About PhilTalks and Phil Schneider
Phil Schneider was born in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York, to his Bessie and David Schneider, who had both immigrated from Russia, then met and married in Brooklyn.
Phil grew up in Crown Heights in the 1920s and 1930s, then in 1942 signed up for the US Air Force hoping to become a pilot, but his vision meant he became a Morse code operator instead. He served in the Flying Tigers under the command of General Chenault, stationed in occupied China until the end of World War II.
He came home and set up life as an adventurous bachelor, until he settled down at the age of 50 with Eileen Schneider. They had one daughter, Dana, who I was lucky enough to marry in 2012. Phil was part of the deal.
When I first sat with Phil at the Tea Lounge in 2011, he told me a great story, (but I don’t remember what it was!). Since then, we’ve shared plenty of great stories in all sorts of settings. Whether he’s talking about growing up in Crown Heights during the Great Depression, his experience in the isolation and deprivation of occupied China in WWII, or his adventures in the 1950s and 1960s New York, I’ve always found his stories fascinating, and I didn’t want to forget them, so I started recording him.
At first, I would surreptitiously record Phil using my phone, but eventually I asked his permission. He didn’t slow down one bit. He likes it when I do things with “the machine” (as he generally refers to my cell phone). And he started letting me ask him specific questions.
Once I was recording him for a while, I explained to him that I would like to publish the stories on the Internet. So that other people can find them on their machines. Phil agreed even though he at times finds the Internet puzzling.
So, if you are intrigued by World War II, Jewish life in Brooklyn or life before refrigerators, there will probably be a PhilTalk that interests you. Sometimes you will hear someone besides Phil on a recording, but mostly it’s just him and his stories, not full-length interviews. In some cases, Phil uses different language than I would to describe things, but in the interests of letting him tell his stories, I don’t change his words. I often trim his stories down into short clips, since that’s how our conversations go.
We’re posting transcriptions in the interest of having accessible content. If you spot an error in transcriptions or have questions or opinions, let us know in the comments.
Enjoy listening to PhilTalks!