Oral history interview with Harvey Barash

Dublin Core


Oral history interview with Harvey Barash


Madison (Wis.)
Deaf people
Religious communities
Jewish neighborhoods


Copyright 2023, Harvey Barash and Madison Public Library. All rights reserved. For more information, contact Madison Public Library.


Barash, Harvey


Einstein, Daniel




Harvey Barash and his family lived and worked in and around the Greenbush neighborhood from 1939-1951. He was born at Madison General Hospital (now Meriter Hospital) in 1939. Interestingly, after receiving his medical degree from Albert Einstein Medical School in New York City in 1965 and completing his residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke’s and Illinois R&E Hospitals in 1970, and then spending two years as a major in the US Army, Harvey returned to Madison in 1972 to practice and teach at the same hospital where he was born. Notably, Harvey’s father owned and operated Abe's Shoe Repair, a renowned neighborhood business at 1107 ½ Regent (near the corner of Regent and S. Mills Streets). Harvey helped his father, who was deaf, interact with customers at the shoe shop, and assisted with managing the family's rental properties. In addition to sharing stories of his father’s business, Harvey recounts his Greenbush memories of attending Longfellow School, his Talmud Torah (Hebrew school) classes, and the many Jewish stores and institutions in the neighborhood. In 1991, Harvey and his sister Eva authored a book detailing their family’s experiences growing up in the Greenbush neighborhood, anchored by stories of their father’s shoe repair business titled, “Our Father ABE: The Story of a Deaf Shoe Repairman.”


Madison, Wisconsin




Madison Public Library



Sound Item Type Metadata


Identifier: madjewish-003
Narrator Name: Harvey Barash
Interviewer Name: Daniel Einstein
Date of interview: 12/15/22


[00:00:00] Introduction
[00:01:09] Grandparents, parents, coming to Madison
[00:08:51] Father’s shoe repair shop, other ventures
[00:14:31] Living accommodations
[00:19:23] Working at father’s shoe repair shop, first telephone
[00:24:10] Boundaries of the Greenbush neighborhood
[00:26:02] Growing up in the Jewish community
[00:30:47] Getting along in a diverse communities, anti-Semitism, exclusion
[00:39:08] Poverty, work, and going to the university
[00:41:54] Neighborhood businesses
[00:50:09] Neighborhood recreation
[00:52:39] Parents' marriage
[00:55:21] Going to school – elementary and high school
[01:00:48] Leaving the neighborhood, university, urban renewal
[01:04:55] End of the shoe repair shop
[01:07:06] Reflection on growing up with two deaf parents

[00:00:00] Introduction
Interviewer: Today is December 15, 2022. And we're interviewing Harvey Barash -- that's B A R A S H, for the Madison Public Library's Madison Living History Project. I'm Daniel Einstein and we're recording in my home on the Near West Side of Madison. We'll be talking about Harvey's experiences growing up in a close-knit Jewish community in and around the Greenbush neighborhood. So Harvey, if you can just tell us a little something about when and where you were born.

Harvey Barash: I was born in 1939 at Madison General Hospital, where I was actually doing the last 30 years of my surgical practice.

Interviewer: And what was your career?

Harvey Barash: Orthopedic surgeon.
Harvey Barash: And so that's -- people are always interested in that since I ended up operating in the same hospital I was born.

Interviewer: How interesting.

Harvey Barash: Although it had been renamed to "Meriter Hospital".

[00:01:09] Grandparents, parents, and coming to Madison
Interviewer: So if you could just introduce, give some background on your grandparents, and your parents, and your family, and how they came to live in Madison.

Harvey Barash: So my maternal grandparents after leaving Russia in around 1920 ended up in Madison, Wisconsin. And they had three daughters, and all three of whom were born in Russia near Kiev. And of the three, my mother was the youngest and she also had a significant childhood disease which left her hearing impaired approximately 80%. Likewise, my father's family came from that same area in around the same time period. And they ended up settling in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. And my father also from a childhood illness became profoundly deaf, which is quite important in terms of how she -- he and my mother got together.

In both cases, the fathers of -- in those families preceded -- their arrivals in the United States preceded the rest of the family. Both of those arrived in this country in around 1915, and then they returned. I think the immigration laws opened up and it was easier. Plus I think they had been earning money to bring their families. So they both returned to Russia and made it possible for their -- actually now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure if they actually returned. But they sent money I think in both instances, because the stories all relate around each of the grandmothers coming to the United States on their own with their children.

So in order not to confuse it, my grandmother from Fond du Lac came to Fond du Lac where her husband already had established a work situation. And they -- she brought with her two -- a son and a daughter. The son was my father, Abe. And after they reunited, about roughly ten years later, another child was born. That was my Aunt Lucille, sister to my father, Abe, and his sister, Lillian. So both of their early lives in both cases the fact that there was a very hard-of-hearing child and a deaf child, influenced how they made their way.

And it turned out that my mother's family heard about my father in Fond du Lac, a Russian-Jewish deaf person. And my father's family heard about my mother's family in Madison, Russian-Jewish deaf person. And ultimately, a meeting was arranged. It was kind of a blind date in the Fox River Valley. And supposedly, it was love at first sight, although they could hardly communicate with one another, because my mother had gone to public school and was a very good lip reader. And she actually got to the tenth grade by the time she met my father. And my father really was totally unsuccessful with lip reading. And he actually I think had a period of four to five years where he wasn't making any significant progress in his education or his communication skills.

