Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nan n Me 4 Sylvia Young

There is so much I don't know. So much I guess. So much I assume. Sylvia was born Sylvia Jacobs in London circa 1898. Her mother's last name was Hurwitz. She was middle class, her family were Rabbi or musicians. They were Dutch, but their family had fled the Tsar from Minsk in the nineteenth century, having fled Horovice for Poland sometime around 1300. She was well educated, to a finishing year eight, but her brother (brothers?) was educated at an elite finishing school (Etons?). The family had servants in their home, and at least one labor saving upstairs/downstairs cupboard that could serve as an escalator for small items, as well as a clothing 'chute.
Nanna, me and David Oosenthuisen circa '81

Her father led orchestra in London for silent movies. His marriage became rocky, but she remembered him often coming home late, when she was a little girl, and kissing her forehead in her sleep. She was well educated in music too, and played the piano, although I never heard her do so. She could sing too, although my only memory of hearing her is when she was close to passing, and she joined in with "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" which I was singing to her at her hospice.
She found work after leaving school. She had overheard a politician for British Liberals (nothing like the Australian variety) asking for help and she volunteered. She was instructed to answer questions with "That is ok, he can help."She would recall hearing David Lloyd George addressing a crowd. At some stage, she was working in Edinborough as a telephone exchange operator. On one occasion, trying to connect a call, she asked a person "Who are you?" and the person at the other end indicated they had not understood the question. She tried again, and still they didn't understand. Finally it dawned on them and they said "Oh, Who ARE you .." accent having been the divide.
She met a returned soldier following WW1 who had fought as an artilleryman, serving in Ireland before the rebellion, and France, Joseph Ball. They married for love, leaving for Australia circa 1925-27. Her musician father and brother (s?) played at the wedding, one memorable item being the funeral march .. she had been the first in her family to marry a non Jew. Joseph was Catholic, and Manchester born and bred, being without money. She recalled visiting Toronga Zoo and riding an elephant exhibit sometime in the late '20s.
Nanna, me and others at Jannali circa '78

Her father would fall on hard times around the time talkies began in movies. He invested heavily in airships. But that venture crashed, including the Hindenburg Zeppelin .. although she stressed he had not specifically invested in that. Her father left her mother and moved to Johannesburg and was paid to establish their first philharmonic orchestra. There is a piece of written music made by him there at that time. He asked his wife to allow a divorce, and she refused. He is said to have had a baby girl at about that time. He died at his piano, doing work he loved. That would have been about 1933. The inheritance he left for Sylvia would take about twelve years to get to her.
I have heard diverse stories from the time between '33 and '45. My mother gave me to believe Joseph was a violent drunk that was bad with money and a bad gambler. She said he was violent with Sylvia and gave her a strange malformation behind her ear. I asked her about it and she wouldn't talk about it. I have skin tags and I have made them larger by picking at them. I have also cut some off. She got angry when she heard that and said she had told my mother what to do about them, as one had expanded near the tear duct of my right eye. I asked if that was what had happened to her ear. She said Joseph had tried to remove it. How? She said "He hurt me." Others have said Joseph was a softly spoken, cheerful soul who enjoyed reading. He had a gift for talking with people and knew everyone he met a second time. A walk with him to the shops meant him greeting the shop keepers and all speaking animatedly and excitedly like old friends.
I was told he had got himself into debt with mafia types, owing them money from gambling on horses. According to that story, he joined the Australian Army and fought for Roden Cutler's mob at Jacob's Well, narrowly missing becoming a desert rat at Tobruk, his unit when north while the rats went West from Sudan. While he was serving, Sylvia got her father's inheritance money and left home before mafia came to collect it. She collected her two youngest, and left her oldest to come home from his last day at school and find an empty house. But, that story is absolutely absurd according to others who were there. They say Sylvia had started an affair while Joseph was serving. Her mother came to stay with the inheritance of her father. She pushed her two oldest out of school early so they would get work, leaving my father to complete his education. One recalls that Sylvia sent the children to greet Joseph as he arrived back on ship, and they gave him a note detailing what had happened. Another claims not to remember.
Sylvia at some stage built a place around Oyster Bay (? I get confused, I know my mother and father built a place later on). She worked odd jobs, including dish washing. I spoke with her once about her memory of one railway station and she said "Oh yes, that is where I would nick off after work .." and it was a delightful turn of phrase. I think it was Tempe Railway Station. She fell in love with a bank manager, Pop Young. He already had children. He would drive her to her work, they would kiss, and he would say "Don't forget to retire today, so we can get married." They did retire and marry, but he died some six months later. A the end of her life, her daughter in law who did not know her very well, took her to the hospice, where Sylvia was interviewed to see if she had partial dementia. She was asked to name her children and grand children and great grand children. She did, and her daughter in law knew the names, but at the end, Sylvia kept going .. she was naming the children of Pop Young too.


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