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MR. ZAIMAN: The time is December 22, 1971. The place is the Hartford Jewish Community Center on Bloomfield Avenue in Bloomfield; West Hartford, Bloomfield, Hartford, it's very close to the border of all three communities. The occasion is the first taping of an interview to be preserved in the records of the newly created Hartford Jewish Historical Society. My name is Jack Zaiman. I'm the political editor of The Hartford Courant. We're in the presence of some 20 members of the newly created society, and our guest tonight is Connecticut Circuit Court Judge Simon Bernstein of Hartford, whom I have known most of his 00:01:00adult life. The importance of this interview with Mr. Bernstein is that he has participated in Connecticut politics at a time of great transition when this state has switched essentially from a conservative Republican state to a somewhat liberal Democratic state. Historically this has been a tremendous change that has occurred, the biggest change that has occurred since colonial times in Connecticut. And Mr. Bernstein is one of the architects of this change. He was there at the time the change was first suspected and then seen and then 00:02:00effected. And he has been at the center of this. He was part of it. He was a little cog in this wheel that has made Connecticut history and perhaps national history as this interview will presently disclose. First of all, Mr. Bernstein, I think it might be well if you told us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you were born, your family and we can proceed from there.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Jack, I was born in Hartford, went through the local schools, including Trinity College in Hartford, and then went off to Harvard Law School and returned to Hartford immediately there-after and started practicing law. I'm one of ten children and because of that large numbers didn't frighten me later 00:03:00in my public career.

MR. ZAIMAN: Tell as a little bit about your activities in the Zionist operation in Connecticut which was then in its early days when you were young.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, that's true. There always had been a Zionist organization of some sort in Hartford, though under different names in our earlier history, and the movement in Hartford and in the country had been rather faltering. But the events of Europe and World War II particularly and the fight for the establishment of the State of Israel in the middle Forties made the Zionist 00:04:00movement in Hartford a tremendous force. I would say, Jack, that prior to World War II there may have been a few hundred regular members at best in the Hartford Zionist District, and at the peak of our career, that is when the, say around December, 1947, when the state was recognized, the Hartford Zionist District had over 2,000 dues paying members. Now when you consider 2,000 dues paying members in a community of our size, you get an idea of the forces that have been working nationally, internationally and locally all in the same area and all with a great zest and enthusiasm.

M. ZAIMAN: Did you hold any office with the local organization?

M. BERNSTEIN: Yes. I would say by 1939 or so I was the secretary of the Hartford 00:05:00Zionist District. And over the next ten years without interruption I was either secretary or vice-president on the local level and held some state positions as well in the Zionist organization.

MR. ZAIMAN: Can you give us some names of people who were connected with you at that time in the organization?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Oh, yes- I think when we discuss the Zionist organization in terms of its relationship to helping get Israel established, the real architect of the organization, the real mainstay, was Abraham Goldstein, a great dynamic leader, a very forceful man who more or less with the help of such fellows as 00:06:00Sam Hoffenberg, who came from a distinguished Hartford family and whose history ought to be recorded, they were all exceptional men, and a few others, Judge Jacob Schwolsky was a well known officer at the time. And along came some of us other fellows. I was particularly a young fellow, very young I thought at the time. But a group of as came into the movement about the same time, that is became very active, and they were...

MR. ZAIMAN: About what period of time was this?

MR. BERNSTEIN: This would be in the early Forties- At the height of the battle for the establishment of the recognition of Palestine which is now Israel, some 00:07:00local political battles were going on at the same time. And a group of us, Joseph Klau, Harry Kleinman and I, were, found ourselves more or less working for the same organizations and with the same goals. And I think the three of us in one way or another helped to create a little excitement in Hartford- I didn't realize it at the time but we were just young enough to be intolerable of those who didn't agree with us. We moved as strenuously as we could to get the Zionist organization going in the direction that we thought it ought to go.

MR. ZAIMAN: What impelled you to join the Zionist movement?


MR. BERNSTEIN: I never thought of it when I was at school because when I was a youngster I think the Emma Lazarus idea was the dominant one in Jewish society, that we were coming to America, poor people of all sorts, and we were becoming Americanized. And I certainly felt the same way and still do. But I did have a background that inevitably inserted itself. When my father and another Hartford resident by the name of Morris Juster who also is since deceased, were young fellows in Romania they came across the writings of Theodore Herzl. Now this was at the beginning of the century, before that actually I suppose, when they were 00:09:00thirteen or fourteen years old they wrote a letter to Theodore Herzl who had been writing and speaking to the British people particularly about the establishment of a Jewish state. And they wrote and asked what they could do to get ready to make Palestine a home for the Jews.

