Port Elizabeth of Yore: Why did Piet Retief purchase Strandfontein?

Historically Piet Retief’s connection with Port Elizabeth and importance as a resident has been wholly misstated. Perhaps due to English dominance of the town, a vision of Retief arose to counterbalance the contemporary narrative. Apart from owning the farm Strandfontein in Summerstrand and several plots in the centre of the hamlet, Retief never actually took up residence in the area.

As Prof. Terblanche concludes in his article entitled “Die feite oor the omstrede Piet Retief” dated 10 March 2009, “Die idilliese prentjie wat mense dus het van Retief wat op sy plaaswoning se stoep gesit en oor Algoabaai getuur het, is eenvodig nie waar nie.”

Main picture:

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Louis John Poulter – WW1 Soldier

On the 4th of August 1914 the world was at war. The Allied powers which included Great Britain were ranged against the Central Powers and South Africa was called upon to assist in the effort by invading the territory adjacent to her borders, German South West Africa.

Unlike WW2 when citizen force units were activated and war service was performed in them, during WW1 men served directly in the Union Defence Force. One such unit was the 7th Dismounted Rifles known as the Southern Rifles in which a Walmer resident Louis John Poulter would serve.

Main picture: The Southern Rifles

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Marshall’s Tearoom in Main Street

William Barton Marshall established Marshall’s & Co in Main Street while J. Garlick purchased the building and established his business which was identical to Marshall’s, adjacent to Marshall’s. The Tearoom in Marshall’s was totally revamped and became two tearooms, one being self-service and one a conventional tearoom.  This would have happened circa 1970 being the same time when the escalator was installed and the old lifts with the iron gates replaced

Main picture: Marshall’s Tearoom

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(Not) A SMAC in the Face #60: Braking Brad

Normally SMAC’s contribution to the world is a combination of being irreverent, zany, cynical and acerbic, and so the overarching title, A SMAC in the Face, is appropriate. 

But just to prove that SMAC can also be nice, normal and straightforward, this SMAC is a tribute to an up-and-coming SA sports star and all-round nice guy, Brad Binder.  He has been living on the edge in that insane sport of motorbike racing at the highest level where his uncompromising approach to cornering naturally led to the title – Braking Brad.  Hopefully it will also lead to a world title soon.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Why 1967 was critical for No. 7’s future

Fragility defines any process of change. And so it was in the process of restoring No. 7 Castle Hill and saving it from being demolished instead of restoration. It was certain key players whose strong beliefs and convictions which determined the positive outcome of this process. Why was this change fraught with pitfalls that could have snared the process and trapped it until its lifeblood was drained?

1967 was that crucial year.

Main picture: Castle Hill painted by H Fancourt White in 1850

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Crash of Impala Mark 1 in 1982

The Impalas based in Port Elizabeth after 1975 formed part of 6th Squadron which over its operational life had been disbanded several times. On 5 July 1952 the squadron was reformed as a citizen force unit, flying Harvards from Port Elizabeth but was again disbanded in 1959. It was resurrected in May 1961, again flying Harvards; from 1973 to 1976 the squadron flew a single Cessna 185. In March 1975 it began receiving Impala Mk Is which remained as the operational aircraft until the unit’s final disbandment in October 1990.

Prior to the crash of Impala Mark 1 serial number 550 in 1982, Port Elizabeth had only experienced two crashes by SAAF aircraft subsequent to WW2; being a Ventura Bomber on the 4th December 1959 and a Sabre on the 15th July 1960.

Main picture: Impala Mk 1

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: List of PE’s Firsts

At its establishment, Port Elizabeth was known for its pioneering and enterprising spirit. It was this ethos which drove the development of the town. Then it was the discovery of gold and diamonds in the north which diverted this spirit to the Transvaal as it steadily gained the ascendancy.

Main picture: Johannes Molikoe was appointed snake handler on 1 August 1918 and retired in August 1947. He died aged 83.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Life at Humewood in the 1920s, 30s & 40s

Humewood was a late starter, a slow developer. The focus of the residents of Port Elizabeth was northwards and westwards as the town laid down its industrial roots in North End and its commercial roots in the Main and Strand Street areas. By the 1920s, Humewood had gained a reputation as Port Elizabeth’s playground centred on Humewood Beach and Happy Valley.

Main picture:  1926 photos from the Humewood collection of Sava Michaelides. By then beach attire converted from a formal suit and tie to more relaxed beach wear and informal clothing

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Powering the Harbour in the late 1800s

Prior to the era of electricity, without light, the harbour was unable to operate at night. As steam powered cranes were available from the mid-1800s, these were installed during 1881 on the North Jetty. In due course, these would be replaced with hydraulic and later electrically powered cranes.

From an openness and disclosure viewpoint, I hereby state that all the technical details have been supplied by the Technical Editor, my brother Blaine. This does not imply nepotism as he provides his assistance purely on a pro bono basis.

Main picture: Steam powered cranes on North Jetty

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Building’s name reflects change

Most buildings bear the same name throughout their life. This assumes that its name is not that of the tenant. In South Africa’s case, there is another reason for name change: politics. In this process, many buildings since 1994 have been renamed to reflect the new political order. In the case of this building, it has had to suffer the indignity of two names, each one to reflect this change.

In this process the Colonial Mutual Life [CML] building was renamed Pleinhuis and ultimately Noninzi Luzipho. In the case of the sale by CML in 1980 of this four storey Art Deco style building on the corner of Baakens Street and Whites Road evoked concerns regarding “insensitive changes.”

Main picture: The CML Building per La Femme 28 Aug 1996

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