Rosalie “Mickey” Greenberg and Cara Feinberg

Recorded November 26, 2006 Archived November 26, 2006 01:17:01 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GCT003389


Rosalie reflects on her early years, her accomplishments and hopes for her family


  • Rosalie “Mickey” Greenberg
  • Cara Feinberg

Recording Location

Grand Central Terminal


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00:03 I'm Rosalie Mickey Greenberg. I'm being interviewed by my granddaughter Cara Feinberg and divided to be here.

00:17 I'm going to be 89 tomorrow, and I don't know how I got here so fast.

00:24 My name is Cara Feinberg. I'm Mickey's granddaughter and I'm 30 years old and we're here at Grand Central Terminal talking to each other like we usually do except on tape.

00:42 Grandma tell me a little bit about where you were born. And when you were born, I was born on November 27th 1917.

00:53 Right after World War one and I was born at home, which was pretty much the custom in those days. My father was a physician and I was the last three children.

01:07 My name is Nikki because my father had a son and a daughter and father mother had a son in the daughter and then I came along another girl will just have to call her. Mike said really been Nikki longer than Rosalie.

01:23 Tell me a little bit about your childhood. How do you remember it was a happy one? I was fortunate to be a very love little girl. I love my parents. I love my sister and brother and I had many many friends and I can only remember.

01:42 Happy times, even though I lived through some rough times. I was a happy little girl.

01:49 I remember very vividly the terrible days of the depression that was came in 1929 the early 30s and they made an indelible impression on me. My father was a doctor and professional man. We didn't suffer too much. We didn't feel it at home. But when we came to New York and I would see men that really look like my father but they were kind of lean and hungry standing on street corners and selling apples for nickel.

02:22 So did have some money to bring home to their families. I never forgot that and I guess subconsciously it's colored the way of my life cuz there's always

02:33 Been caring about people ever since tell me a little bit about that when you say you care about people.

02:40 Well, I guess my first experience was during that time my mother and father started the community chest in Floral Park, which was developed to help people who didn't have things to eat close to where and I used to come see them in the evening when my father came home from his office and I'd help pack potatoes and apples and onions and bags so that we could distribute these two people and I thought what a wonderful thing, but how sad that the other children like me didn't know that there was always going to me be a meal on the table.

03:17 I think even in high school, I was involved in community work certainly in college and you know that my whole adult life has been involved mostly in the hospital field.

03:32 It's going to go from there. Sure. Go ahead.

03:36 When I moved out two things happened before I grew up and went to college. I graduated I met a perfectly wonderful man. Who was the love of my life most really most important singing most important person in my life and a very big influence and we had four children your mother being the second and

04:03 Almost as soon as they were in school someone in the community asked me to do something to collect some money for something and I said, I have all these little children. I can't leave my home and I discussed it with my husband at the dinner table. He said what do you mean you can't leave home you have someone here who is with the children? And if you do things well there it's cool. That's fine. You're a person and you have things to give to this community and you just do what you feel you can do. It's very important to them. I will love you more for what you do and your children respect you more as a mother.

04:40 I imagine that's not the way things were for most of the people that you know what your grandfather was an unusual man. He loved women and he thought women could do anything perhaps it came because we both had very strong mothers who are very courageous and did many creative things for their day in their communities and they brought up strong daughters who continued that tradition and that didn't make him less of a man because he was very strong himself. He did many things in the community, but he did his thing and I did mine and sometimes we did things together. Our interests were along similar lines, but it made for a very happy life.

05:22 When

05:24 Woody was about to be Bar Mitzvah. That was 19th.

05:29 If you for I'd already been involved in the development of a new hospital on Long Island to Long Island Jewish Medical Center. I start with M and 1952.

