Friday, 9 February 2007

C&BG Club Reunion 2002

In 2002 I was asked by Monty Meth to give the after dinner speech at the club reunion.
I decided the best way to tackle it was to write an article based on "A life in the day" series in the Times and to imagine I was a young lad back in the year 1935 going through the events of the day.
I enjoyed putting the piece together and I like to think it was well received on the night. To see the full story click on the red COMMENTS link below.

1 comment:

Ron Goldstein said...

"A LIFE IN THE DAY" By Ron Goldstein, April 14th 1935

My name is Ronnie Goldstein although my birth certificate says my first name is Reuben. When I was three years old I decided that Reuben was a sissy name to grow up with and told everyone who would listen that my name was Ronnie and that’s the way it’s been ever since.

I’ll be 12 years old in August and I live at number 21 Boreham Street which is a small cul de sac off Peter Street. Peter Street runs off of Brick Lane and that’s a road that is cut in half by Bethnal Green Road, which I’m sure everyone must have heard of.

Just in case there might be some of you who don’t know Boreham Street I think I’d better describe it to you.

It’s a small alley, closed off to any traffic and consists of 24 red brick four storey houses, 12 each side and facing each other, with about 30 feet of space in between.

Every house has a workshop on the top floor and my Dad and all of my brothers work in the one that’s on top of my house
At both ends of the street there are lamp-posts with gaslight burners and every evening the gas-lighter comes along on his bike with a long pole and switches the lights on for the night.

At the top of each lamp-post there is a metal bar sticking out that they use to rest a ladder on when they are doing repairs but we kids use it for hanging a swing from.

My house is four houses from the Peter Street end and consists of 3 floors and a workshop and I live in this house with three of my four brothers, five of my six sisters and my Mum & Dad.

Our front door has a small hole drilled into it near the lock and a string is always hanging from it. This is so that the younger members of our family can always get in without a key that only the older ones have.

We don’t have a bathroom in the house but we’ve got a small wash-place on the first floor landing. Once a week we all troop off to the public baths.

My dad’s name is Yosef although most of his customers call him Joe or Mr.G.
He’s 52 years old and he’s married to my Mum who’s called Faigele or Fanny.
She’s just a year younger than my Dad which makes her 51.

My sister’s names are Annie, Esther, Gertie, Polly, Debby & Jean and my brothers are named Lou, Jackie, Mossy and Mick.

Annie is 27 and she’s my oldest sister. She doesn’t live at home with us as she’s already married to Solly Leboff and they have their own house somewhere in Stamford Hill.

Esther, the next one down, is 22 and she’s engaged to Jack Rosen and they hope to marry next year. Esther is a secretary to John Blundell who owns a large store in City Road

Gertie is 20 years old exactly today and she works as a milliner, that means she designs & makes ladies hats & after her comes Polly, who’s 18, and is a ladies hairdresser.

Debby is 14 a dress machinist and my youngest sister Jean is 5 and still at school.

My brother Lou is 26 & and he and my brother Jack, aged 23, are both married but they still work for my dad as machiners in the workshop at the top of our house and so does my brother Mossy who’s just become 20 years old .

That only leaves my brother Mick to tell you about. He’s 15 and learning to be a hairdresser like Polly.

There are other club boys living in the same alley as me.
(I’ve just realised you don’t even know what club I go to so I’d better explain that as well). I belong to the Cambridge & Bethnal Green Boys Club, which is in Chance Street about ten minutes walk from here.

Anyway, at number 24, lives Natie Krieger with his younger brother Vivien, a lot of you must know them.
At number 4 are the Allsuch’s, that’s Natie, Hymie, Alf & Arthur, commonly known as Lollie. Then at number 9 live the Astrinskys , that’s Lionel and his older brother and finally at number 21 lives my family whom I’ve already mentioned. By the way Mossy and Mick also go to the same club as me.
My family has been living in Boreham Street since 1918 and I was born there in 1923.

I go to the local school, Rochelle Street and all of my friends live within about half a mile of me. At the rear of my house is a factory which has a hooter and at quarter to eight every morning this hooter sounds and the house rocks.

The date today is the 14th of April, it’s the last day of Passover, and its also the last day of the of the nut’s season for which Boreham Street is famous. It’s also my older brother Mossy’s 20th Birthday and as he’s a twin to my sister Gertie it’s her Birthday as well. Mossy is captain of the local C&BG boys club and he’s a champion runner who always runs for the club in the AJY championships.

So what’s so special about the nut season?, if you’ll give me a chance I’ll tell you.

It started eight days ago and me and any of my friends who had any spare pocket money went to the market in Brick Lane and bought ourselves some cracker nuts or hazel nuts as some of the stallholders call them. I think we actually bought them from Archie Brookner whose family have got a fruit stall in Brick Lane Market.

I forgot how much they cost me but I know that for our two pennyworth we got about fifty odd nuts each. This was our float and all we then had to do to start up in business was to find a couple of farthings and a cardboard shoebox.

What we then did was to turn the box upside down and cut 3 to 4 small openings out of one side. We then wrote a number above each opening, which stood for how many nuts you would win if you managed to get your nut through the hole.

