|TRANSCRIPT OF THE INTERVIEW WITH
SANDRA ROSE FRIEDMAN
Note: The first portion of this interview was inadvertently destroyed. For more information concerning Sandra Rose Friedman’s origins and early childhood please refer to the autobiography written in 1998.
The following is a summary of the lost content prepared by the Interviewer:
On May 25, 2002 Judith Kent interviewed Sandra Rose Friedman at the Flagler County Public Library. While describing her earliest memories Mrs. Friedman recalled a pulley designed to hoist bales of mattress filling to the second story of the family’s factory. She remembered the fun of trying to hoist herself up on the pulley. The family living quarters were over their factory in Newark, New Jersey. There her mother, Mirel sewed the mattress covers and her father, Nathan stuffed them. Sandra Rose was cared for by a nurse who spoke only Yiddish while her parents worked. Yiddish was spoken in the home, but her two older brothers, Irving and Abram taught her to speak English at an early age. When she grew older her mother structured her after school time with lessons in ballet, piano and elocution. She remembers her mother as a strong, ambitious, hard-working woman who was orphaned at an early age, but who managed to immigrate to the US with help from a brother. Her father also emigrated from Russia to escape the pogroms. Though neither had a formal education, both found work here, her mother in a shirt factory and her father in a mattress factory.
Other family members were not able to come directly to the US, spending several years in Argentina before arriving here. As a result, her cousin Bertha was put in her class in elementary school even though she was four years older so that Sandra Rose could translate for her. The child could speak Yiddish, Russian and Spanish, but not English. She recalls being embarrassed when Bertha had to go to the bathroom and she had to ask the teacher in her behalf. As the business prospered the family moved to a private home in a residential neighborhood of Newark. After graduating from public high school she attended Skidmore College for two years. Unhappy there and aware of the economic burden for her parents she returned home and worked in the family business. It was not until age seventy that she was able to complete her college degree through Skidmore’s Learning Without Walls Program.
When asked to elaborate on the impact of the Great Depression on the family she stated that they were never deprived and were fortunate to have everything that they needed.
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Friedman: I was a very fortunate kid.
Kent: There were books in the home, even though the parents weren’t readers?
Friedman: I was a library goer, even if I had to take the trolley car to go to the library. My first favorite books were the Bobsy Twins; I read every one of them. Was I surprised, later, to find that different people wrote them? I had been worshiping the author. [laughing] The library was my favorite hang out, early, early. If I had known better then I would have¾ well, who knows¾ I would have gone to library school, but my life was dictated. Twenty-two and not married?
Kent: Marriage and children.
Friedman: Children, yes. I followed the dictates.
Kent: If you had to kind of sum up what the family values were in your home that were communicated to you in many ways?
Friedman: Hard work, honesty first. My father’s greatest fear was that he might go bankrupt. In 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt closed the banks my father said, "How will we meet the pay roll?" My mother said, "Don’t worry, I have money put aside." So they met the payroll. She was a remarkable woman¾ with all that she wasn’t educated and orphaned at the age of eight. She lost her father when she was three and her mother when she was eight; was browbeaten by an older sister-in-law for many years and was finally helped by another brother to come to America at the age of eighteen with her younger sister, Rose Ehrlich’s mother. Do you remember Rose [formerly a volunteer at the library, now deceased]?
Friedman: She was my first cousin. Her mother and my mother were sisters. They came to America and immediately went to work in a shirt factory. Fortunately, not in the building where the Triangle fire was (they were there when it happened) and ambitious. Honesty, hard work, ambition, they set a good standard and my brothers followed suit. My brothers are honest¾ the younger one was ill for quite a few years before he died. Strong, straightforward men.
Kent: Good. You talked about some of the things you did for fun, were there others?
Friedman: Well, for fun? [pause]
Kent: Games or other children in the neighborhood?
Friedman: Well, I had and have a best friend who now lives here in Palm Coast. We grew up from the age of nine together. We have been friends for [pause] seventy-five years¾ I have to do the math. She came here when she retired after she had visited with us and decided that it was going to be OK. She and I, we both loved reading, we both loved books. We were able to giggle together; we had the same kind of humor. She is a dear, dear friend. Of course she is not well now, which is sad but she’s here. We did things together. Beyond that, well I did enjoy tennis and horse back riding, but that was difficult. Actually when I got old enough to get on a trolley car, I went down to the factory. That was the first thing that I did after school. First of all, I wanted to be with my mother, I never saw her. She would come home after I was asleep¾ you know, it was one of those kinds of things. She welcomed me, and I would start to work. There were always jobs for me in the factory. We all worked in the factory¾ my brothers¾ it was a family enterprise. Fun¾ not much beyond that¾ we were wrapped up in [pause] working.
