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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Tag Archives: 1951

Podcast # 139 – The Fight for Hildy McCoy

 

Imagine you are in this situation: It is the early 1950s and you are a young woman in your early twenties. You are unmarried and suddenly you find out that you are pregnant. What would you do?  

Well, this was the exact situation that a young Boston resident named Marjorie McCoy found herself in.   At the time, she was a student at the Children’s Hospital School of Nursing and when she learned that she was pregnant, her mom took her to see the family doctor, Dr. Herman Sands. He suggested that the best solution would be to place the child up for adoption and they agreed.

Dr. Sands referred them to Salem, Massachusetts attorney Philip Strome, who could “handle the whole matter and keep things quiet.” Strome found the perfect couple to adopt the baby: 39-year-old Melvin Ellis and his 31-year-old wife Frances.  Melvin owned Bentley’s Cleansers, a dry-cleaning plant in Boston, and was reported to have had an annual income in excess of $10,000 ($97,000 adjusted for inflation).  The two had married in 1946 but soon learned that they would be unable to have a child of their own. Desperate to adopt, they offered to pay all of Marjorie’s medical costs plus any legal fees incurred. 

Marjorie and her mom agreed to the terms of the deal. To avoid the embarrassment of being pregnant out of wedlock, Marjorie headed out to California to stay with her married sister.  As the birth approached, she returned back east and waited out her time in a rented room located on Beacon Street in the Back Bay section of Boston.

It was on February 23, 1951, in Boston’s Kenmore Hospital, that Marjorie would deliver a healthy six-pound girl. The baby was whisked away without Marjorie ever laying sight on the newborn. Ten days later, in attorney Strome’s office, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis would sign the papers to adopt their new daughter, who was now named Hildy. Next, Dr. Sands took the papers to Marjorie and she added her signature. It was a double-blind signing so that Marjorie would not learn the names of the adoptive parents and vice versa.

And with that, if this were the typical adoption, everyone involved would have gone on to happily live their lives. But that was not to be the case.

A few weeks later, Hildy’s adoption would be thrown into chaos. Marjorie was informed by attorney Philip Strome that there had been a technical glitch in the adoption proceedings because her first signature had not been notarized and dated. So, Marjorie went to Strome’s office on March 27, 1951 to sign a new set of documents. While doing so, Marjorie, who was Catholic, learned that the Ellises were not. In fact, they were Jewish. This greatly disturbed Marjorie. She desired that her daughter be placed in a Catholic home. Marjorie became apprehensive at signing the new documents, but Strome assured her that the adoption would not be finalized for another year and that she would “have time to think it over and change her mind.” So, she signed the papers and left his office.

Hildy McCoy. Image appeared on page 1 of the March 17, 1957 publication of the Miami News.

At some point in April, Marjorie once again went to see Dr. Sands and informed him that she didn’t approve of Hildy being raised in a Jewish household by parents who had both been previously divorced and wished to have the adoption reversed. What’s interesting here is that Marjorie still had no desire to keep Hildy. She wanted another couple to adopt the child and raise her as a Catholic. As a result, Marjorie requested that the court allow her to withdraw her consent.

Coincidentally, just months before, the Massachusetts legislature had enacted a statute that read, in part: “In making orders for adoption the judge, when practicable, must give custody only to persons of the same religious faith as that of the child.” And, let’s face it, what were the chances of there not being a single Catholic couple in the entire state of Massachusetts who would be willing to adopt a newborn blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl? At the time of Hildy’s birth, neither Marjorie nor the Ellises knew of this new legislation, but the law was clearly on Marjorie’s side.

Marjorie and the Ellises met for the first time in May 1951. What exactly happened during this meeting depends on whose side seemed more plausible. Marjorie’s attorney insisted that they requested the child be returned but the Ellises refused and the meeting ended with both sides angrily in complete disagreement. Yet, Mrs. Ellis told the press, “It was all quite friendly. We discussed the petition, and when we left, Marjorie said to me, ‘I hope you can keep the child. I can’t go on paying for this all my life.’”

In early 1952, the Ellises sought court intervention to resolve the problem, but the judge advised the couple to await the outcome of a similar case involving a Catholic mother and Protestant foster parents that had been winding its way through the Massachusetts courts. In June, this particular case was decided in favor of the adoptive couple. The Ellises took this as a good sign that they would prevail in court. Sidentoe: Hildy’s real father was a Protestant, but Marjorie had no interest in marrying him.

It would not be until June 1953 that the case would be heard by Dedham Probate Judge James F. Reynolds. This would be the first time that Marjorie McCoy would see her daughter Hildy. After a 4-1/2 day hearing, Judge Reynolds ruled against the Ellises. He determined that it would be in Hildy’s best interest if the adoption was nullified and the child returned to Marjorie McCoy so that she could place her with the Catholic Charitable Bureau. 

Needless to say, the Ellises were in deep shock. Hildy was now two years old and the couple was the only parents she had ever known. Regarding Marjorie, Mrs. Ellis stated, “If she has said to me at our first meeting, ‘I will fight for my baby – for myself,’ I would have had to give her back.”

It was shortly after this decision, on July 21, 1953, that Marjorie McCoy married Gerald Doherty, who was not Hildy’s father. They would soon start a family of their own, but Hildy was not to factor into that equation.

The Ellises’ battle to adopt Hildy did not end with Judge Reynolds’ decision. They appealed the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. It was on October 6, 1954, when Hildy was 3-1/2 years old, that the story finally broke in the newspapers. Soon, the adoption of Hildy McCoy would become front-page headlines not for days, weeks, or months, but for years. It would become the most controversial and most widely reported adoption story of the 1950s.

Mrs. Ellis stated, “Hildy is our whole life. It will be cruel and inhuman to take her away. This is the only family she has ever known.”

Hildy with Melvin and Frances Ellis. Image appeared on page 1 of the October 7, 1954 publication of the Boston Globe.

The full bench of the Massachusetts Supreme Court handed down their decision on February 14, 1955. They upheld Judge Reynolds’ ruling and ordered that the Ellises return Hildy to her natural mother. Keep in mind that the judges were strictly focused on the law, which did allow the natural mother of the child to withdraw her petition for adoption for a period of one year. All of the justices involved, although deemed heartless by the press, were simply interpreting the regulations as written.

On April 26, Marjorie McCoy Doherty and two social workers arrived at 231 St. Paul Street in Brookline, Massachusetts to remove Hildy from the Ellises’ home. Marjorie told Mrs. Ellis, “I’ve come for the child.” Mrs. Ellis refused their request as Hildy, dressed for bed, held on to her adoptive mother’s skirt. The three women soon left, only to return a short time later with a police officer. He made no attempt to take the child and told Mrs. Ellis that he was only there to inform the Ellises that the court had ordered the return of Hildy to her natural mother. Shortly after the four left, Mrs. Ellis wrapped Hildy in blankets and drove 68 miles (110 km) to her brother’s home in Newport, Rhode Island.

Two weeks later, on May 11, the Ellises’ attorney, James Zisman, requested that the Massachusetts Supreme Court issue a stay of execution on Judge Reynolds decision. Zisman stated, “It would be a sad situation, a tragedy, to uproot this child from its present surroundings and send her to an institution.” He continued, “Mr. and Mrs. Ellis will take this child to the Catholic Church and bring her up in the Catholic faith. Their love for this child is so great that they would bring her up under the supervision of the local Catholic priest, send her to a parochial school, even place her in a convent school where she would come home only on weekends.” The court declined this request.

The Ellises may have lost the case but they were not about to turn over Hildy without a fight. They continued to ignore the court order requiring them to return Hildy to her natural mother, so on Wednesday, June 15th, Judge Reynolds had finally had enough. He set a deadline for that Friday at 2 PM for the Ellises to turn over Hildy McCoy. If they failed to do so, the couple would be placed in jail. He stated, “The mother has been trying to get the child back into her possession since the child was six weeks old. If these people had turned the child over to the mother then they would not have become so attached to her.”

The next day, June 16, 1955, Supreme Court Justice Harold B. Williams issued a stay of execution of Judge Reynolds’ court order and scheduled a hearing for June 22. On June 28, the Supreme Court dismissed the couple’s petition and ordered that Hildy be turned over to her natural mother within 24 hours or they would “go to jail.”

Well, that day came and went. The Ellises were nowhere to be found. They had gone into hiding. In a phone interview with a reporter, Mr. Ellis stated, “I’m scared stiff of jail, but I’m like any other father when they take his child away.” He added, “We’ll fight to the finish, hoping that we can have Hildy, or at least that the mother will take her into her own home instead of a foster home. I don’t know what we’ll do.”

Melvin Ellis. Image appeared on page 1 of the March 17, 1957 publication of the Miami News.

In the meantime, attorney Zisman once again approached the Massachusetts Supreme Court arguing that Judge Reynolds had acted improperly by ordering the arrest of the Ellises without a proper hearing. The couple was granted a two-week delay while the lower court’s ruling was reviewed.

Hildy McCoy. Image appeared on page 1 of the May 24, 1957 publication of the Tampa Bay Times.

