Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 16 May 2003 page 2
Childhood memoirs - Donald Wiseman
I was born on 26th May 1943, the only child of Jake and Belle Wiseman. We lived at 23 Phillips Avenue and this was our home until we moved to Marton before coming on Aliya in 1981.
Father used to tell me the “lads” of his age he was friendly with were Mick Solomon, Wolfy Smollan, Sam Greenberg, Sid Barnett and Morris Saville. Perhaps it is a sense of nostalgia, but it does seem that there was much more camaraderie in the thirties, than there was in the fifties. Perhaps because there was no television, no computers and no internet, and perhaps because families were much larger in those early days.
During World War II, father was in the fire service, along with Issy Nayman, Morris Saville, Berny Bernard, Maurice Marks, Eric Jaffa and Sam Greenberg.
My grandparents were always in business and had properties in South Street, before the great Depression in the twenties saw an end to all that. The main shop during my childhood was at 38 Newport Road, long since demolished to make way for the new United Bus Station. I remember accompanying my father on rare occasions to the very top floors – it was a very big old building with a rabbit warren of small rooms, attics and cellars. Even he did not know what was there in those attics.
My grandfather Abraham used to attend Government auctions and come home with large quantities of gas mask cases, and lots of ex-military gear and apparatus. It all ended up in the attics. There were no lifts in these properties, and to get to the upper floors required some agility. Just before the shop was finally demolished in the 1960s, the Corporation sent in scientists from the Imperial War Museum to rescue some apparently very rare pre-war radio transmitting equipment, which apparently Abraham had bid for on one of his shopping expeditions. The Evening Gazette duly recorded the event, and so the Wiseman name lives on to this day somewhere in the Imperial War Museum in London.
Mother had died of cancer at the age of 47 in 1955. At the same time, Sylvia Cohen and Jennie Kremer also passed away at an early age, since when they used to say in Middlesbrough tragedies come three at a time.
All that I remember about my Bar Mitzvah is that it was two months after Michael Bharier’s; the Parasha was Bamidbar; and that I had to stand on a box to read it.
My father remarried Rosie Jackson from Cork, Ireland in 1957 and they had a son, Louis and now the two of us live in the Pisgat Zeev suburb of Jerusalem.
I attended Linthorpe Primary and Junior: Michael Bharier and Alan Cohen were in my year. At Middlesbrough High School. Pamela Cohen, Rochelle Schmulewitch and Ruth Israel were in the girls section. Bernard Vyner and David Lazarus were also at the MHS at that time.
My paternal grandparents Abraham and Bella Wiseman came from Suwalki and were married in Odessa in 1905 and came to live in Claude Avenue via Southfield Road. In 1970 they presented a Sefer Torah to the Shul and since the Closure it is used in our own Shul in Pisgat Zeev. Grandma Bella was known as a Baalat Tsedaka. When they came from Sunderland Yeshiva to collect, she was top of the list.
The other big "Mitzva" man in our family was Uncle Benny Goldstein, of the Chevra Kadisha. Sad to say, he really came into his own when there was a death in the Community. He and Dave Solomons (and later on Lionel Simons) were for many years the mainstay of the Chevra Kadisha in Middlesbrough and together they invested much energy and devotion into their sacred work.
Two endearing memories of Benny. He and Miriam lived over shop at 196 Newport Road. In the days before central heating open coal fires provided the main source of heating for most homes. Whilst waiting for customers to come into the shop during the winter, Benny would keep himself warm by standing in front of and with his back to the fire in the living room. Apart from preventing anyone else in the room from benefitting from the fire, I was always aware of a faint smell of something burning – and it wasn’t his ever-lit pipe!
Benny loved dogs and for as long as I can remember had a rather large golden Labrador retriever called “Scamp”. It lived in the back yard in a shed which had been converted into a kennel. Its main pleasure in life was for Benny to take it out so that it could run around and terrorise the inhabitants of the adjoining streets. I tried hard to feel the same affection for the dog that Benny clearly had. But as a diminuitive 10 year old, who was in any event not overly fond of dogs, I found it difficult to avoid the thought that if Scamp and I were ever alone together in the house, he would probably consume me for breakfast. And so, when it came the time for Benny to take him out in the evenings, I was always given sufficient warning to get out the line of fire. As were most properties in the area, Number 196 was linear, with a series of rooms connected by a long corridor. The shop was on Newport Road and the end room was the kitchen which led out in to the yard. The dog thus had to get from his kennel, into the kitchen, along the corridor, through the shop and around the corner to freedom! In all, a matter of some 30 yards, which the dog traversed in a matter of seconds. Woe betide anyone foolish enough to get in his way! Looking back, of course, all he wanted was some affection and lots of exercise, but at the time I didn’t feel brave (or foolhardy) enough to give him either. Luckily for Scamp, Benny gave him both.
Phillips Avenue in the fifties was at the centre of the Jewish area:
Phillips Avenue - Wiseman, Gardner, Bookey
Westwood Avenue – Hershberg, Schalk, Hyman- I was the only boy in town who was allowed to use Sam's dark room for developing photographs.
Claude Avenue - my Grandparents, Philip Simon
Mayberry Grove - Rev Kersh, Ellman, Stock
Orchard Road – Bharier, Saville
After High School I studied Law at Leeds and then served articles with Philip Niman – I was the first articled clerk to actually receive a weekly salary; before then you had to pay the solicitor for the privilege of working for him - after which I worked as a solicitor for Averys, the weighing machine company in Birmingham, before joining Tube Investments, also in Birmingham, before coming on Aliya in 1981. But even though I was studying or working away from Middlesbrough I always came home for Festivals and very often for weekends, so that apart from the last of the Middlesbrough "members" still living there, I reckon I am among the longest survivors.
Philip Niman’s office at the corner of Grange Road and Borough Road was surrounded by those of more Jewish solicitors – perhaps a dozen of them. Kehilat Middlesbrough probably had more solicitors in proportion to its size than any other in England. It was the Jewish solicitors, so it is told, who convinced the judge that when Agnes Spencer of Nunthorpe wrote in her will, 2000 shares in Marks and Spencer to the “Middlesbrough Hebrew Church”, she meant the Jewish synagogue and not the Unitarian Church, which she attended every Sunday.
To conclude on a personal note, I think it is appropriate place to record on behalf of David Saville and myself, our grateful thanks to all those who have contributed material to this website and to the Newsletters. Without those contributions, there would be no virtual Kehilla. It is those readers and website visitors who have kept it going. And of course it is equally true to say that, without the indefatigable and continuing efforts of David in marshalling those contributions from sometimes reluctant contributors, our virtual Kehilla would not be what it is today. Donald Wiseman Jerusalem, Israel