My name is Terry (Terence/Tuvia) Greenberg. When I was a kid, I was known as Tuvvy. I am the 10th child of Alf and Fanny Greenberg. There were 11 of us - between the youngest and the eldest there was span of 22 years. I am the only remaining one in the family.
I was born in 1923 in Middlesbrough at 75 Marton Road. My father was a master tailor, my mother was the daughter of Chaim (Hyman) and Channa Smollan. Chaim was also a master tailor who had employed my father when he came to Middlesbrough.
In 1924 we moved to 133 Southfield Road Middlesbrough and I lived in Middlesbrough until the beginning of World War II, when I went with school evacuation to Scarborough and Teesdale and then into Army service. The house was eventually sold in 1945.
Shortly before my 5th birthday, I started school at Marton Road, Middlesbrough. It was quite near to our home. All our family went to that school before me. On my first day at school I was taken by my sister Bertha to the headmistress Miss Gibson, who asked my name. I answered Tuvvy; she turned to Bertha and Bertha said my name was Terence. That is how I learned my registered name. My eldest brother, Sam, told me that he was sent to register me (my parents had no time for things like that) and on realizing that he couldn't give Tuvia, chose Terence.
Others who were there at the same time as me were: Naomi (Miller) Davis, who was a class above me; and Freda Cannon, for some time in my class. We used to sit together outside the classroom during scripture lessons on the New Testament. As far as the other scriptures were concerned, I remember being asked by the teacher as a matter of course knowing that, as I belonged to the people of the Old Testament, I should recite the 23rd Psalm and the Ten Commandments off by heart. I couldn’t oblige!
I understood from a very early age that anyone who said anything derogatory about me as a Jew had to get paid with a punch. In those days the boys respected anyone who respected themselves.
I also set my sights on showing them that I could play and run just as well as any of the class.
When I started school, the kids were still asking each other how many Germans their fathers had killed in the war. This was 10 or 11 years after the end of the war in 1918. I was a bit embarassed because I hadn't heard of any such exploits at home. I was told in later years that in around 1916/1917 men born in Russia who were not naturalised Britishers were being called up. My mother wouldn't hear of it and got my father exempted on the grounds that she had 6 children, with another on the way (twins in fact), and if anything were to happen to my father, she would be a terrible burden on the country. If my father had served, he would have been given naturalisation. As it was, he remained an alien - with interesting results during World War II.
The years at Marton Road school made a lasting impression on me. In retrospect, we were living in two worlds. On the one hand there was the strong Jewish tribal world of home, cheder and shul (and later the scouts and habonim zionist movement), with my mother trying to keep me from playing in the streets with non-Jews. On the other hand, there was the powerful effect of close contact with so many non-Jews. Perhaps this stimulated the Jewish boys and girls to compete and excel, to prove they were "in". The Yiddishe mama also played a part - as when introducing her 5 year old son: "meet my son, the doctor".
The school was situated at the southern end of Southfield Road. It was short run through the side streets to get there - in winter, pausing to warm my hands on those brick walls that had chimneys behind them. There were 2 sweet shops on the way, one at the Stainford Street corner and the other at the Newlands Road corner. My sweet budget was 2½d per week - I bought 20 aniseed balls for ½d each day and kept one permanently under my tongue, without being noticed.
Other favourites were natural liquorice sticks for chewing, locust (from the carob tree), chocolate mintoes and banana split toffee. My non-Jewish friends brought winkles in shells and picked them out with pins. I was not tempted in the least. I must say that a "tuppeny one and a penn'orth" in a cone of newspaper from a fish and chip shop looked quite something, but I refrained.
A train engine could occasionally be seen on the open line which crossed Marton Road and continued along Park Vale Road and then between the football pitches and Albert Park. Opposite the school, where Newlands Road turned the corner at the Convent, was the "ring" for organised fist fights. The fights had to be clean - no hitting or kicking when a man was down, and no wrestling. There was an accepted hierarchy in the class by the time we were 11 years old. The holder of the pugilistic crown, Gibson, noticed that I didn't participate at all, so he sent a note round the class that I would face him at 4.00 pm. There was no way out. We marched to the ring - I had 3 or 4 seconds, the rest of the class supported the champion. He rolled up his sleeves. I kept on my tailored jacket. Gibson danced ineffectively for the first two rounds, and then I caught him a beauty on the face. There was a yelp; he shouted that I had hit his bad tooth. That was the end of the fight. The next day in class, there was much commotion. The hierarchy had been upset! I was then asked by others to take them on so as to get the hierarchy right, but I wouldn't oblige.