Kent: Was religion¼
Friedman: Jewish, really secular Jews. My father would observe the High Holidays, but nothing organized really. My mother decided that I should have some background and so she sent me to a conservative temple in New Jersey, the biggest one where I was confirmed¾ which was so far apart from my father’s orthodoxy, but it was interesting. Lesley Fiedler, do you remember the writer, Leslie Fiedler?
Friedman: He was in my class; he was brilliant. He was a naughty little boy, but brilliant. I was so pleased one day to see what Leslie became. [laughter] Philip Roth, you know, went to my high school, but later. He is younger than I am. Newark produced a couple of interesting people.
Kent: When do you first recall being aware of world news or events? You spoke about the Depression, so certainly you were aware of that.
Friedman: We were aware of it happening, but it wasn’t touching our lives. I was a typical adolescent. I didn’t read the newspapers carefully. I was sort of self-absorbed, I guess. What was I doing?
Kent: Working hard?
Friedman: Working hard, yes, but it was a good life. When I compare it to what others had. My friend, her father didn’t think that girls should be educated. There were four daughters and one son. The son was sent to college. But, of course Ruthie did it on her own. She got her courses in. I don’t know that she ever got to a degree actually, but she had a very fine professional background. She started in at Macys many years ago. Actually, she started in at the Newark Public Library and then she got into Macys (had some wonderful training there) and became a headhunter. She became vice president of a firm in New York¾ a strong, independent woman that I thought I was going to be and she would be the mother and wife. We switched roles. She retired and lives in a lovely home and did it all herself¾ a remarkable woman.
Kent: So, when people asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up¼
Friedman: [pause] What did I ever say? I was very restricted in what I said, because my mother said I had to get married and have a family! She liked the idea of my being educated, that was fine but¼
Kent: She certainly was a role model for being involved in business.
Friedman: Yes, she was a good role model. If she could do it I certainly should. In the same way she also taught me the pre-feminist¾ at the end of the day when we were living upstairs [above the factory] she would run up first to make sure that her hair was done up just right and that she had some lipstick on and looked orderly for when Nathan would come up for dinner. I had that role model; I was that kind of a wife for a long time.
Kent: We all were. [laughter]
Friedman: That’s OK, it worked out well; we’ve been married sixty-two years.
Kent: Tell us about your courtship with Sidney.
Friedman: It was fun. It was nice; we did nice things. [laughs] He first saw me when I was sitting on the front steps of the house we lived in on Goldsmith Avenue and I resembled a favorite teacher of his. But then in those days, somebody told somebody¼ my oldest brother had a roommate. He was a friend in high school; they were fraternity brothers at Lehigh University and he was also a roommate to my other brother at Columbia Law School. He was very involved with the family; we were all fond of him. He fell in love with Ann, who was Sidney’s sister. He said to Sidney, "I know a girl¼ ".
Kent: A matchmaker?
Friedman: Yes. We were engaged¾ we met actually in November of 1939 and married in June of 1940. We were only together for about seven months. It was good.
Kent: So, how did you start your married life? What was it like for you when you were newly weds?
Friedman: I don’t know if this is for public¼
Kent: OK. I was thinking, were you both working?
Friedman: No, I wasn’t working¾ well I was working in my father’s factory.
In fact by then my younger brother [Abe] was in charge [of the family business] with my father tearing his hair out. Every time Abe came up with a new idea to make the business progress my father would worry. By then he was not well. In fact, when my father had a second stroke my mother called Abe at law school and said, "Come, or else we lose everything." He came and took over and did very well. There were the usual family¼ family businesses are difficult.
Kent: Was Sidney working in the business or¼ ?
Kent: World War I was on the horizon by then¾ I mean World War II, I’m sorry.
Friedman: The brother who was in charge of the business was called up and they called in my older brother, Irving (who was practicing law at that time) to take over. Abe served¾ in fact this [funeral] service we are going to next week is a military service. Abe had an interesting background. When Winston Churchill, Stalin and Harry Truman were meeting at Potsdam he, my brother, was in charge of the household that was housing them. I have a wonderful picture of him with them. He was a brilliant, brilliant man who was cut down by strokes.
Kent: So you were well aware that War was imminent.
Friedman: Imminent, yes. We knew that Abe would be called and that Irving would have to step in. We were on the outside of that.
Kent: Were other family members in the service?
