REPRINTS


Interview with Jay Rubinow
May 16, 2002; Pitkin Street, Manchester, CT
by Susan Barlow, interviewer, for the Manchester Historical Society

Introduction, giving date of interview.

Susan Barlow: Jay, would you give us your date of birth?
Jay Rubinow: February 27, 1912.

S.B.: Could you tell us about your college experiences?
J.R.: I went to college in September of 1929. I graduated from high school in June 1929, and went to Harvard in September of 1929. I was there until June of 1933, and when I graduated, then I spent a year looking at the real world, and I decided I had seen enough of the real world, so I went back to law school, in September of 1934. I graduated in June of 1937.

S.B.: At Harvard?
J.R.: Harvard Law School, yes.

S.B.: Were you born in Manchester?
J.R.: Well, George Marlow and I argue about that. He claims he's the oldest person born in Manchester, because he was born IN Manchester. Actually, I was born in St. Francis Hospital, and came here seven days later. So I guess he has a pretty good case.

S.B.: And your family came from Manchester?
J.R.: My father came to Manchester in 1910 when he married my mother. And my mother and father lived in Manchester from 1910 until they died.

S.B.: Were they in this part of town?
J.R.: We lived on Locust Street, and then we moved to Holl Street the corner of Holl and East Center. And until I was married, I knew only Holl and East Center Street as my home.

S.B.: Tell me about The Depression your impressions.
J.R.: The Depression first made itself highly visible when I was in college. A number of students began to drop out. There was a legend, I guess it's probably not entirely true, that the only thing you needed to get into Harvard College from 1930 on, was to have a parent who could pay the tuition.

The tuition, and room and board at that time was about $1000 a year. The tuition was $400. The room I was in a room with three other roommates it was $150 a year. And the food was $10.50 a week, which included service by students who were working their way through college. Remarkable what's happened to the cost of education since then.

I have a granddaughter who graduated in 1999 from Harvard, and at that time it cost about $30,000 a year. And now, I understand, it's going to cost around $34,000 a year.

Another visible sign of the Depression, not directly connected with Harvard, were apple sellers. These were people who were unemployed, and they had these little stands in front of stores, like G. Fox and Company in Hartford, and they'd sell apples for five cents apiece.

And of course there was an enormous amount of unemployment, beginning late in 1930, and we began to realize how seriously the Depression was affecting the lives of people.

In those days, there was no unemployment compensation. There was no rent control. The general attitude of the courts was that if people couldn't afford to pay the rent, it was up to the landlord to decide whether he was going to try to evict them or not. Many landlords elected to stay with the tenants in the hope that things would turn out better.

In 1933, Congress passed a law creating HOLC, Home Owners Loan Corporation, part of the "Roosevelt Revolution." The purpose of this legislation was to enable people who owned their homes, whose mortgages were in default, to get relief from the Federal government by asking the holders of the mortgage to accept government bonds in exchange for the principal of the mortgage. Before the Depression, mortgage payments usually paid only the interest. After this change, it became the accepted way of financing, that monthly mortgage payments would apply to both the interest and the principal.

The HOLC legislation was a tremendous success. Here's how it worked: If you owned a home and you were in default in the mortgage payments, instead of letting the mortgagee foreclose and take the home away from you (and most banks weren't willing to do that, because there wasn't very much they could do with it after they foreclosed), you could make out an application with the HOLC, and if the mortgage was $6000, the mortgagee would agree to take $6000 in government bonds. There were many people who were saved from foreclosure that way. And the banks liked it because the government bonds offered a better chance of getting paid.

S.B.: During that time, did you come home at summertime from college?
J.R.: I came home in the summertime, and I worked. I worked peddling ice, with L.T. Wood. The first day I was out, I rode in a wagon I was assigned to a wagon and we had these big cakes that we had to take out of the ice house, and put them flat on the platform. Then we'd back the wagon up to the platform, and we'd take the big cakes I think they weighed 250 pounds and turn them up with our tongs, and flop them over, so that they now were in the wagon. Very early in that process, I didn't turn one over far enough and it fell on my toe, and the rest of the day I was leaving little blood marks wherever I went. But I had made up my mind that I wasn't going to quit; I was going to finish that day. And the rest of the summer was fairly uneventful.

