History of the David and Gussie Rogol and Lillie and Bennie Grablowsky Family in Williston, South Carolina

(Compiled by the children of Lillie and Bennie Grablowsky – summer 2018)

This history is based on written histories by Lillie Rogol Grablowsky, Becky Rogol Winter, Sam Rogol, Will Anchel, Brian Rogol and the memories and recollections of the children of Lillie and Bennie Grablowsky. 

 

Williston, South Carolina was the home of the Rogol family beginning around 1911 when David Rogol married Gussie Roseman and purchased a small business on Main Street in Williston, which he ran for over 40 years. 

Gussie Roseman was born in 1887 and was originally from a small town, Kobryn, Poland. She came to the United States with her parents, one or two brothers and three sisters. Her family settled in Augusta, Georgia. Supposedly, her father, Mottel Roseman, was known as the Jewish Columbus in Augusta because he was the first orthodox Jew to settle his family there. It is written that Mottel’s wife must have died when she was young because she was not remembered by her grandchildren. At some point, Gussie left Augusta and moved to New York to work. 

Gussie’s sister, Ida Roseman Grossman, settled in Pittsburg, PA, and her sister Jennie Roseman Shelkoff settled in Greenwood, SC. The families visited at least once a year. Only Gussie’s youngest sister, Ida Roseman Lubar, stayed in New York and married there. The Lubars owned an umbrella factory and were visited by Gussie’s husband, David Rogol, in later years when he went north to visit. Her brother, Alec Roseman, stayed in Augusta and died suddenly at an early age while attending religious services on a Saturday morning. According to handwritten notes by Sam Rogol, the other brother returned to Europe.

David Rogol was born in 1883 in a small town, Deveneschuk (or Jevinischuk), close to Vilna, Lithuania. Due to shifting borders, different written histories refer to this as either Poland or Russia. He was the youngest son of Oscar (Osher) and Vichnah Romanov Rogol. Oscar Rogol (David’s father) was a tailor and died when he was in his 30’s. His wife remarried and continued to live in Russia until her death in 1939, when she was in her late 90’s. 

There is some discrepancy about when David came to America and whether he came with his brother, Meyer. We believe he came around the age of 16, which would put this at the end of the 19th century or beginning of the 20th century. Bernie Grablowsky remembers interviewing his grandfather, David Rogol, for a project and was told that David initially went to England for a couple of years before coming to the United States. Initially he lived in New York in the home of his older sister, Hanna or Hannah (Anna in English) Ittle Rogol who was married to Morris Anchel. David’s older brother, Meyer Rogol, went directly to Ansonia, Connecticut after going through the port in New York because he brought over the children of his wife’s sister who was already living in Ansonia. He later settled in Seymour, Connecticut.

Early on, David Rogol made a living through hat making and peddling in New York. He had a twisted finger which was supposedly injured while working in the headwear factory of his brother-in-law. In stories told to us and some recorded in histories, our grandfather, David Rogol, had some adventures peddling between Chicago and New York. 

According to a history written by Rebecca Rogol Winter and verified by a history written by Brian Rogol, David and Gussie met while Gussie was working as a seamstress in New York. 

Gussie and David married in Augusta, Georgia on February 15, 1911. At that time, Mr. Daitch, a businessman from Augusta, GA, had a dry goods business for sale in Williston, South Carolina, and money was gathered together to purchase the business from Mr. Daitch. David Rogol ran this business, which sold overalls, other workmen’s clothes and a variety of other apparel, for over 40 years on Main Street. 

Saturday was the busiest day for businesses when people came to town to visit and shop. Stores stayed open until midnight, and the streets stayed crowded so you had to weave in and out among the people. Gussie Rogol worked in the store, too, so when the children got sleepy, Gussie made pallets under the counters for the children to sleep until it was time to close the store.

Eventually, David Rogol sold the business to Bennie and Lillie Grablowsky, and he worked on weekdays, but not Saturdays. In 1962, someone bought the building where Rogol’s store, later named B & L operated, and David Rogol retired completely at this point. 

