Mrs. Mildred White on Murshid Samuel L. Lewis—08/25/77
SABIRA: This is Aug. 25, 1977, interviewing Mrs. Mildred White. I guess the first thing that we want to know, Mildred, is everything that you remember about the family situation, the family tree, how everybody is related to everybody else, so why don't you start there, and whatever you remember about Samuel Lewis' early life.
MILDRED: The family tree—I do not have enough information about it really to help you. My uncle Jake's family came originally from Australia, there was a Dr. Schine—that little silver box over there has his name on it—who came over from Europe by way of Australia into California, and that's all I know of my uncle—Jacob's part of the family, that was Jacob Lewis of Levi-Strauss. uncle Jake became a vice-president of Levi-Strauss. It was my understanding that either he or his father invented the rivet which goes into the blue jeans. This is a recollection from stories my father has told me.
SABIRA: That was the Krauss side of the family?
MILDRED: No, that was the Lewis side of the family.
SABIRA: But who was it that invented the rivet?
MILDRED: My uncle Jacob Lewis or his father—I think the time that it was invented it must have been probably his father. I'm not sure of the dates when it was supposed to have been invented. But my uncle Jake would be over 100 and some years of age now, so I don't really know which one it was. It was somebody in the Lewis family who did the rivet, who was with Levi-Strauss at the time and then later on my uncle, as I understand it, was the senior vice-president of Levi-Strauss at the time of his retirement. My aunt, Harriet Lewis, her maiden name was Krauss, and my great-grandmother Krauss came to visit us on two or three occasions when we lived in Oklahoma. She was a German-Jewish person of very high caliber. When she came father had to buy a new mattress because the one that we had was not good enough for her to sleep on. My mother was very pleased because we had a German neighbor and it would be someone for my Grandmother Krauss to be acquainted with, but this lady was a low-German, and grandmother Krauss insisted that we not associate with her. My grandfather, the father of Harriet Lewis, was Morris Rosenthal. Morris Rosenthal and his wife, I know nothing at all about my aunt's mother. There are some records somewhere, but my father had them. Anyway, my grandmother, my grandfather Rosenthal had Harry Rosenthal, my father, Harriet, who was Harriet Lewis, and Walter Rosenthal. Walter Rosenthal moved to New York and I understand that he was divorced. My grandmother Rosenthal and grandfather Rosenthal whose name is Morris Rosenthal were separated I presume—no, she went to New York too, and she became very good friends with Edna Wallace Hopper. My divorced grandmother who was the divorced grandmother of Samuel Lewis, her name was Rosenthal. She became a very good friend of Edna Wallace Hopper, and I don't know if she remarried or not, but I do remember the story about the Edna Wallace Hopper thing, and I met Edna Wallace Hopper when she came to Canada, and she knew my grandmother very well and told me things about her which I cannot remember now. I think, and this is my recollection only, that when my grandmother met Edna Wallace Hopper that she was interested in the theatre, and was in some type of theatrical endeavor, I don't know whether it was acting or writing or what. Edna Wallace Hopper at one time was a very famous stage actress.
SABIRA: Tell me what you remember about Pearl—your own father and mother, Pearl and Harry?
MILDRED: My own father and mother—my father was the son of Morris Rosenthal, and when some disagreement came up, he was supposed to study medicine, he had a disagreement and my father left home eventually ending up in Haileyville, Oklahoma where, at the time that my mother met him, he was a fireman on the railroad, on the Rockland Railroad which was a very unusual occupation for a Jewish man. At that time papa still embraced the Jewish religion. He and my mother married within about a year, and when they did my grandfather Rosenthal disowned papa, so we had no contact at all with the Rosenthal family, except a correspondence between my aunt Harriet in San Francisco, and my great grandmother Krauss who came to visit us as I said before. When I was about eight or nine my father and mother and my brother and I went from Canada to visit uncle Jake and aunt Harriet Lewis. That would be approximately 6o years ago that we visited there, and that was the first time that I met my cousin Samuel.
SABIRA: Why don't you describe then what you remember of that visit.
