Jacob Wood was a decent sort. Amiable, open and free. He was a glazier. Hardworking, industrious and persevering. He tramped the streets with a heavy crate of glass on his back, on the look out for broken windows and he hadn't far to look, for there were plenty in the lodger parts of the town inhabited by the masses, especially on a Monday morning after the week-end sprees and carousals, for in the fracases the combatants would lay into the window panes and bash them in with anything handy, to vent their spleen.
In the course of time his struggle was eased and his burdensome toil mitigated, when he opened a small shop at the bottom of Cannon Street, where he sold glass and did a little picture-framing.
After years of this precarious livelihood he worked his way up and got in with the local works, finally securing contracts for glass roofing, which set him on his feet after a long uphill fight. By this time most of his children had grown to adolescence. He was now able to relax and take things a bit easy. He would dress-up and supervise.
His eldest son Moss took over much of the onerous work and he then moved from above the shop into private residence, taking a house at 2 The Crescent Linthorpe, next door to Tyneholme, the residence of the late Thomas D Stewart Esq JP, when one of the worst of tragedies befell him! His son Moss was grinding a tool on a grindstone in one of the local works where he was on a job, when it suddenly burst, flew in pieces, killing him outright.
I don’t think the parents ever recovered from that dreadful calamity and it blighted their lives. This son would be in his twenties. A strapping young man, unmarried.
Jacob wasn't a rich man! He was just finding his feet as the saying goes when this catastrophe happened, which no doubt put him back, for he was getting on in years unable to do the strenuous toil of his younger days and shorn of the help he so much needed. He was slightly above middle height and he walked with a limping gait, as if he were afflicted with some infirmity. However it was of little consequence, for he got along at a decent pace.
Both he and his spouse were orthodox and firm in their faith. She was a heavy built woman, about his height and wore a bitter and somewhat contemptuous expression, as if disdainful of life's unmercifulness; but she was withal a good mother and devoted wife. Her life she dedicated to her husband and children, to pilot them through life's stormy passage. We11,there it is:... Such is the fickleness of fortune: Just as its embers begin to smoulder and show a flame, it is ruthlessly damped down: Such is the fickleness of life: ....Just as it begins to glow with incandescence it is extinguished!
Chaim Smollan (1859-1925)
Some of these Old Standards brought their occupations with them, such as bootmakers, slippermakers, watchmakers, tailors and so forth, and carried them on in the country of their adoption.
Not that they did much better here financially, but they gained their liberty, their freedom from oppression and persecution which was everything to them, and without which life was hardly worth while, and there were great opportunities for those with the will, the determination, and aspiration to succeed.
Chaim was a tailor on his own account with his own workshop, where he did private work and made-up for the Trade: a man who put in long hours every day, often working from early morn' far into the night, doing most of the work himself, so naturally his earning capacity was limited. He was always busy. If not at his machine; at pressing, if not that, stitching, seated tailor-like on the bench.
The majority of these men found little time for recreation, being too preoccupied with their task to indulge in pastime or games. There was game enough in furnishing a living to indulge in any other! Yes! one had to labour hard for a livelihood. It was work and bed year in and year out till life ebbed away. He was a good tailor and made most of my clothes. When I was in South Africa I often sent over for a suit and I was never disappointed.
He had eleven children, six girls and five boys, so he 'topped the bill'. A son and daughter went on the stage as a variety turn under the stage name of “Nat & Lal”.
Zelki followed his father's trade and subsequently took the business over on the latter's demise. It was then conducted on a different principle. The workshop was transferred to premises of its own. Work was subdivided. Hands were engaged for machining, pressing, button-holing and so forth and everything done for quick dispatch and gain, which led to more prosperity and success. Things have changed since his father's day! Worker's conditions and hours, factory inspection, and wages.
Chain was dark, oriental, barely middle height and although on the slim side was wiry. His wife was heavy built, taller, dark, Oriental, and in features and physique her daughters are not unlike her, especially Mrs Hoffman - wife of the late Jack Hoffman - who is almost her facsimile. Zelki was more of his father's type. He died recently. Both of his sons are tailors so it runs in the family.
I would here mention by way of addendum Chaim had a brother in the town, his name was Barnett. He was a slippermaker who lived in Farrer Street. He too was a man who toiled hard at his trade. He was not unlike his brother, either in features or physique.
Isaac Wilkes (1832-1911)
I remember two old people, him and his wife, who about the 1890's lived at 165 Cannon St. It was a small empty shop and they lived on the premises in a simple way. Their needs were small. They had the essentials and were comfortable and content to spend their declining years in peace and quietude. I don’t recall an aged pair living a more ideal Darby and Joan existence, or an old couple more attached and devoted one to another, or more content and happy and that's saying a lot! They were naive and homely. Orthodox and religious.
What he was engaged in in former years I have no knowledge. Probably nothing of significance, but he brought up his family decent and respectable and no doubt that gave him and his wife consolation and happiness.
One son, the late Sam Wilkes of Newcastle, a piano factor, made a success of his career. Another the late Moss Wilkes of 'Monte Carlo' notoriety previously alluded to. The former had a strong resemblance to his father. The latter one less pronounced.