Bloom, my father, was born in a small town called MIawa situated about
seventy miles north of Warsaw, Poland, on February 18th, 1882. He was one
of five children (four sons and one daughter) born to his parents, Simon (Shymyer-Polish)
and Goldie Bloom. The Bloom family emigrated
to England in 1884 and settled in a small town called Grimsby situated in
the North East coast of England. In those days it was a small fishing
village; if you were to ask me why they were destined to go to Grimsby, I
could not give you the answer but it is quite possible that the British
authorities gave new
immigrants no choice or alternative when they arrived in England,
dispersing them to smaller towns throughout the country thus avoiding
congestion in the main cities.
My father's brothers were Zavel, Isadore and Maurice, and his only sister
was Minnie. In his early twenties, Zavel emigrated to Durban, South
Africa, as did Isadore who settled in Johannesburg, South Africa. Minnie
remained in England and settled in an apartment in Kensington High Street,
Kensington, London. My father, together with Maurice, emigrated to South
Africa in 1902, both in their
very early twenties. Eventually Maurice returned to England and settled in
London, but my father elected to stay in Africa.
He and Maurice were lured to Johannesburg for gold had been discovered in
1885, eventually in large reefs as much as a mile below the the surface -
actually the reefs run precisely under the city of Johannesburg. Just like
my father and his brother, thousands of people from all over the world,
descended on the city of Johannesburg for a 'gold fever" had caught
all of them and the 'gold rush' was on before the turn of the Century. At
that time, the city became a tent city overnight and there was chaos and
pandemonium because of the lack of sufficient accommodation.
Philip and Maurice when they arrived in Johannesburg in 1902 knew nothing
about the mining of gold but they were determined to stake a claim in the
hope that if they were successful they would be able to help their parents
in Grimsby who were struggling to make a living. I remember my father
us that, at the age of ten or thereabouts, he used to sell newspapers in
the streets of Grimsby in order to help his parents.
Unfortunately the two brothers were unsuccessful in their efforts. They
were deeply disappointed as their dreams of becoming rich were shattered.
Realising that they now had to find a way to make a living somehow, they
settled in Pretoria and leased a small tea room. My father told us that he
looked after the cash register and Maurice went into the kitchen. I can
imagine what came out of the kitchen to feed the patrons for Maurice
had never cooked in his life. However, in spite of the difficulties they
encountered, they made a living and they survived.
You will note that, other than my father's sister, all the children
emigrated to South Africa to start
a new life for themselves in a new and seemingly 'virgin' country, rich in
resources and as yet hardly touched by man. What great opportunities there
were for new immigrants!
MY MOTHER'S FAMILY....
mother was bom in Riga, Latvia in the year 1886 and her name was Annie.
Her parents, Julius and Rachel Lurie, emigrated to South Africa in 1890,
when she was four years old, and settled in Pretoria, South Africa, to
start a new life for themselves with hardly a penny between them. It was
very difficult for new immigrants to establish themselves in a new,
undeveloped and foreign country for they did not know the language and
they had no money.
They had a
large family, six daughters and one son, and they took up residence in a
house in Pretorius Street. The building was shaped like a square V, the
bottom part of which formed the front of the house and bordered on the
street pavement, housed the whole family. The two sides of the 'U'
consisted of single rooms which were rented out to single women and men
for about two English pounds per month. The one and only bathroom was
situated in the middle of the quadrangle so one had to cross
the yard to get to it. The sparse income from the rentals helped my
mother's family to survive.
My grandmother only stood about 4'10" high, in her horizontally
striped, colourful football socks which she always wore up to her knees to
keep her feet warm. She kept a cow in a stable at the end of one of the
arms of the "U" and so she received a daily supply of milk in
order to make butter and cream cheese. Whenever I used to go into her
kitchen, I would see muslin bags hanging from the rafter in the ceiling,
dripping, filled with cream cheese which she marketed with the butter, so
augmenting the family income. She truly was the matriach of the family and
everyone, married or unmarried, took orders from
I never knew my grandfather, he must have passed away before I was bom. I
am sorry that I do not know any more about him except that he was a
merchant dealing in various produce such as seeds, grasses, lentils,
maize, lucerne and so on.
