Morton Hollander Text of Interview: July 31, 2007Catherine Nugent2022-04-26T15:27:00-04:00
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ORAL HISTORY OF MORTON HOLLANDER
July 31, 2007
This is the first interview of Morton Hollander as part of the Oral History Project of the
Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is Judith S. Feigin. The
interview took place at Mr. Hollander’s home in Northwest Washington on July 31, 2007.
Ms. Feigin: Mr. Hollander, thank you so much for doing this.
Mr. Hollander: You certainly are very, very welcome.
Ms. Feigin: And let’s just start at the beginning. Tell us where and when you were
Mr. Hollander: I was born in 1918, three weeks after Armistice Day. The date of my birth
was December 2, 1918. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. And actually,
I, as well as my older brother before me, and in addition all of my other
four siblings, were born at home. At home in Brooklyn. There was no
shortage of doctors in Brooklyn, that I know (both laugh). And I
remember the name of the obstetrician who delivered all of us.
Ms. Feigin: Which is?
Mr. Hollander: His name, his last name is Brenner. I don’t remember the first name. And
I have to interject here that my wife Ruth was born at a hospital in
Brooklyn. She was born in 1920. July 4, 1920. And my daughter Nancy,
who was the first of our two children, who died in ‘71, my daughter Nancy
was born in the same hospital, and delivered by the same obstetrician who
delivered my wife Ruth.
Ms. Feigin: That’s wonderful!
Mr. Hollander: I think so.
Ms. Feigin: Now was Brooklyn part of New York then?
Mr. Hollander: Oh sure.
Ms. Feigin: When was it annexed? I don’t remember.
Mr. Hollander: There is no New York City without Brooklyn! (both laugh)
Ms. Feigin: There was. There was a time.
Mr. Hollander: Must have been a crazy mayor who allowed that to go on! (both laugh)
Brooklyn is the heartthrob of New York City. Manhattan’s got a lot of
financial offices but the real life goes on in Brooklyn.
Ms. Feigin: What part of Brooklyn were you born in?
Mr. Hollander: The part of Brooklyn I was born in was known as East New York. It’s
adjacent to a much better-known part of New York, which is called
Brownsville. The reason Brownsville is far more famous is because the
Jewish Mafia congregated in Brownsville which was adjacent to East New
York. Abe Relis and his gang all operated out of Brownsville. My
principal contact with Brownsville, while I was a kid, was attending Boy
Scout troop meetings. Boy Scout Troop 182, at Sutter and Hopkinson,
which was a Hebrew Educational Society building in Brownsville. And I
picked up a lot there.
Ms. Feigin: Like what?
Mr. Hollander: Well, how actually to deal. Norman, my older brother, and myself were the
only two Jewish people in the troop. The others were mostly Catholic,
Italian or Polish Catholics. So I learned early on how really to get along
I hate to interject this. There was one sour note, because I must
have been about eleven years old and I was on my way to getting a Star
merit badge. That’s the least difficult. Today most of the kids go for
Eagle, which means they earn the Star merit badge and then they get
another six or seven merit badges that qualify them for life recognition.
Eagle is the top honor you can get in the Boy Scouts. I never got beyond
Star, although it bothered me particularly because my uncle Joe, the
husband of my mother’s sister Lil, he was pushing me to come up with
that Eagle. And, in fact, he took me aside, he was a biology teacher. He
took me aside. He took me out to a park. Highland Park. He lived across
the street from it. Highland Park is in Brooklyn but it borders on Queens.
And he made me learn, at first I objected to it. But I had to know the name
of every tree and every bush. Not only in English but I had to know the
Latin equivalents. But it stuck (both laugh).
He taught biology and he taught botany too. So he was really up to
it. And my Uncle Joe also taught me to play tennis so that my brother
Norman would be willing to play with me. At first he felt I was not really
capable of being a worthy opponent. But Uncle Joe, who lived for quite a
while opposite Highland Park in an apartment house, took me under his
wing for tennis and I would go there every Sunday afternoon for a threehour session. And I did play tennis quite a bit as a kid, although my son
Robert was a tennis champion at Walter Johnson, and in fact was offered
three tennis scholarships, including one at Colgate, which had a very good
team. But he actually wound up at Columbia for his undergraduate degree.
I have a feeling he resented that. He wanted to keep on continuing to
improve his tennis but he had no time at Columbia for that. He had a
fairly good record at Columbia.
Ms. Feigin: Well let’s start with your childhood and we’ll work up to his. Now did
most of your family live in Brooklyn? It sounds like you had lots of
Mr. Hollander: Yes, there was an extended family that was living in Brooklyn. One of my
father’s sisters came over after he had become better established in
Brooklyn and she had four children. She had three boys and a girl. And
they were about fifteen blocks away from where we lived. So some of
their kids would come over and play games, mostly cowboys and Indians
(Feigin laughs). They did not like the idea of going to the park, which
was, again, less than a mile away, so we played around the house. And
fortunately the house was large enough so that it accommodated all six
siblings. It accommodated my mother’s sister, my aunt Lil. It
accommodated a niece of my father’s. One of my father’s sisters had a
daughter whose name was Esther. Really a wonderful woman who my
father got to come over from Austria-Hungary. That’s where my father
was born. But actually the area involved, the immediate area where my
father was born, was Krakow, which is a couple of miles from Auschwitz.
Ms. Feigin: So your father was born in Austria-Hungary?
Mr. Hollander: My father was born in Austria-Hungary; he was naturalized in 1912. That
means he had been here five years already.
