- Interview with Ed Elken, June 4, 2002, Rhinelander, Wisconsin
- Wisconsin Jewish Archives Oral Histories
- Wisconsin Historical Society
summary Andy Muchin interviews Ed Elken on June 4, 2002 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Mr. Elken discusses his father's businesses, the Rhinelander and Wausau Jewish communities, and his famiy's involvement in B'nai B'rith. He also talks about his high school experience, World War II, and the shrinking Jewish community in Rhinelander....moreDescription:summary Andy Muchin interviews Ed Elken on June 4, 2002 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Mr. Elken discusses his father's businesses, the Rhinelander and Wausau Jewish communities, and his famiy's involvement in B'nai B'rith. He also talks about his high school experience, World War II, and the shrinking Jewish community in Rhinelander.
accession number WSA0151
summary Andy Muchin interviews Ed Elken on June 4, 2002 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Mr. Elken discusses his father's businesses, the Rhinelander and Wausau Jewish communities, and his famiy's involvement in B'nai B'rith. He also talks about his high school experience, World War II, and the shrinking Jewish community in Rhinelander.
Interviewee Ed Elken
Interviewer Andy Muchin
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Partial Transcript: Ed was born on May 3, 1922 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin at his home, because the local hospital did not have a birthing facility. His parents came to Rhinelander in 1920. Ed's father was a horticulturist.
Partial Transcript: Ed's father worked for Chase Nurseries when his parents moved to Rhinelander. He talks about some of the businesses that his father owned in northern Wisconsin. In 1927, his father opened a finance company. There were only about eight Jewish families in Rhinelander. Wausau was the center of the Jewish community in the area and had the only synagogue in the area.
Partial Transcript: Ed's father owned the Rhinelander Finance Company until just before his death, when he sold it in 1948. His father also brought the first chain grocery store to Rhinelander in the early 1930s.
Partial Transcript: In the 1930s, the population of Rhinelander was around eight thousand people. The area was very popular during the summer due to the resorts and camps in the area.
Partial Transcript: His father did a lot of business with real-estate.
Partial Transcript: There were several Jewish families in Rhinelander prior to Ed's parents arrival.
Partial Transcript: Ed shows the interviewer his family tree from his father's side. His paternal grandparents were from Poland. He talks about the family members that were killed in the Holocaust. Eds aunt lived with the family for a short period before moving to Los Angelos.
Partial Transcript: Ed talks about the first Jews to come to Rhinelander. Many Rhinelander Jews were in the clothing business. The community also was known for its lumber and saw mill businesses. Ed discusses how the Rhinlander Jewish community has disappeared because of World War II and people moving away and going to college.
Partial Transcript: Wausau was once a strictly conservative congregation, but it is now a reform congregation. Ed's family and Jews from the surrounding areas would always go to Wausau to celebrate the high holidays.
Partial Transcript: Ed discusses the popularity of B'nai B'rith during his childhood. Forty to fifty families would usually attend the B'nai B'rith events. The picnics died out when World War II started, because people joined the army or went away for school.
Partial Transcript: Wausau had a rabbi and originally rented a space for a synagogue until they purchased the building.
Partial Transcript: Ed and his family lived in a large house with a big porch, where the family spent a majority of their time during the summer. The family had many visitors in the summer months.
Partial Transcript: Ed says that he never experienced any antisemitism growing up in Rhinelander. He talks about an experience in high school where his chemistry partner called him an antisemitic name and Ed stood up for himself.
Partial Transcript: After going into the military for World War II, Ed and many others of his generation did not return to Rhinelander.
Partial Transcript: Ed's father was denied entry into the Mason organization.
Partial Transcript: Ed's father was an orthodox Jew and his mother was not particularly religious.
Partial Transcript: Ed says that some Jews of his parents generation participated in the same social circles and some did not.
Partial Transcript: Like many others in Rhinelander, Ed loves to fish. People often married their high school sweethearts.
Partial Transcript: Ed knew that he would go to college while in high school. He attended St. John's Military School for two years and then started college at UW-Madison. He left college when World War II started and stayed in the army for four years. He went back to UW-Madison after the war and met his wife.
Partial Transcript: Ed would have liked to return to Rhinelander after college, but his wife did not want to live in the area. His brother moved back to the area with his wife, but they only stayed for a few months.
Partial Transcript: Ed and his family only attended shul on high holy days.
Partial Transcript: The Wausau congregation had a Sunday school that was run by parents. The family had a Christmas tree during the Christian holidays, because everyone else had one.
Partial Transcript: Both of Ed's parents spoke Yiddish, but Ed and his brother never learned the language. His father also spoke Hebrew, Spanish, Polish, English, and German. He learned all of the languages in Germany and never spoke English with an accent.
Partial Transcript: Ed's father would attend B'nai B'rith meetings in Wausau.
No transcript available for this file.