Oral Histories

Mameloshn Mamas- a Yiddish Conversation Group

Video, ‘Mameloshn Mamas’ Susan Cohen

“Mameloshn Mama” Susan Cohen, a published poet and journalist, decided to learn the language of her grandparents and discovered a rich world of Yiddish poetry written by women. Now Cohen includes Yiddish in her own poems.

Video, ‘Mameloshn Mamas’ Norma Solarz

For ‘Mameloshn Mama’ Norma Solarz, Yiddish was her first language, lost over the years of speaking English in California. Yiddish was rekindled through classes; the language and its magnetic quality came flooding back to her.

Video, ‘Mameloshn Mamas’ Judy Kennedy

For ‘Mameloshn Mama’ Judy Kennedy, Yiddish plays a huge role in her Jewish identity—it provides a link to her grandparents and the love they expressed to her: “Having your own love from where you come from really helps you empathize with other people and where they come from.”

Anna Rabkin, Holocaust Survivor, Berkeley City Auditor

Video, Anna Rabkin, Childhood in Krakow

Childhood in Krakow; Holocaust: Hiding in a room with brother in Lvov for over two years; Year 1944: “We were told our parents were killed”; War ends: Back to Krakow; To the United Kingdom on Kindertransport, 1946; Talking about the past: “forbidden territory’”; Moving to New York in 1955: “I was nineteen’”; Visiting Krakow in 1960: “It was bittersweet”; Coming to the West Coast, 1962,

Video, Anna Rabkin, Moving to Berkeley


Part 2: Moving to Berkeley, anti-war and People’s Park demonstration; Being a mother: Babysitting co-op, PTA involvement; Education: Bachelor’s in Urban Studies (UC Berkeley), Master’s in City and Regional Planning; On the Board of Daily Californian, on the committee at EBMUD; Running for the City Auditor, 1979—campaigning outside the Berkeley Co-op.

Video, Anna Rabkin, Why did I run for auditor.

Why did I run for the auditor’s position: “I felt real responsibility to make city governance transparent to the public’; City pulling out of Social Security, 1982; Recycling lawsuit: ‘I don’t think this is right. I stick to my original position; Ballot book language lawsuit; Compensation lawsuit: ‘To be singled out of 1,500 employees, it felt like public shaming.’ City auditor position: key attributes. Back to academic life.


Three Former Berkeley Mayors

Video, Shirley Dean Interview
Video, Loni Hancock Interview
Video, Gus Newport Interview

Born in Berkeley

Video, John Aronovici Interview

John Aronovici is a fourth-generation Berkeleyan. His grandmother, Dr. Leonore Ginno, was the first Berkeley woman dentist; his grandfather was a pioneering city planner, and his mother Elizabeth Ginno and stepfather John Winkler were noted artists. Among other things, John recounts stories he heard as a boy about the 1923 Berkeley fire and his own memories of the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island. John, the longtime manager of the Berkeley Historical Society, was interviewed by Jacque Ensign.

Video, Ruth Hayash Interview

Ruth Hayashi was born in Berkeley in 1933 and lived at The Cedars at 1301 Oxford Street until she and her mother were interned at Topaz internment camp in Utah from 1942 to 1945. Ruth and her mother returned to Berkeley at the end of the war, where Ruth graduated from Berkeley High in 1951. In this interview, Ms. Hayashi focuses on the Japanese-American experience in Berkeley before and after the war. ​The ​​interview ​was conducted on November 3, 2015​ by ​Berkeley High School seniors Amy Li​ (interviewer) and Mylena ​​Guzman (videographer).​


Berkeley Co-op

Video, Vangie Elkins Buell Interview

Vangie Elkins Buell is a Filipino American who was a co-founder of the Berkeley Co-op’s Kiddie Korral, longtime Berkeley Co-op assistant education director, and lifelong folk singer and guitar teacher. She speaks about some of the Co-op’s many innovations in consumer education and advocacy. The interview by Michael Fullerton is supplemented with photos and music.

Video, Jane Lundin Interview

Jane Lundin served as president of the board of the Berkeley Co-op in the 1970s and was involved in some of the smaller cooperatives in Berkeley, including a newspaper and a taxi service that never got going; Books Unlimited, where she served on the board that was forced to close it; and the Arts and Crafts Co-op (ACCI) that continues in operation to this day. Interviewed by Michael Fullerton.

For more Berkeley Co-op oral histories, see also the printed transcripts and online transcripts lists below and this book we have for sale:

Photo of a book titled A Life in Cooperatives, 1938-1992

Free Speech Movement – UC Berkeley Faculty

Video, Peter Dale Scott Interview

Peter Dale Scott, Professor Emeritus, English Department, UC Berkeley, faculty supporter of the Free Speech Movement, poet, anti-Vietnam War activist, political writer. Interview September 16, 2014 by Jeanine Castello-Lin; video by Tonya Staros.

Video, PLeon Wofsy Interview

Leon Wofsy, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Molecular and Cell Biology/Immunology, UC Berkeley, faculty supporter of the Free Speech Movement and active voice for peace in the Vietnam War era and following.


Intersecting Histories

The Vietnam War

Minh Le. Interviews with Minh Le, former high-ranking Vietnamese diplomat, from war-time childhood in Vietnam, to refugee, to life in the Bay Area.

Video, Part I, 1937-54, WWII, French Withdrawal
Video, Part II, 1954-68, Joining the diplomatic service, Tet Offensive
Video, Part III, 1969-75, Diplomatic Service in Saigon, Fall of Saigon
Video, Part IV, 1975-2017, Making a life in the Bay Area

Fleeing the Holocaust

Paul Salz. Kindertransport refugee, arrived in the Bay Area in 1948, reuniting with parents after nine years; worked as an engineer at Lawrence Berkeley Lab. Interview by Jeanine Castello-Lin and Tonya Staros.

Video, Part I, Czechoslovakia 1924-29; Kindertransport; Refugee in England, RAF in Ceylon
Video, Part II, Arriving in America; International House; Lottie’s story: escape from concentration camp

Communists in the United States

Leon Wofsy, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Molecular and Cell Biology/Immunology, UC Berkeley, faculty supporter of the Free Speech Movement and active voice for peace in the Vietnam War era and following. Interview by Jeanine Castello-Lin; video by Lise Aftergut, 2014.

Video, Part I, 1931-33
Video, Part II, 1933-45
Video, Part III, 1945-91

Digitized oral history transcripts about the Berkeley Co-op: