Maurice Jacobs! How can I best describe this fascinating personality! He was a rare type of man, a most lovable character without guile or pretensions, candid, open, affable, interesting and entertaining. To be in his company was like a breath of fresh air, as bracing as the ozone that blows from the sea. One lingered long in his company to listen to his tales; his anecdotes of life in the homeland, his personal experiences here and his adventures abroad; for he like a few more of his contemporaries-whom I will mention later - migrated to South Africa on the discovery of diamonds and the gold rush and thrilling tales he had to tell, for he had that rare piquant style of putting them over, found but in the raconteur that holds one.
In stature he was above middle height; in build he was broad shouldered and heavy. Rather dignified in appearance with a pleasant expression and an open countenance. His wife was a good hearted, homely affectionate soul with whom he lived happily and reared a large family, and as I have said before this was general in those days.
Families were big and houses too which could be expected for England was the cheapest country in the world. Income tax was about 9d in the £ and everything was dirt cheap. One could obtain a domestic servant to live in and work long hours for 2/6 a week. A full size pair of cotton sheets cost 2/- and a pair of full size pure wool blankets 6/-. A man's suit ready-to-wear could be had for 10/and a dozen boxes of matches for 1d. As for food—1lb of cheese cost 4d, a stone of potatoes 6d, a loaf of bread 1½d, a lb of fish 4d, and other things in proportion, so a large family could be maintained at little expense. Compare this with conditions today!
He was a pawnbroker with a business in Corporation Road, which stood on the site where the Odeon Picture House is erected. He lived on the premises, subsequently moving to Linthorpe as that area began to develop.
The semi-detached villa he occupied at 33 Cambridge Road has an extensive garden at the rear, where in his advancing years he whiled his time cultivating tomatoes and tending the flowers, in which he took a pride.
His pawnshop had its limitations and as it began to decline he gave it up and retired. He was not a rich man, but he lived well and gave his children a good education. As the family reached maturity it disintegrated, and he was left alone with Rebecca an unmarried daughter to look after him.
He lived to a ripe old age but towards the end he was bedfast, due to a general breakup consistent with his pears. I went to see him. He had all his faculties. His brain was crystal clear, his memory unimpaired and he chatted away cheerfully as he reposed on his bed. He looked for all the world like an ancient patriarch.
Joseph Berber (1854-1937)
He was another early arrival. A quiet, modest retiring man, passive and easy-going, a family man really, a devoted husband and an indulgent father. Initially he lived at 160 Cannon Street in a small way of business. This was a small insignificant shop. From there he drifted into Newport Road and established himself in the boot and shoe trade, at the corner of Duncombe Street where he carried on until his demise. He lived on these premises for many years but later moved to 3 Oxford Road. After his wife's death he removed with his family to Southfield Road - in the Terrace, the 2nd block on the right from Linthorpe Road. His three sons have passed away. They were Abraham - an intellectual - Louie, and Sam, a violinist of no mean ability. The business was continued by them until one by one they died. It is taken over by Messrs Stanton and Co.
Joseph Berger lived to a good old age and died undergoing an operation. His daughter Gertie was the wife of the late Albert Halson. She too alas is no more! They were an affectionate and very loyal family.
Jacob Wilson (1842-1916)
Jacob Wilson was a man of plain tastes, agreeable and sociable. He migrated to South Africa about the 1870's and on his return opened a pawnshop in Durham Street at the corner of Lower East Street, a very suitable position for such a business, in those days with its congested streets and courts of crowded poverty-stricken humanity, and its numerous pubs. The original shop does not exist to-day. If I remember rightly it was pulled down to make way for a modern building. Subsequently the premises were taken over by the late Sol Levy, who opened it as a pawnshop again.
It will be noted with few exceptions - and they were those with a trade - the majority of the Old Standards launched out in either pawnbroking or money-lending. The reasons are obvious. Firstly they were profitable and flourishing concerns in their heyday, and secondly they needed little technical instruction. In what else of any consequence could they establish themselves? They started off sorely handicapped with the language, the ways of the land. They could neither read nor write. Pedalling with sponges and washleathers or glazing was of little value in fitting one for a business of a higher standard.
When he first opened in Durham Street he lived on the premises. Later, after getting the two eldest daughters married, he lived privately, occupying the house 70 Grange Road West where he resided for many years.
Subsequently the business deteriorated and it was closed down. He then resorted to moneylending. In the course of time he left Grange Road West and settled in Grange Rd East.
He had four daughters, Fanny, Rachel and Jessie married. Leah didn't, and she survived them.
It will be observed how persistently and repeatedly I have mentioned the children of these men, in many instances in detail, because often the offspring develops not only the physical and mental attributes of its progenitor, but the disposition, temperament, habits, whims, foibles and peculiarities, for the apple does not fall far from the tree. They are the counterpart often.
He lived to a good age, and died in his home in Grange Rd East.