He built a model Mississippi paddle steamer in his garage workshop.
M Rab Jewel (he and all his family have now died out) lived down our street and worked in the war at Swan Hunters. His father, his brother and himself built four houses, numbers 51 to 57 Wembley Avenue, for members of his family in about 1926. When you examine these houses closely you see the design and workmanship is of an unusually high standard, “old man Jewel” was a master craftsman. Hector and Rab, the brothers, built some houses up Selwyn Avenue but had to leave them unfinished in the war as they couldn’t get licenses to buy doors, floorboards and fittings. I got a real telling off from Rab for playing in his houses, as without floorboards they were dangerous.
The Brights lived at number 57, Hector and his wife and her college friend Miss Younger lived at 55, old Miss Jewel their sister at 53 and Rab and his wife at 51. Hector’s wife, Miss Younger and old Miss Jewel were teachers. Miss Jewel never went to college; when she left school aged 14 (about the year 1890) she went to help in an Infants School, served an apprenticeship as a teacher and was certificated as such. She taught at New York [near Shiremoor] Infants School.
In the winters of 1941 and 1947, we had a lot of snow that stayed for nearly a month, Miss Jewel got to her school by walking along the tops of the Rake Lane hedges that were just showing through the deep snow. She always walked to and from school even when past retirement age, about three miles a day, rain and shine. No wonder she lived to be about 90 years of age. During the war, many teachers were called up for the Forces so many others came out of retirement. We had an English master who was about 75 years old and rather frail, but his handwriting was copperplate, artistic and near perfect.
Rab Jewel was a builder handyman but in the war was sent to work at Swan Hunters Shipyard. He was always making things in his garage, where he had an old lathe and a drilling machine. These were ancient – maybe dating back to 1902 – their motors were partly open and threw out sparks when running, which fascinated my brother and I. He made my mother a poker like a sword out of steel, copper and bronze, a very artistic and serviceable piece of work. I thought it useful for chasing Germans also!
One fine, sunny evening Rab was just walking out of West Monkseaton Railway Station when he tripped and there was an almighty clang! He had a sheet of copper wound around his body under his mackintosh with string like braces over his shoulders to support the copper jacket. The string snapped!
A rather sheepish Rab struggled along Earsdon Road, then down our street clutching the copper jacket partly visible under his now open raincoat. Now we knew where he got his raw materials! He built a model Mississippi paddle steamer with a real boiler and steam engine in his garage workshop. It was about three feet long and he occasionally steamed it on Tynemouth Lake.