This wasn’t about to stop Judge Reynolds. He was growing tired of all of the stalling. While his order to have the Ellises arrested may have been placed on hold for two weeks, that decision had nothing to do with Hildy herself. On July 9, he ordered that sheriffs in all Massachusetts counties find Mr. and Mrs. Ellis and take Hildy into custody. “We command you that the body of female McCoy, also known as Hildy C. Ellis, of Brookline, minor child of Marjorie McCoy Doherty, you take and have before the judge of the Probate Cord at Dedham immediately after receipt of the writ to do and receive what the judge shall then and there consider concerning her in this behalf.”

On July 18, Attorney Zisman filed six new petitions with the Norfolk Probate Court claiming that Marjorie had given false testimony and that she had “deliberately imposed a fraud upon the court.” Basically, two nurses who had spoken with her at the time of Hildy’s birth signed affidavits claiming that Marjorie was aware from the very beginning that the Ellises were Jewish. 

Nurse Jessie C. Santoro said that Marjorie had asked her to go check out the couple and “let me know what they’re like.” When Santoro returned, she reported that they were “a lovely Jewish couple.” She added, “You know the baby is going to a Jewish home. Are you going to have her baptized?” To this Marjorie replied, “My only concern is to get this thing over with and get my own life straightened out.”

Frances Ellis helping Hildy with her hair. Image appeared on page 104 of the April 8, 1957 publication of the Life Magazine.

The other nurse was Dorothy H. Ingersoll. She told of how she took the baby to Marjorie’s bedside the day after Hildy was born. Marjorie quickly turned her head away and would not look at the newborn. Ms. Ingersoll then stated, “Your baby is going to Jewish people,” to which Marjorie replied, “What’s wrong with that?”

Judge Reynolds informed attorney Zisman that he would hear no new motions concerning the case until the Ellises and Hildy appeared before him. “I want the Ellises brought before the court, and the baby before the court. I will hear all matters when everyone is before the court.”

As you can probably guess, the Ellises were no-shows. As a result, on November 3, 1955 Judge Reynolds dismissed all six of those newly filed petitions and noted that “The petitioners have not been deprived of their day in court.” After this, the Ellises filed another appeal with the state Supreme Court.

This game of ricocheting back and forth between Judge Reynolds and the Massachusetts Supreme Court would continue, so I won’t bore you with the details. In total, twenty-two different appeals were filed and then denied by the state Supreme Court. Their last decision was handed down on September 28, 1956. The final legal door had been shut on the Ellises.

The couple now legally had no choice but to turn 5 ½-year-old Hildy over to her natural mother, who would, in turn, put her up for adoption. The only problem was that the Ellises had not been spotted since that day when Marjorie and the two social workers showed up at the Ellis home. Seventeen months had since elapsed.  Were they still in Massachusetts?  Were the Ellises still even within the United States? Just where were they?

A big legal change occurred in March 1957. That was when Massachusetts Associate Justice Edward A. Counihan concluded that the Ellises had committed the crime of kidnapping and an indictment was handed down.

Not long after this, Melvin Ellis made the mistake of trying to purchase a new car in Miami Beach, Florida. Since he was trading in his old vehicle, the dealer made a routine check to confirm that there were no liens on the car. That’s when the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles informed the dealer that the couple was wanted on a kidnapping charge.

At approximately 2 PM on Friday, March 15, 1957, Ellis arrived at the dealer to pick up his new car, unaware that a trap had been set. Shortly after walking into the dealership’s showroom, he was approached by two officers and taken into custody. Ellis was escorted to Miami police headquarters where he was fingerprinted, mugshot taken and placed into a cell. A short time later, a detective went to the Ellises’ Normandy Isle apartment and arrested Mrs. Ellis. Neither would have to spend very long in custody. Their Florida attorney, Benjamin Cohen, quickly arranged for their release without bail. A hearing was set for the following Monday.

Attorney Ben Cohen (left) with Melvin and Frances Ellis. Image appeared on page 3 of the March 19, 1957 publication of the Boston Globe.

At the hearing on March 18, 1957, Massachusetts State Police Detective Lieutenant William H. Delay requested that the Ellises be held on a $5,000 bond, but the magistrate opted to once again release the couple into the custody of attorney Cohen.

Mr. Ellis told the press, “Never once during all the courtroom proceedings in Massachusetts did the court ever consider Hildy’s welfare. I don’t care if I go to jail. The main thing is the girl’s happiness and she wouldn’t be happy in a Catholic orphanage and any other kind of orphanage.” He continued, “We are not criminals. We have not done anything wrong. We just want our girl. We are not running any more. This is a last stand – a final battleground for Hildy’s life and her future. We do not want this sword hanging over us.”

Melvin Ellis. Image appeared on page 3 of the March 18, 1957 publication of the Boston Globe.

The couple had been in hiding for nearly two years. So, just where were they all this time? First, as previously mentioned, after Marjorie and the two social workers arrived at the Ellises’ home on April 26, 1955, Mrs. Ellis and Hildy went to Newport, Rhode Island, where they stayed for three weeks. After that, they went to stay with friends in Sharon, Massachusetts. The couple did return back to their home in Brookline for a short period, but went back into hiding when the couple was ordered to turn over Hildy or risk going to jail. From there, they proceeded to Tuckahoe, New York and then moved on to a five-week stay with relatives in Levittown, Pennsylvania. Next was White Plains, New York, followed by a six-month stint in Manhattan, and finally a short stay in Scarsdale, New York. Finally, in April 1956, the couple decided that they needed to move out of the northeastern United States. It was at that point that the couple headed to Florida. They moved into their Normandy Isle apartment in May.

As for employment, Melvin Ellis was forced to sell his lucrative dry-cleaning business. At the time of his arrest, he was working as a traveling salesman for a New York clothing firm, selling both sportswear and lingerie. Hildy was enrolled as a first-grader in the private Lear School in Miami Beach.

Hildy (left) and her friend, Susie Ellis, playing with a pair of slacks from Melvin Ellis’ sample bag. Image appeared on page 104 of the April 8, 1957 publication of the Life Magazine.

The battle to return Hildy, Frances, and Melvin Ellis back to the state of Massachusetts had begun. In one corner, you had the public opinion which overwhelmingly supported allowing the Ellises to adopt Hildy. In the opposing corner, there was the state of Massachusetts, which sought their immediate return so that the various court decisions could be executed.

It was estimated that the Governor of Florida’s office received 10,000 letters, telegrams, or signed petitions from people opposing the extradition of the Ellises. In comparison, an estimated 100 letters were received expressing their belief that they should be returned to Massachusetts and that Hildy should be returned to her natural mother.

Many others expressed their opinions by writing to their local newspapers. Here is just a sampling of those letters to editors:

  • April 5, 1957 – Miami Herald – “Evidently you didn’t bother trying to find the facts in this case or you deliberately withheld them in order to create sympathy toward the Ellises.”  “…the Ellises illegally obtained the child from Dr. Herman Sand and also paid him a large sum of money for the favor, in spite of the fact that Dr. Sand promised Marjorie McCoy, the child’s real mother, he would make sure the child will be placed in a Catholic home.” Anthony Cook
  • April 8, 1957 – Miami Herald – “Think of the scars that would be inflicted permanently if Hildy were separated suddenly from all the love and security she has known for years. There is more to motherhood than the act of conceiving.” The letter continues, “We are all talking tolerance: why don’t we practice it? Let this Jewish couple bring up their child as a Catholic. I cannot believe in my heart that any religion would willfully gamble a helpless child’s chance for happiness.” A Mother.
  • May 3, 1957 – Brooklyn Daily – “After the passing of these past years of Hildy’s life, the unwed mother who bore her, now married, decides to have this little one return, – not to her but, instead, – to a home for children and to be adopted, all over again, by a couple of her own Faith. To make of this little one an actual pawn, a chess piece to be moved [hither and yon] on the board-of-living is not a sporting or good game but, it is a crooked and, an absolute STEAL.” L. M. K.

Of course, public opinion does not always predict the outcome of legal matters. Almost immediately after the arrest of the Ellises, the State of Massachusetts had rendition papers drawn up seeking the couple’s return to face kidnapping charges. Under Florida law at the time, Massachusetts had until midnight on April 17 to submit the signed extradition documents. Foster Furcolo, who was the Massachusetts governor at the time, made it clear that he would sign the papers, but that process did not go smoothly. The first set of papers drawn up was rejected on March 27 on technical grounds. The second set was rejected on April 16 due to an incorrect date. Finally, on April 17 Governor Furcolo signed the third revision and it was flown to Florida and submitted just prior to the midnight deadline.

Florida Governor LeRoy Collins set a hearing on the extradition for May 23 in Tallahassee. The million-dollar question was whether Governor Collins would give in to public pressure or, instead, side with the state of Massachusetts and send the Ellises back to face the music.

Just prior to the hearing, Melvin Ellis told the press, “If by serving a couple of years in prison I might settle the thing I would not mind so much. But the thought of giving her up is more than I can bear. We are pinning our faith on the Lord and Governor Collins.”

Mrs. Ellises’ biggest fear wasn’t the kidnapping charge. Instead, she was concerned that the hearing would drag on and she would be unable to return in time to see and hear Hildy perform her part in the Lear’s School presentation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was part of her 1st grade moving up ceremony. “Hildy will feel terrible if we’re both not there, but even if Melvin has to stay in Tallahassee I’ve got to get back for the exercises.”

