You were young. Very young. And what happened at that dance? That was it. Did you like dancing? No, but he did. Oh, really? So he asked you to dance and the rest is history? Pretty much. Didn't he have a watch that he used to swing around? Oh, zoot suit, yes. They all did. With the pocket watch. What kind of music was playing? Was it live music? No. Jitterbug? He loved to jitterbug. So you lived in Illinois and you got married, then, in Illinois? Well, Hammond and Calumet City...it was the state line. Calumet City is in Illinois and Hammond is in Indiana. I see. Did you get married in Gary? Yes. Indiana. 3 What kind of wedding ceremony did you have? Probably like everybody else, Jewish. Under a chuppah? Of course. Can you talk to me a little bit about your connection with being Jewish as you were growing up and as a young married woman? Very strong. My grandmother?I remember my first chore was to tear all the toilet paper for Shabbat and for any of the big holidays because you weren't allowed to tear. I would say very religious. What grandmother was that, Sophie? No. Ida. She wore a sheitel. I thought that was fascinating. The reason they wore them in Europe was, I guess during the pogroms, they thought the Jewish women were pretty. So as soon as they got engaged, they cut off all their hair and wear a sheitel. I never knew that reason. That's interesting. Did Helen wear it, too? No. She was very, very, very religious. Who was Helen? My husband's mother. So you both came from an orthodox background? Yes, I would say. Did you keep kosher? I did, for about two years. You were orthodox, but not orthodox enough, right? 4 Right. Why don't you tell us some good Helen stories? Start with why you're no longer kosher. Yes, tell me about that. My mother-in-law wouldn't eat anything because I wasn't kosher enough because I only had one sink, and I washed the milchig and thefleishig dishes in the same sink. You cleaned it out, but... So that wasn't good enough. Not good enough. But everything else was good enough? Nothing was good enough. [Laughing] A challenging mother-in-law, huh? Oh. I took her baby. It was horrible. Did she live close by? Same city. Set up the scene for when you decide to move away from mother-in-law. I assume you moved away from her. The same city. No, you didn't move away. She passed away first. Okay. How did you decide to move to Las Vegas? How could I put it nicely? You can put it any way you want. Gary's motto was "the city on the move. " But I think when they started that they meant it was progressive and very modern, but that's not what it meant when we left. There was a big sign, so help me; it said, "Will the last white person please turn out the lights." 5 You're kidding? Oh, my goodness. It was a billboard. About what year would this have been that you moved? Nineteen seventy-three you came to Vegas? Yes. Was it your first destination when you left Gary? Yes. And what was the motivation? How did you decide to move here? I sound like a bigot. It was a good business opportunity. Yes. Dad looked at three cities: Tucson, Vegas and Stockton. Stockton? Or somewhere up near Northern California. There were three cities that he was looking at businesses in. What was that? Tucson, Vegas, and I think it was Stockton. No. What kind of career path did he have? Furniture. Was he in furniture before he moved? Yes. Did you own stores in Gary? 6 Yes. Would you like to know how that started? Yes, I'd love to. Oscar's father was in the Polish Army, but they used all the Jews for fodder, the front line. So he deserted. In order to leave Poland, he joined the American Army. But he couldn't have a gun or be in battle because he wasn't yet a citizen, and they had him sewing body bags. So when he got out of the service, the only thing he knew was sewing body bags. So he went to work for a mattress company. What happened after that? The man who owned the company couldn't pay him his wages. So he said, "Here, I'll give you the company." It was bankrupt, but...That's how the family got their start. So somebody just handed the keys to the business. It was bankrupt. There was nothing there. I never knew that. Was it called Gary Bedding back then? Gary Sanitary Bedding. Did you have kids at that time? Had you been married long? When he got into the mattress business. No, that was? Oh, no. That was your father-in-law. Excuse me. I got that mixed up. All right. So the father-in-law got in the mattress business. How did your husband get involved in furniture? His father died before he was two. So each of his brothers took a turn trying to run the business into the ground, which they did. Oscar said, "No, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to open up a retail branch." We had no money. I mean, no money. When he went into the banks, they laughed at him. They said, "How do you want a loan? You have nothing." He had a pro forma. You 7 know what a pro forma is? Yes. He said, "This is my pro forma and this is what I will do." He was incredible. He sold the banks. That's amazing. It is. And you were the