Ms. Feigin: So he came over in 1907?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. And my grandfather, my maternal grandfather and my maternal
grandmother, were born in Kiev, and they both came over about ten years
before my father did. But my father left his family. He had a batch of
siblings too. He had, I think, three sisters and four brothers. I’m going to
have to supply you with the genealogical chart. Marilyn has one that
traces the different countries they went to, that is my father’s siblings,
because I think he had at least seven or eight siblings.
Ms. Feigin: So they didn’t all come to America?
Mr. Hollander: Oh no. Three of them I know went to Israel. One to France. But the
others I’m not really sure where they went. But Marilyn has this all set
Ms. Feigin: Your sister Marilyn?
Mr. Hollander: My sister Marilyn.
Ms. Feigin: So if we start chronologically, it sounds as if your maternal grandparents
came over first.
Mr. Hollander: Right. I never did meet my paternal grandparents. They stayed over.
One of them perished in the Holocaust and I really don’t know what
happened to the other one.
Ms. Feigin: So your maternal grandparents came over and then was your mother born
in the United States?
Mr. Hollander: Oh yeah. In fact, she did not go to college but she was a graduate of
Washington Irving High School which is on the East Side in New York.
And at that time they really weren’t considering women for college, at
least at their socioeconomic level.
Ms. Feigin: When was your mom born, do you know?
Mr. Hollander: I can trace it back. She was seventeen when she was married and she was
married in 1915. So it was at the end of the 1800s she was born.
Ms. Feigin: Right, 1898.
Mr. Hollander: Yes, and she had six children, all delivered in the same house.
Ms. Feigin: What led your father to come over, do you know?
Mr. Hollander: Oh sure. Even though it was under Austria-Hungary domination, he was
literally in Polish areas. Austria-Hungary had seized it from Poland at the
end of World War I, which ended in November of 1918, and there was so
much anti-Semitism there that he felt he could do a lot better here. And he
did. For a couple of years after he came over he was running a candy
store. He invested in a candy store. That is how he made his livelihood.
Ms. Feigin: How did he get over? Do you know anything about the circumstances of
his coming over?
Mr. Hollander: Well I know he came over by boat because I did check the census records
showing the steamship that he arrived on. It was the 1920 census so he
had been here already from 1907 to 1920. But they had the name of the
ship that he came over on.
Ms. Feigin: And what was the name?
Mr. Hollander: I don’t remember. But I can probably supply that because I think I have
some notes on the 1920 census. But then after he left the candy store, I
guess kids started to come along, he joined up with my grandfather, whose
picture you have with me. That picture was taken about ‘42 or ‘43. But
my grandfather had been running a business in which he handled two main
products. The first, he was an intermediary between some of the large
glass manufacturing companies and people who wanted – I don’t know if
you ever heard the name Fortunoff. Fortunoff’s sold everything from
kitchen utensils to diamonds. It was one of my grandfather’s, and when
my father joined up with him, one of my father’s best customers. Do you
know what they would supply them with? They would get these, I think
they called them sterilizers. Four-ounce or maybe eight-ounce baby
nursing bottles. And they would get them from Owens-Illinois Glass
Company and ship them to Fortunoff.
Ms. Feigin: And your grandfather had come over after your father?
Mr. Hollander: No. He was already here. He came over. He was naturalized, I guess,
about five or ten years before my father.
Ms. Feigin: And what had he done in the old country?
Mr. Hollander: I don’t know. But here they acted actually as a broker between people
who needed glassware. After the Volstead Act, in ‘34, they were big on
3.2 beer bottles (Feigin laughs) and the same Owens-Illinois glass
manufacturing company, that I think still produces nursing bottles, used
them as their agent for selling the 3.2 beer bottles, which was all that was
allowed. Things got very tough during the ‘30s. Both my father and my
grandfather started to handle scrap metal. And I fooled around a lot with
that because the factory that they used was less than a block away from
where we lived. I mean the building, the factory building. And I enjoyed
it. I enjoyed learning the difference between copper, lead, and zinc and, as
is true today, there was a very, very heavy market for that. For scrap
metals, particularly copper.
Ms. Feigin: That is certainly true now.
Mr. Hollander: Which, you know I’m thinking of tearing out all the copper piping I have
downstairs in the basement (both laugh) and cashing in on it. Because
when they first did the plumbing for the house, they extended the copper
lines along all the walls and the basement. And now they don’t use that
Ms. Feigin: So they moved from glass to scrap metal?
Mr. Hollander: Well, they did both.
Ms. Feigin: So it sounds like you had a comfortable childhood financially.
Mr. Hollander: Well, I can’t complain about that. The only time I was ever consulted, or
my father drew me into a discussion of finances, was to tell me that I’m
going to Brooklyn College, which has no tuition fees. Brooklyn College is
part of the college of the City University of New York. At that time, there
wasn’t even a library fee. But I had my eyes as a kid, because I graduated
from high school when I was fifteen and a half –
Ms. Feigin: What high school was that?
Mr. Hollander: That was Boys’ High School in Brooklyn. I still know the school song,
(both laugh) which briefly is: “We are the boys of BHS you hear so much
about. The people stop to stare at us whenever we go out. We are noted”
– get this – “for our winsomeness (Feigin laughs) and other clever things
we do. Everybody likes us. We hope you do too.”
Ms. Feigin: Now was it only boys that attended Boys’ High School?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. It was a very nice school. It was in Brooklyn, on Marcy and Putnam
Avenues in Brooklyn. And it was not a neighborhood school for me. So
for the most part I had to take a train.
Ms. Feigin: You had to compete to get into this high school, or how did you get in?
Mr. Hollander: No. I don’t think there was any competition. But the reason I went to
Boys’ High was because, again, Lil, my aunt, my mother’s sister, prevailed
on my father and mother to have me go there. I don’t really know whether
the standards were any higher or more rigorous than the high school in the
neighborhood that my siblings went to.
