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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                     EDWIN BERGER

INTERVIEWER:                 BRIAN SILVER       

DATE:                                JANUARY 21, 2015

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

Biography

Edwin Berger was born in Shelby, North Carolina in 1925.  His father owned four dry goods stores in Charlotte, Waynesville, Shelby and Gastonia, North Carolina.  When the Depression came his father lost all his stores.  The family was forced to move to Charlotte, North Carolina and then eventually to Atlanta, Georgia.  He lived on Parkway Drive and Argonne Avenue when he was growing up in Atlanta. Edwin went to school at Smiley Elementary for 6th grade and then to Bass Junior High and finally to Commercial High School.  After high school he attended, the University of Georgia for a while until his father became sick with cancer, and he had to return to run his father’s liquor business.  He attended Brawn’s Business School.  In addition to running the one liquor store of his father’s, he later opened two more. 

Growing up in Atlanta, Edwin Berger frequented many well-known Atlanta landmarks—The Fox Theater, the Varsity, Piedmont Park, the Atlanta Crackers’ field. After experiencing anti-Semitism at a swimming pool, his family became members of the Progressive Club.  Mr. Berger attended Ahavath Achim synagogue for many years. Mr. Berger has family buried in both Oakland Cemetery and Greenwood Cemetery. 

Edwin Berger worked at many jobs when he was growing up in Atlanta.  He made kickstands for bicycles, delivered news papers, worked at Baker’s Shoe Store and many other jobs he could not remember. 

Edwin Berger met his wife Dora Sinko at Brawn’s Business school.  They were married for 66 years. The Bergers lived on Morningside Drive and Lenox Road.  They had one daughter, Iris, who attended Grady High School.  Iris married Jerome Silver and had four children.  After his daughter was married, they moved to Dunwoody and joined Etz Chaim so that they could be with their family on the high holidays.  One of their great joys was to travel where they visited most countries of the world and almost all of the United States.  Dora, Edwin’s wife, died in 2014.  Mr. Berger still stays in contact with his three boyhood friends—Israel Nelkin, Saul Kurlat and Melvin Warshaw.

Scope of Interview

Edwin discusses the heritage of his family in Europe, his wife’s family in North Carolina and Georgia.  Edwin recounts his father’s business in North Carolina and the reasons that they were forced to leave and come to Atlanta, Georgia.  Edwin describes his life in Atlanta in terms of his education, his many jobs, his friends and the many well-known landmarks that he visited.  He describes movies at the Fox Theater, food at the Varsity, the cost of entertainment during the Great Depression, swimming at Piedmont Park and at the Progressive Club.  Edwin describes anti-Semitic episodes that he experienced during his life.  He discusses how his family went to synagogue at Ahavath Achim.  Edwin reminisces about his friends and their adventures.  He discusses how he took over his father’s liquor store and opened two more of his own.  Edwin details how he became the first liquor store owner to cash workers’ checks and the relationship this built with Herman Russell, a very successful African American businessman and politician.  He describes how he met his wife, Dora at Brawn’s Business School.  He recounts how he tried to join the Army and Marines Corps during World War II, but he was declared 4-F and worked as a block warden.  He talks about the pride in his daughter and her success at Grady High School, Emory University and her later marriage and children.  He details living on Morningside Dr, Lenox Road and later in Dunwoody.  He describes why he moved his membership from Achavath Achim to Etz Chaim.  He shares his views on how Atlanta has changed since he moved here in the 1930’s.  He details his many travels with his wife around the world and in the United States.  He shares that his life has been hard since his wife died and how he hopes that he has been a good father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

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