This well-known hotel has operated under numerous names over its life. Amongst its guises was a naval training base during WW2. For some unknown reason, the hotel never attracted sufficient clientele to be able to be financially viable. Nevertheless, it is an icon for many of the older generation who would attend functions there, including myself.
Main picture: The art deco swimming pool in its heyday
Just as important as the industry dynamics, ownership and physical infrastructure are the working conditions, demographics and wages in the motor vehicles industry. This importance to many residents is predicated on the fact that they had a strong connection with the industry being dependent upon it directly by working in one of the plants or alternatively in one of their suppliers. So too did our family as a number of my relatives worked directly in an assembly plant as well.
This blog deals with the human factors within this industry.
Main picture: Tractors ready for export Continue reading
Like all towns, it is fair to say that Port Elizabeth had its fair share of “unusual” characters. These are some of the best known “personalities” during the 1960s and 1970s.
Main picture: Ruthrapathy “Peanuts” Pillay with his wares
Just as the slump and ultimate decline in the wool industry made the future economic prospects of Port Elizabeth bleak, so too does the motor vehicle industry’s relocation to the economic hub of South Africa portend a grim future for the town.
After the booming fifties and sixties, the seventies awoke to new realities which the City Fathers had not contemplated: the decline of its manufacturing base. This process was ineluctable as the vortex of demand in Gauteng sucked manufacturers ever inward. Far from its market, aspersions were cast on Port Elizabeth’s manufacturing credentials. Instead of adapting to this reality, it persevered with the previous one. Simply put, its strategy should have been a focus on economic activities decoupled from Gauteng such as tourism, medicines manufacture and development, movie making, technology development et al.
In retrospect, the stages of development of the motor vehicle industry in Port Elizabeth are now at an end. Hence it allows one to analyse dispassionately it’s still warm corpse.
This blog deals with its stages of development as a requiem mass is held after the demise of yet another motor manufacturing icon, General Motors, at the age of 95 years.
General Motors is a fitting metaphor of this process and is replete with all these elements.
Main picture: General Motors’ factory
Today nothing remains of this railway line which wended its way through the sylvan town of Walmer in the early twentieth century. Not even a memory, the sound of the whistle or the smell of the coal fired engine which traversed the arboreal streets such as Villiers and Water Road all the way to the municipal boundary at 14th Avenue recalls this miniature train.
Main picture: Narrow gauge train leaving the Main Station in Port Elizabeth Continue reading
Originally the sea waves crashed to shore where Strand Streets lies today. Devoid of jetties, piers or breakwaters, the beaches stretching from the current Campanile to the South End were used as landing beaches.
In 1857, this situation was to change. Ultimately the sandy beaches along this stretch of coast was to be replaced by a sea wall. Exactly why it was named a quay and not an embankment cannot be ascertained.
Main picture: Victoria Quay from the North Jetty Continue reading
In his thesis on the development of the Port Elizabeth Harbour, Mr E.J. Inggs raises some interesting facts not only about the convoluted path to the ultimate construction of a harbour but also the operation and importance of Port Elizabeth’s harbour to the Cape Colony.
Apart from these aspects, what really piqued my interest was the issue of the wage levels of the Mfengu Beach Labour, as he calls the cargo loaders and unloaders. Their remuneration perfectly reflects what Economics 101 identifies as a fundamental factor in economics viz supply and demand.
Main picture: Mfengu unloading cargo from surfboats
The long saga to erect a lighthouse at Cape Recife is covered by this blog.
Main picture: Cape Recife Lighthouse
These settlements were never called suburbs or townships but colloquially they were known as locations ab initio . What is less well known is that there were various black settlements in Port Elizabeth from its earliest days. Their inhabitants were generally Khoi but later came the Mfengu after the British authorities granted them rights to live here in 1851.
Conspicuously absent from central Port Elizabeth is even fragmentary evidence of their location dwellings or artefacts. All that remains of these settlements are some footnotes to history. Ultimately these residents were relocated to Red Location and New Brighton in the early part of the 20th century.
This blog attempts to set that right.
Main picture: Part of Stranger’s Location at the top of the hill next to Russell Road
Happy Valley was a magical place for young kids and probably still is even for the jaded visual palates of today. In the daytime it is a pleasant stroll alongside the babbling brook that is the lower reaches of that misnomer, the Shark River, where it spills out under the bridge into Humewood Beach. There are lily ponds, rockeries, gigantic palms and peaceful retreats in which to sit. Every few meters there is another delightful interpretation of a fairy tale or nursery rhyme scene to consider.
Main Street: Aerial view of Happy Valley with Humewood beach on the upper right