As dictated by Albert Sbar

May, 1999

Preissman (Praissman) Side of the Sbar Family

My mother’s family (Preissman) came from Kovel, a small town in Russian occupied Poland (now Ukraine). Her maternal grandparents (Axelrod) came from Rovna, Ukraine. My mother told me that she lived in a house in Kovel with a larger vegetable garden and a cow. It occupied an area of a small city block, and was near the Russian army barracks. Occasionally her father who was a building contractor did work for the army. My grandmother would, on occasion make some Jewish delicacy for the Colonel in charge as a thank you for giving my grandfather building contracts.

My Grandfather, Lasar Baer (photo) was about 17 when he married my grandmother, Toba Rifka who was about 18. The wedding was arranged by a shotchen or marriage broker. They never saw each other until the day of the wedding and my grandfather refused to get married until he saw the bride first. He then lived for three years with his wife’s family for free, while he studied with teachers of Torah and the various books that would be equal to the studies of a rabbi. He had all the qualifications, but lacked the ordination or "smycha".

I am told that my mother’s brothers Otto (Jewish - Usher; born 1871)and Samuel (b. 1873) with uncle Chaum Prissman (Chaim Preissman?, b. 1856) came over first around 1891, followed by my grandfather, Lasar Baer (b 1845) and brothers Max (Matis, b 1865), Max (Motel, b 1870).  [ed. note: the census records indicate Lasar Baer came over in 1890.]  My grandfather and all sons, but one (Motel) were in the U.S. before my mother, Esther, her sister Fannie and my grandmother, Toba Rivka (b 1844-8?) came to the U.S. They came in 1894.

While grandfather was in the U.S., he left Philadelphia and went west to Denver where his brother Chaim was living. He stayed two years then returned to Philadelphia to await the arrival of my mother, her sister Fannie and my grandmother from Europe.

My Uncle Sam and his wife Becky and family lived for 18 years in Denver. They lost a daughter then returned to live in Camden for a while. At this time there were four daughters in his family – Millie, Bernice, Florence and Ruth.

To get out of Russia my maternal grandmother, Toba Rifka, and her two daughters had to sneak out of Russia and used a guide to lead them across the border and out of Russia. Another guide reported them to the authorities. At the border they were apprehended and all their portable clothes and other things were taken from them. The did continue on to Amsterdam and with the help of the HIAS waited for steamship passage. The steamship company that they had tickets for went bankrupt and they had to cool their heels in Amsterdam until grandfather sent new tickets for the Atlantic crossing. I’m told tickets were $25 each – they crossed steerage class.

When they boarded the ship my mother told me she only had the clothes on here back. They did carry food with them, when they left home, but that was seized at the Russian border. They, at this point, really had no money left to buy food. The two-week crossing was rough seas and many lady passengers became seasick. My mother and her sister Fanny went around helping people and they in turn gave the girls their food. Mother said she never became seasick and she had a great time aboard ship.

My mother was born in October 1880 and came to the U.S. at age 13. Her sister Fannie was three years older. While in the U.S. she worked in the needle industry, mostly in shirtwaists.  She lived in South Philadelphia and walked every day twenty blocks to work to save the 5 carfare. She started working as a child and made $1.00/week and had to hide whenever the labor department inspector visited the factory. My mother was the youngest of eight – five boys and three girls. The oldest sister, Zlota, married, stayed in Poland, divorced that husband and married a man with grandchildren. She raised them. They eventually went to Israel and she followed in later years and is buried in Israel. She visited the U.S. once, at the time my brother Joe was born (about 1912).

 

Max Sbar's Early Life

My Dad had a rough childhood. He was born in Kobrin, Belarussia, in 1879 and by his eighth birthday he was an orphan on both sides. I’m told his parents died in a fire. They owned a hotel that burnt down. The children were saved. He was the oldest of four children. The others were Fanny, Eisenberg, Rose Goldman and Albert. The children were farmed out to relatives. My father and his brother Albert lived with an Aunt in Leipzig, Germany. She was Hinda Preismann, a sister to my maternal grandfather, Eleazer-Dov (Lasar Baer). Hinda and her husband were in the tobacco business. Dad worked with them.

