Full text from interview with Marshall Sloane 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.
Marshall M. Sloane was born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts. He graduated from Somerville High School, attended Boston University and received and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Salem State College, as well as an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Southern New England School of Law. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
The Sloane family arrived in Somerville more than 100 years ago. Mr. Sloane’s father, Jacob, started a furniture business in Magoun Square in 1912, which Marshall took over in 1952.
In 1959, Mr. Sloane opened Community Cooperative Bank across from the Sloane Furniture Store in Magoun Square and in 1969, Mr. Sloane founded Century Bank and Trust Company, a full-service commercial community bank whose focus was and remains providing financial services to small and medium sized businesses. Mr. Sloane is Chairman of the Bank and also serves as Chairman of Century Bancorp, Inc.
A strong believer in community involvement, Mr. Sloane’s extensive work and accomplishment in community affairs have been widely recognized. In appreciation for the Sloane Family’s many years of community service and contributions to the City of Somerville, on September 21, 2006, the City of Somerville named Magoun Square – The Jacob George Sloane Square in honor of Marshall Sloane’s father’s contributions and community service to the city and service to his country in WWI.
Mr. Sloane and his wife, Barbara, reside in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. They have three grown children and nine grandchildren.
As a youth, I remember that my dad's group, which included the local doctor Charles Dickerman was responsible for having an organ installed in the Temple. Within a matter of weeks, it was removed based on a negative campaign by Eddie Oakman, the butcher and an orthodox Jew, who didn’t approve of music at services.
Somerville was the only temple north of Boston and as such drew congregants from Cambridge, Medford, Lexington, Arlington and Belmont. It was a thriving community even though its population was relatively small.
Magoun Square wasn't the major square in the city, but because there were so many local businessmen, it became the center of commerce so-to-speak for the Jewish community... although Jewish merchants did have businesses in other areas of the city as well. The Square seemed to have an influential group of small businessmen who participated heavily in the Temple's activities. They were rather close, in fact, I remember on Wednesday afternoons, they all got together to play cards. I guess business wasn't all that brisk during those days; but my mother and dad both worked very hard in the furniture business together; and my mother, needless to say, also had her chores at home.
I was born at Sunnyside Hospital next door to the Temple; and as I look back, I wonder how I made it. I believe it was the first hospital closed when the Commonwealth started to buckle down on the most minimum of regulations. My parents are buried at Temple B’nai Brith cemetery in Peabody, and it's very sad for me to see so many familiar names when I visit my parents these days. Morris Sandler always put so much time and effort into the maintenance of the cemetery; it was his baby so-to-speak, and now I see his gravesite there as well.
Every Friday night, it was a commitment to attend Temple as a family. The sermons were usually given by a visiting minister, other dignitary or our Rabbi; and we always looked forward to the collation which followed, which was prepared by the women of the congregation. As a very young boy, I remember, my Grandfather, Jacob as a very distinguished looking gentleman, with his cane, vest and gold watch chain. He escorted me to temple on Saturday mornings and I cannot always say I looked forward to that engagement.
Hebrew School was a real chore, particularly when all my friends were involved in sports after school. I had to trek up to Central St. to attend, and during the winter months, I wouldn't get out until after dark. I remember my teachers, Miss Scotler and Mr. Wantman, who tried hard to teach us; but my objective was always to get out as quickly as possible so I could participate with my Gentile friends in sports. As a matter of fact, Somerville always played Medford on Columbus Day, which was around Yom Kippur, and we all tried to find ways to sneak out to get over to the game. On Friday evenings and Saturday mornings at Temple we did have some youth activities, such as AZA (which I ultimately wound up as head of). AZA was a division of B'nai Brith, and took us outside Somerville to visit other temples to expand our contact with Jewish kids, especially girls, because the local ones knew us so well they wouldn't date us. I remember Shirley Nobel and also the crush I had on Libby Rosenberg. I was in the junior high school band and because I was a big kid, I was given the Tuba to play. I'll never forget the day Libby said..."there goes Tubby with his Tuba"...and that was the last day I played the Tuba.
Somerville has, historically, been a microcosm, or a little world so-to-speak, unto itself. Here we have an amalgamation of the many and different peoples and religions which reflect and represent the peoples and countries of the greater world. Growing up in Somerville was so valuable to me over the years. My Somerville experience taught me always to be inquisitive.
Because we grew up in a cosmopolitan city rather than affluent suburbia, we had to be that way and recognize opportunity when we saw it. My knowledge of this community in effect provided me my career. When my father passed away at an early age, it really bugged me that he was never able to fulfill his “dream” of luring a branch of a large bank back to our square in the building he purchased across from his furniture store. Eventually, my father’s dream was fulfilled, but with a twist, as I’m sure he never envisioned his own son as the banker. Nor did I ever dream, that I would become a banker. But I saw an opportunity and my inquisitiveness led me to explore the possibilities.
My first Bank, a Cooperative Bank, opened in 1954 (when I was only 28 years old) in the very building my father had bought in hopes of better times. After a few years, I began to recognize the need for a state-chartered commercial bank in the Somerville/Medford area, and because of my community ties, I was able to excite a few other local business and community people into investing in my idea, and ultimately was able to obtain a commercial bank charter. There was a lot of risk involved for me, my family and my business associates, but I felt so confident about its success that I took that risk...and I have no regrets.
