Media Files
Interview with Maryl Pittleman, December 16, 2003, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Wisconsin Jewish Archives Oral Histories
Wisconsin Historical Society
summary Interview with Maryl Pittleman on December 16, 2003 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Maryl discusses his family history, life in small town Spirit Falls, Wisconsin, and maintaining a Jewish identity in a small town. Maryl also discusses his father's and grandfather's general stores and robberies that occurred.
accession number WSA0173
summary Interview with Maryl Pittleman on December 16, 2003 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Maryl discusses his family history, life in small town Spirit Falls, Wisconsin, and maintaining a Jewish identity in a small town. Maryl also discusses his father's and grandfather's general stores and robberies that occurred.
created 2003-12-16
created Unknown Date
Interviewee Maryl Pittleman
Interviewer Unknown
Rights Statement:
Copyright to this audio belongs to the Wisconsin Historical Society or, in certain cases, either to the individuals who created them or the organizations for which they worked. We share them here strictly for non-profit educational purposes. If you have questions related to the copyright status of material included here, please contact us at
Wisconsin Historical Society
Source Metadata URI:
Partial Transcript: Interview conducted on December 16, 2003, by Sherry Burlient in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's family residents of Arpin,Wisconsin. Maryl's grandfather, Samuel Pittleman, came to Arpin, WI with his wife and seven children in 1905. In Arpin Samuel established a farm.
Partial Transcript: Synagogue on Maryl's property in Arpin. 10-14 families traveled to synagogue during the holidays.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's father moved from Arpin to Spirit Falls and opened a small store. Spirit Falls was a community of 50-60 people and 200 dogs. The town of Spirit Falls included Maryl's father's general store and taverns.
Partial Transcript: Maryl was born in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, a town 13 miles from Spirit Falls. His family lived in Spirit Falls at the time of his birth.
Partial Transcript: The Pittlemans were the only Jewish family in Spirit Falls. On the high holidays, Maryl traveled to the synagogue in Wausau, Wisconsin.
Partial Transcript: Some family members were in Milwaukee before moving to Arpin to explore agricultural opportunities.
Partial Transcript: Maryl knew his grandfather, but not very well.
Partial Transcript: Maryl tells the story of how his parents met. Maryl's mother was talking to his father's brother and his father got hold of their letters and wrote to Maryl's mother himself while he was serving in WW1. After the war, they fell in love.
Partial Transcript: Pittleman's imported kosher meat from Minneapolis while living in Spirit Falls. At 10, Maryl's family moved to Milwaukee because his parents wanted to raise their children with a Jewish background.
Partial Transcript: Pittleman's would travel to Rhinelander and other towns to visit other Jewish families.
Partial Transcript: People in Spirit Falls would call Maryl's father's store "the Jew store." Maryl experienced anti-Antisemitism at school, particularly during recess games.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's family settled in Milwaukee in 1932 at the height of the depression. His uncle wanted to buy a grocery store in north Milwaukee and Maryl's father went into business with him. There were not a lot of Jews in north Milwaukee, but significantly more than in Spirit Falls.
Partial Transcript: Family joined Synagogue in Milwaukee on 49th and Garfield. Maryl had his Bar Mitzvah there. Maryl reminisced about a tour he took his grandchildren on to his old neighborhood in north Milwaukee.
Partial Transcript: Maryl attended a one room school house in Spirit Falls for elementary school. One teacher taught 50 children in eight grades.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's family only celebrated Jewish holidays. His family observed Passover and High Holidays. Classmates and community did not acknowledge Jewish holidays.
Partial Transcript: Maryl started the sixth grade after the Pittleman family moved to Milwaukee. He had mostly good friends, however did experience some bullying from classmates. The bullying was rooted in antisemitism.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's mother did not keep strictly kosher, but did purchase kosher meat. After the Pittleman's moved to Milwaukee, religion became a bigger part of their lives.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's Grandparents started friendships with families that he still upholds today.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's grandparents were not very successful farmers. They were not farmers prior to coming to Arpin.
Partial Transcript: Maryl remembers how hard it was to move from one place to another. Mud roads in rural Wisconsin made traveling difficult. As a child, Maryl played in the Spring Falls waterfall. When Maryl took his children back to the falls, he ran into his old babysitter.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's father's store was broken into and ransacked a few times. Maryl watched the robbery happen, there was no police to stop crime. Once, Maryl witnessed a robber hold his father at gunpoint while he was hiding in the store.
Partial Transcript: Able to use telephone, robbers cut some telephone lines but forgot to cut the one to Spirit Falls. Maryl's father was able to call the police and the robbers were caught.
Partial Transcript: The mafia vacationed in the summer near Maryl's father store, would rob his father's shop when they were bored.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's father's store stocked everything from fruits and vegetables to meats. There was a gas pump in the front of the store. The community sold evergreen sticks to Maryl's father and he would sell them around Christmas. Along with a general store, Maryl's father also ran a feed store in a separate building. The ice house was another business Maryl's father owned.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's Jewish identity was there, but observing religion was almost impossible in small town Wisconsin.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's family attended temple in Wausau. Wausau seemed like a big city to Maryl.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's grandfather (maternal) owned a general store in Bloomville, which was a small town like Spirit Falls. Maryl's uncle became a surgeon in Wisconsin, another uncle was a salesmen. The family name was Wagner. Maryl's great uncle also moved to a small town near Bloomville and Spirit Falls, which were both by Merrill, Wisconsin. Maryl named after his grandfather's father.
Partial Transcript: Maryl used to drive his grandfather up north to Bloomville when he was 16. Maryl's described his grandfather as a character. Told a story of his grandfather's persistence as a store owner and worker.
Partial Transcript: After Maryl's grandparents (Wagner) store burnt down in the 1920's, they moved to Madison and then Milwaukee.
Partial Transcript: Owning a general store predominant vocation, extension of peddling.
Partial Transcript: Maryl's grandfather (maternal) immigrated to the United States from Ukraine in 1900-1901. His paternal side came from Ukraine to the United States in 1903.
Partial Transcript: Discusses small towns in central Wisconsin, like Medford and Arpin. There is a Jewish portion in the cemetery in Wausau. Some of Maryl's family members are buried there.
No transcript available for this file.