 

CHILDREN OF DAVID AND GUSSIE ROGOL

They had four children, one who died in infancy as noted on a stone in the cemetery in Augusta, Georgia where the family is buried. The other three children graduated as either Valedictorian or Salutatorian of Williston-Elko High School. The oldest was Sam Rogol (born: 5-15-14; married Lillian Katz in 1941) who graduated from undergraduate school at Duke University, and then attended law school there for one year, before transferring to the law school at The University of South Carolina since he planned to practice in South Carolina. After school, he settled in Darlington, South Carolina and had two adopted children – Martha Rogol Kramer and Marshall Rogol. Lillie Grablowsky (born: 12- 13-15; married Bennie Grablowsky on 9-13-38) graduated from Winthrop College with a music degree and a minor in French and had three children – Oscar Grablowsky, Bernie Grablowsky and Verne Grablowsky Royal. Rebecca Rogol (born 9-2-1918; married Sam Winter 3-31-40) had three children – Walter Winter, Morton Winter, and Carol Winter. Becky graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in business and settled in Columbia, South Carolina.

After college, Lillie Rogol taught third grade in McCall, South Carolina for $70 a month. The following year she taught private piano lessons in a town ten miles away and commuted by car daily.

Sam Rogol practiced law in Darlington, SC until he moved to Florida after he retired.  His son, Marshall Rogol, is still living in Florence, SC, and his daughter Martha Rogol Kramer lives in Santa Monica, CA.

Becky Rogol lived in Columbia, SC, with her husband and three children until she moved to Wilmington, NC to be near her son Walter Winter. She has a son, Morton Winter, who lives in Houston, Texas. She lost her daughter, Carol Winter, in an airplane crash in 1980.

 

HOUSING IN WILLISTON

The first house that David and Gussie bought was next door Dr. Smith’s house and office on Springfield Road, and it is reported that this made Gussie more comfortable being able to take the children to the doctor very quickly.

In 1920, David Rogol bought a downtown two story brick building on Main Street in Williston, and the family lived on the upper floor, and the lower floor was rented to someone who had a grocery store.  Our mother used to tell us that they eventually had to move because the three children made too much noise for the store below. This is because their home was a place for teen-age friends to meet and dance, and there were always cookies and lemonade. 

There may have been other residences, but the one that is remembered by the family was a two story brick house at 606 Church Street, which was purchased in 1937 from J. Austin Latimer, who became the Assistant to the Postmaster General of the US. It was on a large lot, and chickens were raised in the back part of the backyard to provide kosher meat. The house was large for that time with a large front porch. There were four bedrooms upstairs and the living room, dining room, breakfast room and kitchen were downstairs. An early refrigerator was kept cold with ice. An ice truck came by every morning to sell ice. As a child, Verne remembers this ice chest on the porch-like structure adjacent to the kitchen, leading to the backyard.

 

A GLIMPSE INTO THE EARLY LIFE OF THE ROGOL FAMILY IN WILLISTON

As mentioned earlier, Gussie Rogol was a seamstress in New York when she met our grandfather. My grandmother made most, if not all, of the clothes of her children and also made dresses for cousins when they came to visit during the summer. She could not follow written directions, but could look at a pattern and figure it out herself. She also did various types of handiwork such as crocheting and embroidery. She never let our mother, Lillie, wear blue – only yellow, red or pink. She took great pride in her sewing talent. Verne remembers playing with the old fashioned sewing machine in an upper level sewing room in her grandparent’s home in Williston.

Although our grandfather, David Rogol, was a very religious man who davened at least twice a day and said the hamotzi before eating, he did not keep strictly kosher until later in life, but there were always two sets of dishes – one for milk and one for meat. After the three children married, David Rogol wanted a more kosher home so he bought new meat dishes. He made regular trips to Augusta to buy kosher meat and have chickens slaughtered. They raised chickens in the back area of their yard and took them alive in crates to Augusta for slaughtering. 

