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MEMOIRIST:                      SOL KIMERLING


DATE:                               JULY 30, 2009

LOCATION:                         BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

Transcript (PDF)


Sol Kimerling was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1930.  His grandfather immigrated to New York from Romania in 1912 and began working as a scrap metal peddler in the south.  The family eventually settled in Birmingham and started a scrap metal business, M. Kimerling and Sons.  Sol’s father later expanded the business into other areas. 

Sol’s family were members of Knesseth Israel and Temple Beth-El in Birmingham.  Sol attended Hebrew school and was bar mitzvahed at Temple Beth-El.  He attended Ramsay High School.  He graduated from the University of Alabama and served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.   He was stationed in Wyoming and France.  After the war ended, he returned to Birmingham and began working for the family business. 

Sol was involved in various Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.  He was President of Birmingham Jewish Federation and a board member of YMCA.  He married Rita Capouya of Montgomery, Alabama.  They have four children.  He began writing a book on the role of the Jewish community in Birmingham in the 1960s.


Sol Kimerling discusses growing up in Birmingham and talks about how his family first settled there.  He remembers life being centered around the synagogue.  He talks about the scrap metal business his grandfather started and his grandmother’s work in the Jewish community.  He remembers that they were ardent Zionists.  He remembers studying Torah with his grandfather on Saturdays. 

He discusses going to public school and how the Jewish and non-Jewish children got along.  He talks about playing basketball and football in school.   He mentions college and going into the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War.   He recalls the first time he ate non-kosher food was in the service.  He remembers Rabbi Abraham Mesch, who bar mitzvahed him.  He talks about the active Zionist Jewish community in Birmingham.

Sol talks about the family business, their entrepreneurial ventures, and how the scrap metal business grew into a successful business.   He discusses politics and race relations in Birmingham during the Civil Rights era.  He discusses the role of the Jewish community in Birmingham during this period and how they helped change the local government.  He talks about meeting his wife, Rita, and their four children.

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