That was very popular with college students at that time working with ice companies. Most people had no electric refrigerators.

S.B.: Did you go to the customers' houses, too, with the wagon?
J.R.: We went from house to house, street to street. We'd have our quota of ice in these large cakes, and we'd just cut them up. Every one of us had an experienced ice-cutter on the wagon, so that he could tell you what we had to do. The wagon wasn't mechanical it was pulled by horses.

S.B.: So you'd come to a customer's house, then you'd have to lift this block up?
J.R.: We would chop up the block. I think it was in units of 25 pounds; I think that was what most people got at that time. And we'd open the icebox and put it in. I don't have a recollection of how L.T. Wood was paid for this. I don't remember that. I don't think we handled any money; maybe the man who was in charge of us handled the money.

That was the way I earned my living during that summer.

S.B.: You're not a very big guy.
J.R.: No, I'm not. As a matter of fact, I recently lost about fourteen or fifteen pounds because I'm on a restricted liquid diet. But normally I'd weigh about 150 pounds or so.

S.B.: So that must have been hard work for you to lift the ice blocks.
J.R.: Well, let's say I managed!

S.B.: Were you an athlete when you were at Manchester High School?
J.R.: I always wanted to be an athlete. All my life! I tried out for the track team, and didn't make it. When I went to college, I tried out for the football team and didn't make the first cut.

The first time in my life when I actually felt that I was doing something that entitled me to think I was an athlete was when a friend of mine persuaded me to start running for fun and exercise. In 1969, by agreement, we both entered the Turkey Day Race [Manchester's Five-Mile Thanksgiving Day Road Race] and we entered it because we agreed he'd come in last with me. Otherwise I wasn't going to run with him. That got me interested in running. I ran the Boston Marathon in 1974 or 1975. And then I ran the New England Marathon in 1977. That New England Marathon was the only event I ever entered where I won a prize. I won the prize for coming in first. The runners were in five-year age groups. I was in the 65 to 70 age group. The only reason I won "first" was that I was the only one in my group who finished.

S.B.: It's still a prize!
J.R.: Some at the finish line thought I got lost, because I was coming in so late. Somebody assured them they passed me and I was still out there. They told me about it when I came in.

S.B.: You came out of Law School at a very bad time.
J.R.: It was terrible. Just terrible. I didn't immediately go into practice.
During college, I had been working at a job in the State Labor Department during the summers. When I was graduated from Law School, I was able to get employment there. So, I worked until 1937 during the summers, then after I was graduated, I went to work full time in the Labor Department, and I didn't "hang out my shingle," as it was described at that time, until the summer of 1938.

S.B.: Had things changed at all by 1938?
J.R.: It was tough. I really didn't make any money that amounted to anything until 1939, and then I was averaging $40 a week, over and above what I was paying an excellent secretary. It seemed like a lot of money at that time, and I was starting to think about getting married.

S.B.: You were living at home?
J.R.: I was living at home. So in July 1939, I popped the question, and I got an affirmative answer.

S.B.: What was your wife's maiden name?
J.R.: My wife's name was Eleanor Schwolsky. Her father was a lawyer. She asked me to go and speak with him, which I did, and he finally said OK.

S.B.: Were you expecting a different answer?
J.R.: Well, I had never done this before. So I didn't know what to expect. Of course, he might have said, "Oh, you're not making enough money. Earning a living as a lawyer is tough," which was true. I was prepared for those possible grounds for nixing the marriage, but he was very gentle about it. He said OK. We got married in November 1939, at Temple Emanuel in Hartford.

S.B.: Did you scale back the wedding with to the economic times? Or was it a full...?
J.R.: My father-in-law at one time had been remarkably successful financially. He was certainly one of the top lawyers in Hartford. He felt the pinch of the Depression, but he went all out we had a really big wedding, with a lot of friends. He spared no expense for his only daughter. It was a memorable wedding.

S.B.: So then you were trying to support two people on the $40?
J.R.: Well, by October of 1940, I was supporting three people. But no longer on $40. Fortunately my practice increased, and I was keeping my head above water financially.