The religious education of the Rogol children was limited. Two spinster ladies, the Misses Rich had a Sunday school in their home in Blackville, SC and taught children from surrounding towns. As written by our Aunt Becky, this schooling did not last very long because our grandfather was not pleased with the teaching which was more of a reform nature. One Sunday a month a Rabbi from Sumter, SC would hold reform type services in Blackville, SC in a movie theater which was owned by the Misses Rich’s brother-in-law.  Sam Rogol became a Bar Mitzvah in the strictly orthodox Adas Yeshuron Shul in Augusta, GA. 

The Rogol family observed all of the major holidays, and the children did not attend secular school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. 

Our Aunt Becky and our mother remembered a Buick touring car which had curtains you could snap on if it started to rain. It had manually operated windshield wipers and a running board on each side. This car was used for going to Augusta and to surrounding towns in South Carolina. It took all day for a trip to Augusta, Georgia. Our grandfather took a chauffeur to help with the driving and any car trouble along the way. We have pictures of this car or a similar one. Verne particularly remembers playing with cousins on the running boards.

Gussie was also an excellent cook. She cooked with a wood stove and kept it, even after they bought an electric one. We all remember the delicious potatoes with onions that our grandmother made, a tradition carried through by our mother and our sister-in-law, Helene. 

Our mother wrote that she remembered the bearded men who came to collect for Jewish charities when she was young. Their house served as the headquarters for them where they spent the night and ate meals while they visited others in the county.  They would get off the train that ran through the middle of town and go directly to Rogol’s Store. After the men collected from the Jewish people in town, David Rogol would take them to Barnwell, and someone from there would take them to another small town.

When Lillie, Becky and Sam were children, there were several Jewish families in Williston, all in the mercantile business. Most did not stay longer than a year. The Garbers were a Jewish family from the same town in Poland as Gussie. Dot Garber was Lillie’s closest friend while growing up.

The Rogol house on Church Street always had electricity as our mother remembers it. Each room had a single light bulb suspended from the ceiling in the center of the room, and you turned on the light by pulling the string. Fireplaces were in every room, and kindling wood was piled nearby to start the fire.

Cotton was the big crop during the fall. Our mother remembers seeing wagons of baled cotton lined up for blocks to be unloaded at the freight depot to be shipped all over the United States. As children, Oscar, Bernie and Verne remember the Charleston-Hamburg railroad line through the center of town, and a dock owned by the Garbers with bales of cotton on it. We used to play on the railroad tracks, wave at the conductors, and also play on the dock. The train tracks were removed in the 1990’s.

Williston was also the asparagus center of the south at some point and sometimes two or three freight carloads were shipped in a day.

A passenger train came to town twice a day en route from Charleston to Augusta.

Within 5 years of this writing, one of the Grablowsky children was told that in 1928 or 1929 David Rogol, their grandfather, donated $5000 to the fund for building the First Baptist Church in Williston. When asked why he would do this since he was Jewish, he replied that he was a part of this community.

David Rogol acquired quite a lot of money, probably much of it in the stock market. Unfortunately, when David and Gussie were in a traffic accident in front of their home during the fall of 1956, a significant amount of money was spent on the acute and long-term care of Gussie Rogol, who was never the same after the accident. David Rogol did not believe in having insurance at the time.  Our grandmother had nurses around the clock, and the dining room was converted to her bedroom where she was cared for until she died on June 19, 1963. Our grandfather continued to live in this house until he died of a sudden heart attack 8 months (February 29, 1964) later at the age of 82. The house on Church Street was sold in 1964 for $15,500 to Robert Eley, based on a contract of sale from family files. 

 

BENNIE AND LILLIE (ROGOL) GRABLOWSKY

Lillie actually met Bennie Grablowsky at an AZA event in Augusta when she was 14 years old. She met him again in 1936, and they were married two years later in an outdoor ceremony at the Rogol home. Rabbi Karesh performed the ceremony, and it was apparently a wedding to be remembered. We can recall people telling us that they went to our parent’s wedding, and how spectacular it was. They lived with David and Gussie Rogol for a few months until they rented a small house on East Main Street for about a year, and then bought the house next door at 9 East Main Street where they lived until 1957. At that time they built a house at 604 Springfield Road. 

