By: Sharon Aron Baron
Our neighbor Eli passed away on March 29, 2013. I wrote this article in 2010 when Eli was at the young age of 91. In fact, he was still doing very well when I saw him a few weeks ago at Publix supermarket where he was walking his cart out to his car. He had lost his wife Rosalind less than a year ago, and at 94 years old, was still driving around the neighborhood just like he always did. I helped him locate his car and put away his groceries. That would be the last time I saw my friend.
Ever since I moved to the Woodlands, I’ve been intrigued by Eli Schneider, this charming, and I must say, handsome, older man here. Of course, I am half his age. Yes, at 46 years old, I am almost half the age of 91 year old Eli. However, you’d never know his age as he has the energy and attitude of someone younger than me.
Eli plays golf two to three times a week. “Eli is the best,” says neighbor and fellow golfer Richard Gelman. “He’s smart, sharp, funny, a great friend and he shoots his age at golf occasionally. “
Eli stays sharp by always continuing his education, whether it’s with college courses or by reading books by Thomas Paine or biographies of Presidents.
A few months ago, I was surprised to see Eli training at the Broward Sheriff’s Office of Tamarac to become one of our COPS volunteers for the Woodlands. I looked around the room at a sea of people, noticing that most of us were in our 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. My eyes stopped at Eli sitting in class taking notes. At 91, he was probably the oldest volunteer that has been trained for COPS. I couldn’t believe it, and told myself that I had to find out more about Eli.
Born in New York in 1919, Eli was a first generation American whose father emigrated from Tallin, Estonia and his mother from Lublin, Poland. His father was a master craftsman who worked in the ladies handbag industry. Eli’s His first language was Yiddish and he lived in a Lower East Side tenement building along with his parents and younger sister Mildred. Their apartment had a wood burning stove, no indoor toilet and no hot water hence the name “cold water flat”. They even had to go to a public bathhouse for bi-weekly washings as there was no bathroom.
Eli never thought he was poor because everyone else lived pretty much the same way. Most of his neighbors were newly arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe much like his parents. Besides, he had a roof over his head and all the basics he ever needed. It was in 4th grade when his parents moved a few blocks away on East 13th Street to an apartment that had a gas range, an inside toilet, a bathroom with a bathtub with hot and cold running water. Eli thought this was paradise. In 1928, his family moved to the Bronx where they lived in the 5th floor of a walk up apartment building. A new luxury in this apartment was a telephone and a nearby grass lot where all the neighborhood children would play. They didn’t have any open spaces like this in the Lower East Side.
In January 1937 he graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx which had 12,000 students. Monroe was the most heavily attended high school in the country and had five annexes. After high school he attended night school to learn typing and shorthand. He mastered typing, but not shorthand. Learning typing was instrumental later when he was drafted.
He was sent by his vocational guidance counselor to New York City to interview with Revlon Cosmetics, a young company that was founded by Charles Revson in 1932. “Look extra neat,” his counselor told him. This was in 1937 at the height of the Depression. He was hired at $14 a week as a general helper which could lead to a future sales position with the company. He had to work 48 hour weeks, six days a week. On his first day, he had to dust executive offices and water plants. He worked his way up from office boy up to the Credit and Accounts Receivable office. The controller was impressed with him and even asked Charles Revson to send him to college. Unfortunately, he was turned down.
This didn’t stop Eli’s drive for education. He went to college in the evenings at St John’s University studying accounting. After two years of school, he was drafted in 1941 when World War II broke out.
While stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky, he learned at his first battalion review that they needed a typist. This is where his clerical training would come in handy. He became an administrator, or a non-commissioned officer, therefore was never deployed overseas.
In 1939, he met the love of his life, Rosalind, or Roz as she’s known. They had met at a temple dance when he asked her to dance. They had a splashy wedding at the Waldorf Astoria on December 5th, 1943 that would be the envy of brides today. They had three children: Barry who was born in 1947, Eric in 1950 and Laurie in 1958. Both Barry and Eric live in Pennsylvania where both are Optometrists’ and Laurie lives in Hollywood, Florida.
After the war ended 1945, Eli went back to work at Revlon. He became an Administrator in the Drug and Sales Department until the 1950’s. During this time, he attended night school at New York University, eventually earning a degree in Marketing in 1950. In 1954 he became a sales person and called on drug stores and department stores in New York and New Jersey. He was promoted from there to become District Manager, then Regional Manager where he had a territory overseeing sales people from Maine to Virginia where he would fly to and from each city, staying in first class hotels. One of the benefits of working for Revlon was that Roz never lacked a thing from the company and got samples of anything she needed.
In 1974 Eli became the Director of Sales where he would oversee all the Sears and Montgomery Ward’s stores around the nation. After 40 years with the company, Revlon gave Eli and Roz a first class trip to England, Greece and Italy and a return trip aboard the Queen Elizabeth II to New York. On top of that, they gave him a party at the Four Seasons Hotel with Charles Revson. They even were able to take their youngest daughter Laurie along with them. After 50 years with Revlon, he was given a Cadillac. In 1992, after 55 years, they offered him another position, but it required more traveling. He was done with the traveling and finally decided to retire at the age of 72.
In 1975 Eli and Roz moved to Florida to Emerald Hills. They had a spacious home there and joined the country club. However, they loved golfing and socializing at the Woodlands Country Club much more. After five years of driving back and forth between Hollywood and Tamarac, they decided to buy a home in the Woodlands in 2000.
An avid golfer since 1945, Eli still plays today with his neighbors, Mel Dorfman, Larry Torn and Murray Weinberg, He also loves tournaments, and mixed foursomes. “Especially with ladies:” he added with a smile.
“He is an amazing person and an unbelievable golfer. [He] can still shoot his age or better,” said fellow golfer Sara Jane Rose. “My most memorable golf vision of Eli was when he competed in the Can Am. He was the oldest member of the team and won all his matches. He is so competitive. I am truly fortunate to have such a wonderful friend.”
Outliving his parents age by many years, I asked Eli how he got to be 91. He credits being at the right place at the right time and luck. But I think I know what his secret is: Keeping his mind active with reading, staying physically fit, and having a positive outlook on life. At 91, Eli is still charming; a bit of a flirt and his love for life is infectious.
- Sharon Aron Baron created the Woodlands Tamarac in 2010 for original News for the community. In 2011 she went on to create Tamarac Talk, in 2012, Coral Springs Talk and 2017, Parkland Talk.
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