My paternal Grandfather was Meyer Sbar and his wife was Malcah. His dad’s mother was a sister to Eleazer-Dov Preissman, as mentioned above.

At this point, I don’t know if Grandpop Sbar had relatives who went by the name of Sbar in Europe.

My father’s brother, Albert, changed his name legally to Albert S. Barr and was a printer in Philadelphia around 40th & Girard. He died at a very early age (29). I was named after him.

Dad came to the United States May 26, 1903, landing in New York on the Red Star Line at age 24. He came after seeing that his sisters and brother were safely here. He was in his mid-twenties and arrived wearing a tuxedo. He became a citizen in 1910.

I’m told he had a heart of gold and malice to no one. He helped out family members, quietly, was very charitable and respected by competitors. I do know that he worked in a dept. store in Vilna that was supposed to occupy an entire city block. He saw a store room that employees seemed to toss small quantities of paper into. This was left after a sale of paper. He went in, uninvited and unannounced, and straighteded up the room, saving the company much money. The owner saw it, and gave him a raise immediately. While living with his Aunt in Germany, I’m, told he sold tobacco products on the street and another time sold oil, using small vials as samples.

My paternal grandfather’s name was Meyer Sbar and his wife was Malka. His Dad’s mother was a sister of Eliazer-Dov Preissman as mentioned above. At this point I don’t know if Grandpop Sbar had relatives who went by the name of Sbar in Europe. My father’s brother changed his name legally to Albert S. Barr and was a printer in Philadelphia around 40th and Girard. He died at a very early age (29). I was named after him.

Dad came to the U.S. on May 26, 1903, at the age of 24, landing in New York on the Red Star Line.

 

The Max and Esther Sbar Family

My mother married my father, December 27, 1905, and came to Camden as a young bride in 1906. They bought the property at 932-934 South Third Street. My dad at first made a living as a peddler and later on my mother talked him into giving it up and having a regular dry goods store. My dad was a good businessman and was always successful. Eventually my parents bought the corner property next to them. This was 924-930. They sold this wooden building that was on the 924-930 lot and had it moved diagonally across the street and built a brand-new two story brand-new building about 1920, with a beautiful 100’ long store in the front and a nice comfortable home in the back. The house had five bedrooms upstairs and downstairs was a living room, dining room, laundry, powder room and small utility room. On the Cherry Street side we had a house entrance fronted with a nice porch and next to that in the rear was a one-car cinder block garage. Our second floor did not extend over the dining room, kitchen and luandry room, do we had a wooden floor roof garden with a heavy wooden railing all around and flower boxes on the wooden railing. Over about of the store was a big stock room. Our basement was a full, deep, room and cemented. Part of it was used as a storage for products that we sold called silk floss and cotton batting. Customers bought these products to fill pillow cases and mattresses. It was a mess to handle and generally got up into our nose.

For a while Dad rented out his original building 932-934 South 3rd Street. Business grew and we needed the extra space of 932-934. Dad was an excellent businessman and very successful. Part of his success was due to his integrity, part due to the fact that he spoke seven languages, such as Italian, English, German, Russian, Polish, Jewish, etc. He was a foreigner, the same as all of the people in our neighborhood. Our customers were used to bargaining in lands overseas. They all know that Max Sbar had a one-price store. He gave credit freely to these honest foreigners. They were mainly Italians. They always paid him and never forgot how he helped them. They knew he was honest and his word meant something.

His stature with his suppliers was high. They knew he was honest and always discounted his bills. If ever there was an over shipment in an order he always added it to his check without any fanfare. Any shortages were never questioned.

I can still recall running out of gas about a dozen blocks from our home on 3rd Street. I didn’t have any money and wanted to leave some personal item for security with an Italian gas station owner. He wouldn’t hear of it. He said when he came over from Italy 30 years previously my fathers gave him credit, when he needed it. Now he wants to return the favor and give his son credit. I can’t forget this incident.

