Friday, June 17, 2011

The Girl is....interviewing Beverly Pollock

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular feature, interviewing folks who grew up during World War II about what their experiences. If you or someone you know would like be interviewed, let me know!

About Beverly Pollock: 
Bev (second from left -- hubba! hubba!) during the war.
Beverly Pollock (second from left) is a retired Director of Communications for the United Jewish Federation.  An accomplished writer, she authored “Quoth the Maven,” the national column that originated in the Jewish Chronicle, and the “Slightly Irreverent” column in the Monroeville Times-Express.  Her play Looking for Magic was workshopped at the Pitt Theatre, University of Pittsburgh and her full-length play It's Business, inspired in part on her experiences during World War II, had a staged reading at the Pittsburgh JCC in 2008.  With Shirley Katz she co-wrote and co-hosted a daily radio show "Those Two," for the average American housewife and the ordinary, everyday nuclear physicist.  Their “Will the Real Economy-Size Package Please Stand Up?” was performed throughout North America and recognized by President Lyndon Johnson at his signing of the Truth-in-Packaging Bill.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette honored her with the Community Champion Award because of her work in the AIDS Community. As a tribute to two precious sons who died of AIDS, Robert in 1991 and Larry in 1995, she and her late husband Mel founded Jews with AIDS in the Family with the support of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and the UJF.  Today she continues to volunteer at the Shepherd Wellness Community, the only AIDS Community Center in Western PA.   

What year did you graduate from high school?  

Where was your high school?  
Girls High School in Atlanta, GA.

How did you get to and from school?  
Street car.  Had to transfer mid way.  That's how you met your girl friends from over the city and gabbed all the way to school.  Sometimes I got car sick if I didn't eat breakfast first.  Often I had to stand all the way.

What did you wear to school each day?  
Skirt, shirt, bobby sox, saddle shoes.  Sometimes you wore a ribbon in the back of your hair.  The night after a prom, you would wear the flowers in your hair, on the side.

What was your typical school day like?  Who were your closest friends?  
Took French and Latin.  Hated geometry, algebra.  Wrote a skit for some kind of yearly school day... Loved to pun.  Lillian  Rosenberg and Rose Reisman were my closest friends along with Sarah Spiegelman, who actually had classes with me.  Mother thought my friend Lillian must be wild because her folks gave her a car for her 16th birthday, an unheard of thing.    

Were you allowed to date?  
Yes.  My first big crush was on Leon Rocamora, who was a senior at GA Tech when I was a senior at Girls High.  We met when I was emcee of a party my club (the Cardozians, named after Supreme Justice Cardozo) gave.  Most of my remarks were puns and he got up and started making puns too (even though he was with another girl and I another boy).  I remember his line: "Let's Beverly the hatchet!"  I can remember a fraternity party he took me to, how carefully I did my hair, etc.  And we double dated with his friend who rented a Model T.  We sat in the open back rumble seat and my hair just flew in the breeze.  But he didn't seem to mind!  I met Mel the summer after I graduated from High School.

What did you do for fun on Friday and Saturday nights?  
Movies (I saw the opening night festivities of "Gone with the Wind" on Peachtree Street (which was closed off) near the Fox Theatre in 1939 and saw in person Clark Gable, Carole Lombard (his wife), Vivien Leigh, Evelyn Keyes (an Atlanta girl who used to live on the same block as I did when I was in grade school).  We also bowled a lot, except it was with the small pins.  I never saw the larger pins until I moved up Nawth.

Did you have a curfew?  
Not really.  But I had enough sense to call my folks if I'd be out after 11.

Would you consider yourself a good girl or a bad girl?   
By the way, we used the term "wild," not "bad girl."   

In your mind, what sorts of behaviors did bad girls engage in?  
I was a nice girl, as you would expect.  I never really heard of "bad" girls who went all the way.  Every girl was a virgin until she got married.  A wild girl would neck and (gasp) pet with all the guys.  Necking was from the neck up; petting was from the neck down.  You had to be careful of boys with "WHT"  (wandering hand trouble).

What’s your earliest memory of the war?  
I was a freshman, a day student; (today you might call me a commuter) at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA.  Today it is a very fine school, at the top of women's colleges.  In 1941 there were about 500 students.  I remember going to Murphey Candler  Hall to hear the address by President Roosevelt, declaring war.  He was a magnificent speaker.  I confess I was pretty shallow initially.  My main worry was whether my boy friend Mel, who was to come visit me at the end of the month, would still be able to drive down.  He was.

How did the war change life for you?  
The war made us grow up in a hurry.  Mel and I got married May 18, 1944 in New Haven, Ct while he was stationed at Yale.  We went to NYC on weekends and got great tickets at theatres because he was a serviceman.  Usually we would just pay the minimum $1.20 ticket but if there were spaces, the usher would give us the upgraded $2.40 ticket or the prized $3.60 orchestra or loge ticket seat.  We were together for several idyllic months in Augusta GA, while he was in the Air Corps, and then he was sent to a couple places I couldn't go to and then overseas in 1945 to the China/Burma/India Theatre - - in Calcutta for 13 months before he was discharged on March 17, 1946.  I'll always remember St. Paddy's Day with great fondness!  For most of the time I was in Atlanta with my folks and working in our little grocery store.  I can tell you some stories about our war time experiences.  Then I went to Gallitzin the Oct before Mel came home because his father was not well.

Thanks, Bev!


  1. Beverly King PollockJune 19, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    In college my girl friends were also my high school friends: Sylvia McConnell, Dot Lee Webb, Margaret Norris, Virginia Lee Brown and Molly Milam. All were day students except Molly. Last year we had our 65th Agnes Scott College reunion.

  2. I enjoyed reading this. My mother, age 91, built airplanes during WWII, so I enjoy hearing her stories. And that lady you mentioned early in the article, Shirley Katz, yea....she was my aunt, and she lives in loving infamy...if such a thing could be. God bless our strong, funny, bright women on whose shoulders we stand. Be well.
    Deborah Katz

  3. Your aunt was a pistol, Deb -- I got to meet her through Bev several times. I was so sorry to hear of her passing.