My grandmother, after the loss of her husband, worked very hard in order
to bring up her large family. As her children grew up and obtained various
types of employment, they contributed to the running of the house. Their
earnings were meagre but the family survived and started to make a life
The Lurie family consisted of: Mary, who married Louis Edelman; Bertha,
who married Myer Sklar; Edie, who married Ben Mirvis; Dora, who married
Sid Jacobs; Minnie, who married Jay Novizenitz; Annie, who married Philip
Bloom and Willie, who married Cockie Brown. They were all married in
Pretoria and nearly all of them lived with their mother in the boarding
house in Pretorius
were two tragedies in the family. Dora had been very unhappily married to
Sid Jacobs who had made her life unbearable, so she committed suicide by
taking poison. Minnie was bending over the bath one morning to clean some
clothes with benzine, the fumes of which became ignited by the coal-burning
water heater situated in the inside comer of the bathroom. She died a
painful and agonizing
death from third degree bums which she sustained.
As a child of five years old I can still see and hear my Aunt Minnie
running out of the bathroom, her clothes alight, screaming with pain and
then seeing other members of the family wrapping her in blankets whilst
rolling her on the ground. I was so terrified that I ran away from the
scene, crying and sobbing my heart out.
Those two deaths in the family were a terrible shock to the family,
especially to my grandmother.
They occurred when my mother, my brother Myer, and myself were living with
my grandmother in Pretoria for a short period of about two years.
PIONEERING DAYS IN RHODES/A ....
parents arrived in Rhodesia in 1912 and settled in a small town four miles
out of Salisbury called Ardbennie. There were only a mere handful of white
settlers at that time in the town but lodging was very reasonable and
My father, in order to make a living, sold cheap fake jewellery which he
carried about in a business attache case. It was hard going for him trying
to earn some money to support a wife and two children. He also started an
auctioneering business and soon after, opened up a small furniture shop at
the top end of Manica Road near the Kopje in Salisbury. The business was
named P.Bloom & Co. and so he was kept fairly busy, managing to keep
his head above water, earning enough to maintain and keep his family.
He used to tell us that a chicken, in those days, could be bought for
about six pennies; a dozen eggs would cost three pennies and a plate of
hot food in the pub would cost eight pennies. I suppose in those days the
prices stated were not so cheap for the people earned a pittance.
There were two schools in Moffat Street and my father used to take Minnie
and Harry on a bicycle to school every morning and then pick them up when
the school closed - a matter of four miles each way, on a bicycle with
three bodies on it. There were no macadamized roads at that time and the
four main roads - Manica Road, First Street, Pioneer Street and Moffat
Street - had no street lights and they were heavily used by ox-wagons and
horse drawn vehicles, becoming deeply pot-holed and, during the rainy
season, just a sea of mud making movement difficult.
Telephone and telegraph services were not available initially and when
they did come into service, the lines were anything but clear and were
continually breaking down. I remember (here I jump ahead in time) the
phone which they installed in my parents first permanent home. It was a
large box affair and one had to lift the receiver and at the same time
crank the handle in order to get through to the
operator and give her the three digit number one wanted.
Those were truly pioneering days in Rhodesia and, rather surprisingly, my
parents survived all the trials and tribulations of life there in spite of
the difficulties which they encountered in those early days of Rhodesia.
The spirit of true 'pioneerism' amongst the people must have given them
courage to endure and survive.
A large tent or marquee on First Street served as the only meeting place
for the inhabitants towatch a 'silent' film. The projector was cranked by
hand and invariably broke down amidst boos and catcalls from the audience
- after all, they had paid sixpence entrance fee and they wanted their
full value. This tent also served as a meeting place for the people to
have discussions on many subjects,
chiefly, ways and means on how to improve the living standards and how to
overcome problems which beset them daily.
IN WHICH I WAS BORN....
Gradually and very
slowly, living conditions improved. A few years had passed when my parents
moved out of Ardbennie and rented a
small house in Baker Avenue, comer Park Street for a couple of years. I do
not know how my father could have afforded such an expense but, by doing
so, he had made my mother happy.