MILDRED: That was a long time ago and I can't remember a whole lot about it. The house at that time seemed like a mansion. We had a large home in Canada but it was not furnished in a luxurious manner like the 9th Ave. house, that 567 9th Ave. in San Francisco we are speaking about. My aunt and uncle had this huge dining room table that would seat about 12 persons, with my aunt at one end of the table and my uncle at the other, and the boys on each side, and then my father and mother and my brother and I interspersed in between. At that time my uncle and aunt were on good terms. We had a very pleasant visit. My uncle took us fishing, my brother and I and my two cousins. Cousin Samuel, I remember, was very reluctant about baiting his hook, and his father ridiculed him, but then we did catch some fish, and Samuel would not eat the fish that night. He just could not eat the fish. That is about all the recollection that I have about that particular visit except that it was a happy family. As far as I could tell—or my mother could tell, because she talked about it later on—there was no ill feeling at that time.
SABIRA: About what year would that have been?
MILDRED: I would say about 60 years ago—about 1915—it was before World War I, just before.
SABIRA: Samuel would have been 21 then.
MILDRED: The age I don't remember.
MILDRED: See they had that house that—as I understood from my father—withstood the 1906 earthquake. I think they had owned the house since the very time that it was built. So papa told me that it withstood the 1906 earthquake, whether they owned it at that time I don't know, but I was told about how long it had been built.
SABIRA: Okay, now Samuel at that time was, let's say, 21. What do you remember about his earlier years from hearing about him,?
MILDRED: We didn't hear too often because there was no correspondence with my grandfather, and the letters would come to my mother and father, and I was a young child, and I don't think they discussed it with us, so I don't really know. Anyway, when I was 17 or 16, which would be again—I'll be 71 in this month, so you can do your own arithmetic. We were going to California again, my mother and I; I wrote my grandfather Rosenthal at that time and he said that he would see me but not my mother. So I wrote back and said that then I couldn't see him, so we eventually ended up that he accepted my mother and I in his apartment which was kosher, very kosher, the food was all on the different plates and the different types and like that, and it was the first time that I had ever been in a kosher home. I'll go back; my father had become a Methodist and we would attend the Methodist church. This second time that I went out I was about 16 and Samuel was only home for a few days, and he was very busy, I think, he was engaged in some sort of business at that time, he was only home at dinner time. At this time, things had gone very bad for my aunt and my uncle and they were not speaking to one another, and mother told me that they did not speak to one another for 18 years! It was a very uncomfortable visit at mealtimes because we would sit at the table, again my aunt at one end and my uncle at the other, my cousins at each side and my mother and I would sit by the side of a cousin, and my aunt would say, "Will you ask—tell your father, Elliott, that I want to do—I need so much money, (we'll say)." And my cousin Elliott would say to my cousin Samuel, "Tell father that mother wants to have some money put in her bank account," and my uncle would tell Samuel to tell your mother that the money he owed would be in the bank. The whole house was only together at mealtime at dinner and this was the way it was at dinner all the time. My uncle had the large master bedroom in the house, my cousins shared the bedroom in what is now the sun porch, and my aunt had the room across the hall. They did not share the same rooms
If you contact Olive Luce in Southgate, California, you will find that she has an autobiography about my father, Harry Rosenthal, in which he details the background of the Rosenthal family, which one-half would relate to Samuel. In the autobiography, which I read at one time, papa referred to Toby Rosenthal, a famous artist, who was one of their relations, to another Rosenthal whose first name I can't remember who played the first pipe-organ that the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City had. He gave details about my grandmother Rosenthal and her career and just a lot of interesting information about the family. I cannot personally contact Olive Luce because my father and my mother were separated for years, and my father went to Mexico and got a Mexican divorce and married the mother of Olive Luce. We maintained a friendly relationship because of my mother and my father and Lilly, the mother in law had been friends for many years in Mexico and had always known one another, but at the time of my father's death, I asked that the heirs, all the heirs contribute some money to my mother because the divorce was illegal and my mother had not tried to cause any problems. And they signed an agreement that they would give mother $500 apiece out of their part of the inheritance from my father which Marylou and I also agreed to do. They did not keep their agreement, and we have a very bitter relationship, so I can't ask her myself.
SABIRA: If Wall Ali wants it, we'll do this.