Mr. & Mrs. Ellis (top of stairs), their attorney Ben Cohen (far right) and others boarding an airplane to attend the extradition hearing in Tallahassee. Image appeared on page 2 of the May 22, 1957 publication of the Miami News.

And then the day came. Thursday, May 23, 1957. Governor Collins began the hearing before a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 125 people. Lawyers for both sides presented their case. The session was surprisingly short, clocking in at two hours in length. Governor Collins said that he based his decision on both legal and humanitarian grounds: he granted the Ellises Florida sanctuary and refused to honor the extradition request from Massachusetts.

Reporters questioned Mrs. Ellis shortly after the decision. When asked how she felt, she replied a “little numb.” Mrs. Ellis added, “Now I can sleep tonight.” When asked about attending Hildy’s first-grade graduation, she replied, “I was going to make it if I had to walk back to Miami.”

Frances and Melvin Ellis with Hildy shortly after Governor Collins granted the couple sanctuary in Florida. Image appeared on page 1 of the May 24, 1957 publication of the Miami News.

And she did make it. And so did the press. Here’s a bit of a story that appeared on May 24, 1957 in the Miami News: “Hildy McCoy Ellis ‘graduated’ today from the first to second grade at the Lear School, Miami Beach, in probably the world’s most widely publicized kiddie baccalaureate.” The article continues, “Some of the children marveled at the presence of newsreel and television cameras and blinked in the strong lights. But most of them thought it was part of the coverage of the Lear School annual event.”

This may have been a great day of celebration, but the Ellises’ legal problems were not over. They may have avoided being extradited to face the kidnapping charges, but the issue of Hildy’s legal adoption had not been settled. The Boston Roman Catholic archdiocese strongly opposed the adoption. On June 11, 1957, the Massachusetts Public Welfare Department submitted to the state of Florida twelve objections to the adoption and recommended that Mr. and Mrs. Ellis not be permitted to adopt Hildy. 

Both sides would get to present their cases before Circuit Judge John W. Prunty on July 8, 1957, as Hildy remained in the judge’s chambers playing with her 12-year-old next-door neighbor, Vicki Miller. Hildy was totally oblivious to what was going on outside in the courtroom. Two days later, Judge Prunty decreed that Hildy “shall hereafter be known as Hildy Ellis.” After more than six years of fighting for and fearing the loss of Hildy, she was now the legal daughter of Frances and Melvin Ellis.

Frances and Melvin Ellis kissing Hildy goodnight. Image appeared on page 109 of the April 8, 1957 publication of the Life Magazine.

On July 11, 1957, Hildy’s natural mother Marjorie broke her silence for the first time. “I am grateful to Massachusetts justice for upholding my right to provide for my baby in accordance with conscience. She is now a growing girl. I would not wish to see her further hurt by more of the publicity that was threatened to her and to me six years ago. Some day she will learn the facts about her mother’s desire to protect her with the privacy that others were willing to destroy. Meanwhile, with prayers I hope many will share, I entrust her to [the] loving protection of God. The rest is in the hands of my attorneys.”

After this, the press would follow up on Hildy’s story on special occasions like her birthday and the anniversary of her adoption. Yet, there was little to report. Everything seemed to be going well before the story faded into history.

Melvin Ellis told reporters that the fight to adopt Hildy had cost him over $60,000, which would be nearly $600,000 today. He added, “But you can bet it was worth it.”

Useless? Useful? I’ll leave that for you to decide. 

1966 colorized Montgomery Blair High School yearbook photo of Hildy Ellis.
1968 colorized Montgomery Blair High School yearbook photo of Hildy Ellis.

Plane Lands on Car

 

On November 18, 1951, in Salt Lake City, Utah, 47-year-old pilot Joe Wardle was flying his Piper Cub when the plane’s engine iced up and conked out.

He searched for a flat area to land and spotted a nearby highway that he could use as a runway. Without any engine power, Joe glided the plane safely down and made what he felt was a nearly perfect landing. He kept waiting for the plane to roll to a stop, but instead it kept going and going at a steady speed.

It took Joe a minute or two to figure out what was going on. When he finally peered around the nose of the plane, it became obvious. He had landed on the roof of a car driven by Ray Perry of Riverton, Utah. Somehow, the landing gear had hooked right on to the trunk of Perry’s car.

When Perry realized what had happened, he immediately slowed down and stopped his car.

Both men got out of their vehicles and were glad to see that neither was injured. Their next move was to lift the airplane off of the top of the car.

The automobile was barely damaged: it had just two little nicks on the trunk. As for the plane, it had a broken propeller and its landing gear was cracked.

My guess is that Wardle also opted to get that engine repaired…

Perhaps Joe Wardle's landing problems would have been solved if he had purchased one of these Aerocars.
Perhaps Joe Wardle’s landing problems would have been solved if he had purchased one of these Aerocars. This image appeared on page 38 of the November 1948 issue of Flying Magazine.

The First Jewish Couple Married on National TV

 

Useless Information Podcast Script
Original Podcast Air Date: April 23, 2019 (Part 1) and May 5, 2019 (Part 2)

Today I have a very special podcast for you. It is an interview that I did the other day with cartoonist Leigh Rubin. His syndicated Rubes cartoon is published in hundreds of newspapers daily. Now, right at this very moment that I am recording this, Leigh is at RIT. That’s the Rochester Institute of Technology where he has been honored with the title of being their cartoonist in residence.

Well, Leigh contacted me about a month ago with a great story about his parents, who just happened to be the first Jewish couple to ever be married on television. The show was Bride and Groom and every couple that was married on the show was sent home with a 16mm Kinescope print of their wedding. Well, the Rubens still had the film and they had it transferred to DVD and I was able to rip the audio from the recording. And while some of it is not perfect, in fact some of it was not usable at all, you’ll be able to attend the October 25, 1951 wedding of Natalie and Stanley Rubin.

Rubes cartoon by Leigh Rubin. (Image courtesy of Leigh Rubin –
https://www.rubescartoons.com)

Steve Silverman: So, Leigh, your dad was Stanley Howard Ruben. What did he do for a living?

Leigh Rubin: My dad was an advertising executive. He was one of those New York City madmen. I mean, for real back in the ‘50s and was actually the president of the Advertising Club of Men and Women of New York and would, you know, get kids in high school into advertising and they would have guests come and speak. Hugh Hefner was one of their guests shilling his new magazine and the guy that started Diners Club and have these different people come to pitch their ideas.

Steve Silverman: So, how did you guys end up in California?

Leigh Rubin: My older brother Paul. He had some health issues and the doctor said better to go towards a drier climate and so they, you know, loaded up the car and moved outside Beverly, but it was more like Buena Park. They moved out to California and… Actually, but my dad came out several months before because my mom had to sell the house. We lived on Long Island in Huntington and so he went through a variety of kind of odd jobs. You know, the candy counter, which was a terrible thing for him since he loved candy, at some at some place and I think another place called Green Dollar Nursery. Another of a kind of a big chain or big store – kind of like Kmart – back in the day, called the Big A where you’d walk into this big giant A. This is all in Southern California.

Steve Silverman: And this was in advertising he was doing?

Leigh Rubin: Yeah, yeah. He and he got into advertising. In around 1965 or 6, he got a job through a mutual friend of his at Max Factor, the cosmetics company, and he stayed there for probably a good, I think, 8 to 10 years before they sold out to Revlon and then he started his own printing company.

Steve Silverman: Did he do the printing until he retired?

Leigh Rubin: He did stay there. We moved actually from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley and he started his own printing company and it was a family business. So, my mom, sister, brother and I all worked there and I worked there for 21 years and my brother kind of came and went and then he did come back for a while and my sister went off to do her thing. But yeah, he did retire in the 90s after selling that. Actually, I retired in the 90s after it was of the act of God, the big Northridge earthquake kind of put an end to the freeways so I couldn’t get to work anymore. Which was fine because I was phasing out of that out anyway.

Steve Silverman: So, like me, your Jewish.

Leigh Rubin: Right.

Steve Silverman: Were your parents religious?

Leigh Rubin: My father became a little more practicing during like the high holy days. You know, we did Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Hanukah were the big three. And Hanukah isn’t technically not even supposed to be all that important, but you know, that’s where all the fun gifts are and you get the play with the dreidel and eat potato pancakes. And my mom was raised much more religiously. She and her family emigrated from Eastern Europe. You know with that I am met my great-grandmother and I was quite young but, you know, from Lithuania, Russia area and emigrated. You know, it was the typical Fiddler on the Roof story. Very similar to that.

Steve Silverman: Yeah. We had spoken a few weeks ago it was amazing how, you know, our histories are so similar. And it is very typical of what the Jewish people did. You know, they were basically forced out of your Russia and Europe and most of them ended up, somehow, in United States.

Leigh Rubin: It’s funny, my grandma, Grandma Rose. She was… She passed away when I was probably 7 or 8, but she spoke with the typical hello dahling, you know that kind of an accent and smoked and drank Schnapps and apparently was the quite the funny person and, apparently, my mom had told me this, that she had one of those amazing memories where she could, I guess, around in the garment district of New York, she could, she would see these nice designer clothes and just duplicate them mentally and then go copy that. So the story, the family legend is people knew she was coming around they would like take the stuff out of the window. So that she wouldn’t be able to copy it.

