The inaugural post of the Life as I know it resident blog is from longtime Village Shalom resident Ida Rose “Skipper” Feingold.
What a Life
By Ida Rose “Skipper” Feingold
What is life? There is only one to a customer, but it comes with instructions from God. Keep it clean and polished, allow its use to enhance the lives of others and thereby bring happiness to you. I’m living a good life. I have learned a lot. I am hoping my life will be a role model for others.
My parents came from Russia and Poland during the last of the 19th Century. Sarah Saferstein from Chechanovsky, and David Luke from Grodne. Sarah came to Ellis Island and David came to Galveston. They met in the West Bottoms of Kansas City and married in St. Joseph, Missouri. Uncle Pone of Oklahoma City gave David enough money to enable him to buy a small store where he could sell used furniture and hardware. Business went well, and David even had cards printed — D.Luxe Furniture and Hardware.
Babies began arriving at the beginning of WWI. June, 1917: Morris, who lived but a few months, was born. June 1918: Yehuda Labe, Anglicized into Yudell, was born. June 1919: Ida Rose (later known as Skipper) was born. April 1922: Jean Zelda was added to the family.
In the early 1920s crossword puzzles were introduced to the Kansas City Star. Mother immediately got hooked on solving them. She initiated me early to the challenges of solving puzzles. Now at the ripe old age of 92, I’m still involved in puzzle solving — having expanded to the Jumble, Cryptoquip, and Scrabble Gram.
When I was in first grade my teacher asked me to help teach some children who were having difficulty learning how to read. I am sure that this experience sparked my interest in someday becoming a school teacher.
After my parents married they were looking for a place to live. They found it on East 18th Street between Forrest and Tracy where hundreds of Jewish immigrants made their new home. Many started small businesses and lived on the upper floors, or in some cases lived in a room right behind the store. When daddy heard Yudell and me coming down the stairs he would meet us and usher us into the store for our daily Hebrew lesson and also to study Torah. We were then each given a penny that we could spend at Paslove’s Candy store on our way to Hamilton School at 15th and Campbell.
On the way to school we passed Swope Settlement House, a place that offered after school activities. I took piano lessons and Yudell learned to play the violin at 25 cents per lesson. I taught dancing lessons and joined the Girl Scout troop there. I was awarded the highest level of honor, Eaglet Scout, after many years of merit badges and projects. One of my fellow scouts, Mary Catherine Colglazer (who later became a prominent cardiologist) and I earned one of the merit badges in swimming. To earn this we had to swim across the Lake of the Ozarks with a volunteer in a boat accompanying us. I had a very rewarding childhood.
At this time theaters were looking for ways to get more people to attend movies and decided to hold talent shows. Mother was persuaded to let Zelda try out. What do you know, the first theater she entered was the New Theater on 15th and Troost. She got first prize, the most applause and five dollars. This began a new career. Mother always brought my brother Yudell and me. Our instructions were to clap real loud. Zelda won every theater, and oh, how we felt so rich. Mother bought one Hershey bar for five cents and divided it into three pieces. That was a real treat. Ideas began spinning in our heads. We were so poor. If I could turn my dancing into earning some money, wouldn’t that be great?
A group of mothers put together a group to go around to the various theaters. We each got a dollar and kept going for over a year. Zelda was almost three years younger, too small to be a sister team for me. I found another dancer who was looking for a partner and we became the Page Sisters — going around to nightclubs, earning five dollars a night. Zelda grew. She was 14 and I was 17 and now we were the Luke Sisters — hitting every nightclub In Kansas City, St. Joe and cities in Iowa. Mother made our beautiful costumes. We were very popular as we both opened and closed the floor show. Count Bassie was one of our orchestra leaders at the Reno Club. We were no longer just tap dancers. Zelda and I became acrobats and one of our numbers was a double acrobatic. As a specialty Zelda sang and I did a tap dance with a jumping rope — later converting the rope into a hula hoop years before the hula hoop became a craze.
As all of this was going on, the 1930s brought on the Depression. I heard my parents bemoan the fact that they had not taken in a nickel. I soon learned my folks weren’t able to pay the rent and had to sell the contents of the store for 25 dollars — WHICH MEANT DADDY HAD NO JOB.
My sister and I had become quite talented in tap dancing. Zelda was quite gifted in singing. We began performing for different organizations looking for entertainment for their meetings in various synagogues and even in places like the Appleman Home for elderly Jewish people.
