March 30, 2000
AR: Okay. This is March 30th, 2000, and is an interview of Herb Bridge by Amy Robbins on behalf of the Washington State Jewish Historic Society and we are at Ben Bridge headquarters in Seattle. Herb, why don't you start by telling us what you know and what you've been told about your parents arrival here in Seattle, when that happened and how it happened as best you know it.
HB: Near as I know, in 1890 my great uncle, my grandfather's, my paternal grandfather's brother, had left Poland at a very early age, probably around 17 or 18 to come to this country, landed in New York and proceeded to cross the country until he ran out of country in Seattle here. And he established, he was in company with at the time the Schafers and other people, was, became one of the founders of both the Bikur Cholim and the Temple De Hirsch, so we're plank owners as the Navy calls them, of both the reform and the orthodox synagogues.
AR: Let's stop for just a minute. Okay. Go ahead with your tale.
HB: Anyhow, he had quite a few clothing stores and outfitters for Alaska and was able to bring his brothers over. Grandpa, Dad's father had been in the Russian army and I think prior to 1905 they knew that there'd be a war with Japan, or they anticipated the Czar would want to do something adventurous and so it was kind of necessary as far as they were concerned to get out. And Grandpa came over and then worked for his brother, after a time had enough money saved to send for his wife and at that time the three children. And they, was it three or four, let me think, one, two, three, four children. Dad was the oldest, Ben Bridge was the oldest and when grandma came she was a very tough, strong-minded woman. Grandpa was a very pious man and she ran everything; it was quite a matriarchy and I think she had selected Dad of all the kids to be the one that was going to be successful and endowed him with a great deal of attention. He played the violin. The rule was that despite the fact that grandma was very well educated and spoke, actually she'd gone to a French school there in Poland, spoke six languages. Grandpa was not similarly educated. He was a good tradesman. He was a printer. But she ruled and said there'd be no language except English allowed in the home, learned it herself and was very proficient in it. And as a result the kids grew up with English as their language because very little of the languages that they'd come over with were retained.
AR: Was this in Seattle now?
HB: Oh yeah. They came right to Seattle.
AR: Where did they live?
HB: They lived on, the first house was on 14th and near Pike. And then they moved over, and prior to World War I bought a house on 11th Avenue between Harrison and Republican, so they always lived in that area and actually I just sold that house just not too many years ago now because it had stayed with my aunt living in it after the grandparents passed away. Her name was Helen Silver who married a man, Alfred Shemanski's nephew and lived in Los Angeles until he passed away and then she came up here. She eventually passed away after a long time in the Kline Galland Home along with Dad's brother Dave--both of them were in the Kline Galland Home.
AR: Okay. So when Dad, did Dad come over here as a young man or was he--
HB: Definitely. He was already around 10 or 11 years old, didn't speak English, went to Pacific School but very rapidly advanced through the grades and was extremely literate. His handwriting and his literacy, he was very well coached, and he didn't play the violin in the symphony but he was pretty doggone good.
AR: The symphony, do you mean the--
HB: Well, they had a symphony. I'm not so sure it was the Seattle Symphony at the time, but I know he did play extremely well. His meeting mother after World War I was over, his description in his diary was that he met this lady, Sally Silverman. She was very attractive but she wasn't that great an accompanist. But he decided that was who was going to accompany him all his life and it was a life-long love affair.
AR: Okay. You said he went to school at Pacific School. What would have been his school years? When would he have gone?
HB: Well he must have started around 1906, 1907 and did graduate Broadway High.
AR: Was that before World War I?
HB: Yeah, he was, in fact before World War I he'd even taken some university courses and all. He went to work for Schwabachers and Nathan Eckstein picked him out as his protege there, encouraged Benjamin to do all sorts of things, including wanting him to have a payroll deduction plan on purchase of land that Schwabachers owned on Mercer Island. Dad and his younger brother Abe paddled over there in a canoe, decided that there wasn't, it really wouldn't have been a very good investment, which means the rest of us have had to work for a living all of our lives. It was not the smartest thing that he ever did, but he was a very, very, fair-haired boy as far as Schwabachers, as far as Nathan Eckstein was concerned. At the dawn of 1917 when the war started, World War I started, Dad was the head of the tobacco and candy departments there.
AR: The war actually, I guess the United States got in in 1917.
HB: In 1917, I'm not talking about 1914. 1917 was when we became involved and Dad promptly enlisted in the Navy and had a very illustrious career as an enlisted man in the Navy. He was, he became a radio electrician at a time when radio code was very, very new. They had sent him to Harvard to learn it and he was assigned to a submarine chaser in the, that was in the Adriatic covering for French, British and Italian naval units against the Austrian-Hungarians. And the stories, of course, he wrote, he was very prolific and he wrote a complete diary. He had exciting and interesting times. I skied last year with an Austrian-Hungarian, an Austrian who was a, actually turned out to be a Nazi machine gunner in World War II. And we were talking, his great uncle, his uncle had been a Austrian Naval officer and it turned out that my dad and his uncle were directly opposed and found out from him Dad had thought in his diary that this Austrian battleship venturing out where they had been, they had been actually blockaded in the Port of Pola by the concentrated fleet units and this Austrian battleship, the Uribus Unitas ventured out and with its guns, its rifles were as vertical as they could get. Of course they couldn't fire in that position so there was an indication they were willing to surrender and then they saw that there was a Yugoslav flag on it. This was in October of 1918, a month before the Armistice. And all of a sudden this battleship blew up in front of him and of course it had some 800 men on it. And Dad and his crew picked up men from the water and found out that they had revolted against their Austrian officers, the Yugoslavs, wanted to surrender the battleship to the Americans with the hope they might get it back for their new country after the war. And all of a sudden the ship blew up and Dad attributed to a Italian submarine that possibly didn't get the word, you know, that this was what was happening. And they saw an enemy ship coming so they did it. This Austrian that I skied with in Europe, this was just a year, last year, he wrote me back, Hans wrote me back and he said no that wasn't, that isn't the way it happened. He said his crazy uncle, also an Austrian Nationalist and a strong admirer of the crown, had so despaired of turning his ship over to anybody, that he had blown the ship up.
AR: Rather than--
HB: Rather, touched off the magazine and of course his family had alleged that he had gone down wrapped in an Austrian flag, you know, Austria forever. Anyhow, Dad was over there. He had studied German in Broadway High School, with the Yiddish and all that he knew it came pretty naturally, so he was sent over to take the surrender of one of the other Austrian battleships, the Zrinyi. And that sword over there represents the commanding officer's sword that was presented to my dad. Dad tried to give it back to him in the surrender of this battleship. Interestingly enough, when I needed a sword, which was way after World War II, for the various ceremonial things that I used, I was too cheap to buy a sword so I used this one until I realized that this was really an heirloom. Here was a war heirloom that was personally given my dad and I had used it simply because I didn't want to spend the money on a new one. But I used it throughout my Navy career and of course it's attracted a lot of compliments, a lot of attention. It's an exciting thing.
