By Barry HYMAN.
Stamford Hill, it seems, is full of pleasant memories for many Jewish News readers if the incredibly positive reaction to Gerry Raphael’s recent column in these pages is anything to go by.
My own recall begins in 1945, when my East End-reared parents returned there from evacuation in Scotland with me. I was four at the time. So although born a Scotsman, I’m probably really a Norf Londoner.
Hardly a Jewish function goes by without someone saying: “Oh, I lived there too and went to Tyssen Primary School in Oldhill Street!”
It was my good fortune to be taught there as a junior, by Miss Mary Neligan, a tiny, talented, inspiring and devout Irish Catholic.
She travelled every day from Mill Hill to Stamford Hill, where her class of ‘45 – yes ‘45! – included perhaps three or four non-Jewish children. We closed for the high holy days and early on Fridays.
All prayers at morning assembly were non-denominational, with Mrs Dove at the piano playing Morning has Broken, Farmer, Farmer, Sow your Seed or Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past. Look on Friends Reunited and you will find a host of affectionate memories of Tyssen and its teachers, plus Mrs Dove’s Dachshund Fritz, which always accompanied her to school.
While my brother liked to hang around the Stamford Hill shtip – the amusement arcade where you’d ‘shtip’ pennies in the slots – this was not a term for it that was acceptable at home. The word was in fact a coarse American term for a brothel, not that I think we knew that at the time.
Egerton Road shul was, of course, the place where most of us went to Cheder. Today’s children who manage just a Sunday, if their over- anxious parents don’t have them at elocution, horseriding or crammers, would be amazed to hear that we went Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings after school, plus Sunday mornings, from the age of five. We went straight from school and got bread and jam for tea in the Marcus Samuel Hall. It was my unfortunate duty to drag my little brother to Cheder, but on most days he ran away!
When we got our council flat in Warwick Grove, Upper Clapton, [£2 a week] we found ourselves living in the same road as Egerton Road’s rabbi, Dr. Lehrman – a lovely man who, as he walked back to shul on Shabbat evening, turned his head away diplomatically as we got off the 653 trolleybus on our way home from Saturday- afternoon pictures. In a sermon, he once said: ”If you can’t do everything, do something”, which ruffled a few feathers among the strictly observant.
My allegiances changed a bit and I soon joined Clapton Jewish Youth Centre, which the inspirational Lou and Celia Rose had opened after the war. We met with members from other clubs – Victoria, Stamford Hill, Brady and the Settlement – and received from the untiring volunteers lessons for life about community responsibility, leadership, public speaking and much more.
There were of course several marriages arising from club relationships, and I’ve just spoken at the golden wedding of good friends from those happy days.
Our idea of a racy time when we were chucked out of club at 10.30, after jiving to Buddy Holly on the Dansette, was a trip to the Hi-Lite coffee bar, where the one-toothed owner fed us coffee and rum babas before we were home and in bed [on our own!] before midnight.
Our trip to Israel in 1958, the first by an AJY club, was seminal in cementing our commitment to the country.
Notwith-standing any differences one has with its government of the day, perhaps our best claim to fame was seeing parliament with Lord Michael Levy, an active member of the club.
The community, like all those with members that begin as immigrants, has of course moved on. People are going east to Ilford, but mainly north-west, now well beyond the Golders Green and Hendon enclaves to Hertfordshire.
Here, Watling Street is home to four shuls, one Orthodox, one Reform, one Liberal and now a shtiebl!
For those to whom these things matter, an eruv is due to come into being for Bushey Heath, but you need to know which side of the High Road is involved before you decide to join us!
• Do you have recollections of Jewish life in London that you’d like to share with readers of the Jewish News? Email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org