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IW: ...Sam Cheiffetz at his home on 15 Spruce Lane in West Hartford. This is the 29th of November, 1972. Mr. Cheiffetz has lived in the community for the past 65 years and has been active in the paper business for many many years. He has recently retired. Sam, can you tell us a little bit about where you were born?

SC: Well, I was born in Russia. I told you that before. And as far as not the city or the town but we call it the small town of Yashencovitz. Now, you go ahead and spell it.

IW: Say that again.

SC: Well, let me ask you this question. Is it necessary to know the town where I was born? Probably it's out of existence. You can spell it, Yashencovitz, the 00:01:00best way you possibly can.

IW: Do you remember something about that town?

SC: That's right. I went to cheder there. I went to cheder. As a matter of fact in the winter time I used to have a lentern, a lenterne.

IW: Did you have brothers and sisters at that time?

SC: That's right. The youngest one was, no, my brother, Harry, was born in this country in 1908. Well, Simon was about two or three. My sister, Celia, of course, she was...probably about three or four...

IW: What do you remember about the old country?

SC: What do I remember? I can remember quite a few things. As an example, what are you really after? What do you want me to tell about the country?

IW: I just want you to tell us what stands out in your memory about the old 00:02:00country and the town you were brought up in? What about Jewish life in the town?

SC: Jewish life, yes, of course, you know I went to cheder there as I said before, Doctor. And my education...Actually, the background, the foundation of my Jewry was in the old country. And, of course, when we came to this country, her uncle, let him rest in peace, kind of took care of the rest.

IW: But what do you remember about Jewish life in that community? Did you speak Jewish?

SC: Well, let me say this to you, as far as the community, it was a small Jewish community but it was a nice community. They had two shuls there. I went to cheder early in the morning till eight o'clock at night.

IW: Why did your family decide to come to the United States?


SC: Well, I'll tell you why. In the first place, because my grandfather, they actually were the ones that came to this country, then actually we followed. And we felt, at least my parents felt, there was a better future. Everybody talked about America, America, America. So there is that happened.

IW: Do you remember how you came to this country?

SC: We came by boat, not first class, I'll tell you right now. Steerage. As a matter of fact, one part was ________ boats.

IW: Do you remember any experiences on that boat as you came to this country?

SC: Not necessarily. We had plenty of herring and potatoes. That was our main meal.

IW: Do you remember how long that trip took?


SC: Two weeks.

IW: You came to New York at first, did you?

SC: Castle Garden.

IW: Do you remember anything about Castle Garden?

SC: Well, as a matter of fact, before the ____________ . I want to tell you something, talk about, you know, my Uncle David, Dave, you remember Uncle Dave, he was the one that greeted us. And the first thing that he greeted us was donuts. Well, I'll tell you right now, Doctor, there's a lot of things that stand out in my mind, I mean, when I was a kid, you know, there's some things you can't forget, you know, because we had our own home. My father had his own home. In fact, he built his own home.

IW: Where was that?

SC: The town where I was born. We originally...Let me say this to you. My father, he really came to this country from Bitusk. He came from there. 00:05:00Naturally my father, I think, fell in love with my mother because she was a very fine woman.

IW: Well, how did you happen to come to Hartford?

SC: Well, as I told you, because my grandfather came to this country first. And that's how they came to Hartford. I don't know how they got there, but they were here.

IW: Did you start to work right away after you came to Hartford?

SC: No, no. I went to school.

IW: How old were you when you arrived in Hartford?

SC: When I arrived in this country I was 11 years old.

IW: What school did you go to?

SC: The first school I went to, North School. And then from North School I went to Northeast School. That's it, the Arsenal! Fannie Cashman was one of my teachers.


IW: After the Arsenal School, where did you go to school, Sam?

SC: Northeast School.

IW: And then?

SC: Then I went to work.

IW: Where did you work?

SC: For Garvan. I went to work for Garvan in 1911.

IW: Tell us something about the kind of work you did.

SC: Well, let me say this to you. When I started with the Garvan Company, now before...I had to go to work to help my people, you understand?

IW: Your family.

SC: That's right .

IW: How many were there at this time?