This story was told to me : There were two men outside our store on 3 rd Street, having a heated discussion about selling a horse, from one to the other. The buyer wanted to try the horse first. The seller didn’t want to trust his horse to a stranger. They both knew my father and came into his store with their problem. Dad said. "it would be .o.k. to entrust the man with the horse and the seller would be properly paid. The deal was made with my Dad’s o.k.

It was said that Dad had eyes in back of his head and he could easily spot a shoplifter. He one time went into a lady’s bosom and pulled out a pilferd garment. Johnny Carroll, the local politician and neigbor, and Dad were good friends and occassionally they went to the Towers Theater at Broadway and Pine streets to see the stage shows. On occasion, they may have had girlie shows (I’m not sure).

We were six children (photo of Emanuel, Joe, Mil and Albert ca 1922), three boys and three girls. None of us wanted to go into Dad’s business.

My Dad loved his family and my parents were a very devoted couple. I’m sure it’s Dad’s early rough life without parents that made him so devoted to his wife and family. Early on, he started having breathing problems; he smoked plenty. I’m told he was a big strong young man. I remember hearing that our family wanted him to go to Switzerland for his health and good fresh air or to Carlsbad, Germany. He refused. He never wanted to go back to Europe or leave the family. He had his tonsils removed, however, the surgeon did a bum job and this only aided his breathing condition. Finally, he went to a sanitorium in Eagleville, Pa. That specialized in lung diseases, but after awhile he came back home and a tent was put up on our second floor roof garden. His condition only got worse and he returned to the sanitorium where he finally passed away on February 23rd 1930 at age 51. This was just before my 12th year.

Just a sad note at this point, before my Dad’s death, he did not have a will and the week before he died, a lawyer cousin, Maurice Praissman, with cousin Louis Morris as a witness had to go to Eagleville to make out a will.

Now that Dad was gone, my mother took care of the business and had to raise six children at the same time.; After I became a parent, I often wondered how she did it.

The year was 1930, the depression hit and things were rough for everyone.Dad left a big stock of inventory that was paid for and a building that was free and clear of debt. This big inventory helped to see us through the depression.

My oldest brother, Emanuel, decided to go into the brush and chamois business and called on garages and industry to sell his products. He eventually opened a place at 1126 No Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia and branched out in heavy equipment such as chains, cable, hoists, shovels and other things for builders, railroads and steamship companies. He was successful but died at 39 of a heart attack. His wife, Reba and two sons, carried on the business. After some years, a disagrement between the sons, they gave up the business and sold the building.

My brother, Joe, who was six years older than me, decided to go into the oil business. He would borrow money from me and somehow couldn’t pay back, so he asked me to join him in the business. He said,I was an equal partner, but I never felt it. We had a gas station, two big fuel oil trucks, and a kerosene truck and a panel delivery truck for delivering lubricating oil in drums or 10 gallon milk cans. We started selling oil for 25 cents a gallon in your own container at our gas station, which was our garage on Cherry Street. Business was thriving and Mom gave us 932-34 So. 3rd Street to expand our business. We paid to have the property renovated for our business. Even though we had a thriving business, we never made what might be called "real money". At this 3rd Street location, we sold gasoline, lubricating oils and also had a Firestone Tire and Auto Supply wholesale franchise. We had a deal to supply all the Gulf gas stations with tires and auto accessories.

I married while still in the oil business on August 18th, 1940 to Thelma Jasper of Philadelphia. On October 13, 1940, Joe married Leonore Ross of Philadelphia. By this time we were already in the oil burner installation business as an adjunct to our fuel oil business.

When I was about 13, I took saxaphone lessons from an Italian professor. He taught all the instruments in the band and it was he that suggested I take the tenor sax. We had three lessons a week after school and in the evening, we had band rehearsal. Professor Rossi didn’t speak English, but I got along with him O.K. : with the help of some other students, who were always around waiting their turn. Professor Rossi could cuss in Italian after the alphabet and if one of the Italian kids made a musical mistake during his lesson, he wasn’t shy with the back of his hand or with his baton on the student’s fingers.

