Published: April 20, 2012 at 10:06 am
Hyman Capin, a native of Lithuania, learned the trade of tailoring, a skill which would serve him throughout his life and began working in New York and Pennsylvania around the turn of the 20th century. He did well in Harrisburg, Penn., but his wife, Dora, had respiratory problems, and her doctor recommended that the family seek a warm, dry climate. So, the Capin family moved to Los Angeles in 1907 where, ultimately, the climate proved to be too damp for Dora’s health.
Six months after arriving in Los Angeles, Capin and his family moved to Yuma. Their stay in Yuma was short-lived because it was too hot and the town had no need for a tailor, so they decided to move to Tucson. For six months, Capin and his family lived in Tucson’s “Tent City,” an area that had been established to isolate people with respiratory problems.
By 1911, the Capin family had moved into a house at 599 Third Ave. in Tucson and opened a tailoring and steam-cleaning shop on Stone Avenue.
The children attended Tucson schools, and Dora appeared to have recovered from her respiratory ailments. However, Dora was dismayed by the small size of Tucson’s Jewish community and the lack of kosher foods.
Capin saw a potentially profitable opportunity in El Paso, Texas, where border problems were increasing and the government was enlarging Fort Bliss. He moved his family there and once again opened a shop tailoring uniforms for the military with his brother Phillip.
Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing advised Capin to move to Columbus, N.M., where the general was setting up a supply center for the pursuit of Pancho Villa. Capin remained in El Paso, but opened a clothing and tailor store for men in a Columbus hotel with his brother-in-law, Harry Chernin, as manager. After World War I and the Mexican Revolution, the El Paso military installation was severely reduced and the Columbus facility was deactivated.
When the Villa pursuit moved to Arizona, the Capin family moved to
Nogales and set up a tailoring operation near Camp Stephen Little.
Before long, Capin had 40 employees working for him and had designed a uniform pattern that could be adapted to a variety of sizes. Soon, he was employing 100 people.
The Capin family was happy in Nogales because more than a dozen Jewish families lived in the area. Although the town did not have a rabbi or a temple, the Capins, Brackers, Rochlins, Marcuses and Chernins held holiday services in their homes.
When Camp Stephen Little shut down, Capin closed his military tailoring shop and established the El Paso Clothing Store on Morley Avenue in Nogales. In 1920 and 1922, Capin bought more stores and his
merchandising empire became known as the Capin Mercantile Company.
The company continued to grow, until Capin was operating 40 stores in New Mexico and Arizona.
All eight of Capin’s children married Jewish men and women. His son, Sam, married Lillian Bracker in 1925. A year before that, the Bracker family had purchased the Capin’s El Paso Clothing Store on Morley Avenue. The Capin and Bracker families became in-laws more than once.
Other of Capin’s sons and a grandson married Bracker women.
Capin retired in 1931 and moved back to Tucson with Dora. He died on Dec. 22, 1935.
— Jane Eppinga. Photo courtesy Abe Chanin.