Ms. Feigin: So you were the only one of the six?
Mr. Hollander: I was the only one that went there. The others all went to a school that
was seven blocks away, Thomas Jefferson High School. And there was a
very famous poet who was a principal of that school. You probably won’t
remember the name, but Elias Lieberman. There were many anthologies,
poetry anthologies that he had written. Anyway, I wound up at Boys’
The first day that I had to report to Boys’ High, I told my dad that
I’m going to take the train. He said no you’re not, you’re not old enough
to take the train (Feigin laughs); you’ll get lost. So he drove me down in
one of the trucks that he had and I didn’t like that at all. I mean, I didn’t
mind being driven, but I think he took a ten- or twelve-ton Mack truck to
drop me at school. I don’t know. Alfred A. Tausk was the principal at the
school. I don’t know what he thought about that because he dropped me
right in front of the principal’s office to make sure that I was at the right
place. So after that we agreed that I could use the Fulton Street line, which
was the Lefferts Avenue line, which went from Queens by the house, and
which went to Marcy and Putnam.
Ms. Feigin: Did the family have a car also?
Mr. Hollander: My father used to drive an old Packard. And actually the last car that I
remember was a 1937 DeSoto. 1937 DeSoto and I went with my father to
pick it up. And it sold for $650 with everything in it. In fact, that’s the car
that I learned to drive on.
Ms. Feigin: Now in your house. Let’s talk a little about what it was like growing up
Mr. Hollander: We had, fortunately, a full house. There were the six kids.
Ms. Feigin: Was English the language that was spoken?
Mr. Hollander: Well, by my father. My mother of course was born here, went to school
here. My grandfather and grandmother, when they did not want me or my
siblings to know what the hell they were talking about, they spoke
Yiddish. So I picked up a good smattering of Yiddish. That happened to
be true with Ruth’s parents. In fact, they spoke only Yiddish. When she
entered kindergarten, they were wondering whether, the school authorities
thought that they were pushing her too much because she really hadn’t
acquired enough of the English language at that point.
Oh, and I mentioned the fact that one of my father’s nieces, Esther,
lived with us in that house, along with Aunt Lil, until they were each
married, so it coincided with most of the time I lived there that they were
in the house. Because I think they both were in their late thirties when
they got married, and Lil married Uncle Joe who was my leaf knowledge
sponsor (Feigin laughs) and who was very disappointed that I never wound
up with any award beyond the Star. Very disappointed in me.
But the house also had – I must say this about Aunt Lil and my
cousin Esther, they were both sterling cooks. They really were. So most
of the cooking, I mean when we sat down at the dinner table, there was at
least ten people. Most of the cooking before had been done by my mother,
who was bringing up six children at the time, and also by my grandmother,
who would actually churn her own butter. She never went out for butter.
She was busy with that butter churner or whatever they call it. So it
worked out all right.
We had enough bedrooms so that – But in that sense too, I know I
was preferred, because I was allowed to have my own bedroom. It was a
room about one-third the size of this dining room. It was a very small
room but it was right in front of the house. Second floor. I had a huge
picture window in the bedroom overlooking the street and my brothers and
sisters all shared rooms. There were two girls and three boys.
And for a while, when I was, the last three years of college, I had a
cousin from – I forget the name of the town, but from northeastern
Pennsylvania, who later became William Randolph Hearst’s principal
horse artist. William Randolph Hearst, I am sure you remember that
name, he had a string of farms for horses. And he retained a cousin of
mine, whose name was Sam Savitz, S-a-v-i-t-z, who came from
Pennsylvania. He retained him, on a full-time basis, to make paintings of
I remember one night when, I think it was the last year or two of
college, I was up pretty late studying, and Sam was already living in our
house, and I stopped at the room that he was in, and asked him if he
wanted something to drink. It was pretty late, and he said no, he’s got to
finish this. And what was this? It was a picture that he was making, that
showed the names, in Latin, of all of the bones of a mature horse. He said
you can’t really paint a horse unless you know what its skeleton or bone
structure is (both laugh). And that’s what he was working on. So he was
very, very careful in his paintings.
Ms. Feigin: Do you have any of them?
Mr. Hollander: No, I don’t. I don’t know what happened with them, but I’m sure that
they’re available in the library, because Hearst, I’m sure, had some of them
Ms. Feigin: So you lived home through college?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. Well, through law school.
Ms. Feigin: Okay. Well before we get to that end, let’s go back to —
Mr. Hollander: I graduated from high school in May of ‘34.
Ms. Feigin: So you were young during the Depression years. How did that impact the
Mr. Hollander: Well, as I say, the first time I felt any financial considerations having an
impact, when I was told that I was going to wind up at Brooklyn College.
And I never regretted that because, well, frankly what I was concerned
with, was that the standards at Boys’ High were very, very high. I mean in
order to make your way through Boys’ High, you really had to do more
work than I know my siblings did at Thomas Jefferson. And I was
concerned that there would be a letdown in the standards at a Brooklyn
College or any other City-College-related facility. It didn’t turn out to be
that way though, because the first paper that I submitted at Brooklyn
College, this was, I guess in ‘31 – that was my first year at Brooklyn
College – I got back from my European History teacher with no grade, but
two words in the upper right hand corner in red. And those two words
were “Woefully Inadequate” (both laugh).
Mr. Hollander: I’ll never forget that. And I thought I had done a pretty good job. But she
was hard to please.
Ms. Feigin: Let’s go back a little bit before college because I see that you gave me a
wonderful picture of your Bar Mitzvah which was in 1931. And it occurs
to me, well, first of all, where was your Bar Mitzvah?
Mr. Hollander: It was at a synagogue a block and a half away from the house where we
Ms. Feigin: Was the family observant?