Steve Silverman: You know what’s interesting is that my grandfather, he just passed away a few years ago. He was 108 years old.

Leigh Rubin: Wow.

Steve Silverman: And, what’s really surprising, is I didn’t know, I mean it never really occurred to me because my great-grandmother died when I was very young, that she never spoke English. They spoke Yiddish and I never knew until my grandfather was probably over 100 years old that he spoke Yiddish. I had never heard him speak a word of it ever.

Leigh Rubin: Wow.

Steve Silverman: He was totally assimilated into the US. You know, he wore American flag on his shirt or lapel or whatever at all times and was just so proud to be an American. I never knew that he spoke Yiddish.

Leigh Rubin: Wow. And did you ever ask him about it afterwards? I mean, did he did you ever speak Yiddish to?

Steve Silverman: Never. I mean I think of both of us are pretty typical of a lot of Jews in this country that we are very assimilated into society. It is just odd. Yesterday at work someone wish me a Happy Passover and I said, “When’s Passover?” and she goes “Oh, it’s tomorrow,” and as was like “Oh, okay.” A lot of times my wife will have to tell me when Hanukkah is. I’m not really, I don’t really keep track of that stuff. It’s just not a part of my life.

Leigh Rubin: My brother tends to keep a little, well he’s not super religious about it and I knew it was Passover because I dug up a very old Passover cartoon of how to do gefilte fish and I posted on Facebook today. And apparently it’s going over quite well, So, it’s pretty, pretty funny cartoon I did 31 years ago.

Gefilte fish cartoon that Leigh Rubin mentioned during our discussion. (Image courtesy of Leigh Rubin –
https://www.rubescartoons.com

Steve Silverman: I have to check that one out. I think there’s a lot of people who don’t know what gefilte fish is. To me it’s just looks like white turds. That’s a whole other story.

Leigh Rubin: No, I’ve heard it described the same way lately. Yeah. It’s not bad. Some people find it distasteful. I just have pleasant memories of Passover with my family.

Steve Silverman: My parents, when I was a little kid they celebrated but they moved out of New York City when I was like seven or eight years old and after that I think maybe did it once or twice after and that was about it. I think without the family around there really wasn’t much need to do it. You know.

Leigh Rubin: Sure.

Steve Silverman: So, let’s talk about your parents on the show.

Leigh Rubin: Sure.

Steve Silverman: So, your parents were on the show Bride and Groom and it originally started as a radio show. It started on November 26, 1945 and ran on radio through September 15, 1950. And what I found out is that about a thousand couples were married on that radio show. That’s kind of incredible.

Leigh Rubin: That is.

Steve Silverman: It’s like early reality TV but on radio.

Leigh Rubin: Including Dick Van Dyke was one of those married on radio.

Steve Silverman: Yeah, I found that out. I was quite surprised by that. Well the show then switched to TV during the 1950-51 season with and it was on CBS and then eventually moved to NBC. Looking back, I know that there were a lot of shows like this, but the show was only 15 minutes long, where today you would never find a show less than a half-hour.

Leigh Rubin: That was 15 minutes including commercials.

Steve Silverman: Yeah. I counted up the show that your parents were on 2 minutes and 41 seconds of it. That’s almost 3 minutes of the 15 minutes was just for the advertisement for the napkin sponsor.

Leigh Rubin: Yeah. Hudson Rainbow Napkins. Which I find hilarious and are looking at these beautiful napkins in these colors, yet it’s in black-and-white.

Steve Silverman: Right. And I like to they put like a green fern to imply that it was green. So, it’s pretty funny they couldn’t show the colors so they put something down on the napkins to indicate what the color would be.

Leigh Rubin: Yeah. It’s great. This was wonderful.

Click on the YouTube video above to see the complete Bride and Groom episode of Stanley and Natalie Rubin’s wedding.

Steve Silverman: So normally I have a separate Retrosponsor, but since it was already built into the show here is an ad for Hudson paper napkins.

John Nelson (Bride and Groom Host): Right now I’d like to remind you, however, that if your Halloween is only a few days away and so if you’re planning a Halloween party for yourself or for the kids, why not make your table center a flower piece jack-o’-lantern and serve Halloween rounds: black-and-white sandwiches made with cream cheese and olives, devil’s food cupcakes decorated with gumdrops and, of course, Hudson Rainbow Napkins to make your table a riot of color. You get three gay colors in every box: daffodil yellow, party pink is as fresh and lovely as a rose, and misty green as delicate as any table group. You’ll be amazed at the gaiety and charm these soft, colorful napkins make on your party table. So anytime you want add a colorful note to your table, get economical Hudson Rainbow Napkins in the pink and blue box. They’re at your grocer’s today. Hudson Rainbow Napkins.

Steve Silverman: The interesting thing is that at that point everyone was still using cloth napkins. It was very hard to convince people to use paper napkins and that’s why Hudson took these ads to get people to use their product. I’m not sure if they’re still made or not. I could really find anything around. I think the paper company is still around, but I’m not sure they make napkins anymore.

Leigh Rubin: Right.

Steve Silverman: So, do you know why your parents wrote into the show? Do you have any idea?

Leigh Rubin: You know, I was speaking with my brother about this and I think he said it was at the suggestion of my grandfather. You know, my dad’s side, and he suggested writing in and, if this is accurate, he may have helped them write or craft the letter that got them to get. He was a very good writer. I think he graduated from City College of New York. You know magna cum laude and, whatever. He was a smart guy and he suggested that maybe he saw something, a notice in the paper. They must add a TV.

Steve Silverman: Yeah that’s true. Although my grandfather at that time, the one passed away recently, he did have a TV store for a while. You know, people would stand out on the street and watch the TV’s. They’d all gather around the TVs that were in the window of the store and watch it from there because most people didn’t have TVs in their homes. They were very, very expensive.

Leigh Rubin: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, my grandparents lived in Hicksville, New York, and they had one of those, I think was one of those Levittown type homes and the TV was built into the wall. Because I remembered seeing that. It was kind of neat when I was a little kid.

Steve Silverman: Yeah, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. So, your mother wrote into the show and do you know what was their rationale for doing? Were they looking for fame, the gifts, or just kind of for fun?

Leigh Rubin: I think it was just for fun. I mean they were pretty cool like that. I mean just as an aside, you know a little bit, kind of a fun adventure and TV was a new thing and my dad was into advertising. And, just as a little bit later, one day in the 50s, after they were married, they both got fired the same day or lost their jobs the same day, I don’t recall and you know what they did? They just went on a road trip and drove to Denver. This is before the early days of the highway system. I think it’s pretty fun. That’s kind of adventurous for back in the day.

Steve Silverman: That’s pretty amazing. I’d be freaking out. You know, what are we going to do for money? You know…

Leigh Rubin: They just figure it out. They didn’t have a ton of money, either. I mean I know that.

Steve Silverman: I know that she mom writes into the show, and I assume that initially there chosen for the show but then they receive a call from the producer and what did the producer say?

Leigh Rubin: Apparently they got a call from the producer of the show and there was some issue about them being Jewish and married on television and my mother had called her rabbi at the time and somehow they worked this out so was, so it became this historical moment in American television where they became the first Jewish couple ever to be married on national television.

Steve Silverman: So I want to play a clip of them getting married on TV. It runs about 3-1/2 minutes or so, which is probably one of the shortest marriage ceremonies ever. And let’s take a listen:

Rabbi: Stanley H. Ruben. Do you of your own free will and consent take Natalie R. Leipmann to be your wife? And do you promise to love, honor, cherish her throughout life? If so, answer yes.

Stan Ruben: Yes.

Rabbi: Natalie R. Leipmann. Do you of your own free will and consent take Stanley H. Ruben to be your husband and do you promise to love, honor, and cherish him through life? If so, answer yes.

Natalie Leipmann: Yes.

Rabbi: Stanley, you will place this ring upon her finger and repeat the words after me. Harei at mekudeshet li

Stan Ruben: Harei at mekudeshet li

Rabbi: b’tabaat zu k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael.

Stan Ruben: b’tabaat zu k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael.

Rabbi: Which means, that by means of that symbolic ring, is she consecrated unto you as your lawfully wedding wife according to the law of Moses and the custom in Israel. And you will place this ring upon his finger and repeat the words after me. Behold

Natalie Leipmann: Behold

Rabbi: By this ring

Natalie Leipmann: By this ring

Rabbi: Art thou consecrated unto me

Natalie Leipmann: Art thou consecrated unto me

Rabbi: As my lawfully wedded husband

Natalie Leipmann: As my lawfully wedded husband

Rabbi: According to the law of Moses and the custom in Israel.

Natalie Leipmann: According to the law of Moses and the custom in Israel.

Rabbi: And now that you have spoken the words and performed the rights which unite your lives, I do hereby in conformity with the faith of Israel and the laws of our state declare your marriage to be valid and binding. And I pronounce you Stanley H. Ruben and you Natalie R. Leipmann, to be husband and wife before God and man and may our heavenly father deny unto you and shelter you in all your ways. [Hebrew prayer] May God bless you and may he keep you. May God call the light of his countenance to shine upon you. May he be gracious unto you. May god lift up the light of his favor upon you and may he grant you peace.

