Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Era of the Bandstand

A century ago was the era of the bandstand which epitomised for me the music of the brass band. Bandstands were simply a covered outdoor platform on which a band could play.  No elaborate protection from inclement weather was required as this was an era prior to the use of electrical musical instruments.

Port Elizabeth followed the world-wide trend and built two during the first decade of the 20th century. Thirty years later they were gone.

Main picture: Bandstand in Trinder Square

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Hanover House in Bird Street

Lots 13 & 14, 34 Bird Street, originally formed part of the Hospital Lands. In 1880, this house was constructed for George Wedekind  and soon afterwards in 1883, he sold it to H.W. Dalldorf, who named it “Hanover House”.  In 1948, the M.O.T.H purchased the building and only sold it circa 2005 to old Mutual which uses it as offices.

Main picture: Hanover House in Bird Street

Watercolour entitled PE 1858 (Bird Street) by Sarah Holland in NMM AM
Bird Street late 1890s houses on right were demolished in 1975

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Where would pilots from 42 Air School Celebrate?

During WW2, South Africa was requested to train Allied aircrew in the Union. In terms of the JATS – the Joint Air Training Scheme – South Africa would train 33,347 aircrew which included 12,221 SAAF personnel. Amongst the 37 South African based air schools, No. 42 was based in Port Elizabeth, south of the main civilian airport.

Included amongst the 21,126 foreigners who were trained in South Africa over the 5 years of WW2, was one who came from Tasmania in Australia, Pierce Joseph Keating.

Main picture: Sergeant PJ Keating

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Cenotaph: A Memorial to The Missing and The Dead

I’ve heard of the word cenotaph and was aware that one existed at the corner of Rink Street and Park Drive.  Apart from merely noting its presence whilst driving hither and thither to Varsity, I never pondered the meaning of the word.  The odd ph letter grouping gives the hint that it has a Greek origin but that was about as far my thinking went.  After all, there were far more important things to ponder as a young man.  The truth is more revealing or shocking or startling, depending on how you look at it.  

Main picture: Unveiling of the Cenotaph on the 10th November 1929

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: When Mohair was a Major Industry

Port Elizabeth was at the centre of the burgeoning mohair industry in the 1800s. It still is except that the industry is no longer flourishing. Before the motor vehicle assembly industry was established in Port Elizabeth during the 1920s, wool as well as mohair were the mainstays of the local economy.

This is the long-forgotten story of the rise of this industry off the back of the Angora goat and its fall in the twentieth century.

Main picture:  One of the last batches of Angoras imported from Turkey by Adolph Mosenthals & Co. in 1895. Mr.& Mrs. W. Mosenthal are seated in the buggy with Mr. H. Goldschmidt standing in the background. In the foreground are three Turkish goat handlers who accompanied the animals on the ship.

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: A Family’s History through a Writing Desk

This desk was more than a piece of inanimate wood reposed in the study of the house “Swiss Villa”, situated at number 20 Cape Road. In an age prior to instant communication via the phone, this writing desk was the connection between the far-flung family – the Rose-Innes, the Fehrsen’s and the Frielinghaus’ – whether in German East Africa during WW1 or Sidi Rezegh in North Africa during WW2.

Through this central hub or focal point, Harry Rose-Innes relates the family history as well as the secret of the piece of furniture. Written in 1987, the story was entitled “The Writing Desk”.

Main picture:  Tram in Cape Road in the 1920s

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: An Act of Kindness in a Heartless War

This is the story of a woman who, without consideration of the consequences, assisted Afrikaner women, the “enemy”, who were incarcerated in the concentration camp at Kemsley Park, near the top of Mount Round during the Boer War.

This is an extract of the account by Harry William Rose-Innes of “Miemie” Frielinghaus’ actions entitled “The Face of Destiny”. This is blog is faithful to Rose-Innes original account except that irrelevant information has been omitted.

Main picture: Concentration Camp Memorial in Lennox Road, Glendinningvale

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Tin Hat on the Humewood Promenade

What is the significance of this roof structure which looks like a soldier’s helmet? Does it have any connection  to the organisation known as the MOTHS – Member of the Order of Tin Hats? This Promenade Dome is commonly known as “The Tin Hat” from its resemblance to a First World War helmet but could not have had any connection to the Moth order as it was only founded in 1927 whereas this structure was built in 1923.

Main picture: Humewood promenade in 1909

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: St. Paul’s Church

With the town rapidly expanding, the need for a 2nd Anglican Church in Port Elizabeth arose. During an age with neither public transport nor private motor vehicles, churches had to be located within walking distance of their congregants. During both of his visits in 1848 & 1850, Bishop Robert Gray of Cape Town had pointed out the need for a church in North End with a capacity of 200 to 250 congregants to serve the needs of the local Anglicans.

Sunday School was started in 1850, the first services for adults began in 1853, and the laying of the foundation stone of the original church by Bishop John Armstrong took place on18th October 1854. Part of the early ministry of the parish was the establishment of a school in 1861.

This church, he suggested, should be built on land offered by Mr Charles Cooper and MrsJohanna Korsten, at the foot of Cooper’s Kloof (now Albany Road) on the corner of Main Street (now part of Govan Mbeki Avenue).The building was designed by Sophy Gray, the wife of Bishop Robert Gray; it was consecrated in 1856. Due to the movement of the congregation to new areas, the church was demolished in 1959 and the site sold, a new St Paul’s Church being built in Tucker Street, in the suburb of Parsons Hill, to replace the old one.

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