Monday, January 11, 2016

Trenton Families: Saperstein

The Saperstein Family

Stan Saperstein

The Saperstein family is one of the original South Trenton families.

Meyer Saperstein and his wife Anna arrived in Trenton sometime around 1900. Meyer started with a cart and horse to collect metal scraps. Eventually, he opened a scrap yard on New Street, right next to Union Street’s Anschei Emes, in the heart of South Trenton,  after 1900.

By 1915 extracted parts and metals from wrecked cars. Eventually, he opened Trenton Auto Parts. Meyer sold used auto parts along with scrap metal. The business eventually went to my father Samuel and my Uncle Jacob (Jack). Jack, born in 1904 was one of eight children. Sam was the youngest.

The brothers were Albert the oldest and owner of a pool hall; Simon who started his own scrap metal business; Joseph (Jumbo) was a bootlegger in the 1920s era and then a bookie. He had a luncheonette on Market Street. Edward married into a Maine lumber family and built up a very successful building supply business in Waterville Maine. Solomon (Spotty) and his wife Estelle owned Kalen’s fine Arts, a Trenton land mark Framing and Art studio. Esther was the Sister.

Trenton Auto Parts passed to my father and Jack after Meyer died in 1950. Both of them entered the business at a young age about 16 years old.
 The business did well in the 1920s. Both My father Sam and Jack learned how to rebuild parts. Jack specialized in transmissions and rears. He could fix any kind. Sam rebuilt carburetors generators alternators and other small parts. During the thirties they almost starved in the great Depression. My father used to tell stories of how they ate spaghetti every day and were lucky to get it. WWII led to boom years with scrap metal bringing big prices and with no cars being manufactured, the parts business boomed. From that time on the business did well.

My father opened Five Points Auto Parts on Warren St. but it was destroyed in a fire in 1957. In the sixties, the Trenton’s Urban Renewal Project of Trenton took the original location on New Street.
 I spent the summer of 1966 helping move the business to Southard Street where it remained until it closed with Jack’s death at age 86 in 1990. My father had been disabled by a stroke a few years before. He died at the age of 79. The business at that time was the oldest auto parts store in Trenton.
When I was old enough, I played in the Scrap Yard; got filthy; was was seventh heaven.  My cousin Jean Finkle, Jack’s Daughter, said she did the same thing. She is about 15 years older than me. Jack had four daughters.
Jack and my father were business opposites Jack was a no nonsense business man and my father would give the store away. Between the two they tempered each other. Jack was very generous to the family. He would do anything for his daughters and treated my brother and I like sons. He took me fishing many times. When my brother Bob showed an interest in pool, Jack took him under his wing. Jack played pool on a pro level learning in his Uncle Al’s pool hall. Jack was also an antique glass collector. My father was a table tennis champion and taught my brother who to this day is a nationally ranked player. He also coached all our sports teams at the JCC and was voted Man of the Year.

My Uncle Spotty took over Kalen’s Fine Arts with his wife Estela when her parents passed on. The store was on South Broad Street. They sold high end art and did much of Trenton’s framing. They expanded the store to Princeton at Palmer Square and to Morrisville. As Trenton deteriorated they closed the Trenton store. They closed the Princeton location as they got older and ended up with the Morrisville store just before they retired. My bother learned framing from Spotty and I learned to restore Gesso frames.

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