John Claridge’s Time Out
Join me tonight, Thursday 2nd June at the BOOK LAUNCH PARTY for John Claridge’s EAST END from 6pm upstairs at THE FRENCH HOUSE, 49 Dean St, Soho, W1D 5BG. We are giving away posters of Sammy Fisher’s Grocery Shop to all comers!
Tomorrow, Friday 3rd June, John Claridge will be talking about his EAST END photography with Stefan Dickers at 7pm at WATERSTONES PICCADILLY, W1J 9HD. Email email@example.com to reserve your free ticket.
Cornerman, E17 1982.
“People take time out of their lives in all kinds of ways, so I thought I’d explore the spectrum of the things people used to do,” John Claridge told me, outlining his rationale in selecting this contemplative set of pictures. Each shows a moment of repose, yet all are dynamic images, charged by the lingering presence of what came before or the anticipation of what lies ahead.
While the photograph of the Cornerman above literally shows“time out” at a boxing match, John was also interested in the cross-section of people watching and taking a breather from their working lives. “With a boxing ring, you’re wondering what’s going to happen. You’re waiting for the episode.” he admitted, “I like that tension and quietness, knowing that you’re going to get boxers flying around the ring in a few minutes.”
Similiarly, speaking of his photograph below of the pub compere, John said to me, “You can’t see anyone on the stage but you know something’s going to happen. I like it that people have to contribute to the picture, it takes you into another environment. You have to enter another world. You have to ask questions.”
John’s pictorial frame equates to the boxing ring or the pub stage, encompassing a space through which life passes – but his is an arena of calm within the relentless clamour of existence, a transient place of both photographic and emotional exposure.
End of the Game, E14 1962 - “When the churchyard was dug up, someone arranged the stones respectfully so they could be seen. Life was over and even the churchyard was gone too.”
Sunday Morning, Spitalfields 1963. “He was leaning out the window having a conversation, it just felt like Sunday morning.”
The Allotment, E14 1959.
Soup Kitchen, Whitechapel 1967. “Time out for a cup of tea and a sandwich, time out from the streets.”
Passports, E16 1968.
Game at the Hostel, Salvation Army Victoria Homes, Whitechapel 1982.
The Conversation, 1982.
Underworld, public toilet outside Christchurch Spitalfields 1982.
Pub Compere, E14 1964.
My Dad Singing At a Pub, E14 1964. - “He had a good voice, very powerful, and he used to play the ukelele banjo as well. My mum got up and sang too. He’d say, ‘Don’t be silly, you can’t sing.’ and she’d say, ‘Yes, I can,’ and get up there. They had a fantastic relationship.”
The Ring, E17 1982.
Wraps, E16 1968. “This is at Terry Lawless’ Gym. I still have a punchbag at home and start by putting my wraps on.”
After Sparring, E16 1968. - “He had just finished, marked up a little but not too bad.”
Dance Class, E7 1982. – “Did people go to learn to dance or because they were lonely?”
Dog Racing, Walthamstow Dog Track 1982.
Some Were Got Rid Of. – “It still looks like it’s running.”
Dart Night, E17 1968. - “We were playing darts and sat down for a break, everyone in their own world. The guy with the sideburns, his wife was jealous and always asked him to bring her a Chinese takeaway. He would remove the prawns, eat them himself and then rearrange the food. ‘She’s not worth all those,’ he said to me. ‘She won’t know,’ I said. ‘She’ll never know, but I do,’ he replied.”
Some People I Knew, Cable St 1969.
Photographs copyright © John Claridge
Pick up your free poster of Sammy Fisher’s Grocery Shop from The French House tonight
Last Saturday, I published Paul Gardner’s story of Sammy Fisher of Old Montague St but since then Barbara Holland has managed to uncover more of the long journey that led to his photographic encounter with John Claridge in 1961.
Sammy Fisher’s story is similar to that of many Jewish families who made the East End of London their home in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I have put together a picture of just a small part of his life, and hopefully answered one or two questions from Paul Gardner’s account of his friendship with Sammy.