And that grandmother in Fond du Lac did hear about the Delavan School for the Deaf when my father was 13 or 14, and made inquiry. And ultimately, he ended up at the Delavan School for the Deaf, where he spent the next six to seven years. And that was a life-changing experience for him because sign language was promoted. He then by the fact that he learned sign language quickly was able to begin to learn the English language, and ultimately he finished at Delavan with the -- above a fifth grade education. But he could now read simple English. So then as I said, they met in the Fox River Valley. Apparently, it was love at first sight, even though they couldn't really communicate. My mother was verbalizing and my father was signing.

And part of the story also is that my Fond du Lac grandmother immediately invited my mother to come and stay on vacation in Fond du Lac, [laughter] which she did for a couple of weeks. And I think that promoted that relationship.

Interviewer: There was some matchmaking going on.

Harvey Barash: Yes. She was a very -- always a fairly controlling person, and so she made that happen. Anyway, they were ultimately married in 1935 here in Madison. And since my mother's roots were here, they ended up -- my father learned the shoe repairing trade at Delavan and they ended up with father deciding to open a shoe repair shop here in Madison on Regent Street. The story is actually a bit more complicated [laughter] in that he originally opened his shoe shop -- his shoe repair shop in Fond du Lac because of his very pushy mother. But after about six months, that didn't work. The shop was in a front -- commercial store in front of their -- the house where they were living. So then he absconded to Madison with my mother, and that's where they were ever since.

Interviewer: So coming to Madison had to do with the marriage and your mother's family already being established here.

Harvey Barash: Yes. I mean, my father had a family established in Fond du Lac. But that I think -- I don't think it was in the cards that that was really going to work.

And there are lots of stories, you know, about how in the middle of the night, they got a truck and moved all the machinery to Madison. It's -- but I don't think we need to go into that this moment [inaudible].

[00:08:51] Shoe repair shop other ventures

Interviewer: But -- and we should make sure that we talk about the fact that you and your sister wrote a book about your father's experience as a shoe repairman located on Regent Street --

Adjacent to what is now the Hong Kong Café.

Harvey Barash: Café, which is a block away or so from the Bush.

And we wrote that book after my father died, the year after he died, primarily because he had become actually an institution where he was, literally, for the city of Madison. He was extremely well known. He had a large customer base, including the university. He used to -- originally he would take his bike and kind go to the university dorms and try to find shoes that he could repair. And then he would deliver them back. He was basically self-made in that whole -- as an entrepreneur.

Interviewer: Can you describe what the repair shop looked like and how he interacted with his customers?

Harvey Barash: So he rented a small building, which was a Quonset hut, quite small, and he set up shop. He had the machinery from the first go-around in Fond du Lac. And he became quite popular because of his trips to the fraternity houses and the dorms to get shoes, and also because people liked coming in to communicate with him. He was a very handsome man. And he also had a lot of zest. And so he actually would write notes back and forth. He had a pad of paper and pencil right there and he would write notes back and forth with his customers, and they would tell him what they wanted and then he would write back. And sometimes he would say, "It's not worth it, they're not good enough." So everyone appreciated his honesty, and how he evaluated the situation at hand, and how he accomplished the work, et cetera.

And then my mother -- oh so at any rate, he first rented that shop and then he purchased the land on which that shop was located. And there were actually three small buildings. One was a small Quonset hut, which was a barbershop. The next one was his shoe shop. And then the third one was a tile shop, which ultimately was torn down and it became kind of a little vacant lot where people could park. And subsequently -- I'm jumping ahead a bit, but just to give you the picture, there were two -- three apartment building, oldish and not particularly high-class, but he first bought one of those buildings. He was working 16 hours a day and he was also working for the Defense Department at night during World War II.

And so he made it happen. He was a workaholic then and in a similar way much later. So then he bought that first of two apartment buildings, -- one three-room apartment on the first floor, and then you go up a stairwell and there's a bathroom for both of the two upstairs apartments. And each of those were two rooms, a kitchen and a living room/bedroom on each side. And he started renting those apartments. And so he was able to secure quite good income from those two apartments. And he actually rented them out all by himself. Later on, my sister and I helped to do all that work. But he did that and he did all the repairs. He had friends who would come and help him.

He had one friend who was a machinist who was deaf, who was a very good -- he knew how things worked. And so he would often fix some of the more complicated things. And so we lived in the first of those two buildings from the time that I can remember, which would have been when I was three or four, until 1952 when I was 12 to 13. And as was true in many, many situations, because of his deafness and also how people behaved in those days, especially when everybody was poor, controversy arose about the driveway that would go between the two buildings, for parking in the back.

And ultimately, my father bought the second building to solve that problem. I mean, there's another more complicated side story.

[00:14:31] Living accommodations
Interviewer: Well, yes but what I'm interested in knowing a little bit more of you, you lived one of those buildings for a --

Harvey Barash: We lived in both of them over that time period.

Interviewer: Can you give us a sense of was this what was referred to as a "coldwater flat"? Did it have running hot water? Did --

Harvey Barash: Yes, it had running hot water.

And it wasn't a flat. You know, it was one -- well there was one three-room apartment on the first floor; actually in one case it was -- I don't mean three-bedroom. It was a three-room apartment. And in the other case, it was a four-room apartment. And when we were in the four-room apartment, the fourth room was rented out to a roomer.

Interviewer: So there was a bedroom for your parents. You shared a bedroom with your sister?

