Chapter 1 - When Kay met Sidney
When Kay met Sidney
….. not a lot happened – at first! But first let me explain why I chose “When Kay met Sydney” as a title. Well I’ve been researching our family tree for a while.
I suppose that I was fascinated by the times they lived in. The family was close and my mother and her sisters, Gail and Val, were portrayed as three vivacious, good time girls.
Their brother, Hugo, was one of the funniest men I knew. He confessed to me that he’d pretended to be frightened of thunder and lightning in order to get into bed with the three girls! He “stole” all the ladies furs at my bar mitzvah and in 1997, as he lay dying of cancer in hospital, when seeing his doctor enter the room and with Abbey, Hugo’s wife and Edward, his son, by his bedside, his last words were, “I must be in heaven because no-one on earth could wear a tie like yours…” The Rabbi repeated it during the Shiva, the prayers held immediately after the burial. It was the first time that I heard people laugh during such a solemn moment and just as uncle Hugo would have wished. (Do read the special section on Hugo's life by his daughter Lynne in Chapter 11 - right to the end!)
Kay, Val, Abbey and Hugo lived great lives at a great time. With their partners, my dad Sidney, the scrap metal dealer, David Kerner, the jovial tobacconist, Leslie Music, the Hatton Garden jeweller and Hugo’s wife Abbey, who gave Hugo a free (?) rein, they painted the town red. One New Year's eve my mother danced on their table at the Trocadero, a London night-club off Piccadilly Circus, just before the cabaret appearance of Max Bygraves. After Max's performance, he came to their table and said to my mum, “If I’d have known you were so good I wouldn’t have bothered to do the show!”
I wanted to know more but my aunt Raie gave me few details, so I started looking.
I’ve found my ancestors through three of my four grandparents.
My paternal grandfather Solomon was a Barnett. The Barnetts also came from somewhere in Poland in the early 1800’s. Unfortunately very little is known about them.
My paternal grandmother Kate was a Joel and the Joel family history is a
fascinating story of poverty and fortune, including no less than four Derby winners and a Grand National winner to boot (few families can say that!) but also wealth, politics and tragedy. On her mother's side are the Levy's who were the famous Levy Brothers Matzo bakers. (More about the Levy's in chapter 12)
My maternal grandfather was Edward Hobinstock.
My maternal grandmother Grandma Deborah Woolf, is ironically the only grandparent I knew and the one whose ancestors are still anonymous. I do know she was one of at least 16 children.
But as we started with Kay and Sydney let’s go back a bit. Both Kay and Sydney were born at the start of the twentieth century. Kay was born in 1912 and Sydney was born, four years before, in 1908. They grew up as children with the First World War. They married in February 1939, just seven months before the Second World War broke out. Kay was my mother and Sidney, my father.
Although my father’s scrap metal business was in Barkingside, east of London, with the outbreak of war they decided to live away from London and so it was that in the summer of 1940, five days after the German army entered Paris, Carol was born at our home in Earley, near Wokingham.
I followed three and a half years later in January 1944 at the moment when the Soviets were advancing into Poland, the Allies were a few days from landing in Anzio and just in time for me to celebrate, on the 16th day of my life and with some warm mother’s milk, the ending of the siege of Leningrad, which had lasted 872 days, having started on the 9th September 1941, costing the lives of more than two million people.
Dad often told me how, when I was born at 2 o’clock that clear winter’s morning - early in Earley, he walked into the garden and looking to the north saw London burning and then turning to the south saw Southampton also on fire. He told me how he wondered if he’d done wrong bringing another child into this mad world. Home for the first eighteen months of my life was in Earley.
Home for the first eighteen months of my life was in Earley. I wonder if Dad knew that one of his close relations, the multi millionaire, Solomon Barnato Joel, or Sol Joel or even Solly, as he was often called, owned a large estate and stud nearby, known as Maiden Erlegh. On the left is old pavilion donated by Sol Joel and opened by the Queen's father.
The site of the house is now a secondary school. Dad was his 1st cousin twice removed. He never mentioned it!
Only recently I was contacted by the Mayor of Earley, Pauline Jorgensen and plan to visit her and the house where I lived, which she kindly photographed for me a short time ago.
Then we moved to Stanmore and lived in a small house that backed onto the lake at the Stanmore RAF Base. I used to go to London with my mother by train, the station was only a few hundred feet from the house. It's now a housing estate
But I loved the time we spent near Stockbridge withour nanny Mrs Smith.
Later Dad wanted to buy a large house on Stanmore hill but when mum saw the old bath in the "needs a bit of renovation" bathroom, she balked and so we moved to Central London, first to Abbey Lodge on Regents Park then after a quick stay in Hendon, back to 43, Northgate Mansions, St Johns Wood. (see Chapter 17)
I loved and still do, horses and learnt to ride at Haileybury junior school in Windsor. I then got into the senior school, Haileybury and ISC in Hertfordshire.
Horses also played a large part much later in my dad’s life. He owned some, raced some, gambled on some and when one day in the early 1960’s he bumped into a fellow scrap merchant and friend, Philip Joseph, he bought a half share of his small chain of betting shops. Fortunately I joined him in running the betting shops and continued in the business until the early 1980’s at one stage working with Ladbrokes, the largest betting shop group in the UK and again later on my own again. They were great times – but more of that later.
I remember how Carol and I once went with him to Towcester races, where he had two winners during the same meeting.
As I said horses or perhaps more correctly, horse racing, has figured in the Joel side of the family since Barnett Isaacs, who had changed his name to Barney Barnato some time before, used part of his fortune to buy and race horses in South Africa. My great-great grandfather, Coleman Joel's sister-in-law was Catherine Isaacs. She was Barney's and Harry's sister.
Solomon Joel, also fabulously rich, successfully trained and bred thoroughbred race horses.
Barney Barnato, Solly’s Uncle, was really the main reason for me getting into this genealogy thing. My aunt, Raie Barnett, dad’s sister, often mentioned his name. I was intrigued. She also mentioned that we were related to a chief rabbi in New York. I have yet to find one clue for that snippet. But I digress.
So without much more ado I’ll start the story with the Isaac Joel side.