Friedman: Sidney was called up and [missed being selected] by one person and one middle initial. There was another Sidney Friedman, his middle initial was G, my Sidney was J. My Sidney was dismissed and this man had to go. It was quite a story. That was because this one, [points to picture] the oldest daughter was born prior to Pearl Harbor. If you had a child before Pearl Harbor you didn’t have to serve unless you chose to. The Abe wasn’t even married then¾ was he married? Maybe he had just gotten married before he went over. My other brother, Irving was too old¾ why wasn’t he called? He had a child born just before Pearl Harbor. That was the reason for Irving and Sidney not being called up.
Kent: Your brother, did he serve mostly in the States, or¼
Friedman: No, Abe served overseas. In fact he was in the Battle of the Bulge and was in very dangerous positions before he got to be the Potsdam host or whatever. It was a very hard time; my mother suffered so. She just kept praying that he would come back OK, and he did, he was fine. He came back and stepped right into his work.
Kent: So, you were concerned about him, of course, and about the situation, but you were not directly involved in the war effort.
Friedman: No, we were not. Sidney worked as an accountant and I was home with the kids. There were five¾ well there were not five yet there weren’t five¾ the last one was born in 1955 so that was well after the end of the War. Harriet was born in the middle of the War and so was Neil.
Kent: So you had to struggle with the rationing and the¼
Friedman: Yes, there was all of that to do but I don’t remember suffering too much. We were careful. We are ultra-conservative¾ no, that’s not the word¾ conservationist minded, so it was not a big problem to live within [war-time conditions] and live carefully. There was rationing.
I remember the day Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945. I was pregnant with number two child and I was in New York City with my cousin Rose Ehrlich and we saw people gathering around radios. I remember so clearly when it was. 1945¾ I think it was April 10th maybe? It was a long time ago. We were very moved and touched and depressed. It was a sad, hard time for the country. He had just squeaked by with¾ what was it, a fourth term? Many objected to his being in that role and then the poor man dies. But Harry Truman turned out to be a fine president. Yes, it was difficult times, but I personally seem to have sailed through. Lucky woman I am.
Kent: Tell us about your parenting. It must have been different from your mother’s because she was so distant.
Friedman: Yes. How we disciplined the children. We too emphasized education, reading and learning. They misbehaved in the usual ways. The adolescence of those kids were nightmare years¾ parents of adolescents! [shakes her head] Our son was a late bloomer. He dropped out of school, but then went back not only to get his degree at the University of California, Berkeley, but to get his architectural degree. He was amazing. During his earlier years this was the height¾ or the beginning of the bad drug time. He earned his pilot’s license; he used a year’s tuition to pay for the lessons that we didn’t know about. [laughing] Yes, they were difficult years, but I have a short memory about those things. If it turns out right, hey!
Kent: What was the most rewarding thing about parenting for you?
Friedman: That they grew up to be wonderful people. All five children have¾ I wouldn’t say that it is pro bono¾ but they do work that helps people. They are concerned for the welfare of people; they do good things. I am very proud of them.
Kent: So that was time well spent?
Friedman: Yes, but who knew? I had one kid¾ do you remember the actress who wore her hair half covering her face?
Kent: Veronica Lake?
Friedman: Veronica Lake. One of the kids hid behind her hair for two years. [laughter] But it all turned out wonderfully well. This one, Nancy, [points to picture] her husband, Terry Hill is a most remarkable man. When he met Nancy (they have been together for thirty years and married for I don’t know how long, but not that long) Terry when Nancy met him was going to a community college and driving a truck. With no one’s help except Nancy’s this man is now Head Geriatrician and Medical Director of the largest hospital in San Francisco. I get chills when I say it; I am so proud of him. She worked and she too went part time¾ she is a family therapist¾ MPH? I don’t know what degree it is. She worked steadily and saw him through. He kept working¾ for as long as he could he worked extra jobs, but once he got into medical school he couldn’t. I am very proud of those two. They have a good life. They neither of them wanted to have children; they have a lot of cats. They are special. They are in California. As I said, Terry is the head of Laguna Honda Hospital.
Kent: Let’s pause here and take a break.
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SIDE B BEGINS
Kent: At what point did you think that you might go back to work or start a career?
Friedman: When the youngest was eight years old. I felt I couldn’t¾ then I went with great guilt.
Kent: [resetting counter on sound recorder] It worked out¾ going back to work?