Harvey Barash: Yes, a bedroom for my parents, the dining room where my sister slept, and a kitchen. And then I slept in that dining room with her for half the time when we had one of the buildings. And when we had the other building, I slept in the kitchen with -- on a folding bed. So --

Interviewer: Every night you would have to set up a bed to --

Harvey Barash: Yes, it was a rollaway. But you know, we'd roll it, yes, every day. And so I teased her that she had a bedroom for the whole time, but I had the kitchen for essentially the whole time, except when I was sharing the -- and it was really the dining room that we shared. It had a studio couch, which you open up and that then became the bed, but --

Interviewer: Was that a fairly common living arrangement for people in the neighborhood or your friends to --

Harvey Barash: I think so because I was reading through Merle Sweet's interview , and it turned out that he would spend a lot of time at his grandmother's house where there were three bedrooms. And he would often stay in one of those bedrooms and then one was rented out to a student, and then one was his grandparents' bedroom. So I think there was a lot of student rentals because the university students were there. They were poor as well, so they were always looking for a bargain. And the dorms were nothing like they are now, and they were, you know, much more rudimentary in those days.

Interviewer: Yes, student housing was a big challenge and --

Harvey Barash: It was then, and it is now.

Interviewer: So it was a student that was boarding --

Harvey Barash: In the one where there -- we had four rooms a student was in one of those bedrooms, and then my sister and I shared that dining room, and my parents had a bedroom.

Interviewer: And did the student eat with you and spend time with you, or did they --

Harvey Barash: No, we saw her. We knew her. She used the same bathroom we did, Vicky -- I mean, Merle], her name was Merle Neefe Anyway, as it turns out, she had a child while she was there. And so Vicky, the child, was also living there with her for most of the time we were there. And when I hesitated and said it's even more complicated, it turns out that once my father bought the second house, we moved my mother's parents into the four-room apartment where we had all been living, and we went and moved over to West Main Street near Washington School for three years. Because my mother's father had had a stroke; he couldn't climb the stairs. And so they moved next to my dad's shop.

And we were over about a mile away. My dad would go back and forth every day. And then ultimately, we moved back to the other house when -- once he bought it. And so the two families were on the first floor of the two buildings. And my father was managing rentals in the upstairs apartments in both of those houses.

Interviewer: So there seems to be a pattern of multigenerational and boarder arrangements for housing, at least in your experience, but maybe in the experience of other people in the neighborhood.

Harvey Barash: I think everybody was just, you know, eking out a life.

And so every extra dollar made a big difference.

[00:19:23] Working at father’s shoe repair shop
Interviewer: So just to circle back to your father's store, did you work in the repair shop? Did you help him out? Did you -- what were some of the things that you did?

Harvey Barash: So both my sister and I did lots of work for them, primarily, I would say not repairing shoes but doing the prep work. I don't think my sister did the prep work either, but taking off the old soles and the old heels, getting them ready for him to do. But more importantly waiting on customers because that saved him time; he didn't have to go and do that. And we, of course, could do it. And we always usually made a big hit with the customers because we were his children and we were speaking rather normally. [Laughter] So we helped him in the shop. We would go there every night at the end of the day and sweep up the shop and dust up some of the machinery. But whenever I wanted to or he would try to show me how to actually do the shoe repair work, he didn't let me do much, and that was true until the end.

Even -- he could never really hire anyone who did the work the way he wanted it. So in the first instance, I was too young and not strong enough to do some of the stuff. And even when I got old enough to do a good job using the machines and so forth, he really would never encourage that. He would find something else for us to do. And then in the meantime, we were painting apartments, and renting apartments, and carrying out the rubbish every day -- or every week. And ultimately, when we bought our first true home where we each had our own bedroom, which was in 1952 after my -- our Madison -- my Madison grandparents had both died in '49 and '50, I actually went to the closing and I was their interpreter, and I sort of gave them advice as well. And they did rely on both of us for advice in terms of interacting with a human -- with the hearing world.

So we helped him in nontraditional ways. But it meant a lot to them. And also, I started doing federal taxes when I was thirteen . And I did continue to do that until my father died, so. [Laughs]

Interviewer: Yes. You had a lot of responsibilities as a young person to --

Harvey Barash: Yes, we did.

Interviewer: Be that in-between person.

Harvey Barash: That's true. And then we also got our first telephone in the late '40s, and so we made telephone calls all the time for them. And we -- that became the source of some controversy when my sister or I wanted to talk to a friend and they would be standing there signing , "Hurry up," you know, "we want to -- you have to make this call or that call." So we made lots of telephone calls.

Interviewer: Yes. Well, let's talk about technology for a second, because I think it's always interesting given computers and cell phones to remember that it wasn't so long ago that telephones were a relatively new and exciting technology. Do you remember your first telephone coming into the phone?

Harvey Barash: Yes, I do, and we were all very, very excited. And we had a party line. In those days, you could save money by sharing a line with other people who are usually in the neighborhood. So you had to take turns who would be using the phone when. And of interest with the party line, you could quietly pick up the phone and listen to another call. [Laughs]

Interviewer: There were no secrets --

Harvey Barash: No secrets.

Interviewer: In that neighborhood.

Harvey Barash: No, there were a lot of things. You could hear people arguing and fighting, and et cetera. And so first, it was sharing that line, and then later on it -- my mother wanted me to make like five calls in a row. I would have to say, "Oh, party line on -- " [laughs] I would make that up. So the -- so yes; but that was -- I remember the first phone very well.

[00:24:10] Boundaries of the Greenbush neighborhood
Interviewer: Yes. So I'd like to just get a better sense for the spatial boundaries of your neighborhood. There are lots of different ways that people describe the Greenbush neighborhood or the Jewish neighborhood. But in your experience, what were the boundaries, and how often did you leave the neighborhood to go shopping or to meet with friends?

Harvey Barash: So the truth is, as I understood the neighborhood then and as I understood it much later, we were never actually as a family in the Greenbush neighborhood. We were just west of Mills Street. And officially, when people talked about the Bush, they were really talking about everything east of Park Street and south of Regent. And then the two ends of those two blocks, which were perpendicular to each other, it formed the hypotenuse, and all that together with a triangle.

