Full text from interview with Mickey Cail in 2010. Highlighted section are included in audio presentation. Audio requires QuickTime player (free download from Apple) or equivalent MP3 player installed with your browser.
Mickey Cail was born in Revere and lived there for 27 years. Involved in many community activities from a young age, he served as President of B'nai Brith, worked with the CJP and was an active pariticipant in various philanthropies.
A member of the Revere High basketball team, Mickey received a scholarship to Northeastern University, where he trained as an engineer. He started an air conditioning business and later went into real estate. He has committed his entire life to working for the community. He served as President of the JCHE, built Hillel houses, community centers and Hebrew College in Newton, MA. He is married to Lois Ghen.
FISHMAN: OK, so today is October 9, 2010. I’m (Casey Fishman) at the JCAM office with Micky Cail, and we’re going to be talking about Revere. So just to get started, Micky, can you just tell me a little bit about your family background, where your family came from, when they came to the United States on both sides?
CAIL: Yeah. My mother came from Lithuania.
FISHMAN: And her name?
CAIL: Lena. And she just came here by herself. Her family stayed behind and were wiped out by the Nazis, and she came here. She was alone, and met my father, who was a tailor.
FISHMAN: Do you know how they met?
CAIL: No, I don’t. And they got married, and the next -- and he was a tailor, as I said -- the next thing I knew, I was born in Beachmont at a fire station in Revere.
FISHMAN: Can you explain the details how, why were you born at a fire station? How did that happen?
CAIL: Well, my guess is it was expensive to go to the hospital, and they probably made it available on a lower cost basis, and every time we drive by the fire station on Revere Street in Revere -- I think it’s still there -- they said, “That’s where you were born.” I said, “Good, I’m happy.” And...
FISHMAN: (laughter) Do you know how your family ended up Revere, why they chose that particular community?
CAIL: No, I don’t know why, but all I know is that we were living in Beachmont. It was a big Jewish community with a very nice temple, B’nai Israel, Temple B’nai Israel, and that’s where I grew up and got involved in activities such as the AZA and B’nai B’rith and my whole life has been spent working for/with the community and making important things happen.
FISHMAN: That’s great.
CAIL: Important, all the way from building Hillel houses, building community centers for the CJP, building houses for the elderly for JCHE, the President there, too, as well as B’nai B’rith, and last but not least, Hebrew College. The new campus I built with Dave Gordis, and it is an outstanding leader in Jewish education in Boston, and also in parts of the country, because we have there the first transdenominational rabbinical school, which has been outstanding.
FISHMAN: I know, my husband’s in his first year there.
CAIL: Oh, that’s right, you told me that.
CAIL: Yeah, that’s good. And --
FISHMAN: So --
CAIL: -- this has been my life of working for, with the community. It gives me great pleasure, and made many, many friends, longtime friends, because when you reach out to help people you meet wonderful people, too.
FISHMAN: Well, that’s great.
CAIL: And they are -- it’s been an exciting time, and my life is still active, and I enjoy every day.
FISHMAN: That’s wonderful.
CAIL: Besides which, I play golf every week and tennis.
CAIL: I do tai chi every day and I work every day.
FISHMAN: That’s impressive! (laughter) Sounds like you’re a very busy guy.
FISHMAN: Just getting back to this initial question about immigration, did your parents ever talk about their immigration experiences, how they got here, what it was like?
CAIL: My mother -- of course, my mother died when I was 12 years old, and at that age you’re not listening to anything, and the only thing my father talked about was his father coming over here alone, working as a tailor, saving enough money to bring over his wife and five or six siblings -- whatever, I can't remember what it was.
FISHMAN: Mm-hmm. Did your father and grandfather work together as tailors?
CAIL: I don’t think so.
CAIL: We worked in the garment industry, which is downtown, and during the Depression I do remember how difficult things were. He was making like eight or nine dollars a week, and we lived in Beachmont on the third floor, and it was just difficult, one day at a time surviving.
