Born: February 26, 1907
Los Angeles, CA
In the last 100 years, what invention had the most impact on your life? Why?
When I was a little girl, things like cars, phones or radios were a rarity. Medicines were still being discovered. I have seen many wonderful technologies develop over my lifetime. I didn't even get a microwave oven until I was 70! Things like a washing machine and dryer were too new when we built our house in the 1920s, so the house was never made to accommodate such machines, and I still have to do my washing by hand, or send it to the laundromat! Without movie cameras, I would never made a living renting to movie studios, but when I think about all the technologies, the thing that stands out to me is the telephone. Travel was expensive and slow, and after I left home at 21, I never saw my parents again. I was able to speak to them a few times on the phone, however, and that was a comfort. Much later, in the 1980s when I was housebound caring for 8 years for my beloved husband at home as he suffered with colon cancer and Altzheimer's, the phone was a lifeline to friends and family outside the house. Now, it helps me stay in touch with my great-grandkids and other family members who are away from Los Angeles. My family tried to get me to use a cell phone, but I prefer an old-fashioned phone, although mine now has an answering machine and fax...I remember when you could tell the operator on the other end of the line what number you wanted, and she would connect you! I recall our beloved family dog, Queenie, was able to "answer" the phone when it rang, by knocking off the receiver with her paw...And, as fate would have it, the best telephone call I ever received was from a stranger, who called to tell me that he had found Queenie, who had been stolen a week earlier...The phone has brought me a lot of joy, and ability to connect.
What was your favorite decade? Why?
The Golden Age of Hollywood really was a magical time...I was born and raised in Seattle, but have spent most of my life in Tinsletown. Mary Pickford was my landlady in Hollywood in the 1940's. I rented jewelry to the movie studios in a 3-foot wide space between two buildings (only one customer at a time could fit), and my husband of 62 years, Sidney Mintz, was a wardrobe man. Our "Hollywood Jewel Box" wares have graced the likes of Mae West, Cary Grant, Lucille Ball, Elvis Presley; and Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in "Some Like It Hot". During wartime, I soldered silver charms on bracelets, and a chicken dinner on Sunday night was turned into a "native" bone necklace the next week. We rented out all kinds of rhinestone jewelry from a display room in our small two bedroom home. Backs then the movie stars really were glamorous, the homes and fashions were gracious, and all of Hollywood sparkled. We were poor, but we didn't feel that way since we were part of "making pictures," and everyone we knew was working hard, joining the Unions, and trying to get by like us...As a wife and mother in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and even later on in the 50's, it was important to dress nicely, with a hat and gloves, a hairdo and makeup, keep the house well, and set a pretty dinner table. I even became very good at playing the piano, and all kinds of romantic songs. My granddaughters credit me with teaching them "Emily Post" manners and how to drink tea from a tea cup with your little finger in the air...They tease me that I must be a hostess from the south, but I just tell them that I simply emulate the best, most ladylike aspects I can remember of Hollywood.
What advice would you give to a high school graduate today?
Get an advanced education! My two sons graduated from the University of San Francisco and UCLA, and both are esteemed psychiatrists. All of my grandchildren have higher education degrees, and are doctors or lawyers or other professionals. I graduated Garfield High School at 16 in 1923, as the class Valedictorian. To this day, the Garfield Golden Grads fund for high school scholarships remains my favorite charity. I was the first in my family to go to secular school; my parents sold Hebrew books, prunes, butter, and such in a room in our home, and were respected as Hebrew scholars. After school, I worked in the famous Brenner bakery, where the proprietress would hide in the rafters and watch to make sure the money went into the cash register. Once she fell down on some sacks of flour! My husband Sid saw me one day at work, and declared love at first sight. He would wait outside the store, and send me roses every day (to my utter embarrassment, and concern I would lose my job) until I finally agreed to marry him. I was 18. When I was 21 we took a boat from Seattle to Los Angeles, and after that, I was a devoted mother, wife, and jewelry saleslady. Sometimes I regret I did not continue on with my education; my family tells me I would have made a good attorney or accountant, but I am very satisfied with my efforts to ensure my sons (and their kids) could have a good education. I think education is a key to a secure future, personally, and to make the world a better place. I hope young people today continue the tradition of seeking higher education.
What is the most important lesson you learned in your life?
Don't retire; Volunteer instead! I have loved being a volunteer! I have spent 30 years as a volunteer in the Cedars Sinai Cancer center in Los Angeles, getting up each week at 4 am to take a cab (I never learned how to drive, but I did learn about computers), to get to the hospital for the early shift and bring the patients coffee and snacks. Some of the patients were so endearing, and I know my smile and words of comfort brought hope. Similarly, at the Fairfax Senior Center where I served as Vice President and Treasurer for over a decade, I single-handedly fundraised from the local community for a live band for weekly dances. The Hollywood shop owners and bank managers would run when they saw me coming, because they knew I wouldn't take "no" for an answer, and I would get a donation, however small, for the center. The dances gave the seniors something to look forward to. I would like to continue to give people hope. In an effort to stay active and not retire, I also embarked on a new career in my 80's...acting! My family encouraged me, so after I took a wonderful senior's class, I eventually got an agent, and some "extra" roles. I did a commercial once with Sally Fields in the 90s, and I was also on an episode of the TV show "True Beauty" by ABC on Jan. 19, 2010. In July 2010, at the age of 103, I wrote a short story, which my grandchildren self-published for me: "The Lady In the Wheelchair" (an unusual and pure love story). All of these endeavors show that you do not have to be young to re-invent yourself, and that is a hopeful thing, especially to seniors...When you volunteer you can give hope, and stay active in the process.
What leader in the past century impressed you the most? Why?
There have been many great leaders, but I admired my brother Harry Steinberg since he was closely tied to the formation of the State of Israel. In Seattle, our family had lived in a traditional Jewish home, where my pious father always brought home guests from the temple to share the Sabbath meal. Harry took after him, and graduated from Yeshiva College in New York in 1932, working for Rabbi Hillel Silver. Later, Harry became the executive director of the American Zionist Federation. In 1947, he arrived in Los Angeles to secure the crucial Costa Rica vote for the partition of Palestine to create the State of Israel, at the United Nations Assembly. The motion picture industry had vital connections in Central America, and it took Harry almost a year to persuade the industry to, in turn, convince Costa Rica to vote in favor. On May 14, 1948, their one, desperately needed vote was cast, and turned the tables! Israel was a state! Though I have never personally been to Israel, Harry's grandchildren live there, and my family has visited, and I am very proud of all Harry did to lead in the creation of Israel.