Interviewer: West Washington being the hypotenuse

Harvey Barash: West Washington, yes.

And so even though we didn't live there, I went to Longfellow School, which is just a tiny bit west of Park Street. And almost all of my early childhood friends were from that area. And so I saw them in school. And also after school, the synagogue was just east of Park Street sort of across the street, except that the Madison General Hospital, where I was born, was in between.

[00:26:02] Growing up Jewish
Interviewer: And that would be Agudas Achim synagogue?

Harvey Barash: Yes. Agudas Achim is how it's pronounced. And so then after regular school, two or three times a week I would go to Hebrew School, also known as "Hader" and -- for my Hebrew education. And I wouldn't say it was much of an education, really, except I learned a lot about the Jewish culture, and I also learned a lot about the other Jewish kids. And we did go to services there on weekends, not regularly, but as a young child, my sister and I were required to go. By the way, did you get those photos?

Interviewer: I did not see them, no.

Harvey Barash: Okay. And my parents didn't go to synagogue at all. My father always worked on Saturday. And my mother maybe very occasionally on a holiday or something would go. But it was mainly something the children did. And we learned about our religion that way. And in our home, we really didn't have much source material for the holidays, except that my mother was a great cook and baker, and her mother had taught her how to make all the important foods for all of the festivals. And so it was, you know, through the palate that we learned --

Harvey Barash: Another part of the Jewish culture.

Interviewer: Were your grandparents still speaking Yiddish, and did you learn Yiddish?

Harvey Barash: Yes, I never learned Yiddish. My parents only spoke relatively rudimentary English. And my mother's two sisters spoke -- both spoke Yiddish. And the same thing is kind of true in Fond du Lac. The two sisters, one younger and one older, learned Yiddish, but my father, of course, couldn't. And so Yiddish is not significant in my own background, but it was because it missed a generation.

Interviewer: Let's talk about your Jewish experience at Hader, and your bar mitzvah, and how your family kept kosher.

Harvey Barash: Yes, as I said, we ended up for -- maybe half that time -- I have to really figure out exactly which years, but we had our grandparents living next door to us, except for the three years that we moved away and they moved in before they were deceased, because of my grandfather's inability to climb those stairs. He had had quite a severe stroke, and not only was he disabled in terms of walking and climbing, he also was aphasic for a period of -- for that whole period of time. At any rate, we did learn about the holidays because they were all celebrated by both sets of grandparents. And relatives often came or we went to relatives. And then what we learned about the various holidays in a formal way came through Hebrew school. So I did have a pretty good working knowledge of what it was all about but never really explained in a clear and ongoing way.

Interviewer: Yes.

Harvey Barash: Oh, go ahead.

Interviewer: Well, no, I'm just curious, did you keep kosher and did you visit a kosher butcher shop?

Harvey Barash: Yes, we kept kosher. My grandparent -- both sets of grandparents kept kosher. And my mother kept kosher. And she learned how to cook, as I said, primarily from her mother. And so everything was pretty strictly kosher, two sets of dishes, no non-kosher meat, and certainly no pork products or anything like that. And to this day, my wife and I still keep kosher, although I'm not necessarily a fan of the whole setup. But my wife [laughter] -- I married a woman who came from a kosher family. And so that's the way it's been. I've been married now almost 60 years.

Interviewer: Mazel tov. [Laughs]

Harvey Barash: Yes, so -- yes.

[00:30:47] Getting along in a diverse communities and anti-Semitism

Interviewer: So in the Greenbush neighborhood, the dominant heritage was Italian and Catholic.

Harvey Barash: African Americans also.

Interviewer: And African Americans, right. And you went to Longfellow School. But I'm curious, in your sphere of friends, were -- was there kind of a distinction made between the Jewish kids and the Catholic Italian kids; or how was that experience, that social experience?

Harvey Barash: Yes. Yes, Longfellow School, I would say we had friends -- we were friends with every denomination represented there, but the truth is that most of the Jewish kids played with other Jewish kids out of school mostly, because that was promoted by the families. And so for instance, on the Sabbath, you know, you're not supposed to drive or use electronics and so forth. And so our synagogue setup -- this is []Agudas Achim synagogue, a movie club. The movie club was on Saturday afternoon where we would go in order not to go to the movies, [laughter] because that was prohibited. And then when you went to movie club, the -- all of the other kids there were Jewish. And I think that led to a lot of the separation.

It's hard to say exactly all the dynamics, but a lot of it probably came from the other denominations we're talking about as well. But -- so my closest friends were all Jewish, but I did have a modest number of friends who -- just from school who were not. And by the way, there was a little Irish contingent there too --

Harvey Barash: Especially across Regent Street from my dad's shoe shop. There was like a family, an O'Connor family with like eight kids. And then they had their friends. So there was another mix -- representative in the mix.

Interviewer: Yes. So you grew up in a neighborhood with different races, different ethnicities, different religions. What was your experience in terms of racism or anti-Semitism? Was that an issue?

Harvey Barash: I would say it came up, certainly not on an everyday basis, and depending on who it was that you were dealing with. But you -- calling us "dirty Jews" or criticizing the Jewish group was not -- I mean, it happened; enough that I remember those days. And even when I was a bit older, I was at the city council with my father. He was looking into a certain ordinance in relation to one of his properties. And somebody came down the hall and said, "You dirty Jews," to my father and I. And so I didn't even want to tell my father what he had said, but I did. And my father was very angry about that. So although I felt I lived a relatively ecumenical life in terms of friendships and comfort level at being Jewish, I can't say that it never happened.