AR: Let me interrupt just to say that we're in a conference room in Ben Bridge Jeweler headquarters and on the wall of the conference room are a number of artifacts and memorabilia, one of which is the very interesting sword that Herb is describing. Let's stop there for a minute and go back and track the other side of the family. Do you know as much about your mother's history and her arrival in Seattle:
HB: Unfortunately not as much. Although I do know, in fact I just got a letter from a family physician named Silverman in Altoona, Pennsylvania, who is sure that our families are related. But there was a similar situation in my mother's family in which a younger brother came to Seattle. His name was Charlie Silverman. He was one of the first luggage makers along with Henry Kotkin's father, I think they were in alliance at one time. And he had a company Northwest Luggage I believe it was, and he in turn attracted his brother, my grandpa Samuel Silverman, who actually had come and we don't know exactly how it happened, he came to Altoona Pennsylvania. Now it had to be after 1901 because my mother was born in Warsaw. So it had to be after 1901. But they left Altoona, Pennsylvania, and came here probably no later than 1912 where he established the antecedent of our company. It was S. Silverman & Company which was the jewelry store. Grandpa, in fact if you look, there's a picture of Grandpa, he was a handsome man, the one on the right. Of course you remember my dad.
AR: I do.
HB: But the first, his store was on Third Avenue and he was not only a skilled watchmaker, and very well known, but he had a very nice store and he was an optometrist in addition to that in those years. And that was something that was allied with the jewelry store. We have the early pictures of the watches with my grandma being in the store. She was a very beautiful woman. My mother and grandmother were beautiful women, unfortunately we took after our fathers in the looks department. But they were engaging, smart matriarchal type women.
AR: So the jewelry store was started when?
HB: Well we think 1912. But actually in Seattle. Because in Altoona Grandpa had one probably there for at least more than a half a dozen years. He had also been in the Russian army. And so we think he came probably right around the same time as my other grandfather came which was just prior to 1905, which got him out of the Russian Japanese war. They were reserves by that time.
AR: Let's see. You were born when?
HB: March 14, 1925.
AR: And where was the family living at that time?
HB: Interestingly enough, you know the area at Madison Park where the Reed Estate is now, my folks had a house that they rented that was right on the water. I mean it was waterfront in the Reed Estate. The house was later, it was then called the McGilvra Estate, and the house was later floated over to some place across the lake. But it was a cute little house and Dad and Mother were not too thrilled about being right on the water because I, at one time my dog had had to pull me out of the water because I was in it all the time. So they moved back on, they built a house on 41st. And that's where we lived until 1938 where, and of course I graduated McGilvra Grade School in 1938 also. I was the class _________
AR: That's something I never knew. My knowledge goes back to Mt. Baker.
HB: When we moved to Mt. Baker, Dad figured he had enough money to buy a nice home in Mt. Baker which he did, of course, on Lakewood Avenue, beautiful home, and that's where Bob being six years younger and I grew up. I had my paper route from there and so forth.
AR: And then you went to Franklin High School?
HB: Franklin High for all years, four years.
AR: All right. You graduated there when?
HB: I graduated in 1942, June of '42.
AR: Talk a little bit about your high school years and your activities, Jewish activities, that you remember as being involved in.
HB: Well, I always had a lot of activities. I don't know, I seem to have a great restlessness and a lot of energy to accompany it. So I was AZA. I also was DeMolay and very active in a lot of different things, but also throughout high school because of the fact that I worked after school--I worked definitely Saturdays learning watch making largely. I got to be a fairly decent watchmaker. But, you know, it's kind of, I'm a salesman Amy, and I'd always sold things. In Madison Park I sold papers, I hawked newspapers, going up and down the street yelling "Get your Sunday PI and Times," and worked for a fella by the name of Al at 43rd and East Madison, rode the ferry, sold papers.
AR: Which ferry are we talking about?
HB: That was the ferry that went over to Kirkland, it was the old Lincoln.
AR: Oh, I remember, but I wanted to get in on the tape.
HB: We also had the Packet, the Ariel as I remember, it went to Houghton there out of Madison Park. And then there were always magazines on, with all these kind of premiums that you got for selling them, a catcher's mitt and all that sort of stuff, even a bicycle that I got with premiums once. And I'd sell the Saturday Evening Post, the Liberty, and all the different magazines and go door to door cause I was just, had a lot of, that was before in my grade school times. High school, I had permission from Dad to get a paper route, carrier route which I did from the very beginning. And I had a fairly good route, all the way through high school making quite a bit of money for myself. cause the store was not very, Dad was not overly generous in paying family. We're supposed to be working for the family, you know, and the money I got from the paper route was mine, which I really enjoyed having and I was able to buy a car in my senior year in high school for $85, which was a beauty. It was wonderful, loved it, a '32 Plymouth. It was the most beautiful car I've ever owned.
AR: Wonderful. The business, when did it actually start under the name of, when and how did it start being Ben Bridge Jewelers?
HB: Ben Bridge, that was kind of interesting. Dad, first of all Dad's work, Dad, when he asked mother to marry him and finally pressured her into marrying him, cause that's, he knew this was the woman for him. And with all the dramatics at the time I think he'd of jumped out of the Volunteer Park water tower if she hadn't married him. It was one of those kinds of things. I'm quite serious about it. Anyhow, he was nuts about her always, right up to the entire, their entire married life. I've never seen a man so dedicated to a woman in my life. I'm not so sure it was completely, I'm not so sure it was, I can say the same thing about mom's feelings sometimes. Anyhow, she talked Dad into partnership with her father.
AR: Okay, back on the tape Herb. Let's see, you had decided to discontinue your boxing career after your experience in winning the University championship.
HB: It was Shirley. I think we were on Shirley at the time, we got out there and I almost, when I took her out on the first day I took her over to, on the ferry over to Bremerton and the Officer's Club and we'd eaten at Manca's down on Second and Columbia, you remember it. And, such a good restaurant, I was showing off everything I could. But we stayed on the ferry for a couple hours and by the time I came back to Seattle I, this is the woman I'm going to marry. So the second time we went out she was more amenable to going out with me by then. The second time we went out I asked her to marry me. I don't think she thought I was serious and she said no. The third time I took her, in the evening we went down to the store, unlocked the doors, and I put different rings on her finger. I think she still thought that this was something that, maybe this guy's technique or something like that, trying to maneuver me into whatever it is. And then I made the ring and I remember it was in September of 1947. I took her up in the woods, she'd never been used to going in the woods or anything like that. We went hiking. I bought her her first pair of Levi's and her first pair of boots and we went up above Monte Cristo, you know up there at Big Four up in the Stilli, up above, anyhow we...