supportive wife. Did you have little kids at that time? Yes. What year do you remember that he did this, took this bold step? Fifty-three? No. Was Larry born yet? Yes. So it had to be after '53. Linda was born and she was born in? Nineteen sixty. Yes. And this is taking place, again, in Gary, Indiana? Yes. He was the consummate promoter. I have a picture of him with my Uncle Al and Joe Louis in the bed together wearing their white coats, making fists. The boxer Joe Louis? Yes. Wow. He did a milk promotion and a betting promotion or something. He was always promoting. I 8 remember being in a horse drawn wagon with Larry; I don't know if I remember it or the picture. But he put the name of the furniture store on it and he ran this thing up and down Broadway just to get people's attention, with kids and a horse. That's good. You had to be a good salesman. He was incredible. What do you remember about the first store that he opened? He painted the walls because we couldn't afford a painter. He would do the cleaning after hours. We were very, very poor. That's great, though. You started from that. And how did it grow? What happened next as he promoted and grew this business? Did he get his first loan from Roy Barkley? No. Roy was our advertising man. Then he brought the business to Las Vegas? No. o r how did that [happen]? He was evaluating these other opportunities. He expanded the business to three stores in Gary and he brought in his brother-in-laws and that was the core of the family business, Jerry Friedman and Leon Friedman. Gary, Indiana became a very difficult place. There was a lot of violence and drugs. I think when our next-door neighbor was raped?right? And your best friend's next-door neighbor...there was a drug raid or something. I remember seeing a car full ofpeople with shotguns hanging out the window. It was just dangerous. A very corrupt mayor, the first black mayor, Mayor Richard Hatcher. Oh, yes. He really dishonored the office. 9 The police would arrest these thugs and the mayor would go get them out of jail. It was bad. Then when Uncle Leon got mugged in the alley by an armed burglar, that's when we said enough's enough. People used to steal our trucks all the time and we'd have our delivery guy, Henry, with two thumbs. He'd go andfind the truck. I know historically, Gary, Indiana just really got bad. It was bad. There was a little bank kitty corner from us. They'd rob the bank. Then they'd come in our back door, go out the front door and wait for a bus. That was their getaway. And it was all the time. Wow. But everything closed in Gary eventually?Sears, the banks, Holiday Inn. It was a horrible place. They came to rob our store once and came in through...what do you call the window on top? The skylight. The skylight. They ended up in the toilet. [Laughing] They couldn't get out. Everyone worked at the store, though, didn't they? Larry did, right? Back in Indiana. I did. Yes, sweeping. How old were you at that time? Until I was about twelve. We moved out here when I was thirteen. We had a parking place, and Oscar knew exactly how long it would take me to leave the house and to get to the parking place. He always had a policeman there to meet me to walk me the block and the half into our store. That would be frightening. It was frightening. That would be very frightening. So no one would begrudge you for wanting to move. 10 Let's talk a little bit about what you remember about the decision-making process between these three possible places. Did he shut down the whole Gary, Indiana operation to move west? Yes. How did you come to decide upon Las Vegas? The other places we would have had to start from the floors; there was nothing. Las Vegas was a business place; there was a store. And that store's name? Walker Furniture. Okay. That's the first time we've actually said that, Walker Furniture. How long had Walker Furniture been in existence at that time? Fifteen years before we bought it. I remember the decision process. It was unique in that my father made it a family decision. He called all the kids together and said, "This is what I'm thinking of doing. " And he had a vote. Do you remember this? He had everyone talk about it and it was democratic. He was very adventurous to move all the way out west, I always marvel at that; that he just picked up and left his place of birth?we had no choice?but to go so far west. The kids all had asthma and we figured this was one of the places where there wouldn't be that much? Ragweed. Yes. There's everything else. Mom, why do you think he went west? What was his fascination with the west? Really to get away from the ragweed. 