FISHMAN: Can you describe the house where you lived, the apartment?
CAIL: It was a six story apartment. We lived on the third floor, lot of walking up and down every day, but it’s OK when you’re young, not when you’re older. And it was something that was, will always be embedded in my mind was it was part of my growing up and having --
FISHMAN: Who was living in that house?
CAIL: Pardon me?
FISHMAN: Who was living in that?
CAIL: My sister was older, my brother was much older. My sister became my mother, literally. She’s still alive today, and I remember her more, of course, because up through 12 I don’t remember too much, but she took over, and she’s been a tower of strength for me, having had many children of her own, and she’s alive today and she’s beautiful and surrounded by wonderful children and grandchildren --
CAIL: -- and great-grandchildren.
CAIL: She’s a very special person to me.
FISHMAN: What’s her name?
CAIL: Ruth Kaplan. And she doesn’t go out of the house at all, but every weekend on Saturdays and Sundays (coughs) (inaudible).
FISHMAN: Mm-hmm. Does she still live around here?
CAIL: Yeah, she lives on Sharp Road in Newton, and I will do anything in the world for her, and she knows, because she is so special.
FISHMAN: That’s really great. It sounds like you guys have a wonderful relationship.
CAIL: Oh yeah, she is something.
FISHMAN: Can you describe for me a little bit about the places in your neighborhood that were important to you when you were growing up, like landmarks, stores, things like that?
CAIL: There was -- we lived across from the Temple B’nai Israel. Around the corner there were two grocery stores. (laughter) I remember both; they were little teeny grocery stores. One was called Elgart’s Groceries, E-L-G-A-R-T, and the other was Golod, G-O-L-O-D. I remember the family just barely striving to stay alive by virtue of what they could sell to all the local people who were in similar positions as we were, namely not enough money but very hungry, and they used to give us credit, you know. It was a very emotional place because everybody lived with each other each day. It was almost like living in a community center type thing, but they lived across the street, above you, next to you. It was just a little small community of Jewish people surviving the best they could. We used to have a Sugarman truck coming around selling -- I remember his -- I’m just trying to remember what was their... Yeah. They were selling vegetables, and he was a (come, buy the lot -- laughter and coughing) Anyway, that’s what it was. They were, everybody was in touch with each other every day. You don’t have that today, and that doesn’t mean it’s bad or good, it’s what it was.
FISHMAN: Just different, right.
CAIL: And each time of life is what it is. You don’t want to sell any part of it. It was a reality, it was survival. I remember belonging to the AZA. I became President of B’nai B’rith. My whole life was based on Jewish identity, and I do remember in high school I was playing for the basketball team -- that’s right, four years first team basketball!
FISHMAN: Which high school?
CAIL: Revere High School, where we walked to every day, three miles each way, never complained about it.
FISHMAN: So you played basketball and you were involved--?
CAIL: I was on the first team. And I ended up getting a basketball scholarship to Northeastern University.
FISHMAN: Oh, wow.
CAIL: Yeah. And that’s how I began my studies of engineering and graduating cum laude... It was not cum laude, it was Engineering Society. I had a very high average. You know, this is what it was: take the streetcar to school every day. Kids don’t realize...
FISHMAN: So were you still living in Revere when you went to Northeastern?
CAIL: Yeah. I was going to Northeastern, and I was there -- it was a five year program, and I worked on the coop program, and I used to go to Mattapan Square -- you know where that is?
CAIL: This place called the Steadfast Rubber Company, so I would go to school ten weeks and work there ten weeks, go to school ten weeks and work there ten weeks. So I was enabled to have enough money -- my father didn’t have any money. I got a scholarship, I got some other scholarships, I got enough money to pay for everything. If you can picture this today, it costs $40-50,000 to go to a school, more or less. During that period, semesters each cost $125. (laughter) It was $250 a year.
