Oral history interview with Lena Barden

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Oral history interview with Lena Barden

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Audio recording of an oral history interview with Lena Barden, born December 1916. She discusses Jewish communities in London, and Hackney shops & businesses.

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Sweet Patootee


MAPPING THE CHANGE: Hackney Museum oral history project

Summary of interview with:
• LENA BARDEN born December 1916


Collection Title: “Mapping The Change”
Item Title: Lena Barden interviewed by Tony T
Speaker: Lena Barden, b (interviewee)
Speaker: Tony T (interviewer)
Recordist: Rebecca Goldstone
Purpose of recording: Interviewed for ‘Mapping The Change’ (Dalston)
Recording Dates: 19th August 2010
Recording Location: At interviewee’s home, Hackney, London.
Access restrictions: See copyright release form: Interviewee has retained copyright, but has given permission for a full range of ways that Hackney Borough Council can use the interview – as detailed on the form
Recording equipment: Marantz PDM661 & 1 Sennheiser lapel mic - ew112-p
Recording notes: WAV
Documentation: Typed Summary and Partial Transcript

A portrait photograph in jpg format
WAV Recording 1
Interview Transcript: [00:00:00] Settling in Navarino Road:
I came to live temporarily in Hackney in 1941. My Husband Jack, daughter Ruth, she was about two and I was pregnant with my son Ronnie. My brother-in-law Sam Barton was called up and shipped off to India, leaving his mother alone in this large house. That’s what happened and it’s now two thousand and ten and I’m still here. 00:0:29
Transcript: Tram From Aldgate to High Beech:
What changes there have been, trams were running all along the main roads – you could go from Aldgate and the Tower of London through Stepney, Bethnal Green, Hackney, Lea Bridge Road, onto High Beech – almost like a day in the country. This is only one of the trips you could do on a Shilling all day ticket, six pence for children. A break in the journey could take you through Victoria Park, Bethnal Green Museum, you passed through the green fields of Lea Bridge Road, Wanstead and the beginning of Epping Forest.
Transcript: Description of Navarino Road Houses/railings for war effort
Most of the houses on Navarino Road were four storeys high, stone steps to the first floor, bushes and trees in the front gardens, and short railings on top of the brick walls at the front. During the war the railings were taken down by the council and used to help the war effort.
Transcript: Wilton Way Shops
Close by in Wilton Way was a parade of small shops. The corner shop was ‘Austins’ the butcher, a family business, very well run and apart from meat and poultry they sold, they manufactured pies, puddings and sausages – being Jewish we could only buy eggs from there. Next-door was the Davis the grocery shop run by three sisters – Mary, Becky and Gertie Davis; they sold almost everything you needed for everyday living.
It was a busy parade of shops, a Greengrocers and then a Laundry a Dry Cleaners. ‘Nats’ the Fishmongers sold good quality fish – smoked fish – kippers, haddock and bloaters were hanging from rails across the shop.
Transcript: Glinets (or Linets)
The Newsagents selling cigarettes, sweets and chocolates – was a busy place, and next-door was Jack Glinet (or Linet), that was after the war. He sold almost everything in the clothes department, together with his wife Sadie, they were a good team. Mrs Spinks, Sadie’s mother worked for her brother and nephew, they had a big wholesale wharehouse in Houndsditch, and was able to supply the Glinets with a variety of goods – ends of lines and so for the, and they were able to sell the goods quite cheaply. They had a big selection of toys as well. Subsequently their daughter Carmella opened a shop just a few doors away selling Ladies fashion goods
Transcript: Navarino Road/ Nursing Home and Convent
Opposite our house – number two and number four – there was a nursing Home, run by Nurse Bannister – my mother-in-law knew her very well. The Home closed down around 1937. The gardens of the home backed onto the garden of a Convent that was on Richmond Road, this Convent had been converted from two houses, there were no curtains on the windows, and as you walked by, by you would be able to wave to the inmates who were looking out of the windows. The Convent closed down just prior to the war.

