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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives



DATES:                    June 10, 1994

                                July 7, 1994


SPONSORED BY:    Taylor Family Fund

CITATION:               Irving Adair, June 10 and July 7, 1994, p. xx from the Herbert and Esther Taylor Oral History Collection, Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History at the Breman Museum, Atlanta, Georgia.

Transcript (PDF)


Irving Adair was born on October 3, 1921.  Both of his parents died when he was very young, leaving some unknowns as far as his family history is concerned.  Irving mentions that he thinks both of his parents came to Atlanta from Poland, because there were some relatives living in the city at the time.  His two older sisters came with them as well.

Irving and his older brother, Abe, went to live with a cousin after his parents died.  When Abe got married and moved to a home of his own, Irving went to live with him and his wife.

During his early childhood, Irving lived in the Jewish community in the Washington Street area, near where the old Atlanta stadium was located south of downtown.  He studied Hebrew at the home of Rabbi Geffen whose son, Sam, was teaching at the time.  He became bar mitzvah at Shearith Israel.  Irving enjoyed sports and played baseball and basketball in the yard behind the Hebrew Orphans’ Home and at the Alliance Boys’ Club.  He graduated from Boys’ High and went to Emory University where he majored in Business Administration.  He was a member of the AEPi fraternity.

Irving was at Emory for three-and-one-half years.  He left to serve in the Marine Corps during World War II.  He was stationed in the South Pacific on an island called Peleliu.  Irving was married ten days after he got home from the war and never returned to Emory to get his diploma.  Instead, he went to work with his brother, who had a wholesale hosiery business in downtown Atlanta called ‘Riada Mills’.  The business thrived over the years, transitioning from hosiery to fleece wear.  At the time of the interview, the company was thriving with more than 20 employees, three warehouses, and salesmen around the country.

He and his wife Jayne were members of Ahavath Achim and the Mayfair Club where they were married in 1946.  They had two sons, Craig and Jeffrey, who eventually joined the family business.  Irving served on the board of the Marcus Jewish Community Center and was active in the development of the new community center building at Zaban Park.  Jayne and he enjoyed socializing with a close circle of long-time Jewish friends.

Irving expresses his gratitude for his brother Abe during the interview.  “It was through his efforts that I not only had sustenance as a child, but in my adult life he even helped me.  In that respect, I really want to give him all the credit in the world,” he says.

Irving Adair passed away at the age of 89 on April 13, 2011.


Irving discusses the death of his parents when he was very young and the enormous role his older brother, Abe, has played in his life.  He talks about living with his cousins after his parents died, and then living with his brother, after Abe got married.

Irving talks about living in the Washington Street area of Atlanta where they walked from place to place or rode the streetcar for a dime.  He talks fondly of growing up in the Jewish community, enjoying sports, and developing a circle of Jewish friends.

From the time he moved in with his brother, to getting married, and eventually buying a home of his own, Irving moved further and further north in the Atlanta area.  Interestingly, there are some parallels here with the migration of the Jewish population in the city.

Irving reflects on the changes in the way business is conducted during his lifetime, from essentially a horse and buggy, personal approach to faxes and phone calls.  He also talks about the decline in the percentage of Jewish merchants, and the decimation of the Jewish wholesale business area around Pryor Street in Atlanta’s downtown area, where his family business was originally located.


ABC Club (Alliance Boys’ Club)

Adair, Abe

Adair, Craig

Adair, Harold

Adair, Irving

Adair, Jayne Smolen

Adair, Jeff

Adair, Pearle Eplan

AEPi (Alpha Epsilon Pi)

Ahavath Achim Congregation—Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta Broom Company—Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta Jewish Community Center (Peachtree Street)

Bar mitzvah



Bass Junior High School—Atlanta, Georgia

Bassett Walker Knitting Company

Boys’ High School—Atlanta, Georgia

Clothing industry and trade


Congregation Shearith Israel—Atlanta, Georgia

Davison’s—Atlanta, Georgia

DeKalb College—Clarkston, Georgia

Emory University—Atlanta, Georgia

Emory Law School—Atlanta, Georgia

Epstein, Harry (Rabbi)

Etz Chaim Congregation—Atlanta, Georgia

Fishman, Bernard

Fleshner, Rose


Geffen, Samuel (Rabbi)

Geffen, Tobias (Rabbi)

Great Depression

H. Mendel & Co.

Hebrew Orphans’ Home—Atlanta, Georgia

Hosiery industry and trade

James L. Key (grammar school)—Atlanta, Georgia

Jewish Educational Alliance

Jewish Progressive Club

Judaism—Rites and ceremonies

Marine Corps.

Mayfair Club

Men’s clothing industry and trade

Mills and mill-work

NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agrement)

Peleliu (island in South Pacific)


Religious education, Jewish

Riada Mills

Rich’s Department Store—Atlanta, Georgia

Schwartz, Lillian Smolen

Shirley Blumethal Park

Six Points Club

Smolen, Elizabeth (Lizzie)

Soldiers, Jewish

Standard Club

Tennis (Tau Epsilon Phi)


University of Georgia—Athens, Georgia

Warner’s Men’s Shop—Atlanta, Georgia

World War, 1939-1945

Zaban Park


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