Our lessons were after school but generally, Professor Rossi came from Philadelphia in the early afternoon and went around visiting parents of the students, before going to the hall to give music lessons. A man of such prestige as Professor Rossi was always welcomed in the homes and , naturally, he was served the finest wines. From his nice ruddy complexion, you can see he did O.K. By the time he came to give music lessons, he was in great shape. In the evening he conducted the band rehearsals and wasn’t a bit embarrassed about tossing his metal baton in the direction of any student not playing what was written. I’ve also seen him use his foot on someone’s backside to show his displeasure.

He was a robust man, with a handlebar mustache, round ruddy face, who walked with a gold-tipped cane and black derby and usually wore spats. On his round chest, was a vest with a gold chain threading through the buttonhole and a gold watch in his vest pocket. He was very courtly in a European manner and well respected by all.

In the summertime, the band in uniform, would march all around South Camden on a Saturday and Sunday before a saint’s day, while men with empty milk bottles went from door to door collecting money. On Saturday night,we played on a grandstand in front of the church on fourth street and the crowd went wild with our music. Of course, our professor Rossi looked very majestic up front, conducting.

On Saturday afternoon, we marched in a procession on the streets of South Camden, with the statue of the saint and people would come up with dollar bills to pin on the saint with the priest saying a prayer. This system was O.K. until my Mom looked out the store door on Sunday morning and saw me in front of Saint Mary and this ended my days with the Italian band..

I went on to Hatch Jr. high school and joined a dance band group. In Camden high, I was also a member of various musical groups. On the outside, I played with dance band groups until I went on to college.

I did have various music teachers while in school. My last one taught me clarinet as well as tenor sax. He was William Gruner, the bassoon and tenor sax player of the Philadelphia Orchestra. A fantastic musician and excellent pedagogue. I learned so much from him. He was born in Germany, played 10 instrument and was very demanding. He also gave my sister, Florence, piano lessons. We went up to Upper Darby every Saturday morning and he charged both of us a total of $2.00. It was a one hour trip from our home.

After graduating from Camden High school, I went to Spring Garden Institute to study Petroleum Refining. This was from February to June 1936. In September 1936, I enrolled in Drexel Institute evening school to study Chemical Engineering while working in the oil business during the day, I stayed at Drexel two years.

In 1941, the United States became involved in the second Wold War. With oil rationing, we had to give up our oil business. I went to New York Shipyard and started out as a pipe fitter’s helper. I did move up to pipe fitter handyman. In the evening, I enrolled in a Safety Engineering course at the University of Pennsylvania Evening school and completed courses in Safety Engineering and Industrial Fire Prevention. Later I got a job with the Aluminum Company of America, making aluminum.. I had hoped this would give me an in to a position as company Safety Engineer, no such luck

In August 18, 1940, Thelma and I married and moved to a beautiful 3-room apartment in East Camden. We were both 23. About a year later, I was called for military service. I was turned down because of a hernia and poor eyesight.

Later on, I worked on a part-time basis as a safety engineer, in the evening, for a small compay called Magnetic Metals Company. They had about 250 employees. During the day, I was an assistant manager for Sears, Roebuck in the automotive dept. in Camden.

After the war, I felt the need to help my mother in her dry goods store. My sister, Mildred, had gone to Israel, my brother Emanuel was married and lived in Philadelphia, Joe was married to Leonore and lived in Collingswood, both Florence & Zelda had jobs in Philadelphia and Thelma & I and 1 year old Neil moved back to 3rd & Cherry Sts. From our East Camen apartment. Thelma was now pregnant with Marc.

Things were going along o.k. in the dry goods store. We were both helping my mother run a big store. Marc was born at the Broad Street hospital in Philadelphia in 1945. I still remember taking Thelma to the hospital; she was put on the third floor and awaiting her doctor. I went downstairs to call her mother and then went upstairs to be with Thelma. Lo and behold she started delivery in the bedroom and the nurse tried to slow it up ‘til the doctor came. By the time I got upstairs, the baby was already on his way and I had to go right downstairs to call Thelma’s mother with the good news.