It happened enough that I certainly knew --

How many people felt about it.

Interviewer: And what about friendships or connections with the black community? Was that something that was encouraged or --

Harvey Barash: It wasn't really openly discussed that this is a good thing to do, nor a bad thing. But I didn't have any significant black friends all through Longfellow and also West High. I did have a few, but nothing of major significance; such that when I was at the university -- I went to the university here in Madison also, I became very close friends with a black student who was a premed also. And we -- and he was a very good tennis player. And so we used to do that a lot. And I think I invited him actually to live at our home. This is a home that we moved to in 1952. But this was in the late '50s that I invited him. And he turned us down. But we were having a few students, usually friends that I had met just before or during college staying at our house here in Madison.

So and I've always made an effort to -- [laughs] actually that very friend probably about 15 years ago -- he's a vet and I was handling the orthopedic service at the Veterans Hospital. I ended up fixing his broken hip.

Interviewer: [Laughs] Interesting.

Harvey Barash: Yes. And actually I had lent him some significant dollars while we were both in medical school. And when I then met him again, that never got paid back, although we discussed it and I said, "Forget it," you know? [Laughter] It's -- that's way off from the main subject here, but --

Interviewer: So as you know, Madison did have housing discrimination for African Americans, and I suspect for Jewish residents as well. Was that an issue that you were aware of when you were buying your first home with your parents and having a boarder that would be African-American? Was that considered something that would be problematic?

Harvey Barash: Well, as far as specific problems being able to buy a house where we wanted to buy a house in Madison, there was no problem, and the issue never came up. I was aware of the fact that there were certain clubs in Madison and certain regions in Wisconsin where Jews were not allowed. I was aware of that, although it didn't affect me in particular in those days.

At a later time, I became friends with someone who were like the first Jews ever to join the Madison club or Nakoma Country Club.

Interviewer: What years

Harvey Barash: So that was basically while I was in college. I would say roughly the mid to late '50s.

Interviewer: Yes. So these institutions in Madison were not integrated, so to speak, until the 1950s.

Harvey Barash: That's right. And the person that I knew in particular was -- had been or was at the time a state supreme court justice. But he had a deaf daughter. And so that's how our family got to know him. And then this news about several Jews being invited to join those clubs was like big news. It was front page news in the Capitol Times. And so I -- then I became very aware of all of the --

All of those politics.

[00:39:08] Poverty, work, and going to the university
Interviewer: How did your economic status play into your growing up experience? Did you -- were you aware of being poor or was it just the way it was, everybody was in the same boat, so to speak?

Harvey Barash: Oh, no, I was aware of being -- we were quite poor. My father was very frugal. I actually had my first job shining shoes around the Capitol Square. My father built me a little shoe kit, which I would carry around the Capitol Square and shine shoes. And at that -- in those days, there were -- it was a gentlemanly type who would sit on those chairs all the way around. And so that was one of my first jobs. But we worked side jobs all the time.

Interviewer: So there was an expectation that you would contribute to the family's welfare.

Harvey Barash: Yes, for sure -- well, maybe not. Maybe it was viewed a little differently. The expectation if I wanted to do any spending money that I would be making it on my own.

And so I worked in several grocery stores first stocking and carrying out, then as a cashier. And I worked in several libraries. I was virtually working all the time, you know, while I was in high school and in college.

Interviewer: Yes. And how did that work with expectations for scholarship? Were you expected to get good grades and work?

Harvey Barash: Definitely. That's true. And I did do both of those things. And it was more or less a foregone conclusion that if I wanted to go away for university years or later on for medical school, that I have to somehow get the scholarship that would enable me to do that. And that's what happened. I mean, first of all with the tuition at Wisconsin when I was in college was $100 a semester. So that was not a big problem. I did get those little semester tuitions. But then when I went to medical school, I had a full tuition scholarship for all four years. And that -- you know, that was sort of all understood and that's one of the reasons that, you know, we were interested and motivated to study hard.

[00:41:54] Neighborhood businesses
Interviewer: Yes. So let's talk a little bit about some of the businesses that you would visit when you were growing up in the Greenbush and surrounding neighborhood. What do you remember of the Milwaukee Bakery, for instance?

Harvey Barash: Okay; well the Milwaukee Bakery was owned by the Moskowsky family, which was a Jewish family. And there was -- there were two children in that family. There were the grandparents and then the mother. I'm not sure what happened to the father. I do -- I think he may have actually been injured in the war. I'm not sure. There were all kinds of rumors. But he wasn't present. And so I knew Sammy very well. He was another Jewish kid. He actually lived right there in the heart of the Bush. And the bakery was downstairs and he lived upstairs. And so we often got bakery there, especially if my mother didn't make challah, then we would buy challah on a Friday from the Moskowsky's. He changed his name, became "Sam Moss".

It was a lot easier to remember that.

Interviewer: This bakery was near the corner of Mound and Murray Street?

Harvey Barash: Yes.

Interviewer: Yes. Did you get any sweets there? Was that a place that you'd go to pick up food for your family? Was -- were you sent on an errand to go down to the --


Harvey Barash: It's funny, I don't remember on that at all, although I'm sure it probably happened. And my mother was a very good baker. In her obituary there's a big huge [laughter] paragraph about all the things that she made, which were delicious. So you know, we usually plenty of sweets around with no -- you know, no outside source.

Interviewer: No outside help, yes?

Harvey Barash: Yes.

Interviewer: How about the Borsuk [grocery store there at the corner of Mills and Regent --

Next to the shoe repair shop?