MILDRED: I think if you tell them that Saul was a friend of my father and that my father had said that Olive would have his autobiography, then she would probably send it to him.
SABIRA: Great, that's fine, that’s fine. Anything else that you can remember, Mrs. White that you'd like to share. Any kind of stories.
MILDRED: I told you earlier about the episode with the cat.
SABIRA: Yes, why don't you repeat that?
MILDRED: I think it was approximately about 1938, or 1937. I went to California, and when I was in Los Angeles Samuel was in San Francisco and I called from the train station to the house and talked to my aunt first, and she said that Elliott had the car and would I mind coming out on the bus, so I took a Geary Ave. bus right to the house. I knew my way around, I had been there before, and when I got there I came in and Samuel and aunt Hattie both greeted me, but the cats—they had Midnight and something else, I can't remember—became very upset and very excited and climbed to the top of the high buffet in the dining room, and so they asked me if I would mind leaving for while so they could get the cats calmed down. Cousin Samuel took me down to the Golden Gate Park and sat me on a bench where I stayed for about two and a half hours. They finally calmed down the cats and then he came back to get me and … (unclear) they would run to Samuel or to my aunt. Then when I went back to Los Angeles in a few days Samuel went with me because he was working at that time in the movie colony in some position, I don't know what it was, but that night we went to a political rally held in the auditorium of one of the studios, and he made a talk, whether it was Democratic or Republican, I don't know. I do remember that Edward G. Robinson was there and Myrna Loy was there and several other well known actors and actresses of that time that were all well acquainted with Samuel and seemed to have a high regard for him.
SABIRA: Was this a Presidential campaign or something?
MILDRED: I think it was a Presidential campaign so it might have been '36. It was definitely a real hot issue at the time, but I don't know what it was. You know, so many years have passed. I know it was just before my husband and I met, but we tore our marriage certificate up one time, we were mad at each other.
SABIRA: What other stories do you remember then, between then and now?
MILDRED: Nothing of a personal nature. For a long time he wrote me letters from various parts of the country, and told about meeting the King of this and the King of that, Sultan this and Sultan that.
SABIRA: Samuel wrote this?
MILDRED: Yes, to me.
SABIRA: What did you think of that?
MILDRED: Well I'm going to tell you about it.
MILDRED: At that time I was the president of a club here, the Bankers club of Houston, and he, in one letter, wanted to come and address my club. I thought, "God, I can't have that nut." Because the letters would be pages and pages long, reams of it, and I just thought, "He's off his rocker." Because I hadn't seen him in years and the things that he was talking about seemed impossible to a person as ordinary as I. It was hard to believe, so I didn't see him anymore. I continually received letters from him, and then I received a letter from my father when papa was living in San Clemente with this second wife of his, and he was telling me about Samuel being there, and as papa said, that was his expression, "What a nut he was." So I didn't make an effort to find him very much. And Samuel and Elliott were very bitter enemies, maybe not enemies but they didn't like one another very much.
SABIRA: Do you know anything about that?
MILDRED: I don't know why that happened, or what had happened there. It was something about their mother, but I don't know what it was, but they were not friendly, so he did give me a telephone number for Samuel. About that time, Samuel was working as a gardener or in some position in Golden Gate Park. I never did locate him, didn't get in touch with him. Then about 8 years ago I went to San Francisco on a trip for my travel agency, and did get hold of Samuel at that time. It was the birthday of one of the members of his group, and he asked me to come and meet him for dinner somewhere down on Market Street in a Greek or Bohemian restaurant, and these two young girls with me on the trip. We went down and there was Samuel in his robes, which I had never seen before. We did not have very many hippie people in Houston at that time, to us they were the epitome of hippyness—the way they were dressed and everything—but they were all so friendly and all one big family and seemed to love one another so much and Samuel was so happy and proud to see me that I wanted to see him again. And so then we wrote to one another occasionally, not very often. I don't have the letters, I told you that when I moved I left all my old letters. I didn't see him again until—Marylou still lived in Daly City, so it must have been—just a minute I'll find out what year it was—I gave the wrong impression about the birthday dinner—these were not disciples at that time, these were friends, these were young friends, however several of them did live together in one house and the one young girl who was about to become a mother—he was particularly fond of, I don't remember her name, he said, "This is my daughter," and I knew she wasn't. Then in 1966 we went back to San Francisco, my aunt, my husband's aunt and I, and Marylou in the meantime had become quite friendly with Samuel and had stayed in contact with him. She called him and he came out to the house, and I don't remember if he came out in—yes he did, he came out in his robes, it was a purple robe with gold and some other colors about it, and I said, "You look like Moses." And he said, "I am Moses!" And he said, "I lead my people out of the wilderness." so we joked about it for awhile, and with him was Saul—who had just become, I would say, a disciple of Sam's at that time. We had a most pleasant evening, and he talked so much and so beautifully and with such zest and fun about him. You didn't have a repressed feeling or a thing of him pushing his religion or his beliefs on you; it was a good memory, and I have often regretted since that I didn't know him better. After that time, you have a letter there which he wrote my father, and you can see for yourself how much he enjoyed the evening too.
