Here again we find another example of grit and determination to rise from small beginnings andmake good. A packet of vitality, short in stature - one of the few exceptions in this respect to his compatriots who were mostly men of good height - built in physique much on the lines of his son Victor the Pharmaceutical Chemist. Shrewd, astute, forceful, progressive, keen in business and tough in a bargain - this so far as my pen can describe him was Jacob Levy.
He took up pawnbroking, dealt in jewellery and watches - most pawnbrokers did - and established himself in Newport Road at the corner of Spencer Street. Initially he lived on the premises, but as the family increased he removed to private residence in Windsor Road, where both he and his wife died, She was pompous, well featured, and a good cook! Her pastry was "par excellence" and although her sponge-cakes and cheese cakes were good, they did not perhaps merit all her braggadocio, or praise bestowed on them. Most women in those days baked their oven bread, both Jew and Gentile. Shop bread was rarely seen in the home. It was bread , and not baked with the processed flour manufactured today, and with fresh country butter one could make a meal of that alone!
Apropos of families, he kept up the reputation for large ones, rearing ten. Five sons. Mentioning but two, the late Lionel Levy, and Victor, already referred to, and five daughters to mention one Mrs Gertie Gi1low of Barker Road.
He dabbled in property, picking up snips here and there as they came his way. He was fond of horses, and was no mean judge of the equine species. As a hobby he would buy, sell, or swop. An animal that took his fancy he would buy. Often he was seen in his tub-trap with one of his fancies trotting briskly in the shafts.
He was fond of a game of cards and keen on billiards, especially when he became more anglicized. He was a member of the Liberal Club and often seen playing there. In this way he mingled freely with the Gentiles. The majority of his compatriots at that time rarely joined any alien Club, or institution and kept themselves reservedly to themselves. This was more so after his wife died. Perhaps as a diversion. He was first and foremost a family man, and took an interest in his home .
Barnet Nelson (1841-1925)
These biographical sketches would be incomplete without the mention of Mr Nelson, a man of understanding and reason. He was modest, plain, conscientious, intelligent and sensible and he was listened to with respect, for when he spoke he knew what he vas talking about, being clear and to the point. He was an easy conversationalist and at the Meetings both General and Commute he spoke well, and effectively. For many years he was Registrar for Jewish Births, Deaths and Marriages, in addition to his being Honorary Secretary to the Congregation, and a great asset he was to the Community.
In business he was a pawnbroker and jeweller in Corporation Road at the corner of Guerney Street, the shop at present occupied by Ernest Hush; but as I have said before this area for that business had its limitations.
There were three such shops in the Road and the district was not to be compared with that of Cannon Street, or the North Side (ie) beyond the railway-crossing. Both teemed with a population of workers. In consequence he like Mr M Jacobs never attained the success of the others in the trade. It must be borne in mind Mr I Hush had a flourishing business in Cannon Street in addition to his Corporation Road Branch.
He was comfortable and content, and I fully believe, happy enough. He was not that type of man to put all his energy in the pursuit of superfluity, which had not for him the glamour it had for the majority already mentioned Neither he nor his wife were covetous. They were plain, unostentatious, content and unenvious.
Children from such parentage would run naturally true to type, and they did. They were intelligent and rational. His youngest daughter Rebecca was a school teacher. His wife had good height, was angular end sharp featured; voluble, expressive and frank.
It runs in my mind, and in this I am open to contradiction, that a relationship existed between the Nelson's and the Bernstein's who are next described. If so, I assume it to be Mrs Nelson and Mr Moses Bernstein were brother and sister. They resembled one another both in features and other respects, and I remember they were attached and much together, so were the families. He was popular, respected and esteemed and that is something anyone can be proud of.
Moses Bernstein (1841-1908)
On the site upon which the Scala Picture Hall stands in Newport Road stood a grey bricked Chapel - adjoining this were premises with a shop front, above which was a Hall. It was on the ground floor where Moses Bernstein in the latter part of his life opened a Furniture shop. This is all I can recall of his occupation, but I don’t think he was always in that line, or that was his only shop. But he never crossed the border line. One cannot say why. He wasn't unambitious or lazy. On the contrary he was active and a "tryer"
There are so many factors that go to make for success in business - but paramount I would say are personality, management and foresight. However they play a big role. But there are instances (and many) where individuals have neither (nor any other recommendation) who have through various circumstances such as War, sailed into calm waters, from the boisterous sea and cast their anchor, but of course such adventitiousness can be assigned to pure good fortune, and every one isn't born under a lucky star.
He was somewhat of a character. Odd, loquacious, with a turn for sarcasm and an inclination to jealousy in the success of others.
I remember his daughter Lily. Ah, yes! Lily! She was one! Good to look at. But this simile is metaphorical, and in order to disillusion the reader I had better describe her. She was good to look at, but not fair. She was dark. Not tall and slender, but of middle height and matronly, with graceful classic curves, that flowed and waved in and out, adding to her attraction. She was lively and pleasant, the facsimile of her mother both physically, temperamentally and in features.
Her brother Harry (an assumed name) had good features too. He was a cabinet-maker with a flair for music. He played both the violin and the oboe as a hobby. They were a good looking family. A trait inherited from the mother. I don’t recall more than two sons and two daughters and I feel sure the family consisted of no more.
They lived very respectable and comfortable at 436 Linthorpe Road in the village at the time it began to develop. [A good sized house. At the rear was a large garden or area which has been turned into a garage at present in the occupation of The Bee Line of Motor Buses. The house has been converted into two shops 434A & 436.]
They were still here in 1901 but the sons gradually drifted away, in search of better opportunities, and indeed they succeeded remarkably well.
Jesse Phillips (1845-1922)
Jesse Phillips was an unique person. In physique he was abnormal, almost elephantine. Fat, very corpulent and stout. His gait was awkward, as if it were an effort to get along, and he puffed and blowed. His voice was thick and husky, and his manner gruff, surly and harsh. He wasn't easy to approach, and was lacking in easy friendliness, was stand-offish and sullen. In business he was a money-lender engaged in somewhat high finance ignoring the working-classes and concentrating on farmers, business people and the professional classes. He would entertain no loan less than £10 and advanced money in big amounts. In his dealings he was very strict, uncompromising and scrupulous about repayments.
He lived in The Crescent, a little beyond the present Linthorpe Hotel on the opposite side. His family was not large. None resembled him in physique. The daughters were after their mother's type, a lady-like woman, quiet and affable. She was of medium height and thin, the opposite of her spouse. He mixed with few people and had his own select coterie, with whom he played an occasional game cards.
Like the Bernstein's the family subsequently disintegrated and drifted away. I remember Jesse as a boy. He was rarely absent from his usual seat in the Synagogue, near the Ark where the select sat. Whether he was ever President or Treasurer I don’t know. I have no records to guide me. Personally I think not. He may have been a Committee man. The majority of these Old Standards were.