MR. ZAIMAN: I was going to say this was a Dear Ted letter.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. And this letter is available and I think ought to go into, the answer of Theodore Herzl to these young kids who had their little Jewish club in Romania ought to belong in the archives of this society. He wrote back and said that these young keys, thirteen or fourteen, would be doing their best for the Jewish people if they were good boys and got a good education where they were and waited till they were adults to make any decisions. But he, of course, 00:10:00encouraged them and a copy of this letter resides with me, but I think the Juster Family has the original letter that Theodore Herzl wrote to a subsequent resident of Hartford. I think that's a very precious letter. And it effected my father, of course.

MR. ZAIMAN: I assume you have all this background from your father.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. My earliest recollections of real Jewish life in America was when I was very very young and right after it must have been the early Twenties when I was just maybe a youngster starting school even. I'm not even sure of that, when Hartford had a great celebration. Chaim Weizman and Einstein came to 00:11:00Hartford and the Jews of Hartford had a parade. And, of course, the celebration was because Weizman had been instrumental in getting the British to publish the Balfour Declaration, and Einstein because as the greatest philosopher and mathematician of all time had declared that he was a Zionist and this gave Jews, I think, all over America the backbone not to be ashamed to be Jewish and do something about it.

MR. ZAIMAN: Do you remember the parade?

MR. BERNSTEIN: I don't remember the parade but what I do remember is that some printer printed posters which normally went into stores along Windsor Street and 00:12:00Front Street and Windsor Avenue. And we lived down in what was known as Frog Hollow, an Irish district. And my father was so proud of this that he put one of 00:13:00the posters in our living room window facing the street so that all our Irish friends could see it as they walked by- And I must admit I was a little embarrassed at the beards and the wild hair because I was doing my best to be a good young American and those looked very foreign in those days.

MR. ZAIMAN: Do you remember where they spoke in Hartford?

MR. BERNSTEIN: No. No. I have no other recollection other than the immense excitement in my household.

MR. ZAIMAN: Do you feel your participation in Zionism has been a success?



MR. BERNSTEIN: In what way?

MR. ZAIMAN: Do you feel that your work has helped the movement?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Oh, no. I think you'd have to be, any person would have to be awfully egotistical to feel that anything any one of us did meant an awful lot. This was an international thing. What we were doing in Hartford was trying to arouse Hartford people. Jack, I'll tell you how difficult it was to get the 00:14:00Christian community to show an interest. Later on when I was an alderman in Hartford, and I don't know if I'm jumping the gun, but those of us who had any public position at all would try to get our mayors or our governors or our senators to introduce resolutions either in the local council or the state legislature or the national Congress to help the Jews get a state in Israel, in Palestine. And we considered it a great great success if we could get them to introduce anything at all. And the language that they used was always very careful and all it would say is that they would pray that the British would do something or that our government would do something to see that the Jews 00:15:00received justice in Palestine. They never would come right out and say that they believed in partition or that we should get what part of Palestine- it was considered a great triumph to even get any public statement about anything Jewish in our political assemblies whether it was local, state or federal. And we used to work hard just to persuade somebody to pass a resolution saying that they looked with favor on anything.

MR. ZAIMAN: Were you connected with any other phases of Jewish life in Hartford such as hospital boards or anything like that during your early career?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, yes. And this is somewhat embarrassing, Jack- I think in those days there weren't too many young fellows who had an interest. Again I trace it to the fact that everybody wanted to be a real good solid American. So 00:16:00I really had to fill a lot of gaps. I didn't realize it at the time. But I would say around 1940 while I was an officer in the Hartford Zionist District, I was already the State Youth Chairman, I was on the board of the Hebrew Women's Home for Children and on the committee and we dealt with adoptions. I was on the executive board of the Hebrew Home for Aged for a short period when the director got sick. Since I was the youngest guy around, I ran the home on Washington Street where it was originally for a period of eight or nine months-

MR. ZAIMAN: You mean you actually administered it?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. I would leave my office at about a quarter to eleven in the morning and stay there till about two thirty in the afternoon and then have to go back at night on occasion. James Mintz, many of you will remember the name, was the, he ran the Hebrew Home on Washington Street. And he got ill, had to go 00:17:00to Boston for what was supposed to be a few days. And I was just stepping in to keep the office going and wound up running that. And, you know, the Hartford Jewish Federation just got itself established about this time, I would say the late Thirties and the early Forties, and that in itself is a study with I remember the name of Donald Kaffenberg especially, very active in the early days.