SABIRA: Yes, he mentions that.
MILDRED: I don't know what happened, what caused his problems, but there was a lot of ill feeling. At one time on one of my visits to California, my aunt said, "I only have one son." And she meant Elliott, and I said, "You have Cousin Samuel too," and she said, "No, I have just one son, he's dead to me." And I don't know why that was.
SABIRA: You never asked her? I mean she didn't want to talk about it?
MILDRED: I think I probably asked her, but I didn't get an answer, any satisfaction to it. My father's family were very, very stubborn, they were very secretive about many things. They only told you what they wanted you to know, and I found myself trying to keep from being like papa so many times. They were a stubborn, vindictive family, I mean they had that streak. Samuel was the only one I know who didn't have the evil thoughts and things of what I can do to get even with somebody. Not that my father did it, but he was always threatening things. My aunt was the same way, and Elliott was the same way. It was on the Rosenthal side of the family evidently.
SABIRA: So you feel that Samuel did not inherit any of this tendency?
MILDRED: I never saw anything vindictive. He never spoke one unkind word to me about Elliott, whereas Elliott did speak unkindly about him. But my memory of Samuel in every way was of his being kind and gentle. That is the best way that I can put it. Then I saw him again the next year that I went out to California, and that's when he took me to Novato, and we spent the night, and he took me to the cheese farm, and a little black kitten slept in my bed with me that night.
SABIRA: The what farm?
MILDRED: There was a cheese farm somewhere in Novato, and we went up there and bought cheese. And before we left San Francisco we stopped and he bought wine, and in the car he had potatoes which he got at the market, and they were half spoiled. The next day at the farm, they planted the eyes of the potatoes, they washed the potato peelings and they put them in soup, and then we had the good part of the potatoes for lunch. On the board at Novato were everybody's duties for the day or for the week, and they were doing some hard work there. I have a piece of this pottery. They were doing pottery work there, and farming. Were you ever at that house in Novato? A big two-story house?
MILDRED: And Fatima?
SABIRA: Yes, that's right. Fatima and Moineddin would have been living there, her husband Carl, or Moineddin.
MILDRED: Yeah, yeah, and then a girl from Houston, Charlene or Charlotte or somebody was there and then Samuel asked me to—or that might have been back in San Francisco, I met her—but Samuel asked me to call and talk to her family in Houston and tell them that she was in good hands, and she asked me—no, where I met her was at the wedding.
SABIRA: Whose wedding?
MILDRED: I think it was Wali Ali but I am not sure. It was in the home. The Sufi priest lived in a home, in an apartment, I think, and we went upstairs, and it was the same time that we had been in Novato, or a day or two after that, and we went upstairs and they had made an altar in the dining area, because we sat in the living area first, and then they had this beautiful wedding ceremony.
SABIRA: Wali Ali when he married, Saul and his wife married the same day at the same time: So it wasn’t that one—what do you remember about the legal battles and the situation with the money, the wills.
MILDRED: I just had that from Elliott's side of the family. You can see from uncle Jake's will which you are going to send back to me, it says who got what.
