Richard B Stone, Deborah Poznansky, and Nancy Stone Pozanansky

Recorded May 28, 2006 Archived May 28, 2006 01:16:00
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX001432


The family talks about their father/ grandfather/ great grandfather who is nearly 100 years old.

Subject Log / Time Code


  • Richard B Stone
  • Deborah Poznansky
  • Nancy Stone Pozanansky


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00:03 My name is Nancy Stone posnanski. I'm 47. Today's date is May 28th 2006. We're in Washington DC and talking with my father.

00:18 My name is Richard Stone. I'm 77 years old today is May 28th 06. We're in Washington DC. I'm the father of the interviewer my daughter Nancy.

00:33 And Dad you have had a very interesting career you.

00:40 Began, as you were in politics and you were the Secretary of State of Florida and you were state senator from Florida and then you were the United States senator from Florida and accommodating your career as an ambassador. So you've had met a lot of very fascinating people that I know that somebody that has made a very lasting impression on you. You've known all your life and he's not famous at all. And he's about to be a hundred years old on June 6th. That's your father my grandfather and I thought you could tell me a little bit more about him. Then I know some things obviously, but you know a lot and I'd like to know

01:26 How my father Alfred stone is definitely the most unforgettable character I've ever met.

01:36 He came to America from Belgium as a child in the first world war his father. My grandfather was in the jewelry business and Antwerp and was they were able to get out one day after the invasion of Belgium by the Germans got to England and then to New York America and I came along. 20 years after that.

02:09 He grew up in Sheepshead Bay. I'm he he then in Manhattan. They were they and landed in Sheepshead Bay. And then after he graduated high school and he was in City College of New York. He met my mother Lily who was an aspiring professional dancer. And as a matter of fact within a year about the time they were engaged she was practicing for her Dubuque as a dancer in a Broadway show.

02:51 But I came along just as they were about to open and she never got to Broadway except later as a viewer in the audience. And then they moved to Miami where my grandfather had got the idea of building a hotel in Miami Beach in 1928. And he died while my father Alfred Stone was building the hotel which was named the Blackstone Hotel. My grandfather's original name was farts during which means Blackstone that's where that name came from and it was the first large Hotel on what is now well-known is South Beach. It's still there. It's a on Collins Avenue Washington Avenue, and it's a home for

03:51 Older people at this point

03:55 It's very recognizable. Isn't it? A chill 14 stories high with clocks on all four sides on the top about that hotel though. It was the first even though there were hotels. He he he arrived in Miami Beach before all the hotels in the tourist industry had actually started. Well the fact is that my grandfather Nathan tried to check in.

04:30 In the late 1920s add a major Hotel, I won't mention the name but it's a well-known name and was rejected because he was Jewish that sort of irritated him some of his friends where he finally was able to check in at a small hotel to agreed with him. That was terrible and urged him to build a hotel and that's where the black stone came from. However, there was a problem. It was a large hotel and then my grandfather died while it was being built.

05:05 I saw that when it opened the timing could not have been worse it open just as the stock market crashed in 1929.

05:16 So I grew up as a little child and until the end of my Elementary School in a hotel which was either of feast or famine. The four months of the winter season. It was a feast in my father have 3 Tuxedos and it was glamorous. We had dancing in the garden with live music at was wonderful Viennese Chef. However, the other eight months of the year we had to hide out there was no money to pay the bank and I will remember growing up in a in a two rooms on the south side of the hotel over the sidewalk in which the hotel was locked and the only way you could gain access to it if we would recognize you on the sidewalk, we would drop a dorky on a fishing line. That's how you got in and that's how we had to live all

06:16 Years of the depression but then the winter always would seem to come and it was a feast once again and we got through it until the day finally came many years later when my dad sold the hotel and all was well in the hotel actually attracted some famous guess didn't it? I remember myself as a child that my father's personal guests and he put them in the penthouse for a week was the great Yin macerich the first president of Czechoslovakia was there for about a week

06:53 We also during the war we would have celebrations and fundraisers for the war effort. I remember specifically the Beefeater dinner which we had every year to raise money for the embattled Englishmen in the in Britain and we had the Lord and Lady Marley inaugurate that we have a lot of famous people, but to me the most famous of all of them was by father Alfred Stone.

