BUCKEYE BATTLE CRY
My father, Toby, got a letter from a Piney Woods Arkansas man, extolling my dad’s homemade foot powder: “Mr. Lesbert: Do NOT stop making the powdor! Do NOT stop!!”
Toby used to make the foot powder in the basement. The company was Lesbert Drug Co., named after my sister, Leslie, and me.
My dad stopped making the stuff. The Arkansas man was about his only customer.
Then Toby started selling cosmetics. Then he starting buying buildings . . . on and on. He was the Jewish Willy Loman. (Kind of like how klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras was the Jewish Benny Goodman.)
My best business moment: When I opened a checking account for Yiddishe Cup. My old man would have been proud; I had started a biz from scratch.
My banker was Ervin, a black man who knew all about Don Byron and klezmer. Ervin was my banker for about a year. Then he moved to another branch. I tried to follow him. Then he moved again. Screw it.
Ervin printed my checks wrong. They came out “Yiddishe Cup Klezmer Bank.” Those were keepers.
My dad admired bankers. In my dad’s pantheon of great Cleveland Jewish families, the number one clan was the Bilsky family, who started out making bagels, then went into medicine (a son or two), and ultimately started a bank. “The Bilskys make big bagels out of little bagels,” my grandmother used to say.
My dad schlepped me to banks. I remember a banker who called my dad “Teddy.” That was weird. My father’s given name was Theodore and his Jewish nickname was Toby. This banker liked to talk Tribe — baseball — and his wife’s spaghetti recipes. The banker was a “people’s person,” he said. (Maybe he was a dogs’ person too.)
My father was not a people’s person. He was the Lone Ranger. He got the mortgage and we got out of there.
My father had one record album, an Ohio State marching band LP. No, that was my record. He bought it for me. My dad had no LP records.
My dad had stock records.
Toby bought his first stock, Seaboard Air Line, when he was at Ohio State. Air line meant train line back then. An air line was the shortest distance between two points — the way the crow flies.
My father didn’t care I wound up at Michigan. He wasn’t a Buckeye nut.
My band had a trumpet player — a sub — who was such a rabid Buckeyes fan I gave him time off during a gig to watch part of the game. The other musicians were nonplussed. “It’s just a game, man.” They did not get this trumpeter had been in the OSU marching band and had attended every single Ohio State bowl game, including the Tostitos Bowl. The musicians did not get my father had given me one album, the Ohio State University Marching Band, featuring the “Buckeye Battle Cry.”
1 of 2 posts for 8/19/09. Please see post below too.
Yiddishe Cup concert: 7 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 20, Wiley Middle School, University Hts., Ohio.