Transcript: Richmond Road: Railway Bridge/ Taxi Garage/
Richmond Laundry: ‘Bag Wash’
Houses on Richmond Road were identical to houses in Navarino Road. Up to the Railway Bridge, there was a taxi, there was a taxi garage and next to that was the Richmond Laundry – there they did the best type of Laundry, also they did the ‘Bag Wash‘, this you could fill a bag with as much white washing that could go in, leave it overnight – it was returned the next day clean and almost dry ready to go through the mangle or iron.
Transcript: Richmond Road & Brenthouse Road Synagogues
From he railway bridge and until Mare Street there was a row of terraced houses. On the opposite side facing the laundry was Richmond Road Synagogue – a very imposing building – with stone columns on either side of the stairs. It was demolished around 1936, when the Synagogue on Brenthouse Road, which was originally, the Devonshire Road, but was renamed Brenthouse Road, was rebuilt ….. (hesitation & pause)00:06:53 The Synagogue in Brenthouse Road was rebuilt in 1936 and i got married there in 1937. 00:07:03
Transcript: Richmond Road / other side of London Fields
There are some very large houses in Richmond Road, ad these were badly damaged during the war, but they were re-built as they were originally. The other side facing London Fields, those houses were completely destroyed, and the only thong that’s left there are the most beautiful trees – all equally spaced, so I think each house had a tree in the garden, and they’re still there.

Transcript: London Fields Swimming Pool
Across the Fields there was the old swimming pool, as a young girl I would walk from Bethnal Green and go swimming there – this was before the war, (laughs) well before the war. It was closed for many years, now it has been re-built and is magnificent – it’s almost Olympic size, heated and with very up to date facilities.
Transcript: Annual Chimney Sweep
Once a year before winter sets in we all did the chimney sweep – unheard of now. He came with his round brush and lot of extension rods, it’s amazing how much soot came down.
Transcript: Reading Lane (Eleanor Road end) Milk Depot
A little way into Reading Lane coming from Eleanor Road and on the right hand side, was a small milk depot, I believe originally there was a cow or two there, but that was before my time. There was a father and daughter running it, the daughter pushed an adapted trolley, which was made specially to carry the milk bottles, and it was the daughter who did the delivery of the milk. And my mother-in-law patronised them right from as long as I can remember.
Transcript: Lebons The Coal Merchants / Horse Drawn Cart Deliveries
Lebons The Coal Merchants, they were at the junction of Dalston Lane and Graham Road – delivered coal in a horse drawn cart. The coal came in 100 weight sacks brought through the side entrance, each bag was emptied in the coal chute –that was in the cellar – 12 sacks of coal, you watched and counted the empty sacks to see that you checked on the delivery.
Transcript: War Time Ridley Road Market Fish Shop Queue
During the war, and when in London, I would get up at 5.30 in the morning, and together with friend Yetta Zolin – she lived next door – we tool our torches and walked to Ridley Road Market, joined the queue outside Jack Solomons the fish shop – it was useless to decide what fish you were going to buy - there was a limited choice, but at least you came home with something.
Transcript: War Time Post Man Checking Numbers Of People On Houses
During the war Mr & Mrs Hoffman and family lived at number 5 Navarino Road. Mr Hoffman was a Post Man and each evening he called round and rang the bell: “How many of you are there tonight”? And made a note of the number in the house. And the following morning again the bell rang: “How many of you here this morning”? And it was a wonderful job, quite voluntary – he didn’t have to do it, so it was much appreciated.
Transcript: Dalston Picture House
Another cinema was the Dalston Picture House, a comfortable and elegant cinema, it was a real outing to go there.
Transcript: Kingsland High Street / ‘Dudleys’ /Mr Herring’s Curtain shop
Crossing the road and going along Kingsland High Street, there were lots of shops and ‘Dudleys’ was a very big store at the time, quite high class.
00:12:33 Opposite and on the corner of Sandringham Road was Mr Herring, who had the largest selection of curtains you could possibly imagine. Mr Herring sold the shop some 20 years ago,it was his Grandfather who had started the business.
Transcript: Theatres more towards Stoke Newington
Further along on the opposite side the Alexander Theatre – there we did see some very good shows and a little further on was the Coliseum Theatre, now a supermarket.
Transcript: ‘Simpsons’ Gents’ Suits Manufacturers (Maybe Shacklewell??)
Again, and on the other side of the road was ‘Simpsons’ a very large factory manufacturing Gents suits and employing a large number of workers – I believe the factory was originally at the corner of Well Street, but was badly damaged.
N.B. Lena stops reading and starts talking
Transcript: Oil Shop / Paraffin/sold almost everything
I wanted to mention about an oil shop also in the parade. Now the oil shop sold almost everything, and what amazed me most of all – they sold paraffin which is a real dangerous thing to have, so they must have had a tank put in somewhere in the basement, where they came with a lorry or a van, whatever and filled the tank up with paraffin. But apart from the paraffin you could get almost everything. In those days cleaning materials were very important, just trying to think of so many of things that they would use in cleaning – 00:14:25 I’ll start with the lowest thing, was Hearth Stone, (laughs), that’s what people used to whiten their door steps or stairs going up, and for doing the washing there was Hudson’s Powder, the little blue bags – they used to cost a penny, and you put them in the washing to make it whiter. Starch, so many different kinds of soap, especially Carbolic soap and there was loose Carbolic, now it’s all coming to me – spirits of salt, ah and all kinds of household goods – buckets, shovels, small shovels, brooms, yard brooms and soft brooms and hard brooms and scrubbing brushes, floor clothes, so many things …….
00.32.00 Difference between her and her husband’s families. Being Jewish.
Talks about her husband being more worldly – 8 years older. Came into a different world. Came from Bethnal Green. Lived in a Jewish neighbourhood. At the time of the persecution in Germany. Her husband’s family were involved in what was going on. Both her family and her Husband’s family had family there. They were different types of people, Barden family, didn’t have money but were educated, education was very important to them. Her parents were poor people. Her mother had a shop, was probably just like a hole in the wall. They married he came to England, established himself as a fruiterer –“how my father became a business man without being able to read and write I’ll never know, but he did. Brought up a family of 8, Lena was the youngest.