CAIL: Amazing, huh? Isn’t it? Yeah. It was very interesting.
FISHMAN: And then after college what did you do?
CAIL: Well, I was a chemical engineer, and one of the chemical companies offered me a job, but when they found out I was Jewish they lost interest.
FISHMAN: Was that a common thing that was happening then?
CAIL: Yeah, it wasn’t unusual. It was something which was not unusual, and about the same time I got an offer from the Carrier Corporation -- you’ve heard of them, Carrier Air Conditioning? Carrier Air Conditioning, yeah. Syracuse, New York, and I accepted their offer, and that began my business career, which was working there, then working locally with an air conditioning company, and finally realizing I was in the wrong business, after I’d been with my own company, which I started. I was doing business for real estate developers, and I realized I was in the wrong business. So I had two or three hundred people working for me, and the next thing I know I was in Norwood in an office with two people, my secretary and myself. And that began my whole career in real estate, which I love, which I do every day. Matter of fact, the lady, Claire Donnelly, works for me -- (counts quickly to self under his breath) went to work for me in 1972. She’s been there 37 years, like part of the family, which is true.
CAIL: Yeah. And we look upon her as family, ‘cause she’s invited to everything that we do, and she is a very special lady, and that’s where I’ve been. My daughter graduated in electrical engineering from Schenectady -- I’m trying to remember the school up there -- finally went to work with me, for me, and today she, Faith, runs the company. She loves what she’s doing because she can do that and do everything else. Both her daughters are in college. And my son works for her.
FISHMAN: Oh. That’s a good arrangement!
CAIL: She has a lot of brainpower, he’s just a nice guy and happy to be working that way. No problem. So it’s been a very interesting lifestyle full of Jewish identity and observations -- (coughs) excuse me -- and the thing that I love the most is like I built the Jewish Community Center right here, you know, for the Federation. I spent five years there, and building and making things happen led me to know that I’m writing a book.
FISHMAN: You’re writing a book right now?
CAIL: Yeah, it’s very slowly being written. The name of the book is I Hate Bad News.
FISHMAN: That sounds like a good name for a book.
CAIL: It’s a great book, people love it. And there are three things that I’ve lived and learned and pass on. These are the three outstanding pieces of communication which I wish to share with those who are coming up to help them.
FISHMAN: What are they?
CAIL: Number one: Be a good communicator. People do not communicate well today. I like e-mails, but I like talking to people better. But something important, I don’t want to e-mail it. I want to reach out and touch you, over the phone, wherever it is. So number one is be a good communicator. For example, I call somebody, a friend of mine; three days later he hasn’t called back. I call him and said, “Why haven’t you called back?” He said, “Well, I got too busy.” I said, “You just made a big mistake.”
FISHMAN: He broke the first rule!
CAIL: To tell me that you don’t have ten seconds to call back... Shame on you! You’ll never get another call from me. Number two: Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen. You want to be successful? Make things happen. Number three... You’re smiling!
FISHMAN: (laughter) I’m interested in what you’re saying?
CAIL: What’s the best word in the American dictionary? Don’t answer, I’ll tell you.
FISHMAN: OK! (laughter)
CAIL: Enthusiasm. When you’re enthusiastic, people will respond to you and do anything you want.
FISHMAN: They seem like three pretty good rules.
CAIL: (coughs) Excuse me.
FISHMAN: And that’s what your book is based on?
CAIL: That’s right. One of the stories: I walk into a Dunkin Donuts where I go almost every morning, coffee and reading, spend about an hour there, paper and the books. I read a lot of books. I get in line, and I see a lady next to me, and I said, “What do you do?” I do that a lot, I speak to people, reach out. She said, “I’m a nurse.” And I said, “That’s fantastic. On your way to work?” “Yep.” I knew all the girls behind the counter, and when I came to them I said, “I’m paying for her.” Came her turn, the girl said, “Micky is paying for your coffee. It’s paid for.” She looked at me, and Casey, her smile was worth $1,000.