SC: Well, at that time I think there was five of us, six, that's right. I worked for C. S. Hills, you don't remember, a very fine, one of our old time department stores, out of existence. And I'll tell you who got me the job, her father, let him rest in peace.


IW: Your wife's father, Tillie's father.

SC: That's right. I said her father. I was there about three months. The man that hired me, Mr. Garvan, he used to call on department stores to solicit paper business. We used to supply the stores like Brown-Thomsen's, Wise and Smith, G. Fox and Company. I don't know what happened, but I'll tell you actually what happened. As we were kids, in the olden days when they used to unload merchandise, they used to use the old fashioned elevator, one of those, you know. Well, C. S. Hills' store was back of the Society for Savings. In late fall we were unloading a lot of blankets, but the blankets used to come in an old 00:08:00wooden box. After the blankets were unloaded, they used to put the cover back again on the box. And this fellow chases me and I know from nothing, I jumped. As I jumped I went right through right up to my neck. Well, Garvan had quite a kick out of it, he was laughing like a...So the following week Garvan approaches me and he offered me a job. Mr. Hills, I was his white haired boy, you know, I used to do all his errands. So I walked in his office. And I think at that time I was getting $3 a week. So Mr. Hills, I asked him for an increase. And he 00:09:00listened and he said back, he says, Sammy, my boy, you know I like you very very much. He says, supposing I'll tell McLaughlin to raise your pay from $3 to $3.50 a week. And I thought about it. And Mr. Garvan, the following week, he approached me, he said, you want to work for me? I'll give you a job. So I says to him, how much? He says, $4 a week. Well, as I kept on talking, you know, and I went back and I told Mr. Hill I can do much better. Well, he says, young man, 00:10:00he says, now you're an errand boy, then, he says, you become a salesman and then a buyer. I thought about it and I thought about it and I said, I think it's a much...I took a liking to this fellow Garvan. Well, I started actually with the company for $4 a week.

IW: What kind of work did you do?

SC: What kind of work did I do? Well, I swept the floors, washed the windows, washed the cuspidors and finally became, I was promoted to take care of the mail. Gradually I worked in the shipping room. I washed practically every window in the building, five or six floors. And it's a funny thing, you know, how you go through life. Garvan said to me after a while, he said, listen, get out of 00:11:00here. He said, you don't belong in this warehouse. You go out and call on the trade around Front Street. The type of people were there, Italian people, Jewish people. Going through the warehouse, they had so much paper, so much junk accumulated, and I went out and I sold every pound of paper. Believe it or not, I pushed the merchandise around with a pushcart.

IW: What were you selling, Sam?


SC: Paper, wrapping paper, bags and all that stuff. That was the type of business. And gradually as time going, as a matter of fact he gave me more responsibility and instead of being out once a week, I went out two days a week and three days a week. I called on saloons, drug stores, Chinamen, all that type of people. As I was making progress, finally Garvan said to me, he said, look, you take care of the department store business, someone like C. S. Hills, Sage Allen, Brown--Thomsen's, Wise's. And gradually, gradually, as time rolled by, my responsibility increased from time to time to time. Then, of course, Garvan said to me in 1915, 1916, he says, you better take care of the industrial business, which I did. In 1916, Garven bought me the first car. And I have a picture. 00:13:00Would you like to see a picture of the first car he bought me?

IW: A little later. When you started to work for Garvan, what was the situation like for the Jews in Hartford? Did you belong to a synagogue?

SC: Well, the synagogue which my father first joined...of course, High Holidays, you know, in those days, you know, you buy a ticket here, you buy a ticket there. And, of course, the only synagogues at that time were in Hartford were the Rumainisha Shul. I think there was a shul on Market, on Front Street. Then, 00:14:00let me see, then there was a shul of Worcester Street. The Litvisher Shul, well, that was the first shul. And, of course, practically all the Jews in Hartford were located just in one spot - Windsor Street, North Street, all those places, you know. When we came to this country, the first place that we moved in was North Street.

IW: And then where did you live?