Mother didn’t work on the Sabbath. Father kept shop open to make a living, but also went to Synagogue.

Talks about the way her husband’s parents came to London from Poland. Rubin became a carpenter and Annie learnt dressmaking. Lived in Brady Street Buildings in the East End. Worked hard. Had children. Cousin started to open shops and Ruben became a shop fitter. Annie went back to Poland with the children for a few years to have a break from having children. No birth control. Sophie 2nd girl fell in a pond and contracted polio. Made their way back to England via Germany and their German cousins – who weren’t so happy to see their poor Polish cousins, and were happy when they were on their way to England.

Story about cousins in New Zealand and plans to go to New Zealand because there was work there. World War 1 broke out. It was very lucky because at the last moment there was delay – lucky because their boat sunk. The story came on the radio. 00:34:00
00:36:48 Describes progress and social upward mobility of her husband’s family, from Bethnal Green, East End to Hackney:
By this time Annie Barden’s brother had opened shop in High Street, Stoke Newington, just by Evering Road he took whole family in. Eldest son Harry, Dolly- Daughter was talented with a needle. Harry opened a little shop in Hackney Road in Bethnal Green and Dolly had a little workshop. “Never spoken about this in my life” “Dolly became a first class dressmaker – they call them courturier. When she married they bought a beautiful house at 41 Amhurst Park. Harry closed little place in Hackney Road and came to Cambridge Road. And that’s the beginning of a whole new story”.
00:37:00 Background about Jack Barden (Lena’s husband) and the family business:
They sold records, cameras. Harry and mother in law were in shop. Jack went to Cowper Street school intended to become a doctor. But the work that he did after school in the shop including printing and developing photographs – became ill – Victoria Park Hospital and Godalming. He recovered and they built up a thriving business.
“In 1936 my second eldest brother married Sophie Barden, and in 1937 I married her brother, Jack Barden”. 00:38:46
00:39:24 Describes her marriage at Brenthouse Road Synagogue and compares this large impressive synagogue with the small one she went to growing up in Bethnal Green: When I was married first time I had been in a big Shul, a big synagogue. Bethnal Green Synagogue was little 2 small houses knocked together, in Teasdale Street. Small payment for people who took the services had to do other work – Mr Marks was watchmaker.

