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BACK BAY

Newsie's old haunt shuts down

It didn't make the front page or lead the news on local television.

But to some Copley Square denizens, the recent closing of the 75-year-old newsstand is a headliner -- and a loss.

The heart and soul of the newsstand was Max Kaiserman, who opened the stand in 1928 after school when he was 13 with ''a few orange crates."

''The newsstand was part of the social fabric and culture of the Back Bay area," said David Clark, building superintendent of the Old South Church, the newsstand's neighbor. ''To see the newsstand close is very depressing to me."

Kaiserman ran the signature Copley newsstand until two years ago, when, at age 87, he passed his life's work of peddling papers to another generation, Brian Jurkiewicz.

When Kaiserman learned that his successor had closed up shop a few weeks ago, Kaiserman said ''It hurts me to see it close. I carried on for 73 years, day in and day out in the cold, snow, and rain, and I raised a family. I hate to see it go. It is sort of a landmark in Copley Square."

And so was Kaiserman, known as ''Maxi" to regular gotta-get-the-news customers.

He loved his job. He was his own boss. He was part of the neighborhood's life and rhythms.

And he got to read all the newspapers and magazines he wanted.

In his early days, Kaiserman sold the Globe or the Post or the Herald-Traveler for 2 cents. Herbert Hoover was president. The Depression was around the corner and times were rough.

''I was making a living at this, so why stop?" said the newsboy, now 89, as he talked about the years before he retired. He now lives in Milton, where he still keeps up with newspaper reading. He manned his newsstand six days a week, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and earned enough to buy his Milton house and send his daughters to colleges like Smith and Elmira.

Kaiserman bursts with pride when he says, ''I was peddling papers before there was television. People would wait in line for the last edition. At the end of the day, you were selling fast."

Such stories are a dime a dozen from Kaiserman, who saw the world change around him from his news shack. Kaiserman witnessed the Prudential building and the John Hancock rise into the sky.

He remembers selling papers when Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic in 1932, when World War II broke out, and the day Kennedy was shot.

''That was one of the biggest days of sales," Kaiserman recalled, as he sat on the porch of his Milton home on a recent weekday. In his dining room is a painting of his newsstand and bustling Copley Square -- a memento of his days outside the MBTA Copley outbound train stop.

''I want my grandchildren to say 'That's where grandpa worked,' " he said with a smile.

In seven decades, Kaiserman only missed a few months of work in the summer of 1998, when he was undergoing triple-bypass surgery. He returned once he regained his strength.

Although his newsstand at the corner of Boylston and Dartmouth streets was his second home, he retired two years ago when his late wife, Irene, became ill from heart problems.

''I had to take care of my gal," he said.

Some neighbors don't know why Kaiserman's successor closed up. They suspect the newsstand fell victim to competition from the Internet, dwindling sales, and the availability of newspapers and magazines at corner convenience stores, a fate shared by many other newsstands around the country.

Even Out of Town News in Harvard Square cut back on out-of-state newspapers earlier this year because of falling demand due to free online editions.

The Rev. James Crawford, formerly of the Old South Church, said that not having a newsstand at Copley is bad -- and sad -- news.

''Over the years, it has been the best corner in America to sell newspapers," said Crawford, who visited the newsstand when he was the church's reverend from 1974 to 2002. Crawford picked up the local papers, The New York Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, as well as some conversation with Kaiserman.

''There are few if any newsstands of that nature anymore," Crawford said. ''It's changing times."

Johnny Diaz may be reached at jodiaz@globe.com

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