Port Elizabeth of Yore: From School to Synagogue, Then Church to Café

Not many buildings in Port Elizabeth have experienced such a varied usage over their lives. If buildings could divulge their secrets, this humble unprepossessing tiny building on the corner of Belmont Terrace and Western Road, would have many tales to tell.

Main picture: The Diocesan Grammar School on the corner of Belmont Terrace and Western Road

Continue reading

The End of the World is (ge)Naai

I think we’re f%$@ed no matter what we do.  Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but I believe that unless we make radical interventions soon, it will be too late no matter what we do then.  I’m not referring to the tearing of the social fabric of society due to social media or violent pc games, or the destruction of rain forests, or the bleaching of coral reefs – I am only concerned here with climate change. 

Continue reading

Why Eskom is a Basket Case?

Imagine that one has a net income of R10,000 per month but owes the bank interest of R15,000  per month on loans of R.5m. Despite this disastrous financial position one nevertheless decides to increase the children’s pocket money by 20% whilst simultaneously taking unpaid leave amounting to 20 days. To prevent one’s family from starving, one then approaches one’s retired parents for a stipend of R5,000 per month. This will keep the wolf from the door but unless drastic cuts are made to the expenses, reductions made in the number of free-loading married children, and boosting one’s income, one will have to approach one’s aging parents on a biannual, if not annual, basis for increases in one’s allowance.

That is the quagmire in which Eskom is mired.

Main picture:  Eskom plant at full production

Continue reading

A Description of Port Elizabeth in 1874

In his book A Descriptive Handbook of the Cape Colony, John Noble provides a description of all the major towns in the Cape Colony in 1874. His narrative about Port Elizabeth itself is glowing. However he concludes by stating that the “country about Port Elizabeth is very uninviting.” Included in the blog are the census figures for 1874 as well as a detailed description of the wool washing process which had by this time become more mechanised.

This is a verbatim transcription from Noble’s tome.

Main picture: View of Port Elizabeth in 1873

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Human Dimension of the 1908 Flood

Port Elizabeth was renowned for its severe floods having experienced periodic flooding with the most notable being in 1867 and  1897. Previous river floods had caused little damage in the valley and around the mouth of the Baaken’s Valley as there were no buildings on the flood plain. But this time it was different. In the period subsequent to the previous floods, the lagoon had been systematically reclaimed and buildings had been injudiciously built on the flood plains. This was to exacerbate the effect of the flood waters.

The moniker for this catastrophe would forever be The Great Flood.

Main picture: Debris accumulated against the main bridge across the Baaken’s River forcing the water down Commerce Road to the Harbour Board building

Continue reading

Economics and Forecasting the Future

Over the years, I have read plenty of articles on economists forecasting the future but what troubles me is why they are so abysmal at getting them correct

Take the crash of 2008. Why didn’t they predict it years before based upon the facts on hand viz the granting of loans based upon dubious or non-existent security? Subsequently why didn’t they predict the rapid recovery – one can even call it an over-exuberant recovery.

Continue reading

YENTA breathlessly chasing mills

Passionata, my enthralment with mills.   I was terribly disappointed last year when I was unable to join the Border Historical Society, in East London as an invited speaker, on the subject of my passion, ‘mills’. 

‘Raised’ in my formative years, in the NE Transvaal, by my beloved grandfather, {and orphan, escapee from Estonia 1917} he indulged my interest, as a true Rabbi  by searching for mills while was away at boarding school. On my return, there would be an adventure to a farm in the district, to visit, that had a mill.

Main picture: Bradshaw’s Mill

Continue reading

Eskom: What really Happened?

Numerous reasons have been trotted out over the years by the powers-that-be as to the exact cause of load shedding. Amongst them were the unbelievable such as the coal being wet to the non-sensible excuse in which Apartheid was blamed. In the latter case, the logic was that Blacks were now permitted to use electricity, thus creating additional demand. Finally, last week, the real underlying cause of the shortage of electricity was eventually revealed. Why have these reasons been hidden from the public’s purview for so long?

Main picture: Cartoon encapsulating two of South Africa’s ogres – corruption and load-shedding

Continue reading

Estina Dairy Farm: The World’s Greatest Business Plan

Even according to the most favourable estimates, the Estina Dairy Farm was at best, a marginal enterprise. Even giving the proposers the benefit of the doubt regarding its viability, surely the accountants who perused the proposal would have poked numerous holes in the financial logic.

On checking the current status of this project, the Sunday Times has uncovered an even deeper hole.

Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: Port Elizabeth 160 Years Ago

These reminiscences form part of a lecture presented by Mr. W. E. Vardy at St. Cuthbert’s Church on the 24th February 1913 entitled “Port Elizabeth 50 years ago.” This forms part of the second section entitled, “Political and Social Position.” Vardy was a merchant who resided in Havelock Street.

Port Elizabeth of the 1860s was expanding swiftly but it did not yet bear the mark of a grand, prosperous and salubrious town. The lifestyle was frugal in the extreme with most residents making their own bread and clothes as well as collecting their own water as the water from the Shark River was brackish and hence unpalatable. Modern services such as sewerage, electricity and the telephone were still 50 years in the future for most denizens.   

Apart from minor amendments and corrections, this is a verbatim copy of that speech.

Main picture: Main Street in 1864. The first block of houses on the right are bounded by Grace, Britannia and Staines Streets. The building on the right still stands today though its facade has changed immensely but the stone wall in Grace Street remains as it was then. Deare and Dietz, who occupied the premises, brought out H.W. Pearson to Port Elizabeth as their bookkeeper. The large buildings on the left are warehouses and stores belonging to the large merchants, one of whom was Dunells & Ebden. The smaller buildings in the middle are particular to the architecture of time when families lived above their business premises.

Continue reading