AR: The Stilliguamish River?
HB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very beautiful and got up on this high point and I took the ring out of my pocket, put it on her finger, and I said do you like it? Well, you'd have to have been blind not to have liked it. "Oh yes," I said, "we are engaged." I never got a yes out of her. And so Rabbi Levine married us January 25th of '48. Had a big wedding down at the Olympic Hotel.
AR: You were out of school at that time?
HB: Oh, yeah. I was graduated.
AR: And you were working at the store. The store was where at that point?
HB: The store, 4th and Pike.
AR: Still in the same place.
HB: Where it still is. Remember, it wasn't on the corner until fairly recent years. In fact you see where it was right there? There's
AR: We're looking at a picture of the Joshua Green Building.
HB: No, that's the Fourth and Pike Building.
AR: I'm sorry, the Fourth and Pike Building. The picture is what, circa 1940?
HB: This is older, this is younger than that. This is probably about 1954 or so. It's about the time that Bob and I took the store over. That's pretty well the way, maybe a little earlier than that. But it's pretty well the way it was where it's one of a number of stores, there's Porad's, Ben Bridge, and then the Cutlery Shop and the PI,
AR: And the big corner store.
HB: Yes, Foreman and Clark.
AR: Yes, Foreman and Clark which as I recall was--
HB: Upstairs clothiers.
AR: Yeah, upstairs clothiers. Yeah, right.
HB: Right. And that was pretty well the way the store was in January of '55 when Bob and I took it over.
AR: Let's see. There's a period in there that we need to 'talk about for a moment. You get married, you were married in 1948 to Shirley.
HB: And we had Jon in 1950, we bought a home in Montlake right at Boyer and East Lynn and 16th, at that junction right on the corner. It was our dream home. We really strained. We bought it for $15,000. We thought we'd never afford the payments because we were not making very much money. You know, these were times when $50 a week was a lot of money and this was-
AR: I went to work as a lawyer for 50 bucks a week in 1951.
HB: Yeah. So it was not, we, at $15,000 we were really straining ourselves. The payments were I remember $95.78 a month and Shirley worked as a pharmacist and with me working we were able to do it, but we didn't have a lot of space to play around with. In March of 1950, Jon was born. And then in June of 1950 the Korean War started. And Shirley called me pretty upset one day when we had a delivery at home, it happened to have been a day off she had, and a delivery at home of orders to Tactical Air Control Group 1 at the Air Station in North Island, San Diego. I had no idea what was going on. Couldn't find out cause the war had started and everything was secret. Phones, nothing, no one could tell me what it even was. So Shirley came down with me, we got her aunt to take care of the baby, and she came down with me and the story of her and the confrontation she had with this poor commander who was absolutely guiltless as far as calling me up. But Shirley held him responsible for taking me away from her. And I cooked up a story with him before she came in that I was only going to be gone, I found out I was going to be gone a long time and that I was going to be part of what subsequently was the invasion of Inchon and that they thought I was a really skilled person which I wasn't at the time in this kind of work, which was close air support. And--
AR: What rank were you at that time?
HB: I was a Lieutenant Junior Grade.
HB: I soon became a full Lieutenant, which is the same as an Army Captain or a Marine Captain. But she was very upset. About two years later I ran across this same commander because she just, I had to almost pull her away from, she was going to attack him I think. And I had to almost, and we were at the Officer's Club on the coast of Japan, I'm on my way home, and he's there with a big carrier in the Philippine Sea. He's a Carrier Air Group Commander and his name is Graybill. We were having a beer and talking about, he's getting my idea of what's been going on in the war and he said, "You know," he said, "I know you're anxious as can be to get back to that wife of yours. And I understand that." He said, "Please understand if there's one woman in the world I never want to see again in my life, it's your wife." Shirley is very, as you know she can be very strong.
HB: And intimidating. And she, poor guy, as if it was his fault. But, you know, Amy, that was what inspired me to really stay in the reserve because of the realization that I was thrown into something that I hadn't been trained for. It was a ground job with the Marines, you know, Close Air Support, calling in Close Air Support and all, hadn't -had any training, had to catch up, worked night and day to be up to par and I was more dangerous to our people than I believe I was to the enemy at first.
AR: So were you in firefighting then in Korea? I didn't realize that.
HB: Yeah. And so I really caught up on that, I caught up on what I was supposed to be doing and resolved that if I ever came out of this thing properly I was going to stay active in the reserve and be a missionary to make sure that our people were better prepared than I had been. And that actually was the story for hundreds and thousands of men who were called that had no interim training between World War II and Korea. And you know, there wasn't going to be any more wars after the atomic bombs. It was a bad scene. So I stayed active and when I came back I affiliated with the Reserve and to make a very long story short, cause it is a long story, you know staying 43 years all together. I stayed in until 1985. I had the most remarkable career in the Reserve alongside the jewelry business that anyone has ever had. You see McCain in the news. Well, I served as, during the Viet Nam War, on his father's staff, his father was overall. commander, Commander in Chief Pacific. I served a period of time on his father's staff. When McCain came back after Viet Nam and was assigned Navy, as a Navy captain to the United States Senate, I relieved him, that's the son of course, the one that's in the news, I relieved him so he could go on leave and was liaison to the United States Senate for the Navy. I was a captain. I had so many different assignments--it took me to the Mediterranean, it took me all over the world. And my two-week duty, every week--
AR: Is that what you're talking about, the two weeks--
Every year I would take two weeks...
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A, BEGINNING OF SIDE B
HB: ...someplace and I'd go off to sea or I'd go off to someplace. And we did that all the way through until 1985. It culminated in 1982 where I'd already been selected as an Admiral. I was an Admiral. Before that time I had gone to Harvard as a special study to determine whether we should fight for the oil in the Middle East. And I delivered, there were over 100 of us there, and we came to the conclusion after intense study and debate that it was in the United States' vital interest that we would have to fight for the passage of oil. We could get by in America, but Japan, Europe could not. It would engender a worldwide collapse, economic collapse. So we delivered, I delivered that to George Bundy and all the State Department people were there, that we would have to fight. This became the Carter Doctrine. The Carter Doctrine was that we'll fight for the passage of oil, which is still, each president has ratified that. And this is what took us so promptly into Kuwait with Bush, you know. But in order to implement this we put ships and we got a hold of the British Indian Ocean territories and Diego Garcia, we put ships down there that were fully loaded combat equipped--everything that 18,000 Marines would need in combat for 30 days. Everything. The artillery, the water even, and when Bush declared this deal on Kuwait we moved those ships up to Saudi Arabia, unloaded them, sent the Marines over so when the Iraqis came down and they occupied Kuwait, they ran up to the border of Saudi Arabia and there is this peninsula where all the Saudi Arabian oil was, there were 18,000 Marines facing them, within seven days of the fighting started. They were there and so they didn't ever cross into Saudi Arabia and torch off the Saudi Arabian oil. So it worked. But in the meantime, I'm getting away from the story. In the meantime in 1982 the Navy called me and said you know, we have 45 ships in the Sea-Pac at command out in the Far East. How would you like to have a fleet command for at least three months? Because the Admiral that is there is leaving, his relief is not trained, you know, you and the Reserve have trained all this stuff, you know what it's all about, you were in on the beginning of this. How about you going out and taking that command for three months. So I have a fleet command for three months--the first Reserve they'd ever had do that, had a wonderful time. I had my helicopter, I was zooming around. Had a great time.