SC: Then from North Street we went to Bellevue Street. Then from Bellevue Street we went to Worcester Street. Then, of course, we were fortunate that my father, rest in peace, we bought a place on Capen Street in 1914, 1913 I think it was. And, of course, we stayed there. I was very fortunate. I happened to fall in love with a lovely lady. And I married her in 1924. She makes it pretty tough 00:15:00for me now, but I like her just the same.

IW: Did you belong to any groups while you were in Hartford in those days?

SC: Well, as a matter of fact, the only groups that I actually joined, the first group that I joined actually was the Zionists.

IW: Were you active in the Zionist organization?

SC: Up to a point. As a matter of fact, to be honest with you, Doctor, I was so occupied with other things that I had to watch out for my family first.

IW: Tell us a little bit about your family then.

SC: Well, what can I tell you about my family? Practically all of them are gone. The only one who is left, the three of us left, my brother, Harry, my brother, 00:16:00Simon and myself. Of course, my brother passed on. My brother passed on in 1930. My sister, Celia, she passed on in 1929. And my older sister passed on, what, about three or four years ago.

IW: Do you remember anything about the political situation in those days? Were you active in politics?

SC: No, I was not interested in politics. I can go back to the day when Roosevelt was President, Teddy Roosevelt. And, of course, after Teddy, Taft came into the picture. And after Taft came in, what's his name, Woodrow Wilson, wasn't it?


IW: When did you join the synagogue?

SC: When did I join the synagogue? In 1921, 1920.IW: What synagogue was that?

SC: Well, the synagogue that I joined was the Emanuel. I'm a charter member.

IW: That was on...

SC: Windsor Avenue.

IW: Windsor Avenue.

SC: Of course, you remember that the Emanuel was originally formed on Pleasant Street.

IW: Do you have any recollections about life in those days? Were things a lot different from the way they are today?

SC: In those days, Doctor, you had a different situation entirely. Of course, 00:18:00your livelihood was a little bit different. Your requirements, you got along with a whole lot less. In those days my father made $9, $10 or $12 a week. He made a lot of money. You know that as well as I do. You know, your father is a grand gentleman. As you know, I see him every Saturday in the Emanuel. I admire the gentleman. He's just a nice man. And I know, I think when he married your mother...Of course, your father worked for Mr. Chesky. And Mr. Harris Chesky, your grandfather, didn't pay your father at that time $100 or $200 a week. Probably say _______ $15 or $20 a week is enough for you. You can't deny that, can you Doctor?


IW: Well, did you have other interests besides your business and your family? Were you interested in sports, golf?

SC: Not too much. I'll tell you, I'll be honest with you, Doctor, as far as sports, I never had any time to concentrate on sports. I concentrated on my job.

IW: Sam, you worked practically your entire life for a non--Jewish company.

SC: That's right.

IW: Did you have any problems because you were Jewish working for this type of company?

SC: Well, let me say this, let me say this to you, that I didn't have any problems because the reason that...A great deal of our business, a great deal of our business was doing business with Jews, you understand? And naturally he had to be awfully carefully how he handled me, you understand? But he always respect the people that we dealt with. As an example, when he turned the responsibility 00:20:00over to me before the First World War, before the First World War, he turned the responsibility over to me, you understand, we were already established with a great deal with a lot of the Jewish manufacturers, you know. Of course, at that time there weren't as many then as there are today, you understand? But we always enjoyed a very fine relationship. And I think he made it his business to because, after all, the company needed that type of business. Does that answer your question?


IW: Yes. Your wife says that you played golf for many years. When did you first find out about golf?

SC: Well, I always liked...The reason that I liked golf because Garvan, he was quite a golfer. And I wanted to see what it's all about. Well, you don't remember Minsa Levy, do you?

IW: No.

SC: They used to handle a lot of sport equipment. So I bought a set of clubs. And where do I start playing golf? Believe it or not, at Keney Park. Now, that's going back over 45 years. And, of course, after I married Tillie I played golf at the Rockledge. And then, of course, when I became a big shot I played golf at 00:22:00the Indian Hill, Sequin. Then I joined the Tumble Brook for the 25 years or so.

IW: Were you a charter member of Tumble Brook?