Mr. Hollander: My father was not. My mother had a strictly Orthodox upbringing with
my maternal grandparents. My grandfather and grandmother both were
very observant. In fact, I always felt it was a big privilege because my
grandfather would go to services every day of the week. And the first
service he went to started at six o’clock in the morning so that he would be
ready for a full workday. And I always felt that it was a big honor when he
would ask me the night before if I’d be willing to go with him to services.
So of course I did; I jumped at the opportunity. I myself, I guess I would
consider myself quasi-observant. But I go if I have a chance, and I don’t
go to services frequently, but unfortunately I do attend a number of
yerzheit services for my parents, my cousins, nephews, siblings. I spoke
to a rabbi about this. I have a choice of going either to an evening service,
the evening of the yerzheit, which starts at eight o’clock in the evening and
is over by twenty after eight in the evening, or the next day, which is
actually the yerzheit day, to get there at six o’clock in the morning and
actually have breakfast with that service. I don’t mind getting up and
spending an hour or an hour and a half.
Ms. Feigin: For anybody who wouldn’t know listening to this interview, the yerzheit is
to mark the anniversary of –
Mr. Hollander: Commemorate the death, right.
Ms. Feigin: Let’s go back to your Bar Mitzvah. Can you tell me what it was like to
have a Bar Mitzvah in 1931? It was during Prohibition, I would note. But
what was a Bar Mitzvah like back then? What did it involve?
Mr. Hollander: There was no, what do they call those trips where kids go to Israel or
Europe? There was none of that stuff. It was very simple. My mother had
arranged for the Bar Mitzvah party to take place at the shul, so the shul did
the catering. And we came back at two o’clock for the lunch that was
catered at the shul.
Ms. Feigin: Was this an Orthodox shul?
Mr. Hollander: Yeah, it was. My grandfather had been a member I guess for about thirty
or forty years.
Ms. Feigin: So you had the reception afterwards?
Mr. Hollander: Just the lunch and everyone said their good-byes.
Ms. Feigin: I notice the picture you gave me has you not with a yarmulke, but with a
fedora. Is that the way people dressed then at Bar Mitzvahs?
Mr. Hollander: I don’t know. I guess my mother thought that I would be understating it
(both laugh) with a black – I don’t know. But I still wear the yarmulke,
when I go in for yerzheit services or for, well in the middle of September
we’re going to have Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.
Ms. Feigin: So you were telling me a little bit about the games you played when you
were young. You said cowboys and Indians, but that would be, I guess,
very young. What kind of stuff did people play as they were growing up?
Were there board games?
Mr. Hollander: Oh yes. The equivalent of Scrabble. We had a lot of that as kids. I
remember my mother at one point being forced to buy one of those old
Oxford dictionaries. It must be about seven or eight inches deep, because
there were so many arguments over was that really a word (both laugh).
And she felt it would be easier to find the word which was being
challenged or questioned in that very, very heavy dictionary.
Ms. Feigin: And when you grew up in Brooklyn in that era, did you go into the city,
Manhattan, a lot, or did you mostly spend your time in Brooklyn?
Mr. Hollander: There were some shows that we all went to but they were in Brooklyn. I
forget the name of the theaters, but there were some shows that we went
to. I think Fox was the name of one of the big movies. They would have
guys like Sinatra come in.
I must say this, and this dates back to my junior high days. I went
to a junior high school before I joined Boys’ High so I guess that must
have been about ‘29, and they had those Rapid Advance classes, some of
those junior highs, and I remember the name of the particular junior high
that I went to which was within walking distance of my house. It was
called Lew Wallace Junior High School. I think he was a Confederate
general during the Civil War. And what I enjoyed most about Lou
Wallace Junior High School was the fact that every afternoon at
lunchtime, somebody from the Dubin’s Cafeteria, which was on Eastern
Parkway, a couple of blocks away from Lou Wallace Junior High School,
would come around with a wagon that had some facilities for keeping
things warm, food warm, and he would start yelling so that I could hear
him on the second floor of the school. He would start yelling (chants):
“Dubin’s knishes, they’re hot and delicious” (both laugh). And then he
would start to enumerate the different kinds of knishes. Apple, kasha,
potato. I forget the other two, but he had five different kinds that he kept
hot. And I was always given a quarter a day to buy lunch at the Wallace
Junior High School. But I didn’t like the cafeteria. You had to stand in
order to eat at some bar that they had stretched out across the cafeteria.
With Dubin’s knishes, I could sit on the curb right next to the place where
he parked his wagon, his heated wagon, and enjoy five different knishes
for a quarter.
Ms. Feigin: They were a nickel each?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. So that worked out well. Except in the sense that I really did become
very roly-poly by the time I got finished with junior high school (both
laugh). Literally, we lived on a hill. The house was on a hill. I could get
down on my arms and legs in the middle of the street and I was so round
that I could roll down the hill to the street (both laugh).
Ms. Feigin: And did you?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. My mother didn’t like that. Those are the only recollections I have
of my junior high days.
Ms. Feigin: When you went to Brooklyn College, what did you major in?
Mr. Hollander: Government courses. And the reason I did that, was in my first year I had
elected to take a course with a teacher whose name was Professor Louie
Warsoff, W-a-r-s-o-f-f. First-year students were allowed to take a course
in constitutional law. And I enjoyed that tremendously. So I pretty much
decided by the time Warsoff got finished with me that that’s what I’d like
to do. He was a member of the bar but he never practiced. But he was a
very good teacher. He had very interesting commentaries on all of the
Supreme Court decisions that we read dating back to I think Sanford v.
Gitlow, which upheld the constitutionality of the Sedition Acts. I found
that course very illuminating.
