This year [5733 (1973)] Lag B’omer was on a Sunday (May 20). Following Lubavitch procedure, we in Manchester also held a parade on this day followed by a picnic. Arrangements were under the control and supervision of Rabbi Chaim Farro.

Over 1,200 children ages six to sixteen attended the parade and over 1,000 were then taken to the famous Aintree racecourse in Liverpool for a picnic, entertainment and prizes.

It was a huge and outstanding success and all the children enjoyed themselves immensely. Hearty congratulations to Chaim for a magnificent job – well done!

Let us have a little peep at what happened “behind the scenes.” One can imagine that there was plenty of work and organization to be done. Although I was a member of the special Lag B’omer committee (in virtue of the position I hold) I did not attend any of the meetings. One good reason was that I was not invited until after each meeting was held. I was actually pleased because there was plenty of other Lubavitch work to do: our big appeal dinner, progress on the new building and so forth. Besides which, it was always interesting to hear reports of these meetings second- and even thirdhand.

Top priority of the parade was finding counselors, boys and girls, who would be able to look after groups of children. At one point, one of our members asked Chaim how many counselors we had so far. “Oh”, Rabbi Farro replied, “I have a long list.” He certainly had a “long list;” but no counselors yet.

Two weeks before Lag B’omer, Yechiel Vogel informed me that the Chief Rabbi [of Great Britain], Rabbi Dr. Jacobovits, would be in Manchester on Lag B’omer to induct a new rabbi into his position. It would be a wonderful opportunity if we could arrange for the Chief Rabbi to address this many children. It would be a real zechus (merit) for the boys and girls to see and listen to the Chief Rabbi. We are well aware that Dr. Jacobovits always maintains publicly the importance and priority he places on the youth and how he was not particularly interested in inductions or in opening new (or reopening old) shuls.

We were gratified and honored when the Chief Rabbi accepted our invitation to be present at the parade at 10:45 a.m.

“Don’t let the Chief down,” I warned Chaim. “We have promised him 1,000 children.” Chaim worked hard with publicity and good canvassing, and, with the attraction of a galaxy of free prizes offered, including a trip to Israel, he was reasonably confident of a great turnout.

We were all given our usual jobs – I was to be Master of Ceremonies to ensure promptness and punctuality. Roselyn was put in charge of making the sandwiches. Bernard Perrin, and his van, was in charge of transporting the food and drinks to Liverpool.

After Shabbos the night before the parade, at 11:00 p.m., the workers, under the “foreman” Roselyn Jaffe, gathered at Halberstadt’s, the local Jewish butcher shop. The work of making, cutting and packing 2,200 sandwiches was in full swing – until it was suddenly realized that the sliced loaves which we had ordered were cut too thick and instead of 16 sandwiches to the loaf, we were making only ten.

We sent Perrin to the bakery for more bread – he soon returned with another 65 loaves all lovely and fresh straight from the freezer! I was the cutter-in-chief. I can tell you it is no easy matter to cut hard frozen bread. This accounted for only 800 sandwiches, and although we were advised that this would be quite sufficient, with so much remaining salami we again went to the bakery for a further supply of bread. At 1:00 a.m., we had the 2,200 sandwiches made, packed and loaded into Perrin’s van. It was pouring with rain when we arrived at Lubavitch House to load the drinks, apples and biscuits [cookies].

Chaim had borrowed a large flat lorry (truck) on which to build a float and there it was, standing disconsolately and pitifully – all alone, unattended and very wet. If it were “a-float” it would have looked like Noah’s ark.

At 9:00 a.m. on Lag B’omer morning, the rain was still pelting down, accompanied by claps of thunder and cloudbursts. In case it rained, it was our custom in the past to hire an enclosed van, which we could use as the “registration office.” This year, we had just not done that. The float? A boat would have been much more useful. At 9:30, it was still pouring with rain.