S.B.: Where was your practice originally?
J.R.: I had an office in Manchester. I didn't have to worry about the rent, because my father owned the building that I opened the office in. It was at 841 Main Street, which was at one point called the Park Building, and when my father bought it, it became the Rubinow Building. I don't know what it's called now. It's the building directly east of Park Street, where it enters Main Street. You know where The Manchester Plumbing and Supply is? That's in the second next-south building; it has the driveway that leads down to what we used to call Keeney Court. I don't know what they call it now. It's sort of a continuation of Park Street, going east. You enter Park Street on Main on the west side of the street, and continue across, and there's this big two-story building. My office was in the corner.

S.B.: Did you walk to work?
J.R.: I walked to work from East Center Street a lot of days. After I was married, I had to drive, because we were living in a house on Woodland Street, and that was too far for a daily walk.

S.B.: So things picked up for you?
J.R.: Things picked up for me. I regret the things that made it possible for me to enlarge my practice. But what was happening at that time was that the Draft was taking a lot of lawyers, and I had a very low number. And I wasn't called until April of 1944. I went down to New Haven, and they wanted to know if I wanted to go in the Army or the Navy. I thought I'd like the Navy, so that's what I said. I was ready to go.

Meanwhile, the government passed a law saying that they wouldn't take any fathers over 30, and I was over 30 in August of 1944. I was given a deferment. In the meantime, I sold my house, and made all the preparations to close my office. We found housing in a little apartment on St. James Street. So we were there with two little kids beginning in October of 1944.

S.B.: So, in fact, did you ever get called?
J.R.: No, I never got called.

S.B.: When did you finally move out of the one-room apartment?
J.R.: I started building this house that we're in, in 1946. And we completed it late in 1948, and that's when we moved here.

S.B.: This is quite a modern place for 1948. And it's huge.
J.R.: This house has about 5200 square feet. For years I mowed the lawn. But last year, I had several things wrong with me, and I gave up mowing the lawn. And I'm still not doing it.

S.B.: Tell me more about your law practice.
J.R.: There were lawyers in Manchester who were drafted. And every time a lawyer was drafted, the business was spread around the lawyers remaining. My practice picked up. Meanwhile, I had clients who were developers. There was an enormous amount of building in Manchester right after the war. I had a pretty good percentage of the legal work for all those new developments.

S.B.: Was "Jarvis" one of the developers?
J.R.: Yes, Alexander Jarvis was one. Another one was called Rolling Park, which is on Woodbridge Street you go down Woodbridge and you come to a whole little section of houses that were built right after the war.

S.B.: Were they ranch houses?
J.R.: These were all what they call Cape Cods.

My practice had picked up pretty well. My secretary had mastered the legal mechanics involved in the buying and selling of houses. She used to do most of what was involved in many of these transfers.

S.B.: She must have been with you a long time?
J.R.: I quit practice in 1960, and she was still there.

S.B.: What was her name?
J.R.: Frances Zito Bartolotta, and another is Diane Sweet Willis. And a third was Irene Maire.

S.B.: So, what happened in 1960?
J.R.: In 1959 the Connecticut General Assembly passed a law establishing the Circuit Court. Governor Ribicoff agreed with the Legislature to get this law passed. There would be 44 judges: 22 were going to be Republicans, and 22 were going to be Democrats. I was one of the Democrats.

In the beginning, the Chief Judge was Edward Fisher, who, at the time, was executive secretary of the Judicial Department. He was appointed Chief Judge by the Chief Justice. That's what the statute said: "The Chief Justice will appoint the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court."

Unfortunately, Ed Fisher died in March of 1960. One day, when I was trying a case, one of the court messengers came in, and said Chief Justice Raymond E. Baldwin wants to see you at recess. (Judge Baldwin had served as governor of Connecticut, as a U.S. Senator, and as Chief Justice from 1959 to 1963.)

I went over there, and he asked me some questions. At the end of our conversation, he appointed me the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court. That was in 1960. The first day that the court opened was in January 1961. And I was Chief Judge of the Circuit Court until 1968, and then I went on the Superior Court.

S.B.: Did you travel around?
J.R.: I was assigned all over the state. They've changed it now, but in my day, every judge would get an assignment for three months. Then he'd move on to some other assignment.

S.B.: You must have had some fascinating experiences?
J.R.: Oh, some amusing experiences....

There was a lawyer in Hartford by the name of Jim Egan. He achieved a lot of fame, because he and his brother, I think, were on a program called the $64,000 Question.