MILDRED: When my aunt died she still had things in Wells Fargo in trust. I think she had to in terms of his original will, but she left Elliott a much higher income than she did Samuel. I think Samuel got $200 per month and Elliott got $1000 a month. Then some dispute came up about the investments that Wells Fargo was making. They thought they weren't investing the money wisely so Samuel and Elliott got together and joined in a suit against Wells Fargo, as I understand and heard. If it actually went to court or not I don't know, but they joined together against Wells Fargo, and came to some determination where Wells Fargo did have to reimburse them or extend their trust or give them some more money or something of that type. And I think that that Samuel's income was increased then. But I do not know about this.
SABIRA: I believe that's correct. Why do you suppose Elliott and Samuel didn't get along? I mean, that could have happened?
MILDRED: It happened evidently many years ago, because as I was saying, when we were at the table, when there were the six of us together, they were not unfriendly toward one another then but they weren't brotherly. Now I don't know. But when we were both out there why Elliott was always talking about Samuel being a nut, and Samuel not doing for his mother and things like that. Elliott, I don't think, wanted Samuel to do for his mother, because he was getting into money and doing it himself, so I think that he was keeping Samuel away from aunt Hattie. I think that he influenced aunt Hattie against Samuel.
SABIRA: But you don't know why he might have wanted to do that?
MILDRED: After my uncle died I'm sure that he wanted to do it, naturally.
SABIRA: At that time, yes, but I meant earlier.
MILDRED: I have no idea what happened to them.
SABIRA: Samuel and Elliott—do you know anything about them as they grew up? Did they have a Jewish background, were they Bar Mitzvah or any of those kind of things?
MILDRED: I don't know—they probably were, because when I was there when I was 16 or 17, the second visit I made there, my aunt was very active in the Jewish orphans there. And I spent two nights out there at the orphanage; she let me stay out there. She was very active then at the orphanage and the boys were grown then, so they probably were bar Mitzvah. Later on my aunt became a Presbyterian.
SABIRA: Who did?
MILDRED: My aunt did.
SABIRA: Oh I see, I didn't know that.
MILDRED: And Elliott for awhile was a Presbyterian, and somehow then he reverted back and he was buried in the Jewish cemetery. I don't think she actually joined the church, but she left the orthodox Jewish church for awhile and went into other—of course she had always studied religion—
SABIRA: Oh she did? That's maybe where Samuel got his tremendous background? Do you know anything about that?
MILDRED: No, except that I know that when I was in high school—the second trip that I made out there I was in high school—and I was studying religions at that time, just a smattering like you get in high school. And she gave me a lot of information then about some of the different things that she knew about Hinduism, which was what particularly interested her, which was I think probably how Samuel got into it. I don't think Zen was in very much then and she told me a lot about Buddha and his sayings and beliefs, and she had quite a little knowledge about Catholicism, but she was interested in religion and had made all these studies about it, and she had told me as a high school student things that I didn't know.
SABIRA: Let's go back just for a minute to that first visit. I know you said that they were apparently getting along pretty well. Do you remember anything more about that first visit when you were about eight or something, when you were very young?
MILDRED: I just remember that it was a very pleasant visit, we all had good times together, it was just like a family should be.
SABIRA: So somewhere between eight and seventeen something happened.
SABIRA: And you don't know what?
MILDRED: All I can say it there was no outward evidence of ill feeling, but there was just a strain.
SABIRA: You could feel it in the house?
SABIRA: What did it feel like?
MILDRED: It felt like people were at war, and of course my aunt and uncle were.
SABIRA: What do you remember about Samuel's personality, and also would you talk about the changes that you saw in him.
MILDRED: The only changes that I saw in him were outward in his appearance, in his dress, but I had known him before I saw him in San Francisco; the last two or three times that I saw him, he had dressed in a conservative manner, and behaved in a conservative manner, and was not any different than you or the average man on the street. Then when I saw him at the restaurant that night, of course he was dressed quite differently. I might be mistaken about the robe in which he was dressed, but I don't think I was. He either had a robe on or an open-necked shirt and beads and things like that.
SABIRA: This was in 1963, around that time?
MILDRED: He had a beard then, and so then the next time we saw him and we came out to Marylou's he had the robe and the beard and everything, and that's when I said that he looked like Moses, as far as personality and his conversation. To me he was always kind and sweet and intelligent.
SABIRA: Did you recognize, or did anyone that you know recognize what a real genius this man was?