Friedman: What I started to do was be a substitute teacher in the local school where the children went. Then I took on the presidency of the PTA. Then Sidney and I invested in a laundromat. We thought, well you go on the weekend and collect the money and it didn’t turn out like that. So I became a laundromat lady for a while. Then I got my real estate license. I wasn’t going to sit home. I wasn’t thinking about going back to school for the degree at that time. I didn’t do that until I came here and had the time. It was when Rob was eight, so she was born in ’55 so it was 1963 I began to think that I could get out. I think I left her with guilt feelings because I suffered at leaving her. The others were pretty well launched by then. Her immediate older sister, Marge, who was just three years older¾ devoted and loved her so much and was attentive and caring. She was a very steadfast, strong young woman. She was helpful; she took care of Rob. They called me after school and ¾ well it was not an easy time.
But then Rob grew up and went away to college and then we were free, Sidney and I. It got to be time for retirement almost; he [Sidney] was getting close to sixty-five.
He always wanted to come to Florida; and I always didn’t want to come to Florida. [laughter] However, one day we went to a meeting¾ it was in 1972. Is this what you want me to tell?
Friedman: ITT was advertising in various towns in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Ohio. You know, inviting you to a dinner where they would show you¼ Sidney cut the thing [advertisement] out of the newspaper and said, "Let’s try this." I went reluctantly and it was a wonderful spread. Have you seen those?
Friedman: They are very inviting. They just made everything look very, very beautiful. For thirty-seven hundred dollars you could buy a lot! So I thought, "Well, maybe if we buy the lot he will think, OK we have a foundation in Florida and someday maybe¼ "
So we bought the lot. Then they arranged fly-buy deals. They would fly you down and show you around and hope you would build a house. I guess it was 1975 that we came. At that time there was no overpass [over highway I 95] and our lot was out here [points westward] in Indian Trails. The broker pointed and said, "It is over there." There was no way that you could get to it! [laughter] You had to hope that it was not a swamp; you didn’t know¾ but that was all right. But then Sidney just loved it, the warmth and so he said to this agent, "Don’t you have any re-sales?" (They had already built¾ in 1972 they began to build what they called the "core area" around Palm Harbor.) I guess you have heard and know about this. He said to¾ Walter Kopacky was the agent with Exclusive Properties. The ITT agent was very reluctant. Sidney said, "There has to be some [re-sales]". Boots her name was¾ I can’t remember her last name but finally she gave Sidney the phone number. We called [Walter] and he said, "Sure, I’ll take you around." He showed us a few things that Sidney¾ you know I was a bystander. I can’t picture myself being a bystander, but I was. We passed a corner lot with a very nice house on it with a [for sale] sign. Sidney said, "Isn’t that part of your¼ " and the man said, "Yeah, if you want to see it I’ll go back to the office and get the key." He did and brought the key back and opened the door and Sidney said, "Um, I think I’ll take it!" [laughter] It was a wonderful choice. I am very grateful that he did this because six months after we got here I knew that it was paradise. Where could I swim all winter, or play tennis? We’re not golfers, but it was wonderful. So, we are in that same little house and it has been grand.
Kent: Were there things that you found lacking in the community?
Friedman: Oh boy! [nods affirmatively] Immediately we connected with Merhl and Emily [Shoemaker] and they were trying so hard to establish¾ I mean they came to a real wilderness¾ I think that they came about three years before we did. Merhl recognized that the first thing that you need is a library. So he formed the Friends of the Library group. He started it in ’78 and I guess we came at the end of ’78 and we joined him in ’79. Merhl was so smart; he knew that he needed Tallahassee. He needed the State of Florida Association. He needed Barratt Wilkins whom he got to know. He needed grant money¾ they were called "turkey grants" then. He and Emily at their own expense went regularly to Tallahassee. Do you know all this?
Kent: Yes, but we want it for the record.
Friedman: Oh, OK. Merhl, a very astute politician, but a very honest one also recognized that he had to be on the County Commission if he was going to get that kind of help. So he got elected¾ such an honest man. He had his critics, but I always found him the best to deal with. He got a matching grant, forty thousand from the State and forty thousand from the County he built the first half of that original library. It opened in 1983, I guess.
We were regular members [of the Friends]. We helped with book sales and Sidney and I both felt strongly about the library. When they needed a secretary I took that job, then when they needed a vice-president I took that job and then Merhl got ill, which was so sad. It was such a loss for us. That is when I stepped into the presidency. It was the library that kept us all those years interested, active, going, helping, working¾ both Sidney and me, which was nice.
He kept substituting in the schools. It is so funny¾ he still sees them now, these kids, grown men with families. Some of the mispronounced and called him Mr. Freedom. [laughter] He sees them and they recognize him and he recognizes them. I, on and off, continued to substitute when I could. I mean I had my real estate license and was working in real estate. So between the jobs and the library we were fully occupied.
