John Londei writes:
This was a hard shot to take; full of problems, with torrential rain, gale force winds and hardly any light.
Eddie Schloss had just seen off a difficult customer. ”They all come here telling me the same thing was offered up the road for half the price, ‘So why didn’t you buy it?’ I tell them.”
Eddie’s father, Samuel, was a Polish immigrant who settled in the East End of London and opened this shop, near Petticoat Lane market, in 1928. Eddie, his only son, left school at fifteen to work for his father. “He was a wonderful man. A true gentleman. Very fair. A good father, by God. I respected him. I loved him deeply. If my father were alive today I’d be the happiest person.”
Eddie joined the RAF and remained in the service for many years. “They allowed me compassionate leave, as my father had been taken bad. He couldn’t do it anymore. What with it being a family business, they gave me leave to come out. I took over here. I wasn’t cut out for this work. I wanted to be a doctor. Medical matters always fascinated me. I began studying it at school, but my education was wasted. But you need a different kind of patience for this work.”
Eddie didn’t seem interested having his picture taken, and it took a lot of persuading until he finally agreed. I don’t know what he was thinking as he watched us battle with the elements trying to set up the plate camera.
”Art. You’re probably doing it for art. I respect that. But I’ve got enough problems without art as well. Be honest with yourself, do I need it? I’ve got enough problems without you. I respect you as human beings. You’re wasting your time, but be my guest. But don’t expect me to spend any time on it. When I was younger I might have been impressed.
“ I would be happy to have a copy of the photo when it’s done. I won’t be impressed. I’m too old for that, but I’ll see what my wife thinks. God bless you – if your art gives you only half the problems I’ve had, you’ll have had enough.”
John Londei’s book Shutting Up Shop: the decline of the traditional small shop is published by Dewi Lewis.