“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.”