11 And the rest of his family? Yes. [Laughing] If you're an adventurer it makes sense that you'd want to look for something out in the west. He was adventurous. Oh, very. What kind of other things did he do that were adventuresome? You name it. Tell me, Daryl, about the family gathering to make that decision. How did he present this? What do you recall? He said we have choices and he talked about the business and the opportunities and do we want to move. He sat the whole family down. It was interesting to be given a choice at that young age. But he got everyone's buy-in basically. He knew where he wanted to go. He was a good salesman. But he got buy-in because it's hard for a thirteen-year-old to up and move from their friends and such. He was smart. How much older were your siblings at that time? Were they still in school? My sister, Linda, was twelve. My older brother would have been nineteen?they were in university. And Amy was married. Yes. Did she move out here at the same time? No, she moved out later. What do you remember about Las Vegas when you first arrived? I was here once before we moved here and I hated it. Never would gamble. It was always smoky 12 in all the casinos. You hated it, but somehow you? It was better than Gary. Okay. I got you. No, you don't. You can't begin to imagine. Did you have favorite spots to go to in Las Vegas? When we first came out here? Yes. Oh, yes. Where did we go? The El Cortez because that was George Walker's?George Walker's brother was J or I or...it was an initial. E. E? Yes. One of the Walker brothers was partners with?Irving? I don't know. But he was partners with Jackie Gaughan, and Jackie Gaughan owned the El Cortez. We would go so often on Friday nights to get their three-ninety-nine porterhouse steak, baked potato and salad. Do you remember that? Yes. We had all these dogs and they loved it. You'd bring leftovers home to them? Yes. What neighborhood did you choose to live in? We kept going? 13 You flew out. Yes. I remember the name of your broker, Barrel Atkins. Yes. I remember you showing me a picture. We were back in Indiana, and you showed me a picture of this ranch house and there were big mountains in the background. It's like, wow, because we didn't really have mountains. I remember that photo, just that little picture, black and white, grainy. But we had a swimming pool in the front yard. In the front yard? Yes. Where was this house located? On Delaware Street, on the other side of the Sahara Golf Course; Mohican, Delaware. What the heck was the address? Thirty-nine? I don't remember. Thirty-eight twenty-nine Delaware; something like that. What school did you attend when you arrived? Valley High School. How big were the classes then? Thirty, forty kids. That was another reason we left; we thought that the educational system would be going down in Gary. Which it was. No. It's still ahead of Las Vegas. 14 You didn't think the? Mom, this was a very good school district when we came here. It was ranked high in the eighties. That's what I've heard, that it was well-regarded. Did you feel safer when you moved here? Definitely. How many people were in town when we moved here, two hundred thousand, two twenty-five? That was in the whole area. It was a small town. Tell them about Walker Furniture. When we started it was a small, little business. How did you grow it? My husband. He was a genius; he really was. Can you give me some examples of things that he did when he took over the business here? I don't know. What would you say? He was smart. He didn't finish college because he had to work. But he was really good with numbers, and he worked tirelessly and did everything, ordering and display. My mom worked very hard, too, in the business. She was primarily involved in display. My dad was great at marketing and merchandising and he did the whole thing. We had a big building, but we only used about half of it. The back half was full of shady characters. Remember? Star Glow. The boys. In the back of the store? No. Yes, they were in the back? There was an alleyway for trucks to get in and out on the other side. The boys. The boys. 15 They were characters. Our poor little bookkeeper would have to go there to collect rent. Oh, so they rented from you? Who were the boys? We don't want to put that in there. You don't want to name names, but shady characters. Where was the store? The same place it is now. It didn't move, but it has a new address. It used to be 301 Industrial. Now it's 301 Martin Luther King. What was the competition like? Were there other furniture stores? Yes, but we took over. We really did. Do you remember the story about when Dad bought the building from Jackie Gaughan? I'll never forget it. Tell me. Because George Walker was related, he was in the building built...by an Israeli general, right? I forget his name. Major. Yes, Major. I don't remember his name. Major whatever. Because they were all kind of related and partners with Jackie Gaughan, but Jackie Gaughan ended up owning it and my dad wanted to buy the building. All of his brothers owned part of it, too. Yes. But Jackie did the negotiating, right? Jackie bought places. He didn't like to sell anything. It was like somebody was tearing his heart 16 out, honestly. He sat there...I can't get my legs up this high. But he sat on a chair with his legs up and rocked. I'll never forget that. It was...Why are you...? We gave you what we asked for; we didn't negotiate a penny. That's interesting. So you rented