When Lillie Rogol married Bennie Grablowsky, David Rogol helped them set up a variety store called Bennys 5¢& 10¢ store on Main Street in Williston.  In a few years Lillie and Bennie rented the adjoining building and opened a general merchandise store named Bennys, adjacent to the 5¢& 10¢ store. These stores were connected through an archway in the center part of the building. This business operated for over 40 years, as well. 

All of the Grablowsky children worked in the store at various times. We particularly remember Christmas Eve, which was the busiest day of the year in the store. The store was usually open until midnight for everyone to finish their Christmas shopping. Around dinnertime, once the Dairy Bar was opened, Verne would take orders for the clerks for dinner, go to the Dairy Bar to pick up the food, and the employees would take turns at the back of the store eating their dinner. 

Bennie and Lillie would tally the receipts and deposits from the week on Sunday evenings. They would lock the door while they were doing this accounting. Verne particularly remembers being in charge of counting the cash and categorizing the bills. Because of the nature of the business, Bennie and Lillie would bring home silver dollars, buffalo/Indianhead nickels, zinc 1943 pennies, and other old coins to be saved. The collection of silver dollars was split among the Grablowsky children, each receiving over 100 silver dollars from their mother.

Williston was a small town of about 800 people until the early 1950’s when construction of the Savannah River Plant brought an influx of people, and the town peaked at about 10,000 people. When construction was completed, many people left for other jobs, but many also stayed to work at DuPont, leaving a population of about 3700. (The population in 2016 is recorded as about 2900.) There were several Jewish families in Williston when the Rogol children were growing up (Garbers, Wengrows). In later years there were just the Grablowsky and Gaeser families, and the Garbers, who did not practice Judaism.

 

THE CHILDREN OF BENNIE AND LILLIE GRABLOWSKY

Bennie and Lillie had three children – Oscar born in 1939, Bernie born in 1944, and Verne, born in 1950. They always had lots of toys to play with from their parent’s store and lots of friends. They all excelled in school, following the tradition of graduating as either Valedictorian or Salutatorian.  They were all completely immersed in the community with involvement in sports, music, dance, and other community events and activities. Lifelong friends were established by all three children. The entire family was fully integrated into all aspects of social life in Williston. Verne even used to go to summer Bible school with friends, particularly at the Presbyterian Church. Perhaps it was just one of the events to keep her busy. A town swimming pool was built at the location of the library and what used to be the old school. Verne spent most summer days at this pool when she was not at camp. It was a walk or a bicycle ride away from the home on Springfield Road.

The school that Lillie Grablowsky and her siblings attended on Springfield Road is the same one where her sons Oscar and Bernie began their school years. In 1930’s Williston-Elko High School was built as part of the Works Progress Administration project on the east side of town on Main Street, and in the 1950’s an elementary and middle school was built adjacent to that. Around the time that Lillie Grablowsky was moving to Virginia Beach, VA, she set up an annual scholarship for the high school valedictorian. 

All three Grablowsky children were heavily influenced by the time they spent at Camp Blue Star in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They were introduced to a community of other Jews and other aspects of Judaism that may not have been available to them. They remain friends with many of those Blue Star campers. This Jewish camping experience may have been a major influence in the choice of Oscar, Bernie and Verne to all marry Jewish spouses after growing up in a small southern town with very few Jewish friends. 

For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Bennie Grablowsky would go to Augusta, GA and stay with his parents who were very religious and would walk to synagogue. Once they became a Bar Mitzvah, Oscar and Bernie went to Augusta with their father for the High Holy Days. Lillie and the children who did not go to Augusta stayed in Williston to celebrate with their grandparents, Gussie and David Rogol. Verne has a vivid memory of walking from the Grablowsky house to her grandparent’s house for these holiday dinners. She would skip and run and climb onto low walls that lined some of the yards. Our grandmother would make delicious meals. After our grandparents died, all of the major Jewish holidays were celebrated at our home. Our Passover Seders were mostly read in Hebrew by our father.