Of course we went frequently to¾ we were young, or younger and able to travel so we did. It was wonderful; we went¾ DBCC [Daytona Beach Community College] sponsored twenty years ago a European trip to France, to Italy¾ we went and it was with a bunch of young kids so it was lots of fun. Then we discovered Elderhostel and Sidney and I went to at least fifteen. We were able to see all kinds of places in the country. We went to Hawaii and then we went to Israel¾ we think that we went to Israel twice. It was good. A couple of places we missed and didn’t get to. We never went to Russia or to Spain and I would have liked to go to Russia just to get the feel of the country where my parents came from. We didn’t get to do that. Sidney’s people came from Rumania and Austria and we didn’t get there either. It was good. We were healthy and could afford it and we did it. You don’t do it when you’re older!
Kent: You mentioned swimming and tennis¼
Friedman: Yes. In the beginning there was only one pool, the one that is now at the¾ well, it is no longer called Harbor Side¾ it is called Palm Coast Resort. It was an "L" shaped pool, but it wasn’t heated. I used that when I could for the summer months. Then, in 19¾ what year did they build Belle Terre? Anyway, Bell Terre was wonderful; it was a heated pool. I love swimming; in fact I am now on a campaign about the new [high] school which absolutely must have a pool! No child should flounder in the water and not be able at least to keep his head above the water. We’re not looking for expert swimmers, but to have a place surrounded by water with innumerable swimming pools and have children drowning is wrong! Every child in the County must have an opportunity to learn to swim. The Board of Education doesn’t want me to mess with their financing. So, I know that it has to be independent funding. The Kiwanis is willing to help and I know that there is grant money some place. Now that I have recovered from whatever I had for two months I am going back to do that. Swimming, for children is a wonderful sport. They have no time to do anything else but practice¾ they can’t get into trouble. It is so good for them.
Kent: It is good for older people too, I guess.
Friedman: Yes, it is wonderful. The aerobic classes at Belle Terre do great things for people. I just admire how some people come with walkers and canes¾ they get in the water and they become flexible in the water. Swimming is wonderful. I am all for it!
Kent: Let’s go back now to your role as the President of the Friends of the Library. What would you say was the most valued thing that you have accomplished during your tenure?
Friedman: I guess my lobbying and advocacy must have been the thing that brought things together.
Kent: Tell us about your pin.
Friedman: My pin. I believe strongly in that, people always look. [laughter as we compare identical pins that we are wearing promoting a library project] Yes, Elaine Wright and I ¾ this was seven or eight years ago¾ we were talking about the best way to promote the idea¾ I was thinking of a bumper sticker. I hate bumper stickers; I don’t put them on my car. Elaine said, "Why don’t you get a button instead?" I had a slogan, "Flagler County Needs A New Larger Public Library". I said, "OK, we’ll do that." We got the button and distributed them. Many people wore them for quite a while. I put mine on and didn’t take it off. I found that that kind of lobbying and advocacy is what gets it done. Getting it into the newspapers whenever possible¼
We were very fortunate that the County Commissioners realized¾ and you know, Doug [Cisney, the Library Director] did a marvelous job on getting the grant. He was highly complemented on how well he did it. There is a letter in the Friend’s office that I framed, telling what a wonderful application he put in. He filled out everything that they wanted to know and we got the $400,000. But if it wasn’t used by August 1, 1988¾ no, 1998 the decades slip away¾ that it would be forfeited. So, I knew the County Commissioners pretty well by then and I talked and anyway, in their wisdom they recognized that you don’t lose $400,000 that way and they got the million and a half that we needed. So it was serendipitous. Sure, I talked and talked, but the fact is that the County pitched in and there was a deadline and that’s what got the thing going. Then everybody, everybody did it [got the new library]. It is advocacy and lobbying which gets results.
Kent: What would you say is the greatest need for the library for the future?
Friedman: To be a very important integrated part of community life. What we are doing in our Community Room, our Meeting Room, is wonderful. The programs that bring people in¾ we have people coming into the library who wouldn’t otherwise come for books. There was a time when we were thinking, "What will happen if it turns into e-books?" Who is going to come to the library? Well, it turns out that the library can be a center for culture, education, children¾ it becomes more than just a place to borrow books. That is what I envision for it, and it is happening.