I had a few good friends there. Arthur Pearson from Abingdon Road, the top of the class; Johnnie Armstrong was second. He was a fantastic artist at a very young age and excellent at drawing horses. I was third and we three competed to produce the neatest flowing script in ink. Dickey Tawn lived behind the school. Leonard Kraus lived at the corner of Fern Street and Clarendon Road.
Amongst the girls I remember were Glenda Toms, Amy Ayres, Mary Garnham, We used to stand around in a circle, singing, "lavenders blue, dilly, dilly, lavenders green, when I am king, dilly, dilly, you shall be queen" and vice versa.
The infant class was in a wooden building, away from the main building. In the yard in between, there were running competitions for the intra-school games, always held on 21st June. Our school usually won; when I participated I couldn't help a lot as I pulled a muscle in the first race. Our school yard was slightly sloped, so that on frosty days we made a slide, enabling us to whizz down at speed.
On one side of the yard was a covered area. Enterprising kids would set up cards with "gates" for others to try and get their marbles through the gates to win more marbles. This was the age of the cigarette card. We all collected them, athletes, animals, places, whatever. We played competitive games with them, spinning them off after carefully licking a corner.
Each morning, the teacher would examine our necks and hands, to make sure there was no "tide mark", due to skimpy washing.
A man with a handcart would come to Douglas Street at the back of the school. If we brought him old woollen clothes, he would give us goldfish. I used to race home for a jar of water and somehow get hold of some cast-offs, which I exchanged for the prized fish. This became one of my hobbies. I had a round bowl, bought fish food and dumped the fish in the wash basin while I changed the water. Somehow, the fish didn't live very long and I would put the casualties in a match box and bury them in the back garden.
The relationship between the school and the outside world was impressive. Once you entered the school gate, you were in an autonomous compound. It was unthinkable for parents to come anywhere near the school. We would never live down the shame! But the school did spread its tentacles outwards. Unexplained absences were investigated by a school "bobby", who came to your home. Even the teachers did this. One young teacher came to our house when I was ill and she was received with much honour by my elder brothers.
At Pesach, my mother would give me matzas for the teacher. We called them "Passover cakes"; Jewish children used to bring some for their teachers, who seemed happy to accept. Rabbi Miller saw to it that during the winter the Jewish children could leave school early, when Shabbat came in at 3.30 pm. and that they were permitted to be absent on the Jewish holidays - whether the families were observant or not.
A rare organised activity to take place outside the school - other than Sports Day - was a ramble to the Agricultural Fair near Stewarts Park. On one such trip, I learned how to make butter. My mother had given me a bottle of milk. As I was about to drink it, I noticed a yellow mass inside, which i deduced had separated due to the continual shaking; milk had cream in it in those days.
School discipline was all-embracing - lining up at the sound of the bell and prevention of violence in the school yard. Teachers were given the utmost respect - no doubt due to the threat of a whack on your hand or behind the knees (we wore short trousers then) in front of the whole class. The teachers, all women, seemed to devote themselves utterly to the school. As far as we knew, they were all unmarried and pregnancy was unknown. I was lucky, in that at the age of eleven I received special attention from a Miss Hawxwell, who encouraged me in arts, handicraft and writing. In short, I was the "teacher's pet", in the parlance of the day.
Singing was arranged for wet days, when we could not go outside at play-time. Songs such as: "One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow"; "Knick knack, paddy wack, give the dog a bone"; "This old man, he played one...:."; "D'ye Ken John Peel".
On Armistice Day and other occasions, we sang songs such as "Land of Hope and Glory", "Give me my Sword of burnished gold", "Rule Britannia", "O Lord our Help in Ages Past," "The Minstrel Boy" and the Middlesbrough anthem, " Erimus, Erimus, shout o'er the Tees brown tide, We thy children true shall be ever thy joy and pride." On Armistice Day, the poem "We will remember them" was recited. Singing in the assembly hall also included Christmas carols. I couldn't slip away, so I got to know most of them. A few us Jewish kids and my cousins would disguise ourselves and sing carols outside our relatives' doors. They would open the door, we said "Happy Christmas", and they gave us a penny!
In those days, everyone had to go to the school nearest their home. There was thus a wide range of social strata. The "have nots" were never made to feel uncomfortable Parents paid nothing - everything was free, except for the daily bottle of milk, which cost ½d. Those who couldn't afford it, still received the milk. Kids who came without boots seemed to somehow acquire new boots.
