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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                      ALVIN M. FERST, JR.

INTERVIEWER:                 IRVING B. SCHOENBERG (IRV)*

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                 AUGUST 19, 1992

                                            AUGUST 24, 1992

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Alvin Meinhardt Ferst Jr. was born in Atlanta in 1922 to Alvin Meinhardt Ferst, from Savannah, Georgia, and Doris Marks, from Charleston, South Carolina. Alvin Sr. worked in various advertising and manufacturing businesses in Atlanta, and Doris was active in the Dekalb League of Women Voters and Council of Jewish Women.

Alvin Jr. attended Samuel Inman grade school through first grade, and then the family moved to the Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta. He attended Sunday School at The Temple, where he was a lifelong congregant. He later attended Druid Hills High School and was active in a number of activities from tennis to Glee Club.

Alvin graduated high school at 16 and attended the Georgia Institute of Technology the following fall, where several of his uncles had attended. He graduated in 1943, with a degree in Industrial Engineering, merging Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Management courses.

After school, Alvin worked as an industrial engineer for Philco Corporation in Philadelphia for nearly a year before he was drafted to the Seabees, where he worked as an industrial engineer in Trinidad. His service ended in 1946, and Alvin moved back to Atlanta and began a career at Rich’s Department Store. There, he met his wife, Charlotte Boyette, with whom he had three daughters.

Alvin worked for Rich’s for 35 years, overseeing the construction of the Store for Men and various other projects. Over time, Alvin rose up the Rich’s ranks as the business grew, eventually gaining the title of Executive Vice President and Treasurer. He oversaw the businesses expansion through desegregation in Atlanta. After his time at Rich’s drew to a close, Alvin started his own consulting firm, and remained active in the Atlanta business communities. He campaigned for Jimmy Carter’s presidential race.

Scope of Interview:

Alvin recalls his childhood and business life in Atlanta. He discusses family genealogies, and recalls growing up in the Druid Hills neighborhood of Atlanta. He speaks about the film Driving Miss Daisy, which was filmed in the same neighborhood. Alvin remembers his time at Georgia Tech, and his uncles’ experiences there, and recalls the business mentorship of Frank Neely of Rich’s Department store, another industrial engineer-turned businessman. Alvin talks about growing up in the Jewish community in Atlanta, and recalls various business, religious, and social clubs active in the Jewish and business communities during in his lifetime. Alvin discusses his career at Philco Corporation, his term in the Seabees during World War II, and his 35 years working at Rich’s Department Store. He recalls various business relationships and run-ins with various notable figures, including Ralph McGill, Grace Townes Hamilton, and Alfred Uhry. He discusses watching the Rich’s expand in a changing south, sharing his memories of the desegregation the Civil Rights movement, and discussing how Rich’s responded. He also recalls the Temple Bombing of 1958, his relationship with Jimmy Carter, and the many changes to Atlanta’s infrastructure over his lifetime.

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