AR: Okay. So, you're off of active duty and after Korea in 19, what
HB: 52. Just in time to commission my brother in the Navy at the University of Washington where Bob became an officer in the United States Navy. I came back and commissioned him. In June of 1952.
AR: Okay. All right. And so you're back in the Reserve in 1952.'
HB: Back in the inactive--
AR: And remained in the Reserve with the activities you're already describing--
HB: For another 33 years.
AR: And three more months of active duty in 1982.
HB: I finally became the Senior Admiral of the entire United States Naval Reserve. I retired on my 60th birthday in 1985.
AR: All right. That's a career all by itself.
HB: It was a wonderful career. It was an exciting career. And it was one where I could see my, my fingerprints were on a lot of different things. And it was almost as challenging as the business.
AR: Well in the meantime, back at the ranch.
HB: Yes, back at the ranch in 1954 I'm out of course, Bob is out--
AR: Out of?
HB: The Navy active duty. He'd only had to serve two years, from 1952- 54. So three men are in the store and Dad, who was a very strong man, was not about to hear anything I wanted to do. We did that in 1929 and it didn't work. We did that in 1933. And he was good. He was a really good merchant and so ethical, so straight, so charity-minded, so Jewish-minded, you know, you knew he was head of the Federation and he was the, of course this was after he retired, most of it, cause he paid attention to business. But he was always charitable and always soliciting for the fund. And so I talked to Shirley and G-d bless her, she was born here with her family here and everything here, I said, "Shirley I'm terribly unhappy. I'd like to leave, go into the jewelry business someplace else away where we wouldn't compete with our own company, learn how to build multiple businesses, multiple stores, and then come back when Dad is ready to retire." And to my everlasting gratitude to her she said, like Ruth, "whither thou goest I shall go. And I'll be able to get my license there and I'll practice." Because she resolved, when we were first married, she'd never quit. She was going to work regardless. And the children would only have to be a concession to me, but she was going to keep working. And so that's exactly what we did. I went down, I told Dad that I was going to be leaving January of 1955, find myself a job, found myself a good job paying more than I ever thought I'd ever make--base of $10,000 plus overrides running three Zales stores in Denver.
AR: How old were your kids at this time?
HB: Well, Danny was born in 1954, in January of '54, so he's a year old. And the other one of course is going to be five. And Shirley, wonderful woman that she is, I'll take the kids and we'll go. And I had, we were kind of excited about it. It was really a change. And about the Fall of 1954 Dad called a conference. I'm sure mother had no inkling of what he was going to do. I know we didn't. Bob and Bobbie, and Shirley and I--Bob had been married in 1952 right after he graduated college and went in the Navy, he and Bobbie were married. And the four of us were there with mom and Dad at the house and Dad said I've done a lot of thinking about this. Herb, you are not leaving. No asking. You are not leaving. I am leaving. January 1st of 1955 he walked out of the store. He didn't walk back in for 10 years. In that time we lost mom and he, we asked him to come in and keep things, and be kind of a floorwalker so to speak which he really enjoyed being. But for 10 years he went out, we were horribly distressed. We thought my G-d what is this active 58-year-old man going to do. He, his life had been tied up in the store. But he wasn't about to change his mind. He didn't change his mind.
AR: There was no antipathy, he just wanted to stay away and let you guys do your thing.
HB: He says, I want you, he says you're ready and, Dad how will we pay you? You get together with an accountant, I know you'll do the right thing. No, nothing, he stayed as a partner, stayed liable, stayed as a half owner for that period of time. And left it for us to really carve out mother's and his future. Soon after the Jewish Community Center, the Federation, the shul, everything got a hold of him. He became, of course, with the terrific energy he had, he was head of all those things.
AR: Shul would be?
HB: The Bikur Cholim. So he didn't say anything about that when Temple De Hirsch had its fundraising. It shows you what kind of guy he was. One day he came up to me because he had always been active in the Bikur Cholim. And he said I understand you're having a fundraising for the new temple you're building. I said yeah. He said, How come you haven't asked me for money?" I said, "Dad, you've got your own problems. Bikur Cholim, I mean, what do you mean?" He said, "No, it's all good." And he wrote me a check for Temple De Hirsch, which is the kind of a man he was. A good man.
AR: Okay. Let's see, talk about the business.
HB: The business, Bob and I then immediately started thinking in terms of how we could grow the business. We tried a couple of ventures. One of them, Boris Merport and Will Nagle came to us and they were putting in a discount house called Price Mart. And somehow or other it seemed right for us to bring the same merchandise to people less expensively at less cost to us and still make a profit and we'd be ala Costco type of thing. It'd be a good thing to do. So we went in and we were very successful at that but realized at the end of a couple years this was not going to be working for us because the costs of operation that were initially where people come in and say I'll take that, it didn't need a salesperson, didn't need wrapping, didn't need delivery, didn't need guarantees and all, those kind of things went out the window pretty soon and the costs of operating that business grew disproportionately high--it came very close to what we could see, graphwise in approaching a regular store. And needing that kind of margin. And the only way you could do that is by hiding, taking things that were merchandise that you couldn't, that no one could compare a price on and marking that up disproportionately high and we said this isn't for us. So we told them we wanted to get out despite the fact that we were doing several millions of dollars of volume. They thought we were crazy but we knew that this was, but in the meantime-
AR: Where was Price Mart located?
HB: It was out on Aurora, I think around 175th. There was a dip there where I think Holman Road comes in or something. And I remember the old Interurban used to run right past, but it's right there, I think it is a Safeway store now or something.
AR: I remember an old discount house on Third and Wall, and I thought that's what you were referring to?