05:40 They open a dedicated the and have the opening of the hospital on May 16th. 1954 Woody with bar mitzvah on May 15th a day before I was so busy preparing for that opening. I was in charge of many of invitations and things of that sort and helping in the pr office. I was so busy. I couldn't prepare myself for his bar mitzvah and I had a friend my size and color and she said we just have to get her address. She has no time to go shopping and

06:15 You know, it was just so I was just so wrapped up in it. I became the second president there would say they re I was there from the beginning and we have been trained and what volunteers could do for us when we had a really intensive six-week course by the Federation of Jewish philanthropies, and I was a young woman and I'm very excited about the possibilities in that hospital open be open with a hundred trained volunteers and they were ready to go to work. Wow, and they really to this day are still contributing much of the hospital not as much in Hands-On Services I used to be able to do because too much has been taken over by professionals but in supplying necessary things for patients and their families that hospital budgets don't cover sure they've been

07:09 Really doing wonderful things and providing scholarships for nurses providing all kinds of

07:16 Assets for patients that they wouldn't have otherwise such as people like me who can see they put everything. They took them in after computers came in large every direction. They were giving all the prescriptions all the doctors and nurses advice so they could take them home and read them or have someone read them to them. They would change the numbers on the telephone with large print telephone dial for them that sort of thing and I just went on my way and from there. I was I'm still involved in the hospital. I still sit on the board of North Shore-LIJ maybe one of the older people I don't bother to tell them I ate and still think I have something to contribute but I went from there to the United Hospital fund and that's going to lead into another question. I think you have I really feel that's where I got my

08:11 My graduate education I didn't go to graduate school, but I learned so much about Healthcare in the side of healthcare. That wasn't medicine that made hospitals were better and made patients get better care and even was involved in creating some of that. I'd be interested to hear about the kind of child. You were at 11th you were young adult you were that made you so interested in the field that you eventually went into

08:41 Then I guess I always cared about people so I majored in sociology college cuz we didn't have a Social Work degree. But Social Work came last year of my college career. And so I did take courses in that I wanted to go to social work school, but my father had been a family physician on the Lower East Side. He said he didn't want any of his daughters crawling around strange apartments and in those days today. No young person would would accept that they would say well I'm going to get there by hooker get a scholarship. I work or something, but my father said you didn't want me to do it. So I didn't do it. So I spend the rest of my life trying that knowledge and and doing that.

09:29 I know that you were born on that. You said you were born on the Lower East Side? Yes. I was born on East 10th Street between Avenue A and B and the part which I was taking us a baby with very famous park. It was a very pretty part Tompkins bar. But in later years you've heard of it is needle park. It really was a drug.

09:50 Hang out when you were there or later on Ono I left many years before that. We moved out of there in 1922 and we moved to the country by that time my father Abbot tired from work for you to study allergy that was a new discipline and medicine and he and two other young doctors were selected to train with this Doctor Who 4th its new discipline To America with grade isn't because they weren't wealthy people, but my mother said I'll manage and she took care of the children and I don't know how she managed but she did and when he got finished, she said I don't want to bring my little girls up in this area. It's pretty rough. And so they ventured out to New Jersey and West Chester and then to Long Island and they got to Floral Park.

10:41 And that was all mostly by seedsman and every vacant field was planned with flowers with time that they got out there and my must have this is where I want to bring up my little girls. I've been in Floral Park in and out of it. So since 1922

11:01 Now live in Floral Park, although in those days. It didn't have that name. It was another Community but it's still far apart. Is it still have the flowers the flowers while they do their job, but the property that I grew up on have been owned by that man, and we were always getting surprises like asparagus popping out of the ground or currants and gooseberries, which nobody ever saw before the most beautiful dogwood trees one of which have been crossbred by John Burroughs who came from California with a friend of John Lewis child's he was a Floral Park Nursery man in with a very bright real red. I've never seen one that color.

11:46 His children we used to play under those trees in my sister and I vowed we would be married under the dogwood trees, but we both got married in the winter too cold.

11:57 Tell me a little bit about your place in the family and your relationship with your parents and brothers and sisters. Well, I was the baby my brother was the only boy and my father was very fond of him. He was very fond of my sister, but there was no question that I was the apple of my father's eye. And while I ate it up and I enjoyed being it little darling. I knew when I grow up that I would never do that in my family and my children tell me today. They never know who is the favored because they never was they were all wonderful to me Grandpa and I thought we were the luckiest people in the world to have for such wonderful children, and I love them all to this day's each has different family traits is there but they certainly are for individuals, but I love them all equally if that's possible. They feel it's possible and it's the way I feel

12:58 It sounds like you're your father definitely had ideas about what what his daughter should be doing and what women should be doing and your husband also had different ideas about that when my father my mother was a very active person the community and created the Floral Park Public Library and was active in the school system and she ran for the school board. And in those days she was Jewish and that was not a good thing to be the Klu Klux Klan was very active in that community and they didn't want to see a Jewish woman didn't want any woman on the school board, but especially not a Jewish woman and Percy Edward for the PD PTA and so she just gave it all the mothers and they came with their babies and they got everybody out to vote and she won very handsome Lancer for 18 years and created many things in the school system.

