Rose-Marie’s Corner: The Beginning of Robert Goodman Jewelers (Part 1)

Rose-Marie’s Corner: The Beginning of Robert Goodman Jewelers (Part 1)

Every Thursday evening when Bob works late at the store, my 94-year-old father-in-law Raymond and I have dinner together. We have had this tradition for many years. Thursdays used to be the day that my in-laws would go out to dinner. When my mother-in-law Marjorie passed away in 1997, Ray would eat out with Irene, Bob’s aunt. But after Irene passed away a few years later, I was the one to continue the tradition with Ray on those evenings.

Both of us look forward to our time together every single week and we have fun deciding on a place to go. We have our favorite restaurants, but sometimes I disappoint Ray if I’d rather not go some place he chooses. It most likely is the other way around every once in awhile, but Ray would never let me know – that’s just the way he is.

When our kids Julia and Ian aren’t busy, they’ll join us, too, which is even more to Ray’s liking because he treasures every moment he spends with the two grandchildren, who live in Indianapolis. The other four granddaughters all live out of state.

There’s never a dull moment during the couple of hours we are together. We always find plenty to talk about. On those occasions that Julia joins us, Ray loves to hear about her editorial work at Jack & Jill children’s magazine. When Ian is with us, well, you can imagine, I don’t get a word in, because it’s all about sports, any sport, or about Ian’s law studies.

Many times Ray tells us about his four years on several different aircraft carriers in the Pacific during World War II, a time filled with adventures, treacherous times, remarkable experiences and bonds with the carriers’ admiral and his staff. He remembers everyone by name, including his cabin mates. Ray finds himself thinking of those years constantly.

When he talks of his late wife Marjorie, his eyes glaze over, and he says, “I still don’t know how I got so lucky that Marjorie wanted to marry me. I was 37 years old by then, never been married, and she was a very attractive 25-year-old lady whose favorite uncle told her, ‘He’ll never marry you – after all three of his four older siblings never married.’ And yet she did and we loved each other very much for 44 years.” I can attest to that. One day, for example, they were holding hands as we went down in an elevator at the New York Hilton, where we used to stay when all four of us would attend jewelry shows there.

But I like it most when he talks of the Goodman family origin. Bob’s grandfather (Ray’s father) came to this country in 1890 as a 20-year-old young man without any family all the way from Kishinev in the country of Moldova, near Russia. Zanvil Goitman landed in Philadelphia, where an immigration judge chose to give him the American name Jacob Goodman. Jacob found a job in a local tannery, but as he couldn’t speak English, he wasn’t able to read the instruction labels on the chemicals he had to use, and received severe burns all over his body. He was taken to the charity ward of a nearby hospital, where he spent six months convalescing and learning English. Then he became a peddler to earn a living.

Jacob met his future bride, Bessie Palman, in Philadelphia, and they were married in 1891. Before the turn of the century, as they made their move west, they had four children, including Morris Goodman, who years later would begin and run Goodman & Co. and work until he was well into his 90’s. The young family lived in Toledo, Ohio for some time, where Ray’s brother, Isidore, was born. Buster, as he was called, was a bit of a “wild” young man, who was twice suspended from Shortridge High School. He loved jazz music, and for a summer even acted as master of ceremony for Hoagie Carmichael. Many years later Buster broke away from Goodman Jewelers in order to found I.B. Goodman & Co. in Cincinnati, which still exists today, and is run by Buster’s grandson Jonathan Cohen.

In 1901 Bob’s grandfather, Jacob, attended the World’s Fair in Buffalo, New York. He ran a shooting gallery where men could win prizes, which were the men’s jewelry items he sold as a peddler. President William McKinley was shot there and the World’ Fair was canceled. Jacob got stuck with his men’s jewelry collection and decided to become a traveling salesman. It turned into a successful business and that’s how Jacob began the Goodman family jewelry business. The family had by then moved from Toledo to Indianapolis, because it had the first Union Station of America, which provided Jacob with easier transportation as a traveling salesman.

Raymond A. Goodman was born in Indianapolis on April 28, 1914, when his next older brother Buster was already 13 years old. When Raymond was six months old, the family moved from Alabama St. out to the “country” and into a home at 3736 North Meridian St., with a farm and a barn next door. At that time Meridian St. was only paved to 46th St. The ice truck, pulled by a mule, would come by every day to drop ice off to keep some foods cool. Horses and buggies were everywhere. Automobiles were a luxury, but the Goodman’s had an Overland seven-passenger (including two jump seats) touring car which Ray tells me, means it had no side windows.

When Ray was five years old, his mother was killed by an automobile as she was crossing Meridian Street, and Ray’s two older sisters became his caretakers. His sister, Sarah, walked him to Elementary School 60 every day. Ray graduated from Shortridge High School in 1933 and the University of Michigan in 1937. He was the only sibling to have attended college.

Ray remembers how his oldest sister, Mayme, gave him a check for $1000, and sent him on his way on the train to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Coincidentally, my mother-in-law’s “favorite uncle” I mentioned earlier, was on the same train heading back to Michigan for his second year. The check Mayme gave Ray was to cover all his expenses for the entire year, including transportation, tuition, room and board, books, etc. Ray proudly tells me that he went home after the first year with $120 left in his pocket, and handed it back to his sister. Tuition at that time in 1933, in the depth of the Great Depression, for an out-of-state student was $45 per semester. In 1977 when I began my studies at Indiana University in Bloomington as a foreign student, the out-of-state cost per credit hour was around $100. The current cost is over $800 per credit hour for a non-resident student.

The University of Michigan was, at the time, the largest “Big Ten” school with 6,000 students. Ray had never been away from home, except to attend a summer camp when he was 12 years old. The first thing he had to do when he got off the train in Ann Arbor was to find a place to live. There were no dormitories in those days, so he checked himself into a boarding house. In order to meet friends and have a place to enjoy good meals, Raymond joined the fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu. He majored in history and became a reporter for the prestigious college newspaper The Michigan Daily. He was on the sports staff for all four years, primarily covering the school’s men’s basketball team.

At some point, Raymond became aware of the fact that there were absolutely no black basketball players on the Big Ten teams. There was an unspoken agreement among the basketball coaches that they would not recruit black basketball players. Ray was so disturbed and amazed at this that he wrote and submitted an article on the issue, but it was rejected for publication by the so-called “card-carrying communist” editors of The Michigan Daily. When Ray turned his report in as an assignment for one of his courses, the professor, who was also the Dean of the College of Literature, became very interested in the subject. In fact, the professor shared the story of Nathan Leopold, who had been his best student ever, and who was shortly thereafter convicted of murder during the famous “Leopold and Loeb Trial of 1924”.

To be continued…