Anyhow, he was a lawyer, a very witty fellow. I was sitting one day in Litchfield, and he and a lot of other lawyers were seated in the front row. It was a gorgeous day, and all the lawyers wanted to go out and play golf. It was what we called Short Calendar, that's why all the lawyers were sitting in the front row, waiting for their case. Short Calendar means small matters, so you can dispose of 10, 12, 15 matters in a day. So the lawyers had to be there, because they didn't know when their case was going to be called.

This case involved a divorce. I granted the divorce. Then the plaintiff said something like this: "Your Honor, we've agreed on a division of the property. The wife is going to get the piano, and the husband's going to get the television set. The wife is going to get the kitchen set, and the husband's going to get the dining room set. The wife is going to get the maple bedroom, and the husband's going to get the oak bedroom."

These lawyers are listening to this, and he's got a long sheet of paper. And at this point, Jim Egan stands up and says, "Your Honor, I would like to have it noted on the record that I represent the vacuum cleaner."

Then I had a case in Rockville where the wife and the husband had married while he was in the Service in Alabama. She had a broad Alabama accent. After the war, they came up here to live. They had some disagreements. She testified that he came home one day, and said that he was going to leave.

So, I said to her, "What did you do when he said he was going to leave?"

She said, "I hepped him pack."

S.B.: Were you able to maintain your composure, or did you laugh?
J.R.: The whole courtroom burst into laughter.

S.B.: Now they have mandatory retirement?
J.R.: I retired early, at 65. But you'd better put "retired" in quotation marks, because I became a Senior Judge, and the only retirement feature of being a Senior Judge is you don't have to do what is assigned to you, but you are subject to assignment. As a matter of fact, I kept hearing cases during the summer months until June 30th of 2000. And even now, I can be called, but I can't be called to hear a contested jury case. But I used to hear lots of condemnation cases and lots of taxation cases every summer. The condemnation cases involve when the State wants to build a road through your house.

But I reached the point ... somebody said to me, "Why did you quit?"

And I said, "I wanted to get out before I got thrown out."

S.B.: You must have had a lot of divorce cases during the time before we had no-fault divorce. How did you feel about the change in the divorce law?
J.R.: Whether you got a divorce in Connecticut, under the old system, where you had to prove desertion or intolerable cruelty, depended, in a large degree, on who the judge was who was hearing the case. I think the same thing was true after they went to no-fault. There were judges who were very reluctant to grant divorce. There probably still are. And who's to say that they're wrong or they're right? I'm certainly not.

I was considered one of the more liberal judges in respect to how much you had to prove in order to get a divorce.

We had one judge here in Connecticut, a very fine judge, who heard a lot of divorce cases, and they used to say all he required the plaintiff to prove was that they had been married!

On the other hand, I once tried an uncontested divorce case, before a certain judge, who was considered very reluctant to grant divorces. I had shown that this plaintiff, a woman, had been struck by her husband with a poker from the fireplace. She had gone to the hospital, and she had to have medical attention. I brought the suit on the ground of intolerable cruelty. The judge denied it.

S.B.: What year was that? In the 40s or 50s?
J.R.: Yes, it had to have been in the 1940s. That was an extreme case, the same way that the other judge was an extreme case. But as a practical matter, if you had someone you felt was entitled to a divorce, and you didn't want to run the risk of trying it before a judge who, for whatever reason, was very reluctant to grant a divorce, you just had to wait until the judge whom you wanted came around.

S.B.: That must have been hard to explain to a client. "You have to stay married here for another round of the circuit."
J.R.: Yes, of course it was. But I don't think it changed much with the change to no-fault. I don't know what the remedy is. It's too bad, particularly if there are children involved.

S.B.: There's a huge amount of divorce today.
J.R.: Yes, what's the figure now? Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce?
We've been married 62 years.

S.B.: But I'm sure you had your ups and downs?
J.R.: Oh, sure.

S.B.: And you had two kids?
J.R.: Three kids. Seven grandchildren, six girls and one boy real sweethearts and one great-grandchild.

S.B.: Getting back to the Depression?
J.R.: One of the things they did during the Depression was they tried to find projects that could be justified in spending public funds on. One of many examples in Manchester was Broad Street. That was a WPA, Work Projects Administration, project Broad Street was constructed by the Work Projects Administration. I think the old Manchester Post Office, the one at the Center, was also a WPA project, and several local bridges were also WPA projects.