13:50 Which were just wonderful such as

13:54 It is during the Depression wonderful lunch. If you could afford $0.25 you could really have a big meal. You couldn't afford it the school provided it and they were healthy soups made from her own recipes a hundred times magnified and I just used to love is spaghetti or the macaroni and cheese or what kid doesn't like that with chocolate pudding or rice pudding sandwiches, but everything was $0.05 and if you didn't have it it was there for you anyway, and she became such an expert but she went all over the state.

14:34 Pitching other school system had to do that. She also created.

14:41 Guess what? Did they call that domestic education where they learn how to cook where they were for kitchens in room and a teacher at a desk in the front every kitchen had a little stove in the sink and able to work and then be for girls first but later boys as well. They had their classes separate from the girls and we learn to this day. I still make some of the recipes I learned it's a very little girl I still eat some of those recipes when I come to visit tell me a little bit about you said it was Jewish was not a good thing to be when your mother was running and the Ku Klux play was they were very strong feelings.

15:21 Unless it's the feelings maybe not as bad as the feelings. It's some white people had about blacks, but they were pretty bad. They were signs on buildings. Nojo Jews are dogs allowed to very many places that were respected and

15:38 Even after I was married with me the man had developed a section of Great Neck, and he was a paste of my father is my father asked him if they was a house that we could buy there.

15:51 He said doc, your children wouldn't be happy there. That wasn't it you for missing that I heard many times over. We don't really want them here. Cuz time to change after World War II things opened up and the world is quite different. Right right. Tell me a little bit about your experience during World War II Grandpa was in the reserve in college and although we were married and had a little baby Uncle Woody. He was called quite early and he went in in February 1972. That was very early 1972 to 1942 what he was a year old. He was sent to Fort Benning for Advanced Training and we went to college and Woody and I came down there. He was there for three months came home for a visit and we had a brand new Buick which was a big accomplishment.

16:51 And all of a sudden he had to report for Duty on the west coast in Tacoma, Washington, and he said he's drive out. He said that because he didn't want the family to know that he was going to be there very long when he got there. He found out he was going to be over going overseas within a month or two and he said please come I want to see you before I leave I said, I'll bring the baby you certainly want to see the baby and his mother piped up, but I want to see my son. So the three of us went out by train, they weren't and wasn't playing travel those days. We got to the West Coast and week. They had a place for us to stay. He was an officer for officers families and every night we had to lay out our clothes and we had directions of where to go in the woods if there was an alert and after two days grandma said this is no place for grandmothers and babies. I'm taking Woody home. You can stay as long as they allow you to so I stayed about two weeks. I never went past the bay.

17:51 Send mine from where I was across the street to where my husband was stationed. And when we left I left with two friends that I made two other wives who said since you want to take that car back to New York. We live in Minnesota, but we'll go back to New York with and take a bus back and we said goodbye and we drove out of there with our lots of tears and we said we're going to Portland and we'll stop there for the life. We didn't know Portland with to Portland with two and a half miles from turn back and we were very naughty we did know what goes they were going on and we could try to send telegrams every night which was certain against the law saying that

18:39 If you don't leave will come back like it was against the law to send telegrams what we weren't supposed to disclose but every taxi drivers okay in that City knew which boat was leaving which night and where they were going Shore and we did that all the way across the country gets any wood telegrams until we were convinced that they weren't going to come back Choi I've felt so I went to live with my parents.

