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Interview with Gladys Lavitan

Interviewee: 
Lavitan, Gladys Kahn
Interviewer: 
Greeson, Jennifer
Date of Interview: 
1993-07-01
Identifier: 
MULA0019
Subjects: 
Theater-North Carolina-Charlotte; Carolina Theatre; Little Theatre of Charlotte; Broadway Theatre; Temple Beth El; Temple Israel; Golden Circle Theatre; Mint Museum of Art; WAYS Radio Station; Judaism; Great Depression; D. H. Hill Elementary School; Books and reading;
Abstract: 
Gladys Kahn Lavitan was born in Augusta, Georgia but moved to Charlotte as an infant, where she grew up on Queens Road, attending D. H. Hill Elementary School and graduating from Central High. "I was just so stage struck from the time I was a kid" she says, and her first appearance onstage was at age eight in a Charleston dance contest at the Broadway Theatre on Tryon Street. She took her first drama class in junior high school, landing the lead role of an old Cockney charwoman in their one-act play and leading the school to a win in the Tri-State drama tournament in Chapel Hill. Her first audition at fourteen to become the youngest member of the Little Theatre met with great success, and over the years she played to positive crowds in many Little Theatre productions. After her graduation from high school, Lavitan studied drama in New York, although she disliked the city environment. She married and settled again in Charlotte, becoming active in the Golden Circle Theatre, directed by Dorothy Masterson, as well as the Little Theatre. While her husband was in Europe during World War II, Lavitan auditioned for a summer stock company near Washington, D. C., where she acted with Tony Randall until she was called overseas to live with her husband in occupied Germany. Upon their return to Charlotte, she began working as a broadcaster at WAYS radio in Charlotte, where she had a regular show until 1960, interivewing such luminaries as actress Gloria Swanson and vice-president Alvin Barkley when they happened through town. She remained active in local theatre, has had roles in several major motion pictures in the last ten years, and currently makes both radio and television commercials. Lavitan played a role in the founding of the Jewish reform Temple Beth El in 1948 and has served on the board of directors of the Temple for many years. [by Jennifer Greeson, interviewer]
Coverage: 
Charlotte, 1930s-1980s
Interview Setting: 
Gladys Lavitan recounts memories with lively body language and a remarkably warm and expressive voice. As she relates childhood memories, her voice takes on childlike wonder and awe; when she speaks of adult employments, her speech style is much more matter-of-fact and streetwise. She maintains a charming sense of humor throughout, always willing to poke fun at herself or at other hapless figures in her life story. Lavitan had many worries on her mind on this day. She greeted me by telling me of her husband's progressive illness; he had fallen that morning and was in adult day care for the afternoon. The interview was interrupted a few times by phone calls from lawyers or insurance agents. Despite these situations, she remained pluckily hospitable, showing me around her home and continuing to converse after the conclusion of the interview, although she had elected not to continue taping. She was the only interview subject who seemed happy to see the tape recorder; it reminded her of the reel-to-reel recorder she had used to do interviews for WAYS radio. A fragment of her shop talk about tape recorders is at the very beginning of side one. The interview was conducted at 2527 Roswell Avenue, Charlotte, NC. [by Jennifer Greeson, interviewer]
Collection: 
Levine Museum of the New South, Professional Women Series
Collection Description: 
Interviews in the Professional Women series are the product of a summer internship with the Museum of the New South created in cooperation with the Benjamin N. Duke Leadership Program of Duke University The internship was supported financially by that program, the Duke Power Company Foundation and the Museum.
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
JG (Jennifer Greeson): All right. I'm with Mrs. Gladys Lavitan in her home, and it`s the first of July, and it`s about fifteen after one in the afternoon. And Mrs. Lavitan thanks so much to talking to us today for the Museum of the New South. I`m here to talk to you about Charlotte, growing up in Charlotte, your experience of Charlotte, and also your acting career and all your work in the arts in Charlotte and beyond so--.
GL (Gladys Lavitan): Thank you! [Laughter] Do you want me just to start or would, or do you have any specific questions?
JG: Well, you know I`m supposed to; I`m, I`m, I`m very interested in whatever anecdotes come to mind. Whatever stories you have to tell, and I can`t ( ) a specific question.
GL: Well, let`s see. It was a long--I, I suppose my earliest memories, as a child would, would be when I was in school. Well, I don`t really remember the, the early days, the--. I remember being in, in the elementary school. But before the third grade, it`s ha, it`s fuzzy. But from the third grade on, that I remember. I remember I went to a school called the D.H. Hill Elementary School. And we had a big cannon that was from the Civil War that was on the grounds, facing out toward South Tryon Street. The school, at that time, was pretty much where, where the YMCA is on Morehead Street now. But, that whole block was schools. One was D.H. Hill and right in back of it was a school called Alexander Graham Junior High School, which of course was torn down later on. It was new then, but you know, just like usually when anything is twenty-five or thirty years old, instead of remodeling or doing anything they tear it down and rebuild. But I remember that we were, we had no grass on the ground. It was dirt. We had no cafeteria to have food. We could get-there was a little stand built in to the, into the building, and we could get sandwiches-I remember egg salad and chicken salad and ham. I remember I could get a sandwich and a bottle of milk for fifteen cents. Can you believe? [laughter] That really did happen then. I had wonderful teachers. The teachers were great, and a lot of wonderful students at the school. It was a, it was a happy time for me, because we had games during recess. And the funny thing is, some of the people who were in school with me in those days just I`m still friendly with them. You grow up here, and it was a small town Charlotte was, when I was growing up. I don`t remember what the population was, but the traffic was not like it is today. And the town was a friendly town. It was warm. You knew most--, all of us knew each other. And I remember being in school and having wonderful teachers and looking forward to going to junior high school. And it was in junior high school that I first started being interested in theater. Because they had drama, and I remember when I heard that that was something I could sign up for, I got so excited. I had a teacher by the name of Mr. Farrington, and they, this was the, really exciting to me. It was one morning we were going into a, assembly in the auditorium. And they didn`t have-it wasn`t alive, they had a radio like on the stage. And we could listen to Dr. Walter Damrosch explaining the woodwinds and the, he was talking about an orchestra and the sounds it made. And I remember lis, sitting there listening and thinking he has an accent. And he would say, "Shildren." Not children, but "Shilderen, zis is ze sound of voodvings." [Laughs] I remember thinking oh that would be nice to be able to mimic, you know, to be able to talk like that, because it sounded so elegant to me. I had never heard it like that and I liked it. But I remember being interested in the sound of the music and thinking, if only voices would be as attractive as music. You know, not flat, not nasal, but just have a rhythm and a bound to it. And that sitting near to me was Mr. Farrington. And I looked over at him and I said, "Mr. Farrington, I heard that you`re having a drama class. Do you think I can get in?" "Oh;" he said, "Yes, just sign up:" And then he`d sort of go away, you know. He didn`t want me to bother him because we were listening to the music. I went and signed up for drama, and when I got into the part I asked, I auditioned for a part in a, in a small one-act play called "The Old Lady Shows Her Medals", by James M. Barry. And I got the leading role. And I can still remember being so excited about it. It was the story of a, of a charwoman in London who has no family. And she always lets people think she`s been married, but she`s never been married. And she lies to her other charladies, her friends, that she has a son in the service. See, it`s World War I. And they think they`re going to catch her out in a lie, but she does find this serviceman who is as alone as she is. And he lets her, she tells him her story, and he lets them think that he really is her son. And it`s the whole, whole thing about, he takes her out for dinner, and she comes back with, and she said, "And we had champagny wine, and for them as doubts me word, here`s the cork." And she held the cork, holds the cork up. It was a delightful play. And we took it to Chapel Hill for the Tri-State Tournament. North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, I think, were the three states. And we, we played at the playhouse in Chapel Hill and we won. We won the award. I was so proud of it, I really was. And that`s where I met some of the finest teachers, professors. I remember Professor Koch was there, and Sam Seldon, who was with the Playmakers. Then when I came back after that, the Little Theatre of Charlotte was beginning. It had begun a year or so before, but I had never been there. Somebody invited me to go to the, to see a play, and I loved it. It was, I can still remember the play. It was "Holiday" [Laughs.] was the name of the play, and Tom Humble was the director. So then for the next season, I joined the Little Theatre. And I think I was thirteen, no four, maybe fourteen at the time. And this was after I played at Chapel Hill. And I went down to watch auditions, and somebody called out my name, and I was