We then stood this box against one of the outside walls of the houses and the punters would stand on the line drawn in the centre of the alleyway, about 15 feet away and try to roll the nuts into one of the openings.. The size of the holes was very important, if you made them too big it would soon put you out of business, too small and the punters would soon give up trying and walk away in disgust The ‘guvnor’ who’d got it just right would soon be collecting three or four nuts for everyone he had to pay out and would soon be amassing a heavy float bag.
The second type of game would be the old established ‘Lucky Farthing’. For this you would need a farthing that would be placed against the same wall and if knocked down by a nut could be claimed as a prize. The secret here was to wedge the coin so that nothing less than a sledge- hammer could dislodge it but this didn’t seem to stop the punters having a go and the odd fight if the general census of opinion was that the coin had been ‘stuck’ into position.
The variation (that’s a good word) on the lucky farthing game was a lucky silver three-penny piece but I only saw this in action once and it was rumoured that the lad who ran the game was able to produce the same coin every year as it had never yet been dislodged from the wall without the right tool!.
Yet another type of game was to place a coin flat on the pavement just in front of a wall and require that a punter tossed a nut in an underarm throw so that it landed smack on the coin and actually ‘rang’ the coin in order to claim a win.
There were many other games going on at the same time and anyone could open up a pitch providing they could find a spare bit of wall.

Standing around in the crowd would be some boys just buying or selling nuts, we had our own rate of exchange and the noise was quite deaf making. Some of the women who lived in Boreham Street would occasionally come to the front door to protest about the noise and the litter created by the various games but this didn’t seem to stop any of the action and helped to create a lively atmosphere.

Any way, the time is getting on and it’s time I cashed in my winnings and got ready to go to the club.
As it’s still the Jewish Holidays I don’t have to go to Cheder or Hebrew classes tonight so it’s straight off to Chance Street to join the lads outside the Blue Anchor. The club doesn’t open till seven but the crowd outside is beginning to get a bit bolshie because none of the managers have turned up yet and when they eventually do, there is some good natured barracking and cries of ‘about time too !’
We squeeze past the tiny office where our cards are checked to see if we’ve paid our halfpenny subs (particularly if we know that our subs are overdue!) and then we break away to get to our own particular activity.

My house is Gloucester, I’m number 83 and I look at the notice board to see how we are doing so far this year. Other houses are Kent, York & Cornwall.

I’m near the front and try to push my way to the canteen so that I can get some nosh before classes start at 7.30. It’s a funny thing but I’ve never been able to find saveloy’s anywhere in the world that taste the same as the ones I buy in the club and the hot cordial drinks are always just right as well.

Some of the lads have already started the first game of Table Tennis and the balls are flying fast and furious. When I first joined the club I couldn’t make out why the lights in the games room kept on flicking on and off until I realised this was the signal for the end of a booked games session.
We have to go through the games room to get to the toilets and as these are the original ones from the pub, the Blue Anchor, they are made from metal and are really are noisy and pongy.

Before I start any activities I look around the club to see if I can find certain friends of mine who belong to the same harmonica group as myself. There are four of us and we call ourselves “The 4 Harmonica Kids”. We’ve been for several talent competitions at the Mile End Empire and actually came first in one of them that was compered by the comedian Tommy Trinder. I find two of the group in the club and we have made arrangements to rehearse later this week at one of the boy’s homes.

We had our photo’s taken last week at Jeromes studio in Mile End Road and my Mum made us red sashes to go round our waists as a sort of uniform. With our white shirts and navy trousers I thought we looked quite smart!

It’s seven–thirty and I start my first class, it’s Photography and I’ve had to go down in the cellars for this. We learn how to do our own developing and printing of photographs and most of us have fixed ourselves up with chemicals so that we can practice at home. The class is run by a chap called ‘T’ or Harry Tichener to give him his full title and this ties me up until eight thirty when I have to shoot away for some road running led by Joe Samson. There’s about a dozen of us on this particular activity and we run to the Bank and back without stopping.

We arrive back at the club about half past nine, just in time for a shower before prayers are said in the gym by George or Rowland and then we juniors have got to leave while the inters and the seniors get to stay on. This having to leave always gets my goat, I’ve worked out that by the time I’m old enough to stay on with the Inters the year will be 1939, and who can wait that long!

I walk home with a crowd of boys, each one peeling off in turn as we reached their own particular buildings and finally I get back to Boreham Street about half past ten.
On the way home we stop at the bandstand by Calvert Avenue but by this time of night it’s all locked up

The older members of the various families in the street are still sitting outside their front doors playing cards or Monopoly or in some cases reading the Dog Results that they have just bought from the local street seller at a penny each.

My Mum, as usual, say’s ‘look at the time!’and I have to make some excuse for being out so late.
I turn in so that I can get to sleep before the older members of my family start arriving and my thoughts are full of getting back to school tomorrow and meeting all my friends.

Well friends, the article ends there and here we are back in the year 2002.

Everything today is vastly different to the life that I, and we, knew then, whether it was in the East End of London, in Stamford Hill or Golders Green but one thing has remained completely unchanged and that is the bonds of friendship that we established in those heady days without even realising that this was what we were doing.

I would close my few words tonight with an appeal to you all.

I, and my family, have tried, in our own small way, to record the part that we played in the life of the East End before the war. Through newspaper articles, a Family Biography, Radio & television interviews, A Family tree, A Family Web Site and most recently a Family CD we have tried to record our past, for our children and our children’s children. We hope that what we have put down will be a taster of what life was like in the days of our youth and what the clubs that we belonged to meant to us as a major part of those times.

Can I in turn ask all of you here tonight to record your own stories and to get them down in print in one form or another, while you can still remember them and while your friends are still here to confirm them for you. I would remind you that no one else is qualified to write your story and no one else is able to summon up your own memories and set them alive.

I look forward to meeting you again at some future occasion and hearing from you all about what you have written

Thank you for your attention and do keep well