SC: No. Because Tumble Brook's about 48 years old, 48, 49 years old. That's right. You talk about Tumble Brook. I'll never forget, you know, I was very very fond of Mr. Baas, Albie Baas Tobacco Company. And I always used to call him uncle. It was Uncle Bill and Uncle Ben. And those days they just formed the 00:23:00Tumble Brook. Actually they were __________ for members. And a lot of the members, of course, some of them have passed on, they were charging anywheres from $2,000, $2,500, all the way up. So Mr. Baas says to me, Sammy, if you want to join the Tumble Brook I'll get you in for $500. So I thought about it and thought about it and said to myself, Well, Mr. Haas, I'm going to get married this year. I can use the money. I was a young man. G--d bless you. Of course, then afterwards, of course, I joined. I've been a member for 25 years, I guess.


IW: Do you still play golf?

SC: Well, believe it or not, Doctor, I played golf last Saturday. Of course, to be honest with you, Doctor, of course, I don't play the golf that I used to play. I was operated on my eyes in 1966 and '68. I was operated on my right eye, was it first my right, in '66 and I was operated on in 1968.

IW: As you look back upon your life in Hartford, would you have done things differently if you could?

SC: Me personally? No, I would not. As I said before, if I had to live my life over again, I wouldn't do any different. It's very very interesting because I'll tell you I was interested in it and I knew there was a future and the proof of the pudding is eating it. If I didn't like it I wouldn't be there all the years that I've been with the company. You know that. And then, of course, Mr. Garvan 00:25:00passed on in 1954. The following week I became Vice-President of the company. And I maintained the title until I retired.

IW: Have you been active in the Emanuel Synagogue?

SC: Yes, I've been very active but not as active as I was in the years gone by, you know, because I was on the board when Mr. Barney Rappaport was President. Then after a while, of course, I got off the board. I didn't want any more. Finally about 10 or 15 years ago, finally they insisted I go back. Of course, I'm still on the board. I could tell you a lot about the Emanuel, but I'd rather not make a record of it.


IW: Sam, as you look back upon your life, what did you enjoy doing most?

SC: Selling.

IW: Selling paper?

SC: I said selling, period. Don't forget, I used to handle everything in the company, paper and textiles too, you know.

IW: Did that give you your greatest enjoyment?

SC: That's right. I used to enjoy buying. I used to enjoy selling. And even today as I'm retired, I have my own office on 60 LaSalle Road and I did some things even today. You see, we were originally a Connecticut corporation. The Garvan Company started in business in 1864, and incorporated in the early Nineties. Then as we in 1900 and about 10 or 12 years ago, we moved our textile 00:27:00business down to Carolinas due to the fact that we're nearer to our sources. The labor situation's a little bit different there than it is down here. As an example, we used to employ 119 or 120 people in Connecticut. We got along very nicely with about 50% because the situation we always had here that labor used to tell us what to do. Down South we have no union and they don't want a union.

IW: Sam, what people exercised the greatest influence on your life?


SC: Who did? Well, my wife had a lot to do with it, well, which is the truth, which I'm grateful. As a matter of fact, I owe a lot to her, you know. And that's the gospel truth. Sometimes we cannot see eye to eye, but naturally that's...

IW: Well, apart from your wife, who were your close friends in the community? Who did you confide in?

SC: Well, I mentioned one fellow, Gus Fisher, because I knew what Gus Fisher's back life was and I knew how he started because he used to tell me. You know, 00:29:00when I started out selling, one of the fellows I called on was Gus Fisher. If he didn't need anything in my line, he made it his business that he always gave me an order. You know, things like that, you know, you don't forget. And I'll never forget when I was start out selling, I called, what was the name, that store, Tracy, Robinson, and there was another one, Tracy, Robinson and Williams. You talk about selling. Garvan was a great fellow by buying a lot of junk and sit on it. In going through the warehouse, every floor, where do I find? There was three tons of an old fashioned nail. And the nails were awfully rusty. So I take a package of this, you laugh but that's the truth, so I take one of these and I 00:30:00showed it to Mr. Robinson, no, Mr. Williams, a very fine gentleman. So he looked at it. He said, young man, he said, how many you got here. I said there's three tons. He says, I'll give you $20 a ton for it. So I sold it.