There was no indoor sanitation nor hot water
system, water was heated up outside over an open fire and then carried
into the house in four gallon cans. With regard to sanitation, one had to
use an outdoor toilet in the yard and late at night, the municipal
sanitary cart would appear and service the toilets.
a then, fashionable area of Salisbury (now downtown), the house was very
near the Synagogue, and it was the house in which
Myer and I were bom. I do not think
that the house still exists for, on my last visit to Salisbury in 1991,1
could not find it. There were many
buildings which had been
built in that vicinity and which had changed the whole character of that
house in Baker Avenue which my father
had rented was very small, especially for a family of six, but my mother
never grumbled for she was only too happy to have her own home which
gave her such a feeling of security for her and her family. As I
well remember her at that time (I was about five years old) she was a
wonderful, loving and caring mother. She never demanded from my father
that which he was unable to afford and so she was content and happy.
will never forget how the house was permeated every Friday with the aroma
of freshly baked bread. Her pantry shelves were always filled
with bottles of preserves, jams, pickles and so on which she had prepared
herself. As young as I was at that time, it is rather remarkable how such
a scene as I have just described, could remain indelible in the mind of a
child of that age.
She did not keep a Kosher home but she did adhere to the traditional Shabbat
evening at our table by having the candles lit, the wine and the challah
ready for the blessing.
a family, we attended services at the Synagogue during Pesach,
Yom Kippur and
then at various Simchas. We were always
scrubbed clean and always had on freshly ironed shirts (I inherited a
goodly amount of used clothing from my two older brothers, much to my
father loved my mother and so admired her. They were a happy couple and
we, as a family, benefited and enjoyed a happy home atmosphere and environment. He
worked very hard to provide
the means by which my mother could maintain the standard of her home in
all its modesty and simplicity.
THE SALISBURY STREET SYNAGOGUE....
the advent of a few more Jewish families arriving, the Salisbury
Hebrew Congregation was
in 1895 and a written constitution was formulated. The Salisbury Jewish
population in 1897 numbered 46 persons of whom 35 were men and women
between the ages of twenty and forty years
of age. By 1911 (my parents arrived in 1912) the Jewish population
of Rhodesia had increased to 1,295
persons of whom 850 were from
Russia (this includes people from the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia
and Latvia; also a part of Poland which had been annexed by Russia). Due
to the effect of a world in 1912
followed by the first World War in 1914, Jewish immigration into the
country was and, for that matter, all
synagogue in Salisbury Street was officially opened in 1917 and was
1920 by the Rev. J.J. Rosin, who was
the Minister of the Congregation from 1918 -1935. Cecil John Rhodes, who
had founded Rhodesia on behalf of the British Govemment
and after country was named, gave a donation of fifty pounds towards the
cost of building the
synagogue and with it he sent a letter
to the congregation saying - "My country will be alright if the Jews
come here. He died in 1902 and the last words he uttered were - "So
much to do and so tittle done" Tantum faciendum parum
factum) which later became the motto of
my school. He was buried in the Matopos
hills just outside Bulawayo, according
to his dying wish.
Salisbury Street synagogue played a very significant part in my family's
history. Both my sister Minnie, and my brother Harry, were married there;
Harry, Myer and I became barmitzvahed
in this synagogue; my daughter Ann, and her cousins Angela and Michael
were also married there, So one can see what great sentimental
value was attached to it by our family.
The Guild Hall, adjacent to the synagogue, was a very active center for
all occasions such as
weddings, plays, Cheder lessons,
parties and so on. I went every Saturday morning
prior to my Barmitzvah to
attend Cheder lessons, meet my friends and have fun with the girls. In
those days, the synagogue and the Guild Hall was the cradle of Jewish
religion, study, meetings and social gatherings it's
many years later, the synagogue together with the Guild Hall were sold to
the Tattersalls club when the new
location in Lezard Avenue, Milton Park,
was established as a Jewish center. In 1965, the Harry Margolis
Hall was built on this site and the first wedding to be performed there
(even whilst the building was not quite complete) was when my daughter Ann
got married on Boxing day, December 26th 1965, in that hall.
Later and a long time afterwards, a new synagogue was built for the Ashkenazi
community (the Sephardic
community had their own hall and synagogue).
[Leslie met and married Lala (Salka) Waldman in Tel Aviv, Palestine
in 1942. They both wrote detailed memoirs of which the above is a brief
extract relating to Les's early days in Rhodesia.
|Lala with Linda and David seated and Phil and Ann
standing - circa 1963
||Leslie's parents Annie (nee Lurie) and
Phil Bloom with first daughter Minnie - circa 1910 in Pretoria
|Lala and Les Bloom - New York 2000