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Transcript of interviews with Edythe Katz-Yarchever by Claytee White, 2000-2005






Transcript of interviews with Edythe Katz-Yarchever by Claytee White over the course of several sessions in 2000, 2003 and 2005. In the interviews, Katz-Yarchever discusses her life in Las Vegas, owning theaters with her husband, Lloyd Katz, and the strides they made in civil rights. She talks about her service in Civil Defense and the National Guard, and moving to various places, then working in California and meeting her husband, Lloyd. The Katzes became involved in the community in various ways with Operation Independence and Holocaust education. About a decade after Lloyd's death, Edythe married Judge Gilbert Yarchever.

Edythe Katz-Yarvhever was born in Boston, a second generation American whose grandparents left Russia the century before. Edythe completed finishing school at the start of World War II and worked various jobs at home before joining the Civil Defense, and later, the National Guard. She moved to Maryland and got a job as a secretary at Edgewood Arsenal, then transferred to Cushing General Hospital to assist a Marine Corps neurologist, who was also a Jewish refugee. Towards the end of the war, she is transferred to an Army hospital in Hawaii, and thus began the rest of her life on the West Coast. When the war ended, Edythe sailed to California and worked various jobs in Los Angeles: in the secretarial pool at MGM Studios, for a casting agency and for a hotel magazine. Edythe met Lloyd Katz in San Francisco, and the two were married after a short courtship. The couple lived in San Francisco before moving to Las Vegas in 1951, where they took over the management of the Huntridge, Palace and Fremont theaters, then leased by Edythe's parents. The Katzes took a stand to desegregate their theaters, allowing black customers to sit with white patrons. Edythe and Lloyd became active in the city's Civil Rights Movement, including work with Operation Independence and the NAACP. Edythe started organizations like Volunteers for Education and Junior Art League, and directed an interfaith, interracial preschool. Lloyd would frequently open up their theaters to organizations to hold fundraisers, free-of-charge. Edythe was extremely active in the local Jewish community, including opening the city's first Jewish gift shop, serving as sisterhood president at her synagogue and starting the Jewish Reporter. She later founded a library for Holocaust education as well as assisted the school district's development of curriculum and teacher training relating to the Holocaust. Lloyd Katz passed away in 1986, and in 1995, Edythe married Gilbert Yarchever. Edythe and Lloyd's community service work was honored with the naming of their school, the Edythe and Lloyd Katz Elementary School, where Edythe still remains active.

