Family of Hannah and Louis Sabel
My father, Louis and mother, Hannah, were born in 1902 and 1904 respectively and were first cousins living next door to each other at numbers 1 and 3, Gladstone Avenue, East Ham, London. Their fathers were brothers who worked as partners in a tailoring business, the workshop for which was in the joint back gardens. This building remained until shortly before my father's death in 1984.
My father was a keen sportsman who played football until his marriage and who was also a keen swimmer and diver. He was a lifetime supporter of his local football team, West Ham United and as he had to be in the shop on Saturday afternoons, our special treat as boys was to be taken to the matches at Christmas and Easter. His idols were the players of the team that reached the first Wembley Cup Final and gained promotion to the First Division in the late 1920's. After leaving Kensington Road School he started an apprenticeship with city tea merchants but was persuaded by his father to go into a trade and so began a cabinet making apprenticeship with his uncle Ike.
However, in his late teens/early 20s he decided to emigrate to the USA and spent 2 years living and working in New York and Worcester, where he met the Goldberg and Berlyn cousins. This was the period of the immediate post war depression. Work was scarce and hard and eventually he decided to return home. Many were the times he would tell me stories of his adventures in the States, either at bedtime or on walks together. He also made up his own stories and these occasions are among the most treasured memories of my childhood. After his return to East Ham he set up a boys wear shop in Ilford Pioneer Market, a permanent covered collection of small shops.
He married my mother on 1st January 1929 and set up home at Ingteby Road, Ilford. My father was an intelligent, sociable, honest, modest man and like all our immediate family an indifferent businessman. He was a committed Jew, a committee member of his parent's former synagogue. The Manor Park Synagogue and as the only branch of the Sabel family living near to it we became the only members of the family who attended the "family" synagogue. Every yom-tov we had to walk all the way there and back from Ilford and pass through my father's old haunts of Wanstead Park etc.
Everyone I have met has always described my father as a nice, genuine man, a family man who kept in touch with all his relations. Many times he took me to visit his cousins and other relatives in the East End and elsewhere in and around London. He survived my mother by 11 years and became a much-loved granddad to his eight grandchildren.
My mother was the "baby" of her family and the only girl and was a shy, self- effacing, rather nervous person. She had a beautiful voice and played the piano and would be intrigued to know, had she survived, that one of her favourite songs "A Uttle Grey Home in the West" is just where my family and I settled in 1981. She was an orthodox Jewess, who kept kosher all her life and she, more than my father, found it difficult to adjust to her children all marrying non-Jews. She died from a heart attack in 1973 when visiting us in Plymouth for the occasion of my daughter Heather's second birthday.
My brother, Michael Benjamin, was the first to arrive in 1932, a miracle baby, the survivor of twins (this after my mother losing her first born son at only a few days old). He weighed in at 2 pounds 11 ounces and we were told stories of how he was fed with a fountain pen filler. He grew to be a strong, wiry, very energetic child, always up to mischief and keen on sport. He specialised in the most energetic types of activity, becoming the goalkeeper for his school football team and wicket keeper for the cricket team. I (Brian Alexander) followed four years later in 1936 and our family was completed by the arrival of Gillian Sara in 1939, in the first month of The Second World War.
The war was a traumatic period for us all, as for most people. Both my parents' fathers, who were brothers, died in the early 1940's and as a result my maternal grandmother, Minnie, came to live with her only daughter. She had suffered the death of two of her sons, with a third soon to follow, and led a sad li'fe. She increasingly spoke only Yiddish and lapsed in the 1950's into what we would now describe as Aizheimer's. The war brought the arrival of my new sister, many changes of address to try to avoid the successive waves of bombing and the call up of my father at the relatively advanced age of 40. We moved at least 5 times, on one occasion to a private children's home in Devon when I was 3, and my mother had to run the family, keep
the business going and care for her mother, all under the threat of enemy action.
My father was posted to what is now Ghana for the last two years of the war and brought back with him more fascinating tales of his adventures in Africa. The war was a great strain on my mother and clearly took a great deal out of her. It also resulted in me becoming a very withdrawn child, suffering from bronchitis, with my mother over-protective of me. Michael was always completely different, very outgoing and sociable. Gillian was only 5 at the end of the war and one of our clearest recollections is of Dad returning home after the war and Gillian hiding from him under the table, refusing to come out to see him. Gillian suffered a lot from colds and sinus when young, but a tonsil and adenoid operation worked wonders and she has been fit and athletic ever since, being an excellent tennis player.
Michael left school and went to work in my father's shop until he was called up for National Service and then was posted to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). On his demob he decided to go into photography and after being a shop assistant in London bought a studio in Newton Abbot, Devon in 1962, where he has stayed ever since. He married Ann, a former radiographer and student nurse in 1969 and they have 4 children, Timothy, Philip, Richard and Hannah. Timothy is a real extrovert and has made a great success as a salesman for a hydroponics plant firm. He has 2 teenage children, Jordan and Elijah from his first partner and a toddler, Isaac from his subsequent marriage. Philip is a skilled shop fitter and carpenter and lives with his partner, Shona, in Newton Abbot. Richard is at present attending Plymouth University studying Environmental Studies and Hannah and her partner Adrian live in Somerset and work for the same firm as Timothy. All the "Newton Abbot" boys are very lively and sporty, particularly Philip, who excelled at football and rugby. I went to The London School of Economics to study law on leaving school and qualified as a solicitor in 1960. I left home to work in Devon, culminating in becoming a partner in a Plymouth Firm in 1965.
I retired from law in 1975 and studied to become a social worker at Exeter University until 1977. I then worked in Plymouth as a social worker and later as a manager until 1995. I married Frances Mary m 1967 and we also have 4 children, Clive, Heather, Rivka and Jeremy. Our children are also keen on sport and Rivka represented her County at hockey. Clive is a geographer who went on to study Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and has just taken up a lectureship at Christchurch University, New Zealand. He married Rosemary in 2001 and they have a son Arvid. Heather is a linguist and development worker who has spent time in South America, Spain and Africa and is at present back in Plymouth working for a Rural Racism Project. Rivka studied ceramics at Falmouth College of Art where she met and married Philip Platt, and they both now live and work as teachers in Kent, although they will be moving to the West Country where they both will start new teaching posts in the autumn. Jeremy is the other linguist holding a degree in Biology and Spanish and is now at Leeds University studying Biodiversity and Development and has spent-lime in Spain and Colombia.
Gillian left school and being a talented linguist also, determined to live and work in Europe. She spent 2 years in Geneva and then went to work for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Department in Rome. There she met Bob Thomas, a distinguished American geologist, specialising in advising the developing world on water resources. My family and I spent several wonderful holidays with them in Italy, enjoying their generous hospitality, until they returned to live in Plymouth in 1990.
Brian Sabel, March 2004