We had busloads of children arriving from all over the north of England – Liverpool, Blackpool, St. Annes, Bradford, Leeds, and Sheffield and locally from Bury, Cheadle, Gatley, and other Manchester districts. At 10:45, when the buses started to arrive, the rain suddenly and miraculously stopped altogether. Chaim must have prayed very hard – I heard he was up all night – plus the Rebbe’s brocha; by 10:50 the sun was already shining beautifully and hot!

Another (very unwelcome) arrival was a telegram from the Chief Rabbi regretting his absence and wishing us every success. A great pity for the children.

Marvelous Dayan Golditch addressed a few words to the children. The police addressed a few words to me. (It was Sunday and we were causing a nuisance to the church next door with our loudspeaker and microphone and everybody shouting.) Rabbi Farro and Dayan Krausz also added their contributions to the words of Torah and encouragement to the youngsters.

The J.L.B. (Jewish Lads’ Brigade) band was to lead the march. A little stout girl with a big drum was to lead the band. Actually half of this “Lads” Brigade were girls; peculiar!

Half of the children had still not registered by 11:00 a.m., but I had my job to do and we got started. With drums banging, bugles blowing, and banners fluttering, the procession started on its way. Hundreds of spectators lined the streets; it was a real kiddush Hashem.

I was last to leave the parade grounds for the picnic and I could see nothing at all except the tail end of the marchers. We filled all the fourteen buses and off the children went to the park in Liverpool. One bus had only a couple of hours previously come from Liverpool with the children from there. They attended the parade and now they were going back home via Aintree and the picnic first, of course.

My son Avrohom (Rabbi Jaffe) had by now already arrived at the racecourse with the “netillas yodayim” (washing of hands) gang. This included all the equipment needed in order for so many people to wash for hamotzie: paper towels, bins, water tanks and k’vorts (washing cups). Although they were well prepared for the rush, it was still chaotic. The handing out of sandwiches, apples and drinks, which had been planned so meticulously to avoid confusion and a “free for all,” became just that, and in a few minutes the “cupboard was bare.” I noticed a couple of children who looked decidedly non-Jewish, but they insisted they were with one of the groups. Some other young non-Jewish children came up to us for food and drink, saying, “Yes, we have put our hands in the holy water; now can we have sandwiches?”

By now the youngsters had settled in the Aintree grandstand and were getting ready to bentch and then be entertained when it was realized that we had 1,000 children but only 500 orange juice cartons to be utilized later on with the snack.

The real problem: where can one get 500 drinks on a Sunday afternoon in Liverpool? Bernard Perrin and I dashed off in his van. His idea was to go pub-crawling until we had sufficient drinks. After calling at three public houses and two shops we could see that the prospects of success were slim with this method. Suddenly I had a brilliant idea. In every city there is one place where one can obtain hundreds of drinks, even on a Sunday afternoon: milk dairies. They sell milk and orange juice.

After asking for directions we were told, “Turn right at the third street and you will find a dairy.” So, off we went, in the van, when about five yards from the traffic signals, right in the center of the road, our van stopped dead and the engine would just not start again. We pushed it to the side when another car came along and “pushed” us even further! Within a few moments over 20 cars were parked behind us, thinking we were stopped by the light. While we were waiting for the breakdown service, Bernard suggested that I walk to the dairy and arrange for the goods. I walked up and down that “third street;” there was no dairy and no one I asked had ever heard of one! Lo and behold, a large truck full of milk turned the corner into the street. With a few hearty and lung-bursting yells, I soon stopped this truck and he told me where I could find the dairy.

The mechanic soon arrived to fix the van and only gave the engine a tap and it started right away. A lead (conductor) had become loose – that was all. However, before we had time to move, another car came behind us and again gave us a hefty (not needed) “push!” It was not our lucky day.

We were lucky, however, with our orange juice and we returned in triumph to Aintree. But – we had missed the clown. (We also missed the fun: when the clown’s assistant came out to do her act only half-dressed. Chaim rushed her off the stage and on with her clothes. Have you ever seen a trick cyclist and juggler in a dressing gown? “I told them no girls,” Chaim cried.)

The day had become beautifully hot and sunny. Everyone went for a sail on the river and returned home in good time to meet their parents.

The next day, I wondered why Chaim had a sore throat!