Early years

Alice was born on 16 February 1919 in east London. Her parents Abraham (b.1875) and Sarah Kissin (b. 1888, nee Rosenbaum) had emigrated from Lithuania and Poland respectively earlier in the century.

Alice’s parents

At the time she was born the Spanish Flu pandemic was raging. When she died over a century later the Covid 19 pandemic had taken hold world-wide. She did not catch either of these diseases, but her last months were adversely affected by the isolation and restrictions of lockdown, as were many others in 2020.

UK giant aiship launched ion 16 February 1919

Scholarship girls

She was a bright, adventurous and rebellious girl, keen to escape the restrictions of home. As a student at Central Foundation School (CFS) she formed life long friendships with a group of like-minded and politically-active friends including Rene Kaufman and Bertha Sokoloff.

The teenage Alice rebelled against her family’s ways. At home she was supposed to clean the parlour that was stuffed with ornaments and furnishings. She told her friends that she made a point of breaking something each time she had to do the dusting. Bertha Sokoloff enjoyed relating this story many years later, comically torn between admiration for Alice’s boldness and censure of her behaviour!

Alice remembers Here she interviewed in a 2006 recording talking about growing up in East london’s Spitalfields in the 1920s and 1930s, reflecting on the formative economic and social issues of those turbulent pre-war years.

Alice took part in lots of school activities, reflected in the February 1934 CFS school magazine when she was a member of form VB. Her essay – In a London Fog – is included; she is mentioned as the vice games captain of Orange House and a member of the School second netball team (which competed against local schools). She gets glowing reviews for her perfomance as George in a performance of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, gaining plaudits for a ‘masterly performance’.

Witnessing Cable Street demonstration 1936

As a teenager in 1936 she witnessed the clashes of the Cable Street demonstration. In this recording made at a party soon after her 100th birthday in 2019, she recalls the event.

Alice recalls the build up to the 1936 CableStreet protest

Photo from 1935, a group of Alice’s schoolfriends camping at Hulbridge, Essex

Photos from the Sokoloff family album 1935-44. Where’s Alice?

Link to Bertha Sokoloff obituary 2018

War breaks out

Soon after war broke out in 1939, Alice and a recently married friend (a different Bertha) hitchhiked up to Scotland with the intention of finding jobs on a farm. Two days into the trip the plan was scuppered when the friend’s husband rushed up to Scotland to take his bride back to London. The marriage proved to be fairly short lived and the young lady decamped to Israel.

Alice returned to London where she became a wartime telephone engineer. After the war ended she enrolled on an emergency teacher training course at a college in Coventry. She returned to London and emabarked on a career in education.