By George Castle, Special to Chicago Jewish News
The story of Bev and Howard Reinglass’ “old home week,” condensed into a day, got more engrossing the more I heard it at their home on the Winnnetka-Northfield border.
They recounted their tour of all their former homes in the city and suburbs, given to the couple as a birthday present by their three children. The travelogue was as much as celebration of the American Dream and Jewish aspirations rising out of conflict – always closely linked – as it was a geography lesson.
“It was an absolutely thrilling experience,” said Bev Reinglass. “It was overwhelming and exhilarating.”
Yet around the 90-minute mark, I found out I was part of their trip down memory lane. Neither side knew it until that very moment. Bev Reinglass, a retired teacher and principal at both secular and Jewish schools, handed over a list of all the residences and schools. “Stop at Baubie and Zadie’s First Apartment” was 2/3 the way down. Address was 6308 N. Artesian in West Rogers Park. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the third floor from 1968 to 1970.
Hmmm. I lived at 6310 N. Artesian, also on the third floor, from 1963 to 1981. Then, memory was jogged further. The apartments across the hall were listed as 6308 Artesian. The Reinglasses showed a photo of the yellow-brick building that I recalled was one cut above tenement status. Yep, one and the same.
We were next-door neighbors. But Bev and Howard did not remember me.
“I remember two older women living next door, but I don’t remember any children,” Bev Reinglass said. To a woman in her early 20s, of course my mother, Vera Castle, then pushing 40, and my grandmother, Cecile Zutz, then in her mid-60s, would have seemed much older.
Another juxtaposition of our lives also was startling. The Reinglasses were married June 30, 1968 at the Sovereign Hotel, 1040 W. Granville. I was bar mitzvah’ed a block down Artesian at B’nai Jacob Congregation on June 29, 1968 with the reception the next afternoon at Town and Country on Sheridan Road, six blocks north of the Sovereign.
But we did not cross paths much when the Reinglasses moved in. Early each weekday morning, Bev drove Howard down to medical school at the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, then trekked southwest to teach at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange. My mother and grandmother both worked full-time downtown. Much of the Reinglasses’ evening hours were spent in the apartment grading papers or studying. Sundays, I usually spent with my father, a mile away.
A quick comparison of notes of life in those summers of 1968-70 was undertaken. I reminded my hosts that the building held the heat well in baseball season, the high third floor roasting just under the flat roof and the experience of the blast of warmth rising as one descended the stairs of the entrance hallway. When we finally purchased two window air conditioning units in April 1970, the building wiring was so inadequate that if the A/C was turned on, lights in the same room could not be switched on. Only an old black and white Zenith TV in the living room could work without blowing a fuse.
The Reinglasses could not even afford a $135 Whirlpool window unit. They recalled ancient bathroom fixtures. And then they moved to their first home in Buffalo Grove, where Bev would one day hustle the kids into a crawlspace ahead of a tornado that clipped the home.
Howard Reinglass is now an ophthalmologist at several area hospitals with his base practice at Lakeshore Eye Physicians in West Rogers Park. As an infant, he lived in a displaced persons camp in Italy. His father, Polish native Arnie Reinglass, was imprisoned at Auschwitz. He survived by making himself valuable to the Nazis, who required a sizable Jewish workforce. Arnold volunteered for whatever specialty was required, no matter if he had expertise. Living to the next day was paramount. One day experience with airplanes was requested. So he went out in surrounding areas picking up parts of downed Allied aircraft to return to the Germans.
Howard Reinglass landed at Ellis Island on Dec. 22, 1949. His father Arnold became a pants presser at Kuppenheimer. Later he operated a small grocery store on the site of the Crafty Beaver retailer in Skokie.
Like so many Holocaust survivors, Arnie Reinglass could not leave his time in hell behind.
“He would jump out of bed, thinking the Germans were chasing him,” Howard Reinglass said of his father’s nightmares.
Meanwhile, Sol Slovin, Bev’s father, served in the U.S. Army in England during World War II. When he returned after the war, Sol and wife Ida lived in pre-fab veterans housing in Gompers Park, west of Pulaski Road on Foster Avenue. That was a stop on the tour. Establishing himself as a kosher butcher at Clark and Pratt in Rogers Park, Sol Slovin often gave free packages of meat to needy Jews in the neighborhood. Ida Slovin added to the family tzedakah tradition with activism in several Jewish organizations, especially Hadassah.
“She was an icon in those organizations,” said Bev Reinglass of her mother. “She loved charitable work.”
The Reinglass family experience pointed to the moral of the story at the end of Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg’s landmark 1993 movie. Every Jew saved during the Holocaust represented generations brought into the world in ensuing decades. The Reinglasses have 10 grandchildren.
Shai, 17; Elitsa, 15; Nace, 13; Sarena, 12, and Ila Gabrielle, 6, are children of daughter Carolyn Reinglass and David Sklar, an anesthesiologist. Son Michael and wife Dana Reinglass begat Noah. 10, and Lainey, 8. Daughter Tami and husband Randy Horton’s children are Shula, 17: Ezra, 15, and Namah, 7.
All eagerly took part in the tour on a limo bus and soaked up the history involved. The one condition was the shuttering of the kids’ portable devices while making the rounds.
“The kids sat and listened and asked questions,” said Bev Reinglass. “Their eyes opened wide.”
The surprise thus pulled off successfully, the Reinglasses’ three children could simply sit back and soak it all up. “I think they were so excited to see some of the places they lived in, and also visited as children,” Bev said. “They loved the experience because they could see how Howard and I loved it.”
