Last week my brother-in law, Alan Kay, came to Hull to visit his sister June and me. He brought with him a copy of Kingfield Konnections for us to catch up on what was happening in the Sheffield Jewish community. We found it interesting but very sad that other than the names Sayliss and Golomb we did not recognise anybody and we felt like strangers.
I arrived in Sheffield in 1948 in the year of the creation of the NHS and The State of Israel to study medicine at the University. Hull local authority paid all my University fees plus a maintenance grant. Not like today. I got digs with Mrs Maisie Gordon in Wadborough Road off Ecclesall Road and entered the vibrant world of the Sheffield Jewish community. As a student, I was seconded to spend some time with Dr Louis Debson to learn about General Practice, a most rewarding experience. One of my first memorable occasions was when I was invited to the 12st birthday party of Estelle Swycher. There I met June Kay. Irving Patnic had brought her but after the party I took her back to her home in Button Jill; we have been together ever since.
In 1954 June and I were married by Rabbi Chait at Wilson Road Shul; a shul no longer. June’s parents Sadie and Hymie laid on a magnificent reception at the City Hall attended by many friends and family. After we went off to Jersey on your honeymoon and returned to take up residence in a flat in Wilson Road owned by Hymie’s uncle, Max Waldenberg. This opened a new range of friends. We became part of many social gathering of recently married couples held at their homes when sometimes the boys separated from the girls and settled down to play poker for pennies. My memory is not that good now but names I do recall include Hila and Ralph Weston, Audrey and Ken Moore, Barbara and Lionel Picker, Maureen and Jack Davidson, Cissy and Basil Goldberg, Margaret and Eddy Marks. Ralph, who was a pharmacist, and Hilda were married shortly after us.
They thought they had purchased a chemist shop with living accommodation above but when they returned from honeymoon found the deal had fallen through and they had nowhere to live or work. With help from the bank Ralph then bought a big shop on Langsett Road, learned about business and never looked back. We were also very friendly with Audrey and Jen who, I believe, are still in Sheffield but we are no longer in touch.
After I graduated life changed as I had to earn some bread. I moved to live and work at Doncaster Gate Hospital, Rotherham, for six months. That hospital is now no more. I was paid £250 a year. June was at that time working as a secretary earning more than me and getting a tax-rebate, as I became her dependant relative. After this we moved to Nottingham where I worked for a further six months learning about obstetrics before returning to Sheffield where I then got a job as a trainee assistant GP in Atterclife and learned how the other half of the world lived.
In 1957 our son Charles was born at Jessops Hospital. Pregnancy must have been catching for within six weeks Hilda Weston and Barbara Picker also produced sons. The mohel became busy. Charles is now a QC practicing in London and has two sons.
After working as an assistant GP in Oxford Street surgery, a Malin Bridge surgery and a Hackenthrop surgery I managed to get my own practice in Walsall in the Black Country never to return to live in Sheffield. In fact in 1968 we eventually came to Hull where my large family welcomed June.
June still keeps in touch with her school-day friends, Della Lewis (now Donn) and Corrine Goldstone (now Samuels). They live in Manchester and often exchange phone calls. Regularly we all meet in Leeds for Lunch,
In our eighties we sometimes reminisce and wonder if life would have been very different if we had returned to Sheffield in 1968.
Interview: reflective piece
Upon hearing about the Witness project, we were both entirely captivated by the idea of getting to know about Sheffield’s vibrant Jewish community, as well as exploring the past with our interviewees. The project looked like a fantastic idea and aims to preserve the living the memories of those who can give great insight before they are unable to do so. In our opinion, the project delivered on every aspect of this.
Our Interviewee, June Bott, came from Sheffield and gave insight into her relationship with the Jewish community, but also gave great insight into how the Jewish community perceived themselves in relation to politics, culture, and community identity. Mrs. Bott raised some very interesting points, including “trying” to not be “too” Jewish considering the Second World War and the feelings it stirred, but also explores celebrating and embracing Jewish heritage.
The interview involved a lot of nervous feeling, the questions prepared you only so far, so Willian had to try and respond to Mrs. Bott’s answers to his questions and what followed was a dynamic conservation spearheaded by William’s in depth research into the Jewish way of life, as well as research into the history of the Sheffield Jewish Community.
If we were to conduct another interview we think we would have followed up on her family more, especially her grandparents, as their migration history was indeed fascinating, but also mysterious. Our interview tended to focus on the Interviewee, but we feel more could have been learned by exploring the wider family.
The project was an enriching experience, not only for us as history students, but I feel for Mrs and Mr Bott, who said they had not explored some the memories sparked by our interview in a long time. The project aimed to collect and preserve Sheffield’s past through the medium of oral history, and our example highlights how Sheffield University stick to this long-term goal and achieve it beyond expectations.
Interviewers: Josh Bell and William Hallows.