When I think the Friends¾ the kind of funds that we can raise that can supply what is needed. That to me is so gratifying. That little bookshop is a big deal. The bookshop brings in a very comfortable sum every week. Of course, now we are paying sales tax¾ I tried to avoid that, but we pay our sales tax to the State. That’s OK the State needs our money, too. Of course our membership¾ we have now I guess about a thousand sustaining members. We have a very sizeable sum of money that I want¾ and now [Vice President] Kathy Dvornick is going to be working on it¾ devoted partially, at least to an endowment. In the old days, twenty years ago Merhl thought, "Well, if we got $100,000 together and for any reason the County couldn’t come through with a good budget we could supplement it with the interest on $100,000. [laughs] Merhl would be surprised. So we do need to build an endowment because one of my concerns from the day we opened [the new library] was the maintenance. Doug keeps reassuring me that it is built into the budget, but I can see where it would be one of the first things to be cut. Things get old and need to be maintained. Is this what you want to know?
Kent: Yes. How special was it that the gazebo was named in your
Friedman: [laughs] That simply floored me! There had been talk about naming the library. I am very opposed to naming buildings for people because within a short time they will say, "Merhl who?" It doesn’t mean anything. So, yes, it was very gratifying that they choose to name it for me.
Doug and I go to the various organizations to tell about the Library¾ I call it the "Doug and Pony Show". He kind of bristles at that, but we went the other day to the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, NARFE. Hey, I remembered it. We asked for questions at the end of our little talk and a man stood up and said, "What do you need the gazebo for?" [laughing] So I said that we had been running some programs in it¾ Kathy [Dvornick] had a reading group in there¾ Theresa [Owen, Children’s Librarian] took kids in. She had a program about bees and she was giving them honey¾ well, she would have gotten that all over her carpet. You know, the Bollas [Bill and Dorothy] are wonderful about maintaining that place. So they brought their pressure hose and cleaned off the honey! [laughter] But right after that, another person in that group [NARFE] stood up and said, "Oh I think that the gazebo is wonderful. We had to have a meeting of just a few people and we went in there and talked and it was so comfortable. I said, "Thank you ma’am." It is sort of a luxury, but I made sure that everybody understood that it was not taxpayer’s money that paid for it. It is the bricks that are paying for it. We still need to sell some to pay totally so as not to intrude on Friend’s funds for it. I think that it is a nice asset to the Library and I am very proud that it was named for me. I’m very glad where they put it¾ did you see where they put the sign? It is very discrete, high up. They knew I would want it that way. I don’t have it with me, but I have a wonderful picture that Bill Ryan took when they presented the sign¾ I grinned wildly. He caught me at that moment; it is a very good picture.
Kent: We will include that in the CD.
Friedman: He has it, I am sure in his digital camera.
Kent: How would you describe your leadership style?
Friedman: Well, I took a lesson from Merhl. Merhl was very relaxed, far more even than I am. He didn’t act as if the world was coming to a grinding halt at every problem. I have always been that way; I don’t feel that anything is insoluble if you approach it some way. So that is how I do it. It seems to work. I do delegate. I didn’t use to; I used "executive privilege" all the time, it was easier. I would make a decision and say, "OK, we will do this. But I realize that is not democratic, so I am changing. I am being very careful to present even small items to the Executive Board and have a vote and ¼ I am relaxed, I mean the world is not going to come to a grinding halt.
Kent: One thing that I have noticed is that you are "no respecter of persons"¾ is that the way you say it? You seem to relate just as comfortably with other races and other cultures.
Friedman: I am very, very dedicated to the idea of diversity. Yes, I practice that in my life as much as I can. Some of my children say, "Yeah, you’ve got racist ideas lurking in there." But I try not to have. I do my very best not to have¾ I believe that this is a world in which everyone must be treated equally¾ everyone must have a chance. Yes, I am a great believer in diversity.
Kent: The Library fits into that very well.
Friedman: Very well, yes, and Doug agrees with me which is one of the things that I like very much. Yes, we believe that everybody should have equal opportunity. This is one of the reasons that I am pursuing the swim idea. There are no Black children on the swim team¾ for good reason¾ they never got the opportunity to learn to swim. That is why I want every child in Flagler County to have a pool in his or her school so that everybody learns to swim. My diversity goes in that direction.
Kent: I think that perhaps there has been some chemistry between you and Doug.
Friedman: Some what?
Kent: Chemistry¾ in the way that you work together.