embarrassed, because I was only a kid, and they were all adults. And I really felt I shouldn`t be up there trying to read or do anything. But it would make more of a scene if I held back and said, "No, no, I don`t want to go." You know I, I, I didn`t want to do that either. So the lesser of the two evils was to just go up there and do whatever I could. And I got on the stage, and Walter Spearman, who was the professor of journalism later at the University of North Carolina, Walter was holding the book and they were reading from the book of, from this play "Royal Family of Broadway"; "The Royal Family"; which is a story about the Barrymores, more or less. And I was to read the young girl`s part, and I started, and I think I read about three lines. And Thomas Humble came up to the steps and he said to me, "Turn to page fifty-two and read Fanny`s part." Well, Fanny was the old woman, seventy-two years old. And--but I, I, I knew--I just knew the way the words were written, I could feel Fanny. And I read it and he called me and gave me a part in the play of a small part. And I went down to the first rehearsal. Mrs. Garibaldi, whose husband owned Garibaldi and Bruns at that time, was very active with the Little Theatre, and she was going to play Fanny. I had the part of the maid. And I read, again that night, the first night of rehearsal I read. And the next day I got home from school and my mother said, "Mr. Humble called you." So I called back to find out what, what he wanted, and he said he wanted me to come down to the theater. Well, I cried all the way from my home on Queens Road down to the Little Theatre, which at that time was at the Thompson Orphanage on Fourth Street in the auditorium part, which is now--St. Mary`s Chapel is still there. But at that time it was a big, big building, and they had a big, big auditorium with a nice big stage. And the acoustics were good. I said, "Mother, oh, I must have been so bad. I must have been horrible. He`s going to take the part away from me. I just know it. I was just rotten." And she said, "You don`t know what`s going to happen till you get there." When I got there, he was upstairs in his office, and I had to climb over some woodpiles on the floor, they were building sets, and a lot of rags and stuff. I tell you, it was a real dumpy looking place he had. [Laughs.] But then, anything with theater, behind the scenes it`s always messy. And he was sitting behind the desk, and my mother went with me. And he told me, he said, "Gladys, I decided to take that part away from you. I want you to do Fanny." And my mother said, "But Mr. Humble, she`s only a child." And he said, "That`s all right. She can do it." So I got the part. And I memorized it, and I remember he wanted to make me look real old. He always had a tendency of putting putty on my nose, to make it look like a beak, you know? And, and he made my chin, because he said its, old people have chins that stick out and noses--I don`t know. Ears have to be bigger, and--but it was interesting, because I learned a lot about makeup with watching them do me every time before I did the show. And we did it and it was a very good play. Then life at school was fun, I loved it. I remember, I remember one thing, I always loved to read books. Ever since I was a child. I learned to read very, very early, before I ever went to school. And a book to me was just heaven. Well, I got money every day for lunch, and that was my lunch money, and then I always got a quarter every week for, to buy candy or something. I developed, that`s when I stopped eating lunch. I stopped eating lunch to save my money, and when I would have a dollar, a whole dollar, I`d walk from school to the, the Brockmann`s Book Store, which was on Tryon Street, n, north, South Tryon, South Tryon Street. South Tryon Street. And I would go into the bookstore, and I still remember, I`d go to the children`s department where the books were. And I was too stingy to buy just one book, and I couldn`t afford two. So I stood up and read one real fast. That`s how I learned to be a speed-reader. I read one book really fast, put it back in the case, and paid for the second one. And Mr. Brockmann knew exactly what I was doing. [Laughs.] He wrote about it in something he wrote about Mecklenburg County. That was one of the things he wrote about, that he would see me with the books and he knew what it meant to me. Also, the library, the public library was where it is now, but it was a big different type of building. Not modern, but really very classical. And in the children`s, they had the children`s books in a separate part of the building. You entered from the side, not the front. And I remember I`d read just about every darn book in that book-that they had there for children. And I proved it by writing a precis of every single solitary book that I had read. And gave it to the, to the librarian that was in charge. So they gave me special permission to use the adults book department. And my father used to say that any time you saw some legs, and books all the way, and you couldn`t see a face, you could be sure that I was behind it, because that was my joy. Other kids would go out and play and I`d go to the library and sit and read. Or just go through the books. I loved to go to the theater. I loved the Little Theatre, I really did. And I worked with them for many, many years. I did one thing that was of interest, and I think I`ll mention this. When I was fifteen, I got a telephone call from Tom Humble. It seems that they were getting ready to do a play called "The Torch Bearers", and Mrs., Mrs. Tom Jimison was her name, was to play the lead. He had gotten--, we they, the play was to open on Tue, on Tuesday, I think it was a Tuesday night. The play was to open on a Tuesday night, and this was the day before on a Monday. He got a telephone--, a telegram from her saying she had accepted a position in Washington, was leaving immediately, she was sorry to leave them in the lurch, but this was something she needed to do. So he was panicked. Here all the publicity had been out in the paper, the tickets were sold, everything was ready to go. He called me and he said, "I`ve got the script. I want you to see if you can memorize it overnight. We`ll have one run, run though Tuesday evening. Everybody`s going to show up about five o` clock. We`ll have a run-through for your positions, and then you, the play starts at eight thirty." I stayed up all night. I memorized that whole long part, and it was three full acts and I had the lead. I memorized it. I went down Monday night, I mean Tuesday, and we did the, the run-through with the cast. The people came in. We went through with not a hitch at all. Everything went fine. And David Ovens was writing a column for the Charlotte Observer at that time, and he was in the audience. He did not believe that I was fifteen years old. They always stuffed me with pillows to give me a big bosom and you know, to make me look heavy. He came backstage and he said to Tom, "I want to see what she really looks like without the make-up." And then he did. I met him. And he said, "Well, you really are a teenager." And he was surprised. He wrote it up in, in his column. And let me think what else. I was, I, I just, I, I went on to, to, I went to the high school, Central High. Had the most wonderful teachers, and Dr. Garinger was my principal and I adored him. I really think, when I look back, I couldn`t-I don`t think there is anything in this world as wonderful as living in a city like Charlotte was. And is, probably, today, except it`s so much bigger. It was a friendly city. It was a warm city. We had wonderful schools and wonderful schoolteachers. And of course, we didn`t have the problems they have with schools today. The only problem I think we ever had was the fact that people smoked, and it was against the rules. So, Dr. Garinger said when school would get out at 3:00, he used to watch all the kids going up the street, up Elizabeth Avenue. And he said it looked like a furnace going up the street with the smoke going constantly. [Laughter] But actually, we were very respectful of our teachers. I don`t think any of us ever, well, were disrespectful. And we had teachers that we loved. I did. I, I loved them. I, I was very, very fond of my school and my teachers. Then, after school, I went off to, to I went off to study theater. I went to New York and I studied theater in New York. And of course, then I met my husband and I got married and--. I, I just, well, I, I don`t know how, I, I stayed in Charlotte. I, I worked hard with different groups, mostly with my temple group when we started a temple. It was during World War II when the temple was started here. And my husband was a veterinarian, and he had been a veterinarian. He graduated Cornell veterinary school, medical school, and came to Charlotte. Worked for the health department. And then was called to service. We were living on, on Ardsley Road then. And I can still remember the Sunday that we were sitting in-I, I remember sitting at a desk, writing, I was writing notes on Christmas cards that I was getting ready to send out. And he was wrapping Christmas presents. And we had the radio on. And there was a break that, that said, "News flash. