1881 - Yes - date unknown
||Arthur Ascoli |
||Arthur - the backward boy|
I remember well the year we moved from Walthamstow to Clapton. I was nearing seven years old. It was rather exciting to be going to another house in an entirely new district. I had had measles in the Spring of the year 1890 and it had left me with a slight ear trouble which came on intermittently and caused me to be irregular at school. So I watched the preparations for removal. My father had chosen the house so mother had not seen it until she and I, with the two babies, arrived and, soon afterwards, the pantechnicon with the furniture. My sister Elizabeth afterwards arrived with Edith and Herbert from the Grammar School where he was continuing his studies, for a time at any rate. My father came home straight from work. I forget all the details of straightening the house and allotting of rooms. The removal men put up the beds and Mother and Elizabeth helped to make them up ready for the night. A standing up meal - a cup of tea and bread and butter - was hastily eaten, and partaken by the removal men as well, and lamps were filled with oil and lit with candles for the bedrooms for it got dark early. It may have been November, anyway, Christmas soon followed on.
My mother did not seem to like the house. There was a dark staircase down to the kitchen apartments of which she was scared. At the bottom of the stairs was a huge coal cellar. The rooms however were larger than those in the Walthamstow house and there were more of them. I suppose the shortly expected arrival necessitated the extra rooms, especially as the twins were now two-and-a-half years old, and the rest of us growing fast. It must have been a nightmare to a mother with all these young children about her, that staircase and the black cellar at its base. No accident ever occurred there, as far as I remember, though.
Well, we settled in and I remember how we enjoyed that first Christmas. My father played the flute and he put on a black cloak, stooped to our level, and we all followed in single file all over the rambling old house to the tune of the flute. This took place after that as a kind of Christmas morning ceremony until my father became too ill to lead any more. Of course I was quite oblivious to the fact that a baby was expected. Soon after Christmas my father's mother arrived to stay with us. She was a very dominating person - quite a typical Jewish matriarch. We were all ordered about by her and I remembered her even telling my mother what to do - how dared she! What I did not realise was that she had come to help at the birth. I felt sorry for my sister Elizabeth. She was ordered to scrub floors and make beds and do all kinds of jobs after she came home from school. I remember her face looking highly indignant at these things. She always said she worked up till twelve o'clock at night, but I hardly think that possible.
I was still at home with the ear infection. When I was presented at the school the mistress refused to take me until I was better. So I became familiar with the surroundings and helped in many little ways in the house. They told me that Mamma was not very well and I was glad to be of use. There was a spell of very cold weather soon after Christmas and we were frozen out. Stand-pipes were put up in the street. Fortunately there was one near our house and early each morning two or three of us went out with pails and water-cans, fetching water into the house for washing and for cooking.
At last the day came before the end of February when Grandma presented the new baby to us. It was a boy. Mother was ill and Grandma looked after her and the baby. We were told to find a name for him. I started at the beginning of the alphabet and thought of Arthur. I liked the sound of it, so did the others and we all told Mother we had chosen the name of Arthur. He was an ordinary looking baby and, although his body was well formed, yet as I look back it seemed he had a series of set-backs. - things which necessitated visits to doctors and often treatment in hospital. He was backward in walking and when he did start his legs became bowed - he was suffering from rickets - then very common among children. For this he attended hospital for some time - had continual bathing and one doctor suggested splints. These, however, he rejected with all the force a child is able to assert and they were left off. Eventually the legs straightened. His next trouble was eczema - so, back to the doctor once more. This was very troublesome but, with my mother's persistent treatment, at length disappeared. Then it was noticed his mouth was continually open and he snored at night. To the doctor again - and an operation for adenoids was found to be necessary.
Poor Arthur! When he at last started school he was behindhand and utterly bewildered. The operation had left him slightly deaf and we could tell by what he told us had happened at school that he had not heard properly what had been said. The words of songs and small poems that were taught at school he transcribed into meaningless jargon. He had a little girl friend whom he called Mary, but what her surname was we never even guessed, though we heard it several times. He was very slow at his lessons but how much was due to this lack of hearing we never knew. He seemed to get away with everything with a broad smile. He found this facial idiosyncrasy very useful and used it a great deal through life.
At the Mission Sunday School, to which we went when we were young, each in turn had a card to collect for the "John Williams," a ship which connected up the islands in the Pacific for missionary work. If we collected as much as five shillings we had a book about the work of the London Missionary Society. Of course, we only asked our friends and those adults we knew in the Sunday School and Mission Hall. When it came to Arthur's turn to collect my parents queried the wisdom of him taking a card. But he pleaded and it was allowed. His method of collecting was to show the person the card and, with his head on one side, just put on his beaming smile and the money was produced. He collected more than any of us much to our amusement and amazement.