00:44:36 She and her mother in law carried out charitable work in the Jewish Community: There was a Ladies society started in 1935. Mother in law was the President. Worked for the Shabbat, for after the service drinks biscuits.. We ran charity things. Another society called the Hackney Jewish Benevolent Society met once a month paid very little, “twice a year would give out money to deserving people, before the New Year and before Passover. It was on a Monday afternoon, I can visualise how the people used to line up and the two women - the treasurer and another woman would sit there. Also in those days there was a Board of Jewish Guardians that also helped poor people. You know occasionally someone would come up in the line and they would recognise her and they would thinks well she doesn’t need it. But you couldn’t shame people, by saying it. And they used to always be very careful and say it was better to give an extra one that doesn’t need rather than miss out on somebody that needs. That went on for many years. In fact, Pinter…. Harold Pinter, his mother was the Secretary, she came form Clapton. The Synagogue did a very big social service. People cared. Classes for the children, four times a week, from half past five to seven. And the teachers were all students couldn’t afford to study what ever they were doing. They didn’t get paid much”.
“It was a wonderful thing”. Used to go to services whenever I could.
Transcript: A lot of Jewish people in this area, but mixed/ Dalston Synagogues
Well there were a lot of Jewish people living even in this area, I mean it was a very mixed one. Where I came from in Bethnal Green, we lived in a Jewish area, not many Gentiles, although we all knew each other. Here because the area, the houses were bigger, uh, how can I put it, because people lived in flats...…. This side of Hackney people going across Graham Road towards Sandringham Road, that was predominantly Jewish, but they had their own Synagogues there. There was the Montague Road Synagogue, and there ws the Wellington Road which came out into Stoke Newington Road, and there was one which was only recently, well not recently, they’ve just built a block of flats there, just now – the corner of Shacklewell Lane and Amhurst Road, that was called ‘The Rutzen Tov’ (check spelling/name)………
Transcript: Ridley Road Market: Jewish butchers & kosher chicken stalls /fishmongers/big curtain shop
Also the Jewish people from Stamford Hill, found it easy to come to Ridley Road, straight ride on the tram or bus. For us, people walked from this area,
not many people came from South Hackney, like Victoria Park, they didn’t really do their shopping n Ridley Road – there were other markets. But Ridley Road was special because there were Jewish butchers there, there was chicken stall keepers who only sold kosher chickens, and there was the fishmongers – Jack Solomons had a very very big business there and there was Arthur Barnet, (check spelling of Barnet) he had a stall there and his son, one of his sons kept it on – I don’t know when they stopped. 00:49:58…………..There was also a very big curtain shop, in fact this table cloth I’ve got here came from there………….
And they sold bedding, blankets, things like that – double shop, very big family business.
Transcript: Very Busy Market
Oh, it was a very busy market, the stall holders would come out early, by 9 o’clock in the morning – sometimes earlier – the stalls would all be out, they in the backstreets they rented places where they could put all their barrows or stalls, um, it wasn’t like it is now, the, ah, how can i put it…..it was a very mixed market, not only food, now it’s becoming more, or it has been for some time a food market, but in those days there was always very good fruit stalls at the beginning of Ridley.

Transcript: Market Families
As long as I can remember and there was a very good stall, a salad stall, now Claytons, now these stalls, the owners, it was the Grandparents what ran them in those days, they all had fairly big families and so their families also became what they call them – Costermongers – I think they used to call them, and so as they grew up they took a stall.

Transcript: Sliding Scale of price according to quality
You would find pots and pans being sold, lots of them not good quality, you know the cheaper end, maybe a bit damaged, but everything was according to if it was perfect, it was a higher price, if it was a little bit chipped – and I think people used to do a little bit of bargaining there.
Transcript: Stalls: rugs/mats/clothes/children’s clothes/second hand clothes
There were stalls that were selling rugs you know, mats, things like that and then lots of little clothes stalls, you know children’s clothes, and there were several second hand – you don’t see those at all now, selling second hand clothes. Oh and there would be a few food stalls selling dry goods, you know in open sacks.