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor." And then it went on playing music. And I looked up and said, "Where`s Pearl Harbor?" I never had heard of it. My husband said, "That`s Hawaii!" I said, "Hawaii? They can`t do that that`s us! If they attacked Hawaii, they`re attacking America, and they`re crazy. We`ll wipe them out in one week. They`re just a little island." Well, my husband went to the closet and took out his uniform and started polishing the brass. He was a reserve officer. He said, "If they have attacked Pearl Harbor, its war." And then a little bit later, they broke in again, but this time they didn`t say it was Pearl Harbor-they didn`t say it was the Japanese. They said an enemy had attacked Pearl Harbor. And then they kept on playing music. But one of our friends was Reid Serat, who was at that time city editor at the Charlotte News. And he called and said, "We`re getting out an extra. If you want a copy of the paper, come on down." I called my father, and I said, "Dad, Japan has attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and it looks like we might be going to war:" And my dad, I said, "You better turn on that radio." And my father said, "Oh, dear God." And put the phone down. Didn`t say another word to me. Ran to turn on the radio. And we went downtown and got the newspaper. Reid had given it to us. The ink was still not dry on the paper, but it was a big headline. And we were driving our car along Tryon Street near the Square, and I was holding the paper like this reading, and the, we didn`t have buses then, we had streetcars. The streetcar came along beside us, and a man sitting at the window caught the sight of the newspaper. And he rapped on the window and lowered it. He said, "What`s that say?" And I held it for him so he could see it. And I can still remember what he said. He read the headline, and underneath, "Japan Attacks." And he said, "Well, they started it, but we`ll finish it." And I thought he was right, you know. I thought oh, this will be over in a week, you know. This, it, they can`t possibly stand against the United States. Of course, you know, and in those days, we were in the Depression. The Depression had not lifted yet. It had been very, very bad. I remember Charlotte during the Depression. I remember getting, I remember seeing people standing in line from early in the morning until quite late to get food, surplus foods that were being given. I remember the CCC camps being started to give boys and well, people a chance, young people a chance to work and be outdoors and reforest places and do things, and keep them out of trouble and give them something. It wasn`t a dole, they were working. They, it wasn`t just work, they really were working for what they got, and they got a good background in work ethics, as well as education. So I remember the alphabets that Franklin Roosevelt started. And I remember the discussion that people would have about; they made fun of the alphabet soup. But that alphabet soup helped a lot. WPA workers. I can still remember how many people needed that. We, you don`t realize. I remember we lived on Queens Road. And I can remember during the Depression how many houses, beautiful homes, all over town, including Queens Road, you`d see would have kerosene lamps because the electricity was off, because they couldn`t afford to pay for the electricity. A lot of people gave up their telephones. Of course, it was only like three dollars a month for a telephone, but they felt they couldn`t pay it. I don`t think people realize what a terrible Depression it was. And at that, Charlotte was better off than most places, because we were a diversified area. We were not a one, one type of, of industry. We didn`t depend just on cotton, and we didn`t depend on tobacco. We did not depend on those things. We had various elements that made up a good, a good harmony of, of jobs for people. They were, they were, people could find things to do. We had trouble, and we did not-there were many people that suffered, and suffered very, very heavily during the Depression, but still, people were going into the stores. I remember I got--, I worked on radio for a number of years. I started with WAYS. It, it really came about. I don`t really, I don`t remember, oh, I do know right now. I was asked to do a play, a radio play, about the Red Cross. And it was done on the air. I think on WSOC. Yeah, because that`s the first time I`d ever seen a microphone. And I was used to, as an actress, I was used to projecting. Making my voice boom so they could hear me in the back row. And I practically blew the tubes out of the radio station when I got in front of the mike. But I started with that, and then they offered me the job at WAYS to have my own show. And I did, and loved doing it. And I can still, I remember getting up in the morning and going down and ripping off the, the teletype with the news. And I didn`t plan it I, I was--. My, my work was mainly, on the radio was strictly ad-lib. And people would write me letters, and I would answer them on, on the air you know whatever and they would write in. And I did interviews with some very, very fine people. I, I remember only one time did I ever have any, anybody that I really disliked. I don`t know if I should tell this. I had, one of my sponsors was a florist, and we had, it was near Thanksgiving. We were bringing in a celebrity, a, a movie star, who was to be queen of the Thanksgiving parade. And she was being paid quite a lot of money to come in and this parade going down Tryon Street, she would be the queen of the parade. So, my station had paid to put in a line at the airport for me to go down and greet her when she came off the plane, and to give her the, the orchid. It was an orchid. It was live. They couldn`t cut me off. [Laughs.] I mean it wasn`t like you tape today and you could erase it. She came off the plane and I greeted her, and I asked her if she had a pleasant flight. And she said, "Yes" but not another word. So then I had to think of another question. And I said, "Is this your first trip to Charlotte?" "Yes." "Well, have you ever been in North Carolina before?" "No." By that time, I was, I was really getting angry. And I have red hair, and it`s natural. I, and I had a temper to match it. And I was just about that time, ready to throttle her. If she had not been an actress, I wouldn`t have been angry. I would have felt she was intimidated by the microphone. But as an actress, she was able to handle a microphone and able to do this and she just felt, "This is a small town and it doesn`t make any difference whether I`m polite or not." So I said to her, with a smile, I said, "Oh, dear, I`m sorry, but I can see by the bags under your eyes that you`re too fatigued to be interviewed." And they were going crazy at the station! [Laughs.] They didn`t know what they were going to do. They couldn`t cut me off. And I just threw the, the orchid to her and left. [Laughs.] Went off. And they called me the next day at the station, they, they her agent did. Asked me to come down and she wanted to apologize to me. And I didn`t go down. I, it, I, I wasn`t, I still am annoyed with her. Isn`t that funny? It`s all these years and I still feel that her attitude was, as, it was like, and "You don`t count and what you`re trying to do doesn`t mean a thing to me and I`m not going to cooperate with you." And I really annoy, was annoyed. And I thought, my city is very important. It`s just as important as Chicago or New York or Hollywood. I felt it was a slap in the face to Charlotte. And I took it as a, not as only as personal, but I felt my town had been insulted by her attitude. And so to this very day, I`ve never liked that woman. I think she`s dead now. [Laughs] And I, I, I haven`t really followed. I don`t know. But that was the only time I think I ever really got annoyed doing any radio work. And I loved radio. And then, of course, I during the war when my husband was overseas, I decided - my brother was overseas, too. When the war ended, he came back from service in 1946. And we got a house in Washington, D.C. We rented, my mother and Douglas my little boy, and myself and my brother. We all had this house in Washington. And there was a, a, an audition being held on Vermont Avenue for an equity company, a professional acting company, that was going to be playing in Omni Theater in Maryland, which is right outside of Washington. And I decided, I`ll just go down and audition. I did. I gave them my name and my telephone number and my picture, and I read for them, and I left. I was coming to Charlotte to do a commentary for a fashion show for a charity bazaar, and I had promised to do it. I got down here, I was working with the women and the clothes, when the phone rang. And it, they called me from Washington to say they have a contract for me to be in the Omni Theater. And I said, "Oh, I can`t come. [Laughs] I can`t come until after, after the, after the fashion show." Do you know they waited for me? [laughter] I can`t believe it but they did, but they were kind enough. I went up there, I signed the contract, I went to stay at Omni, it was a gorgeous theater. And Mimi Norton and I shared the-we were the two female steady company-we shared a little sitting room and a bedroom and bath in the upstairs, and the men all had just little rooms down the way. And we were-it was a stock company, summer stock- we worked from 10 in the morning until late afternoon rehearsing the show that was to be given the following week and that night we were doing a different show. It used to drive me nuts. I`d worry, what will I do if I forget which play I`m in? But it was a nice company. I worked with Tony Randall, who today is a very prominent actor, and he was nice. Tony was a lovely man, and Mimi Norton, who was a fine actress. And then there was a man by the name of Michael Ellis. I liked Michael. He was a very fine actor, but he really didn`t want to be an actor. He wanted to be a producer and a director. And years and years later, after I finished acting there-because I left after a while-I was there most of the summer. And then as soon as the government told me it was time to go to Europe to join my husband, I went to Germany. But I remember how, how excited I was to be in this, at this Omni Theater. And I, I made friends with them all. It was enjoyable. I did a number of shows there. In fact, the first fan letter I got in my life was from someone in Washington who had seen me in one of the plays. And I, I went, I, I, where was I? We went to, I went to Europe in `46. I stayed with Omni until they, until they notified me from the State Department that I was ready to go. And years later, after I`d been in Germany with my husband, after the, we`d come back to Charlotte and built our home and moved in here, one of my friends was Fred Vinroot. Fred Vinroot was a very fine actor and I`d acted with him in many plays at the Little Theatre. In fact, I acted in lots of plays at the Little Theatre. Fred was going to go with his family to New York. He wanted to get into show business. And I told him to call Michael Ellis, because Mike, by that time had become a producer and a director on Broadway. I got a