19:05 By then I had to

19:09 Growing Child, I guess when Grandma went first when you first went overseas, I just had Woody and then he came back to

19:20 Can I think when I start with the Red Cross he came back for trailer training course, I got pregnant and that was a very difficult time. I was living with my parents, but he wasn't here when the baby was born. He didn't see her until she was almost 8 months old and I know although I was in a loving family even up this kind of lonely to be there and I thought I'd just had to do something for the war effort. And so I went to the Red Cross headquarters in Mineola, which was a candy seed and I worked there for several years till we came home with disaster relief, which was to take care in case we were bombed. We had every community on Long Island organized and

20:04 I was at headquarters and we did the directions from the Air Force maybe didn't have to use it during the war.

20:13 Sure.

20:15 I know that you have seen a lot of technological inventions over the last three quarters of the century lot of things have happened since you were born.

20:24 I know where to start telephones when I was a little girl wear two pieces of telephone stand in an earpiece and no dial to cold an operator and courses are now everybody's running with a cell phone. So I won't forget that you took a picture and called us and Connecticut while you were in France and said I'm standing here quick. Look at the I'm sending you a picture of where I'm standing The View I'm seeing and that's and I guess they're even further advanced than that today, but everything is so fast in the computer upgrades of everything in the world is very fast and things are just moving so

21:08 I'm on my friends who are my age. I'm the only one who uses a computer. And before my eyes began to go. I was pretty good at it. And now thanks to you. I've got something called a freedom which was designed by blind and low-vision people for blind and low-vision people. Unfortunately, we're having some difficulties because it's not they've changed some of the things that were on the original and it's not working smoothly, but we'll get you to use it so I can send you an email and you'll be able to write that I can receive emails, but I can't see them at this point. Sure. Sure.

21:46 I know in addition to technological advances there been many different social movements in your life span and I wondered how they affected you. Where do we start? What about when you start go ahead ask me a question. Okay. What about the women's movement?

22:05 Well, I guess I was fighting them. I was always a woman. I knew I was a woman but I always knew I was a person and they were so demanding is there Freedom cuz I guess I grew up.

22:18 Being a whole person. I was very comfortable with myself. I always knew who I was and I really wasn't very happy with some of the leaders of that movement because they frowned on volunteers and I had been a volunteer on my life and my mother and mother-in-law both had been and I knew what they could bring to whatever they were doing. They brought her another point of view that help the professionals to cover needs since we're not being covered that they might Overlook and I guess I just about blew my top. I was working with a United Hospital fund at that time and they called us the volunteers to do secretarial where cuz I couldn't afford to pay them and I just thought that was terrible. They had some such a low view of volunteers.

23:07 But if I need a secretary, so you really should have been paid his secretary. Sure. Sure.

23:14 It's interesting to me because I think of you all the things that you did in the time when many women weren't doing those types of things as being the kind of woman. That is that I mean, you are a feminist in that way. I guess I am cuz I was married to a man who believed that women could do everything. He saw his mother and he saw a my mother and he's still on me and I had the greatest encouragement from him. He did many many things wonderful things himself, but he was always there beaming when I was doing something and whatever I did I didn't I never was driving to be head of visit and it never really went to my head but I did have some prestigious jobs to my life. I was vice president of the board of the hospital. I would suffice president of the board of the United Hospital fund of New York, which was an organization of all the voluntary hospitals in the city and have great influence on things today.

24:14 They used to give money on a basis of the community service at hospitals did and when I was in charge of Distributing money, we began giving Hospital grants. Now their slogan is shaping the health of the city of New York and they really are they see a need and they they open that up to France and every hospital in the city and other health organizations can apply for them, but they now pick an area that needs doing so they all can make their focus slightly different but taking care of it and need short and a lot of new things have been do you know develop from that and I'm very proud of that. I think one of The Quiet Things I'm most proud of as was when the

25:01 ICU the Intensive Care units opened

25:06 This is Billings who is probably the greatest woman in volunteer in the health field? We sat on the board of the health and Hospital Planning Commission of New York together and we were very good friends where I am. Now when I was a young woman, and we went to look at this new type of care Intensive Care Unit, and there was people with very disoriented. They didn't know where they were and they weren't happy being there but they were very sick people who are placed in one unit where the nursing staff could watch a number of people at one time and and take care of them and we realized it was nothing for them to focus on no way to identify where they were what time of day or night it was and we came back and we said they should have a big clocks. They should have calendars and within six months. They were in every Hospital in New York. Every Intensive Care Unit didn't matter who the weather.