MILDRED: No. Like I say, he visited my brother in Canada—my brother is a doctor—and he wrote, "I hope that I never see Samuel again," he said, "I was so embarrassed, the man's a nut, and raves and lies, nobody believed all the things that he had done," and my father said so, and I when this letter came that he wanted to talk to the bank, I thought, “My God, I can't have this man, although he is my cousin; I love him but I would be embarrassed.
SABIRA: This was Raymond, your brother?
MILDRED: My brother is Raymond? Yes.
SABIRA: He lives in Ohio now?
MILDRED: Yes. But I, too, felt I could be embarrassed when he came, because the things that he wrote and said. It did seem impossible to an ordinary person like we are, people that don't know Kings and Queens and Sultans and what have you.
SABIRA: But he indeed did, he really did.
MILDRED: But when I got to talking to him and being with him, there was no difference in him—the Samuel that I knew with the beard and the robes and the Samuel I had known all my life. He was still the same good, kind person, and when my husband met him one time, he liked him too. That was one of our longer, later trips to San Francisco, before he died, and we've always said that we wish we had known Samuel as well as we knew Elliott because Elliott was a playboy and Samuel wasn't.
SABIRA: Tell us a little bit about your memories of Elliott. We have nothing on him either really. What was he like?
MILDRED: He was a lot of fun—very, very big hearted, very generous, what I could say a playboy now. Evidently everybody in that family was interested in theatrics. Elliott was a friend of Sophie Tucker's.
SABIRA: Oh yeah?
MILDRED: Yeah, here's a picture of him here. He was a friend of Sophie Tucker. In fact I met Sophie Tucker through Elliott, and then later on I saw her in Dallas. He was loved, and he belonged to the Press Club, and he put shows on, Christmas shows on every year for the children at the Press Club that they still have. And he was a great sportsman. He loved baseball, football, horse racing. He owned some shares in—what’s that race track near San Francisco?
SABIRA: I don't know.
MILDRED: Golden Gate Park?
SABIRA: Oh yeah, I know, yeah, right.
MILDRED: I asked whether he owned shares in it or not. But they were left in his will to somebody.
SABIRA: Did he ever marry? Do you know?
MILDRED: He married one time, and it was annulled. That was late in life, that was after aunt Hattie died. He married somebody, it might have even been that person there, some young blond.
SABIRA: So as far as his relations with other people, he was…
MILDRED: He was fantastic.
SABIRA: …friendly and…
MILDRED: Oh everybody in town knew him; we would go to the best restaurants, the best bars, and when aunt Hattie was living, they all knew aunt Hattie, and she was older and when she became incontinent and she would sometimes soil the seat of a chair she was sitting in and when the waiters or the maître d' would come, they would just put a napkin over it. They were both known in all the Baradelli's and all the old San Francisco places there were.
SABIRA: So it was just then with Samuel that he had this difficulty, whatever it was?
MILDRED: Yes. But however he talked about people.
SABIRA: He did?
MILDRED: Yeah, he talked about people, he would have something harsh to say about people on occasion, but most of the time it was all friendship. He was a good man too, but he was a completely different type.
SABIRA: He didn't turn to any religious pathways of any sort?
MILDRED: No, not that I know of. He did think about it, he did talk about the praying Presbyterians sometimes but he was buried in a Jewish cemetery.
SABIRA: Do you know anything at all about Samuel's love life or anything? I was telling you in the car that we have no information…
MILDRED: Never heard of it. There was a family that lived next door to them on 9th Ave. that had some daughters and Samuel and Elliott both claimed that this girl was their sister. I don't know, Marylou probably knows that name, in fact Marylou does know the name of that person that they claimed as their sister.
SABIRA: Do you know if he ever had a sexual relationship?
MILDRED: I never heard of anything of that kind.
SABIRA: How can you account for that? How can any man not?
MILDRED: I can't and as I say, knowing the rest of the family as I do, it is hard for me to believe.
SABIRA: What do you mean when you say "knowing the rest of the family?"
MILDRED: Elliott had affairs all the time; they amounted to the one-night stands; uncle Jake, of course, did have yearlong affairs.