As a matter of fact, in the latter part of the Depression, you could go into any town or city that had a substantial number of unemployed people, and see a sign that said, "This Is A WPA Project."

That's the way John Keynes said the government should act during the Depression. Let the government go out and start things that required people to be employed. I knew all about Keynes, because everybody was talking about Keynes in college in 1931 and 1932. That's how that thing started.

S.B.: You must have seen around you, as a college student, families who lost their houses? Where did they go?
J.R.: Yes. Until the HOLC came along, I suppose they doubled up with relatives; that's one possibility. If you couldn't make your mortgage payments, you'd move to a rent, you took a smaller place ... Those were terrible terrible times. I would never never want to see those times come back to this country, or to any place. It seemed for a while that the government didn't know what to do. Hoover was talking about balancing the budget, which, according to Keynes, was the worst thing he possibly could have done.

S.B.: I've heard this comment from people who lived through the Depression, that there was a point that people thought, "It's never going to end."
J.R.: Well, there were instances when they were having a foreclosure sale mortgage foreclosures, that is, and the property would be sold, with the money's first given to the mortgagee, and if there were anything left over, the money would go to the owner. But there was very rarely anything left over at these sales.

But the farmers took it upon themselves to stop these foreclosure sales from taking place. This was in defiance of a court order! It was a small insurrection. It was a very frightening thing to do, because you could be accused of attacking your Town Hall or the courts or whatever. But people were just so despondent, so utterly without hope, that they took the Law unto themselves.

In the meantime, I'm at college, hearing about these things, talking about what could be done, and seeing kids drop out of school.

S.B.: But if they dropped out, they couldn't get a job either?
J.R.: No.

S.B.: What was your father employed at?
J.R.: My father had a brother in New York. My father came to this country in 1898. He was 12 or 14; I've forgotten exactly. He had lodgings in Hartford (he wound up in Hartford). He did what many immigrants did at that time. He bought himself a small supply of cloth, thread, needles, and went from house to house. People didn't have automobiles, so they appreciated people coming to their homes to offer what they had to offer, what they had for sale.

He went to night school he went to a school where Annie Fisher taught classes. She taught a lot of immigrants to speak English a wonderful teacher and she has a Hartford school named after her now. My father learned to speak English. He was a good salesman. Then he opened up a store in 1909 in Manchester. He got married in 1910. He sold the store in 1919, because he loved real estate, and he loved building, and he didn't care much for the retail business.

He sold the store, and he bought the Park Building, changed the name to the Rubinow Building, and built on a second story. But my mother didn't like my father's being in the building business, because my mother liked to plan and budget. And when your husband's in the building business, you can't plan and budget. It's up and down.

So she persuaded my father to go back into the retail business. In 1922-1923, he opened a store he called Rubinow's. As I told you before, he was a good salesman; and my mother was an excellent salesperson. My father did very well in that store. And then in 1929, he enlarged it, and to show you how good a manager he was, he kept the store alive, just about kept it alive, and had enough left over to send my sister and me to college. Then in 1940, he sold the store. It became Burtons.

S.B.: I remember that! It was a clothing store?
J.R.: Yes, ladies' clothing.

S.B.: Who did the buying?
J.R.: My father used to take the train from Hartford into New York every couple of weeks. Sometimes he brought packages home with him. Sometimes he gave the orders there for the merchandise to be shipped. He had a very good eye for fashion. He was an excellent merchandiser. During the years that he was not engaged in the retail business, which was between 1919 and 1922, he remodeled the building he bought, put a second story on it, built two or three houses, and sold them. He built a building at the corner of Main and Maple Street. At that site, there was a garage and a two-family house he moved those over to Maple Street, in back of what was then the library. The library was then on the corner of Maple and Main.

My mother preferred the retail business. It was steadier. She was a remarkable saleslady herself. When all of us kids went to school, she'd go down to help him. She'd walk back in the afternoon, and make dinner for us.

S.B.: So you had a brother and a sister?
J.R.: I have a brother Merrill who's a doctor. My sister, Charlotte, was a teacher. She's dead now; she had lupus and she died. My brother, the doctor, was on the staff of the Manchester Memorial Hospital here for about 40 years. He's now in Tucson. He was one of the founders of Manchester Community College. He and his wife last year made one of the biggest gifts Manchester Community College has ever received. They gave him an honorary degree.