FISHMAN: That’s sweet.
CAIL: She loved what happened to her, and I’m sure she told it to everybody. (laughter)
FISHMAN: Everyone, probably.
CAIL: And I’ve done this dozens of times.
FISHMAN: That probably made her day.
CAIL: In Florida, a better -- not a better story -- I go out to a Dunkin Donuts in Boca Raton when we get down there, and I sit here, and the service is here -- (coughs) excuse me -- and the people coming in here. Within two weeks I knew everybody that walked into that store. One day a lady came over to me. She was a little disabled, not attractive, not young, not pretty, but a nice person. She said, “What is your name?” I said, “Micky.” She said, “Micky, you make me feel good.” I said, “I love that.” From that day on, I buy her coffee, I brought her books --
CAIL: -- and we became friends, coffee friends, you know. And I could tell you --
FISHMAN: That’s a great story.
CAIL: -- and I could tell you dozens of stories, which I’m including, which happened this way.
FISHMAN: That you’re including in your book?
FISHMAN: That’s great. When do you think the book will be --
CAIL: I don’t know.
FISHMAN: -- will be ready?
CAIL: The most important thing is to live the book every day.
FISHMAN: Sounds like you do.
CAIL: That’s the answer there.
FISHMAN: That’s great. Thanks for sharing that with me.
CAIL: I walked into a Starbucks today, taking my wife over to an eye doctor, and there’s a young, middle aged -- I don’t know how old she is -- she has a tremendous smile on her face! I love the smile! And the minute I saw her, “I like you!” (laughter) And she greeted, “Micky, how are you?” And she [rates?] me, gives me free coffee, doesn’t make any difference!
FISHMAN: That’s great! So you were talking about how you’ve really dedicated a lot of your life to giving back to the Jewish community.
FISHMAN: How do you -- do you think that was informed by your upbringing in Revere and being in such a close knit...?
CAIL: My mother was a good communicator, I was told, and one of the things I think was very important, I never heard my parents fight with each other. Very important. Never heard heavy criticism, and I hate criticism, hate it. Be constructive. One day I’m sitting at a Dunkin Donuts, another Dunkin Donuts; two tables down, a man, young man, 35, 40, with a young girl, daughter, he is screaming at her. He’s making her feel just... You know what he’s doing to her? He’s destroying her. And everything I could do to go over and say “Cut that out!” He would have hit me, probably! (laughter) Or “Mind your own darn business!” And I’m watching this and I said, that’s a tragedy happening. It’s a tragedy to destroy a child that way! Don’t be over critical to children. Be constructive. You can criticize children in a manner which is not destructive, and that’s the important thing. I can’t stand when parents treat children that way, because they’re destroying their ability to perform when they grow up.
FISHMAN: But your mother was a good communicator?
CAIL: Yes, yes, she was social. You know that your brain -- a book I’m reading by the brain specialist who had a stroke -- is a fascinating structure. It’s really wonderful. You’re sitting with 50 trillion cells up here, and we don’t use 10% of our cells. You know that, don’t you? You have so much capacity up here which you’ll never use and I will never use, even though I use a lot of it. It’s because however this thing got here, whatever you believe in, it’s unbelievable. This structure here is fascinating.
FISHMAN: It is.
CAIL: The thing it has capacity to do: learn seven languages. When you speak, you don’t think about it. It’s automatic, isn't it? All these things that tied in together, and you can push a button automatically. You don’t think about words, they come out automatically.
FISHMAN: You’re right. It’s incredible.
CAIL: Life is fascinating.
FISHMAN: It is. (laughter)
CAIL: You’re enjoying it, aren’t you?
FISHMAN: I am.
CAIL: Good. You have children?
CAIL: You don’t, not yet.
FISHMAN: No, not yet.
CAIL: And your husband is a freshman.