M. ZAIMAN: Were you a member of that?

MR. BERNSTEIN: I was chairman of the youth division of the Federation in its early days. And I know I've left out a number of other organizations I was active in. I hope those who are in them won't feel I downgrade those. But I think that's enough of that.

MR. ZAIMAN: How did you find time for all this before we go into the political 00:18:00events of your life?

M. BERNSTEIN: Well, if you've got time speak to my wife about this sometime because I was on the run all the time.

M. ZAIMAN: Tell us about your start in Hartford polities. I assume you were a Democrat.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. Well, before I get to my own start, I think I ought to state since this is a historical society the political base for Jewish politicians in Hartford by the time I got into the picture because otherwise it would look like I stepped in and things developed. But in the old days...

MR. ZAIMAN: You mean 1940, 1930.

MR. BERNSTEIN: I would say from the turn of the century to the Thirties, the Jews of Hartford who had any influence were Republican.


There was the Jake Leipziger era. And I would say this was the Windsor Street, Kennedy Street, Windsor Avenue area where the Jews in the early part of the century congregated. And they were Republican and so the Jewish leaders in those days were Republican. By the time I got out of law school and was interested in politics, the Jewish community could be roughly, well it entirely was in three wards of Hartford called the third ward, the fourth ward and the twelfth ward.

MR- ZAIMAN: Before you go much further, I'd like to elaborate a little bit on why the Jews in that era were Republicans more than they were Democrats. Was it because Connecticut was a Republican state and the Jews figured that they would be with the majority?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Jack, there was a Republican president of this country except for Grover Cleveland from the Civil War time right up to Wilson's day. So the 00:20:00country was Republican, the state was Republican, and as I say I think it was natural that they were the ruling group and I think the Jewish community naturally wanted to be accepted by the ruling group. I don't want to go into the philosophy of that too much because that's a whole subject in itself. But to get back to Hartford, by the time I arrived the third ward would be mainly Barbour Street, Barbour Street to Windsor Avenue to the east and Garden Street to the west. The fourth ward in those days was Vine Street, the streets on both sides of Vine running up to Woodland Street. And the twelfth ward was Blue Hills Avenue which included Westbourne Parkway and the area around Palm Street was 00:21:00really just getting fully developed in those days. So there were three wards, three areas, and the Jews lived there; without being too unfair I would say that on the average the poorest Jews were still living around the Barbour Street area, the peddlers, some small stores-

M. ZAIMAN: You mean the third ward.

MR. BERNSTEIN: The third ward. I think the fourth ward was a mixture of both the better off groups and the modest groups. And it was a very heavily concentrated Jewish area. All those streets were about 50% Jewish.

MR. ZAIMAN: Vine Street, Mansfield Street, Edgewood Street.

M. BERNSTEIN: Yes. All these streets, Westland Street, up to Westland starting at Albany Avenue. And the twelfth ward, of course, had a very strong Irish base 00:22:00but a great number of Jews who were in the minority but a large number nevertheless living in the twelfth ward.

MR. ZAIMAN: You mean when you jumped Keney Park it was like jumping from Hartford to West Hartford or to Bloomfield or to other towns? Keney Park was sort of a dividing line, wasn't it?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, it was the border.

MR. ZAIMAN: The frontier.

MR. BERNSTEIN: In terms of the religious and social centers, the Emanuel Synagogue was on Woodland Street. It was the social center of Hartford because it was even then the largest synagogue in Hartford.

M. ZAIMAN: It was right on the frontier between the fourth ward and the twelfth.

MR. BERNSTEIN: And the twelfth, yes. And while a good many of the Jews who were more successful had already begun their emigration to West Hartford by the mid-Thirties, a considerable number of them, nevertheless a great many of them still retained membership in the Emanuel. And it wasn't until present days, the 00:23:00last few years, that the Emanuel moved out of Hartford.