HB: No, that was Jerry Alhadeffs deal or Mayer Baron's. It was Mayer Baron but Jerry Alhadeff was in there too, that was Valu, no it wasn't Valu Mart, it was something. Anyhow, it isn't the same one. So we went out of that. Well in the meantime Penney's Department Store, a fellow came to town looking for a jeweler because Penney's was changing. Remember the Second and Pike Penney's was the largest in the country. And they were really very successful there. And they were going to go into everything, credit which old James Cash Penney had never wanted to do. All the kind of things, and other than clothes and things, they were going to go all across the deal and they wanted a licensed department in there, jewelry, they knew nothing about jewelry so they wanted somebody. And they went around to various wholesalers who are the best people for this? Well, it came down to Bob and me being their number 1 choice simply because we'd had this discount experience, been used to buying things by carloads, literally carloads, and selling at a very low margin. And we had jewelry experience. Gemologists, all that kind of stuff that went with it. So, he came to us, my gosh I remember the first, we put in the Penney's Fine Jewelry Department at Second and Pike. The first sale we made was $1,000. I couldn't imagine that Penney's would be that kind of, and we were extremely successful.
AR: When was that?
HB: I'm trying to remember. I can't remember. I think it was, it had to be around 1961. Right around 1961 by that time. 1961 I'm pretty sure. And we were extremely successful. We put together seven of their stores, but at the same time we told them that if we couldn't put Ben Bridge stores in, despite the fact their lease provisions were such that we couldn't, if we couldn't put Ben Bridge stores in the same mall we weren't going to deal with them. But by that time we were so good and they gave us special allowance to do that, so we went into Southcenter with a Ben Bridge store. We eventually went into, interesting story. Jim Douglas was the owner of Northgate. Bob and I went out there to see if we could get a store in there. We were in Penney's and we wanted to put a store in. He said no, we don't need any more jewelers. He was a tough guy, you know. No, we don't need any more jewelers. And we turned to walk out after, rather discouraged, we'd given him our best pitch. And he said wait a minute. He said here's what I'm going to do. There was a map on the wall and he says I'm putting you right in here. I looked at the thing and I must have been pale because Russell Stover and Zales were both in this spot in Northgate. And I said both those places? Yeah. I'm throwing them out. Their leases are up, I'm throwing em out. I says you're going to get in a lot of trouble with them, their lawyers. These are national outfits. Their lawyers are going to be--he says I don't have any problem with that. And I said we won't be able to pay that kind of rent. He says I'm confident that you will. In fact I know you boys and I think you'll be able to do that, don't worry about that. Walking out I said why are you doing this? What in heaven's name are you doing this? I says you're going to expose yourself to problems. He said, I'll tell you why I'm doing it. He said it's because you people are good citizens. Now this is the fellow that's been the head of the Chamber and all that. And simultaneous with my life, I'm like, particularly mine, because Bob wasn't that active in it, simultaneous with my Navy and business I'm doing things in the community.
AR: We're going to talk about that.
HB: But I mean right from the beginning. And he's looking at that sort of thing. He said you're good citizens. He cited that as a reason for our going into it. Not only are you honest and ethical, but you care for the community. And it meant a lot to us. Well, we stayed with Penney's for probably 20 years. And then saw the same thing happening with Penney's that happened in the Discount House, where nationally up until that time we'd been the influence of the jewelry departments, they had wanted us to go national. By that time we'd have had probably 300 or 400 departments throughout the country, and been of national significance. And we thought we'd never wanted to be that beholden to anybody, where somebody woke up in New York with a headache and we were tossed out. And so we restricted ourselves to just the Puget Sound area and had seven Penney stores. But interestingly enough, even though those stores were not the top stores throughout the country, we had out of the top 10 stores six, of the country, jewelry departments. Six of ours were in the top 10 and the other one wasn't that far behind. Olympia, for example. And because we'd put our people in, they were trained, they were gemologists, they were good. And they had the morale. When we ultimately told Penney's, Bob and I went back and told them we wanted to leave. And this was multimillion dollar business.
AR: When was that, by the way?
HB: That would have had to have been very early '80s. '81, '82. We'd had over 20 years with them. Maybe '80. And we told them we wanted to leave. They thought we were absolutely out of our minds. And we told them that there are four, there's four requirements we're going to have so we'll have a happy divorce so to speak. First of all you have to take all of our people at the rate that they're being paid with the kind of conditions they have. They're loyal, they're good, what a prize you'll have. Second of all, you'll have to take inventory because by this time we had done the Penney's inventory but it was a great deal different than the Ben Bridge inventory and a different quality, because they'd allowed it to be a different quality.
AR: Lesser quality?
HB: Yeah. Lighter stuff and all and so we, even though we'd started much more solidly, through the years they had gone into much more of a promotional type of thing. And by this time what they are doing is the same damn thing that they did in the discount houses, 10% off. And we screamed. You start that 10% off, price it properly in the beginning with a modest margin, and don't do this 10% off because it's like a virus. It's going to be 20% the next year and 30%, which is what you see in these stores, now the department stores. You saw The Bon ad yesterday, 40% plus 10% off. You know, crazy. And nobody, how can they afford to buy an ad and sell something for that kind of thing. And they could, without lying about it. It's blind merchandise, Amy. You know, this is what it is. So we could see that this was, we could chart again that, the graph out that we were coming to an end of being a profitable enterprise unless we wanted to be, in our minds, unethical.
AR: Because of Penney's insistence on price slashing?
HB: Yeah. And this was national and we couldn't be the tail to drive the dog, we had to go along with it and so when that started we knew it was, as far as we were concerned, profitable or not, we're out.
AR: So you were able to establish the terms under which you were going to leave?
HB: Yeah. We established four differences in the lease. Four differences that were widely disparate from the lease requirements. First of all, taking the personnel, except for our seven managers. The seven managers, we told them you could offer them anything you want to offer, but we're going to offer them a job if they want it with us. We didn't have seven stores for them all to go into, but all of them, they all seven came with us. And they are running, they are the ones running the company right now. They are vice presidents and all, they're wonderful people. And they've been with us all these years. The second thing was that inventory, you had to buy the inventory, because it's not our-which will enable you to just keep doing business just like, with the personnel and inventory, no one will know he difference. The third thing is the lease calls for an amortized worth of fixtures. Huh uh. We'll get an appraisal on what those fixtures are worth for replacement and you should buy them for that. And the last thing, they had a deal where you impounded the funds if you left for like 60 or 90 days of the last several months' business. I said no. The last day we are there, that's the day we finish, from then on it's yours. Cause with a Penney's guarantee of returns and things like that, the easiest thing to do would be to take something back and--
AR: Spend your money.
HB: Yeah, spend my money and we'd have nothing back from it. And they ultimately agreed on that. We had a very happy, and still do have a very happy relationship because they give us credit for the success of their Fine Jewelry Departments. They were the most professionally put together departments that anyone could imagine. And they're Penney owned. They're not leased.