He never made much advancement with his lessons but he learned to read and write a fair hand and to figure tolerably well enough to get him through the ordinary vicissitudes of life. He was good tempered, though rather inclined to be sulky and could not bear teasing which went on a great deal in our family, one against the other. School bells were rung in those days so that all in the neighbourhood could get to school on time. He evidently could just faintly hear this and would ask in his slipshod voice which he had adopted,
So someone would say, "Oh, that's her name is it?" and after that time we teased him by saying,
"There's Isabel calling for you," to which he would reply in injured tone,
"Now stop it, stop it. I tell you!" But he soon forget and would smile again.
The organisation of school classes was different from the present time. One had to pass a test before going into the next form, or standard as it was then called. He never attained higher than Standard Four which I suppose indicated that he spent two years in each class as the highest was Standard Seven and the few who remained passed into Ex Seventh.
We were now back in Walthamstow and the question was, "What to do with Arthur when he was fourteen?" Naturally, he was unfitted for office work, so it must be some kind of handwork. We were all attending the Baptist Chapel and one of the men there had a wheel-wright business and he offered to take Arthur as an apprentice. The master got very fond of the boy and he found him a good worker, though rather slow in learning. Times were difficult, too. There was a terrible slump in trade following the Boer War and thousands of men were out of work. Wages were low and there was not even a small dole for the out of work - so, many roamed the streets homeless. The wheel-wright trade was hit as hard as any and the business stopped and Arthur was out of work.
He was now sixteen and helped as registrar in the Baptist Sunday School, and was well-liked by all his associates, but that did not help him in these terrible days to find a task in life suited to his limited abilities. His brother Herbert in Canada, who was doing fairly well as a farmer, then wrote and asked for him to go out to Canada to be with him. Arthur was only seventeen at that time. It was more of an ordeal for a boy of his nature, than it had been for Herbert, to cross the ocean alone but he seemed quite composed about it, and said goodbye with his usual smile on his face. I can just imagine him with the people on the boat, winning them with his pleasant face and everyone just chatting with him casually each day which would please him more than anything. He settled to his farming job with his usual hard work, but little imagination, but he was making a living and dwelling among his associates with friendliness and good humour.
We did not hear a great deal of the brothers' work out there. The letters home were full of incidents about the people they mixed with and very little about the work itself. The older brother had procured a farm but it had to be cleared before anything could be done with it so both of them were working as farm labourers and saving what they could for the future.
Then came the 1914 war and Herbert, as was described before, joined up and subsequently met his death on Vimy Ridge. That was the testing time for Arthur, he was driven much more to his own resources. My mother and Elizabeth took a trip out to Canada in 1921 to see him and to gather any information they could about the life of the two boys out there. They found Arthur a bit downhearted and had rather drifted into a way of letting himself go as far as general appearance was concerned. They did what they could for him and later on he rented a farm and married a girl much younger than himself, but who was a great help to him.
Now he was a man of property and much happier. He lived in a house of his own and soon a family grew up around them. His first born was a girl of whom he was very proud. Sad to say she died after an appendix operation when she was about six years old. He was very upset as he thought the world of her. However, more children came along and, with only one more loss, a family of two boys and two girls grew to maturity.
Arthur had, now, a farm of his own which he managed tolerably well. We never imagined he would become a rich farmer but, in that he brought up his family and kept the farm going, we were satisfied and, I think, he was
As the boys grew, the elder was bright at his lessons and went into an office. The younger loved animals and helped on the farm. The elder girl took a post in a family and the younger kept on at school and wanted to be a teacher. Money, however, was short and she contented herself with a clerkship at a bank. Both the girls married but at the time of writing the boys were both bachelors.
In course of time both the boys took over the farm, the elder one on the business side and the younger, the field work. Arthur and his wife, Bertha, lived with them. Bertha still did the housework and cooking. The boys, of course, wanted to bring the farm more up to date. This angered Arthur very much and he had long fits of depression. Of course, the younger men wanted to run the farm according to their ideas and Arthur was annoyed at every alteration.
At last, Arthur made the decision to move to town, leaving the farm entirely to the boys. Life then became much happier for them all. Arthur took on some light work gathering news for a local paper and, with a small old age pension, a new era of life began. The girls and their husbands lived near so that a good deal of time was spent visiting especially when grandchildren appeared which were his pride and joy.
At the time of writing he had developed some heart trouble and after a term in hospital was told he must take life more easily. So, we leave him with his wife bestowing every care on him, his children and grandchildren near at hand - the boys who were making a success of the farm not too distant, so we may imagine the smile coming back to his countenance as contentment once more settled upon him 
||Yes - date unknown
||1 Mar 2009 |
- [S176] Memoirs of Alice Ascoli 1884 - 1965, Alice Ascoli.