Things were hard in those days. There was not always work, boozing was rife - Middlesbrough held the top spot in the league. They used to say it was hot work in the blast furnaces of Dorman Long. I was told that wives with babies in their shawls (prams were not common) would wait for the husbands to come out with their pay packets on Friday afternoons and try to get control of the packets before the pubs did. .
All the materials needed for handicrafts was provided by the school. We produced raffia mats and trinket boxes, which we took home.
Of course, we learned much in the playground. I never heard a teacher say "cuddy-whiffer", a person who was left-handed. (I think it is a nautical term, paying out a fishing line with the left hand). To get someone's attention, you would shout, "Ey son", or "ey chaw", or "ey chaver", which is very close to the Hebrew chaver, meaning "friend". If a kid appeared with a close crop, except for a tuft at his forehead - he'd had a "tuppenny all-off".
Saturday and Sunday afternoons were set aside for pastimes. Some of the popular games were snakes and ladders, dominos, draughts, spring operated pistols that shot out wooden bullets, a detective set with face disguises and make-up paint, a see-back scope (a small, horizontal periscope for seeing behind you ), and a magnifying glass which we found could start a fire when the sun shone. I had a small Meccano set, but a few of the boys had big sets. One built a replica of the Transporter Bridge, complete with moving platform, controlled by a small electric motor. One of our games was making bolases out of string and steel washers, but never tried to hobble cattle, South American style.
Roller skating took place in Waterloo Road. There were few cars and the road surface was smooth. On bonfire night I used to join the bonfire in Egerton Street next to our house, with jumping crackers, squids, Roman Candles and what not.
Near to Election day, some of the boys from school and cheder would take a candidate's placard and hunt for gangs from the opposition. Weapons used were tightly rolled newspapers, 6 inches long and 4 inches in diameter, held by a stout string 3 feet long. They were called "dollers". Much skill was required in wielding the weapon and the ability to run fast essential, on the offensive or defensive.
Cycling was another essential skill. Long before I could negotiate a crossbar, I would put my leg under the crossbar of my brother's cycle and somehow make the thing go. There were races with local school kids on "fairy" cycles. I started to get a lot of experience in improvising repairs. I made it a goal to get a real bicycle for my Bar Mitzvah.
Albert Park was a favourite playground. We would collect "conkers" which had fallen from the horse chestnut trees, or we would encourage them to fall by throwing things at the trees. A hole was made in the conker and a piece of string threaded through. One kid held his conker by the string, and the other had to hit it hard with his own conker. Whoever's conker remained whole was the winner. You added the rating of the defeated conker to that of the winner. We would try every ruse to harden the conker, such as steeping it in vinegar. Always on the lookout for good conkers, I found beauties in a copse coming into Stewarts Park. Everyone was honest in rating their conkers. I was in deep grief one day when my "hundred-er" fell down a drain in the gutter.
Fishing for tiddlers in the Park lake was a favourite pastime. Sometimes, we stretched too far out and fell in the water. Some were lucky enough to have good toy yachts and toy motor boats. My yacht was always flopping on its side, so I had difficulty in retrieving it.
Those who could afford it would take a ride on the rowing boats at the back of Albert Park across from Park Vale Road.. There was a huge, open area with plenty of goalposts. Every patch was free for the taking by whoever got there first. Of course, there were a few tiffs here and there. On Saturdays, we would watch the big local lads. I remember one star called Bozomato. On Sundays, a group of us, all shapes and sizes, would arrive with a full size football. The big local lads would turn up in their best Sunday suits and caps and kick a ball around, as if they weren't supposed to be doing it.
Albert Park was a wonderful place for us. There was the playground, with its slides and swings, plenty of grass for rounders and meeting kids from other schools. You could watch tennis, bowls and putting. Early Sunday morning, my father would call me to go for a walk with him to the Park, he swinging his fancy walking stick (which I used later, with less style, when I was wounded in the leg). On Sunday afternoons, those of the age would parade in their Sunday best to those sitting on the benches near the main entrance. But not everything was so prim and proper. The ditties and drawings on the pavilion walls were equal to any of today's graffiti. The park was fenced and locked at night.
Near the main entrance was the Dorman Museum. I liked the exhibits of flies, with warnings of the sickness they could bring. The stuffed animals were awesome.
On the wall near the park entrance were the names of those who fell during World War I. We found there the name of my mother's cousin, David Smollan.
