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A Blue Plaque For A.S. Jasper

November 17, 2018
by the gentle author

Next week on Wednesday November 21st at 11am a blue plaque is being unveiled for A.S. Jasper, author of A HOXTON CHILDHOOD & THE YEARS AFTER at his last home in Walthamstow, 37 First Avenue, E17 9QG. As A.S. Jasper’s publisher, I shall be there with the author’s son Terry Jasper and we shall both say a few words. I hope as many readers as can make it will join us.

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,.” Nearly half a century later, Spitalfields Life Books published the definitive edition accompanied 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.

Click here to order a copy of A HOXTON CHILDHOOD for £20

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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

Stan Jasper

Terry with his mum and dad at Christmas


Stan Jasper with his dog Nipper

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A Hoxton Childhood & The Years After

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One Response leave one →
  1. Helen Breen permalink
    November 17, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for the heart-warming story. Funny to see that photo of “Stan and his wife Lydia” with the couple formally dressed on the beach, circa 1940s I would guess…

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