Friedman: Yes, he is a wonderful man! I have only words of praise for him. Of course, he promotes me too much¾ he gets me set up for these¾ I went yesterday to the United Fund of Volusia/ Flagler Volunteer Luncheon. The only reason I got there was because Doug Cisney wrote a letter about me. Yes, we have a good working relationship, really fine. He doesn’t step on me; I don’t step on him. He knows that I want only the best for the Library. You know, it is wonderful to have that. I hear of other Friend’s groups that can have dissention between the Director and the Friends. People have strong opinions which they exercise, and they are entitled to, but I also believe strongly in listening to the other opinion. That isn’t working for Colin Powell now, is it?
Kent: No. I think that we have kind of a unique population here in Flagler County because ITT recruited this [development] as a retirement situation. We have people from all over the country with all kinds of skills and time and a certain degree of affluence. How have you tapped into that for the Friend’s group?
Friedman: Well for example, I found Gus Prince. Gus Prince is a prince! I would love to have more people of minorities.
Kent: Tell us about Gus. How is he special?
Friedman: I don’t know if you have read this story; I think we have it in the newsletter about him. Gus is a brilliant man; he is a nuclear physicist and also a very simple and approachable person. I love that story that he told about his father and Grace Kelly’s father working together laying bricks¾ and there he was out there laying our bricks. [on the walkway to the gazebo] What I do admire in Palm Coast is a substantial professional, middle-class Black society. What they built over there on Route 1 is really admirable. [The African American Cultural Society] Well, I am limited in friendships but I met Irma Brooks at AAUW and of course Vi Gordon is a good friend and dear woman. But there is this group of people and I wonder whether they came here because of Shirley Chisholm¾ I’m not sure. There is this professional, retired, Black community of remarkable people, and I try to tap into them. They all have their own interests, of course but I was glad that Gus would make time for us and join the Executive Board. I had to give him a job, and he did it very well¾ oh, of auditing our books. He said, "I’m not an auditor." I said, "Oh, just look them over and see if it looks honest." [laughing] He was very good; he is a delight. His wife is too, but she is very busy. I think that she works at the Methodist Church¾ she volunteers, Willa Prince. Do you happen to know Willa?
Friedman: Willa is active in Mary Ann Clark’s group¾ the women who are involved in the political system¾ what is the name of that group?
Kent: Junior League? No, I don’t mean the Junior League, I can’t think.
Friedman: You know who I mean.
Kent: League of Women Voters.
Friedman: Yes, League of Women Voters, Willa is active in that. Mary Ann is a special person, too. I try very hard to bring them into the group if I can.
Kent: You spoke about AAUW. You have been active in that, haven’t you?
Friedman: AAUW, yes I got to Vice-president and then realized that I would be in line for the Presidency and though I admire what they are doing, I wanted to devote most of my energy to the Library and I couldn’t do both. So, I took on the community job. That means that I arrange for the litter people, we have "The Ladies Who Pick Up Litter". We are doing that next Saturday. I arrange for the staffing of the table at the Service Fair, so I am still connected with AAUW. I go to their meetings and the Executive Board meetings. I was so proud to be included! I had not been a member of AAUW and in 1987 (which is when I got my degree) Winnie Flannigan said, "Well, now you are qualified; you’ve got to join." So I joined immediately and I was proud that I could. All of these people [in the family photo] including Sidney had college degrees. I was the only one that didn’t.
Kent: You are speaking of your family.
Friedman: I said, "OK, now I am one of them. They can’t look down on me." [laughing]
Kent: In reference to your family, they are living far away, some of them, many of them.
Friedman: Yes, all of them.
Kent: How have you maintained your relationship with them over the distance?
Friedman: Well, Harriet (who is now 51) has sort of assumed the matriarchal role, which is fine with me. She and Hans, her husband, have a lovely home in the Berkshires¾ roomy and country and just grand. So we have established what we call "Fried Week". So each summer we gather there and they all come. She and Hans are wonderfully gracious, warm, welcoming people and have put up this whole group between their home and their neighbor’s home. This year instead of having Fried Week in June/ July as we usually do, we said, "OK Marge, number four [child] was getting married, and she was being married at that lovely home in the mountains". Harriet was all ready; they put a tent up and the wedding date was the fifteenth of September. Well, September 11th  happened [pause] and we got there by the skin of our teeth. I wrote the story of how we got there. We were only one hour late to the wedding; it was scheduled for noon on Saturday the 15th and all the guests were standing around in the tent and Sidney and I drove up and it was¾ with a friend that picked us up at the airport¾ and they all¾ [pause] it was a moment. But the California kids: Neil, his wife, Christine, and little Marielle and Nancy and Terry couldn’t make it. Things weren’t flying.
Kent: No, it is a wonder that you made it.