MR. ZAIMAN: Who were some of the political personalities that you remember at the time you first started to come in who were Jewish?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, the ward chairman and the political leader on the Democratic side in the fourth ward where I lived was Harold Borden.

MR. ZAIMAN: He later became a state senator.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. Bat at this time he had been an alderman previously. And he had been assistant corporation counsel. And his wife who just passed away this year, Molly Borden, was a terrific party organizer and worker and I think, you know, did the organizing work. And out of the fourth ward as alderman came Saul 00:24:00Seidman who is now our judge in bankruptcy in this area. And just prior to my being alderman Harry Kleinman, who is a well known attorney and active in the same organizations we have been discussing, he was alderman in Hartford.

M. ZAIMAN: He is now Democratic Town Chairman of West Hartford.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. He has been for a number of years. And there were others in this area.

MR. ZAIMAN: How about people like Sam Lebon and Al Wechsler? Were they in your era?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. Al Wechsler lived in the third ward area, that is the Barbour Street area, and his strength was there primarily. Now there were other persons like U. S. Senator Abe Ribicoff who lived in this area and were active 00:25:00off and on. He had run for representative, served a term.

MR. ZAIMAN: State representative.

MR- BERNSTEIN: State representative. And served a term in the Police Court in Hartford and then for a while dropped out of things.

MR. ZAIMAN: Wasn't he a judge of the local court for a while too?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. Yes. And then he dropped out of political affairs. Bat he was not active in Jewish affairs in the sense that he held any positions or was identified with any of the organizations that I've mentioned.

MR. ZAIMAN: Was Samuel H. L. Goldman in that era?

M. BERNSTEIN: Oh, he was one of the old timers who... You'd have to mention him in the year of Abe Goldstein and some of the Hoffenbergs and other earlier 00:26:00names. I'm not that old, Jack.

MR. ZAIMAN: How about the Republican side? Do you remember any Jewish Republican politicians or had they already become Democrats when Roosevelt was elected?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. You've got to remember when we're talking about the Thirties, the late Thirties, that Franklin D. Roosevelt was at the peak of his power and primarily responsible, I think, for the great turnover into the Democratic ranks of the Jewish community. The Republicans in Hartford were already pretty much in disarray. Still living in the North End of Hartford, however, was Judge Jacob Dunn who retained his residence in the third ward at the very far end of Barbour Street up near Keney Park. And I think they stayed 00:27:00there many years because of his political connections on the Republican side of the fence. Harry Schwolsky still lived in the North End of Hartford. I think he lived on Edgewood Street where his family had lived.

MR. ZAIMAN: Do you remember Bill Harris, the pharmacist on Albany Avenue who was an alderman later on?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. But they were not active in the organizations that we have been talking about. They probably were very strong in some of the smaller organizations.

MR. ZAIMAN: All right. I want to set the stage now for what I had earlier consented about the great importance of the role that Judge Bernstein played in a major significant event in the history of this state and perhaps of this 00:28:00country. The year is 1946. And in Hartford that year was a major Democratic party primary. And if anybody in political history wants to trace the events of 1946, they can trace them from Hartford right to the White House. And someday history, I think, will and Mr. Bernstein here had a major part in it. In 1946 a big Democratic party fight was held in Hartford which was won by John M. Bailey 00:29:00who is now the Democratic State Chairman of Connecticut. If Mr. Bailey had not won that fight, it is conceivable that Abraham A. Ribicoff would never have been heard of in Connecticut polities. It is conceivable that John F. Kennedy might never have been nominated for President of the United States. The history of that sequence is that Mr. Bernstein was one of the participants in that primary and held the balance of power and that whichever way he went could have determined the outcome of that leadership fight. And his choice as it turned out was with Mr. Bailey's group. As a result of that Mr. Bailey became state chairman. He eventually supported Mr. Ribicoff for governor and eventually for United States senator. Mr. Bailey and Mr. Ribicoff in 1956 were the first 00:30:00supporters of John F. Kennedy for vice-president though it was a failure in 1956. They continued that on and were the main supporters and the inside supporters of Kennedy for President in 1960 following which Mr. Bailey became Democratic National Chairman. Mr. Ribicoff became a part of Mr. Kennedy's Cabinet and later United States senator. All this began in 1946 with Judge Bernstein playing a significant role in it. I wish at this time he would tell us some of the events of that period.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, you stated it correctly so far as Bailey and Ribicoff are concerned, but actually I threw a very little pebble into this stream and some of the waves coincided with other waves and it really wasn't that big a deal.