We started visiting the Dunning Road library at an early age and devoured the Just William books, and Biggles' exploits in the Air Force. The Docks seem to have been out of bounds for me. I remember looking out of the eastern attic window towards what seemed to be the docks and wondering if my father's ship had come in: when I asked for something that cost money, his answer was , "when the ship comes in".
I occasionally visited the houses of our relatives, but very rarely non-Jewish houses. I was struck by the calm and orderliness which contrasted to the turmoil in ours, where the kitchen table resembled a running buffet.
We enjoyed going to the pictures, when it was possible. At the Marlborough, getting crammed on to the front benches cost tuppence and made your eyes boggle. It was even possible to get in by paying with jars! The earliest cowboy heroes were Tom Mix and Buck Janes. The Electric and the Hippodrome were two other picture houses. The Major Domo, in full uniform, standing at the entrance to the Electric was particularly impressive. I well remember crying my eyes out, because my mother would not let me go to the pictures on a Saturday afternoon! Sometimes, circuses and fun fairs came to town and they were exciting, especially if you could afford throwing a wooden ball at a coconut.
There was close contact with my mother's family in Middlesbrough. During the two years I was at Marton Road school, Aunt Indy, Uncle Wolfy and their children, Alan and Beryl (Babsy) lived in Newport Road and Grandma Smollan was with them. We used to play in the long garden at the back of their house. It was a guest house, always full of characters, just like a social club. Old, huge, Bency Simon would sit by the fire, a cigarette dangling from his lips. He could stand a hot kettle on his hand. Aunt Betsy also lived in Newport Road. Uncle Zelig and Aunt Rae and their children, Doddi, Louis and Sadye, lived nearby in Woodlands Road.
In later years, Aunt Rae (Smollan), Aunt Leah (Smollan) and Aunt Indy and family came to live near us in Southfield Road, as did Uncle Barney, Aunt Sadye and their children Betty and Yvonne. Aunt Blumey and Uncle Mick and their children, Bernice and Ann, weren't far away. We never knew where Uncle Benjy lived, though he was very much around. Uncle Nat lived in Redcar, where he ran a gaming shop with popular machines and games on the Promenade.
My father's only brother, Sol Greenberg, lived in Leeds; his sister Bertha Atlas lived in New York.
Other members of the Jewish community lived nearby. The Hush family lived over the road; Ernie would take us for a trip to Redcar in his big car. Further up the road were the Israel brothers, Dr Joe and Dave; and at 91 Southfield Road, Rabbi Miller and family, Ruth, Naomi, Alan and David. There was also Miss Hyam, a distant relation, with whom we had no contact.
Family holidays were usually taken at Redcar, where my mother would rent rooms. Alan and Babsy would occasionally join us. The Redcar sands were a glorious playground. I would spend my time digging deep pits , with seats cut into the sides. Occasionally, the lifeboat went out to sea, or a plane would land on the huge stretches of sand. We could walk along the beach to Saltburn.
My mother told me that she would also rent rooms in the small hamlet at the top of Eston Hills - Barnaby Moor, I think - next to the disused iron mining shaft. She also chose to take me with her to Harrogate to "take the waters", - horrible stuff!
Travelling out of Middlesbrough was infrequent. My parents would occasionally take a Sunday "excursion" train to Leeds (the tickets were cheap). I can't recall ever visiting Uncle Aishy and Aunt Annie in Newcastle in my early years.
In the summer of 1934 - I was 11 years old - we took the Scholarship exam, which would give a free place at Middlesbrough High School. The "test", as it was called, was in 3 stages, 2 written and 1 oral. I can still recall the names of the "compositions"; "Describe the Prince of Dreams", and "How would you make the roads look better?". The latter was to be my first essay into the world of architecture and planning. I wrote that all pavements should have stretches of grass beside them. The oral test was a howler. It was drummed into us that we had to be properly dressed and that if we couldn't answer a question, to say in a clear, loud voice, "I don't know". The examiner had hardly opened his mouth, whereupon I stood straight and said, "I don't know". The only question I can recall was, "What do we get from Brazil?', The big, juicy "Brazil" nuts were common fare at our house, so I said, "Nuts". I was corrected and told the right answer was "coffee'.
I left for the High School with 6 other boys - by then we already had separate classes for boys and girls.