I guess that philosophy was correct...because on May 1, 1969, Century Bank, which I founded, commenced operations on the corner of Mystic Avenue and Fellsway West in Somerville. As far as my own career is concerned, I only raise this to reinforce the fact that America is full of opportunities for those who recognize them...take advantage of them...work hard...and take risks.
Boy Scouts was another very popular youth organization during my younger days. Fred Kuperman, Scoutmaster of Troop 18, generally took us out to a Boy Scout camp in Westwood on weekends...an event which I really enjoyed. I have continued my involvement in Scouting to this day. In fact, it was through my involvement in Scouting, and during Sukkot at an outing to Uncle Hymie Price's farm in Millis, that Burt Price and I took our Troop out to the woods to cut down branches of pine trees to decorate the Succah, which would later be adorned with fruit and vegetables by the women. It was at one of those outings that I called my wife, Barbara, on an old fashioned crank telephone and asked her out for a date. We were married on March 7, 1954 and she has been a very positive influence on my life throughout the years, as well as a wonderful mother to my three children, Barry, Jonathan and Linda and grandmother to our nine grandchildren.
We also had great picnics with the congregation...Burt Price's father and grandfather used to supply the furniture trucks and we'd all pile in to go to Thompson's Grove in Wilmington. The women of the congregation were always the caterers at these functions. There was an Annual Bazaar at which Ben Simon and others provided the chance wheel and worked so hard rounding up the merchandise for the raffle...this was always a good fundraiser for the temple and something we all looked forward to.
On holidays at Temple, my family always seemed to have the same seats, four rows in from the door on the right hand side. My dad, who never cared for any honor such as being called to Torah, always had easy access to the door and always told us that he sat in the rear because he lived a decent life all year long and didn't have to sit up front to be so close to God. I can attest to that fact...he always lived by the highest moral and ethical standards. I have tried to do the same in my own life and impart this message to my children. I have fond memories of Mr. Levenson, the regular Saturday morning Gabbai, who came from Arlington and owned a men's haberdashery and Mr. Wigder, the Sexton, to whom I gave an awful bad time. He was easily intimidated and as kids we could sense that and take advantage of him. He was always trying to discipline me and I recall he once called my father because he said I was waiting outside for him and he felt he was being held hostage. (Burt Price tells me that I was waiting outside to hit him with snowballs).
I'd rather not discuss the scolding I received when my father arrived to rescue Mr. Wigder. However, Mr. Widger did teach me my Haftarah; and later in life, I had many regrets about the bad time I gave him over the years. When my dad died in 1952, I have to admit I forgot much of what I had learned and it was Mr. Widger who rescued me. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated his advice, counsel and support during this bad time in my life. He arranged the Minyan for my father's services and I ultimately developed a real close relationship with him. In small ways, I always tried to make it up to him because he was so dedicated to the Temple...even though I'm sure the pay wasn't anything to speak of.
Always being mischievous, at the holiday of Purim, each time the kids of the congregation heard the word "Hamen was a wicked, wicked man", they'd stamp their feet on the floor, and this really irritated the older members of the congregation. I remember a very serious man, Mr. Schwartz, who would try to find out who was doing it, chastise them and ask them to leave.
I'll always remember my Bar Mitzvah...my mother was ill and unable to attend and the women in the congregation, along with my aunts, Ethel Jacobson, Anna Small and Edith Cohen prepared the collation after the service. This is what family, congregation and community were all about...the great concern people had for each other. Looking back, perhaps this was a better way to celebrate rather than some of the lavish parties that take place today. Rabbi Rutenberg, just before the conclusion of the service, generally gave a charge to each boy. The one he gave to each and every one of my predecessors was to continue their Hebrew education. He never did mention it to me. I guess he thought I was a hopeless cause. Even though I was relieved to finish my Hebrew education, as a 13-year old, I felt that this was a personal affront to me. In any event, I was quite proud of my performance that day.
Some of the other things that stand out in my mind are the Friday evening choir, led my Shirley Marcus and others; the dedicated work of the Greece, Mabel, Goldman, Blumsack, Nobel, Nissenbaum and Perlson families, in addition to many other pillars of the community too numerous to mention.
I think I saw the peaking out of the Somerville Congregation when Medford started a Community Center and the families who resided in Medford left. As time moved on, with the growth of suburbia and movement to towns such as Belmont, Arlington, Lexington, Stoneham, Winchester and Melrose, many others moved on and instead of growth, the Somerville congregation started to diminish. The last real contact I had was the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Rabbi Shubow. The future of the Temple seemed so dismal that kiddingly Maxine Adler and I vowed that whichever of us was the last to survive would own the Temple. Needless to say, there has been a revival and the Temple has endured.
Congratulations are due, not only to those people who built the Temple so many years ago...but also to you who have been so successful in rebuilding it. Look to your younger people for assistance as well...they are the role models for future generations. It's nice to see that some of them are involved and feel part of the community. We are from different generations, but together we must do our best to preserve the values we have held so dearly since the founding of the Temple. We must live by the highest ethical standards. We must value our family. We must use what we've learned to help make a better society; and above all, we must value human life.
It's a responsibility we must all share...to make a better world for ourselves and for our children.
End of Part 2.... return to Part 1
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