FISHMAN: Yeah, well he’s just starting his first year. He did like the -- he was there last year also just doing like a prep year.
CAIL: Yeah. Does he have Sharon Cohen there?
FISHMAN: Yeah, he has her.
CAIL: [Ad?] Green?
CAIL: Brilliant people.
FISHMAN: Yeah, it’s a great place.
FISHMAN: He’s really, really enjoying it.
CAIL: How old is he?
CAIL: That’s terrific. That is terrific.
FISHMAN: He loves it there.
CAIL: I was up there Wednesday to a meeting. (inaudible) is a good man. And a week from Sunday, Dave Gordis, who you did know, who was previous President, they’re honoring him. They’re putting his painting in the library, and I’m going to be speaking. They’ve asked me to speak that day.
FISHMAN: Oh, nice.
FISHMAN: When’s that going to be?
CAIL: A week from Sunday. It’s a closed circuit invitation thing. They don’t want too many people there.
FISHMAN: Right. That sounds lovely.
CAIL: Yeah, but it’s going to be in the library itself, which is very nice. And when I speak, I speak extemporaneously. I never plan it.
FISHMAN: That’s a real skill!
CAIL: It is. I learned that a long time ago.
CAIL: I can speak as long as you want me to speak extemporaneously.
FISHMAN: (laughter) That’s really impressive! I cannot do that. Just getting back to just your, the synagogue and Jewish life in Revere, can you just elaborate on that a little bit, experiences of being Jewish in Revere, your relations with people that weren’t Jewish, the synagogue, the rabbi, Hebrew school?
CAIL: [Cantor Hochberg?] -- does that name sound familiar? He’s been going... He was a Cantor and a Rabbi, and he Bar Mitzvahed me. Very nice man.
FISHMAN: Do you remember your Bar Mitzvah?
CAIL: Just barely, yeah. (laughter) My mother wasn’t there. It was sad because she wasn’t there, but I do remember it. The first thing I remember is when she died. Those things stay in your mind forever, you know. And I got involved with, I told you, the AZA, the B’nai B’rith. I became President then. We had a cousin -- not a cousin, a gabbai. You know what a gabbai is, right? Folk, F-O-L-K. He used to walk from Revere every day to make a minyan. Unbelievable person. He must have been 102 years old, big beard, you know, and he’d walk down from Revere to Beachmont, which is three miles, whatever it was --
FISHMAN: He would do that every day.
CAIL: -- in the weather, in the snow.
CAIL: And he would try to get ten people. They would call me, “Come on down, we need you, Micky,” you know, whatever it is to make a minyan. Couldn’t get ten people to come to the temple, sure. It’s not unusual today, though.
FISHMAN: Uh huh. (laughter)
CAIL: So his, that memory of his, him, was great, and with B’nai B’rith, which I was President. Used to have a lot of meetings there on the ADL. That’s right. I’ve been involved with ADL all my life, too.
CAIL: And I built the Hillel House at Northeastern, helped build one at Tufts...
CAIL: Yeah. I’ve built hundreds of units for the elderly, JCHE -- you know JCHE? I was past president. We now have -- we start with, we break ground in December and (inaudible) about 13 or 1,400 subsidized houses. It’s fantastic.
FISHMAN: Wow, it is. It’s amazing.
CAIL: And the campus, this campus I’ve worked on for five years, raising money and building it, and then, of course, the last but not least was the Hebrew College, which is -- you’ve been there.
FISHMAN: Yeah, I was just there this morning.
FISHMAN: It’s beautiful.
CAIL: This morning?
CAIL: What were you doing?
FISHMAN: Oh, just going with my husband, dropping him off at school.
CAIL: He loves it, huh?
FISHMAN: He loves it.
CAIL: That’s great. 28, that’s great. That’s wonderful.
FISHMAN: How did your family celebrate the holidays? Do you remember any, like what your Passover Seders were like or big holiday meals?
CAIL: Well, having lost my mother, you know...