He was a very capable surgeon. There were people who went up to Boston, to the biggest hospital up there, a number of times this happened, and they were asked, "Why are you coming up here? Dr. Rubinow can take care of you just as well as we can." He was pretty good.

S.B.: And your children are doctors and lawyers?
J.R.: Two of my children became lawyers one lives in Glastonbury, and one in St. Paul, Minnesota. The third child is a doctor at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

S.B.: You mentioned that you were a Democrat, and quite liberal. Wasn't that frowned on, back in the 1940s and 50s?
J.R.: When I was made a voter in 1933, the registration in Manchester was about 5000 Republicans, and 1000 Democrats. I registered as a Democrat. My mother and father were registered Republicans. I registered as a Democrat, because my tutor at Harvard was a fellow by the name of Lauchlan Currie. He was a member of President Roosevelt's Brain Trust. All he talked about when we were studying with him was that the Republicans were doing everything absolutely wrong. They were doing everything they shouldn't be doing. So I took an anti-Republican bias from him, and when I registered, I registered as a Democrat, which many, many young people my age were doing. And my wife registered as a Republican, but she saw the light and she became a Democrat.

S.B.: Wasn't it an unpopular choice for a young lawyer in business for himself?
J.R.: I really don't think it affected me adversely.

(Mrs.) Eleanor Rubinow stops in for a moment. Are you reminiscing about Manchester?

S.B.: Yes, we are!
E.R.: When I came to Manchester, after we were married, there were about 22,000 people here. The west side of Main Street was completely undeveloped, except for the church, and a little parking lot. That was in 1939. What I remember about Main Street that attracted me then, was they had Bidwells, which sold ice cream and wonderful ice cream sodas. It was a very nice store to stop in. I was into ice cream sodas at that point.
J.R.: When Eleanor came to Manchester, the trolley tracks were on the west side of Main Street, and they were torn up during the War in order to use the metal the iron or steel or whatever it was and they were never replaced. The way to get to Hartford from Manchester before the War was on a trolley car. During the War, all those tracks were pulled up. And there used to be trolley tracks running right down the center of East Center Street.
E.R.: And of course East Center Street was completely undeveloped; just houses, no businesses.

S.B.: So you lived within walking distance of your parents.
J.R.: Oh, sure.

S.B.: How did that work out? How were the in-laws? Were they OK?
E.R.: They were fine. I don't think they ever thought anyone was quite good enough for their son. But other than that, they were fine.
J.R.: Thank you for the plug.
E.R.: Well, it's true. That's true with daughters too there's not a man good enough for the daughter. Very interesting. I have a daughter-in-law who is completely different. I wasn't that kind of daughter-in-law. But she says, "Thank you for having him. He's so wonderful!"
J.R.: That's not me. That's our son she's talking about.
E.R.: Things change. Attitudes change. No, my in-laws were very helpful.

S.B.: How have things changed in Manchester?
J.R.: The biggest change that occurred in Manchester was the demise of Cheney Brothers, Incorporated. Cheney Brothers used to employ conservatively 5000 people. When the 5 o'clock whistle went off, you'd see this flood of people coming out of Park Street, out of Forest Street, out of Hartford Road. Those factories were the lifeblood of Manchester before the War.

There were so many people, particularly in the North End, that Cheney Brothers had their own railroad train that ran from the depot in the South End to the North End. That train was for the benefit of the people who got out of their shift, at let's say 5 o'clock. I used to sell papers on that train.

S.B.: The Manchester Herald?
J.R.: No. I sold The Manchester News. Did you know there was such a thing? It was run by a fellow by the name of Flood.

S.B.: Did you make any money?
J.R.: Let's see, I sold them for 3 cents, and they cost me 2 cents, so I made a penny apiece. I had the largest Hartford Times route in this town. The biggest out-of-town paper in Manchester was not The Hartford Courant. It was The Hartford Times. It was an afternoon paper; there was no television, nor any of that, no radios. Radio didn't really compete until the 1940s. So most people who bought an afternoon paper bought The Times. Most people didn't buy a morning paper, because they were too busy, going to work, so they didn't have time to read it.