Stan and Natalie Rubin on their wedding day on the set of Bride and Groom on their wedding day.
Stan and Natalie Rubin on their wedding day on the set of Bride and Groom on their wedding day. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Rubin.)

Steve Silverman: My wife said that your parents were both very attractive. They were perfect for TV, but she also noticed, and I actually noticed this also, that your father was the less religious person and your father recited his lines in Hebrew and your mom, who was very religious or brought up to be religious, she saying her lines in English. I thought that was kind of unusual.

Leigh Rubin: Yeah, and it was funny because when my mom did go to temple it was like men on one side and women on the other side. My dad hadn’t, so my dad… Really that’s the only time I can recall him ever seeing him speak Hebrew. So, there you go. It’s kinda funny how that how that worked out.

Steve Silverman: Like when I was bar mitzvahed, everything was in Hebrew, but I had no idea what I was saying and looking back, I wish I did.

Leigh Rubin: I feel exactly the same way.

Steve Silverman: Did they really marry on the show or was this just a reenactment?

Leigh Rubin: No, this was their real marriage. That was it. Right on the show. You watched it and you were there, sort of, you know, 60-odd years later.

Steve Silverman: What was interesting, I thought, was that the radio show was done in California, but this was actually filmed in New York. Am I correct?

Leigh Rubin: That was CBS Studios in New York. Yeah, yeah it is. And thank your wife because they really were a gorgeous couple.

Steve Silverman: It’s odd. I look at pictures of my parents when they were young. I am like wow!, they are pretty good looking. But you know, I only really remember them as being much older and you know time has its now takes its effect on you. It takes its toll on people, you know. On the show, your mother mentioned that she was ill and was in the hospital when your parents met. Do you know what she was ill with?

Leigh Rubin: Wow, I sure don’t. I do not know. I would probably have to ask my brother. I don’t even know if he knows.

Steve Silverman: So let’s listen to a clip where they describe how they met and discuss Natalie’s stay in the hospital.

John Nelson: Tell me just how did this romance begin, Natalie?

Natalie Leipmann: Well, my cousin was overseas with the Signal Corp in Europe during the last war. He sent a snapshot home of himself and his buddy. I remarked in my letter to him about his buddy and several weeks later I received a letter from this boy Stan Rubin who lived in the neighborhood. We corresponded for over a year and he came home.

John Nelson: Stan, I imagine that you were pretty anxious to meet this very pretty Natalie.

Stan Rubin: Yes, I was. When I got home, I did call her up and found she had a steady beau, so she didn’t offer me much encouragement. I finally did get to see her when some friend told me she was ill in hospital.

John Nelson: Oh, my.

Natalie Leipmann: Well, he came to see me and brought me a box of candy and a bouquet of red roses.

John Nelson: Very thoughtful, Stan. Did that create the impression you wanted?

Stan Rubin: Well, I’m afraid not John. She was too ill to eat the candy so I ate it and the flowers gave her rose fever.

Steve Silverman: So, your mom mentioned on the show that she had a cousin who was in World War II overseas and she received a picture from him and there was another guy in the picture who happen to be your dad. Am I understanding that correctly? That’s how they met?

Leigh Rubin: I believe that is correct. I think it was her cousin. I don’t recall his name, but so family legend has it.

Steve Silverman: But she does mention on the show that she had another beau with at time. Do you know if it was a serious relationship or just kind of a boyfriend kind of thing?

Leigh Rubin: Well, I know that before my dad she was, she did date a guy that was in the trucking industry and had, I guess was fairly well off but she just didn’t love the guy so she married for love and not money.

Steve Silverman: That’s good to know. So let’s listen to one more clip from Bride and Groom where they discussed their first date.

John Nelson: Stan, what did you think when you finally saw Natalie in person?

Stan Rubin: I was surprised to see that she had grown up to be such a lovely girl.

John Nelson: And, Natalie how did you feel about Stan?

Natalie Leipmann: Well he was exactly what I expected from his letters. He came to see me all the time that I was ill. When I was better, he took me out on our first date.

John Nelson: And what did you do on his first date?

Natalie Leipmann: We went dancing and I remarked that he was a wonderful dancer. He said that this was due to the fact that he had gone to dancing school when he was a little boy. We compared notes and we found out that we both went to the same dancing school.

John Nelson: You mean you and Stan were friends as children and you had forgotten about him?

Natalie Leipmann: Well, I knew him, but he didn’t know me. He was eleven and he was a big man and I was a little girl, only six at the time. He moved out of the neighborhood and out of my life by four and I was heartbroken.

John Nelson: Oh, my. Would you say that your first date was a success?

Natalie Leipmann: Oh, definitely. I liked him right away.

John Nelson: Did you think he was pretty romantic?

Natalie Leipmann: Well, he didn’t rush me. He was very wonderful and…

John Nelson: What did he do the first evening he said good night?

Natalie Leipmann: Well, he shook hands the first evening, but he kissed me on our second date.

John Nelson: Stan, when did you realize that you are beginning to fall in love with Natalie?

Stan Rubin: I guess it was just after that first date, John. We knew that someday I believe that we would be married.

John Nelson: Natalie do you remember, speaking of being married, what Stan said when he proposed?

Natalie Leipmann: Well, Stan’s a man of action but few words. He didn’t actually propose. He asked my mother if he could marry me. She consented. They chose an engagement ring and, together with his parents, they planned a surprise engagement party, which was exactly what I wanted.

John Nelson: A surprise on you.

Natalie and Stan Rubin on their wedding day. (Image courtesy of Leigh Rubin.)

Steve Silverman: On the show your mom said the of father proposed by asking your grandmother and then arranging a surprise with your dad’s parents, but she doesn’t mention your maternal grandfather. Was he still alive at the time or had he passed on?

Leigh Rubin: He had passed on in 1950.

Steve Silverman: Okay, so he was recently deceased at that point then.

Leigh Rubin: He was, right. Yes. I have heard nothing but great things about him. I have some fantastic from him. He served in World War I and then he worked for customs in New York City for quite a few years. I was I never had a chance to meet him. I did meet my maternal grandmother and both my grandparents on my dad side.

John Nelson: Phil, what’s the name of the love song that’s Natalie and Stan have asked you to sing?

Phil Hanna: John, they’ve asked for new song. One that is most appropriate for this occasion, The Promise of Our Wedding Day.
John Nelson: Now as our bride and groom leave for the ceremony Phil Hanna sings their love song. [Song is played in the audio.]

Steve Silverman: So, the song they chose was The Promise of Our Wedding Day. Not exactly a classic, if you ask me. I don’t ever heard it before or since. Did they really choose that song or was a basically chosen for them?

Leigh Rubin: You know, this is one of those things I have no idea. I’d never heard that song either, before. I have no clue where that came from. Maybe this was a standard thing on Bride and Groom. You know, we know the guy that wrote it. Let’s give him, let’s throw some royalties his way. I have no idea.

Steve Silverman: Yeah, that was kind my impression that every episode they had a new song and they are trying to promote one. Maybe their hope was that one of them would become a hit at some point, you know.

Leigh Rubin: Yeah, get some staff writer in there and make little extra money. I don’t know. You know, I don’t know. It is TV it is, to me, this is… This is what. It’s as real as it gets and their marriage lasted until 2015 when they both passed in 15 toward the end. So, I mean that was a lot better than some of these other more modern TV marriages.

Steve Silverman: Certainly. Well, the interesting thing is that a lot of people went on the show because of the prizes. I mean, they gave everybody a free car, they gave them a honeymoon, they gave them things like refrigerators and stoves and TVs which were brand-new and crazy expensive. So, they were given all these things. I mean, you’re starting out in life you don’t have any of these so it’s a good way to just get going in life. You know.

Leigh Rubin: You know they didn’t get to keep the car. That was used to go to the Grossinger.

Steve Silverman: Wow. You’d never know that from the… I mean I watched a bunch of these besides your parents. You’d never know that. You think they actually won the car.

John Nelson: And then here come our bride and groom. Congratulations Stan.

Stan Rubin: Thank you.

John Nelson: You’re a lovely, lovely bride, Natalie. We have some things we think you like that will make your home a little nicer. When start right out in the kitchen with a wonderful gift, this gleaming and shiny new Tappan gas range. Stan, you won’t have to pick to see what’s cooking because it has the famous window in the oven door and the tell your set time and temperature guide in many other exclusive Tappan features.

Phil Hanna: And for your table, a complete service of four of Gorham Sterling Silver. The Greenbrier pattern that you chose is just one of the many elegant designs created by Gorham since 1831.

John Nelson: I will always travel in style with this nationally famous Samsonite luggage. You’ll find Samsonite as roomy and durable, as well as ultra-smart in appearance.

Phil Hanna: And there’s at least a hundred uses for this Sew-Gem sewing machine which features Suzie, the right-hand miracle stitcher. When friends admire your wardrobe and home accessories, you’ll say thanks to Suzie at Sew-Gem.

John Nelson: And over here a full year’s supply of our sponsor’s four wonderful Hudson napkins. Hudson rainbow napkins to add for colorful notes or a colorful note to your table settings, Hudson guest napkins for special occasions, Hudson Demask napkins for your dressiest parties and the famous Hudson table napkins to keep your family’s close cleaner every day. All four Hudson paper napkins to dress up your table to cut down on your work Natalie.