Ms. Feigin: So was he one of your mentors?
Mr. Hollander: Well, he wrote a very strong letter of introduction when I later applied to –
I wouldn’t say he was my mentor because I never saw him outside the class.
But I would hang on eagerly to every word of his in the class.
Ms. Feigin: And are there any other professors that you think had a significant influence
Mr. Hollander: Well, this Isabel Whittier, the European History teacher who told me that
my paper was woefully inadequate. I tried, I really tried to measure up to
her standards. Not that I was obsessed with European History. I really
didn’t like it. But I had from her the feeling that it would really be worth
my while to take Brooklyn College courses more seriously. So she
undoubtedly had a tremendous influence. I had another teacher who was a
French teacher. Her name was Mabel C. Daggett, D-a-g-g-e-t-t. She made
the students, both boys and girls were at Brooklyn College, toe their mark.
I think I remember her because she had a peg leg. She walked around with
a prosthesis. She managed to get around quickly. Not as fast as some of
the Hebrew school teachers I had. I think I may have told you how skillful
one of them was in taking aim and firing a chalk-laden eraser at someone
he felt was not toeing the mark.
Ms. Feigin: When did you go to Hebrew school, after school?
Mr. Hollander: Well, no, I stopped going to Hebrew school after I became Bar Mitzvahed.
Ms. Feigin: But before that, how often did you have to go?
Mr. Hollander: Twice a week. That was in addition to those mornings when my
grandfather would invite me to attend services at six o’clock. And I always
went with him to Saturday and Friday night services.
Ms. Feigin: Did all your siblings go to college?
Mr. Hollander: All but my brother Lawrence. Norman, who passed away in ‘78, went to
Columbia undergraduate and then left immediately for World War II.
Ms. Feigin: He was a couple of years older than you?
Mr. Hollander: Yes, two years older. He was born in ‘15 or ‘16. ‘15. Now, then I came
next. Let me see that family group. I don’t want to miss out on anyone.
Evelyn was born in 1920.
Ms. Feigin: And where did she go to college?
Mr. Hollander: She went to Hunter. She got a master’s in some sort of educational course.
Ms. Feigin: And Hunter is also part of the City College system.
Mr. Hollander: Yes.
Ms. Feigin: In those days was Hunter a female college?
Mr. Hollander: Oh yes, exclusively. In fact, even when my daughter Nancy went to the
University of Pennsylvania, which was 1968 to, I’m pretty sure that’s when
she started, to ‘71, when she graduated. No, she graduated in 1970, and
that’s when she had that airplane accident, in ‘71. She was already, at that
time, with her husband in New Haven. She had come home alone to spend
the weekend with us because Ruth was not feeling well. Her husband Reid
was going to Yale Law School at the time. She had already graduated from
the University of Pennsylvania. When she was admitted to the University of
Pennsylvania in 1966 women were not allowed into the regular University of
Pennsylvania classes. They had a separate Women’s College, they called it,
for females. It was just the Women’s College of the University of
Pennsylvania. And her degree shows it was awarded by the Women’s
College of the University of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Feigin: So Evelyn went to Hunter. What about Larry?
Mr. Hollander: He left immediately for World War II. I think by 1940 he had already
enlisted in the Navy.
Ms. Feigin: And he was born in 1924 I think you had said.
Mr. Hollander: He was born in 1924. It was on the leap year. Maybe he entered in ‘41. I
mean the service. But there was a lot of discussion about that at home. My
mother and father wanted him to get a college deferment.
Ms. Feigin: You could get a deferment even during the war?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. I don’t remember what all the requirements were, but once you were in
school they would let you finish out the school. Now Seymour also was
caught in that bind. Seymour was born in 1927 so when the war started in
‘41, he was only fourteen years old. And what he did, well he actually later
graduated from NYU, but what he did at that time, he entered the New York
State Maritime Academy which is up in Great Neck at Kings Point. They
also have a United States Merchant Marine Academy up there. And he saw
a lot of the world while he was at NYSMA, New York State Maritime
Academy, because he shipped out a number of times. But Seymour was able
to start college at age fourteen, in effect. He was able to use most of the
credits that he earned at NYSMA when he started at NYU. So he had more
than half of his credits already done, and he had a regular degree from NYU
a couple of years later.
Ms. Feigin: And then the last one born, Marilyn, in 1930, she went to college as well?
Mr. Hollander: Oh yes. She’s the only Ph.D. in the family, Marilyn. Well, first with
Seymour, he later went on to NYU Law School and studied patent law. He
turned eighty a couple of months ago and he still handles patent cases. Of
course he handles them either as an arbitrator or a mediator. But he had
been one of the top people in AT&T’s patent legal division for about thirty
years. And then they asked him to leave because he reached age seventy.
Ms. Feigin: Mandatory retirement?
Mr. Hollander: Well, the law, the Age Discrimination Act does have provisions that allow
an employer to fire someone because of his age so long as his pension is
going to be over a certain level. If his monetary pension will be over a
certain level, that’s what they did. But Seymour was able to pick up a
comparable job at Lucent, which was a subsidiary, I don’t know if it still is,
of AT&T. And then he did give up Lucent because he did want some more
time for himself. But I know he spends a hell of a lot of time on these
mediation and arbitration cases. He travels all over the country now. Well,
by that time they were awarding only JDs, not LLBs, so by the time he got
out of NYU Law he got a JD.
Marilyn is the only Ph.D. degree, the only one in the family to have a
Ph.D. degree. She got her undergraduate degree at the University of
Pennsylvania. Then she got a Ph.D. at the same university. Not
immediately after the undergraduate degree. But she had already been
working at a hospital on the Island as a medical geneticist. In fact, I think
she is the only medical geneticist who does not have an M.D. degree but
who does have a Ph.D. degree, who is listed in the directory of the society.