07:28 He told a story about opening up the roof of the hotel to a famous composer. But first let me say that the famous composers mother misses Gershwin took me to my first violin lesson her son. They great George Gershwin would come down several times during the winter and he would compose in the men's Solarium a part of it that we closed off and my father put a piano in there and he would compose without any clothes on heel of the Sun and I am told that he composed either all or part of the Great classic summertime there.

08:22 You grew up in the hotel, but you had several siblings. Who how many grew up in the hotel with you. Next youngest brother buddy. Did I my next youngest brother after that Bob? Did my next youngest brother after that Benjamin did not I think we were already out of the hotel on living in a house of North Bay Road then

08:50 And Grandpa was also responsible for building the synagogue that was in Miami Beach temple Emanuel. He was the Builder on that is still in existence that has an attractive.

09:05 Now his relationship with Grandma Lily was very significant and they were married for do you know how many years will let's see if they got married or I would say

09:23 Let's say I'm 77. My father is 100 and my mother died about three years ago. So they were married 165 70 years and he was not the marrying kind before he met her even though he was quite young. It didn't seem like it was a happy Bachelor his father put him in the diamond business in New York with small diamonds called Millie's.

10:04 But he paid a lot more attention to his social activities, then he did to the diamond business and it wasn't very long before my grandfather cut off his credit. That was the end of that at that point. He began to learn the building business from the ground up versus a timekeeper and then as a foreman supervisor on the job including he worked on several major skyscrapers in New York City I once I asked him did you ever walk on the steel Frameworks high above the ground? He said yes, and I learned never to look down.

10:51 He had he had a lot of good advice like that. What about his motto? There's always a bigger boat when I once admired a cabin cruiser when we were out in the small cabin cruiser. He he made it very clear to me that there's always a bigger boat. In other words. Don't envy what someone else has cuz there's always one even bigger than that. He had some wonderful advice. He still does I asked him just a few weeks ago when my son your brother Elliot and I went to see him in Miami if he had any advice for us. He says, all right, I'll give you two pieces of advice. The first is if there's something you have to do be prompt.

11:45 And the second is use your sense of humor to help you when you face difficulties that to me is almost as good as the first bit of advice.

11:57 He's living right now in assisted living home and turn on candle, but he lived here. He's only he's the longest residence in that home. But he he moved when he was 90.

12:17 Too so he's been there for eight years and that's the longest resident in that place. But the events that caused him to move was not many people would have been able to survive that do you recall how what happened how to remove? Yes. No. Yes. I do remember on for a hotel on Miami Beach one of the and here's an interesting thing. That's the same Hotel.

12:54 That my grandfather could not check into because of his religion or I will later much much much later, my father and my after my mother died, my father was living in that hotel and someone gained access to it against the rules knocked on his door. You opened the door and got hit on the head by the by a robber and he survived that thank you Evan and that's what caused them to move into this other hotel, but he's tough he is very tough. And and what about the fact that your parents decided at the age of 89 and 90 that they would make Aliyah to Israel.

13:39 He wanted a they both protect my mother I think but he went with it. I wanted a deeper spiritual way of life and they'd always wanted to live in Israel. So the time came and they did however, they found out that most of the family would only visit sporadically and after I think it was three or four years over there, they missed the family so much that they came back to Miami Beach and to Miami

14:14 When he

14:18 After he sold the hotel, he still stayed in the hotel business when he ran out of funds and he took a job. He took a job as a night clerk at a hotel in Miami Beach and did that for about a year-and-a-half until he was hired as a manager of a very large hotel and apartment complex just across the street from that hotel where he worked for you I'd say about ten years and did very well with that. He was very successful at it.

