Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 11 June 2001 page 3
Ed Note: This is a letter received by David Saville from Miss Bedford, who was Headmistress of Linthorpe Infants School from around 1939 until 1954. It is very interesting to read a non-Jewish perspective of the Jewish Community.
Incidentally Miss Bedford has been hearing from former pupils over the years and would specially like to hear from her students, either at her address: 11 Hollygarth Close, Great Ayton, Middlesbrough TS l OPL or telephone: 0642-725894.
Miss Bedford will be 96 years old on 26 July 2001 - birthday greetings would be most appreciated and acknowledged.
Your call to me last week was a surprise. It gave me great pleasure. It always gives me a thrill to hear from old pupils and to know that one’s old school is remembered.
I know that when you were a child, the Jewish community in Middlesbrough was vigorous and successful. I remember the names of the families you mentioned - several of them were well known people and business people.
I had close connections with the Cohens our neighbours as you know, and with Bob and Marjorie Collins. Bob had a grocery business in Linthorpe Road.
Harry and Sylvia Cohen were kind and helpful neighbours to my mother and myself. I was especially grateful to them for the care they took of my mother when I was on fire watching duty at Linthorpe School during the many air raids which we endured. Ruth was 4 years old I think when we went to live at No 99 and Alan was born at No 97. Ruth was a quiet reserved, friendly and clever girl. Alan grew to be a bright intelligent boy, full of mischief. I have happy memories of the 17 years when we were neighbours.
Our friendship with Bob and Marjorie began through their girls Gwendoline and Judy and remained constant until my mother died. I was able to visit them twice at Southport which, like all contact with them, I enjoyed. I still hear from Judith each Christmas when she keeps me up to date with family news.
When I was teaching at Fleetham Street School I first met Miriam Silverston - she came to her first teaching post there. She and I each had a class of 45+ in the same room. It was a large room with a balcony down one side with rows of fixed desks each for two children. The division between the two classes was a yard wide aisle, with a blackboard at ground level. How we avoided chaos I do not know. Miriam did not stay more than a year. I think when she went to teach in a Jewish school in London, I was not surprised but lost touch with her then, although I knew her sister Freda.
I remember the old Synagogue in Brentnall Street. I passed it on my way daily, as I went to Southend School where I was a student teacher. It always seemed to be a forbidding and mysterious building, but there was nothing forbidding about the new synagogue built in Park Road South, which I was privileged to visit three times. The first, one Sunday afternoon, I forget the purpose of the gathering. The second time was the Bar Mitzvah service of Alan Cohen. How proud he was to be grown up at last. Then the splendid occasion of Ruth Cohen's wedding. I found the proceedings impressive, but mysterious. I was also taken to the stone laying ceremony a year after the death of Sylvia Cohen.
Through my varied connections I have learned something of the Jewish way of life and the purpose of many of its customs.
And now the children who came to Linthorpe Infants School. I remember Alan and Ruth Cohen, Gwendoline and Judith Collins, Michael and Pamela Cohen, Michael, David and Ruth Saville, Michael, Rose and Judy Bharier and their cousin whose name I forget.
A little girl who lived in Queens Road was very upset at not being given the part of Mary in our Xmas Nativity play, but settled for being an angel with her parents’ consent. Her father was a tailor.
Geoffrey Schmulewitsch rebuked me sharply when I was talking about what fathers did; I said that his father makes shirts. No, he said, he makes money!
I also remember Michael Blakey and Donald Wiseman and Geraldine Hyman. We had three refugees from Austria, who were on their way to America where they had relatives. The girls were sisters, one seven years old, the other five. I do not remember the names, the elder girl spoke and wrote beautiful English. They were quiet but not timid children. The boy was also seven, I think. Theo Opatofsky was a bright boy with an outgoing personality and would talk to anyone. He frequently visited me in my office and told me that if I were to have German children in my school I had to learn to speak German. Their father was a tailor and had made a beautiful overcoat to keep Theo warm - it was brown, completely lined, beaver fur. I could imagine what grief and hope had gone into the making of this coat. I hope that these children have had a successful life.
It was a pleasure to have the Jewish children in the school. We found you to be intelligent, hard working and well behaved, giving very little trouble to the staff.
I had excellent relations with your parents who were helpful and cooperative and who expected their children to do well at school.
When I left Linthorpe School in 1954 to open Berwick Hills School the childrens' gift to me was a pretty china tea service and a pink metal tray; this part of the gift was presented to me by Michael Cohen and the china by a little girl in the school.
When I opened Berwick Hills we had a little Jewish girl in the school, her surname was Klyman. Her parents had opened a clothing shop on the new parade off shops in the estate.
My first contact with the Hush family was when I was 10 years old, when they lived in Southfield Road. My uncle had a boot and shoe repairing business in Victoria Road. My wartime job was to deliver the repaired footwear when this was requested. I cheerfully went to the Hush household, for there was always a reward for me and this my mother allowed me to spend. What joy!
It was after my removal to Great Ayton in 1968 that I first met Ernest Hush. When I told him that I had taught with Miriam his wife he replied "Ah! You must be the one with the other class - I have had to wait a long time to meet you" - more than 50 years.
Ernest became a very kind friend to my friend and myself. He was firmly and actively concerned with the social and public life of the village. He enjoyed entertaining his friends. Towards the end of his life he wished to invite all his lady friends to afternoon tea. This took place on two consecutive afternoons. I think there were about 12 each day - his Jewish lady friends and his gentile ones. Everyone enjoyed it, he employed an outside caterer and told me it was from part of the proceeds of the sale of the silver tea service which his family did not want. Ernest set up several useful projects in Great Ayton, visiting the sick and leaving little gifts.
I think the production of the Newsletter is an excellent idea, it surely must be important to have a permanent record of the Jewish life in Middlesbrough at its peak.
I wish you well with your future production of this newsletter. Edna Bedford Great Ayton, England