SABIRA: Was this the one that you think caused the problem with them not speaking to one another?
MILDRED: I just know what my mother told me, that uncle Jake had a mistress that he kept—that he had built a home for somewhere in a mountainous area, somewhere up north of San Francisco at a resort place, and my aunt knew about it, and I recall some difficulty and they would not get a divorce.
SABIRA: Did he want to? Jacob?
MILDRED: Jacob? I don't know.
SABIRA: Do you know anything about the autopsy?
MILDRED: No, just what I read in the paper. Marylou had a very bitter feeling toward that hospital. She thinks they neglected him, but this I don’t know, but when Dana had her accident and she was taken to that same hospital, Marylou had her out of there as fast as she could because she thought that if Samuel had had the proper care he would not have died.
SABIRA: We've read the autopsy, and it's very inconclusive.
MILDRED: He was an older man; he was 70?
SABIRA: 75 when he died.
MILDRED: And a brain concussion is a serious injury for a man and at that age. So I don't know.
SABIRA: He certainly did fall down a flight of stairs, that they know. I know what I wanted to ask you. Did you read any of his poetry or any of his prose?
MILDRED: Yes I did, in fact I have some.
SABIRA: What was your opinion of what he wrote?
MILDRED: I loved it. I didn't always understand it, but I loved it. Now this is the last piece he gave me when I visited the house. Saul lived up on the hill behind the house.
SABIRA: Right, on Ripley.
MILDRED: He gave me this.
SABIRA: Which is that? Saladin, is that it?
SABIRA: Have you read "The Jerusalem Trilogy"?
SABIRA: This is from the book, called “The Jerusalem Trilogy." What else do you want to tell us about what he wrote that you remember?
MILDRED: I don't really know very much more to tell you about his writings. You see he gave me some, this is the only one I have at the present time. But I was most impressed with my last visit to the house, down at the bottom of the hill on Ripley St. I attended one of his dance—what would you call it?
SABIRA: Sufi meetings, dance meetings.
MILDRED: And I was quite impressed. There were probably about 45 people; in fact I participated in a dance, which was very hard for me to do because I am not a very good dancer, and I was impressed with the different ages and types, and the class of people that were there. There were business people, young people, some looked like they had maybe come down on their luck, and others looked like they were quite well to do but they all seemed to have such a joy of life, and enjoyed the dances so much, and we had a hot mulled drink of some kind, and there was a huge tea kettle that he kept on the stove that I wanted so badly, and he told me that I could have that someday. I wonder what ever happened to it. It was one of these great big metal things, it was about this big around, and it was just an old fashioned tea kettle, and he had a lovely young girl, beautiful black haired girl that he was teaching some ritual to. I can't remember too much about it, except it was a beautiful day and evening. And that night, he and Saul took me back down to the hotel. But when we took the vegetables that he got free from the market—he did so many things with them—I thought, "You know, this man, he's got to be something else again." It was the second time I'd been around him for any length of time. And I will make an effort just as soon as it is cool enough to get out in that storage house and try to find those other things of papa's; I do have some pictures of the Rosenthal family, and I think there is one of Toby Rosenthal, there's one showing a picture with a copy of a painting by Toby Rosenthal that is in some museum in Europe. But I just don't think I am a whole lot of help. See, we lived in Canada, and to come to California at that time was quite a thing.
SABIRA: Summing it up, could you tell us—who was Samuel Lewis? What was he? What's your opinion of who he was? We certainly have our opinions.
MILDRED: My feelings about Samuel are that he was a modern-day saint, that he did more good in his own way, for the young people especially, and I just wish that I had had an opportunity of being with him more, and participating in some of what he was doing. To me he was someone super-special. My husband's aunt—who met him at the same time and felt the same way about him—felt there was a spiritual aura of some type about the man, and that's about all I can tell you.
SABIRA: You didn't observe any of this when you met him when you were younger?
MILDRED: No. The last time that I saw him before I saw him in San Francisco, he was just an energetic, outgoing person—not really outgoing either, except when he got up to speak to this meeting, this political meeting, he was very forceful. The word I keep repeating all the time is kind—his personality—was kindness and love for other people.
SABIRA: Did he ever write you when he went to the Orient in 1956?
