Marguerite Goldfarb

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ORAL HISTORIES
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Interviewed by
Dan Ford
Interview dates
October 2004
Location
Telephone interview
Disclaimer text

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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Marguerite Goldfarb by Dan

Ford on 2004 October,Audio and video interviews about the life and work of Richard Garwin, 2004-2012Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/40912-11

For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.

In this interview Marguerite Goldfarb, Richard Garwin's aunt, discusses topics such as: Garwin, his parents, Garwin growing up, anti-semitism in Cleveland.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.

Transcript

Ford:

via telephone:[Phone ringing.]

Goldfarb:

Hello.

Ford:

Oh, yes, I’m trying to reach Mrs. Goldfarb.

Goldfarb:

This is Mrs. Goldfarb.

Ford:

Oh hi. My name is Dan Ford. I’m…

Goldfarb:

Oh, Dick Garwin told me you would be calling.

Ford:

Well, here I am. [laughter]. How are you?

Goldfarb:

I’m fine, thank you.

Ford:

Good. I don’t know if this is a good time to talk or not. I can call back another time. I just thought I would talk now, or we could make an appointment to talk some other time.

Goldfarb:

Well, I have an appointment… I have to be somewhere at about 11:15, so I have at least 20 minutes.

Ford:

Oh, okay. Well… well…

Goldfarb:

Is that enough time?

Ford:

Well, probably not, but at least we can start.

Goldfarb:

Okay.

Ford:

Um, I guess you probably understand pretty well what I’m … the research that I’m doing.

Goldfarb:

Yes, Dick told me.

Ford:

And, um, I basically, you know, would like to find out a bit more about his family, and you’re part of it.

Goldfarb:

Well, I’ll help you if I can.

Ford:

Yeah, well I guess, um… just so that I understand, you are …Dick’s mother was Leona. Is that correct?

Goldfarb:

That’s right, that’s my sister.

Ford:

That was your sister. And his father’s name was Bob.

Goldfarb:

Well Robert, yeah.

Ford:

Robert. So, what could you tell me about them? What type of people were they?

Goldfarb:

Well, my sister was a very, very bright lady. Before she got married to Bob, she worked for a very prestigious law firm — she was a legal secretary — and then she got married and she didn’t work after that. In that generation, my generation, the woman didn’t work after they got married, you know. And Dick wasn’t born until about five years after they were married. And then about five years later, the other boy, Edward, was born. And Robert was… this is interesting. He was brought up in a Jewish orphan home — Orthodox Orphan Home — because his father had died and his mother couldn’t take care of the children, so they were put in this orphan home. And he went to East Technical High School and he was one of their outstanding students. And so he was given a scholarship to Case School of Applied Science which is now Case Western Reserve University and he got a degree in electrical engineering. But it was during the depression and he had to start helping out his mother, and he couldn’t get a job in this locality. He could have gotten a job farther away but he couldn’t take it because his mother needed his help. So he became a motion picture projectionist and he also worked at East Technical High School as… he was in Electricity — they had specialized courses — and he was in charge of Electricity course. Then later on his father… well it was during the depression and the Cleveland Board of Education did not allow somebody to have two jobs. So he had to give up one or the other, so he gave up the teaching job because the other job was more… I guess he made more money, I don’t know.

Ford:

I mean people weren’t allowed to have two jobs just so to make more jobs for people, or something…?

Goldfarb:

Yes, that’s right. They wanted other people to have jobs. So I guess he gave up teaching at East Tech and then he… well because he was working at night, that wasn’t enough for him. He started installing sound system like in temples and churches and other buildings, you know, and that became, as time went on that became much more profitable than working as a motion picture projectionist. So he quit that and he formed a firm called Gartec — um, Gartec Product [Garwin Theater Equipment Corp], I guess it was. And he and Lee [Leona] hired his younger brother — because there were four boys in that family and Bob was the third — and when he started this business he hired his brother, Joe, who was the youngest one. And that became quite a profitable business. Incidentally, they worked through their home and they… they had a garage in the back and that became the focus of the enterprise, and he did very well in that.

