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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                  CELIA SCHEER HIRSCH

INTERVIEWER:             C. ROBERT FRIEDMAN

DATE:                             MARCH 23, 1998

Transcript (PDF)

Biography:

Celia Hirsch was born on January 2nd 1918 at home in Savannah, Georgia to William Scheer and Dora Gaspin. As a young member of the Workman’s Circle that her father organized, Celia traveled as a youth to the organization conferences. After graduating from Savannah High School before the beginning of World War II, Celia planned to attend college, but instead married David Hirsch. Together they opened and operated the Original Steak House on Victory Drive in Savannah, Georgia for 25 years. Later in life, she worked at the Mickey’s Beverage. She died in her home in Savannah, Georgia in 2008 at the age of 90.

Scope:

Celia begins the interview with the description of her family, who lived on a racially diverse street, and how the oldest of the children were born in the home. Through growing up in Savannah, Celia was involved in the Workman’s Circle, speaking at a conference in Alabama when she was 13. She tells that during her childhood there were about 50 families that were a part of the Circle, whose children all went to the same school, as well as Savannah High School. However, when she had children, her kids went to the Hebrew School in the area, which replaced the Workman's Circle shul.

She continues in describing the school she went to when she learned Yiddish, although she began to learn Hebrew but was embarrassed when she could not quite understand it. Celia talks about how her family was born all over, from Russia to New York and then her youngest brother being the first to be born in a hospital in Savannah.

The interview changes to Celia talking about the general Jewish community. Those families who were a part of the Workman’s Circle stayed together, as most of their children were the same ages as well. As she grew up, Celia describes her plans to wait to get married after she finished high school, but her and David got married a year later. She discusses how her wages at the grocery store changed before and after she was married. As Celia comments on her wages and how she was unable to bring her grocery store wages home as she paid for food for her household, she describes how that her father changed the role of the Workman’s Circle, forming a credit union. The interview then jumps around her young adult years, with Celia describing the cigarettes she remembered smoking as a 16 year old, her planning the births of her children, and having to change clothes after school because she only had one nice dress.

She then goes on to tell of the activities of the Jewish Educational Alliance, which her siblings participated in, as it was the center of the Jewish community. Celia does mention that she did not know those families who were not part of the Workman’s Circle very well, as her family did not go to temple, as they identified as a proud Jewish family, but not a religious family with only one of her siblings being religious in adulthood.

Celia continues that the community she knew in Savannah through the mercantile connections of her father. She tells that when her father died in the 50’s he contributed to the Alliance including books, but her mother was more of a ‘sums’ homebody. Celia describes her mother seasonal work at Christmas in Mr. Center’s store, which also served as a location for a Workman’s Circle school, although the Center family was not a part of the Circle.

Celia finishes the interview by explaining her relationships with the non-Jewish community, and how she never got along with the Gentile groups which she felt were anti-Semitic, but felt a sense of cohesive respect with the African American community.

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