14:59 When I asked him last night when I called him at one of the birthday party celebrations that the family is giving him if he had any thoughts for us at this point. He said yes, you can tell your children and grandchildren that the first hundred years are the hardest.

15:24 Well, I have memories of him and running that hotel because he managed the hotel and they lived in the hotel grandma and and he could course it's one that they couldn't avoid as part of the condition. He was very good about never

15:45 Never offending anyone but when he would be trapped usually in the elevator and all the residents were complaining about, you know, the the pipes are making noise or they there's a smell on the hallway. Whatever the complaint would be. He was always very gentlemanly and he was very fast at exiting the elevator and rushing away before they could and then date him with use both courtesy and speed.

16:19 But what really saved him and all those years and that very tough business was the way he treated the employees.

16:29 And because of the way he treated them they responded above and beyond the call of almost any comparative employees and other places other hotels so that if if one of these guests had a complaint at my father was in a position to call the either the housekeeper or the engineer or any of them whether it was 12 at night or whatever and they would drive in or come in and get the job done because they really had a loyalty to him. Why because she treated them like they were part of our family.

17:08 And and it was all the same employees for all those years. You have long-term people there very long term people wherever he was working.

17:21 What about his Hobbies? What does he like to do?

17:26 Well, he loves being on the water. He loves sell is sailing and he and until a very recently when he had to use a cane. He loved walking and even hiking and are best vacations growing up. Where in North Carolina climbing around on mountains.

17:50 And

17:52 He what is he do now? He's still he's he's fairly active for a man of a hundred.

18:03 At least one good book and he reads either history or biographies mainly one good book each week. So we try to keep him supplied with good books and his specialty is American history. He loves everything from the founding fathers on up as a matter of fact, he's probably at this point as good as any professional historian cuz every new book on Madison or Washington or Lincoln or boys favorite. I think is Benjamin Franklin every new book on them that comes out either he gets or we get for him.

18:43 And that keeps his mind very active and makes him a wonderful man to spend time with he's got great observations and he's a loving person. That's right. That's the that's the other reason that he's still here with us and he's a happy person. That's right. I called the other night and one of these family parties and ask them and usually gives the same answer any means it couldn't be better.

19:15 Now that was he a gentle and happy father is even as you were a teenager or when you were younger was do you remember him in that way? Let me just say that between my father and my mother they were either gentle or otherwise as the case required as matter fact, I reckon I remember Mom is being tougher on me then dead except when Mom is dead to be tougher on me when it was well needed.

19:53 Well, let me

19:57 Ask a little bit more about how life was after you got married and you had your family but they were living nearby. What was the relationship like when we were all younger and and they were living there by appropriate to say you were perfect.

20:20 Thank you Dad on the other hand, but we used to go over on Friday nights on Friday night to their apartment, which my mom rest in peace would make the very best chicken soup and chicken and

20:44 We would have a lovely time on the other hand. My mom was clearly in charge of exactly what was not only done. But what was said and I will remember driving back to South Miami with you and my wife and the other children and which it was an exercise in self control.

21:12 The grandpa was always very good even when he couldn't get a word in edgewise.

21:21 My father's from the old school.

21:24 Yeah, he not only grew up in New York, but he also had schooling and Switzerland and in Germany spoke perfect blue in French and German and knew the culture and the courtesies of Europe thoroughly, which not only made him a good hotel. Yeah, but made him a very good father because when discipline is applied with courtesy. It's much much more effective is also part of the protest against

22:02 I certainly could learn a lot from him that way so true.

22:09 Dad

22:12 Can you tell me something more about?