Ford:

One of the things that Dick mentioned to me was that he had heard that… I guess the family story had something that his father’s father — Robert’s father — was shot or something by his business partner in Chicago.

Goldfarb:

That’s right, yes.

Ford:

Did you know any more about that.

Goldfarb:

No, I didn’t. That was… and I don’t understand… and I guess… you know at that time I was young and didn’t go into details about things. But I often wondered why they came to Cleveland. You know what I mean?

Ford:

Yes. Why…

Goldfarb:

And I don’t know why.

Ford:

Yeah… I think Dick had the impression that… I think that it’s a Jewish orphanage called Bellefaire or something.

Goldfarb:

That’s now… it’s called Bellefaire… yeah. But at the time it was called the Jewish Orthodox Orphans Home.

Ford:

Ah…

Goldfarb:

But… that was a predecessor to Bellefaire. But do you think that was the reason why they came to Cleveland?

Ford:

Well, Dick… Dick thinks it might be. That, you know, somehow or other his grandmother heard of it or something.

Goldfarb:

I often wondered, but I didn’t wonder [laughter] enough to find out. But I wondered why they moved. And then I often thought maybe it was very traumatic because the father was shot and maybe they knew… the mother knew some people here in Cleveland.

Ford:

Yeah, something…

Goldfarb:

She was a very nice lady; I didn’t know her very well. She died, I think, when Dick was about a year old — she died of cancer.

Ford:

Uh huh…

Goldfarb:

I remember that so distinctly because Dick was only a year old and I took care of him. And I was so amazed at his vocabulary and what he knew — at one. Actually, after awhile, when I had my children, I realized how advanced he had been at one year old. At that time we didn’t know. I’m 13 years older than Dick. So you see I knew him… I used to babysit for him and things like that. But… his family… and I don’t know… and of course his mother’s family was my family. There is nothing really outstanding I can say.

Ford:

Uh huh… right.

Goldfarb:

What else would you like to know?

Ford:

No, no, it’s fine. And… I mean… you knew him, you know, since he was a baby I guess.

Goldfarb:

Oh, I sure did.

Ford:

And, I mean, what was he… you know you said “at one he had an amazing vocabulary.”

Goldfarb:

Oh yes he did.

Ford:

But… did he talk in sentences or…

Goldfarb:

Oh yes, he did. Not only that. If you would sit in the car with him, he knew — and which I didn’t know at that time — he’d say “This is an ammeter; this is the speedometer; this is the gas gauge.” — I mean he knew all the parts of the car. His father, from the time Dick was an infant, spoke to Dick as though Dick were intelligent and no using… he never… he would explain everything to him. And I guess that was very good for him. I remember at one time we…

Ford:

You mean at one, or so, he’s saying that the speedometer.

Goldfarb:

I’d like to say yes… at one he was talking — he knew all the parts of the car and what they did.

Ford:

Uh huh.

Goldfarb:

And his father knew how to repair everything and whenever he did anything Dick was would be right there and Dick learned how to do everything. This is when Dick and Eddie were ol … when Dick and Eddie were OLDER we got a television — my husband and I got a television. And they happened to come over and they said, “Oh, this is interesting.” Before I know, they had the whole television taken apart [laughter]. And I said, “Oh my goodness” … “Don’t worry Aunt Margie, we’ll put it together. We just wanted to see how it works.” [Laughter]. And… both… well his brother was five years younger than he, and both of them very intelligent.

Ford:

Uh huh.

Goldfarb:

Very intell… This is something interesting. I was working as… for a school and I could get books at a discount. My mother called me and she said, “I want to buy Dick a book for his birthday and I asked him what he wanted,” I think he was about 12… I know it was 12 or 13, “and I asked him what he wanted.” And he wanted a book on calculus. And my mother said, “What in the world is calculus?” [Laughter]. And I said, “Well, I can’t believe he wants it, but if he wants it I’ll get it for him.” And at time we did not offer calculus in the high schools — now we do, but at that time we didn’t. But I ordered it and said I wanted it, you know, as a gift. But he wanted it. He was interested in that… And besides which he was a very, very normal boy, you know. He was interested in baseball — not crazy about it, but, you know, interested enough. And he was interested in everything. Anybody that I know who meets Dick is always impressed by the fact that he is very humble and he never projects himself as being anything other than normal. And everybody likes him very much — I mean anybody I’ve introduced him to always likes him very much. Of course, I adore him, so this isn’t fair.