AR: What do you mean Penney owned?
HB: Yeah, they're not leased departments. They're like The Bon Marche, for example, which is a leased department.
AR: Other than the Penney's franchise, I guess that's the right word, when did the first Ben Bridge store open that wasn't downtown?
HB: Southcenter. And Orley went out to manage it. It was so successful that--
AR: That was Orley Solomon?
HB: Yeah, Orley Solomon and he was so good, is so good. You know, at the age of 76 he's still active at our company, as one of the vice presidents and the premier trainer. I mean he is such a good trainer, and not only in gemology but in salesmanship and everything. He's just fantastic. So he's been with us all those years. And he went and set us off to a great start. So then we went into Tacoma, Northgate, and started spreading out getting Ben Bridge stores and then ultimately Portland, then had the temerity to go into California, which I would have never guessed we would. And now, of course, we've opened up our 62nd store. We're in 11 Western states, Hawaii, Alaska, the three coast states, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas.
AR: Where are you in Texas?
HB: In Dallas. And we're going to spread more there. The boys have decided that they like Texas. It's doing very well.
AR: Let's see there was a question I was going to ask you. Oh, I know to my own knowledge that there was a time at which you were very concerned about opening stores, a feeling because you were afraid that management wouldn't work with so much geography involved. When did that change?
HB: Well I think what's really made the difference and made it possible is computerization. And let me give Bob credit for that, almost entirely. When computerization started in years ago, you remember Norm Friedman?
AR: Oh sure, sure.
HB: Normie went into that and so Bob, and he went down to Portland, and Normie, Bob and Normie were in very close contact--when should we computerize? And Normie would say not yet, not yet, not yet. Then finally the time came and he said now, this is the time you'd better do it. So we did it. Wrote our own programs which ultimately we sold to noncompeting jewelry stores because they were good, they're still very useful programs, but its enabled us to, because of the inventory, because of fast re-supply, fast replenishment, that sort of thing, it's enabled us to be so much larger. And then we had this core of fantastic people. The seven managers, for example, who made this core along with Orley and a few of the other people that were in the company. And we had a nucleus of terrific people. Ultimately two of our women vice presidents, for example, each of them have 16 stores they supervise. And so they're geographically where these stores, the locus of where these stores are and in very close contact with each of the people there.
AR: Are these Seattleites who have moved to those stores, locations?
HB: Uh huh, yeah..
AR: I see.
HB: They'd gone all over and they've had great adventures. When we open up a new store we, there's people that are qualified, mostly our assistant managers who are already qualified for management, we invite their application to manage the store which, of course, income-wise is much better for them. And the fellow that was at, for example we talked about Texas. Joe was running the store in Southcenter for years and doing a fabulous job, decided he'd like to go to Texas and left Southcenter to move down to Dallas, Texas. So we've spread people out that way and we have, everybody's having a great time. But I want to make one thing clear too. Jon and Ed are running the business. Just like Dad walked out and said you're operational, well when I, oh I think it's been probably 12 years ago or so I said I'm no longer operational to Ed and Jon. You guys are running it. And very quickly thereafter Bob did the same thing. So even though we have offices here and every now and then they talk to us, they're completely operational.
AR: Okay, when you say completely operational, you mean--
HB: They make every decision.
AR: Jon is your son?
HB: Jon's my son.
AR: And Ed is?
HB: Ed is Bob's son. And they're--
AR: They're both legally trained I think, aren't they? Jon is I know.
HB: Jon is an attorney and Phi Beta Kappa. Ed is Phi Beta Kappa economics and business. They're very, very sharp guys.
AR: Okay, great. And that goes into the next subject. I was going to ask you to talk about your kids, so Jon is in business here. And you have what, one more son?
HB: Dan, who is a Rabbi. Also like the two boys, every now and then you know I remind them that you saw the kind of miserable life I had married to their mother, you know, where she is working all the time and she is so opinionated and so strong and all that sort of thing, and they married women, diminutive women that are exactly like her. I mean exactly like her. Where Bobbe now is a Supreme Court Justice, you know.
AR: Bobbe is Jon's wife?
HB: Bobbe is Jon's wife and a Supreme Court Justice. And Jan, Dan was going to be Shirley's physician. That was what she had programmed him to be and he surprised us by being a Rabbi and his wife is the physician now. You know, she's an M.D., internal medicine at the University of Washington. I'm thrilled with those two women like I can't tell you how thrilled I am, and neither of em, they're all, they all hover around five feet.
AR: And are there grandchildren?
HB: Yeah. Bobbe and Jon have two kids. The older one is in Boston College in law school, finished the second year. The younger one is 18 years old. Just graduated Franklin. Right now she's working in the display area of the business. And we'll see, we hope she'll go back to college. She started college and then decided she'd like to work for a while. She's of artistic bent. We'll see what happens. In the meantime I'm, naturally I've got a pitchfork in her tail, to go back to school. And the other two kids, the Rabbi and doctor's two children, one of em is 16 and is in high school, a special deal that Garfield High School has in Israel. And he's spending four months over there in high school having a ball. He'll be back April 20th, and the other one is 14 and is just going into Garfiell.
AR: Okay. And let's see, there's a whole other career we haven't even started to talk about yet and that is your community service.
AR: We're on tape 2 of an interview of Herb Bridge on March 30, 2000, and you just started to get into the subject of your community service. So let's talk about that.
HB: You know it's so simple and it's all related to being a salesman. It's all the fact that, I think I solicited my first United Way, it was then Community Chest, when I was 14, from surrounding businesses downtown. They asked me, Don Bennett, asked me to join the President's Club of the Chamber, which is nothing more or less than a membership soliciting thing.
AR: You might talk about who Don Bennett was.
HB: Well, Don Bennett was a sales training guy that, a good friend, he's famed actually by having the kind of guts and will that after he lost his leg in a boating accident he climbed Mt. Rainier with one leg. A fantastic guy. He was a good friend many, many years back.
AR: Is he still around?
HB: He's over east of the mountains now. He still belongs to the 101 Club with us. Well anyhow, he got me into this thing and I've subsequently-
AR: This was, your first organization.
HB: Well, one of em, one of em. I'd already done things that he felt male me more than eligible to come into this thing. And subsequently I have sold more memberships of the Chamber of Commerce than any other person in history. And was the President of the President's Club and so forth. And that's the way the thing spreads, you know. You get somebody that will work in something and you could have very moderate talent but if you work and do something you get recognition. That in turn gave me recognition because this was the Chamber. They put me on as a Trustee of the Chamber. And then you do various things as the Trustee of the Chamber and then one day they said we want you to be the President next year. You know, how it, so you became the-
AR: When did you start with the Chamber?