MR. ZAIMAN: Well, don't you... I would disagree with you on that because any empire, any political empire, is created by a pebble.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, all right. I'll tell you what happened.


MR. BERNSTEIN: I was an alderman in Hartford at the time. And I was very unhappy with the slowness with which the Democratic party was proceeding and as far as accepting the liberal concepts that Roosevelt was talking about, and we just seemed to get bogged down into just routine political affairs.

M. ZAIMAN: This was at the end of the Roosevelt era. He had died in 19...

MR. BERNSTEIN: No. You're talking about '46.

MR. ZAIMAN: '46.

MR. BERNSTEIN: So he's still around. Let's see...

MR. ZAIMAN: No, he died.

MR. BERNSTEIN: All right. But what I'm talking about earlier, now the North End of Hartford was really a hot bed of liberal political thinking. Jack Paull who's 00:32:00sitting here will bear this out. There were all sorts of clubs. We were watching legislation in Washington. We were upset by the nine old men in the old Supreme Court who were knocking down the New Deal. We just wanted things to get done and done as fast as we could and so I was not unhappy individually with the people so much as the same people even in the Jewish community who were getting elected and nominated and were going along with what I thought at the time was crass party polities. I was young enough to feel it strongly.

MR. ZAIMAN: When you say we, can you name some of the Jewish people who were with you at that time? Who was we?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Jack, I think if you took every young person, male or female, age 18 to 25 in Hartford, plus some others who were older... I had been president of 00:33:00the Young People's League which was the organization of the Emanuel Synagogue at the time for young people. And as I told you, I was the Youth Chairman for the Zionist organization. I had organized any number of clubs. And then we all gathered at Keney Park, Jack. You were around there yourself, playing tennis occasionally. And we just lived in the park. We didn't really have an organization, but everybody... I see Nate Kagan here and his sister. We just hung around in the park and we didn't need to get out bulletins. We were there. And so it wasn't really an organization. It was just a... We didn't realize what a solid community we had. We don't have this kind of community anymore in Hartford.

MR. ZAIMAN: Was this a Weaver High School based operation?

MR. BERNSTEIN: No. It included all the people in the North End really. Now what 00:34:00happened was that Al Wechsler had been an alderman in Hartford in the third ward and had been in those days, in my opinion, associated with what I, I felt he was associated with the old Zazzaro organization in Hartford.

MR. ZAIMAN: That's Anthony Zazzaro.

MR. BERNSTEIN: That's Tony. Yeah. And I was very-- And so he went off to service and came back a soldier, an alderman who had retired while an alderman and given up his elected position and gone off to war. And he came back and he had this war record with him which was a political asset and anxious to get into the middle of things.

MR. ZAIMAN: He joined John Bailey in forming a law firm, didn't he at that time?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. Now Bailey in the early days was also Zazzaro's boy. He used 00:35:00to be his messenger boy. Now all this kind of polities was very foreign and upsetting to me. I would have nothing to do with Zazzaro or any of those people. I just wouldn't even recognize him. In fact I wouldn't sit with... If you will recall, Jack, when I was in I wouldn't sit in caucus with the Zazzaro, so-called Zazzaro Democrats.

MR. ZAIMAN: Were you recognized as a Spellacy man?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, I admired Thomas Spellacy, but I was also aware of the fact that he was a consummate politician and if he needed Zazzaro to get things done or get political things done, he didn't hesitate. So while I admired him on what I thought his highest level, I wasn't that anxious to be totally associated with him altogether. So that while his Jewish alliance in the North End was with 00:36:00Harold Bordon in the fourth ward and in the twelfth ward it was really Peter Connerton who made all the graves for all the Jews who died in Hartford.

MR. ZAIMAN: Gravestones.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Gravestones. And he was not only the Irish leader, he was the Jewish leader as well.

M. ZAIMAN: I understand he could talk Jewish. Is that so?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. Certain phrases. Bat at any rate, I found myself uncomfortable in either camp fully. And when Al Wechsler came back, Bailey made his break with Spellacy and decided to run Al Wechsler for state senator.