26:06 They were there when I was very ill a few years ago. I've been in a coma for three weeks and suddenly came out of it and I looked up on the wall and I saw that clock and I don't know how it hit me. I said that's a quiz of Dale Billings and needed that clocks on the wall. It was five. I didn't know if it was 5 in the morning or 5 at night. It was dark in the Bissell adubato turned out to be 5 in the morning the nurses were just coming in. But I think it was a very gratifying moment for me to you know, that it

26:41 It really worked I can imagine waking up at all and then waking up to that.

26:48 It's good. Good feeling tell me a little bit about some of the other things. I know you've got a great story about Lindbergh.

26:56 Charles Lindberg, I forget the date now because so still come easy to me, but it was in the twenties made the first transatlantic solo fight a flu from here to The Boar's Head Paris, and we went to see him off. We got up at 5 in the morning and we went I'm not sure whether was Roosevelt able to Mitchell field, but they were just small army bases in those days just a few miles from where I lived and my dad took us there to see it and I forgot about it until the other day. When what he said to me. How many people do you think are still alive food? So Lindbergh take off and it all came back to me. My dad had an an early movie camera with you would think with a prehistoric kind of thing the way they took pictures and he has developed film the same to his office in Manhattan.

27:50 Carried it home and left it on the Long Island Railroad. What a wonderful thing. It would have been if we had those films today. He left he left it on the train. He left it on the train and never was able to recover it too. Bad. Someone probably home watching those home movies happy and know what they were.

28:09 They were not talkin movies.

28:11 I think you might have just told me this but I'm wondering what the proudest moment of your life has been.

28:19 I know I know I get the day I married your grandpa and was really is a very great dream come true and then is each one of those babies arrived each when was spectacular as an infant if they are now is grown ups and then you were the first grandchild and that was that was a wonderful moment when I saw you and now there are five.

28:43 Yes for cousins. Wonderful.

28:49 Family is very important to me as you know.

28:53 And I have a wonderful loving family.

28:56 Tell me a little bit about that when you say family is important to me, where where and when did that begin for you?

29:04 Always hair but was Herbert with Grandpa family was important to him and it was important to me. We grew up always busy with our cousins and her aunts and uncles often they came to our house.

29:18 And step ahead and our house was that way when the children were little be visiting our sisters in the woods and her sisters and brothers and it happened that many of our children with similar in age this year. There were three children in the family and not between mine and then the Greenberg family turn 60. So that's you know, they were is it was 60 years old to turn 65 you turn 30? We hadn't I don't know if there's anybody else in the family quite you already. I don't think not in my own family.

29:59 But we've had so many wonderful family times together driving together and celebrating holidays. Thanksgiving is always been a wonderful day. And this one was the best of all it was just so small that they are family and we did have such a wonderful day together. We did and the next day too.

30:20 And if it does it's important, I have wonderful friends who are almost like family, but not family.

30:29 Do you find at this point in your life that your friends your your your contemporaries feel similarly about a lot of their past experience?

30:40 When I think they do, but they really haven't had the experiences I have and they're always calling when they need something.

30:48 Whatever it is, I'll make it will not fair to get it. And so I keep a file of of all kinds of people who now none of us drive. I have a list of drivers. I've good housekeepers AIDS. I've got all kinds of ways of getting places because we don't for one reason other don't travel. Well sure. My closest friend seems less than I do and is very Plucky and gutsy.

31:18 But I know that I'm very important to her.

31:22 Because I'm there.

31:25 Susan will tell you one of us calls every morning it is she alright, I guess it's sort of make sure we are around we don't say so but

31:36 It's it's it's different lot of them are quite ill and I'm the only one who still doing things and that's hard. I've been doing a lot of work with a lighthouse ever since thanks to your mother who's feel that was working with blind and low-vision children. And when this happened to me, she said Mom we're going to keep you independent. And so I've been working with them and was able to do something in my own building where there we collected 110 people who'd want to tell anybody that they couldn't see but they all showed up when they might have came up to do a program. So I'm still involved and that's what makes every day worth getting up for and some of them can only think about how terrible a Feeling

32:25 Which doctor they're going to say and I don't have to do that. Thank goodness. I'm really in pretty good health just can't see but there many gadgets that are making my life. Thanks to your mother making my life much easier and thanks to you for researching that new computer. It's going to work. Excellent.