Years went by. Daddy had gotten a job as Shamas of the Kerem Israel Synagogue at 39th and Montgall. Brother Yudell had already been identified as a mathematic whiz at Central High. I had already enrolled in Kansas City Teachers College, eventually starting a career in teaching that would lead me to over sixty years of teaching preschool, elementary, high school and college.
As if my teaching days were not enough, I learned that the Y.M.H.A. (the forerunner of the Jewish Community Center) was looking for a day camp director. I applied and got the job. Rather than call it the Center Day Camp, I took the first two letters of Jewish Community Center, and, lo and behold, Jecoce was named. It was determined that children not call their director by her given name, so I was dubbed the Skipper — a name I retained the rest of my life.
Together with my counselors we wrote:
Full Speed a head at Camp Jecoce
If it’s fun your looking for;
Just jump right in make yourself cozy
With surprises out from shore
We will be rip-roarin’ sailors,
Skipper shows the way to sea.
Ahoy! Oh boy!
It’s Camp Jecoce for me.
I directed camp for almost 40 years. My five children started as campers and then became counselors. I loved every minute of my camping job. Camp lasted eight weeks and then it was back to the classroom again. Beth Shalom Synagogue was my home away from home for 66 years.
The vacant weeks between camp and synagogue were used for vacation. This is when we were able to travel to Israel, where we watched our daughter participate in the Maccabiah — the Israeli version of the Olympics. She had been the fastest Jewish runner in the United States and placed fourth in the 100 yard dash. We then traveled year to year from destination to destination, including France, Spain, Italy, Egypt, Yugoslavia, England and Alaska.
An important hobby began as conducting workshops in the field of Early Childhood Education. I traveled to every state in the United States training teachers to teach effectively by using many creative activities that I had developed as a pre-school teacher at Beth Shalom Synagogue. Attendees began clamoring for my material which led me to start writing books. I wrote five of them and kept reprinting and reprinting for many years. Teachers at Avila College who had attended my workshops began to discuss what they had learned. Sister Marie Georgette and others requested that I become a member of their faculty by teaching courses in children’s literature and in creative teaching for almost 20 years.
One of my other major hobbies was contesting. In 25 words or less, one was required to submit a creative entry describing a particular product with an interesting marketing spin. I won a Sealy mattress from Prince Howard Furniture for “When you sleep on a Sealy you’ll say, let’s hips fall where they may.” I named a dog from the TV show Romper Room “Sir Romps A Lot.” I won a lamp for writing the safety slogan “While driving a car, don’t put on makeup, or you and your car are in for a shakeup.” Another contest asked us to write what we were thankful for during Thanksgiving. The winning entry: “I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning and the Moon at Night”, and “I’ve Got Rhythm.” For this I won a portable electric oven, an electric blanket and an electric skillet.
Children became parents, and we became Grandparents. Now it was time to find some new activities to keep my body fit and my mind well-oiled. My husband Leo was busy playing tennis every week while also serving on the Silver Haired Counsel for Kansas City.
One day while coming home from tennis practice, a young man driving drunk rammed into Leo’s car — crushing his heel so severely it was thought they would have to amputate the foot. But Dr. Horton, an outstanding physician at KU, managed to save and rehabilitate the foot. After a long period of rehab and hard work, Leo made it back to the tennis court. Leo had his rehab done at Village Shalom, and this gave us the idea of where our next move should be.
Having lived in the same house for over 30 years, we wanted to move to a place that had everything on one level and could offer us a social network as well as assistance in our daily living. The Villas at Village Shalom were perfect for our needs and we enthusiastically became active members of our new community. My sister Zelda and I were approached by a committee at Village Shalom to perform song and dance every month for our fellow residents. These performances continued for several years. Eileen Miller was offering a class in Yiddish titled A Bissel Oy. A student, Miriam Gerstine, asked if there would be a class in conversational Yiddish. Ah! Skipper to the rescue. This course lasted for five years and was very much enjoyed and appreciated by those attending. In 2012, I felt I needed some down time, so the class was put on hiatus. So here I am faced with a project asking those of us at Village Shalom to write about our lives.
As I reflect on these past many years, getting my Masters Degree from Columbia University in New York was a highlight of my life. This was topped by my meeting Leo Feingold, the love of my life for 65 married years, who raised with me five wonderful children, 12 grandchildren, and now in a few months a 14th great-grandchild.
Well, this is a story of my life. What is life? There is only one to a customer, but it comes with instructions from God. Keep it clean and polished, allow its use to enhance the lives of others and thereby bring happiness to you. I’m living a good life. I have learned a lot. I am hoping my life will be a role model for others.