MR- ZAIMAN: And Wilbert Snow for governor.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, that came along later. Meanwhile, the traditional Jewish Democrats of the North End, Harold Bordon with whom was Al Kotchen and a lot of 00:37:00others, nominated Sam Lebon for state Senate. He was the party choice. And I hate to rake up these old things, but I was unhappy with both of them at the time. So I first tried to disassociate myself from this big fight that went on in Hartford, Bailey with Wechsler making alliances throughout the rest of the city against the party organization of Spellacy and Zazzaro.

MR. ZAIMAN: Then the fight in the North End was over the state Senate nomination.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, the fight really was...They were the front because the way it worked under the old system, you elected delegates to the convention, to the city convention, the Democratic convention, and the delegates at the convention 00:38:00separated into districts and they chose a state senator right on the convention floor. You didn't even leave the floor. You just met in your rows. And so the fight was for delegates to the Hartford Democratic city convention.

MR. ZAIMAN: All right. The caucus was held. What happened?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, before the caucus was held because I didn't express any interest in either candidate I was accused by both parties of being an unworthy character. I wasn't a good party man, etc. And it got under my skin. And I also felt my honor was at stake. You know, when you're young, and you're 29 or 30, it's important. So in order to clear myself of any connivance...


MR. ZAIMAN: You introduced a new element in polities - honor, right?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, it didn't last too long, I suppose. But what I did do is at the last minute to make it clear that I wasn't staying out to help one side or another to keep my friends from working for one or the other, I decided, with about two weeks to go in the primary or caucus, to throw in my name with no hope of winning but merely to make it clear that those who agreed with me who didn't think either of these groups deserved our support had somewhere to go. So I threw my name in without any party organization or without a known political figure at the time with me.

MR. ZAlMAN: And the thing ended up in a stalemate, didn't it?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, what happened was that I carried the fourth ward.

MR. ZAIMAN: Which was your ward.

M. BERNSTEIN: My ward, where I lived, by a large number, and the twelfth ward 00:40:00where Lebon and Connerton were supposed to be very strong and Lebon carried the... We voted by paper ballots in those days, only those who lived there. And he carried the ward by only two votes.

MR. ZAIMAN: That's Lebon.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Wechsler running third.

MR. ZAIMAN: Lebon.


MR. ZAIMAN: You ran second.

M. BERNSTEIN: I ran second. I didn't live there. And we had mostly young fellows who weren't and young girls who weren't voters.

MR. ZAIMAN: Who carried the third ward?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, the third went to Wechsler. But the Jewish vote was in the fourth and twelfth by this time. So it really was a peculiar situation. I lost the twelfth ward vote by two votes and Peter Connerton asked for a recount. The winner asked for a recount. Such a close win was a great reflection, damaging 00:41:00reflection on their ability. So we had to recount the ballots.

M. ZAIMAN: How did the recount, how did the recount...?

MR. BERNSTEIN: It came out that way.

MB. ZAIMAN: It came out two votes.

MR. BERNSTEIN: But as a result of this, I had six delegates to the Hartford convention, Hartford Democratic convention, from the fourth ward. I think Jack Paull was one of them.

MR. ZAIMAN: How many did Lebon have? Do you remember?


MR. ZAIMAN: It's really not important.

MR. BERNSTEIN: I can't give you the real number, but Lebon had about 18 and Wechsler had about 16 and I had 6 so neither of them had a majority.

MR. ZAIMAN: All right. How was the thing resolved?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, to give you a little fuller picture, there are three senatorial districts in Hartford.


MR. BERNSTEIN: There were in those days.

MR. ZAIMAN: Right.

MR- BERNSTEIN: One senatorial district, one, the winners were with Bailey. That was Polati and his district which was the downtown east side district. And the 00:42:00other district which was then controlled by Kelly was still with Spellacy. So with those two districts one and one, whoever controlled the North End district would tip the scales two districts to one in the delegate control of the Hartford Democratic party. And that one district was stymied because I had six votes and neither Wechsler nor Lebon had a majority.

