A.S. Jasper, Author & Cabinet-Maker
Join me at the launch party for A.S. Jasper’s A Hoxton Childhood & The Years After on Tuesday 25th April 7pm at the Labour and Wait Workroom, 29-32 The Oval, Off Hackney Rd, Bethnal Green, E2 9DT. There will be live music, readings and refreshments. Tickets are £5, including £5 discount off the cover price. Click here to book
Together, A.S. Jasper’s A Hoxton Childhood & The Years After comprise an authentic testimony of the survival and eventual triumph of a protagonist who retains his sense of decency against all the odds. A Hoxton Childhood is a tender memoir of growing up in Hoxton before the First World War, while The Years After details the author’s struggles and successes in the Shoreditch cabinet-making trade.
Albert Stanley Jasper
“The initials stand for Albert Stanley, but he was always know as Stan, never Albert,” admitted Terry Jasper, speaking of his father when we met at F. Cooke’s Pie & Mash Shop in Hoxton Market. A.S. Jasper’s A Hoxton Childhood was immediately acclaimed as a classic in 1969 when The Observer described it as “Zola without the trimmings,” and now Spitalfields Life Books is publishing a handsome new definitive edition accompanied for the first time by the sequel, The Years After.
“In the late sixties, my mum and dad lived in a small ground floor flat. Looking out of the window onto the garden one morning, he saw a tramp laying on the grass who had been there all night. My dad took him out a sandwich and a cup of tea, and told him that he wouldn’t be able to stay there” Terry recalled, “I think most people in that situation would have just phoned the police and left it at that.” It is an anecdote that speaks eloquently of Stan Jasper’s compassionate nature, informing his writing and making him a kind father, revered by his son all these years later.
Yet it is in direct contrast to the brutal treatment that Stan received at the hands of his own alcoholic father William, causing the family to descend in a spiral of poverty as they moved from one rented home to another, while his mother Johanna struggled heroically against the odds to maintain domestic equilibrium for her children. “My grandmother, I only met her a couple of times, but once I was alone with her in the room and she said, ‘Your dad, he was my best boy, he took care of me.’” Terry remembered.
“There are a million things I’d like to have asked him when he was alive but I didn’t,” Terry confided to me, contemplating his treasured copy of his father’s book that sat on the table between us, “My dad died in 1970, he was sixty-five – It was just a year after publication but he saw it was a success.”
“When he was a teenager, he was a wood machinist and the sawdust got on on his lungs and he got very bad bronchitis. When I was eight years old, the doctor told him he must give up his job, otherwise the dust would kill him. My mum said to him that this was something he had to do and he just broke down. It was very strange feeling, because I didn’t think then that grown-ups cried.”
Stan started his own business manufacturing wooden cases for radios in the forties, employing more than seventy people at one point until it ran into difficulties during the credit squeeze of the fifties. Offered a lucrative buy-out, Stan turned it down out of a concern that his employees might lose their jobs but, shortly after, the business went into liquidation.”He should have thought of his family rather his workers,” commented Terry regretfully, “He lost his factory and his home and had to live in a council flat for the rest of his life.”
“My dad used to talk about his childhood quite a lot, he never forgot it – so my uncle Bob said, ‘Why don’t you write it all down?’ And he did, but he tried to get it published without success. Then a friend where I worked in the City Rd took it to someone he knew in publishing, and they really liked it and that’s how it got published. When the book came out in 1969, he wanted to go back to Hoxton to see what was still left, but his health wasn’t good enough.”
Terry ‘s memories of his father’s struggles are counterbalanced by warm recollections of family celebrations.”He always enjoyed throwing a party, especially if he was in the company of my mother’s family. It wasn’t easy obtaining beer and spirits during the warm but somehow he managed to find a supply. He was always generous where money was concerned, sometimes to a fault, and he had a nice voice and didn’t need much persuading to get up and sing a song or two.”
Stan Jasper only became an author in the final years of his life when he could no longer work, and the success of A Hoxton Childhood encouraged him to write The Years After, which was found among his papers after his death and is published now more than forty years later. The two works exist as companion pieces, tracing the dramatic journey of the author from the insecurity of his early years in Hoxton to the comfortable suburban existence he created for his family as an adult. The moral lessons he learnt in childhood became the guidelines by which he lived his life.
Together, A.S. Jasper’s A Hoxton Childhood & The Years After comprise an authentic testimony of the survival and eventual triumph of a protagonist who retains his sense of decency against all the odds. “He said he would always settle for the way life turned out,” Terry concluded fondly.
Stan (on the right) with his brother Fred
Stan and his wife Lydia
Terry as a boy
Terry with his dad Stan
Stan and his sister Flo
Terry with his mum and dad at Christmas
Stan Jasper with his dog Nipper
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The Gentle Author is delighted to collaborate with Labour and Wait to present a SPITALFIELDS LIFE BOOKSHOP for ten days at the WORKROOM, 29-32 The Oval, Off Hackney Rd, Bethnal Green, E2 9DT, in the shadow of the magnificent gasometers. This will be a rare chance to take a look at all Spitalfields Life Books titles in one place and have a peek behind the scenes at Labour and Wait too.
(Wednesday 26th April – Saturday, May 6th, 11am-6pm. Closed Sunday 30th April)