letter in the mail from Michael Ellis in which he said, "After all these years, I finally found out where you are." And he told me about Fred coming to see him, and he told me about himself. And it was nice to touch base after all those years. Most people don`t realize it but you, there`s a comradeship that builds up in acting or working. Working within the theater group. And that`s the thing that I miss now. I`ve been active with the Golden Circle Theater because I loved working with Dorothy Masterson at the Mint. And when I worked at the Mint Museum, it was just; it was such a pleasant experience. Even though everybody said, "How did you get along with Dorothy?" Because she was very demanding. But I liked her perfectionism. She was so professional, so perfectionist. You could not, when you went on the stage after she directed you, you knew that if you were to sit down, that chair was there. You didn`t have to even look. You know it would be in the right place, because she checked everything. Your hem would have to, if a hem was not even, she knew it. Every, everything was perfect. It was a superior group of people that acted with her. Nobody got paid. There was never any payment. And I honestly hate to say it, but I honestly believe in my heart that we did better work than some of the professional plays that are so-called professional where people get paid. I think that the true word amateur, which means the love, to love something, is, is, is bound up in the perfectionist group that we were. Because every one of us knocked ourselves out to do the best we could. And we loved it. It was a good bonding relationship. We were friends, and we never were jealous of each other. It was, it was really great. Now, today, I think it`s wonderful that we have Spirit Square. And I think it`s marvelous that we have the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. And I think that what we have is beautiful and wonderful. But I don`t think that the, I don`t think that the bonding, the friendship, the comradeship, the camaraderie is not there, because it, they can`t do it. You can`t do it professionally because you`re too busy with so many things. You come in, you do your job, you get through, you go somewhere else. And it isn`t, it isn`t like it was when we had a little group always together. Now the Little Theatre has changed, too. See, in my day, we never did musicals. We did theater that was good. Light, not necessarily heavy. Tom would throw in a heavy play every now and then, but mostly, especially in the early years when people were so blue because of the Depression, he wanted to cheer people up. But we did excellent--and when we built the theater on Queens Road, it was over a graveyard. And the city gave that land to the Little Theatre, but on condition that they dig up any graves that are there. So we dug, everybody they, they, the theater paid for it to have the graves dug, but we never found a grave. So it must not have been in that area, but somehow or other that had been marked down. But we built the theater there. And I don`t know what happened, but towards the end of the building somehow they discovered they`d run out of money for the roof. It sounds crazy, but it was, I remember Tom telling me, "We don`t have enough money for the roof. And how can you have a theater without a roof?" And some man who never wanted his name known-I don`t know who he is to this day-heard about it and gave a check. Gave the money to put the roof on. And he said he wanted to remain anonymous. So as far as I know, I never knew who it was. But we did get the roof on. And we had our theater. And it was, it was wonderful. Of course, you got to the point where you knew the people coming in. Even the audience was part of our friends. And I, it gave you a good feeling. I remember Tom coming back to the Green Room before the curtain would go up and he`d say, "You know, we have a wonderful audience tonight. Now, they`re here to be entertained. They`re not here to criticize you. Go out there and have a good time and give them a good show!" And we did. We gave them good shows. And now that the years have gone by, of course, now I, what I do today, and I like what I do, I still work with my temple, and I love my temple very much. I`m very proud of Shalom Park. I think it`s a beautiful enclave there. And it`s, it`s really, I, I don`t know if you know it or not, but Temple Beth El, which is my temple, is built, even before I ever saw it. When I first saw the temple, before anyone even mentioned it to me, I said, "It`s just exactly like the Solomon`s temple in Jerusalem." They copied it. It`s-the, the wings, you know? If you, if you go to the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, there ho, is a place called the Holy Land Hotel. And they had in miniature all the scenes of what Jerusalem looked like at the, in the early days when the temple of Solomon was built. And it was really it was beautiful. And I remember when I was, years ago, when I would tear the sheets off--. Oh, by the way, one of the other people that I worked with in Charlotte was Charlie Kuralt. Charles was working at WAYS in the, in the technical part. He would be running the--, I would be doing my show, and he`d be doing things in the other room, and then when I would be going too long, he would tell me, "Hurry it up, hurry it up." I could see his hand wheeling like this in order to get me to finish. And he was only in high school in those days. But already he was excellent. There was something so fine about Charles. And I, I like him. When the Mint Museum started to throw the Guild out, the Golden Circle, the Mint Museum Guild, when they decided, and this has been a number of years back. We had been there almost 30 years. Dorothy had started; we did it originally with just Reader`s Theater. And then we branched out. And then, when they built the theater part, it was built for the Golden Circle. It because, people would come to the Golden Circle Theater to see the plays, and then see the, the, how beautiful the Mint was, and then a lot of them would become members and become very interested in the Mint. But as one of the men said, one of the men leading one of the groups there said, "Well, we don`t consider art anything that doesn`t hang on a wall." So they didn`t want a theater. And this was said to us. They didn`t want the theater. They wanted us out. They made it very plain, they wanted the Golden Circle Theater out of the Mint. Well, there was a hullabaloo about it. I don`t know if you were here at the time, but in fact, Gene Payne did one of the cleverest cartoons I`ve ever seen in the Charlotte Observer, showing a tornado coming across the Mint and it says underneath, "We Make Our Own Tornadoes." [Laughs] We had a lot of problems. But, and, and the Golden Circle, of course, that was the end of it because it, for a long time. And then it was revived later on by Sydnore Thompson, who is a wonderful, hard civic worker. He`s worked with the symphony and his wife is a fantastic pianist, Harriet Thompson. Sydnore`s one of the finest men I`ve ever known and one of the most devoted to the arts. He rejuvenated the Golden Circle. And this time we had no place to give our, our plays, and the Jewish Community Center gave us Gorelick Hall. And we moved in there and gave our plays there for I think, a couple of years. And then we, now what, what happened, the Charlotte Repertory Company has absorbed, has joined. Golden Circle is part of the Charlotte Rep Company. And it`s a very good, I`m sure that it`s working out fine. My problem is, I just don`t like to go to town. And, I, I alone at night, I won`t go to town. I just won`t. I don`t think it`s, it`s not the town I used to know. Years ago we used to park on Tryon Street and walk up and down Tryon and meet people and look in windows, because the shops were there, and people would, but now, at 5:30, it`s like a deserted canyon when you go down. And I just, I just don`t feel like going down at night. I would rather go, when I go to see anything in town, I would rather go for a matinee. I feel you know it`s still daylight when I get out and I can come home. But we do have, we have a good opera company here in Charlotte today. And I, I love the opera. Some of them have been fantastic. They`re beautiful. And we have a good symphony orchestra, although they`ve had problems financially, but they`ll get, it`ll, it`ll work out, because they are a group of very fine people. And then we have the arts, which is Spirit Square, you have the arts there. And you have the repertory companies, which are doing a great job now. And of course, Charlotte is a very sophisticated and, what else can I say, it`s a, it`s a big city today. [Laughs] In fact I, I sometimes feel like going down to the bus stations, the airports and places go "Go home! Don`t come! Don`t make it any bigger than it is!" But I do love it, and I, I always will. I, I just cannot believe that I could ever be comfortable living anywhere but Charlotte. I, I love it. That was my home. I can still remember as a, as a young, as a kid, as a child, I was always late getting Christmas presents for my friends at school. We used to exchange Christmas presents. I was always, the day before Christmas, I was down there, trying to get the last, Oh, I forgot so-and-so and I forgot so-and-so and I have to get something. And but it was a happy thing. It wasn`t unhappy. It was a happy occasion, and it was always pleasant and the lights were out and it was really attractive. But even the streetcars ran on time. Now, today, you know, you never really can tell when you`re going to get the bus. It`s, it`s they come. They make many stops. But, of course, there are more people to put on the bus today and more people to let off, more stops. But when you had a streetcar, it was, you know, it was electric it went up--. I can still remember, it was Duke Power, but they didn`t call it that, they called it Southern something. I remember we had tickets you would buy for the streetcar, and they were seven cents apiece. [Laughter] That was, that was the che, price in those days, seven cents apiece. That`s about what I remember. If there`s anything I`ve left out that you want me to talk about?