Digital ID



Edythe Katz-Yarchever oral history interview, 2000 December 09, 2003 February 11, 2003 March 11, 2005 December 06. OH-02038. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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SESSION 1 Talks about her appointment to Operation Independence; race relations in Las Vegas during that time; using life lessons learned through experiencing anti-Semitism growing up in Boston. Discusses attending high school then finishing school in Boston; admiration for woman who owned finishing school. Mentions 60* high school reunion 1-4 Recalls joining Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps during World War II; being blackout ambulance driver; responding to horrific Coconut Grove fire. Moves to Maryland; works as a secretary. Transfers from Edgewood Arsenal to Army hospital outside Boston; works paraplegic ward; concerns herself with patient rights. As war extends, transfers to Hawaii 5-9 Decides to move to California, with parents. Gets work in film industry, then for magazine. Moves to San Francisco, marries Lloyd Katz, who works in film industry; son Jeff born. Discusses parents' professions; growing up in Boston; differences between Boston and San Francisco's civic relations with Jewish community. Mentions spending time with Cardinal Cassidy. Talks about moving to Las Vegas; family business in motion picture theaters 10-15 Talks about rejecting racial segregation norms in theater seating; supporting Civil Rights movement, participating in marches. Recounts story of Lloyd serving on coroner's jury in police shooting of African-American boy. Starts a volunteer office, based at CVT Gilbert School; gets lots of assistance from women in community. Discusses friendships with Mabel Hoggard, Alice Key; Westside during the 1960s; black-Jewish relationships in Las Vegas 16-20 Continues discussing race relations in city during 1960s; NAACP. Mentions Junior Art League; city's first synagogue, starting gift shop; serving as sisterhood president; running an interfaith, interracial preschool. Talks about throwing first fundraiser; community togetherness amongst disparate groups; starting Jewish Family Service Agency; Jewish Reporter. Chats about Jews who managed, owned Strip hotels; their immense generosity to all causes in the city 21-25 SESSION 2 Talks about grandparents; maternal grandmother bringing mother and siblings to country as child; paternal grandparents, orthodox Jews from Russia who divorced later in life. Attributes her wanderlust to her paternal grandfather. Mentions grandmother returning to Russia to give birth to father, returning to the U.S. seven years later. Recalls story of maternal grandmother being arrested for making bathtub gin. Parents met in Boston; married in 1918 26-30 Discusses childhood in Boston, moving frequently; family losing home during the Depression; moving from Jewish neighborhood to non-Jewish neighborhood. Recalls experiencing anti- Semitism; mother changes professional name. Talks about changes in high school, friendlier environment towards Jews; her shyness; remaining home after graduation to care for baby brother. More remarks about finishing school; story of anti-Semitism during time there. Mentions mentor Goldie Maiser, friend of mother's 31-35 Chats about life after finishing school, working in father's office; first paying job; emotional reaction to hearing news about World War I. Joins Civil Defense, watches for Nazi planes; next joins National Guard, diving makeshift ambulance. Recalls again story of responding to Coconut Grove fire, driving ambulance for surviving victims. Talks about being engaged to serviceman; breaking off engagement. Moves to Maryland, works as secretary 36-40 Recalls trip to Washington, D.C.; moving to Baltimore; a chance friendship with sailor; transferring from Edgewood Arsenal to new military hospital outside Boston, eventually working as only woman in detachment office. Talks about working for a colonel; later transferring to work with neurologist, a major and Jewish refugee; serving as a problem-solver for new patients, including a experience assisting WWII prisoners of war 41-45 SESSION 3 Discusses moving to Los Angeles, working in secretarial pool, working for various screenplay writers; treatment of secretaries during that time. Works for casting agency; experiences casting couch environment; transitions to work for hotel magazine. Talks about meeting future-husband, Lloyd, during trip to San Francisco; quick courtship; getting engaged 46-49 Recalls difficulty setting wedding date due to religious constraints and Lloyd's surgery; marry in 1948. Son Jack born next year; moves to San Mateo, in a nice, ethnically diverse neighborhood. Talks about Lloyd's career with Eagle-Lion film production company 50-51 SESSION 4 Talks about appointment to Operation Independence, alongside Lubertha Johnson, Leola Armstrong, to promote Civil Rights education in schools; recruited because of Lloyd's integrated theater seating policy. Recalls story of Tom Howard who was caught in altercation with white ii police officer. Later starts volunteers in education program with school district; works with Jerry Furr, Methodist minister and friend of Martin Luther King Jr.; volunteer management 52-56 Mentions organizing horse show at one of the schools; son Jeff performs jumps; Jerry Furr builds portable pool at Westside school. Befriends Mabel Hoggard; supports Ruby Duncan's Operation Life. Talks about participating in Civil Rights marches in downtown; seeing Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Chats about atomic bomb testing; working at Army hospital in Hawaii at end of WWII; runs into former patient from Boston; racist confrontation with new soldiers 57-61 Recalls moving to California after leaving Hawaii, along with parents; working at MGM in secretarial pool for Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht. Again discusses meeting Lloyd in San Francisco. Discusses Lloyd's work with motion pictures distribution; moving to Las Vegas and taking over parents failing movie theater businesses, building owned by Tom Oakey; desegregating theater seating and few related altercations 62-65 Discusses active engagement in community; helping establish first Jewish temple; Lloyd's health challenges; taking over their business managing office warehouse complex after his passing. Mentions building home in Scotch 80s, used for lots of entertaining, events. Talks about meeting Gil at temple event; getting deeply involved in Holocaust education cause; organizing conferences for students and teachers, with help from Hughes Corporation, hotels 66-72 Speaks about Cardinal Cassidy speaking at synagogue, university. Describes her library, started by donations from community members. Talks about Leopold Paige, who told Tom Keneally the story of Oskar Schindler and eventually wrote Schindler's List; goal to send Nevada teachers to visit Holocaust Museum in D.C. Discusses civil rights movement, changes in race relations in casinos; corporatization of Las Vegas; Catholic Church, its local leaders over the years 73-78 Compares her interactions with Catholic from growing up in Boston to those when living in Las Vegas. Talks about elementary school named after her and Lloyd, her joy when visiting the school; famous speakers who have spoken to students. Mentions attending 60 year high school reunion with Gil. Again discusses finishing school; her admiration for the school's owner and her mentorship 79-84