22:18 What you would want him to hear on his hundredth birthday. We are going to be seeing him what he doesn't like to have a big celebration which we tried to do on his 95th when when all of his children and grandchildren gathered. He doesn't like too many, but we're going to everybody's going to take time to to see him and you're going to see him probably after his actual birthday. So do you have any birthday message that you want to send the message? I want to send him as it if we're

23:00 Smart and if we're determined was do our very best to be as much like him as we possibly can.

23:08 Because the Legacy that he leaves us and it's already left us is the legacy of almost no enemies unbelievable numbers of friends.

23:24 It's interesting. There came a time when there was a foreclosure of mortgage filed against the Blackstone Hotel.

23:36 And the second mortgage holder.

23:38 Who has been a longtime family friend held a mortgage.

23:46 And 4 closed

23:49 Through the hotel guests friend from Baltimore, Maryland and wonderful. Old Gentleman who simply wrote a check on the Sheriff's sale foreclosure so that we were able to refinance after that.

24:07 We came out of that.

24:10 And believe it or not both the principal of that for closing mortgage holder and his agents and attorneys became not only friends again, but supporters again and when I ran for office, I had a lot of help from the people around that that wonderful older man that held that mortgage. And as a matter of fact led to my success in parts of Florida that normally I would never have been able to campaign in

24:48 That and that was strictly because of the way my father is he he leaves people.

24:57 As his friends no matter how they start he really that's a talent and a skill which for example our president whoever he might be could well acquire.

25:15 He

25:17 He did have difficulties with the hotel, but he was very creative and and coming up with ways to feed his family like the story about the chickens gosh. Yes. I may have I did mention that I grew up in the depths of the Great Depression in that business with my father and as a child.

25:45 And that when the winter season was over any income was over there came a time when Dad got the idea that we should raise chickens in the summertime and he went out to Hialeah and bought a flock of little bantam chickens to raise to give us eggs and later when they got larger chicken.

26:17 And he put them in a wire cage on the top of the roof that covered the dining room parallel to the residential Tower.

26:31 What he hadn't figured on his two things the first that City of Miami Beach had and I'm sure still has an ordinance against live chickens. Can I have a

26:46 And the second was

26:49 That he thought he was buying half hens and half roosters, even though bantams but it turned out very soon. We found out that they were almost all roosters if there was one little non rooster in the bunch. It didn't sound that way so that every morning at 4:30 for 45 we had what sounded to our neighbors like police cars coming around the street with Sirens going and of course the complaint started flying left and right from all the apartment holders within a block or two because that was the noisiest bunch of banty roosters you ever heard

27:34 And then we would see police cars cruising around the streets looking for these chickens. I can assure you they never found those chickens because they were up on the roof above the restaurant but we got the points and dad got the point and he had to take him back to Hialeah. I don't know what he did or what he got for those chickens, but I know we never ate any chicken if we were short of it.

28:06 Didn't did he attempt to have a nightclub on the top of the hotel is another way to that dude. I mentioned that the George Gershwin was composing up on top there know what he had what he tried to do up. There was more commercial idea of a man's and a woman's Solarium.

28:29 It was very interesting for us young boys. My boyfriend's in me until we got caught looking and that that deal close that that didn't work either.

28:43 But he was very creative in the way. He created events and entertainments. I think he really started the idea of outdoor dinner dances on the weekend by the pool by the pool not only created for South Beach but creator for all of Miami Beach has many many years ago. It's interesting for a number of years. He tried and I once helped them with petitions up and down the street trying to change what everybody called South Beach to something that we dreamed up called South Shore.

29:28 We felt we got this a lot of petition signed, but the name South Beach was ingrained and just look at what South Beaches come to me. Now, that's the hottest area of the whole South Florida. Why why did you want to change the name? Because it had the image of being a

29:52 A retreat for people who would do their own cooking in their bedrooms. In other words. He wanted the name Scottish or because of that sounded more of an Ocean Resort and less of a series of Apartments Apartment houses with older folks doing their own cooking as a matter fact, I will remember there was a Miami Beach ordinance against having a hot plate for just that purpose and they used to be the original neighborhood watch long before you ever heard that term of neighborhood watch all the South South Beach apartment dwellers had something called the hot played watch the city had a hot plate inspector. Everyone came to know just who he wasn't and how he looked if he got into your neighborhood the word would pass like lightning the hot plate in spec.

