Today in Middlesbrough the Jewish Community, plus the Stockton on Tees Community and the West Hartlepool Community is virtually extinct but in the 1920's there were possibly about four hundred Jewish people in the area of Cleveland. Poverty was widespread, especially amongst those with large families of ten children or thereabouts. The Baum family and the Craster family come to mind, though there were others„ and in an endeavour to relieve the direst poverty the Jewish Community organised. its own Board of Guardians, to which all who could contributed weekly – a few pennies or a shilling or two.
I was a regular attender at evening religion classes after day school, and after those classes we used to play cricket in summer and football in winter on Clairville Road recreation ground. The "captain” was always Mossy Wiseman, who lived on Southfield Road on the route to Clairville Road. He used to play football also in the Middlesbrough amateur league and he was a very good athletic sportsman. After one of these games I went home with Harry Baum and had a cup of tea at their house and then went on home. I well remember when I told my parents where I had been, they were a bit vexed and said, “Don't you think they have enough mouths to feed without you adding to their problems?” The simple fact is children do not naturally notice poverty, except when they are cold and hungry themselves.
At the age of ten or eleven the first big change in our academic and therefore general lives took place. That was the 11+ as it is called nowadays and the scholarship as we called it. In those-days there was one High School in Middlesbrough. It had a school Motto in latin "aut disce aut discede", which means "either work or get out". That motto can still be seen on the clock tower.
There were not enough places for all the children who the teachers considered could have benefited from a High School education. I was not awarded the scholarship, and frankly on my performance that was a fair and correct decision.
Fortuitously, Middlesbrough possessed at that time an excellent centre of further education called the Sir Hugh Bell Central School and my examination results, not quite good enough for the High School, gained me a place at the Central School. Today that school, had it still been in existence , would have been called a state comprehensive school. All the subjects contained in the much vaunted national curriculum of fifty years hence were taught there, plus the very interesting subjects of shorthand, typewriting, book-keeping, art and woodwork, plus one language, French. In addition, this school prided itself on its sporting achievements. This school was perfect for me.
I soon came to appreciate the sheer joy of relaxed swimming, length after length, in a cool empty swimming pool, wherever one was to be found. Having a friendly knock up at tennis is also a pleasure but not in the same league as swimming. At Hugh Bell School I won so many prizes for swimming that even I, big-headed as perhaps I was, became embarrassed and asked for some of the prizes to be awarded to others.
Whilst at Hugh Bell School, I was also a member of the Middlesbrough Amateur Swimming Club. After school certificate that is after my fourth year I transferred to the sixth form in the High School.
My reward from my parents for having won a scholarship to Hugh Bell school was the promised bicycle, no doubt supplied by Lewis Brechner in part repayment of debt to my father. My friend Roy also was given a bicycle by his parents and so our horizons were extended. During the summer holidays on several occasions Roy and I left home together with our bicycles, haversacks, blankets, ground sheets, little tent and if I remember correctly fifteen shilling each in our pockets, to go travelling exploring and camping for two weeks. We had maps and we toured the Yorkshire dales and the Pennines and we got to know the North of England. We usually looked for a suitable field with a farmhouse where we would ask permission to stay the night in a corner of the field. Sometimes we had to pay the farmer’s wife perhaps sixpence, perhaps nothing, but we always offered to pay. We always asked for a glass of milk in the evening and the morning and sometimes that was also free, sometimes not. There were occasions when we just slept under a hedge or when the weather was very bad we would look for horses and ask for permission to sleep in the upper part of the stables where there was hay. I must say the smell could be described as rich country. We would buy a loaf of bread, some butter and cheese and go to a bench in a park to eat .If there was something to divide by cutting in two pieces we devised the foolproof method of taking turns to do the dividing, but whichever of us did the dividing the other one chose which portion he wanted. Thus we lived on a shilling a day, returning home triumphant but a bit tired and hungry and glad to be fed by our mothers. There was one outstanding matter that took our attention. We saw here and there small groups of men camping, apparently permanently ; Out of work, unemployed but living no doubt much cheaper and more healthily out in the open country than on street corners in town . In this age of the motor car and so many criminals and potential criminals roaming around in this green and pleasant land, that sort of a holiday expedition is no longer a safe proposition for children to undertake.
In the spring of 1932 we moved house from living at the shop premises in Linthorpe Road, to Number 10 Mayberry Grove, Linthorpe, which Blanche tells me cost £650. A Building Society loaned most of the money and it was Blanche's job to go to the Building Society once a month to make the repayments. The house was still lit by gas light .Electricity was available in the street, so mother knew a young man who was apprenticed to an electrician, name of Julian Segerman, and he installed electricity one week-end. His workmanship must have been good, for we never had any trouble in all the years that followed .
My sister Audrey at some stage transferred from Parliament Road School, which was the neighbour of my Crescent Road School, to Kirby Secondary School which was near to where we now lived. This school was either wholly or part private, perhaps with part local authority funding. I think that my parents had to pay some fees, but not very much. Of our three children she benefited the least from her education and cost the most. She was exceedingly bright but she made a joke of everything, and had no academic ambition.
At the earliest opportunity legally to take Audrey away from school mother did so, and Audrey then worked in mother's ladies clothing shop at 159 Linthorpe Road Middlesbrough. This occupation was much more to Audrey’s liking and abilities and she and mother got along together thereafter.