We remember celebrating Chanukah, Passover and the High Holy Days, but not Shabbat because it was a major workday since it was the busiest day of the week. The tradition of not attending secular school on the Jewish holidays was maintained for the children of Lillie and Bennie Grablowsky. On Passover, our mother, Lillie Grablowsky, would purchase very small bottles of Manischewitz wine and matzah and make up gift bags for many of our non-Jewish friends in town during Passover. Bernie and Oscar ate three meals each day at the Rogol home during Passover. When Verne was in school, her mother picked her up every day for lunch during Passover so she could eat at home. Although we did not keep Kosher, our parents had a different set of dishes for Passover, which they used each year.

Both Oscar and Bernie became a Bar Mitzvah at a ceremony in Aiken, South Carolina, but Verne did not become a Bat Mitzvah or learn Hebrew until age 58 in 2008. Bernie and Oscar went to Sunday School in Augusta, then later in Aiken, South Carolina until their Bar Mitzvah. Verne irregularly and reluctantly attended Sunday school in Aiken.

Lillie did not particularly enjoy cooking, but we always had a hot meal for dinner. We have memories of country fried steak, fried chicken, lots of hamburgers and French fries and a roasted chicken or roast beef for Sunday lunch. Although our mother did not hesitate to open canned peas or other vegetables, she did make fresh corn, green beans and butterbeans. Once the Dairy Bar opened, we would often eat hamburgers and fried chicken from there and sometimes we ate there on Sundays. 

Particularly at the Springfield Road house, people would leave fresh cantaloupes, watermelons, squash, peaches and other homegrown vegetables on our doorstep. It was a treat to see what was there, and the fruits and vegetables were particularly tasty. We also had fresh baked cakes and pies dropped off at our house. There was one person in particular who made Bernie’s favorite coconut cake that seemed like it was a mile high, from a child’s viewpoint. He still remembers it as “the best.”

Lillie always worked in the store, but at the end of the school day she picked up Verne from school and, depending on Verne’s age, Lillie either returned to work or stayed home. Our parents employed help to stay with the children when they were young. In particular, Oscar and Bernie remember “Sister” who cared for them as children, but died soon after Verne was born. Annie was a memorable sitter for Verne, and on Saturdays Annie made her small hamburgers with onions, and they practiced the latest dance moves.

When Bernie was in high school, Verne remembers a stop at the drugstore on the way home from school so Bernie could purchase a book to read that day. We would often get carbonated fountain sodas, fresh squeezed lemonade or hamburgers during these stops. Smith’s drugstore was also a major hangout for adults and children where they would drink milkshakes, sodas and read comic books. This drugstore was originally down the street from Bennys, but moved to a new strip mall that was built across the railroad tracks.

When the Grablowsky family lived on East Main Street, the children played up and down the street with other children who lived on the block. We could ride our bikes and even walk to our parent’s store. We were not pushed, but encouraged to participate in whatever activity we wanted to try. The children don’t ever remember being disciplined by either parent. 

At this house there was a large pecan tree in the backyard. We would gather the pecans and help with cracking them to get out the pecan nut. On summer evenings, our mother would often sit in one of our neighbors’ yards and shell butterbeans, string beans or crack open pecans.

There was one indoor movie theater and a drive-in theater in Williston. On Saturdays we went to the indoor theater where Westerns were the main type of show, and there were double features. The shows were also preceded by the Movie Tone news of the week. Around 1955 -1957, the cost of a show was 11 cents. 

Lillie enjoyed gardening, and we had beautiful flowers in several gardens in the Springfield Road house. Verne often took roses, large and colorful tulips, azaleas, and irises of many colors to her teachers. Lillie also played bridge regularly and was extremely social. Bennie used to leave for work early to meet other men at the drugstore and later the motel to have morning coffee and get the latest news.

We often visited our Grablowsky grandparents in Augusta, Georgia on Sundays. We would always go by the deli to get corned beef and other delicacies. Sometimes we would see a movie, go to a circus, or an ice skating exhibition. We would often have dinner at Green’s, which was a drive-in restaurant where you ordered from your car, and the food was delivered to the car. We also remember visiting family in Ninety Six, SC, Columbia SC, and Darlington, SC.

 Bennie Grablowsky suffered with Parkinson’s Disease, diagnosed in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. He had also had a type of arthritis or ankylosing spondilitis, which began in his 20’s. Our mother ran the business for many years while our father was homebound. He died in 1984.