MR. ZAIMAN: All right. How did your votes wind up with Mr. Bailey to start the new Democratic era in Connecticut?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Actually I wasn't concerned with any of the people. Spellacy being an old time political leader had declared he was for the unit rule which 00:43:00meant that whoever controlled 51% of the delegates would have, be able to send 100% of the delegates to the state convention under the unit rule, which meant that every group that voted, if you were in the minority you no longer played any part whatsoever in what happened at the convention. Bailey was much shrewder and he immediately announced that he was for, he was against the unit rule. Now he could do that in those days though since then he's been a strong advocate of the unit rule as you know. He could do it then because he was trying to break up the Spellaey empire in Hartford. So he wanted to fracture the Spellacy. So his motives were political as he says in his book. And mine were on an entirely different level. I had no party. I mean I wasn't looking for patronage or 00:44:00anything. And my position was that I couldn't allow these votes to go to the group that wanted the unit rule. Now this brought a lot of problems for us, Jack. For example, I got a call from Chester Bowles whom I admired greatly. He had been the national OPA director. All of us wanted him for governor.

MR. ZAIMAN: He was running for governor that year against Wilbur Snow.

MR. BERNSTEIN: He wanted to be governor and we were all for him. I got a call from him one day in my office. We had a meeting. I don't know. We were all there because I remember there were three or four phones in the office and there were ten people listening in on all the phones. And he called up and he said I haven't met you. He said I heard good things about you but I don't understand how you can be for me and I understand you're going to vote against me. And it 00:45:00was very difficult to explain. I wasn't going to give the votes to Spellacy who was committed to Bowles. And I tried to explain to him on the telephone that we were for him but we were against the unit rule. I don't think I got through to him then, but we became good friends later.

MR. ZAIMAN: Essentially then your votes went to Bailey who supported Wilbur Snow, the professor, Snow won the Democratic state convention. Bowles lost in 1946 and Bailey's empire thus was created. Your votes were of the greatest importance to Bailey in Hartford.

M. BERNSTEIN: My votes were against selecting the chairman of the meeting.

M. ZAIMAN: Well, you're not responsive. Your votes were instrumental in the creation of the Bailey empire in Connecticut, right?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Politics is fascinating. I don't know how much time we have but to show you how little I was thinking of global things as Jack has talked about, 00:46:00I said that we would vote for a chairman of the city convention who was not for the unit rule because we didn't want the chairman ruling on who to recognize and we'd never be heard. So the chairman of the convention that the Bailey forces wanted was Attorney Cornelius Shea. And the chairman of the convention that Spellacy wanted was the town chairman whose name I've forgotten, a very fine gentleman by the way. I liked him immensely, personally. But this was the thing. We did say to Bailey that we would vote for Cornelius Shea on the first vote for chairman. He had to organize the convention. Bailey then went around and gave 00:47:00the impression that our six votes were falling his way. And as proof of it he said to some delegates who were in the ninth and tenth and thirteenth and sixteenth wards who voted after us, if the fourth ward votes this way will you agree to vote this way because our votes controlled the convention. So we all voted for Neil Shea on this principle, that we were against the unit rule whereupon attorneys like John Kelly, Jack Kelly, who had practiced law in Bailey's, with Spellacy when he came out, when he saw how our vote went, he was a Spellacy delegate up to that point, switched and went over to Bailey. John Hennegan who is our postmaster and has been for what, 25 years, 30 years, and has an excellent reputation as a postmaster and head of the, understand now head 00:48:00of the whole Greater Hartford postal area, he was a delegate on the Bailey slate but when he saw how we went he made some sort of deal. He wound up as postmaster subsequently.

MR. ZAIMAN: That's how Hennegan became postmaster. He was a Spellacy nan who wound up with Bailey.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. All of these other votes began to leave the Spellacy group after they saw what we were doing. And we were not voting for Bailey. And we certainly weren't voting for Wechsler for state Senate.

M. ZAIMAN: Now you're proving everything I said that these votes had great importance.

MR. BERNSTEIN: But not because of any design. I was just a babe in the woods in this great big political battle that turned Connecticut topsy-turvy, and I hadn't the slightest idea of what I was doing.

MR. ZAIMAN: All right. Now let's go one step further. 1948. That was the year 00:49:00Abe Ribicoff first ran for United States Representative. And I think there is a story that before John Bailey asked Ribicoff to become the nominee and thus created Ribicoff's career, he asked you to run for Congress. Is that so?

MR. BERNSTEIN: That is true. I always like to kid about myself that I turned this down and that Kid Ribicoff took the job.

MR. ZAIMAN: So that not only has he created Bailey by turning down the congressional thing in '48 which he would have won, he created Ribicoff. All right. What have you done since then politically? Weren't you Deputy Secretary of the State once?