Harvey Barash: Yes, that was a hop, skip, and a jump, and it was very close. And I think everyday needs we would just go there and pick them up.

Interviewer: What kinds of things could you buy at that store?

Harvey Barash: Pretty much anything. They would have vegetables, fruits, cereals, dairy. They had meats also, which we -- since we kept kosher, we never bought meat except at the kosher butcher in the Bush. And I know you know about a little incident I had at Borsuk’s. I think we referenced that.

Interviewer: Well, I'd like to hear that story again. [Laughs]

Harvey Barash: All right, well that story goes as follows. I stole a couple of dimes out of my father's little drawer where he kept his change when he made change for the shoe repair -- for shoe repairing. And then I went and bought myself a box of doughnuts. And my father ran into me -- or my mother did, I think, at Borsuk’s and wondered where I got those doughnuts. Anyway, the whole thing was scoped out, and I got a whipping for that. So that's one of the things that I can remember about Borsuk’s quite well.

Interviewer: And the whipping.

Harvey Barash: And the whipping, yes. One more successful venture was at Schwartz Pharmacy they also had all kinds of comics and magazines in one section. And my parents would send me to buy a loaf of pumpernickel bread across the street at Halperin’s Delicatessen. And then I would -- it came in a bag that was shaped -- it was elongated and narrow so you could just slide the bread into that bag. And so then I would take that bag with the bread in it and go sit in the comic section, and then slide a comic book [laughter] into the side of the bread. And so that was another one of the bad things that I did as [overlapping].

Interviewer: And you still regret it, right?

Harvey Barash: [Laughs] Not really. I became friends [laughter] with the pharmacist's son many years later. In fact, I was in a gourmet club with him. And I told him that story that I just told you and he said, "Oh, you don't think we really didn't know it, do you? [Laughter] We knew it all the time," [laughs] so.

Interviewer: You know, many people remember Schwartz's Pharmacy as kind of a neighborhood hub for getting news about -- during the war. People, I understood, would send the letters to Schwartz's and they would be posted so that everyone in the neighborhood could get the news about the boys in the war. Do you --

Harvey Barash: I don't remember that exactly. I do know they had a soda fountain where you could buy a soda. And then they had other sweet items that I would buy there.

Interviewer: And comic books.

Harvey Barash: And comic books, yes. It was -- yes I don't know if I'd -- for me it wasn't necessarily a hub, it was someplace I would go to get things that were needed at the drugstore or the occasional little robbery that I performed.

Interviewer: [Laughs] What about your experience with kosher butchers, Shapiro's kosher butcher and Stein's? What do you remember about those places?

Harvey Barash: So I remember lots of traffic there with lots of Jewish people. And there was a -- there were weighing machines, and sawdust on the floor, and clerks that spoke pretty much only Yiddish or broken English. And I would just go there with my mother or with my grandmother.

And we would do our shopping there. I don't know why we went to one or to the other unless we were comparing prices; I don't remember. But --

Interviewer: Did you get corned beef there or --

Harvey Barash: Yes, we could get corned beef and salami and things of that sort. Most of it was, however, kosher meat, chickens, and meat for brisket.

Interviewer: But they weren't -- it wasn't a deli as well; it was uncooked meats.

Harvey Barash: Yes, the butchers were definitely butchers. I mean, it was all uncooked meat, raw. And then actually, you know, to make it kosher, it has to be -- the meat has to be placed into a salty water for a while to draw the blood out. And so there was a lot of blood, [laughter] all parts of the chicken.

Interviewer: Is that why were was sawdust on the floor?

Harvey Barash: Could be, yes. I read what Merle (Sweet) had to say about that, sliding on the floor, right? [Laughter] yes.

[00:50:09] Neighborhood recreation
Interviewer: So if you could think about a favorite place in the neighborhood and try and recall the kind of sensory experience of being in the Greenbush in the 1930s, 1940s, what kinds of things would you see on the street, or smells, or --

Harvey Barash: That's a tough question. I can -- I can't think back to that kind of a situation, except for when we were in Hebrew school and then we would run across the street and buy that halva which is -- that has a distinct smell; you know, so the butcher shops had this -- their own odor. In terms of a place to go to gather, I spent a lot of time at the BowenCourt. During the summers, we would spend time at the Bowen Court.

Interviewer: Playground?

Harvey Barash: And we -- I was on Midget baseball team. We practiced there. We played basketball there. Merle (Sweet) had something to say about gimp. We all knew how to work the gimp and make necklaces and bracelets and things of that sort.

Harvey Barash: And there were lots of games to play. I learned how to play chess there. That's not really Bush per se, but it is representative of the kind of thing that was going on at a number of different playgrounds all around that area.

Interviewer: Yes. Did you go to the Neighborhood House?

Harvey Barash: I knew where the Neighborhood House was, and I don't know why it was that I hardly ever went there.

Lots of parents, I think, sent their kids there as a kind of a place to be babysat. But I usually was on my way home. And I didn't go to that -- to the Neighborhood House for things to do or friends to play with. They were more or less based at our house or at a friend's house.

[00:52:39] Parents' marriage
Interviewer: Yes. Now, I recall you telling that your family didn't participate in the Workmen's Circle, but that your parents were married there. Can you tell that story of how that happened?

Harvey Barash: Yes. In Jewish law -- although I've learned subsequently that that's been modified a bit, even by the time they were married. But in Jewish law, you're not really Jewish unless you're able to understand what's written in Hebrew, and also unless you're able to carry -- to say the prayers and be recognized as a Jew. And we had a group of quite religious people involved at the synagogue at that time. And as the story goes, they were not allowed to be married in the synagogue because of this concept that they're not really full Jews. And so it ended up that they were allowed to be married in the Workmen's Circle, which was more of a social/educational center and not a place to worship.