from Jackie at first? Yes. Then eventually bought the building. Yes. Then the building that you were collecting rent on; that was a separate building behind you on the same property? They were connected. It was horseshoe shaped. Do you remember what Jackie said to Dad at the end of the deal? No. "How do I know you're going to pay me? " Here's cash. He didn't want a check. But remember then Dad agreed. "I'll give you twelve checks every January. " Oh, yes. He would postdate them and he'd mail them to Jackie. That's when we were renting from him. I think it happened when we were buying because even after Dad died we still gave twelve checks until Jackie...his organization got bigger, and his CFO came to Maureen and said, "Stop writing all those checks. He loses them; he keeps them in his pocket and loses them. " I thought that was a funny story. That is a funny story. But that's how business was done here, right? It was very unique. 17 That's right. It was all with a handshake. They didn't want any of these fancy attorneys. Our fancy attorney from Gary, he was just an attorney. We had to get an attorney from Las Vegas. Do you remember that? Your first Vegas attorney? Singer. Who was that? Mike Singer. But don't tell all your stories. I don't even know. Tell me about your job in the store, about merchandising the store, how you set it up. What did you know about arranging furniture? Not as much as my husband. You had a very artistic eye because...of your education at the Chicago...? Yes. Is she being modest on me here? Yes. Well, tell her. Where did you go to school? The Art Institute of Chicago. Wow. That's exciting. Yes. It had nothing to do with... That gave you your eye, though. Yes. My husband, when we first went into business, would take me with him to buy. We would go to Chicago, to the Merchandise Mart and the Furniture Mart, and he'd always say, "What do 18 you think of this?" If I said, "Oh, that's nice," we'll not take that. And then if I said, "Oh, that's horrible," Good, it'll sell. That's the truth. So what can you say about my influence? Nothing. Well, no. You must have had good taste and he knew that his clientele wasn't going to have as good a taste as you. That's right. That happens. But you did all the display and you bought the?what made our store unique was the accessories and the display, and that was primarily your job. Yes. And you're eighty-four. Three. You'll be eighty-four soon. You worked until you were eighty-two, right? You were going in almost every day and still doing your job. But now you got soft on us and lazy. You're right. What would you do in the last few years? You wouldn't go in and move furniture and stuff like that, would you? No. What would you do? What was your typical day? I really went over all the tickets just to make sure that nobody was selling below our bottom line. She understood the business and when she saw problems she would bring it to our CEO. We miss you. I think you should go back to work. [Laughing] That's what I have kids for. If you think of anything else on the business story, we'll get into that, but I'll change 19 directions a little bit here. Talk about the community of Las Vegas. Did you plug yourself into the Jewish community when you moved here? Oh, sure. How did you do that? can you tell me about that? We joined a synagogue. Which one? There was only one, [Temple] Beth Sholom. How did you get involved in the synagogue? What were some of the activities that you enjoyed? Everybody did it; it wasn't one person. What did you do? You did whatever was going on at the synagogue. Did you get involved in the Sisterhood? Yes, kind of. It wasn't my thing. What was the Jewish community like at that time? It was difficult to break into the circles of people who were here already. You were really an outsider. And I'll bet you figured out ways? And I still am after forty years. Were there any activities that you put your kids in? Of course. could you tell me about those? They were still going to Hebrew school, Sunday school. What else? Temple Beth Sholom, I found it different. I found that the Jewish community was easy to break 20 into with the family. The Engels were very warm and accepting, and the Steinbergs were very warm and accepting to the kids. I lived in there because Temple Beth Sholom was near the Steinbergs, the Engels, Handleman and Eisenberg. We would go down to the Ruby Kolod Recreational Center, which now it's so small that it's hardly...it's amazing how small it is. We spent hours there in the lounge, playing basketball and racquetball and goofing around. We'd do what all teenagers do, go to the nearby houses and raid the refrigerators. Faye Steinberg loved to feed us. She loved having a lot of kids around the house. I joined AZA. I don't remember what else we did. That was about it. We just were; you just hung out. But there was only one and it was kind offar from us. It was a long bike ride, anyway. Long. Did you move neighborhoods when the synagogue moved? Did you move to this area after Delaware Street? Yes. I was the first one