Tag: Mayfair

Riding along on a pushbike Honey…

Yes it is true, I have bought a bicycle. Actually I have bought a  heap of rust masquerading as a bicycle, but then what do you expect for a lousy £20? 
Why? you ask. 
I live within walking distance from work, but roughly 40 minutes walking away from town, and while there is a bus service it is pretty scarce on a Sunday. Occasionally I need to get something that the local co-op does not have and then I am stuck.
I call my new velocipede “The Rusticle” because that is probably the best description of it. It has more rust on it than the Titanic, and is probably less seaworthy too.

Sizewise it it is probably a tad too small for me, but then I do not have as far to fall. The bike comes from an illustrious maker of bicycles: Raleigh Bicycle Company of Nottingham.

My first bike I had when I was in primary school was a 26″ Raleigh Rapier, and it was a beaut. although it was missing the cool factor of the Raleigh Chopper. I learnt to ride a bike with the Rapier, and my father spent a lot of time running behind me until one day he stopped running and I kept going until I hit a fence. The Rapier did not have the cool factor, but it did expand my range and along with my friends we “did stuff on our bikes (and that included the playing card on the spokes)”. Our primary school did not have bike sheds though so going to school by bike was out. 


Now compare the Chopper above to my bog standard black and white Rapier and you will see what I mean. Somehow you could only look cool on a chopper, and of course even more cool as you kissed the pavement after yet another wheelie gone wrong, Choppers were notorious for accidents, but at least when you came short it was while riding a Chopper.  Oddly enough they have not gone away completely, originals can ask a high price, and the MKIII will set you back a spare bit of change. (£275)

My dabbling with bicycles came to an end upon entering high school, the school was not too far away, but we were hampered by the huge school bags that we lugged around, and being the most anal high school on the planet we were not allowed haversacks or any sort of shoulder bags. I ended up going hither and thither by bus instead.  
When I came back from the army, I bought another bike, and it was a disaster on 2 wheels. It was a so called “Western Flyer” and was manufactured in Bophuthatswana or some far off failed homeland and had to be returned to the manufacturer by train when it literally fell apart underneath me. I eventually ended up buying a really nice racing bike which I used to ride from where I stayed to work and back, almost getting wiped out in Central Avenue in Mayfair on a number of occasions. When I moved to Hillbrow the bike came with, but it never went anywhere again and I ended up selling it. 
Then in 1988 I went on a cruise and it was also a disaster. However in our frustration the three of us hired bicycles and went for a ride along the Durban beachfront (sad isn’t it?) and that was the last time I rode a bicycle. 
On Wednesday 23rd of September 2015, after so many years, I sat on a saddle (and I could hear dormant piles shouting aloud in anticipation). It was a wobbly few minutes out of our gate and back into the other gate, and on the next day I biked down to Morrisons and it only took 10 minutes (usually a 20 minute walk). So I am back in the saddle again and have to remember so many things that I have forgotten over the years. There are a lot of cyclists in the UK, some with bugs in their teeth, some taking a more sedate ride down the road. Often whole fleets of high viz clad munchkins accompanied by their parents/guardians/minders will pedal by, and sometimes one of those sleek serious cyclists will flash past on his carbon fibre high tech speed machine. I probably fit in better with the munchkins. 
So, that is my tale of woe. I may go for a ride tomorrow, or maybe not. The difference is that now I have a means, so finding an excuse is going to be difficult.
Oh, I did contemplate one of those new smarmy choppers, but decided against it. After all, I will never be cool, but rather just moderately warm.
I finally upgraded the rusticle for a new snazzy 15 speed bike called “Apollo Jeopardy”, it is probably the only bike in town with a poppy on it. I have a pic somewhere…
Not that one…
Or that one…
Not that one either
Close but no cigar..
And it isn’t this classic beauty either, and that bike looks remarkably like the bikes we had as kids (or hoped to have when Choppers became rare). I had better take a pic just in case.
Ah, found it…
The Rusticle? at first we were going to dump it but it was really a good bike and it was eventually given to somebody at work who needed a replacement piece of rust.. er bike. 
© DRW 2015-2018. Created 26/09/2015, images migrated 02/05/2016
Updated: 07/01/2018 — 20:31

At this time of year……

…. I am reminded that like most children I attended a Sunday School at our local Anglican church. At that time it had a “satellite” congregation/chapel in 7th Avenue in Mayfair. This was called “St Giles” and was under the leadership of Mrs Linden, who usually played the organ. Like so many dedicated people in the church she used to wear many hats, and Sunday School at St Giles was one of them.