Harvey Barash: And so that's what happened. Although in subsequent years, I have learned that the interpretation of those laws had already been changed and it was acceptable for deaf people to be married in a synagogue. And in fact, I was given a source where that was all written about in the late 1920s. And I only received that source recently; but ostensibly, that they weren't both Jews even though they could have been recognized at that time.

Interviewer: So interesting the kind of internalized discrimination against the deaf community by some people, and that they had to have a wedding -- which was it officiated by a rabbi.

Harvey Barash: Yes.

Interviewer: So in a secular setting, they could have a rabbi as long as it wasn't in the regular schul (synagogue).

Harvey Barash: And also I think the rabbi was brought in from outside, as I was told.

[[00:55:21] Going to school – elementary and high school
Interviewer: Yes. Interesting. Can we circle back to Longfellow and West High; any favorite teachers, did you belong to any sports clubs? What was it like going to Longfellow? This would have been in the 1940s to early 1950s --

Harvey Barash: Right. So and that was up -- that was disrupted in part by three years where I went to Washington School.

So I went to Longfellow in kindergarten, and then in fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. And then after sixth grade, I went to West Junior High for seventh, eighth, and ninth, and West Senior High for tenth, 11th, and 12th.

Interviewer: So I'm not familiar with the difference between West Junior and Senior High.

Harvey Barash: Well, there was no middle school in those days. So when you finished elementary school -- when you finished sixth grade, nowadays you would go into middle school. But in those days, we went to West Junior High. There was West, East, and Central Junior High. And it was on the first floor of West High. So we were like down in the bottom. And that's where I went to seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. And then tenth, 11th, and 12th were on the second and third floors of West High.

Interviewer: So in the same building but different teachers, different administration.

Harvey Barash: Yes. We had our own junior high principal and -- yes. I mean, maybe some of the administrative things were combined that I was not really aware of.

So at Longfellow, I remember those teachers extremely well. I know all their names. And actually, when I was in college and then later in medical school, I did correspond with a couple of those teachers. But at Washington School, it's interesting, I don't remember a single teacher. That would have been first, second, and third grade. And we were there because of this arrangement we made so that my grandfather wouldn't have to climb the stairs. And I don't know if I blocked it out or what, but --

Interviewer: Where was Washington School?

Harvey Barash: It is. Actually, it's now the Administration building for the City of Madison. It's on Dayton Street.

Interviewer: Over by the Kohl Center there.

Harvey Barash: Yes. And it's not a school now, it's just all offices. But it was a full-blown school. And I think they had a section there for children who were handicapped in terms of ability to ambulate and other accommodations were made. But it's like a blank. It's amazing. And I do remember quite a bit about the specific teachers and even the types of things I was learning.

Interviewer: At Longfellow.

Harvey Barash: At Longfellow, right. So I can't tell you much about Washington School, except that that was now the school that was in our district when we moved over to West Main Street.

Interviewer: So did you participate in any sports, or clubs, or --

Harvey Barash: Yes. Well, in -- at Longfellow we didn't have teams that would play other schools, et cetera. I just was pretty athletic, but it was all within the confines of the school, and physical education, and so forth. At West I played basketball and tennis. I was lettered in tennis for three years. And also in basketball I was on the sophomore team and on the varsity for a while. So yes, I interacted athletically quite a bit.

Interviewer: Yes. Any teachers that stand out in your memory? Were you involved in the theater productions or anything like that?

Harvey Barash: Yes, I didn't do theater. I remember both of my Latin teachers quite well. I took four years of Latin, which [laughs] -- my kids tease me. My -- I have four sons and my oldest son took four years of Latin at West, and the next one took three, and the next one took two, and the next one didn't take Latin at all.

Harvey Barash: Yes. Mrs. Kleinheinz and Mr. Becker were those teachers. I had -- the tennis coach was my math teacher. And yes, I had a very good high school experience in terms of academics, and I enjoyed the classes. And I think I was very well-prepared for the university.

Interviewer: Yes. I always think it's interesting that even 70 years later, we can remember the teachers who had an influence on our education.

Harvey Barash: Yes, that's a very impressionable time.

[01:00:48] Leaving the neighborhood, university
Interviewer: Yes. So you had moved out of the Bush by 1951. Is that right?

Harvey Barash: Out of -- off of Regent Street.

Interviewer: Off Regent Street.

Harvey Barash: As I said, I had never really considered us --

Harvey Barash: Immersed in the Bush. But in 1951, we started looking at houses, my parents, and my sister, and I. And then it took a while, probably six months before they really found what they liked. There were a couple of houses I thought we were going to buy beforehand, but they were very definite in what they wanted to find, especially in a kitchen, or a garage, or some of the things that are important in relation to owning a home.

Interviewer: Yes. But you would be in your early 20s during this urban renewal effort in the triangle Greenbush neighborhood. Do you remember houses or businesses that you had grown up with being demolished, and what was that like?

Harvey Barash: Well, the truth is I went and began the university in 1957 and finished in '61. And when I was at the university, I really was only mildly aware of what was going on there, although I was aware that there was a lot of criticism because it was just being bulldozed down completely without any sense of gentrification or saving institutions or buildings. Not that there were a whole lot that would have qualified, but there certainly were some. And then I moved to New York to go to medical school at Einstein.

Interviewer: Oh, is that right?

Harvey Barash: Yes.

Interviewer: Okay.