Phil Hanna: And here is a handsome Spartan stop 17-inch table model television set. And it will bring you many fine hours of entertainment because Spartan stabilized drift lock control assures the clearest, steadiest picture that you’ve ever seen.

John Nelson: And we’ve also planned an exciting honeymoon for you two. One that I just know that you’re going to enjoy and remember always. You’ll drive in a luxury 4-door Pontiac Chieftain to the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York to the Grossinger Hotel and Country Club where you will be guests of owner Jenny Grossinger. This fabulous 700-acre resort has an 18-hole golf course, as well as a tremendous artificial ice-skating rink and there’s an ice carnival every weekend, too. Their world-famous slogan “Grossinger’s has Everything” becomes a reality there with dancing, fishing, boating, riding, tennis, and many other diversions at your disposal. You enjoy hiking and driving through the surrounding Catskill Mountains was splendid fall colors. I know you’ll have a wonderfully happy honeymoon at Grossingers and, as a matter fact, it will be the perfect spot to celebrate your wedding anniversaries in the years to come.

Steve Silverman: Do you know if any the prizes still exist?

Leigh Rubin: Yes, they do. They had this incredibly durable Samsonite card table with the four chairs that you’d see. That green. That 1950s green kind of top on it and those chairs last forever. And, in fact, I think at one point some of the legs became a little wobbly, but it was the typical square folding table and, I mean, we grew up with it and had it. My sister actually may still have that.

Steve Silverman: They were getting Keepsake wedding rings.

John Nelson: These beautiful Keepsake matched wedding rings set to preserve the memory of this very precious moment. Keepsake are yours to cherish as long as the wedding vows are kept.

Steve Silverman: Did they wear them for the remainder of their lives or did they go out and buy new ones?

Leigh Rubin: No, they did and they were real and I’m actually wearing my dad’s wedding ring that is shown in the video. I have it on my right hand.

Steve Silverman: I was trying to figure out from the later news segment as to whether or not they were still the same rings. Because they focused on their hand, you know, they were holding hands and I could see the rings but I couldn’t see clear enough to find out they were the rings from the show. So I guess they were?

Leigh Rubin: Yeah. Yeah. Just a very simple gold band and I’ve always kind of treasured it. I got it, you know my sister was in charge of that and I said, do you mind if I hang onto that. So, I’ve worn it pretty much ever since he passed.

Image Caption: BRIDE AND GROOM… After taking their vows on the “Bride and Groom” television show on C.B.S.-TV, Stanley Rubin (left) and his pretty bride spent their honeymoon at Grossinger’s. Here, the couple accept congratulations from Paul Grossinger. (From the Grossinger News. Image courtesy of Leigh Rubin.)

Steve Silverman: I did notice that their honeymoon was at Grossinger’s Hotel and Country Club, which, oddly, I grew up not too far from that. Now the interesting thing is that I went through a whole bunch of the shows are posted on YouTube and archive.org and no one else was sent to Grossinger’s. They were all sent to the Poconos and places like that. Now Grossingers happened to have been a kosher Jewish hotel. Did your parents choose that or did the producers of the show choose that.

Leigh Rubin: That’s a good question and I’m just going to guess that it had to do that they were Jewish and that was a Jewish one of those places. They make reference to not maybe not Grossinger or maybe maybe they do do Grossinger’s on the Marvelous Mrs. Meisel. You know, where these were because there was obviously anti-Semitism and there was certainly only exclusionary rules that that barred people of color and religion from even going to some of these places, so they started their own. Or, Grossinger did and I know there were other ones. There’s a wonderful documentary on one of these places. I can’t remember the name of it on Amazon now. The last one.

Steve Silverman: Kutshers you’re talking about.

Leigh Rubin: Yes, yes. It was very, really informative.

Steve Silverman: Yeah, I watch that with my wife. I grew probably about 10 miles from Kutshers and I wouldn’t say I had been there a lot. The hotel I went to the most was the Concord hotel, but none of them exist anymore. I mean Kutshers is now shut down. Grossingers recently, in the last year they basically ripped the whole thing down. It was sitting, probably since the mid-1980s, abandoned, which is kind of sad. It was, when you drove into the town to Liberty, New York it’s sat up on this hill. You could see these buildings from miles away and they just, I mean just rotting away. And, it was very sad. There was always talk about them renovating them and reopening the hotel but it just never happened.

Leigh Rubin: Well, it’s a very expensive proposition. But how cool would it be? And it’s nice that there some of it still documented. My dad collected swizzle sticks. And he still he had those and I think my sister has those now from the Grossinger.

Steve Silverman: My brother collects a lot of the old hotel stuff. He still lives down there, so he has more of a connection than I do.

Leigh Rubin: Sure.

Steve Silverman: Did your parents keep kosher or not?

Leigh Rubin: No. No. That was pretty much my great-grandmother on my mom’s side that did that, but no they didn’t. We were typical children of the late 50s into the 60s. Great food though. My mom was a wonderful cook and we, you know that’s when families pretty much eight dinner together.

Steve Silverman: You’re lucky because, I mean I love my mom, but she was the worst cook. She always joked that she could burn water.

Leigh Rubin: I can’t say that about my mom.

Colorized photograph of Stan and Natalie Rubin at CBS Studios on their wedding day.

Steve Silverman: Well, I mean all those hotels are gone and I saw a comment that it was really the three A’s that shut them down: one was aircraft to fly anywhere, you didn’t need to go to the Catskills. The second was air-conditioned. By having air conditioning, you could now go to places you couldn’t before and those hotels certainly weren’t air-conditioned. And the third was that Jewish people just assimilated into society. So, it was aircraft, air conditioning and assimilation that brought the end of the Catskills.

Leigh Rubin: Yeah, probably all the you know the civil rights laws and all that you know people just go where they want to go.

Steve Silverman: Sure.

Leigh Rubin: I mean my parents did drive down to Florida in the 50s and I won’t repeat what the sign said here, but some of them were not very kind to people of color or Jews.

Steve Silverman: So, a news clip was broadcast sixty-three years after their wedding and they died after that within a short period. Were either them ill when there on that show the time?

Leigh Rubin: My mother had COPD. Probably from the Northridge earthquake. Picked up a lot of dust and both of my parents got Valley fever. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that.

Steve Silverman: I’m not.

Leigh Rubin: Yeah, it sucks. It’s a spore. You might want to look that up to see that I’m get that correct, that gets kicked up. It’s in the ground it’s fine, but when it gets kicked up and people bring it in, it gets into your lungs. And it can be deadly. My mom never smoked a day in her life and then she got COPD and, you know, she had to be on oxygen more and more, and toward the end all the time.

Steve Silverman: And how long did she suffer from that?

Leigh Rubin: For quite a few years, but it got progressively worse.

Steve Silverman: Right. Because on the show, on the interview that she did she sounds perfectly fine.

Click on the YouTube video above to watch the interview that the Stan and Natalie Rubin did with Cody Stark in 2014.

Announcer 1: Well, a local couple is remembering their very special wedding ceremony. They tied the knot on a CBS show back in the 50s.

Announcer 2: Cody Stark with their unique nuptials and why the wedding almost didn’t happen.

Cody Stark: You know that couple is see at the mall and they been together forever, but there still holding hands? Well, this is that couple.


Natalie Leipmann (2014): People stop us all the time. They think it’s so cute.

Cody Stark: They were married on the CBS show sixty-three years ago called Bride and Groom hosted by fellow named John Nelson.

John Nelson: Theirs is a romance that is as delightful as a fairytale. And after we’ve heard them tell their story, will be guests at their wedding. And I want to remind you of the fact that all of this is brought to you by my good friends, the makers of these wonderful Hudson paper napkins.

Stan Rubin (2014): The reason we got on the show is that they asked us to write a love story and how you met.

Cody Stark: And how they met was quite a tale. They were introduced by one of his army buddies, which was one of her relatives, but they actually met years before when they were kids.

Natalie Leipmann (1951): We compared notes and we found out that we both went to the same dancing school.

John Nelson (1951): You mean you and Stan were friends as children and had forgotten about it?

Natalie Leipmann (1951): Well, I knew him, but he didn’t know me.

Cody Stark: The thing is, the perfect couple with the perfect story on the wedding show almost didn’t happen and not because they are cold feet, but because they were Jewish. The producers call them at the last minute to tell them.

Stan Rubin (2014): That’s when they said that Jewish people couldn’t be, wouldn’t be allowed on it.

Natalie Leipmann Rubin (2014): Well, my Rabbi pushed for it and got us on the program.

Cody Stark: After the controversy was cleared up, they had a lovely TV wedding, the rabbi, the chuppa, of course a smooch. And don’t forget those lovely parting gifts like a TV and some luggage. The key to such a long and loving relationship can probably be found between Natalie then and now.

Natalie Leipmann (1951): Whatever Stan wants is what I want most. I want to do anything that he wants always.

Natalie Leipmann Rubin (2014): You just agree, don’t argue, just say yes, and then do what you want anyhow.

Announcer (1951): This is the CBS television network.