Each year at Easter and Christmas the Sunday school would hold a “play” (or something resembling it), and all the children were roped in to play parts and parents were roped into providing costumes and or support, Everybody was expected to attend and participate whether we liked it or not. Nobody wanted to invoke the wrath of Father Wallace or Mrs Linden.
Of course these “plays” can be torture for those of us who are shy or can’t sing and who just really wanted to disappear into the background. There are those who are best suited to playing Mary/Joseph. and those who are best suited to being “2nd shepherd watching his flock by night”.  Ideally that was the role I wanted and invariably got because a) I cannot sing, b) I am neither cute or good looking c) I can be very shy. And, that is still true today. 
Naturally around Christmas when the Nativity Play was being held, carol singing was all the rage and lines of children would give their best rendition of  that old favourite…

                                        “While Shepherds washed their socks by night, 

                                                            all seated round the tub,
                                                    a bar of Sunlight soap came down
                                                       and glory how they rubbed…”

Clad in slightly used curtains/sheets/blankets we shepherds would watch our flocks of cardboard sheep and deliver our wooden lines while trying our best not too fluff it. Invariably the cutest girls would end up being Mary or angels, while boys would end up being shepherds, wise men (only 3 required), and Joseph. Occasionally a bit of gender bending was required due to a lack of boys or girls.  I played a shepherd once and was told by Joseph (or was it Mary?): “Give me the babies bottle” to which I replied “the bottle is broken.”  (said bottle having come a cropper shortly before) and I have never lived it down.  I am sure that somewhere somebody remembers a shepherd wearing a tablecloth and thick coke bottle specs telling the holy family that the babies bottle was broken. Fortunately in those days cameras were not that popular so no images exist of the annual nativity play that I messed up. 

I do not know whether it ever occurred to Mrs Linden how much agony some of us went through during these plays, I suspect though it was more a case of doing what we were told or there would be consequences.  We were also expected to participate in various activities such as handing out programmes, showing parents to seats, and singing in the choir (accompanied by a gaggle of children playing the xylophone, drum and triangle). I considered taking up the triangle professionally, but kept on dropping the hammer thingey. Eventually we would graduate from Sunday School and then have to go sit and fidget with our parents on the church pews during the Sunday service.

At some point St Giles closed down and we started to attend Christ Church in Crown Mines. This handsome church is one of the older churches in Johannesburg and was built in 1897. Most of the wooden pews and pulpit were built by Father Vic Wallace who was the parish priest when I was a member of the church. He had worked on the mines for many years and loved reminding us of that fact in his sermons. He had a magnificent singing voice and was a highly skilled carpenter and very dedicated to the church and congregation. Although I was not christened in this church I was confirmed there, and  in 1981 my late father would be buried from there. 

Every year the church would hold it’s annual fete and everybody was roped into it as well. My brother, an accomplished puppeteer, would usually be persuaded to produce a puppet show for the hordes of bloodthirsty children (and adults) who enjoyed seeing the grotesque Mr Punch belt Judy over the head, and Mr Plod doing the “‘ullo, ‘ullo, ‘ullo, wot’s going on ‘ere then?” line before assaulting Mr Punch with a truncheon. Talk about police brutality and women abuse!  Then there was the story about the soppy King and Queen and a missing cake. Alas I do not remember the plot of that one. However, the reason I do know about these shows is that I was always roped into provide a 3rd and 4th hand, my talent with voice impersonations was always in demand for puppet shows, and my brother had quite a reputation for producing a very professional production.

When Father Wallace retired the church was never the same, and eventually we moved from Mayfair and lost touch with the church. I returned there 2011 to visit the Garden of Remembrance, and take some pics. Sadly the church has become a fortress, and yet it is still so beautiful inside with its woodwork, stained glass windows and pipe organ. But I expect falling congregations will eventually put paid to this building and its many memories.

Around about this time every year,  in the dusty caverns of my mind,  I still hear a choir of toddlers singing about shepherds and their socks accompanied by an cacophony of sound from the orchestra pit, while a diminutive Mary and Joseph walk across a stage towards a light bulb masquerading as a star, and 3 wise men hang around, looking nonchalant, waiting for their cue. And in the audience beaming parents would nod approvingly, all the while thinking “that’s my son/daughter” and, more importantly no cellphones would disturb the sanctity of the annual Nativity Play.

**UPDATE 20/08/2018**

A report on the Heritage Portal has raised concerns about illegal work being carried out at the church. I have also posted more images of the church in a new blogpost

DRW ©  2012-2020. Images recreated 26/03/2016, updated with news 20/09/2018
Updated: 24/12/2019 — 10:35

Let’s go by bus!