JG: Oh sure let`s see. [pause] You, you talked a little bit about the Broadway Theatre. LG: Yes. There was a Broadway Theatre on, on Tryon Street, and they would have movies, and then they`d have a stage show, like vaudeville, in between. And when I was in the third grade-I was eight years old-they were having a Charleston contest. And I always wanted to go on the stage. Is that, is it, do you have to turn it?
JG: I think so. I think so.
GL: All right. The Broadway Theatre was a movie house on Tryon Street, South Tryon on the, almost where, almost to where Fourth Street would be. Just a little past Fourth Street was the theater. And they had vaudeville, in between the showing of the movies, there would be a skit or two. Well, they were going to have a Charleston contest. I was in the third grade at D.H. Hill School, and I wanted desperately to get on the stage. I was just so stage struck from the time I was just a kid. So I told my parents I was going to spend the night at my girlfriend`s house and my dad and mother took me over to her house, let me off there after school, that early in the evening. And I went up there and told them at the Broadway Theatre-Mr. Rudisill, I think, was the name of the man who was the manager-he said, do I have my parents permission to go on the stage? And I said "yes", which was a lie. And so the next day, the, I went, I went to my friend`s house and then I went to town and I went on the stage. Fortunately for me, because I didn`t know that, I did not know how to Charleston, I was the last person on. And I saw what everyone else did, so I went out, and I could do all the basic steps, and I made up all the rest. And it was just great. Unfortunately, that was the night my father and mother decided to go to the Broadway to see the picture and see the show. [Laughter] And I really got a talking to, but they let me finish. They let me go the next day. And then, when the awards were given out, I won a two and a half dollar gold piece. I still have it. It`s in the bank. [laughter] It`s the first money I ever earned. And of course I was excited about it, but my father told me I must never ever tell another story like that and I mustn`t do things like that. But you know, when you`re eight years old, you don`t really think that you, I said, "I didn`t really tell a lie. I just embroidered a bit." [Laughter] But it was a, it was fun. And then years, years later I was on that same marquee when I was working at WAYS. I had to, I had to cover the Thanksgiving parade and I was doing the live broadcast, climbing out the window of, Mr. Rudisill`s office window, on to the marquee doing a live broadcast with my, my microphone. And there was a man worked at the plate, at the studio also, he was down on the street, covering the street things, and we could talk back and forth. And he disappeared. Nobody ever knew what ever happened to him. He just left his microphone and everything in the office and disappeared he just went. Decided he didn`t like the job anymore and he quit. But we didn`t know about it and here I am wondering, where is he? And I`m holding on to a microphone and covering the, the parade. But it was fun. There, all of this was fun. This was, it was a very happy life here. And of course I, today, when I look at, at Central High School, what was Central, but today it`s CPCC. And it`s excellent, an excellent school. They do terrific things there. I, I think it`s that and UNCC, well I, you know, years later, I decided to study some more at UNCC and I went out there for a year. And I enjoyed it, but it was just too much of a haul to get on the bus and go all the way out to UNCC, so I didn`t finish. I just, just stayed for one year, but I didn`t go back for the second. And I studied drama and playwriting, because I like to write plays. And, and I, I had the, one of the best teachers. I took a course in medieval drama, and it was, it was just, she was just wonderful, a professor Davis. I learned so much. I, I enjoy Shakespeare even more because now I have this background in medieval drama and what the, the words mean to them. What it meant to them in those days and what it means to us now. It was, you know, there`s so much in this town that people don`t realize. Our history, it was rich. It was a rich history. And it`s, it`s growing, it`s getting bigger and bigger and more and more sophisticated, but there is still, there is still a charm about Charlotte, North Carolina, that I do not find in any other city. Now, I wasn`t born in Charlotte. I was born in Augusta, Georgia. But my, when I was a baby, the, they had a terrible tornado. And then the Savannah River overflowed and my mother told my father, "This is it. I`m not staying in this town any more." So they moved, and they came to Charlotte. So of course all I remember, I don`t remember Augusta. I don`t remember anything but Charlotte. As far as I`m concerned, this is where I`ve lived all my life. And although I went to school in New York, you know I never really liked New York. Its too vast, too big, too many people. And I`m short, and you know, when you get in a crowd, elbows used to hit me in the side of my head. Because where somebody`s elbow would be would be right about where my head would be. And when, in a crowd, people shove. So I`m not real keen on great big cities. Even in Europe, London. I loved London, but I, I, I really would be disturbed walking on the streets with crowds. Because not everybody, you know driving a car you keep to the right side of the road. But when people walk on the sidewalks, they don`t walk to the right or the left. They just wander in and out. So you`re dodging half the time. But the thing, the one thing that I really hate to see is the fact that the downtown doesn`t have the big department stores it used to have. It was so much fun to go downtown or uptown I, we called it both. We called it uptown mainly because if you`re walking, you, you`re going up a hill to get up to Tryon Street. But there was so much to do. There were shops to shop in. And I can still remember one thing there was a Walgreen`s that opened here on Tryon Street, a drugstore. And they were offering a free ride in, in an airplane. Now, I had never been in an airplane. This was when I was still a kid. And I made out, they you`d put your name on a slip and dropped it in the box, and I almost didn`t put it in the box because I figured, I`ll never win anything. But I did drop it in, and by George, I won a ride in the airplane. Well, we were, I loved it. I wasn`t frightened. You don`t get frightened when you`re young. You just think something will happen to somebody else, not to you. So I enjoyed seeing all of Charlotte from an airplane when I was about, I must have been eleven, twelve maybe, that`s all. And it was, it was big enough to cover. Today we`re so spread out it`s become such a big place. But it`s, as I said before, it`s still a very lovely, warm, pleasant town. We just have more crime than we used to have but then, that`s over the whole United States.
JG: Did you ever do anything in the Carolina Theatre?
GL: Yes! We did in Carolina; we did a scene from one of the Little Theatre plays. I don`t remember the, what scene it was. I know Martha Milenburg-well, she was Martha Dulin then-Martha Dulin and Tom Humble. I don`t remember who else. It was a big cast. We did scenes from some of the plays that we were doing at the Little Theatre. And we did it in between the movies.
JG: Um-hm.
GL: You`d see a movie and then you`d have the curtain go back and you`d have that, oh, it was great. And I loved the Carolina Theatre, I just thought that was, that was the most wonderful theater. Oh, it was so beautiful. I miss it, I really do. And there was a shop right next door. Always, we`d go in after the theater, and we`d go to this, I don`t remember the name of the place, but it was a soda, you know sodas. And I can still remember we`d eat, some people would have ice cream, but I`d always would have a Coca-Cola with a little vanilla, you know, vanilla ice cream in it. That was my, that was my favorite drink. And then we`d go home, and we`d had a whole evening out, seeing a good movie. Do you know how much movies were when I was going to them? Thirty-five cents for adults, I think, fifteen cents for kids. But thirty-five cents was the admission, so of course everybody went as many as three and four times a week. Because they changed the film often, and there were, oh, there was a, a theater up on Tryon Street. I can`t remember the name of it. It was on the first block of Tryon Street before you reach fourth. But across the street, on the side of the street away from where the First Union and those banks are. And I remember being in the theater one time to see a movie when the theater caught fire. Imperial, that was the name of the theatre, Imperial Theatre. And we, I, I, the picture was about war, about World War I. And I remember Colleen Moore was in it, and there was a, a, a scene where one of the airplanes was shot by German air, air, airmen, and our plane was coming down with smoke, and all of the sudden the theater was full of smoke, and somebody yelled "It`s fire, it`s on fire, the theater is on fire". I want to tell you something it`s dangerous. People should be taught that if anybody yells "fire" in a theater, keep your seat, because people were just falling all over each other. But I wouldn`t budge. My mother was with me and we just sat there, waiting for the crowd to get out. And fortunately, it was just, it really was, the theater was on fire, but it was a very small fire, [Laughs] and they put it out in no time. But in the meantime, everybody had just shoved and pushed and trampled on each other in order to get out. It was a really scary thing when that happened. But I, I can remember that. And to this day, when I go into a theater, or anyplace, any public place now, the first thing I look for is a fire exit. And I think once you have something when you`re tied in, you`re frightened, you look. I look. I always say, "Where is the exit, where is the exit?"
