Dr Harold Fenton - Redman's Rd Talmud Torah old boy,
now living in Israel, writes of his early days in the Jewish East End of
- thank you Harold for sharing your wonderfully evocative memories.
you mentioned if I recall something about the Yiddish Theatre. I
think I was 9 years old when I first went with my aunts to see
the King of Lampedusa. We met both Tzelnikers. We went about once
a month. I seem to remember that not only did we sit, stand, walk
about, view and laugh but we also used to eat at the same time - I
think there was a bar where you could get sandwiches and even a
quarter chicken! I read and speak yiddish fluently which I learnt
from going to this theatre and then practising with my mother!
I heard it was
converted into a mosque about 50 years ago but I may be wrong
Hackney Empire was also a
'regular' ; for films we went to the Troxy-Gaumont near Albert
Gardens ( where there was a kids club on Saturday mornings) and
also to the ABC in Mile End Road. Not far from there my cousins,
the Parlons, had both a tobacco and gift shop as well a sweet-shop
next door. this was opposite the Fox's grocery store.
think that dances were held in the People's Palace in the early
1930's and I think that is where my parents met.
Along the Mile End Road mostly
Jewish vendors would ply their wares on Saturdays, too, the busiest
of all. I will try to remember some details about the (now famous)
writer and the yiddish newspaper he sold in the street from about
1940, which became the only one in the UK and lasted the longest.
Does anyone recall Ben Garman's man's shop, the Granards
haberdashery shop, Jacobs Ice-Cream parlour, Goldmans ladies' wear,
the two pharmacies, Kosky's butcher shop and Percy Dalton's peanut
factory all next to each other along the Commercial Road near West
Arbour Street that led into Arbour Square? Anyone recall Goldring's
Cakes corner Jubilee Street/Commercial Road and then later in the
market (forgot its name at the moment) opposite near the church? In
Jubilee Street there lived the Fried family and Mr Abraham who
for two shillings and sixpence a week taught me privately three
times a week at home how to read fluently. It is to him that I owe
my first faltering steps into orthodox Judaism.
In Raine's School in Cannon St road,
about 9 years later the anti-Semitic teacher of German, a Mr Don
Lyons, (who was
second in his anti-Semitism to a Mr Spooner, teacher of geography, who
openly expressed his "dislike' of us) had to admit that my knowledge
and pronunciation were far better than all my (non-Jewish) class
mates; I was the only one who could pronounce the word 'selbsverstandlich"
(umlaut on the 'a'- meantime self-evident or "of course')! This did
not prevent being hit on the backside by a rubber gym shoe 5 or 10
times by Lyons if I ever forgot an umlaut. Physical punishment by
teachers was encouraged as the norm then - even by our
parents......for whom any kind of teacher was a supernatural being
second only to a doctor. We used to dress up in our best or
Shabbat clothes whenever we had to see a doctor or dentist!)
Mentioning doctors, the local
physician was a wonderful ex-Irishman Dr Jaffe....whom we loved as
he loved us. He chain-smoked cigars in the heaviest fog and lived
until he was 90!
(I am a pharmacologist-toxicologist
and never understood, right up to today, how smokers survived the
British climate-maybe they were "tougher" and worked harder....)
That is enough for the moment!
Best Wishes, Harold"