M. BERNSTEIN: Yes. I served. As a matter of fact I will say this for John Bailey. He did mend a lot of fences. I wasn't his personal friend until afterward. But he asked me to serve as the law clerk of the Judiciary Committee 00:50:00and I got a lot of training on the state level and some recognition. And I did serve there. And then Ella Grasso asked me to be her Deputy Secretary of State. And prior to that when Abe Ribicoff was governor, he appointed me to be judge of the Bloomfield Town Court. And I did serve for about 5 years when we used to have...

MR. ZAIMAN: In gratitude for you not running for Congress, I presume.

MR. BERNSTEIN: No. I... It just... Who else could he have appointed in Bloomfield. I probably was the only fellow he knew. No, as a matter of fact when he ran for Congress, I operated and ran his first headquarters on Main Street because I had had this little political experience and he had never run a campaign of his own. And so I had worked very closely with Abe Ribicoff in all his campaigns at his headquarters at one time or another.


MR. ZAIMAN: When did you move from Hartford to Bloomfield?

MR. BERNSTEIN: In 1950 my wife thought that I could remain in politics with all this turmoil going on day in and day out and be happy in politics and move to the Hotel Bond which was the only hotel in town at the time because I wasn't home nights. And I finally agreed with her. I had enough of this. I was getting over organized with all these activities. And I decided to move to Bloomfield and live quietly at the early age of whatever it was and more or less be retired.

MR. ZAIMAN: And your retirement then proceeded immediately with you becoming an active Democrat in Bloomfield and participated in the switch, the historic switch of Bloomfield from a Republican to a Democratic town. Is that right?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, I also was appointed a delegate to the Constitutional 00:52:00Convention of 1965 from Bloomfield and Windsor. We were allotted one delegate.

MR. ZAIMAN: That's the convention that reapportioned the General Assembly. That's its main purpose.

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, no. It was the first Constitutional Convention of the State of Connecticut, successful one, since 1818.

M. ZAIMAN: Right. But its main purpose was to reapportion the General Assembly as ordered by a federal court.

MR. BERNSTEIN: I think that's what led to calling the convention.

MR. ZAIMAN: Right.

MR. BERNSTEIN: We had lots of things in mind.

MR. ZAIMAN: Do you recall the incident... This name has not been mentioned, Supreme, former Supreme Court Justice Abraham S. Bordon of West Hartford also was a delegate to that convention, wasn't he?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. Yes, he was, and a great community figure in Hartford and a great credit to Hartford.


MR. ZAIMAN: Right. Do you remember the incident at the Constitutional Convention when Judge Bordon and Judge Raymond E. Baldwin and the greatest brains, the greatest legal brains in the judgeship units of the state, were delegated to modernize the preamble to the state Constitution? And they sat down and worked on this for weeks, I understand, word for word. And when they finally completed their task they announced they could not improve on the language of the 1818 Constitution, the preamble to it, and did nothing, left it as it is. Is that true?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Well, to give you an idea of it, at our meeting when they announced that they were leaving it alone, I suggested, I asked one of the justices why we didn't change a phrase that I thought was antiquated in the old Constitution and had, as far as I was concerned, no meaning that I could 00:54:00discover. And I asked them why we couldn't just eliminate it. And Justice P. B. O'Sullivan who was on this commission said to me, Councilor, he said, I don't know what it means. I don't think anybody else knows what it means. But it's been there for 150 years. We've never had a case on it in our courts. And I don't know what it will mean if we cut it out. It might have some significance. So he said we're leaving it alone. So it was a very cautious group who reviewed the preamble.

MR. ZAIMAN: Did you enjoy your experience with the Constitutional Convention for six months? It was six months, wasn't it?

MR. BERNSTEIN: It was one of the inest experiences I had. And I had the privilege of introducing into our state Constitution something we always thought was there but wasn't, that is that there shall always be a free public 00:55:00educational system in Connecticut.

MR. ZAIMAN: And there also was a freedom of religion thing put in, wasn't there?

MR. BERNSTEIN: Yes. But I was given the privilege because I had sponsored this change in the Constitution. We had always prided ourselves from the earliest colonial days that we had free schools. But it was not in the Constitution. And I was recognized on the final day because there were three or four of us on this committee who said we wouldn't vote for other things unless it was spelled right out.