FISHMAN: Mm-hmm, but did you have like grandparents or cousins, aunts and uncles that you celebrated with?
CAIL: I don’t think so. They lived, most of them lived in Dorchester in my recollection. My uncles all lived, you know, they all lived in Dorchester.
FISHMAN: And your grandparents lived in Dorchester?
CAIL: They lived in Roxbury/Dorchester, and my aunt lived with my grandparents, yeah. My grandparents lived with my aunt, you know. Yeah, that’s right, yeah. My grandparents... Yeah. And so we saw them not very often because transportation wasn’t easy. You didn’t have cars, you know.
CAIL: The ‘30s were -- the Depression, nobody had cars.
FISHMAN: So you don’t remember --
CAIL: People (overlapping dialogue; inaudible) --
FISHMAN: -- big holiday meals, or...?
CAIL: I don’t think so. My mother had it, but I can’t remember. My sister was working and she took care of the family so she had her hands full.
FISHMAN: Yeah. Did your father remarry?
CAIL: No. No, he never did. Lived with my sister all the way from Beachmont into Newton, lived on Sharp Road.
FISHMAN: When did they leave Beachmont?
CAIL: I left Beachmont when I got married. I was 20. I’m 86, so that would be... 58 years ago. Yeah, all right, that’s right. Married 58 years, that’s right!
CAIL: Yeah. I don’t know how she could take me this long. Yes, 28... Moved to Brookline. What else did I do in Beachmont besides that? B’nai B’rith, AZA, basketball, college... I made three or four letters, you know, letters from -- athletic letters.
FISHMAN: And you said that the Jewish community in Revere was a really close knit community, but did you have -- were there any interactions with people that weren’t Jewish in the community, or was it...?
FISHMAN: Did you pretty much stay with...?
CAIL: Just kids I went to school with, naturally, but when we played ball, we did a lot of Hebrew school organizations, dances. I was a dance instructor, too, by the way.
CAIL: You want to learn how to dance, I can help you.
FISHMAN: Sure! (laughter)
CAIL: It was something we did socially at nighttime in the temple, you know, which they have -- I can’t remember what kind of music -- it must have been canned -- down in the basement of the vestibule of the Temple B’nai Israel.
FISHMAN: Was your father involved in the synagogue at all?
CAIL: Nope, he didn’t do anything.
FISHMAN: Mm-hmm. What about your --
CAIL: Just worked. My mother I can’t remember ‘cause I was just too young.
FISHMAN: And what about your sister and brother?
CAIL: She was too busy taking care of the family. She had a full... Between work and taking care of us...
FISHMAN: She didn’t have time for anything else.
CAIL: And then she got married and had kids, four kids. Her life has been totally wrapped around her family. That’s the way it was, you know. You did what you had to do, and nobody taught what to do. You knew that it was your responsibility and you stepped up. Maybe that doesn’t happen as much today as it did yesterday.
FISHMAN: Mm-hmm. Were there like kosher butchers, bakeries --
CAIL: Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.
FISHMAN: -- in Revere?
CAIL: Oh yeah, a lot of them in Revere. Yeah. Not so much -- and Beachmont, too. That’s right, yeah. But I do remember, we got letters from Israel from my mother’s family, and my sister used to correspond with them prewar and postwar. Yeah. This is my mother’s family, all of whom -- maybe a few survived living in Lithuania during World War II. Yeah.
FISHMAN: Did her -- were her parents able to come over, or was she the only one?
CAIL: She’s the only... She came on by herself, was... I mean to come by yourself as a young girl, that’s not easy. I guess she figured “This is my opportunity, let’s do it.”
FISHMAN: Yeah, it’s amazing how many people did that.
CAIL: Yeah, so very courageous to come over by yourself. And it’s courageous of all the people leaving Russia with nothing, no money, (laughter) going --
FISHMAN: Coming to a new place --
CAIL: -- (inaudible) --
FISHMAN: -- another language...