Harvey Barash: And I was really divorced from Madison at that time. And I was gone for a total of medical school residency and then I was in the army for two years. You almost had to do that then because it was Vietnam days. And I had already been in medical school, and my residency had three of my four children. And they were drafted [dog barks] [inaudible] right out of medical school, unless you signed something known as the "Berry Plan", which lets you defer your obligation until you finish your training. But then you -- I went in as a major as an orthopedic surgeon.

So anyway, having been away those ten years, I only came back to find what was left, which was, you know, a total flattening of that whole area and the beginnings of some of the Bay View and some of those apartments in that area.

Interviewer: And the hospital expansion.

Harvey Barash: Oh, and the hospital expansion, yes.

Interviewer: Well, how did that make you feel when you returned to Madison and had --

Harvey Barash: Well, I was aware of all of the criticism about how it had been done and how people had been displaced and never really resituated in an appropriate way. So I wasn't happy about it. I was aware that there was a huge amount of criticism. And that's still the case, although with the new developers they have replacing what was put in at that time, it looks like it's being done much more sensitively.

Interviewer: Hmm. What happened to your father's repair shop? It's gone now.

Harvey Barash: So he -- I think while I was gone those ten years, those two buildings that he owned with apartments, it was hard for him to manage them himself. And also they were getting quite old. So he ended up selling those properties, which were then taken down and they turned into parking lots.

[01:04:55] End of the shoe repair shop
Harvey Barash: But his shoe shop stayed, and so did the barbershop. And then when the barber moved out, there was another business in there for a while. But then my father expanded. And so he was in two Quonset huts. And he liked the entrance room and the look of the place. He had all of his machinery and stuff in one half and then he waited on customers and shoes to be picked up in the other half.

Interviewer: When did the Quonset hut get demolished?

Harvey Barash: So my father died rather suddenly at age 73 in 1987. And actually, in the chapter of the book that my sister and I wrote, we do describe sort of an interesting situation. There was a Russian shoe repairman who wanted to open the business and so he purchased it from our family. And it turned out that his grandparents told the story of being on a ship coming to the United States in about 1920 or '21 with a deaf -- a little deaf boy on it, who was around seven at that time. And somehow we put together some additional information, and I think they may -- his grandparents may have been on the same ship that my father was when they came to the United States. I don't know if that's the truth, but it makes a very good story, and it may well be correct.

So he brought the property from us, and he actually worked there for another ten years until 1997. And then he had some domestic problems, was divorced and moved to Chicago. And at that time, Hong Kong Café actually bought it and used it for storage for some years and ultimately took it down. It would have been in like the late 1990s.

[01:07:06] Reflection on growing up with two deaf parents
Interviewer: Yes. So we're just about done. And I'm wondering if there are any other stories that you might want to share about your experience and this neighborhood.

Harvey Barash: Yes. Well, I was thinking about it on my way over, and I think we lived sort of a -- on a little separate island from the general population of the Bush because of the deafness. My parents' closest friends were either related or part of the deaf community. And I would say that as we grew up, most of our interactions were not with their friends in the Jewish community. We made our own way in the Jewish community through youth organizations and things like that where we were both pretty active. But otherwise, we did -- we didn't really return in any significant way to the community that we knew, you know, in the Bush.

And likewise, my parents did not have a lot of friends unless they were relatives in the synagogue, either Agudas Achim synagogue or Beth Israel (Center). And so they weren't -- I wouldn't call them outcasts, but they were not of the general Jewish community for many years. But then when my wife and I and our four sons returned to Madison -- that was now 1972, roughly ten years after I had left, they became reintegrated in a major way. Because my wife was quite interested in the Jewish community. All of my kids went to synagogue and ultimately were bar mitzvahed and actually went to Hebrew high school.

And in that process, we all went to lots of Jewish events. And we took my parents. And that's part of the reason that I came back to Madison, it was sort of like a promise I would do, which I did. And my dad was quite a presence in the synagogue because of his deafness. He was, as I said, a very handsome man. And he would either write, or lip read, or I would interpret for him. And he -- both of my parents I'd say became quite fully integrated, such that at one point, they gave him an Aliyah.

And so he went --

Interviewer: Can you explain what an Aliyah is?

Harvey Barash: Aliyah; "Aliyah" means "going up". People who move to Israel are going on an Aliyah, which is from the same word. And he was able to have an Aliyah, which means that he could recite the blessings. He did it in English. And I was next to him and I did it in Hebrew for him. And it was -- there wasn't a dry eye in the whole place. And at the end, the most amazing thing happened. My father, he finished, and then there was a very old man in the congregation who was like one of the most religious and knowledgeable men in the community, put his hand up and signed "Amen", A M E N, which he taught himself from the dictionary.

It was quite a profound moment. So I mean, it's not totally of the Bush. On the other hand, it's like making it back into the Bush community. And he had several other Aliyahs during his lifetime before he died. But it was -- I think anyone who was there has not forgotten that.

Interviewer: Hmm. I think that's a nice place to end.

Harvey Barash: Okay.

Interviewer: Thank you so much, Harvey. This has been fascinating.

Harvey Barash: Well, it's an interesting story, there's no doubt. It was interesting to live through it. And times have certainly changed since those days. I saw -- I went to the movie "The Fable Maker" -- "The Fablemans". Do you know that -- anything about that movie?

Interviewer: Steven Spielberg’s movie.

Harvey Barash: Yes; well there's a lot of -- a lot in there about being a Jewish kid, and anti-Semitism, and his experiences through high school and so forth. So that brought back a lot of the same kind of wistful feeling that I am feeling right now.

Interviewer: Hmm. Well, thank you.

Harvey Barash: I recommend it, by the way. [Laughs]

Interviewer: Thank you again.

Harvey Barash: Okay. You're welcome.

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