Sammy Fisher was born Samuel Fischhoff in Kingston Upon Hull on 19th October 1908, son of Josef and Rose Fischhoff. His father, Josef, an egg merchant, was born in 1883 in Galicia, a region of Austria which suffered extreme poverty in the nineteenth century. This forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave the area in order to survive, many choosing to start a new life in another country. So Josef would have been one of these many migrants who eventually made their way to Hull.
Hull was a prominent destination for migrants heading from Eastern Europe. It is estimated that 2.2 million people passed through the Emigration Platform at Hull’s Paragon Station up until 1914, about a half million of whom were Jewish. The city had a thriving Jewish community at the beginning of the twentieth century which would have provided support to the migrants. Although most people were in transit, heading for America, Canada, Brazil or South Africa, some – like Josef – chose to stay.
There is no record for Josef (or Joseph) in the 1901 census, so he probably arrived after this year. He applied for naturalisation to become a British citizen and this was granted on 15th October 1909. By this time, he had married Rose Gelman in 1905, who was born in Russia, and they had four children – Israel Solomon who was three years old, Benjamin a one year old, and twins Jacob and Samuel, eight months old. So we now know that Sammy had a twin brother, Jacob, as well as two older brothers – but Jacob died in 1929.
By 1911, Josef and Rose had another son, Isaac, born in 1910 and they were living at 46 Norfolk St, Sculcoates in Hull. They went on to have a total of fourteen children, with Alexander (born 1912), Chaim (1913), Chaiena D. (1914), Elsie (1916), David (1917), Harris/Harry (1919), Alter (1921) Daniel (1924), and Leizer/ Leslie (1925). All survived to adulthood except Chaim and Chaiena.
Sammy’s father ran the family business importing eggs, originally in partnership with Lionel Isaac Robin and then on his own, until his sons were old enough to join. By the nineteen-thirties, the family had egg importing businesses in Tooley St, London and in Manchester as well as Hull. Joseph’s original business in Hull, now described as egg & china merchants, went bankrupt in 1941, but the others continued in business under the management of his sons.
At some point, Sammy made the move to London. The first record I can find is a marriage between Samuel Fischhoff and Bertha Richer in 1934 in Hackney. Bertha was the daughter of Joseph and Jane Richer (previously Reicher), the youngest of eleven living children. They were also from Galicia in Austria, the same region as Sammy’s parents, although they came over in the eighteen-eighties and settled in Whitechapel. By 1911 they were living in Dalston.
In the Electoral Register for 1936, Sammy and Bertha are living at 17 Tallack Rd, Leyton, but have the shop at 92 Old Montague St in Whitechapel. In the 1938 Post Office Directory, Samuel Fischhoff is now listed as an egg merchant & salesman at number 92. Going back to the 1934 directory, number 92 was being run by a Miss Hetty Handler (or possibly Kandler), egg merchant. So it looks as if he took over the shop between 1934 and 1936 as a ‘going concern,’ probably to sell eggs as part of the family business. Phone books for the period 1936 to 1949 have S. Fischhoff, Grocery Provisions, listed at number 92.
The Electoral Registers for 1939 and 1948 lists Samuel and Bertha as living at 6 Evelyn House, Greatorex St, just around the corner from number 92. I can find no record of them having any children.
I had almost given up trying to track Sammy and his wife after 1949 as they did not appear in any records, including death records. This was because they changed their surname – mysteriously not to ‘Fisher’ (as he told Paul Gardner), but to ‘Franklyn.’ Armed with this information, I established that they continued to live in Evelyn House until at least 1983, probably until Sammy died in early 1984. I believe Bertha died soon after in 1986 in Southend, although I cannot be absolutely certain.
And what of those well-off Manchester relatives who turned up at Sammy’s funeral in a Rolls Royce? At least two of his brothers, Isaac (d. 1985) and David (d.2000) survived him. David Fischhoff had a china & glass business in Manchester which is still going, now selling ‘memorial, floral, giftware and home décor.’ Another brother, Alexander, had been an egg merchant and then a china merchant in Manchester as well. So there was probably some wealth from these business interests that meant they could afford a Rolls Royce to go to the funeral. With such a large family, other relatives may also have attended, and some of them may have memories of Sammy and his family to share.