HB: Oh, gosh, this had to be so many years ago. I mean I really don't even remember, but it had to be in the '50s probably.
AR: Sometime after you ?
HB: Well I can tell you more accurately when I started with the Downtown Seattle Association, which was the Central Association. I was very dedicated to downtown, dedicated to the idea that we must have businesses downtown and residences downtown; sold so completely on it that when we decided to form the Central Association to promote the downtown, Lloyd Nordstrom was one of those. Rex Allison of Frederick's. Bill, I mean of the Bon. Bill Street, you know, of Frederick's. All these people decided that they would try to keep businesses downtown. This was in 1957, shortly after Northgate, the sign was on the, you know that there was going to be these shopping centers. They were going to take the business away from downtown. And we didn't want to abandon the infrastructure that downtown is; abandon a downtown that attracts visitors that really is a symbol of what our civilization is. And so we formed the Central Association. Well this consisted really of begging people to join voluntarily, taxing themselves to do it. And in the shopping centers we're taxed, but that's part of the lease. There's nothing like that downtown. And so we had struggled for years until, and of course I became President of the Business Development part of that, and then became President of it. And while I was President of it we, the most notable thing that we did, John Gilmore was the Executive and he had the idea of let's do something about low cost housing. So I became the father of what we call the Housing Resources, Seattle Housing Resources. The building of under- market housing for people downtown and right now that has, it's called SHRG, Seattle Housing Resources Group. We built or remodeled under-market housing. I think we have, and manage now like 1600 or 1800 units downtown, which is fantastic. And the stories on that, raising the money for that and all are legend. And they-
AR: Where did the money come from, was it all voluntary?
HB: All voluntary. I'll tell you, Amy, that was the most inspirational thing that ever happened to me in this city. Called a meeting of business people and it was in the Rainier Tower, and told them that we had to do something about housing because the Ozark, you know the Ozark fire type of regulations were forcing people out. And we had to do something about it, people didn't have places to live.
AR: Ozark Hotel caught on fire.
HB: Ozark Hotel fire, yeah. And so, got these people up there and we had budgeted, for the Seattle Housing Resources Group we budgeted $750,000 to run it for three years, to try to bring together government and all to build this housing. And the first breakfast we had, that one breakfast, $450,000 was raised and within a month, the easiest fundraising I've ever run across in my life, we had the $750,000. And this has been repeated at threeyear intervals to where finally now business people say no, I want to make, I want to contribute, I want to be part of this. That was probably, that and then going down to the Legislature with John Gilmore and getting what we call a BIA, we've taken parts of the city, we started with the core, got 60% signed up. And we can compete with the shopping centers in that we can furnish extra policing downtown, cleanup downtown and promotion of downtown like the shopping centers do by taxing the various entities within that group and using that money to pay for it.
AR: By taxing, you're a private non-profit and-
HB: No, we're taxing it because the City taxes it and this is the whole idea. The City taxes it, they have to pay it and they in turn contract with the Downtown Seattle Association to have these cleanup people, these policemen on bicycles, the-
AR: The City does it.
HB: No, it's not the City. It's the Downtown Seattle Association that does it. This is not City.
AR: Oh, well. Okay, but you say somebody contracts with the Downtown Seattle Association.
HB: The City collects the money for us, pays us and we do it. So this BIA, and now the BIA is spreading to the entire downtown.
AR: BIA stands for?
HB: Business Improvement Area. So that was the other notable thing that I really was proud of--being the father of SHRG, now called the Housing Resources Group, and then in the Chamber I've had several strong elements of pride too where I did some things that were really quite notable, and the Navy and all. It's been a very good life.
AR: I understand.
HB: You know, and the Washington Athletic Club, you and I remember the Washington Athletic Club and how to put it, vicious they were. When I came out after World War II my next door neighbor in Mt. Baker was Jay Stanwood Davis who's on the Membership, he was on the Membership Committee and was the, was on the Board of the Washington Athletic Club, there's 27 members of the Board. And he said gee, Herb, you're a good athlete and all, why don't you join the Washington Athletic Club? I thought that was a great idea. So my uncle Frank Gilman belonged to it, had been very strong in it, and so I sent my application in. Nothing happened. Nothing happened. So I asked him about it and he said gee, he said, I guess it isn't a good time to apply. Well, I went to Dan Star who was then the publisher of the PI and Dan was a Navy Air Corps buddy of mine and all, and he was on the Board. So he brought it up before the Board and I was rejected. They let me know I was rejected. And when I found that out I had the names of all the Board members, I didn't who was on the Membership Committee. At that time Ken Meisnest was running the Club.
AR: He was the--
HB: I'd like to call him in different terms of just nice names.
AR: He was an employee of the Club, a paid secretary.
HB: That's right. Exactly right. And the Meisnest family had saved the Club in the 30's from going broke and all. And they'd taken Jews in, of course, in the beginning like Frank and other people when they needed the money. They didn't need the money after World War II. And so I had a talk with Ken Meisnest first and he said you know, I'll never forget, he said well you know you can join Glendale or some of these other organizations. I said I don't want to join Glendale. I don't play golf. And I'm interested in coming down here. I'm a handball player and I'm a good athlete. This is where I want to go. But he was not moved at all. It appears that what he did, he had what they call the Jew basket. Jewish applications were simply put in an aside, never brought up before the Membership Committee, so the Membership Committee was absolutely oblivious to all this. But when somebody trying to force his way in, which is the way a social club would say, he wasn't about to join. So I went around to all 27 members of the Board. After I'd been with Ken Meisnest, I'd call him a Nazi SOB, which I felt he was despite the fact he'd been in the Navy. Of course he didn't' serve any further than Seattle, but he had the temerity to say Herb, one thing I don't understand, how come your father doesn't like me. You have to be absolutely out of your mind! My father, who is such an ethical and decent man, how could he like the likes of you! You know, how could anyone like the likes of you that has any decency, you know. And well, a number of things. I went around to see all 27 members of the Board. Two people were particularly affected, and that was Bill Woods, the gas company, and Bill Williams of the Puget Sound Power and Light. Bill Williams was a buddy of Dad's in the American Legion, a very patriotic guy; and Bill Woods is just a decent man--100%. In the meantime too, Ken Meisnest left. And Frank, no, Russ Noble became the head. Russ Noble is a decent man, became the secretary. And as a result the Board changed their policies, so I applied again and I was rejected again. But I was taken aside and said look, this is a social club, nobody is going to force their way in, but if you wait a year and don't cause any more trouble, we'd love to have you. Well, I wasn't losing anything by waiting a year. A year later not only did they accept me, but it was but a couple of years later that they put me up for the Board and I was the first Jewish member of the Board and of course ultimately the first Jewish president of the Club.