to move away from Temple Beth Sholom. I moved to Congregation Ner Tamid in '88 or '89. Everyone in the family moved west, and Ijust kept moving south and stayed on Eastern Avenue. You followed the other development of the city. Yes. I don't know. I just ended up staying east. I still pay my dues to Beth Sholom. It's been a long time. Then they moved and Ner Tamid moved and the city became very dichotomized. There was definitely the west and the east communities, and it suffered because we never got a central Federation campus. I tried so hard. I wanted it so badly. I was on the Federation Board. We bought the land. The 21 land is still there. Four families got together and [gave] the seed money for the land. When was that? I've heard about this parcel of land. It must have been the late nineties. It was after Dad died. How did you get involved in the Jewish Federation Board? My husband was on the board and when he died, they asked me. I didn't do anything great. Who were some of the other people on the board at that time? Lots of people. I was on the executive board. We did some dumb things like starting a day school on the east side. It's going bankrupt every day. There's so much money in this town and now the money people are starting to invest in different things, but it should have been then. We should have had a home for the aged. We should have had...just the Federation. We rent now; we should have bought long ago. But nobody would give up their chieftain of this little area. It never got done. That's a shame. Yes. It's a community that's struggled to come together. And still. It's better than it's ever been. So much is still new in Las Vegas. Historically, we're still a very new city and we're just now getting into generations. You've got, what, three generations of your family that live here now? Yes. But it's been a transient town and people come and go. That is so true. A new family came in and I had told Oscar, "Let's invite them"?well, he invited everybody over. But three weeks later, where are they? They're gone. They get into gambling 22 and you never see them again. But you stayed. Your family stayed. Your business grew. Why did you stay? I love it. It's home. What do you love about it? How did you come to love this desert city? I don't know. I love to play golf. We had a membership at the DI Golf Course. Oscar loved to ski. It's close to skiing, hiking. We used to go to ghost towns just to look around. He was adventuresome. So it was a good place to keep a family and raise a family? Oh, yes. It wasn't just what everybody put in the movies, huh? Across the street from our house, yes. Your house on Delaware? A block over. Frankie Rosenthal. They blew his house up. I can't imagine. What did that feel like when you read that in the news or heard about it? I was just totally oblivious. When what? When they blew up Frankie Rosenthal. You knew about these things. When we first moved in on Delaware, the neighbors came over and said, "We want to talk to you." Okay. They said, "Well, next door"?this is not for publication, either?"That's where Betty the hooker lives. You don't want your kids going in there. She'll invite them in to change the water, this and that. You are not to allow them to go in there." 23 It was a colorful city. Did I tell you she came in the store to buy something? Oh, yes. She was obnoxious and demanding, right? Yes. And I said, "Give her her money back, burn the stuff." You didn't have difficult customers, did you? Of course. I was in retail myself, not furniture, but in clothing retail for a long time. So, yes, there are always challenging customers. How did you handle those tough ones? Gave them their money back, told them to go somewhere else. There was this one couple. Somebody was always suing us. They bought a La-Z-Boy recliner and it broke in half. We said, "What were you doing? You can't just break a recliner." "Well, we were having sex on it and it broke and my wife hurt her neck." We said, "Oh, please." So they wanted their money back? Yes. That's funny. It was different. I remember making a delivery to Jerry Lewis when I was like seventeen, eighteen years old. It was Christmas Eve and he wanted his mom to get a La-Z-Boy. He said, "Please. " So we did it. He tipped the two of us each a hundred bucks. You're kidding? I said, "Wow, this is a great man. " Jerry Lewis. Is that in the Scotch 80s? He lives there now. Is that where he lived? No. His mom lived somewhere else. Who are some of the other high profile people that you have interesting stories about? 24 Not me. I mean at work? Yes. We've got all kinds of people, the Bacas. The girls who come in from the ranch. Big money for us. Who was that other one? Was it Linda Lovelace? Yes. She came in with her boyfriend. Everybody was so excited. She looked like nothing. What kind of furniture was the big seller here? How did people decorate? I thought pretty shitty. It was a tasteless community, really. I can believe that you would say that. Was western motif really big here? Some. Most of the people came from Back Ea