S.B.: How old were you when you had the big Hartford Times paper route?
J.R.: I think I was 12. I sold it, I think, two years after I bought it, to Herman and Max Goodstein, both of whom are also dead now. But for a long they had the biggest Times route, and then the Times folded.

S.B.: The Times folded in 1975 or so.
J.R.: It's too bad, it was a great newspaper. I liked it.

S.B.: I'm thinking about the subject of discrimination. When you went to Harvard, there were no women there not that that was discrimination necessarily, but it was a men's school, wasn't it.
J.R.: No women.

S.B.: Could you talk a little about how women were treated in the 1930s and 40s?
J.R.: Are you talking about with reference to school?

S.B.: Or even generally. For example women weren't encouraged to buy houses or to get a mortgage. Banks wouldn't want to give them a mortgage, because they weren't married, after all!
J.R.: Do you think there's a reaction on the part of employers to hire young women who are just out of graduate school or even just out of college, because they think they're going to train them and by the time they get trained, they're going to lose them to maternity or whatever?

S.B.: Not today.
J.R.: Not today?

S.B.: Not now, due to the economy, and particularly when the economy is strong, employers need the labor, I don't think there's as much discrimination, because no one cares if the labor is female, or purple, or whatever, because they need the qualified people.
J.R.: They need the bodies, as they say. Now, I know my father, for example, had female help almost exclusively. Of course, it was a ladies ready-to-wear store, and he couldn't have men employed there.

Getting back to the larger question discrimination during the 1940s I think there was specifically about the army, there was a sensitivity that hadn't been apparent before ... to doing many things that might appear to be gender-biased.

I had a secretary; she was one of the top WAC's in the country. That was the Women's Army Corps. Not being a woman, I can't speak first hand, but my general reaction is that since the 1940s, since the War, there has been a tremendous increase in opportunities for women that weren't open to women before then.

S.B.: I've heard that the Manchester Country Club wouldn't admit Jewish or African American people.
J.R.: There were no Jewish members until the late 1950s. When the Town bought the country club, it was by then open to membership to all, without discrimination.

S.B.: And there were areas of Manchester that wouldn't allow Jewish people, such as the Comstock Road-Spring Street neighborhood?
J.R.: Yes. In the early 1950s, those "prior approval" clauses and deeds were ruled invalid by the Supreme Court. They weren't aimed at a particular sector of the population, just anyone who was different, in this case, not a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

By and large, there was little discrimination against Jews in Manchester during my youth and subsequent years. We had a very small Jewish population.

I worked in Washington, D.C. in 1934, our nation's capital. Signs said that the "colored" must sit in the back of the bus, and whites in the front. A leading factor in the elimination of this discrimination was the opening of the Army to all, regardless of race. Then, how could we tell people they could fight and risk their life, but not drink out of a certain water fountain?

S.B.: When you got married, your wife didn't work outside the home?
J.R.: She worked before we were married, yes, but not after we were married. Two or three months after we were married, she was pregnant. That's another thing that's changed. She was pregnant when she was 22. Now, I have a granddaughter, age 33, who just had her first baby. I have another granddaughter, a pediatric psychiatrist, age 31, who's just having her first baby.

S.B.: Now we get to the question about your philosophy of living, or what advice you might give to people, from your years of experience.
J.R.: What I'm going to say is probably going to sound very platitudinous.

First, I think a person ought to have a very highly developed sense of what is right and wrong.

Secondly, I think people ought to try to keep themselves in as good physical condition as possible.

And thirdly, and this may be a reflection of the first, people ought to have a very highly developed sense of responsibility for others.

I think George Bush's phrase "compassionate conservatism" is a little bit restrictive. I think people ought to be compassionate, period.

S.B.: [short anecdote about interview with George Marlow at the department store, in which he ascribed his various charitable donations and support to his parents' teaching: "When you have it, you should share it."] That generosity isn't something you see as much today.
J.R.: I think we saw a good showing of it right after September 11. And it happens all too frequently, somebody came along and spoiled it they were resorting to fraud, exaggerating their claims. But for a few days, that was a wonderful demonstration of America at work, I thought. Americans stand ready to help those who are in need.

[Discussion of Marlow's Department Store program on TV, on Cox Cable, channel 15]

[Explanation of interviewer's name Barlow, and connection with Malcolm W. Barlow, the late car dealership owner in Rockville.]