What is that society for specialists, medical specialists? I forget what they
call it, but there’s a huge volume that covers all the specialities, whether it is
eye, ear and nose or cardiology, or nephrology. There’s one large volume
that covers all the specialties. And also x-ray, roentgenology. She has a son
and a daughter, Marilyn. Her son has been with Massachusetts General, I
guess ever since he – He graduated from Harvard Medical and taught there
as a fellow for two years and then went into anesthesiology. And he’s been
at it, he must be about fifty-two or fifty-three, he’s been at it for a long time.
But recently he started to have trouble with his back, I think principally
resulting from having to be on his feet whenever he works as an
anesthesiologist. So I’ve been kidding him because when this volume came
out with my sister’s name in it as a medical geneticist, her name is Marilyn.
His first name is Michael, so they list Marilyn ahead of Michael (both
laugh). And then they point out that Mike is an anesthesiologist, but that’s
besides the point.
Ms. Feigin: No, it’s all to the point. But before we get to the last part of your education,
which will be law school, let me just ask you one more thing that occurs to
me about your growing up years. Did the family travel?
Mr. Hollander: No. No. Well, I shouldn’t say no. But my father considered a vacation to
Delaware Water Gap, which is maybe about an hour and fifteen minutes
from New York City, he considered that to be going to the end of the world.
Ms. Feigin: And how would you get there?
Mr. Hollander: Drive.
Ms. Feigin: In a car that was big enough for eight of you?
Mr. Hollander: Well the Packard would accommodate seven. We managed. We managed.
But those vacations never lasted more than five days. Most of the people
would be going up to the Catskills for their vacations. I never got up to the
Catskills until I was married. And Ruth and I did manage to get up there.
But even around here, there was a Hotel Tannenbaum which was run like a
Catskill operation. And Tannenbaums, I don’t think it exists yet, but it was
near Cascade, Maryland, which is about an hour-and-a-half drive. And I
became very familiar with that area. Not because of Tannenbaums, but
because during World War II, I was stationed at Fort Ritchie, which is
actually about three or four blocks walking distance from the Tannenbaums
and also about two or three blocks walking distance from two Jewish boys
and girls camps. Camp Airy for boys and Camp Louise for girls. And would
you believe this, that during World War II, while I was stationed for two
three-month stretches at Cascade Fort Ritchie, that the girls and boys at
those two camps would be allowed to come down to Camp Ritchie and
swim in that ritzy pool, because they didn’t have one. And it was a military
Ms. Feigin: Was that after law school that you were in the miliary?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. I graduated from law school in the summer of ‘41.
Ms. Feigin: So if we just take it a little more chronologically, one other question I want
to ask about growing up. Was the family political, politically active?
Mr. Hollander: Well, no I don’t think so. My father was very interested I remember when
Hoover was president. Hoover had actually, in fact FDR did too as soon as
he got into office in ‘32, he had vetoed the World War I veterans’ bonus. I
mean I wasn’t surprised that Hoover had done that. But my father was
outraged that after FDR was elected, he was very strong – He detested
Hoover, my father, and he was always gung-ho for FDR.
Ms. Feigin: Was your father a veteran?
Mr. Hollander: No, my father was not. But my father-in-law was. And my father-in-law
spent a full two years in the service during World War I. And he was not
too excited about it. He did, fortunately, he did have a fairly decent job.
Most of the fights for the bonus occurred really during the worst days
of the Depression, so that the veterans who marched on Washington really
wanted a job, not a handout from the government in the form of a bonus. In
fact, they called that march on Washington the Bonus Expeditionary Force
because the guys who went overseas during World War I from America
were called the AEF, American Expeditionary Force. But my father-in-law
didn’t take an active role. He was glad that he had a job and that he could
Ms. Feigin: Did you know anybody who came down to march?
Mr. Hollander: No. Well, I know my father-in-law didn’t. A lot of his cronies were asking
him to go with them. He declined. It was really a march on Washington to
find employment. They could do without – I think the bonus itself did not
amount to more than seven or eight hundred dollars if it had been awarded.
Because even when FDR came in, he vetoed two attempts to have the
legislation enacted, which I think was disgustingly unfair.
Ms. Feigin: So your father was involved in that issue, or cared about that as an issue?
Mr. Hollander: No, but he cared very, very much about FDR succeeding and trouncing
Hoover, as he did. I think the first time they opposed each other was in ‘32.
Yes, because Roosevelt was in office from ‘32 until Harry Truman took over
during the World War. Hoover was in office up until ‘32. That’s when
FDR took over and he stayed in office until Truman took over. After V-J
Day, after V-E Day. As a sideline, so far as V-J Day is concerned, my
daughter Nancy was born exactly 270 days after V-J day (Feigin laughs)
because Ruth was with me at the time. I mean I still was in the service.
Ms. Feigin: Well, we’ll get to your service, but you graduated from Brooklyn College –
Mr. Hollander: I graduated from Brooklyn College and my father knew some lawyer in
town. His name was actually Robert Moers, M-o-e-r-s. It was the summer
that I graduated from Brooklyn College, which was ‘38 and I was working
for Robert Moers.
Ms. Feigin: Doing what?
Mr. Hollander: Really answering the phone. That’s all he let me do. For which I was paid
$7 for a five-and-a-half-day week.
Ms. Feigin: Had you worked through college? Had you worked at other jobs during
Mr. Hollander: No, I did not. I did take on a job after I got to law school at La Maison
Francaise, which was really a French library, and I knew a little French. But
Moers is a cut-off actually between my starting at law school. One of the
problems I had in law school, I spent many hours talking with my observant
grandfather about it, was that there were classes every Saturday morning. I
was taught as a kid, you don’t ride on trains on Saturday. You don’t work,
and that includes study.
