On a warm afternoon in early August, Corrine (Gottstein) Feinberg had used her mother’s dishes to set the table for a Friday afternoon lunch in her Minnetonka home. She was eagerly waiting for her friends to arrive.
“I set the table on Monday,” Feinberg said. “I just put a sheet over the place settings.”
As the doorbell rang, Feinberg greeted her guests warmly with hugs, and the friends were soon asking questions and catching up.
The women have been friends since their school days. Many attended kindergarten together and were in Girl Scouts or Young Judaea, but they all became friends at Lincoln Junior High School in North Minneapolis.
Now, more than 70 years later, the group of women — Phyllis (Hirsch) Salsberg, Bettimae (Wolkoff) Richman, Joyce (Krane) Cardozo, Reva (Margolis) Rosenbloom, Ryvelle (Kiperstein) Tilsner, Dobie (Applebaum) Hunegs, Natalie (Saxon) Warschauer, Renee (Wasserman) Klein and Ruth (Lurie) Hampton — keep in touch and sometimes cross paths at parties or other social functions.
But Feinberg makes a point to organize a special lunch each summer, something she has done for the past five or six years.
This year’s lunch group included (l to r): Phyllis (Hirsch) Salsberg, Bettimae (Wolkoff) Richman, Corrine (Gottstein) Feinberg, Joyce (Krane) Cardozo, Reva (Margolis) Rosenbloom, Ryvelle (Kiperstein) Tilsner and Dobie (Applebaum) Hunegs. Natalie (Saxon) Warschauer, Renee (Wasserman) Klein and Ruth (Lurie) Hampton were unable to attend. (Photo: Erin Elliott Bryan)
“I started the tradition,” Feinberg said. “I love doing it… I had a feeling and a bond from my friends, and I just felt that it would be fun to keep the fires burning. I feel very strongly about old-time friends and I think the rest of the group does, too.”
Listening to them share memories — often finishing each other’s sentences — it’s obvious that they all share a strong and special bond, which Feinberg says is due to the closeness and sense of community they felt growing up in North Minneapolis.
“The experiences that we had were so much the same,” Feinberg said. “And when we get together we have so much fun… We laugh about things no one would understand.”
Among the things that stirred up fond memories was a 1946 newspaper clipping from the Minneapolis Star, which featured many in the group who were members of Girl Scout Troop #140. The newspaper had covered the troop’s second birthday and its pageant titled “Women Build America,” which took place at the Emanuel Cohen Center.
“We were so ahead of our time,” Hunegs said, as the photo was passed around.
The women shared other memories of the North Side, including working at businesses that their families had owned, spending time at the Homewood Theater and even riding to the Minneapolis Talmud Torah in a hearse, what they referred to as a limo.
“Everyone knew everybody and everybody took care of everybody,” Richman said. “Life was so much simpler.”
Each of the women leads a full life — some talked about yoga and bike riding, and others mentioned various volunteer activities.
“This group is active and volunteers,” Tilsner said. “We’re active parts of our community.”
And while many periodically revisit the old North Side neighborhoods, Rosenbloom is a volunteer ambassador with National Neighbors Silver, an initiative to get seniors together to identify and address problems faced by their communities. She is back in North Minneapolis once a week to work with the program, which is sponsored by Jewish Community Action (JCA) in addition to other organizations.
“It dispelled myths I had,” Rosenbloom said of the program. “There are a lot of really bright people, they just happen to be poor, living in North Minneapolis.”
Rosenbloom has now met the people living in her old house, as well as those across the street. Similarly, Feinberg attended the memorial service for the man who lived in her old house, who had a heart attack helping others move debris after the tornado in 2011.
Feinberg already has plans for next year’s lunch, which will commemorate the friends’ 80th birthdays.
“Eighty’s the new 60,” Rosenbloom pointed out.
In the meantime, they can reflect on their bond by reading a new poem composed by Feinberg’s husband, Tom, which celebrates the special friendship shared by this group of women:
They started at Willard, Grant
But to Lincoln Junior did they
all find their way
Together they have been, one way
Thru thick and thin but always
for each other
From time to time whether
together or apart
But always with each other
in body and heart
As they approach eighty years of age
none showing signs of dotage
They keep themselves trim, fit, able and smart
not letting anything keep them apart
So here’s to each other, wherever we go
may one rose shine so red with always a glow.