J.R.: I courted my wife in a convertible. When we had our first child, my wife said to me, "We can't use a convertible any more. Go out and buy a sedan, a two-door or four-door."

This was in 1941, and cars were already beginning to be scarce. But I went to Malcolm Barlow, whom I'd known for years and years, and I think I'd even represented him on an occasion or two. Civilly! Nothing else!

He said, "I've got a nice car for you." It was a Chevy. It must have been three or four years old. He said, you can have it for $650. I absolutely trusted Malcolm Barlow, and if he wanted to sell me this car, I knew he had to think it was a good buy. So I bought it in 1941.

And there weren't many cars available between 1941 and 1947, because there were few cars made for sale. By 1947, I thought I could get another car. I still had my Chevy, and I went around to see him, and told him I'm interested in buying another car. He said, "I'll buy that one from you." Now remember, I paid $650 for it.

I said, "How much would you give me for it?"

He said, "I'll give you $750 for it."

Mind you, this car had been used for six or seven years. So I said, "It's a deal."

I saw him maybe two weeks later, and he said, "Remember that car you sold me for $750? I just sold it for $950." That's what happened to the price of cars during those post-war years.

The convertible that I drove when I courted my wife was a nice little car. I bought it from Carter Chevrolet; I think it cost me something like $900. But anyway, those days are gone forever.

So that's a little story about Malcolm Barlow. I knew his father. I knew his mother. Didn't he have a sister too?

S.B.: Yes. Alice. She married Bill Caywood.

[Discussion of Barlow TV store, and relationship of various Barlows.]

Francis married Osee, who used to live at 172 East Center St., is that on the corner of Holl?
J.R.: 192 is on the corner. That was my folks' house. You know what's there, is that new medical and dental office.

S.B.: That was a beautiful house ...
J.R.: Oh, yes.

S.B.: Was that a one-family or a two-family house?
J.R.: One family.

S.B.: ... with a big porch.
J.R.: Big porch, yes. We used to sit on the porch, and we had this game: Who was the first one who could tell the make of the car that was going by, because in those days, cars looked different. A Chevy looked different from a Pierce Arrow, and so forth. Today, you line them up and you can't tell what the difference is.

S.B.: Anything else? During your time as a lawyer or a judge, was there a case that particularly struck you? Instructive, or ...
J.R.: Well, there was one case that I heard, that had a lot of publicity: Horton vs Meskill.

Horton vs Meskill was the case that held that the Connecticut system of financing public school education is unconstitutional. And that's given rise to a lot of attempts (not sure they've succeeded yet) in the Legislature in making available more funds in the property-poor towns.

I'll be glad to tell you how it happened. I may want to put this book in my lap to refresh my recollections.

This is fresh in my mind, because recently they had an exhibit in Hartford of the notes and briefs of the lawyers who participated in this case in the Superior Court. It subsequently went to the Supreme Court.

But anyhow, in Horton vs Meskill, which had the exhibit at the University of Connecticut School of Law, the plaintiff in that case is Barnaby Horton. One of the persons at this little exhibit was Barnaby Horton himself, personally, who's now, I think they said, 28 years old. He's been a legislator. This case has given him a place in history that's going to hang on for years and years.

I was sitting in Hartford during the summer of 1974, hearing the cases as they came up. And the case that came up was this Horton vs Meskill. The question that this case presented was whether the system of public financing for schools in Connecticut violates the constitution of the United States, or the Connecticut constitution.

Quoting the case, very briefly: Whether the Connecticut system, which depends on money raised by the Grand List in each town, is unconstitutional, because it doesn't take into consideration that there may be some towns with a very small Grand List that have a lot of children who go to school, or towns may have special needs, that they can't compensate for in the Grand List. That, I decided, was not constitutional.

The case went to the Connecticut Supreme Court, and the opinion sustaining my decision was written by none other than Charles S. House, who was then the Chief Justice, and formerly a member of the Board of Education in Manchester.

S.B.: So you decided that we needed to do something?
J.R.: That they had to do something to raise money other than taxing the Grand List in this town.

S.B.: Would you say that was your biggest case?
J.R.: Yes, no question about it.

The interview concludes with some comments about the robbery at the Cheney silk mills in the early part of the 20th century.