Useless? Useful? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

The Walking Murphys

 

The school district that I teach in recently asked me present a teacher training seminar on the best health and wellness apps that are out there. I spoke to a number of colleagues and installed the best of them on my phone.

So, two weekends ago, my wife and I were up in Warrensburg, NY, which is just a bit north of Lake George, for their annual town-wide garage sale, which they bill as the world’s largest. We go every year, mainly for the exercise, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give these various apps a test. I turned each one of them on as soon as I exited our car and we then proceeded to walk up and down the various side streets for hours.

When we were done for the day, I stopped each of the apps. At least that was what I had thought I had done. When we returned home, I realized that one of the apps kept running and recorded a walk in excess of 50 miles, 46 of which were done while seated in a car…

Well, today I have for you another story about walking that begins with someone riding in a car. During the morning of December 28, 1951, Mr. and Mrs. J. Warren Poley, Jr. and their daughter Donna, who resided at 1525 College Avenue in Trappe, Pennsylvania, decided to hop in the car and drive to nearby Norristown. The total distance is approximately a 12-mile (19.3 km) drive southeast along Route 422. As they left their home, they would first pass through the towns of Collegeville and then Tropper before reaching Norristown. So, basically, they drove from Trappe, through Collegeville, through Trooper and finally ended in Norristown.

It was in Trooper at 9:30 AM that Mrs. Poley first took notice of a family walking in the opposite direction of their travel. The family, which consisted of a father, mother, and two small children, appeared to be down on their luck. Later, as they drove home, the Poleys once again passed the family, who were now walking through Collegeville. A short time later, Mrs. Poley went for a short drive and again passed the plodding family. Seeing these poor people three times in such a short period of time just tore at Mrs. Poley’s heart.

Upon returning to her residence, she told her husband that they needed to do something. “Those people are in trouble. I think they need help and I think we should do something about it.”

Next thing you know, Mr. Poley is driving in his car searching for the family of strangers. He didn’t have to go very far. He found them walking in front of the nearby grade school. Mr. Poley invited the family to dinner and they graciously accepted.

It was during that turkey meal that the sad story of this wandering family – that’s dad Robert Murphy, his wife Jean, three-year old daughter Jean, and two-year old son Robert, Jr. – began to be told.

Mr. Murphy explained that they had lived in Topeka, Kansas for the past six years and that their home had been destroyed by the raging floods that had recently swept through the region. They lost everything including their home and nearly all of their worldly belongings.

With no place to live, they made the decision to make their way to the home of Jean Murphy’s mom in Philadelphia. Without any money or modern mode of transportation, they were forced to make the approximately 1,200-mile (1,930 km) trek on foot. It took them 44 days to make the journey, arriving at her mom’s house on Christmas Eve. Call her Scrooge or whatever choice words you may have, but for some unknown reason she refused to let her daughter’s family stay with her.

Although he was a veteran of World War II and an electrician by trade, Robert Murphy was unable to secure work or find suitable lodging in Philadelphia. As a result, the Murphys became discouraged and began the long walk back to Kansas. It was while they were on this return trip that the Poleys saw the Murphys and invited them to dinner.

For a family that had suffered so much, they were in surprisingly good shape. They certainly had weather-beaten complexions, but they were well-dressed for the weather. Supposedly a wealthy man in Ohio had been very generous and provided each with warm clothes, gloves and boots. After bundling themselves back up, the Murphys said goodbye to the Poleys and continued on their journey back to Kansas.

Clearly, Mrs. Poley was a kind and warm-hearted person who generously opened her home up to strangers in need. But she felt the need to do more. After they left, she contacted the police and then local radio station WPAZ in Pottstown learned of their hardship and broadcast an appeal to the community for assistance. It wasn’t long before furniture, food, clothing, and money began to pour in.

None, however, were more generous than Raymond F. Kulp, an employee of the East Greenville Sanitary Company. Mr. Kulp owned a 72-acre farm nearby on Route 663 between New Hanover and Pennsburg. When he learned of the family’s plight, he immediately called the Pottstown Mercury newspaper and offered Robert Murphy a job on his farm. Not only that, but since his eight room farmhouse only housed his family of four – that’s Mr Kulp, his wife and their two sons – the Murphys were welcome to occupy four of the rooms.

Mr. Kulp stated, “We know what it is to have troubles.” He added, “When they arrive here, there will be a lot of surprises. People have been very good to them. They are donating household furnishings and food. One woman is sending a lot of canned goods. We had some furniture that we were going to leave in their part of the house. But guess they’ll have almost enough now. People have been so kind and offering them furnishings and help of any kind.”

Through the airing of their plight, Mrs. Poley learned that others had previously offered the Murphy family assistance.

Two days earlier – Wednesday night – the Murphys had been provided with a place to sleep by the Salvation Army in Philadelphia. By Thursday night they were staying at another Salvation Army facility in Norristown. They left that shelter right after breakfast.

By Friday morning, shortly before they were to be sighted by the Poleys, the Murphys were treated to breakfast by Ralph K. Harner, who was the chief of police in nearby West Norriton.

Harner told the press, “They weren’t hitch hiking when I saw them. They were just walking pathetically along the pavement. I took them to the state public assistance office in Norristown, and left them there while I went to court. When I returned, they had gone. The girl who interviewed them told me that aid wouldn’t be available for several days until they proved their identity – so they started out again on foot.”

He continued, “Mr. Murphy told the girl that he lost all his identification papers in the flood – including his service records. I wanted to give them $10 on my return from, but they were gone. It’s a strange heart-tuggin’ sight to see them trudging along. I think they’ll get plenty of rides along the way.”

It seemed like everyone was offering some sort of assistance, but there was one big problem. The Walking Murphys, as the press was now referring to them as, were long gone. Police were asked to watch for the family.

Calling all cars. Calling all cars. Be on the lookout for:

Robert Murphy – the father. He is described as being a tall, slender man with thick, dark hair highlighted with greying streaks. He is dressed in a faded suit, a dark sports shirt, a blue woolen mackinaw jacket, and black buckle galoshes.

Jean Murphy, the mother. Short in stature, heavyset, with a round face. She is dressed in a cotton dress and plain coat. A vari-colored bandana covers her head.

Their son Robert, Jr. is dressed in a woolen coat and a knit woolen cap, while their daughter Jean is kept warm by a woolen snow suit and a bandana.

Where were the Murphy’s?

Luckily, it didn’t take long to find them. On Sunday, December 30th a passing motorist was listened to radio station WHLM and heard the appeal to help locate the family. He spotted the Murphys walking in Williamsport, which is about 150-miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Mrs. Poley’s home, and he let them know about Mr. Kulp’s generous job/home offer. With everything that they owned being carried in two beat up suitcases and just 30-cents to their name, this news couldn’t have come at a better time.

This was the perfect feel-good story and, as you can imagine, it quickly broke nationwide. In an interview with the United Press, Robert Murphy said, “I’m so happy I can’t talk. We just had another disappointment last night. Someone told me I might get a job here, but it didn’t go through, and it took hours to get shelter for the night.”

Jean Murphy added, “It’s wonderful news. We were beginning to think no one cared what happened to us. Does someone really want us?” She continued, “That’s the way it was on our trip East. Only the people who had a lot of trouble themselves understood and helped us. I guess that’s how it always is.”

Of course, one has to wonder how the Murphys ended up in such dire straits. As the story broke nationally, members of the local press started doing some digging. As the reporters poked around into the Murphys’ past, they were left with far more questions than they had answers.

For example, they learned from Captain Newton McClements at the Salvation Army in Norristown that he had given Robert Murphy $2.50 (approximately $25.00 today) to cover train fare to Philadelphia.

Huh? What? They supposedly had just traveled from Philadelphia so why would they need train fare to go back?

Next, Murphy said that he had applied for Red Cross aid shortly after the flood had destroyed their nine-room home in Kansas. A check with the director of the midwestern office of the Red Cross, Robert Edson, could find no record of a Robert Murphy ever applying for aid either during or after the flood.

Then, during a radio interview on December 31, 1951, Mr. Murphy mentioned that he had studied to be an electrical engineer at the University of Kansas. Under re-questioning he changed his alma mater to Kansas State. Maybe that was just an error on his part, but local reporters were starting to think that the details of his story just didn’t add up.

During an interview with the Murphy’s at the Kulp farmhouse, WPAZ news director Sidney Omarr decided that it was time to ask the Murphys about the inconsistencies in their story and find out what was really true.

It turns out that none of it was. It was all one big lie.

The Murphys with WPAZ news director Sidney Omarr.
The Murphys with WPAZ news director Sidney Omarr.  That’s daughter Jean on his lap,  dad Robert on the left and mom Jean holding Robert, Jr. on the left.  (Image appeared on page 2 of the Akron Beacon Journal on January 2, 1952,)

They had never lost everything that they had owned in the Kansas floods. In fact, they had never lived there at all. The family started telling the Kansas flood story the previous August, but had received no public attention until Mrs. Poley befriended them. They would simply move from town to town telling their fictitious tale, maybe get a meal, some lodging, and a few bucks before moving on to the next town.

Not only had they not been in Kansas, they weren’t the Murphys. They were the Lillibridges. Dad was Robert Roy Lillibridge, who was born on December 9, 1911 in Baltimore, Maryland. Mom was Philadelphia native Jean McGlinchey. They had been married during the war and it was the second marriage for both. Why the name Murphy? It was Jean’s last name from her first marriage.