Ms. Feigin: You must have worked for Mr. Moers on Saturday if you say it was five and
a half days.
Mr. Hollander: Yes, I did, with my grandfather’s not too eager permission. I explained to
him that – We were allowed to use the telephone at home on Saturdays.
Many observant households you’re not allowed to pick up the phone. Just
like they have hotels in Miami where the elevators stop at every floor so you
don’t have to summon one. Anyway, he finally relented on that, my
grandfather did. When I started, actually there were three hour classes
scheduled for Saturday. The competition was very intense at the law school.
Ms. Feigin: You went to Columbia?
Mr. Hollander: Yes.
Ms. Feigin: Tell me how you came to go to Columbia. Did you want to stay in New
York, or what?
Mr. Hollander: Not particularly. But I applied to the big three. I applied to Harvard, Yale
and Columbia. And Columbia reluctantly asked me to come in for an
Ms. Feigin: Why do you say reluctantly?
Mr. Hollander: Because during the course of the interview, and I remember the interview
was with what later turned out to be my professor in the equity course,
Professor Jervey. He was all business. He starts out by saying, you know if
you’re going to go to law school, and you want to become a member of the
bar, you have to remember that it’s a very exclusive club (laughter). The
New York State Bar is a very exclusive club. I was sure by the time the
interview was over that he had turned me down. But as it was, I guess there
were others that he interviewed who were even less qualified for the club
(Feigin laughs). But I was not certain at all that I was going to go there. But
I applied to Harvard, Yale and Columbia. Columbia was the only one that
invited me in.
Ms. Feigin: How large was your class?
Mr. Hollander: The class was 110 students.
Ms. Feigin: And how many were women?
Mr. Hollander: Two. One was Alison Bruere whose father was the president of a number of
big banks in the city, including the Immigrant Savings Bank which had
twenty offices, including two on 42 Street. The Robert Moers law firm nd
was not too far from that. And there was another girl in the class who was
blind and I used to read some of the cases to her because none of those
reports are in Braille.
Ms. Feigin: Maybe not even today. I don’t know.
Mr. Hollander: Today they must have some other technological device that enables them to
transfer an opinion.
Ms. Feigin: Were any of your classmates minorities?
Mr. Hollander: I think there was one black guy in the class. I don’t remember. I would say,
and I know this because the Jewish kids would actually go up to the Jewish
Theological Seminary, which was six blocks away, for a cafeteria. There
were about six or seven of us who would go up together.
Ms. Feigin: Were you kosher?
Mr. Hollander: At home I certainly was, but not when I went outside. But we went up there.
We were all members of the so-called Jewish Graduate Society, which was a
society for Jewish students at that time.
Ms. Feigin: So how many Jewish students were in your class?
Mr. Hollander: There were less than ten. The emphasis, according to Jervey, Professor
Jervey, who interviewed me, was already on diversity. They wanted to get
people from all over the country. They didn’t want to be stuck with the
Jewish kids from New York City. And that was really – You know I felt
that as far back as when I was going to elementary school. P.S. 63, a couple
of blocks from my house. There was one day when a couple of Italian kids
stopped me and planted about twenty different balls of gum in my hair. I
remember how it was Esther who was given the task at home, my cousin
Esther who was living with us, who was somehow able to get the gumballs
out of my hair. But that obviously was a reflection of their anti-Semitic
Ms. Feigin: The neighborhood where you grew up wasn’t predominantly Jewish?
Mr. Hollander: No. Although across the street from us there was a synagogue, which
apparently wasn’t kosher enough, or observant enough, for my grandfather.
So he regularly went about a block and a half away, and it was a synagogue
that had been converted from a church. But that was more observant.
Ms. Feigin: And you said that the neighborhood next to you had the Jewish Mafia.
Mr. Hollander: That was in Brownsville.
Ms. Feigin: Did you ever get to meet any of the Jewish Mafia?
Mr. Hollander: No, although I’ve read up on several. Abe Relis was the chief honcho there.
The Jewish leader of the Mafia..
Ms. Feigin: Getting back to law school, what was law school like at that time?
Mr. Hollander: Well I enjoyed it.
Ms. Feigin: In terms of actually going to law school, did you have to dress?
Mr. Hollander: Oh yes. Tie, shirt, jacket. Everybody did. First, there was a transportation
problem. I lived at home and Columbia is a good one-hour ride from
Brooklyn to 116 Street and Broadway. But I did put that time to good use. th
I actually was able to get an hour-and-a-half study time in a two-hour trip
back and forth.
Ms. Feigin: Do you remember what the subway cost then?
Mr. Hollander: Sure. I mean they overcharged; it was five cents (both laugh). And what’s
more, for five cents, you could make as many changes as you wanted to if
you weren’t going to school. You could go all the way up to 242 Street nd
and Van Cortlandt Park on the train that I took which stopped at 116 and th
Ms. Feigin: Were classes all day?
Mr. Hollander: No. I was home by four o’clock or four-thirty in the afternoon.
Ms. Feigin: Do you remember any of the professors that particularly stand out?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. The ones that I liked and the ones that I hated. The guy that I hated
was, I forget his first name, but his last name was Medina, M-e-d-i-n-a. I
think that’s a Spanish word for market. And he later became a chief judge
on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I did not like Medina
because he would spend too much time, as I sometimes am guilty of, on his
war stories. And he had a lot of fascinating war stories involving multimillion dollar cases. And he would digress. Of course he taught me civil
procedure, which I thought was a pretty difficult course. And I didn’t like to
hear all his personal stories and not get down to the Civil Practice Act,
which I found difficult to master. But, also, I think he resented me because I
refused to take his bar preparatory course. He had a monopoly on the bar
preparation courses. It was either Medina or there was Berkman and Sainer,
which was a couple of younger lawyers who offered a bar preparation course
at one-third Medina’s asking price (Feigin laughs).