Our mother remained very active in Williston after our father’s death, and we would all go to visit at least once a year at the house on Springfield Road. She moved to Virginia Beach in 1990 where her son Bernie and his family lived. She died from ovarian cancer in the year 2000.

 

Oscar Grablowsky

Oscar was apparently a very active young boy. He has a report card where his only issue was his restlessness. He became very good at just about every sport and played on the first string of the high school teams. Oscar went to Emory University and then to Tulane Medical School with a residency in Proctology at Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, entering practice in Atlanta in 1972, where he was the first Board certified Colon and Rectal Surgeon in Atlanta. 

He has two children, Marc (born: 6-6-68), who lives in Atlanta, GA and Dena (born:12-26-72), who currently lives in Santa Monica, CA. Oscar lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife Karen Caldwell Korsower. 

 

Bernie Grablowsky

Bernie was extremely active in the boy scouts, earning 64 badges and, at that time, the first Boy Scout in the region to earn the Ner Tamid award. He was also an Eagle Scout, the highest achievement of rank in the Boy Scouts. He has his badges on his Boy Scout sash, and this is framed and on display in his house. He also collected just about anything possible, including coins and stamps. Bernie also enjoyed gardening, and had a cactus garden in our backyard on Springfield Road. He was limited in playing sports because he had rheumatic fever one summer and stayed on medication with physical restrictions for many years.

Bernie married Helene Frank from Atlanta, Georgia. He got his undergraduate and master’s degree in Civil Engineering and Industrial Management from Georgia Tech. After graduation from Georgia Tech, he took a position at Monsanto, and later went to Ohio State University where he completed a Ph.D. in finance. He moved to Virginia Beach, initially to teach at Old Dominion University. While working there, he began acquiring real estate and later started a property management business, which is now a large and prosperous company called United Property Associates. 

They have three daughters.  Gayle (born: 2-23-71), who married Roye Greenzaid and later divorced, has two children (Meagan: born 6-3-99 and Leah: born 2-2-04). Gayle is a school teacher and lives in Virginia Beach, VA. Allison (born: 9-17-75) married Albert Moyal in 2006. She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland and has two children (Sophie: born 5-31-08 and Maya: born 9-28-10) and works for the U.S. Government.  His daughter Debra (born: 5-23-78) married Iain Young in 2007 and works in the property management business with her parents, Helene and Bernie. She has two children, Alex (born: 5-17-12) and Blake (born: 8-23-14). Bernie lives in Virginia Beach, VA. 

 

Verne Grablowsky Royal

Verne was a cheerleader and baton twirler and was involved in many school clubs and took all types of dance lessons as a young child.

Verne is married to Edward Royal from Birmingham, Alabama. They have lived in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan since 1978 after going there for Ed to complete a residency in Oral Surgery at Sinai Hospital. Verne went to The University of Florida for her freshman year, then transferred to Tulane University to be with her future husband, and has her BA in English from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. She has two Master’s degrees in Special Education from UAB, a Master’s of Speech-Language Pathology from Wayne State University and a Masters of Health Services Administration from the University of Detroit-Mercy. After spending 20 years working in healthcare, she now does career consulting on a part-time basis. They have one daughter, Jamie Royal (born: 7-19-83) who lives in New York City with her husband Chris Ferrari and their children, Eli (born: 8-12-14), Milly (born: 11-9-16), and Mac (born: 7-20-18).

All three children of Lillie and Bennie have stayed in contact with many of their Williston friends and have attended several high school reunions.

 

The Jewish Merchant Project is supported by the generosity of the Norman and Gerry Sue Arnold Foundation and the Stanley B. Farbstein Endowment at the Coastal Community Foundation. Longtime members of the JHSSC, Mr. Arnold obm, a merchant himself, and Mr. Farbstein obm were both children of South Carolina Jewish merchants.

JHSSC Office
Sylvia Vlosky Yaschik Jewish Studies Center
96 Wentworth Street
Charleston, SC 29424
Phone: 843 953 3918
Email: jhssc2020@gmail.com