JG: What was it, what was it like going to New York, aside from that you kept getting elbowed in the face?
GL: I stayed at a girls` club on, on 110th Street, and it was all right. I made a lot of friends with people who were students at Columbia University. And I was a, attending drama school. And it was, it was work. I mean I had to learn [Clears throat] I had to learn how to get rid of a southern accent, because I did have one. I still have it when I`m not well. If I don`t feel well, if I, if I start having the flu or you know or a headache or something, I go right straight back to I just can`t do that. And I don`t mean to. I really don`t. It`s not something I put on. Its just, it just happens. And my mother would know that I was feeling sick the minute she`d hear that, that southern accent coming out. Because we, we spoke that way. I remember Charlotte, where the Charlotte Hotel was. Across the street from the First Presbyterian Church on the corner was a, a sandy lot. Nothing was on it. And I can remember chickens pecking away. Believe it or not, on West Trade Street right across from the First Presbyterian Church. Chickens just pecking away at, right at the dirt. [Laughter] I, I remember so well seeing it. And there was a jail on Poplar Street, an old, old jail. I suppose it was torn down years ago, but I remember once walking down there and hearing a woman having a fight with her husband who was in the jail and he was at the window and she was outside on the sidewalk. And she was yelling at him and he was yelling back at her. [Laughter] And I, I thought, now isn`t that interesting? But you see that never happens anymore. [Laughter] All this would happen in small towns.
JG: Let`s see, and you met; did you meet your husband in New York?
GL: No. Met him here. He was at that time, when he graduated from Cornell University he came to Charlotte with the, he was with the government, United States Agriculture Department, health department. And he was here for the Bangs disease. Bangs disease was a very bad thing at that time. Cows who had miscarried or aborted, if they, if it wasn`t, if they weren`t carefully taken care of, would infect the milk so that you would get undulant fever if you drank the milk, if it was raw milk, if it wasn`t pasteurized. So the government was trying to pay for the cows that were sick and not make the farmer suffer. They would, they`d kill the cow, because it was, it just, there was nothing they could do for it. But they would buy the cow from the farmer, and it was my husband`s job to test the cows for undulant fever. To protect the milk supply for people. And of course, after that of course they put in the law about pasteurizing, because when World War II started, the federal government wouldn`t allow their soldiers. We had, the first year before the war started; we had the Tennessee-North Carolina games, which were war games. And I can still--, we weren`t at war. But President Roosevelt must have known something was going to happen. He was trying to prepare a lot of men, so we had a lot of guys came down from all over everywhere, and they were divided into the blue team and the red team, or whatever it is, and they had these, these games. War games. But the government would not allow them to have milk that wasn`t pasteurized. So that was when it became time to pasteurize milk. Plus, we had a blue law. On Sundays, nothing was open. One, I think, one pharmacy in case of emergencies was open to get medicine. But you know something I never noticed it. Today if you said to somebody that everything was closed on Sunday, they`d think, oh, how terrible. We didn`t mind. We, we visited with each--, with your friends. And people went to church in the morning, and then they would sit around on their front porches and fan themselves. We didn`t have air conditioning. And it would be hot. Or you`d go to the park. And somehow or other you, you enjoyed it. But everything changed after, with the war. The war changed things for us. But it, it, it, as I said its just, it was a beautiful, beautiful life. I loved it here. I never wanted to leave. I told my husband years ago, this is the only place I ever wanted to live. I never want to leave it. And you know, I think that`s how I felt about New York. I didn`t like New York. I didn`t like the crowds. I didn`t like the, the atmosphere. People are rude. It`s not true that, you know it doesn`t take any more time to be polite than it does to be rude, but they always claimed that it was because they were in a rush up there that they have to be rude. And they don`t, really. They never say please, they never say thank you. It`s just it`s cold. It`s cold weather, too, in the wintertime, very cold. [Dog growls.] I know, I know. She hears the postman. But I, I just, I`ll stay in Charlotte. My last days will be here. My mother and father loved it, too. My dad was a city councilman, and he was always very involved with politics. Dad was very, very civic-minded. Loved the city, loved Charlotte, loved North Carolina. And he died very young, died in 1943 at the age of 54. He was young. And it was-but I can still-he always used to say, "Just be grateful that we live in Charlotte because it`s such a wonderful city." And I agree with him. I never found anything to, I`ve never found fault with it. Oh of course, I mean, I find some faults you know. I think the taxes are too high [Laughter]. But then everybody does. I don`t care what it is. And, but I do think it`s a good town, I think it`s well run. I think we`re well represented. And I like, I like our city government. I just, you know what it bothers me, only one thing. I get lost. There`re so many new areas. I used to know my way around town; I could go blindfolded from one area to another. I couldn`t do that now. People I know move out, way out to the Arboretum, out around that Raintree and all those areas. I completely get lost. I have to have a map now with designs to, showing me exactly where I`m going. Because I still do book reviews and clubs, and so when I`m, when I`m going out to somebody`s place to give a book review, I have to get instructions on how to get there. And what I do--I don`t do one book. I don`t like to, because if I do one book, they`ll never read it. So what I do is about five or six books. I`ll tell them the author, whether it`s well written or not. What I think of it. And I`ll tell them what books not to read, too, or what, what not to put your money into. Because book clubs, you know, you have to buy a book. Everybody buys a book at the beginning of the year. And books are not cheap anymore, so that you don`t feel that you can invest a lot of money in a book and then find that you detest it. That`s the reason I read them. I buy them and then I read them and I tell them, "This is it or this isn`t." And as far as, I do, I do book reviews, I`ve been doing, for several years, book reviews for the Shepherd Center. And, and I taught Bible at my temple for a long time, and then I have also taught at various churches, too. But I don`t do that really anymore because it takes too much time. But I still like to do my books. And this is just the beginning of it. My bookshelves here are filled with books. I`ve got, we added on a room to put books in there. And if you open up my closet doors, you will get hit by books falling out. But I, I treasure them. I really love a good book. Now, a lot of books, once I read them, I`m not going to read them again. I`ll give them to the public library. But I like the people that I meet that I, at the clubs. And some of the clubs I`ve been doing this for twenty-five, thirty years. And we, in my own book club, I, I always do book reviews. But I love doing book reviews. I love talking to authors. I remember once I did a review, book review on the air, and I talked to the author. The author came through Charlotte, James Street was his name, and I, he, he really, he came from Mississippi, but he said such nasty things about Mississippi that the telephone lines were just jammed at the radio station. People calling up, they wanted to kill him. And I said to him, "How could you say such nasty things about your own state?" He said, "Because it`s my state, I can do that." He said, "If somebody else says something about Mississippi that I don`t like, I`ll get angry." But he said, "If I say it, it`s my own state. I can do it." I said, "But you`ve made so many people angry in Charlotte." He said, "How did I know all these people from Mississippi were living in Charlotte." [Laughter] He write, he wrote well, though. Wrote, I have a number of his books. And we had some good writers come through here. And I talked to them; I did interviews with them, because I usually have read the books. And they were very--, one, one author said to me, "You know, it`s amazing. You actually read my book. So many of them;" he said, "only read the fly-leaf." You know, the blurb on the beginning of the book. But I do read. And if I don`t think a book is good, I will say so. Because I may be wrong, but if I tell somebody to buy a book and they find that they hate it, I feel guilty, because I know they`ve invested some money in it. At least twenty, twenty-five dollars, or thirty. And, you know, I, I read fast, but a lot of people, it takes them several weeks to read a book. It would drive me nuts. I, I have to get through with it fast.