Friedman: It was a miracle! Again, I keep feeling luck¾ something helping me. Like I feel now that I’ve recovered from whatever the heck hit me. We arrived at Daytona; we had a flight at 6 a. m. We left home at 2 to make sure that we¾ we got there and the flight was canceled. We were just standing there in despair; this was at 4 a. m. of the day of the wedding. A supervisor was walking behind and saw us and said, "Can I help?" I said, "Yes, we have to get to Hartford; we have to get to Connecticut to our daughter’s wedding." She said, "Are you willing to pay for a cab to go out to Orlando, maybe I can¼ ?" [We said,] "Sure, Sure!" She got us a flight in Orlando, which was leaving at
6 a.m. The details escape me. We got a cab, it took us out there, we got there in time and then there was this line going totally around the entire building. There was no way we were going to get on that flight. Luckily somebody came along and said, "Anybody for this¼ " and took us out of line. We still didn’t know that it would happen. I couldn’t get¾ I got to a phone, but couldn’t get out on a line to tell Harriet, "We’re trying; we hope¼ ." Somebody heard me; I guess I sounded despairing and she said, "Use my cell phone." I didn’t even know about cell phones. I called Harriet and said, "We hope to get on this flight." She said, "OK, I’ll have somebody down at Hartford to meet you." Their young friend came and got us at the plane in Hartford and he got on his cell phone to call Harriet. She said to him, "I don’t know if my parents are going to make it." He said, "They’re standing right next to me!" [laughter] It was all dramatic stuff. We had our clothes with us; we dashed into the house and changed into what turned out to be wedding clothes¾ I didn’t bring that picture. Three quarters of an hour later we were walking her down the path to the tent to be married. We have pictures of how Marge looked when she saw us; she never thought that we would make it. They were going to go ahead with the wedding; I guess that one third of the guests couldn’t come. [points to couple in picture] This family missed Fried Week last year and the wedding and now it has been two years since we have seen them. We are looking forward to seeing them; July 4th weekend it is going to be.
Kent: And you say that you get frequent e-mail from your children and grandchildren.
Friedman: Constant. Yes. Marielle is now going to be nine; this child [points to picture] is now four and has a baby brother. We have two grandchildren, only. She was our only grand child (Harriet’s daughter) for twenty-five years. The others didn’t marry¾ let’s see, Marge wasn’t married Nancy and Terry weren’t having children, Rob isn’t married, and so Harriet¾ and Neil wasn’t married (of course also, he had the child a lot longer¾ well anyway, they married afterward.) We have five children, two grandchildren and two great grand children. Wonderful people, all, and they married wonderful people, too, which is fortuitous.
Kent: How would you sum up your life?
Friedman: It was a good life; I am a lucky woman. The last twenty years (the kids may not like to hear this) but they were the best years of my life! [laughter] You know, even today¾ no, I don’t do it anymore¾ but as recently as five years ago I would wake in the morning and think, "Oh, I don’t have to pack any lunches, see about clothes, get any kids to school¼ " I didn’t mind it; it was a fine life, but I was totally wrapped up in the children. But it has been rewarding and as I said these last twenty years we have been lucky¾ Sidney is now 89 and he suffered during my illness. It was very hard on him, but he was very kind and supportive. He said, "Don’t worry, you’re going to get over it; you are going to be fine." There were moments when I didn’t think so. So, I am a fortunate woman; it has been a good life. There were downs, but hey¼
Kent: What got you through the downs?
Kent: What helped you get through the difficult¼
Friedman: I think I was born with a special gene that said to me, "Out of lemons you make only lemonade." My mother was that way, too. If you got knocked down with one thing you went ahead and did the next. I may have learned that from her; I don’t know. She was also a strong believer in family; she loved all her nieces and nephews. I love all my nieces and nephews, too [laughing]. I am an upbeat person. I am lucky; I keep repeating that I know¾ it is almost boring; it has just worked out well for me, I am fortunate. I am fortunate that the children have had various surgeries but they have come through, none of it was life threatening. We have been very lucky that way. Nancy, she spent ten years on her back and yet maintained her practice¾ maintained her life. She had some kind of¾ it wasn’t even an injury, but she was in severe pain. She finally found a "body worker" who pounded at her and cured her.
Kent: For heaven’s sake!
Friedman: She is fine; then she had surgery and lost a kidney (not because it was a damaged one). Anyway, she has come through; she is healthy, she is functioning. She is a fine artist, too. Yes, they are remarkable kids. They did well.
Kent: Well, you have had a remarkable life¾ you are having a remarkable life.
Friedman: Yes, Judy, a good, good life. I can’t complain.
Kent: Thank you for sharing it with us.