At the age of six or seven, my mother sent me to Cheder in the Brentnall Street shul. School finished at 4.00 pm and I had to be at Cheder for 5.30 pm until 7.00 pm – five days a week – and on Sunday from 10.00 to 12.00 It took a quarter of an hour to walk there. We had to go through some rather rough neighbourhoods, especially on Grange Road. At first, one of my sisters would accompany me. Then I was told I would have to come home on my own. At first I refused, and stayed with my aunt Betsy at 84 Newport Road until late. My grandmother Channa Smollan was living with her at the time. It didn’t help! From then on, I navigated the dimly lit streets by myself. By the time I was 10, my younger brother Hymie was tagging along with me.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was a very long day for a young child. Also taking into account that we used to play at the back of the Brentnall Street shul, in Baxter Street. Sometimes we would skip out of lessons to play football in the yard. I often got home late, I knew that I had to be home by 10.00 pm , because my father, who worked a very long day, came home at that time. My father had his workshop in 75 Marton Road (our previous home).
My teachers at cheder were Dinah Turtledove, Rev Turtledove and, eventually, Rabbi Miller. The sum total of the knowledge we managed to imbibe was translation of the siddur and Parashat HaShavua (never managing to get beyond Sheni!), Festivals, dates, customs, dinim and Shabbat. On Tu B'shvat, New Year for the trees, we would get a box of almonds from the Holy Land, courtesy of the Jewish National Fund.
Rev Turtledove taught us a song in Yiddish, which started "Shalom aleichem, yehudi, aleichem shalom", the subject of which was a yearning for Eretz Yisrael. Seventy years later, I heard this same tune adapted to "Lecha Dodi" in kabbalat Shabbat - at the shul in Kochav Hashachar, where my son and daughter and their families now live. I recalled the words from the Song of Songs: "the time of singing is come and the song of the turtledove is heard in our land,"(2:12).
During the festival of Succoth (Tabernacles) there was a Succah with an open roof, which could be closed if there was rain. We enjoyed going there after shul service. Despite the admonitions of the adults not to pull the fruit off the schach (the leafy canopy), the challenge was taken up by the cheder boys.
After the shul was closed and until the new one was built in 1938, services and cheder were held in temporary accommodation.
If our Hebrew and School education was a bit perfunctory, our excellence came in other fields. In the shul yard, we learned a very high standard of "dribbling" (football), with a small ball. Outside in the streets, we used to play a game called “Tee Mack”. This was based on taking over the other side’s territory. Another game was “Lamp oil”- played between the two kerbstones on either side of the road. Arms were folded and you hopped on one leg. The group stood on one kerbstone. In the middle of the road one boy stood and called out the name of one person from the group, who came out hopping and had to try to get to the other side. The one in the center also hopped and had to try to knock him off his balance. If he succeeded, he had to join him and they would call another one. If he got through to the opposite kerbstone, he would shout out “Lamp oil”. All the group would try to cross the road, with the ones in the middle trying to knock them off their balance. These games were possible because there were hardly any cars in Baxter Street (behind the shul) in those days. It goes without saying that all this provided me with basic training for playing wing three-quarter in rugby and outside left in football. Others also benefitted from this training, especially Mayer Baum and Colin Pinto.
Others in my group were my cousin, Alan Freeman, Julian Segerman, the Solomon twins, the Levy boys (Harold and Freddy), Ronnie Niman and Ronnie Goodman.
In those days, children at elementary school did not get homework. The problems started at secondary school. I passed the scholarship (the 11 plus) and went to Middlesbrough High School. Their motto was: “aut disce aut discede”, usually translated as “swot or bunk”! Fitting in cheder became a problem. By the time we finished Bar Mitzvah, attendance at cheder became very haphazard.
I and my cousin, Alan Freeman, were amongst the last to have their Bar Mitzvah at the Brentnall Street shul. There were incidents of open hostilities between the cheder boys and the local Grange Road gang. But we had a very capable leader – Mossy Wiseman – who was older than us.
At one time, I remember it came to a point where boys living close to the shul were asked to bring more effective weaponry . My cousin Alan came back with a long pole used for propping up washing lines! We learned a bit about battle tactics. For example, we once decided to show a retreat and then suddenly turn around and charge. It worked! Strangely enough, though, no-one was ever hurt, as far as I remember.
There was one unfortunate incident when Alan and I were caught in Brentnall Street by a local gang, who asked if we were Jews. When I proudly said “yes”, I got a smack over the head, which I was to remember for the rest of my life! I had come out of cheder with a headache and the stars I saw cleared it out! It was also a precursor of the feeling of hitting the boards in army boxing.