Transcript: Fascists: Congregating at beginning Colveston Crescent/ box they stood up on/ Young Jewish Fellows/ Fighting
That was a very sad period, because they congregated, there , was…a beginning of Colveston Crescent, it’s a big area so you’re not sort of o the corner of the main road, you’re a little bit in. And they gathered there the Fascists and they had their box that they stood up on, some of them had - not a ladder, but it was like an extended ladder so they could lean on it and do their stuff and there was always fighting, always fighting broke out, the young Jewish fellows would go there to try and break them up, first of all they didn’t start straight away, they had to wait until they were speaking, saying what they, and then started fights – it was really really tough, and you were a little bit afraid.
Transcript: One or Two Anti-Semitic Market Traders
I think even in the market - traders – you did see one or two whom you thought were anti-Semitic, so you certainly didn’t patronise them.
Transcript: Very cheap dry goods - biscuits
There were a few grocery stalls in the market that sold very cheap dry goods, packets of biscuits – I don’t know where the things came from.
Transcript: China stalls
There were lots of, several stalls that sold china, that’s right, and I know because my mother-in-law used to go about once a week, when she went to the butcher, so she’d buy, so she’d always buy bits of china that matched, and it’s amazing I still use the crockery that she used to buy, yes, I use it every Passover.
00:57:20 ish
Transcript: Mother-in-law: “the kitchen sink never got a woman anywhere”
01:00:25 ish
And my mother-in-law, she must have been very clever, and one day she says to me – soon after I was married, I was in the kitchen, and she said: “You know Lena”………….she said “Lena, the kitchen sink never got a woman anywhere”, she said “if I were you come to the shop you’ll enjoy it, you’ll see people, what will you do at home!?” And so I started to go there.
01:01:30 ish
Transcript: Locations of Barden Electrical Shops in Dalston
We had 3 shops along there, we had the one on the corner of Ridley Road, well Winchester Place, that was 2 shops, first we bought 1 and then we bought the other, and then the shop opposite the corner of Gillett Street became vacant and my husband took that shop, and then we had a shop right further up along Stoke Newington Road. 01:07:31
Summary: More about their shops:
Shop in Harlesden, shop in Tottenham.
Husband had good relationship with the staff.
We were a very, very honest business. Couldn’t afford to pay big wages to young people who were learning. Lots went on to be taxi drivers in Ilford. 01:10:30
Summary: Explains how Higher Purchase worked in their shops:
Lost a fortune on Higher Purchase before the war. Lena tries to work out how to explain about their HP, but doesn’t want to get it wrong. “Lucky able to survive”. “If people had paid us what was owed we would be millionaires now……………very very big business.” 01:16:43
Summary: 01:16:54
Lean’s son (Ronnie) joined the business at a hard time
Lena now thinks her son shouldn’t have gone into the business. Very good at maths. He was going to go to business college in America, but she persuaded him to join business. It was hard time to join the business – shouldn’t have had that hardship as a young man. 01:19:36
Summary: 01:20:43
Bombing during WWII and the effects on her house.
01:23:33 none of her contemporaries left. No one has any time now. Enjoys her writing. She can’t believe she hasn’t coughed all through interview. 01:25:08

New immigrants. “When our people came over didn’t know English”. West Indian lady teacher friend. No memory of West Indian people, but remembers West Indian customers in the shop and becoming very very friendly 01:28:13.

01:29:05 No Lyons Corner House in Hackney. At the Angel Islington on the corner, on four floors.

01: 30:51 We don’t have any stars in the sky…always used to look up at the stars. Don’t know where the stars have gone. They used to say you know when the Sabbath goes out because you see 3 stars, that’s when I was a child…….01:32:15

Wav Recording 2:
Transcript: Wav Recording 2:
00:00:13 “ My name is Lena Barden, I was born in the City of London maternity home, in December 1916. 00:00:29
Tradition of laying people on straw for 1 night after they have died:
00:01:10 The tradition as far as I can tell was only in our family. We had a fruit shop and my father said, I think it was her who said it, I’m not certain - that they should lay my father down on the straw - that we got out of the banana boxes, long, not that soft straw, this is like hard straw, that used to come in the banana boxes, yellowy. And the men when they used togo market they used to break off a piece and use it like a cigarette, you know – and my father used towalk along with a bit of this straw. And I’d never heard of it, but at that time I didn’t know about people dying any way - at 17. When my aunt died my mother’s sister, she too had a fruit shop, and when she died they laid her on the straw 00:02:14 but that’s the only time I’ve know that people got laid on the straw 00:02:22
Copy Material Location: WAV copies held at Hackney Museum:
1 copy stored on a portable hard drive
1 copy stored on a DVD-R (Gold Archive Standard)

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