30:52 Where is here and everybody would put their hot plates in the dresser drawers grease and all and it kept on going that was South Beach during all I'm talking about until long after the second world war end during the second world war. Didn't he? He was too old to serve the voluntary couldn't get in. Did he have to have a physical or age of the reserves, but they never called them but he was active because the Army and the Air corps took over most of the hotels on Miami Beach and he was the chairman of the hotel association committee. That was liaison to them both in Miami Beach and in Washington when negotiations were required about that.

31:50 And then he did allow them to stay in the hotel for how many years was the hotel like that of years and most of the hotels on Miami Beach were taking about 5 years ago. It was a boon to both the armed services and to the survival of the hotel industry because there certainly wasn't enough tourism during World War II in the middle of it some but not very much.

32:19 Do you remember those years with the soldiers in the hotel or do I do it was it was exciting to watch the young men marching down the down Washington Avenue and Collins Avenue. Yes, it was.

32:39 What do you think Grandpa would say was one of the was the high point of his a hundred years?

32:50 I'm not in any doubt about that. It was his marriage to my mother.

32:55 Here when she lost her ability to move around he did everything those last years to take care of her. He did the grocery shopping. You did the cooking when they ordered in. He also did the arranging in the washing up and he when she couldn't own the only move in a wheelchair. He did to push him and he was never anything but thrilled to be her husband without any question. That was his

33:29 Just as he may be my most unforgettable Unforgettable character. She was his.

33:39 Lily Stone

33:41 Wonderful lady wonderful and a marriage that is hard to you just wish that you could have that kind of devotion. They were both devoted to it to each other. If you're a woman you would wish to have the role of a mother.

34:06 He was staring.

34:08 He's very beautiful that way.

34:17 Now Debra my daughter.

34:21 Who has so lucky at the age of 10 to get to know her great-grandfather. She has all her grandparents and she also has a great grandparents who she calls Saba.

34:38 And Deborah, do you have any stories that you want to share that Saba?

34:50 Really humorous and one time when we went down to Florida to visit him with the family. We were all in the car and we are rushing around every restaurant for the restaurant didn't look like it would taste good. Then the restaurant had too big of line and we kept on calling I think your cousins and saying oh no, we're going to this place and that and finally we chose on a place and then my dad got lost and he asked Saba which way do I turn left or right inside of a said? How should I know? I am not a genius. I don't go here everyday.

35:34 And really and then several so we were trying to find out what assortment of foods he would like to have at his big party for the hundredth birthday and

35:52 We were at this place and they he was ordering black bean soup and whenever my dad asked him he said black bean soup. What would you like to have a black bean soup 5 minutes later. What would you like black bean soup? So Ashley stop it wouldn't complain about any thing that he would eat. He he would be happy with whatever he would eat. But he he was an adventurous theater you can serve in anything and he'd enjoy it was his favorite lunches these days. It is black bean soup with rice and it is Cafe Cubano served in the little paper cups the sweeter the better like a very

36:43 Wise and I'm not just saying this for old people my grandpa's wise to but Saba has lots of good morals and lots of good signs and he's giving he has given me good advice how to stay calm and stuff like that and a couple days ago. I was in a competition and I took his advice advice not to freak out when you're just like the last person in my piano competition and I took his advice and I won third prize which was big for me because I didn't think I would want anything and I'm really sorry about him and and how to stay relaxed. Yeah, and I'm really glad that Grandpa's I mean Sabbath still here and that

37:42 Double digits was big for me, but triple digits is going to be really big for him. And everyone triple digits is really impressive.