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A Bartending Bubba

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009.

“At my age, you don’t want to do anything if its not fun,” said Rose Brudno as she got ready for her interview at the StoryCorps East MobileBooth in Akron, Ohio.

Luckily, Rose seemed to have a pretty good time remembering her many bartending years with her grandson Joshua during their interview. After divorcing her husband in the 1950s, Rose moved to Akron with her three kids and took over the Zanzabar, a tavern in a working-class African American neighborhood where most of the patrons were employed by Akron’s rubber industry. Rose, a white Jewish woman from Cleveland, stood out for more reasons than one. Open 21 hours a day, the bar was filled at 5:00 a.m. with men from the rubber-factory night-shift, singing and dancing and breakfasting at the bar.


The Zanzabar became a center of political activism in Akron. Rose started organizing the hospital workers union, and she was active in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests. Rose was arrested on several occasions for peacefully protesting in Washington D.C. and Selma, Alabama. When a so-called riot broke out in the neighborhood, Rose made sure the protesting kids had sodas and sandwiches.

After trying to get her barmaids to unionize on their own, Rose organized profit-sharing with her employees. She saved all the year’s pennies to rent a summer cottage for Zanzabar employees and their families. Rose was even known for locking up her patron’s paychecks so they couldn’t drink their salary away.


Rose, her grandson Joshua, and his wife and daughter have lived together for the past 10 years. “I believe that grandparents and great-grandparents are supposed to be close to us, to be part of our lives… I am so glad my daughter Amelia Rose has this time with her great-grandmother,” says Josh. As a filmmaker, Josh has been filming “Bubba” (the Yiddish term for grandma), and has put together a documentary about Rose’s life story called the “Bubba Briefs.”

2 Responses to “A Bartending Bubba”

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  • I loved this story. The story and the link to the trailer for the film only whets my appetite to see the finished film of someone who apparently was not only undaunted by difficult economic circumstances but ended up responding to her community in empowering fashion. I hope the grandson some day distributes the film our way to the Olympia Film Society theater.

    Comment from Dick Meyer on September 20, 2009 at 7:52 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • Dear Chaela,
    This blog’s a beaut. Thanks for shining a spotlight on my Bubba’s story. I am grateful to You and StoryCorps for seeing the value in the yarns of regular folks like Rose.

    In Colonial Times, the Spaniards melted precious Incan art into gold bricks that could be more easily shipped across the sea. In the 20th Century, oil and lumber barons laid waste to huge swaths of rainforest, destroying precious biodiversity.

    Sometimes it takes an enlightened mind to see what is truly precious in this world, and you folks at StoryCorps have that vision. These tales will become exponentially more valuable with the passage of time. Thank you for not trampling over them in search of fool’s gold.

    Josh Gippin
    Joshua Tree Video Productions

    Comment from Joshua Gippin on September 18, 2009 at 9:34 am - Reply to this Comment

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