CAIL: -- ended up on Ellis Island, maybe being shipped back, you know. The stories you hear, just how did they do it? Marvelous. It’s marvelous that they had the -- not the ability -- the desirability to make things different. A lot of them escaped the going into the Russian army. They’d run off at night before they were grabbed, ‘cause once you went into the army you were there 25 years.
FISHMAN: 25 years, right.
CAIL: That was a disaster all by itself. So there’s a million stories out there, but I’ve done a lot of studying at Hebrew College with the Me’ah program -- you’ve heard of that, right?
CAIL: And studying otherwise in Rabbi Allman’s class in the morning -- you know Rabbi Allman?
CAIL: He’s a great teacher. I used to have 7:15 meetings, classes with him, and we studied all about Jewish tradition, you know, all the way up and down the scale. We had 25, 30 in the class. So Hebrew College has been a great source of energy and learning, and I’ll never forget -- I’ll tell you one more story --
FISHMAN: OK, great.
CAIL: -- Sharon Cohen (inaudible) was being inducted, brought in as head of the Rabbinical School. Art Green was head, but then she’s taking over, and he’s whatever the position’s called. Anyway, we had dinner, and then we had a ceremony in the big room, you know, and Rabbi Green spoke, David Gordis spoke, and she spoke, Sharon, you know, and then there was a musical interlude. Someone was playing -- I forget what instrument, a banjo, whatever it was -- beautiful voice, and I look up, and there’s a Chinese face. She was singing. She was in Sharon’s class at Yale University 15 years previously.
CAIL: She, Chinese, (inaudible), she is a Rabbi and a Hazzan in New York.
CAIL: She was fantastic. What a voice! She was singing Hebrew songs. What a beautiful evening of dedication and reach out and feeling for who you are, what we are, just exciting stuff.
FISHMAN: It sounds like a good night.
CAIL: It was an extraordinary evening of... And I’ve been to classes -- I remember Sharon, they were in the other building, in the library building, you know, and they had a breakfast. I forget what it was for -- this is last year. When did your husband start?
FISHMAN: Last year. This is his second year.
CAIL: I must have met -- I saw, you know, I wouldn’t... But we had a breakfast and the service. It was -- they were doing something, and they asked us to come and share the morning with them, the students, you know, [various?] students. It was very nice. Yeah, I remember that. That was beautiful.
CAIL: And Art Green was there and Sharon was there, Dave Gordis, you know, they were all there at that time. That would be at least two years ago. Yeah, it’s an outstanding school and it’s outstanding, one of the greatest outstanding pieces of what Art Green did, and David in bringing the Transdenominational Rabbinical School --
FISHMAN: It’s a great place.
CAIL: -- to Hebrew College. Really exciting.
FISHMAN: It is. It’s great.
CAIL: So that’s it.
FISHMAN: I just have one more question.
FISHMAN: So a lot of people that I talk to that grew up in Revere, Chelsea talk about going to Revere Beach in the summer and how that was really just --
CAIL: Oh, Revere Beach, yeah.
FISHMAN: -- what everyone did. Can you talk a little bit about that, how you...? I mean, I guess that’s probably how you spent your time in the summer, right?
CAIL: Yeah. Nobody had money, but we had the beach. We had Back Beach, which was for Beachmont guys.
FISHMAN: Right, everyone had their own section, like Chelsea sat in the next corner --
CAIL: Back Beach, and there was a pier out there, and there was a building here which was for salt, the salt baths for people who needed help, and there was a pier here, and the Back Beach was here. It’s all rocks. And that’s the way we went swimming. The people in Revere went to Punk’s Corner -- you may have heard of that -- you know, way up and down. People from that, Jewish kids there all came down to that area, and the beach was our home because it didn’t cost anything. And they used to have fireworks on the Fourth of July, and they would burn an old vessel. I remember that.