Ms. Feigin: Do you remember what it cost in those days?
Mr. Hollander: No, I really don’t. But there was a big difference between the two. Anyway,
I wound up not taking either course. I did get the Berkman and Sainer
Ms. Feigin: And what other professors were remarkable one way or another?
Mr. Hollander: Well Walter Gellhorn, who did a lot of work on administrative law. It was a
delight to be in his class although I felt that he really should be teaching a
course that had more meat to it than legislative interpretation. That was the
course he taught. A course on legislation. How to interpret a statute.
Another very, very good professor that I had was Herbert Wechsler who
taught criminal law. And it was a fascinating course because he’d spend
half the term on the law of homicide. I don’t know how he was able to
spend that much time on it, but it was a course that I enjoyed attending. I
don’t remember even the names of the other law school teachers.
Outstanding were Gellhorn and Wechsler.
I took some courses with Young Berryman Smith. He was the dean.
He taught torts, as did his assistant dean, James Parsons Gifford, who was
just too tight. I thought Smith was very good. Smith was really a learned
professor. Oh, and another very good professor I had was Noel Dowling, Do-w-l-i-n-g, who taught constitutional law. I took two courses in
constitutional law. He was very good.
Ms. Feigin: And you told me earlier that you had been on law review. What was that
Mr. Hollander: Well, it was a lot of extra work. A lot of extra work. I felt that if I’m going
to try to get a decent job that that was one of the things that I had to add to
my CV, my resumé, so I stuck it out.
Ms. Feigin: And in those days, how did one become a member of law review?
Mr. Hollander: Well, you had to be in the top ten percent of your class and you had to have
been elected by the existing board. And the existing board consisted of
twenty or thirty people who were in the grade ahead of you.
Ms. Feigin: When you were in law school, what did you envision you were going to do
with your legal career?
Mr. Hollander: I had no idea; I had no idea. I knew that it would be tough to find a job
because I had been fortunate enough at the end of my first year of law school
to get a summer job with an outfit called Moses & Singer. Moses & Singer
owned two or three of the largest banks in the city or in the state. And I had
tried to get into the not-Jewish law firms for a summer job. This was after I
knew that I had already been elected to the law review.
At the end of the first year they select students for law review.
They’re called editors. I resented very much that I had applied to at least a
dozen of the non-Jewish law firms. I couldn’t even get an interview even
though I had the law review credential. And my grades were not bad either.
But Moses & Singer called me in for an interview.
Ms. Feigin: And in this day when so much is paid to summer associates, do you
remember what summer associates got in those days?
Mr. Hollander: I sure do. Because I resented the fact that at the Jewish law firms, and there
were about a half dozen good firms, some of them having as many as forty
or fifty lawyers, as did Moses & Singer, the Jewish law firms paid $20 a
week. The non-Jewish law firms paid $26 a week. It really wasn’t the $6 a
week difference, although I was already dating Ruth at the time and I felt
that we would probably get married as soon as I finished law school, but the
same discrepancy existed so far as the so-called permanent jobs, not only
summer work. The Jewish law firms paid $2000 and the others paid $2600.
When I was looking for a job I found Professor James Parsons
Gifford was the link between students who were looking for jobs and the
school. He was of no help at all. But I finally wound up with an offer from
a friend of Walter Gellhorn’s, who at that time was general counsel to an
agency you probably never heard of, although it is still in existence today:
The United States Railroad Retirement Board. That was the one agency that
had a Social Security system. Social Security came along a few years later,
generally nationwide. But the railroad workers had their own Social
Security retirement system, as they do today. And Gellhorn, I told Gellhorn
that I had had no luck in getting a job with the non-Jewish firms, that the
most I could get was a $2000 job with either Moses & Singer or some of the
other Jewish firms, and Moses & Singer had a very good reputation. So I
said I was going to try my luck in Washington and he said he didn’t think I’d
have any problem. While I was in his office he called up Lester Schoene, Sc-h-o-e-n-e, who was general counsel at the Railroad Retirement Board.
And apparently he had been a classmate of Gellhorn’s. And I got a letter the
next day from Schoene, saying that when I’m in Washington to drop by his
Ms. Feigin: Did you work for the Moses law firm the two summers of law school?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. The summer of ‘39 and the summer of ‘40, and I graduated in ‘41. By
August 4 , before I had been admitted to the bar, Schoene offered me a job th
at his office.
Ms. Feigin: Did you take the New York bar? Which bar did you take?
Mr. Hollander: I took the New York bar. I have a big certificate downstairs. There are two
certificates I have downstairs. I don’t cherish them as much as I do the one
that has your signature on it.
Ms. Feigin: Mine?
Mr. Hollander: Yes. When I finished my thirtieth year of service with the appellate staff,
you may or may not remember, but there was a luncheon celebration and
they probably forced you to sign (both laugh).
Ms. Feigin: I don’t think I would have been forced.
Mr. Hollander: But you were there in the 70s I think. I think I remember not only that you
signed but that girl who went out to Arizona, Susan Ehrlich. Did she wind up
on the Arizona Supreme Court?
Ms. Feigin: I think that you may be right. I have completely lost contact.
Mr. Hollander: Your name is right there with hers.
Ms. Feigin: This is probably a good point to stop.
Mr. Hollander: I’m very sorry that I held you up.
Ms. Feigin: No, no, no, this is wonderful!