JG: You talked about building a temple near Lenoir.
GL: Yeah. Yeah, well the temple was not built until `48. What happened was it `48? I think it was, yes must have been `48. What happened is, there was only one temple in Charlotte, Temple Israel. It was then called Hebrew United Brotherhood. And it was very it was more orthodox. Now all, there are three branches of Judaism, orthodox, conservative, and reform. Well, since there was only one temple, that`s about the only place you could go, but my family were always reform. And my father was very anxious someday to have a reform temple. So during the war, a group of men got together and decided they would start a reform temple. And my father didn`t live to see it. He died two weeks after the temple meeting. But there was no place to meet. They started out by meeting in the, in the--. First they met at the Masonic yeah, the Masonic building, on Tryon. They had some services there. Then they moved to the Hotel Charlotte, to one room. Then we got more members and they had to move to a bigger area. And then they finally took a place over a grocery store on Morehead Street, and that`s where they stayed until they bought the land on Providence Road and built the first, our first temple. And we were there for what, maybe forty years or more. And then we moved over here to Shalom Park and built this temple. And have you been inside to see it? It`s beautiful. The ark, the wall with, behind the altar is marble that came from Italy. It belonged--, it was in a temple in New Jersey in 1800 and something. The, the people in New Jersey had, had put it up. And then when people moved out of the area, and the area changed and there was no need for a temple any more, they put that particular beautiful marble in storage. And our temple was able to buy it and restore it and put it here, in this sanctuary. It is, it`s magnificent. It`s beautiful. The temple is beautiful. It`s warm and inviting and open. I, I have friends that I have taken with me to the temple, and they`ve all liked it. It`s, it`s really beautiful. And Temple Israel, The Hebrew United Brotherhood changed its name to Temple Israel and they built on Dilworth Road. And it was a wonderful big temple, lovely temple. And then they built over at Shalom Park, too, so there is the JCC, which is the Jewish Community Center, and then there`s this Temple Israel on the one side and Temple Beth El on the other. And everything revolves--, of course the kids love it. They go to JCC, there`s a--, have you ever been in there? I love the, the facilities. It really it`s great. And the, we don`t have Sunday School rooms any more in the temples, because all the children go to the, to their Sunday School rooms in, at the, at JCC. And they have a wonderful swimming pool, and you know, they have all these activities there. It`s really a nice place. And of course, we`re getting a new rabbi. Our rabbi left that had been with us for a number of years. He left to take over a pulpit in California. And we had to hunt for a new rabbi. And [Laughter] I remember I, I was on the board of directors at the time. We were so anxious to get somebody that we could relate to, because you never know, you know. And we had a good, a good pulpit committee, and they found this lovely young man who`ll be here in August. I was so glad they chose him. He was, he is a charming, bright, lovely person and his wife is also extremely lovely. She`s a graphic artist. And I`m hoping that they love Charlotte and will stay with us for a long time, because he, he is delightful. I`m looking forward to seeing him. His name is Rabbi Bennett. And we`ve had, our first rabbi was Rabbi Frankel. He was here for about nine and a half years. He came right soon from the seminary. And he was young, and his wife was young, and we used to, we`d do skits. Friday night was services. After the services, we`d have, we`d go to the fellowship hall, and we would put on plays, little skits, musicals. We`d take a popular song and write different words to it. And the rabbi`s wife was great with music. She, and, and one of the people in our group could play the piano. Just really make it really talk. We used to have the best times. Everybody really looked forward, not only to the service, but to the gathering, the fellowship afterwards. And I think that`s true of most, what Harry Golden used to say. Harry Golden was a friend of mine. Harry Golden used to say, "With Jewish people, there`s no meeting if there`s no eating." [Laughter] And so, we always had something to eat afterwards; cookies, cake and coffee and tea, and then we`d have our little parties, and we`d sing songs like "Night and Day". We`d, we`d put other words to it. And there was one I remember distinctly. It was, one of the girls got a black something and did a skeleton on it, and she came out singing, Take all of me. [Laughter] And, and it was funny; the whole thing was the fun we had. It was really great. And of course we`re a big temple now.
JG: Didn`t you have a woman as a rabbi at one point?
GL: No, we never did. But we had a woman president of the temple. And that`s unusual. But we, women, in reformed Judaism, women have as much right as men. There is no, you don`t put them down. Women serve on the board of the directors. Women can be rabbis; we just have never had one. Women can be presidents of our temple. Women are accorded the same respect and the same power as any man. Which is not true in the orthodox. I have a friend, a Presbyterian minister that I had a great deal of affection for, and he said, of course, he was fundamentalist, and he said to me, "Well, the Bible says the man is the head of the house." And I said, "Well, what about the woman?" He said, "The woman`s the neck. And you can`t turn a head without making the neck move too." [Laughter] So he, he, he, I remember laughing with him about that. But in reformed Judaism, women have has much right for everything as, as a man does. We`re very liberal.
JG: What was it like growing up in the Orthodox Church as a girl?
GL: I don`t know. I, I, I`ve never been.
JG: Oh, you didn`t go?
GL: No, I went but we, I didn`t really go. I went to--, let`s see. When I was a child, I wanted to go to Sunday school. I wanted to study the Bible. We used to have Bible in class in public school. That was before the rule. And I enjoyed it. I loved it. And I felt, I felt deprived. I really wanted it. So I went to the Sunday school at the Hebrew United Brotherhood. And [Laughter] I got in trouble because of Abraham. [Laughter] I`m sorry I never really liked Abraham. It was all because, the teachers were not particularly well informed. They, they, the teachers were just older than we were, and probably just read one chapter before they came down to teach it. And it was about the time when they talked about Abraham and he, his wife, Sarah. He told Pharaoh his wife was his sister. And Pharaoh took her into his harem and then God put, gave poor Pharaoh all these boils and everything. So I opened my big mouth and say, "That`s not fair. Pharaoh shouldn`t be the one that gets punished! Abraham should`ve been punished! He told the lie!" And the teacher, instead of saying well, he did it to save his life and her life, too, because he thought they would be killed if he didn`t. Instead of explaining anything to me, he said, "How dare you criticize Abraham!" And he held off and smacked me. It was a young man. I can still remember, I don`t even remember who it was, but I know it was a young boy. He must have been maybe sixteen years old, that`s about all, just a kid himself. But I was very little. I was about seven, six or seven. So I came home crying, and my father said, "That does it. You`re not going back." And I didn`t. But I still wanted to, so my friends who lived near my, near me went to First Presbyterian Church, and , and they invited me to go to Sunday School and I went. And I went. And I enjoyed it, and I learned. And it was the bible was always, I, I love Bible. A lot of people will sit down and read a mystery to relax. I`ll take the Bible. I love the Bible. I love the history. I love the Psalms. I love the Proverbs. And I, I, I studied with Dr. McLenney for about, I studied the New Testament for about four or five years. And, and of course I studied the Old. So that the Bible to me is a, is very important. And I have, I`ve got, anybody wants a Bible that comes to my house, I`ve got them. I`ve got every kind you could think of. Because the different translations. I wish, the only thing I wish, I wish I could read it all in the original. I remember my brother, when he was at Chapel Hill, or was it my son? I think it was my son. It was Douglas. When Douglas was at Chapel Hill, he, he was taking, I don`t think he took Bible, but he was taking philosophy, and I think part of it was Bible. He came home one day and he said, "You know, the translation of the song, Peace on earth, good will to men` is wrong." He said, "We learned that in the Greek, which was written originally, it was Peace on earth to men of good will." If you haven`t got, if you`ve got hatred in your heart, you have no peace. It`s like corrosive it eats you up. And he said, "It`s only peace on earth to men who are of good will. Not to people who are hating other people." That`s something that ought to be said to the Ku Klux Klan! And some of these others that are hate groups, you know, these skinheads. And that`s the trouble with the world today. You turn on the news, and it`s what`s going on in Bosnia is, it`s, it`s horrible. It`s just unbelievable that human beings can mistreat human beings like that. But it`s all over. It`s hatred. And that`s, that`s, that`s the evil. But I remember, when he said that, "How dare you say that about Abraham?" And I never really liked Abraham after that. I always associate the name Abraham with the slap I got.