They got a further education in other cultures. In almost all instances, the present occupants of the Reinglass’ former residences admitted them for a quick look. Included were a Muslim and Buddhist family, the latter at 6308 Artesian. One home was occupied by Orthodox Jews. Only at one suburban home were they refused admittance, the occupant claiming she was ‘tired.”
While on the bus with “Baubie and Zadie,” the latest generation could point to Tami Horton as originator of the time trip.
Horton had found a Facebook friend who concocted the same tour for family. Then she proposed the idea to her brother and sister.
“We were all very much on board,” said Horton. “But we had to keep a huge secret. We had heard a lot of family stories, but also did a lot of investigating with aunts and uncles. Fortunately, our parents also had a lot of lifelong friends. “
The secrecy was maintained. Horton enlisted a friend to design a logo, “The Pride of Our Life,” with a silhouette of the Chicago skyline. The planners lined up a route of key stops. Michael Reinglass and Randy Horton did a trial run of all the locations.
Along the way, the scouting party found that several structures either were torn down or converted to other purposes.
Included were the West Side sites of Howard Reinglass’ childhood home at Central Park and Fifth avenues, Marshall Elementary School and his middle school, then the Chicago Jewish Academy. One building is now a Baptist church, where the preacher invited in the traveling party.
“He knew about the significance of what we were doing,” said Bev Reinglass. “He had just come back from a tour of Israel.”
Other schools are still in their original forms: Volta Elementary and Solomon Middle School, where Bev attended, and Von Steuben, the high school alma mater of the couple. The entourage also drove past Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov Elementary School in Peterson Park, where Bev Reinglass served as secular principal. Interestingly, Bev worked in the 1980s at the original Bais Yaakov building at Campbell and Granville that had been converted from B’nai Jacob’s old Hebrew School, which I attended.
Perhaps the most romantic stops were at Bev and Howard’s teen-age homes two blocks apart on Ridgeway Avenue north of Peterson. Bev moved in the summer of 1963, with Howard following the next summer. But Howard regarded his arrival as “bashert.” His parents tried, and failed, to secure their first choice of a home in Lincolnwood, so settled for Plan B back over the city line. But he’d meet his first choice as a life partner.
The couple met through Howard’s neighbor Tommy Rifkin, who also knew Bev from the neighborhood. Almost from the beginning, Howard said, “I’m going to marry that girl.” The two were friends at Von Steuben, but did not start dating regularly until their senior year, after attending a Johnny Mathis concert. Interestingly, they both dated others into their college years.
Two other meaningful stops were Bev’s and Howard’s parents’ first homes as married couples. Both were cramped. Howard’s was a West Side apartment shared with another family. Bev’s was the pre-fab housing in Gompers Park when World War II veterans were fortunate to have living quarters all their own instead of doubling and tripling up with family. The tour also stopped at the spot at the Skokie Lagoon, north of Tower Road, where Howard proposed to Bev.
The most interesting story of their life took place in what Bev Reinglass remembered as “somewhere between 1974 and 1975” at their first marital home at 850 Ridgefield in Buffalo Grove.
“Tami was born in April 1974, so she was an infant,” Bev said. “The older two kids were 3 and 2. I could see over the hill the sky getting black. I actually saw a funnel cloud. I grabbed the three kids. There’s nobody else home. I didn’t have a car so I couldn’t go anywhere.
“I opened the crawlspace. I took a stepstool that my mother had given me. I dropped it down into the crawlspace. I dangled down Michael into the stepstool. Then I dropped Carolyn to Michael. I told him we were playing a game. I grabbed food, a flashlight and a portable radio. I was petrified of dark spaces and petrified of mice.
“Holding the baby (Tami) on my shoulder, I angled myself down. The crawlspace wasn’t tall enough to stand up in. I put a blanket down. We were down there for awhile. I put a piece of wood above us but it didn’t cover us all the way. I heard a siren, which was an all-clear signal. I got everybody back up into the house.
“My neighbor called me and asked if we were all right. Another neighbor called. Howard came home at 7 o’clock. He walked in the door (looking) white. He asked if I had been outside. The tornado had pulled the siding off our house.”
If the storm had been a few more feet dead center instead of a glancing blow…
Howard said he was “not surprised at all” about Bev’s quick thinking. “She’s always had tremendous presence of mind…She was more than worthy” of joining his family, given the resourcefulness in Arnie Reinglass’ background just to survive and reach the U.S.
“My parents and Bev’s parents were very proud of what we were able to accomplish together,” said Howard Reinglass.
The Reinglasses moved on from the drama of the Buffalo Grove home to more tranquil and prosperous times at two residences on Iroquois and Ramona streets in Wilmette. At the Iroquois home, “we made our connections with lifelong friends at Beth Hillel congregation,” said Bev. “The kids started Hebrew school and had their bar and bat mitzvahs.” Moving on to Ramona, yet another generation began. At one Thanksgiving dinner, both Bev’s and Howard’s parents were in attendance along with Tami and her then-boyfriend and his parents from Michigan. They announced their engagement amid the turkey and stuffing.
Memorable events at all their homes mean they cannot pick out a favorite.
“We loved every one of our homes,” said Bev. “We had two children born in Buffalo Grove, and great events at others.”
So a third generation got educated via a unique sightseeing tour. Ten kids learned how the story of their grandparents’ lives was not the quality of the buildings that housed them, but the content of the character of the occupants.
I only wished we had connected five decades earlier instead of being the proverbial ships passing in the night…or day. A next-door teen-ager, avidly interested in current events and history, would have gladly soaked up the back story of Howard and Bev Reinglass.