Ford:

No, you know, I think he’s an amazing fellow. It’s…

Goldfarb:

I think he is, too. And really he just seems to know so much, you know, and he always did. He was a very good son. I don’t think that my sister and brother-in-law had ANY problems with him, ever, while he was growing up. But that was sort of the norm in that generation with children — middle-class children — you know. They lived in a nice neighborhood, he walked to school every day, didn’t have a car, but that was normal.

Ford:

I guess… One of the things that he mentioned was I guess something to do with the anti-Semitism in Cleveland — of course it was very big in the whole country, I guess, at the time — but this affecting his father’s career and ability to work in electrical engineering.

Goldfarb:

Well that’s true. There was nothing here in Cleveland. I do believe he was offered a job out of the country but that was out of the question because he was supporting his mother and his younger brother at the time. So that was out of the question. But there was nothing here in Cleveland, although he was probably the outstanding student in his class. And this is very interesting. Years later I worked at East Tech High School as secretary to the principal and when I mentioned that I was Bob Garwin’s sister-in-law they all said how impressed they were at what he was as a student and as a teacher. They said he was an excellent teacher and all. Well, I think had he been of another faith, he probably could have been an electrical engineer in Cleveland, but at that time he couldn’t.

Ford:

Uh huh… because I’ve been just trying to do a little research about it and there is a Jewish archives in Cleveland and they’ve sent me some material. And… I also… I’ve read a lot about this Catholic priest named Father Coughlin who used to be on the radio.

Goldfarb:

On the radio, yeah.

Ford:

And I saw some things about him speaking in Cleveland and so forth… and had all of this anti-Semitic diatribe and so forth. For me it is just astonishing. But I don’t know… it’s hard to put it in perspective.

Goldfarb:

I know, I know. And it’s a pity, isn’t it, when that has to happen.

Ford:

And apparently at the time people like Henry Ford, you know, were publishing some type of anti-Semitic newspaper and… it’s astonishing that this was America — that’s not I think of…

Goldfarb:

I know. And you know for a LONG time very few Jewish people would buy a Ford product. But that’s different — Jewish people buy German cars too.

Ford:

Yes [laughter].

Goldfarb:

How do you figure that out? And Japanese cars… of course a lot of those cars are made in the United States anyway, you know, and a lot of the American cars, the parts are made abroad. So you don’t know what you are buying now.

Ford:

That’s true, that’s true. Another thing that Dick mentioned was that when he was a kid that he used to like to make explosives and blow up things.

Goldfarb:

OH YEAH!

Ford:

Do you remember any of that?

Goldfarb:

Yes. He… I don’t remember anything specific. The thing was I… I don’t think anybody bought him a chemistry set per se. But he would try experiments with different things and sometimes they exploded [laughter]. He was quite a youngster but basically a very, very good youngster, you know. He just didn’t cause anybody any trouble. He was very inquisitive — he liked to know how everything worked. I think… I’m sure he took apart their vacuum cleaner when he was very young to see how that worked. And… you know… whatever he did, he put it together again, so nobody cared.

Ford:

Some people like to take things apart. I know my father was always extremely enthusiastic to take the washing machine apart, or anything apart, instead of having to pay a repairman. But in the end he usually had to call the repairman to put it back together [laughter].

Goldfarb:

I don’t think that happens in Dick’s household. I think he repairs everything. I don’t think he ever had to call a repairman unless it’s because he doesn’t have the time. Because I know he was always very inquisitive, liked to take things apart but always put them together again.

Ford:

You must know Lois very well.

