Our surname was changed almost imperceptibly. People found it difficult to accept Fischbein rhymed with Woodbine. Most people simply pronounced it Fishburn, like the name of the small town near Sedgefield. In September 1950 my father officially changed the family name to Fishburn by deed poll.
I left Middlesbrough in spirit when I started Oxford University although I spent more time at home on vacation than at college, in my three years there.
At the factory storm clouds were looming. I became aware from the increasingly heated and often personally abusive discussions the business was in serious difficulties. M & S was unhappy with the quality of goods we manufactured and the company had effectively run out of money.
I spent much of my vacations working in the factory, driving the vans, packing and helping.
My 21st birthday party in June 1952 was arguably the social event of the decade in Middlesbrough, a black tie affair. The grounds of Brierfield housed a large marquee and we had Charlie Amer and his orchestra. This wildly extravagant party was held at a time when matters at the factory were at a critical stage. For the first time ever they sought my opinion and asked me to look over some papers they had been asked to sign. I was horrified by what I read. The company was bust.
Another company was formed of which the ladies were the sole directors and shareholders. They would not let the men have any say in its running. Early in 1953 the Rockville Manufacturing Co Ltd was formed. Premises were taken in Stockton-on-Tees. The men, Max and Dad, were taken on as employees, Dad to do the books and Max to sell. Naturally they made shirts and adopted a trade name Kadema, which means forward in Hebrew.
At the end of my second year I bought tickets as military personnel for the Coronation. I felt it incumbent on me, having the chance to do so, to witness this historical event.
When I arrived home, though the ghost of Guisborough still haunted the house, there was almost a feeling of relief it was all over. There was suddenly an unexpected uncertainty about my future.
My parents came to Oxford for the degree ceremony. It was the first and sadly the last time they came to any prize-giving or ceremony during my whole education. My mother was moved to tears, my father glowed with pleasure. I asked them why they hadn't been to any of my school prize givings and my mother replied: "We didn't want to embarrass you in front of your friends with our foreign accent and not speaking English very well."
I had never realized my parents had a foreign accent. She could not articulate the real underlying reason, which was fear of exposure to a totally alien, non-Jewish world. I now saw my home and my parents in a different light. It was not that my affection for them was any the less but I recognized the differences in our ways of life and expectations had far wider implications.
Family circumstances had made it impracticable to follow my intended career as a barrister so in yet another change of direction I became a solicitor or rather an articled clerk. On Monday October 18, 1954, I took the no 13 bus from Golders Green station in Bond Street, sixpence return and arrived at the offices of H Davis & Co.
My first two months in London passed quickly. I was settling into a new life and enjoying it.
My parents' silver wedding at Christmas 1954 was celebrated with a huge party. There was the usual influx of family and friends from London and elsewhere to Middlesbrough.
Two weeks later at about 3am there was huge banging on my London front door. It was my Uncle Karl. I looked at him in astonishment. He could not speak. Eventually he said: "Your mother's had a car accident and is in hospital." I replied: "That's nonsense. I spoke to her a few hours ago, she was in bed with a cold." I had to hurry to catch the first train up North. Karl then told me my mother had had a heart attack. I chose not to contemplate it but I knew in my heart of hearts my mother was dead. We arrived at a deeply grieving Brierfield. My father was lost.
Within a few weeks after my mother died my Uncle Max had a massive stroke. Eventually his physical strength and sheer willpower pulled him through but he was never able to work again. The factory had taken its last sacrifice.
After my mother died my father remarried eventually and moved for a short time to Sunderland. Brierfield was sold to Leeds University.
Until my father died in 1970 my family and I visited Middlesbrough regularly but my home was in London.
I met my wife Evi in 1957, a few months before my law finals. It was very much love at first sight and we were married in March 1958, a few days after I became admitted as a solicitor. Evi came from a similar background to my own. Her family had left Austria in 1939 and emigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was studying in Geneva when we met. Evi is now an academic, a Professor in Latin American studies and of international renown in her field. We have three daughters, two of whom are solicitors and partners in large London firms and the youngest is a scientist with a PhD in molecular biology who is now in San Francisco. We also have ten grandchildren, five boys and five girls, ranging in age from 13 down to six months.
My life in London is another book still to be written. I left the firm where I started after 13 years and founded my own firm. I had an association with the local firm of Martin L Cohen for a time. Martin was one of my oldest friends and he offered me the chance to join him and to return to Teesside. Tempting though the offer was I felt the type of work I wanted to do was in London.
My own firm grew rapidly and became well known in commercial work and professional negligence insurance. I had several further changes and by the time I retired I was a senior partner in one of the fastest growing firms in London's West End.
I never cease to think of myself as a Teessider. My accent still betrays my Yorkshire background. When people ask me "where are you from?" I reply "Middlesbrough". I get very cross when they sometimes say "where's that?". Usually the reponse is "I believe they have a football team". And that is the continuing link. Try as I might I cannot desert the Boro.
My middle daughter Alexandra, the sporty one, has shared my devotion to the Boro. At ten she joined the London branch of the supporters' club and failed to understand why I would not let her go to meetings, which were held in a pub. I sometimes think she supports the Boro shop single-handed. Tea towels, children's shirts, caps, scarves, cups and other items about her house are all in red and white. Going there is like going to a home game.
We attend Boro's London games with her children when possible though on occasions we have had to hide our colours on our way home.
The graves of three of my grandparents and my parents remain in Middlesbrough. When I was last there I got lost, so much has changed. When I look back I see a town in which, despite the deprivation of the thirties, the dirt, poverty, the difficulties of war and shortages, I had the happiest childhood and youth. Of its people I have only the most affectionate memory.