Kehilat Middlesbrough Newsletter No 28 January 2013 page 15 ( of 17)
The year was 1965, the month April, the swinging sixties. Unit 4 Plus 2 were top of the hit parade and mini skirts were the fashion of the day, and I was 15.
On 12th April I started my first job as Office Junior at the offices of Martin L Cohen & Co, 123 Albert Road, Middlesbrough. I left School on the Friday and started work on the Monday.
The first day I remember being told that I only got the job as I had long blonde hair! They didn’t mention that my Dad (a policeman) had already been into to see them, after my initial interview, to make sure I got the job.
These things happened in those days. I don’t think it would be allowed today.
My job was to make the tea, which Brian Levy showed me how to make. I also did copy typing and anything else that was wanted. Every week I would go to the Chinese Laundry on Newport Road, to take Mr Levy’s collars in to be starched.
Brian Levy was a lovely man and kept a fatherly eye on me. He sometimes used to treat us to hot chicken sandwiches from the Masham Pub in Middlesbrough which, of course, was very nice of him.
He rarely went to Court. Frank Gibbon, the other Solicitor at 123 Albert Road, did the Court work. Mr Levy dealt with a lot of Pakistani Clients as they were selling land in Pakistan, and so nearly every day there would be a Pakistani Client. He would do an Affidavit for them and then went to the County Court for them to swear on the Koran. He would go with one person and often come back with most of their family they had met on the way to the Court.
I remember once on my birthday, Brian asked me what I was going to do on the evening. I said probably nothing, as I was too young to go into pubs etc. He said if he were younger he would take me out somewhere. He would always give me a friendly lecture on boys, etc, and said if I ever got into trouble with a boy, I should go to him and not to some back street woman. I cannot remember why this conversation came up, but he was looking after me. I was very embarrassed with this conversation and wondered where on earth it had come from.
Mrs Levy (his Mother) came to the offices from time to time. One particular occasion, I was called into Mr Levy’s office after Mrs Levy left. He said that Mrs Levy was concerned that my dress was too short, and perhaps I should wear something more becoming to a Solicitors Office. Of course, he was laughing at the same time he was telling me this, but the next morning I went into work in a long skirt and jumper. When he saw me, he just laughed and asked where my pearls were, to go with the jumper.
He used to park his car on Albert Road, outside the office. The only trouble was that you could only park for two hours. So every two hours he would go out to ride round the block and come back and park in the same place. It was my job to go and stand in this space until he came back, so he could re-park his car. I used to dread doing this and one day someone else wanted to park in Mr Levy’s space. Of course I could not say anything to them, so they parked there. When Mr Levy came back to park his car he couldn’t, so he had to park somewhere else. On his return to the office, he said I had to go out and let down the car tyres of the car that parked in his space. I said I couldn’t do that, as it was not fair to the chap who had parked there. Later, I did hear that someone had to blow the tyre up outside the office. I had my suspicions, but didn’t say anything!
He was very popular with the ladies and I can remember some of the girl friends he had. Unfortunately, one of the girlfriends wasn’t Jewish, but she was lovely.
We were plagued with mice in the Office, so Brian used to put them in the waste paper bin and let them loose in the street. This carried on for a while, until one of the businesses in the neighbouring property told the environmental health, so it was stopped. Only to end up in the toilet.
One day I was in the office by myself and a man walked in. He went straight to one of the filing cabinets and started looking through it.
I went up to him and asked what he thought it was doing. The reply was “I am Martin Cohen, girl”. This was the first time I met Mr Cohen and he scared me.
Once when he was at 123 Albert Road, he asked me to go to Marks and Spencers and buy him some new underpants!
On Monday 19th June 1967, I was the first one in the Office. I knew someone was in Brian’s Office and I assumed it was him.
The telephone rang and I answered and it was Michael Dennison asking to speak to Brian. So I told him I would put him through to Mr Levy. When I put the call through, Frank Gibbon answered and I heard him say that Brian had been killed in a car accident on his way down to London. I remember this very vividly, as I was truly shocked and in a state of disbelief. I went into the back Office and cried and cried, until Frank Gibbon came to in to make sure I was alright.
We closed the Office that day, but the telephone never stopped. A lot of Mr Levy’s Pakistani Clients came to the office to offer their condolences and they wanted to know where he lived, so they could see Mrs Levy. Of course we could not tell them, but they were visibly shaken.
The next few weeks were dreadful. We were still getting letters from Clients, and people who had not read about it in the paper were ringing and asking for him. This was the first time the death of someone I cared for had entered my life. It took me a long time to get over it.
Of course I could not go to the funeral as men only went, so I stayed in the office with the other two secretaries.
Brian Levy was a lovely man to work for and looked after me. Even now, 45 years later, I still have fond memories him and June never goes by without me thinking of him.
From 123 Albert Road we moved to 33 Albert Road. From there, Frank Gibbon moved to our Stockton Office at Tees Buildings, Bridge Road. I went with him as his Junior Secretary.
I used to sit in the typing pool at Tees Buildings. We had a lady called Edith Cole who was in charge of the typing pool.
Mr Cohen used to ring the typing pool from time to time, and his telephone ring was a distinctive one and we all had to stop typing when Mr Cohen rang.
Sometimes he used to walk into the office and if you didn’t look busy, he would give you a telephone directory and tell you to start from A and type away, until some work came your way.
Most of the girls were frightened of him and kept well out of his way. I moved to a new office, which was not far from Mr Cohen’s office. This was scary. He wanted a new Secretary, as one of his old time Secretaries had left. He had a new Secretary for exactly two hours and she walked out!
I remember him having to go to the County Court one day. He came into the Office with a coloured shirt on, and in those days you could only wear white. So it was a quick all change to see whose partner’s white shirt would fit him. The shirt he went to Court in was a bit big but it didn’t cause too much fuss. I couldn’t say that about the Partner who had to put on Mr Cohen’s shirt, which was far too small for him. We all had a good laugh about that, although we didn’t let Mr Cohen know.
I found that if you talked to him like he talked to you (not cheekily) he respected you a lot, and in the end he always called me Mr Gibbon’s little girl, even when I was married and had a baby!
The last time I saw him was at a 25th Anniversary party, which he held in a hotel in Stockton on Tees. I was not working at Cohens at that time, but still got an invitation to go to this party. We all thoroughly enjoyed it ,seeing working colleagues we had not seen for years. He stopped to talk to me and said, “are you Mr Gibbon’s little girl?” and I said, “yes” and we had a talk about the old days, when Brian was still around. Margaret Lloyd