Reesa was also born while we lived with my mother. She was born in Philadelphia on March 5, 1948. It was great to have a girl after the two boys.

I was getting fidgety working in the dry goods store and wanted to get my career moving.

I opened a Firestone store at 815 Broadway. It started to go , businesswise, so we closed the dry goods store and my mother came up to Broadway to help me. We still lived on 3rd street and mom and I were equal partners.

When Neil was about 9 years old, we moved to Haddon Heights, N. J.

During this time, my brother, Emanuel had a heart attack and passed away in Philadelphia.

I wrote to my sister, Mildred, in Israel after she spent time in the British Army, Israel Army and the kubbitz and asked her to come back to the States. She joined us in our growing business and we moved to larger quarters at 607-609 Broadway, Camden. We then gave up the Firestone franchise. At this point we had toys, bikes, hobbies and arts and crafts. We now started selling schools, camps, institutions, etc. things like art paper, paints, clays, brushes and many craft and educational items. Our business was growing. We got rid of toys and bikes and pursued, energetically, the wholesale business of crafts, selling crafts to stores, hospitals and institutions.

Again, we outgrew our space and moved to 1469 Broadway, a former 10,000 sq. ft. food market with plenty of parking space. In 3 years, we outgrew this building and bought a building in Mt. Laurel on Roland Avenue of 23,000 sq. ft. After about 7 years, we again felt growing pains and built a 43,000 sq. ft. building with parking across the street.

While on Broadway, we made Pepe Piperno a partner. An excellent, tireless worker with a good business head. By the time we moved across Roland Avenue, he was already running the business. First as a vice-president and finally as president.

During 1988, the Sbars sold the business to Pepe and gave him an 8 year payout without any money down. He made the payments out of the profits of the company. Thelma, Mildred and I continued to go in during these 8 years. When the 8 years were up, we all retired but I continued to go in on a part time basis and refused to accept any salary, even though it was offered many times.

 

Albert and Thelma Sbar's Family

Neil graduated from Franklin & Marshall and majored in Physical Chemistry . He then got a Fellowship at M. I. T. and graduated with a Phd. In Physical Chemistry. While at M.I.T. he married Lois Lipofsky. Lois graduated from Simmons College and received her Masters degree from Lehigh University in Computer Science. Neil worked for Bell Labs for 25 years. His last position was as Director of the Princeton, N.J. lab. He was then retired from A.T. & T. when they cut back in size. He now is an executive with a compny called Sage.

Daughter, Sonya, has an M.B.A. from the Wharton School in Philadelphia and is now working in her field. Son, Captain Alan Sbar has a MD. Degree from the George Washington Medical School and is now an Army Doctor. Son, Nathaniel, graduated from Skidmore College and spent one year in Russia. His field is languages.

Marc first graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. And received a Fellowship to Lamont ( part of Columbia) and received his Phd. In Geophysics. He married Helene Baron while in graduate school. She graduated from Barnard ( part of Columbia). Daughter Rachel, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Tx. with a B.S. in Liberal Arts and an M.S. in Elementary Education. Son Eric graduated from University of Michigan with a B.S. in Music. He later received a Master's in Music from the California Institute of the Arts. Son Steven graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, majoring in Computer Science.

Reesa .graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia as a Business Major. After 20 years, she divorced her first husband, Bill Stubblebine and married Joseph Beggs. Reesa has 2 children, Todd & Joanna. Joe has 2 children, Jennifer & Neil.  Joseph and Reesa own a small internet access provider company, Palmer Divide Communications, Inc. Son Todd, is a Paramedic with the Austin, Texas Municipal Paramedics. Daughter Joanna is attending Pikes Peak Community College, majoring in General Studies. Stepdaughter Jennifer works in a Colorado Springs Surveying Company.

If you have anything to add to this history e-mail me.

marc-sbar_at_houston.rr.com