Goldfarb:

No, I really don’t know Lois because they got married very young and they moved to Chicago. And then they really never… I mean they would come back to Cleveland for a short time. The only thing I do know about her is — I think it’s an accolade — my sister always said, “I could never have a daughter any better than Lois.” And for a mother-in-law to say that about a daughter-in-law… She just thought Lois was the greatest thing that ever happened. But basically I didn’t know Lois because, as I say, they got married very young.

Ford:

Yes, I think he must have been 18, I think, or 18-19.

Goldfarb:

Dick was 19. So they got married very young and they moved to Chicago and that’s where he got his Ph.D. And since that time they really have not been in Cleveland except to visit. I really don’t know Lois but, as I say, I admire her so much because my sister thought she was the greatest person in the world. I never heard a mother-in-law praise a daughter-in-law as much as Leona used to praise Lois.

Ford:

And Leona… she passed away a few years ago. It that right?

Goldfarb:

She passed away 8 years ago and she was 96 years old.

Ford:

Wow! And you must be…

Goldfarb:

I’m going to be 90 in December.

Ford:

Really? Wow — what’s the trick.

Goldfarb:

I don’t know [laughter]… but I don’t think… Well I had two sisters who died at 96; one sister who died at 94; one sister died at 90. I had a brother who died at 88 and then I had one brother who died at 60 and one died at 56. So how do you figure that?

Ford:

The average is pretty high.

Goldfarb:

Yes. The only thing about Leona, she was the most cheerful, happy person I ever saw. She always saw the good in everybody and of course as far as her family is concerned she just was absolutely ecstatic about how wonderful her kids were — both boys and Lois. She was a very happy person and everybody remembers Leona for her bright disposition and her smile — she was always smiling.

Ford:

I’ve not met Edward. What is he like? You must know him very well also.

Goldfarb:

I don’t know him very well at all because he moved away… he got married maybe a couple of years… he was a couple of years older than Dick when he got married and they moved away — they moved to California. As it happened, I just spoke to him the other day. But I really don’t know too much about him. He has three nice children. And I asked him, I said, Eddie are you still working? And he said, “Well I’m being paid.” And I said, well are you working? And he said, “Doesn’t that tell you something, “I’m being paid.” Well I don’t know — he must be doing some research work or something. He’s at Stanford.

Ford:

Were he and Dick very close as children?

Goldfarb:

No, because five years is a lot when you are real little. And remember that Dick got married when he was 19 and Ed was only 14. Five years is a lot of difference, later on it isn’t. Once they were adults they had so many things in common. Both of them were interested in the same things and I’m sure they were very close. But while they were growing up I don’t think they were real close. I mean I’m just judging it by… you know I came from a big family and… For example, one of my brothers that I just adored was 10 years older than me. So for a long time we weren’t close, but once I got to be 20 and he was 30, it didn’t matter. But when children are apart in ages it’s kind of hard, you know.

Ford:

Okay. One other thing that I would like to include in the book… Of course it would be a section of photographs and I was wondering whether you… I mean Dick has photographs, I haven’t gone through them yet but I will. But I was just wondering whether you had any good photographs or maybe the next time you are looking at your photographs you could keep the book in mind… and, you know, if you have any good photographs maybe I could look at them at some point.

Goldfarb:

I really am trying to think what I have.

Ford:

Or just like a photograph… I mean also a photograph of Leona and Robert or any…

Goldfarb:

I really don’t have very many of them. I doubt if I have any that would be of interest.

Ford:

It’s pretty standard in biographies, of course, to have pictures of somebody’s parents and grandparents and things like that. And it’s sort of, you know, pot luck whether I can find them. Were…

Goldfarb:

Well, I’ll look through them, Mr. Ford, and see if I can find any.

Ford:

Well, if we have luck, maybe you will.

Goldfarb:

Yes, I’ll look through.

Ford:

Well that’s good. I will let you get to your appointment so you don’t have to rush.

Goldfarb:

Oh thank you.

Ford:

It was really nice talking with you.

Goldfarb:

Thank you.

Ford:

I think you gave me some very nice information. But I may have to check back with you about some of these things, but this was great.

Goldfarb:

Okay, very good.

Ford:

Thank you very much.

Goldfarb:

You’re welcome.

Ford:

Bye-bye.