Beth Shalom Synagogue

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Interview with Eugene Salvay about his life and his family's experience with the Kansas City garment industry, with additional information provided by his nephew, Craig Solvay. He discusses his childhood in the 1920s, and his education in aircraft engineering which lead to job in World War II working on B-25s at the assembly plant in the Fairfax District in spite of antisemitism in the hiring process. He recalls his father's work as designer at Fashionbilt before moving on to mail-order company National Bellas Hess, and operating his own business designing custom coats. He also shares stories about his family roots in Lithuania, his Jewish identity and ancestry, and meeting Harry Truman in the 1930s. Solvay also mentions his participation in developing Israeli aviation and his relationship with Moshe Arens.

Video Recording

Interview with Suzie Aron about her family history in Kansas City's garment industry, beginning with her grandfather Hyman Gordon's immigration to Topeka, Kansas, and later to Kansas City. She discusses Jewish prevalence in the industry, and her family's Frances Gee Garment Company which focused primarily on uniforms for nurses and other woman-dominated professions - a direction taken because it was easier to work with all white fabric. She discusses the company being one of the first with overseas production facilities, having opened factories in Puerto Rico and Japan, as well as other aspects of the company's operations and union relationships, including her experience working on designing and branding uniforms for the fast food industry, work which eventually became the focus of the company.

Video Recording

Interview with Inge Silverman about her life and experience working at Harzfeld's department store. She recounts the story of her and her family's immigration from Germany in 1936, escaping antisemitism ahead of World War II, and joining other family; her mother being hired at Harzfeld's, and later working for Cricket West. She discusses going to work at Harzfeld's herself as a teenager, working in sales and modeling clothes for customers, owner Siegmund Harzfeld's reputation for generosity and kindness with his employees, and later working for City National Bank and Beth Shalom Synagogue. She describes moving to Dallas in 1960, returning to Kansas City in 1970, and finding the retail landscape different and less high end due to market changes; and discusses the change from full service sales model to customers shopping on their own, noting what modern stores still provide additional service. She also recalls her mother's friendship with painter Thomas Hart Benton and his wife Rita.

Video Recording

Interview with Arthur Brand about the history of the Jewish community and his family in the Kansas City area. He describes that he and his extended family came to Kansas City from New York City in June 1928, starting Brand and Puritz garment company, and the development and decline of Kansas City's garment industry from the 1930s through the 1970s. He also discusses at length the evolution of the Jewish community from its beginning in the urban core to its eventual shift south Kansas City and later to Johnson County; issues such as assimilation and intermarriage; and the development of institutions including Menorah Hospital, the Jewish Federation of Kansas City, Jewish Vocational Services, and Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, named for his father; and his involvement with a Judaic Studies program at University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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Audio Recording