Sunday, May 15, 2011



Ed was born Jan 31, 1897 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the fourth of six children. His parents were Henry and Carrie Kaufman. According to his story, he joined the Marines at a young age, probably somewhere near 17, and by June of 1918 he was fighting against the Germans in a very famous WWI battle at Belleau Woods, 70 miles outside of Paris. The Germans used gas warfare (a poisonous mustard gas) and Ed was taken ill from the gas and hospitalized. He was released from the service with severely impaired lungs. By 1920 he was back home with his family in Baton Rouge, but the doctors advised him that if intended to continue living, he needed to get out of the humid climate of Louisiana and go to Arizona. He did, but he found way too much desert in Arizona so he decided to try California. He was able to find a job with Swift Meat Company in Los Angeles and settled in Glendale.

While Ed was still living with his family in Baton Rouge, a young female student at LSU, took a room in the Kaufman house. Her name was Sylvia Asher. She had been born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana but both parents had died about the time she headed to college. She and Ed fell in love and after his move to California she followed him. They married in Los Angeles in 1926 and had a single child, Carolyn Phyllis Kaufman, in 1930.

After working a few years in Los Angeles, Ed was assigned the territory of East Riverside County. The family moved for a short while to Banning and ultimately settled in the city of Riverside.

Ed was the consummate salesman. He made friends easily, could talk a good talk, and made money for the Company. He was known to his customers as “Swifty.” Those customers were buyers of large quantities of meat – restaurants, hotels, resorts – and a great deal of his business was done in Palm Springs, which in those days (1930s) was to Southern California what Las Vegas became later to Nevada.

Ed’s lung condition was greatly improved by the mellow California climate, though of course his smoking wasn’t helping it any. Ed had started smoking unfiltered Chesterfield cigarettes in Louisiana when he was eight years old and continued smoking until his death in 1984. Sometime around 1953 or 1954, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was put in the Riverside Community Hospital. He was there for a month or so before a bed became available at the City of Hope in Duarte. Ed spent a year there recovering. At the end of the year, Ed was released as recovered and he went back to Riverside and to work.

Ed's wife, Sylvia, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1956 and died within the year. Later his only daughter, Carole, also developed breast cancer and she died in 1974. Ed spent his last years back and forth between Southern California and Louisiana. He loved being near his own family in Baton Rouge but hated the humid weather. In Southern California he had two grandchildren but he rarely saw them except at the Jewish holidays. As much as anything he lived a nomadic life, using his stationwagon bed in lieu of motels on the trips back and forth.

During his lifetime he had serious intestinal problems, which necessitated removal of a portion of his stomach. As he aged he became more and more debilitated and finally in his 87th year he passed away in a convalescent home.

It was not in Ed's genes to die of lung cancer after smoking for almost 80 years. And a tiny bit of his obstreperous nature kept him from stopping "just in case." In spite of the loss of his wife and daughter, he led a life on his own terms, a life full of fun, family and friends.

He and Sylvia are buried side by side at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

No comments:

Post a Comment