AR: That's interesting. When, so you had to apply for membership three times.
AR: When were you president?
HB: Oh, I'd have to go and look at my records. It hasn't been that long ago, maybe 6-8 years ago.
AR: So that would be the early '90s maybe?
HB: Yeah, probably. It was, I have to tell you something very funny. Several years later I asked Bill Woods, I said how on earth could you accomplish something like that in the face of the way the Club had been, you know. He said, he was from Selma, Alabama, and you remember, Amy, he had a voice like he was talking through gravel in his mouth, you know. He looked like a redneck sheriff and he talked like one. He says, well, Herb, he said, I've got to tell you something. He says, anytime somebody with the way I talk proposed something, no one ever thinks that anything good's going to come out of my mouth. I thought he was wonderful.
AR: I'm going to stop the tape for just a minute and then maybe we'll go back on for a little bit.
AR: Okay, we're back on the tape for a moment. Let's talk a little bit more about your activities in the nonprofit world, particularly with regard to your activities within the Jewish community during adult life. It didn't sound like you had a whole lot of time for that.
HB: Well, you know, it's funny. You can make time for anything you want to really do. And I've been on so many boards, but it really comes down from the folks and the grandparents establishing a course where you know the philanthropy and doing good in the community is really what it's all about. And so one thing leads to another. I've probably been on several dozen boards and still am: the Naval Academy Foundation, the Naval Undersea Museum where we built this museum over in Keyport, Navy, and been an executive for it. And the thing is that each one of these, well, let me give you an example of one that is, you would never have known about. I just finished last week being the Chairman of the American Gem Society, but some eight years ago they asked me to please come on the Board and then shortly after I got there to be one of the five Governing Trustees, and then shortly after that to be the Chairman of the Trustees, where I'm Chairman of it. Well, the first year that I got onto that thing I found that we were over a million dollars in debt and had a loss of $400,000. This occasioned my having to fire the Executive Director, hire another one. After seven years tenure on this thing, we just left, I have reserves of a million and a half dollars, all debts paid and a profit last year of $653,000, with the means set up, in the lab that we've set up in the interim that it'll always be a profitable organization capable of providing education in ethics and professionalism to select jewelers in the country who meet those qualifications. I'm able to do these things simultaneous with doing a lot of other things by enlisting really good people. This United Way thing that Jon and I have taken on, we've put together a hot shot cabinet.
AR: You say the United Way thing. Why don't you talk about that.
HB: This year I was asked to be the Chair with Jon of the United Way Campaign. The United Way Campaign raised $2.4 million last year. We haven't been given our target, but it's going to be considerably more. And we'll raise more because of just the way we're going about it. We're both Navy. We're both organized. We're going to have, we're getting the proper people set up all in our various boards and the community service groups and they're going to be inspired to really go at it. This is a perfect year because Bill Gates gave us this $30 million. We're using that in the endowment where we'll get 5% of that a year, that will go toward paying the expenses of United Way. In addition to that he's give us, their foundation, to go into the endowment a matching of $5 million a year for 11 years, which would mean $110 million added to $30 is $140 million, at 5% that's $7 million that would go into paying the expenses of United Way completely. What I, my sales talk this year is a good one. It's a terrific, terrific deal. We have within our grasp the possibility of having a no cost campaign. A campaign that sees every nickel that you give going to the right organizations and each one of those organizations we are grading on their outcome. In other words it isn't just a matter of providing beds for people at night, it's providing beds yes, but providing the facilities to make them productive, to make that person a productive, happy citizen. So we're doing this kind of, United Way this year is going to be a fantastic year. It's a great opportunity for me. It's a great opportunity for Jon.
AR: You mentioned that Jon was, you and Jon are both Navy--what is Jon's--
HB: Jon went into the Navy, he was commissioned in 1972. He went to Viet Nam. He was a gunnery officer on a destroyer. When he came back from Viet Nam he applied for and was granted leave for law. So he went into law and at the same time was in the Navy but on leave from it except during the summers when he had to go on a ship. And then in, after finishing law school he changed his classification from being a Line Officer to being a JAG. And he is a Navy Captain. He's been a Navy Captain now for some years and he could quit the Navy but, you know, and retire, because he had more than 20 years, he had like 29 years in the Navy. But I know he, like his father, loves the associations, loves the friends he's made through so many years, and we know we've done good and continue to do good.
AR: Well, I think we've pretty much exhausted the subject matter.
HB: Oh, one other thing Amy. One other thing.
AR: Yeah, please.
HB: Shirley is a person that's really a partner. We believe in the downtown. It isn't just a hollow thing. We moved into downtown from our place in Mt. Baker some 28 years ago. We've had a lot of adventures downtown--some stories that you'd love to have, but right now downtown is fulfilling our fondest hopes of being not only a lively place at night, not only being a vital place business-wise where people are clamoring to rent downtown, about my religion. Just like you and the rest of us. Shirley, on the contrary, was brought up Reform. And so naturally Rabbi Levine marrying us and my feelings being much more Reform than they ever were Orthodox, the kids, we wanted them to know their heritage. So Jon in 1955, '56, was sent to Temple De Hirsch Sunday School. Well, my style is, `follow me.' If that poor little son of a gun is going to have to spend his Sunday there in Sunday School, so am 1. So I started teaching. I think they gave me the first year the 6th grade or 3rd grade, or something like that. But soon after that it was Confirmation Class. So I taught Confirmation Class until Jon was old enough to take over teaching, which he still does.
AR: Oh, okay, wonderful.
HB: And that's how I met Vicki and a host of wonderful, wonderful kids that are still I think semi-terrified of this mean SOB.
AR: Was she a teacher with you?
HB: No, she was a student.
AR: Oh, a student. Oh, all right. Okay.
HB: Yeah. She was a student. And of course the teachers we met then were wonderful too because at those years people of the caliber of your friend Ed Starin and all were teaching. We don't have those people taking their time to teach any more. And that's a shame.
AR: I did that along with your sister-in-law.
HB: I know you did. I know you did. You don't have the caliber of you and frankly the people that we were going and taking their time and doing that any more. But I had to bring that in because I think that this is part of who I am. When somebody comes to the door today and wants to give me a tract, a religious tract or something like that, my response is hey, I'll talk about the Bible if you want. But I want you to remember something. That is my book, My book, written by my family and it talks about my relatives.
AR: That being the Torah, the Old Testament.
HB: Yeah, of course. I said that's where I'm coming from. So don't talk to me about Bible. That's very much, I know my Bible and I can tell you about the 39 books because I had to learn it going to Temple to teach the kids. You know, I had to learn. I had no knowledge that there was anything but the Torah, the five books. You know.
AR: We don't have to do this on the record and I'm going to say thanks again, Herb.