Reading a blogpost about buses a few minutes ago got me thinking about my own experiences with bus travel as a child.
Our family did not own a car, and living in Mayfair (Johannesburg), we were very fortunate that we had a variety of buses to choose from when we made an excursion “into town”. Originally we lived in Robinson Road and would catch the Homestead Park bus, but once we moved to Hanover Street our local bus stop was shared by buses on the Homestead Park, Crosby, Langlaagte and Mayfair routes which all turned around at the terminus in Loveday Street. (Bus numbers were 60, 60a, 61 and possibly 61a). Trolley bus lines ran up to Homestead Park where the bus turned around for its return journey, I seem to recall the terminus was in Van Ryneveld Road. 

In primary school I used to catch the Crosby bus up to EP Baumann Primary, getting off a block away from the school in 3rd Avenue. My early trips were on platform style JMT diesel buses with a conductor ensuring that the correct fares were paid and that we behaved ourselves.
I do not recall when the platform style buses were removed from service but at some point the conductor was made redundant by a ticketing machine by the driver, and he also handled cash for people who did not have tickets.
The original platform style buses had the driver in a separate compartment, but single deckers and the newer double deckers had the driver accessible to passengers, and when you travelled the same bus everyday we all got to know the individual drivers on our routes, and eventually we would gravitate to sitting on the ledge by the front window next to the driver.  I do recall the one driver that I travelled with went on pension in my last year in primary school and I was quite sad that I would no longer see him on the route. 
My morning trips were usually in a very empty bus, but in the afternoons the Crosby bus would be full of the children from EP Baumann as well as other schools in the area. I used to bail out at the stop in Central Ave between Hanover and Langerman Streets, stopping at the Greek cafe to buy the afternoon paper for my mother before heading off for home.  This was the same bus stop we would use to travel into town,  the west bound stop being close to the corner of Hanover Street and Central Ave. The bus terminus in Johannesburg was in Loveday Street, between Commissioner and Market Streets. None of our west bound buses used Van Der Bijl Square (today Ghandi Square) as a terminus. The terminus was also next to the Union-Castle Building where I could ogle the ship models in the window while waiting for the bus to take me home. Today the terminus is still there, but is used as a taxi rank. Union-Castle Line is long gone and so are the ship models. And, for that matter, so are the buses.
The former Mayfair/Crosby/Homestead Park Bus terminus

The former Mayfair/Crosby/Homestead Park Bus terminus

Once I went to high school in Langlaagte, my daily commute changed slightly. I would now catch a  dedicated Langlaagte school bus that would turn around outside our school, and in the afternoons there was a dedicated school bus that used to collect us at 14H05 and drive into town on the Homestead Park route. If you missed it the next Langlaagte bus would leave an hour later and it was usually easier to walk up to the Homestead Park terminus instead. 
The buses on this route were converted from the platform diesel buses, the platform being removed and replaced with a bench seat with the access stairs behind the driver. There was an unofficial pecking order on these buses. The smokers sat upstairs, the more senior the boys the further back they sat. Non smokers sat downstairs and the seniors would occupy the bench seat at the back. Our school was a single sexed school so no girls were on the bus (Goudveld Hoërskool up the road had their own bus).  Unfortunately I do not have a picture of the inside of these diesel buses, but they were very similar to the converted trolley buses that had their platforms removed. 

Downstairs looking towards the back of the bus

By Std 10 I too had graduated to the back bench, and some other Std 6 had to fight the gauntlet of bigger boys trying to board without getting squashed. The ticket machine had changed too, as tickets now had 10 rides per ticket instead of a single ticket per ride. 

Upstairs looking towards the front of the bus

Johannesburg also started to use buses for advertising when I was in primary school, and we were always eager to travel on a bus that had something new advertised on it, sadly though it meant the demise of the familiar red and cream livery, which leant a certain professionalism to the bus service.  The much loved trolley bus was also withdrawn,  and an articulated singled decker trolley bus was tried but it was never adopted throughout the fleet. Eventually even the trolley bus lines were removed, and they too have passed into history. By the time I came out of the army my transportation had moved to trains as I worked in Braamfontein and Johannesburg, and apart from the occasional trip  from where I lived in Hillbrow I stopped using buses altogether. I know when I was young the ever rising fares meant fewer people used buses so they they had to raise fares to increase revenue and it became a spiral that saw the bus service cut until it was shade of its former self.  Today the Metrobus service is abysmal. 
I have travelled in buses elsewhere in the world but they don’t really compare to the childhood experience of going to school in a big red and cream diesel bus, safe in the hands of an experienced driver.  I miss the experience though, especially hurtling down the hill in Fordsburg in a trolley bus, secretly hoping that the pickup would jump off the lines, bringing us to a grinding halt. It was all part of the fun when growing up. The James Hall Museum of Transport has a beautiful collection of old buses and trams to explore, and is well worth visiting to see them once again.  All the photographs in this blog entry were taken at the museum.
 DRW © 2012-2020. Images recreated 25/03/2016   
Updated: 15/02/2020 — 09:39
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