Nearly all of what Robert Lillibridge initially told the press proved to be fictitious. He was not a decorated World War II veteran. Instead, he had served in the Merchant Marine assisting with the war effort.

And what about his electrical engineering studies at the University of Kansas or Kansas State? His education ended in the eighth grade.

Once the hoax had been exposed, both Lillibridge and his wife admitted that they had been in prison one time each, but never elaborated on what the charges were.

Lillibridge said, “I am sorry about the whole thing. We intended to settle down here. Pottstown was the only place where people were really concerned about us.” He added, “I’ll tell the kids that we just forgot to take the stuff with us.”

Since there was no crime committed, after questioning, the Lillibridges were released by authorities and were once again back on the road. Behind them they left all of the money, clothing, food, and gifts that the people of Pottstown and the rest of the nation had donated to help them.

Mr. Kulp, whose offer of his home and a job went above and beyond what most people would do, offered up the following words: “We tried to do the right thing.” He added, “We feel awful. We opened our hearts and home to them and we thought they were good people. A lot of other people believed their story too. I don’t know what to say except that I pity their little children who are innocent.”

Letters written by readers to the Pottstown Mercury weren’t as kind:

“That so-called Murphy family should never have been brought back to Pottstown. It is such irresponsibility which weakens public faith in our community leaders.” (Mrs. Anne R.)

“It is hard to believe that residents in and around Pottstown would go so far out of their way to help the “Walking Murphys” when they don’t adequately take care of their own.” (Harold B. P.)

“It is unfortunate that people with so much charity in their hearts should be ‘taken in.’ I would like to say to them: Don’t be disillusioned, for every four deceitful people in this world there are four thousand honest ones. The Misfortune you have suffered should not deter you from lending a helping hand again.” (Mrs. Ruth S. W.)

“I think Fred Selby and the others of The Mercury should be congratulated for the wonderful job they have done with the so-called “Walking Murphys”. The two children are to be pitied. But as for him and her, walking is too good for them.” (Mrs. H. M.)

By the time that these and other letters had been published, the Lillibridge family had disappeared from the scene. Where they came from and to where they went is difficult to piece together, but here is what I learned, particularly regarding Robert Lillibridge:

On Tuesday, July 13, 1937, a then 25-year-old Lillibridge was found by a plant watchman in North Camden, New Jersey after he claimed to have leaped from a bridge into the Delaware River in an attempt to end his life. He was sentenced to thirty days in jail and given a suspended sentence. When asked by the prosecutor as to why he jumped, he replied, “I had an argument with my girlfriend.” He added, “As soon as I touched the water I knew I had made a mistake and prayed that I might have the strength to get to shore.”

On November 29th Lillibridge jumped off that same bridge a second time. While no one was witness to the jump, police found his sweater with three notes pinned to it hanging from the bridge railing. One of the notes said that he had “played the game of love twice with the same girl and he lost both times.” Another, addressed to a cousin in Baltimore, stated that when he received “this note he would be at the bottom of the river.” After a thorough search of the water by harbor police, no body was found.

His girlfriend was identified as Dorothy Huntingdon who was living at 2046 Martha Street in Philadelphia at the time. When questioned, she said that the two had a bit of an argument over her seeing another male friend. When Lillibridge left her home he seemed a bit down but never mentioned anything about committing suicide.

Four days later Lillibridge walked into a newspaper office in Philadelphia and surrendered. Once again, he claimed to have changed his mind as fell toward the water surface, swam to shore, and then hitchhiked to New York City.

These two jumps were treated as the real deal when they happened, but the lies that he told many years later as one of the Walking Murphys questions whether he ever really hit the water or was simply making it all up to draw attention to himself.

He may not have been wanted by his girlfriend Dorothy, but the Secret Service certainly did. After reading about his two suicide attempts, they issued a warrant that charged him with stealing and cashing in a WPA check that had been stolen from his roommate Alec Wood the previous February.

On September 17, 1943, he was in trouble with the law again on . This time the now 31-year-old Lillibridge was picked up for impersonating a member of the armed forces. Dressed in the same military garb that he had been arrested in, he testified that he had purchased the uniform so that he could re-enlist in the Army.

Wait! Didn’t he claim years later that he was in the Merchant Marine?

Just what is the truth and what are lies here? It really is hard to know because Lillibridge seemed to blur the lines between the two all of the time.

As for their Kansas flood hoax, it wasn’t the first time that they had attempted this.

The March 11, 1950 issue of the New York Daily News features a photograph of Robert Lillibridge, his wife Jean, 20-month old daughter Jean, and six-week old Robert, Jr. sitting in the Newark, New Jersey police headquarters. They may have used their real names this time, but the rest of their story has a familiar ring to it:

38-year-old Robert Lillibridge was an Air Force veteran who flew fifty-seven missions in the South Pacific which earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. The text said that on March 4th, the six-family apartment house that they lived in down in Baltimore had burned to the ground. They lost everything including $150 that they had saved up in cash. All their belongings fit into two small bags.

Robert and Jean Lillibridge with their children.
Photograph of Robert and Jean Lillibridge with their children Jean and Robert, Jr.  Image appeared on page 4 of the New York Daily News on March 11, 1950.

Robert Lillibridge said that his brother James invited them to come stay with him at his home in Newark, but supposedly Jim never gave him the address. They walked all the way to New Jersey and had just 5-cents in their pocket when they made their way to the Newark police department for help. Police searched for the missing brother, but – this should come as no surprise – they could not locate him.

Two weeks later they were in the newspaper again. They had somehow found their way approximately 350-miles (560 km) northwest to Bradford, Pennsylvania and told the same hard luck story. The Salvation Army there fed the family, provided them with lodging, and paid for them to take a bus to Union City, Pennsylvania. There they hoped to hook up with an uncle named Lyle Lillibridge.

In November, 1951, the Murphy-Lillibridges walked into a restaurant in Everett, Pennsylvania that was owned by Mrs. Carma Winck. They told the same sad story about how the floods in Kansas had wiped away all that they owned. Mrs. Winck felt sorry for the fairly and provided them with a place to stay for several days. As they departed, the Everett Ministerial Association purchased bus tickets to Raleigh, North Carolina because they had relatives there who could help them.

Once they arrived in Raleigh, they headed about 40-miles (about 65 km) northwest to Efland, North Carolina. In a letter published by the Pottstown Mercury a couple of months after the hoax was revealed, Reverend James Johnson wrote the following:

“A month or two ago my wife and myself picked up four people and brought them to our house and gave them their dinner. They said that they had lost everything that they had in a flood in Topeka, Kansas and was going to Mobile, Alabama to his brother’s home.”

“He said that he was an electrician and his story seemed to be true. So after dinner I carried them in my car to a church 15 miles from here and told the story to the pastor of the church. He made up an offering of $36.00 and I carried them to the bus station and bought them two tickets to Mobile, Alabama.”

“I am almost sure that the people described in the newspaper clipping which I have enclosed are the same ones that we picked up. I now know why he did not want their picture taken. I have a friend in Norfolk, Virginia that picked them up and helped them too.”

Okay. So they had pulled this hoax or something similar to it many times before. But surely they wouldn’t do it again now they had been caught and the story was in the press nationwide.

They clearly didn’t learn their lesson.

On the evening of Monday, December 20, 1954, which is nearly three years after Mrs. Poley invited the so-called Murphys to dinner, it was reported that police in Youngstown, Ohio had picked up the Lillibridge family after they had been caught trying to thumb a ride on the outskirts of town.

The Lillibridges had quite the story to tell. They had been hitchhiking because their home in San Diego, California had burned to the ground. The family had been on the road for the past 105 days and were headed to Van Buren, Maine where wife Jean had an uncle.

The kindly policemen reached in their pockets and provided the Lillibridges with money and arranged for food to be brought into the station for the hungry family. The Salvation Army provided them with a place to stay for the evening. The next morning the police provided them with a road map and the Lillibridges were once again back on the road.

When the story of their generosity hit the local newspapers, the police realized that they had been had. One man said that he had picked up a family of the same description in nearby Hubbard, Ohio three days prior and provided them with assistance. The father, who can be presumed to Robert Lillibridge, told the kind gentleman that their home in Maine had burned and that they were headed to California. Another man said he had provided the family with a place to stay and $100. And finally, a woman said that she had seen the family in Canfield, Ohio two-years earlier. That time the Lillibridges claimed that their home in Florida had burned and that they were making their way to Kansas.

Useless? Useful? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Twins Switch Places

 
On Sunday April 1, 1951, officer Carl Hamm pulled over a car at the corner of North Holton and East Vine Streets in Milwaukee, WI. Hamm asked the driver for his license, which identified him as Elmer Urban. The officer knew immediately that he was lying. He was certain the driver was not Elmer Urban, but instead his identical twin Alvin.

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The Shoeless Hillbilly

 
Useless Information Podcast

When Peter Grainger walked into a US Army recruiting center in San Antonio, Texas back in 1951, he had quite the story to tell.  He had spent nearly his entire life living high in the mountains of New Mexico with virtually no contact with the outside world. But was there more to this story than what he was telling them?

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