JG: I wanted to ask you about acting just in general whenever you got started. Was it respectable to be an actress and be up on stage?
GL: Yeah! When I was, sure. Yes. At that time, I remember Katharine Hepburn, when I was going to school up north. I was studying, I was in a play, "Hop Over My Thumb", and I was, of course it was just school plays, I mean, in drama school. But Katharine Hepburn opened on Broadway in "The Lake". And I remember Dorothy Parker saying "she ran the gamut of emotion from A to B". It was really cruel. Because it wasn`t a very good play. It wasn`t all her fault. But there were well-known actors and actresses, yes. But of course, you know, a lot of the actors brought things on themselves. But this, this constant drinking. Barrymore, John Barrymore, and Ethel Barrymore, for that matter. When she played in, in Asheville, she came down to do a show in Asheville. And she, I didn`t see it but I was told that she had, was more or less under the influence. They drank a lot. A lot of, I never knew how they could do it. Because I wouldn`t even take an aspirin if I had a headache before I`d go on the stage for fear that it would hurt my timing, it would interfere with timing. Because timing is so important on the stage. One of the women I remember, one of the actresses I interviewed for, for my radio show was Swanson, Gloria Swanson. She always said she was five feet, one inch. And I`m not five feet. And I knew she wasn`t any taller than I. So I told her, "I don`t believe you, you`re not five feet one." And she said, "I am, too." "Take off your shoes, and I`ll take off mine. Let`s go back to back and see if you`re really taller than I am." She wasn`t! She was just as tall as I am. She was about four eleven. Four eleven and a half at the most. But she was excellent. She was a good person to interview. She was charming and very, very willing to work with all of us, Jim Patterson from WBT was there, I was there. I got a good interview from her. I did, I did interviews with a number of celebrities. And with the vice president of the United States at one time. He Mr. oh, I can`t remember, can`t remember his name. Bark--, Barkley, Barkley? The one he, he was Roosevelt`s, I think. No, not Roosevelt`s. I can`t remember his name. I remember doing, Alvin Barkley! That was who it was. Alvin Barkley. He came through Charlotte, and I did an interview with him.
JG: When were you doing the radio station?
GL: From 1948 to 1959, 1960. I worked radio through 1960. And then I did off and on things for WYFM. I did radio; not a regular radio show, but I would do interviews. And I would do reviews of plays. Not movies, but plays. Any plays, Little Theatre or any of the others.
JG: Are you pressed for time now?
GL: No, not really.
JG: Well do you have anything else you want to tell me about?
GL: I just don`t know. I think I`ve told a lot.
JG: Right yes it`s great. What, what have you seen as the contributions of women in Charlotte to the arts?
GL: Oh I think women have been the bulwark of it. If it weren`t for women, you wouldn`t have arts in this town. There`re women in this town, Mary Montague with the Children`s Theatre, for instance, has done such a magnificent job. And Dorothy Masterson, who gave us classic drama, I mean, the type of thing that you`d never see in, in theater that had to depend on the amount of money coming in, because theater is commercial. I mean people have to have money in order to keep playing. But when she opened at the Mint, see, she opened one of her first shows was from "Don Juan in Hell". And it was beautifully done. And then she did Shakespeare. She did the type, she did Ibsen. She, and I don`t like Ibsen, but she did Ibsen, and she did Moliere, beautiful Moliere. Plays that were of, of substance, and beautifully done in the round. I remember seeing what she did, and this is the genius of some of these women that were directors and that worked behind the scenes. She did a play at the Little, at the Mint Museum called "Abelard and Heloise". And in order to give the feeling of the nuns, walking and saying their prayers, as they walked through the hedgerows of their place, she left two sections of the theater, of the seats, open, empty. Nobody sat there. And when they would come out, they would walk down one row, and turn around and walk the other, and it gave the illusion of a lot of walking, and you could almost see the hedgerows. You know? It was seats, but you could see it, she created illusion. Because of good acting, good lighting, good directing. And I remember in the scene, of course it`s a very fantastic play, it`s excellent, there was a young man sitting next to me, and I was sitting on the front row, and there was a love scene. A very passionate love scene in the play. And he turned to me and said, "I don`t know. I feel like I`m at an X-rated movie!" [Laughter] It wasn`t, but it, because it`s a classic play. But it was, and she, she was what she gave Charlotte for almost thirty years could not be duplicated. And there`s never been anybody to replace her. We have good directors now, excellent directors. But they don`t have quite the magic that Dorothy had. She was unique. There was never anyone else like her and there never will be anyone else like her. I loved her. And I thought Tom Humble was marvelous. Tom was completely different. Not like Dorothy at all. I never heard him yell at anybody. I remember the first play I ever did for him, I was so busy talking backstage to some of the actors that I missed my cue. This was just in rehearsal. And I came out a beat late. And I said, "Oh, Mr. Humble" I was still, I was just what, thirteen, fourteen. I said, "Oh, I`m sorry, Mr. Humble, I forgot" He said, "My dear, you couldn`t forget. You never knew." I never let that happen again, never again. I`ll never forget that. I can remember his tone of voice, and exactly the way he looked at me, like he`d like to take a dagger and stick it in me. And I never, never did forget that. And I never smoked before that. But in the play I was supposed to smoke little between the act cigars. So they were teaching me to smoke by giving me cigarettes. But I knew that my father would, would have a fit if he saw me smoke. So I one day I had the cigarette in my hand, lit, and one of the men in our group, John Small, was a lawyer here in Charlotte. John was holding the script, and he could see the door, and he saw my father come in, and he said, "Gladys, your father just came in" And I got so scared, I threw the cigarette to him to get it out of my hands and in a reflex he caught it and burned, burnt his hand. But my father told me, "If you`re going to smoke I`d rather you do it in front of my face and not behind my back." And I really started smoking then. It was, I must have been fourteen, or something like that. And it wasn`t until I heard you could get lung cancer that made me stop. I got frightened. And it`s a good thing I did.
JG: What, what was working on radio like?
GL: Ah! Loved it. Loved working on radio. Radio is, oh, it`s so much fun, because you don`t have to worry about how you look. You just go down, sit in front of that microphone. I always liked to know what was going on. I, I`d pick off the things from the teletype. It`s the first time I became interested in Helen Thomas, who to this day is covering the president in Washington. Her, her work, her, her writing for INS was fascinating. She always had the most interesting things written, and her writing was so good that I hated to not even quote her. So I would say, "This is from Helen Thomas of INS and this is what she has to say about so-and-so." And you know, it helps because I can remember that she made such a deep impression on me with the way she wrote about people. She personalized them to such an extent that you really felt you knew them. It was never, there was never a glass pane between you and the person she was writing about. And that is the secret of really good writing. Is to make you be able to have a tear in your eye because somebody`s been hurt in a book, in a story. If you can`t be moved to laughter or tears, you`re not moved at all. It`s just like standing outside of a window and watching, through a glass, somebody else eat a good dinner. You`re not getting the dinner. [Laughter] You`re not tasting it. And that`s, that to me is how I judge a book. Do I feel? Does it make me feel? Does it make me laugh? Does it make me cry? Does it make me feel angry? Does it make me feel romantic? I want to know. Do I, do I feel compassion? Do I feel hatred? I want an emotion. And, and it`s only with emotion. That`s the difference between the four-legged animals and the two-legged animals. We are blessed with the gift of emotion. We can have it, they can`t. They get, they growl, they get angry but you know, they don`t, they don`t have the range that we have. They`re very limited in their range. [Laughter]
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