Shirley Gergel Ness talks about her father, Joseph Gergel, who served for three years in the Russian army before immigrating in 1914 to Columbia, South Carolina, where two of his brothers resided. Joseph volunteered for duty in the United States Army during World War I and worked as a supply sergeant in New York. He met his wife, Jean Fingerhut, when he was invited by a fellow soldier to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for Passover. Shirley, who was born in 1928, talks about growing up in Columbia, attending public school, and working in her father's store. The interviewee intended to go to law school after graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1948; she describes how Coleman Karesh, law professor and son of Rabbi David Karesh, blocked her admission that year based on her age and gender. Shirley recalls how her husband, Everett Ness of Sumter, South Carolina, courted her; they married and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1949. They ran the Nursery Nook, a children's toy and furniture store on King Street for fourteen years before going bankrupt. Their children attended Addlestone Hebrew Academy. In 1966 the Nesses moved to Columbia, the Midlands being a more convenient location for Everett, whose job as a manufacturing representative required travel to other southeastern states. Shirley contrasts the Jewish communities of Charleston and Columbia and tells the story of how a member of the Gergel family in Russia tracked down her American cousins in South Carolina, uniting the descendants of Joseph and his siblings who stayed in the Old Country.
Flossie Ginsberg Arnold and her son, Norman Arnold, discuss their family history. Flossie and her parents, Isaac and Pauline Ginsberg, immigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, from Russia around 1908, when Flossie was about one year old. Flossie recalls living on Hanover Street in the neighborhood they referred to as “Little Mexico,” where her family owned a small grocery store. Ultimately, the Ginsbergs moved to a home on Ashley Avenue and Isaac opened I. Ginsberg, Inc., on Meeting Street, selling cigars, candy, and notions. Flossie was working behind the cash register when her future husband, Ben Arnold, walked in. Charleston was a port of call for the Clyde Line steamer Ben was taking to New York from Florida, where he operated drugstores in Lake Worth and West Palm Beach. Flossie and Ben married in 1928 and shortly after, moved from Florida to Charleston, lured by the presence of family and a Jewish community, and Isaac’s offer to include Ben in the family business. Isaac and Ben developed a wholesale tobacco and drugstore enterprise with locations in several South Carolina cities, including Columbia, the state capital. Ben ran the Columbia store, which they expanded to include liquor. Around 1940 Flossie, Ben, and their son, Arnold, moved to the capital city, and in the mid-’40s, Isaac and Ben split up the business, Isaac keeping the tobacco distributorship, and Ben assuming full control of the liquor operation.