MILDRED: Yes, he wrote me a lot of letters.
SABIRA: And those were the ones you didn't keep?
SABIRA: Do you remember anything about them?
MILDRED: No, I can't remember, you see, I had a stroke in 1958.
SABIRA: Yeah. Well he wrote prolifically. We have some letters; whenever he would write he would make carbons so we might have some of those.
MILDRED: He wrote several letters.
SABIRA: Did he send you anything from the Orient that you have?
MILDRED: No nothing like that.
SABIRA: What I'll do is transcribe this when I get back and send you the copy, and if I've misunderstood any words, then you cross them out and change them.
MILDRED: I think that thing about Marylou about Samuel coming to Canada is a mistake and I remember it was Elliott that came to Canada.
SABIRA: Ok. Alright. At this moment that is all I have to ask you. Thank you very much.
Addition to Tape—done at table with: Mrs. White, Dana Foster, and Hermoine (Mrs. White’s husband’s aunt)
SABIRA: Okay, so this is—
HERMOINE: Hermoine Lintley White. And I went with Mildred to San Francisco, in Sept., of '63, wasn't it Mildred?
HERMOINE: And while we were there, Samuel, who was Mildred's cousin came to visit Mildred, and I became entranced with him. He was so interesting; his face was so serene and peaceful. He told us of what he was doing, of the dances, of his beliefs, and a great many of his beliefs coincided with my own beliefs. I am a Methodist…
SABIRA: Can you tell us more about what seemed to be the same to you?
HERMOINE: His belief in the Creator. His belief that we should learn as much as we can and serve God, serve God in the best way that we can. That was one thing, I know that I can recall that as he talked Mildred and I agreed with him about many things. But we were so interested in the dances, and he invited Mildred and me also to come to Novato to see the dances and to see the things that he was doing.
SABIRA: Are you sure of the date, 1963, because the dances didn't start until about 1968 or something.
MILDRED: No, he was doing some dances then. I'm sure it was '63.
HERMOINE: He had established the place out in Novato and told us of the people who had come to him, especially the young women who became converts and stayed and cooked and worked, worked in the garden, but they were doing it.
SABIRA: Then this is what we don't have. I thought it was '68.
MILDRED: She wasn't there then. She was there in '63.
HERMOINE: They were doing it and there was one girl he told us about particularly who was of a fairly wealthy family, and her life was ruined from dope and the excesses of her life, and he came there, and she was washing dishes and scrubbing floors.
SABIRA: I know who that is, she is now leading a Sufi order—one of the Sufi centers in Santa Cruz, California.
HERMOINE: She is?
SABIRA: She is an exquisite girl, she just had to get through that.
HERMOINE: She just had to get through that, and then she was doing it.
SABIRA: Her name is Claire.
HERMOINE: She wasn't entirely clear at that time?
SABIRA: That's right, I know who you mean. Dana, what do you remember, as long as you are here?
DANA: About uncle Sam?
DANA: I don't remember that much about him. He invited my mother and my sister to the dance thing, I'm not sure we are in it, but we had some dance and then there were some sellers there and they were selling some stuff that people would…
MILDRED: Wasn't that the time that you went to Sausalito, when you had a big program in Sausalito?
SABIRA: Was that the Sausalito Whirling Dervish Fair?
MILDRED: Didn't you take the ferry to Sausalito?
DANA: I don't remember. I was only five.
SABIRA: Yeah, that's hard to remember. Maybe it was that, there was a Whirling Dervish Fair in Sausalito.
DANA: Maybe. But he was very nice and sweet to me, even though I couldn't read his lips too well because he had all that beard and that mustache. But he would form the words very well. He was very sweet to me. And he was nice too.
SABIRA: That's good.
MILDRED: The young man who was with him was a beautiful young man.
MILDRED: That was Saul.
SABIRA: Oh yeah Saul, he was really nice too. He was at the wedding, wasn't he grandma?
DANA: Was his wife there or anything?
MILDRED: She couldn't come that day.
MILDRED: She could not come to the wedding, his daughter was.
SABIRA: They have a little boy too.
MILDRED: Yeah, I know that, we saw him when he was a baby. Tell her what he is doing. Tell Hermoine about Saul.