32:48 I know when I talk to you, I'm always struck by how happy you've been through your life through your whole life. And I wondered when you look back. Is there anything that you regret or would do differently?

33:02 I know I guess I was like any teenager pretty unhappy if things didn't go my way but

33:09 1.8 cement his little girl. I thought I was an orphan that have been left on the doorstep and I ran away from home, I look just like my father be nice to be out at me that day and I climbed up in the cherry tree and I sat there with a book. Of course. I'm going to eat and my mother is calling calling. Where are you making where are you and I didn't have a rotten kid. I didn't say a word. I stayed up there for a couple of hours happy as a lark I guess, but I know I really had no right to feel that way.

33:45 I don't know.

33:47 I know but I regret it. I've had so many wonderful friends through my lifetime. I remember most of them unfortunate floor so many of them.

33:56 But each one had an influence on me and some way and I guess I on them.

34:03 Not much of my own family left. My brother died last year my sister. I guess must be 10 years ago.

34:13 Amor

34:14 And their parents family is going except for when sister who is my best friend at college? So I guess that's how I met her.

34:23 My husband

34:27 I don't know I guess one thing is I never really worried about what's going to be tomorrow.

34:34 I'm a little shocked that I'm going to be 89 tomorrow, but I really never thought about my age. I just got there.

34:42 And even now I'm looking forward.

34:45 Tonight's into 2007 when I'm going to be 90 and you know where I'm going to be in the summer 2007. I'm going to friends to be with your mother and father.

34:55 And when I got my last passport if it expired in April 2006 and I said to the children, I'll never be here in April 2006 at this time when I got the new passport. I didn't even bother to look what a day would be and I guess that's how I feel. I really am not boring about tomorrow.

35:19 Guess I never have

35:23 Grandmas love talking to you over these LOL over these past 30 years, but especially in the last 45 minutes, and I wondered is there anything that we didn't talk about that you wanted to talk about now?

35:37 Well, the girl said what what do you want to leave your children?

35:42 I don't know why I said you have to have faith in yourself and know you can do whatever you set out to do. Sometimes it takes a little work and things don't always drop in your lap.

35:54 But if you got to go just go for it.

35:57 And I think each of my children has done that in some way.

36:02 So far, you're the only grandchild who succeeded in doing that. I think Joanna is on her way.

36:10 Michael has changed a lot.

36:13 I hope you'll get there guys having a hard time.

36:18 I hope he will and Tracy is a happiest girl in the world. How many kids can say I'm going to be in the circus and she is.

36:29 And

36:31 You just have to do what's what's good for you and you can always worried about how it's going to affect everybody else. It's your life live it.

36:44 I just enjoy it never forget your family because they're important and they love you and then they are due.

36:51 To be your best audience

36:54 And if you have quite an audience, I have a stack of your writings. Yay high and very proud of you. Very proud of me what you've done but you may be the only one no, don't say that every time anything comes from you. I've got a circulated among my friends and they say isn't She Wonderful. They really really do respect to write Kara. Thanks and you had an influence on them to take you to that article about the blind painter. I mean that wasn't just a bond papers Painter with me. He was the father.

37:32 What's the bird the other?

37:34 If you can't use your eyes use other parts of your brain sure she's

37:41 Well, I feel like for me that's the kind of thing where when you woke up from your coma and you looked and saw the clock on the wall. And you knew that it was you that made the clock be there when I hear something like that. That's when I hear that something is written has changed somebody that's what's important to me. So we give the other great courage to surely they still trying to find out how that she's an artist house at blind man who's been blind from birth could paid how we could tell the colors how we could get the perspective on.

38:13 It is drawings.

38:15 And she's really made her worry about not worry about it, but figured out trying to figure it out. Well, thanks Grandma for coming in agreeing to talk to me with thanks for inviting me.