FISHMAN: And what about all the concessions on Revere Beach? What are some of the ones that you remember?
CAIL: I remember the -- I remember I worked at one of them, an ice cream place. It was not ice cream, it’s called... Let’s see... It was a soft ice cream, anyway. Yeah, I remember working there.
FISHMAN: Like custard or something?
CAIL: Yeah, sort of. It was called something else. It’ll come to me. Most of those stores are gone now, it’s totally changed, as you probably know.
FISHMAN: Do you ever go back there to Revere, Revere Beach, Beachmont?
CAIL: I would say probably negative, but I’ve been there a number of times and I would drive up the beach. There was a dance hall right there at the corner, big circle, and at the beginning of the drive up the beach there was a dance hall right over here where we’d have dancing on Saturday nights. I used to go to --
FISHMAN: And who would go to those dances?
CAIL: That’s mostly non-Jewish people. That’s where I learned to dance, and it was then -- I told you I was a dance instructor, teaching dancing -- it was beautiful. It was called the Ocean View. That’s right, Ocean View. And here’s Back Beach and the regular beaches up there to Punk’s Corner where the kids came down -- I forget the name of the street -- and all those stores. They were selling products for the people that buy the ice cream and sandwich and so on. It was a period of the life which was very nice, and if you didn’t have money it was OK, you didn’t need money to enjoy it ‘cause the beach was sitting there waiting for you, and all your friends were there, so whether you were down at Punk’s Corner here or Back Beach here where the pier was, we’re all together as one team. It was very interesting.
FISHMAN: Did you do anything else -- sorry -- for fun, or was that the main source of entertainment in the summers, at least?
CAIL: We used to go to dances, of course, and athletics, playing ball. I... I finally went to Providence. I left -- for the first time in my life I left Beachmont when I was 17 years old. (laughter) It took me 17 years to get out of Revere to another city. Isn’t that funny? But nobody had automobiles. It was too expensive, you know. And going to school by streetcar, that was not an easy thing.
FISHMAN: How long did it take you to get to Northeastern?
CAIL: Long time, had to change two or three times.
FISHMAN: So this project is really an opportunity to document the legacies of people who grew up in the Mystic River Jewish communities. Is there -- just as a final question -- is there anything else that you think is important for people to know about your experiences living in this community?
CAIL: I would say that growing up poor is not a fallback. It’s actually a challenge. Learning to be self-sufficient, being able to care for one’s self, not to be distraught because of lack of, and to say, “Hey, we’re here, what can we do to make things better?” And because of my growing up in Beachmont, having worked with AZA and B’nai B’rith, that’s how I got involved with the federation in Beachmont, you know, raising money for the federation when I was a kid. My whole life has been spent that way because of my, teaching myself basically the responsibility of life.
FISHMAN: Do you ever go back to the synagogue there?
CAIL: Once in a while, yeah. They have a --
FISHMAN: And they’re still -- sorry, go ahead.
CAIL: The Head of the JCC.
FISHMAN: Right, Rabbi [Sokol?].
CAIL: Yeah. He’s the Rabbi there, he goes there occasionally. He’s a good friend of mine.
FISHMAN: Mm-hmm. Are there still families there that --
CAIL: Not too many.
FISHMAN: -- that you knew from when you were growing up?
CAIL: Yeah, I would say... I would say insignificant, if any, yeah. I would say no, it’s totally changed. Yeah. But the synagogue was still functioning.
FISHMAN: Is it in the same building as when you...?
CAIL: Yeah, B’nai Israel, corner of Atlantic and Wave Avenue. Dolphin... Yeah, Atlantic and Wave Avenue, yeah. I could picture it right now.
FISHMAN: What does it look like?
CAIL: Small synagogue, red, red brick. I can picture downstairs and upstairs. It was not a big synagogue, but it was home. Yeah.
FISHMAN: Anything else you want to include?
FISHMAN: All right, well thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
East Boston Immigration Center
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